Google Analytics

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

EDITORIAL 18.05.11

    Please contact the list owner of subscription and unsubscription at: 

media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya



month may 18, edition 000835, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul


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






































































Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Afghanistan was one of immense strategic value and definitely a step taken in the right direction towards strengthening bilateral relations between the two countries. Undertaken only days after Osama bin Laden was killed in Pakistan — thus marking the beginning of the endgame in Afghanistan — the visit was surely well-timed. As Afghanistan prepares for its new post-America phase, the next few years are particularly crucial for India and Pakistan: Both will continue to jostle for political clout, social influence and economic leverage in that country; India has the right to be there; Pakistan doesn't. Against this backdrop, it may be said that with Mr Singh's visit, New Delhi has made its first move towards further strengthening its relations with Kabul. The high point of the two-day-visit — Mr Singh's first since 2005 — was undoubtedly the joint statement issued by the two leaders which outlines the key principles that will govern bilateral relations in the coming years. The declaration rightly builds upon the centuries old 'historical ties' and lays the framework for a long-term commitment based on the ideals of peace and democracy as well as a shared commitment to "combating terrorism that threatens both countries." The statement was followed by Mr Singh's address to the Afghan Parliament — which is soon to be housed in a structure built with Indian assistance and a potent symbol of our commitment to democracy in that country — and with the promise of an additional $500 million in aid. The most important message, however, that Mr Singh put out during his visit was that India will not use Afghanistan as a launch pad for attacks against Pakistan, as officials in that country have often claimed. Given the reality that Pakistan's presence cannot be wished away and it will continue to remain Afghanistan's next-door neighbour, it is but natural Kabul does not wish to antagonise Islamabad. In this context, Mr Singh's assurance that he only intends to "renew ties of friendship" with Afghanistan and that is the "only agenda" of the Indian people is bound to receive much favour.

India's offer to help Afghanistan get a makeover for the international arena should help further consolidate bilateral ties. Mr Singh has promised to promote Afghanistan, which in this post-9/11 world is sadly known only as the home of the Taliban, as a destination that serves as a "confluence of cultures". That sounds nice but if Pakistan were to gain control over Afghanistan as the US begins to wind down the presence of American and Nato troops in the country, all culture will be thrown out of the nearest window as it was during the dark days when the Islamabad-backed Taliban regime headed by Mullah Omar was in power. Let us not forget what happened to the Bamiyan Buddhas or what was done to the women and girls of Afghanistan in the name of Islam. Words, no matter how finely spun, can cease to be of relevance if India does not deal with the US firmly on its Afghan policy: New Delhi must stand up to Washington, DC, if it were to make demands of rolling back India's presence and cutting down on our projects in Afghanistan. That the Americans would want this is a given: We may love to pretend otherwise, but the fact remains the US is not going to let down its 'frontline ally' in the war on terror.






With 67-year-old Oommen Chandy taking oath on Wednesday as the 21st Chief Minister of Kerala to head a 20-member Cabinet of the Congress-led UDF coalition and 87-year-old CPI(M) leader VS Achuthanandan expected to become Leader of the Opposition within a week, God's Own Country is entering a period of high-voltage politics. Mr Chandy's biggest challenge would be to keep his Government afloat through the five-year term as the UDF is perched precariously with 72 seats, just four more than what the LDF has in the 140-member Assembly. As Chief Minister, he will have to constantly walk a tight rope and pander to the Congress's partners in the UDF to keep all of them satisfied at all times. Even the smallest UDF member can bring down his Government if it feels slighted. Mr Chandy is taking over as Chief Minister at a time when several of the UDF leaders — even his designated Cabinet colleagues — are facing serious charges. The market friendly policies of the UPA Government, which are not yet fully welcome in Kerala, are sure to give him a constant headache. Still, with prior experience as Chief Minister for 21 months, Mr Chandy has on several occasions proved to be a master politician and a survivor who can handle crises without losing his cool. His biggest asset in this struggle for survival is certainly his experience of more than half-a-century as a politician. Mr Chandy has already announced "Development and Caution" as his Government's motto, by which he means he will work for Kerala's prosperity without hurting the basic rights of the people or damaging the State's environment.

Mr Achuthanandan, Chief Minister in the last LDF Government, with more than seven decades of experience as a hardliner Communist, is set to become the Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly. He is fully aware of the fact that to him goes the credit for saving the Left from electoral decimation in India: He managed to take his side almost to victory in the recent election which witnessed the Left's annihilation in West Bengal. The octogenarian political fighter had proved how fierce a Leader of the Opposition he could be during the UDF's 2001-2006 rule. He has offered total cooperation to Mr Chandy and his team but has also warned them that he will not hesitate to take on the Government if there are "efforts to protect the corrupt and immoral". His main challenges will be coming from his detractors in the CPI(M) who had hoped to see his exit from active politics. But he has survived several such internal battles. With a pro-development Chandy as Chief Minister and an incorruptible Achuthanandan as Leader of the Opposition, Keralites have reason to be hopeful, provided the Government doesn't collapse on account of infighting in the UDF!









Pakistan has just tested a tactical battlefield support missile as antidote to India's 'Cold Start' doctrine: It will use nuclear arms on its own soil!

On the day Prime Minister Manmohan Singh presided over a full Nuclear Command Authority conference, news from across the border was of a shriller sort. And it was a voice not heard in a very long time. The timing of these two developments could not have been more curious, for they reflected two contrasting sets of rules, and vividly different predicaments. One didn't speak, while the other couldn't help but speak of the self. In a very real way the two events amply echo the realities of the two countries.

Among those attending the NCA conference were the Prime Minister, the Defence Minister, the National Security Adviser, the head of the Defence Research and Development Organisation, and the chiefs of Army, Navy and Air Force. While they reviewed the preparedness, as they always do, of the Indian nuclear weapons systems, they also discussed two pending programmes. The indigenous nuclear-powered submarine, Arihant, and the delayed Agni V ballistic missile system were the focus of deliberations, or so said sources to an English daily. Plain and simple. And a bit boring and predictable too. There wasn't anything to get energised or exercised about in the story. But then India has just been through a series of State elections, so tea and elections/politics is the staple of the Indian mind.

The news from Pakistan, on the other hand, comes via the pages of Newsweek. It now has a Pakistani edition as well. But that is not the point of the curious sense of timing between the two neighbours who are constantly squabbling. It was in fact the hidden Doctor all over again. After years of silence on matters nuclear, but prolific in lecturing Pakistanis about all that ails the country, AQ Khan has opened his mouth on matters of nuclear policy. He rails against the West, of course, is dismissive of India, obviously, and thinks Pakistan has been let down by its incompetent and ignorant rulers, quite.

Quite the international pariah, AQ Khan chose the strangest moment to open his mouth on a subject that has made him earn for his country the dubious sobriquet of 'Walmart of proliferation'. His televised 'confession' for having run a nuclear smuggling ring to North Korea, Iran and Libya, was a moment of utter shame for Pakistan — now, of course, beaten to television ratings by the Osama bin Laden outing. Why he chose the heat of May to bring more temperature to bear on Pakistan is as perplexing as what he says in the signed article, headlined "I saved my country from nuclear blackmail".

Some nuggets are incomparable, and must be shared. "For a country that couldn't produce bicycle chains to have become a nuclear and missile power within a short span — and in the teeth of Western opposition — was quite a feat," he writes. The genesis of Pakistan's nuclear programme, needless to say, is rooted in India's curiously worded "peaceful nuclear explosion" of 1974. He is oblivious of the genesis of Pakistan's programme. But at this stage that lapse can be ignored. He then goes on to declare a nuclear weapon could have sustained the logic of the two-nation theory vis-à-vis Bangladesh when he says, "If we had had nuclear capability before 1971, we would not have lost half of our country — present-day Bangladesh — after disgraceful defeat."

There is, of course, nothing in this about what prompted the Bangladeshi people to rise and demand their separation from an idea that had clearly run its course. It also does not address the basic issue of whether nuclear weapons prevent conflict. They clearly didn't over Kargil, and that was as conventional a conflict as any. That it doesn't prevent defeat is another matter altogether. AQ Khan was still in Government when Kargil happened in 1999, still perched high in national ratings.

AQ Khan then goes on a rant about the Pakistani leadership letting the country down. "What pains me is that we gave Pakistan nuclear capability for its self-esteem and deterrence against adversaries. With our sovereignty thus secure, I urged various Governments to concentrate on development to raise the people's standard of living. Unfortunately, successive incompetent and ignorant rulers never bothered to work on the greater national interest. We are far worse off now than we were 20, or even 40, years ago when we were subjected to embargoes."

Put aside, for a moment, that all former officials take refuge in rant when they are no longer posterboys. And all claim infinite wisdom to cure all national ailments. But the moot point is to wonder why Pakistan is "far worse off now" than it was all those glorious decades ago! What has Pakistan's leadership done to its own people, to its own institutions, since those decades of embargoes? How was life under embargoes better than one without such shackles? Strange is the logic of the man, and stranger still is the thinking of those within Pakistan that has brought this miserable state upon the country.

The timing gets more curious when international reports about Pakistan's nuclear weapons programme point to a degree of enhancement not seen anywhere in the world. The current Newsweek as well as the highly regarded Arms Control Today point to a nuclear arsenal expansion that is quite at odds with Pakistan's current and mid-term national security threats. At the current pace of growth of its nuclear weapons inventory, Pakistan would soon have the fourth largest arsenal, overtaking France. The new reactors at Khushab will give Pakistan greater opportunities at making Plutonium and, therefore, smaller warheads. A bigger bang for the buck as militaries like to claim.

But there is a catch, and it makes for an intriguing story. Arms Control Today writes about a tactical battlefield support ballistic missile with a 60 km range that was tested on April 19. This missile is claimed to be an antidote to India's 'Cold Start' military doctrine. But if this argument is taken to its logical conclusion, as the very clever Pakistani analyst Ejaz Haider has, it would mean Rawalpindi would use nuclear weapons on its own soil since 'Cold Start' entails a quick thrust into Pakistan, etc, by the Indian Army/Air Force. To develop a weapon that would be used primarily on your own landmass begs many questions, one of which AQ Khan alludes to: "A country needs sufficient weapons to be stored at different places in order to have a second-strike capability. But there is a limit to these requirements."

The question, therefore, is who sets the limits, just as who sets the agenda. Answers quite possibly lie in the timing of AQ Khan-s self-promotion article. Why now?







America's commando raid in Pakistan that eliminated Osama bin Laden reflects its unwavering resolve to extract revenge, something which India lacks. This is not about access to technology or ability to carry out surprise raids. It's about a mindset that prevents Prime Minister Manmohan Singh from taking tough decisions. Instead he pursues an elusive peace!

At the risk of being called a 'US stooge' — whatever that means for a commoner like me who has never entered a US embassy or consulate, or been ever contacted by any US official or mole, or enjoyed a US-sponsored junket — let me state that I am awestruck by the manner in which the world's only superpower felled Osama bin Laden. It was a show of military precision and daring, backed by technological support and superior ground intelligence. But more than that, it demonstrated the unwavering resolve of a country hit by terror to extract revenge.

In the 10 years that it pursued the world's deadliest terrorist who not merely led Al Qaeda but also spawned and became a source of encouragement for a host of affiliates — many of which have been targeting India — the US never lost sight of its goal, despite coming in for strong criticism from various quarters for the manner in which it had conducted its 'war on terror'. It crossed borders and nailed the man it considered to be its enemy number one. That is how nations should fight terror, if it comes to that. Here, India has a lesson to learn.

But every time the issue of India duplicating the US approach to tackling terror is raised, it is brushed aside as unworkable. For one, Washington, DC had the support of the world's most influential countries, with some being partners in the 'war on terror'. New Delhi, we are reminded, will not find such allies if it decides to engage in hot pursuit of the terrorists holed up in Pakistan. Even the US, we are told, will not back India in that situation. Then there is the matter of geographical contiguity. Unlike the US, which is far removed from the scene of conflict, India shares its borders with Pakistan and any proactive military action to hit terror camps there will invite swift, and even perhaps a nuclear, retaliation from Islamabad. Finally, we are informed that while our armed forces are as good as any in the world when it comes to valour, they simply do not have the technological capability required to conduct audacious operations of the kind the US engaged in.

These are genuine concerns and cannot be brushed aside in the heat of the moment. But they are also possibly exaggerated. For instance, India is not without support. The UK, France, Germany, Russia, Israel and several others including the US are disgusted with Islamabad's prevarication on acting against terrorists who have targetted India and find refuge in Pakistan. It may be true that those like the US have not really walked the talk from New Delhi's point of view, but that is because we have ourselves not taken a hard stance. We will have reason to grumble only when we are firm on action (and not just speculate) and find no support from them.

The fact that Pakistan is our neighbour did not prevent us from going to war against it on three occasions, and engaging in the Kargil conflict which almost became a full-blown war. From all accounts, we emerged the better in these encounters. As far as the threat of a nuclear attack is concerned, Islamabad knows only well that any first-use of nuclear weapons from its end will mean its own denouement. India too would end up brutalised, but it will eventually recover; Pakistan is unlikely to do so because only that which survives will revive.

It is the third factor — not being technologically well equipped for across the border operations — that deserves closer attention. Our policy makers must hasten the process of modernising the armed forces to conduct such operations, which would be the last resort after all other methods of persuasion fail.

Eventually, the point is well accepted that these decisions have to be taken by the political executives based on expert inputs, and not by the ranting of lay commentators. That raises another disturbing question though: Does our Government have the spine to consider such daring options? The answer is 'no'. Indeed, let alone demonstrate intrepidity, the UPA Government does not even have a clear stand on the recent developments. Osama bin Laden's presence in Pakistan provided us with the perfect occasion to slam Islamabad for its duplicity, but Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, with his head buried in the sand, refused to seize the advantage and continued to harp on working for better relations with that country. Amazingly, he did not have one harsh word for Islamabad. It was left to Union Minister for Home Affairs P Chidambaram to do some plain-talking — he slammed Pakistan for sheltering terrorists.

But strong words for Pakistan from the Indian Prime Minister, even when all of the world barring usual ones like China have pounced upon it, is perhaps expecting too much spine from him. Mr Singh has after all revived the composite dialogue process with Pakistan halted in the wake of the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai. He did so despite Islamabad's categorical refusal to act on the tomes of evidence New Delhi has provided it on the terror strike. Not only has Pakistan not acted, it has ridiculed the evidence as just some silly stuff on a piece of paper. Yet, our Government revels in cricket and hockey diplomacy, allowing Pakistani leaders to score public relations points. It is no wonder that Islamabad deals with our so-called stern messages with contempt at worst and a good deal of amusement at best.

That the Union Government is in a state of self-inflicted stupor is most remarkably evident in the manner it continues to drag its feet over the death sentence to the Parliament attack mastermind, Afzal Guru. His appeal for remission of the verdict confirmed by the Supreme Court has been pending with the President for years. Why, when it should have taken not more than a few days for the Government to advise the President to let the terrorist hang? It is because the UPA has developed cold feet over the likely 'repercussions'. That alone tells the story of this Government's resolve to fight terror.







Denmark has closed its border and reopened checkpoints in the wake of heavy illegal immigration. This has encouraged most European countries to consider stripping European Parliament of the power to influence immigration policy and assume charge of this crucial area

Denmark has shocked the European Commission by closing its borders without waiting for recommendations from the EU Interior Ministers, the Foreign Ministers or the EU leaders who are going to meet on June 24.

Denmark is reopening checkpoints along its only land border with Germany and its bridge to Sweden. The Danish People's Party, a Right wing anti-immigration party and a member of the ruling coalition, celebrated the news with champagne. Meanwhile, Brussels plans to look into the matter, calling this a "bad story".

Denmark announced the restoration of checkpoints and customs procedures, but "not passport control", which makes one wonder about the differences between them.

As this is a tough question even for experts, the EU will conduct a special investigation — and partly because not all Danes approve of the decision.

Playing on the longer-term aspirations of their allies in the Right wing-centrist coalition, the DPP said restoring the checkpoints was a condition for their voting to approve the Cabinet's budget strategy.

A propos, Denmark has the toughest immigration legislation in the EU.

Denmark banged its door shut barely a few hours before the EU Interior Ministers promised to radically review the control mechanisms within the visa-free Schengen zone. On the other hand, the word 'radically' sounds more like lip service to anti-immigration sentiments and Right wing parties than a practical promise.

The Schengen agreement's proposed revision is so far limited to reopening border control within the EU "in exceptional cases" to curb illegal immigration. The EU also plans to pressure North African countries into signing readmission pacts to formalise their obligation to accept repatriated illegal immigrants.

The reasons for this are Arab Spring, the subsequent influx of about 30,000 illegal immigrants from Tunisia and Libya, and Italy's and France's demand that the Schengen agreement be adjusted to today's realities.

Before Liechtenstein joined the Schengen zone on March 7, the area included 25 countries — 22 EU member states, plus Switzerland, Iceland and Norway. It had a combined population of 400 million people and an area of 4.3 million square kilometers.

Fifteen of the 22 EU member states have supported the idea of slightly "rolling back the Schenge". Opponents have only put forth arguments in a muted manner.

But from any angle, it appears that Europe has succumbed to good old xenophobia and the "my home is my castle" mentality. Advocates of "European purity" claim that immigrants — Muslims, Africans and Eastern Europeans alike — are polluting Europe and want something done to stop this.

Immigrants also prefer to keep away from locals, and sometimes demonstratively refuse to accept European customs and traditions, which is only comparable to attempts to forcefully turn them into 'proper' Europeans. But Europeans have been playing with multiculturalism and political correctness for far too long, and the present change of mood was influenced by more than just the financial crisis.

As a result, rapidly growing anti-immigrant sentiments across Europe have increased the number of Right wing, radical and ultra-nationalist members in most European parliaments. The current events in Europe prove that these MPs are turning their election victories into practical political decisions.

Following in Denmark's footsteps are the Netherlands, where ultra-Right parties are active in Parliament, and Finland, where the True Finns Right wing populist party recently won a large number of seats. But they have not yet closed their borders.

Minor dents in the noble ideals of European integration and multiculturalism have engendered a towering problem that cannot be resolved in one year or even five years. It will take Europe many more years to readjust its immigration policy.

The people of Denmark, the Netherlands, Finland, Britain, France and Italy are wondering if they should retake part of the powers they delegated to the EU Government in Brussels. One such power concerns the right to take decisions on immigration, which implies changing the 1985 Schengen Agreement.

A European diplomat attending the EU foreign ministerial meeting on May 13 said the problems keep growing and "it is unclear if we can control them, or whether we can get out without the system collapsing".

The same diplomat has said that according to EU information, there are hundreds of thousands of potential refugees in Libya, and they fear Col Muammar Gaddafi may decide to use illegal immigration as a weapon, pushing people on board boats and ordering them to Europe, which would result in a catastrophe.

-- The writer is a Moscow-based political affairs columnist.







Leaders of the European financial community have suggested that the chief of the International Monetary Fund consider resigning after he was charged with trying to rape a maid at a New York hotel where he was staying.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn spent the night at infamous Rikers Island, a 400-acre (160-hectare) penal complex that offers a strikingly different level of comfort than the $3,000-a-night Manhattan hotel suite where authorities say tried to rape a maid.

Strauss-Kahn was being held on a charge that would normally result in release, but he was denied bail on Monday after prosecutors warned the wealthy banker might flee to France and put himself beyond the reach of US law like the filmmaker Roman Polanski.

Strauss-Kahn's weekend arrest rocked the financial world as the IMF grapples with the European debt crisis, and it upended French presidential politics. Strauss-Kahn, a member of France's Socialist party, was widely considered the strongest potential challenger next year to President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Austria's Finance Minister Maria Fekter has also suggested that Strauss-Kahn consider stepping down to avoid damaging the IMF, which provides emergency loans to countries in severe distress and tries to maintain global financial stability.

"Considering the situation, that bail was denied, he has to figure out for himself, that he is hurting the institution," Ms Fekter said as she arrived at a meeting of European Finance Ministers in Brussels.

Ms Elena Salgado, Ms Fekter's Spanish counterpart, said Strauss-Kahn had to decide for himself whether he wanted to step down, considering the "extraordinarily serious" nature of the charges.

"If I had to show my solidarity and support for someone it would be towards the woman who has been assaulted, if that is really the case that she has been," said Ms Salgado.

In France, defenders of Strauss-Kahn, a former Finance Minister who had topped the polls as a possible candidate in presidential elections next year, said they suspected he was the victim of a smear campaign. Others expressed sympathy.

"I didn't like the pictures I've seen on television," Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker said Monday night, referring to footage that showed Strauss-Kahn in handcuffs being escorted by police outside a New York precinct house.

Showing a suspect in handcuffs is illegal in France since a 2000 law aimed at the preserving the presumption of innocence.

France's audiovisual watchdog, CSA, asked television stations to use "the greatest reserve in diffusing images of people suspected in a penal procedure".

"The principle of freedom of expression and right to information must not disregard the fact that such images risk infringing on respect for the dignity of such people," it warned. The statement cited the 2000 law but did not name Strauss-Kahn.

The 62-year-old Strauss-Kahn was arrested on Saturday at John F Kennedy Airport after the allegations at the Sofitel hotel near Times Square.

Making his first court appearance on Monday, a grim-looking Strauss-Kahn stood slumped before a judge in a dark raincoat and open-collared shirt. The silver-haired banker said nothing as a lawyer professed his innocence and strove in vain to get him released on bail.

"This battle has just begun," defence attorney Benjamin Brafman told scores of reporters outside the courthouse, adding that Strauss-Kahn might appeal the bail denial.

Because of his high profile, Strauss-Kahn will be held in protective custody on Rikers Island, away from most detainees, said city Correction Department spokesman Stephen Morello. Unlike most prisoners who share 50-bed barracks, he will have a single-bed cell and will eat all of his meals alone there. He'll have a prison guard escort when he is outside his cell.

Rikers is one of the country's largest jail complexes, with a daily inmate population of about 14,000.

Strauss-Kahn was ordered jailed at least until a court proceeding on Friday. He cannot claim diplomatic immunity because he was in New York on personal business and was paying his own way, the IMF said. He could seek that protection only if he were conducting official business, spokesman William Murray said. The agency's executive board met informally on Monday for a report on the charges against Strauss-Kahn, the managing director at the international lending agency since 2007.

The French newspaper Le Monde, citing people close to Strauss-Kahn, said he had reserved the suite at the Sofitel hotel for one night for a quick trip to have lunch with his daughter, who is studying in New York.

Strauss-Kahn is accused of attacking a maid who had gone in to clean his penthouse suite on Saturday afternoon at a luxury hotel near Times Square. He is charged with attempted rape, sex abuse, a criminal sex act, unlawful imprisonment and forcible touching. The most serious charge carries five to 25 years in prison.

The 32-year-old maid told authorities that she thought the suite was empty but that Strauss-Kahn emerged from the bathroom naked, chased her down a hallway, pulled her into a bedroom and dragged her into a bathroom, police said.

"The victim provided a very powerful and detailed account of the violent sexual assault," Assistant District Attorney John "Ardie" McConnell said. He added that forensic evidence may support her account. Strauss-Kahn voluntarily submitted to a forensic examination on Sunday night.

Brafman said defence lawyers believe the forensic evidence "will not be consistent with a forcible encounter". Defence lawyers wouldn't elaborate, but Brafman said "there are significant issues that were already found" that make it "quite likely that he will be ultimately be exonerated."

Prosecutors asked the judge to hold Strauss-Kahn without bail, noting that he lives in France, is wealthy, has an international job and was arrested on a Paris-bound plane at the airport. He had left the hotel before police arrived, leaving his cellphone behind, and appeared hurried on surveillance recordings, authorities said.

Prosecutors said they couldn't force Strauss-Kahn's return from France if he went there. "He would be living openly and notoriously in France, just like Roman Polanski," said Chief Assistant District Attorney Daniel Alonso, referring to the film director long sought by California authorities for sentencing in a 1977 child sex case.

Defence lawyers suggested bail be set at $1 million and promised that the IMF managing director would remain in New York City.

Meanwhile, allegations of other, similar attacks by Strauss-Kahn began to emerge on Monday. In France, a lawyer for a 31-year-old French novelist said she is likely to file a criminal complaint accusing him of sexually assaulting her nine years ago. A French lawmaker accused him of attacking other maids in previous stays at the same luxury hotel. And in New York, prosecutors said they are working to verify reports of at least one other case, which they suggested was overseas.

Strauss-Kahn's lawyers said they had no immediate response to the allegations emerging from overseas.









Chief minister B S Yeddyurappa's parading 114 of his MLAs - with more letters of support - in Delhi was a show of strength which gave the lie to Karnataka governor Hans Raj Bhardwaj's call for President's rule. Bhardwaj's recommendation just doesn't add up, despite his relying on numbers in the assembly and a Supreme Court ruling. Neither leads to the governor's conclusions which not only devalue his judgment but also raise suspicions about his ability to act in the non-partisan manner expected of a governor.

Unfortunately real problems of governance which threaten the future of the state have been ignored thanks to Bhardwaj's fatuous and repeated insistence on imposing President's rule. He did so last year but this time around his recommendation's been prompted by the Supreme Court reversing the Karnataka high court's decision last year to disqualify 11 rebel BJP MLAs and five independents. The rebellion reduced Yeddyurappa's government to a minority in the 225-member assembly, but simultaneously the rebel MLAs were also disqualified. Hence, though Bhardwaj ordered a floor test, Yeddyurappa won it with 106 votes for and 100 against. Now that the rebel MLAs have been reinstated, Bhardwaj claims they're not BJP. Hence the assertion Yeddyurappa's running a minority government. But that's ignoring the facts. Ten of the rebels have returned to the fold and the BJP still maintains the lead.

Corruption, nepotism and abuse of power are rampant in Karnataka under Yeddyurappa's administration. But these do not amount to the sort of constitutional breakdown that would justify President's rule. India is a federal country, which has served it in good stead. It is best kept this way. Justice R S Sarkaria's 1987 report noted the vague wording of Article 356 - which allows the president to dismiss a state government - and recommended it be used as a last measure, when all available alternatives had failed to rectify or prevent the breakdown of the state's constitutional machinery.

Besides, the Centre could embarrass itself severely in legal and constitutional terms if it moves ahead on Bhardwaj's recommendations. Any dismissal of the Karnataka government is likely to get shot down in a court of law. The Supreme Court judgment in the Bommai case stated that a government's strength must be tested on the floor of the House before a governor can recommend dismissal. It isn't befitting for the governor to play politics with Karnataka's future. Doing so, in fact, helps obscure the corruption issue and make Yeddyurappa seem like a victim, from which the BJP is trying to reap maximum advantage.







Despite its cheery facade facilitating exchanges about people's news, views and shoes, the world of Twitter has a dark side too - for its celebrity adherents. A recent study finds too much tweeting by Hollywood icons and rock stars leads to them 'losing their sex appeal'.

Inundated by information regarding their breakfast cereal, pop-philosophy or looks - take for instance Demi Moore musing online about her hairstyle ("Digging soft curls with a side part. A good change from straight with a middle part?") - fans get turned off by some of the most attractive people in the real and virtual worlds. Axing your sex appeal with TMI (Too Much Information) isn't the only upsetting thing about baring it all in public. As Bollywood superstar Salman Khan recently found, familiarity breeds contempt. A cheeky chapter of the star's fans tweeted hints he might have become a tad fat. Responding with alacrity, India's riposte to Sly Stallone posted pictures looking like the Incredible Hulk. The shot clearly hit home though and the star signed off saying, 'Chup'.

From hulks to sulks is a short leap. Battling sarcasm about the time he spends tweeting (mentioning long drives, memorable meals and friendly TV anchors), Jammu & Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah first got pouty, disappeared briefly from online conversations, then reappeared saying, "I just got fed up of hearing that because i make time to tweet i'm not working." He added, though, "I'm not planning to disappear."

Clearly neither Abdullah nor Sushma Swaraj, who recently posted "As a family we never even touch egg.

That's our family tradition'', has heard of that study we mentioned. Maybe it isn't big enough online yet.









Pakistan is effectively under the thumb of a highly Islamicised military-intelligence complex. Aatish Taseer, son of the slain governor of Punjab, writes that following Osama bin Laden's killing, "we now have the clearest view of our enemy's other face. And it is not that of a bearded jihadi but of a serving officer in the Pakistani army".

In Pakistan, the military owns the state. Bin Laden's death opens a window of opportunity to make this a transformative moment for normalising Pakistan with a reduced army under firm civilian control. The fate of South and Southwest Asia may hinge on success in this agenda. More, international terrorism will not be defeated without a major rebalancing of Pakistan's civil-military relations as the key to demilitarising and deradicalising the country. This requires a divestment of western aid and attention from the military establishment towards robust civilian institutions.

This will not be easy. Pakistan may be a weak and failing country, but its capacity to resist US pressure is surprisingly strong, not the least by threatening to put a nuclear-tipped gun to its own head. When US President Barack Obama insisted that bin Laden must have had a support network inside Pakistan and demanded an investigation into possible state complicity, Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani told parliament that allegations of complicity and incompetence were absurd. But an investigation will be conducted.

Unease at his extrajudicial killing notwithstanding, bin Laden's death is a blessed relief on multiple counts. I have little difficulty in containing my disappointment at the failure to capture and put him on trial. Objectively, he was long past constituting a grave security threat to anyone and, with the Arab spring in full bloom, history was already passing him by even in the Arab and Islamic world.

In Brendan O'Neill's metaphor, for many years now bin Laden "has been the radical Islamist equivalent of an ageing rock star - living off past hits and releasing the occasional crap audio recording to satisfy his fans". Yet there is no denying the cathartic impact of his death on the hitherto unsated thirst for vengeance and the need for emotional closure by the Americans. And without that, in turn, the world had no prospect whatsoever of returning to any semblance of normalcy.

Another beneficial consequence may be that it will drive a stake through the heart of Pakistan's double dealings, deceit and betrayals. It is inconceivable that, given the location, size, boundary walls, video-surveillance equipment and the like, Pakistan's security authorities did not know that bin Laden was living in the Abbottabad mansion. On the balance of probability, he was more likely under their protection in an ISI safe house.

It is just as inconceivable that, for all their operational brilliance and technical wizardry, the Americans would have risked, or could have carried out, that long an operation so deep inside Pakistan, in close proximity to sensitive military institutions, without the advance knowledge of key Pakistani authorities. On the other hand, it is entirely credible that the civilian government - including the president and prime minister - would have been kept out of the loop on both the first and second counts.

The third inconceivable conjecture is that, given the known sympathies and ties of the Pakistani security services to the jihadists, the Americans would have risked giving out any information that could compromise their mission.

The truth thus lies somewhere between this triangulating set of inconceivable propositions being peddled by Pakistan and the US in order to avoid pointing the finger of criminality at Washington's chief partner in the AfPak battle space. This way, in public, bin Laden's blood is on US hands, and only theirs. That is, in effect bin Laden was betrayed by his protectors but, to avoid a terrorist and public backlash, Washington and Islamabad will cooperate in purveying the fiction that this was a unilateral US operation. The fleeting humiliation is a lesser cost than admitting to an act of treachery towards a protected guest of the highest value.

But why would Washington play along with such a charade? First, because the war on terror in general and the war in Afghanistan in particular will be won or lost not in the rugged mountains and scenic valleys of Afghanistan but in the teeming streets and bazaars and military cantonments of Pakistan. And, second, because Pakistan is the only country where the high-end risks of terrorism, jihadism and nuclear weapons come together in a terrifying cocktail.

But in privileging short-term expediency in tackling this threat, the US has mostly fed the very monster that is the root of the pathology. The crux of the problem is the nature of the Pakistani state. Its capture by the military-intelligence complex is the cause of Pakistan's dysfunctionality. The best and only long-term solution is to break the stranglehold of the military-intelligence complex on Pakistani politics, economy and society by establishing civilian control over the military and consolidating the institutions of democracy and good governance.

The writer is professor of international relations, Australian National University.








Norway's deputy foreign minister Espen Barth Eide visited New Delhi recently and spoke with Deep K Datta-Ray :

Why is a country on the edge of Europe interested in developing a strategic dialogue with India?

India's a growing player and shares our vision and values. These are universal values which is why they're in place here and in demand in the Middle East. They're rebelling, not for what al-Qaida hoped, but against authoritarian capitalism and for values we believe in. To reinforce these is why we want dialogue with you on global issues because what's at stake is the future architecture of the world. We've both got strong and shared commitments - the United Nations and managing the global commons are two. On the UN, India is showing a remarkable shift towards a multilateral framework. Resolution 1970 referred Gaddafi to the International Criminal Court. This is significant because India did not sign up for the ICC. It's a sign of your broadening commitment to an international regulatory system. Meanwhile, India's abstaining on resolution 1973 should be interpreted as seeking the middle ground.

Do you agree with the commonplace argument that India lacks strategic thought?

Not at all. It's there, which is why India acts how it does but it's not written. We're interested in the thinking behind Indian actions, which is why we're fostering a strategic dialogue with the relevant ministries and wider society. We're interested in how India handles and responds to the global changes taking place. The US doesn't organise the international system. This has also meant that the comfort of old alignments has dissolved. NAM isn't meaningful anymore.

Wasn't NAM simply a function of India creating a strategic space for itself, something India continues to do today?

Yes. The point is that NAM is less relevant today than it was in a bipolar world. The question is, what's key to the India project? They're inclusive growth and building a strong state. The focus on realising this is welcome, but simultaneously engaging internationally and beyond NAM would help maintain order and help get the India project right too. In Europe, for instance, we built strong multilateral forums while growing economically. Economic growth cannot be sustained without regional institutional mechanisms. They're absent here.

Is Europe, and Norway particularly, really an example for India? After all, you're not in the EU, and isn't your economic growth thanks to your oil?

No one can really stay out of the European integration project, being a full member or a close partner of the EU is only a question of degree. We're in the Schengen area, in the common market, in other agreements and nearly in others. Adopting a wider view, a 100 years ago we were poor. The change economically and in social terms - we have unprecedented equality - was due to social democracy, not oil. Of all the Nordic social democracies, only we have oil, but we're all similar economically and socially. Our model emphasised the pooling of all resources since the 1930s to manage external shocks. Within our society we sought equal rights as an end, but realised they also free labour and are very good macro economically.

This could be an analogy for the EU. The various states pool together to realise social and economic goals. It's also a very flexible and adaptable model, robust to change because underpinning it are the twin ideas of tolerance and accommodation. They help build resilience and need not only be limited to within a country but also between countries at a regional level to start with.








What did David do after he beat Goliath and became king? Few seem to know, or care. That's the thing with giant-killers: their sole job is giant-killing; having killed their giant, pretty much everything else they do will seem like an anti-climax. Will this be the fate of Mamata Banerjee, who felled the seemingly invincible Goliath of the Left?

Trinamool spokesperson Derek O'Brien came up with a catchy quote soon after his party won: 'A traffic light which has been on red for 34 years has now changed to green.' Green is Trinamool's colour; it is also the colour of the 'Go' sign on traffic lights and the colour of progress.

Bengal badly needs progress. It reportedly has a crushing debt of some R 1.92 lakh crore. Leave alone undertake any badly-needed and employment-generating public works projects, the state is barely in a position to pay its employees' wages. How is Bengal to be revived? That's the sobering question facing Team Mamata and all those who voted for 'poribartan', for change. So great was the disillusionment with the Left, particularly after the tragic farce of Singur and Nandigram - where the one-time architects of Operation Barga, arguably independent India's most effective land reform movement, became dishonest brokers favouring land-hungry industry at the expense of farmers - that Bengal's vote was largely a negative vote: anti-communist, rather than pro-Mamata.

This is not to detract from Didi's enormous popular appeal, with her promise of poribartan and her slogan of 'Maa, maati, manush', Motherhood, land, humanity. Like the Trinamool's election symbol of budding plants, the slogan is a poetic evocation of hope, of new beginnings. It has a great deal of EQ, or emotional quotient, but little, if anything, of what might be called PQ, or practical quotient.

How is the social and economic fabric of Bengal, tattered almost beyond salvage by the Left's misadventurism, to be rewoven and made whole again? In an interview with the TOI, shortly after her victorious election, Mamata underscored Bengal's urgent need for large-scale industrial investment and denied a conflict between the interests of farmers and the priorities of industry. What needs to be done, she emphasised, as many others have, is to ensure that agriculturists who give over their land receive a fair deal, not just in terms of cash compensation but also, and equally importantly, are assured of alternative and acceptable forms of future livelihood.

Indeed, the proposed land acquisition law currently being worked out in New Delhi seeks to address similar issues. Practical issues, which need the patience and the perseverance to deal with practical details. Mamata's appeal, at least so far, has been based on the immediacy of the emotional. Like Barack Obama's 'Yes, we can!' her 'poribartan' has proved to be a rousing war cry leading to the defeat of an oppressive adversary. But as Obama and his followers have seen, the euphoria of victory on the emotional promise of change is short-lived. Till he got a bonus boost with the elimination of Osama bin Laden, Obama's ratings had dropped to a dismal low on popular disaffection fuelled by the persistent unemployment figures in the US and the continuing entanglement in Iraq and Afghanistan.

'Yes, we can!' and 'poribartan' evoke an irresistible emotional response. But the adrenalin high of that same emotional response is susceptible of turning into its opposite, which is bitter disappointment. The higher the hopes raised, the deeper can be the disappointment when these hopes are not swiftly realised.

The most formidable foe of giant-killers is not Goliath; it's the even bigger giant of belied hopes that they could face after they've beaten Goliath. Fingers crossed that that's a return bout Didi doesn't have to fight.






Trying to be more loyal than the king has its own perils as Karnataka governor HR Bhardwaj's experience suggests. It is difficult to ascertain what is driving him to almost singlehandedly carry out a campaign to oust Karnataka chief minister BS Yeddyurappa when even the Centre does not seem in a mood to oblige him. This is clear from the opaque statements by the Centre that it will evaluate his report recommending dismissal of the state government and let things proceed through the proper channels. The earlier disqualification of 11 rebels MLAs by the assembly speaker has been quashed by the Supreme Court. They have pledged allegiance to the Yeddyurappa government, which now has teetering on the brink a comfortable majority of 120 in the 224-member House.

The BJP is naturally up in arms at what is being seen as partisan politics on the part of the governor who has been snapping at the heels of the state government for a long time. But Mr Bhardwaj, as a former law minister, must know that in the SR Bommai case the Supreme Court had stipulated that the state government can't be dismissed without a floor test, something that the chief minister will pass with flying colours. At a time when the Congress is in a fairly good position after the assembly elections, it did not really need to give the BJP reason to breathe fire and brimstone. Independent jurists too feel that Mr Bhardwaj is skating on the wrong side of constitutional propriety in going after the state government. In fact, many of his opponents feel that he is acting as an agent of the UPA government to the detriment of the latter. A few months ago, the Yeddyurappa government was on the ropes following allegations of corruption. Today, thanks to Mr Bhardwaj's ill-advised moves, the chief minister has been able to cast himself as being more sinned against than sinning.

Mr Bhardwaj's conduct is bound to raise the issue of partisanship of governors who formerly owed allegiance to one or other political party. Though they are expected to rise above partisan politics, all too often old habits die hard or they are used to settle political scores. Which brings into disrepute an institution which many feel has outlived its shelf life. However, the allegations of corruption among certain sections of the Karnataka government are serious and this turn of events should not be an excuse to let things drag. Armed with a new lease of political life, at least for the moment, it will win Mr Yeddyurappa political brownie points if he can be seen as non-partisan in dealing with his own flock, much in the manner that he had asked Mr Bhardwaj to do.




Belinda Carlisle will always be smarter than Stephen Hawking, considering that the former made a decent name for herself in the late 1980s for a nice little ditty called 'Heaven is a place on Earth'. But in case anyone mistook Ms Carlisle's insistence of the existence of terrestrial super-bliss to be evidence of heaven only as a metaphor, British astrophysicist Mr Hawking tells us, in no uncertain robotic monotonous terms, that heaven is a fairy tale. Which doesn't mean that the two German cultural researchers (and brothers), Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, were documenting facts. What Prof Hawking means is just that there is no heaven. (And that most women fake it.)

The business of the appeal of heaven should be strange to many of us. While 'jahannum' is a pretty well-defined bad place as described by the Muslim rulebook, for the rest of us, hell is 'other people' while heaven is people we find joy in hanging out with after we reach our 40s. Prof Hawking, however, is no sitting theologian. His comment about heaven being a work of fiction is in the context of him being asked whether he was afraid of death. Smart chap that he is, he dodged the question for Christian questioners. In the context of his familiarity with singularity points, black holes, quantum functions and nurses who love you, he knows that to be smart and to suffer from a motor neuron disease — amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, to be precise — is a blessing, therefore a happy fairy tale that for even more logical folks goes under the name of 'luck'.

Heaven for most of us is imaginary high-end dance bars where apsaras who look remarkably like Helen or Bipasha Basu do an item number or two. But as Prof Hawking says, "I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers." Hell, doesn't he know that we just get reborn again?






The people of Tamil Nadu have delivered a verdict consistent with the political culture and history of the state's voting pattern. The All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) chose to call this a silent revolution as there was no visible electoral wave. This was a mandate against the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) for its role in corruption, misrule, price rise, power shortage and, above all, nepotism.

The Congress — as the leader of the UPA government of which the DMK is a part — can't escape responsibility for its failures that include multiple corruption charges and its foreign policy towards Sri Lanka. We can't overlook the fact that the DMK was a minority party in the 13th state legislature with 96 seats and ruled the state from 2006-2011 with the Congress' support, and has been an ally of the UPA since 2004. So the role of the Congress in this stunning debacle of the DMK can't be washed away as a purely anti-DMK vote.

The electoral swing was as high as 12.36% with 202 of the total 234 seats going in the AIADMK's favour. This reveals the magnitude of the electorate's desire for change. It was validated by the high voter turnout of 78.12% — an increase of 7.3% than the previous assembly elections (70.82%) and the highest in the last 44 years. The size of Tamil Nadu's electorate has gone up by about 11.5 lakh voters since the 2006 elections. Women voted in greater number in 101 of the 234 constituencies spread across 25 of the 32 revenue districts. The DMK maintained that the high women turnout was due to its popular welfare schemes and women-centered self-help groups. But their presence was in response to price rise, acute power crisis and corruption charges against DMK leaders.

The electoral strategy and campaign of the DMK was unusually defensive, engulfed as it was in an environment of suspicion, scams, investigations and trials. It virtually faced the polls under the shadow of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). There was a widespread consensus both within and outside the party circle that the DMK had conceded far too many seats to the Congress than it should have.

The Congress' factional politics, combined with the poor leadership in the state and the absence of a clear campaign strategy, curbed its prospects beyond recovery. Congress candidates were confronted directly by a new generation of political activists spread across the state regarding its Sri Lanka policy. The routine killings of Tamil Nadu fishermen by the Sri Lankan navy and the failure of the Centre to prevail upon Colombo to apply restraints went against the national party. The result: the Congress got five out of the 63 seats it contested — its worst showing in 40 years.

Given the social base and the votebank support enjoyed by the DMK and its allies, it was a formidable force. The Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) and Viduthalai Chirutaigal  Katchi (VCK) enjoyed a strong votebank in the north, while the Congress held sway in the more traditional, though small, southern districts. The DMK also took steps to penetrate the AIADMK stronghold in western Tamil Nadu by allying itself with caste-based organisations. Despite the strong presence of the Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK), the withdrawal of the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) from the AIADMK front and the consequent boycott of the MDMK in the polls, the AIADMK's performance was so overwhelming that in the end as many as 16 sitting ministers were defeated.

The DMK leadership was more than confident that the distribution of freebies would bring the party back to power. But it was more taken up with defending the 2G spectrum case than projecting its popular programmes. The panic was so intense that even the likes of M Karunanidhi either shifted to a safer constituency or moved to rural areas fearing a backlash from urban voters.

For over a decade, the final frontier in Tamil Nadu polls has been the ability of parties to purchase votes through bribing the voter. The proactive role of the Election Commission this time round scuppered this old strategy. For betraying their trust, a crucial political message packed with a decisive mandate has been delivered by the people.

( Ramu Manivannan is the chairperson, Department of Politics and Public Administration, University of Madras, Chennai )

The views expressed by the author are personal





I don't know if German palaeontologist Michael Prauss, who studied 65-million-year-old fossils in Texas and who argues that radical changes to the flora and fauna of the era eventually wiped out dinosaurs from earth, could be persuaded to examine the extinction of the Leftists in West Bengal. But one finds a similarity of circumstances between the dinosaurs and the Leftists — both failed to adapt to the changes in their respective environments. And if you believe that the extinction was actually caused by a massive asteroid slamming into earth, could the asteroid here be named Mamata, one might politely ask?

Carl Sagan pointed out that things, apparently immutable too, do change, albeit slowly, as it took nearly two billion years for us to change into human beings from microbes, a half a billion years from fish, ten million years from arboreal apes and a million years from proto-humans "puzzling out the taming of fire".

Take the instance of some technologies, which promise to change our lives in the 21st century. Biotechnology, nanotechnology, information technologies and cognitive science are registering such fast progress that we feel overawed. Indeed, we are living in exponential times.

Nothing changes like change. Despite that the environmental aspects of climate change alarm me. But while some changes are unsought, the propensity for change is natural with human beings.

In India, language, food and culture changes every 80-100 km, making its fashion as diverse as the culture and tradition of the country. My little girl always wants to replace older toys with the newer ones. I have always wanted to change my job. Many of my friends keep changing their cell phones with as much alacrity as they change their girlfriends. Save so far, the people of West Bengal who remained stubbornly resistant to change for 34 long years.

But that was until May 13, 2011. In fact, rarely before has the word 'change' assumed so looming and cosmic a significance in this woebegone state, shortchanged by the ruling Left for over three decades, until there appeared a game changer in the person of Mamata Banerjee. In dislodging the longest-serving communist government of the world, she scored a feat in politics paralleled only by the likes in Nicholas Copernicus, Isaac Newton, Michael Faraday, Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein, Georges Lemaître, James Watson and Francis Crick and Niels Bohr, who changed the world with their feats in science.

Am I being effusive? Am I exaggerating? How can I compare Banerjee with such illustrious people? Like Copernicus, she disproved that it was the people who revolve around the Party; like Newton she drove home the message to the Left and to the world that political leaders must not pull away from people by trying to ignore gravitational forces; like Faraday she became the beacon of light of hope to the people of a moribund state; like Darwin she evolved the agitational politics of stridency, practised by the Left, to mobilise people against the CPI(M); like Einstein she proved any delusion of grandeur as only relative, reducing Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee's boast in the assembly elections of 2006 of  a Left haul of 235 seats by almost reversing the tally in 2011; like Lemaître she imploded the Left from within into a Big Bang and like Watson and Crick she found the double-helix structure of the Left DNA — the twisted warp of power and conceit to undo any regime.

"They always say time changes things," Andy Warhol said, "but you actually have to change them yourself." Now that this has been done by the people of West Bengal, Banerjee must think about opening a business school in the state that specialises in 'change management' to facilitate a structured approach to shifting/transitioning individuals/teams/organisations from the current state to a desired future state. Cadre raj, militant trade unionism, partisan police force, habitual obstructionism — some old habits that die hard — could be objects of serious study.

( Prasenjit Chowdhury is a Kolkata-based writer )

The views expressed by the author are personal





We are not used to too many success stories in our battles against diseases. On the contrary, with our shambolic public health system and cavalier political attitude, we have become the leading light in most communicable and lifestyle diseases. But, India seems to be getting it right when it comes to the fight against HiV/Aids: infection rates have dipped by half over the last decade and we have also realised the advantages of working with affected communities.

There is another reason behind these improvements: there has been official receptiveness to work together with other countries to utilise the best practices than follow a go-it-alone strategy. Director-general of National Aids Control Organisation (Naco) Sayan Chatterjee, agrees on this united approach. He says that "researchers around the work must work collaboratively and strategically to identify and develop the best ideas for HiV vaccine design, whatever their provenance".

Today, 30 years after the virus was first detected, African countries are trying to adopt the Indian model of combating it. The turnaround seems to have come in the National Aids Control Programme III (NACP III) in which a real effort was made by Naco to evolve a consensual model that involved all stakeholders: donors, civil society and those living with Hiv/Aids.

The Indian efforts have been focused on prevention. "It is still a huge health concern, so we cannot get away from prevention," says MK Bhan, secretary, department of biotechnology. While he is all for the development of vaccines, he feels that when it comes to "neutralising viruses, whether HiV or malaria or others, we are working against nature, we have to rely on man's ingenuity".

In a happy development, targeted intervention programmes today cover over 70% of the populations at risk. There has been a quantum jump in the use of condoms and much more focus on access to prevention services. Similarly, there has been improvement in counseling, testing and an increase in the percentage of those receiving anti-retroviral drugs, all as a result of taking into account the situation on the ground rather than adopting a bureaucratic top-down approach.

But there are some factors that the NACP IV has to take into account as preparations before it begin next year. First, foreign funding for the fight against HiV/Aids is likely to decrease. The concessional funding from the World Bank will be reduced and organisations like the Gates Foundation have decided to put their money into other areas of communicable disease.

This means that there is likely to be greater reliance on domestic funding. And therein lies the rub. The health challenges that India faces today have proliferated from communicable diseases to lifestyle ones like diabetes, hypertension and cardio-vascular ailments. This means that there will be competing demands on even an enhanced funding. Former Naco director Sujata Rao says "this [the drop in funding] calls for a review of the programme so that these new factors can be taken into account from the beginning. Otherwise we may fritter away the advantages that we have secured." Equally worried are the civil society organisations that work in this field.

In the prevention approach, there is no getting away from the simultaneous efforts to developing a vaccine. The department of biotechnology has created a centre in collaboration with the International Aids Vaccine Initiative for the development of a vaccine, which if successful will be manufactured in India. The secretary of the department of science and technology, T Ramaswamy, echoes this view that there is no need for India to strike out on its own and that we need to optimise our resources in collaboration with international efforts.

Today our seropositivity rate has come down from 0.36 to 0.31, a considerable achievement in a country with such a huge disease burden. But the efforts must be on to design a programme that will invite greater global funding. For this, donors have to be convinced that the programme takes into account all factors, including the views of those living with the virus or who have already contracted Aids. The focus on prevention is vital but there are four lakh people who are undergoing treatment and nothing can compromise their needs, especially the complex levels of care and support HiV positive people need.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation's Avahan package is a model which could be incorporated into the NACP IV that looks at prevention services like outreach, behaviour change, messaging on safe sex, free or socially marketed condom distribution, needle and syringe exchange for drug users and treatment for sexually transmitted infections. The other determinants it covers include stigma, violence, legal environment, medical infrastructure, mobility, migration, gender roles and barriers to accessing entitlements.

Stigma is a particularly difficult area in countering the virus as there is still so much ignorance surrounding it. This was clear from the manner in which two HiV-positive siblings were shunned by a school in enlightened Kerala as the parents of other students were against the idea of their children sharing the same space as them. Even more heartrending is the discrimination faced by marginal communities such as sex workers, transgender and injecting drug users. The antidote to this is to involve as many stakeholders as possible.

The experience of NACP III has shown that rather than become unwieldy, this actually helps to hone and focus interventions. We have reached a situation where we are being talked about globally as a success story in the fight against Hiv/Aids. We now need to build on this and today, which is World Aids Vaccine Day, would be as good a time as any to renew our pledge to do so.








Last week's decision by the Supreme Court to overrule the Karnataka high court and reinstate 16 members of the Karnataka legislative assembly was a spark for the current, many-sided confrontation between the BJP, the Congress, the JD (S) and the state governor, H.R. Bhardwaj. The implications of the judgment for the anti-defection law, however, also need close examination and discussion. Ever since the anti-defection law was first passed in 1985 and subsequently strengthened, many of its provisions have been open to multiple readings — and many speakers have interpreted them to suit their parties' purpose. Now the court has brought clarity to many points.

In this case there were several questions at stake. When, in a highly controversial decision in October 2010, the speaker of the Karnataka assembly disqualified 11 BJP MLAs and five independent MLAs — enabling the Yeddyurappa government to survive a trust vote — was there a proper process that he needed to follow? Does writing to the governor and asking for a change of CM constitute abandoning your party? Does an independent MLA who takes a ministerial berth give up his "independent" status and become part of the party he is supporting and has received his cabinet post from? The high court had gone with the speaker's view on most of these issues; the Supreme Court has answered those questions differently. The Karnataka speaker, in particular, came in for some pointed criticism from the judges: relying on news reports is not enough, they said, the MLAs should have been permitted to speak for themselves.

This judgment is useful in that it further clarifies some crucial red lines. Independent MLAs stay independent even if they are supporting a government. But, most crucially, the bench's ruling appears to substantiate the point that you cannot be considered to have defected unless you have demonstrated that defection by voting against the government. The application of the anti-defection law has many grey areas, and clarity on some of them is useful. The court's ruling is a reminder that strengthening our legislatures involves re-examining, from time to time, the rules and procedures under which they operate. And the controversies sparked over the past few days should also be a caution against the easy suggestion that often floats around about giving the governor/president the eventual power to decide on the disqualification of legislators under the anti-defection law.






Unlike West Bengal, the Tamil Nadu election results were not a foregone conclusion. Jayalalithaa's victory is even more impressive for being less talked-up, a consequence of patient strategising and playing to the strengths of her alliance. In the last decade of the DMK's dominion, she seemed to be retreating from the scene — she moved away from Chennai, she hardly attended the assembly, she rarely made her presence publicly felt. However, the strength of her recent rallies in Madurai and Coimbatore in the last few months should have been an indication of Jayalalithaa's clear return to favour.

This also unlocks many new political possibilities, as was made abundantly clear at Jayalalithaa's swearing-in ceremony — attended by the unlikely crew of A.B. Bardhan and D. Raja, N. Chandrababu Naidu and Narendra Modi. The Congress has also made congratulatory noises. For years now, one or the other ruling party in the state has bolstered the national alliance. In the last decade, the DMK had raised this mutual backscratching to an art, using its support to the Congress at the Centre to enlarge its aura in the state. Jayalalithaa does not have as competent a party machine, but she has also been a consummate coalition operator. She remains a coveted partner despite her erratic history — the BJP had a scarring experience with Jayalalithaa in 1998-99, when she kept them on tenterhooks and eventually walked out of the government a year later, causing it to collapse. She has been hostile to the Congress as well, making her antipathy to Sonia Gandhi only too obvious. In recent years, as the DMK-Congress alliance solidified for their mutual convenience, the AIADMK was seen as an essential component of an emergent Third Front. However, she has offered support to the Congress after the 2G scam if it threw over the DMK, just as she has been conspicuously friendly to the BJP.

What makes the AIADMK such an attractive ally is the fact that it is open to allying with anyone. Unlike most other regional parties, it carries no long-term baggage or strict ideological boundaries. Given the political heft of her party right now, this means that the guessing and jostling around Jayalalithaa will go on for a while.






When you thought the political atmosphere in Karnataka couldn't be further vitiated, and Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa's credibility was at rock-bottom, Governor H.R. Bhardwaj has managed to make everyone else look better. He seems to think his brief as governor is to create constitutional crises out of thin air, and devise ways to shake the state government. The Supreme Court recently restored the membership of the 11 rebel BJP MLAs, who had been disqualified by the assembly speaker, thus saving the Yeddyurappa government's skin. The governor declares himself vindicated by the Supreme Court's action, and has now recommended president's rule for Karnataka, based on his gut sense that the council of ministers had lost legitimacy.

Bhardwaj has chosen to ignore the clear limits laid down in the Bommai judgment — "in all cases where the support of the ministry is claimed to have been withdrawn by some legislators, the proper course for testing the strength of the ministry is on the floor of the house... (and) not a matter of private opinion of any individual, be he the governor or the president." Bhardwaj has knocked down this elementary tenet of federal fairplay, and, rather incredibly, by comparison made Yeddyurappa's to be the correct democratic fight. President's rule applies only when the government is in a minority, which is patently not the case in Karnataka right now. What's more, Bhardwaj has even blocked the possibility of a legislative session to assess the government's strength.

Certainly, there may have been breaches of propriety in the Karnataka legislature, and the question of corruption and mining cited by the governor are all pressing issues — but those have to be addressed by statutory procedure, by the patient processes of law, as the Supreme Court now has. Bhardwaj's swagger and disregard for delicate constitutional arrangements are a separate problem altogether. He has consistently used his Raj Bhavan perch to undercut the government, just as he previously interpreted his official role as furthering of the Congress's ends. There is no place in India for these sudden swipes and attempted midnight coups. By invoking president's rule as a scorched-earth strategy to undermine Karnataka's elected government, Bhardwaj has debased the office of governor. The Centre must recall him before he inflicts further damage.








A potent mix of high inflation and land conflicts is haunting Indian politics. Most of the intellectual and political energy is being expended on what we do after the problem has acquired disconcerting proportions. There is relatively little discussion on how we could prevent the problem from acquiring such momentum in the first place. Behind the facade of technical arguments over the trade-off between inflation and unemployment, or compensation levels for land acquisition, there is a familiar but ugly truth: both problems originate in massive governance failures. And both problems are now irrevocably interlinked.

The UPA has been unconscionably blase about inflation. It has used every single argument to explain away inflation, from global prices to the weather. Some of these are contributing factors. Monetary and fiscal policies have their own role to play. But inflation is as much about expectations as anything else. In a curious way, both the government and the RBI have been consistently sending mixed messages on inflation. The prime minister's refrain that there is a trade-off between fighting inflation and employment sounds more like a post facto creation of an alibi than a determined signal to quench inflationary expectations. For a while, the issue was food prices. But it is now clear that inflation is broader-based. The ugly truth is that Indian inflation is as much governance-induced as anything.

How? When inflation is persistently high there is good reason to believe that there are significant supply bottlenecks in meeting increased demand. So the question is: what is it about the Indian economy that is making it difficult to generate supply responses to increased demand? In certain areas of agriculture there are long-term issues around productivity. There is simply no excuse why these issues should not have been addressed seven years into the UPA. But the supply of every single input cost, from energy to services, from land to credit for small businesses, seems to be alarmingly high. Each of these input costs can be directly linked to governance failures. Proper regulation is needed in many areas. But the form in which regulation is administered at so many levels of government is exacting a huge toll on the ability to create supply responses. There is no getting around the fact that unless you fix governance in the "small", the supply bottlenecks will remain a structural feature, as they have been for more than three years now. Sophistry is providing an alibi for governance failures.

It is possible that we haven't got the foggiest idea of how complicated things on the ground are. Take an example. According to some recent reports, rural wage rates have increased by as much as 40 per cent over the last two years. This would be a cause of celebration, if we could be sure that this was translating entirely into welfare gains on the one hand; and not distorting labour markets in a self-defeating way on the other. We don't know whether either claim is true. There may be a danger that rural wages and inflation are now in a vicious cycle, each exerting pressure on the other. As for labour shortage, it is not entirely clear what the story is. Demand expansion? Skill matching bottlenecks? Changing migration patterns? Changing employment preferences? The disquieting thought is that we don't have a way of determining these linkages. The analytical debate is so focused on aggregate numbers, or particular issues, that there is very little systematic understanding of the linkages is now a source of stickiness. The distinguished political scientist Sidney Verba used to joke that most social science was about replacing strong intuition with tenuous correlation. Relying on either has its dangers. In addition, a lot of data is backward looking. It tells you yesterday's story, not emerging linkages. But it has been easy to use conjectures artfully to deflect the blame from governance.

This is where the land story comes in. A previous column (August 19, 2010) raised the political economy issue around land. If anything, we underestimated the challenges. In a state like Gujarat, half of the port projects are stalled because of land-related issues. But arguably land is linked to inflation more than we recognise. Asset prices can drive inflation. But the cost of land, and issues around zoning, are driving up pretty much the price of every single service. This is true of big and small business. India's great advantage as an economy, as Partha Mukhopadhyay had pointed out, was that it was easy to enter it at different price points. But the combined cost of land, energy and regulation may be creating a hitherto unprecedented stickiness. This may pose a real structural challenge for us. There has got to be some link between the fact that the monthly payout for a small paan hawker in a place like Gurgaon is upwards of Rs 10,000 a month just for "space" and the cost of services and the fact that fewer people seem to be accessing cities according to 2011 census. So land may be more than just about farmer conflicts.

But here is the worry about the land debate. The Land Acquisition Bill will probably be passed. The Congress will do it in typical fashion. First, decimate property rights that could have been used to protect the poor, then build up a crisis, then step in with a palliative. The bill will, if well drafted, help create fairness and transparency in compensation. But it will not solve all the principle land issues. It will solve the fairness issue. But whether it will solve the shortage or zoning issues is still an open question. Some land acquisition is location-specific. Land-acquisition problems are a product of the fact that the entire ecosystem for land planning is mismanaged. The mismanagement is of two sorts. One is misallocation of resources we already possess. Just fixing this problem would reduce the need to acquire land. This is not a simple matter of a McKinsey-style mantra of unlocking land values; those formulas are largely real-estate deals, they have no sense what good land planning requires for efficient, liveable cities that are also hubs of low-cost economic activity. The second is that all our governance structures, whether it is coordination of transport strategies, or whether it is designation of zoning, militate against intelligent land planning.

Mamata Banerjee was right when she said recently that there are "scientific" solutions to the land question. Conflicts are avoidable. But not if the obfuscations we have seen on inflation and land are repeated. Governance has become post facto hand-wringing, rather than ex ante application of intelligence.

The writer is president, Centre for Policy Research, Delhi







Nepal's Prime Minister Jhalanath Khanal stood before a crowd and made a confession: he said the political parties did not act seriously to make the constitution-making process a success.

The country saw another confession, a rather old one, make a return. In G.P. Koirala's book, Afnai Kura (My Own Version), published posthumously, the man who led the movement for political change in 2006 confesses that the interim constitution which he promulgated was a blunder, and that the best course would have been to introduce an amendment to the 1990 constitution to curtail the king's powers instead of dismissing the constitution altogether. Koirala also admits that the future of Nepal's politics and the constitution-drafting process is rather uncertain.

Both these confessions come at a time when Nepal's politicians are divided over the usefulness and efficiency of the Constituent Assembly, which has repeatedly failed to meet the deadline for drafting a new constitution. While the alliance of the radical left, which consists of the Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoists (UCPN-M) and a section of the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML), is in favour of an extended tenure for the House beyond May 28, pro-democracy parties, including the Nepali Congress, are suspicious of the radical left's plans. They believe that by staying in power, the radical left alliance wants to wrest further legitimacy for itself and its agenda.

The time between now and May 28 is crucial. Maoists are saying that they are committed to democracy and an all-inclusive national government, but they have so far refused to implement any of the items in the past accord, like returning property that they had forcibly captured during the years of insurgency, and dismantling the paramilitary structure of its various organs.

There were more confessions. UK Department for International Development (DFID) suspended a huge grant that was in the pipeline for the Nepal Federation of Indigenous Nationalities (NEFIN) on the eve of a nationwide bandh that the latter had called on May 13. The suspension of the fund is being seen as the beginning of a review on "where the international community went wrong" during the past four years.

Led by Britain, a few Scandinavian countries, Switzerland and the US came out with a statement that they would not support any strike that infringed on people's rights. The statement came in the wake of growing resentment in Nepal towards the international community, especially the UK, Norway, Denmark and Switzerland. They are blamed for giving money to radical and militant outfits in the name of ethnic and territorial empowerment and for supporting the agenda of the Maoists, which resulted in diluting the authority of the state. The DFID's confession is also being seen as an admission that the Western countries and India, which play a crucial role in Nepal's politics, cannot ignore moderate democratic forces in the future. Their notion that the Maoists needed to be trusted more than the other parties for the consolidation of democracy in Nepal has been proved wrong.

A big challenge is coming up. After May 28, there could be trouble if there is still no sign of a constitution and if political parties fail to reach a consensus on an agenda of multiparty democracy.

There is little chance for the House to move forward if the radical left retains control of the government even after May 28. In fact, many people have expressed their disapproval of such an eventuality. Gyanendra, the former king, too said recently that political players must come out with a credible document before the deadline.

What have irked most people are the acts of deceit committed by the radical left alliance. Maoist chief Prachanda is trying to have his combatants dominantly placed in a new security outfit. He has suggested that former rebels lead a security agency whose members are being drawn from the Nepal army, Armed Police Force and Maoist combatants. This move — by the Maoists to get their private army almost armed and funded by the state — comes at a time when their commitment to parliamentary democracy has yet to be established by word or action.

Parties outside of the radical left alliance are waking up to this reality, but they are still not sure whether they can stand up to the Maoists, politically or otherwise. However, the Maoists have lost the goodwill and support that they enjoyed both at home and from the international community. Whether the term of the Constituent Assembly gets extended or not, the Maoists will lose a lot of ground. They will be neither feared as revolutionaries, nor respected for committing to pursue the politics of peace and democracy.







On May 13, after the assembly election results, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee showed up at the Congress headquarters in New Delhi to deliver a message: that it was a verdict for "stability" and the opposition should make no further attempt to destabilise the government at the Centre. The Congress was emphatically returned to power in Assam, it registered a back-from-the-brink victory in Kerala, and its ally, Trinamool Congress, led a sweep in West Bengal.

But the results brought little cheer to a party witnessing widening breaches in its citadel of south India. While some UPA crisis managers may have heaved a sigh of relief to see the DMK's tally in Tamil Nadu, the Congress had not bargained for its total rout. With 1.3 million members enrolled by the Indian Youth Congress only last year, Rahul Gandhi's boys had been emboldened enough to talk about going it alone and bringing back the "Kamaraj rule". The results must have been a humbling experience. The party has to introspect whether it would have done better by following Rahul and going it alone in order to rebuild the organisation for long-term gains.

In Andhra Pradesh, renegade Congressman Jaganmohan Reddy has been busy writing the ruling party's epitaph since his father Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy's death. The results of the Kadapa parliamentary and Pulivendula assembly by-polls have come as a big jolt to the Congress's hope of winning back YSR's political legacy. A final declaration, whenever it comes, against the bifurcation of the state is set to make it worse for the Congress in Andhra Pradesh.

There are other lessons for the Congress as it braces for a tougher battle next year, especially in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Gujarat, and Himachal Pradesh — assuming that the party may have it easy in Punjab, Goa and Manipur. First, the party has to reconsider its stance against projecting a chief minister. As proven yet again by Tarun Gogoi, voters like to know who they are voting for. Gone are the days when they would close their eyes and vote for the Nehru-Gandhi family. While there is no denying the fact that the family still represents certain values and traditions to voters and have a certain electoral appeal — more than any other Congress leaders at the national level — they are no longer the only decisive factor. It would certainly make for more informed voting decisions if Rahul represents more than the Nehru-Gandhi family and the youth, and puts forth his views on burning issues like, say, Anna Hazare's fast for the Lokpal Bill, Mamata Banerjee's opposition to the Land Acquisition (Amendment) Bill, or India's strategic engagement with Afghanistan.

There is certainly a need to change the Gandhi family's speech-writers. Whoever scripted his ashamed-of-being-an-Indian remarks at Bhatta Parsaul or his constant regrets of being a "symptom" of everything that ails Indian politics — family, patronage and money — certainly thinks very poorly of Indian voters' reasoning capacity. Similarly, the 2009 elections are over and harping on UPA 1's flagship programmes like National Rural Employment Guarantee Act cannot pay electoral dividends all the time. They have also not taken any lessons from Bihar, and continue to harangue the opposition-led state governments for improper or non-utilisation of Central funds.

As for projecting a chief ministerial candidate, ask the Congress observers who had gone to Uttar Pradesh to do a survey of prospective party candidates for 2012 elections. All of them agree that the party's biggest handicap in the Hindi heartland is the dearth of "faces" at the local level and having a clear chief ministerial candidate would address this problem. But as Digvijaya Singh clarified last week, Rahul belongs to the entire country and not to UP alone. But the Congress still thinks people will vote for an invisible man whose only qualification is expected to be his loyalty to the Nehru-Gandhi family.

Last but not the least, as they take a fresh look at the council of ministers, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the UPA chairperson should reconsider the old criteria of regional representation. While four ministers from Karnataka, including three in the cabinet, have made little impact on the Congress's fortune in the state, the recent assembly elections have again proved that voters are not really swayed by these factors. There are quite a few heavyweights in the Union cabinet from Kerala and Tamil Nadu, and a minister of state in the prime minister's office from Puducherry, but they made little difference to the electoral fortune of their respective parties. Faced with the task of reversing the drift in governance, the UPA leadership would do better to give priority to merit in the next cabinet rejig.








US-Pakistan equations

After threatening divorce in the wake of the US raid on Abbottabad earlier this month, the Pakistan army and the Obama administration are negotiating the terms for saving their marriage. In the last few weeks, sections of the US Congress, angry at Rawalpindi's double dealing on terror have threatened to cut off aid to Pakistan. The US Congress has approved aid totalling nearly $21 billion since 9/11.

Caught harbouring America's enemy number one, Osama bin Laden, the Pakistan army has got its political establishment to direct wounded national pride against the United States and threaten the withdrawal of US access to Afghanistan — both geographical access and intelligence sharing.

John Kerry, the chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee in the US Congress, was in Pakistan on Monday getting the nation's establishment to count the costs of defying Washington.

At the end of his talks (individually and collectively) with the army chief, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, President Asif Ali Zardari, and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, Kerry said the two sides have agreed on a "roadmap" to restore mutual trust and revisit all aspects of their counter-terror cooperation.

Senior officials from Washington, the special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Marc Grossman, and the CIA deputy director for operations, Mark Morrel, will arrive in Islamabad shortly to work out the details. Kerry said the Pakistan army has agreed to take a number of "specific steps" in the coming days to demonstrate its commitment to the war on terror.

Delhi is not surprised that the United States and Pakistan are trying to "reset" their bilateral relations. Whether it wants to stay in Afghanistan or leave, the US needs the Pakistan army's support. Rawalpindi, in turn, knows that there is no other power, including China, that can fully compensate for a strategic rupture with the United States.

The real question for Delhi is: who's got the upper hand? For now the Obama administration seems to be on top. During his day-long visit to Pakistan, Kerry did not apologise for the unilateral US military action deep inside Pakistan and made it clear that nice words from Pakistan are no longer enough to convince the sceptics in Washington. Even as political leaders in Islamabad were denouncing the United States, Washington got access to bin Laden's wives in Pakistan and the drones have not stopped operating in Waziristan.

The next few days weeks will show if Washington's pressure is enough to get Rawalpindi to act against the remaining leaders of al-Qaeda, the Haqqani network and the Lashkar-e-Toiba. They will also reveal if the US might be prepared to live with a limited response from Kayani and return to business as usual.

US-Taliban talks

As it seeks strong action against the Haqqani network that has been so close to the military establishment in Rawalpindi, the Obama administration is also trying to develop independent access to the Taliban. A report in Tuesday's edition of The Washington Post on the contacts between the Obama administration and the Taliban suggested that the US wants to reduce its current dependence on Kayani for a peace deal in Afghanistan.

A US diplomat attended at least three meetings in Qatar and Germany, including one "eight or nine days ago" with a Taliban official considered close to the group's leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar, the report said, citing an Afghan official. While Kayani has offered himself as a broker between the US and the Taliban, US officials have told the Post that the Taliban leaders prefer direct contact with the Obama administration.

The newspaper added that the Obama administration has not walked away from its earlier position that the peace process with the Taliban must be Afghan-led. "Afghans have been fully briefed" on US-Taliban contacts, an American official told the Post, and "the Pakistanis only partially so."

Sharif, the bold

As Pakistan's political class meekly surrendered to Kayani in the last few days, the former prime minister and the leader of the PML-N, Nawaz Sharif, stood out as the lone exception. While Gilani was desperate to wipe the egg off Kayani's face and put it on his own, Sharif forced the government to agree to an independent commission of inquiry into the bin Laden affair as part of the compromise on a unanimous resolution over the weekend in the National Assembly.

Having been a victim of an army coup in 1999, Sharif has been demanding greater civilian control over the army and the ISI, including a parliamentary scrutiny of their budgets. Sharif has also said Pakistan can't make progress without ending the hostility towards India that feeds into the army's hold over the nation.

While India likes what it hears from Sharif, the Pakistan army dislikes him intensely. The United States deeply distrusts Sharif whose party and its government in West Punjab are often seen as empathetic to religious extremist groups.

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






Sixty-three years ago, a 13-year-old Palestinian boy was forced to leave his home in the Galilean city of Safed and flee with his family to Syria. He took up shelter in a canvas tent provided to all the arriving refugees. Though he and his family wished for decades to return to their home and homeland, they were denied that most basic of human rights. That child's story, like that of so many other Palestinians, is mine.

This month, however, as we commemorate another year of our expulsion — which we call the nakba, or catastrophe — the Palestinian people have cause for hope: this September, at the United Nations General Assembly, we will request international recognition of the state of Palestine on the 1967 border, and that our state be admitted as a full member of the United Nations.

Many are questioning what value there is to such recognition while the Israeli occupation continues. Others have accused us of imperiling the peace process. We believe, however, that there is tremendous value for all Palestinians — those living in the homeland, in exile and under occupation.

It is important to note that the last time the question of Palestinian statehood took centrestage at the General Assembly, the question posed to the international community was whether our homeland should be partitioned into two states. In November 1947, the General Assembly made its recommendation and answered in the affirmative. Shortly thereafter, Zionist forces expelled Palestinian Arabs to ensure a decisive Jewish majority in the future state of Israel, and Arab armies intervened. War and further expulsions ensued. Indeed, it was the descendants of these expelled Palestinians who were shot and wounded by Israeli forces on Sunday as they tried to symbolically exercise their right to return to their families' homes.

Minutes after the state of Israel was established on May 14, 1948, the United States granted it recognition. Our Palestinian state, however, remains a promise unfulfilled.

Palestine's admission to the United Nations would pave the way for the internationalisation of the conflict as a legal matter, not only a political one. It would also pave the way for us to pursue claims against Israel at the United Nations, human rights treaty bodies and the International Court of Justice.

Our quest for recognition as a state should not be seen as a stunt; too many of our men and women have been lost for us to engage in such political theatre. We go to the United Nations now to secure the right to live free in the remaining 22 per cent of our historic homeland because we have been negotiating with the State of Israel for 20 years without coming any closer to realising a state of our own. We cannot wait indefinitely while Israel continues to send more settlers to the occupied West Bank and denies Palestinians access to most of our land and holy places, particularly in Jerusalem. Neither political pressure nor promises of rewards by the United States have stopped Israel's settlement programme.

Negotiations remain our first option, but due to their failure we are now compelled to turn to the international community to assist us in preserving the opportunity for a peaceful and just end to the conflict. Despite Israel's attempt to deny us our long-awaited membership in the community of nations, we have met all prerequisites to statehood listed in the Montevideo Convention, the 1933 treaty that sets out the rights and duties of states. We have the capacity to enter into relations with other states and have embassies and missions in more than 100 countries. The World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the European Union have indicated that our institutions are developed to the level where we are now prepared for statehood. Only the occupation of our land hinders us from reaching our full national potential; it does not impede United Nations recognition.

The state of Palestine intends to be a peace-loving nation, committed to human rights, democracy, the rule of law and the principles of the United Nations Charter. Once admitted to the United Nations, our state stands ready to negotiate all core issues of the conflict with Israel. A key focus of negotiations will be reaching a just solution for Palestinian refugees based on Resolution 194, which the General Assembly passed in 1948.

Palestine would be negotiating from the position of one United Nations member whose territory is militarily occupied by another, however, and not as a vanquished people ready to accept whatever terms are put in front of us.

We call on all friendly, peace-loving nations to join us in realising our national aspirations by recognising the State of Palestine on the 1967 border and by supporting its admission to the United Nations. Only if the international community keeps the promise it made to us six decades ago, and ensures that a just resolution for Palestinian refugees is put into effect, can there be a future of hope and dignity for our people.

The writer is the chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organisation








UP's 'land grab'

The CPM is critical of the UP government after the farmer unrest about land acquisition in the state. The editorial in People's Democracy claims the anger underlines the "land grab" which is going on under the BSP government, saying it is a classic case of crony capitalism at work. "The Yamuna Expressway Industrial Development Authority," it argues, "is acquiring thousands of hectares of land in the areas adjoining the expressway and selling them to real estate companies at prices 10 to 20 times given to the farmers." The builders and real estate companies in turn sell the same plots of land at 50 to 100 times the price originally given to the farmers.

The editorial says the UP government builds expressways by acquiring large tracts of land and handing them over to favoured companies for not just building the expressway but also townships and malls: "This is naked loot of the land resources of the farmers and handing them over to big business and real estate sharks." The article calls for immediate passage of the land acquisition bill, but says that more is needed. "The practice of handing over land cheaply to real estate companies and corporates through state intervention should be put an end to forthwith," it says.

Raja's other services

Another article says the 2G scam did not end with spectrum allotment; as telecom minister, A. Raja also directed state-owned BSNL to provide roaming services to new companies that had received licenses but had no infrastructure. Additionally, restrictions were put on BSNL for procuring equipment. "The roaming was not the usual one of extending services to customers of other companies when they are outside their licensed area, but providing such roaming service even within the licensed area of the company," the article says. Without putting up any cells or towers, these companies could provide services by riding on BSNL's infrastructure. No other telecom company was asked to provide such services to the new entrants.

The article argues that such a move was unheard of. "Obviously, this was using BSNL's resources to its detriment to help subsidise the operations of companies such as Reliance, Swan and others.... One of the reasons that Unitech and Swan could sell their shares at such high prices was because they could also claim they had started services and acquired subscribers, all piggy-backing on BSNL." It says Raja had also ensured that BSNL could not place orders for new equipment and get new customers: "While BSNL has been barred from procuring Chinese equipment for security reasons, other private operators have not been so barred."

Jairam's 'image-building'

An article in the CPI's New Age focuses on the environment ministry's recent clearance to construction of the last five spillway gates at the Maheshwar hydroelectric power project on the Narmada river in Madhya Pradesh, and Jairam Ramesh's assertion that he had no choice but to agree to lifting the stop-work order in view of the decisions taken at various meetings convened by the PMO with the MP government. The problem is not transparency, it says: "It is about governance, and basically about the concern for the common masses, being at the receiving end. The problem here is not whether the minister should have fought against the pressure internally, without getting it into public domain. It is the uncompromising battle that has to go on."

The article says that the disclosures are meant only to "add shine to public pronouncements, a means towards image-building." The paper substantiates: "It was the same Jairam Ramesh who had complained to the ethics committee that the members of Parliament have been putting pressure on him to clear the projects despite the environmental hazards involved, but since then he has failed to attend the follow up meetings of the committee... The same inclination for self enhancement has been visible in the context of almost all the projects, be it Posco or the Jaitapur nuclear power project."

Compiled by Manoj C.G.








It's a good thing that SBI has decided to put its books in order and also be more prudent when it comes to accounting for potential future liabilities. What had been suspected all along, i.e., the bank's non-performing assets (NPAs) were more than what met the eye, is apparently true. Provisions for NPAs have risen to R3,264 crore in the three months to March 2011, which is a near 50% jump from the corresponding period of last year, though it's true that some of it is a counter-cyclical buffer. Nevertheless, the management has conceded that asset quality has been a challenge, though it believes provisioning for loan losses will reduce, going forward. Also, had the bank accounted for the higher provisions for pensions of R7,924 crore, relating to the period 2007-12, through the profit and loss account, rather than the reserves, as it has opted to, the hit would have been huge—as a result, SBI's Tier-1 capital has taken a big hit.

While the bottom line for the March quarter has been weighed down by the higher provisioning, in part for taxes and teaser loans, the shocker in the results was really the top line—the net interest income has grown at just 20% year-on-year, way below the Street's expectations of 35%. This clearly means that the bank was chasing market share without worrying too much about the spreads. That strategy may have worked in an easy money environment but, once deposit costs started going up somewhere around the middle of last year, the bank wasn't able to pass on the higher costs and that has resulted in a weak top line growth. Indeed, net interest margins have dropped by about 30 bps sequentially over the December quarter. The good news is that SBI has realised it can no longer afford to compromise on profitability and hence the steep hike in its base rate of 75 bps, which brings it at par with the other big lenders ICICI Bank and HDFC Bank. The SBI stock tumbled nearly 8% on Tuesday, with the Street wondering whether the worst was over, and the management has clarified that there is only some minor amount of provisioning—R1,100 crore or so—left to be done. However, while appreciating the prudent accounting—for instance, the bank has decided to provide for tax liabilities upfront rather than creating a deferred tax asset—analysts will want to see whether SBI can grow its loan book and margins now that it has upped loan rates. What the bank has going for it is a strong base of cheaper current and savings accounts—nearly half of its deposit base. But it will need to lend that money wisely; as we've seen, growing the loan book too fast isn't the way to do it, the growth has to be profitable.





Focusing on new drug discovery is a high-risk high-reward business, so pharma firms are trying to find different ways to develop reasonable income streams from discovery, enough to keep afloat, while the generic business remains the mainstay. Perhaps the best example of this was Monday's Glenmark Pharmaceuticals' licensing of its new biotech molecule for chronic inflammation of the bowels to Sanofi. This is Glenmark's sixth such deal—part of the money will be used to repay its debt—and while the company has spent $120-130mn on R&D since 2004, it has already earned $200mn in upfront/milestone payments. Whether the company will get all the $613mn the deal is reckoned at will depend on whether the molecule can be taken to market eventually—of Glenmark's molecules, only one is being developed currently. This is an expensive process that few can afford—the average cost of bring a new chemical entity (NCE) to market is reckoned at $1.2-1.5bn.

Balaglitazone, the candidate drug for type 2 diabetes from Dr Reddy's (DRL), was the first Indian NCE that an MNC—Novo Nordisk—found worth buying. That was in 1997. The Danish major later discarded the molecule. Yet another anti-diabetic NCE from DRL, Ragaglitazar, also out-licensed to Novo, met with the same fate. Scores of such failures followed—Novartis dumped another DRL diabetes cure—a dual acting insulin sensitizer—in 2003, two years after the rights were acquired, and Germany's Schwarz Pharma terminated its work on Ranbaxy's prostate cancer drug, a couple of years after taking it over in 2002.

These developments could have frightened away the weak-kneed ones, but a host of Indian companies—notably, DRL, Glenmark, Sun Pharma, Biocon and Zydus Cadila—have shown the resilience to persist with high-end R&D since the rate of failures of Indian NCEs isn't worse than the global average. US-FDA data shows that only 8-10% of new molecules in Phase-I clinical trials reach the market, and after entry into Phase-III trials, the incidence of failure is about 50%. While others like DRL also pursue NCE research doggedly (its Balaglitazone is now under Phase-III trials and could reach the market in a year or two), Glenmark's R&D model has given good returns as well, and in a very short time frame.








Over the last decade, and particularly over the last five years, India has registered impressive growth in telecommunications, crossing 825 million telephone connections in February 2011. Over 95% of these are wireless, making spectrum a valuable and vital resource. India operates the world's second largest network and is expected to reach a billion connections by 2014. Rural teledensity, until recently a bother, is currently at a respectable 33% and growing faster than the saturated urban markets. Revenues have grown to $30 billion, which is roughly 2.3% of GDP.

The sector has recently been in the public glare but for all the wrong reasons. Much of the problem has been triggered by the perverse incentives created due to the 'bundling' of licence and spectrum and the blatant undervaluation of spectrum. Every mobile licence comes bundled with 4.4 MHz of 'startup' spectrum for GSM and 2.5 MHz of 'startup' spectrum for CDMA. The vast majority of licences in India have been assigned using administrative procedures, rather than by auction. Additional spectrum is given on a subscriber linked criterion (SLC) that is vulnerable to manipulation and has been exploited over the years.

In 2008, DoT issued 122 fresh licences bundled with spectrum in breach of prevailing policy and procedures. The 'official' price of the new licence in 2008 was the same as that in 2001, resulting in a huge loss to the exchequer. Many of the 'new' licensees subsequently sold to foreign investors at massive premia, while some others have yet to meet the roll-out obligations. As a result of erratic policies, there is unequal holding of spectrum by operators within the same licensed service area (LSA). Although this is normal, the manner in which spectrum has been acquired has led to much theorising. After extended consultation, the sector regulator, Trai, recommended that holding beyond 6.2 MHz for GSM and 5 MHz for CDMA is not 'contractual' and should accordingly attract a one-time charge.

Two much-awaited decisions in Indian telecom—how much spectrum is 'contractual' and what the charge per MHz will be for new licensees and for those holding 'excess' spectrum—promise to be game-changers. The choices, in this respect, range from nothing—since 'subsidised' spectrum has benefited millions of consumers and yielded enormous growth —to the price discovered in the 2010 3G auction. The latter creates a liability of $40 billion on service providers, in excess of current sector revenue. Whatever the ultimate result, the solution promises to be bitter and litigious. In addition, investigations by CAG and CBI have revealed overwhelming evidence of violation in the assignment of spectrum to 85 of 122 licences. Of these, 69 have not met their roll-out obligations; the regulator, Trai, has recommended to the licensor, DoT, that these licences be cancelled. The list may eventually be pruned but the important point is that DoT has to decide whether 'to cancel or not to cancel'.

In ordinary circumstances, DoT would, after due consultation, take a decision on revocation of licences and payment on account of spectrum. But these are not ordinary circumstances for Indian telecom. In the wake of the scandal, the Supreme Court, in an unprecedented move, is directly monitoring the ongoing investigations of CBI. The Supreme Court decision on the treatment of tainted licences will be announced in July when the court reconvenes. That decision will, in all probability, include a reference to DoT on the manner of recovery of fee for spectrum.

There are two types of tainted licences, those that did not meet eligibility conditions to start with in 2008 and those that have not met their roll-out obligations. The former is more egregious but the pitch is queered since the original assignees have sold to foreign investors like Telenor and Etisalat, who, in turn, have invested large amounts in their Indian operations. One possibility will be to force such foreign investors to look for other eligible domestic partners over a period without ultimately breaching the 74% FDI norm. For the second set, the most likely remedy is the imposition of a high and deterrent penalty.

Revocation of licences would be a severe and unique step in India, although given the size and pervasiveness of the scam, experts are not ruling it out. On the price of spectrum, estimates vary. It is almost certain that CAG's presumptive loss figure derived from 3G auction numbers will not be used for settling the matter. CAG itself perhaps invoked 3G prices to highlight the fact that the episode was no peccadillo, but a scandal of gigantic proportions.

These are uncertain times for Indian telecom. While in the past, for example in 1999, a migration package was announced to rescue operators from 'onerous' licence fees they themselves had pledged, this time is different. While it is risky to predict the outcome, the enormity of the mess and the publicity it has generated indicates stiff measures are in the offing. Until the Supreme Court's decision is out in July, the sector will remain in a state of flux. Banks are reneging or going slow on funding new licensees' expansion plans, while External Commercial Borrowings (ECB) are not as easy as before. Incumbent operators are relatively better off, but they too will have to deal with reluctant banks and payment for the 'excess' spectrum they hold.

Over the years, most operators (and of course consumers) in the sector have benefited, a fact recently acknowledged by the new telecom minster Kapil Sibal. His immediate task is to enunciate a Telecom Policy 2011 that attempts to level the playing field and set the stage for the next wave of sector growth. Whatever he does will surely not make everybody happy but there is a silver lining to the scandal. It provides a rare opportunity to set things right. Consultations towards formulation of the new policy have been initiated. The setback to the sector is temporary; the Indian market is too big for even a scam of this size to harm its long-term prospects. Further, the market potential is staggering, with 3G and broadband set to be drivers of future growth. And, importantly, the policy establishment is convinced of the huge spillover benefits of telecom growth on the rest of the economy and is therefore persuaded to put a system in place that is fair, transparent and credible. By the year end, the troubles of Indian telecom should truly be over if the minister follows the advice Robin Williams gave his students in Dead Poets Society—Carpe Diem.

The author is a professor at International Management Institute







News from Kerala has never been about the development of the state. It has always been about allegations and counter-allegations, and all types of scandals—be it financial, sexual or just plain and simple character assassination. Try start talking of development (or rather the lack of it), people just look at their gold-plated watches and walk away. Prosperity for the average Malayali has always meant constructing palatial houses. Development beyond one's compound wall has never been part of his agenda, and this gets accentuated every time the assembly elections come around.

Hence, this time too, there was hardly any surprise. Neither the Congress-led UDF nor the CPM-led LDF used development as the poll plank, as they knew that the average voter hardly ever thought outside of scandals and controversies. The VS Achuthanandan government, over the last five years, had made sure that none of the developmental projects took off, citing environmental hurdles. The much touted IT project called Smart City was mired in unnecessary controversies for a number of years, before being cleared with many pre-conditions. It remains to be seen whether the project would yield any desired results for the state.

Now, by all yardsticks, Achuthanandan is a man of great principles and uprightness but, in today's fast-paced world, one has to combine those virtues with a vision for progress. That's where successive chief ministers of Kerala have failed. They would be so lost in creating and evading controversies that there was always little time left for productive work. In this case, Achuthanandan was also the chairman of the Single Window Clearance Committee constituted for speedy approvals of mega projects.

Expectedly, he strongly opposed projects like the high-tech city by Shobha Developers and the Yasoram Skycity project. The aversion for anything big and bold had spread like a disease through the state.

While there is absolutely no guarantee that the Congress-led UDF government would be any different, one can always hope. The UDF has always succeeded in pretending that they have a vision for the state's economic revival but hardly ever done anything about it. That's a fine art they have perfected over the years. Now, the question is whether that would be carried forward over the next five years as well. The early noises coming out of the UDF camp are encouraging. They have said that there would be an attempt to make Kerala a knowledge destination hub. That is easier said than done, despite the talent pool. There are hardly any companies knocking on the doors to break in. Unemployed, educated youth form a good part of the frustration in Kerala and with successive state governments failing to attract investment into the state, the jobless remained without a desk, and then proceeded to populate the West Asian oil companies.

With the Gulf countries starting to employ natives, the youth of Kerala have started looking elsewhere. Australia, Canada and Africa have become attractive destinations. The Malayali is sure to find a job somewhere in the world thanks to his ability to adapt and survive, but then what about developing domestic resources to keep him at home? If the UDF government can make a start by getting some new investments into the state, especially in the knowledge sector, that's what the youth in Kerala would want today.

With regards to information technology, the state enjoys a high bandwidth advantage, which is the cheapest in India. Commercial capital Kochi is located at the landing points of both SEA-ME-WE 3 and SAFE international submarine cables. But the private sector has stayed away. About 85% of the built-up space for IT in Kerala is owned by state-run parks like Technopark, Infopark and Cyberpark. The state will have to attempt to stay out of capacity building in the IT space, and leave that to professionals. A few of the Technopark firms like UST Global and IBS decided to expand in safer bets like Bangalore and Chennai. And that's a worry.

The state also needs to pump in more investments into its biggest draw—the tourism sector. It's not just enough to be lush green and pretty, it is also equally important to ensure that tourist destinations are well connected. Anyone who has taken the bumpy ride to Kumarakom would instantly know what I am talking about. For Oommen Chandy, the designated chief minister, it's not going to be about whether he can—rather, he should.







Unabashedly partisan in his motives and actions, Karnataka Governor H.R. Bhardwaj has been, for a long time now, a disgrace to the constitutional office he holds. At every available opportunity, he has been abusing the authority of his office to unseat the Bharatiya Janata Party government of B.S. Yeddyurappa. However, by recommending the imposition of President's Rule in Karnataka, using as a pretext the order of the Supreme Court setting aside the disqualification of 11 BJP rebel Members of the Legislative Assembly, he has taken the office of Governor to a new low. When Chief Minister Yeddyurappa was ready for another confidence vote, and the rebel MLAs had already taken back their letter withdrawing support to the government, the situation certainly did not warrant Mr. Bhardwaj sending a report to the Centre recommending President's Rule. That Mr. Bhardwaj did so after meeting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and other leaders in New Delhi raises the question whether he was acting at the behest of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government at the Centre. The S.R. Bommai vs Union of India judgment delivered by the Supreme Court in March 1994 clearly states that "in all cases where the support of the Ministry is claimed to have been withdrawn by some legislators, the proper course for testing the strength of the Ministry is holding the test on the floor of the House." The assessment of the strength of the Ministry, the judgment made it clear, was "not a matter of private opinion of any individual, be he the Governor or the President." In the wake of the Supreme Court ruling against the disqualification of the BJP MLAs, the Governor had no proper constitutional role to play other than acting in conformity with the Bommai judgment and leaving the matter to be settled in the Assembly.

Mr. Bhardwaj, through his actions, has again brought to the fore the issue of Governors acting as political agents of the Centre in States ruled by opposition parties. Although the Bommai judgment has limited the partisan use of Article 356 of the Constitution impossible, the case of Mr. Bhardwaj highlights the dangers of possible misuse of the powers vested in the office of Governor. Despite their clearly defined constitutional role, Governors, with the backing of the Centre, have from time to time played the super-Chief Minister, threatening the very federal structure of the polity. If this situation is not to continue indefinitely, Mr. Bhardwaj must be made an example of. His continuance in the Raj Bhavan in Bangalore is no longer tenable. Gubernatorial posts are not for trigger-happy political adventurers.





Within a space of six weeks, the position of the United States on Syria has hardened to the point where Washington's support for military intervention cannot be discounted. In a television interview on March 27, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said it was "unlikely" that the U.S. would attempt to assemble support for an intervention, and contrasted Syria with Libya. What she called the indiscriminate use of the military by the Libyan regime against its own citizens was not the same as the excessive force used by the Syrian police. In contrast, on May 12, during a visit to Greenland, Ms Clinton accused Damascus of "gross human rights abuses" such as killings, torture, arbitrary detention, and the refusal of medical care for the wounded. She added that the U.S. and "other colleagues" would try to put greater pressure on Syria's President Bashar al-Assad so as to render his government "accountable." Other Obama officials talked of sanctions on more Syrian officials besides the three already targeted, who include Mr. Assad's brother Maher, a military officer with a reputation for brutal crackdowns.

There is no doubting the violence being inflicted on Syrians and this must be condemned. Washington's entire position, however, is riddled with contradictions. To start with, the U.S. has arrogated to itself the right to hold the regime to account; nothing is said about the Syrian government's accountability to Syrians. Secondly, high Syrian officials keep overseas accounts in European and West Asian banks, and U.S. sanctions against them will have little impact. Thirdly, threatening Mr. Assad on account of the violence against protesters ignores major questions of Syrian politics. The Syrian President has struggled to assert himself over powerful factions within his own family, and over the military and internal security agencies. Furthermore, Ms Clinton revealed another agenda by attacking Syria for its good relations with Iran — while Washington and influential sections of the international media avoid the matter of violent repression elsewhere in the region. For example, little is said about Bahrain, where the regime has reacted to protest as viciously as the Syrian authorities have done. Washington's Fifth Fleet is still Bahrain-based. Another topic avoided is the effect of Saudi Arabia's nervousness about Shia Islam and democracy on U.S. West Asia policy. Noam Chomsky has called attention to the truth that Washington and its allies strive to prevent the emergence of democracy in the region. On the evidence, the U.S. support for democracy in West Asia is nothing if not disingenuous.







The simultaneous celebration of Rabindranath Tagore's 150th birth anniversary in India and Bangladesh marked an exceptional move to honour the poet-philosopher. It also symbolised the deep admiration that exists in both countries for the man who enriched literature as much as he did humanity as a whole.

The versatile genius, who was much ahead of his time, wrote in his mother tongue of Bangla. But he did not limit his message to the people who lived around him. His creative works introduced a powerful dose of love and internationalism. This Indian rose to international heights: he was the first non-European to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature, in 1913.

Tagore was poet, novelist, short story writer, essayist, playwright, educationist, spiritualist, painter, lyricist, composer and singer – a rare set of distinctions, an unbelievable conjunction of talents. His creative works, which still influence billions of people globally, are a matter of pride for the people of India and Bangladesh. He was born, grew up, worked and died here.

At critical moments he has been an inspiration for the people of what is now Bangladesh. Protagonists of the two-nation theory wanted to wipe out his influence. Pakistan's first military ruler, Ayub Khan, banned his songs. But the poet only became more relevant then before. A strong sense of linguistic nationalism grew around him. Finally, the people launched a strong cultural and political movement that culminated in the formation of Bangladesh.

Tagore made the Bengali middle class feel that he was an essential part of their national ethos. The emerging middle class, including students and intellectuals, regarded him as one of them. In no way could they think that Tagore was alien to them because of his religion.

Strangely, as in Pakistan's case, the successive military regimes in Bangladesh showed little interest in upholding his legacy. Tagore's songs and poems inspired Bengalis in their fight against Pakistan in the 1971 war of liberation. His songs and poetry inspired them culturally and politically. Never before had a poet left such an imprint and wielded so deep an influence on the psyche of the vast majority of the people. While India chose his Jana gana mana as the national anthem in 1947, Bangladesh has had one of his songs as the national anthem since its birth.

Sri Lanka's national anthem was also penned by Tagore: Apa Sri Lanka, Nama Nama Nama Nama Mata, Sundar Sri Boroni was originally Nama Nama Sri Lanka Mata in Bangla, written and set to its tune by Tagore. He did it at the request of his favourite Sri Lankan student at Santiniketan, Ananda Samarkun, in 1938. In 1940, Ananda returned to his native land and translated the song into Sinhalese and recorded it in Tagore's tune.

Indeed, Rabindranath is not only the pre-eminent literary genius of Bengal but all of South Asia, perhaps the whole of Asia.

The joint celebration of Tagore's birth anniversary began in Dhaka on May 6: Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina inaugurated it. In India, it was opened by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in Delhi on May 7. With this joint celebration, the great poet, who represents much of the common heritage and philosophy of the two countries, brought the two closer still.

The changed political circumstances in the two countries made the joint celebration possible. Tagore's philosophy, vision and outlook must bring the two closer. He is a monumental treasure that can bless us with love, humanity and justice.

Remembering a personality whose ardent belief in humanism and universalism was striking, India has instituted a Rs. 1 crore award in Tagore's name. Bangladesh has decided to set up a Rabindra University at Shilaidaha in Kushtia, where the poet spent a considerable part of his creative life while supervising the family estate. Bangladesh will also preserve the poet's intimate memories in 'Patisar' and 'Shahzadpur.' Dhaka has also expressed its willingness to construct a Bangladesh Bhaban at Santiniketan. India will run a special train, Sonar Tori, between Dhaka and Kolkata.

Speaking at the inaugural, Dr. Manmohan Singh said Tagore's ideas of universal humanism resonate in the contemporary world. His belief in the spiritual unity of the East and the West was a powerful message of redemption for a society beset by greed, callousness and irreverence. The joint celebration, he felt, was of "unique significance" — it was the first cultural exchange of its kind between the neighbours.

India cherishes the Tagore legacy fondly, just as Bangladesh does. Together the two must endeavour to enrich that legacy for people's welfare. Tagore is a lighthouse, a strong voice of humanity. He should guide the social consciousness of the two countries. Vice President Hamid Ansari, who attended the celebrations in Dhaka, rightly termed the celebration a momentous occasion.

Rabindranath remains a pre-eminent man of letters on both sides of the border. He is still the most influential writer in his language. He is South Asia's voice of love in a wider global perspective, a bridge of friendship. His songs should be sung forever; his works should be read for centuries to come.

Tagore's enduring influence on history comes through the many layers of his thoughts. He modernised Bangla art by refusing to follow rigid classical forms.

As a story-teller, he is second to none. His lucid, lyrical prose and grasp of the human psychology are unique. He is the foremost lyricist of his language and the most celebrated composer. He wrote more than 2,000 songs, and these are widely considered to be his best creation. His songs are an integral part of the Bengali culture and collective psyche. His novels are also some of the best in Bangla. He wrote lovely plays. He was a painter of note.

Tagore was a committed anti-colonialist. He had a deep understanding of the world at large. He visited more than 30 countries and had personal ties with scientists and literary giants of his time. He was not a revolutionary in a political sense, but he inflamed his people by renouncing his knighthood after the colonial army indiscriminately killed Indians in Jallianwala Bagh in 1919.

Tagore is a precious guide. He held that promoting one's own culture and approving the cultures of others could be one and the same attitude. "I believe," he wrote, "the unity of human civilization can be better maintained by linking up in fellowship and cooperation of the different civilizations of the world." The humanist added: "Let the mind be universal. The individual should not be sacrificed."

He was a member of the elite, but Tagore did not have elitist views on education. He wrote: "I believe that all human problems find their fundamental solution in education… Poverty, pestilence, communal fights and industrial backwardness make our path narrow and perilous owing to the meagreness of education…"

Reflecting on the plight of his country under foreign rule, Tagore understood, just as Gandhi did, that violence cannot serve the ultimate purpose of humanity. He was deeply aware that India needed more than a change of political regime. Therefore, he opted for a self-reliant village economy. In the region that is now Bangladesh, he initiated projects of local initiative, local leadership and local self-government, developing cooperative systems. Besides being a poet and philosopher, Tagore started innovative research in agriculture and rural development in Patisar, Shahzadpur and Shilaidah. This spoke of his vision and commitment to the people around him. In a world dominated by technology and science, his thoughts are still relevant as he wrote: "Science has given man immense power. The golden age will return when it is used in the service of humanity."

Tagore stood against exploitation and injustice in order to rise above geopolitical, economic and ideological divides. His messages can serve as a vital source of inspiration for cultural tolerance and lasting peace. As the two countries commemorate Tagore's birth anniversary, they should pledge to keep at bay the scourge of deadly birds of prey. A truly secular and democratic India and Bangladesh can keep alive the spirit of the great poet.

Tagore was born on May 7, 1861, in Calcutta, and died on August 7, 1941, at 80 years of age. Even a century and a half after his birth, his place in the collective life of India and Bangladesh is only getting stronger. The birth anniversary celebration is testimony to a new realisation and awakening. Invoking Tagore's timeless message of universal brotherhood, his thoughts and messages should be translated into reality.

Tagore belongs to India, and Bangladesh too. But in the truest sense, he belongs to the world. Even after 150 years of his birth, you feel his presence.

(The writer, based in Dhaka, is a Bangladesh litterateur and journalist. E-mail:








The second India-Africa Forum Summit, to be held in Addis Ababa shortly, promises to be a memorable milestone in India's engagement with the "Mother continent." Overwhelmed by the cricket World Cup, corruption dossier, the Royal wedding and the gripping Abbottabad drama, Indian audiences may have very little time for Africa. But, it is worth noting that energetic endeavours are being made on both sides of the Indian Ocean to strengthen India's multi-layered relationship with Africa, a trend that may have long-term impact.

African voices

I was privileged to have separate opportunities of interaction, the past two months, with the Prime Minister of Mozambique, the Vice-President of Kenya and the Delhi-based High Commissioner of one of the most important African countries. These meetings and other conversations with knowledgeable people from the continent have led me to make three important conclusions. One, African leaders have been genuinely appreciative of the positives in India's development model. They are keen to deepen cooperation with India in order to profit from our achievements and successes. Two, they are astute and pragmatic enough not to keep all their eggs in one basket. In simpler words, they are determined not to choose China over India or vice-versa. They plan to work with both and utilise the unfolding competition, to their advantage. Three, they are inclined to judge us by our words and intentions as well as action.

This is where true challenges lie for India's diplomacy in Africa today. Can we deliver what we have promised and, further, can we promise to do more?

Delhi Summit and after

After displaying a blend of uncertainty, distraction and ambivalence during the 1990s and later, South Block moved to accord a higher priority to Africa about five years ago. In-depth internal deliberations, dialogue with key partners, stock-taking of the rising competition, and the growing confidence and capability of India Inc. led the government to take its most ambitious initiative, namely the convening of the first India-Africa Forum Summit in New Delhi in April 2008. Not only did it highlight the common perceptions of the two sides on a whole range of regional and international issues, but it also produced 'the Framework of Cooperation' delineating the focal areas for expansion and deepening of exchanges between India and Africa. Participants and analysts alike were optimistic that this historic event would make a big difference. However, soaring hopes had to be lowered soon as bureaucratic procedures in the African Union and India slowed down the momentum. It took the two sides two years to finalise the joint 'Plan of Action,' overshooting the deadline by a year. But thereafter, evidence of vigour surfaced, demonstrating how a handful of dedicated officials are capable of ensuring sustained follow-up.

Throughout 2010, Delhi played host to presidents and prime ministers from Africa. India's Vice-President as well as the Minister for External Affairs, the Minister for Commerce and Industry and other ministers found time to travel to several African capitals. They will be followed soon by a group of six Ministers of State who are being despatched as the Prime Minister's special envoys just before the second Summit.

In a first move of its kind, India invited the heads of Africa's Regional Economic Communities (RECs); six out of eight of them showed up to hold a productive dialogue with Indian officials and business leaders.

New Delhi strengthened its credentials by hosting the Ministerial Conference of Least Developed Countries (LDCs), which is another first. This event underlined that India planned to be active as a front-ranking advocate of causes dear to LDCs.

There has also been considerable progress in implementing the joint Action Plan. Disbursements from $5.4 billion as new lines of credit and from $500 million allocated for human resource development projects have reportedly been quite timely. Preparatory work is underway to establish four institutions of excellence symbolising India-Africa cooperation and a string of vocational training centres in various African locations.

Tasks at 2011 summit

In this context, it is to be hoped that the Addis Ababa Summit will try to break new ground. The easier option would be to make minor modifications in the Delhi Declaration of 2008. The more challenging and also more desirable strategy would be to broaden the vision, adopt a future-oriented approach, and show clear political will to scale bigger heights.

Leaders meeting in the Ethiopian capital — 14 from Africa and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh — could strive to set new targets such as of $100 billion for two-way trade and $150 billion for investment flows in the next three years, i.e. by 2014 when the third Summit will be due in India. They could work to create a climate in which India's products, expertise in services, technologies and project assistance find an easier entry into those parts of Africa which need them. They could also utilise information and communication technologies (ICT) as a powerful tool for expanding human resource development (HRD)-related cooperation that Africa needs. Above all, they could help India's cooperation with Africa to be re-balanced so that its reach towards Central and Western Africa becomes as potent as it is in Eastern and Southern Africa. A critical marker by which Addis Ababa may be judged would be greater generosity by India in financial terms: will India be ready to show it? The answer may depend on Africa's capacity to absorb fruitfully the substantial funding which has already been put in place.

Developments in Africa

While Africa's rise is no longer in doubt now, its nature and pace are being hotly debated among experts. Recent developments in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, the Ivory Coast and the Horn of Africa have sent out mixed signals at best. India follows an apolitical approach focused on building cooperation at bilateral, regional and continental levels. But, the political context can hardly be ignored. We should, of course, continue maintaining a low profile on internal developments in Africa and on intra-African conflicts, but we should not shy away from monitoring and appraising them on a sustained basis. This is one area where our own Africanists can help the government, for its ambassadors, though doing 'political work,' have their hands full with day-to-day management of the relationship. The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) can thus do with some additional assistance. Besides, our opinion makers and media need to make themselves better informed about the continent which is being hailed as 'the new Asia'.

The Summit's planners have deployed a combined force of artistes, craftsmen, journalists, editors, academics and business leaders so that the labours of officials, diplomats and political leaders bear fruit optimally for the general cause of stronger partnership. Perhaps the Addis Ababa Summit will excite popular imagination, both in Africa and India.

In one area though a glaring deficiency stares in our face, which needs to be corrected. In the past five years, our highest ranking leaders — the President, the Vice-President and the Prime Minister — have managed to visit only a handful of African countries. This is hardly adequate. Long-pending invitations from African governments should be respected. Our higher political visibility will definitely help accelerate India's drive into Africa. It is time for the PMO to seize the moment.

( The author is a former High Commissioner of India to Kenya, and later to South Africa and Lesotho.)








A belief that heaven or an afterlife awaits us is a "fairy story" for people afraid of death, Stephen Hawking has said.

In a dismissal that underlines his firm rejection of religious comforts, Britain's most eminent scientist said there was nothing beyond the moment when the brain flickers for the final time.

Mr. Hawking, who was diagnosed with motor neurone disease at the age of 21, shared his thoughts on death, human purpose and our chance existence in an exclusive interview with the Guardian on May 16 .

The incurable illness was expected to kill Mr. Hawking within a few years of its symptoms arising, an outlook that turned the young scientist to Wagner, but ultimately led him to enjoy life more, he has said, despite the cloud hanging over his future.

"I have lived with the prospect of an early death for the last 49 years. I'm not afraid of death, but I'm in no hurry to die. I have so much I want to do first," he said.

"I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark," he added.

Beyond his book

Mr. Hawking's latest comments go beyond those laid out in his 2010 book, The Grand Design, in which he asserts there is no need for a creator to explain the existence of the universe.

The book provoked a backlash from some religious leaders, including the chief rabbi, Lord Sacks, who accused Mr. Hawking of an "elementary fallacy" of logic.

The 69-year-old physicist fell seriously ill after a lecture tour in the U.S. in 2009 and was taken to Addenbrookes Hospital in an episode that sparked grave concerns for his health. He has since returned to his Cambridge department as director of research.

The physicist's remarks draw a stark line between the use of God as a metaphor and the belief in an omniscient creator whose hands guide the workings of the cosmos.

In his bestselling 1988 book, A Brief History of Time, Hawking drew on the device so beloved of Einstein, when he described what it would mean for scientists to develop a "theory of everything" — a set of equations that described every particle and force in the entire universe. "It would be the ultimate triumph of human reason — for then we should know the mind of God," he wrote.

The book sold a reported nine million copies and propelled the physicist to instant stardom. His fame has led to guest roles in The Simpsons, Star Trek: The Next Generation and Red Dwarf. One of his greatest achievements in physics is a theory that describes how black holes emit radiation.

In the interview, Hawking rejected the notion of life beyond death and emphasised the need to fulfil our potential on Earth by making good use of our lives. In answer to a question on how we should live, he said, simply: "We should seek the greatest value of our action." In answering another, he wrote of the beauty of science, such as the exquisite double helix of DNA in biology, or the fundamental equations of physics.

Mr. Hawking responded to questions posed by the Guardian and a reader ahead of a lecture [since over on May 17], at the Google Zeitgeist meeting in London, in which he addressed the question: "Why are we here?" In the talk, he argued that tiny quantum fluctuations in the very early universe became the seeds from which galaxies, stars, and ultimately human life, emerged. "Science predicts that many different kinds of universe will be spontaneously created out of nothing. It is a matter of chance which we are in," he said.

Mr. Hawking suggested that with modern space-based instruments, such as the European Space Agency's Planck mission, it may be possible to spot ancient fingerprints in the light left over from the earliest moments of the universe and work out how our own place in space came to be.


His talk focused on M-theory, a broad mathematical framework that encompasses string theory, which is regarded by many physicists as the best hope yet of developing a theory of everything.

M-theory demands a universe with 11 dimensions, including a dimension of time and the three familiar spatial dimensions. The rest are curled up too small for us to see.

Evidence in support of M-theory might also come from the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at Cern, the European particle physics laboratory near Geneva.

One possibility predicted by M-theory is supersymmetry, an idea that says fundamental particles have heavy — and as yet undiscovered — twins, with curious names such as selectrons and squarks.

Confirmation of supersymmetry would be a shot in the arm for M-theory and help physicists explain how each forces at work in the universe arose from one super-force at the dawn of time.

Another potential discovery at the LHC, that of the elusive Higgs boson, which is thought to give mass to elementary particles, might be less welcome to Mr. Hawking, who has a long-standing bet that the long-sought entity will never be found at the laboratory.

Other speakers at the London event, included the chancellor, George Osborne, and the Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz.

   © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2011






The universe is governed by science. But science tells us that we can't solve the equations, directly in the abstract. We need to use the effective theory of Darwinian natural selection of those societies most likely to survive. We assign them higher value.

You've said there is no reason to invoke God to light the blue touchpaper. Is our existence all down to luck?

Science predicts that many different kinds of universe will be spontaneously created out of nothing. It is a matter of chance which we are in.

So here we are. What should we do?

We should seek the greatest value of our action.

You had a health scare and spent time in hospital in 2009. What, if anything, do you fear about death?

I have lived with the prospect of an early death for the last 49 years. I'm not afraid of death, but I'm in no hurry to die.

I have so much I want to do first. I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.

What are the things you find most beautiful in science?

Science is beautiful when it makes simple explanations of phenomena or connections between different observations.

Examples include the double helix in biology, and the fundamental equations of physics.

   © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2011







For hours and hours, I didn't know what to make of it: Tribute FM (Listen online at is the first ever English language radio station in Libya. And it sounds just like Magic FM. Diana Ross . . . the Jackson Five . . . the Temptations . . . some German rap . . . Easy Like Sunday Morning . . . just as you're nodding along, thinking "this is nice, I wonder if they have a phone-in," you remember: this is probably the most radical statement of a successful revolution coming out of any radio, anywhere in the world. It is a huge moment for a country in which not just English but most European languages have been invisible for decades.

Before Muhammad, Aman and two others launched Tribute in Benghazi last week, "English wasn't frowned on, it was completely illegal," Muhammad tells me by phone. "It was taken out of schools, it got to the point where nothing in English was available in the city. You couldn't advertise in English, you couldn't read a newspaper in English." It is a measure of how isolating this was for young Libyans that setting up a radio station would be such a priority as the fighting continues, the stream of refugees is unabated and Qadhafi has not, as yet, surrendered.

Location a secret

Even though the studio's location is a secret, and they cannot give their full names, for fear of reprisals from Qadhafi loyalists, Muhammad is clear that this is not pirate radio. They are totally legal and nothing to do with the Transitional National Council, the rebel leadership. "It's just us, we're just guys trying to make a difference." Muhammad and Aman both have dual U.K. and Libyan nationality. Muhammad was born in England and lived in north London until 1994 when, aged 14, he returned to Libya with his family. He came back to Britain to do a degree, then went back to Benghazi. "When I used to travel, I never told anybody I was Libyan, I was always from London. Now, I've never been prouder to be Libyan. Everybody is so happy. We're all one nation for the first time ever. We're just waiting for this guy to pack his bags or get shot." This buoyant mood defines the station, but the phone—ins are sobering. Last Wednesday, Tariq called in. He had just returned to the U.K. from Tunis. "It's really, really bad. What you see in refugee camps, it's maybe five per cent of what have actually crossed into Tunisia. Families are crossing the border. They have no money . . . the money in Libya's pretty dried up. One family crossed with, honestly, six and a half dinars [£3.31]. The guy changing the money refused to even change it. He just gave them 20 Tunisian dinars because he felt so sorry for them. It's really, really bad." He said it so simply, as if telling you what he thought of Manchester United's chances, or how much he hated Peter Andre.

Then they played Put a Little Love in Your Heart, but there are some moments even Annie Lennox can't lighten. Later in the week, people were calling in from Tripoli to note with admiration how accurate the Nato airstrikes looked from the ground.

A programme

On Wednesday evening (May 11) a legal expert was going to give her view on whether Qadhafi, once he has surrendered, should be put on trial or executed. When it came to it, she felt it was too much of a security risk so the guys in the studio kicked the ideas around between themselves. "So a pro for keeping him alive is to find out all of the genocides he has done, all the people he's killed, to see all the money he has stolen from this country, to hear all the lies he's told. That would be a great thing to see on trial." "And for killing him?" "Well, then it'll all end. This whole war will end." "Why?" "Because he'll be dead." I could have sworn I heard gunfire outside, but Muhammad says no, it is much safer than it was a month ago in Benghazi and, besides, they have really good soundproofing. All the talk is of who to kill and how to kill them, but all you can really hear is euphoria and optimism. And then they played Where is the Love? by the Black Eyed Peas.

Normally, when people say they don't know whether to laugh or cry, it's just an expression. Listen to Tribute. You will literally not be able to decide.

   © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2011






Gustav Siegfried Eins In the Second World War, the British ran a number of black propaganda radio stations. On Gustav Siegfried Eins (GS1 for short), a fake Prussian commander, known as "Der Chef," accused Hitler and other Nazi grandees of corruption and s***** shenanigans. According to Daily Express journalist Sefton Delmer, who ran the station, GS1's "pornographic tone" so angered Labour politician Sir Stafford Cripps that he told Anthony Eden: "If this is the sort of thing that's needed to win the war — why, I'd rather lose it."

Tokyo Rose Several Japanese women were recruited to make propaganda broadcasts on Radio Tokyo in English to American troops during the Second World War, with the aim of disrupting enemy morale. The mysterious female voices became known under the catch-all name "Tokyo Rose" — though the name is most associated with Iva Toguri d'Aquino, a U.S. citizen forced to broadcast as "Orphan Ann" during the show the Zero Hour, in which American music was played alongside propaganda news bulletins and comedy skits.

The American Forces Vietnam Network Immortalised in the 1987 film Good Morning Vietnam — in which Robin Williams played the irreverent real-life broadcaster Adrian Cronauer — a number of radio stations were operated by U.S. forces during the Vietnam war, broadcasting from U.S. Navy aeroplanes.

The last AFVN station closed in Saigon in 1973 — though an offshoot, renamed the American Radio Service, continued until 1975, when it played the song I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas as a signal to troops to evacuate Saigon.

United Nations Radio Formed with the aim of promoting peace and security around the world, the station made its first broadcast in 1946.

"This is the United Nations," the announcer said portentously, "calling the peoples of the world." During the 1950s, UN Radio made around six hours of programmes a day, in 33 languages, which were then relayed to 100 countries on their own national radio stations. The United Nations Radio station has scaled back its operations now, but it still produces feature programmes about initiatives at the United Nations, and twice-daily news round-ups.

   © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2011









Success in public life owes a great deal to timing, and the logic of politics is known to reject linearity. Insufficient appreciation of this is all it takes to get calculations out of kilter, as the approach of Karnataka governor H.R. Bhardwaj makes evident. When 11 BJP and five Independent MLAs (who had thrown in their lot with the B.S. Yeddyurappa government) revolted against the chief minister

last year and called on the governor to pray for a no-confidence motion vote, the governor adopted the perfectly valid course of asking the Speaker to make the arrangements for a trial of strength on the floor of the House. If the Speaker had played fair and gone by the book, the BJP government would have collapsed on the floor as the ruling side would have been reduced to a minority. The state BJP was quite certain of this. This is why the Speaker (a BJP man) took recourse to unconstitutional methods of disqualifying the 16 dissident MLAs, and helped the Yeddyurappa government survive the trust vote amid scenes of bedlam rarely witnessed in this country's parliamentary annals. The Speaker's action was subsequently upheld by the Karnataka high court. The legislators flying the banner of revolt were aggrieved enough to go to the Supreme Court, which last week has vindicated their stand and castigated the Speaker, and by implication the high court. This is the basis on which the governor now seeks the ouster of the Yeddyurappa ministry.

There is nothing wrong with this logic except that it is mechanical and out of sync with today's political reality. This became plain in the light of the recent action of the MLAs who had approached the Supreme Court. The 16 disqualified by the Speaker have had their status as MLAs restored by the Supreme Court, and upon gaining that platform have decided to return to the embrace of the BJP. Even the blind can see that the Yeddyurappa government will sail through a trust vote if one were taken now. Those in search of political justice would be right to argue that, in hearing an appeal of this nature, the Supreme Court ought not to allow so much time to pass that the political ground shifts.

It is therefore unlikely that the Opposition in Karnataka — mainly the Congress and the Janata Dal (S) — will press for one. We are in May 2011, not October 2010. Unfortunately, however, the governor has not made the transition although he is a former Union law minister and had the reputation of being an astute politician. Clearly, his recommendation to the President to dismiss the state government does not even square with the calculation of the state's Opposition of giving a confidence vote the go-by in the altered circumstances.
Indeed, it is a fair bet that the Opposition will now also be shy of bringing an impeachment motion against the Speaker, although they would be within their rights to do so in the light of the harsh words used by the country's highest court to describe the presiding officer's blatantly biased decision to disqualify dissidents with a view to bailing out the government on a difficult day. Given the House numbers, however, an impeachment motion just wouldn't fly.

We are not discussing political morality here, but the political arithmetic of the day. Nevertheless, the time is apt to recall the Sarkaria Commission, which quite succinctly had prescribed that a governor ought to be a person who no longer embraced party positions. For his part, Mr Bhardwaj gives the impression of wearing his party colours on his sleeve and keeping the knuckle-duster out.






In the wake of the very successful American covert operation, which culminated in the death of Osama bin Laden, the US-Pakistan relationship again appears to be at crossroads. Pakistan Army Chief General Ashfaq Kayani, arguably the most powerful man in the land, has expressed his anger and frustration about not being alerted to the raid in advance.

President Asif Ali Zardari has spoken and written bitterly about the violation of his country's sovereignty. Various other senior Pakistani officials, both elected and otherwise, have chimed in about how they would like to limit counter-intelligence and counterterrorism co-operation with the United States.
Bluntly put, much of this overheated rhetoric is exactly that and little else. It is almost solely intended for domestic political consumption and is reminiscent of what a noted American political scientist, Murray Edelman, characterised as dramaturgy. The public hyper-ventilation reassures a sceptical and distrustful domestic constituency that Pakistan's politico-military order is genuinely outraged over the wilful American decision to violate Pakistan's sovereignty and carry out a bold and effective counterterrorism operation of extraordinary magnitude.

Despite all the high drama, in the end, both the civilians and the military know only too well that they can ill-afford to significantly curtail, let alone terminate, this extremely lucrative relationship of convenience, one that has prevented Pakistan from defaulting on its global financial commitments and has kept the military establishment in clover since the tragedy of September 11, 2001.

Contrary to the claims of a host of apologists for the Pakistani military establishment in Washington, DC, and in a number of other Western capitals, the Pakistani military has never wholly embraced their concerns about Islamist terror. Instead, as reams of evidence keep mounting, it is becoming increasingly plain that they have consistently played a double game. They have offered up a few terrorist prizes to ensure, to again resort to Edelman's terms, political quiescence in Washington, DC. However, once the exigencies of aid renewal have passed, they have again fallen back on their time-tested ways and continued their alliance with specific terrorist organisations.
It is curious that any sensible and informed observer of Pakistan would find this nefarious and duplicitous behaviour on the part of the Pakistani military, and to a degree their civilian counterparts, to be entirely surprising or shocking. From the genesis of the US-Pakistan relationship, the goals and interests of the two countries have been at odds. This divergence is of long standing. As early as 1954, when the Eisenhower administration was deftly inveigled into forming a military pact with Pakistan, the two states have had different strategic concerns. Pakistan forged that military alliance not because of its staunch opposition to Communist expansion. Instead, as is well known, the principal purpose was to balance Indian power. Of course, when the US refused to back Pakistan in the 1965 war and imposed an embargo on both states, the military establishment cried foul leading to an estrangement that lasted several years. Once again, in 1971, the military as well as the civilians felt betrayed because the Nixon administration, after having used Pakistan as a conduit for its China opening, proved to be less than forthright in condoning the Pakistan Army's carnage in East Pakistan.
This relationship of convenience was again renewed during the time of the Soviet invasion and occupation of Afghanistan. In fairness, however, the otherwise scrofulous military dictator, General Zia-ul-Haq, had both the intelligence and sagacity to describe the renewed bond as "a handshake and not an embrace". However, after his still mysterious death in a plane crash in 1988, and the termination of US aid within the next two years, the same, age-old Pakistani recriminations started to come to the fore. The US, having accomplished its goal of ousting the Soviets from Afghanistan had, once again, abandoned its staunch and reliable ally, Pakistan. Few, if any, Pakistani policymakers or analysts cared to recall Zia's very apt characterisation of the US-Pakistan relationship in the immediate aftermath of the Soviet invasion.

Their plaintive cries were so frequent and persistent that many gullible individuals within US policy circles started to argue that there was some credence to the Pakistani position. The US had indeed walked away from Pakistan once its strategic objective of ousting the Soviets had been met. None amongst them cared to ponder that the relationship had been renewed solely for that purpose and little else. More to the point, Pakistan and especially its military apparatus, had been handsomely compensated for their troubles.

Today, after Bin Laden's demise and the revelation of his lair in the bosom of the Pakistan Military Academy, some of the same recriminations about the American role during and after the Afghan war are again coming to the fore. Senior Pakistani politicians have been beating their chests in Parliament and roundly berating the United States for having supported a host of unsavoury individuals and groups when they proved willing to help dislodge the Soviets from Afghanistan. Once again, there is a studied amnesia about Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate's role in funnelling American assistance to these entities and in choosing favoured acolytes. Nor is there any willingness to acknowledge that the organising, nurturing and supporting of these groups were in the perceived self-interest of the Pakistani military which wanted to eventually install a pliant regime in Afghanistan.

Sadly, this mutual unwillingness to acknowledge that little else other than strategic convenience undergirds the US-Pakistan relationship has been its bane from its very inception to the present day. After the current fanfare within Pakistani policy-making quarters, designed to appease Pakistan's aggrieved domestic political constituency, comes to a close, one can well expect the politico-military establishment to again curry favour in Washington, DC. In turn, those within the administration seeking a graceful exit from Afghanistan will yet fall prey to the subtle entreaties from Islamabad about its incapacity to carry out further counter-terrorist operations without more infusions of American economic assistance and access to key military technologies. Unless US policymakers hark back to multiple episodes of Pakistani duplicity, the same tragic cycle of divergent goals, questionable promises and mutual recriminations will ensue.

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






The main point about the Assembly polls, which the political class can ignore only at its peril, is that no ruler can survive the pent-up rage of the people however docile they may seem. This is what lies behind the spectacular triumph of Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal and of J. Jayalalithaa in Tamil Nadu. Those that have used the word "tsunami" in this context are not off the mark.

Legitimate anger drove 80 to 85 per cent of voters to polling booths where they stood in queues for several hours, in scorching heat, to democratically settle scores with their tormentors. Most of them were poor and downtrodden. A parallel with what happened to Indira Gandhi in 1977 after the nightmare of the Emergency is not at all out of place.

Of course, in West Bengal, Ms Banerjee's leadership was essential to mobilise the mass fury against the Marxist-led Left Front's misrule, to put it no more strongly than that. In the southern state a viable alternative was available in the charismatic personality of Ms Jayalalithaa, who has already been its chief minister twice. The difference in the causes that destroyed the Communist bastion in the east and the family rule of Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) patriarch M. Karunanidhi in the south is also significant.
To take up West Bengal first. Were circumstances there normal, any party or combination ruling the state for 34 continuous years would have been voted out as a matter of course. But normalcy and West Bengal can't be uttered in the same breath. The Left Front, led and dominated by the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), was routed not because of the longevity of its stay in power but because of its egregious errors and excesses. After its initial land reforms — Operation Barga in the late Seventies — it abandoned the rural folk, presumably expecting them to be grateful forever. Nor did it do anything to set up industries, small, medium or big, to provide employment to the swelling army of job seekers. When it realised this mistake, it swung to the other extreme, forcibly taking over farmers' lands and handing these to the tallest of the tycoons. No wonder Singur and Nandigram followed.
What aggravated people's woes was the Left Front's almost criminal neglect of education and healthcare. From the top of the chart on education, together with Tamil Nadu, West Bengal has plummeted to third position from the bottom — just above Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. However, all this pales when compared with the Left's crowning idiocy of imposing on the state something akin to Stalinist tyranny. It erased the dividing line between the party and the government. West Bengal went under the "Marxist cadre raj" — for the arrogant Marxist cadres, violence was the first instrument to enforce its will. This did invite counter-violence, especially from Ms Banerjee's Trinamul Congress, with Maoists contributing their mite. But who can match the combined power of the state and the ruling party's goons?
Authoritarianism and high-handedness did play a role in the deserved downfall of Mr Karunanidhi and the DMK. But it was rather limited, notwithstanding the shenanigans at Madurai of M.K. Alagiri, Mr Karunanidhi's son and Union minister for chemicals and fertilisers. The DMK's district secretaries also tended to behave like CPI(M) cadres in West Bengal. What made the five-time chief minister of Tamil Nadu bite the dust was corruption that was monumental and brazen beyond belief. It was also "in-house", confined to Kalaignar's extended clan. Nothing more needs to be said in view of the drama unfolding in the courts of law. But there is one more fact of which the country ought to take notice.
Was it purely coincidental that nobody, but nobody, foresaw the poll results in Tamil Nadu while almost everybody expected Ms Banerjee's big win in West Bengal? The most pundits and psephologists would say was that either side could win. Exit polls even gave victory to the DMK. Why? It is worth pondering that, perhaps, the self-respecting Tamils were hurt by the assumption in what they call "Upper India" that they would, as usual, be happy with freebies and cash delivered to them with the morning paper, and would happily return the DMK to power. They obviously decided to decimate the DMK but disclosed it to no one. In Tamil Nadu it was a "silent wave", obviously because of some kind of fear.
Has the Congress, the core of the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) at the Centre, read the election results right? To be sure, it has every reason to be proud of its achievement in the usually divided state of Assam where it has staged a hattrick. The credit for this goes primarily to Tarun Gogoi who will be Assam's chief minister for the third time running. As a conciliator he thwarted attempts at polarising the state and has paved the way for a peaceful settlement with the United Liberation Front of Asom. It is also understandable that the Congress should feel happy about the pathetic plight of the Bharatiya Janata Party that contested almost all seats in Assam and Kerala and a great many in West Bengal. In the process, in the words of a usually sympathetic commentator, it has made itself a "joker in the pack". For the rest, the Congress' claims when not misplaced are exaggerated.
For instance, its boast that it and its UPA allies have won in three of the five states is a fact that obscures the truth. In West Bengal, the Congress is no more than a peripheral appendage to the victorious Trinamul Congress. As for Kerala, where every election has led to regime change, this time around the irony is that the winner came second. The United Democratic Front has a wafer-thin majority. In tiny Puducherry, the mighty Congress has lost two-to-one to a former Congressman. And if it goes on underplaying the issue of corruption in Tamil Nadu, it may yet again be singed by it.
The worst message to reach the Congress headquarters is from Kadapa in Andhra Pradesh where a single Lok Sabha byelection has proved more catastrophic than all other losses put together. Congress' biggest bastion is now history.








While the entire country is galvanized into waging anti-corruption war at all levels, it is surprising that the State actors are trying to run away from accountability noose. It is difficult to understand why the Government does not take it seriously when J&K ranks high among the corrupt states of the country. Addressing party convention at Sopor, senior Congress leader and former Minister Abdul Ghani Vakil demanded setting up of an independent commission to probe into the disproportionate assets of politicians, ministers, ex. ministers and other public servants across the board. Four years have passed by and the Government is not able to appoint the chairman of the State Accountability Commission (SAC), an autonomous body constituted through promulgation of law in the J&K Legislative Assembly to look into the matters of corruption and malpractices. Though the state has a mechanism of accountability in place in the shape of vigilance organization, yet the need was felt for an institution that would have larger powers to subject ministers and senior public servants to account for their acts of omission and commission. In particular, there are public servants who have amassed properties disproportionate to their genuine and legal sources of income. Many a time complaints of malpractice by the ministers, MLAs and senior government functionaries have been reported but not redressed. This has given rise to an impression that there are elements in the Government that would want to close their eyes to instances of corruption and mismanagement.

The senior Congress leader has made no bones in bringing the blame of obstructing the appointment of the Chairman of SAC to the doorstep of the leader of opposition. He claims that the leader of opposition being a member of the selection committee has been intentionally avoiding attending the meetings of the committee. It means that she would not want the SAC to function because doing so would perhaps lead to many skeletons tumbling out of the cupboard. Cases and complaints of corruption against many ministers or former ministers and senior bureaucrats and government functionaries are pending with the Vigilance Commission but for want of jurisdiction these are not pursued. That had necessitated creation of SAC. But even this is deliberately made non-functional. It is curious to note that in the case of the state, it is the opposition that apparently puts a spoke in the wheel and does not want an institution for accountability function properly. Normally it is the opposition in the assembly in any other state that insists on the government and treasury benches to streamline accountability institution. By creating hurdles and by deferring the appointment of a chairman, the impression is gaining ground that the Government is in know of corrupt practices adopted by the ministers (active or retired) MLAs and senior bureaucrats and public men but would not make them face accountability commission. This is a sordid situation. It has to be remembered that a very big complaint of the youth of the state is that its politicians are corrupt and they have become powerful because of enormous money which they have accumulated through illegal means. Congressman Vakil was right in saying that property of fruit growers on their becoming defaulters in petty loan cases is being seized while as crocodiles (sales tax defaulters) that happen to be involved in scandals of the magnitude of Rs 500 crore escape scot-free. If the Government is serious in eradicating corruption then it should activate their lawyers to get such stays vacated as have stopped the proceedings of corruption cases pending in different commissions against present and ex. Ministers. We are aware that the Chief Minister is very much concerned that accountability institution should work normally and instill faith among the people especially the youth of the state that it does not harbour malpractices and corruption in public administration. This needs to be translated into practice.







Army's interaction with Kashmir civil society is a healthy and progressive step which has met with success ever since it was launched by the Corps Commander in Srinagar. Statements of very senior Army Generals including the G-O-C in-C Western Command, Lt. Gen. Parnaik that Army upholds and protects human rights of the citizens of India should go a long way in restoring confidence among the civil society on the intentions and care of the Indian Army for the people of Kashmir. Army has always regretted that anti-India elements have tried to malign its name and implicate it in false cases. It is known to everybody that disinformation campaign has been one of the lethal instruments that ISI uses in Kashmir militancy upsurge. The reality on the ground is that hundreds of thousands of Kashmiris are the beneficiaries of Indian Army in the State because they are having a roaring business in supply of fresh vegetables, fruits, and milk and mutton supplies. Besides, the MES has been giving contracts worth hundreds of millions of rupees to local contractors, which also provides employment to thousands of Kashmiri youth. Hundreds of trucks owned by Kashmiris are deployed for army service and they make good income out of it. This has been the case ever since independence in 1947. In yet another move, the Army is running free medical camps for the needy, free schools, free tours for students in border areas and many more facilities. Army's role as a socializing factor has to be appreciated. Indian Army never behaved as an occupational army as is being orchestrated by anti-Indian elements. There could be more scope for improving Army-civil society bilateral relationship once the civil society begins to respond more positively. The Army is aware that the militants coming from across the border terrorize local people with dire consequences if they disclose their movement to the Army. But notwithstanding this intimidation, the people living along border line have been finding safety only with the Indian army. This type of interaction has to grow further so that attempts of infiltration into this side of the LoC are thwarted. Army has scuttled many attempts of subversion in the past and in doing that the local civilian population has made valuable contribution.








The electorate in Assam proved wiser than the combined wisdom of the psephologists and pollsters. The latter had predicted a hung House. The exciting possibility stimulated the adrenalin flow in the Opposition parties who immediately engaged in feverish pre-poll negotiations to form a post-poll alliance government. In the event, the Congress secured absolute majority on its own by winning 78 seats in a House of 126. Its ally, the Bodo People's Front (BPF) increased its tally from ten to twelve. A potential ally, the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF), emerged the second largest party by winning eighteen seats. Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi humbled his AGP rival by over fifty thousand votes.
The Opposition has taken a severe drubbing. The AGP which had 25 seats in the outgoing House has been reduced to ten. The party was virtually wiped out from Upper Assam. It failed to win a single seat in the five Upper Assam districts which send 28 members to the Assembly. Its former Chief Minister Prafulla Mahanta was defeated by Congress minister Rockybul Hussain in Samaguri by nineteen thousand votes, though he managed to retain the Bahrampur seat. Most AGP stalwarts like party president Chandra Mohan Patowary, Phani Bhusan Choudhdury, ex-ministers Atul Bora, Ramen Kalita, ex-president and former education minister Brindaban Goswami - all kissed the dust.
The AGP was so sure of there being a hung Assembly that it formed a four-member committee headed by Phani Bhusan Coudhury to hold talks with BJP and other parties if the AGP secured enough seats to form a government in alliance with others. The BJP was also looking forward to becoming a partner in a possible alliance government. In the event, it fared even worse. Its strength was halved from ten to five. This is a very significant development because the party was harping on the "threat posed by the illegal immigrants from Bangladesh" and the danger of the local people being outnumbered by the Bangladeshis. But it did not work.
The Left which has been on the decline since the nineties of the last century, drew a complete blank. In the last Assembly, they had three MLAs, two from CPI-M and one from CPI. One of the traditional causes of the Left, namely organizing the peasants' struggle for land, has been taken over by the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samity -a new non-party organization led by its young general secretary, Akhil Gogoi, who has Left leanings.
Why did the people turn their face against the Opposition? Why did the charges of corruption against the Congress failed to cut much with the electorate? One reason, according to noted political commentator and columnist Nitya Bora, is that the memory of the stinking corruption indulged in by the AGP during its two terms in power, especially the Rs. 400 crore LoC scam, is still too fresh in the minds of the people to make any corruption charge levelled by the party against others sound credible or convincing. Also, the people have more or less accepted that corruption by those in power cannot be eliminated and a ruling party should be judged more by its actual performance for the welfare of the people.
So the Congress is firmly back in saddle and Gogoi is reigning supreme. His success in bringing the ULFA leaders to the negotiating table and isolating the hardliner Paresh Baruah, chief of the armed wing of the outfit in the process is a major achievement which has gone down well with the people. He has excellent equations with the Prime Minister and the party president.
However, the Congress does have some points to worry about. One is the growth of the AIUDF. It is a secular party but its mass following is predominantly Muslim, one of the traditional vote banks of the Congress. The influence of the AIUDF is growing as reflected in the fact that it has almost doubled its tally of legislators from 10 to eighteen this time. The AIUDF leader, Badruddin Ajmal, is not averse to cooperating with the Congress. When everyone was keeping his fingers crossed about the possible poll outcome, the Congress lost no time in reaching out to Ajmal.
AICC general secretary Digvijaya Singh met Ajmal in Delhi on May 9 at the latter's residence. Next day, before Ajmal left for Assam, the two had a long telephonic conversation. Now the Congress has no need for support from other parties, but it may be wiser not to alienate the AIUDF but to keep the interaction going, even though a section of Assam Congressmen are known to be against a formal tie-up of the Congress with the AIUDF.
The Congress has also to be more attentive to its traditional constituency of the tea garden labourers, who have solidly backed the Congress all through. The INTUC holds its sway over them but some other organisations like the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh are getting their teeth into the tea population. The BJP has won some seats from the tea belt. (IPA)








When the Leftists formed their first government in West Bengal in 1967, albeit under a Bangla Congress leader, Ajoy Mukherji, the CPI(M), then no more than three years old, interpreted the success as the beginning of the long-cherished revolution. So, the more militant among the Marxists began the Naxalbari uprising.
If that was the first misreading by the comrades of the meaning of an electoral verdict in a "bourgeois" state, the second was the belief in the CPI(M) after its 1977 victory that even if the party could not launch a revolution, it could at least replicate the standard communist model of the party exercising total control over the government. If the Marxists had remained satisfied with this arrangement, which is also a feature of non-communist parties, vide the informal designation of the top Congress leadership as the "high command", then the Left might not faced many of the subsequent problems.
But, the CPI(M)'s second mistake was that not only did Alimuddin Street, the party headquarters in Kolkata, dictate terms to Writers Building, but it gradually extended its stranglehold from the government to virtually all aspects of life - social, economic and educational. As a resident in Kolkata's Ballygunge area at the time, this writer was surprised when a group of CPI(M) sympathizers turned up at the house to solicit a subscription. Not only had such a demand ever been made before by a political party, but they expressed their intention to collect such "donations" every month to establish closer relations, as they explained, between the party and the local residents.
It is another matter that they never turned up again. Ballygunge was probably too upmarket an area for the comrades to operate regularly with impunity. But, this practice of "closer relations" became common in the smaller towns and the countryside. What was more, few had the courage to refuse to subscribe because the collectors evidently did not belong to the well-behaved strata of society. But, it wasn't only a question of the average person having to part with a nominal amount every month in what he undoubtedly began to look upon as an investment in personal and familial safety. I also remember the CPI(M)'s secretary in West Bengal, Promode Dasgupta, telling us reporters during the Durga puja celebrations that these would be stopped after a time.
What these two episodes underline is the CPI(M)'s belief that its electoral victory gave it the licence, first, to establish a firm grip on the populace through what can only be described as hafta payments, and, secondly, to alter the "bourgeois" system. Again, it is another matter that the pujas were not only not stopped, but grew exponentially in numbers and the range of decibels. But, what is worth noting is that it is precisely these misperceptions of its role in society which have been ultimately responsible for the Left's downfall.
The factors which accelerated the slide were the uninhibited manner in which the Left turned the bureaucracy, the civic bodies, the educational and medical services and even local clubs into outposts of the various ruling parties - the CPI(M), the RSP, the Forward Bloc, the CPI and others in the Left Front. This practice of installing cadres in various institutions is now being ascribed to Leftist "arrogance" by some of the comrades themselves.
While the government's prerogative in the matter of appointing officers of its choice in the police and the administration is understandable, the fact that even teachers from the schools to prestigious institutions like Presidency College and the various medical colleges had to have the stamp of approval of the various parties, and especially the CPI(M)'s, meant the end of professionalism in not only the public services, but in virtually all other sectors.
The consequent emasculation of the police, which emboldened the anti-socials acting in the name of the ruling parties, was seen at its worst in Nandigram, where the Marxist militia "invaded" the village while the guardians of law and order looked on. It is mistakes such as these which paved the way for Mamata Banerjee's success, which is based on the roughly 40 per cent of votes which has always been with the non-communist parties. The Left was delighted when this bulk vote was divided on a 25:15 basis when the Trinamool Congress, with the larger share, broke away from the Congress. But, now, the split has not only been rectified, but the vote share has been enhanced by the addition of other non-Left Front contributions, such as those from the Left-wing Socialist Unity Centre.
Even as Mamata took advantage of the CPI(M)'s mistakes, the latter suffered from the departure of widely respected leaders like Promode Dasgupta, Harekrishna Konar, Benoy Chaudhuri and, finally, Jyoti Basu. Hence, its present Dushsamay or bad times, which Buddhadev Bhattacharjee had foreseen in his play of this name in the early 1990s when he resigned from Jyoti Basu's cabinet. (IPA Service)










TO say that the political Left in the country is at crossroads would be an understatement. Following the Left Front's comprehensive rout in the West Bengal Assembly election, notwithstanding V.S. Achuthanandan's heroics in Kerala, leaders of the Left have been quick to concede the need for introspection'. But while the CPI's A.B. Bardhan has at least been candid in admitting that 'arrogance' of power led to the rout, CPM general secretary Prakash Karat sought to give a different spin this week. Pointing out that the Left Front had polled 41 per cent of the votes in Bengal this time, he warned against any attempt to write the obituary of the Left. In any case, said Comrade Karat with a brave face, electoral politics was just one part of the party's agenda. Political struggles and agitations, he added ominously, were still open to the party.


While one does not really expect the Left to publicly admit how hopelessly out of touch they had grown with life and people outside their party offices, the Indian Left needs to re-invent new ways of doing business and politics. They have already initiated the process, hobnobbing with the BJP, the AIADMK and other political parties they would once have considered untouchable. But they need to do more. The irony of the unexpectedly good performance in Kerala would not have escaped the comrades. While the Left has been opposed to a 'personality cult', even Comrade Karat was forced to admit that Achuthanandan played a major role in turning its fortunes around. There are other, more serious, issues that the Left needs to re-assess, among them the relationship between the party and the government. Other parties too are often forced to reconcile the conflicting interests of the party and government. But none of them is as intrusive, overbearing and authoritarian as the communist parties.


With differences between the Congress and the BJP getting blurred by the day, there is certainly space for the Left to make its presence felt. That is, as long as ostrich-like, they do not bury their head in the sand and refuse to acknowledge wrong policies and priorities.









Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's recent visit to Kabul was more significant that his earlier one owing to four main factors. One, it came immediately after the killing of Al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden in Pakistan's garrison town Abbottabad, leading to strained relations between the US and its "key ally" in the war on terror. Two, the international community has expressed its readiness to encourage Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai to induct in his government the Taliban factions (the good Taliban) willing to give up the path of violence as advocated by last year's 60-nation London conference. Three, there is new willingness to allow India to play a more significant role in the reconstruction of Afghanistan in view of Pakistan having been exposed as an undependable nation in the fight against global terrorism. Four, India cannot afford to ignore the fact of China increasing its presence in Afghanistan, which may ultimately benefit Pakistan.


Yet, Dr Manmohan Singh avoided targeting Pakistan while expressing his views on the need for the countries in the region to work together to eliminate the scourge of terrorism. He also made it clear that there was no likelihood of India undertaking a US-style exercise to flush out the terrorists in Pakistan on India's wanted list. He reiterated India's assurance to Afghanistan to help it in all possible ways to rebuild its infrastructure. Kabul will now get another $500 million development assistance from India, taking New Delhi's aid to Kabul to $2 billion. India has no intention of involving itself militarily in Afghanistan. It will, however, continue to train the Afghan police, as desired by the Karzai government.


What is more significant than all this is that India is ready to accept the reality of the "good" Taliban as part of the government in Kabul. This is a clear policy shift, but unavoidable under the circumstances. This may help blunt the Pakistani propaganda that India is opposed to any reconciliation effort to normalise the situation in Afghanistan. In fact, it is difficult to go against the international view that the Taliban movement can be weakened by dividing it and then taking on the hardcore groups head on. What is also needed is a drive to ensure that there is no outside intervention (from Pakistan) in the affairs of Afghanistan. 











Mass copying in state-level examinations is so common in Punjab that it has virtually ceased to surprise. PCS selections have got debased. However, cheating is still rare in UPSC, IIT and IIM examinations. That is why reports of unfair practices adopted in a joint test for admission to the Indian Institutes of Technology have come as a shock. That this has happened at a private engineering college in Bathinda is a pointer to the poor regulation of the mushrooming professional colleges and universities. To cash in on the craze for professional education, engineering, management, nursing and B. Ed. colleges are being set up largely as commercial ventures by persons of questionable qualifications and morals.


When the aim is just to make money, irregularities are inevitable. It does not matter then what kind of teachers and principals are hired. Cheating in an examination can be arranged. Question papers can be made available before an examination for a price. Infrastructure provided may not be adequate but affiliations of reputed institutions and inspections by their teams can be managed. It is true the number of institutes like the IITs, which ensure a bright future for their students, is limited and many talented students fail to get admission despite hard work. In the scramble for limited seats, parents and students tend to use all means, including money power, to achieve success.


It, therefore, comes as a relief that the lure of money could not stop the IITs' team that caught the principal and two teachers of the Bathinda college for helping some favourite examinees. The IITs have given them exemplary punishment and blacklisted their college. It is hard to say if any university or authority in Punjab would have acted that firmly in a similar case. Politicians here immediately jump to the rescue of anyone influential in trouble. Officials not doing their bidding are dumped. A Punjab minister has got transferred an inconvenient but upright IAS officer who tried to stop the rot in Punjab's education. 









THE just concluded mini general elections come as a salutary reminder of the health of India's raucous democracy. It works. This is a huge and precious certificate at a time and when so much of the world around us is full of troubles. We tend to be blasé about this asset, and some take too many liberties with it for personal gain, breeding unwarranted cynicism and gloom. This negativism about ourselves and faith in our future keeps us from realising our full potential sooner


The latest results have delivered a body blow to the Left, especially in West Bengal where 34 years of rule and latter-day misrule has been justly punished. This is more than mere anti-incumbency. The ideological rigidity of the Marxists and local aggrandisement, with the gradual conflation of party and state, have brought nemesis. The feisty Mamata Bannerjee met fire with fire and must now show both magnanimity and wisdom in taking the state forward after years of slumber. Nor should she seek a pound of flesh at the Centre as that could prove counterproductive.


In Tamil Nadu, blatant corruption and naked family rule have earned popular disgust. The Congress has fared badly for keeping company with the DMK and being willing to be blackmailed by it. Kerala has seen the usual see-saw with the UDF squeaking in narrowly. It too needs positive government and development.


The one triumph of the Congress has been in Assam where terror and mindless agitation have been rejected. This is now a time for reconciliation and bold development, strides in cooperation with its northeastern partners and in fostering wider regional cooperation. Assam is the sheet anchor of and dynamo that can charge the entire Northeast. It has to perform that function for its own progress.


Like the Left, the BJP, barring some by-election victories, has done poorly. Its overweening rhetoric has not found favour with the people. Both the Left and the Parivar are a house divided and need to introspect. Over the next few years it is entirely possible that the political spectrum will undergo change. Extremist elements at both ends are likely to move to the lunatic fringe, advocating fanaticism and violence, leaving the moderate elements to become nuclei of social democrat and liberal conservative parties. They will gain adherents from the Congress Parivar which could morph into a centrist liberal democratic party.


Underpinning this would be a host of regional parties formed as a result of the constant upwelling of the underclass from below. This process could take another 20-30 years to play out even as these new formations form alliances and coalitions with the national players. This may seem an idealistic hope, but is more likely to occur than not.


Meanwhile, the Congress has the opportunity to learn and reform and get over a tendency to procrastinate (promising jam tomorrow). As many as 125 years after its foundation, it must renew itself as the leading party of reform, fraternity and strategic leadership in a fast changing world. It is well placed as a centrist party to build a grand coalition as in 1992 for charting the future. Social reform is going to be even more important than economic reform though both obviously must march hand in hand. It has boldly to combat the nostalgia for the past by many breeds and brands and alliances of Luddites who still believe that the land was, is and shall remain India's only salvation and whose understanding of the environment is static rather than dynamic.



A great opportunity for external leadership comes with the ludicrous farce played out in Abbottabad over the taking out of Osama bin Laden. Pakistan outdid itself in double speak with the punch line coming from its foreign secretary who declaimed within days of the event that Osama bin Laden's death was now history and it was time to "move on" — but from what to where? Pakistan's inability to confront reality from the day of its birth has caused it to "move on" from one fantasy to another at the cost of its soul. Its so-called "ideology" is in shreds, with none able to define its concept of Islam, identity, education, khaki democracy, federalism, or on-off constitutionalism.


"Who was responsible for the birth of Al-Qaida?" asks Yousuf Raza Gilani. Pakistan's double speak is closely matched by that of the US and other Western mentors, who funded Pakistan to create and recreate the Al-Qaida and Taliban monsters and build a nuclear arsenal through global pilferage and proliferation. The earlier and more recent Kerry-Lugar Amendments against nuclearisation and misuse of American military assistance by Pakistan have been observed in the breach only to be rewarded. The enormous "collateral damage" to India — far greater than anything the US has suffered — has been glossed over with gratuitous homilies urging it to make further "concessions" on Kashmir, Afghanistan and otherwise to Pakistan, which "ideologically" regards India as a hate object and prime enemy.


Mr Gilani protests too much. Yet this is no time to gloat over Pakistan's misfortunes but once more to hold out a hand of friendship and solidarity by promoting the recently resumed peace process through frank dialogue, cross-border interactions and commerce. Any breakdown or, worse, break up of Pakistan would not be in India's interest. The preceding recital of Pakistan's many defaults is not intended to put it in the dog-house or stoke sentiments of revenge. It is, however, necessary to put the record straight so that everybody knows that this is not a sign of bravado or despair but of mature statesmanship aimed a recreating a new South Asian and wider regional future.


The US can assist by cutting military aid to Pakistan with the warning that a rogue army and the ISI must be firmly placed under civilian control. Further, if "Islamabad" objects, it should know that it will lose part or all of its civil aid as well. The Pakistan economy is on drip and military blackmail by a "frontline" ally-that-is-not-an-ally would soon be shown up as an empty threat. Would this be humane? Yes, more humane than allowing Pakistan's military-mullah-feudal combine to operate lethally behind the equivalent of a national human shield to stifle both civil society and democracy.









As I neared the traffic signal the green light turned red forcing me to bring the car to a screeching halt. To while away time and with nothing better to do, I glanced around at the people waiting impatiently to race off. Suddenly my eyes fell on the person to my left. He was on a motorbike with a child in front, not more than five years old. The young girl sat facing the man, her father I presumed. She was smartly dressed in a yellow summer dress except, but her short and curly hair were unruly and directionless, messed up by the two-wheeler ride.


The man indulgently looked at the girl and was rewarded with a toothless smile. Without saying a word he started untangling her black-brown hair with his fingers. Personally I felt he did a good job at it, but he seemed dissatisfied with the result. Like a magician he produced a small comb out of the thin air. Painstakingly he began combing her hair, not leaving even a single strand untouched. The girl, unmindful of the man's effort, kept herself busy by fiddling with the buttons of his shirt.


The whole scene transported me to my childhood days when with the entry of a new member in the family, my baby sister, it had fallen upon dad to take care of me.


My dad used to wake me up, dress, feed breakfast and finally drop me off to school. However, the most important part of getting me ready was doing my hair. Although my long flowing mane was a matter of pride for my parents, mornings were ridden with panic to get my plaits right. Strict convent rules meant I could neither leave my hair open nor make pony tails. So my dad was left with no option but to learn to make plaits!


Sitting on the bed with folded legs dad would divide the hair into two equal parts with the precision of a mathematician. He would then go ahead and braid them, ensuring that no hair was left out. Finally, once complete, ribbons were tied on the plaits like a victory flag atop a mountain peak.


Surprisingly, with due practice dad picked up the art of making my plait, which was a daunting task even for my mom. In fact, he became so good at it that I insisted he continue long after the responsibility of getting me ready was handed back to mom. A soft smile played on my lips remembering the days of immaturity and how dad put up with my tantrums, giving importance to all those things that mattered to me.


Suddenly loud persistent honks by irritated drivers jolted me out of my reverie. I hurriedly waved at the girl before the motorbike speed off towards its destination. As the girl waved back I realised that daughters have a special place in their father's heart. We are all daddy's girls and shall remain so forever!










Crime is a fact of the human species, a fact of that species alone, but it is above all the secret aspect, impenetrable and hidden. Crime hides and by far the most terrifying things are those which elude us. — Georges Bataille


Investigation seeks to look beyond what meets the eye while crime investigation envisages and makes incumbent upon the seeker to dwell deeper into the skin of the mystery or issue at hand. While doing so, professionals are bound by certain legitimate, ethical and procedural instrumentalities under the due process of law.


It may seem to hinder the undesirable fast-forward mode of investigation to show quick results. However, it goes a long way in establishing the culpability of the accused beyond all shadows of doubt to prove the guilt to the hilt, thus enhancing the credentials of the investigating agency in the eyes of the judiciary.


In India, crime investigation is primarily vested with the police under section 156(1) of the Criminal Procedure Code as also by order of a magistrate vide section 156(3), who is empowered to take cognisance of an offence under Section 190. The Central Bureau of Investigation was initially handling economic offences involving frauds etc, but later it has been entrusted with other sensitive cases having serious ramifications in criminality. The National Investigation Agency was created in 2008 to exclusively tackle crimes of terror.


Crucial tasks


Investigation into crime warrants the police hurrying to the scene; protecting the site; informing concerned quarters on actionable information given out of the situation; sending for emergency services like ambulances; summoning the forensic experts and detectives; beginning to look for and collection of evidence; carrying out searches and effecting seizures; making witnesses join in; apprehending suspects followed by sequentially and chronologically documenting the entire process of investigation by writing case diaries and preparing judicial papers; and establishing the correct and unmistakable identity of the accused. These are some of the tasks that need immediate attention of the investigators, besides employing modern technologies, like cell phone interruption, clandestine recording, surveillance, etc.


Adhering to the internationally acceptable best practices is the crux of all that is modern, in the present-day scenarios of mutual interest and sustenance between nations. Crime having local and international ramifications has to be met with same standards, principles, norms and practices. The principle of optimum standard of proof has to be followed at all costs. Being a little extra vigilant will be good not only for the investigation but trial too.


Robert Peel, Father of police reforms in the UK, says, "It is common, we suppose, to all men, who find themselves involved in some unexpected and — as they think — undeserved difficulty or danger, to exhale the first impulses of vexation in reproaches against those, whose folly or wickedness have led to their embarrassment." There may be circumstances, where tangible, direct or forensic evidence may not be found. Hence collecting enough circumstantial evidence to corroborate the commission of crime at the hands of suspect will always be met with appreciation and concern by the courts as against a flawed manufacturing of padded layers of guilt on the accused.


Investigation is a multi-directional activity that sees, foresees, imagines, suspects, but doesn't think loud enough, since the dire straits of procedures restrict, and rightly so. A good investigator should keep the prosecution story in mind and also pre-suppose the defense side during the trial that will follow but it is desirable and advisable not to be unfair to the suspect or the accused, in trying to "fix him well."


Denying the suspect his 'Right to silence'; ' insulation against double jeopardy'; 'right of private defense'; 'acts done as sudden and grave provocation'; and above all, matters of privacy, including intrusion should not be lost sight of by the investigators. The Constitution of India guarantees every person right against self-incrimination under Article 20(3). The 'Right to silence' is well established and forcible intrusion into one's mind. It made the Supreme Court of India declare the narco-analysis, brain-mapping and lie-detector tests as violation of such a right.


Classical example


The investigation should clearly bring out the occasion-cause-effect chain, into building up the corpus delicti. If a criminal act is incidental enough, not preceded with preparation, leading to its execution, followed by a transparent and unquestionable subsequent conduct, then trying to prove the guilt on the suspect may never succeed during the trial. The classical example to support and sustain this view point is of the experiment, when the baby-monkey was put under her feet by the mother-monkey, to gain some height, in a water filled glass jar, when the levels started reaching her nose and she began to apprehend and confront her own death right in her face.


Thus, a criminal's predicament, mental disposition, plus any provable and scientific and biological inclination towards committing crime, should be also taken into consideration in assessing and assuming his culpability besides mens rea.


Comprehensive database


As for crime control, K. Koshy, former Director-General of Police, Bureau of Police Research and Development, says that a comprehensive database on wide ranging subjects like details of residents, criminal backgrounds, data on crime, stolen and abandoned vehicles, drug cases, money transaction and movements of persons can help in not only preventing and controlling but investigating crime.


The Village Crime Notebook, as envisaged by the Punjab Police Rules, if maintained properly and linked online with databases like Unique ID number, bank transactions, hotel occupation, BC Rolls, hue and cry notices, stolen vehicles and automobile registration details, accidents, if done on real-time basis, can detect patterns and track movement of criminals and suspicious persons, can help prevent common crimes and economic offences. The best example of this is the use of data mining techniques involving the COPLINK project in the US.


Proactive policing as in the New York City Police Department suggests proper locking and securing houses and buildings, burglar alarms, architectural and town planning designs to make crimes more difficult. If the Patrol Officer is sensitive to any unusual things in the area and probes it, many an untoward incident can be prevented. A classic example is the Broken Window approach suggested by James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling. Prevention will largely depend on how civil society enjoins upon itself and follows self-discipline and the rule of law. Placing trust in the law enforcement agencies is of paramount importance. Otherwise, vigilante actions are sure to follow, howsoever bottled up or repressed a community may be.


In the sixties, the Police Youth Club system was introduced in the US, proactively targeting the potential offenders who exhibited signs of rebellion, even while being in school, to divert their energies to more creative activities like sports, games and social service. The Regional Employ-Ability Challenge (REACH) Project supported by the European Union and kids projects in Durham, UK, are other examples.


Important clues


Integration and availability of huge databases from public domains like payment of toll on highways, telephone call records, list of train and airplane reservations, hotel occupancy, purchase of vulnerable material like explosives, Ammonium Nitrate, etc and software to analyse and link these seemingly unconnected data can help the professionals more scientifically in the task of crime control. In the Parliament Attack case, cell phone calls analysis provided the most important clues.


Mafias of various shades and sizes exist the entire world over and their favourite indulgences include narcotics, currency, artifacts, body-shopping etc. Natural geographical features and political conditions make possible things like 'Golden Triangles' and 'Silk-Routes'. Likewise, you can grow opium in Afghanistan; smuggle narcotics through Malaysia, Myanmar and Nepal; or even dump fake currency in India printed in Pakistan via Nepal, Indonesia and Malaysia.


An investigator has to be compassionate. He should have wide contacts and clear objectives besides ability to collect documents, preserve evidence, effect recoveries and assists in prosecution. He should take care to record witness statement and undo the suspects alibi. More important, he should be an expert in building up corpus dilecti. Investigators and crime-busters will have to start big that can be made small, but not always start with small, that cannot be made big, as it happened in the Arushi murder case.


The writer is the Inspector-General of Police, Criminal Investigation Department, Haryana. 







  If one is named in an FIR, the guilt is 'half presumed' even if he is found to be innocent.


  The recovery should be effected from the accused/suspect himself, defying all logic behind Section 27 of the Indian Evidence Act, which only makes the recovery relevant.


  Adding up weight to the incriminating substance recovered will ensure conviction just as you recover only 50 grams of charas powder when you add 1 kg of sand to it.


Participative policing


  It involves the community at large as Coban in Japan and Neighborhood Watch of the US besides Robert Peel's London Metropolitan Police model which has started to influence the Indian police officers.


  Thikri Pehra, Resident Welfare Associations in Metropolises, Mohalla Committees in Mumbai and Bhiwandi besides Maitrayee of Andhra Pradesh and MP are useful in community policing.


Quality investigation


  It depends upon the 11 time-tested and traditional 'W's: What happened? Where? When? By whom? Against whom? Why committed (motive)? Who witnessed? What entry or exit point? What articles taken away? What was the modus operandi? And what evidence left behind?


  Good conviction rate will be an effective deterrent. A good investigating officer should consider, among others, all approved ethical skills; appreciation of the innocence and guilt of the suspect; a systematic method of enquiry; and inductive and deductive reasoning of circumstances.




  Interview of the initial reporter and intelligent interview techniques are lacking in the training schedule in Indian academies.


  Inability to separate the criminal and the target, by education or spreading awareness.  Corruption, inefficiency, lopsided manpower management, poor conviction, unguided supervision, inadequate infrastructure, distrust, bad image, unfair recruitment and unskilled training, etc.


The name of the writer of the article "The myth and reality about the Global Indian," published on the Op-ed page on May 16, is Vipul Grover. His name had inadvertently got left out — Ed





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




It is tempting to interpret Reserve Bank of India Governor Duvvuri Subbarao's recent statement questioning the need for setting up an independent debt management office as an early indication of yet another turf war between the monetary policy authority on Mumbai's Mint Road and the fiscal policy authority in Delhi's North Block. The two authorities have not seen eye to eye in the recent past on many other issues including the one that led to the creation of the financial stability and development council or FSDC with the finance minister as its chairperson. The finance ministry under Pranab Mukherjee was keen on setting up the FSDC that would undertake macro-economic supervision of the economy along with co-ordination among all financial sector regulators. However, the RBI had expressed its opposition to the proposal arguing that the new council could undermine its autonomy. The finance ministry had responded by agreeing to make the RBI governor the chairperson of the only sub-committee created under the Council, and subsequently also the vice chairman of the inter-regulatory co-ordination committee.

The difference this time is that the idea of creating a debt management office or DMO is several years old and is rooted in strong economic logic. The central bank ideally should not undertake the responsibility of managing the government's debt issues and this job should vest with an independent body. Moreover, the proposal, first mooted in 2007, has crossed several stages and the finance ministry will soon place a legislative bill in Parliament. To raise questions over the need for creating a separate debt management office at this stage, therefore, can draw the charge that the RBI is merely worried about losing its power over this function, not mindful of what clearly should be a better and more effective system.


On the other hand, however, the central bank has good reasons to feel worried over the loss of its debt management functions to an independent body. One, it has a few thousand employees who are now engaged in managing the debt issues for the government. Transferring this function to a new body will thus pose a formidable human resources challenge. Two, if indeed the debt management functions should not vest with the central bank, the government must ensure that the new body is sufficiently empowered to function independently and not merely as an extension of the finance ministry. Three, in light of the recent surge in the government's fiscal deficit, the finance ministry should consider reviewing the logic and relevance of creating an autonomous debt management office. The finance ministry, after all, had mooted the idea of an independent DMO, when the government's fiscal deficit was on a decline. However, with a rising fiscal deficit, there is perhaps need to retain for some more time the government's debt management functions with the central bank, which has undertaken this responsibility with fair competence so far. Finally, the central bank is a federal institution that occupies a neutral position between the Centre and states. Given the debt requirements of states, in an era of diverse political parties running state governments, debt management should vest with RBI rather than a central institution. While the idea of an autonomous debt management office is good, these issues cannot be brushed aside. So, better to place the proposal on the backburner for now.







Government scientists and industry experts have joined hands to evolve guidelines for advertisements claiming health benefits for what is called health foods in India and functional foods in the US. The sharp rise in upper class incomes, lifestyle diseases and health consciousness has created a market for such foods, which industry has been quick to step into. Rules are urgently needed because currently there are none. For example, the claim by GlaxoSmithKlein that Horlicks makes children taller, stronger and sharper may have been clinically validated, but the firm would not be breaking any law or guideline if it were not. Current Indian guidelines, supervised by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India, only require foods to be safe for consumption and unadulterated. The initial aim of the proposed regulations will be to mainly focus on probiotics, foods which contain bacteria that help in digestion, and nutracuticals which are nutritional aids with a leg in the domain of pharmaceutical chemistry and biotechnology. Apart from regulation, India also needs effective implementation of rules and adequate testing capacity.

There is much to be learnt from the different ways in which the US and Europe have gone about policing these claims. The US Federal Trade Commission, which polices claims for functional foods has to live with firms' constitutional right to cozmmercial free speech so long as it is truthful and not misleading. In practice, the US public is inundated with claims of health and wellness from this burgeoning industry and the regulator is always trying to catch up with clever marketing that says one thing in a prominent slogan upfront but the import of the detailed nutritional label at the back can mean something else. Not only do ordinary consumers seldom read and understand the fine print, they are often driven by an overwhelming desire to find the holy grail of wellness. The FTC has in the recent period filed complaints of deceptive marketing against such well known firms as Kellog, Dannon and a subsidiary of Nestle.


The Europeans Food Safety Authority, on the other hand, has set up an independent panel of experts to examine health and wellness claims. Firms have to submit their claims with scientific evidence for the panel to pass an opinion on whether they pass muster. India is moving towards a regime of pre-clearance of claims before they can be made but there is a danger in this. Going by the standards of Indian bureaucratic efficiency and ethics, it is quite possible for log jams to be created and corruption to surface. A middle path can be adopted whereby a firm can file a claim and go ahead if it is not rejected after a period. The regulator should also be able to disqualify a claim, on scientific evidence, even after it has begun to be aired. But one problem which will remain, in India and elsewhere, is the scientific validation of a claim. While peer reviewed research should always be insisted upon, the risk of sponsored research later turning out to be self-serving will always remain







It is now two weeks since the US carried out a daring commando raid to kill Al Qaeda chief, Osama bin Laden, in his hideout in Abbotabad. The US appears to have been handed an unexpected and significant leverage to bend its two-faced ally to its will. The message to Pakistan is that it may be spared the worst consequences of its folly (yet again) if it fulfils the following minimal demands from Washington:

One, the Pakistan armed forces must carry out operations in the Waziristan area to degrade, if not eliminate, the Haqqani faction of the Afghan Taliban, which has been carrying out cross-border armed operations against the ISAF forces in Southern Afghanistan.


 Two, restrain the Afghan Taliban, associated with Mullah Omar, from proceeding with the current spring offensive against ISAF ; and

Three, prevail upon the Taliban, over which Pakistan has considerable influence, to enter into reconciliation talks with Karzai government, so that some measure of political stability and peace can be restored in Afghanistan.

Pakistan's compliance with these demands could help the successful execution of President Obama's exit strategy in Afghanistan, significantly advancing his chances for re-election next year.

The US is aware that this will not add up to dissuading Pakistan from the use of cross-border terrorism as an instrument of State policy against India and and now targeting the US in Afghanistan as well. Nevertheless, the US may have calculated that it would be best to extract whatever tactical advantages it can in the short-term rather than shoot for a more ambitious make-over in the thinking of the Pakistan elite.

Latest reports from Pakistan indicate that its leaders believe they retain enough bargaining chips to deflect US demands. After a week of contradictory and confused responses from both the civilian and military leaders, a consensus appears to have emerged on how to handle the aftermath of the bin Laden affair. This is clearly reflected in the resolution adopted by the Pakistan Parliament on May 14, 2011 and in statements and interviews given by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani. The main features of Pakistan's current posture are:

1.   A rejection of the more damaging charge of complicity (despite compelling evidence to the contrary) and admission to a lesser charge of incompetence and intelligence failure. However, the investigation promised into the latter will focus on the failure to prevent US violation of Pakistan's territorial integrity rather than the larger question of how the Al Qaeda chief could have been in residence for over five years in a cantonment town close to the capital. 

2.   Deflect attention away from Pakistan's intimate links with the network of terrorist groups laid bare by the raid and focus instead on the violation of its territorial integrity and sovereignty by the US. This will help tap into the widespread hostility towards the US and overwhelm the uncomfortable questions being asked within Pakistan itself about the sanctuary provided to terrorist groups.The suspension of CIA-ISI intelligence sharing and the threat to disrupt US supply lines to Afghanistan through Pakistan is a reminder to the US of its dependence on Pakistani goodwill for the continued execution of its operations in Afghanistan. 

3.   Flaunt Pakistan's "all-weather" friendship and alliance with China to suggest that there are limits to the pressures that the US can bring to bear on Islamabad. Gilani is undertaking a visit to Beijing precisely for this purpose. China has been praised for being the only country which has stood by Pakistan in its hour of need.

If this gambit succeeds, then the US will find its new found leverage rapidly evaporating into thin air. Why is this happening?

The US has set itself up for blackmail by declaring in advance that it needs Pakistan's collaboration in pursuing its Afghan strategy; that it must continue to engage with and support Pakistan because of concern over the fate of its rapidly expanding nuclear arsenal; and because Pakistan's economic collapse would create a volatile and dangerous situation in an already difficult neighbourhood. Fears are expressed that pressures on Pakistan beyond a certain threshold may tip it into a tighter Chinese embrace, reducing US influence in the country. These articulations at the most senior levels of US Government may have convinced Pakistan that it could, yet again, ride out the consequences from an exposure of its duplicity because of its perceived indispensability. Instead of Pakistan having to restore trust among its allies, Gilani has turned the tables and is demanding that the US strive to win back Pakistan's trust instead!

There has been tacit acquiescence by the US and its Western allies to Pakistan's repeated myth-making over its clandestine pursuit of nuclear weapons, its dangerous proliferation of nuclear weapons technology and material to Libya, Iran and North Korea and its pursuit of cross-border terrorism. Throughout the 1980s, there was annual certification that Pakistan was not pursuing a nuclear weapons programme, despite ample evidence to the contrary. Clandestine proliferation was blamed on a private supermarket run by an individual Pakistani scientist, rather than confront the real culprits in the Pakistani establishment. Pakistan has been publicly and repeatedly praised for its support to the war on terror and anti-insurgency in Afghanistan even while its duplicity has been condemned in private.

In an effort to shore up Pakistan's credentials as an ally, are not the US and our Western partners undermining their own credibility as responsible states? Will the bin Laden affair prove to be too big a lump to swallow this time? Indications are that the Pakistani establishment may be absolved of responsibility and some unidentified rogue elements within it will be blamed.

It will be important to see what level of support Pakistan is able to mobilise in China and Saudi Arabia, its two most critical allies. Will China counsel a shift away from Pakistan's current posture to Gilani because of heightened concerns over Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism in neighbouring Xinjiang? Will the terrorist killing of a Saudi diplomat in Karachi lead to Saudi pressures to change course? Unless there is a degree of coordinated messaging by the US, China and Saudi Arabia, the strategic calculus in Islamabad is unlikely to change, cross-border terrorism will continue to be an instrument of state policy and Pakistan will remain a breeding ground for violence and terror radiating instability in our region and beyond.

Against this backdrop, India must formulate its own strategy with respect to Pakistan and Afghanistan, drawing upon assets we possess and neutralising the liabilities we confront. The measured Indian response to Abbotabad and Prime Minister's recent visit to Afghanistan, with its clear-cut assertion of our long term interest in that country, point in the right direction.






In June 2010, the Union government decided to decontrol petrol prices. This was a move hailed as a big reform initiative. This had also created an impression that the government would move forward on decontrolling the prices of diesel, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and kerosene in the coming months. Creating that impression were the state-controlled oil companies' decisions in subsequent months to raise petrol prices. Since this also was the period, when the international crude oil prices were on the rise, the revisions had led to a spike in retail prices that was predictably uncomfortable for consumers.

Thus, over and above a seven per cent increase in June, petrol prices went up again by over eight per cent in December and in January 2011 by over four per cent. There was no movement on decontrolling the prices of other petroleum products like diesel, whose price consequently saw no change, but the periodic increases in petrol prices gave some comfort to the reformers that at least petrol prices had gone out of the government's discretionary administrative control.


What happened subsequently, however, was an anti-climax. The international crude oil prices continued to rise even after January — and indeed by a sharper margin, but the oil marketing companies refrained from announcing any further price increase. The oil companies gave no official explanation for their reluctance to increase the petrol price after January, but everybody believed that the Union government must have told the oil companies to desist from any such move. The unstated explanation went as follows: Any further increase in petrol prices may adversely affect the electoral prospects of the Congress and its alliance partners in the Assembly elections to be held in Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and Kerala s in April-May. Hence, defer any such price increase until the elections are over!

As widely expected, a day after the election results were out, the oil marketing companies announced a five-rupee increase in petrol price, which in effect meant a rise of 32 per cent in the last one year. Clearly, this was not enough. Crude oil prices in this period had gone up by 41 per cent and even after the latest increase, the oil companies' under-recovery remained as high as Rs 5 for every litre of petrol they sold in the retail market.

Yet, the petrol price increase sparked off a heated debate over its correctness. Opposition political parties have criticised the government for the price rise saying that this would hurt the ordinary people. The government has argued that it has decontrolled petrol prices and the decision to revise the prices lies with the oil marketing companies.

However, if one looks at the sequence of events, it becomes clear that even though the government has on paper decontrolled petrol prices, it has certainly exercised its influence over the oil companies to ensure that they raise the prices only after the elections get over.

The problem, therefore, is not whether the government has actually decontrolled petrol prices or not. Even after diesel prices are decontrolled, the government may continue to influence the oil companies in a manner that it can dictate the extent and frequency of price revisions. This is what exactly happened even during the Vajpayee-led government of the National Democratic Alliance. Immediately after the dismantling of the administered price regime for the petroleum sector, the Vajpayee government decided that the oil marketing companies would be free to fix the prices of petroleum products. In practice, however, these companies would be free to do so only as long as they got the concurrence and approval of the ministry of petroleum and natural gas.

This is exactly what has happened after the United Progressive Alliance government of Manmohan Singh decontrolled petrol prices. In theory, the oil marketing companies are free to fix petrol prices, but in practice, they do need the approval of the ministry of petroleum and natural gas. So, the government may take credit for ushering in more reforms in the coming days by decontrolling prices of diesel, kerosene and LPG, but there would be no real decontrol of prices and all price revisions for these products would require the approval of the petroleum and natural gas ministry.

Remember that the government is able to exercise influence over the petroleum product pricing decisions simply because it is also a majority shareholder in the state-controlled oil marketing companies. Therefore, to ensure that these companies enjoy complete pricing freedom, it is not enough to change policies on petroleum product pricing. Equally important is to make the government a minority shareholder in these companies. Once that ownership pattern changes, the government will cease to exercise any influence over the companies and chances of implementing policy reforms will improve dramatically.

These are the perils of half-hearted reforms, which successive governments have initiated without taking a holistic view of the issues at stake. Oil pricing freedom as an idea can succeed only if the ownership of the key oil refiners (read the public sector oil companies) ceases to be government-dominated. Whether the UPA government is ideologically prepared to undertake such deep and bold reforms is of course a big question mark, but until such time clarity emerges on this key reform area, oil pricing will continue to remain muddled in politics and populism.






Most sane people prefer to stay away from the painfully slow and overcrowded courts. It is a misfortune to be dragged to a court, especially when one is an ordinary law-abiding citizen. The ancient Chinese swore at a foe, "let you be hauled to a court even if you're innocent!"

However, there is a deviant species who attempt to gamble with law suits. They use the system to settle political scores or subdue business rivals. The Supreme Court spotted this class two years ago in the case Dalip Singh vs State of Uttar Pradesh and remarked: "In the last 40 years, a new breed of litigants has cropped up. The quest for personal gain has become so intense that those involved in litigation do not hesitate to take shelter in falsehood, misrepresentation and suppression of facts. Those who attempt to pollute the stream of justice or touch the pure fountain of justice with tainted hands are not entitled to any relief."


 The Supreme Court decided a few cases of this variety last week and even imprisoned one petitioner who lacked bona fides. One petition was moved by vocal politician Amar Singh. It was his constant whine that his political opponents in power are tapping his phones and his private conversations with friends in high places and celebrities were aired in the media. Therefore, he moved the Supreme Court invoking his fundamental right to privacy. But the court rejected his petition, calling it "an attempt to mislead the court on the basis of frivolous allegations and by suppression of material facts."

Chastising those who move courts with such dubious motives, the judgment said: "This court wants to make it clear that an action at law is not a game of chess. A litigant who approaches the court must come with clean hands. He cannot prevaricate and take inconsistent positions." Since the Amar Singh petition was vague, not conforming to the rules of procedure and riddled with inconsistencies, the court did not go into his main grievance — infringement of privacy.

The only positive outcome of the case was the court's request to the government to "frame certain statutory guidelines to prevent interception of telephone conversation on unauthorised requests." In this case, Reliance Infocom acted on a forged request from the police.

In another judgment, Kalyaneshwari vs Union of India, the court deprecated misuse of public interest litigation to wage business battles. A writ petition was filed in the Gujarat High Court seeking the closure of asbestos units, alleging that the material was harmful to humans. The high court dismissed it, stating that the petition was filed at the behest of rival industrial groups that wanted to push their products as substitute for asbestos. Undaunted, a similar petition was then moved in the Supreme Court. The plea was not only dismissed, but the person who mooted it was asked to pay cost of Rs 1 lakh and sit in the court for a whole day.

The judgment said: "The petition lacks bona fide and in fact was instituted at the behest of a rival industrial group, which was interested in banning of the activity of mining and manufacturing of asbestos. A definite attempt was made by it to secure a ban on these activities with the ultimate intention of increasing the demand of cast and ductile iron products as they are some of the suitable substitute for asbestos. Thus it was litigation initiated with ulterior motive of causing industrial imbalance and financial loss to the industry of asbestos through the process of court."

The court declared that it was its duty in such circumstances to punish the petitioners exercising its power under the Contempt of Courts Act. The court must "ensure that such unscrupulous and undesirable public interest litigation be not instituted in courts of law so as to waste the valuable time of the courts as well as preserve the faith of the public in the justice delivery system."

This variety of cases is not entirely new. They come with apparently laudable motives, but if the veil is removed they expose the real intentions. In the case, Subhash Kumar vs State of Bihar (1991), the complaint was that effluents released from the Tata Iron and Steel Company's washeries were not only contaminating the Bokaro river but also ruining agricultural land. Later the court found that the petitioner was an influential businessman who was buying the slurry from the company for several years. His private interest was hurt when the company refused to provide him more slurry. Hence his public interest litigation. Such instances have occurred despite the stringent reaction of the courts at all levels and guidelines set by the apex court in some judgments.




There's little doubt that the state needs additional land to facilitate faster industrial development, but leasing land from farmers rather than outright purchase might work better.

Rajiv Kumar
Director General, Ficci


Before any land is acquired, the huge land banks that the states hold under their industrial development corporations need to be tapped and exhausted

It is clear industry needs land, whether it is for infrastructure, power generation or for various other sectors. In the most recent context, the government has declared its intent to expand the share of manufacturing from the current 15 per cent to 25 per cent and this would entail the creation of huge manufacturing zones. So the need for additional land cannot be ruled out and would, in fact, be primary to these policies achieving their objectives.

Before any land is acquired, however, the huge land banks that the states hold under their industrial development corporations need to be tapped and exhausted. This is rarely done. When manufacturing zones are set up under the new proposed policy, it is these land banks that should first be taken.

Again, urban centres should have a clear land use plan so that industry understands the boundaries of the no-go areas. Land meant for industry should be demarcated so that it is very clear which land is available for acquisition.

And when it comes to acquisition one should follow the Haryana model, which lets you acquire land up to 90 per cent. The remaining 10 per cent of the land required is then surrendered at the same rates as the rest was acquired.

In Haryana, the state does not interfere at all but it facilitates the acquisition of the remaining 10 per cent so there is no blackmail by a group of land owners holding an entire project to ransom.

The current agitation in the Haryana industrial belt is inexplicable because the state government has long given up buying land from the people for industrial purposes. It pays annual royalties to the land owners so that they also get good compensation for the annual earnings lost from the land.

Another thing that is required to make way for healthy land-acquisition processes is the junking of the colonial law on land acquisition. The Land Acquisition Act is outdated and gives states the power to acquire land and gives it too much authority as the entity that facilitates land sales. In fact, it has permanently given the state the role of a middle man as far as land acquisition is concerned. Has it helped? The unrest is often triggered by the interference of the state as a buyer.

States should stop acquiring land because their interference does not help at all. Industry pays the price in any case, whether the land is acquired by the state or by the industry. The industry does not make any profits or margins in either case. So why shouldn't the industry buy directly as in Haryana? The state should stay out of these deals. Now, you find the political parties who have all along interfered in different states are blaming industry for everything. Currently the entire issue is being politicised and the industry is being painted as the bad guy.

Most industries are willing to pay the market price, barring some cases. In Singur, West Bengal, for instance, land was acquired below market rates. These exceptions and concessions should be reserved for critical infrastructure projects like power. The share of state acquisition could be increased to 30 per cent for such essential infrastructure projects, the list of which should be clearly defined. Steel should not fall in this category because, if it is, all manufacturing would have to be included.

I believe in the Haryana model there is provision for employment as well. It may be useful to consider one job for local people per unit of land. If this requires some training, so be it. All this means that price of land in our country is high compared to others, so that is bound to affect the choice of industries and we should accept that. But at least there will be and should be a determinate price because the worst situation is the complete uncertainty and politicisation that prevails now.

Rajesh Bhati
Coordinator, Kisan Sangharsh Samiti, National Capital Territory

The demand for providing a better royalty or a rental can be considered along with the possibility of a permanent stake in industrial projects

On principle, I believe that the farmer should always remain the owner of his land and, if his land is needed for an industrial project, it should be leased out and not sold to anyone. This is an important point because anybody who thinks that states acquire land for various projects and will actually use it for those purposes is living in a fool's paradise. What states typically do is acquire land now, and develop it, say, 15 years later when prices have gone up several folds. So, the state fills its coffers with huge profits from land speculation and the farmer, who would have received little long-term benefit from the sale in any case, is pushed into destitution or forced to migrate.

This is not to say states should not acquire land at all. Let them acquire it for public good — for roads, bridges or highways. But they should not be allowed to buy land for builders or for the kind of townships that are proposed to be built around Delhi. In fact, we are not against states acquiring land for townships either — provided it is infertile land that is taken for the purpose. The land around Delhi is fertile. If you acquire that, where is your food going to come from?

And if land indeed is needed, then the farmer should always remain the owner. After all, land is the only capital that the farmer has. He has neither education nor any other means to rebuild his life. So if his land is taken away, the few lakhs or even crores of rupees the farmer is paid for it cannot provide him with the kind of sustainable and self-sufficient livelihood that is available from the land in the form of food and crop income. It cannot provide the farmer's modestly educated son the benefits it could have provided a city-dweller's son or daughter.

It is also important that in all these deals the state should not be a mediator either. Look at Palwal in Haryana. The state government model for land acquisition is being hailed by one and all as an ideal. But in Palwal the state gave Rs 16 lakh per acre or Rs 330 per square metre. Later, it sold it for Rs 2,000 per square metre! This is blatantly wrong and amounts to a fraud on farmers.

In fact, the state has to think about the farmers' future after they have lost their land. They need rehabilitation because they have nothing to do once the land is gone. The state typically promises a Class D job to one of their sons. That means, even if that son is an MBA he gets a peon's job. What kind of rehabilitation is that?

Even the royalty given by the Haryana model is a farce. It gives Rs 15,000 per acre per year to the farmer who has sold his land. But what is Rs 15,000 for a year that has 12 months? Shouldn't the royalty be at least Rs 2.5 lakh to Rs 3 lakh per year for an acre? The intent is not honest and is totally lacking in sensitivity to the needs of the rural people and farmers who have been feeding the nation.

The idea of land being taken on lease rather than being bought for good is something that most farmers now demand. For they have understood that selling it never helps in the long run.

The demand for providing a better royalty or a rental can be considered along with the possibility of giving the farmer a permanent stake in any project that comes up on his land. The idea is that the land that he once tilled should continue to yield him returns on a permanent basis, just as it would if he still farmed it.

Neither the Haryana model nor the proposed land acquisition amendment Bill talks about these things. That's because the farmers' interest is not part of the larger picture for the political leaders concerned.







The Central and State governments have to stay focussed on the monsoon and crop progress while being prepared for any eventuality.

The Meteorological office expects the southwest monsoon to break over Kerala by May 31. With less than two weeks to go till the rains start, however, farmers have no clue yet about the minimum prices they can expect for various kharif crops, planting of which will begin soon. It is intriguing why the Agriculture Ministry cannot announce the minimum support price (MSP) for various crops well before the advent of monsoon. Such a delay curtails farmers' choice of crop and restricts the time available for sourcing inputs. It is a pity the policymakers have long forgotten Jawaharlal Nehru's important maxim: "Everything can wait, but not agriculture".

In recent years, the announcement of MSP for crops has become more a ritual than an instrument to influence crop shifts. In soyabean, for instance, market prices rule far above the declared MSP, rendering the latter inconsequential. Also, an impression has gained ground that the government tinkers with the recommendations of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices merely to show that the recommendations are not sacrosanct and that the government has the last word. Evidently, higher MSP may bring growers some price security but it does not guarantee higher production. This is because, given the several challenges to farming, the supply response to prices is rather limited. In other words, the farmers' ability to expand acreage or raise yields depends on the land, water, agronomy and inputs he has access to. To raise crop production and productivity, we need non-price and non-trade initiatives such as stronger input delivery, expanding irrigation and better agronomic practices, in addition to adequate rural infrastructure. Merely declaring the MSP, without building capacity among farmers to withstand the vagaries of the market, is unlikely to serve any practical purpose.

On the weather front, a close study of the IMD's initial forecast shows that 'normal' is fraught with uncertainties. Climate forecast reports from elsewhere suggest the risk of deficient rains in July/August. Mid-season drought can hurt farmers by rendering useless their initial investment in inputs and labour. It is unclear if the Agriculture Ministry and various State governments have a contingency plan in place. Despite a rebound in crop production in 2010-11 (kharif plus rabi season) and mounting buffer stocks of foodgrains with the government, food inflation is unabated. Even a small aberration in rainfall has the potential to fan bullish sentiment in the market and deal a blow to inflation control measures. Overall, the Central and State governments have to stay vigilant, and focussed on the monsoon and crop progress over the next four months while being prepared to face any eventuality.






There is a need for regulation of labels and claims made on food and consumer goods. The ethical consumer needs more information in simpler form.

It can be agonising when the grey hair on the head needs a coat of new colour. The agony, though, has little to do with growing older, and is more due to the search for an ethical hair colour, not tested on animals.

The same dilemma crops up on walking into a neighbourhood store in any city. You are spoilt for choice with foodstuffs, juices, cosmetics, hair-colours and so on. Some locally made, and others imported — all sporting labels with information spilling out of them.

There are oils that claim to reduce cholesterol, with details on their label pointing to studies supporting the claim. There are beverages to make children grow tall, teas to make you slim, toothbrushes and pastes recommended by dentists or their associations and hand-washes endorsed by doctors. The list is endless, and confusing.


There are some products that sport organic labels, where the product is produced sans pesticide. But we are still a long way from having ethical labels that indicate the carbon foot-print, or the distance a product has travelled and the energy spent in getting it to your dining table, or labels that tell you if the eggs you bought are from "free range" or "cage free" birds, that have roamed free and laid eggs without being confined in cages.

Labels are an interface between companies and their customers and they shoulder a heavy responsibility. So while much information already exists on a label, so much more is sought from an ethical consumer. The trick lies in balancing the act with simplicity, with symbols for instance, that convey more to the consumer than they might conceal.

A significant step in this direction had been taken when the Government mandated red and green dots on food products (close to a decade ago) to indicate non-vegetarian and vegetarian foods. It has made a difference in the marketplace, as the consumer does not break into too much of a sweat reading the fine-print on the product pack, since the dot keeps the message simple.

In fact, if you pick up a packet of eggs in a supermarket in the United Kingdom, you will find (among others) the "free range" labels, indicating that birds were kept free. Pick up a Body Shop or Jovees product and there are simple symbols to indicate to the ethical consumer that the product was not tested on animals.


Not all consumer products are willing to label their products on ethical claims. On being asked, several large companies say they stopped animal testing about 20 years ago. But when probed why they do not put it on their labels, they defend themselves by saying it is not mandated by the law.

Further, they argue, putting down such a claim in black and white opens them to intense scrutiny, where even one transgression — may be not by the company, but a third-party producer from whom the company may be sourcing its products – would get blown out of proportion.

All the more reason to commend companies that have the courage to carry labels saying they are ethically sourced or produced. In fact, the mandate is going further, with issues like child-labour-free textiles also being woven into discussions in the run-up to the Free Trade Agreement between India and the European Union.

While Indian garment-makers are right in saying that this could be misused as a non-tariff barrier, it is also true that the country could do well to put its children in schools rather than have their tiny fingers work the threads to make garments.


With labelling assuming such significance, authorities in the Health Ministry, Environment and Food Ministries need to work out simpler, yet informative, labelling solutions. The going is set to get tougher as genetically modified (GM) vegetables are approved and enter the market. Would you as a consumer like to know your GM vegetable from the regular, possibly worm-bitten one? Chances are, the ethical consumers' response is 'yes'.

With labels also promising you that you will grow tall, slim, fair and so on, the Government needs to get proactive in checking if promise matches performance. Food-industry experts and doctors working for consumer rights say that, just like regulators in other sectors, action is taken only in the event of a complaint. Blogs talk of some fairness creams and hair-colours having adverse (may be even carcinogenic) effects, some parents find doctors advising their teenagers not to use deodorants directly on their underarms, as it affects the sweat glands. But with all the glamorous advertising, is there a fineprint that consumers need to know? And will we wait for an incident, to react?


Regulatory experts with food and consumer goods companies argue that large companies would not stake their reputation and put a claim on their label, unless it is validated by studies.

Large companies have more to lose if their claims fall short, they point out. In fact, just last month, the EU saw intense debate over a health claim made on infant food. The claim eventually was passed, but only for infants over six months – a decision decried by several health advocates.

Similarly, back home, when doctors seen in television commercials sell you a health message, are they doctors? Or are they actors dressed as doctors delivering a health message from a company?

And if that is the case — like disclaimers seen in mutual fund advertisments — is the consumer told that the lady in the white coat in the advertisement, selling you a "healthy" product is merely a representation?

There is a need for regulation and supervision of labels and claims, as consumers do tend to bite into healthbaits.

Companies, too, need to be encouraged to indulge in ethical practices and scream from the roof-tops that they have sourced products without harm to habitats, local trade, children or animals. They would be pleasantly surprised by the growing tribe of ethical consumers that flock to them – proving that ethical businesses could indeed buoy the bottomline.

So it remains to be seen, will companies wait for laws to mandate ethical labelling or will they show leadership and stand up and be counted?






It would be a tough challenge for the Government to manage inflation and return to 9-per-cent growth track.

Indian economy showed remarkable resilience and bounced back to the growth path of 9 per cent in FY 2010-11. However, attaining the average growth rate of 9 per cent that India has witnessed in recent years appears distant. The overall scenario does not augur well for targets such as 9- 9.5 per cent overall growth rate, 11-12 per cent manufacturing growth with moderate headline inflation of around 5 per cent in 12th Plan period.

Currently, it seems that growth story has partially derailed. Further, monetary tightening for the 9{+t}{+h} time, including the measures announced on May 3, 2011 leading to increase in repo and reverse repo by 50 basis points, would affect bank credit to the commercial sector and the overall investment activity in the economy. It is also evident that the Reserve Bank of India was left with little choice, but to increase the rates given the headline and core inflation.

In the last few months starting from the third quarter of 2010-11, the industrial sector has slowed down considerably and it would be too optimistic to expect a positive turnaround very soon. There has been an overall decline in manufacturing, mining and electricity generation, indicative of decreased economic activity . The capital goods sector continues to decline at a high rate while basic and intermediate goods have slowed down. Though the World Economic Outlook of April 2011 maintains status quo in 2010-11 and predicts that the emerging economies led by India and China will continue to lead the world economic growth rates, the slowdown in the industrial sector in India points to the domestic factors at play.

FDI slowdown

The decline of FDI inflows into India during 2010-11 and the low investor confidence can be attributed to several factors. These include consistent price rise leading to increasing cost of production, increase in policy rates over the last few quarters, numerous scams affecting the credibility of various corporates , increase in oil prices, renewed debate on land acquisition and environmental clearances and the debate on the safety of nuclear energy post the crisis in Japan. One way to give a push to industry and services sectors is to carry out reforms in important areas as promised by the Finance Minister in Budget 2011-12. Unfortunately, governance and corruption issues are delaying reforms since their implementation requires political consensus. Certainly, lack of reforms is also leading to low investor confidence.

The most comforting point for the government is the increase in agricultural output in the last couple of quarters which has reduced the prices of the food products. Food and vegetable prices moderated in the last quarter of 2010-11 though there has been a persistent increase in non-food inflation leading to an increase in headline and core inflation. One would expect inflation to moderate given the high base last year and monetary tightening. However, monetary tightening this time would force the banking sector to raise rates which might increase the cost of credit and affect the supply side.

Infra funding

Key infrastructure industries such as coal, electricity and cement have witnessed slowdown in recent months. Though the Planning Commission has reiterated the importance of infrastructure by raising the required investment to $1 trillion in the 12{+t}{+h} Five year Plan from $515 billion in 11{+t}{+h} Five Year Plan, it may be difficult to raise such resources. According to the Government, nearly 50 per cent of the required investment is expected from the private sector which is yet to fully support the Government's infrastructure initiatives. For example, there is complete lack of private participation in railways, a major infrastructure sector. Therefore, the Government needs to provide bankable infrastructure projects and invite private investors to participate aggressively.

This is necessary to give a boost to employment-generating sectors such as construction and reduce supply-side bottlenecks in the medium term.

The capital goods and construction sector may also have been affected by the increase of policy rates by 225 bps since April last year. Though the monetary policy measures can affect the demand-side factors in the short-run and help contain inflationary expectations, they would adversely affect supply-side factors. In fact, consistent increase in policy rates has led to a decrease in bank credit to the commercial sector and rise in credit to the Government. The expected rise in Government borrowing due to lower revenue on account of slowdown and rise in subsidies would put further pressure on interest rates.

Crude price impact

Given the increasing crude prices, it is a matter of time before the Government raises petroleum product prices to cut subsidies. This could add to the cost of production and further slowdown of industry. When there is sluggish investment growth, expected increase in interest rate may not be encouraging. Besides, issues related to land acquisition, environment and big ticket reforms are nowhere near resolution.

The services sector, which has been the driver of growth with more than 10 per cent growth rate during 2008-09, has also showed signs of slowdown in the last few quarters. Decreased output of the industrial sector along with low demand for India's services have led to decline in the growth rate of trade in services and affected the invisibles account.

Given the current situation, a moderation in growth across all sectors including the services sector is expected. It would be a tough challenge for the Government to manage inflation and bring back the economy on a high growth path of 9 per cent.

Certainly the dream of double digit growth rate is nowhere near coming true.

(The author is Associate Professor, Institute of Economic Growth, Delhi. The views are personal.)










The government's move to give more teeth to telecom watchdog Trai is welcome. If everything goes according to plan, Trai will be able to act like a civil court, summoning people, asking them to submit documents and records and examining witnesses under oath. This is welcome departure from earlier telecom ministry reluctance to give any substantive power to the regulator. But this is not sufficient empowerment. Even invested with the additional powers now on offer, Trai will still not be able to levy fines on telecom players who have delayed network rollouts or those who make it difficult for other players to access their networks. Cancellation of licences may well vest with the licensor, which is the government, but levying hefty fines should be within the remit of the regulator. And the government needs to faithfully implement the provision in the Trai Act which makes it mandatory for the government to follow Trai recommendations, save those on which the government is prepared to record its reasons for rejection. Trai has also asked for powers to regulate pesky telemarketing companies, which bombard mobile users with unwanted calls and text messages to push things as diverse as real estate and weight-loss programmes, on which the government's response has been iffy. Given the failure of government departments to regulate telemarketing and growing irritation with these calls and texts, it might make sense to unleash Trai on these companies. In November last year Trai found that five telecom players, running 69 operating licences, had failed to roll out services on time in the areas that they were supposed to. It wanted to cancel those licences but couldn't do much beyond forwarding its thoughts to the government. With some real teeth, it might be taken a bit more seriously.

Those worried by the prospect of an all-powerful Trai needn't fret too much. The sector already has an appellate body in the Telecom Dispute Settlement & Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT), which can act as a check on Trai's authority. What the system lacks is a check on the time TDSAT takes to dispose of cases. The government should address these challenges as well, and fast.







The Governor has no discretion or choice over which party or chief minister should rule a state. In that context, Karnataka Governor HR Bharadwaj's recommendation for President's rule in the state even as the Yeddyurappa-led BJP government has a clear majority could be called an infringement of the Constitution. Mr Bharadwaj should quit the Raj Bhawan if he wants to play politics. It is patently clear that the crisisridden Yeddyurappa regime has bought over the loyalty of the rebellious 16 MLAs — that is another pointer to the endemic corruption in Karnataka. But, if he still deemed it fit, the only correct thing for the Governor to do in such a situation, even though he has been at loggerheads with the Yeddyurappa regime for long, would be to ask for a floor test. The impropriety that the Speaker of the Karnataka assembly had committed by hastily dismissing the rebel MLAs cannot be rectified by another impropriety by the Governor. Clearly, the Congress party should dismiss the Governor's recommendation, even if it does not accept the BJP's demand for his removal. The Yeddyurappa government has been host to rampant corruption and malpractice, and the Congress may well claim the state government has lost the moral right to rule. But to dismiss the government when it has a clear majority would seriously affect the federal structure.

The wider issue here is that of countering political corruption. True, Karnataka of late has been a glaring example of money power being the operating principle in politics, but that also is the case across much of the country. One significant way to change that is to reform political funding — making the way parties collect and use money transparent and accountable. Having such reforms would go a long way, but it wouldn't be enough. Political parties in India practice a politics of competitive identity management — juggling sections of voters while holding out the promise of state patronage. By definition this means an institutionalisation of skewed governance and policy. Thorough political reform encompasses political praxis too. This is where the challenge is.








May 8, 2011, was observed as Mother's Day. The events of the next few days indicated that May 2011 could also be remembered as a very successful month for Indian women. On May 9, Tine Mena became the first woman from north-east India to climb the Everest. On May 11, for the first time ever, female candidates secured the top two ranks in the all-India civil services examinations. On May 13, in Tamil Nadu and West Bengal, the male CMs were swept aside by female leaders, with the AIADMK and the Trinamool Congress (TC) almost securing a two-thirds' majority on their own. Appa & Sons were swept out of power in Tamil Nadu by J Jayalalithaa and West Bengal got its first woman chief minister in Mamata Banerjee. April 2011 would be the last month when the entire country would just have two female CMs — May would see the number double. And may such increase sustain!

The only silver-lining for the male-dominated DMK is that there is now no need for a succession battle for the Tamil Nadu chief ministership between the erstwhile incumbent's elder son Azhagiri and his sibling Stalin! The silver-lining for the Manmohan Singh government is that even if the TC, with 19 Members of Parliament, asserts itself, the Congress can rely on the pliant support of the 18-MP DMK which will now have to learn to eat humble pie after its Raja (pun intended) allegedly perpetrated the scam with the biggest numbers to boast in the history of independent India. And Tamil Nadu, which has primarily been didentified with the 2G scam and A Raja for the last few years, can now also be known as the state which produced the female topper of the 2011 all-India civil service examination, S Divyadarshini. Surely, a better marker of identification!








In a joint novel published in 1873, Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner described the then state of the United States as "Gilded Age". The expression has since been widely used to refer to the late 19th century United States when the country grew exceptionally rapidly but also came under unduly heavy political and social influence of the super-wealthy. Deployment of questionable means to accumulate wealth subsequently earned the industrialists of the day the title "robber barons". Recently, some commentators have contended that presentday India resembles American Gilded Age. Are they right?

Four factors suggest that the parallel is at best superficial. Thus, consider the initial conditions. At the beginning of the Gilded Age, the dominant economic philosophy in the US was laissez-faire. There was virtually no effective regulatory, labour or social legislation at the federal level. Two key pieces of regulatory legislation, the Interstate Commerce Act of 1887, which aimed to limit the monopoly power of the railways, and the Sherman Act of 1890, which provided for anti-trust action against businesses, were enacted during and not before this period. Key laws providing protection to industrial labour, the poor and the elderly came much later. With rare exceptions, only white males enjoyed voting rights.

In contrast, present-day India has been preceded by several decades of command and control system complemented by super-strong legislation in favour of industrial workers and a longstanding national commitment to the eradication of poverty. There has also existed universal adult suffrage since Independence. The economic reforms have allowed freer play to private entrepreneurs but can hardly be characterised as laissez faire. Railways remain a public sector monopoly and the government remains a major player in such key sectors as steel, coal, petroleum and engineering goods. Despite private sector entry in airlines, telecom, insurance and electricity, public sector players have remained active in these sectors. In banking, the role of domestic and foreign private players has been expanded but the public sector remains dominant. And several sectoral regulatory agencies topped by an all-encompassing Competition Commission oversee the business practices.

Turning to the second area, during the Gilded Age, major sectors such as steel, oil, sugar, meatpacking and the manufacture of agriculture machinery came to be dominated by a few large corporations called "trusts". In contrast, in the present-day India, multiple domestic firms within a sector must intensely compete against one another as well as with imports and foreign investors. Increased competitive pressures have led to reduced prices and improved quality of products and services in such diverse sectors as telecommunications, airlines, automobiles, two-wheelers and white goods. The third difference is in the treatment of industrial workers. During the Gilded Age, factory workers toiled 60-hour weeks without pensions, compensation for job-related injuries or insurance against layoffs. Employers and the government used all the repressive means at their disposal to break the strikes at Homestead Steel Mill in 1892 and George Pullman's railroad in 1894. In contrast, labour laws in India provide very high degree of protection to industrial workers. Finally, whereas the state provided no protection to those at the bottom of the income distribution including farmers in the US during its Gilded Age, the government in present-day India is very sensitive to the fate of the poor. Indeed, growth and the social programmes it has made feasible have helped bring poverty significantly down. The changes have also benefited the underprivileged groups, as is manifest from recent empirical studies including those produced by the Columbia Program on Indian Economic Policies. We now even have a handful of dalit billionaires among us.

Perhaps, the factor influencing most commentators who have drawn the parallel is the corruption among politicians and greed among businessmen they observe in the recent high-profile scandals. But even here the reality is subtler. At Independence, we began with politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen committed to high standards of integrity. But the licence-permit raj we put in place gradually but steadily eroded that commitment and greatly diminished the integrity of individuals as well as the system. Bribes to politicians and bureaucrats for investment and import licences and for allotments of automobiles and telephones became endemic, with corruption penetrating deep and wide in all walks of life.

Allegations of corruption reached the highest levels with Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in the 1980s and Prime Minister Narasimha Rao in the 1990s standing accused. Rao was even tried in a vote-buying scandal. The main difference today is that increased incomes have made the monetary values associated with the scandals much larger and therefore the scandals that much more fantastic.

As for the greed of businessmen, it is not to be forgotten that the culture among them too has suffered from the licence-permit raj. Whereas the successful entrepreneurs of the pre-Independence era, notably though not exclusively the Jains, preferred spending their wealth on the good of the community, the class of businessmen that flourished under the licence-permit raj turned out to be more self-indulgent. But, again, the latest generation of successful entrepreneurs in the post-reform era, consisting of such individuals as Narayan Murthy and Azim Premji, has been using its wealth to promote social good. Moreover, these latter could hardly be characterised as 'robber barons'.

True, India of today suffers from corruption in politics and business, and growth, which has finally made a major dent in poverty, has also produced some super-wealthy. But this does not add up to a gilded age.











It is neither legally correct nor appropriate for illegally tapped conversations to be made public. We are living in a secular democratic republic that is governed by its sovereign Constitution. The Constitution is sacrosanct and has guaranteed the fundamental rights of its citizens. The Supreme Court, in various judgements, has held that right to privacy is a part of the right to "life" and "personal liberty" enshrined under Article 21 of the Constitution. In the case of PUCL v/s Union of India, the Court held that the right to privacy would certainly include telephone conversation in the privacy of one's home or office. Phone tapping would, thus, infract Article 21 of the Constitution unless it is permitted under the procedure established by law. In Amar Singh's (former Samajwadi Party leader) case, the Court came up with detailed guidelines that must be followed prior to interception in order to prevent unauthorised violation of people's right to privacy. In case a conversation is intercepted illegally, by not following the processes that are prescribed under the law, then the entire act becomes null and void. If the act itself is null and void, then the output of the intercepted communication itself becomes illegal.

Making such illegally tapped conversation or output generated from a computer not in accordance with law public would be violative of not just the Constitution but also would put the people's fundamental rights in grave jeopardy. We are a nation of rule of law and we should not allow anarchy to prevail over the rule of law. If illegally tapped conversations are allowed to be made public, it could lead to bizarre and undesirable consequences, given the broad adoption of the electronic medium in our day-to-day world the preponderance of activities in the electronic ecosystem. Exercise of sovereign rights of interception itself has to be done in accordance with well-established norms. At a time when the Supreme Court, in Amar Singh's case, has once again reaffirmed the need for far greater due diligence by service providers, it is imperative that service providers should comply with the provisions for interception as per the lawbook or else face exposure to legal liability.



The issue of making illegally tapped telephone conversations public comes alive after the recent judgement of the Supreme Court in Amar Singh's case.

In 1964, the Supreme Court, in Kharak Singh's case, pronounced the right to privacy as a part of the right to life and liberty. In 1994, in Raja Gopalan's case, the Court went on to hold that the right to privacy is "a right to be left alone". Then, in 1997, it was held that the citizen has a right to have a telephone conversation in the privacy of his home or office without interference. Thus, unless permitted under the procedure established by law, telephone tapping would infract Article 21 of the Constitution.

But, the right of privacy is not an absolute right. While considering the plea of privacy raised by a HIV+ infected person, the Supreme Court declared that the disclosure of the disease would not be violative of the prospective groom's right to privacy. Actions of a public functionary affect the society. When a person begins to act in the public domain, the standards expected of him are higher. When a public functionary acts in defiance of law and his actions are accessed, the right to privacy cannot be claimed as a defence.
The conversations of Amar Singh deal with issues concerning grant of public largesse, award of contracts and other matters requiring strict adherence to the rule of law. These matters are not personal or private. He is a public figure talking about official affairs. Such matters cannot be kept out of the public domain by invoking the right to privacy.

In a democracy, a public figure cannot hide his deeds under the cover of privacy and defeat the citizen's right to a free, fair and informed vote. The right to vote is to be exercised on the basis of reason and information.
The Supreme Court, in Amar Singh's case, has ingeniously and rightly refused to go into the said issue in view of the petitioner not having come to the Court "with clean hands". The right of privacy was not allowed to be misused. The peoples' right to know should have precedence over the politician's claim to hide his misdeeds.







The West needs to be wary of entering the Syrian minefield. As the death toll in Syria rises, so do the tempers in the UN. The British Prime Minister has described the repression as "disgraceful and unacceptable". The United States had announced sanctions on May 1 against Syria's General Intelligence Directorate, and froze the assets of Maher al-Assad, brother of President Bashar al-Assad and the fourth armoured division of the Syrian military, and his cousin Atif Najib. That alone shows the Alawi/ Assad family hold over the country's power centres.

According to media reports, 800 have been killed so far since the anti-government demonstrations began. The greatest havoc has been wrought in the city of Daraa where most of the trouble started. On March 16, the Ba'ath Party headquarters in the city were set on fire by the protesters. State security forces have besieged mosques and resorted to sniper fire. In the coastal town of Baniyas, 30 tanks were deployed a week back. Homs, the third largest city, has also been invaded by tanks.

Two despots Gaddafi and Assad seem to have learnt wrong lessons from the Jasmine Revolution — that if they gave in and ran, they would be fugitives for life. They decided to fight it out. Fighting it out in despot-parlance means mowing protesters down.

It would be unfair on Bashar al-Assad to compare himself with Gaddafi. The eccentric man of Tripoli used aircraft against civilians. Libya under him had strong links with the notorious terrorist Abu Nidal. The Libyan hand in the Lockerbie disaster is well known. He had raised an Islamic legion which invaded Chad. The legion was also sent to Palestine and Uganda. At the same time, he has seen to the economic needs of his people and gave millions of dollars in revolutionary causes across Africa.

Yet, there are parallels. Neither Libya nor Syria has been client states of any big power. Though, it may be recalled that Hafez al-Assad, the President's father, had signed a defence treaty with the Soviet Union. Both have kept the Islamic Jehad at an arm's length. Both the Assad and Gaddafi families have ruled their countries for over 40 years with an iron hand.

The Assads have always considered Lebanon as a part of Greater Syria. In 1976, the Syrian army invaded Lebanon. Till today, Syrians have dabbled with terror in different forms in Beirut. Four pro-Syrian Lebanese generals were involved in the assassination of Rafik Hariri, former PM of Lebanon, and were arrested. Syria has supported both the Hezbollah and Hamas. For years Hafiz Assad, who ruled from 1970 to 2000, brooked no rivals in Syria or Lebanon. About 5,000 supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood were killed in Haama when they rose up against him in the 1980s.

The minefield which Syria now faces is ethno-religious fissures. Assad and the power elite in Syria are Alawis. The cry in Syrian streets is "Alawis to the coffins, Christians to Beirut". Alawis are supposed to be 12% of the population of Syria, which is largely Sunni. Alawis were earlier known as Nusayris, after their spiritual leader Ibn Nusayr, who, in 859 AD, declared himself the bab, 'Gateway of Truth'. He proclaimed many doctrines that diverged from Islam, and gave Ali a place equal to the Prophet. One of the Alawi key credos is said to be, "There is no deity but Ali, no veil but Muhammad and no bab but Salman." They borrowed rituals like sacramental wine from the Christians. The Ottoman Turks persecuted them and they were rural and backward till the French Mandate came into being. In the 1930s, they petitioned the French to say that the Crusades would have succeeded if their fortresses had been in the northwest of Syria. Now they are absorbed in the greater Shia Islam and many of the old rituals have faded away.

In case there is a regime change, which is highly unlikely, Syria could well plunge into fierce sectarian strife. It is hoped the US and Nato forces would avoid a repetition of Iraq. The Shias and Kurds were instigated to rebel against Saddam Hussein in 1991 after the first Gulf War had ended. Then they were left to themselves while Saddam had them slaughtered. The Shia-Sunni strife in Iraq should also not be forgotten. If the Alawi regime is toppled, Iran and the Hezbollah will not keep quiet.

It is hoped the US would keep its messianic support for democracy in abeyance. Don't force it down the Arab throat. Yes, stop massacres by all means. But not through bombing from the air or sending in troops, or encouraging people to revolt and leaving them to the mercies of the machine-gun.

(The author is a former chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee)











Every director in the Hindi film industry is looking for writers. Writing is a cumbersome, torturous, lonely process, and while several directors write their own films, most of them would much rather have a neatly bound script handed to them. They'd understandably prefer to skip over the agony of multiple re-drafts and just be holding something terrific that's ready to be shot, but writers don't want to be just writers anymore.
    Driven to mutiny by the lack of creative appreciation and a pronounced unfairness in wages – not to mention the ignominy of watching their meticulously-strung-together ideas hammered into blockbuster pulp and punctuated with item-songs – writers in Mumbai almost unanimously see the very act of screenwriting as a rung on the cinematic ladder, a ladder that leads eventually to direction. So that they can regain control over their creations, and usurp the authorial position in the filmmaking process – even if writing and directing use up entirely different skill sets and someone excellent at one might (and routinely does) come a cropper at the other. This is why directors, having run out of writers-happybeing-writers a while back (there is but one great Jaideep Sahni), are forced to pick up the ball-pen and paper (or the keyboard and Final Draft) and do their own dirty work.


A director sits at the head of a highly collaborative table, creating while destroying, staying in control while leaping beyond it; playing impresario to creators of story, performance, look and sound while preserving the director's own uniqueness of vision. It is, in short, the work of an absolute control freak. Different directors deal with this in their own ways. Some write. Some compose their frames so meticulously so as to turn their cinematographers into mere stagehand camera-operators; some others just compose and even sing their own music. Some choreograph. Everybody, repeat everybody, is also a producer.


And now, as we see in two of last Friday's releases – and one thriller coming up this week – they find themselves increasingly forced to step in front of the cameras as well. A paucity of acting talent in the industry has seen, in less than a month's time, several directors donning the greasepaint and taking on acting roles: Anurag Kashyap (I Am and Shagird), Anurag Basu (I Am), Amole Gupte (Stanley Ka Dabba) and Nishikant Kamath (404). Most of them have been more than adequate, with Kashyap riotously entertaining in Shagird and Gupte most excellent in his fantastic new film. Their day-job isn't that of an actor, and yet they fare better than the average frontman. Farhan Akhtar, of course, has two day-jobs, and handles both with impressive success. Farah Khan, at the time you read this, is getting ready to become a leading lady. And it really is only a matter of time before Imtiaz Ali succumbs, perhaps even to play a Karan Johar hero.


This is not a bad thing, but it does seem somewhat scary. Scary that parttime bowlers need to be brought in at the most crucial moments, to save the day. Scary that in an industry this big we don't have enough decent actors to go around, to limit the director's on-screen work to just cheeky cameos. This isn't to say that they shouldn't act – what world would be worth living without Guru Dutt staggering on-screen through magnificence he'd put together himself? – but rather that they shouldn't have to wear that hat as well. For what if they forget which cap goes on when?


(Left) Amole Gupte in Stanley Ka Dabba, and Anurag Kashyap (below in brown) in Shagird




                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL




Success in public life owes a great deal to timing, and the logic of politics is known to reject linearity. Insufficient appreciation of this is all it takes to get calculations out of kilter, as the approach of the Karnataka Governor, Mr H.R. Bhardwaj, makes evident. When 11 BJP and five Independent MLAs (who had thrown in their lot with the Mr B.S. Yeddyurappa government) revolted against the Chief Minister last year and called on the Governor to pray for a no-confidence motion vote, the governor adopted the perfectly valid course of asking the Speaker to make the arrangements for a trial of strength on the floor of the House. If the Speaker had played fair and gone by the book, the BJP government would have collapsed on the floor as the ruling side would have been reduced to a minority. The state BJP was quite certain of this. This is why the Speaker (a BJP man) took recourse to unconstitutional methods of disqualifying the 16 dissident MLAs, and helped the Yeddyurappa government survive the trust vote amid scenes of bedlam rarely witnessed in this country's parliamentary annals. The Speaker's action was subsequently upheld by the Karnataka High Court. The legislators flying the banner of revolt were aggrieved enough to go to the Supreme Court, which last week has vindicated their stand and castigated the Speaker, and by implication the High Court. This is the basis on which the Governor now seeks the ouster of the Yeddyurappa ministry. There is nothing wrong with this logic except that it is mechanical and out of sync with today's political reality. This became plain in the light of the recent action of the MLAs who had approached the Supreme Court. The 16 disqualified by the Speaker have had their status as MLAs restored by the Supreme Court, and upon gaining that platform have decided to return to the embrace of the BJP. Even the blind can see that the Yeddyurappa government will sail through a trust vote if one were taken now. Those in search of political justice would be right to argue that, in hearing an appeal of this nature, the Supreme Court ought not to allow so much time to pass that the political ground shifts. It is therefore unlikely that the Opposition in Karnataka — mainly the Congress and the Janata Dal (S) — will press for one. We are in May 2011, not October 2010. Unfortunately, however, the governor has not made the transition although he is a former Union law minister and had the reputation of being an astute politician. Clearly, his recommendation to the President to dismiss the state government does not even square with the calculation of the state's Opposition of giving a confidence vote the go-by in the altered circumstances. Indeed, it is a fair bet that the Opposition will now also be shy of bringing an impeachment motion against the Speaker, although they would be within their rights to do so in the light of the harsh words used by the country's highest court to describe the presiding officer's blatantly biased decision to disqualify dissidents with a view to bailing out the government on a difficult day. Given the House numbers, however, an impeachment motion just wouldn't fly. We are not discussing political morality here, but the political arithmetic of the day. Nevertheless, the time is apt to recall the Sarkaria Commission, which quite succinctly had prescribed that a governor ought to be a person who no longer embraced party positions. For his part, Mr Bhardwaj gives the impression of wearing his party colours on his sleeve and keeping the knuckle-duster out.






In the wake of the very successful American covert operation, which culminated in the death of Osama bin Laden, the US-Pakistan relationship again appears to be at crossroads. Pakistan Army Chief General Ashfaq Kayani, arguably the most powerful man in the land, has expressed his anger and frustration about not being alerted to the raid in advance. President Asif Ali Zardari has spoken and written bitterly about the violation of his country's sovereignty. Various other senior Pakistani officials, both elected and otherwise, have chimed in about how they would like to limit counter-intelligence and counterterrorism co-operation with the United States. Bluntly put, much of this overheated rhetoric is exactly that and little else. It is almost solely intended for domestic political consumption and is reminiscent of what a noted American political scientist, Murray Edelman, characterised as dramaturgy. The public hyper-ventilation reassures a sceptical and distrustful domestic constituency that Pakistan's politico-military order is genuinely outraged over the wilful American decision to violate Pakistan's sovereignty and carry out a bold and effective counterterrorism operation of extraordinary magnitude. Despite all the high drama, in the end, both the civilians and the military know only too well that they can ill-afford to significantly curtail, let alone terminate, this extremely lucrative relationship of convenience, one that has prevented Pakistan from defaulting on its global financial commitments and has kept the military establishment in clover since the tragedy of September 11, 2001. Contrary to the claims of a host of apologists for the Pakistani military establishment in Washington, DC, and in a number of other Western capitals, the Pakistani military has never wholly embraced their concerns about Islamist terror. Instead, as reams of evidence keep mounting, it is becoming increasingly plain that they have consistently played a double game. They have offered up a few terrorist prizes to ensure, to again resort to Edelman's terms, political quiescence in Washington, DC. However, once the exigencies of aid renewal have passed, they have again fallen back on their time-tested ways and continued their alliance with specific terrorist organisations. It is curious that any sensible and informed observer of Pakistan would find this nefarious and duplicitous behaviour on the part of the Pakistani military, and to a degree their civilian counterparts, to be entirely surprising or shocking. From the genesis of the US-Pakistan relationship, the goals and interests of the two countries have been at odds. This divergence is of long standing. As early as 1954, when the Eisenhower administration was deftly inveigled into forming a military pact with Pakistan, the two states have had different strategic concerns. Pakistan forged that military alliance not because of its staunch opposition to Communist expansion. Instead, as is well known, the principal purpose was to balance Indian power. Of course, when the US refused to back Pakistan in the 1965 war and imposed an embargo on both states, the military establishment cried foul leading to an estrangement that lasted several years. Once again, in 1971, the military as well as the civilians felt betrayed because the Nixon administration, after having used Pakistan as a conduit for its China opening, proved to be less than forthright in condoning the Pakistan Army's carnage in East Pakistan. This relationship of convenience was again renewed during the time of the Soviet invasion and occupation of Afghanistan. In fairness, however, the otherwise scrofulous military dictator, General Zia-ul-Haq, had both the intelligence and sagacity to describe the renewed bond as "a handshake and not an embrace". However, after his still mysterious death in a plane crash in 1988, and the termination of US aid within the next two years, the same, age-old Pakistani recriminations started to come to the fore. The US, having accomplished its goal of ousting the Soviets from Afghanistan had, once again, abandoned its staunch and reliable ally, Pakistan. Few, if any, Pakistani policymakers or analysts cared to recall Zia's very apt characterisation of the US-Pakistan relationship in the immediate aftermath of the Soviet invasion. Their plaintive cries were so frequent and persistent that many gullible individuals within US policy circles started to argue that there was some credence to the Pakistani position. The US had indeed walked away from Pakistan once its strategic objective of ousting the Soviets had been met. None amongst them cared to ponder that the relationship had been renewed solely for that purpose and little else. More to the point, Pakistan and especially its military apparatus, had been handsomely compensated for their troubles. Today, after Bin Laden's demise and the revelation of his lair in the bosom of the Pakistan Military Academy, some of the same recriminations about the American role during and after the Afghan war are again coming to the fore. Senior Pakistani politicians have been beating their chests in Parliament and roundly berating the United States for having supported a host of unsavoury individuals and groups when they proved willing to help dislodge the Soviets from Afghanistan. Once again, there is a studied amnesia about Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate's role in funnelling American assistance to these entities and in choosing favoured acolytes. Nor is there any willingness to acknowledge that the organising, nurturing and supporting of these groups were in the perceived self-interest of the Pakistani military which wanted to eventually install a pliant regime in Afghanistan. Sadly, this mutual unwillingness to acknowledge that little else other than strategic convenience undergirds the US-Pakistan relationship has been its bane from its very inception to the present day. After the current fanfare within Pakistani policy-making quarters, designed to appease Pakistan's aggrieved domestic political constituency, comes to a close, one can well expect the politico-military establishment to again curry favour in Washington, DC. In turn, those within the administration seeking a graceful exit from Afghanistan will yet fall prey to the subtle entreaties from Islamabad about its incapacity to carry out further counter-terrorist operations without more infusions of American economic assistance and access to key military technologies. Unless US policymakers hark back to multiple episodes of Pakistani duplicity, the same tragic cycle of divergent goals, questionable promises and mutual recriminations will ensue. * Sumit Ganguly is director of research at the Centre on American and Global Security at Indiana University, Bloomington







On April 6 the Italian newspaper La Repubblica ran a piece about Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow's recent book, The Grand Design. The article's subtitle was taken from a passage in the book that says that "philosophy is dead". The passage continues, "Philosophy has not kept up with modern developments in science, particularly physics. Scientists have become the bearers of the torch of discovery in our quest for knowledge". The death of philosophy has been announced many times before, and this was no cause for alarm. Still, coming from a genius like Hawking, it seemed a rather foolish thing to say. To be sure that La Repubblica hadn't misquoted him, I went out and bought the book, and on reading it my suspicions were confirmed. The book's byline indicates that it was written by two authors. But in Hawking's case the word "by" is painfully metaphorical, because his limbs do not respond to the commands of his exceptional brain — this is common knowledge. Hence the book is primarily the work of the second author, Mlodinow, whom the dust jacket describes as an excellent populariser and the writer of several episodes of Star Trek. (There is a hint of Star Trek in the beautiful illustrations inside the book, which look as though they were conceived for a children's encyclopaedia in a bygone era: They are colourful and fascinating, but they explain absolutely nothing about the complex physical-mathematical-cosmological theories they ought to illustrate.) Perhaps it wasn't prudent to entrust philosophy's destiny to characters in a science-fiction series. The Grand Design begins with the peremptory statement that philosophy no longer has anything to teach us, and that only physics can explain: (1) how to understand the world around us; (2) the nature of reality; (3) whether the universe needs a creator; (4) why there is something rather than nothing; (5) why we exist; and (6) why this particular set of laws exists, and not a different one. These are typical questions in philosophy, but the book shows how, in a way, physics can answer the last four questions, which seem the most philosophical of all. The only catch is that before you can attempt to answer the last four questions, you need to have answers to the first two. In other words, what does it mean to say that something is real and that we know the world exactly as it is? You may recall questions like these from a high school or college philosophy course: Do we know because the mind adapts to the thing? Is there something outside ourselves, or, as the Harvard philosophy professor, Hilary Putnam, put it, are we brains in a vat? Well, the fundamental answers that this book offers are typically philosophical, and if these philosophical answers didn't exist, then even a physicist wouldn't be able to say what he knows, or why. In fact, Hawking and Mlodinow talk about model-dependent realism; in other words, they assume that there is no concept of reality independent of descriptions and theories. So different theories can describe the same phenomenon in a satisfactory way through disparate conceptual structures; consequently, all we can perceive, know and say about reality depends on the interaction between our models and the "something" that exists outside of ourselves, which is known to us thanks only to our perceptual organs and our brains. More suspicious readers may have even spotted the ghost of Immanuel Kant in the book's argument. Certainly the authors are proposing what is known to some philosophers as "holism" and to others as "internal realism". It is not a matter of physical discoveries but of philosophical assumptions, which support and legitimise the physicist's research. And if physicists are good at their job, they cannot avoid posing the problem of the philosophical foundations of their own methods. This is something we already knew, just as we were already familiar with the book's revelation (evidently the work of Mlodinow and the crew of the starship "Enterprise") that in ancient times people instinctively attributed violent natural disasters to an Olympus populated by malicious divinities. Good heavens and by Jove. Umberto Eco's most recent book is On Ugliness. He is also the author of international bestsellers Baudolino, The Name of the Rose and Foucault's Pendulum, among others By arrangement with the New York Times








The main point about the Assembly polls, which the political class can ignore only at its peril, is that no ruler can survive the pent-up rage of the people however docile they may seem. This is what lies behind the spectacular triumph of Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal and of J. Jayalalithaa in Tamil Nadu. Those that have used the word "tsunami" in this context are not off the mark. Legitimate anger drove 80 to 85 per cent of voters to polling booths where they stood in queues for several hours, in scorching heat, to democratically settle scores with their tormentors. Most of them were poor and downtrodden. A parallel with what happened to Indira Gandhi in 1977 after the nightmare of the Emergency is not at all out of place. Of course, in West Bengal, Ms Banerjee's leadership was essential to mobilise the mass fury against the Marxist-led Left Front's misrule, to put it no more strongly than that. In the southern state a viable alternative was available in the charismatic personality of Ms Jayalalithaa, who has already been its chief minister twice. The difference in the causes that destroyed the Communist bastion in the east and the family rule of Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) patriarch M. Karunanidhi in the south is also significant. To take up West Bengal first. Were circumstances there normal, any party or combination ruling the state for 34 continuous years would have been voted out as a matter of course. But normalcy and West Bengal can't be uttered in the same breath. The Left Front, led and dominated by the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), was routed not because of the longevity of its stay in power but because of its egregious errors and excesses. After its initial land reforms — Operation Barga in the late Seventies — it abandoned the rural folk, presumably expecting them to be grateful forever. Nor did it do anything to set up industries, small, medium or big, to provide employment to the swelling army of job seekers. When it realised this mistake, it swung to the other extreme, forcibly taking over farmers' lands and handing these to the tallest of the tycoons. No wonder Singur and Nandigram followed. What aggravated people's woes was the Left Front's almost criminal neglect of education and healthcare. From the top of the chart on education, together with Tamil Nadu, West Bengal has plummeted to third position from the bottom — just above Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. However, all this pales when compared with the Left's crowning idiocy of imposing on the state something akin to Stalinist tyranny. It erased the dividing line between the party and the government. West Bengal went under the "Marxist cadre raj" — for the arrogant Marxist cadres, violence was the first instrument to enforce its will. This did invite counter-violence, especially from Ms Banerjee's Trinamul Congress, with Maoists contributing their mite. But who can match the combined power of the state and the ruling party's goons? Authoritarianism and high-handedness did play a role in the deserved downfall of Mr Karunanidhi and the DMK. But it was rather limited, notwithstanding the shenanigans at Madurai of M.K. Alagiri, Mr Karunanidhi's son and Union minister for chemicals and fertilisers. The DMK's district secretaries also tended to behave like CPI(M) cadres in West Bengal. What made the five-time chief minister of Tamil Nadu bite the dust was corruption that was monumental and brazen beyond belief. It was also "in-house", confined to Kalaignar's extended clan. Nothing more needs to be said in view of the drama unfolding in the courts of law. But there is one more fact of which the country ought to take notice. Was it purely coincidental that nobody, but nobody, foresaw the poll results in Tamil Nadu while almost everybody expected Ms Banerjee's big win in West Bengal? The most pundits and psephologists would say was that either side could win. Exit polls even gave victory to the DMK. Why? It is worth pondering that, perhaps, the self-respecting Tamils were hurt by the assumption in what they call "Upper India" that they would, as usual, be happy with freebies and cash delivered to them with the morning paper, and would happily return the DMK to power. They obviously decided to decimate the DMK but disclosed it to no one. In Tamil Nadu it was a "silent wave", obviously because of some kind of fear. Has the Congress, the core of the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) at the Centre, read the election results right? To be sure, it has every reason to be proud of its achievement in the usually divided state of Assam where it has staged a hattrick. The credit for this goes primarily to Tarun Gogoi who will be Assam's chief minister for the third time running. As a conciliator he thwarted attempts at polarising the state and has paved the way for a peaceful settlement with the United Liberation Front of Asom. It is also understandable that the Congress should feel happy about the pathetic plight of the Bharatiya Janata Party that contested almost all seats in Assam and Kerala and a great many in West Bengal. In the process, in the words of a usually sympathetic commentator, it has made itself a "joker in the pack". For the rest, the Congress' claims when not misplaced are exaggerated. For instance, its boast that it and its UPA allies have won in three of the five states is a fact that obscures the truth. In West Bengal, the Congress is no more than a peripheral appendage to the victorious Trinamul Congress. As for Kerala, where every election has led to regime change, this time around the irony is that the winner came second. The United Democratic Front has a wafer-thin majority. In tiny Puducherry, the mighty Congress has lost two-to-one to a former Congressman. And if it goes on underplaying the issue of corruption in Tamil Nadu, it may yet again be singed by it. The worst message to reach the Congress headquarters is from Kadapa in Andhra Pradesh where a single Lok Sabha byelection has proved more catastrophic than all other losses put together. Congress' biggest bastion is now history.






About three weeks ago I was approached by at least three different TV channels to tell them what I (representing the Church, of course) had to say about the news that the world would be coming to an end on May 21, 2011. Last year two other national channels had called several religious leaders, including me, one scientist and even an atheist, to tell them what all of us thought about the prediction that the world will end on August 2012 — a fear triggered by the completely fictional Hollywood film 2012. I enumerated to them several other occasions, including the one about 50 years ago, when as a class three student, I had witnessed a grand havan being conducted in Ajmer to drive away the impending end of the world that year. The Bible does not mention anywhere a date or time when the world will end. Yet, some ill-informed, if not crazy, Christian pastors in the United States as well as in South Korea, have led their followers to mass suicide because they brainwashed them into believing that the end of the world was well nigh and that they would be taken to heaven ahead of others. We don't know what happened to them but what we certainly know is that our world is still alive and kicking. Whether we believe in reincarnation or in the gift of eternal life after our soujourn on earth, one thing we do desire, with much pondering and questioning, is to know where we came from, what we are doing here on earth and where we will be after we die. There are enough instances of reincarnation believers having a hard time at the hour of their death trying to figure out what form they will take in the next life. Interestingly, after Jesus had explained to his disciples that he would undergo terrible suffering and death, something the disciples just did not want to hear, leave alone believe, they became quite insecure about their own future, as most of us don't know what the future holds for us. So how does one deal with this insecurity of the human heart, one which cannot be secured with money and power? When Jesus noticed that his disciples were anxious about what would happen to them after He departs, He comforted them by saying, "Don't be troubled. Trust in God, and trust in me. There are many rooms in my Father's house... I am going there to prepare a place for you... so that you can be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going". Thomas said, "Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?" Jesus answered, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life". As the story of Jesus' life, death and resurrection unfolds further, it becomes clear from the Bible that the disciples had not really comprehended what Jesus meant. Leaving the disciples aside for a moment, this question can also be posed to us. Do we actually comprehend or at least try to comprehend what God wishes to communicate to us, especially when the medium in which God communicates is totally unfamiliar to us? That, perhaps, also explains why the media, with their own insecurities, doubts and uncertainties, about their audiences, about life hereafter, goes into a panic mode the moment they hear anything, all mostly unsubstantiated, about the end of the world. Well, if we trusted in God, would we be at all disturbed about the end of the world or indeed our own end? For, trust in God would make us love God ever more deeply and help us all live a life according to God's will and plan. That is exactly what Jesus went on to say to his disciples: "I will not leave you all alone like orphans. I will come back to you". He did, in His risen self. Our trust in God means that come what may, He will never leave us orphans, neither here on earth nor when we are taken from this earth. As Jesus said, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid". — Father Dominic Emmanuel, a founder-member of Parliament of Religions, is currently the director of communication of the Delhi Catholic Church. He was awarded the National Communal Harmony Award 2008 by the Government of India. He can be contacted at






It's difficult to believe that Mamata Banerjee's demolition of the world's longest-serving democratically-elected Communist government also means the end of history for West Bengal. I don't mean the Communist Party of India-Marxist's (CPI-M) structure and strategy which are being discussed threadbare over endless cups of tea in its Alimuddin Street office, as it was at Monday's politburo meeting in New Delhi. I mean Communism as an idea to which millions of young Bengalis responded. Having spent my adolescent years abroad, I was spared the temptation. But there were Communists in the family and I remember childish excitement and mystification when a fugitive Indrajit Gupta, "Sonnymama", went to live with my grandmother because he was "underground". How could her airy first-floor flat be underground, I wondered. Like former West Bengal chief minister Jyoti Basu, Sonnymama came to the Communist Party of India (CPI) via the Communist Party of Great Britain — revolutionary equivalents of the corporate world's "covenanted hands", meaning Indians recruited in Britain and entitled to British pay and perks. But whereas Basu took full advantage of the privilege and sailed in at the top, Sonnymama chose to work his way up from the bottom. He found his stint as the Union home minister a burden while Basu never ceased to regret the prime ministership that never was. Basu and Sonnymama were the elite. The home-grown cadres attracted Nirad C. Chaudhuri's derision. He dismissed a Communist as a "young Bengali in a Red shirt and khaki trousers, trying to speak Hindi" (why Hindi, I can't imagine, unless early recruits wanted to be cosmopolitan and Hindi was the only other language they knew), but others recognised the frustration underlying their commitment to a brave new world. Ideology symbolised escape and opportunity. That faith was incompatible with the tortuous manipulations of parliamentary governance. Institutionalising it because the leaders craved power led to the arrogance and abuses that accounted for West Bengal's debacle. The CPI(M) is blamed for doing very little to meet the revolution of rising expectations that its own actions generated. Operation Barga gave the peasantry land. Panchayati Raj gave it a voice. But where were the jobs that would entitle them to rise above the station in which they were born? The sons of Britain's Labour peers vote Tory. The sons of our peasantry aspire to white-collar respectability. Not Bengalis alone. Visiting the Punjab Agricultural University at Ludhiana, set up to impart new skills to farmers' sons so that they could go back to the land with improved agricultural practices, I found that the students hoped university education would lead to clerical jobs. Secure in their own middle-class identity, Left Front leaders paid scant attention to the seething social ambitions of those they had empowered. Gautam Deb, one of the 26 defeated ministers, fatuously argued that a Bengali's "heightened political consciousness prevents him from being distracted by material discomforts". He and his colleagues would do well to read George Orwell's Animal Farm to understand that the struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie ends only when the former becomes the latter. Marx's theory that class shapes thinking and outlook is one reason why this reality is ignored. Apart from Basu and one or two others, the original Left Front worthies came from society's lower echelons. It was hilarious watching them in 1977 being sworn in by polished Indian Civil Service governor Anthony Lancelot Dias. Dias spoke only English, most ministers spoke only Bengali. But many of them are now said to be millionaires with no time for the hoi polloi. They wouldn't otherwise have failed to note the god was failing. The courtiers — academics, artists, writers and actors — who surrounded them kept up the illusion of a radical Elysium even while angling for American visas or "green cards". The joke at one time was that a prominent Kolkata editor with Leftist pretensions (but not averse to accepting American invitations) had proved that the road to Washington lay through Beijing. This was a play on the fond but uncorroborated Bengali belief that Lenin had predicted that the road to world revolution lay through Kolkata. Many other Bengali Marxist intellectuals (tautology?) were disposed to take that editor's route. Now, Bengali voters have come out of the closet en masse and rejected the tired prophets of a make-believe revolution for a relatively young woman whose cyclonic sweep through the state greatly impressed US consul-general Beth A. Payne. According to WikiLeaks, she cabled her bosses about the need to "cultivate" Ms Banerjee who could not only save West Bengal but was "pro-American". Once that would have been the kiss of death for any Bengali politician. Not any longer. Today's Bengalis are pragmatists. Riches matter more than romance or revolution. That's why Didi, who led the fiery opposition to Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee's plans for Nandigram and Singur, cannot afford to forget how savagely voters dealt with the Left Front for not creating prosperity. They will give her short shrift if she, too, can't attract investors. Agriculture and industry are not mutually exclusive. But, first, she must slay the vicious anti-industry genie she released, and convince peasants that factories don't float in thin air. They need land. A 107-year-old Land Acquisition Act just won't do. Otherwise, we can expect more ructions. "We are a special people, a mix of Aryans, Muslims, Mongols and Huns", a Bengali once told Trevor Fishlock of the Times, London. "When the Aryan blood comes to the top you see our intellectual side. But when the Mongol blood gets to the top we might assassinate and demonstrate violently." The Mongol blood must be kept in check. Didi's supporters call her a true Leftist. Perhaps she is. Perhaps a CPI(M) does remain in power, though with the Communist Party of India (Mamata) replacing the Communist Party of India (Marwari), as the old ruling party was dubbed. But the Communism that inspired generations of Bengalis is dead. Didi only exposed the corpse. That doesn't mean Communists won't always be with us. They will, like Nirad Chaudhuri's "passionate" Communist friend who, when asked to prove his revolutionary credentials, replied, "My wife says that I growl in my sleep". * Sunanda K. Datta-Ray is a senior journalist who contributes to several top international publications











FOR once it might be preferable to go along with the official line that the "security review meeting" taken by the Prime Minister on Monday had been pre-scheduled, and was not a response to the claim of the ISI head that the Pakistan army had already targeted certain installations in India and worked out plans for attacking them. It was a sign of some maturity ~ perhaps the wisdom dawned after rash comments of the Indian Army and Air Force chiefs ~ that the Indian establishment did not publicly react to that ISI claim. After all, any military that did not undertake such advance planning would be unprofessional. Sure the situation in the subcontinent has been nuanced afresh after the elimination of Osama bin Laden: jihadi outfits will strive to prove they are still in business, terror strikes in India and attempts to fuel militancy in Jammu and Kashmir are distinct possibilities. So an assessment at the highest level was perfectly in order ~ not a sign of "nerves". The Prime Minister's first-hand inputs on what obtains in Afghanistan would have been welcomed by the defence leadership. The security scene is indeed fluid, political unrest in Pakistan often impacts on India, revived ferment in J&K would help divert attention away from the humiliation suffered by the US opting for unilateral action to "take out" bin Laden and the subsequent pressure Washington is exerting on Islamabad. According to some reports, the meeting also covered other "burning" defence issues such as the delays in indigenous projects to put the nuclear triad in place, and bottlenecks/red tape in certain acquisition programmes. And that is what suggests that more regular ~ as opposed to routine ~ security review meetings would be in order. A mechanism must be in place for the military leadership to share their concerns directly with the Prime Minister and for him to do that too; it cannot be one-way traffic, at times the brass needs some pulling-up. Maybe a "strong" defence minister would have plugged that communication gap (the gap, of course, would be officially denied), but ground realities cannot be overlooked. With the National Security Council, so enfeebled as to be completely irrelevant, the Cabinet Committee on Security so politically influenced, and the switch to a Chief of Defence Staff system a non-starter, interactions like the one on Monday might clear some cobwebs.



ALTHOUGH the United Democratic Front in Kerala secured 72 seats with a vote share of 46.03 per cent against the Left Democratic Front's 68 seats in the 140-member Assembly, the Congress is losing ground steadily not only in Kerala but in all States south of the Vindhyas. The Congress could win only 38 seats against 87 it contested. Sonia Gandhi, who campaigned vigorously in Kerala, lacked the charisma of her mother-in-law Indira Gandhi who, even in the post-Emergency election in 1977, managed to win more than half the Lok Sabha seats in the State. Rahul Gandhi's campaign was a disaster for the Congress. While the UDF had among its candidates 91-year-old KR Gowri who incidentally did not make it to the Assembly this time, Rahul made fun of CPI(M) leader and Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan for being 87 and still in the electoral battle. He received the most memorable verbal lashing, the Amul Baby tag. None of his hand-picked candidates won. The Congress princeling simply has not made the grade in politics. The party was wiped out in Kasaragod, Kozhikode, Kollam and Idukki districts. Two of the nine constituents of the UDF drew a blank. Three of the junior partners, Kerala Congress (B), Kerala Congress (Jacob) and RSP (Bolshevik) emerged with solitary seats and all three insist on being accommodated as Ministers. The electorate may not have upset the tradition of changing governments every five years but refrained from giving the UDF a convincing victory. Oommen Chandy, Chief Minister-elect, wears the honour of getting elected unanimously as chairman of the UDF and leader of the Congress legislature party as a "crown of thorns." He will have to depend heavily on the Indian Union Muslim League which won 20 seats and the Kerala Congress (M) with nine seats, two communal parties representing the Muslims and Christians respectively. The Nair Service Society representing the Nair community also threw its weight behind the UDF to make it a conglomeration of communal forces. Ramesh Chennithala, KPCC president and main contender for chief ministership, has turned down Chandy's offer of a weighty Cabinet berth and decided to continue with party work instead, sulking.

The LDF was sure of a second consecutive term in office because of the corruption-free administration provided by Achuthanandan but the national leadership of the CPI-M was not happy with the popularity of the Chief Minister. The powerful state secretary of the party, Pinarayi Vijayan, facing a corruption case himself, tried to deny Achuthanandan nomination to contest the 13 April election with the connivance of comrades from the West Bengal unit. Only after a revolt in the Kerala unit did the politburo relent. Kannur district has traditionally been a Marxist stronghold and the pocket borough of Vijayan, a trusted lieutenant of general secretary Prakash Karat. The CPI(M) lost five seats in Kannur this time. Of these, Kannur, Koothuparampu, Peravur and Azhikode were held by the party since the LDF came into being in 1987. In Palakad district also the party was worsted in two of its strongholds. Only an impartial inquiry will reveal whether there was internal sabotage. Unlike in West Bengal where the Marxist ministers fell like nine pins, none of the CPI(M) ministers could be defeated by the UDF in Kerala. It only strengthens the suspicion the LDF's victory was snatched by internal dissensions. Given the consolidation of Christian and Muslim votes and the propensity of communal political parties to promote sectarian interests, Chandy, himself a Christian, will have a tough time holding the secular flag aloft.



THE Nagaland People's Front-led government of Neiphiu Rio spared no effort, including some pernicious propaganda, to keep four-time chief minister SC Jamir away from re-entering politics, so the latter's defeat in the 7 May Aonglenden assembly constituency by-election comes as little surprise. Jamir lost to NPF candidate Toshipokba by a margin of 1,320 votes. Indeed, even before the counting of votes on 13 May rumours were rife that Jamir had been defeated. While allowing him to contest the by-election ~ he was out of state politics for nearly eight years, serving as Governor of Goa and Maharashtra ~ the Congress central command ostensibly hoped his return would boost state party morale. Whether it was a well thought out decision will be debated, but its implication has been too embarrassing ~ Aonglenden has been a Congress fort for nearly 30 years. Known for his NSCN(IM) tilt, Rio was with the Congress for  many years before he quit the Jamir Cabinet some months before the 2003 election, formed the NPF and won the elections. There is no love lost between Jamir and him, but Rio was at least polite enough to suggest that the by-poll outcome was not against Jamir as an individual but over "policies and programmes of parties".  But no comment has been more edifying than that of NPF chief Shurhozelie, who said "we feel his (Jamir's) era is over already and we speak good of the past." Time will tell whether Jamir will turn a "saint" and retire, or stage a comeback. The Assembly election is due in 2013.







CHANGE or perish is the advice from the Leftists to the Left. Ironically, it is the same advice which Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee gave to the comrades when he embarked on his ill-planned industrialization venture. At that time, too, he wanted the Communists to change, but in a direction which was not approved of by everyone in the party. Nor will it be now. In fact, the former chief minister is likely to be criticized for his earlier initiatives, which were seen by the noted Leftist economist, Prabhat Patnaik, as an instance of lowering the party's "ideological guard". Now, this supposed folly will probably be held responsible for the electoral setback.

The lack of clarity, therefore, about the nature of the change is obvious, for it is not known what kind of transformation is being advocated by people like the CPI's AB Bardhan apart from the shedding of arrogance. No one will deny that haughtiness is not the best way to gain popularity. But what do the comrades mean when they want their party to be less snooty ?

Is the reference to the personal behaviour of the kind which made former Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee underline in his memoirs the CPI-M general secretary, Prakash Karat's "intolerance" and "arrogance"? Or is it about a supercillious organization's distance from the common man? Moreover, is lack of humility the main reason why the Left experienced such a massive drubbing? Or are there other equally potent factors?
If Mr Bhattacharjee's ideas of change are out, it means that the party will no longer have anything to do with private sector investments, or his belief that "Marxism will have to keep pace with changing times", or his criticism of bandhs since such attitudes will be tantamount to an expression of a "loss of faith in socialistic precepts", in the words of another Leftist economist and former West Bengal minister, Ashok Mitra. But a reaffirmation of the Leftist precepts even by a consciously more humble party means that it will become more insular and ideologically rigid than at present.

Considering, however, that Karat has admitted that "there is a disconnect between the Left and sections of the middle class, especially the young", a more doctrinaire party is likely to face greater isolation. His acknowledgement that "sections" of the middle class have "benefited" after the reforms "in terms of better opportunities, jobs, income" also suggests that the so-called "neo-liberal" reforms weren't such a disaster after all. Since this observation provides a vague realization that there is more behind the Left's defeat than arrogance, there is a faint possibility of the Marxists taking a closer look at Mr Bhattacharjee's line despite the recent criticism.

However, the CPI-M's past history does not arouse any hope of a major reappraisal of the party's policy if only because it will mean junking all that it has professed till now. For a party which approved of the Soviet army's failed coup against Mikhail Gorbachov and endorsed the Tiananmen Square massacre, not to mention denying that Nikita Khrushchev ever delivered his anti-Stalin speech to the CPSU's 20th congress in 1956, an attempt to do away with the "disconnect" between the Left and sections of the young will entail an ideological retreat which the party will be loath to undertake.

Apart from being criticized by the Prabhat Patnaiks and Ashok Mitras if it does venture into such a controversial area, there will also be others who will point to the hardliner VS Achuthanandan's popularity in Kerala to argue that there is nothing wrong with being dogmatic as long as the leaders are regarded with respect. In West Bengal, from the time of the scandals involving Jyoti Basu's son and cronies like Subhas Chakrabarty to former land reforms minister Benoy Chaudhury's castigation of the Left Front government as one "of, by and for contractors", the Marxists haven't had the best of reputations.

In fact, Mr Bhattacharjee himself resigned from Basu's cabinet in the early 1990s and wrote his play, Dushsamay (Bad Times) because of his dismay with the party's declining image. There is also little doubt that a major reason for Mamata Banerjee's rise is her clean image although her party harbours the largest number of tainted MLAs ~ 69 as opposed to the Congress's 17 and the CPI-M's seven. The Left, therefore, is in a bind. If its rectification means tweaking its dogma to fit the neo-liberal times, as Mr Bhattacharjee tried to do, albeit in too hasty a manner, it will plunge into further confusion with the hardliners and pragmatists battling it out. But, if it clings more resolutely to "scientific socialism", the disconnect with the new generation will grow.
The problem is not unlike the BJP's. If the latter sticks to Hindutva, it will alienate the minorities and the liberals among Hindus and, therefore, fail to grow. But if the party follows a moderate line, its core group of supporters may drift away to the VHP or some other ultra-right outfit. For the Communists, there are two other problems. One is that their long stint in power encouraged anti-socials to infiltrate the party, presumably with the leadership's blessings. The other is that their doctrine of placing the party above the government made them erode the professional neutralism in all sectors of life from the bureaucracy to the academia. The resultant degeneration widened the gulf between the Left and the ordinary people.

The writer is a former Assistant Editor, The Statesman







The government of India, acting through the human resources development ministry, is considering a series of drastic changes to the governance structure and role of faculty in the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) based on the recommendations of two committees chaired by Mr Ajit Balakrishnan and Mr RC Bhargava. The proposed changes have potentially far-reaching consequences for the future of the IIMs and  raise important questions on the methodology followed, especially, the lack of participation by key stakeholders, the lack of public consultation and, in general, a lack of professionalism in formulating such important policy recommendations.
The background of this exercise may be traced to April 2010, when at a Bangalore retreat, chairmen and directors of IIMs, a few alumni and senior officials of the HRD ministry met under the chairmanship of the minister for human resources. The key issue addressed was the need for "reinventing" the IIMs in order that they may effectively manage impending changes in the environment and in particular, the higher education system, of which management education forms a part. As an outcome of this meeting, three different committees were appointed ~ the Ajit Balakrishnan committee on faculty and research, the RC Bhargava committee on governance and the Hari Bhartia committee on fundraising. This article examines the reports published by the Balakrishnan and Bhargava committees, with regard to the methodology and processes followed, the logic offered, and possible consequences of implementation.

Ownership, management and accountability The recommendations relating to the structure and  constitution of the Society and governing boards of the IIMs have the largest potential for impacting the future of the IIM system, the brand value of the IIMs and the quality of the outcomes achieved by these institutions. The Bhargava committee's report mentions a number of reasons for proposing changes, but without any attempt at adequate substantiation. For example, the primary reason cited is the need for the "Society to function like an enlightened owner…in practice this is not happening". Earlier, in the same report it is mentioned that "the IIMs have always been the best management schools in India, have attracted the highest quality of students and are the preferred source of recruitment by both Indian and foreign companies". Surely, if the present system is able to produce such excellent outcomes, it cannot be simply brushed aside by a cursory statement about its presumed ineffectiveness. Even if the system has not proved to be as much effective as envisaged, it is obviously important to establish that such non-performance can be attributed to governance issues, something on which the report is silent. Hence, the first problem we wish to highlight is the lack of any systematic effort to identify key areas for improvement, or key problems needing resolution.

Another reason cited in support of the proposed changes is that "the government has not been able to perform the role of (enlightened owner) due to the lack of continuity, and lack of expertise on the part of the officers". As we observe earlier, it is far from established that the system is not doing its job. It is even less logical to blame the lack of expertise and lack of continuity in respect of officials of the government for the alleged woes of the institutes. And is the government only an "enlightened owner"? Is that what our Constitution envisages?
The division of responsibilities between the government, the board, the director and the faculty is cited as another reason calling for change. However, it may be argued that such a division is only logical, and that a bicameral structure is a well accepted model for the management of academic institutions. Academic institutions need to work in an environment of creativity, free of bureaucratic and political constraints. It is for this reason that, all over the world, there is a separation between the administration and the faculty. Further, the faculty is a collective, working in a collegial way, hence the word college.
The problem appears to be that the committee has pre-judged the issue in favour of a corporate structure with little justification.

What is the price of an IIM?

Having set a shaky foundation in terms of articulating the need for structural change, the Bhargava report goes on to recommend that the size of the Society be limited to 20 members and that a donation of Rs 3 crore for alumni, Rs 5 crore for individual and Rs 20 crore for corporates be prescribed for acquisition of membership. Such a structure would enable a company or a group of individuals to gain control over the Society with a reasonably modest investment. The older IIMs have evolved over several decades and have received significant contributions from both Central and state governments in terms of land and infrastructure. They have built a significant brand equity in national and international markets and have created valuable intellectual property.
What would be an appropriate method for valuing such institutes, if they are to be converted to a corporate model, as envisaged? There seems to be no attempt at addressing this question of valuation, surely an important consideration in prescribing donation levels, which are a proxy for management control. The report seems to be laying the ground for privatisation on the basis of inadequate analysis and without considering some of the consequences in adequate depth. The proposed membership of the Societies will result in a group of individuals and/or private enterprises gaining control over IIMs, while the government continues to be saddled with the onus of providing financial support, both for capital and operating expenditure. The report explicitly states that the "government will have to continue to fund capital expenditure, even for the old IIMs. Revenue expenditure in the new IIMs would have to be met by the government, to the extent of the deficit.  By making the payment of a substantial donation to the IIM as a condition for becoming a member of the Society… would be equivalent to a person having an equity stake in a company except that there would be no dividend payments from the IIMs".
Thus the proposal would result in compromising the variety in the membership of the societies and ceding management control to unknown private entities while supporting these institutes with public funds, which is, however, now divorced from management responsibility and control. This very formulation needs to be subjected to a close scrutiny from the perspective of basic management principles.
Whose IIM is it anyway?
The other adverse impact of the proposed restructuring with be on the diversity currently witnessed in the membership of the IIM Society. Surely, this calls for a much wider debate and consultation amongst key stakeholders. Given that society as a whole is a key stakeholder, does it make sense to restrict membership to only those who are willing to pay for the privilege? Given the diversity of society within which the IIMs operate, is it desirable to promote a kind of monoculture in the governance model?
The entire process followed by the HRD ministry and by the committees has completely excluded some of the most important stakeholders. Faculty, alumni and students are all key stakeholders, they contribute the most in terms of value to the institute's brand equity, and yet the powers that be see it fit to neglect all of them in developing such a major set of recommendations. This approach suggests that there is an unstated agenda which is being promoted, and this will succeed only through an opaque approach.
Disciplining the Dons
The Balakrishan report addresses the challenges related to existing and new faculty, the need to produce world standard research relevant to national needs and the use of technology to leverage talent and learning experiences. This report too suffers from some of the weaknesses of the Bhargava report and provides no data and very little logic for the final recommendations which seem to emanate in an omniscient manner. Surely, there needs to be at least a basic analysis of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and constraints as a foundation for prescriptions. For example, the report states that "the committee would like to reiterate the importance of faulty not only being competent, but also devoting more time to teaching and research, and less time to executive (EDP) and management development (MDP) programs". The implication here is that the faculty are guilty of neglecting their teaching and research obligations in favour of EDPs and MDPs, which are more remunerative for them. The other implication is that these programs are somehow unimportant in the scheme of things, surely questionable in itself. The faculty of IIM-C have come out with a position paper on the recommendations which contains strong criticism of the committees, the processes followed (or not followed) and the attempt to reduce the role of the faculty while imposing strict work norms. The faculty position paper also mentions data related to current and expected workloads, and surely the committee could have at least verified this data, identified specific deficiencies if any, and then proposed changes.
In conclusion, the exercise to develop a roadmap for IIMs suffers from serious limitations. The consequence of implementing these recommendations is to endanger the excellent reputation enjoyed by IIMs and devaluing the brand which has been assiduously built over several decades. There is a need to involve other stakeholders in such a review and ensure that a credible process and methodology are followed in addressing such a complex and important matter.

NV Krishna graduated from IIM-C in 1976 and Vinod Vyasulu was on the IIM-B faculty between 1974 and 1988








There is finally a change of guard at Writers' Buildings! Intellectuals and experts, in anticipation of the turn of events, have written a lot already. The common consensus is that the last change of guard had occurred in Bengal in 1977. I believe the only change of guard that took place in West Bengal since Independence was in 1967. And until Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee lost in his own constituency in 2011, 1967 was the only occasion since Independence when a sitting chief minister of Bengal had been similarly defeated. As I surfed one live TV channel broadcasting the Assembly election results after another since 5 a.m (Central European Time) on 13 May, I was reminded of the pre-television days of 1967 in Kolkata when we would anxiously group near the radio or important road crossings to learn about latest poll updates.

A thorough study of the events from 1967 to 1977 would be reminiscent of Trotsky's The Permanent Revolution. Beginning with the breakaway Naxalite movement, illegal dissolution of the West Bengal Assembly, Bangladesh war and Indira Gandhi's triumph, panic of the middleclass with Naxalite terror gripping cities, fratricidal feud between the CPI-M and Naxalites, state-sponsored terror to destroy both these feuding factions at one stroke, the Emergency and finally, the absolute triumph of the CPI-M in 1977. It was as if the Mensheviks had ultimately grabbed power using the tools of bourgeois democracy. As a midnight's child, as it were, my mind automatically focused on the period following Independence to the dramatic change in 1967.
We must realise that the Bengali bhadralok at the time of Independence was a politically-mixed lot. There were still loyal supporters of Mahatma Gandhi, although most of them were severely shaken by the "betrayal" of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose at the Tripuri session of the Congress. A vast majority of Bengalis were totally disillusioned by this betrayal and the cardinal offence of Congress leaders in agreeing to the partition of India.  They thought that most of the freedom fighters were only vying for power and Independence had been a gift from the British who wanted to unload their burden. The perception was that freedom had not been won entirely the hard way and the indispensable groundwork done by Bengali revolutionaries earlier in the century had been conveniently forgotten by the new dispensation. Then there were hard-core communists ~ the freed leaders of the Telangana struggle ~ and an already thriving trade union infrastructure thanks to Bengal's sprawling industrial base. To top it all, there was a huge influx of post-Partition refugees with no hope in sight who drove the local population to despair and bouts of insecurity. Such an atmosphere was in no way conducive to a serious rightwing political movement in Bengal.

The row of refugees on the platforms of the Sealdah station I saw as a child was somehow as potent as a political symbol. The image kept haunting me as I read Gunter Grass' The Tin Drum years later. Us Midnight's Children grew up with relentless processions, led by the undivided Communist Party of India, with slogans demanding that the government stop sending hapless refugees to the forests of Dandakaranya. The resistance put up by the refugees against measures to uproot them twice in the span of a decade was understandable. This made the later tragedy of Marichjhanpi ever so poignant. What added to the political volatility was the dire unemployment scenario. Many Bengali films from the period had brilliantly captured the prevalent insecurity of the educated unemployed and their hapless parents. There was no socialist movement worth speaking as the Forward Block had failed to take off in the absence of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. My contemporaries dreamt of Netaji's return and got inexorably sucked into communism. And, popular angst was directed in its entirety against the Congress party. For us, the Congress soon became irrelevant. The party continued winning elections thanks to its grassroots presence, exploiting the religious sentiments of the minorities and milking the older generation that was still sentimental about the party's role in the freedom struggle. Looking back, it seemed but inevitable that it should be shown the door. Congress rule came across as insensitive and atrocious to most sensible youth. Despite valiant attempts of Dr Bidhan Chandra Roy, the first chief Minister of West Bengal, things went from bad to worse. Corruption was endemic, food was adulterated at will and only hoarders had access to essential commodities. Siddhartha Shankar Roy became an instant celebrity when he accused the Congress of incorrigible corruption and backed the Leftists. Many regarded him at that time as the reincarnation of his legendary grandfather ~ Deshbandhu Chittaranjan Das. Dr Roy nearly lost the second Assembly election in 1957, and likely scraped through only with the help of a lot of rigging. For us, he cut a tragic figure ~ highly respected as an illustrious doctor and a leading freedom fighter but disliked for being too close to whose who "betrayed" Netaji.

The next decade was dominated by constant shortage of food and inflation. Mustard oil, the staple cooking medium for Bengalis for generations, disappeared from the market and people were asked to switch to groundnut oil. Prices of potato and vegetables soared and the government advised the people to cultivate a taste for green bananas. Rice practically vanished from the market in the mid-60s and whatever was made available through the public distribution system was barely edible. The government then prescribed a diet of wheat. This sparked off frequent demonstrations with 48-hour strikes and "gherao" making their debut at that time. Finally, the change of guard came in 1967. Bengal was euphoric and at almost every street corner of Kolkata, green bananas were suspended from lamp-posts to mock Prafulla Chandra Sen, the outgoing chief minister of West Bengal.

For us, political consciousness started evolving after the second general election. As my contemporaries begun secondary school, they found most teachers there, embittered by abysmal and irregular pay, were communists. Ahead of the third general election in 1962, I remember attending speeches by Jyoti Basu, EMS Nambudripad and Hiren Mukherjee. But doubts had started creeping in. Khrushchev's historic speech denouncing Stalin confirmed the rumours about Soviet gulags. As did books documenting ruthless elimination of Bolshevik comrades by Stalin. Manabendra Nath Roy's experience and critique were also eye openers. The Hungarian uprising and its suppression had a profound impact on us football fans who saw their favourite players ~ Ferenc Puskas and Nandor Hidekuti ~ fleeing their homeland and taking asylum in the West.

After the Chinese war of 1962, the Communist Party of India split up. Although the war had only expedited the fragmentation, rumblings had been there for long. With the Sino-Russian border skirmishes, the utopia of Communist International vanished forever. Most hardliners joined the CPI-M and clearly sympathised with the Chinese. "China's chairman is our chairman!" was a favourite slogan of young communists at that time. The editor of a major Bengali newspaper was sacked for openly doubting government's version of the 1962 war right after India lost it and as well as many young soldiers.The pro-Russian CPI gradually found itself marginalised.

When I entered Presidency College in 1963, Arthur Koestler's The God That Failed had almost become a doubter's handbook. Many of us were searching for a humane social democratic alternative to the mainstream communist movement steeped in the Stalinist tradition. Writings of Albert Camus and George Orwell provided the inspiration. I soon became active in the Presidency College Students Organisation (PCSO) to counteract the Students' Federation of India propaganda directed at unsuspecting students. But that was a job way tougher than I had bargained for. Student politics in Presidency College till the mid-60s was essentially an intellectual exercise. Things changed when Ashim Chatterjee, better known as Kaka, took over the leadership of the SFI. He joined Presidency College in 1960 and hung on to graduate with us in 1966. It was Kaka who brought militant politics to the campus ~ just what the CPI-M ordered. And, that was the end of innocence. Soon, Presidency College was plunged into a chaos that consumed Kolkata and the rest of Bengal.
At the state level, Ajoy Mukherjee's split from the Congress party in mid-60s to form the Bangla Congress fuelled Bengal-wide euphoria. His simple lifestyle and crusade against corruption led many of us to believe that a true social democratic alternative had finally arrived. When Bangla Congress firmed up an electoral alliance with the CPI-M, it was considered a milestone. And, the climax came with the defeat of the Congress in 1967 which ushered in a new era in Bengali politics. Even those who had strong reservations about the CPI-M had joined the celebrations then.

The decade that followed was perhaps the most traumatic in the recorded history of Bengal. By the time the Left Front finally triumphed in 1977, fatigue had set in. Over the the next 10 years, the CPI-M managed to consolidate its hold as the political Opposition withered. It only found its reign seriously challenged for the first time around 1987. The charge was led by a single woman who finally triumphed against all odds in a remarkable demonstration of determination, self-confidence and total dedication. But the political philosophy of Miss Mamata Banerjee is still a mystery to most people. Her sleek 55-page election manifesto did not enlighten the voters much. Let's hope that she ushers in a true social-democratic regime that has yet to find a footing in India.

Coming back to Presidency College, practically all of our bright SFI friends joined the Naxalite movement under Kaka's leadership in the mid-60s. And, that's how the CPI-M lost some of its best minds who could have given a much-needed fresh direction to the party in future. Three of my contemporaries who chose to remain with the CPI-M later became ministers. Now that two of my fellow PCSO activists are tipped to be included in the Trinamul ministry, it seems a balance is about to be set right. Better late than never!

The writer is former dean and Professor of Applied Mathematics at the University of Twente, The Netherlands








Charge Against A Director

The Thornhill, Chief Presidency Magistrate, on Tuesday heard a case in which, on the application of the Manager and Cashier of the Banga Lakshmi Cotton Mills, Babu Langat Singh, a shareholder of the mills and a zemindar of Behar, was called upon to show cause why he should not be prosecuted for having defamed the complainants, by calling them thieves at a general meeting of the shareholders. Mr S.C. Mitter with Mr K.C. Gupta appeared for the prosecution, and Mr K.N. Chaudhuri, Bar-at-law, with Mr T.N. Sadhu represented the defendant.

Mr Chaudhuri at the outset explained that, according to the prosecution, the objectionable words used by the defendant were, "Why are you troubling about Rs 2,000 or Rs 4,000? Lakhs and lakhs of rupees are being looted in cotton. All the salas of this concern, excepting Kaviraj N.N. Sen, the managing director, are cheats" Mr Chaudhuri submitted that his client denied having made the latter part of the observations, and with regard to the money being looted, he, as one of the directors of the mills, was justified in making those remarks, which were entirely privileged.

Dr Thornhill said the defendant was not privileged to abuse the employees.

Mr Chaudhuri, continuing, said the defendant was one of the founders of the mills and had all along looked after the best interests of the company as a director. The internal affairs of the concern were being utterly mismanaged, and he was entitled bona fide to make those observations.

Dr Thornhill: Was no dividend declared?

Mr Chaudhiri: No, your Honour, no dividend for the last two years. It was declared only in te beginning. Proceeding he read the written statement filed by the defendant, and banded over to the Magistrate a typewritten report of the directors' meeting in question, and said that it was the approved report and contained nothing with reference to the subject matter of the present charge.

Dr Thornhill: Is that the only record?

Mr Chaudhuri: Yes, your Honour.

Dr Thornhill: Is there anything objectionable in it? I find nothing.








It is the season for suspicions coming true. For a time, it has been the apprehension of many people in West Bengal that some of the districts of the state had become arsenals for illegal weapons. It was also evident that such stockpiling of weapons could not have been possible without political patronage and the tacit complicity of the police and the district administration. Now with the change in the political dispensation, guns and ammunition are coming tumbling out of their secret hiding places. Every day, since the announcement of the elections results, there have been reports of arms and ammunition being discovered. It is difficult to believe that the police have suddenly become efficient. On the contrary, they probably knew all along where the arsenals were located but did not act because they had orders not to act. One of the worst features of the Left Front administration was its permissive attitude towards accumulation of arms in rural West Bengal. It allowed this to happen because most of the arms were hoarded and used by the cadre of the Communist Party of India (Marxist). This is not to suggest that other political parties did not store arms but that the CPI(M), because it was the party in power, was the principal culprit. If the CPI(M) had been innocent, it could have easily used the police to track down the arms and to stop supplies.

The task before the new government, as far as illegal arms and ammunition are concerned, is crystal clear. It should order a complete clean-up operation. No one, irrespective of his political loyalties, should be allowed to hold arms without a proper licence. And those breaking the law should be punished according to the due processes of law. This should not be difficult to achieve provided the police and the district administration are given a free hand and allowed to act without interference from the political class, especially the present ruling party. The new chief minister should make it clear to the police that they are expected to act with responsibility and fairness. They should not bend over backwards to please the ruling dispensation nor should they declare a vendetta on those who have lost power. The existing laws and the existing police administration, if used efficiently and impartially, can easily make West Bengal free of illegal arsenals. There are other things in West Bengal's cupboards than guns and bullets.






The governor of Karnataka, H.R. Bhardwaj, has acted disgracefully because he chose to neglect one fundamental feature of democracy. The governor of a state cannot decide the loss of majority by a ruling party. This can only be decided on the floor of the legislative assembly. Mr Bhardwaj is by no means the first holder of gubernatorial office to make this mistake. Many governors trying to impress the Central government which appointed them have tried to dislodge elected governments in states ruled by opposition parties. Mr Bhardwaj claimed that the Bharatiya Janata Party was in a minority even before the majority of the government had been tested. He thus recommended that B.S. Yeddyurappa's government be dismissed and president's rule imposed in Karnataka. It will be recalled that in October last year, Mr Bhardwaj had accused the chief minister and the speaker of the assembly of having misused their powers by suspending 16 members of the legislative assembly. The Supreme Court, a few days ago, declared the suspensions illegal. But the BJP government sprang a surprise by getting 11 of the 16 MLAs to declare their support for the government. The governor, however, decided to pre-empt the entire process by saying that a fresh floor set was not a good idea. Not only was this somewhat arbitrary on the governor's part, but it also makes Mr Yeddyurappa, who is nobody's saint, into a great champion of democratic practices.

This storm in Karnataka's cup has its origins in the way a governor is appointed and, even more fundamentally, in the very idea of a governor. The post of the governor is an ornamental one. The holder of the office has no powers worth the name. The post has been reduced to an instrument of political patronage. The Central government uses the appointment of governors as a mode to reward loyalists. The appointment of governors is thus not free of politics and creates the erroneous impression that a governor of a state is nothing more than an agent of the Central government. Mr Bhardwaj's actions only strengthen such an idea. The Centre would do well to completely ignore Mr Bhardwaj's recommendations. But it could go a step further and initiate the process to review the post of governor and also the manner in which a governor is appointed. Can India afford ornaments especially when they are no more than baubles?






After the spectacular success of the United States of America's navy SEAL commando operation to eliminate Osama bin Laden, some of our security analysts called for similar action by our own forces and agencies against the Pakistan-based terrorist masterminds responsible for heinous attacks against India. More than two years earlier, I had made a case for covert retaliation in these columns ("If nothing else works — India must learn to retaliate against Pakistan covertly", January 29, 2009). My contention was that "if our démarches with Islamabad, combined with international persuasion, fail to bring the guilty to justice, we shall have to consider ways of bringing justice to the guilty. We must build up assets that would enable us to neutralize the sinister ringleaders of the terrorist outfits on Pakistani soil".

There are similarities as well as differences between the recent US action and the strategy we should follow.

A realistic Pakistan policy must recognize the fact that there are two Pakistans. There is a Pakistan which views itself as locked in a permanent confrontation with "Hindu India" and employs terrorism as an instrument of State policy towards its neighbours in India and Afghanistan. There is also a Pakistan which extends a heartfelt welcome to visitors from India during cricket encounters, is enthralled by the latest Bollywood movies and, most importantly, is becoming increasingly conscious of the dangers posed to Pakistan by its sponsorship of terrorist groups. India's policy must engage simultaneously with the Pakistani Jekyll and the Pakistani Hyde. The challenge to Indian policy is to effectively counter Pakistan-sponsored terrorism while carrying forward the process of normalizing relations with Pakistan.

This is an exceptionally complex task. It cannot be accomplished with the policy instruments we currently possess. Our armed forces are more than adequate for the purpose of deterring a Pakistan nuclear strike or defeating a military adventure by Pakistan across our borders. However, they are not equipped to deliver an effective riposte to a strike by Pakistan-based terrorists. Strikes against terrorist training camps across the border can at best produce limited results since these camps can easily be shifted to new locations. Moreover, there is the risk of collateral damage involving losses of lives and homesteads of innocent persons. Cross-border strikes at terrorist targets can yield limited results in certain circumstances but they cannot provide an adequate answer to major terrorist outrages.

After the attack on the Indian Parliament in November 2001, New Delhi launched Operation Parakram, ordering a massive military build-up along the Indo-Pakistan border in an attempt at coercive diplomacy. The heinous character of the terrorist attack demanded a proportionate response and we exercised the only real military option available to us. However, the operation failed to yield the desired results. It was evident from the outset that a deep thrust into Pakistan was infeasible in the context of a nuclearized subcontinent. A full-scale conventional war runs the risk of escalation to the nuclear level.

After the Mumbai attack in 2008, India chose to exercise its diplomatic options by freezing the composite dialogue with Pakistan and seeking US support in urging Pakistan to bring the perpetrators to justice. We asked Islamabad to hand over to us 20 individuals, including Dawood Ibrahim, Maulana Masood Azhar and Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, so that they could be brought to trial in our courts for terrorist offences in India. This option, too, yielded meagre results. Pakistan has merely gone through the motions of launching legal proceedings, while evading meaningful cooperation. The terrorist leaders sought by us are still at large in Pakistan. We recently handed over to Pakistan a list of 50 terrorists wanted for offences committed on Indian soil.

Thus, India has deployed both the military as well as the diplomatic instruments currently available to us and both have been shown to be largely ineffective. There is a demonstrated need for an alternative strategy to retaliate against cross-border terrorism.

From time to time, a few retired intelligence officers have proposed a tit-for-tat strategy. They suggest extending support to insurgent groups in Pakistan in order to cause proportionate damage to our adversary. They argue that this strategy might dissuade Pakistan's army and the Inter-Services Intelligence from launching terrorists against India; alternatively, it would plunge Pakistan into deeper chaos and weaken our adversary. The Indian government has quite rightly rejected this option outright. The strategy would be both unethical and unproductive.

The Pakistan army and the ISI have always been guided by their institutional interests, as distinct from the country's national interest. They are parasites which thrive on the body of a decaying Pakistan state, denying the latter the resources needed for economic and social development. An increase in the level of insurgent activity is unlikely to cause them to re-evaluate their policies. Far from promoting our interests, anarchy and instability in Pakistan only create a fertile breeding ground for terrorism. Neither is there an ethical basis for promoting violence against innocent people in retaliation to the criminal activities sponsored by the ISI.

What we need is a retaliatory strategy targeted specifically and exclusively at major terrorists responsible for outrages in India. If they cannot be brought to justice in our courts, we must bring justice to them in their sanctuaries in Pakistan. Those responsible for terrorist outrages on our soil should be eliminated if they cannot be made to face trial. At the same time, we should exercise every care to avoid collateral damage to innocent people in Pakistan.

Up to a point, there is a parallel with current American strategy in Pakistan, as reflected in their drone attacks and the spectacular Abbottabad operation. However, we must not lose sight of the differences between our situation and the US's. The most obvious of these is the asymmetry in our technical and military assets. We cannot hope to precisely replicate American tactics. Indeed, we do not need to do so since, fortunately for us, our targets are less elusive than Osama bin Laden.

Nor can we overlook the fact that the US enjoys a unique primacy in international affairs. So great is Islamabad's dependence on the US that it is obliged to acquiesce in US counter-terrorist strikes on its soil, albeit occasionally under protest. We cannot expect Islamabad to extend the same courtesy to us. International reactions are also shaped by power realities. We may point to parallels between our actions and those of the US but that does not guarantee an identical response from the international community. Hypocrisy is no stranger to international relations.

For these weighty reasons, it would be prudent on our part to confine ourselves to operations of a strictly covert character. Israel, more than the US, provides a model for us. We must be able, in every case, to deny our involvement with a measure of plausibility. This will help to avoid international criticism. It will also deny Pakistan a handy justification for military escalation. The public rejoicing that marked the Abbottabad operation is a luxury we cannot afford.

To sum up, our response to cross-border terrorism should include the option of covert action to eliminate the criminals in their sanctuaries in Pakistan. Precision strikes are required in order to avoid collateral damage to the innocent. Only hostile terrorists and their patrons are our enemies, not Pakistan's people.

The author is a retired ambassador






After the assembly election results became known, media attention has been focused almost entirely on West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Kerala, and the most that Assam got was a passing mention. This is not surprising because the only time the Northeast gets proper attention is when it erupts in violence. Yet it is in Assam that the Congress has won a resounding victory — something which it could not manage in Kerala, where the defeated Left breathes down its neck, or in West Bengal, where the Left Front's debacle was caused entirely by the Trinamul Congress.

In Assam, of course, this is not the first time that the Congress is in power. It had been very much on the saddle in Dispur for the last 10 years. So, it may be asked, what was big about this victory. The answer is, not only did the Congress secure absolute majority on its own but it also did that in spite of widespread allegations of corruption against the party and speculations that a change was in the offing. Yet a change did not come about, and the fact that it did not perhaps deserves greater attention.

The election results have proved that people in both the Brahmaputra Valley and the Barak Valley were not prepared to risk a change and the resultant possible uncertainty. Neither of the two principal opposition parties — the Asom Gana Parishad and the Bharatiya Janata Party — was seen as a viable alternative. The voters have had a taste of AGP-rule and, obviously, were not impressed. As for the BJP, its Hindutva image continues to keep people away from it. The party had whole-heartedly supported the anti-foreigner agitation that it thought would bring it Hindu support. But that did not happen, and the support went almost wholly to the AGP, which grew out of the agitation. This is for the simple reason that the Assamese people could not relate to a north-Indian party and felt more at home with sons of the soil.

Redeeming feature

With time, that support has also eroded. The anti-foreigner mood is not as strong now as it was three decades ago, not only in Assam but also in adjoining Meghalaya. This is because the exodus from Bangladesh today is nothing to write home about, thanks both to improved economic conditions in that country and to greater communal harmony there as a result of the protective measures taken by the home ministry. In New Delhi, the BJP may still thunder at "Muslims upsetting the demographic pattern in border states" but on the ground, there are few takers for this, as the Assam poll results have proved once again. That even the AGP was wary of the BJP becomes evident when it did not fully hitch on to the Hindutva bandwagon, keeping only the prospects of a post-poll alliance open. In such a situation, the people voted the only way they could. The BJP leadership has rued the failure to have a tie-up with the AGP, but it should have known that the latter was also eyeing the religious minority vote. The people saw this as crass opportunism. And it is quite possible that they would have seen an alliance of the two parties in a similar light. In Bihar, the Janata Dal (United) and the BJP are successfully together because of the impeccable secular credentials of the former. In Assam, a possible AGP-BJP alliance would have lacked that redeeming feature.

The results show that uppermost in the people's mind were peace and stability. And there Tarun Gogoi has scored. Eyebrows had been raised at the way in which a large section of the United Liberation Front of Asom had been given the kid-glove treatment. Resentment persists on this account. Gogoi could not have been unmindful of this mood, but he had clearly hoped that the prospect of peace will prevail ultimately. Now what needs to be watched is whether he will take similar initiatives to bring overground the Paresh Baruah faction of Ulfa or be content with giving it a long rope.


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




The steep hike in petrol prices, announced immediately after the announcement of results of Assembly elections in some states, shows the opportunistic and political nature of the decision. If rising crude prices in the international market, the finances of the Indian oil marketing companies and the subsidy burden borne by the government were issues of serious concern, the government should have had the courage to raise the retail prices earlier. The last hike was in January and even before the common people could absorb that hike and adjust their personal budgets to the new reality, they have been administered another blow. The concern over the rising subsidy seems to be disingenuous. What is real is the continuing practice of maximising government revenues even at the expense of the finances of the common people.

It is wrong to claim that the high petrol prices affect only the well-heeled sections of the population. The number of people who use two-wheelers is many times that of those who have cars. The quantity of petrol used by scooters and motor bikes, which have become means of conveyance for large numbers of average Indians, is much more than that used by cars. The hike hurts them badly. Apart from the fact that the increase is directed at those who can ill afford it, the truth is that the hike in price is avoidable.

The tax component in the price of fuels is very high. This is close to 50 per cent in some states, including Karnataka. Instead of passing on the burden of high prices to the consumers, the government can reduce the taxes on petrol, diesel and their products and absorb a major part of the rise in international prices. There are levies imposed by both Central and state governments and if they forgo a part of their revenues the common consumers can be spared the burden of hikes. Both have consistently refused to do this. Even states which criticise the Centre for the hike in fuel prices have been averse to cut local levies.

It has also been pointed out that there is much scope for oil marketing companies to increase their efficiencies and bring down costs. The figures of losses and under-recoveries  have also been questioned. It is wrong to make the people pay for the inefficiencies of oil companies. The government should withdraw the heavy hike and cut the taxes, if necessary, to help the OMCs.







The outcome of the Tamil Nadu Assembly elections holds some salutary lessons for Indian democracy. The rout of the DMK and the alliance it led shows that the ordinary voters can judge a government and the leaders of political parties much better than the media and purveyors of public opinion.

All opinion surveys had predicted a close electoral contest in the state but a tsunami of popular anger has swept the DMK off to a humiliating defeat, and given Jayalalitha's  AIADMK a three-fourths majority in the Assembly. It was the hubris and cynicism of the DMK leadership which made it think it could bribe the voters through to a victory and that was decisively rejected by the electorate when it voted the party out. Therein lies a great democratic hope.

The DMK government and the party leadership, which are one and the same, had taken the people for granted. It had thought the social security measures implemented by the government would keep the people captive to the party. But the high levels of corruption that stained the leaders' image turned the people against the party. Neither chief minister Karunanidhi nor others could offer a defence against the charges of huge corruption. Worse, they thought the people would continue to support them if they offered them largesse and promises of more goodies. The people also did not fail to notice that the DMK, which was once a people's movement, had become a family concern.

A victory for the DMK would have meant endorsement of the worst kind of family politics, corruption and lack of concern for the best norms of politics and governance. It is not that the people thought Jayalalitha would offer them a far superior government. But she offered an alternative that they could look up to. She also managed to put together an alliance which maximised her support.

The DMK had an ally in the Congress who could not contribute much by way of electoral support. The alliance itself was seen only as an opportunistic arrangement to keep power at the Centre. The DMK will need to do a lot of hard work to regain its political relevance. Jayalalitha has been sworn in chief minister for a third time. She should  concentrate on governance and refrain from the revenge politics that marked her previous terms.








If someone is consistently making a killing in the stock market, either he has 'insider' tips or he has been able to get insight through research.

Raj Rajaratnam — an MBA from Wharton, the head of the Galleon Group of hedge fund and the richest Sri Lankan — has been found guilty of 'insider trading' in the USA. What is revealing from wiretape evidence is how people like Rajaratnam routinely use their network of high flying board members and other functionaries of top rated global companies (like Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Proctor and Gamble, McKinsey and Intel) to get insider information about impending business deals (before these become public knowledge) which help them to make huge profits or avert losses.

The efficient market hypothesis says that in a well functioning share market, market price of shares would immediately reflect any publicly available information. This implies that no one can consistently beat the market and make profits in a sustained manner by day-to-day purchases and sales. Sometimes, he will make money but sometimes he will lose. Of course, someone may be lucky like heads (which a cricket captain calls) may come up for him for a consecutive 4 times in a toss. But his better than average performance in this case has nothing to do with his superior ability.

Therefore, if someone is consistently making a killing in the stock market, either he has 'insider' information which other investors do not have or he has been able to get some insight through research which less industrious investors have not been able to or he is plain lucky. Though diligent research does help (since everyone cannot have equal access to such research) people with insider information (which is not legally permissible) will always attribute his superior performance to his better research team. That is precisely what Rajaratnam has been arguing in the court which the court did not accept.

The wife of my friend often complains that her neighbour has made a fortune by playing in the stock market which his risk-averse husband is not willing to do. It is better to discount such hearsays. Apart from insider information and luck, it is also possible that the said neighbour has also lost money at times but he does not disclose that unpalatable fact even to his wife.

In the real world, a few people consistently make money in the stock market usually by using insider information until they are caught like Rajaratnam. Insider trading is widely prevalent everywhere. A much larger number of investors try their luck and lose (by buying late when the price is already at the peak and selling when the price is low). After burning fingers, they settle for safer investments like bank fixed deposits or mutual funds.

Risk-free investments

Mutual fund (MF) investment over a long period of time would typically give higher returns than risk-free investments like bank fixed deposits. This has to be the case. More risky investments must yield a higher average return over a period of time than risk-free assets — otherwise no one will invest in MFs. But the credit for higher returns from MFs does not usually belong to the highly paid fund managers. Experiments have been conducted where a chimpanzee has been given a dart to throw at 'Wall Street Journal' stock pages.

The portfolio of companies hit by the dart has been found to do as well as that chosen by professional money mangers. This shows that the trick behind higher average return from MFs basically lies in diversification, rather than anything else.

In other words, it is very difficult to get consistently high returns by buying and selling a few selected shares. Hedge funds which promised and even delivered such consistently high returns for some time eventually turned out to be relying on insider information or indulging in outright fraud.

Bernard Madoff — the operator of the world's largest hedge fund — is a recent case where he was found to be running a Ponzi scheme under which he was paying returns much above market rates to earlier clients simply by using a part of the money that new investors were bringing to him. This scheme can work only so long as the inflow of fresh funds was greater than the outflow on account of high payout. It can not continue for ever. Incidentally, Madoff was the chairman of Nasdaq for some time — so it was easy for him to make wealthy investors believe in his superior ability to deliver consistently higher returns by using his 'insights'.

So, the basic lesson for ordinary investors (who do not have rich father-in-laws to bail them out) from all such episodes is that they should invest their money in safe avenues like post office schemes and bank fixed deposits, supplemented by some portion of their portfolio (depending on the individual's capacity to bear risks and liquidity requirements) invested in mutual funds for a longer time. They should not try to make quick bucks by buying and selling individual stocks by taking 'expert' advice from neighbours or even professional money mangers or brokers.

Never forget that professional investment advisors play with other people's money (they seldom invest their own money unless they have insider information and in such cases they will usually not disclose that information to any one else) and their income mainly comes from commissions, irrespective of whether the investor acting on his advice gains or loses.

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








Osama did not build an organisation that would die with him, nor would it end with him.
There is no evidence that Osama bin Laden planned the attacks of Sept 11, 2001, just as there was no evidence that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, the pretext used for the 2003 US attack on Iraq. Osama applauded 9/11, but that falls under freedom of speech.

If he was unarmed in a bedroom and did not engage in a firefight, his killing amounts to extrajudicial execution. Those who celebrate it are legitimising an approach that may be applied to themselves. To refer to the western reaction as medieval insults the Middle Ages. It is western civilisation that is in decline, leaving behind its important achievements.


Osama's terrorism is of course totally unacceptable and violates Quranic teachings. But killing him does not kill his cause. It will rather provoke more terrorism to avenge his death. And Obama's massive violation of Pakistani sovereignty will backfire. Obama has now surpassed George W Bush — at war with two Muslim countries, Iraq and Afghanistan — by adding four more: Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Libya. Is Syria next?

What has been said is not a defence of al-Qaeda's nor Osama's violence, nor of 9/11. The former, in the words of Osama, is struggle for Islam, the latter was struggle against economic and military manifestations of the US empire. The thinking of the planners of 9/11 has been covered up by the FBI-CIA; they evidently hated US economic and military activity.


No western analyst has cared to check what happened 'more than 80 years' earlier: the Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916, promising the Arab countries in the Ottoman empire freedom if they joined the fight against the empire, which they did, and then colonising them; the Balfour declaration of 1917, promising Palestine to Jewish settlers; and the 1918 Allied occupation of Istanbul.

Obama's rhetoric is also attractive, his actions less; we must focus on both. That the CIA needed 10 years to track Osama down is no surprise. It failed to foresee the Soviet thermonuclear bomb, Sputnik, the Berlin Wall, the nuclear missiles in Cuba, the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia and the end of the Cold War. Central, Yes; Agency, Yes; Intelligence, No.

That Pakistan, a Muslim country, whose border with Afghanistan was arbitrarily drawn by a western power, plays a double game surprises nobody except the US. In addition, Obama, a social worker from Chicago, lacks experience in foreign affairs and is victim of dark forces.

The reaction of Osama's admirers is predictable. "Al-Qaeda members promise a series of further attacks which 'will even make the hair of babies turn grey', and call for Pakistanis to rise up against their government." "Are the Americans able to kill what Osama lived and fought for, even with all their soldiers, intelligence and agencies? Never! Never! Osama did not build an organisation that would die with him, nor would end with him. If the light of Islam and jihad could disappear with the killing or death of just one person, it would have gone the day Prophet Mohammed died holding the flag of truth in their hands..."

The al-Qaeda story, while bad and violent, at least hangs together; Washington's doesn't. It is changing by the day, even by the hour, blaming the fog of war, not the fog in the minds of the committees composing those stories.

Is there any way out? One could wish that Osama had sent hundreds of Muslim women dressed in black to surround each US embassy, demanding, nonviolently, a dialogue. One could wish that the US empire were open to dialogue and conflict resolution. But Obama is as far from that as Osama was from nonviolence.

Milosevic, Khatami, Saddam Hussein all wanted dialogue, Gadhafi calls for a ceasefire with dialogue. Washington wants one thing: 'regime change,' getting rid of the person they have demonised to the point that they believe his disappearance will solve the conflict. They feed that dish to subservient media and a US public praying 'give us today our daily lies.'

And yet there are two roads to peace. One passes through denying them support, isolating them, not joining as allies. The other passes through healing the past, the 27 or so western attacks on Islam since 1830. A process of reconciliation is needed. This is unlikely to come from the bastions of western arrogance, but maybe it could from others.

Both, Obama and Osama are extremely violent, killing civilians en masse. Both are rhetorically gifted and intelligent. But one is on the side of history, fighting, however wrongly, for the wrongfully suppressed, and the other is fighting for the wrongful suppressors, for a dying empire, against history.







Someone had filched one of my boxes of cheese from right under my nose.

My morning at the supermarket was buzzing along most satisfactorily. I had a long shopping list in hand and as far as I could see, this was my lucky day. Everything I wanted was right there, under one roof. A top priority on my list was two boxes of a particular brand of cheese cubes, and there, sitting on the shelf, waiting just for me, were the very last two boxes in the store. Into the trolley they went with a sigh of triumph and relief. I moved on down the aisle, collected a few more things that I required, and headed towards the cash counter, feeling absolutely chuffed.

I watched as the assistant billed each of the items I had picked up, and was surprised to find that there was only one box of cheese cubes in the trolley. "There should be two boxes," I told her. "Just one here, Ma'am," she said. "You're sure? That's funny, I know I picked up two". So she checked again. Nope. Just one box of cheese cubes now sitting in solitary splendour on the counter top. Both of us looked around to see if a box six inches in diameter had miraculously managed to slip through mesh that was barely two and a half inches in width. No box in sight.

I had no choice but to come to the sorry conclusion that while I had been merrily humming to myself while getting the last of my requirements, someone had just as merrily filched one of my boxes of cheese from right under my nose.

This being one of the new upmarket stores frequented by the well-heeled, and supposedly well educated, I was disgusted that someone could have done something so cheap. I guess having money doesn't guarantee having class, I thought to myself, unhappily.

As I got into the car, I recalled an incident that took place in yet another supermarket, not too long ago. I remember reaching out to pick up a couple of bottles of ginger ale only to find another hand reaching for them too. I looked up into the face of my competitor, and both of us broke into grins.

"Go ahead", he said to me, "You can have them". "No, you go ahead," I said to him, "I can get this another time". "Tell you what", he said, "Why don't we each take one, that way, we're both happy".

So that's what we did. And that's what we were.  I remember leaving that store with a warm, fuzzy glow. That pleasant, courteous exchange with a total stranger, had lasted no more than an instant, but had made a difference to my day. So unlike the way I felt today... quite literally, cheesed off.








How natural it is for Israeli spokesmen to assert that the Nakba Day marches from Syria and Lebanon were the product of incitement and foreign calculations. The state, which bases its existence on 2,000 years of longing for and belonging to this country, shows contempt toward palpable displays of belonging to and longing for the same country of those who we expelled 63 years ago - and of their descendants.

The memorial day for the Holocaust, and the memorial day for the Nakba, are behind us. So the time has come to write about them both. "Holocaust" and "Nakba" are mistaken definitions, because they do not distinguish between natural disasters and man-made catastrophes. But the definitions gained currency. So too did negative attitudes, such as the denial of the historical occurrence and its political implications. For example, that Jewish survivors became refugees in their own lands of birth, or that Palestinians in the diaspora and those who remained in the country share a close bond.

Another example would be the refusal to acknowledge the suffering endured by the other. Here it will be said "the Arabs started the war", and there it will be said "the Jews caused the Nakba - the expulsion of the Palestinian people from its homeland, whereas the Palestinians bear no responsibility for the Holocaust - the genocide of the Jewish people."

In a private, personal sense, the Holocaust did not become the "past;" for those who survived it, it continues until they die. Something of this ever-painful continuousness is dictating - to a greater or lesser degree - our own lives, as the offspring of the survivors.

In contrast, with regard to the Jewish collective that came into existence after 1945, the Holocaust has a beginning and an end. The Allies' victory before Germany had time to extinguish additional Jewish communities, the establishment of the State of Israel, Germany's acknowledgment of the murder industry it established - all such events marked the end of this chapter of history.

The same for individual Palestinians, their beloved one who were murdered by Jews or killed in battles, the painful uprooting from homes - never turned into sheer memory. But 1948 is just a first chapter in a series that hasn't ended yet. For those who haven't experienced expulsion and bereavement - Israel provided ample opportunities to share such fate.

How much skill has Israel displayed in the wrong-doing to refugees in Gaza? How many times a week do the "present absentees," refugees who live within the borders of the state, pass by lands which were given to Jews at the behest of the legislators' cunning? What are the statistics of chronic poverty and structural discrimination faced by the "Arab sector" in Israel, and by Palestinian Jerusalemites, if not a nakba by other means?

And what is the sickening similarity between the pressuring of Bedouin away from Negev lands today and the removal of 1948 refugee Bedouin in the Jordan Valley? How is it that after 1967 tens of thousands lost their right to live in the West Bank (including Jerusalem ) and the Gaza Strip? Israel did not overcome its instinct to expel, and is today focusing on the Palestinian citizens of Israel.

Every Jew in the world, whether a citizen of the U.S. or Morocco, has rights in this one country, from the river to the sea, that we denied to those who live in it today, and those who were born in it and grow old as refugees in Lebanon or Syria. And the Oslo process? Israel devised it as a stratagem to impose the solution of reservations.

Israel makes capital out of the six million to justify policies of destruction and expulsion not just in the past, but in the present and future. As the state which claims to be the heir of the Holocaust martyrs, Israel crowns itself as the winner in the global, historical competition of victimhood. Yet it manufactures methods of oppression and dispossession of the individual and the collective, methods which turn the Nakba into a continuing, 63-year process.





In an op-ed piece in yesterday's New York Times, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas wrote that the Palestinian initiative to obtain international recognition for an independent state along the 1967 borders is not a stunt.

Approaching the United Nations, he wrote, was aimed at assuring the basic right of the Palestinian people to live freely in an independent state along the June 4, 1967 borders, i.e., in 22% of Mandatory Palestine.

Abbas repeated the Arab League formula for a just and agreed-upon solution to the refugee problem on the basis of UN Security Council Resolution 194. He also said that the decision to approach the international community came after years of fruitless negotiations with Israel about permanent arrangements, and Israel's continuing control of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's address to the Knesset plenum on Monday strengthens the Palestinian claim that direct diplomacy with Israel is a dead end, and justifies the Palestinians' petition to the United Nations.

Only minutes after praising Theodor Herzl, who in fact knew how to adapt his vision to changing realities, Netanyahu sketched out a diplomatic plan devoid of vision and totally detached from the new reality developing in the region.

On the eve of his meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama and his address to a joint session of Congress, Netanyahu presented obsolete positions. He refrained from mentioning the 1967 borders as a starting point for a final-status arrangement, and committed to demanding a military presence along the Jordan River, to perpetuating the annexation of East Jerusalem and to demanding Palestinian recognition of Israel as the home of the Jewish people.

The prime minister even made canceling the reconciliation agreement between Fatah and Hamas a condition for resuming negotiations.

Government policy, as expressed in Netanyahu's speech, will end up isolating Israel to a point that it could face economic and cultural sanctions similar to those once imposed on apartheid South Africa. Responsibility for such a crisis will lay squarely on the shoulders of the prime minister and his colleagues at the top of the diplomatic ladder. The price will be paid by the public, partying on a slippery slope.






Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's foreign-policy address to the Knesset on Monday made one thing clear: He is preparing for a confrontation with the Palestinians. On the eve of his trip to the United States, Netanyahu sought to muster public opinion and create internal unity. The purpose of his trip to Washington is to maintain U.S. support for Israel ahead of the third intifada.

Netanyahu's situation assessment is chilling. The Middle East is in the throes of instability. Iran and its allies, Hezbollah and Hamas - "the new oppressor," as Netanyahu called them, using a word reserved for some of the greatest villains in Jewish history - seek to destroy Israel and the Jewish people. Israel has no Palestinian partner for negotiations and a peace agreement, and there will be no such partner in the years ahead.

In the pivotal portion of his speech, Netanyahu referred to the Palestinian girl at the Nakba Day demonstration in Bil'in who held a large key. "Every Palestinian understands what key this is. It is not the key to their homes in Bil'in or Nablus or Ramallah, it is the key to our homes in Jaffa, Acre, Haifa and Ramle." The message is clear: We are fighting for our homes. "They" want to get rid of us and establish Palestine on the ruins of Israel. Now is the time to dig in and and fight them.

On Nakba Day this week, the Palestinians outflanked Israel in the public consciousness front. Instead of violent demonstrations in the territories, they emerged from refugee camps in Syria, Lebanon and the Gaza Strip and headed for Israel's northern and southern border fences. They want to inculcate their narrative in Western public opinion: They are unarmed demonstrators who have come to demand justice and realize their right of return. No terror, no suicide bombers, only nonviolent protest against oppression and humiliation, like Mahatma Gandhi and the protesters in Cairo's Tahrir Square.

The self-evident analogy to Zionist history are the illegal immigrants' ships that broke the British regime in Palestine. On the operational level, the British could deal with the illegal immigration: They intercepted most of the ships on the high seas and brought their passengers to prison camps in Cyprus. But they could not cope with the superiority of consciousness of a beaten people, a third of whose number had been murdered in the Holocaust and whose survivors sought to return to their historical homeland. The Palestinians now want to do the same thing to Israel: They are marching toward the land of their fathers with flags and patriotic songs, and the Zionist enemy is driving them out with guns toward the horror of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas underscored this narrative in his op-ed in The New York Times yesterday , which focused on the expulsion of the Palestinians from their homes in 1948. (He ignored their refusal to accept the United Nations Partition Plan, and their war against the Jews in pre-state Palestine. ) Abbas wrote that international recognition of Palestine and its acceptance into the UN would be compensation for the injustices of the past and would grant the Palestinians the diplomatic and legal tools to continue their struggle to eject Israel from the territories.

Netanyahu declared Monday that the Palestinian unity government of Abbas and Hamas would not be a partner for peace, and thus had put an end to any chance of negotiations. So as not to be accused of intransigence, he incorporated in his address two signals of future flexibility. His demand for the presence of the Israel Defense Forces on the outer border of Palestine was limited to "the Jordan Valley' and the "Jordan River," as counseled by Defense Minister Ehud Barak. Netanyahu also insisted on holding on to the large settlement blocs in the West Bank, and implied that what is outside the settlement blocs is open to negotiation. That is not a new position; he considered including it in his so-called Bar-Ilan speech of two years ago, and decided that it was too soon. Since then he has visited Ma'aleh Adumim, Ariel and Gush Etzion and declared that they would remain forever in Israeli hands. He did not say such things about Kiryat Arba or Itamar.

Netanyahu's remarks are good for fans of nuance and iteration, but are meaningless on the ground. Netanyahu will have to make good in some way on the U.S. pledge that Palestine will be created only through negotiation, and not unilaterally. He threw out two dry bones, and tomorrow he will receive recompense from President Barack Obama. The Israeli public will also find it easier to support the government if it is convinced that the government is prepared to "give up parts of the homeland" in exchange for peace.

Monday's "intifada of the fences" this week was the first taste of the approaching clash with the Palestinians. Netanyahu wants to arrive there prepared, with the public and the Americans at his side. That will be his focus in Washington.






The events of Nakba Day, which pivoted around Palestinians encroaching Israel's border from Syria, point to three main factors that motivate infiltration activity into the country, and determine whether such activity succeeds or fails. They are nothing new in the history of the Israeli-Palestinian-Arab dispute, but in view of the Arab uprisings and anticipated international recognition of a Palestinian state in September, Israel needs to take steps unlike those taken in the past. The policy change will prevent declarations of the sort issued at Majdal Shams - "we managed to do what all the Arab states together have been unable to do" - from being repeated.

The three factors in question are the motivation levels of Palestinian demonstrators, the interests of the host-dispatching state, and actions taken by Israel. On the Golan Heights this week, the three melded together: There was high Palestinian motivation, the Syrians had an interest in the infiltration effort, and Israeli actions were inept. As a result, Syrian and Palestinian flags flew on territory annexed to Israel. At Maroun a-Ras in Lebanon, Israeli actions and Lebanese involvement, which resulted in bloodshed, sufficed to prevent this from happening. At the Erez checkpoint in the south, Israeli activity by itself stopped such encroachment; and in most regions of the West Bank, the Palestinian Authority took steps to ensure that demonstrations at venues under its jurisdiction would not spin out of control.

Events of this sort have shadowed Israel since the end of the 1948 War of Independence. Israel has responded to them in different ways, depending on its capabilities, and positions taken by the Arab states and the international community. Israel blocked infiltrators in the 1950s by loosening rules of engagement, undertaking reprisal raids and settling areas conquered during the war.

Since then, fences and minefields were set up along Israel's borders, and Israel also took various steps to deter the "host" states. In tandem, Israel pursued diplomatic solutions in the form of interim agreements and peace accords; and these limited such encroachment efforts. Taken together, all these steps yielded four decades of quiet on the Golan Heights, and also Jordan's successful efforts to thwart infiltration efforts from its territory to Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refuses to discern significant differences between current realities and those of past decades. Most states of the world are poised to recognize the Palestinian state, whose projected leadership respects UN resolutions. Israel faces a delegitimization campaign, and mounting isolation. Under such circumstances, Israel cannot vent its passions and invest in preemptive actions, obstacles and lethal threats. Israel has long borders, and it lacks the ability to deploy for prolonged periods the number of troops needed to deal with infiltration attempts. As Defense Minister Ehud Barak put it, "there's no way to deploy thousands of soldiers at each part of the border."

Widespread recognition of the Palestinian state, the lack of a diplomatic process and the transfer of demands for freedom from the arena of Arab states to Israel's own domestic arena dictate a change in Israel's policies. Israel should go back to pressuring the "hosting-dispatching" states to restrain the Palestinian refugees. Israel should also take up the search for a solution to the refugee issue.

For close to a decade, the Arab League's proposal for an end to the dispute and normalization, including an "agreed-upon arrangement" regarding the refugee issue, has been sitting on Israel's desk. The disagreement between Israel and the PLO on the refugee issue, an argument that has flared from Camp David to Annapolis, has dwindled down to a negligible amount of returning refugees. Thus Netanyahu should take responsibility for Israel's future, and sit down at the negotiation table for talks based on parameters that his predecessors accepted.






Over the next few months it will be impossible to mention International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn without adding a form of the word "allegedly." Yes, these are other people's troubles (for once ), but the story of his (alleged, alleged! ) attempted rape of a New York hotel maid provides an opportunity to get a glimpse of French political culture and learn a thing or two from it about the goings-on in our own region.

And so it seems that this talented, respected and strong man - some say he is also a charming hedonist - was caught with his pants down. Allegedly. This isn't the first time he has been in such a situation. Four years ago the young French journalist Tristane Banon claimed that Strauss-Kahn had sexually assaulted her in 2002. But her mother, a regional official in Strauss-Kahn's Socialist Party, asked her not to file a complaint. Now the mother says she regrets her stance, and confirms that Banon suffered as a result of the (alleged ) assault.

Pornography, it has been said, is a matter of geography. And in France's case, geography carries a lot of weight. Anyone now watching the 2007 episode of the French television show "93 Faubourg Saint-Honore" in which Banon told the story of her (alleged ) assault would scarcely believe their eyes. Every time Banon mentions the name of the senior political figure she is accusing, the name is bleeped out. The conversation takes place at a long table, as a pastry chef puts the finishing touches on the fancy dessert he will serve the program's guests and the show's popular host, Thierry Ardisson, chuckles and says: "Okay, it's well-known that he's obsessed with girls." The other guests, including public figures, are smiling.

Now we can expect to hear other stories that were never told or were silenced. They will reveal more than Strauss-Kahn's alleged impropriety; they will expose French society, which worships power and money (even though money is often seen as a "dirty" issue that no one wants to talk about ), believes that all is permitted to certain people and is still outrageously chauvinistic. The attempts by a few feminists possessed of rare courage and intellect to change this behavior pattern, which masks a conservative boorishness with elegant ceremonial etiquette, have succeeded only at the margins. In France, rich, strong and powerful men are granted sweeping immunity, while beautiful and successful women stand in the background devotedly defending them.

The perverted French attitude veers between a smiling forgiveness of those who "like women" or "chase skirts" - some of whom appear to need strong tranquilizers - and an extreme and misplaced deference to power brokers.

"I didn't want to be remembered forever as that girl who complained about Strauss-Kahn," said Banon. Figures in her mother's circle no doubt explained to her that it wasn't worth damaging the brilliant career of a man who could be headed for the Elysee Palace and being remembered as the little blonde who brought down the Socialist Party. Maybe some people reprimanded her for going to his place in the first place, because "it's well-known that he's obsessed with girls" and she should have been more careful when she went to his apartment.

What does it matter that he was a public figure several decades her elder, married and the father of her best friend? Really, will anyone believe her when she says he demanded that she hold his hand, then his arm and then another body part, or that when she refused he shoved her to the floor and ripped her bra? Allegedly, of course.

Does any of this ring a bell? Yes and no. Israeli society is depicted as more confused and less unequivocal about these kinds of cases. To our credit it should be noted that we did not wait for the New York Police Department to get involved in matters concerning those who wield authority in this country; we did the work ourselves.

But we still have a long way to go before we treat those public figures with the same dry, egalitarian, uncompromising severity that led New York's finest to the first-class section of an Air France plane to remove the alleged sexual assailant.



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





It should be no surprise that the ferment in the Arab world has touched the Palestinians, whose promised two-state solution is no closer than ever. On Sunday, the anniversary of Israel's creation, thousands marching from Syria, Gaza, Lebanon and the West Bank breached Israel's borders and confronted Israeli troops. More than a dozen people were killed; scores were injured.


According to The Times's Ethan Bronner, the protests were coordinated via social media, but they also appeared to have support from Lebanon and President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, who is eager to divert attention from his crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators.


Israel must defend its territory. But the protests and the casualties might have been avoided if credible peace negotiations were under way. Since President Obama took office, Israeli and Palestinian leaders have had just three weeks of direct talks. Last week, George Mitchell, Mr. Obama's Middle East envoy, quit.


There is blame all around: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, who is scheduled to meet with Mr. Obama at the White House on Friday, has shown little interest in negotiations and has used the regional turmoil as one more excuse to hunker down. Arab leaders haven't given him much incentive to compromise. President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority wants a deal but seemed to give up after Mr. Obama couldn't deliver a promised settlement freeze.


President Obama has done far too little to break the stalemate. As he prepares to give a speech on Thursday on the Arab Spring, the White House signaled that he is unlikely to offer any new initiative to revive peace talks.


Frankly, we do not see how Mr. Obama can talk persuasively about transformation in the Arab world without showing Palestinians a peaceful way forward. It is time for Mr. Obama, alone or with crucial allies, to put a map and a deal on the table. The two sides will not break the impasse by themselves.


This is a singular moment of great opportunity and challenge in the Arab world. The United States and other democracies cannot dictate the outcome but must invest maximum effort and creativity to help shape it. There is no one-size-fits-all doctrine for dealing with disparate countries. The United States and its allies are right to balance values and strategic interests.


Still Mr. Obama can use the speech to articulate principles that Arab countries should follow as a condition of Western economic and political support: democratic elections, free markets, peaceful relations with neighboring states — including Israel — rights for women and minorities, the rule of law.


He should press American allies to lay out similar principles when the Group of 8 industrialized nations meets this month in France and back them up with clear offers of support. The United States and its allies must help Tunisia and Egypt — their struggles have inspired the region — weather severe economic problems, providing debt relief, trade and access to international financial institutions. Civil society groups need support.


President Obama raised great hopes in 2009 when he spoke in Cairo about "a new beginning" with the Muslim world. The glow has faded. He has another chance this week to bolster this country's image and to help support democratic change in the region. Reviving the peace process must be part of that effort. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict wasn't central to protests in Egypt, Libya or Syria. But as Mr. Assad proved, it is still a far too potent weapon for autocrats and extremists.








At long last, there may be a serious investigation into the mortgage mess — the kind that results in clarity as well as big fines and maybe even accountability.


Gretchen Morgenson reported in The Times on Tuesday that Eric Schneiderman, the New York attorney general, wants to discuss mortgage operations during the housing bubble with executives of Bank of America, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley. He has also requested documents and information from the banks, examined material given to his predecessor, Andrew Cuomo, and studied issues raised in lawsuits against the banks.


Mr. Schneiderman would not comment on the investigation. What is needed is a broad inquiry into how banks inflated the housing bubble, profiting as it expanded and getting bailed out when it burst — leaving investors and homeowners devastated.


Any serious investigation must take a close look at "securitization" — the pooling of thousands of home loans into securities that were sold to investors the world over. Three years after it all imploded — and even after Congress vowed to get answers and names — Americans still don't have answers to vitally important questions.


Topping the list: Did the big banks know (if not, why not?) that billions in loans and related securities were destined to fail? Did they intentionally mislead investors and insurers or were they just incompetent?


An investigation must also figure out the extent of wrongdoing in Wall Street practices that fed the securitization pipeline. By extending credit to mortgage lenders, Wall Street allowed them to make loans far longer than they otherwise could have. Did Wall Street purposely inflate the bubble when it enabled loans to uncreditworthy borrowers for unreasonably priced homes?


All indications are that last year's robo-signing scandal, in which banks were found to have filed false court documents in foreclosure cases, was just the tip of an iceberg. A growing body of Congressional testimony, academic research, court cases and other evidence suggests pervasive defects, and potentially vast lawbreaking, in the securitization and foreclosure process.


It has also been suggested that federal and state officials have ignored or played down allegations of widespread illegality, a charge that is all too easy to believe. A recent federal investigation into banks' foreclosure abuses ended with a wrist slap. Talks between state attorneys general and banks over those abuses appear hamstrung, in part, by the apparent failure of state officials to do a thorough investigation on which to base demands for meaningful reforms and stiff penalties.


It is critical that someone stand up and say "no" to allegations that go unexamined, to wrongdoing without redress. Mr. Schneiderman, it's up to you.







Mayor Michael Bloomberg didn't make many friends when he offered his own idea for saving Detroit, which has lost one-fourth of its population over the last decade.


Speaking on "Meet the Press" on NBC earlier this month, he suggested that Congress "pass a law letting immigrants come in as long as they agree to go to Detroit and live there for five or 10 years, start businesses, take jobs, whatever.  You would populate Detroit overnight because half the world wants to come here."


Detroiters like Mayor Dave Bing were displeased (the fact that Mr. Bloomberg had called him a "great mayor" didn't quell his pique). "I don't know what he was on," Mr. Bing said, pointing out that his city had scarcely enough jobs to sustain the people already there. Yet Mr. Bloomberg had the big picture exactly right: immigrants and economic vitality go together. That was certainly the experience of New York City, which was on life support in the 1970s until a transfusion of immigrant energy and entrepreneurship brought it roaring back.


Renewal by immigrants is the fundamental American narrative, the story of people in ships, then covered wagons, coming to settle and make fruitful a land that rewarded their courage and grit. Except now that story is scorned and discarded, along with many of those immigrants.


Bills to streamline and increase legal immigration die in Congress. There are no visas of the type Mr. Bloomberg imagines, though we could use immigrant entrepreneurs in Detroit, Buffalo, New York City — all over. Nearly 150 years after President Lincoln signed the Homestead Act, the new frontier is in the inner city, not way out West. There is no federal or state Department of Urban Homesteading, but — DUH — maybe there should be.










Oh, she wanted it.


She wanted it bad.


That's what every hard-working, God-fearing, young widow who breaks her back doing menial labor at a Times Square hotel to support her teenage daughter, justify her immigration status and take advantage of the opportunities in America wants — a crazed, rutting, wrinkly old satyr charging naked out of a bathroom, lunging at her and dragging her around the room, caveman-style.


Dominique Strauss-Kahn's reputation as a thrice-married French seducer loses something in the translation.


According to the claims of the 32-year-old West African maid, what took place in the $3,000-a-day Sofitel suite had nothing to do with seduction. If the allegation is true, Strauss-Kahn's behavior, boorish and primitive, is rape.


Was the chief of the International Monetary Fund telling other countries to tighten their belts while he was dropping his trousers? Lawyers for the 62-year-old Frenchman, who had been a leading Socialist prospect to run against Nicolas Sarkozy next year, seem ready to rebut any DNA evidence by arguing that sex with the maid who came in to clean his room was consensual.


Will they argue that she wilted with desire once she realized Strauss-Kahn had been at Davos?


Jeffrey Shapiro, the maid's lawyer, angrily rebutted that there was "nothing, nothing" consensual about the droit du monsieur. (It was not a "come in and see my monetary fund" kind of thing.)


"She is a simple housekeeper who was going into a room to clean a room," Shapiro told The Times. He called the devout Muslim woman from the Bronx "a very proper, dignified young woman" and said "she did not even know who this guy was" until she saw the news accounts.


Strauss-Kahn's French defenders are throwing around nutty conspiracy theories, sounding like the Pakistanis about Osama. Some have suggested that he was the victim of a honey-pot arranged by the Sarkozy forces.


Bernard-Henri Lévy, a friend of the accused, says he is outraged at the portrayal of Strauss-Kahn as an "insatiable and malevolent beast." He wrote on The Daily Beast: "It would be nice to know — and without delay — how a chambermaid could have walked in alone, contrary to the habitual practice of most of New York's grand hotels of sending a 'cleaning brigade' of two people, into the room of one of the most closely watched figures on the planet."


At least he didn't mention Dreyfus.


For years, I've stayed at the Sofitel and other hotels in New York City, and I've never seen a "brigade," simply single maids coming in to clean.


In Washington, they have now nicknamed the street that separates the I.M.F. and the World Bank, where Paul Wolfowitz lost his job over financial hanky-panky with his girlfriend, the Boulevard of Bad Behavior.


These are the two institutions that are globally renowned for lecturing the rest of the world on discipline and freedom, when it's the West that's guilty of recklessness and improvident behavior. First in finance, then in sex.


People who can't keep their flies zipped lecturing other people.


While the French excoriated the American system of justice — discouraging pictures of Strauss-Kahn handcuffed, which are illegal in France — Americans could pride themselves on the sound of the "bum-bum" "Law & Order: SVU" gong sounding, the noise that heralds that justice will be done without regard to wealth, class or privilege.


It's an inspiring story about America, where even a maid can have dignity and be listened to when she accuses one of the most powerful men in the world of being a predator. (A charge that has been made against him before, with a similar pattern of brutal behavior.)


The young woman escaped horrors in her native Guinea, a patriarchal society where rape is widespread and used as a device of war, a place where she would have been kicked to the curb if she tried to take on a powerful man. When she faced the horror here, she had a recourse.


Another famous European with a disturbing pattern of sexual aggression got in trouble over the help this week: The ex-governor of California, who got elected after his wife, Maria Shriver, defended him so eloquently against groping charges.


Arnold Schwarzenegger was also guilty of the raw assertion of male power. More than mere infidelity, The Sperminator was caught on lying and piggishness, having a son with a staffer around the same time Maria had their youngest son, who is now 13. He kept the staffer on the payroll and even may have brought the son Maria didn't know about into the house. No wonder Maria fled to a Beverly Hills hotel.


We're always fascinated with the contradiction that cosmopolitan, high-powered, multilingual people can behave in such primitive ways. But civilization and morality have nothing to do with sophistication and social status.


The lesson of these two fallen grandees, as Bill Maher told Chris Matthews, is: "If you're going to go after the household help, get a 'Yes,' first."








Reading the headlines from the Middle East these days — Christians and Muslims clashing in Egypt, Syria attempting to crush its democracy rebellion and Palestinians climbing over fences into Israel — you get the sense of a region where the wheels could really start to come off.


In such a moment, President Obama has to show the same decisiveness he showed in tracking down Osama bin Laden. A useful analogy for this moment comes from climate science, where a popular motto says: Given how much climate change is already baked into our future, the best we can do now is manage the unavoidable and avoid the unmanageable.


In Middle East terms, the "unmanageable" we have to avoid is another war between Israel and any of its neighbors. The "unavoidable" we have to manage is dealing with what is certain to be a much more unstable Arab world, sitting atop the world's largest oil reserves. The strategy we need is a serious peace policy combined with a serious energy policy.


Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu of Israel is always wondering why his nation is losing support and what the world expects of a tiny country surrounded by implacable foes. I can't speak for the world, but I can speak for myself. I have no idea whether Israel has a Palestinian or Syrian partner for a secure peace that Israel can live with. But I know this: With a more democratic and populist Arab world in Israel's future, and with Israel facing the prospect of having a minority of Jews permanently ruling over a majority of Arabs — between Israel and the West Bank, which could lead to Israel being equated with apartheid South Africa all over the world — Israel needs to use every ounce of its creativity to explore ways to securely cede the West Bank to a Palestinian state.


I repeat: It may not be possible. But Netanyahu has not spent his time in office using Israel's creativity to find ways to do such a deal. He has spent his time trying to avoid such a deal — and everyone knows it. No one is fooled.


Israel is in a dangerous situation. For the first time in its history, it has bad relations with all three regional superpowers — Turkey, Iran and Egypt — plus rapidly eroding support in Europe. America is Israel's only friend today. These strains are not all Israel's fault by any means, especially with Iran, but Israel will never improve ties with Egypt, Turkey and Europe without a more serious effort to safely get out of the West Bank.


The only way for Netanyahu to be taken seriously again is if he risks some political capital and actually surprises people. Bibi keeps hinting that he is ready for painful territorial compromises involving settlements. Fine, put a map on the table. Let's see what you're talking about. Or how about removing the illegal West Bank settlements built by renegade settler groups against the will of Israel's government. Either move would force Israel's adversaries to take Bibi seriously and would pressure Palestinians to be equally serious.


Absent that, it's just silly for us to have Netanyahu addressing the U.S. Congress when he needs to be addressing Palestinians down the street. And it is equally silly for the Palestinians to be going to the United Nations for a state when they need to be persuading Israelis why a Hamas-Fatah rapprochement is in their security interest.


As for managing the unavoidable, well, Obama just announced that he was opening up more federal areas for oil exploration, as Republicans have demanded. Great: Let's make America even more dependent on an energy resource, the price of which is certain to go up as the world's population increases and the greatest reserves of which lie beneath what is now the world's most politically unstable region.


Frankly, I have no problem with more oil drilling, as long as it is done under the highest environmental standards. I have no problem with more nuclear power, if you can find a utility ready to put up the money. My problem is with an energy policy that focuses exclusively on oil drilling and nuclear power. That is not an energy policy. That is a policy for campaign donations. It will have no impact at the pump.


A real energy policy is a system. It has to start with a national renewable energy standard that requires every utility to build up their use of renewable energy — wind, solar, hydro, nuclear, bio — to 20 percent of their total output by 2020. This would be accompanied with higher auto mileage standards and higher national appliance and building efficiency standards. All these standards would then be reinforced with a price on carbon. That is how you get higher energy prices but lower energy bills, because efficiency improvements mean everyone uses less.


We are going to have to raise taxes. Why not a carbon tax that also reduces energy consumption, drives innovation, cleans the air and reduces our dependence on the Middle East?


We don't want the Arab democracy rebellions to stop, but no one can predict how they will end. The smart thing for us and Israel to do is avoid what we can't manage, and manage what we can't avoid. Right now we're doing neither.








HERE'S an often overlooked bit of music history: Gustav Mahler, who died in Vienna a century ago today, was a New Yorker for the last three years of his life and, for that brief time, arguably the most famous musician in town. It's not a trivial point — as a conductor at the Metropolitan Opera and then at the New York Philharmonic, he set musical standards that resonate even today.

New York has always held its conductors in chief close. Mahler was followed by Arturo Toscanini, who ruled the musical scene for nearly half a century. New York's love affair with Leonard Bernstein was long and adoring, while James Levine is no less appreciated today, as we celebrate his 40 years at the Met and worry over his health.

Despite his short time among us, Mahler left as large a footprint as his successors. Already a world-famous composer and conductor, he was hired by the Met in 1907, and he arrived with a reputation as an autocrat who demanded nothing less than perfection.

In his previous post at the Vienna Court Opera, this newspaper reported at the time, this "martinet" had "reformed everything ... He was orchestral conductor, singer, actor, stage manager, scenic painter, costumer." Worse still, Mahler was rumored to be a difficult, even neurotic personality more interested in composing endless symphonies no one wanted to hear than in working in an opera house.

All that was bad news for Met artists and administrators accustomed to more easygoing managers. They were also used to conductors who specialized in one style, be it Mozart, Wagner or the latest contemporary novelties. Mahler could do them all, and expected his performers to follow suit.

The skeptics could not have been more wrong. Mahler turned out to be a charismatic and supremely well-organized conductor who knew precisely what he wanted from an orchestra and how to get it. He continued his exacting work methods at the Met, making his debut on New Year's Day 1908 with a painstakingly prepared performance of Wagner's "Tristan und Isolde" that was enthusiastically applauded by the city's music critics for its "finely spun texture" and "iridescent web of tone."

Mahler then demanded, and received, an unprecedented 15 rehearsals for Mozart's "Don Giovanni," which had long been presented by the Met, according to music critic W. J. Henderson, as "a bargain-counter attraction." He forged an immaculate ensemble guaranteed to make connoisseurs of "golden age" singers salivate, including Emma Eames, Marcella Sembrich and Feodor Chaliapin. Then Mahler turned to Beethoven's "Fidelio." After the final curtain, wrote Henderson, "the house went crazy."

Unfortunately for Mahler, and the Met, it was over all too soon. An unexpected change in management brought Toscanini to the company for the 1908-09 season, and a clash between these two giants, polar opposites in their tastes and priorities, was inevitable. Given the circumstances, Mahler needed little encouragement to accept the Philharmonic's invitation to become its music director in 1909.

Mahler reigned supreme at Carnegie Hall. His intensely focused, highly charged interpretations, with their unusual coloristic touches and rhythmic freedom, demanded close attention, but audiences approved of what they heard.

Apart from a few hostile critics and the usual rough-and-tumble of a busy conductor's life, Mahler found the music scene in New York relatively benign after the poisonous musical intrigues he had endured in Vienna. Mahler enjoyed a full social life and established many close friendships; indeed, the once accepted portrait of Mahler as a tormented and solitary ascetic, literally hounded to death by New York's society-oriented music community, now seems to have been largely a fiction created by the self-serving memoirs of his wife, the beautiful and flirtatious Alma.

Mahler was hardly free of cares during those final three years. Several months before arriving in New York his 4-year-old daughter had died, and he himself had been diagnosed with a heart infection — endocarditis, a slow-moving disease but invariably fatal in those days. Another blow came in 1910 when he discovered that his beloved Alma was having a torrid affair with the architect Walter Gropius.

Nevertheless, Mahler never stinted on his work with the Philharmonic as he prepared one concert after another, learned new scores, toured with the orchestra and kept up with his summer composing schedule. He even found time in August 1910 to visit Sigmund Freud back in Europe to help him through the Alma crisis.

Mahler left New York in April 1911, and died in Vienna the following month. Still, fleeting traces of his influence on the Philharmonic may be heard even today. He reorganized the orchestra, hired new musicians, rehearsed them tirelessly and greatly increased the number of concerts, laying the foundation of the orchestra we know today.

Indeed, even some Philharmonic musicians acknowledge feeling an extra sense of commitment when they play a Mahler symphony today, simply because the composer had once lived and worked with their predecessors.

Bernstein certainly agreed. Perhaps more than any conductor of his generation, he strongly identified with Mahler and helped bring his music into the mainstream of the orchestral repertory. "I am Mahler," Bernstein said on more than one occasion, implying not so much an actual reincarnation as a repository of his all-embracing musical spirit. Small wonder that Bernstein is buried with the score of Mahler's Fifth Symphony placed over his heart.

It was Mahler's freshly imagined interpretive style of orchestral performance, its special qualities of instrumental blend, dynamic nuance and rhythmic plasticity that both inspired the musicians of the Philharmonic and mesmerized New York audiences all those years ago. What did a typical Mahler concert sound like? We will never know. But the sheer expressive boldness of those vast, risk-taking late-Romantic symphonies tell us that Mahler the composer and Mahler the conductor surely inhabited the same musical world.

Peter G. Davis is a classical music critic.









SINCE Sunday, when Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the head of the International Monetary Fund, was arrested on sexual assault charges in New York, French politicians have been loudly expressing their horror at his "violent" treatment at the hands of America's criminal justice system. It must be a shock to them: the sight of a top French establishment figure being treated like an ordinary criminal is about as rare as a photo of the Queen of England in a bikini.


But they are not merely voicing their concern for an esteemed colleague; many of them are also thinking, "There but for the grace of God (or rather the grace of living in France and not the United States) go I."


France may think it had a revolution, but in fact it just got a new, and even more powerful, elite. They believe themselves so indispensable to the running of the country that trying to topple one of them is a bit like threatening to shoot a prize racehorse for nibbling your lawn. You're meant to shut up and let them nibble.


This is why the French establishment sees Mr. Strauss-Kahn — rather than the traumatized chambermaid the police say he attacked — as the victim. The same case would never have come out in the open in Paris. The woman would have been quietly asked whether she thought it was worth risking her job and her residence permit. She would have been reminded that it was her word against his, and frankly, whom would people believe? The witty, famous man with the influential friends, or the nobody?


French politicians are known to be serial seducers, and as a rule no one bothers them about it. It is widely accepted that a male politician can combine efficiency in his job with a tendency to leap into bed with as many people as possible. And maybe it's true — the French eat a balanced diet and have lots of energy.


The danger is, however, that their reputation as "chauds lapins" (hot rabbits), to use the French term, can give them a sense of impunity. Surely it's a thin line between thinking that because you're powerful and famous, everyone will succumb to your charms, and assuming that anyone who resists is being unreasonable. By this logic, forcing yourself on an unwilling partner is only making her bow to the inevitable. It's all very Louis XIV.


And it's also a thin line between sexual impunity and legal impunity.


In 2004, Alain Juppé, a former prime minister, was convicted of corruption. He was given an 18-month suspended prison sentence and barred from public office for 10 years because, in the words of the judge, he had "betrayed the confidence of the people." But he appealed and today is foreign minister, representing France on the world stage.


Jacques Chirac was implicated in the same scandal, but benefited from presidential immunity until 2007. Since then, all attempts to bring him to justice have stalled, and the whole affair is now treated as something of a running joke.


The most telling parallel with the Strauss-Kahn case is that of Roman Polanski. Whatever his talents as a filmmaker, he fled the United States to France in 1978 to avoid being sentenced for unlawful sex with a 13-year-old girl. When he was arrested in Switzerland in 2009, at the request of the American authorities, the whole of the French cultural establishment rose up to defend him.


At this year's Césars ceremony (the French equivalent of the Oscars), Mr. Polanski received an award for "The Ghost Writer," which, to quote France's most respected newspaper, Le Monde, "marked his return to the family after his legal troubles." They made it sound like a speeding ticket.


All of which leads me to my belief that even if Dominique Strauss-Kahn is convicted and has to serve time, he will someday return to France, publish his autobiography (which will, of course, be adapted for the big screen by Mr. Polanski) and eventually be made a government minister. Minister of gender equality, perhaps?


Stephen Clarke is the author of "1,000 Years of Annoying the French."









Let me give you a rule of thumb about Turkey: If you want to focus on the deadliest conflict in this country, forget the tension between the conservatives and the secularists. Dismiss the culture war between those who define themselves "Muslim first" and "Kemalist first." For all those "central" issues are trivia when compared to the most lethal trouble in this country: the Kurdish question.

That is the case, for, despite all the political tension and the cultural brouhaha, the Islam versus hyper-secularism confrontation in Turkey is a peaceful one, fought via elections, civil society, and the media. But the confrontation between the Turkish state and the Kurds, who make some 15 percent of the population, is a very bloody one. More than two dozen Kurdish rebellions took place in the past eight decades, most of which were suppressed brutally. The latest rebellion, the one led by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, a terrorist group, has claimed more than 40,000 lives. This is a death toll, which is at least ten times more than that of the war between the IRA and the British government.

The closed 'opening'

The worse news is that the conflict doesn't seem to come to an end, as most of us hoped in the past few years. The conflict rather escalated once more in the past few weeks, with attacks either by Turkish security forces on the Kurdish guerillas or by the latter on Turkish targets, including the convoy of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. About 42 are reported dead in these incidents, including several policemen. The latest victims are 12 guerillas of the PKK, which were mourned in southeastern Turkey as fallen heroes. In the rest of the country, though, they are vilified as ruthless terrorists who deserved to be killed.

And that amazing gap between perceptions is the core of the problem: The Kurds, especially the more nationalist ones who sympathize with PKK, and the rest of Turkey are living totally separate worlds. The nationalist Kurds see themselves as an oppressed people who deserve the broadest cultural autonomy and some form of self-rule. They want something like the regional government Iraqi Kurdistan, in which PKK guerillas will become legitimate security forces. The majority of Turks, however, see these demands as outrageous attempts to "divide" Turkey. Having been "educated" by an 80-year-old official dogma that every citizen of Turkey is a Turk, they just can't understand why anybody would have a passion for any ethnic identity unless they are "traitors."

Meanwhile, the problem on the Kurdish side is not just ethnic nationalism, but also the totalitarian ideology and the brutal methods of the PKK. Its jailed leader, Abdullah Öcalan, enjoys an intense cult of personality, and anybody who disagrees with his dictates can be "punished" with humiliation, torture and assassinations. The PKK is using the language of freedom, but theirs is not individual freedom but "people's freedom," which will give them the right to dominate.

Within this hopeless conundrum, the "democratic opening" that the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, government announced some three years ago was a breath of fresh air. Most of us hoped that AKP would be able to solve the problem by granting more rights to the Kurds and disarming the PKK by offering some form of amnesty. Erdoğan indeed took a few steps in that direction, but the reaction he received from the Turkish majority was so overwhelming that he soon backed off. More recently, he even argued that, thanks to the steps he has taken, "there is no more a Kurdish question,"  which was obviously more wishful thinking than factual analysis.

Is compassion enough?

Mesut Yeğen, an academic and an expert on the Kurdish issue, has some important observations on this matter. In an interview he gave to daily Star the other day, Yeğen said the Kurdish policy of the Turkish Republic has for long been based on two pillars: Forced assimilation into Turkishness, and oppression. He added that the AKP tried a different paradigm, by replacing "oppression" with "compassion," and replacing "assimilation" with some form of "recognition."

But this recognition, Yeğen adds, was too limited when compared to Kurdish demands. The PKK and its base do not want to be recognized as citizens who happen to be Kurdish, but as a "national community" within Turkey. Implications are education in the Kurdish language, regional autonomy, and "acceptance of the PKK as a political body."

In the near future, Turks first need to understand these demands, and then discuss whether they are acceptable. They should also be told bluntly that if they find them unacceptable, then they might have to send more of their sons to the eastern front to fight a never-ending "war on terrorism."

Here is the only good news: In the previous years, the AKP has been all too alone in its efforts to bring an "opening" to the Kurdish issue. Now the main opposition Republican People's Party, or CHP, which is in an effort to redefine itself as a social democratic party, is saying things on this issue that sound considerably liberal. If the CHP sticks with that line after the elections, then the new Turkish parliament could be a good place to take bolder steps to end the war with the PKK. Otherwise, you can be sure that the eastern front will go less and less quiet.






Turkey is a very interesting country. Thanks to the massive erosion of all values, norms and indeed the concept of patriotism and nationalism, this country has become a place where for some the military of the country has become the enemy. Was not this country proud of its military until yesterday?

Is there any other country on this world where there is a "legal" political party, which constantly condemns the security forces of that country, praises a separatist terrorist group and indeed declares a three-day mourning for a group of terrorists killed by the security forces while attempting to sneak into Turkey from the northern Iraqi "free-terrorism zone?"

Is there any country where the government of that country is against the media reporting of the funerals of soldiers fallen in operations against the separatist and terrorist elements?

Is there any country where after security forces stage an operation and kill 12 separatist terrorists trying to infiltrate the country from a neighboring "friendly country" where terrorists have been roaming around as free as birds as executives of a political party and a large group of supporters of that legal party defy all the laws, border security, enter illegally the neighboring country and collect the bodies of the terrorists killed by the security forces?

Are there journalists and political commentators in any country who can complain that it was "strange if not awkward all together" if in an operation in the mountainous border region with an unstable neighboring country security forces kill one dozen members of the separatist terrorist gang who were trying to sneak into Turkish territory, but not one single Turkish soldier was killed or wounded in that operation?

Were those journalists, writers or political commentators pleased if there were casualties among the security forces as well? What kind of a mentality is that?

They are all our sons, but…

Of course those killed in the mountains are sons of this nation as well. Definitely, every human loss is a source of great pain irrespective whether that loss is from the sons pursuing a separatist terrorist campaign on the mountains or from those defending the nation and the country from the terrorist and separatist acts of those in the mountains. Yet, no sober mind can come up with the implied criticism that it was wrong for the security forces not to suffer any casualty in an operation, in which 12 terrorists were killed.

A police-turned columnist of the center for excellence in plot reporting, or the Taraf [sided] newspaper established a rather awkward relationship between the death of a police officer in an outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, attack on a police car escorting the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, convoy at Kastamonu some ten days ago, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was not in the convoy, he flew from Karabük onboard a helicopter, and the operation of the security forces at Şırnak's Uludere border region with Iraq last week, killing 12 terrorists with the so-called "Sledgehammer" or "Balyoz" plot aimed at finishing off the AKP and the Fethullah Gülen Islamist brotherhood network in this country.

It smells bad

That writer is former police. Gülen network is most efficiently organized in the police of this country. Is there a linkage? Irrespective whether there is a linkage, that police-turned writer of that newspaper, which besides being the center for excellence in plot theories has as well been serving as the center for excellence in defaming the Turkish military, patriotism and nationalism, was the sole person who reported days in advance the Kastamonu incident as well as the Şırnak operation, though he failed to explicitly name Uludere area this time.

There must definitely be a feedback from somewhere or some deep throats with insight of those groups alleged to have been plotting against the AKP government or those centers planning plots, penning down forged documents to be used against "elements considered hazardous," producing and publishing tapes against political adversaries or groups, which might pose a threat to the realization of planned targets or exploiting everything to hurt the Turkish military and nourish the country for something, which would be opposed by the military, patriots and the nationalists.

The same columnist now has two more important forecasts. According to what he has written "soon" the separatist terrorist PKK group will demonstrate its presence in western Turkey by blocking briefly the highway around Bolu and Karabük. That group of terrorists will as well undertake some highly sensational activities in that region, he claimed. Furthermore, he elaborated that the group, which would undertake a series of terrorist attacks in the Bolu and Karabük areas as well as in regions further west and the group that undertook the Kastamonu incident a while ago are the same. Good intelligence, is it not?

It smells really bad.







On Friday, an expected decision came in a court case where journalists Ertuğrul Mavioğlu and Ahmet Şık stood at the bench for a book they co-authored. The decision was acquittal.

I was pleased with that. However, I was awfully annoyed with what I saw following the trial.

Armored vehicles, police and gendarmerie escorts took Şık back to the Silivri Prison again. Because he is a "member of a terror organization."

Moreover, this is because of a "motive," on which there is no indictment yet.

The government claims all journalists in prisons are deservedly punished for being "terrorist organization members."

As long as such a discrimination and nepotism continue, as long as the suspects who are against the government are considered "guilty" without trial and who try to shed a light on the facts that are suppressed by some groups, it is impossible to talk about a real freedom of the press in Turkey.

There are more than 60 journalists in prisons today. Yes, none are being accused of being a journalist, but they are accused of either being members to a terrorist organization or making propaganda for one or for what they pen down.

Their numbers increase every day.

The latest incident is the former editor of Atılım daily, Necati Abay, who was sentenced to 18 years imprisonment last week. Abay is not in remand. The decision is based on "opinion not evidence." This is strange.

But this is not the first time. Does anyone know how many journalists are behind bars because of a verdict based on not evidence but opinion?

The trial we followed on Friday was interesting in terms of how easily court cases can be filed against journalists. A case that had been filed for some reason, in which even the complainant made no charges, was naturally ended with acquittal. But the bottom line is that trials were held to reach such a verdict and judges worked. Is this not keeping the mechanism of justice busy for nothing?

In Turkey, freedom of thought has always suffered. Press institutions and journalists have always appeared in courthouses for some cases and faced variety of sentences including imprisonment.

But journalists were never treated like "potential offenders" as they are today.

Since labeling someone as a "terrorist" is the easiest way of accusing anyone, it has happened to be the easiest way of keeping the media silent. Besides, similar offences quickly have social approval if newspapers and socialist media making stories on the Kurdish dispute are being targeted. We came to these days because violation of press freedom against such journalists and newspapers is taken in stride.

Turkey is frequently uttered among countries violating freedom of the press.

People took the street on Sunday to protest the Prime Ministry's Information Technologies Board, or BTK, as tens of thousands internet users joined the protests online. Though the board says otherwise, this is definitely censorship. Thousands of websites are banned already and this is a serious problem waiting for solution. But now the situation will be legitimized more as the Internet users are offered three options. This is a restriction of having access to the Internet.

There may be some people who dream of a Turkey where everyone watches the same TV channels, read the same newspapers and watch the same Internet programs. But they should not get high hopes because Turkey will never be a monotype country.

Attempts in this direction in the past turned into nothing and they will be useless in the future, too.

*Ferai Tınç is a columnist of daily Hürriyet, in which this piece originally appeared. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.






You might have seen or heard about the headline in the daily Akşam on Monday.

The Supreme Board of Radio and Television, or RTÜK, took a historical decision.

Participants of the program "Doğrudan Siyaset" moderated by Çiğdem Anat on private channel NTV used the word "Kurdistan." They said an independent state could be established. They talked about "autonomy."

Some heroic TV audience complained to RTÜK a said, "This is an offense to the integrity of our state and nation, which needs punishment."

RTÜK stunned everybody.

The institution with a generally conservative attitude ignored the complaint.  

It ruled that these words are naturally within the frame of freedom of expression and those using it need not be punished.

This was a very righteous and restrained decision, and brave too.

We criticize RTÜK for many of its decisions but now we need to give them credit.

Besides the decision, we are also happy about RTÜK turning its back on outdated practices, which is a sign of its willingness to adopt a more liberal attitude.

I don't want a guard of honor

The ruling party has an increasing appetite for "guard of honor" practices.

No matter who speaks, starts out with a lesson in honor.

If you take a look at the law there are always one or two articles about guard of honor practices.

Deep inside there is an urge for creating a conservative society. I am talking about an attitude that sets obscenity equal to pornography and perceives a simple kiss as unethical.

And now they've come up with the Prime Ministry's Information Technologies Board, or BTK.

They are trying to set limits as to where in the Internet we could surf and where we can't. And this is done in the name of "preventing child pornography and protecting our children."

The BTK has not been able to convince us as of yet.

Look at practices by the municipalities.

The same guard of honor practice is applied.

And this is what really upsets me.

What's it to you, buddy?

My understanding of honor may differ from your perception. As long as I don't bother anyone you don't have the right to interfere in my life. Better to say, you shouldn't have the right but you keep insisting.

There is some good for you in knowing that we will do everything possible to prevent you from interfering in our lives.

We want to live in a Turkey, which we all can share and enjoy, not in a Turkey you'd like to see.

100,000 pharmacist families protest

There are 24,000 pharmacies in Turkey. Considering their owners and average employees, about 100,000 families live on this business.

And these 100,000 families cry out louder and louder.

They want to be heard.

But no one listens.

Prior to elections the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, should not keep its hopes high with respect to pharmacists.

They are very angry.

If I were to give details about their outrage you'd be stunned.

Saturday was Pharmacists Day and I was invited to a symposium at the Istanbul Chamber of Pharmacists. Before me all of a sudden I saw people, who are trying to solve our problems, who are always friendly and who are at times our doctors and friends.

Their complaints range from being perceived by state bureaucrats in a suspicious way to AKP politics regarding drug sales and distribution. If I was to summarize the list, I'd say, "The AKP wants to eliminate the pharmacist."

The public may not know this but the pharmacists are one of the best organized nongovernmental organizations. They never sacrifice their freedom rights and republican values to anything. That is why, from time to time, they are on adverse terms with the administration. But they never restrain their words.

They are fearless.

They blame Health Minister Recep Akdağ for not hearing them out. If I were him I'd lend them an ear especially before elections. For, these pharmacists are sinister people. Society needs them and they are the ones to take the pulse of the people. Once they become well organized they can strike hard.  






On June 12, Turkey faces general parliamentary elections. Opinion polls show that the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, will win the polls for the third consecutive time since 2002. In anticipation of its victory, the AKP has promised to draft a new constitution for the country. The governing party needs to receive 367 seats in the 550 member Turkish parliament, i.e. 2/3 supermajority, to single handedly write a new constitution without first seeking consensus. 

Turkey is indeed in need of a new constitution to replace its outdated and illiberal 1982 text; the jury is out on whether the AKP, a coalition of Islamists and conservatives, will adopt a liberal constitution. First, however, the following question must be answered: can the governing party obtain the supermajority required to allow it to unilaterally write Turkey's new Magna Carta?

The answer largely depends on Turkey's uniquely high 10 percent electoral threshold. Parties receiving less than 10 percent of the vote are barred from achieving representation in the legislature, instead allocating most of their seats to the winning party. Realistically, four parties are currently vying for the legislature: the AKP, the main opposition social democrat Republican People's Party, or CHP, the rightist Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, and the Kurdish nationalist Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP.

Polls show that the AKP and CHP will have no problem surpassing the threshold. The BDP, which is running independent candidates to avoid the threshold as independents do not have to qualify the national threshold but must simply gain enough support in their respective provinces to enter the parliament, will enter the legislature. The prospects for the MHP to surpass the threshold, however, are much more dubious.

Whether the AKP gets the legislative supermajority depends as much on how many parties join the parliament as the performance of the AKP itself. Since a few early polls showed the MHP failing the 10 percent threshold, the crucial question, not just for MHP, but for the prospect of an AKP supermajority, is whether the MHP will achieve representation in the parliament, or cede its representation to AKP.

Varying, and often politicized, polls show the AKP vote hovering around a 43-55 percent range of the popular vote. The CHP has about 23-32 percent support, and MHP has around 9-15 percent. BDP seems to be on pace to receive 5-8 percent.

Our research, based on poll figures and election scenarios that we ran on run by the ARI Foundation, a Turkish nongovernmental organization, shows that the AKP has a chance of winning 2/3 (367 seat) legislative supermajority with less than half of the popular vote depending on how the MHP and the CHP perform. A few possible scenarios are listed below:

AKP over 52 percent, CHP under 23 percent, MHP under 12 percent; AKP supermajority guaranteed even in a four party legislature: If the governing party gets an overwhelming 53-55 percent of popular support, with the opposition performing at the lower end of expectations (CHP getting 21-23 percent, and MHP obtaining 10-12 percent), then the AKP would receive 362 to 377 legislative seats. The CHP would obtain 109-115 representatives, with the MHP getting 38-43 seats. BDP support ranging from 5-8 percent would give that party 26-30 members. The AKP would then have the supermajority to adopt a constitution of its liking, without the need to build consensus. It should be noted, however, that in this scenario, if CHP votes were to surpass 22 percent, an AKP supermajority would be unlikely even if the governing party received 55 percent of the vote.

AKP under 47 percent in a four party parliament, yielding no AKP supermajority: assuming a four party parliament with CHP, MHP and BDP getting 23-27 percent, 10-15 percent and 6-8 percent of the vote respectively, and with the AKP performing at the lower end of expectations (getting 43-47 percent), this would give the governing party 314-335 seats in the legislature. The CHP would get 142-140 representatives, and the MHP 45-63 members, with 30-31 seats going to the BDP. This scenario would produce no AKP supermajority, yielding a new constitution based on consensus.

MHP fails the threshold and AKP crosses 48 percent, AKP supermajority guaranteed: This would yield a three-party parliament, with MHP failing the threshold. In this case, the AKP would win the supermajority with 48 percent of the votes even if the CHP were to get 25-28 percent and BDP were to garner 6-8 percent, securing 151-152 seats and 27-30 seats, respectively.

MHP fails the threshold, but CHP crosses 27 percent, requiring AKP to reach 52 percent or more to secure a supermajority: The only way the AKP will not win a supermajority in a three-party parliament is if support for the CHP were to surpass 27 percent and if AKP votes are below 52 percent, with the BDP getting 6-8 percent.  This scenario would give AKP 366-359, CHP 162-164 BDP 29-30 seats, respectively.

The AKP has officially embraced Turkey's Western vocation and democracy, yet in practice, the AKP has promoted its vision of a new Turkey, one that is not instinctively Western, and has also implemented a majoritarian and illiberal take on democracy.

If the AKP were to win the supermajority on June 12, it would likely write a constitution without seeking consensus with the rest of the society, making its vision for Turkey a key part of the country's constitution, the AKP leadership has already suggested they are planning to create a presidential system that would consolidate all powers in one office. 

Whichever scenario is carried out will ultimately decide who writes Turkey's new constitution. Will the MHP enter the parliament? If it does not, will support for the CHP fall under 27 percent? And if the MHP enters the legislature, will the CHP receive more than 22 percent, preventing an AKP supermajority? The answers to these three questions will determine who will write Turkey's next constitution, and with it, Turkey's future.

*Soner Çağaptay is director of the Turkish Research Program at The Washington Institute, where Hale Arifağaoğlu serves as a research assistant.







A particular interpretation of the riots that have been shaking Turkey's neighborhood is gaining increasing popularity among market economists and investors. According to this interpretation, the toppling of dictatorships from Egypt to Tunisia is about food; as the prices of foodstuffs broke new records in the past few years, the masses fell deeper into poverty and the rope "snapped" at one point.

Some analysts take this Aristotelian logic one step further, putting the "responsibility" of the regional turmoil directly on the United States Federal Reserve. The so-called quantitative easing policies of the Fed, goes the logic, has had an effect of flooding the markets with cheap money, which in turn fed a commodity bubble, and that, in turn, has encouraged the masses to take to the streets against their repressive leaders.

Obviously, millions chanting for political freedoms and the mainly urban middle class nature of the protests are being ignored here, as they would ruin an attractive and simple interpretation, one that many people could like. There indeed could be a "correlation" between rising food prices and Fed policies, but similar or better correlations could be found aplenty elsewhere in a globalized economy.

Such a simplistic perspective is not only wrong, but also "an insult to the memories of those who died," during the uprisings, according to Tarek Elrefai, a senior executive at BNY Mellon, a U.S. lender with over $1.2 trillion in assets under management.

Elrefai is an Egyptian-born banker based in Dubai, and he has been visiting various countries of the region regularly. "This is not about food prices. This is about democracy," he said, speaking at a BNY Mellon cocktail reception in Istanbul on May 12. Elrefai, who later flew to Cairo, also says he does not expect the spread of uprisings to threaten other regimes such as Saudi Arabia, but after what has happened in the past few months, he is cautious. "Nobody was expecting anything in Tunisia or Libya, either," he told the Hürriyet Daily News.

Regarding Turkey's regional policies, the Dubai-based banker notes that Ankara invested so much in leaders such as Moammar Gadhafi and Bashar al-Assad. "Thus, Ankara's current position is understandable. But Turkey has lost those markets," Elrefai said. His words give further ammunition to the view that the Turkish government, while seeking to bolster its influence in the region through "shortcut policies," may have put itself in a corner, from which it cannot please neither the regimes under threat nor the crowds in the streets.








We are told the US has made an apology of sorts for its unilateral actions in the country and given some assurance that these will not be repeated. But while the low-key US words of conciliation have been played up by our leaders, the fact is they mean nothing given that drone strikes are continuing in the north and may even have intensified over the past few days. Perhaps unsurprisingly North Waziristan is the key area of focus, with the US having emphasised that it believes key militant figures may be based there. Two drone strikes, which took place in quick succession on Monday, are reported to have killed 10 persons. In the first strike, six persons aboard a van were killed. Local people say the degree of mutilation made it impossible to say who they were, while in the second strike four people died in a house near the town of Mir Ali. There are rumours that a prominent militant commander Gul Bahadur Haleem may have been among them, but this is being denied in the area of action itself. There have also been reports of two Nato helicopters intruding into Pakistan on Tuesday across the Afghan border and injuring two soldiers. There is more than one dimension to the continuing drone attacks and the government's apparent inability to do anything to stop them even as demands from the political opposition that this happen become more and more vociferous. In the first place, the attacks add to the feelings of resentment towards the US that spur on militancy while also undermining our sovereignty. It is also clear that drones have claimed the lives of hundreds of innocent people – and only a few militants. They have also brought terror to the lives of the people of the tribal areas who, like most citizens of the country, seek peace and an end to the reign of death.

Right now, Pakistan faces several challenges. It must prove to the world and to its own people that it is a country capable of keeping its territory safe and that it possesses the capacity to do so. It must also demonstrate that it has dignity and self-respect. Repeated drone strikes make this impossible. They need to stop. The question that should occupy Pakistan's leaders is how to achieve this. There is clearly a lack of readiness on the part of Washington to end the strikes. Secret agreements made outside the public realm add to the complications. It is hardly democratic to lie and fool people. But to break away from the past, an alternate strategy is needed – and a consensus has to be built as to how best Pakistan can deal with a problem that has plagued it for years and has claimed a hefty death toll.







In the same breath in which Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh last Friday backed Kabul's plan to reconcile with Taliban-led insurgents and pledge $500 million for development projects, he also urged Afghanistan to shake off outside 'coercion' and 'interference' in Afghan affairs. Singh's strong words to a session of the Afghan parliament come at the end of a two-day visit to Kabul last week aimed at renewing Indian ties with Afghanistan where India has been jockeying for influence to counter historical rival Pakistan. September 11, 2001, presented a unique opportunity for India, largely shut out of Afghanistan throughout the Taliban period, to become Afghanistan's most important partner for reconstruction in recognition of the country's 'strategic' importance. Singh has now announced that India will "widen our cooperation" in the area of security once Nato hands over security responsibilities to the Afghans by 2014.

Firstly, it is significant that India has accepted the idea of peace with the Afghan Taliban. It has had to contend with security challenges stemming from the erstwhile Taliban regime in Afghanistan and has been pre-eminently interested in ensuring Afghanistan does not return to being what it was under the Taliban. However, in the face of hard realities on the ground, Singh has had to give in. Singh's suspicions about a Taliban-inclusive solution were partly due to the potential role of Pakistan in talks and subsequent agreements. His latest decision should thus be welcomed. Secondly, an increase in India's security-related role in Afghanistan must be viewed sceptically. Less than a fortnight after the killing of Osama bin Laden, it seems India returned all stakeholders to the drawing board and decided – contrary to speculations of a fading Indian footprint in Afghanistan – that it would stay the course on earlier commitments and supplement them with other security measures to remain on the curve in the new situation. This may set off alarm bells in Pakistan and a new round of competitive statements and actions. Until India decides whether and how it will manage its 'competition' with Pakistan, the outlook for regional security remains dim. India needs a better vision for what kind of neighbour it wants in Pakistan and to devise a set of policies that will make that future more likely than not.







A three-member Supreme Court bench, hearing petitions against targeted killings in Balochistan, has expressed dissatisfaction over the prevailing situation and sought a swift improvement in the state of affairs. The court was informed by the chief secretary of the province, Ahmed Bux Lehri, that 260 people had been killed in targeted attacks since 2009 and over 500 injured, and that Rs135 million had been paid in compensation since 2005. The detailed report had been sought by the court during the last hearing of the case. In response to court's remarks about a deteriorating situation, Mr Lehri requested more time to get matters under control.

But the fact of the matter is that there is no evidence that this is happening and the killings continue. Human rights groups have repeatedly called for urgent measures to tackle a worsening situation, in a part of the country where nationalist, ethnic and sectarian tensions merge in the most dangerous possible form. It should also be noted that while the issue of compensation for heirs of those who have been killed is a valid one, it cannot help ease the sense of uncertainty and terror sweeping across the province. The core reasons for these killings need to be found and political solutions negotiated before things become worse than they already are.









The order of Lahore High Court restraining President Asif Ali Zardari from indulging in politics while in office has proved the point raised by many that this high office demands neutrality and impartiality – the president is a symbol of the federation and retaining of a party position by him damages this constitutional position. The political activities of Asif Ali Zardari as co-chairperson of Pakistan People's Party were highly objectionable from another perspective; he used the president house for party affairs using the taxpayers' money.

It is high time that the High Court decision is accepted and no appeal is filed in the Supreme Court – if this were to happen, it would go a long way to establish true democracy in Pakistan. It is, however, unlikely on the part of the PPP that this will happen. Till today, no clear statement has been issued by the Presidency or the PPP on how President Zardari is going to cope with the restrictions imposed by the Lahore High Court. It has however, been reported in the press that the president's political secretary, Mr Faisal Raza Abidi, has confirmed that the next seven-day schedule of the president, as issued by the Presidency, does not include any political activity. This is good news.

In any democratic dispensation, when a political party comes into power and starts running day-to-day governmental affairs, it is required to conduct itself in a responsible manner – demonstrating transparency and accountability in all spheres of governance. Utilisation of taxpayers' money for the benefit of the masses is a sine qua non of democracy. If public funds are misused for personal gains or for a political party's purposes, it automatically calls for end of the government. It amounts to violating the supreme law of the land – the Constitution of Pakistan – providing disqualification of any public office holder who is guilty of violating any provision of Article 62. Pilferage of taxpayers' money – a sacred trust – cannot be allowed under any circumstances. It is considered a serious crime in every society.

A citizen of Pakistan cannot contest elections unless he or she is "sagacious, righteous, non-profligate, honest and ameen" [Article 62(f) of the Constitution]. After being elected, if worthy members are found not to be ameen (trustworthy) by spending taxpayers' money for party meetings – neither state nor governmental function – they are to be dealt with under the law for disqualification. Actions are thus required against all those – PPP or PML-N office holders – who held party meetings in the president house, prime minister house, governor house, chief minister house or Punjab house, if public money was used.

Once a party succeeds in elections and gets the reins of governing the nation, party matters should be kept totally separate from the day to day affairs of the government. All over the world, where democratic traditions are adhered to, this principle is closely observed as a result of which political parties remain strong – ensuring that their manifesto is not violated by their candidates who have been chosen to govern a state. They are accountable to the party leadership. But if the prime minister, president or chief ministers remain party heads as well, it destroys both party discipline and good governance – in Pakistan this has unfortunately been the case with almost every ruling party.

As in other aspects, Pakistan enjoys a unique position of having governments that have been a mixed plate of democracy, dictatorship and monarchy. So while the representatives are elected through adult franchise, once elected, they immediately put on the shoes of autocrats and make sure that the right to rule as head of state remains a family heirloom. With this cocktail style of governance, the innocent people of this country think that their problems will be resolved, peace and security will prevail, and the country will progress rapidly towards economic development.

However, in such situations, it is quite difficult for political parties to keep their popularity graph consistent. As they wobble between their personal interests and party interests they tend to create factions amongst themselves creating different off-shoots led by opposing dissenters.

The present government is no exception. The People's Party emerged victorious in the 2008 elections, but already cracks of divergence seem to have become visible on its strong visage. Despite its claim to the contrary, this political party due to autocratic control at the top, is producing dissidents like Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Naheed Khan and her husband, just to mention a few. Party leadership has been hijacked by the in-laws of the Bhutto family – self-assumed claimants of the heritage of Z A Bhutto. The same is equally true of the other main political party in the country, the PML-N.

In our neighbouring country, also known as the largest democracy in the world, the hereditary position is not very different but one aspect needs to be appreciated. Even though Sonia Gandhi was offered a lead role in the Congress government, she opted to remain party chief and supervise the government of Manmohan Singh from the outside. Who does not like to be in the limelight and enjoy power, but political prudence definitely requires a strong political party rather than individual self-projection and complete control.

Having said this and irrespective of their internal regulations, all parties that have the privilege of forming a government have to follow some fundamental ethics. These require that all party activities including meetings should be held at the party premises or in the confines of members' properties. The presidency, the prime minister's secretariat, governor houses or chief minister houses – for that matter all government premises – are run on taxpayer money, meant purely for the functioning of the government and not for any activity that falls outside the precincts of governance.

This principle, according to press reports, has been violated perpetually during the last three years by the federal and provincial governments alike. The Chairman Public Accounts Committee on November 13, 2008 took strong exception of this and observed: "The PPP should not hold meetings at the president or prime minister house. Such meetings should take place at the party's office or Zardari house." However, he did not mention who had been paying for the PML-N meetings allegedly held at Punjab House in Islamabad.

All the parties in power have demonstrated complete indifference to public criticism regarding the use of government premises for their meetings. The nation has a right to know how many meetings were held at the presidency, prime minister house, chief minister house or Punjab house over the last three years using taxpayer money.

One wonders if the PPP or PML-N were depositing the expenses incurred on these meetings in the government treasury. If not, they were (mis)using taxpayer money on party activities. By organising meetings on government premises, the public office holders are guilty of misconduct. They are accountable to the people of Pakistan with respect to the amount incurred during these meetings and other private functions. To avoid further tarnishing their image and legal proceedings, they must pay back these sums to the government treasury from their party funds immediately.

The writers teach at LUMS.









American standup comedian Eddie Murphy once cracked a real funny racial slur when addressing an imaginary black friend he said, "Think serious, think white". Unfortunately for us, neither is Pakistan in a funny situation nor is its 'friend' imaginary. So maybe it's also time for Pakistan to "think serious, think American". The government and the people of Pakistan in particular need to understand that while the world may not be unipolar it is being commandeered nevertheless by a unipolar superpower which is now openly telling everyone that it will do everything its way, because it can. Now you know why Frank Sinatra's "I did it my way" remains eternally popular with our American friends. So with Pakistan finding itself in the cross hairs of a miffed mighty, what does it do next?

For starters, we need to look beyond the contemporary rhetoric of leadership in both countries and concentrate on the substantive US policy objectives, both declared and not so declared. This 'objective oriented analysis of developments' could be our first step towards thinking-American. Isn't it interesting how suddenly the unrelated issue of the safety of Pakistan's nuclear assets has come up tops on US security menu and only because one man, along with his three wives, had managed to hide amongst a nation of 180 million people? The latest visit of Senator John Kerry, arguably one of the closest things resembling a sympathiser of Pakistan within the US power corridors, was aptly summed in his own one liner when he declared that the future Pak-US relationship shall be defined by "actions and not words". Here too without saying it he made it abundantly clear that his reference was exclusively to Pakistan's actions. This statement was not a spur of the moment uttering by Kerry the individual, but a calibrated message based on formal US policy.

Then Kerry also talked about Pakistan's nuclear assets. It is irrelevant that he thought they were in safe hands (for now), because what is relevant is his flagging the nuclear issue in the first instance as did Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in her dramatically timed phone call to Prime Minister Gillani. Is this latest flagging of nuclear issue contemporary political verbosity or the implementation of the next stage of the long held US policy vis-a-vis our nuclear programme?

Did we ever ponder why Senator Lugar, and not any other, had stepped in after Joe Biden to co-author the Kerry-Lugar bill? The original draft of the legislation had overwhelmingly focused on socio-economic development but after Lugar its orientation swung the nuclear way, of course under the garb of this security concern or another. Is it a sheer coincidence that Senator Lugar also happened to have teamed with Senator Nunn to create 'policy legislation' that ultimately saw the demise of the Soviet nuclear programme? Our own KLB replicates certain provisions including bestowing the right to sell Pakistan's national resources to pay for expenses associated with CTR (Cooperative Threat Reduction). The Soviets were actually billed for over 350 sting operations carried out against them by US in the name of CTR. And this is only one small part of the big policy picture.

Pakistan must wake up and smell the coffee, the American brewed to be precise. Time has come for us to recognise the drastically changed global political and security landscape and to readjust our actions, emotions, and 'internal power equations' accordingly. It cannot be business as usual. The new worldview being shaped by a belligerent over $3.2 trillion a year US war industry is wrong but it is the prevalent reality nevertheless and one that must be factored into our policy making. And it gets even worse. The proposed National Defence Authorisation Act expands the notion of America's enemy to include forces "associated" with identified antagonists like Al-Qaeda and Taliban, and whoever is put next on the list once a delusional general like David Petraeus takes over CIA. Add this to our already having agreed to the inclusion of "terrorist sanctuaries" in our beloved Kerry-Lugar bill and the policy framework for 'legitimate' US military unilateralism in Pakistan and elsewhere in the world stands completed. America has started behaving like a swaggering empire and we need to plan accordingly.

And our doing so should not in any way be confused with us giving up our national honour (as the deliberately misleading 'ghairat' brigade will claim) but only tampering it with timely pragmatism. Our holy Prophet (PBUH) laid down examples of tactical easing off with his hijrat and Pact Hudabiya. Clear examples that short-term unpleasant tactical back stepping was ok, as long as one did not abandon legitimate desired strategic objectives. Whether it was a US induced intelligence failure or outright incompetence of our own sleuths is immaterial. What matters is that the Osama episode has put us in a hole and we first need to claw our way out of this pit and only then get on with doing things the right way. And we must begin in earnest by taking a worldview of our local priorities and concerns. We need to eschew conflict and buy time to build our economic might and positive relevance in the comity of nations. The world needs to be convinced that it would be a better place with us, and not without us. And if doing so means taking a step back without jeopardising our security then be it. There will always be another day.

The writer is editor The News, Islamabad.








The most wanted fugitive the world had known dies yet again. Osama bin Laden, first interred in the rocks of Tora Bora in 2001amid indiscriminate carpet-bombing and raining daisy-cutters over the parched land of Afghanistan, has had his second burial at the Arabian Sea. He had ostensibly been living in the suburbs of the Pakistani version of Sandhurst – a heavily fortified military officers training academy in Abbottabad, surroundings of which are thoroughly combed as routine. Mr Obama has awarded Presidential Unit Citation to the team that assaulted, so to say, Bin Laden's abode. One wonders if the team thought it had been bestowed with too much for doing so little.

We're told Muslim prayer was recited while performing Osama's last rites before his remains were either cascaded from the ship deck or dumped from an aircraft into the sea. We should appreciate the reverence the US administration showed for the religious faith of the Muslims, while the same administration demonstrated complete lack of sensitivity when some members of the interrogation teams in Guantanamo who desecrated the Quran as the tortured and helpless prisoners looked on.

However, the hotly contested issues are: 1) Did the Pak government, better yet the establishment, know before the operation what was afoot, and 2) why Bin Laden's remains, if indeed these were his, were disposed off in such indecent haste. First, it is inconceivable that the ISI didn't know anything about the operation. Particularly when it has now been revealed that the CIA had a safe house in Abbottabad and had employed local informers. In the trade, the boys either operate hand in glove with each other or they at least keep an eye on each other. It's inconceivable that the CIA had its assets in Abbottabad for years and they'd remained unnoticed by our boys. Moreover, it was earlier reported that helicopters had operated from Ghazi base near Tarbela to Abbottabad, but it was recanted later when the foreign secretary said the helicopters had come from Afghanistan undetected. However, the foreign secretary's argument is untenable. When the Americans had a base in Ghazi (Tarbela) and the flight time of helicopters from there to Abbottabad wasn't more than ten minutes, why would the assault team come all the way from Afghanistan?

Second, was there a chance of capturing Bin Laden alive? Plenty. But a living Bin Laden would have caused a huge embarrassment were he to sing to dissociate himself and his so-called Al-Qaeda from the 9/11 farce. Let's remember that Al-Qaeda itself is a figment of the West. Its members, according to US officials, were not more than a few hundreds in Afghanistan. It's a mythical outfit whose adherents are supposedly so vibrant and mobile that within days they move from the caves and hills of Afghanistan to the deserts of Iraq and Yemen. What nonsense! That's why the winner of the Bookers award, the fiery Arundhati Roy, calls Al-Qaeda in fact Al-Faida for the West. Doesn't the logic manifest itself amply that in whichever region the US-led Nato forces have pursued Al-Qaeda, they have reaped huge faida (profits). Not only the US and its allies, even their puppets in various Muslim countries too are rolling in great faida. The sufferers, however, are the miserable unwashed who watch the drama played out to them with their mouths agape.

Already the credibility of the American governments since 9/11 has immeasurably suffered for failing to conduct a credible inquiry of the Twin Towers catastrophe. Renowned defence analyst and author of two books, Eric Margolis, thinks one third of Americans suspect that it was an inside job. In his May 2 column, he wrote: "The whole story of 9/11 and Al-Qaeda remains murky and confused. Fully a third of Americans don't accept the official US government version of 9/11, believing the US government or Israel were somehow involved – without any conclusive evidence but a lot of angry questions. Much of the rest of the world also disbelieves the official 9/11 version. In the Muslim world the percentage of disbelievers rises to over 80 percent." Margolis, himself a New Yorker, whose integrity is aboveboard, and who in his long career as a journalist interviewed many heads of the states, would think hard before declaring that one third of Americans thought the 9/11 was a false flag operation and that Osama had no truck with it.

If Osama was indeed the architect of 9/11, US administration has frittered away the chance of a lifetime to prove his involvement to it by not capturing him alive. It was never actually meant to be so. What was meant to be was to give Pakistan, an ally that has suffered hugely, a bad name in the world and to provide badly needed fillip to Obama's sagging popularity, which has already jumped up by 11 percent.

The writer is a freelance contributor based in Lahore. Email:








On the April 29, 2011, the founder of the ultra nationalist Balwaristan National Front, Nawaz Khan Naji, won the by-election in Gilgit-Baltistan's Ghizer constituency at the expense of the Pakistan People's Party and the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz. The party is rumoured to favour maximum autonomy for the region, if not outright independence, and its rallying cry revolves around Gilgit-Baltistan being allegedly treated like a colony by Pakistan. Hence, unsurprisingly, the victory has sent shock waves across the political landscape, especially considering that the area is the hometown of the present Governor of the region and PPP representative, Pir Karam Ali Shah.

The result may have come as a shock to many in Pakistan, however, the fact is that nationalist parties have been gaining a foothold in the region for quite some time. In fact, the politics of these groups revolve around a sense of rejection and deprivation brought on by the inability of the Pakistani state to afford the patriotic people of Gilgit-Baltistan a status within the Federation of Pakistan, resulting in a lack of constitutional and legal protections.

This sense of deprivation has been further accentuated by the Kargil episode, in which the government of Pakistan is said to have refused to recognise the sacrifices of scores of martyred army men from Gilgit-Baltistan.

Interestingly enough, although the state of Pakistan has consistently refused to recognise the region of Gilgit-Baltistan as a part of Pakistan, it nonetheless considers its inhabitants citizens of Pakistan., as is evidenced by the application of the Citizenship Act to the region. This constitutional position, or lack thereof, arose as a result of the well-known UN resolution which demanded a free and fair plebiscite for the Kashmiri people as a part of a ceasefire arrangement. This resolution has given rise to a persisting uncertainty about the status of Gilgit-Baltistan, with it being widely believed that the Pakistani government allowed and supported the demarcation of Gilgit-Baltistan as a part of Kashmir (and therefore a disputed area) in order to use it as a bargaining chip in the settlement of the dispute.

In a situation where a referendum is in fact held, the Muslim majority population of Gilgit-Baltistan could be effectively used to swing the vote of the referendum in favour of accession to Pakistan. In light of the aforementioned objective, a formal constitutional status and the benefits accruing from the same were not given to Gilgit-Baltistan by successive governments or even by the 1973 Constitution of Pakistan.

Even the Supreme Court, in 1999 SCMR 1379, shirked away from declaring the territory of Gilgit-Baltistan a constitutional part of Pakistan. In formulating its opinion, the Supreme Court stated that it was the job of the executive and legislative branches of government to render any such decision. However, without addressing the fundamental issue of its status, the Supreme Court also ironically held that for all events and purposes, the people of Gilgit-Baltistan were citizens of Pakistan.

The said omission of the legislature and executive in making Gilgit-Baltistan a part of Pakistan, and the decision of the Supreme Court to avoid any such declaration, has created unprecedented confusion in the ranks of the citizens of Gilgit-Baltistan. The said predicament has disenfranchised the people of Gilgit-Baltistan in as much as byrefusing to recognise the region of Gilgit-Baltistan as a part of Pakistan, the state and courts are essentially depriving the inhabitants of the right of representation in the parliament of Pakistan.

Although many may contend that the people of the area may not necessarily desire any such representation, it is apt to note that without such a voice within the corridors of power, the people of the area will forever be unable to influence decisions that will ultimately impact their lives. A case in point is the formulation of the Legal Framework Order, 1994, and the Gilgit-Baltistan (Empowerment and Self Governance) Order, 2009. The lack of influence and say of the residents of Gilgit-Baltistan in the political and military apparatus of Pakistan has inevitably resulted in them being governed by laws in which they have little investment or involvement.

However, that said, there does appear to be a stop gap method of temporarily resolving the constitutional limbo of the area till fresh legal and constitutional measures can be undertaken for a more permanent solution. The path to redemption has been highlighted by the Supreme Appellate Court of Gilgit-Baltistan, which in exercise of its suo motu jurisdiction and as per Article 61 of the Gilgit-Baltistan (Empowerment and Self-Governance) Order, 2009, stated in 2010 GBLR 160 that Gilgit-Baltistan was in fact a part of Pakistan. It referred to Article 1 of the Constitution of Pakistan (defining the territories of Pakistan) and declared that Gilgit-Baltistan fell within Article 1(2)(d) of the Constitution of Pakistan, 1973, which stated that Pakistan shall comprise of 'such states and territories as are or may be included in Pakistan, whether by accession of otherwise'.

It further went on to state that as such, the Gilgit-Baltistan (Empowerment and Self-Governance) Order, 2009, had constitutional protection and status in as much as the same was enacted in pursuance of Article 258 of the Constitution of Pakistan, which stated that: "subject to the Constitution, until [the] Majlis-e-Shoora (parliament) by law otherwise provides, the president may, by order, make provisions for peace and good government of any part of Pakistan not forming part of a province." In a nutshell, the Supreme Appellate Court, via the use of various constitutional provisions, has attempted to elevate the status of the area, and its laws, to that of a constitutional constituent of the Federation of Pakistan.

Although it remains to be seen as to whether the above mentioned interpretation of the Constitution, bringing Gilgit-Baltistan within the framework of the federation, shall be solemnised by the Supreme Court of Pakistan as well as the Government of Pakistan, the same is certainly a step in the right direction.

The people of Gilgit-Baltistan have been waiting for a period in excess of 62 years for a declaration of their status, if not outright incorporation into the Federation of Pakistan. It is important that the powers that be wake from their eternal slumber, and finally afford the people of Gilgit-Baltistan what is rightfully theirs – recognition as a constitutional and integral part of Pakistan and all the benefits and privileges of attaining the same.

The writer is a lawyer based in Karachi. Email: basil.nabi@







The writer is a South Asian affairs analyst.

During the few years of its existence in which Pakistan has experienced elected governments there was little if any social improvement. The governments were tossed out by the army in bloodless coups with the approval of the vast majority of the population. But then the military men tasted political power and relished it and wanted to remain top boys. They failed to prepare the country for workable democracy, and when they left, either in disgrace (General Yahya Khan), through a mysterious accident (General Zia), or by losing a constitutional battle with the judiciary (General Musharraf), the ensuing civilian administrations were unskilled in leading a nation and exercising authority.

The present government in Islamabad continues to flounder, but much of the lack of direction is hardly its fault. Beset by bigoted fanatics whose suicide bombings are indiscriminately savage, and besieged by international preachers who lecture Pakistan about "not doing enough" to combat terrorism, the government has a hard row to hoe. The worldwide crisis caused by greedy banksters in the US and Europe has not helped an economy that looked as if it was getting off its knees before it suffered the double whammy of internal insurrection and external battering by the crooked casinos of the west.

Sure, it's depressing to know that so many of Pakistan's MNAs have become dollar millionaires since they were elected, although they're only following the habits of, for example, the rotten lot of Members of Parliament in London who have been ripping off the taxpayer for years with fraudulent claims for expenses. But the other day the MNAs in Islamabad took up their patriotic cudgels and decided it was time that Pakistan should assert itself against foreign domination.

In an admirable display of solidarity the politicians "Strongly asserted that unilateral actions, such as those conducted by the US forces in Abbottabad, as well as the continued drone attacks on the territory of Pakistan, are not only unacceptable but also constitute violation of the principles of the Charter of the United Nations, international law and humanitarian norms and such drone attacks must be stopped forthwith..."

Now this is the parliament and people of Pakistan speaking to the most powerful country in the world in no uncertain terms. These democratically elected politicians are telling the United States of America that enough is enough. They declared that as from 14 May 2011 there must be no more illegal killings in their country by foreigners. The Constitution of the United States is precise about condemning such action.

But then, predictably enough, there came the slap in the face. The US delivered the ultimate insult to Pakistan's democracy. Because it was reported barely 48 hours later that "Two US drone strikes targeting a militant compound and a vehicle in Pakistan's lawless tribal district of North Waziristan killed at least nine people on Monday [16 May].....the drones fired two missiles into a militant compound, and minutes later another drone fired two missiles at a vehicle nearby." Get the message?

The message is clear, in that the Parliament of Pakistan can pass what resolutions it likes, but the United States of America will ignore them. Not only was Pakistan humiliated over the Davis affair, when that CIA thug killed two citizens of Pakistan and got away with murder and was spirited out of the country instead of facing criminal charges, but the US is intent on grinding Pakistan's dignity even further into the gutter. The 16 May drone strike was followed the next day by an attack on two Pakistan army checkpoints near Miranshah by foreign helicopters. Two soldiers were injured. No apologies, of course.

The United States cares not a fig for Pakistan's democracy, or for any other democracy, come to that. The Obama administration has shown that it is ludicrously hypocritical by attacking Libya, which is ruled by a whacky dictator who persecutes his citizens, while maintaining the US Gulf Fleet Headquarters in Bahrain, which is ruled by a whacky dictator who persecutes his citizens. The only difference between these two places is that the western media concentrate on Libya and are not permitted to say anything bad about Bahrain's savage king. Mercenaries from other Arab states have been brought into Bahrain to subjugate its citizens, while in Libya Nato swooping jet jockeys have fun while trying to assassinate Qaddafi.

Parliament in Islamabad is powerless against the arrogant might of the United States. It can pass resolutions until the drones come home, and nobody in Washington will pay the slightest heed. It seems that for Pakistan legislators to declare "such drone attacks must be stopped forthwith" is practically an invitation to increase the carnage. Pakistan can't do a damn thing about this blatant provocation. The indignity inflicted on Pakistan is not only insolent and illegal, it is lip-smackingly, sneeringly triumphal.

Pakistan's democracy is shaky. It needs all the help it can get both domestically and internationally if it is to prove that Pakistan can govern itself properly and for the long term. But on the international scene Pakistan's democracy is being torn to bits. It's not just being ignored – it's being held up to the world and ripped to shreds by drone-fired missiles and the rockets and bombs from foreign aircraft sweeping illegally over its borders.

Economically it would be disastrous for Pakistan to cut ties with its savage paymaster. But these kill-crazy video-game desperadoes who gaily bombard the world without fear of retaliation just might take pause if Pakistan did one thing: stop, instantly, the entire flow of war material passing through Pakistan to Afghanistan, and forbid all flights through Pakistan's airspace by any aircraft destined for Kabul. Another course could be to issue orders to the Pakistan Air Force to shoot down the drones. This it is quite entitled to do under international custom. (Imagine what the US would do if an armed Venezuelan drone were to zoom over Arizona.)

These might seem extreme retaliatory measures. But a country can't just sit back and be treated with the derision, disrespect, and insolent contempt that Pakistan is suffering at the moment. Enough is enough. If democracy is to survive in Pakistan – and heaven forbid there be a rerun of past years – then democracy must be seen to be supported and defended.

Website is








Pakistan is a land of many fateful contests; it is also the playground of several games played rather roughly by natives and foreigners alike. On May 13, parliament assembled for an 11-hour long in-camera session, the main highlight of which was an unprecedented interaction between the law makers and the top echelon of the military. On the same day, the insurgents killed more than eighty newly trained FC men. There, in the course of a single day, we witnessed dramatisation of overt and covert tussles that leave our people wondering who is winning and who is losing.

The media reciprocated the secrecy game being played inside the sacred precinct of parliament with a game of real time exposure of the proceedings. Getting no more than disjointed bits of information, the TV channels repeated and amplified them speculatively. Echoing the information minister's regrettable faux pas that General Ahmad Shuja Pasha had "surrendered" to parliament, the media kept him under the spotlight with dark hints that it was the day of decision in the presumed civil-military contest. There were, indeed, some probing questions but the military had no intention of polarising the civil and military perspectives. The generals were there to rally the representatives of the people behind them.

Additionally, they were reminding parliamentarians that very often they have to fill the vacant space because the present government does not take clear positions in the domain of foreign policy and national security. If there was a winner, it was Ahmad Shuja Pasha who moved dexterously between utter humility and judicious assertion to identify responsibilities of the government and its own military.

Parliament was rightly told that relations with the United States have become problematic. Consider the New York Times' editorial ("Pakistan after Bin Laden") of May 13. It accused Pakistan's leaders – military and civil – of stoking more anti-Americanism and then observed wryly that "we see no signs that Pakistan is ready to stop playing all sides". It advised President Obama to leverage the moment and hoped that '"the trove of computer files seized by the Americans may provide some welcome bargaining power".

Pakistan is not about to be written off. In fact, we should visualise two successive phases in bilateral relations: one lasting till the bulk of US and Nato forces are withdrawn with some claim of victory and the other beyond such an acceptable outcome.

We should expect Washington's Pakistan diplomacy to become more coercive to secure greater compliance from a government that is now on the defensive. The partnership has always remained transactional with Pakistan having to carry an ever increasing burden of economic and human losses to keep it going. There will be many new pressure points. Apart from Afghanistan, the United States also has an independent set of objectives related to Pakistan's growing nuclear capability, its role in the American South Asian strategy and above all, the transformation of the Pakistani society and its national security state. As Pakistan seeks more freedom to manoeuvre, Washington will doubtless constrain it with demands that Pakistan would occasionally find inconsistent to its national interest.


As events unfold, regression into the old cycle of sanctions will no longer be ruled out. It's time for the government to produce a political and economic plan to cope with the consequences of revisiting and reviewing the terms of engagement with the United States. The hard question posed by the latest resolution of parliament was not the resignation of the ISI chief but about the will and capacity of the government to craft a strategy that makes its implementation viable.

The writer is a former foreign secretary. Email:









BARRING two drone attacks that were carried out at a time when Senator John Kerry was holding damage control talks with Pakistani leadership and which conveyed the impression that the United States is unlikely to abandon its intransigence or take into account sensitivities of Pakistani people, the visit of the US Senator has, on the whole, impacted positively the derailed bilateral relationship. The joint statement issued by the two countries after talks between John Kerry and Pakistani leadership and formal statement issued by the visitor clearly indicated desire of the two sides to repair the damage and build upon the commonalities.

Abbottabad operation, which constituted grave violation of Pakistan's sovereignty, had justifiably created extreme shock and anger in the length and breadth of the country. Sentiments of the Pakistani people were also reflected in the strongly worded unanimous resolution adopted by the joint session of the parliament. Tone and tenor of anti-Pakistan statements emanating from Washington also hinted at the possibility of a complete break down in bilateral relations but Kerry's exhaustive meetings with civilian and military authorities of Pakistan have apparently saved the ties from collapse, as, according to the US Senator, they have agreed on a series of measures to bring their relationship back on track. These measures have not been spelt out but the announcement that US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Marc Grossman and Deputy Director CIA would be visiting Islamabad this week is indicative of the fact that these relate to the realms of security, intelligence, counter-terrorism and may be economy. In the backdrop of moves aimed at blocking assistance to Pakistan, came the pronouncements of John Kerry that aid under Kerry-Lugar Bill would continue and that the US has long term commitment with Pakistan. But we hope he must have carried back a clear message that self-respect and sovereign equality in bilateral relations is more important for Pakistan than economic and military assistance without which Islamabad would be much better off and learn to stand on its own feet. His assurance that the United States has no designs against Pakistan's nuclear assets would help assuage widespread apprehensions in this regard but this 'guarantee' which he expressed willingness to write with his blood, loses its impact when, according to some reports, he asked Pakistan to stop work on its nuclear programme. Is he ready to render similar advice to India where his country is colluding to sharpen nuclear teeth of New Delhi? Any how, while welcoming the moves to rebuild the relationship, we would urge Pakistani leaders to take concrete measures to improve the country's economy, as over-dependence on foreign aid forces them to make compromises on our sovereignty.







IN a highly condemnable incident, a diplomat of Saudi Arabia was shot and killed by unidentified armed men in Karachi on Monday, just five days after hand grenades were lobbed at the Saudi consulate in the city. The diplomat, identified as Hasan Al-Kahtani, was attacked by four gunmen riding two motorcycles while he was driving to work.

The news of the dastardly attack has widely been condemned by people of Pakistan and Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar represented feelings of the people when she spoke to Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al Faisal to express shock and anger over the killing and pledged the perpetrators would be brought to justice. Though acts of terrorism and target killings have become orders of the day but attacks on Saudi nationals and facilities was outrageous and speaks of some sinister designs and motives, as Pakistan has always enjoyed warmest of relations with the Kingdom and Saudi Arabia commands respect among all Pakistanis. Though attempts are being made to apportion blame on Taliban but this seems to be a far-fetched idea and there are reasons to believe that the attack has sectarian angle because of the decision of the Saudi Arabia to send troops to Bahrain. Whatever the reason, we cannot condone attempts to target our Saudi brothers and create a wedge between the two countries and therefore, swift investigations should be carried out to unmask those involved in the crime and those who planned the conspiracy. It is also regrettable that despite potential threat, which was highlighted by grenade attacks on the consulate, Pakistani authorities did not ensure necessary security arrangements to protect lives of Saudi diplomats. We hope that the level of security for Saudi nationals would be increased because of the growing threat and plans of our enemies, who also attacked Chinese engineers in the past.







PML-N Chief Mian Nawaz Sharif has once again raised the vital issue of Pakistan's relations with neighbouring countries particularly India. During his press conference in Karachi Mian Saheb emphasised that the nation must stop treating India as country's biggest enemy and called for a reappraisal of ties with New Delhi if we want to go forward and progress.

It appears that the PML-N Chief has given a futuristic vision for the country after a lot of soul searching on the basis of security concerns and analysis of ground situation to redefine relations with India. The statement of the former Prime Minister and leader of the main opposition party deserves consideration. Since former Indian Prime Minister AB Vajpayee came to Pakistan during Mian Saheb's tenure as Prime Minister, he has made it a part of foreign policy to improve relations with the neighbouring country. We endorse that Pakistan should have an inward looking policy and efforts are made to strengthen relations with neighbours. Trade relations also play an important role in bring countries together as the business tycoons enjoy considerable influence and relations with those in the corridors of power. What is lacking is that the politicians, particularly the elected representatives are shy of visiting each others' country to avoid being dubbed as pro-Pakistan or pro-India. World over it is a practice that opposition leaders visit other countries to build personal contacts and understand issues of concern and interest. We may point out that key issue between Pakistan and India is Kashmir though there are several others including Siachen, Sir Creek, water and terrorism which need to be resolved. We are of the opinion that Mian Nawaz Sharif enjoys sufficient goodwill in South Block in New Delhi and he should take the lead. Private visit by Mian Nawaz Sharif would enable him to meet people from all walks of life including those in the Government, opposition leaders and people of public opinion and the two sides can have open discussions on the irritants that have bedeviled relations between the two countries and decide how to move forward for resolutions of problems and laying the foundation for enduring relationship.









In the aftermath of the death of Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden who was killed in a covert military operation by the US in Pakistan's city, Abbottabad, contradictory statements of American high officials including their media continue against Pakistan, its armed forces and especially spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) as part of a propaganda campaign. In this respect, by ignoring the sacrifices of Pak Army and efforts of ISI in relation to war on terror, America is distorting Pakistan's image. Meanwhile, various sources suggest that videos released by the Pentagon about Osama Bin Laden are actually fake. British daily, Guardian (Online) and BBC have also indicated suspicion about his death at Abbotabad. On May 2, in the ARY TV channel, Pakistan's former Chief of Army Staff, General Mirza Aslam described Osama's death by the US raid as a big drama, adding that he was already died in Tora Bora fighting.

Bin Laden's last genuine video appeared in the late 2001 when the CNN in February1, 2009 indicated that he got diabetes and kidney problems. On December 26, 20001, Egyptian newspaper, Al-Wafd disclosed that a prominent official of the Afghan Taliban movement announced that Osama bin Laden died a natural death. He was buried in Tora Bora. In the past, Russia and Afghan President Karzai had also verifed his death about in 2002. On the other hand, making Osama as a scapegoat of US external and internal policies, a number of fake video messages were telecast intermittently on various TV channels and websites by some elements like CIA in order to achieve their political aims.

However, whether Osama died earlier or on May 2, this year at Abbotabad, it does not matter because of the fact that Al-Qaeda has already franchised. In this context, US war on terror in the aftermath of September 11, 2001 catastrophe, leading to developments such as American invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, which is now being waged on global and regional level by Washington's various tactics and on the other side, response of Al-Qaeda militants by clandestine attacks, as shown through a number of suicidal missions in Bali (2002), in 2003 in Khobar, Riyadh, Jakarta , Madrid, and a continued 'different war' in Iraq and Afghanistan resulting in many casualties of Americans and Europeans clearly point out that Al-Qaeda has organized itself on world level.

As regards the previous bombings, US magazine Time wrote in December 1, 2003, "Al-Qaeda's decimated Old Guard may no longer be able to mount elaborately detailed plots executed by trained terrorists under its direct command. But US counter-terrorism officials believe that remaining inner core has put out a general go-head to Islamist cells worldwide. Attack whenever and wherever you can, sometimes the mothership may provide financial and logistical support, but the dirty work seems to be handled by local, autonomous units that are intimately familiar with their areas and can plan and attack below the radar of local security forces". "The pattern", says Rand Corporation terrorism expert Bruce Hoffman, "is to send a handful of professional terrorists to make contact with existing local terrorist groups who provide the cannon fodder-that is the suicide bombers." Although Al-Qaeda's inner core has been reduced by arrests and deaths, but it has survived. According to a Singapore based expert, the tens of thousands of fighters trained in its camps in Afghanistan dispersed to their former countries. In most of the cases, these are unstable Muslim nations such as Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, Algeria, Uzbekistan, Nigeria, Indonesia etc. but a significant minority came from Western countries.

In the words of the former CIA Director George Tenet, "In this new phase of franchise terrorism, Al-Qaeda has been described as an idea rather than an organization, a global movement infected by Al-Qaeda's radical agenda…it still acts as an inspiration to groups, from Chechnya to Palestinian territories that have minimal contact with the network. Links among the regional networks of the Islamic activists make the movement appear invincible enhancing its status and power." In this regard, Turkish officials had remarked that the double car bombings in Istanbul were the work of homegrown extremists, inspired and trained by Al-Qaeda.

It is mentionable that in July 7, 2005, a series of bomb attacks on London's transport network killed more than 30 people. The then British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw had said that the bombings had "the hallmarks of an Al-Qaeda-related attack." On October 13, 2003, US weekly Time had revealed that the militant, namely Riduan Ismauddin-better known as Hambali was behind the bombing of Bali and the Jakarta's JW Marriot Hotel, as he confessed during interrogations after his arrest. His further confessions before the American intelligence agencies pointed out, "how closely interlinked the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) and Al-Qaeda had become."

It seems that by following successful tactics of slipping and regrouping like the Taliban of Afghanistan, Iraqi Al-Qaeda combatants had successfully reorganized themselves to launch attacks against the invaders with hi-technology weapons. Besides roadside bombs, ambush assaults and suicide attacks, some other tactics of the Al Qaeda-related militants are hostage-taking, creating insecurity, influencing the decisions of the governments and building diplomatic pressure. Even in other countries like Philippines, Al-Qaeda radical combatants are acting upon the similar war tactics.

Nevertheless, since 9/11, the US applied coercive diplomacy on the weak states without bothering for the public backlash and internal instability in these countries. In this respect, Pakistan, Indonesia, Yemen and almost all the Gulf states decided to join Bush anti-terrorism war. While Pakistan has become a special target of the US drone attacks. And in collusion with Indian RAW and Israeli Mossad, Washington wants to destabilse Pakistan because it is the only nuclear country in the Islamic World.

Nonetheless, despite various steps taken by the US since 9/11 to confirm the identity of the people or target located by certain types of technical intelligence—at a CIA listening facility in Virginia, 6000 pieces of intelligence are examined. Phone conversation in remote parts of the world is monitored by satellite. Despite its vast resouces, technical intelligence e.g. satellites, unmanned aerial vehicles and human intelligence—extraordinary long-range aerial military capacity, US intelligence agencies, especially CIA failed in detecting Bin Laden and destroying Al-Qaeda's terrorist network for more than ten years as various subversive acts such as targeted killings, bomb blasts and suicide attacks in Israel including some other countries and an unending wave of the same in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan show. Instead, ISI captured masterminds and renowned commanders of Al-Qaeda.In fact, it is a 'different war' and the American enemies like Al-Qaeda warriors are unseen. Geographically and ethnically, they are interwoven with other races and sects of the concerned countries and multicultural societies of the west. This element of intermixing especially in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Philippines, and other Islamic states provides them a cover to conceal the identity and gives an advantage to follow a strategy of slipping and regrouping including run-and-hit operations. Because of this element, most of the Al-Qaeda leaders succeed in keeping themselves anonymous and untraceable.

It is true that transnational militant groups attempt to challenge the unipolar order with asymmetrical means such as terrorist strikes, while the state actor like the United States also uses the same tactics through state terrorism as noted in case of Afghanistan, Iraq and drone attacks including May 2 military raid in Pakistan, which violated the sovereignty of Islamabad. India and Israel also employ various tactics of state terrorism in the controlled territories of Palestine and Kashmir.

If US-led India and Israel think that the current campaign of state terrorism would enable them to eradicate Muslim political opposition with force in the long term are badly mistaken. The radical Islamic movement is not a corporation that can be bankrupted and closed down, or a political party that could be banned by a government. It is due to the atrocities—political and economic injustices of the US-led world status quo that Al-Qaeda Jehadi activists manipulate the same by seeing their political activity as part of their faith and if they or their commanders die or are arrested, there are others to follow.

It is noteworthy that during the illegitimate invasion of Iraq by the US-led forces, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak had rightly said that thousands of Osamas would be created. Notably, Saddam Hussein was captured and hanged. Similarly, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Al-Qaida leader in Iraq was killed by a US air raid. But instead of decreasing, resistance against the occupying forces increased in that country. In these terms, if Osama has died in a US military operation in Pakistan, it does not seem that Al-Qaeda will also be eliminated as it has already franchised.






For all those who believe that India is the largest democracy in the world, need to think again. Apparently, there is much more than what meets the eye where India's booming image as a rising nation and prospective superpower is concerned. It would not be wrong to say that in practice it is much closer to an oligarchy with all power and control vested in the hands of a few powerful elite, who protect and fuel their personal interests. Wikileaks have revealed and highlighted that not only the political elite, the bureaucracy, but the opinion makers and the all powerful Indian media houses have morphed into agents of neo-liberal capitalism, thus turning the Indian claim of a perfect and functional democracy into a total sham.

That the democratic institutions of India have lost all power in the face of these globalised elites that have hijacked the State and its operations and are driven by selfish ambitions and are plundering the national wealth with both hands is an understatement. The Indian's ought to worry and fret that India's corporate titans are too firmly entrenched, and too deeply ensconced in the corridors of power.

In telephone conversations of a corporate lobbyist, tapped by the Indian tax authorities and leaked to the media, Indians have heard ministries described as ATM machines and the ruling party referred to as "our shop". They have read reports of companies wildly overcharging the government for the Commonwealth games and underpaying for mobile-telephone spectrum. The fear is that Indian capitalism is turning oligarchic is certainly not unfounded. Another call that raised a lot of eyebrows showed Radia, a prominent lobbyist trying to convince a fellow power broker to help get a former telecommunications minister restored to his post despite allegations of corruption against him. That minister, Andimuthu Raja, later resigned amid charges that he had allocated lucrative cell phone licenses to well-connected companies at yard-sale prices, costing the Indian government a loss of $40 billion in potential revenue. Saikat Datta is an assistant editor at Outlook, a weekly newsmagazine that has put some of the leaked tapes on its website. He says the tapes reveal that the country that prides itself on being the world's largest democracy is really ruled by a small coterie of powerful people. Asserting that, it helps to "completely clears one myth that has been around for the past 63 years — that India is a democracy. It completely establishes for the first time that India is an oligarchy."

According to an Indian economist Eswar Prasad, India is heading the way of Russia, with a few business dynasties dominating the growth story. The policymaking is far from transparent and mostly aims to benefit a group of selected people who became billionairs when state owned enterprises were sold on cheap rates. The cronyism that now stands exposed shows that donors seeking influence do not need to support political parties, but can easily spend money to buy favors of those in office. This can be confirmed by the fact that contrary to popular perception of a homogenized growth pattern that India is known to follow, the actual, tangible economic development is restricted to only a few selected regions, leaving behind a huge expanse of under developed and neglected territory.

According to the leaked cables a senior Indian politician has quoted that, "virtually all the economic growth of recent years is concentrated in the four southern states, two western states (Gujrat and Maharashtra) and within 100km of Delhi". In an op-ed contribution in the new York times, Vivek Dehijia has quoted Ashutosh Varshney, an Indian political science professor at Brown University who has drawn a comparison between the Gilded Age in the United States, the era of the robber barons and "contemporary India, which too features dizzyingly rapid growth, a new class of superrich entrepreneurs, a clutch of crooked politicians and a seemingly unceasing carousel of corruption scandals." He appears certain that "India today broadly resembles the earlier American experience, both in the rapidity of economic growth and the structural transformation from an agrarian to a modern economy". For explanation, he offers that the "causal mechanism is the same: Unregulated capitalism generates both rapid growth and burgeoning inequality".

A significant point that he misses, however, is that no two nations such as the US and India, with such diverse geo-strategics, cultural and ethno-linguistic features can share similar experiences. For shared experiences and outcomes in any process, similarity in any of the above is a prerequisite. Thus, to predict outcomes for India where the period for rapid corruption would lead is absolutely premature. Corruption alone never leads to any amiable outcome until the political system is strengthened to represents the masses.

The American society was certainly never infested by a homegrown and rapidly increasing insurgency such as the Maoist rebels in India that is enough to contradict such claims. With more than half the Indian population living below the poverty line the large claims of progress towards a rising superpower is a farfetched fantasy. Poverty and hunger are big issues for which the Indian state announces cosmetic relief measures, periodically for publicity purposes with great fanfare that make no impact on the conditions of the poor Indian masses. According to a survey conducted by the UN more than 450 million Indians are living in abject poverty below the minimum acceptance level defined by the UN itself. In an interview with The Times of London, the director of the British-based Institute of Development Studies (IDS) said: "It's the contrast between India's fantastic economic growth and its persistent malnutrition which is so shocking. An average of 6,000 children die every day in India; 2,000-3,000 of them from malnutrition." India's economic boom has "enriched a consumer class of about 50 million people, but an estimated 880 million still live on less than $2 (Rs 100) a day, many of them in conditions worse than those found in sub-Saharan Africa."

A reality check provides us with an exclusive insight into the gory details of a glittery external image. More than half the India population lives in villages in desolate and dismal conditionalities unfit for humans. More than half the Indians do not have any access to banks and neither have had any bank accounts in the 'rising India' of today. 93% of the people in this post modern era of technology where India is known for its growth in the IT industry, are without a fundamental access to the internet. This is indicative of the fact that power, growth and prosperity is concentrated in specific regions and a small sample of the Indian population that is certainly not their true representative.

An eminent India writer and social activist Arundhati Roy asserts that, "Our elite say we are a super power. Twenty five per cent of country's total wealth is with a hundred people and they say it is development." While exposing the current trends in which "tribal land is being acquired for industrialisation and the voice of tribals is suppressed if they protest. Is it a development?" Roy asks. "When we talk of poor nations African countries are on top. But, the fact is that eight Indian states together account for more poor people than in 26 African nations, "she said, thus confirming that the "deception at the heart of rising India" is a stark reality that ought to be exposed.







Dr Manmohan Singh is no doubt such an enigmatic and charismatic character India must always be proud of. Always having a very positive approach and a strong will and an unshaken resolve to solve all those conflicting issues which have turned this region into a blazing inferno, Dr. Singh has become one of the most popular personalities not only for the Indians but also for the people of Pakistan. On 12th of May, in his opening statement at the Joint Press interaction along with Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai in Kabul he said, "Peace and security requires all the countries in the region to think afresh in dealing with terrorism. I believe India, Pakistan and Afghanistan should work together to end the scourge of terrorism."

It was his first public statement after the killing of Osama Bin Laden in Abbotabad by the American forces. That was the time when all guns were targeting the Pakistan army and the ISI for providing the so-called shelter to Osama and it was strongly expected that India would exploit the situation to all possible extents and try her best to make hay because the sun was shinning but Manmohan Singh behaved sensibly and did not become a part of this blame game. His sobriety and sensibility has proved him a man who has a lot of guts and talents required for the solution of all regional issues regarding terrorism. He seems well aware of the fact that terrorism is a wild fire; its flames would certainly engulf the peace and prosperity of the neighbouring countries including India, if they get out of control in Pakistan.

A strong East is never in the benefit of the West. At present western countries are enjoying an unchallenging supremacy over the east. They are exploiting the sources and resources of the east in every possible manner. Their ultimate goal and destination is to get a complete control on all these resources including the minerals and the treasures hidden beneath the hot-waters.

The so-called war against terrorism is also a tool being used for the achievement of this goal. Anarchy, chaos and disorder particularly in the South-Asian region are providing the west with more chances of increasing its influence in the region. Moreover this so-called war against terror has become a political stunt not only for Obama but also for the anti-Obama factions of the American society. The Abbotabad Operation is also an issue that has generated many unanswerable questions in the minds of American people. Dr. Paul Craig Roberts has very minutely dissected the Osama adventure in his recent article, 'AMERICANS ARE LIVING IN 1984', published in The Global Research. "No one will notice that those who fabricated the story forgot to show the kidney dialysis machine that, somehow, kept bin Laden alive for a decade. No doctors were on the premises. No one will remember that Fox News reported in December, 2001, that Osama bin Laden had passed away from his illnesses. If bin Laden beat all odds and managed to live another decade to await, unarmed and undefended, the arrival of the Navy SEALS last week, how it is possible that the "terror mastermind," who defeated not merely the CIA and FBI, but all 16 US intelligence agencies along with those of America's European allies and Israel, the National Security Council, the Pentagon, NORAD, Air Traffic Control, airport security four times on the same morning, etc. etc., never enjoyed another success, not even a little, very minor one? What was the "terror mastermind" doing for a decade after 9/11?"

The world renowned scholar Noam Chomsky has expressed the same type of feelings in his article My Reaction to Osama bin Laden's Death. He says, '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. 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. There is much more to say, but even the most obvious and elementary facts should provide us with a good deal to think about.'

Things would get more complicated and confusing in the near future. The so-called terrorists who were born in Afghanistan and then migrated to Pakistan would be settling somewhere in India very soon. The US forces would keep on following them as they have been for the last twenty years. The journey that started from Afghanistan would end somewhere in India but that would not be the end of this pursuit. The terrorists would keep on shifting from one place to other and the US forces would keep on following them. Ultimately one day we, the people of the South-Asian region would be watching another Abbotabad type of play staged somewhere along the Indo-China borders. It is the most important need of time that India Pakistan Afghanistan and China must join hands together to fight the menace of terrorism, the terrorism promoted by the west, and particularly by the USA.

—The writer is defence and strategic affairs analyst.








" If you once forfeit the confidence of your fellow citizens, you can never regain their respect and esteem. You may fool all of the people some of the time; you can even fool some of the people all the time; but you can't fool all of the people all of the time."

The Americans in a unilateral operation 'terminated' the Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in the early hours of 2nd May by their special forces. However, many questions have remained unanswered since the operation. Like, where is the body of Osama bin Laden? This was a unilateral USaction without the prior knowledge of Pakistani government, and thus, didn't this violate our territorial Sovereignty? If our government didn't know of the American operation as claimed by them, then WHO authorized the Americans to do this operation within our territory? Shouldn't the violators be brought to justice?

The first and foremost question in every ones mind is as to the body of Osama bin Laden. Why were the pictures of dead Osama not shown to the world like those of Saddam and his sons and the treatment meted to them?? A responsible American government would have displayed Osama's body not only to the media but to its NATO allies. The American public and the Pakistanis deserved to see the dead body for whom they have been paying such a heavy price. The USgovernment's version is not believed by anyone that Osama's head was too damaged to be shown to the public. Surely, the morticians could have prepared the body for public display?? But, by not showing the body the whole USoperation has become doubtful and in many quarters it is voiced that the Americans may have violated Pakistani airspace for some other sinister design??? A theory circulating among many is that the Americans staged a gunfight in the dark to embarrass the Pakistani leaders to put more pressure and have their say when and where they wanted. Since its election year in the United States, Mr Obama felt that this was the 'RIGHT TIME' to please the voters. Mr Obama has been under pressure for quite sometime from his voters as his government hasn't been able to deliver as expected.

The Americans not only infringed our territorial sovereignty by doing a covert unilateral operation in our territory but later had the audacity for blaming us for failed intelligence. But didn't the USintelligence fail to detect the attacks of 9/11??? They having the most sophisticated technology of not only intercepting aircrafts but also having transponders/transmitter devices on planes for purpose of tracking failed to detect the oncoming attackers?? Or was it planned by the Americans on purpose to miss the detection of the oncoming planes???

Sovereignty is the basis of orderly international system. Therefore, every state must respect every other states sovereignty. What they do within their own borders is their own concern and meddling establishes the dangerous principal that intervention is acceptable. The legal doctrine of national sovereignty and the principle of non-interference are both enshrined in the UN Charter. Article 2(4) of the United Nations Charter clearly provides: 'All Members shall refrain in their international relations from threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations.'


owever, the record of the American and Israeli Administration shows that they have needed little incentive to transgress international norms and violate the sovereignty of independent nation-states. The Eichmann Case(1962), is very pertinent, where, there was unlawful arrest of a wanted criminal from Argentinian territory by Israeland the UN Security Council termed it as, "endangering international peace and security" and asked Israelto make reparations according to the rules of International law. Similarly, the U-2 incident of May 1960 is not forgotten, where a USaircraft engaged in espionage activities over the USSRwas forced down by the Russians.

As far as the Pakistani government is concerned, it simply failed to take its nation into confidence. Rather this elected government stayed mum about the whole incident and the Pakistanis heard of this operation through the American President. Why? The Prime Minister chose to speak after a week of the incident-too little and too late. What the Prime Minister had to say was known to all-yes, there was an intelligence and defence failure….What the government needs to clarify is as to who authorized this unilateral operation into our territory?? If they have no answer then they have 'NO' right to stay in power as they are the elected leaders and are responsible to give answers to the nation.

It is surprising that the incident of may 2nd has raised so many eyebrows. This is likely to follow when a state allows another state to attack and meddle within its border. Hasn't our government authorized drone attacks on its innocent civilians??? So why so much of a hullaballo over the Abbottabad operation?? By allowing the drone attacks the government had clearly shown an international acceptability of a policy which was interpreted as a licence to take the law into their own hands and circumvent international norms and convert 'might' into right.

It is high time that we as a nation re-examine the role and respect to be accorded to the rule of law and principles of international justice. Surely, some heads must roll in the government……..The first and foremost casualty should be of the Supreme Commander, Mr Asif Ali Zardari and of the 'dummy' Prime Minister. A suo-moto action must be taken against them. They are responsible for allowing drone attacks on our soil and are also responsible for the in competency of the armed forces. We as an independent and sovereign nation cannot allow the USor any country to violate our territorial sovereignty. The violators must be handed over to us so that we can bring them to justice according to our own law and under our own judicial system.

—The writer is an IR analyst.







He lived a hero, he died a martyr. . .if they killed one Osama, a thousand others will be born," says a comment on a Facebook group called "We are all Osama bin Laden." The group formed one hour after US President Barack Obama's announcement of the al-Qaida leader's death. The group already has around 30,000 "likes." Moreover, there are more than 50 similar groups on Facebook. Reaction to bin Laden's death on Al Jazeera and other Arabic news outlets has been mixed. Some view the man as an icon, and that his death and burial at sea at the hands of American forces will not undermine that perception in the eyes of his sympathizers. Egypt's former Mufti, Sheik Nasr Farid Wasil, has declared bin Laden a martyr, "because he was killed by the hands of the enemy."

Aside from the mixed signals online, in the virtual world, the critical question is whether eliminating bin Laden marks the beginning of al-Qaida's demise in reality. Some terrorist organizations have, of course, collapsed following the death of their charismatic leader. The case of Shoko Asahara, the founder of Aum Shinrikyo (the Japanese group that organized the Sarin gas attack on Tokyo's subway in 1995), comes to mind here. But capturing and trying violent leaders is probably a better marker of the end of such organizations — the chances of such an outcome being higher when such leaders recant their views and call on their followers to lay down their arms. Abimael Guzmán, the leader of the Maoist Shining Path in Peru, and Abdullah Ocalan, the leader of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in Turkey, are notable examples.

By contrast, far from causing the demise of an armed movement, the killing of a charismatic leader at the hands of his enemies can transform such a figure into a martyr. Che Guevera was far more valuable to leftist militancy after his death than he was while alive. Armed Islamism has its particularities, of course, but it also shares important characteristics with some of these groups, including the relationship between the physical elimination of a leader and organizational survival. Decentralized organizations with relevant ideologies, operating in contexts full of conditions conducive to armed action, usually survive leadership losses, whereas hierarchical, cult-like organizations often do not.

Since 9/11, al-Qaida has been far from a hierarchical, cult-like organization. Abu Musab al-Zaraqawi's al-Qaida offshoot in Iraq demonstrates this well: The group was called al-Qaida in Mesopotamia for recruitment and propaganda purposes, but it was quite autonomous organizationally and operationally. When Bin Laden's close collaborator Ayman al-Zawahiri asked al-Zaraqawi to avoid targeting Shiites, al-Zaraqawi instead escalated the violence against them. Al-Qaida's franchise model applies to Algeria, Yemen, North Mali, and Somalia as well. Like guerrilla movements of yore, al-Qaida partakes of "ideological front" tactics: small urban cells and/or vulnerable individuals subscribe to the ideology and self-recruit or self-start an affiliated cell. In all of its decentralized modes of operation, bin Laden mainly played the role of inspirational guide and iconic figurehead — a role better played when dead than hiding from U.S. guns.

Imprisonment, followed by recantation of violence, has become almost a trend in several jihadist groups, notably the 20,000-strong Egyptian Islamic Group, factions of the al-Jihad Organization in Egypt, and smaller groups like the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group. Leading figures in armed Islamist movements have not only abandoned political violence, but have also de-legitimised it as a means for social and political change after time in prison. For example, Sayyid Imam al-Sharif (aka Dr. Fadl), an al-Qaida ideologue for a decade, published several books denouncing armed activism, both theologically and on tactical grounds, after spending several years in prison.

The same applies to the Islamic Group, a movement implicated in violent acts in almost a dozen countries throughout the 1980s and 1990s, including armed insurgency in Egypt, bombings in the United States and Croatia, assassination attempts in Ethiopia, and training camps in Afghanistan. In the 2000s, the imprisoned leadership of the Group produced more than 25 books aimed at de-legitimising political violence. Eliminating the "spiritual guide" (as opposed to the organizational leaders) of a militant group might be perceived as a political victory for a government in the short term, but it probably makes a comprehensive de-radicalisation process less likely, and it will not necessarily mean the end of the organization in question. For long-term results, capture is almost always more effective than killing. The writer is lecturer in politics and director of the Middle East Studies Programme at the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, University of Exeter, UK.

— Courtesy: The Japan Times








ALL Australians deserve consistent protection under the law.

The Australian Federation of Islamic Councils' push for Muslims to enjoy "legal pluralism" through sharia, the religious law of Islam, is a bad idea that Attorney-General Robert McClelland was right to stop dead in its tracks.

It is beside the point that the councils' submission to the parliamentary inquiry into the government's new multiculturalism policy says it wants a more moderate variety of Islamic divorce law that would fit with Australian values. In a free and democratic society, a violation of the separation between church and state is not afforded to any other religious group and would be intolerable. No other religious group has made such a request, and the concession would spur widespread community unease and, in some quarters, fuel ugly racism towards Australian Muslims. In Britain and Canada, debates over proposals for parallel legal systems involving sharia have been deeply destabilising.

Australia, in the main, like other democratic, civil societies has been well-served for generations by one law for all, a factor that has attracted many Islamic families to our shores. It is appreciated, in particular, by Muslim women, who in Islamic states often find themselves stripped of property and financial entitlements if they initiate divorce proceedings.

The one deflection in Australia from the principle of one law for all has been the mixing of mainstream and indigenous tribal law in jurisdictions such as the Northern Territory, which has produced occasional serious anomalies. In 2006, after a 55-year-old Aboriginal elder was sentenced to a month's jail for having anal sex with a 14-year-old girl promised to him in marriage, the Howard government moved to prevent judges taking account of customary law when passing sentence.

Australia has been enriched by the multitude of races and cultures from which our citizens are drawn. All groups, regardless of their backgrounds, deserve the protection and fairness afforded by one law for all.





WAYNE Swan's timidity will make Julia Gillard's job tougher.

Home owners bracing for another round of interest rate hikes need to be aware that at least some of the blame belongs to the Gillard government's first budget. Wayne Swan talked a tough pre-budget game about the need for fiscal discipline, making all the right arguments about winding back expenditure to allow room in the economy for the massive expansion in mining investment, and reducing high levels of government spending to get the budget back into surplus and minimise inflation. If achieved, this would ease upward pressure on interest rates. Yet on budget day the knife the Treasurer brought to his cost-cutting task was not a Crocodile Dundee blade but the sort of blunt knife that would struggle to slice through the kids' cheddar. This Treasurer has now delivered four budgets, but the only time he has wielded a knife is when he helped to bring down Kevin Rudd.

Tough talk is one thing but a budget table is worth a thousand pre-budget words and it is all there at budget paper No 1, statement 3, table 3. This shows that over the next four years the decisions taken in the budget will lead to an additional $18.956 billion in spending and an extra $21.681bn in savings (a third of these so-called savings are actually tax increases). The net savings are $2.725bn over four years, or just under $700 million a year. In other words, Mr Swan has managed to come up with savings over four years that will total slightly more than the government wasted in just one of its bungled stimulus schemes, the home insulation program. Despite this, some supposedly sage, older commentators have given the budget a nod of approval, suggesting it shows fiscal restraint. Such assessments must come from people who pine for the Whitlam years, but these sanguine nods to government largesse surely have no place in today's highly competitive and globalised economy. The budget makes no allowance for the risk of a deterioration in our terms of trade, placing all our chips on the boom. Yet it expects inflation to be contained at 3 per cent, so clearly something is expected to dampen the economy. To be fair, there is reference to the high dollar and the withdrawal of the post-GFC fiscal stimulus acting as handbrakes. But the budget also refers to the withdrawal of "monetary policy stimulus" which, of course, is economist-speak for increases in interest rates.

Australian home owners should be in no doubt about what is going on here. Mr Swan has shirked his responsibility to deliver meaningful spending cuts in the full knowledge that it will necessitate higher interest rates. Instead of cutting his own spending, the Treasurer is relying on the Reserve Bank to push up interest rates and force the public to curb their spending.

This is a deliberate policy decision. Mr Swan should tell Australians straight up that he wants them to make the hard decisions with their budgets that he wouldn't make with his.





THE government should respond to the needs of industry.

"WE have created the Fair Work system and it is there to stay." So declared an intractable Julia Gillard in response to serious concerns from senior business leaders at the Australian Agenda forum in Sydney on Monday. The Prime Minister shared a panel with Westfield group's Steven Lowy, Westpac's Gail Kelly and the Seven Group's Kerry Stokes, who were united on one issue: workplace laws need to be reformed. Ms Gillard's blunt rejoinder was that voters had rejected Work Choices and she would defend the system she put in place.

This is not good enough. The shortcomings of Labor's approach were apparent as long ago as the party's 2007 national conference. And recent developments should prompt an overhaul of the worst rigidities of Fair Work that are acting as a straightjacket on productivity in a way last seen in the early 1980s, before the Hawke government embarked on early workplace reform.

Mr Lowy pointed out that restrictive, state-regulated opening hours were compounded by Ms Gillard's workplace laws, which made it hard for retailers to open because of the penalty rates imposed under the current system. Consumers are increasingly finding shops and cafes shut on weekends and public holidays. Ms Gillard also appeared unconvinced by Mrs Kelly's observation that workplace flexibility is fundamental to improving productivity. Nor was she swayed by Mr Stokes's point that having the commonwealth involved and going through various court systems was laborious and unnecessary in enterprises where workers and management were in agreement.

If this was a snapshot of the government's relationship with the business community, the productivity agenda is in trouble. Despite Ms Gillard's insistence that she does not encounter many businesspeople "spruiking" Work Choices, The Australian has found that disillusionment over IR and dismay about Wayne Swan's performance as Treasurer are among business leaders' most frequent gripes. Industry lobbies, too, are demanding IR changes. Yet Labor continues to dismiss the business community as rent-seekers rather than partners for progress.

The generous pay deals struck at Victoria's Wonthaggi desalination plant, where workers are paid $50 an hour more than their counterparts at other projects, are further evidence of workplace laws that have swung too far against the national interest. With the current annual inflation rate at 3.3 per cent, slightly above the RBA's preferred range, it is troubling that Labor's workplace laws have made it easier for unions to take strike action in support of excessive wage demand. That trend must be reversed, especially in the slower sectors of the two-speed economy. If it is allowed to run unchecked, jobs will be lost, as they were in the early 1980s, when exorbitant wage rises cost 100,000 jobs in the metal industry alone.

In road transport, employers are saddled with so-called "job security" clauses dictating who they will hire and how much contractors will be paid, a battle that has spread to other sectors, including Qantas. Both the Gillard government and the opposition must listen to those running productive enterprises and muster the courage to support an IR system that suits current conditions.







NBN chief Mike Quigley. Photo: Louie Douvis

MIKE QUIGLEY'S embarrassing admission that he erred in justifying an omission about his corporate past - before his appointment two years ago as chief executive of the federal government's NBN Co - hardly cements public confidence in the nation's biggest infrastructure project.

On Friday Quigley acknowledged for the first time that Costa Rica indeed fell within his responsibilities as president for the Americas for the French telecommunications company Alcatel in 2001-03, a period during which Costa Rican officials were richly bribed by Alcatel miscreants to deliver big telecommunications contracts.

On Monday, before a parliamentary inquiry, Quigley conceded his earlier justification for not telling federal officials of his Costa Rican responsibilities was because he ''probably spoke too loosely''. This was a reference to Quigley having told the ABC this month: ''I really didn't think it was relevant at all. In fact, it was frankly ancient history.

''By that time, by the time I was talking to the folks at NBN, the settlement [between Alcatel and the US Securities and Exchange Commission, involving $US137 million in fines] had largely taken place.''

That was not so, as demonstrated by Alcatel Lucent papers shown to Quigley on Monday. The settlement is yet to be approved by an American judge.

Nowhere is there a suggestion that Quigley - a British-born Australian who went on from the Americas appointment to head Alcatel globally until it merged with Lucent in 2006 - or Jean-Pascal Beaufret, another former Alcatel executive now with NBN, were in any way involved in, or knew of, the Costa Rican corruption, or, indeed, corruption anywhere. This is not an issue of criminality but of personal judgment and attention to detail.

To borrow from Oscar Wilde, to misrepresent one factor in applying for a $1.8 million job may be regarded as misfortune; to misrepresent two looks like carelessness.

Quigley has been quick to try to reassure Australians that his omissions were the result of poor recollection or wrong advice from others, not a reflection of flawed integrity. He and Beaufret were never interviewed by US investigators and Alcatel has issued a statement clearing them of wrongdoing.

But Quigley's NBN candidature needed to be judged against a clear appreciation of his previous experience. That taxpayers are staking $36 billion in this project demands complete transparency. It should not have been for Quigley to decide what history was relevant. And if he was too forgetful, the federal government's own inquiries should have filled the gaps. That they did not is not surprising.





THE exclusive report in the Herald by Lenore Taylor yesterday, revealing that consultants have advised the government a carbon price would have to be set at $40 a tonne in order to change investment behaviour, will not have come as a surprise to anyone who has been following the climate change debate. But by no means everyone does follow it - and the news will shock many. Already the opposition, in the person of the frontbench senator George Brandis, has sketched out its line: households will be worried at the likely effect on power prices with the cost of living already rising.

That argument will understandably appeal to many. Yet Australians know they are soon likely to be paying a carbon price in some form. As we also reported, the price of inaction is high, too. Continuing uncertainty will affect future investment in power plants just as much as a high carbon price - but will divert that investment towards stopgap projects which will be less efficient. The Coalition, which acknowledges the reality of climate change, backs a policy which would only prolong uncertainty. Almost alone in the country, the former champions of the free market believe in a

non-market solution to the problem. If it were ever implemented, it would only raise the question: when will a serious attempt to deal with the problem start?

We have argued previously for a carbon price to be set initially at the lower end of the range of what is necessary, and adjusted upwards later. From the report of the consultants' findings, though, it appears the price would have to rise quickly if the tax is to have any effect. That makes the government's task all the harder. Yet it would be the worst of all worlds to introduce a necessary measure such as this but keep it ineffective. The purpose of the tax, it scarcely needs stating, is to change behaviour - to induce people to stop using highly polluting energy sources and to move to less polluting ones. A carbon tax held artificially too low to change behaviour - or weakened by excessive concessions to existing polluters - would be worse than useless.

The high rate of the carbon tax is just yet another hurdle Julia Gillard's government has to surmount. So far she has not been deflected by bad polls or the populist anger directed at her. That is just as well. The only way she - and Labor - will survive is if they keep implementing necessary and effective policies.







THE right to equal pay for work of equal value has been established in Australia since 1972. In practice, large pay gaps between men and women remain. Many of Australia's 5.2 million women in the workforce know that discrimination is real for individuals and for whole employment sectors. Only now, however, has the nation's workplace tribunal confirmed that people who perform caring ''women's work'' have not been paid fairly. Its landmark ruling has the potential to deliver the gender equity promised 39 years ago.

Excuses for this state of affairs - some deny pay discrimination even exists - highlight the challenge of change. Commentators dutifully state their support for equal pay, yet many suggest, on one hand, that Australians already enjoy equality and, on the other hand, that the flow-on costs of Fair Work Australia's decision are prohibitive. The conflicts between principle and practice and the costs of real equity show the problems are deeply entrenched, culturally and economically.

Incomes and savings data discredit claims that male and female workers are treated equally. The gender gap is too great to be fully explained by some women taking a few years off to raise children or working part-time. The pay gap applies to new tertiary graduates and rises to $8000 within five years. For full-time work, the average man's weekly pay is 18 per cent higher. In male-dominated industries such as finance and insurance the gap is 25 per cent. Over their working lives, men earn 50 per cent more on average and women accumulate less than half as much in retirement savings.

The Fair Work case focused on 150,000 social and community services workers in private agencies funded by governments, but has implications for all female-dominated work. The full bench found that ''gender has been important in creating the gap between pay in the SACS industry and pay in comparable state and local government employment''. Public sector pay scales reflect previous male domination, whereas equivalent non-government roles have always been female-dominated. The tribunal accepted that attitudes to ''caring'' work seen as traditionally female meant their skill, experience and labour were undervalued.

This has implications for professions such as teaching (70 per cent female) and nursing (90 per cent female). Fields with 98-99 per cent female employees - early childhood education, family day care and preschool aides - are among the worst paid. While employers warn of the impact on the retail and hospitality sectors, these rely heavily on young and casual workers. The pay gap in hospitality is notably small.

Before setting new pay levels, the FWA has sought more concrete union estimates of ''gender-related undervaluation'' and asked governments to elaborate on the ''generally unsatisfactory'' information they provided. Only NSW put a dollar cost on the claim for an average 25 per cent sector-wide pay rise. Its estimate, $998 million over five years, is doubly revealing. It illustrates the big disparities in pay - the 30,000 NSW workers are each paid about $6650-a-year less than others doing substantially similar mental health, social services and youth work - and the costs of closing the gap.

The tribunal acknowledged the funding challenge. Community service needs must be met, so cutting jobs to fund pay rises is not a solution. Yet the symbolism of this week's decision must be given some substance. Budget priorities will have to be reassessed if employers and governments are not to be exposed as hypocritical about gender equity.

''Care'' work is undervalued, but all Australians rely on it at some stage in their lives. The issues go beyond gender. Better pay is needed to maintain standards in areas such as teaching, child protection, health, aged care and disability services. The FWA decision should prompt Australians to take stock of the work women do and start recognising its true worth.





ON THE face of it, disbanding a police unit that has proved its worth is a strange thing to do. And when the order to shut down operations comes from a chief commissioner who is under scrutiny from an official inquiry into the structures and procedures of police command - and, reportedly, increasingly isolated within Victoria Police - it might be considered one more count against him. This is how many people will interpret Chief Commissioner Simon Overland's decision to close the Security Intelligence Group from July 1 and replace it with a new unit, the Public Order Intelligence Group.

The SIG has been one of Australia's most successful counter-terrorism units, and was closely involved in operations that led to Australia's two biggest terrorism trials. The reason for its replacement by what has been described as a new unit with broader responsibilities has not been explained. Police Minister Peter Ryan has said only that the government does not comment on police covert operations, and other organisations that have worked closely with SIG members, such as ASIO and the Australian Federal Police, are remaining mute, too.

There are obvious security reasons that might be invoked to justify this lack of public comment. But Mr Ryan must be aware that in the circumstances official silence can only contribute to continued speculation about Mr Overland's tenure as Chief Commissioner. Deputy Commissioner Sir Ken Jones, whom Mr Overland this month ordered to stand down from active duty until his resignation takes effect in August, told The Age earlier this year that the SIG officers were among the best police he had worked with. Many of them are believed to be so angry at the decision to close the unit that they intend to leave intelligence work.

It may be that the decision to disband the SIG is an error of judgment by Mr Overland, and related to his poor relationship with Sir Ken. Or, there may be good operational reasons for it. Whichever it is, the people of Victoria deserve to know the truth. At the very least, the fate of the SIG should be one of the matters considered by Jack Rush, QC, in his inquiry into police command. If the government is not willing to enlighten Victorians about the reasons for such decisions, it will further undermine confidence in the Chief Commissioner. And Mr Ryan should understand that, for as long as Mr Overland holds that post, undermining confidence in him means undermining confidence in the Victoria Police, too.








Whatever other challenges he faces, the energy minister can be pleased by the outcome of cabinet talks on carbon reduction

Fast lane or slow lane, Chris Huhne has been driving climate change policy in the right direction. Whatever else is going on in his career – and the allegation that he asked his wife to take speeding points for him is serious – the energy minister can be pleased by the outcome of cabinet discussions on future carbon reduction. With some important qualifications, the government has decided to accept the recommendation of the independent, advisory Committee on Climate Change (CCC) for a 50% cut in emissions by 2027. Anything less would have been shaming, both for Mr Huhne and the coalition as a whole, just a year after David Cameron promised it would be "the greenest government ever".

The speeding claims against Mr Huhne were understandably on MPs' minds yesterday afternoon, when he turned up in the Commons, under some duress, to make an oral rather than written statement on climate targets. A sniff of scandal draws MPs and journalists into the chamber but, whatever happens next in that story, climate change certainly matters more. In the moments after Mr Huhne's statement, both Greenpeace and the CCC put out statements largely welcoming what he had to say. "This is a world first: no other country has made legally binding commitments to ambitious emissions reduction targets for the 2020s," said the CCC. For such support, Mr Huhne must have given much thanks.

Politically, climate change is no longer the most pressing of issues in Britain. Scientifically, it still is. Politicians of all parties have to balance the immediate need for economic growth against the contradictory demands of tough carbon targets in the future. It is easy but dishonest to pretend that these two things can sit together without tension. Green jobs will provide future employment, but right now it is dirty jobs in manufacturing that are driving exports. Both the Treasury and the business department are well aware that what remains of the steel industry and the ceramics industry, to pick just two, would decamp abroad if Britain imposed costs on them that other countries do not. Exporting carbon pollution is not the same as reducing it, and the debate inside government about the right response to the CCC was not quite the battle of virtue against evil that some have described.

As a result, the fourth carbon budget, which will run from 2023, was announced alongside important (and still undefined) exemptions for energy-intensive industries, which could in the end render the targets hollow. Mr Huhne has also agreed to review progress in 2014, an automatic revision that will align Britain to progress elsewhere in the EU. Until now, this country has been boldly unilateralist on carbon targets, signing up, through a process set out in the Climate Change Act, to an emissions cut to a fifth of 1990 levels by 2050. The review means that if the rest of Europe falters in its task, Britain may do so too. This will dismay green groups. But unilateralism only makes sense to the extent that it encourages others to go further too. A heroic carbon reduction target that cannot be met only breeds cynicism.

It is of course easy for governments to set themselves tests far into the future. Mr Huhne will not be the climate change minister in 2027, when yesterday's target must be met. The greater test of this government's green credentials is what is being done now. Emissions fell heavily in 2009, because of recession. Any economic recovery now would probably push them back up. There are very difficult decisions ahead on energy supplies, and in particular nuclear. If petrol prices stay high, the government will face more pressure to drive them back down. Nonetheless, for all the jokes about speeding offences in the Commons yesterday, a downcast Mr Huhne did have something substantial to announce. Looking to the long term is a sound escape from present woes.





Acclaimed author shines a light on life at the bottom of the heap in Saudi Arabia's often forgotten villages

As anyone who has picked up One Thousand and One Nights is aware, there is a venerable tradition of Arabian storytelling. Before sky-scrapers shot up in the Gulf, the heart of the culture was found in the tales shared around evening fires, and perhaps that is what organisers of this week's Book World Prague jamboree had in mind in making Saudi Arabia their guest of honour. Or, just perhaps, they grabbed the petro-dollars without stopping to think. Conditions in the kingdom are dismal ones for creating literature of any quality. With no cinemas, youngsters can grow up missing out on the great tales of the times, and there are ludicrous new strictures on literary clubs, even before we consider the heavy scrawl of the censor's black pen. The Prague delegation arrived with just one obscure writer, deliberately leaving behind novelists whose sheer gift has overcome all of the barriers to win international acclaim. Foremost among them is Abdo Khal, whose Spewing Sparks As Big As Castles won a $60,000 prize dubbed the Arab Booker. A modest man stemming from the Hijazi west, he shines a light on life at the bottom of the heap, in Saudi's often forgotten villages. His voice blends image-rich poetic classicism with contemporary patois, which makes for an unmistakably Arab mix, but it reliably sets to work on universal themes. Spewing Sparks casts an unflinching eye on those seduced by the glamour of palace politics. Needless to say, it is not easy to get hold of in Saudi Arabia.






Although no one is naive enough to think that all passions between Ireland and Britain are spent, this visit is a powerful attempt at achieving a sort of closure between the two states

The phrase used by the BBC's Ireland correspondent yesterday morning said more than he intended. This was one small step for the Queen, observed Mark Simpson, as Elizabeth II stepped on to Irish soil, but one huge moment in British-Irish history. The echo of Neil Armstrong's famous comment prompts a striking thought. The Sea of Tranquillity is about a thousand times further than the centre of Dublin is from Buckingham Palace. Yet for much of the Queen's long reign, the thought of a royal visit to Ireland was almost as improbable as the thought of a royal visit to the moon.

Yesterday, though, the previously unthinkable happened at last. Good. Inevitably, the first hours spent by a British monarch in Ireland since George V a century ago generated a potent array of British-Irish symbolism. Some of it was discordant. Most of it was not. The Queen wore green – though jade, not emerald. Her plane arrived at Casement aerodrome, named after a man executed for treason against her grandfather. Soldiers of the Irish Republic saluted as she drove up to what was once the Viceregal Lodge for lunch with President McAleese. Then, particularly freighted with meaning, the Queen drove along Irish history's most iconic thoroughfare, O'Connell Street, to the garden of remembrance where, after the playing of the British national anthem, she bowed her head in memory of those who took up arms against her ancestors in 1916 – and before and since.

All this is long overdue. The Irish and British peoples have no transcending quarrel with one another. Nor, nowadays, do the two states. On both sides, there is a craving for normality. A minority, of course, continue to fight old battles. Central Dublin was locked down for the Queen's visit yesterday because of security fears about those who might protest, as a few did. But the barriers to normality are not on the Irish republican side alone. Perhaps the Queen, driving up O'Connell Street, paused to reflect that Catholic emancipation remains unfinished business as long as the Act of Settlement remains unamended. It is high time, if so.

Ireland is changed utterly since the Easter Rising. So is Britain. Yet the history still resonates, and rightly. Some still take all these symbols too seriously, and cannot think outside them. Others do not take them seriously enough, and fail to understand them. Yet while formal events and wreath-layings are the stuff of all state visits everywhere between former adversaries, and although no one is naive enough to think that all passions between Ireland and Britain are now wholly spent, this visit is a powerful and proper attempt at achieving a sort of wider closure between the two states that the two peoples mostly made long ago.




            THE JAPAN TIMES



Mr. George Mitchell, the special U.S. envoy for Middle East peace, has thrown in the towel. Of course, neither Mr. Mitchell nor the U.S. government would characterize his resignation last week as giving up, but there is no mistaking his frustration with the peace process.

It is a dispiriting end to a remarkable political career, and a signal of just how intractable the problems of the Middle East. The violence that erupted Sunday at Israel's borders is the counterpoint to Mr. Mitchell's resignation: a reminder that failure to make progress means that more lives will be forfeit.

Mr. Mitchell was appointed by U.S. President Barack Obama in January 2009 on the second day of his administration, a signal of the priority afforded resolution of the Israel-Palestine problem, an assignment that Mr. Obama called "the toughest job imaginable." Few negotiators were better suited to the task.

Mr. Mitchell is a former Senate majority leader. For those who remember how U.S. politics used to work, that means he was the man who brought both sides of that body together to pass legislation and he was quite successful at it. He followed that career by brokering a peace agreement in Northern Ireland, a situation that looked every bit as insoluble as that involving Israelis and Palestinians. He then headed the investigation of the use of steroids in professional baseball in the United States, a job that probably meant the most to most Americans—and one that may have best tested Mr. Mitchell's skills.

Yet even that skill set and list of accomplishments were not enough to break the impasse between Israelis and Palestinians. There was hope that Mr. Obama's election would transform Middle East dynamics and that his administration would commit more resources to that intractable conflict. Neither proved true. Israelis looked at the new president with suspicion, and the promised diplomatic push never materialized.

Instead, whatever promise might have existed foundered on the intransigence that has blocked progress. By all accounts, the breaking point occurred last year when the United States could not persuade the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to freeze the construction of settlements on territories claimed by Palestine. Negotiations broke down and Mr. Mitchell lost patience. He has not visited the region since December.

The resignation comes at a bad time. This is a busy week for the president. Mr. Obama met Jordan's King Abdullah II on Tuesday, will deliver a major address on the Middle East on Thursday and will then meet Mr. Netanyahu on Friday. This occurs in the context of the unrest that has ricocheted throughout the region, overturned governments in Tunisia and Egypt and threatens administrations in Libya, Syria, Bahrain and Yemen, and follows the killing of Osama bin Laden. Even though Mr. Mitchell's resignation letter was dated April 6, its timing suggests that there is less opportunity in this moment than many assume.

Officially, Mr. Mitchell committed to only two years in his post and, at 75 years old, he has earned his retirement. But this is the man who famously noted that he had "700 days of 'no' in Northern Ireland and one 'yes.'" That one yes was nowhere in sight in the Middle East.

Recent developments may have pushed it further off. Earlier this month, the two rival Palestinian factions, Fatah, which controls the West Bank, and Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, signed a reconciliation agreement. Since the Israeli government (like the U.S. and the European Union) considers Hamas a terrorist organization, that effectively kills any negotiations, at least until Hamas accepts basic principles laid down years ago, such as renouncing violence and recognizing Israel. Hamas refuses to take that step.

Weighing on every calculation is the impact of the Arab Spring. In theory, the overturn of authoritarian governments was supposed to create a flowering of democracy that would in turn lay a foundation for peace.

So far, theory has been confounded. The most notable foreign policy developments in the aftermath of the changes in the region have been the readiness of the new government in Egypt to talk to an Iranian government that supports Islamic militancy and to push the Palestinians together. The Arab Street looks less amenable to a deal with Israel than the autocrats.

Not surprisingly, Arab governments under pressure appear to be trying to channel and exploit that sentiment. Last weekend, thousands of people in Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank and Gaza demonstrated at their areas' borders with Israel to mark "the Nakba," the anniversary of the seizure of Palestinian territory by Israel. It was the first coordinated protest among Palestinians and it resulted in violence when border checkpoints were overwhelmed and Israeli forces shot at the invaders, leaving at least 10 dead.

Such incidents are a welcome distraction for the besieged government in Damascus, and the Palestinian leaders, both of whom would otherwise have to respond to growing demands for political rights and economic answers. It is far easier for them to refocus domestic anger on Israel than deal with those problems.

As a life-long politician, Mr. Mitchell understood the appeal of that approach, but as a peacemaker he recognized its futility. Until other regional leaders prove to be as farsighted, peace in the Middle East will remain a distant dream and the graveyard of diplomatic careers.






LONDON — "I'd grown up with the assumption that Scotland was a poor, wee, deprived place that had never had a fair kick of the ball and could certainly never stand on its own two feet," said Alex Salmond, leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP), whose goal is an independent Scotland.

Salmond certainly doesn't believe that now—and the SNP finally won a majority in the Scottish Parliament in the election on May 5.

Salmond first formed a government four years ago, but that was a weak coalition in which the SNP had to bargain and compromise with the other parties. This time, with 69 out of 129 seats, Salmond doesn't have to haggle. He can carry out his election promises, which include a referendum on Scottish independence.

If the voters said yes, that would be the end of the United Kingdom, the 300-year-old union of Scotland and England. Other things being equal, a majority of Scots might well vote for independence, but other things never are equal.

In the real world, many Scots are afraid that their small country, with only one-tenth of England's population, would be too vulnerable to the financial and strategic storms that shake the world. Opinion polls consistently show that no more than a quarter to a third of Scottish voters would vote yes in an independence referendum. Yet they voted the SNP into power. Why?

The main reason is that the Liberal Democratic vote collapsed in Scotland in this election. Quite a lot of those Scottish Lib Dems gave their votes to the SNP instead, but that doesn't necessarily mean that they support independence.

Since Salmond has been canny enough to promise a referendum, they knew that they could vote yes to an SNP government, and then say no to independence. He delivered sound government in difficult circumstances over the past four years; why not give him another go?

The reality is that Salmond is unlikely to persuade the Scots to vote yes in his promised referendum, even if he postpones it until near the end of his term in the hope that he can cajole or manipulate more of them into backing independence. (The smart money is betting on 2015.) So there shouldn't be any big changes in Scotland as a result of this election—and yet it may hurt the country a lot, in the end.

Scottish separatists hate the analogy with Ireland, which they once held up as an example of how a small European country with few natural resources and a big but undercapitalized banking sector could do very well in the world. Now they just try to change the subject when Ireland comes up, but that's not the worst thing that could happen to Scotland.

The real danger is what would happen to Scotland if the separatists lose the forthcoming referendum but keep on trying. That's what happened in Quebec, where the separatists first came to the fore politically in the 1960s.

Quebec separarists held and lost two referendums, in 1980 and 1995, but for half a century the prospect that there would eventually be a referendum (or yet another referendum) on separation from Canada was there every year.

"Planning blight" is what happens when the word gets out that they may be running a freeway through the neighborhood, and property values and new investment collapse.

Quebec had it on a province-wide scale for half a century. It's impossible to calculate the financial cost directly, but the population numbers are a good indication of what happened.

For the first half of the 20th century, Quebec and Ontario, the two biggest Canadian provinces, had about the same population and grew at about the same rate. In 1960, Quebec was only slightly smaller than Ontario, with 5.2 million people compared to Ontario's 6.2 million people. By 2010, Quebec had only grown to 7.8 million, while Ontario had 13 million people.

The contrast is equally dramatic for the big cities. Montreal, the metropolis of Quebec, had always been Canada's biggest city. In 1960, Montreal had 2.2 million people, and Toronto, the capital of Ontario, had only 1.7 million. Now Toronto has 6 million people, while Montreal has only 3.8 million.

It's as if Chicago had started growing fast in the 1960s, and was now half again as big as New York City. It was the planning blight of the ever-looming next referendum on independence—the "neverendum," as English-speaking Quebecers sometimes call it—that did this to Quebec. The same thing could happen to Scotland.

Independence for Scotland would not necessarily be a financial and demographic disaster, but the permanent expectation of another independence referendum certainly would be.

The Scots are unlikely ever to vote yes for independence, because the world has become a much harsher place economically for small Western countries with declining traditional industries and big debts. (An independent Scotland would presumably inherit about a tenth of Britain's national debt.)

Yet Salmond has now put an independence referendum firmly on the Scottish political agenda, and it is unlikely to go away again in the foreseeable future even if he loses this one. Neverendum.

Gwynne Dyer's latest book is "Climate Wars.".







CAIRO — With protests fading in Tunis and seeming to have peaked in Cairo, it is time to ask whether Tunisia and Egypt will complete democratic transitions.

I have been visiting both countries, where many democratic activists have been comparing their situation with the more than 20 successful and failed democratic transition attempts throughout the world that I have observed.

One fear should be dismissed immediately: despite worries about the incompatibility of Islam and democracy, more than 500 million Muslims now live in Muslim-majority countries that are commonly classified as democracies—Indonesia, Turkey, Bangladesh, Senegal, Mali and Albania.

But for almost 40 years, not a single Arab-majority country has been classified as a democracy, so a democratic transition in either Tunisia or Egypt (or elsewhere in the region) would be of immense importance for the entire Arab world.

Tunisia's chances of becoming a democracy before the year ends are, I believe, surprisingly good. A key factor here is that the military is not complicating the transition to democracy. Tunisia has a small military (only about 36,000 soldiers), and, since independence in 1956, it had been led by two party-based non-democratic leaders who strove to keep the military out of politics.

Moreover, the current civilian-led interim government engages in at least some negotiations about the new democratic rules of the game with virtually all of the major political actors who generated the revolution and who will contest the elections.

Tunisia's interim government has announced that elections to a Constituent Assembly will be held on July 24, 2011, and, crucially, that as soon as the votes are counted, it will step down. As in the classic democratic transitions in Spain and India, the newly elected Constituent Assembly will immediately have the responsibility of forming the government.

The Constituent Assembly will be free to choose a presidential, semi-presidential, or parliamentary system. A consensus is emerging among political leaders to choose the same system as the 10 post-communist countries that have been admitted to the European Union: parliamentarianism.

Finally, Rachid al-Ghannouchi, who leads the largest Islamic-inspired political party, Al Nahda, went out of his way to tell me that he has signed an agreement with some secular parties that he will not try to change Tunisia's women-friendly family code, the most liberal in the Arab world. While many party leaders do not fully trust Ghannouchi, they believe that in the new democratic environment, the political costs to Al Nahda would be too great for it to risk trying to impose Islamic rule. They also increasingly believe that the most democratically effective policy toward Al Nahda for secular parties is accommodation, not exclusion.

Democratization in Egypt in the long term is probable, but it does not share the more favorable conditions found in Tunisia. One of the biggest differences between the two countries is that every Egyptian president since 1952 has been a military officer. Eighteen generals lead the Post-Mubarak interim government, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF). They unilaterally issue statements about what they see as the rules of the game for future elections. Key civil-society and political actors repeatedly told me that they had little access to, and almost no politically serious negotiations with, the SCAF.

The clashes in Tahrir Square on April 9-10, which led to the deaths of two protesters, were the most serious to date between activists and the Army. The distance between the Army and young democratic activists grew further on April 11, when a military court sentenced the first blogger since the fall of Mubarak to prison for criticizing the military.

In the SCAF's March 30 "Constitutional Declaration," it became absolutely clear that, unlike Tunisia, the parliament to be elected in September will not form a government. Articles 56 and 61 stipulate that the SCAF will retain a broad range of executive powers until a president is elected. Instead of Parliament acting as the sovereign body that will write a constitution, Article 60 mandates that it is to "elect a 100-member constituent assembly." The big question now is how many non-elected outside experts will end up in this "constituent assembly" and how they will arrive there.

Of course, many still fear that Islamic fundamentalists will hijack Egypt's revolution. But I see that as an improbable outcome, given the growing diversification of Muslim identities in the new context of political freedoms, secular parties' efforts to keep the Muslim Brotherhood within electoral politics, and the profiles of the three leading presidential candidates, none of whom want the Egyptian Revolution to be captured.

In short, a successful democratic transition is possible in Tunisia, and not impossible in Egypt. That fact, alone, should bolster the hopes of Arab democratic activists elsewhere as well.

Alfred Stepan is a professor of government at Columbia University and the author, with Juan J. Linz and Yogendra Yadav, of the recently published book "Crafting State Nations." © 2011 Project Syndicate







LONDON — Osama bin Laden's death in his Pakistani hiding place is like the removal of a tumor from the Muslim world. But aggressive followup therapy will be required to prevent the remaining al-Qaida cells from metastasizing by acquiring more adherents who believe in violence to achieve the "purification" and empowerment of Islam.

Fortunately, bin Laden's death comes at the very moment when much of the Islamic world is being convulsed by the treatment that bin Laden's brand of fanaticism requires: the Arab Spring, with its demands for democratic empowerment (and the absence of demands, at least so far, for the type of Islamic rule that al-Qaida sought to impose).

But can the nascent democracies being built in Egypt and Tunisia, and sought in Bahrain, Libya, Syria, Yemen and elsewhere, see off the threats posed by Islamic extremists? In particular, can it defeat the Salafi/Wahhabi thought that has long nurtured bin Laden and his ilk, and which remains the professed and protected ideology of Saudi Arabia?

The fact is that before the U.S. operation to kill bin Laden, al-Qaida's symbolic head, the emerging democratic Arab revolutions had already, in just a few short months, done as much to marginalize and weaken his terrorist movement in the Islamic world as the war on terror had achieved in a decade. Those revolutions, whatever their ultimate outcome, have exposed the philosophy and behavior of bin Laden and his followers as not only illegitimate and inhumane, but actually inept at achieving better conditions for ordinary Muslims.

What millions of Arabs were saying as they stood united in peaceful protest was that their way of achieving Arab and Islamic dignity is far less costly in human terms. More importantly, their way will ultimately achieve the type of dignity that people really want, as opposed to the unending wars of terror to rebuild the caliphate that bin Laden promised.

After all, the protesters of the Arab Spring did not need to use—and abuse—Islam to achieve their ends. They did not wait for God to change their condition, but took the initiative by peacefully confronting their oppressors. The Arab revolutions mark the emergence of a pluralist, post-Islamist banner for the faithful. Indeed, the only people to introduce religion into the protests have been rulers, such as those in Bahrain, Yemen, Libya and Syria, who have tried to use fear of the Shiite or Sunni "other" to continue to divide and misrule their societies.

Now that the United States has eradicated Bin Laden's physical presence, it needs to stop delaying the rest of the therapeutic process. For the U.S. has been selectively—and short-sightedly—irradiating only parts of the cancer that al-Qaida represents, while leaving the malignant growth of Saudi Wahabism and Salafism untouched. Indeed, despite the decade of the West's war on terror, and Saudi Arabia's longer-term alliance with the U.S., the kingdom's Wahhabi religious establishment has continued to bankroll Islamic extremist ideologies around the world.

Bin Laden, born, raised and educated in Saudi Arabia, is a product of this pervasive ideology. He was no religious innovator; he was a product of Wahhabism, and later was exported by the Wahhabi regime as a jihadist.

During the 1980s, Saudi Arabia spent $75 billion for the propagation of Wahhabism, funding schools, mosques and charities throughout the Islamic world, from Pakistan to Afghanistan, Yemen, Algeria, and beyond. The Saudis continued such programs after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and even after they discovered that "the Call" is uncontrollable, owing to the technologies of globalization. Not surprisingly, the creation of a transnational Islamic political movement, boosted by thousands of underground jihadi websites, has blown back into the kingdom.

Like the hijackers of 9/11, who were also Saudi/Wahhabi ideological exports (15 of the 19 men who carried out those terror attacks were chosen by bin Laden because they shared the same Saudi descent and education as he), Saudi Arabia's reserve army of potential terrorists remains, because the Wahhabi factory of fanatical ideas remains intact.

So the real battle has not been with bin Laden, but with that Saudi state-supported ideology factory. Bin Laden merely reflected the entrenched violence of the kingdom's official ideology.

Bin Laden's eradication may strip some dictators, from Libya's Moammar Gadhafi to Yemen's Ali Abdallah Saleh, of the main justification they have used for their decades of repression. But the U.S. knows perfectly well that al-Qaida is an enemy of convenience for Saleh and other American allies in the region, and that in many cases, terrorism has been used as a pretext to repress reform. Indeed, now the U.S. is encouraging repression of the Arab Spring in Yemen and Bahrain, where official security forces routinely kill peaceful protesters calling for democracy and human rights.

Al-Qaida and democracy cannot coexist. Indeed, bin Laden's death should open the international community's eyes to the source of his movement: repressive Arab regimes and their extremist ideologies. Otherwise, his example will continue to haunt the world.

Mai Yamani's most recent book is "Cradle of Islam." © 2011 Project Syndicate








The 5th ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting (ADMM), the highest defense mechanism within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, will officially commence today. The two-day annual event is scheduled to discuss and exchange views on current defense and security issues as well as the challenges faced by ASEAN's 10 member states.

Bringing together the 10 ASEAN member states, which are socio-culturally unique (although many share similar traditions because they are neighbors), is no easy task. One of the main obstacles in establishing a strong and united ASEAN, an association formed on Aug. 8, 1967, are the prolonged border disputes between its members. Almost none of the members are free from territorial problems with their neighbors.

One of the hot current issues in the region is none other than the Thailand-Cambodia border dispute. The conflict began in June 2008 and is the latest round of a century-old dispute between Cambodia and Thailand involving the area surrounding the 11th-century Preah Vihear Temple, located between the Choam Khsant district in Cambodia's Preah Vihear province and the Kantharalak district in Thailand's Sisaket province.

Another conflict is the on-and-off border disputes between Indonesia and Malaysia. After the Sipadan-Ligitan dispute was settled in December 2002 following the issuance of a ruling by the International Court of Justice (which stipulated that both islands belonged to Malaysia), the two neighbors continued to disagree over a number of border regions, the Ambalat Block being the most recent.

Last is the multilateral dispute over the Spratlys — a group of more than 750 reefs, islets, atolls, cays and islands in the South China Sea between Vietnam, the Philippines, China, Malaysia and Brunei Darussalam. About 45 islands are occupied by relatively small numbers of military forces from Vietnam, the People's Republic of China, the People's Republic of China (Taiwan), Malaysia and the Philippines. Brunei has also claimed an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in the southeastern part of the Spratlys, encompassing just one area of small islands above mean high water level (on Louisa Reef).

The Thailand and Cambodia border dispute has been intensively discussed at forums within ASEAN, with Indonesia as the current ASEAN Chair taking the initiative to facilitate talks between the two neighbors. Still, there has been no significant progress in this area. Such border disputes, if unsettled properly and in a timely manner, will have significant impacts on the sustainability and success of the already approved agreement to develop the ASEAN Community by 2015.

There are a number of defense and security issues to be discussed at the two-day meeting, including an agreement to strengthen regional defense and security cooperation, to reaffirm a commitment to implement the Declaration of Conduct (DOC), and to work towards the adoption of a COC (Code of Conduct) in the South China Sea.

But above all the urgent tasks, a commitment to settling border problems should be at top of the priorities of ASEAN member states, lest these talks be fruitless and become a mere forum of symbolic diplomacy.




It was bound to happen, sooner or later. In the case of Singapore, so, so much later. The announcement by Lee Kuan Yew (LKY) to give up his post as mentor minister signals he is letting go of the nation he singlehandedly transformed from a backwater British colonial post in Southeast Asia into a wealthy state; first as prime minister from 1959-1990, and later in different, but powerful, capacities in the Cabinet.

After 52 years, Singapore is no longer a baby. It is a nation that is so wealthy that some might say it is probably running too well. The recent general election, however, also shows creeping signs of LKY-fatigue. Lee's style of strict discipline in raising Singapore may have served the nation very well over the last five decades, but it is increasingly seen by the younger generation today as simply outdated.

The Internet, like it or not, has widened the corridors for freedom of expression that Lee once personally derided. The raging debate in the social media, with many criticizing the government's failings, would have been unthinkable a few years ago. The election, which saw the People's Action Party (PAP) winning 60 percent of the votes, down from 67 percent in 2006 and 75 percent in 2001, indicated that Singaporeans want change.

At 87, Lee remains analytically sharp and correctly reads the election figures — not so much as a vote for the opposition, but as a vote against the PAP's old ways. Lest he step out, he would be seen as part of Singapore's problems. He may no longer be part of the solution, either. At the very least, however, he should not be an obstruction.

Let Singaporeans — whether under the rule of the PAP or not — decide on their own. They will determine their future in the way they see fit.

LKY's omnipresence in the Cabinet after 2001 may have given protective shade at the beginning, but his shadow is now starting to impair the vision of Singapore's future.

Even after emerging from the LKY shadow, it will be hard for Singapore to step out and move on beyond his legacy. He may have had his shortcomings, and historians may chide his style of rule, but there is no denying that Singapore owes its status as a strongly-disciplined, highly-entrepreneurial and wealthy island state today to that grand old man.

When he does leave the Cabinet, he will be bidding adieu, but not good bye.






Loyalty and ideological ties of politicians to their political parties in the reform era are still fairly low. This is evident in the increasing trend of politicians changing party colors. Such a phenomenon is indeed nothing new in the 13-year journey of democratization in Indonesia. But the current trend is that politicians — particularly the regional heads — are moving to join the ruling Democratic Party (PD).

They are, among others Crescent Star Party (PBB) politician and governor of West Nusa Tenggara province, Zainul Majdi, former chair of Golkar Party's South Sulawesi Chapter and Mayor of Makassar Ilham Arif Sirajuddin and National Mandate Party (PAN) politician and Vice Governor of West Java Dede Yusuf. The questions are what are their motives to move to the Democratic Party and what benefits the PD will get?

At least, they have three motives. First is electoral politics. This corresponds to a strategic position of the PD as a major party (it is even the largest party at the national level), so it is a party that is very strategic with potential to be used as a political vehicle in the regional head elections.

Second is power politics or seeking structural party positions. This relates to the needs of regional heads who have not obtained a position in the party structure, so they perceive the Democratic Party as a strategic opportunity to achieve this. Zainul Majdi and Ilham Arif Sirajuddin had been elected chairmen of the Democratic Party chapters in their respective provinces after joining the Democrats. These new positions are considered strategic to strengthening their positions in the party. The positions in the party are clearly also valuable assets to contest the elections.

Third is safety, which is related to the strategic position of the PD as the ruling party. Politicians and regional heads, allegedly having violated the laws, tend to make the ruling party a place of refuge. Politicians tend to protect themselves through the party that is still in power.

The three aforementioned motives have encouraged politicians and regional heads to join the ruling party, which is also the largest political party. On the other hand, the PD also has three political advantages with the inclusion of politicians and local leaders into the party.

First, there are electoral gains in the legislative elections. The entry of potential politicians such as regional heads will certainly provide electoral gains for Democrats. The presence of popular politicians in large potential electoral regions will become magnets for the Democrats in the legislative elections.

Second, the inclusion of politicians who will become regional heads will provide potential financial resources for the Democrats.

Third, the Democrats will benefit from (instant but ready) political cadres. As a relatively new party, the PD does not have many senior politicians. Thus, the move of potential politicians from other parties helps solve the problem.

At this point, relations between the Democrats and politicians (regional heads) who will join the party are mutually beneficial. The risk, however, remains as such instant political recruitment brings negative impacts to internal ideology and loyalty to the party, creating disappointment among older party cadres who feel that their political positions are threatened. This raises a further question: What factors will lead to low levels of loyalty to a political party?

First is the party's failure to maintain their ideologies and political cadres. The fragile party cadre system has resulted in politicians' weak adherence to party ideologies and tends to produce politicians without ideologies. Hence, the phenomenon of changing party colors these days is a strong indication of the party's failures in maintaining their ideologies and cadres.

Second is the party's failure to maintain a democratic recruitment system. The nomination of regional heads and legislators (legislative candidates) in the political parties has been un-transparent, oligarchic and tending towards transactional. The political parties need financial support and popular candidates, so aspects of ideology, competence, track records and moral integrity have become the last considerations in nominating regional heads and legislative candidates.

Third is the party's failure to manage factionalism within itself. The factionalism has led to the prolonged weakening process of organizational consolidation. The failure to manage factionalism will cause the marginalized factions to form a new political party or trigger migration of politicians to another party.

There are four measures that can give answers to the problem of political migration from one party to another. First is establishing strong party ideology through institutionalized system.

Second is reforming the recruitment and endorsement of public positions — the president, governors, regents, mayors and legislators — within the party through mechanisms that are open, democratic and meritocratic. This is to reduce the potential for money politics and to cut off the parties' oligarchic chains.

Third is organizational modernization and democratization of decision-making systems to institutionalize a system of modern, collective leadership while slowly breaking the chain of oligarchy and political personalization which rely on personal figures and elites.

The institutionalization and democratization agendas of political parties are the responsibilities of all elements of this nation, especially elites within the political parties. We certainly do not want the main democratic institution — the political parties — to weaken and tear down democracy in Indonesia.

Therefore, efforts to solve this problem must begin by totally reforming the institutional system and the political parties.

The writer is senior researcher of The Indonesian Institute.






I often see my gardener pruning trees, especially flowering ones, really drastically. I get a bit alarmed at the way he slashes them back, but he says it's the best way to get them to bloom.

So when I heard the news of Osama bin Laden's death, I didn't get too excited. "Mati satu, tumbuh seribu," we say in Indonesia: One dies, a thousand grow to take its place.

It seemed to me that chopping off one of the hydra's heads  wouldn't make all that much difference. It might even exacerbate terrorism.

It also made me wonder if my gardener should be advising the White House on its GWOT (Global War on Terror).

The jubilation of cheering crowds in the US wasn't surprising, but they could have used the time more usefully to think about how it all came to this and what happens next, because it isn't likely to be nice.

The point is that Bin Laden's death is tied up with a mass of complicated issues that are nowhere near being sorted. These include the dysfunctional states that emerged in the Middle East after decolonization, the tensions between India and Pakistan, the Palestine conflict, the mess left behind by the Cold War, the short-sightedness of much American foreign policy and, of course, the aftermath of its interventions in the region.

The 1979-1989 war in Afghanistan was one of these. The Soviet invasion led to US and Saudi money funding proxy soldiers to fight the Commie Russians, with Mujahiddeen fighters produced en masse by madrasahs in the Pashtun areas between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Later, they produced the Taliban, while some of the radicalized youth who had fought the Soviet Union went on to become key players in al-Qaeda. Bin Laden, a former commander of foreign volunteers in Afghanistan, became their leader. The US had created a whole pack of monsters.

When the Cold War fizzled out in the early 1990s, the proxy soldiers didn't stop fighting their holy war. In fact, they found new causes.

US foreign policy in the Middle East had long relied on dictators like Mubarak in Egypt, or Zia and Musharraf in Pakistan. Unsurprisingly, this created animosity and mistrust toward the US that was easily exploited by militant Islamists.

And what happened on 9/11 was that US foreign policy in the Middle East turned up downtown in New York. The US became what so many Middle Eastern countries have so often been: A war zone. It was only for a day, but it killed thousands of people and created a massive shift in US attitudes.

Of course disasters like these have been happening in Middle Eastern countries for decades, with similar dramatic consequences for people on the receiving end there, but that's not something many Americans care to think about too much.

So, rightly or wrongly, Bin Laden stands for different things for different people. For the US, he's a mass murderer and a criminal,  but some Muslims in the Middle East (and elsewhere) see him as  a symbol of standing up to an interfering superpower that props up dictators.

It is a sad comment on our times that Bin Laden became one of the most influential people in the world in his lifetime (and after it as well). Think of this next time you hop on a plane and go through all those security measures.

In one way or another, his murderous campaigns affected the security policies of every nation on the planet, and most of the people living on it as well.

Yes, Bin Laden is dead, but the things he stood for continue to present deep problems for today's world.

So what's the solution? It won't come from Bin Laden "reincarnations", who can be relied on to keep his memory alive with continued violent terrorism. Nor will the solution come from Barack Obama, the Nobel Peace Prize winner who paradoxically continues to prosecute wars in Afghanistan and Iraq (now Libya as well). The drones that make the US so technologically superior now are going to create a whole host of horrendous new problems when everyone else gets them, and want their own "surgical strikes".

Can it come instead from Mohamad Bouazizi? He was the 26-year-old Tunisian vegetable vendor who set himself on fire to protest harassment and humiliation inflicted on him by municipal officials. His death literally sparked the Tunisian revolution and those in neighboring Arab countries.

But sadly, while Bouazizi is a heroic figure, his model also involves violence, albeit self-destructive. That is a dead-end solution.

All of us — including the US — should pray that the Middle East finds itself a model that doesn't involve violence and destruction, brings people together, develops good governance, and builds functioning societies, rather than the destroy-or-be-destroyed "game" that now dominates the world. Many believe the youth-led uprisings calling for democracy and justice that begin in Tunisia spread across the Arab world offer a chance of this, a new way forward.

Maybe they do, but it's still just as likely they will get hijacked by the usual Middle Eastern struggle between wannabe military dictators and Islamist zealots. And there is little the US can do about any of it now.

Ironic isn't it? Maybe you could say that "democracy" bit itself in the bum!

The writer ( is the author of Jihad Julia (Mizan).






We have often heard about the public rejection of the bill on land acquisition that is now being debated by the House of Representatives.

The reasons for the objections, among others things, include the potential for human rights violations, since people must release their land for the public good and there might be potential conflicts between the people against land-hungry private parties.

Land rights are very important human rights that need the state's protection. The principle of land rights cannot be taken by anyone without the approval of the land holders. But this does not apply absolutely, because there are many rights of the people or public interests that the state has to meet.

In order to fulfill the public interest, sometimes the state or government has to acquire land with or without the people's consent. Of course, this requires regulations in order not to violate human rights. In the US this principle is regulated in the Fifth Amendment to the US Constitution, which states that property cannot be taken for public purposes without just compensation.

Thus, the US constitution justifies the negation of people's land rights without the land owners' approval provided that it complies with the due process of law and provides just compensation.

The same principle is also found in Article 28 H (4) of Indonesia's 1945 Constitution, which states that property rights must be respected and should not be seized by anyone arbitrarily.

The Constitution implies that land rights can be taken by the government as long as it is not conducted arbitrarily. The question is how it can be done.

The first condition of course is approval of the land right holders. However, we also know that frequently that right holders are not willing to release their rights for whatever reason or purpose. If this happens, then the public interest will be the victim of personal interests.

In order to overcome this controversy, the internationally accepted provision is that land rights can be taken without the approval of holders of the rights provided that they meet specific requirements, namely, to go through the process in accordance with the principle of the law and as regulated in the law. This requirement is also known by the term in accordance with the due process of law.

Based on this stipulation, the land acquisition process should be transparent to provide sufficient information to the parties affected. Communities can ask questions and submit objections concerning a project site and the amount of compensation.

The second condition is that acquiring land rights must be in the name of public interest, i.e., in the interests of all or most of the people.

The third condition is that right holders deserve fair compensation. By fulfilling these requirements, land acquisitions should not violate human rights.

The applicable regulations regarding land acquisition for public interests is Presidential Decree No. 36/2005 which was amended by Presidential Decree No. 65/2006. There are some weaknesses in these regulations, however.

The use of presidential decrees to govern land acquisition is not in accordance with the principles of the legislation. Acquisition of land is closely related to human rights, therefore it must be governed by a regulation that involves the people or their representatives.

In terms of substance, a decree neither expressly regulates the right of the land holders to information nor the right to file an objection or the right to fair compensation. Similarly, the provision regarding the amount of compensation is based on the tax rate (NJOP) which is clearly much lower than the market price.

With so many weaknesses in the decree, there is a clear need for a law on land acquisition that respects human rights, especially the holders of land rights. In the draft bill on land acquisition there are several provisions that are missing.

First, the draft law regulates and defines development activities that are clearly classified as in the public interest. Second, in order to acquire land, the planning and preparation for the land acquisition must be carried out involving the community. People who object to the plan and/or location of the project have the right to file an objection.

Third, compensation as stipulated in Article 36 of the draft bill states that the calculation of damages will be conducted by an independent appraiser of each item, including building, plants, objects related to the land and/or other losses which can be assessed. Losses include both physical and non-physical items. Similarly, the amount of compensation is based on deliberations by parties who are entitled to compensation and the valuations by an appraiser.

The bill does not explain how the procedure or system used by the assessors will be carried out in determining the amount of compensation. The parties who object to the compensation may appeal to the district court, thus there is an opportunity to examine compensation in a manner open to the public.

In addition, the draft law also regulates restrictions on land acquisition for private business interests, which according to existing regulation are absent, thus it can occur over an entire island or private land.

Regulations on land acquisition are indispensable for the implementation of development in every nation in the world. Therefore the state has the authority to conduct acquisition of land for the public interest while respecting the due process of law and providing fair compensation.

The bill on land acquisition in some respects is in compliance with these principles and even far more democratic and more respectful of human rights than the previous regulations. The bill is certainly not perfect, such as the need for further regulations concerning the valuation of the compensation system, so it is necessary for the public to give constructive inputs.

The writer is chairman of the graduate program in natural resources law (FHUI) at the University of Indonesia's law school.








As pandals and lanterns continue to glitter with ceremonies to mark Vesak and the 2600 anniversary of the enlightenment of the Lord Buddha, government leaders are claiming that Sri Lanka is most honoured by the world for preserving Theravada Buddhism in its pristine purity. If they confine this to the new 16-storey Buddhist Research and Information Centre which is proclaimed as the biggest and best in the world, then it might be a case of a sandcastle that crumbles in a storm.

Instead government leaders, others in high positions and indeed all Buddhists need to remember that the only Dhamma sermon that billions of people all over the world will listen to is the Dhamma sermon of our lives and the only Buddhist scriptures the world may read are the scriptures of our lives.

In the afterglow of Vesak when we get back to the daily work, toil and struggles of our lives, we also need to reflect on some areas where we could earn the honour of the world not just by preaching the Dhamma but by practising it in various dimensions of our lives, individually and collectively. This is important especially for government leaders because often the world judges the country by the conduct of our leaders and their response to various situations. If the world sees craving for power and the subtle propagation of family dynasties through laws such as the 18th Amendment, if the world sees political leaders plundering the resources of the country through rampant bribery and corruption then it will be like the case of the devil quoting scriptures.

One of the vital areas in which our political leaders and others need to practise the principles of the Buddha Dhamma is our attitude and approach to conflict resolution. We are paying a heavy price nationally and internationally for the bloody mishandling of the ethnic conflict for more than half a century and we need to learn from it, repent and follow the path shown by the Dhamma if we wish to avoid getting into a bigger mess or muddle. One of the core teachings of the Dhamma is that violence will not cease by violence but can be conquered only by a spirit of love, compassion, accommodation and dialogue. During this Vesak period our political leaders could rise to noble heights and carry the people also with them by following the hallowed precepts for conflict resolution. The first is a paradigm shift, a change of attitude and of our mental picture or perception of any issue. We need to become aware that our perception is never absolute and always relative because our small minds despite all our big talk sees only a part of the picture. If we accept this reality that our perception is relative and not absolute then we will be able to accept the perception of other parties. Those who delude themselves into thinking that their perception of any issue is absolute, need to be reminded that they are suffering from some dangerous mental imbalance as did the notorious killer Hitler. This attitude of being open to a growing awareness and understanding will also open the door for a dialogue where we will be sincerely ready to listen to the grievances and aspirations of the other party or parties instead of just trying to win the argument at any cost such as the bloody cost we paid for the 30-year ethnic war because of various factors beginning from the "Sinhala only" folly of 1956.

If all parties are ready to listen to each other with an open mind then the synergy will generate a positive situation where one plus one will make three – meaning that all parties will see the issue in a new light and be ready to come to some accommodation on the middle path.

In the light of the wisdom of the Dhamma it might be also prudent for Sri Lanka to consider a 20th Amendment whereby those who wish to enter politics beginning at the local council level would first need to take a vow of simplicity, humility and sincerity and go to a temple for a year or two where Nayake Theras could teach them how to be selfless, detached, sacrificial and honestly serve the people in the field of politics. A minister is doing this for two weeks, and it should be wise for others to follow this example.








on workers are demanding daily wages be increased to Rs.500/= from the current rate of Rs.285/= per day to meet the minimum requirements of existing cost of living in the country. Any changes of the wage structure of the plantation workers will be decided at the Collective Agreement (CA) which has been the practice from 1996. The members of the CA are the representatives of Trade Unions of the plantation workers and that of from the Employers Federation. Recently they have met and rescheduled the meeting to be held towards the end of April 2011. Though, there is a necessity of increasing the daily wages, the Employers Federation has made the announcement that the workers are receiving between Rs.10,000 to Rs.12,000 per month and the level of poverty has come down upto the  national average of 9 per cent. This indirectly tells that there is no need for wage increase for the plantation workers. 

The 140 year-old tea industry has been contributing immensely for the development of the social welfare sector until the 1970s and today it is an important sector of export earnings, but unfortunately the country is not in a position to bring them to the level of the average man and women who have living in the rural sector of the country.  

Though the workers also demanded for Rs.500/= per day previously in 2009, finally it was agreed to pay only for Rs.290, but giving Rs.285 only as the basic wage. It is also decided to provide an attendance intensive of Rs 90/= adding to their daily wage if they attend more than 75 per cent of the work offered to them per month by the estate management. And Price Share Supplement of Rs. 30/= (which makes Rs 405/=) made only a publicity agreement. Accordingly, the workers who work for 30 days (30 x Rs.405= Rs.12,150/=) are able to receive this amount  as the calculation made by the Employers Federation. But opportunities for work in all 30 days are limited only for the workers who work as estate watcher, bungalow servant, peon, health workers and factory workers in limited cases. This type of work is performed only by less than 10 per cent of the labour force in the tea estates.  The bulk of the workers are field workers and facing number of hurdles to attend more than 75 per cent of work offered by the estate management.

The tea workers desire to work according to the norms set in the CA by attending more than 75 per cent of the work offered by the estate management. However, it is not an achievable task for several workers in the estates. Though the estate management expected to turn a minimum of 19 days which could be calculated for the provision of Rs.405/= per day, it seems a terrible task for the workers. If the workers lose one day out of the 19 days of work it will be calculated to be less than 75 per cent of the turn out and subsequently will be given only Rs.285/= per day. Apparently low wage through losing a day leads to a certain level of frustration among their life of the estates workers.  

However, the estate management is having a difference of opinions about the distribution of wage income to the workers. Accordingly, as mentioned above they still believe that a worker receives an average of Rs.12,000/= per month. It is also imperative to discuss about the actual structure of the wage income of the tea workers in the country. The followings are compiled from pay slips of the tea workers which were given by the respective tea plantation companies. The classification of wages has been made on the basis of the average income that they have received during the last quarter of 2010. 

The figures on wages are the distribution of actual wage income of the workers before the deductions. Generally the deductions are made for monthly advance payments, EPF, subscription for trade unions, loans, contributions for dhobi and barber, and the expenses that incurred in preparation of pay slips by the estate managements etc. The deductions are ranging around Rs.1, 100 for the bottom line income receivers which make 25 per cent of the worker population. The total deductions for others are ranging from Rs.1,700 to Rs.3,700 per month. It is clear that 25 per cent of tea workers are receiving lower wages of between the Rs 3,000/= and Rs.5,500/=. Around 45 per cent of the tea workers have been receiving between Rs. 5,501/= and Rs. 8,500/=. The workers who are receiving between Rs. 10,001 and Rs.11,500 per month are only 10 per cent of total workers in the estates. 

 Apart from the wages the tea estate companies are also repeatedly saying that they are making losses after losses every year.  The losses are mainly due to the labor cost. But, there is no substantive analysis of labour cost in the context of plantation management companies. For example the tea workers contribute to around four kilograms of made tea through plucking of a minimum of 16 kilogrammes of green leaves per day. The final production of manufactured tea was sold at Rs. 320/= at the Colombo Auction in 2009 and thus the workers contributes (4 kilogram x Rs.320/=) Rs. 1,280/= worth of production per day. If we estimate the maximum labour cost to be Rs 405/= of wage, including other contributions (EPF, rent for free houses, values for medical facilities, gratuity etc.) it will cost Rs.500 per worker daily. This calculation shows that still the management is in the safe side in terms of making profits for it receives Rs.780 (Rs.1280 – Rs 500) as profit out of the total contribution of a worker per day.

Indeed, the estates companies are producing around 35 per cent of the total production of tea and the remaining 65 per cent of tea comes from 300,000 tea smallholders, mainly cultivating the tea in the districts of Ratnapura, Galle and Matara. Most of the tea smallhoders possess their own tea lands for cultivation. Those who are cultivating the tea in the extent of 1/8 hectare of smallhodings are able to earn a minimum of Rs. 20,000 per month. The tea small holding authority is providing necessary patronage for the development of the tea smallholders in the country. But the activities of large scale to tea estates are totally different from the smallholdings of tea in the country.


Dr. A.S. Chandrbose is a Senior Lecturer in Social Studies at the The Open University of Sri Lanka







The advisory note prepared by the group commissioned by the United Nations Secretary General (UNSG) has stirred much comment. Writing in such an environment is difficult since the expectation is expression of partisan views. This is an effort at a commentary.


Observations on the note

The advisory panel looked at steps taken thus far and to be taken in terms of the Joint Statement of 23rd May in Sri Lanka between the SG and the President but was neither a fact finding nor an investigative effort. It characterized the final stages of the war as between September 2008 and May, 2009. It was aided by a pre existing reference group from within the UN Secretariat and met with UN officials and other organizations. The report was written in a manner that makes it suitable for publication. Written submissions were sought and those individually verified were used as direct sources if it led to a belief that underlying acts or events had occurred. The engagement with the LLRC was thought to be not what it had sought. The conflict was characterized as a struggle for existence of Sinhala and Tamil people. The nature of territorial control and elements of the LTTE operational organs was set out. The assassination of the Foreign Minister is considered a serious development as is the Mavilaru closure. The push on Kilinochchi in September 2008 is thought to be the beginning of the final push. The panel had carefully examined and weighed allegations. An elite Police unit reportedly ran white van operations. The LTTE proscribed in 32 countries was reportedly not larger than 20,000 with perhaps 5,000 as core fighters using civilians as cannon fodder. The threat to the UN in Kilinochchi was thought to be from the Army who could not guarantee their security. Limitation on supplies is elaborated. LTTE presence in the NFZ is acknowledged as is artillery fired in proximity of IDP's , storage of military equipment near IDP's or civilian installations such as hospitals. UN documents reportedly refer to 300,000 civilians with close on 40,000 dying and 290,000 + 35,000 reportedly coming out. Low estimates reportedly had impacted on in bound supplies. Firing had reportedly killed many while shortages impacted on health and lives of people.

It was Francis M. Deng, who became Representative of the Secretary-General on IDPs in 1992, who put forward the concept of sovereignty as responsibility as the most appropriate protection framework for people displaced inside their countries. The concept posits primary responsibility for the welfare and safety of IDPs with their governments. The concept of the responsibility to protect (R2P) was developed further from efforts to design an international system to protect internally displaced persons (IDPs). Like its antecedent, R2P places primary responsibility on the state to protect its population and calls on the international community to support states in discharging that responsibility if states fail in that obligation.

 In 1993 Francis Deng visited Sri Lanka and reported close on 1.8 Mn were affected and cared for by Sri Lanka then. Since 1983, when displacement assumed significant proportions, displacement focused institutional mechanisms have been consistently used  by the Chief Executive in Sri Lanka. Likewise a plethora of UN agencies including the FAO, UNDP,UNFPA, UNHCR, UNICEF,WFP,WHO, UNAIDS,UNOPS, UN HABITAT,  World Bank and OCHA have been working since in addition to frontline INGO's. This highlights a situation in which national and international agencies worked for the protection needs of affected civilians where resources are administered by international agencies and national entities are subcontracted.

 The advisory panel while noting its independent style of working has embarked on a separate path of examining the details of the last stages of the conflict. In theory a non-paper, with the contents written for public reading (explicitly stated), the writers have without doubt acted as an investigative panel. The document is replete with such details. Communication between the secretariat and a member state once it takes this form and content inevitably leads to an impasse while the panel has been dismissive of much of details provided by the government the reverse is likely from Colombo.

 The document recognizes the post 9/11 world view on terrorism including acts which some states would characterize as acts of war, identifies the captivity of civilians caught up, but fails to mention key moments during which civilians were prevented from moving to safety. These are documented in a CCHA minute and later on another occasion in a reported cable to the State Department on 19thMarch which states (leaked in Wikileaks) : Mission recommends the USG ask the UNSYG to issue a public statement calling on both sides to allow a humanitarian pause in fighting for civilians who want to leave. The LTTE maintains the fiction that civilians do not want to leave. All evidence points to the contrary: several civilians have been shot trying to escape, many others have escaped. We need to call the LTTE´s bluff. The SYG could reassure civilians they will be well treated, recalling Holmes, statement to the UNSC. To give added credibility to his assurances, he should coordinate in advance with the GSL so he can announce that the GSL has invited UN Special Rapporteur for IDP Issues Walter Kaelin to work with GSL to resolve remaining issues in the camps. The ICRC confirms it could then work in the safe zone to determine who actually wants to leave. If the LTTE refuses to cooperate, the UN can say so publicly which would likely cause the LTTE significant problems with its paymasters in the Tamil Diaspora. Ambassador has discussed the outlines of this proposal with the UN, ICRC and Foreign Minister, all of whom believe it is worth trying.


Dr. Thiyagarajah is Executive Director Consortium of Humanitarian Agencies.








 It's military stalemate in Libya. It will be a long war of attrition by both sides.

The troops of the Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi have the upper hand. Unlike the NATO countries they have boots on the ground, always a prerequisite for success in warfare, his troops are well armed and reasonably trained with a clear command structure. His opponents are a rag tag bunch, if less rag tag than they were at the beginning. But they are organised enough to keep Gaddafi away from the important town of Benghazi and can effectively force a division of the country between west and east. But what happens next is anybody's guess.

Wouldn't it have been better to accept from the onset that toppling the regime in Libya would be a long haul business? Sanctions were never given time to bite, although earlier sanctions against Libya over its downing of two civilian airliners, one American and one French, did eventually have an effect. Too many national leaders resort to war too quickly. War ravaged the 20th century from 1914 on. It was the bloodiest century in the world's history. But it had been preceded by a long peace from 1815 to 1914, disturbed only by the three years of the Crimean War.

It is widely believed that the First World War that ended the 100 years of unprecedented peace in Western Europe, Korea and Vietnam were unnecessary wars. But the Second World War is still judged as a "just war". The great Oxford historian, the late A J P Taylor, wrote in his seminal book, 'The Origins of the Second World War' that we should be careful in assuming that at the beginning it was unavoidable, although he also says that once it started it had to be finished with the defeat of Germany and Japan. In his introduction he makes the biting comment, "In 1938 Czechoslovakia was betrayed [by the British]. In 1939 Poland was saved. Less than one hundred thousand Czechs died during the war. Six and a half million Poles were killed. Which was better — to be a betrayed Czech or a saved Pole?"The British finally declared war on Germany because it invaded the Polish-ruled "Danzig corridor" a sliver of land, separated from Poland by German territory. The Versailles Treaty had created the corridor on the grounds that the port of Danzig was essential to the Polish economy. But later, with the construction of the port of Gdynia, Danzig needed Poland more than Poland needed Danzig.Before the German march into Czechoslovakia most British opinion thought the German claim to take back Danzig was reasonable and that the corridor was an anomaly of the Versailles Treaty, widely considered to be unjust. The British hand was forced by Poland once Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain had declared that if Poland felt driven to war Britain would come to its aid. Poland, believing that it was a great power, instead of compromising, insisting on principal, had refused to even begin negotiations with Germany, yet it could probably have negotiated a compromise such as a corridor across the corridor. For his part Hitler mistakenly thought that Britain would never declare war over such a small issue.

Moreover, his ambition was a peaceful alliance with Poland, not its destruction. But Britain, ashamed by its role over Czechoslovakia, when it failed to honour its guarantee to protect it, believed it could not go back on its word again. London declared war on Germany.

This not just my long-held view, it is not just Taylor's, it was that of Basil Liddell Hart, widely considered as Britain's pre-eminent military strategist who I interviewed a few years before he died.

Hitler did not want a major war in Europe. He wanted to solve what he believed mistakenly was Germany's living space problem and the anomalies of the Versailles Treaty by a series of small wars, which would not involve Britain or France.

Of course, even if the British had not gone to war over Danzig, Hitler would have remained a tyrant. But the German people with their growing economic contentment, whilst turning a blind eye to this policy, would have continued as they did before hostilities broke out to resist war. The memories of the destructiveness of the First World War were still deep in their consciousness.

Can we avoid war in the future? Have our fingers been burnt over Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya? Probably for this generation the answer is "yes". But for the next? Memories are short and history is too often twisted.

Jonathan Power is a veteran foreign affairs commentator based in London





are revealing the contradictions in the attitudes of European Union countries towards the popular rebellions in North Africa. In the latest episode, 61 out of 72 mainly Libyan citizens who fled Tripoli died of hunger and thirst after 16 days adrift in one of busiest areas of the Mediterranean. According to credible reports, a military helicopter dropped water and biscuits, presumably in response to a phone call they made to Eritrean priest Moses Zerai's refugee-rights NGO in Rome; and the helicopter crew gestured to the passengers to hold their position and await help — which never came. The survivors say that at one point they were very close to a French aircraft carrier, from which two jets flew low over the boat; the refugees held babies overhead for the pilots to see but were ignored. International maritime law requires all vessels to answer distress calls and offer help. With phones dead and without food or fuel, the survivors drifted back to Libya, where they were arrested and then released. This is one of many such incidents; the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Italy cites those who reached Italian territory as saying they watched ships sinking in front of them.

In the last month alone, some 800 people fleeing the region have perished, but the two national leaders involved are showing limitless cynicism and political self-interest. President Nicolas Sarkozy's Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) has taken a drubbing from the left in the recent cantonal elections; Mr. Sarkozy's own ratings are at a dismal 21 per cent, and his hawkish advocacy of the U.N.-Nato intervention in Libya was widely criticised for being a re-election gambit. Italy's President Silvio Berlusconi, who faces sex-related criminal charges, was equally hawkish; but his complaints about taking 25,000 refugees are histrionic gestures in comparison with the actions of Sweden, which took 80,000 Iraqis, and Germany, which in the 1990s took 400,000 Bosnians. Sweden's population is nine million and Italy's is 60 million. The EU itself, however, has longstanding repatriation deals with despots and dictators in North Africa and West Asia; now some of its major members are trying to evade the consequences of pro-democracy uprisings they themselves have aided. The entirely separate Council of Europe, which predates the EU and is the custodian of the European Convention on Human Rights, is right in calling the abandonment of Libya's boat people a "dark day" for its own continent.

The Hindu





China's stance regarding the UN panel report was revealed through its Foreign Ministry spokesman. The latter said, 'not to complicate the issue and leave it to Colombo to handle it'. China took two to three weeks to make this statement after Russia's stance was announced in relation to the panel report. China pursued a silent policy earlier in connection with the panel report. Although China was inclined to back the Sri Lanka (SL) Govt., yet it did not rush to express its stance. Russia however came out into the open against the panel report while China expressed its stance through its Foreign Ministry spokesman under pressure exerted by the SL Govt.  It is unknown what made China take this reluctant and reticent attitude in connection with the panel report.

Like how the governmental and non-governmental patriotic organisations are conducting a campaign against America and the Western countries, there is a build up of a campaign against China launched by the UNP within SL. The UNP has begun criticising the Hambantota Port and the Chinese work force in other Chinese projects. This situation is reminiscent of that which prevailed in Africa when China was deploying its resources there long time ago.

Countries in Africa are revolting against the Chinese investments and trade in their continent. People are increasingly getting anxious and restless about Chinese intentions, who are being viewed as the new Colonial powers. China claims that it has done more to end poverty in Africa than any other country. China is Africa's biggest trading partner and its money has paid for countless new Schools and Hospitals.

In the initial years, investments and trade with China were welcomed with open arms. Chinese investment boosted employment in Africa and made basic goods like shoes and  radios more affordable . In 2010, Chinese trade with Africa was more than US $ 120 billion. In the past two years China has given more loans to poor countries, mainly in Africa than the World Bank. Chinese are now expanding beyond just mining activity in Africa. Chinese Companies are signing infrastructure deals worth more than $ 50 billion a year. China is also investing in other areas like finance and industrial, and the Commercial Bank of China has bought 20% of South African Standard Bank, the continent's biggest Bank.In recent time, attitudes towards China have changed in Africa. Chinese products are increasingly held up as examples of shoddy work. Investments from China have multiplied corruption in the African countries. They are also seen as interfering in the internal politics of the countries and therefore viewed as a colonial power. Africans say they increasingly feel under siege. Tens of thousands of entrepreneurs from China have fanned out across the continent. More Chinese have come to Africa in the past ten years than Europeans in the past 400. First came Chinese from State owned companies, but more and more arrive on their own and most of the  contract workers, mainly prison labour are left behind after finishing contract work.

Buildings erected by the Chinese construction firms have occasionally fallen apart. A hospital in Luanda, the capital of Angola, was opened with great fanfare but cracks appeared in the walls within a few months and it soon closed. The Chinese-built road from Lusaka, Zambia's capital to Chirundu, 130 km (81 miles) to the South east, was quickly swept away by rains.

Chinese expatriates care little about rules and regulations. Local sensitivities are routinely ignored at home, and so abroad. Sinopec, an oil Firm has explored in a Gabonese national park. Another state oil company has created lakes of spilled crude oil in Sudan. To avoid censure regarding poor working conditions, Chinese managers bribe union bosses. Tensions came to a head last year when in mines in Sinazongwe, a town in Southern Zambia, two Chinese managers fired shotguns at protesting workers, injuring at least a dozen. There are three possible reasons for recent hatred towards Chinese in Africa. First is that competition, especially from foreigners including Chinese, is rarely popular. Hundreds of textile factories across Nigeria collapsed in recent years because they could not compete with cheap Chinese garments, resulting in thousands of lost jobs. The second reason could be that the Chinese are bringing bad habits as well as trade and investment. The mainland Chinese economy is riddled with corruption, even by African standards, so when the Chinese go abroad they carry on bribing and undermine good governance in host countries. A third reason is that China is seen as hoarding African resources.

China has become a rallying point for most opposition leaders in several countries because of their relationship with ruling Africa Dictators. Opposition parties, especially in southern Africa, frequently campaign on anti-China platforms. Even in normally calm places like Nambia, antipathy is stirring. In Zambia, the opposition leader, Michael Sata, has made Sino-skepticism his trademark. It could only be a matter of time before the Africans start to throw out Chinese like they did to other colonial powers.

If the SL opposition succeeds in inciting and instigating the people against the Chinese, the new colonial power, it can prove that the Exim Bank of China can be more lethal than the World Bank.

During the tenure of office of the UNP Govt., the SLFP which was in the opposition at that time frowned upon and identified the World Bank ; America and western countries ; and multinational Companies as 'extortionists',  sucking the blood of third world countries. They discredited and described them as the new colonial power. Today, if the UNP which is in the opposition hurls the same allegations against China, a situation akin to that in Africa could be spawned in SL.









Dear Cindy, I sympathise with you in your campaign against former US president George W Bush, and your protestation against sending US soldiers for battle outside US borders under numerous excuses, including what the US administrations often call pre-emptive war, which led to the death of your son Casey in Iraq.

Your government is still posing a threat to many societies, as it does towards your own children by involving them in uncalculated adventures without anyone knowing the truth behind such policies.

Your children are still subject to threats and deprived of safety. Even the killing of Osama bin Laden has not minimised these threats, rather they have added fuel to the fire. The adventures of some policy-makers from your country pose a threat to the flow and cost of oil which is of substantial importance for you and us.

You may wonder why I address you in this message. The answer is that I simply like to tell you the following story: I live in a small country, which is thousands of miles far from yours but of great importance to you and all the US people because it is situated just 45km from the largest oil field of Saudi Arabia. And despite my country and USA being bound by various treaties, the latter has changed its policies towards the former as felt in some recent US political arrangements. It has recently encouraged a small group, which wanted to establish a branch of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Bahrain under the leadership of a clergyman, who is deemed divinely infallible by his group to eliminate freedoms and oppress women.

My tiny and beautiful homeland, which has been known for its high level of openness and civilised way of life, is now living under the threat of this group that receives support from some US political circles.

What I most fear is that such encouragement would persist, and its progress lead to a military intervention, whose fuel would be your children and ours!

Dear Cindy, the US administration has recently acted playfully and chaotically with my country where we foster religious freedom and urban life, in a way that would have impaired my country's stability and security. This happened when it gave green light to a rebellious group to give it up to the Islamic Republic of Iran.

It would have been an ordeal had it happened, and the majority of our people would have sought shelter in neighbouring states to flee the inferno. They would have joined the millions of displaced Iraqis and the thousands who keep approaching the US immigration authorities on a daily basis to obtain green cards after their Iran-loyal government, which was propelled to power by those who killed your son Casey, had confiscated all their wealth.

Dear Cindy, US administration's wrong policies were about to create trouble in a new spot, to be added to the series of its interventions that brought peoples in many other places a great deal of sorrow and threw your children into purposeless wars, financed from the pockets of ordinary US citizens, who have harvested only the loss of thousands of young people's lives and those of many others.

Dear Cindy, we support you and try to uncover with you the truth that underlines these US uncalculated adventures. Who, on earth, has convinced you, the Americans, that losing lives outside your borders is a national duty? Who has signed a deal with Ahmed Chalabi? You may remember the name of this man who was used by the Bush administration to ease intervention in Iraq and the man who paved the way for it through a series of tours and lectures in your states and cities for nothing but to serve his own interests and those of some US political circles.

Chalabi, who was introduced to the Americans by Bush administration as a victim of the Iraqi regime, is now building a fortune in Iraq. And who has lost his life there? It is your son, Casey!

These US political circles seem to be running a 'farm' where they are reproducing more copies of Chalabi to use them in intervention-targeted places.

Now, there is more than one copy of Chalabi touring your states, universities and organisations, mobilising public opinion, begging your pity, telling you lies-fairy tales that your sons will be welcomed and hugged by their peoples, under a big lie that they will be the rescuers who will bring them democracy.

Such a 'farm' does not give a hoot for Casey's loss, not even for a million of Casey(s) because of its own calculations and its own agenda. It equally does not give a damn to what will happen to other peoples.

Dear Cindy, keep in touch. Together, we may uncover the truth and be able to save Bahraini and US youth.








DAMASCUS - There are several remarkable layers to what has been called the beginning of a "Third Palestinian Intifada" that broke out on May 15, marking the 63rd anniversary of the creation of Israel.

That day was famously coined Nakba, which means "disaster" in Arabic, by prominent Syrian historian Constantine Zureik, and continues to carry that name.

On this day in 1948, the armies of Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Egypt (25,000 soldiers in total) went to war against Israel -- resulting in a humiliating and painful collective defeat for the Arabs. In 2011, it was a human mass that marched onto Israel, rather than official bulky armies.

They came carrying Palestinian flags and keys to the homes of their fathers and grandfathers -- a sacred symbol of Palestinian identity, bequeathed from one generation to the next since 1948.

On the Syrian front, hundreds of Syrians and Palestinians broke through the border fence and pelted soldiers with stones, heading into the Syrian Golan, which has been occupied by Israel since 1967. They reached the occupied town of Majdal Shams, at which the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) opened fire, killing four civilians. A total of 170 were wounded on the Syrian border.

In Lebanon, the same scene was repeated when angry Lebanese and Palestinians reached the border town of Maroun al-Ras, where the IDF shot and killed 10 people, wounding over 110. In the West Bank, young Palestinians attempted to wrestle control of the Qalandiya checkpoint between Ramallah and Jerusalem. Once again the IDF opened fire, wounding 40 in the clashes, which spread into Jerusalem. In Egypt, authorities prevented angry demonstrators from breaking through the border with Gaza, resulting in large riots and 120 people injured.

Is it war? Not yet -- but as Eran Makov, an official from the Israeli Defense Ministry put it, May 15 was "a dress rehearsal for September". Then, the Palestinians plan to ask for United Nations General Assembly recognition of a Palestinian state. That is when Israel will certainly say no and that is where the real violence -- the real Third Intifada -- will break out.

The outgoing head of Israel's Shin Bet, Yuval Diskin, recently said that he was "very worried" about Palestinian statehood in September. The Palestinians are expected, by some rough estimates, to win 140 votes, whereas all they will need at the UN is 128.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak held a similar line, warning that his country would face a "political tsunami" if it did not devise a peace plan ahead of September. "We have been ruling over another people for 43 years. This is unprecedented. There is no way the world is going to accept this."

Israel has failed to jumpstart peace talks since they collapsed last October 2010. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who sealed a deal with Hamas this month, has said that he would resume talks immediately if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu froze all settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

The premier, who is due in the U.S. on May 20, has so far refused to budge on settlements and so has his Foreign Minister Avigdor Liebermann who replied, "We are ready for immediate talks without preconditions," adding that he will not freeze settlements neither for three months "nor for three days and not even for three hours".

The popular uprising, it must be noted, should have been no surprise for Israel -- a Facebook page for the Intifada has been up and running for weeks, calling on the Palestinians to revolt on May 15. Strangely enough, the Israelis expected an in-born uprising, similar to the one of 1987 and 2000, but nothing on their borders with the Arabs.

And even those who might have expected hostilities, they certainly imagined that it wouldn't be on the Syrian-Israeli front, which has been quiet since 1973. According to organizers of the new Intifada, Stage I was to include a "sit-down strike" on Sunday, with refugees from Syria, Jordan, Egypt and the Palestinian Territories gathering at different locations close to their borders with Israel. Stage II was to be the "The Advance" where refugees would march peacefully towards the border, penetrating as deep as geography allows them. Stage III will be the "Crossing" where refugees would march into Palestine, with one objective in mind: liberation. The last phase, Stage IV, would be when each refugee reached his/her native town or village, or the nearest location to it, where a second sit-in would take place until they were allowed to "return".

On Sunday, Stage I started and immediately distracted the entire Arab world, and its media, from all that was taking place in Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, Egypt and Syria. In as much as Arabs seem to be furious with their respective governments, they would certainly be willing to set aside their differences when it comes to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

It goes without saying that Arab governments are pleased by the prospect of a Third Intifada. Throughout history, whenever the popularity of any Arab regime is in doubt, monarchs and president immediately take out the "Palestinian Card".

Palestinian Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat famously did it in 2000 when he used Nakba day to drum up support for his diminishing popularity in the Occupied Territories. Hasan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah in Lebanon, came out with a statement on Sunday night: "You the honorable have given the Nakba a new meaning!"

Even caretaker prime minister Saad al-Hariri, an ally of the West, could not but describe the killing as "blatant, intolerable aggression".

Even better were the voices of condemnation heard from within Israel. Daphne Richmond-Barak of the Herzilya Interdisciplinary Center, acknowledged that shooting the demonstrators was a violation of international law. One of the authors of Israel's military code of ethics, Asa Kasher, added, "It would be more appropriate to look to the U.S.'s actions against Mexican infiltrators on its southern border to learn about legitimate use of force."

If the May 15 episode is repeated, snowballing into a regular habit for the next four months, Israel will find itself isolated within the international community, whereas the Palestinians would have captured the world's hearts, minds and television screens.

Having just killed Osama bin Laden and declared that the U.S. is not at war with the Muslim world, U.S. President Barack Obama needs to deliver on the issue most sacred to the Arabs: Land and justice for the Palestinians. For more than two years, the Israelis have been giving him a very difficult time, refusing to dismantle settlements, refusing to enter into peace talks, shooting at the Turkish freedom flotilla last June, and more recently, even refusing to recognize Mahmud Abbas' historic breakthrough with Hamas.

The last thing Obama wanted was trouble on Israel's borders -- knowing perfectly well that Israel would swallow the bait, shoot the demonstrators and get the U.S. into an international mess -- yet again. On Sunday, the Palestinians actually gave Netanyahu enough rope to hang himself, ahead of September.

Sami Moubayed is a university professor, historian, and Editor-in-Chief of Forward Magazine in Syria.

(Source: Asia Times Online)







Like a long dormant volcano that suddenly erupts, the revolutions that have swept across North Africa -- against a backdrop of strong economic performance - took all by surprise.

Prior to the explosion, average annual GDP growth in the region had been humming along at 4.6 percent for a decade, with strong improvement in human development indicators.

But this growth was in some ways deceptive, for it masked problems that had long simmered beneath the surface: burgeoning unemployment, especially among the region's youth, and political repression -- the issues that eventually brought things to a boil.

In Tunisia, whose revolution ignited the wildfire of change that quickly spread across the region, young people account for 70 percent of total unemployment. The statistics are similar in Egypt and Libya.

The common denominator across the region is that, while its economies were growing, they were unable to generate enough jobs. This has created a generation of disaffected, underemployed and unemployed young people, including large numbers of recent university graduates.

Ultimately, all levels of society, catalyzed by the actions of restive and disenfranchised youth, came together to demand change and reform. Throughout North Africa, populations have spoken resoundingly with their feet -- and continue to do so.

Getting it right

There is a lot of goodwill to ensure a democratic dividend for these countries, while of course managing expectations. But how, exactly, should the region's policymakers respond?

What the North African situation has taught us is that we must humbly accept that we may not always have had the right responses in the past. We must acknowledge the complexity of the economic issues before us and listen more in designing the necessary and appropriate responses.

The lesson from the North African uprisings is clear: this was a revolution not about ideology, but about freedom, social inclusion, political voice, and government accountability.

To some extent, what North African countries are experiencing, it could be argued, is the classic middle-income-country trap, with economic performance constrained and undermined by limited economic transformation towards higher value-added production and insufficient political, social, and economic inclusion.

The events of recent months have exacted a heavy short-term economic toll, but they have potentially far-reaching long-term implications. The region's economies have contracted, owing to a sharp drop in tourism revenues and disruptions of production and trade. Foreign and domestic investments could decline further as a result of uncertainty, and the region's financial sectors and stock markets could come under even more stress. All of this could have a significant impact on poor and vulnerable segments of the population, compounded by possible hikes in food prices and a further rise in unemployment.

On the other hand, we can be confident that the longer-term gains of social and political change will be positive, as the drag of predatory corruption and limitations on individual and economic liberties are eliminated.

Economic creativity

As Africa's leading development-finance institution, the African Development Bank (AfDB) will support our North African members, enhancing governance and institutions, strengthening social safety nets, and laying the basis for a strong economic recovery. As we finance infrastructure and other projects in the region, we will seek to integrate disenfranchised regions and rural areas.

We are broadening our consultations with governments and other actors, and we are collaborating more closely with national and regional civil-society groups and the media, as well as with academic institutions, think tanks, labor unions, and industrial and sectoral associations.

With the emerging democratic dispensation, we have partners with whom we can engage on governance issues.

No country or region can truly aspire to full, broad-based economic growth without pulling along all segments of its population and without giving a voice to all. But North Africa must also work on regional economic integration in order to boost the effectiveness of national policies. More and more countries are doing so through private sector development.

In 2008 for instance, the Maghreb Private Equity Fund received investments of nearly €20million (US$28million) from the AfDB; which strengthened selected small and medium enterprises in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya - transforming them into stronger regional players. In 2010, the AfDB also approved an equity investment of roughly €14m ($20m) in an infrastructure fund operating primarily in North Africa.

If the nations of North Africa are to succeed in meeting the needs and expectations of their peoples, policymakers must draw the appropriate lessons from the past - and aim to get it right this time around.

Economic creativity must be the next step in North Africa's spring.

Donald Kaberuka is president of the African Development Bank. A version of this article first appeared on Project Syndicate







For Palestinians worldwide and millions supporting them, Nakba Day commemorates loss of their homeland, initially 78 percent in 1948, then the rest 19 years later in 1967.

Speaking for many, Audeh Rantisi recounted the horror, saying:

"I cannot forget three horror-filled days in July 1948," weeks after Israel's May 14 Yom Ha'atzmaut, its Declaration of Independence at the expense of displaced and slaughtered Palestinians.

"The pain sears my memory," he said, "and I cannot rid myself of it no matter how hard I try."

Many hundreds of thousands of Palestinians endured brutality, harassment, humiliation, and loss of their entire world, what Edward Said called "a slow death," shattered lives, and the incalculable horror of it all.

Explaining the horrific toll, Rantisi added:

"First, Israeli soldiers forced thousands of Palestinians from their homes near the Mediterranean coast, even though some families had lived in the same houses for centuries."

"Then without (food or) water, we stumbled into the hills and continued for three deadly days. The Jewish soldiers followed, occasionally shooting over our heads to scare us and keep us moving. Terror-filled my 11-year-old mind as I wondered what would happen. I remember overhearing my father and his friends express alarm about the recent massacres by Jewish terrorists. Would they kill us, too?"

Soldiers shot resisters, including women and children. For others, "I saw many stagger and fall. Others lay dead or dying in the scorching midsummer heat. Scores of pregnant women miscarried, and their babies died along the wayside. The wife of my father's cousin became very thirsty." She couldn't continue.

"Soon she slumped down and was dead… Those wretched days and nights in mid-July of 1948 continue as a lifelong nightmare because Zionists took away our home of many centuries. For me and a million other Palestinian Arabs, tragedy marred our lives forever."

Nakba Day confrontations

Israeli viciousness marked Nakba day commemorations, assaulting peaceful demonstrators in Gaza, the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and along the Lebanese/Syrian borders. Mounting deaths, injuries and arrests were reported.

Headlining "Heavy clashes in Qalandiya on Nakba Day," AFP said:

"Heavy clashes broke out near Ramallah in the West Bank on Sunday when youths clashed with Israeli troops as Palestinians mourned the (63rd Nakba Day) anniversary...."

Soldiers used tear gas, rubber bullets and live fire "near the Qalandiya crossing between Ramallah and annexed East Jerusalem....Clashes were also reported in the East Jerusalem district of Issawiya....And in al-Walaja, a village (straddling) the Bethlehem-Jerusalem border," demonstrators waved Palestinian flags, shouting, "Go away, go away! We don't want to see the Zionists."

Ma'an News reported fierce clashes between Palestinians and Israeli forces. "Medics told Ma'an that at least 15 demonstrators were injured by artillery shells and gunfire as they approached the Erez crossing with Israel."

Later reports added dozens to the count, including deaths after Israeli tanks opened fire in northern Gaza and conducted other attacks throughout the Territories.

Israelis always confront peaceful Palestinian protesters violently, suggesting mounting deaths and injuries may continue into next week, including children, some critically hurt according to medical reports.

As a result, on Nakba Day 2011, global millions see Israel's real face -- lawlessly assaulting peaceful protesters violently, leaving dozens killed or injured, including children.

On Press TV, Beirut-based Franklin Lamb described an unprecedented historic turnout in support of Palestine. Hundreds of buses brought supporters to Lebanon's boarder, including Palestinian refugees. More than 50,000 participated, perhaps double that number, supporting a long overdue liberating third Intifada.

Reuters writer Oren Kessler headlined, "Thousands rally in Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon for 'Nakba Day,' "saying:

Marchers commemorated Nakba Day, demanding the right of return.

Addressing thousands at Gaza City's al-Omari Mosque, AP quoted Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh saying:

"Palestinians mark the occasion this year with great hope of bringing to an end the Zionist project in Israel. Palestinians have the right to resist Israeli occupation and will one day return to property they lost in 1948. To achieve our goals in the liberation of our occupied land, we should have one leadership."

Whether this translation accurately conveyed his sentiment isn't clear.

In fact, in Cairo on May 3, agreeing to unity with Fatah, Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal said:

"Hamas was ready to pay any price for internal Palestinian reconciliation. The only battle of the Palestinians is against Israel. Our aim is to establish a free and completely sovereign Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza strip, whose capital is Jerusalem, without any settlers and without giving up a single inch of land and without giving up on the right of return."

Besides America, no state anywhere is more violent and lawless than Israel, notably during its own "creation" when it displaced 800,000 Palestinians, massacring many others, as well as destroying hundreds of villages and urban communities, besides committing mass atrocities.

Israel notably erased this history, substituting its own sanitized version, regurgitated in frequent Netanyahu comments. Like Obama, he's an unindicted war criminal and inveterate liar, today mocking the horrendous human toll and occupation, preventing Palestinians from living free on their own land in their own country, a status they're determined to change.

Perhaps May 15 began it, inspiring a global groundswell too powerful to contain.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at; also visit his blog site at