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Thursday, May 19, 2011

EDITORIAL 19.05.11

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month may 19, edition 000836, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul


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






















  2. DOING 420 WITH 356














































It's an embarrassment that the Government — and the people — of India could have done without, especially because it shows us as a nation whose intelligence, security and investigative agencies are either working at cross-purposes or, worse, not working at all. For it is shockingly absurd that the Government should have prepared a list of 50 most wanted terrorists accused of committing heinous crimes in India and being sheltered in Pakistan without bothering to cross-check facts before making it public. That the list should include the name of one of the prime accused in a series of bombings in Mumbai, Wazhul Kamar Khan, who is out on bail and lives in Thane, exemplifies the shoddy manner in which it was prepared. The goof-up, which is a mild description compared to the enormous embarrassment and shame that have resulted from the incompetence of this Government, especially the Ministry of Home Affairs, raises three questions which must be answered by Home Minister P Chidambaram. First, who prepared the list? Was it left to some lazy over-paid, under-worked babu who knows his job is protected and hence couldn't care less? Second, was the list circulated among the Intelligence Bureau, the Research & Analysis Wing, the NIA and the CBI? If it was, why did the CBI remain silent over Khan's presence in India since it is fully informed of his whereabouts? More importantly, why has the IB been caught napping as it is expected to monitor the movements of all terror suspects, especially those who are out on bail? Third, how come our external intelligence agency, whose personnel are kept in clover at the expense of the tax-payer, did not know that Khan lives in Thane and not in Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad or Abbottabad? Unless these questions are asked we will never get to the bottom of this mess.

That our intelligence, security and investigating agencies are busy undermining each other to protect or expand their turf is common knowledge. It is also no secret that rather than use intelligence agencies for strengthening India's national security, the Prime Minister's party bosses have been using them for political purposes. There is no reason why Mr Manmohan Singh should be absolved of any lapse on this issue; even if he claims that he was unaware of how the list was collated or kept out of the loop by his Home Minister, that should be treated with the contempt it deserves. For far too long Mr Singh has got away without being held accountable for the sins of omission and commission committed by the Government he heads; he must not be allowed to wriggle out of this shameful lapse. Meanwhile, Parliament, when it meets for the Monsoon Session, should ask the Government to explain why the much touted National Intelligence Grid, which was meant to link various agencies and information-processing centres, and the National Counter-Terrorism Centre are yet to take off. Together, these two institutions were supposed to be integral to India's counter-terrorism efforts after the 26/11 attack on Mumbai by Pakistani terrorists and were publicised as great achievements of the UPA. A CEO was appointed 18 months ago; he has retired without attending office for even a day! Such being the criminally callous attitude of this Government, nothing better can be expected of it. That is the tragic reality.







Today, if a 'mutual admiration club' existed in the field of global affairs and international diplomacy, there is little doubt that Pakistan's Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and his Chinese counterpart Wen Jiabao would qualify for premier membership. It would be hard to find any other institution or arena where such repulsive amounts of flattery and obsequiousness, as have been recently exhibited, would be considered appropriate. China and Pakistan have always maintained close bilateral relations buttressed by the presence of a common 'enemy' in India but there has rarely been such a public display of affection by the two countries which take pride in calling themselves 'all-weather friends'. Since Mr Gilani began his four-day tour of China on Tuesday, grandiose proclamations of "complete understanding, full trust and mutual cooperation and harmony" have poured forth with nauseating frequency. Much of this can, of course, be attributed to the fact that the visit is being undertaken in the immediate aftermath of the killing of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan by American special forces. The fact that Al Qaeda's amir was living in a Pakistani garrison town right under the nose of the military and the ISI, and the Obama Administration's unilateral mission to exterminate him without bothering to even inform Islamabad, have pushed bilateral relations to an all-time low. While on the one hand the US is justifiably displeased that its 'frontline ally' in the war on terror has been found to be absolutely untrustworthy, on the other Pakistan is seething with rage that it was kept in the dark about the May Day raid. With US law-makers now demanding a cut in aid to Pakistan, there's a scramble in Islamabad to keep the money flowing. And what better than banking on China which would be only too happy to have Pakistan entirely in its camp?

The two countries already share strong bilateral relations: China has been providing Pakistan with military assistance, including strategic missile technology, and economic aid. Islamabad has responded to China's largesse by offering to become Beijing's outpost in South Asia. Both support each other on controversial political issues such as Pakistan's occupation of a part of Kashmir and China's policy on Xinjiang, Tibet and Taiwan. Against this backdrop, it is quite possible that Mr Gilani's China trip will lead to increased economic and military assistance which is reportedly at the top of his agenda. However, the actual extent to which China will be willing to trust Pakistan as an 'ally', beyond mutual verbal glorification, is yet to be seen. Let us not forget that that while dealing with Pakistan, China will also be looking out for its own relations with the US. It is unlikely that Beijing will do anything that will upset Washington, DC at this point of time.










For America, Pakistan is a vassal state which is paid to toe its line. Given Pakistan's strategic location, the US will never abandon its 'ally'.

Islamabad does not need to worry; regardless of the Osama bin Laden episode, Washington, DC will not walk out of the so-called 'alliance' against terror. The United Sates needs Pakistan for its operations in Afghanistan and does not want China to take its place in the region. For these two reasons, the Obama Administration will close its eyes to many crimes of the ISI and the Pakistani Army.

A year before the 9/11 attack on the Twin Towers, the US Under-Secretary of State, Mr Thomas Pickering, met Pakistani officials in New York. One of the issues discussed was the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden — the Americans had already begun their hunt for the Saudi terrorist. "Pickering opened the meeting by expressing disappointment that Pakistan, whom he called a good friend of the US, was not taking steps to help with OBL," says a secret cable addressed to the US Secretary of State.

The same tune continued till the Abbottabad raid: Pakistan never helped America to catch any terrorist on its soil, but the US and Pakistan continued to remain 'friends'. Perhaps 'friend' is not the correct word; Pakistan is more of a vassal state which gets American lollipops to remain silent. As one historian wrote: "An Empire has no allies; it has only vassal nations who in principle are sovereign, but let themselves be reduced to the sad condition of satellites." Is not America the last colonial empire?

The position of the US vis-à-vis Pakistan over the past 50 years has to be seen in this perspective. It is the tragedy of Pakistan, built on the falsehood of the two-nation theory, that it requires a big brother to stand on its legs. The US may not be happy with its vassal for having given refuge to Enemy Number 1, that too right in the midst of a cantonment, but the fact remains that successive Governments in Islamabad have protected Osama bin Laden — as well as many other terrorists and jihadis — while Washington has continued to keep Pakistan afloat financially.

Colonel Sir Francis Younghusband, who became famous after his military expedition to Tibet in 1904, famously wrote: "We, who have dealt with Asiatics, can appreciate so well (the following tactic): Taking the opportunity, striking while the iron is hot, not letting the chance go by, knowing our mind, knowing what we want, and acting decisively when the exact occasion arises." The occasion arose, President Barack Obama struck; but the relations between the two 'friends' has remained unchanged.

In July 1946, the British India Chiefs of Staff Committee prepared an interesting report "on the importance of India as a military base". Mr Chandrashekhar Dasgupta, the retired Indian diplomat who wrote War and Diplomacy in Kashmir, has pointed out that the report's "most significant feature, however, was the re-assessment of India's geostrategic value. This reflected a notable shift of emphasis from the naval to the air factor".

The British Government, were it to decide to leave the sub-continent, needed 'air bases' to be able to keep a tab on Afghanistan, Central Asia, the Soviet Union and Eastern Turkestan. Quoting from the British report, Mr Dasgupta wrote, "It was also essential that the Soviet Union be denied air bases in India. If India was dominated by Russia with powerful air forces it is likely that we should have to abandon our command of the Persian Gulf and the Northern Indian Ocean routes, making it impossible to ensure the uninterrupted flow of vitally important oil supplies." Another report prepared in London came to the same conclusion: "India's territory provides important bases for offensive air action and for the support of our forces in the Indian Ocean and neighbouring areas."

Having decided to partition the sub-continent, Britain understood that strategically Pakistan was the best bet. In October 1946, India Office advised the Chiefs of Staff Committee that "if India were to split up into two or more parts, the Muslim areas would probably be anxious to remain in the Commonwealth if, in such circumstances, we were willing to have them".

For the British (and later the Americans), 'Hindus' were unreliable allies, having strange ideas such as non-violence and non-alignment as the main features of their future foreign policy. Partition, therefore, was a good solution for Britain — it could keep air bases in Pakistan and at the same time walk out of the sub-continent without too much damage. The Americans followed in the footsteps of the British in the early-1950s. They had an even better idea: An independent Kashmir!

As early as January 1948, Sheikh Abdullah was ready to offer the Maharaja's State on a platter to the Americans, but it took some five years for Washington to realise how serious the proposal was. When Adlai Stevenson visited Srinagar in May 1953, he discussed with Sheikh Abdullah the creation of an independent 'Sheikhdom of Kashmir'. This suited American interests perfectly as the US could then check the advances of the Chinese in Sinkiang and the Russians in Afghanistan.

Jammu & Kashmir was important for the Americans (as well as the British) because it controlled the roads to Afghanistan, to the Central Asian republics of Soviet Union, to China, and to Tibet. A few weeks after his meeting with Adlai Stevenson, Sheikh Abdullah declared: "It is not necessary that our State should become an appendage of either India or Pakistan." Only after he was arrested in August 1953 did the Americans drop their plan to have a base in Kashmir.

Hardly a year later, America's sight turned towards Pakistan; it was the beginning of the famous 'friendship' that has endured over the decades. Just a look at a map of Pakistan shows the extraordinary strategic importance of the country. The British were no fools. They knew it. Way back in 1877, a Political Agent was posted in Gilgit to keep an eye on the region. Ever since it decided to follow in the footsteps of Britain, America had been looking for an obedient ally to get a toehold in the region.

Today another player has entered the Great Game — China. To come out of their vassalage, the Pakistanis are now cleverly playing the Chinese card. A report from Pakistan said the Chinese were interested in studying the remains of the American top-secret stealth helicopter that developed a snag and had to be abandoned during the Abbottabad raid. A Pakistani official was quoted as saying, "We might let them (the Chinese) take a look." The purpose was to convey an unequivocal message to the Americans: "The Chinese are waiting at our door, don't mess with us, our 'all-weather friend' can replace you."

On May 7, 2011, an interesting article was published by China Review News, headlined "The More Anti-terrorism, The More Terror: The Post-bin Laden Era Tests US Strategy". The author of the article has predicted that China will be the next target of the US's anti-terrorism 'war'. The argument is that before 9/11, President George W Bush viewed China as the main strategic rival and exerted diverse forms of pressure. Then when "Osama bin Laden gave a vicious blow to the US, George W Bush became a different person and turned to cooperate with China". The conclusion is: "9/11 changed the foundations of Sino-US relations and gave China a 10-year golden opportunity to regain strength."

Now a new era of uncertainties has begun. However, the US has no choice but to remain a 'friend' of Pakistan, at least till the state that Mohammed Ali Jinnah forged implodes under the weight of its own inner-contradictions.

Visual: Courtesy San Diego Union Tribune







History shows that the fortune of the Copts has always oscillated with every change in Egypt's power structure. The world should not allow the tragedy of the Lebanese Maronites to revisit the Copts of Egypt who are under attack from Salafis. As saner Muslim voices in Egypt rally for peace, the world must stand united with the Copts

Anguish and fear, like the Nazarene's flesh and blood, will make the annual Feast of Coming of the Lord to Egypt a sombre occasion for the Copts. As they contemplate upon King Herod's brutalities of two millennia ago, which compelled the Holy Family to flee to Egypt, the blood of the May 7 Imbaba massacre would still be raw. They may hail the martyrdom of St Mark, the Evangelist, the founder of the Coptic Church in 68 AD as well as the martyrs of Diocletian era (284-305 AD). But the 'martyrdom' of Copts in contemporary Islamic Egypt — whether at Manfaloot (1992), Abu Qarqas (1997), Al Koshesh (2000), Koos (2009), Naga Hammadi (2010) and Alexandria (2011) — can cause only agony to them.

Presidential hopeful Mohammed ElBaradei tweets his worst fears that Egypt will slide back into the dark ages unless religious intolerance and fanaticism are checked. His immediate point of reference is the communal clash at Imbaba, a suburb of Cairo, which left 10 people dead and 186 injured. At Imbaba, some 500 Salafi Muslims surrounded the Coptic Church of St Mina to recover a woman, who had allegedly converted to Islam but was being held captive inside the church. Even as the clergy denied this, the Muslim mob opened fire on the congregation, killing eight Copts. Subsequently, they torched St Mina before moving to set on fire the Church of Virgin Mary. As visuals show, the Copts then took to the streets, crying "O Jesus! We will sacrifice our soul and blood for the Holy Cross" and clashed with the police. The Salafis shouted, "We will sacrifice our soul and blood for Islam." The unbending resolve of two prophetic monotheistic faiths is evident. But it confirms the old pattern that while Christian and Jewish martyrs say "I shall die for my belief", Muslim martyrs say, "You shall die for my belief."

The outrage at Imbaba threatens to foul the 'Lotus Revolution' that overthrew President Hosni Mubarak in February. The inter-communal relationship had seriously been scarred during the last one year by events like the Nag Hammadi massacre (January 6, 2010), Marsa Matruh disturbances (April-May, 2010), culminating in the infamous Alexandria bombing on New Year's day, 2011, leaving 23 Copts dead and 97 injured. The anti-Mubarak agitation, joined alike by Muslims and Christians, raised the hope of communal rapprochement. Such goodwill was visible for years after the Egyptian Revolution of 1952. "The minorities are like jewels, which are rare and therefore precious. It is the unity of all elements of the nation that constitutes its power," then Egyptian President Mohammed Naguib had reportedly stated. Prior to that during the Wafd Party agitation against British occupation (1919-20), Muslims and Christians had walked shoulder-to-shoulder behind banners painted with the Crescent and the Cross.

This time around it was hoped that the 'Lotus Revolution' would repair the communal divide witnessed in 2010. But hopes have been sadly belied. Within less than a month of Mr Mubarak's exit a 4,000-strong Muslim mob attacked Coptic homes at Sol, a village of Helwan Governorate, outside Cairo, with slogans of "Allah-o-Akbar". It began with a love affair between a Coptic man and a Muslim woman. Salafis burnt down the churches of St Mina and St George and asked Christians to leave the village.

It is feared that Copts are leaving Egypt in droves. Lawyers who specialise in working with Coptic Christians are receiving hundreds of calls per week from those wanting to leave Egypt. Mr Naguib Gabriel, a prominent Coptic lawyer, who heads Egyptian Federation of Human Rights, says he is receiving around 70 calls per week from Copts wanting to know how to emigrate.

Such is often the fate of minorities who are in the forefront of nationalist struggle — say the Hindus of Bangladesh. The Copts have always been ahead in espousing nationalism since 1882, when protests against British occupation began in Egypt (1882). They rallied in favour of Suez Canal nationalisation by Gamal Abdel Nasser in 1956. On October 4, 1956 a large public demonstration was organised at Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate, in which both Christian and Islamist leaders proclaimed an "Islamic-Christian Union". Since the Suez War (1956), the Coptic ecclesiastical hierarchy moved closer to the Nasser Government. The then Coptic Patriarch Cyril VI posed to be more anti-Israeli than the Muslims. He went to the incredulous extent of criticising the decision of the Second Vatican Council (October 11, 1962-December 8, 1965) which exonerated the Jews from the guilt of crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Cyril VI condemned the Vatican's statement as an imperialist-Zionist plot against the Arab nation and Arab Christians besides being against the teachings of Christianity.

When on July 24, 1965 Nasser laid the cornerstone of the new Cathedral of Saint Mark in Abassiya, Cairo, he said: "Christians and Muslims have always lived as brothers, and the Quran referred to this fact… When Islam came to Egypt, amity continued to prevail between Christians and Muslims". Though reflective of Nasser's broadmindedness, its factuality is doubtful. In absolute majority on the eve of Arab conquest of Egypt (639-42 AD), the numerical strength of the Copts began to diminish. It is officially 10 per cent now. An enviable figure no doubt when compared to the disappearance of Christians across North Africa after the advent of Islam. The imposition of jiziya (Islamic tax levied on non-Muslims), extended to monks in 705 AD, and religious policies of Arab and Turk rulers had taken their toll on the Copts. In 832 AD, Caliph Al-Mamun brutally crushed the last Coptic revolt, followed by the conversion of many Copts to Islam. Today, they are one of the besieged Christian communities in the Arab world.

The Presidency of Anwar Sadat (1970-1981) was particularly distressful for the Copts. Islamic fanaticism, which initially Sadat fawned upon, resulted in the destruction of churches and the killing of Coptic businessmen. Sadat, in condemning the Islamists, also made several anti-Coptic statements. On May 14, 1980 he accused, in Parliament, the Coptic leadership of planning to secede from Egypt with the Coptic capital in the Upper Egyptian town of Asyut. He was trying to find an Egyptian analogy to the ongoing Civil War in Lebanon (1976-1990), where Maronite Christians were fighting for an independent 'Petit Liban' (Little Lebanon) to escape a burgeoning Muslim population. On September 3, 1981 Sadat signed a presidential decree removing Coptic Patriarch Shenuda III from his post and exiling him to Monastery of Saint Bishoi, while imprisoning eight bishops and 24 priests. Shenuda III could return when the President Hosni Mubarak revoked the orders in January, 1985.

History shows that the fortune of the Copts has always oscillated with every changing regime. But the international community should not allow the tragedy of the Lebanese Maronites to revisit the Copts of Egypt. As saner Muslim voices in Egypt rally for peace, the world must stand united with them.








Soon after the announcement that Mullah Omar had been 'arrested by Saudi forces', Pakistan's TV channels became animated. One famous TV talkshow host actually decided to host his show in a Bedouin tent. Instead of a chair, he sat on a camel wearing a Pakistani Army uniform

ISLAMABAD: In a daring raid, Saudi Special Forces arrested renegade Afghan leader, Mullah Omar, from a famous five-star hotel located in one of Pakistan's most popular vacation spots — Bhurban.

The news spread like wildfire and people were seen cursing the Pakistani Government for allowing the Americans to undermine Pakistan's sovereignty — again.

However, when it became clear that the raid was not conducted by the Americans but the Saudis, the frowns turned into smiles and many were heard saying, 'Jazzakallah!'

Only minutes after the raid, Pakistan's Prime Minister and Army Chief appeared on state-owned television and congratulated the nation and thanked the Saudi regime for helping Pakistan in its war against terror.

Interestingly, religious parties like Jamaat-i-Islami, Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam and some banned sectarian organisations, along with Imran Khan's Pakistan Thereek-i-Insaf which had originally called a joint Press conference to condemn the raid, changed their stance half-way through the conference when told that the raid was by Saudi forces and not the Americans.

Munawar Hussain, JI, chief, was first heard lambasting Pakistan's PPP-led civilian Government for letting the country's sovereignty be violated by the Americans, but after a reporter confirmed that the raid was executed by Saudi forces, Munawar turned to Imran Khan and embraced him.

'Mahshallah!' he exclaimed. "Today is a glorious day for our Islamic republic!"

Imran Khan and JUI chief Fazalur Rehman had earlier questioned the real identity of the man arrested from the five-star hotel, saying that even if it was Mullah Omar, we should be ashamed because Omar was a freedom fighter, conducting a liberation war against the Americans.

However, after it became clear that the arrest was made by Saudi forces, both Imran and Fazal then claimed that Mullah Omar was no friend of Pakistan and that he was not even a Muslim.

In a joint statement, JI, JUI and PTI, congratulated the nation and said that they had been saying all along that the Taliban were Pakistan's greatest enemies and should be exterminated.

The statement also said that the PTI and JI will continue to hold sit-ins against American drones which were parachuting evil men like Mullah Omar into Pakistan and violating the sovereignty of the country. For this, the statement suggested, that Ahmad Shah Abdali should be invited to invade Pakistan and defeat the Americans.

When told that Abdali died almost two hundred years ago, PTI and JI termed this to be nothing more than western propaganda.

Imran Khan added, that from now on he should be addressed as Imran of Ghaznavi and that one of Pakistan's most prominent revolutionary and youngest nuclear physicists, Zohair Toru, was building anti-drone missiles.

Toru, who was also present at the conference, confirmed this while licking a lemon flavoured popsicle. He said it was a very hot day and popsicles helped him concentrate.

Meanwhile, a military spokesman also held a Press conference to give the media a briefing on the details of the raid.

He said the raid was executed by Saudi Special Forces who came from Saudi military bases in Riyadh.

The helicopters then landed on Margala Hills in Islamabad. On the lush hills, Saudi soldiers disembarked from the copters, got on camels and rode all the way to Bhurban in broad daylight.

They were twice stopped at checkpoints by Pakistani Rangers but were allowed to cross when some Saudi soldiers said something to the rangers in Arabic. It is believed that the Saudis promised the Rangers jobs in Saudi Arabia.

An eyewitness claims the Rangers smiled and waved to the departing camels, cheering 'marhaba, marhaba'.

The camel army reached the five-star hotel in Bhurban at 11:00 am and right away rode their way into the sprawling premises.

The camels were also carrying rocket launchers, sub-machineguns, pistols, grenades and popcorn, all concealed in large 'Dubai Duty Free' shopping bags.

The military spokesman added that although the Pakistan Army had no clue about the raid, there were a dozen or so Pakistani military personnel present at the hotel.

When asked whether these men questioned the camel riders, the spokesman said that they did see the armed camels enter the hotel but the military men were at the time more interested in interrogating a 77-year-old Caucasian male whom they had arrested for smoking in a non-smoking area.

"After the Abbottabad incident, we are keeping a firm eye on Europeans and Americans," the spokesman said.

Even though the white man turned out to be an old Polish tourist, the spokesman praised the military men's vigilance. "Our country's sovereignty is sacred," he added.

According to the Pakistan military, the Saudis then rode their camels into one of the hotel's kitchens and fired teargas shells.

This way they smoked out the chefs and their staff out into the open. From these, a Saudi commander got hold of a one-eyed chef with an untidy beard.

The Saudi commander looked at the chef and compared his face to a photograph he was carrying. He asked: 'Al-Mullah-ul-Omar?' To which the chef was reported to have said: "No, al-chicken jalfrezi. Also make very tasty mutton kebabs."

The commander then asked, 'Al-Afghani?' to which the chef said, "Yes make Afghani tikka too. You want?"

A reporter asked the military spokesman whether the Pakistani military men present at the hotel witnessed the operation. The spokesman answered in affirmative but said they didn't take any action after confirming that Pakistan's sovereignty was not being violated.


The reporter then asked how the military men determined that Pakistan's sovereignty was not being violated. Answering this, the spokesman said that since the camel riders were speaking Arabic there was thus no reason for the military to charge them with violating Pakistan's sovereignty.

This statement made the media men at the Press conference very happy and they consequently began applauding and raising emotional slogans praising Islam, ISI and palm trees.

Soon after the announcement that Mullah Omar was arrested by Saudi forces, the country's private TV channels became animated. One famous TV talk-show host actually decided to host his show in a Bedouin tent. Instead of a chair, he sat on a camel wearing a Pakistan Army uniform.

Though most of his guests — that included prominent ex-generals, clergymen and strategic analysts — praised the operation and heaped scorn at Mullah Omar, there was one guest, a small-time journalist, who disagreed with the panelists.

He asked how a wanted man like Mullah Omar was able to live in Pakistan undetected and that too while working as a chef in a famous five-star hotel. He also said that Mullah Omar had also been appearing on various cooking shows as a chef on various food channels.

To this, the host snubbed the journalist telling him that he was asking irrelevant questions.

'But before this operation, everyone was supporting the Taliban and telling us they were fighting a liberation war against the Americans,' the journalist protested.

'No,' said the host, 'it was the civilian Government that was in cahoots with the Taliban. It should resign.' 'No,' the journalist replied, 'it was our agencies!'

This made the host angry and he slapped the journalist. He threatened the journalist by saying that he would lodge a case against him in accordance with the Islamic hudood ordinance.

The journalist responded by saying that the Saudis had violated Pakistan's sovereignty. Hearing this, the host slapped the journalist again, saying he will get him booked for blasphemy.

At the end of the show the host and the panelists burned an American flag and sang the Pakistani national anthem in Arabic. Then, after handing over the treacherous journalist to the authorities, they proceeded to Saudi Arabia to perform haj. However, they were soon deported by the Saudi regime for violating Saudi sovereignty.

-- The writer is a cultural critic and senior columnist for Dawn Newspaper and







The Pakistani Taliban vowed to fight with "new zeal" in the wake of Osama bin Laden's death to complete the Al Qaeda chief's mission of waging holy war against the West, the deputy commander of the militant group told The Associated Press.

The comments by Waliur Rehman appeared designed to deflate expectations that the May 2 raid by US Navy SEALs that killed Osama bin Laden would slow down insurgent groups allied with or inspired by Al-Qaeda. It also could be an attempt to raise morale among the insurgents.

The primary target of the Pakistani Taliban has been Pakistan itself, which the militants claim is essentially a slave to the US. But the group also has been linked to plots against the West, including a Pakistani American's failed attempt to detonate a car bomb in New York's Times Square last year and a suicide bombing that killed seven CIA agents at an Afghan base in 2009.

Last week, the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for a double suicide bombing at a paramilitary police training facility that killed some 90 people, and said it was revenge for Osama bin Laden's death.

Rehman did not mention those bombings, but suggested the militants would continue to stage attacks in the coming days. He spoke to the AP on Monday along the border between North and South Waziristan, two lawless tribal regions where Islamist militants are strong.

"After the martyrdom of Sheik Osama, the mujahideen will continue jihad to complete his mission with a new zeal," Rehman said, referring to his fighters.

"We have the same target, programme and mission," he added. "Our enemies are Nato, Jews and Christians."

The Pakistani Taliban is a network of militant groups that is distinct from but linked to the Afghan Taliban.

On Wednesday, around 100 militants bearing rocket-propelled grenades attacked a key security checkpoint near the Pakistani city of Peshawar, sparking a three-hour clash that killed two police officers and 15 insurgents, said a senior police official, Liaquat Ali Khan.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, which is likely tied to the Pakistani military's offensives against militants in its tribal belt. The checkpoint at Sangu Mera lies just along the border of the Khyber tribal region, one of the areas where the Taliban and other militants have hideouts.

The checkpoint is about six miles (10 kilometers) away from Peshawar, a strategically important city near Afghanistan.

Rehman also questioned details that have emerged about the US raid that killed Osama bin Laden. He said he believed Osama bin Laden detonated a suicide jacket to avoid arrest and that was the reason the US had resisted releasing a photo of his corpse.


Rehman called Osama bin Laden "a leader and flag carrier of jihad" and said his death was "a heartbreaking loss for us".

"He was an invaluable asset because he stood with great zeal against the American and Zionist alliance," Rehman said.

Pakistan and the US are struggling to improve relations since the raid that killed Osama bin Laden in the Pakistani garrison town of Abbottabad. Pakistani officials consider the surprise attack a violation of their sovereignty and deny knowing he was staying in Abbottabad. The US says the secrecy was vital to the mission's success.

US officials say they hope the Osama bin Laden killing will push Pakistan to do more to take on extremists. Pakistan's Army has carried out anti-insurgent operations in six of its seven tribal districts. The one place it has not mounted an offensive is volatile North Waziristan, a tribal area home to militants whose primary focus is attacking US and Nato troops in Afghanistan.

Islamabad says it is too stretched battling insurgents who have attacked the Pakistani state — including the Pakistani Taliban network — to order a North Waziristan offensive right now. The US relies heavily on its missile strikes to take out targets in North Waziristan.

-- Associated Press Writers Riaz Khan in Peshawar and Abdul Sattar in Quetta contributed to this report.









Despite growth pegged at over 8%, India's economy needs as much careful handling now as during the post-2008 slowdown. Curbing headline inflation must be top priority, mandating a multi-pronged strategy. The UPA must stop pussyfooting, not least because price rise has joined corruption in the list of major public grievances against it. True, inflation moderated in April to 8.66%, but that's far above RBI's 4.5% medium-term target. More, the figure may hit double-digits when petrol price increase and an expected diesel price hike make commodities, transport and inputs for industry dearer. RBI's recent interest rate hikes, though hawkish, didn't provoke many howls. There's growing realisation that battling price rise isn't at the cost of economic expansion. Rather, protracted high inflation is itself menacing growth.

In fighting inflation, conventional wisdom advocates price-fixing for fuel. But global trends mandate decontrol despite a near-term inflationary impact, which too can be managed by cutting taxes on fuel. Price-fixing simply means deferring the shock for later, at which point it is bound to hit harder. All of this mandates more, not less, reform. Inflation being both demand and supply driven, government's action is as crucial as RBI's. Fuel price deregulation must go on, the eventual aim being to push private retail as a means of lowering prices via competition. More immediately, there's no arguing against trimming heavy taxes on fuel to contain the inflationary impact of rising prices. More so, since decontrol means fiscal relief, reducing a subsidy threatening to jump the budgeted sum for the fiscal year by almost four times. Instead of relying on taxing fuel, revenues should be mobilised with accelerated disinvestment and sector-specific reform attracting private funds. Unnecessary government expenditure too can be trimmed for the sake of fiscal rectitude.

The RBI sees food inflation as acquiring a systemic nature. With India's growing food needs, rural skills, farm productivity and choice-based delivery systems must match up. Massive overhaul of agriculture and wasteful, corruption-ridden distribution networks is needed to avoid recurring food crises. While boosting investment, retail and marketing reform will help eradicate the costs and inefficiencies of having a plethora of intermediaries and traders in the commodities market, with their baneful fallout on denuded farmers' incomes and high shop prices.

Funds are required for crucial tasks such as making agriculture technology-based, building farm-to-fork infrastructure, boosting irrigation-linked innovation or promoting research in genetically modified foods. As industry voices point out, structural reforms geared to dismantling supply-side impediments must accompany monetary tightening aimed at raising borrowing costs. Else, all we'll do is tranquillise growth without beating inflation, bringing India's growth story to an end. Is that what the government wants, and does the UPA think it can fetch votes this way?







Spotlighted by Rahul Gandhi's high-profile visit, the agitation against land acquisition in Bhatta and Parsaul villages of Greater Noida, Uttar Pradesh, is symptomatic of a pan-India problem. From Niyamgiri in Orissa to Raigad in Maharashtra, state governments spanning the political spectrum are involved in controversial land acquisitions. At the heart of the problem is the Land Acquisition Act, 1894. Section 17 (1) or the urgency clause of the law allows the government to acquire land for a variety of "public purposes" such as building public infrastructure, rural and urban planning etc. Invoking the clause suspends Section 5-A of the law, which allows landowners to express their objections against the acquisition. It is this loophole that is being exploited by various state governments to acquire land without obtaining consent of land holders.

Controversial land acquisitions are also being exploited by politicians of various hues, as they home in looking for an issue. Rahul Gandhi's accusations of mass murder and rape in UP appear to have been exaggerated, with pending assembly elections in the state accounting for the shrill pitch. Nevertheless, charges of police atrocities against hapless villagers resisting land acquisition deserve to be investigated seriously. And the Land Acquisition (Amendment) Bill that would overturn the 1894 Act and provide, instead, a market-linked mechanism for such acquisition, may be the single most important piece of legislation that's hanging fire in Parliament. It needs to be passed without further delay. Land-related woes severely impact the investment and growth climate. Instead of trying to score political points ahead of the UP assembly elections, a transparent and fair mechanism for land acquisition needs to be the agenda.








According to reports, the drift by the Muslim community towards religious outfits in some states - Badruddin Ajmal's All India United Democratic Front in Assam and the Muslim League in Kerala - was so comprehensive that both parties have become important players in their respective state assemblies. Given the sensitivity of any issue to do with the nexus of religion and politics, it isn't surprising that this development is being viewed with some concern. Abusaleh Shariff, one of the authors of the Sachar committee report, has sounded the alarm over this trend. But at the end of the day, too much is being read into it.

Bear in mind that an election is, essentially, a marketplace. The rules of supply and demand apply. If you do not offer the product that the customer wants - or if you offer a product that is known to be defective - he will look elsewhere. If ethnic groups do not find enough representation within mainstream parties, ethnic parties might come up promising to cater to their demands. But eventually ethnic parties will have to form coalitions with bigger parties and/or accommodate their interests if they are to grow.

Likewise, mainstream parties will also realise there's an unmet constituency and try to cater to its interests. This is not very much different from what is happening in other parts of the country. Mayawati's power base, for instance, is the UP dalit community, just as there are politicians banking on the Jat or Yadav or any of a hundred other vote banks. And mainstream politicians like Nitish Kumar or Mamata Banerjee have shown that by offering a quality product, it is perfectly possible to win over voters who may have otherwise chosen community leaders. The so-called polarisation in Assam and Kerala will last precisely until the mainstream parties there take a leaf from Kumar's book.








Embedded in the electoral success of outfits like Badruddin Ajmal's AIUDF in Assam and the Muslim League in Kerala is the dangerous trend of communalism raising its head again in Indian politics. It is too simplistic to dismiss the rise of these narrow religion-based parties as part and parcel of India's democratic process. On the contrary, their success doesn't augur well for the Union. It may lead to increased fissiparous tendencies.

Let's not forget that communal politics has tormented India on numerous occasions. In the past, it created havoc in the form of partition of the subcontinent on religious lines. India had to be partitioned because of fears planted in the minds of the minority community by the Muslim League. Moreover, the League succeeded in areas where the minority population was concentrated. The present trend is on similar lines, as these fringe parties have done well in regions where minority populations are concentrated. A party like AIUDF, which made its debut in the 2006 assembly elections with 10 seats, has increased its tally to 18 this time, catapulting it into the position of the second largest party in Assam. Its success is based on a narrow agenda of the welfare of immigrant Muslim settlers. Likewise, in Kerala, the Muslim League won 20 out of 24 seats in minority-dominated constituencies.

The rise of 'Muslims-for-Muslim-parties' will polarise the polity and vitiate the atmosphere. At this stage, when India is poised for fast economic growth, the country cannot afford the growth of communal parties with their narrow self-serving agendas. The point can be broadened to state that identity politics of any kind is pernicious. India has a secular Constitution, and only secular parties should be permitted to operate. That's the best way for India to keep the scourge of communalism at bay.







We're still waiting to exhale. Kolkata's traffic lights turned from red to green with dramatic force, but everyone still waits with bated breath. Will Didi's promised 'Poriborton' bring the city up to speed, or will it still be stuck in the same snarl? What's her new revolutionary road? Raj Calcutta was as different from Marxist Kolkata as a sandesh is from cheese-cake. You can be sure that both will be changed ruthlessly by La Belle Dame Sans Mamata.

The new CM has to stand for both common man and corporate manna, as mutually exclusive as land for tillers and land for Tatas. Truly, i don't know which is worse, Kolkata finding its feet but losing its elevated soul, or Kolkata remaining down at heel but declaiming, debating and quoting Descartes as it descends completely into a civic hell.

What i do know is that Kolkata III will be different from its previous avatars. Both had to go, but both had their glories while they lasted, and together they created a breed of natives who looked down on everyone else. With good reason. The contrasting two strands of their DNA have made the Bengalis unique. And this also accounts for the large number of Hon Bongs elbowing our wannabe way into this Unique Intellectual Identity.

John Company's sun had shone here with greater intensity, and the stars of its night life sparkled more brightly, in White Town and in the palaces of Brown princes alike. So naturally Calcutta relinquished the ghosts of the Raj more reluctantly and later than elsewhere. Right till the early '60s, they continued to stride through the central business district, sip sundowners in the clubs, and, dressed like wolves in sharkskin suits, they shimmied in a mean quickstep at Prince's in the Grand Hotel.

Their children were initiated into Park Street's successive rites of passage: the Sylvania birthday party cake from Flury's, the tennis or elocution trophy celebration at Skyroom, the teenaged jam sessions at a Trinca's set on fire by Usha still Iyer, and the first serious cheek-to-cheek slow dance at Blue Fox abetted by Pam Crain in her sequined sheath oozing sex appeal into the mike.

Bombay had been merely Urbs Primus in Indis and Delhi was little more than the graveyard of dynasties, but Calcutta was Second City of Empire, preceded only by London itself. No wonder then, that nostalgia remained the only surviving industry when the flight of capital and load-shedding turned it into the City of Dreadful Night.

When Raj-relic Cal was finally, and violently, driven out in 1967, the exploding revolution brought its own white-knuckled exhilaration. The Black Marias hurtling down curfew-emptied streets and the crack of gunfire splitting the silence of our exam-swotting nights as the first United Front government got its bloodied birthing in 1967. Naxalbari stamped our psyche with Chairman Mao and then was stamped out as brutally as it stomped in. After 1977, we fell under the spell of Comrade Basu.

The combination of revolutionary fire and iced lemonade on indolent club verandahs gave a distinctive aura to those of us baptised by a Calcutta always shortened to 'Cal' and a Kolkata which always had to be marched through its full length. When i went to live in Bombay, i yearned as much for the roar of slogans on the street as for the chocolate cornet at Flury's.

Flury's stopped making this decadent confection a while ago, and now the lal has been stripped of its salaam. Didi may have little use for either of these, but all of us who were weaned on both these indulgences fervently hope that Kolkata III won't entirely jettison its uniquely dual legacy.






The inclusion of Thane resident Wazhul Kamar Khan in a list of 50 fugitives supposedly living in Pakistan by the Indian government is the latest misstep in New Delhi's attempts to capitalise on the death of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

The original blundering was done by the heads of the Indian Army and Air Force who, by declaring they were capable of carrying out stealth strikes against Pakistan, provided a beleaguered Islamabad a useful diversion from the Abbottabad embarrassment. On the other hand, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh gave a tepid response to bin Laden's death, unbecoming of a nation that claims to be among the worst victims of the slain terrorist's brand of terrorism.

The only saving grace in all this has been that India's statements, including the erroneous fugitives' list, have been barely noticed by the outside world and have had little impact on Pakistan's present state of affairs.

As far as can be ascertained, India's broad policy towards Pakistan remains sound. Mr Singh has stubbornly pursued peace talks with Pakistan and, recently, in Kabul, he made it clear that India was not in the business of counterterrorism attacks by stealth.

India has also made clear its desire for a reduced Pakistani military influence in foreign policy matters and the isolation of that same military from sources of international support. This would undermine the primary obstacle to constructive bilateral negotiations with India and, hopefully, make the Pakistani brass more amenable to talks.

Bin Laden's death was manna from geopolitical heaven for India. It humiliated the Pakistani military at home and abroad, giving a boost to that country's civilian political leaders. It also triggered a huge anti-Pakistani backlash in the US Congress, dramatically but not terminally fraying what is the main financial and weapons lifeline for Rawalpindi.

India could also position itself as a good neighbour by speaking soothingly in Afghanistan, another bugbear for the Pakistani military.

New Delhi's attempts to nudge these developments in its favour have been less than surefooted as different arms of the government have spoken at cross-purposes or, in the case of the home ministry, simply incorrectly.

Fortunately, no one is paying much attention to India tripping itself up. That Pakistani generals are being forced to defend themselves before their legislature and feel the need to assert that they must continue to control the policy towards India is evidence that the military's standing continues to be parlous.

And the level of vitriol between Washington and Islamabad has shown only minimal signs of abatement. This leads to making the case that India's best policy in these circumstances would be to be attentive to developments, but quiet in reacting to them.




'Shop till you drop' or 'retail therapy' are all smart little phrases used when it comes to describing women shoppers. The very term compulsive shopping has come to apply singularly to women.

Now along comes a British survey which says that it is men who are the real shopaholics, given to impulsive purchases of much higher prices than women. Food, beer and DVDs top the shopping list for men while clothes, magazines and wine feature on the women's list.

Now that women have been put in a different shopping aisle, the truth will be out.

Women may give the impression of being inveterate shoppers but that is only because they are more discerning. While a man will buy the nearest thing irrespective of the price and term himself decisive — we could say lazy — a woman will pour over several racks or shops to get the lowest price.

The concept of value for money is somewhat alien to men while for women this is an article of faith.

We haven't heard of too many men cutting out discount coupons from the dailies or periodicals, have we? Then there is the myth of how much shopping soothes the soul of a woman, how her affections can be bought by the right man with the right credit card.

But no, men are no different except that their souls are satisfied by things of much higher value like a car whereas the little lady will probably be thrilled with a pair of shoes.

This is of a piece with the earlier belief that women were addicted to beauty treatments when actually it is your hirsute colleague or spouse who is likely to lap up the facials and pedicures.

And when it comes to cosmetic surgery, it is not women alone who are partial to the old nip and tuck, men have no qualms about going under the knife to get rid of all those niggling problems that stop them from looking like Brad Pitt.

But we are glad that all this has come out in the open, it really gives a different meaning to equality of the sexes.






From the shores of the Atlantic to the Persian Gulf, people in many Arab-Muslim countries are demanding that their rulers democratise and that dictators step down. So far, despite some fears, Arab revolutions have led to neither xenophobia nor anti-western demonstrations, nor a significant breakthrough for Islamists.

Tunisia's 'Jasmine Revolution' and the mass protests in Cairo's Tahrir Square and throughout Egypt shared demands for the end of dictatorial regimes. The uprisings also raised the implicit challenge of political Islamism. But demonstrators didn't cite the Sharia or the wish for a theocratic State based on a fundamentalist Islam while defying batons and bullets.

They demanded, and won promises for, what people in other Arab States are also now seeking: a multi-party system, freedom of the press, and the prospect of genuine democratic pluralistic elections.

At these demonstrations, no American or Israeli flag was burned, no anti-western or anti-Jewish slogan uttered. This is a greatly encouraging sign, although there is no guarantee what direction these uprisings will take. And some recent events call for vigilance.

In late 2010, Egypt was the scene of a bloody attack against a Coptic church in Alexandria. Nobody could then have imagined that a few weeks later, massive crowds of Muslims, Christians and agnostics would gather together in the same city to help force Hosni Mubarak from power.

In Tunisia shortly after former President Zine Abeddine Ben Ali's fall, Father Marek Rybinski, a Poland-born Catholic priest, was murdered on the premises of an inter-denominational school in the Tunis suburban governorate of Manouba, while dozens of Islamist protesters were rallying outside the Great Synagogue of Tunis, and a chapel was burned near Gabes.

In an encouraging response to these events, hundreds of Tunisians demonstrated for a 'secular Tunisia', waving placards that read: "We are all Jews, Christians and Muslims."

It is always by how it treats the 'other' that a society is best judged even when minorities are so small that they are virtually invisible. One need not be a Christian to stand up for Egypt's Copts, Iraq's Assyro-Chaldeans, and Lebanon's Maronites.

One need not be a Muslim to stand up for the Arabian Peninsula's Shias, Iran's Sunnis, India's Muslims and Turkey's Ceylon or Alevis. One need not be a Jew to come to the defence of Syria's or Iran's Jews.

But the defence of minorities is, above all, the responsibility of the majorities among whom they live, none of which can enjoy true self-esteem if they despise or mistreat the 'other'.

New regimes will be judged by how they treat their ethnic and religious minorities. It is by the space allowed for these various minorities to live and flourish in their societies that we will judge the true nature of the Arab Spring.

(René Guitton writes on culture and religion. The views expressed by the author are personal. This is part of the Religion and Public Space series  in collaboration with the UN Alliance of Civilisations and its Global Experts project)





The victory of Aasha Jee, a Kashmiri Pandit woman in the panchayat election in Wuzzan village in north Kashmir, gives hope to those who have consistently believed in the inherent secular values that have pervaded the Valley.

The past decades have been a black mark on Kashmiris for the way the Pandits were turned into refugees in their own country. It is difficult to imagine that families who had lived together for centuries were forced into refugee camps, left to fend for themselves, many at an age when people choose to retire in comfort.

In all this, one thing stood out: Kashmiris had failed themselves and their own beliefs. But in Aasha Jee's victory, history is presenting an opportunity to redeem themselves by igniting a Kashmiri Muslim movement to invite their neighbours back to the Valley.

This is also a unique opportunity to cock a snook at Syed Ali Shah Geelani and his ilk.

This is possible if the moment is grabbed by the Valley's leadership — both intellectual and political — with the support of the central government. Secular Kashmiris must establish direct contact by phone, e-mail and Facebook with their Pandit brothers and sisters. Seminars and conferences must be arranged in Srinagar, Jammu, New Delhi and elsewhere where the Kashmiri Pandits live.

House to house visits and invitations must be made for them to return home. We must accept the level of disillusionment suffered by the Pandits that has often forced some of them to adopt a communal stand. Kashmir belongs to all of us, but more to its original inhabitants — the Muslims and  Hindu Pandits of the Valley.

It was this singular secularism of Kashmir that motivated Abul Fazl to carve out the following lines on the gate of a Hindu temple in Kashmir: "Heresy to the heretic,/ religion to the orthodox,/ but the dust of the rose petal,/ belongs to the heart of the perfume seller."

Over the past few months, the UPA government has demonstrated a real desire to look at Kashmir holistically. The visit of the all-party parliamentary delegation, the appointment of the interlocutors, the setting up of special task forces to look at specific problems of Jammu, Ladakh and Leh have instilled new hope with regard to the wish to move ahead with finding a solution to the disturbed situation in Kashmir.

But while the intent is there, the actions have been tepid.

At the cost of repetition, it may be noted that while there has been debate, the dreaded Armed Forces Special Protection Act (AFSPA) continues. There is virtually no move within the government to restore Article 370 to its original form, and communication channels with the youth and the public remain poor.

These issues are the ones that the separatists will latch on to once again to try and bring back the summer of 2010.

But this is a different year. Pakistan's position has considerably weakened and it stands exposed as a haven for terrorists of all hues. No one, fundamentalist or liberal, Shia or Sunni, Muslim or non-Muslim today wants to join Pakistan and the desire for a plebiscite is dead.

Relative peace reigns within Kashmir.

'Azaadi' is not an option and issues dealing with greater autonomy can be handled within the ambit of the Constitution of India. This is a window that can be used to our advantage.

Perhaps in our lifetime we will see a Kashmir about which the poet said: 'Agar firdaous e bar roohe zammeenast,/ Hameenasto hameenasto hameenast' (If there is heaven on Earth, it is this, it is this, it is this).

(Najeeb Jung is the vice-chancellor of Jamia Millia Islamia. The views expressed by the author are personal)





It's not been a month and already the Brits are rubbing their hands and counting the profits. Reports in the press say that the royal wedding — of Prince William to Catherine Elizabeth Middleton, now Duchess of Cambridge and Marchioness of Wonderland — has brought in millions, if not billions, of pounds in tourism, souvenir exports and memorabilia sales.

Bully for Britain. In these hard times every little helps and we look forward to further national enrichment through the early betrothal of Prince Harry to his girlfriend Battersea.

The Wedding, the attention it received from billions of well-wishers all around the world and the profits it garnered for Britain prove once again that Napoleon, when he called Britain "a nation of shopkeepers" was being grudging.

This is the greatest nation of shopkeepers. That greatness lies in being able to sell and persuade the world to buy repeated designer versions of the Emperor's New Clothes — this time the Prince's red and gold Ruritanian uniform?

It was perhaps Robert Clive who first realised that the Bengalis, living in a hot climate, weren't rushing to buy woollen blankets and sweaters knitted from the produce of Highland industries. Neither did they flock to buy the rusting cutlery produced by the precursors of the Sheffield steel industry.

The only way to make money for the East India Company was to abandon the pretence of trade — the exchange of something concrete for something similar — and start selling military expertise to Muhammad Ali of Arcot and Mir Jaffar of Bengal and to demand tribute, expenses and a share of taxes levied on the land in return. A bargain!

It is no intention of mine to denigrate the excellent ladies' underwear purveyed by Marks & Spencer for which some Arab and subcontinental female shoplifters are willing to risk a sentence at Her Majesty's pleasure.

Now would I, afficionado of the Parsi Peg, deride the quality of single, double and even quadruple malt whiskies. I merely wish to point out that the ladies' underwear is manufactured in China and points East and that there is more Scotch drunk in Chandigarh than ever left the shores of bonny Scotland.

No doubt Rolls Royce engines used in combat aircraft sold to Colonel Gaddafi are an exception. But by and large Britain, unlike China, doesn't make things to sell. It maintains its predominance in the world by selling its culture or anything that will pass for such.

Thomas Macaulay didn't introduce English education to what Rudyard (is there any other?) later called "lesser breeds without the law" in order to have Bengalis quoting Shakespeare. And yet today they quote TS Eliot and perhaps even Carol Ann Duffy with defiant impunity.

Bismarck it was who, when asked which bequest of his century would most influence the 20th, said "that America speaks English". His reply ignored South America, didn't bother to mention India and was by chronology ignorant of the internet. Nonetheless, it was a perceptive reply.

Shakespeare and Royalty may sell in perpetuity, but these are but the window dressing. The shop has many mansions. The form that Bollywood films take owes more to the western 'musical' film tradition than it does to the Natyashastra and if it has, in its contemporary avatars, got over Rogers and Hammerstein, it derives its addiction to improbable plots and action from the English superfraud James Bond.

Who will deny that after Enid Blyton, who translated the colonial sense of adventure and exploration into a language she put into the mouths of babes, the most successful worldwide fantasy is that of Harry Potter and his world of British public school magic?

What a fantastic formula!

And how many writers for children should be kicking themselves for not finding it: take Tom Brown's schooldays, with the bullying, hard games and hierarchies, add the imaginative improbabilities of creatures and powers from video games and, not forgetting a dash of contemporary feminism, Bob's your million-seller! Thin air to mazuma!

The government of Margaret Thatcher waged war against the unprofitable and uncompetitive sectors of British manufacturing industry. Which, comparing the wages of British miners to those of Poland and the relative price of making a yard of cotton in Oldham and in Ahmedabad, meant all of it.

Her prime ministership rid Britain of the last pretence of selling blankets to Bengalis. It sought instead to lure capital to its 'financial services', a euphemism for well-practised and well-oiled usury.

There is nothing wrong with a nation living for centuries by having the best stories, the best songs and even the best tax-dodging accountants. (Er. No! Maybe the last is not so good). After Elvis and rock'n'roll, the world's pop industry turned to Liverpool.

The plots of most successful detective stories still derive from Agatha Christie and when Batman faces The Joker, is there not a clear heritage from Sherlock and Moriarty if not Father Brown and Flambeau? (Note the non-Englishness of both villain's names!)

Finance and culture — wonderful abstracts to be the capital of. But what happens when our American cousins start playing sub-prime games and turn those same financial services into devastating drains on the public purse?

And what happens if the fires of new technologies are kindled (geddit?) and books become free or indeed if the video gaming element in Harry Potter overtakes the Tom Brown's schooldays appeal?

Hmm... Maybe we can sell a film about our stammering king...

(Farrukh Dhondy is an author, screenplay writer and columnist based in London. The views expressed by the author are personal)








Rahul Gandhi has been put on the mat for his ill-advised statements that police action against those protesting land acquisition in Greater Noida was accompanied by several unreported fatalities and rapes. It seems to be difficult to find victims or relatives of victims willing to back up Gandhi's claim. The question must then be asked: is it not irresponsible for a senior public figure, an MP who stands high in the Congress hierarchy, to bring into the public domain claims about atrocities which he is unable to back up?

He speaks too rarely on issues on which India's politics needs to take a call — so, the occasions when he does acquire a certain weight. Unfortunately, he has chosen to go about his engagement with voters by parachuting himself into the middle of one fraught problem after another. Thus, when he speaks, as in Niyamgiri after the decision to halt the Vedanta project, or as he did now, he is looking less for a way forward, and more for words to address a polarising situation. And this problem has been intensified, in this case, by the Congress's attempts to turn UP politics into an either-or, zero-sum game with the incumbent BSP government. What Gandhi seems to have ignored is that politics is about more than examples. It is about issues — the word we use to detach the specific from the general, the word we use to ensure that a certain dispassionate analysis intended to help citizens at large will be employed. When, instead of engaging with the issues — in this case, with the problems and possibilities of using agricultural land for infrastructure and urban expansion — only the most noticeable, fraught examples are dealt with and addressed, our politics begins to warp.

In the end, the problem remains that Gandhi, like the Congress president, and some others in the Congress party, speaks too often to these issues as an insider-outsider. The politics of interaction is for them; the politics of issues is for other people. It is the Congress's own government that has continued to sit on the land acquisition bill; it is the party that has consistently failed to make a political case for the changes it will bring. When examples are sought and blown out of proportion, more than just reputations will suffer. So will the depth and thoughtfulness of our politics.






After the election results that prised open the Left's tight hold over West Bengal and, to a lesser extent, Kerala, the CPM remained resolute that the verdict was not an indictment of the party or its ideology. They have pointed to their 41 per cent voteshare in West Bengal, the fact that they emerged the single largest party in Kerala, and attributed the Bengal loss solely to the voters' desire for change, after 34 years of a Left government. This desire for change, however, is not a vacuous desire for new faces — it is a sign of something that went terribly wrong in the last few years. As recently as 2006, the CPM under Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee seemed invincible — but it unravelled rapidly. The panchayat polls, the Lok Sabha election and now these assembly elections testify to the fact that something decisively snapped during this period, and the Left would do well to look harder into that, and make some gesture of explanation, if not expiation, to the electorate.

It is easy to focus on whether the leadership should change. Or ask and answer the question, is the Left finished? Clearly not. But its task is to address the more complex, difficult questions about how to reach out to larger constituencies, how to reconcile its convictions with a changing context. The CPI's A.B. Bardhan has been more candid about the Left's larger missteps. One big blind spot, in his view, was the fact that India's large and diverse middle class did not factor into its calculus at all. The middle class that had once partly internalised the Left's logic, has now changed, and its ideology no longer appealed to the more consumerist and careerist young, Bardhan said. Given its outsized influence on public opinion, it is not tenable to alienate the vocal middle class, he said.

This is a moment for introspection and a degree of humility, rather than the insistence that the Indian Left is the most creative in the world. It is accountable to the electorate, and not just to the card-carrying faithful. And this could be a productive juncture, if the Left looks within.






The British monarch, Elizabeth II, in a green dress and leprechaun hat daintily sipping a glass of Guinness through a straw would have been a most fantastic depiction anytime in her past 59-year reign. But on Wednesday a cartoon in London's Independent came close to reality, excepting perhaps the frothy beer mug dancing in the air. For the first time in a century, ever since her grandfather, George V, crossed the Irish Sea, a reigning British monarch has set foot on Ireland. That absence of a hundred years puts into relief the bloodshed, bitter enmity and mistrust that have marked Anglo-Irish relations and cleaved the two nations all along. As a foil, her presence has been invested, not very surprising for Dublin, by a high degree of symbolism — some real, some exaggerated. The real: the queen's laying of the wreath at the Garden of Remembrance to honour the Irish patriots who fought against the British. The exaggerated: her green cloak to go with the Emerald Isle.

The queen's visit is meant to symbolise more than anything else an acknowledgment that history should not be allowed to stand in the way of the future; that the two nations have come a long way since the Easter Rising and the Irish War of Independence and the many fraught years since. While Sinn Fein's black balloons, the largely deserted streets and the heavy security presence reminded that history could not be too easily wished away, the queen took the first step towards a new rapprochement between the old adversaries. A year ago, British Prime Minister David Cameron had already apologised for the Bloody Sunday of 1972.

As Stephen said in Ulysses, "History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake." That is quite like what the British and the Irish are trying to do.








RBI Governor D. Subbarao's speech in Basel was made six days after the hawkish credit policy announcement for this year. He defined the role of the Reserve Bank of India as it is seen in the RBI Act of 1934, opposed any change in the role and functioning of the RBI despite developments in financial markets, in the Indian economy and in the field of monetary economics since 1934. This speech repeats the flaws of RBI communication of recent years, undermines the impact of the recent monetary policy announcement and increases the cost that India will have to suffer in bringing inflation under control.

Instead of discussing how the RBI can reinvent itself to address one of the most important questions facing India today, namely inflation, and to help bring about changes in the financial and regulatory architecture of the country that will serve the economy and people best, the governor's speech is about how the RBI has served India well in the past, and should therefore not become a central bank which primarily runs monetary policy to deliver low inflation. Along with saying that the RBI will be responsible for many other objectives, he emphasised that the RBI should not be held responsible for delivering low inflation.

If the central bank does not take responsibility for inflation in the country, who will? It is not a coincidence that all over the world this function has been carved out from other conflicting functions and given primacy in central banks. The public demands lower inflation. Sooner or later, the excuses provided by central banks about why they cannot be delivered, because of other conflicting objectives, become the very reason why these other objectives are taken away from central banks, and they are charged with the responsibility for low inflation and made accountable for it. In this sense, while Subbarao's speech is intended to defend the present RBI, it urges the process of RBI reform.

The timing of Subbarao's speech was particularly unfortunate. In the policy announcement on May 3, he pledged that he would fight inflation. Just one week later, on May 9, he reneged on this promise. He went out of his way to say that the RBI is not focused on inflation. The defence of the RBI turf has come immediately after a sharp hike in interest rates. Ideally, if the rate hike had to have impact, it should have been followed by a well laid-out communication strategy to convince the public that the RBI is now going to focus on inflation. Turf wars about public debt management, banking regulation and financial stability should have been the last things to discuss at this time. Inconsistencies between what the governor said in the credit policy and his speech a week later will damage the RBI's credibility and public perception on its commitment to fighting inflation.

For instance, first the governor had said: "The conduct of monetary policy will continue to condition and contain perceptions of inflation in the range of 4-4.5 per cent."

He now says: "Monetary policy, as is well known, is an ineffective instrument for reining in inflation emanating from supply pressures. It is unrealistic, under these circumstances, to expect the Reserve Bank to deliver on an inflation target in the short-term." He also says: "We have a problem about which inflation index to target."

These and other arguments which the governor made in many speeches last year, for the RBI not focusing on inflation, are a large part of the reason why despite eight interest rate hikes, the RBI was not able to bring inflationary expectations under control. Every time the governor raised rates, he then made a speech about how fighting inflation was not his priority.

Commitment to fighting inflation is as important, if not more, as raising interest rates. Unlike the traditional monetary economics such as the quantity theory of money, which most of us were taught in university, it is now well understood that prices do not change in response to changes in demand and supply of money. Inflationary expectations play a crucial role in determining output and inflation. The central bank's monetary policy plays a crucial role in shaping these expectations. If the RBI's 50 basis point hike is to mean more than just pain to borrowers, and is going to keep wages and prices from rising, it needs to be translated into a change in the perception of the people who start believing that the RBI will no longer accept high inflation and will do all it can to reduce it. If immediately after the rate hike, the RBI starts making excuses about why it will not deliver low inflation, why its policy will not work and why it should not even be expected to work, this will undermine the policy action itself. With this speech, Subbarao has reduced his chances of controlling inflation.

If the communication strategy is done right, inflation control will be achieved through a smaller set of rate hikes. With such mistakes in communication, the country will have to suffer a much sharper set of rate hikes in order to get inflation back under control.

The role and functions of the RBI defined in the 1934 Act may have served India well for many years. But since then India has changed. The needs of the sector have changed. Financial markets have developed. Rapid globalisation has brought new challenges. The central bank has to keep up with the needs of India today and tomorrow. The RBI can either reinvent itself, or over the next few years, when the country forces change, it can oppose the change. To reinvent itself the RBI needs a leadership that can provide it with the intellectual framework for change. Subbarao has failed to provide this leadership.

The writer is a professor at the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy, Delhi







The issue of land acquisition has flared up yet again. Over the past month, we have seen two incidents of unrest — in Jaitapur and Greater Noida. The primary cause of the unrest can be traced to the perception that the process of land acquisition has not been fair to the farmers whose land is being acquired. Home Minister P. Chidambaram has said that the government plans to introduce a new land acquisition bill in Parliament in the next session. This is intended to facilitate better compensation and rehabilitation for farmers.

There are three main elements that need to be addressed in any land acquisition law. First, the conditions under which land may be acquired need to be specified, that is, the types of projects for which the government can use this act. Second, the law has to contain an unambiguous method to compute fair compensation. Third, it needs to lay out the process to be followed.

Currently, the Land Acquisition Act 1984 governs this process. It states that land may be acquired for public purpose such as town planning, development projects, etc. It also permits acquisition for the use of companies for the above purposes or if the work is "likely to prove useful to the public". Thus, land can be acquired for industrial projects that can provide employment or serve other objectives that benefit the general public.

The Act specifies that the market value (plus 30 per cent) should be paid as compensation. In addition, the value of any property such as buildings, irrigation works, trees, etc, must be paid. The landholder should also be compensated for any reasonable expenses if he is compelled to change his place of residence or business. The Act expressly prohibits the intended value of land from being taken into account for computing market value. That is, if agricultural land is being acquired for commercial use, the compensation will be based on the prevailing market price for agricultural land.

The process is also laid out in the Act. It includes notification of land to be acquired, hearing of objections, final declaration and payment of compensation. All disputes are to be settled in civil courts.

There have been issues related to all three elements. The protests in Nandigram and Singur followed the application of the Act for investment by private companies. Another source of discontent arises from the fact that the value of the land usually rises due to change in its usage, and the original landowners may not benefit. The long process of providing compensation and dispute settlement has also been a problem. The government introduced a bill in 2007 to address some of these issues. That bill lapsed in 2009, and has not been reintroduced.

The 2007 bill had a narrower definition of "public purpose" for which land could be acquired. It laid down three purposes: (a) for strategic naval, military or air force purposes; (b) for public infrastructure projects; and (c) for any purpose useful to the general public if 70 per cent of the land has been purchased from willing sellers through the free market. The third case has found some criticism that any private party should use market mechanisms for its needs, and compulsory acquisition should not be used. The counterpoint is that large projects need contiguous land, and such projects should not be held up if a minority of land owners are unwilling to sell their land. Whether the threshold should be 70 per cent or higher is a call that lawmakers need to make.

For computing compensation, the 2007 bill states that market value plus 60 per cent (it was earlier 30 per cent) must be paid. The market value should be based on the prevailing price for land under the intended category. If agricultural land is acquired for commercial use, the price should be that of commercial land. It also provides for a premium to the average price paid by willing sellers if the 70-30 rule is being used.

The bill amends the process for acquisition. It requires a social impact assessment if 400 families (200 in hilly, tribal and desert areas) are displaced. Importantly, it establishes a Compensation Dispute Settlement Authority at state and national levels to adjudicate disputes. Civil courts are barred from this process, and appeals from this authority will be heard by high courts and the Supreme Court.

While several of the current problems are addressed by the 2007 bill, there is room for further clarity. For example, the compensation in case land is acquired for commercial and industrial projects will likely be higher than now. However, there is unlikely to be any significant upside if the use is for highways, railways, etc, as there is no benchmark market price. Also, the seller does not get the benefit that accrues over a period of time due to the new project in that locality.

Clearly, many issues need to be thrashed out in a new bill so that there is a balance between acquiring land for projects and providing fair compensation to the landholder.

The writer is with PRS Legislative, Delhi







The severe electoral defeat of the CPM and the Left Front in West Bengal will have dismayed and disappointed well-wishers of the Left, while some of its critics and opponents have already written its epitaph. If in Bengal, as happens in other parts of the country, the Left had lost every alternate election, perhaps the kind of fundamental questions on the ideology of the Left and its very existence would not have been raised. The change of governments, as in Kerala, would then have been taken as part of a "normal" democratic cycle. The mistake, it would appear, is to have won elections seven times in a row!

It is not inconceivable that after 34 years, the slogan of change should have found resonance as it did in West Bengal — more so in the context of the coming together of a largely disparate range of political forces, from extreme Left to Right, with a little help from some in the media who played as opening batsmen in the team. According to provisional figures put out by a TV channel, while the index of opposition unity (IOU) in Bengal against the Left was as high as 84 on a scale from 1-100 where 100 represents total unity, in Assam the IOU against the Congress was much lower, at 60.

At the same time, as the leadership of the Left has repeatedly stated, the subjective factors for the huge reduction in seats, the weaknesses and shortcomings, the various factors that have played a role will not be brushed aside, but identified and addressed. Intrinsic to the structures of a communist party is the culture of open and frank debate, criticism and correction. Unlike in most other parties, there is little room here for sycophantic choruses or a one-leader-decides-all syndrome in the decision-making and accountability processes at different levels in the party. These discussions take place within party forums and the conclusions are publicly reported. It is curious how contemptuous mainstream commentators are in their reference to this uniquely democratic process as being regimented.

But it is unlikely that such a review exercise will to lead to the kind of "reformed" Left that its critics are rooting for — a Left tamed by its defeat into accepting the set of economic policies that, in the name of growth, intensify and create new inequalities; a Left subdued into silence and non-action while labour rights are bulldozed; a Left which will acquiesce into accepting the almighty sway of foreign capital in the name of meeting the perceived aspirations of youth. This is not to say that policies remain ossified and unrelated to changes that take place in society. On the contrary, change is essential and inevitable — but in which direction and for whose benefit?

Social analysis based on the existence and development of different classes in society, with their divergent and often contradictory and conflicting interests, inform, in large measure, the economic and social policy formulations, the actions and movements of the Left. In Bengal, the Left movement was built brick by brick on the basis of this understanding, and the Left Front government was born in the crucible of the class struggle. In office, within the limited rights and resources available to state governments, the Left government had to a great extent been a symbol of alternative policies to those followed by the Central government, particularly through its historic achievements in the field of land reforms, development of agriculture, decentralisation and growth from below, and promotion of small and medium scale industries with a focus on providing employment. Ironically for those who see no development in Bengal, it is the World Bank that has assessed Bengal as being among the top states in the country in the reduction of poverty. Moreover, at a time when India was being torn apart by sectarian strife, Bengal under the Left became a beacon of hope for secularism.

The relentless pressure being put on the Left today is precisely to give up its class approach, to adapt itself to neo-liberal realities represented by the set of policies popularly referred to by workers as LPG — liberalisation, privatisation, globalisation. In the '90s, in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union, the offensive of rightwing ideologues did see several Left formations in Europe succumbing and turning into appendages of this or that dominant ruling class formation. In India, the Left withstood that offensive. In today's situation, the defeat of the Left in West Bengal has given new hope to the array of anti-Left forces but once again, such hopes will be belied and a stronger, rejuvenated Left committed to the interests of the working poor, the middle classes and the socially discriminated-against sections of society, will emerge from this experience. This will no doubt be helped by the fact that even in this election, over 41 per cent of the voters in Bengal stood with the Left.

In a parliamentary democracy, parties that have lost the elections are expected to accept the verdict and play the role of a responsible and constructive opposition. In spite of the absence of such a political norm in Bengal when the Left was in government, the Left Front has publicly committed itself to playing such a role. But the main concern today lies in the large-scale attacks that have already started through the planned, by no means spontaneous, targeting of party offices and worse, party supporters and workers. In a span of just three days, in areas where the people voted for the CPM, two local leaders have been killed, hundreds of homes of supporters burnt and families displaced. These families can return only if they pledge allegiance to the ruling combine. In the face of this violence, in the days ahead it is not just the Left and its supporters who will be tested, but the norms and functioning of Indian democracy itself.

The writer is a member of the CPM politburo and a Rajya Sabha MP







Suddenly, this summer, we're beginning to feel the heat — and that makes us feel for the cricketers out there on the field, struggling to entertain us, drenched in their sweatshirts and pants. Suddenly, you wish the IPL would end, wrap up, go away. Had enough, Adam Gilchrist's wonderful knock on Tuesday notwithstanding. We've watched few competitive encounters; most contests have been one-sided, and that does not make for lively TV.

We've been watching cricket — Tests, one-days, and now the IPL — since January at least, and there's plenty more to come. While BCCI and SET Max may be laughing all the way to the bank, honestly, this is one occasion when the players have stayed too long at the crease. The players and the viewers deserve a break, and not just a commercial one.

A few others have overstayed their welcome too. Ichcha and Tapasya, for example. The lead characters of the soap Uttaran (Colors), on air for almost two-and-a-half years, have grown from young girls into young brides. Rather like another child-bride we knew, Anandi in Balika Vadhu (Colors), the plot has fast-forwarded and the child characters, once so winsome, have been replaced by older versions of themselves. And this is the problem: they are not nearly as appealing as their younger selves.

Now they're just another in a long line of young women who are struggling with love and marriage in TV serials across entertainment channels. The charm of the characters and the charm of the soaps lay in the young girls chosen to play them. They've gone, and taken the fizz of the shows with them. Moral of this story? Do not prolong soaps based on young children beyond their childhood.

And how do we explain Colors' fascination with children, especially child-brides? We know this followed the success of Balika Vadhu, but just as cricket has been overplayed, so has the child-bride been overexposed. However, this hasn't stopped Phulwa — who is supposed to grow up into a Phoolan Devi-like dacoit — from being all dressed up as a child-bride now.

The intention, initially, was to criticise the practice of child-marriage — but it seems as though the channel is exploiting them to increase its viewership. And it isn't working: these child-bride soaps are no longer in the top ten most watched shows.

Far more interesting is the new kind of young woman emerging on your TV screen: she is smart, educated and working. Professional women are coming out — and, as they do, they won't take things lying down. Thus Avani, in Maayke Se Bandhi Dor (Star Plus) earns a living which she shares with her mother whilst also helping to support her husband, Bhaskar, and his family. And when the exploitative Bhaskar slaps her for standing up to him, she snatches her pillow and walks out of their bedroom.

That's more like it. We've had enough of the weepy women who try to win back their men with their loyalty and forbearance. The likes of Avani are far more inspiring than an Ichcha or Anandi.

Lastly, let's not make police/detective TV shows. Surya, The Super Cop (Sony) is a case in point. The lead character, Surya, a police cop, suspended pending investigations, is supposedly blind after sustaining an injury during a case. But he doesn't look it or behave like it. His bearing and the way his eyes move suggest he can look and see. The rest of the show is imitation CID (Sony) with an odd assortment of young officers wearing designer clothes as sleuthing uniform.

And they get the acting all wrong. During Tuesday's episode, a female investigator enters a flat, gun in hand, searching for inmates who could be dangerous. The bedroom door is wide open, she enters and does everything but look behind the door. Suppose the assailant was hidden there?

What can we do but throw our hands up in exasperation?







Karnataka is becoming known as a state whose chief minister unwittingly, but unswervingly, hurtles from one crisis to another.

In the three years he has been in office, Bookanakere Siddalingappa Yeddyurappa has survived over half-a-dozen scares of all shapes and sizes: he has outlived several attacks from the opposition, led by former prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda & Sons; he has endured assaults from dissident groups within his own party, both in Bangalore and in Delhi; he has continued despite an antagonistic governor, H.R. Bhardwaj, who made several attempts to dislodge him. Indeed, he may yet live to tell the tale in the latest crisis, despite Bhardwaj recommending president's rule.

Still, those in Karnataka watching v.7, v.8 or is it v.9, of this blatantly political drama — that consists of yet again parading MLAs in New Delhi, crying hoarse about the partisanship of the governor, and perhaps another vote of confidence — cannot help but feel a tinge of "chief minister envy".

What Karnataka has is a chief minister who is constantly in the glare of corruption. Whether mining licences or land deals, going by sheer volume of media coverage, Yeddyurappa is by far the most slammed Karnataka chief minister not just for corruption, but also nepotism. Allegations abound on Yeddyurappa's land largesse to his sons, sundry relatives and political friends.

What Karnataka yearns for is a transparent, incorruptible chief minister like Bihar's Nitish Kumar, says Shashank N.D., the Bangalore-based founder of Practo, which builds online software for doctors. Bangalore envying Bihar? Who would have even imagined that a few years ago, he asks. Shashank's unusual theory: chief ministers who are single are comparatively less corruptible. Citing Nitish Kumar and Orissa's Naveen Patnaik and the new West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, he contrasts them with Karunanidhi and his wives, sons, and nephews, Bihar's Lalu Prasad and Karnataka's very own Yeddyurappa.

Meanwhile, this week, as Yeddyurappa again carts his hundred-odd party legislators to Delhi for a parade, citizens wonder when the chief minister will find the time to administer the state. Bangalore is India's new-age city, vibrant and convivial. On their own steam, Bangalore and cities like Mysore and Mangalore continue to draw investors and companies. Yet, on parameters like industrialisation and tourism, other states far outpace Karnataka.

Bangalore-based event manager Ajith Rao says he envies Gujarat for Narendra Modi, its chief minister. Modi tops the list of India's most dynamic chief ministers, assertive and capable, says Rao. "Sure, there is a downside to Modi because of the communal incidents in Gujarat, but he is the face of economic progress." The likes of Tata and Ambani have endorsed Modi's economic policies and they could not all be wrong, says Rao.

In Karnataka, in contrast, many find Yeddyurappa a weak ruler, constantly bogged down by his inability to manage his legislators, his ministers and his partymen. The CM lives dangerously, crying during television interviews and hurling allegations of voodoo against his rivals. He comes across as feeble and ineffectual.

Contrast Karnataka's leadership with New Delhi's Sheila Dikshit who appears to be a strong administrator and a vocal politician, says media consultant Usha Radhakrishnan. Dikshit is able to stand her own, despite the presence of the two Gandhis and a whole posse of Congress leaders headquartered in New Delhi, says Radhakrishnan. "And until the Commonwealth Games scam, Dikshit came across as straight and principled...she is still a chief minister I look up to and admire."

Yet Yeddyurappa continues to plod on. Karnataka's tired citizens will carry on coveting able leaders. But going by recent history, their destiny may continue to be intertwined with that of a chief minister whose most remarkable attribute is survival skills.








Reading the results

The latest issue of RSS weekly Organiser hails the election results to five assemblies, particularly West Bengal and Tamil Nadu. "Mamata typhoon uproots 34-year Communist tyranny", "Shady Karuna family consigned to the dustbin" and "Sonia's corrupt, communal politics doom Congress in Kerala" were some of the expressions used in the magazine's lead article.

"Bengal today rejoices not just for the victory of Mamata or rout of the Left, it is virtually celebrating a second independence day — freedom from CPM misrule — in the 150 th anniversary year of poet and visionary Rabindranath Tagore," the article says. "No less important is the victory of J. Jayalalithaa's AIADMK in Tamil Nadu and the rout of the DMK combine. The 2G spectrum corruption has overshadowed the state politics and the vote is for penalising the extreme corrupt," it says.

The article sees a huge setback for the Congress in the election results. "The corruption singes Congress as well for their continued alliance with the DMK. It is also notable that the Congress could win only 50 per cent of the 63 seats it contested in West Bengal. In Kerala too, despite an anti-incumbency wave, Congress-led UDF could not do so well despite managing a small majority. Not only the 2G but price rise and many other scams have eroded the credibility of the party. The rise of Jagan Mohan Reddy in Andhra Pradesh is yet another ominous signal for the Congress. Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi is the only solace for the party," it says.

Rahul's shame

In its editorial, the magazine slams Rahul Gandhi for making the statement, "I feel ashamed to be an Indian," during his trip to the villages of Greater Noida. "It is strange that a person who is the No. 2 in the ruling party and aspires to rule the country one day has said this about his country. It brings into question his level of commitment to the country, his patriotism," the editorial says.

"Rahul Gandhi has made poverty tourism to Amethi a part of his PR. Visiting foreigners are taken to his constituency to show how the Gandhi family for six decades has been cultivating and nurturing poverty there. His great-grandfather, his grandmother, his father and now for seven years his mother as proxy along with their dummy have been ruling the country, for nearly five out of the six decades India has been independent. And this is the raw deal Indians have got. Rahul Gandhi should actually have said that he was ashamed to be a Congressman," says the editorial, adding that the statement must be condemned by all. "Can any leader in any country, say the US, UK, or even in Pakistan, get away making such an unbecoming statement? And Rahul Gandhi, an MP, who takes oath by the Constitution, as a responsible leader of the ruling party should retract his statement and apologise."

Law of the land

The journal has a special report on the farmers' agitation in Uttar Pradesh in which the writer describes the situation in the state as "Singur in the making" and calls for a rational land acquisition policy.

"While the Mayawati government is facing the music from all sides right now and is likely to suffer electorally also, the problem, as witnessed earlier in West Bengal, Orissa, Karanataka and other states, is likely to crop up again and again across the country as India urbanises and takes away fertile land from farmers to build townships to accommodate a burgeoning middle class, factories and office complexes, to build roads, mines, power plants and other infrastructural pre-requisites of post-agrarian modernity. This leads one to the larger question of land acquisitions and the scope of the government in developing infrastructure projects. While there is a logic for the government to acquire land to construct roads, the million dollar question is whether it should also facilitate development of townships alongside by private builders," the report says.

Devaluing the PAC

In another article, author M.V. Kamath criticises the behaviour of the Congress members in the Public Accounts Committee hearing the 2G spectrum case. "The country has been patient for far too long in the matter of Congress shenanigans and the time has come for it to raise its voice as it has done in supporting Anna Hazare. Yes, the former communications minister, A. Raja has been arrested after he was found to have done unbelievable harm to the national exchequer amounting to lakhs of crores of rupees. Yes, Suresh Kalmadi too had to be arrested in connection with the Commonwealth Games scams. But the behaviour of the UPA members of the PAC has been nothing less than atrocious. It has brought shame to the country". He adds: "For the Congress to condemn the draft report as 'full of lies' is not only to jump to conclusions but to attempt to prevent further investigation. The UPA and its partners of questionable repute seem hell-bent on devaluing and destroying leading institutions of our polity."

Compiled by Amitabh Sinha









On her first day in the new job, Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa has dramatically raised the bar on subsidies—she plans to give 35 kg of free rice per month to around 19 lakh Antodaya Anna Yojana Scheme beneficiaries and 20 kg of free rice to 1.83 crore ration card holders. In addition, there's a doubling of the monthly assistance for senior citizens, persons with disabilities and destitute women from R500 to R1,000 per month, an entitlement of four grams of gold and R50,000 as marriage assistance for poor women with graduate degrees or diplomas and some other minor assistance to other deprived communities like the fisher folk. Just the bill for the food subsidies will add up to around R8,000 crore, some part of which will be paid for by the Centre. This is on top of the R7,000 crore of loan waivers of cooperative loans done by the DMK. Hardly surprising then that the state which had a revenue surplus of 1.1% of GSDP in 2005-06 had a revenue deficit of 0.8% by 2010-11—the fiscal deficit slipped from 1.2% to 3.7% in the same period. So, with a lot less with the government to spend on investment, despite the hike in private investment levels resulting from the DMK's industry-friendly policies, the state's GDP growth fell sharply, from 13.3% (at 2004-05 prices) to 9% in the same period.

Whether Tamil Nadu's fiscal position gets worse under Jayalalithaa depends on how GDP growth and tax collections fare, but there's a larger point to be made about subsidies, and not just those of the states. According to a World Bank study released yesterday, the central government spends around 1% of GDP on PDS (that's R80,000 crore this year) for around a fourth of all households (5 crore roughly)—that's around R16,000 per family per year. It's R3,500 per family if you go by the number of ration cards—the World Bank, it would appear, takes into account the number of families who actually benefit from PDS supplies. Tamil Nadu spends around R2,000 per family on food subsidies. Compare all these subsidies—R5,500 if you use the lower estimate of food subsidies and R18,000 if you use the one based on the World Bank numbers—with what it costs to make these poor households employable. And we're not even taking into account the R10,000 the central government spends per family per year in its NREGA employment.

According to the newly-created National Skills Development Corporation, it costs roughly R6,000 to skill one person so she can get a job for R3,000 per month in urban areas—that's roughly what a family of five needs to rise above the poverty line in urban India. Skilling will cost more in rural areas, but the rough payback is 2-4 months in all cases. Teach a man to fish and he's never hungry, give him a fish and that just takes care of one meal. It's useful to keep that in mind during any discussion on subsidies and the poor.





Few would disbelieve a survey, such as the IMD's World Competitiveness Index out yesterday, that puts China 13 places ahead of India—India is ranked 31st out of 59 countries as compared to China's 18th rank. Look at any indicator you like—exports, foreign investment—and it's obvious China is streets ahead. But can you believe, as the IMD will have you believe, that India beats China in terms of either 'business efficiency' or 'government efficiency', both sub-indices of the overall index of competitiveness? India is ranked 22nd on 'business efficiency' to China's 25th place, and 29th on 'government efficiency' as compared to China's 33rd rank. Things used to be even more confusing some years ago, when the World Economic Forum, which also has its own competitiveness ranking, used to have a Business Competitiveness Index (BCI) and a Growth Competitiveness Index (GCI)—India was ahead of China on BCI (and yet the foreign investment went to China!) but both were at par on the GCI.

And what do you make of the Heritage Foundation's Economic Freedom Index, increasingly gaining popularity nowadays, that ranks India at 124th place, one rank behind Pakistan, and 11 ranks ahead of China? Things get even more confusing when you look at the World Bank's Doing Business, which seems kosher when it ranks China at 79 versus India's 134, but Pakistan is at 83! And how do you reconcile all of the competitiveness rankings with global FDI rankings, the actual money that businessmen put behind their beliefs? The US remains the world's top investment destination, while China is number 2 and India is number 9. Makes you wonder a bit about what purpose the plethora of rankings serve. Other than making nice headlines.








Eating is getting expensive not only in India, but elsewhere in Asia too. The latest alert on this was sounded by the Indonesian President Susilo Bambino Yudhoyono. Speaking at the opening ceremony of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) summit, President Yudhoyono highlighted the exorbitant rise in food and energy prices, and the dangers that such a rise poses for millions of people across Asia. Referring specifically to the impact of high prices on real incomes, the President expressed his concern over a sharp increase in poverty in Asia if the trends continued.

While Yodhoyono's remarks were made in a Southeast Asian context, they apply to the larger Asian region, since the Asean represents much of the contrasts and vulnerabilities that Asia nurses. Asean is a strikingly heterogeneous group. It includes the small, prosperous and technologically-advanced, high-productivity economy of Singapore, middle-income economies such as Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines, a labour-abundant and potential manufacturing powerhouse like Vietnam, and economically backward countries like Cambodia and Laos. There are untapped energy-rich countries in the region like Brunei and Myanmar. Product specialisation and comparative advantages vary sharply within the region, as they do elsewhere in Asia, which is evident from the co-existence of rice exporters like Thailand and Vietnam and rice importers like the Philippines and Singapore. The region is a strategic economic hub for facilitating maritime trade traffic through the busy Strait of Malacca—the main shipping channel connecting the Pacific Ocean to the Indian Ocean. It is also a key node for air traffic in East, South and Southeast Asia through active airports at Singapore, Kuala Lampur and Bangkok. Geographically and structurally, the region typifies Asia in a variety of ways: co-existence of contrasting endowments in natural resources, skilled manpower, and scientific and technological abilities; demand-supply imbalances; high growth scenarios and extensive marginal populations.

How strong are the inflationary concerns across Southeast Asia? Headline consumer price inflation across the region varies quite sharply; from being as high as 13.9% in Vietnam to 6.7% in Indonesia, 5.5% in Singapore, 4.3% in the Philippines, 3.2% in Thailand and 2.4% in Malaysia. While these were the consumer price inflation rates in 2010, President Yudhoyono, while expressing his concerns, would have been influenced by the fact that inflation is expected to increase in most of these countries in 2011. While in Vietnam inflation is expected to remain roughly the same, it is expected to cross 7% in Indonesia, and reach almost 5% in the Philippines, 4% in Thailand and 3% in Malaysia, respectively.

The numbers—projected by the IMF in its latest assessment of the regional outlook—indicate that inflationary expectations vary considerably across the region. But what is significant is the uniform hardening of such expectations among the countries of the region. What is also worrying is that large parts of these increases are going to come from escalations in food and energy prices. According to the IMF's estimates, a 10% increase in food prices are expected to result in a 1.3 percentage point increase in core inflation in the Philippines, 0.9 percentage points in Thailand, 0.8 percentage points in Malaysia and 0.6 percentage points in Vietnam and Indonesia, respectively. Food prices, in fact, are the bigger determinants of headline inflation compared with energy prices; similar forecasts on the correlation between energy prices and headline inflation show a 10% increase in energy prices, resulting in 0.3-0.1 percentage point increase in headline inflation in the mentioned countries. What is worrying though is the combined effect of the increase in food and energy prices. These can easily add up to 1.5 percentage points in headline inflation. And there is very little that interest rate hikes can do for curbing the prices.

Much of the eventual increase in inflation will depend upon how much of the global increases in food and energy prices are 'passed through' on to domestic prices. Southeast Asian countries tend to be cautious in this respect. Like India, only parts of global increases in food and energy prices are passed on to domestic prices. But even with limited pass-through, the incremental price effects might be disturbing for economies that are already struggling with high headline inflations. President Yudhoyono has proposed new initiatives such as creating a food reserves system for addressing price volatility. These, however, are long-term measures. The immediate future remains grim, as is clearly evident from the President's statement. It looks grimmer if what is reflected in Southeast Asia is taken as a reflection (and correctly so) of the impending state of affairs in most of the rest of Asia.

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







The BJP, it has been reported, spent up to R23 lakh in transporting 114 of its MLAs from various parts of Karnataka to Delhi for a 15-minute photo opportunity in front of the Rashtrapati Bhawan. Much money is spent on political drama of various kinds in the country, you might say, so what is a few lakhs here and there. The money spent, in fact, was not a waste. The party was successfully able to shift the contours of the debate sparked off by the Karnataka High Court's quashing of the disqualification of 11 MLAs by the Speaker of the Assembly. The day the quashing orders came, the immediate reaction across

political spectrum was that the vote of confidence won by the Yeddyurappa government in Karnataka, held after these MLAs had been disqualified, was a tainted one.

The Governor of Karnataka's report and his confrontation with the government, however, made it look as though it was yet another example of the Centre's high handedness vis-à-vis legitimately elected, Opposition-led, state governments. The photo-op at the President's palace in Delhi was a clever ploy by the BJP to make it seem a Centre-state issue rather than a moral one, where it knew it was on a slippery slope.

How did this happen? Quite simply, the 11 disqualified BJP MPs have now had a change of heart and are back in the party fold. They claimed that they didn't want Yeddyurappa as chief minister, but wanted the BJP to choose someone else. All well and good, but allegation of money facilitating this change of heart has dogged the government and, in fact,

Operation Kamala (or lotus), wherein large amounts of money is used to

buy up the entire political opposition in the state is a well proven tactic of the BJP in the state.

The Congress, on its part, therefore, did not need to bring in the heavy guns, like the Governor. This was more of a morality tale that had to be slowly brought to a climax. The BJP government in Karnataka is no better or worse than others and has quite a few skeletons in its cupboard, including allegations of pandering to the mining mafia on the scale of the 2G scam.

In this scenario, the Congress party in the state has to take a few lessons from the newly elected Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa. When the 2G scam first broke, in 2008, she was still hiding out in her Kodanadu retreat. She played up the scam in the General Elections in 2009, but failed to sway the voter. A limited strength in Parliament in

Delhi, however, was leveraged by her to get together the entire Opposition in embarrassing the DMK every day in Parliament. In 2010, her luck changed, the technically difficult to explain scam could be, thanks to the CAG report, explained in just one figure: R1,76,000 crore. A sum so colossal that AIADMK chief's own scams looked like pocket change to buy an extra pair of shoes.

A campaign mounted on that figure, with a national outcry against corruption to back it and a party in power that appeared to be unravelling in familial knots, made the critical difference. At the bottom of it was a morality tale of family feuds and murky deals and the power of a fair election to settle scores.

The Congress in Karnataka is up against something similar, the BJP in the state is a divided house, murky deals are being made and a chief minister wrapped in superstition alleges absurd allegations of witchcraft against his opponents. All they need to do is shed the strong-arm tactics and think like the little guy. They need to be the man on the street, rather than the governor in the Raj Bhavan to uproot an elected government. They have precisely two years,

almost the same length of time as the AIADMK, to win over public opinion. For that, they need to slog at the fight in the streets, and the next march at President's palace could well be theirs.







Were it not for our security establishment's love of schadenfreude, the public embarrassment of including in a list of 50 'most wanted' terrorists supposedly hiding in Pakistan the name of a man who is very much in India could have been avoided. Despite living in Thane and making regular court appearances, Wazhul Kamar Khan, an accused in the 2003 Mulund train blast, figured as Number 41 in the fugitives list India handed over to Pakistani Interior Ministry officials in March. The Pakistanis took away the list and there the matter might well have ended. But it was the desire to add to Islamabad's discomfiture in the days after U.S. special forces killed Osama bin Laden deep inside Pakistan that led Indian officials to rake up the list and plant a story about it in the media. Their aim, presumably, was to remind the world that Pakistan continues to harbour terrorists of all sorts, a completely unnecessary move given the prevailing international perceptions post-Abbottabad. If anything, the leaking of the list was a petty 'bilateral' gambit that detracted from the 'global' dimension of the Pakistani military's dalliance with terrorism. That it also contained a serious error which Pakistan is likely to use to question India's facts is unforgivable.

Truth to tell, the goof-up over Mr. Khan's whereabouts is part of a wider pathology afflicting the Indian system: the lack of professionalism in the conduct of security and foreign policy. When it comes to India's relations with Pakistan, or any country for that matter, the sole window for public pronouncements and even unofficial briefings ought to be the Ministry of External Affairs or the Prime Minister's Office. What we have instead is a free-for-all in which top generals, bureaucrats, and even defence scientists feel free to make statements — or plant stories — that have a crucial bearing on foreign policy. Army chief V.K. Singh and DRDO head V.K. Saraswat have both publicly boasted about India's ability to mount an Abbottabad-type operation. The Pakistani military, under fire at home for the OBL fiasco, latched on to General Singh's statement and used it to stoke nationalist fears about the threat posed by India. Last week, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh wisely noted he could not be expected to discuss military matters in front of the media. But it is not clear the message has gone down. As far as the '50 most wanted' list is concerned, the error should also serve as a reminder to our intelligence agencies and internal security bureaucracy that their time is best spent getting their house in order rather than hamming it on a diplomatic stage for which they have neither talent nor aptitude.





True to form, the Government of India has been caught on the back foot over the pricing of petroleum products. Earlier this year, it formally delinked petrol from the administered pricing mechanism while retaining the more sensitive diesel, kerosene, and LPG under its control. The Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) was expected to meet last week to decide on an across-the-board revision of prices. But, for some reason, it let the Oil Marketing Companies to go ahead with the price revision for petrol, while putting off its decision on the rest by another week. The OMCs promptly announced a hike of Rs.5 per litre of petrol — the fourth since June 2010, and the steepest till date. With this increase, petrol price has jumped from around Rs.47 in early 2010 to well above the Rs.63 level in most cities now. Apparently the OMCs wanted to increase the price by Rs.10 per litre but, at the instance of government, decided to limit the rise to Rs.5. Consumers may well be in for another mark up before long.

What has become abundantly clear is that the government has no coherent fuel policy. The steep rise in price notwithstanding, there has been a 12 per cent increase in petrol consumption over the past year. The off-take of diesel also is bound to swell as a consequence of petrol becoming dearer and this, in turn, will push up the subsidy burden of the government. For its part, the automobile industry, which has been recording a consistently high growth in sales over the past 18 months, has changed gear, turning the focus on the production of diesel vehicles. Over a period, the sale of diesel as fuel could rise from the present 30 per cent to 50 per cent. The oil companies incur a revenue loss of Rs.18.19 on a litre of diesel, Rs.29.69 on kerosene, and Rs.329.73 on an LPG cylinder (14.2 kg). They reported a loss of Rs.78,000 crore for 2010-11, which could go up to Rs.180,208 crore this year. The government is supposed to make good the subsidy on these three products, while the oil companies are expected to adjust the price of petrol in keeping with the global crude market trends. In the long run, there has to be a clear policy to promote alternative fuel and electric cars, and also to popularise and promote the use of CNG and LPG in the automobile sector. The explosion in the vehicle population has ensured that, despite the rising prices, the consumption of petrol and diesel has not slowed down. More needs to be done by the Centre and the States to encourage the use of public transport by putting together a convenient and affordable multi-modal transport system in all major towns and cities.







It is often said that the Americans and the French "love" the British royal family because they don't have to "suffer" it or pay for its extravagant lifestyle. "Ask us we have to bear it and grin," one British commentator told an American journalist who had come all the way from Chicago to cover the William-Middleton wedding last month.

That was, of course, meant as a joke. But unwittingly, he blurted out the truth. The British have a rather complex relationship with their royal family ranging from unabashed fawning and a quiet indifference, to an adult acknowledgement that "love 'em or hate 'em, you're stuck with them." At the heart of it all, there is an underlying tension which shows up at the slightest provocation, be it a scandal, tragedy or happy occasion such as the recent royal wedding.

The state-sponsored drooling over the wedding which was declared a public holiday and flogged as a moment of national unity and "Britishness" by Tory Prime Minister David Cameron has reignited the debate over the monarchy's raison d'etre: Is it fit for purpose? Indeed what is its purpose except as a tourist attraction? (According to writer Will Self, it's simply to perpetuate itself by producing heirs to the throne.) And is it worth spending millions of pounds of taxpayers' money to maintain an institution that the rest of the world regards as faintly amusing and that barely matters in Britain itself?

The term commonly used in the media to describe the royal family is "The Firm," evoking the image of a secret society with its strange rituals, titles (the "Knight of the Garter" anyone?) and antiquated traditions. It is so deeply wrapped up in its own insularity, without perhaps even being aware of it, that the outside world barely registers on it. Novelist Martin Amis, recalling a meeting with the Queen along with other writers, said recently that he was struck by how disinterested she was in her guests.

"The problem is that the Queen doesn't listen to what you say to her. Because she is not supposed to understand the remarks that one makes to her. Still, I allowed myself to say impetuously when she greeted me: 'You knighted my father [Kingsley Amis].' Her only reaction was to look far away, vaguely staring at a painting on the wall. That's all. Another time, I had lunch with the Duke of Edinburgh. He was surprised by my profession: 'Oh, you're a writer'."

Yet to the question whether Britain will ever become a Republic, the short answer invariably even from republicans is: "no, not in my lifetime." The Buckingham Palace is no Bastille and, as the joke goes, historically the Brits missed out on the "revolutionary gene" (the closest they came to storming the Palace was over its boorish reaction to Princess Diana's death in 1997). So, they fume and fret and then quietly join the queue.

To most Britons, the monarchy is like that unwanted furniture cluttering up the basement which they hope to clear up one day, but never get round to doing it. But it is always at the back of their mind. There are, of course, hardcore royalists who have an almost evangelical faith in the monarchy and dismiss any criticism as a republican conspiracy. But they are a diminishing tribe, a fringe group confined to the columns of the Telegraph and the Mail.

The vast majority of Britons simply doesn't care but its indifference is tinged with a healthy dose of scepticism about the idea of inherited entitlement on which the monarchy rests. There may not be many who would be scrambling to join an anti-Palace republican revolt but there is a widespread and deep sense of unfairness over a system that allows people less clever than your ordinary Joe to lead a privileged life as a birthright.

The extravagance of Prince William's wedding grated with many at a time when millions of people are facing job losses and cuts to their benefits. The display of consumption seemed to many at odds with the government's austerity mantra and its claim that "we're all in it together."

People were happy for the young couple and, yes, it was good to get an extra day off but why this pomp and pageantry in an era of austerity, they asked. "Why should the poor be always asked to sacrifice? Why can't the Queen take a cut?" asked one woman before hastening to add that she liked the Queen. "She is a good egg. But I don't like this whole royalty business."

The thousands who poured into London on April 29 were not part of some glorious national celebration inspired by their loyalty to the Queen and the Crown. They were there to watch a celebrity event. For many, it was an escape from their dreary lives. Offered a holiday on a spring morning, they would turn up even for a celebrity footballer's wedding, let alone a prince. Critics dismissed the official/royalist narrative that the wedding "powerfully demonstrated the value of monarchy" and provided "a moment for the nation to come together" ( The Times).

Bizarrely, the monarchy is being given credit for promoting (hold your breath) social mobility. Kate Middleton's "pit-to-palace" story (her great-great-great-great grandfather was a miner, you see) is being portrayed as a great symbol of social mobility in modern Britain. Except, of course, that it is not true. As The Financial Times pointed out, Ms Middleton (or the Duchess of Cambridge as she is now known) is "no Cindrella." She is "solidly" middle class. The Middletons — her father Michael and mother Carole — may have started as modest workers in British Airways but have since built up a successful mail order business and own "a rambling house in the affluent home county of Berkshire as well as a property in Chelsea, home to American bankers and the London base for faded gentry."

Ms Middleton went to an expensive boarding school, popular with aristocrats and the royals, and then on to St Andrews University, another haunt of the rich; and famously described by its principal as "the top match-making university in Britain." It was there that she met the Prince.

"Let's face it. The prince would not be marrying a girl from a comprehensive school," Diane Reay, Professor of Education at Cambridge University, told FT dismissing as a "fantasy" claims that the Kate story is one of social mobility.

One commentator described Ms Middleton as a case of "shiny new money systematically raising a girl so perfectly to a prince's eye-level that she is virtually indistinguishable from the real thing," while The Guardian writer, Simon Jenkins, argued that only "an obsessive could detect in the coupling of William and Kate some breathtaking leap across a divide of income or class." The Independent reminded its readers that "Prince William may have married a commoner, and the daughter of self-starting parents may now be a duchess, but vast inequalities persist in Britain today and far less spectacular upward mobility is not even a dream for many."

The fact is that despite being a Duchess, Kate Middleton will always be a "commoner" in royal circles. Which is as much a sign of the royal family's snootiness as Britain's lingering class system. But that's another story. Sticking to the monarchy, its supporters have been clutching at straws to demonstrate how the royalty is "modernising" and developing a "common touch." As if embracing a "commoner" like Ms Middleton was not a revolutionary step-change, they point out, the Palace made a group of minor royals ride a chartered bus (so what if it was a luxury coach?) from the Palace to Westminster Abbey for the wedding instead of ferrying them in Rolls Royces and Bentleys as would have presumably happened in the "pre-modernisation" era. Here's The Times again with its breathless take on a "stroke of genius."

"... If a prince marrying a commoner wasn't sufficient proof of the Royal Family's sensitivity to social change in Britain, their opting to transport the likes of Princess Anne and the Duke and Duchess of Kent from palace to the Abbey in a bus with 'Wings Luxury Travel' on the sides was a real clincher," wrote the paper's Lynne Truss. And she seemed to mean it.

There is no doubt that the royal family has come a long way since its notorious Diana moment. It now comes across as more "user-friendly" and presents a gentler face with some of the rougher edges smoothed out. But this is more down to the slick PR operation that the Palace put in place, post-Diana, than any cultural shift in the House of Windsor. The monarchy is not headed anywhere new, Kate or no Kate.

(The Queen is currently on a visit to Ireland, the first British monarch to do so in 100 years.)








The people of South Asia have more that binds them together than tears them apart: rich histories, vibrant cultures, the desire to build a better future for themselves and their loved ones. They are united in their humanity and their quest for a peaceful life. But terrorists defy these shared values.

South Asia has unfortunately suffered greatly over the years at the hands of terrorist groups espousing a wide variety of ideologies, whose actions cannot be defended. The United Nations condemns terrorism in all its forms, regardless of its purpose and wherever it is committed. No cause can justify the murder of innocent people. The organisation has made it clear that acts of terrorism are "criminal and unjustifiable" and has spelled out how States should deal with this threat to international peace and security.

September 2001 resolution

In a broad and strong resolution adopted in September 2001, the United Nations Security Council required all Member States of the United Nations to take measures against terrorism. The key objectives were to go after the money, weapons and people needed for such criminal purposes. Both the Security Council and the General Assembly have since then stressed the importance of taking preventive measures and addressing the conditions that can give rise to terrorism as well as conducting all counter-terrorism in a manner that respects the rule of law and human rights.

We understand this is easier said than done, and that is why the United Nations family, including the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED), which I head, provides guidance and assists in developing the capacity of States in their efforts to deal with this pervasive issue.

For Governments in South Asia and other regions of the world, the task can appear daunting. Yet the countries of South Asia have been at the forefront when it comes to recognising and tackling the problem. They have responded to the threat of terrorism with energy and determination, creating solutions and good practices from which those in other regions can learn.

The countries of South Asia have long recognised that terrorism cannot be defeated without cooperation. As early as 1987, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) adopted its Regional Convention for the Suppression of Terrorism, calling on its members to cooperate more by exchanging information, intelligence and expertise. The legal framework now includes treaties on the financing of terrorism and mutual legal assistance.

As simplistic as it may sound, it is vital that national and regional authorities work together. Three of several groups that need to do so, even across borders, are police officers, prosecutors and judges. Without them, there can be no investigations, arrests, trials or convictions. Justice would never be served.

Over the past decade, we at the United Nations have noted that States have taken various approaches to reduce the chance of terrorist attacks succeeding. One strategy that has worked extremely well and has turned out to be critical involves improving exchange of information between countries.

CTED has focused its attention on creating opportunities for such interaction. One of our main activities has been to organise regional and global workshops dealing with different aspects of counter-terrorism. This is what brings us to Bhutan and, once again, to South Asia.

What meet in Bhutan is about

From May 24 to 26, senior police officers, prosecutors and, for the first time, judges from the eight SAARC members will meet in Thimphu, Bhutan, to discuss common challenges and strategies. They will consider specific issues that arise in the context of terrorism-related cases, such as interviewing suspects, interrogation techniques, the challenges of using classified evidence in prosecutions, and the effective implementation of laws aimed at countering terrorism and transnational crime.

The workshop in Bhutan is the fourth in a series of events organised by CTED and the Center on Global Counterterrorism Cooperation with the support of SAARC and host countries in South Asia. Like its predecessors in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Indonesia, this month's event will seek to identify effective approaches, specific to the region and grounded in respect for human rights and the rule of law.

We are well aware that one meeting or a series of workshops is not a solution in itself, but it is a key component in national, regional and international strategies to prevent and more effectively respond to terrorism. In the short term, we hope participants will go back home with a renewed sense of purpose and a strong network of colleagues. In the long run, we hope such meetings will become commonplace and that relations will intensify, in a spirit of dialogue and cooperation.

Courtesy: UN Information Centre for India and Bhutan. Mike Smith is Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations and head of the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate.)






During the War years, the British imperialists seemed to have managed India's petroleum economy better than the agents of socialist verbomania and authoritarian sophistry are able to do now. The Union government is forsaking the masses and their basic freedom of movement and right to life as promised in the Constitution.

Perhaps the Defence of India Act has to be brought back? Why is there no drive against black-marketing? There should be rationing of fuel. Those who are fearlessly profiteering should be sent to jail.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is straightforward but inefficient. He has become a benami statesman under the thrall of a dollar economy. Once a great economist, today a manager of dubious dealers. Corporate big business is the winner. Large corporations that thrive on harsh pollutants are being encouraged.

Ubiquitous black money operation comes at a price. Once upon a time, the law and the executive and judicative provisions were stern and straight, and had a conscience. Now money matters everywhere — in bazaar, school and hospital.

A fearless Commission is needed to investigate the laxity, the sophistry and the ineffective enforcement of the law. The gold shops seem forever crowded. There is gorgeous extravagance for marriages, huge dowries, and alcoholism everywhere. The political parties are largely corrupt and much of India's wealth is in the Swiss banks.

Dare you appoint a Commission to investigate the wealth of political parties including yours, and the hidden wealth in Swiss banks? There was a TV discussion during the elections on the vanishing relevance of the Left. But the Communists are perhaps the only politicians today without Swiss bank accounts.

The ethos of the nation has become communal. Educational and medical institutions have become money-oriented. Humanism is gone. Compassion and anti-alcoholism are provided for in the Constitution, but there is no thought for enforcement.

Governments seem to have become philosophically indifferent towards such issues. The tryst with destiny that Jawaharlal Nehru spoke of is irrelevant today. Swadeshi is dead. It is nuclear power that the nation is hankering after, not solar or wind power. There is hardly any research on wind or wave or solar energy. We live on dependencia syndrome.

The latest petrol price hike is a cruel blow. On whose side is our government? Our economy suffers prostitution and prodigality. Parsimony and purity seem to have become alien to the economy.

Rajiv Gandhi, in conversations twice with me, had condemned corporate control of our economy — irresponsible, never for the poor and free from public finance control as they are.

Where were you before coming to India as Prime Minister? The World Bank economy would have made you familiar with the U.S. economy.

Why try to leave it to the judges? You as the Prime Minister can organise and revolutionise the Indian system and make the judicial ethos fit to function in daridranarayana conditions. Do it now. We have a world to gain and a wicked world to lose.





The Taliban gave Noor Mohammad a simple choice — either they would cut off his hand for stealing or he could redeem himself and bring glory on his family by becoming a suicide bomber.

Held in Taliban custody in a different village from his parents, after allegedly stealing mobile phones during a wedding party in his village, the 14-year-old boy went for the second option. He was soon being given basic lessons in how to use a handgun, which he would use to shoot the guards at a nearby U.S. military base in Ghazni, a province in south-east Afghanistan which is considered the most violent in the country.

He was also fitted with a suicide vest that covered his torso with explosives. He was told that when inside the base he should touch two trailing wires together, killing himself and as many U.S. and Afghan soldiers as possible.

Having kitted the soon-to-be martyr out in his jihadi outfit, the insurgents took photos and sent him on his way. A tactic pioneered by al-Qaeda but almost unheard of in Afghanistan until 2005, suicide bombing is becoming more popular with insurgents attempting to meet the massively intensified NATO campaign with their own surge of violence. In one recent case a 12-year-old boy in Barmal district in Pakitika province, which borders Pakistan, killed four civilians and wounded many more when he detonated a vest full of explosives in a bazaar.

Noor Mohammad, who talked to the Guardian on May 17 at a children's prison in Kabul, is awaiting trial after surrendering to the Americans rather than going through with the attack.

He says he was left by his Taliban handlers to walk the last few kilometres to the base in Andar district two weeks ago. Instead he sat down and thought about his predicament. Surrendering proved tricky as the guards he had been supposed to kill were slow to raise the alert and he was questioned only after sleeping outside the camp for a night.

He later led the Americans to the village where the Taliban members lived, identifying a house where the Americans recovered weapons and explosives.

Two Taliban from the village were also killed during a shootout after he identified them, Mohammad said. He knows that because he will never be able to go back to his village and will probably never see his family again.

Not all bombers are coerced. Some are tricked, like a group of four children who were recently arrested after travelling alone across the border from Pakistan into Afghanistan.

Lutfullah Mashal, the spokesman for the National Directorate of Security (NDS), said his spy agency's informants in Peshawar had raised the alarm that the four were on their way.

The boys had confessed during questioning, telling the security forces they believed only American soldiers would die when they detonated their bombs and that they would escape unscathed.

But, speaking yesterday, they claimed they were forced into making a confession after being beaten and threatened with rape by police. Their new account is hard to believe, however, and at times contradictory.

According to Fazal Rahman, a tearful nine-year-old made all the more distressed by the loss of two teeth at the dentist, the idea to travel to Afghanistan came from Maulavi Marouf, the mullah in charge of the Spin Jumad madrasa in the town of Khairabad.

They say an "uncle" in Kabul phoned Marouf asking him to send some physically weak children for a couple of days of manual labour, unloading a delivery of car batteries from lorries. None of the boys, who are Afghans but have lived in Pakistan all their lives, has an address or phone number for the man. Nor did they think it necessary to tell their parents they were going to Kabul.

"Our family is very poor," said Niaz Mohammad, a nine-year-old who said he used to help his father beg. "When I was promised 50,000 rupees to go to Afghanistan, I went immediately."

But they all describe the madrasa as an institution that cultivated in them a hatred for American soldiers in Afghanistan. "All the time in Friday prayers the maulavi talked about the Americans in Afghanistan and he told us that we should do jihad, especially on Fridays," he said.

It is feared that hundreds of children may have been radicalised and turned into bombers in what Haneef Atmar, Afghanistan's former interior minister, describes as "hate madrasas." .

   © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2011






The last decade has seen the India-France relationship evolving from mere buyer-seller congeniality into a robust strategic partnership with collaborative ventures in assorted realms. The euphoria over the civil nuclear agreement is still in the air, but project delays and widespread resistance to nuclear plants loom large. In an interview with Special Correspondent S. Anandan in Kochi, French Ambassador to India

Jerome Bonnafont seeks to clear the air on some of the issues, contending that the bilateral bond is developing at a good pace, but not rapidly enough. Edited excerpts from the interview, which was conducted on board the French Navy's amphibious assault ship Mistral, as it called at the Kochi port during a five-month-long training cruise.

In the wake of the nuclear tragedy at Fukushima in Japan, there has been opposition from various quarters to the setting up of French EPRs [European Pressurised Reactors] at the proposed Jaitapur nuclear facility on the grounds that EPR is of recent origin and therefore, unproven. There is also a general apprehension the world over about the safety of nuclear installations…

After the accident at Fukushima, it is clear that everybody has to embark upon a very comprehensive review of their safety mechanisms to ensure that what has tragically been striking at Japan does not happen anywhere else. We're doing that, each of us, at the national level, whereas France says we should do it at the international level as well, and discuss international ways to improve nuclear safety worldwide.

We are inviting a conference on June 7 to discuss that among members of governments in charge of nuclear energy in order to see how we can, on the basis of IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] in particular, improve worldwide the safety systems and standards [of atomic power plants] and implement those systems. That is critical.

When it comes to Jaitapur, there has been a decision by the Prime Minister of India a few days ago to continue the project. We welcome the decision, which is the sovereign decision of India. And Areva is making sure that they accelerate their discussions with NPCIL [Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited] in order to take into consideration whatever problem NPCIL might want to raise and finalise agreements, knowing that in December [2010] they agreed with NPCIL on the general framework of agreement and early works agreement.

Further, there is a debate in India [on the safety of nuclear plants]. I think there is a debate in every democracy and it is their legitimate right to discuss what concerns them. We absolutely don't want to intervene in this.

However, I'd like to underline that the EPR is designed to have improved energy efficiency and safety systems. EPR is based on reactors which are already functioning. We've more than 50 of these reactors in operation in France. And the safety system [of EPR] has been improved by a double shelter instead of a single shelter, as by definition it is safer to have a double shelter; by a sort of ashtray in case of a melting down of the core nuclear substance to help it cool by way of automatic release of oxygen when there is hydrogen, in order to avoid internal explosion and have water instead.

There are five or six big safety improvements over the existing system [that make it] far more resistant to earthquake or any sort of damage that can happen around or inside. What people have to bear in mind is that EPR is recognised everywhere as the highest in safety, and the new safety system which is being built in France, Finland and China has been co-developed with our safety agency. The [French] government has given the green signal for the construction of EPR in Flamanville on the basis of validation of the concept by our safety agency. The agency is clearing the project step-by-step and it is not going to give the commissioning authorisation before it has been able to see and inspect the full centre in full functioning.

If the thing [the NPCIL-Areva deal] is concluded, which I believe it will be, at the time the Indian EPR will be in operation, the Chinese, the Finnish and the French EPRs will have been functioning for more than five years, which means you will have five years of checking how it works before it works in India. There will be a lot of possibility of experienced learning by that development.

Both countries have agreed to collaborate on space research and development, which is significant given the hard times faced by ISRO. The satellites thus jointly developed are to be launched this year. Is that on schedule?

What I understand is that Megha-Tropiques, the first satellite which is supposed to study climate in tropical areas — which means it is of particular importance for agriculture in monsoons — is going to be launched before the end of the year. The second one [Saral] might be a little delayed, but we are hoping this would also be launched this year. We've full confidence in the scientific, technical and managerial capabilities of ISRO.

Any plans to expand the cooperation into other areas? Space exploration, maybe?

In the declaration of intent which was signed in Bangalore during President Sarkozy's India visit — and it's really an important sign that our President decided to start his India visit in Bangalore in ISRO, which is a statement that we are confident that ISRO in its past track operation is good and that it should be expanded — we've given them the mandate to see together how they can expand it in other areas like telecommunication, space exploration…

In the joint statement, it was mentioned that the contract for the much-delayed upgrade of the Indian Air Force's Mirage-2000 aircraft would be inked soon. It's five months since.

Commercial negotiations are always long; there are so many things to agree upon. It's very complex. It has to go through many processes, so it takes time. But we're hopeful it'll be completed soon.

In a major step in the Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) procurement process, India has shortlisted from six contenders the French Dassault Rafale and Eurofighter Typhoon, asking them to renew their commercial bids. The process has had many twists and turns from the time the Request for Proposal went out with speculative stories doing the rounds, MMRCA files going for jaunts and the like. How do you view the latest development?

At this stage, I'll be extremely sober and quick in my answer. Rafale is an exceptional plane which is in operation in many significant fields of operation showing its performance there. We're very satisfied that it is allowed to continue in the race. The French government is giving 100 per cent support to Dassault and for the continuation of its discussions with the Government of India.

Is there a Navy angle to the MMRCA competition? While Rafale boasts a naval variant, the Typhoon naval version is under development. Would there be a French pitch if the Indian Navy sought to buy a new carrier-borne fighter?

I'm not going to elaborate on that.

When the Request for Information went out last year for six more next generation submarines as part of Navy's Project 75-I (India), the French apparently made an offer of bigger Scorpenes. Isn't that a bit awkward, given that the six Scorpenes contracted by India under ToT (transfer of technology) via Project 75 is overdue?

One thing is extremely simple: the contract [as part of Project 75] has to be well-executed and in that respect, at the docks [in Mazagaon Dock], they are working super fast. I go there from time to time. The Joint Chief of Staff of our armed forces, Admiral Edouard Guillaud, visited the docks when he was in India a few months back. The general impression we have is that there has been a slow beginning for many reasons. Now they're working super fast, and I think they're making very, very good progress. How it is going to continue in the next few months is a matter of great attention of both governments [and they are ensuring] that no obstacle is put in the way of implementation of this programme. It is an exemplary project and one has to understand the complexity of what is being done. It would have been the old way to do things to build it in France and transfer it full-fledged to India. But that's not what has been chosen. What has been chosen is the transfer of know-how of industrial capacity and technology to India to put it in a position to do it progressively. That is far more complex. The end result, however, will be two-fold: India with six first-class submarines, among the most modern in the world, and India being capable of continuing to build them by itself in the future.

There was a project between MBDA and DRDO to jointly develop Maitri short range surface-to-air missiles on the Trishul platform. Has it taken off?

Well, it is approximately at the same stage as the Mirage-2000 upgrade, which means we are in the final stages of negotiation. They've an understanding on many points, but there are a couple of things to be finalised. I am optimistic, as in the case of Mirage upgrade, of rapid completion [of talks]. It'll be a landmark agreement as it is about the co-development of a new missile. It will be a joint venture between two countries; the building capacity will be India, which will be used by India and which can also be used for export markets.

Will France buy it once it is operational?

Once it's developed, we might consider building it [the production facility] in France or buy it from India. But, I don't know. The future will have an answer to this.

One area where full potential has not been tapped is bilateral trade and investment.

I'll nuance your analysis a bit. On trade, we had known rapid expansion up to 2008. Then we had barriers because of the financial crisis and the civil aviation difficulties in India which slowed down considerably the rate of delivery of appliances which had been ordered. Now we're back to normal when it comes to economic growth and the civil aviation sector has improved a lot. So I hope we're heading for more rapid growth in our imports and exports. Already last year, Indian exports to France surged by 35 to 40 per cent compared to the year before, which is quite impressive. The French exports to India [during this period] picked up by 15 to 18 per cent.

Investment-wise, the French are investing huge amounts in India. We've approximately €10 billion of French industrial investment in India. All major companies are here. Now there are two fields where we would like to see an acceleration of growth: SMEs (small and medium enterprises) in India and Indian investment in France. Although we believe it's picking up, there is vast potential to be tapped by Indian investors in the European market






On the face of it, the reportedly inaccurate compilation of India's "most wanted" list of 50 terrorists residing in Pakistan — with the connivance and protection of its authorities — is a huge embarrassment. The list contains names of Indian nationals — the most notorious of whom is Dawood Ibrahim, who now figures as the world's most wanted terrorist — as well as Pakistanis such as Hafiz Saeed, the inspiration behind Lashkar-e-Tayyaba. The catalogue of 50 was officially tendered to the Pakistanis with the demand that Islamabad extradite them to India. And this is the cause of the embarrassment, for it has been revealed that a terror suspect, Wazhul Kamar Khan, actually lives in Thane and punctiliously attends court proceedings to clear his name. His family says he has never set foot in Pakistan.
If investigations show this is indeed the case, then heads must roll as Islamabad is apt to exploit the situation and protest its innocence with greater stridency, all the while seeking to cast doubts on India's investigation into all cases of terrorism where the finger is pointed at Pakistan. But Pakistan will be protesting too much. The country has with justification acquired the dubious reputation of being Terrorism Central. This was only reinforced when it was discovered Osama bin Laden, the founder of Al Qaeda, was living in a luxurious mansion almost next to the Pakistan military academy and not too far from Islamabad, obviously with official blessings. Pakistan's credibility deficit has as a result widened considerably.
The goof-up in the Wazhul case shows up the Indian bureaucratic system at its maladroit worst. But this must not be allowed to detract from the core issue — that it is a strategic decision by the Pakistan establishment to harbour terrorists who strike at India since its Army cannot do so openly without raising the world's hackles. The list of 50 may come down by one if the Wazhul case has merit, but the list remains. The lesson to be learnt is to watch out against bureaucratic bungling, but not to slacken the pursuit against Islamabad's malevolence. Indeed, in ironical ways, it is to the credit of this country's transparent democracy that a case like this is officially acknowledged rightaway (unlike military-run Pakistan, which for long tried to deny that Ajmal Kasab, the lone Pakistani terrorist caught alive in the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, was one of its own). In the same way, the Indian authorities immediately focus attention on the Hindu extremists in the Samjhauta blast case when the evidence pointed that way. In Pakistan, such course correction is unthinkable.
Post-Osama bin Laden, nothing really has changed in Islamabad. Any hope of the military-ISI structure being put in its place after the Abbottabad embarrassment has been belied. It is therefore unrealistic to expect that the Pakistani establishment will be concerned in the least about taking action on India's "most wanted" list, other than raise a smokescreen to obfuscate, duck and weave, and threaten and browbeat. (Of this the Americans — for long so solicitous of their client state — are now getting a taste!) In fact, to divert attention from the Abbottabad fiasco, the Pakistanis are already playing the anti-India card to the hilt. Although there has been no provocation from the Indian side, ISI chief Ahmad Shuja Pasha has gone to the ridiculous extent of informing Pakistan's Parliament at a recent briefing that In







Sixty-four years after the State passed from autocratic to popular rule the ruling party has brought back to memory what it had considered a panacea to all the ills in Kashmir, namely Naya Kashmir. To help the youngsters know something of its history, Naya Kashmir was the manifesto of the anti-monarchy movement in Kashmir spearheaded by National Conference and its towering leader Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah in early 1940s. The party had claimed that it was the socio-political and economic structure designed for the State once the autocratic ruled came to an end. The authorship of the much talked about and propagated Manifesto was attributed to Bedi couple that owed allegiance to the Left ideology. Later researches found that late Dr. N. N. Raina, the founder of Leftist movement in Kashmir and an ally of NC, was the real author of the Manifesto. Surprisingly, a roadmap for future Kashmir by which the NC swore passionately did not move beyond the first programme of Naya Kashmir, namely "land to the tillers". After putting an end to the jagirdari system in the State, the NC put the Naya Kashmir in cold store and thereafter never talked about other commitments made to the people in the Naya Kashmir. Why did the NC stop all reforms and progressive measures enshrined in the Manifesto are what the inquisitive historians will deal with in detail one day.


Speaking at an interacting meet with elected Panches and Sarpanches of Ganderbal constituency after inaugurating 4-day orientation course for newly elected Panchayat members, Chief Minister rather inadvertently highlighted the role of Panchayats in socio-economic transformation and all-round development of the State. It was his Rural Development Minister, Ali Mohammad Sagar who said that in 'prosperous villages lies the prosperity' of the State: Panchayat institutions would prove an effective tool to translate the dream of Naya Kashmir dreamt by Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah into reality. Though a reality has dawned on the activists of the party albeit belatedly that first conceptualized the Naya Kashmir, we go by the axiom that it is never too late to mend what has gone wrong. After enjoying unhindered and rather unopposed state power for so many decades and more often than not having behaved more arbitrarily than what had met the eye during the "authoritarian regime", the National Conference has veered round the idea of allowing devolution of power to grassroots level in order to strengthen democratic dispensation in the state. This is a realization we think has come to the party only after armed militancy wrecked peace, law and order for two decades in the past. However, even if the realization has come late, it is welcome because it is the right step in right direction of empowering the people at the lowest rungs of society. There is sense in what the Chief Minister tried to convey to the people about his concept of Panchayati Raj. He said that in order to devolve power from Secretariat and Assembly to the democratic institutions at lower levels, the Panchayati Raj system is a befitting medium. It will not only help judicious spending of funds but proper monitoring of schemes besides curbing corruption. There is no doubt that power has got concentrated in selected hands in the State and the masses of people have begun to feel that their say in the affairs of the state has no weight. If the government is very sincere that grassroots levels of society be empowered and allowed space for their views, then the Panchayats have to be equipped with definite constitutional, legal and financial powers that would give them rightful place in the social construct. It was right to hold Panchayat elections on non-party basis though that did not bar party candidates to stand for elections. After all party men are also integral part of the society which is struggling for emancipation. In the 3-tier Panchayat system the Vice Chairmen of District Development Boards will be the elected representatives of Panchayats. This will enable the Panchayats to be an important part in decision making at the district level. The election of women Panches and Sarpanches is yet another significant aspect of Panchayat elections to help give specialized attention to women problems at Panchayat level.







2555th birth anniversary of Lord Buddha was celebrated in all the three regions of the state with dedication and prayers for peace and tranquility in the State. Messages on the occasion from the Head of the State and the Government were released wishing people of the State a prosperous and undisturbed life. There are large numbers of followers of Buddha's religion in the State and they all celebrated the day with fervour. It has to be recalled that Kashmir has played a vital role in the dissemination of Buddhist religion, teachings and philosophy in the vast area of present day NWFP, Afghanistan, Central Asia, Tibet, Mongolia and Japan. Many Kashmiri Buddhist monks and missionaries in ancient times traveled the long distances of these Asian regions halting at stations and delivering sermons to the locals and thus preaching the message of Buddha to people in those distant lands. This is a glorious part of our history. Though the grand Buddhist statues in Bamiyan have been destroyed by the Taliban, there are innumerable other relics and sites that speak eloquently of Buddhist past in Central Asian region. In Tajikistan, for example, the largest china-clay statue of Buddha in nindra mudra has been recovered and preserved in the museum in Dushanbe. In Tibet, a large number of Tibetan and Pali manuscripts of Buddhist theological fund remain preserved and Kashmiri scholars are said to have worked on these and also referred them in their writings. In the background of this history, it is highly desirable that the Government of the State initiates a comprehensive research and study into the contribution of Kashmiri scholars, monks and missionaries in spreading Buddhism to the vast Asian regions in Central Asia and beyond. A comprehensive project in which outstanding scholars all over the world are involved could be spread out to ten years of intensive and extensive research and study and a several volume document could be produced. The State Government can also approach the UNESCO with a comprehensive project on the subject and induce it to conduct research study similar to its project of a comprehensive history of Central Asia.








Since, fours decades, we the people of Jammu and Kashmir, the crown holders of special status, are fighting against cross border terrorism. We are still struggling in order to ensure peace. But Census Report 2011, left us with some ponderable questions viz Is it the peace, that we really wish? or Are we creating a the state of "graveyard silence", for ourselves? For a man of ordinary prudence the later deserves the answer and our ill fate as well. Census Report 2011 is a coup de grace for us as presently, it evidences the terror against the girl child. Alas! We have started engineering a "female-free-state", a state in which "scissor of abortion" is even mightier than AK-47.

Preference for a male child has listed "J&K" in one of the three major states that showed decline in sex ratio in comparison to census report of 2001.As per census report of 2011 child sex-ratio (0-6 years) in J&K is aghast 859 i.e. 82 fewer to 941 of 2001. Reasons are manifold but victim is female.


The avalanche of social evils triggered the rapid oust of a particular sex from the society. To begin with dowry, the evil even post six decades of independence is persisting unabatedly and still satiating the incessant lust of materialism. Dowry has strengthened the status of daughter as an "economic burden". Dowry Prohibition Act, a toothless tiger, has changed nothing rather the word "dowry" is synonymised by the word "gifts", keeping the liability status of the daughter intact. Moreover in the present patriarchal society daughter is reared with a limited objective i.e. just to keep her stayed in her matrimonial home. Compromise becomes generality for her life, with freedom and liberty as exceptions.


Safe and secure environment for women is also a matter of great concern in present male dominating society. Discussion augments and ends with an open question, whether present social environment is congenial enough for the upbringing of a girl child? The answer may maximise towards negation. Domestic violence, sexual harassment against women at work places, eve teasing etc. created an embargo in the individualistic development of women. Apart from economic burden, daughters are still considered as social liability, their chastity & honour, timely marriages are vital matters of family concern. Underneath evils like incest and child abuse are contributors inter alia social problems.


Adverse side of the science in order to exploit economic gains from the social evils, abetted at its level best to achieve present gender imbalance. Hippocratic Oath that…I will not give a pessary (historic use) to a woman to cause abortion… became utopian concept in front of capital greed. Advancement in science and technology facilitated female foeticide. Mushrooming diagnostic centres, ultrasound clinics are making money out of the social-economic imbalance. Methods like amniocentesis, chronic villus sampling, ultra-sonography benefitted families ,both by keeping them free from a future liability and by saving them from infanticide.


Contextually, Preconception and Prenatal Sex Selection (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 2002(PPSSA),is there to prohibit sex determination tests but what medical practitioners cannot do directly are doing it indirectly e.g it is reported that instead of actively revealing the sex of foetus ,they inform the families through signs. The most prevalent practice was that if doctor comes with red pen or article, one should link it with presence of unfortunate probability. Such type of techniques and practices altered the demographic profile of the state. Amid such a pandemonium of gender biasness nurturing of female by a female becomes a practical rarity. In the words of Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen, all these gender centric evils in a way affected/affecting … the agency aspect of women... i.e. if we consider women as an agency, any impact on women, be it by the way of female mortality (female foeticide/infanticide) would definitely effect the social structure of the society. Herein the demography of the state is at stake by inward graph of female ratio. Even, on 10-09-2003, Supreme Court of India in the case of CEHAT vs. Union of India directed all State Governments/UT Administrations …to create public awareness against the practice of pre-natal determination of sex and female foeticide through advertisement in the print and electronic media by hoarding and other appropriate means. Had PPSSA and the directions of Supreme Court been implemented in a proper way situation would not be so alarming.


Ironically, people applied their self-centred approach for an economically favourable future and welcomed a future in which same -sex relations and polyandry may become compulsion.


Albeit stringent laws shall be made in order to curb such a stringent situation. The problem may be dealt with, if a three tier mechanism is developed wherein Government, Social groups (NGOs/Institutions), and individuals (herein natives of state), work and perform in toto for the same cause. To elaborate, firstly; state government should strengthen the system by two ways-(a) by amending the existing Preconception and Prenatal Sex Selection (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 2002 to make it more stringent and later by ensuring its implementation with all vigour and zeal. (b) affirmative action providing incentives/benefits ,to the family of girl child, girl-child-beneficial schemes. Such kind of approach can be finalised after the comparative analysis of similar models working in different states (initiatives of Haryana & Rajasthan govts. may be taken into consideration).Secondly, proactive role social groups can play a significant role in awaring the people of the ill effects of degrading gender ratio. Sensitization programmes may be conducted in an organised way so that both village & urban population can come under one awareness ambit. Lastly, each individual, being a basic unit of society, shall take individual responsibility and mark his/her contributory stand amid this debacle.


Role of individual can only be expected if one's rationality can be delinked from the influence of religion. Gender stereotypes, certainly the outcome of religion, that son advances the patriarchal lineage (vansha), son gives old age parental care, son lights parent's funeral pyre, and primogeniture, women shall remain veiled etc., left a male-biased society before us. When these orthodoxies couple with other epidemic social evils, acceptance/recognition of daughter in the society becomes the first causality. Before giving blessings like putra vati bhava,the so called propounders/interpretators of religion shall foresee the revival of Mahabaratha with the presence of Panchali(distinct example of polyandry). Whatever may be the future, one thing is certain that female will be a sure victim unless our religious interpretations take an unbiased fresh revision and religious psyche of people is redeveloped. A sincere immediate action should be our utmost priority, so that "devies" shall remain protected in the land of Mata Vaishno Devi, both in terms of their number and rights.


(The author is a practicing Advocate in the Supreme Court of India.)








World Telecommunication Day was Celebrated recently. The theme for this year is "Better life in rural communities with ICTs". This theme is especially pertinent to a country like India, where 70% of the population resides in rural areas. It is an acknowledged fact that in spite of best efforts by the Government, rural areas continue to lack adequate infrastructure in terms of roads, financial services, health and educational facilities, employment opportunities and government services etc.


India today stands at the threshold of great opportunities. A growing and robust economy, a young and increasingly literate population and wide technological base give it the opportunity of emerging as a major power. At the same time, it faces the challenges of reducing poverty and inequity. World over, it has been recognised that Information and Communication Technologies play a significant role in bridging the divide between the poor and the non-poor. In our country, while voice communication has, doubtless reduced isolation, the penetration of Internet and broadband has remained low, mainly due to a limited spread of wireline telephones and non availability, so far, of Broadband technologies. With the launch of 3G services, the stage is set for rapid spread of Broadband. At the same time, there is an urgent need for a nation-wide Broadband network to reach Education, healthcare, banking and other services to all the villages. Such a network would truly help in realising the objective of inclusive growth.


In the rural context, ICTs provide enhanced opportunities to generate income and combat poverty, hunger, ill health and illiteracy. ICTs and related e-applications are key instruments in improving governance and rural services, such as providing community health care, safe drinking water and sanitation, education, food and shelter; improving maternal health and reducing child mortality; empowering women and the more vulnerable members of society; and ensuring environmental sustainability.


Millennium Development Goals

The UN Summit on the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), from 20-22 September 2010, concluded with the adoption of a global action plan to achieve the eight anti-poverty goals by the 2015. The eight goals agreed to by the members are to: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, Achieve universal primary education, Promote gender equality and empower women, Reduce child mortality, Improve maternal health, Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases, Ensure environmental sustainability & Develop a global partnership for development. Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) are part of MDG and have an impact on other MDGs. Target 18 of goal 8 mentions the following: In cooperation with the private sector, make available the benefits of new technologies, especially information and communications technologies. According to UN availability of broadband is important for making important applications available to the population. Examples below show as to how ICT can assist in achieving other MDGs. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger- By increasing access to market information and reducing transaction costs for poor farmers and traders.Achieve universal primary education- By increasing supply of trained teachers through ICT enhanced distance training.Promote gender equality and empower women-By delivering educational and literacy programme specifically targeted towards poor women using appropriate technologies. Reduce child mortality- By increasing access of rural care givers to specialist support and remote diagnosis.Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases - By increasing monitoring and information sharing on disease and famine.Ensure environmental sustainability- By remote sensing technologies and communications networks which ensure more effective monitoring, resource management, mitigation of environmental risks.


Effects of ICT on Growth

Experts are of the opinion that the impact of broadband on the GDP is much higher than any other ICT. According to World Bank a 10% increase in broadband penetration increases GDP of a developing country by 1.38%. It is therefore natural that countries are concerned about creating a robust broadband infrastructure that would sustain high growth of broadband services. The inclusive potential of ICT is evident at two levels: the benefits that it brings to poorer communities and the capacity of individuals within these communities to participate in new economic opportunities. ICT, particularly broadband, is, therefore, seen as a powerful tool for inclusive growth.


ICT has the unique capability of bridging the urban-rural infrastructural gap in access to such services and amenities. ICT can overcome even literacy and language barriers and provide a two-way communication channel between the government and rural citizens. It can empower rural Indians through information and market access. Connecting rural populations will ensure that they participate as equals in the social, economic and political life of the nation. There have been initiatives from both private and Government sectors for development of ICTs in rural areas.


Policy initiatives directed towards growth of ICT in rural areas

National Telecom Policy 1994 (NTP)- The Department of Telecommunications, Government of India right from the inception of National Telecom Policy-1994, has acknowledged the need of extending the communication and information technology services to rural and remote areas of the country. National Telecom Policy -1999 was framed with following objectives specific to the rural and remote areas of the country.


Strive to provide a balance between the provision of universal service to all uncovered areas, including the rural areas, and the provision of high-level services capable of meeting the needs of the country's economy;


Encourage development of telecommunication facilities in remote, hilly and tribal areas of the country;


National Telecom Policy 1999-To meet the above objectives, NTP-1999 had following targets specific to the rural and remote areas of the country.


Encourage development of telecom in rural areas making it more affordable by suitable tariff structure and making rural communication mandatory for all fixed service providers.


Increase rural teledensity from the current level of 0.4 to 4 by the year 2010 and provide reliable transmission media in all rural areas.


Universal Services Obligation Fund (USOF) -Keeping above objectives in mind, Government created the Universal Service Obligation Fund in 2002. The main objective of creation of the fund was to support the telecom service providers through subsidy in rolling out the telecom services in the non-remunerative rural and remote areas of the country.


Various Schemes under USOF


Starting from providing basic community service in the form of Village Public Telephones and Rural Community Phones to individual access in the form of Rural DELs support for creation of mobile infrastructure in the rural and remote areas of the country, and improvement of Optical fibre infrastructure in NE states by connecting unconnected blocks we have come a long way. We have provided Village Panchayat Telephones in more than 96 % villages of the country and achieved Rural Teledensity of more than 33%.


The journey is still far from over. Broadband still remains the area of concern. The broadband is different from voice as it requires different eco-system in terms of digital literacy, availability of local content and application apart from affordability. Government, through USOF, has launched the Rural Wireline Broadband scheme to provide Broadband connections in the rural and remote areas of the country. Till March 2011, more than 2.5 lakh connections have been provided in the scheme. Under Bharat Nirman II scheme, Government has planned to cover all the 2.5 lakh (approx.) Gram Panchayats of the country with Broadband service. Till March 2011, more than 1.1 lakh Gram Panchayats are covered with Broadband service.


Since all the rural and remote areas of the country are not possible to be covered by wireline broadband, Government is shortly going to launch a rural wireless broadband scheme which will provide wireless broadband coverage to around 5 lakh villages of the country.


The broadband service is a high bandwidth service which requires a high bandwidth backhaul network. To meet this, Government is planning to build a National Optical Fibre Network (NOFN) to provide optical connectivity to all the 2.5 lakh Gram Panchayats.


Through all these measures, it is hoped that we shall be able to usher in a new era whereby rural Indians will be able to access to information, knowledge and all types of essential services through effective ICT connectivity and thus be able to contribute effectively to and reap the benefits of the promising Indian growth story, and realise vision of Father of Nation Mahatma Gandhi.







The rise and fall of the CPM in West Bengal is a multi-layered phenomenon. Dissecting it needs wading through the changing scenario of three decades. But the core of the West Bengal story is clearly visible. A revolution was unleashed in West Bengal in 1977 - a land reforms revolution ''Operation Barga" - which gave land, rice and hope to millions of share croppers and poor peasants. This, the most progressive land reforms revolution of post-Independence India, was stultified and not allowed to reach its logical conclusion. Stultified politics rather than continuing progressive economic development brought about the fall of the CPM in West Bengal.

Thus, while the land distribution revolution - described by a distinguished editor as Bengal's 'New Permanent Settlement' -- gave a tremendous momentum to CPM rule in West Bengal, unleashing its unprecedented endorsement for seven terms, the imposition of stultified politics brought it crashing down. Politics, CPM leaders believe, is more important than mundane economic developmental activity. Lurking behind this 'revolutionary' thinking is an emasculating proposition. Namely: creation of wealth has to be subservient to its equitable distribution. What is equitable? That decision is left to gheraos and bands that pervaded the West Bengal scene for full two decades. Driving out industry and entrepreneurship from West Bengal, and pulling its industrial rating down to veritably the lowest level.

The comrades in West Bengal had learnt no lesson from the collapse of the Soviet rule in Russia and the East European countries. Nor from the happenings in China, where in approximately the same span of three decades, the Communist Party of China had transformed a poverty-stricken nation into an economic power house admired as a global super power.

''It's the economy, stupid" - this slogan coined by James Carville for BILL Clinton's second presidential campaign paid handsome dividends. It embodies a fundamental of policy making, namely, that building economic strength should be first priority in a nation's affairs. It is essentially a Marxian precept, contained in the famous 'Communist Manifesto' authored by Marx and Engels some 160 years ago, which ascribes the shape of the economy as the base on which is built a nation's social, political and cultural super structure.

Alas, the comrades in West Bengal failed to grasp this Marxian precept. Their slogan is : 'Politics is in command', and the mandate of seven terms of electoral voting did give the CPM enormous power which could have been used for restructuring and stimulating West Bengal's economy. But the revolutionary ideology that gripped the CPM in West Bengal stood in the way, reversing the Marxian precept. It is to this ideology that Marx referred, when he wrote to his ultra-revolutionary son-in-law in 1981: "If this is Marxism, then I am not a Marxist."

The not-so-revolutionary Deng Xiaoping understood better how to apply Marxism in our times to developing nations such as China. His famous statement - "To be rich is glorious: that is the Marxism of today"-transformed the ruling Chinese Communist Party and the Chinese people from food famines to a prosperous, dynamic nation. A period of thirty-four years is a long one - and CPM rule in West Bengal from 1977 to 2011 created many an aberration. Not leading the state from agrarian revolution to industrial development, but the reverse, and a cultural stultification. The charismatic Jyoti Basu, finding his upward mobility halted by economic stagnation, sought ethnic recourse to buttress his name and fame and the vote bank. He championed Bengali the wrong way, by forbidding English teaching in primary classes from 1981 onwards - for nearly two decades. This parochialism was a great disservice to the youth of Bengal, who have been handicapped in a big way.

There has been a second halter round the neck of West Bengal CPM: a national leadership headed by an academic, the great Prakash Karat - quite a contrast to the pragmatic Harkishen Singh Surjit, his predecessor. Prakash Karat has been a distinguished student leader and ardent Marxist. But leadership of a party governing several states, and with veritably a veto in national affairs thanks to the CPM being an important member of UPA-I, required pragmatic politics and non-dogmatic Marxism. Unfortunately, Prakash Karat lacked both.

His dogged opposition to the Indo-US nuclear treaty was a disservice to the country - for the treaty was the best thing to happen to India, brightening the science-technology horizon, and at the same time adding a new dimension to India's security parameters. Even worse was the CPM pull-out from the UPA, which added to the woes of West Bengal CPM. Apart from this being poor strategy, it militated against Marxian ideology, which favours partnership with the bourgeoisie as against feudal and communal forces in a developing country. Even talk of building a third-front in partnership with lumpen elements was poor strategy and politics.

This chapter of national affairs ushered in by CPM's national leadership added to the West Bengal CPM's woes. The worst contribution of the national CPM leadership to West Bengal's affairs was the expulsion of the much respected Somnath Chatterjee. This perhaps was the unkindest cut of all, to use a Shakespearean metaphor. (IPA)










The theatrics shown by the BJP in Karnataka with Chief Minister Yeddyurappa parading his MLAs before the President in a show of strength after Governor H. R. Bharadwaj jumped the gun and without due consultations recommended President's rule in the state shows the depths to which politics has plunged in what was once an exemplary state. The Yeddyurappa government has been hurtling from crisis to crisis and was rescued from a situation in which it was in a minority by a partisan Speaker who disqualified 11 BJP legislators and five independents who would have voted against the government to engineer its fall. With the Karnataka High Court upholding the disqualification, the Supreme Court overturning the High Court verdict and 10 of the 11 BJP legislators switching their loyalty back to Mr Yeddyurappa, time has come a full circle. Morally, the Yeddyurappa government had no feet to stand on after the apex court's verdict but with Governor Bharadwaj bent upon forcing the government out and submitting a report to the Centre recommending the Yeddyurappa government's sack, all attention has now shifted to the Governor's action.


Ironically, a corrupt and ineffective government has got a lease of life due to the blatant attempt by a governor to subvert the democratic process. Clever as the BJP is, it has exploited the Governor's action to whip up sentiment against him and the Congress to which he belonged before he became Governor, conveniently side-stepping its own culpability in the wake of the Supreme Court setting aside the Speaker's action in disqualifying rebel MLAs just before a crucial vote.


It is sad indeed that money power rules the day in today's Karnataka politics. While the Governor must accept that he has no discretion over which ruling party and chief minister he works with, it is equally incumbent upon the Speaker to either step aside or be replaced by a party that has always waxed eloquent about morality in politics. The BJP leadership at the Centre must do some soul-searching about the kind of moral standards it is setting in its southern bastion. Before pointing fingers at others, it must look at its mirror-image. 









For years, India has been trying to convince the world that Pakistan is harbouring and supporting terrorists. Its efforts got a fillip after Osama bin Laden was killed by US forces right there in Abbottabad. It made public its list of 50 most wanted criminals which according to it were hiding in Pakistan. But a goof-up has compromised its position badly, because the media has exposed that one of the persons, Wazhul Kamar Khan, has been living in a suburb of Mumbai for years. Not only that, he was arrested last year for his alleged role in the 2003 Mumbai train blasts and was released on bail last year. Even if it is the only such error in the list, Pakistan can be depended on to latch upon to it and call to question the credibility of the entire list.


Apparently, the lapse took place because an Interpol Red Corner Notice (RCN) was issued against Wazhul Kamar Khan in 2004 on the request of the Maharashtra Police. The list of 50 fugitives which was to be handed over to Pakistan was prepared by the CBI, the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) and the Intelligence Bureau. The names of those with RCN were put on it. The CBI did not remove the name of Khan from the list because it was not informed by the Maharashtra Police about his arrest.


Who committed the mistake is less important than the unfortunate consequences that will ensue. The entire attempt to get back men like Dawood Ibrahim will suffer a setback just because some babus did not do their homework. The CBI has now removed the name from the list, but the damage has been done. If such callousness can take place in a matter of such international significance, one can well imagine the plight of those unfortunate people who have to come in contact with the police on a routine basis. Even as the Union Home Minister officially plays down the entire ugly controversy, he must order a thorough enquiry into the rotten-ness prevailing in various departments. It's high time the left hand of the government started knowing what the right was doing. 











Former Pakistan Prime Minister and PML (N) chief Nawaz Sharif is not alone in expressing the opinion that the time has come for Islamabad to stop treating New Delhi as its "biggest enemy" in its own larger interest. Ever since the US-led multinational action against Afghanistan in the wake of 9/11 a section of people in Pakistan have been promoting the view that Pakistan should review its India policy and find ways to cultivate friendly relations with New Delhi. This section, which included some senior religio-political leaders, did not see any serious threat to Pakistan from India. In their opinion, it was the US from which Pakistan was faced with maximum threats to its interests. Actually, Pakistan will gain tremendously by mending fences with India. The people in Pakistan who think on these lines are part of the peace constituency, which is getting enlarged day by day. The constituency did suffer a setback after the Mumbai terrorist attack, but it seems to be regaining the strength it had lost.


India and Pakistan together can change the face of South Asia considerably. The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) has not been able to prove as powerful a vehicle for socio-economic change as it could be mainly because of lack of cooperation between India and Pakistan. The argument that SAARC can learn a lot from the European Union fails to have any impact on the thinking of the people who matter in South Asia because of the deep-rooted animosity between the two neighbours. The atmosphere that prevails suits the designs of terrorists and extremists.


What Mr Sharif has said also does not fit in with the scheme of things of the Pakistan Army, which controls that country's powerful intelligence network. The army continues to be considered the most significant institution in Pakistan mainly owing to the factor of India as the "most dreaded enemy", though this has nothing to do with the reality. The Pakistan Army's thinking goes against the larger and long-term interests of Islamabad. However, now it may be forced to change its views but only if Pakistan's democracy continues to grow deeper roots and the peace constituency expands throughout the length and breadth of that country. 









As the strategic realities in South Asia got radically altered in the aftermath of Osama bin Laden's death, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh lost no time in reaching out to Afghanistan with his two-day visit to Kabul. Though initially he was to visit Kabul earlier this month, the US managed to persuade the Indian government to postpone the visit. The reasons for this request became clear only later but it presented New Delhi with a new opportunity to focus the attention of the international community on its own predicament in the region. New Delhi's review of its regional foreign policy priorities couldn't have come at a more urgent time.


For long, the Congress-led UPA government has largely left the management of its neighbours to the United States. A case in point was India's decision not to take any serious action against Pakistan in the aftermath of the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attack, which killed 166 people. Instead, New Delhi continued to put pressure on Islamabad via American leverage to bring the masterminds of those terror strikes to justice. For some time now, it has been clear that this strategy has not really been working.


It was last year's London conference that advocated talks with the Taliban that had jolted India, forcing a major rethink of its Af-Pak policy as India viewed with alarm its rapidly shrinking strategic space for diplomatic manoeuvring. The first step was to restart talks with Pakistan, including back channel negotiations with the Pakistani military. While these attempts may fail to produce anything concrete in the near future, the hope is that they will stave off pressure from the US to engage Islamabad. Therefore, even though negotiations with Pakistan remain hugely unpopular at home, the Indian government has decided to proceed. India hopes that by doing so it will be viewed as a more productive player in the West's efforts at stabilising Afghanistan.


Just as importantly, India is reconsidering the terms of its involvement in Afghanistan. Until now, India has relied on its "soft power" in wooing Kabul. It is one of the largest aid givers to Afghanistan and is delivering humanitarian assistance as well as helping in nation-building projects in myriad ways. India is building roads, providing medical facilities, helping with educational programmes in an effort to develop and enhance long-term local Afghan capabilities.


Pakistan's paranoia about Indian presence in Afghanistan has led the West to underplay India's largely beneficial role in the country even as Pakistan's every claim about Indian intentions is taken at face value. The Taliban militants who attacked the Indian Embassy in Kabul in 2008 and tried to do so again in 2009 have sent a strong signal that India is part of the evolving security dynamic in Afghanistan despite its reluctance to take on a more active role in military operations. After targeting the personnel involved in developmental projects and emboldened by India's non-response, these terrorists have trained their guns directly at the Indian State. Moreover, as India's isolation at the London conference on Afghanistan underlined, India's role in Afghanistan has not even been fully appreciated by the West.


When the External Affairs Minister, Mr S. M. Krishna, underscored the folly of making a distinction "between a good Taliban and a bad Taliban" last year, he was completely out of sync with the larger mood at the conference. The West has made up its mind that it is not a question of if but when and how to exit from Afghanistan which, to the leaders in Washington and London, is rapidly becoming a quagmire. For some time now, much to New Delhi's discomfiture, senior US military commanders have been suggesting that peace talks with the Taliban might be imminent and that they might even be invited to be a part of the government in Kabul.


So, when it was decided in London that the time had come to woo the "moderate" section of the Taliban back to share power in Kabul, it was a signal to India that Pakistan seemed to have convinced the West that it could play the role of a mediator in negotiations with the Taliban, thereby underlining its centrality in the unfolding strategic dynamic in the region. By pursuing a strategy that will give Pakistan the leading role in the state structures in Afghanistan, the West, however, is only sowing the seeds of future regional turmoil.


It would be catastrophic for Indian security if the remnants of the Taliban were to come to power with the backing of the ISI and Pakistan's military. To preserve its interests in such a strategic milieu, India is, therefore, stepping up the training of Afghan forces, coordinating with states like Russia and Iran, and reaching out to all sections of Afghan society. More problematic for the West, there are growing calls in India for taking a more militarily active role in Afghanistan, if only to support its developmental activities.


The US has actively discouraged India from assuming a higher profile in Afghanistan for fear of offending Pakistan. At the same time, it has failed in getting Pakistan to take Indian concerns more seriously. This has led to rapid deterioration in the Indian security environment with New Delhi having little or no strategic space to manoeuvre. Not surprisingly, therefore, that India is being forced to reassess its priorities vis-à-vis Af-Pak.


India will be forced to take a far more aggressive and leading role in foreign policy in its neighbourhood, especially when it comes to Af-Pak. Instead of ignoring New Delhi, the West would be better served if it ceases to pander to Pakistan for short-term gains. Not supporting the only secular liberal democracy in the region will only embolden the radical Islamists in the long-term. And that's no way to enhance regional security. The Indian Prime Minister's latest visit to Kabul is a signal to the world that India remains a major player in the evolving ground realities in Af-Pak.n


The writer teaches at King's College, London









EVERYDAY "the cock with his lively din scatters the darkness" and heralds the morn. On one such morning the slumbering village 'Tijara' was slowly waking to a life of diurnal activity.


A dainty little chicken was strutting along with its flock towards the haystacks. An easy prey to dogs and cats, it strayed from the brood the mother hen was leading. In a sudden spurt of delight it started frolicking with abandon being absolutely unmindful of the dangers to his life lurking in the mud street of the village.


Perhaps the chicken had come of age and the thought spurred him to be on his own. But his delight and his independence were suddenly cut short when Zahid's tractor which he was driving to his fields crushed it to its bones. The accident rudely shattered the peace of sleepy hamlet Tijara.


For the inhabitants around the 'place of occurrence' the accident aroused their anger reminiscent of road rage of metro towns. In their fury they attacked Zahid to death and burnt his tractor. The Meos, burly members of his community, attacked his killers with a vengeance. In their frenzy they also torched the huts of some innocent villagers.


When communal passions rose high, human feelings touched their lowest. None cared for Zahid or his mother's grief, much less for the bird or the pain of the hen. Both were innocent. Both were untouched by any communal virus.


This eruption of communal violence could be controlled only when the police arrived with lathis and guns. More blood was shed and a large number of men from the two feuding communities were arrested.


A peace committee, ex-gratia grants to the victims – the usual standardised drill that follows all communal violence — were announced. Communal harmony returned in the guise of calm that was restored at a heavy cost.


A post-event analysis – an inevitable exercise in getting wiser after the event concluded: if only the chicken could fly away or Zahid could apply brakes firmly, the tragedy could have been averted. The bird and the driver became victims of their own follies!


"Manas ki jaat sabhe ake pahachanvo" (all human beings are one) said the Guru. Is communal peace so unpredictable that — whenever it is disturbed — it is restored only with bullets? Village Tijara's folks were so intolerant that they took the life of a tractor driver to avenge the death of a chicken and were so vengeful that they rendered many an innocent resident homeless.


Who should be blamed? Not the hen. Not Zahid's mother.


What should we bemoan? Death of the chicken or death of Zahid or violation of human rights or breach of communal peace? All, but, above all, death of innocence.









The improvement of medical facilities in the last decade has ensured that there are lot more older adults in our society today than at any other time in our country's history. A look at India's demographic profile indicates that there will be an increase in the senior citizen population in the years to come. The increased longevity of our population will certainly drive the need for older adults to remain physically independent, which, in turn will allow them to extend their professional career and retain their financial independence. Parallel to this is the desire of seniors to maintain an active, high-quality lifestyle so that they can enjoy everything from recreational activities to necessary daily tasks. More and more senior members of our society are taking their fitness regime seriously and achieving alarming levels of personal fitness levels.


Too old to exercise?


Once, a senior person asked Arnold Schwarzenegger: "Am I too old to exercise?" He turned around and remarked: " You are too old not too!".


How old is old?


In 1900, people were considered old in their 40s; just 40 years ago people seemed old in their 60s, but today thanks to the miracle of modern preventive medicine, many people feel sprightly and youthful at 80. My father is 75 and he plays three rounds of golf every week with his friend who is 84!


I like to tell my senior clients to ask themselves the question: 'How old would you think you were if you did not know how old you were?' In most cases, the disparity between the reality and the imagined age will give the answer about your fitness level. So, if you are only 50 and feel like you are 60, then you have work to do, old boy! On the other hand, I can give examples of many in my camp who can quite regularly out-run or out-row their children. Their fitness index is higher than their kids.


What are the changes that accompany the ageing process?


* Loss of muscle mass (sarcopenia).


* Deterioration of bone density (Osteopenia).


* Increase in basal metabolic rate (BMR) —the rate at which your body burns the calories that you consume in the form of food. The ageing process slows it down.


* Loss of flexibility or the ability to generate movement about a joint.


* Poor sense of stability and balance.


* The cardiovascular functions also slow down which means that the lungs and heart (extraction and delivery system) has to work harder and harder each year to pump blood and other nutrients to the muscles.


The good news is that all these processes can be arrested and even reversed. Let me warm your senior hearts by giving alongside some of the timings of Master athletes for a 100 metre dash.


Take care of the ticker


The risk factors for coronary-artery disease increase as people get older but you can buck that trend by taking part in any cardiovascular exercise of your choice like cycling, walking, swimming or rowing for 30-45 minutes, 3-4 times a week. Just ensure that the pace of the activity is frenetic enough to bring about a mild breathlessness or elevated pulse rate. If you would like to rate running away from a grizzly as a (difficulty) level 10 activity, ensure that you are training at level 7, consistently.


Keep the bone density- pick up the weight!

Loss of bone density or osteopenia is a big curse of 21st century sedentary urban existence and this gets accentuated with old age. The best way to simulate the formation of bone tissue is to participate in resistance training. It is believed that one-tenth of the force that causes a fracture actually helps to develop bone density. Choose exercises that direct the force vectors through the hip and spine. The best exercises for developing bone density are squats, lunges and step-ups for the lower body and shoulder press or military press for the upper body. Choose weights that you can safely lift for 15 times without tiring and rest 1-2 minutes between sets.


Stretch that muscle


Muscles tend to get tight with age. This tightness affects our posture, which accounts for why some old people tend to exhibit poor postural forms. Vladimir Janda, a Czech rehabilitation specialist, describes a group of muscles in the body that universally show a tendency towards tightness with age. Some of these include the hamstrings, quadriceps, groin, calf and hips. Some typically common age-related symptoms of low back pain, neck pain and knee pain can easily be avoided with regular stretching and strengthening.


Do muscles shrink with age?


Yes, they do. For example, if one of your muscles consisted of 100 fibres when you were 30, the muscle would probably still contain 90-95 fibres 20 years later, but the fibre count would plummet to 50-55 when you become an octogenarian.


So what can you do about it?


Fortunately, there is a positive side to the story. People who participate in resistance training can arrest or even reverse the tendencies of their muscle fibres from shrinking. As an additional lolly, resistance training in older individuals seems to increase the number of small blood vessels around muscles by up to 15%, potentially increasing endurance capacity. Since the overall process of muscle loss picks up pace after the age of 50, strength training for people above the age of 50 is especially critical. Fortunately, it's never too late. Research demonstrates that even individuals over the age of 80 can fortify their muscles by participating in regular strength training workouts.


Prescription for senior fitness


* Stretch muscles 4-5 times a week. Yoga is a great stretching protocol.


* Participate in an aerobic intensive sport or alternately, aerobic activity three times a week. Swimming is the best from of exercise for the senior population.


* Train with resistance bands or weights 2-3 times a week.


* Drink lots of water before, during and after exercise.


* Allow yourself lots of rest between sets while training with weights.


* Warm up and cool down thoroughly. Older muscles need a longer warm-up period.


* Give yourself 1-2 days of complete rest in a week to aid recovery.


Vitamin C: Is vital for the formation of collagen, which is a protein forming the basis for connective tissue, such as tendons and intervertebral discs.

Omega- 3 Oils: Helps to inhibit the action of series 2 prostaglandins which cause joint and tissue inflammation and pain.

Antioxidants: There are a number of antioxidant nutrients that afford protection from free radical damage in the body, but Vitamin E and Selenium appear to be especially important

Zinc: Activates numerous enzyme systems in the body that process amino acids and is also required for collagen formation.

Glucosamine sulphate and Chondroitin sulphate: Glucosamine sulphate appears to promote the formation and repair of cartilage, while Chondroitin seems to promote cartilage water retention and elasticity.


In a study carried out in the University Of Florida, 10 sedentary old (aged 67) males and females and 11 sedentary young (aged 30) males and females completed a 16- week exercise programme. All subjects worked out three times per week on a treadmill and/or stair-climbing machine for around 20 to 40 minutes at approximately 60-80% of maximal heart rate.

At the end of 16 weeks, the young athletes had increased their maximal aerobic capacity by 12%. The oldies? Hold your breath: they enhanced their capacity by 14%.




Recent research from scientific, medical and sports journals looks at the problems and prospects of senior fitness.

Fitness protects the ageing brain………

The human brain gradually loses tissue from the third decade onwards leading to decline in cognitive (intellectual) performance. However, recent research has shown that aerobic fitness can arrest age-related deterioration in tissue densities in the brain. More importantly, the findings tend to indicate that the greatest benefits of aerobic conditioning accrue to the tissues that play a central role in causing clinical syndromes like Alzheimer's disease and schizophrenia.

……………and improves memory in mid-life.

A recent study in Britain established quite conclusively that 'uptake of physical exercise in young to middle adulthood benefits memory, an aspect of cognitive function likely to be important for conduct of activities of daily living during ageing and abandonment of this activity appears to result in its loss'- Social Science & Medicine 56(2003).

The writer, a Certified Strength and Conditional Specialist from the National Strength and Conditioning Association of America (CSCS), trained the Indian cricket team in 2003-4 and the Indian golf team in 2010




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




The State Bank of India has turned in disastrous results, the likes of which have not been seen in the last 11 years. Net profit for the quarter ended March is down to virtually zero (Rs 21 crore), compared to over Rs 1,867 crore in the corresponding quarter of last year. This has been attributed mainly to the new chairman deciding to clean up the mess inherited by him, thus resulting in a rise in provisioning for non-performing assets by a stupendous 49 per cent year-on-year to reach a staggering Rs 3,264 crore. This resulted from the previous chairman, O P Bhatt, defying the Reserve Bank of India and under providing. The new chief, with his entire tenure ahead of him, could have hardly carried on with the old act. The bottom line has been further hit by a massive additional setting aside of Rs 1,024 crore towards income tax payment. There can be an element of discretion, or even arbitrariness, in the way the regulator asks banks to provide for assets, good and bad. There can also be two opinions on whether teaser loans of the SBI kind are as risky as those that almost wrecked the US financial system three years ago. But surely income tax is another matter and being behind time on that score is indefensible.

In keeping with the above, the bank also did not provide for the liabilities which resulted when pension rates were hiked several years ago. The bank has made up for it now in one go by transferring Rs 7,927 crore, not from the profit and loss account (that would have formally put the bank in the red) but reserves! This has lowered the capital adequacy ratio, causing the management to announce that there has to be a rights issue down the year so that the bank can keep growing. What if the centre is in a tight spot and finds it difficult to fork out its share of the Rs 20,000 capital infusion projected by the management? Most depressingly, the pain is not over yet. The cleaning up is not entirely done and the arrears in provisioning will continue for two more quarters, thereby depressing performance through half the current year.


The RBI has also to answer for this state of affairs. How could it have allowed under funding to go on to this extent? Even more serious, there is a systemic issue at stake. The results of public sector banks now follow a pattern. They keep improving under one chief executive, climaxing at the time he is to retire or is waiting to move to a bigger bank. And there is a sharp setback as soon as a new incumbent takes over as he seeks to start with a clean slate. Then, as his tenure progresses, results improve, until he goes and the next chief decides to begin with a clean slate again. Clearly, bank results are not what they are made out to be. Despite all the elaborate rules laid down by the RBI, bank chiefs find it possible to window dress results to suite their career paths. The RBI has a lot of answering to do.





DOING 420 WITH 356


Article 356 of the Indian Constitution has not only been one of the most controversial articles, when it was first formulated, but has remained one of the most abused provisions of the Indian Constitution. India's constitution writers were fully aware of the inherent dangers of giving so much arbitrary power to the Union government and make State governments so vulnerable to Delhi's diktats. Yet, it is understandable that at the time of Independence, when the unity and integrity of India was not yet assured, when the loyalty of provincial politicians to the Republic was itself in doubt, when the overwhelming political tendency was in favour of a strong Centre, the architects of the constitution felt compelled to incorporate the said article. Article 356 says that in case of a "failure of constitutional machinery" in a State, and "if the President, on receipt of report from the Governor of the State or otherwise, is satisfied that a situation has arisen in which the government of the State cannot be carried on in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution, the President may be Proclamation (a) assume to himself all or any of the functions of the Government of the State and all or any of the powers vested in or exercisable by the Governor or any body or authority in the State other than the Legislature of the State; (b) declare that the powers of the Legislature of the State shall be exercisable by or under the authority of Parliament; (c) make such incidental and consequential provisions as appear to the president to be necessary or desirable for giving effect to the objects of the Proclamation…"

Given the sweeping nature of the powers bestowed on the Union government, many distinguished members of the Constituent Assembly objected to the provisions of this article. Defending the provision, the chief architect of the Indian Constitution, BR Ambedkar hoped that the provisions of the article will "never be called in to operation and that they would remain a dead letter." If at all, they are brought into operation, Dr Ambedkar added, "I hope that the President, who is endowed with these powers, will take proper precautions before actually suspending the administration of the provinces. I think the first thing he will do would be to issue a mere warning to a province that has erred, that things were not happening in the way in which they were intended to happen in the Constitution. If the warning fails, the second thing for him to do will be to order an election allowing the people of the province to settle matters by themselves. It is only when these two remedies fail that he would resort to this Article. It is only in those circumstances he would resort to this Article."


 Mercifully, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Pratibha Patil have read their Ambedkar well. Their rejection of Karnataka governor HR Bharadwaj's mischievous recommendation to invoke article 356 in the State, howsoever well meaning his intent given the confusion worse confounded in Bengaluru and the role of money power in the State's politics, has prevented an avoidable constitutional crisis. Bharadwaj exceeded his brief and in doing so may well have over stayed his invitation.







A few weeks ago, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) raised its policy rate by 50 basis points mainly with the intention of containing inflationary pressures. Its intention has been quickly transmitted onwards by most banks, which have raised their base lending rates by a similar amount.

During the fiscal year 2010-11 the RBI was quite circumspect in its anti inflationary stance and tended to underestimate the prospects of price rise in its projections. The present move is a much more vigorous response and has led to widespread public debate because of its timing.


The RBI's argument for raising interest rates at this time is the rate of inflation of non-food prices in the Wholesale Price Index. Industrial inputs account for a large part of this and the reasoning probably is that this price rise reflects an excess demand situation that allows industry to pass on price increases caused by the global commodity price inflation that prevailed till recently. If that is the case, the timing of the increase at precisely the moment when this global commodity price inflation seems to be reversing is a little surprising.

In essence, differences of judgement about inflation prospects are really differences about the underlying model that is most relevant at this point in time-is it due to excess demand which can be restrained by reducing liquidity or is it due to supply side constraints?

In an economy riddled with fragmented markets and trade restrictions, supply side pressures on prices are never far behind and the impact of an interest rate hike may be more on growth than on price rise. There is anecdotal evidence that investment intentions have been affected. The impact on growth has been officially recognised by the Finance Minister, the Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission and by the RBI itself whose policy statement projects growth in this fiscal year at 8 per cent rather than the 9 per cent indicated in the budget.

An anti-inflationary policy that is growth neutral is virtually impossible to design. Inflation at an unacceptably high rate is a measure of disequilibrium and correcting that will require some component of demand to come down with an inevitable impact on short term growth. But anchoring inflation expectations at a reasonable level is vital for stable long-run growth and the RBI has done well to act decisively.

A broader issue is whether inflation targeting is a sufficient basis for monetary policy and how it fits in with the role that RBI has to play in nurturing the growth process. This is because the RBI is not just the monetary authority. It fulfils at least three other distinct functions. It is the banker to the government and manages its borrowing programme. It is the regulator of the banking system. It also manages the foreign exchange assets in its charge.

The government has already decided to separate the debt management function. But lately, the Governor has raised some questions about the feasibility of a complete separation and market professionals have also some doubts on whether the Finance Ministry can manage the borrowing programme without access to the expertise built up in the RBI and its day-to day links with the Mumbai-centered money market.

The separation of monetary policy and banking system supervision is being questioned even in countries like the UK where it was instituted. In fact, the recognition of systemic risk is leading many Central Banks into an even deeper involvement in prudential supervision of all financial institutions.

Hence it may neither desirable nor feasible to reduce the RBIs role in the management of the financial system in all its ramifications. If that is the case then the objectives which guide the RBI should reflect the role that the financial system is expected to play in the economy. This role clearly goes beyond macro stability and must include real objectives like the promotion of growth and equity.

The growth boom in India since 2003-04 has been driven by a massive upsurge in corporate savings and investment. This is reflected in the boom in primary issues and in the share price index over this period. The inflow of foreign portfolio investment, external commercial borrowings by Indian corporates (driven by the much lower interest rates abroad) and FDI are an important part of this boom. Maintaining the climate for private investment must be an important goal for monetary and financial market policies.

From this perspective there are two areas of finance which need structural attention. The first is the rescue of the micro-finance sector from the mess it has gotten into, a matter which the RBI is tackling on the basis of the Malegam Committee Report. The second is the development of a corporate bond market with depth, scale and transparency, a matter vital for the ambitious infrastructure plans that have been announced.

The corporate bond market has grown over the past five years but 87 per cent of the market is in the issues by Central and State PSUs, and by banks and other financial institutions. Issues by the private corporate sector have risen sharply from Rs 400 crore in 2006-07 to Rs 7,775 crore in 2010-11, but the scale is way short of what is needed if the private sector plans for power, roads, ports etc. are to be implemented. Interest rate spreads on these bonds are about 100 basis points above the rate on Central Government Securities and they still cannot compete with ECB for corporates who have access to that option.

A lower interest rate regime is necessary if this segment of the capital market is to develop. That is not all. A large proportion of the deals are over the counter and private placements and there are large uncertainties in the available data. Much more needs to be done to improve transparency and availability of information on the terms of the primary issues and the volume of trades. The scale of the market can be increased quite quickly by encouraging the securitisation of completed infrastructure investments like Build-Operate-Transfer road projects.

Much of this is the responsibility of another regulator — the Securities and Exchange Board of India. But the RBI as the primus inter pares among the regulators must play a promotional role. It must also design monetary policy for inflation management keeping in mind what is needed for the structural development of the capital market and hence for growth.






The prospects for an enduring global recovery have increased recently, further bolstering the case for policy tightening in emerging economies that have recovered faster. Asia has consistently led this recovery. In recent months, however, the outlook for advanced economies has also improved some. In particular, while some risks, such as weak fiscal and banking balance sheets in Europe and the housing market in the US, remain ongoing concerns, a successful handover of domestic demand from the public to the private sector is taking place. With the global recovery thus becoming more entrenched, it is appropriate for attention in our part of the world now to shift policies more pressingly towards the signs of overheating that are emerging.

In our recently-released Asia-Pacific Regional Economic Outlook, we envisage that, on average, Asia will grow by 7 per cent during both 2011 and 2012, led once again by China and India. Sequentially, this reflects a gradual acceleration of growth through 2011. For India, our comparable growth projection (i.e. for calendar 2011 at market prices) is for 8.2 per cent, which translates to 8 per cent for FY 2011/12 on a factor cost basis. As in the rest of Asia, growth in India has been supported by strong exports that have benefited from greater final demand from emerging economies. Indeed, in recent years, India's exports to emerging and developing economies have exceeded those to advanced ones. In India, as in some other Asian countries, growth has also been supported by favourable financial conditions — low real interest rates and bank credit that has surpassed the authorities' targets.


However, India also shares with other Asian countries the risks posed by rising inflation. Annual headline inflation for the Asian region as a whole increased by about half a percentage point in the three months to January 2011, with India especially hard hit. In countries such as India operating close to or full capacity, core inflation has also risen rapidly, as have inflation expectations across the region. Furthermore, given global concerns about oil supply and the welcome development of rising incomes increasing Indian demand for food, the risks to inflation remain on the upside. Our past analysis has shown that food inflation feeds into higher non-food inflation in many lower per capita income countries, including India. The fact that food inflation hits the poor hardest only strengthens the case for tighter monetary policy in India and across the region.

Overheating in Asia is also leading to rising pressures in regional asset markets. Credit dynamics have been especially strong in China, while property markets remain buoyant in some places. Also, capital flows, attracted by Asia's strong prospects, have been strong in this recovery, leading to historically high bond and equity valuations, at least until the recent pullback. Such inflows, while on the whole a positive development, can add to price pressures in asset markets and lead to economic instability.

The Indian authorities recognise well the new challenges and have moved to face them squarely. The RBI has been increasing interest rates since early 2010, and its decisions announced on May 3 are most welcome as they clearly show the central bank's determination in fighting inflation. Nevertheless, with real interest rates still below historical norms, policies should continue to bring inflation and inflation expectations closer to the RBI's medium-term inflation objective. The RBI has also moved to address incipient pressures in the real estate market by tightening prudential norms. As we argue in our economic outlook, macroprudential measures, such as those taken by the RBI, have a useful role to play in reducing economic instability but cannot substitute for monetary tightening. Finally, within the context of a well regulated and stable financial system, India has seized the opportunity to harness capital inflows to finance infrastructure spending through bond sales while minimising the risks of their sudden outflow.

The budget for the current fiscal year, if implemented as envisaged, will also help to address overheating and inflation. However, reaching this year's deficit target will be more challenging than attaining last year's. Last year, one time proceeds from the wireless spectrum auctions provided a large cushion that could be used to raise spending without requiring additional borrowing. But this raised the bar for 2011/12: with spending budgeted to rise only slightly above last year and no such cushion, revenues will have to make up the difference. And beyond this there are other problems: high oil prices mean that fuel and fertiliser subsidies, unless reformed, will present a drag on the budget again this year. Higher NREG wages, the ongoing RTE rollout, and the effect of higher food prices on food subsidies will also have fiscal costs. Increasing efficiency, whether through the UID for example, or moving to direct cash transfers for fertiliser and kerosene subsidies, can help over time. But, over the next few years, reaching India's deficit goals will require the rationalisation of expenditures, including subsidiies, and a strong focus on spending in those areas most important to India's infrastructure and social goals.

The author is Director, Asia and Pacific Department, International Monetary Fund








It could have been Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, former chief minister of West Bengal, speaking at one of his election rallies in Kolkata. But it was Lee Hsien Loong, prime minister of Singapore, also speaking at an election rally in the island republic early this month. The similarity was brow-raising and unexpected.


At a People's Action Party (PAP) rally ahead of Singapore's recently-concluded general elections, Lee apologised – mark the word – for his government's "mistakes" and said they would try to do better next time. "Admitting our mistake is the first step towards correcting it," he said. Then, in the typical Buddhadeb style and almost echoing the substance of the chief minister's recent election speeches, Lee added: "We're sorry we didn't get it exactly right, but I hope you'll understand and bear with us because we're trying our best to fix the problems."

Well, Singaporeans have borne with him and returned PAP to power once again, continuing a governing tradition that has remained unbroken since the country gained its independence in 1965. But what are the problems that have provoked him to offer an uncharacteristic apology to his people and made another PAP leader, 42-year-old Tan Chuan-Jin, to openly say "If PAP doesn't address public frustration and angst, it will lose its moral authority to lead"?

A shortfall in public housing was a constant grievance heard throughout the election campaign. Inadequacy of public transport – can you believe it? – was another. People also thought the government lagged in meeting the rising expectations of Singaporeans. Expensive health care was another major issue. But the burning question seemed to be the increasing number of foreigners in the population, which has created pressures on housing costs and vacancies in schools. Foreigners now make up for 36 per cent of Singapore's population of 5.1 million, up from about 20 per cent a decade ago, and nearly 90,000 of them are said to have become citizens between 2006 and last year.

But all these are manifestations of deeper problems that confront Singapore and worry its leaders. Some they can't do much about, like Singapore's finite land area, imposing limits on its physical growth. The fertility rate can only be marginally manipulated and not be let loose. Besides, being open to the world, the economy is highly vulnerable, while the rise of China and India makes the competition tougher. And fear is always there of being outdone by others, of the economy slowing, of adverse effects on people's lifestyles.

What can Singapore do about it? In a recent speech at the Singapore Polytechnic, opening a dialogue on the nation's future, senior minister (and former Prime Minister) Goh Chok Tong gave an idea. He spoke of strategies the government intends to follow to keep the course clear for an economy that expects to be one of the top 10 richest in the world by 2020, when per capita GDP is likely to rise to $55,000 from $43,900 now.

Singapore, Goh said, must continue to build up what's been one of its undisputed strengths: its skilled and educated manpower, the pillar of its service-oriented economic growth. By 2030, he expects the bulk of Singapore's workforce, being continuously trained and re-trained, to have at least a polytechnic diploma, further enhancing its position of advantage as the global economic centre of gravity shifts to Asia.

As Goh sees it, the combined GDP of China and India is likely to constitute one-third of the total global GDP by 2050, throwing up huge demands for skills and services. Foreign investors will be pouncing on these opportunities and Singapore wants to be their natural Asian base. An aggressive campaign for FDI, therefore, will remain a major imperative for the island nation.

This being so, Singapore can't escape remaining open to inviting international talent, another strategy that Goh emphasised. Singapore's own pool of talent isn't big enough to fulfil the economy's expanding needs and must be supplemented, though judiciously, by foreigners, particularly in new areas of cutting-edge technologies, to stay ahead. Saying that international talent provided Singapore a critical advantage, Goh quite frankly observed in his Singapore Polytechnic speech: "Global companies will invest in Singapore only if they are confident they can get here the talent they need."

Another thing high in Singapore's agenda is to maintain high standards of leadership in politics, civil service and armed forces. A fourth generation of leadership is being groomed to re-instil faith in people's mind that brand Singapore won't be losing any of its characteristic dynamism and innovativeness.

Goh believes the economy will have to be constantly restructured to stay on the crest of its capacity. At the same time, the country must maintain its traditional values of justice and fairness, meritocracy, equal opportunity, integrity, multi-cultural character and social inclusiveness even if the income gap widens. These have been the pillars on which Singapore's stability as a nation rests.






In India, the social class into which someone is born continues to determine a person's socio-economic well-being. This is reflected in almost all social and economic development indicators for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes vis-à-vis the rest of the population. Statistics for the latest period available with the Ministry of Human Resource Development – 2004-05 to 2007-08 – show that the dropout rates at the primary school level among the Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes are considerably higher than the overall dropout rate.

However, the shrinking gap between the dropout rate of the rest of the population and that of the Scheduled Tribes to six percentage points in 2007-08 from 14 percentage points in 2005-06 is encouraging. Also, the dropout rate in Scheduled Tribes was higher than the Scheduled Castes by eight percentage points in 2004-05, which in 2007-08 drastically dropped to one percentage point.


The geographical isolation of the Scheduled Tribes had been one of the major reasons for the exclusion or early retraction of children in this category from schools. Government programmes aimed at keeping children in schools have, therefore, brought in some positive results in recent years. (Click here for chart)

Dropout rate by social groups (Classes I-V)





















Source: Selected Education Statistics

However, efforts to enhance the educational level of marginalised groups have yielded diverse results across states — the dropout rate among the Scheduled Castes ranges between 58.2 per cent and negligible, while among the Scheduled Tribes it varies from 66.7 per cent to negligible. The dropout rate in these two groups is the highest in Manipur and is way above the all-India average. According to the Manipur government, "poverty induced child labour, the abysmal condition in schools and the poor quality of teachers" are some of the major reasons for the high dropout rate in the state.

Uttar Pradesh ranks second in terms of the number of children in the scheduled caste category dropping out at the primary level, while Rajasthan and Gujarat have the highest dropout rates among Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled castes at the primary level. This is indicative of the deep-rooted problems in these states.

In all, seven states have a dropout rate exceeding 40 per cent among the Scheduled Castes; the same is true for the Scheduled Tribes in eight states. It is only in Kerala and Lakshadweep that more than 95 per cent of the Scheduled Tribe children stay in schools past fifth standard. States that have dropout rates of less than 10 per cent for Scheduled Caste children are Haryana, Jammu and Kashmir, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Madhya Pradesh and Jharkhand.

Failure to complete even the most basic level of schooling not only has a negative impact on the individual, but also widens the existing social and economic inequalities. It is early days to assess the impact of the Right to Education Act that came into force last year, which provides free and compulsory education for all children in the age group of six to 14 years. However, it is critical that the educational planners understand and identify the reasons behind these high dropout rates in certain states and work towards an inclusive system across the country.

Indian States Development Scorecard, a weekly feature by Indicus Analytics, focuses on the progress in India and across the states across various socio-economic parameters.  







Given the exploding demand from tyre makers and shrinking availability of land, it makes sense to look abroad for tracts to grow rubber on.

The rubber industry and tyre manufacturers are stretching out in a different direction. Moving away from their usual demand for duty free imports, they are asking the Government to replicate China's experiment of acquiring land abroad to grow natural rubber and meet rising domestic demand in the Twelfth Plan. India's natural rubber consumption last year was 0.94 million tonnes, against production of 0.85 million tonnes. The demand-supply gap can only be expected to widen. The data on new plantations and replanting would seem to support the rubber industry's argument. Replanting has taken a hit with rubber prices ruling over Rs 150 a kg since March last year, as growers did not want to replace old trees that were still giving them returns aplenty. New planting, particularly in non-traditional areas, is not yielding the desired results, with productivity being lower than expected. The traditional areas of Kerala have reached a saturation point, with ever increasing demand for land for other purposes, such as realty, tourism and other plantation crops. In such circumstances, the best option seems to be look abroad.

China has begun acquiring rubber plantations in countries such as Laos, Cambodia, Ethiopia and Vietnam. It is attempting to build a strategic reserve in rubber, just as it has done for crude oil. This is aimed at giving it a controlling interest in natural rubber. It need not be at the mercy of one country or another to get the required supply of the commodity. India's rubber industries and tyre manufacturers would like the Centre to emulate China's approach.

India can use its credibility and good offices to acquire land in Africa or in the East Asian countries. On the other hand, it will also pose a new challenge to the Rubber Board to replicate its success at home. It should be remembered that the success stories around corporates acquiring land in Africa or East Asia to grow flowers, vegetables or oilseeds may not extend naturally to rubber. Flowers, vegetables and oilseeds provide quick returns on investments, whereas it takes seven years for a new rubber plantation to begin yielding. Therefore, some sort of bilateral investment protection pact between India and the country where lands are to be acquired will provide some security. Such a long-term view is the need of the hour, given the fact that land availability in the country is shrinking fast and the explosion of growth in automobiles puts the tyre manufacturers in an unenviable position.






We may have to think of a different growth model in view of the public protests over land, the environment and tribals. We could develop manufacturing centres all over the country, with a thrust on the use of local resources.

With two decades of economic reform behind us, we are yet to see an upsurge in the manufacturing sector. The paradigm of double-digit growth continues to elude it. The process of unshackling manufacturing from controls and regulations had essentially started with the Seventh Plan (1985-90), that had signalled a major shift in our approach to industrial development. In the new environment that ensued, the moribund manufacturing sector was sought to be resuscitated, and poised for growth, modernisation and diversification.

The effect was immediate. Average annual growth in India's manufacturing sector, which had declined from 8 per cent during 1950-65 to 4.6 per cent during 1965-80, rose to 6.8 per cent in 1980-85 and further to 7.6 per cent during 1985-90.

Then, starting from 1991, we pursued a policy of liberalisation, globalisation and macro-economic (mainly fiscal) re-structuring, exposing our manufacturing sector to external competition. Following that, the sector has also undergone some significant qualitative and structural changes, in favour of capital and technology-intensive industries such as automobiles, pharmaceuticals, chemicals and petrochemicals, electrical goods, and electronics.

The small-scale sector too had re-organised and responded positively as supporting industries. Liberalisation of trade and industrial policies has indeed enabled the emergence of a class of globally competitive entrepreneurs in almost every sector.


Yet, we are far from realising the potential that can make us a global manufacturing hub, alongside China. This sector has failed to emerge as the prime mover of a highly populous economy. Its share in GDP is still only 15 per cent, compared with 45 per cent in China. What is more, the contribution of manufacturing in total organised sector employment is only 8 per cent.

While presenting the Budget proposals for 2011-12, the Finance Minister had underlined the need for increasing the contribution of manufacturing activities in the GDP to 25 per cent. He had announced that the government would come with a suitable manufacturing policy.

Earlier, the UPA-I government had set up a high-powered National manufacturing Competitiveness Council, with the objective of achieving 15 per cent annual growth in this sector. This goal, however, has remained a pipedream so far. Now that we are talking of increasing the share of manufacturing in our GDP to 25 per cent, a few points may be mentioned. First, we need to appreciate that increasing the share from current 15 per cent to 25 per cent is not a simple job that can be achieved with a mere policy for this sector. This means a significant structural transformation for the economy.

Focus on increasing the share of manufacturing has to keep in mind the imperative of building and strengthening inter-sectoral linkages. Among others, any strategy to ensure higher share of manufacturing must have strong focus on processing of, and value addition over, products from primary sector. To be specific, it must take the interest of agriculture into account and manufacturing sector should absorb surplus labour from rural areas.

Second, any talk of increasing the share of manufacturing is essentially about increasing the growth in this sector. If we are talking of increasing share from 15 per cent to 25 per cent, what is the growth rate we need for this sector? Also, how are we going to achieve that?

If we look at the period 2002-03 to 2007-08, which is the period of best growth so far since 2000-01, average annual growth in manufacturing GDP at 8.9 per cent was same as that of GDP growth, and average annual share of manufacturing in GDP was 15.8 per cent. From this, it is obvious that for the manufacturing sector to account for 25 per cent of GDP, this sector would have to achieve a very high rate of growth, an annual average of around 15 per cent. Incidentally, in the last fiscal year, industrial growth has come down to 7.8 per cent as against 10.5 per cent in 2009-10.


For long, we have been talking about this, but except occasionally, we have never achieved double-digit growth. What we see instead is growing obstacles to manufacturing growth. Worse still, we seem to have a tendency to let manufacturing growth suffer in the face of macroeconomic crises, such as inflation.

Obstacles of the past such as inadequate infrastructure, credit constraints, low labour productivity and high overhead costs, remain unmitigated, and now we have at least four new obstacles of insurmountable dimensions. These are: Land, Environment, Forest and Tribals (LEFT). Industry is additionally faced with these four LEFT issues. The intensity of public protest around these issues has been increasing and raising serious doubts as to the future prospects for large industrial projects in the country.

Given the growing intensity of public intervention in matters relating to LEFT and lack of policy clarity, there is apparently no immediate way out of the impasse that we find ourselves in today. At the same time, the imperative of higher double-digit manufacturing growth cannot be postponed for long.


In this context, we may have to think of a different model of manufacturing growth. The new model of growth has to be pro-people in terms of employment, environment and better living standards. It requires that we develop a plethora of manufacturing centres all over the country, maybe one centre for each district, with a thrust on maximum utilisation of locally available resources including land, raw materials and people.

Obviously, we would need to redirect our focus on developing a stream of competitive small and medium scale units and encouraging development of local entrepreneurship in tune with the imperative of competitiveness, efficiency and globalisation. Liberalisation at the grassroots levels of administration, under the active guidance of the State governments, would go along way in ushering a manufacturing revolution in the country.

(The author is President, JK Organisation. The views are personal.






It is essential that corporates build an understanding of XBRL and its applicability within their organisations.

EXtensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL) is an open technology standard which makes it possible to store business and financial information in a computer-readable format.

It is a way to "bar code" information contained in income statements, balance sheets, text information included within the footnotes and other requirements of business reporting.

Many countries and/or financial regulators have approved, or are in the process of implementing, requirements around XBRL as the electronic financial reporting standard. These include the US, Japan, UK, Australia and China to name a few.

Now, India can be added to this list. On April 1, 2011, the Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) posted a circular on its Web site requiring listed companies as well as companies above a certain size (paid-up capital greater than Rs 5 crore or turnover greater than Rs 100 crore) to file their 2010-11 financial information using XBRL format. This represents a significant change in the manner in which companies are required to share financial information with the MCA.

XBRL works through tagging or associating individual items of information (in the accounts or computations) with machine readable code known as XBRL.

To make this process manageable all the available and required 'tags' are contained in what is known as a 'taxonomy'.

Draft taxonomy

The MCA posted a draft taxonomy on its Web site on April 15. The taxonomy is based on the existing Schedule VI of the Companies Act and includes over 3,000 elements ('tags').

It allows tagging of not only the primary statements but also detailed footnotes (e.g. depreciation policy). The final taxonomy and business rules for XBRL reporting would be notified by May 20.

Companies in the financial services sector in India, i.e. insurance entities, banking and non-banking finance companies, comply with sectoral regulatory requirements as directed by entities such as the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDA) and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).

The current MCA draft taxonomy does not appear to support the various sector-specific regulatory requirements.

We understand that as a result, an extended timeline may apply for companies in the financial services sector as well as the power sector, in order to allow for development of taxonomies incorporating respective regulatory inputs.

The draft taxonomy appears to contain elements pertaining to quarterly filing under Clause 41 requirements of Securities & Exchange Board of India (SEBI). Although there has been no official announcement as of yet, it is interesting to note that SEBI is currently developing SUPER-D ("SEBI Unified Platform for Electronic Reporting – Dissemination") which is a platform enabling it to receive financial and business information in XBRL format.

Keeping in mind all of the above, companies should note that there is less than six months, given the September 30, 2011 filing requirement as per the circular, to prepare XBRL format information. In addition, while the taxonomy and business rules are expected to be released soon, the option for XBRL format filing is expected to be made available on the MCA Web site only from July 15 onwards.

Appropriate strategy

It is essential that corporates build an understanding of XBRL and its applicability within their organisations. Various options exist in order to produce XBRL-compliant information, such as outsourcing the preparation of XBRL to a third party or producing the information in-house. In-house implementation will require purchase of appropriate software and training staff as well as integration of the software into existing financial and business information platforms. The appropriate strategy will depend on a number of factors such as the availability of resources within the organisation with the right skill set, complexity of the financial statements, and existing information technology environment in the company.

In particular, companies should note that finalisation of XBRL filing rules from the MCA is a critical component from both the compliance perspective as well as for any software provider as their validation tools would need to be customised to the Indian requirements.

Given the tight timelines, companies should begin the process as soon as possible. A late start may prove costly not only by impacting upon the quality of the deliverable but may also result in missing the deadline.

(The authors are Associate Director & Manager at Ernst & Young respectively. The views expressed herein are personal. )










Anew boss, Pratip Chaudhuri, is at the helm of India's largest bank SBI and he's decided to clean up the mess from the bank's books and air out its musty corners. The result is a 99% fall in fourth quarter profits and a big jump in provisioning for bad loans and pensions for its army of employees. The stock has dipped thereafter, but what should investors really watch out for? First, we believe that Mr Chaudhuri has done the right thing by clearing out the mess swept under the carpet by his predecessors in one go. The RBI had always argued that teaser loans — which enticed people to take home loans at low rates, which would eventually go up — were not a good idea. But that was former chairman O P Bhatt's silver bullet to expand market share. With a hit of . 500 crore, it now turns out to have been an exceptionally costly move. Putting money aside for future pensions is a good idea, but Mr Chaudhuri needs to follow it up by trimming the bank's workforce. At the head of a government flagship, he can't be expected to fire people, but he can cut employees over time with increased automation and by not hiring people for redundant posts.

Second, it's good to note that SBI has shed its burden of farm loan waivers, something that has helped it cut overall bad debt from March last year, even though the burden of loans which had to be restructured after the financial crisis has grown marginally. In future, the bank has to be very careful about the quality of borrowers, it simply can't afford another round of massive writedowns. The biggest risk to SBI is policy-induced — as interest rates head north, deposit rates are rising, but lending rates can't go up sharply because of competition among lenders at home and nearly-free money globally. This is bound to squeeze net interest margins to less than 3% from the stellar 3.5% margins that SBI enjoyed earlier. But this is a risk that is not peculiar to SBI; all banks face the same margin squeeze. To diversify its earnings, SBI should focus on businesses where margins can be higher: insurance, corporate and investment banking. It is the government's default merchant banker for divestments and PSUs. Now it should woo private sector clients too.








The transition at the helm of any company should be as smooth and planned as it was at Genpact Ltd. The announcement by current chief executive officer Pramod Bhasin that he would step down on June 17 to make way for chief operating officer N V 'Tiger' Tyagarajan to take over passed almost as a non-event. Perhaps, that was so as the change was anticipated, and it was just a matter of time before the event took place. Genpact is one of those companies that have a clear succession plan laid out for all its key divisions, including the top job. So when Tyagarajan was promoted as COO in February 2009, it was only natural to expect that he would be groomed to succeed Bhasin. More so, because he had been in the leadership position at GE Capital International Services, the earlier avatar of Genpact. Sure enough, the shares of the company experienced only a wobble on NYSE following the Monday announcement, a clear sign that markets were comfortable with the change and that it was along expected lines.

Ideally, all businesses should have a well-defined succession plan, particularly for critical positions in the company. Well-defined succession planning serves several purposes: it charts out a growth plan for senior management: when each person knows where he or she is going, the temptation to switch jobs is that much less. By helping to preserve continuity in management, succession planning ensures that a company's ethos, culture and professional edge stays inhouse. All these matter to stakeholders in the company, particularly shareholders who seek consistent and continued returns on their investment. An outsider may not inspire the same level of confidence as someone who has been groomed for the job. In the specific case of Genpact, not many may walk out of the company disappointed with the change of guard. In the longer term, much will depend on the leadership style of the new CEO and his ability to carry the team . Chances are he will not effect significant changes early on in his term. Above all, being an insider and a known entity, Tyagarajan should find the transition easy.







When manufacturers and marketers are desperate to grab whatever opportunity comes their way to sell their wares, not many seem to have caught on to a potential boom sector: elections. Every five years, India offers the people a chance to stock up on whatever is lacking in their homes or lives, as it coincides with the pangs of benevolence — and the resultant periodic munificence — of political parties. If these parties research what the people want before they make their getthese-if-you-vote-for-us wishlists, then marketers can step in and help out with region-specific consumption data of products. Even if parties simply go with conventional wisdom or rely on instinct — falling back on time-tested favourites like colour TVs, kitchen appliances, bicycles, school uniforms and textbooks, fans, gold for m a n g als u t r a s and, of late, laptops — it still spells opportunity. There's no such thing as truly free freebies and someone has to pay for them before they are gifted. This means handsome profits all round, given the right 'incentive'. And if markets for some specific goods can be created or catalysed then it can widen the band of manufacturers who can participate in our grand spectacle of democracy.
The only potential (political) party pooper is infrastructure or, more precisely, the lack thereof. Bicycles need roads, uniforms and textbooks need schools and appliances need electricity; so freebies can backfire without back-end support. The chances of a profitable outcome can be high if marketers, parties and the people can agree on items that suit them all but are not dependent on infrastructure upgrades. Before the next elections come round, they all may just find it worth their while to prep their respective wishlists well in advance. Time is money, after all.







When Indian investigation agencies got moving at last to get to the bottom of the corruption in telecoms and began to question the role of corporate executives, an alarm was raised that investors would be frightened away. India needs investments to grow and cannot afford to scare investors. Policymakers are bemused. What do corporations really want? International surveys of corporate executives' views of the attractiveness of countries for investments put the rule of law and less corruption as major factors. Surely then, efforts to impose laws, finally, should make India more attractive for investments, not less. The truth is that what matters most of all to investors is the size and growth of the market, and the stability of the 'rules of the game'.

The rules of the game are not merely the written rules — the laws — but also the 'unwritten rules', the ways in which things are actually done. In many societies, it is an unwritten rule, known to all, that the written rule shall not apply. A sudden change in this rule with the vigorous application of laws, and that too equally to all, can be very disconcerting to investors. Investors like predictability. They knew how the old system worked and had developed the capabilities to succeed. Change is disconcerting.

India has been a less attractive destination for FDI than China so far. When UPA-I was elected in 2004, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh requested Indian business leaders in the US to lend a hand to attract more investments to India. Soon after, a dozen persons of Indian origin, all CXOs of large US MNCs, met in New York to discuss what the strategy should be. Their companies had invested in China, and some in India. Of course, their principal operations were in the US.

As the meeting began, the refrain was the contrast between China and India. The Chinese system was easier to work with. In India, one had to work with a plethora of government agencies at the Centre and in the states. Moreover, there were civil society organisations that could obstruct decisions. Whereas in China, once the signal was given, everyone fell in line. The chairman of the meeting, the senior-most executive present, gently inquired of those who were complaining about India, about the extent of their public affairs management within the US. How many federal and state agencies did they have to work with in the US, how many senators and members of Congress, and how about NGOs and the media? India was not like China, but neither was the US, all agreed. Yet, the US and China attracted more FDI than any other country. Because both were very large markets, and though unlike each other in the way their internal systems worked, investors knew their rules of the game.

What corporate investors want of a country is known. But what do citizens of those countries want from corporations? The Edelman Trust Barometer provides clues. It is an annual survey of citizens in many countries to ascertain changes in their levels of trust in institutions: government, business corporations, NGOs and the media. In all countries, survey participants are college educated and in the top 25% by household incomes. The results of the most recent survey are revealing. In India, 70% of respondents trusted business corporations, whereas 61% Chinese did, and only 46% in the US. (Edelman qualifies that the survey was conducted in October 2010 before the inquiries into the telecom scandals in India got into high gear). In China, 88% respondents trusted their government, only 44% Indians and 40% US citizens. The most significant findings of the survey, according to Edelman, are the surge in trust in NGOs across the world, and the change in what citizens expect of business corporations. In China (63%) and the US (55%), NGOs are already more trusted than business. In India (at 61%) trust in NGOs is catching up with business.

It is significant that these college educated and wellto-do participants in the survey, many of whom could be expected to be investors in the stock market, are losing faith in Milton Friedman's dictum that the business of business must be only business. Whereas a majority agrees that the social responsibility of business is to increase profits, an even larger number among them say that corporations must 'create shareholder value in a way that aligns with society's interests even if that means sacrificing shareholder value'. Add to that another finding that should make business leaders sit up. Though citizens do not trust governments much, yet they 'want government to step into regulate business corporations to make them behave in a responsible manner' (China: 62%; US: 61%; India: 61%).

India must change the rules of the game to create a society that is fair and good for everyone. Corporations have always espoused that the rule of law must operate. Citizens want corporations to pay more attention to society's needs, not merely to shareholders. NGOs are increasingly being counted upon to keep corporations honest. And citizens want governments too to step in and regulate corporations more effectively. At the same time, India does need more investments to grow industries to provide good productive jobs, which is the best way to ensure inclusion in growth. India is an attractive, large market. What the country needs now is a transparent, and effective, process for government, corporations and civil society organisations to work together to define new rules of the game.









As the unparalleled Left Front reign in West Bengal has come to an end, what holds real interest for the Left and its observers is how the communists will cope with the crisis in their stronghold, the decline at the national stage and the methods they will resort to recoup. For the future of the Left, it is critical the collective leadership shows political and pragmatic mettle to honestly introspect and displays courage and vision for a realistic rebuilding.

That is the crux of the matter. The rest, like the song-anddance on "Whether Buddha and Biman have quit?" or "Why Karat is not resigning?", etc is entertainment that makes many wonder why such 'persuasive speculation/ expectation' of 'moral abdication' was missing when 'Team Sonia' led the Congress to two consecutive LS poll defeats or after the 'Team Advani' piloted the NDA's 2009 poll project to nowhere.

The Left has lost its West Bengal fort after holding it for a period that no other political party ever will repeat in India. At a time when 'threetermers' like Sheila Diskhit, Tarun Gogoi and Navin Patnaik and 'two-termers' like Nitish, Modi, Raman Singh and Shivraj Singh are being hailed as "incumbency heroes", the Left had coolly won seven consecutive elections over 34 years. If the Bengal CPI-M bosses were to now start a crash-course on "how to win elections", ever their worst political rivals might be tempted to seek admission! Of course, the Left finally lost Bengal badly, in all regions and among all social segments. Yet it polled over 41% votes, something that might alert Mamata Banerjee —now being torn between the pushers for 'painful reform shots' and her political instincts to be pro-aam aadmi—to be mindful of her steps.

The Congress in Kerala, despite coming to power in every alternate election, never dares to move far away from the "welfare administrative line" their Left rivals had drawn. It took Mamata to preach/practice the 'Leftist doctrine/methods' in Nandigram-Singur to reinvent herself. One wonders how far CM Mamata will be prepared to depart from "the beaten path of Communist Bengal" to reposition post-Left Bengal. That is a tussle Mamata has to manage given the conflicting interests of her cheerleaders and political constituency. Buddhadeb, too, faced such a test when he was cheered as the 'Bengali Deng Xiaoping'! The rout in Bengal poses a huge crisis for the Left. But then, it also offers an opportunity to learn and reinvent itself. For the first time in 34 years, the Bengali Marxists will visit the ground zero of life and struggle in the Opposition. A long stint in government has made most of them agents of power and its spoils with unbridled arrogance and intolerance as their basic instincts. Buddhadeb and Biman Bose may carry on with their austere lifestyles, but thousands of party apparatchiks from Kolkata to districts down the line who had been acting as power-brokers and arm-twisters by systematically corrupting the decentralisation drive, will now find life intolerable. It may be the right time for the leadership to try a purification drive.

Prakash Karat's plans to cap the terms of party bosses will be an important tweaking of a monolith outfit but, indeed, what will be required is nothing short of a total overhaul of the party psyche, by shedding dogmas and the cultivated inward-looking existence. The failure of Communist Bengal to emerge as a "role model" in all-round progress — beyond land reforms — is the Left's self-sponsored advertisement on the perils of persisting with outdated administrative mantras, or trying mere ad hoc adjustments without formally acknowledging the need to change theory and practice. Realisations like the inability to connect with the postliberalisation middle class and youth, failure to grow beyond three states, misadventure with the "anti-Congress", "non-BJP" Third Front and the fanciful 'nonparticipation theory' for Delhi will not help unless the CPI-M and CPI brass make a realistic reassessment and readjustment vis-a-vis the changing realities — like the remaining communists are doing elsewhere in the world. Much will depend on the internal churning in (re)drawing the political line before the party congresses.

For a country of India's disparities, it is important the Left reinvents itself as viable force of sober concerns. Even the Left's critics and rivals on the fast-tracks of life will need such a watchdog to give them an occasional reminder about the people on the margins.







Turmoil across the Middle East and North Africa has refocused attention on the impact that political tensions or interference can have on the price and availability of energy imports. Against consumer fears of gasprice hikes, energy security ranks high on many western governments' policy agendas. A new trend, though, is that policies that just a few years ago were being touted to fight climate change are being presented as a necessary way to increase energy security. Against the backdrop of the financial crisis, and as public support for climate-change policies scrapes new lows in many developed countries, we hear less from leaders about the threat of global warming, and more about the supposed economic benefits of climate policies. This shift is hardly surprising, given the increasing number of analyses that demonstrate that current — unilateral — climate policies will have virtually no impact on the rise in global temperature.

The European Union offers a classic illustration of this point. Its "20-20-20" climate plan — by far the most comprehensive climate-change policy in effect anywhere — aims to reduce greenhousegas emissions by 20% from 1990 levels by 2020, ensure that renewable energy delivers 20% of energy consumption, and cut primary energy use by 20%.

An analysis of the costs and benefits of the policy in 2010 by climate economist Richard Tol showed that the annual price tag would be around €210 billion. Running the policy through the RICE climate-economic model reveals that by the end of this century, it will reduce temperature rises by just 0.05°C. Undaunted by the policy's utterly feeble impact on global warming, politicians have declared that the policy will at least enhance the EU's energy security. So the Copenhagen Consensus Center asked Prof Christoph Böhringer and Andreas Keller of the University of Oldenburg to test this claim.

Of course, the notion of energy security is fuzzy. In their research paper, "Energy Security: An Impact Assessment of the EU Climate and Energy Package", Böhringer and Keller note that the EU has never set itself a clear metric for energy security.

Despite — or because of — this lack of definition and measurability, policymakers, write Böhringer and Keller, "exploit the energy security argument to justify a myriad of measures". Such measures even include bans on light bulbs and patio heaters, tax breaks for bicycle owners, standards for tire pressure, and tests for fuel-efficient driving — none of which would appear to have much impact on the level of Russian or Middle Eastern oil imports.

What is clear, according to Böhringer and Keller, is that the EU Climate and Energy Package violates basic principles of cost-effectiveness, if the sole objective is emission reduction. The package stands out for its tangle of instruments — and thus the risk of counterproductive, overlapping regulation, which will substantially increase costs compared to an effective climate policy.

The researchers measure the impact of the 20-20-20 package through independent energy-security indices. Without implementation of the package, slightly more than half of Europe's energy needs would be met by imported fossil fuel by 2020, compared to 50% today. If the EU is successful in reducing CO2 emissions by 20% by 2020, Böhringer and Keller find that its reliance on imported fossil fuel would be reduced by just two percentage points. This is an awfully long way from self-reliance. Of course, the EU 20-20-20 plan aims to do more than just reduce emissions; it also attempts to increase renewable-energy use and cut overall energy consumption. The researchers find that the full 20-20-20 plan would actually mean "increased energy imports as well as increased price risks" — mainly because the tax imposed on electricity to achieve the efficiency target of the 20-20-20 plan will affect nuclear power the most. In other words, the very policy that was supposed to achieve greater energy security is in fact likely to hike prices and lead to greater reliance on energy imports.
It is worth noting that these outcomes are based on the optimistic reference scenario used in the US Department of Energy's International Energy Outlook, under which renewable-energy use will grow at a higher rate than in the past. Without this expectation, the EU's policy would likely be even more costly.

In many western countries, policies are increasingly being wrapped in promises of greater energy security rather than in threats of climate catastrophes. But, because energy security is such a vague concept, these policies are seldom subjected to rigorous scrutiny to determine whether they will live up to politicians' claims. As the new research shows, we should be especially cautious about the claims of politicians who use current events to justify the old, ineffective climatechange policies on the new and equally problematic basis of energy security.
(The author is head of the Copenhagen Consensus Center, and adjunct professor at Copenhagen Business School)









In an early, autobiographical essay, Manohar Shetty who has just published his fourth book of poems, Personal Effects says, "I write poems because I need to. It is not an act of will, but must come, as Anne Stevenson says of love, as naturally "as a Ferris wheel to its fair".


Born in 1953, and educated in Panchgani and Mumbai (he can't believe he was once studying Mercantile Law and Statistics), he has edited a book of short stories from Goa, Ferry Crossing, works as a journalist, and as a literary consultant. He lives in Goa, in Dona Paula, and his flat has a stunning view of sea, rock and trees. Yet the first poem, 'Stills from Baga Beach', is a precise, venomously observed set of sketches of the kind of tourist who has made North Goa so tacky. "The German studies the Vedanta/In translation through chromax/Dark glasses, her oozing/Tattoo mobbed by/Bluebottles."


So what happened to the Goa of "golden sunsets, opalescent seas, sinuous, silvery rivers and riotous green" that feature in the essay (along with the tackiness)? He rejects the popular idea that there is "intrinsic poetry in external beauty. The provenance of poetry lies elsewhere." Beautiful things don't automatically translate into poetry. Poetry lies in the poet's ability to catch a "drifting wisp of thought and image, link such images, anchor them to a comprehensible reality tautened by language and the tug of emotion, so that they create a living identity of their own".


Reading whatever he could get his hands on as a young man, he came across the poems of Ted Hughes and was stunned by them. "Their power and immediacy have left a lasting impression on me," Manohar says in a recent note to me, about his extensive use of animal imagery from his very first book onwards. "His poems spoke unerringly about evil and the power and legacy of evil. In poems such as 'View of a Pig', 'Ghost Crabs', he depicts the innate savagery of modern civilisation. For me, animals and birds are extended metaphors for human behaviour, more social than primal."


'Find' is about the disappearance and displacement of the last porcupine from the housing colony in which Manohar lives. "But this porcupine was a find,/Neither tame nor wild; trapped between/Root, rock and lit verandahs/And the fibreglass of steelgrey cars,/Bristling with a tough/Disregard for the human touch,/Never to be patted or leashed." In 'Termite', he warns that the flattering image in the mirror is not really the person looking at it. True, the "the rakish cleft,/The ironical eyebrows--/They're all yours./But open the door just/a fraction more (and don't/Fly off the handle). Look/At the arterial/Tunnels of mud./That's you now: must/Dryrot and sawdust."


In 'The Hyenas' Manohar brings together two themes about which he writes so well – his children, and animals. His little girl has a bad asthmatic attack. "Her tiny/hands are wet petals in my hand." In contrast to this exquisite tenderness is the savagery of the attack, "the drooling/packs converge: amidst red/Laughter, claws tear/at gizzard, sweating pigling,/Roe, soft brain, and lamb".

    One of the most moving poems in the book is called, 'With the children gone', an experience many will recognise. With the children gone, "rows of shoes grow/too big for our boots,/too scuffed to save./We leaf through frayed/textbooks (the stress, the distress!)/We are the small print,/the forgotten subtext/longing to be read,/longing to hear all/that's left unsaid."


Commenting on the poetry, Arvind Krishna Mehrotra says, "A spare richness marked his poems from the start and, over the decades, this hasn't changed… Occasionally, the glow of Shetty's poems comes from an unflinching acceptance of the changes wrought by the passage of time… This is poetry so naturally memorable that you don't need to consciously memorise it." Some of the poems have been translated into Italian, German, Finnish and Slovenian.




                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL




On the face of it, the reportedly inaccurate compilation of India's "most wanted" list of 50 terrorists residing in Pakistan — with the connivance and protection of its authorities — is a huge embarrassment. The list contains names of Indian nationals — the most notorious of whom is Dawood Ibrahim, who now figures as the world's most wanted terrorist — as well as Pakistanis such as Hafiz Saeed, the inspiration behind Lashkar-e-Tayyaba. The catalogue of 50 was officially tendered to the Pakistanis with the demand that Islamabad extradite them to India. And this is the cause of the embarrassment, for it has been revealed that a terror suspect, Wazhul Kamar Khan, actually lives in Thane and punctiliously attends court proceedings to clear his name. His family says he has never set foot in Pakistan. If investigations show this is indeed the case, then heads must roll as Islamabad is apt to exploit the situation and protest its innocence with greater stridency, all the while seeking to cast doubts on India's investigation into all cases of terrorism where the finger is pointed at Pakistan. But Pakistan will be protesting too much. The country has with justification acquired the dubious reputation of being Terrorism Central. This was only reinforced when it was discovered Osama bin Laden, the founder of Al Qaeda, was living in a luxurious mansion almost next to the Pakistan military academy and not too far from Islamabad, obviously with official blessings. Pakistan's credibility deficit has as a result widened considerably. The goof-up in the Wazhul case shows up the Indian bureaucratic system at its maladroit worst. But this must not be allowed to detract from the core issue — that it is a strategic decision by the Pakistan establishment to harbour terrorists who strike at India since its Army cannot do so openly without raising the world's hackles. The list of 50 may come down by one if the Wazhul case has merit, but the list remains. The lesson to be learnt is to watch out against bureaucratic bungling, but not to slacken the pursuit against Islamabad's malevolence. Indeed, in ironical ways, it is to the credit of this country's transparent democracy that a case like this is officially acknowledged rightaway (unlike military-run Pakistan, which for long tried to deny that Ajmal Kasab, the lone Pakistani terrorist caught alive in the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, was one of its own). In the same way, the Indian authorities immediately focus attention on the Hindu extremists in the Samjhauta blast case when the evidence pointed that way. In Pakistan, such course correction is unthinkable. Post-Osama bin Laden, nothing really has changed in Islamabad. Any hope of the military-ISI structure being put in its place after the Abbottabad embarrassment has been belied. It is therefore unrealistic to expect that the Pakistani establishment will be concerned in the least about taking action on India's "most wanted" list, other than raise a smokescreen to obfuscate, duck and weave, and threaten and browbeat. (Of this the Americans — for long so solicitous of their client state — are now getting a taste!) In fact, to divert attention from the Abbottabad fiasco, the Pakistanis are already playing the anti-India card to the hilt. Although there has been no provocation from the Indian side, ISI chief Ahmad Shuja Pasha has gone to the ridiculous extent of informing Pakistan's Parliament at a recent briefing that Indian "targets" had been identified and "rehearsals" undertaken to strike at them. This was obviously said with the clearance of the Army Chief: a part of the military establishment's strategy is to extricate itself from the humiliation caused by Bin Laden' killing under its very nose. Without a doubt, therefore, this country needs to keep its guard up.






In foreign policy, as in domestic politics, timing matters a great deal. The Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh's visit to Afghanistan could not have come at a more opportune moment. The killing of Osama bin Laden has concentrated the international community's attention on the Afghanistan-Pakistan theatre as few developments could have. As the Afghan government and the various international actors prepare for the much-awaited "endgame", the visit afforded India an opportunity to clarify its own interests, goals and strategy. These will need to be fine-tuned as the situation unfolds, but the basic markers of Indian policy in Afghanistan have been laid down. Since the overthrow of the Taliban regime in 2001, India has sought to carve out for itself a distinctive space in Afghanistan. The emphasis in Indian policy has been on cultivating strong political ties with Kabul and on reaching out to the people of Afghanistan. The principal — but not the sole — instrument deployed by India in pursuit of these objectives has been economic and developmental assistance. India has emerged as the largest non-traditional donor to Afghanistan and has already extended aid to the tune of $1.6 billion. Much of this aid went towards the reconstruction of infrastructure (especially roads and electricity), health, education and community development projects. Successive opinion polls and surveys have shown that the Indian effort is viewed positively by an overwhelming majority of the people. The Afghanistan President, Mr Hamid Karzai, has remarked more than once that India provides "emotional strategic depth" to the Afghan people. It is not surprising, therefore, that Dr Singh announced an acceleration of India's efforts in this direction. He has pledged an addition $500 million for developmental activities. The focus will be on increasing our contribution in the areas of health, education, transportation, agriculture and small developmental projects. Further, India will also scale up its assistance in building the capacity of the Afghan state at various levels. Equally significant is the decision to embark on a "comprehensive economic partnership". These, together with New Delhi's willingness to participate in the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India pipeline project, underline the new instruments of statecraft that a rising India is capable of employing. On the political front, India has focused on building links with the elected government of Afghanistan. After 2001, New Delhi has sought to shed its image as solely a patron of the non-Pashtun groups that had opposed the Taliban (the so-called Northern Alliance). It has not only built close ties with the Karzai government, but has urged the other non-Taliban groups to work with Mr Karzai. It is no coincidence that many of India's developmental projects have been undertaken in the Pashtun-dominated areas. Indeed, India has systematically sought to refurbish its standing amongst the Pashtuns as well as other ethnic groups in Afghanistan. Similarly, India has sought to steer clear of the Western coalition in Afghanistan and has focused on interacting directly with the ministries in Kabul and in the provinces. In the last couple of years, though, questions were raised about India's willingness to stick on in Afghanistan. Not only was the insurgency gathering strength, but Indian installations were directly targeted. Further, the United States seemed to sympathise with Pakistan's demand that India keep a low-profile in Afghanistan. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, former commander of US forces in Afghanistan, famously warned of Pakistani counter-measures against India. Dr Singh's visit has reaffirmed India's commitment to Afghanistan. Dr Singh rightly emphasised the bilateral dimension of this relationship and refused to accord excessive importance to the Pakistan angle. This approach is realistic. India has some key and irreducible interests in Afghanistan, but these interests should not be overstated. Unlike Pakistan, we do not share a border with Afghanistan. The notion that India and Pakistan are in a zero-sum game in Afghanistan is not merely erroneous, but problematic too. By unnecessarily magnifying our interests, we at once risk strategic overreach and setting ourselves up for failure. Fortunately, the Indian government's appreciation of its interests is more subtle than that of its critics who routinely present Afghanistan as a "test case" for an emerging India. In line with this assessment of its interests, the Indian government has also recalibrated its position on two key issues. The first relates to the process of reconciliation with elements of the Taliban. Dr Singh explicitly stated that India "welcomes and supports" the Karzai government's efforts in this direction. In the past, New Delhi has spoken out against attempts to distinguish between "good" and "bad" Taliban, so indicating its unease with the reconciliation process. But it is now clear that these efforts will go on. Indeed, there are multiple tracks through which attempts are being made to reach out to the various Taliban groups. India has done well to modify its earlier position and come out in support of Mr Karzai's plans. To be sure, the reconciliation process will give Pakistan renewed importance. But there is little India can do apart from impressing upon Mr Karzai the need to stick to the red lines drawn by his own government, that is, the insurgents should be willing to forsake violence and abide by the Afghan Constitution. The second issue pertains to security. Dr Singh observed that India was willing to extend its support for Kabul's efforts in this area. Such assistance, it appears, will mostly take the form of police training. Strengthening the police is critical to preparing the Afghan state to assume responsibility for counterinsurgency operations in the months and years ahead. But it is equally important that New Delhi keeps an eye on the performance of the Afghan Army. On paper its numbers have increased considerable. But its effectiveness remains to be tested. The drawdown of Western troops in Afghanistan is inevitable. But this does not portend a return to the 1990s, when India became a marginal player in Afghanistan. A strong political and economic presence coupled with focused security sector assistance seems the appropriate strategy. Those demanding a muscular military presence in Afghanistan would do well to recall Talleyrand's dictum: Above all, no excessive zeal. * Srinath Raghavan is a Senior Fellow at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi







Disbelief, shame, humiliation... the French have no words left. The images of a handcuffed and unshaven Dominique are constantly being aired on all the news channels of the world. The demise of a powerful man — the managing director of the International Monetary Fund who was poised, according to many public opinion polls, to be the next President of France — are as shocking as they are destabilising. Yet in the French reactions one can clearly sense a gender divide. Women tend to concentrate on the accusations — "How could he have he done it? To be a womaniser is one thing, to be accused of sexual assault even in a Latin culture is another: let justice decide". Men are more divided between their sense of unease over what Strauss-Kahn is accused of and resentment of the way he has been treated by American justice and police officials. The violence of egalitarian justice, the deliberate humiliation of a man presumed innocent until found guilty, is unsettling to them, and arouses echoes of a cultural anti-Americanism that had largely disappeared since the election of US President Barack Obama. In some quarters, the question "what's wrong with Strauss-Kahn" has almost been replaced by "what's wrong with the United States?" Beyond the personal tragedy of a man and his family, the consequences of the scandal are manifold — for France, for France's image in the world, for the fate of the euro, and, ultimately for the image of the West in the emerging world. For France, this is a political earthquake. With the fall from grace of the favourite in the presidential sweepstakes all the cards have been reshuffled. The only comment one can make with any certainty is that the anti-elite feelings aroused by the scandal will increase the chances of the extreme-Right National Front Party of Marine Le Pen in the presidential elections. Beyond the presidential election, there is also a deep sense of national humiliation and shame in France. France's top civil servants and economists have long occupied prominent international positions, thereby reinforcing France's global influence. Now the question is whether the Strauss-Kahn scandal will accelerate the "marginalisation" of a country that, like other Western powers, has to adjust to the realities of a more multipolar world? For Europe and the euro, the scandal could not come at a worse moment. Dominique Strauss-Kahn was a highly respected and competent negotiator, a man who could convince by the power of his personality and the strength of his arguments. He will be missed at a crucial moment as the euro is locked in a fateful struggle in Greece, Portugal, Ireland and Spain. In emerging countries, such as China and India, the Strauss-Kahn scandal may serve as the confirmation of what Asians have been saying for quite some time now: "Our time has come". On May 16, the house of Lehman Brothers fell, they may think, today the head of the International Monetary Fund succumbs in an ignominious and shocking manner. How can the West pretend to teach us lessons in financial capitalism? The moment has come for emerging powers to seize the baton and assume our legitimate share of international responsibilities. According to the New York police, Strauss-Kahn is a sort of Jekyll and Hyde, but he is also emerging as a dark "man for all seasons" — a Frenchman for the Americans, a Western man for the Asians. A personal tragedy can be a highly symbolic moment. * Dominique Moïsi is a senior adviser at the French Institute for International Relations, and the author, most recently, of Un Juif Improbable By arrangement with the International Herald Tribune







Cong must drop its scam-hit ally By E.V.K.S. Elangovan Sagavasa Dhosham, or "the sin of friendship" — many of my Congress colleagues in Tamil Nadu, still licking their wounds after the recent mauling, have been talking about this dhosham as the single factor that contributed to their terrible fall. Even if one steps away from individual wailings, the humiliation suffered by a great institution, the Indian National Congress, is hugely hurtful. The Congress did not deserve it. Over the years the Congress has enjoyed the reputation of propelling its Dravidian ally to victory in Tamil Nadu. Whichever party teamed up with the Congress — the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) or the All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), they made it to Fort St George, the seat of power. The Congress itself did not benefit from these alliances in state elections and was always content with gains those ties yielded in Parliament. Hardcore Congressmen like me have been pleading that this strategy of giving almost all of the political space in the state to the Dravidian ally in return for a few seats in Parliament must be reviewed by the high command in the interests of the party's growth in the state. Every Congressman worth his salt is now happy that the high command is already thinking on these lines. The demonstration of the changing attitude towards self-serving regional allies is now seen, in well defined terms, in the conduct of party president Soniaji and general secretary Rahulji, who is clearly the future hope of all Congressmen across the country. In Tamil Nadu, it's high time that the Congress discarded the unreliable and unstable DMK crutches that are now heavily bandaged to hide the many fractures caused by the steep fall in public esteem due to high corruption and the debilitating domination of the DMK's first family in almost all affairs of the state. There are many, not just in the state Congress but also among the non-political class, who now argue that the party would have certainly fared better than winning a mere five seats out of the 63 it contested if it had shaken off the burden of the scam-hit ally. It is important that the Congress must rise from this situation quickly and get ready for the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. The party must focus on the youngsters. This has already begun, thanks to Rahulji, who has been visiting the state every now and then to enthuse the cadres and provide fresh direction towards working for the common man. * E.V.K.S. Elangovan, former president, Tamil Nadu Congress * * * Soon, the DMK will bounce back By A. Gopanna The Congress forged an alliance with the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) seven years ago primarily to keep fascist, fundamentalist forces at bay. The DMK-Congress alliance swept the polls in the 2004 Parliament election. The victory of the alliance in all the 39 seats ensured that the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance was kept out of power. The DMK's contribution was immense in the installation of Dr Manmohan Singh as Prime Minister. The alliance had also emerged victorious in the 2006 Assembly elections. The DMK-led alliance has faced a severe drubbing in the Assembly poll this time around, but it is wrong to jump to the conclusion that the DMK can be written off. That party had faced a worse defeat in the 1991 Assembly elections, which saw a sympathy wave in favour of the Congress-All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) alliance. The DMK then could win only two seats in a House of 234. But it bounced back in 1996, winning 173 seats and pushing the AIADMK to the wall with just four seats. The anti-incumbency wave saw the then chief minister, Ms J. Jayalalithaa, and all her Cabinet colleagues, biting the dust. In the recent election people have voted for change. This need not be construed as punishment for a particular party. Anyone who understands the rugged terrain of Tamil Nadu politics will agree that there is every chance the DMK will make a comeback, as in the past. The DMK has been a trusted Congress ally in the last seven years whereas the AIADMK is a natural ally of the BJP. Anyone nurturing hopes that the AIADMK leadership would accommodate the Congress, giving it space and recognition, would be sadly mistaken. The country is facing grave danger — of religious fundamentalists trying to rule once again. There is imminent need for the Congress to be at the helm to tackle the threat in socio-economic spheres too. Dumping the 18-MP strong DMK would make the Congress-led government in New Delhi vulnerable. The alliance with the DMK should continue into 2014, for the sake of protecting the ideals of secularism and betterment of the country. The Congress has suffered because there has been no organisational structure in the last 10 years. The Congress aligns with either Dravidian major; it is too dependent on its ally. To blame others for defeat is futile. We should strengthen our party first by rebuilding it from the grassroots. * A. Gopanna, senior Congress leader and editor of Congress fortnightly Desiya Murasu







Before you embark on any path, ask the question: Does this path have a heart? Sounds crazy? How can a path have a heart? Isn't "the path" an inanimate object, to be trodden and then forgotten? Yet, this is the question a mystic called Don Juan would ask his disciples, says Carlos Castaneda, a sorcerer and writer from Peru. So what path Don Juan is talking about? The path is surely psychological or spiritual, not geographical. The geographical path is well laid down, with a map that tells you where to go. It is the spiritual path that is baffling and the psychological path which is confusing. It is hard to decide which path will lead to success and which path will throw you in the ditch of failure. Do you still think a path is a dead object? Think again! So when the mystic asks, "Does your path have a heart?", he means that you have to ask this question within your heart. The heart is intuitive so it receives the answer intuitively. If the answer is no, you will know it, and then you must choose another path. The problem is, nobody asks the question; and when we finally realise that the path is ready to kill us. Castaneda cites a beautiful story about his master Don Juan. On a dark night, the master took him to a hill and said, "Start running with your eyes closed, relying on your internal guide!" It was dangerous. The hill was unknown, the thick forest was full of ditches. He could have fallen anywhere. And his master said, "Do not walk, run!" Castaneda thought it was akin to suicide. He couldn't do it. But the master closed his eyes and ran like a wild animal and came back. Castaneda did not understand how he was running and how each time he came back to the same spot. Then gradually Castaneda mustered his courage. If the old man could run, why couldn't he! He tried, and he felt an inner light was kindled in the heart. That was the light guiding his master. The inner light is your innate intelligence, your wisdom. Everyone is born with it. You can pass through any danger if your inner guide is awake. To choose a path with a heart you must be free from fear and ambition. The desire to learn is not an ambition — on the contrary, when the ambition is dropped then alone can one learn. If you are bogged down by the fear of the unknown how can you know the reality? Stop thinking too much and start living in the heart". — Amrit Sadhana is in the management team of Osho International Meditation Resort, Pune. She facilitates meditation workshops around the country and abroad.






We Indians are inordinately proud of our history and never miss a chance to hold forth about our glorious culture and heritage. India is not just a country or nation — it is a civilisation; this is what we are taught and this is what we wear on our sleeves, often not so lightly when we talk to the rest of the world. As evidence, we point to the scores, nay hundreds and thousands, of wonderful monuments that dot the land and speak of our collective history. Yet, these monuments are poorly maintained. Most lie in benign neglect or are in disrepair. During a recent tour of the western Maharashtra coast, I saw fine old Portuguese forts from the 16th century in a miserable state. One Mumbai businessman had audaciously built a bungalow in one of them, incorporating the gateway as well as other features of the fort. The various agencies charged with looking after our monuments simply do not have the resources, the skills or the interest. The "Honey loves Sunny" graffiti engraved on solid stone is a reminder of our lackadaisical attitude. And our usual reaction upon seeing this kind of vandalisation is to blame and curse the government. However, is it only the government that is at fault? Or are we, as citizens, completely devoid of any respect for our history, old and new? Do we really care about our heritage? Researchers often find state archives in a poor way; but shockingly, even the private sector is no better, as I found out recently. While researching for a book I went to a studio in an old part of Mumbai. The board proudly claimed the studio had opened in 1940. I was looking for pictures from 1972. The owner was a friendly sort and vaguely recalled the event whose pictures I wanted. But he was apologetic: "Sorry sir, I simply do not have those photographs". He seemed embarrassed and when I persisted he informed me that some years ago all the negatives that they had stored from 1940s onwards were found to have been eaten up by white ants. There was no hope of saving them and a decision was taken to throw them all. It was a shame, he agreed, but there was nothing he could do. Cursing my luck, I went to another studio, an even older one. This particular establishment was well known for its portraits of prominent citizens of what was then called Bombay, taken as far back as in the 1930s. The story here was even more heart-rending. Apparently, some five years ago, the young, US-educated scion of the family had taken over the company and put into practice new efficiency and profit-enhancing measures. He took stock of inventory, personnel and space and one day announced that all the negatives and plates from 1935 onwards had to be disposed off to generate more working area for his expansion plans. This they did by burning the whole lot. I am sure there are readers who will react just the way I did; with shock. The manager who told me this was in tears.This kind of attitude is par for the course. For one thing we do not understand is that the recent is as much history as the ancient. The world over, memorabilia — pictures, postcards, leaflets and such like — of the 20th century are invaluable, not only as collectibles but also as social history. Auction houses routinely sell such things for huge prices. Collectors will pay top dollar for old pictures. Why blame these studio owners alone? They at least have the excuse of not having the wherewithal to store and manage their archives. Others are no better. The shoddy condition of film prints in the vaults of many film producers is nothing short of a scandal. Some of the biggest and oldest film companies (I won't give names here) have lost classics because the celluloid has been ruined. Without the negatives it is well nigh impossible to make new prints and many an international film festival has turned down the prints offered to them because they are of a low quality. The last remaining print of India's first talkie, Alam Ara, was destroyed in a fire in the National Film Archives of India in Pune in 2003. That is carelessness of the highest degree. Doordarshan, I understand, has taped over old videos of performances by great artistes including Begum Akhtar. Our corporate sector is no better. They have the money, but not the inclination or even the knowledge. Company archives in most cases are a shambles; one senior manager of an organisation with a fine pedigree told me that their policy was to throw out old literature (photos, brochures, files etc) every January as part of spring cleaning. The only breed that looks after old things are collectors. The more serious ones will invest in storage systems to look after photographs, posters, films and records. But there is a limit to how much they can do. The state takes hardly any interest in preserving modern history — in our race to become another Shanghai, Mumbai has not yet bothered to even make a museum of its textile industry. Why should this matter? Because all this is part of our patrimony. Future generations will grow up without any record or knowledge of the social history of India. They will get to know their past and heritage by reading it on Wikipedia. Even today, a historian who wants to study India and would like to access old newspapers and magazines is better off accessing an international university or museum which has lovingly stored and guarded such material from around the world. Our own understanding of history comes from what we read in school or what we picked up from comic books. The other reason is that we expect the government to do everything. Why spend good money on silly things like creating an air-conditioned room to store film prints? With this attitude it is not surprising that our contemporary history is in danger of being lost. And without such history, we will always remain a poorer people, even if we end up becoming an economic or military superpower. * Sidharth Bhatia is a senior journalist and commentator on current affairs based in Mumbai











HAD the home minister, and to an extent the home secretary too, not been so prone to pontificating from the Raisina Hill pulpit, pointing accusing fingers of inefficiency at several state governments, it might have been possible to accept the mistake in the list of the "most wanted" submitted to Pakistan as a mere goof-up. But since North Block deems itself infallible, it now has egg dripping down its face. For this was no routine affair, it was tantamount to furnishing evidence ~ in the garb of seeking assistance ~ of Pakistan's providing safe haven to terrorists who have wreaked havoc in India. Reviving that list in the wake of the US unilaterally "taking out" Osama bin Laden was clearly a bid to turn the screws, to exploit a situation in which Pakistan was under severe international pressure. That was all the more reason for the list to have been cross-checked and authenticated, it was a document of international significance. It is shameful that one of the men said to be in Pakistan was not just living in proximity to Mumbai, he has been regularly presenting himself in court as specified in his bail order. It would take no legal expert ~ as the home minister projects himself ~ to conclude that Pakistan will now raise doubts about the other 49 named: doubts which the international community could share. Not only has India's credibility been eroded, the argument that New Delhi has a Pakistan-phobia could gain currency. The very argument that Islamabad has consistently used as an alibi for not hunting down Bin Laden and his associates ~ the threat from India prevented it from deploying adequate forces on that manhunt.
Sorry Mr Chidambaram: you may not have prepared that list personally, were you not duty-bound to verify it? Nor can there be much acceptance of the line, "I don't think we should make a big issue out of it." For that disinclination to own up to error adds to the gravity of the goof-up. It also points to how conveniently India blames Pakistan for all terrorist activity in this country: worse that every Muslim miscreant is accused of a Pak connection. Regardless of what statement the home secretary will come up with, the damage has been done. Fixing responsibility on an individual or a central or state police agency is no atonement. National embarrassment would have been averted had North Block not been so full of itself and done just a little homework.
The message of the Darjeeling vote

IT MAY be an outfit seemingly engaged in sub-regional jingoism, but the string of Assembly election victories of the Gorkha Jan Mukti Morcha advances a pregnant message to the next state government, the Centre and Parliament. The four GJMM candidates have won the people's mandate  in the Hills and the Dooars, indeed the contours of their Gorkhaland map. It might be presumptuous just yet to imagine that the party's impressive performance in Darjeeling, Kalimpong, Kurseong and Kalchini (Dooars) signifies a "yes" vote for a separate state. Equally, it would be folly to ignore the issues raised by the Hill outfit any longer. It devolves on Mamata Banerjee to resolve the Darjeeling problem, in accord with the pledge in the Trinamul manifesto. This is far more compelling  than transforming Darjeeling into another Switzerland, a spectacle of fantasy if ever there was one.  Grant of statehood may turn out to be an almost intractable issue. As much as the state, it concerns the Centre and Parliament no less and could well foment similar demands elsewhere. Short of this GJMM desire, the next government can strive towards a fair measure of autonomy, to which even the previous dispensation seemed agreeable but couldn't execute. The Hills have suffered a festering sore since 1986 with neither the state nor the Centre nor for that matter Parliament earnest enough to address the fundamental issues. These relate in the main to exploitation and the drain of tea garden and tourism revenue to the plains. The voters have endorsed the GJMM's agenda and the implications must be understood.
No less crucially, the result reaffirms the ineffectiveness of Ashok Bhattacharya, the previous government's pointman in the Hills.  Far from working towards a defusion of tension, he was intent on making the waters murkier. His defeat in Siliguri is embedded in regional disaffection though his record as urban development minister has been no less dismal. Having been in ferment for the past 25 years, the winds of change ought to benefit the despairing Hills no less than the plains of West Bengal.



THE umbrage cuts no ice. The Chhattisgarh government's decision to abstain from Planning Commission meetings ~ in protest against the appointment of Dr Binayak Sen as an Adviser to the steering committee on health ~ runs counter to the certitudes of federalism. The state has been smarting ever since the Supreme Court granted bail to the paediatrician and activist. The judgment has trashed the trial court's life-term sentence for "sedition", a pronouncement that was not based on evidence, let alone a convincing definition of "sedition". That setback for a BJP government has now been reinforced by the Planning Commission appointment.
  The Chhattisgarh government can't be unaware of the fact that the appointment must have been cleared through the Centre's usual bureaucratic process. Is the Raman Singh government protesting against the Supreme Court verdict? Is it protesting against Yojana Bhavan? Both developments have exposed the fragile foundation of the Chhattisgarh government's almost trumped-up case against Dr Sen. The Raipur administration's handling of the Maoist phenomenon has been nothing short of a disaster, one that has taken its toll on the security forces. The decision to boycott the Planning Commission's meetings is foolish.
It has obviously been difficult for the state to digest the terms of the appointment. Dr Sen will advise the Planning Commission on the health policy for the 12th Plan (2012-17). His expertise has eventually been recognised by the Government of India and this is quite the most unpalatable message for the chief minister. Chiefly, the paediatrician's inputs on malnutrition among tribal children will be important in the formulation of the 12th Plan. The Planning Commission draws up its projections on the basis of data from the states and experts on issues of public policy. The abstention seems strained. Nor does it ultimately help the state or its people. Having said that, it must be acknowledged the appointment ~ while merited ~ does carry the taint of politics. While Dr. Sen is on bail following the intervention of the apex court, he has not been exonerated yet.







AFGHANISTAN has become one of the most important of India's partners in the field of development cooperation. Over the last few years, many substantial bilateral projects have taken shape to give a new dimension to the well established association between the two countries. From as early as the 1950s India had begun to contribute to Afghan development plans: Indian experts in fields like agriculture, health, education, water, and mineral exploration, to name a few, were active in Afghanistan and made a contribution that was greatly appreciated in the partner country. These countries were two stalwarts of non-alignment, and Indian cooperation was especially welcome for being free of political overtones at a time when the protagonists of the Cold War were in competition with each other to establish their sway in Afghanistan.


Despite its own difficulties and its chronic shortage of resources, India made a special effort in Afghanistan. Landmarks established in those early days included a hundred-bed children's hospital in Kabul that was a step or two ahead of anything in India itself, as well as plans for irrigation and hydro-electricity in different parts of Afghanistan. These practical schemes bore witness to a healthy and useful relationship of mutual cooperation between two close neighbours with an age-old shared history.


Internal turmoil and external intervention in Afghanistan brought this initial phase to an end. The Soviet invasion at the end of the 1970s and the succeeding civil war devastated Afghanistan and bred extremist ideology that left no room for the kind of cooperation India had been promoting. The entire region was affected and India found itself being targeted by unfriendly fanatical groups that had become established in Afghanistan. Rivalry between India and Pakistan gave an edge to the situation. Security considerations began to dominate the regional discourse and left a legacy that is as yet far from dissipated. But after the Taliban regime was removed by international forces led by the USA, yet another phase began in Afghanistan wherein questions of political and economic reconstruction became paramount. A vast international effort was mounted to support a revived, democratically structured Afghanistan, and India played its full part within this endeavour. Today, India is a major provider of cooperation and assistance having committed upward of $1.5 billion for the purpose, an inconceivable sum in former days but now within the country's capacity.

When Dr Manmohan Singh went to Kabul, one of the questions was to identify what should come next to sustain and expand the programme, many of the earlier projects being either complete or reaching an end. The Prime Minister announced further cooperation assistance to the extent of $500 million, which ensures that economic and technical ties will continue to grow.

The economic and technical part of the India-Afghanistan relationship is strongly based, has well-established roots, and enjoys wide public support. But of course there is more to take into account while looking at the overall state of the relationship. Strategic factors have played a part from the beginning, Both India and Afghanistan border Pakistan whose relationship with each of these neighbours has had constant ups and downs ~ with India the ups have been few but with Afghanistan, after a rocky start, Pakistan has developed close ties. Lying astride the land route from India, Pakistan has progressively reduced and eventually halted access from one to the other. Afghanistan has lost what used to be a valuable market for its fresh fruits ~ even now Afghan melons and pomegranates excite extraordinary yearning in Delhi. India has lost more, being deprived of direct access overland to Central Asia where its ties are developing rapidly.

The strategic dimension, thus, has been seen and projected essentially in negatives, as seen in denial of overland access and transit. In recent years, as India's capacity has increased and its interests in Central Asia have grown, it has felt the need to look for alternative routes to the traditional one through Pakistan, and has been able to join with Iran in developing a new route from the port of Chah Bahar on the Gulf to join up with the Kandahar-Herat highway of Afghanistan that leads on to Central Asia. Opening up the region in this way promises great benefit to all parties and is to be regarded as one of the successes of Indian enterprise in the region.

In his address to the Afghan Parliament ~ a great honour accorded to him ~ Dr Manmohan Singh spoke of the strategic dimension of the Indo-Afghan relationship. As he described it, and as was agreed between him and President Karzai, this was to be a long term relationship aimed at reinvigorating the partnership in all sectors, political, economic, and social. The term 'strategic' in this context is without any of the negative overtones that it often carries, and does not signify any intention to develop bilateral ties at the cost of any other party.
Carrying that theme further, in a significant statement made in Kabul the Prime Minister referred to the common interest of India, Afghanistan and Pakistan in combating terrorism and the need for them to work together in this endeavour. This was only a few days after the hunting down of Osama bin Laden and the exposure of his long residence in Abbottabad. Many snide remarks had been made on this matter in both New Delhi and Kabul. Dr. Manmohan Singh did not try to add to Pakistan's discomfiture. Instead he called for cooperation with that country and with Afghanistan in meeting the problem of terrorism that afflicts all these countries. Coming when it did, and where it did, the Indian Prime Minister's call is a statesmanlike attempt to move on from the problems and suspicions that have divided the region.

What awaits Afghanistan in coming times is by no means clear. The international forces so crucial for peace and security will begin to be reduced in the course of the current year. Demands for their accelerated withdrawal are growing. While they can pack up and go, the neighbours have no such option: they have to continue the quest for peace and stability, and for settlement of differences through consultation and cooperative effort.

The Indian PM's Kabul visit shows that he envisages a regional effort in this direction. Of late, there have been many suggestions by experts and other knowledgeable persons for a regional initiative to try to bring stability to what is still the troubled land of Afghanistan. The PM referred to Saarc which is a regional organization that could in time have a part to play. Other possibilities can be envisaged. Some form of collective regional effort seems necessary, for which Dr Manmohan Singh's Kabul visit can be regarded as an encouragement.
The writer is India's former Foreign Secretary







The biggest story in India in the post-Assembly elections scenario is the decimation of communism. Most think it is good riddance of an ideology that had outlived its utility. In fact, it got buried under the debris when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1990, after losing the Cold War. Yet, West Bengal and Kerala, more so the first, were the only two states which defiantly stuck to Stalinist sensibilities. The rout in West Bengal was humiliating with the Left Front securing only 63 seats in the 294-member house. The communists fared better in Kerala by winning 68 out of 140 seats, primarily owing to outgoing chief minister Mr VS Achuthanandan's clean image.
However, the advance of capitalism or consumerism without any challenges on the road has not made the world a better place. While Russia has settled down to a western pattern, communists in India are riding a high horse. A jaded ideology is still sacrosanct for them and they do not realise that their agenda has been appropriated by Maoists who have also adopted militancy to justify it. China's version of communism promoted a free economy under the strict eye of the party and the army. Classical communism, it seems, does not sell any more.
In any case, the communist government in West Bengal did not have the wherewithal to retrieve the ideology because the leaders were arrogant, the ministers nonchalant and the cadres law unto themselves. The Communist Party of India (Marxists), which misgoverned or, for that matter, did not really govern the state for 34 years, assumed that by simply flaunting the red flag or mouthing slogans popular support could be won. Little did the CPI-M realise that there was a growing disconnect between it and the people. The party's debacle in the 2009 Lok Sabha election should have made the writing on the wall clear.
In Kerala, something worse is emerging. Communalism is replacing the remnants of communist ideology. Hindus and Christians have voted for communists and Muslims for the victorious United Democratic Front. For the first time, the state is in the throes of religious fervour, although the BJP's Hindutva forces have been roundly defeated. I do not think that communists can stage a comeback by remaining faithful to the same Leninist-Stalinist position. They have to return to the grassroots and expand their base. The Left has to keep in mind that any ideology without morality will not go very far in India which still reveres Mahatma Gandhi.
Miss Mamata Banerjee's Trinamul Congress won 226 seats. But maverick that she is, she can well wreck a system but may find it hard to overhaul. Administrators, police and other government agencies in Bengal have to be rejuvenated with passion and dedication to serve the people and retaught not to be at the beck and call of the ruling dispensation. How to revive the dividing line between right and wrong, moral and immoral that has got erased is the challenge  not only for Miss Banerjee but also for Ms Jayalalithaa who has smashed the family-cum-government apparatus in Tamil Nadu. By securing 203 seats in the 234-member Tamil Nadu House, she has proved that her win was positive.
But she has begun on a wrong note. She appears to be making up with the ruling Congress. When there is still a case pending against her for amassing assets disproportionate to her known sources of income, the stance of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) will be crucial. How will she cope with that? A telephone call from Congress president Mrs Sonia Gandhi to Ms Jayalalithaa within 24 hours of her winning the election says it all. Yet, she must keep in mind that the people in Tamil Nadu have trounced the Congress and reduced its tally from 34 to five. She should not abandon her election plank of fighting corruption.
Dravida Munnettra Kazhagam (DMK) would not have been defeated had it not had to face the 2G spectrum heat. The Manmohan Singh government's problem is that the DMK has 19 seats in the Lok Sabha. However, Ms Jayalalithaa's 11 can make up the deficit to some extent. At some stage, either the Congress will dump the DMK or the latter would withdraw its support.
The Congress victory in Assam was expected. Once state chief minister Mr Tarun Gogoi brought the United Liberation Front of Asom (Ulfa) leadership to Guwahati for talks, it was clear that his eyes were fixed on the Assembly election. The Ulfa still has an emotional appeal in Assam. The Congress won the poll last time with the help of Bangladeshis registered as voters. The chief minister left them high and dry this time. And, his victory pushed into the background the grave charges of corruption against his government. Before long, both forces will catch up. It would be, however, heartening if something tangible, and not just an agreement, emerges from the talks with the Ulfa. The Congress should learn a lesson: political problems need political solutions and not military ones. The large presence of the armed forces in the North-east, operating under the outmoded Armed Forces (Unlawful Activity) Act, has only alienated the people and not calmed them down.
In due course, when the election dust settles, all the three major parties ~ the Congress, the BJP and the communists ~ will realise that they are losing ground. Regional parties are beginning to occupy the space which a national party should be commanding. This means the Centre will see coalition governments for a long time to come. There is nothing wrong with that if the federal structure is respected and a consensus of opinion is sought. But the manner in which the major parties growl at one another holds little hope. They have defamed the system so much that their own credibility has come down to zero.
One thing that the nation must keep in mind is that morality has been squeezed out of Indian politics. Given that coalition politics will dominate the Centre and even states for years to come, parties will enter into shocking bargains and business-dictated alliances. People will have to remain mute spectators till a third alternative arrives.

The writer is a veteran journalist
and commentator








I came of age several years ago, when I was in my early thirties and had just married. Rahman passed me by on the street and said genially: "Kaku (uncle), bhalo achhen to?" I said yes, I was fine, and we went our ways. However, I slowed my walk, furrowed my eyebrows and scratched my head ... thus far in my life people had generally addressed me as "Dada" ... but "Kaku?" On returning home, I stood for some time before the mirror to detect the tell-tale signs of age. But no, my hair was jet black, full and wavy, and so was my moustache. There was no hint of a dark circle under any of my eyes, either. So why had Rahman addressed me as "Kaku?" I broke the news to my young bride of twenty-five, and she was livid. "Fan or no fan, Rahman's not setting foot in this house again. Kaku, huh? You don't look a day above twenty, and that stupid Rahman has the nerve to call you 'Kaku'?"

My parents came hurrying out of their rooms to find out what the commotion was about and after a while, succeeded in pacifying their daughter-in-law. Rahman was a young lad who worked in Badruddin's electrical shop a short distance from where we lived. The two of them were regulars in our house, fixing such sundry items as the calling bell, the toaster, the water pump, and electrical fuses when they got short-circuited. At the advent of winter each year, the duo would come over and begin the laborious work of taking down the fans, to be oiled and cleaned for the advent of the following summer. We had an assorted collection of fans ~ some had turned yellow with age, a couple had been painted a dark brown, and the hubs were of different shapes, but all made of heavy iron. One or two made a rhythmic noise at full speed, and many years later, when we changed over to noiseless AC fans, we couldn't sleep for days. The fan-removal operation caused quite a commotion in the house, with my father shouting instructions to the two blokes, and me holding on to their rickety ladder to ensure that only the fans came down, and not their cleaners.

A month back, I happened to be travelling in a bus. It was fairly crowded, but not uncomfortable. After a while, as I lost myself in rumination with the Maidan passing by, I heard the conductor's voice over the din: "Dadu, tickit ta?" I looked behind me to locate a grandfather among the passengers, but no, the conductor was pointing at me. He repeated: "Dadu, apnake bolchhi." As I reached into my pocket for the fare, my thought was that not only had I come of age some two decades ago, I graduated to the vanprastha stage today. Very soon, I thought, it will be time for sannyas. And, finally, moksha. When I came home and related the incident to my wife in a somewhat philosophical tone, she said with indignation: "That's why I keep telling you to do the Bullworker. What biceps you had when we married, and look at them now." Adding insult to injury, our teenage daughter piped in: "When did Baba have biceps?"

What happened on the other day in office was the last straw in this saga of the seven ages of man. The short, puny guy who generally stands at the entrance to our library checking people's books and belongings, looked at me and said: "Really, how fit you keep. How do you do it?" I said: "Regular morning walks, one hour a day, four kilometres." He said: "You know, at the Vedic Village games, one bystander said admiringly: 'Boyeshko manushta kemon laphiye uthe porlo! (How nimbly the old man jumped on to the backs of the kneeling people and stood at the top of the human pyramid!')." The reference was to a staff retreat where we had to build a human pyramid. It was decided that the heavy people in my group would kneel, and I being the lightest, would clamber up and complete the pyramid.

When I related this incident at home, my dear wife immediately pronounced that the man ought to be sacked for calling me an old man. While I don't agree with her opinion, since a spade should be called a spade, I do find myself thinking more and more of the great beyond.







Finally, Muslims abandoned the CPI-M in West Bengal. The Assembly election result of 2011 mirror the disgruntlement of the people in general and Muslims in particular against a 34 year-old dispensation which could no longer delude the people.

The CPI-M leadership had acted like an ostrich all the while, ignoring the implications of the resounding victory of the Trinamul Congress in the panchayat poll of 2008 and in the Lok Sabha election of 2009. The writing was on the wall ~ Muslims, who once made up the CPI-M's most dependable vote bank ~ had turned away from it. After the announcement of the results of the 2011 Assembly election, maverick CPI-M leader Mr Abdur Rezzak Mollah, who is among the very few Left Front leaders to have survived the rout, told this writer that had the state government heeded the recommendations of the Rajendra Sachar Committee and announced job reservation for Muslims in the state forthwith, the community would not have deserted the CPI-M like it did. Mr Mollah's assessment of the situation is based on reality. For the last couple of years, a rapid slide in the CPI-M's Muslim support base had been apparent. But the party leadership did not take any structured step to stem the tide.

When the Sachar report painted a very grim picture of the socio-economic and educational status of Muslims in Left-ruled Bengal to explode the myth that Marxists were Muslim-friendly, former chief minister Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharya trashed the report. He said: "The report shows West Bengal in a poor light. The report didn't do justice to us. It didn't take into account the number of Muslims who got jobs as teachers, as policemen and in so many other sectors." Contrary to what the then chief minister had claimed about rising Muslim employment, official data pertaining to Muslim employees in two major government organisations show how abysmally low their representation was. This strengthened the perception among Muslims that the Left Front government had done practically nothing for the community during its 34-year rule in West Bengal. The data which was released following an RTI query filed by a Kolkata based NGO is self-explanatory: "The total number of employees in Kolkata Police is 24,840 of which only 2,267 are Muslims, constituting a mere 9.13 per cent of the overall strength. Of the 24,840 employees of Kolkata Police, only 414 are women and of them, only 12 are (2.9%) Muslims." The level of representation in Kolkata Municipal Corporation is even worse. "The municipal body has only 1,555 Muslim employees of a 34,731-strong workforce. Of the 4,556 women employees that it has, only 136 are Muslims or a mere 2.98 per cent of the entire workforce."
When Mr Bhattacharjee realised his "folly", he tempered his downright dismissal of the Sachar report and reluctantly acknowledged that "there is a lot more to do for the development of Muslims and the Left Front government is doing exactly that". His reversal reeked of the patent insincerity that the CPI-M had come to be associated with in the recent years. The Left Front government then hurriedly announced 10 per cent reservation in government jobs for OBC Muslims but that, quite naturally, cut no ice with the community since it was seen as a tactical ploy of the CPI-M to gain political mileage.

The Alimuddin Street brass were naïve enough to believe that the reservation announcement would be enough to win back Muslims. The party failed to realise that the results of the panchayat poll in 2008 and the Lok Sabha election in 2009 made it clear that Muslims needed to be mobilised afresh. Even the civic poll result of 2010 failed to make the party shake off its complacency. The trend of Muslim alienation continued, delivering the final blow to the Left Front in 2011 when not only rural Muslims but also urban members of the community voted against the Left Front. This came despite the Left Front government's extensive advertisement of the 10 per cent job reservation. There was no immediate trigger for Muslim alienation. In the past four years, land acquisition, including violent agitations in Singur, Nandigram, Bhangar and Rajarhat, the PDS and BPL cards scams, the bungled investigation into Rizwanur Rehman's death and rampant corruption in government have rocked the state. The state government's aggressive but ultimately directionless industrialisation policy also angered people. But what truly alienated

Muslims was the realisation that despite being in power for more than three decades, the Left Front had done very little to improve the lot of the community which accounts for 27 per cent of the state's total population. This, despite Muslims having given their unflinching support to the communists all these years.
The Left Front insists that it carried out extensive land reforms and established a vibrant Panchayati Raj which broke the back of feudalism in rural Bengal and immensely empowered the poor peasants and agricultural labourers, especially Muslims and Dalits. But the fact remains that in order to expand its base in the rural parts, the CPI-M had allowed the jotedars to join the party. This reflected a change in the party's character ~ from being regarded as a party that represented the landless and the rural poor, it began to be viewed as one that defended the interests of the rural elite. Also, despite much being made of the Left Front's land reform programme ~ Operation Barga ~ the fact remains that the government only registered the names of 15 lakh bargadars but never granted them ownership rights. Neither did it allow for any significant devolution of power to the panchayat system which became a hotbed of corruption. The situation came to such a pass that the panchayat stopped carrying out its mandate and when the people protested against the ruling party, they were threatened. Operation Barga left the poorest section of Bengal society ~ of which Muslims form a major part ~ high and dry. In such as situation, those Muslims who could find other means of livelihood beyond their villages began migrating and ultimately settled in ghettos in city and towns, living in conditions far worse than their rural existence. But for the large section of Muslims who stayed back in villages, life became hell. The Sachar committee report captured only a part of the picture. The reality is even more unnerving.  
The Left Front government should have regarded the Sachar committee report as a wake-up call. By the time it started making half-hearted amends, it was already too late. After all, one cannot fool all the people all the time.

The writer is on the staff of Dainik Statesman








The Indian economy was opened up in 1991. Two decades on, the country boasts of a steady and healthy rate of growth, and is one of the aspiring superpowers in the emergent global order. Yet, millions of Indians continue to die of hunger to this day. Justly worried by the alarming rate of starvation deaths, the Supreme Court has ordered 50 lakh tonnes of food to be distributed in the poorest parts of the country. While the apex court's concern is beyond question, its mode of operation may not be so. Is it really the judiciary's duty to arbitrate on matters that are meant to be the executive's responsibility? Indian democracy is based on the principle of separation of powers, wherein the legal, judicial and executive arms of the government are allocated their own distinctive functions. As the head of the judiciary, the Supreme Court is expected to deliver justice, in accordance with the provisions laid down in the Constitution, if specific complaints are brought to it. Apart from taking the final call on crucial lawsuits, its duty is to interpret and clarify the Constitution, as also to ensure that the nation is administered according to the rules.

None of the above responsibilities gives the apex court the right to pronounce on how the executive should resolve the food crisis. Since there is already a ministry to oversee the distribution of food, the Supreme Court's interference in this area of governance is uncalled for, however noble its intentions. In fact, as the minister entrusted with food distribution has signally failed to solve the problem of starvation, it is perhaps more sensible to replace him with someone more capable. Creating yet another committee to address the crisis will not only be redundant but also put additional pressure on the exchequer. The government should rather try to streamline the existing system and make it more efficient and people-friendly. Such an exercise must necessarily be prefaced by a few urgent questions. Why, for instance, should so many have to die hungry in a regional superpower like India? Why are tons of foodgrain being allowed to rot in warehouses across the country? Why, after having made such spectacular advances in information technology, is India still unable to devise an efficient system that can deliver the bare minimum to its people? Finally, what does such a scenario say about the nature of India's modernity and democracy?






Subash Ghisingh's departure from Darjeeling captures all that is wrong with politics in the hills. For more than two decades, the ruling party or group in Darjeeling has left no space for any opponent. This has been ensured mostly through violence and coercion. Ironically, Mr Ghisingh himself started this brand of politics. But that does not make the diktat of the current leader, Bimal Gurung, any less unfair. The easy victories that the candidates of Mr Gurung's party, the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha, scored over their rivals in the polls proves the GJM's popularity. The election results also show that Mr Ghisingh's party, the Gorkha National Liberation Front, does not enjoy the kind of popular support that the GJM does. It was thus not only unethical but also unnecessary for Mr Gurung to serve the quit notice on Mr Ghisingh. This demonstrates, once again, the collapse of the rule of law in Darjeeling during the Left regime in West Bengal. The argument that Mr Ghisingh's presence in Darjeeling is a threat to its peace is not only untenable but also dangerous for democracy in the hills.

Filling up this vacuum in democratic politics in Darjeeling is no less important for Mamata Banerjee's incoming government than finding a solution to the GJM's demand for a special political status for the hills. Ms Banerjee has always opposed the creation of a separate state of Gorkhaland, but she may use the GJM's friendly equations with her to find a political resolution to the decades-old issue. She can also involve New Delhi in the negotiations in more positive ways than Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee's government did. But while the talks over a new political or administrative status for Darjeeling take time, some civic and economic issues in the hills need the new government's attention. There has been no local administration of any kind in the hills since the expiry of the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council's term three years ago. The collapse of basic civic services and the unending political agitation have made the lives of the common people there difficult. Before she resumes talks over the GJM's demand for an interim administration, Ms Banerjee can send out signals of a new approach by announcing an economic package for the improvement of Darjeeling's civic services. It will create the right conditions for the talks and, more importantly, help restore the local people's confidence in the Bengal government's concern for their well-being.






Perhaps even the diehard supporter of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) did not expect the Left Front to come back to power — the typical Bengali's disenchantment with Left Front rule was all too apparent. But the sheer size of Mamata Banerjee's victory must have taken everyone's breath away. The unambiguous verdict of the state's electorate will now result in a dramatic change of regime. In rather colourful language, the chief architect of this change, Banerjee herself, has termed this a second "independence" for West Bengal. What can Bengal look forward to with her as the chief minister?

Parliamentary democracy works best when a single party or a group of like-minded parties has a comfortable majority, but is faced with a relatively strong Opposition. Ruling parties need a comfortable majority because they need to be able to feel that their government will have a sufficiently long innings. This enables them to have the much-needed long-term vision which is very important for governments to undertake investment projects with large gestation lags. Since there is no political constraint such as the need to satisfy short-term interests of vote banks, the Trinamul Congress-led government can press full steam ahead towards its stated goal of restoring the fortunes of the state.

But will the overwhelming majority gained by the TMC prove to be an embarrassment of riches? It will face no opposition in the state assembly, and can pass virtually any piece of legislation. Indeed, the government can take practically any executive action without facing much opposition because the CPI(M) will take some time to recover from the clobbering it has received in the elections. So there is the very real danger that the ruling party can become complacent. Or it can become arrogant and brush aside even legitimate protest. After all, arrogance was one of the main reasons for the defeat of the Left Front — it simply ignored the strong resentment of landowners in rural Bengal when the government tried to forcibly acquire their land.

The other reason why a somewhat more balanced legislature would have been preferable is the possible fallout at the Centre. As I mention later on, the state government will need a great deal of help from the Central government, at least in the initial couple of years. But the Central government (and more importantly, the Congress) will have to take into account several competing demands on its resources. Inevitably, it will fail to fully satisfy the demands of the state government. How will Banerjee react when some of her demands are rejected by the Centre? In the past, she has not always come across as a very reasonable person. Since the TMC has an absolute majority on its own, she may well threaten to pull out of the United Progressive Alliance government as the Congress cannot issue a retaliatory threat. And if her demands are rejected frequently, she may actually carry out her threat. This possibility would not have arisen if the TMC required the support of the Congress in order to acquire a majority in the state legislature.

Banerjee has been making all the right noises about sharing power, and the Congress has reciprocated her sentiments. Of course, this is consistent with an initial period of honeymoon during which much bonhomie will be generated by the two parties. Soon everyone will have to get down to business, figure out the priorities and implement them as best as they can.

The most important priority is a massive increase in employment in the state. During the bulk of the Left Front's tenure in office, the industrial sector was allowed to languish with disastrous consequences for the state. It was only during the last few years of its reign that the Left Front realized its errors and tried to encourage new industrial ventures. But the Front went about it in a particularly ham-handed way by completely alienating the landowners. Unfortunately, Banerjee's own position on the issue of industrialization has been at best ambivalent. She was staunchly opposed to the state government's efforts to acquire fertile land for the Tata Nano project. She has to realize that new and large industrial projects can only be set up in areas with adequate infrastructure. The requirement of adequate infrastructure may make the acquisition of some fertile land inevitable simply because infrastructure is grossly inadequate in areas with large tracts of barren land. So a sensible land acquisition policy is almost a prerequisite for rapid industrialization in the state. But Banerjee will need to acknowledge that she had erred in the past in order for such a policy to evolve.

The second priority must be an immediate attempt to restore the fiscal health of the state. The state's tax revenue collection as a proportion of state domestic product is dismal, possibly amongst the lowest in the country. Over the longer run, a faster rate of industrialization will automatically increase the ratio of tax revenue to state income since tax rates are higher in the industrial sector. However, industrialization cannot pick up in several parts of the state unless there is a radical improvement in the infrastructure — better roads, assured supplies of power, and so on. The state must invest heavily in infrastructure development. It must convince the Central government to transfer additional funds to the state for this purpose. But there is no realistic scenario in which the Centre will provide resources unless the state too pitches in. That is why there is an urgent need to increase the resources available to the state government. It is imperative that the new finance minister immediately identifies the reasons underlying such a low ratio of revenue to state domestic product, tightens up the state tax administration, and identifies new sources of tax revenue.

The other area crying out for attention is human development. West Bengal was once amongst the leading states in both health and education. Neglect in terms of funding as well as misguided policies have eroded the eminent position of the state. Today, West Bengal lags far behind the leading states in India. It is refreshing to read that Banerjee has decided to retain initial charge of both the health and education portfolios. She may not be able to fulfil her promise of setting up a hospital in every district. Hopefully, she will at least be able to ensure that all the existing institutions function reasonably well.

It used to be said that Indira Gandhi was the only man in her cabinet. Very much the same can be said of Banerjee. No one can doubt that Banerjee wants the best for Bengal. There is even less scope to question her personal integrity. But there is only so much that she can do on her own. She has to be able to ensure that the vast majority of the state's residents put in their best efforts. That may well prove to be a Herculean task, given a work culture where the majority of government functionaries arrive in office well past the scheduled opening hour, and where files move at a snail's pace unless palms are adequately greased. But if she does succeed in inspiring others, then there is no reason why we should not see a better Bengal in the future.

The author is professor of economics, University of Warwick







Describing Osama bin Laden's killing by the US special forces as a "unique moment" in the history of the region, the Indian prime minister landed in Kabul at a time when there is growing interest in India's future trajectory in Afghanistan. Manmohan Singh announced a fresh commitment of $500 million for Afghanistan's development, over and above India's existing aid assistance of around $1.5 billion. New Delhi and Kabul agreed that the 'strategic partnership' between the two neighbours will entail cooperation in areas of security, law enforcement and justice, including an enhanced focus on cooperation in the fight against international terrorism, organized crime, illegal trafficking in narcotics and money-laundering.

This is a new phase in Af-Pak, and India is using its political capital to reinforce its centrality in the evolving strategic realities in the region. It is important to recall how different the environment was just a few days back when the Pakistani military was urging Hamid Karzai to dump the United States of America and look to Pakistan and its ally, China, for help in striking a peace deal with the Taliban and in rebuilding the economy.

India's options in Afghanistan seem to have shrunk over the last few years despite being the only country that has been successful in winning the hearts of ordinary Afghans. By failing to craft its own narrative on Af-Pak ever since the US troops went into Afghanistan, New Delhi has allowed the West, and, increasingly, Pakistan, to dictate the contours of Indian policy towards the region.

Different views

Two major strands can be discerned in the debate on Afghanistan in India. There are those who argue that despite recent setbacks, India should continue to rely on the US to secure its interests in Af-Pak. They suggest that there is a fundamental convergence between India and the Obama administration in viewing Pakistan as the source of Afghanistan's insecurity and the suggestion that the world must act together to cure Islamabad of its political malaise.

The other side in this debate has been getting impatient with India's continued reliance on the US. According to this argument, the Obama administration has been systematically ignoring Indian interests in the crafting of its Af-Pak priorities. While actively discouraging India from assuming a higher profile in Afghanistan for fear of offending Pakistan, the US has failed to persuade Pakistan into taking Indian concerns more seriously. By pursuing a strategy that will give Pakistan the leading role in the State structures in Afghanistan, the West is only sowing the seeds for future turmoil.

Indian influence in Afghanistan rose significantly as American support for Pakistan shifted and Washington demanded that Pakistan adopt policies that India had long wanted in the aftermath of 9/11. Moreover, India emerged as a major economic actor in Afghanistan. But by refusing to use hard power and asserting its profile more forcefully, India soon made itself irrelevant as the ground realities changed and a divergence emerged between the strategic interests of India and those of Washington. India lost the confidence of its own allies in Afghanistan.

Moreover, Pakistan's weak democracy and powerful military and intelligence apparatus have failed to get a grip on the problem that now threatens to overwhelm the Pakistani state itself. Ashfaq Kayani is wedded to the notion of 'strategic depth'— making Afghanistan a kind of proprietary hinterland for Pakistan, free of Indian or other outside influence.

The death of bin Laden has given New Delhi an opportunity to prove to the international community that it is India, and not Pakistan, that remains a major partner of Afghanistan and, therefore, its concerns should not be ignored.






In 1947, the then Commander-in-Chief, Claude Auchinleck, summoned Francis Ingall of the erstwhile Royal Indian Army and asked him to take over as the founder commandant of the Pakistan Military Academy, which was to be set up in Abbottabad. Being a product of Sandhurst, Brigadier Ingall was determined to model the academy on the former's lines. Ingall could not have dreamt that six decades after the first Gentlemen Cadets entered the portals of this academy, a defining event — in which the principal players were none other than the graduates of the institution that he created — would have far reaching consequences for Pakistan.

The raid by US special forces on the residential complex where Osama bin Laden had been in hiding has resulted in aftershocks that continue to reverberate around the world. The Pakistan army finds itself in the eye of this storm, and is now facing some searching questions. For the first time, the army has been compelled to issue a formal statement accepting lapses, the local media are openly questioning its competence and there is talk of the head of the infamous Inter-Services Intelligence being made a fall guy. For long, the Pakistan army has played a dubious double game, not only with allies like the US or neighbours like India but also within the nation's polity. For an institution that prides itself on being the sole custodian of Pakistan's sovereignty, this is a defining moment.

But such defining moments also open up fresh avenues to past problems. It is this opportunity that the international community could exploit in partnership with the Pakistan army to protect a failing Pakistan from self-destruction. One must start with the US, which casts the longest shadow both historically and militarily. It has exploited the Pakistan army to realize its own interests, ignoring serious erosion to the institution and to democracy in that country. Its covert involvement with Pakistan succeeded in defeating the Russians in Afghanistan, but it also sowed the seeds of widespread terrorism and led to the creation of a military intelligence service that has become a State within a State. The US recognizes that there is no military solution to the diverse challenges facing the region. Having invested heavily in terms of human and financial resources, it is now keen to leave the region.

The army in Pakistan is preparing the ground to draw its ally, China, into the equation to consolidate its strategic depth in Afghanistan. The modern version of the Great Game thus gets more duplicitous, immoral and bloody. India can barely comprehend these deep-seated conspiracies, let alone plan counter-strategies. The US's own doublespeak on its war on terror is no great secret. America vows to hunt terrorists known to be hostile to it anywhere, but cautions India against similar thought: not that India has even remotely displayed any such intent. This is not the first time that the US is facing a dilemma over Pakistan. Nor will it be the last.

Pakistan's military leaders continue to perceive India as the prime enemy. The creation of this mindset helps perpetuate its hold on power and safeguards its commercial interests. Recognizing the fact that India's size makes it difficult to tackle the country militarily, it has adopted terrorism as an instrument to bleed India through a thousand cuts. Its belief that India does not have the courage to retaliate remains intact. Blinded by this confidence, it has been treading this suicidal path for decades, even though it was becoming clear that the monster it had created was beginning to bite the hand that fed it.

The US and the international community pretend to believe that Pakistan is a democracy, despite the fact that the army headquarters in Rawalpindi calls the shots in matters relating to security and foreign policies. The international community owes it to the people of Pakistan to facilitate movement towards genuine democracy.

This brings us to India. An overwhelming body of public opinion in India wishes the people and the state of Pakistan well, and desires nothing more than good neighbourly relations. Successive governments have attempted reconciliation, only to be checkmated by Pakistan's security establishment. The Indian public may demand firm action instead of appeasement in the future.

The traditions and heritage that the armed forces of both countries have inherited are far too deep-rooted to be wished away. An alternative route to building bridges could be for the militaries of the two nations to step forward in the spirit of what military ethos enjoins on all those who are privileged to don their respective national uniforms. This innovative experiment is worth a try, but India cannot afford to lower its guard till it sees light at the end of the tunnel. Since the trust deficit between Pakistan and India is high, the US military, which has traditional connections with the Pakistan army, must also be a partner.

It is unfortunate that at a sensitive time like this some Indian military commanders commented that the three wings of the armed forces had the capability to carry out special operations similar to the one conducted against bin Laden. This was neither in good taste, nor tactically wise, as Pakistan's army used it to deflect criticism and rally public support. To achieve results, special operational capabilities should not be trumpeted as propaganda.

The futility of double games has been laid bare. It is time to undertake innovative initiatives parallel to routine diplomatic plodding. Having attempted diplomatic, political and security options, the governments must take a shot at an intellectual option. Let a 'think tank' be constituted from amongst the military and diplomatic faculties of the US National Defence University, Pakistan's National Defence University and the Indian National Defence College (with Fellows from the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses since our own NDU still remains on paper) to debate institutional issues within an intellectual framework and come up with ideas that respect democratic agencies within national sovereignties. An auspicious beginning can be made by organizing the inaugural session at the Ingall Hall of the Pakistan Military Academy in Abbottabad.






It is one thing to resort to a military coup to grab power inside a State. It is quite another — in fact, the opposite — thing to be seen as the defenders of the State from external aggression. On both counts, the image and credibility of Pakistan's army have taken a severe beating, though not for the first time.

Let facts and figures speak for themselves here. Opinion and interpretation, if any, could follow. That there took place a colossal intelligence failure which permitted Osama bin Laden's presence under the very nose of Pakistan's military establishment is evident. Moreover, if Pakistani authorities failed to detect US helicopters in the vicinity of large military installations right at the heart of the country, how does one assess the performance of the defence command of Pakistan's air force? Is it up to the mark? These lapses occurred in spite of the extension of the tenure of the army chief, Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, by three years and that of the Inter Services-Intelligence chief, Ahmad Shuja Pasha, by one year. What would now be the reaction of the dozens of lieutenant generals who are in the queue? Will they tolerate the authority of a disgraced army chief and of an ISI "super-sleuth"? That seems highly unlikely if both Kayani and his protégé, Shuja Pasha, manage to cling to their chairs and survive the unprecedented crisis in the Pakistani citadel.

The beauty of the present crisis lies in the fact that the damage control had to be done by the much-despised civilian government of Islamabad. An embarrassed military left a forlorn and harassed civilian government filling the "local vacuum" created around the raid on Abbottabad. Thus President Asif Ali Zardari optimistically insisted that Pakistan was clueless about the raid by the air forces of the United States of America, and that bin Laden had not been a guest at the invitation of Islamabad. Salman Bashir, Pakistan's foreign secretary, chose to talk about a non-existing Indian threat on the occasion instead of blaming or finding fault with the special forces of either the US or Pakistan. Subsequently, however, the sullen silence of the military was broken. Understandably, the mighty men of Pakistan's forces found India to be the "real foe".

Now, visualize Abbottabad's 'defence' scenario. The central command of the Frontier Force Regiment is located here. The force has 67 battalions, the average strength of which is between 900 to 1,000 men per unit, though not all of them are stationed in Abbottabad. The Baloch Regiment centre, along with the school of mountain warfare and Pakistan's military academy, are also in Abbottabad. To top it all is the presence of the Army Medical College (to nurse anyone, including a fugitive) at Rawalpindi, which is only 50 kilometres from where bin Laden had been found staying for years.

In this scenario, the US attack indisputably exposed the chinks in Pakistan's armour. The country's radar system overseeing the northern hilly regions was simply jammed while the US stealth helicopters flew in and flew out unchallenged. The US helicopters not only intruded in the area but also operated from the place, thereby repeating a dreaded scenario of a bygone era, when the same northwest frontiers of the Asian subcontinent would be ravaged by foreign invaders from West and Central Asia.

This 'success' of the US forces indicates the weaknesses of Pakistan's army. There is a shortage of high-quality officers owing to a long tradition of senior commanders' interests being diverted from the military to politics. The lukewarm and, at times cold, relations between the army and the air force is also well-known. Thus Pakistan's commanders (and they are the ultimate decision-makers when it comes to the country's security and to India, Afghanistan or Kashmir) faced massive problems in dealing with the insurgency threat in the western region. Little wonder then that the US SEALs came in and went out unopposed from the wild west of northwest Pakistan.

However, this blunder of the military could have been avoided had Pakistanis learnt the right lessons from its 1989 exercise, Zarb-e-Momin (Believer's Blow), which led to considerable restructuring, including the creation of the air defence command and artillery divisions. It was found then that the Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence (C4I) had serious deficiencies — "especially in the passage of tactical information from higher command to unit level". The lingering defects proved deadly for Kayani and Shuja Pasha.

The most damaging outcome of 'Operation Osama', however, is the revelation that both Kayani and Shuja Pasha, who constitute the vanguard of Islamabad's armed forces, are ISI hands. Moreover, both of them are deeply connected, through their Baloch and Frontier Force Regiment centres, to Abbottabad. Pakistan has recently acquired considerable military hardware. Yet, it could not detect the penetration of its airspace by the US forces. In the fiasco, the ISI was conspicuous by its absence, thereby leading to a severe loss of face for those men who are meant to die for the country's defence if need be. Heads are bound to roll. None can stop the inevitable and the imminent.





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With the swearing in of a United Democratic Front (UDF) government under Congress leader Oommen Chandy, Kerala lived up to the long-held tradition of voting out incumbent governments every five years. But it was a close shave with history because the Left Democratic Front (LDF) came close to retaining power and the UDF has the narrowest of majorities with 72 seats against the LDF's 68 in a House of 140.

The results may be seen as a vote against the LDF but not completely for the UDF. The Lok Sabha elections of 2008 had seen a huge erosion of LDF votes but the alliance managed to recover much ground. The major reasons were the popularity of chief minister Achuthanandan and the LDF's success in putting the focus on corruption and personal misconduct of some UDF leaders and in projecting its own largely unexceptionable record of governance. The alliance perhaps also gained from a reactive Hindu sentiment that is supposed to have gone in its favour. But for the late flip flop on Achuthanandan's candidature, the results might have been even different.

The UDF benefitted much from a consolidation of minority votes. It helped its constituents, the Muslim League and the Kerala Congress (M), which have their support base among the Muslims and the Christians respectively. The Muslim League with 20 seats and the Kerala Congress (M) with nine seats will be Congress' major partners in government. Both are demanding partners and the new government will be under much pressure, especially because it only has a wafer thin majority in the House. The Congress in the state also is faction-ridden and Chandy will have to use his best political skills to keep the party and the alliance together. The stability of the government will be the prime concern for him in the face of likely demands and conflict of interests among the major alliance partners which have very different constituencies of support.

Kerala has an informed and educated citizenry. The government will therefore be under constant watch. Infrastructure development, increase in employment opportunities, industrialisation, regeneration of agriculture and further improvement of the strong social welfare system will be the major tasks for the new government. Politics will continue to be confrontationist, with the opposition strong enough and well poised to take advantage of any slip-up and failure of the government.







For a nation blessed with super rich talent in long distance races, Kenya had one big blot in their book — lack of an Olympic gold medal in marathon. Year after Olympic year, their best men had tried and failed to bring home that coveted piece of yellow metal.

Then came Samuel Wanjiru, erasing that black mark with an all-conquering run in Beijing three years ago to become the toast of his nation. Kenyans and the athletics world will remember him forever for that historic feat. After Monday, he will also be remembered for the manner in which he chose to die — leaping from the balcony of his home in Nyahururu.

A talent marked out for greatness, Wanjiru proved his class early. He was only 21 when he won the Olympic gold. His brilliance also lit up the streets of London and Chicago in subsequent years but ultimately, he chose a life with little light, going the way of several champions who have failed to strike a balance between their career and the riches that came along with it. Often, the route that takes one out of misery and poverty to a life of comfort and riches can also send one spiralling to doom. Wanjiru certainly is not alone, though others might not have taken the extreme step the Kenyan runner did.

In our times, Mike Tyson is perhaps the parallel closest to Wanjiru. A young kid who would have perished in the crime-infested ghettos of New York, Tyson found a lifeline in boxing before going on to rock the heavyweight world with his fists of fury.

Iron Mike then revealed feet of clay in the tough ring called life and after blowing up millions and fighting charges of rape, joined the league of several champions who have only old memories and grainy video discs for company. The travails of Tiger Woods, who knocked down several barriers en route to the number one status in golf, are too recent to recount, the American using his triumphs as a licence to indulge in excesses off the course.

It isn't often that someone like Sachin Tendulkar graces the sporting field — growing up to take the rough and the smooth of the celebrity life with equal felicity. As he leaves the stage, Wanjiru leaves us not just images of his successful conquests but a grim reminder of the perils in the life of a celebrity sportsperson.







Having fought against acquisition of farm land for industries at Singur and Nandigram, it will now be difficult for Mamata to do a volte-face.

Despite winning a mammoth majority in the state legislature, Mamata Banerjee has work cut out for her in trying to revitalise West Bengal after its moribund existence for three decades under Communist rule.

Not that Mamata is inheriting such a ramshackle, lawless, backward and resource-poor state like Nitish Kumar did after 15 years of Lalu's misrule in the neighbouring Bihar. On the contrary, West Bengal recorded a compounded average economic growth rate of 8 per cent per annum between 1994 and 2004 which jumped to 10 per cent in the next 3 years. The state has rich reserves of minerals such as coal, limestone, dolomite and granite and is the largest producer of fruits and vegetables and jute in the country, while its highlands in the north turn out the second largest tea crop in the country.

The Left rule may be blamed for many of West Bengal's present infirmities but it cannot be gainsaid that, by and large, law and order and administrative control was maintained, unlike the total disorder in Bihar under Lalu. A legacy from the Left rule which Mamata should be grateful for is the implementation of total land reform and institution of a strong panchayat raj system.

On the flip side, to maintain its stranglehold in rural Bengal, the Left pursued a dual control system, with the legitimate administration along one strand and party cadre on the other. The embedded partymen exercised more power than the government officials and extracted their percentage on all budgeted spending. The first challenge for the Trinamool government will be to dismantle this parallel power edifice and restore confidence to the legitimate government officialdom.

The recent implementation of the Fifth Pay Commission recommendations by the Left Front government pushed the state government deeper into debt. The state's revenue deficit to gross fiscal deficit increased to about 84 per cent in 2009-10 (revised estimates) from 73 per cent in the previous year. Committed expenditure (salary, pension and interest expenditure) formed 112.4 per cent of the revenue receipt.

Mamata has some hard decisions to take. To cut down the deficit, she will have to cut the flab in the administrative system, close down or privatise perennially loss-making state public sector units, revisit and revise subsidy schemes which line pockets of middlemen rather than actually help the poor and cut back on flashy projects which do little to alleviate the plight of the 'aam admi.'

The scope for raising taxes to increase revenues is very limited in West Bengal whose population is mainly composed of the poor and lower middle classes with a smattering of the middle class element. As it is, they are just managing to keep their noses above the inflation line and any further decrease in their take home income due to enhanced taxes will drown a majority of them.


The one single avenue Mamata has of increasing the state's revenues substantially without breaking the general public's back is through industrialisation. But this is far easier said than done. Part of the problem is historic. Commencing from the mid-60s, the meticulous efforts of the Left pack, led by Jyoti Basu, systematically decimated the state's industries through aggressive industrial action.

In 2001, West Bengal alone accounted for 62 per cent of the total man-days lost in the country. A second blow was the imposition of the Freight Equalisation Scheme, which put paid to the natural advantage West Bengal had in being close to the raw material sources of the engineering industry.

The combined effect was a steady flight of capital from the state. According to a position paper by IMRB International,  in the post-liberalisation period, 1991 to 2004, industrial investment through IEM (Industrial Entrepreneur Memorandum) in West Bengal accounted for only 4 per cent against 18 per cent in Maharashtra, 16 per cent in Gujarat, 10 per cent in Andhra Pradesh and 9 per cent in Tamil Nadu. Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) flowed in copiously to Maharashtra, Gujarat, Haryana (Gurgaon), Uttar Pradesh (Noida), Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, but not West Bengal.

There has been some pull back in the last 5 years, when the Left Front, confronted by a restless tide of unemployed youth and empty state coffers, made an attempt at attracting  business investors  through offers of developed land and  reining in of trade union aggression. All this came to a nought with the Singur and Nandigram debacles.

Ironically, these two flashpoints, which enabled the Trinamool to oust the Left Front, could prove a roadblock in Mamata's attempts to reindustrialise West Bengal. As 70 per cent of the state's population is dependent on agriculture-based income, the transfer of farm land to industries is extremely difficult. Having fought against acquisition of agricultural land for industries at Singur and Nandigram, it will now be difficult for Mamata to do a volte-face and procure land for industrialisation.

There are two other fronts where Mamata is faced with ticklish problems. Having  played footsie with the Maoists in Nandigram, the Trinamool will find it embarrassing and, perhaps, impossible to dislodge the insurgents from their enclaves in the surrounding districts. The second issue has to do with the agitation for Gorkhaland state which has been simmering for over three decades.

The Left Front was rigid in its opposition to this demand and even Mamata has, in the past, maintained that she is against further division of Bengal. With the local parties in the hills having supported her in the recent elections, she will be walking a tightrope fending off their demand.








In many countries the magnitude of drinking and driving has not been well understood.

There has been much progress in reducing drinking and driving in industrialised countries over the past 30 years. However, while drinking and driving continues to be a source of concern in developed countries, it is an even greater concern in developing countries.

This is not only because alcohol-related crashes have significant social and economic costs, but because they often result in the death or serious injury of breadwinners such that families are no longer able to pay for essentials and are forced into poverty.

It has been a challenge to measure the magnitude and characteristics of the problem in developing countries due to lack of data. Among those countries that do collect data, data is often incomplete, and it can be difficult to make comparisons due to varying definitions and terminologies used to describe alcohol involvement in road crashes. In addition, there are often inconsistent or non-existent data linkages between different systems (eg: police, health and transportation), resulting in an incomplete picture of the problem.

There are some common barriers in developing countries that make it challenging to address the drinking and driving issue. As noted, in many countries the magnitude and characteristics of the problem are not well understood. Without this critical data, it can be difficult to generate political support for legislative and policy changes that are much needed. For example, in some developing countries drunk driving laws are rarely comprehensive or backed up by much needed enforcement that can create general deterrent effects.

Public awareness

Without data it can also be difficult to demonstrate the need for increased enforcement or public awareness campaigns. Countries that have managed to put in place drunk driving legislation may still suffer from lack of training initiatives for safety professionals, resources for equipment or the implementation of road safety strategies. A key challenge noted with regard to the implementation of solutions is that institutional frameworks may be poorly developed or lack sufficient resources in many countries to be effective.

However, there appears to be growing awareness of, and concern about, impaired driving in developing countries, particularly in response to global efforts. Important priorities include the improvement of data collection strategies, the setting of legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limits, and public education initiatives.

According to a comprehensive road safety manual on drinking and driving from the Global Road Safety Partnership (2007), countries are taking action. Surveillance systems to monitor alcohol involvement in all crashes are present to varying extents in Thailand; Bangalore, India; Colombia; and in Sunsai and Dharari, Nepal.

In the United States, brewers have supported independent, landmark research initiatives that provide important insight into priority problems in the justice system and have supported the development of practical solutions. In Europe, Australia, and other parts of the world, brewers have promoted public awareness campaigns and responsible drinking initiatives, and have supported enhanced legislation, enforcement measures, and evidence-based programmes.

There are also a number of ways in which governments in industrialised countries and other stakeholders can assist their counterparts in the developing world. Knowledge transfer initiatives are paramount to success and there is much that can be learned from the more than 40 years of alcohol research that has been conducted in industrialised countries. In particular, knowledge with regard to the effects of impairment — even at low levels of alcohol — and the relative risk of crashes can help form the basis to guide legislative and policy change as well as public education efforts.

Governments and other stakeholders are also well positioned to inform the development of data surveillance systems to measure and monitor impaired driving, to assist in the development and implementation of tailored interventions, and to support the development of evaluation methods for these interventions.

Of greatest importance, immense efforts are needed to support the development of transportation professionals and road safety researchers in developing countries to ensure that they can build local capacity to sustain strategies aimed at reducing impaired driving. It should also be underscored that developing countries must be supported in the development and application of interventions that are evidence-based, culturally appropriate and have been piloted in a local environment to ensure success.







The French revolution did create a document which emphasised the rights of man.

Despite being a teacher of biology, I have been fascinated by history. In particular by revolutions: the violence unleashed by them, the wisdom which follows them and finally by the apathy in which such wisdom ends.

On July 13, 1793, during the height of the French revolution, a woman, with a dagger hidden under her clothes, entered an apartment heavily guarded by French revolutionaries. Evading the guards she managed to enter the toilette of a man. Finding him bathing in his bathtub, she plunged the dagger into his chest. Revolutionary guards found the woman still seated next to the dead man and took her prisoner. Even before the dead man was buried, the woman was led to the guillotine.

The man assassinated was Jean-Paul Marat, a French revolutionary. His assassin was Charlotte Corday, a royalist who had vowed allegiance to the monarch, Louis XVI.  Marat's murder by Charlotte  represents a clash of ideals. Marat, called 'ami du peuple' by the people of France, was their hero.

He had with a flourish of his pen signed the death warrant of a number of French aristocrats, including the emperor of France. Charlotte was not alone in having avenged the monarchy. Within months after the death of Marat, Robespierre, the brainchild of the French revolution, himself fell prey to the guillotine.

Within a few decades, the French monarchy had been reinstated. The Russian revolution took a very similar turn, when after decades, Gorbachev denounced it with two simple words — 'Glasnost' and 'Perestroika.' As recently as 2006, our little Himalayan neighbour, Nepal, experienced a revolution. And as I write this, the Arab nations are in turmoil.

Is it that revolutions accomplish little? After all, the French revolution did create a document which emphasised the 'rights of man.' It was communist Russia which succeeded in putting the first man into space. Rather than ask ourselves whether the turmoil caused by revolutions is worth some of the positive changes they bring, we need to ask ourselves why revolutions take place at all.

If it is true that Marie Antoinette had said "if they don't have bread, let them eat cake", then that insensitive statement may well have precipitated the French revolution. Perhaps the cause for the anger and frustration in the masses is the corruption of an insensitive ruling class. We need to weed out corruption from politics, public and government life. Before a Marat or Robespierre emerges from the masses — a Marat who believes in re-inventing the guillotine rather than 'bailing' out the corrupt. So before the air is filled with the stench of revolution, let us read the writing on the wall.








Yesterday's Supreme Court decision to the effect that former President Moshe Katsav will not begin serving his prison sentence, pending a decision on his appeal, is a bad decision, involving problematic reasoning and grave consequences. More than he explains his reasons in his 30-page decision, Supreme Court Justice Yoram Danziger relates the story of the conviction. In a very tortuous style, and based on a precedent that may have nothing to do with the case of the former president, the justice tries to support his decision.

Inter alia, Justice Danziger points out that some of the testimony may require further clarification, and that there are cases in which a person who committed crimes similar to those of Katsav sat behind bars, while in other cases the felon was not sentenced to an active prison term.

This casuistry is surprising, to say the least; in most of the cases when the Supreme Court does not reject an appeal out of hand, it is clear, in any event, there may be another discussion and even a decision to change the sentence (or not ). Moreover, just at the stage of summing up the explanations and formulating the decision, Danziger states that "the chances of appeal in these convictions are probably not great."

But even were the chances of appeal of the serious convictions - for which the former president was sentenced to seven years in prison - are far better than Danziger anticipates, and there is no connection between them and the unfortunate decision to leave Katsav outside prison. Any other criminal convicted of this type of crime is placed in detention until the conclusion of proceedings (in many cases even longer than the nine months allowed by law, by means of a court-initiated extension ), and goes to prison straight after sentencing - whether or not the convicted has submitted an appeal.

The court's decision to delay Katsav's incarceration shows, once again, there is a contradiction here to the principle of equality, and the decision can be viewed as showing preference to people in high places. In his decision Justice Danziger cited the prosecution's contention that delaying imprisonment is liable to harm public confidence in the legal system and to undermine its authority. It's a shame that the justice did not consider this statement seriously enough. Katsav's walking around free undermines the credibility and authority of the courts in the eyes of the public.







Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Knesset speech on Monday was a good one. He told the truth. He described the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as it is. He set down six principles for Israel as it seeks peace: recognition of Israel as the Jewish national home, a demilitarized Palestine that does not control the Jordan Valley, a solution outside Israel to the refugee problem, retention of settlement blocs, a united Jerusalem and a declaration of an end to the conflict with no further demands.

These six principles are completely loyal to the Rabin legacy, the Sharon legacy and the Kadima party's platform. They are principles that can be legitimately presented to the Palestinians. They are principles that can be explained to the world. They are principles that the sane Israeli majority accepts. Regarding Jerusalem, Israel will have to make another painful concession, but basically there's no two-state solution that is not founded on these six principles.

If we deserve peace, these are the principles it will be based on. If war is imposed on us, these are the principles that will be worth fighting for. This is the Israeli core.

But Netanyahu's speech to Congress next week will have to be even better than Monday's; it will have to be excellent. To achieve this, he will have to include another principle of peace that he didn't mention in the Knesset - the principle of 1967.

Israel's prime minister doesn't have to agree to withdraw to the 1967 borders. Such a withdrawal is impossible. But he will have to agree to give the Palestinians land equivalent to the territory captured in 1967. Such an agreement is vital. Without accepting the principle of 1967, Netanyahu's other principles will remain full of holes. The Palestinians will mock them and the world will reject them. They will end up the latest unimportant remarks by an unimportant prime minister who left no lasting mark.

The draft of Netanyahu's speech to Congress is ready, and it includes a brilliant idea. On Tuesday, that flash of brilliance will make headlines. But after Tuesday, there will be a stormy debate both in Israel and around the world: Is this great idea merely spin, shtick or a breakthrough? An evasive maneuver or a substantial declaration?

Precisely for this reason, Netanyahu must craft his speech carefully. Just as his Bar-Ilan speech is remembered for seven words, his Washington speech will rise or fall on some 30 words. If they are uttered sincerely, with determination and strength, they are likely to be a turning point. If they are muttered vaguely, they will accomplish nothing. Only a brave Netanyahu will manage to challenge the Palestinians and the international community. Only with a substantive statement can he create a new diplomatic reality.

These are tough times. The Middle East is roiling and the Palestinians are on a roll, which is making them more and more extreme. There isn't much chance for peace now. But if the United Nations decides to accept the establishment of a Palestinian state along the '67 lines, there will be no chance for peace in the future, either.

If the world decides to realize the Palestinians' right to self-determination without their renouncing their demand for the refugees' return, they will never concede the right of return. Three million Palestinian refugees will make peace impossible. If the world concedes Ma'aleh Adumim, Gilo and French Hill to the Palestinians, they will never compromise on Ma'aleh Adumim, Gilo and French Hill. Six hundred thousand settlers standing in peace's way will assure that there will never be peace. September 2011 will be remembered as the month that peace was lost.

The ramifications are hard to swallow; the current battle is not over peace now, it's simply over leaving a path open for peace in the future. At the same time, the battle is against Israel's total delegitimization, against sliding downhill toward war, against creating such a feeling of despair that Israelis and Palestinians will end up at each other's throats.

Under such grave circumstances, all sane people must band together. Netanyahu must move things forward by adopting the principle of 1967. Kadima must give Netanyahu a break by adopting a positive attitude - one that is practical, not spiteful.

All Israel must unite around these core principles, and the international community must get real. Only thus, by joining forces, will it be possible to prevent war and move gradually toward peace. There is very little time. The iceberg is getting closer.







Look what a few hundred demonstrators can do in a day: 1948 is on the agenda. The breach of the fence in the Golan Heights was enough to breach a far older and more complex fence, bringing 1948 to center stage in the political discussion.

We're still screwing things up and babbling ourselves to death about 1967 - will or won't Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu utter the words "1967 borders," as if it makes a difference what he says. We're still babbling that the evil from the north, which may actually be good, is approaching, and the discussion has suddenly changed direction. Netanyahu, who is well aware of the situation, is playing dumb: He bears responsibility for the state of affairs, along with all his predecessors.

That's how it is when you drag things out, make a mockery of things and deceive, when you think that inactivity is the solution, when you keep putting off the decision to end the occupation. After 44 years of military rule whose end is not in sight, after a handful of Oslo crumbs that didn't improve the Palestinians' situation, peace plans that are collecting dust in the drawers and innumerable empty speeches, without undertaking a single courageous act except for the evacuation of the Gaza Strip, the genie is out of the bottle.

Anyone who didn't want 1967 is now getting 1947. Anyone who didn't want to evacuate the settlement of Ariel will now be forced to discuss Carmiel. Anyone who didn't want a historic compromise is now getting the 1948 portfolio on his doorstep. The right is rejoicing, it's not clear about what, the left has long been dead and the caravan is galloping forward, leaving Israel in a situation that is deteriorating by the day.

1948 received a donkey's burial in Israel; there has never been a genuine public discussion of it here, but its spirit never died for a moment in Palestine and the Palestinian diaspora. Its survivors, the refugees and their grandchildren carry its memory and their pain to this day, just as the Jews carry their own memories and pain. That should have been acknowledged long ago. In that sense we can actually appreciate the behavior of the demonstrators from Syria: They reminded Israelis of forgotten events.

We can arrest and interrogate him as much as we like, but the sight of the young Palestinian from Syria who came to Jaffa to visit his ancestral home was an extremely impressive sight in the history of the conflict. Maybe now we will begin to understand its roots and solutions. Maybe we will begin to understand that for the Palestinian people the 1967 borders are the mother of all compromises and concessions, a compromise that is far more painful for them than for us. Not only because it means giving up three quarters of their country, but mainly because it means giving up desires and yearnings.

For years many Palestinians and their leaders were ready for concessions. When they started to despair, after all those scandalous years of stagnation, their demand resurfaced in full force. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, the greatest of the compromisers, would never have published his recent article in The New York Times, in which he discussed the Palestinian historical narrative, had we been implementing an agreement. Now the Americans know what happens when they do nothing. Now a hollow announcement by the Prime Minister's Office that Israel is committed to the two-state solution is no longer enough. In what way exactly is it "committed"? And what has it done to implement it? Only more and more settlements.

It's hard to exaggerate the importance of the change taking place before our astonished eyes, which were wide shut all those years. The territories are still far from being evacuated, the third intifada is apparently not yet about to begin, and Netanyahu is safely ensconced in his seat, playing for time with empty words and hollow formulas. But from now on every Israeli, including the prime minister, will be forced to understand that every solution must be attentive to the other side's desires.

The time has come to remove the abscess and air out the wound. We're not talking about an impossible turning back of the wheel of history, about the return of millions and the end of the State of Israel, as the right is trying to scare us into believing. We're talking about understanding the other side and granting some of its desires - accepting moral responsibility for 1948, a solution to the refugee problem, and of course, that very minimum, the 1967 borders. Anyone who still doesn't understand that is invited to waste more time and see how this benefits us and them.







Next week, the prime minister will address the U.S. Congress. Many congressmen, especially from the Republican Party, are friends of Israel. The Republicans don't like spending taxpayers' money on foreign aid, and especially not when their country's economy is doing so poorly. That includes, and perhaps even especially, aid to the United Nations.

Benjamin Netanyahu therefore ought to argue that the United States, being the UN's principal financial supporter, bears great responsibility for the failure to solve the problem of the Palestinian refugees. Had it not financed a significant portion of UN Relief and Works Agency's budget from 1950 to the present, the problem would have been solved long ago.

Over the course of the 20th century, solutions were found for tens of millions of other refugees, especially after World War II. These solutions included population exchanges.

This American aid, Netanyahu should stress, is financing one of the most evil and strategically sophisticated plots of our times: cultivating entire generations, millions of people, with one primary goal - destroying the Jewish state.

If America is committed to ensuring Israel's continued existence - and of this, there is no doubt - then it must stop funding those whose lives are dedicated to Israel's destruction. If America and its allies see to the closure of UNRWA and its ilk, the process of truly rehabilitating the refugees, backed by suitable financing, will finally be able to begin.

Originally numbering some 700,000 people, who could have been compensated and helped to acquire productive lives, the refugee population has since grown to about five million. It is almost impossible to find a peaceful solution for that number of people - which was precisely the plotters' intent.

Israel, which also failed to dismantle the refugee camps under its control, now finds itself facing a challenge that it is neither mentally nor morally equipped to handle. If Israel's army was afraid to use force against a mere few hundred people, the planners of the next march on the country's borders are doubtless saying to themselves, it's easy to predict how it will behave when faced with hundreds of thousands, or certainly with millions.

This week, the shopworn mantra was reiterated once again: Negotiations would have prevented the breach of the border fence. That is utter nonsense. The refugees' opposition to any compromise that doesn't return them to Jaffa and Haifa is unyielding.

And that is why (as shown by the angry demonstrations against him following Al Jazeera's revelation of alleged Palestinian concessions in the talks ) Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas smashed the "peace process" to bits by refusing to return to the negotiating table.

But the message sent by those who burst over the border at Majdal Shams was also aimed at the PA: Don't even think of giving in. Israel, as the lack of resolution evinced by its government and army (once again ) proved, is getting weaker and weaker. We are on the brink of total victory.

This time, too, the government will do what it ostensibly knows how to do: give its forces better tools for dispersing demonstrations, and of course engage in "public diplomacy" (though even this with its characteristic incompetence ).

But it lacks the leadership and ideological, moral and operational courage to deal with the fundamental problems that threaten Jewish survival in the Land of Israel. And that would be even more true of a government led by Kadima or the other leftist factions.







Between 1949 and 1956, in what Israel calls "retribution operations," thousands of Palestinians, who did not come to attack, were killed on the borders. Hundreds of others, probably fewer, who came to kill or steal or take what was theirs, were also killed. Those thousands were all killed, and others were imprisoned, because the new state's laws categorized them as "infiltrators."

The argument about whether the Palestinians were driven out or fled is sanctimonious. From the moment hundreds of thousands of them were forbidden to return, their flight became a deportation. Civilian populations flee at a time of war and return, all over the world (Israel's defenders always point out the exceptions ). But preventing their return, the killing and the internal debates show how the "refugee problem" was gradually but speedily labelled a security problem.

The military rule in the villages hunted down those who succeeded in returning. Until it was dismantled in 1967, this rule ensured the massive land confiscation and effectively prevented the return. In fact, not all of the state's leadership during the war realized that the army and David Ben-Gurion intended to "cleanse" the land. So some leaders had no idea from where to deport people and from where not to deport them, and whether to allow them to return or not.

Kibbutz correspondence, for example, shows how little the early arguments for preventing the return had to do with security. Kibbutz Kiryat Anavim, for instance, coveted the Abu Gosh lands and demanded to drive out its residents. In any case, there wasn't an immediate consensus against the return.

Shooting at the demonstrators in the north to "protect our sovereignty" this week was what Israel had done before as well - shooting Palestinans who think this is their land contrary to the law. The law was enacted by those who deported them, of course.

This point touches on the question of Israel's illegitimacy. The panic from the word "return" stems from here. But to understand how extreme Benjamin Netanyahu is, and how much he is part of the radical nucleus of the rejectionist front, you must listen to his cliches about "we're willing to cede parts of homeland." What exactly is he ceding in the West Bank? What chapter from the Book of Joshua is he living in?

What we are dealing with is not the Palestinians' return to Israel at all. If the struggle over Palestine has become Israel's delegitimization, it is because Israel's governments insist on talking about a Palestinian state and "destruction" in the same breath. The issue at stake is the refugees' return to the Palestinian state alongside Israel. Israel has no other way to take part in solving what it created in atrocious innocence in 1948.

Israel, boasted Shimon Peres in one of his gushing outpourings, has turned into a blossoming garden. Well, a blossoming garden it isn't. Suffice it to see the hospitals. But Israel is the only state in the world who has been receiving millions of dollars for every Jewish citizen for years. Never has there been another state whose standard of living was built by such high external funding, regardless of its resources. The Palestinian state in Gaza and the West Bank, should it be so lucky as to get half these sums, will undoubtedly succeed in establishing itself as a prosperous neighbor.

The matter will not end until the Israeli public understands that it's in its own interest, and essential for its survival, to reconcile and withdraw from all the territories. Meanwhile, we're left with the inflation of "Nakba" in Hebrew, including dime-store radicalism in the newspapers and on the Internet, tiny vociferous demonstrations and the IDF's usual response. The dogs bark, says the establishment, and the caravan passes by. The wounded and the killed will be picked up by Red Crescent ambulances. Let the leftists donate their blood.



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



There was probably never much chance that a self-appointed gang of six senators could produce a comprehensive solution for the nation's long-term deficit, given the ruthless political environment. The best hoped was that it could give bipartisan traction to a few useful ideas before they were attacked and destroyed by ideologues.

That's why the decision on Tuesday by Senator Tom Coburn, a Republican of Oklahoma, to leave the "Gang of Six" deficit talks before that could happen was so unfortunate. It's not that we regularly agreed with Mr. Coburn's very conservative outlook — far from it. But he recently showed courage by acknowledging that the budget cannot be put in long-term balance without new money. Few other Republicans are willing to admit that truth out loud.

Mr. Coburn adopted a nuanced position that allowed him to say he was against an increase in tax rates. But he was not against eliminating certain breaks and broadening the tax base, which could result in rich people paying more. By current Republican standards, that constitutes a breakthrough, one that negotiators of both parties could combine with measures to reduce the growth of spending — and get closer to a balanced budget.

Naturally, he was pilloried for it. The no-tax-no-how core denounced him, as did right-wing blogs. The Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell, dismissed the gang's importance, and Oklahoma voters made their unhappiness known. When Mr. Coburn returned from the recent Congressional vacation, negotiators say, he began making new and impossible demands, including cutting $130 billion from Medicare beyond the $400 billion cut envisioned by President Obama's deficit reduction commission.

When Democrats predictably balked, Mr. Coburn walked out. A wounded gang continues to meet, but its prospects are dimmed. The other two Republicans, Saxby Chambliss of Georgia and Michael Crapo of Idaho, are also risking right-wing wrath by staying on, but they don't seem to have the political clout to sell a compromise.

The only other serious talks in Washington are the ones forced by House Republicans, who are using the expiration of the debt ceiling to extort new spending cuts. But those talks, led by Vice President Joseph Biden Jr., are focused more on a shorter-term way to hold down spending. The atmosphere in the capital is apparently too toxic to go beyond that, as the gang's implosion shows.

The Senate could, of course, do something almost old-fashioned: pass its own budget to counter the one assembled by Representative Paul Ryan for the House. But that would require Democrats to agree among themselves about the need to balance revenue increases with long-term cuts. The president's 2012 budget recommended a 3-to-1 ratio of spending cuts to revenue increases, which cuts government programs far too much in a slow recovery. Last week, Senator Kent Conrad of North Dakota, the budget committee chairman, circulated a much better proposal with about an even mix of cuts and increases, including a 3 percent surtax on millionaires.

But some Democrats, like Mark Begich of Alaska and Bill Nelson of Florida, are pushing back on the tax increases, reflecting Republican irresponsibility. Until the president and his party can make a stronger case for increased revenues, it is probably too much to expect Republicans like Tom Coburn to do it for them.






The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ordered an overhaul of mental health care for veterans, who are killing themselves by the thousands each year because of what the court called the "unchecked incompetence" of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

In a scathing 2-to-1 ruling on May 10, the judges said delays in treating post-traumatic stress disorder and other combat-related mental injuries violated veterans' constitutional rights. The delays are getting worse as more troops return from Afghanistan and Iraq, the judges said. About 18 veterans commit suicide on an average day.

The government's obligations are clear. Veterans are entitled by law to be treated for injuries and illnesses. Benefits claims are supposed to be dealt with in days or weeks, but it takes an average of more than four years to fully adjudicate a mental health claim. When a veteran appeals a disability rating, the process bogs down drastically. The problem is an overwhelmed bureaucracy and a chronic inadequacy of resources and planning.

The judges said the system for screening suicidal patients was ineffective, and cited a 2007 inspector general's conclusion that suicide-prevention measures were mostly absent. The same report found that the veterans department's regional medical centers have suicide-prevention experts, but its 800 community-based outpatient clinics — which veterans most often use — do not. This crisis plagues active-duty soldiers, too, and the Pentagon has lagged in responding effectively. The government has long known what it was up against with P.T.S.D. and brain injuries — the signature afflictions of current wars.

This new ruling came two years after the appeal was filed, during which lawyers for the government and the nonprofit advocacy organizations that sued, Veterans for Common Sense and Veterans United for Truth, were trying to negotiate a plan for fixing the system. Those negotiations did not succeed, so the judges have remanded the case to the district court to order one.

The government can keep appealing, but it should work with the advocates and enact a plan to fulfill the promise of the veterans affairs secretary, Eric Shinseki, to do better. For 25 million veterans, including 1.6 million who served in Afghanistan and Iraq, the choice is clear.





The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, created by Congress last year as part of financial reform, has broad authority to ban unfair or abusive practices in financial products and services. Protecting checking account holders from unreasonable fees and other costly traps should be one of the agency's first priorities when it opens for business in July.

At a minimum, it should apply the same sensible protections won by long-abused credit card users in the Credit Card Act of 2009.

A new report by the Pew Charitable Trust's Safe Checking in the Electronic Age Project analyzed the policies of the nation's 10 largest banks. It shows why checking account holders — in other words most adult Americans — are in desperate need of better protections.

Required disclosure documents run an average of 111 pages and often hide penalty and fee information in several places so that customers cannot easily find it. Checking overdraft fees are not "reasonable and proportional," as late fees must now be for credit cards. According to the study, the average overdraft charge of $35 on an average overdraft of $36 amounts to an annualized interest rate of more than 5,000 percent. The banks deserve to make money on these transactions. But certainly not that much.

Most of the banks studied reserve the right to reorder transactions in ways that maximize overdraft fees. They can post withdrawals before deposits. They can also clear checks out of the order in which they are presented — processing the largest item first — so that the account is emptied quickly and they can levy multiple overdraft charges.

The study estimates that the banking industry will reap $38 billion in overdraft fees this year — a record high — much of that because of tricky disclosure, processing and fee schemes. That is outrageous.






The Vatican's long overdue guidelines for fighting sexual abuse of children are, unfortunately, just that — flimsy guidelines for a global problem that requires an unequivocal mandate for church officials to work with secular authorities in prosecuting rogue priests.

Instead, the Vatican has issued nonbinding guidance that punts the scandal back to the authority of local bishops, who still will not face firm oversight or punishment for cover-ups that recycled hundreds of abusive priests.

The directive came two days before a new study of the abuse problem that cites the sexual and social turmoil of the 1960s as a possible factor in priests' crimes. This is a rather bizarre stab at sociological rationalization and, in any case, beside the point that church officials went into denial and protected abusers.

The Vatican directive is also seriously defective for playing down the role of civilian boards in investigating abuses. The lay boards helped force the American bishops to proclaim a zero-tolerance policy that was finally more concerned about raped children than the image of the Roman Catholic Church.

The Vatican guidelines note that abusing children is a matter for secular law and call for dioceses to create "clear and coordinated" policies by next year. But the continuing stress on church priority in what essentially are criminal offenses is disheartening.

Vatican officials say Rome should not interfere with the traditional supremacy of local bishops. That was not the case earlier this month, when Pope Benedict XVI removed Bishop William Morris of Australia from office. The bishop, concerned with the shortage of priests, asked five years ago whether the Vatican "may well" have to reconsider the bar to ordaining women or married men.

No dramatic dismissal was ordered for bishops well documented to have overseen hush payments to victims and relocation of abusive priests. Splendid Vatican sanctuary was extended to Cardinal Bernard Law after he had to resign amid reports he covered up the scandal in Boston.

Most recently, ranking churchmen in Philadelphia rejected a grand jury finding that as many as 37 priests suspected of abuse should not still be serving. The diocese later suspended 26 amid public alarm. This should have been a red flag to the Vatican that diocesan prelates need a no-nonsense fiat in repairing the damage to children and the church from decades of shielding abusive priests.






What is it with Republicans lately?

Nobody wants to run for the presidential nomination. Mike Huckabee said God told him to stay on Fox News. NBC told Donald Trump to stay on "Celebrity Apprentice."

Whatever happened to putting your country first? Our forefathers would never have passed up the presidency for anything less than the Charlie Sheen role on "Two and a Half Men."

The Republicans are terrified that they'll wind up with Mitt Romney, who has been fund-raising like crazy and seems to be planning a campaign based on the slogan: "Money can't buy love, but it can definitely purchase a grudging, defeatist acceptance."

Some party leaders are looking hopefully at Mitch Daniels, the governor of Indiana, who's promised to make up his mind this month. If he runs, one thing you are not going to get from Mitch Daniels is the politics of joy. Have you ever seen "Game of Thrones" on HBO? It's about a mythical kingdom that sends some of its young men to the remote tundra to live in perpetual celibacy and guard a 700-foot-tall wall of ice. Their reaction is very similar to the way Mitch Daniels looks when he talks about running for president.

Daniels is apparently worried that a presidential run might prove embarrassing to his wife, who ditched him and the kids and ran off to California to marry a doctor and then later recanted everything and came back. I think it is pretty safe to say that this topic might come up.

Which brings us to sex. What is it with Republicans lately? Is there something about being a leader of the family-values party that makes you want to go out and commit adultery?

They certainly don't have a lock on the infidelity market, and heaven knows we all remember John Edwards. But, lately, the G.O.P. has shown a genius for putting a peculiar, newsworthy spin on illicit sex. A married congressman hunting for babes is bad. A married congressman hunting for babes by posting a half-naked photo of himself on the Internet is Republican.

A married governor who fathers an illegitimate child is awful. A married governor who fathers an illegitimate child by a staff member of the family home and then fails to mention it to his wife for more than 10 years is Republican.

A married senator who has an affair with an employee is a jerk. A married senator who has an affair with an employee who is the wife of his chief of staff, and whose adultery is the subject of ongoing discussion at his Congressional prayer group, is Republican.

We haven't even gotten to Newt Gingrich yet!

Gingrich is the best-known of the second-string Republicans who are ready, willing and eager to take on Romney for the nomination. The question is whether social conservatives will resent the fact that he was having an adulterous relationship with his current wife while she was a House of Representatives staffer and he was trying to impeach Bill Clinton for the Monica Lewinsky affair. Also, this week, Politico reported that in 2005 and 2006, Gingrich had an account with Tiffany's that sometimes ran to $500,000 in debt.

Never have we had sex issues with so many layers. It shows you how far we have evolved as a nation. In the old days it was: Warren Harding making whoopee in the presidential coat closet: yes or no?

Really persistent sexual misbehavior says something about the character of the person involved. In Gingrich's case, we have a failure-to-settle-down problem that extends way beyond matrimony. He can't even hang onto a position on Medicare for an entire week. This man is a natural for an occupation that rewards attention deficit. Maybe God actually meant to tell Newt to stay on Fox News, but accidentally shipped the message to Huckabee.

As to Governor Daniels, the voters are unlikely to give a fig about the interesting past of his wife, Cheri. But if he wants to protect her from the embarrassment of being asked about it 24/7, perhaps he could just declare her off limits. The news media has generally respected those kinds of rules when it comes to presidential candidates' children, as long as said offspring don't show up on reality shows or as teen-abstinence ambassadors for a shoe store foundation.

Of course, a wife who is off limits would not be able to campaign for her husband. I think that would be terrific. Finally, we could end the tradition that a presidential candidate's spouse is running for something, too. If we want a first family to obsess over, we should just hire a king and queen.

Don't know how the social right would feel about this. But there's always Mitt Romney.







One cost of the uproar over Greg Mortenson, and the allegations that he fictionalized his school-building story in the best-selling book "Three Cups of Tea," is likely to be cynicism about whether aid makes a difference.

But there are also deeper questions about how best to make an impact — even about how to do something as simple as get more kids in school. Mortenson and a number of other education organizations mostly build schools. That seems pretty straightforward. If we want to get more kids in school around the world, what could make more sense than building schools?

How about deworming kids?

But, first, a digression: a paean to economists.

When I was in college, I majored in political science. But if I were going through college today, I'd major in economics. It possesses a rigor that other fields in the social sciences don't — and often greater relevance as well. That's why economists are shaping national debates about everything from health care to poverty, while political scientists often seem increasingly theoretical and irrelevant.

Economists are successful imperialists of other disciplines because they have better tools. Educators know far more about schools, but economists have used rigorous statistical methods to answer basic questions: Does having a graduate degree make one a better teacher? (Probably not.) Is money better spent on smaller classes or on better teachers? (Probably better teachers.)

And, yes, I'm getting to deworming. Hold your horses!

Now we reach a central question for our age: How can we most effectively break cycles of poverty? For decades, we had answers that were mostly anecdotal or hot air. But, increasingly, we are now seeing economists provide answers that are rigorously field-tested, akin to the way drugs are tested in randomized controlled trials, yielding results that are particularly credible and persuasive.

Prof. Michael Kremer, a Harvard economist, helped pioneer randomized trials in antipoverty work. In the 1990s, Kremer began studying how to improve education in Africa, trying different approaches in randomly selected batches of schools.

One intervention he tried was deworming kids — and bingo! In much of the developing world, most kids have intestinal worms, leaving them sick, anemic and more likely to miss school. Deworming is very cheap (a pill costing a few pennies), and, in the experiment he did with Edward Miguel, it resulted in 25 percent less absenteeism. Even years later, the kids who had been randomly chosen to be dewormed were earning more money than other kids.

Kremer estimates that the cost of keeping a kid in school for an additional year by building schools or by subsidizing school uniforms is more than $100, while by deworming kids, the cost drops to $3.50. (In a pinch, kids can usually go to "school" in a church or mosque without a uniform.)

Look, school buildings are important, too. My wife and I built a school in Cambodia, and whether it's our school or one of Greg Mortenson's, they can make a big difference. My point is that for years people have been arguing until they were blue in the face about how to help people — and, finally, we're getting some reliable data suggesting how to do that.

Another example: What's the most cost-effective way to prevent H.I.V. transmission in Africa? Most liberals focus on condoms and conservatives on abstinence-only programs. But one program that proved particularly cost-effective in randomized testing in Kenya was simply an initiative to warn teenage girls against "sugar daddies."

This cost less than $1 per girl reached. The result was not that the girls engaged in less sex, but that they slept with boys their age rather than with older men (who, according to prevalence surveys, were more likely to have H.I.V.).

Randomized trials are the hottest thing in the fight against poverty, and two excellent new books have just come out by leaders in the field. One is "Poor Economics," by Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo, and the other is "More Than Good Intentions," by Dean Karlan and Jacob Appel.

For years, we've seen a sterile debate about whether humanitarian aid works. (Sometimes yes, sometimes no.) These terrific books move the debate to the crucial question: What kind of aid works best?

For those who want to be sure that to get the most bang for your buck, there is also a "proven impact fund" ( It supports interventions like deworming or microsavings that have proved to be cost-effective in rigorous trials.

I've been worried that the "Three Cups of Tea" uproar would lead people to give up on helping others. That would be a tragedy because, over the last decade, we've actually gotten much smarter at figuring out how to make a difference. Increasingly, we have a good idea what works — if people still are trusting enough to try to help.







EBO got nervous when, in the middle of one night in 2003, he was taken to the beach in Zuwarah by the Libyan smugglers and saw the challenge he had taken on. He and two other fishermen from Ghana had agreed to be captains of a boat filled with migrant workers from sub-Saharan Africa across the Mediterranean Sea to Italy. In exchange, they were to get free passage. They were told that they could refuse to go if the boat was not seaworthy or if the smugglers had overloaded it.

When they arrived at the beach the boat was already crammed with people waiting to push off. It lay so deep in the water that Ebo couldn't even see the boat, only the passengers covering every inch of the deck. "Oh, my God," he thought. "What have I done?"

Despite their reservations, Ebo and his fellow fishermen, whom I met in Naples, Italy, while conducting anthropological fieldwork among Ghanaian immigrants, made the journey and lived to tell about it. Many others didn't.

For years, European countries paid Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi to control the flow of African migrants like Ebo across the Mediterranean — even if the methods were inhumane. Now, armed Qaddafi loyalists are forcing migrants onto the high seas to protest the NATO airstrikes in support of Libya's rebels. African and Asian migrants are the pawns in this brutal geopolitical faceoff.

The corrupt participation of the Libyan authorities in human smuggling to southern Europe is an open secret. Ebo told me his journey had been arranged by a group of young Libyan policemen. The Qaddafi regime itself has used migration, or the threat of it, for political leverage. Tellingly, when the protests broke out, Colonel Qaddafi warned Europe not of an oil embargo or new terrorist attacks but that "millions of blacks" could be on the way if he were overthrown.

On May 6, more than 600 asylum seekers and refugees were feared dead off Tripoli when their overcrowded boat capsized (or, in some accounts, broke in half). They are among the thousands of Africans who have died in the past decade trying to reach Europe.

The smugglers themselves never accompany the boats they send off. Rather, they look for migrants with seafaring experience and offer them a free ride if they agree to take a boat to Italy — not because the traffickers are worried about the safety of their cargo but because they know that too many missing people is bad for business. Now, the problem has expanded from human smuggling to expulsion at gunpoint, as migrants are forced to board ramshackle vessels.

European leaders, confronted by anti-immigrant fervor at home, have tried to buy Colonel Qaddafi's cooperation. In 2008, Italy's prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, signed a so-called friendship pact with Libya (since repudiated) worth $5 billion. The deal involves access to Libya's oil and gas riches as well as a crackdown on undocumented migration. Last October, the European Union offered the Qaddafi regime around $70 million to stem the flow of illegal migrants.

The Italian money has been used to finance Libyan detention camps in which migrants from sub-Saharan Africa are held for indeterminate periods. In 2009, the Jesuit Refugee Service in Malta found that detainees had been sexually harassed, beaten and punished with stun guns. One migrant explained that her uncle was left for dead in a pile of garbage after being beaten and tortured with electric shocks; two days later, somebody realized he was still alive.

The willingness of European leaders to strike deals with Colonel Qaddafi demonstrates that high-risk, undocumented migration to Europe is no longer seen primarily as a humanitarian concern, but as a security threat that justifies harsh preventive measures. It also shows how close to betraying European ideals some leaders are willing to go.

As Colonel Qaddafi plays his migration card anew, Europe must ensure that the Mediterranean does not again become a mass grave for African asylum seekers.

In the short run, doubts have been raised about the willingness of European ships to provide assistance to people in distress as they are required to do under maritime law. Given the recent deadly accidents, and the fact that Europe has received less than 2 percent of the people fleeing Libya since the uprising began there, hesitation is unacceptable.

In the long run, Europe should learn from the situation in Libya that paying dictators to make "problems" disappear is not only morally bankrupt but also short-sighted. European leaders must seek commitments from any post-Qaddafi government to handle the challenges of international migration in an orderly and humane fashion. Instead of banishing asylum-seekers to detention camps in the desert, Europe should offer support to Tunisia and Egypt, which are struggling to assist refugees from Libya, and to southern European countries.

When Ebo and his fellow captains reached the high seas, the waves washed over the boat and the passengers panicked and moved to the other side and almost capsized the vessel. The captains got them back into position by shouting, whipping and begging, and eventually the Italian Navy picked them up. Two boats leaving on the same night disappeared, with 200 people never accounted for, Ebo told me.

After entering Italy, he stayed in Europe for five years, working in the construction and fast-food industries, but was then caught and deported in 2008. Today he is back in Ghana.

Hans Lucht, an anthropologist at the University of Copenhagen, is the author of the forthcoming "Darkness Before Daybreak: African Migrants Living on the Fringes in Southern Italy Today."








OVER the past few months, analysts in Israel and abroad have warned that Israel will face what Defense Minister Ehud Barak has termed a "diplomatic tsunami." In September, the Palestinian Authority plans to bring the recognition of a Palestinian state based on the 1967 boundary to the United Nations General Assembly for a vote. The Palestinians' request will almost certainly be approved. 

While most voices in the Israeli and international news media are calling on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to grant major concessions to the Palestinians to forestall such a move, he should in fact do the opposite: he should annex the Jewish communities of the West Bank, or as Israelis prefer to refer to our historic heartland, Judea and Samaria.

In 1995, as part of the Oslo accords, Israel and the Palestinians agreed that "neither side shall initiate or take any step that will change the status of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip pending the outcome of the permanent status negotiations."  If the president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, and prime minister, Salam Fayyad, decide to disregard this section of the accords by seeking United Nations recognition of statehood, it would mean that Israel, too, is no longer bound by its contents and is freed to take unilateral action. 

The first immediate implication would be that all of the diplomatic and security assistance that Israel provides to the Palestinians would be halted, and the transfer of tax revenues — upward of $1 billion per year — would end permanently. This alone could threaten the very existence of the Palestinian Authority.

Second, a United Nations vote on Palestinian statehood would give Israel an opportunity to rectify the mistake we made in 1967 by failing to annex all of the West Bank (as we did the eastern half of Jerusalem). We could then extend full Israeli jurisdiction to the Jewish communities and uninhabited lands of the West Bank. This would put an end to a legal limbo that has existed for 44 years.

In addition to its obvious ideological and symbolic significance, legalizing our hold on the West Bank would also increase the security of all Israelis by depriving terrorists of a base and creating a buffer against threats from the east. Moreover, we would be well within our rights to assert, as we did in Gaza after our disengagement in 2005, that we are no longer responsible for the Palestinian residents of the West Bank, who would continue to live in their own — unannexed — towns.

These Palestinians would not have the option to become Israeli citizens, therefore averting the threat to the Jewish and democratic status of Israel by a growing Palestinian population.

While naysayers will no doubt warn us of the dire consequences and international condemnation that are sure to follow such a move by Israel, this would not be the first time that Israel has made such controversial decisions. 

In 1949, Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion moved the Knesset to Jerusalem and declared it the capital of the State of Israel despite the 1947 United Nations partition plan, which had designated the city an international zone. Immediately after the 1967 Six-Day War, Prime Minister Levi Eshkol annexed East Jerusalem and declared that the city would remain a united and undivided entity.  And in 1981, Prime Minister Menachem Begin extended Israeli sovereignty to the Golan Heights.

In each of these cases, Israel's actions were met with harsh international criticism and threats of sanctions; all of these decisions, however, are cornerstones of today's reality.

Our leaders made these decisions based on the realization that their actions would further Zionist values and strengthen the State of Israel. The diplomatic storms soon blew over as the international community moved on to other issues.  It would be wise of Mr. Netanyahu to follow in their footsteps.

If the Palestinians decide that they want to end the Oslo agreement and begin experimenting with unilateral actions, then an unexpected opening will present itself for Israel. Our leaders must seize this opportunity and right a historic wrong by annexing parts of our homeland.

Danny Danon, a member of the Likud Party, is a deputy speaker of the Israeli Knesset.









This week Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh make a State Visit to Ireland. 

The visit is a historic event in relations between Ireland and the United Kingdom - the first such visit since Irish Independence in 1921 changed political relations on these islands.

It is fitting that it is taking place before the end of the term in office of the President of Ireland, Mary McAleese. The president, the first to be born in Northern Ireland, has made "building bridges" the theme of her Presidency. While the two Heads of State have already met each other on several occasions, this visit is special – a reflection of the transformed bilateral relationship.

It will celebrate the depth and warmth of our relations. Over 6 million people in the U.K. are Irish or have an Irish parent or grandparent while around 3 million visitors from Britain come to Ireland every year.

British and Irish history is inescapably entwined. For too long, however, relations between our nations were marked by conflict and division, by mistrust and suspicion. But today we are proud to be friends and neighbors, partners and equals.

The Northern Ireland Peace Process, founded on the principle of mutual respect, has been critical, both to the partnership we enjoy today and to the process of reconciliation between our peoples. 

That work has been underway for over a quarter of a century. It continues today. Reconciliation is painstaking work. The Belfast Agreement, reached on Good Friday 1998, which included the devolution of power to Northern Ireland and the establishment of frameworks for relations on the island of Ireland and between Britain and Ireland, marked a turning point.

Last week we saw yet another historic milestone reached quietly as elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly produced a strong mandate from the people of Northern Ireland to continue to consolidate peace and stability.

This shared history is fundamental to our relationship. We should not gloss over the past. During the visit, in recognition of this shared history, the Queen will pay tribute to the foundation of the Irish State at the Garden of Remembrance and attend a ceremony to commemorate the Irish who died in the First World War. These elements speak to our shared history.

For Ireland and the United Kingdom, the visit marks not only a milestone in a peace process but a beginning too. Only now can we begin to realize the full potential inherent in relations between our states. 

We have so much in common already. Commercial and cultural links are stronger than ever. Trade and tourism between our two countries is an important contributor to both our economies. Every week around 1 billion pounds in trade takes place between our two countries, while approximately 3 million visitors travel each year from the U.K. to Ireland and a similar number of Irish visited the U.K. The Queen herself will enjoy some of Ireland's attractions with visits to the famous Book of Kells at Trinity College and to the Rock of Cashel in County Tipperary.

We work closely together on some of the great challenges of our time. The economic and financial turmoil of the past few years have demonstrated the importance of decisive government action to improve prosperity and promote growth and jobs: an agenda that we are determined to push at the European Union level.

Meanwhile, we share a commitment to promoting international development and conflict resolution. Our extraordinary progress in establishing peace in Northern Ireland, notwithstanding the actions of a tiny minority, is a positive message for those engaged in the patient work of peace building in so many regions of the world today. 

Economic, political and cultural ties already connect us more closely than at any time in our recent history. This visit is a stepping-stone to an even closer future relationship of cooperation, trust and friendship between the peoples of our islands.

* Eamon Gilmore is the Irish Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade. William Hague is British Secretary of State for Foreign & Commonwealth Affairs.






Turkey is marking the anniversary of the start of its legendary War of Liberation. It was on this day in 1919 when Mustafa Kemal, then a young general of the defeated and largely occupied "Sick man of Europe," landed at Samsun with a vision: To organize a national armed forces and achieve independence of the homeland at all costs.

Yes, the first task of the young general was to establish a national army because most of the units of the defeated Ottoman Empire were disbanded. That national army which was largely under armed compared to the occupation troops waged a heroic war, achieved independence of the country and a young republic replaced the Ottoman Empire.

Turkey's military has always been considered as the most trusted institution in this country – a fact which continues even today despite the systematic defamation campaign that has been continuing for the past few years.

Now, some berserk penslingers and some insolent politicians are accusing the Turkish military of undertaking security operations, "murdering" terrorists and "intentionally increasing tension" in the country with the aim and intention of hurting the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, and boosting the Kurdish and Turkish nationalist parties.

Can there be any logic in such absurd claims? Can the Turkish military "murder" terrorists? Of course the military might kill terrorists in security operations if those terrorist elements refuse to surrender, but why some neo-liberal, Islamist or die-hard anti-nationalist centers try to hurt the image of the military by using the term "murdered" instead of "killed" for the terrorists killed in operations?

What is the fundamental duty of any state?

Is it to provide education to its citizens? Of course, but is educating its people the most important duty of a state?

Is it to provide health services? Definitely it is one of the prime responsibilities of any state particularly if it claims to be a "social" one to provide efficient health services to its citizens.

Is it to construct sufficient transportation and communications infrastructure? Who can say that it is not the responsibility of any state to lay down proper roads, railroads, sea routes, and build telecommunications highways to facilitate transportation, communication and thus social and business interaction of its people within itself as well as with other members of the international community? Yet, is that the prime responsibility of a state?

Achieving, sustaining and advancing the well being of the society is of course a duty of the modern state as well. But, no one can say that is the fundamental responsibility of any state toward its people.

As it is valid on the individual basis, the right to live is the fundamental of all rights in the absence of which all other rights become meaningless. If a state cannot provide sufficient security and ensure the right to live to its citizens, what would be the meaning of let's say press freedom, free thought or free conscience, the right to organize, to demonstrate and other rights and liberties?

Thus, the fundamental duty of any state is to protect its citizens from all threats. For example, let's assume that a citizen is working at a dockyard. The state does not have laws to protect workers employed at that dockyard or despite existence of laws a government turns a blind eye to the violation of those laws by some greedy entrepreneurs striving to make more money by compromising from security measures. That citizen perishes in an accident at that dockyard. Who is responsible for that cold-blooded murder? Of course the greedy employer… and, the state which either did not have laws to provide safe working conditions there or that turned a blind eye to the greedy employer placing aside the requirements of the laws.

This is valid in all walks of life.

For example if a man with a firearm tries to rob a bank, what should be the prime duty of the security? Is it to prevent the robbery at any cost even by risking lives of the personnel of the bank and the customers present? Or, is it first to try to take whatever measures possible under such conditions to prevent human loss?

Or, why is it that pilots and security people onboard a plane are obliged to primarily consider the safety of passengers and if necessary should cooperate with terrorists who hijacked that plane?

Then, what should be the prime duty of a state? What should be the prime duty of a security force? Is it not to provide efficient and sustainable security for each and every member of this nation irrespective whether that person lives in one of the big cities of the West, or in remote border areas of the southeast?

On this anniversary of the start of the Turkish War of Liberation it is indeed sad to witness the country under the threat of occupation of such dirty intentions.







Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan first complained about the "improper language" of the main opposition Republican People's Party, or CHP, leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu and then targeted Kılıçdaroğlu's being Alevi.

"I, once again, remind him about the word of the Great Hacı Bektaşi Veli. As you know, Kılıçdaroğlu belongs to the Alevi culture. But he did not understand and learn from Hacı Bektaşi Veli well enough. He, as an Alevi, should first understand and learn better about him [the Great Master]," Erdoğan suggested.

This is the beginning of Erdoğan's speech at the general council meeting of the All Industrialists and Businessmen's Association in Istanbul on April 29. He then recalled Hacı Bektaşı Veli's saying "Watch your hands, language and body."

"Forgive me, but we have seen those who couldn't control their body and he [Kılıçdaroğlu] became the party leader as a result of a video tape [scandal]."

Erdoğan refers to Kılıçdaroğlu's Alevi heritage at every campaign stop

The next day, on April 30, Erdoğan said during an election campaign speech in the Eastern province of Muş: "We know that Mr. Kılıçdaroğlu has been raised as an Alevi. He is an Alevi; however, he should have respect for Hacı Bektaşi Veli. What Hacı Bektaşi Veli says is, 'Watch your hands, language and body.' He also says 'Watch your manners.' But do they have any of these [qualities]? No, they don't. You hear how they swear, don't you?"

On May 4, the prime minister focused on Kılıçdaroğlu's improper language. "He comes from the Alevi culture. He is an Alevi, you know. I reminded him about Hacı Bektaşi Veli," Erdoğan said during a Kastamonu meeting.

On the same day, in the province of Amasya, Erdoğan first said, "We did not do politics by using faith or ethnicity of others," and then went on to say, "He is from the Alevi culture, as you know, belongs to Hacı Bektaşi Veli's culture."

However, Erdoğan said further in Amasya, "If being an Alevi means loving Hz. Ali, I am a better Alevi than all Alevis. But does Hz. Ali exist in their lives, or do they live like Hz. Ali? No. They are away from Hz. Ali."

During his speeches in the Southeastern province of Kahramanmaraş on May 8, in Afyon on May 10, and in Denizli on May 13, Erdoğan repeated similar remarks and stressed Kılıçdaroğlu's Alevi background.

I scanned through the Anatolian News Agency and realized that the prime minister repeated seven times that Kılıçdaroğlu is Alevi in his speeches between April 29 and May 13.

A first in the history of the Republic

In all these examples, Erdoğan brings Alevism and the Alevi teachings to the public's attention by way of criticizing the CHP leader's "improper language" in addition to the videotape issue in a few examples.

In the final analysis, however, Erdoğan exposes religious background of his political rival and fully concentrates on his religious sect.

Such systematic campaigning against an Alevi politician is being conducted for the first in the history of the Republic of Turkey.

On the other hand, the Alevi community does not believe Erdoğan's good intentions on this particular issue. For instance, Cem Foundation President Professor İzzettin Doğan criticized the prime minister in the following way: "Mr. prime minister keeps saying that the CHP leader is an Alevi. In fact, he is warning Sunnis about 'An Alevi might come to power.' Therefore, he places politics into the Alevi-Sunni axis via religion."

Against the spirit of the government report


There is a contradiction here I want to stress: At the end of Alevi workshops launched two years ago following Erdoğan's personal directive, one of the most critical conclusions in the final report was that "there was a Alevi perception created by prejudice and social exclusion." The report publicized by State Minister Faruk Çelik stressed the need for "transformation of this perception." In the forward of the blueprint Erdoğan says, "I hope this report will be a step to reinforce our integrity, unity and brotherhood and will become a document that puts an end to the problems of all our Alevi citizens."

In the end, Erdoğan's focusing on "origin" in election squares contradicts with the spirit of the government report prepared under his directive. In a society where similar prejudices exist, others are expected to behave responsibly toward the "origins" of the groups being excluded.

Does Mr. prime minister have an urge to stress the Sunni origin of his Sunni political rivals every time he wants to corner them?

* Sedat Ergin is a columnist of daily Hürriyet, in which this piece originally appeared. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.






I was planning on writing this article for quite some time now.

I was feeling regretful and couldn't get rid of it.

Finally, when I read Alper Görmüş's book "Ergenekon Gazeteciliği" (Ergenekon Journalism) and the chat in the daily Taraf, I decided to share with you my experience in this matter.

In short, Görmüş says, "The central media has always supported coups and played a key role in the realization of February 28. Virtually they have acted in accordance with the pro-coup factors in their genes."

Görmüş is absolutely right about the "central media" of which I am a part too.

This fact I noticed in the 90s when writing my much talked about and only book about the Turkish Armed Forces, or TSK, entitled "Emret Komutanım" (Yes, Commander!).

With this book I was enlightened. Back then I started to write that the military needs to stay out of politics and that's when I started to get in trouble. There were court cases filed against me and I was blacklisted. In those days present-day media heroes were nowhere around.

For our generation the state has always been the priority and very reasonable. And the state was represented by the military.

Politicians were people who had a reputation of fiddlers, liars and were inconsiderate of the state trying to fill their pockets.

The military was considered as honest, self-sacrificing heroes. Besides, they were obligated to protect, look after this country and the secular democratic republic handed down by Atatürk.

The military had the right to oversee politicians.

When the politicians messed things up, the military could interfere. When we were puzzled, we could even write articles like "Commander, hurry, we are losing the state."

For us, members of the secular central media, the General Staff was more important than democracy or the parliament.

And this was quite normal.

This was the way we were raised.

Maybe, we were unaware that pro-coup-thought penetrated our genes.

We unquestionably accepted the superiority of commanders. The shimmer of uniforms we used to admire and fear at the same time.

All coups we used to appreciate and support.

For the past few years our genes got confused and our perception changed.

For the first time our priorities changed places.

Democracy got one step ahead.

We'll see if it will persist.

Now I ask all my colleagues: Is there anyone who'd object to the above?

If so, please feel free to write to me so I can publish it here.

Lack of support for magazine Nokta

One other thing I regret is that we did not oppose raids that led to the closing of Nokta magazine and that we did not take serious enough the Coup Diaries published during the period when Görmüş was the editor-in-chief.

Including me, part of the central media was not sensitive enough about this issue.

We had our doubts.

On one side, there was authentic and approved information supplied and on the other side it was constantly denied. It was 2007 when especially the AKP was on adverse terms with the military and the central media started to distance itself from the AKP.

The perception of "How could a commander write such note? Even if he did how come it was received by Nokta but not by us? So there must be a conspiracy going on," was widespread.

Beside, the military's prestige was not worn down in the eye of the central media back then. If the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, was to be distanced from power, then the single force to be able to do this was the TSK.

The pro-coup-thought did not completely vanish from our genes.

To underestimate the diaries served our purposes right.

But the real development leading to the Ergenekon process was the making public of the diaries.

Heroes who took their courage in both hands were Görmüş and Nokta's owners whom we never met.

We could not claim them.

We couldn't even speak up.

If this had happened to one of us in the central media we'd have made a big deal out of it.

But we ignored it.

Today I feel ashamed about it.






You couldn't fall farther or faster than Dominique Strauss-Kahn. He was not only the head of the International Monetary Fund. Until last weekend, he was almost certainly within a year of being elected president of France. Now he sits in a small cell in New York City's notorious Rikers Island prison, denied bail and waiting to learn if a grand jury will indict him for attempted rape, a criminal sexual act, and unlawful imprisonment. It probably will.

 It is not possible to know for sure what happened in his $3,000-a-day luxury suite in the Sofitel hotel in Manhattan at lunch-time on May 14, but the New York police took a chambermaid's allegations of forced oral sex and attempted rape seriously enough to pull Strauss-Kahn off an Air France plane just before it took off for Paris later that afternoon. Now the IMF is headless, and the French presidential race is transformed.

DSK, as he is known to the French media, is finished politically no matter what happens next. The events in New York have finally made the French media break their silence about his private behavior, and what has come out has been damning.

The French media routinely ignore the kind of sexual liaisons that would ruin a politician's career if they became known in a more puritanical country like the United States. But DSK, it has become clear, was not just your average libertine.

In a recent interview Strauss-Kahn himself said that he faced three difficulties if he were to run for president: "Money, women and the fact I am Jewish." But the money, which comes from his heiress wife, didn't really put many people off, and although everybody knew he was Jewish he was still the most popular presidential candidate by far. (France's first Jewish leader was Leon Blum, 75 years ago.)

It is Strauss-Kahn's behavior toward women that has done him in. Even if he is found innocent in the New York incident, he now also faces the claim that he tried to rape Tristane Banon, a novelist and journalist, in 2002.

Banon was persuaded not to pursue the issue at that time by her mother, Anne Mansouret, a senior figure in the Socialist Party who saw DSK as a rising star in the party. He was also a family friend. But Mansouret supports her daughter's claim that Strauss-Kahn attacked her sexually, acting, as Banon puts it, "like a chimpanzee in rut."

None of this would be getting much publicity if Dominique Strauss-Kahn were just another French businessman arrested abroad. Even if he were just the head of the IMF, it would be a one-day wonder. But DSK was the favorite to win the Socialist nomination for the presidency of France, and then to trounce the unpopular right-wing incumbent, President Nicolas Sarkozy, in the elections next spring.

His departure from the race means that Sarkozy, despite having the lowest approval rating for any French president ever, could yet snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Here's how it could happen.

The French left, with no single strong candidate like DSK to unite behind, splits and puts up several rival candidates for the presidency. (Something similar happened in 2002.) With the left-wing vote hopelessly split, the leading two parties in the first round of voting next April are Sarkozy's right-wing Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) and the ultra-right-wing National Front. (That happened in 2002, too.)

Neither the UMP nor the National Front has won even 20 percent of the vote, but as the two leading parties they go through to the second round of voting in May. And since the great majority of French people loathe the National Front and think it unworthy of office, they hold their noses and vote for Sarkozy, who wins 80 percent of the vote despite being the least popular French president in history.

That's almost exactly what happened in 2002, when another right-wing president, Jacques Chirac, who was widely believed to be corrupt, won a second term in a run-off against the National Front's founder and then leader, Jean-Marie Le Pen. (One of the posters in the second round of voting that time simply read: "Vote for the Crook, Not the Fascist!")

Similarly, Sarkozy may end up in a run-off against Le Pen's daughter Marine, who now leads the National Front. All the polls indicate that she could not possibly win such a contest. DSK's fall may mean Sarkozy's survival – which is why more than half of the French, and 70 percent of French socialists, believe that Strauss-Kahn was the victim of a plot.

That would not necessarily mean that he is innocent. Given his track record with women – three wives, dozens of affairs, and a chronic inability to keep his hands to himself – just presenting him with the opportunity to behave badly could have been enough. In our present state of knowledge, it's simply not possible to say with confidence what happened or why. But it's pretty safe to say that Sarkozy will be the biggest beneficiary.







Politics in our country sees all kinds of twists and turns which unexpectedly bring former foes together or create new realities on the national scene. We have in recent weeks seen this already as the PPP and the PML-Q link arms, beginning a new – and some would say uncomfortable – jig, as partners. PML-N Chief Mian Nawaz Sharif's visit to Karachi and meetings with the leaders of Sindhi nationalist parties appear to be intended chiefly to counter this move. Till now, Sindhi parties – as is the case with nationalist forces in other provinces – have remained somewhat wary of the PML-N, seeing it as a pro-establishment, Punjab-centric body hostile to their own interests. Any change in this would of course be welcome. In his meetings with Qadir Magsi of the Sindh Taraqqi Pasand Party and Rasul Bux Palejo of the Awami Tehreek, Sharif emphasised he was eager to hear the views of the nationalists. By all accounts he did so, listening carefully to their perspectives. Expressing his own views, Sharif attacked the PPP for its failure to keep promises – and no doubt this failure is immense. He also lashed out against the MQM, asking nationalists to fight "urban extortionists." Here we would advise caution and not political expediency, even if such statements resonate well with certain groups. Karachi is too sensitive and too big a matter to be dealt with in the light of immediate political aims. Karachi, and consequently Sindh, has paid a huge price as a result of politicians doing just that. The challenge is to develop a social and political vision to create ethnic harmony so that the oppressed, no matter which ethnic group they come from, could make a collective bid to rid themselves of oppression, both at the hands of those that claim to represent them and those that constitute the "other." Sharif's comments about generals and judges who protected military dictators cannot be faulted for being too off the mark -- generally speaking. It is our failure to hold accountable those whose ambitions of power and privilege have time and again wreaked havoc on this country; but again perhaps it is time for our politicians to go beyond devising rhetoric about what happened in the past to suit the ups and downs of the present. What they should do instead is carve out a vision and a political course that are not subject to change depending on how far or near the elections are.

It has yet to be seen how his rather unexpected overture will be received by the nationalists. But undoubtedly the PML-N's latest strategy will ruffle feathers within the PPP. The province has long been considered the personal fiefdom of the party, most notably by President Asif Ali Zardari, who has used the so called 'Sindh card' on more than one occasion to further his own interests. But there are reports from the province of growing disgruntlement with him. Nawaz Sharif in fact tried to capitalise on this, asking why the murder of Benazir Bhutto remained unsolved. The issue of continuing drone attacks, among others, was also raised. It will be fascinating to watch events in Sindh in the future, and see how things shape up. The PML-N initiative can also be seen as a response to the recent MQM rally in Lahore. But for obvious reasons the PPP and the MQM will both be displeased as the PML-N enters the political arena in Karachi, and the rest of Sindh, and demonstrates a new zeal in its search for allies for potential gains in the next elections.







The deaths of five foreigners, said to be Chechens, at a check post close to Quetta raise a host of questions. The incident has been widely reported and, despite the breadth of coverage, there appear to be inconsistencies in the various accounts. What is agreed is that there were five people, three of them women, who were killed and that in the incident Lance Naik Muhammad Sajjad was wounded and later died of injuries. Photographs of the incident show a woman with a raised arm lying beside a sandbagged check post. It may be assumed that if her arm was raised she was still alive at the time. The police say that two of the five dead were wearing suicide vests; other eyewitnesses say they were not and no suicide jacket was recovered from the bodies. Four grenades were shown to the media – but no suicide jackets. There is consistency in the reports that two kilogrammes of explosives and 56 detonators were found in the vehicle in which they were travelling. From most reports, it is clear that the police and paramilitaries were on the alert for a possible attack.

Another question relates to why a wounded woman was 'finished off' at close range. Even larger questions need to be answered about how these individuals with Russian passports, who are said to be Chechen, carrying explosives and grenades, came to be here in the first place. Pakistan is not 'natural territory' for Chechens, terrorist or otherwise. Their purpose here was clearly not tourism and sightseeing, they had come to attack something or somebody and no matter the ambiguities about the way in which they met their ends, we should be thankful that they were prevented from carrying out whatever their mission was. Somebody equipped and funded them, gave them their target, and sent them on their way. They were a very long way from home – Chechnya lies between the Black and Caspian seas and, apart from having a population that is predominantly Sunni Muslim, has little or nothing in common with Pakistan. In a country where the strange is commonplace this incident stands out, and we need to know a lot more about these mysterious Chechens.







Adored by the Pakistani masses, the armed forces faced widespread public outcry and humiliation over (1) Osama bin Laden's presence for nearly six years near a supposedly secure area in Pakistan, and (2) their failure to interdict the heliborne US raiding party. The military hierarchy did the correct thing by presenting themselves in a joint session of the National Assembly and the Senate for hostile questioning by the "elected" representatives riding the crest of aroused public opinion. The inquisitors were beside themselves, relishing the opportunity not only for political grandstanding but also to subject the uniform to public humiliation. Friday, May 13, 2011, was billed by the politicians as the day that the Pakistani army would be brought to heel permanently by being held "accountable to the nation."

The director general of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha, took the hot seat on behalf of the military. In the circumstances, he acquitted himself well beyond expectations. Instead of trying to defend the impossible, Gen Pasha nonplussed the attacking wolf pack right at the outset by acknowledging that mistakes had been made and, accepting full responsibility, he offered to resign. One does not remember any other senior military officer, except incidentally for the much vilified Gen Agha Mohammad Yahya Khan (in his affidavit before the Hamoodur Rahman Commission), to have ever accepted responsibility and subjected himself voluntarily to accountability. Shuja Pasha did both. In doing so, he did himself proud. More importantly, he made all soldiers, serving and retired, proud of the uniform. Shuja Pasha managed to redeem the respect of the army. Except for those who have motivation and vested interest in being detractors, a 180º turnaround was apparent soon after details of the joint session filtered out. To paraphrase Mark Twain, the politicians' aspirations for the demise and eclipse of the Pakistani army and the ISI were greatly diminished. Contrary to the crafted political script, the military remains a potent force in Pakistan's political life.

A reality check in the cold light of reason: No doubt it was a massive intelligence failure. However, the blame must be somewhat equally apportioned between the civilian and military establishments. Civilian neighbourhoods fall under the domain of the civil administration, comprising also, but not limited to, municipalities, union councils, police stations, etc. The house in which Osama bin Laden was is not in the cantonment area, as is the widely held public perception, but a civilian residential area under the purview of the local police station (thana). The station house officer (SHO) of every thana has a number of undercover agents whose job it is to mingle with the population and check out the neighbourhood for anything that could potentially affect law and order. People from outside purchasing and/or renting out premises are particularly screened. The job description of the federally-controlled Intelligence Bureau (IB) is also to ferret out terrorists. The Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, on its part, failed to spot the alien visitors, as did the Special Branch and the Anti-Violent Crime Units.

Did the inmates of the three-storey villa pay taxes? And this is not only income tax but a whole range of local government and municipal taxes. Were this house and its inmates ever subjected to "house-to-house census" scrutiny? It is not uncommon for rich rural citizens in Pakistan to have houses in towns and cities in proximity to the villages where they own farmland. Similarly, overseas Pakistanis also own property in affluent urban areas. Many outsiders have residences for use during the summer season in areas like Abbottabad where the weather is less warm. While Bin Laden's need for periodical kidney dialysis may or may not be true, what about normal consultation by a physician and the medication for the inmates of the house, including several women and many children? Did they never fall sick?

Where did they get the National Identification Cards (NIC) for obtaining and maintaining water, gas and electricity connections, including even acquiring mobile phones? Contrary to media reports about his "luxurious" mansion, the Bin Laden home was not in mint condition. What about periodical repairs and maintenance? The huge failure across-the-board has been conveniently dumped upon the army. Why are a whole range of members of the civilian bureaucracy not being held accountable and/or accepting responsibility? And what about the politicians of the area? How come they never sought votes from the inhabitants of the nearly secluded villa?

There was a "reverse swing" to the parliamentary inquisition, Contrary to the well-planned humiliation of the uniform, the "elected" members, albeit with 44 percent bogus votes, found soon after the joint session that they were not in sync with those (the 56 percent genuine voters) they "represented." The Pakistani populace may have been demoralised and disappointed because of May 2, but they still believe in their soldiers.

The frustration displayed by Mian Nawaz Sharif was more pathetic. He declared India was not an "enemy." To me it is shocking that he allowed his anger against Musharraf and his cronies to overcome his patriotism. In trying to fan animosity against the army, he has stooped to a new political low. Mian Sahib probably thinks that the 80 percent of the Indian armed forces (four times our strength), located and/or deployed near our borders, are there for sightseeing! This popular leader is increasingly out of sync with reality, and his hatred has warped his rational thinking. Any sane, peace-loving citizen of South Asia would certainly like to have India as a friend. However, it will take some doing to "cold start" our sworn enemy somehow into a friend.

Let us give credit to the Americans. Violating the sovereignty of an "allied" country, their elite commandos risked a fire fight in a violent raid deep in our heartland, not counting the possibility of a skirmish with combat aircraft positioned overhead in Pakistani airspace to interdict the scrambling of PAF interceptors. Single-mindedly they did what they had to in order to accomplish their stated objective. That is the exact model Pakistan must emulate. To achieve one's national interest there must be a no-holds-barred attitude, taking calculated risk, including even violating international laws at will to ensure (and justify) that the intent and objectives of the nation are always paramount, no matter what the consequences.

The Pakistani army and the ISI are crucial to the nation's existence. Those who want to harm us must first target them successfully. The post-May 2 humiliation of our defence establishment led to mass anger and depression, and this was jumped upon by Pakistan's enemies. Unfortunately, they were joined by a section of our elite who should know better. Instead of defending the nation, the military was forced into the most unusual position of having to defend itself from the nation. Thankfully, vilification of our soldiers remains unacceptable to the broad mass of the populace, who well know that if we are to survive as an independent entity, the uniform remains the only real guarantors of our freedom.

The writer is a defence and political analyst. Email: isehgal@pathfinder9. com








Two weeks after Bin Laden's assassination, Pakistan has finally condemned the violation of its sovereignty by the United States. The resolution passed by parliament is a welcome move, especially after senior officials of the ruling party, in particular the information minister, unabashedly stated that the attack was in conformity with international law. Surprisingly, international lawyers and journalists in the country are continuing to defend the "legality" of the attack, some relying on "UN Security Council resolutions" and others basing their analysis on the doctrine of "self-defence" and "pre-emptive self-defence". While it would be foolish to analyse the Bin Laden incident through the myopic lens of international law alone, it needs to be understood that legally, at least, there is no justification for the American invasion of Pakistan's territory. In fact, a strong case can also be made for Bin Laden's assassination being a violation of international human rights law as well.

Let us examine the "self-defence" justification of the attack first. Those who say the US was acting in self-defence accept the US claim that the "war on terror" is an actual war, in which case the law of war and the lower standards of international humanitarian law are applicable. According to this theory, 9/11 attacks were an "armed attack" which gave the US the rights to act in "self-defence" under Article 51 of the UN Charter.

The blatant flaws in this theory are multi-fold, most of which have been exposed by renowned international lawyers during the war on Afghanistan, and to a limited extent, Iraq. Firstly, the right to self-defence is temporary – an attacked state may only exercise it until the UN Security Council has the matter. It is important to note that revenge is not an accepted exception to the absolute prohibition against the use of force; a state may only act in self-defence to protect itself against an imminent threat and not in retaliation to an attack that has already happened. To accept the self-defence argument a decade after the 9/11 attacks is therefore absurd.

Secondly, 9/11 attacks do not fit within traditional definitions of "armed attack". Even if it is accepted that the attack on the twin towers was an "armed attack", the entire world does not become an open battleground. The authorisation of, or at least complicity in the attack by another state must be proven before that state's territory is invaded. The US may have questioned Pakistan's intentions and capacity to capture Bin Laden, but so far they have not argued that the Pakistani state authorised or was complicit in the 9/11 attacks.

Thirdly, "pre-emptive" self-defence has been considered a legal farce by eminent international lawyers – the US attack on the Sudanese Al-Shifa pharmaceutical plant and Israel's bombing of Iraq's nuclear reactor in "pre-emption" of possible attacks were out-rightly rejected and condemned. The UN Charter has not been reinterpreted or amended to allow for another "pre-emption" exception to the prohibition against the use of force and to let the US rhetoric on how 9/11 has fundamentally altered our understanding of armed conflict should not be accepted lightly.

Another justification given for the attacks is that the UN Security Council resolutions allowed for unilateral assassination of Osama Bin Laden. The Security Council, acting under chapter 7 of the UN Charter, has in recent years called upon states to impose arms embargos on Al-Qaeda, to freeze financial assets of Al-Qaeda and its supporters, and prohibit entry of the concerned individuals and organisations. In other resolutions the Security Council has condemned Al-Qaeda and emphasised the importance to curtail terrorist activities. However, never has the Security Council unequivocally given blanket authority to the US to invade a sovereign state if it has reason to believe Osama bin Laden is in hiding in its territory. Given that the UN Charter prohibits use of force and that Security Council authorisation is only an exception to the absolute prohibition, SC resolutions must be construed narrowly – one must be careful not to read vague resolutions condemning terrorism as a blanket approval of unilateral strikes to kill "terrorists".

Another aspect of the Bin Laden assassination that is being ignored, at least in Pakistan, is that of international human rights. If we accept that the attack was not in self-defence and the "war on terror" is an ideological, not a real war, we must accept that international human rights standards were applicable during "Operation Geronimo".

According to international human rights law, every person – even if he is the leader of a terrorist group – has to be proven guilty in a court of law and has the right to a fair trial (Article 10, UNDHR). The US has accepted that Bin Laden was unarmed at the time he was killed and as the champion of human rights, should have arrested him and given him a fair trial – if Slobodan Milosevic could have been arrested and put on trial for crimes against humanity, so could Bin Laden. The burial of Bin Laden's body at sea is also deeply problematic, and has even made the UN Commissioner for Human Rights call for greater transparency and accountability for his killing.

Pakistan's silence in the aftermath of the US attack may have made us believe that Pakistan was involved in the operation, in which case the question of violation of Pakistan's sovereignty obviously does not arise. However, now that the attack has been condemned by our parliament as well as our army and intelligence services, let there be no doubt that the operation that killed Bin Laden was a violation of Pakistan's sovereignty, illegal under the UN Charter and may also be violative of international human rights law.

The writer is a lawyer with a specialisation in International law and is currently working with the International Commission of Jurists. Email:








Of all the statements made since the Abbottabad incident, the most significant one is the demand by PML-N Chief Mian Nawaz Sharif, for the empowerment of the civilian government in accordance with the Constitution.

If the demands made by Nawaz Sharif at a press conference on May 14 are fulfilled, the change will prove to be a turning point in the internal and foreign policies of Pakistan. No one before Nawaz Sharif had attempted to redefine the functional boundaries between parliament and the military (and the intelligence agencies allied to the military), as well as between Pakistan and the United States.

This statement dwarfed parliament's resolution asking for an inquiry commission to investigate into the intelligence failure that led to the launching of the Abbottabad operation by the US navy SEALs. Although the demand was contained in a few sentences, Nawaz Sharif has suggested a panacea for Pakistan's numerous ills. The intelligence agencies should not run a parallel government; all institutions of the executive, including the military and intelligence agencies, should be subservient to the civil authority; the contours of the foreign policy should be determined by the elected government; the budget of the military and intelligence agencies should be presented in parliament for discussion; and Pakistan should discard its policy of reliance on the US.

To some people the demands sound like a call for rebellion. Members of this school of thought think that Nawaz Sharif has found the moment when he can seek revenge from those who destroyed his "heavy mandate" on Oct 12, 1999. To the rest of us, the demands of the former prime minister were long overdue, especially in view of the regional and global realities after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War.

In international politics, the internal dynamics of a country determine the nature and direction of its foreign policy. In Pakistan, since 1947, the element which has been influencing the country's foreign policy is the perceived existential threat from India. In the context of civil-military relations, the balance of power shifted in favour of the military in the mid-1950s when Pakistan joined the US-sponsored SEATO and CENTO blocs.

During the Cold War era, the US government might have smarted under the pressure of the priorities set by the US military and intelligence agencies towards Pakistan. In that era, US policy on Pakistan was based on four main points: Pakistan's proximity to the Soviet Union (which could offer the US opportunities to watch Soviet moves); the country's proximity to the Persian Gulf (which could enable Pakistan to defend vital oil sea transportation routes for the US); the ideological closeness of Pakistan to countries of the Middle East (which could help the US enhance its influence in the Arab world); and the camaraderie of Pakistan with China (which could help the US befriend China).


During the Cold War, Pakistan-US relations could be seen more in terms of inter-military relations than in terms of inter-civilian relations. In fact, it was the military-to-military bond that was consolidated at the cost of civilian-to-civilian ties.

As a result, in Pakistan, the role of the military received greater importance, which led to military's influence on the civilian sectors of society, including the running of the federal government and foreign policy. Secondly, the military held sway over foreign affairs when Pakistan decided to create geo-strategic regional parity with India. Resultantly, frequent martial laws became a norm. Intelligence agencies started influencing the political system and started making and breaking political alliances "in the best national interests."

In the post-Cold War era, the dynamics of the world changed from politico-military blocs to socio-economic alliances. In the economic sphere, Pakistan was considered a country just feeding on the American taxpayers' money. The gory incident of 9/11 stirred the US into action and accentuated the economic angle with which it viewed the world.

In 2004, the US declared Pakistan its major non-Nato ally, the Kerry-Lugar-Berman Act in 2009 signified a big shift in the nature of US policy towards Pakistan from inter-military relations to inter-civilian relations, even when Pakistan was required as a proxy in the ongoing war on terror. Perhaps, Pakistan has yet to realise the post-Cold War realities.

With the emergence of Pakistan-US relations, the military and intelligence agencies in Pakistan naturally have to retreat to their constitutionally prescribed roles. On the internal front, if the role of intelligence agencies diminishes, it is predictable that several political and religious parties will become politically irrelevant. It is important to reduce the eavesdropping ability of the intelligence agencies. They should stop tapping the telephones of politicians, bureaucrats and judges, and keep a sharper eye on outlaws.

After Pakistan tested six nuclear bombs on May 28, 1998, the fear of an existential threat from India should have evaporated. Unfortunately, that is not the case. The moment that fear is gone, there will be no need left to look to the US for any help. That moment will be the beginning of the self-reliance of Pakistan.

The Abbottabad operation was a display of sophisticated technology not available to Pakistani forces. It was technology that made the difference between US and Pakistanis forces. Buying custom-built weapons and surveillance systems is one thing but inventing the same kind of equipment is altogether different. Countries that are advanced in science and technology have the potential to dominate others.

Pakistan should now consider the present situation as its moment of truth. It should seriously think of increasing its intellectual potential. There is more need now than ever before for an increase in expenditure on the provision of education to the coming generations.

Pakistan should come out of its self-imposed security lock-up. Importing costly radars, helicopters, tanks, and weapons cannot make Pakistan invincible. Technology is a product of human intelligence. Without tapping the intellectual potential of its citizens, Pakistan cannot escape humiliating experiences such as the Abbottabad operation. Pakistan does not require rifles and bullets, Pakistan needs researchers and scholars.


The writer is a freelance contributor.









The writer is a freelance columnist and former newspaper editor

As the first major revenge attack following the death of Osama bin Laden killed at least 82 young paramilitary recruits in Charsadda district, it is easy to see that Pakistan faces a mammoth task. It must somehow go after the militants in the north, before they decimate still more lives.

The bomb blast that killed six people near the town of Kharian, which is a large cantonment area, may be a sign that such attacks are very deliberately targeted and executed. Conjecture holds that the explosive went off prematurely, before a security building could be reached.

It is easy to demand that extra security measures be taken. This though is easier said than done. How is every training centre, every military check-post and every police station to be guarded anyway?

The last two weeks, culminating in a rare briefing to parliamentarians by the director general of the ISI and the deputy air chief have done nothing to build faith in our security apparatus, with Lt-Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha telling galvanised legislators that his elite agency had no idea Bin Laden had been hiding in Abbottabad.

The agency and the others that operate in the country, apparently do not know where Al-Qaeda's key leader Dr Ayman al-Zawahiri or former Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Omar are either. This is most peculiar given that the fears that they were likely to be hiding in North Waziristan and Quetta respectively have been expressed in media reports for years.

It is possible these are inaccurate, but the question arises then as to whether the actual locations of these men have been figured out.

This raises a far more ominous question. If premier agencies were unable to catch even a whiff of the goings on in that now familiar house a kilometre or so away from Kakul, how are they going to detect other militants who lurk in unexpected places?

In some ways these persons pose a bigger threat than even the Taliban forces and their supporters gathered in the north, insidiously spreading the message of hate among peers, and creating the mindset that allows extremism to flourish.

The capture last week of young Maaz Ali, a student of the Applied Physics department at the University of Karachi, along with three other men in possession of heavy arms and plans to attack government installations in the city, has shocked many on campus.

But it is really no surprise that not every member of the Taliban is an exploited, impoverished youth brain-washed into believing in a violent crusade. A significant number are well-educated, relatively privileged individuals, often with a background in science.

This was true of the 9/11 bombers, of individuals such as Aafia Siddiqui and, according to the European Journal of Sociology in a study last year, it is also true of at least one-fifth of 404 members of violent Islamist groups included in the research.

We wonder how many such individuals are based in our campuses; it seems unlikely that our agencies know very much about them given the track record of these outfits.

The fact that, in the past, doctors, computer analysts and others have been found working in liaison with extremists indicates the presence of a sturdy support base for groups like the Taliban in the country. We really have no way of knowing how broad this is – but the existence of Taliban sympathisers within the media, among school and college teachers and within the mainstream clergy means that the influence of such thinking continues to grow, seeping deeper and deeper into the conscience.

The cocktail created by blending these ideas with the distrust of the United States that exists in so many parts of our society makes it easier for many to digest and accept these radical ideas.

In the aftermath of the Osama bin Laden killing, it is natural that we should have heated debate and discussion of the kind we have seen over the last few weeks. The sense of confusion and the growing friction between the civilian and military leadership as well as between political parties adds to the strains we face as new demands come in for the relationship with the US to be redefined.

What we should be focusing on is the issue of militancy in our country and how it is to be defeated. The government and the armed forces, as well as all the political entities which claim to oppose extremism, need to work together for this.

Bitter wrangling will not solve very much. What we need is a plan. The militants in the north have to be pursued; they have to be chased after with full force and vigour. The nexus between security agencies and the militants needs to be dismantled.

This task is tied in with many other factors which involve regional realities. These too will need to be tackled on an urgent basis. Without doing this, nothing can be solved.

But at home we should also be looking beyond the north. The wider spectrum of views that work in favour of militancy need also to be dealt with. Both long-term and short-term measures are required in this regard.

Both in our country and elsewhere, it has been possible to persuade – or bribe – mosque imams into taking up campaigns favouring giving polio drops to children, championing family planning, or other such controversial issues.

It should be possible to do the same in the case of militancy – with many Islamic scholars having already spoken out against suicide bombing. We also need to address broader issues of intolerance, including the kind of narratives taught in our schools.

The issue right now is not just about sovereignty, though this plays some part in the crisis we face. The question of how we are to take on militancy needs to be taken on most urgently; we need intelligent discussion in parliament on all the facets involved.

Other forums must also be used to build public opinion – so we have harmony and a consensus on rooting out the terrorist threat which, right now, threatens to create still more chaos in cities and towns everywhere, with the killing of Osama bin Laden apparently allowing groups to unite behind a common cause, rather than become scattered and demoralised as many had hoped would happen.








Those who hoped for serious reform of the International Monetary Fund have to be very disappointed by the allegations of sexual assault against its director, Dominique Strauss-Kahn. If the charges prove true, this will end Strauss-Kahn's efforts at reforming an institution that is badly in need of reform.

Most people around the world do not realise the power that the IMF has in controlling their lives. In fact, in many countries the IMF's actions probably have more impact on their well being than the decisions of their elected government.

Some countries are well acquainted with the IMF's power. In the East Asian financial crisis the IMF, acting under the instructions of the Clinton Treasury Department, imposed very harsh terms on the countries of the region, insisting that debts be repaid in full. In effect, the IMF acted as the head of a creditors' cartel, maximising the amount of money that US and European banks could collect on loans that otherwise would have been written down by large amounts.

The IMF played the same role in other countries that faced crises at the end of the decade, most notably Brazil, Russia, and Argentina. Russia's economy faced severe recession until it finally broke with the IMF in the summer of 1998. This break, while originally painful, provided the basis for a decade of strong growth.

It was not just the crisis countries that were affected by IMF policies. Countries throughout the developing world took away the lesson that they did not want to be in a position where they were forced to turn to the IMF for support. In order to protect themselves, they began to accumulate massive amounts of reserves.

This meant running huge trade surpluses. The result was that instead of capital flowing from rich countries to poor countries, which is the basic story in every economics textbook, capital flowed from poor countries to rich countries, most notably the United States.

Of course things didn't turn out fine. The trade imbalances helped to support massive housing bubbles in the United States and several other wealthy countries. When these bubbles burst in 2007-2008 it threatened the survival of the world financial system and threw the economy into the worst downturn since the Great Depression.

Tens of millions of people remain unemployed as a result of this collapse. The lost output to the world as a whole is likely to exceed $10 trillion.

Remarkably, not a single person in the IMF's leadership or bureaucracy was fired or even demoted for this enormous policy failure.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn tried to shake up this institution. Last fall, the IMF published a study in its World Economic Outlook that showed that fiscal austerity in the wake of the economic crisis would further contract demand and raise unemployment. This reversed the institution's historic role; the IMF officially became a voice for expansion and employment rather than contraction and austerity.

Getting the country-level teams in line with any new thinking at the top was likely to be a long and difficult process even in the best of circumstances.

If the charges against Mr Strauss-Kahn hold up, then he will not be around. As far as for what the future holds, his interim successor, John Lipsky, was a former vice president at J P Morgan. This could mean that the whole world will suffer for Mr Strauss-Kahn's criminal conduct.









INCIDENTALLY, for a change, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), whose prescriptions are normally considered to be sheer bitter pills, has rendered positive advice to our economic managers, which seems to be clearly in the interest of Pakistan. At the end of week-long talks in Dubai, the two sides are reported to have concluded an accord on economic and fiscal measures that Pakistan would be introducing in the next budget as per demands of the IMF to expand its tax net, which, among other things, includes plan to withdraw most of sales tax exemptions to generate more revenue.

The country's other economic indicators for this year like remittances by overseas Pakistanis, foreign exchange reserves and exports are quite impressive but still our economy is in doldrums mainly because of the inability to increase the tax base. There cannot be two opinions that the country needs to mobilize its own resources, for which the potential is there, in order to stand on its own feet economically. There are reasons to believe that tax base could not be expanded in the past because of absence of tax-payer friendly policies, which deterred potential tax payers to come into the net. Luckily, there is consensus on mobilizing additional resources and therefore, hopefully this time round the present Government would be able to initiate the process beginning from the coming budget. There were, of course, serious differences among political parties including coalition partners of the Government over imposition of the original VAT or renamed RGST but as per understanding with the IMF the plan for its levy has been shelved for the next year. This is virtual death of the RGST plan, as the political Government cannot afford to impose it even during the budget of 2012-13 because that would the election year. This, in a way, is good for the common man, as half hearted efforts to levy VAT or RGST increase his burden but at the end of the day the Government succumbs to the pressure and the businessman crops the benefit. Any how, we hope that while pursuing the policy of broadening the tax net, the Government would not burden the already taxed segments especially the fixed income groups that constitute major component of the tax-payers but bring other potential sectors and segments into the net.







IT is almost a routine now that not only regular army officers and personnel but others in security agencies are being targeted as they perform their duties in the war on terror and maintenance of law and order in troubled areas. As a result the number of Martyrs in the armed forces has crossed the figure of five thousand in addition, to thousands of others who suffered multiple injuries in the call of duty for the defence of the motherland.

On Monday, an army Major was shot dead in target killing incident in Dasht area of Mastung district in Balochistan, two security forces personnel were injured in firing by NATO helicopters when they violated Pakistan's airspace in North Waziristan agency and yet another officer embraced martyrdom in a shootout with Chechen terrorists in Quetta on Tuesday. The officers and jawans of the armed forces and the law enforcement agencies are in the forefront to defeat the enemies of Pakistan to ensure that the citizens enjoy a secure environment and carry on their routine activities. However it is surprising that barring a few parties and groups, the mainstream major political parties have not been recognising the services of the armed forces and in fact leave no opportunity to criticise their acts. World over it is a practice that the armed forces are extended unqualified support by the masses and the leaders whether in government or in the opposition. In Pakistan there is lack of concern over army officers and jawans being killed in fighting militancy and agents of the enemies. In fact the ratio of officers martyred as compared to ordinary ranks during operations against militancy in Swat, Malakand and FATA is much higher that speaks volume of their bravery and leading from the front. Apart from their normal duty, the defence of the country's frontiers, the armed forces role had been exemplary during natural calamities when they put their lives at stake to secure their brothers and sisters in distress. There is need to highlight and recognize these sacrifices instead of falling prey to the propaganda of our detractors. We would therefore urge those people who are unnecessarily critical of the armed forces to leave this tendency, not to discourage the armed forces and develop a culture of looking in the right perspective.







THE United States has reportedly stepped up direct talks with the Afghan Taliban for a political settlement of the 10-year-old war in Afghanistan. The reports are reliable as these have been carried by Washington Post, which is considered to be well-informed and well-connected and its information is often based on leaks by relevant circles in the American system.

The move is understandable, as the United States is looking for ways and means to have an honourable exit from Afghan mess. The timing for killing of Osama bin Laden is also linked by some analysts to the exit plan because the United States had already announced programme for withdrawal of troops beginning this year and elimination of OBL is now being cited as one of the cogent moves towards accomplishment of the mission in Afghanistan. Otherwise too, no one would object to the dialogue process for resolution of the Afghan conflict, as reliance on use of force has given nothing but more bloodshed, chaos, extremism and terrorism. Saner elements the world over have all along been pleading for political solution of the problem, as this is the only option to ensure sustainable peace in the volatile country. But one is pained to point out towards American duplicity vis-à-vis process of dialogue with Taliban as there are different yardsticks for Afghan and Pakistani Talibans. While Obama and his colleagues are pushing for even direct talks with Taliba – a possibility they abhorred throughout – they are pressurizing Pakistan to do more, which effectively means opening of more fronts against militants. Such a policy has turned entire Pakistan into a virtual battlefield with innocent people being killed almost on daily basis in different parts of the country in war on terror related incidents. We think it is time for Pakistan as well to initiate the process so as to send a message of peace and hope to the people who are getting weary of the prolonged war that is taking huge human and economic tall.









What all we see in context of the Abbottabad operation, there seems a sense of ego, venom and self-aggrandizement prevailing over the CIA minds, especially after the "Raymond Davis humiliation". How can an operation within the depth of Pakistan be so unilateral, one sided and without getting consent? Osama's presence in Abbottabad, without the knowledge of Pakistani authorities, was no doubt a violation of the law of the land. But wasn't the scores of CIA men's stationing in a nearby house adjacent to Osama for over three to five months, as claimed, equally violation of Pakistan's territorial integrity, rules of law, movement of foreigners' act? This is not possible. Obviously there was collaboration on each level and tier of both the governments and their agencies – a fact which President Obama, Secretary Clinton and their National Security Advisor endorsed in unequivocal terms.

We had seen the deadliest drone attack on Dattakhel that killed more than 45 people, soon after the CIA operative Raymond Davis secured release from Lahore and reached Bagram. His anger had no letup, as it is has been observed that the Americans prefer to speak the language of stick, not brain. They hatched the plot to ditch the ISI, which was annoyed over the Davis shooting spree in Lahore, killing three people. Has the plot succeeded? No one is ready to believe, because, they say it is not possible without the help of Pakistani authorities and intelligence agencies. Otherwise if the Americans were too smart, they could have reached Osama much before. Why had they been wandering in the wilderness of the mountainous terrains of North Waziristan or other areas bordering Afghanistan? How the top most wanted bin Laden succeeding in hiding himself for 10 years is a question needs careful analysis? It was not possible to hide from the eyes of locals, as well. Our agencies were exclusively after him and his comrades. The experts express the probability of Osama with a face off cosmetic surgery, which helped him dodge the Pakistani intelligence agencies and locals to be able to identify him. That is why, perhaps the Americans opted not to release his photographs or show live his dead body or its disposal. They could have identified through various methods and modern techniques but the new identity was not worth showing. The other possibility could have been that Osama had blown himself up before the US Navy Seals reached him.

But the point is why maligning Pakistan, its armed forces, its intelligence agencies, especially the ISI, as the US ambassador Munter has asked "Pakistan must tell what was Osama doing in Abbottabad?" If it was a triumph for CIA, what was doing CIA for 10 years, may I ask to Mr Munter in the same vein? There is always mistrust on their part, while the whole nation seems to be working in their service. The Pakistan military has been fighting the War on Terror for a decade now, and has carried out operations in the most difficult of terrains, capturing and killing more than 25 top al Qaeda leaders, but this victory the Americans wanted to claim all for themselves. It is a promise that the Obama administration has repeated to its people for the last 10 years. With his falling ratings and the next election around the corner, this will be a feather in Obama's cap that may very well lead him to victory. No doubt the mood has already set in. The President's ratings have gone up by more than 4% over the last two weeks. A wave of optimism has taken over the US, and Obama is riding its tide. The Pakistan military and government have shown easy compliance. There seems to be no enthusiasm in claiming any glory in this major operation. Maintaining a low profile would minimize, or at least not fuel the expected reaction wave. Fear of al Qaeda and its allies stops the government from even acknowledging that it had anything to do with the killing of the Taliban leader. A survey carried out by PEW in April 2010 reveals that only 3% of Pakistanis actually consider Osama bin Laden to be a terrorist threat. Contrast this to the 67% that consider the USA to be a security threat. With right wing domination in politics, killing the world's most wanted terrorist may just become an anti populist move for the Government in Pakistan. Given the role of the religious parties and extremist ideologies, it doesn't take much to make a martyr out of a villain in Pakistan. The lack of information and silence has put a murky veil over what may or may not have happened. Most people find themselves disbelieving. Is Osama even dead or is he hiding somewhere in a cave as we expected him to? Or was he killed years ago, with this drama staged to bring Pakistan disdain and Obama the next election? The killing comes at an extremely convenient time for the US just a few weeks into the Presidential campaign.

The fact that the body was buried at sea has further fueled conspiracy theories. However a clandestine disposal of the body is a recurring trait in US killings of symbolic revolutionary enemies. The body may be cut up in pieces and buried in different places, or cremated with the ashes scattered, or buried at sea as in this case. A single burial site must be denied in order to keep the figure from becoming a symbol for US hatred for years to come. Anti American symbolism gets much attention in a world where most disagree with US policies. Indeed, the US continues to suffer at the hands of its enemies long after they are dead.

The Pakistani government once again shows no regard for the sentiment of the Pakistani people regarding the compromise of their sovereignty. The lack of ownership by the Government has left people flabbergasted. The unilateral Military operation carried out by the US and the Pakistan government's denial of information regarding it has sparked more reaction than Osama's death itself. It is enough that a military operation was carried out by a foreign power inside Pakistan, but to top things off the Pakistani officials pretend that nothing happened. The least that the government can do is make an explicit statement taking ownership before congratulating the US on a successful strike.

What will the impact of this event be on future policy? Will it be used as an excuse for a quick American exit, or a justification for increased direct intervention inside Pakistan? The Government needs to reassure people that this will not legitimize drone attacks. If Islamabad needs to maintain a low profile, then Rawalpindi should take the lead, but the message needs to be loud and clear. And if it doesn't come from the Presidency or the GHQ, then it may very well come from the streets.

The killing of Osama bin Laden inside Pakistan has brought to the fore some stark realities. First the invasion of air space, then the landing of American boots on Pakistani soil, any doubts about the role that Pakistan has in its relationship with its favorite ally have been removed. The presence of a high priority target ten minutes from a major Military base rings alarms for internal security.








India had waged a war in 1947 to annex princely state of Kashmir and prevent it from acceding to Pakistan. But for valiant response action of Pak Army and Azad forces, India would have gobbled up whole of it. Indian forces invaded Pakistan in 1965 without formally declaring war so as to destroy Pak armed forces but could not do so. Within six years Pakistan was once again invaded but after sufficiently weakening it from within through subversion and signing a treaty with former Soviet Union. As a consequence, Pakistan was broken into two.

Pakistan's nuclear program which commenced in 1976 was meant to save itself from further truncation. It remained under heavy fire of Indo-US-western media campaign. It came under US scrutiny when it was in its infancy in 1979. Relentless efforts were made to restrain Pakistan from pursuing this program. Not only the author of the program ZA Bhutto was made a horrible example, Pakistan was put under sanctions by Jimmy Carter in 1979. USA and the west created a barrier around Pakistan to prevent it from obtaining fissile materials for its nuclear program from anywhere. Determined to preserve its sovereignty and integrity, Pakistan had to perforce make a cut on its other needs and procure its nuclear requirements from the international black market on exorbitant prices. But for Afghan war against the Soviets, it might have become exceedingly difficult for Pakistan under Gen Zia to make the program reach its logical end. Likewise, Pakistan's missile program was also subjected to intense pressure and it was alleged that China and North Korea were secretly helping it in constructing ballistic missiles.

After becoming a strategic partner of USA and Israel in early 1990s, India has been trying hard to get Pakistan declared a failed and a terrorist state involved in cross border terrorism in Indian held Kashmir and in nuclear proliferation. Pakistan nuclear program was demonized and given the name of Islamic bomb. Fears were expressed that it may not be passed on to radical Arab states like Libya for use against Israel. Indian and Israeli air force jointly planned to destroy Kahuta Plant through a surprise surgical strike and on few occasions came close to it. Luckily there were no Mir Jafars within our ranks at that time and the whole nation was united behind the nuclear program and as such nefarious designs of our enemies couldn't succeed. It was owing to nation's unity which gave heart to Nawaz Sharif to give a tit for tat response to Indian nuclear tests in May 1998 despite heavy pressure from USA an UK. Pakistan was put under another set of sanctions which were withdrawn only when Pakistan under Gen Musharraf agreed to do as told to do in the aftermath of 9/11. With it, the era of erosion of Pakistan's sovereignty commenced.

9/11 gave an opportunity of the century to India to use terrorism as a card to penalize Pakistan. In concert with other powers, India made use of Afghan soil to unleash biggest psychological operations and covert war against Pakistan in world's history to weaken Pakistan from within. Twice the entire Indian military might came on Pakistan's border to launch a decisive war.

In 2004-05, AQ Khan Network was demonized and Pakistan pressured to open up its nuclear sites for inspection by UN inspectors or IAEA. Hoax of this network was played up to present Pakistan as an irresponsible and nuclear proliferation state so as to deny civilian nuclear deal to Pakistan as was offered to India in 2006.

Pakistan was not excused even when Dr AQ made an apology to the nation for passing deigns of obsolete P-5s to Iran and Libya and Pakistan took adequate measures to prevent such a recurrence. The US then started drumming up safety and security of Pakistan's nuclear program alleging that security measures were inadequate and in the backdrop of increasing strength of militants, likelihood of nukes falling in wrong hands couldn't be ruled out. The US think tanks and media kept playing the theme of 'wrong hands' despite Pakistan taking extraordinary measures to safeguard its nuclear sites and the IAEA as well as US inspecting teams expressing their satisfaction. Emphasis was on having Pak-US joint protection teams. The US media then came up with fanciful tales about the US Special Forces swooping in to take away the nukes just before they could be pinched by militants. Different scenarios were discussed and war gamed.

It was in this timeframe that Indian Army Chief Gen Kapoor came out with India's Cold Start doctrine and tried to frighten Pakistan that a viable solution to Pakistan's nuclear strength has been found which would render its deterrence valueless. Award of civilian nuclear deal to India by USA and allowing it free access to Nuclear Suppliers Groups was meant to bolster Indian nuclear capability and to weaken Pakistan's deterrence.

146700 troops of Pak Army and paramilitary forces are deeply embroiled in fighting own people in troubled north-western regions since 2002. Pakistan has lost $68 billion in fighting US dictated war on terror and its economy has gone bankrupt. In terms of human losses, 3579 military persons and 33000 civilians have fallen victim to terrorism and yet there is no end in sight. In the aftermath of Raymond Davis incident followed by Operation Neptune Spear in Abbottabad, Pak-US relations have dipped low and Pakistan's sacrifices gone down the drain.

Pakistan has been charge sheeted on several counts. 102500 US-NATO troops based in Afghanistan are looking for an opportunity to step into FATA under the plea of hot pursuit operations or to dismantle alleged sanctuaries of militants.

In order to disable or steal Pak nukes, a huge network of CIA undercover operatives and Blackwater elements are secretly operating in Pakistan. These elements in cahoots with anti-Pakistan militant groups will intensify terrorist attacks including group attacks for which training is imparted by US-Indian military trainers in Afghanistan. An impression will be built that these are reprisal acts to avenge Osama's death. Sensitive installations including nuclear sites will be targeted to scare the world that Pakistan's nuclear arsenal has become unsafe.

This fear had been drummed up in 2007-08 and reached a crescendo in first quarter of 2009 till such time Operation Rah-e-Rast was launched on 28 April and the hype was defused. The story lost its punch after highly successful operations in Bajaur, Buner, Dir and Swat and later in South Waziristan in October 2009 which broke the back of foreign aided militants. The spin doctors then started playing another story that sympathisers of Taliban working within nuclear facilities might steal nukes and hand them over to the militants.

The old tape has again been switched on in the aftermath of controversial death of OBL on 02 May. The first song has been sung after an interval of about two years by Sunday Express on 15 May 2011. It says the US troops will be deployed in Pakistan if the country's nuclear installations are threatened by terrorists out to avenge the killing of OBL. It says the plan will be activated without President Zardari's consent. Obama would order troops to parachute in to protect key nuclear missile sites which would include Sargodha having an airbase and battery of 80 missiles.

The newspaper claims that the plan has been approved by Obama. Alex Neill has stated that the US trust in Pakistan's abilities is extremely low. He added if Obama can persuade the Congress that placing US troops at the installations is necessary to protect US citizens from possible nuclear attack, then that's what he will do. The US leaders repeatedly lied that they have no ill-designs against Pakistan's nuclear program. They have at last come out in the open and exposed their real intentions.


—The writer is a retired Brig and a defence analyst.








Has bin Laden undone all the worst he did to Pakistan in his unseen but effective authority after his mysterious death in the Abbottabad operation? Can Abbottabad operation prove to be more integrating than earthquake 2005 or floods 2010, after 1965 war? Is this a new era of civil-military relationship in a country like Pakistan where point of mutual interest is not power now, but the national interest? Is the political and military leadership instep after this qualitative and quantitative display of American hypocrisy? Will we be able to react as a nation from now on?

According to Hazrat Ali (RA): "Failures are often the result of timidity and fear; disappointments are the result of bashfulness; hours of leisure pass away like summer-clouds, therefore, do not waste opportunity of doing good."

Short story of Pakistan is indeed not all failures and disappointments but certainly fear, timidity and bashfulness. The main ingredient of failures and disappointments is found in our society in abundance. One cannot also deny the mindset of our ruling elite that has always lived in the leisure pass away of the summer cloud, and the result now is right in front, eyeball to eyeball.

Now coming over to the last phrase of the Fourth Caliph's saying "Do not waste the opportunity of doing good"; the in-camera briefing to legislators by the military top brass by and large looks to be an opportunity of doing good in the shape of smart, precise and efficient repair work for the country. The said repair work has to be multi-dimensional and result oriented.

The present disarray around the globe, in the aftermath of 9/11 and American arrogance have indeed made survivability percentage of countries like Pakistan to bare minimum, with virtually no political, economic and even territorial sovereignty existing in practical terms. Without being optimistic about it, accepting the supremacy of Parliament by other state pillars can provide Pakistan a launching pad to renovate its pride and honour in the international community.

It is more than imperative to ensure a variant from the political culture of Pakistan, every political organ or may a mere pressure group only, should be able to comprehend and resolute in the direction of national interest. Political leadership with egotism can prove fatal at this time, the political dynamics need to be overhauled with constructive contributions from every hook and corner.

De-energizing and energizing the geographical borders of any nation depends mainly on the political mindset of the national leadership, but in the politico-military environment of Pakistan, case is somewhat complex. After eventful, honest and honourable confessions made by DG ISI and Deputy Chief of Air Staff, the said complexity is at least looking to be fading out. From the overall concept of homeland security to the purchase of technological sophistication in the field of modern warfare, all this needs an extensive deliberation and change of bias. The Osama event has highlighted a grave weakness in our defensive system, fortunately before the test of time; this should be taken as a window of opportunity by the military thinkers and warrants immediate and effective measures in the right direction.

due respect, a lot has to be done in this regard, justice at lower level is in scarcity, and people of Pakistan are least interested in cases like NRO, President's two offices case and many more like these politically derived court battles. Higher judiciary must set the right tone for speedy justice to common man. Pakistanis are more than anxious to know about the outcome of Sialkot brothers' annihilation case, outcome of nurse jumping from the balcony of third floor after an alleged sexual assault by a doctor and a long list of such humiliations still not accounted for by the judiciary, and many more.

The most spoiled field to work; needs deeper plough; immediate attention; framing of rules; and implementation with fearless dedication. Perception management of a nation is an extremely serious business, especially when majority is uneducated and the educated are unemployed. On the other hand this core weapon has been privatized so extensively that it has endangered the national security. As a nation cannot fight war with private armies in the same manner it will be defeated if the information war is handled by the money mincing private sector. This needs to be taken care of well and proper and should be on top priority.

All the state institutions are required to work within their domains efficiently and honestly. Big opportunities are created by proficiently handling big problems. The launching pad provided by political and military leadership needs to be exploited to the best of the resources and capabilities. This can be termed as a last chance given to Pakistan to become a nation otherwise the global selfishness will make us drown in such deep water, which will not allow us to rise again.








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.








Dissidents within what remains of the Irish republican movement just cannot help themselves. Passing up the opportunity to show what pathetic cowards they are was too much to ask. They duly fulfilled expectations by seeking to disrupt the Queen's historic visit to Ireland by placing in the luggage compartment of a bus a bomb designed to cause major disruption and minimal risk to themselves.

By trying and failing to upset a visit by a universally respected 85-year-old woman, the dissidents attracted contempt and, happily, did not detract from the celebration of the new normality in relations between Dublin and London flowing from the 1998 Good Friday peace settlement in Northern Ireland that has enabled to Queen to travel to Ireland after almost 60 years on the throne. In that time, she has made 300 visits overseas. Until recently, however, a trip to the republic was unthinkable. A BBC reporter summed it up neatly when he drew a parallel between the Queen going to Dublin and Neil Armstrong landing on the moon -- a small step for the Queen, but a huge step in Anglo-Irish relations. Not since 1911 has a reigning monarch visited Ireland, and Anglo-Irish animus stretches back centuries before the 1916 Easter Rising. The Queen would have been reminded of this when she landed at an airport named after the executed Irish hero Roger Casement then laid a wreath in memory of those who died in the Rising.

More recently, the Troubles in Northern Ireland overshadowed hopes of a rapprochement. But the signs are that the Good Friday peace agreement, give or take the stupidity of a few extremists, is working well as the foundation for close and enduring bilateral relations. The peace agreement could, indeed, serve as a template for similar accords between warring factions elsewhere.

In reality, relations between Ireland and the United Kingdom have always been close. Geography and family ties across the Irish Sea mean it could hardly be otherwise. Not insignificantly, Prince William, when he married the other day, wore the uniform of the Irish Guards, something that underlined the close historical ties.

The important symbolism surrounding the Queen's visit cannot be overstated. Hopefully, the murderous extremists are forever sidelined and the noble hopes articulated in the Good Friday peace accords are firmly entrenched.






Communications Minister Stephen Conroy's claim that National Broadband Network Co chief Mike Quigley was no more responsible for corruption at Alcatel than News Limited chief executive John Hartigan was for corruption at the Melbourne Storm is a bad analogy, and a desperate but inadequate defence.

It was always widely known in the public domain that News Limited, publisher of The Australian, owned the Storm. In contrast, when Mr Quigley, a former senior executive at Alcatel, was appointed to run the NBN in 2009, he failed to mention that Alcatel was then the subject of a five-year investigation by the US Securities and Exchange Commission over bribery allegations, an issue that the Rudd government, with a shortage of due diligence, knew nothing about. That became public only last month in a front-page story in this newspaper.

Contrary to Senator Conroy's conspiratorial claim that Mr Quigley is "the victim of an absolute smear campaign", his corporate background is a legitimate topic for investigative reporting in the public interest, given his $1.8 million-a-year job as head of the nation's largest infrastructure project.

There is no suggestion that Mr Quigley was involved in corruption, but on Monday he "unreservedly apologised" to the joint parliamentary committee overseeing the $36 billion NBN for incorrectly stating previously that during his time at Alcatel, he was not responsible for overseeing operations in Costa Rica, where Alcatel employees paid more than $7 million in bribes to corrupt officials in return for hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts. Such revelations kick-started the US government's five-year investigation, which resulted in the US government and Alcatel agreeing that the company will pay a fine of $US137m ($130m), one of the largest of its kind in US corporate history.

Senator Conroy is satisfied that Mr Quigley has been upfront about the probe into Alcatel, but the minister has scant regard for the public interest if he thinks the media should not be asking questions and seeking official records to report the full picture of what happened at Alcatel, and Mr Quigley's role in the company. Senator Conroy's frustration at the scrutiny being applied to the NBN by this newspaper will not deter future reporting, however much mud he throws.






Carbon dioxide is a political killer and Julia Gillard urgently needs to gain control of her carbon price agenda if she is not to become its next victim. The Prime Minister cannot expect sympathy because this mess is of her own making. The policy aspects of this debate are complicated enough without the government botching the politics. Taxpayers, businesses and investors have faced uncertainty on climate change policy for at least four years, the only changes in that time being three prime ministers, three opposition leaders and three climate change ministers. All sides of politics want to reduce emissions and both major parties are committed to minimum cuts of 5 per cent by 2020. The current acrimonious debate should be a technical one about the most effective way to meet that common goal. Over the intervening years, governments of all persuasions, state and federal, have wasted billions of dollars on inefficient schemes marketed as carbon reduction initiatives. Solar electricity schemes, green car initiatives, mandated renewable energy targets and a myriad grants and subsidies have paid homage to the climate change mantra but only added to our energy costs and taxation burden. It has been more about cant than climate or carbon.

The Australian supports a market-based mechanism for pricing carbon because it ensures CO2 is abated at the cheapest possible cost and encourages technological innovation to develop increasingly efficient abatement, energy production and energy use. The logic of this approach is so compelling that politicians as diverse as John Howard, Kevin Rudd, Malcolm Turnbull and Ms Gillard found it impossible to resist. The odd man out is Tony Abbott. By thumbing his nose at the market approach, he almost guarantees his carbon abatement will cost more per tonne than under an ETS or carbon tax. And it involves picking winning projects, a process fraught with the risk of governments making costly mistakes, such as those cited above. But voters understand that the Opposition Leader's plan allows us to get on with abating carbon without drastic changes to our economy, while we wait to see what the rest of the world does. Even the government's own climate change adviser, Ross Garnaut, has always argued that Australia cannot go it alone. Politically, Mr Abbott holds the upper hand. His clear, strong and consistent "stop the great big new tax" message contrasts against a confused government message.

Ms Gillard was probably wrong when she urged Mr Rudd to abandon his ETS, but when she replaced him she was right to say Australia needed to develop a consensus before "moving forward" on the issue. She then ruled out a carbon tax during the election campaign because she knew it would be electoral poison. We can only assume the Prime Minister broke that promise, ditching considerable political capital and the sensible push for consensus, as the price for Greens support post-election. So now she is caught in a Greens tragedy of her own making, with squabbles about the exact carbon price, inclusions, exemptions and compensation making the opposition's scare campaign easy. But she chose this path. Instead of blaming Mr Abbott, she needs to clearly articulate her rationale and outline her carbon formula.







THE Reserve Bank wants us on alert: interest rates will probably need to rise further from here. The Gillard government wants us to know something, too: higher interest rates are not its fault. Both messages are correct.

While painful for households and businesses with loans, higher interest rates are the prudent policy response to emerging price pressures in an economy operating at close to full capacity. Now is not the time to go forgetting the hard-earned lessons of the 1970s period of ''stagflation'': that high inflation, not high interest rates, are economic public enemy No.1. Nothing erodes living standards like higher prices which eat into wages and leave families struggling to get by on the same income.

The global outbreak of inflation in the 1970s was caused by shortages of oil and other energy resources that led to a period of ''cost-push'' inflation. Today the risk is of ''demand-pull'' inflation, where a period of too-strong demand leads to prices being bid upwards. Voracious demand by the developing economies of China and India for mineral resources has pushed commodity prices to record highs and has produced, arguably, Australia's biggest external income shock.

This mining boom is testing the capacity of the Australian economy. There are only so many workers and so much equipment available to fill orders from foreign buyers. Meanwhile, turbocharged investment plans by mining companies are drawing away resources from the rest of the economy. Businesses across the country are on the brink of having to engage in a wages war to attract a dwindling supply of skilled workers. And wages pressure spells inflation pressure.

The Gillard government, we believe, is doing its part to help cool such inflation pressure by withdrawing its fiscal stimulus and returning the budget to surplus in 2012-13. Any heat the government can take out of the economy, for example through cuts to welfare payments to upper-income families, means less work for the Reserve Bank to do to clamp down on demand pressure. But there are limits to this argument.

Theoretically, the government could stop spending altogether and this would help to keep interest rates low; probably because the loss of public sector jobs would plunge us into recession. As the Treasury secretary, Martin Parkinson, pointed out this week: to cut spending severely would be to risk an economic slowdown that would jeopardise the recovery in government revenue already in place. Managing this boom will require both hands of economic policymaking - fiscal and monetary - pulling on the levers of restraint.






EVERY now and then a rise in the expenditure columns of the government ledger deserves a collective ''hooray'', even though it means spending billions of tax dollars more. University enrolments are expected to exceed 500,000 next year, costing government $3 billion more than suggested by the spending pattern between 2001 and 2007.

Funding for teaching, learning and research will rise to $13 billion, an increase of nearly two-thirds on 2007 funding of $8 billion. The upside is that the nation should be repaid many times over. In 2008, enrolments totalled 400,000.

Pushing up the cost is a jump in student numbers engineered by the freeing of universities to enrol as many eligible domestic students as they see fit. Enrolments of foreign students already are uncapped and government domestic quotas this year were slightly relaxed to prepare for next year's open gate.

The change was recommended by the 2008 Bradley review to get Australian university enrolments out of the doldrums. In 1996, 16 per cent of Australians aged 25 to 34 were university graduates; in 2006, this had risen to 29 per cent. But Australia's ranking among OECD nations slipped from seventh to ninth because other countries, including New Zealand, improved faster.

The government's target of 40 per cent by 2025 is intended to restore Australia's standing to the high-performing end of the OECD table. But in contests of international competitiveness, nothing is assured.

Education is universally recognised as a key to wealth creation, to the future-proofing of an economy (like Australia's) through diversity and resilience, and to the esteem of individuals who pursue it. Education investment is a rare tool of government in that it serves the common good as equally as it does individual aspiration.

This is not some feelgood notion.

Economic good fortune is a blessing. Ask the inhabitants of impoverished nations whether they would prefer the living conditions afforded by Australia's mineral wealth, for instance. But comfort can induce a certain indifference to the challenges of staying ahead of the field or, in Australia's case, of taking insurance against a sudden fall in demand for mineral exports.

What an earlier generation found adequate may no longer suffice. The world has changed immeasurably, as has Australia's place in it. Jogging without sweat won't keep us in the race.

''If a man neglects education, he walks lame to the end of his life,'' wrote Plato. In this case, what is true for the individual is true for the nation, and vice versa.






ONCE again, Labor is trying to negotiate laws that put a price on greenhouse gas emissions. Australia would already have market-based carbon pricing had legislation not been blocked by the Coalition - whose members ousted their leader to reverse their policy on emissions trading - and the Greens. Because of their refusal to accept modest initial targets, the Greens share responsibility for the startling shift in the climate change debate since 2009.

Labor and the Greens are back where they were two years ago: debating the level of a carbon price, now in the initial form of a levy. Labor wants a modest starting price, while the Greens eye the European benchmark of more than $40 a tonne from 2013. With no price even close to being settled, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott makes wild warnings about its impact without reliable figures or evidence. He said this week that the legislation was not a foregone conclusion, saying: ''I think it would be unconscionable of this Parliament, that got elected on a platform of no carbon tax, to sneak a carbon tax in.'' Never mind that the previous Parliament was elected on a bipartisan platform of emissions trading, which he made no attempt to honour.

The Gillard government and Greens have the power to ensure Australia finally starts pricing carbon. The focus on the level of a carbon tax misses the key goal: to get an overall mechanism in place that paves the way for market-based emissions trading in three to five years. Settings can be adjusted to take account of effects on emissions and the economy. In the past decade, the Howard, Rudd and Gillard governments spent about $5.6 billion on a raft of ad hoc programs, at an average cost of $168 per tonne of emissions cut. The Department of Climate Change estimates current policies will lead to emissions 24 per cent higher in 2020 than the bipartisan goal of a 5 per cent cut. Failure to act exposes Australia to penalties. The European Union is already set to levy taxes on emissions by airlines, such as Qantas, based in countries that don't price carbon.

The Greens should not hold out for a carbon price the government is incapable of selling in the current political climate. In March, Greens leader Bob Brown indicated he would be pragmatic. Legislated carbon pricing will be hard to overturn in the new Senate. It would be reasonable to push for investment in alternative energy sources, as argued by independent MPs whose votes are needed to pass the legislation this year. Once the policy takes effect, exposing the shameless opportunism of the worst alarmists, there will be time to calibrate its settings.





WHEN The Age reported yesterday that a men-only page on the social networking website Facebook was republishing images of women in swimsuits and lingerie from the women's private pages, some men who responded to the story appeared to think that the women had only themselves to blame. ''It's simple: you don't want pics like this appearing on the net, don't take them and don't upload them …'' one man posted on Another purported not to see what the fuss was about: ''Why people upload photos to a public domain and then complain about it is beyond me.''

Such comments are like saying that a woman who forgets to draw the blinds on her bedroom window should not object to the presence of a peeping tom. But they do not only express a willingness to blame the victim, bad enough though that is. They are also indicative of the ways in which social media are transforming human relationships, for better and for worse.

The Facebook group in question, the Brocial Network, was created two weeks ago, but in that time has acquired more than 8000 members, known as ''Bros''. The group's rules require them to retrieve images of women who ''reveal a little too much'' from friends' Facebook photo albums, and to upload these images to the group's page. The women's names are also published, with links to their personal social media pages, allowing members of the network to access those pages.

Since all this happens without the women's consent, they are surely as entitled to feel violated as any woman who is preyed on by a voyeur. And that was certainly the reaction of young women, contacted by The Age's reporter, whose images appeared on the Brocial Network's page. Unlike a woman who is spied on by a voyeur outside her window, however, they do not have a legal remedy. As Dan Svantesson, vice-chairman of the Australian Privacy Foundation, has pointed out, what members of the Brocial Network do is not a crime. Since they were accessing friends' pages, they were not hackers.

Australia has no privacy laws regulating the sharing of private images on social-networking sites. Nor is it easy to frame such laws, even though outrage at the Bros' repellent activities is likely to increase momentum in the community for tougher privacy legislation. Any statutory restriction on the retrieval of images from social networking sites may be as likely to stop friends innocently obtaining each others' pictures, which is one of the things that the networking sites exist to facilitate, as it is to prevent people like the Bros from engaging in invasions of privacy. The same consideration perhaps also explains why some Facebook users do not activate the most restrictive privacy settings that the networking site offers.

The deepest cause for concern at the activities of the Brocial Network and other social-network predators, however, is not the difficulty in devising a law that protects privacy without improperly infringing individual freedoms. It is the blurred and shifting boundary between the private and public spheres in the online world, and its consequences for the way human beings treat each other.

Notionally, people understand that the internet allows them to be connected to millions of other people they may never meet, or even know about. But most people using networking sites sit alone in front of a screen, thinking they are in contact with ''friends'', though they may scarcely know some of them. It is easy, in such circumstances, to begin to act as one does with real friends, face to face. And that makes people vulnerable to those who might abuse their trust. To recognise that this is so is not to make the Bros' victims responsible for their friends' betrayal of them. It is a reminder of what happens, in the real or the virtual world, when people do not treat others as they would wish to be treated themselves.








His comments about rape were foolishly insensitive but the justice secretary should resist opportunist calls for his exit

David Cameron has a right to be annoyed with Kenneth Clarke, but he should back him not sack him. Yesterday, the justice secretary gave what was undoubtedly, in parts, a foolishly insensitive interview on rape sentencing. In trying to correct his errors later he briefly contrived to muddy the waters further, not calm them. He should regret those lapses and should say so plainly. But the political furore which flared throughout much of yesterday – and which was fed by Ed Miliband's call for Mr Clarke to go – was overwhelmingly opportunist and reactionary. It was driven by an unprincipled alliance between the Labour party and the Daily Mail, both of whom are delighted – for opposite reasons – to use any weapon to attack the coalition government, even if it means feeding ever more people into the prison system to no good public purpose and especially if it means pushing a popular and liberal minister out of the government. Yes, some of Mr Clarke's comments were reckless. But his policy on rape is not. And nor are his proposals on sentencing. Both of them are in the public interest. Mr Cameron should stand up for his justice secretary and for the coalition's penal policies.

Mr Clarke comes as a political package deal. He offers strong opinions – liberal on social policy, orthodox on economics, and unfashionably pro-European – which are forcefully and sometimes colourfully expressed. Along with that comes a rare political ability to make a warts-and-all connection with the public. Mr Clarke is more cunning and disciplined than he can contrive to seem, but he is an important reason, perhaps second only to Mr Cameron himself, why the Conservatives did as well as they did in last year's general election. His presence in the coalition matters a lot, as does his political experience. Without him, the Conservatives would appear more of a sect than they do. With him, there is still a runnable liberal argument in favour of the coalition. The government could ill afford to lose him, which is of course why the Mail and Mr Miliband both want him to go.

A word often used in connection with Mr Clarke is "blokeish". This is very much a double-edged sword, as yesterday exposed. Mr Clarke should never have talked about some rapes being serious ones, since to do so implies to women and men alike that some are not. He was wrong to describe legitimate anxieties about early release of rapists as total nonsense. He should not have charged into the definitional pitfall of date rape. And, even though Mr Clarke's departmental life is made hugely difficult by the fear agenda of the rightwing press, it was unwise of him to suggest that the current campaign on rape sentencing was driven by a wish to put sexual excitement into the headlines. There is nothing exciting about rape. No justice secretary should imply that there is.

Mr Clarke was right to stand up for his sentencing policies. Britain sends more people to prison for longer sentences than most countries, and our use of prison can feed rather than frustrate crime. But Mr Clarke is not engaged in trying to push rapists or any other dangerous prisoners out on to the streets. He was right to stress, as the Stern report on rape complaints put it last year, that "attitudes, policies and practice have changed, fundamentally and for the better". He was right that more rape suspects – and suspects of all kinds – should be encouraged to plead guilty, in part because the protection of rape victims from the second ordeal of a court hearing with its sometimes traumatic cross-examination is important. And while rape is indeed rape, and Mr Clarke was silly to dispute it yesterday, it is also right that there is a scale of serious sentences, with aggravating and mitigating factors, which are properly applied to different cases, in rape as in other crimes. In that sense, some rapes are indeed particularly serious. Even so, very few will ever carry any prospect of an offender being released after only 15 months. And rightly so.





Many people in rural areas, already denied reliable broadband access, are being condemned to permanent exclusion from digital life

Ask 100 people to stand together and turn on their mobile phones. If 95 can get a signal, and only five cannot, you might think coverage was as near to universal as makes no difference. But for the five who are left out, many aspects of their lives are made more difficult – and yet, as things stand, mobile operators are only required to provide a signal to 95% of the population. That means three million people in many rural parts of the country have at best a patchy service and often none at all. Today the Commons will debate this, led by the Cumbrian Tory MP Rory Stewart, who is asking operators bidding for new spectrum to be required to provide 98% coverage. Some people may disagree. In an age of Twitter-obsessed smart phone users in constant digital communication, there is delight to be had in occasional silence and isolation. Phone masts are also ugly and the Treasury, which sells radio space to phone companies, wants to limit the coverage obligation to increase revenue. Mobile phones, though, are no longer an entertainment or a luxury, but a routine and necessary part of working and family lives. People in rural Britain, already denied reliable broadband access, are now being condemned to permanent exclusion from digital life. As things stand, the forthcoming auction of the 800MHz spectrum (a low frequency that works well over long distances and is dedicated to fast-data 4G services) may ask firms to provide a signal to only 95% of the population. It is reasonable to ask for that target to be extended.






Professor Ian Hargreaves's proposals would create a less rigid copyright system and encourage innovation by newcomers

"The patent system added the fuel of interest to the fire of genius," according to Abraham Lincoln. His words are apt, both because they acknowledge that the spark of creativity predated the ability to cash it in, and because if you dump too much fuel on a fire at once you can extinguish the flame.

But listen to the lobbying of rights holders, or "creatives" as they style themselves, and you would think that in the pre-copyright days when music really did sell for a song, no one would have bothered picking up an instrument, or for that matter a paintbrush or pen. That is absurd. Of course artists and inventors need recompense, but there is a delicate balance here. If ideas and experiences which can quite feasibly be enjoyed by everybody are instead priced out of some hands by IP laws inflating the costs then that is plainly inefficient. The inefficiency is justified only if and to the extent that it really does feed the fire of genius.

Professor Ian Hargreaves, who yesterday published a review of copyright commissioned by the prime minister, has a sure grasp of all this. The report pointed to the dismal lack of evidence about exactly how much damage piracy is doing. In reference to the successful campaign to extend audio copyrights deep into posthumous territory, it drily observes the futility of sharpening incentives for artists who are already dead. But the report did not run into the storm it might have done because of one thing it did not say. It rejected Google's well-publicised talk about importing America's "fair use doctrine". This allows judges to set aside copyright sanctions in response to changing technologies and the circumstances of the particular case.

Mr Hargreaves's rejection of it, however, has less to do with principle than the impracticality of forcing a foreign doctrine into the framework of EU copyright laws. Instead, Mr Hargreaves proposes a series of important exemptions, to relax the rigidities of a status quo that restricts parodies of copyrighted material, bans libraries from digitising their archives and makes notional criminals of people who move music they have paid for from one device to another. All of this is a commonsensical start.

Welcome too is the idea of a clearing house, where arrangements can be made for accessing works with untraceable owners, and where those owed small royalties might claim them. Most important of all for future prosperity is clearing away the patent thickets, which inhibit newcomers from entering digital markets by restricting use not just of inventions, but concepts and processes too. Rights holders are wrong if they think they have been handed a licence to print money as normal.




            THE JAPAN TIMES



The government on May 13 decided on the overall framework of a scheme to help Tokyo Electric Power Co. compensate people who have suffered losses from the accidents at its Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

Compensation will be paid to those who were evacuated from their homes as well as to farmers, fishermen and others who have suffered financial losses due to the accidents.

The government plans to submit related bills to the Diet in an extraordinary session to be convened as late as in August. In the meantime, Tepco should strive to make tentative payments to evacuees, farmers and fishermen as soon as it can to alleviate their current suffering from the loss of income.

Tepco must not abuse the scheme, which envisages use of public money to help it pay an enormous sum in compensation — estimated at several trillion yen. The company should make all-out efforts to minimize the use of public money.

Under the framework for the scheme, the government will allot zero-interest-rate bonds to a new institution to be set up to facilitate Tepco's compensation payments.

Tepco and other power companies will provide funds to the institution, which will inject capital into Tepco, guarantee Tepco's debts and buy its debentures.

No ceiling will be imposed on the total amount of Tepco's compensation payments. When Tepco runs short of funds, the institution will cash the government bonds and provide the cash to Tepco, which will have to pay back the money later. The new institution will also serve as an insurer against future nuclear-related accidents.

There is the possibility that Tepco and other utilities will raise electricity-use rates in an attempt to secure funds for the planned institution. Tepco will also be tempted to raise the bills to its customers because of the anticipated higher costs of relying more on thermal power generation to make up for power shortages caused by the Fukushima nuclear accidents.

The scheme has the potential to help Tepco at the expense of electricity users. The government should find and use hidden funds in the nuclear power establishment so that the burden on electricity users will be minimized.





The Upper House on April 28 enacted three bills aimed at giving more power to local governments — more than a year after the devolution-related bills were submitted to the Diet. Although the administration of former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama was eager to have these bills enacted, the Kan administration lowered their priority.

The important thing is to give more administrative power and funds to local governments to help create a system in which local governments can make more decisions on matters closely related to local residents and carry them out.

It is hoped that reform in this direction will make progress. But at the same time, care must be taken to ensure that the central government can properly and efficiently function during an emergency situation like the current one following the March 11 massive earthquake and tsunami and the subsequent nuclear crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

One of the bills establishes an official forum with legal backing in which the central and local governments consult on an equal footing so that the central government will not impose policy measures that directly affect local government administration.

A second bill revises 160 laws so that local governments can decide on standards for various local social services, such as the minimum floor space for a nursery school and a person's eligibility for admission into public housing. A third bill scraps ceilings on the number of local assembly members.

Local governments will have more flexibility in providing and managing social services. But local assembly members must realize that they will bear heavier responsibilities for working out the most appropriate policy measures.

Apart from efforts to push general devolution, the central government and lawmakers should consider a special measure to let local governments in areas devastated by the March 11 disasters take over relevant power from the central government so that they can exercise initiatives in reconstructing their areas.







Special to The Japan Times

HONG KONG — The International Monetary Fund will be looking for a new managing director sooner than anyone imagined, and in the most bizarrely depressing circumstances.

It is imperative that the shareholders of the IMF — its 187 member governments—act as responsibly as any good company to ensure that whoever succeeds Dominique Strauss-Kahn is the best person for the job chosen for her or his economic, financial and political credentials through a transparent, fair and competitive process in which candidates get a chance to speak and to be questioned.

Imperative though it may be, there seems to be a fat chance that shareholder governments will follow these simple rules of good corporate governance. Already a European bandwagon has begun to roll, claiming that only a European can understand the issues and that another French candidate, Finance Minister Christine Lagarde, should take over.

How are the mighty fallen. At noon on Saturday, Strauss-Kahn was among the top 10 most powerful people in the world. He was head of the IMF as it embarked on key discussions to sort out European debt problems and keep the global economy on its growth track, and soaring in opinion polls to defeat Nicolas Sarkozy and succeed him as president of France next year. A few hours later he was in a prison cell and facing the rest of his life behind bars for alleged sex acts lasting about 10 minutes.

Haggard, disheveled, unshaven, tie-less, sullen and silent, wearing a nondescript raincoat (to hide the handcuffs) Strauss-Kahn in court looked more like convicted hobo than the sharp-suited, sharp-minded professor, politician, financial mastermind and kingpin of the global power elite.

Strauss-Kahn faces charges of attempted rape, sex abuse, criminal sex act, unlawful imprisonment and forcible touching, together adding up to 74 years in prison, including five to 25 years on the most serious. There was nevertheless something disturbing about the scene because Strauss-Kahn has not been convicted nor been able to make any case other than to plead not guilty, and yet the New York Police Department has been conducting trial by media.

Even before Strauss-Kahn was formally charged, Paul J. Browne, deputy commissioner of the NYPD, was playing the lead role in a television drama, giving specific and graphic accounts of what allegedly happened in room 2806 of the New York Sofitel at about 1 p.m. on Saturday. The policeman claimed that a maid, aged 32, sent to clean the supposedly empty room, encountered Strauss-Kahn who, said Browne, "came out of the bathroom, fully naked, and attempted to sexually assault her." When the police arrived, Strauss-Kahn was not there. "It looked like he got out of there in a hurry," added Browne.

In some countries that take seriously the essential of justice that a person is innocent until found guilty, Strauss-Kahn would be heading toward an acquittal simply because providing such information in blazing headlines all over the world makes it almost impossible for him to get a fair trial.

Friends and allies have admitted that Strauss-Kahn had a reputation as "the great seducer," but say that his driving force was charm, the antithesis of force. But even if he is cleared and proved as white as the driven snow in this case, it will be hard for Strauss-Kahn to brush off the mud to be able to stay at the IMF, where he has a year left in his term, or to challenge Sarkozy.

An IMF spokesman said that the Fund was "fully functional and operational," and Europeans tried to make light of Strauss-Kahn's absence at critical meetings on the debt crisis. But there are always last-minute details in completing any deal, and the managing director's wily political skills and his knowledge of Europe and the IMF, economics and legal matters will sorely be missed.

Martin Wolf, chief economics commentator of the Financial Times, said that Strauss-Kahn is "possibly the only policymaker who isn't German whom the Germans take seriously"—important when an increasingly self-centered economically successful Germany is reluctant to support what it sees as other countries' profligacy.

Give Strauss-Kahn credit. He quickly recognized the fund's failings in the financial crisis and that ideological commitment to free markets and financial liberalization had been part of the problem. He promoted a reshuffling of the share-holdings to give China and emerging countries a bigger say.

With the help of Gordon Brown, Strauss-Kahn replenished IMF coffers and put the institution again at the center of global financial decision-making. Even so, the reform glass is best described as 60 percent empty rather than half-full.

The risk is that the IMF will be sorely wounded by Strauss-Kahn's departure and then by infighting to succeed him. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso have already made their pitch that it is essential to have a European IMF chief. But Brazil, India and other developing countries want their man in the job. China wants a bigger say. This is a recipe for disaster—the IMF chief should represent the world, not any single country or region. Financial problems are global and demand global solutions.

The best-qualified conventional candidate might be Brown, longtime finance minister and prime minister of Britain, who chaired the key IMF committee for many years. But in spite of his passion for economic development, Brown is not easy to get on with. He would need the backing of an obviously reluctant David Cameron, his successor as prime minister.

If Cameron were prepared to sacrifice Brown and any other British candidate, he might have the leverage to demand a truly open competitive field and suggest to China, the United States, Japan and Germany that it should be no one's "turn" but that a good candidate from outside Europe or the U.S. would be better for everyone than the sort of compromise that saw the still unknown Herman Van Rompuy and Catherine Ashton take top jobs in the European Union.

There are tens of good candidates from Africa, Asia and Latin America, who would be worth testing through a thorough, preferably public, interview. Two obvious favorites, Egyptian Mohamed El-Erian of the global investment management firm Pimco and Indian Montek Singh Ahluwalia, are over the normal 65 years age limit. Latin America can offer Eduardo Aninat or Arminio Fraga. Trevor Manuel, South Africa's finance minister, and Ngozi Okonji-Iweala, former finance minister of Nigeria now Robert Zoellick's deputy at the World Bank, have deceptively mild exteriors masking tough minds.

Asia has two finance ministers with deep understanding of financial markets: Tharman Shanmugaratnam gained his through being managing director of the Monetary Authority of Singapore, and British-born and Winchester and Oxford-educated Korn Chatikavanij of Thailand was previously head of J.P. Morgan in that country.

Whoever makes the short list should be asked, "What is your worldview?" and "What do you do if your country's interests conflicts with those of the world and IMF?"

Kevin Rafferty was managing editor at the IMF's sister organization, the World Bank.







BENGHAZI, Libya — Last week I flew to Benghazi to meet Libya's Transitional National Council (TNC), a visit coordinated with European Union High Representative Catherine Ashton and NATO allies. What I saw reminded me of my country 20 years ago, just after Poland's first free elections.

Peoples in transition from authoritarian rule — peaceful in Poland in 1989, bloody in Libya today—grapple with decisions that determine their fate for decades.

How should the former regime's worst wrongdoers and security police, with their insidious archives, be treated? Should the former ruling party be banned? How can civilian, democratic control of the army and police be secured? What role should religion play in public affairs? Should the constitution establish a presidential or parliamentary system?

The former communist world made those choices 20 years ago. But very different choices—for better and for worse—were made in Poland, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia, in the Baltic states, across the former Soviet Union, in Central Asia and in East Germany. The results form a database of experience. Arab reformers thus can draw on our successes and avoid our mistakes.

We Central Europeans knew the misery of communism. Yet we knew what we wanted to replace it with—a system based on modern European democratic market values. Building democratic structures requires time, discipline, pain, and patience. But it pays off. In July, Poland will assume the EU presidency for the first time; we have earned this responsibility to lead EU affairs over the next six months.

Poland learned the hard way that demanding change and defying oppression are much less difficult than formulating and delivering a clear, reasonable program for a better future. Not all popular demands for freedom succeed: in the confusion, reactionary forces can make their move. The fall of the shah in Iran had ruinous consequences for that country. Belarus won independence in 1991, but, since 1994, President Alexander Lukashenko has embraced communist methods to cling to power. Europe has unfinished business here.

Today, across North Africa, millions of people are demanding a voice in their own destiny. Each country is looking to change and move forward. In Morocco, the king has announced constitutional reforms, including guarantees for public participation in national decision-making, an independent judiciary, and new regional authorities. This measured, inclusive reform can be a model for others. And reformers in the Arab world have had tremendous support from Qatar, which has provided an example of strong leadership, particularly in Libya, but also through the news channel Al Jazeera—a real force for change in the region.

Libya is experiencing a deadly struggle between people insisting on change, and a desperate, greedy regime determined to cling to power after 40 years of crass misrule. The United Nations Security Council, supported by the Arab League, has authorized the use of all necessary means to protect Libyans from the cruelty of their own leaders. Our NATO allies launched proportionate military operations aimed at denying Col. Moammar Gadhafi's regime the means to attack civilian targets. Governments worldwide have frozen illicit assets stashed abroad by the regime—money that should be used to help the opposition to build a new society.

I went to Benghazi to assess the intentions and credibility of the Transitional National Council and Libyan opposition.

Around the table sat improbable allies: some had been prominent officials in Gadhafi's regime; others had spent many years in prison under sentence of death. They were united in recognizing that their country deserved a new start. I was reminded of Poland's "roundtable" in 1989, when Solidarity sat with the Communists to negotiate the end of their regime.

I talked frankly with TNC Chairman Mustafa Abdul Jalil, Deputy Chairman Abdul Hafez Ghoga, and TNC Defense Minister Jalal Dheili, himself a former political prisoner. They were grateful for the international community's involvement, but described in moving terms the huge loss of life that Gadhafi had inflicted on his own people.

I told them that we considered the TNC to be our new legitimate political interlocutors in Libya and were ready to support them, but that in return we expected the TNC to work towards the best standards of transparent democratic government. They had to realize that they need a plan—revolutionary moments are moments to be seized. Poland would help by offering training for TNC officials.

Following this visit, my message to European leaders is twofold. First, Libya's TNC is the best bet we can make now for Libya's future. Its leaders are cooperating in an effort to bring about real reform in a way that was unthinkable a few months ago. They deserve the world's energetic support.

Second, while Europe has much to offer North Africa in terms of financial support, advice, and training, the region needs to find its own path to freedom and success. Let us approach this task in the best spirit of European solidarity, but also with a certain humility. Europe's former communist countries can make a special contribution to the process of transition across North Africa. Above all, we understand that sustained reform requires assuming responsibility by mobilizing the energy of one's own people, not relying on well-intentioned but often ill-focused outside help.

Poland is ready to lead the way, on its own and as EU president. For example, former President Lech Wa?esa recently visited Tunisia to offer advice as part of a Polish program to help Tunisia devise robust constitutional reforms and election laws.

North Africa's people know what they don't want—and won't accept. But they are struggling to identify what they do want, and how to build it. As I saw in Benghazi, there is a fair chance that Libya's emerging leaders will be good, realistic partners for good realistic policies.

Radoslaw Sikorski is foreign minister of Poland. © 2011 Project Syndicate








Most oil executives and hydrocarbon analysts agree Indonesia still has basins with large reserves and its geological prospect is quite attractive with the success ratio of oil prospecting among the highest in the world.

But that seems far from sufficient to woo new investors, as the steady fall in the country's oil and gas production and its decline from a major exporter into a net oil importer have proven. The upstream oil and gas regulatory body (BP Migas) itself acknowledged last week the average daily oil output during the first quarter was less than 900,000 barrels, far below the target of 970,000 bbl.

Last year, Indonesia also failed to achieve its output target of 965,00 bbl, lifting only 954,000 bbl.

Another piece of discouraging news, as purveyed by BP Migas executive Iwan Ratman, is that the implementation of 10 percent of exploration and production development projects this year fell behind schedule due to overlapping concession areas, arduous licensing procedures within regional administrations and land acquisition problems.

Even state oil company Pertamina suffered many delays in exploration works: It planned to drill 147 new wells this year but managed to complete only 25 wells in the first quarter. Worse still many producing fields suffered from unscheduled shutdowns, power-supply disruptions and damages to pipelines.

The three-day 35th annual oil and gas industry convention and exhibition of the Indonesian Petroleum Association which opened on Wednesday should be a great opportunity for the government and oil executives to thrash out the most pressing problems that stand between investors and the geological prospect.

The theme of the convention "Indonesia energy, growth, security and sustainability" fits well with the current situation Indonesia is facing within the hydrocarbon industry.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono pledged at the opening of the 33rd IPA convention in 2009 to resolve regulatory, bureaucratic problems and lack of legal uncertainty that had affected the petroleum industry.

But there remained big concerns about uncertainty over cost-recovery regulations, corruption, interference by government agencies, the sanctity of contracts and the general regulatory structure of the upstream and downstream oil and gas industry. Legal and regulatory uncertainty and inefficient bureaucracy are especially inimical to investors in the upstream segment of the industry as this business involves high risks and requires big capital.

The hydrocarbon industry requires an even better investment climate now because most of the undiscovered, prospective basins are located in frontier, eastern areas.

The eastern regions have potentially big reserves that are not proven yet, but their prospecting requires sophisticated technology and huge investment, estimated at 10 times as large as those in Java and Sumatra, thereby involving bigger risks. Only by increasing proven oil and gas reserves will Indonesia be able to make its production sustainable and sufficient to meet its steadily rising consumption along with the constant expansion of its economy.

But the only way to enlarge its proven hydrocarbon reserves is to increase investment in exploration.




The euphoria of nearly 1.5 million senior high school students who passed the recent national exam is over. Now they face a more daunting challenge: winning university seats or perhaps finding a job.

As happened in 2010 and in previous years, universities, particularly state universities, will only be able to admit a limited number of new students. Competition has grown fiercer over the years as those who failed the university admission test try their luck again and again at the exam.

State universities across the country allocated more than 46,700 seats — one-fifth of the total — for the highest-ranked new high school graduates.. With 43,400 seats on offer to students whose parents are financially able to fully cover their children's studies, state universities will only have 18,400 seats up for grabs in the national university admission tests that will be held from May 31-June 1.

Unless new senior high school graduates secure tickets to private universities or find or create their own jobs, they will inflate the number of unemployed, which reached 8.12 million in February, according to the Central Statistics Agency.

The gap between the numbers of graduates, university seats and jobs will be seen next year and beyond, despite the government's pledge to slash unemployment to 5 percent
by the end of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's term in 2014.

Many have cited public misconceptions and a flawed education policy as the missing link between schools and the job market — contrary to the once popular link-and-match campaign initiated by the National Education Ministry over a decade ago. That poisonous chemistry explains why vocational schools and polytechnics are less popular or perhaps overlooked despite the nation's abundant need for skilled employees.

Since primary school Indonesian students have been taught to play it safe: Follow what the teacher says. The classroom has been reduced to a place for students to absorb instructions rather than to think out of the box. Entrepreneurship is absent from the national education system, preventing students from innovating or thinking creatively.

Transforming the education system into something that spreads the virus of entrepreneurship is a challenge that the government has been reluctant to accept.






President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono at the 18th ASEAN Summit 2011 (May 7-8, 2011) stressed the importance of ASEAN addressing energy security issues, including strengthening energy cooperation.

ASEAN has the factors that provide opportunities for developing energy cooperation: Its members are geographically close, there is uneven distribution of energy resources and demand, the members are at different stages of economic and energy development, etc.

A secure, highly efficient energy interconnected system will surely prove to be key to the realization of ASEAN Economic Community to begin in 2015.

The region is relatively rich in energy resources, even though only a few countries are genuinely self-sufficient. The stages of resource development and infrastructure have been built to facilitate energy processing and distributions vary widely across the countries. Access to modern energy is limited in Myanmar and Cambodia, but is at 100 percent in Singapore.

Oil, gas, coal, hydro, geothermal and biomass are available in Indonesia. There are oil, gas and coal reserves in Malaysia and Thailand. Brunei has quite large reserves for oil and gas. There are potential reserves of oil, gas and hydro in Myanmar, while oil and hydro are found in Cambodia. Laos has quite large hydro potential.

Vietnam has oil, gas, coal, hydro and biomass; whereas the Philippines has oil, gas, coal, hydro and geothermal. Singapore has no indigenous energy resources, but the country is very important as a major processing center for oil and petrochemical, and oil bunkers.

The use of primary energy for generating electricity is largely different across ASEAN. Brunei uses natural gas exclusively. The use of gas for electricity is notably large in Thailand and Malaysia, whereas Singapore has shifted its dependency from oil-fired to natural gas.

Indonesia's electricity is still fueled dominantly by fossil fuels (coal, oil and gas), Laos generates its electricity based dominantly on hydro, while the Philippines has developed geothermal to contribute a significant share. Vietnam and Myanmar fuel their electricity using a better balance of fossil fuels and hydro.

Nuclear power plant have so far not been used in ASEAN. Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia are, however, planning to build nuclear power plants; whereas the Philippines is considering resuming its Batan power plant project which was postponed in 1998.

ASEAN energy consumption is characterized by its still-low consumption per capita (compared to Northeast Asia), low efficiency, high growth (among the fastest in the world) but is lagging far behind in developing renewable energy.

Although the individual countries' energy makeups vary considerably, ASEAN is an oil dependent region (accounting for 40-60 percent of the region's energy mix). Indonesia, a former OPEC member, has since 2004 been a net oil importer while Malaysia and Vietnam (the other oil exporting countries) will be joining that status soon. The Philippines and Singapore have for a long time depended on oil imports for more than half of their energy consumption.

The region's high economic growth which led to the increase in oil consumption will surely increase the region's dependency on oil from other sources. As oil prices are highly volatile, scarcer and getting more expensive (influenced by geo-political tensions, etc.), one may expect that the future of ASEAN's energy will be vulnerable to oil imports and prices.

Energy cooperation is actually not a new issue for ASEAN; energy trades and cooperation projects have been implemented.

These are examples: Indonesia delivers natural gas through a pipeline to Singapore and Malaysia. Laos sends electricity to Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia, while Cambodia also imports electricity from Thailand and Vietnam. A joint development area for energy resources development was established between Malaysia and Thailand. ASEAN crude oil is sent to Singapore for refining and parts of the products are sent back to the producing countries. Coal is traded among ASEAN countries, with volumes much smaller than exports to other regions.

There are agreements on energy cooperation that have been settled under the framework of ASEAN cooperation.

ASCOPE (ASEAN Council on Petroleum) was established in 1976. It agreed on APSA (ASEAN Petroleum Security Agreement) obligating members to work mutually in the event of an oil supply shortfall.

The TAGP (Trans ASEAN Gas Pipeline) concept – aiming to integrate ASEAN's gas fields and consumption centers – was discussed early 1990s and a task force to develop TAGP master plan was established in 1999.

Interconnection of ASEAN electricity grid had been discussed earlier and HAPUA (Heads of ASEAN Power Utilities/Authorities) forum was formed in 1981 to create the ASEAN Power Grid, taking into account a TAGP plan and other resources (hydro in particular) within the region.

Efforts are also being made to promote energy conservation and develop renewable energy cooperation.

The road to developing APSA, TAGP, ASEAN Power Grid, and other energy cooperation projects, however, has been quite slow, due to financial constraints, technical difficulties, differences in the industry regulatory frameworks among ASEAN countries, and some other factors.

Energy cooperation within ASEAN is challenged by its individual member's energy priorities, bilateral trade partners and development dynamics beyond the borders.

Indonesia is a case in point. The largest ASEAN country was a net oil-exporter and previously the world's largest exporter of LNG, and is currently the world's largest exporter of coal. However, the world's fourth-largest country by population now needs energy to fuel the domestic economy. Pressure is increasing to reduce the country's fossil fuel exports which traditionally go to North Asia.

Singapore is another case. To reduce dependency on importing gas from Indonesia and Malaysia, the country has sought to diversify its imports of natural gas/LNG from other sources outside of the region and develop itself as a hub for natural gas trade for ASEAN and beyond; as it has been doing for oil and petrochemicals.

The fast development of other regions (including neighbors Northern Asians and India), cross border disputes, and internal rivalry are factors influencing whether ASEAN members will be faithful in maintaining and realizing their energy cooperation agreements.

The writer is a senior energy planner and an economist with the National Development Planning Agency. The opinions expressed are his own.






Environmentalists have not reached a final conclusion as to why the caterpillar outbreaks two months ago occurred in several regions of Indonesia. So far, the media quoted two interesting theories on this: God's warning and the black swan theory.

Some politicians said a species outbreak is a warning from God to the people of Indonesia. Yet it is not clear to whom God gives the warning to: Farmers who fail to harvest their fruits because of a caterpillar plague, or to the government for failing to take action.

The habit of referring to God's intervention for every single environmental disaster brings forward two contrasting attitudes: Committing to behavioral change due to a fear of God or being fatalistic. The latter is based on the belief that all mistakes come from outside and all human beings are powerless and can only accept whatever happens because everything is a "punishment" from God. Consequently, looking for a scientific explanation is no longer important since everything is God's will. Yet science and human civilization evolved in the reverse direction.

 The 2007 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) report warns the Southeast Asia region of the effects of climate change with its longer rainy season and high rainfall. This wet and humid climate lends a growth spurt to various types of species, including caterpillars.

Such a change in climate is the first scientific warning we have. In the animal kingdom, a population outbreak is a normal phenomenon, with examples in species of locusts, southern pine beetles, spruce budworms or gypsy moths. Many countries experience outbreaks and many are able to prevent them.

The second warning comes from a myriad of studies on the impact of climate change on a number of diseases. Several years ago scientists found evidence that malaria mosquitoes have migrated to higher grounds such as the mountains of Papua and the Puncak area in Bogor, West Java.

Global warming makes those mountainous areas warmer, enabling mosquitoes to breed in previously cool temperate zones. So next summer, a malaria outbreak is expected to happen, if it is not treated seriously. Science has clearly warned people to act, but the decision to put everything to fate or to use science instead is on our own hands.

A second opinion explains the outbreak with the theory of the black swan — a theory of unexpected phenomenon with the absence of a reasonable argument, yet it leads to a very broad impact. Developed by Wall Street trader Nassim Nicholas Taleb, the black swan theory claims to explain the birth of Google or the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York.

For people adherent to this theory, the caterpillar outbreak is an unexpected phenomenon and after this first event occurs any effort to rationalize the cause will simply fail. So climate change rationalizations will also fail because the caterpillar outbreak is limited in some areas and not widespread to all of Indonesia. Is this true?

Fact number one: Caterpillar explosions occurred several times in Indonesia. At least four outbreaks have been documented since 1980 during the rainy season, so it is no longer unexpected.

Fact number two: The outbreak is not limited to Java, Bali and several cities in Sumatra, but have now spread to several villages in South Kalimantan and East Kalimantan.Outbreaks are very likely to occur in other areas, where habitats, conditions and other supporting factors exist.

Fact number three: Although the whole of Indonesia lies on the equator, the impact of climate change is not uniform. The theory of micro climate explains how Jakarta has a different climate at a micro level in Bogor or Tangerang, due to differences in topography, land surface and three-dimensional object influences. And the last fact is that, despite its major impact, a species outbreak can be explained rationally with an ecological approach.

In ecology, the environment and living things are interconnected and interdependent. The food chain and webs show that when one chain is disturbed the whole chain is disrupted. The disruption of this relationship will lead to an imbalance of the ecosystem, and can bring many negative impacts.

One of the effects known globally is the negative impact of pesticide use after the commencement of the Green Revolution in the 1960s. Using pesticides and insecticides to combat pests also kills their predators such as various species of birds. This predator-prey relationship was written about well by Rachel Carson in Silent Spring, a book that until now was deemed the "holy book" of the global environmental movement.

Because all nature is interconnected, it is very possible an outbreak caused by many factors acting simultaneously, such as a loss of predators because of habitat destruction, would become worse with the impact of climate change and insecticide usage. All these conditions can kill parasitoid insects of the trichogramma genus, which is the bio-control and natural enemy of caterpillars.

Trichogramma are effective in controlling a population of 28 types of caterpillars. Natural enemies have proved very effective in preventing the development of moth eggs and butterflies, eradicating beetles, true bugs, flies, other wasps and lacewings. The biggest question for Indonesia is: Has the habitat of these predators been maintained properly so that they are easy to find or have they been destroyed because of human intervention?

Caterpillars, mosquitoes or locusts are following the selection theory R, which produced thousands of descendants of species, but only a few could survive to adulthood. Disease, predation, competition among species and the influence of environmental conditions and climate are inhibiting their growth.

When the inhibiting factor is missing, the individuals who survive will multiply, thus requiring more food, and if the current climate helps their food grow, an outbreak could occur.

Now, the caterpillar outbreaks in some areas are still in a prolonged rainy season environment and in a monoculture plantation area, with evidence of climate anomalies, because under normal conditions the rainy season should have ended in March or early April.

James Lovelock also warned us when he wrote the Gaia Hypothesis. He concluded the Earth was a living organism that could heal itself by creating a new equilibrium. If the load is given to exceed the natural carrying capacity and resilience, the capacity of nature cannot create a new balance to heal itself and will suffer from "pain", such as pollution, species outbreaks or pesticide-resistant super bugs.

Caterpillar outbreaks can be predicted if there are experts or research institutions paying attention to the environmental changes that occur in caterpillar habitats, predators, food and the impact of environmental change. To understand a species outbreak is to understand the relationship between environmental components in a complex relationship. That is why a good environmentalist would not be too quick to come to a conclusion before all the data is analyzed.

The writer is a journalist and executive director of the Society of Indonesian Environmental Journalists (SIEJ).






The recent ASEAN summit has increased the world's attention on Southeast Asia. It's an undeniable fact that we are entering an Asian century due to the economic meltdown of developed countries which was characterized by low interest rates and slow economic growth. A surge of capital is unavoidable due to the high liquidity and potentially higher yield offered in developing countries.

The ASEAN Free Trade Area is a shining example of successful economic integration. The reduction of trade barriers has been beneficial among ASEAN countries despite several cases where trade deficits occur. Full integration in a wider sector is expected to be achieved in 2015.

However, this integration has so far not reached the crucial component in regional integration: the people.

The benefit of the current integration process should not be targeted exclusively for economic purpose, but also to introduce a regional identity to each person in ASEAN. And education could be used to achieve this objective.

In the education sector, the culture of ASEAN should be introduced to children during the primary age. The concept of ASEAN should be introduced as early as possible and be taught simultaneously with national identity.

With ASEAN's culture being introduced during primary school, younger generations will be familiarized with the concept of regional identity, which could play even more important roles in increasing the feeling of being ASEAN, just as in Europe where people can call themselves European, not only French, German or British.

Compared to Europe, ASEAN lacks similarity in its culture due to different cultural spheres and colonial histories.

ASEAN may not be able to achieve full regional identity integration as in Europe, but that is what makes ASEAN unique.

ASEAN people should not force themselves to be seen as a single cultural identity like Europe, but see themselves as a huge melting pot of a multicultural community.

Indonesia is an example of how tribal identity is overridden by national identity.

In a sense, there is no "Indonesian" because the country consists of diverse ethnicities and tribes that are united by Indonesian language and a territory called Indonesia.

ASEAN could use the same approach to build its regional identity: A region in Southeast Asia characterized by diverse ethnicities and cultures, a growing economic community that is part of the upcoming Asian century.

Cultural differences should not be seen as obstacles, but instead as challenges to develop a unique concept of multicultural regional identity, where ASEAN people could associate themselves as ASEAN but could also call themselves Indonesian, Malaysian, Singaporean, etc. Younger generations should be taught to comprehend ASEAN as part of their identity.

Education is a realistic approach to introducing the concept of regional identity. Governments should also increase cultural exchanges to bolster communication. In this way, people will not only know ASEAN as a regional organization and a mere free trade area.

If an ASEAN-integration concept is only limited to people such as academicians, diplomats, businessmen and governments, but alien to most civilians, will there be a real integration?

Disputes happen because people in ASEAN do not know each other, and it is a gap that could be settled easier than economic gaps among ASEAN members.

All we have to do is to start understanding our neighbors and communicating with them. We want to see a future where ASEAN is an inclusive community where the grassroots could also participate, not only elite institutions where politicians and high-profile figures make agreements in closed meeting rooms.

The writer is researcher at HD Asia Advisory. The article reflects his personal opinion.








Do you remember the famous book business at the speed of lightning by none other than the famous Bill Gates?

Revolutionary concept. But also frightening.

Today festivals have become commercial festivals and have lost their religious values. Starting with the Western 'Season' of winter and Christmas and it has pervaded almost all the religions including the most conservative.

These days we see Vesak being celebrated on a very highly commercial scale. Already puritans (Not in the religious sense) of religions have been protesting about the trad invading and polluting religion.

Christmas was the first victim. Many a religious leaders have been crying hoarse about its commercialization. But nothing seem to have happened.

Instead commerce is increasingly invading the other religions.

The other day an Easter bunny made of chocolate was on sale for Rs. 1000/=.Was it the way to remember the Son of God who lived and sacrificed for the poorest of the poor?

Look at Vesak now. It is more than a commemoration of the enlightenment of the Buddha. We see competing groups putting up thoranas and young couples enjoying the festivities.

Worse, though liquor shops are closed these days one might have seen the crowd thronging the wine stores and the supermarkets to stockpile liquor. So are the meat products.

Is this what the Buddha wanted?

Going further we see commerce taking other religions as well.

Suddenly the jewellers have started something call Atchaya Ththi. A Hindu myth holds it that the Goddess of Wealth Lakshmi comes and stays with the gold one buys that day. And the traders are having a field day.

Worse the internet takes things even further. The internet based greeting services have greeting cards –you name it-they have it. There are greeting cards for Sivarathri too!

There are greeting cards for every religious observances-not just festivals. Crazy!

More troubling is the religious knowledge of the younger generations who do not know much of the significance of the religious meaning of these but blindly following the web and the traders. And the romantic mood generally they are in really helps the traders.

At this rate we also see traders inventing more myths to sell their wares, like the Kubera statue we see. They say if one buys it and keeps it at home it will bring wealth. We don't know for sure if the Kubera (The god of wealth, generally the Chinese version) statue brings the wealth, but surely the businessmen get richer no doubt.

Religion which should guide one for a peaceful and spiritual life hangs as a little colour bulb along the road where the youth revel after a shot.






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 Hindu






negative views on New Delhi's handling of the Sri Lanka issue are nothing new; in fact in the run up to the state elections, she had needled her opponent saying, "lives of thousands of Sri Lankan Tamils could have been saved had Karunanidhi seriously considered withdrawing support to the Centre instead of threatening to withdraw support to it, as he was doing frequently." However, Ms Jayalalithaa's focus on Sri Lanka immediately after her electoral success shows it could be one of the key issues on her agenda in dealing with the Centre.

During her present tenure, Ms Jayalalithaa appears to be determined to quickly fulfil her electoral promises; in fact she has set herself a deadline of 18 months to do so. On the very first day in office, she signed a slew of orders approving a number of freebies for the people including distribution of 20 Kg of rice free to people below poverty line and an increase in old age pension.  And if the Sri Lanka issue is within her 18-month agenda (as it appears) we can see more fireworks in New Delhi-Chennai relations in the coming days. The reason for this is simple: she does not belong to the ruling coalition in New Delhi, the Sri Lanka Tamil issue could become the foil for Ms Jayalalithaa to needle the Centre as and when it suits her.


Ms Jayalalithaa's approach to Sri Lanka Tamil issue in the past had been lukewarm though she had periodically been demanding the return of Kachativu to India. One of the main reasons for this was the rise of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) for whom she had no love lost. This was to be expected as her mentor and the founder of the AIADMK, MG Ramachandran had fully backed Rajiv Gandhi and the India-Sri Lanka Agreement 1987. In fact in 2002 during her earlier term as chief minister of Tamil Nadu, she had arrested Vaiko, leader of the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazagham (MDMK) for his vociferous support to the LTTE and its leader Prabhakaran of LTTE, a banned organisation in India.

However, her attitudes to the LTTE-led Eelam struggle took an about-turn after she struck a political alliance with Vaiko in 2006. Though she abandoned Vaiko in the recent election while cobbling up the AIADMK-led front, she appears to have retained her strong sympathy for Sri Lankan Tamils. Is it only political expediency?

Though Ms Jayalalithaa is well known for whimsical decision making (and reversing them), it would be facile to dismiss her comments on Sri Lanka Tamils as mere political opportunism. Vaiko is no more there as an ally to influence her, and after her thumping victory her need for any political posturing would be minimal.

So Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is likely to tread more cautiously on Sri Lanka Tamil issue now than ever before.  Perhaps it was this caution that induced India's External affairs minister SM Krishna to ask his Sri Lankan counterpart Prof GL Peiris, now on a three-day visit to New Delhi, to observe "restraint" while dealing with Indian fishermen who stray into its waters during talks.



The rout of the DMK, an important partner in the Congress-led coalition in New Delhi, is likely to have far reaching consequences on the fate of its future status within the coalition. Already the Congress party has lost a lot of mileage in national politics for its role in ignoring the 2G scam for a long time and the unqualified political support it had extended to the DMK leader Karunanidhi, although DMK minister P Raja and M Karunanidhi's daughter Kanimozhi were among the main accused. On the other hand, the Congress party as a junior partner of the DMK's electoral front in the Tamil Nadu assembly poll suffered one of the worst drubbings in its history. To survive as a credible party in the state, the Congress has to take a serious relook at the future of its long term political relationship with DMK, to survive. At the same time, DMK has the numbers in parliament which will continue to be important in sustaining the Congress-led coalition in New Delhi.

(Col R Hariharan, a retired Military Intelligence specialist on South Asia, served with the Indian Peace Keeping Force in Sri Lanka as Head of Intelligence)










 The UN was in 2007 preparing for significant returns during 2008, alongside displacements similar in scale to those in 2007 on the assumption that as the Government acts on its stated intention to disarm the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), the conflict in Sri Lanka will continue and intensify, and even if it were to slow down or end during the year, there would remain very significant humanitarian needs to be met in the areas of conflict. The CHAP called for a preparedness level for up to 500,000 conflict-affected individuals comprising IDPs, returnees and economically-affected persons. In effect the UN led by John Holmes through the CHAP donors supported an effort against terror. If an organisation proscribed in 32 countries was to be disarmed the scale and nature of that effort would have been unmistakable.

Key UN agencies took primary responsibility for protection in areas such as Food Aid continued provision of food assistance for IDP and other vulnerable populations; Shelter/NFRI/Camp Management; Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH); Protection Sector to Promote access to justice, registration and civil documentation, physical security of IDPs/returnees, including prevention and response to GBV and strengthening of community-based protection networks and GBV networks. Given these leadership roles assumed by UN agencies, notwithstanding national capacities, serving indictments on welfare conditions for those who fled seems somewhat misdirected given the evidence and related details.

 The government in the face of criticism arising from the advisory note may consider placing  the Operations in the Vanni  in its factual and legal context; its rights and an obligation to take military action against the LTTE to free civilians; efforts of the LTTE to work against the exercising of state responsibilities; Non-military approaches to resolution of conflict before operations were launched; Principles of distinction and proportionality and its uses in response to LTTE strategies; LTTEs  violations of international law; Dilemmas faced in confronting an adversary using its own civilian population as a shield; Detailed account of efforts to coordinate and facilitate humanitarian relief and assistance and the responsibility and the right under international law to defend its civilians from intentional terror attacks as Israel did in response to the Goldstone Report of the UN.

 The panel has assembled a document for publication while calling for further inquiry and has prosecuted the government. These are measures allied with R2P a political norm -- and politics, in a far-from-perfect world, will never be free of double standards. What is needed, then, is consistency in the application of R2P -- a benchmark for judging both the actions of states against their citizens, and the actions of powerful states against others.  It is said in the context of Libya where Colonel Gaddaffi accepted an African Union peace plan led by President Zuma that would have led to a ceasefire and the suspension of NATO air strikes. The rebels rejected the plan.

 The fighting continued. So does NATO intervention -- till presumably, regime change takes place. When the rebels rejected a solution that would have ended the horrors, wherein lies the purpose of continuing R2P? (Edited text written by the  director of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. He is also Singapore's Non-Resident Ambassador to Jordan). The South African government of President Zuma has come out in support of the panel document even while it remains a non-paper which is R2P through an advisory panel. Ultimately the enterprise of healing and reconciliation must be nationally driven.

The writer is Executive Director, Consortium of Humanitarian Agencies





Copenhagen is critically conscious. Its unilateral measure to reintroduce control on internal borders is being contested across the European Union, as many see it as the beginning of the end of the unity project.

But it seems Denmark is unmindful of its impact, as it claims that the step is not a violation of EU treaties that guarantees freedom of movement across the 27-member states Union. The Schengen concept, which had come up for debate over the weekend, is likely to experience many such isolated restrictions being put to work by other states as well, as they find themselves dumbstruck while dealing with the new exodus of refugees from many of the Middle Eastern and North African countries.

Italy, which has embraced more than 25,000 immigrants since the upheavals begun in the region, has sent shivers down the spine across the continent. France, Germany and now countries as far as Denmark in the Scandinavia are reconsidering the liberal tourism regime they have been boasting for decades. Recently, Paris had to cancel some of the trains' en-route southern Italy and undertook snap checking, arrest and deportation of many of the brown and black skin travellers. This is not merely a moment of policy perspective for the European Union, but also to dwell deep into the pros and cons of the issue in its socio-economic and political outlook.The Unions endeavour to maintain passport-free travel for tourists legally inside their territory is highly appreciated. At the same time, the concerns that member states feel on security and social policy context cannot be underestimated. The creeping in restrictions in the form of random checks of cars and documents, midnight knocks at tourist resorts and a sense of xenophobia for non-white race citizens are alarming. Apart from ensuring that the Unions security and sovereignty is not breached on the count of immigrants, the prosperous EU can spare a thought on chalking out a plan of action wherein it could look into the factors that compel many of those faceless people to adventure across the high seas.

Socio-economic disparity and political discrimination back home are reasons for the flight of people in search of greener pastures. Provision of a safe and serene life back home can make the difference.

 Khaleej times.





WASHINGTON - A pivotal moment in the long, tortuous quest to find Osama bin Laden came years before US spy agencies discovered his hermetic compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

In July 2007, then Senator Barack Obama's top foreign policy advisers met in the modest two-room Massachusetts Avenue offices that served as his campaign's Washington headquarters. There, they debated the incendiary language Obama would use in an upcoming speech on national security, according to a senior White House official.

Pakistan was a growing worry. A new, highly classified intelligence analysis, called a National Intelligence Estimate, had just identified militant safe havens in Pakistans border areas as a major threat to US security. The country's military leader, Pervez Musharraf, had recently cut a deal with local tribes that effectively eased pressure on al Qaeda and related groups.

Days after the Washington meeting, candidate Obama told an audience at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars: "If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won't act, we will."

It was the most carefully crafted sentence in the speech, a statement no US leader had ever made.

In the two weeks since President Obama made good on that threat — in fact, bested it by declining to give Pakistan a chance to act first — reams have been written about the painstaking detective hunt that led to bin Laden.

But Reuters interviews with two dozen current and former senior intelligence, White House and State Department officials reveal another side of the story. The 13-year quest to find and eliminate bin Laden, from the November 1998 day he was indicted by a federal grand jury for his role in the East Africa embassy bombings, was filled with missteps, course adjustments and radical new departures for US security policy. It ultimately led to a fortified compound in a little known Pakistani city named after a long-dead British major.

Even with bin Laden buried at sea, the changes to US security policy could linger for years, or decades.

The mission to destroy bin Laden, and his network, sparked the creation of a chillingly bureaucratic process for deciding who would be on "kill lists," authorized for death at the hands of the CIA. It revolutionized the use of pilotless drones to find and attack militants; drove the controversially brutal treatment of detainees in US custody; and brought the United States and Pakistan closer together, then wrenched them apart.

Even in ordering the risky Navy SEAL raid on May 1, Obama made allowances for Pakistans sensitivities. The raid was carried out by the US military but under CIA legal authorities and command, partly for deniability if something went wrong and partly because the United States is not at war with Pakistan, a US official said.

But there was one constant in the search for bin Laden. On Sept. 17, 2001, six days after the 9/11 attacks, President George W. Bush issued a still-classified "finding" that gave the CIA "lethal authorities" to deal with the al Qaeda leader and his top lieutenants. Ever since, there was an expectation — even a preference — that bin Laden would be killed, not captured, Bush and Obama administration officials said.

The same day that Bush signed the directive, he publicly declared bin Laden was wanted "dead or alive."

Numerous officials said they knew of no explicit command that bin Laden was not to be taken alive. When he ordered the SEAL raid, Obama had on his desk a written protocol for what would happen if the al Qaeda chief were captured and removed from Pakistan to an unnamed US military installation, the senior White House official said.

But it was vaguer than the rest of the operational plan, and the expectation among most of the people who planned and executed the mission was that bin Laden would be killed. If bin Laden had surrendered, Obama's senior advisers "would have to reconvene and make a decision about what to do with him," said one official, who like many requested anonymity to discuss sensitive national security matters. "It was intentionally left to be decided after the fact."

Richard Armitage, who was deputy secretary of state in Bush's first term, voiced the view that prevailed through two presidencies. "I think we took Osama bin Laden at his word, that he wanted to be a martyr," Armitage told Reuters.

The US government, he said, would do all it could to help bin Laden realize that goal.

Rabbit holes and wrong turns
The hunt for bin Laden turned out to be riddled with dead ends, wrong turns and long, desolate periods of frustration.

The 9/11 attacks would push the Bush administration into a war in Iraq that critics — including candidate Obama — denounced as a dangerous diversion from al Qaeda and its Afghanistan/Pakistan nexus. Interrogation techniques such as "waterboarding," a form of simulated drowning, were used on a handful of suspects deemed most dangerous, sparking a debate — it erupted again on May 2 — over the best way to fight terrorism.

In Afghanistan's Tora Bora mountains in December 2001, US special forces came close to bin Laden — perhaps within 2,000 meters, according to the published recollections of a former US Army special forces commander who uses the pseudonym "Dalton Fury."

Opting to rely on local Afghan allies, the United States declined to send in the 1,500 US Army Rangers needed to block bin Laden's escape route.

It would be more than nine years before US special forces would get that close again.

In the intervening years, "there were a lot of empty rabbit holes down which we pursued and ultimately didn't find any results. It was very frustrating," said Juan Zarate, a top White House counter-terrorism aide from 2005-2009. "I always had a mantra that I used for myself, both not to get too discouraged and also with the counter-terrorism community, which is: these guys are not ghosts. They are flesh and blood and can be found and we'll find them."

With virtually no hard knowledge, US counter-terrorism officials said they assumed bin Laden was hiding in the mountainous, lawless Afghan-Pakistan border region. But it's now believed that after Tora Bora, he spent some time in Afghanistan's eastern Kunar province, crossed the border into Pakistan in late summer or fall 2002, moved to a Pakistani village in 2003 for a couple of years, and hid in plain sight in Abbottabad beginning in 2005 or 2006.

Yet even in deadly US failures, there were small breakthroughs.

On February 4, 2002, a Predator drone struck a group of men in Arab dress in the Zawar Kili area of eastern Afghanistan. Among them was a tall man to whom others were acting deferentially, US officials said at the time.

It turned out not to be bin Laden. Reports quoted local residents saying it was a group of villagers collecting scrap metal. But before the episode was over, US intelligence agencies had received, with help from the Saudi government, a DNA sample from bin Laden's extended family that would clinch identification if he were ever found.

From capture to kill
It was President Bill Clinton who launched the hunt for bin Laden. After the 1998 bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, Clinton signed what some former US officials called the first "covert action finding" authorizing CIA operations against al Qaeda, then regarded as a marginal Islamic militant faction with an eccentric, Saudi-born leader.

But some Clinton aides, led by attorney general Janet Reno, were concerned about the legality of killing bin Laden, former top intelligence and counter-terrorism officials said. Clinton's orders permitted US forces to kill bin Laden in self-defense, but the prime directive was to capture him and bring him to justice in the United States.

The Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania instantly made such scruples seem anachronistic.

Bush's Sept. 17, 2001, order, which is still highly classified, authorized the CIA to use all methods at its disposal — explicitly including deadly force — to wipe out al Qaeda and its leaders.

Presidential covert action findings never expire unless a president issues a new written order suspending or revoking them, current and former US national security officials told Reuters. So Bush's nine-and-a-half-year-old order remained a key legal authority under which Obama launched the commando raid that led to bin Laden's death.

It was perhaps inevitable, then, that partisans of both men and their political parties would claim the lion's share of credit for bin Laden's demise.









The most pessimistic analysts say peak oil production from all possible sources will be in 2015 and will reach 90 million barrels per day (bpd).

Scientists predict the level of 90m bpd will last 30 years, so that major changes will come soon after 2030.

And they are serious, for the 90 per cent of total world transport depends on oil.

Scientists and members of the association for the study of impoverishment of oil and gas believe the key date should be regarded as not a day when oil runs out, and the time when its production would peak.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) forecasts that by 2030, the world's energy needs will grow by 50pc to 60pc.

What does the future hold for us?

Natural gas reserves - the best to date fuel for power plants - have also begun to dwindle. In addition, many of them are located in unstable regions.

Reserves of coal - the fuel of the industrial revolution - are relatively rich.

But here the problems of preservation of the environment are felt particularly acutely because the combustion of coal produces the most greenhouse gases.

Based on the fact that access to affordable coal will be saved, the IEA predicts an increase in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 to 50pc.

However, rising prices or the depletion of hydrocarbon reserves can make other fuels relevant and nuclear energy is the first in the queue.

According to World Nuclear Association, the world has about 440 commercial nuclear reactors, which account for 16pc of electricity generated.

In major developing countries such as China and India, nuclear energy is an important source of electricity, and it goes hand in hand with military programmes.

However, the uranium reserves in the world are also quite limited.

Analysts debate how soon the world will overcome uranium shortage.

Some believe that we can talk about decades. This period may be slightly increased, with other types of reactors that produce large amounts of fissile material.

There is another technology - the thermonuclear reaction. Despite high expectations, even its most ardent supporters acknowledge that it will be available only in a few decades.

Maybe, it's time to use solar energy directly, photovoltaic panels covering the planet; however, the cost of this project is five times greater than the cost of production of gas and coal.

You can get energy from other sources - wind, tides and waves, but the potential of these technologies is limited, not least because they cannot produce energy permanently.

Perhaps the way out is focus on conservation as opposed to production of energy to obtain a fair balance between the costs and benefits of green technology.

Experts have painted a rather bleak picture of the energy future of the planet.

Let us, however, be optimistic about the intellectual abilities of scientists, for the future is being born today in laboratories.


EDITORIAL from The Pioneer, The Times of India, Hindustan Times, The Indian Express, The Financial Express, The Hindu, The Statesman's, The Tribune, Deccan Chronicle, Deccan Herald, Economic Times, The Telegraph, The Assam Tribune, Pakistan Observer, The Asian Age, The News, The Jerusalem Post, Haaretz, The New York Times, China Daily, Japan Times, The Gazette, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian, The Guardian, Jakarta Post, The Moscow Times, The Bottom Line and more only on EDITORIAL.




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