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Friday, May 20, 2011

EDITORIAL 20.05.11

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media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya



month may 20, edition 000837, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul


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









































































It is absurd, to say the least, that the UPA Government, obviously acting on the instructions of the Congress, should have thought it fit to nominate Binayak Sen, found guilty of being involved with Maoist activity in Chhattisgarh and sentenced to life imprisonment on charges of sedition, to the Planning Commission's steering committee on health. Binayak Sen has been sentenced by the trial court; his appeal against the verdict is pending in the High Court. The reason he is out of jail is not because the verdict has been overturned, but the Supreme Court, in its infinite wisdom, has granted him bail that was denied by the lower courts. It is possible — and there are sufficient examples of courts letting off offenders for a variety of reasons that do not require elaboration —that the Supreme Court may ultimately absolve Binayak Sen of the charges framed against him and upheld by the trial court. That verdict would have to be accepted as it is the highest court of the land. But as BJP leader Arun Jaitley has pointed out in a separate matter, the fact that the Supreme Court is the highest court of justice does not necessarily make it infallible. That apart, for the moment Binayak Sen stands guilty as charged; he cannot be, indeed must not be, treated at par with law-abiding citizens of this country. In brief, he cannot be considered for membership of a Planning Commission committee as that would be tantamount to making a mockery of the laws that are meant to control criminal deeds and punish those who wage war on the state by willingly, actively associating themselves with terrorists — in this case Maoists. Let us not forget that Binayak Sen was charged — and found guilty — under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, which has been amended by the UPA regime to effectively combat terrorism of all hues, and the Chhattisgarh Vishesh Jan Suraksha Adhiniyam, 2005, which is meant to specifically deal with the Red menace. It was not a kangaroo court that tried Binayak Sen, but a secular court of the republic.

By nominating Binayak Sen to the Planning Commission's steering committee on health — on the specious pretext that he has done 'sterling' work as a "people's doctor" for which he has won foreign awards — the Government has questioned the very legitimacy of a law it has in the past showcased as an instrument to fight terrorism as well as a State-specific law it has approved as necessary to deal with Maoists. The Left-liberal intelligentsia, which has never been known for being mindful of the national interest and whose leading members are known for being propagandists of those who wage war on the nation, especially the Maoists, has been the most vocal in its support for Binayak Sen, as have been NGOs with dubious records. This is not surprising. But that the Government should have acted in such manner is both surprising and shocking. Are we to assume that the National Advisory Council, which is stuffed with Left-liberals and jholawallahs, is behind the decision to nominate Binayak Sen as a member of the Planning Commission's steering committee on health? That would be of a piece with the 'Save Binayak Sen' campaign that has been mounted ever since he was arrested for acting as a courier of top Maoist leaders, facilitating their stay and movements in Chhattisgarh.







Reports that a little known Egyptian terrorist has been made the interim head of Al Qaeda have surely come as a surprise to many who were expecting Osama bin Laden's much-touted and adequately fanatical deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri to take over the reigns of the world's most feared terror network, but the announcement is still a very clear signal that even though the poster boy of terrorism has been killed, his legacy continues to live as a threat to innocent lives across the world. In the days following the US Special Forces raid at Abottabad in Pakistan that killed Osama bin Laden, there has been much discussion about the role of the dead chief in the world of terror to gauge the impact of his death. Was Osama bin Laden still actively leading Al Qaeda? Or, was he a spiritual head only? As the organisation became increasingly decentralised, to what extent did he still command an influence over Al Qaeda franchises and other affiliate terror groups? And most importantly, post-May 2, has the global jihadi terror movement been significantly weakened? With the appointment of a new leader, the answer to this last question has emerged in the negative. The others just don't matter any more. Osama bin Laden is dead but the global war on terror is far from over. The rushed announcement of an interim leader to calm a restive global jihadi community is proof enough that the terrorists are still out there plotting to plant their next bomb in a crowded market area or chalking out plans to blow up a Parliament or a plane somewhere in the world. The death of their 'charismatic' leader and the consequent fallout of the US raid which has allowed the Americans access to a wealth of first hand information about Al Qaeda offered the jihadis their first taste of defeat but civilised society has a long way to go before we can celebrate our successes.

As the global jihadi movement increasingly comes to resemble a mesh of allied terror entities and not a wheel-and-spoke kind of organisation headed by a central leadershiop, possibly bases in the AfPak region, the fact that both Ayman al-Zawahiri who is still seen as Osama bin Laden's long-term successor and Saif al-Adel who has been named as the interim leader, hail from Egypt and received similar training in their career-formation years is an indication of how all the pieces of the terror puzzle are now slowly but steadily falling into place. Is it only a coincidence that the new Al Qaeda chief, a veteran of the 'Afghan war' — with an impressively violent resume (engineered the massive bombing of US Embassies in Nairobi and Dar-es-Salaam, successfully killing hundreds) — was a Special Forces soldier in the Egyptian Army who was implicated for the 1981 assassination of President Anwar Sadat?








While the Army chief boasts about India's 'ability' to carry out a raid similar to Operation Geronimo, Mossad goes ahead and does it quietly.

Union Minister for Home Affairs P Chidambaram might not have dismissed the blunder over one of the names in his list of 50 most-wanted fugitives had he been aware of the falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus — wrong in one, wrong in all — legal principle. That apart, the confusion over Wazhul Kamar Khan is sound reason why India would be most foolish to attempt to copy Operation Geronimo. Given our slack intelligence and slapdash methods, the commandoes would go in and eliminate the wrong man and then there would be another disgraceful attempt to pass the buck, as the Home Minister did with his casual comments in Agartala.

All this plays into Pakistani hands. It can be argued that journalists and TV anchors are natural blabbermouths. Politicians must also boast and brag for a living. But new depths of irresponsibility are plumbed when garrulous defence chiefs — I am thinking of the ill-advised dare by General VK Singh, the Army chief — have to be reminded of Talleyrand's advice that speech is given to man to conceal his thoughts. Talleyrand, incidentally, was an astute French diplomat who served the Bourbons and Napoleon with equal dexterity.

It's a lesson Israelis don't have to be taught. They do while others talk. Though their commando raids all over the world were invoked during the recent demands to swoop into Pakistan to eliminate terrorists like the US eliminated Osama bin Laden, there's never a whisper in advance. The operations are planned and executed in absolute secrecy by Mossad, Israel's crack agency for intelligence gathering and covert operations which helped to train India's Research and Analysis Wing more than 40 years ago.

Israel's conviction that Governments are morally obliged to protect citizens is not disputed. Though the obligation is best fulfilled through economic security (as Israel also handsomely demonstrates), terror threats can't be overlooked. As some WikiLeaks revelations by Guantanamo Bay inmates confirm, providing sanctuary and encouragement to terrorists is Pakistan's way of waging low-level war against India with little risk to itself.

Facing a similar threat, Mr George W Bush invaded Afghanistan, dislodged the Taliban and installed President Hamid Karzai. That was not enough. The real criminals — Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda to whom Taliban had given asylum and a launching pad — also had to be destroyed. It was in this context that Air Marshal PV Naik was reported to have first claimed that India has the same surgical strike capability as the US.

Gen Singh went further by appearing to hold the Prime Minister and Cabinet responsible for the defence forces not emulating the US. Stressing India's competence like his Air Force colleague, the Army chief pointed out that the defence forces "need permission from the top for this". Operation Geronimo took place "only after directions from US President Barack Obama".

As for his own view, "We can also think of such attacks to eliminate terrorists from this part of the world." Not surprisingly, the Pakistanis retorted with a dusty answer, which Indians then complained was provocative!

Citing Israel is no way out of this dangerous war of words. No one knew of one of Israel's most dramatic operations — the 1960 kidnapping of the former Nazi official, Adolf Eichman, in Argentina — until he was flown to Israel where he was hanged after a civil court found him guilty of various crimes. Other Mossad operations like Operation Thunderbolt involving a 2,500-mile flight by 100 elite commandos to Entebbe airport in Uganda in 1976 to rescue 103 Jews held by Palestinian militants who had hijacked their plane — were equally secretive. All the hijackers, three hostages, 45 Ugandan soldiers and the rescue team's commander, Lt Col Yonatan Netanyahu, the present Prime Minister's brother, were killed in the 90-minute nocturnal operation.

One such, Operation Bulmus 6, to wipe out an Egyptian early warning radar and Electronic Interception and Analysis of Electronic Intelligence station, as well as about 80 Egyptian soldiers, on Green Island in the Gulf of Suez, wasn't even known until 25 years had passed. Experts believe Israeli artillery or aircraft could have done the job more easily with less risk to Israeli life, but a commando raid sent a clear warning regarding Israeli capability and had a negative effect on Egyptian military morale.

As Kargil proved, Indian soldiers don't lack the courage and fortitude for dangerous missions. But Israeli operations also depend on superb intelligence and disciplined and courageous politicians who don't shirk taking the blame. Even if we had comparable information networks and competent political leaders, we would have to think of reprisals unless India also first re-enacts Operation Babylon, Israel's surprise 1981 air strike to destroy Iraq's nuclear reactor. While two can play at that game, Operation Eagle Claw, the bungled American attempt to rescue 53 US Embassy personnel held hostage in Tehran, is a reminder that not all covert operations succeed.

Islamic terrorists are like the dragon's teeth in Greek mythology. When one bunch is destroyed another crops up. Some argue they will continue to do so until the Kashmir dispute is resolved. It's more likely that Pakistan will foster terrorists even after that to compensate for the complexes that account for its animus towards India. The animus may be instinctive but the ability to express it owes much to US (later Chinese) efforts over the years to create a sense of parity in the sub-continent. Transplanting the equation to North America, it's like inciting Mexico to see itself as equal to the US.

Northern Ireland, crippled for decades by the world's longest running guerrilla campaign, provides a closer parallel. The religious divide was as acrimonious, and the British and Irish Governments were both complicit in the struggle. The Good Friday Agreement of 1998 brought peace because London and Dublin were prepared to make concessions — constitutional, administrative and on the ground — and Mr Bill Clinton proved a wise mediator.

The US can help here too by forcing Pakistan to accept geopolitical reality. It's in the American interest to do so because India is an attractive market that also creates jobs for Americans. France is also especially cooperative because India's Rs 50,000-crore defence budget holds out hope for the Rafale and other fighters. Economic muscle remains a more effective long-term protection than military adventures that politicians might sanction but will deny the moment anything goes wrong.






The new rules governing content on blogs, social networking sites and services offered by firms like Google are a welcome move in the right direction. For far too long Internet hooligans, taking shelter behind anonymity and pretending to exercise their right to freedom of speech, have got away with defaming individuals and entities

Weblogs are the prized platform of an online lynch mob spouting liberty but spewing lies, libel and invective. Their potent allies in this pursuit include Google and Yahoo." So wrote Daniel Lyons some years back in a Forbes cover story titled "Attack of the Blogs". As the Senior Editor of Forbes then, Daniel Lyons was simply expressing his extreme frustration at the utter nastiness of the Internet community which seemed to have a super-majority of calumnious commentators who thrived on the faceless protection that the Net provided in order to leave shamefully slanderous and defamatory comments left, right and centre.

Cut to the present, and the situation has sickeningly worsened. Not just globally, but perhaps more so in India. Take a quick 'surf' across various pages of the Internet and it would not be hard for one to realise that every fourth or fifth page is filled with some or the other pejoratively aberrant content against respectable individuals and companies posted by untraceable, incognito and spiteful writers. From four-letter words to bigoted slander to sexist comments to racist attacks to clearly inflammatory and libellous material, the Net is now so completely full of criminally damnable statements that one starts wondering why the authorities haven't woken up to act on this issue with the greatest speed.

In case of profiles of meritorious organisations or individuals, this ratio of deprecating content put up by abusive users often shoots up to almost every second page. Internet hooliganism is the most contemptible character of the modern technology era, where it doesn't matter how respectable you are or what your organisation is, or how you sincerely worked throughout the past many decades — irrespective of all that, you will be attacked anonymously with false statements that will make you cringe for a lifetime and with almost no hope for any recourse.

The question is, why is all this not controllable? When a person talks negatively and falsely about you in public, the law provides for such a person to be immediately pulled up by both law enforcement and judicial authorities. Then why cannot the same rules apply over the Internet when someone posts flagitious and gutter comments about you or your corporation? Because of three reasons which go hand-in-hand.

The first reason is the wicked anonymity that the Web provides to Internet posters, which gives them protection from being identified and prosecuted. The second is the conspiratorial connivance of Internet companies with search engines, social networking sites and blog sites, and even ISPs (intermediaries, in summary) that refuse to delete or block the execrable comments and links and also refuse to confirm the identities of the anon-posters. Google, Wikipedia, Twitter — all of them fall within this category of companies. The third is the unfortunate legal protection given till now to such intermediaries who apparently cannot be held responsible for material that others post on their websites (for example, in the US, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act has protected intermediaries from liability for defamatory content posted on their sites, even if they have allowed the content to remain despite having been notified about the same).

In all this, the search engine giant Google clearly comes off as one of the worst offenders of them all. Being the search engine that a huge majority of Net users employ across the world, Google has played its cards on an extremely unethical front and could well now be called the biggest slander supporting media house in the world by its refusal to instantly recognise and remove perfidious and malicious content and to bring irresponsible posters and commentators to task.

These firms call themselves the "new media", yet they conveniently forget that 'media' ought to be responsible and should not hide behind falsely promoted aspects of freedom of speech which definitely does not mean freedom to slander others through public media. For Google, the charm of attracting more users to its search engine by allowing them limitless access and thereby earning more money through advertising from its clients is clearly more than the morality of going beyond the call of the law and removing objectionable content on its own rather than waiting for court cases to take their course.

A well-known cardiologist of Jaslok Hospital in Mumbai, Dr Ashwin Mehta, took Google to court after he discovered there were over 20 defamatory blogs on its Website that accused him of professional misconduct, which greatly damaged his reputation and work. He sought `10 lakh in damages. When summoned after an investigation by the Cyber Cell of Mumbai Police, Google India's lawyers filed an affidavit in the Bombay High Court on June 23, 2009, claiming Google India had no connection with Google Inc, USA, and that they worked separately.

According to the lawyers, because user agreements for the company's blogging service were signed by Google Inc, USA, Google Indian could not be held responsible for any harm caused to any party through the company's blogger service. Also, the company said that a blog-hosting company cannot all the time keep track of all the blogs posted on the site. In other words, it was a case of posting content in the name of freedom of expression without accountability.

It is in this context that the rules notified on April 11, 2011, under the Information Technology (Intermediaries Guidelines) Rules, 2011, by the Government of India, deserve a loud applause. What the notification clarifies is that, hereon, it is not just bloggers with malicious intent who will be liable for prosecution, even intermediaries like search engines and Websites (which would include Google, Wikipedia, or even online payment and auction sites, social networking sites and hosted blogs), telecom and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and cyber cafes will be held liable for all harm caused to the party — individual or a body of individuals — which has lodged a complaint. This war is not just a blogger versus an innocent tale anymore. The intermediaries are neck-deep in too.

So any blog or uploaded content that "is grossly harmful, harassing, blasphemous, defamatory, obscene, pornographic, paedophilic, libellous, invasive of another's privacy, hateful, or racially, ethnically objectionable, disparaging, relating or encouraging money laundering or gambling, or otherwise unlawful in any manner whatever", can be brought to the notice of the authorities, and legal action can be initiated against the blogger and intermediaries concerned. If you are an online publisher of content, a vilifying comment on your Website can make you guilty by the book. And if a complaint is lodged against the site, you could be blocked temporarily or forever. The best part? According to sub-section 4 of the notification, if any intermediary comes to know of such "an affected person in writing or through e-mail signed with electronic signature about any such information", it "shall act within 36 hours and where applicable, work with user or owner of such information to disable such information... Further the intermediary shall preserve such information and associated records for at least 90 days for investigation purposes."

Of course, the Internet hooligans and the companies/groups protecting them are an unhappy lot since the notification of the amended rules of the Act. But the new rules herald the hour of awakening for Internet users in India. It is the dawn of a new, cleaner age of information-sharing over the Internet, and the end of malice, spite and the vengeful, unsocial and retaliatory practice of waging a personal vendetta against others over a network initially designed for knowledge-sharing.

 The writer is a management guru and editor, The Sunday Indian.







Mamata Banerjee has to meet the great expectations of the people of West Bengal. In Tamil Nadu, J Jayalalithaa will have to keep her promise of corruption-free governance

The results of the recent Assembly elections have made everyone take note of women's power in India after the landslide victory won by the AIADMK chief J Jayalalithaa and Trinamool Congress president Mamata Banerjee. Both leaders have defeated their opponents with a massive majority.

They have some things in common. Both are regional leaders. Both are single women. Both are fighters and solo players. Both have their parties in their iron grip. Both expect complete obedience from their party cadre. Ms Jayalalithaa has been a Chief Minister twice before, Ms Banerjee has been a Minister twice earlier. Both have big egos and are known to be mercurial.

The real challenge for both will be how they deal with the next five years. Ms Banerjee has relentlessly fought the Left, particularly the CPI(M) for more than two decades and her victory has been hailed as historic for defeating the Left Front which was in power for 34 years. But now the time for rhetoric is over and she will have to meet the high expectations of the people who have reposed trust in her.

Ms Banerjee's three main challenges are to restore the State's economy to health, tackle law and order issues and deal with the Maoists. She has also promised to solve the Darjeeling dispute within three months. On the political side, she must ensure the Left remains down and out for some time so that she is able to establish her authority. Dealing with Marxist cadre entrenched in the administration is yet another challenge.

Ms Banerjee has taken the first step carefully by asking the Congress, ally of the Trinamool Congress, to join her Government despite the fact that her party has secured a majority on its own. This is seen as a good move as it will help her Government in getting many things done at the Central level. For instance, a liberal economic package for the State may come easier if the Union Government and the State Government are on the same side. The State Government also needs the support of the Union Government on many other things. Second, she wants to be on the right side of Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee. Third, she has met and invited Ms Sonia Gandhi for her oath-taking ceremony on May 20, thus demonstrating that she enjoys a cordial relationship with the Congress president.

The Trinamool Congress has capable people like Mr Amit Mitra and if their skills are used properly in governing the State, things will go well for Ms Banerjee. West Bengal's problems cannot be solved through confrontational politics. Ms Banerjee has to adapt to new surroundings. To run the Assembly, she will require the cooperation of the Opposition, which is the Left Front; how she deals with this remains to be seen.

As for Ms Jayalalithaa, this will be her third term as Chief Minister. She is an ambitious politician and wants to play a bigger role in the national scene. This was evident from the fact that leaders from the Left, TDP chief Chandra Babu Naidu, and Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi attended this week's swearing-in ceremony in Chennai. It is not yet clear what kind of role she has visualised for herself in the coming days.

She needs to keep the lessons of her earlier stints as Chief Minister in mind if she wishes to succeed this time. She has identified her priorities as restoring law and order and good governance. She will also have to find ways and means of fulfilling her election promise of freebies. Like the DMK, Ms Jayalalithaa too had promised low-income voters free laptops, blenders, television sets and cable TV connections — all paid for from the public exchequer. Having won the election on an anti-corruption platform, she has promised a corruption-free administration.

Many wonder whether she will be less imperial while dealing with party colleagues and more accessible to the people. It also remains to be seen whether she will adopt a vindictive attitude towards the DMK as she did the last time she was Chief Minister. As for her attitude towards the AIADMK's electoral allies, it is too early to speculate on the issue. For the moment, she has no intention of sharing power with them. Even Vijay Kant's DMDK will be supporting the AIADMK from outside.

The initial responses from both the leaders have been encouraging. Only time will tell whether they will be able to meet the aspirations of the people and provide good governance.







Thailand is gearing up for election but there is little hope that it will end the political division in the country. The Opposition Puea Thai Party is divided over the influence of ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra

Thailand is gearing up for an election that will do little on its own to end years of polarised politics and social divisions. Tensions are rising in Bangkok over fears of a resurgence in violence and even the possibility of a coup. However, it is imperative to examine the rules of the political game in the country and how they have changed.

The colour-coded conflict can no longer be viewed as a ready-made division between those yellow-shirted urban middle class critics of ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his red-shirted northern and populist supporters.

Many are incorrectly predicting the July 3 poll to be closely fought but the winner is already set. Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva's cash-rich and military-supported Democrat Party is highly likely to succeed, which is why he has been so willing to hold polls six months before his term ends.

With no other broadly-based Opposition party to support, the Puea Thai Party will serve as the electoral vehicle for the country's Red Shirt movement — the supporters of populist former leader Thaksin who present the Democrat Party with its principal challenge.


Key to this new development is the role of the military. It will not launch a coup if the Democrat Party secures victory over the Red Shirts.

Mr Abhisit's Democrat Party Government is the product of the last coup in 2006. The military must, therefore, be considered politically motivated at all times, particularly with General Prayuth Chan-ocha, who was accused of removing any senior officers in league with Mr Thaksin and the Red Shirts, as the military's head. The fighting at the Cambodian border has presented the Army with an opportunity to galvanise national sentiment behind it.

After last years' violent protests that killed 91 people there are fears that the election will push the country towards violence again. However, while these fears are understandable they are also misplaced.

The likelihood of renewed violence is lowered by the military's firm control and its firm assurance that it will never again allow a Thaksin-connected Government in power. Moreover, many involved in last year's demonstrations feel they lost politically and economically — and the Red Shirt movement has fragmented since then and is under close official surveillance.

In the longer term, however, the Red Shirts may indeed regroup and pose a more direct challenge to the establishment in an effort to provoke a response once the election has passed. This in turn could result in a more brutal crackdown, which could then prompt targeted assassinations and growing resistance.

The more radical among the Red Shirts' plans for agitation could be stifled by their inability to work without the Thaksin-influenced Puea Thai Party that has divided the organisation. On the one hand there is an authentic belief in democracy and parliamentary rule in the group and on the other hand there is a more radical faction that has forced a revision of the mainstream movement.

Indeed, the election, with Mr Abhisit's victory secured by military backing, will not be an opportunity to heal political divisions, a long-term problem. On the positive side, however, despite the potential for future social rifts and Government dysfunction, after last year's violence Thailand recorded amongst the highest GDP growth in South East Asia with a private sector that had learned to operate under the long-standing political and social conditions.

What remains to be seen in the longer term is whether the Red Shirts will be able to disengage from Thaksin and form an independent non-violent political challenge that reflects the aspirations of their rural supporters — without alienating the urban middle classes who have done well under the current regime.

-- Brittany Damora is a Risk Consultant based in London and Singapore with AKE Ltd an international security and risk-analysis firm.









Two statements coming out of Pakistan have made the fault line running through the country abundantly clear. On the one hand Nawaz Sharif, the country's most important civilian leader outside the government, said it was imperative for his country to stop viewing India as its biggest enemy if it is to pull itself out of its current morass. On the other, army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani told a group of journalists that the army would not give up control of the intelligence agencies or of the country's foreign policy, particularly with regard to India, the US and Afghanistan.

For all the angry talk of Pakistani duplicity in the war on terror coming from Congress and opinion-makers in Washington, Abbottabad's real fallout is domestic. The mood among political circles is one of embarrassment and humiliation, leading to anti-military rumblings. In response, the army no doubt will - and has already started to - reach into its old bag of tricks. Thus, the attempts to shift the conversation from bin Laden's presence to America's violation of Pakistani sovereignty, provoking a nationalistic backlash - the perfect environment for the army to reassert itself as the only viable bulwark against such intrusions.

It is a strategy that has worked well in the past to maintain an oppressive control over civilian institutions as well as to fire a warning shot across the US's bows. So when Kayani says this time around that there should be more balance between foreign policy and public opinion and that this means a less pro-US stance, the message he is sending to Washington is clear. But this time, matters cannot be allowed to take the same course. Abbottabad has given Pakistan's elected government and civil society an opportunity to rein in the military. The US must back any such play. It has poured $20 billion into Pakistan over the past decade, but routed it through the military. It's time to let Pakistan's elected government control the purse strings. There's no reason for the international community to fight shy of encouraging an Arab spring when it comes to Pakistan.

As for New Delhi, it must stay out of the entire affair. Any chest-thumping would only be to the Pakistani army's benefit, reinforcing threat perceptions from India. It must also hunker down for a hot summer in Kashmir, as the Pakistani military may be inclined to step up infiltration and aid to separatists as another distraction tactic. New Delhi should be able to leverage the loss of Pakistan's soft power and attractiveness as an alternative model in the Valley, given the chaos into which the country has been sunk by its military's dysfunctional policies.







Rajiv Gandhi had famously remarked that for every rupee spent by the government on poverty alleviation, only 17 paise reached the intended beneficiaries. The recent World Bank review of 11 centrally-sponsored social security schemes in India is evidence that things have changed little. Confirming vast leakages and structural inefficiencies in delivery mechanisms, the review found only 40% of the targeted poor benefiting from the schemes. Ironically those schemes that do not specifically seek to identify the poor, such as NREGS and the widow pension scheme, have better success in covering them. For far too long our welfare schemes have been coloured by politics and stifled by corruption. The public distribution system - accounting for 1% of the GDP - leaks almost 60% of the foodgrains meant for the poor. This accounts for why India is home to a third of the world's malnourished children under the age of five, and ranks below China and Pakistan in the International Food Policy Research Institute's global hunger index.

A fresh approach to poverty alleviation is the need of the hour. In the medium term, pursuing self-selecting schemes along the lines of NREGS - that disincentivise non-target groups from pilfering resources - is a good idea. However, long-term reforms demand better identification of the poor and strengthening delivery mechanisms. Both can be achieved through greater integration of technology. For example, combining the Unique Identification (UID) or Aadhaar project with mobile banking could provide a stable platform for direct cash transfers to the poor. Similarly, mating UID with food coupons could improve access to foodgrains. The status quo must be challenged. Out-of-the-box thinking is the way forward.








All eyes are on the outcome of the meetings of the joint drafting committee on the Lokpal Bill, one scheduled next week. The overall aim is to finalise the legislation so that an effective institution can be put in place to deal with corruption in high places.

Where the Lokpal's 'jurisdiction' is concerned, the government Bill, 2010, is unacceptable for two crucial reasons. First, though it brings the prime minister under the Lokpal's ambit, the Bill confines its jurisdiction only to complaints referred to it by the presiding officers of both houses of Parliament. Second, the Lokpal's recommendations would be merely advisory, making the body toothless. Once the Lokpal enquires into an allegation, its recommendations should be binding.

In a disturbing development, a round table deliberation organised on April 24 saw two distinguished former chief justices of India express the view that the judiciary and the prime minister be kept out of the Lokpal's ambit. While the former may be debatable, keeping the latter out would be a retrograde step.

Under the Jan Lokpal Bill, the Lokpal will have a vast jurisdiction covering - besides the prime minister, ministers and MPs - the higher judiciary and the entire administration and bureaucracy, including local bodies, corporations, etc. The point here is whether a Lokpal alone would be able to effectively deal with corruption over such a vast area comprising politicians, judiciary, bureaucracy, corporations, etc. Or will it turn out to be a case of missing the trees (corruption in high places) for the wood (the entire vast administration)?

Again, the Jan Lokpal Bill proposes to dismantle the Central Vigilance Commission, now a three-member body. All its posts would stand abolished and transferred to the Lokpal. The CVC Act - passed by Parliament only in 2003 to give effect to well-deliberated Supreme Court directions of December 18, 1997 in the Vineet Narain case - would stand repealed. The CVC was created in 1964 by Lal Bahadur Shastri on the basis of the recommendations of the K Santhanam-headed Committee on Prevention of Corruption. It was to deal with corruption among central government employees. Like many other institutions, it has not succeeded in doing so effectively and does need further reform and empowerment.

But the CVC has a history of 47 years. So, why not let the Lokpal deal with corruption in high places - higher judiciary, top political functionaries and top bureaucracy such as, say, secretaries to the government and heads of departments? The rest could be left to a further empowered CVC, with a network of vigilance officers in the ministries.

And what kind of monster body is the Jan Lokpal Bill proposing to create? Under it, the Lokpal would be unwieldy with 11 members and have powers to cancel licences, blacklist firms, order search, seizure and confiscation, etc, take suo motu notice of cases, investigate them and launch prosecutions. Besides having quasi-judicial powers, which it ought to possess, it would be vested with police powers and authority to award punishment, etc. This wide ambit has led to dissensions, with one panel member rightly calling the proposed body a 'supercop'. There is now also a proposal to give the Lokpal phone-tapping authority.

Unfortunately, the civil society Bill seems based on distrust of our constitutional system, parliamentary and democratic processes and the political class as a whole. It is true that people are fed up with corruption. As during the fast undertaken by Anna Hazare, they are ready to take to the streets. We must wake up to these alarm bells. But all reforms, including the creation of the Lokpal, must aim at strengthening rather than weakening the democratic system.

The Jan Lokpal Bill also proposes transferring the Special Police Establishment division of the CBI to the Lokpal, effectively making the rest of the investigative agency a defunct organisation. We all want an apolitical CBI and no political interference in its investigation of cases. The law of the land lays down as much. But the CBI is an investigative agency after all, and should not be completely separated from mainstream governance. In its work, it needs the cooperation of state governments, income tax authorities and, very often, foreign authorities. The round table attended by former chief justices M N Venkatachaliah and J S Verma was clearly of the view that the identity of the CVC and the CBI as separate organisations must be maintained.

Powers to be bestowed to the Lokpal need to be rationalised, to achieve the right proportion. The legislation may provide that cases taken up by the CBI, on the basis of the findings of the Lokpal, will be monitored and controlled by it, in the manner the Supreme Court has been doing in select cases including the 2G spectrum matter. As also that the government will have nothing to do with the investigation of such cases. The CBI will perhaps need further safeguards against political interference in its investigations. The proposal in the Jan Lokpal Bill to do away with the single directive in the CVC Act, and to entrust the power to the Lokpal of sanction for prosecution, must be accepted.

In view of its enlarged jurisdiction, covering politicians, the judiciary as well as the top bureaucracy, the Lokpal ought to be a body of five instead of three members (as proposed in the government Bill), one of whom should be from outside the judiciary.

The writer is a former joint director, CBI.








As the Mamata Banerjee-led coalition prepares to take over in West Bengal after 34 years of Left rule, Partha Chatterjee , the newly-elected deputy leader of the House, spoke to Saugata Roy :

How will the new government pursue industrialisation and address farmers' concerns?

Mamata Banerjee has made it clear that our party is not against industry. Industrial rejuvenation forms a major part of the Trinamool Congress manifesto. The problem earlier wasn't with setting up industry but with the way the Left Front government forcibly acquired land from farmers. Some of it was multi-crop land that the Left regime wasn't even aware of. A survey on the character of land by the land and land reforms department is pending since the 1960s.

The Santragachhi jheel (water body) that you see in Howrah now is still a 'sali' (dry) land in government records. The first thing we will do after taking charge is to undertake a comprehensive land survey. The next step is to publish a white paper on government-acquired land for industry lying vacant for more than three years. This is what has annoyed farmers. Bringing out a land map is among the new government's priorities. Many industries can be accommodated in clusters, as experts have said.

What will happen to the 400 acres of land in Singur that Mamata had promised to return to farmers unwilling to part with land?

I am confident Mamata will find a way out. When she went on an indefinite fast against the Land Acquisition Act, 1894, there weren't too many who backed her. Rehabilitation of land losers and other stakeholders, giving them prospective benefits and redefining the public purpose clause were out of question under the Act. Now, the country is thinking along Mamata's lines. She will make necessary amendments to the Act and live up to her promise.

The new government won't forcibly acquire land. Instead, it will upgrade infrastructure, improve transportation and revamp the storage and delivery mechanism. Look at the plight of the potato growers who entered into an agreement with Frito-Lay. They are being paid a pittance - Rs 1.50 a kg. Farmers have little choice because they can't store potatoes on their own. These are the areas the new government wants to concentrate on, like setting up storage facilities on the public-private partnership model.

How does the coalition plan to tackle the problem of a party society and a partisan administration in all spheres including education?

We are determined to end it. I can assure you vice-chancellors of the state universities won't have to come to Trinamool Bhavan. This is one step to liberate education from the party hegemony. Other things will automatically follow because there is no dearth of talent in colleges and universities. We honour institutions. Our aim is to restore lost glory to the state's education institutions. The new government wants state employees to work for the people righteously and independently. We won't tolerate party politics within working hours.

Our party doesn't endorse the ruckus over taking control of unions, like the one that happened in the police HQ recently. I asked the administration to take action, and a person was arrested even though he swore by 'poribartan'. The new government will also take stock of pending arrest warrants and ask the administration to work without political bias. We will also consider release of undertrials booked with a political motive. Our view is the same in the health sector. We need to set up community health centres. Private parties are welcome on the condition that they keep the outdoor patient department open to the poor for treatment at subsidised rates.







Mamata's electoral broom has swept them out of the state they ruled for 34 years, but i - and many others like me - owe a vote of thanks to Bengal's commies. Because if it hadn't been for them, a lot of people would never have left what was then Calcutta to go far and wide to seek pastures new. And, in the process perhaps, rediscover themselves anew.

They say that if you put a crab into a pot of cold water which is gradually heated the crab will be lulled into sleep by the slow rise in temperature and not feel a thing until it's been well and truly cooked. Calcuttans liked crabs. The irony of it was that few of us realised how like those crabs we'd become: complacent about our surroundings, secure in an illusory sense of well-being.

The Calcutta the Left inherited in the 1970s may have been a faded shadow of its former self when it had been the vaunted 'Second City of the Empire', second in pride of place only to London. Though increasingly beset by labour problems, it was still the most important industrial hub in the country, with its jute mills and heavy engineering plants and its flourishing tea trade. It had the most cosmopolitan mix of any Indian city, and was proud of it: Anglo-Indians, Jews, Armenians, Chinese, Tibetans, Kabuliwalas from Afghanistan, the odd, elderly Brits who like forgetful guests had lingered on long after all the rest of their people had gone back to a small, rainy island they called Home. Home? Home was right here, in Calcutta, for all these people, and many more. The Howrah bridge, spanning the Hooghly river, was the symbol of a Calcutta that linked different lives, different currents, and made them one.

What exactly it was that changed, and why, and when, is a matter of opinion. But slowly, imperceptibly - like the heating water in a pot of crabs - a crucial change came over the character of the city: from being a bustling, outward-looking metropolis, open to new horizons, it began to adopt the indrawn parochialism of a mofussil town, smug in its own self-satisfaction.

The change may have started earlier, but it was the Left which, through malign neglect, ensured Calcutta's transformation from thriving city to stagnant backwater. Concentrating on the rural hinterland - where, even as critics acknowledge, they carried out an impressive programme of land reforms, at least in the early years - the communists abandoned the city to its fate, much like the dying destitutes that Mother Teresa - controversial icon of a forsaken city - salvaged from the pavements. The communists blamed Calcutta's decline on the 'stepmotherly' treatment of the Centre; no stepmother of misogynist myth could have been more cruel than the Left itself was to the city.

The inevitable flight of capital took place, as industry and commerce moved away. But perhaps more than the flight of capital it was the flight of ideas that afflicted the city. The hidebound, time-warped ideology of the Left turned the city into a mental prison that stifled thought. The Left had reinvented the legendary 'Black Hole of Calcutta'. And we, who were living in it, didn't realise it had happened. For a long while a lot of us who still consider Calcutta - if not today's Kolkata - as our home were in a state of denial, crabs in heating water. We were fine, our city was fine, everything was fine. But it wasn't. And when opportunity presented itself, when the door we tried to keep shut opened despite our efforts to keep it closed, we took the escape it offered.

In media alone, Calcutta's list of refugees includes Gautam Adhikari, Bachi Karkaria, M J Akbar, Chandan Mitra, Swapan Dasgupta, Dilip Bobb, Pritish Nandy, Mukul Sharma, to name just a few. Indian media has much to thank Bengal's Left for. However, all silver linings have a dark cloud, which in this case is me. If it hadn't been for the comrades, i wouldn't have been in Delhi, or in the TOI. And you wouldn't be reading this. Another damn thing to blame the bloody commies for.







The findings of the World Bank's Social Protection for a Changing India report, which was released in New Delhi on Wednesday, will not surprise many, including the top policymakers in the government.

Nonetheless, the report, which was commissioned by the Planning Commission, is definitely a timely reminder to the government that along with the various schemes and funds, something more needs to be done. The governance and delivery system must be toned up, especially at the state level, if it wants to get value for the money it is spending on the poor.

India spends a healthy 2% of its GDP on core safety net programmes (the Public Distribution System, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, Indira Awas Yojna and others), much more than its South Asian neighbours and even countries like China and Indonesia.

Yet, as the report says, only 40% of the poor benefit from the safety net that successive governments have spread out. What happens to the funds meant for the other 60% is anybody's guess.

While the report's recommendation of replacing the PDS with cash transfers will not go down well with many, including some senior policymakers, economists and politicians within and outside the government, two proposals — other than the much-needed (and much discussed) structural reforms and improvement in implementation strategies — mentioned by the authors might be worth exploring.

First, the need to fine-tune social protection so that the urban poor also benefits and second, the need for some sort of  carrot-and-stick policy for states to ensure better fund utilisation and more effective implementation of projects.

With increasing migration from the villages to the cities, the percentage of poor in rural and urban India has now become more or less the same. But still, most schemes target the poor in rural areas. But what happens when they leave these benefits and move to the cities in search of a livelihood?

Since this trend has been increasing over the years and will only see an upward growth, it's time that the government unveils a social security package targeted at the urban poor. As for the second point, it is well known that the performance of all states is not equal, and many don't even manage to spend the central funds because of lack of capacity and skills.

Along with improving these aspects, funds must be linked to the overall performance of the states in disbursing them on time and improving access for poor people.

While all these will not be easy, the road could become a little clearer if the government manages to do the real groundwork and get a fix on how many poor people we have in the country. Without this, we can safely assume that the poor will continue to fall through the cracks.





Tamil politics is very much like Tamil films, it's larger-than-life and characterised by intricate plots of revenge, humiliation and triumph. So we aren't surprised that the caped crusader of Poes Garden, the new chief minister J Jayalalithaa, has made it among her first tasks to delete some portions of textbooks which give credit to former CM M Karunanidhi.

His poem 'Semmozhi Vaazhthu' features in textbooks and now that it is to be removed, schoolchildren will have to wait till political scores are settled.

The attempt to remove the poem is of a piece with the subtle manner in which political rivals and film stars in Tamil Nadu get their message across. In several movies, there are allusions to one or other political party or personage which leave the viewer in no doubt about who is being talked about.

Now this is hard to imagine in most other countries.

Of course, in such enlightened places as North Korea, the entire curriculum is by and about the Dear Leader, but imagine if US president Barack Obama were to put to verse his triumph over al-Qaeda chief in Abbottabad or Manmohan Singh were to take a poetic dig at LK Advani.

Of course, we have had instances of rewriting history here by the Left and Right. Mamatadi could use her considerable literary skills to pen an ode to CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat extolling his acumen without which she would not be in such a good place today.

The new telecom minister's iambic pentameter in which he often takes a dig or two at opponents has mercifully not made its way into textbooks though he is also the minister for human resource development.

We have a better idea, on certain days of the week, all political discourse should be in verse. This way we would be able to read between the lines somewhat easier and interpret the hitherto overlooked nuances of party and partisan politics.







Why should roughly 90 million users of two-wheelers and small cars be punished simply because of an 'opinion' that hiking the price of diesel (and kerosene) will be inflationary? Is it because these commuters are not organised while the misusers of these fuels are, and therefore can get political parties to agitate?

Crude oil prices will probably continue to rise but why can't the government present the real picture?

Indian roads today carry roughly 80 million motorcycles, 15 million cars and 12 million trucks and buses. An average two-wheeler is 100cc and is driven for about 12,000 km per year. The average car is  1,200cc and is driven for about 10,000 km per year while the average truck or bus is 4,000cc and covers 50,000 km per year.

It follows that a commercial vehicle consumes roughly 18 times as much fuel as an  average car and 160 times as much as a two-wheeler. Not surprisingly India's diesel consumption is nearly five times higher than petrol and most (roughly 80%) of India's automotive pollution is also caused by diesel-engined trucks and buses.

This also makes it is clear that the impact on oil companies can't be solved by hiking the price of petrol because diesel prices are clearly the problem. Inflation is a serious issue but the myth that increasing diesel prices will be inflationary also needs to be corrected.

The cost of transport only averages roughly 5% of the total cost of most of the foodstuffs, soap, steel, cement and other things that people buy. The cost of fuel is only 35% of this transport cost because transporters also bear costs related to finance, salaries to staff, repairs, tyres, toll tax, bribes, etc.

The cost of diesel is therefore only 1.75% of the cost of goods. Increasing it will have a marginal impact on inflation. If the cost of diesel were  raised by even a huge R10 a litre, its impact on inflation would be only about 0.4%.

Even this small impact on inflation can be mitigated by giving fuel to the railways at a subsidised rate. The railways transport most of India's foodgrains, sugar,  petroleum products, steel, coal etc,

and consume only 6% of the nation's diesel. The impact on tractors and pumpsets will also have a tiny impact on the cost of farm products.

The current cost of crude at $112 a barrel comes to roughly R34 per litre both for diesel and petrol after refining. But the  government is obfuscating the fact that the consumer also pays 5% customs duty  on crude oil, excise duty at R14.35 a litre, value-added tax, education cess, transportation costs and dealer commission.

If the government is serious about containing inflation, it should charge a flat, per litre rate for all taxes and not reap a windfall percentage gain that multiplies the impact of every crude price increase.

Many vested interests are opposing an increase in the price of diesel. Nearly 20% of India's diesel is consumed by millions of large and small gensets, which have no more social right to subsidised fuel than the users of diesel sports utility vehicles (SUV) or luxury cars.

There are many more who make a profit out of adulterating other fuels with subsidised diesel (and kerosene).

Inflation is a politically sensitive subject but most cars and bikes are now essential goods and their users should not be punished because of misguided information on the impact of diesel prices.

(Murad Ali Baig is a Delhi-based automobile analyst. The views expressed by the author are personal)






Dear Rahul, 

Since you rarely, if ever, interact with the media, an open letter seems the only way to communicate with you. Last week, your visit to Bhatta-Parsaul village in Uttar Pradesh grabbed the headlines. The cynics saw it as a publicity stunt with an eye on next year's UP elections.

But even if your arrest seemed like a well-choreographed photo-op, even if your claims of rape and killings are being contested, at least you have finally stepped into the heat and dust of the battle for the Hindi heartland.

But will Rahul Gandhi sipping tea with angry villagers become a Belchi-like moment, a reminder that your grandmother Indira Gandhi's return to power began on the back of an elephant through flooded waters in the 1970s?

The answer to that question may lie in the assembly election results that hold out lessons for any aspiring politician. Take Mamata Banerjee. For close to three decades, she has been an indefatigable one-man army, taking on a formidably entrenched Left empire.

Not once, despite numerous political defeats, has she wavered from her singular ambition of dismantling Marxist rule. She has seen many Bhatta-Parsauls: beaten and arrested by the police, attacked by the Left cadres, through soaring heat and pouring rain, Mamata never gave up.

She never sought refuge in the trappings of power, her crumpled sari and jhola part of the common man self-image. Over the years, she consciously built herself as the anti-establishment hero with the result that when the Bengali voter tired of the Left, she became the obvious magnet for change.

In Tamil Nadu, the lesson is offered more by the loser than the winner.

For the last five years, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) reduced a once proud socio-political movement to a family concern. The Indian voter no longer believes in a feudal notion of a divine right to rule. Karunanidhi and family made the mistake of taking the voter for granted, of believing that cash for votes was a permanent winning ticket.

The Tamil voter took the colour TV, but didn't get swayed by it. Instead, the television images of members of one family virtually monopolising the state machinery for personal benefit — be it a literary sammelan or a telecom ministry — repelled the average voter.

In Kerala, the real winner was undoubtedly VS Achuthanandan, the veteran Marxist whom you felt at 87 was 'too old' to lead his state, but who eventually was just three seats away from a major election upset.

What many of us who want a more youthful political leadership sometimes forget is that a voter still values a certain old-fashioned moral asceticism in their netas. To the rest of the country, he might have seemed a doddering old politician, but to Keralites, he symbolised a selfless lifelong commitment to probity and peoples' struggles.

He, too, has seen many Bhatta-Parsauls: from organising coir workers in the 1940s to his most recent fight to ban endosulfan.

Even the Congress's big winner in Assam, Tarun Gogoi, has proven the value of being a tried-and-tested leader. As he candidly admitted, his success stemmed from the fact that he wasn't seen as an 'imposed' leader but a homespun Assamese chief minister.

How should all this have any bearing on the political future of someone who it would seem is pre-ordained to lead the country? Quite simply, because as the assembly election results confirm, the Indian electorate is now more demanding than ever before.

The catchy sloganeering and symbolism of an earlier era no longer works. Family surnames won't guarantee success beyond a certain point nor will dramatic, made for TV appearances draw in the votes.

Moreover, the electorate wants leaders who they can identify with, who are seen to speak in a vocabulary they can understand. This is an era of 24x7 politician, someone who eats, breathes and lives politics, will never be contemptuous of the masses, but who will be their constant companion through good times and bad.

The era of the parachute politician, as you have already discovered in Bihar, is well and truly over.

Which is why Bhatta-Parsaul can't be a one-day 'event', but must be part of a deeper commitment to people-centric issues. If land acquisition is to be debated, then the debate must not be confined to Greater Noida.

It should extend to Congress-ruled states as well. If farmers are fired upon in Srikakulam in Congress-ruled Andhra Pradesh, then you must be willing to wipe their tears too. Else you will be open to the charge of practising double standards.

Let me offer a concrete suggestion. A few years ago, you made a speech about UP being your 'karmabhoomi'. The state goes to the polls next year in what many believe is a 'make or break' election for the Congress in the state.

Why don't you abandon the cosy power structures of Delhi and just move bag and baggage for the next 12 months to Lucknow? Just criss-cross India's most populous state, not merely spending the occasional night in the home of a Dalit family, but campaigning relentlessly for a year and explaining to the voter why you believe the Congress offers a viable alternative to Mayawati and Mulayam Singh.

Even more dramatically, why don't you offer yourself as the 'face' of the Congress party in UP, someone who is even ready to become the CM of the state if the party wins the election?

Fighting Mayawati and Mulayam on their home turf may well be a high-risk trial by fire, but just your willingness to take up the challenge will rid you of the Amul Baby tag forever.

(Rajdeep Sardesai is Editor-in-Chief, IBN 18 Network. The views expressed by the author are personal)





Osama bin Laden may be dead but the global jihad network is still up and running. The last few years have seen the terrorism research community in the US divided on the question of whether al-Qaeda is still a dangerous and active organisation, capable of executing major attacks or whether it's obsolete and no longer capable of executing even minor attacks.

One part of the group points out that in the past few years, al-Qaeda has failed to generate major attacks, let alone attacks as monstrous as 9/11.

They add that it was transformed from an organisation with a clear command and control structure into an informal network based on cells and local networks, which relies on inspiring radical elements and homegrown terrorism in the Muslim and western worlds.

These local networks and radical Islamist individuals execute self-initiated attacks inspired by al-Qaeda.

The seconds group of scholars emphasise that it's too early to eulogise this dangerous organisation since despite its forced change of modi operandi due to operational constraints, the organisation is still capable of carrying out complex and dangerous terrorist attacks.

Truth be told, both groups have merit. While al-Qaeda promoted and advanced the idea of 'global jihad', it has also generated local ideological imitators throughout Arab and Muslim States and in Muslim communities in the West.

Local jihadist terrorist organisations allied themselves with al-Qaeda and defined themselves as its branches in their local arena, be it AQAP (al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula) located in Yemen, AQIM (al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb), al-Qaeda in Iraq etc.

Other local jihadist organisations affiliated themselves to the al-Qaeda model and its leaders as a symbol, being inspired by — but not being directed by — al-Qaeda. At the same time, the third circle of the global jihadist network included 'homegrown terrorists' —  incited and agitated Muslim youth, who formed local independent networks or acted as 'lone wolves', intensified and bolstered these phenomena.

The global jihad phenomenon is, therefore, a complex worldwide network. Their symbol — the man at whom all the operatives looked for inspiration, was eliminated on May 2, but the network's other components are still operational and their motivation for reprisal attacks even increased.

The spontaneous festivities in the US only added fuel to the fire. Even President Barack Obama's soothing words on the war not being waged against the Muslim world but against the members of al-Qaeda are unlikely to satisfy the global terrorist network's operatives or many of their supporters in the Muslim world.

Therefore, it should be taken into account that in a short time frame incited extremist individuals might attempt to attack American symbols — embassies, American corporations and tourists in Muslim countries.

At the same time self-initiated homegrown terrorists and local networks in western countries may conduct terrorist attacks in crowded areas, tourist attractions and public transportation. Al-Qaeda's proxy organisations will attempt to conduct in the mid-term better planned and more lethal attacks against American targets around the world — against the air transportation to and inside the US, and against targets in the US.

The hardcore of al-Qaeda, under bin Laden's successor, will attempt to avenge the killing of their leader by executing a mega-attack on the the scale of 9/11.

The motivation of al-Qaeda to conduct such an attack is now at its peak. Al-Qaeda probably took into consideration that its leader might be killed by its enemies and prepared a contingency operational plan for a mega-terrorist attack that could now be executed.

But in recent years, al-Qaeda leaders threatened time and again to conduct such attacks against the US and other western countries. So far they haven't managed to repeat a 9/11. The question, therefore, remains unanswered — does al-Qaeda have the operational capability needed to conduct a mega-terrorist attack, which would materialise its motivation for revenge?

Only time will tell.

(Boaz Ganor is founder and executive director, International Institute for Counter-Terrorism, The Interdisciplinary Centre, Herzliya, Israel. The views expressed by the author are personal)








Indian government uses public funds to alleviate, prevent and end poverty; but, unarguably, does so inefficiently. A new report from the World Bank for the Planning Commission on India's "social protection" programmes outlines the scope of the failure and provides a few answers. Those programmes can be divided into three kinds, the report argues: those that prevent a slide into poverty, like social security and insurance schemes; those few that promote a rise out of poverty, like mid-day meals and conditional transfers like Nitish Kumar's bicycle giveaways; and those that protect those who are nevertheless poor from the worst effects of poverty.

It is the last section which eats up most of India's spending on the social sector, and is also the most inefficient, driven by the catastrophic, chronic failure of the public distribution system for food. Reform of the PDS is inevitable; but the report lists possible approaches. One is "incremental", in which we tinker with those parts of the PDS that work least while retaining the overall model. Radical, fundamental reform would require a cash-transfer option when the state fails to provide grain. In between, there is an "intermediate" approach in which some deep-seated innovations are introduced to the existing system, such as smart cards. The report surveys these options conscientiously, but it winds up, of course, acknowledging that fundamental reform is the only sensible option for a programme that constitutes a large chunk of social-sector spending but benefits barely 40 per cent of those it is supposed to. Ruling that out for nothing but an idealistic rights-based attempt is "likely to leave many poor households with a stronger legal right but better a real-world situation".

In a well-observed section, however, it lays out the roadblocks to such reform. The 450,000 employees of the Food Corporation of India and the 400,000 ration-shop owners, for one. The problem, too, of areas where food insecurity is chronic, where neither the state nor the private sector can reach — but also, the legal implications of existing Supreme Court decisions. The possibility of food security legislation with insufficient flexibility being passed is also listed as a constraint. Reform is necessary and inevitable; but a clear-eyed consideration of how to overcome these obstacles is necessary. And the first requirement is the political will to realise that food security doesn't rule out reform; it requires it.





If there is one place where Kamal Ataturk turns right to Kautilya, and Krishna Menon and Kamraj still find a meeting point, and Firoz Shah runs into Ashoka, it is Delhi. Its streets, named after leaders of all kinds of lost kingdoms and modern politicians, Latin American revolutionaries, Russian novelists and sundry local heroes, are like an entertaining jigsaw puzzle where history and geography collapse in the most bizarre fashion. And now, after naming every pathway, stretch and thoroughfare, Delhi has exhausted almost all its streets. Yet, names are pouring in from various parts of the state and even across the country at the State Naming Authority, the nodal agency for this evidently popular nomenclature. But naming must go on, apparently, and the state government has turned to the Delhi Development Authority to allow it to name the trees in the Millennium Park after some very important people.

Names are essential — for streets as for everything else — as they serve that very utilitarian purpose of identification. And sometimes, they point, like Lodhi Road does, to history that lies just beyond the kerb. And very often it confirms how political that seemingly innocuous process is, as it erases what is considered uncomfortable past and confirms the compulsions of the present — like Queensway giving way to Janpath in Delhi after Independence, and Hamburg Avenue becoming Wilson Avenue in Brooklyn, after the US joined the Allies against Germany in World War I.

Although names are necessary, this compulsion to find a road or a tree somewhere to anoint it with a VIP name is rather gratuitous and needless. Let a champa be a champa and not a "dignitary" from near or far — for both their sakes.






In another indication that the battle for the next Uttar Pradesh assembly will be configured towards sub-regional aspirations, the Congress's state unit has demanded a second States Reorganisation Commission. At the UP Congress convention in Varanasi, as the aftermath of the Bhatta-Parsaul protests continued to agitate speaker after speaker, in a positive intervention, the economic and political resolution dwelt on the demand for the trifurcation of the state — into western UP, Bundelkhand and Purvanchal. Dividing Uttar Pradesh to respond to local sentiment and to unbundle the state out of its administrative unwieldiness is an idea afloat for quite some time. And its time has certainly come.

Soon after the BSP gained a simple majority in the assembly in 2007, Chief Minister Mayawati had said her government was willing to pass a resolution in the Vidhan Sabha seeking the division of the state if the Centre was willing. It is an idea she has repeated subsequently by asking Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to take the initiative. And even before the Telangana agitation boiled over, the Congress-led government at the Centre had appeared to be open to a new States Reorganisation Commission. The UP Congress's resolution now comes at a time when the simmering political campaign for the 2012 assembly elections enters the home stretch, and the Congress and the BSP have faced off over the development of Bundelkhand to clinch the political advantage — and the issue is bound to resonate in months to come.

The argument for smaller states is a powerful one, and it is especially so for UP. Administratively, smaller states are seen to bring government nearer to the people, they keep government more rooted in local aspirations and more accountable too. With smaller expanse they reduce the tolerance for sub-regional disparities. They also force politics to be more cohesive, reducing the space for local power-brokers to secure fiefs in order to transact deals with each other. The divisions for UP advocated by various political parties overlap substantially, but it needs a more thoughtful and non-partisan inquiry to determine what boundaries could bear optimum benefits and also reduce the possibility of acrimony. Making UP manageable administratively is one reform the Congress and the BSP agree on. The Central and state governments should act on it.








Dominique Strauss-Kahn and Arnold Schwarzenegger are only the latest in a long line of powerful men who blew up their own lives in acts of fabulous stupidity. The story of moral trespass and public flagellation is an old, old one. In fact, all scandals have a fairly conventional form, a three-part juridical structure — a transgression occurs, it is exposed, the person is publicly denounced and cast out. Sometimes, one "outing" could cascade into several more revelations. Even without an explicit trial, there is a sense of ongoing public judgment.

But context is everything with scandal, it determines the difference between a minor ripple and a real typhoon. As Laura Kipnis, one of the few to have attempted a theory of such events in How to Become a Scandal: Adventures in Bad Behaviour, explains, the dimensions of a scandal depend on the kind of violation, the fame/ status of the individual involved, and what else is going in the news cycle at the time. What is outrageous in the US may be barely worth mention in France, or India.

It's hard to tear your eyes away from splashy self-sabotage, the destruction of a reputation built over years. Especially if there's hypocrisy involved — like the priggish Tiger Woods or former New York governor Eliot Spitzer, who had publicly gone after prostitution rings until it was discovered that he was privately going after prostitutes. There's some satisfaction, for many, in watching high eminence trip and collapse. It is cathartic, like the Greek idea of tragedy — there is a pity and fascination about the marked man. You read social pathologies into his action. You search your own life for parallels, you cluck and exclaim and mock. A scandal is, in essence, a bit of social theatre that ends up affirming conformity. By scapegoating an errant individual and casting him out, a set of values is illustrated to a saucer-eyed audience.

But for all that, momentarily, it shows us life as it might be if we just didn't give a toss about rules and other people's feelings. We relish scandal because it shows us our own untrammeled appetites, our id on the loose. As Kipnis puts it, "scandals are like an anti-civics lesson — there to remind us of that smidge of ungovernability lodged deep at the human core".

The reporting template for sex scandals remains Victorian — the popular press thrived on the gap between public rhetoric and private impulse. Lytton Strachey's Eminent Victorians changed the biography genre forever, savaging the civilised, tearing down the facades of virtue. But the sex scandal has been perfected by Americans — every sanctimonious senator, every cheating celebrity is a fresh start to the same conversations. As the journalist Paul Farhi joked, Enron was unlikely to become a big deal because it was an Incomprehensible Washington Scandal, understood only by participants, partisans lawyers, and a few very nerdy journalists. Simple Washington scandals, though, are mostly about sex.

Compare that to Strauss-Kahn's France, where the most memorable scandals have been firmly public affairs — party financing, corruption, government rent-seeking (literally, in the Alain Juppe affair), contractual malpractice, etc.

India, too, can be rocked for months over corruption, but sex scandals rarely find traction. Whether it comes from a sense of delicacy or jadedness, we've never had a sex scandal that really reverberates across the nation over time and bleeds its way into pop culture, the way Britain had its Profumo moment or the US had Bill Clinton. The private affairs of the powerful do not make for dignified national conversation here. We don't link personal propriety to public office, and a measure of hypocrisy is also taken as a given in public life.

Smaller communities, though, as uptight enclaves of shared norms, have been intermittently shaken by scandal. In 1905 in Cochin state, the last smartha vicharam (adultery trial) of a feisty Brahmin woman led to over 60 men of influence, pillars of the establishment, being named and banished. Perhaps one of the few times that a private drama posed larger questions was the famous K.M. Nanavati trial — pitched as a wronged husband killing his wife's lover for not doing the right thing, it gripped Bombay society. The tabloid Blitz championed Nanavati's cause, and it was subtly cast as a story of the old cosmopolitan elite and Sindhi arrivistes. Nanavati was acquitted 8-1 by a moved jury, but the case went to the high court and the Supreme Court, which sentenced him to life imprisonment. As Salman Rushdie put it, the case had clear Ramayana undertones, as India was asked to choose between the rule of law and the rule of heroes. (The rule of law won out, and jury trials were abandoned.)

This is not to say our media isn't intrusive — there was a yucky salaciousness to the Aarushi Talwar reportage, there has been no real attempt to link it to a larger social malaise. And as far as our public figures are concerned, the media politely looks away from most indiscretions. We might have responded to a case of coercion or rape, as in the Strauss-Kahn example, but certainly not infidelity. The N.D. Tiwari affair, for instance, barely scraped our consciousness — but imagine what the British or American press would have done with that material. Even when a private affair spills into the public sphere, or has national security implications (like an IFS officer who turns out to be a spy), we rarely dwell on the details. There aren't even any lasting political gains from exposing a scandal — though Kerala might be agog with details about the P.K. Kunhalikutty ice-cream parlour sex scandal, he has just been sworn in as a part of the UDF government.

And so, the intimate lives of our public figures are still off limits. Could that consensus crack, as is reportedly now happening in France?







Karnataka Governor H.R. Bhardwaj's persistence in preventing Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa from substantiating his claim of majority support by convening a session of the assembly is a grave constitutional impropriety. It is well settled by the Supreme Court that majority support cannot be determined by the subjective assessment of the governor in the Raj Bhavan, because the constitutionally ordained method for determining whether a party commands majority is by a floor test in the House. It is also settled law that the governor must act according to ministerial advice. Therefore, he is obliged to convene a session of the House as requested by the ministry. His failure to do so is a dereliction of his gubernatorial duty.

What are the purported reasons for the governor's refusal to convene the House? Surmises and conjectures about manipulation of votes by horsetrading and unethical practices. It is interesting to learn what happened in 2005 when Nitish Kumar was prevented by governor Buta Singh from staking his claim to form the government in Bihar on the allegation that a majority could be cobbled by distortion of the system due to allurement and bribery. In his report, Singh stated that a situation had emerged in which no political party or group appeared to be able to form a government that could command a majority in the House. According to Singh, this was a case of failure of constitutional machinery. Therefore, president's rule was recommended in the state. Based on the governor's report, the Centre imposed president's rule in Bihar.

The Supreme Court in its landmark judgment of January 2006 in Rameshwar Prasad v Union of India struck down the imposition of president's rule. The court endorsed the recommendation of the Sarkaria Commission and reiterated the principles laid down in S.R. Bommai's case that power under Article 356 cannot be exercised for the purpose of securing good government, nor can it be invoked merely on the ground that there are serious allegations of corruption. That has to be dealt with in different fora and not by dissolving an elected legislative assembly which commands the confidence of the House as previously laid down in Bommai's case. The Supreme Court held that the governor's action was "a clear case where attempt was to somehow or the other prevent the formation of a government by a political party — an area wholly prohibited insofar as the functions, duties and obligations of the governor are concerned. It was thus a wholly unconstitutional act".

Thereafter the court made extremely significant observations: "If a political party stakes claim to form a government and satisfies the governor about its majority to form a stable government, the governor cannot refuse formation of the government because of his subjective assessment that the majority was cobbled by illegal and unethical means. No such power has been vested with the governor. Such a power would be against the democratic principles of majority rule. The governor is not an autocratic political ombudsman. If such a power is vested in the governor and/ or the president, the consequences can be horrendous. The ground of maladministration by a state government enjoying majority is not available for invoking power under Article 356" for imposing president's rule.

This clear judicial precedent Bhardwaj has chosen to ignore. It is a grievous error not to learn from lessons of the past in deciding one's future course of conduct. Bhardwaj has, in a recent press release, sought to justify his action by relying on the recent judgment of the Supreme Court which held that the disqualification of 11 BJP MLAs by the speaker was invalid. The court invalidated the speaker's order on the ground that there was breach of natural justice because adequate opportunity was not given to the legislators, that the speaker had acted in hot haste and that his action displayed a partisan trend. There is not a single para or sentence in the said judgment that passes any strictures on the chief minister or indicts the state government. There is no finding whatsoever of collusion or conspiracy of the chief minister with the speaker. It is incomprehensible how this judgment can justify imposition of president's rule on the ground of failure of constitutional machinery when there is no deadlock or impasse which prevents the assembly from functioning normally.

The most distressing part is that Governor Bhardwaj has thrown impartiality to the winds as is evident from the tone and language of his utterances and his recent press release purporting to justify his recommendation for the imposition of president's rule. He has revealed himself as a combative litigant who has a single-point agenda — namely to remove the chief minister. This is totally unbecoming of the high office of the governor, an office which needs to be preserved by dignity and decorum and by not indulging in partisan politics.

The writer is a former attorney-general of India







The recent violent agitations by farmers against land acquisition in UP along the Yamuna Expressway indicate that land has emerged as the single most contentious issue in the drive for rapid industrialisation. UP has emerged as the epicentre of such protests over the last few months because state assembly elections are due in May 2012, and all political parties are attempting to politicise this highly sensitive issue to embarrass the BSP government.

For Congress leaders attempting to rebuild the party organisation and enthuse workers prior to the elections, the issue has provided an excellent opportunity. Party workers attempted a protest march from Noida to Bhatta and Parsaul, and the arrest of Rahul Gandhi in these villages generated threats of a state-wide agitation. BJP leaders, aware of the need to reverse the deep decline the party finds itself in, were quick to undertake fasts and court arrests.

However, no party/government is prepared to responsibly address the complex web of problems that are part of the land acquisition process, which is causing farmers acute unhappiness. Farmers allege that political leaders rush to encourage and support their agitations, but do little to tackle these problems. UP is credited with having one of the best land acquisition laws in the country with reference to the highly controversial matter of compensation. In Greater Noida, it introduced a process of negotiations with the local farmers leading to the signing of a karaaranamavali (deed) in 1998 which has rates of compensation that farmers along the Yamuna Expressway are demanding. After the resistance along the Yamuna Expressway in 2010, it announced higher compensation benefits: an annuity payment of Rs 20,000 an acre a year for the next 33 years in addition to compensation; a fixed raise of Rs 600 an acre a year; a one-time payment of of Rs 2.40 lakh an acre for those who do not opt for annuities; shares in private companies that acquired land equivalent to 25 per cent of the farmers' land, if acquired under "land for development," 7 per cent of the total land acquired would be reserved for housing for farmers; if acquired for residential projects, the landowners would be given 17.5 per cent reservation in the allotment; farmers rendered landless would be given a one-time labour charge of Rs 1.85 lakh; one member of each family rendered landless would be provided employment, consistent with qualifications, in the concessionaire company. However, during the recent agitation farmers alleged that — apart from the compensation — most of the other benefits have not reached them.

More important are deeper issues underlying the agitation in UP and elsewhere, which have not been addressed. There has been little effort by national parties, despite a bill pending in Parliament, to evolve a consensus on a political economy of land acquisition: when, why, how, how much and what kind of land should be acquired — the only issue that is raised time and again is compensation. State governments need to decide the purpose for which prime agricultural land is acquired: whether it will be only for SEZs, infrastructure and industry — or, as in Greater Noida, also for upper/middle class housing projects. Land acquisition by the Central/state governments is not new. Large amounts were acquired soon after Independence. However, earlier farmers felt it was for national projects such as Bhakra-Nangal or steel plants built by the government. Today, the perception among farmers is that corrupt governments are grabbing land and selling it to private companies, which then proceed to reap huge profits, often in real estate, making the compensation given to farmers seem a pittance.

Second, the actual process of land acquisition is equally problematic in UP and elsewhere. The process begins with notification of the earmarked land by the district magistrate without any consultation with the landowners, followed by a period of 30 days in which an opportunity is given to them to file objections. While farmers can raise objections on issues related to "public purpose", there is no scope for them to oppose acquisition on the ground that the land is their only source of livelihood, and should not be taken away. On the contrary it is the state that decides what is best, and the onus to prove it unjust/wrong lies with the farmer.

After considering all objections, the local administration issues a notice to each landowner stating the amount of land acquired and compensation payable. The rules require this notice should be issued within one year from the date of issuance of preliminary notification and compensation paid within two years. However, farmers rarely come to know about the acquisition at the stage of notification as the administration actually makes it public only at the second stage. In fact, on many occasions, farmers allege the administration at the behest of the state government, uses Section 17 of the Act to dispense with the first stage to hasten a process — which otherwise, due to hearings, could take many years. It was this arbitrariness that was struck down by the Supreme Court in April when it denotified the acquisition of 205 acres in Greater Noida. More recently, the Allahabad high court, ruling on 70 acres of land acquired by the Greater Noida Industrial Development Authority, directed the state government to issue fresh notification, hear the objections and start the acquisition process afresh. The court also framed broad principles by which land could be acquired by any government "urgently."

Thus, the process of land acquisition has become extremely contentious, worsened by parties trying to polarise electoral politics around it. Over the last four years, on numerous occasions the Central government has promised to pass a land acquisition bill, but it has not happened. Today, politicisation has reached such high levels that building consensus on the issue seems near impossible. As land is an emotive issue closely linked to identity and livelihood, if farmers' interests are not resolved, there are bound to be more protests.

The writer is professor at the Centre for Political Studies, and rector, at Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi







Whether in North 24 Parganas or in the hills of Darjeeling, Mamata Banerjee's election rallies have revolved around economic issues far more significantly than they did either in Nitish Kumar's first victorious campaign or in the DMK and the AIADMK agenda this time.

Neither law and order nor corruption has resonated with West Bengal voters as much as employment, education and healthcare have. Mamata is likely to go hell-for-leather to interpret the results of the West Bengal elections as a mandate to bring in a development agenda.

She knows quite well that every state election since the middle of the last decade has gone in favour of parties that seemed most likely to deliver on governance and development. She is unlikely to misread the script, one on which she herself has invested so much.

Her problem, however, will be what to deliver for the state. West Bengal is not a clean slate, unlike Bihar where little had happened in the industrial sector, investment in education and agricultural reforms over the past 60 years. West Bengal has seen them all to some degree — and also the slide back from there.

In West Bengal, people have developed as an industrial labour force but are caught in an agrarian economy. This is the aspiration challenge that the new government has to address. The CPM drilled into the people the idea that surviving on agriculture was fine and built a modicum of a safety net around them. For Mamata to succeed, she will have to offer them something different.

The biggest demand will come in favour of rapid industrial regeneration. But since Mamata has also boxed herself as an uncompromising land crusader, any plan to satisfy that demand runs the risk of playing into the hands of the Left. This is the reason her party manifesto has announced a revival plan for small and micro-enterprises, which she hopes will take some edge off the demand for large industries.

One thing is certain. Within days of entering the Writers' Building, Mamata Banerjee will call the industrial leaders of the state for a meeting. Even on Friday, as the election results were being announced, prospective finance minister Amit Mitra's erstwhile domain, FICCI, announced that it would hold its next executive committee meeting in Kolkata in July to engage with the state on an industrial blueprint.

This is linked to Mamata's next big challenge. West Bengal, in general, and Kolkata, in particular, among the big metros has the largest proportion of the skilled unemployed. The latest data on employment trends from the Central Statistical Organisation shows that West Bengal has one of the highest rates of self-employment in the country. So beyond the immediate issue of the debt trap, productive employment will be a key determinant for Mamata to show that her "poribortan" is working.

The Left Front's solution to the issue created a potential minefield in the state. Since they could not arrest the de-industrialisation in the state, the CPM-led government co-opted most services-sector employees, especially teachers and health-sector employees, into government departments. This is one of the reasons for the debt trap, and Mamata will have to cut back on this huge workforce to bring a level of sanity into the state budget.

This means she has to aggressively woo large industries, trim the flab of government departments and also ensure that the state generates adequate capital to encourage banks to finance small and micro-enterprises.

But away from an industrial blueprint that obviously cannot be too different from what other states are pursuing, her chief headache will be the agrarian sector. So far, the Party's writ has run supreme in the agrarian landscape. The local Party offices determined everything from the crop cycle to who will cultivate a piece of land to ownership of houses. This command-control system is so ingrained in rural areas that the Trinamool victory will create a severe crisis of governance.

The credit for Bengal's agrarian transformation has to go to this network, whose scale of penetration is impossible to visualise unless one has stayed in rural Bengal.

Mamata Banerjee's party is not as big nor as systemically organised as the CPM or other Left parties to supplant their role entirely. She will have to get large swathes to abdicate such control, but a dip in agricultural production is likely this financial year as this system gets abandoned. This is the unstated but most formidable challenge in the state that she will have to face up to.

In her favour, of course, are the young voters who identify with her far more than with the Left, and that is a huge positive. They believe in her simply because they want a chance to get on with life in a way that the Left Front government seemed unable to provide.

It is also interesting that the Trinamool manifesto is not so much about new things as it is about getting the institutions in the state to perform. To that extent, her challenge will be governance.

The writer is Executive Editor (News), 'The Financial Express'






At a dinner the other night, an urban designer, Christopher Choa, was telling me about a project he's involved in to build an "aerotropolis" next to Cairo airport. It appears the aerotropolis — with production lines leading right into the belly of planes — is the next big thing. Choa has been involved in other "aerotropoli," including one at India's Hyderabad airport where a hospital has been built between two runways. "If you fly to India for a heart operation you don't want to fuss around with taxis and things," he explained.

The aerotropolis is "glocal," a place that draws on local competitive advantages (like cheap labour) even as it plugs into the planetary I-want-it-now faubourg. Having begun life as an outlying curiosity, where planes taking off and landing were as wondrous as those in children's picture books, the airport becomes the heaving heart of the metropolitan beast, its raison d'être.

As the temple was to the Roman city, so the runway is to the aerotropolis. The gods have become noisier and more restless.

Kasarda and his amanuensis, Greg Lindsay, have produced a book called Aerotropolis: The Way We'll Live Next that sets out a hectic vision for the soon-to-be nine billion inhabitants of a small planet. As electronic connectivity demands its mirror image — the physical connectedness of human beings scrambling to keep pace with digital algorithms — the growth will be spurred that keeps us whole.

Already, Kasarda and Lindsay write, the numbers are compelling. While world GDP rose 154 per cent between 1975 and 2005, world trade grew 355 per cent. "Meanwhile, the value of air cargo climbed an astonishing 1,395 per cent. More than a third of all the goods traded in the world, some $3 trillion worth — but barely one per cent of its weight! — travels via air freight."

Those numbers provide a useful image of a post-industrial world where air-freighted Chinese-made iPads, Ivory Coast sea bass and French foie gras satisfy the needs of the wealthy for instant gratification while those bound to defer gratification — like jobless workers of a de-industrialising middle America — scramble to get in the fast-lane to aerotropolis.

In a rosy view, Airworld serves the winners as it sets losers on an upwardly-mobile path with a basic wage. But I find a darker image insistent: of a frenzied world chasing its tail even as it devours scarce resources.

Choa sees in the aerotropolis a symbol of a city-dominated world. "In the 19th century you had the apotheosis of empire, in the 20th century of the nation, and today of cities," he told me. "The Chinese are not remotely interested in what the UK thinks, but they are very interested in London."

All this is true, but where does it lead? The aerotropolis is everywhere and nowhere. Another image haunts me: of untethered hordes dreaming of frequent-flyer perks teeming through the global consumption arcades that are LAX or YYZ or AMS.

Nothing is contextualised in a world of anonymous bonds. As Will Self, the British author of the forthcoming memoir Walking to Hollywood, put it to me: "Airworld reduces people's experience to jump cuts, sudden transpositions of scenes with no establishing shots between." Self sees the drone as a logical extension of this disembodied mindset — what he calls "frequent-flyer warfare."

His own epiphany came in London some years back when he realised with shock that he had never seen the mouth of the Thames. So began a quest to re-establish where he was in the world "in a visceral and muscular way."

Self walked from London to New York — that is, he walked from central London out to Heathrow and from JFK into New York City — and found "Manhattan suddenly jammed into the Thames estuary, a continuous land mass forged from walking for two days." In similar fashion he did a two-day trek from Dubai airport across the city and into the Empty Quarter — a traverse that found him alone among uprooted migrant workers of the ultimate Arab aerotropolis.

Before we commit headlong to Kasarda's and Lindsay's vision — what Self in a powerful critique calls "the redeye flight to apocalypse" — I recommend that we all take a walk out from our old cities to our airports with their supplicant aerotropoli, the better to measure where we really are, who we are, and where we want to go. ROGER COHEN







The 21st century is supposed to be the Asian century. But it is looking increasingly possible that the continent is actually in the last phase of its period of economically outperforming the rest of the world. Its future needs to be measured not in terms of its recent past, but in light of the problems it faces and the economic potential of other regions.

The assumption has been that the successes of Japan, South Korea and Taiwan are being mimicked by the Chinese juggernaut and will be followed by the Indian one, pushing Asia to its rightful place in the world, with the income to match its half share of the global population. But it is not so simple. Rich Asia, middle-income Asia and poor Asia all face huge problems.

The Asian rich face even bigger demographic challenges than their counterparts in the West. South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore are at most only a decade behind Japan in ageing and have even lower fertility rates. Thus the West's relative economic decline should be slower than East Asia's.

The problem for middle-income Asia, including China, is even more challenging. Can these countries make the leap to top-tier status that has thus far eluded Latin America? China might seem to have the best chance because it is pouring money into higher education and has the savings to invest in technology. Analysts believe at least for the next decade, these efforts can propel growth of 7 per cent, even thought the workforce is static. But as the ADB recently noted, two other qualities are needed to advance to the top tier: good governance and more equal income distribution, and middle-income Asia has been doing badly on both counts.

China is not winning its battle with official corruption, and the state's huge role in the economy may smother innovation. Japan, South Korea and Taiwan all set an example of good income distribution that is not being followed by China or Southeast Asia, where patterns look more like those in Latin America, a region which has been stuck in the middle-income trap for decades, partly because of poor income distribution and low standards of public education. Both those deficiencies are evident, for example, in Malaysia and Thailand. Demographics too are mixed, with China in particular beginning to age rapidly.

The burden of overall Asian growth will increasingly have to be borne by South Asia, which by 2050 will account for about 45 per cent of the continent's population. But the "demographic dividend" of a youthful population cannot be reaped while poor use is made of human resources. India lies at the bottom of Asia by overall education measures, below even Pakistan and far below most of Africa and the Middle East. Bangladesh, despite its poverty, now surpasses both India and Pakistan on employment and empowerment of women. Savings rates in the region are well below those in East Asia and are likely to remain so until the median age of the population increases significantly.

As a whole, Asia still has lots of promise. But challenges from other regions persist. Who's to say that Egypt and its neighbours cannot build economic success on the foundation of political change? Or that Brazil won't overcome its difficulties and deliver on its economic promise. Or that population growth and sheer energy won't make Africa the global growth centre by 2030. It's time to stop talking about the Asian century before it has arrived and focus on what is needed to make it a reality. Philip Bowring








Not surprisingly for an organisation that was created to deal with crises, it requires a crisis, or a series of them such as the one in 2008 and its aftershocks today, to appreciate the IMF—by a happy coincidence for the now-disgraced Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the seven-fold hike in IMF's lending and the resultant increase in its relevance, triggered by the 2008 crisis, happened under his watch. The current crisis triggered by Strauss-Kahn's decision to finally resign after being arrested for allegedly assaulting a maid in Manhattan, ironically, offers the IMF a window to restructure itself. Right now, though, the chances of this look slim, with Europe digging in its heels in replacing Strauss-Kahn with a fellow European and the emerging market economies (EMEs) not appearing as if they are uniting behind one common candidate—if India and China can't agree on their nationals being chosen for the job, you'd think the chances of Singapore's finance minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam as a consensus candidate would be stronger, but that doesn't seem to be happening either.

The IMF's crisis of credibility, at least in the non-OECD world, stems from the belief that it has different standards for different parts of the world—loan conditionalities tended to be harsher in the east Asian crisis; in Europe, however, the IMF's lending has been more benign—Greece will be the test case to see if the soft approach works. The fact that German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said she's in favour of keeping the job in Europe tends to buttress the view that the IMF's bailout for Europe has been more generous than it would have under a non-European chief. Strauss-Kahn's tenure saw the IMF changing, sceptics would say to keep it from becoming totally irrelevant, and dogma changed with the IMF becoming more accepting of the virtues of temporary capital controls, for instance. The 2008 crisis also saw the IMF recognising the need to pump-prime in times of crisis. EMEs also saw a rise in their voting power, but with the balance of power still firmly with the OECD. If the world was getting less crisis-prone, this may not have mattered. But the sharp increase in sovereign debt in response to the 2008 crisis, for instance, suggests that we could see a lot more sovereign debt crises over the next decade; the decline of the dollar is another crisis that needs dealing. If the part of the world that is increasingly going to contribute more to global growth is suspicious of the IMF, that can only hurt its credibility.






With 50 major power plants that account for roughly 40% of the country's power production running on close to empty—according to CII, they have 4-7 days of coal stocks as compared to a 21-day norm—a fierce battle is raging between different ministries in the government, and may even drag in the Supreme Court. A meeting to resolve issues, to be chaired by the Prime Minister yesterday, had to be put off as some ministers played truant. The power ministry, which told a Group of Ministers 10 days ago that the sudden reduction in coal supplies from Coal India Limited (CIL) will result in stranded capacity of 24,000 MW, now wants CIL to stop auctioning a part of its production and instead give it to fuel-starved power plants. CIL, in turn, has said the e-auction principle, which applies to a tenth of its production, was based on a Supreme Court order and was part of a coal policy that was made in 2007 after consulting all ministries. In any case, the coal ministry says, stopping e-auctions won't help. The real problem, the ministry avers, has to do with the inadequate supply of rakes by the railways—13% of what CIL produces, the ministry says, remains piled up at the mines as the railways don't have enough wagons. And the lion's share of the blame, it adds, has to rest with the environment ministry whose no-go policies have prevented it from doing more mining.

Whoever is to blame, what no one is denying is that supplies are woefully short of target—this year's production is likely to be around 550 million tonnes against the projected output of 630 million tonnes. Theoretically, the balance can be made good through imports but, with a shortage of rakes, how do you transport this coal from the ports? And where do you import so much coal from anyway? Thanks to the railways' policy of overcharging on coal transport, this raises power tariffs considerably—not passing them on to consumers, in turn, raises losses in a sector that is already reeling under losses. Whatever the Prime Minister decides, even if it doesn't need to be ratified by the Supreme Court (assuming e-auctions are banned for the moment), given the extent of the shortages, it's likely the scorching summer will be matched by sharp power outages as well.







Companies such as ICICI, Infosys, L&T, Tata et al have been in the news for a very special reason—their choice of the new boss! The search for the new leader in each of these marquee companies has fuelled a speculative list of potential candidates, fuelled diverse opinions and has forced India Inc in general to think about the concept of succession planning. The tenure of CEOs is falling in most countries because the pressure on results is more demanding and the changes in every industry are accelerating. CEOs without a good grip on their current business and a sense of future direction are being moved out. There is no place for a passenger in the top job today.

Let's look at a few questions about leadership and the effect it has on a company's running and its fortunes.

First, how important is a leader for a company's fortunes? In today's media and technology connected world, the leader's job is a very difficult one, one requiring enormous balance between drive and reflection, between aggression and contemplation, between directing and listening, between task and empathy. All said, the leader's impact on the fortunes of a company is significant. He is the face of the company and the brand, and is a lighthouse for attracting talent to the company. His anointment is eagerly followed by all the stakeholders (analysts, customers, partners and media). A Harvard Business School says about 15% of all value generated by a company depends on the leader and his effectiveness. An earlier study by a consulting firm put that at about 17%. So, the leader is critical and at least a sixth of the value creation of a firm is directly attributable to him. About two decades ago, we had a different structure of leadership. Most organisations had a leader, and a dedicated number two who ran the business when the leader was travelling, on vacation, etc. Then came technology—fax, mobile phones, video conferencing et al. Suddenly, the leader was available to the key stakeholders 24/7 and the need for a strong number two in organisations diminished.

Second, should a company promote an insider or get in an outsider to the top job? The data on this is neutral. The insider knows the system, but he is equally part of the problem or challenges the company faces. It is rare for an insider to change the full system; a celebrated example is Mikhail Gorbachev, who changed the Communist Party of the Soviet Union's agenda after suffering in silence for 25 years until he reached the top spot. An outsider has a fresh perspective but doesn't fully understand the nuances and the culture of the firm that are crucial to delivering great execution. According to data from consultants Booz Allen Hamilton, an outsider typically produces four times better results than an insider in the first four years, after that the insider produces better results.

Third, how close in characteristics and style should the new boss be compared to the exiting boss? Irrespective of the organisation, a leader can bring significant renewal to the organisation. I would advocate a significant change in personality between the two leaders. Jack Welch was the exact opposite of Reginald Jones when he was considered for GE's top job. In India, I am told that T Thomas was the opposite of VG Rajadhyaksha when he took over as the HLL leader. A leader with a different style has the opportunity to shake up the system and provide it with fresh thinking.

Fourth, who in a large enterprise should be accountable for succession planning? In a listed firm, the board would typically be responsible for succession planning. How should the board approach this important job? The board must give itself enough time to select the new boss. The CEO's job cannot be rushed. Next, it is the board's job to judge the firm's position and decide on a set of skills and competencies it wants in the new leader for the firm to win in the future. Looking at the firm's position, the board has to decide if it needs a leader to rally the firm, inspire people, cut costs, build ecosystem relationships, persuade government or refocus the firm. When Pepsi India hired Suman Sinha as the boss, it leveraged his enormous government relations experience to rethink and possibly renegotiate the export and other clauses they had. Sinha ran Pepsi for a decade and made the company competitive by unshackling many chains!

The board must look at internal candidates and a good board would have a measure of internal candidates over the years. Sometimes, there is a tendency for a board to take internal candidates for granted, see more of their negatives, and not value the positives they bring. Having seen and judged internal candidates, it is imperative for the board to look externally and benchmark the internal bench with what's available outside. This can happen if the board members take enough time to get to know both internal and external candidates. According to industry estimates, when the board selects the right candidate with the best fit, impact on results is a positive 14%, when the board chooses the wrong person, results decline by about 30%. So, the board has enormous responsibility to get this right and to spend the right amount of time on this. It cannot take forever!

The College of Cardinals in the 13th century took three years to select a successor to Pope Clement IV. Since they were taking so much time, their rations were cut systematically, giving them a 'hurry up' message!

Indian firms will be short of quality CEOs this decade. In most family firms, the leadership position is filled from within the family. The challenge for a family firm is to bring in professionals to run a business that's becoming more complex and also to satisfy the stakeholders who want the professionals to play an important role. This balance between family and professionals is something few Indian companies have got right. This could be a hurdle to the Indian family firm in realising its potential.

India is a complex market and Indian employees and firms have their own distinct code and expectations from a leader. In India, a leader of a firm is much more than the rational part of being a leader. He has to be a unique mix of being good at strategy, having enormous empathy, building thought leadership for the firm, good at government influencing, great at building ecosystem partnerships, and being a company and brand ambassador. All this and more with company results staying ahead of expectations. Infosys has taken a call; the question on everyone's mind is, when will Tata's close? That succession will be worth the wait and debate!

The author is vice-president and country general manager for Nokia India






The electorate in West Bengal and Tamil Nadu has unanimously voted for poribartan. The CPM MLAs' fortunes mirror West Bengal's finances. The state has accumulated nearly R2 lakh crore of debt over the last 34 years of Left rule and CPM MLAs are now poorer by 25%, with candidates seeing a drop in average assets from 19.8 lakh in 2006 to 14.8 lakh. An analysis, of data collated by the Liberty Institute and National Election Watch, shows that this is a rather unusual circumstance—it is rare that the average assets for MLAs from incumbent parties have witnessed a decline, as exemplified by MLAs from across the country. Although the Trinamool was in the opposition, its MLAs have seen average assets rise four times from R21 lakh in 2006 to R85 lakh in 2011. Similarly, Congress MLAs have also seen a rise in wealth, with average assets doubling in the five-year period.

Unlike West Bengal's CPM, Tamil Nadu's DMK at the helm of government, has seen the average assets of its MLAs increase by 10 times, from 95 lakh to 9.2 crore. Not surprising, given the number of enterprises, including media agencies, the leader of the DMK controls. Its ally, the Congress, has also seen its MLAs average assets triple from R2.4 crore to R6.2 crore. The AIADMK's MLAs are the poorest, with average assets worth R3.4 crore. Kerala also saw a rise in the average assets of its MLAs, with the Congress coming in at R8.9 crore versus the CPM's R4.8 crore.

Surprisingly, this set of assembly elections do not corroborate the expected trend that candidates of incumbent parties see a larger increase in their assets, than do MLAs from opposition parties, as exemplified by the CPM in Bengal and Kerala. So, is being rich a factor of importance in predicting election outcomes? It appears not. The AGP lost to the Congress in Assam even though its MLAs were 1.2 times richer, as did the DMK even though its MLAs were three times richer than the AIADMK's.

On criminality, the strong anti-incumbency factor seems not to have taken into account the chequered histories of candidates—the number of Trinamool candidates with criminal records has gone up from 8 of 32 MLAs in 2006 to 69 of 184 in 2011. That's an increase in the number of Trinamool MLAs with criminal records in Bengal's legislative assembly from 25% to 38%. The Congress's candidates have also become more criminal, wherein 17 of 42 (40%) MLAs analysed in 2011 were found to have pending criminal cases against them versus just 5 of 21 (25%) in 2006. The CPM's candidates have a less criminal record—although the percentage of MLAs with criminal cases against them has risen from 12% to 18%, the actual number has dropped, from 20 to 7, given that the CPM has 40 MLAs in the assembly this year versus 173 after the election in 2006. Thus, West Bengal's assembly has more constituents with criminal records at 35% in 2011 than it did at 16% in 2006.

But does West Bengal's record reflect what happened across the other three major states that went to the polls? Yes and no. A similar trend is seen in Tamil Nadu, where about 40% of the MLAs from the party elected to government, the AIADMK, have criminal cases pending against them. Thanga Tamilselvan of the AIADMK has 17 cases pending against him, by far the highest number against MLAs from Tamil Nadu, two of which are on account of attempt to murder. The percentage of criminal MLAs from the DMK has remained static at 21%, but given the loss of vote-share to the party, there has been a steep fall in the number of tainted DMK MLAs from 31 in 2006 to 7 at present. Kerala breaks the mold in having fewer MLAs with criminal records, overall—only 2 of the 38 Congress MLAs have cases pending against them; the CPM has 15. Assam fares the best, with the lowest number of MLAs with criminal records—only 4 from the Congress and 1 each from the AGP and BJP.

Thus, while the MLAs elected in this round of state elections are richer, they are also more criminal. This is to be expected, given the quality of candidates that were fielded by the various parties across the states—as expected, Assam has the lowest number of MLAs with a criminal record, given that only 8% of Assamese candidates had pending cases whereas 35% of West Bengal's MLAs have criminal cases pending. These results are in line with a study by Poonam Gupta, Icrier, and Arvind Panagriya, Columbia University, of the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, which finds that candidates who are richer and have a bigger criminal record are more likely to win. The study also points out, though, that the political party affiliation makes a big difference in states where growth is higher.








Rahul Gandhi's predilection to shoot from the hip is proving to be a challenge for his party managers who have found themselves picking up repeatedly after the First Family heir. Yet in Uttar Pradesh recently, the gaffe-prone Congress general secretary — famously described by an American official as a "neophyte" without the chutzpah to become Prime Minister — outdid himself. The agitation by farmers protesting over land acquisition along the Yamuna Expressway was already into its second week, when Mr. Gandhi grandly entered the scene and appropriated what till then had been a united Opposition show. With television cameras obliging, Mr. Gandhi threw off his security and courted arrest — all of which might have passed off as engaging theatrics had he also not proceeded to make the most incredible charge against the Mayawati government: that there were burnt bodies beneath the mounds of ash found in the twin Greater Noida villages of Bhatta and Parsaul! Although Mr. Gandhi said he had photographic evidence to prove his claim, no villager has come forward to substantiate the story that the administration had killed and burnt farmers in full public view. Unsurprisingly, it was once again left to party managers to find a way out of the mess. The new line, endorsed by Mr. Gandhi himself, is that he was merely repeating a charge made by the villagers.

During the 2007 Assembly election campaign in U.P., Mr. Gandhi claimed that the Babri Masjid would have been saved had his family been in power. But an even bigger blooper was when he spoke of the division of Pakistan as a glowing deed accomplished by his family; while nobody can take away from Prime Minister Indira Gandhi's masterly handling of the constellation of events leading to the creation of Bangladesh, to present it as the division of Pakistan and as a family accomplishment was doubly shocking. Tragically for the farmers of U.P., Mr. Gandhi's egregious brinkmanship has deflected attention from their genuine problems. Ground reports clearly point to excesses by the U.P. government in the two affected villages. Even if it was a fact that the agitation had been infiltrated by anti-social elements, as claimed by the Chief Minister, there was absolutely no justification for the police to act brutally against the villagers. The Mayawati government would do well to realise that farmers cannot be arm-twisted anymore into accepting meagre compensation for fertile agricultural land acquired, among other things, for creating luxury villas and townships. For its part, the central government must realise that it must move quickly to put in place comprehensive Land Acquisition legislation that is fair, just, and primarily protective of the interests of millions of vulnerable farmers.





Those members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation who are involved in what is now a war on Libya in all but name are starting to face multiple embarrassments. Militarily, their decision not to send in ground troops requires them to intensify their air attacks far beyond the protection of civilians. For example, the British military are now bombing not only President Muammar Qadhafi's troops and artillery but also buildings and infrastructure, including police stations and government offices. Secondly, the presence on the ground of Nato's so-called special forces has not prevented civilian deaths in aerial bombardment. As the British analyst Simon Jenkins points out in the Guardian, the escalation is reminiscent of the U.S. General Curtis LeMay's vow to bomb Vietnam back into the Stone Age. In political terms, the European wing of Nato is increasingly isolated. Washington is keeping strangely quiet about Libya; the Arab League, whose support was actively sought for the United Nations Security Council Resolution that enabled the original intervention, has disappeared from the picture.

Nato may find it extremely difficult to get out of the political and military quagmire into which it has launched itself, but even greater embarrassment lies in the extent of Western financial involvement with Libya over many years. About $32 billion that the Qadhafi regime holds in the U.S. is not in bank accounts but in legitimate business holdings like shares and real estate. Appropriating even $150 million, as mentioned by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, would require legislation, which could take months. Tripoli also has about $20 billion in the United Kingdom, $9 billion in Germany, and $1.7 billion in Austria, again as a result of legitimate business activity. Western institutions such as leading colleges and universities have willingly accepted Libyan money. As for the expropriation of Mr. Qadhafi's own accounts, it will probably contravene international law as long as he is in power; in addition, Russia and China have both stated that they would veto any more anti-Qadhafi resolutions in the Security Council. Nato's major member-states can no longer hide the fact that they have long records of lucrative dealings — including trade in oil, weapons, and other commodities — with a dictator they have demonised for decades. It has now become clear that the western project is regime change and little else — and the intensification of the war against Libya has stretched international law to breaking-point.








The "Stop TB Strategy" is the World Health Organisation's latest plan to build on the success of the DOTS (Directly Observed Treatment, Short-course) campaign. It aims to dramatically reduce the global burden of the disease by 2015, in line with the Millennium Development Goals. It plans to achieve this goal by providing universal access to high-quality diagnostic procedures and patient-centred treatment. It intends to pursue DOTS expansion and enhancement, address the concerns related to multi-drug resistance and those infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), strengthen health systems, engage care providers, empower people and communities, and promote research. While much progress has been made, critical reflection raises many unaddressed concerns and crucial challenges, which make sceptics argue that the strategy will not achieve its ambitious goals.

Impact of tuberculosis: Billions of people are infected with tubercle bacilli and many millions develop the disease every year. Over a hundred million live with the disease, while over two million die of the infection annually. The vast majority of the infected are poor and most of those who die live in poverty in low and middle-income countries. The risk of developing the disease increases exponentially among people infected with HIV.

The DOTS programme treats the infection and reduces the prevalence of the condition. The proven benefits of the programme include high cure rates, reduced death rates, decline in the number of treatment-resistant patients and decrease in new infections. The programme has many other advantages, including prevention of bacterial resistance to key medication. This is achieved by providing reliable diagnosis, directly observed treatment, fixed combination doses, blister packs, balanced regimens, trained health workers and restricting its use to treat appropriate disease. It also increases compliance to medication, the lack of which is a weakness of most ambulatory programmes, by supervision and monitoring. It is said to increase cure rates to over 90 per cent compared to 60 per cent in unsupervised regimens.

Problems with DOTS: Many problems plague the DOTS programme world-wide. These include lack of political commitment, poor funding, limited human resource, restricted supply of anti-TB medication, meagre information systems and inadequate organisation of services. These are, however, obstacles that can be overcome with greater political will, increased finances and better organisation. However, there are other serious challenges related to the DOTS approach that argue that the programme will not achieve its aims.

Historical solutions: There is evidence that the rate of tuberculosis in the West dropped long before the introduction of anti-tuberculosis medication. The provision of adequate housing, reduction of overcrowding, improved nutrition and sanitation and better work environments were the reasons for winning the war against TB in the western world. Unfortunately, the current medicalisation of public health, where all problems are viewed through the "medical lens," has resulted in Indian and international agencies focussing exclusively on medical solutions such as DOTS. The high cost of socio-environmental interventions makes the improvement of housing and work environments less attractive from a financial point of view. It is also argued that the direct impact of such interventions on the reduction of transmission is less than that achieved by DOTS. Nevertheless, sole reliance on the current curative approaches to the problem, which requires long-term public health solutions, will prove ineffective with the unchecked spread of the infection.

Prevention based on cure: The DOTS strategy is essentially a curative medical approach to treat tuberculosis. However, prevention based on curative medical treatments has never eradicated any disease. Only vaccine-based approaches have achieved such success, as in the case of small pox. However, vaccination with BCG provides variable protection from serious disease and is not considered a mainline strategy for the prevention of TB. The use of curative approaches based on routine health services to prevent diseases has never had a significant impact on prevention. This approach fails as it essentially employs downstream interventions and is not capable of preventing the spread of primary infections. The detection of cases in hospitals implies that these patients would have contributed to the spread of the infection prior to detection and even during the early phase of treatment. The absence of routine screening of the contacts of diagnosed cases is a missed opportunity. In addition, situating prevention within routine health services implies problems related to establishing and maintaining the quality of services and managing competing priorities. These strategies fail to address the core context of tuberculosis which is related to poverty with its associated under-nutrition and overcrowding.

Malnutrition worries: The fixed-dose combinations recommended by DOTS, while good for the average person, can cause major problems for the under-nourished. With over a third of the poor (read lower castes and tribes) malnourished, this circumstance has a significant impact on the majority of people ravaged by the disease. While some consideration is given to the very grossly malnourished, the "higher" doses the person receives in relation to the body weight produces not only incapacitating side-effects which lead to the discontinuation of treatment but also serious toxicity due to medication. Sacrificing the principle of titrating medication to body weights (which is the standard medical practice) at the altar of programmatic concerns needs reconsideration. There is also evidence to suggest that in the malnourished, nutritional supplementation prior to the onset of curative treatment results is better tolerance of side-effects. The current national nutritional policy with its subsidised food programme for the poor only provides calories through carbohydrates instead of a balanced diet, resulting in lowered immunity and increased susceptibility to infection.

Ground realities: The Revised National Tuberculosis Control Programme (RNTCP) assumes a good cure rate with treatment. It considers people whose sputum is negative for tuberculosis bacilli after 6 months of treatment as being cured of the disease. However, the RNTCP does not follow up patients. There is a need to move beyond such end points (of being sputum smear negative) and monitor patients for recurrence and relapse of symptoms and disease in order to assess the effectiveness of the programme. Anecdotal evidence also argues that the direct observation of medication compliance even for the first two months of the intensive treatment phase is less than perfect and that non-compliance in a minority of patients is an issue. This is particularly important in the context of the increase of multi-drug resistant (MDR) disease. Notified MDR TB also is said to be a fraction of the estimated prevalence in India and enrolment for MDR treatment is patchy across the country.

The way forward: The persistently high rate of new case detection in many low and middle-income countries argues that the current strategy of employing curative treatment and situating it within the routine health care system will not result in the eradication of the disease. The ideal public health solution of a vaccine to prevent the disease is not yet on the horizon. Education of the general population through the mass media is necessary. Augmenting nutrition, albeit through a balanced diet, in those who are underweight will boost natural immunity. The provision of good housing and work environments will reduce the spread of infection. The high prevalence of TB in India argues for active case finding. School and workplace surveys should be mandatory as should the screening of contacts of newly diagnosed cases. Newer diagnostic tests need to replace the less efficient sputum smear microscopy. While the fixed dose combination has many advantages in large programmes, there is still a need to titrate the dose for individuals. Audit of supervision of the direct observation of medication compliance is vital in limiting non-compliance and preventing multidrug resistance. A follow-up of all treated cases to identify relapses and to evaluate the effectiveness of the programme is crucial. The current programme is a curative strategy for populations, without a specific focus on the individual as demanded by good clinical practice. Nor does it champion good public health approaches.

The economics of the national programmes in low and middle-income countries sometimes shifts ownership from national governments to international agencies, thus disempowering local and regional stakeholders. The location of prevention within curative services also implies that the stakeholders need to address other competing interests for sustained intervention. Increasing the collaboration between HIV and TB services and national programmes is an urgent need. Maintaining quality services for people with tuberculosis is cardinal in preventing drug resistance and is inextricably linked to the future of the TB epidemic. There is need to ensure sufficient human resource and technical capacity.

Many of these arguments are well known within the medical fraternity. The challenge lies in moving beyond curative approaches to public health strategies which, although more expensive in the short-term, will result in disease control and possible eradication.

(Professor K.S. Jacob is on the faculty of the Christian Medical College, Vellore.)









'Pakistan had publicly accepted the request to send him to New Delhi; it was important that Pasha go.'

CHENNAI: After the 2008 Mumbai attacks, the United States urged Pakistan's highest officials to send the Inter-Services Intelligence chief to India, in order to demonstrate their seriousness in cooperating with New Delhi in the investigations.

Three days after the attacks, the U.S. also told Pakistan it was important to investigate if there was a "GoP", or Government of Pakistan, link to the carnage in Mumbai. This is now a question to which the U.S. is seeking answers with David Headley, a Pakistani-origin American, set to claim in a Chicago court that the Mumbai attacks were guided by the ISI.

Diplomatic cables accessed by The Hindu through WikiLeaks show that the U.S. tried hard to persuade Pakistan to stick to a November 28, 2008 decision to send the head of the ISI, Lt. General Ahmed Shuja Pasha, to India — but to no avail.

The cables are a window to the limits of U.S. influence in Pakistan, especially when it comes to relations with India.

Pakistan Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani had announced on November 28, 2008 after a telephone conversation with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that Lt. Gen. Pasha would go to India at the earliest for "an exchange of information" about the attacks.

But the government hastily reversed its decision after the Pakistan Army made clear it was opposed to the idea of sending the top intelligence man to India.

The cables reveal that the U.S. directly told the Army chief, General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, President Asif Ali Zardari and Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi that Lt. Gen. Pasha should go to Delhi.

According to one cable dated November 30, 2008 ( 180619: secret), during a meeting with General Kayani and Lt. Gen. Pasha on November 30, Charge d'Affaires Gerald Feierstein "urged that Kayani send Pasha to India as a sign of GOP seriousness in cooperating with the Indian investigation."

Ambassador Anne W. Patterson was away and was to return later that day. As the Deputy Chief of Mission, Mr. Feierstein was the Acting Ambassador. The Regional Affairs Officer (RAO) at the U.S. Embassy accompanied him to the meeting.

The Army chief, Mr. Feierstein noted, was "critical of what he considered India's rush to judgment about the details of the case, and said that as a former intelligence chief he would never have suggested that he could offer up an analysis of the events so quickly after they concluded." Even so, "Charge pressed him several times on sending Pasha to lead the ISI delegation to India as demonstration of Pakistani seriousness." But "Kayani was, at best, non-committal."

The U.S. officials gave the two top Pakistan Army officials information about a Lashkar-e-Taiba individual, who the U.S. said was linked to the Deccan Mujahideen, a previously unheard of group that had claimed responsibility for the attack.

"Kayani and Pasha claimed not to recognize the name. They asked the Acting RAO for additional information on the telephone numbers related to the individual," Mr. Feierstein noted.

The cable did not reveal the identity of the individual, and it is unclear if he was among the five persons who are currently on trial in Pakistan for their alleged involvement in the attacks.

The same unnamed individual was mentioned by Mr. Feierstein during a November 29 meeting with Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, according to a cable dated November 29, 2008 ( 180604: secret).

He "advised [the Minister] that the U.S. was passing to ISI November 29 the name of an individual in Pakistan who was associated with the attacks; he urged that Pakistan arrest this individual."

Mr. Qureshi asked "if this information came from the U.S." Mr. Feierstein "confirmed that it was independent information and that the individual was associated with the group responsible for the attacks."

The U.S. official then brought up what he described as "the core issue" of whether the Government of Pakistan was directly implicated in the attacks. He told Mr. Qureshi the U.S. "had seen no direct evidence of this to date," but that it would be "important for the GOP to investigate whether there was any linkage."

Noting that Pakistan had publicly accepted the Indian request to send the ISI Director to New Delhi, Mr. Feierstein told Mr. Qureshi it was important that Pasha go. "If Pasha goes to India, this will be seen as a sign of GOP seriousness to carry through on its pledges of cooperation; if not, it will be seen as a retreat and will send a very negative signal."

The U.S. official said Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice "will try to call [President Asif Ali] Zardari today and likely will deliver that same message." He mentioned that Ambassador Patterson had delivered a similar message to Mr. Zardari in a phone call the previous night. The Pakistan Foreign Minister said he too had received a call from Assistant Secretary Boucher the previous night.

The Pakistan Cables are being shared by The Hindu with NDTV in India and Dawn in Pakistan.







CHENNAI: While denying that Inter-Services Intelligence had a hand in the 2008 bombing of the Indian Embassy in Kabul, Mahmud Ali Durrani, Pakistan's National Security Adviser to the Prime Minister, admitted to his Indian counterpart M.K. Narayanan that Pakistan had contacts with "bad guys" and "one of them" could have carried out the attack.

Four Indians, including two senior officials at the Indian Embassy, were among the 58 people killed in the suicide bombing on July 7, 2008. India accused the ISI of being behind the attack.

"Inter-Services Intelligence didn't do it," the Pakistan NSA told Mr. Narayanan at a meeting in New Delhi on October 13, 2008. He denied Pakistan was directly responsible for the bombing.

But, Mr Durrani said, "We have some contacts with bad guys and perhaps one of them did it," according to a U.S. diplomatic cable dated October 28, 2008 ( 175543: secret) from Islamabad, sent under the name of Ambassador Anne W. Patterson.

The cable is a report of a meeting between the Pakistani official and U.S. Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asia Richard Boucher, at which Mr. Durrani candidly recounted his meeting with Mr. Narayanan.

The Indian NSA, as Mr. Durrani told the U.S. official, admitted he had been carried away and was a "little harsh with us."

A retired Lieutenant-General and a former Ambassador to the United States, Mr. Durrani was often viewed in Pakistan as "pro-India." He was forced to resign as the NSA in the aftermath of the attacks for being the first to admit that Ajmal Amir Kasab, the lone surviving gunman in Indian custody, was a Pakistani.

In his meeting with Mr. Boucher, the Pakistan official described his October 13, 2008 meeting with Mr. Narayanan, just weeks before the Mumbai terrorist attack, as "unusually good" and said he was received "as a friend with open arms."

Still, as the Pakistan NSA detailed to Mr. Boucher, the Indians had "lots of complaints" about 39 alleged violations of the Line of Control that year.

"The Indian Foreign Secretary [Shivshankar Menon] told Durrani bluntly, said Durrani, that the Indian view was that after [former Pakistan President Pervez] Musharraf lost control, the Pakistani Army went back to its old ways. Durrani pointed out that Musharraf had blocked 'launch efforts' in Kashmir but said that perhaps one specific battalion on the border was a source of trouble. Pakistan had recommended that the two Directors General of Military Operations meet more regularly; the Indian Ministry of Foreign Affairs had rejected that idea because of objection from their military," the cable reported.

Mr. Boucher told him it was in Pakistan's interest to stay "as clean as possible" on Kashmir so the Indians could not use Line of Control violations as an excuse to avoid dealing with growing problems.

Mr. Durrani, who also met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during the visit, seemed to have been receptive, even if not entirely convinced, about the Indian side of the story on charges that it was meddling in Pakistan's restive Balochistan province and using Afghanistan as a launchpad to destablise Pakistan.

"Durrani said, despite the facts, he took at face value the Indian Prime Minister's claim that '150%' they were not involved in creating instability in Balochistan," the cable said of the conversation between Mr. Durrani and Mr. Boucher.

He told the U.S. official that for the first time, the Indian National Security Council had given him a briefing on what India was doing in Afghanistan. "The briefing was elaborate and covered the details of ongoing development work; the Indians noted that they were suffering a casualty every one and half kilometers in this effort."

Giving Mr. Boucher details of other aspects of the India-Pakistan relationship from his Delhi visit, Mr. Durrani said the two sides were ready for an agreement on Sir Creek, and the "contours" had already been worked out with the Pakistan military.

But the Siachen issue was different: "According to Durrani, however, the Indian Army was opposed to making progress on the Siachen Glacier; he was told by the Indians to 'forget it,' so perhaps progress was only possible on Siachen within a more comprehensive framework."

The Pakistan Cables are being shared by The Hindu with NDTV in India and Dawn in Pakistan.





CHENNAI: United States officials were worried about the possibility that the top three Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) militants arrested by Pakistan in connection with the 26/11 Mumbai attacks could be acquitted and let free by the court for want of evidence. They complained that New Delhi was at fault in this, as despite repeated interventions by the U.S. government at "several levels," it had not shared "certified evidence" with Pakistan.

On May 12, 2009, the day Pakistan's Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) in Rawalpindi granted more time to the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to file the final chargesheet against the five LeT suspects arrested for the Mumbai attacks, the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad sent a cable ( 206598: confidential) to the Secretary of State in Washington.

'Diligent' investigation

The cable, accessed by TheHindu through WikiLeaks, commended the FIA for its "diligent" investigation into the attacks and observed that it had "competently" built up a case against the LeT suspects. However, it noted, while the case against two of the lower-level LeT operatives, Hammad Ammen Sadiq and Shahid Jamil Riaz, was strong, the FIA did not have "enough independent evidence" to successfully prosecute the senior LeT leaders — Zaki ur-Rehman Lakhvi, Mazhar Iqbal alias al Qama, and Abdul Wajid alias Zarrar Shah.

Important evidence that linked Lakhvi, Shah, and al Qama to the Mumbai attacks had to come from India. Even proving the connection between the attacks and an LeT conspiracy in Pakistan, "heavily" depended on the evidence available with India, the cable remarked. The FBI too cannot share the evidence in its possession with Pakistan without Indian approval, it said.

The two key pieces of evidence: the voice recordings of the LeT controllers, or a sworn testimony by suspects in Indian custody regarding the recordings, and "the set of two pink aluminum Improvised Explosive Device (IED) boxes," one found at Karachi and the other at the site of the Mumbai attacks. The Karachi box was sent to the FBI for a forensic analysis. However, for the connection between the two to be confirmed, India had to hand over samples of its pink box to the FBI.

India maintained it had passed on all relevant evidence to Pakistan. However, the cable remarked that none of the evidence that was passed on was judicially certified. The U.S. officials cited the example of "blurry photocopies" of fingerprints of the Mumbai attackers passed on to the FIA. Not only would these be inadmissible in court, they could not be used to match the fingerprint records that were with Pakistan, they said.

The U.S. officials tried to impress upon India the need to share the most important items of proof that the FIA and the FBI needed. On May 6, 2009, Peter Burleigh, Charge d'Affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Delhi, met Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon and raised the issue of "evidentiary cooperation" with Pakistan. Mr. Menon told Mr. Burleigh the government "had already requested court permission to send all the documents" requested by Pakistan, and explained that "the Indian judge would proceed at his own pace but that he thought the request was non-controversial and would be granted."

Mr. Burleigh tried to point to "the urgency of the court deadline." Mr. Menon "smiled," and said he "knew of that, but that it was not true that introducing additional evidence after that period (when the charge sheet is submitted) was unusual or difficult." He added that "'we have the same system and we know how their courts work'."

In August 2009, the FIA arrested Jamil Ahmed, the sixth suspect in the Mumbai attacks, from his home in Battgram on a tip off from Saudi Arabia.

A U.S. diplomatic cable sent two days after Ahmed's arrest ( 219934: confidential) noted that the FIA was "still waiting for a few items of evidence from India." However, as the cable mentioned, the FIA had "no expectation" that India would release the evidence in time for the trial and made its own plans to strengthen the evidence. It decided to have one of its investigators testify on the voice recordings against al-Qama and Lakhvi. The U.S. did its bit by helping the FIA screen the fingerprint images to gain better visibility.

The Pakistan Cables are being shared by The Hindu with NDTV in India and Dawn in Pakistan.





CHENNAI: In June 2009, the United States had "credible reports" that the Lashkar-e-Taiba was planning another attack in India and asked Pakistan to disrupt those plans. The U.S. also warned that if such an attack happened, it could "hinder" Washington's efforts to provide military and non-military aid to Islamabad.

A June 23, 2009 cable from the State Department, sent under the name of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ( 213621: confidential), instructed the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad "to underscore to senior Pakistani government officials the critical importance of Pakistani cooperation in preventing Lashkar e-Tayyiba (LeT) attacks on India."

The cable said: "There are credible reports of advanced LeT planning for attacks against India. An attack at this time — especially from Pakistani territory — would undermine progress for regional cooperation, divert resources from the military campaign in the west, and could hinder the USG's ability to provide Pakistan with military and economic assistance without restrictive conditions." It noted that the newly elected Indian government had shown readiness to re-engage with Pakistan. But "critical" to this was Pakistan's progress in bringing the perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks to justice.

"Another Mumbai-style or major LeT attack on India, especially if launched from Pakistani soil, could close this historic opportunity and could risk a stronger Indian response than that which occurred after Mumbai," the cable warned.

The U.S. Embassy was asked to urge "Pakistan to take all steps it can to eliminate LeT permanently, while in the short term taking all possible action to disrupt LeT attack plans and other activities." Just a month earlier, the LeT front organisation, Jamat-ud-Dawa, which had been designated under UN Security Council Resolution 1267 after the November 2008 Mumbai attacks, had resurfaced as a charity organisation in the refugee camps for the thousands of people who had been displaced by the military operations in Swat.

The cable asked the U.S. Embassy to convey that "we expect the GOP to act swiftly to implement [UNSCR 1267] sanctions against LeT/JUD, including by taking action against entities/individuals providing material support to the group (including any advertising or solicitation of funds for JUD). Effective implementation of sanctions should result in the cessation of JUD's 'charitable' operations, including through any successor organizations."

The possibility of another terror strike figured in other discussions. A cable dated June 11, 2009 sent from the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi ( 211557: secret), reported a meeting between Home Minister P. Chidambaram and U.S. Undersecretary of State Bill Burns. The cable was accessed by The Hindu through WikiLeaks. According to the cable, Mr. Chidambaram noted that if there was another attack, "the people of India will expect us to respond. We won't have any other choice."

Mr. Burns stressed that the U.S. was pressing Pakistan to take action against all terrorist groups. "He further acknowledged that although some steps had been taken [by Pakistan], we were likewise frustrated by the lack of demonstrable action against some groups. Burns added that we would redouble our efforts, both at the political and professional levels."

The Pakistan Cables are being shared by The Hindu with NDTV in India and Dawn in Pakistan.





CHENNAI: The Chief Minister of Pakistan's Punjab province and the federal Interior Minister blamed each other for jeopardising appeals filed by the government before the Supreme Court against the June 2009 Lahore High Court order releasing Hafiz Saeed from house arrest.

The Supreme Court dismissed the appeals in May 2010.

U.S. diplomatic cables, accessed by The Hindu through WikiLeaks, relate a telling political game of pass-the-buck between the provincial Pakistan Muslim League (N) government, and the Pakistan People's Party-led federal government over a case that neither wanted to own because it was a domestic hot potato, but were forced to take up to douse an international furore over the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

Saeed, the leader of the Jamat-ud-Dawa and a founder of the Laskhar-e-Taiba, the group accused of carrying out the Mumbai attacks, was placed under house arrest after the UN Security Council designated him and three others along with the JuD under Resolution 1272 after the 26/11 terrorist strike. Six months later, on June 2, 2009, the Lahore High Court struck down the house arrest order. After four weeks and plenty of international pressure, the Pakistan government worked itself up to petition the Supreme Court against the release. The appeal was considered crucial in creating the right atmospherics ahead of the July 15, 2009 Sharm-el Shaik meeting between the Prime Ministers of the two countries at which they were to explore the possibility of resuming peace talks that New Delhi had put on hold since November 2008.

As the Shahbaz Sharif-led PML(N) government in Punjab had detained Saeed, it initiated the Supreme Court appeal. The federal government filed an identical but separate appeal.

But a day before the scheduled India-Pakistan meeting in Egypt on July 14, the Punjab Advocate-General withdrew his government's appeal. He told the court that the provincial government had no evidence against Mr. Saeed.

Ambassador Anne W. Patterson asked around for an explanation. According to a cable dated July 15, 2009 ( 216732: confidential), the Interior Minister told her the Punjab government "is pulling their appeal to 'embarrass' the federal government ahead of Prime Minister Gilani's meeting with Indian Prime Miniser Manmohan Singh at Sharm-el-Sheikh [ …] Other Post contacts surmise that the PML-N is using Saeed's popularity to gain points with religious conservatives."

The cable noted that even before the Punjab government's announcement, Provincial Home Secretary Nadeem Hassan Asif had told a U.S. official at its Lahore Consulate that the Federal Investigation Agency had provided no evidence connecting him to the Mumbai attacks. According to a cable dated July 24, 2009, Chief Minister Sharif offered a similar explanation to Matthew Lowe, the Acting Principal Officer at the U.S. in Lahore ( 218043: confidential), that the federal government had "used" the Punjab government to prosecute Mr. Saeed, "without providing any evidence or support."

The Chief Minister, who is the younger brother of PML(N) leader and former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, told Mr. Lowe he had "requested evidence from [federal] Interior Minister Rehman Malik. 'We have no evidence,' Malik responded. Shahbaz's frustration peaked when, after Malik promised that the Attorney General would show up in court, he failed to appear the next day. 'At that point I ordered the withdrawal of the case,' [Sharif] stated."

The Interior Minister "telephoned immediately, Mr. Sharif related to the U.S. official, "and pleaded with Shahbaz for Punjab to rejoin the prosecution for a few more days. 'Malik hoped to drag on the case several more days until after the completion of the Sharm-el-Sheikh meetings,' Shahbaz opined. 'But what kind of government is that that plays around with a serious crime? Do they think we will not meet Manmohan Singh again?' he wondered."

For its part, the federal government denied not sharing evidence with the provincial government. In her cable Ambassador Patterson noted that Deputy Attorney-General Shah Khawar had told the U.S. Embassy Political Officer if the Punjab government did not change its mind and come back into the appeal, Saeed could be detained using the 1952 Security Act of Pakistan or the Anti-Terrorism Act

Ambassador Patterson noted that "Realizing the importance of Saeed's detention, Gilani and Malik are determined to use any law or means to keep him confined to his home. Given the JUD leader's popularity, the GOP will have to be careful to avoid the appearance of extra-judicial moves against Saeed."

As it turned out, the Punjab government did return to the appeal in the Supreme Court. After many delays, the Supreme Court dismissed the appeals on May 25, 2010, on grounds of insufficient evidence.

Earlier, in September 2009, the federal government did slap two cases against the JuD chief under the Anti-Terrorism Act. But once again, its effort was undone because the Act applies only to banned groups; Pakistan is yet to ban the JuD. The Lahore High Court was easily persuaded to quash the cases when Saeed appealed to it.

The Pakistan Cables are being shared by The Hindu with NDTV in India and Dawn in Pakistan.





NEW DELHI: Less than a year after the Mumbai terrorist attacks, the United States Mission in Islamabad urged Washington to commit $2 billion over a five-year period beginning April 2011 to enable the Pakistan military to address, among other security needs, its "growing conventional disadvantage vis-à-vis India," in order to secure its cooperation in the "war on terror."

The U.S. Government accepted the recommendation. A report in the Washington Post on October 22, 2010 said: "The Obama administration will ask Congress to expand military aid to Pakistan, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Friday, announcing a five-year, $2 billion package that would increase current financing for weapons purchases by about one-third."

After the killing of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Pakistani territory by U.S. forces, several American politicians have questioned their country's lavish funding of the Pakistani military.

Even two years ago, the U.S. had expressed doubts about Pakistan's commitment to the war on terror, but believed giving the Pakistan military more money would cement the gaps in the relationship.

A cable dated October 14, 2009 (229597: confidential), accessed by The Hindu through WikiLeaks, details the U.S. Embassy's recommendation for a substantive increase in Foreign Military Financing (FMF) to assist Pakistan address its security requirements.

"The Pakistanis utilize FMF to address the country's broad security needs, which entails their dividing the funds among their services — Army, Navy, and Air Force — and developing conventional as well as counterinsurgency capabilities. This includes their addressing their growing conventional disadvantage vis-a-vis India," the cable noted. It was sent under the name of U.S. Ambassador Anne W. Patterson.

The U.S. Mission also recommended that the quantum of the Pakistan Counterinsurgency Capabilities Fund (PCCF) be raised to $1.2 billion for the financial year 2011.

The U.S.' two principal military assistance funding streams for Pakistan — FMF and PCCF — serve different purposes. FMF is designed to build trust with Pakistan's military and foster long-term U.S.-Pakistan military-to-military ties.

The Mission said that while the U.S. works with the Pakistan military to develop FMF spend plans, the Pakistani side drives the specific FMF procurement requests.

"In contrast to FMF, PCCF is a temporary authorization necessary to address Pakistan's immediate counterinsurgency and counter terrorism requirements. The uses of PCCF are largely directed by the US side."

The cable argued that FMF is, and must, remain the foundation of the bilateral security relationship. "To build a long-term relationship with Pakistan and increase the country's political will and military capability to fight insurgent and terrorist groups, post recommends (1) Obtaining 'cash-flow' financing authority for Pakistan's FMF; (2) announcing a Presidential commitment to Pakistan of $400 million in FMF per year for FY2011 through FY2015; and (3) Cash-flow financing will allow Pakistan to contract for defence articles and services without having the full amount of FMF available upfront."

The Mission maintained that a multi-year FMF commitment, combined with cash flow financing, would enable Pakistan to engage in a more strategic approach to defence procurement and increase Pakistan's trust in the U.S. as a reliable, long-term security partner.

"While PCCF fulfils a critical function, it is not aimed at building a long-term relationship with Pakistan or countering Pakistani fears that we will disengage from them when we ultimately pull back from Afghanistan (as we did after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan)."

The cable said the two initiatives would provide a powerful signal to the Pakistan military of the U.S. commitment to a true, long-term strategic partnership with Pakistan.

Elaborating on the request for a five-year FMF commitment, the cable said the Pakistan Army intended to purchase new transport and attack helicopters and modernise its tactical communication system.

The Navy planned to request via EDA and refurbish via FMF up to four Oliver Hazard Perry class frigates and outfit them with helicopters. The Air Force would use FMF to implement the security procedures required for the delivery of new and MLU-ed F-16s.

The cable said the specific counterinsurgency capabilities the PCCF was developing included C4/ISR, air mobile capability, close air support, military intelligence, humanitarian assistance delivery, night operations, counter-IED capability, smuggling interdiction, forward critical medical care, and combat logistics sustainment.

It said the Defence Department originally envisioned PCCF as a five-year programme. However, PCCF may be needed to enhance Pakistan's military capabilities as long as U.S. troops are engaged in combat operations across the border in Afghanistan.

The Mission said the first two years of PCCF required the execution of $1.1 billion over 14 months, and the need for future PCCF was $1.2 billion for FY2011, and $900 million for both FY2012 and FY2013 — a total of $2 billion over that three-year period.

The cable explained that the FY2011 request was $500 million above the FY2010 request as a result of the increased counterinsurgency engagement with the Pakistan Army, which will be the recipient of the bulk of FY2011 PCCF funds.

"This increased engagement has led to increased Army requirements for communications and ISR, as well as anticipated 'train and equip' requirements for unit rotations as the Army moves brigades and battalions into the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). We will also take advantage of Air Force involvement in ongoing operations for improvements in Air Force ISR assets, command and control, and integration with the delivery of close air support."

In addition to the proposed military aid, Washington is committed to provide $1.5 billion a year (beginning with 2010) for a period of five years.

A cable dated December 2, 2009 (237503: unclassified) from the State Department on the Af-Pak strategy of the Obama administration said:

"We are now focused on working with Pakistan's democratic institutions, deepening the ties among our governments and people for our common interests and concerns. We are committed to a strategic relationship with Pakistan for the long term.

"We have affirmed this commitment to Pakistan by providing $1.5 billion each year over the next five years to support Pakistan's development and democracy, and have led a global effort to rally additional pledges of support."

The Pakistan Cables are being shared by The Hindu with NDTV in India and Dawn in Pakistan.









Till Independence in August 1947, the Congress Party did nothing but agitational politics, but after that watershed its forte has been power politics to the exclusion of any other political aspiration or form of political articulation. The exception possibly is Indira Gandhi in the Janata years, riding elephant back to arrive at a scene of atrocity committed on harijans at Belchi in Uttar Pradesh, an image which took the country by storm — a black and white front page newspaper photo etched in the minds of many.

But this exception was episodic. If its subtle undertones are read, it can be easily interpreted as an imperial turn, where the protagonist arrives in style to beat back demons tormenting the underdog. The patrician touch was unmistakable and it gave the rulers of the day a big fright, overnight changing the power equation between the ruling party and the main Opposition. AICC general secretary Rahul Gandhi's switch to the mode of agitation at Bhatta-Parsaul in UP's Greater Noida, just outside the nation's capital, suggests an altogether different genre.
It appears a genuine attempt at agitation politics, and is therefore to be welcomed in a large federal democracy where rulers at the national level often sit on Opposition benches in some states. But possibly the only similarity between Rahul's Greater Noida foray and that of his grandmother at Belchi is the sensation value of both — deriving from the protagonist's status in each case. More remarkably, it is the dissimilarities that dominate. Indira's elephant ride was assured of success. It also emanated from a sure touch. In Mr Gandhi's case, the battle has only just been joined. It is likely to be a long-drawn affair through North India's baked earth season before the cooling monsoon rains arrive, if Wednesday's Varanasi resolution of the UP Congress is to be taken at face value. Mr Gandhi has promised to be a match for the Mayawati government in "every village" of UP. If the AICC general secretary achieves even 10 per cent of that, it would be a singular achievement. But he himself might have noted that the Bhatta-Parsaul initiative was noteworthy for its striking naiveté, as evidenced through the high-pitched claim of mass killings of farmers and criminal assault on their womenfolk. Mr Gandhi will have to do a lot better than that from here on. Also, he may be better off being guided by his own instincts rather than those of advisers who may well be navigating through a diversity of motives. Leaders make themselves through the experience of struggle. This is how people like Gandhi, Nehru and Patel began.
The Bhatta-Parsaul case speaks of the wider issue of land acquisition which is tormenting food-growers across India as the necessity of industrialisation makes itself apparent. The weakness Mr Gandhi will encounter — and UP chief minister Mayawati is right here — is that his party rules the Centre and should have cleared appropriate legislation that might help farmers. But as Mr Gandhi moves along the hot plains of UP focusing on farmers' lives, he will no doubt find many other farmers' issues to highlight, not only the travails in acquiring inherited agricultural land. The intervention of the Congress' most high-profile general secretary, a likely future Prime Minister, is on behalf of landowning classes in the agriculture sector. The Congress has not done this in decades, leaving a major constituency to regional parties in state after state. In this too Bhatta-Parsaul is different from Belchi.
If Mr Gandhi intends to move toward mass politics, he may need to make wider changes in his political style and seek to connect on a regular basis with all shades, not only within his own party but also the wider public. Congress leaders haven't done that since Indira's days.






Politics in India has been the major sport, far more demanding than cricket, much more entertaining than Bollywood. There is an openness to it and it produces the same string of surprises as a Twenty20 match. Yet, politics at the ground level, the nature of the political machine, the rise of new constituencies, and the power of local bosses never gets reflected on television.

TV represents a bowdlerisation of politics that we must understand. It simplifies the political at three levels. Firstly, it simplifies complexity and speeds up the time of politics. A political struggle which is as complex and Byzantine as a Russian novel with its demographic surplus of characters gets reduced to a simplified cast and a predictable narrative. TV also scienticises politics to idiot formulas, thereby reducing it to a second-order chemistry. Thirdly, it confuses representation for reality, where a group of narrators actually feel they are narrating the true and real. The recent Assembly elections in four states and one Union Territory was an example of this. I want to show how the production of politics has become separated from the construction and consumption of politics in India.
TV, as a media, constructed the recent election in terms of three ideal types. The first group saw themselves as experts but they derived their expertise from numbers, from ideas in finance and economics. Their strength was their ability to forecast trends, their weakness, a sense of politics which they equated to a market. They suggest politics, like markets, has an invisible hand which can be easily read. If one can manage numbers, one can manage politics. There is an elegance about their presentation. Their faith in formulas about swings and incumbency effects is endearing. Politics only enters their analysis as a trickster when their forecasts fail. It is the anomaly that ruins their equations.
The second group can be dubbed the Machiavellians. They are insiders as experts, the flies on the wall that bring backstage to frontstage. The best are old politicians and journalists who bring years of insight, turning biography into analysis. Yet, politics never goes beyond a sense of conspiracy, the factional battle or rebel candidates. The Machiavellian understands the politician but lacks a sense of people. People are seen only as a set of categories they can predict and manipulate. The Machiavellian's real sense of insight is his joy of politics and politicising. He will be brilliant on Jayalalithaa, clichéd on the voter. Oddly, he will make little sense of Mamata Banerjee. She appears as a spoilsport, a fact of nature and not culture.
For the Machiavellians, cynicism is a substitute for humour. Their narratives are stark, realistic, involved and strangely voyeuristic. They are poor on trends but acute on individual behaviour. They see numbers as unaesthetic, an insult to the calculativeness of political intelligence.
The third group can be dubbed the virtual democrats. They operate through the wisdom of committees and structure their groups like TV panchayats. People are projected as representing different regions as experts and a whiff of different ideologies is retained. This group is the most interdisciplinary in terms of scholarship with sociologists, political scientists, historians and journalists all fine-tuning each other's sensitivities. They are insightful at the micro level but inane at the macro level, full of good anecdotes but painful on policy. They attempt to humanise politics but merely end up transferring the perspectives of Page 1 to Page 3 nuggets. They confuse representation with representativeness. At the general level they wallow in political correctness or cliché.
Interestingly each group responds to failure or to their mistakes in a different way. The first group re-examines data as if there is an error in information but not interpretation. They read electoral failure like our space researchers see the failure of a rocket. A little calculation, an estimation error is all they can think of. The Machiavellian feels let down, as though he has missed some vital gossip. He behaves as if he has been out of touch, acts as if the error is almost a personal flaw. The third group counters a failed story with another story. They are masters of "on the other hand", experts on the "but".
What one misses in each of these presentations is a sense of the political as a craft, as values, as the play of the logic of a society, or a party, as economic dynamics. One misses the rough and tumble of power. In fact, figures like Mamata or Jayalalithaa seem alien to all three forms of political analysis. Yet who can deny that both are immensely political but operate according to a logic of politics that eludes current political analysis, which confuses prediction with understanding.
Jayalalithaa is read like an ice maiden and Mamata like a fact of nature who has entered politics but is not quite political. The analyst can never forgive her for what the people have — her failure as railway minister. They feel contempt for Mamata, see her as an unexplainable tsunami-like force which should disappear once the impact is achieved. They feel she is illiterate about governance. For them, the Marxists look more politically real even after they have stupefied a state into economic sterility.
The question one asks now is why is it that the plethora of political analyses says so little about politics? Are political analysts as a group too much of a club such that their intelligence has turned incestuous? Or has politics become a different language, a populist game which refuses translation into their creamy social science categories?
All three groups salute the success of democracy and the wisdom of the voter but they all seem distant from the voter. One has heard of political cronyism but what one is facing is analytical cronyism. The latter is a situation where all the analysts come from homogenous backgrounds, project their wishlists and their favourite stories on to a politics which is ruthlessly and unforgivingly dynamic. One is almost tempted to facetiously ask whether they are present not for the truths they seek but for the entertainment they provide. Politics demands stories. Politics is desperately in need of analysis. But there is a failure of storytelling and analysis that democracy needs to reflect on. It needs a sense of humility, a feeling for the classic, but, above all, a craftsman's sense of an instrument where one has to politically tune oneself to a different reality. One hopes commentary can rework itself the way politics perpetually does.

Shiv Visvanathan is a social scientist






For a long time, until voter identity cards became an obligatory feature of elections, horror stories of electoral malpractice were routinely heard in West Bengal. There were instances of entire mohallas being excluded from electoral rolls; there were tales of non-Left parties being prevented from stationing polling agents; and, finally, there was an epidemic of organised impersonation.

The phenomenon of proxy voting was particularly interesting. In some cases, the Comrades identified potential "class enemies" and ensured that someone voted for them before they arrived to vote. In other cases, stealth was unnecessary: the Comrades merely informed the relevant people that they had been spared the trouble of joining a long queue on voting day. "Stay at home and enjoy a holiday", the householders were cheekily told. On their part, the cadres emulated the Irish principle "vote early, vote often".
The magnitude of what came to be known as Bengal's "scientific rigging" was known in relevant circles and, not least, the media. That electoral malpractice existed in an overall climate of fear and high-handedness was also known. The remarkable feature of the flood of post-election reports dissecting the oppressive control wielded by the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) on Bengali society is that they didn't surface earlier. For nearly three decades, India's "civil society" chose to live in wilful denial of the Left's depredations.
That tyranny and Communist-run governments are inseparable don't need much elaboration. History has established a place for Stalin, Pol Pot and Mao Zedong among the great mass murderers of all times. The international Communist movement that once claimed that "history is on our side" abruptly fell to pieces after 1989 when an oppressed people rose and threw out the Commissars without a tinge of remorse. Some of the defining symbols of post-War Europe — the Berlin Wall, KGB, Staasi and the May Day parade on Red Square — are just memory today.
In view of the global disrepute of the "dictatorship of the proletariat", it was curious that the Left in India retained its moral halo in the eyes of the intelligentsia and media. More important, it persisted with the delusion of infallibility. On May 13, as the scale of the Left Front defeat in West Bengal became evident, the CPI(M) Comrades didn't budge from their arrogant, self-righteousness — although the CPI seemed in a more reflective mood.
Apart from an outburst by an ex-minister who won his seat in the Sunderbans and the outgoing chief minister who chose the dignity of silence, the CPI(M) leadership were in no mood for public self-flagellation. In one TV channel, a well-spoken Central Committee member of the CPI(M) said quite uninhibitedly that the people had failed to comprehend the party's nuanced arguments. After the Politburo meeting on May 16, the CPI(M) sneeringly informed its critics that "Electoral politics is just a part of our agenda. There are many issues of ideology, people's rights and related agitations and struggles that we must keep up". The message was clear: the CPI(M) is an instrument of history; it can't be held hostage to people's votes.
In September last year, CPI(M) ideologue Prabhat Patnaik, professor of economics at Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University, wrote an article to a Kolkata newspaper in defence of the party. It's a document that exemplifies the Communist conviction that it is they, and only they, that have the monopoly of all earthly wisdom. Why, he asked, did more than half the electorate in "two most intellectually advanced states in India" consistently vote for the Left Front? And why, despite "all its omissions and commissions" does the CPI(M) still attract "some of the finest young minds" in India?
The reasons were three-fold, argued Mr Patnaik, and held good for both the CPI(M) and the organised Left movement as a whole. "First, it is the only modern force in politics; second, it is the only consistent democratic force in Indian politics; and, thirdly, it is the only consistently anti-imperialist force in Indian politics".
To understand the ability of the Left to live in a world of its own virtuous imagination, it is worth quoting from Mr Patnaik's defence of the CPI(M)'s claim to be the "only" democratic force: "Critics often point to this or that misdemeanour on the part of the CPI(M) cadre, this or that action on the part of the CPI(M) 'hoodlums' to contest the CPI(M)'s commitment to democracy. But even if each of the alleged misdemeanours happens to be true, it would be crass empiricism — or, what comes to the same thing, crass moralism — to deny the CPI(M)'s historical commitment to democracy from a set of individual incidents of the sort that all political formations at the ground level can be accused of".
In plain language, Mr Patnaik has said that the normal standards of disrepute and contamination don't affect the CPI(M) — to even suggest so is tantamount to "crass moralism" — because the party of the Red Flag is thrice blessed. Even the "pervasive association" of Communism with one-party rule, he says, lacks "theoretical justification".
It is unfortunate for the Left movement that the voters of "intellectually advanced" West Bengal embraced "crass empiricism" and "crass moralism" of Mamata Banerjee and shunned modernism, democracy and anti-imperialism. Its defeat in a state after 34 years has ominous implications for the physical safety of those cadres who tried to force-feed people's democracy to what Karl Marx may have called "sacks of potatoes". But the national impact of the Bengal loss is more profound.
In India, the Communist movement averted the crisis of Left politics that hit individual Communists and their fellow travellers after the Soviet Union collapse by projecting Bengal as the alternative socialist experiment in a "bourgeois-landlord" state. Bengal encapsulated the Left's politics, its economics and its cultural modernism. Last week, it was the totality of that alternative built on political intolerance and intellectual conceit that crumbled. Having waited for the returns from political alchemy, the voters finally allowed their common sense to prevail.

Swapan Dasgupta is a senior journalist






"Freedom is in peril. Defend it with all your might." That was the slogan that was carried atop the masthead of National Herald, the newspaper that Jawaharlal Nehru founded in 1938 (it shut shop in 2008). The slogan was written in Nehru's elegant hand and bespoke the first Prime Minister's commitment to free speech.

Today, that freedom is imperilled by the Internet Control Rules introduced recently with relative despatch.
These rules are omnibus. They are inadequately defined. Where the Internet is concerned, they have the potential to turn India into a police state, no freer than China. And we had thought that the rise of the Internet marked the break of a new dawn of freedom.
Particularly pernicious are the intermediaries' liability rules. Intermediaries are the purveyors of third-party content on the Internet and include Internet Service Providers (ISPs), portals of all kinds, social networks, search engines, blogging platforms and Web-hosting service providers. According to the Information Technology (Intermediaries Guidelines) Rules, 2011, notified under Section 79 of the Information Technology Act, 2000, intermediaries enjoy exemption from liability for the third-party content they host provided they observe due diligence. And how are they to exercise due diligence? That is where the problems arise.
Intermediaries, for instance, have to ensure that users do not put out content that, among other things, "is grossly harmful, harassing, blasphemous, defamatory, obscene, pornographic, paedophilic, libellous, invasive of another's privacy, hateful, or racially, ethnically objectionable, disparaging, relating or encouraging money laundering or gambling, or otherwise unlawful in any manner whatever;
w harm minors in any way;
w infringes any patent, trademark, copyright or other proprietary rights;
w threatens the unity, integrity, defence, security or sovereignty of India, friendly relations with foreign states, or public order or causes incitement to the commission of any cognisable offence or prevents investigation of any offence or is insulting any other nation".
The specification could not be more sweeping and catch-all. Anything could be described as "grossly harmful", "harassing", "blasphemous", "defamatory", "ethnically objectionable" or "disparaging". For instance, the Internet could be happy hunting grounds for those who today object to every other commercial film on the ground that it hurts their sensitivities. Harsh criticism of the state of affairs in any part of the country could be interpreted as threatening public order. Criticism of the regime or policies with any foreign country could be described as harmful of friendly relations with that country. The list could go on.
What do you have to do if you don't like anything on the Net? All you have to do is make a formal complaint to the intermediary concerned. It will be obliged to act within 36 hours and, where applicable, work with the user or owner to disable the offending content. So, the onus is on the intermediary to take a call and act. Just about anybody can make a complaint about anything. Any representative of the state, anywhere in India, could take exception to anything on the Net and lodge a complaint. The intermediary is obliged to act within 36 hours. If it does not, it stands to lose the freedom to purvey information.
No prizes for guessing what the proclivity of intermediaries will be. They will be inclined to play safe. Succinctly put, there is scope for mischief. There is scope for mayhem. Above all, there is a mandate for indirect censorship. This is exactly what Google has complained about. In an official statement, it has said, "If Internet platforms are held liable for third-party content, it would lead to self-censorship and reduce the free flow of information". This is a throwback to the great debate in international forums in the 1970s and 1980s between the votaries of the doctrine of free flow of information and the champions of a new world information and communication order. Then, as now, official India was no champion of the free flow of information!
Newly notified rules relating to cyber cafes are as exceptionable, designed as they are to enhance surveillance and inhibit free and easy access to information. Every cyber café user must now show proper ID proof, a copy of which the owner must store ("securely maintain") for at least one year. A student does not have proper ID proof? No problem. She must bring along an adult who has one! The cyber café owner must then photograph the user and maintain time logs of usage. He must submit these, with her photograph and personal information, along with data relating to other users, to appropriate authorities every month.
There is more. The cyber café owner must also maintain logs of online activity by any user in his establishment and store this information for at least a year. Further, if the cyber café has cubicles and partitions, no minor may use the facility unless she is accompanied by an adult. So much for promoting the Internet culture among students.
Privacy? What's that? Potential for harassment by both authorities and cyber café owners? Yes, of course, there is plenty. Surveillance? Big Brother gets one more weapon with which to browbeat citizens.
Predictably, there has been an outcry against these rules, especially the ones relating to the liability of intermediaries. The department of information technology has taken note of these protests and, in a long official statement, disavowed any intention to regulate content "in a highly subjective and possibly arbitrary manner". Frankly, the government doth protest too much. Nor can it argue that the proclivity to use the law to curb free speech is a thing of the past. Just the other day (on May 17, to be precise) a newspaper reporter in Mumbai was arrested under the Official Secrets Act of 1923. His crime: He had entered "a prohibited place" on the premises of the VT railway station and gathered material for a story.
The mandarins who framed these Internet Control Rules should have paid heed to what the founding fathers of the Republic had to say about free speech. Nehru had said: "Imposing restriction you do not change anything; you merely suppress the public manifestation of certain things, thereby causing the ideas and thought underlying them to spread further. Therefore, I would rather have a completely free press, with all the dangers involved in the wrong use of that freedom, than a suppressed or regulated press".
Gandhi was even clearer in his mind about the paramountcy of choice: "The useful and the useless must, like good and evil, generally go together and man must make the choice". And "the restoration of free speech, free association and free press is almost the whole of swaraj". If these be the principles on which India was founded, why must our mandarins go about thwarting free speech and free access to information in the ham-handed and blunt manner they have?

Vivek Sengupta, public affairs analyst, is founder and chief executive of the consulting firm Moving Finger







Minister for Forests and Environment, Mian Altaf says that the much awaited Mughal road will be thrown open to vehicular traffic this fiscal year. He claimed that work on the construction of the road was in progress on both ends. This is good news and brings relief to the people of Rajouri and Poonch districts who had to travel a long circuitous road to reach Srinagar. The demand for reconstructing the Mughal road as the second link to valley has been there for decades but owing to several reasons, especially the security reason its reconstruction had been delayed inordinately. The link established by the militants infiltrating from Poonch, Rajouri, Mandi areas and then making it over the Pir Panchal ridges to Ramban, Kishtwar and Doda became the catalyst to speeding up the construction of this road. Apart from that the road when declared motorable will drastically impact economic and cultural life of Rajouri and Poonch districts. The original Mughal road originated in Jhelum town of Punjab (Pakistan), and then touched Kotli (in PoK), Thanamandi (Rajouri District) and finally Chandimarh located in Pir Panchal mountains. Here one branch crosses over to Shopian via Hurpora. As per the blueprint, the road from Bafliaz to Shopian is 89 kms and it will criss-cross 11,500 to 130,000 feet high Pir Panchal mountain ranges, which is higher than Banihal pass on Jammu-Srinagar national highway and the present entry point to Kashmir valley. Maybe at a later stage a tunnel below the pass may reduce the distance further. Besides, 49 km of road is steep and 20 km rolling down mountain stretches. The road will be constructed from Bafliaz (Poonch) through Chandimarh, Dugram, and Pir Panchal Pass, Ghurd, Aliabad Sarai, Sukh Sarai and Hurpora to Shopian. The road still has several monuments constructed by the Mughals.
It was at Chingus in Rajouri District where Emperor Jehangir died while returning from Kashmir. On this road, a rest house was built by the Mughals, which still exists at Muradapora. There was another rest house at Nayn Sukh (Fatehpur), a grand Sarai at Thanamandi and a terrace at Noori Chhamb water falls named after Noor Jehan, the queen of Jehangir. A grand Mughal rest house still stands at verdurous mountain peak at Chandimarh on the Mughal road followed by small rest houses at Aliabad, Ziarat of Peer Baba at Pir-Ki-Gali, Dubjian, near Sulphur Springs and a big rest house now in dilapidated condition at Hurpura.
Apart from serving as alternative highway between Srinagar and Jammu, the Mughal Road would also create an environment conducive for greater inter-regional cultural and economic exchanges. The geographical isolation of the specific areas, which discouraged people to people contact, will go away and greater economic activity between the regions would follow especially in respect of Poonch and Rajouri districts. The construction of Mughal road forms part of state plan with support from GOI (PM's Package). The road length of 44.5 kms from Shopian to Peer- ki-Gali in District Pulwama and 40 kms onwards to Bafliaz, in District Poonch was taken up during 2005-06. The road presents scenic view of great attraction which tourists will enjoy. Hurpora, about 12 kms from Shopian, commands a beautiful scenic view. Behramgala is situated at the foothill of 8,600 ft. high Rattan peak about 45 kms from Poonch town. It is a small picturesque spot in a deep gorge. Close by is the confluence of Thatta Pani and Parnai streams which adds to its scenic and natural beauty. Noori Chhamb waterfall like Aharbal is yet another scenic spot along the road with tremendous tourist potential. Fascinated by the beauty and grandeur of the waterfall, Emperor Jehangir had named it Noori Chhamb after his queen Noor Jahan. Bufliaz, another beautiful hill spot situated on the foothill of Peer Rattan range is 39 kms east of Poonch town. Named after the horse Bunifales of Alexander the Great that is said to have died there, Bufliaz is situated on both the banks of River Poonch.
Ultimately, when a rail link is established between Jammu and Poonch, a link that will also connect the Mughal Road, the entire geographical, economic and cultural scenario of Jammu and Kashmir will change considerably. New markets will surface and trade and commerce will receive unprecedented boost. The over 550 km circuitous travel from Poonch to Srinagar will be reduced to just128 kilometers. Ultimately a four lane road will come up one day with tunnels running through the pass and rail connectivity will also become a reality. This means Kashmir is poised for enormous boost in connectivity which is the key to prosperity.







While the state is reeling under unscheduled power cuts both in sweltering summers and chilling winters, the Government seems happy in getting bogged with muddles of power generating companies. Lately a new dispute is in the offing that is likely to drag both the Government and the NHPC to a court of law. It is about double taxation on water usage by the NHPC. The Government interprets its Water Regulatory from its own viewpoint while the NPHC has a different view. We are not concerned with the legalities of the case, but what is of singular importance to the public is the serious disruption in regular power supply. We were told that owing to some technical snag in Baglihar hydroelectric power generating unit proper supply of power had been disrupted. But now that the snag has been corrected there is no justification for enforcing unscheduled power cuts and thus enfeeble the economy and disrupt regular life. It is the duty of the Government to ensure that its disputes with the power generating companies do not adversely affect regular supply of power. When higher authorities are approached by the protesting public, they are asked to see lower authorities and thus the buck is passed from person to person and branch to branch. Previously the excuse was that there is theft of power but with installation of meters, this situation should have changed. Resentment is simmering among the people against the failure of the power development department to ensure regular power supply to consumers. Before the people are forced to come out on streets and turn rowdy or angry, the authorities must try to stem the tide and ensure that regular life is not disrupted.









Why does change in India take so much longer to happen than it does in countries that were once more backward than us? Why does India remain one of the few countries in the world that has been unable to deal with such basic infrastructure needs as roads, clean water and reliable supplies of electricity? These are questions that I ask myself even in India but they become more compelling when I travel to a country like Thailand which has changed before my eyes in the past fifteen years in which I have been coming here regularly. What brings me here is a spa called Chiva Som which is now counted among the best spas in the world but when I first came here in January 1999 it was almost unknown. I confess that I had not heard either of Hua Hin, the seaside town in which Chiva Som exists, because despite being the King of Thailand's favorite seaside resort it was not as much on the tourist map as places like Phuket and Chiang Mai.
When I first came to Hua Hin it was a small, languid, little village to which foreign tourists had just started to come. Local people quickly realized that they needed to find ways to cash in on the dollars that the tourists brought so fishermen's homes became seafood restaurants and night bazaars opened to sell Thai handicrafts and fake designer bags. If this was the contribution of private enterprise let me add that it would not have been possible if the Thai Government had not built a wonderful highway from Bangkok. The highway has brought, as highways always do, prosperity, modern ideas, technology and all the many services that come automatically. So now along the highway there are hotels and restaurants and what were once sleepy villages are now bustling towns with shiny new shops and buildings of glass and steel.
They make a good impression on the traveler and if the traveler is Indian he cannot fail to notice the contrast between our small towns and the ones he sees in Thailand. There is an order to the way in which the towns have been planned. Villages have not been allowed to simply grow in higgledy-piggledy fashion into towns. There are neat streets here in Thailand's new small towns and the buildings that line them appear to have been built according to town planning rules. And, the streets of the towns and villages are clean unlike the streets of Indian towns and villages. To drive from one Indian city to another, as I often do, is to notice with despair the increasingly large heaps of rotting garbage and the pollution that hangs in the air because municipal governance in India has been sacrificed at the altar of centralization.
As long as cities are ruled by state governments they will continue to remain in a state of unspeakable decay. I flew out of Mumbai on a Jet Airways day flight. The international airport now shows distinct signs of catching up with international standards and Jet Airways is among the best airlines in the world but no sooner was I airborne over Mumbai than I noticed the miles and miles of slums. They seem to constitute most of the city's land area and because land in Mumbai is so expensive they should have been demolished long ago. Half of Mumbai's citizens live in slums and pay exorbitant rents for hovels because Mumbai has failed to build the low and middle income housing that it desperately needs.
So we have a situation in Mumbai, and in nearly all our other metropolitan cities, where shiny new airports and magnificent new metro systems exist in the midst of squalid, unsightly surroundings. Primarily, this is because we have politicians and bureaucrats who have not changed their old ways and their outdated mindset but some of the fault is that of us as citizens. When was the last time you saw educated, urban Indians complain about the filthy conditions of our cities and their crumbling infrastructure? The gentry, activists and TV anchors who made such a drama out of Anna Hazare's fast against corruption in Jantar Mantar never demand better living standards. They behaved as if corruption was India's biggest problem. It is not. Our most serious problem is the inability to build basic 21st century infrastructure without which there is little doubt that our great Bharat Mata will by the middle of this century resemble one, gigantic slum. More than 700 million Indians are expected to be living in urban centres by 2050 and to accommodate them experts calculate that we will need to build 500 more towns and cities. We have not started to build the first of these yet.
It is one of the ironies of India that the only people who in election after election have demanded better infrastructure are the rural poor. With the exception of 1977 (when the Emergency became the issue) I cannot remember an election in which the main issue was not 'bijli, sadak, pani'. Even in 1984 when Indira Gandhi's assassination was supposed to have generated a sympathy vote the real vote was for change. India's voters hoped against hope that a young prime minister would bring with him the change in governance that is the key to all change. The results from the recent assembly elections tell the same story. In Tamil Nadu voters refused to be fooled by the inducements of cash and kind they were offered by Karunanidhi and sons. And, in West Bengal younger voters refused to accept any more the subsistence life style that the communists imposed upon them for nearly four decades. They wanted a better life for themselves and their children so they threw the CPM out.
It is our misfortune that the voice of poor Indians is only heard at election time. If it was stronger and louder all the time India would change more rapidly. It is our misfortune that the loudest voices in India are of educated, middle class Indians who are easily fooled into supporting some red herring like the Lokpal bill when there are much more serious issues to protest about. So in the near future India will continue to look like a broken down, decaying country despite impressive economic growth while little countries like Thailand go from strength to strength. Sorry to end on so depressing a note but from where I am this week the contrasts are depressing.








In a party-based electoral democracy like ours, there can be no getting away from the central link between corruption and the need to fund political parties. Until this is confronted head-on, any control devised in one part of the system will merely push corruption to some other part of the system. There has to be some process like that which moved the drafting of the Constitution, which looks into this central cause, and devises some way by which to contain if not quite eliminate it.
In the US, political funding is legal and declared by both giver and receiver, but other problems have arisen in its wake. Policy is susceptible to capture by large funders, and has therefore loosened the regulatory apparatus which alone can prevent large corruption. The legal cap on any single contribution can easily be evaded by a concerted lobby, each member of which is below the cap. In a bid to shake free of this, President Obama famously collected substantial campaign funds through small online contributions, and even now, has begun his bid for a second term with an early start to a second online call.
In India too, political contributions are legal, and even carry an income tax deduction under sections 80GGB and 80GGC of the present Act (soon to be replaced by the Direct Tax Code now before Parliament). But the figures in the latest Union Budget documents show the tax foregone as a result of this deduction at a paltry Rs. 42 crore in 2009-10 from corporate bodies, and Rs. 2 crore from small firms. At current statutory rates of taxation, that works out to a total contribution of Rs. 130 crore. The deductions claimed by individuals under section 80GGC were quite a bit larger, at Rs. 170 crore. Applying the top marginal rate of taxation on these, we get a total contribution from individuals of Rs. 500 crore. Adding together corporate bodies, firms and individuals, we get Rs. 630 crore. Over five years, if initial collections are well invested by party treasurers in the interim, that could amount to nearly Rs. 4,000 crore.
How many parliamentary campaigns would that fund? One candidate each in 400 constituencies, maybe? There are 550 parliamentary constituencies, and at least three other major contenders in each race, who would need equivalent funding. Then there are state elections. These in some cases are more serious business in terms of funding required. In the current campaign in Tamil Nadu, small refrigerators have replaced colour TV sets as the electoral inducement of choice.
You see why political parties have to look elsewhere for funding. The Indian diaspora provides some of it. The rest has to be domestically raised through organised corruption. There is also unorganised corruption, where the demand is placed by an unsupported individual, which takes inspiration from the organised variety and runs along the same channels.
As an illustration, some years ago I was travelling by auto-rickshaw in Bangalore, when at a traffic stoplight, a cop came over to my driver and demanded Rs. 100. The driver pleaded poverty. The cop described himself as a kind-hearted man, trying to save the driver the penalty for the traffic offence he had committed, which was Rs. 500. The driver furiously disputed the charge, and the cop eventually let him off.
No move to legalise bribe giving could have headed off the incident. The cop was anonymous. If traced, he could have turned the tables on the auto driver, and accused him of trying to wriggle out of a traffic offence. Even if bribe giving becomes legal, an allegation of obstruction of justice will always carry the day. No witness could have testified against that accusation.
Later, the driver said the only reason he was let off was that this was an individual without the department behind him. He said in cases of organised collection by the police department in response to demands from above, the demander gets to keep none of what he collects, and even gets the sympathy of the bribe giver.
In the old import control days, the banned and restricted lists were a steady source of income for political coffers. Defence deals are another perennial standby. The pattern of collection evolves continually. The only people who have an understanding of the pattern of organised collection as it stands today are the treasurers of the various political parties. They are deeply knowledgeable, and have gained their very important posts as fund-raisers by virtue of the trust the party places in them. As people in stressful jobs, they might extend their cooperation towards devising a more open system of political funding.
But what might such a system be? Maybe a political cess, to add to all the others now in place? But that will surely bring upon us cess fatigue, particularly since we do not know what is happening to all the other cesses we have been paying.
At a recent conference on renewable energy, questions were raised about the cess on coal, which feeds into a Clean Energy Fund. One speaker estimated that the accumulated collections from the cess should have amounted to Rs. 3,332 crore by the end of 2010-11. But the Fund has become a black hole, from which nothing emerges. Renewable energy, which is characterized by the natural regional imbalance in generation capacity, critically needs transmission lines to evacuate the energy generated. It was to fund those transmission lines, along with other facilitative investments towards replacing thermal with renewable energy, that the cess on coal was introduced.
Against this background, yet another cess will not be welcomed at all. And there are huge issues that will go with it, such as how the fund is to be distributed among political parties. But some such mechanism has to be devised if we are serious about tackling corruption in the Indian system. (INAV)
(The writer is retired IPS officer)







There are wheels within wheels in the five Assembly election results, announced on Friday, May 13. There are bonus points for the Congress and some slippery portent. But having ruled the United Progressive Alliance for seven years or more and being a seasoned player, it will go along the tricky path and cross the bridges when it reaches them, without batting an eyelid and sometimes agree to bat the eyelid, if the situation so requires. Not only has the Congress won Assam and Kerala and entered West Bengal, it has found itself capable of getting rid of the much maligned DMK led by Mr. Karunanidhi and his younger son, Stalin, who was ruling Tamil Nadu as Deputy Chief Minister. He has not even won an Assembly seat.
For starters the Congress gets a foothold in West Bengal as Mamta Bannerjee insists that the Congress must be in the coalition Government. The Congress has been out of the reckoning for 34 long years: the fiery Trinamool Congress leader, who was in the Congress until the other day, says that the reason for the long leftist rule was or has been that leave alone rigging the elections, there were no voting rights because voters' lists had been rigged. The minus point in Bengal is that the Maoists have also got a strong foothold and will be ruthless with the CPI (Marxists). The two sides have no love lost and for each other, their power lies in the barrel of the gun even as the Marxists threaten that they will take to the streets and agitate to try and give Mamta a taste of her own medicine she has administered to them. However, they promise to give her a 90-day honeymoon in office in keeping with their pretensions of adherence to democratic norms. But one thing is certain, the streets of Kolkata and other cities as well as villages will not be calm after the monsoon as venturing out in numbers will not be too good an idea in the searing heat or lashing rains.
Even though there may be reservation of seats for women in Parliament and legislators, their leaders are in the process of capturing power. In West Bengal and Tamil Nadu, the new Chief Ministers or just about to be sworn in are Mamta Bannerjee and Ms. Jayalalitha, adding to their numbers with Ms. Mayawati ruling Uttar Pradesh and Mrs. Sheila Dikshit running Delhi. The President of the Republic, the Speaker of the Lok Sabha, the Chairperson of the UPA as well as Congress President are all women in strong position and calling the shots from their vantage points.
Mr. Karunanidhi and his younger son may have been thrown out of office by a wily and mercurial person, who can play games with the Center by offering the UPA unconditional support initially to enable it to get rid of the DMK from the Government, but as time passes she will attach many strings. No free lunches: that's the name of the game.
But Sonia Gandhi's advisers know how to play hard and not be taken in by false or smooth promises. Ms. Jayalalitha may be looking gracious without make-up and may be all sweetness and honey, but the mask could disappear at a time of her choosing. She would make demands, acceptable and unacceptable as weeks and months go by. That's all part of the political woods and the players take it in their stride. For that reason, the DMK may not be forced to quit and withdraw its Ministers from the Center, but the going will become hard for its Ministers as they will not, and cannot, expect to go on with their cavalier ways as they have been doing as A. Raja, who once held the Telecom portfolio knows too well and is cooling his heels in Delhi's Tihar judicial custody.
In Assam, the Congress has romped home comfortably, giving credence to Tarun Gogoi's good governance as Chief Minister. The importance of Assam lies in the fact that the Prime Minister entered the Rajya Sabha from this State. That gives him satisfaction that his party still rules the State and faces no incumbency factor.
The Congress has had a close shave in Kerala where the United Democratic Front it leads has scraped through with a bare majority and Left Front led by V.S.Achhutanandan has been defeated by four seats. The political crisis in the Bengal and Kerala factions of the Marxist Commiunists will be heightened and the party boss, Mr. Prakash Karat, will face new attacks and challenges to his leadership with his party having been thrown out of office in the two key States it has ruled, though in Kerala for only five years as change in the Southern State with every election is a well set pattern.
As it is, the BJP has made no impact in the just concluded Assembly elections in the five States. [NPA]










Slowly but surely, the scion of the Nehru-Gandhi family and virtual heir-apparent, Rahul Gandhi, is moving to political centrestage and carving out a constituency for himself among the downtrodden on the one hand and the urban youth on the other.


His recent statement on atrocities committed against some village folk by the U.P. police under Chief Minister Mayawati's dispensation may have been criticised for being exaggerated and overdrawn, but it has struck an approving chord among farmers in general who form an important vote bank.


The manner in which he rode on a motorcyle to the Greater Noida village of Bhatta Parsaul where four people had died over land acquisition when villagers clashed with policemen earlier this month, and the strong statement he made, wrested the initiative away from the BJP which was preparing to make an issue of it. By following it up with leading a delegation of farmers to the Prime Minister and handing over pictures of burnt bodies, ashes with bones and ransacked houses to him and later to the media, Rahul gave out a clear message to those who may have had any doubts that he wielded clout in the highest circles.


In the last few years since Rahul came into active politics, he has also been striving to handpick young men and women as Congress candidates in elections. That only a few of these have found their way into state assemblies and Parliament is a fact but insofar as the strategy is to position him as a protagonist of the country's youth, it is gradually seeping into young minds. In repeatedly championing the cause of the poor and of the urban youth, Rahul has consciously lived down his elitist upbringing as a part of a conscious strategy.


Yet, all said and done, Rahul Gandhi has some way to go before he is seen widely as a mass leader justifying his heir-apparent tag. In the incident at Bhatta Parsaul, his statement on "mass murder and rape" and the subsequent watering down of that version has brought his credibility a few notches lower. Now that every action and statement of his is under scrutiny, he needs to learn to be more credible, responsible and better-informed.









First Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, his son, wife and others got acquitted of corruption charges. Now it is Punjab Speaker Nirmal Singh Kahlon's turn to be pronounced "not guilty" of making scandalous recruitments during his term as a minister (1997-2002) in the previous Badal council of ministers. Few will buy their argument that the cases against them were the result of political vendetta.


That could have been possible had they faced a fair legal battle and emerged victorious. Here they have apparently used their positions of power to influence the witnesses and the prosecution. Otherwise, how could such a large number of witnesses turn hostile? Vigilance has been used.


Besides, in both cases the courts have passed damning strictures against the Vigilance officials in charge of investigations. One of them – IPS officer Surinder Pal Singh – was involved in both high-profile acquittals and faced the courts' wrath for doing a shoddy job. The prosecuting officials' complicity is self-evident as is the courts' helplessness in the face of lack of evidence. Last year some Akali and Congress MLAs had floated the bright idea of withdrawing legal cases against each other. Fortunately, former Chief Minister Amarinder Singh scuttled the obnoxious game plan.


The larger question now is: Should politicians facing serious criminal charges be allowed to contest elections? It is established that once elected, they do tend to influence the system of justice. Conviction is a deterrent to entering the poll fray or retaining a ministerial position, but given the dilatory legal procedures, convictions of politicians are rare, if not impossible. As for remedies, Capt Amarinder Singh talks of putting Vigilance under a retired judge. Empowering the Lok Ayukta can be helpful. Punjab needs drastic steps as politicians here have even foiled the Supreme Court's attempt to insulate the police from political interference. How to make politicians pay for looting public money is a problem that needs a wider debate and a pragmatic solution.












The correlation between hygiene and health can never be underestimated. Thus the Health Ministry's approval to supply sanitary napkins to rural girls at a price of Re 1 per napkin deserves to be commended. The scheme under the National Rural Health Mission's brand "Freedays" that intends to initially cover 1.5 crore girls.


In a country whose sanitation record leaves a lot to be desired, where more people have cell phones than access to toilets, any move that will bring about greater access to hygienic practices is welcome.


Reports have time and again underlined the staggering cost of insanitation. Poor sanitation adversely affects the health of millions. According to a World Bank report every tenth death in 2006 in India was linked to sanitation-related diseases. The price of bad sanitation is borne by adults as well as small children aged below five many of whom die due to diarrhoea. Absence of menstrual care not only affects the reproductive health of women and contributes to reproductive tract infections; in rural areas it also hampers the ability of girls to attend schools. Due to inadequate menstrual care, girls from villages are reported to have lost out on 50 day of schooling a year. Menstrual hygiene care, however, is only one aspect of sanitation. There are many ills, especially open defecation, considered the riskiest sanitation practice, that afflict India.


Insanitation stems from poor financial conditions, absence of sanitation facilities and lack of awareness. It is a shame that India that is vying to be an economic power cannot provide basic amenities to its citizens. Examples like that of Sulabh sanitation movement and initiatives like the one in Tiruchirapally, ranked sixth in India's sanitation rankings, have shown the way. Sanitation facilities can be provided at a low cost. Instead of wasting resources on prevention and cure, India that loses out Rs 2.4 trillion a year due to insanitation, must boost hygienic practices. To cover up its sanitation deficit, efforts like the new scheme have to be continuously made.









Has India's polity evolved in a dramatic fashion after the string of recent assembly elections? That is the question pundits are poring over as the enormity of change in West Bengal seeps in and the size of Ms Jayalathaa's victory in Tamil Nadu becomes clear. Assam was a more clear-cut case and Puducherry's revolt of Congressmen was in the classic mode.


In West Bengal, disillusionment with the CPM has been building up over time; in any case, a consecutive run of 34 years for any political party in unhealthy in a democracy. It needed a forceful agent of change in the person of Ms Banerjee to bring about the change. The Marxists had clearly lost their élan and were living on their initial land reforms and by merging their cadres and administrative reosponsibilities and, above all, the power of the party goons.


The fact that Marxist cadres overdid their strong-arm tactics in Singur was a godsend for the opposition and Ms Banerjee's Trinamool Congress gave the CPM a taste of its own medicine to exploit the evocative issue of land. Having been exposed by the inefficacy of their traditional route of suppressing dissent, given the opposition, the Marxists had to accept defeat. And the CPM leadership, long accustomed to having its way, had no fall-back position.


In Tamil Nadu, used as it was to competing Dravidian parties holding alternative sway, the enormity of the swing had its own story to tell. Even in a state used to freebies and other inducements offered to voters, the scale of corruption denoted by issues such as the 2G spectrum case and the nepotism involved in dividing the state among Chief Minister Karunanidhi's sons and other family members had reached an unprecedented level. And Ms Jayalalithaa, herself no stranger to charges of corruption and nepotism, walked away with a big majority.


Kerala has always been a world of its own, with the mosaic of religious communities and deep fissures producing a melange led by the competing Congress and the CPM. It was a close call for the Congress-led United Democratic Front this time around, but that was because of the Congress' own problems and the popularity of the Left Democratic Front chief minister, Mr V.S. Achuthanandan, subjected to his own party's attacks than to any dramatic change in the traditional equations.


In Assam, Mr Tarun Gogoi achieved a rare hat trick in returning to power, aided by his concept of inclusiveness and visible development projects. In a state where security is a precious commodity, he projected the hope of bringing the rebel ULFA elements into the mainstream and faced a hopelessly divided opposition, each interested in its own ambitions.


But there are broader lessons to be learned for the Congress and the other main national party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The Congress is at a disadvantage because centralisation of authority comes naturally to a party presided over by a family dynasty. This limits the room for a state Chief Minister, who becomes less attractive in an era of linguistic and regional nationalism. Mr Gogoi was able to carve space for himself, given the special problems of a frontier state. A successful Congress regional satrap was Mr Y.S. Rajashekhara Reddy in Andhra Pradesh, with his son Jaganmohan Reddy claiming his father's crown after his accidental death, failing which he formed his own party and trounced the Congress in a parliamentary by-election.


Family dynasties are no longer a Congress monopoly, but a problem with how the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty has evolved in the party has led to the feeling among sons and daughters of Congress politicians that filling the shoes of their father is their birthright. How else can one explain the actions of Mr Jagmohan Reddy in wanting instant transfer of authority to him after his father's death?


In the BJP's case, there are enough family members of leaders, particularly at the regional level, getting their progeny in place. But the party gives greater autonomy to regional leaders although the picture is complicated by the dual control exercised by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). A case in point is Gujarat's Mr Narendra Modi, who exercises untrammelled power because he has the sanction of the RSS and has even been presented as a future Prime Minister although his divisive communal policies would seem to rule him out.


In essence, one lesson of the assembly election is that the national parties must strike a balance between giving a state leader room to grow while enforcing its broad discipline over policies and personnel. A second outcome of the assembly elections carries the warning that undue reliance on freebies or cash is becoming counter-productive. Voters in the southern states are particularly susceptible to such inducements but are now demonstrating that they can accept gifts and vote as they wish. The Election Commission's greater vigilance on bribery has also helped diminish this practice somewhat.


Perhaps the greatest lesson of all from these elections is that people are becoming impatient in seeking the fruits of development and progress. Promises by themselves hold less sway and voters go by the hoary adage that the proof of the pudding is in the eating. The pace of life has accelerated in recent times, with modern technology making communication more democratic. Dissemination of news and views is no longer the preserve of the elite, and politicians cannot take people for a ride.


However, the secret of success remains what it has always been: sincerity in implementing programmes and empathy with the problems of the masses — too many in the category of aam admi remain below the poverty line and want a piece of the action as the country progresses.









WE were taught early in life that punctuality is the virtue of kings. We realised as we grew up that nowhere was this more true than in contemporary India — having abolished the institution of kingship we turned our backs completely and firmly on all attempts at punctuality.


Having grown up in a rather austere middle class home and been trained in the army I found it extremely difficult and painful to break the habit of punctuality and even today, in spite of my best efforts, I do not think I have altogether succeeded.


The most glaring of these is my inability to cope with the timing of dinner invitations. When an invitation was for 7-30 pm, I would turn up at 7-35, much to my host's consternation. Not only was I the first guest to arrive but the next guest did not turn up till nine and dinner would never be served till 11. Amazingly, in spite of what has become standard and accepted practice, the invitations still ask you to come at 7-30. The most I have been able to achieve by way of compromise is to arrive at eight. As far as dinner is concerned, I now eat at home before setting out.


Some years ago, we had a moment of blind panic, when the chief guest for a school function did not arrive even 15 minutes after the scheduled time. Fortunately, we had another distinguished guest and he was persuaded to take over the role. Everything proceeded beautifully and our 'chief guest's' spontaneous speech flowed with an ease which no prepared speech could ever have. He spoke from the heart and had the children alternately laughing their guts out and being moved to tears.


Half an hour later, there was a flurry of movement which announced the arrival of our 'real' chief guest. I felt another wave of blind panic but fortunately the VIP was so peeved by the fact that we had started without him that he made a quick and angry exit and the function went off without any further hitch.


Years later, when I had become old enough to be regarded as a fossil and be invited as chief guest to school functions. I arrived at the first of these functions dot on time, much to the embarrassment of the Principal.


"But our chief guest never comes less than half an hour late," he said accusingly and I cringed with guilt. I then adopted the practice of letting the Principal know that even though I would arrive on time I was quite prepared to wait out the mandatory half an hour in his office.


I often hear teachers and parents bemoaning the loss of values in the young. Most strongly felt is the loss of respect for others' time. I can only smile to myself at this complaining. We can't really blame them because this is what we have taught them through our own example.










The seven Zonal Cultural Centres, set up in 1985 by Rajiv Gandhi, were centered round the idea of 'unity in diversity.' 


Created at a time when India had been an independent country for four decades, the need was to prove to the world community that though India was a young democracy, it evolved from an old civilization.


While its ancientness could be showcased through classical arts, display of unique diversity required cultural hues of the masses.


Thus, while the ICCR and the National Akademis were set up in 1950, to address the former concerns, in contrast, the ZCCs, set up thirty five years later, were more egalitarian, broad based and embracing, clearly directed towards achieving the latter ideal.

The emergence of centrifugal forces

At that particular juncture, it was more important to celebrate its unique multiculturalism while addressing and mitigating the politically centrifugal forces that had begun to raise their head, once the first flush of independence had receded. Part of the disenchantment had also set in due to the establishment of inequalities of development. This resulted in lopsided progress, which created rural to urban migrations and a host of social problems that arose from the breaking up of the protective net of close- knit communities.


Even though many secessionist and anti- national movements in India date back to the 70s and the 80s, including the Khalistan movement, ULFA (1979), the Bodoland movement ( 1987), to name just three, by 1980, it was also estimated that around 30 Naxalite groups were active in different parts of India, with a combined membership of 30,000. Yet, for most of India, the 80s and 90s were a period of decentralization, of maturation, of federalism and hence it was not always necessary to invoke the national sentiment. Invoking regional identities was sufficient. Thus the ZCC's covered composite geographical regions- sharing significant cultural similarities, and were deliberately not head -quartered in state capitals but cultural capitals – Thanjavur, Allahabad, Patiala, Dimapur, Nagpur, Udaipur and Salt Lake City.

What ails the ZCCs ?


But, both the budgets and staffing, despite the provision of wide casting of its human resource net, remained mostly in the hands of IAS. Within a short while, the offices and functioning of the ZCCs fast began to reflect government officialdom. The Zonal Cultural Centres forgot that ZCCs are not for programming in urban venues, nor only for folk arts. They were for what Mani Shankar Aiyar, who had been part of the meeting, chaired by Rajiv Gandhi, where the idea of the ZCCs had originally been born, reinforces- "For the rural audiences and for preserving languishing arts."

The comfort of working in urban auditoriums by ZCC s has ended up duplicating the work that other agencies were doing. Thus the outlays available to the multiple government agencies working in the constituency of the arts, ended up deepening the access available to the already served consumers of culture. In the years of its existence, while many of the folk artistes owe their continuing artistic profile to the efforts of the ZCCs, the undermining of the vernacular speaking folk artistes in contrast to the urban, English speaking classical artistes, seemed to dilute their achievements.

Further, the role of identifying threatened and vulnerable art forms, unearthing undocumented arts and artistes, remained a distant dream. Many arts are fast disappearing and that too without even a trace of documentation. Revivals are possible, as seen in the case of dastangoi. The Zonal Cultural Centres are already a system in place, but not working to the optimum level.

How do you read this map?


Today, far too many Indians feel alienated enough to hit at the political unity of India, by seeking secession, and raising the flag of insurgency. There is a far more urgent need to visit institutions of soft power, especially those that validate identities and caress bruised sensibilities. The tendency to adopt a caste system in the arts, to pigeon hole the arts into classical and folk, into urban and rural, into high and low, just because we feel uncomfortable by a large mosaic of "hues and colours" has to be abandoned forthwith in favour of inclusiveness.

Since the ZCCs were originally planned for rural audiences, let us not forget that they constitute a very keen constituency that lives with song and dance as markers of a way of life. The chances of them being more proactive about any cultural impulses, from familiar areas or unfamiliar, is more likely to be encouraging than the reaction of those who are detached from their cultural due. Instead of fighting the cultural ennui that has entered urban audiences, instead of trying to draw them away from an embarrassment of choices, the effort of the ZCCs should focus on tuning in to the matching frequencies of "emotional integration".

The exaggerated sense of entitlement felt by some artistes has to give way to a broad-based inclusiveness in the arts. Traditional artistes have to be given their due, recognition and respect. The ZCCs are the only body that can speak for them, failing which they will blip out of the radar, as they are unlikely to speak for themselves. If for social upliftment of backward classes, the government can think of having reservations, then by the same logic and argument, traditional artistes have to be given a shoulder up trough preferential patronage, planning and programming.

Could it be centripetal ?


In a country like India, where the sheer size and the diversity of the arts, would demand a huge spend, low cost models, or models of shared costs must be explored. It may also become necessary to draw on corporate support, even if it is just 'Backyard CSR'. Many of the corporates have to bow to environmental groups to limit or make good the damage they do to the environment. But environments are not only biological eco-systems, an equally fragile system that often gets damaged as fast and as irretrievably is the cultural ecology. Corporate houses can be made aware of this damage and be encouraged to help build resilience in cultural communities through investment in their intangible property.

One can advocate for a quantum leap for the arts and culture, by recommending their mainstreaming amongst all the Ministries, in the same manner as has happened with HIV. As it is, there is a strong connect with schemes of Ministries of Women and Child Development, Youth and Sports Affairs, Rural Development and Panchayati Raj, External Affairs, Tourism, Poverty Alleviation, DONER , Social Justice and Empowerment, Textiles etc. With support coming from so many hands, it will be as if the 'ashtabhuja' Goddess herself has blessed the marginalized, rural, and traditional artist and artisan, for whom to network through the corridors of power for opportunistic patroage is unthinkable, unimaginable and undoable.

It may also be prudent to look at enhancing the role of the National Culture Fund, to help augment the funds for the ZCCs. At present, although the constitution of the NCF refers to support for intangible heritage, it is not being undertaken. But as the NCF itself is going through a revitalization process, it may be possible to link the two. Most certainly, to think the issue holistically, in an interrelated manner today could create some desirable synergies.

Another fiefdom for babus?


In the spirit of Public Private Partnership, the ZCCs should cooperate with several civil society agencies, non- governmental and non- profit organizations, to creatively expand their reach in low cost models. To help the ZCCs to integrate their efforts with other agencies and form networks of support, each ZCC should have a renewing board/ committee made up of representatives of well known cultural personalities, audience members, writers, art scholars and those interested in the arts, to facilitate the process of expanding showcase and outreach possibilities for ZCCs. Complete transparency, and no benefit to board / committee members will help it stay away from the allegations of "crony capitalism" that one often hears whispered, in cultural corridors, apparently permitted unchecked by the existing systems. Independent monitoring and evaluation of programmes, plans and budgets, must be built in from the first stage of the re-engineering. In fact, the setting up of an expert post of Cultural Auditor may be beneficial in the long run to make the rupee go further.

(The writer is a senior art manager and art consultant ) 

More institutions for bureaucracy or culture?


In the report presented in April 2011, by the Aiyar committee consisting of Mani Shankar Aiyar, Amol Palekar and Sitakant Mahapatra, that the Prime Minister appointed in 2010, to evaluate the performance of the ZCCs, one of the recommendations has been the creation of a separate Folk and Tribal Akademi, similar to the Sangeet Natak Akademi, the Lalit Kala Akademi and the Sahitya Akademi.

This body is to work with the Indian Council of Zonal Cultural Centres that would oversee the function of the individual Zonal Centres. Many have reservations about yet another vertical disjointed working system. However, were it to come into existence, to avoid any duplication with the ongoing work of the Akademies, and wasteful expenditure from the limited allocation available to the arts, coordination and collaboration with the Akademies is critical.

The ICZCC does not appear to be the sufficiently empowered bridge body between the ZCCs and other agencies working in the field of the arts. Finally, unless staffed by men and women of passion for the arts, and a trained cadre of arts professionals, no amount of institution multiplying will create the intangible spirit of unity within the distances of our minds and hearts.




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The shareholders of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have been forced to look for a new managing director earlier than they had been prepared for. It was an open secret that Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who has resigned this week following a sex scandal involving an accusation of rape, was planning to declare his candidature in the French presidential elections sometime this summer, perhaps by July. The IMF would then have had to look for a successor anyway. That process has had to begin sooner than expected with Mr Strauss-Kahn's ignominious exit. Several names have been floated in the media, including that of deputy chairman of India's planning commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia. That this media speculation is only half-informed is clear from the fact that both Mr Ahluwalia and Dr Stanley Fischer, governor of the Bank of Israel and former IMF deputy MD, are above the age limit of 65 that has thus far been adhered to in the selection process. This is not a binding constraint since the executive board of the IMF can relax the age restriction and specify any job criterion and selection process it deems fit. Indeed, in the run up to the selection of Mr Strauss-Kahn the Fund's executive board laid down, for the first time, a selection criterion that specified professional qualifications of the candidate, moving away from the earlier practice of restricting the selection to a European. Under the IMF's articles of agreement, the board is responsible for the selection of the MD and any executive director may propose a name, regardless of nationality.

Before selecting Mr Strauss-Kahn, the IMF board had defined the 'successful candidate' as one who would have a "distinguished record in economic policymaking at senior levels. He or she will have an outstanding professional background, will have demonstrated the managerial and diplomatic skills needed to lead a global institution." Most names that have figured in the media, including that of Mr Ahluwalia (who headed the Fund's independent evaluation office with distinction) would fit that bill. While German chancellor Angela Merkel has already claimed the post for a European, a Chinese official has called for "fairness, transparency and merit" in the selection process. More will be heard on these lines in days to come.


What the Fund desperately needs at this point in time is a restoration of credibility, greater policy clout around the world and more policy competence. The next MD has to be a person who can ensure these three Cs. The fact is that there is internal ideological confusion within the IMF on policy issues, with the collapse of the infamous 'Washington Consensus'. This has hurt the Fund's credibility and clout. Given that Greece is the Fund's biggest borrower right now, Germany would want some leverage in the IMF, as Ms Merkel has confessed. Europe is also petrified of its declining global influence and may push hard to retain this one important international job. India need not worry about that. European leadership at the Fund has been kind to India. As a first step, India too should emphasise the need for transparency and merit, even if power politics will end up playing their due role. India has a stake in strong multilateral financial institutions. Whatever and whoever will enhance the three Cs should get India's support.








The judiciary in India has become habituated to usurping the role of the executive and seeking to run ministries, government departments, investigation agencies and the police. It seems the armed forces are the only institution that the judiciary has not yet stepped in to berate, instruct and supervise! In recent months, the judiciary has pronounced on matters ranging from euthanasia and caste violence (honour killings) to tax evasion, corruption and even nutrition and food management. Though, admittedly, the issues taken up by the courts are important and matters of public concern, and win popular acclaim for the judiciary when it flags its concerns, it is not clear how the judiciary can arrogate to itself the roles and responsibilities of the legislature and the executive. Not long ago the Supreme Court decided to express its opinion on the functioning of the public distribution system and instructed the Union government to distribute surplus food grains to the poor free of cost. The judiciary did not appreciate the response of the Union minister for agriculture, Sharad Pawar, who argued that while the suggestion is understandable, it was not a practical policy option. His ministry had to ultimately file an affidavit in the court explaining how the government planned to induct more subsidised grains into the notoriously leaky and inefficient public distribution system, almost humouring the quixotic.

The apex court has now once again come forward with an equally bizarre instruction, asking the government to distribute five million tonnes of additional food grains to the poor in 150 of the most poverty-intensive districts. This, the court says, must be done under the supervision of a committee appointed by it. The court has taken note of rotting food grains, a phenomenon caused by inadequate space for holding stocks, and has asked that these stocks be given away. Going a step further, the court has found fault with the size of the monthly grain quota of 35 kg per household, irrespective of family size, as also with the identification of the poor on the basis of income, rather than nutrition level.


Regardless of the merits of these arguments, none of these ought to be defined by the upholders of law. It is not judicial diktat that must determine the size of food stocks, their use and the criteria for their distribution. While, on the one hand, this order was issued days after the government itself decided to wind down its food stocks and increase supply through PDS, the order also disregards the government's plea that the states were unable to distribute even the previously allotted quantities as is evident from the fact that the actual off take last year was just around 40 per cent of the additional allocation. Thus, the court seems to have no regard for administrative and other problems associated with food management and flawed food policies. Rather, in a reversal of a Mary Antoinette kind of pronouncement, the courts have declared everyone should be fed! Of course there is the minor matter of the limited coverage of PDS, but may be that will also change through judicial diktat








On 28 April 2011, the Reserve Bank of India put out a discussion paper titled "Deregulation of Savings Bank Deposit Interest Rate", which is available at This article reviews the paper and responds to the five questions posed in it.

According to the RBI paper, the savings bank deposit interest rate (SBDR) is the only interest rate that remains to be deregulated. As there are other administered interest rates, this is not entirely accurate. For instance, the small savings, pension and provident fund schemes of the central and state governments carry interest rates which are not market determined. Nevertheless, this is a welcome initiative.


To put the suggestion to deregulate the SBDR in perspective, the paper recapitulates that deposit and loan interest rates were almost fully deregulated by the late 1990s. Subsequently, interest rates for small loans up to Rs 2 lakh and Rupee export credit were liberalised in stages by July 2010. However, RBI has continuously determined the SBDR since March 1978. It was 6 per cent per annum in 1992 and was gradually reduced to 3.5 per cent by March 2003. Since then the SBDR remained at 3.5 per cent till RBI raised it to 4 per cent on 3 May 2011.

In March 2009, savings bank deposits totalled about Rs 90,000 crore. As of the same date, 84 per cent of these accounts were owned by households and 32 pe r cent were held in rural or semi-urban areas. Such savings bank accounts constituted 26.8 per cent of the household sector's financial assets and added up to 22 per cent of total bank deposits. Evidently, this category of scheduled commercial bank accounts is significantly large, both in absolute, and relative terms.

The paper points out that since 2004 the SBDR has been nearly always below the reverse repo rate, deposit rates for maturities of three months or longer and negative in real terms (reverse-repo rate, the rate at which banks park funds with RBI, is currently 6.25 per cent). Savings bank depositers usually hold a substantial fraction of their account balances over periods longer than three months. These account holders are perhaps not sufficiently aware about higher interest rates on fixed deposits. Alternatively, they are willing to accept a lower interest rate to be able to withdraw funds when required.

Of the five questions on which RBI is seeking a feedback, the first is whether this is the right time to deregulate the SDR. It is likely that deregulation of the SBDR will increase competition among banks for these accounts thus raising this interest rate. Further, if this interest rate is appreciably higher, greater volumes of funds could be attracted to such accounts. On the down-side, banks would compensate themselves by raising lending rates, limiting withdrawals and stipulating minimum balances. However, RBI could prescribe a ceiling for minimum balances. All things considered, the response to this question has to be a resounding yes.

The second and third questions are whether the SBDR should be deregulated in phases with a minimum floor and how can the interests of "senior citizens, pensioners and small savers particularly in rural and semi-urban areas" be protected. Phased deregulation would delay the end objective, which is to enable account holders to receive a market-based return. If the SBDR were to dip occasionally to low levels, there are more direct ways of helping weaker sections rather than distorting interest rates.

The fourth question is about possible "intense competition among banks" and potentially risky asset-liability mismatches. It could be argued that banks can land themselves in unsustainable situations by offering excessively high interest rates for such deposits. Banks invariably borrow short and lend long — that is their basic business model. Consequently, if asset-liability mismatches were to trend upwards post SBDR deregulation, banks would be expected to limit their duration (maturity) mismatches and hedge interest rate risk using interest rate futures and interest rate swaps. However, liquidity in the Indian interest rate futures market is negligible. As regards over-the-counter (OTC) interest rate swaps, the principal benchmark used for the floating leg is the overnight Mumbai inter-Bank Offer Rate (MIBOR). This is too short a maturity for interest rate resets. Consequently, liquidity in the Indian interest-rate swap market for maturities above one year is relatively very low.

RBI and the Securities and Exchange Board of India need to coordinate their efforts to develop the interest rate futures market by increasing liquidity in the underlying short maturity government securities markets. Further, the settlement of OTC derivatives should be guaranteed through central clearing platforms including exchanges. RBI has specified that at least one of the counterparties for OTC derivatives has to be regulated by RBI and this excludes stock brokers. One way to increase the number of market participants is for brokers to be concurrently regulated by RBI for their activities as counterparties or market-makers in OTC markets.

The fifth question is about the frequency of withdrawals and whether banks should offer higher interest rates if cheque-book facilities are not available to savings bank account holders. Decisions on such trade-offs should be determined by banks on the basis of competition among them.

In the 11 May 2011 edition of the Business Standard the MDs of HDFC and YES banks took opposing positions on deregulating the SBDR. HDFC takes the view that there is no "free lunch" and if savings deposit rates go up, lending rates, maintenance and other charges would rise commensurately. YES bank is of the opinion that a market-based rate would be fair to this category of savers. Additionally, this could induce households to transfer some more of their huge cash balances to the banking system. Others have commented that recourse to external commercial borrowings would go up if domestic lending rates were to rise. A counter argument is that external sources of funding are already part of the competitive lending process in India and there are guidelines on maturities and caps on overall volumes.

To summarise, it is likely that various banks are making their behind the scenes moves for RBI to go slow on deregulating the SBDR. It is to be expected that banks will try to retain this subsidy of offering negative real interest rates on savings bank deposits while charging competitive rates for housing and other loans. However, this subsidy is paid for by the middle-class or lower income savers and it is high time it should be eliminated.

(The author is India's Ambassador to the European Union, Belgium and Luxembourg. Views expressed are personal)






Many years ago, when I still smoked and occasionally travelled by bus, it was well established that if you lit a cigarette, the bus would come almost immediately. Indeed, sometimes this was used as a means of accelerating the arrival of the bus.

The Reserve Bank of India's recent strong man hike in interest rates appears to have followed this rule of life, since commodity prices — one of the definitive drivers of inflation — tumbled sharply just as RBI "lit up". Of course, the jury is still out on whether commodity prices are going to correct further or start climbing again. However, this sudden correction — if, indeed, that is all it turns out to be — has clearly shown how much speculation there was (and is?) in commodity prices.


Minus (or with limited) speculation, where will commodity prices be? Well, nobody really knows, but I have felt for a long time — and have been wandering around with a little bit of egg on my face — that $ 1,400 should certainly be a top for gold. Oil, I don't know, although OPEC appears happy at $ 100.

I have also felt, and loudly announced, that the Australian dollar at parity with the US dollar is insane — but, hey, even today it's holding above a key support around 1.05.

Perhaps the truth is that while the commodity bull cycle, driven to a large extent by the increasing demand from China and India, will remain in play for some more time, it may be in process of changing to a more moderate pace. My favourite reason why this will certainly happen is that at some point the big commodity buyers will learn how to play the terms-of-trade game. I mean Reliance pays the lowest prices for its purchases; there's no reason why India and China, if they work together, should not pay the lowest prices for oil, gold and other imported commodities.

"If they work together" is, of course, the operative phrase. And while several people in the global trenches rue the fact that China is simply striding out on its own, we have to find a way to show them that working together would help both of us — perhaps, its time to make Jairam Ramesh the External Affairs minister.

Returning to more immediate matters of the currency market, the recent blow-out has also taken its toll on the Euro, and, of course, the rupee. While I hate to say I told you so, the truth is I did — that there was a 50 per cent chance that rupee will be between 45 and 46 in May. It ain't there yet, to be sure, but I'd guess the odds are much higher now.

As to the Euro, it certainly seems that the powers-that-be - read Germany, Germany and Germany — have recognised that a break-up of the single currency, which was all the talk six months or so ago, would be disastrous for the European experiment and for Germany itself. The market certainly appears to be respecting the ECB's rescue packages for Greece, Ireland and, now Portugal. However, even if the rescue packages work and the governments in question are able to survive the draconian spending cuts they have to implement, the fact is that the fundamental conflict remains definitively in place!

While it was doubtless the collapse of the US sub-prime market in 2008-09 that provided the trigger for the European debt crisis, the EU had already been rendered unstable by the fact that the low interest rates that ran from 2005 to 2007, which were needed to prop up the large economies of Europe (read Germany, Germany and Germany), had created red hot growth and concurrent bubble-dom in several Euro-periphery economies.

Today, the shoe is on the other foot. With inflation rising in the large economies of Europe (ditto), interest rates need to rise sooner or later, which, of course, could be the death knell of gasping economies from Greece to Ireland and beyond.

The good news, for now, is that the ECB stayed its Germanic hand on the monetary policy knob just as commodity prices were getting their comeuppance. The new President of the ECB is Italian, although "…rather German, even Prussian" according to Das Bild, a racy, though influential German daily.

It would seem that the only long-term resolution of the Euro problem is for all of Europe to become more Germanic — a solution I had half-laughingly suggested in my column entitled, W(h)ither the Euro — a fable [Business Standard, April 2010], where Helmut Kazantakis, a Greek-German became the President of the United States of Europe, with, coincidentally, an Italian at the head of the ECB.

If this is a non-starter, it is only a matter of time before the market decides to light up another cigarette.







Leena Nair, executive director (Human Resources) of Hindustan Unilever (HUL), calls it "leadership moments". Each of the company's leaders at all levels goes through such defining moments seven times a year. That's when they open a dialogue with people reporting to them about their performance.


"We call them leadership moments because it's all about listening, sharing and accepting feedback, and taking responsibility for the next step in your junior's career. They are make-or-break moments for all our leaders because they have to learn to handle these skillfully," Nair says.

India's largest fast moving consumer goods company, which has just won the Best Employer award in a Hewitt survey, says handling performance appraisals is the most important cog in the wheel of its employee practices because it goes a long way in establishing the company's reputation as an employer that cares for its people.

That's what came out very strongly in the Hewitt report that was the culmination of extensive dialogue with 50 randomly chosen employees in the company.

That the company takes its leadership moments seriously is evident from the extensive training that is given to all leaders on how to handle these performance feedback sessions. Many leaders have fallen off the "lister" (the term for extremely talented people who are on the fast track to success) category just because they couldn't handle these feedback sessions with the required empathy.

At the heart of the robust performance appraisal system is, of course, the methodology and the transparency. "Half the job is done if employees believe it's a transparent and fair system," says Nair. That explains why all managers are plotted on a nine-box leadership matrix named LDT (Leadership Differentiation Tool) that sees how well the key resources of the company have been developed by managers. The position is then communicated transparently and career paths are shared.

Then there are mechanisms like the GPS (global people satisfaction) survey that cover everyone in the company and seek their feedback on points like employee engagement, information sharing, leadership, boss-subordinate relationship, teaming and collaboration and so on. The move isn't just a management fad, since over 99 per cent employees responded to the GPS survey last year.

There is a more to HUL's efforts to improve its employee-friendly brand. Every management trainee, for example, is given a tutor, coach and mentor who guide them during the training period. A mentor is typically a senior management member including Management Committee members. There is a leadership moment here as well, as all trainees are encouraged to give feedback on their coaches. This feedback is taken as a significant input on the senior leadership delivery on grooming talent or leaders in the organisation.

HUL also takes great pride in the fact that it has been able to encourage employees to commit to volunteer one hour for each day that the company has been in this country. An initiative called HUL Sankalp has helped build a network of around 70 NGOs that provide multiple volunteering opportunities. Employees are encouraged to volunteer with their families and friends and contribute in terms of time, expertise, material and donations.

There is another vital initiative that HUL has taken for its employees — something that goes much beyond performance appraisals. It's called the "personal vitality" initiative. The company has devised a vitality index, which is the measurement of the personal vitality of individual employees based on four parameters — the Body Mass Index (BMI), blood pressure, blood cholesterol and blood sugar.

For each employee, these four parameters are measured and a scoring is done on a vitality index scorecard. The lower the score, the better the personal vitality of the employee concerned. A score of 0 to four puts you in the green zone, a score of five to six puts you in the amber zone and a score of seven and above puts you in the red zone. Each employee is intimated his or her personal vitality score or colour zone while confidentiality is assured. The first burst of this exercise was completed in just two to four days.

In the second stage, employees were encouraged to improve their personal vitality scores by conducting workshops all across the company's locations, arranging events like Vitality Exhibitions, Family Day, Walkathons, nutritional menu counselling and so on. Through interactive sessions, the employees have been taught about the concept of BMI, its measurement, ways of improving lifestyle, healthy and controlled diet to avoid or reduce obesity as well as exercises for weight management.

The result of all this is evident. Despite being a favourite poaching ground for Indian companies, HUL has managed to keep its attrition level at less than five per cent over the last four or five years against the industry average of 15 to 18 per cent. Very few, it seems, would disagree with Hewitt's choice.





For Chief Economic Advisor Kaushik Basu, a fitness regime isn't necessarily win-win. He once read in a small newspaper in Ithaca (where he was teaching at Cornell University) that 10 minutes of jogging would add eight minutes to your life. This sounded great and Basu began jogging every day, until he figured out the math. If he had to run 10 minutes to add eight minutes to his lifespan, then his non-jogging lifespan would come down by two minutes. And since his objective was to lengthen not his total lifespan but his non-jogging lifespan, the best thing was to stop jogging immediately!







There are many things that the UPA Government can take credit for but strategic thinking on infrastructure is not one of them. The absence of this virtue is obvious in many areas, not the least of which is the coal shortage that is staring the power sector in the eye. Amongst those hit by it are private power developers, who have come up with a reasonable idea. It is based on the doctrine of promissory estoppel which, stated roughly, says that if one side to an agreement keeps its promise, the other side has to do so too, even if there is no formal contract. The doctrine is based on the simplest notion of equity and is widely accepted because it is fair.

In the case of the private power developers, when the Government was desperately seeking private investment in power, it promised investors that Coal India Limited (CIL) would supply coal in whatever amounts were needed. New capacity to the tune of some 20,000 MW is slated to come up over the next couple of years, most of which is based on clear-cut letters of assurance (LoAs) issued by CIL. Such an assurance was also needed to achieve financial closure. The investors took this seriously and went ahead with their plans. But now that the investments have been made and the projects will need coal soon, CIL is suddenly acting coy. In essence, it seems to be saying: Sorry, we can't give you coal and, in any case, there was only a letter of assurance, no formal contract. Since this will leave the power plant owners high and dry, they have suggested that they will buy the coal from CIL at prices determined by the e-auctions. In other words, they are claiming a pre-emptive right but are willing to pay whatever it takes. During the quarter ended December 2010, Coal India sold around 48 million tonnes, or nearly 12 per cent of its production, through the e-auction platform.

There are two counter questions. First, why can't the private producers of power bid in the e-auctions and, second, why can't they import what they need? The answers are that, first, e-auctions are only for small buyers, which the power producers certainly are not, and that the auction process has uncertainties in terms of the bidding schedule (generally, twice a month) as also the quantity offered; and, second, that imported coal will help only to a limited extent because boiler configurations permit only up to 15 per cent blending of imported coal. In other words, domestic coal is essential for the new capacities coming up. Another solution is to start liquidating the huge coal stocks of about 50 million tonnes at the pitheads. Together, these measures could free up around 80-100 million tonnes for immediate use. But, as usual, there is a snag: the railways don't have the capacity to move this coal. It is coal, coal everywhere, nor any lump to burn.








Osama bin Laden's death in Pakistan, orchestrated by the Americans, has catapulted the South Asian nation once again to the centre-stage of international debate. There is increased speculation on how this little country of immense strategic importance, which seemed to be taken by surprise by the US action, will play out its relationship with the super power. Back home, in New Delhi, it has spurred the flexing of muscles on the 'Wanted List' of 26/11 terrorists, with Pakistan in retaliation typically blowing hot, blowing cold.

With its back against the wall, it has sounded out stern warnings to India against any action similar to that carried out by the US. In the latest development, China has come to Pakistan's rescue, acknowledging its role in anti-terrorist activities. And amidst these gestures and counter-gestures comes a book Pakistan: A Hard Country that gives a rare insight into a neighbour you always thought you knew, but are surprised how little you actually know about it.

Journey across a troubled nation

Penned by Anatol Lieven, a reporter for The Times in Pakistan in the late 1980s, the book takes you on a veritable journey across the troubled nation. The author, a Professor of International Relations and Terrorism Studies in the War Studies Department of King's College, London, runs you through the history of the Islamic nation, its strategic geographical placement, its political tribulations, and why it is what it is today. Lieven speaks from two perspectives. One is that of working as a journalist in the country that gave him access to a whole lot of important as well as ordinary people, from generals to rickshaw pullers.

The other is of a researcher in recent years that added to his travels in the country, and through which he earned deep insights into some of the regional idiosyncrasies in Punjab, Sindh, and Balochistan. "Pakistan is divided, disorganised, economically backward, corrupt, violent, unjust, often savagely oppressive towards the poor and women, and home to extremely dangerous forms of extremism and terrorism and 'yet it moves'," writes Lieven, quickly conceding its toughness and resilience as a state and society. And when Lieven describes the Islamic nation's pockets of "successful modernity", "excellent administration", "few modern industries," and "fine motorways", there is a familiarity that lingers for the Indian reader. Is the description not a mirror image of yesteryears India?

India as role model

The image continues to stick and grow as the author describes the values imbibed by Pakistan's army and the state of its cantonment townships. Yes, familiar, very familiar — with India obviously the role model in many ways and understandably so. Familiar too is Lieven's treatise on the elite families of the country, including their inherent feudal culture and attitudes.

Just like in India, in Pakistan too, it is these elite families that throw up the politicians — be it a Zulfikar Ali Bhutto or Asif Ali Zardari. Lieven has a really interesting take on politicians in Pakistan. He writes, " ...while Pakistani politicians in general get a pretty bad press, and deservedly so, it is sometimes possible to feel sorry for them. They are often not saints, but they often need the patience of saints, as well as the courage of wolves, the memory of elephants and the digestion of crocodiles…"

Relating a story of his journey with a Pakistani politician, he describes what we are used to in India — petals being thrown over the politicians' land cruiser, chanting his slogans, bowing to kiss his hand, motor-bikes and scooters waving the party flag and children running out for the free tamasha (show).

The most absorbing characteristic of the book is Lieven's travels through the provinces. Karachi and Lahore are all too familiar to Indians who keep an eye on the going-ons in the neighbourhood, but the book provides a rare peak into the society, the undercurrents, and the psyche of the provinces of Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan.

Lieven has also been able to delve into the minds of some of these communities and used an anthropological analysis to explain why it is the Pathans who largely man the armed forces, the deep resentment of the Baloch tribals towards the mainstream administration, the psyche of Pakistan's Taliban and how it differs from Afghanistan's Taliban.

As a reader brought up on stories and scenes of Balochistan in the late 1920s, when my grandfather served as a doctor in the Railways close to one of the world's longest and famous tunnels (the Khojak tunnel, which was surrounded by springs and streams and an equal number of myths), my appetite for Pakistan's provinces may have exceeded that of an average reader.

But Lieven's account left a sense of regret at the mismanagement and neglect of a province rich in natural resources and relatively modernised during the British era, which had the potential to prosper and do the Islamic nation proud.

Weak state, strong society

Another positive going for the book is the author's ability not to fall into the trap of a 'Western' writer, though he is one. May be it is his long years and obvious familiarity with the country that has held him in good stead.

And, while he argues against any kind of US action that may bring them gain in Afghanistan, but destroy the essential fabric of Pakistan in the process, he describes the relationship as one "of mutual exploitation heavily flavoured with mutual suspicion." When he argues for Pakistan, he is at his anthropological best — "A fundamental political fact about Pakistan is that the state, whoever claims to lead it, is weak, and society in its various forms is immensely strong." Can a description be more apt?






The Home Minister, Mr P. Chidambaram, has done less than justice to his wonted perspicacity by dismissing as "human error" and of little consequence the inclusion of the name of terror accused Wazhul Kamar Khan in the list of the 50 most wanted fugitives by India given to Pakistan in March 2011.

In matters impacting not only international relations and reputation, but also domestic issues being handled by the Government, it is incumbent on the highest officials of the Ministry/Department concerned to take the utmost care to make sure that every official documentation prepared under its auspices is double-checked and cross-checked a number of times for accuracy.

I remember in the days when Lal Bahadur Shastri, Gulzarilal Nanda and Y.B.Chavan were Home Ministers, officials were taken to task for what would nowadays be regarded as trivial omissions, and one official was promptly reverted to his cadre in disgrace for giving a wrong total in answer to an unstarred question in Parliament, even though it could have been easily corrected with the Speaker's permission.

It is impossible to exaggerate the vital importance of observing the most stringent precautions against mistakes and errors occurring in documents on sensitive security issues and meant for foreign Governments.

Taking serious lapses lightly will only result in the plummeting of standards all round.

All the more so, when Mr Chidambaram knows that this is not the first time that the bureaucratic leadership of the Home Ministry had been found wanting in dealings with Pakistan on 26/11.

In the list of DNA reports of 10 terrorists given to Pakistan on March 13, 2009, two DNA reports were of the same person.

The dossier was supposed to have enclosed the statement of Mohammed Ajmal Amir 'Kasab', but it was left out due to what was claimed to be "a clerical error".

Grave omission

This is what I wrote in my column on December 26, 2009: "The 26/11 Mumbai carnage itself is a monumental example of the obvious failure at the level of the Home Secretary and the National Security Adviser of any effort to collate, digest and draw pointed conclusions from all the information and intelligence available to them and set in motion forthwith the necessary pre-emptive and countervailing actions at the Central and State levels.

"This grave omission was compounded by the failure to enforce accountability to the people's satisfaction. Those who should have paid for their lackadaisical performance at the most critical and dangerous moment in the country's recent history went scot-free and continued to rule the roost.

"To make matters worse, in the matter of preparation of the dossiers on the Pakistani complicity in 26/11 horror, because of the silly errors resulting from the Home Ministry officials' want of care and thoroughness, the Government had to suffer the embarrassment of Pakistan throwing them back at it several times."

Referring to the controversy over the sloppy wording of the Sharm-el-Sheikh joint statement by the Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan, I had written in this column on October 1, 2009: "….one is mystified by the Foreign Secretary, Mr Shivshankar Menon, confessing at a meeting of MPs that 'one can argue that the drafting (of the Statement) was not proper'.

"Does this mean that the top foreign service mandarin absolves himself and those of his colleagues in attendance at Sharm-el-Sheikh of all responsibility for the drafting?..."

I had gone on to say: "Too many instances of top administrative brass letting down the Government with a lackadaisical approach to their duties and continuing in their chairs without being sacked then and there have been surfacing.

If this deterioration in the calibre of officials holding top posts and the quality of performance on the part of the permanent civil service is not addressed with the seriousness it deserves, the Government will have only itself to blame if it is forced to face more such embarrassments."

I hope my present warning at least will not fall on deaf ears.






Global commodity markets went through turbulent times in the last three or four years, with volatility becoming the defining feature of the commodities sector, covering energy products, metals and agriculture. Multiple factors — some positive, some negative — drove the markets, often pulling in opposite directions.

It was not only robust demand growth, uncertainties in supplies, currency dynamics, sovereign debt crisis, geopolitical instabilities as also trade and tariff policy changes, but also over-financialisation of markets that induced volatility.

Although agricultural commodity markets remained reasonably insulated from the overall gyrations of various markets, a series of weather events, particularly in 2010, impacted farm goods prices.


Starting with excessively wet conditions in Canada followed by drought in Russia, floods in Pakistan and extended monsoon rains in India, weather played havoc with crops. Later, floods in Australia and Brazil followed by drought in certain regions of China impacted sentiment. Traditional exporters were left with lower export surpluses, while consuming countries' demand surged.

As inflationary pressures started to build, especially in emerging markets such as China and India, monetary policy was gradually tightened. Even as bank credit was being squeezed by the developing economies (primarily to prevent asset bubbles or overheating in the economy ) the developed countries under the lead of the US continued to maintain an easy money policy – easy access to bank finance and near-zero interest rate.

With rising inflation pressures, the European Central Bank recently changed its stance and raised bank rates by 25 basis points. The moot question is whether, or when, the US will follow suit. On current reckoning global growth prospects appear headed in the positive direction, although many industrial economies may witness halting or hesitant growth with continued high levels of unemployment.


For the global agribusinesses and especially those in the pulses trade, major food market drivers are all in place.

Sustained economic growth and rising population, particularly in the developing world plus rising incomes in the currently low per capita usage countries have combined to drive demand for all food products, including pulses. In addition, urbanisation and changing food habits of the rapidly expanding middle-class is also helping additional demand kick in.

Other food market drivers are supportive, too. Farm policies of OECD countries including farm support or subsidy policies, rising crude prices, biofuel mandates, land constraints, looming water shortage as well as threat of global warming are currently driving farm prices higher. The role of speculative capital in pushing prices disproportionately higher (unrelated to market fundamentals) is another factor.

The world opened 2011 with lower stocks of many essential agricultural commodities. Add uncertainties of weather — El Nino and La Nina — to the already tight stock position and you have a sure recipe for price spikes.

The emerging trends for the global agribusinesses in general and pulses in particular are clear. Developing countries will drive growth in production, consumption and trade. Importantly, agricultural cost structure will move higher.

This will be especially influenced by high and rising crude prices which raise not only input costs but also overall food production and distribution costs.

High crude prices will reinforce feedstock demand for biofuels. This, in turn, is sure to affect crop supplies, prices and trade flows of many agricultural goods. Where does all this leave pulses (peas, lentils and beans)?

Because a 'rising tide lifts all boats', the effect on pulses would be unmistakable. Even if the global pulses market finds itself in surplus – an unlikely prospect on current reckoning – price spikes of the agricultural sector will rub-off on pulses.

It is clear that Asia will be the mover and shaker of the global pulses market. Asia's food needs are far from satisfied. There is a ravenous appetite for food.

With rising incomes, more food will be demanded. It is not just China and India, but who will feed Indonesia, Pakistan and Bangladesh, hugely populous Asian countries, is the question today.

For meeting the rapidly rising food needs of Asians, humungous investments are necessary in agricultural production, productivity, quality, processing and distribution. Where this money will come from is anybody's guess.


Weather could remain a major uncertainty for agriculture markets in 2011. The second uncertainty is dollar dynamics. Will the dollar continue to weaken or rally? When will the US easy money policy end and whether there would be an exchange rate realignment?

It is hard to tell at the moment, what direction the ongoing geopolitical disturbances will take in the coming months. They may escalate or subside.

Crude prices will depend on how geopolitics pans out and how countries respond to inflationary pressures. A lesser known fact is that in the US, market regulators (SEC and CFTC) are working on the Dodd-Frank Act to tighten controls on the securities market and commodity derivatives market. Stricter regulation will force some speculative funds out of the markets, which may help soften prices.

Lastly, India is the wild card as far as global pulses market is concerned. In 2010-11, as the world's largest producer, importer and consumer, India harvested an unprecedented 17.3 million tonnes of pulses crop (an increase of 2.6 million tonnes from the previous year's 14.7 million tonnes), helped by a healthy expansion in planted area and satisfactory rainfall.

The question is whether India will retain the same expanded acreage of over 26 million hectares in the coming year — kharif season followed by rabi. Pulses-exporting countries such as Canada, US and Australia are keenly watching developments in India, whose annual imports have ranged between 2.7 million and 3.6 million tonnes, accounting for a third of the global pulses trade.








After 1914, the gold standard was given up and in the 1920s countries unabashedly resorted to unbridled fiat money resulting in hyper-inflation in a number of European countries. World War II resulted in the virtual demise of the sterling as a reserve currency, and since then the US dollar has held sway as the dominant international reserve currency.

August 1971 is a watershed in the international monetary system when President Nixon de-linked the US dollar from gold. A reserve currency which is not linked to gold necessarily has to become weak. For the next 40 years international monetary pundits felt that somehow the system of a reserve currency would remain stable through so-called international monetary co-operation. Economist Wilhelm Röpke, 60 years ago, said that the more countries talk about international co-operation, the less countries co-operate with one another!

Potential reserve currencies such as the yen and the euro wisely took conscious steps to ensure that their currencies did not become reserve currencies.

With the increasing significance of the emerging market economies (EMEs), it is being suggested that the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) could emerge as reserve currencies. As a first step, the BRICS countries have been talking about settling bilateral trade and payments in their local currencies and undertaking pluri-lateral settlements among themselves. This would be disastrous and one hopes that saner counsel will prevail and these countries would not proceed with such scatterbrained ideas.


International monetary pundits are inherently averse to restoring the gold standard. The real question is whether they can prevent gold from becoming a pre-eminent international reserve asset.

Gold accounts for about 11 per cent of total international reserves. But this average conceals a skewed distribution among countries. A number of major countries have a very high proportion of gold in their reserves such as United States (80 per cent), Germany (69 per cent), France (60 per cent), Italy (70 per cent), Switzerland (43 per cent) and Netherlands (63 per cent). Among the major developed countries with a low proportion of gold are UK (15 per cent) and Japan (2 per cent).

EMEs which have witnessed a large accumulation of reserves in recent years, such as China, Russia, Taiwan, India, and Brazil, have a nominal percentage of gold in their reserves.

China, Russia, India, Mexico and Thailand have undertaken sizeable increases in their gold holdings in the last three years — this is a prudent policy. China increased its gold holdings from 600 tonnes to 1,050 tonnes and India increased its holdings from a little less than 360 tonnes to 560 tonnes. Gold still accounts for only 7.5 per cent of India's total reserves.

The major developed countries with a high proportion of gold reserves have reaped a bountiful harvest as much of their gold purchases were at prices as low as $35 per fine ounce. With the structural weakness of the US dollar as a reserve currency, the role of gold will become more important.

Countries with a low proportion of their reserves in gold would be well advised to gradually step up their proportion of the yellow metal. In recent years, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), in a brilliant move, was the first country to undertake a large bulk purchase of 200 tonnes from the IMF; India should gradually increase its holdings of gold.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) must give up its strong aversion for the precious metal. The SDR basket should include gold with an initial weightage of, say, 15 per cent and this should be progressively raised over the next five years to a third. Gold is no country's liability and it does not suffer the inherent disadvantages of other reserve currencies.


Although a full restoration of the pre-1914 gold standard cannot take place immediately, there is an inexorable march to a gold standard.

Serious work on a return to gold is gathering momentum. In the US, the State of Utah has made gold the legal tender and 13 States are contemplating a move in the same direction.

The Washington D.C. based American Principles Project (APP), on the Gold Standard 2012, is an attempt to reach out to lawmakers to advance legislation to put the US back on to a gold standard. The APP has recently prepared a White Paper on the "Use of gold as the primary reserve asset by international central banks" by Ralph Benko, Charles Kadlec, Richard Danker and Nick Arnold (December 2010).

The Lehman Institute has also been in the forefront in the advocacy for gold. The Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House, London) has set up a Task Force to Review the Role of Gold in the International Monetary System with Nick Maxwell as the Programme Manager.

Central banks the world over would do well to touch base with this broad-based work on gold and the early birds who recognise the role of gold in the international monetary system would be the beneficiaries.










At long last, India's overpriced real estate market could come back to earth with a thud. Developers trying to sell costly property cannot find buyers, who in turn find themselves squeezed out of the market by rising mortgage costs and inflated property prices. Inventory, jargon for built-up homes that haven't been sold, is piling up. Fittingly, a full 25% of total units remain unsold in Mumbai, where real estate rates are the least realistic; Chennai and Pune follow with 19% units unsold, 16% of units can't be sold in Delhi and its surroundings, followed by Bangalore and Kolkata. Developers who find themselves unable to sell built units cannot pay back loans and find it hard to raise capital for new projects. Sensible economics suggests that if they can't sell at high prices, they should cut rates and find buyers. But most builders would rather hold on, hoping for gullible buyers to buy dream homes at prices dreamt up by the sellers. Anecdotal evidence suggests that many builders are selling land holdings to finance loans, rather than cut prices. This too is good, because it will bring more land back into the market, creating further pressure for property prices to fall.
For many years, India has not seen a property crash, so many people still believe in the phrase 'safe as houses.' But globally, property has been prone to long cycles of price appreciation and decline. To some extent, the Indian real estate market has been immune from price cycles because of the prevalence of cash transactions in this sector. But with almost all regulators, including the RBI, tightening screws on the property market and trying to trace money trails for high value transactions, it's just become harder to do cash trades. For salaried professionals, cash was never an option, so the easy money, low interest rate regime earlier was a good time to get cheap mortgages and buy homes. But with interest rates hardening, these people have become cautious about what prices they're willing to pay for real estate. This too is welcome: it'll force builders to build homes that buyers can afford, rather than try and peddle overpriced merchandise. All markets have gone through corrections, it's time real estate also got its reality check.







The government's move to finally provide legal backing to warehouse receipts will ensure farmers a better deal for their produce and is welcome. These receipts are issued by accredited warehouses to farmers or traders, acknowledging the quantity and quality of produce deposited with them. Recognising this document as a negotiable instrument that can be used as collateral to support borrowing or accepted for delivery against a futures contract, will enhance the bargaining power of farmers. They can avoid distress sale of their produce and raise cheap loans. Banks can screen borrowers with minimum delays, make foreclosures simple and reduce monitoring costs. Warehouse receipts also contribute to the deepening of the futures market and enhance price discovery. Companies will benefit too as they can secure working capital finance for their stocks. A well-functioning warehouse receipt system obviates the need for government to take physical inventories to support prices during distress sale. It can, instead, buy warehouse receipts. Similarly, the government need not hold physical stocks to ensure food security. It can simply hold warehouse receipts. The institutional framework is in place to support the warehouse receipt system, with the Warehousing Development Regulatory Authority already operating. Safeguards are in place to ensure proper certification especially by warehouses that issue negotiable receipts. They have to compulsorily register with the authority. Quality checks are done by international agencies. We need a national grading system to verify the quality and quantity of inventories.
Today, accredited warehouses issue only paper warehouse receipts. The authority should ensure speedy transition to electronic warehouse receipts to prevent forgery. It will also ensure automatic audit trails. Simultaneously, by scrapping the monopoly of Agricultural Produce Marketing Committees over marketing rural produce and augmenting power supply, rural India can be turned into an agro-processing powerhouse for the entire world.








If there is one thing that unites all Indians, irrespective of credit ratings, it is their overweaning preference for d e si food. And nowhere does this pan-Indianness assert itself more than when they head out abroad for their summer holidays as they are doing now, cattle class or first class. Those who otherwise would not be caught dead in the wrong sort of company at their favourite restaurant back home, are quite willing to rub shoulders with the hoi polloi at an Indian eatery in some foreign outpost. They even exchange a few words with them on the powerful appeal of d alc h a w alamid all the pasta, paella and couscous. Luckily for them all, practically every country now boasts of something that can be passed off as Indian food in their major cities. Most of these countries, therefore, would do well to understand that more than historic castles and scenic landscapes, beautiful beaches and amusement parks, what truly motivates Indian travellers to seek out new destinations is the idea that a familiar Indian meal also awaits them at the end of their journey. That comfort factor is also what prompts India's elite to head en masse to London every summer. Not only do they get an array of Indian cuisines to choose from (instead of just the basic d al, curries and t a n d o o ri that an Indian place in Sweden or Chile may offer) but they also get to dine with exactly the same people they do in Delhi and Mumbai the rest of the year. Tourism boards of all countries, thus, should get their acts together and compile comprehensive lists of relevant restaurants that can be easily accessed by Indian travellers who are struck by cravings for homestyle food even as they gawk at glacial landscapes or gaze at stained glass windows. Of course, that will also mean that the more Indians see the world, the more their palates will remain the same.








As global economy - gins to recover, abundant intellectual energy is being generated to discuss issues relating to the crisis and beyond. In April, G20 finance ministers and central bank governors met and emphasised the goal of promoting external sustainability alongside policies to reduce excessive imbalances and maintain sustainable current account balances. This focus on external imbalances apparently stems from the belief that they contributed to the global economic crisis, largely or partially, having been responsible for creating excess liquidity in the United States where the crisis originated. Days prior to the G20 meeting, the historic Bretton Woods in New Hampshire witnessed a conference organised by the Institute for New Economic Thinking to discuss issues relating to the crisis and renewal and the international political economy. Still earlier, March saw events organised by the Initiative for Policy Dialogue, the G20 and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on the international monetary system. In addition, the IMF hosted a seminar on macro and growth polices.
The most recent meeting of G20 finance ministers established guidelines relating to economic indicators for determining the necessity for in-depth assessment of countries with significant 'external imbalances', and therefore requiring policy action. The indicators agreed upon at an earlier meeting included the volume of public debt and fiscal deficits, private savings rate and private debt, external imbalance composed of the trade balance and net investment income flows and transfers, while taking due consideration of exchange rate, fiscal, monetary and other policies. The indicative guidelines propose that reference values for the selected indicators be based on four distinct approaches.

First is a structural approach based on economic models and grounded in economic theory, making allowance for countryspecific circumstances. Second is a statistical approach which benchmarks on the basis of national historical trends. Third is another statistical approach which benchmarks against groups of countries at similar stages of development. Fourth is a statistical approach that draws on data benchmarking the G20 country's indicators against the full G20.

Countries identified by at least two of the four approaches as having persistently large imbalances are to be assessed in-depth to determine the nature and root causes of their imbalances.

While deciding on indicators and guidelines for assessment and subsequent policy actions, the G20 seems to be relying on economic theory and models which proved inadequate in preventing and forecasting the crisis in the first instance. While action is crucial to preclude further crises, the cart cannot be put before the horse. Policy and policy actions need to rest on stronger and reworked theoretical foundations, if they are to have the desired impact.

G20 members need to agree on a revised theoretical framework of macro and microeconomics, incorporating lessons from the recent crisis, before advocating policy actions based on economic theory that needs revision. They also need to dwell in-depth on issues related to the international monetary system before taking policy actions that are directly opposed to the prevailing monetary order, which itself permits flexibility of exchange rates.

If the world order finds itself in a conundrum because of excessive external imbalances, there is need to deliberate on the issue. Some countries may be utilising flexibility in fixing exchange rates to promote their national exports and may in the process be accumulating large monetary balances in the international reserve currency. What these excessive imbalances reflect is a preference for exports over internal consumption, future over present consumption, thrift over consumption, and employment over leisure. These are values which have formed the basis of civilisation and progress in many parts of the eastern world.


Given these underlying facts concealed behind the wider canvas, identification of economies with excessive external imbalances for in-depth assessment of their economic policies, with even a remote suggestion that their behaviour is "deviant" , may not be quite the best option.

What, therefore, should be the way forward? How does one arrive at a shared understanding on revised notions of economic theory? How does one ensure sustainability of external imbalances, without transgressing on the right of individual economies to choose their values, especially when the values in question are deeply progressive, as the history of past civilisations tells us? What is the international monetary system most suitable for the 21st century global economy?

These are weighty questions of significant import, requiring philosophical reflection and intellectual acumen. Answers to these questions have bearing on larger issues of freedom, justice, fairness and equity, for both individuals and nations.

The way forward from the crossroads on which the international political economy now finds itself, needs to be defined by world leaders who can chart the future direction and pace of world economic and social progress based on the strength of their beliefs and convictions about the prospects for a better world in the future. Such a core group, serviced by an efficient secretariat, is the need of the hour if the G20 is to acquire meaning beyond its present role. This group can define the issues requiring deliberation, consider them in-depth and then set about the task of converting ideas into action through existing and new mechanisms as may be considered necessary by the best of minds forming the core group.









India has clear strategic interests in Afghanistan but not a clear strategy to pursue them. An independent, sovereign Afghanistan, free of external interference would best serve India's interests. So would an Afghanistan that is a transit hub between Central Asia and South Asia for shared regional prosperity. Can India bring this about practically? To benefit from such connectivity, Afghanistan would have to stabilised under an India-friendly regime. Pakistan's obsessive search for "strategic depth" in Afghanistan and its corollary of denying us a legitimate role and presence there constitute, however, a bigger challenge for India. How do we counter Pakistan?

An Afghanistan in grip of obscurantist religious forces, of the kind represented by the Taliban, is a danger not only to India, but to the entire region. The political, economic, social and religious ideology of the Taliban rejects democracy, individual liberty, pluralism, tolerance of diversity, gender equality, social reform, modernity and globalisation. How can India checkmate the Taliban? India's problem with the Taliban is threefold. First, the West, in its anxiety to quit Afghanistan quickly, is willing to politically accommodate the Taliban by giving them eventually a share of power in Kabul. Second, for Pakistan, the Afghan Taliban groups are its strategic assets in Afghanistan, as instruments for asserting its influence there at India's cost. Third, President Karzai, the mainstay of our Afghan policy, is leading the process of reconciliation with the Taliban.
We were initially firmly opposed to any form of accommodation with the Taliban. Our lack of viable options in Afghanistan induced us to accept reintegration but not reconciliation. Now, by supporting "peace and reconciliation" in Afghanistan during PM's recent visit to Kabul, we have taken a subtle step to modify that position too. Our newlyminted strategic partnership with Afghanistan seems incompatible with President Karzai's strategic outreach to the Taliban brokered by Pakistan.

Perhaps we feel we will become marginal to unfolding developments in Afghanistan by sticking to our principled position on the Taliban. But then, being marginal to a process leading to unwanted outcomes might be better than becoming complicit with it.




India has repeatedly rejected the idea of a 'good Taliban' and argued, in the words of External Affairs Minister SM Krishna, that all of 'Talibanism' was "terror driven". PM Manmohan Singh's statement, during his visit to Kabul, in favour of the 'reconciliation process' in Afghanistan is being interpreted, against this backdrop, as a radical reorientation of India's regional policy.

The reality will prove disappointing. For one, India's position was never entirely unambiguous. At the London Conference, for instance, Krishna had also given conditional assent to negotiations with Taliban groups willing to accept the Afghan Constitution, sever connections with terrorist formations, and renounce violence. Rather than a strategic formulation, the PM's support for 'national reconciliation' in Afghanistan is more accurately assessed as a polite platitude in a situation where President Hamid Karzai had already committed to the idea under international and Pakistani pressure. As for strategy in Afghanistan, India has no endgame perspective beyond clichés about regional peace and cooperation, and no capacity for significant intervention beyond developmental and capacity-building projects.

Though the Pakistanis cry wolf over the 'massive' Indian diplomatic presence in Afghanistan — which they claim is being used to destabilise Pakistan — the reality is that most missions, including the embassy at Kabul, are quite understaffed and incapable even of carrying out any assertive programme of soft-power interventions. India has, in fact, failed to capitalise on its tremendous popularity to create a presence in the political and strategic space in Afghanistan. Indeed, Pakistan, which repeated surveys have identified as the country most hated by the Afghans, almost completely exhausts the strategic space outside the ISAF coalition, driving home the unfortunate reality that soft power can never provide a substitute for hard power — though it may be a significant force multiplier for the latter. The Af-Pak outcome is uncertain — more so after the Abbottabad raid.


What is relatively assured, however, is that India, for all its 'great power' pretensions, lacks the instrumentalities to play anything more than a marginal role in any future scenario.







What is rural and what is urban is largely an artefact of definition and relative. See the table below. Most of India's 'rural' population resides in villages that contain between 500 and 5,000 inhabitants. Some argue that in other countries, many of these villages would be classified as urban. These studies point out that if India were to be a little more liberal in its definition of urban areas (minimum of 75% nonagricultural employment), then a majority of India would be urban today. But do we want this?

Cities and towns have emerged as centres of domestic and international investments and commerce. They contribute about 65% of GDP as of 2011. The higher productivity of any urban area depends on the availability and quality of infrastructure services. Hence, if we want more rapid growth of our GDP, then we are dependent on towns.

As one can imagine, smaller settlements of 1,00,000 people tend to be significantly under-served with regard to access to piped water, waste disposal, and electricity. Urban economic activities are dependent upon infrastructure like roads, water supply, power, telecommunication, mass transport, sanitation, solid waste management, etc.

After all, there are a large number of infrastructure programmes for towns ('urban' areas) as well as rural areas in India. First, apart from the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) for the 63 largest cities, there is the Urban Infrastructure Development Scheme for Small and Medium Towns (UIDSSMT), whose objectives are to improve infrastructural facilities and help create durable public assets and quality-oriented services in cities and towns, including through public-private partnership. UIDSSMT supports all urban infrastructure development projects: water supply, roads, parking space, drainage, solid waste management, sewerage, urban renewal, preservation of water bodies and prevention of soil erosion.

Further, at the beginning of the last decade in 2000-01, the government added a new clause in the Income Tax Act of 1961, exempting interest income from bonds issued by local authorities. Funds raised from tax-free municipal bonds are to be used only for capital investments in urban infrastructure for providing potable water supply, sewerage or sanitation, drainage, solid waste management, roads, bridges and flyovers; and urban transport (if this is a municipal function under the respective state legislation). Thus far, very few smaller cities (such as Nagpur and Vishakapatnam) have been able to utilise this. Besides, regional centres for urban and environmental studies (RCUES) have been established to meet the training and research needs in urban sectors. These centres assist state governments in disseminating information about policies and programmes in urban governance and also undertake research and organise training, seminars, workshops and conferences on topics relating to local self-government, urban development, urban management, water supply and sanitation, property tax, municipal audit and accounting, public housing, low-cost sanitation and urban poverty alleviation programmes.

Bharat Nirman (in the areas of irrigation, rural electrification and rural telecommunication connectivity), Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (for rural roads), Indira Awaz Yojana (rural housing), Rajiv Gandhi National Drinking Water Mission (water supply) and Total Sanitation Campaign (sanitation programmes) cater to rural needs. Besides, there is also the flagship Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS).

The objectives of all programmes, whether rural or urban, are to improve the infrastructure and service provision to raise overall productivity and living conditions. Urban areas are indisputably ahead of the rural areas; hence rural areas of the country stand to benefit with better public services (despite the plethora of rural and urban programmes) if they were to be reclassified as urban, since there are a large number of benefits associated with being eventually urban, as described above.

However, this is difficult to do with a single stroke of the pen and there are a large number of political economy considerations that determine what should be urban and what should be rural. For instance, most of the developed countries are more than 80% urban, China is over 46% urban, with its more liberal definition of urbanisation. The Census of India, if possible as part of its 2011 exercise, at the minimum, should do some simulations of what would happen if we were to redefine what is urban, so that researchers and concerned policy-makers can examine their impacts on these areas, and to evaluate their implications for the concerned ministries, their budgets, and programmes.

(The author, with the Public Affairs Centre, Bangalore, is currently visiting UNU-WIDER)
A Matter of Definition

The Census defines urban areas as having these characteristics: (a) a population of 5,000 or more (b) a minimum density of 1,000 people per square mile (c) at least 75% of workforce outside agriculture
The Census definition for cities per population: Class I: >1,00,000 Class II: 50,000-99,999 Class III:

0,000-49,999 Class IV: 10,000-19,999 Class V: 5,000-9,999









Not so long ago, Jairam Ramesh and his Ministry of Environment and Forests were being pilloried by industrialists and the business establishment while being cheered by environmentalists. Finally, it seemed, there was someone unafraid of consequences and determined to do what his portfolio demands. Business satraps howled that he was choking development. The environmental lobby retaliated, pointing out that environmental butchery could not possibly be 'development'.


Ramesh is free of taint. There are no questions about his personal integrity. But his decisions tell another story: of a ministry hobbled by money pressures from other quarters, of a man under severe pressure, of a ministry that has failed its remit. In a report that is perhaps the more scathing for its restrained language, the Guardian demonstrated how Ramesh's ministry has rejected just six projects since he took charge in 2009, with clearance rate of nearly 95%.


The working of the Standing Committee of the National Board for Wildlife is a grim illustration of how our environment is being railroaded. Wildlife and old-growth forests are the two areas that must have a hands-off policy. The NBWL thinks otherwise. At its 22nd meeting on 25 April 2011 in New Delhi, its overstuffed Standing Committee – 40 people, 28 of them invitees – considered roughly 70 items. A very large number of proposals were received only three days before, on 22 April, leaving no time to study documents or make any kind of informed decision. Thirty nine proposals were listed under the agenda caption of "any other item with the permission of the Chair", typically a residuary agenda item meant for routine, non-controversial matters. Non-government sitting members (some are reputed conservationists and environmentalists) protested at this surreptitious sneaking in of major proposals. They were ignored.


A rough sample: destroying 52 acres of forests in the Hazaribagh Wildlife Sanctuary for the widening of NH33; a proposal to 'repair' and 'maintain' existing National Highways through national parks and sanctuaries in Madhya Pradesh; irrigation projects in the Chambal Sanctuary; drawing underground water from the Son Gharial Sanctuary; installing a ropeway in the Ralamandal Sanctuary in MP; upgrading the 2-lane highway through the Kanha National Park; electrical transmission lines through the Mt Abu Wildlife Sanctuary; dam-building on the Parvan river involving the Shergarh Sanctuary in Rajasthan (which will submerge 82 sq kms of the sanctuary and destroy nearly 2 lakh trees); allowing Idea Cellular to lay a fibre optic cable through the Sawai Mansingh Wildlife Sanctuary; and more. The 'regular' agenda items including the denotification of 14 ha of the Radhanagri Sanctuary, diverting 7 ha of forest for a ropeway to the Ambaji Temple in the Girnar Wildlife Sanctuary (proposed by a private operator, this is the death knell of the critically endangered long-billed vulture) and and the construction of roads in the Dampa Tiger Reserve in Mizoram.

    Most of these projects were cleared. The meeting lasted just over two hours. It was chaired by Jairam Ramesh.

Something is very, very wrong here. Everything points to a determined assault on that most fragile aspect of our environment: our wildlife and its habitat. Particularly worrying are the number of projects proposed in, around and through National Parks and Sanctuaries. These are legally designated areas of wildlife and habitat protection under the Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972. The law sets standards of what can and cannot be done in these areas, reflecting a wider public policy. This violation of an environmental law, in letter and spirit, is being actively encouraged, by the very body that is supposed to protect our sanctuaries and national parks.

Every one of these proposals violates the 'precautionary principle', a legal rule that requires 'informed prudence', the anticipation of environmental harm and loss. Project proponents must, in the face of scientific uncertainty, establish that their proposals are environmentally benign. The precautionary principle has been with us at least since 1982 when the UN General Assembly adopted it and is part of an international treaty since the Rio Earth Summit of 1992. In every single proposal before the NBWL this principle has been abandoned in favour of 'necessity', an altogether more dubious standard with no foundation in environmental law.

The NBWL, when conservationists of the calibre of Salim Ali, Kailash Sankhala and others served on it, was instrumental in framing strong strategies for wildlife conservation. On Jairam Ramesh's watch it has become a farce, and the non-government representatives, though illustrious and commmitted in their own right, are reduced to putting in dissents. Ramesh's statement that he has been under pressure to overlook environmental violations and clear projects is unconvincing. He, and those who pull his strings, are answerable for the continuing rape of our wildlife and its habitat.






                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL




Till Independence in August 1947, the Congress Party did nothing but agitational politics, but after that watershed its forte has been power politics to the exclusion of any other political aspiration or form of political articulation. The exception possibly is Indira Gandhi in the Janata years, riding elephant back to arrive at a scene of atrocity committed on harijans at Belchi in Uttar Pradesh, an image which took the country by storm — a black and white front page newspaper photo etched in the minds of many. But this exception was episodic. If its subtle undertones are read, it can be easily interpreted as an imperial turn, where the protagonist arrives in style to beat back demons tormenting the underdog. The patrician touch was unmistakable and it gave the rulers of the day a big fright, overnight changing the power equation between the ruling party and the main Opposition. AICC general secretary Rahul Gandhi's switch to the mode of agitation at Bhatta-Parsaul in UP's Greater Noida, just outside the nation's capital, suggests an altogether different genre. It appears a genuine attempt at agitation politics, and is therefore to be welcomed in a large federal democracy where rulers at the national level often sit on Opposition benches in some states. But possibly the only similarity between Rahul's Greater Noida foray and that of his grandmother at Belchi is the sensation value of both — deriving from the protagonist's status in each case. More remarkably, it is the dissimilarities that dominate. Indira's elephant ride was assured of success. It also emanated from a sure touch. In Mr Gandhi's case, the battle has only just been joined. It is likely to be a long-drawn affair through North India's baked earth season before the cooling monsoon rains arrive, if Wednesday's Varanasi resolution of the UP Congress is to be taken at face value. Mr Gandhi has promised to be a match for the Mayawati government in "every village" of UP. If the AICC general secretary achieves even 10 per cent of that, it would be a singular achievement. But he himself might have noted that the Bhatta-Parsaul initiative was noteworthy for its striking naiveté, as evidenced through the high-pitched claim of mass killings of farmers and criminal assault on their womenfolk. Mr Gandhi will have to do a lot better than that from here on. Also, he may be better off being guided by his own instincts rather than those of advisers who may well be navigating through a diversity of motives. Leaders make themselves through the experience of struggle. This is how people like Gandhi, Nehru and Patel began. The Bhatta-Parsaul case speaks of the wider issue of land acquisition which is tormenting food-growers across India as the necessity of industrialisation makes itself apparent. The weakness Mr Gandhi will encounter — and UP chief minister Mayawati is right here — is that his party rules the Centre and should have cleared appropriate legislation that might help farmers. But as Mr Gandhi moves along the hot plains of UP focusing on farmers' lives, he will no doubt find many other farmers' issues to highlight, not only the travails in acquiring inherited agricultural land. The intervention of the Congress' most high-profile general secretary, a likely future Prime Minister, is on behalf of landowning classes in the agriculture sector. The Congress has not done this in decades, leaving a major constituency to regional parties in state after state. In this too Bhatta-Parsaul is different from Belchi. If Mr Gandhi intends to move toward mass politics, he may need to make wider changes in his political style and seek to connect on a regular basis with all shades, not only within his own party but also the wider public. Congress leaders haven't done that since Indira's days.







Oh, she wanted it. She wanted it bad. That's what every hard-working, God-fearing, young widow who breaks her back doing menial labour at a Times Square hotel to support her teenage daughter, justify her immigration status and take advantage of the opportunities in America wants — a crazed, rutting, wrinkly old satyr charging naked out of a bathroom, lunging at her and dragging her around the room, caveman-style. Dominique Strauss-Kahn's reputation as a thrice-married French seducer loses something in the translation. According to the claims of the 32-year-old West African maid, what took place in the $3,000-a-day Sofitel suite had nothing to do with seduction. If the allegation is true, Strauss-Kahn's behaviour, boorish and primitive, is rape. Was the chief of the International Monetary Fund telling other countries to tighten their belts while he was dropping his trousers? Lawyers for the 62-year-old Frenchman, who had been a leading Socialist prospect to run against Nicolas Sarkozy next year, seem ready to rebut any DNA evidence by arguing that sex with the maid who came in to clean his room was consensual. Will they argue that she wilted with desire once she realised Strauss-Kahn had been at Davos? Jeffrey Shapiro, the maid's lawyer, angrily rebutted that there was "nothing, nothing" consensual about the droit du monsieur. (It was not a "come in and see my monetary fund" kind of thing.) "She is a simple housekeeper who was going into a room to clean a room", Shapiro told the New York Times. He called the devout Muslim woman from the Bronx "a very proper, dignified young woman" and said "she did not even know who this guy was" until she saw the news accounts. Strauss-Kahn's French defenders are throwing around nutty conspiracy theories, sounding like the Pakistanis about Osama. Some have suggested that he was the victim of a honey-pot arranged by the Sarkozy forces. Bernard-Henri Lévy, a friend of the accused, says he is outraged at the portrayal of Strauss-Kahn as an "insatiable and malevolent beast". He wrote on the Daily Beast: "It would be nice to know — and without delay — how a chambermaid could have walked in alone, contrary to the habitual practice of most of New York's grand hotels of sending a 'cleaning brigade' of two people, into the room of one of the most closely watched figures on the planet". At least he didn't mention Dreyfus. For years, I've stayed at the Sofitel and other hotels in New York City, and I've never seen a "brigade", simply single maids coming in to clean. In Washington, they have now nicknamed the street that separates the IMF and the World Bank, where Paul Wolfowitz lost his job over financial hanky-panky with his girlfriend, the Boulevard of Bad Behaviour. These are the two institutions that are globally renowned for lecturing the rest of the world on discipline and freedom, when it's the West that's guilty of recklessness and improvident behaviour. First in finance, then in sex. People who can't keep their flies zipped lecturing other people. While the French excoriated the American system of justice — discouraging pictures of Strauss-Kahn handcuffed, which are illegal in France — Americans could pride themselves on the sound of the "bum-bum" "Law & Order: SVU" gong sounding, the noise that heralds that justice will be done without regard to wealth, class or privilege. It's an inspiring story about America, where even a maid can have dignity and be listened to when she accuses one of the most powerful men in the world of being a predator. (A charge that has been made against him before, with a similar pattern of brutal behaviour.) The young woman escaped horrors in her native Guinea, a patriarchal society where rape is widespread and used as a device of war, a place where she would have been kicked to the curb if she tried to take on a powerful man. When she faced the horror here, she had a recourse. Another famous European with a disturbing pattern of sexual aggression got in trouble over the help this week: The ex-governor of California, who got elected after his wife, Maria Shriver, defended him so eloquently against groping charges. Arnold Schwarzenegger was also guilty of the raw assertion of male power. More than mere infidelity, The Sperminator was caught on lying and piggishness, having a son with a staffer around the same time Maria had their youngest son, who is now 13. He kept the staffer on the payroll and even may have brought the son Maria didn't know about into the house. No wonder Maria fled to a Beverly Hills hotel. We're always fascinated with the contradiction that cosmopolitan, high-powered, multilingual people can behave in such primitive ways. But civilisation and morality have nothing to do with sophistication and social status. The lesson of these two fallen grandees, as Bill Maher told Chris Matthews, is: "If you're going to go after the household help, get a 'Yes', first".






"Freedom is in peril. Defend it with all your might." That was the slogan that was carried atop the masthead of National Herald, the newspaper that Jawaharlal Nehru founded in 1938 (it shut shop in 2008). The slogan was written in Nehru's elegant hand and bespoke the first Prime Minister's commitment to free speech. Today, that freedom is imperilled by the Internet Control Rules introduced recently with relative despatch. These rules are omnibus. They are inadequately defined. Where the Internet is concerned, they have the potential to turn India into a police state, no freer than China. And we had thought that the rise of the Internet marked the break of a new dawn of freedom. Particularly pernicious are the intermediaries' liability rules. Intermediaries are the purveyors of third-party content on the Internet and include Internet Service Providers (ISPs), portals of all kinds, social networks, search engines, blogging platforms and Web-hosting service providers. According to the Information Technology (Intermediaries Guidelines) Rules, 2011, notified under Section 79 of the Information Technology Act, 2000, intermediaries enjoy exemption from liability for the third-party content they host provided they observe due diligence. And how are they to exercise due diligence? That is where the problems arise. Intermediaries, for instance, have to ensure that users do not put out content that, among other things, "is grossly harmful, harassing, blasphemous, defamatory, obscene, pornographic, paedophilic, libellous, invasive of another's privacy, hateful, or racially, ethnically objectionable, disparaging, relating or encouraging money laundering or gambling, or otherwise unlawful in any manner whatever; *harm minors in any way; *infringes any patent, trademark, copyright or other proprietary rights; *threatens the unity, integrity, defence, security or sovereignty of India, friendly relations with foreign states, or public order or causes incitement to the commission of any cognisable offence or prevents investigation of any offence or is insulting any other nation". The specification could not be more sweeping and catch-all. Anything could be described as "grossly harmful", "harassing", "blasphemous", "defamatory", "ethnically objectionable" or "disparaging". For instance, the Internet could be happy hunting grounds for those who today object to every other commercial film on the ground that it hurts their sensitivities. Harsh criticism of the state of affairs in any part of the country could be interpreted as threatening public order. Criticism of the regime or policies with any foreign country could be described as harmful of friendly relations with that country. The list could go on. What do you have to do if you don't like anything on the Net? All you have to do is make a formal complaint to the intermediary concerned. It will be obliged to act within 36 hours and, where applicable, work with the user or owner to disable the offending content. So, the onus is on the intermediary to take a call and act. Just about anybody can make a complaint about anything. Any representative of the state, anywhere in India, could take exception to anything on the Net and lodge a complaint. The intermediary is obliged to act within 36 hours. If it does not, it stands to lose the freedom to purvey information. No prizes for guessing what the proclivity of intermediaries will be. They will be inclined to play safe. Succinctly put, there is scope for mischief. There is scope for mayhem. Above all, there is a mandate for indirect censorship. This is exactly what Google has complained about. In an official statement, it has said, "If Internet platforms are held liable for third-party content, it would lead to self-censorship and reduce the free flow of information". This is a throwback to the great debate in international forums in the 1970s and 1980s between the votaries of the doctrine of free flow of information and the champions of a new world information and communication order. Then, as now, official India was no champion of the free flow of information! Newly notified rules relating to cyber cafes are as exceptionable, designed as they are to enhance surveillance and inhibit free and easy access to information. Every cyber café user must now show proper ID proof, a copy of which the owner must store ("securely maintain") for at least one year. A student does not have proper ID proof? No problem. She must bring along an adult who has one! The cyber café owner must then photograph the user and maintain time logs of usage. He must submit these, with her photograph and personal information, along with data relating to other users, to appropriate authorities every month. There is more. The cyber café owner must also maintain logs of online activity by any user in his establishment and store this information for at least a year. Further, if the cyber café has cubicles and partitions, no minor may use the facility unless she is accompanied by an adult. So much for promoting the Internet culture among students. Privacy? What's that? Potential for harassment by both authorities and cyber café owners? Yes, of course, there is plenty. Surveillance? Big Brother gets one more weapon with which to browbeat citizens. Predictably, there has been an outcry against these rules, especially the ones relating to the liability of intermediaries. The department of information technology has taken note of these protests and, in a long official statement, disavowed any intention to regulate content "in a highly subjective and possibly arbitrary manner". Frankly, the government doth protest too much. Nor can it argue that the proclivity to use the law to curb free speech is a thing of the past. Just the other day (on May 17, to be precise) a newspaper reporter in Mumbai was arrested under the Official Secrets Act of 1923. His crime: He had entered "a prohibited place" on the premises of the VT railway station and gathered material for a story. The mandarins who framed these Internet Control Rules should have paid heed to what the founding fathers of the Republic had to say about free speech. Nehru had said: "Imposing restriction you do not change anything; you merely suppress the public manifestation of certain things, thereby causing the ideas and thought underlying them to spread further. Therefore, I would rather have a completely free press, with all the dangers involved in the wrong use of that freedom, than a suppressed or regulated press". Gandhi was even clearer in his mind about the paramountcy of choice: "The useful and the useless must, like good and evil, generally go together and man must make the choice". And "the restoration of free speech, free association and free press is almost the whole of swaraj". If these be the principles on which India was founded, why must our mandarins go about thwarting free speech and free access to information in the ham-handed and blunt manner they have? Vivek Sengupta, public affairs analyst, is founder and chief executive of the consulting firm Moving Finger Communications








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









Constitutional propriety and rule of law demand HR Bhardwaj, Governor of Karnataka, and KG Bopaiah, Speaker of the State Assembly, resign. Regardless of his recent change of heart about the mandate of the BS Yeddyurappa government,  Bhardwaj had turned the Raj Bhavan into a platform for Opposition legislators ever since he was appointed Governor. The Congress and the Janata Dal (Secular) led by HD Deve Gowda have all along been conspiring to dethrone the BJP government headed by Yeddyurappa. When 11 BJP and five Independents supporting the government were lured to defect last October, the Governor asked the Chief Minister to prove his majority on the floor of the Assembly, a perfectly legitimate demand.  He also took the unprecedented step of writing to the Speaker directing him not to exercise his power under the anti-defection law and even threatened that disqualification of the defectors would not be acceptable to him. Had the Speaker abided by the Governor's direction, the Yeddyurappa government would have certainly failed to prove its majority. Bopaiah, though elected to the Assembly as a nominee of the BJP, was expected to act impartially but did not. He promptly disqualified the 16 dissident MLAs without going by the rule- book. Amidst bedlam in the Assembly, Yeddyurappa survived the trust vote and the Karnataka High Court upheld the Speaker's action. The Supreme Court on Monday set aside the High Court ruling and restored membership of the 16 MLAs after passing severe strictures on the Speaker. The MLAs, meanwhile, chose to return to the BJP fold on their own volition. The Supreme Court judgment did not create any political or constitutional crisis in Karnataka. There was no law and order problem either. But the Governor, who was mandated to destabilise the BJP government in the State, recommended President's rule. Having been a former Union law minister, Bhardwaj was expected to be familiar with the landmark Bommai judgment of the Supreme Court which laid down the rules for ascertaining legislative support of any government and the conditions for recommending President's rule.  He could have got away with recommending President's rule in Karnataka in October 2010, but not in May 2011. His justification that the Speaker, in collusion with the Chief Minister, "distorted the character and composition of the Assembly" on 3 October last is no longer relevant in today's composition of the 224-member Assembly in which the BJP enjoys the support of more than 120 members. That the intervention under Article 356(1) of the Constitution is not limited to a situation of the government losing its majority in the Assembly, as claimed by Bhardwaj, is granted. But he had nothing else to justify his demand for the dismissal of the Yeddyurappa government. By acting as political agent of the Centre in the State and by his extra-constitutional activities in Raj Bhavan, Bhardwaj has made his continuance as Governor of Karnataka untenable and Bopaiah by his hasty disqualification of MLAs, who withdrew support to the ruling party, has forfeited his right to continue as Speaker of the Karnataka Assembly. Both should go.



MUST India's policing agencies always make an international laughing stock of the nation? Within days of the "most-wanted" fiasco, a CBI team headed by a deputy-inspector general of police invited ridicule in Denmark when it presented an expired warrant of arrest as a basis on which to seek the extradition of Kim Davy, prime suspect in the Purulia arms-drop. It is of little consequence that the glitch was expected to be remedied before the formal court proceedings commenced ~ as indeed has been the most-wanted list submitted to Pakistan. Nor is there much point in nit-picking over which investigative unit was lax in its paperwork. The embarrassment is to the country and its people at large. These are not stray incidents, various efforts at extradition have come a cropper because of such casualness, incompetence, or perhaps worse ~ particularly in regard to Ottavio Quattrocchi. In Davy's case the need for diligence could not have been over-stressed: a lower court had rejected the extradition move, the Danish government had appealed to a higher court but India's shoddy paperwork could create complications. The Indian system of criminal justice administration does not enjoy a sparkling reputation in the international arena, the shortcomings now under focus would serve as an explanation. Yet we claim to have shaken off that "third world" image. What is now apparent it that the post-26/11 revamp of the central police agencies has progressed precious little beyond more "hubs" for the NSG, perhaps better weapons and equipment. There has been no visible improvement in the quality of the effort ~ which is essentially the human side of things. The CRPF continues to walk into Maoist ambushes, no need to look beyond observations of the apex court for a commentary on the CBI's functioning, now it is apparent that even the "staff work" is downright shoddy. And those appointed as legal counsel for the CBI etc tend to be of similarly poor ability. Police reform is still a very long way off. Exemplifying that situation so graphically, realistically, is the silver screen: Hollywood long abandoned its "Keystone Cops" of the silent move era, Bollywood still thrives on the projection of policemen as bumbling goons!



IT would be tempting to summon that worn-out cliche ~ "better late than never". A year after Tagore's 150th anniversary became an occasion for cultural grandstanding ~ and simulated India-Bangladesh bonding ~ the Union ministry of culture has eventually added a fair measure of academic value to the occasion. In a remarkable, if belated, widening of the scope for research, the number of institutions entitled to grants under the Tagore National Fellowships for Cultural Research has been increased from 17 to 29. It is intended in the main to spur and enrich research into the "cultural resources" pertaining to Tagore. Unlike a typical GoI entity, the Culture ministry has been unusually liberal in its terms of reference. Institutions that are not directly under the ministry but possess the wherewithal for serious academic pursuit will also be entitled to the fellowships. Tagore museums will hopefully benefit enormously, indeed serve society more meaningfully than mere sight-seeing halts. The artifacts and mementos are not merely for public viewing, if not theft as at Santiniketan's Rabindra Bhavan.  Every objet d'art has a rich history associated with it, as profound as it is anecdotal. It is this past that needs to be delved into as a tribute to the poet on his 150th birth anniversary. The objective will be achieved only if the calibre of research fellows as much as the supervision are suitably distinguished. A run-of-the mill endeavour will scarcely justify the funding. It is a pity that this academic value addition wasn't imparted a year ago; the focus  overwhelmingly was on the lilting song-and-dance rituals. The initiative ought ideally to have been taken by the period museums, the zonal cultural centres and certain campuses. Till the Culture ministry stepped in, the academic aspect was virtually neglected and not least at Visva-Bharati. A stark contrast from the offshore responses, pre-eminently the University of Beijing and the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) ~ institutions that have hosted discourses and paper presentations in 2010. Indeed, they have commemorated Tagore beyond the entertainment stage of singing and pirouetting. So very unlike Indian campuses and cultural centres. More's the pity.








THERE are many players of the political game in Pakistan. Some are over ground, others are underground. Underground outfits have covert links with over ground powers. It is difficult to fathom who is what and who goes with whom. In this situation of Byzantine intrigue all the major players appear to be paralysed. None appears willing to initiate change. But change in Pakistan is inevitable. The present state of affairs cannot continue. In this murky atmosphere truth remains obscure. Official pronouncements are dismissible. One therefore must rely on personal instinct.

The accepted version of recent events is unacceptable. Osama bin Laden was hiding in the heart of Pakistan's military establishment. That no part of the Pakistan military establishment was aware is unbelievable. American operatives encroached into Pakistan in helicopters and killed Osama. That no part of the Pakistan military establishment was aware is unbelievable. But the fiction of ignorance on both counts has to be maintained by both America and Pakistan. Behind the curtain one does not know what bitter accusations of betrayal might be flowing inside Pakistan's military establishment. What one does know is that neither the Pakistan military, nor the Pakistan civilian government, nor the US government is prepared to rock the boat.

Hypocritical silence must be maintained to continue the status quo. Each player has a vested interest in the fictitious official version. America dare not rock the boat for fear of losing access to Afghanistan through Pakistan. Pakistan's army must perpetuate the fiction for fear of further exposure and disgrace. Pakistan's civilian government must maintain the fiction to avoid provoking a disgraced army which can remove it. All the players are paralysed. Then which player will initiate change in the situation?

There is one player that most likely will act. And its sustained action could alter for all time the situation in Pakistan. The Taliban could be the catalyst for change in Pakistan. The Pakistan army committed a double act of betrayal. It betrayed America and the world by housing Osama bin Laden. It betrayed the Taliban, which was covertly supported by it earlier, through allowing the Americans to kill Osama. America and the world may overlook the betrayal by the Pakistan army. One doubts if the Taliban will be as forgiving.

There are so many terrorist outfits owing covert allegiance to so many over ground entities that it is impossible for anyone except security experts to unravel the role of each. But for our purpose a broad categorization will serve. There is on the one hand the Lashkar-e-Toiba headed by Hafiz Saeed that operates mainly against India and in Kashmir. The Lashkar is controlled by the ISI and is loyal to the Pakistan army. On the other hand is the Taliban having branches in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Taliban feels betrayed by the Pakistan army because it was supporting Al Qaida and Osama bin Laden. The Taliban has already organized one major strike killing 80 Pakistan army recruits. It has threatened more strikes. Contrary to popular perception one consistently maintained that the prime source of Taliban's motivation was not global jihad but frustration emanating from the century old domination and interference in the region by the big global powers.

Long before the current American war in Afghanistan, that country was devastated by the Great Game played between colonial Britain and Tsarist Russia, and later by the Soviet occupation. This long spell ruined the lives of countless Pashtuns who reside on both sides of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. The Taliban recruits Pashtuns from both sides of the border. Thousands of Pashtuns joined the Taliban to oppose America since the war began in 2001. The American drone attacks in the NWFP led to heavy Pashtun recruitment on the Pakistani side of the border. There were distinct signs that the Taliban sided with Osama bin Laden not because it supported global jihad but because Osama was perceived as the enemy of America which had occupied Afghanistan. Several statements and offers made by Mullah Omar indicated this. The Americans chose to demonize the Taliban because it could not rely on its eventual cooperation in allowing US access to Central Asia. It failed to perceive that any mutually fair arrangement would be acceptable to the Taliban because the Pashtuns are starved for funds. Only recently have the Americans reversed policy to attempt negotiation with the Taliban.

The Pakistan army made a covert alliance with the Taliban in pursuit of its aim to gain strategic depth in Afghanistan. The Pashtuns were made to believe that the Pakistan army was merely bleeding America for funds in order to confront India. But the death of Osama has ripped the mask hiding the true face of the Pakistan army. One doubts if the Taliban will ever trust the Pakistan army any more. It is likely that Taliban attacks against the army will escalate. And if there is sustained confrontation the Taliban struggle could assume a new dimension.

It is quite likely that a prolonged confrontation between the Taliban and the Pakistan army could change the nature of the struggle and alter the Taliban's goals. Over time, the assertion of Pashtun identity and the consolidation of the Pashtun population could become the overriding goal. All Pashtuns on both sides of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, including those in the Karzai government and among the Taliban, and even the over 25 per cent in the Pakistan army, would acquire a common unifying cause that has eluded them for over a century; the creation of a Pashtun state.

It should be noted that in Pakistan's tribal belt only a few families own orchards and land pastures that provide livelihood. Wages for rural labour are low. The large landlords control the timber from forests and operate the mines. There is economic deprivation and resentment among the Pashtun mass in the Swat valley and allied regions. The provincial government has failed to stem rampant corruption in the police and judiciary. In other words, although not properly articulated yet, the grievances of the Pakistani Pashtuns are largely political.
These factors indicate that the emergence of Pashtun consolidation and identity is unstoppable. If the Pakistan military and civilian establishment exhibit wisdom and decentralize the nation to peacefully integrate it with the rest of South Asia, Pakistan in its present form will survive and thrive. If not, Pakistan could balkanize. The Taliban revolt could lead to far-reaching change.

The writer is a veteran journalist and cartoonist







Irresponsibility is perhaps the worst sign in a politician. And, for a political leader aspiring to be Prime Minister, it is totally inexcusable. So is an indication that the politician has a long way to go before he can handle the job of representing the people courageously and honestly, or that perhaps he should do himself and everyone else a favour and look for another job altogether.

It was with a sense of astonishment that one tuned into television news to hear the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty heir, Mr Rahul Gandhi, talking of the rape of countless women, the murder of countless men and of a huge pit serving as a mass grave for farmers killed for protesting against acquisition of their land. Mass grave? Then what was Mr Gandhi doing before the cameras? Surely the entire Congress machinery, the cops, the CBI and rest of the security apparatus should all have been at the spot digging up the grave and bringing the perpetrators to justice? Television channels, happy to have found their cameras within filming distance of Mr Gandhi did not ask any questions and were quite happy to record the dramatic "revelations".

And just as one expected, the Congress was too stunned to react when it realised that it had nothing to back its leader's allegations. Women came on camera and spoke to print reporters, insisting there had been no rape. They said that while many had been beaten, no one had been raped. The farmers looked surprised when questioned about mass graves. "Graves, what graves?" True, able-bodied farmers had fled the villages as it happens whenever cops are asked by politicians to "crack down" on the poor, but while many were yet to return, there were no reports of mass murders. Or, for that matter, mass rapes either. The Congress held a quick briefing, insisting that its leader had been misquoted. Mr Rahul Gandhi himself tried to brazen it out at the Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee session in Varanasi where he said that he would launch an agitation for the rights of farmers in every village of UP but was careful not to bring up mass graves and mass rape.
Someone has to tell Mr Rahul Gandhi that politics is not a lark. It is a very serious business and while it is true that much of the political space is currently occupied by criminals and con men, it is also true that there are still many left who spend sufficient time and energy trying to make a difference. And the difference does not come by exaggerating the truth (if one is to use a polite phrase) but in stating things as they are. Initially, the Congress' response to the farmers' stir had paid the party and Mr Gandhi dividends what with Uttar Pradesh chief minister Miss Mayawati having been put on the back foot. But the unnecessary temptation to play with facts landed the heir apparent in a credibility crisis. The result was that the Congress was embarrassed and apologetic, while the UP chief minister got out of the dock with the "What else can you expect from the Congress?" line.

Politics needs time, undivided time. The Youth Congress cannot be revived by distributing tickets to a bunch of youth, most of whom have lost the recent Assembly elections. Politics needs direction, consistency and above all, time and sustained interest ~ something that is missing. The poor cannot be relegated to the periphery with indulging in occasional tokenism such as an occasional meal at a Dalit home or an organised visit of a few farmers to the Prime Minister's residence. There has to be a comprehensive programme and policy whereby socially, economically and politically, the poor are made the focal point of planning.
Mr Rahul Gandhi is a powerful entity in the Congress. His word, like that of his mother Mrs Sonia Gandhi, is law in that organisation. No one in the party dares question the Nehru-Gandhi will, not even the Prime Minister himself. So while a little bit of activism, such as taking a few farmers to Delhi so that they can meet the Prime Minister, is charming and perhaps even endearing to some, it is certainly minuscule a contribution from someone in the position of Mr Gandhi. He can and should influence government policies to make them pro-poor and pro-farmer, but to do so, he will needs clarity. Land acquisition across rural India has become a huge real estate operation, and Mr Gandhi, apart from insisting on the quick passage of a comprehensive Land Acquisition Bill, will have to crack down on the realty mafia that is milking people's misery. The agitation for the farmers' cause cannot be taken to every village unless the Congress decides where it is going or rather, where it wants to go on issues such as these. And unfortunately, the much-needed clarity is missing.
Reckless privatisation in the name of economic reforms being followed by the Congress-led government at the Centre cannot address the issues concerning the poor and the deprived in any meaningful way. There is need for a review and an overhaul keeping Indian interests in mind. Lip service to the farmers' cause and exaggerated half truths or white lies will simply not do as they make a mockery of the abysmal poverty that most smallholders face in India.
So, someone in the Congress will have to explain to the scion that there is a difference between a 70-feet-deep pit full of dead bodies and no pit at all. And that rallying farmers for a cause that does not exist will defeat the purpose of the genuine struggle and ensure that they remain grounded in defeat. More so, as in this case, the truth does not need to be embellished. It is unnerving and regrettable enough as it is.

The writer is Consulting Editor, The Statesman 







Pakistani Prime Minister Mr Yousuf Raza Gilani started a four-day official visit to China last Tuesday. The visit, two weeks after the US killing of Osama bin Laden on 2 May, is drawing a great deal of media attention around the world.

The US operation on Pakistani soil was carried out with Islamabad apparently kept in the dark. Since then, the two sides have collided over questions such as whether the US operation infringed upon Pakistan's sovereignty and whether Islamabad had been shielding world's No. 1 terrorist in recent years.

Given the all-weather friendship between Beijing and Islamabad, there has been some speculation that Mr Gilani's visit to China is a move to seek support amid the growing tensions in US-Pakistani ties. But the traditional friendly relations between Beijing and Islamabad are long-standing and have withstood the test of time. Their stable and growing bilateral relationship does not target any third party, but rather contributes to regional peace and stability.

China hopes to see US-Pakistani relations improve as it is in the same boat with the two countries in fighting terrorism. Last week, during the third round of the US-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue, Beijing and Washington agreed to hold the 8th US-China counter-terrorism consultation this year. Beijing also recognises the important role that the US plays in the Asia-Pacific region.

The elimination of Osama bin Laden does not necessarily mean the world can now slacken its vigilance and reduce its efforts against the global scourge of terrorism. The road for the international community to remove the root cause of terrorism remains long and arduous, demanding more international cooperation. US Senator Mr John Kerry visited Islamabad this week, becoming the first high-level American official to visit Pakistan since the death of the Al Qaida leader. He will be followed by US secretary of state Mrs Hillary Clinton.
It is hoped this diplomacy will help mend the fences and deepen mutual trust between Islamabad and Washington, so that the two countries can continue their cooperation in the war against terror. However, Pakistan's sincerity in the anti-terror crusade should not be questioned as the country has borne and continues to bear the brunt of international terrorism. In addition to the huge cost in human lives, direct and indirect Pakistani losses engendered from the fight against terrorism over the past 10 years have reached $100 billion. Any over-interpretation of Mr Gilani's ongoing visit to China will prove to be superficial and speculative.  

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Addressing the Afghan parliament in Kabul, Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh said: "Afghanistan is integral to our security and both of us are aware of this. Our ties are as old as time. Our cultural and religious links are unshakeable. And our Afghan brothers are aware of this and know of our commitment to stand by in readiness should anyone be thinking in terms of a security vacuum occurring after the Nato forces are withdrawn from the region." A significant observation from the PM.

And the many Afghans I have known have always considered Pakistan's friendly overtures to be no better than the proverbial bear's hug. They remember how Pakistan virtually took over the reins during the Taliban rule after the Russians retreated from Afghanistan. Najibullah may not have been a great patriotic President but the way he was betrayed by Pakistan and the Taliban who hung him in Kabul is something the Afghans will not easily forget. Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan told me in Jalalabad while sitting in the open on a simple charpoy years ago: "They say I am backing the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Can you imagine that? Me, a man who has stood all his life for adam-e-tashadud (non-violence), encouraging Amin (President) and the Soviets to kill my clansmen (Pashtuns) on either side of the Pak-Afghan border? I am living in exile here in Jalalabad hoping that one day we will achieve our dream of Pashtunistan. It's the Generals in Pakistan who are alleging that I have pro-Soviet leanings. But, not one Pashtun will accept this."

Pakistan has always seen Afghanistan as a buffer between its territories and other nations in the neighbourhood. With the foundation of Bangladesh, Afghanistan had become strategically vital to Pakistan. The Pakistani military and bureaucratic establishment admit this. And, the categorisation of the Taliban into the good and the bad stems from such a consideration. The "good" Taliban, if that's possible, are invariably the ones groomed by the ISI and the "bad" Taliban are the rogues "who would only alienate the people".

The "bad" Taliban, mind you, think very little of such business of calling a spade a spade and are routinely bombing Pakistani cities to make their point. Mercifully, Pakistan has lately stopped blaming such attacks on its civilian population on the Indian Intelligence agency ~ the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW). Ever since the assasination of Osama bin Laden, all militant organisations operating from the country ~ right from Hafeez Saeed's Lashkar-e-Taiyyaba to other less important militia ~ are virtually competing with each other in claiming responsibility for such suicide raids. Their wrath recently claimed the life of a Saudi diplomat in Karachi. Saudis are considered to be "the running dogs of the Americans" and this slaying has been conveniently attributed to a Shi'ite killer by a Wahabi Sunni.

The Americans are trying to make the best of a bad bargain, offering an assortment of carrots to Pakistan's military to help it get over the shock of the surprise precision raid that took Osama's life, leaving it red-faced. Senator John Kerry, former Democratic Presidential candidate and a ranking Senate member, who was in Pakistan earlier this week, tried to assuage Pakistani feelings but asserted the appropriateness of USA's decision against informing the Pakistanis in advance of its decision to attack Osama living in a compound next to Pakistan Military Academy.

Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh's effusive reception by the Afghan leadership in Kabul and the commitment made by him to Mr Hamid Karzai and the Afghan people entails an additional commitment of US$500 million apart from nearly US$ 2 billion already committed to different projects under way in the country. But then, will Pakistan allow Afghanistan enough time to go ahead with its numerous developmental projects? Within less than a month of Osama bin Laden's killing, Pakistani army chief General Ashfaq Kayani and ISI chief Lt-Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha have begun intensifying Pakistan-sponsored terror in the rugged Afghan terrain. Surprisingly, the Pakistani Generals appear to have forgotten that the three wars the British fought in Afghanistan during the 19th and 20th centuries, had ended without any success. The Pakistanis have every reason to remember their experience of the 70's and early 80's when they acted as the advance guard of the Americans in dethroning the pro-Left, Soviet-backed Afghan government. The anti-Soviet jihad was spearheaded by Pakistani terrorists backing the odd local warlord and fully supported with money and arms supplied by the Americans and the Saudis. Bin Laden was a child of the anti-Soviet jihad and returned to Afghanistan later first to destabilise the local government and then to help Mullah Omar ~ the one-eyed Taliban leader ~ take over the country. It's a different matter that the Mullah and Laden eventually fell out. Any hope that Pakistan will now dismantle its terror mechanism after Laden's death has been dashed with most Americans in the know still insisting that Pakistanis were double-dealing as before.

Then, even before Laden was dead, General Kayani was pulling out the China card. Just two weeks before the raid on Abbottabad, General Kayani and Prime Minister Gilani were in Kabul demanding that Mr Hamid Karzai dump the USA in favour of China. President Zardari travelled to Moscow to work on a new relationship with Russia. Moscow, according to knowledgeable reports, considers a deeper engagement of some value to it. Dr Singh's visit to Kabul does in this context make a lot of sense. During his short visit, Dr Singh has left the Afghan leadership in no doubt of what the future would be like. Dr Singh signalled India's determination to raise its independent profile in that country. In the coming months, New Delhi will have to do much more. It is important in this context that we step up engagement with Washington, Beijing and Moscow and regional actors such as Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Pakistan is focused on Afghanistan at the moment and is slowly playing the China card. Kashmir makes the odd entry into the rhetoric and rightly so, with stakeholders insisting that India must maintain its current dialogue with Pakistan and keep channels of communication open with all major political forces within the neighbouring country. The time of posturing is truly behind us. New Delhi would do well to take the route of quiet activism. It needs to position itself such to influence the outcome of the current warlike phase in Afghanistan and also as a constructive force to bring positive changes in Pakistan. The problem will be persuading Pakistan's political leadership as well as its civil society to keep the Generals in check. Unfortunately the army is still the most potent force there. Its ability to hold any political dispensation to ransom at will, in Pakistan's own long-term interest, ought to be crushed. But, never, should we take our eyes off Afghanistan. China, the all-weather friend of Pakistan has already drawn its lines in this regard and Beijing knows exactly how far it has to go.

The writer is a veteran journalist and former Resident Editor, The Statesman








Rhetoric has to yield place to deeds. Once Mamata Banerjee has uttered the words of the oath at Raj Bhavan this afternoon, her life, and the expectations from her, will move to a different phase. After she is sworn in as chief minister, most people, including her ardent admirers, will pay more attention to her actions than to her words. The challenge before her — and she has taken on this challenge in her election manifesto — is to refashion West Bengal. But before she begins to do that, she has to begin the task of dismantling the legacy of the Left Front. The most damaging and shameful aspect of this inheritance is the bankruptcy of the state. To revive the state's finances, Ms Banerjee will have to negotiate with the Centre for a moratorium on interest payments and to secure other benefits. She will need to hike up revenues, which will entail getting more investments. Apart from all this, the financial recovery of the state will also depend on her ability to take tough and unpopular decisions involving cuts in expenditure. This last aspect is linked to another feature of the Left's legacy. In the course of its rule, the Left Front imposed on the government many uncalled for expenses — the salaries and allowances of teachers is one example — that were financially untenable. Will Ms Banerjee have the courage to cut back on these? She has the political mandate but the spectre of populism looms large over it.

Ms Banerjee has to break from the Left's — or to be more precise, the Communist Party of India (Marxist)'s — pernicious propensity to control everything in the state — from the administration to the police, to education, to culture and so on. She will have to instil confidence in the bureaucracy and the police so that they can act independently and without fear of political repercussion. In education, the CPI(M) destroyed the autonomy of institutions through pieces of legislation that allowed it to control schools, colleges and universities. Ms Banerjee has to set up new norms for running these institutions. This could mean scrapping the existing acts that govern them and creating new statutes in their place. Here Ms Banerjee's eyes should be on academic freedom and excellence rather on rewarding loyalty.

If these challenges are not daunting enough, Ms Banerjee has the almost insuperable task of trying to change a mindset. Under Left rule, what were privileged were sloth and the confidence that one could get one's salary/wage without doing a stroke of work. Unless Ms Banerjee alters this attitude, her best intentions and efforts will come to nought. She will have to decide whether she wants to be a proper chief minister or a popular chief minister. Her choice will determine the future of West Bengal. The oath this afternoon could be easier uttered than done.

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In their import, the results of the parliamentary bypolls in Kadapa and Pulivendula in Andhra Pradesh may be no less significant than those of the assembly polls in the states. The results directly affect the confidence of the Congress, heading the United Progressive Alliance at the Centre. For the Congress, Andhra Pradesh is a crucial state. This is not only because the party has 33 representatives from the state in the Lok Sabha but also because this is one of the few states where it heads the government and retains its dominance. The victory of Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy's YSR Congress Party in both the seats by a stupendous margin indicates that the Congress is fast losing its grip on Andhra Pradesh. If it fails to prevent the slide, the party may soon find itself playing second fiddle as it does in Tamil Nadu or West Bengal, where compromises in the name of 'coalition dharma' have reduced the UPA's effectiveness. Arguably, such an eventuality is yet to come. But the Congress's repeated failure to steer its ship in Andhra Pradesh does not augur well. The party's attempts to cut down the threat from Mr Reddy have only increased his stature. A weak leadership, unchecked dissension in the party, and its ambiguous stand on Telangana are bound to increase the Congress's troubles in the state.

For now, Mr Reddy has claimed nothing more than his right to the legacy of his late father, Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy. The votes that went to him in Kadapa and to his mother in Pulivendula owed more to the sympathy factor than to the people's faith in them. Mr Reddy is aware of this and is trying to build up a support base with his pro-farmer rhetoric. Both the Telugu Desam Party and the Congress may try to counter Mr Reddy's popularity by playing up the Telangana issue, hoping that the YSR Congress's anti-Telangana rhetoric may hamstring it. But neither the farmer issue nor Telangana deserves overt politicization. Wrangling over such matters may drag Andhra Pradesh into a deeper cesspool.






The curiosum of a 'red regime' with a knack to get re-elected term after term for over more than three decades within the ambit of a full-fledged multi-party democracy has finally disappeared. The Left Front, led by the Communist Party of India (Marxist), has not merely lost the poll in West Bengal, it has been made mincemeat of. Its vote share has come down from close to 50 per cent five years ago to around 41 per cent. Three-fourths of the Front ministers have failed to get re-elected. Its chief minister has been demolished by a retired civil servant who had once served under him. The debacle in West Bengal is in stark contrast to the Left's performance in Kerala, which too had gone to the polls. The anti-incumbency factor has long been regarded as axiomatic truth in that state; the electorate has never reposed trust in the same party or the same coalition of parties for two consecutive terms. This time, that tradition was very nearly breached by the Left Democratic Front, which received the same percentage of votes cast as it did five years ago. It could have, in fact, returned to power had only some 900 votes spread over three constituencies been cast differently. The CPI(M) chief minister has been re-elected by a thumping margin, each of his cabinet colleagues, too, has won comfortably. Although, technically, the ULF has failed to retain power, admiration for the 87-year-old warrior, inflexible in ideology, who led it, remains sky high; the morale of the CPI(M) is unaffected.

That will hardly make up for the grim setback in the eastern state. West Bengal has long been the citadel of radical thought and praxis for those who consider the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party to be of the same ilk and look towards the Left for inspiration and guidance in the struggle of the nation's underprivileged and exploited millions. The assiduity with which the CPI(M) had welded together the lower peasantry, workers in both the organized and the unorganized sectors, as well as the middle class battered by inflation and worklessness drew wide acclaim. The endeavours of the Left Front government in West Bengal in its initial phase to effect thoroughgoing land reforms and administrative decentralization were pace-setters for the rest of the country. Similar plaudits were showered on it for its success in organizing a national campaign, cutting across political divides, for a major restructuring of Centre-state relations with a view to transforming the polity into a genuinely federal system. Enduring Left dominance in West Bengal was the hypothesis around which radical dreams began to be woven in the nooks and corners of the country.

Many of these dreams soon petered out. The initiatives of the Left Front government taken in different directions were allowed to dry up; the regime gradually became a weary stereotype. Its earlier pledge to reach decisions on the graver issues of the day with the advice and counsel of the people was given the short shrift. This tendency was strengthened, one suspects, by a shift in the class character of the party loyalists in a number of districts which experienced burgeoning prosperity from the Front's rural reforms. The story of the past decade has been cataclysmic for the Front. How much cataclysmic has been finally revealed by the devastating results of the state assembly polls which have rendered the Front and CPI(M) leaders shell-shocked. The top brass of the CPI(M), and therefore of the Front, are reported to be still apparently researching and analysing the reasons that would explain the calamity. An opportunity to do a good turn should not be missed. So here below is, for the benefit of these leaders, a synoptic presentation of facts the rest of humanity is aware of but they apparently are not.

1. At a certain time in the early 1990s, successive electoral triumphs goaded the state CPI(M) bosses into the belief that the party was invincible, that they had the permanent lease on West Bengal. In the fiercely competitive multi-party milieu the Left Front government was functioning in, any mistake, big or small, on its part, would be pounced upon by the Opposition — that elementary truth was ignored.

2. The assumption of invincibility encouraged sloth in both ideology and praxis. Since the people would always be with them, party leaders and ministers decided to experiment with policies not quite in consonance with Left praxis. Rapid industrialization was greatly to be coveted for the sake of growth in income and employment. The 2006 state elections had given a mandate to the Left Front to go ahead with an industrialization programme. There was too much of a bother in launching new industrial projects in the public sector because of the dearth of financial and technological resources. Why not instead accept the reality of economic liberalization and allow private tycoons to move in on a big scale? After all, revolution, Marxist theory says, was the culminating point of capitalist development. Why not speed up that process of capitalist growth in West Bengal too with the help of private capital? As a green signal to big industry, the Front regime sponsored the replacement of sales tax, the most important source of revenue for the states, by a Centralized value added tax, thereby warming the heart of the corporate sector which had long dreamed of an integrated national market unhindered by the labyrinth of various kinds of sales tax regimes in different states.

3. This major shift in ideology and praxis had the severest impact on the Front's peasant base, unquestionably the principal bulwark of its strength. Tycoons were invited to build industry, but industry could not be built in air; they had to be provided with land. Rapid acquisition of land of the size and specificity preferred by private capital became the priority item. The promise to consult the people before taking crucial decisions was forgotten, panchayat bodies and kisan sabhas were sidelined, bureaucratic procedures took over. The rest is tragic history.

4. No directive was issued to the police to handle delicately the agitators against forced acquisition of land. They shot down in cold blood unarmed women and children of peasant stock, something hitherto considered inconceivable for a Left administration. Disenchantment spread like wildfire among all sections. The cynical manner in which Front ministers and state-level party leaders tried to brazen out the killings further infuriated the people. Those who had been hard-boiled Left supporters got alienated too — and it now seems for ever.

5. The notion of invincibility was the progenitor of another deadly vice. The feudal ethos nurtured in the subconscious of the Bengali middle class dies hard, even in those who join the radical movement. The conviction that their party was, and would always be, supreme in the neighbourhood fostered both hauteur and superciliousness, which in turn ushered in cronyism coupled with sycophancy. Opportunists made hay. Corrupt elements penetrated at different tiers of both administration and the party structure, sometimes dragging down to their own level even those till then of unimpeachable integrity. In a land of hero worship, examples of snooty behaviour at the top filter down all the way, affecting as much the administration as the political frame; the panchayats too fall prey. All this has happened in West Bengal during the past decade. While scams of the magnitude that is the staple of New Delhi living were not there, petty corruption was rampant. Moreover, cronyism is the arch enemy of efficiency. Bosses love to see their trusted people occupy important and not-so-important slots in every sphere where the government exercises administrative or financial control. Merit ceases to be the main criterion of selection, whether in a sensitive administrative post or an academic body or a cultural institution. This is one main reason for the growing disaffection of an influential section of the middle class. Above all else, inefficiency is synonymous with incompetence; the quality of administration receives a heavy knock.

6. The chemistry of cronyism and democratic centralization is fatal; centralization stifles democracy. Leaders at different levels are told only what they love to be told; dissenters are either ostracized or thrown out. A grotesque manifestation of the malady was the ridiculous self-confidence of the Left leadership on the eve of vote counting: not to worry, the Front would once more be returned with a comfortable majority.

7. The ego factor has another consequence: whoever ventures to offer a friendly admonition not to the liking of ministers and leaders is treated as an enemy, thereby creating enemies of former friends. One such well-meaning advice offered in the wake of the Lok Sabha polls was as follows: in the developing situation, the Left Front ministry would be severely handicapped to carry on; the longer it lingered in government, the greater was the risk of its getting further discredited, the wiser course would be to humbly admit the mistakes the Front regime had committed, seek forgiveness of the people with bended knees, quit office, and go back to the rigours of constant mass contact. The suggestion was spurned. The sequel: over the two years its government clung to office, a further 2.5 per cent of the electorate moved away from the Left Front.

8. All that the state leadership of the CPI(M) reluctantly owned up to following the 2009 Lok Sabha polls was that some regrettable lapses had occurred in the matter of land acquisition. They also promised a 'rectification' programme to weed out corrupt elements from the party. In practice, the 'rectification' campaign meant many of those who ought to have been 'rectified' in the first place were themselves put in charge of the campaign.

9. It has been an article of faith with the Left to protect and fortify the federal polity which India supposedly is. In the past, it used to oppose vigorously all proposals for raising a police force at the Centre since maintenance of law and order is a state subject. Forty years ago, the Left Front in West Bengal was at the fore of a fierce struggle to prevent the induction of the Central Reserve Police Force for enforcing law and order in the state. What a somersault — for the past two years, the Front government was lobbying hard for more and more Central police personnel to put down the so-called Maoists. The killers marauding as Maoists deserve to be taken care of. But, even on such an issue, it was gravely erroneous for a Left regime to identify itself totally with what it otherwise deems to be a retrograde regime in New Delhi. Overzealousness on the part of the Central forces helped to make up the mind of the large adivasi population in the disturbed region; they voted massively against the party which had brought the CRPF in.

10. The Front's poll campaign went haywire, with more emphasis on personalities than on issues. Campaigners spoke in different voices: one of them was heard reiterating the theme of compulsory acquisition of even small holdings, some others could hardly conceal their conviction that if only the breach with the Congress had not taken place in 2008, things would have continued to be hunky-dory.

The catastrophe in West Bengal does not still negate the importance of a resolute, ideologically pure Left formation to mobilize resistance against the ongoing loot in the name of economic liberalization. West Bengal, with all its problems, will remain a rich hinterland from where a fresh Left initiative could spring. But the masses have conveyed a message: they have developed a deep dislike for some faces, the present set of state party leaders, who, apart from their other sins, are squarely responsible for the travails thousands of sincere and dedicated party members and supporters are now going through; they will simply not do.

No apology is necessary for such plain speaking. Was not this expression once making the rounds in some circles: 'Comrades, we call this self-criticism'?







When Sonia Gandhi extended an invitation to J. Jayalalithaa to come to tea, it was possibly one of the more refreshing gestures we have seen in recent times from the leader of one political party towards another. In a democracy, leaders from all parties should be in constant dialogue in an attempt to forge consensus on issues that affect the lives of citizens, regardless of ideological affiliations and stances. The unthinking and childish response from the 'spokespersons' of the Congress only showed how predictable and superficial their reactions are to that which is innovative and unusual. They could have said that Sonia Gandhi, a true democrat and a liberal who respects and abides by democratic processes and norms, will be in constant communication with her colleagues in the Opposition in an attempt to activate support for all the social-sector initiatives she is planning to present to the government. We were informed instead that the alliance with the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam is as strong as it has always been, whatever that means.

Responses, demands and aspirations have changed, and it is time the old hands in party politics began to smell the coffee and read the writing on the wall. In India, those who form the bridge between parties and their agendas need to be far more intuitive, intellectually energetic, pleasing to listen to and must sound interesting while talking about serious issues such as governance. Only then will they be able to engage with their viewers. Alas, this is not the case with leaders from the various parties. They are dull, predictable, combative but superficial and, therefore, fail to win support of any kind. The unruly talk shows with senior representatives of national political dispensations talking and screaming at one another are disturbing because they underline the dismal quality of leadership.

Changed status

It is very dangerous to allow political figures to become caricatures in the public domain, characters that are seen to be fickle and 'silly'. Democracy is built on serious debate where deliberations with the Opposition are mandatory in order to reach a consensus on the numerous issues of national importance. Ideological combat too needs to be conducted in a manner that allows citizens to make choices based on cogent debate. For the liberty of thought to grow and add value, be constructive and to create the tension required for checks and balances in political governance, democratic processes and methodologies must be respected and strengthened. For that sensibility to entrench itself in the body politic, our leaders need to become far more responsible in speech and action.

Once the elected representatives lead the charge to change, invoking dignity and respect for one another's ideological positions, the bureaucracy too will be compelled to return to non-partisan and ethical ways of delivering just administration. The empowered political boss will have to demand that accountability from the babu and oversee the process of good governance. It is time to severe the close nexus between the neta and the babu. It has made this extraordinary civilization akin to a banana republic.

The political party that restores dignity to itself and conducts itself confidently — in a manner that generates pride in the leadership — will win the final lap of the marathon. The reason why respect for political leaders is scant is because this nation, through its lively and robust oral tradition of receiving information, knows what takes place behind the scenes amongst political 'opponents' and then watches them having a go at one another on television, revealing their hypocrisy and double talk. It is time to restore the faith.


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




The Indian government has blundered big time by including in its list of 50 'most wanted,' who it alleges are being sheltered in Pakistan, a man who is very much here in Mumbai. Wazhul Qamar Khan was included in the list for his alleged role in the bombing of trains in Mumbai in 2003.

Khan was on the run for seven years but was subsequently arrested, only to be released on bail last year. But the Intelligence Bureau (IB) apparently forgot to update this vital information. The list of India's most wanted was handed over to the Pakistanis early last year and the goof-up would not have emerged had India not raked up the issue again.

In the wake of Osama bin Laden being killed in a safe house in Abbottabad and the international community enraged with Islamabad for providing sanctuary to him, India thought it would add to Pakistan's embarrassment by making public its most-wanted list and drawing attention to the big names in the world of crime and terrorism that are enjoying shelter in Pakistan. But it is India that has ended up with egg on its face thanks to the IB's goof-up.

Home minister P Chidambaram has sought to downplay the enormity of the government's mistake. However, its impact is serious. How can India expect the international community to take it seriously on the issue of Pakistan's support to terrorism when there are such gaping holes in its allegations? Shouldn't the government have checked out the wanted list thoroughly before handing it over to the Pakistanis?

That IB was not even aware that one of the 50 most-wanted had already been arrested stands testimony to the abysmal standard of its information gathering. How can we rely on it to unearth information about a clandestine terror attack when it is unable to gather routine information from the police and the CBI? So busy are our IB officers in planting stories and leaking information to the media that they do not appear to have the time to do routine work, like updating data on the country's most-wanted.

In the wake of the 2008 Mumbai terror attack, the home minister promised a complete overhaul of India's investigation agencies, its intelligence gathering network and the security set-up. The fiasco over the most-wanted list indicates that much of this overhaul is yet to be done.







There are some lessons from the trial and conviction of Raj Rajaratnam, billionaire financier and founder of the Galleon group, one of the world's biggest hedge fund firms, by a New York federal court. One is that big cases of financial fraud continue to dog the markets in spite of all the action that is being taken. Rajaratnam is the 35th person to be convicted, of the 45 who were charged with insider trading, in the US in the last 18 months. He was high-profile and his arrest had created surprise and sensation in the financial world. With competition increasing, the temptation to cut corners or make profits illegally is also increasing. Insider information is a short cut, and possibly the malpractice is more widespread than is suspected.

Rajaratnam argued in the court that the information that he received from his contacts in many companies and the methods he employed were legitimate. The jury did not accept the argument but it underlines the increasing complexities of the financial world, where the dividing line between the legal and the illegal is often blurred. Unprecedented and unconventional methods are used to ferret out useful information. Similarly law enforcement agencies also employ unconventional techniques to track and trap violators of the law.

The FBI used methods, including wire-tapping, which are often used against the mafia, to catch Rajaratnam. It is good for the heath of the financial markets and for the confidence of the investors that actions of even the big financial fish are being monitored and scrutinised. A major weakness of the investigative system and its follow-up procedures is that the fraudsters and wrong-doers are caught after they have done the damage. If they are caught at the stage of conspiracy and planning  and if the regulatory system is made stronger so that the crimes can be prevented, much damage and loss would not actually take place at all.

There is a lesson for India from the Rajaratnam affair. The entire process of investigation, trial and conviction of Rajaratnam took only 18 months. Cases of fraud other financial misdemeanours take years and sometimes even decades to reach the level of closure in India. The Harshad Mehta scam, the securities scandal and the Satyam computer scam are examples. Markets will be healthier and people's confidence will be higher if wrongdoing is found out and punished expeditiously.







Delhi would have advised Sri Lanka that the best means of responding to the UN report would be to expedite the national reconciliation.

If the expectation in Delhi was that assisting Colombo to win the last phase of the war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) two years ago would augment India's wherewithal to push for a just settlement of the Sri Lankan Tamil problem, it was never quite realistic. The leadership of president Mahinda Rajapaksa chose to build on the nationalistic fervour following the defeat of the LTTE to consolidate his political power.

Nothing wrong here — Rajapaksa won't be the last politician, either, to use the nationalistic card to boost democratic power. In the Sri Lankan socio-cultural milieu, the danger lies in Rajapaksa's political indebtedness to the nationalist sentiments from which he derives mandate. Anyway, things were going splendidly well for Rajapaksa when there has been a sudden reversal of fortunes.

The report by an 'expert panel' appointed by the United Nations Security Council on the alleged excesses of the Sri Lankan army in the concluding phase of the war holds unpleasant downstream consequences. Colombo's initial reaction was of indignation and anger — not unjustified, by any means — that it was being singled out in the global war on terrorism.

The rhetorical posturing helped the Sri Lankan leadership to rally domestic opinion, but Colombo seems to have since switched to the diplomatic track to try and finesse the situation to its advantage by constructively engaging the world powers who are influential.

Why not? Sri Lanka is a gifted country which has an extraordinary grasp of the seamless mysteries of international diplomacy. In its soft-spoken, scholarly foreign minister G L Peiris, Colombo also holds a trump card. (Despite AIDMK leader Jayalalitha's demand that Rajapaksa should be tried for war crimes, Peiris wrote a decent letter to her, congratulating her on her magnificent election and seeking to 'work with her' for the welfare of the people.)

Significantly, Peiris started his odyssey with Delhi from where he has proceeded to Beijing. This isn't surprising. From Colombo's perspective, India's stance is going to be very crucial, while China's can be helpful. Indeed, China's stance would also be influenced by the stance India takes.

Quite obviously, Peiris arrived in Delhi last week when the India-Sri Lanka relationship was somewhat piquantly poised. Colombo is keenly hoping that Delhi would take a stance that puts paid to the scandalous UN expert report. So far, Delhi has been sitting on the fence, literally dangling its feet, lost in thoughts. Indications are that Peiris who knows that politics is the art of the possible, succeeded under the circumstances in getting the Indian leadership to begin talking. And the conversation turned out to be engrossing, too.

Empathy and understanding

The fact that a joint statement has been issued after the visit clarifies that a broad convergence may have emerged. Peiris told the media that Delhi showed 'empathy' and 'understanding.' It may be short of outright support he expected over the UN report, but it is incremental progress. The joint statement underscores that the Indian leadership sought to broaden the discourse to cover the range of issues in the bilateral relationship and to set a new sense of direction in the ties within which the ruckus over the UN report can be tackled.

Colombo appears receptive — for the present, at least — to the Indian counselling more than at any time in the past two-year period since the war was won, about the imperative of a genuine national reconciliation in a spirit of give-and-take and with a long-term vision that would settle the Tamil problem. The joint statement reflects the Indian thinking and it is significant that Colombo concurs. Specifically, it must be noted that the joint statement singled out that "A devolution package, building upon the 13th Amendment, would contribute towards creating the necessary conditions for such reconciliation".

The joint statement suggests that Delhi would have advised Peiris that the best means of responding to the UN report would be to expedite national reconciliation and to conclude a credible inquiry of its own into war excesses. However, the two countries are not holding their broader relationship hostage to the entanglement over the UN report. Which is a good thing.


The strategic ties are being enhanced, including in energy and defence. Most certainly, it is only within the matrix of deep engagement that Delhi can hope to influence Colombo optimally, in a climate of trust and confidence, to accelerate a fair settlement to the Tamil problem.

India should not be party to any big power pressure tactic toward Sri Lanka. The fact is that Delhi actively assisted — rightly or wrongly — Colombo to win the war. And Delhi couldn't have been unaware of the brutalities of the Lankan war. India has fought more counterinsurgency wars than any other country in modern history and would know such wars are invariably very brutal. In this particular case, there is also a moral dimension insofar as Indian policies toward the LTTE were never really consistent — and, indeed, Delhi's attitudes toward Colombo also took tragic twists and turns in the period since 1983.

At the end of the day, national reconciliation in Sri Lanka remains a very complicated process. The underlying paradox is that Sri Lanka is a genuinely functioning democracy. Rajapaksa cannot be compared to Slobodan Milosovich. Nor is the injection of geopolitics or the superimposition of the 'new great game' into the Sri Lankan situation desirable. India's priority lies in ensuring regional stability.

(The writer is a former diplomat)







Long hours of work, night shifts and the monotony tend to make employees irritable and emotional.
As much as President Obama would like to keep jobs in the United States, jobs continue to pour into India in the IT sector, callcentres and off shore support services. Companies here are under pressure to deliver and meet deadlines — working 24/7.

On the upside, a booming economy and surplus wealth among the middle classes to splurge on luxury and items. But on the downside, the effects could be disastrous as work pressure mounts. Employees are put to work round the clock with no respite resulting in total burn out, serious health issues and the extreme case of suicides.

One of the facilities companies now provide in their (EAPs) employee assistance programmes is counselling, which is still considered alien in our society. Being in counselling or therapy has a certain stigma attached to the idea. Somehow it seems relevant to the West, but here people frown at the concept. But it is fine to seek counsel from elders or religious leaders.

Gradually, employees are seeking help but wish to remain anonymous for fear of the tag 'psychologically imbalanced'. Organisations that care for their employees, for whom reputation and image is valuable have come to recognise that counselling in some ways can combat and ease the many ills facing the industry.

Disrupted lifestyle

A case in point in the IT sector is when employees totally immerse themselves in projects for days or months on end where their normal lifestyle goes haywire. Lack of adequate sleep, unhealthy diet, lack of physical activity, continuous intake of beverages and excessive smoking, can lead to serious health problems including cardiac arrests in professionals as young as in their 30s.

BPOs face similar issues as well. Some employees are comparatively younger and join the work force after plus two. Again, long hours of work, night shifts and the monotony tend to make them irritable and emotional, which impacts upon the effectiveness and productivity, especially when servicing clients globally over the telephone. The same is true for medical transcriptionists.

Those using computers continuously encounter certain physical ailments namely — carpel tunnel syndrome (inflammation of the nerves at the wrist) tunnel vision, acute lower back pain, obesity, poor blood circulation, headaches, nausea, neck pain, lethargy and posture problems. A 10 minute (SRE) 'Stress relieving exercises' break for every hour in front of the computer would do wonders to stem (RSI) 'Repetitive stress injuries' to a large extent. Companies hardly adhere to this necessity, thereby forsaking the health of its employees.

Besides exercises, counselling is vital and important for the general wellbeing of the employees and the organisation. Employees have to deal with a whole lot of problems — emotional, interpersonal, over work-load, conflict with superiors, subordinates and management, etc. Personal problems creep in inadvertently.

A professional counsellor guides employees to come to terms with their emotions and feelings, helping them gain a better understanding of what ought to be their values and aspirations in life. Counselling should enable them to rely on their personal resources to deal and cope with men and matters more effectively.

A simple case could involve a problem with a superior. The employee should address the problem himself after a proper analysis and seeking counsel to handle the problem in a decent, appropriate and effective manner.

A complex case could involve making a lifestyle change. An employee who is obese and with low self-esteem finds this an impediment to progress and growth in the company. A proper evaluation of the situation has to be made, information gathered to make changes. Once the information is got, it has to be applied to make a lifestyle change.
In this case the change has to be slow to allow the body and mind to get used to a new way of thinking, a new way of eating and exercising. With eating, the key is moderation and intake of just the right food. The same applies for exercise. The employee doesn't have to spend hours at the gym to achieve permanent weight loss. Daily exercise should be intentional and gradual as well as generally being more active throughout the day.

Earlier an employee would bring a problem to the HR manager, and he would feel reluctant to address the issue for intruding in the privacy of the employee. But a counsellor, being an outsider and professional, can be objective, non-judgemental, maintain confidentiality and above all show empathy.

So, the next time you want to just talk and de-stress, your counsellor is just a phone call away. And companies today realise the importance of attracting and retaining highly skilled, quality employees. They have to care for the wellbeing of their employees to stay a cut above the rest.

(The writer is a health and fitness consultant and counsellor to corporates)







Now I am in jail and I see them all smiling in front of the cameras, wooing voters.

After a week of aggressive work out in my gym, I decided to go for a muscle relaxing massage. The therapy released the tautness in my body and I found myself dosing at the end of the dinner and took early to bed. Within minutes, I was in a state of a deep slumber and was dreaming.

In my dream, I found myself in the prisoner's clothes in Tihar Jail, waiting in the queue for the morning breakfast. Ahead of me was the familiar figure of Raja and I found myself sitting next to him in the stinking prison dining hall. Finding that I was a new entrant, he asked me a straight question as to what had brought me there.

This is what I had to say: that I was working in Jharkhand in ministry of mines and my job was very basic and straightforward. Tell the contractors to bloat up their bids by 30 per cent and give me the difference in cash. After the cash was collected, I could keep 10 per cent of the cash received as facilitation fee and deliver the rest to the minister.

The system worked beautifully for all of us for years until one day, my house was raided and gunny bags of cash were found in the basement. I told them the truth but the minister sent me a message to retract the statement or else. I was scared about the safety of my family and did what I was told. He said his fate was not very different and sighed.

After the breakfast, we prisoners were allowed to go for a walk and I saw a bearded prisoner with drooping shoulder. He was none other than Kalmadi. I walked up to him and said, "Kalmadi sahib, I was very disappointed that having been an Air Force officer, you got into this mess."

He said that since the government did not give him permanent commission after having served as a short service commissioned officer, he decided to take revenge. He said that he would make sure that all those who had made more money than him also landed up in the docks even if he had to turn an approver and swore some unintelligible dirty words.

In the next phase of seamless dreams, I saw myself as an entrepreneur of a trading company registered in Chennai. I had been approached by political bigwigs to act as their trading partner for routing some money from one company to another to another and when I learnt that the money involved was in the range of Rs 200 crore, I did not think that there was anything illegal to earn 2 per cent retention fee.

All I need was impressive letterhead to do the transactions but since everything was off record, no book keeping was required. The greed overtook me and I agreed. Now I am in jail and I see them all smiling in front of the cameras and wooing voters.

And then I heard in my dream a very loud voice calling out my jail number. 'Qaidi number 420 haazir ho.' And I got up sweating on my palms and under my arms.









When a soldier complains to the army cook that the bread is stale, the cook replies: If you want today's bread, come tomorrow. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu regularly serves us yesterday's bread. Had he revealed what he's taking to Washington, our situation would be better. The world doesn't revolve around his utterances, but around his actions.

The world sees the Palestinian state as a fait accompli. The fact that Bibi will say that he agrees "on condition that..." is already too late. The security border along the Jordan Valley was decided on when Levi Eshkol was prime minister, when there was a fear that Iraq would invade Israel. To demand this as a condition now is as fresh as last year's bread.

Bibi's speech in the Knesset, which was based on data prepared by his personal pollster, was constructed in such a way that you could both agree with it and oppose it. From Kadima chief Tzipi Livni to Likud MK Tzipi Hotovely, the speech was, as a clever observer put it, "rubbish."

Bibi, who presumably aspires to peace, has to think about tomorrow rather than the day before yesterday. When he speaks about secure and recognized borders, is he pretending not to understand that when secure permanent borders are determined, they will be recognized, too? We don't need to have the Palestinians "recognize" a Jewish state, just as Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen ) doesn't need our confirmation that the Prophet Mohammed went up to heaven from Al-Aqsa.

Unlike in the days of Franco's Spain and the Italian invasion of Ethiopia, we are living in a world that gets involved in places that endanger world peace. Bibi is living in a world in which NATO members are bombing Libya. Bob Simon, the CBS correspondent in Israel for 10 years and now the star of "60 Minutes," said in an interview after a visit here that he found an Israel that has lost hope for change. Its isolation will steadily increase. He said we should imagine a situation in which European ambassadors leave Israel and go live in West Bank cities. Some people are demanding an enforced solution, sums up Simon, but U.S. President Barack Obama won't do that because he wants to be elected to a second term.

Netanyahu's visit to Washington will be crowded with events. Yesterday Obama's speech to the nation, then a meeting between Obama and Bibi, then each of them will appear at the annual AIPAC conference, and finally Bibi will appear in Congress. Lots of background material for summations at the beginning of next week, too little material for guesses on how the visit will end.

The most important event is the discussion between Obama and Bibi; it's Bibi's last chance to talk to a first-term Obama. If he doesn't convince him that he is a partner to an agreement with the Palestinians, we'll be getting a turbo Obama in the second term.

What may be seen as a tactical victory for Bibi will undermine the credibility of relations with a second-term Obama. Were I an adviser who doesn't leak information, I would advise Bibi: When you're with Obama, think about September. The threat to recognize a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders is the moldy bread of peace, unless Obama works to stop it. If Obama is convinced of our intentions he can persuade Europe not to support this initiative, and maybe he can even convince Abu Mazen to give it up.

Bibi also has to pay attention to the fact that in September elections are expected in Egypt, and we and America have a mutual interest in removing Egypt from the Mideast upheaval and preserving the peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan. And another piece of advice for Bibi: If you thought it was possible to put the Palestinians on the back burner at the expense of an agreement with Syria, that dream has been shelved. Relying on the power of the Israel Defense Forces, as the contented defense minister declares, is not enough. We're slowly learning the limits of power. It's more important to rely on smart diplomacy.

The agreement between Hamas and Abu Mazen's government is disturbing, but to them the presence and influence of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and the extreme right in Bibi's government are no less disturbing. When we have a leadership that aspires to peace, and the public gets a taste of normal life, there is hope for moderation.

The waste of time that New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman wrote about this week is not only ours, but the Palestinians', too. It's important that Netanyahu have a daring and credible plan - fresh baked goods that can be eaten by the Palestinians and the world that aspires to peace, headed by Obama.







B. was somewhat surprised when he came home Tuesday night and found two exhausted people lying on his doorstep. They told him they had walked through the Sinai desert for four days and then crossed the border into Eilat. B. gave them water and called the police. But the police informed him that they don't deal with migrants; that is the army's job.

The next morning, a military jeep indeed arrived to collect them. It turned out that a total of 96 migrants had entered Eilat that night. All were taken to the Israel Prison Service's Kissufim facility in the Negev the next day.

Israel is a rather strange country. On one hand, security is its chief concern: It is constantly rehearsing for the possibility of another war and preparing itself to cope with the threats around it. It has separation fences and security fences all over, and the security checks at Ben-Gurion Airport are the most meticulous in the world. It is a country whose prime minister is "Mr. Terror." Just this week, he set up a new security agency - the National Cybernetic Task Force - whose purpose is to thwart Internet attacks.

Yet on the other hand, this same country has a border with Egypt that is wide open. From there, one can enter Israel without difficulty. There is no fence and no security check, even if you are a devout Muslin from Eritrea or Sudan. What would have happened had one of those 96 migrants been an agent of a terrorist organization?

Residents of Eilat have already given up. At present, there are 6,000 migrants from Africa there, meaning they constitute 12 percent of the city's population. But the truth is that Tel Aviv, too, has been left in the lurch - or at least, the south of the city has.

I recently toured the area that once housed Tel Aviv's central bus station. The face of the neighborhood has changed completely: It has become "little Sudan." It is populated by migrants from Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, Chad and Ivory Coast.

In Neveh Sha'anan Street, which was once the place to buy shoes, I counted eight money changers who convert the shekels the workers earn into dollars to send to their families in Africa. Restaurants and clubs have been set up in interior courtyards - without licenses, of course. Living conditions in the neighborhood are frightful. Hovels have been turned into apartments where several migrants crowd into one room with a tiny kitchenette in the corner.

Even the famous building at 1 Finn St., once a center of the drug trade, has become a "hostel" for African migrants. The entire area looks like one big slum.

During the day, it is still possible to walk there without fear. But when night falls, those Israelis who still remain in the neighborhood (a few elderly folk ) don't dare to go out because of the violence and the thefts. One elderly man told me how his new neighbors have taken over most of the apartments in the block where he lives and are now pressuring him to leave. "Where can I go?" he cried.

Every month, some 1,000 migrants enter Israel and are caught by the army, which then sets them free. Another 500 a month enter but are not caught. Altogether, that comes to 18,000 a year.

It is easy to be nice and claim that these people are refugees. But the truth is that 98 percent of the time, they are young migrant workers who have come here to improve their economic situation.

The problem is that when they work, they replace blue-collar Israeli workers, who either lose their jobs or suffer a pay cut. There are no two ways about it: These migrants come here at the expense of the lower classes, while business owners and members of the middle and upper classes benefit.

Therefore, the solution is to prevent these migrants from getting work. A large camp must be built in the Negev where they can be kept for a prolonged period.

Of course, they must be properly fed and given reasonable living conditions, but they must not be allowed to leave the camp and go to work.

Once that happens, they will take care of informing their friends in Sudan and Eritrea that it is not worthwhile to come here, because it's not possible to work and earn money. This is the only humane way to stop the flow of migrants to Israel. This is also the method that is now being employed by European countries.

Once this happens, B. will no longer find migrants on his doorstep, because coming here will no longer be worthwhile.

There's no need to shoot at them or humiliate them. It's enough to employ simple economics.







These lines are being written before the big speeches, but it's easy to guess their content - disappointment. After all, with this speaker, it's the situation that dictates the words, and he has no intention of changing it, just as it hasn't changed him. God, You have chosen us to have a useless government.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will stand on Capitol Hill and speak in praise of Israeli democracy, which is the only one in the entire Middle East and America's only ally. When he says "our common values," they'll melt there in Congress. They'll heap compliments on each other. The flattering comparison to Syria, Libya and Yemen will do the job: It will flatter us and reap applause.

But even Israel's democracy leans more toward the East than the West. It is ridiculous to praise a country that maintains a regime of occupation alongside it, that tramples human rights every day under the heels of its boots. It was not by chance that many empires rid themselves of the millstone of colonialism around their necks when they had to choose between continued expansion and degeneration and the beginnings of sobriety and renewal.

And it is sheer foolishness to praise a democracy that lacks a serious chief opposition party, one that provides an ideological and practical alternative. Just when the world is being born anew, the national consensus is standing tall and casting its shadow, which covers all the crimes.

What kind of a democracy looks more like a plutocracy, controlled by 10 families? There are those who dirty it for NIS 1.5 million a month, and there are those who clean for NIS 1,500. A day will come when the pyramid-structure companies that rule us will open and our democracy will be revealed as a sarcophagus.

This is a democracy whose minorities are excluded and shortchanged; whose weak populations are easy prey for the national disorder of privatization; whose personal status is placed in the hands of clerics and abandoned to petrified whims dating from ancient geological-theological eras; whose political system suffers from constipation and has trouble excreting, such that the excrement gets stuck and rises to the surface; in whose barrel large and rotten apples are multiplying, yet which grants immunity from investigation to a prime minister who stumbles.

Though it moves like a democracy and quacks like a democracy, it's still a duck. Last week, yet another party of chiefs without Indians was launched here, a party of envoys without dispatchers and without a mission. The chairman - arrogant and confident as befits a defense minister before Nakba Day - demanded far-reaching powers for himself and received them. Even Napoleon's dreams sometimes come true: He still has the High Court of Justice and B'Tselem exerting to contend with, but he has now dispensed with the blight of a party central committee. Ehud Barak will navigate, just as Avigdor Lieberman does in his party, and decide unanimously.

Kadima too, with its 28 shabby MKs, was created in the image of the caudillo. Ariel Sharon collected its representatives like abandoned eggs and put them all in one basket, on condition that they not cause him any trouble; most were then bequeathed to his successors.

Yisrael Beiteinu's 15 anonymous legislators were handpicked by Lieberman. Shas' 11 dishrags were gathered by Rabbi Ovadia Yosef: Had they not wiped his boots, they would not have made it onto his slate. United Torah Judaism's five Jews were invented by the rabbis, who tell them "thou shalt" and "thou shalt not." A strange professor, like Big Brother, ranked Habayit Hayehudi's three tenants with a perceptive scientific eye. And we have already mentioned Aztmaut's five menservants and maidservants. That gives us a total of 67 MKs - a majority - who represent democracy for show and not for use, a democracy operated by the method of launch it and forget about it.

Our democracy is very sick, because without healthy political parties, it is beyond repair - a mere empty shell. The parties must be rehabilitated, not buried.

But all that is just between us: Don't tell them in Washington.






Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is going to Washington at what may be the last chance to turn the establishment of a Palestinian state from a global anti-Israel campaign into a joint Israeli, American and European project. The establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state is today a necessity, just as Zionism was a necessity. And about half of Israeli society apparently agrees with Western public opinion and Western governments on the principle that Palestinian Arabs have the same right to independence and sovereignty as do Israeli Jews.

Were Netanyahu a leader worthy of the name, one who understood the deep processes taking place under his nose and tried to make the most of them, he would not think and speak like a leader of the Betar youth movement. But on his upcoming trip to the United States, Netanyahu will prefer to rely on AIPAC, an organization that represents the right-wing minority of American Jews and symbolizes the Jewish community's disappearing past. There, just as in the Likud Central Committee, it is still possible to talk about the Land of Israel as belonging to the Jews alone.

It is precisely this approach, which ignores the rights of the Palestinians, that drives young people, intellectuals and liberals away. At universities, in the media and in the cultural world, these groups are already displacing the conservatives. The extent to which the Jewish right has lost its sway even in its stronghold, New York, can be gathered from its failure to prevent American playwright Tony Kushner from getting an honorary doctorate from the City University of New York.

Another incident, which was not publicized in the media but is even more significant, involved an attempt to prevent a young pro-Palestinian lecturer from getting a position at Brooklyn College. Under pressure from the pro-Israel right, the planned appointment was canceled by the school's president. But when the academic staff rose up in arms, the lecturer was given the job. If the right is unable to get the results it wants even in Brooklyn, it is easy to imagine its plight in other places.

To this must be added the international pressure for an academic and economic boycott of Israel, which has been generated by the recognition that there is no other way to force Israel to end the occupation. Closer to home, Deutsche Bahn's withdrawal from the project to lay a railway line between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem should have caused a shock. But here, we prefer to avoid reality.

Because of its blindness and imperviousness, Israel is gradually turning from a source of pride and an object of admiration into a nuisance, if not an object of outright hostility.

This is how, with our own hands, we turned the problem of the occupation into an issue for the entire Western world, and the Palestinians into the West's proteges: Faced with an occupying power that is simultaneously unresponsive and self-righteous, the West feels moral and political responsibility for the Palestinians' fate, just as in the past, Western public opinion felt deep sympathy for the Jewish state.

This feeling of responsibility has increased in recent years, after it became clear that the Israeli right has no intention of responding to Palestinian demands for freedom and independence. Under the guise of security considerations and the war on terror hides the real, ideological reason: In the right's view, recognizing the equal national rights of the Palestinians means forgoing exclusive Jewish ownership of the Land of Israel. From the point of view of members of the Israeli rejectionist front, recognizing the equality of Jewish and Arab rights on both sides of the Green Line is tantamount to betraying Jewish history.

But since the number of people who are still prepared to buy an argument of this kind is diminishing worldwide, Israel is on a collision course with all our allies and supporters. And at the end of this road, it is liable to become a pariah state.



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




We have been waiting for President Obama to lay out his vision of the promises and challenges of the upheaval in the Arab world. His speech on Thursday did not go far enough — there was no game-changing proposal on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — but he did promise strong support to those yearning for freedom and goaded American allies, including Israel, to take the political risks that are essential for peaceful change and the only way to build a lasting peace.

His strong words about democracy — including references to the "inalienable rights" of all people — were inspiring but balanced with realpolitik. While acknowledging that Bahrain, home of the United States Navy's Fifth Fleet, is an important ally, he criticized the monarchy for using "mass arrests and brute force" against political opponents.

The two big questions now are: How quickly will Washington deliver promised economic support to the new governments in Egypt and Tunisia? And how much harder is Mr. Obama willing to push Israel and the Palestinians to start serious peace negotiations?

There was much hand-wringing in Israel over the president's call for a two-state solution based on "the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps." The language was new, but it was not a major change in American policy. It must not become another excuse for inaction.

When Mr. Obama meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel on Friday, he needs to be even blunter about how a continued stalemate is not in Israel's interest and will only feed extremism.

Mr. Obama raised high expectations in 2009 when he promised a "new beginning" with the Arab world. That ardor cooled as Middle East peace talks stalled, and Mr. Obama stuck too long with Hosni Mubarak of Egypt. On Thursday, he correctly identified the source of the region's unrest — "power has been concentrated in the hands of the few" — and he went on to say that "societies held together by fear and repression may offer the illusion of stability for a time," but will eventually tear asunder.

The success of the Arab Spring depends in large part on what happens in Egypt, the largest Arab state, and Tunisia, where the uprisings started. Political reforms are essential, but so are jobs. Mr. Obama promised both countries desperately needed economic help — $2 billion to Egypt alone. He and other leaders have to work hard to fulfill promises of expanded trade and investment.

The administration is finally getting tougher with Syria. On Wednesday, it imposed sanctions on President Bashar al-Assad and six others. In his speech, Mr. Obama still offered the Syrian leader a choice when it comes to reform: "He can lead that transition, or get out of the way." Nobody thinks Mr. Assad can produce reform even if he wants to. But insisting that he leave power isn't realistic, although continued pressure could change that.

We share Mr. Obama's frustration over the stalled peace process — and his administration's failed efforts to get a deal. Those frustrations are only going to get worse. When Mr. Netanyahu addresses Congress next week, he will likely repeat all of the reasons why Israel cannot make the necessary concessions. In September, President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority — who appears to have given up on negotiations — is expected to ask the United Nations General Assembly to recognize a Palestinian state.

Mr. Obama was right to warn the Palestinians that such symbolic actions "won't create an independent state." But the vote would also isolate Israel and the United States. Washington and its allies need to put a map on the table and challenge both sides to resume negotiations. That is the best chance for breaking the stalemate and the best chance for peace.






An inquiry by the state of West Virginia into the Upper Big Branch Mine explosion that killed 29 workers has found the mine's owner, Massey Energy, "profoundly reckless" in elevating its drive to produce profits above worker safety. Pervasive safety violations — from shoddy ventilation to slapdash control of explosive coal dust — made the mine "an accident waiting to happen," according to a panel of experts reporting to the governor's office.

"I'm set up to fail here," one miner wrote in his work notes two weeks before the tragedy. He despaired at being one of only two part-time "rock dusters" tasked with controlling the mine's volatile coal dust — a lethal problem for which company records showed a backlog of hundreds of safety work orders.

Massey has denied culpability and attributed the explosion to an unpreventable surge of underground methane gas. Investigators rejected that claim and the state report convincingly traces the disaster through a chain of neglect, while accusing the company of building "a culture in which wrongdoing became acceptable."

A federal investigation has already led to the criminal indictment of the mine's security chief, who was charged with lying to federal investigators and attempting to dispose of evidence. The Obama administration has toughened regulatory oversight, demanding rigorous inspections and heavy penalties for offending mining companies. But the state report underlines the urgent need for far stronger safety laws. House Republicans and coal-state Democrats dedicated to Big Coal have refused to move on any sensible legislation.

Miners need whistle-blower protection to raise the alarm about dangerous conditions without fear of losing their livelihoods. Congress should make it a felony to alert managers that mine inspectors are on the way. Serial violators like Massey must face the strongest penalties, and the cynical gaming of safety violations with endless appeals must finally end. Hesitant lawmakers claim they need a fuller sense of what happened in the tragedy. They should face up to the 126-page report's finding that the Upper Big Branch tragedy is a "tale of hubris."





It seems hard to believe, but the federal farm subsidy program — wasteful, inefficient and virtually indestructible — may at last be headed for serious downsizing.

Our hopes have been dashed before, most recently when the farm lobby and its Congressional patrons shredded admirable reforms proposed by President George W. Bush. Now an alliance of conservative Republicans eager to cut the deficit and liberal Democrats opposed to corporate welfare is seeking ways to trim the subsidies.

The farm program has evolved from a New Deal safety net for Depression-era farmers into a $15 billion-a-year goody-bag of direct payments, disaster insurance programs, low-cost loans and other subsidies — with a smaller investment in conservation programs.

The most indefensible are $5 billion a year in direct payments, which flow to farmers in good times and bad and are awarded disproportionately to the growers of big row crops like corn, soybeans and wheat. "If we can't figure out a way at this point to trim these payments, then it is just embarrassing," said Representative Ron Kind, a Democratic from Wisconsin who has long fought farm subsidies. The bigger news is that another Wisconsin legislator, Representative Paul Ryan — the Republicans' leading champion of budget-cutting — agrees with him.

Mr. Ryan's budget blueprint for the coming fiscal year would take $30 billion from the farm program over the next decade, mainly from direct payments. He would apply the savings to deficit reduction. A better idea would be to use some for that purpose and some for conservation programs, to encourage farmers to protect sensitive open space or remove it from production.

In the Senate, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan and Richard Durbin of Illinois have both told their local farm bureaus to expect cuts. Even more surprising, and equally welcome, is the news that the cherished 45-cent-per-gallon subsidy for corn ethanol may also be endangered. The subsidy costs the Treasury more than $5 billion in foregone revenues; the Government Accountability Office has said that ethanol can flourish without it. It is as superfluous as the direct payments program. Both need to go.






It was a relief to see one politician showing political courage and sense in Albany this week. Of course, that politician was Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City and not a state lawmaker. But every bit helps.

Mr. Bloomberg went to Albany to press Senate Republicans to vote to legalize same-sex marriage. He warned that "the longer the Senate obstructs marriage equality, the heavier the price they will pay not only in the history books, but at the polls." And he promised to put his cash and clout behind any senator who backed the legislation "no matter where they stand on any other issue."

We hope the senators were listening. We hope Gov. Andrew Cuomo was also paying close attention. Mr. Cuomo says the state's same-sex couples should be given the right to marry, but he wants to hold back the vote until he is sure the bill will pass — a position supported by some advocates for gay rights. That's the wrong decision.

The issue is so important that it deserves a full debate and vote in the Legislature. New Yorkers should know who will stand up for this basic civil right and who won't.

The Assembly is expected to pass the bill again this year with bipartisan support. It was defeated in the Senate in 2009. And right now it is probably six votes short of the 32 needed: 26 Democrats are in favor, four have indicated that they will vote no and nary a Republican senator has promised a yes vote. Until a bill is brought to the floor, they will be able to bob and weave and waffle.

Same-sex marriage is legal in five states and the District of Columbia. There is no reason, except prejudice, that New York is not on that list. Mr. Cuomo and leaders of both houses need to press for a vote before the Legislature adjourns on June 20. Mr. Cuomo needs to use all of his own political clout to ensure it passes.

No matter what the final count, the vote needs to happen. As Mayor Bloomberg declared, "The public has a right to know where their legislators stand."






Some years ago, one of my neighbors, an émigré Russian engineer, offered an observation about his adopted country. "America seems very rich," he said, "but I never see anyone actually making anything."

That was a bit unfair, but not completely — and as time went by it became increasingly accurate. By the middle years of the last decade, I used to joke that Americans made a living by selling each other houses, which they paid for with money borrowed from China. Manufacturing, once America's greatest strength, seemed to be in terminal decline.

But that may be changing. Manufacturing is one of the bright spots of a generally disappointing recovery, and there are signs — preliminary, but hopeful, nonetheless — that a sustained comeback may be under way.

And there's something else you should know: If right-wing critics of efforts to rescue the economy had gotten their way, this comeback wouldn't be happening.

The story so far: In the 1990s, U.S. manufacturing employment was more or less steady. After 2000, however, it entered a steep decline. The 2001 recession hit industry hard, while the bubble-fueled expansion of the decade's middle years — an expansion marked by a huge rise in the trade deficit — left manufacturing behind. By December 2007, there were 3.5 million fewer U.S. manufacturing workers than there had been in 2000; millions more jobs disappeared in the slump that followed.

Only a handful of these lost jobs have come back, so far. But, as I said, there are indications of a turnaround.

Crucially, the manufacturing trade deficit seems to be coming down. At this point, it's only about half as large as a share of G.D.P. as it was at the peak of the housing bubble, and further improvements are in the pipeline. The Boston Consulting Group, which is now predicting a U.S. "manufacturing renaissance," points to major U.S. firms like Caterpillar that once shifted production abroad but are now moving it back. At the same time, companies from other countries, especially European firms, are moving production to America.

And one potential disaster has been avoided: the U.S. auto industry, which many people were writing off just two years ago, has weathered the storm. In particular, General Motors has now had five consecutive profitable quarters.

America's industrial heartland is now leading the economic recovery. In August 2009, Michigan had an unemployment rate of 14.1 percent, the highest in the nation. Today, that rate is down to 10.3 percent, still above the national average, but nonetheless a huge improvement.

I don't want to suggest that everything is wonderful about U.S. manufacturing. So far, the job gains are modest, and many new manufacturing jobs don't offer good pay or benefits. The manufacturing revival isn't going to make health reform unnecessary or obviate the need for a strong social safety net.

Still, better to have those jobs than none at all. Which brings me to those right-wing critics.

First, what's driving the turnaround in our manufacturing trade? The main answer is that the U.S. dollar has fallen against other currencies, helping give U.S.-based manufacturing a cost advantage. A weaker dollar, it turns out, was just what U.S. industry needed.

Yet the Federal Reserve finds itself under intense pressure from the right to make the dollar stronger, not weaker. A few months ago, Paul Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, berated Ben Bernanke for failing to tighten monetary policy, declaring: "There is nothing more insidious that a country can do to its citizens than debase its currency." If Mr. Bernanke had given in to that kind of pressure, manufacturing would have continued its relentless decline.

And then there's the matter of the auto industry, which probably would have imploded if President Obama hadn't stepped in to rescue General Motors and Chrysler. For those companies would almost surely have gone into liquidation, closing all their factories. And this liquidation would have undermined the rest of America's auto industry, as essential suppliers went under, too. Hundreds of thousands of jobs were at stake.

Yet Mr. Obama was fiercely denounced for taking action. One Republican congressman declared the auto rescue part of the administration's "war on capitalism." Another insisted that when government gets involved in a company, "the disaster that follows is predictable." Not so much, it turns out.

So while we still have a deeply troubled economy, one piece of good news is that Americans are, once again, starting to actually make things. And we're doing that thanks, in large part, to the fact that the Fed and the Obama administration ignored very bad advice from right-wingers — ideologues who still, in the face of all the evidence, claim to know something about creating prosperity.








Fifty years ago, Jane Jacobs published a book called "The Death and Life of Great American Cities." The book was not only an indictment of contemporary urban development; it offered a vision for a healthy community. Jacobs described a streetscape as an organic ballet, as the comings and goings of shop owners, office workers, cops and parents. She described the complex interplay of many different types of people on one city block.

Here in Britain, Prime Minister David Cameron's government is trying to foster that sort of society. Until Cameron, Britain — like the U.S. — had one party that spoke on behalf of the market (the Conservatives) and one party that spoke on behalf of the state (Labour). But Cameron is initiating a series of policies, under the rubric "Big Society," that seek to nurture community bonds, civic activism and social capital.

The Big Society started in part as a political gadget, as a way to distinguish the current Conservatives from the more individualistic ethos of the Thatcher years. It has turned out to be something of a damp squid politically. Most voters have no idea what the phrase "Big Society" means. But, substantively, the legislative package has been a success. The British government is undergoing a fundamental transformation.

Cameron inherited one of the largest governments in the affluent world (under Gordon Brown, the public spending reached 51 percent of G.D.P.). It was also one of the most centralized. The national government accounts for 70 percent of total government spending in Britain, compared with 55 percent in the U.S., 35 percent in Japan and 20 percent in Germany.

Cameron has unveiled a series of measures to decentralize power to local governments, to increase government transparency and to disburse welfare provisions to a variety of delivery mechanisms.

His government has boosted the number of charter schools. There's been a welfare reform bill to encourage work and to get rid of the perverse incentives that induced people to remain on the dole. The police forces are going to have to start answering to the public. Twelve more big cities will have now elected mayors. Local communities have more control of federal money and run things themselves. There's been a raft of provisions trying to use the insights from behavioral economics.

Cameron's trying to get the British people to change their social norms. Many British governments have effectively said: If you pay your taxes you can sit back and we experts will take care of your problems. The Thatcher government said: Get off your couch and start a business. Cameron says: Get off the couch and take responsibility for your community. Cameron is trying to spark active citizenship.

The measures are not without critics. From the left, Polly Toynbee, a columnist for The Guardian, argues that the current centralized system ensures uniformity and fairness. But with localism and decentralization, she continues, the richer areas will outperform the poorer areas. Inequality and corruption will replace fairness and uniformity.

Others see the Big Society as the gentle mask to cover savage spending cuts. Still others see it as upper-middle-class noblesse oblige. Working-class families who have two jobs and who come home exhausted at 10 in the evening don't need to be lectured by the government on why they should volunteer at the blood bank.

There's some truth to those critiques. But the Big Society programs still have the potential to produce enormous benefits for Britain.

The people who thrive in a globalized information economy have the ability to process complex waves of information. They have the ability to navigate incredibly diverse social environments.

Where do people learn these skills? They learn them when they grow up in and are nurtured by rich social networks. They learn them when they live within vibrant institutions that pass down practices and habits. They learn them when they live in areas of high social trust, where people are able to reach out and work together.

By decentralizing power, and inciting local energies, Cameron's reforms are fostering the sorts of environments where human capital grows.

Cameron still has to fight for these programs, especially against the bureaucracy's bias for uniformity and control. And the big shortcoming is that the Big Society skirts commercial life. If centralized government weakens community networks, then concentrated corporate power weakens the networks of entrepreneurs and tradesmen.

As the scholars at the think tank ResPublica have pointed out, big corporations use the complex tax code, dense regulations and state contracting rules to stifle small-business competition. Jane Jacob's vibrant sidewalks didn't only benefit from flourishing community groups, they benefitted from skilled workers linking together to share capital and work. The Big Society needs to connect with economic aspirations and broadly shared prosperity.

But, even so, Cameron is doing something interesting. No other government is trying so hard to tie public policy to the latest research into how we learn and grow.







FIFTY years ago today I arrived in Montgomery, Ala., on a Greyhound bus. I was 20 years old and was there as one of the Freedom Riders, a racially mixed group, mostly college students, who were riding buses through the South to test the Supreme Court's recent ban on segregation in waiting rooms and restaurants that served interstate travelers.

I was among 22 Freedom Riders on that bus. We well knew the dangers we faced in Alabama: other riders had already been attacked in Anniston and Birmingham. And indeed, when we stepped off the bus a group of hooligans surrounded us. Three of my friends, William Barbee, John Lewis and Jim Zwerg, were beaten unconscious. I suffered three cracked ribs.

The next evening, the Freedom Riders and 1,500 other people gathered at the First Baptist Church on Ripley Street, in downtown Montgomery. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and others from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference offered us words of encouragement and support on our journey for equality.

As the sun set, a mob of whites began to gather around the church. As the crowd grew in number — eventually as many as 3,000 people appeared — it also grew in vitriol and hostility. The crowd began hurling rocks and bricks through the stained-glass windows, and tear gas drifted through the sanctuary. While outside people flipped over cars and set them on fire, inside Dr. King tried to reach Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy to request federal protection.

All of us gathered in the church were uncertain about our safety; I certainly felt in danger. Many feared that the church would be bombed. After all, not only had Dr. King's house been bombed with his wife, child and a family friend inside during the 1956 Montgomery bus boycott, but the very church where we were gathered had been bombed in 1957.

There was little we could do but wait and pray. We sat in the church and sang freedom songs and hymns that strengthened our spirits and soothed our fears. Occasionally, I took a deep breath to get a little relief from the pain of my fractured ribs. At times I wondered whether it would be better to be safe in jail or to be there, in the church, surrounded by a vicious mob.

Eventually Dr. King announced that he had a special mission for which he needed volunteers. The main qualification, Dr. King said, was a commitment to nonviolence. He didn't need hotheads, or people overcome by anger. Needless to say, no one rushed the pulpit. After my experience at the bus station, I didn't feel I could handle another mob, so I held back, too.

However, about 10 or 12 people eventually did volunteer for the mission, which Dr. King then explained. Reports had come in over the phone that a group of black men, led by armed cab drivers, were mobilizing at a nearby service station with plans to attack the mob and rescue the people trapped in the church. Some of them, no doubt, had relatives and friends in the church.

Black cab drivers were an important part of the local civil rights movement. They had helped out in the car-pooling efforts during the bus boycott. When the boycott ended, some of them formed their own cab companies to serve black customers. But they were more than just drivers: they saw themselves as part of a security force as they moved passengers around the segregated city.

Some of these men were war veterans; some were experienced hunters, and were probably more experienced with weapons than their white antagonists. Had these men attacked the mob surrounding the church, the story of the Freedom Rides would have had a much different ending.

Dr. King's mission, then, was to persuade the cab drivers to abandon their rescue attempt, lay down their weapons and go home. His small group gathered at the front door of the church, lined up in twos. Then they walked out the doors, as if they were marching.

There was an unforgettable silence as they passed out of the church. We watched as they walked through the howling crowd; I was sure I would never see them again. And yet, for all the yelling, the mob didn't touch them — such is the power of nonviolence.

About an hour passed. Suddenly, out of the darkness, they all reappeared, unharmed. Dr. King had convinced the cab drivers to abandon their mission. This was no small miracle. Dr. King showed through this act of courage in this most harrowing moment of the campaign that fear was not a factor for him. It was, at that point in the Freedom Rides, the greatest lesson he could have offered.

Early the next morning, with the help of the Alabama National Guard (which arrived after hours of pressure from Mr. Kennedy on the Alabama governor, John Malcolm Patterson), we were able to leave the church unharmed. Dr. King's courageous mission to our would-be rescuers prevented great bloodshed and kept the Freedom Rides on its nonviolent course. And it showed us what the Freedom Rides, and the movement overall, were about.

The man and the movement were behind the decision by each of us to stand up and take action, even if it required extraordinary courage. If we were ever in doubt, he reminded us why we had chosen to leave the comforts of our homes, college campuses and family and friends to travel to unknown places fully aware of the possibility that we'd never return. Dr. King showed how quiet strength can overcome violence, how courage can overcome fear, how peace can overcome the most awful hate.

Bernard Lafayette Jr. is a distinguished senior scholar in residence at the Candler School of Theology at Emory University.







Cambridge, Mass.

EACH year, 50,000 green cards, which allow immigrants to become permanent residents and eventually qualify for United States citizenship, are randomly given away. The 10 million or so aspiring Americans who enter this lottery every year do not have to have family members here. Nor do they have to demonstrate special skills. They merely have to come from a country, like my native Germany, that is underrepresented in the immigrant pool, fill out a simple form and hope that, against very long odds, they get to live the American dream.

Imagine my ecstasy, then, when I checked the State Department's Web site in the early morning on May 1, and saw that I had won the lottery. Like tens of thousands of lucky winners all over the world, I stared at my screen in disbelief. Was my dream of staying in America really to be fulfilled? Could I one day call New York, a city I love like no other in the world, my home?

The answer, it turns out, is a crushing no. Last Friday, the State Department had to admit to a huge mistake. Because of a programming error, a disproportionate number of those selected to receive a green card had entered the lottery on the first two eligible days, Oct. 5 or 6 of last year. But the law demands a truly random selection process. My winning notification was rescinded. "We regret any inconvenience this might have caused," the State Department said in a statement.

Many of my fellow not-quite-winners reacted to the cruel news with indignation. In a sign of how American many of them already are, some are even planning a class-action lawsuit against the State Department.

I share their sadness — it won't be easy for me to let that dream go. And for those who were hoping to overcome real economic hardship or escape the grip of an authoritarian regime, it must be harder still. But I will not be joining the lawsuit.

Sometimes bureaucratic mistakes, even ones that play with the emotions of thousands of people, just happen. More important, I recognize that the beauty of the green card lottery lies in its very randomness, in the fact that no one gets a leg up over anyone else for any reason.

Opponents of the Diversity Visa Lottery, as the program is officially known, are likely to try to use the fate of people like me to their advantage. A bill introduced in January by Representative Darrell Issa, Republican of California, would abolish the lottery. Instead of randomly giving away the coveted green cards, he would make it easier for holders of advanced degrees from American universities to stay in the country upon graduation.

As a graduate student in the United States, I am actually more likely to benefit from Mr. Issa's proposed immigration reform than I am to win the green card lottery a second time. Nevertheless, I hope his bill will be defeated. Despite the recent setbacks, the green card lottery is a shrewd way for the United States to honor a history of open immigration that lasted until the late 19th century, and win over hearts and minds along the way.

While the completely open borders of yore are sadly not feasible today, the lottery, in its limited way, helps America to remain a land of equal opportunity.

Yascha Mounk, the founding editor of the online magazine The Utopian, is a graduate student in political theory at Harvard.









The Kurdish question continues to be Turkey's number one problem. The much-touted Kurdish initiative begun by the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, administration has gone awry. Matters are coming to a dangerous head today more than at any time.

The fact that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has changed sides and is now playing the ultra-nationalist card against the Kurds, ostensibly to undermine the ultra-nationalist Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, in order to ensure it remains under the 10 percent electoral threshold in the June 12 elections, seems to have aggravated the situation.

The latest killing of 12 militants of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, on the Iraqi side of the border with Turkey by the military, and the manner in which Kurdish activists, family members of the killed, and members of the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, crossed the border in total defiance of the military in order to fetch the bodies, has introduced a new dimension to the whole debate.

It will be recalled that we argued in this column recently that Erdoğan's claim to the effect that Hamas is not a terrorist organization carries the risk of coming back to haunt Turkey. The latest images coming out of the southeast demonstrate precisely what we mean. Previously, we would only see mass public turnouts for the funerals of Turkish soldiers killed by the PKK. Now we see the same happening in the region for the funerals of killed PKK militants.

Put another way, while Erdoğan continues to argue that Hamas is not a terrorist organization, but a political party fighting for freedom, there are tens of thousands of Kurds in Turkey who say the same thing about the PKK, and it appears their numbers are increasing. In the meantime Abdullah Öcalan, the imprisoned head of the PKK – whose surname curiously means "avenger" in Turkish – is now threatening that the PKK will unleash some kind of a bloodbath if Kurdish demands are not met by mid June.

Whether he is saying he will order this through his lawyers, seeing as he is in prison, or whether he is predicting what will happen regardless of what his own position may be remains unclear. The fact is that it has already started turning into a hot spring and it seems the violence will continue throughout the summer.

How Erdoğan can stand up, in the face of what is actually happening, and claim that "Turkey's Kurdish problem is over" is a mystery. He appears to be telling us that all the protests we see by the Kurds, the position that the BDP is taking in this respect, and the intense public debate about this issue represent something other than the Kurdish problem.

Even the highly respect columnist Hasan Cemal, who is known for supporting the AKP and also for his outspoken stance on issues like the Kurdish issue, is admitting that Erdoğan's playing of the nationalist card to undermine the MHP has crossed a line. Erdoğan is relying on the fact that the MHP's nationalist strongholds all voted "yes" for the AKP's package of constitutional amendments in last September's referendum.

That happened despite the fact that MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli argued against the constitutional changes by maintaining that Erdoğan was betraying the country and actively dividing it with his Kurdish initiative. Under normal circumstances, this allegation should have made MHP supporters vote against the constitutional amendments. But it did not, thus encouraging Erdoğan to switch from a position of empathy with the Kurds to pandering to the nationalists.

There are also those who claim that the latest killing of the 12 PKK militants, a fact that set the southeast ablaze politically and literally, was something engineered by the local military commander in order to undermine the AKP's chances in the elections, coming as it did at a delicate moment politically.

Other press reports talk about a conflict between the commander and the local governor in the region in question, with the latter arguing that the bodies of the PKK militants should be brought back to Turkey and treated with respect, while the former maintained that they should stay out there in the open to show who is boss.

The military's refusal to bring the bodies back and give them to their families is said to be what prompted the Kurds to cross the Iraqi border and bring the dead PKK militants to Turkey on their shoulders.  The fact that the military openly opposed these people by threateningly firing in the air, as well as trying to stop them physically was widely reported in the Turkish media in a way that the military was clearly not expecting.

In addition to this, the fact that as many people are now turning up for the funerals of killed PKK militants as they are for those of killed Turkish soldiers must be another source of frustration for the military. We are not in a position to verify or deny the veracity of the claims against the military, of course. But the fact that such claims are being made at all point to a hot summer.

There are also those, Cemal being one of them, who argue that if the Turkish army is under the orders of the elected government, as the AKP claims it is when it serves its interests to do so, then Erdoğan should step in and prevent the military from engaging in operations that merely make a bad situation worse. In the meantime there are regional developments that stand to aggravate the issue further.

Ankara has of course normalized ties with the Kurds of northern Iraq, and as belated as this was, it is nevertheless a good development contributing to regional stability. Developments in Syria, however, have energized the Kurdish movement in that country and it is not clear how this situation will affect Turkey's Kurdish problem.

The bottom line here is that there appears to be little political wisdom in Erdoğan's current approach to the problem, which in fact smacks of political opportunism aimed at the nationalist vote, rather than a consideration of the welfare of the whole of Turkey. But what he is achieving in doing this is stoking up Kurdish nationalism and contributing to a further division of the country.

Rather than sit down and draw up "crazy projects" – his own term by the way – like joining the Black and Marmara Seas by means of a canal at a cost of billions of dollars so as to dazzle the electorate into voting for the AKP, he would do much better to address the problems of the southeast and initiate a vast program of political reform and economic development for the region. His inability or unwillingness to do so may cost the country much more in the end than his "crazy projects."






Turkey marked Thursday the anniversary of the May 19, 1919, landing of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk at Samsun onboard an old Bandırma ship. His aim was to organize the Turkish national resistance against the occupation of Turkish territory by the victor Allied Powers of the World War I. Most of the military units were disbanded and arms depots were confiscated by the occupation forces, worse the government and the sultan in occupied Istanbul were cooperating with the occupation forces, ordering whatever was left from the Ottoman army not to resist humiliation by foreign forces on Turkish territory.

With scarce resources, barefoot but with determination not to surrender, an army of peasants was established in Anatolia by Mustafa Kemal and other founding fathers of the Turkish republic. That poorly armed and compared to the massive fighting power and numerical superiority of the occupation forces, a meager "National Army" or Kuvva-i Milli as it was called at the time, waged a heroic existential war aware that in that war of liberation there was no defense line but the battle ground was the entire nation's territory.

Only few years are left until the centennial of the start of the War of Liberation in 2019. Naturally, the centennial of the republic in 2023 will be a very important event to celebrate, but had Atatürk not launched the War of Liberation in 1919, there would not be a republic either.

The post-1980 generation of Turkey cannot and should not be blamed for not being aware of the importance of May 19 and the War of Liberation for this country. They are the products of the 1980 coup and the ensuing massive depoliticization campaign. The generations that are raised with the "What's in it for me" egotistic mantras of the post-1980 era might have forgotten the importance of the War of Liberation, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founding philosophy of the republic, under what conditions and with what great ideals the republic was established on the ashes of the Ottoman Empire.

Though the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, is now campaigning with a claim that they are preparing for an "advanced democratic Turkey of 2023, the centennial of the republic" particularly, over the past eight years the AKP has been in power, there has been a rampant defamation campaign continuing in this country against the accomplishments of the Turkish republic.

How would young Turkish generations understand the feelings of the founding period of the republic when they have been so firmly cut off from the recent past of their country, have become alien to their own recent history or developed an understanding of history that was provided to them by electronic encyclopedias? Can it be possible to judge what happened 90 years ago with today's perceptions, values and understanding?

It is easy to say Atatürk was a dictator. Sure, if we are to describe Atatürk with today's values and understanding of democracy, he was a dictator. But how would it be possible to liberate a land occupied by seven victorious countries, build on top of an imperial legacy of 625 years with limited resources and no industry but immense external debt left by the former empire and move onto create a republic, establish an economy and build a new nation with whatever is left from the shrinking imperial territory?

Naturally Atatürk and other founding fathers of the republic were human beings as well and like all humans they made mistakes, some of them negligible, some of them big and important. For example, Gülsüm Bilgehan, the granddaughter of the late İsmet İnönü – the second man of the Atatürk time, the second president and the founding prime minister of the republic – wholeheartedly explained in a recent TV interview that one of the most important mistakes of the early republican period that was continued later by the Republican People's Party, or CHP, was perhaps the sincere effort to place religion outside of politics, which produced a very rigid secularism understanding. That rigid secular understanding, she explained, was very much exploited by conservative and Islamist political movements that made it a habit to exploit religion in order to advance in politics, as manifestation that CHP is an atheist party.

Naturally, that was a very unjust accusation but even today as we see in Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan telling almost every election rally, one of the most effective tools to alienate the CHP from the devout-Muslim and conservative Anatolian electorate.

Over the past nine years AKP has been attacking the preceding 79 years performance of the previous republican governments and accumulations of the republican Turkey. Yet, without any production the country has been achieving an average 5-7 percent annual growth over the past nine years through selling and devastating the economic accumulation of the past 79 years, or borrowing in an unprecedented fashion from abroad and mortgaging the future of the country.

But at election rally grounds, without feeling a bit of shame, a campaign of hate is being continued against all the landmarks of the republican governance.







Despite providing a real opportunity for the Egyptian people's desire for more political freedom, the Jan. 25 revolution also exposed a number of vital problems. These matter more to future prosperity and stability in Egypt and the region than the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak.

Continuing violence is increasingly sectarian, while the economic impact of the unrest worsens the structural obstacles to growth, leaving little hope of improvement for those who revolted against poor living conditions, food inflation and high unemployment.

Sectarian violence between Coptic Christians and Muslims has surged. A number of clashes in recent weeks in the Imbaba district of Cairo killed at least 15, both Copts and Muslims. Reports of non-intervention by security forces has prompted fears that Egypt's interim military government is incapable of imposing order, particularly as non-sectarian crime has also risen sharply in recent months.

But the most pressing problem for the interim government remains the economy, as in most of the Arab Spring countries: "We are very much concerned by the rise in expectations ... Sometimes the demands are justified and sometimes they are unrealistic," Finance Minister Samir Radwan said this week. 

Due to the recent instability, the economy contracted by around 7 percent in the first quarter of this year. Tourism revenue, the largest component of GDP, declined by 80 percent, while the stock market tumbled 32 percent, prompted by security fears. The IMF has revised its growth estimate to 1 percent this year after 5.1 percent growth last year, while the Institute of International Finance, or IIF, expects a decline in GDP of 2.5 percent. Yet strong growth is required simply to keep pace with a rapidly growing population and rising inflation.

In response, the World Bank is expected to lend around $2.2 billion, while Egypt has asked the IMF for help in curbing an estimated $10 billion to $12 billion gap in government funding. Despite fears that the military-led government may be less inclined toward economic liberalization and privatization than the former regime, the new loan deals can be expected to enforce a resumption of economic reforms, which had been gradually started under the previous regime. 

With an average of 20 percent of Egyptians living in poverty (and up to 70 percent in some rural areas), however, any austerity measures and some economic freedoms such as removing subsidies may prove as inflammatory for a new government as the current sectarian violence. 

There are also continuing fears that Islamist movements such as the Muslim Brotherhood, or more extreme Salafis, may take advantage of unpopular economic policies to gain traction in the newly open political scene. Religious groups, particularly the Muslim Brotherhood, were largely left behind by the pace of the anti-Mubarak demonstrations, initially led by a loose coalition of bloggers, youth activists and opposition party supporters. However, given its superior organization, combined with its reputation for social welfare, the Brotherhood may become an attractive option for those increasingly disillusioned with the slow rate of change – even though the majority of Egyptians do not agree with the group's ideology.

Representative government may perhaps repress the endemic corruption that was one of the themes of anti-government demonstrations. However, as demonstrated elsewhere – most notably in Lebanon and Iraq – democracy does not directly translate into prosperity and stability: indeed, politics often hampers economic freedoms and trade, the removal of regulations and the withdrawal of subsidies to favored sectors – all the things that allow people to prosper. In fact, many Arab Spring protestors demanded more subsidies and more jobs from the government.

If a future elected government of this massively influential Arab nation does not grasp the economic nettle, Egypt's underlying weakness will continue to fuel instability and inter-communal conflict: failure will resound throughout the Arab world.

*Alan Fraser and Ben Crossland are Middle East & North Africa analysts for the international risk-analysis and security firm AKE, London.






Just when you start to think that "at least the trains run on time" in Turkey, they seem to derail one after another. Just like a piece of news that may please you – but only for an instant. Just like the feeling of sad humor that comes a second after the feeling of silent approval while and after reading the story of a heavy fine that hit a private television channel for "pairing a 15-year-old girl with a 45 year-old man in a matchmaking show."

Citing a pretext for the fine, the presumably independent but practically Justice and Development Party-controlled radio and television watchdog said that the show had broadcast an example of child abuse by fixing a marriage between an underage girl and an adult. The watchdog also noted that the show had violated the regulation that states "broadcasts must not be against society's national and spiritual values and the Turkish family structure."

After the show, we learned from the news, the watchdog was bombarded with a flurry of complaints from viewers while the girl's father issued a complaint to the prosecutor's office.

So far, so good.

But when you superimpose this nice little episode – which could have happened in any "sane" country – onto another Turkish "background," a fresh "those crazy Turks" picture will emerge: Do the heavy fine and its legal justification mean that our president had once violated society's national and spiritual values and the Turkish family structure when he married our first lady at the age of 15 (now, beat that if you can, Harry!)? Do they mean that our president once committed child abuse? I guess not – just to be on the safer side of a potential future prosecution. But questions inevitably linger in the air.

Did marrying a 15-year-old girl not violate "our sacred values, our spirituality and our even more sacred family structure" two decades ago but it does today? Is the definition of child abuse different today than before? When exactly did we discover that marrying a 15-year-old girl constituted child abuse? Does anyone have an idea how common child brides are in Turkey's conservative layers (read: most of Turkey)? Is marrying a child bride fine but broadcasting it on a TV show is not?

The explanation, once again, is in the Islamic conservative thinking.

Last year, the broadcast watchdog warned a television channel for a perfume commercial featuring a woman in a bikini, sunbathing aboard a yacht and kissing a man in a swimsuit. The broadcaster was warned for "forcing the limits of obscenity." But this is hardly surprising in a country where, according to Pew research, 16 percent of people think death by stoning should be the appropriate sentence for adultery, and 13 percent think men and women should not be allowed to work in the same workplace. Justification for all that is not too hard to guess.

Two months ago, Hüseyin Üzmez, the hero of the famous "Üzmez affair" and a columnist for the Islamist daily Vakit, was released from prison after a court suspended his 13-year sentence. Mr. Üzmez had been convicted and imprisoned on charges of having a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old girl.

After his release, Mr. Üzmez publicly defended the Islamic rules that he said permit girls to wed under the legal age of 16. Justifying sex with a 14-year-old girl, the 78-year-old Mr. Üzmez said, "A girl who has reached puberty, who is having periods, is of age according to our (religious) beliefs."

Such weirdness is at the heart of the social/political division between Islamist/conservative Muslims and secular Muslims in Turkey. Ask any Islamist and he would proudly tell you that what Mr. Üzmez did was perfectly normal – precisely like how the man defended himself – "according to our beliefs." Just like marrying a 15-year-old girl is perfectly normal "according to our beliefs." Just like marrying up to four wives is perfectly normal "according to our beliefs." Just like stoning an adulterer is perfectly normal "according to our beliefs." The same conservative Turk would also defend liberty for such behavior on the grounds of "religious freedoms."

It is also for the same reason why a clear majority of Turks will prefer to have a president like they have today, but complain to the watchdog for a TV show featuring what their favorite president had done. No doubt, the election of Abdullah Gül as president of Turkey in 2007 reflected the will of the Turkish nation, a will used by the perfectly legitimate proxy, Parliament. Just like a (presumed) majority of Turks would see no harm in underage marriage "according to their beliefs."

The disturbing question is, how democratic would it be if democratically elected representatives ran a country according to the religious beliefs of a clear majority of the electorate. This is why advanced democracies can ban even democratically-elected parties if they champion undemocratic rule, either through racist- or religious-based governance.






Main opposition Republican People's Party, or CHP, leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu appeared on 32. Gün elections-special program with a braveness no other politician would dare show and supported the Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, in respect to videotapes unexpectedly. He said the game needs to be played according to its rules and that in politics there shouldn't be any hitting below the belt.

He backed the MHP.

He supported MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli.

In general we perceive it as a crime to say nice things about our rivals. But Kılıçdaroğlu had a very ethical standpoint.

We didn't have a chance to meet before the latest general assembly. But this time we had time to talk extensively.

I noticed that his self-confidence has increased.

I saw a very different Kılıçdaroğlu before me. He was very happy about the motion in rallies and votes his party gained.

Of course, like every leader, he aims to come to power but perceives a vote percentage of 30 percent a success.

What impressed me a lot is his approach to the Kurdish issue.

He was very clear about steps to be taken with respect to reforms in mother tongue education and local administration issues. All of a sudden, my hopes were raised in respect to after elections. Surely, the government's attitude was important but I don't think that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will give up the Kurdish initiative. Especially if cooperation could be achieved with the CHP, we'd make so much progress.

When you listen to his speech carefully, you immediately notice that in the approach to the same issue there is not much difference between the ideas of the prime minister and Kılıçdaroğlu.

If such a historical cooperation opportunity could be found, rest assure that this country's way would be paved. What I heard during the chat with respect to the Kurdish issue, to a great extent decreased my pessimism created by the latest developments.

Attacks on the MHP have an adverse effect

No matter who came up with it, if we believe in ethics and democracy, even just a little bit, we all should support the MHP.

We should oppose the recent trend of blackmailing through videotapes not just in politics but also everywhere in society.

We should support Bahçeli.

If we approach this issue with a gossip mentality and appreciate those responsible, criticizing only those recorded on the tape saying, "Well, they shouldn't have done it," then we'll encounter many more recordings in the future. And we won't be able to understand which recording is genuine and which one is a fake.

We need to make a decision: Will we attribute our private lives to general ethical rules or completely leave it up to their own preference? Will we keep our eyes shut to blackmailing with recordings through secret cameras or will we protest?

That's why I say let us support the MHP.

If you take a look at surveys you'd see that despite all its misfortune the MHP has not lost any points, on the contrary it has gained 1 or 2 percentage points. The general expectation was that the prime minister's brisk words with respect to MHP and Bahçeli, and tape blackmailings would undermine the party, even prevent it from crossing the barrier.

The opposite came true.

The MHP appears to be the wronged party. The tape blackmailings had an adverse effect. And when people sympathized with Bahçeli's wrong but funny pronunciation of the word biscuit at a rally we have encountered a completely different scene.

That's the way the public is.

You think you hit them badly whereas the public takes on a completely different attitude.  

Let's not get upset, Demirtaş is right

Pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP's, former President Selahattin Demirtaş on Wednesday said, "Members of the [Kurdistan Workers' Party] PKK here are not perceived as terrorists," and created reaction in some circles.

We may get upset as much as we want, but Demirtaş is right. In the Southeast many perceive deeds by the PKK that we perceive as assassination or murder as "a defending itself against the state and seeking its rights."

We may not accept it but they even forgive the PKK for murdering their children. They perceive them differently.

We don't accept this reality, but let us understand that millions of people think in a different way than we do. Instead of being upset with them, let's think about ways to resolve the issue.






From the shores of the Atlantic to the Persian Gulf, women and men in many Arab-Muslim countries are demanding that their rulers democratize, and that dictators monopolizing power and national wealth for their own profit step down. Many observers have long underestimated and some even denied the great aspiration of the Arab people for democracy. But the ongoing extraordinary turmoil demonstrates the universality of the demand for human rights, and that adherence to Islam does not preclude desire for democracy. 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 did not cite the Shariah 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 multiparty system, freedom of the press and the prospect of genuine democratic pluralist elections.

At these demonstrations, no American or Israeli flag was burned, no anti- Western or anti-Jewish slogan uttered. In Libya and Syria, like Iran, the incumbent regimes have attempted to de-legitimize protests by denouncing what they dubbed the "foreign hand," blaming the popular wind that would sweep upon them on an imagined "Great Israeli-American Satan." This populist appeal was barely credible, and protesters have shown they are determined to reject "anti-imperialism" as a reason to preserve dictatorship. 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. It is incumbent upon all Egyptians now to mobilize that same civic spirit to ensure that sectarian attacks, as well as dictatorship, are rejected.

And 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 governorship 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, a statement that also applies to Western societies, even when minorities are so small that they are virtually invisible. "Am I my brother's keeper?" asked Cain. We must reject a restrictive and egocentric and ethnocentric interpretation of this question. We are – but we are not only – our own brother's keeper. 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 Shiites, Iran's Sunnis, India's Muslims and Turkey's Alevis. One need not be a Jew to come to the defense of Syria's or Iran's Jews. But defense of minorities is above all the responsibility of the majorities among whom they live, none of which can enjoy true and untroubled self-esteem if they despise or mistreat the "other."

New regimes will be judged by how they treat their ethnic and religious minorities, among them Egyptian, Syrian, Jordan and Lebanese Christians, Syrian Kurds, and Persian Gulf Emirate Shiites. The often cited but fallacious theory that only authoritarian regimes are able to ensure their minorities' security, or even survival, is awaiting a strenuous denial that must be demonstrated in words and by deeds. It is by the space allowed for these various minorities to live and flourish in their societies shall we judge the true nature of the Arab spring.

* Rene Guitton is French writer and publisher, specialist of religions. This article is part of the series 'Religion, Politics & the Public Space' in collaboration with the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations and its Global Experts project, at The views expressed in these articles are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect those of the UNAOC or of the institutions to which the authors are affiliated.








Throughout our long and often tortuous history we have seen many wrongs, done most often to protect military dictators who make decisions or 'adjust' the Constitution to serve their own interests. It is vital for our future that this unfortunate trend be ended. The 67-page judgement by the six-member Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, ordering the government to cancel the notification of the seven high court judges who had taken oath under the Provisional Constitution Order of 2007 promulgated by General Pervez Musharraf, sets a crucial precedent that can help achieve this. The appeal of the judges against a February 2 ruling by the SC has been rejected, and a warning issued that those judges found guilty of contempt of court could face further penalties by losing the perks granted to them in 2010. It is noteworthy that some judges attempted to carry on their functions despite a restraining order from the SC. In contrast, others, including all the Balochistan High Court judges, stepped down after a 2009 Sindh High Court ruling that declared the PCO and the Oath Order 2007 illegal. Their actions have been praised by the chief justice. It should be noted that the PCO was also declared illegal by parliament under the 18th and 19th amendments.

The SC ruling also sets an example for the future. It is now less likely that the judiciary will stand by dictators who openly violate the law of the land. It is strange that individuals including SCBA President Asma Jahangir have criticised the verdict, calling it 'unfair'. However, there appears to be little that is unjust about it. People who hold responsible posts need to bear in mind the welfare of their nation and the need to abide by principles. Failure in this respect has cost us dearly in the past and is directly responsible for many of the problems we face today. The judiciary can play a crucial role in tackling these issues. Resolving them is crucial to offering justice to people and establishing the supremacy of law. People have, for the most part, welcomed the new and more proactive role of the judiciary. It gives them hope for a better and more stable future, as those who play a part in shaping the nature of the state recognise the need to act with honour, integrity and a sense of duty to people rather than to dictators who usurp their rights.







he signals coming out of both Beijing and Islamabad indicate a shift in the relationship between Pakistan and China. We share a border, common interests and are developing a relationship based on mutuality rather than transaction. It is almost the diametric opposite of that which we have with our principal financial benefactors – the Americans. The Chinese are never going to throw cash at us in the way the Americans do. Instead, they want to engage in a relationship that has trade and mutual interest as the engine that drives profit and development – because if there is one thing both partners want to do it is make money. Besides trade there is a strategic element to our partnership, and the importance of Beijing's statement that 'an attack on Pakistan is an attack on China' will not be lost on the planners in the White House and the Pentagon.

The Abbottabad incident has almost certainly accelerated a process that was already in train. We have a two-way trade which in 2010 was worth $8.7 billion, an increase of 27.7 percent over 2009. The aim is to increase bilateral trade to $15 billion – but no target date for this ambitious goal has been defined. There has been collaboration in the energy sector which bore fruit a week ago with the commissioning of a nuclear power plant at Chashma in central Punjab and a contract with the Chinese to construct two more. As fixes go it is neither quick nor cheap – but it is durable and will provide a long-term solution to part of our power problem. It is durable long-term relationships with other countries that will ultimately be of greatest benefit to us; and perhaps none more so than that with China. The Chinese are not offering a free lunch; we have to pay for what we get from them whether it is fighter jets or nuclear power plants. They are looking to get the best deal for themselves as well as advance their own position as a regional power. In its transactional relationship with America, Pakistan does not have many choices, but with China it has a range of choices, as do the Chinese with it. And Pakistan is right to push forwards with broadening a relationship which in the long-term will be of greater benefit.






Shahbaz Sharif's recent pronouncements against foreign aid are commendable, at least on the surface of things. There is no doubt that self-reliance is a virtue and that economic stability necessitates indigenous capacity building and resource utilisation. However, a few days after denouncing foreign aid altogether, Shahbaz retracted his general rejection and specified that Punjab wouldn't accept aid from the United States because accepting it undermined our sovereignty while loans from non-US sources, such as the World Bank and ADB and friendly countries like Turkey, Saudi Arabia and China, are kosher.

What is worth taking away from the CM's statements – though he has not specifically said this – is the need for the US to de-hyphenate civilian aid from security objectives. The entire debate in the US, post-Bin Laden, about cutting aid to Pakistan, misses the point that instead of connecting economic, especially civilian assistance, to strategic returns, it can be linked to domestic reform. If Washington wants to use its economic leverage, it should push for structural tax reforms, for instance, and help build the capacity to push back against the handful of elite that has stalled reform. Pledging millions of dollars to Pakistan in the hope of changing its strategic mindset hasn't ever worked. Domestically speaking, we must not forget that Shahbaz is a politician with one thing on his mind: votes. The Punjab CM's words against aid don't seem to be intended for a drone-using, sovereignty-challenging US but are meant to channel what his party's average voter is thinking. Given that anti-US sentiments have reached a new high after the Bin Laden operation and continuing drone attacks, the CM and his brother are voicing what their core voter is thinking. The rhetoric of breaking the begging bowl is also a way to neutralise the potential of an emerging alliance under the leadership of Imran Khan. Interestingly, the federal government has followed suit with Rehman Malik waxing eloquent about dignity and its relationship to foreign loans. Interesting new battles surely lie ahead as the general election draws closer.








Any normal person, your average mortal, could have been forgiven for thinking that the in-camera session of parliament was being called to toss some tough questions at the military. After all, it was the army, Pakistan Air Force and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) caught with their collective pants down by the Bin Laden affair. And the entire world, as a consequence, was laughing at our expense.

Pakistan was always used to being the butt of slander. But this was being the butt of jokes. And as we know, well-aimed jokes are harder to bear than slander.

But in the joint session of parliament there was a turnaround of which the Lucky Irani Circus if not Houdini himself would have been proud. So skilfully and with such finesse was the sitting handled – I would not say manipulated for that would be too crude a word – that Pakistan's eagle-eyed parliamentarians found themselves questioning not the military but attacking with abandon – you've guessed it – the United States. What should have been an inquest thus turned into a festival of injured patriotism.

Indeed, wounded pride and injured sovereignty were the two musical keys pressed the hardest. Anyone looking for an admission of failure, or of passing regret for Osama bin Laden's embarrassing presence in our midst, would have been disappointed. Falling pants around entangled ankles was something which seemed to have occurred on some other planet.

This was a bravura performance relying on humility, smiles and honeyed words, but giving way to momentary sharpness when the proceedings so demanded. I am sure Gen Pasha would have chuckled to himself afterwards, his playing of parliament deserving an honoured place in the hall of fame where hang the ISI's most cherished trophies.

The unanimous resolution passed at the end is a monument to the sense of unreality to which Pakistan's ruling classes surrender in moments of distress and panic. All anger and denunciation, it talks about revisiting (everyone's favourite word nowadays) Pakistan's relationship with the US and not putting up with unilateral military strikes any more. It even talks of cutting Nato supply lines to Afghanistan should the US not respect Pakistan's sovereignty. All in all, a vociferous declaration of independence directed at the US.

This was on the morning of May 13-14. Hardly had the ink on it dried before Senator John Kerry arrived in Islamabad on May 16 and then the fever which had the military establishment in its grip subsided and reality took over.

Before someone with no official position in the US administration the entire national leadership of Pakistan thought it not unseemly to line up: President Zardari, Prime Minister Gilani and army chief Gen Kayani looking less like angry guardians of injured sovereignty and more like students taking in a tutorial. There was even a statement from the prime minister's office after the discussions with Senator Kerry, which must be some kind of a first because usually senators and congressmen don't qualify for prime ministerial statements.

The question is, what was real? The play-acting in parliament or the status of the talks with Senator Kerry? The latter was engaging the entire Pakistani leadership and the leadership was paying close attention to his words. This was one end of the spectrum. At the other end, the Pakistani public was going all berserk about national honour and sovereignty and the army and ISI were exploiting this outrage to cover their exposed flanks. In other words, one dish for the great Pakistani public and another for the demands of the real world.

We are adept at playing these games. But do they fool anyone? More to the point, after the fallout from the Bin Laden affair, when Pakistan's image and credibility have taken a further beating, does it make any sense to continue to live in a world of make-believe?

Part of the briefing in parliament was almost an invitation to go on the warpath with the US. That there was nothing genuine about this bellicosity was soon proved by the way Senator Kerry was received. The only thing he didn't get was a military guard of honour. If all this bellicosity is posturing, what do we get out of it?

And now, wonder of wonders, we hear – there being a news item in this newspaper to this effect – that the army wants the media to cool it. After stoking the fires of outraged patriotism, the realisation has perhaps finally dawned that things have been allowed to go too far, and that the spirit of anti-Americanism let loose after the outing of Osama bin Laden needs to be reined in.

Our guardians of national honour and ideology did exactly the same thing after Raymond Davis, first unleashing the winds of disgraced national honour and then when things went too far, stepping in and arranging a settlement, even arranging for the blood money, although you will catch no one admitting this.

Now a repeat of the same performance, albeit on a much larger scale: beating the drums of patriotism after the Bin Laden affair but gradually settling down to a slower pulse rate after the first flush of the fever has subsided. But there is always a cost to pay when such games are played.

Made to feed at the trough of anti-Americanism, the nation's raw emotions have been played with, giving rise to expectations wholly out of touch with reality. Pakistanis are being made to believe that their country can stand on its own feet and break its begging bowl and that, in any case, the American connection is about to be 'revisited'... when the plain facts are that any such revisiting, in the real sense of the term, is the last thing on the minds of Pakistan's governing classes, including the military.

Consider just one item of national sovereignty. Although the parliamentary resolution clearly states that if drone strikes continued, Pakistan would consider cutting Nato supply lines, the uncomfortable truth is that drones have struck even after the passage of the resolution but goods meant for Nato forces continue to move across Pakistan.

The US will listen to Pakistani concerns but we too will have to pay greater heed to American sensibilities. This is the one overwhelming consequence of Bin Laden being discovered on our soil. Whether we like it or not, the war against Al-Qaeda takes on a fresh urgency. And there will be less patience all round to listen to our theories and excuses.

This then points to a conclusion somewhat different from that being fed to the Pakistani public. Far from paving the way for any kind of a declaration of independence, Pakistan's harvest of embarrassment post-Osama would appear to reduce its options. Why then are the guardians of national security trying to sell a different story to the Pakistani people? Why is the nation being pushed further down the paths of confusion?

Sovereignty needs redefining in Pakistan. More than anything physical, with fixed boundaries that can be traced on a map, it is a mental concept. And the most basic pre-requisite for asserting it is not to give hostages to fortune. Policies and postures which stretch national capacities, go beyond national capabilities, do not strengthen sovereignty.

Our misplaced obsession with Afghanistan compromises national sovereignty. Our blind hostility towards India does the same. Standing up for one's interests is not the same as the blind pursuit of folly. Our India policy makes no sense and is a drag on all our efforts to make something of Pakistan.

The in-camera session of parliament was a benign charade. The military establishment did not submit themselves to political tutelage. They made a show of stooping only to conquer. But to what larger purpose remains as much unclear as the other items of dogma that make up our bible of national security.









Pakistan's current political establishment consists of a dysfunctional parliament beholden to the dictates of about a dozen failed, incompetent, and – in most cases – corrupt individuals; an equally dysfunctional senate that has no independence whatsoever; a presidency that is actually the hotbed of party politics; a prime minister who he is not answerable to the parliament in any real sense like prime ministers usually are; and a disempowered electorate. Its military establishment has not only failed the nation time and again, but it is actually a system that is now beholden to the United States for its very survival. Its re-activated judiciary has been unable to make its writs go beyond a limited facile implementation. Thus, all three pillars of a modern state are dysfunctional in the Islamic Republic. An impotent official opposition and a powerless unofficial opposition complete the scene.

Given this state of affairs, the United States of America has been able to establish its writ over the entire system. In fact, Pakistan has been a cheap buy: Egypt has been receiving 2 billion dollars per year since 1979; Israel's portion for 2010 was 2.775 billion dollars. Both numbers are official; both consist of military aid and exclude other money. Pakistan, in comparison, has been an orphaned beggar throughout its history of dependence on US aid. Only in recent years, there has been a significant increase, but that most of this new money is hypothetical aid, not real, as it mostly is by way of payments for services rendered for the US occupation of Afghanistan and its interminable war of terror. And most of this money has been for military, which has made the Pakistani military a client of the United States. Its politicians were already US clients and thus the fate of the country has now been sealed.

If Pakistan did actually receive some $2.7 billion in "aid and reimbursements" from Washington in fiscal year 2010, as is being claimed, then that money must have been either fake or those who received it must have dug a very deep hole in some inaccessible realm, for all of Pakistan's social indicators show a sharp decline in country's development for a period during which this money came into the country. From education to health systems and from roads to power, there is a sharp deterioration visible everywhere. Hence, if that money has gone to the military establishment, then Pakistanis must wake up from their slumber and have a system in place to control their military.

But regardless of that money – or rather because of that money – Pakistan's defence has reached its lowest depths since independence: Pakistan cannot even have one single plane flying without some part of that plane remaining hostage to a functional dependency on the United States, may it be short term or long term; may it be in terms of the radar system it uses or its actual engine which makes it fly. And like the cat which taught all its tricks to the tiger except climbing a tree, the US holds the magic key to the very functionality of Pakistan's entire military operation. One turn of that magic key and it can render Pakistan's military completely dysfunctional and lands its helicopters in the heart of Pakistan's military establishment and then shout so loudly that no one in the client state would have the courage to stand up and say: wait a minute, before we tell you how and why Osama was resting in that house in Abbottabad, can you explain how did you violate international law and enter our airspace?

All the so-called friend of Pakistan had to do before landing in Pakistan was to make a statement in Kabul, alleging that "disturbing evidence" has been found which reveal Pakistan's involvement with the Taliban and Islamabad and Rawalpindi started to shake. Senator John Kerry's brief stay in Islamabad must have been one of the most rewarding of his entire career: the entire Pakistani military and political establishment was lined up before hand to receive him and listen to the minimum set of new operative instructions and say: we believe and we obey.

Mr Kerry returned home to a chorus of "cut the aid", which was well-orchestrated with everyone knowing already that there was no "aid" to cut; these are payments for services extracted at gunpoint and paid in cheap: there is no other army in the world which can devote its existence, its setup exclusively to fight another ountry's illegal, immoral and criminal war.

Those who are being assassinated by drones in the remote regions of Pakistan have nowhere to go: the army is actually part of the operation; the government shares the vision and operational tactics of those pressing the buttons, while the opposition is utterly impotent. It can only make loud claims: "We will not tolerate the next attack". Note: it is always the "next attack".

Poor Imran Khan, he can never muster enough support to march to Islamabad. He can only give long due dates to the predators. The last one was actually one whole month! Perhaps there is no other indicator of his ineffectiveness than the latest stunt of sit-ins he organised in Peshawar. But perhaps it is not Imran Khan; perhaps it is Pakistan's beaten civil society, its teaming but hopeless millions, who are the real cause of the rule of Pakistan's US client over the entire setup. These teaming millions have been thrust into a race for the survival and all potency has been extracted from their blood. They can hardly be counted for any change. Thus, darkness descends from all side, making it possible for a few hundred US clients to do what they will to this nation.

The writer is a freelance columnist.









 The late Richard Holbrooke felt that Obama's over reliance on the military in Afghanistan had about it the "whiff of Vietnam." If so, he was spot-on. The war is on the cusp of becoming a larger regional conflict. Following the drone attacks earlier this week and that on a Pakistani border post, it's only a question of time before either a drone is brought down or retaliatory fire from a Pakistani outpost on the Pakistani-Afghan border causes American deaths. Thereafter, Pakistan's ties with America, already hanging by a single thread, will go into free fall. Perhaps, they already are in a free fall; and all that remains is to see whether, when they hit the ground, they will survive the fall or signal the expansion of the war to Pakistan.

Surprisingly, despite Pakistan's bitter experiences with the American connection, it never occurred to our military or civilian leaders that for a Muslim democracy, as distinct from family-run and -owned fiefdoms and kingdoms of the Gulf, an alliance with a post-9/11 America would be a deadweight. And that, sooner or later, it would drag them down in the eyes of their own people. Or that an alternative alliance or compact was needed in place of the one forged and stubbornly retained with Washington, although America had shown in 1990 that it far preferred to wash its hands of Pakistan. Alas, an inert and sidelined foreign service, a military unable to rethink and plan ahead, immersed in acquisition of plots and pelf, and politicians who were, and still are, mostly functional illiterates, they all sat on their hands and did nothing.

Fortuitously, an alternative arrangement which might be the best way out of the US straitjacket is in the offing, namely, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). Becoming a part of the SCO makes much better sense. It is part of the region in which we are physically embedded as it straddles South and Central Asia. Both Pakistan and India may soon be admitted as full members, along with Afghanistan, which should make it a lot easier to tackle the problems of the Af-Pak region on a truly regional basis. Since the SCO has Russia and China as key sponsors, it will not be dominated either by one or the other but will be more collective. In due course, Iran is likely to be admitted as a full member too.

Potentially, the SCO is the best recipe for ensuring that the region does not become a playground for US rivalries with Russia and China; or for Bush-era ambitions focused on Central Asia (both oil and gas and putting western China and Russia in a squeeze). It would be a big plus for Russia and China if the SCO grows into something more significant. Indeed, it is only by combining their strength that they can hope to keep the US firmly in check; help to mitigate China-India rivalry at least in our region, though not perhaps in East Asia; reduce India's dependence on the US in our region; and make it a lot easier for us to establish ourselves as a regional economic hub for western China and Central Asia in terms of the access we can provide to the sprawling Indian Ocean region. Besides, it would bring in Russian investment in gas and pipeline development in which that country has considerable experience and interest and some spare cash.

Actually, the participation of China and the reinforcement provided by Russia give the SCO an actual and potential clout that exceeds anything that the US has to offer. And if India, Iran and Pakistan join it, then consider the SCO's potential size and value as an economic market. The SCO could see us through our congenital energy deficiency at least as long as hydrocarbons remain the mainstay of the global economy. So the economic dimension is hugely important in itself.

No less importantly, the SCO would reduce US options to play an aggressive or overambitious role in the region, thereby making it easier to re-establish our ties with them as friends rather than as incompatible lovers or irreconcilable allies. Our dependence on the US would decline dramatically, except that we would have to find resources to tide over our current deficits for which we will have to dig deeper into our own pockets and do things that we should have done earlier, such as widen our tax bases, tighten our belts over the short term.

It is good that Zardari visited Moscow and ties with Russia have indeed been growing under his watch. It is even better that Gilani is now in China, hopefully to let them know that we wish to refashion ties with the US and look to friends like China to step up to the plate as we get ready to jettison the American alliance. The Chinese are likely to be receptive, as they recall how much and for how long they had to endure American hostility till Nixon did his volte face in 1971. In fact they will remember that we helped to make that happen for them. Besides, both Russia and China have a deep and abiding concern about extremism and terrorism. Indeed, while the SCO did not start off as a bulwark against extremism and terrorism—it was meant to deal with issues of border security on a cooperative basis—these issues have become increasingly of major concern in response to regional and international developments.

The SCO framework might also be a better one for tackling India-Pakistan issues as well, though we must not expect much on Kashmir. That would have to be kept bilateral. But the regional context for tackling our concerns about India vis-a-vis Afghanistan and with Afghanistan via-a-vis the Taliban would be a lot better than it is currently. No one has the wherewithal or the desire to settle the issue by war, except the American generals. Finally the SCO would also be a good antidote to the virulent anti-US sentiment in Pakistan.

But it would require us to shift to Russia and China our sources of primary military equipment from the US high-tech stuff (which in any case would not be forthcoming as long as our growing differences with them remain irreconcilable). In time, if the situation around our country improves, Europe too could become an option. Concerns about high-tech military equipment would diminish dramatically, of course, if we can achieve a breakthrough in Afghanistan, which would reduce our India-related concerns on the western border and may also lead to a reduction of thereat perceptions on our eastern border.

In any case, our options, thanks to our disastrous ties with the US, are limited and we have to optimise from available options. Among them, the SCO stands out.

The writer is a former ambassador. Email:








 The year was 1988. The Cold War that Pakistan had helped burn with a deadly heat was coming to a close. Gorbachev had just informed Afghan president Najibullah that Soviet troops were pulling out of Afghanistan and official accords had been signed in Geneva.

As Soviet troops waited to vacate the country, the ISI's central arms warehouse at Ojhri, just outside Rawalpindi, was destroyed in a gigantic explosion.

Over 10,000 tonnes of rockets, mines, antitank missiles, long-range mortars and Stingers meant for the Afghan jihad went up in a mysterious blast that formed a mushroom cloud over Rawalpindi and Islamabad and rained death on the two cities.

The rumour mill immediately began to churn: was it an Indian or Israeli attack, paranoid citizens wondered? Had India tried to target the Kahuta nuclear plant? Didn't the explosion fit a pattern, asked defence 'experts,' of recent attacks against military and civilian installations by pro-Soviet agents? Did anyone see a truck bearing an Afghan license plate enter the compound, journalists furiously wrote? Or was the camp blown up by Pakistanis looking to avoid accountability by an American audit team coming over to count the last of the Stinger missiles and make sure they hadn't been had been sold off on the international black market?

Mohammad Khan Junejo, prime minister at the time, appointed two committees to probe the incident: one military, the other parliamentary. The reports never saw light of day but insiders say all fingers pointed at two of Zia's top generals.

A prime minister who had spoken publically about taking large staff cars away from senior military brass and replacing them with domestically made Suzukis had already been giving top generals and intelligence officials sleepless nights. The Ojhri report was the last straw.

While Zia wanted his generals saved, Junejo was not a man to relent. One of Zia's senior aides recalls the peculiar meeting between Zia and Junejo after the 1985 general elections when Zia warmly welcomed Junejo in his office and told him he planned to nominate him as prime minister of Pakistan. A grim-faced Junejo did not thank the president but instead asked briskly: "When do you plan to remove martial law?"

This was the beginning of an acrimonious relationship and an accumulation of grievances that would blow up with the Ojhri camp in 1988, when Junejo was sent home, or as some will argue, chose to walk rather than give in to Zia. Junejo's defence minister told a local newspaper that the ISI raided his office the day after the government was dismissed. "They returned all my belongings, except the briefcase that contained the Ojhri report."

And just like that, the Ojhri camp probe had led to the fall of Pakistan's first democratic government.

Twenty-three years later, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, the custodian of Pakistan's transition to democracy, told parliament an internal army inquiry led by a confidant of the army chief would probe the US operation that killed Osama bin Laden on Pakistani soil. The prime minister would not say when the inquiry would be finished or if it would be made public; just that an army-led team would probe a matter in which the army seemed to be most directly involved, either by way of incompetence, or complicity, or worse yet, both.

But in a parliamentary resolution following a rare, ten-hour long briefing with top military officials, the government was forced to commit to an independent commission. And once again, there were two parallel teams looking into one disquieting episode.

Any guesses who will finally be held responsible and whether you and I, average Pakistanis, will ever know the truth?

Never in recent memory have the army and ISI been subjected to such criticism as in the wake of the Abbottabad operation. But even then, Prime Minister Gilani gave up an easy fight and closed ranks behind the military establishment.

But flaccid behaviour, dear prime minister, is too often empowering for a cunning enemy. Today, because of you, this logic has created a dangerous moment in Pakistan. An already all-mighty army is now certain it can get away with anything for little reason beyond the conviction that it just can. In your grand retreat is a grand scandal that is making some of us sick with worry. And part of the worry is for you and your government. Remember Zulfi Bhutto: he suppressed the Hamood-ur-Rehman report to save some generals but the men in uniform came after him years later. Brace yourself.

Was there a reason beyond the solidarity of the decent that should have compelled you, dear Gilani Sahib, to take the army to task? Yes. That reason is Pakistan's future: the very question of this country's survival against an army and its national security doctrine that has boomeranged on Pakistan too many times to ignore.

You were no ordinary prime minister, Gilani Sahib. On your shoulders rested the burden of carrying Pakistan safely down the democratic road to a real transition. But you and your government have chosen to take another route - to becoming a peeling palimpsest of democracy that will soon be completely hidden under the muddied bootprints of military men. Brace yourself.

The writer is Assistant Editor, The News International. Email: mehreen.tft@gmail. com







In recent memory, there hasn't been a lower point than this. Internationally our reputation is worse than a scallywag's. The Western media has painted us as troublemakers, and double-dealers not to be trusted.

Domestically we are going through a crisis of confidence; humiliated by the American raid and shocked at finding Osama in our midst. There has been a palpable loss of faith in our security establishment and total confusion about which direction to take.

The undercurrent of resentment in the country against the United States, already strong has gone up exponentially. Even those who understand the necessity of friendly relations with the US are finding it hard to contain their anger at the way it has of late treated a supposed ally.

These feelings are not helped by statements floating out like poisonous barbs from Washington. Painting Pakistan as unworthy of US aid, many in the Senate want it to be cut. The tone is that our services have been paid for and how dare we not do what we are told.

It does not stop there. We are not even allowed to have bilateral relations with other countries. Admonishing us as if a pet poodle has misbehaved, some US politicians have questioned Prime Minister Gilani's visit to China. Besides an overbearing imposition on our autonomy to pursue foreign relations, the US is not at war with China. It is its largest trading partner and but for Chinese trillions invested in US bonds, its economy would have gone belly up.

This growing resentment of the US in the country has given wind to the flames of conspiracy theories regarding its real intentions towards Pakistan. When someone as clued up as Anatol Lieven, author of a well regarded recent book, Pakistan: A Hard Country, also talks in a similar vein, it adds to the paranoia.

In a recent interview, asked whether Pakistan is a failing state, he says it is not, unless the US chooses to destroy it. Now, why would Mr Lieven say something like this? He is not some ignoramus sulking in the hills but a well-known British professor in a prestigious university. The only explanation is that he calculates, like many of us, that if the US cannot get what it wants in the "Af-Pak" region, it would consider taking on Pakistan.

Whether things reach such a sorry pass or not, it would be foolhardy not to plan for all contingencies. One thing is clear, and let us not get carried away by emotions to think otherwise. Despite our nuclear weapons, Pakistan's defensive capability is not designed to take on a hyper-military power such as the United States.

There is little doubt that we can hold our own against any regional threats, principally India, but it would be quixotic to think that we can match US military power. Our strategy, then, must be to minimise the possibility of getting into an armed conflict with it. We have to do this, while exploiting whatever space we have to pursue our national goals.

There is a small band of self-hating Pakistanis who think that everything that the US, or India, says is right and we have always been wrong. They have also started to target the armed forces with a venom that is unprecedented. It is curious that some among them were great supporters of Musharraf and it did not bother them then that he was a military dictator. Now they see nothing right with our military.

There is indeed much to criticise – who can forgive repeated military interventions, or disasters like Kargil – but pointing out mistakes is one thing, wanting to destroy the institution altogether is different. There is a fine line between advocating civilian supremacy, parliamentary oversight of military budgets, etc., and heaping scorn and belittling the only defence force we have.

Thus, we have to begin by setting our house in order. Let us carry out whatever investigation we need to figure out the flaws in our intelligence and defensive capabilities. But let us do it judiciously and keeping in mind that we don't expose ourselves to further international ridicule. The purpose has to be constructive, rather than witch-hunting.

Secondly, let us seriously debate the question of US aid. Whatever we receive, which is not much on the civilian side, has left us open to condescending, indeed nasty comments, from US lawmakers. We must seriously consider whether we can do without it.

Again, one is not advocating an adversarial position against the US. Let us assure it that we remain partners in the war against militancy; but as far as aid is concerned, thanks, but no thanks. This should not preclude us from charging for the use of our ports or degradation of our infrastructure because of the traffic intensity of US supply line to Afghanistan. Other than that, we should consider doing without cash handouts.

The symbolic gesture made by Punjab chief minister Shahbaz Sharif in this context is praiseworthy. I am sure it was not an easy decision to make, considering precarious Punjab finances. But by saying no to US aid, the Punjab cabinet has demonstrated its unhappiness with the breach of our sovereignty and repeated drone strikes. This is an example others need to emulate.

It is also a good move to reaffirm our ties with China. The Chinese are not prone to giving budgetary support, and perhaps in the long run it is a good thing because it forces us to stand on our own feet. But it is helpful to know that in these difficult times we have a strategic partner who is willing to stand up for us.

Considering the precariousness of our situation, we need to rethink the paradigm of our relations with India. Indeed, friendship cannot be one-sided, but we must demonstrate our willingness to forge ahead in making the composite dialogue a success. While not giving up our position on issues that divide us, we need to move fast towards developing economic, cultural, sporting and people to people ties.

It is a self-evident truth that unless we are strong within we can never deal with strength outside. We must make it a state policy that we will not tolerate armed groups at home and will certainly not allow anyone to use our space to launch attacks outside. This is a tough battle, but unless we fight it, we can neither move forward domestically, nor will our international standing improve.

Nothing has undermined us more than the perception that there is state complicity in supporting terror groups that commit crimes outside. Whatever needs to be done to change this, must be done. This is not giving in to foreign bidding. It is in our national interest.

Lastly, it all boils down to the twin challenges of economy and governance. Both are in a shambles. A minimum target for the next few years has to be raising enough resources to stand on our own feet. This is politically tough, but without it we will remain a client state, used and abused at will.








The concepts of identity, sovereignty and international image only belong to the ruling elite and the affluent middleclass in Pakistan that form the establishment of the state. Unfortunately, the majority has little relationship with what happens with the country internationally. At times, the powers that be are able to involve commoners in their articulation of the narrative of the state by whipping up emotions of these innocent bystanders. I call the majority of the people of Pakistan bystanders because they are plundered and looted by the small procession in the middle of the road that chants empty slogans of freedom and dignity and the bystanders have no participation or role to play in where this procession is heading.

Three couplets of Iqbal help me understand the present predicament of Pakistan's elite and affluent middleclass in the wake of Osama bin Laden being found in our country and the demonstration of utter distrust on Pakistan by Americans that resulted in the breach of our sovereignty.

I am not as good at translating Urdu poetry into English as Yasmeen Hameed, therefore the readers will have to bear with my not-so-perfect attempt. The first couplet reads, fitrat afraad se ighmaaz to kar leti haiy/kabhi karti nahin qaumon ke gunahon ko muaaf (nature may overlook the wrongs done by individuals/but never forgives the sins committed by a nation). Simple, our collective sins won't be pardoned.

The second couplet is, ho sadaqat ke liyay jis dil mein marney ki tarrap pehle apne paikar-i-khaki mein jaa'n paida kare (whoever wishes to lay her life in the way of truth/first must grow strength in her frail earthly body). You have to be strong to fight your cause. And the third couplet, ghulami kya haiy zauq-i-husn-o-zebaai se mahroomi/jisey zeba kahein azad bandey haiy wohi zeba (slavery is nothing but being devoid of the sense of beauty and splendour/whatever is considered beautiful and splendid by the free is beautiful and splendid). It means that standards are set by those who are free for only they are capable of doing so.

Let us take the first couplet. Today, Pakistan is stripped of its dignity and respect as a country in its own eyes and in the comity of nations for the sins committed by its powerful classes. The gross injustice meted out to ordinary Pakistanis, poor women, men and children, over decades is beyond the pale. We live in a society where forty percent of the population finds it hard to have two square meals a day.

Joblessness, power cuts, lack of education and health facilities and physical insecurity marginalises the majority of our people. The neglect of Pakistan's economy makes us dependent on aid, loans and seeking favours for trade. What do we trade anyway except for crops and raw material?

The second couplet is about the foreign and defence policies pursued by the elite institutions, the misadventures as a result and the illusion of possessing both divine and worldly power that we never had. I pity those who try to make us believe that not the Americans but Muslim Ummah led by us beat the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. What brings strength to the frail body of a nation is food security, economic opportunities for all, education and justice. Even for the right causes, we can't fight our case if we are hollow from inside.

The third couplet tells us that those who are free will set the standards and thereby determine the direction forces of history would take. We are not free.

The writer is an Islamabad-based poet, author and public policy advisor. Email: harris.









CHINA has once again proved that it is really a time-tested friend of Pakistan and is fully resolved to stand by it through thick and thin. During his crucial talks with Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani, his Chinese counterpart Wen Jiabao not only announced expansion of collaboration to provide 50 JF-17 thunder aircraft to Pakistan and financial assistance of 170 million Yuan but also told the United States to respect Pakistan's sovereignty. He did not stop at that and added that Beijing was ready to offer to Islamabad 'anything' it needed to make defence impregnable and revive economy – two fundamental concerns of Pakistan.

Chinese unambiguous message to the United States and expression of unwavering solidarity and commitment with Pakistan is very timely and relevant because of regional developments and their implications for Pakistan. In the backdrop of Abbottabad operation, which constituted serious violation of the country's sovereignty, the United States and India have embarked upon a vicious campaign to push Pakistan further to the wall. All sorts of threats including hot pursuit, unilateral military action and blocking of economic aid are being hurled and because of peculiar circumstances, Pakistanis felt somewhat isolated. It was in this perspective that we had the Prime Minister's visit to China and its outcome clearly shows that the objectives have been realized. The announcement of Mr. Wen Jiabao that no matter what changes might take place in the international landscape, China and Pakistan will remain forever good neighbours, good friends, good partners and good brothers is a source of immense encouragement for otherwise demoralized people of Pakistan. China itself conducts international diplomacy in a decent and sober manner on the basis of universally recognized principle of sovereign equality and therefore, we hope that Washington would give due consideration to the word of advice by the Chinese leader. You cannot be a friend and violator of the sovereignty at the same time. We are also confident that the unequivocal statement of the Chinese Premier would further enhance image and prestige of China in Pakistan and help take the relationship between the two countries to new heights.







CONTRARY to apprehensions that were being expressed by some circles, better sense seems to have prevailed as President Asif Ali Zardari, who is also Co-Chairman of the ruling PPP has apparently decided not to confront the judiciary on the issue of holding of dual offices and instead intends to go into appeal in the Supreme Court against verdict of the Lahore High Court that barred him from indulging in political activities at Aiwan-e-Sadr. This is indeed the right and saner approach and conveys the impression of rule of law in the country, which is one of the pre-requisites for peace, progress and prosperity of any society.

The Lahore High Court judgement has generated a lot of reaction among PPP cadres in some parts of the country especially in Sindh where the issue was not only agitated in the provincial assembly but also on roads and there are reasons to believe that this reaction was duly inspired. In our view, the attitude and response of the PPP on the whole was not befitting in any way, as instead of taking it as a legal and constitutional issue, some unscrupulous elements tried to cash it politically. These were the same elements who prevailed upon Mr Zardari not to contest the case in Lahore High Court and as a consequence the court had to go for ex-parte action. After the LHC verdict, option to go into appeal was there but these circles preferred to give it political colours and motives. Anyhow, we are glad that the President, who was in Moscow at the time of announcement of the judgement, demonstrated a calm and mature response by not issuing any inflammatory statement and has now opted for the legal course. The statement of the presidential spokesman is also appreciable that the presidency respects the judiciary and the President would not engage in any political activity except meeting members of the parliament. This is what people of Pakistan expect from the President, who is symbol of the federation and commander-in-chief of the armed forces. If he persists with this policy, it will not only enhance his own prestige and image in the eyes of the general public but also help promote the culture of rule of law, respect for judiciary, and decency in politics.







THE National Assembly Standing Committee on Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs has rejected a constitutional amendment bill sought to be moved by a private member envisaging status of mother languages as the national languages equal to Urdu. We endorse the point of view of majority of the members who turned it down declaring the proposed amendment as dangerous for the national integrity and federation.

Some elements go to the extreme for the sake of petty political interests but the prudent approach of serious people is encouraging who visualize negative repercussions of such moves for national unity and harmony. Adoption of the bill would have pushed the process of devolution to further extremes, which would have amounted to denting the cause of a strong federation. Otherwise too, under the constitution there is no restriction on provinces to take steps for promotion of provincial and regional languages and both federal and provincial governments had, in fact, been taking a variety of measures for the purpose. But the national language of the country has unfortunately remained totally ignored despite constitutional provision that required of the Government to take steps to make Urdu as official language initially within ten years. The deadline was later extended twice and the extended period also expired but no measures had been taken to meet the constitutional requirement. Urdu is the national language and lingua franca of Pakistan, as it is widely understood in almost each and every part of the country. Apart from the fact that Urdu has rich and vast reservoir of literature, culture and history; it is a binding force for people of Pakistan. Experience of other countries clearly proves that we can also accelerate the pace of socio-economic development by promoting our national language and therefore, steps should be taken to realize the constitutionally binding goal.










Immediately after the killing of Osama bin Laden at Abbottabad, some military chiefs in India expressed confidence that they too were capable of carrying out a similar operation. Soon afterwards, India's mild-mannered Prime Minister had to point out the obvious, that India was "not the US", and therefore that it was not possible for Delhi to replicate the feat of Washington. Around the same time, in a predictable reaction to the posturing of the Indian military, ISI chief Shuja Pasha warned that "targets were prepared" for a strike, in case India carried out a US-style mission. This is, of course, no secret, that Pakistan will retaliate to an Indian strike in contrast with its acceptance of a US one. On the Indian side, even the monkeys that infest the precincts of South Block (the headquarters of the Defense Ministry) are aware that nineteen locations within Pakistan have been identified for a retaliatory attack, should there be a nuclear adventure against India. Such a sequence of action and inevitable reaction is the reason why a nuclear war between India and Pakistan is outside the realm of possibility, and why even a conventional war is almost impossible. Neither side would have much to gain from such a conflict, even should it finally prevail, and a lot to lose.

Neither India nor Pakistan are front-rank military powers, except in terms of manpower, a factor that proved of little use to Saddan Hussein in Kuwait in 1991,when tens of thousands of his troops were cut to pieces by US aircraft and missile strikes. Both depend on outside sources for critical spare parts and fuel supplies, and while India has a much bigger economy than Pakistan, a conflict with its western neighbour would make vulnerable some of the country's most valuable assets. An example is the huge refinery at Jamnagar, which is less than five minutes flying time away from the Al Badr air base in southern Pakistan. As for a missile launched from within Pakistan,it would take only a few seconds to reach the facility. The truth is that neither country can afford a war, which is why it is all the more distressing that at least a "cold peace" is not allowed to descend on the subcontinent. Interestingly, the US - which incessantly talks of peace between two countries whose bickering has given it great leverage over both - supports hardliners such as COAS P A Kayani, and connives at moves that weaken the few doves in the Pakistan establishment, such as President A A Zardari.

For a brief while, President Zardari pointed out the very truth that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh never fails to mention, which is that both India and Pakistan need to enter into a period of stable and peaceable relations, with neither side seeking to destabilize the other. Analysts estimate that such tranquility between the two South Asian giants would add about 5% to Pakistan's rate of growth, and more than 1% to India's. This columnist believes that more and more people across both sides of the border appreciate the folly of seeking concessions from the other side that are politically impossible for them to accept. There is a need to formulate joint strategies against terrorism and economic and social backwardness, rather than keep away from genuine cooperation. Interestingly, these days the powerful Punjabi politcian, Mian Nawaz Sharif, seems to be articulating just such a viewpoint. Sharif has been realistic in his acceptance of the need for peace between India and Pakistan, and of the immense benefits that this would bring to both.

Should there be greater cross-border trade, both sides of Punjab can develop at a much more rapid pace, as indeed can other parts of both India and Pakistan. Sadly, apparently because he is wary of being seen by the military as too soft on India, President Zardari has distanced himself from his earlier views, and is talking in harsher tones about India. Within India, only Prime Minister Singh has the courage and confidence to continue with a positive line on Pakistan, at a time when the international community seems to be placing Islamabad in the dock for the numerous acts of terrorism committed by individuals based in Pakistan.

However, these days, there is very little appetite within the broader public for a policy of adventurism towards Pakistan, of the kind indulged in by A B Vajpayee, who spent more than $3 billion keeping hundreds of thousands of troops in strike position near the border, without once having any intention of ordering an attack. All that the mobillisation did was to allow those negative to both India and Pakistan to once again claim that the two countries were on the cusp of a nuclear exchange. Given that the establishment in both countries is rational, this is an impossibility. Of course, a fresh terror attack such as the 2008 Mumbai massacre will once again lead to diplomatic tension between the two powers. While Pakistan is identified as the source of the problem, it needs to be remembered that it is corruption and incompetence in India that has enabled so many terror attacks to be carried out ,as against the fact that there has been no attack on the US since 2001. Unlike the US, which has taken numerous steps to shut down funding networks for terrorists active against that country, in India the major "hawala" operators continue to get the patronage of both the ruling as well as the opposition parties. As these channels are used not just by terrorists, but by businesspersons, officials and politicians, these latter protect the networks, thereby preventing the capture of the terror networks that usually run such illegal money transfer Mechanisms.

While there are several apparent attempts made to roll up such hawala networks, the fact is that all this is an eyewash. For example, even a cursory glance at the two Letters Rogatory sent to Singapore and Hong Kong by the Prevention of Money Laundering authorities in India show such a disregard for grammar, spelling and actionable information that it will be difficult for the authorities in either location to do more than smile at the amateurish approach of their counterparts in India. From the introductory para ( " Criminal Case ECIR/ MZO/02/2006-07) under the (sic) Provissions of Prevention of Money Laundering...." onwards, the Letters Rogatory have been prepared in as casual a manner as the list of 50 Most Wanted sent by India to Pakistan, where at least one of the individuals is living in a suburb of Mumbai. Unless of course the Union Home Ministry wants Pakistan to mount a commando operation to extract the person from India and then hand him back. Interestingly, those close to the investigations say that backchannel messages have been sent to Mauritius and other offshore cash havens telling them to ignore the Letters Rogatory sent to them, or to respond with non-specific replies, so that the guilty are enabled to escape, the way two Law Ministers in India enabled the Bofors bribe-taker, Ottavio Quatrocchi, to escape from both Malaysia and Indonesia. Both these worthies ( one of which is in the Congress Party and the other in the BJP) have suffered no setback in their career as a result of their deliberate incompetence, but have been rewarded for their zeal in protecting the secrets of the powerful, secrets that Quatrocchi is privy to.

This is not surprising. Although the agencies in India profess to seek to prevent crimes,yet in many (if not most) cases, huge bribes paid to politicians and officials result in deliberately slipshod briefs and requests being made, that get turned down by the other side. The experience of Ajmal Amir Kasab, the only individual caught alive after the 26/11 Mumbai attack, shows the incompetence of the Indian system in dealing with international terrorism. Given the vagaries of the Indian judicial system, it is very likely that Kasab will die of old age rather than the gallows, even though there is not a shred of doubt about his culpability. And Kasab is not alone.There are numerous cases of terrorists slipping through the cracks of the graft-ridden system in India that ensure the formation of support networks which block action against desperadoes.

Dawood Ibrahim Kaskar, the mastermind of several operations in India that resulted in the loss of civilian life, is a living example of the manner in which the Indian establishment responds to a threat, or - more correctly - fails to. Had Dawood been a US citizen, he would by now either have been killed or in prison. However, because he is a citizen of India,and has access to vast sums of cash, at least six ministers in the present Maharashtra State Cabinet are regarded as close to him, as are two Union Cabinet Ministers. Dawood controls a business empire in India that is over $3 billion in size, and which is looked after by his close relatives, most of whom operate from within India in plain sight of the authorities and is indeed given official protection by them. Indeed, Dawood has more influence in the Mumbai police than the City Commissioner! While he has been sighted in Karachi, this has been denied by the Pakistan authorities, who may be unaware of him the way they were clueless about the presence of Osama bin Laden in the country since 2005. Will he ever be brought back to India? The odds are slim, for the reason that there are linkages between himself and prominent politicians, and these may be exposed, were he to be brought into the country. This being India, it is even possible that Dawood may agree to a plea bargain and return, the way some of his relatives did,and contest elections and possibly even join a future Union Cabinet. Certainly he has all the qualifications needed to be a successful politician in India.

Why, despite the incompetence and corruption of its rulers,is India still far away from catastrophe? The answer lies in the good sense of the Indian people, who carry the burden of a dysfunctional and oppressive state system with fortitude and who build their lives in a way that ensures overall progress. However, as Manmohan Singh admits, India is not the US. That country has ensured its security for a decade after 9/11,while India remains the playground of narcotics smugglers, terror syndicates and money launderers, all of whom have protection from a system where key elements seek only personal reward.

—The writer is Vice-Chair, Manipal Advanced Research Group, UNESCO Peace Chair & Professor of Geopolitics, Manipal University, Haryana State, India








Pakistan has been a benefactor of US largesse since 1954, after joining the American camp at the detriment of annoying its neighbours Soviet Union, China and India. In the same time frame, the Indians played the non-aligned card and reaped benefits from the Soviet Bloc as well as the west. A brief review of the financial aid received by Pakistan from USA indicates that as the Cold War heated up in the 1950s, a 1954 security agreement prompted the US to provide nearly $2.5 billion in economic aid and $700 million in military aid to Pakistan. During the period 1965-1979, following the 1965 Pak-India War, the US left Pakistan in the lurch, despite its military pacts, and also slapped sanctions.

The same was repeated in the 1971 Pak-India War. Between 1965 and 1971, the U.S. sent only $26 million in military aid, which was cut back even further to $2.9 million through the end of the decade. Meanwhile, economic aid kept flowing, totaling $2.55 billion over the 15 years. Everything came to a halt in 1979, when the Carter administration cut off all but food aid after discovering a uranium-enrichment facility in Pakistan. During the decade of 1979-1990, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan changed everything. Pakistan's ISI security agency became the primary means of funneling covert U.S. assistance to anti-Soviet forces in Afghanistan. From 1980 to 1990, the US ramped up its contributions for both development and military purposes, sending more than $5 billion over the course of the decade. Initially President General Mohammad Zia-ul-Haq refused $ 400 million aid, labeling it as "peanuts", which became a catch phrase. The following year, he was rewarded with a much more attractive offer. As long as the war in Afghanistan persisted, and Pakistan was serving a strategic Cold War purpose, despite US concerns regarding Pakistan's nuclear program, waiver was provided and aid to Pakistan to combat the Soviet onslaught persisted.

During the period of 1991-2000, following the Soviet defeat, the US invoked the Pressler Amendment and stopped all military aid to Pakistan and economic aid withered to $429 million leaving Pakistan high and dry during the decade. So much so that because of an embargo, defence purchases, for which advance payment had been made, were stopped and military hardware, which had been in the pipeline or was sent to the US for repair or scheduled maintenance, was seized. In the period 2001-2009, following the events of 9/11, the US once again bolstered its funding commitments, sending nearly $9 billion in military assistance both to aid and reimburse Pakistan for its operations in the unwieldy border regions with Afghanistan. Another $3.6 billion has funded economic and diplomatic initiatives. In 2009, a new five-year, $7.5 billion assistance package was passed by Congress in September and signed by President Obama in October, with stipulations explicitly prohibiting funds from being used for nuclear proliferation, to support terrorist groups, or to pay for attacks in neighboring countries.

It also puts new emphasis on the bottom line, reserving the right to cut off aid if Pakistan fails to crack down on militants. Those restrictions have opened a rift between Pakistan and the US. Pakistan's losses in the war on terror have exceeded US $ 65 billion, while the US has provided only a fraction of the amount spent. Thus Pakistan's economic losses as a result of the war against terror exceed the amount of aid received from the United States by six and a half times, according to an analysis conducted by the economic affairs division in the finance ministry. American aid to Pakistan is split almost evenly between civilian and military assistance, with civilian aid totaling $4.5 billion and military aid amounting to $4 billion. Washington sanctioned an additional $8.9 billion to Pakistan's military as compensation for services rendered on behalf of the US military under the Coalition Support Fund. The reimbursements are on account of expenses already incurred by Pakistan in providing assistance to US military operations; however, a sizable portion of it remains unremitted by the US.

The truth of the US financial assistance to Pakistan is that during the fifties and sixties, the US provided military hardware, which was obsolete and of World War II vintage or surplus from the Korean War. At one stage, the US even proposed to Pakistan to shut down its military academies and send its cadets to USA for training. Good sense prevailed and military leaders did not fall in the trap otherwise Pakistani military training would have suffered immeasurably, once the US tired of Pakistan and jilted it, which it has been constantly doing. After throwing crumbs at Pakistan, the US has been using it not only as a client state but for its clandestine operations, without taking Pakistani leadership into confidence. The 1960 U-2 incident opened Pakistan's eyes when an irate Soviet Union threatened to target Peshawar with its ballistic missiles, an obvious reference to the Pakistani airbase from which the U-2 had been operating.

On numerous occasions, American aid has been used as carrot and stick to get Pakistan to do the bidding of the US. The carrot has been the promise of financial aid while the stick has been the threat of curtailing that aid. Financial experts in Pakistan have pointed out that of the lump sum assistance sanctioned by the US, only a fraction reaches the national exchequer, since the bulk is siphoned off as consultancy charges to US appointed agents and overseers. Unfortunately, subsequent Pakistani governments, both military and civilian have become so addicted to US financial assistance that like a drug addict, who would do anything for a shot of morphine or whatever drug he/she is addicted to, Pakistani rulers are ready to bend backwards to receive another dose of US aid. The myth of American aid is that it is amorphous and addictive. It puts the nation into a state of stupor; it is time our rulers had a reality check and rejected any further aid as well as the strings of bondage attached to it.








Allah the almighty says, "Verily! Only in the Zikr of Allah will your heart find peace." (Surah 13: Verse 29). Everything that hearts find of worries and sadness is because of what they have been denied of beholding Allah. Abu Darda narrated that Rasool Allah (sallallahu 'alahi wasallam) said, "Should I not tell you of such a thing which are the best and purest deeds in the court of your Lord, high in ranks (darajat), better for you then spending gold and silver (in Allah's path), and better than slaying the neck of the enemy during war? The Sahaba said, "Yes, Oh Rasool Allah! ." He said, "It is Zikr of Allah." (Tirmizi). Every one of us looks for satisfaction and success. People find it in materialistic things such as money, cars, luxurious homes etc. Allah has put satisfaction in His Zikr (remembering of Allah). The Qur'an often reminds us to keep remembrance of Allah at all times. Certainly this is quite a challenge for us forgetful humans, but the merits of remembrance are so great that we must strive for continual remembrance of Allah in every moment.

The word zikr has many meanings. It means Allah's book and its recitation, prayer, learning and teaching, Du'aa, remembrance of Allah in the heart, or in both the heart and the tongue, and even pondering over Allah's creation. Remembrance of Allah is the foundation of good deeds. Whoever succeeds in it is blessed with the close friendship of Allah. That is why the Prophet (sallallahu 'alahi wasallam) used to make remembrance of Allah at all times. When a man complained, "The laws of Islam are too heavy for me, so tell me something that I can easily follow," the Prophet told him, "Let your tongue be always busy with the remembrance of Allah." (Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah). Zakir is remembrance. In Islamic terminology it is remembrance of Allah. It has many forms and, in fact, all worship is Zikr. It grows an intimate relationship with Allah and one may engage in Zikr all twenty-four hours of the day, remembering Allah inwardly and doing what pleases Him and obeying Him in whatever he does. Allah made the reward of those who remember Him frequently is to remember them as well. Is there anything better than Allah (Glory be to Him) when He remembers His Believing Servant? Allah (Exalted be He) says: "Therefore remember Me (by praying, glorifying), I will remember you, and be grateful to Me (for My countless Favors on you) and never be ungrateful to Me." [Surat Al Baqarah: 152]. We should not despair of the mercy of Allah the almighty and never lose hope of Allah's clemency.

We should keep on remembering Allah the almighty, reciting His Book and the traditions of His Messenger (Allah's prayer and peace be on him), and attending sessions of remembrance. This will quicken your hearts like the earth is revived by the falling rain. When the heart makes remembering Allah common practice, it will earn knowingness, Knowledge, belief in the oneness of God, and trust in Him, and it will turn away from anything other than Him. Continued remembrance of Allah is a means for the continuation of good in this world and the hereafter. As long as you are given to this world and to the creatures, you will continue to be sensitive to both praise and dispraise, because you are living through your lower self, passion, and natural inclination. When your heart attains to your Lord (mighty and glorified is He) and He takes charge of you, your sensitivity to praise and dispraise will go away, thus you will be relieved of a heavy burden. If you work for this world while relying on your might and strength, you will lose, be torn apart, tire, and be dissatisfied. Similarly, if you work for the hereafter with your strength you will be cut off. If you work for the True One (mighty and glorified is He), open the door to livelihood by the hand of His strength and trust in Him and open the door of the works of obedience by the hand of His guidance. Once you have attained to the spiritual station of seeking Him, ask Him for strength as well as truthfulness in asking for strength and help from Him. Place the feet of your heart and your innermost being firmly in His presence and give up all preoccupations with this world and the hereafter.

Zikr of Allah Ta'ala is the most praiseworthy work to earn Allah's pleasure, the most effective weapon to overcome the enemy, and the most deserving of deeds in reward. It is the flag of Islam, the polish of hearts, the essence of the science of faith, the immunisation against hypocrisy, the head of worship, and the key of all success. There are no restrictions on the modality, frequency, or timing of Zikr whatsoever. The restrictions on modality pertain to certain specific obligatory acts which are not the issue here, such as Salat. The Shari'a (Islamic Law) is clear and everyone knows what they have to do. Indeed, the Prophet (sallallahu 'alahi wasallam) said that the People of Paradise will only regret one thing: not having made enough Zikr in the world! Are not those who are making up reasons to discourage others from making Zikr afraid of Allah Ta'ala in this tremendous matter?

Those who perform Zikr of Allah the almighty are wise and are promised success, peace, happiness, mercy, forgiveness and great rewards in this life and the next. All of which are valued as being positive important factors in one's religious and worldly life. Whilst those who do not engage in Zikr of Allah almighty are classed as being heard hearted losers who are clearly in the error and in the group of Satan and as such, they will be made to live a tight and narrow life, full of misery and woe, punished in this life as well as being risen blind in the next and who will be remorseful of all the time not spent in the remembrance of Allah (swt). So exactly how important is Zikr? Basically put, for a Muslim, Zikr is a matter of life and death.

Zikr is the greatest thing in life. What could be more important than filling your heart, mind and mouth with the remembrance of the One True God. What is life? To do Zikr is truly to be alive. The wise always remember Allah (SWT) and think of Allah (SWT) and his Judgement, and of the wonders of Creation. But Zikr also leads to wisdom. Remembering God, all the time, as you go through life, is the golden key that opens the door to learning the answers to the secrets of life. The best meetings are those where Allah (SWT) is remembered. But, more important, we should not go to a meeting where Allah (SWT) is not remembered. Such meetings are for Satans, not for Muslims. We all must do Zikr and must make Zikr a complete habit as well. Knowledge, real wisdom, lead to Zikr.







To say that the killing of Osama Bin Laden at his hideout in Abbottabad by US commandos through a unilateral action has badly affected the already strained relations would be an understatement. The American indiscretion in fact has pushed the relations to a breaking point. The incident has also caused unfathomable embarrassment for Pakistan as it finds itself standing in a dock to explain undetected presence of Osama in Abbottabad for nearly five years.

Former CIA chief Leon Paneata even accused Pakistan of harbouring Osama Bin Laden. British Prime Minister David Cameron also suggested that the explanation given by Pakistan regarding presence of Osama Bin Laden lacked clarity. Other European countries, US Congress and leaders of the public opinion and the western media, are all looking askance at Pakistan. The media in particular is rubbing in the point that contrary to persistent denials by Pakistan Osama has finally been found in Pakistan for which Pakistan owes an explanation. Echos of revisiting US-Pakistan relations and financial assistance for Pakistan have already starting resonating in the US Congress. The permeating view is that the Abbottabad episode has vindicated their fears about double dealing by Pakistan. The Pakistani leadership undoubtedly is under tremendous international pressure to put things in a proper perspective. Their dilemma is that even internally they are facing the public ire for failing to safeguard the sovereignty of the country. People are flummoxed, infuriated and concerned about the safety of our nuclear assets.

The most worrying aspect of the conundrum is that US leadership instead of expressing remorse over its indiscretion of committing a flagrant violation of the sovereignty of an ally—who has done so much and suffered the most in the war against terror— is threatening with similar action in the future and also continuing with its policy of drone attacks.

In the backdrop of these developments, it is hard to take issue with Prime Minister's observation while speaking in the Senate that Pakistan was confronted with grave dangers and the situation demanded complete national unity to extricate the country from this quagmire. This is certainly not the time for politicking or castigating and maligning the state institutions. Those who are trying to gain political mileage out of this national dilemma must understand the gravity of the situation. It is the state of Pakistan which is fighting the war on terror, therefore, all the state institutions and the government have a collective responsibility for the successes or failures in this regard. In the prevailing circumstances, it is imperative that we use our collective wisdom to ward off the dangers lurking on the horizon and also evolve a comprehensive strategy on our future role in the war on terror in the wake of the new situation.

The initiative by the Army to brief the parliamentarians on all aspects of the war on terror and also to seek their input is a step in the right direction as it would help in not only removing the misgivings being aired by the political circles but would also contribute to sculpturing the contours of the new approach to the whole situation. Pakistan, for its own sake as well as for the international community will have to unravel the mystery as to how Osama lived in Abbottabad for so long undetected by the intelligence agency. There is no escape from clearing the haze of mistrust about ISI's role in the war on terror. The institution of an inquiry into the admitted intelligence failure is a welcome step but the formation of a judicial commission to probe into the matter would have made the exercise more credible to the people of Pakistan as well as the international community. The statement by the Prime Minister in the parliament that any attack against the strategic assets, whether overt or covert would find a matching response as Pakistan reserves the right to retaliate, taken at its face value, is very reassuring as far as the fears of the people about the safety of the nuclear assets is concerned. The assertion by the COAS that in case of recurrence of such incidents military and intelligence cooperation with US will have to be revisited, is also morale boosting under the circumstances.

Dealing with US indiscretion and the nature of future cooperation with the US in the war on terror surely needs paradigm shift in deference to the public sentiment without going into the confrontational mode. Of late, we have already seen the glimpses of changed thinking on the part of Pakistani leadership, particularly since the Ramond Davis case. The US is spearheading the war on terror and Pakistan also has an abiding commitment on fighting terrorism and not allowing any individual or a group to use Pakistan's territory for carrying out acts of terrorism within the country or in the neighbouring countries. Both the countries are under compulsion to continue their alliance and collaboration in taking the war on terror to its logical conclusion. The Prime Minister has reiterated Pakistan's resolve to fight terrorism and EU, NATO and even saner voices in the US have also urged the need to continue supporting Pakistan, acknowledging the sacrifices made by her in this regard. But it will have to be brought home to the US administration that the policy of persisting with drone attacks and unilateral actions like Abbottabad are totally unacceptable as they could jeopardize cooperation that Pakistan is expected to extend. The future cooperation will depend on the respect for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Pakistan. The ambience of mistrust must give way to mutual trust and faith in the ability of Pakistan to eliminate the terrorists on its own with the intelligence and technological support from US or as an alternative, through joint actions.

It is however easier said than done. It will be the biggest ever test of the ability of our political and military leaders to dissuade US administration from its declared course of striking targets within Pakistani territory unilaterally and continuing with the drone attacks. Pakistan surely has the cards and the strengths that can be used as bargaining chips for regaining respect, manoeuvrability and relevance. We need to own and protect our state institutions and send strong signals to the outside world that we stand united in this hour of national crisis.








The Discovery of Osama bin Laden hiding in a Pakistani military town has Congress threatening cuts to US aid, and populists in Pakistan saying good riddance. But beyond the angry rhetoric, experts see a mismatch between US hopes and where the dollars have gone.

The US has provided $20.7 billion to Pakistan since 2002. A little more than two-thirds of that went to military use, the remainder to civilian. The biggest ticket item, at $8.9 billion, is something called "Coalition Support Funds." These are reimbursements for Pakistan's military assistance in the war on terror. The second largest chunk, $4.8 billion, falls under "Economic Support Funds." Most of this has gone to shore up the government's budget, either as revenue or to pay off debt to the US.

Much less is spent on seemingly major US priorities: The Frontier Corps, the Pakistani force doing most of the fighting, has received $100 million. Anti-terrorism and nuclear non-proliferation efforts: $90 million. "One of the things we should be doing is training the police, but we're not doing it.... Pakistanis are not letting us. They want the Army to do everything," says C. Christine Fair, assistant professor at Georgetown University in Washington.

What has Pakistan's Army done with the money? The short answer is: No one quite seems to know.

The US reimburses Pakistan for costs associated with the numerous military operations launched following US goading. But the Defence Department has failed to obtain enough information to judge whether $2 billion in claims were valid, according to the government accountability office. Their 2008 report found evidence of double billing or repayment for unrelated or nonexistent efforts, including $200 million for radar upgrades – even though militants have no air force that would require such radar. Former president Pervez Musharraf later confirmed suspicions that aid had been diverted to defend against India. "Whoever wishes to be angry, let them be angry," he said in 2009. "The Americans should know … that we won't compromise our security, and will use the equipment everywhere."

The US has gotten tougher on reimbursements, rejecting 44 percent in 2009, compared with1.6 percent in 2005, according to The Wall Street Journal. "Reimbursement claims are reviewed carefully and decisions are based on a combination of agreed formulas," says a US official in Islamabad, via e-mail. "However, we do not control what the government of Pakistan does with reimbursement funds that go into the State Bank." — Courtesy: The Christian Science Monitor









If a constitutional amendment acknowledging the unique position of Aborigines is to succeed, it is crucial that the referendum question likely to be put to Australians by 2013 is not crowded with extraneous issues. The Prime Minister's Expert Panel on the Constitutional Recognition of Indigenous Australians, co-chaired by Pat Dodson and Mark Liebler, is on the right track suggesting a preamble to the Constitution providing such recognition. A February Newspoll showed 75 per cent of Australians are in favour, only 16 per cent against and 9 per cent are undecided.

Other ideas floated in the panel's discussion paper, however, would be more divisive. A push to strip the Constitution of its race power or enable the government to make formal deals with Aborigines on land, cultural and educational issues would struggle to gain majority support in a majority of states.

To achieve broad community and political consensus, a new preamble needs a form of words that acknowledges our indigenous people while also recognising others who since 1788 have shared the toil of taming a magnificent but often hostile continent. After the failure of the verbose preamble penned by Les Murray and rejected in all states in the 1999 referendum, the text put to the Australian people should be simple, clear and inspiring. While it must acknowledge the special place of the first Australians, it should not separate them from their fellow Australians.

It is a delicate task calling for rare semantic precision. But with bipartisan goodwill, Australians would embrace the spirit of the 1967 referendum when 90.77 per cent -- the biggest majority ever achieved in a referendum -- voted to give indigenous people the dignity and opportunity that should belong to all.






When Patrick Walters broke the children overboard story in The Weekend Australian and pursued its implications for the Howard government, there were no complaints from the Greens. Nor when we relentlessly examined the AWB scandal, leading to the prime minister, deputy prime minister and foreign minister being hauled before a commission of inquiry. Yet now, as the nation grapples with the complex issues of climate change policy, the Greens bristle at simple questions aimed at providing scrutiny on behalf of our readers, and claim bias. This is particularly difficult to understand, given this paper has long supported a market-based carbon emission reduction scheme, and that Australia would have one now if the Greens had not voted down Kevin Rudd's carbon pollution reduction scheme.

Bob Brown is undoubtedly one of the most powerful politicians in Australia and after the formation of the new Senate in July, when the Greens will assume the balance of power in their own right, his influence will only increase. The heavy responsibilities of shaping the economic, social and environmental future of this nation rest, in part, on his shoulders. He needs to understand that our democracy demands fearless scrutiny of those who exercise power.

Senator Brown is clearly used to an easy ride from sections of the media who cheer his moral postures rather than examine his actions. Now he is in coalition with a struggling government, he is facing difficult questions, even on occasions from the ABC. This is as it should be. Yet the Greens leader is behaving erratically, blaming News Limited for stories broken elsewhere, labelling us the "hate media" and declaring a strategy to take us on.

In the climate policy debate, Senator Brown clearly wants journalists to back his cause, arguing that the media should be "part of the process of moving Australia into a much more secure future". This is a fundamental misunderstanding of the media's role in civic society. The activism he advocates is anathema to a newspaper aiming to hold authority to account and reflect the breadth of national views, including from the 88 per cent who did not vote Greens. In our first edition 47 years ago, we declared: "This paper is tied to no party, no state and has no chains of any kind. Its guide is faith in Australia and the country's future." When the ABC explores the impact of phasing out coal mining or we chronicle the waste in ill-judged renewable energy schemes, the media is fulfilling its vital role.

Senator Brown's cheap shots about our readership figures underscore his lack of answers. Never complacent, we remain happy with our strong sales and place in the nation's public discourse. The Greens' polling slump this year from 15 per cent to 10 per cent might be the real spark for Senator Brown's aggression. This slide should have their leadership searching for mainstream values rather than victim status.






As an exposition of the vastly changed landscape in the Arab world following the tumultuous upheavals in Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere, it is difficult to fault President Barack Obama's speech on Middle East policy.

In Cairo two years ago, in setting out his hopes for a new beginning with the Arab world, Mr Obama unwisely sought to distance himself from George W. Bush's freedom agenda for the region, then the butt of criticism by Democrats, instead setting out what was in effect a short-sighted policy that sought engagement with repressive regimes such as those of Syria and Iran. Mr Obama hasn't made the same mistake again. Instead, he has outlined a program of direct support for democratic change that should end the perceptions of ambivalence and uncertainty that have dogged his administration since the advent of the Arab Spring and in Iran in 2009.

He has set Washington firmly behind the reform process now under way in Tunisia and Egypt following the overthrow of their respective despotic rulers -- including $2 billion in aid for Egypt alone -- and served notice on autocratic rulers elsewhere, including Syria's loathsome Bashar al-Assad, that those seeking democratic change in their countries have US support. Even longstanding US allies in Yemen and Bahrain were left in no doubt about Washington's support for change.

Coming down on the side of the angels was the easy part of Mr Obama's speech. He could hardly have done otherwise. More difficult by far was his attempt to define the parameters for progress towards peace between Israel and the Palestinians, and it is hardly surprising that the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has reacted so critically to Mr Obama's call for a two-state solution of the conflict based on pre-1967 boundaries with mutually agreed swaps.

Israel's security is what a peace deal with the Palestinian leaders -- if it is ever going to happen -- is all about and a return to pre-1967 lines would simply leave Israel indefensible as well as abandon significant Jewish population centres, such as those in the West Bank, beyond those lines.

More realistically, Mr Obama has questioned how Israel can be expected to negotiate a peace deal in the light of the new Hamas-Fatah unity agreement, given that Hamas seeks the destruction of Israel and will not recognise its right to exist, and warned Palestinian leaders that they will not win recognition of Palestine by going to the UN, as they are planning to do in September.

The Hamas-Fatah accord has, indeed, introduced a major new element into what prospects there are for a resumption of peace talks. Mr Obama should leave Palestinian leaders in no doubt that unless and until Hamas rejects terrorism and recognises Israel's right to exist there is no prospect of negotiations. The onus on this is on the Palestinians. The bedrock of any policy must be Israel's right to exist and its security, and the Palestinian leadership, from Fatah or Hamas, must be told this in no uncertain terms. Mr Obama failed to suggest action to get peace talks restarted. That is unfortunate. There is an urgent need for action and he must now get cracking on realistic solutions.







Illustration: Alan Moir

Coalition members who can spare time from their misleading attacks on Labor's planned carbon tax for a moment might care to cast an eye towards Britain, where their ideological allies in that country's Conservative government have decided to implement the most stringent program of measures in the developed world to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The British cabinet has agreed to cut the nation's emissions to half what they were in 1990. The target must be reached by 2027. Compared with that, Australia's existing target of a 5 per cent reduction from 2000 levels by 2020 is feeble indeed.

The British decision undermines Tony Abbott's position on a number of fronts. First, it fully accepts that climate change is a reality, and that the present episode of global warming has been caused largely by human activity. This contrasts with the abject approach of the Coalition, attempting a dog-whistle exercise to pacify sceptics and deniers, to pander to unreason and deluded hopes.

Second, it accepts that if human action caused it, human action can also reverse the trend. Third, it backs up the powerful environmental case for action on climate change with an economic case: countries which move early will build the post-carbon economy first, and be able to exploit their first-mover advantage to the full.

Fourth, in doing so, it annihilates the argument so favoured for reasons of self-interest by Australia's mining industry that to move early is to be at a disadvantage - as if it were even possible now for Australia to move early, given the growing number of countries already acting to cut emissions. Thanks in large part to the Coalition's wilful ignorance and obstructionism, foot-draggers such as Australia risk becoming left behind.

Fifth, it accepts that the best way to achieve its ambitious target is with policy settings which allow the market to ensure investment flows towards carbon-free projects in search of profits. The contrast with the Coalition's current policy, a Heath Robinson-like contraption made up of subsidies for big polluters and carbon offsets, could not be clearer.

The tragedy of the Coalition's new-found economic and environmental ignorance under Abbott on this issue is that many on the Coalition side know their policy is absurd. The embarrassed performance on the ABC's Lateline program of Malcolm Turnbull, one of the few Coalition politicians both to know the truth and have the courage to speak it, is the most recent evidence of that.






What started out as something of a stunt highlighting security problems on the internet has ensnared a Herald journalist, Ben Grubb. The episode, which has lit up the internet, looks trivial, absurd and appalling all at once. What it shows above all, though, is that the speed with which the internet and particularly social media such as Facebook and Twitter have evolved has baffled the law and threatens to make it more of an ass than usual.

Grubb, at a security conference in Queensland, reported on one session at which a security expert, Christian Heinrich, explained how he had obtained photographs from the Facebook page of the wife of a rival. The photographs were supposed to be kept private by the website, available only to Facebook friends of their owner. Some have criticised Heinrich's use of material obtained without permission this way, and indeed the criticism has some force. Privacy should be respected. His point, though, was legitimate, despite the added piquancy of the rivalry and his perhaps over-eager showmanship. He was seeking to demonstrate the security shortcomings of social media. Grubb's equally legitimate intention was to report his findings.

Violation of privacy and the theft of personal data, including photographs, are an increasing problem because of flaws in security on the internet. Social media such as Facebook and Twitter are, for now at least, the cutting edge of communication. The internet's continuing rapid evolution means such sites and facilities catch on quickly then lose favour equally fast, but while they flourish they can dominate the market and contain vast quantities of private information. Despite decades of warnings, most internet users do not realise that nothing placed online is really private. Heinrich's demonstration was therefore a salutary message.

Queensland's police force took a dim view of it after a complaint was made. Grubb was interviewed, his iPad seized, and he was briefly arrested after he asked what law allowed the seizure. Although he was eventually "unarrested" - as the police described it - and although the entire episode was conducted in a relaxed and informal tone, it was a heavy-handed response. According to the police, they had no choice: under existing law, receiving a photograph downloaded without permission is like receiving a television set known to have been stolen.

That may be so, but it takes no account of the nature of the internet. If police are called out to every case of unauthorised downloading, the force will have time for nothing else - and will not solve even that problem. The police themselves have acknowledged the challenge the internet represents for them. It is a challenge to lawmakers too.






TWO years ago in Cairo, US President Barack Obama gave a speech calling for a new relationship between the West, especially the United States, and the Islamic world. It ranged much more widely than the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but the President's comments on that seemingly intractable struggle attracted the most attention from the world's media. And, as so often with an Obama speech, his message was taken to reside as much in his choice of certain words as in his broader argument. The President referred to ''Palestine'', thereby acknowledging it to be a geographic reality, though a disputed one, rather than using the terms preferred by previous US presidents, such as ''the Palestinian people'' or ''the future Palestinian state''. Yesterday Mr Obama delivered another speech, to US diplomats in Washington, aimed at building on his remarks on Cairo. Its focus was on the ferment of democratic protest that has been dubbed the Arab spring, but, like the Cairo speech, it has gained most attention for its comments on the prospects for peace between Israel and Palestine.

Mr Obama resolutely rejected the notion that a permanent peace settlement is impossible. He was clear, too, about the principles on which such a settlement must be based. First among them is that the boundary between the State of Israel and the emerging state of Palestine should approximate to Israel's 1967 borders, before the Six-Day War that gave it control of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. His predecessors in the White House shrank from such an admission, but Mr Obama is right to recognise that ''the status quo is unsustainable, and Israel must act boldly to advance a lasting peace''. He pointed to the demographic reality: the Palestinian population west of the Jordan River is growing, with the consequence that a ''Jewish and democratic state cannot be fulfilled with permanent occupation''. If Israel cannot accept the creation of a viable Palestinian state, it will eventually face a choice between its Jewish identity and democracy.

Unsurprisingly, the President's speech got a cool reception from the Netanyahu government. Accepting the 1967 borders would have implications for the status of Jewish settlements on Palestinian land, and the settlers wield considerable clout in Israeli politics. But Mr Obama did not only call on Israel to make concessions. The Palestinian state he envisages would be demilitarised, a status that the Palestinian Authority has not rushed to embrace. The President reaffirmed the stance of every US administration that Israel must be able to defend itself against any threat, and insisted that Palestinians would not achieve their dream of independence by denying Israel's legitimacy. This was not a speech aimed at undermining a long-standing US ally.

It did, however, seek to create new ones, among the oppressed in the Arab world. Mr Obama compared the pro-democracy protesters of the Arab spring to the US founders who rebelled against British rule, as strong an endorsement as an American politician can make. It was also, however, an endorsement beset with contradictions. Libya's rebels get military support from the Obama administration, while those in Syria and Bahrain have to be content with stern rebukes for the brutal dictators that rule them. If the President can resolve the contradictions in US policy on the Middle East, he will have begun the new relationship with the Islamic world he called for two years ago.






Strenuous efforts are being made in Whitehall – and the City – to ensure the survival of the country's biggest provider of residential care

Southern Cross, the troubled social care provider, posted half-yearly results yesterday that have implications far beyond the pockets of its investors, or even the 31,000 residents of its 750 care homes, and the staff who work in them, for whom the future is alarmingly uncertain. Strenuous efforts are being made in Whitehall – and the City – to ensure the survival of the country's biggest provider of residential care. If its pre-tax losses of over £300m were to translate into collapse, it would raise fundamental questions about the viability of both private provision and localised commissioning.

Since the 1990s the private sector has come to dominate adult social care: 95,000 council beds have gone, replaced by 110,000 in private care homes. Big businesses like Southern Cross have been outriders of the smaller state and the purchaser-provider split. The results are not all bad: there may be something fundamentally unattractive about services for society's most elderly and vulnerable being described by business analysts as "the dementia offering" or "the private pay market", but what really matters is the quality of care and whether it is efficiently provided. The safeguarding of the former is not perfect, but at least there are clear statutory obligations. In contrast, there are no controls on the way the private sector runs its finances, nor any national failure regime to pick up the pieces. Local authorities choose on price, with no kind of health check on the business itself, and using calculations that are as much about how much and how many places each council can afford in hard-pressed times as they are about what the service costs and who needs it. This year they will pay on average £521 a week for something Southern Cross says is costing it £558. That may be because Southern Cross has made some curious business decisions such as selling off its properties and leasing them back at rents that only made sense during the property boom. The GMB, the union that represents most care workers, reckons that adds £60 per place per week to its costs. That is remarkably close to the difference between viability and failure. Yet in some regions Southern Cross is so dominant in care home provision that its failure would put acute strain on local authorities, which may find themselves required to rediscover management skills they thought they would never need again. If it meant closing homes, then for some residents it could be fatal.

Southern Cross will in the end almost certainly be too big to be allowed to fail. Meanwhile the architects of health service reform should reflect on the perils of private provision, the weaknesses of localism and the indispensability of national frameworks.





The US is not on the side of reform if to be so collides with a core strategic interest

It was billed as a big speech on the Middle East, the assumption being that if you are the president of the United States and you devote 45 minutes to the topic, the course you set will axiomatically influence events on the ground. This is even less the case than it ever was. Barack Obama promised a new beginning to the Arab world in a speech in Cairo two years ago. He called for a new relationship with the Arab world and for Israeli settlements to stop, and nothing happened. Millions of Egyptians and Tunisians rose up against their dictators, and something did.

It continued to happen on Sunday when thousands of Palestinians left their refugee camps in Lebanon and marched on the Israeli border. Yes, it suited the embattled Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad to play the Palestinian card by allowing a group of 200 to rush the barbed wire on the Golan Heights. But no, this was not merely manipulation. It turned out to be a commemoration of Nakba Day unlike any other, and one in which the barbed wire of the Israeli border temporarily lost its deterrent value. In Cairo thousands gathered outside the Israeli embassy to demand the expulsion of the ambassador, the first time this has happened in living memory. The era of speeches and summits may have passed. It is what happens on the ground that once again has the power to reshape the region.

Mr Obama's attempts to sketch a narrative which wove a line between America's past role in the Middle East and its future, which distinguished between the dictators of countries that merited western military intervention, such as Libya, and those like Syria that did not – and his claims that US pressure is curbing the repressive actions of allies in Bahrain and Yemen – were singularly unconvincing. The US is not on the side of reform if to be so collides with a core strategic interest. America and the IMF's financial help for Egypt and Tunisia is to be welcomed, as is Mr Obama's support for free elections no matter who is brought to power. But money of itself will not be transformative and, as billions of US dollars were spent in propping up the Egyptian army under Mubarak, Egyptians have seen this all before.

It is at the point where the Arab spring intersects with the region's core conflict that attempts to reset the course of US policy are most problematic. Mr Obama held one uncomfortable welcoming card out to the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, whom he will meet today: the statement that the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps. As this involves bigger concessions on settlements than either he or his centrist predecessor Ehud Olmert were prepared to contemplate, Mr Netanyahu has been desperate to expunge any mention of 1967 from a statement that lays out the parameters of an agreement on borders. But in other respects Mr Obama held a line that had already been frequently breached. He set his face against the declaration of statehood sought by Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas at the UN in September, saying symbolic acts to isolate Israel would not create an independent state. He dismissed the reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas, which he said raised profound and legitimate questions for Israel.

The leaders of Fatah and Hamas were obliged to reconcile by the forces stirring the Palestinian street. The negotiators of Fatah had stopped negotiating, and the fighters of Hamas had stopped fighting. Both had to respond to a simple idea: if one million Egyptians can fill Tahrir Square demanding Palestinian rights, why can't Palestinians, who taught the Arab world how to mount insurrections, and mounted two intifadas of their own? This will create its own reality as the months pass. Mr Obama was right to say that the status quo is untenable. He has yet to see how many aspects of his policy maintain it.






After centuries of oppression, and two decades into the modern Troubles, the agreement changed everything and nothing

A year after the IRA made an attempt on her life in Brighton, Margaret Thatcher did an extraordinary, visionary thing. By signing a deal with Dublin at Hillsborough Castle in 1985, she set off on a path for peace which has now led to the Queen's visit. The Iron Lady displayed uncharacteristic flexibility, and in old age she actually came to regret the compromises made. Not so her co-signatory, Ireland's taoiseach Garret FitzGerald, who has just died, and for whom the Anglo-Irish agreement was the culmination of a career. After centuries of oppression, and two decades into the modern Troubles, the agreement changed everything and nothing. Nothing because the new advisory cross-border agencies lacked all clout, and nothing, too, because sectarianism was initially aggravated. Unionist MPs resigned their seats and forced byelections to prove "Ulster said no". The IRA kept bombing, the RUC still policed for some and not all, and the British army remained on Northern Irish streets. Yet a wind of change stirred that day which over the next quarter-century slowly carried all before it. Nationalists, Washington and the wider world now had something solid to point to as they persuaded republicans that progress could be made through the ballot box instead of the bullet. More profoundly, loyalists realised London would no longer wield a veto on their behalf. Once that penny dropped, the Downing Street declaration, the Belfast agreement and Dr No's learning to say yes were all a matter of time.



            THE JAPAN TIMES



Although the current Diet session is to end June 22, there are no prospects that important bills will be enacted soon. One reason for this is Liberal Democratic Party President Sadakazu Tanigaki's distrust of Prime Minister Naoto Kan, who, after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, sounded him out about the possibility of forming a coalition between the Democratic Party of Japan and the LDP by telephoning him without doing the groundwork first.

Another reason is that Mr. Kan acts as if he was not really concerned about the reconstruction of the disaster-hit areas.

The Kan administration plans to submit a second supplementary budget for fiscal 2011 — to fund full-scale reconstruction — to an extraordinary Diet session expected to start in August or later. This is used as an excuse by the LDP for not cooperating with the DPJ. Mr. Tanigaki on Tuesday threatened to submit a no-confidence motion against Mr. Kan if his administration fails to submit the extra budget to the current Diet session.

The DPJ and the Kan administration must secure the passage of a bill to allow the issuance of bonds for the fiscal 2011 initial budget in this current Diet session. Without the passage of the bill, the government cannot execute a large portion of the budget.

To get cooperation from the LDP and Komeito, the DPJ leadership is ready to modify the child allowance provision, a key DPJ election promise. But it faces opposition to the modification from some DPJ lawmakers who uphold the allowance's basic tenet.

The LDP and Komeito are unlikely to help pass a bill containing the basic outline for the reconstruction of northeastern Japan because the reconstruction agency envisaged by these parties is different from the one conceived by the DPJ and the Kan administration.

Whatever the reason for the current Diet impasse, reconstruction efforts this time are taking much longer to get going than after the 1995 Kobe earthquake. Mr. Kan should make utmost efforts to extend the current Diet session so that the second supplementary budget will be enacted early enough.

The opposition on its part should place its priority on assisting in the stabilization of the lives of disaster victims.





As of May 14, there were 141 orphaned children in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures as a result of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, which devastated much of the region.

By comparison, 68 children were reported to have lost both parents in the 1995 Kobe earthquake.

Some reports show that some 500 children lost at least one parent in the March 11 catastrophe, compared with some 330 children in the Kobe quake. The number of children who lost one or both parents March 11 could increase as more data are collected.

Of the 141 orphans, two have entered children's social welfare facilities. The remaining 139 were taken in by other families, most of them relatives.

Although many people across the nation have offered to become foster parents, some have expressed concern that if children are forced to live in areas remote from their native homes, they might develop psychological problems.

Orphans now living with relatives are expected to experience less stress than those taken in by nonrelatives.

Regardless of where children have found new homes, the loss of one or both parents is traumatic. In addition, the orphans experienced unprecedented tremors that destroyed their homes and killed friends and teachers.

Local governments and private organizations concerned should interview orphans and children who lost a parent and find out what problems they face and what kind of help they need most. The cooperation of foster parents is also indispensable.

Orphans' relatives who became foster parents can receive financial support to raise and educate them under the Child Welfare Law. As of May 14, only two applications were made for the support. It is the public sector's duty to inform foster parents of this support system and to encourage them to apply for the assistance.

Ashinaga Ikuei Kikin (Educational and Emotional Support for Orphans Worldwide), a philanthropic body, has started giving grants to orphans and children who lost a parent.

Such support will help children return to a stable life, at least financially.







LONDON — Politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen never seem to have learned that they will not be trusted if they repeatedly lie.

On May 6 a meeting of eurozone finance ministers was held in Luxembourg to discuss measures to stabilize the system in the light of continuing uncertainty about the ability of Greece to repay its debts.

The fact that this meeting was taking place was not announced publicly. Instead, an official spokesman denied that a meeting had taken place on the grounds that the decision to hold the meeting might have destabilized markets.

A meeting of so many finance ministers and senior civil servants inevitably became known and the attempts to deny that there had been such a meeting drew greater attention than a straightforward announcement of the meeting would have drawn in the first place.

The plethora of statements, often contradictory, from the Commission in Brussels, from European Finance Ministers and their officials as well as from the European Central Bank have unavoidably obfuscated the facts and cast further doubts about the outcome. It has further eroded public trust in the institutions and their leaders.

This is not a problem confined to Europe. In the elimination of Osama bin Laden by U.S. Navy SEALs on May 2, it was at first alleged that bin Laden had been armed and had used one of his wives as a shield. It later emerged that he had not been armed and that his wife had been hit in the leg. U.S. Navy SEALs had to make split-second decisions and there may well have been confusion during the operation. Still, in a matter of such importance, greater care should have been taken to ensure that the facts were correctly reported. A similar error was made in reporting the attack to free a British hostage in Afghanistan who died in the crossfire.

American slips are of course nothing in comparison with the lies and obfuscation coming out of Pakistan. The general view is that the Pakistan authorities are unable to tell the difference between truth and fiction.

It seems doubtful whether we will ever know how far Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) were complicit in bin Laden's presence so close to the capital of Islamabad or how incompetent they were. Incompetence was certainly shown in the contradictory statement made by Pakistani politicians, generals and ambassadors about the incident.

Japanese nuclear authorities and Tokyo Electric Power Co. officials have hardly shown themselves to be purveyors of truth over the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster. Unfortunately there seems to have been a long history of attempts, often inept, to cover up regulatory failures.

The end result has been that both the Japanese public and foreign authorities have little or no trust in what the authorities say about the nuclear dangers arising from the March 11 Tohoku-Pacific earthquake calamity.

It may now be that the Japanese authorities are indeed telling the truth, but it will take time to rebuild trust. It will take even longer for Tepco's reputation to recover even if all the old guard are retired and a younger and more dynamic management is installed.

One unfortunate result of lies and of even being "economical with the truth" is that they feed the conspiracy theorists who allow their imaginations full rein and build ever more incredible theories of malevolent conspiracies.

Most conspiracy theories are based on limited facts and a belief that the conspirators have access to all encompassing intelligence and exceptional brains. In fact, most conspiracy theories fall because they don't take account of the extent of general incompetence and unforeseeable events or, as former U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld might have said, "unknown unknowns."

One of the problems of collecting intelligence is ensuring that it is based on truth, rather than on fiction or imagination. It is astonishing how often the historian discovers that strategic mistakes have been based on a mistaken interpretation of intelligence rather than on failure to gather the facts.

German and Japanese intelligence in World War II had many failings, but the most significant was the failure of the high command to assess intelligence and recognize that defeat was unavoidable.

The Soviet leadership believed, totally without foundation, that the Americans under President Ronald Reagan were planning a first strike nuclear attack. Leaders in autocratic regimes often come to believe their own propaganda.

An even greater danger arises from the unwillingness of leaders to hear unpalatable truths. Ministers, chief executives of companies and autocrats generally attract sycophants who not only feed their vanity but also tell them what they want to hear.

It takes courage to tell your boss he is mistaken when you know that doing so may cost you your job. Whistle-blowers deserve to be rewarded not penalized, but they too must get their facts right.

Transparency should be an important aim of good governance, be it in business or government. Inevitably, however, there are times when it is wise to keep quiet. Silence, of course, may be misinterpreted especially by conspiracy theorists, but a refusal to answer is much wiser than lying. Lies are more than likely to be discovered.

With the development of the Internet and the growth of investigative journalism, those in authority need to be careful about not only what they say in public but also what they say in private. This is especially important if what they say in private differs from what they say in public.

The fate of those whose private and public statements conflict is to be branded a hypocrite and to lose the next election.

Hugh Cortazzi, a career British diplomat, served as ambassador to Japan from 1980-1984.







Special to The Japan Times

"England does not love coalitions."

British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli's famous phrase about English antipathy toward coalitions is as apt today as when it was first uttered in 1852. After one year in office, England certainly doesn't show love for its current coalition government.

Britain's public finances were in a dire state when the coalition took office in May 2010. Any incoming government had to prioritize tackling the deficit. Yet, according to an Ipsos MORI poll, seven out of 10 British voters consider the current public spending cuts by the coalition to be "too much too fast."

Consequently, Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron's approval rating has dropped from a post-election high of 60 percent to around 40 percent today.

Given the extent of public anger, though, Cameron has gotten off surprisingly lightly. Remarkably, compared to one year ago, the Conservative Party increased its share of the vote in local elections held at the start of May 2011. Cameron's good fortune comes at the expense of his beleaguered deputy, Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg.

As the government's chief public spending ax man, Chancellor George Osborne predicted before the election that he would be Britain's most unpopular man. But Osborne has cannily managed to avoid this fate. Asked why this prophecy failed to come true, Osborne quipped: "I hadn't reckoned on Nick Clegg."

The Lib Dems provide a human shield for the Tory leadership, drawing public ire and providing cover for Cameron with the right wing of his party.

Since Disraeli's famous speech in 1852, the vast majority of British general elections have delivered single-party governments. Just seven past elections have resulted in coalitions and an equal number in minority governments. The mean duration of British coalitions has been 43.3 months in office.

Minority governments have lasted an average of 17.9 months. It is obvious why Cameron preferred to make a deal with the Lib Dems rather than going it alone in government. Although England loves coalitions more than minority governments, it is much more difficult to see what Clegg and the Liberal Democrats are getting from the deal.

A recent poll of people who voted Lib Dem in the 2010 general election revealed that just 54 percent would back the party again in 2015.

More naturally attuned to ideas from the center-left of the political spectrum, many Lib Dems would have preferred a coalition with Labour than with the Conservatives. But post-election arithmetic made a Liberal-Labour coalition unworkable. And with the financial markets putting pressure on Britain to produce a stable government, a Conservative-Liberal coalition was the only immediately viable option.

Thus far, the Con-Lib coalition has shown few liberal tendencies. In effect, Britain has a Conservative government. It is hard to pinpoint how the presence of Lib Dem ministers in the Cabinet has tempered the Conservative agenda.

As the bigger coalition partner, it is understandable that the Tories will dominate the government's legislative program. But there should be some lines that Clegg is not willing to cross. For the Lib Dems to abandon their promise to scrap university tuition fees would have been one thing; voting to treble fees was quite another. Justifiably, many Liberal Democrat voters feel betrayed.

Policy disagreements among Cabinet ministers have been confined to Conservative ranks rather than crossing party lines. Cameron is reported to have remarked that he gets more trouble from some of his Conservative colleagues than from Clegg. In part, the Lib Dems' inability to constrain Cameron is a personnel problem: Of the 29 coalition ministers in the Cabinet, only five are Liberal Democrats. This might seem like a fair allocation of jobs, given that Conservative members of Parliament outnumber Liberal Democrat MPs 5 to 1.

But the distribution of roles and responsibilities within Cabinet suggests that the Lib Dems mistakenly prioritized securing control over electoral and constitutional reform at the expense of influence over more important policy areas. The three great offices of state — home secretary, chancellor of the Exchequer, and foreign secretary — are held by Conservatives.

The Lib Dems do not control any of the big spending departments and in many ministries must rely on junior ministers to represent their party's interests.

As part of the coalition agreement, Clegg chose to become deputy prime minister, with special responsibility for constitutional reform: a policy area of little public salience.

The U.S. vice presidency might not, in the words of a past holder, be "worth a pitcher of cold piss," but at least the VP holds a constitutionally mandated office with defined responsibilities.

The office of deputy prime minister has no such responsibilities and is usually a courtesy title bestowed on a senior party grandee. Clegg has an impressive title, but few important powers. Furthermore, Clegg is grossly under-resourced compared to Cameron. While the prime minister has 175 staff at his disposal, his deputy must make do with 13.

Clegg made a strategic mistake in becoming Cameron's deputy. Better to have led a department of his own, such as health or education — both of which encompass policy areas close to the public's heart, and where Clegg could have made a clear and identifiable difference.

Clegg has nailed his colors to Cameron's mast. The two will sink or swim together. Short of pulling out of the coalition, Clegg has little power to constrain Cameron. But Clegg knows that leaving the coalition would precipitate a general election in which the Lib Dems would be severely punished.

Unless the Lib Dems decide to jettison Clegg, the coalition will likely limp on until the next election in 2015, with the Conservatives reaping all the benefits, and the Lib Dems all the blame.

Tina Burrett is assistant professor of international relations at Temple University, Japan Campus.








May 20 is one of those historical turning points whose significance is more worthy as a sentiment rather than an event. Unlike National Heroes Day, which marks the battle of Surabaya, or Independence Day itself, the value of National Awakening Day is regenerative without being hinged to a particular location or a circumstantial stout act of courage.

Ironically, that is also why National Awakening Day is overlooked with little reverence by generations who have only known it as a page in history books to be memorized. The date was taken to symbolize the spirit of nationhood by young mavericks of the time.

Wahidin Soedirohoesodo was among those who published commentaries in newspapers lamenting the fate of young Indonesians. He then prodded students from across the country like Sutomo, Ki Hajar Dewantara, Douwes Dekker, Cipto Mangunkusumo, M. Goenawan Mangoenkoesoemo, Saroso, R. Kamargo and MM. Mangoenhoesodo to form a group which would help uplift the fate of their fellow indigenous man disenfranchised by the colonial system.

Hence the organization Boedi Oetomo was born on May 20, 1908. One misconception is that while it did stoke the fires of nationalist sentiment and was rightly regarded as the genesis of the independence movement, Boedi Oetomo was not, per say, established to fight colonialism, declare war on the Dutch or create insurgencies.

Boedi Oetomo's statutes sought equality through development of education, agriculture, culture and science.

Perhaps this backdrop is why National Awakening Day is so diminutive in the minds of our young. It was not a heroic event riddled with the flash of banners and bullets. It was a dawn where the heroes were teachers and intellectuals, not action figures. The 1908 generation comprised the most humble, bravest and truest heroes. For them it was not about putting people down, but uplifting a nation.

Their example is applicable to any generation. Not least the young middle class of 2011.

We are encouraged to witness many young corporate executives in all walks of life rekindle this spirit of activism, voluntarism and altruism by sparing hours of their busy schedule to give back to the community. Whether it is volunteering in charity organizations or taking part in the community. This is the National Awakening spirit which imbued those generations.

But there is also a growing group of the modern well-educated, well-spoken and well-to-do Indonesians who disenfranchise themselves from all the ills that the country represents. The "blah generation" whose ultimate solution to the nation's problems is just to disconnect from it altogether by engaging in an urban living detached from society's shortcomings while seeking opportunities abroad for themselves.

The attitude of mind that "this is your problem" and the intent to "find a better place elsewhere". A culture of blaming everything around them, instead of trying to start good within. One cannot blame these people. The problems of the nation are an exasperating frenzy, where felony and egoism is more profitable than honesty and dignity. And neither can we blame those searching for better high-income benefits, even perhaps outside Indonesia. They have earned the silver spoon fed to them.

But herein is the example of the 1908 generation. They too were almost exclusively of the priyayi (privileged) class. They had everything to lose and nothing to gain by succumbing to their conscience.

They did it because of a calling toward others, a sense of duty from the privileges bestowed which to them were a responsibility rather than a luxury. A conviction of not running away to make life good for themselves, but engaging in simple steps to make this nation better for others.

It is time to rekindle their spirit and awaken ourselves to each other, again.





While the headlines of most newspapers in Indonesia have been concerned about the death of Osama bin Laden and the fate of al-Qaeda, we have been diverted from a real issue that we must face in the near future.

There is no easy solution to our national soccer crisis but there might be turbulence leading to a downfall that requires a direct and quick response.

There was a brief moment of euphoria when incumbent Indonesian Soccer Association (PSSI) chairman Nurdin Halid was blocked from running for a third term.

The party ended, however, after a dispute surfaced between the PSSI's Normalization Committee (KN), which also functions as its Electoral Committee (KP), and the majority of the PSSI's electors, who have called themselves the Group of 78 (G78).

The KN, led by former PSSI boss Agum Gumelar, was appointed by world soccer body FIFA as the official caretaker of the PSSI's chairman's election.

The committee must negotiate with some famous names from the G78, including Usman Faubun, Wisnu Wardhana (Persebaya) and Yunus Nuri (Persisam).

The G78 is supporting two of the four potential candidates named prior to the PSSI's chaotic congress in Batam in March: Indonesian Army chief Gen. George Toisutta and tycoon and rival soccer league owner Arifin Panigoro.

Chances for the other two candidates appear slim. Nurdin has clearly been out of the race for some time, while incumbent PSSI vice-chairman Nirwan Dermawan Bakrie has been keeping a low profile. The Bakrie Group businessman and Indonesian League Board (BLI) chief has been busy with his own club, Pelita Jaya Purwakarta.

The G78 blamed Agum for failing to persuade FIFA to allow George and Arifin to run in the PSSI race. The group filed a complaint with the Sports Arbitration Court after the pair were dropped from the list of candidates.

While George consistently keeps moving forward with the complaint, Arifin has developed a program on the 'four pillars' of soccer development: young talent training, sports science, fair play and professional organization.

The question is what is the G78's agenda in backing George and Arifin. While initially the group wanted to block Nurdin's re-election, the G78 is now looking to secure key positions in the new PSSI administration, in addition to leading urgently-needed reforms of the organization.

To prevent another failed congress, Youth and Sports Minister Andi Mallarangeng banned any rival groups from holding a congress outside of the PSSI's official congress on Friday.

However, there has been slight anxiety FIFA's decision on the PSSI's election, which might lead to the suspension of PSSI from FIFA.

Article 14 of FIFA statutes stipulates that: "[The] FIFA Executive Committee may, however, suspend a Member that seriously and repeatedly violated its obligations as a Member with immediate effect. A suspended Member shall lose its membership rights. Other Members may not entertain sporting contact with a suspended Member."

This has created a fear that Indonesia's might be suspended by FIFA if the article is violated.

If that is the case, it will be a disgrace for Indonesia as the host of the upcoming 2011 South East Asian Games. Our U-23 soccer team will not be able to compete at home. It would also be a devastating scenario for the senior team that will participate in the 2014 World Cup pre-qualifying matches.

We obviously do not want Indonesia to be suspended from FIFA, as Bosnia and Brunei Darussalam have been. The KN and the G78 should keep the door for reconciliation open.

Now we are waiting for Agum to handle the next phase of the election. Will the PSSI congress meet expectations for improving Indonesian soccer - or will it be a day of judgment?

The writer is an English-language student at Sanata Dharma University in Yogyakarta.






This year marks 100 years of oil palm commercialization in Indonesia. Oil palm was first planted on an industrial scale in 1911 in Sumatra. As the commodity became more widely cultivated, its expansion triggered fierce debate, as it brought good and bad things simultaneously.

Oil palm is widely utilized as a raw material in consumer products ranging from oleo chemicals and foods to biofuels. And now, in the midst of the current energy crisis triggered by ever-increasing demand for fossil fuels and volatile petroleum prices due to political instability in some oil exporting countries, one prospective source for raw biofuel material is oil palm.

When we consider that only 1 percent of oil palm is currently used for biofuel, that China and India are emerging as the main buyers of oil palm and that western countries' increasing health awareness demands healthy, edible oil, we can anticipate a sharp increase in demand for oil palm in the foreseeable future.

This signals for ever-expanding oil palm plantations in tropical countries. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the land area used globally by oil palm plantations increased four-fold, from 3.6 million hectares in 1961 to 9.13 million in 2007.

Currently, oil palm is grown in 43 countries, with a total cultivated area accounting for nearly one-tenth of the world's permanent cropland. Of that, more than 80 percent of oil palm plantations are in Southeast Asia — in Indonesia and Malaysia.

The lucrative oil palm enterprise nonetheless has a price to be paid, as the ever-expanding oil palm plantations bring environmental damage and biodiversity losses. This is in part due to the fact that the low-lying areas for these oil palm plantations overlap world biodiversity hotspots. Obviously, this raises a dilemma.

On the one hand, oil palm enterprises offer enticing economic benefits for developing countries such as Indonesia to improve the welfare of their people, 13 percent of which still live below the poverty line. For example, the opportunity to reap economic advantage is demonstrated by a projection by Koh and Ghazoul of Institute of Terrestrial Ecosystems (ETH) that indicate potential opportunity costs against biodiversity conservation where Indonesia is planning to increase its production to 80 million tons. Indonesia needs to designate 3.1-3.5 million hectares of additional land for oil palm plantations.

Furthermore, with the price at around US$750 per ton, these new plantations would have a net present value (NPV) of approximately $30-$53 billion over the course of their life-span, which can last for 25 years.

Moreover, this industry will be able to absorb about 4.5 million workers and it is expected to reduce the number of poor people by one-third, especially in rural areas. In the same vein, villagers with two to four hectares or more, on average, were earning $2,000–$12,000 a year according to 2010 study of John McCarthy of Australian National University.

It is hard to imagine that these economic forecasts will lead to anything but an expansion of oil palm production in Indonesia. Therefore, we must ask ourselves how to balance the economic benefits derived from oil palm plantations while maintaining our precious biodiversity and environmental sustainability for our children and future generations.

Oil palm (Elates guineensis) originated in West Africa and was initially introduced in Indonesia as an ornamental plant since as far back as 1848. Indonesia's natural tropical conditions were favorable for growing the oil palm trees. It was not until 1911 that it began to become a commercial crop in Sumatra and later it expanded to other Islands as an industrial commodity in Indonesia in the 1980s.

Currently, Indonesia is the largest oil palm producer in the world followed by Malaysia. Together these countries are responsible for about 80 percent of oil palm production in the world. Indonesian Agriculture Ministry (2010) estimated that Indonesia has around 7.8 million hectares of oil palm plantations and produces 19.8 million tons. Approximately 40 percent of Indonesia's oil palm plantations are owned by small-holder farmers.

Oil palm has some advantages compared to the other vegetable oil crops in some aspects such as higher productivity and lower per unit production costs.

Also, given the high price of this commodity in the world market, it encourages the government to provide an economic incentive for oil palm expansion.

Undeniably, this drives deforestation acceleration through the clearing of intact forest and planting on previously forested land which has been exploited for plywood, timber and paper pulp. These situations spark concerns among many environmentalists that the expansion of oil palm plantations poses a serious threat to biodiversity.

Forests in Indonesia have a wealth of biodiversity, comprising approximately 10 percent of the globe's flowering plant species, 17 percent of all bird species, 12 percent of all mammal species, 16 percent of all reptile species and 16 percent of all amphibious species. This diversity has been and will continue to be threatened by the increasingly rapid forest exploitation and oil palm plantation expansion.

Endangered megafauna such as the Sumatran Orangutan (Pongo abelii), the Borneo Orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus) and the Sumatran Tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae) will lose their habitats. Furthermore, the negative impacts are not restricted to species, but also affect entire ecosystems and create heightened social marginalization of indigenous people.

Based on the aforementioned situation, we need to find a middle way that can be achieved in reconciling the competing interests of economic and environmental concerns.

There are some avenues that Indonesia's oil palm industry can strive to balance between economic and environmental competing interest. First, increasing productivity by expanding research and technology advancement to increase yield and reduce the input in order to maximize production.

Second, applying payment to ecosystem services (PES) policies in the oil palm industry would ensure that ecosystem services such as biodiversity preservation, water quality regulation, regional climate and air quality control can be maintained. CIFOR defined this as a kind of contractual payment to natural resource users, such payments being subject to the condition that they maintain a pre-defined environmental service.

Third, promoting proper land-use would ensure that oil palm expansion would not interfere with the ecosystem and biodiversity conservation. This can be achieved by integrating agriculture aptness with conservation priorities. In this case, the government, oil palm players and NGOs should sit together to reach common agreements on high conservation values (HCV) of land supported by effective regulatory systems.

Fourth, from the consumer side, the campaign to use certified oil palm products also needs to be expanded with support from the government. After all, making economic and environmental reconciliation happen will require concerted efforts supported by the government, producers, NGOs, financial institutions and consumers.

The writer is a researcher at the Center for Economic Studies at the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) and a USAID Indonesia Forecast Scholar at the University of Maryland-College Park.






When I was young I promised myself that I would never marry a doctor because a doctor would care more for other people than their own.

There was a time after the war when my mother was suffering from severe typhoid fever. While struggling for her life, with no doctor able to come to her aid, she made a promise that if she survived she would become a doctor and would make sure that she would come to all the people who needed her help.

My mother was studying to become a pediatrician when I was born, therefore I spent most of my early years with my 10-year-old sister. My mother had to spend nights at the hospital every other day as an "on-duty doctor".

After completing her studies she was even busier than ever. She spent her time in the hospital every morning until afternoon, taking care of patients and training countless would-be Indonesian doctors. In the evenings she attended to her private practice.

We rarely had our meals together. Sometimes the phone rang in the middle of the night and she had to go to the hospital or a patient's home for emergency assistance.

Once she had to stay for months in the Netherlands doing research and my grades at school fell and my hair got infected by lice. Another time she left for India and spent several weeks conducting research for the World Health Organization.

I am her youngest son and I always followed her around as she traveled to medical conferences, from Semarang and Bali to Honolulu and New York. Consequently, when I graduated from elementary school I had had the rare chance to see most of the world.

My mother also traveled to the most remote parts of West Java to train community health center workers how to treat diarrhea. She appeared on local TV giving her best acting performance in one of those highly scripted dialogues between doctor and patient explaining that oralite was the best medicine for diarrhea.

About seven years ago, we found her kidneys started to fail and she needed to have dialysis twice a week. Her dedicated life as both doctor and educator did not give her enough means to pay for all the medical treatment, so she had to borrow money from her close relatives and children.

Once she was infected with hepatitis from the dialysis machine, but she recovered miraculously. Laying on the hospital bed, she kept working: grading exams from her biochemistry class of more than 100 students. When she finally left the hospital, her students rushed to kiss her hand and expressed how grateful they were to have her back.

On my birthday a few days ago, she organized a wonderful party for me and our closest relatives, although it had then become difficult for her to stand and walk around.

I always wonder how and where my mother found her determined spirit to fulfill her promises.

It was Sunday morning at 9 a.m. on May 20, 1908, when several young students gathered at the auditorium of the STOVIA medical school in Weltevreden, Batavia, to fulfill a similar promise. They included students from seven upper schools all over Java: Cultuurschool (Bogor), OSVIA (Magelang, Probolinggo), Normaalschool (Yogyakarta, Bandung, Probolinggo) and HBS (Surabaya). The meeting resulted in the creation of Boedi Oetomo, the first organization that spurred the road to Indonesia's independence.

The students were inspired by the efforts of Dr. Wahidin Soedirohoesodo, who had traveled all over Java to collect "student funds" to promote education for the people. Wahidin believed that modern education, while still maintaining a strong sense of cultural identity, helped people understand and emerge from their plights.

He traveled all over Java on this mission, but unfortunately his efforts failed. Nevertheless, it united and inspired others to take up the fight and continue his mission.

My mother's determination was born out of the long and rich history of our nation, ignited by a passion to liberate people from their sufferings. Her struggle was not without despair. At each low point in her life, when she felt she couldn't stand another day studying for her pediatric specialization while still taking care of her four young children, when she felt she couldn't take more hours lying in bed for dialysis, she was always reminded why she had to survive.

The spirit of how a nation came to be was all that allowed my mother to keep going and fulfill her promises. This spirit has propelled countless others to do the same in their own way. Emulating my mother's struggle, I found the only way to remove my helplessness was by helping to relieve others. This I think was the spirit that inspired the young generation of Indonesia around the time when Boedi Oetomo was born.

I have seen countless Indonesians from all over the nation and beyond work to fulfill their own promises. There are many of us, more than at the time when Dr. Wahidin traveled around Java to raise his "student funds".

We are all connected by the spirit that made us a nation. I can only hope that by taking up this promise, my young son will also grow to learn and understand.

The writer is a sociologist in the psychology department at the University of Indonesia and founder of AkonLabs.






Set in the foothills of the Himalayas, Dharamsala is the seat of the Dalai Lama and the headquarters of the eight Tibetan exile settlements in India. To establish their refugee status in India, each of the 180,000 Tibetans is given a personal audience with the Tibetan spiritual Leader.

Over the last decades many young Tibetans have trekked across the Himalayas to India. This process was anecdotally recorded in the moving documentary The Cry of the Snow Lion, made by mountaineers who were licensed by Chinese authorities in Lhasa to hold a trekking camp. There in the Himalayas the mountaineers witnessed the Chinese Army's interception and murder of a 17 years old Tibetan woman, in one of the groups that flee across the snow from Tibet

This tragic process of defection was also illustrated to a delegation of Australians who recently met the Dalai Lama, by the 2,800 children living in boarding schools at Dharmasala's Tibetan Children Village. Generations of Tibetan children have been cared for and educated here. They are sent by their parents to India, often without the hope of the seeing them again.

Tibetans everywhere are agitated about the recent crackdown at Kriti Monastery in Tibet, where the authorities have enforced a "patriotic re-education campaign" and imposed an indefinite ban on religious activities at the monastery. Three hundred monks have been "removed". On April 21 a large group of Tibetans stood guard at the monastery to prevent the Chinese forces removing monks — the crowd was dispersed by the police. Two elderly Tibetans were beaten to death.

At Dharamsala, the Central Tibetan Administration attempts to replicate all the functions of a state. These include the Kashang (Tibetans' elected parliament) a Tibetan education system, state archives, medical institutes, and the Norblinka Institute of Art, where 400 sponsored artists keep up traditions of their ancient civilization.

As the Dalai Lama withdraws from front-line leadership (he is 75), Tibetans have a plan to ensure their immediate political future.

The Guardian recently reported on the election of a new Tibetan Prime Minister, "Tibetans around the world have voted a Harvard law professor as their political leader, in the first election since the Dalai Lama, 75, announced that he would give up the political leadership of the Tibetan community in exile. The new prime minister, the 42-year old Lobsang Sangay, polled 27,051 votes, 55 percent of the total electorate, to beat two other secular candidates."

Sangay was declared as the third Kalon Tripa (Prime Minister). This is part of the wider Tibetan community's plan to survive outside Tibet in the event of the Dali Lama's death.

The new Kalon Tripa has previously hinted he could move beyond the Dalai Lama's "middle way" policy of negotiating for autonomy for Tibet from China. As a student in New Delhi, he was a leader of the Tibetan Youth Congress, which demands complete independence.

His Holiness acknowledged to our delegation that his moderate Third Way which sought Tibetan authority within a Chinese Federation had not been successful but that the uprising in March 2008 showed the Chinese had to deal with "the issue". He told us that the crackdown at the Kriti Monastery may be part of the Chinese leadership fear of the implications of the Jasmine revolution in the Middle East and that mistrust underlines the communist regime. His Holiness claimed the Chinese budget for internal security was more than the budget for external security.

What is the future for the Tibetans?

After the "disappearing" of the 5-year-old Panchen Lama 15 years ago, the Chinese government now says it has to approve all reincarnations of living Buddhas, or senior religious figures in Tibetan Buddhism, including the choice of the next Dalai Lama. (What would Karl Marx say?)

The Tibetan exiles expect that when the Dalai Lama dies, the Chinese will try to control the discovery of his successor, so that the next Dalai Lama will be under their control, as the Panchen Lama now is. Their plan to develop new forms of leadership outside Chinese control is designed to circumvent this.

Both the Tibetan institutions in Dharamsala, and re-invigorated Tibetan political are part of the Tibetan exiles plans to outlast the Chinese occupation of Tibet. The Dalai Lamas alternative plans for his successor as spiritual leader shows the old fox, His Holiness, has a multilevel strategy to outlast the seemingly awesome power of the Chinese communist party.

Michael Danby is the chair of the Parliamentary Friendship Group for Tibet.








President Mahinda Rajapaksa, in his Vesak message underscored the Buddha's teachings on living a moral life. "Let an angry man be conquered by love; an evil man by goodness. Let a miser be won over by liberality; and a liar by truthfulness," he said quoting the Dhammapada. The teachings of the Buddha provides the means of resolving disputes that arise from unbridled desire, the President said.

It is easy to preach and write about these teachings and principles but much more difficult to allow them to come alive in our lives so that they could lead us and guide us in all that we do and say. The Vesak messages give us the tools and truths necessary especially for our political leaders to resolve the many and varied internal or external disputes that confront this country.

It takes the sacrifice of humble, principle-centred servant leadership to serve all Sri Lankans whatever their caste, creed, race, language or status may be. Without sacrifice there is no genuine walking with the people or going that extra mile in resolving the complex issues that beset this country and its people. For instance the department of census and statistics announced on Wednesday that people in more than 20 districts were living below the poverty line. In such a crisis it is vulgar for political leaders to bust up millions or plunder the resources of the country through sophisticated ways of bribery and corruption.

During Vesak we saw our political leaders falling over each other to organise religious ceremonies and to be photographed at religious observances or at the opening of huge buildings. But in nearly all the photographs, that were published in the print media or telecast over the electronic media, the body language of those photographed showed the subtle presence of an untrammelled ego. If our political leaders allow the ego to dominate their lives and actions, then nothing that is achieved would be sincere or genuine. But by truly and faithfully living the teachings and principles of the Buddha Dhamma and by giving it space to imbibe our whole being, we can free ourselves from the shackles of our ego and no longer be its slave.

Vesak provides our political leaders with a timely opportunity to say enough to rhetoric and nice sounding words and phrases and put to the test how sincerely and truly they are living the ever-true and insightful exhortations of the Buddha by making a genuine effort to resolve the ethnic question that has bugged this country for more than half a century; the private sector pension scheme which the stakeholders say needs modifications and the university lecturers' salary issue. Problems can only be resolved if our leaders approach them with an attitude of love, forgiveness, compassion, empathy, a sense of accommodation and a willingness to listen to the other person's point of view, realising they too may be right and that holding a dissenting view is a vital part of genuine democracy and not an act of treachery as government leaders project it to be. 

Let this wonderful meditation, which finds an echo in the core teachings of all great world religions, be our constant companion on our journey towards freedom from all wants and desires:

Make me an instrument of peace; where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy. May I not so much seek to be consoled as to console, to be understood as to understand and to be loved as to love, for it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying to self that we are born to eternal light.

Until and unless we overcome our ego, our craving for revenge, our anger, jealousy, avarice and secret agendas in our relationships or interactions with others, then the freedom from self-centredness and selfishness will continue to elude us. Let us show the world that not only is Sri Lanka honoured to preserve the Buddha Dhamma in its pristine purity but is also honoured to practise and live the Dhamma in daily life.





It is now close to two months since the first protests broke out in the city of Daraa in Syria.

A rapid unravelling of the situation following the government's violent crackdown on protesters has invariably placed President Bashar Al Assad facing the biggest challenge to his regime. Grappling to regain control, the government has chosen force to quell the trouble but to no avail.  As a result despite the large number of deaths and arrests, the protests are continuing  with the opposition having put the call out for a countrywide general strike.

The situation does warrant more than the cursory warnings issued to Damascus or the sanctions imposed recently on some of President Al Assad's close allies in government. This is probably why US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the EU Special Representative Baroness Catherine Ashton in a recent meeting called on the Syrian government to implement the promised reforms on an immediate basis or face the consequences. What these may be has not been spelled out but it will clearly be more sanctions. Whether the threat of sanctions at this point contain enough bite to soften the government's position is the question.  The regime is currently fighting an existential threat and is likely to focus attention on putting an end to the unrest. 

Another remedial measure being considered is the UN Resolution condemning Syria.  Expected to be put up for vote in front of the Security Council, the Resolution  —  if it obtains majority vote  —will serve a reminder to Syria of its isolated position.  The rising crescendo of the Syrian government's atrocities, including conflicting reports of a mass grave in Daraa, have only strengthened the impression of brutality by a repressive regime. Unfortunately, if the government had shown political maturity and not used force at the start of the protests, things might not have deteriorated to this extent.

The government continues to blame the Islamists and foreign elements for supporting the anti-regime movement. Earlier conciliatory moves by Al Assad to lift the decades old emergency among other socio-economic measures aimed at appeasing the people  are now felt to have been misread as a sign of weakness. As a result the authorities decided on a U-turn in policy by sending in tanks and security forces to curb the protests.

Irrespective of what went wrong where, Al Assad should not lose the chance he may still have and formulate a strategy where political dialogue is launched with the estranged factions.  A resort to strong arm tactics is not the way to rule people whose hearts need to be won by fulfilling their just rights and aspirations.

Khaleej Times





The United States' raid on Osama bin Laden's hideout without Pakistan's consent has emboldened the trigger-happy superpower to expedite its moves to take control of Pakistan's nuclear weapons. The May 2 Abottabad operation that killed the al-Qaeda leader gave the US the necessary fillip to go for this major strategic goal that also serves the national security interests of Israel and India.

However, Pakistan's nuclear weapons will not fall into the hands of the United States in an Iraq-style invasion. It may come as a result of intense US pressure on hapless Pakistan or in the form of help.

Following the now-not-so-secret threat that Pakistan would be bombed back to the Stone Age if it did not cooperate with the US in the war on terror, the then President Pervez Musharraf wargamed and concluded that despite the possession of nuclear weapons, the survival of his country could be assured only by collaboration and not by confrontation. Since then, this has been the strategy of Pakistan even though the price it has been paying in terms of human lives is colossal, if not devastating.

Having compromised its sovereignty, Pakistan is in a pathetic situation where the choice before it is not about what is good for Pakistan but about what is least harmful to Pakistan.

The Raymond Davis affair is a case in point. Davis, a CIA mercenary, killed two Pakistanis in broad daylight on a busy Lahore street in January. His arrest led to a diplomatic row between the US and Pakistan. The Pakistani people with one voice demanded that Davis be brought to justice despite the US call for his release on the basis that he enjoyed diplomatic immunity. In the face of unprecedented public unity and outcry, the Asif Ali Zardari and Yousuf Raza Gilani regime took great pains to show that it was with the people and that Pakistan's sovereignty had not been sacrificed on the altar of a superpower with an imperialistic agenda. Alas! Within two months Davis walked out of Pakistan a free man. It is said the victims' family members were arm-twisted by Pakistani authorities to accept blood money in millions of dollars in exchange for Davis's freedom.

No matter how intense the public protests were, the Pakistani regime had not shied away from paying pooja to the superpower, which has poured more than US$ 10 billion in military and economic aid into Pakistan since the war on terror began in 2001. Perhaps, this was why the US showed scant regard for Pakistan's sovereignty — whatever rump it has been reduced to now — when it raided bin Laden's hideout.

            Whatever the anger the Pakistani regime displayed following the raid was more a ploy to mollify the people than a real expression of emotion triggered by the humiliation of not being consulted before the raid.

The British Daily Mail two weeks ago carried a story saying that the script for the drama — how Pakistan should behave if the US launched a unilateral attack on the bin Laden hideout — was written ten years ago. In other words, the Pakistani government's roar, gnashing of teeth and table-thumping speeches in Parliament were part of the drama. But unlike a majority of the Americans, a majority of the Pakistanis are not gullible. They know their government's anti-American rhetoric comes with a wink at Washington.

In politics time is a good healer. The people in Pakistan shouted, protested, burnt US flags and some even held funeral prayers for bin Laden, invoking God's mercy on America's public enemy number one. Now the dust has settled, bin Laden has become history and it's business as usual for both Pakistan and the United States.

But the manner in which the Pakistani government and its powerful military have calmed down after big talk has given carte blanche to US hawks to do anything they like in Pakistan. This means taking control of Pakistan's nukes.

It is no secret that both the US and India have been raising doubts about Pakistan's ability to protect its nuclear arsenal from terrorists or jihadi elements within the military. Wikileaks cables released last year also confirmed US concerns about the safety of Pakistan's nuclear weapons.

Last Sunday, Britain's Sunday Express newspaper carried an exclusive story with the headline 'US to protect Pakistan'. The story by Marco Giannangeli suggested that US President Barack Obama would order troops to parachute in to protect key nuclear sites if Pakistan's nuclear installations came under threat from terrorists out to avenge the killing of bin Laden.

"The plan is green lit and the President has already shown he is willing to deploy troops in Pakistan if he feels it is important for national security," the Sunday Express quoted a US source as saying.

The Sunday Express story appears to have been planted by some US hawks who do Israel's bidding. The question before the Pakistanis is whether their government, which says little when US drones kill Pakistani civilians, will wilt under US pressure and let US troops take over the nuclear sites under the pretext of protecting them from terrorists.

Another question is whether this week's confrontation between Pakistani troops and the US forces at a border outpost in Pakistan was a move to trigger a limited war with Pakistan — a war that will apply pressure on Islamabad to let the US forces in.







Whenever there is a proper foreign policy coupled with professional diplomats, all these problems can be handled without any harm to the country. Unfortunately, we lack it today.

Q : In the event of the release of the UN report and Sri Lanka involved in a diplomatic crisis, how will the JVP formulate its political strategies?

Of course, there is a different environment in the post war period.

 The armed struggle for separatism ended. Yet, the attempts by the re-colonialists to divide this country are still there. These forces have not yet given up their attempts to interfere with the internal affairs of the country.  

With the end of the war, the government should have taken steps not to leave any room for such interferences by the UN or anyone. They could have done it by addressing the political and socio-economic grievances of people in the war affected areas. Instead, the government acted to achieve its narrow political gains by trying to impose political and cultural hegemony over those hapless people.

This has placed Sri Lanka in a disadvantageous position internationally. Under these circumstances, the re-colonialist forces try to achieve their targets.

The JVP formulates its political strategies accordingly. We want to defeat these forces and to address the economic, social, political and other issues of people under a new mechanism. Justice and equality are of paramount importance.

Q : What are the immediate matters that should be addressed by the government?

It is very important to lift the state of emergency and do away with laws such as the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA).

Also, in the post war context, steps should be taken to release all these Tamil political detainees. The displaced people should be provided with necessary facilities and resettled speedily. It is all the more important to establish civil administration in those areas.

Q : Yet, the government says they want the state of emergency further to take legal action against those involved in terrorism at that time. How would you see this situation?

If anyone looks at how the government used the emergency regulations in recent times, it will be very clear.

 They have used emergency regulations to suppress the protests rallies. They suppressed the media freedom in the same way. Editor of Lanka Newspaper Chandana Sirimalwatte was arrested and detained under the emergency. Also, the government postponed the election of 22 local bodies under the state of emergency, and these were the areas that were politically disadvantageous to the government.

Had the government wanted to take action against those involved in terrorism, the government should have done it during the last two years after the end of the war.  It is clear what the government is using these regulations for. While highlighting terrorism-related cases to retain the emergency, the government only uses them to undermine the democratic rights of citizens and to silence the dissent.

Q : What is your immediate response to the Joint Statement between Sri Lanka and India?

In addition to the involvement of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in the internal matters of Sri Lanka, the government has paved the way for India too to get involved.

 Again, Sri Lanka is influenced to go for power devolution. All these things will put Sri Lanka in a disadvantageous position. India tries to exploit the situation to spread its economic influence over Sri Lanka. Overally, this will not bring any benefit to Sri Lanka.

The country has two options – whether to succumb to such external pressure or to take steps to prevent such external involvements by addressing the grievances of people in the appropriate manner.

Q : In your view, how should Sri Lanka act in the diplomatic front at this hour?

It is very difficult to find an answer to the present crisis under the capitalist system.

  Yet, even under such a system, professional diplomats can find answers. Whenever there is a proper foreign policy coupled with professional diplomats, all these problems can be handled without any harm to the country. Unfortunately, we lack it today.

Q : During the post war period, the JVP appears to be interested in wooing more and more Tamil votes.  They have accelerated political activities in the North. Is this a change of policy stand?

Our politics is not aimed at increasing the number of votes but to give equal rights to all the people based on left ist principles.

 During the war period of 30 years, people in the North did not have a chance to get a taste of leftist politics.

We want to convince these people that leftist principles have sustainable solutions for their social, economic and political problems. We try to mobilize people for such a radical change in the socio-economic system. One can argue that the JVP will lose its vote bank in the south by trying to appease the interests of people in the North. We have resorted to do politics in the North despite such a risk involved. Our concern is not merely to increase the number of voters we have.   

Q : Have you really changed your stand on a political solution?

There is no change in our stand. Power devolution is not the appropriate answer.

 We want to find a solution that ensures the political, social and economic rights of the Tamil people under a new social order. We want to highlight that these problems cannot be solved by giving political powers to the representatives of the Tamil elites. Today, the government talks about power devolution. At the same time, they even take over the power already devolved.  People should realize it. It is a kind of a fraud.

Q : How will be JVP's future politics with Sarath Fonseka?

Still, we believe that Mr. Fonseka has been politically victimized.

 We have intervened in the judicial process to get him released. We will continue with that struggle. Very soon, we are planning to launch a poster campaign against the suppression of media and democratic rights. We will demand the release of Sarath Fonseka through this campaign.

Q : What are the JVP's views on the government's attempt to lease out several government ventures to the private sector?

Though this government claims that they are not for privatization, they have privatized a lot.

 They privatized several hotels that belonged to the Hotel Corporation. This is the double- standard of the government. They say one thing and do another. They talk about patriotism, but do exactly the opposite.





 "Government is talking about peace and that been the ultimate prize of the end of the war but shouldn't peace lead to equal rights to citizens."

Tamil National Alliance

MP P. Ariyanethiran

The Government has no political solution for the ethnic grievances. The worst thing is that two years after the end of the war there has not been a progress in terms of a political solution for the conflict. One and half lakhs of people have not been resettled and their livelihoods have not been restored. The Tamil people in Batticaloa and Mannar are constantly rounded up and arrested. We have met with the Government six times and every time we have been cheated and misled. There has never been any progress in terms of addressing the above issues I have mentioned. All the talks we have had with the Government have all been a waste.

Government is talking about peace and that been the ultimate prize of the end of the war but shouldn't peace lead to equal rights to citizens. People can't make choices when they are arrested, disappearing and constantly living under fear. We have had six rounds of talks with the Government but nothing useful has come out of it. At this point when we are about to go into the seventh round of talks I feel quite skeptical whether anything would come out of it. We have always been cheated and come with our hands empty. I feel like we might be cheated once again.

"The country stands united as one country under one flag."

Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) National Organizer and Media Spokesperson Nishantha Sri Warnasinghe

Two years after defeating terrorism, the country has been ambitious about the infrastructure development projects undertaken by the Government. The areas that have benefited from these projects are those that were embroiled in a 30 year war. Roadways that were completely ruined continue to be rebuilt. The Government had built bridges and provided electricity and safe drinking water. Government administration was reinstated, law and order established and government schools and hospitals are up and running. The country stands united as one country under one flag.

The Government has been uplifting the livelihoods of the displaced and resettled people in Vavuniya. The main activity is the removal of land mines and rebuilding houses. The restrictions to paddy cultivation and fishing have been lifted while the government had spent a lot for infrastructure development. It must be said that the Government is rebuilding a country that was destroyed by a 30-year-old war within two years, there is only so much you can do. Therefore the special emphasis has been on providing the basic needs of the resettled families. The southern people are paying taxes and are sacrificing a lot to develop those areas. Even though we have provided electricity we are not charging them for it, for an example 26000 families in the North are provided free electricity.

Indian Government says that they are building houses; that is our responsibility we can't give it to another country. If a country is willing to grant their resources then it can be contributed to an existing project without being tied down with conditions. We can't be under their obligation and give them a free will to select the people for the housing scheme they are financing. It should be a joint mechanism between the two governments under Government supervision. The Indian Government cannot be dictating terms and the Government should have a free hand in distributing the houses not only amongst Tamils but also Muslims and Sinhalese. The discrimination in allocating houses breeds separatism. The same applies to the railway line project.

'However there are people who have gone through the process of resettlement by their own means.'

Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) Director of International Affairs A.M. Faiz

Yesterday I read in a newspaper they had quoted the United Nations and it said that there were about 100,000 displaced persons remaining to be resettled; clearly they haven't considered the Muslims who were expelled from the North in 1990's. Since the end of war the Northern Muslims have the urge to return to their places of origin. There is a lack of coordinated effort to facilitate these people's return and they have been forgotten. They are no longer considered part of the displaced since it was a long time ago. However there are people who have gone through the process of resettlement by their own means.

The main concerns of the Northern Muslims are the basic amenities like access roads, water, sanitation and so forth. For an example a village in Puttalam where the Northern Muslims resettled, the families have multiplied and therefore the elders opted to return and reclaim their land in the Periyamadu area in the North. But the lack of programmes and projects to help them rebuild their lives is an obstacle they cannot overcome without government assistance.

When more and more Muslims showed interest to move, the election franchise issue arose. In the absence of basic facilities for the displaced people they were further burdened by compelling them to be registered as voters from places of their origin and or the areas they have resettled into. They were compelled to make a choice even before they resettled themselves properly. That was a huge dilemma faced by the people. This would affect the university admission and government employment.

"There must be sustainable development all over"

United National Party MP Ravi Karunanayake

There is a lot of talk and very little action on the part of the Government. Frustration is creeping into the lives of the public, since the Government is not handling the situation with appropriate competence. If you go to make a bad case worse how can we say that the Government is doing good to the public?

If you want a good relationship with the public they should make sure that resettling and rebuilding are done without discrimination. Such schemes should be able to provide all communities equally without individual countries dictating terms. Chauvinism and nationalism can rule the day led by external intrusion.

There has to be an equal distribution of houses amongst the resettling communities; there cannot be one or two resettlements with severe advantages while the remaining suffers.

There must be sustainable development all over. People must be able to live comfortably. It is quite important that the Government pays attention to grapple the cost of living, unwanted expenditure rooted out, production increased, petrol prices controlled at a manageable rate, reduced level of Government bureaucracy and politicization.

The country has neither law nor order. If you consider the plight of the Colombo Municipal Council it is visible. When we had a problem with the nomination lists in Homagama, we had missed out a signature of a youth candidate and so the court rejected our nomination list. However when the United Peoples Freedom Alliance's (UPFA) didn't have a JP's approving signature on its entire list that was accepted by court. Now where law and order and justice?

"Then with regard to the so called resettled people who are living in desperation, they are faced with unresolved food and health issues."

Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) former MP Samantha Vidyaratne

The JVP in 2009 at the end of the war proposed for a plan to take the country forward. We proposed a map that will lead to a political solution for the ethnic issue. The main thing was to build national unity but the government didn't consider that proposal they also weren't willing to listen to us. They should have at least carried out a scheme of their making but they didn't do so.

They were short sighted and acted without direction. Therefore today a lot of issues remain unresolved with regard to the North and East people. Still many people are held in undisclosed locations as LTTE suspects. The Government has not made a database of these people; they are denying the rights of their family members of their whereabouts.

Then with regard to the so called resettled people who are living in desperation, they are faced with unresolved food and health issues. The government uses the media to show a brighter side of their plight.

Even though the war ended two years back the Emergency Regulations have not been lifted, the government uses it to crack down on the public. Therefore the government has clearly failed to resolve the basic problems. That is why the UN has been able to capitalize on its shortcoming and rally international support for war crimes.

The voice that is arising within the world and mounting opinion is also due to the short sightedness of the government, we see that the present government has no solution to the worries of the common man. If you look at the world today the capitalist government has no answer to the public problems. Even in our country we witness the same. Therefore we propose a change to our country and the world. The JVP will act accordingly and speak for the sake of the public. We will continue to pressurize the government to address these volatile issues if not give up.








Myself and senior columnist Sameera Rajab were honoured this week to meet His Royal Highness the Prime Minister.

We briefed him about our trip to Washington DC where we tried to explain to Americans the true situation in Bahrain.

During this busy six-day visit we met many very senior US officials, both from government and the private sector.

Most Americans are good listeners, keen to learn as much as possible. And one quickly realises from their honest questions that they are genuinely trying to fathom the depth of your case.

By contrast, when one approaches representatives of groups like the National Democratic Institution, whose sole raison d'etre is political negativity, you see the truly arrogant face of many Americans in its most hubristic form.

They blindly assume that whoever is anti-government must be right - similar to the attitude of Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.

I tried my best to explain that they were not a neutral body: "You do not listen, you do not accept argument, you do not properly examine our evidence, you deprive us of a platform to talk, you even control our questions! How then can you call yourselves arbiters of human rights? Your behaviour can only be described as absolute tyranny of the ugliest kind."

I told my American listeners that the philosophy of politics and politicians in every society should be to rid their communities of violence and anarchy. Unfortunately this did not happen in my country - simply because the majority of theocratic politicians who entered parliament were appointees of religious authorities with orders to be elected by their religious voters. None of them were popular figures, or possessed the basic talent or credentials to qualify them as peoples' men. Their goal was not to achieve rights, but to hinder moderation and progress.

A clear example of this came during a vote on whether to pass the crucial Family Law, which would have granted much-needed and long overdue powers to Bahraini women. These MPs shamefully rejected its implementation for their sect. What could one have really expected from such blinkered representatives? Is this subject not the challenge of our time?

Going back to the Washington trip, what an enlightening experience it was to attend a dinner at the Metropolitan Club with both think-tank intellectuals and the cream of society - including a law professor, representatives of Time magazine and Fox News, alongside many other leading figures. Their opinions and attitudes were totally different.

Also, when we visited the Woodrow Wilson International Centre For Scholars, one of the world's most respected intellectual institutions, its project director Mr Bradford J Minnick, after hearing what political turmoil had wreaked havoc in our nation, said: "You are all good ambassadors of your country".

I suggested to the Prime Minister that we have a lot to do to make the western world understand what is really happening in Bahrain, for many of its entrenched views have been tainted by reporters who come here for two days and think they have achieved doctorate knowledge of our country.

His Highness thought deeply, then said: "Remember what sort of reports they filed about Iraq and weapons of mass destruction? Did they find any? Were there any?"

He continued: "Foreign countries are only absorbed by their own interests. Because of this they do not hesitate to call white black and good, evil. What happened between February and March had nothing to do with rights, it was blatant preparation to topple a nation.

"They asked for a change of government, yet they were already members of our parliament! They could have raised all these issues in that majestic hall. But knowing that they would not get support from other members, and that the requests would fail a majority vote, knowing that this was not a public demand and that the nation was progressing well towards a better future, they revealed their true colours. They thought that by manipulating anarchic mobs they could force the state to surrender to their wishes. When Bahraini nationalists stood in their hundreds of thousands as one man at Al Fateh, only then did they realise that this country has its own public guardians.

"When this happened they did not hesitate to use any desperate measure to achieve their aims - from blocking roads to occupying Salmaniya Medical Complex and persuading people to strike. It was all an agenda that they thought would break the backbone of society and state."

He added: "We all helped build this country during our lifetimes. None of us, whether in government or private sector, or humble citizens can accept this or tolerate what has happened.

"You all know about the fate of so many innocent Asian expats. You know how many policemen were attacked and run over by cars. Do you think anyone could do that if inside them they were not harbouring criminal instincts?

"I thank the people of Bahrain. I thank the expats, whether Europeans or Asians, for standing united, defending this country as if it was their own."

Returning to the subject of Bahrain's image in the west, His Royal Highness said: "I leave those tasks to people like yourselves and your colleagues. My responsibility is not only to build an external image, but also most importantly internal peace and security. In this world only strong nations seem to be respected."

Certainly when fear and doubts were ruling everybody's minds, Khalifa bin Salman stepped in to protect the land, the legacy and the legality of our way of life.






LAST week witnessed two commemorative days, landmarks even, in the history of the struggle for recognition and rights of displaced people.

In the Middle East, scores of Palestinians, Lebanese and Syrians marched afresh to demand the right of statehood for Palestinian people last Sunday.

Observed throughout the Arab world as Nakba Day (meaning 'catastrophe'), it marks the day of the creation of the state of Israel in 1948.

Protests this year, commentators say, were different as events in the Middle East and North Africa energised demonstrators to demand their rights as a forceful collective group of people.

There was sporadic violence from both sides, but it didn't go without notice that 63 y