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Monday, May 23, 2011

EDITORIAL 23.05.11

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media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya



month may 23, edition 000839, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul


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



































  1. ON A WING

































While anticipated, the arrest of Member of Parliament and DMK supremo M Karunanidhi's daughter Kanimozhi is a milestone in the ongoing 2G Spectrum licensing scandal probe. Until recently, few had imagined that the arms of the law would reach this far. Even though former Telecom Minister and Mr Karunanidhi's blue-eyed boy, A Raja, had been incarcerated as a conspirator in the fraud, he was, after all, not family. That the Central Bureau of Investigation directly functioning under the Union Government in which the DMK is a major partner should implicate the party leader's daughter and get her arrested, is a big event. It should hopefully lead to a greater unravelling of the scam. Whether Kanimozhi is innocent, as she has been repeatedly claiming, is for the investigating agencies and the courts to decide, but the fact is that Kalaignar TV, in which she is a stakeholder, received funds from one of the beneficiaries of the scam. The CBI has maintained that the money was bribe given to the DMK-owned channel for securing the licence. The mere fact that she holds only a small 20 per cent stake in the enterprise does not absolve her of complicity. After all, as Mr Karunanidhi's daughter her influence in the channel would far outweigh the financial stakes she held, and it appears at the moment incredulous that she would not have known of the dubious funds injected into the business. Again, if the volume of the stake is the criterion, then one of Mr Karunanidhi's wives, Ms Dayalu Ammal, has a 60 per cent holding. Does that make her even more culpable? While facing trial as a co-conspirator Kanimozhi will have occasion to defend herself, but all eyes for now will be on the continuing relations between the Congress and the DMK. As part of the ruling UPA at the Centre, it would be naïve to assume that the ties will remain unaffected, although the aggrieved Dravidian party has gone out of its way to maintain that the alliance is still intact. Having lost power in Tamil Nadu the DMK will want to maintain a toehold at least in the Union Government, which is why it is reluctant to pull out of the arrangement, although it is under intense pressure from a large section of its workers to do so. But for how long can the harsh political realities tie the DMK's hands as it suffers one humiliation after another, is to be seen.

The Congress would, of course, like to take the credit for the development on the ground that it 'allowed the law to take its own course' even when an important ally was put in the dock. But the fact is that the party did everything to cover up the scam for two years after it was exposed in the public. It did not act against Raja — indeed, it allowed him to manipulate rules and dole out spectrum licenses at throwaway prices — until the courts got into the act and the accused Minister's continuation in office became untenable. It is entirely possible that had the Supreme Court not stepped in to monitor the investigation into the scam the Congress-led Union Government would have continued with its cover-up. With the apex court in the picture the inquiry and the prosecution have been insulated from the Government, which is why we are seeing so much positive action.







As Dominique Strauss-Kahn felt "compelled" to hand in his resignation, with "infinite sadness" as MD of the IMF following charges of sexual assault against a maid at a New York City hotel, there has been the expected scramble for his top post. Since the IMF was established in 1945, the position has traditionally been held by a European (Strauss-Kahn is French) but now 'experts' feel that it is time for a candidate from one of IMF's developing economy member-countries to take on the top job as these nations are expected to shape the 21st century and it is only fair that they have the opportunity to design its financial architecture. Which all sounds very fine and progressive but may not necessarily turn out that way. Here is why. The core issue is not about whether it's time for the White man to make way for a native but something that is a lot less political and a lot more human — this is about trust, about power and the abuse of both. When Dominique Strauss-Kahn or DSK as he is popularly known was appointed Managing Director of the IMF, its member-countries put their faith in him to do the right thing as millions across the world trusted him to act on their behalf in their best interests. To DSK's credit, he carried much of that heavy responsibility with aplomb as he guided the Fund and its member-countries through the international economic crisis following the 2008 financial meltdown. Yet if reports of his recent actions at Manhattan's Sofitel Hotel are true, he has no doubt betrayed the trust of the people by abusing the power of his high office. And for that, he will pay a heavy price: A strong contender for the 2012 presidential election in France, his chances of now moving into the Élysée Palace, even if he is absolved of all charges, have dimmed considerably. The question then arises, will a non-European be any less susceptible to such gross abuse of power? The answer lies in the near-rhetorical nature of the query.

Ethics, values and high morality apart, there are also other, almost plebian, concerns: The chief of an organisation such as the IMF must have a certain amount of political influence to be able to do his job. DSK, who ironically also heads the Socialist Party in France, surely had that and more (he was to run for President of a major European country after all) but it is hard to imagine that someone like Montek Singh Ahluwalia, who is touted to be one of the favoured candidates for DSK's position, can possibly wield similar clout. Several European leaders have argued that the position should go to someone from Europe as he will have to deal with the ongoing debt crisis over there. That makes sense.








There must be great meaning in this most impressive revolution via the ballot box. Could this then be the beginning of a new Bengal Renaissance?

What now my love,
Now that you've left me,
How can I live, through
another day
Watching my dreams, turn into ashes
And all my hopes, into bits of clay
Once I could see, once I could feel,
Now I'm numb-
I've become unreal.
—Gilbert Becaud — Carl Sigman

The much 'covered' song, "What now my love," was first written in French by Gilbert Becaud in 1961, not long before the Naxalites first appeared in rural Bengal, and was given its English lyrics by Carl Sigman. It mirrors, I think rather well, what the vanquished Left Front must be feeling today.

And this despite the fig-leaf of having garnered 41 per cent of the popular vote in the recent West Bengal Assembly election. But since the Left have had an innings lasting 34 years, everyone, except possibly some of the more committed amongst that 41 per cent, is quite dry-eyed to see the backs of their nice white bhadralok dhoties sitting in the Opposition.

The question, more importantly, now that Ms Mamata Banerjee and her 44-member-strong team of Ministers have been sworn in, significantly featuring members manning the oars from both the Trinamool Congressw and Congress, is where does West Bengal go from here?

The loaded question is reminiscent of one posed by a very rich, very shallow, young lady in literary fiction. One can almost imagine the memsahib, in summer dress and straw hat, ice tinkling in her glass, segued onto a New Alipur verandah in May 2011, but asking the question that first appeared in F Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby in 1925.

"What'll we do with ourselves this afternoon?" cried Daisy Buchanan, in her priceless little rich girl voice; "and the day after that, and the next thirty years."

The fact is, now that the citadel (Writer's Building) is won, Ms. Banerjee is faced with the riddles and enigmas of governance which are likely to be very different from the emotive and very successful poll cry of "Ma, Mati, Manush" that spearheaded her landslide victory.

'Didi' is saddled with empty, actually shockingly overdrawn, coffers, and a populace deluded and rendered toxic by their sense of entitlement nurtured over three decades of Communist propaganda. The people of West Bengal have become expert at the "cholbe na" brand of agitational politics, ruinous state sanctioned bandhs, and blaming anyone but themselves for all their ills. They have entrapped themselves into a stagnant time warp, but are paradoxically consumed by a corrosive envy, thinly disguised under the revolutionary clap-trap of 'class struggle'.

So much so that it has been, in the run up to Ms Banerjee's spectacular victory, hard to distinguish between the Communist cadre going on their Stalinist pogroms in the rural hinterland, and the Maoist 'struggle' in many of the very same places. But now, where will all this adrenaline go to ground?

Of course, Ms Banerjee will be vastly aided, unlike the Left Front, post Mr Prakash Karat's divorce from the Congress during UPA1, by the fact that the Congress is her Trinamool Congress's ally and UPA2 will, she must calculate, rule at the Centre till at least 2014.

But Didi is going to face a vast cultural problem. In fact, the mature contours of her own Ma Mati Manush philosophy is yet to unfold, and will be watched with great interest by all. It is likely to retain a number of populist features of course, but usually it is difficult to be both populist and successful at development.

On the plus side, much business and industry, the few that remain in the State and those who have run away but want to come back, including MNCs, will be interested in a relatively low-cost-to-do-business destination, with ample educated and intelligent manpower, given the prerequisites of peace and quiet to get on with their business.

But notwithstanding any sagacity Didi is able to manifest in this regard, the Leftist malaise that has set in over thirty plus years will not be banished overnight. Everyone in West Bengal has been made-over to a lesser or greater extent. And the unlearning could also take time, very much like our socialist politicians and bureaucrats, all over the country, post-1991, trying to adapt to the new liberal clarion call.

Didi herself may find it impossible to act for development if she senses that it may be politically inimical. It is obvious that she didn't take 19 years to get to Writer's Building only to vacate it in a hurry.

After all, over the last 34 years, every aspiration had to be couched in the anti-capitalist garb of essential dogma. So you find a rich Marwari or Punjabi, still the moneybags in Kolkata, as they were when it was a much fancier and glitzy Calcutta, averring most sincerely that whatever he thinks, speaks or does is with the sole objective of helping the poor.

But, in time, who knows? There is an essentially capitalist soul of Calcutta buried under the overlay of Stalinist Kolkata rudely stripped of its rich traditions. Perhaps it will re-emerge now and assert its joie de vivre much faster than one anticipates. Pre-independence Bengal and its capital, till 1905, was the centre of Britain's sub-continental empire stretching from Burma in the east to the Gulf in the west. It knew and forgot tricks that other places and people are yet to acquire!

The spirits of those storied merchants, zamindars, nawabs, maharajahs, courtesans, femme fatales, artistes, artisans, company factotums, beribboned military men et al still sigh in the decaying gullies of an evocative city that is over three centuries old, backed to the hilt, no doubt, by its knowing, slumbering, sensuous, countryside.

That once-upon-a-time Bengal, alive still in literature and film, divided ruthlessly by Curzon, did not give up either; not even through the two World Wars and Partition. And Calcutta was the city you had to call a city right up to the 1960s.

And then came the blight of the Naxalites, followed by the ultimately barren land redistribution of the Left Front, the flight of capital, of industry, then the grinding poverty, the soul destroying unemployment that gave the Communist dream its most poignant lie. And now here we are.

There must be great meaning in this most impressive revolution via the ballot box — in this demonstrated yearning for change. Could this then be the beginning of a Bengal Renaissance to rival all its previous incarnations?

We will have to listen hard to the essential spirit of Bengal, very much older than the mouldering paper heroes of the now lost dispensation, to divine this for sure.







Rather than wallow in self-pity, or worse live in denial, West Bengal's Marxists must look for new ideas, cleanse the organisation of malcontents and re-learn skills that they have long forgotten. West Bengal needed change, but it also needs an Opposition with a positive outlook

In the new era, ushered by the triumph of Ms Mamata Banerjee and the Trinamool Congress in the Assembly election, the CPI(M) could do with an infusion of fresh ideas. From the theoretical to the mundane, the CPI(M) possibly requires a serious workout to loosen up its stiff limbs, tone up its once famous organisation, re-learn skills that have been forgotten and acquire the suppleness that is possible even in old age.

The advice is obviously based on the belief that in West Bengal politics, the CPI(M) remains the 'other' and so needs to function as the constructive Opposition to the Government and an adroit political competitor. To ignore that responsibility would be as good as committing suicide.

The status of the 'other' or the alternative was curiously enough gifted by Ms Banerjee to the CPI(M); the persistence shown by hand delivering a personal letter of invitation to the swearing-in ceremony to former Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee was the best proof, if one were required, that the Trinamool Congress understands and respects the role of the Opposition.

Adjusting to the role of the Opposition with speed and efficiency would be the first confirmation that the CPI(M) can give itself that it does indeed have the capacity to be a sustainable political force. In other words, it needs to stop living in the past and begin living in the present.

Till it happened and the way it happened, there were many in the CPI(M) who privately felt that only an external shock, such as an election defeat, could produce the magnitude of reaction required to make changes within the party. Never during the fantasies of a necessary defeat had any of the party apparatchiks even remotely considered that the defeat could be so widespread. This was the complacency that the shrewd and wise Jyoti Basu had repeatedly warned the party about.

The complacency was the product of a bureaucratic, formula-driven organisation based politics that failed to anticipate the changed environment in which the 'concrete conditions' were enveloped. Nothing could be more concrete than grinding poverty, economic and gender exploitation, and the growing strength of capitalism. However, these conditions in West Bengal are embedded in a globalised economic world which bears no resemblance to the world of he 20th century. Till the CPI(M) can come to grips with the changed conditions, it cannot hope to address the concrete problems created by globalisation.

Raving as some of the CPI(M)'s leadership has done for months before the election and in the days after May 13 that a "movement" based in the rural areas that seeks to represent the problems, anxieties and concerns of the rural poor is the key to staging a recovery is a measure of the distance that separates the Left from the masses.

But like the clock, conditions in rural West Bengal have changed. Unless there is a strong and specific discontent, agitation that is not constructive will not find enthusiastic takers. Mere themes of poverty and exploitation have grown familiar, dull and boring.

Between 1977 and now, the CPI(M) has created no new peasant movement in West Bengal. After land reforms, distribution of pattas creating tenancy rights and empowering the rural poor through panchayats, the peasant movement has done very little for the poorest in the villages.

The wage rate has not been under political pressure in West Bengal since the 1990s. It reached a plateau and stayed put there, even though the number of landless peasantry increased during that period.

Why the Left avoided giving leadership to better wages for landless rural labour is self evident: Its leadership was co-opted by those who had an interest in keeping the rural poor, poor. Can the Left now go back to the millions of farm poor and offer them leadership for a movement for better wages? Can the Left now go back and give leadership to a movement for better implementation of National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme? Can the Left go back and give leadership to better implementation of the dozens of schemes and projects that would cushion the impact of inflation, under development and poverty?

The Left can try doing so, or it can get bogged down in exhausting political fights against the Trinamool Congress and so pretend that it is leading a meaningful movement. If it were to lead a movement for more equitable payment for work it would indeed return to its roots as a class based political movement.

It would be politically risky because it would be a real one instead of a faked up agitation against the new ruling party or the anti-people policies of the Congress. It would be a less fake agitation than the one against the US-India nuclear deal that bombed because the average rural and urban poor could not grasp what the fuss was all about.

The wave of support for ('poriborton' (change) is just that; a demand that changes must be made in the way West Bengal works. A narrow view of the idea of change is non-partisan governance; a broader view of the idea is an end to the status quo that pervaded life across the State.

If the masses felt that the same families and the same persons had stayed powerful for decades and across generations then it is certain that a status quo was at work. Since the CPI(M) established the status quo and the Trinamool Congress smashed it, the CPI(M) should grab the opportunity and start all over again.

As the Opposition, the CPI(M)'s work load is different. Having been saved the trouble of cleaning up the accumulated rubbish, a lot of it toxic waste, by the Trinamool Congress, the Marxists have a few simple things to do: Get real and get constructive.

It would be in everybody's interest to ensure that the minimum wages were not kept depressed through political intervention. It would be in everybody's interest to ensure that delivery of benefits to the rural poor improved. It would be in everybody's interest if investors felt encouraged by the absence of political conflict and infrastructure was allowed to be constructed without manufactured dissent.

What could be better for the CPI(M) than being saved the effort of cleaning the Aegean stables?






Dominique Strauss-Kahn, as the former IMF chief was known till he fell from grace, could have posed a serious challenge to French President Nicholas Sarkozy. But now victory is certain for Sarkozy in the presidential poll

You couldn't fall farther or faster than Dominique Strauss-Kahn. He was not only the head of the International Monetary Fund. Until last weekend, he was almost certainly within a year of being elected president of France. Now he awaits trial for attempted rape, a criminal sexual act, and unlawful imprisonment.

It is not possible to know for sure what happened in his $3,000-a-day luxury suite in the Sofitel hotel in Manhattan at lunch-time on May14, but the New York police took a chambermaid's allegations of forced oral sex and attempted rape seriously enough to pull Strauss-Kahn off an Air France plane just before it took off for Paris later that afternoon. Now the IMF is headless, and the French presidential race is transformed.

DSK, as he is known to the French media, is finished politically no matter what happens next. The events in New York have finally made the French media break their silence about his private behaviour, and what has come out has been damning.

The French media routinely ignore the kind of sexual liaisons that would ruin a politician's career if they became known in a more puritanical country like the United States. But DSK, it has become clear, was not just your average libertine.

In a recent interview Strauss-Kahn himself said that he faced three difficulties if he were to run for President: "Money, women and the fact I am Jewish." But the money, which comes from his heiress wife, didn't really put many people off, and although everybody knew he was Jewish he was still the most popular presidential candidate by far. (France's first Jewish leader was Leon Blum, 75 years ago.)

It is Strauss-Kahn's behaviour towards women that has done him in. Even if he is found innocent in the New York incident, he now also faces the claim that he tried to rape Tristane Banon, a novelist and journalist, in 2002.

Banon was persuaded not to pursue the issue at that time by her mother, Anne Mansouret, a senior figure in the Socialist Party who saw DSK as a rising star in the party. He was also a family friend. But Mansouret supports her daughter's claim that Strauss-Kahn attacked her sexually, acting, as Banon puts it, "like a chimpanzee in rut."

None of this would be getting much publicity if Dominique Strauss-Kahn were just another French businessman arrested abroad. Even if he were just the head of the IMF, it would be a one-day wonder. But DSK was the favourite to win the Socialist nomination for the presidency of France, and then to trounce the unpopular Right-wing incumbent, President Nicolas Sarkozy, in the elections next spring.

His departure from the race means that Mr Sarkozy, despite having the lowest approval rating for any French President ever, could yet snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Here's how it could happen.

The French Left, with no single strong candidate like DSK to unite behind, splits and puts up several rival candidates for the presidency. (Something similar happened in 2002.) With the Left-wing vote hopelessly split, the leading two parties in the first round of voting next April are Mr Sarkozy's Right-wing Union for a Popular Movement and the ultra-Right-wing National Front. (That happened in 2002, too.)

Neither the UMP nor the National Front has won even 20 per cent of the vote, but as the two leading parties they go through to the second round of voting in May. And since the great majority of French people loathe the National Front and think it unworthy of office, they hold their noses and vote for Mr Sarkozy, who wins 80 per cent of the vote despite being the least popular French President in history.

That's almost exactly what happened in 2002, when another Right-wing President, Mr Jacques Chirac, who was widely believed to be corrupt, won a second term in a run-off against the National Front's founder and then leader, Mr Jean-Marie Le Pen. (One of the posters in the second round of voting that time simply read: "Vote for the Crook, Not the Fascist!")

Similarly, Mr Sarkozy may end up in a run-off against Mr Le Pen's daughter Marine, who now leads the National Front. All the polls indicate that she could not possibly win such a contest. DSK's fall may mean Mr Sarkozy's survival — which is why more than half of the French, and 70 per cent of French socialists, believe that Strauss-Kahn was the victim of a plot.

That would not necessarily mean that he is innocent. Given his track record with women — three wives, dozens of affairs, and a chronic inability to keep his hands to himself — just presenting him with the opportunity to behave badly could have been enough. In our present state of knowledge, it's simply not possible to say with confidence what happened or why. But it's pretty safe to say that Mr Sarkozy will be the biggest beneficiary.

-- Gwynne Dyer is a London-based independent journalist.






Senator John Kerry has succeeded in getting back from Pakistan the remains of the damaged stealth helicopter. But that does not mean it's business as usual

The biggest achievement of Senator John Kerry's visit to Pakistan was the authorities' agreement to return the tail of the US stealth helicopter that was damaged during the raid that killed Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad on May 2.

The raid by an elite Army unit called Task Force 160 has further strained relations between the two countries. Pakistan complained of not being given prior warning of the raid, while American officials openly wondered whether their Pakistani counterparts had allowed Osama bin Laden to hide there.

Since the chopper's tail could potentially contain sensitive military technology, the United States did not want to leave it in Pakistan, fearing lest it be reverse engineered in China or elsewhere.

The tail will be returned to the United States, but not all US-Pakistan problems can be resolved so easily because they concern not just these two countries, but also US policy regarding a vast area from the Himalayas to Morocco.

Mr Kerry is a close associate of President Barack Obama and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. His Islamabad mission was part of a complex process of resetting relations with Pakistan, which have been in a tailspin for some time.

Apart from convincing Pakistan to relinquish the helicopter tail, the Senator worked with Pakistani officials on agreeing a visit by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. His visit also clearly indicated that the United States will not seek forgiveness for violating Pakistan's sovereignty on May 2.

At the same time, Mr Kerry assured Pakistan that next time, should there be a next time, the United States will be sure to warn the local authorities of any planned big game hunting.

Mr Kerry said he was there with Mr Obama's backing "to find a way to rebuild the trust between our two countries." Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani agreed that the two countries needed just that.

Much more was said at the final news conference and during the televised addresses given by Mr Kerry and Pakistani officials.

Regrettably on Tuesday, just as the atmosphere seemed to be clearing, Nato helicopters firing from Afghanistan wounded two Pakistani soldiers in a cross-border attack on the north-west of the country.

This is not the first incident of this kind. In general, reports about the US-led war on terror being fought in Afghanistan and partially in neighbouring Pakistan show that Nato troops kill virtually an equal number of the Taliban and Pakistani soldiers and civilians. Of course, they apologise later, but then go ahead and make the same mistake again.

And lastly, statements by Sen Kerry and Pakistani officials do nothing to clarify the key issue: The multi-billion-dollar American aid to Pakistan as an ally in the fight against terror.

Shortly after the announcement of Osama bin Laden's death in Pakistan I wrote that "the new bill requires the Congress to investigate the situation and cross all the t's before Pakistan is given any more American money."

Americans want to know who was hiding the world's most wanted man "800 yards from the Abbottabad military academy, Pakistan's equivalent of West Point or Sandhurst." They are unlikely to act until they get an answer, unless Ms Hillary Clinton reveals new information when (and if) she visits Pakistan.

When US troops pull out of Afghanistan in 2014, relations with Pakistan will change, and not necessarily for the better. But this is the best possible option. Sending more troops to fight the Afghan war for several more years, or worse still, invading northern Pakistan, would be even worse, because more innocent civilians could be killed.

US withdrawal from Afghanistan would also strengthen the positions of China and Iran in the region. Tehran is America's recurrent nightmare, as Presidents George W Bush and Mr Obama failed to find the correct approach in dealing with the Iranian authorities.

Furthermore, the United States is losing another key ally in the Broader West Asia, Saudi Arabia, in part over Iran. The situation is comparable to the conundrum with Pakistan: Whatever you do, nothing seems to work.

According to recent publications in the US media, the population of Saudi Arabia, much like that of Pakistan, doesn't like the United States, partly because of Israel and Palestine. These problems were further complicated when Iraq actually became an Iranian protectorate after the US pullout. The fear remains that the same could soon happen in Afghanistan.

On top of that, Washington has decided to provide moral and ideological support to the ongoing Arab revolts. In so doing, it has not necessarily made friends in Egypt or Tunisia, but it has definitely made enemies in Saudi Arabia, because pro-Iranian forces and other people the Saudis dislike are gaining strength thanks to the chaos of the Arab Spring.

This is why Saudi Arabia warned the US that they would have to do without each other. In plain English, this means that Saudi Arabia has not yet made a decision.

The above cannot be described as an apparent failure of US foreign policy in the region, because Washington has so far opted for the most pragmatic political solutions. Unfortunately, its choice is limited, as in the case of Pakistan, although crucially, the blame for that cannot be pinned on the current US Administration.

-- The writer is a senior political affairs commentator based in Moscow.










Embarrassing as they are, the recent goof-ups in the list of 50 most wanted fugitives handed over to Pakistan and the CBI's existing Interpol Red Corner Notices (RCNs) point to a deeper malaise. Of the 50 names given to Pakistan in March, two people have been traced back to India - while three on the RCNs are dead and another two lodged in jail. That our intelligence-security complex should be responsible for such glaring gaffes betrays a lack of professionalism. And it becomes especially damaging in the context of a diplomatic exercise intended to bring international pressure to bear on Pakistan for harbouring wanted terrorists. The government is already in the dock for inflation and corruption. There's reason now to doubt its capacity to fight terror as well.

Taking over after the
26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai, Union home minister P Chidambaram appeared to have instilled a sense of discipline in the country's internal security establishment. That barring the February 2010 German bakery blast in Pune no major terror attack has taken place under Chidambaram's tenure is creditable. However, upgrading security systems is a continuous process. And the recent gaffes prove that things are slipping. Clearly, very little coordination exists between the various security agencies. It is now known that sea-facing hotels in Mumbai were potential terror targets in 2008. The intelligence was available as it always is - in bits and pieces. But thanks to lack of coordination it was never translated into preventive action.

There is a dire need for a common intelligence database that allows all security agencies within the country to speedily exchange and update information. The CBI has complained of being treated like a post office for issuing RCNs. Some of these requests are 10-15 years old. Not only does this lead to duplication of work but also takes away resources from piecing together actionable intelligence. Given the situation in Pakistan, especially in the aftermath of
Osama bin Laden's killing, India can ill afford to be complacent.

Thorough internal security reforms are the only protection against future terror attacks. Post-9/11, numerous American security agencies were directed to talk to each other and share as much information as possible. This has held the US in good stead. A similar direction needs to guide the Indian security establishment. Accountability needs to be fixed. An end to the culture of passing the buck is the only way forward. It is also true that massive vacancies exist in security agencies across the spectrum. Such a manpower crunch needs to be remedied immediately if Indian citizens are to be kept safe.







US President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have always had a frisson of distrust between them. But the public falling out between them over the former's Middle East speech is startling even so. It is a pity, for it distracts from what was otherwise a carefully calibrated, forward-looking policy outlined by the president. He has done well to outline a programme of financial and other support for democratic reform in the Arab world. Arab democracy would dramatically reduce support for radical causes in the Islamic world. But it will also increase pressure for a just settlement of the Palestine issue. Netanyahu's rejection of Obama's call for a resolution of the Palestine question, that asks Israel to withdraw to its pre-1967 borders, fails to recognise this strategic reality.

What is being ignored is that Obama's suggestion is hardly novel. Previous administrations, both US and Israeli, have come to grips with the issue of pre-1967 borders, a necessary component of any peace roadmap. And crucially, Obama has not ignored the troubling issue of the Fatah-Hamas tie-up and the former's decision to approach the UN unilaterally this year to demand recognition of Palestine's statehood. He has made it clear that unless
Hamas recognises Israel's right to exist, no dialogue is possible. Both sides would do well to recognise that this measured approach is the only feasible one. Above all Obama - as well as the Europeans - must keep persistently and patiently pushing Israel to act in its own best interests. In the course of doing so Obama should announce a detailed American roadmap towards a two-state solution, broadly along the lines of the pre-1967 borders.







Nearly 230 million voters across southern and eastern India have delivered a tough, sharp message to Indian politicians: govern or go. As Congress and BJP leaders huddle over future strategy, it's clear that the 2014 Lok Sabha poll could be India's most decisive general election in two decades. Two key milestones on the way are the Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat assembly elections in 2012. The Congress will hope to make significant inroads in UP, a state where AICC general secretary Rahul Gandhi has invested political and personal capital. Conversely, the BJP will expect Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi to sweep the state for an unprecedented fourth consecutive term.

If the Congress does better than expected in UP and Modi holds Gujarat, the prospects of an early Lok Sabha poll will recede. The Congress will need the breathing space to take ownership of the anti-corruption Lokpal Bill and neutralise the virulent effect of the Supreme Court-monitored investigation into the 2G spectrum scam. The huge potential loss that looms over the Congress in Andhra Pradesh following Jaganmohan Reddy's challenge could be compensated in the next Lok Sabha poll if J Jayalalithaa's AIADMK eventually replaces the DMK in the UPA coalition and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee delivers a large cache of the state's 42 MPs.

In the south, the Congress is weaker than is apparent at first. It has just seven out of 234 MLAs in Tamil Nadu, 38 out of 140 MLAs in Kerala and 72 out of 224 MLAs in Karnataka. That's a grand total of 117 out of 598 MLAs (less than 20%) in these three important southern states. And Andhra Pradesh? If Jaganmohan Reddy repeats his byelection performance across the state in a putative midterm assembly poll, the Congress could be heading for a near-wipeout in Andhra. Can a national party be a bit player in four southern states which send 129 MPs to the Lok Sabha?

The Congress has already been reduced to a minority legislative presence in UP, Bihar, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa and Punjab (the eight states account for 234 Lok Sabha seats). It is a subservient partner in West Bengal with just 42 MLAs out of 294, has a wafer-thin majority in Goa and a prickly ally - the NCP - in Maharashtra.

Corruption swept aside the DMK and the Congress in Tamil Nadu. It could do the same to any party in any state. Mayawati's government, for example, could be damaged by the Noida land scam if wrongdoing is proved. It is precisely the opportunity the Congress, and especially Rahul Gandhi, in charge of UP affairs, had sought in order to take the high moral ground in the run-up to the crucial UP assembly poll. As an electoral weapon, corruption, the Congress now knows, cuts both ways.

Political reforms are a condition precedent to good governance. As UPA-II enters its third year in office today, seven political reforms must occupy the government's immediate attention. First, legislating in the monsoon session of Parliament a strong, pragmatic Lokpal Bill. Second, giving the CBI operational autonomy through an Act of Parliament. Third, implementing the 2006 Supreme Court directive on police reforms. Fourth, passing the Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill. Fifth, enacting legislation to disallow governors from holding political office after completing their gubernatorial assignment. Sixth, debarring candidates with criminal chargesheets from contesting elections. Seventh, enacting a progressive Right to Recall Bill which has far-reaching potential to reform our political system by putting elected representatives on notice: perform or perish.

In the eighth and decisive year of his prime ministership,
Manmohan Singh is already India's longest serving prime minister after Jawaharlal Nehru (17 years) and Indira Gandhi (16 years). But history does not judge leaders by longevity. It judges them on performance. A see-no-evil, do-no-evil technocratic PMO makes it vulnerable to malfeasance. That vulnerability lies at the heart of all recent scams, including 2G spectrum.

Companies and politicians who have abused the system in the 2G spectrum,
Commonwealth Games and other frauds must now receive exemplary, not cosmetic, punishment. Without a credible deterrent, a new cast of characters will repeat a new set of crimes. It is equally vital for the government to break the nexus between politics and big business and engage more frequently with the media. The relationship between the first and the fourth estate must be constructive but adversarial - and distant. Familiarity breeds complicity.

In a well-governed society, the relationship between the government and the citizen is clearly defined. The people are sovereign. Through elections, they delegate - for a limited period - the task of governing India to the cabinet. The lexicon of political discourse must concurrently change: ministers do not come to power, they take office; governments do not rule, they serve; the Congress is not the ruling party, it is the party in government. Language reflects mindset.

The prime minister must act on political reforms with the same seriousness he showed 20 years ago over economic reforms. As Edmund Burke, the 18th century British statesman famous for impeaching Warren Hastings, warned: "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."

The writer is an author and chairman of a media group.








Filmmaker Shekhar Kapur was a member of the jury at the Cannes Film Festival last year and this year screened an 81-minute documentary film, Bollywood The Greatest Love Story Ever Told, at Cannes. Kapur produced the film with Ronnie Screwvalla, and spoke about the movie and the idea of Bollywood with Faizal Khan:

What was the starting point for Bollywood The Greatest Love Story Ever Told?

Cannes festival director Thierry Fremaux said to me last year that there was much curiosity about Indian cinema and about the idea of what Bollywood is. He said people across the world are intrigued by this celebratory kind of Indian cinema with songs and dances. Can we make a film that celebrates the form of Bollywood including the music and dance, he asked. I said yes.

What's the idea of Bollywood for you and for Cannes?

It is a sense of exuberance and joy. Bollywood evokes huge interest abroad. But we are not generating enough content to get the international audience attracted to our cinema. The festival wanted to showcase the songs and dances of Bollywood. They wanted to show there is this kind of cinema that two billion people worldwide are attracted to, that they love. The international audience here wants to feel this experience of Bollywood.

How did you make the movie?

I got two directors - Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra and Jeff Zimbalist - on board. Mehra knows everything about Hindi cinema. Zimbalist, a documentary maker from the United States, knows nothing about the songs and dances. One director was in search of the content and the other in search of what that content means.

Bollywood defies any analysis. Therefore, we wanted the Cannes audience to feel the same sense of celebration that Indian audiences feel when they see a Hindi film. I decided to make a film in which the form itself explains the content. I have seen some excellent documentaries made on Hindi cinema, but none of them has translated into a theatrical experience. In Bollywood The Greatest Love Story Ever Told, the lyrics of the songs of Hindi films are telling you the social and cultural history of
India. The narrative of the film is embedded in the lyrics of the songs and the dialogues of the very few films we have included in the documentary. The audiences themselves can interpret it rather than be told.

How challenging was selecting footage for the documentary?

A lot of archival footage was very bad. Producers hadn't taken care of their films. We couldn't also find out who owns the rights to the films. So we removed footage from those films. We also had to restore parts of some essential films that had been damaged. The sound wasn't good enough in some clips and it had to be equalised. The work started five months ago and we finished in time for Cannes.

Is there a need for Bollywood to move beyond song and dance?

Song and dance is a star in a Bollywood film. A great music track is like a star you don't have to pander to. There has to be a change in the funding for the films to move beyond songs and dances. The songs and dances are a product of this funding exercise. If you can't get funding without songs and dances, you will put them in the film. For the time being, everybody is enjoying the songs and dances. But, yes, of course, there is the need to go beyond the songs and dances. I think we are doing it.







It's that time of the year again when people will soon exclaim, "Rain is falling!" as they always do when the monsoons approach and the first showers soothe city dwellers. The words are so commonly heard that few find anything wrong with them - although a stickler for good spoken language may butt in with, "Just say, 'It's raining!'" But how many people around do care for 'correct English', if there is such a thing at all? Not many, right? So we get an opportunity to listen to such amusingly wonderful expressions as, "Fun came at our last night's dinner party!" and "Problem became at the picnic", in conversations around us.

Although most Indians do aspire to learn to read, write and speak in the language which our colonial rulers brought to our shores, we have taken it forward to have our own regional versions such as 'Hinglish' and 'Bonglish' to suit our tongues and minds! Our native tongues ruled our minds - we continue to think in our own language and then translate our thoughts to English - and voila, we have our own dialectic concoction to serve the patient listener who can devour it all with great amusement. So we have our relatives yelling at wedding ceremonies, asking people to assemble so that they can "remove photos"! All you can really do when you hear that is get together and laugh for the picture - and perhaps thank your stars the person did not outdo your friend in school who announced he wished to do some "photo-take-out-ing"!

All these instances remind me of the advice from our school teacher, Yellur-Miss, to think in English to improve our English language skills - and not in our mother tongue! Spot on, one would say; a great deal of improvement could come from refraining from thinking in our regional languages and then translating it word by word into the language we speak in. If only we all did that, however, wouldn't we have missed so many humorous gems we come across today? Such as, "My cycle went to robbery," translated word by word from the Marathi "Mazhe cycle chorila gela." How often do we say and write, "We came to know", when actually, "We got to know", or "We learnt", would be just right? A fellow blogger is quick to add, "We came by walk", and "Don't speak in front of my back", are all instances of such translation gaffes. But what takes the cake is, "It came in our hearing", from the Hindi, "Sunne mein ayaa".

My friend from Kolkata adds some eastern flavour to the Indian stew that is brewed in regional minds. In that part of our country, one understands, people usually "eat water" while the rest of us just drink it. I hope they eat whisky and beer too, one asks only to assure oneself of a hospitable stay when calling upon friends and relatives who have now settled there! We can be certain of being served all these delightful variations in the regional English dialects garnished with pronunciation preferences in states like Gujarat where 'wrap' can be confused with 'rape'. And as a tweet says, the letter 'V' is redundant in the state of Bengal where Mamata-di is celebrating her 'Bhictory'! What say, fun came, no?







These days for a government to set a West Asian foreign policy is like trying to simultaneously shoot several moving targets. The region is in permanent and unpredictable flux. Former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak was the last Arab ruler anyone would have expected to be now struggling to stay out of jail. Sparsely populated and oil-rich Libya is the last place anyone would have predicted a protracted civil war. And Bahrain's emergence as the fulcrum of the unsteady power equation in the Persian Gulf probably still surprises this tiny dot of an emirate.

The United States, for better or worse, still remains the most powerful external power for the part of the world that stretches from Morocco to Oman, Turkey to Sudan. Which is why President Barack Obama's latest speech towards the region, particularly its dominant Arab Muslim population, is so important. Such speeches, by definition and especially in times of rapid change, will be short on specifics. But he did understand three things. One, that the Cold War status quo of dictatorships and unfinished bits of history, most notably the Palestinian issue, could no longer continue. Two, that the so-called jasmine revolts have changed Arab politics in ways that it would be self-defeating for outsiders to attempt to roll back. Three, liberal societies do not spontaneously come into being. They need support from other liberal societies. The fundamental development has been the reawakening of the Arab Street. What the US did this time, which it did not do in the past, was to not get in the way of the uprising. Many governments, including India, have been wary of what these nascent democracies will produce in the years to come. Conservative Islamicist parties, like the Muslim Brotherhood, are expected to be major beneficiaries of elections and the recent attempts at Palestinian political unity. Their past record of political violence and their rhetorical support for terrorism unnerve many governments. Mr Obama, in a curious echo of George W Bush before him, argues that America's faith in democracy is such that it is prepared to take the gamble that democracy will, eventually, create the sort of stable societies that the world has long wished for.

The US will continue to place hard-nosed strategic interests over moral ones in some cases. Saudi Arabia was notably missing in his speech. But the scope and number of these interests is clearly much reduced and confined largely to the Persian Gulf. Mr Obama has modified one major US interest by endorsing the idea that Israel return to its pre-1967 boundaries – an indicator that things in West Asia have changed to the point that even as close a US ally as Israel can no longer depend on the past for guidance. Mr Mubarak has already found that out. And others will as well in a Brave New West Asian World.




If there is one thing worse than finding that your superstructure is sagging, that your skin is splotchy, that you are several kilos overweight and that you look like you have escaped from the haunted prairie, it is the sight of a celebrity who tells you that he or she is just so perfect without trying. How often we have seen those pukeworthy interviews in which the giga-gorgeous celeb will tell us that her beauty and willowy frame are all thanks to good genes and a fantastic metabolism. Where were we when that was being dished out? Then we will hear that the secret to eternal youth and beauty is eight litres of water which for most of us would mean many trips to the can and very possibly the pink slip for falling back on our work.

Some sneaky celebs go as far as to say that the washboard abs and sleek legs are all the result of running around after their children. Or that they owe their cover-girl looks to inner happiness. Well, we don't believe them. No one looks good without a great deal of hard work on the exercise front and some rigorous shunning of those calorific treats. The crème-brulee addicted can forget about metabolism burning up the calories or adding a sheen to their complexion.

No, the dictum you are what you eat will come frighteningly true. The truth is that you too can look good if you thump the treadmill, shun many categories of food, look at alcohol from a distance and go to a good plastic surgeon. But do this on the sly so when asked about the secret of your fetching personage, you too can pass it off as god-given or owing to very little effort on your part. Have you wondered whether daily edit writing would be enough to knock off a few calories and create an inner glow? We're not telling.






The role of the US forces in Abbottabad raises an important question: from where do governments derive the authority to kill people? It has been argued that it is lawful to kill 'enemy combatants' in a war and, therefore, it was well within the power of the US commandos to kill Osama bin Laden as he was an enemy combatant. However, law scholars are divided on this issue. This underscores the need for more information from the US about all aspects of the killing.

Bin Laden was reportedly unarmed at the time of his killing and if this is true, the question remains as to what was the authority under which he was killed. A related question is whether it is lawful to kill an enemy combatant who could be forced to surrender?

While international law allows for the legitimate exercise of the right to self-defence and the use of force against State and individuals, one of the questions in this case would be whether bin Laden was armed or whether there was a threat of use of force by him or his associates leading to the exercise of self-defence in the operations?

The larger question is whether the US became the judge, jury and executioner in this case denying him an opportunity to surrender, which would have involved capturing bin Laden and putting him on trial. There is no doubt that a trial could have posed a lot of difficulties for the US. There would have been international scrutiny of the process, but it is also possible that valuable information could have been obtained from him.

While the death penalty as a form of punishment continues to be used in the US as a method of achieving justice, there is an emerging global trend of abolishing the death penalty. It is useful to note that out of the 193 independent states that are UN members (or have UN observer status), 95 countries (49%) have abolished the death penalty: 41 (21%) have the death penalty in both law and practice; 8 (4%) retain it for crimes committed in exceptional circumstances as in times of war; 49 (25%) permit its use for ordinary crimes, but have not used it for at least 10 years.

While the question of bin Laden's killing is being debated for its conformity to international law, there is a need for the international community to seriously reflect upon the relevance of the death penalty as a form of punishment for any crime, including the most egregious of crimes against humanity.

All tribunals and courts established by the United Nations do not have the authority to impose the death penalty. It would have been more appropriate for underscoring the US's commitment to international law, if bin Laden was captured and put on trial as opposed to being summarily executed. The world should get more accurate information about the use of the right to self defence leading to his killing in these circumstances.

C Raj Kumar is the Vice Chancellor of OP Jindal Global University and Dean of Jindal Global Law School. The views expressed by the author are personal.





Iran's officially recognised "spiritual leader" today may be Ayatollah Khomeini, but for hundreds of years before the current establishment of mullahs and ayatollahs, Iranians of all creeds have looked to another spiritual leader: Jalal ad-Din Rumi. While this 13th century Persian Sufi poet is known in much of the West as 'Rumi', he is referred to more affectionately in Iran as 'Mowlaana', or the Master. Among Iranians, he is a spiritual guide and guru whose words hold unmatched moral authority. Over 700 years after his death, it's nearly impossible to spend a day walking around any Iranian city, suburb or village and not hear his echo. His words live on in everyday parlance — no matter one's station, religion or occupation, everyone in Iran knows at least a handful of Rumi's poems by heart. They are taught in classrooms as an essential part of the basic curriculum. But more than that, they are learned in homes, cafes, bazaars, parks and houses of worship. No place is beyond this poet's influence.

And there is no better way to understand that influence than through Rumi's own verse, although it often defies easy translation. Still, English speakers have a wonderful resource in understanding Rumi — and Iran — through the translations of Coleman Barks, including the following:

"Today, like every other day, we wake up empty and frightened. Don't open the door to the study and begin reading. Take down a musical instrument. Let the beauty we love be what we do. There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground." Understand this poem, and you will understand the soul of Iran — not just the role of religion or dogma, but the also the spiritual role of faith, love and beauty.

While Iran is a Muslim majority country and Shi'ism is the official State religion, Iran is not defined by Islam. Rather, it is defined by its peoples, who are Muslims, Jews, Baha'is, Christians, Agnostics and Atheists. Iran is the birthplace of two of the world's great religions: Zoroastrianism and Baha'ism. It is home to millions of Muslims, but also to the largest Jewish population in any Muslim majority country. So, Iranians know very well that there are at least hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.

Nevertheless, the Iranian regime maintains an intractable identification with its interpretation of Islam, and as such, it has played a strong role in shaping the Iranian people's view of both Islam and of religion in general. Because of the regime's use and perversion of Islam for political purposes, many Iranians have been turned off by religion — especially among the youth who represent the vast majority of the population.

As young Iranians, we have seen the government's persecution of Baha'is and Jews and its failure to provide equal rights to women, and we realise that this regime has forgotten its roots. It has forgotten the words of the great Master, Mowlaana. Instead of taking down a musical instrument to treat the fear, despair and emptiness that have consumed so many young Iranians (particularly since the 2009 elections), Iran's leaders have brought out batons, bullets and teargas. As a result, people have continued to turn away from organised religion, particularly from Islam, because they have seen how the regime is manipulating their faith to oppress the populace and suppress dissent.

Nevertheless, there is a spiritual unity in this growing collective repugnance for religion — it is encouraging us to unite as Iranians of all backgrounds and beliefs under the most basic and universal spiritual teachings that Rumi and other Sufi poets captured so brilliantly: the notion that music, art, poetry, and, above all, love are our greatest spiritual resources. In Iran, such resources are more abundant than oil, saffron and pistachios combined, and they represent the truest faith of the masses.

Melody Moezzi is is an Iranian-American writer and attorney The views expressed by the author are personal This is part of the Religion and Public Space series in collaboration with the UN Alliance of Civilisations and its Global Experts project.





In the 1920s, a young Tamil girl sang and starred in her school musical. It was, ostensibly, a private event with few outsiders. Yet so exceptional was her singing that Swadesamitran ran her photograph and wrote about the event. Seeing that photo in the newspaper, her household "was appalled" for, as the music historian V Sriram writes, "good, chaste women never had their photographs published in papers".

Today, this seems like an archaic, if minor, prejudice based on gender: one fostered by a conservative, ill-educated, economically stagnant and culturally insular society of the 1920s. There are more vicious examples of gender discrimination now, from dowry deaths to multiple rapes in Delhi. Yet the census of 2011 reveals the worst discrimination of all: there are even more "missing women" in India than Amartya Sen first realised, 22 years ago.

The 2011 Census revealed that for the under-six age group, there were only 914 girls for every 1,000 boys. This child-sex ratio, or CSR, was 927 girls per 1000 boys in the 2001 Census; in fact the CSR has declined in 28 of the 35 states. The CSR in India suggests things are getting worse for girls and women in India, even while the economy is getting better.

More alarming is the inverse correlation between declining child-sex ratio and increased economic growth. In Gujarat, where economic growth is much heralded, this shortfall of girls is seen starkly between backward and non-backward districts, with the former at 923 and the latter at 873. Ironically, regions with large tribal communities, in general, have better CSRs than the high-growth areas of the country. Alarmingly, states like Tamil Nadu, which were historically gender agnostic, have begun to show a marked decline in CSRs as well.

We need not belabour the question of why this is so: socio-economic pressures, dowry and the greater economic value of being male, explain our disgraceful prejudices against girls. But what can we learn from these depressing census figures? First, rising education in itself is not enough. We're becoming more literate and less gender-friendly.

Second and sadly, increased female education is neither a sufficient nor necessary condition to ensure stable gender ratios. Numerous studies had led us to believe that educating girls could transform society. Not true in this respect, alas.

Third, income growth can simply increase access to technological tools that perform selective abortions. Richer people aren't necessarily wiser or more decent.

Fourth, legal restrictions haven't been effective. We already have the Preconception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act, 1994, but it hasn't improved the the CSR. Worse, as home secretary GK Pillai acknowledged: "Whatever measures that have been put in over the last 40 years have not had any impact on the child sex ratio." Fifth, India's modernisation has worsened the practice of dowry rather than reduced it. Professor Siwan Anderson at the

University of British Columbia has argued that caste continues to perpetuate dowry because India's endogamous marriage practices restrict the supply of marriage partners — and as a result efficient matching of individuals doesn't occur. Caste, in a sense, acts as a barrier in the free market of marriage. Then dowry becomes a method to bid for mates, signal social status and perpetuate an arms race to reach the top of the pecking order. Free enterprise has unshackled the economy, but the beneficiaries are operating in a restricted marriage market, limited by caste. They just demand higher dowries now.

What does the shortage of girls mean for us as a society? In economics, when the supply of a good is limited, the 'price' of that good rises if and only if there exists an orderly and legal market to transact. In its absence, you get blackmarketing, violence, theft and trafficking to possess that good. It doesn't take much imagination to connect the dots and recognise what this means when one gender is in short supply. Cases of polyandry are being reported from Haryana. In China, where the one-child policy has created a similar imbalance, there are horrifying stories of predatory bands of young males on the prowl for scarce women.

Can policy-makers do something about it? Governments can't usually alter cultures, but laws can be creatively used to help. How about tax breaks for mixed-caste marriages? Grants for having female children? If girls are undervalued because they don't earn as much as men, countervailing policies can be made. Since our growing economy unduly favours men, there is a role for government to help create employment opportunities for women. Mandating benefits for gender-neutral employers, or ensuring legal protection for female staff, can increase women's employment opportunities and in turn contribute to increasing the economic 'value' of a girl child. 

Changing CSR numbers might seem like a 21st century fad, but in fact it's consonant with our ancient wisdom. The Manu Smriti, no less, proclaims: "Where women are not revered, all rites are useless".

As for that young girl who was once chided for getting her photograph published in the newspaper — in 1998 she went on to be awarded the Padma Vibhushan, India's second highest civilian award.  She was DK Pattammal, the grand matriarch of Carnatic music. As her life exemplifies, in every seed, there is nestled a mighty banyan — awaiting its opportunity to bloom.

Shashi Tharoor is a Lok Sabha MP and Keerthik Sasidharan is a New York-based investment banker. The views expressed by the author are personal.







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

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

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

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






West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has kept for herself several crucial portfolios, including control of the home ministry and land. That is perhaps a hopeful indicator that the new CM realises that the dangerous mix of state over-reaction and backward-looking negationism that has scared industry away from Bengal must end. Another such sign is, perhaps, that among her first acts was to address the knotty problem of land acquisition at Singur, paralysed between 2006 and 2008 by protests that eventually led Tata Motors to shift production of the Nano "people's car" to Gujarat.

Banerjee has made her initial steps clear. Her cabinet has taken the decision that 400 acres will be returned to the farmers from whom it was compulsorily purchased. This will not be easy; some farmers will not be able to recover the exact plots they had before, but the government has indicated that any further compensation will be at market rates. There will also remain various legal tangles that will have to be sorted out. It is to be hoped, however, that one of these complications will not be action from the Tata group. Indeed, it is worth highlighting that what Banerjee has in essence said is that, of the 997-acre plot of land, less than half is being returned. On the remaining 600 acres, the Tatas are "welcome", she said, to put up a plant. It is to be hoped that the Tatas will seize this opportunity to cash in early on the growth story that West Bengal could well become in the coming years.

If Tata Motors takes this land, it will not be their smallest plant in terms of acreage. (It is worth noting, though, that at the time Singur was sanctioned, it would have been their largest.) Yet even Telco's historic Jamshedpur location has only 800 acres, and much of it is a sprawling, leafy township. The simple truth is that, in a time when the conversion of land from agricultural to industrial use has become a political hot potato, it is necessary for our manufacturing companies to learn to be as stingy with it as possible. Maximalist demands for land have become politically untenable. In many ways, the Tata group has always looked to the future. They should, too, about land — and take Banerjee up on her offer.






Three months of protests, bloodshed and stalled peace deals in Yemen could soon come to a close as President Saleh readies to pen the agreement that will transfer power from his hands to the opposition. The terms of his exit ensure that actions committed during his 32-year, iron-fisted rule remain immune from prosecution. The challenge now falls upon the opposition — the Joint Meeting Parties — to ready for elections in 60 days.

It is difficult to picture a Yemen without Saleh, but the groundwork to his departure has been worked upon since November 2005. It is then that the Joint Meeting Parties, a mosaic of political groups and factions — composed of socialists, Nasserists, Zaydi intellectuals and Islamists — formally entered the political arena. Now, during this transitory phase, it is they who will lead. But the political landscape they will preside over is volatile and wrought with tribal allegiances that could trump parliamentary politics. Saleh's policy has often been one of divide-and-rule, through which he has alienated both Yemen's north and its south. And, besides the growing presence of the al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) franchise, Yemen faces an existentialist dilemma: the southern secessionist movement and the northern Houthi civil war. The JMP's first task will be to bring these warring factions to the table. They have in the past displayed willingness to talk to factions within the JMP.

In his last speech, Saleh raised the prospect of a worsened Yemen upon his departure as the AQAP threat looms. Naturally AQAP's presence is worrying and resources that have been used to fight the insurgencies will need to be better appropriated. Under Saleh's rule, the east of the country, AQAP's sanctuary was virtually unpatrolled. This needs to change for Yemen's, and the world's, security.






In an unusual instance of proactive investigation, the National Commission for Women says that women were stripped, paraded, and molested by security forces, and that rape was a distinct likelihood in Bhatta-Parsaul. Given that no woman from these villages has, so far, stepped forward to make that claim, the NCW must weigh its words very carefully. All too often in our politics and public culture, talk of rape is wielded as a point-scoring weapon, trivialising the deep injury and psychological battering of rape.

Rape is not an easy matter to ascertain, and not just in India, where it is very reluctantly reported and there remains a patriarchal overhang in the manner in which the woman in question is portrayed. It takes patient investigation, in many cases, to sift through the euphemisms and understand the extent of the aggression. We are still a long way from creating, by example, a climate where women can say they are confident that the system will not take their allegations lightly, that the inquiry will respect their individual dignity, listen to them and work with their testimony, instead of hurriedly jumping to conclusions. In the continuum of sexual violence, rape is the worst kind of calculated assault on a woman's bodily integrity. It is violence, and yet it is more than violence. This is not to buy into the patriarchal idea that sexual crime carries an unspeakable shame for the victim (that is, first you burden women with inflated associations of izzat and honour, constrict their lives, and then you further shame them if this izzat is assaulted) — but rape is clearly intended to cause both physical pain and psychological violation. It is an attempt to degrade, in the most extreme way possible.

It is worrisome, therefore, that the NCW has jumped into the Bhatta Persaul controversy by levelling allegations of rape so casually. By casting its net wide and giving every appearance of invoking an inquiry as a fishing expedition, it plays to the same stigma — of a public trial — that we are trying to defeat. Rape is a very grave matter. It must not be used as a tawdry rhetorical tool.








The Chinese government's obsession with maintaining social stability is unmatched anywhere else in the world. To forestall a possible, but unlikely, Chinese version of the "jasmine revolution", Beijing has put its internal security force on full alert, detained human rights activists, clamped down on the media and tightened the control of the Internet.

For most outsiders, such obsessive behaviour is inexplicable. After all, China is no tin-pot dictatorship. It has the world's largest communist party, which is in turn backed by the world's largest military force (in terms of the number of soldiers) and a mammoth internal security apparatus that consists of half a million paramilitary personnel, an unknown number of secret police, and several million policemen. Compared with personalistic autocrats in developing countries, the Chinese Communist Party is by far the most organised, effective and capable ruling elite.

Yet, even with no organised opposition challenging its rule and the majority of the Chinese population apparently content with their ever-rising standard of living, the Chinese Communist Party simply cannot relax. It devotes an inordinate amount of money and manpower to the defence and preservation of its political monopoly. Based on official statistics, the expenditures on "domestic stability maintenance" (mostly law enforcement) last year amounted to slightly over $100 billion, exceeding the national defence budget. While this figure strikes many inside China as excessive, it actually is not because in most countries law enforcement spending typically is greater than the national defence budget (the only exception is the United States, which spends more on national defence than law enforcement).

The trouble with China, of course, is that it is no ordinary country. In all likelihood, official expenditures on the so-called domestic stability maintenance operations vastly understate the actual amount spent on protecting the regime security of the Communist Party and social peace. For example, it is unlikely that the official numbers include off-the-book spending on Internet censorship. The budget for China's domestic secret police is most likely classified, hence excluded from the official data. Local governments in China routinely spend considerable amounts of money to maintain social stability. Their expenditures range from paying retirees a modest stipend to serve as members of neighbourhood surveillance teams to appeasing protestors with cash compensations. On average, more than 100,000 mass protests occur in China each year. Even a small percentage of them require local governments to offer cash compensations in order to resolve the disputes, and the sum can add up very quickly. The official expenditure data may not include additional spending on security operations in China's restive border regions, such as Xinjiang and Tibet, where ethnic tensions have risen dramatically the past few years, requiring the central government to deploy additional security forces and increase budgetary outlays for these areas.

The non-monetary costs of maintaining social stability, though impossible to measure, are likely to be significant as well. Given the frequency of riots, protests and social disturbances, local officials must devote a great deal of time to putting out such fires, getting distracted from their other responsibilities. In addition, because social and political protests tend to occur on sensitive dates, such as October 1 (the National Day), June 4 (the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown in 1989), the convening of the national parliament in mid-March, and the visits by top Western leaders to China, Beijing mobilises its entire bureaucracy to beef up security measures, such as posting additional security guards outside government offices, deploying more policemen and paramilitary forces in major cities, and imposing tighter restrictions on the media and civil society.

Finally, such stability-enhancing measures are costly in terms of China's international image. Despite its arrival as a global economic powerhouse, China's behaviour at home has been a constant source of controversy in the eyes of the international community. Heavy-handed tactics against dissidents, human rights activists and ethnic minorities make Beijing look insecure, repressive, and unattractive. Without doubt, locking up Liu Xiaobo, China's Nobel peace prize laureate, in jail has done inestimable damage to its international image.

The bad news for Beijing is that the sources of instability in China are structural and are certain to persist. Obviously, the lack of democracy and the rule of law not only denies the Communist Party fundamental political legitimacy, but also deprives the Chinese government several possible institutional channels for managing the conflict between the Chinese state and society. At the moment, aggrieved Chinese citizens have no effective legal recourse to fight official abuse of power and injustice, leaving mass protest and riots the only available options. Ethnic tensions are also unlikely to abate, since the Chinese government has opted for a strategy that combines accelerated economic development with enhanced political control in unstable regions such as Xinjiang and Tibet. If anything, this strategy temporarily rules out a lasting political solution (which will be based on respect for local autonomy and cultural rights) and will probably fuel even more radical separatist sentiments. China's economic development model is generating its own destabilising dynamics as well. Because of its inadequate social safety nets, regressive social and tax policies and preferences for state-owned enterprises, the current Chinese model of development is rapidly expanding the income gap. Even top Chinese leaders publicly admit this is China's most serious challenge in the years ahead.

The high costs of maintaining social stability and defending the Communist Party's monopoly of power have ramifications for India. While India may lack China's world-class infrastructure, it has a degree of systemic political resilience China simply cannot match. Political leaders in India may have to devote considerable resources to fighting terrorism, Maoist insurgency and ethnic separatism, but none of them are worried about getting overthrown by their own people. The kind of politically-inspired mass riots and protests that occur in China daily, I am told, simply do not happen in India. Courts and elections provide better alternatives.

In the long term, China's capacity to project power abroad will be severely constrained by its domestic political security needs. In comparison, India will be saddled with a much lighter burden. So in handicapping which country will do better in the coming decades, let us take into account the high costs of maintaining social stability in China.

The writer is a professor of government at Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, California







The alleged "maid in Manhattan" incident will haunt Dominique Strauss-Kahn. After calls from international leaders to step down as a result of the incident, including from US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, DSK's resignation on Thursday came as little surprise.

The Fund's status changed in DSK's tenure, its hand forced by the global financial crisis. Lending grew seven-fold, more open-minded research was done, and the IMF became a key international actor due to the crisis and consequences such as the sovereign-debt nightmare in Europe. Despite the measures DSK took to stop the fund from becoming obsolete, it is clear that credibility-inducing reform is needed.

The IMF states its objectives are "working to foster global monetary cooperation, secure financial stability, facilitate international trade, promote high employment and sustainable economic growth, and reduce poverty around the world". But its main problem in doing this is a credibility crisis, particularly in the eyes of emerging market economies or EMEs. This stems from EMEs being under-represented in the IMF's voting structure, as well as a perception that the IMF has different conditionality standards for different parts of the world: compare favourable lending to Eurozone Europe with conditions on Latvia that caused a 25 per cent fall in output, or with the more strident terms given in the 1997 East Asian crisis. Until this is overcome, the IMF is likely to stay beleaguered, unable to foster the real international economic governance and cooperation needed in a globalised age.

The problem in not being able to foster this necessary governance cooperation is that in the aftermath of crises, when the spirit of forced cooperation declines, trade, far from being seen as mutually beneficial, becomes a zero-sum game. Nations push domestic agendas to the detriment of international sense, as seen in currency wars in which they competitively devalue to boost growth, causing massive capital-flow volatility.

As the dollar continues its decline and China hangs on steadfastly to a mercantilist currency policy, currency wars will only get worse, ceteris paribus. Until the IMF fosters a real cooperative attitude by getting EMEs who represent the future fully involved, real economic stability remains a dream.

Although replacing DSK with a non-European head would be a useful first method in regaining credibility, unfortunately for EMEs this is unlikely. Although financial weight is adjusting east, accentuated by the global financial crisis, the job will probably remain in Europe. It's probably for the best that Montek said he's happy where he is.

There are other ways though, of regaining credibility, and recent reforms show the IMF is capable of change, even if the pace thus far has not exactly been jet-speed. Voting share reform occurred: 6 per cent of shares will be shifted from over-represented countries to under-represented ones. While China will become the third biggest individual shareholder, India, Brazil and Russia all enter the top ten.

The research department, formerly a bastion of laissez-faire, showed the biggest progress though: papers are now produced agreeing with the use of capital controls in some developing countries in certain situations, while previously sacrosanct inflation targets in central banks are questioned for being too low, and thus risking post-crisis recovery.

Good steps, but only a start. First things first: DSK's successor. The important thing in this is not necessarily that he or she be from an EME, but that he or she be a reformer. Having a reformer as managing director would help to allay EMEs' fears, and build credibility that the IMF would no longer act like an old boys' club in spirit, even if it would still technically be one.

Additionally, to help push through key decisions, the current US veto on supermajorities (majorities where 85 per cent of votes are needed to pass something) should be gotten rid of, while further adjustment to make the executive board representative is needed, given the board's level of influence. Additionally, in building the IMF as a credible tool that EMEs can use, on their part, EMEs need to hedge differences. Currently very heterogeneous, any lone action taken by an EME is easily offset by concerted advanced country proposals, given the votes between developed nations and EMEs are split 60:40.

Building credible international institutions of any kind is always difficult; but in an international economy, a strong institution in which sovereign nations have faith is important. Clearly the disillusionment with the IMF that currently exists is a worry. It is essential that DSK's successor is capable of taking up the mammoth challenge ahead.

The writer is based in Delhi







All through 1958, China's growing challenge to this country remained broadly below the level of awareness ('And the slide towards sundown', IE, April 9). Only in March 1959 did it burst into the open amidst high drama that grabbed the whole world's attention. On the last day of that month the Dalai Lama — fleeing Lhasa because of Beijing's brutal suppression of Tibetan revolt — entered India at Tawang and was immediately granted asylum ('Anniversary of Exile', IE, March 6, 2009). The huge welcome given to him by the Indian people added to Chinese fury. Nehru's clear policy of strictly barring the Dalai Lama and his followers from any anti-Chinese activity on Indian soil made no impression on Beijing. Nor did the prime minister's refusal to recognise the Tibetan "government-in-exile."

However, it is necessary to add that well before the Dalai Lama's arrival in this country, something else had happened that was to strain and worsen India-China relations almost as much as Tibet and the Dalai Lama's presence here. In December 1958, some weeks after the publication of a map in one of China's official journals, China Pictorial, Nehru wrote a courteous letter to his Chinese opposite number, Zhou Enlai, gently reminding him that when they had last discussed the matter in 1956, Zhou had "indicated" that though the McMahon Line was a "legacy of British Imperialism", because of "friendly relations between China and India," his government would, after "consulting with local Tibetan authorities," give it recognition. Nehru added that at the same time Zhou had "confirmed" Nehru's impression that, "there was no major boundary dispute between China and India." Yet the China Pictorial map showed large swaths of Indian territory as part of China.

Zhou's reply, received on January 23, 1959, was a shocker. For, it stated: "Historically, no treaty or agreement on the Sino-Indian boundary has ever been concluded." The "so-called McMahon Line," Zhou said, was a "product of the British policy of aggression against the Tibet region of China... (and) it cannot be considered legal." And he added, for good measure, that Indians were protesting against a road across the land that was "always under Chinese jurisdiction." This, he argued, "showed that border disputes do exist between China and India." Nehru wrote back on March 22 to express his "surprise" on hearing that the border between India and the "Tibet region of China" was "not accepted by Peking." Quoting chapter and verse, he reaffirmed that this frontier was well established in view of "geography", the "watershed principle", "tradition" and "treaties". Nehru ended with the hope that "an early understanding" on this matter would be reached. But he rejected Zhou's proposal that both sides should "maintain the status quo" pending a "final, friendly settlement."

All this, it is needless to say, was "top secret" and saw the light of day only in the first week of September when the government published the first of a series of White Papers on the exchange of notes, memoranda and letters between the two largest Asian countries. Meanwhile,Tibet and the Dalai Lama's escape to this country had exacerbated the bitterness in India-China exchanges. Understandably delayed, Zhou's response to Nehru's letter of March 22 arrived several days after the publication of the White Paper that had instantly created one of the loudest and angriest uproars in Parliament. Members of Parliament were furious that the Nehru government had "hidden" the extent of the Chinese claims on Indian territory and accused the prime minister of trying to "appease" China. This was reflected in the country's mood.

There was a lot more in Zhou's vehement reply that represented a hardening of the Chinese position, adding fuel to fire. For, after repeating that the McMahon Line was the product of British Imperialism, he categorically stated that, "the entire Sino-Indian boundary has never been delimited." A fresh settlement that would be "fair and reasonable to both sides" was therefore called for. Zhou also spoke of "increasing tensions" created by the Tibet revolt and accused India of "shielding armed Tibetan bandits", and of "pressing forward steadily across the eastern sector of the Sino-Indian boundary."

Replying almost instantly, Nehru first said that Indians "resented the allegation" that independent India was seeking to "reap a benefit from British imperialism." He also restated all his arguments about the border having been settled by custom and covenants, expressed "great shock at the tone of Zhou's letter," and pointed out that between 1914 and 1947, "no Chinese government had questioned the

McMahon Line."

As it happened, the publication of the White Paper and of the fresh exchanges between the two prime ministers coincided with two other disturbing developments that aggravated both the deterioration in India-China ties and the acrimonious internal debate on China policy. One of these was a highly damaging spat between Defence Minister Krishna Menon, often described as Nehru's Man Friday, and the highly respected army chief, General K. S. Thimayya ('Khaki versus Khadi', IE, October 17, 2008). In protest against the defence minister's rude behaviour towards service chiefs and his propensity to play politics with senior military appointments, the general resigned. Nehru persuaded him to withdraw the resignation. In the parliamentary debate that followed it was Menon who was at the receiving end of trenchant criticism and was even accused of being "soft" on China. However, invoking the doctrine of "civilian supremacy", Nehru backed Menon and said he "couldn't congratulate the general."

This unhappy episode passed, but suddenly the verbal warfare between the two sides degenerated into armed clashes on the ground. In August 1959, an armed Chinese patrol intruded into Khinzemane near the India-Bhutan-China tri-junction and pushed back Indian personnel before withdrawing. Then the Chinese repeated exactly this performance at Longju, also in the eastern sector. The worst incident took place in October at Kongka-La deep in Ladakh when the Chinese opened fire on a patrol of Indian armed policemen, fatally wounding four and capturing 11 of them. Not only had the Chinese drawn blood for the first time, they also had the effrontery to return the dead bodies and the imprisoned policemen on November 14, Nehru's birthday. India was enraged.

The writer is a Delhi-based political commentator








The question I want to ask today in the Indian context is whether we should even worry about the limits to growth, or more precisely, about the limits to sustained high growth.

It is a good time to ask this question. But let me straightaway admit that while posing the question is easy, finding answers that will be politically acceptable and also carry conviction with the expanding consumerist classes in our country will be very difficult. To give a very obvious example, we are all agreed that public transportation must get over-riding priority but are we, individually and collectively, prepared to accept the fact that the rate of growth of car ownership in our country that is following in the footsteps of that in the USA and China is a recipe for disaster? Are we prepared to change our consumption behaviour? I suspect we are not.

Anyway, why do I say it is a good time to at least pose this question of limits to growth? Between 2003-04 and 2010-11, the Indian economy has averaged an annual rate of real GDP growth of 8.5 per cent, an unprecedented achievement. The Planning Commission is setting a target of 9 per cent plus growth rate for the 12th Five Year Plan that commences in April 2012. I know many social scientists knock the idea of GDP growth as a measure of progress and even some Nobel Prize-winning economists like Amartya Sen himself and Joe Stiglitz have written eloquently on the need to shed our obsession with high GDP growth as presently defined.

But while we must acknowledge its limitations as a measure of progress and welfare, the fact remains that GDP growth is the most convenient and most widely used single index of the dynamism of a country's agricultural, industrial and services sectors.

I entirely agree that we should not be overly obsessed with high GDP growth but neither should we ignore its criticality particularly as an instrument to create more jobs and to generate more revenues for the government to invest in both infrastructure and social welfare programmes. Let us not forget that the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act which is today the world's largest social safety net programme would simply not have been possible without the proceeds that the growth process generates.

...Where will the limits to growth emanate from?

...I would suggest that the time has now come for India to look at the limits to growth not just from a macroeconomic point of view but also from an ecological point of view. Incidentally, this was one theme running through the original Club of Rome study but over the years we seem to have lost sight of it.

We do not have to subscribe to the apocalyptic vision of the Club of Rome because over the past three decades technology has undermined many of the its predictions — the most famous of which being we will run out of oil by the turn of the 20th century. Incidentally, technology has also made nonsense of the dire predictions made in the 1960s about India becoming a food basket case. But we do ourselves no favour if we don't even try to pose the limits to growth question from an ecological perspective and then try to assess what the 9 per cent+ growth means for our water resources, our forest wealth and indeed for our entire and very variegated and rich biodiversity.

But why now particularly? Can't we wait for a decade, grow and then deal with its ecological consequences? Can't we follow the American or even Chinese approach of "harness growth gains now, bear growth pains later"?

There are many reasons why India has to be different.

First, ecology in our country is not just a matter of lifestyles as it is in the developed countries but of basic livelihoods....

Second, already, the public health effects of development paths followed over the past have become visible...

Third, the impacts of ecological damage on environment are better understood today than at any time in history...

Finally, there is the stark reality that India will add another 400-500 million people by the middle of this century. Many advanced countries confront population declines, while it has been said that China faces the prospect of becoming old before becoming rich like the West. But the demographic momentum in its magnitude certainly is unique to India. And sustainable development, after all, is development that "meets the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."

...You are all social scientists and bring a valued perspective to the problematique of economic growth and ecology. What I would like to stress to all of you is that your perspective should be free from prejudices, if not passions. I find, unfortunately, a bias against economic growth and technology in the social science fraternity at large. I would expect all of you to be tough and searching critics sensitive to larger social concerns but please do not become vociferous techno-phobes or growth-sceptics. Thanks to that outstanding symbol of technology and growth — the Internet — India is seeing the emergence of a well-networked community of neo-Luddites. But remember that even the much-reviled Luddites were very selective in their approach in the 18th and 19th centuries when the Industrial Revolution was at its peak.

Excerpted from the convocation address to the students of TISS, Mumbai on May 11, 2011






Not everyone in Ireland is sure that Barack Obama has roots here as well as in Africa. "I have me doubts," said an immigration official at Dublin Airport. But don't have the gall to tell that to Moneygall, a farming town southwest of Dublin besotted with the wonder of being the ancestral home of the 44th American president.

This village (population 298) in County Offaly has erupted in a paroxysm of partying and marketing. The newspaper, The Offaly Independent, has for now changed its name to The Obama Independent. Amid the pebble dash cottages, the Obama Café is opening on Main Street and Barack Obama Plaza is rising on Lower Main Street. The president arrives Monday to embrace his O apostrophe, celebrating the Hibernian past that he hopes will boost his image with the 40 million Irish-Americans in the future. The Irish are ready to anoint the latest White House Son of Erin.

Indeed, this week seems like a family reunion, a dramatic embodiment of the Irish maxim "May your roof never fall in and those under it never fall out." Queen Elizabeth, who ensorcelled the former colony on a four-day visit last week, was like "the prodigal mother," as one young Irishman said. And Obama's the American cousin who made good.

Both the 85-year-old queen and the Irish were taken aback, moved and finally over the moon with her debut sojourn here, the first visit of a British monarch in a century. The tale of two islands began with Liz, as The Irish Daily Star calls her, wearing an emerald green suit and the tightest security ever seen here, and ended with everyone loosening up, as ecstatic residents of Cork, the rebel home of Michael Collins, waved the Union Jack and told the press, "We love her!"

The Irish started out skeptically, not wanting to curtsey or kowtow or be treated as subjects. Queen Elizabeth started out tentatively, not knowing what to expect. When she showed no condescension, spoke a phrase in Gaelic, and told the Irish that both sides needed to be "able to bow to the past but not be bound by it," the ice melted. The Irish didn't even mind when the queen and a remarkably gaffe-free Prince Philip didn't sample a pint at the Guinness brewery, though Philip looked sorely tempted.

Irish commentators on TV dissected every syllable, gesture and outfit of the queen, deciding that signs of respect included her perfect pronunciation of Gaelic, her rapt inspection of Moynihan's buttered eggs and O'Sullivan's poultry in a Cork food market, and the fact that she changed her clothes more than Anne Hathaway at the Oscars. The Irish also deemed spectacularly gracious: her evening gown featuring 2,091 hand-sewn shamrocks, her Irish harp brooch made of Swarovski crystals, her Girls of Great Britain and Ireland Tiara that was a wedding gift from her grandmother, her many green outfits and hats trimmed with green feathers, and her ladies-in-waiting decked out in 40 shades of green. At a gala concert on Thursday night, she was stunned to receive a five-minute standing ovation.

What the Irish loved about the queen's speech was that, after 800 years of bloodshed, hatred and tortured negotiations between Ireland and England, both sides were able to accept their separate but entwined identities. The truism that the Irish never forget and the English never remember was put to rest when the queen laid a wreath and bowed her head at the Garden of Remembrance, the sacred ground for Irish patriots who died fighting for their country, and went to Croke Park, the scene of the first Bloody Sunday in 1920, when 14 Irish civilians were killed after British forces opened fire on them.

If Irish history has been a nightmare from which the Irish are always trying to awaken, as James Joyce said in "Ulysses," then they have now woken up, wherever green is worn, and seen all changed, changed utterly. Maureen Dowd






Syria really doesn't know what's hit it — how the tightest police state in the region could lose control over its population, armed only with cellphone cameras and, yes, access to Facebook and YouTube.

You can see how it happened from just one example: Several Syrian dissidents have banded together and from scratch created SNN — Shaam News Network — a Web site that is posting the cellphone pictures and Twitter feeds coming in from protests all over Syria. Many global TV networks, all of which are banned from Syria, are now picking up SNN's hourly footage. My bet is that SNN cost no more than a few thousand dollars to start, and it's become the go-to site for video from the Syrian uprising.

I don't see how Syria's president, Bashar al-Assad, can last — not because of Facebook, which his regime would love to confiscate, if it could only find the darn thing — but because of something hiding in plain sight: Many, many Syrian people have lost their fear. On Friday alone, the regime killed at least 26 more of its people in protests across the country.

This is a fight to the death now — and it's the biggest show on earth, for one very simple reason: Libya implodes, Tunisia implodes, Egypt implodes, Yemen implodes, Bahrain implodes — Syria explodes. The emergence of democracy in all these other Arab countries would change their governments and have long-term regional implications. But democracy or breakdown in Syria would change the whole Middle East overnight.

A collapse or democratisation of the Syrian regime would have huge ramifications for Lebanon, a country Syria has controlled since the mid-1970s; for Israel, which has counted on Syria to keep the peace on the Golan Heights since 1967; for Iran, since Syria is Iran's main platform for exporting revolution into the Arab world; for the Lebanese Shiite militia Hezbollah, which gets rockets from Iran via Syria; for Turkey, which abuts Syria and shares many of its ethnic communities; for Iraq, which suffered from Syria serving as a conduit for jihadist suicide bombers; and for Hamas, whose leader sits in Damascus.

Because Syria is such a keystone nation, there is a tendency among its neighbors to hope that the Assad regime could be weakened — and therefore moderated — but not broken. Few dare trust the Syrian people to build a stable social order out of the ashes of the Assad dictatorship. Those fears may be appropriate, but none of us get a vote. Only the Syrians do, and they are voting with their feet and with their lives for the opportunity to live as citizens, with equal rights and obligations, not pawns of a mafia regime.

More than in any other Arab country today, the democracy protestors in Syria know that when they walk out the door to peacefully demand freedom they are facing a regime that has no hesitancy about gunning them down.

Of course, the million-dollar question hanging over the Syrian rebellion, and all the Arab rebellions, is: Can the people really come together and write a social contract to live together as equal citizens — not as rival sects — once the iron fist of the regimes is removed?

The answer is not clear, but when you see so many people peacefully defying these regimes, like Syria's, it tells you that something very deep wants to rise to the surface. Thomas Friedman







Faced with a barrage of figures on poverty—27.5% in 2004-05 according to the Planning Commission, 37.2% for 2004-05 according to Professor Tendulkar and 77% according to the late Arjun Sengupta—a Census seems the best option. Sure it will cost R2,000 crore or so, we were told the last time the government spoke of a Below Poverty Line (BPL) Census, but at least we'll know. The team, not the same one that does the decennial Census, will visit each and every house in the country, get a response from them on a number of parameters, each of which will have a pre-assigned score, and on the basis of this, give us an accurate number of poor persons based on what they score. While that sounds the most logical thing to do, keep in mind there have been court cases on whether a Census should be conducted—the 2002 Census was kept in abeyance after the Supreme Court ruled on it—and the 2007 BPL Census was dropped due to the embroil on the parameters to be used to define poverty. Hopefully, the new definitions used for the 2011 BPL Census will be accepted by all, but keep in mind that past BPL Census numbers have been full of holes and have exaggerated poverty numbers—the results of the 2002 BPL Census were finalised in 2005, and not too many took the numbers seriously. If the current BPL Census is done with more rigour than the ones in the past, we'll have to wait and see if it offers the same macro numbers that the decennial Census gives, on the number of pucca houses, for instance. Nor is it immediately clear how the issue of Unique ID numbers will be married to the BPL Census—after all, there's no point identifying a family as BPL if this recording isn't married with a UID number immediately.

Adding the caste dimension to this makes it even more volatile. Once the BPL/Caste Census is done, it'll give rise to reports like 11.38% of SC households are poor, and just 3.97% have managerial jobs, and renew the clamour for increased reservations. Apart from the methodological issues that come up in terms of how valid the BPL/Caste Census data will be, since it is not being done by the Census of India, the data needs to be interpreted carefully. Merely reporting that 3.97%, or even 79.3% of SC households have managerial jobs is irrelevant unless it is linked to the proportion that have higher education degrees; the fact that more SC are poor than OBCs may have less to do with caste than with the fact that more SCs live in villages and are less educated. India's just added another set of troubles with the BPL/Caste Census.





The US couldn't have predicted—in 1992, when it made a deal with the European Union giving both governments the autonomy to support their aircraft makers within certain limits—that Airbus, a company 44 years Boeing's junior, would outscore Boeing in its own game to become the world's largest passenger-jet company. Such was the rise of the Toulouse-based company's market share that the US felt compelled to charge the EU with being a cheater. The first case filed by the US against Europe in 2005 resulted in a WTO ruling in favour of the US, declaring that Germany, Spain, France and the UK had indeed given Airbus loans worth $18 billion with unfair terms of repayment that amounted to 'prohibited' subsidies. The EU appealed this report and the appellate body has returned a mixed verdict. While upholding the ruling that Airbus benefited from some subsidies that allowed it to develop aircraft faster and more efficiently, resulting in a larger share of the large civil aviation market, the body overturned the earlier finding that the A380 received 'prohibited' export subsidies. To the US's accusation, the EU promptly responded with a lawsuit of their own, accusing Boeing of having received $5.3 billion in improper government subsidies, without which it would have been unable to bring the 787 Dreamliner to market as quickly as it did. This was upheld by the WTO, has been appealed and the report from the appellate body is expected in February 2012.

The WTO has given the EU six months within which to comply—while the public line remains that the judgement has to be studied carefully before any action is taken, European officials privately acknowledged that they would have to adjust the interest rates on government loans to Airbus to bring them in line with commercial rates, according to FT. While the end to this dispute is far from nigh, it has larger implications for the global aviation industry, especially emerging economies, like China, Brazil and Russia, that are aiming to develop their own passenger-jet industries. The outcome of this long-running case will help lay the foundation for a level-playing field, thereby containing the dominance of any one manufacturer.






With 9,600 MW of power generating capacity set up last year, and 60,000 MW over the entire 11th Plan ending 2011-12 (that's triple the capacity set up in the 10th Plan and 10% more than the capacity in the last three Plan periods), you'd be pardoned for thinking the power sector is doing well—at the Express Group's Idea Exchange a few months ago, the power minister too contributed to the all-is-well belief. So what are we to make of the 13th Finance Commission's projection that state electricity board (SEB) losses are all set to rise 4.3 times, from R27,317 cr in 2008-09 to R1,16,089 cr in 2014-15?

Actually, one should have started getting suspicious when, some years ago, the government stopped giving the annual losses of the power sector in the Economic Survey. Till then, almost regular as clockwork, SEB losses used to rise a bit each year, hardly a matter of concern given the pace at which the economy was growing. In 2000-01, SEB losses were R25,400 cr, and these rose to R25,700 cr by 2007-08. It's after this that the problem really exacerbated, according to a recent paper by Saugata Bhattacharya (an FE columnist) and Urjit Patel ( /papers/2011/01_india_power_patel.aspx), very largely based on data from the Power Finance Corporation (PFC).

According to the duo, commercial sector losses jumped from R26,400 cr in 2008-09 to over R40,000 cr in 2009-10, and FE has reported the losses in 2010-11 could be as high as R70,000 cr. Financial sector losses, of course, are higher as they take into account interest, depreciation among others, and these rose from R32,060 cr in 2007-08 to a whopping R52,620 cr in 2008-09. As a result, the return on equity is around minus 14% in the sector.

One obvious reason for the rise in losses is the average technical and commercial (ATC) have stopped falling at the pace they were some time ago. If you buy 100 units at R1, and have ATC losses of 50%, you have to sell the power at R2 to just break even. If ATC losses fall to 25%, however, you can sell at R1.33. So, a fall in ATC losses is a big reason for power tariffs to fall, or to at least remain stable at a time when power purchase costs are rising.

The biggest reason for the sharp deterioration in the power situation is the rising gap between power purchase costs and the cost of selling power. According to Bhattacharya and Patel, the correlation is the highest between ATC losses and the gap in purchase and selling costs of power. Electricity costs are rising dramatically for two reasons—one, since around a third of the capacity is less than five years old, the costs are higher than for older plants which have been heavily depreciated already; two, while around 8% of the total power sold in the country is through a bidding route—on power exchanges or through what's called unscheduled interchange (UI)—this is at a higher price, so the total power sold through this is probably around 15% in value terms. Last year, when spot prices were higher, this ratio was around 20%.

Things are not as bad, it is true, as they were in 2001, when the SEB dues were R41,500 cr, or around 2% of 2000-01 GDP. That situation was resolved through huge haircuts by the state government, the central government and central power utilities. The problem also looks smaller as GDP growth has also risen, but we could be getting there once again. Financial losses, as Bhattacharya and Patel point out, were around 0.9% of GDP in 2008-09, exactly the same as they were in 2002-03. Utilities aren't defaulting in their payments as yet, but as the latest PFC report points out, state governments are delaying paying their share of subsidies to power utilities—against the R29,665 cr of subsidies they had to compensate the SEBs for in 2008-09, the states shelled out only R18,388 cr. Some of the big defaulter states are Maharashtra and West Bengal, where no payments were made in 2008-09 and 2009-10. And, subsidy payments in states like Punjab are as high as 1.9% of GSDP.

The other big problem is that while costs are rising—due to the plants being new, energy prices rising or simply buying more power in the spot market—utilities aren't raising consumer tariffs as fast. While the gap was 39 paise per unit of energy in 2005-06, this rose to 78 paise in 2008-09. Indeed, the power secretary told FE that he had approached the Appellate Tribunal for Electricity to ask various regulatory commissions in the states as to when they last raised tariffs on their own.

Interestingly, while the rising costs of power are causing SEB losses to rise, some problems are also arising on the supply side. Thanks to prices rising the way they are, firms are increasingly wanting to renege on contracts. In February, the Haryana Electricity Regulatory Commission (HERC) gave a ruling where the Power Trading Corporation and Lanco wanted to get out of an agreement to sell power to the Haryana Power Generation Corporation as the tariff was no longer lucrative—the HERC ruled against it. There are several other such instances.

So why are firms like ADAG still raising capacity? Since a large part of the capacity will come from Ultra Mega Power Plants (UMPPs), where tariffs are quite low, the merit order despatch system ensures their power will have to be bought first. At the end of the day, however, if ADAG's Sasan power is bought as it is cheaper, some other power plant will have to back down—not because there's no demand, but because SEBs can't pay for the power. A new bailout plan may be in the offing—Planning Commission is doing work on this—but a lend-bailout-lend cycle is hardly conducive to the sector's overall growth.

The only solution then lies in raising tariffs. With capacity growing so fast, even a slippage of a few years in raising tariffs can lead to a disaster. In Delhi, for instance, the regulator didn't raise tariffs and chose to create 'regulatory assets'—essentially amounts owed to BSES and NDPL and to be paid in the future. With the regulatory assets at R8,300 cr and the total annual sales of power adding to R8,000 cr, this means tariffs in Delhi have to be more than doubled to clear the backlog!

By 2014-15, when the 13th Finance Commission projects SEB losses rising to R1,16,089 cr, India will have a new government in power. By then, the way things are going, large swathes of the country won't have any power.





When it was known that Dominique Strauss-Kahn (DSK) had Presidential ambitions and he was going to demit his office before the due date, a debate began as to what the proper form of governance was for the Bretton Woods institutions. It was obvious that the old rules of sharing the headships of the World Bank and IMF were outdated (as so much is about the global institutions set up after 1945). There should be transparency and open competition in appointments and not Buggins' turn.

The sudden resignation of DSK has frustrated these plans. Of course, the IMF Board had never discussed this matter and there was only a slim chance that change would be possible. Yet, we had precedent—the headship of UNDP had been advertised the last time around and a candidate had been appointed after a publicly advertised shortlist. Kemal Dervis, the former finance minister of Turkey, got the job in an open competition.

IMF could have opened out its appointment to such a public process. It would be much more in line with what we now know to be good practice. There are also other reasons for relaxing the stranglehold of G7 countries on the appointments. First, the economic centre of gravity has moved away from the West and North. The developed countries have made a mess of their financial systems. After all, the crisis following the Lehman Brothers was entirely confined to the western financial markets. The Asian financial markets managed without a crisis. Lastly, the developed countries with a few exceptions—Canada and Australia—are hopelessly in debt to their domestic and foreign creditors.

The best illustration of the mismanagement of western financial systems is in the Eurozone. To set up a single currency union without a fiscal union was forecast to be a disaster. But political considerations drove the agenda. Countries that should have been put to a severe financial entry test were allowed to enter with a wink and a nod. Today, we are paying the price for this nonsense. Indeed, I would add that if IMF has been indulgent to the Eurozone debtors, which it never was to the Asian economies in the 1997 crisis, it was entirely due to the Presidential ambitions of DSK.

Ideally, the Eurozone problem can only be tackled by a non-European. But, of course, this will be resisted. The crisis caused by DSK's alleged priapic activities has shortened the search process. Now, what we see is blatant politicking. On the negative side, there was David Cameron ruling out Gordon Brown's name even before all this saga started. I agree that Gordon Brown's record as Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer counts against him—he relaxed banking supervision and sowed the seeds of the crisis at home while arguing about the Financial Stability Board globally. In his solution of the banking crisis, he proposed a banking merger of Lloyds Bank and HBOS, which has resulted in a fragile conglomerate. Even so, the dismissal was purely party politics.

Angela Merkel has said she wants a European candidate. France, to save its honour, needs a French candidate as a successor. Even the BRIC countries are putting forward names—Trevor Manuel, for example—rather than arguing the justice of the case. In India, there is excitement about Montek Singh Ahluwalia. There are, no doubt, other candidates, such as the finance minister of Singapore Tharman Shanmugaratnam and the governor of the Central Bank of Malaysia Dr Zeti. But these names are talked about without a proper job specification or a realisation of what qualities are necessary for the job.

Axel Weber, who has been mentioned in the German press, has recently resigned as Bundesbank President, thus throwing his chances of becoming the President of the European Central Bank in succession to Jean-Claude Trichet. He did that because he believed that the ECB had been too soft in accommodating the Eurozone debtors such as Greece in providing them with temporary financial support. He is the sort of hard man one needs if debtors are to be made less self-indulgent. But I suspect he may prove to be too strict and lacking in political flexibility.

All eyes and indeed all bets are on Christine Lagarde, the French finance minister. She is capable and has been good in the negotiations in both the 2008-09 financial crisis as well as the 2010-11 Eurozone crisis. Also, the Germans will accept a French candidate at the top of the IMF. It is sad but true that these things are always a shoddy compromise. This time will be the same again. Christine Lagarde will get the job and will be hailed as a brilliant choice. Yet, there have to be better ways of running the world than this. It is time the G20 put its feet down.

The author is a prominent economist and Labour peer







India's GSAT-8 satellite has been lofted into space aboard an Ariane 5 rocket that lifted off from the European launch facility in French Guiana in equatorial South America. It is the 20th satellite designed and built indigenously by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) to meet this country's requirements for space capacity in communications and broadcasting. The 3,100-kg spacecraft's 24 transponders will relay signals in radio frequencies known as the Ku-band. These transponders will be used for Direct-To-Home television broadcasts as well as to support communications using small satellite dishes known as Very Small Aperture Terminals (VSATs). Other Indian communication satellites that are currently operational have about 150 transponders working in various frequency bands. That capacity needs to be augmented, given that a power glitch on the INSAT-4B knocked out half its transponders last July. Two satellites, GSAT-4 and GSAT-5P, were lost in consecutive failures of the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) last year. Besides, the INSAT-2E, launched 12 years ago, is nearing the end of its life. ISRO plans to launch the GSAT-12, weighing 1,400 kg, on the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle this July. The GSAT-10, with 36 transponders and weighing 3,400 kg, is to be put into orbit by another Ariane 5 rocket next year. Another communication satellite will go up when the GSLV is flown again, which is expected to take place in the first quarter of 2012.

The GSAT-8 is also carrying a payload that will broadcast data to increase the accuracy and ensure the integrity of navigation based on signals from orbiting satellites of the U.S. Global Positioning System (GPS) and the Russian Global Navigation Satellite System (GLONASS). The resulting improvement in accuracy and reliability will allow aircraft, equipped with suitable receivers, to make precision approaches for landing at all runways in the country. Aircraft will also be able to fly more direct routes to their destination, saving time and fuel. Such space-based augmentation systems have begun functioning in the U.S., Europe, and Japan. Ground stations for the Indian system, known as GAGAN (GPS Aided GEO Augmented Navigation), a joint effort by ISRO and the Airports Authority of India, have been put in place. After the GSAT-8's GAGAN payload becomes operational, further steps for testing the system as a whole and securing the necessary certification can start. All of India's remote sensing satellites are now launched domestically. This should be achieved in the case of communication satellites too. For that, the GSLV must be made as reliable as the PSLV and the next generation GSLV Mark-III got ready as soon as possible.





The Greek economic crisis exposes the fact that even the most economistic of the European Union's policies, namely monetary union, is inextricably political and must be addressed by political measures. Athens, for its part, has made strenuous efforts to respond. Within a year, it has cut the budget deficit from 15.4 per cent of GDP to 10.5 per cent, mainly by slashing public spending, and tightened up on tax evasion. As a result of the cuts, however, the economy shrank by 4.5 per cent in 2010. It looks set to continue shrinking. The overall debt burden is now 142 per cent of GDP, and is still rising. The slide means the country cannot service its main current loan, the €110 billion jointly provided in 2010 by the International Monetary Fund and Greece's 16 eurozone partners. More bailouts are under discussion in the eurozone, as is a possible restructuring of the debt on easier terms. Even discussion of such matters affects national standing; and in what the researcher Paul de Grauwe calls self-fulfilling market expectations, the credit rating body Standard & Poor's has cut Greece's rating.

The other eurozone countries have handled the situation badly. Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker convened a secret meeting and then denied that the event had occurred. The exposure of that falsehood caused the euro to fall 2 per cent against the dollar. Secondly, focussing solely on the fiscal issues has made it harder for German Chancellor Angela Merkel to get her coalition partner, the Free Democratic Party, to back more loans for Greece; her government is now at risk. Thirdly, Greece's Prime Minister George Papandreou is under pressure. His 2010 cuts had broad support from a public who wanted to reform an economy they themselves saw as rotten. Now, well aware that the crisis was caused by the bankers and politicians, ordinary Greeks, hit hardest by austerity measures, are resisting fresh attempts to raise revenues and demanding that those who caused the problems solve them. Furthermore, the financial institutions' punitive policies threaten the social and political understandings on which the EU itself is founded; they remove the automatic stabilisers (to use Dr. de Grauwe's phrase) of unemployment benefit and counter-cyclical public spending. Finally, the narrow financial view precludes investments that would be far more likely to revive the economy; those would aim at areas like shipbuilding, solar or other renewable energy, and services. Greece, in effect, needs a new Marshall Plan; but the eurozone looks politically incapable of even imagining one.







A spectre is haunting Europe and America, home to the colonialists and cold warriors of yesterday, the spectre of an Africa — which they ruled and exploited for a century-and-a-half — now coming under the sway of rising powers like China and India.

Read any western account of the growing Chinese and Indian presence in Africa and chances are that the charge of 'new colonialism' will figure somewhere. And if there is 'new colonialism,' can new colonial rivalries be far behind? In this telling, not only are China and India sucking Africa dry, but the two are also said to be locked in competition with each other for access to Africa's mineral wealth and oil.

So central is the notion of an Oriental 'Scramble for Africa' to the western mind that it is almost impossible to speak of India's presence in Africa without dragging China in as well. Consider this typical lede from a report on the forthcoming Africa-India summit in Addis Ababa, filed by the French news agency, AFP: "India will seek to expand its economic footprint in Africa, where rival China has made major inroads, at a second summit between the South Asian powerhouse and African nations this week."

Like other spectres the West conjures up from time to time, the actual picture in Africa is not so frightening, least of all for the Africans themselves. "What they say doesn't make sense," Oldemiro Baloi, Foreign Minister of Mozambique, told a group of Indian journalists in Maputo last month. "We did not fight for our independence just to shift from one colonial master to another. And India and China did not support our liberation struggle in order to enslave us." The West doesn't like to be challenged but Africa has an interest in diversifying its partners, he added. "India is itself a poor country which has values based on solidarity and does not impose conditionalities or attach strings to its aid. Earlier, the western countries would complain implicitly about India and China but now they are more blunt. 'Why is India doing this, why is China doing this?' And we say, because they are good, they are competitive."

Though the tendency to see India and China as rivals in Africa is widespread, the fact is that the Chinese investment and trade presence are much larger. But there is another reason why the 'rivals' frame may be deceptive: from the perspective of Africa, the two countries have core competences which may actually complement each other in many ways.

The Chinese excel in large infrastructure projects and have deep pockets while the Indians have an edge in ICT, capacity building and training and also emerging areas like agriculture and floriculture. The Indian ability to relate to Africans is also much greater, which is why non-Indian MNCs prefer to use Indians as managers for projects involving interaction with local officials and populations. The fact that India is a democracy, and a chaotic one at that, may mean Chinese companies steal a march over Indian ones. But India's democratic culture and consultative approach make it an attractive partner for African nations looking to enhance their own skills and capabilities. In other words, Africa is looking to do business with both China and India at the same time and there does seem to be more than enough room for both.

And yet, there's no reason for India to be complacent. As the African economy emerges, its politics stabilises and new opportunities arise, competition from around the world will be stiff. The world can look forward to greater supply of food, minerals and energy but Africa has the right to drive a tough bargain. India is well placed because of the unique set of capabilities it offers. At the same time, it must consciously avoid the path of exploitation other big powers before it have taken.

Thus far, India's engagement with Africa has operated at two levels. The first level is official, where the government has grafted on to the political goodwill built up over several decades some real financial heft. After pursuing regional and pan-African initiatives like the Team-9 framework for cooperation in West Africa and the e-network project, the first Africa-India summit in 2008 envisaged a line of credit worth $5.6 billion to be spent on development and capacity building projects. Least-developed African nations were to get preferential access to the Indian market and India also committed itself to establishing 19 centres of excellence and training institutions in different fields across Africa.

Side by side with this official thrust, the Indian private sector has also shown a willingness to invest billions of dollars in Africa. The Second Africa-India summit to be held in Ethiopia this week is likely to increase the pace of this engagement. There is talk of pushing bilateral trade with Africa to $70 billion by 2015, up from the current level of $46 billion. Cumulative Indian investments in Africa stood at $90 billion in 2010 and are likely to rise dramatically in the years ahead.

At the same time, there are several steps India needs to take to ensure the current momentum is maintained and even intensified.

First, India must ramp up its diplomatic presence in Africa. Indian companies and citizens will be more likely to work in countries where India maintains an embassy. And it would help if these embassies were robustly staffed by young diplomats anxious to make a mark rather than by those at the fag end of their career who see a tour of duty in Africa as a punishment posting and who have little or no interest in African culture and society.

Second, the government should consider establishing a special purpose vehicle (SPV) to pursue strategic investments and business opportunities in Africa, especially in sectors such as mining, infrastructure and agriculture. Such an SPV could harness the talent and resources that the Indian public and private sectors have to offer but which their managements are often unable to utilise in overseas projects in a timely manner for a variety of reasons.

Third, the SPV or some other official entity must pay attention to corporate social responsibility issues connected to all Indian FDI projects in Africa, especially since many of them might be in countries where domestic regulatory frameworks for workers' rights and environmental protection are inadequate or dysfunctional. As public pressure in India makes it less easy for Indian companies to cut corners at home, some of the motivation to invest in Africa might be linked to their belief that they can get away with dodgy business practices there. India has a strategic interest in ensuring that Indian companies operating abroad act responsibly and must come up with an appropriate monitoring mechanism.

Fourth, there must be a strict audit of all monies disbursed through the Lines of Credit for Africa. Two years ago, there were reports of questionable dealings in the subsidised export of rice to a number of sub-Saharan African countries. With Indian credit lines now running into several billion dollars — the eventual beneficiaries of which will be Indian companies and suppliers to whom recipient governments are obliged to buy from — there must be complete transparency in the process from start to finish.

Fifth, a greater effort should be made to build on the domain knowledge and cultural equity that the Indian diaspora across Africa has in abundance about local business conditions and customs. It is estimated that there are as many as two million people of Indian origin living in Africa. Though the bulk of the diaspora is in countries like South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania and Nigeria, Indian businessmen and even teachers and professionals can be found in virtually every African country. For a variety of reasons, these communities are not so well integrated within the political and cultural milieu of their host countries. But the more economic and cultural interaction there is between India and Africa, that could well change.

Sixth, the "commerce of ideas" that Mahatma Gandhi envisaged the future relationship between India and Africa to revolve around should be made a central element of Indian policy. The 2.2 billion people of India and Africa share many problems and could learn from each other's experiences in resolving these. Promoting partnerships between the media and academic communities might be one way to do this. Innovative work in the field of handicrafts has just started and the rich field of cultural interaction has remained practically unexplored. As much if not more than business deals and lines of credit, it is this commerce of ideas which will provide true depth to the emerging partnership between Africa and India.









"If you haven't noticed, we don't have much of a problem with dynastic politics down here. In fact, we seem to like it."


CHENNAI: In a candid conversation with the American Consul General in February 2008, DMK Member of Parliament Dayanidhi Maran spoke of corruption in his party and the increasing anti-incumbency factor in Tamil Nadu.

Consul General David T. Hopper, in a cable dated February 23, 2008 accessed by The Hindu through WikiLeaks [142702: confidential], informed the U.S. State Department that Mr. Maran predicted that in Tamil Nadu the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and its partners "would lose about half of their [Lok Sabha] seats if things continue as they are." Further, "talking about the increasing anti-incumbency factor in the state, Maran alluded to the general impression that the DMK is especially corrupt, saying 'when people get into power they lose concentration and start focusing on making money.'"

The cable, which was coordinated with the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi, explains that on February 15, 2008 the Political Officer at the Chennai Consulate-General met with Mr. Maran "for the first time since he was sacked in May 2007 as the Union IT and Telecommunications Minister following a dispute with Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and DMK patriarch M. Karunanidhi."

Mr. Maran also spoke about the perils of providing freebies. "The problem when you come to power by promising people free TVs," he is quoted as saying during the meeting, "is that people soon forget the TVs you gave them and then ask 'what are you doing for me now?'"

Mr. Hopper reported the estranged DMK M.P., who is now back as Union Textiles Minister, as being "very downbeat" about the United Progressive Alliance's prospects in the 15th Lok Sabha election, observing that "the UPA is in tough shape, especially after Gujarat." Surveying South India, Mr. Maran also "expected significant losses for the UPA partners." He was "pessimistic" about the Congress's prospects in Andhra Pradesh, "saying Chief Minister YSR Reddy's popularity is on the decline and that he expects Congress to lose a substantial number of the 29 Lok Sabha seats it currently holds. But he was quick to add that in both Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu the UPA's predicted losses stem from failures of the DMK and Congress parties and not from effective opposition."

The Chennai consulate cable reported Mr. Maran as going on to assert that "the opposition AIADMK in Tamil Nadu and the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) in Andhra Pradesh have floundered" and that "any UPA losses will have 'nothing to do with Jayalalithaa (the AIADMK leader) or Naidu (the TDP leader).'" Further, he "acknowledged that the INC would likely pick up seats in Kerala at the expense of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) but said the gains would not be nearly enough to offset UPA losses in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu."

Mr. Hopper, the experienced diplomat, noted that Mr. Maran's falling out with the DMK leadership was in part due to financial reasons, and so "his swipe at DMK corruption, although largely accurate, reflects some sour grapes." Moreover, the Consul General pointed out in the cable, when in favour with DMK president and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi, "Maran joined in the TV and other give-away schemes that helped the DMK win the 2006 state elections."

Interestingly, while the DMK M.P. was scathing about the DMK, he was all praise for Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, arguing that the Congress party needed to name him as its prime ministerial candidate for the 2009 Lok Sabha election. Although he recognised that it would be a long shot, Mr. Maran contended that "Rahul is the only chance they've got."

Rahul, Mr. Maran added, would benefit from the legacy of his father Rajiv Gandhi's popularity in South India. The dynastic element of Rahul's elevation would play well down south, he remarked. "If you haven't noticed, we don't have much of a problem with dynastic politics down here. In fact, we seem to like it."

The cable also reported Mr. Maran as saying that projecting Rahul as the Congress's candidate could help motivate young voters, but he was being held back by his handlers, who were managing him too closely and keeping him cloistered. "Rahul's big problem, Maran said, is that `he doesn't get to see real people.'" Consul-General Hopper, too sharp not to detect a subjective element in the insights provided by Mr. Maran on Mr. Rahul Gandhi, supplied this comment towards the end of the cable: "His views on the likelihood of Rahul Gandhi taking the reins in Congress are perhaps colored by his view of himself as part of a new breed of young Indian politicians, playing a similar role in Tamil Nadu's DMK as Rahul does for the Congress party. To the extent he sees Rahul going places, he is seeing a brighter future for himself too."

By December 1, 2008, Mr. Maran was back in the DMK fold and in his granduncle M. Karunanidhi's favour. When it came to the 2009 Lok Sabha election, his prediction was off on Tamil Nadu where money power played a huge role - and the DMK bagged 18 seats against the AIADMK's 9, and the DMK front bagged 27 against the rival front's 12. Mr. Maran's "pessimism" was way off on Andhra Pradesh where the Congress, led by a hugely popular YSR, took 33 of the 42 Lok Sabha seats. He completely misread the role of the AIADMK leader, Ms Jayalalithaa, in creating the groundswell that was in its early phases in mid-2009. But his prediction that the DMK was heading for a downfall on account of the corruption issue came true with a vengeance in the Tamil Nadu Assembly election of mid-2011.








Less than a month before he was accepted back in the DMK fold in 2008, DMK M.P. Dayanidhi Maran reportedly told an officer of the U.S. Consulate General in Chennai that then Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi's resignation threat on the Sri Lankan Tamil issue was a "drama," meant to distract attention from Tamil Nadu's power crisis and the resultant popular anger, and, further, that his attempt at `blackmail' had alienated Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

A cable sent to the State Department under the name of Consul General Andrew T. Simkin, and accessed by The Hindu through WikiLeaks (176372: unclassified, dated November 3, 2008), reported Mr. Maran's candid observations along with Congress leader Peter Alphonse's assessment of what the DMK would do in the prevailing uncertain situation.

According to the cable, Mr. Maran, who had been "stripped of his position as Union Minister for Information Technology and Telecommunications by his grand-uncle Karunanidhi in 2007, agreed that the Chief Minister's resignation threat was an idle one. Maran called it a `drama' staged by Karunanidhi, noting that he too tendered his resignation despite his estrangement from the Chief Minister. Maran said that Karunanidhi's main objective was to distract attention from the state's recent power outages, which have increased anger against the incumbent government to an all-time high."

Mr. Maran, the consulate cable reported, "claimed Karunanidhi's attempt at `blackmail' has alienated the Congress high command, especially Sonia Gandhi. According to Maran, who despite having an axe to grind with Karunanidhi remains publicly loyal to the Chief Minister, Congress `will carry this grudge and retaliate at the right time.' As evidence of the hurt feelings, Maran alleged that Sonia Gandhi recently refused to meet with Karunanidhi's daughter Kanimozhi, who is a DMK Member of Parliament. Maran also said that a faction of the Congress Party leadership, including Rahul Gandhi, wishes to see Tamil Tiger chief Prabhakaran dead in retaliation for killing Rajiv Gandhi, which drives a wedge between Congress and the DMK over Sri Lanka."

The cable set out the intriguing context in which these assessments were provided by the estranged DMK MP, who is currently Union Minister for Textiles, and the Congress leader, who was defeated in the recent State Assembly election by an AIADMK candidate. Tamil Nadu Members of Parliament had agreed at an `all-party meeting' on October 14, 2008 chaired by Mr. Karunanidhi "to resign en masse if the Government of India failed to force a ceasefire in Sri Lanka by October 28." However, two days before the deadline, the DMK Chief Minister backed down following a visit from External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee. The visit, "coupled with several other actions by the central government - including summoning the Sri Lankan High Commissioner, engaging with Sri Lanka's Special Envoy, and agreeing to send humanitarian assistance to Sri Lanka's Tamils - appear[ed] to have mollified Karunanidhi," who agreed to defer the decision. The cable added that the DMK Chief Minister, who acknowledged that "this issue has been going on for 40 years" and "we cannot expect it to be resolved in four days," announced a day later "that the DMK had no difference of opinion with the Union Government on the Sri Lanka issue."

Mr. Alphonse's take on what was happening, according to the Chennai consulate cable, was that "Karunanidhi would never have pulled the MPs from the UPA." He just "wanted to show-up his political opponents who expected the all-party meeting to be a routine one issuing a typical, toothless hortatory resolution." The Congress leader's view was that "the DMK has no option but to stick with the UPA and the Congress."

Mr. Alphonse, however, conceded that "the resignation threat has put stress on an otherwise strong relationship between the DMK and Congress" because "at the local level.the Tamil Nadu Congress was irritated that Karunanidhi appeared to be slipping back into his past tendency to be `soft' on the terrorist Tamil Tigers and the small Tamil Nadu political parties that support them."

Helped no doubt by these realpolitik assessments, the Chennai consulate sent the State Department an overall comment that proved to be accurate: "Karunanidhi's DMK and Congress are bound together by mutual self-interest. Karunanidhi needs Congress to remain Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu and Congress relies on the DMK to keep the UPA in power in New Delhi. As a result, it is no surprise that the political drama Karunanidhi generated quietly concluded with no resignations after the Indian government took sufficient steps to give him enough political cover to save face- .Support for the Sri Lankan Tamils has not become a burning issue with the public in Tamil Nadu.The legacy of revulsion over Rajiv Gandhi's assassination continues to loom large over Tamil Nadu."





An insightful article on "The wheat mountains of the Punjab" by Professor M.S. Swaminathan – one of the world's leading agricultural scientists and food policy experts – and a couple of reports on the Supreme Court of India's observations and directions on the same subject, published in this newspaper have drawn the attention of readers in substantial numbers.

The article, published on May 11, 2011, throws new light on the present condition and the future of Indian agriculture. The Supreme Court's observations and directions reported on May 15 ("Release 5 million tonnes of food grain: Supreme Court" and "Planning Commission asked to revise BPL norms") relate to the fair and timely distribution of the available food grains to the people.

The Bench comprising Justices Dalveer Bhandari and Deepak Verma directed the central government to release immediately five million tonnes of food grains for distribution in 150 districts most stricken by poverty, or other poorer segments of the country. In another key direction, the Court asked the National Planning Commission to revise the per capita norms to update the poverty line in the light of the May 2011 index or any other subsequent dates.

Professor Swaminathan commented on the good news of bumper crops this year in the Punjab-Haryana region. He estimated that wheat production this year might reach a level of 85 million tonnes. He noted that the Punjab farmers produced nearly 40 per cent of the wheat and 26 per cent of the rice required to sustain the Public Distribution System (PDS). He alerted the establishment to the need to arrange for adequate and protected storage facilities, taking a lesson or two from last year's experience in several parts of the country, where thousands of tonnes of food grains went to waste for want of safe storing.

Around this time last year, readers may recall, the country was passing through a food crisis and the phenomenon of double-digit inflation. The skyrocketing prices of food grains and food-related items badly affected millions of ordinary Indians. This led to prolonged discussions at various levels, political and governmental, on providing food security to the people.

The role played by the news media and social activists in taking these issues to the people was commendable. But it was when the critical issues were taken to the judiciary at the highest level by organisations such as the People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) that the challenge took on a new dimension. Yet several key aspects such as the number of people to be covered by the PDS, the quality and the quantity of the essential items to be distributed under PDS, and the status of food grains stored in the hundreds of Food Corporation of India warehouses, in hired private godowns, and in lorries under tarpaulin covers remain unresolved to this day. A Hindustan Times report on July 26, 2010, "India lets grain rot instead of feeding poor," revealed that thousands of tonnes of wheat and rice were rotting in godowns instead of being distributed to the needy. When this was brought to the notice of the highest court in the land, it said: "If you cannot store the grain, give it to the people to eat." The Government saw it as "straying into the executive's domain."

A year has gone by and the outcome is yet unclear. The central government's positive response to the latest directions of the Supreme Court has raised certainly expectations. While directing the government to rush five million tonnes of food grains to the 150 poorest districts in the country, Justices Dalveer Bhandari and Deepak Verma mandated immediate action against mass hunger. "Admittedly," the judges commented, "in the 150 poorest districts of India, the problem of malnutrition is very intense and is related to the inadequacy or lack of food in those areas." This urgent emphasis on the challenge of malnutrition is vital considering that the government was until recently reluctant to make any commitments in this regard. Earlier during his argument, the counsel of the People's Union for Civil Liberties extensively quoted from the National Family Health Survey-3 (2006) of the Government of India to point out that under-five mortality rate in the country was 74 for every 1000 live births. Millions of children die every year in India on account of malnutrition.

Professor Swaminathan has been consistently suggesting that nutrition should be part of the right to food and hence integral to food security. The wake-up call from the distinguished scientist should inspire the media to sustain and intensify their coverage of food and agriculture, rural livelihood and nutritional status, the crisis of hunger and the system's response across this vast land.








To her credit, West Bengal's new chief minister Mamata Banerjee has deviated significantly from her pre-election persona of being an unremitting agitator in whose hands, many feared, the fabric of administration would rupture, although they were still willing to bet on her in order to evict the Left. Ms Banerjee has demonstrated effectively that, politically, she can rise above her own earlier benchmarks.

Perhaps she is conscious of the weight of expectations, as well as the weight of history, that she carries after displacing an entrenched "people's" government through a vote whose legitimacy and transparency are beyond question. In fact, the Trinamul Congress leader has not ushered in a counter-revolution as some rash elements of the Left might have hoped as this would give them a propaganda advantage to begin with, and then legitimise a call to arms. No war has been commenced in West Bengal against Communist unions among government employees or elsewhere in the system. Taking a leaf out of the book of statesmen, the chief minister gave the slogan of "badal, not badla" (change, not revenge) as the poll results were declared. Despite this, top CPI(M) leaders traipsed around television studios hinting that the Left would now be subjected to state-sponsored violence. Fortunately, this has not come to pass. This is good for West Bengal, and good for India. Should anti-Marxist violence on any meaningful scale erupt, Ms Banerjee would rise in the nation's estimation if she cracked down hard on the perpetrators, giving them no quarter. Bengal needs political healing, it needs development, and a touch of political impartiality in the public sphere after decades of deep-going, life-distorting, partisanship which crushed ordinary people. The state has the potential to rise to the very top if the leadership is right. Ms Banerjee has been given the historical opportunity to shoulder this responsibility. We shall know, by and by, if she has it in her to handle the challenge. Indeed, even if she gave it a good shot, that might be enough.

Ms Banerjee has got her symbolism right so far. She walked from Raj Bhavan to Writers' Buildings, the state secretariat, after being sworn in, with thousands keeping her company. Such a gesture connects her to the people instantaneously, and is a counterpoint to the Left which had grown distant from the people. Ms Banerjee has also so far insisted on driving in her black Santro rather than the sanitised, bulletproof government vehicle laid out for the chief minister. She would be well-advised, though, not to take the popular touch too far as she will discover this impedes her work as she sets about discharging her constitutional responsibilities, and adds to the costs of keeping her safe.

Uptil now, the chief minister's sense of administration has worked well. Thank God she didn't stick to the small Cabinet she had initially proposed. The scale of the work to be undertaken does not allow such a luxury. Indeed, commitments of this nature are mindlessly populist. Although in Ms Banerjee's council of ministers there are many with extensive experience of administration — such as the former state chief secretary — as well as the private sector, creative political and administrative direction will have to come from her if the state is to move forward, providing growth and equity. Long ago, Communist rule had done a lot of good by ushering in effective land reforms, coupled with panchayati raj. No country has moved forward without land reform. The task now is to build on this base while doing away with all the deep-going partisan excesses the Marxists were guilty of. Perhaps the Centre and the state can begin with drawing up a catalogue of priorities for West Bengal.






According to news reports, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has taken to the streets in Karnataka, demanding the recall of Karnataka governor H.R. Bhardwaj. BJP leaders claim that they have a massive majority and that Mr Bhardwaj should immediately call a session of the Karnataka Assembly. There have been impassioned declarations against Mr Bhardwaj

and the BJP's entire national leadership has paraded a large number of MLAs in Rashtrapati Bhavan. That one of the BJP MLAs was arrested on his way to Delhi for possessing illegal arms and ammunition is only a commentary on the nature of BJP MLAs.
However, the BJP, which waxes so eloquent upon the false majority it allegedly enjoys in Karnataka and the leadership of that party maintain a stunning silence regarding the significant judgment of the Supreme Court delivered on May 13, 2011. The judgment was delivered in regard to the appeal filed by 16 MLAs from Karnataka who had gone to the Supreme Court challenging the order of K.G. Bopaiah, the Speaker of the Karnataka Assembly, disqualifying them from holding office as MLA, in October 2010. Mr Bopaiah's order assumes importance. It was delivered in haste, with the specific intention of preventing those MLAs from voting upon a confidence motion brought by the Yeddyurappa government to prove its majority. As a result of Mr Bopaiah's illegal order, those 16 MLAs could not exercise their vote and the Yeddyurappa government consequently survived.
On May 13, the Supreme Court struck down the order of Mr Bopaiah. It rejected the disqualification of the MLAs and passed severe strictures against the Speaker as well as Mr Yeddyurappa. The Supreme Court observed in Para 77: "There was no compulsion on the Speaker to decide the disqualification application filed by Shri Yeddyurappa in such a great hurry within the time specified by the governor to the Speaker to conduct a vote of confidence". Para 86 of the judgment of the Supreme Court is even more specific. It says: "Having concluded the hearing on October 10, 2010 by 5 pm, the Speaker passed a detailed order in which various judgments from both Indian and foreign courts and principles of law were referred to on the very same day".
In Para 77, the Supreme Court delivers an indictment of Mr Bopaiah when it says: "The conduct on the part of the Speaker is also indicative of the haste with which the Speaker disposed of the disqualification petition as complained of by the applicants". Para 91 of the judgment observes as follows: "We are constrained to hold that the proceedings conducted by the Speaker on the disqualification application moved by Shri B.S. Yeddyurappa do not meet the twin tests of natural justice and fairplay". And the denouement in Para 87 says, "Unless it was to ensure that the trust vote did not go against the chief minister, there was no conceivable reason for the chief minister to have taken up the disqualification application in such a hurry".
The Supreme Court judgment makes it very clear that the disqualification of the 16 MLAs was illegal, unconstitutional and motivated by malafide intention. Leave aside for a moment the strong strictures passed against Mr Bopaiah and Mr Yeddyurappa in this judgment. Any party or any politician with a modicum of respect for the verdict of the court, for the rule of law, for the Constitution, for the core value of accountability in a democratic polity would have resigned on the spot. Mr Bopaiah and Mr Yeddyurappa not only cling to their chair and position even after this judgment but they also have the temerity to march to the President of India and seek the removal of Mr Bhardwaj.
The fundamental issue here is the fact that from the day Mr Bopaiah passed the illegal order, the Yeddyurappa government became an illegal and unconstitutional government operating on the basis of an illegal and fake majority. It had lost the legal and constitutional right to continue in office. Consider the facts. Mr Yeddyurappa faces a rebellion. A large number of BJP MLAs express lack of confidence in him and become dissidents. The governor asks him to hold a vote of confidence and show his majority. Through blatant political chicanery, the Speaker and the chief minister collude to disqualify before voting the very MLAs who will vote against them. And having pushed those 16 out of the Assembly, the chief minister "wins' his confidence vote. Obviously, had those MLAs been inside and voting, Mr Yeddyurappa would not be the chief minister today and the government would have fallen. At that time, on October 13 to be precise, L.K. Advani and the entire top brass of the BJP marched down Rashtrapati Bhavan with a memorandum stating how it "was incumbent upon the Speaker to disqualify such persons (the rebel MLAs) with immediate effect".
The aggrieved MLAs went to court, the high court held against them and finally the Supreme Court ruled in their favour and passed severe strictures against Mr Bopaiah and Mr Yeddyurappa. Due to horse-trading, which the Yeddyurappa government is famous for, the dissident MLAs have now turned into obedient soldiers of the BJP and are now prepared to back the chief minister. The inducements that the chief minister might have offered them are best left unmentioned. So here is the bizarre result. There were rebel MLAs of the BJP who would have unseated the Yeddyurappa government in October 2010. Mr Yeddyurappa moves a petition for their disqualification, which Mr Bopaiah endorses in illegal and unseemly haste. The MLAs are disqualified and Mr Yeddyurappa wins a trust vote. In reality this is a manufactured majority. The Yeddyurappa government became illegal from October 11, 2010, but the legal process allowed him to continue in office until the final Supreme Court judgment.
Today, the disqualification has been set aside, but the MLAs back Mr Yeddyurappa. What then is the status of the Indian Constitution in Karnataka? Is it what Mr Yeddyurappa decides will suit him for the time being? Surely the people of Karnataka deserve a better deal than this. As for the Central leadership of the BJP, the less said the better.

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








Who does not want that India and Pakistan, two major countries in South Asia should live in peace and resolve their differences through dialogue? Not only do the stakeholders cherish peace, even ordinary Indians want that the country should have peace as we are on a march to all round progress. In a recent seminar in New Delhi, Dr. Farooq Abdullah, the patron of NC and the Union Minister for Renewable Energy expressed his sincere desire to drive across the LoC in Jammu and Kashmir without any hindrance, without being asked for passport and other travel documents and without the boot of his car being checked. This appears a dream but many a dream has been realized in the course of history of nations. He was right in citing the example of Europe. Nations had fought and waged wars there, not once but for long time. But ultimately the good sense prevailed and the people realized that peace and cooperation served as key to overcoming economic and other deprivations. Today one can travel in Europe from end to end without any hassle, without being subjected to frequent checks and detentions. That is the atmosphere which the Europeans could create, and one wishing the re-enactment of same atmosphere in the subcontinent should be given the credit of a vision of a bright future. This is the age of trade and commerce and not of coveting lands and regions. Modern societies want to become prosperous and have a better life and this is material progress that cannot be ignored. Dr. Farooq Abdullah is clear in his mind about the present situation in regard to Kashmir. He has ruled out any possibility of any big change in the status quo in Kashmir but of course there are some internal problems that need to be addressed and removed. The Union government has been at work and both the PMO and the Home Ministry are carrying forward their agenda of promoting development, employment, standard of living, healthcare, education and infrastructural facilities to the state. These measures are bound to address the problems to which the people in the state have been referring in the past.

But development is possible only in an atmosphere of peace and tranquility. For last three summers, the valley has not seen peace and it has badly affected the economic health of the state. We have leaders who issue calls for strikes day in and day out. Though their takers are much reduced in numbers yet their effort is to disrupt peace. Therefore it is for the people at large to understand the real motives of those who give quick calls for strikes. It has to be remembered that democracy means freedom of expression and movement. But when this or any other freedom is misused leading to disruption of peaceful atmosphere, then the state is enjoined by constitution and morality to do all it can to restore peace. This makes temporary detention of some leaders unavoidable. It is for the people to understand the motive behind the action of the government and also the motive behind those who give calls for strikes. We cannot expect the state to close its eye to the misuse of freedom and at the same time demand from it full development of society economically, materially and spiritually. The limitations of the government should not be put to test. It does no good to anybody. Dialogue with Pakistan is the only way of resolving our differences with this neighbour. It should be possible to find a solution provided there is sincerity and determination on both sides. SAARC is one of the acceptable agencies through which a meaningful dialogue can be carried forward. We hope that there are also many serious and positive thinking people in Pakistan who are having same ideas about a peaceful subcontinent as many on this side of the line have. Peace should be given a chance.







State Public Service Commission is an important state organization because it is through its channel that the state's requirement for efficient and competent service cadres is fulfilled. It provides the best talent to the state and that is the key to good governance. Given the physical make up of our state, the PSC has its small branches in Jammu and Ladakh regions. The purpose of having these branches is to facilitate the prospective candidates in appearing in its examinations and interviews. But the practice so far seen is mostly that of calling the candidates to the headquarters of the PSC in Srinagar. It means that the candidates from Jammu and Ladakh region are required to travel long distances and incur heavy expenses of travel, board and lodging if at all they are interested in appearing before the PSC. This cannot be justified as a rational decision. The PSC should empower local branches to conduct official proceedings like holding examinations and interviews of candidates. This is not strictly observed at the moment and in many cases candidates are asked to come to Srinagar for appearing before the Commission. We hope that the government issues instructions to the PSC that it should have mobility of accessing all the three regions for official duties and ensure that candidates from each region are able to make the best use of facilities and opportunities provided by the Public Service Commission. Any attempt of depriving the students of any one of the three regions of the state from taking benefit of opportunity offered by the PSC means that the State is deprived of services of talented youth. This is not a healthy sign and should be reversed without delay. It is truer in the case of candidates from Ladakh where road link remains closed for six months owing to heavy snowfall over Zoji La. More than seven thousand of students from Leh and Kargil are studying in government and private educational institutions in Jammu city. There are Ladakhi students in Srinagar city also. For most part of the year they live in these two cites. If they offer to be examined or interviewed for PSC interviews in any one of these two cities, there should be no difficulty in accepting their request. It is hoped that in the interests of the state and the student community, the government will take necessary steps that facilitate students and candidates to appear for PSC exams within their region.








With a score of three out of five, UPA alliance can take some comfort from the results of the elections held for five State Assemblies. It has lost Tamilnadu and Pondicherry, but gained West Bengal, Assam and Kerala. The victory margin in Kerala is too narrow for comfort. The real cause for worry is Andhra Pradesh where Jagan Reddy, son of the former Chief Minister won his seat by a record margin. If Jagan's following continues to grow, it could pose a serious threat to UPA in the next Lok Sabha poll in 2014.
The problem facing the Congress party is that its own strength is almost stagnant and it's allies are facing problems. The efforts by Rahul Gandhi to build organisation by reviving Youth Congress have not worked except in Uttar Pradesh where the Congress Party has improved its position. But it faces a tough challenge in its onward march because the caste based politics of U.P is a tough nut to crack.
There was a time when the Congress party derived its strength from the South with comfortable numbers being provided by States like Tamilnadu, Andhra and Karnataka. Its hold on Karnataka and Tamilnadu is now history with the BJP becoming a major force in Karnataka while in Tamilnadu Jayalalitha will be calling the shots. In Andhra Pradesh Jagan factor as well as Telengana issue have made the position of Congress rather precarious.
As such one can says that in the third year of its second term UPA faces an uncertain future. The major problems facing the ruling party is its inability to check inflation and rising prices of items of essential use. Despite record production of wheat and rice, the prices are continuing to rise. Agreed that uncertainty in Gulf countries and rising prices of crude oil have contributed to inflationary pressure, but its overall management of economy and failure to revive public distribution system has also contributed to inflationary pressure.
The UPA leadership has also suffered a loss of credibility because of its inability to check widespread corruption with scandals breaking out at regular intervals. The Two G scam was a major factor in the defeat suffered by UPA in elections to State Assembly in Tamilnadu. It has also lost the support of the middle class which had given them full backing in the last elections. All agree that Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh's integrity is not in question but the working of Ministers in his team has eroded the confidence of public in the working of the UPA Government.
At the moment Congress can take comfort from the fact that the main opposition parties in the country that is BJP and the Left parties are in bad shape, but it should be no consolation as gains are being made by the regional parties and strong State leaders. Congress which over the years has been imposing their nominees from the Center on states should realise that such a system can not work any more.
Emergence of leaders like Mamta Banerjee in West Bengal, Mayawati in U.P and Jayalaitha in Tamilnadu are clear examples of need to build local leadership as State elections are fought on the basis of local issues and leadership quality of nominees for Chief Ministership. In Congress camp also leaders like Sheila Dixshit and Tarun Gagoi have shown by winning a third term as chief ministers that the days of proxy rule by the Central leadership are over. Mr. Rahul Gandhi won few seats for his party in U.P because he was able to field credible new faces. If this experiment is to work he should also try to project new faces for working in other States instead of getting all talented youngmen to come to Delhi and working for the Central Government.
India is a big country with different regions having their own aspirations. Unless the Central leadership encourages State leadership to grow, it has no future as local leaders will always be able to defeat the nominees sent by the Center around the election time. Over dependence on hangers on in the party who are given safe berths in Rajya Sabha should be ended and instead encouragement be given to those who have grass root support and ability to win elections.
The results of the elections to the State Assemblies should be taken as a wake up call and action initiated to prepare the party for the poll in 2014 as otherwise the ruling UPA has a bleak future. Whirlwind tours by Central leaders, big public rallies are no guarantee of victory in elections where organisation and local leadership plays a major role. UPA leadership should not take comfort from problems confronting BJP and the left but look at its own shortfalls and take timely action to correct the same. (NPA)








The country is burning due to acquisition of farmers' lands for development projects. People are agitated in UP over the acquisition for Yamuna Expressway after Singur in Bengal, Posco in Odisha and Polavaram in Andhra. The fundamental principle of land acquisition is quite sound. It says that private interest must be sacrificed to secure the interest of larger people. On this issue Chanakya had suggested to the king to 'give up one for the family, family for the village and village for the country.' The farmers of UP are being displaced for making of the Expressway on the basis of this principle. But the farmers say that that they are being displaced not for the country but for providing undue commercial benefits to the concerned company. Much more land is being acquired than required for making the highway. The extra land is to be used for developing commercial property and this cannot be treated as 'larger interest,' they say. The problem, therefore, lies not in the principle of land acquisition but in its faulty implementation.
Fifty years ago land of the Zamindars was acquired for distribution to the farmers and the landless. Few large landowners were dispossessed for providing relief to thousands. This was in accordance with Chanakya's principle. In the present case, however, large numbers of landowners are being displaced to provide benefits to few companies. Chanakya has been turned on his head. Land acquisition for making Special Economic Zones and for hydropower projects similarly dispossesses many for providing benefits to few. Lacs of poor farmers have been displaced in the Tehri project but the water that is stored is being supplied to the rich of Delhi to wash their cars and the electricity to run air-conditioners in the malls.
The present land acquisition law allows the government to forcibly acquire land of any person for any 'public purpose.' The public purpose in question is to be wholly defined by the government. If 10,000 farmers are dispossessed to provide land for a software company that provides jobs to 1,000 white-collar workers, the Government can yet say this is a public purpose. The courts have refused to adjudicate whether the purpose is 'public' or 'private.' This is not justified. Underlying assumption made by the courts is that if a government misuses this provision and dispossesses many for few then a public outcry will take place and the party will be thrown out in the next election. The Left parties have been thrown out of power in precisely such sequence of events. This route of determining public purpose is very costly, however. Hitler had similarly made a wrong definition of public purpose. He faced the consequences. But millions were killed and whole countries destroyed in the process. It is the solemn responsibility of the courts to intervene where land acquisition is being made for private gain.
Alternative is to restrict land acquisition only for 'public use' instead of 'public purpose.' Land that is required for making the Yamuna Expressway may be acquired but no more. Land should not be acquired around the Expressway for making commercial estates even though making of such estates may also benefit the society in some ways. Likewise, land should not be acquired for Tata's car factory at Singur. The factory is not 'public use' even though it may have a public purpose. Such definition will settle most disputes regarding land acquisition.
The Land Acquisition Act should also be made more stringent. Following compensations have to be paid for land acquired in Japan: (1) Money sufficient to buy similar land elsewhere; (2) Expenses incurred in shifting and resettling at the new location including loss of profit in the shifting; (3) Share of the future increases in price of acquired land; (4) Increase in the price of land due to making of the project; (5) Expenses incurred in finding the new location. It is difficult and expensive to acquire land in Japan due to these provisions. Most land is purchased by mutual negotiation. Often the project is redesigned to reduce the need for land. For example, land was acquired for making of the Narita Airport in the seventies. The airport was to commence operations in 1971. It could begin only in 1978 due to problems of land acquisition. Later need arose to expand the airport. At that time the government found it better to make a new Kansai Airport on the Osaka Bay instead of expanding the Narita Airport.
Such redesigning of projects can also be done in India. But project proponents want the government to acquire more land than needed because land is acquired at rates much below those prevailing in the market.
Land acquisition is equally difficult in Israel. More importantly, the economic development of Japan or Israel has not suffered because of these stringent laws. Reason is that additional profits from the projects have accrued to the people instead of the companies. Yamuna Expressway will help in securing economic development. Question is who gets the benefits-the farmers or the company? In the Japan model, minimum land will be acquired and more benefits will accrue to the people. In the India model, more people will be dispossessed and benefits will accrue to the company. Impact on the economy will be the same. Therefore, provision of larger benefits under the Land Acquisition laws will not hamper economic growth. Actually, that will help spread the benefits of growth over larger number of people.
Suggestion is that most land acquisition should be undertaken through the negotiation or market process. The fundamental question is that of price of land. Administrative determination has many pitfalls. It is hugely amenable to misuse. Economists believe, and rightly so, that the market is the best adjudicator of price. Companies are unwilling to negotiate directly and they invoke the Land Acquisition Act because it is cheaper. Second, the compensation package should be strengthened along the lines of that of Japan. If the projects are truly beneficial for the economy, then there should be no difficulty in transferring a good share of the benefits to those whose land is being forcibly acquired. Third, land acquisition should be restricted for 'public use' and disallowed for 'public purpose.' Fourth, land acquisition should be done for balance 10 percent of land for commercial projects only if 90 percent of the land has been acquired through negotiation. Fifth, there should a provision of annual payment in the form of pension or annuity in future so that the long run stream of foregone income is compensated.
It is unfortunate indeed that the Congress that has ridden to power on the slogan of aam aadmi; the BSP which has upliftment of the poor as its primary agenda and the Left parties that ideologically fight for the proletariat are in the forefront of acquiring land of the poor to provide benefits to the rich.








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.
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. (INAV)










THE arrest of Kanimozhi, the high-profile daughter of DMK supremo M. Karunanidhi, after a special CBI court rejected her bail plea on Friday in the 2G spectrum allocation scam is yet another thunderbolt for the DMK after it was routed in the recent assembly elections. Herself a Rajya Sabha member, Kanimozhi was named as a co-conspirator in the 2G case along with former Telecom Minister A. Raja, who has already been behind bars for weeks. In these times of women's equality it would have been odd for the court to accept the plea of her counsel Ram Jethmalani that consideration be shown to her because she is a woman. Judge O.P. Saini was absolutely right in contending that since most of the witnesses against Kanimozhi were employees of Kalaignar TV the possibility of these witnesses being influenced could not be discounted if she was left free.


The case against Kanimozhi is that she was the 'active brain' behind the operations of Kalaignar TV which received Rs 200 crore from DB Realty which was in effect bribe for Unified Access Service licences, spectrum and other undue benefits. As a 20 per cent stakeholder in Kalaignar TV, Kanimozhi can hardly wash her hands off the largesse that the company received. Her proximity to Raja, who presided over the 2G allocations, has been duly documented by the CBI. Recorded telephonic conversations show that Kanimozhi had pushed for the reappointment of A. Raja as Telecom Minister in 2009 when the latter was already under a cloud. In such circumstances, it would have been a travesty of justice for Kanimozhi to have been spared The arrest of Kanimozhi would indeed send out the right signals that no one is above law.


It is no secret that many in the DMK and in the Karunanidhi clan are angry with the Congress for not having come to Kanimozhi's rescue. Yet, both the DMK and the Congress know that they cannot but stay on as alliance partners—the Congress needs the DMK's 18 MPs to keep its coalition afloat at the Centre while the DMK is up against a vindictive Jayalalithaa in power in the state and needs Congress protection against excesses. How long this marriage of convenience would last, however, is anybody's guess with political machinations in full flow.









A bumper wheat crop should normally be a matter of joy. However, if government godowns already overflow with grain and large quantities rot in the open, problems of plenty arise. In normal market conditions a glut of any commodity brings down its prices and turns growers to more rewarding crops. In Punjab and Haryana farmers are assured minimum support prices and the procurement agencies are bound to lift the produce. That is one reason they stick to wheat and rice even when there is a huge surplus. Low global prices make exports unviable. Systemic inefficiencies raise the cost of growing, storing and distributing food for the government.


The pile-up can be blamed partly on the government's folly. It was sleeping over massive buffer stocks last year when prices spiked and hurt the poor. In a country where surpluses co-exist with large-scale malnutrition and near-starvation conditions, something is seriously wrong at the top. The Supreme Court's bursts of anger at food mismanagement is understandable. Last year the court pulled up the government for food wastage. A few days ago it ordered the government to rush five million tonnes of food grains for distribution in the 150 most poverty-stricken districts in the country. Such interventions are allright but a sensible long-term policy is needed.


The government tries to balance farmers' interest with that of consumers. Prices do not fall despite surpluses because the MSPs are regularly raised to compensate farmers, whose input costs keep rising. The problem can be solved partly if experts/government officials/farm universities guide farmers to go beyond rice and wheat and also look at crops whose prices are likely to stay high. Prices, both domestic and global, can be known in advance through a well-regulated system of futures trading. The marketing of such crops has to be assured. No doubt, there is need for building more silos, shifting to mechanised handling of grains and encouraging food processing industries, but private investment is still not adequately flowing into these areas.











Illegal mining of minor minerals (sand and gravel) had been going on in and around Mohali for some time till The Tribune, on Thursday last, highlighted the issue by publishing a report on the subject. Subsequently, the Mohali district administration has taken action and registered a number of first information reports against some of those involved in the illegal activity. It is indeed surprising that the administration had not taken notice of this large-scale loot of natural resources, which involved at least 137 persons against whom the police has registered FIRs. Large financial gains, along with a system that did not, till now, interfere with these illegal activities, lend credence to the charges of political patronage of those who were engaged in illegal mining.


It is also a matter of concern that the mining was not only being conducted in an ecologically sensitive zone but also in areas where it is specifically banned, i.e., on the beds of rivulets, on private farmland and in forest areas. Illegal sand mining is an old one, but with depleting resources and increasing demand due to construction activities, it has become more lucrative. The delay in holding a regular auction of Punjab's 366 quarry sites has further worsened matters. Demand for sand and gravel has been increasing, and various departments charged with checking this illegal activity, especially the Forest Department and the State Industries Department, have not been able to put a stop to illegal mining. Delay in contractors getting their environment impact assessment reports is also an irritant.


It is obvious that the exchequer is losing money because auctions have not been done. The environment is being damaged because of illegal mining in sensitive ecological zones. People living in villages near where such quarrying is going on have been protesting against it. Yet, illegal quarrying was, till recently, going on in the periphery of the state capital, just as it is carrying on in the rest of the state. Now that the Mohali administration has identified culprits and registered FIRs against them, it is only natural to expect action against these individuals. Sorting the problem of illegal mining will take political and administrative will, which has not been demonstrated so far.









INDIA'S biggest story after the latest state elections is the decimation of communism. Most believe it is a good riddance of an ideology that has outlived its utility. In fact, it got buried under the debris when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1990, after losing the Cold War.


Yet, West Bengal and Kerala, more so the first, were the only two states which defiantly stuck to the Stalin philosophy and even put up his life-size photo at the politburo. The rout in West Bengal was humiliating, the party securing only 63 seats in the 294-member House. Kerala had a better showing winning 68 out of 140 seats, primarily due to outgoing Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan's clean image, without the humbug of ideology.


However, the advance of capitalism or consumerism without any challenge has not made the world better. While Russia has settled down to a Western pattern, the communists in India are riding a high horse. The jaded ideology is still sacrosanct for them. They do not see that their agenda has been appropriated by the Maoists, who have also used the gun and coercion to spread. China's version of communism is a free economy under the strict discipline of the party and the army. The classical type of communism does not sell any more. The middle class has 
to be associated with it in one way or the other.


In any case, West Bengal's Left Front government was not the setup which could have retrieved the ideology because the leaders were arrogant, the ministers nonchalant and the cadres law unto themselves. The Communist Party of India (Marxists), which either misgoverned or non-governed the state for 34 years, had a cockeyed idea of ideology that by flaunting the red flag or mouthing slogans they could win popular support. Little did the CPM realise that there was disconnect between it and the people. The party's debacle in the Lok Sabha elections should have made it read the writing on the wall.


In Kerala, something worse is emerging. Communalism is replacing the remnants of communist ideology. Hindus and Christians have voted for the Congress, and Muslims for the victorious United Democratic Front. Muslims won 20 seats out of the 24 they contested. For the first time, the state is in the throes of religious fervour, although the BJP's Hindutva forces have been defeated roundly.


I do not think that the communists can stage a comeback with the same old Leninist-Stalinist approach. They have to return to the grassroots and expand their base. The Left has to keep in mind that any ideology without morality will not go very far in India, inspired by Mahatma Gandhi.


Mamata Banerjee of the Trinamool Congress, now West Bengal's Chief Minister — she won 226 seats — realised the moral aspect. A maverick as she is, she can wreck a system but may find it hard to overhaul. The administrators, the police and other government agencies have to be rejuvenated with passion and dedication to serve the people, not to be at the beck and call of others like commissars in the Left government. Switching over loyalty is the bane of civil service. But it can be awakened to the ethical considerations inherent in public behaviour. At present, they have become generally dim.


How to revive the dividing line between right and wrong, moral and immoral that has got erased is the challenge. This is not only for Mamata but also for Jayalalithaa who has smashed the family-cum-government apparatus in Tamil Nadu. By securing 203 seats in the 234-member House, she has proved that her victory is not negative but positive.


But she has begun on a wrong note. She appears to be making up with the ruling Congress. When the case of "unaccounted assets" is pending against her, the stance of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which is under New Delhi, is crucial. How will she cope with that? A telephone call from Congress president Sonia Gandhi within 24 hours of Jayalalithaa's winning elections says it all. Yet she must keep in mind that the people in Tamil Nadu have trounced the Congress and reduced its tally from 34 to five. Her election plank to eliminate corruption should be on top of the agenda.


In fact, the Dravida Munnettra Kazhagam (DMK) would not have been routed if it had not to face the fallout of the 2G spectrum scam. The problem that the Manmohan Singh government faces is that the DMK has 19 seats in the Lok Sabha. However, Jayalalithaa's 11 will make up the deficit to some extent. At some stage, either the Congress will dump the DMK or the latter would withdraw its support.


The Congress victory in Assam was expected. Once state Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi brought the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) leadership to Guwahati for talks, it was clear that his eyes were fixed on the state assembly election. The ULFA still has an emotional appeal in Assam. The Congress won at the polls last time with the help of Bangladeshis who had been registered as voters. The Chief Minister left them high and dry this time. And his victory pushed into the background the grave charges of corruption against his government. Before long, both forces will catch up.


It would be, however, heartening if something tangible agreement emerges from the talks to reconcile the aspirations of the ULFA with Assam's identity within the Constitution of India. The Congress should learn a lesson: political problems need political solutions and not military ones. The large presence of the armed forces in the Northeast, operating under the outmoded Armed Forces (Unlawful Activities) Act, has alienated the people, not calmed them down.


In due course, when the election dust settles down, all the three major parties — the Congress, the BJP and the communists — will realise that they are losing ground. Regional parties are beginning to occupy the space which an all-India party should be commanding. This means a coalition government at the Centre for a long time to come. There is nothing wrong with it if the federal structure is respected and a consensus of opinion sought. But the manner in which the major parties growl at one another holds little hope. They have defamed the system so much that their own credibility is zero.


One thing that the nation must keep in mind is that morality has been squeezed out of Indian politics. The polity has to go through a series of coalitions at the Centre and even in the states. There will be shocking bargains and business-dictated combinations. People would be mute spectators. They will have to wait for a third alternative before they reach the sunny ground.









AS soon as you take it inside your mouth, it bursts. There is far more juice than you would assume the hollow of a well-bloomed puri could contain. You grin and try not to allow even a few drops of that tasty 'pani' go waste. To ensure that, you place your dish below your mouth in case it does.


Does it require an express mention that what's being relished is the undoubted empress of the chaat world, the redoubtable golgappa? For a dyed-in-the-wool golgappa admirer like me, it is an absolute pleasure to crunch this small world of incredible refreshment. There is no street food which is more street food than golgappa. If Barbara Cartland had had an opportunity to taste this marvel, she would have surely written a romantic novel on it. Since she did not, I decided to write on it.


'Bhaiya jara ek plate golgappa dena', is never an unsafe bet. The little sphere, a few chunks of potatoes, chickpeas floating in the hot-sweet water and that craving to have it as soon as the vendor puts it on the plate you are asked to hold. The khatta generally arrests your mouth first and makes you all the more eager for the meetha to hit the exact tastebuds. It is the effortless feat in the cosmos to think no more of the sorrows of life, just feel the tangy taste that holds you in a spell and you don't even realise when you gobbled the first golgappa and you stand holding your plate ardently for the next one.


Golgappa, notwithstanding its huge following, barely stirs up any scholarly feeling to make a fuss about its origin. Hallmarked as pani puri, aka. gup chup, pakodi, puchka, bataasha, pani ke bataashe or a quite Americanised pseudonym water balls, they are undisputed preference when it comes to careless evening walks or after-shopping relief. So what if people have doubts about its hygiene? I leave behind all the concerns.


My bond with these snack balls makes me feel that we, too, are like these hollow spheres filled with aeons of learning, responsibilities and hardships that are immersed into the era we exist in, which is at times sweet and at times sour. As we cannot savour the sweet golgappa without having the tangy one, likewise we can't relish the wonderful occasions escaping the grim ones. 'Bhaiya thora pani dena please, teekha-meetha mix.'







Governments in Asia need to address supply-side causes of food price increases by raising farm productivity. An annual UN study called "Economic and Social Survey of Asia and the Pacific 2011" suggests South-South cooperation to make agriculture more resilient. Excerpts:


Spikes in food and fuel prices in 2008 caused inflation rates to increase in most Asian countries. With the onset of the global financial crisis in 2008-09, however, price pressures subsided rapidly across the region except in South Asia. Indeed, India and Pakistan are experiencing double-digit inflation driven mainly by food.


Given the high incidence of poverty in the region, higher food and overall inflation rates disproportionately affect the poor. Moreover, because of the large share of food in the average household consumption budget, a sustained rise in food prices tends to put upward pressure on wages and, with a time lag, on general inflation.


An analytical and empirical examination of the causative factors of inflation can be divided broadly into two categories: demand and supply. The analysis shows that demand components have tended to fluctuate with output levels and growth rates but they have not been major independent sources of price shocks. The major sources of price volatility have been from the supply side.


Although longer-run aggregate supply in South Asian countries is elastic given youthful populations in transition to more productive occupations, it is subject to frequent negative supply shocks. Demand contractions tend to amplify these shocks. South Asian economies are supply constrained in the sense that while output is largely determined by demand, inefficiencies on the supply side tend to perpetuate inflation by creating shortages of goods and services from time to time.


Food price-wage cycle


With a supply shock, the aggregate supply curve in the figure shifts upward, leading to higher inflation. If, in response, a demand contraction shifts the aggregate demand curve downward, this reduces inflation only marginally and at a high cost in terms of output lost. Therefore, the use of restrictive demand-side policies to tackle inflation when its causes are primarily on the supply side may not help much in reducing overall inflationary pressures. Both formal econometric tests and analysis of shock episodes based on Indian data support this analysis.


In South Asia the food price-wage cycle is an important mechanism for propagating price shocks and creating inflationary expectations in response to a supply shock, which acts as an inflation trigger. The political economy of farm price support, consumption subsidies and wage support, with built-in waste, inefficiencies and corruption, contributes to chronic cost-push pressures. Poor targeting of consumption subsidies implies nominal wages rising with a time lag, pushing up costs and generating second-round inflationary pressures from a temporary supply shock.


The political economy of the sub-region informally indexes wages with food price inflation. If the rise in average wages exceeds that of agricultural productivity, however, prices of food will inevitably go up, propagating more generalised inflation. Populist policies that provide short-term subsidies but raise indirect costs also contribute to cost-push pressures. For example, neglected infrastructure and poor public services increase overall costs in the economy. The power shortages from which most South Asian countries suffer are a case in point.


Virtually all countries in the sub-region have shifted to more flexible exchange rates that are managed to varying degrees. Bangladesh and Sri Lanka avoided significant exchange rate depreciation during the global crisis and their inflation rates dropped into the low single digits in 2009. Elsewhere, however, food inflation has remained high. These differential outcomes indicate a more strategic use of exchange rates in anti-inflation policy.


Once the nature and structure of shocks and elasticities of aggregate demand and supply are identified, certain policy implications follow: a shift down the supply curve in response to a supply shock; avoidance of an excessively large demand contraction; and the identification and removal of propagation mechanisms. Above all, a hasty tightening of monetary policy will, in all likelihood, involve a large output cost with little effect on inflation.


Policy options


Mild but early monetary tightening after a supply shock can prevent inflationary wage expectations from becoming entrenched and further pushing up the supply curve. Given this, a first-round price increase from a supply shock might be allowed, but a second-round wage-price increase should be prevented inasmuch as possible. A nominal appreciation of the exchange rate can serve to push down the supply curve.


Short-term fiscal policies to push down the supply curve include tax and tariff cuts and freer imports. These policies can also lower inflationary expectations. Trade policy works best for individual country shocks that are not globally correlated. Nimble private trade can defeat speculative hoarders. It should be stressed that short-run policies are likely to work only for a temporary shock. A long-lasting shock requires a longer-term productivity response.


Food prices play a central role in propagation mechanisms since they raise nominal wages with a time lag. A fundamental reason for chronic supply-side inflation is that real wages tend to exceed labour productivity. The solution is to raise labour productivity, especially in agriculture.


Following liberalisation, as farm produce has become part of the wider traded economy, global prices have begun to affect domestic food prices. In such a situation, the exchange rate can affect food prices and overall inflation. Conflict between a depreciated exchange rate to encourage exports and an appreciated exchange rate to increase real wages can contribute to a wage-price cycle, with depreciation raising nominal wages and prices and leading to real appreciation. Attempts to dampen exchange rate appreciation sustain the cycle. Only improvements in productivity can close the demand-supply gap and break this inflation propagation mechanism.


Capital inflows will tend to appreciate the exchange rate, thus satisfying the wage target, and finance the accompanying rise in imports. But a widening current account deficit is risky even though it might allow gross investment to exceed domestic savings. It would be preferable to set a sustainable current account deficit and meet it by raising productivity in the economy. Rising productivity increases the level of capital inflows that can be safely absorbed at a reasonable current account deficit. In this regard, better governance and improved delivery of public services improve productivity in the economy and, within the corpus of governance, reform of food policy is especially urgent given the economy-wide impact of food inflation.


Governance in food policy


Developing East Asian countries with large food components in household budgets have successfully moderated food inflation by focusing on raising agricultural productivity. India moved early to agricultural subsidies together with implicit taxes generated through the imposition of restrictions on different activities within the agricultural sector, including public distribution schemes.


Procurement prices were raised with the rise in border prices but did not fall with them, thus imparting generalised cost-push pressures in the economy and creating unnecessarily large food stocks in costly and dysfunctional food support programmes. If the procurement price becomes a true support price, food stocks should come down in a bad agricultural season when market prices rise and go up as market prices fall in a good year. Through such a policy, farmers would receive some assured income support even as a removal of restrictions on the movement and marketing of agricultural goods and better infrastructure allowed them to diversify their crops.


With lower average stocks, the public distribution scheme should focus more on remote, inaccessible areas. Food coupons or cash transfers directed primarily to female members of households can provide food security to the poor while allowing them to diversify their food consumption basket. Since the income elasticity of demand for food is still high, more moderate nominal price increases could serve to incentivize higher agricultural output and income growth.


Political jostling when deciding on food policy, in general, and procurement prices, in particular, ignores their negative long-term effects. Poor coordination means that multiple agencies do not factor in each other's costs or consider the wider picture. Until thorough food policy reform occurs, a possible nominal appreciation of the nominal exchange rate can prevent a sharp rise in border prices from triggering multiple interest group actions resulting in complex domestic distortions.


Managing supply shocks


Emerging markets must find non-distortionary ways to respond to spikes in food and commodity prices. Large global spikes imply distortions beyond supply shocks, which should be prevented. Policies that are driving up prices across all asset categories such as excessive liquidity creation in some of the developed countries that is directing large funds into commodities, might be re-examined at a sub-regional or regional level and its impact modified through some form of collective action.


Futures markets help output planning through better information on future demand and supply and the hedging of risk, but any overreaction implies that prices in financial markets do not reflect their real determinants. The answer is not to ban such markets but to improve their working and regulation. Progressive convergence towards common global regulatory standards can prevent arbitrage. Participation by more diverse groups in commodity trading could be encouraged within a framework of rules that discourage market abuses and thereby limit volatility.



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Remember Gondwana? Addressing the first India-Africa forum summit in New Delhi in 2008, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh referred to Africa as India's "mother continent"! The waters of the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea kept people on both sides connected for centuries and when the Europeans entered these waters in search of India, they reconnected the two continents in new ways. With decolonisation and development, India and the many republics of Africa re-established political and economic links. The long stretch of historical links has meant that close to three million people of Indian origin live on the African continent. India's consistent support for Africa's struggle against apartheid cemented close ties between the two sides. However, as India opened up to the world economy in the 1990s, its attention was diverted away from Africa to Asia to its east and to the West. With trade, investment and people flows becoming an integral part of India's foreign policy, Africa's profile declined, until Africa turned itself around to become the new emerging economy of the 21st century.

As this paper's columnist Shankar Acharya's column brought out so vividly (May 12), Africa is also rising, along with Asia, and a clutch of "emerging economies" is creating new economic opportunities for India. Mr Acharya cited a World Bank study that identified five fundamental factors contributing to the rise of new emerging economies in Africa. These are: the rise of democracy and improved governance; much better economic policies; the end of the African debt crisis and improved donor relations; the rise of new technologies (especially mobile telephony, where India has tapped into in a big way); and the emergence of a new generation of leaders and voters. Both Ethiopia and Tanzania, the two countries that Prime Minister Singh will visit this week, figure among the top in the list of Africa's high-growth economies — their per capita gross domestic product grew at the rate of 4.1 and 3.0 respectively in the period 1996-2008. This is an impressive record by any standards.


 India has adopted a multi-pronged strategy to reconnect with Africa, as our correspondent Nayanima Basu reported last week (May 19). It has graduated from extending aid and trade concessions to encouraging Indian companies to invest in Africa in a big way, creating jobs for the locals and helping local enterprise grow in the process. While China has sent in its public sector companies with thousands of workers and hundreds of managers, causing some local resentment, India has encouraged its private sector to take the lead. Several major Indian business groups now have important Africa operations, and the businesses range from resource extraction to information technology and modern industry. Indian companies have sent in only minimal expatriate staff, preferring to work with local businesses and workers. This has so far stood India in good stead and created a comfort level at which it must widen and deepen its relationship with the continent. Going beyond trade and investment, India must encourage increased people-to-people contact and help improve air and maritime connectivity. There are far too few African students studying in India. Racism in India is often a major hurdle that Africans must cross. The media must play an active role in curbing colour and racial prejudice in India. Connectivity, too, must improve, making it easier for students, business persons and tourists to travel back and forth. Prime Minister Singh's visit to Ethiopia and Tanzania and his participation in the largest-ever India-Africa summit should help reconnect an umbilical cord!









With Dominique Strauss-Kahn stepping down as managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the search for a successor has begun. It was in July 2007 that the qualifications of a suitable candidate were drawn up by the IMF's executive board, when, for the first time, it laid down specific markers for "candidate profile" and selection procedure.


The key requirements were that the managing director should (a) have a distinguished record in economic policymaking at senior levels, with an outstanding professional background and demonstrated managerial and diplomatic skills needed to lead a global institution; (b) be capable of providing strategic vision for the work of a high quality, diverse, and dedicated staff; (c) be firmly committed to advancing the goals of the IMF by building consensus on key policy and institutional issues, including through close collaboration with the Executive Board; (d) have a proven understanding of the Fund and the policy challenges facing the Fund's diverse global membership and be an effective communicator.

Mr Strauss-Kahn fitted the bill perfectly. Moreover, he possessed the additional unstated qualification: he was European, that too French! When the trans-Atlantic allied powers created two post-War economic institutions for global stability, reconstruction and development, the United States chose to head the World Bank and continental Europeans (Belgium (1946-51), Sweden (1951-63), France (1963-73 and 1978-2000), the Netherlands (1973-78) and finally a German (2000-04) and a Spaniard (2004-07) headed the IMF.

Till 2007, there was no set criterion for the selection of managing director. In July 2007, at the insistence of several "emerging" economies, these criteria were explicitly set out.

Interestingly, at the time of its creation in 1945, the Fund's principal architects, John Maynard Keynes of Britain and Harry Dexter White of the US, were divided on this very issue. I recalled these divisions in a previous column ("Reinventing IMF", April 5, 2010) from Robert Skidelsky's biography of Mr Keynes. In short, Mr Keynes wanted a "professional" organisation, much like a central bank, with the managing director similar to a central bank governor and accountable only to the board, but not under its day-to-day control. Mr White, on the other hand, wanted a body that the West, and the US in particular, could dominate and control.

In falling prey to Mr White's preferences, the IMF lost its credibility in much of the developing world. The low point came in southeast and east Asia in 1997-98, after a succession of failures, first in Mexico and then in Russia. An important lesson that Asia and other "emerging" economies learnt after that was to build up their own hard currency reserves so that they did not have to go to the IMF to seek good money and bad advice.

In Mr Strauss-Kahn's first year in office as managing director, the IMF was desperately looking for borrowers, knocking on closed doors. Then came Lehman and G20. Being a good politician, Mr Strauss-Kahn sensed opportunity and quickly positioned the IMF as a source of new thinking and the lender of the last resort. At successive G20 heads of government meetings, everyone praised the IMF for its activism and positioned the organisation as the think tank of the G20.

None of this helped the IMF find borrowers till one European economy after another started queuing up! For 60 years the Europeans ran the IMF and doled out money and advice to Asians, Africans and Latin Americans. Now, it's the Europeans who are tapping the IMF for money. But whose advice are they willing to follow?

If the European Union and the European Central Bank are not able to discipline crisis-ridden economies in Europe, what can the IMF do, especially if it is headed by a European who no one will listen to?

Clearly, the IMF is at a crossroads. The old "Washington Consensus" on which its policy mantras were based is long dead. The more recent pragmatism and do-it-yourself policies have not always worked either. The world economy is still in a "learning-by-doing" mode, with tentativeness attached to most new ideas about change.

Against this background, not only does the IMF have to salvage its reputation as an institution, after its managing director's ignominious fall from grace, it has to regain its credibility as a source of thinking on economic policy. With so many having followed the IMF's advice performing poorly, and so many having rejected it doing better, the IMF needs a paradigm shift in thinking and policy advice to remain relevant.

In choosing a new managing director, the IMF must go back to the basics and ask itself what role it wishes to play in the next decade and beyond. What exactly is the IMF's relevance to the emerging world economy? What are the lessons that have been learnt from the trans-Atlantic financial crisis and the mess in Europe? What lessons do "emerging" economies have for the developed ones in terms of policy options?

Getting the right boss is not enough to restore relevance to a crisis-ridden institution. The IMF also needs relevant ideas. The educational base of IMF staff must become more global with a mix of talent from around the world, rather than the clubby US-educated lot that has dominated the organisation for so long.

Admittedly, international affairs are about power, not just personalities and policies. But at a time when global power structures are shaking, the IMF board can retain the institution's global relevance only if it is able to balance the imperatives of power politics with those of professional credibility in naming a new managing director.







Can you love tigers but hate forests? This question troubled me as I visited central India last fortnight. I was in Nagpur, where local politicians, conservationists and officials were discussing what needed to be done in this chronically poor and backward region endowed with forests and tiger habitat.


The discussion started with a focus on tigers. Everybody wanted more money to protect the reserves earmarked for this magnificent creature. It was unanimously demanded that Nagpur be declared the tiger capital of the country; the existing tiger reserves be expanded and better protected; money be paid to relocate families living in tiger habitats; and tiger tourism be promoted. Clearly, there was an important constituency for the tiger, which, in turn, is important to protect its forested habitat. Or so you would think.

Then the talk turned to forests. "All development has come to a halt. We cannot mine coal. We cannot build thermal power stations, roads, factories or irrigation canals. In each case we need to go to Delhi or Bhopal (the regional office of the ministry of environment and forests) because we need clearance from forest departments for each hectare of land that will be diverted." Forests were suddenly the underlying reason for the lack of development, poverty and dissatisfaction. Tigers were loved, but forests were hated.

It is important to understand the reality. This is a region where in many districts over 80 per cent of the land is classified as forests. Under the Forest Conservation Act, 1980, it was decided that the only way to stem rampant diversion of forests for development projects was to ensure that every file travelled to Delhi for clearance. But the trip to Delhi was time-consuming. So in 2003 it was agreed that in the case of projects requiring diversion of less than 40 hectares of forest land, the file would go to the ministry's regional office.

There is no doubt that this sternly-worded legislation has been critical in safeguarding forests. Cutting forests has become tough. This is because the diversion of forest land requires clearance on file, payment of its net value and funds for compensatory afforestation.

However, there is a flip side. In this region, people have no use for forest land. They do not understand that forest conservation is interrelated with tiger survival. The population of tigers is increasing but the contiguous forests, which allowed the territorial tiger to roam, are degraded or diverted for other uses. At this rate, the tiger will survive – because of the huge investment being made for its protection – but in increasingly smaller zones. This is "zoo-ification" of the tiger, which is bound not in city zoos but in reserves that are surrounded with high firewalls.

This is the tragedy of our forests. There is no value for the tree, but only for the land on which it stands — for mining or development. The people who live in forests are neglected and are impoverished, caught between the lack of development and the hateful stick of the forest guard. No wonder then that the Naxalites are taking advantage of this anger.

How can one maintain the balance between forests and development? In my view, it requires a drastic rethinking of what we mean by development and a re-positioning of forests in that development strategy. Let me explain. At present, in India there is a provision to pay the "net present value" of forests while felling trees. In other words, we pay to cut trees. But there is no payment for standing forests. There is no value for this resource. For many years, chief ministers have been demanding that they be paid to protect forests. Finally, the 12th Finance Commission agreed that states must be paid for the maintenance of forests — some Rs 1,000 crore between 2005 and 2010. Very little money, but the principle was established. However, nothing really happened. In 2010, the 13th Finance Commission reiterated the need to compensate states and enhanced the allocation to Rs 5,000 crore over the next five years. Even so, the money has not been provided. Equally important is that this money must go to the people who live in the forested regions. It is their burden that must be rewarded. This is the first step.

But it is not enough to protect forests; we have to use them as well. The big challenge is to sustainably use the resources to build green wealth. Currently, the productivity of our forests is pathetically low. This is partly because we do not know how to plant and cut and then grow again, in the face of enormous human and animal pressure on our forest land. So we plant, but there is little regeneration. We cut and then the land is degraded. So how can we build a green forest future? How can we turn our forests into assets? Let us continue to discuss this.  







As I argued last week, "the current account deficit, (even) as conventionally calculated, was fairly modest until 2006-07, but has galloped since then." Is the root cause a savings investment imbalance, or does it have more to do with the exchange rate? The point is important because once you attribute it to the former, it logically follows that the exchange rate, or external value of the domestic currency, has no bearing on it. But this is not very logical. Surely, the exchange rate is the most important variable affecting the current external income and expenditure directly, by determining the competitiveness of the tradeables sector, particularly of non-differentiated goods and services, indirectly influencing savings and investment. On first principles, net exports is a part of GDP and, to the extent it is negative, GDP, in other words domestic output, is reduced through both lower exports than what they otherwise would have been, and the inability of segments of domestic manufacturing to compete with imports. This directly impacts the savings side of the equation — lower output means lower fiscal revenues (that is, a higher government dissavings than what they otherwise would have been), lower jobs and, therefore, a lowering of private savings, and a negative impact on corporate earnings and, therefore, corporate savings. Clearly, it is difficult to argue that the real exchange rate has nothing to do with the current account deficit. What I find truly amazing is that this point even needs to be argued about.


To turn to some numbers, see the table. One does not need a PhD in econometrics to see the close relationship or correlation between the real exchange rate against the dollar and the deficits. I have deliberately used that number, not the more conventional model of a bilateral trade weighted basket of currencies. The rationale was argued by me in detail in an earlier article (see World Money: Time for MERM?, January 3). To summarise, the real rate against the invoicing currency matters much more than the destination of trade: an Iranian importer's decision whether to import garments from Bangladesh or India would depend on the pricing in the invoicing currency, not the bilateral rial rupee exchange rate. And, 80 per cent of our external transactions are invoiced in the dollar.




Deficit net of

End of 
fiscal year

Real exchange 
rate against 
USD end 
of year**


































































(Deficit figures in USD mn, exchange rates INR/USD)
* For 2010-11 till Q3 (December 2010)
** Using WPI for fiscal year for India and immediately and US CPI for the most recent calendar  

The following conclusions seem fairly obvious: 

  • The real dollar:rupee exchange rate was fairly stable until end March 2003, and so was the trade and current account deficit until 2003-04;
  • The real rate appreciated sharply over the next five years, to end at a level 25 per cent below 2002-03 (from 44.74 to 33.11); 
  • The year 2008-09, with the financial crisis, the rupee fell, which, as even proponents of free capital movements and market-determined exchange rates concede, as it benefited the competitiveness of the tradeable sectors. (But the end of the year rate was still 10 per cent lower than the 1st three years of the data.) 
  • In the very next year, we "corrected" the fall and at the end of 2009-10 the rupee was back to roughly 2007-08 level. My estimate for the 31.3.2011 level is a further rise to around 30, a rise of 30 per cent from 31-3-2003.

The unbridled appreciation of the rupee will doubtless lead to less investment in industry (Recently, the head of Siemens in Brazil warned that it faces the risk of "deindustrialisation" until it imposes more extreme capital controls to rein in the surging local currency (Financial Times, May 5, 2011). No wonder FDI investments in new projects, totalled just $20 bn last year, the lowest number for four years. And, the Tata Group recently decided to invest £5 bn in Jaguar to make the British company as good as the best German names. Obviously, the Tatas want to take on BMW and Mercedes through their British company, one more evidence of the trend of Indian businesses finding investing abroad more attractive, people like Deepak Parekh have been warning about this trend.

Of the impossible trinity (an independent monetary policy, free capital movements and a managed exchange rate) our policymakers seem to have chosen to give up the managed exchange rate, which, to my mind, is a complete reversal of the policy of the previous 15 years. And, this was undertaken unannounced, un-debated. This can be dangerous, a point to which I will come back next week.








The party has just begun to celebrate the "intelligence" of the average Indian voter and his astuteness in using the power of the ballot to overthrow the corrupt. The Tamil Nadu 2011 Assembly election results have acted as a catalyst for exuberance and revelry of the coming of age of the Indian voter and the supremacy of the adult franchise process.

Sorry to be a party pooper but these celebrations are premature. Let's understand why through a series of questions and answers:


1: In the 2011 elections, in a ballot paper that had a Dravida Munnettra Kazhagam (DMK) candidate on the list, out of every 100 voters, how many voted for the DMK candidate?
43 voters.

2: In the 2006 elections, in a ballot paper that had a DMK candidate on the list, how many out of every 100 voters, voted for the DMK candidate?
46 voters.



contested in 

% of votes polled in
contested seats in  

% of seats 
won in 



































Source: Election Commission of India website

So, out of every 100 voters, only three (46-43) apparently qualify for this "intelligent voter" description of our expert political commentators. In other words, when presented with an option of rejecting the DMK party for indulging in corrupt and patronage politics, only three out of 100 chose to exercise that option. A sombre scenario indeed.

3: In the 2011 Assembly election, how many seats, out of every 100 seats that the DMK candidate contested, did they win?
19 seats.

4: In the 2006 elections, how many seats did the DMK win out of every 100 seats?
73 seats.

Three "astute" voters out of every 100 caused DMK to lose 54 out of 100 seats vis-à-vis 2006? This perplexing outcome is a manifestation of electoral alliances. The Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK) political party started by Tamil actor Vijkayakanth provides the explanation for this bizarre and precipitous drop in seats won by DMK.

5: In 2006, out of every 100 voters, 48 voted for the DMK, 41 voted for the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) and nine voted for the DMDK. When in 2011, the AIADMK and the DMDK came together, how many out of every 100 voters voted for the AIADMK and DMDK combine?
52 voters.

This is a telling statistic. Contrary to the media portrayal of the average voter's scorn at DMK's petty politics, statistics show that the average voter was not as perturbed as we would have wanted him or her to be and instead voted in similar patterns as in the previous years according to his or her party loyalties. The mere combination of the votes polled for the AIADMK and DMDK in the 2011 election ensured that the alliance emerged as the winner in 87 out of every 100 seats (the table summarises these numbers).

A further extrapolation analysis of the electoral results can lead to some startling conclusions:

1: Had the AIADMK and DMDK fought independently, then the seat tally for the DMK in the 2011 elections would have been around 83 vis-à-vis 23 in actual.

2: Had the DMK allotted fewer seats to the Congress and contested in 132 seats as in 2006 and the ADMK and DMDK fought independently, the DMK would have garnered 92 seats. Ironically, this is not very different compared to the 96 seats won by the DMK in 2006.

In other words, in econometric parlance, holding other variables constant from the 2006 election, the DMK would have lost just four seats from the 96 seats it claimed in 2006. This paints a very contrarian picture to the one that our political commentators would have us believe. Interestingly, this also explains why most of the exit pollsters may have got their predictions wrong by predicting 100 plus seats for the DMK alliance, because exit polls do not have the ability to detect the impact due to changes in electoral alliances and rightfully could not discern any large meaningful change in voting patterns from 2006.

The 2011 Tamil Nadu Assembly election results are no vindication of any quantum leap in the average voter's astuteness, as is borne out in this analysis and is falsely alluded to by large sections of our society. The voter did not "punish" the DMK as it is made out to be and paradoxically, the Congress proved to be a liability for the DMK as opposed to the "neutralising" impact that everyone perceived it to be.

Winston Churchill is quoted to have said "The best argument against democracy is a five minute conversation with the average voter". Alas, this quintessentially Churchillian-style tongue-in-cheek comment may continue to be true, at least in Tamil Nadu.

(N Gopalaswami is the former Chief Election Commissioner of India. Praveen Chakravarty is on assignment with the Unique Identity Authority of India. These views are personal)







The land acquisition law needs only a minor change: Limit a State's power so it acquires just enough land for the purpose intended.

The new Chief Minister of West Bengal, Ms Mamata Banerjee, wants the Tatas to come back to Singur. But, she says, you can have only 600 of the 1,000 acres that the CPI(M) government gave you because I am going to hand back 400 acres to the farmers whose cause I espoused to start the process that led to my victory over the Marxists, who had ruled the State for 34 years. In a copycat move, the Congress party, which faces a crucial election next year in Uttar Pradesh, has sought to raise the same issue of land acquisition at a village called Bhatta-Parsaul near Delhi. To attract attention, it deployed Mr Rahul Gandhi to lead the charge. He did it in the only way he knows — badly. Now his party is busy issuing clarifications, as is the UP government. The Centre, meanwhile, is hastening with a new land acquisition Bill that does everything but address the core issue: Should the State use its sovereign power to acquire more land than is needed and should it be permitted to use the land for some other purpose after that?

There used to be a time when serious issues would be discussed quietly and only by experts. But now, as the debate around — not about — land acquisition shows, it is the opposite. The question is actually quite straightforward: Should the State's powers be abridged so that it does not acquire more land than is needed, only to hand over the extra to private developers at a modest price — who then go on to make huge profits by developing and selling that land. This is what appears to have happened in the case of the UP Government. It wanted to build an expressway from Noida to Agra; asked a private company to do it for free; acquired land from farmers that appears to be far in excess of what was needed for the road, and handed over the extra to the road-builder for a small consideration. The builder has gone on to develop the land and sell it at many multiples of what it paid for it. The farmers, from whom the land was acquired, are now up in arms saying that they should have got more or their land should not have been acquired under what they regard as false pretences. The answer to the problem lies not in the law but in the venality of politicians. They may all pretend to be on the side of the farmer but, as Jesus Christ once quietly said, let he who is without sin cast the first stone. All political parties have sinned in this respect when they were in power.

So, while much is being made of the fact that the land acquisition law is useless because it is 117 years old, it needs, in fact, only a small tweak: Limit the States' power to acquire land to what is enough for the purpose. But if the UPA Government does that too soon, it will lose what it regards as a potent issue for next year's election.






Central banks can reduce financial fragility by raising interest rates more quickly in normal times rather than scramble like bewildered chickens when the bad times descend.

The former RBI Governor, Dr Y. V. Reddy, will be pleased by the conclusions of this paper. He strongly believes that you should carry an umbrella even on a sunny day, in case it rains.

Applied to central banks, this means that they can reduce financial fragility by raising interest rates more quickly in normal times, that is, when they have the economic and political space to do so rather than scramble like bewildered chickens when bad times descend.

More importantly, this would offset their propensity to reduce rates when the banking system is in trouble, which is usually the knee-jerk response to system-wide adversity.

But that is not the only advantage of carrying an umbrella on a sunny day. Being proactive on interest rates can be an important way of gaining credibility. Inflation control alone need not be their leitmotif.

These suggestions form part of a recent NBER working paper (No 16994) Illiquid Banks, Financial Stability and Interest Rate Policy, authored by Douglas W. Diamond and Raghuram Rajan, both faculty at the Booth School of Business, University of Chicago.

Intervene, don't recapitalise

The authors also say that interest rate intervention by central banks to relieve financial stress may be better than alternatives such as direct recapitalisation of banks or lender-of-last-resort loans to banks.

Their research shows that a willingness to recapitalise banks directly at times of stress will undermine the discipline induced by private capital structures. Such intervention can undermine private commitment and make the system worse off.

Undirected interest rate intervention, where the central banks lend to any solvent bank that needs funds, may be better. This is because undirected interest rate intervention preserves the commitment induced by private contracts even while restoring flexibility to the system by bringing down rates in a way that private contracts cannot achieve.

The paper recognises that central banks' willingness to intervene when liquidity needs are high by pushing down interest rates ex post does not just affect expectations of real interest rates; it also encourages banks to make commitments that increase the need for intervention.

Expectation of low real interest rates can increase the future need for low rates.

To mitigate this, the central bank may have to commit to push the interest rate above the natural equilibrium rate in States where liquidity needs are low, to offset the incentives created by its lowering them when needs are high, the paper has said.

The paper also looks at why episodes of systemic financial sector illiquidity arise and why private arrangements may be insufficient to alleviate them.

The authors have also shown through the paper that unconstrained intervention (lending with no penalty) will make the system worse off. Unconstrained bailouts undermine the disciplinary role of deposits. Unconstrained public intervention undermines the discipline induced by private contracts. By contrast, constrained intervention to lower rates maintains private discipline, while offsetting contractual rigidity.

The NBER paper has noted that arm's length lending by the central bank with a non-pecuniary penalty results in effective interest rate intervention, allowing it to implement the ex-post socially optimal household friendly policy.

The key to intervening without undoing the private commitment inherent in demand deposits is to require that the central bank only makes arm's length loans, not grants, to solvent banks.

Also, a small additional non-pecuniary cost for bankers will ensure that banks exhaust the private deposit market before they turn to the central bank.

Do it differently

In the aftermath of the global financial crisis of 2008, most banking regulators are focused on changing incentives in the banking system. They hope this would change behaviour.

As part of post-crisis reforms, banks in the developed world are now faced with the surge of re-regulation, which will raise their costs, trim their profits and force customers to look for cheaper banking services.

This paper has not gone very deeply into the financial crisis of 2008-09 or made a direct analysis of it.

But, it certainly points out that the focus on the perverse effects of anticipated low interest rates did help in understanding the build-up of illiquidity and leverage, which contributed to the 2008-09 crisis.

The fact that there has been empirical work discussing the responsibility of low short term interest rates in the US from 2003 to 2006 as well as the "Greenspan Put" (interpreted as following asymmetric interest rate policy) for the crisis has been brought out in the paper.





For the newly-elected Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, J Jayalalithaa, the number 7 was said to be lucky this time. Consider this: The number of seats that her party, the All India Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, contested in the Assembly election was 160 (1+6=7); after her party's resounding victory, she took oath of office as Chief Minister on 16th (1+6=7); the number of her ministers in the Cabinet is 34 (3+4=7) and, finally, on the first day of taking over as Chief Minister, she is said to have signed 7 files.

It is believed that the last time when she was the Chief Minister, the number 9 was lucky for her.

Green tea for Didi

It is said that West Bengal's newly elected Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee, sees red at the sight of anything red. She doesn't even like red colour on her sari, according to some news reports.

After all, she carried out a long struggle to oust the Reds after 34 years of uninterrupted rule. But, surprisingly, when it comes to her favourite drink, Didi still prefers 'Lal Cha' (red tea sans milk), as a scribe who had gone to interview her found out.

After the interview, the scribe was tempted to suggest to Didi to start drinking 'green tea' instead. Double benefit: Good for her health and politics! (Trinamool's colour is green).

Who leads the Maharaja?

Has the Ministry of Civil Aviation now taken on the role of running Air India?

Earlier this month, when pilots called off their agitation, the minutes for settling the dispute were signed by a three-member team led by a senior Ministry official. There was no official from the airline management signing the document.

Just when scribes thought this was a one-off incident, came another instance which showed just who the boss is. A statement outlining the increase in flights by Alliance Air in the North East was issued by the Press Information Bureau. It said that the Civil Aviation Ministry had decided to increase Alliance Air services in the North East, thereby sealing the issue.

Adani in faxing fix

These days, the BSE and NSE fax machines have been working overtime as companies rush to announce their results. The impact of this hectic activity was felt in Ahmedabad recently when Adani Enterprises Ltd invited the media to announce its results.

Scribes had to wait for nearly 40 minutes for the company officials to reach the venue. It was later learnt that it was mandatory for the companies to fax the results to the two premier stock exchanges before announcing them. With the BSE and NSE machines overloaded, AEL officials were stuck and could not announce the results despite trying very hard. Eventually, after a long wait, they heaved a sigh of relief, apologised to the waiting reporters and declared the results.

JPC and Pandora's Box

At his first press conference, JPC Chairman, P.C.Chacko, faced many searching questions from scribes. Reason: The JPC decided to dig deep into the migration package awarded by the NDA Government to telecom operators under the New Telecom Policy in July 1999.

One scribe asked Chacko whether the JPC was reopening the Pandora's Box.

He sought to know whether JPC will call as witnesses the then external affairs minister (Yashwant Sinha) and then Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission (Jaswant Singh). Both were part of the NDA Government that approved the migration package and were now members of the JPC.

Pat came the reply from Chacko — "It is not that we (JPC) have opened the Pandora's Box. Pandora's Box has been entrusted to us by Parliament! Our reach is very extensive. Terms of reference are our guidelines.

From 1998 to 2009, all matters relating to policy, Cabinet decision, implementation can be looked into by us"

Next day, Yashwant Sinha gratuitously offered to depose before the JPC, taking the sting out of its tail.

Catching 'em young

While campus hiring by infotech majors invited a fair amount of flak for luring teenagers into the job market, a Bangalore-based pre-school, located amidst leading software companies, is promoting itself as a place where "next-gen CEOs are groomed". Now, isn't cradle-snatching being taken a bit too far?

Case of the missing cylinder

A colleague in Delhi applied for an Indane LPG cyclinder refill. The dealer asked him to do a telebooking. On doing so, he got a booking confirmation via SMS saying that the cash memo had been generated and the refill would be delivered shortly. A day later, a fresh SMS landed up stating that the cylinder had been delivered at his home. But nothing landed up at home.

The colleague, who insists on never exercising journalistic privileges, decided to junk his principles for once and called the company directly. Sure enough, another cylinder arrived in no time. So, where did the missing one go? Alas, streamlining of services is still a far cry in the Capital.

Phishing in troubled waters

The latest to be dragged in the phish-list is Satyam Computers. The buzz doing the rounds these days is an e-mail from one Ms Radha Ramalinga, posing as Satyam founder Byrraju Ramalinga Raju's sister-in-law, seeking help to move funds from Holland to India as the Raju brothers are in "big trouble" in India. At least, this is one bait the Rajus can't really account for!









Everyone knows poverty is rampant in India, but nobody knows exactly how many of us are poor. That's because we've tried to count the poor many times with different assumptions, and come up with widely different numbers. In 2004-05, the Planning Commission reckoned that only 27% of Indians were poor. This was debunked by a committee headed by Suresh Tendulkar in 2009, which pegged the number of poor at 37% of the population. Around the same time, another committee headed by the late Arjun Sengupta estimated that a staggering 78% of Indians were poor and a panel headed by N C Saxena pegged the number at 50% of the population. Last year, however, another study used a wide-ranging definition of poverty to conclude that 55% of Indians were below the poverty line. This profusion of numbers makes it hard to administer and deliver the vast amounts of money that India spends on poverty-reducing programmes: . 40,000 crore on the NREGS, a similar amount on a scheme for rural jobs, about . 10,000 crore in housing schemes for the poor and . 60,000 crore in food subsidies. So, the government's decision to conduct a census to identify the poor as well as their religion and caste is welcome.

It's also a good idea to measure poverty by asking whether the poor can afford education and healthcare for the family. To do that, the poverty census will have to focus on some measure of spending power — the norm used by many multilateral agencies is $1.25 a day, in PPP dollars. Counting for the census is just over and a lot of data from that will give a template against which the poverty data can be cross-referenced. Of course, the government will face pressure from many state governments to scuttle or minimise the scope of the poverty census, but that's because many states run profitable rackets to siphon off anti-poverty finances. These pressures should be resisted. Finally, once the government has identified the poor, it should knock everybody else out of the list of beneficiaries. The Saxena panel found that 17% of India's richest people continue to have access to BPL facilities while more than 50% of the poor do not. That has to end.







The report of the high powered expert committee on Indian urban infrastructure and services underlines the severe lack of capacity building and attendant systems to put together resources and funds. The panel, chaired by Isher Judge Ahluwalia, points out that our urban local governments are among the weakest in the world both in terms of capacity to raise resources and financial autonomy, though the investment requirement is huge and daunting. It points at the pressing need for the states to devolve political and financial power to urban local bodies and for the Centre to be purposefully involved in the entire process of reform. Reform of governance including local bodies is vital, and strengthening of finances of the latter is urgently needed. Only 30% of India's population lives in urban areas, far lower than in other comparable economies. The report says that growth can't be sustained if urbanisation is not actively facilitated with proactive policy and action.
The investment requirement for the period 2012-31, for eight key infrastructure sectors is estimated to be . 39.2 lakh crore at 2009-10 prices, much of it for urban roads, water supply, drainage and so on. Institutional reform is crucial for municipal entities to have improved tax revenues so that together with rational user charges, cities can leverage their own resources to raise debt and access new forms of financing through public-private partnerships. The committee wants constitutionally mandated revenue sharing with local bodies by the states, in a framework of accountability. For institutional capacity building, what's called for is the setting up of Indian Institutes of Urban Management, anchored to the IIMs or otherwise. Further, the panel wants local bodies to be empowered with 'exclusive' taxes, a mechanism to monetise public land, taking into account the needs of low-income groups and the removal of today's 8% interest cap on municipal bonds. Abroad, the size of the municipal bond market rivals that for corporate securities. We need to build thriving municipal bond markets to create and finance great cities in India.









People who said that top leaders of Left parties would own up to grave mistakes and perchance, even resign, after the dreadful show in Bengal and loss in Kerala, can shove a red flag up any part of their anatomy they want to. Communists don't quit; election outcomes don't matter. Comrades might retreat for strategic reasons, but come the revolution they'll be back. Never mind if the revolution hasn't taken place on Indian soil, there's always the certainty that the next dawn will be a red one. Once upon a time, spring thunder rang out over India, rolling down from the highlands of north Bengal. But once it got to the indolent plains it petered out in vulgar street fights and burning tramcars. Did that get you into believing there's no hope for revolution, ever, in India's noisy democracy? The comrades will happily examine your head, with or without attached body, in Alimuddin Street.

Revolution will come, confounding all doubters, once the consciousness of the people is sufficiently elevated to see through the veneer of imperialism that we're brainwashed to call electoral democracy. When it comes, it will need a vanguard to lead it and take over the commanding heights. Who can be trusted to lead the vanguard? Not some ragtag forest-dweller from the backwaters surely, nor some noisome trade union types or, horror, comrades tainted by fighting elections. No, the vanguard needs people of an elevated consciousness, brimming with pristine Leninism, undiluted by the corrupting waters of faux democracy, steeped in strategy sharpened in do-or-die debate at the JNU. For the moment, therefore, a strategic retreat to speedread the collected works of Lenin. Awaiting, patiently, the signal to storm the imperialist citadel. After all, there's a reason why communists live as long as they do







One of the drivers of India's growth going forward is how well the professional class adapts to emerging opportunities in the new India. Historically, Indians have been reasonably riskaverse, preferring salaried jobs rather than take the plunge into doing something on their own. These days, the IIM graduate taking the entrepreneurial road is still the exception than the rule — which is why these cases make headlines in newspapers rather than being the norm.

The reasons why so few of our qualified people take the plunge are manifold. First, there is the issue of financial safety. Most of us who come from middle class backgrounds simply do not have sufficient funds to take risk, particularly when there is no financial back up. Family commitments can also intervene and diminish risk-taking capability — children's education, parents' medical, retirement worries, etc. Surprisingly, education can often become a handicap. You have more to lose when you can get a job in a good investment bank or consulting firm or a leading corporate. And, therefore, the safer path often seems more attractive.
Second, many communities and societies do not have a risktaking culture; it's simply not built into their cultural DNA. Plus there is no family or community knowledge or network of how to go about starting a new business or the issues involved in doing so. Equally, there are other communities where risk-taking and starting new businesses are in fact the norm and the expected thing to do. But these communities are fewer than we need.
India's culture of promoters is also unique. Banks require personal guarantees, private equity investors need there to be a strong promoter/manager and investors need a prominent face. All this militates against a professional set-up and reinforces the need to put yourself as the entrepreneur even more on the line. A number of people could be, and are, uncomfortable taking on this added burden. Much better to simply carry on doing your secure job.

This is a shame. To broadbase our growth, India needs an army of entrepreneurs. New businesses create new jobs and increase the value added in the economy. Profitable businesses contribute to enhanced tax collections and make the economy more efficient and streamlined while creating new and unique opportunities for growth. Over time, some of these firms could globalise and become world leaders in their respective areas. Indians have the talent, expertise and increasingly the experience to start new businesses in knowledge-based areas so that we have the opportunity to become the innovation centre of the world, gradually taking on the mantle from the US. As more ideas spread and businesses start to capitalise on opportunities here, capital will surely come in to support such endeavours. All of this will create a virtuous cycle of new investment, new jobs, more trained people and higher GDP growth. This private enterprise will also find its way more and more into rural areas and we are already seeing that with the many "bottom of the pyramid" strategies.

Hence we must foster and encourage such entrepreneurial activity. However, how to do it? Clearly, we need more risk capital at play. But more than anything else, we need more entrepreneurs. Business schools should encourage courses on entrepreneurialism and foster a higher degree of risk-taking. IIMs and other B-schools should create communities of alumni where active mentoring can happen during the coursework and internships should be organised in start-up companies so that students get a firsthand feel of such environments. Similarly, mid-career entrepreneurs should also be encouraged as they could have specific domain knowledge or understanding of their business which can help them differentiate their ventures. Capital providers are also more likely to back such individuals.

    Successful entrepreneurs should get the basics right. From day one, they should have a "best in class mindset". It is impossible to create a world-class service or product without a world class organisation. Or at the very least, with a highly effective organisation. Hence a lot of thought should go into the team and the organisation build.
As far as financing is concerned, it clearly should be linked to the business's growth plans. However, it must be methodical and planned from the beginning. All too often, the capital structure strategy and financial planning is an afterthought. Second, the business should be staffed with a good CFO who can help put in place good controls right from day one, and help plan for downside eventualities. Entrepreneurs are apt to get carried away by their own sales pitch. There should always be a Plan B in case things do not turn out as expected.
From a people standpoint, it is always a challenge to migrate from a start-up, to hiring and managing other professionals as business grows. Often the entrepreneur's own competency could be an issue and recognising this can be a difficult task. Good people systems should be created early in the game as retaining good people will always be a challenge in India in the foreseeable future. Stock options can be handy here.
From a governance standpoint, it helps in the long run to get excellent directors — those who are independent, involved, and unafraid to give point of view. Over time, they can help tremendously in adding value to a business. Also ensuring the best compliance and reporting systems helps in valuation.
To sum up, there is no doubt that India needs the practice of starting new businesses to grow and become broader. Our educated and trained young people need to be encouraged to hew their own paths and thus help create a more jobs for a growing India and broaden the development paradigm.







ET Interactive



Peter Head, a director of Arup, is one of the key figures spearheading the British engineering and design company's operations across the globe. Most recently, Head has been associated with building China's first ecocities, Dongtan and Wangzhuan. But lately, he has been increasingly travelling to India. Though Arup is present in India, Head's visits have little to do with the company's operations. Rather, Head is closely associated with developing the Indian Institute for Human Settlements, an upcoming Bangalore-based private university "focused on creating a new generation of professionals prepared to tackle the unprecedented transformation of India's urban regions".

Arup and design counterpart IDEO are partners of the university, established by a group of entrepreneurs and professionals such as Rakesh Mohan, Keshub Mahindra, Deepak Parekh and Jamshyd Godrej, among others. The institution, Head says, will teach urbanism as a holistic subject so that people can study a core discipline and branch out to special subjects such as architecture, urban design, energy and waste management.
For India, he says, the university is timely. Indian universities churn out 450 urban planners a year for a country of more than a billion people. Experts say that is a measly turnout, given an estimated 500 million people are expected to migrate to cities in the next half-century. Put another way, India needs new cities and experts who can build them. "The aim is to teach up to a million 'urbanists' in India by 2040," says Head.
At the Indian Institute for Human Settlements, Head will help with the curriculum and partake in demonstration projects and consultancy that showcases the paradigm shift in urban planning. "Some profits from consultancy will be put back into the university to subsidise teaching."

Arup, Head says, will look to create an e-learning platform so that even people in villages across India can learn urban planning. Though the construction for the campus is still underway, Head has already met the first batch of 50 students — "from different backgrounds and undergraduate and masters students" — in Bangalore in the first week of January. The batch was a mix of engineers, architects and urban designers.
Head tasked the students with "re-imagining world class cities in India". He also asked them to develop a new financial centre in Bangalore, which would entail investments worth $25 billion. Students had to decide if there was an alternative to creating a million jobs in Bangalore by building 45-storey buildings. They were given four days to come up with answers. Five of the six groups thought the buildings were a bad idea, says Head, adding that he was happy to see the emergence of a view "to do something different".
A few weeks later, Head was a judge at an international architectural design contest in Delhi. "The winners proposed medium-rise buildings with narrow streets and vibrant markets." Head was again happy to see that high-rises were disregarded by the contestants. After these two events, Head says he is "convinced that there are many bright people who see the future of development of Indian cities as not replicating existing models of urbanisation".
Head, who was awarded Commander of the Order of the British Empire in January, is known to design projects that work without hiccups for users. He is big advocate of sustainable development. "I actually think it is possible for India to find a new development path using its own skills, its own materials and its own renewable systems," he says.
For an urban planner, Head has a surprising affinity for the countryside and its inhabitants. "Urban planning is a big issue… development can help fund the supply of roads to help farmers." Growing food more efficiently or changing land use patterns doesn't involve big glass blocks, he says. If India builds 'big stuff', it will end up like China, which has to flock to every other country to build resources, he says. "Farmers need help to produce food along with urbanisation." This so-called urban-rural development plan will narrow the gap between the rich in cities and the poor in rural areas, he says, adding that building cities will help farmers with resources to improve farming. Head, who joined Arup in 2004 and leads the firm's global planning practice, says Arup's operations are modest in India compared to China. "We have 200 people in China", but Arup established an office in Mumbai only in 2008. Still, it has been involved in many projects across the country, including multi-disciplinary services for the Rajiv Gandhi International Airport in Hyderabad, master planning and feasibility study for the redevelopment of New Delhi Railway Station and design for Druk White Lotus School in Ladakh.
Head says the company is looking to expand in India. At a time India is expected to experience a burgeoning growth in urban areas, he says his company's approach to urbanisation will find many takers. "Most cities are putting lipstick on a gorilla…there is a more fundamental approach which I believe in."










To hive off or not to do so, that seems to be the policy question in the here and now, when it comes to government debt and its proper management. The Reserve Bank of India has gone on record that it's against the setting up of a separate debt management office by the Centre, so as to better manage the sovereign debt of the government as it's supposed. It adds that only the central bank has the requisite expertise to smoothly manage volatility in the market for government securities, given limited absorptive capacity for such bonds.
Global experience does suggest a strong case for an independent debt management office. Yet, in the domain of policy, the mavens have shown that when there are nth number of distortions economy-wide, inducing one additional distortion can actually improve matters — read welfare — all round instead of making things worse. So for instance in the face of excessive volatility in the foreign exchange market, currency intervention by the central bank for the specific policy purpose, say, of preventing rapid hardening of the rupee would, other things remaining constant, generally be welfare enhancing across the board. And in a scenario of rising interest rates, slower growth in the offing and almost certainly a larger than budgeted deficit in governmental accounts in the works, it would make policy sense to keep the idea of independent debt management in abeyance for the present. Of course once we have a much lower fiscal deficit figure, more reasonable yields, and better expectations generally, there would be a sound case for hiving off debt management.

The point is that in the emerging scenario of decelerating growth trends, and higher governmental borrowings likely, it makes overall sense for the central bank to continue to manage government debt. There can be conflict of interest in continuing with the status quo, for sure. After all, the RBI's role as monetary authority that indicates the cost of funds, read interest rates, its job as bank regulator, with amble suasionary powers to ask for heightened subscription of government securities, and its function as banker to the government can all clash and work at cross-purposes.

Hence the case for shifting debt management functions from the central bank, so as to avoid and resolve conflict of interest. There are other gains to be made with hiving off and institutional reform. The policy goal for an independent debt office is that it can well reduce the cost of debt, with reduced human resources and the specialised fanning out of operations, facilitate debt consolidation and rev up transparency in the bargain. However, such reform is best done when things are hunkydory both in the external economic environment and otherwise. Given that the policy setting has become all the more challenging of late, continuing with in-house management of government debt by the RBI — albeit implying an extra distortion — would actually be welfare enhancing overall. It would, for example, help harmonise the market borrowing programmes of both the Centre and the states, especially when the absorptive capacity of the market, denoting subscriber banks, is but limited. Note that the theory of the second best is precisely about finding optimal solutions in the presence of (price) distortions, which prevent the attainment of ideal solutions, or what the mavens call a Pareto optimum. In the particular instance of a stand-alone debt office, driving at an optimal ratio of price to marginal cost may well amount to taking very narrow a view of objectives.

Besides, it cannot be gainsaid that the RBI is very much in the thick of things in the government securities market and has finger on its pulse, complete with an array of instruments to tap funds at fine rates. Not so long ago, the market for government paper used to be rather opaque, operated basically via telephone calls, but is no longer so. And the point remains that there's the vital need for closer coordination between the central bank and sovereign debt management for proper monetary policy and financial stability, in what seems like a wobbly macroeconomic policy scene. So a pause, for now, appears warranted. But in the medium term and beyond the RBI would surely need to shed its debt management role. As and when that happens, the central bank needn't be exercised over loss of clout and so forth. The eventual hive off can only mean more focused central-bank operations. In any case, the fact remains that the monetary policy stance of the RBI has been evolving (and reforming) over time, particularly in the last decade or two. Note that the details on its monetary policy stance were made public only beginning with the policy statement of April 1996. Prior to that there was routine opacity, no doubt. Subsequently, the automatic monetisation of the fiscal deficit through the issue of ad hoc treasury bills was phased out. And effective April 1, 2006 the RBI did withdraw from participating in primary market auctions of government paper. The way ahead is more reforms and focus.


• In the emerging scenario, it makes sense for the RBI to manage government debt

• Its role as monetary authority, regulator and banker to the government can clash

• But in the medium term, the RBI would need to shed its debt management role








In December 2009, soon after completing his first year as Home Minister, P Chidambaram gave an important speech to Intelligence Bureau officials where he proposed radical changes to India's internal security structures and identified the key weaknesses as he saw them.


As he put it, the first big problem was that "the police stations in the country are, today, virtually unconnected islands…There is no system of data storage, data-sharing and accessing data. There is no system under which one police station can talk to another directly. There is no record of crimes or criminals that can be accessed by a Station House Officer, except the manual records relating to that police station."


In other words, we are a twenty-first century economy with a nineteenthcentury policing system and unless we rectify this fundamental dichotomy, embarrassing comedy shows of the kind we are seeing with the botched-up most-wanted list to Pakistan are bound to keep recurring. The cost this time is a few red faces, a couple of transfers and some inter-agency name-calling, but this kind of dissonance in our policing can be deadly.

It is ironic that the minister who so aptly put his finger on the crux of the issue has now been so embarrassed by its natural consequence. To tell the Pakistanis to take action against 50 terrorists, one of whom now runs a zari business in Thane and another who is in Arthur Road jail is a plot that even the makers of 'Office Office' would have struggled to come up with.


Had he been a wisecracking hack, Mr Chidambaram could have turned around and told the establishment, 'I told you so'. The problem is that he himself is the establishment and the minister in charge. So he did the honourable thing by admitting the error, explained how it occurred and did not succumb to the temptation of a coverup or a pointless denial.


Since then, the Home Minister has sought to downplay the issue, questioning the very relevance of giving such lists to Pakistan. Of course, Pakistan has never acted on such lists in the past but no one ever expected it to.


The whole point of publicising such lists is to claim the moral high ground, to walk the high road of victimhood, to add teeth to our daily rhetoric on Pakistan. It is political theatre, plain and simple. That is why the list has 50 names, not 49 or 53. It is all about the acoustics and by erring so stupidly on the detail, we have nothing but egg on our faces.


If Pakistan had not been so preoccupied, if it had not been so badly exposed on Osama, its diplomats would have been crowing gleefully from every rooftop, feigning injured innocence and using this goof-up to dismiss the entire Indian charge of cross-border terrorism itself.


The silver lining for Mr Chidamabaram is that this affair of the outdated list must now give him momentum against the naysayers in the system who have been doubtful about the two major Home Ministry e-initiatives that are imperative for effective policing.

The first is the Crime and Criminal Tracking Network System (CCTNS) that is supposed to link all 16,000 police stations in the country for real-time information sharing and easier access to records.


The second is NATGRID, a centralised data system that will inter-link 21 separate databases – such as bank account numbers, financial transactions, passport details, credit cards and so on – to feed into counter-terrorism efforts.


 NATGRID is one of the primary ideas Mr Chidambram outlined in that December 2009 speech to the Intelligence Bureau officials and it is supposed to provide an investigating agency current data on any person at the flick of a button.


Only law enforcement agencies will have access to NATGRID and privacy concerns notwithstanding, it is obvious that any serious counter-terrorism effort needs this kind of a centralised information system as its eyes and ears.


 Yet, the idea of NATGRID was opposed by other ministries when it was first mooted. Apart from the issue of privacy, many of the other concerns smacked of turf warfare.


 In that same 2009 speech where he called for a "thorough and radical departure" from our present internal security structure, Chidamabaram also identified the root causes of resistance to change: the repose of routine and complacency.


 Now he must seize the moment to break the routine and tell us where the government stands in the implementation of the radical changes he has been propounding.




                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL




To her credit, West Bengal's new Chief Minister, Ms Mamata Banerjee, has deviated significantly from her pre-election persona of being an unremitting agitator in whose hands, many feared, the fabric of administration would rupture, although they were still willing to bet on her in order to evict the Left. Ms Banerjee has demonstrated effectively that, politically, she can rise above her own earlier benchmarks. Perhaps she is conscious of the weight of expectations, as well as the weight of history, that she carries after displacing an entrenched "people's" government through a vote whose legitimacy and transparency are beyond question. In fact, the Trinamul Congress leader has not ushered in a counter-revolution as some rash elements of the Left might have hoped as this would give them a propaganda advantage to begin with, and then legitimise a call to arms. No war has been commenced in West Bengal against Communist unions among government employees or elsewhere in the system. Taking a leaf out of the book of statesmen, the Chief Minister gave the slogan of "badal, not badla" (change, not revenge) as the poll results were declared. Despite this, top CPM leaders traipsed around television studios hinting that the Left would now be subjected to state-sponsored violence. Fortunately, this has not come to pass. This is good for West Bengal, and good for India. Should anti-Marxist violence on any meaningful scale erupt, Ms Banerjee would rise in the nation's estimation if she cracked down hard on the perpetrators, giving them no quarter. Bengal needs political healing, it needs development, and a touch of political impartiality in the public sphere after decades of deep-going, life-distorting, partisanship which crushed ordinary people. The state has the potential to rise to the very top if the leadership is right. Ms Banerjee has been given the historical opportunity to shoulder this responsibility. We shall know, by and by, if she has it in her to handle the challenge. Indeed, even if she gave it a good shot, that might be enough. Ms Banerjee has got her symbolism right so far. She walked from Raj Bhavan to Writers' Buildings, the state secretariat, after being sworn in, with thousands keeping her company. Such a gesture connects her to the people instantaneously, and is a counterpoint to the Left which had grown distant from the people. Ms Banerjee has also so far insisted on driving in her black Santro rather than the sanitised, bulletproof government vehicle laid out for the Chief Minister. She would be well-advised, though, not to take the popular touch too far as she will discover this impedes her work as she sets about discharging her constitutional responsibilities, and adds to the costs of keeping her safe. Until now, the Chief Minister's sense of administration has worked well. Thank God she didn't stick to the small Cabinet she had initially proposed. The scale of the work to be undertaken does not allow such a luxury. Indeed, commitments of this nature are mindlessly populist. Although in Ms Banerjee's council of ministers there are many with extensive experience of administration — such as the former state chief secretary — as well as the private sector, creative political and administrative direction will have to come from her if the state is to move forward, providing growth and equity.







There is a story making the rounds among Lebanese Facebook users about a Syrian democracy activist who was stopped at a Syrian Army checkpoint the other day. He reportedly had a laptop and a thumb drive on the seat next to him. The Syrian soldier examined them and then asked the driver: "Do you have a Facebook?" "No", the man said, so the soldier let him pass. You have to feel sorry for that Syrian soldier looking for a Facebook on the front seat, but it's that kind of regime. Syria really doesn't know what's hit it — how the tightest police state in the region could lose control over its population, armed only with cellphone cameras and, yes, access to Facebook and YouTube. You can see how it happened from just one example: Several Syrian dissidents have banded together and from scratch created SNN — Shaam News Network — a website that is posting the cellphone pictures and Twitter feeds coming in from protests all over Syria. Many global TV networks, all of which are banned from Syria, are now picking up SNN's hourly footage. My bet is that SNN cost no more than a few thousand dollars to start, and it's become the go-to site for video from the Syrian uprising. Just like that — a regime that controlled all the news now can't anymore. I don't see how Syria's President, Bashar al-Assad, can last — not because of Facebook, which his regime would love to confiscate, if it could only find the darn thing — but because of something hiding in plain sight: Many, many Syrian people have lost their fear. On Friday alone, the regime killed at least 26 more of its people in protests across the country. This is a fight to the death now — and it's the biggest show on earth, for one very simple reason: Libya implodes, Tunisia implodes, Egypt implodes, Yemen implodes, Bahrain implodes — Syria explodes. The emergence of democracy in all these other Arab countries would change their governments and have long-term regional implications. But democracy or breakdown in Syria would change the whole West Asia overnight. A collapse or democratisation of the Syrian regime would have huge ramifications for Lebanon, a country Syria has controlled since the mid-1970s; for Israel, which has counted on Syria to keep the peace on the Golan Heights since 1967; for Iran, since Syria is Iran's main platform for exporting revolution into the Arab world; for the Lebanese Shia militia Hezbollah, which gets rockets from Iran via Syria; for Turkey, which abuts Syria and shares many of its ethnic communities, particularly Kurds, Alawites and Sunnis; for Iraq, which suffered from Syria serving as a conduit for jihadist suicide bombers; and for Hamas, whose leader sits in Damascus. Because Syria is such a keystone nation, there is a tendency among its neighbours to hope that the Assad regime could be weakened — and therefore moderated — but not broken. Few dare trust the Syrian people to build a stable social order out of the ashes of the Assad dictatorship. Those fears may be appropriate, but none of us get a vote. Only the Syrians do, and they are voting with their feet and with their lives for the opportunity to live as citizens, with equal rights and obligations, not pawns of a mafia regime. More than in any other Arab country today, the democracy protesters in Syria know that when they walk out the door to peacefully demand freedom they are facing a regime that has no hesitancy about gunning them down. Lebanese have been surprised by their sheer bravery. "We have an obligation of solidarity with people in distress who are fighting for their freedom and their dignity with non-violent means", said Michel Hajji Georgiou, a writer at Beirut's L'Orient Le Jour newspaper and one of the drivers of the Cedar Revolution here in 2005. "There can be no stable democracy in Lebanon if there is no democracy in Syria". Of course, the million-dollar question hanging over the Syrian rebellion, and all the Arab rebellions, is: Can the people really come together and write a social contract to live together as equal citizens — not as rival sects — once the iron fist of the regimes is removed? The answer is not clear, but when you see so many people peacefully defying these regimes, like Syria's, it tells you that something very deep wants to rise to the surface. It tells you that while no Arabs are really citizens today with full rights and obligations, said Hanin Ghaddar, editor of, a website tracking the revolutions, "they want to be" and that's what these uprisings are largely about. Ghaddar added that she recently returned from New York City, where she ran into rival demonstrations in Central Park between people who insisted that horse-drawn carriages there were just fine and animal-rights activists who argued that these street carriages endangered horses: "I thought, 'Oh, my God! I just want to live in a country where you have the luxury to worry about animal rights'", not human rights. "We are still so far from that luxury".







The way the 2G spectrum affair has unfolded, and the stringent, no-nonsense, manner in which the Supreme Court has gone about monitoring the judicial proceedings in this case of monumental corruption at the national Cabinet level, making it possibly the most brazen — not to say the most significant, in terms of money value and quantifiable loss to the exchequer — instance of the loot of public funds ever in this country, there is no surprise in the fact that DMK Rajya Sabha MP, Ms Kanimozhi has been sent to jail by a special CBI court, rather than be granted bail. Beginning with the despatch of former communications minister A. Raja to prison, the courts have so far spared no one who was involved in the fraudulent spectrum allocation procedures, or paid or received the extraordinarily large bribes that are said to have been involved. In the circumstances, giving Ms Kanimozhi bail would have struck a different note from the norm that has been set. In that event meanings are apt to have been read. After all, the DMK MP is the daughter of M. Karunanidhi, the party's founder-patriarch and one of the most powerful politicians South India has known, not to say a constituent of the UPA-II alliance which rules at the Centre. The judiciary would have appeared to be subservient to the executive. More, the case of the prosecution against the other accused could also conceivably have been prejudiced if the impression gained ground that Ms Kanimozhi was being shown consideration denied to others. It should be kept in view, however, that neither Ms Kanimozhi nor any of the others has yet been found guilty. In the case of the DMK MP, bail was denied as the court apprehended that she was in a position to influence witnesses who are mostly employees of Kalaignar TV where Mr Karunanidhi's daughter holds 20 per cent of the stake in a concern which virtually belongs to her family. On the basis of the material available, the court believed that she was deeply involved in company operations. It did not accept her plea that there was nothing to link her to the `200 crore unsecured loan — allegedly a convenient way to transfer the bribe sum to her, courtesy Mr Raja — Kalaignar TV received from entities in Mumbai (who, needless to say, are thought to be fronting for companies that unfairly bagged spectrum). Indeed, judge O.P. Saini observed that bail was being denied to Ms Kanimozhi and co-accused Sharad Kumar, the Kalaignar TV MD, "considering the magnitude of the crime, the nature and enormity of the allegations, the character of evidence on record and the apprehension that witnesses may be influenced in case the accused are released on bail". The judge was impressed with Ms Kanimozhi's "dignified" conduct in court but still could not accept her counsel's plea for bail on the ground of her being a woman. The DMK leadership is reported to be peeved with its ally Congress for not helping to get Ms Kanimozhi off the hook, and indeed seeing some hidden game in Mr Karunanidhi's daughter's continuing travails. Such a response is unbecoming of any political party, leave alone one with a record of waging struggles to end social discriminations.






Welcome to the CBI mall With its centralised air-conditioning and state-of-the-art communication systems, the new headquarters of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has a swanky look. The CBI officers, senior and junior, posted in the headquarters are not only happy at having got relief from the usual vagaries of the weather, but are feeling proud enough to invite their colleagues and friends posted in other government departments for a cup of tea. Built at a cost of `186 crores, the 11-storey CBI building not only houses all branches of the agency under one roof, but also boasts of a gallery showcasing the history and landmark achievements of the CBI. It has separate gyms for male and female officers and is spread over 7,000 square metres, with a terrace garden and two-level basement parking. No wonder, the officers are secretly calling it the "CBI mall". Bhardwaj's vaulting ambitions Karnataka governor H.R. Bhardwaj has been in the news for the past several days for trying to unsettle the government of chief minister B.S Yeddyurappa. Conspiracy theorists in Delhi, however, say that the former three-time Union law minister, Mr Bhardwaj, is up to such tricks since he has not lost his love for a Central posting. They are quick to point out that the much-awaited Cabinet expansion is on the cards and the latest move by the governor is too closely timed with the expected exercise. It seems that Mr Bhardwaj is bent on establishing and reiterating his credentials as a close confidante of the Congress high command ahead of the Cabinet expansion. The governor may be hoping for a Central posting, but one wonders if this is the right way to go about it. Some deliberate threats In what can be the finest example of abuse of power by the police, a well-connected assistant commissioner of police (ACP) went up to a reporter, T.K. Dwivedi, from a Mumbai tabloid, who has been booked under the Official Secrets Act and is now in lock-up, and told Mr Dwivedi how much he wanted him to be inside jail. The reporter, who had exposed the filthy conditions in which arms worth crores of rupees were stored, was booked under the stringent act after a private party filed a petition in the court saying that the reporter was a spy and his story was against national interest. Mr Dwivedi had, in the recent past, also reported a few stories against this particular ACP. When fellow reporters protested against the threats of the ACP and met state home minister R.R. Patil seeking immediate release of the reporter, Mr Patil did what every politician specialises in. Mr Patil assured the journalists that he would set up an inquiry to look into the ACP's threat and also see whether the complaint against the reporter was deliberate (the same way he sets up inquiries whenever his department falters, and nothing ever comes of it.) Greatest gifts Young people claim to join political parties to serve their motherland and humankind, but their eyes are firmly on a poll ticket. This became amply clear during All-India Congress Committee secretary Bhanwar Jitendra Singh's recent trip to Rajasthan. Mr Singh visited the house of Youth Congress president Pawan Godara who recently had a baby girl. It is customary on such occasions to bring gifts for the baby. Mr Singh also followed the tradition and brought a gift for the baby girl. But when he was handing over the gift to Mr Godara, the latter smiled and said: "Sir, thank you. But the greatest gift you can give is a 'ticket' in the next Assembly elections". Mr Godara became the state Youth Congress president by defeating all other candidates in the organisational elections conducted by the party. Obviously, he is now looking for a ticket to a bigger future. Victory is tough to digest Congress leaders in Assam have not been able to come to terms with their landslide victory in the recently-concluded Assembly elections. In fact, they were in such a pessimistic mood that many party members of the Legislative Assembly, including Sib Charan Basumatary of Dudhnoi, had vacated their official quarters of the old MLA hostel soon after polling was over on April 11. Former deputy speaker Pranati Phookan of Naharkatia was so depressed that she did not feel like going to the counting booth till 10.30 am on May 13. But victory has now filled them with extra energy as they have rushed to New Delhi to try for a ministerial berth. Caste in steel What do Jai Ram Varma, a veteran and now forgotten Congress leader, and the farmers' leader, Mahendra Singh Tikait, have in common with the ministry of steel? Nothing, you would say. But the ministry of steel has put out half-page ads in all leading dailies to offer its tributes to Varma on his 107th birth anniversary this year. It also put out ads mourning Tikait, when he died recently. Insiders claims that the ads were put out at the behest of Beni Prasad Varma, minister of state for steel, and no amount of dissuasion by officials could make the old man change his mind. Mr Beni Prasad Varma probably felt that by doing so, he could strengthen his position as a Kurmi leader since Jai Ram Varma belonged to the same caste and also forge a new alliance between Kurmis and Jats as Tikait headed the powerful Baliyan Khap of the Jat community. Congressmen in Uttar Pradesh, however, have not taken kindly to Mr Beni Varma's obvious efforts to project himself as an all-powerful OBC leader.







An intelligent man obeys whatever he recognises as being more intelligent than himself. Only a fool thinks that he must listen to his own self. But there is no such thing as your own. You didn't create anything — there is nothing which you can claim to be yours. So where is the question of you obeying yourself? Everything you know is bits and pieces that you have gathered from everywhere. Every idea, thought and emotion has come to you from somewhere else; you have just assimilated it. Who and what you are right now is just your accumulated past. And whatever information you have gathered is a limited possibility. Obeying this limited possibility makes your life into a recycle bin of the old; you will never allow any future possibilities to happen to you. While it takes a lot of intelligence to see that you are enslaved, a fool thinks he is free. If whatever someone or something else is doing or saying is better than what your mind says, it's better to obey that. It is always good to constantly seek someone or something which is a little larger than yourself and to give yourself to that process. If you become bigger than that, move on and find something bigger; till then you should just listen because that's a way to grow. If you obey yourself, you will just recycle the past and ensure and enshrine the limitations of who you are. One who enshrines his limitations is working against the fundamental aspiration in every human being which is to expand, to become free. Look into yourself and you will see that the most basic and ultimate aspiration in you is freedom. And enshrining the limitations of the limited personality that you are right now is a sure way of working against that. Anyone who does not allow this seed to reach its original nature and who restrains the longing to become boundless will not know a moment of ease or peace in his life. Life is relentless. You may sleep but the source of life within you doesn't sleep. Its agenda is always working. You may do whatever you want but life wants you to become boundless. If you work in tune with it, it gives you some ease; if you work against it, it gives you hell. There is enormous value to what you carry as a possibility. — Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev, a prominent spiritual leader, is a visionary, humanitarian, an author, poet and internationally-renowned speaker.










ON THE face of it, the decision to conduct a parallel census based on the parameters of caste and religion may appear to be antediluvian. Nonetheless, it is perfectly concordant with the societal underpinning of governance. Caste, if not religion just yet, takes care of 50 per cent of government jobs and admission to educational institutions. Truth to tell, the societal structure hasn't actually changed  from 1931 ~ when the last caste-based census was conducted ~ to 2011. On the contrary, it has been reinforced and on occasion violently so... unlike in British India. A casteless society is still a long way away; sections of civil society are no less caste-conscious, if not as brutal in their attitudes as the khap panchayats. After prolonged discourse that in 2009 had delayed the start of the census operations, the Union cabinet has been pragmatic enough not to obfuscate a critical factor that has influenced State policy since the adoption of the Constitution. Over time, religion has emerged as no less a critical factor. Hence the almost competitive anxiety of the political class to woo the minorities; at least one Chief Minister effects a sartorial changeover while addressing the Muslims.

For the first time since Independence, a  caste-based census, focused primarily on the Below Poverty Line segment, will provide the government with at least an approximate database. The importance of such data is crucial not least because public policy can't be formulated on the basis of an indeterminate group. And amazingly enough, this precisely has been the praxis since 1947. Small wonder that planning techniques ~ without a clue of the size of the target group ~ have as often as not gone awry. The latest fiasco has been the Food Security Bill with the Food ministry, the Planning Commission and the National Advisory Council uniformly ignorant of the numbers that constitute the BPL segment. The caste census, scheduled to be completed by December, will hopefully afford a template for food security, close to three years after the plan was mooted. If OBC figures are based on the 1931 census, the reservation policy per se is not based on a foolproof foundation. The quota regime makes an updated caste count imperative and public policy, such as it is, makes this an administrative pre-requisite. There is no scope for electoral politics and ad hocism in this paradigm; and it would be irresponsible to lend a political spin to the caste-based census. The underpinning must be decidedly statistical.




THREE down… how many of the 47 other names will stand scrutiny is anybody's guess. Little need to go over the same ground that the list of India's most-wanted submitted recently to Pakistan testifies to the most shoddy of staff work, pathetic supervision, and severely impacts on India's credibility in international ~ not just Pakistani ~investigative/judicial circles. Little need, again, to comment on the political mudslinging that often diverts attention from serious deficiencies and actually thwarts remedial action. There are, however, a couple of other exposes in the wake of the fiasco. Exposes that go far beyond the incompetence of three penalised officials (fall guys?) of the CBI. The haste with which New Delhi set about submitting that "latest" list to Islamabad not only prevented requisite verification, it was so shamelessly an attempt to exploit the situation in which Pakistan found itself after the bin Laden killing. But did India really expect a positive response from Pakistan? Or indeed did it hope that clinging to Uncle Sam's petticoat would finally deliver? Right from the moment George W Bush sent his troops into Afghanistan it was palpable that India's concerns hardly figured in the American "war on terror". Indeed the supply route through Pakistan to the US forces was always of prime strategic interest. To expect Washington to dump Pakistan post-Abbotabad was wishful thinking, tunnel vision. Fifty names had a diluting effect, shifted focus away from the terror-mongers against whom solid evidence was available. The fact that the list soon found its way to the public domain alerted the suspects, made it even more difficult for Pakistan to take action (if it indeed moved in that direction) since it would appear to have succumbed to Indian pressure. The "going public" pointed to the fact that India was essentially "showboating".
Equally exposed is the convenience with which Indian investigative agencies lay the blame for most terror strikes on outfits based, allegedly pampered, in Pakistan (the "discovery" of extremist-Hindu groups stunned the police more than the public). And it is so very easy to claim that investigations could progress no further because the suspects had found shelter across the border. The political climate made that line acceptable. Hence the Pak factor camouflaged gross incompetence. Talking of competence, the electorate seems to have confirmed a union minister's contention that West Bengal was the "worst governed" state. The inefficiency-wheel has now turned full circle. A pity there are no polls to immediately assess the quality of governance on Raisina Hill.




WILDLIFE enthusiasts are disappointed at the shooting down of a proposal to set up a national elephant conservation authority on the pattern of the body in place to accord the highest level of protection to the tiger. What is particularly irksome is that the move of the ministry of environment and forests has been discarded even before it was presented before the union cabinet. That amounts to rejecting the recommendations of an expert task force on elephants to assess both traditional and "new" threats to the pachyderm. These are essentially the fallout of the latest "green" nightmare ~ the liberal granting of mining leases in Chattisgarh and Jharkhand. Suspicions are mounting that the moneyed mining interests have had their way once again. Add that "development" to the long-standing problem of encroachments or blockages of the elephants' traditional migration routes, habitat shrinkage, the dangers from the railway running through forests favoured by elephants and it becomes apparent that the jumbo's well-being is in jeopardy. What is generally little-known is that the so-called elephant reserves exist on the map essentially to facilitate the provision of funds for conservation efforts ~ they are not as sacrosanct as the notified project tiger preserves. There are no legal teeth to enforce conservation regulations. Clearly, perhaps because the threat of extinction is not so palpable, the elephant is being treated like a poor relative of the tiger. But it could turn out to be another case of not responding to signs of trouble until a calamity looms on the horizon. While obviously species-specific projects are necessary since the nature of the threat to each varies, surely certain basics ought to apply across the board ~ to use the politician's term, a "common minimum programme". This must be developed to ensure habitat protection, limiting human activity in game parks etc. The most effective conservation programmes essentially centre around creating conditions in which nature is able to regenerate itself, a forest is a single entity ~ an accent on preserving a single animal is not the best approach. Elephants, wild or "domesticated", are such an integral part of Indian history and culture that the potential danger to their future does not seem to "register".








WHY does Islamabad, Washington's best ally, so often give sleepless nights to US officials? One can argue that it is a question of reciprocity.
The latest one: the Americans made fools of the Pakistani Army and its Intelligence agencies by dropping silently into the centre of one of their most secured cantonments to kill Osama bin Laden. It has obviously upset Pakistan!
In this case, Islamabad has found the way to take revenge: they have invited another 'friend' to the Game, the Chinese. A report from Pakistan suggests that Beijing is interested in studying the remains of the US top-secret Stealth helicopter abandoned during the Abbottabad raid. A Pakistani official even admitted, "We might let them [the Chinese] take a look."
It conveys the message: "The Chinese are waiting at our door, don't mess with us, our 'all-weather friend' can replace you".
An article in the Chinese-language Shanghai Evening Post explains that although the US wants the pieces of the chopper back, "Pakistan may invite China to participate in the study. Based on the pictures, aeronautics and military experts believe it is a modified Stealth helicopter."
The PLA intelligence has probably already received a few pieces of the chopper as a 'souvenir' (or a 'reward').
After all, Pakistan can't refuse this to a friend. On 11 May, when Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani opened Pakistan's second Chinese-made nuclear reactor, he praised the 'unwavering' support from its ally at a time when the rest of the world pounced on Pakistan for having hosted the dreaded Saudi terrorist for so long in a comfortable safe house.
Gilani hammered the nail in: "It is yet another illustrious example of Pakistan-China cooperation in the field of nuclear science and technology. The high level of friendship that the two countries enjoy continues to be a source of strength for Pakistan," the Prime Minster said. This may not help to smoothen out the already strained relations with Washington.
The new 330 MW reactor, built in Chashma (Punjab) should be followed by two other units, also made-in-China, at the same plant.
China's nuclear ties with Pakistan have always been a source of tension for Washington. First, Pakistan has a very poor track record as far as proliferation is concerned; one remembers the saga of Abdul Qadeer Khan, Pakistan's top nuclear scientist; and there is always a risk of nuclear weapons falling in the wrong hands.
Though the government in Islamabad maintains that nuclear weapons are safe in Pakistan and that it is impossible for militants or terrorists to get hold of them, Washington does not often trust Islamabad's utterances (as in the case of the bin Laden operations).
It is not the first time that Washington is nervous. In 2009, soon after President Obama announced that Pakistan's nuclear materials "will remain out of militant hands", the US ambassador in Islamabad sent a secret message to Washington. Anne W Patterson was deeply worried. Her concern was a stockpile of highly enriched uranium kept near an aging research nuclear reactor in Pakistan. There was enough material to produce a nuclear bomb.
In her cable, sent on 27 May 2009, Ms Patterson reported that the Pakistani government was dragging its feet on an agreement reached two years earlier wherein Islamabad had agreed that the United States would remove the material. The US Ambassador had been told by a Pakistani official: "If the local media got word of the fuel removal, they certainly would portray it as the United States taking Pakistan's nuclear weapons".
   The WikiLeaks cable does not tell us the end of the story. Hopefully the fuel has been removed since then. It, however, remains a fact that the Pakistani nuclear programme recurrently gives 'sleepless' nights to successive US Presidents.
Perhaps even more interesting than the WikiLeaks cables is a series of US documents published by the National Security Archives (NSA) of George Washington University on how Pakistan acquired the bomb in the 1970's.
This period witnessed the military coup by General Zia-ul-Haq who imposed martial law on 5 July 1977. The documents show that though the Carter Administration was deeply upset with the Zia regime, the arrival of the Soviets in Afghanistan at the end of the seventies, made the US officials 'forget' that Pakistan had become nuclear. Later, it was too late to stop the nuclear train.
Already in the Seventies, the Pakistani nuclear weapons programme was a source of anxiety for US officials; especially when they discovered AQ Khan's network. The Carter Administration would have been even more worried if they had known that Khan and his team were spreading nuclear weapons technology to Libya, Iran and North Korea with the help of China, but that is another story.
The entire nuclear process had started after Pakistan's defeat during the 1971 Bangladesh liberation war. President Bhutto realised that Pakistan would never be able to defeat India in a conventional war. He decided to secretly go in for nuclear weapons. In 1973, Pakistan began negotiations to buy a nuclear reprocessing facility (used for producing plutonium) from a French firm.
In August 1974, US intelligence agencies estimated that Pakistan would not have nuclear weapons before 1980, even with 'extensive foreign assistance'. But a year later, the CIA predicted that Pakistan could produce a plutonium-fuelled weapon as early as 1978, as long as it had access to a reprocessing source. They, therefore, thought that it was enough to stop the transfer of reprocessing plant to end the process. Unfortunately, the US intelligence agencies made some wrong assumptions.
The US documents also confirm that Zia's main objective was the consolidation of the nuclear programme initiated by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto who had bragged "we are ready to eat grass" to possess the coveted weapon.
Thanks to Abdul Qadeer Khan, who managed to steal the blueprints for a gas centrifuge uranium enrichment facility, the Pakistani dream became a reality right under the eyes of the Americans who "wanted to maintain good relations with that country, a moderate state in an unstable region".
Reading these historical documents, one realizes that Secretary of State Cyrus Vance and his colleagues believed that 'a package of tangible inducements' would dissuade Pakistan from taking drastic steps. With China remaining Pakistan's main support to acquire the bomb, even 'tangible inducements' were not enough. Though the Carter Administration worked hard on a non-proliferation policy, Pakistan still managed to build its nuclear arsenal. It certainly brought deep frustration to Carter and his team.
Another US document admits that during the 1980s, "the US was criticized for providing massive levels of aid to Pakistan, its military ally, despite laws barring assistance to any country that imported certain technology related to nuclear weapons. President Ronald Reagan waived the legislation, arguing that cutting off aid would harm US national interests".
One moral of the story is that when a State is desperate to get nuclear technology, it is difficult to stop it, with either sticks or carrots. More than the growing rift between Pakistan and the US, what worries the US officials in Washington is the growing Chinese influence in Islamabad. Whenever there is a problem between the two 'allies', Beijing is not far away and always ready to 'help'.
A piece of a chopper's tail is a small reward for such support.

The writer is an expert on China-Tibet relations and author of the Fate of Tibet.







The Doha round is nearly ten years old — it was inaugurated in November 2001 — and has got nowhere till now. In fact, it has been so muted that it looked buried and forgotten. But the seven countries that are supposed to be leading it do wake up once in a while and repeat their positions before they go to sleep. This happened once more recently. The European Union called together the other six in Geneva on May 12, and suggested that tariffs be eliminated on chemicals, electronics and electric machinery. This was its compromise offer; it excluded audio-visual products and textiles which it had included before. But even before it opened its mouth, the heroic developing countries — India, China and Brazil — rejected the proposal. Any proposal coming from a developed country must be a plot to destroy developing countries; so no risks were taken with this one. This proposal was intended to take forward the negotiations held under the aegis of the World Trade Organization in Geneva in April. At their conclusion, Pascal Lamy, the director-general of the WTO, threw up his hands and said that the differences amongst the feuding seven were unbridgeable.

But while the feud may be interminable, the casus belli has changed. In the early years, agriculture was the bone of contention. The EU, especially France, likes to protect its agriculture with high duties; the United States of America, whose agriculture is more efficient, would like all countries to lower duties. The resulting squabble between the US and the EU suited India and developing countries; they could sit on the sidelines and watch the fight. But then the industrial countries got tired of fighting, and looked for a compromise. They settled on a proposal for everyone to reduce duties on non-agricultural goods. They are very low amongst industrial countries, and higher in developing countries, especially India and China, whose domestic industrial markets have been growing very rapidly. Switzerland proposed a formula which would reduce the highest tariffs most, and thus make tariff rates more uniform. The developing countries rejected the formula, as well as its modifications suggested to accommodate their objections. The industrial countries wanted access to the developing countries' industrial markets. The developing countries ganged up to prevent that.

At that point the industrial countries suggested opening up industrial products sector by sector; the recent proposal is in line with that approach. Instinctually paranoid developing countries suspect a plot; they fear that sectors have been chosen in which industrial countries have a stronger advantage, and that if they were opened up, those industries would be destroyed in developing countries. If that is so, it seems a pretty transparent game; there is no reason why developing countries should not play it too. Let them choose the industries in which they are strong, such as tea, coffee and rubber, and suggest elimination of all trade restrictions on them.







An Indian-born American doctor recently got the Pulitzer Prize for writing a "biography of cancer". Yet, in his country of origin, as in many parts of the developing world, cancer continues to be perceived as a deadly disease — incurable, infectious and contagious. While it is true that by 2025, cancer is predicted to become the new epidemic in India, such a prognosis has nothing to do with the popular myth of cancer being a communicable disease. So it is profoundly shameful, and no less alarming, that an infant afflicted with cancer of the blood has been ostracized by his own family and neighbours in a village in West Midnapore in this day and age. The villagers are apprehensive that there will be an outbreak of cancer from their proximity to the child. So the toddler and his parents have been denied entry to their own home.

Such a situation not only reveals the appalling levels of public knowledge about cancer but also the State's skewed emphasis on spreading awareness about certain diseases at the expense of others. Although sizeable funds are earmarked for HIV-AIDS and polio campaigns, relatively little is allocated to cancer or tuberculosis camps. As a result, the stigma attached to these diseases becomes deeply entrenched in spite of the advances made by medical science. It is known by now that cancer is caused by carcinogens that invade the body either from outside — when toxins like asbestos or nicotine enter the system — or are triggered by genetic malfunction. Modern medicine is not only able to arrest cancer but also to cure it. But science alone cannot cure superstitions. The State and civil society will have to work together to change such shockingly wrong perceptions.






It may yet happen, May 1 will be formally declared as the Second Thanksgiving Day in the United States of America. Osama bin Laden was evil incarnate, the Satan; what a relief he is now dead, every household from Alaska to Louisiana is awash with joy and happiness. God always blesses America.

This deep hatred for bin Laden nurtured over the past decades needs no sophisticated psychological explanation. The Saudi had frightened the daylights out of Middle America. To the average American, the horror of war was an alien concept. War was fought in distant lands, the US had sometimes to join in such wars to ensue peace and justice across the world or to tackle miscreants who indulged in global terror. True, American boys had to be sent overseas to take part in these operations; there were, inevitably, casualties suffered by US troops, sorrow descended on some American homes. Consolation was however sought in the thought that their boys had died fighting for the nation's honour, parents clung to the memory of their departed children, their mourning was submerged in their pride. For the overwhelming majority of American citizenry, war was still something vague and abstract. Only during the 1960s, with the US's gory involvement in a country thousands of miles away, a crude awakening took place. Loss of American lives in Vietnam was increasingly high, calling for larger and larger recruitment for the defence forces. Growing reluctance of American youth to get drafted and sent to the graveyard of Vietnam led to raucous protests in university and college campuses across the country, full-throated chanting of "Hell, no,/ We won't go" rent the air, the discontent assumed the form of a national convulsion, for the first time questions around the pros and cons of military intervention in foreign lands ravaged domestic tranquillity. Once the Vietnam folly was wound down, the American way of life returned to its accustomed placidity. War remained a spectacle to watch on the television screen, the average American had little grasp of its empirical correlates. The British had been blitzkrieged during World War II, London was battered, entire Europe was mowed down, palaces, cathedrals and apartment blocks were destroyed along with humble huts and cottages in village after village, thousands perished, thousands were crippled, food and shelter were scarce even after peace was restored, life was cruelly harsh for ordinary men and women. Such experience never visited the US. The gruesome consequences of war on daily existence, the pall of tragedy it casts over the life and living of the multitude euphemistically called 'the common man' did not touch the inhabitants of god's own country; war was a kind of 'away' event, Americans did not need to worry over it.

Osama bin Laden changed all that. He brought war and the terror accompanying it to the clothesline in the backyard of American households. The hitherto cherished, almost axiomatic, belief that no external aggressors could ever penetrate into the US mainland was shattered. The hundreds of billions of dollars invested to build a foolproof strategic defence network was rendered dysfunctional; Americans watched with petrified horror the demolition of the twin towers of the World Trade Center in downtown Manhattan. Bin Laden had even the effrontery to strike at the Pentagon, symbol of American might, just as the World Trade Center was symbol of American prosperity. In the ensuing panic, the nation's president had to experience the indignity of scurrying to an undisclosed underground shelter. Close to 500 good Americans died at the World Trade Center now beatified as Ground Zero, as its towers crumbled. Every year, on September 11, Americans mourn for the victims of bin Laden's bestialities; they are not the dearly loved ones of their own families alone, they are the most loved ones of the entire nation. Obliterating political divide, each and every American citizen is at one with the US administration in its resolve to avenge the killing of these loved ones. Bin Laden became the world's Most Wanted Person. After relentless pursuit over the years, the Satan was finally cornered in his lair in Pakistan; he richly deserved to be shot like a dog, he was shot like a dog by the American avengers who flew in the four Navy Seals. The blackguard who imported terror to American homes has finally received his just deserts. The nation is aglow with quiet satisfaction. It will approve with tearful eyes any suggestion to have May 1 declared as Thanksgiving Day II.

But there was yet another scoundrel stalking West Asia and bent on doing harm to the US. Among other nefarious acts, Saddam Hussein, that wretched president of Iraq, was also challenging the hegemonic control the US exercised over oil suppliers in the region. He was no less an enemy of the peace-loving, god-fearing Americans than Osama bin Laden and the al Qaida were. Besides, he was a tyrant ruthlessly suppressing his political opponents. Saddam too deserved to be liquidated along with bin Laden. The US was god's chosen instrument to crush the global conspiracy against democracy and freedom. Al Qaida and the dictator's regime in Iraq were two faces of the same evil, bin Laden and Saddam were in cohorts. America would know no peace until both these scourges were firmly dealt with. The incumbent president, George W. Bush, undertook the double assignment on the nation's behalf. The hunt for the elusive bin Laden was intensified to the nth degree. Simultaneously, the blueprint was finalized to vanquish Saddam. Bush fortunately had a marvellous accomplice in the venture, Tony Blair, the British prime minister. For form's sake, a pretext had to be invented to justify the aggression planned against Iraq. Saddam, Bush and Blair thundered in unison, was stockpiling weaponry of mass destruction. The accusation has remained unproved till this day. So what, everything is fair in love and war, the pretence was good enough for the purpose at hand. Iraq, the bed of one of the world's most ancient civilizations, was duly occupied — and vandalized — by US forces. The process of capturing Saddam — and hanging him in a grisly public ceremony — occasioned some collateral damage: indiscriminate aerial strafing destroyed schools and hospitals as much as bridges, rail tracks and harbours, apart from massacring countless men, women and children. Mass anger at American brutalities rose to fever pitch. The cauldron Iraq was turned into is still burning. Saddam is dead and gone, but — some people can be so unreasonable — Iraqi resistance against foreign occupation refuses to simmer down.

It never rains but pours. Global terror is obviously a hydra-headed monster. Even as Saddam Hussein was being punished for bin Laden's crime, terror in Islamic garb manifested itself at another spot in West Asia — this time in Afghanistan. There is tangible evidence suggesting that the Taliban were originally an American creation; way back in the 1980s, they were generously funded by the Central Intelligence Agency and played a major role in supplementing US efforts to outmanoeuvre the Soviet Union in the Afghan territories. Old history is however old history. The Taliban, having wrested power in Afghanistan, had now slid into a strident anti-Americanism. They too have to be taken care of so as to make the world secure for democracy. Afghanistan therefore needed to be run over. This mission was also successfully accomplished and the Taliban ejected from Kabul. Unfortunately, that has hardly improved matters. The Taliban remain in total control of the hilly terrains of the country, more and more US troops have to be despatched to that god-forsaken land to subdue them. Drones piloted by US airmen have to shower bombs on suspected Taliban terrorists lurking in caves, bushes and hutments. Again, there is some collateral damage, scores of innocent civilians are dying every day because of indiscriminate aerial attacks. More ill tidings, the Taliban have meanwhile infiltrated into Pakistan and even managed to get chummy with that country's military and intelligence establishments. So the drones are being forced to rain bombs on Pakistan territory too, leading once more to heavy civilian casualties.

Good Americans will grieve for generations on end for the 500 citizens or thereabouts killed by bin Laden's goons on 9/11 and the immense loss of property. Good Americans will have no tears to spare for the hundreds of men, women and children who were killed and for the schools, hospitals, roads, bridges and other infrastructure laid to dust by marauding American forces in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. American lives and American property are ipso facto precious beyond measure; the lives of the multitudes who get slaughtered and property that is destroyed by US personnel in those remote countries cannot be helped, there is bound to be such collateral damage if global terror is to be put down and the world made safe for democracy.

A doubt nonetheless rears its head. Are good Americans sure that mothers of children who were killed when schools in Baghdad or Kandahar were blown up by American bombs will agree with them? What if, instead, these women grieve for bin Laden who gave Americans a taste of their own medicine? What if Iraqi and Afghan mothers begin to pray for another bin Laden to rain retribution on the US?

The regime in New Delhi is hemmed in by the conditionalities of the strategic alliance. There should still be grave disquiet at the assertion of the brazen doctrine that claims for the US the prerogative to despatch killing squads to any and every country of the world to track down and shoot in cold blood an unarmed, and not even American, citizen who might be perceived to have done some wrong to the world's mightiest power. Please do not ask for whom the bell tolls; it also tolls for the tribe in our own midst who are in raptures over the magnificence of American daredevilry to get rid of that beast, Osama bin Laden.





Barack Obama's speech on the Middle East lasted 40 minutes. But did it say anything new? Not exactly, although it did reinstate an old rule that had been abandoned. Two years after Obama's much-ballyhooed Cairo speech promised a new relationship with the Muslim world, not much has changed in American policy — but a great deal has changed in the Arab world.

Obama angered the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, by calling for an Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement consisting of two states, "with permanent borders based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps (of territory)". It was a return to what was the long-standing American position until George W. Bush changed it in 2004. Netanyahu's office immediately issued a furious response.

"Prime Minister Netanyahu expects to hear a reaffirmation from President Obama of US commitments made to Israel in 2004.... those commitments relate to Israel not having to withdraw to the 1967 lines, which are both indefensible and which would leave major Israeli population centres in Judea and Samaria beyond those lines." By "Judea and Samaria" Netanyahu meant the West Bank, that is 90 per cent of the land that the Palestinians still clung to after the 1948 war. The West Bank has been occupied by the Israeli army since the 1967 war, and Israel has built so many "settlements" on it that almost 20 per cent of the population of the West Bank is now Jewish. Bush said in 2004 that the settlements could stay, even though that made the concept of a Palestinian State completely infeasible. But US policy on the issue is now back to what it was before Bush.

Some settlements might be allowed to stay, but only if the Palestinian State were compensated with land of equivalent value by Israel. (That's what the "mutually agreed swaps" referred to.) Moreover, the "1967 lines" mean that the United States of America will not back Israel's insistence that its army remain in the Jordan valley, along the border between the promised Palestinian State and Jordan.

Little idea

Netanyahu's coalition government would instantly collapse if he agreed to any of this, so he wouldn't agree even if Obama twisted his arm very hard. In any case, there was no hint that Obama was going to bring serious pressure on Israel to change its position. For all of his rhetoric about how wonderful the revolutions are, it was clear that Obama had little idea how big the transformation in the Middle East actually is. Particularly with regard to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, the future will not be like the past.

Recently, we had a foretaste of that, when Palestinian demonstrators commemorating the anniversary of the nakba — the expulsion of their people in 1948 from what is now Israel — surged up against Israel's borders, and in one place actually breached them. About a dozen were killed, though they were mostly non-violent, but this was something new. We will be seeing a lot more of it.

For 50 years, Israel has successfully kept the refugees out, and, by and large, the international community has accepted it. But now the Palestinians, emboldened by the non-violent spread of popular rule in the Arab world, are not just saying they have the right to return, but they are acting on it. Israel will never consent to this. But if Palestinians go on trying to cross the border, despite the fact that some will get killed each time, then Arab opinion will be firmly on their side. So will the newly democratic Arab governments and other regimes trying to stay ahead of public anger. Israel will also find itself increasingly isolated in the wider world, especially if it continues to use violence.

This is just one example of how much the Middle East has changed in the last few months, and US policy has not even begun to take account of it. Obama is trying, but he will have to run faster to keep up.



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





The Union finance ministry's decision to set up a specialised wing to probe financial crimes is obviously in response to the spate of scandals and irregularities that have recently come to public view. The government is under considerable political heat after many big cases of corruption, tax evasion and fraud were revealed in the last few months. It is also under pressure from the Supreme Court to act on some of these cases and to unearth the large amounts of black money circulating in the country and stashed away abroad. The failure of official investigating agencies to investigate the cases effectively and to take action against wrong-doers has been glaring. The idea seems to be that a new agency is needed for more effective and expeditious action.

The plan is to create a wing called the directorate of criminal investigation in the income tax department which will have powers like those enjoyed by the Enforcement Directorate and the CBI to investigate and prosecute cases. Terror financing, money laundering and black money call for specialised and multi-agency investigation and the new section will be equipped with necessary financial, forensic and legal expertise to handle cases. Financial crimes have become more sophisticated and complicated and have acquired more international dimensions now. But it must be noted that it was not always the lack of expertise and manpower that has hampered investigations in such cases in the past. There are adequate laws also under which the best action ca n be taken and violators brought to book. In most cases it was lack of commitment and sincerity that was at the root of the failure of investigative agencies to book big-time culprits. Political interference is another major factor. The new section should not be hampered by these constraints and should be given a free hand to pursue its brief.

Lack of co-ordination among investigative agencies has resulted in failure of investigations. Since many of the big-ticket financial frauds involve national security, the new wing will have to work in tandem with security agencies. In the case of security there have been serious lapses. Promises to improve the working of security agencies have not always been followed up. That should not be the case with the new proposal. The government will earn full credit for setting up a new investigative wing only if it produces results.







There are mixed signals about the growth of internet and other modern means of communications in India. While it is agreed that internet penetration has been steadily growing, it has not grown fast enough and has not touched many important sections of population. Two new studies have placed India very low in connectivity and broadband speeds among even developing countries. In terms of connectivity, it is 21st among 25 countries and the broadband penetration rate is just above 12 per cent of that in China.

The mobile penetration rate is also less than in most countries. The average internet connection speed is much lower in India than most other countries. The study has found that in virtually all aspects, India is among the handful of least well performing countries.
This should be read alongside an IMRB survey which predicts that internet penetration in rural areas is set to double this year. This is a welcome outlook for the future, if it actually happens. In absolute numbers India may have made some achievements in the spread of new technologies and their tools because of the population size. But they have to spread faster to villages and cover more backward sections, as they have done in China.

There is a national e-governance plan and some private initiatives that have put in place necessary facilities and created increased awareness about the uses of new technologies. But the information still skirts most villages which can immensely gain from the internet. Farmers can beneficially learn about farming techniques, weather and price movements and the population as a whole can access information on government schemes, educational and employment opportunities and much else. It is estimated that a 10 per cent growth in broadband penetration can increase per capita GDP by 1.4 per cent.

The benefits of new technologies will be denied to most people if steps are not taken to spread them faster. These technologies help people in many ways to circumvent the inadequacy of physical infrastructure. They also help to make growth more representative and democratic. Changes have to take place at levels of policy and implementation and in terms of technology to improve the situation. There is immense scope for new technologies to change life in rural India. While there is a lot of talk about it, the actual changes happening on the ground are not fast enough.







''Is 'human' sufficient mitigation for error? What would make an error unforgiveable in Chidambaram's estimation?''
When is a man at his most generous? When he wants to forgive himself, of course.
Home minister P Chidambaram is in need of extra supplies of magnanimity. The 'Star List' of 50 names he sent to Islamabad, charging Pakistan with giving these wanted terrorists sanctuary, has exploded spectacularly in his face thanks to the media. One of these chaps is selling zari in Thane when not visiting court on the dates of his trial. Two more are far closer to the home ministry, since they are being hosted by the police in Hyderabad and Mumbai jails. A fourth, fortunately or unfortunately, is dead. And buried, along with the home ministry's credibility, in India. The home minister coyly attributed this to 'human error' and asked us mere citizens to get on with life.

Is 'human' sufficient mitigation for error? What would make an error unforgiveable in Chidambaram's estimation? Would it have to be as degenerate as 'animal' error, or some savage 'sub-human' error? The last time we checked the home ministry consisted largely of human beings, although a few did tend to sound more pompous than should be legally permissible. To err may be human, and to forgive divine, but this blessed advice does seem a trifle skewered when you are forgiving yourself. When does accountability kick in, or do we need something as tragic as the terror attacks on Mumbai (masterminded by Pakistan's ISI, if some of the evidence being given during a trial in America is to be believed) for a home minister of India to accept guilt?

Chidambaram has an extremely elastic approach towards crime and punishment, or error and consequence. He is clearly no fan of the American president Harry Truman who put a sign on his desk saying that the buck stops there. The buck can stop anywhere it likes, as long as it is nowhere in the vicinity of Chidambaram's office. So far, a superintendent of police, a deputy SP and a junior officer have taken the rap. The first two have been transferred so that they can sleep on duty in some other corner of government. The junior officer has been suspended. At different times, Chidambaram has blamed IB or the Mumbai police. He has even, in a different context, blamed the prime minister.

Since error has clearly become a genetic disease in the contemporary home ministry, the much-vaunted CBI could hardly be immune from its toxic effects. Long years ago, when the Marxists were still a potent force in Bengal, a foreign mercenary flew into the state on a private plane that had apparently escaped the country's air defence system, and dropped arms in a district called Purulia. To cut a pretty long story short, the pilot, Kim Davy, a Danish citizen, has given an interview saying that this was a Delhi plot to destabilise the Left Front government. Delhi wants to extradite Davy.

Star list

When CBI went to plead its case before a constitutional bench it carried an expired arrest warrant. This is not a screw-up on the scale of the 'Star List' but it is certainly not an advertisement for efficiency. When the BJP laughed, as any opposition party has a perfect right to do, Chidambaram accused BJP spokespersons of 'monumental ignorance.' The chaps who went to Denmark, he said, report to the ministry of personnel, which comes under the prime minister, and not him.

Go ask the PM to resign, in other words.

When cabinet ministers slip from the claim-game to a blame-game, you know the rafters have begun to creak. You have only to contrast the array during UPA-I with the disarray now, and that will give you the clue to election results. Something seems to have been unhinged. Rahul Gandhi's advisers cannot even count correctly when he wants to raise the political temperature against Mayawati in Uttar Pradesh. Common sense would have told them that there is some distance between an inflamed accused made by agitators and reality. But the need for hype was so great that no one bothered to check anything. End result: what could have been an effective riposte to Mayawati collapsed in its own contradictions.

The real issue is not that police or politicians make mistakes but the context in which you make them. When the home ministry was preparing a list to be presented to Pakistan, on a subject as vital to India's core interests as the sponsorship of terrorism by Pakistan, one has a right to expect that the police will not behave as if they are entering a First Information Report on petty theft on a sterile afternoon in a thana. This list could not have been passed without the personal clearance of the home secretary and the home minister. If it was, then they are doubly at fault. This is too important a document to be left to someone else's signature.

Manmohan Singh's Cabinet is in slippage mode. If he does not intervene, it will go into free fall.







Democracy in all Arab countries would change their governments. But in Syria it would change the whole West Asia.
There is a story making the rounds among Lebanese Facebook users about a Syrian democracy activist who was stopped at a Syrian army checkpoint the other day. He reportedly had a laptop and a thumb drive on the seat next to him. The Syrian soldier examined them and then asked the driver: "Do you have a Facebook?" "No," the man said, so the soldier let him pass.

You have to feel sorry for that Syrian soldier looking for a Facebook on the front seat, but it's that kind of regime. Syria really doesn't know what's hit it — how the tightest police state in the region could lose control over its population, armed only with cellphone cameras and, yes, access to Facebook and YouTube.

You can see how it happened from just one example: Several Syrian dissidents have banded together and from scratch created SNN — Shaam News Network — a website that is posting cellphone pictures and Twitter feeds coming in from protests all over Syria.

Many global TV networks, all of which are banned from Syria, are now picking up SNN's hourly footage. My bet is that SNN cost no more than a few thousand dollars to start, and it's become the go-to site for video from the Syrian uprising. Just like that — a regime that controlled all the news now can't anymore.

Fear factor

I don't see how Syria's president, Bashar al-Assad, can last but because of something hiding in plain sight: Many, many Syrian people have lost their fear. Last Friday alone, the regime killed at least 26 more of its people in protests across the country.

This is a fight to the death now. The emergence of democracy in all other Arab countries would change their governments and have long-term regional implications. But democracy or breakdown in Syria would change the whole West Asia overnight.

A collapse or democratisation of the Syrian regime would have huge ramifications for Lebanon, a country Syria has controlled since the mid-1970s; for Israel, which has counted on Syria to keep the peace on the Golan Heights since 1967; for Iran, since Syria is Iran's main platform for exporting revolution into the Arab world; for the Lebanese Shiite militia Hezbollah, which gets rockets from Iran via Syria; for Turkey, which abuts Syria and shares many of its ethnic communities, particularly Kurds, Alawites and Sunnis; for Iraq, which suffered from Syria serving as a conduit for jihadist suicide bombers; and for Hamas, whose leader sits in Damascus.

Because Syria is such a keystone nation, there is a tendency among its neighbours to hope that the Assad regime could be weakened but not broken. Few dare trust the Syrian people to build a stable social order out of the ashes of the Assad dictatorship. Those fears may be appropriate, but none of us get a vote. Only the Syrians do, and they are voting with their feet and with their lives for the opportunity to live as citizens, with equal rights and obligations, not pawns of a mafia regime.

More than in any other Arab country today, the democracy protestors in Syria know that when they walk out the door to peacefully demand freedom they are facing a regime that has no hesitancy about gunning them down. Lebanese have been surprised by their sheer bravery.

Of course, the million-dollar question hanging over the Syrian rebellion, and all the Arab rebellions, is: Can the people really come together and write a social contract to live together as equal citizens — not as rival sects — once the iron fist of the regimes is removed?

The answer is not clear, but when you see so many people peacefully defying these regimes, like Syria's, it tells you that something very deep wants to rise to the surface. It tells you that while no Arabs are really citizens today with full rights and obligations, said Hanin Ghaddar, editor of, a website tracking the revolutions, "they want to be" and that's what these uprisings are largely about.

Ghaddar added that she recently returned from New York City, where she ran into rival demonstrations in Central Park between people who insisted that horse-drawn carriages there were just fine and animal-rights activists who argued that these street carriages endangered horses: "I thought, 'Oh, my God! I just want to live in a country where you have the luxury to worry about animal rights'," not human rights. "We are still so far from that luxury."






It was a feel good event, making one ponder over people's admirable qualities.
My friend's father is a much admired man. Work and family wise, he can look back on a well lead life. Trim and active, he continues to ride to work every day even now. The other day I attended his 80th birthday celebrations. After the religious functions and lunch, the immediate family and close friends lingered on in the hall and my friend requested the people gathered there to speak about the gentleman. Words from the heart flowed freely as in laws, siblings, nieces, etc recounted how they had received financial and moral support from him. Instances of his struggles, stoicism and unwavering principles were narrated charmingly by people not used to public speaking. One nephew summed it up best when he said: "Whether it is birth or death in our family, he is the first to be notified and the first to arrive! He is an 'adarsha purusha' — the ideal man."

It was a feel good event indeed, one that makes you ponder over people's admirable qualities. Now, I must tell you about Sethu, my acquaintance of past few months, a man much younger and from a totally different social and economic background than the one described above.

Sethu is a labourer who now lives next door with his parents. The house is getting completely remodeled and this man, about 20-25 years of age is the unskilled worker cum watchman. Because he is the sole assistant for all the skilled workers, he is in demand throughout the day. Ever smiling, he goes about his odd jobs from dawn to dusk. It is not just his work but even as a family guy, Sethu scores high.

Sethu's father works elsewhere and comes late in the evening and the father-son duo has loud and happy conversations. His sister and her two kids have also come down now on 'vacation' from her village. The sister works side by side with the brother and the kids enjoy the run of the house that is getting remodeled and perhaps more importantly, they enjoy their uncle's love. After the day's work, they are all scrubbed and go out. The younger niece has her arm wrapped around Sethu's neck. Sethu can be seen pulling his sister's hair and buying goodies for the kids. Sethu, I suspect, has a love interest too. He talks for long on the cellphone and can be seen pacing and smiling. A young girl comes visiting them often and he walks her back. He gives her his undivided attention and sometimes buys her flower strings. It is obvious that the girl adores the young man.
I would like to believe that at least as far as his family is concerned, Sethu is another 'adarsha purusha'.









A new Education Ministry program - details of which are reported by Or Kashti in today's Haaretz English edition - that would have Israeli junior high and high school students adopt memorial sites and soldiers' graves, is flawed and unnecessary. It is certainly appropriate for schools to teach students about exemplary figures who gave their lives for their country and about acts of heroism on the battlefield, but there is no need in this context to send students to tend gravesites.

The Israeli education system has trouble imparting sufficient knowledge to its students in many subjects. Perhaps the heritage of heroism and sacrifice in battle is one of them, but it is doubtful that it is an essential topic. Battlefield heritage should be taught first and foremost in the Israel Defense Forces. Schools should concentrate on imparting knowledge and values, both national and universal. Adoration of the dead, heroic and exalted as they may have been, is a death cult and not the heritage of life.

The memory of those who have given their lives should be cherished and perpetuated and honored on Memorial Day. The rest of the year should be devoted to other educational goals. The memory of the dead must not be turned into a defining element of national identity, as the advocates of the program, including the Yad Labanim soldiers' memorial organization, propose.

Neither should the militaristic element of the program be ignored. The educational system already suffers from the undue and dangerous intrusion of the army. Depicting Israel (and the Jewish people ) as the eternal victim, and particularly the only victim, is not an appropriate message.

This program, which Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar is to approve, did not take shape in a vacuum. It is part of Sa'ar's initiative to reinforce "national values" education, suggesting a new trend - an effort by the state educational system to instill lessons of nationalism and militarism in the students at the expense of civil and humanist education.

The education minister would do well to quickly shelve the gravesite adoption program and devote all his energies and the resources of his ministry to more essential tasks.







CAIRO - Business was fairly slow for the revolution's souvenir sellers in Cairo's Tahrir Square last Friday. Only a few thousand remained at center stage, cheering a woman who spoke about prosecuting the members of the old regime to the full extent of the law. A poster showed former President Hosni Mubarak with a noose around his neck. Another speaker, young and dynamic, doing his best to energize the thinning crowd, called out passionately: "Israel, leave Egypt alone."

A souvenir seller who asked us where we were from suggested that we adopt a more agreeable identity. The next day, at the Museum of Modern Art near the Opera House, the usher stared at the writing on my new hat. "Hold your head high, you're Egyptian. Young revolutionaries, January 25, 2011," it said. "Are you really from Israel? I thought you people were loyal to Hosni Mubarak," the usher asked.

No, Israel and the Palestinians are not the Egyptians' top priority. The headlines discuss prosecuting the people who robbed the public coffers. U.S. President Barack Obama's declaration about the 1967 lines as a basis for permanent borders between quarreling neighbors was received with indifference, almost ignored. The winning number is $1 billion - the amount of debt relief the American president has pledged; he has promised a billion more to help dig Egypt's national purse out of its deep hole.

By cautious estimates, 30 percent of Egyptians live below the poverty line ($2 a day ). The museum's cavernous halls were empty of tourists, and 80 percent of tourist hotel rooms were empty. Before the revolution, the occupancy rate was 80 percent at this time of year, a hotel manager told us.

At the end of last week we met with about a dozen Egyptians - government officials and elevator operators, members of the old regime and young revolutionaries, professors and taxi drivers. None of them dared predict where Egypt was headed. You don't have to be the president of the United States to realize that "it will be years before this story reaches its end. Along the way, there will be good days, and bad days," as Obama said in his foreign policy speech last week.

We asked them: Will the coming days in Egypt be good for Israel or will the new era bring an evil south wind to the cloudy relations between the two countries? Everyone's reply was that Egypt's domestic troubles will top the country's agenda for years to come. Whatever the makeup of Egypt's new government, the peace treaty with Israel has survived two wars with Lebanon and two intifadas in the territories. It will survive the Egyptian revolution.

But four months ago our interlocutors would have recommended a mental hospital for anyone who said Egypt's former interior minister Habib el-Adly, the terror of the Egyptian people, would be behind bars. And perhaps for that very reason, no one is willing to predict what might happen in Tahrir Square if, the day after the expected recognition of Palestine by the United Nations in September, tens of thousands of Palestinians head from Manara Square in Ramallah toward Zion Square in Jerusalem.

The economic crisis and the energy of the protests have already begun to fuel solidarity with the Palestinian freedom fighters. The young revolutionaries and their spin-offs poured out their wrath on Mubarak last week in a march to the besieged embassy of Israel, the friend of their hated enemy. Two columnists in the Egyptian newspapers Al-Masry Al-Youm and Al-Akhbar Al-Youm claimed at the end of the week that Israel was trying to impede the revolution and even that Israel had a hand in the clashes between the Copts and the extremist Salafis.

Khiyat, Amar and Mohammed, activists in the Cairo Liberal Forum, one of dozens of groups that have sprung up since the January revolution, propose a different kind of relations between Israel and the new Egypt. These young Egyptians invite Israeli society to a discourse of reconciliation under their three banners: democracy, economy and peace. If Israelis give up the old pattern of relations with Egypt - a manipulative, visionless alliance - the cold peace could turn into good neighborliness. If we grab the banner of occupied Palestine from the religious extremists and warmongers in Tahrir Square, we may be able to rescue the banner of peace with Egypt from its position at quarter mast.








The revolution has succeeded. But which revolution is it? The one at Tahrir Square? Close. It's the revolution on Salah al-Din Street in Jerusalem. Over the last few years, a group of angry, confrontational, politically-motivated Israeli jurists hostile to the justice system has undertaken to alter the top of the legal establishment. These four - Ehud Olmert, Haim Ramon, Daniel Friedmann and Yaakov Neeman - like to paint themselves as a group persecuted by the law, victims of a vengeful band of people fearful of losing their status.

The emerging reality teaches us that the persecuted are winning. The state comes out on the losing end, but why is this important?

The means used for this end is a kind of reverse privatization. Instead of transferring control of state-owned assets to private hands, the authorities are adopting a private-sector approach that has been imposed on the Supreme Court and the attorney general, all at the behest of the justice minister.

For the first time in the country's history, the justice minister (Neeman ), the attorney general (Yehuda Weinstein ), and two justices of the Supreme Court (Hanan Melcer and Yoram Danziger, who were appointed during the Olmert-Friedmann regime ) came to their posts after stints in the private sector, all of them taking up their new jobs with the mindset of a defense attorney.

Danziger's decision to allow former President Moshe Katsav to avoid jail while the appeal for his rape conviction is being heard, the proposed legislation being cooked up by Neeman that would rule out criminal investigations against a sitting prime minister, and Weinstein's disappointing response to the leaks from Benjamin Netanyahu's office have created an alliance in defense of the prime minister. After all, if the client is always right, the prime minister can never be guilty.

Without citing him by name, Danziger has already bestowed on Olmert preemptive preferential treatment. It's certain that when the time is right, Olmert's attorneys will claim that the Katsav precedent should also apply to the former premier. The judges presiding over the Olmert case in the Jerusalem District Court on Salah al-Din Street will know that during the proceedings, many years of appeals await them, even if a guilty verdict and prison sentence are handed down.

Ultimately, after all legal options have been exhausted (who is doing the exhausting and what is being exhausted are different matters altogether ), a quasi-popular movement championing amnesty for Olmert will arise, much as it did with Katsav.

Just as Danziger wanted Katsav and got Olmert, Neeman's initiative (with the generous assistance of Kadima MK Ronit Tirosh ) is a gift not just for prime ministers who are haunted by their pasts and can now breathe a sigh of relief while mocking the police and State Prosecutor's Office. It's also a gift for the prime minister's alleged co-conspirators who do not hold high office.

It's very rare for the prime minister to be the lone suspect in a criminal investigation; for example, if he is alleged to have inappropriately used public funds, or is arrested for public nudity, or committing indecent acts in public. Thus far, in every investigation of the prime minister, accomplices have emerged, either as facilitators of the crime or as offerers of bribes. Delaying an investigation of one suspect, the prime minister, will in impinge on the entire investigation.

The closure of the Greek island investigation against Ariel Sharon in 2004 absolved businessman David Appel. The Neeman bill would thus serve as an incentive to criminals, who would do well to engage in wrongdoing in partnership with the next Olmert, rather than with the Rosensteins or Abergils of the world.

The same principle - albeit from a different perspective - applies to the investigation of the news leaks. This is always a problematic issue to investigate. When weighing the considerations (those of the state, not the news media ), one concludes that such an investigation would best be avoided.

When a panic-stricken Netanyahu ordered such a probe, Weinstein should have shown courage and independence by conditioning it on equitable treatment for everyone implicated, not just for the recipients of the leak. In other words, no double standard for elected officials and their underlings. Investigations that discriminate against people questioned against their will are not only unfair, they are doomed to fail.

When the investigation was reopened by the Shin Bet deputy head, Y., and with the approval of the security service's chief at the time, Yuval Diskin, Y. was denied a promotion to the top slot. This was the nadir in relations between Netanyahu - whose key aide, Uzi Arad, was stung by the probe - and Diskin. It was a way for the prime minister to say, "If you harm my guy, I'll harm your guy." Yoram Cohen, who by chance comes from a background that is favored by Neeman, was named the new Shin Bet head. Neeman is a close confidant of Benjamin and Sara Netanyahu. These are just the circumstantial facts. An experienced defense attorney would have smashed the case to smithereens.








The revolution has succeeded. But which revolution is it? The one at Tahrir Square? Close. It's the revolution on Salah al-Din Street in Jerusalem. Over the last few years, a group of angry, confrontational, politically-motivated Israeli jurists hostile to the justice system has undertaken to alter the top of the legal establishment. These four - Ehud Olmert, Haim Ramon, Daniel Friedmann and Yaakov Neeman - like to paint themselves as a group persecuted by the law, victims of a vengeful band of people fearful of losing their status.

The emerging reality teaches us that the persecuted are winning. The state comes out on the losing end, but why is this important?

The means used for this end is a kind of reverse privatization. Instead of transferring control of state-owned assets to private hands, the authorities are adopting a private-sector approach that has been imposed on the Supreme Court and the attorney general, all at the behest of the justice minister.

For the first time in the country's history, the justice minister (Neeman ), the attorney general (Yehuda Weinstein ), and two justices of the Supreme Court (Hanan Melcer and Yoram Danziger, who were appointed during the Olmert-Friedmann regime ) came to their posts after stints in the private sector, all of them taking up their new jobs with the mindset of a defense attorney.

Danziger's decision to allow former President Moshe Katsav to avoid jail while the appeal for his rape conviction is being heard, the proposed legislation being cooked up by Neeman that would rule out criminal investigations against a sitting prime minister, and Weinstein's disappointing response to the leaks from Benjamin Netanyahu's office have created an alliance in defense of the prime minister. After all, if the client is always right, the prime minister can never be guilty.

Without citing him by name, Danziger has already bestowed on Olmert preemptive preferential treatment. It's certain that when the time is right, Olmert's attorneys will claim that the Katsav precedent should also apply to the former premier. The judges presiding over the Olmert case in the Jerusalem District Court on Salah al-Din Street will know that during the proceedings, many years of appeals await them, even if a guilty verdict and prison sentence are handed down.

Ultimately, after all legal options have been exhausted (who is doing the exhausting and what is being exhausted are different matters altogether ), a quasi-popular movement championing amnesty for Olmert will arise, much as it did with Katsav.

Just as Danziger wanted Katsav and got Olmert, Neeman's initiative (with the generous assistance of Kadima MK Ronit Tirosh ) is a gift not just for prime ministers who are haunted by their pasts and can now breathe a sigh of relief while mocking the police and State Prosecutor's Office. It's also a gift for the prime minister's alleged co-conspirators who do not hold high office.

It's very rare for the prime minister to be the lone suspect in a criminal investigation; for example, if he is alleged to have inappropriately used public funds, or is arrested for public nudity, or committing indecent acts in public. Thus far, in every investigation of the prime minister, accomplices have emerged, either as facilitators of the crime or as offerers of bribes. Delaying an investigation of one suspect, the prime minister, will in impinge on the entire investigation.

The closure of the Greek island investigation against Ariel Sharon in 2004 absolved businessman David Appel. The Neeman bill would thus serve as an incentive to criminals, who would do well to engage in wrongdoing in partnership with the next Olmert, rather than with the Rosensteins or Abergils of the world.

The same principle - albeit from a different perspective - applies to the investigation of the news leaks. This is always a problematic issue to investigate. When weighing the considerations (those of the state, not the news media ), one concludes that such an investigation would best be avoided.

When a panic-stricken Netanyahu ordered such a probe, Weinstein should have shown courage and independence by conditioning it on equitable treatment for everyone implicated, not just for the recipients of the leak. In other words, no double standard for elected officials and their underlings. Investigations that discriminate against people questioned against their will are not only unfair, they are doomed to fail.

When the investigation was reopened by the Shin Bet deputy head, Y., and with the approval of the security service's chief at the time, Yuval Diskin, Y. was denied a promotion to the top slot. This was the nadir in relations between Netanyahu - whose key aide, Uzi Arad, was stung by the probe - and Diskin. It was a way for the prime minister to say, "If you harm my guy, I'll harm your guy." Yoram Cohen, who by chance comes from a background that is favored by Neeman, was named the new Shin Bet head. Neeman is a close confidant of Benjamin and Sara Netanyahu. These are just the circumstantial facts. An experienced defense attorney would have smashed the case to smithereens.








I agree with Ronen Shoval ("Peace and the lies of the Nakba," Haaretz, May 16 ) that what happened to the Palestinians in 1948 was the result of their rejecting the UN partition plan and beginning a war meant to destroy the State of Israel. Because the Palestinians have shown no willingness to deal with their historical responsibility for what ensued, there is a grave moral defect in the Nakba discourse.

But Shoval bases his case on heaps of unfounded arguments. This provides a good opportunity to set the record straight, especially given the disgraceful article published last week by Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas in The New York Times, which makes no mention of the fact that the Arabs rejected the partition plan and declared war on Israel.

First, Shoval claims that "in 1948 most of the Arab inhabitants of the country were new immigrants who arrived in the wake of the economic prosperity brought by Zionism." That has no basis. The Arab population in the Land of Israel did not increase any more than it did in the neighboring countries, and there is no proof of massive Arab immigration to Palestine. Although in Jaffa there were port workers from Syria, and in Haifa there were mostly Christian merchants from Lebanon, the Arab community in the Galilee, in the hilly regions, as well as in Jaffa, Jerusalem and the coastal plain, was indigenous. It is not a good idea to spread nonsense.

Second, Shoval claims that "most of the Arabs who abandoned Israel did so of their own free will, at the order of the Supreme Arab Committee." There is no proof and no document that confirms this statement. In the complex reality of 1947-1948, with the beginning of Arab attacks against the Jewish community, there were Arabs who left of their own free will (the members of the Arab elites in Jaffa and Jerusalem were the first to do so ). There were some who fled in fear, especially after the massacre in Dir Yassin. There were instances, as in Haifa, in which the heads of the Jewish community begged the Arabs not to leave, and there were some who were expelled. In the atmosphere of rioting and fighting, rumors were spread here and there about instructions delivered by the Arab leadership for the population to leave. But despite decades of research, to this day no document or broadcast has been found confirming that such orders were given.

Moreover, the 1948 war was characterized by the collapse of the Palestinian leadership, which was unable to create a uniform or orderly military command. To think that such an order - even if it existed - would have led hundreds of thousands of people to abandon their homes belies the social and political situation of the Arab community, whose plight at the time can be blamed to no small degree on the absence of a legitimate and effective leadership (this failure exists to this day, despite what appears to be an agreement between Fatah and Hamas ).

Third, Shoval states that "the Arab leadership headed by the mufti joined the Nazis and promoted the Final Solution." It is true that the mufti spent the period of World War II in Nazi Berlin and supported the destruction of the Jews. But just as it is impossible to lay responsibility and blame on the entire German nation for Nazi crimes, it is impossible to lay such collective responsibility and blame on the entire Palestinian population.

Fourth, with all our desire not to ignore the responsibility of the Arab nations for the fate of the Jews in Arab countries, the circumstances under which they left their homes and the loss of their property, the comparison with the plight of Palestinian refugees is not completely relevant. At least in Zionist terms, the Jews of the Arab countries returned to their homeland - Israel - and the State of Israel even encouraged them in many, and sometimes controversial, ways to do so.

To sum up, Zionism does not need propaganda lies. They only distort the simple Zionist truth, which is the right of the Jewish people to enjoy self-determination and to be a free people in its own land.



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




As the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania draws near, one of the main recommendations of the 9/11 Commission remains unfulfilled: the creation of a common communications system that lets emergency responders talk to one another across jurisdictions.

The problem was laid bare in the tragic cacophony at the World Trade Center, where scores of firefighters perished as police and fire officials couldn't communicate on antiquated radio systems before the second tower fell.

Four years later during Hurricane Katrina, emergency workers from across the nation faced the same dangerous problem. They had to resort to running handwritten notes to warn of shifting conditions.

Congress should be haunted by the threat of new disasters finding rescue workers still incommunicado. Responsible lawmakers can mark the 10th anniversary by passing legislation to finally create a national public safety communications network.

The overall challenge is more complex than it sounds, touching on questions of financing, broadcast spectrum fights, technology innovation and turf battles among local public safety agencies.

Congress can begin cutting through a lot of that by approving the reallocation of radio spectrum to wireless broadband providers and public safety agencies. This would allow creation of a modern emergency system providing common access when needed by voice, video and text for responders now using separate voice systems typically jammed up in emergencies.

Senator John Rockefeller IV, chairman of the science and transportation committee, is championing the commission's dedicated spectrum approach, warning that the faulty emergency communication on 9/11 was "probably the greatest killer other than the planes themselves." He has the support of the ranking Republican, Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas.

Crucial details remain to be settled.

Would a nonprofit corporation best manage the new network? What's the best way to get commercial broadcasters to yield needed spectrum — through incentive auctions proposed by the Obama administration?

Once Congress acts, this new generation of wireless broadband would require years of infrastructure construction. In the meantime, public safety and homeland security officials across the nation have been tapping into billions in federal aid designed to patch improvements into existing voice systems.

Critics warn there's been too much reliance on buying hardware and not enough on planning and coordinating among fiefdoms still reluctant to come to terms on single useful systems. In New York, where the scars of 9/11 remain raw, there is not yet a fully compatible system among police officers, firefighters and Port Authority forces, but officials insist they are making progress.

How many warnings does Congress need? How many more people will be endangered because of bureaucratic wrangling or political inertia? "Further delay is intolerable," the commission's leaders, Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton, declared earlier this year. They are right.







"I will not vote to deny a vote to a Democratic president's judicial nominee just because the nominee may have views more liberal than mine."

That was Senator Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee, promising in 2003 not to filibuster judicial nominees for reasons of ideology. But on Thursday, Mr. Alexander, along with 41 other Senate Republicans, voted to filibuster one of President Obama's judicial nominees for that very reason — breaking a promise and kindling yet another row over a president's right to appoint like-minded judges.

The fight was over Goodwin Liu, a Berkeley law professor nominated by the president for a seat on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. He lost on a vote of 52 to 43, short of the 60-vote requirement demanded by Republicans.

He became the first Obama nominee to be successfully filibustered, and the only nominee since 2005. That year, a Senate "Gang of 14" agreed that such nominees should be allowed an up-or-down majority vote except in extraordinary circumstances.

The group was correct in preserving the right to filibuster the most extreme candidates, but the agreement is meaningless if senators are going to define someone like Mr. Liu as a legal extremist. He is, not surprisingly, a liberal thinker who is nonetheless squarely in the legal mainstream, having even received the support of strong conservatives, including Kenneth Starr and Clint Bolick.

What, specifically, made him so extraordinary that he was not worthy of an up-or-down vote? The Republican argument against him is laughably thin. "He believes the Constitution is a fluid, evolving document," said Jeff Sessions of Alabama. John Cornyn of Texas falsely accused Mr. Liu of holding the "ridiculous view that our Constitution somehow guarantees a European-style welfare state."

But other Republicans were more forthcoming about the real reason for the blockade: Mr. Liu dared to criticize Justice Samuel Alito Jr. as harshly conservative before he was confirmed to the Supreme Court. The filibuster apparently was payback, and the Republican eagerness for revenge has broken faith and a clear understanding on the Senate floor. That will make it harder to fill benches during this administration and many more to come.





The discovery of a near-perfect way to halt sexual transmission of the AIDS virus has the potential to change the way international agencies and nations cope with the epidemic. But that can only happen if troubling issues of cost and practicality can be surmounted.

The study involved more than 1,700 couples in nine countries, the vast majority of them heterosexuals. One member had the virus that causes AIDS; the other did not. It demonstrated conclusively that if infected partners are treated with a cocktail of drugs immediately — instead of waiting for their immune systems to deteriorate — the risk of transmitting the virus to the uninfected partner drops by 96 percent. The only reported health benefit of early treatment for the infected partner was a reduced risk of tuberculosis spreading beyond the lungs.

Infected partners would have to start early on a lifetime of taking drugs mostly for altruistic reasons — to avoid infecting their partners. Further research may document greater health benefits. It seems likely that earlier treatment that keeps immune systems strong should further slow the progression of the virus to full-fledged AIDS and ward off other devastating co-infections.

International organizations don't have enough money to treat all those who qualify for drug therapy under current guidelines. They will be hard-pressed to find additional money to treat millions more people to slow the spread of the virus. With most industrialized economies still lagging, there is little appetite for increasing aid.

A strong moral case can be made for protecting millions more people from infection, but there may be an economic case as well. We need valid, well-documented estimates as to whether a big investment in prevention now might pay for itself in the long run by greatly reducing the number of sick people who have to be cared for.







President Obama trusts America's generous and compassionate nature, that our rugged individualism is tempered by a belief that we're all connected. In his speech on budget reform on April 13, he celebrated "our belief that those who benefited most from our way of life can afford to give back a little bit more."

The president's faith in Americans' sense of common purpose is uplifting. But it does not fit the history of American budgetary politics.

I don't just mean Tea Partiers' revulsion at the government spending "our money," or Republican Paul Ryan's Reverse Robin Hood gambit to cut trillions from spending on social programs in order to pay for a tax cut for the rich.

The budgetary policy of the United States has been the least generous in the industrial world for a very long time.

Tax revenues in the United States have not reached 30 percent of gross domestic product since at least 1965. Today they amount to only 24 percent of G.D.P. In Britain, by contrast, they are 34 percent; in Sweden, 46 percent. And our government spending on social programs is equally puny. In 2007 Britain spent 25 percent more, as a share of its economy. Germany spent almost 60 percent more.

Cash transfers — for unemployment insurance, pensions, benefits for children and the like — amount to only 9 percent of household disposable income in the United States. Among the industrialized nations of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, only Korea provides less.

The government doesn't just spend too little trying to improve the lives of less-fortunate Americans. It spends badly — lavishing benefits on the relatively well-to-do with misdirected subsidies. Within the O.E.C.D., only Korea's social transfers do a worse job in boosting incomes at the bottom and reducing income inequality.

Historically, we made up for some of these shortcomings by taxing the rich more heavily than the poor or middle class. But the tax code has become dramatically less progressive since the 1960s, as tax cuts and loopholes have reduced a wide variety of taxes paid by the rich.

In 2007, the average income-tax rate paid by the richest 400 taxpayers in the country was 16.62 percent — according to figures from the Internal Revenue Service. Between 1970 and 2005, total federal taxes paid by the top 0.01 percent of earners fell by half, as a share of their income, to 35 percent on average, according to the economists Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez. This compares with 42 percent in Britain and 62 percent in France.

Representative Ryan would surely protest that our stingy public policy is not motivated by greed, but by necessity — that it is indispensable to sustaining robust economic growth. High taxes and big government, in this view, will encourage sloth among the undeserving and discourage productive citizens from giving all in the workplace.

This argument doesn't hold up. The prosperity of Swedes has grown faster than that of Americans over the last 20 years. Even if lower taxes contributed to growth, I would suggest that we reconsider the trade-off. It's not working out for most of us.

As the president noted in his speech at George Washington University, growth has not delivered prosperity to all of us: 90 percent of working Americans saw their incomes fall in the past decade. The top 1 percent, though, saw their income rise by more than a quarter of a million dollars on average.

President Obama is right to cast the negotiations with Congress over the budget in terms of our values: "It's about the kind of future that we want. It's about the kind of country that we believe in."

But perhaps he shouldn't trust Americans' generosity and compassion to simply carry the day on Capitol Hill. To build the America he extols he is going to have to fight for it.







To most Americans, the tale of Dominique Strauss-Kahn probably seems like fodder for a "Law and Order" episode, or maybe a cable-TV message movie. He's just another high-profile man behaving badly, part Arnold Schwarzenegger and part Ben Roethlisberger and more obscure than both.

But the story of the I.M.F. director charged with sexually assaulting a hotel maid is actually a natural fit for a more high-minded genre. In the hands of the right screenwriter, Strauss-Kahn's arrest could be the central thread in one of those sprawling, complex, kaleidoscope-of-globalization movies that aspire to Oscar glory. Think "Traffic" or "Syriana," "Crash" or "Babel": the kind of movie that leapfrogs around the planet, shifting from place to place and perspective to perspective in an effort to bring an entire Big Issue into focus.

Instead of the war on drugs or race relations in Los Angeles, though, the subject of this movie would be the potential collapse of the European Union.

The movie might begin with a decorously edited (rather than NC-17) version of Strauss-Kahn's Sofitel encounter. Then it would cut to the French presidential election, in which Strauss-Kahn was widely expected to be a leading candidate, zeroing in on the rise of Marine Le Pen, the far-right candidate who rode anti-immigration sentiment into a shocking lead in opinion polls this spring.

Next it would give us an intimate look at the latest wave of immigration, with scenes from a refugee camp in Italy, crowded with thousands of North Africans fleeing the violence in Tunisia and Libya. From there, it would jump to the contentious intra-European debates over how to handle the Libyan crisis, which have pitted Strauss-Kahn's France against Germany and made a mockery of the idea of a united European foreign policy.

The camera would then pan across the streets of Barcelona and Madrid, where an Internet-fueled protest movement is resisting the austerity policies Spain's government has implemented to avoid a Greece- or Ireland-style debt crisis. After that, it would cut to the backrooms of Berlin and Brussels, and the behind-the-scenes struggle to save the common currency from a debt-driven collapse.

Finally, it would return to Strauss-Kahn, formerly a key player in these negotiations, and suddenly just another New York City perp.

What binds all these plots together, with the former I.M.F. chief in a starring role, is the crisis of the European dream — the vision of a continent without borders or divisions, supervised by a benevolent and cosmopolitan elite.

This crisis takes two forms. There's the challenge to Europe's economic union, driven by the upside-down balance sheets in the Continent's weaker economies. And there's the challenge to its political consensus, driven by an anti-immigration backlash that's empowered nationalist parties from France to Finland.

Both these problems increasingly divide Europe along north-south lines. (Once again, Strauss-Kahn's France straddles both worlds.) The debt-ridden countries of the Mediterranean are also the front lines for migration from the largely Muslim Maghreb, and their northern neighbors are trying to contain both the red ink and the refugees. Earlier this month, in a controversial move, the Danish government announced that it was restarting border checks, possibly running afoul of the Schengen agreement, which enables passport-free travel through the E.U.

Both pit the ambitions of the Continent's leaders against the residual nationalism of ordinary Europeans, who are challenging the elite consensus from the left and right at once. (Many prominent far-right leaders, Le Pen included, strike protectionist and populist notes.)

And both have been exacerbated by that same elite's arrogance and glaring blind spots — its expansion of the monetary union to include economies that weren't ready to share a currency with Germany and France, and its blithe, politically correct assumption that mass immigration would enrich the Continent, rather than divide it.

No screenwriter could have invented a better embodiment of this elite than the globe-trotting, presidency-aspiring Strauss-Kahn. (Imagine if Ben Bernanke and Mitt Romney were somehow the same person, and you'll have a sense of his unique profile.)

Moreover, no creative mind could have dreamed up an allegation better calculated to vindicate the perception that today's Eurocrats are just a version of the old European aristocracy — exercising droit du seigneur in high-priced hotel rooms while they wait to catch a first-class flight to Paris.

The only question is how the movie ends. Maybe Strauss-Kahn will be cleared in court; maybe the European project can be saved. But a drama that involves so much hubris seems likely to finish in tragedy instead.








I often complain, with reason, about the state of economic discussion in the United States. And the irresponsibility of certain politicians — like those Republicans claiming that defaulting on U.S. debt would be no big deal — is scary.

But at least in America members of the pain caucus, those who claim that raising interest rates and slashing government spending in the face of mass unemployment will somehow make things better instead of worse, get some pushback from the Federal Reserve and the Obama administration.

In Europe, by contrast, the pain caucus has been in control for more than a year, insisting that sound money and balanced budgets are the answer to all problems. Underlying this insistence have been economic fantasies, in particular belief in the confidence fairy — that is, belief that slashing spending will actually create jobs, because fiscal austerity will improve private-sector confidence.

Unfortunately, the confidence fairy keeps refusing to make an appearance. And a dispute over how to handle inconvenient reality threatens to make Europe the flashpoint of a new financial crisis.

After the creation of the euro in 1999, European nations that had previously been considered risky, and that therefore faced limits on the amount they could borrow, began experiencing huge inflows of capital. After all, investors apparently thought, Greece/Portugal/Ireland/Spain were members of a European monetary union, so what could go wrong?

The answer to that question is now, of course, painfully apparent. Greece's government, finding itself able to borrow at rates only slightly higher than those facing Germany, took on far too much debt. The governments of Ireland and Spain didn't (Portugal is somewhere in between) — but their banks did, and when the bubble burst, taxpayers found themselves on the hook for bank debts. The problem was made worse by the fact that the 1999-2007 boom left prices and costs in the debtor nations far out of line with those of their neighbors.

What to do? European leaders offered emergency loans to nations in crisis, but only in exchange for promises to impose savage austerity programs, mainly consisting of huge spending cuts. Objections that these programs would be self-defeating — not only would they impose large direct pain, but they also would, by worsening the economic slump, reduce revenues — were waved away. Austerity would actually be expansionary, it was claimed, because it would improve confidence.

Nobody bought into the doctrine of expansionary austerity more thoroughly than Jean-Claude Trichet, the president of the European Central Bank, or E.C.B. Under his leadership the bank began preaching austerity as a universal economic elixir that should be imposed immediately everywhere, including in countries like Britain and the United States that still have high unemployment and aren't facing any pressure from the financial markets.

But as I said, the confidence fairy hasn't shown up. Europe's troubled debtor nations are, as we should have expected, suffering further economic decline thanks to those austerity programs, and confidence is plunging instead of rising. It's now clear that Greece, Ireland and Portugal can't and won't repay their debts in full, although Spain might manage to tough it out.

Realistically, then, Europe needs to prepare for some kind of debt reduction, involving a combination of aid from stronger economies and "haircuts" imposed on private creditors, who will have to accept less than full repayment. Realism, however, appears to be in short supply.

On one side, Germany is taking a hard line against anything resembling aid to its troubled neighbors, even though one important motivation for the current rescue program was an attempt to shield German banks from losses.

On the other side, the E.C.B. is acting as if it is determined to provoke a financial crisis. It has started to raise interest rates despite the terrible state of many European economies. And E.C.B. officials have been warning against any form of debt relief — in fact, last week one member of the governing council suggested that even a mild restructuring of Greek bonds would cause the E.C.B. to stop accepting those bonds as collateral for loans to Greek banks. This amounted to a declaration that if Greece seeks debt relief, the E.C.B. will pull the plug on the Greek banking system, which is crucially dependent on those loans.

If Greek banks collapse, that might well force Greece out of the euro area — and it's all too easy to see how it could start financial dominoes falling across much of Europe. So what is the E.C.B. thinking?

My guess is that it's just not willing to face up to the failure of its fantasies. And if this sounds incredibly foolish, well, who ever said that wisdom rules the world?






DEPENDING on traffic, it's usually no more than a one-hour car ride from the Sofitel Hotel in Midtown Manhattan to Rikers Island, each of which Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former chief of the International Monetary Fund, checked into for a time last week. But the accommodations provided are worlds apart.

I've worked in the luxury hospitality business (from New Orleans to New York, from valet parking to front desk to housekeeping management) for 10 years, and I know that the country's 250,000 housekeepers are in a difficult position. They're often alone on a floor, cleaning a vacant room, back to the door, the vacuum's drone silencing all sound. A perfect setup for a horror movie.

Beyond their physical safety and the possibility of nude Frenchmen unexpectedly popping out of bathrooms, the time they spend in those rooms inevitably leads to problems. Housekeepers are routinely accused by guests of stealing money from nightstands, making international calls from the room phones, rifling through luggage and pocketing jewelry. I've heard every one of these charges leveled at colleagues. Rarely, I've found, do they turn out to be true.

Housekeepers perform the most physically demanding work necessary to operate a luxury hotel. Assigned 10 to 14 rooms a day on average, they strip beds, dump sheets down laundry chutes, remake beds, scrub bathroom floors, clean tubs and toilets, empty trash, polish mirrors, clean glasses, vacuum carpets — and the work does not end there.

On top of that, they have to be sexually accosted by guests? Sadly, yes. And more often than you'd think. It's not an everyday occurrence but it happens enough to make this question all too familiar: "Mr. Tomsky, can you give the new girl Room 3501 until next Tuesday? That man is back, the one who loves to let his robe fall open every time I try to clean." So, yes, we assign the room to the new girl.

But not before hotel managers roll up to the room, flanked by security guards, to request that the guest vacate during cleaning, or at least promise to remain fully clothed or risk expulsion. Often it need not be discussed in detail: those guests who can't seem to tie their robe properly usually know exactly what they're guilty of. Typically, an unsolicited phone call from management inquiring if the service in their room is up-to-standard, and offering to send a manager to supervise the next cleaning, improves their behavior. I remember one exhibitionist guest, in New Orleans, cutting me off before I could get down to business:

"Sir, this is Jacob, the housekeeping manager — "

"O.K., fine, O.K.!" And he hung up. That was that.

Hotel workers walk in on threesomes, twosomes and, most commonly, onesomes, and must extricate themselves as delicately as possible because, make no mistake, the guest's opinion of the situation holds quite a bit of weight.

It might be claimed, for instance, that the housekeeper failed to knock loudly enough, hence the hotel is at fault for this terrible embarrassment. (It is never mentioned that the guest was enjoying Internet pornography while wearing noise-canceling headphones.) So ... use the bolt lock! Housekeepers are begging you. Minibar attendants are begging you. Bellmen are begging you. Your wife is begging you. Till then, the housekeeper must simply keep her head down, apologize uncomfortably and make a quick and determined exit. No service today.

Housekeepers, by the way, usually have no idea who is occupying a particular room or suite. Each morning they are presented with "boards," or room lists, that indicate whether their assigned rooms are to be fully "flipped" (for a new arriving guest) or cleaned as an occupied room (for a guest staying on for the evening). The guest's name — never mind what position he or she might occupy in the larger world — is rarely listed on the sheet.

It has been reported that Mr. Strauss-Kahn's defense might be that any encounter was consensual — that, in effect, "she asked for it." During my time managing, the only thing a housekeeper ever asked me for was to leave early, or have Christmas off (both of which I had to deny — as I said, the housekeeper's is the hardest job in the hotel). All she wants to do is finish up her work and go home to her family.

But for all their difficulties, housekeeping jobs have advantages, especially in New York City. Many are union positions — the housekeepers at the Sofitel are members of the New York Hotel Workers' Union, for example — that offer decent hourly wages, overtime and perks for picking up extra rooms. There is job security, shift seniority (Christmas off after 10 years' service!) and health care.

That is an awful lot to lose. For the Sofitel housekeeper, the encounter with Mr. Strauss-Kahn brought nothing good at all.

Jacob Tomsky is writing a memoir about his experiences in the hotel business.






ONCE upon a time, the story goes, we lived in a broadcast society. In that dusty pre-Internet age, the tools for sharing information weren't widely available. If you wanted to share your thoughts with the masses, you had to own a printing press or a chunk of the airwaves, or have access to someone who did. Controlling the flow of information was an elite class of editors, producers and media moguls who decided what people would see and hear about the world. They were the Gatekeepers.

Then came the Internet, which made it possible to communicate with millions of people at little or no cost. Suddenly anyone with an Internet connection could share ideas with the whole world. A new era of democratized news media dawned.

You may have heard that story before — maybe from the conservative blogger Glenn Reynolds (blogging is "technology undermining the gatekeepers") or the progressive blogger Markos Moulitsas (his book is called "Crashing the Gate"). It's a beautiful story about the revolutionary power of the medium, and as an early practitioner of online politics, I told it to describe what we did at But I'm increasingly convinced that we've got the ending wrong — perhaps dangerously wrong. There is a new group of gatekeepers in town, and this time, they're not people, they're code.

Today's Internet giants — Google, Facebook, Yahoo and Microsoft — see the remarkable rise of available information as an opportunity. If they can provide services that sift though the data and supply us with the most personally relevant and appealing results, they'll get the most users and the most ad views. As a result, they're racing to offer personalized filters that show us the Internet that they think we want to see. These filters, in effect, control and limit the information that reaches our screens.

By now, we're familiar with ads that follow us around online based on our recent clicks on commercial Web sites. But increasingly, and nearly invisibly, our searches for information are being personalized too. Two people who each search on Google for "Egypt" may get significantly different results, based on their past clicks. Both Yahoo News and Google News make adjustments to their home pages for each individual visitor. And just last month, this technology began making inroads on the Web sites of newspapers like The Washington Post and The New York Times.

All of this is fairly harmless when information about consumer products is filtered into and out of your personal universe. But when personalization affects not just what you buy but how you think, different issues arise. Democracy depends on the citizen's ability to engage with multiple viewpoints; the Internet limits such engagement when it offers up only information that reflects your already established point of view. While it's sometimes convenient to see only what you want to see, it's critical at other times that you see things that you don't.

Like the old gatekeepers, the engineers who write the new gatekeeping code have enormous power to determine what we know about the world. But unlike the best of the old gatekeepers, they don't see themselves as keepers of the public trust. There is no algorithmic equivalent to journalistic ethics.

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's chief executive, once told colleagues that "a squirrel dying in your front yard may be more relevant to your interests right now than people dying in Africa." At Facebook, "relevance" is virtually the sole criterion that determines what users see. Focusing on the most personally relevant news — the squirrel — is a great business strategy. But it leaves us staring at our front yard instead of reading about suffering, genocide and revolution.

There's no going back to the old system of gatekeepers, nor should there be. But if algorithms are taking over the editing function and determining what we see, we need to make sure they weigh variables beyond a narrow "relevance." They need to show us Afghanistan and Libya as well as Apple and Kanye.

Companies that make use of these algorithms must take this curative responsibility far more seriously than they have to date. They need to give us control over what we see — making it clear when they are personalizing, and allowing us to shape and adjust our own filters. We citizens need to uphold our end, too — developing the "filter literacy" needed to use these tools well and demanding content that broadens our horizons even when it's uncomfortable.

It is in our collective interest to ensure that the Internet lives up to its potential as a revolutionary connective medium. This won't happen if we're all sealed off in our own personalized online worlds.

Eli Pariser, the president of the board of, is the author of "The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding From You."









Days before Parliament decided to go to the electoral recess, a group of ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, deputies sponsored a bill.

Nothing abnormal of course in a group of deputies sponsoring a bill in Parliament, legislation is the duty they are elected and paid for to undertake, is it not?

That bill, because of a shortage of time, could not be legislated and became law. That bill, however, was discussed and approved by the parliamentary justice commission, thanks to the overwhelming AKP majority. That bill stipulated that even if an audio or video recording was done without proper authorization – that is, illegally – after such recordings were exposed to the public reporting on them, releasing them would not be considered a crime under the rules protecting the privacy of individuals.

While the country was living through the excitement that a polling booth would soon be placed in front of the nation, some awake opposition deputies were screaming in Parliament during the parliamentary committee debate on that contentious bill that if such a law was adopted, Turkey, which had already became a "sultanate of fear," would turn into a real wild character assassination ground…

Of course the AKP parliamentary majority did not take into consideration for one second the complaints of the opposition deputies. Why should they? If they have the majority in Parliament, they surely represented the national will… Why should they take into consideration the worries or concerns of the minorities? After all, as the master of all times, great politician, theologian and definitely the most able absolute ruler of the sultanate of fear had decreed, seeking a consensus on important issues did not mean that the majority surrendered to the minority… On the contrary, it is the right of the majority to expect the minority to agree to whatever is suggested by the majority because the majority represents the national will.

Was such an understanding compatible with participation-based and pluralist democracy or was its majoritarianism totally incompatible with democracy without suffix or prefix? It was the "advanced democracy" understanding of the AKP…

Thank God time ran out and that bill could not become law. Now, most probably it will be among the first things to be handled by the new Parliament should the AKP come back with a similar outstanding majority as hunting opponents will still be required while Recep Tayyip Erdoğan walks to become the first popularly elected president of a presidential Turkey.

Indeed, to achieve such aspirations of the prime minister, that bill was required as the AKP needs to come back to the new Parliament with even a consolidated strength that is strong enough to legislate the new constitution that would carry the country to the presidential regime that Erdoğan wants. That was the only way the AKP could get more than 50 percent of the vote or produce in the elections at least an 3/5 majority – that is, a minimum 330 seats required to legislate constitutional amendments or write a new constitution.

In the first two batches of the organized sex-tape attack (on April 27 and May 10) on the Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, top executives, four senior members were shot down… As has become the fashion in such electronic attacks, the bullets were fired from an overseas-based website. This time, it was not based in the United States or precisely in Pennsylvania; it was based in Canada…

The MHP immediately traced clues and claimed that it found sufficient evidence to prove that a businessman from İzmir who applied for candidacy in the AKP list – but was turned down – owned that "" [different idealists]. The MHP applied to a court but nothing was done other than the prime minister declaring that what happened was not a violation of private life as the content of the tapes were "general licentiousness."

Then after a pre-warning came this weekend the third and strongest sex-tape attack from the same front. The contentious website pre-warned of the coming third wave and gave the names of the MHP executives the new tapes would target unless MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli stepped down. Though the MHP appealed to the court and the telecommunications high board to take action against the website, nothing was done… Some tapes were released and six more senior MHP officials quit the party and withdraw their candidacies for Parliament. Thus, the number of MHP executives, and candidates for Parliament, effectively removed from politics has reached 10.

The government and the telecommunications high board, in the mean time continued hiding behind "There are no laws to act on blackmail as long as evidence [in this case sex tapes] of illegality was found" excuse.

Though perhaps not necessarily valid for every single case, it is often said that the answer to the "Who benefits from this crime?" question gives a strong idea about the identity of the criminal…






I apologize if you haven't seen the Shawshank Redemption, but Morgan Freeman is narrating:

Dominique Strauss-Kahn came to Rikers Island in May of 2011.

I must admit I didn't think much of Dominique the first time I laid eyes on him; he spoke with a funny accent and seemed to have an inflated ego. That was my first impression of the man.

From day one, he claimed he was innocent, and that he was set up by French President Nicolas Sarkozy. But everyone in here is innocent, didn't you know that? In any case, the Sisters gang thought he was the only guilty man in Rikers. They maintained that while he could be innocent of the crime he was in for, he was guilty of much more. So they made life very tough for Dom, as I began calling him after we became friends, in those early years.

They would corner him whenever they had the chance and ask him why he had recommended the use of fiscal stimuli to try to end the financial crisis. Now, I should tell you, the Sisters were neoclassical economists, so they did not think much of Dom's Keynesian ideas.

They would also attack him on his handling of the eurozone debt crisis. They maintained that the crisis stemmed from a lack of solvency rather than liquidity, and that Dom's treatment of the latter only exacerbated the problems.

The Sisters were also especially critical of Dom's approach to Greece. They argued that, as in Latvia, it was clear that fiscal restraint, combined with a currency that could not adjust, would lead to a deep contraction, adding that Greece should have abandoned the euro. Dom spent long hours trying to persuade them that option was not politically feasible, but it did not help that Zorba, the leader of the Sisters, was from Crete, which had been sold to Turkey in 2012.

The Sisters were also rather angry at Dom for having revived a dying institution. They agreed with Financial Times' Martin Wolf that Dom was a bold decision-maker, an effective politician and a competent economist. It was with these qualities that he was able to carve a whole new role for the IMF, which involved, among other things, increased monitoring of the global economy's crisis indicators.

But that's exactly what the Sisters hated Dom for. They saw the IMF as nothing more than a tool for the developed world to continue exploiting developing countries. It seems they had not found Dom's emphasis on poverty and unemployment during his stint as IMF's Managing Director sincere at all.

One day, Dom asked for a rock hammer and a poster of John Maynard Keynes from me. I knew Dom loved his wife, and quite a few other women as well, so I was worried. Had the Sisters finally got to him? Not that there is anything wrong with that. But I got what he wanted nevertheless, and rock-carving became his greatest passion. He had decided he would carve statuettes of all the women he had been with. That kept him busy!

Over the years, the posters changed: Simon Johnson, Ken Rogoff, Raghuram Rajan, Olivier Blanchard and many others. In May of 2031, when football club Fenerbahçe won its first Turkish cup after almost half a century, distracting the Sisters from Dom for a while as they celebrated, it was Paul Krugman. Then, exactly on the 20th anniversary of his arrival at Rikers, Dom disappeared: He had been digging a tunnel behind those economist posters all those years.

Not long afterwards, I got a postcard in the mail. It was blank, but the postmark said Calais, France. That's where Dom crossed. When I picture him heading south in his own car with the top down, it always makes me laugh. Dominique Strauss-Kahn... who crawled through a tunnel and came out clean on the other side. Dominique Strauss-Kahn... headed for the Élysée…

Emre Deliveli is a freelance consultant and columnist for Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review and Forbes as well as a contributor to Roubini Global Economics. Follow his blog at







Barack Obama's speech on the Middle East lasted for 40 minutes, but did it say anything new? Not exactly, although it did reinstate an old rule that had been abandoned.

Two years after the American president's much-ballyhooed speech in Cairo promised a new relationship with the Muslim world, not much has changed in American policy – but a great deal has changed in the Arab world.

Obama angered Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by calling for an Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement consisting of two states "with permanent borders based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps [of territory]." It was a return to what was the long-standing American position until former U.S. President George W. Bush changed it in 2004.

Netanyahu's office immediately issued a furious response: "Prime Minister Netanyahu expects to hear a reaffirmation from President Obama of U.S. commitments made to Israel in 2004.... Among other things, those commitments relate to Israel not having to withdraw to the 1967 lines, which are both indefensible and which would leave major Israeli population centers in Judea and Samaria beyond those lines."

By "Judea and Samaria," Netanyahu meant the West Bank, i.e. 90 percent of the land that the Palestinians still clung to after the 1948 war. The West Bank has been occupied by the Israeli army since the 1967 war, and Israel has built so many "settlements" on it that almost 20 percent of the population of the West Bank is now Jewish.

Bush said in 2004 that the settlements could stay, even though that made the concept of a Palestinian state completely infeasible. (The settlements control more than a third of the land in the West Bank.) But U.S. policy on the issue is now back to what it was before Bush.

Some settlements might be allowed to stay, but only if the Palestinian state were compensated with land of equivalent value by Israel. (That's what the "mutually agreed swaps" referred to.) Moreover, the "1967 lines" mean that the United States will not back Israel's insistence that its army remain in the Jordan valley, along the border between the promised Palestinian state and Jordan.

Netanyahu's coalition government would instantly collapse if he agreed to any of this, so he wouldn't agree even if Obama twisted his arm very hard. In any case, there was no hint in the speech that Obama was going to bring serious pressure on Israel to change its position.

So there has been a rhetorical return to long-standing U.S. policy after the Bush aberration, but no evidence that Obama will push the "peace process" forward. As far as the democratic revolutions of the "Arab Spring" are concerned, he gave them warm verbal support – but only so long as they don't damage American interests. There was, for example, not a single mention of Saudi Arabia in his speech.

And for all of Obama's rhetoric about how wonderful the revolutions are, it was clear he had little idea how big the transformation in the Middle East actually is. Particularly with regard to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, the future will not be like the past.

We had a foretaste of that a week ago, when thousands of Palestinian demonstrators commemorating the anniversary of the "nakba" (disaster), the expulsion of their people in 1948 from what is now Israel, surged up against Israel's borders, and in one place actually breached them. About a dozen of them were killed, although they were mostly non-violent, but this was something new – and we will be seeing a lot more of it.

The issue of the Palestinian "refugees" of 1948 has been on a back burner for a long time, with Israel adamant that the vast majority of them must never return as that would dilute Israel's Jewishness. Besides, says the Israeli government, they fled voluntarily.

That was always a bad argument. Israeli historians long ago discredited the idea that the flight of the Palestinian population was voluntary, and in any case it doesn't matter. Under international law, if people flee their homes during a war, they are legally entitled to return to those homes when the fighting ends.

For 50 years, Israel has successfully kept the refugees (and their descendants) out, and by and large the international community has accepted it. But now the Palestinians, emboldened by the non-violent spread of popular rule elsewhere in the Arab world, are not just saying they have the right to return. They are acting on it.

Israel will never consent to this, but if Palestinians go on trying to cross the border, despite the fact that some will get killed each time, then Arab opinion will be firmly on their side. So will the newly democratic governments of the Arab world – and other Arab regimes that are just trying to stay ahead of public anger. Israel will also find itself increasingly isolated in the wider world, especially if it continues to use violence.

This is just one example of how much has changed in the Middle East in the past few months, and American policy has not even begun to take account of it. Obama is trying, but he will have to run much faster to keep up.







It was during the days when he worked as a community organizer in Chicago, U.S. President Barack Obama said in his memoir "Dreams From My Father," that he first realized he had become "hungry for words." These, he said, were "not words to hide behind but words that could carry a message, support an idea."

While listening to the historic speech on recent developments in the Middle East and North Africa that Obama made last week at the State Department, I could not help but recall those words he had written in his memoirs. The speech seemed to well illustrate the president's passionate relationship with glamorous words and ideas.

As President Obama pointed out, the status quo in the region is no longer sustainable. In the past, free and fair elections, a basic prerequisite for any democratic regime, were merely a kind of window-dressing for regimes that were trying to preserve their power by either manipulation or repressive measures. Unfortunately, the prevailing system was not able to afford an alternative by peaceful means.

Today, however, people are looking for real change rather than cosmetic makeovers. And in a milieu where the Internet and satellite television provide a window onto the wider world, the hope for change is irreversible. This is what the collapse of the communist system has proven to us.

Equally important is another fact that President Obama pointed out, that ordinary people's longing for a better life is one of the driving forces for change. Indeed, as he said, "the tipping point for so many people is the more constant concern of putting food on the table and providing for a family." In that regard, his commitment to support positive change through efforts to advance economic development for nations that are transitioning to democracy is of great importance.

I support most of Obama's ideas on change in the region because I firmly believe in his sincerity. Yet I must humbly express a fundamental reservation of mine with regard to how change can and should be accomplished in the region.

In that regard, I feel compelled to remind Obama of what he asserted in his second memoir, "Change We Can Believe In," wherein he outlined his policy proposals and presidential agenda in the event of his election: "[T]here are few examples in history in which the freedom men and women crave is delivered through outside intervention. In almost every successful social movement of the last century, from Gandhi's campaign against British rule to the Solidarity movement in Poland to the antiapartheid movement in South Africa, democracy was the result of local awakening."

At present, nevertheless, there are increasing signs of outside intervention. This is also the concern certain Turkish authorities shared with me when I discussed with them the recent developments. Yes, a country's suppressing its own people is not something the free world can tolerate today. However, manipulation by third parties as part of their efforts to pursue their narrow national interests is not, and should not be, acceptable either.

In "Dreams From My Father," Obama wrote that his hunger for words taught him a principle of great importance for the rest of his life: "Don't make someone else clean up your mess."

Hopefully, in contrast to George W. Bush, Obama will not be making a mess that someone else may have to clean up. From this point on, it is his and the United States' responsibility to lead change in the region. The only thing he needs is a bit more courage. Where he should display it first and foremost is in attempts to find a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including showing the intestinal fortitude to make calls that could upset his nations Israeli allies.

On that issue, too, the status quo is no longer sustainable.






With his long speech Thursday, U.S. President Barack Obama officially declared the priorities of his administration's new Middle East policy – even though they have already been in effect for some time. The speech points toward two radical shifts that give rational responses to the Arab Spring.

The first shift is that U.S. foreign policy has decided to focus on supporting the change toward reform and democracy in the Middle East, from atop the giant wave that has hit the shores with the Arab Spring.

This stance can be described as "supporting demands of change and freedom to the end, using the material and moral means of the United States."

In the first term of Bush the Son, "regime change" was imposed by the U.S. Today, the U.S. is supporting the regime change imposed by the peoples themselves from the outside. Moreover, this support comes even if the short-term outcome does not fully overlap with the way the U.S. describes its regional interests: That's the difference.

The second important change in U.S. foreign policy is about abandoning an understanding that sees unconditional support to Israel as the way to providing for its security. The U.S. formula for peace today is a "two-state solution based on Israel retreating to pre-1967 borders."

Closing the abyss between the U.S. and Arab peoples that was opened by unquestioning support to Israel and a geopolitical approach that does not refrain from doing business with cruel Arab regimes... Thus, the goal is providing the security sought by the U.S. in the aftermath of 9/11 in a correct and ethical way. This is the strategic priority of the Obama administration regarding the Middle East.

Looking at the position of our guys, I can only envy those who can list priorities in their foreign policy. If you have priorities, you have a reason to use the miles you earned by chasing them in the air. If not, even if you are the "fastest-boarding, most-flying" foreign policy person in developing international conditions, you can only fly from here to there and earn miles. Then, those earned miles are spent in yet other voyages that are bound to yield no results.

Obama started his aforementioned speech by congratulating Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the flyer miles she earned. Clinton "has traveled so much these last six months that she is approaching a new landmark – 1 million frequent flyer miles," Obama said.

Clinton's 1 million mile landmark is directly correlated to the change in the Obama administration's foreign policy priorities.

With this flyer mile score, Clinton has probably surpassed Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu in the past six months. Because there is a visible decline in the latter's flights since the Arab Spring has started. The Middle East is not suitable for the flights of those who tried to establish a so-called new order through the status quo of dictators and sheikhs before the "spring." These people are now having a hard time in developing a policy.

What if we tried to conduct a "flyer mile productivity analyses" from the perspective of Turkey's assumed foreign policy priorities? I'd imagine that they would ask me: Priority? What priority?

Ian Lesser, a senior analyst at German Marshall Fund, told me an anecdote during a recent Brussels meeting. Lesser asked Davutoğlu which region he prioritizes most. The answer: "We have no priorities. Turkey is at the center; we are developing relations with every region and creating energy."

Leave aside the non-existent priorities, the foreign policy of the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, has become unable to create energy in areas that it used to spend energy – it is suffocating. The "EU perspective" is not progressing. Making use of policy and legitimacy voids left by Arab regimes that are alien to their own peoples through an anti-Israel stance is becoming harder, because the Arab Spring itself is filling the blanks now. The U.S. policy is returning back to the region over the wave of the Arab Spring.

You've got to "reset" Turkish foreign policy by prioritizing the EU perspective. Then, maybe, the miles you've collected may be useful for something.

Note: "The flyer miles of Davutoğlu" are only a metaphor in this article.

Kadri Gürsel is a columnist for daily Milliyet for which this piece originally appeared on May 22. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.







I was talking last week to an eminent foreign analyst on Turkish affairs. The subject: the rise and rise of the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, and its expected victory in the elections on June 12.

It was a fascinating discussion on how this party with Islamic roots, representing the marginal populations of the countryside, sprang out of the urbanization in Turkey during the last few decades. It was all the more interesting when the discussion touched upon the reasons why the AKP has managed to dominate the political scene in Turkey where its immediate predecessor, the Welfare Party of the recently deceased Necmettin Erbakan, was kicked out of power in such a forceful manner by the secularist-military establishment.

Inevitably we quickly focused our attention on the phenomenon of current Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who from efficiently heading the biggest metropolitan local authority in the country, that of Istanbul, ended up heading now the political fate of his country almost single-handedly.

Being Greek and genetically suspicious and conspiratorial, I could not resist a question on the degree of involvement of the foreign factor, i.e. the Americans, in this spectacular rise to power of the leader of the AKP. To this I received this interesting answer by my foreign colleague: "I do not think there was a direct involvement but don't forget that Erdoğan was put in the position of a victim against a regime that suppressed freedom of speech and that made it more palatable for the Americans to go and talk to him as they identified with him more. We also have to remember that Americans are a lot more religious than people in Europe. They are less concerned when they see somebody being religious than most liberals in Europe would be."

This interesting talk came into my mind while following the case of Dominique Strauss-Kahn and witnessing the American understanding of justice compared to that of the Europeans. The first scene of this modern drama about the former head of the International Monetary Fund is about to come to an end. While he left his prison cell after being granted bail, maybe we should take a second look at the way he was found guilty before his actual trial. It is true that American justice treats everybody equally and does not hesitate in bringing somebody to court even if he is the head of IMF or even the president of his country. But the image of an almost suicidal man dressed in a restrictive blue prison outfit, whose picture was taken perhaps through the keyhole of his cell, should, I think, be considered a gross infringement of the basic principle that someone is innocent unless he is proven guilty.

In the case of Strauss-Kahn, whose alleged crime was anathema to traditional American values, apparently there was no need to protect the identity of the alleged "rapist." No "artist's sketches" of him in the court room, where he managed to received bail; we watched everything for real as TV cameras were allowed through to satisfy the audience's moralistic stance and "hang the rapist even without trial"; we enjoyed all the necessary close-ups of his face, even the slight smile of satisfaction by the "sex beast" when his bail was eventually granted.

The television screen became his virtual court room. There was no need for him to defend himself as that was a trial by a people's court, albeit via TV. No surprise that nobody wanted to have anything to do with a fallen man and so Strauss-Kahn had difficulty even finding a landlord to rent him an apartment in central New York where he could stay until his actual trial.

The case of Strauss-Kahn may have shown that the American system treats everybody equal under the law but it also showed a society whose reflexes for the protection of "family values" can throw somebody to the "gallows" bypassing all principles of privacy and presumed innocence.

And that brings us to Turkey, to the "second wave" of the explicit video tapes posted this week on the Internet by unknown makers, involving members of the right-wing Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP. These well-shot keyhole videos were taken secretly while several of these MHP deputies and party executives were seen in uncompromising positions with members of the opposite sex who were not their wives. This new juicy stuff is now threatening to tilt the balance of the coming elections much in favor of the ruling party.

Already seven MHP members have resigned and their "immoral conduct" figures in the prime minister's fiery speeches pushing the moral values of the society. In an election atmosphere where "family values" seem to dominate the political rhetoric, at least in the AKP camp, few would dare raise the issue of the privacy rights of these unlucky MHP deputies or the illegal conduct of the video-makers. Again at the altar of morality and against a perceived system of "family values," society becomes the judge, no need for justice. 

There is no proof that behind the smear campaign against the MHP is the ruling party, which wants to grab the votes if the MHP drops under the 10 percent election threshold and cannot enter Parliament. But what worries me is that the political future of Turkey may be decided not based upon declared party policies but upon the illegally exposed sex-rompings of certain parliamentary candidates – and because that appeals to the sense of moral superiority of a conservative society.






When Muhammad Ali Jinnah envisioned the creation of Pakistan as a secular state for Muslims in the 1940s, he had little idea that his dream country would turn into an Islamist republic that enforces religion over its citizens, a hunting ground in which liberal Muslims are killed and a safe haven for the world's most wanted terrorist. What went wrong with Jinnah's vision?

Understanding what went wrong in Pakistan is necessary not only for the country's sake, but also because it provides us with lessons on the role of religion in politics, especially at a time in which many Muslim-majority societies are busy redefining themselves during the Arab Spring.

Pakistan's current messy state of affairs, from the assassination of liberal Muslim politicians such as the governor of Punjab province, Salman Taseer, who was killed for saying no to the persecution of Christians – as any good Muslim should do – to the chilling discovery that Osama bin Laden lived in a military suburb of the nation's capital, is a product of a process of Islamization that started in the 1970s under dictator Zia ul-Haq.  

Against the backdrop of the Cold War, many in Washington thought, and Zia agreed, that injecting religion into the fabric of Pakistani society and that of other Muslim-majority countries lying on the southern flank of the Soviet Empire, namely Afghanistan, Iran and Turkey, would stave off the risk of these countries being taken over by leftist ideologies. Preventing communist takeovers in these countries would serve the larger strategic Cold War goal of blocking Russian access to warmer seas. 

Known as the "Green Belt Theory," this strategy was devised by the Western intelligence community to immunize these four nations against communism. But the strategy, which worked, has had unintended consequences: Religion has become the moral compass of these societies, long outlasting communism. Today, political Islam has penetrated thefabric of each of the four countries in unique ways: Pakistan is an Islamist republic, Afghanistan had become Talibanized, Iran fell prey to an Islamist revolution and Turkey, though a democracy, is under what is slowly becoming the ever-more permanent rule of the authoritarian and Islamist-inspired Justice and Development Party, or AKP.

Among the four countries, Pakistan provides the most chilling case of what can go wrong in Muslim-majority societies if religion becomes politicized within the context of global politics. Pakistan's Islamization started after Zia ul-Haq ousted the leftist leader Zulfiqar Ali Butto. To fight off Butto's popular ideology, Zia used religion as the antidote. Compulsory religious instruction became part of the national curriculum. Courts, media outlets, financial institutions, nongovernmental organizations and charities guided by and promoting conservative Islam were promoted. The government expected its citizens to observe religion in a narrowly defined way as stipulated by Zia, and religion defined the modus operandi of Pakistan's foreign policy, including its support for the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan and the Kashmiris. Jinnah must have turned over in his grave as Pakistan left its secular outlook and Zia made Islam the moral compass of the Pakistani society.

Though nothing is wrong with conservative values, making religion the moral compass of any society produces unintended results: Religious purity is an ideological beauty competition in which the ugly guy always wins. Centering religion as the moral compass in religiously homogenous societies can produce further unexpected results, as the Pakistan case demonstrates. Given Islam's frequent emphasis on orthopraxy (defining practice in its orthodox form as the right of passage to being a good Muslim), demographically homogenous Muslim societies lose their secular ethos and divergent forms of Muslimness wither away once a single, narrowly defined form of political Islam dominates. As the recent assassination of Salman Taseer demonstrates, it has become virtually impossible in Pakistan to be a Muslim in any way other than that imagined by the jihadists, the winners of the ideological beauty competition.

Pakistan's Islamization has produced further unexpected results in the post-Sept. 11 era. The singular role ascribed to religion in politics, domestic and foreign alike, is now a combustive process, triggering radicalization along the lines of al-Qaeda's rhetoric of a clash of civilizations and war between Islam and the rest of the world.

Mixing religion with politics is an irreversible process with harmful and unexpected consequences. What is more, assigning a key role to Islam in politics can unleash violent dynamics in post-Sept.11 Muslim majority societies. Religion and politics are like fire and powder, better keep them apart – Jinnah was right.

* Soner Çağaptay, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, is the author of "Turkish Foreign Policy under the AKP: The Rift with Washington" (2011).







On May 11, 2011, India made public the names of 50 Pakistanis it accused of involvement in terrorist activities in India and which it wanted extradited. On May 20, India withdrew the most-wanted list when it was found that two of the fugitives supposedly hiding in Pakistan were very much in India - one of them in prison! The list was first handed to Pakistan during home secretary-level talks in March but the contents were not made public until this month. The timing of the disclosure immediately raised suspicions: was it a coincidence that New Delhi revealed the list just 10 days after Osama bin Laden was found and killed in Abbottabad? Clearly, the aim of the disclosure - which even Indian newspaper editorials have called a petty bilateral gambit - was to create more trouble for an already troubled Pakistan reeling under pressure both at home and abroad. The release was perhaps also meant to give cover to Indian army chief VK Singh s and defence, research and development organisation head VK Saraswat s irresponsible boasting of India s ability to mount an Abbottabad-type operation in Pakistan against elements inimical to Indian interests. If the timing of the release didn t already reek of malice, India was caught with foot in mouth when the government learnt that two of the terrorists were in India itself. Stung by the blooper, India withdrew the list even as Home Minister P Chidambaram tried to play down the mistake by saying, I don t think we should make a big issue of it. But there are saner voices who believe this was a monumental lapse that not just embarrassed India but also created unnecessary bad blood with Pakistan. The gaffe should thus serve as a much-needed reminder to the Indian security establishment to sort out its internal troubles rather than always look for a whipping boy westwards.

There is a lesson here for all countries, including Pakistan, that are fighting against security-related concerns like terrorism: professionalism in the conduct of security and intelligence is key to success, as was highlighted by the intelligence failure with regard to Osama. One step in this

direction is internal security coordination and intelligence-sharing. For India, as the latest goof-up has highlighted, this means better coordination between the home and external affairs ministries and intelligence agencies like the Central Bureau of Investigation. For Pakistan, this means an overarching body to coordinate intelligence sharing between the ISI, IB, MI, FIA and other intelligence-gathering forces. Developing a culture of institutionalised intelligence coordination is key to a successful counter-terrorism policy.






A proposal emanating from the PPP to restructure the civil service is unlikely to do anything other than institutionalise political preferment, disrupt lines of promotion and further degrade an already demoralised service. Up to 20 percent of posts could go to favoured officers who will be slid into the system at grades BPS19 and BPS20 if the proposal is accepted and it is already running into opposition as it should at the cabinet-secretary level. At a meeting on May 16 the cabinet secretary said that the proposal would ruin the structure of the civil service if adopted. The story of this latest attempt to get civil servants into political pockets began with Balochistan Chief Minister Aslam Raisani requesting that officers from his province be given a quota of appointments under the Aghaz-e-Haqooq-e-Balochistan Package. He argued that this would relieve some of the frustration that was being felt and it appears that if the request had been granted and limited to Balochistan alone there would have been little opposition to it.

As news of the proposal spread civil servants are said to have expressed serious concerns, citing the possibility of, among other things, legal challenges to the Establishment Division. It is said that some officers already in post who are heavily politicised have convinced the prime minister of the wisdom of the proposal, as well as the necessary changes in the civil service rules. While at one level this may be seen as an unsurprising move by both opportunist politicians to embed their placemen and for promotion-hungry civil servants to better advance their case, at another it is a recipe for trouble. The current government has less than two years to run. If, as is more than possible, it loses power at the next election and is unable to form a coalition in which the PPP is the dominant partner, then the next government is going to be looking to undo whatever it can of the works of its predecessor. The changes that are encapsulated in this proposal may well be an early target. Conversely the next government, if it is not PPP-led, could use the rule change to oust the PPP placemen and slide in its own people to the further dilution of the civil service. There is nothing about this proposal that commends it. Our battered civil service needs stability, not turmoil, and the politicians need to keep their grubby fingers to themselves.







Ten days ago one of the most powerful men in the world may have made the mistake that threw him from his pedestal. Dominique Strauss-Kahn is rightly innocent until proven guilty and only a trial will tell us if he should walk free or go behind bars. But even if he is found innocent, life is never going to be the same for him. It is said that he has what is known as form as in a track-record of harassing women; and the European and British press have both reported that he was warned by President Sarkozy of France that he would never be able to get away with his antics in the US as he was allowed to get away with them in France. He was considered a possible candidate for the French presidency and, as head of the IMF, had been instrumental in negotiating the bailout packages for Greece and Portugal. He has now negotiated his own bail-out and will live under house arrest until his trial.

The IMF is one of the children of Bretton-Woods, the 1944 conference that in large part determined the shape of the world post-WW2. Another child is the World Bank. It was agreed at the time that the Americans would always hold the chairmanship of the WB and the Europeans of the IMF, a model which has held true ever since. But we live in a changing world and there is no reason today why the head of either institution should not come from one of the developing nations or from the BRIC group Brazil, Russia, India and China. It can be strongly argued that the new boss of the IMF should not be a European. A former finance minister of South Africa Trevor Manuel has also been tipped as a contender. Can the fall of Dominique Strauss-Kahn prove to be the key which unlocks change?









The writer is a former member of the foreign service of Pakistan.

A parliament is not the best forum for a thoughtful debate on complex issues of foreign and security policy, especially not shortly after a major national disaster has dramatically exposed the vulnerability of the country s defences. That is particularly true of a country in which lying to the parliament as exemplified by Gilani s advice to the US ambassador in 2008 to ignore the government s protests in the National Assembly on drone attacks is considered the highest form of statecraft.

It is no wonder therefore that the interrogation of the military by our elected representatives on the Abbottabad raid turned into an orgy of chest-thumping, finger-pointing, point-scoring, grandstanding and posturing in short everything but the dispassionate deliberation that the occasion demanded. Riding on a wave of public anger against the military after the Abbottabad fiasco, our parliamentarians revelled in taking pots shots at the still mighty armed forces of the country. Our information minister probably carried the day when she declared triumphantly before TV cameras outside the House that Pasha had surrendered to the parliament. Much of the criticism of the military was richly deserved. But what was conspicuously lacking in the fiery speeches was any discussion of the role of the equally culpable civilian government or of the self-seeking political elite that our elected lawmakers represent.

Most of the members of parliament found the briefing too taxing, too boring or too incomprehensible to endure for long. While the session was on, many chose to vote with their feet by quietly retiring to their lodges or night-time haunts, so that when the gruelling nine-hour meeting ended, not more than a fifth were present to adopt a resolution.

Nisar has complained that since the military divulged little that was of a sensitive nature, the exclusion of the media was not justified. But the way some of our parliamentarians kept relaying the contents of the supposedly confidential briefing to news reporters while the session was in progress has again raised the question whether our members of parliament are worthy of being trusted with sensitive information which has a bearing on national security. Some of them obviously have no concept of their duty as guardians of official secrets. Maybe the government should organise a crash course for them on this subject.

The parliamentarians are not the only ones who could benefit from such a course. When the military last gave a closed-door briefing to the parliament on national security in October 2008, it was none other than Mahmud Durrani, a retired general and former ambassador who was then serving as the prime minister s national security adviser, who reportedly gave the American Embassy a copy of the classified presentation. When this was revealed through a leaked WikiLeaks cable, Durrani denied having done so and said that he would request the government to hold an inquiry to enable him to clear his name. Half a year later, we are still waiting for the promised inquiry.

The appearance before the parliament of the country s top military leadership to answer charges of incompetence is being touted as a victory of civilian supremacy over the powerful security establishment. It could still turn out that way, if there is effective follow-up action to identify those responsible and hold them accountable. But that is far from assured, and any celebrations at this stage would be premature.

It bears recalling that it was the army that made the original request for a briefing of the parliament and not the other way around. The proposal was made in a press release issued by the ISPR on 9 May complaining of insufficient formal response by the civilian government. The parliamentary session was in fact a continuation of the background briefing given by Kayani and Pasha on 6 May to deflect some of the public criticism directed at the military and draw attention to the failings of the civilian government. At the parliamentary briefing itself, Kayani left it to Pasha to face the music and take all the flak, while the air chief similarly left the job to his deputy. Kayani reportedly left the House while the proceedings were still continuing, hardly a sign of contrition.

A lot will now depend on the way the independent commission to be set up under the parliamentary resolution carries out its task. The composition, remit and powers of the commission have not been defined in the resolution. These matters have been left to the prime minister and the opposition leader. That means in effect that Zardari will take the final decision. If past pattern is any guide, Zardari and Nisar will be unable to agree and it will be a long time before the commission is constituted.

As important as the composition, if not more so, is the remit of the commission. The resolution states that the independent commission on the Abbottabad operation will fix responsibility and recommend necessary measures to ensure that such an incident does not recur. Although the resolution does not say so explicitly, it may be assumed that the investigation of the Abbottabad operation includes also an inquiry into ISI s failure in tracking down Osama that is being cited by Washington to justify the raid. Zardari would no doubt want to circumscribe the terms of reference of the commission in such a way that it does not dig up any dirt that could stick on his face, in particular his responsibility in the issuance of visas, without security clearance, to an army of US secret agents in Pakistan which enabled the CIA to set up an intelligence network in Pakistan that now dwarfs that of the ISI.

In carrying out the task of fixing responsibility, the commission s prime task will naturally be to determine if there was a lapse or dereliction on the part of the ISI director general for the intelligence failure and of the top command of the PAF for the failure of the country s air defences. But that will not be enough. Public interest requires that the commission must also delve into the role played by Zardari and the civilian government. The ultimate responsibility for the country s defence and security rests with the political leadership. If found culpable, they too must answer for their failings and should not be allowed to shift all blame to the military. The commission cannot of course remove the civilian leadership from office. But it can, and should, dig up facts that enable the public to form an informed opinion and the parliament to take the appropriate consequential decisions.

To fulfil its responsibility, the commission must be equipped with very wide powers to obtain information from anyone in a position to help in the inquiry, in particular those holding the topmost posts, both civilian and military, including Zardari and the prime minister. Zardari would be a star witness and should be called to testify before the commission. He would no doubt be loath to do so. But since the presidential immunity under Article 248 of the Constitution only applies to court proceedings, he will not be able to invoke it to claim exemption from appearing before the commission. The commission must also have access to all relevant official documents, classified and unclassified. The records of Zardari s one-on-one meetings and telephone conversations with American leaders would be of great value in determining responsibility.

Clearly, the commission has a unique historical opportunity to establish accountability of the country s political and military leaders. Whether it succeeds depends not only on the character and integrity of the commission s members but also on giving them the necessary powers. Our current rulers are likely to be a hindrance rather than a help, unless the public, the media and the civil society can generate enough pressure to force the government s hand.









You may never read these words, and certainly will not if Harold Camping, a preacher with a significant following in America is right. He has announced the end of the world for today, Saturday 21st May at precisely 6 p.m. He has arrived at this date and time by careful study of the Bible and some rather fancy mathematics. He and his followers will be the only ones who will be saved, the rest of us are condemned to perdition and eternal torment.

Assuming we all survive presumably Mr Camping will claim that he got his sums wrong and that he will try and do better next time. There are thousands who believe his prediction. Some have sold their homes and businesses and gone around the country trying to persuade others of the rightness of Camping s prediction. They believe that the prediction is a true one, and that they are in receipt of a fundamental truth.

I like to think that most of us try to lead honest lives, to tell the truth first and foremost and if we do lie and we all do at some point in our lives then we should feel suitably chastened and guilty and eventually own up to whatever untruth it was that we spoke. Unless of course we happen to be a politician or a diplomat in which case we are exempted from any obligation to honesty and lie day in and day out because it is part of the job.

It is Wikileaks that takes me by the hand this week. A selection of the cables has been released relating to Pakistan that show any number of our politicians as duplicitous to a fault, saying one thing in private and another behind our backs. Hitherto what has been notable about the Wikileaks cables is that nobody has been able to refute their veracity. They are accepted for the most part as an accurate record of what passed between whoever wrote the cable and whoever it was they were speaking to. They are impressionistic and compressed that is for sure, but the kernel of the leaked cables is a nub of truth. True, they are passed through the filter of American perceptions which may differ from our own, but they represent a version of the truth that has an uncomfortable ring of truth about it.

But this being Pakistan, the land for which the very word deniability may have been coined, the content is in at least one case being denied. The Wikileak is not just inaccurate, but untrue. A falsehood. And probably part of a conspiracy to defame and undermine the nation by spreading lies about us. As are all negative or critical statements made about Pakistan by anybody wherever in the world they come from. Lies, all of them.

Well some of them are lies. Some of them. But not all. We would like to believe that all were lies, that there really is a global conspiracy to bring down the state and that the end of days is nigh and it is all everybody else s fault and none our own.

Those who believe Mr Camping and his calculations accept that he is telling them the truth. He has made a similar prediction with just as much certainty before, in 1994, and blamed the failure of the apocalypse to materialise on all manner of incomprehensible variables. He wasn t lying, he d just got it wrong. Not unlike our leaders who denied all knowledge of the presence of a certain Mr Bin Laden. They weren t lying, they d just got it wrong. A bit.

The writer is a British social worker settled in Pakistan. Email:








  It s inexcusable for scientists to torture animals, Henrik Ibsen once argued, let them make their experiments on journalists and politicians! Now I don t give a damn about politicians but I am proud to be a journalist and very fond of my fraternity. There are times though when I find myself agreeing with the suggestion of the Norwegian playwright and poet. These past couple of weeks have been one of those times. Look, for instance, at the response of some sections of Indian media to the recent developments in Pakistan.

Indeed, every time I watch some of these television news networks back home, I cringe. They are so loud, in-your-face and full of sanctimonious humbug that I often switch channels in disgust. But the incurable news junky that I am, I can t keep away very long either. Besides, given the bland staple offered by the likes of CNN and the BBC, you aren t left with much of a choice.

So I suffer. I suffer in silence, overwhelmed by the plebian wisdom and loads of malice endlessly peddled by the likes of Times Now, Star News and Zee News. Journalists are supposed to be soldiers of truth and crusaders against falsehood and injustice. We are not merely supposed to inform and educate the society we serve; we are committed to its well-being. We protect its interests by telling the truth and promoting peace and harmony, and not by purveying falsehood, hatred and mistrust. I know circulation numbers and TRPs do matter but they don t come at the expense of truth and honesty.

Given the toxic history of India-Pakistan relations, it s perhaps only natural that establishments on both sides are obsessed with each other. But since when has media become part of the establishment? Whatever happened to its fabled independence and objectivity?

While when it comes to dealing with the reviled neighbour next door everyone is vying with everyone else to appear more hawkish and patriotic, few can beat Times Now and its insufferable, holier-than-thou Arnab Goswami. The bespectacled news anchor, who also happens to be the network s editor-in-chief, is forever presiding over an all-season hate Pakistan fest, day after day, feigning an air of pompous solemnity. It s as if the responsibility of resolving the Kashmir conundrum or leading the billion plus population of his country rests squarely on his shoulders.

The morning the world woke up to the big news from Abbottabad, our hero was up in the air within a couple of hours of Obama s we-have-done-it moment. Aided by his battery of familiar talking heads, Goswamy began what was to be an endless orgy of thrashing and trashing Pakistan. He was on familiar turf, doing what he does best: whipping up a collective hysteria against the neighbour.

Indeed, this time around he went a step further. Even as Pakistan s befuddled politicians and men in khaki tried to make sense of the Abbottabad affront, the guardian of our national interest was calling for burning Pakistan at the stake. If Americans could fly into Abbottabad cantonment and take out the man responsible for 9/11, what prevents us from doing the same and taking out those responsible for 26/11?, he repeatedly demanded referring to the 2008 terror strikes in Mumbai.

It was an invitation to his guests many of them former diplomats and at least two of them being former envoys to Pakistan to move in for the kill as they implored India to hit at its separated-at-birth twin. This is payback time as Pakistan is at its most vulnerable right now, they seemed to suggest, openly debating the options of surgical strikes or US-style assassination to take out characters like Hafiz Saeed, Masood Azhar and of course Dawood Ibrahim.

I found it hard to believe my ears and eyes. Do they really mean that? Do the pundits realise the calamitous ramifications of their call? And they were supposed to be former diplomats! If this is how our diplomats think and speak, what about our men in khaki?


We got the answer the day after when Army Chief Gen V K Singh, obviously playing to media gallery, declared that India was capable of Abbottabad-style operations.

Predictably, it provoked a swift reaction from the other side with General Ashfaq Kayani promising a catastrophe if India tried such misadventures .

So where are we headed? And how irresponsible can the media can get in its attempts to sell itself? Well, everyone in this business is always looking for a larger slice of the pie more readers, more viewers and more revenue. Which is fair enough. But are there no rules in this game? No sense of right and wrong? Whatever happened to good old honesty and the noble ideals that once inspired and drove Indian journalism?

Alarmingly, Times Now isn t the only one playing dirty and exploiting what Samuel Johnson termed the last refuge of the scoundrel. (Ironically, it belongs to the Times of India group, which last year joined hands with Pakistan s Jang group to promote peace in an initiative titled, Aman Ki Asha!) There are many out there who play this dangerous game day after day, constantly stoking fears about Pakistan, and by extension, the spectre of Islamic terrorism and dozens of sleeper cells of terrorists allegedly operating across India. If they were to be believed, the entire Indian Muslim community is in the pay of Pakistan s ISI.

No wonder hundreds of innocent Muslims have been languishing behind the bars for years. This hasn t changed even after the stunning revelations linking Hindu groups like Abhinav Bharat and the all-powerful RSS to terror attacks targeting Samjhauta Express, Hyderabad s Mecca Masjid and Ajmer shrine.

The accused are condemned even before their sentencing, radicalising many more around them. And the media, playing on the insecurities of ordinary people, must share the blame for this state of affairs.

I am not playing the devil s advocate here. I am not suggesting Indian concerns about extremists operating out of Pakistan and launching 26/11-like attacks are without basis. I do realise that if world opinion has turned so firmly against Pakistan, credit goes to extremist outfits like Lashkar, Jaish, and their patrons in Pakistani agencies. They have brought nothing but shame to Islam and Muslims by targeting innocents in the name of Kashmir.

But you can t deal with such elements by running a vicious campaign against Pakistan as a whole or by egging on the Indian Army to teach the neighbours a lesson. This is not journalism. It s sheer madness.

Indeed, given the troubled past of the subcontinent three devastating wars since Partition, not to mention the 1999 Kargil disaster such an approach could culminate in collective hara-kiri. Both sides are sitting on a neat pile of nukes, enough to wreak havoc across this vast region of a billion plus people. Bill Clinton was hardly exaggerating when he described this part of the world after Kargil as the most dangerous place on earth.

A healthy and objective media is essential for a healthy and progressive society. Journalists should therefore be fighting ignorance and intolerance. They should be building bridges between nations and people, not dividing them further. The media needs to promote love and peace, not generate hatred and war, especially between two countries that had not long ago been one.

India and Pakistan, instead of squandering their precious resources and energy on fighting each other, need to fight their common demons and enemies together. And there are plenty of them out there: poverty, disease, illiteracy, ignorance, injustice and, above all, intolerance and extremism.

The writer is based in the Gulf. Email:








The sceptics who leave no stone unturned in casting aspersions on the federal government s capability to get its teeth into any issue of public importance have been silenced. Now that they ve shown their teeth to the powers that be, the people at the helm in Islamabad should no more be branded as toothless tigers. Not only can they roar, they can also tear the enemy apart.

I m afraid I can't figure out what you re driving at.

I mean to say that the behind-the-scenes session of the sovereign parliament will go down as a singular achievement of the PPP-led coalition. And I hold this view for more than one reason. For one thing, the top brass of the men in uniform was made to account for before the elected representatives of the people their failure both in scenting the whereabouts of the now-deceased chief of Al-Qaeda and in preventing continuing violation of national sovereignty. Never before in our history had the top guns of the armed forces been put in the dock before the country s highest political forum. For another, the parliamentarians were at one in warning Americans in so many words that intrusion into our territory would no more be allowed and our independence would be protected at all cost. And if the United States didn t mend its ways, the government might withdraw transit facility accorded to the Nato forces. Not only that, review of the terms of engagement with Washington has also been urged with a view to safeguarding our national interest. Finally, an independent commission would be constituted to look into the Abbottabad debacle. What more do you want?

I see eye to eye with you in that all institutions are answerable to parliament, it being the repository of the popular will. But why are we making much of the fact that the khaki leadership appeared before that august forum? Why are the politicians taking pride in having an opportunity to tell off the men in uniform? Doesn t it betray inferiority complex on the part of the civilian leadership?


I m disappointed to hear this. We let go no opportunity in running down the elected representatives. Yes do point the finger at them when you suspect them of letting the nation down. But be fair and give them the credit when and where it s due.

All right. Hats off to the lawmakers for the joint session. And now come to the unanimous resolution. Whenever predatory raids make a mockery of our claims of being a sovereign nation, the authorities mince no words in warning the Americans that another such adventure would give rise to serious consequences. But the raids continue. What makes you optimistic that the instant warning would work, especially when within two days of the passage of the historic resolution the Predators struck twice?

Well, those strikes were a mistake for which the Americans have apologised and they should be given the benefit of doubt. What makes me optimistic is the fact that the note of warning has been sounded not by the government but by parliamentarians. Being the supreme national institution, parliament will see to it that its recommendations aren t brushed aside.

If I correctly recall, in the past as well the same parliament had passed a resolution against the drone strikes. But did that put a stop to the raids? The mere fact that the warning against unilateral actions into our territory comes from the legislature and not merely the executive can t halt them, for the simple reason that for the Americans the supreme institution is their own legislature, and not Pakistan s.

The instant parliamentary resolution clearly mentions that Nato supply line to Afghanistan may be cut off if the Americans persist in carrying out predatory actions. Don t you think if the government didn t mean business, the ultimatum wouldn t be couched in such unequivocal language?

If you want to rest your arguments on the wording of the resolution, so be it. Now the text of the resolution says that the government will consider taking steps including severance of Nato supply line; it doesn t bind the government to adopt such measures. I mean in the event of another drone attack the people in power can say that they pondered all the options but concluded that registering protest through diplomatic channels was the wisest course. Let s pass over to revisiting the terms of engagement with Washington. Parliament or any other body can do so only if it is in the loop on the existing terms. Is it so? Are the sovereign lawmakers aware of any agreement, written or verbal, between the two governments authorising the Americans to strike at will at their targets inside our borders? Do they know of our authorities capability as well as willingness to hit the Predators? You can t review a policy if in the first place you don t know what it is.

I guess in the joint session, the parliamentarians were briefed on the terms of engagement with the Americans. Obviously they can t be discussed in public. That s why parliament met in camera.

I ve guesses of my own but let s move on. The creation and working of the inquiry commission is subject to several ifs and buts. Will it be a judicial commission as demanded by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif? Or will it be made up of politicians or civil society? Or will it have a mixed composition? When will the commission start working? What ll be its terms of reference and how long will it take to complete its probe. Yes, the composition and modalities of the commission will be thrashed out by the prime minister and the leader of the opposition. But if the past is any guide, their consultation may lead us nowhere. I trust you remember the botched Bhurban Accord and subsequent other agreements between the two parties for the reinstatement of the judges, where everything was agreed save for the modalities. As they say, the devil lies in the details. So I fear that the modalities of the proposed commission may become an apple of discord between the government and the opposition. Even if this doesn t turn out to be the case and the commission sees the light of the day, its findings may either be turned down or set aside.

You re an incorrigible cynic, I can only say.


The writer is a freelance contributor based in Islamabad. Email:








Admit it, whenever Imran Khan is on TV, you do stop in your channel surfing tracks and listen to him. You do that, don t you? No matter how much you criticise him or ostracise him, love him or hate him, you do listen to him, don t you?

The problem with admitting that you are an Imran Khan fan, especially in front of the wise ones, is that you can t do so without being labelled and stereotyped. If you are an Imran Khan fan then you are bound to be either a starry eyed undergrad waiting for Pakistan to happen or a retired wannabe with shattered delusions of grandeur, and no sense of the world at all. And if you are a woman fan (God forbid) then you may as well make the word gullible your second name! The female fan stereotype glares you in the face and all your arguments go down the stereotypical drain. What you are left with in the end, is a concluding statement that begins with the phrase: But I know it in my heart that...

Talk about feeding the stereotype.

So here is a scenario. You are sitting down for a drawing room chat on Pakistani politics. There is Left on your left, Right on your right, and then there is the leftover American tail in the middle. (Or was it the leftover, American helicopter s tail in the middle?) Well, whatever it is, you are sitting down to chat and suddenly you, in your naiveté, make the pronouncement: I think Imran Khan should win the next election.

The left turns right, the right turns left and the leftover American tail turns a beet root red. Everyone starts talking at once, and nobody can make sense of what s going on.

The right has reservations about Mr Khan s past left wing affiliations (social as well as familial). The left, on the other hand, has reservations about Mr Khan s present right wing associations (Jamaat-e-Islami any one?). The leftover American tail has just plain flight reservations (of the business class variety), and all these reservations along with his past and the present and the leftover American tale (not tail mind you) together make a case against Imran Khan s politics.


nd then pitch in the conspiracy theorist and the liberal sceptic. He doesn t know it but he is being used by the establishment , says the liberal sceptic. His dharnas are nothing but ISI sponsored advertisements for PTI and the jihadist media, it asserts.

And the jihadist media is actually the Zionist Indian nexus with links in the establishment having links with the Al-Qaida people who, by the way, are all non Muslims because autopsy of the dead bodies of the suicide bombers say so (wink), says the conspiracy theorist.

Duh! says the American tail.

Thud, says the indignant Right.

And all you can do is to ignore the rest, just look at the liberal sceptic and wonder if it would be the same thing to call a liberal sceptic, a sceptical liberal.


But before one digresses into the linguistic nitty gritties of what better captures the essence of a liberal sceptic, let s get back to the bottom line. And the bottom line is that Imran Khan might sound like a broken record, especially if you listen to him three days in a row, yet Imran Khan is the one person(along with Sheikh Rasheed of course) who does stop you in your channel surfing tracks and makes you listen. He is the only person (unlike Sheikh Rasheed, of course) who talks about justice, humanity and self-esteem, the next best slogan after unity, faith, discipline and better than roti kapra aur makaan, don t you think? And then he is the only person who gives you unconditional hope for a better future.

And my question for the left and the right and the liberal sceptic is: What is wrong with giving hope to our people?

I repeat the question: What is wrong with giving hope to our people?

Actually the idea of a progressive road map for Pakistan is so ridiculous for some that the talk of a better future becomes a symbol of foolishness. For others, the minor glitch that Imran Khan used to have girlfriends in the 80s is an obstacle that might hinder the progress of Pakistan until the curse is over. This might make you wonder at the eternal question of why the right is so afraid of girls and girlfriends, but then again I warn you, you d seriously digress if you take that route.

The only places where you would find unflinching support for Imran Khan and plenty of counter arguments for the left and the right and the liberals of all kinds, are the places of learning and education; the places where you find young people who compete for grades, write research essays and dream of making money; who are fond of books, sports, American TV serials and social networking, and have ideals for a better future for Pakistan. Diverse combination of things, I know, but better than rigid and self-made markers of good and bad. These people are not necessarily against girls and girlfriends either, and believe that Pakistan has much more sinister things to worry about than considerations of a cricket sensation s love life in the 80s.

And these are the people who tell you that Imran Khan is a cricketer par excellence, an orator who inspires them, and a philanthropist who makes them optimistic. These are the people who would post on facebook those pictures of him sleeping on the floor in the middle of a sit in; unafraid, undeterred, and without bulletproofing or security of any sort.

And these are the people who don t turn, right or left or a beetroot red when you tell them that you think Imran Khan should win the next election. They simply turn around and say

You think so too?


The writer is an academic. Email: adiahafraz@







ONE of the fascinating outcomes of Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani's visit to the friendly country is that China has expressed its readiness to operate Gwadar Port after the expiry of the operating agreement with Singapore Company. Gwadar port project has been the victim of lethargy and the Port has so far failed to become fully operational while its counterparts in the Gulf and Pakistan are making roaring business.

Defence Minister Chaudhry Ahmad Mukhtar who accompanied the Prime Minister during his visit to China said that in which ever sectors Pakistan requested assistance during the visit, the Chinese immediately agreed. Whenever the handing over of Gwadar port practically takes place, it will give a new life to the lackluster performance of Gwadar because China has the necessary expertise and interest to run such a port which has a great potential. However we fear that there may be some questions because some forces do not want prosperity of Balochistan while some others realizing the strategic importance of the Port may put Pakistan under pressure. Transfer of Gwadar port and making it fully operational is essential because Pakistan is keen to become a conduit for trade to landlocked Afghanistan,Central Asia and China through this very port. Pakistan had lot of expectations when it gave operating contract to the Singapore Port but it could not attract the required business which would have made it a hub of business activities, brought jobs and prosperity to the area. There is a great opportunity for Gwadar port to become the natural choice for major shipping lines. Unlike Karachi and Port Qasim, which thrive on captive cargoes, Gwadar Port, which is on main shipping lanes, will completely depend on transshipment cargo. While hub ports of the Persian Gulf are on the western side of Gwadar, Sri Lanka and Indian ports are on its eastern side, Gwadar is strategically located outside the sensitive area of the Strait of Hormuz, a major conduit for global oil supplies in the region. Thus, it needs to compete internationally to get its rightful share of the world's cargo. This requires efficiency on the part of port operators and the installation of modern equipment. Therefore it would be a great breakthrough if the Gwadar Port is transferred to China as soon as possible because Pakistan certainly needs improvement in the working of its major institutions and the sooner the process is reignited the better.








IT was legitimate for Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan to stage a sit in and express opposition over the US drone attacks to show resolve of the people of Pakistan that they strongly oppose the attacks which are violating country's sovereignty and claiming innocent lives. The sit in, the second after Peshawar, was a great success as it was attended by people belonging to many political parties.

In fact the sit in was a demonstration of massive opposition to the US drone strikes by the Karachiites. In our view the unanimity shown by the people gives the legitimate expression that the people across the country were one on this critical issue. There is no denying the fact that drone attacks have caused colossal damage to the psyche of the people and their souls have been bruised. Because of these attacks Pakistan is becoming soft and giving birth to more terrorism in the country. While addressing the participants Imran Khan said that Pakistan was fighting America's war on terror which had not only claimed the lives of thousands of Pakistanis but also badly affected the country's economy. Before 9/11 there was not a single Taliban militant in Pakistan but ever since Pakistan joined the war it has been facing acts of terrorism almost every day. In economic term the country has suffered losses of more than $ 60 billion and in return it got humiliation as the United States did not trust Pakistan and launched raid in Abbottabad without taking it into confidence. Also the American leaders and media are in the forefront to allege that while Pakistan received $ 20 billion of aid, it was not extending, according to them, the required support. What a pity that 35,000 Pakistanis sacrificed their lives including more than 5000 personnel of the security forces and suffered huge economic losses , much more than the American aid and still we are being told that Pakistan was not fully cooperating. It was time to bring the real facts to the knowledge of the Americans that they were not doing any favour and instead it was Pakistan that has suffered the most. Therefore we pay compliments to Imran Khan that he thought it appropriate and provided the leadership in organising the sit in which was peaceful and sends a message that such peaceful demonstrations were possible instead of resorting to the culture of gherao and jalao.







FINANCE Minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh has given a message of hope to the people by saying that the next budget would be home resource oriented rather than looking for foreign assistance. We fully endorse the determination of the Finance Minister to whom the Government and the people have pinned lot of hope that he would succeed in putting the economy of the country back on track.

The statement of the Minister at a press conference in Karachi has come at a time when there were speculations that country's dependency was increasing on foreign loans and there was a lot of hue and cry that how come a country, rich in resources, was being placed at the mercy of the donors. It was also encouraging that the Minister made it clear that the forthcoming budget would aim at broadening the tax base instead of pressurizing the existing taxpayers. In fact credit goes to the Federal Board of Revenues, which has identified over seven lakh of wealthy tax evaders who are enjoying a luxurious life but not contributing to the national economy. The dispatch of notices to 55,000 potential tax payers would send a right signal to others who have so far evaded millions of rupees of taxes. We believe that all those who earn must be made to pay their due taxes so that the country's budget depends on home resources rather than looking at loans from international financial institutions and foreign governments. There is need to plug all the loopholes in the taxation system and arrears recovered from the evaders. In our view as the Finance Minister stated, Pakistan has all the potential and the only thing lacking is will and out of box solution of our financial problems and we hope the next budget would be an effort to stand on our own feet.









Today I want to write on brutal killings of this week, one of the Saudi diplomat in Karachi and the other of the five Chechins, including one 25 year old pregnant woman among them, in Quetta.

Let me first begin with the most condemnable killing aimed at creating mischief between Pakistan and its staunchest friend, Saudi Arabia which as any Pakistani would recall has been ready to help and support Pakistan in its worst times which have been many during the six decades, the Kashmir Case, the Bangla Desh Crisis, the financial crises which have been many, and what not. Ambassador Altaf Shaikh who had organized preparation for the Lahore Summit when he was at the Foreign Office, came to Beirut for certain purchases for reupholstering the Punjab Assembly seats. I asked him who will pay the heavy expenses. He said King Faisal. He was paying all the expenses of the Summit from A to Z Altaf Shaikh said that it was king Faisal's idea to hold the Islamic Summit in Lahore. so that Pakistan regain its standing and confidence it had lost after its break up into two, and humiliation of military defeat in 1971. I was then Ambassador to Lebanon Saudi Arabia had been ever ready to support us, help us, extend its hand as an example of the proverb a friend in need is friend indeed is Saudi Arabia. This is the history of those decades Pakistan has been in existence But there is a link between two of us from the day Islam was born Makkah and Madina are the beacon of our guidance from that day.. Saudi Arabia is the land of the two Holiest of the Holy Shrines of Islam to which the loyalty of every Muslim is first and foremost, above any thing in the world. To any Muslim .worth the name the Land of the "Haramain el Sharifan" is the most pious piece of land on this world. When I took my parents to the Hajj driving from Beirut to the Holy Land on entering Saudi Arabia I remember the ecstasy my parents felt on entering the Holy Land. Every speck of dust of Saudi Arabia is sacred to a Muslim.

And here some mischievous man or group of men murder a Saudi diplomat in Karachi, the city with the highest educated population - who know what Saudi Arabia is for us the Muslims. One would have assumed that in Pakistan every brother Saudi is safe and no one could cast a dirty look on him. And here he is murdered!! This is a scandal intended to damage the Saudi relations with Pakistan. No Pakistani would ever murder a Saudi diplomat. Let me say it with confidence that no Karachite would indulge in this heinous crime. Since this murder took place after the killing of Usama Bin Laden the impression the perpetrators of this act wanted to create was that it was a revenge for Usama's killing. But he was killed by Americans acting on Obama's orders. This is a strange logic that the killers are Americans and it is a Saudi diplomat assassinated. Silly logic Paul thieves and Peter pays..

It is well known that India's Raw, US's CIA and Afghan Khad have sat up a terrorist organization which indulges in activities in Pakistan to give Pakistan a bad name . It is financed, armed and trained by these foreign agencies and acts on their behalf and orders. No Pakistani certainly not any Karachi-ite would do the killing of a Saudi diplomat.

While fully sympathizing with the grieved family and Saudi Embassy in Pakistan one would agree with the Saudis that they should suspend issue of Visa from Karachi Consulate for one full year to give the message to Karachi-ites that they should discharge their responsibilities towards Saudi Arabia in their city.. The Saudi Consulates stopping Visa service from Karachi for one year would send the right signals to the people in Karachi to look after the Saudi Consulate.. The people should care more for Saudi diplomats' safety than the Police Any way we hang our heads in shame on this killing of the Saudi diplomat. It was done by foreign agents abusing our land for their heinous purposes.

Similarly , all accounts of witnesses to the killing of the five Chechins indicate that the Quetta Police hurriedly assumed that "the foreigners" were terrorists although it seems that they had the possibility of ascertaining the facts before jumping to the conclusion that they were terrorists simply because they were foreigners. The killing of a young pregnant woman who was pleading for safety of her life were disregarded. What a pity it is assumed that any foreign Muslim in Pakistan is a terrorist. Foreign Muslims in Pakistan whether a Saudi diplomat or a Chechin woman are target of every kind of gunmen.

While on the operation of terrorist organizations in Pakistan with most misleading labels one cannot help reminding that the words of the Holy Quran are clear and no Mullah should misinterpret them. The Quran says he who murders a Muslim intentionally will go to the Hell. No ifs and buts, just plain and simple statement that any body who kills a Muslim intentionally will go to the Hell .The Holy Quran says killing one man- unjustly that is- is like killing the entire humanity. Unjust killing is prohibited in Islam. Bombing the mosques, killing Muslims while praying is the act of Devil, , blowing up of the shrines of those who spread Islam and converted millions of locals to Islam cannot be justified by any person . Suicide is so abhorred in Islam that funeral prayer is not permitted on the corps of a person who committed suicide. How all the values of Muslims based on Quranic injunctions can be wrongly interpreted is beyond my imagination. This reminds one of the cult of Hassan Bin Sabah – the Hashishieye – who used to brain wash the youth to kill persons on their hit list and tell them that they will go straight to the paradise by killings their enemy Any one who commits suicide dies of haram death . Suicide is haram in Islam. Islam is not a bellicose religion, it is a peaceful religion and indeed it allows the use of force but by an oppressed in defence of his rights.

Unfortunately the fire of revenge is stroked by white countries who in their arrogance of power go on shedding Muslim blood. Latest example is the Crusader West and NATO's killing sprees on Libya and playing the dirty old game of putting up a bogus group claiming to be the recognized regime against Ghaddafi. Even a child knows that the West has been after the blood of Ghaddafi since decades and has now found its golden opportunity to play a proxy war against him.. Such silly adventures create problems for those who want to eliminate terrorism from their countries. The West is ever ready to put a flame here and a flame there which ignites terrorism. And the terrorists retaliate against innocent helpless Muslims in their lands as the easiest targets So the loser in both cases is the innocent Muslim victim of terrorism To eliminate terrorism the Western Powers also have a responsibility to stop shedding of Muslim blood every now and then here and there.








America is busy devising ways and means to further tighten the screws on Pakistan. During his latest visit to Pakistan, Marc Grossman demonstrated his remarkable tenacity to avoid the real issues. Environment is so confusing that a traditionally non-interventionist Texas congressman, Ron Paul, fears an American occupation of Pakistan. "I see the whole thing as a mess, and I think that we are going to be in Pakistan…I think that's the next occupation, and I fear it…It will probably be very unsuccessful," he said.

In the footsteps of the sole super power of the world, India made it public last week that it had handed over a list of 50 most "wanted fugitives" to Pakistan, which it believes to be residing in Pakistan. List included the names of Wazhul Qamar Khan and Feroz Abdul Khan, who have since been found living in Mumbai!

Nevertheless, during these trying times, Pakistan's true friends are coming forth to express their solidarity with Pakistan. After the equivocal support by China, there has been a refreshing breeze from Tehran as well.

Recently President Mahmud Ahmadinejad showed immense empathy with Pakistan. He expressed his sympathies with Pakistan in the wake of recent spree of terrorist attacks. "We have precise information that the person they [Americans] have recently killed has long been in the hands of the US militaries." He reminded that bin Laden served as a precious pretext for the US to invade "our region and we witness the murder of 150 people in Pakistan, each day." He said bin Laden was killed as part of an effort to attract voters as the US presidential election is nearing.

He made these remarks during the concluding session of a two-day conference on 'Global Alliance against Terrorism for a Just Peace.' This seminar was attended by participants from over sixty countries cutting across religious, ethnic and geographic divides. It was opined that only just peace ends terrorism; peace achieved through brutal force by suppressing the voice of people does not end terrorism; it only postpones it for another day. There was a consensus in the seminar that Islam is a religion of peace, and it does not subscribe to terrorism. Terrorism cannot be linked with Islam; and Muslims cannot be stereotyped as terrorists.

Historically, a number of countries have gone through the spells of home grown terrorism; most of these states have come out of this menace. Sri Lanka is a recent example where decades' long terrorism has been effectively tamed in. Likewise, many other countries like Lebanon, Italy, Ireland, Indonesia, India, Egypt etc have been through this agony; all these countries have overcome the problem through national resolve and innovative strategies suiting their local conditions. In case of political deprivation as an underlying cause, reconciliatory accommodation has helped in ending the terrorism. Many, once a terrorist, form the part of current political leadership in Ireland.

However, wherever foreign intervention and occupation has been the underlying cause of terrorism, it has only ended when the occupation forces left the country. Current wave of terrorism in Pakistan is one of the fallouts of occupation of Afghanistan by foreign forces. There is no likelihood of a sustained respite till the withdrawal of foreign forces from our neighbourhood. People of Afghanistan are indeed striving for just peace in their country.

In case of domestic as well as trans-border terrorism, eradication of extremism is a tall order; it requires a mammoth effort, involving wholesome participation by the state and society for domestic terrorism and conjoint effort by neighbouring countries in case of trans-border terrorism.

Within overall broad counter extremism strategy, four phases operate in an overlapping and mutually complementary way. These are prevention, containment, elimination and consolidation phases.

Preventive phase is an all pervasive and perpetual phase. This requires institutional and structural support at local, national and international levels. This phase continues to make supplementary contributions even when other phases are functional. Prevention comprises of monitoring the factors that could contribute towards extremism. This requires an elaborate monitoring and intervention system, including control over trans-border movement of men and material. State intelligence systems alone cannot perform these actions until societies also join hands.

Containment phase comes into play when preventive measures are unable to keep the things under control. Mainstay of containment phase is positive engagement through constructive dialogue. Here also, public private cooperation is essential to generate synergy to accrue desired credibility for the containment measures. Stringent scrutiny of trans-border movement is an essential component of this phase.

Elimination phase carries forth the effort of curtailment phase and eliminates the positively identified hardened cells of extremists through proportionate use of military power and judicial accountability.

Here a caution is due; use of excessive military power causes unwarranted collateral damage and breeds sympathisers for extremists. Military personnel should be appropriately trained for this job and provided with low yield weapons to keep the collateral damage at the lowest possible level. Military component of elimination phase must run alongside a meaningful political process. This phase should not end up into a stalemate.

Judicial process is another component of elimination phase. This requires specially trained judges and comprehensive legislative cover. Judges and prosecution witnesses need to be protected against intimidation. Forensic skills need to be upgraded for developing all encompassing circumstantial evidence. So far, this has proved to the weakest link in Pakistan's counter terrorism effort. Hardly any one has been punished meaningfully. Many on bail or those acquitted have been caught again for their involvement in fresh incidents of terrorism.

Consolidation phase capitalises on the gains of elimination phase. Its prime objective is to convert an uneasy calm into permanent tranquillity. Through political process, this phase focuses on establishing essential institutional checks to ensure that the elements which breakaway from the extremist gangs do not relapse. End of this phase is marked by the benchmark that extremists lose public appeal and sympathy, they are reduced in capability and capacity to an extent that they are neither able to regroup nor reconstitute. Rehabilitation is an essential ingredient of this phase. During this phase, military instrument goes into background while maintaining an effective deterrence.

In our national context, the political process in some of the areas, which were reclaimed through combative effort, has been either slow or timid resulting in relapses. This indeed needs focused attention involving multi-disciplinary effort.

Pakistani nation and leadership stands committed to deal with the menace of terrorism head on. We need to simultaneously handle domestic and foreign factors contributing towards proliferation of terrorists' activities. A wholesome and concentred effort would slowly show the results. Certainly, the process is painstakingly slow and we are in for a long haul.

Under these dry circumstances it would be appropriate to effectively network with Iran for a joint strategy for achieving just peace in Afghanistan that could in turn provide enabling environment for sustained eradication of terrorism from our region.

Note: A variant of this text was read as a paper by this scribe in the seminar on 'Global Alliance against Terrorism for a Just Peace' held in Tehran on 14-15 May, 2011; under the title 'Structures for Countering Terrorism'.—The writer is international security, current affairs analyst and a former PAF Assistant Chief of Air Staff.







The wording of the joint statement issued after the end of the Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani's four days official visit to People's Republic of China, marked the new heights in the Sino-Pak bilateral relationship. In the joint statement, it has been made amply clear that, "China believes that Pakistan's efforts for promoting peace and stability in South Asia need to be recognised and supported." This indeed is an exceptional recognition of Pakistan's persistent efforts towards the regional peace in South Asia through a tough fight against the terrorism and extremism, to strengthen the global peace. Besides, it is a message for many other countries, which owes a lot, with regards to Pakistani contributions, but lacked the moral courage to at least give that recognition.

Leadership of this rising global power feels that, international community has been discriminatory towards Pakistani role in curbing the global terrorism as a front line state. This time tested friend also feel that, in the lunacy of power politics, some global powers have tried to undermine the sovereignty of Pakistan, while disregarding the sacrifices of Pakistan. While truly representing the wishes of the people of Pakistan, China condemned the US military operation in Abbotabad. China has once again urged United States to respect the sovereignty of Pakistan. It endorses the resolution adopted by the Parliament of Pakistan, following the Abbotabad incident.

Year 2011, indeed marked the 60th anniversary of Sino-Pak bi-lateral relationship. Both countries established their diplomatic relationship in May 1951. In order to reaffirm their tireless friendship, both countries have declared year-2011, as the year for the celebrations of Pak-China diplomatic relationship. Both countries are holding a series of "commemorative activities covering fields like politics, economy, culture, education, sports and etc." Under the dynamic leadership of Mao Zedong, People's Republic of China came into being from the ashes of civil war between Communists and Nationalists on October 1, 1949. Historically, "In China's Tang dynasty, Hsuan-tsang, an eminent Chinese monk, studied Buddhism in Taxila on his pilgrimage to the west. His sojourn in Pakistan, recounted in a book entitled The Great Tang Dynasty Record of the Western Regions, is a popular account in the history of exchanges between the Chinese and Pakistani people."

Starting his visit from the Chinese economic city, Shanghai, Pakistani Premier, had an in-depth meetings with the leadership of China. Apart from President Hu Jintao and Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, Prime Minister Gilani has met with the Chairman of the CPPCC's National Committee Jia Qinlin and State Councillor Liu Yandong. The leadership of the China appreciated the "tremendous efforts and great sacrifice that Pakistan has made in fighting terrorism and reiterated its respect and support for Pakistan's efforts to advance its counter-terrorism strategy and safeguard its security." Both countries decided to jointly fight the threats posed by terrorism, extremism and separatism. Besides, reaffirming the bi-lateral cooperation, Chinese leadership and Pakistani Premier, also discussed the Afghan issue, in fact the cause of regional instability.

The issue needs a deliberation in the backdrop of US plan of withdrawing its troops, starting from July, 2011. US desires that by the time NATO troops fully withdraw from Afghanistan, India must gain a foot hold in Afghanistan, in a way would become a successor state of US. In this regarding, U.S is consistently encouraging the India to invest in Afghanistan in the garb of Afghan reconstruction. Through this long-term investment, India will get a moral ascendancy and people's approval to chip into the Afghan affairs. U.S desires that, Pakistani role in Afghanistan has to be minimised. Besides, U.S also desires that, there should no role of People's Republic of China in any capacity in Afghanistan. US even tried to scandalize Pakistan a few weeks earlier that, it perhaps is promoting the Chinese role in Afghanistan and creating difficulties for US. Indeed, it was a planned movement from US to warn Pakistan and China to remain away from Afghanistan.

Though Pakistan has never made such an attempt, but, logically, any future solution of Afghan issue would call for the role of its neighbouring countries, having geographical contiguity with that country. China has common border with Afghanistan, therefore, unlike India or any other non-contiguous country, should have a stabilizing role in the future of Afghanistan. Moreover, being an economically prosperous nation, China should invest in Afghanistan towards its social and economic uplift. This aspect would improve the living standard of the Afghan people who despite having received billions of US dollars, remained impoverish as they were ten years earlier. Irrespective of U.S desires, there would be a requirement of a regional solution of the Afghan problem, rather repeating the old great games of 19th / 20th centuries and adding on to the miseries of Afghan people. Pakistan support a regional solution of the Afghan problem, with people of that country taking the central role.

In the field of Defence, China promised to deliver 50 JF Thunder aircraft to PAF in next six months. These aircrafts are being manufactured as a joint venture. Besides, China has assured Pakistan to provide support in all other sectors. Politically and diplomatically China and Pakistan has decided to work in harmony at all three levels viz, bilateral, regional and at the global level. The visit indeed, deepen Pak-China all-weather strategic partnership of cooperation, which is in line with the principles and spirit of the treaty of friendship, cooperation and good neighbourly relations between Pakistan and China signed in 2005. "Pakistan once again reiterated its firm commitment "to the One-China Policy and extended support for the cause of China's unification." Both countries would also cooperate in the energy sector and towards the development of infrastructure and agriculture.

There exists unparallel harmonization between people and the both Governments on political, diplomatic, and economic and security aspects. In order to face the rapidly changing the global politics, both countries need to "overcome challenges and carry forward our traditional friendship." Sino-Pak all-weather friendship is based on complete trust, mutual understanding and convergence of views on all issues. This sentiment resounds in the psyche of our people and is passing on from generation to generation. Our relationship has evolved into a long-term strategic partnership aimed at promoting peace stability and prosperity in the region. "Pakistan plumes the great achievements of the Chinese people which attest to the genius, wisdom and talents of the Chinese people and their sagacious leadership."

—The writer is an International Relations analyst.








The National Assembly passed a resolution in support of the Nizam-e-Adl Regulation 2009 for the Malakand division in April 2009. In this regard, the President of Islamic Republic of Pakistan formally signed the Nizam-e-Adl Regulation 2009 after it was approved by the required majority in the Pakistani parliament. Only one political party, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) boycotted the regulation and did not participate in the vote.

The Nizam-e-Adl Regulation 2009 is to provide for Nifaz-e-Nizam-e-Shariah through Courts. The immediate reaction of the passing of resolution in favour of Shariat came as warning from US declaring "If more than half-a-million strong army cannot take out radical militants who are considered threat to the entire world, the US-led western forces would do it for Pakistan." This year the Chief Minister of Khyber PK, Ameer Haider Khan Hoti formally inaugurated the building of Dar-ul-Qaza at Fiza Ghat, Mingora on 18 January, for provision of cheap and speedy justice to the people of Malakand Division but the court was not made operational. . The lawyers in Swat and rest of Malakand division had started protest and boycotted courts in protest against long delay in making Dar-ul-Qaza operational and delay in the appointment of judges. The lawyers called off their protest movement on the assurances of the Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry that judges in the Dar-ul-Qaza in Swat would be appointed till May 15, 2011. Dar-ul-Qaza, an appellate bench of the Peshawar High Court (PHC), started functioning on 11 May 2011 in Mingora.

The PHC senior judge Justice Shah Jehan Yusufzai was also appointed to hear the cases. It has been reported that more than 3,184 cases are pending for hearing in the Dar-ul-Qaza. Dar-ul-Qaza, Judge, Justice Shah Jehan Khan disclosed during his visit to Swat Bar Association on 12 may 2011 that two permanent judges would be appointed in Dar-ul-Qaza, Swat in the upcoming months of July and August. Thing seems improving, at least going in the right direction. If we critically analysis the Dar-ul-Qazas established in India and elsewhere we would not be derailed. In fact the establishment of Dar-ul-Qaza is for the application and implementation of Shariat laws on the Muslims. It is headed by a Chief Qazi and there are about six courts of additional Qazis at the main Dar-ul-Qaza (Headuarters). To illustrate an example, in Bihar alone, there are 34 sub-judicial courts in the different districts.

The Dar-ul-Qaza decide the disputes of the Muslims with regard inheritance, marriage, divorce, waqfs in particular and others in general in accordance with Shariat laws so that the Muslims could get speedy justice and are saved from costly and time taking procedures of general courts in India. It would be pertinent of mention that different High Courts and even the Supreme Court of India have upheld judgments of these Islamic courts running under Imarat Shariah.

We have an important case of Raymond Davis before us in which District and Sessions Judge Yousuf Aujla indicted Davis on murder charges. It is claimed that 19 heirs relatives of those killed by American terrorist appeared in the makeshift court and said they were willing to forgive the Raymond Davis if compensation was paid under the Qisas and Diat Law. Had the honourable judge qualified in Islamic Shariah, he would not have pardoned the killer. It is a matter of concern for an Islamic country like Pakistan that in India, a Hindu and secular country, a network of Dar-ul Qaza exists but in Pakistan there is unnecessary opposition on setting up Shariah courts.

Pardon granted to American murderer in the guise of Qisas and Diat Law was in fact a practical joke played with Islamic Shariat Law as divine laws cannot be interpreted on the sweet will of jurists. We should always remember that if one wins a case in a regular court through wrong means he is a loser in the eyes of Shariah.

On the contrary, if one loses a case in the Shariah court he is a winner in the eyes of Shariah as he follows the edict of the Almighty Allah. This is a high time that we must strengthen our judicial system by establishing chain Dar-ul-Qazas all over Pakistan.








Dominique Strauss-Kahn's alleged sexual assault of a hotel chambermaid last Saturday has made an extraordinary story, but is not as exceptional as might be assumed. Whatever the outcome of the Strauss-Kahn case, it is certain that in the upper ranks of international organisations, there exists a culture of impunity that permits highly-placed managers to sexually assault, abuse and harass women – be they colleagues or domestic workers – and get away with it. DSK's case is unusual in that diplomatic immunity has not been asserted as a block to the pursuit of criminal charges. Most of the time, this immunity that makes international officials and civil servants of a certain standing act as though they are untouchable.

Domestic workers are particularly vulnerable to diplomats' actions. In 2007, the American Civil Liberties Union compiled 63 documented cases of diplomats sexually, psychologically and physically abusing domestic workers. The following year, the Government Accountability Office released a report that counted 42 cases since 2000, but also said the numbers were likely much higher than those reported. The office made some recommendations to the US state department, which handles diplomatic affairs, but in January, Thomas Melito, the GAO's international affairs and trade director, told me most of them had not yet been implemented. To this day, few allegedly abusive diplomats have faced charges. Still, a recent case of domestic abuse in a diplomatic household set an encouraging precedent. Vishranthamma Swarna, a maid to former Kuwaiti UN diplomat Badar Al-Awadi, claimed to have suffered sustained mistreatment, including rape, when she was not cooking, cleaning and caring for the diplomat's children in New York. Swarna was isolated: she spoke no English and was banned by her employer from leaving the house. She also inhabited a legal black hole: since her employer, who brought her in on a special visa, had diplomatic immunity, he could not be prosecuted in the United States for his actions.

With help from the ACLU, Swarna was able to take her case to the federal district court of New York, where the judge ruled that her work did not have a "direct … benefit to diplomatic functions" and that Al-Awadi could subsequently not be protected from prosecution under the Vienna conventions (pdf). The decision means that a diplomat can now be held liable for mistreating a domestic worker, but not for sexually abusing a secretary or intern, whose work is arguably vital to the embassy or consulate's work. It remains to be seen whether victims like Swarna will begin speak up. But even then, their alleged abusers can conveniently relocate. Al-Awadi has since moved to Paris.

Women who work at international organisations also face sex discrimination and harassment, and the more highly ranked their harassers, the less likely they are to get justice.

In 2004, Ruud Lubbers, the high commissioner for human rights, reportedly grabbed Cynthia Brzak, an American employee, and pressed his groin against her buttocks in full view of other UNHCR staff. Brzak and many other female employees report that it is normal to be treated in such a way at the UN and other international organisations. But since filing a complaint is seen as a career-killer, most sexual harassment incidents go unreported. Victims have very little legal recourse, and must go through the UN's complex internal justice system. Brzak pressed charges because she was tired of the permissive culture. "I just wanted a message sent that you cannot keep jumping on women at three in the afternoon," she says today.

What began as a simple request for an apology led to a protracted legal battle. Despite an internal investigation that found Lubbers unequivocally guilty of repeated counts of sexual harassment, Kofi Annan declared that he lacked evidence to charge the official. Lubbers denied the allegations and would not apologise, though he was eventually forced to resign.

In 2006, Brzak filed a complaint against the UN in a New York court, but to no avail: six years and $700,000 in legal fees after the incident, the UN had its immunity upheld. "They need to defend [themselves] because if the immunity is ultimately breached, the UN will be bankrupt in a year or two because of the number of similar cases," says Brzak's lawyer, Ed Flaherty.

Brzak's case was highly publicised, but most are not. Over the course of this year, I have spoken to many women who say that their bosses at the UN, the WHO, Unicef and other international organisations take liberties that would otherwise be punishable by law. Again, very few harassers faced repercussions. It was a relief to hear from the IMF, the Elysée palace and the state department that DSK's alleged conduct would not be protected by diplomatic immunity. What lies in store for the former IMF chief remains to be seen, yet the fact that he was arrested and arraigned is, in itself, a significant development.—The Guardian








TWO articles demonstrate why resolution of the Palestinian problem has been so difficult ("Palestinian priority is to resume talks with Israel" and "Reality missing in Obama map for the Middle East", 21-22/5).

The pro-Arab article by Samah Sabawi fails to mention that Hamas does not recognise Israel's right to exist and is vowed to the state's destruction. Similarly, the pro-Israel article by Colin Rubenstein fails to address the ongoing and illegal land grab of Arab territory in the West Bank.

Nothing will be settled until both sides accept reality; that is, Israel's right to exist and Palestine's right to returned territory.

Graham Pinn, Buderim, Qld

THIS drive for separate Arab and Jewish states will fail because, as Yasser Arafat said, "We don't want peace, we want victory. Peace for us means Israel's destruction and nothing else. What you call peace is peace for Israel. For us it is shame and injustice. We shall fight on to victory. Even for decades, for generations, if necessary."

Robert Raymen, South Perth, WA






GIVEN the disturbingly high incidence of violence and vandalism plaguing Australia's immigration detention facilities, it is difficult to make a strong case against the opposition's call for a select committee inquiry.

Despite the potential politicking involved, even the Greens, who passionately rail against detention and defend the rights of detainees, might feel duty-bound to support it. The Gillard government no doubt is working to reassert and maintain order in the Villawood and Christmas Island centres but given the protests, fires, escapes, self-harm and assaults, it can hardly argue that this issue is not worthy of scrutiny.

Some criticism has focused on Serco, the private operators of detention facilities, but whether they are run by the public or private sector, the government is responsible for ensuring the centres deliver the appropriate security, care and safety for detainees, workers and visitors. With detention facilities now spread across every state, there has been some understandable disquiet from neighbouring communities, so restoring public confidence could be important.

The Greens suggest an inquiry should also examine the mandatory detention policy itself, which has been supported by both major parties since it was introduced by the Keating government almost 20 years ago. While most pragmatic observers would recognise that detention has been a key element of deterrence over that period, there should be no problem allowing an examination of its effectiveness, especially given Labor and Liberal governments have modified it over time, in particular trying to keep children out of the detention system.

Yet at the core of this issue is the frustration that Australia should not be carrying the financial, practical and moral burden of holding more than 6000 asylum-seekers in detention. The Howard government developed a number of controversial measures, including the so-called Pacific Solution, involving third-country processing in Nauru and Papua New Guinea. The unambiguous result of these policies was to halt the influx of boats and secure our borders while we continued an orderly, generous annual intake of humanitarian refugees.

When Labor came to power in 2007, only six people remained in detention and Labor MPs mocked the expensive new detention centre at Christmas Island as a "white elephant". The Rudd government then unpicked the Pacific Solution and softened the border protection regime, triggering the resumption of the evil and dangerous people-smuggling trade.

This history is important because the aim is to remove the need to have anyone in detention by stopping the boat arrivals. As former Labor leader Mark Latham said on Australian Agenda yesterday, last December's Christmas Island tragedy should have ended the argument about whether stopping the boats was the right goal. Julia Gillard's clumsy and incomplete Malaysian solution betrays a belated recognition that the correct strategy is to remove any incentive for people to make the perilous boat journey. She should now swallow her pride, stop fiddling with variations of the Pacific Solution and immediately set about re-opening the processing centre on Nauru. Otherwise we risk more boats, tragedies and detention problems.





GRUFF and rough-hewn in most of his roles, the late Bill Hunter described his own talents with a similar matter-of-fact directness.

Devoid of pretension, he dismissed elaborate discussions of the finer points of acting, suggesting that putting on a costume and remembering some lines created most of the magic in what to him was not art but a craft. This instinct for understatement saw him become the very embodiment of the laconic Australian in his fine and enduring acting career. Hunter's filmography reads like a history of the modern Australian film industry. He rode high in 1978, picking up the best actor AFI award for the classic Newsfront, and played his part in many landmark films, from Gallipoli and Strictly Ballroom, to Muriel's Wedding and Australia. Starting in television and translating also to the stage, he was known as an advocate for his craft, his industry and the Labor Party. Hunter famously fronted the Keating government's Working Nation television promotions in the 1990s. Over-used as they are, the terms stalwart and legend duly apply to Bill Hunter. In a career spanning half a century he carved out a reputation for dependable and uniquely Australian honesty, sensitivity and charm. Australia's cultural life will be poorer for his passing, while his body of work, some yet to be released, will live on.







PRESIDENT Barack Obama has boldly seized on the popular unrest and change sweeping across the Arab world in a bid to reinvigorate the moribund Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Predictably, the initial responses to his Washington speech last Thursday, from both the Israeli government and the Palestinian leadership, have been negative. No speech, however well crafted, was going to disperse the mutual distrust and loathing accumulated over decades. The one faint hope is that this one might just open the way towards a new attempt to forge a just peace.

The most controversial element of Obama's speech - the one that so enraged Israel's Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu - was the President's declaration that the borders existing before the 1967 Arab-Israeli war should be the basis of any deal. However, Obama quickly added a heavy rider: the actual borders of a new Palestinian state would depend on "mutually agreed swaps" of land. This would certainly involve the Palestinians permanently losing much of the land that has subsequently been occupied, forcefully, by Jewish settlers. Moreover, he said, while Israel must have defensible borders, the new Palestinian state should be "demilitarised" - that is, should lack the means to defend itself, which would be a most compromised sort of sovereignty.

But there are other reasons why Netanyahu and his government would be unwise to dismiss Obama's plea for them to give peace another chance. Not only is Israel surrounded by Muslim nations in a state of unpredictable turmoil, but it is also at risk of becoming even more isolated within the wider international community.

If Israel persists in its rejection of the 1967 borders as even the starting point for negotiations, it is likely to increase the likelihood that a substantial majority of United Nations member states, perhaps including major western European governments, will back a move at the UN General Assembly in September to grant international recognition to a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders. While this would presumably be vetoed by the Americans in the Security Council, such an outcome would be seriously embarrassing to both the Americans and the Israelis.

The factor that may yet keep impatient Europeans in line is that, while the Fatah-led Palestinian authority on the West Bank has now reached a "unity" agreement with the more radical Hamas in Gaza, the latter still refuses to acknowledge Israel's right to exist. In short, it is not just Israel, but also Hamas, that must show flexibility and good faith if Obama's initiative is to lead anywhere.






JUST as the rising cost of living in Australia starts to bite as a political issue, a survey on school choices casts a different light. A census reported in the Herald on Friday revealed that the Australian Capital Territory has become the first state or territory where private high schools have more students than government ones. Perhaps this is not surprising in a city of highly educated, highly paid people like Canberra. But Canberra is also a bastion of liberal-left thinking, where support for public institutions has always been the name of the game. So the choice of more parents there to take children out of public schools, reflecting a growing trend elsewhere in the country, raises questions not just about Australia's rising affluence but about our changing national character. The country that once prided itself on egalitarianism is looking more like a nation of mini-capitalists.

NSW still lags the ACT in the public-private ratio, but the gap is closing. Compare Australia as a whole with other rich countries and the picture is even starker. In the US, the ultimate champion of market choice, government schools educate 91 per cent of lower secondary students; Britain and Canada have similar proportions. In Australia, just 66 per cent of lower secondary students now go to state schools.

What drives this Australian difference? Advocates for state education blame a bias towards private schools in federal funding formulas that grew under the Howard government. David Gonski, a prominent businessman, is heading a review of funding arrangements for the Gillard government. An issues paper from the review says any differences in educational outcomes should not result from "differences in wealth, income, power or possessions".

But after 20 years of uninterrupted economic growth, such differences cannot be ignored. With soaring land and house prices, and compulsory superannuation backing them, more Australians feel richer than their parents or grandparents. And with wealth comes wider choice, in education like anything else. For some parents, compulsory retention rates across all secondary schools may dictate one such choice. Perhaps they feel that public schools, swollen with students who do not necessarily want to be there, are not the places for their children.

Choice is good. But it would be a pity if Australia's apparent love affair with private education ultimately downgrades public schools in status and resources. Good times do not last forever. Some parents choosing private schools today may be obliged to turn to public schools tomorrow. If so, they will rightly expect nothing less than high quality education.






STONNINGTON JAZZ SARAH McKENZIE SEXTET Malvern Town Hall Thursday 19 May Jessica Nicholas Reviewer

AT LAST year's Stonnington Jazz festival, Sarah McKenzie appeared as a guest soloist in James Morrison's band. This year, McKenzie opened the festival with her own band - a sure sign that the young singer-pianist's star is on the rise.

Thursday's concert doubled as the launch of McKenzie's debut CD (Don't Tempt Me), and featured her sextet along with several guest artists. Not surprisingly, the 23-year-old beamed with pleasure as she introduced herself, her band and each sparkling tune.

Her voice has the strength and assurance of a much older performer, and her phrasing is underpinned by an unerring sense of time and swing.

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As a pianist, McKenzie's style is strongly influenced by the blues, giving tunes like St James Infirmary an authentic New Orleans drawl (magnified by Eamon McNelis' woozy muted trumpet). Thursday's repertoire drew mainly on jazz and pop standards, though with some unusual arrangements: Love Me Tender became an airy bossa nova, while Summertime was tinged with shadows. McKenzie also offered three appealing originals that demonstrated a gift for songwriting.

The emotional depth of her expression is still curtailed by youth, but once McKenzie has a bit more life experience under her belt, the sky's the limit.

Stonnington Jazz continues until May 29.






THE custom of acknowledging traditional Aboriginal land owners at public events is a meaningful and important protocol: a process of recognition of this country's original custodians that is a small but significant way of reminding us of our heritage and history. It should not be seen as an example of political correctness that itself requires the sort of correction made last week by Premier Ted Baillieu.

Within days of the state funeral of Lionel Rose - an event attended by the Premier, and which began with a traditional welcome-to-country ceremony - Mr Baillieu has scrapped the mandatory acknowledgment established, with good reason, by the state Labor government. Instead, Mr Baillieu says it is more appropriate as a matter of discretion; of ''doing it in a way where it's engaging and inclusive and the language is actually heard rather than just delivered''. He has been backed by one of his Liberal predecessors, Jeff Kennett, who, presumably without Yes, Minister overtones, describes it as ''a courageous decision''. ''I've been embarrassed by the welcome-to-country,'' Mr Kennett says. ''I felt it was being given for the wrong reason.''

If this is the case, then the right reasons appear to have escaped premiers past and present, who appear to take the unilateral view that traditional acknowledgment is not always heartfelt and therefore lacks meaning: after all, the playing of the national anthem at various public events could also be regarded as embarrassing, or a matter of merely going through the notes.

Contrast these points of view with that of Wurundjeri elder Aunty Joy Murphy Wandin, who conducted the indigenous ceremony at the Rose funeral. She says of Mr Baillieu's decision: ''I feel like I've had part of my heart ripped out, but I also feel more importantly for my ancestors and those involved in that very early struggle of being given recognition.'' Another former premier, Steve Bracks, has said of the thousands of times he began his speeches with an Aboriginal welcome: ''I always felt very strongly about it and never, ever, did I feel it was a wooden or rote presentation.''

In reality, Mr Baillieu's decision devalues a custom that already costs little or nothing to observe, and which deserves to continue in its present form. It is a fundamental courtesy towards the original owners of the land and their descendants. To retreat from such a custom - even by allowing politicians the option of not paying tribute at public events - is an acknowledgment of bad manners over common sense.







It's the story of a small group of people who, despite all discouragement, did what was right and, nine years on, have triumphed

It's a football event, but the appeal goes wider than football: it's the story of a small group of people who, despite all discouragement, did what was right and, nine years on, have triumphed. In May 2002, a tribunal approved the removal of Wimbledon football club from south-west London, where the club had been based for 113 years, to Milton Keynes, a 125-mile round trip away in Buckinghamshire. A band of refuseniks, led by Kris Stewart, the founding chairman, and Ivor Heller, still the commercial director, resolved to go beyond protest and create a new real club "formed by the fans, owned by the fans, and run by the fans". Solid, rational people said it could not be done; even the Wimbledon News warned the project was doomed. Yet 230 would-be players turned up for trials on Wimbledon Common, a rudimentary team was assembled, and their first friendly attracted a crowd of 4,600. So began that steady progress up from the Seagrave Haulage Combined Counties League which culminated on Saturday in a play-off victory that takes them into the Football League. The stars of the early days were soon discarded as aspirations grew, but it's still been done on a marginal budget, latterly under the guidance of Terry Brown, who – until the winning penalty went in on Saturday – was rated as the best of non-league managers. The dream of returning to Wimbledon has yet to be realised, but in all other senses it's mission accomplished. It's the disbelieving Wimbledon News that has gone out of business.





This game of sharp elbows runs directly counter to what is best for the International Monetary Fund and the world economy

There is a thin line between due speed and indecent haste, and the discussion about who should replace Dominique Strauss-Kahn as head of the International Monetary Fund has surely lurched over it. Given Mr Kahn only tendered his resignation on Thursday, a remarkable gaggle of politicians has come forward with firm views about who should replace him.

Germany's Angela Merkel, France's Nicolas Sarkozy and José Manuel Barroso of the European commission all insist that the job goes to a European – sharpish. For Silvio Berlusconi, not known as an authority on the global economy, the French finance minister Christine Lagarde would make "an excellent choice". Anders Borg of Sweden agrees, and so too now does George Osborne, relishing the chance to twist the knife into Gordon Brown's faded hopes. These are just the public pronouncements; imagine the lobbying backstage.

Such jostling for the top job happens in organisations far less exalted than the IMF, of course. But this game of sharp elbows runs directly counter to what is best for the Fund and the world economy. It is also precisely what world leaders promised they wouldn't do.

In 2009, at the G20 summit in Pittsburgh, Mr Sarkozy, Ms Merkel and Mr Berlusconi were among the government heads who signed a communique stating: "We agree that the heads and senior leadership of all international institutions should be appointed through an open, transparent and merit-based process."

A line was supposed to have been drawn under the old system of a White House crony ruling the World Bank and a spare European politician running the IMF. That had often led to poor governance of these supposedly vital institutions, it was widely acknowledged, and was out of place after the banking crisis.

So why is an argument that commanded fervent global agreement just two years ago now being trampled over? It's no good pointing at the eurozone crisis: a new IMF boss will have a five-year term and other big issues to deal with. If you doubt it, look at this week's warning from the International Energy Agency about high crude prices: "Oil-importing developing countries are most likely to be seriously affected by high oil prices, undermining their economic and social wellbeing." Or else cock an ear to the rows between America and China.

Ministers constantly tell voters that competition is good for economies. So why don't they follow the same principle when it comes to choosing who runs economic institutions? Publish the criteria for appointing the next IMF boss and hold an open recruitment process. And let the best candidate get the job – wherever they come from.






Nick Clegg has responded decisively to his party's democratic will, and is training his sights on the heart of Andrew Lansley's plans

Nick Clegg is making a real difference. These are not common words to read these days, and yet they are becoming hard to dispute with the stalled English health reforms. It is true that the deputy prime minister would be better placed to claim credit if he had not initially nodded Andrew Lansley's bill through, and true, too, that not all the sweeping concessions he now demands fit with the scepticism about the NHS he has sometimes shown in the past. Nonetheless, Mr Clegg has responded decisively to his party's democratic will, and is training his sights on the heart of the Lansley plans.

First, he drew a red line around the crucial clause that tasks the regulator with "promoting competition", and he has now done the same with the legislative invitation for "any qualified provider" to take on the NHS. The deputy PM must now apply a third veto to the unacceptable plan to allow private firms to discharge the core public function of spending health service money. He will then have removed the three greatest drivers of privatisation from among the 80-odd clauses that create an NHS market. Assuming, of course, that he can strong-arm the Conservatives into agreeing. He can afford no compromise. Savaged in Scotland, ravaged in the referendum and trashed in town halls, Mr Clegg retains a grip over his parliamentary party that surprises many outsiders. To keep it, however, he simply has to win this fight.

One reason to be optimistic is that the tide of opinion seems to have decisively turned. Marketising medicine had been steadily becoming entrenched as the orthodoxy, ever since Tony Blair made it his millennial mission. The bust-up over the bill, however, has made the whole approach controversial again. Suddenly Labour's John Healey, who spent a lonely autumn developing all the criticisms of the Lansley blueprint that medics and Lib Dems now voice with such passion, concedes that his own party wrongly pursued "competition for its own sake" through overpriced and underutilised private treatment centres.

It is not merely opinions but the facts that have changed. The pros and cons of competition depend on context. Where there are surplus resources, public providers can potentially respond by raising their game. Where there are none, they will instead slam their doors and blow holes in the delicate network that sustains expertise, training and comprehensive cover.

Europe's social insurance systems traditionally harnessed a measure of choice alongside higher expenditure, and were often more responsive to patients than the NHS. Mr Blair sought to take England in a European direction, by providing extra resources and encouraging private players to compete for them. Sketched out in more prosperous times, Mr Lansley's grand plan originally aimed to give the system a fresh push in the same direction. But then the cash dried up. Suddenly, he was asking market forces to do two things at once – respond more keenly to consumers and curb costs. It is hard to think of anywhere in the world where both things have been achieved simultaneously.

Maintaining quality through the squeeze will involve closing facilities that are not absolutely necessary. Full-throated markets were always a reckless way to identify what to shut, and the political will is faltering. But with waiting times creeping up, a disabling muddle will follow unless an alternative means of stretching the money is found. During the great Canadian cuts of the 1990s, a precedent the coalition often cites, many tough choices on hospitals were made after authority was centralised within the regions. For the moment, all three British parties remain committed to vesting power in islands of autonomy, such as foundation trusts. Unless commercial pressures force their hand, these will not shut themselves. Market forces are already looking like a fad from the good times. Decentralisation, too, may also soon have to yield to a touch of command.







Talks between the government and a group of hepatitis B sufferers or their bereaved families, who had filed lawsuits for state compensation at 10 district courts in and after March 2008, have begun to move forward.

Following the government's April 22 decision to accept revised recommendations by the Sapporo District Court for a settlement, an association of 727 plaintiffs decided May 2 to accept them.

Hepatitis B was mainly caused by mass vaccinations that began in 1948 under the Preventive Vaccination Law. The health ministry estimates that up to 440,000 people were infected through shared needles and are eligible for relief measures.

The Supreme Court in June 2006 ruled that the government had failed to order local governments to take preventive steps ahead of conducting mass vaccinations.

In January, the Sapporo District Court recommended that the government pay different sums in compensation depending on the degree of suffering — ¥12.5 million for chronic hepatitis B, ¥25 million for mild cases of cirrhosis, and ¥36 million for liver cancer and serious cirrhosis, including death.

A carrier of the virus who has not shown symptoms would receive ¥500,000.

A settlement looked imminent after both the government and the plaintiffs decided to accept the recommendations. But the talks stalled when the government started to insist that people who had suffered from hepatitis B symptoms for more than 20 years as a result of mass vaccinations had no right to claim compensation because the statutory limit of 20 years had passed. The government said they should receive about ¥500,000.

On April 19, the Sapporo District Court recommended that the government pay ¥1.5 million to ¥3 million to such sufferers. The plaintiffs, who had insisted that such sufferers be given ¥12.5 million, eventually decided to accept the revised recommendations. Their turnabout in favoring an early settlement was influenced by the deaths of 13 plaintiffs.

The government must realize that the plaintiffs made a difficult decision. It should make serious efforts to discover unrecognized sufferers so that the relief measures will be applied to more eligible people.





The wage levels of national public servants have been determined based on recommendations by the National Personnel Authority every year since 1948. The system makes up for the restrictions imposed on government workers' basic labor rights, including the right to strike.

Without the NPA's recommendations, the Kan administration plans to reduce the wages of national public servants. It aims to use the savings from wage cuts to rebuild the Tohoku-Pacific areas devastated by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

At first, the government planned to cut wages by a uniform 10 percent to save some ¥300 billion. Facing opposition, it proposed May 17 an average cut of 8 percent — 10 percent for ministry division chiefs and higher-ranking officials, 8 percent for ministry deputy division chiefs, and 5 percent for workers in lower ranks.

The Democratic Party of Japan's manifesto for the 2009 Lower House election called for reducing total personnel costs for national public servants by 20 percent.

The basic law for national public service reform enacted in 2008 envisaged enacting related bills in three years. The NPA's recommendations would be abolished and labor conditions such as wage levels and working hours would be determined through labor-management negotiations.

The March 11 catastrophe has delayed the submission of the bills to the Diet. The government appears to think that government workers won't oppose wage cuts if they understand that the cuts will go toward the creation of postdisaster reconstruction funds. In the absence of a bill that allows government workers the right to conclude an agreement on working conditions in accordance with the Labor Union Law, their opposition to the wage cut plan is understandable.

At the very least, the government should present a definite time table for restoring the basic rights of national public servants.

The Finance Ministry is thinking of cutting grants to local governments to pay for wages of local public servants. This is untenable. Local governments have already economized a lot. Local government workers' wage levels should be decided locally.







NEW YORK — Better education, particularly among mothers, is widely associated with better health. Experiences in several countries have shown the power of education to increase the nutritional levels and the health status of the poor.

Girls' education is one of the most effective investments a nation can make toward development and better health.

In urban India, for example, it has been found that the mortality rate among the children of educated women is almost half that of children of uneducated women.

In the Philippines, primary education among mothers has reduced the risks of child mortality by half, and secondary education by a factor of three.

A study in rural Ghana on health-protective behaviors related to HIV/AIDS infection among adults found that more educated individuals practiced more protective health behavior, thus decreasing the risk of contracting infection.

In addition, those living in poverty and suffering from malnutrition show a higher propensity for contracting a host of diseases, a lower learning capacity, and an increased exposure and vulnerability to environmental risks. Poor children frequently lack stimuli critical to growth and development.

Poverty cannot be defined solely in terms of lack of income. Little or no access to health services, lack of access to safe water and adequate nutrition, illiteracy or low educational level and a distorted perception of rights and needs are also essential components of poverty.

Poverty is one of the most influential factors for ill health, and ill health — in a vicious cycle — can lead to poverty. Education has proven to be critical to breaking this cycle.

Poverty and health are linked. Illness impairs learning ability and quality of life, has a negative impact on productivity, and drains family savings. Poor people are more exposed to environmental risks (poor sanitation, unhealthy food, violence,and natural disasters) and less prepared to cope with them.

Because they are also less informed about the benefits of healthy lifestyles and have less access to them as well as to quality health care, the poor are at greater risk of illness and disability. It is estimated that one-third of deaths worldwide — some 18 million people a year or 50,000 a day — are due to poverty-related causes.

More than 1.5 billion people in the world live in extreme poverty, 80 percent in developing countries. Poor people have little or no access to qualified health services and education, and do not participate in the decisions critical to their day-to-day lives.

Those who live in extreme poverty are five times more likely to die before age 5, and 2½ times more likely to die between 15 and 59 than those in higher income groups. The same dramatic differences can be found with respect to maternal mortality levels and incidence of preventable diseases.

The level of education in relation to health is particularly important among women. In addition, education for women is closely associated with later marriage and smaller family size.

Increased income alone cannot guarantee better nutrition and health because of the impact of other factors, notably education, environmental hygiene and access to health care services, which cannot necessarily be bought with increased income in the developing world.

Several strategies can be used to improve the access of mothers and children to educational opportunities as a way of improving their health status. National governments, particularly in developing countries, have to establish education — including the education of the parents — as a priority, and provide necessary resources and support. Interventions should be targeted to vulnerable groups such as those with lower income or with less access to adequate food.

At the international level, lending institutions have to implement debt-reduction policies for those countries willing to provide increased resources for basic education.

Although an important goal is to reduce economic inequity to improve the health status of populations, emphasis on education can provide substantial benefits in the health of populations even before reducing the economic gap between the rich and the poor.

Cesar Chelala, M.D., is a public health consultant for several international organizations.








Special to The Japan Times

PARIS — As the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development celebrates its 50th anniversary, one of its biggest challenges is to adapt its frameworks for surveillance to the new reality of the global economy.

The OECD stands out from other international organizations for the variety of its committees and subsidiary bodies specialized in structural, as well as macroeconomic, policy areas.

These are regularly attended by officials from capitals, bringing members of the OECD secretariat and national policymakers and experts into close contact. Multidisciplinary activities involving various OECD directorates and Committees help to bridge differences between government departments in capitals.

In this way, the OECD contributes positively to the design and implementation of coherent macroeconomic and structural policies.

When Group of 20 leaders called at their Seoul Summit in November 2010 for enhanced economic surveillance, they specifically urged the IMF "to focus on systemic risks and vulnerabilities wherever they may lie."

At the International Monetary Fund, it is meetings of the Executive Board where surveillance is conducted. The board comprises 24 members and they are all residents of Washington, D.C. They are not directly involved in policymaking in their capitals.

For years, compared with the IMF, the OECD had the advantage of smaller size and relative homogeneity of membership. In recent years, it has become larger and more diverse, but its weight in the world economy has declined. In 1975, OECD countries represented 65 percent of world GDP. By 2015, the OECD share of world GDP is projected to decline to 50 percent.

The G20, by contrast, represents 85 percent of world GDP, with the same number of members as the OECD when it was first created. It includes countries in the Asia-Pacific region, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America, but not many of the European countries that are members of the OECD.

Emerging economies have become significant players in the global economy, and the OECD needs to take this into account.

Closer cooperation among the IMF, the OECD and the G20 would make enhanced surveillance even more effective — provided that the OECD can succeed in strengthening its surveillance process.

To achieve that, it will need to ensure a higher level of participation in many of its meetings, based on a streamlined approach to participation.

The OECD's Working Party No. 3 on Policies for the Promotion of Better International Payments Equilibrium, or WP3 — traditionally the most important peer review group for international macroeconomic cooperation — is a case in point.

WP3 was particularly active in influencing international policymaking during the first quarter century of its existence. Policy issues related to sterling crises under the Bretton Woods system, the demise of the system and the start of generalized floating of major currencies, the first oil crisis and recycling of oil money, the emergence of persistent current account imbalances between the United States as a deficit country and Japan and Germany as surplus countries after the second oil shock, and the Latin American debt crisis that occurred in the early 1980s were subjects of heated debate at the WP3 under their chairmanship.

Interesting descriptions about the period when Emile van Lennep was WP3 chairman (1961-1969) are found in his book "Working for the World Economy." He wrote that at a dinner hosted by Pierre-Paul Schweitzer as the IMF managing director (1963-1973) in honor of Van Lennep on his first working visit to the IMF as OECD secretary general, Schweitzer gave a speech in which he said the OECD "had done for years the work that the IMF should have done, particularly in Working Party 3."

Today, WP3 continues to operate as an exclusive club whose meetings are attended by deputy finance ministers and deputy central governors involved in macroeconomic policymaking in capitals. But its membership remains essentially G10-based, with heavy representation of European countries.

To allow the WP3 to retain its effectiveness, its structure should be streamlined to keep the total number of participants within single figures.

Similar subsidiary bodies in which participation is limited to a small number of key players should be envisaged in other areas.

Such an approach would contribute to the efficient functioning of plenary Committee meetings and make the entire process of OECD multilateral surveillance more effective.

In 1998, as deputy secretary general responsible for OECD relationships with nonmember economies, I wrote to China's finance minister and central bank governor inviting them to send their deputies from time to time to WP3 meetings. Since then, China has attended WP3 meetings on several occasions.

Now the time has come to open these meetings to other key non-OECD countries.

The OECD has a strong secretariat equipped with professional staff of high quality versed in the interplay of macroeconomic and structural forces and policies.

It could, if G20 leaders so desire, perform a similar function for the G20. But only the strong political will of key players at global leadership levels will succeed in carrying through the radical reform of international institutions that is needed to make them more relevant to new global circumstances.

Kumiharu Shigehara was deputy secretary general of the OECD from 1997 to 1999. Prior to that, he served in the OECD's Economics Department in various capacities during the 1970s and 1980s before taking up the post of chief economist for the Bank of Japan in 1989. From 1992 to 1997, he was chief economist and head of the Economics Department at the OECD.






PARIS — A new and important acronym has entered the French political lexicon: QPC, which stands for the rather austere-sounding "Priority preliminary ruling on the question of constitutionality."

Under QPC, which was part of the constitutional reforms that France implemented in July 2008, any citizen involved in legal proceedings can now contest the constitutionality of a legislative provision. This is a far-reaching innovation. France has long been characterized by Jean-Jacques Rousseau's philosophy, which placed the law — the expression of the General Will — at the absolute top of the hierarchy of judicial norms. As a result, a veritable allergy to assessing the constitutionality of any law has long held sway.

Not until Charles de Gaulle's 1958 Constitution was even a limited assessment of a law by the Conseil Constitutionnel (Constitutional Council) allowed, and then only with extensive precautions.

Indeed, the Constitutional Council made its assessments a priori, one month after adoption of the law, and only four officials could initiate a review: the president, the prime minister, and the presidents of the National Assembly and the Senate.

This list was broadened in 1974 to include any 60 members of the National Assembly or the Senate, thus allowing the opposition to submit the laws adopted through parliamentary majority to some examination of their constitutionality.

But the idea that any citizen could challenge the constitutionality of legislation, as is possible in many European countries and the United States, was inconceivable.

The 2008 constitutional reform finally recognized this possibility. But a double filter of safeguards was established: the jurisdiction before which the matter is brought, and the competent Supreme Court — either the Council of State [Conseil d'Etat] or the Final Court of Appeal — which has three months to decide whether to refer a case to the Constitutional Council.

One year after its implementation in March 2010, the reform has shown impressive results.

Of the 400 cases examined by both Supreme Courts, 120 were referred to the Constitutional Council, which has issued 102 rulings, including 22 striking down the challenged legislation.

The reform has allowed the Constitutional Council to reconsider a whole set of laws that had never before been submitted for constitutional review, mainly because they were drafted prior to 1958.

One of the most emblematic decisions concerned the code of criminal procedure, with the Council repealing several articles concerning the legal custody of defendants inside police stations.

Other decisions have dealt with taxation, social legislation or electoral laws. But nothing has done as much to cement the QPC's standing as the recent motion submitted by a lawyer in the ongoing criminal proceedings against former President Jacques Chirac, who is charged with having created fictitious jobs at the Paris City Council when he was mayor.

The court's president complied with the lawyer's motion to adjourn the proceedings until the Constitutional Council ruled on the constitutionality of the laws under which Chirac is charged. We will find out in the coming weeks whether the Cour de Cassation (Court of Final Appeal) will agree to refer the matter to the Council.

France is thus joining the cohort of countries that, over the past half-century or so, have developed within their legal culture a judicial form of constitutional review of legislation.

Indeed, in June 2009, Germany's Constitutional Court strengthened its political role by demanding that ratification of the European Union's Lisbon Treaty be accompanied by a law warranting powers of co-decision to the German Parliament.

More recently, in October 2009, the United Kingdom, despite having no written constitution, replaced its supreme judicial body, which sat in the House of Lords, with a Supreme Court.

The recent legal revolution in France is no less important, even if it is still in a transitional phase.

With the QPC, the entire process of assessing the constitutionality of legislation has gained greater acceptance in French legal practice. It is no longer the privilege of the political class: testing a law for its constitutionality has become a right of all citizens.

At the same time, after one year of implementation, the Constitutional Council has avoided a drift toward a "government of judges," instead indicating a genuine desire for dialogue with other institutions, notably policymakers.

For example, when answering a request to deal with marriage and the right of homosexual couples regarding adoption, the Council refused to substitute itself for the legislature, which it considered the only competent body to rule on the matter. And when the Constitutional Council does censure a law, it leaves Parliament the time it needs to review the decision and bring the law into compliance with the Constitution. Thus, an equilibrium of sorts between constitutional review and a concern not to cause excessive legal instability has been found.

As the Constitutional Council gets closer to functioning like a Supreme Court, its membership, still heavily influenced by politics, will need to be reassessed. But a huge step has now been taken toward anchoring all laws in the Constitution, which will strengthen the protection of all citizens' rights.

Raphael Hadas-Lebel is honorary section president at France's Conseil d'Etat. © 2011 Project Syndicate





Fears of unbearable heat this summer for train commuters in the Tokyo Metropolitan Area are mounting for two reasons: (1) Electric power shortages triggered by the accidents at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power station may force East Japan Railway Co. (JR East), the major operator of commuter trains, to suspend the use of air conditioners; and (2) with the train cars now in use, windows can be opened only partially to let in fresh air even when the air conditioning is off.

An expert in railway technologies has pointed out that designers of today's commuter trains did not take into account the possibility of air-conditioning cuts to conserve electricity.

Most JR East commuter trains were designed on the assumption that the inside car temperature would always be controlled by air conditioning. Few windows can be opened manually; in fact, the newer windows no longer have curtains and are fitted instead with glass panes to absorb heat rays.

The shortcomings of this assumption became apparent March 23, 2005, when a power failure forced a train to halt between Omori and Kamata stations on the Keihin-Tohoku Line. With the air conditioning out and windows that could not be opened, temperatures inside kept going up. Many passengers fell ill and had to be taken to a hospital.

A far more tragic situation would have resulted had the power failure occurred in the middle of the summer or during the rush hours.

Today's railway car design can be traced to the late Shuichiro Yamanouchi, a former chairman of JR East. In 1987, the state- owned Japanese National Railways (JNR) was privatized and split into six regional passenger service companies, including JR East, and one freight transport firm. Yamanouchi instructed engineers to adopt thorough cost-cutting measures in car construction. Cars were to weigh half as much as conventional ones. Their longevity was also to be cut in half.

Engineers diligently followed his instructions and launched the first cars based on his concept in 1992, five years after the JNR privatization.

Although their production cost or weight was not halved as targeted, they were epoch-making in that their electricity consumption was reduced to less than one half of conventional trains due to improvements in motor rotation controls and to the adoption of a "regenerative brake" system, which uses electric power the motor generates when the train is decelerating.

There were some downsides to these new cars, however. All windows were "fixed" for cost-cutting reasons and, therefore, could not be opened. Windows used heat-absorbing glass plates since heat-shielding curtains were eliminated.

After the 2005 accident in which many passengers became ill, JR East modified the windows of more than 800 train cars. Each car today has four windows that can be opened by hand, but only partially. The rest are "fixed" as in the past. It is questionable whether sufficient ventilation can be maintained without air conditioning. The heat-absorbing glass provides little relief by itself.

The expert in railway technologies says this situation is a "typical example" of sacrificing safety in the rush to privatize and divide JNR, and to improve postprivatization profitability.

Another headache as summer approaches is a "brush" supply shortage. Brushes are small components that conduct electricity to the rotating part of a direct current motor. Two factories of Hitachi Chemical Co. in Fukushima and Ibaraki prefectures, which used to supply about 70 percent of these brushes for JR East and other Japanese railway companies, were damaged by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

West Japan Railway Co. (JR West) was once forced to consider reducing the number of its scheduled train runs at a time when about a half of its 4,700 train cars were fitted with direct current motors, which require brushes.

With JR East, some 15 percent of its 12,000 train cars are fitted with direct current motors. While other makers are trying to supply brushes, a full supply may not be ready before the summer heat sets in. Should the need arise to reduce the number of train runs during at rush hour due to the supply shortage of this component, conditions inside already notoriously crowded commuter trains in Tokyo and adjacent areas could get worse, adding to the misery for hundreds of thousands of people who go to and from work and school by train every day.

These problems are not peculiar to JR East. Many other railway companies have introduced train cars whose windows were designed on the assumption that air conditioners would operate all the time. Those railway companies include Odakyu, Tokyu, Sagami and Toei Chikatetsu (the Tokyo metropolitan subway train service).

As it took JR East two years to modify the windows of 800 cars after the 2005 accident, it is not likely that the situation will improve before summer.

Should any serious accident occur as a result of the undesirable design of its commuter trains, JR East cannot use any excuse. It enters the summer season, carrying a "bomb" around with it.

This is an abridged translation of an article from the May issue of Sentaku, a monthly magazine covering Japanese political, social and economic issues.






Special to The Japan Times

LONDON — Finally, the Indian government seems to have convinced its domestic detractors that it is indeed "nonaligned" and that its foreign policy is not being crafted in Washington.

Nothing works better in New Delhi than a putdown of the United States. And what a snub this has been. Despite extensive lobbying by the U.S. military-industrial complex, supported by President Barack Obama himself, India has rejected bids by Lockheed Martin and Boeing for a $10 billion-plus contract for 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA).

Instead, New Delhi has short-listed Dassault Aviation's Rafale and the Eurofighter Consortium's Typhoon. Extensive field trials and technical considerations ostensibly drove the final decision. But the dismay in Washington is widespread and, to some extent, understandable given the investment that the U.S. has made in cultivating India in recent years.

As if to underscore the importance of this development, the U.S. Ambassador to India, Timothy Roemer, decided to announce his resignation at the same time the decision on MMRCA came down in public, though he has insisted that this resignation is related to "personal, professional and family considerations."

At one level, the seeming transparency of the process should indeed be heartening to those who have been puzzled by India's inability to get its defense modernization program on track for some time now.

In mature democracies, the policy and process of defense contracts should be above board. For a usually lackadaisical Indian Ministry of Defense (MoD), this is a welcome change. After years of returning unspent money, the MoD last year not only managed to spend its entire budget but also asked for money to spend on capital procurement.

And now with movement on MMRCA bids, it is clear that the ministry wants to move swiftly on new defense procurement, relegating its ultra-cautious approach to the sidelines.

But major defense purchases are a means to an end, not an end in and of themselves. At a time when the political dispensation in New Delhi is embroiled in a whole host of corruption scandals, it has used this decision to insulate itself from charges of favoritism toward America.

In a way it's a masterstroke. To its domestic policy critics, the government has signaled that despite all the heft of the U.S. military-industrial complex, India refused to budge. To its foreign policy critics, there was the signal that New Delhi remains in thrall to no one, not even the United States.

The present government has been viewed as being too cozy with the U.S., and there were signs of discontent within the ruling Congress Party itself on this score.

Recent revelations from WikiLeaks about the pressure on New Delhi during the negotiations over the U.S.-India civilian nuclear energy pact had put the government in a difficult position. The decision on MMRCA allows the government to make the case that it is its own master.

The danger is that, in the process, New Delhi may have dealt a severe blow to its burgeoning ties with the U.S. Despite Obama's visit to New Delhi in November 2010, during which he endorsed India's candidacy to the United Nations Security Council, there is a growing sense in New Delhi and Washington that bilateral ties are drifting.

Both governments have other priorities. The Obama administration is too consumed with domestic economic troubles and the Indian government has been battling charges of incompetence and corruption at a number of levels. New Delhi has also made some overtures to other power centers in recent months.

At the United Nations, India scuttled attempts by Western powers to strongly condemn the Syrian government for its attacks on protesters, merely asking the Security Council to urge all sides to abjure violence and seek a peaceful resolution.

And before this there was India's abstention on Libya at the Security Council as well as the much touted BRICS summit in China at which the joint statement underscored the need for a realignment of the post-World War II global order that was based on the untrammeled supremacy of the U.S.

The decision on MMRCA will only reinforce the perception in Washington that the much-touted strategic partnership between U.S. and India is more hype than substance. But one defense deal doesn't a relationship make.

India will soon be announcing a $5 billion deal for 10 Boeing C-7 heavy-lift transport aircraft with an additional order for a further six as well as more orders for Lockheed's C-130J Hercules transport aircraft.

Aside from defense, India shares a wide range of interests with the U.S., the most significant of which is to confront a rising China. At a time when China's rapid rise is upending the extant balance of power in the Asia-Pacific region, both India and the U.S. need each other.

The U.S. faces the prospect of an emerging power transition in Asia, and it needs new partners to provide strategic stability to a region where the center of gravity of global politics and economics is rapidly moving.

India, for its part, is trying to come to grips with an ever more assertive China in its vicinity and needs U.S. support if it is to protect and enhance its vital national interests.

It would indeed be a pity if a defense deal ends up becoming a benchmark in defining the future trajectory of this very important bilateral relationship.

Harsh V. Pant teaches at King's College London.









Fans, players and the entire nation may have to pay a high price after the Indonesian Soccer Association's (PSSI) national chaotic congress on Friday.

Chairman Agum Gumelar adjourned the congress due to an unsettled deadlock, meaning that the PSSI failed to elect new officials as mandated by the world soccer body FIFA.
 Agum made his move after the so-called Group of 78 called for a vote of no confidence against him as chairman of the FIFA-sanctioned normalization committee.

The Group of 78 claims to support two candidates who were disqualified by FIFA from running in the PSSI's leadership race: Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Toisutta and oil tycoon Arifin Panigoro.

The group demanded an explanation of the ban, which also covered former chairman Nurdin Halid and former deputy chairman Nirwan Bakrie.

FIFA previously instructed the PSSI to select a new chief before May 21 after former chairman Nurdin was urged to step down.

The deadlock has tarnished the already tainted image of Indonesia. The national team is likely to face a ban from FIFA from competing in international events.

If FIFA imposes a ban, Indonesian soccer fans will not be able to see their team play at the Southeast Asian Games in November in Jakarta and in the South Sumatran capital of Palembang.

No action is expected from FIFA before May 30, when it will receive a report from its representative, Thierry Regenass, who witnessed the PSSI chaos.

The deadlock has caused an uproar in a public that expects to see better management of the PSSI and to improve the country's performance on the international stage at the end of the day.

The PSSI has long been tarred by allegations of match fixing and corruption as well as neglecting the development of youth players and domestic competitions. However, officials have always turned a deaf ear to critics on improving the association's management and solving its development programs.

The chaos – which also occurred during the PSSI's abortive congress in March in Riau – only highlighted the selfishness of certain people and groups. Their actions contradict their desire to improve soccer in Indonesia.

We remind those running for the PSSI's top posts of the mission of the late Soeratin when he decided to establish the PSSI in 1930.

Inspired by the Youth Pledge Movement two years earlier, Soeratin merely wanted to unite young Indonesians through soccer.

It is saddening that those fighting to lead the PSSI have completely forgotten Soeratin's noble vision.

If there is a third chance to hold a PSSI congress, we hope all candidates will remember that they should serve players, coaches, clubs and, most importantly, the public who have supported the national team with their time, energy and money.

Further, we hope that FIFA will spare Indonesia from tough sanctions so that our national team will be able to compete in international events.






While the wave of revolution that has swept through the Middle East and North Africa has clearly unsettled the leadership of China, the most sobering recent development is arguably the unprecedented surge in support for opposition parties in Singapore's general elections.

The People's Action Party (PAP) won 60.1 percent of the vote, its worst performance since 1963. In addition, popular foreign minister George Yeo lost his seat to the opposition. PAP has dominated Singapore politics since its independence and the city-state is viewed as a curious example of an open economy with limited political freedom.

Often described as having a paternalistic government, Singapore has been in a state of political equilibrium and stability for a long time. What were the factors that led to the lapse in support for the PAP?

A troubled economy and lack of equitable wealth distribution are often cited as triggers for political change. Interestingly, there is mounting discontent with the government despite exceptional economic performance.

As a major financial center with strong pharmaceutical and electronic industries, the city-state enjoyed an average annual GDP growth rate of 5.47 percent in 2007-2010, registering an astonishing 14.5 percent growth last year, outpacing that of China, Brazil and India.

Singapore consistently ranks among the top destinations for foreign direct investment in the Asia-Pacific. With the unemployment rate for Singapore citizens and permanent residents (foreigners who are long-term residents in Singapore) at approximately 3 percent, the country has a population with the middle-class making up the majority. Going by Purchasing Power Parity, the GDP per capita of Singapore is ranked third in the world.

However, the rising costs of living and the influx of foreign labor have proven to be problematic. Of a population of 5.2 million, Singaporean citizens and permanent residents make up only 3.77 million. Despite the multi-ethnic composition of Singapore, integrating a migrant labor force of diverse origins has proven to be a formidable task. Singaporeans view both the transient migrant labor and permanent residents as unwanted competition for jobs and the main reason behind rising real estate prices.

The crux of the problem is that the one-party dominated government has been sustained primarily through an economic social contract and not by ideology or strong emotive allegiance.

Although the rising costs of living can be largely attributed to global economic forces, and the import of labor is necessary due to the low birth rates in Singapore (which the government has been unable to reverse despite various incentive schemes), Singaporeans are quick to shift the blame of any perceived economic hardship on the government. Support or in some cases, acquiescence to the incumbent leadership has always been contingent upon keeping the general populace in an economic comfort zone.

New media offer avenues to circumvent censorship, promote citizen journalism and facilitate real-time transmission of information. They also represent a low-cost way for parties that are not well-funded to reach out to the masses. As such, they are often seen as enabling tools for political change.

In the elections of 2001 and 2006, the Internet was already actively used by political parties and the public as platforms for discussions and dissemination of information, but it did not lead to the strong surge of support for opposition as witnessed in this election.

In Singapore, the new media have merely served a secondary role. The chief motivation behind the support for opposition stems from the desire to check the purported complacence of the incumbent government.

Notably, the youngest Singaporean voters in the elections this year were born in 1990. Young Singaporeans have grown up during a period of prosperity and relatively higher degree of media freedom. They are less nostalgic about the achievements of the PAP and Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew in the early years of independence.

In this context, the hard-line statesman Lee is proving to be a liability during these troubled times for the PAP.

His ostensibly negative comments on Islam and insinuations of punitive measures for voters who vote against the incumbent party have not gone down well with the young populace. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's surprising apology for the oversights of the government reflects an awareness of the need to recalibrate the style of governance.

Singapore has long been a top destination for the academic training of Chinese civil servants due to its geographical proximity and admired approach to governance. The elections this year have clearly shown that the model of focusing on economic growth and governance based on an economic social contract and tough controls is not sustainable.

Legitimacy falters in the long-term when not affirmed through the process of political contest and support for the government has to stem from ideological affiliation and hard-earned trust.

This might serve as an invaluable case study for China.

The writer is an associate fellow at Chatham House London and a Singaporean PhD candidate at the School of International Relations and Public Affairs, Fudan University, People's Republic of China.







Ernesto Simanungkalit wrote an interesting article titled Judicial review of ASEAN Charter?

His article is written in the backdrop of a petition applied to the Constitutional Court by the Alliance of Global Justice. The Constitutional Court was asked to nullify Law No. 38/2008 as the instrument of ratification of the ASEAN Charter.

While agreeing with Simanungkalit that the instrument of ratification is a form of legislation for one time action by the government (beschikking) and not a regulation (regelling), the question is how may people exercise their right to judicial review if a certain international agreement contradicts the Constitution?

The discussion by Simanungkalit only touches on ways to negate judicial review procedurally, but not substantively.

Substantively international agreement has the potential to contradict the Constitution. This is because the substance of international agreement can be of a law making treaty, as opposed to treaty contract.

A law making treaty is a treaty that has the consequence of introducing new norms or amending the existing norms of a certain country. The International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights is an example of a law making treaty.

On the other hand a border agreement between States can be categorized as a treaty contract.

Under Law No. 10/2004 on the Formulation of Laws and Regulations it is provided that the Constitution is the basic written law and the ultimate source of all laws and regulations in Indonesia.

This means that any provisions of international agreement that Indonesia accedes to must be in accordance with the Constitution. If not and the government transforms those provisions to domestic legislations, what guarantee will there be that the domestic legislations are not nullified by the Constitutional Court or Supreme Court?

If the Constitutional or Supreme Court nullifies the legislation, this will create a situation in which Indonesia is acceding to international agreement, but not performing its obligation. Moreover, can Indonesia withdraw from the international agreement due the decision of an internal court?

The government is facing dilemma arising from the interplay between international law and national law.

In Indonesia, one thing is for sure: When the government accedes to an international agreement, in particular a law making treaty, the government never ascertained the consistency between provisions of international agreement with the Constitution.

This of course negates the fact that the Constitution is the highest legislation in the country. This practice may lead to a situation where an international agreement is de facto the highest legislation.

Furthermore, in the absence of a process to ascertain the consistency with the Constitution, it negates the fact that an international agreement is frequently used as a political instrument by one State against another. In turn, the sovereignty to legislate by a country may be encroached by international agreements.

This will have negative repercussions for the government. The public will question who the government is working for: Another government or its constituency?

To take an example, when Indonesia amended and introduced many of its intellectual property rights laws, was such action due to the obligation imposed by the World Trade Organization agreement, or a response to the Indonesian societal need?

Learning from this experience, the government must take at least three important steps.

First, in the process of acceding to certain international agreements there should be discussion in academic papers on the consistency of the provisions of the international agreement and the Constitution.

Second, when negotiating drafts of international agreements, the government must make sure that the negotiated text does not contravene in any way with Indonesia's Constitution.

Third, extra care must be taken by the government when acceding to international agreements. The government may opt to adopt certain international agreement provisions rather than accede to the international agreement.

By doing this, the government has the freedom to adopt a provision that is in accordance with the Constitution and make sure there are no provisions of international agreements that the government is unable to perform due to contradictions with the Constitution.

The writer is a professor of international law at the University of Indonesia.







The extensive modernization of India's navy represents its desire to become not only a major regional player, but a major global one as well. Throughout most of the 20` century, India's naval priorities were essentially focused on containing Pakistan and securing the maritime approaches to Indian territorial waters.

This kept India's naval outlook confined to its own waters. The expansion of India's economy since the late-1990s, along with its growing domestic interests and desire to be a regional power has, however, led it to expand its outlook to the wider Indian Ocean region.

Since 2002, India has undertaken a major naval modernization program, with the overall aim of upgrading its military in a 15-year timeframe. The US$40 billion that the Indian Government plans to spend between 2008 and 2013 forms part of this modernization program.

Numerically, the plan intends to make the Indian Navy the third-largest fleet in the world. It currently stands as the fifth-largest, with 171 vessels and around 250 aircraft. In January 2011, India's Defense Ministry released the Defense Procurement Procedure 2011 (DPP-2011), which contains separate guidelines for government-owned and privately-owned shipyards to promote competition and increase the efficiency of indigenously-built ships.

The centerpiece of the Indian Navy's modernization scheme revolves around the acquisition of aircraft carriers and nuclear-powered submarines. Presently, India has allocated funds for the acquisition of three aircraft carriers. The first, INS Vikramaditya (formerly the Russian Navy's Admiral Gorshkov), has been in the process of retrofitting in Russia since 2008.

After considerable delays, it is expected to be delivered in 2012. The Vikramaditya will carry 16 MiG-29K aircraft. India's other two aircraft carriers are locally built — the first, INS Vikrant, is due to enter service by 2014 and the second carrier is due in 2017 and is expected to carry 29 MiG-29K aircraft. These aircraft carriers would essentially make India a true blue-water navy and consolidate its force projection capability over a far greater portion of the Indian Ocean.

In 2009 India launched the INS Arihant; its first indigenously-built nuclear submarine, with the intention of commissioning it in late-2011. This will give India a nuclear triad (land and sea-based ballistic missiles and bombers carrying nuclear-tipped bombs/missiles), a capability currently only possessed by the United States, China and Russia.

The Arihant will carry Shaurya missiles, which are capable of carrying a 1-tone nuclear warhead with a range of 750 kilometers and designed specifically for submarines. The vessel will also contain 12 Sagirika missiles, which have a range of up to 1,900 kilometers. Five indigenously-built nuclear-powered submarines are planned for the next decade at a total cost of $2.9 billion. The allocation of $11 billion for six diesel-electric submarines featuring improved land-attack capabilities has also recently been approved.

While aircraft carriers and submarines dominate the naval modernization program, there are other elements. In 2010 India signed a contract with the Pipavav Shipyard to build five patrol vessels. It has also built three multi-role, stealth-featured Shivalik-class frigates, with the first of these, INS Shivalik, being commissioned in April 2010.

Three Russian-built Talwar-class frigates have also been acquired, with the first, INS Teg, to be commissioned later in 2011 and the remainder due to start service in 2012. These will double the number of Talwar-class frigates, with the INS Talwar, Trishul and Tabar having already been commissioned in the last decade.

In addition to such measures, which are consistent with India's expanding Indian Ocean profile, India has sought to establish either bases or listening stations in many of the Indian Ocean islands.

Among the most significant of these was the establishment of a listening post in northern Madagascar in 2007, giving India a naval position near southern Africa and the sea lines of communication from that area. India has also sent a naval patrol vessel, along with a Dornier-228 maritime reconnaissance aircraft to the Seychelles, reportedly to control piracy in the region.

The Indian Navy has also regularly assisted Mauritius in conducting hydrographic surveys, thus ensuring a near-constant naval presence in that country. India has acquired berthing rights in Oman, following joint military exercises in 2006 and a subsequent defense agreement between the two countries. Such initiatives have allowed India to obtain a naval influence in the western Indian Ocean from the Middle East to south-eastern Africa.

The writer is a researcher for the private organization Future Directions International based in Perth, Australia. He is currently completing his Master's degree in international relations at Curtin University. This article is part of an internal paper prepared for Future Directions International. It is exclusively offered to The Jakarta Post, and is available to member publications of the Asia News Network (ANN).








Creating controversies also has its strategic advantages. Workers are demanding wage hikes, academics, teachers and nurses demand salary hikes. On another side Darusman is brandishing his report flanked by moon.

Supporters of Former general Sarath Fonseka are on one side protesting over his arrest.

Human rights organizations who visit the Vanni in glittering Toyota Prados with Chanel and Poison write report after report in unintelligible English.

The government has so much to deal with, of course.

The latest addition is the military training for the University entrants.

The government should be congratulated on the move. In fact many countries have such systems. In the UK even the Prince goes to war.

As usual our "students" have already been up in "arms" about the system, obviously without knowing the virtues of such training, again as usual exposing their ignorance.

The ironic part is that the parties concerned are talking everything but the core values of such training.

Critics as usual cry that this is part of the government's "militarization" of society.

Already the Military has started an Airline ticketing venture.

Be that as it may, getting military training or even a part of it is indeed valuable, perhaps only the private sector may have realized the value of it. It is not easy.

There are so many mushroom companies that have sprung up calling themselves "outbound" training companies and earn big bugs out of it. And other private  companies pay thumping amounts to train their staff.

It is more or less the same kind of training.

The main thing many fail to note is that a government would not shoot its own feet by providing youth with military training!

Looking back on our student culture many a university alumnus would realize that our undergrads utterly lacked such disciplinary training.

And it was one of the main reasons why there were so many troubles in the universities.

Military training firstly teaches discipline and obedience, which sadly our students lack.

Perhaps it would be better if our AL students too were included in such a programme.

The government had already spent Rs. 90 million on  the training program and had vacated and reserved the training camps for the scheduled three weeks. If we postponed the program it would be a waste of public money and our efforts an official had said. The students also failed to realize that such training would be an added advantage in overseas employments. Employers prefer those who have undergone such training.

Meanwhile, obviously the Inter University Students Federation (IUSF) had called on the Higher Education Minister to follow the direction of the Supreme Court and postpone the leadership training programme.

The punch line is that, IUSF a well known affiliate of the pro problematic JVP, would be the biggest loser if such a training program goes ahead. In fact the government had laid its hands in the JVP fodder. Once started, the JVP would be losing its support in the universities. And there lies the real reason why some people are opposed to it





Two events in two days, and between them the 2600th Sri Sambuddathva Jayanthi of Lord Buddha and second anniversary of the conclusion of the 'ethnic war' brought out the inherent contradictions in contemporary Sri Lanka as none else could have. Lord Buddha stood for peace and harmony, and here we have a nation celebrating war's victory almost alongside.

The contradiction does not stop there. It stands out even more. In a way, it is a part of the personality of the man who sent Buddhism to Sri Lanka. Yet, Emperor Ashoka having drunk war and victory to the brim gave them up wholly and whole-heartedly in favour of peace and piety. War was not an end in itself, as he discovered for himself. Peace was not a pit-stop, either. You cannot marry both.

In the global order that we are all part of, no nation can afford to lower its guard. One can predict where war could end and peace commence. No one can predict where peace could end and war begins. The situation in Sri Lanka may be no different, theoretically at the very least. Celebrations cannot substitute for preparations. It's like crying for wolf.

There was no triumphalism when it all concluded in May 2009. There cannot be aftershocks two or more years hence. Human memory being what it is, scarred and confused, such occasions trigger a process where justification is sought to be found for the Drausman Report and like – and from within, too.  Both tendencies need to be eschewed.

It is one thing, likewise, for the Tamils to mourn their dead. They did not die in the last stage of 'Eelam War IV'. There were unclaimed bodies and unattended funerals, where the departed would have to be propitiated year after year, whatever the religion. If the sentiments are only religious and personal, one does not go by the Gregorian calendar. Customs and traditions demand otherwise.

A country in celebration and a community in continuing mourning make trust-deficit between the Sri Lankan state and the Tamil community that much more difficult to achieve. Inherent to the issue is also the decades of misunderstanding and mis-trust that had ruled and ruined their political interactions.

Ask anyone from either community, they have friends and well-wishers in each other, and for generations. Ask them as communities, they are not so sure. Even the patronising attitude some Sinhalese  have had for their faceless Tamil brethren at the violent conclusion of the war is being replaced by the cares and worries of the day – where socio-political compulsions play their own role, as in the pre-war past.

It is no different in the case of the Tamils. There is unlikely to be anyone from the distant past who is still around and who can say that all was well with ethnic relations in the country. The new generation in either community has been born into an era of mis-trust and fought it out in terror camps and improvised battle-fields. The suspicions will linger for a long time.

This is now a reality that the two sides need to battle with, for them to overcome the prejudices from the past. At least from the commencement of the 20th century and long before Independence, this ethnic wound had festered. Even if surgically removed, as some may liken 'Eelam War IV', the wounds were so deep and so wide-spread that the scars will remain for a long, long time to come.

Development may be a panacea, and devolution a soother. They are not substitutes for each other.

The nation and its people cannot (be asked to) wait endlessly, holding their breath all along, for a day to arrive when that trust-deficiency had been negated. Symbolisms do substitution work, and signal a changing mind  – if not any immediate change of mind-set. Issues of power-devolution, re-merger and the like comprise those symbols. Development is in the long term, instead.

The question is whether the Sri Lankan States want to integrate, or alienate the Tamils still. If the answer is in the affirmative for the first, then it has to act with the kind of self-confidence that the end of ethnic war has bestowed. It needs to repace the peripheral signs of triumphalism that are beginning to put their heads out. 'Magnanimity in victory' is not an empty phrase. It means this and more.

The Tamils face a problem in their leadership. Unlike the State and the Sinhala polity, most moderate players from the violence-torn past remain at the helm. Their memories are saddening. The memories about them are worse for the Sinhala polity and society.

The Tamils, particularly the TNA, need to acknowledge that they too have hurt the Sinhalese for long. It goes beyond the physical wounds inflicted by the LTTE or any other militant group before it. They need to acknowledge their deficiencies and apply correctives as much as they want the Sinhalese to 'correct' themselves. That is the way to true reconciliation.

The fact still remains that the present-day TNA leadership has not been associated with any Government for any length of time to appreciate the difficulties that attend on any party or person in power. Yet, they too are stymied by their own circumstances outside the Government, some of which are real.

There cannot be one-way streets. But to expect the man on the smaller and at times cheaper vehicle to give way is about inequity. Both have their use and the Sri Lankan State, as different from individuals and parties in power, have to strike that equity. The absence of which was at the root-cause not only of ethnic strife and war, but also the previous ethnic anger possibly of the Sinhalese under the colonial masters.

Both sides need to be realistic and more – to be able to do business. Their situations are real and their assessments should be realistic. Yet, they need to be more than real and more than realistic to be able to walk that extra mile, to be able to address the wounds that they need to heal in their times, and not allow to fester. Father Time may have patience but Sri Lanka may not have any left.





My dear Mahinda aiyah,

Ayubowan, vanakkam, assalamu allaikum and best wishes as the country concludes celebrations and ceremonies to commemorate the thrice blessed day of Vesak, and the 2600th anniversary of the Lord Buddha's enlightenment. The pandals may have come down, the dansal and Vesak zones closed but the message of Vesak, the precepts and principles of the Buddha dhamma need to be practised in daily life at our homes, workplaces and wherever we go. Otherwise the celebrations would have been in vain or a waste of money and time.

 The core of the Buddha dhamma is the inner liberation from, our slavery to self-centredness and selfishness or our desire for self-interest 'personal gain' or glory power, prestige and popularity. If this truth does not set us free, then we will remain as hypocrites or holy-humbugs pretending or acting. This inner liberation from the self-centered nature is particularly important for political or other leaders and decision makers. If they are not experiencing liberation and are only seeking power to dominate people and plunder the resources of the country then these leaders are in one hell of a mess and are leading others also into a hell of a mess. It will be like the blind leading the blind with both ending up in a mud-hole.

Throughout this special Vesak week we heard scores of dhamma sermons in temples, on television and other media. If the word preached or the religious seeds fell on the wayside or a stony heart or among thorns and thistles they would not produce good fruit. We hope the Vesak sermons would have transformed the minds, hearts and nature of political leaders especially because Sri Lanka is facing its moment of truth and only people with goodwill will be able to lead the country out of this international crisis.

The government or higher education minister SB Dissanayake appears to be keen on giving leadership training to University entrants at military camps. This is apparently meant to stop sordid ragging or other acts of indiscipline so that the higher seats of learning in the country will produce men and women who will lead Sri Lanka on the high road of integrity,a selflessness and sacrificial service to the people. But university students believe that politicians – some of whom behave like thugs and most of whom are alleged to be involved in corruption or other acts of glorified criminality – have no right to force students to undergo leadership training at military camps. The students have filed a fundamental rights petition in the Supreme Court while last Friday requested the authorities to put off this training programme which was scheduled to start this week.

Independent analysts and observers believe that before training university students the politicians themselves need to be trained in an academy like a Buddhist pirivena as was done in old Burma in the good old days of that  country. During the Vesak period  Minister Champika Patali Ranawaka and several members of the Jathika Hela Urumaya shaved their heads donned white national costumes and entered a Buddhist pirivena for two weeks of meditation, reflections and re-training in the highest principles of the dhamma. Sri Lanka would be much better off if other politicians did this not just for two weeks but for one or two years so that we would have good governance, accountability, democracy, respect for dissent or diversity of views. With this training we may hopefully have political leaders who are not in the hell holes of bribery and corruption and who do not plunder and pillage the resources of a country in which people in more than 20 districts are known to be struggling below the poverty line. If we propagate a hell hole where political leaders rob the poor then we have gone to the devil and God help us.






With the Indian army dislodging the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam(LTTE) from its entrenched positions in the Jaffna peninsula through "Operation Pawan" and other  military exercises the Tigers began re-locating in large numbers to the northern mainland known as the "Wanni".

  The LTTE's number two Gopalaswamy Mahendrarajah alias Mahathaya had for long been commander of the Wanni region. The districts of Kilinochchi, Mullaithivu and Vavuniya came under his command.Mannar district was administered separately.

  Thus Mahathaya's power and influence increased tremendously after the spotlight shifted to the Wanni. The LTTE leader Veluppillai  Prabhakaran himself had moved to the Wanni and was accommodated in secret locations in the Mullaithivu jungles. Protecting Prabhakaran who was a prize target in Indian perception became top priority for the LTTE.

 Lt.Col Navam

  Initially the protection of Prabhakaran was entrusted to Lt. Col Navam who incidently was a Tamil of  recent Indian origin. His family had moved to the Wanni from the up country after the 1977 anti–Tamil violence.

  Lt. Col Navam was in overall charge of Prabhakaran's security in particular and Mullaithivu defences in general. Balraj functioned as Navam's deputy. Being familiar with the jungle terrain, Balraj's services were indispensable to the LTTE at that juncture.

It was during this period  that Balraj began interacting closely with his leader Prabhakaran. The LTTE numero uno who at one time was reluctant to induct Balraj into Tiger folds due to his PLOTE past was now greatly impressed by his unassuming simplicity and quiet efficiency.

Navam was killed in action when the LTTE launched an attack on the Indian army camp in Nedunkerny. Thereafter Balraj took over informally and was like Mahathaya's deputy for the Wanni command .


Wilting under the Indian army onslaught the Tiger cadres in the Wanni were scattered and demoralised. Communication was a big problem. It was then that Balraj undertook an arduous mission to infuse morale into  the LTTE within the Wanni

  With authority delegated by Prabhakaran and Mahathaya, the lad from Kokkuthoduvaai began travelling the length and breadth of the Wanni. He travelled on foot moving from place to place and meeting with Tiger cadre in different places. Despite the heavy Indian army presence,Balraj managed to accomplish his mission.

As a result the LTTE in the Wanni got invigorated and began going on the offensive in a limited capacity. A series of attacks on Indian patrols and posts were launched. This restricted Indian army mobility to a great extent. It is said that Balraj was instrumental in motivating Tiger cadre through his pedestrian mission

It was during this time that the LTTE inflicted heavy losses on an Indian commando unit which infiltrated the Mullaitheevu jungles in search of Prabhakaran. After monitoring the Indian commando movement Balraj along with Lt.Col Navaneethan led a contingent of fighters to counter attack.

The LTTE split in two formations in the jungles of Pazhampaasi area. One was led by Navaneethan and the other by Balraj. While the group led by Navaneethan conducted a frontal attack on the Indian soldiers the group led by Balraj managed to move clandestinely through jungle routes and attack from behind. The Indians were caught in the middle and were virtually wiped out. The survivors were rescued by helicopter.

  The LTTE variation of double envelopement adopted by Balraj in the jungle terrain rattled the Indian army. Thereafter all such jungle operations were suspended.The Tigers continued to launch sporadic attacks on Indian installations. Things however began to change after the advent of Ranasinghe Premadasa. Soon the Indian army was on its way out.


After the withdrawal of the Indian army the Tiger leader moved back to Jaffna with his retinue. Mahathaya also  moved to Jaffna as LTTE deputy leader and president of the LTTE political party People's Front of Liberation Tigers (PFLT).

There  was also  a policy change of sorts where the LTTE was now as far as possible encouraging cadre from a particular locality to take up leadership positions there.In keeping with this policy Balraj was made military commander for the Wanni in 1990. Theepan was appointed his deputy.This was the opportunity Balraj had been waiting for to demonstrate his military acumen.

  After assuming command Balraj undertook a gigantic public relations exercise. He visited the families of fallen LTTE cadre and consoled with relatives. Balraj also went to the houses of people who had supported the LTTE during the Indian army campaign amidst great risk and hardship. He thanked them profusely and requested continuous support.  

Balraj launched three attacks at different times on the Sri Lankan army camps at Mullaithivu,Mankulam and Kilinochchi. They were all failures and the LTTE retreated after incurring heavy losses.  

The A – 9 highway or Jaffna – Kandy road was then under the nominal  control of the army from Vavuniya to Elephant Pass. The army had military camps in key areas. Balraj decided to establish control over the A -9 highway in the Wanni


The army camp at Kokkaavil  on the A -9 highway was singled out as a target by the LTTE led by Balraj in the Wanni. A large scale attack was launched under the field command of Theepan and strategic command of Balraj. The army resisted fiercely and inflicted heavy losses on the Tigers. Even Theepan was injured.

Instead of calling the attack off, Balraj himself took up field command on the second day. Balraj's battlefront presence encouraged the Tiger cadres. After heavy fighting the camp was overrun. This was the first time that the Tigers had overrun a Sri Lankan army camp.

  Encouraged by the fall of Kokkaavil the LTTE now set its sights on the Mankulam camp. Although the earlier attack had failed Balraj now devised a new tactical plan. In a black Tiger or suicide attack, Lt. Col. Borg drove a truck full of explosives into the camp at midnight and exploded himself. Tiger cadres led by Theepan followed in its wake and began attacking.

  Meanwhile a second LTTE contingent led by Balraj and Navaneethan moved clandestinely  through paddy fields and attacked the Mankulam garrison in the rear. Despite the element of surprise being in LTTE favour, the soldiers fought back valiantly .The fighting went on even after day break. The soldiers began withdrawing from the main camp and began converging at the adjacent helipad and its environs.

  It was then that Balraj executed one of his legendary "leading from the front" attacks. He personally led a reinforced attack on the helipad area and dislodged the soldiers. The helipad area was captured.Balraj however left an "opening" at the Southern end thus enabling soldiers to withdraw and move down several miles to Vavuniya.The LTTE seized a huge arsenal that included .50 calibre guns. This was the first time this happened.


The victories  of Kokkavil and Mankulam raised LTTE stock. Balraj also became known as a reputed military commander.

Another operation where Balraj proved his military prowess was the Elephant Pass operation of 1991.This was the operation codenamed "Tharai – Kadal – Aahayam " (Land – sea – Air )and led by Mahathaya to lay siege to the Elephant Pass base and capture it.The operation ended in failure and 673 LTTE cadre were killed.

Balraj and his fighters were tasked with the goal of penetrating the complex from the Kurinchatheevu sector.Balraj and his men delivered results by infiltrating through the lagoon and overrunning the military installation set up in the former guest house premises and retaining it till the operation was called off.They destroyed it while  withdrawing.

The failure of other LTTE cadre to achieve their objectives led to overall failure of the operation. It was however a personal triumph for Balraj.

The LTTE in 1991 formed its first infantry brigade. It was named after Charles Anthony , Prabhakaran's trusted deputy and close companion who died in Meesalai on July 15th 1983.

Balraj was Prabhakaran's choice to be the first special commander of Charles Anthony brigade. He served so until 1993.Later he had a second stint as Charles Anthony special commander from 1995 -97.


One of the innovative features adopted by Balraj in conducting operations was the "amphibian assault". This was a tactic in which LTTE cadres attacked coastal army camps simultaneously from land and sea. At that time the naval wing known as sea Tigers had not developed fully. So LTTE cadres would wade into the sea at a distant point and move through shallow waters on foot. At the given time attacks were launched from land and sea.

  A cost effective tactic employed by Balraj in some of these operations  was to go in for the sentry posts,bunkers and mini-camps instead of attacking heavily fortified main camps. The first experimental attack using this tactic was in Karainagar in the peninsula in 1991.

  A reconnaissance mission was done by "Major"Kinni in the Karainagar naval camp area. Thereafter LTTE cadre led by Balraj attacked posts along the Karainagar – Ponnalai area instead of attacking the base itself. Tiger cadres moved on either side of the Ponnalai causeway through shallow waters and attacked the security force positions in a concerted manner.

 Balraj repeated this tactic in other areas also. It met with massive success in Vallalaai in the peninsula. Tiger cadres moving through shallow waters attacked and overran 155 posts in the Vallalaai-Thondamanaru area. Another operation in the mainland saw 64 positions being destroyed in the Nagathevanthurai-Poonagary sector. Both these were in 1992.


Another attribute of Balraj was his penchant to conduct reconnaissance missions known as "rekke" himself. Except on rare occasions Balraj himself would scout around the security camp vicinity sometimes going up to the outer perimeter fence.Though extremely perilous and most unbecoming for a military commander,Balraj would rationalise his conduct by saying that he had to personally experience the terrain to launch and lead an attack.  

Apart from leading military assaults and offensives Balraj also excelled in strategic defence. He was mainly responsible for defeating, preventing, restricting or nullifying several military offensives by the armed forces.

  Some of these were "Operation Wanniwickrema" in Vavuniya, Operation " lightning" in Manal aaru/Weli Oya, operation "leap forward" in Jaffna, , operation" Yarl Devi " in Kilaly, Puloppalai and operation "Agni Kheela" in Elephant Pass.

One offensive Balraj failed to thwart was the first phase of "operation Jayasikurui"in 1997 where the armed forces took Omanthai and Nedunkerny. Operation " Riviresa " phase one in Jaffna where Balraj also participated in defence was another failure for the LTTE.

Balraj was in overall charge of LTTE defences during Jayasikurui till the fall of Puliyankulam. Thereafter erstwhile eastern LTTE regional commander "Col" Karuna took over defence arrangements.


Balraj's finest accomplishment in defensive war was Agnikheela on April 24th 2001. The armed forces had moved out from the Kilaly – Eluthumattuvaal – Nagar Kovul FDL's in a bid to re- take Elephant Pass.The LTTE inflicted heavy losses on the army.

Balraj was engaged in preparing for a major  amphibian assault in Poonagary –Nagathevanthurai in 1993 when the Sri Lankan army began its "operation Yarl-Devi"offensive. Since Elephant Pass was under army control, transport to and from Jaffna  was through points at Kilaly in the peninsula  and Paranthannalloor in the mainland."Yarl Devi" operation commencing from Elephant Pass was aimed at seizing control of Kilaly.

Balraj moved into the peninsula from Poonagary and set up defences at very short notice. The fighting was hectic but Balraj was himself  injured during Operation Yarl Devi in the fighting at Puloppalai. He sustained serious injuries on a leg when he was firing an RPG at a T – 55 tank. The injury caused him to limp slightly when walking.Also he suffered pain in the leg when he walked for a long distance. Incidently the LTTE managed to capture a tank for the first time in this .

Despite the damage caused by the injury Balraj continued to function actively. He participated in several operations in the peninsula. It was during this time that Prabhakaran  gave Balraj his greatest military honour by appointing him   as deputy – military commander.Prabhakaran was  then the military commander of the LTTE. Thus Balraj became number two in the military hierarchy.

The LTTE's new deputy – military commander began demonstrating his mettle in battle. But the LTTE itself was driven away from the Jaffna peninsula through the operation Riviresa phased out military campaign.The LTTE began operating militarily in the Wanni.


On July 18th 1996 the LTTE overran the Mullaitheevu camp killing more than a 1000 soldiers. Balraj co-ordinated the operation codenamed "Oyatha Alaigal – 1." (Unceasing waves)The beleaguered soldiers had fought back and entrenched themselves in the church area by the beach. Meanwhile soldiers were air landed at Alambil to move in and relieve the Mullaitheevu garrison.

The LTTE fought on both fronts. Finally reinforcements under "Col" Bhanu came in. The situation changed in LTTE favour when the T-55 captured at Puloppalai was used in the beach attack.

The military launched "Operation Sathjaya – 1" and 2 and captured Paranthan and the greater part of Kilinochchi. Balraj himself fought in these battles but was unable to prevent the army advancing. Meanwhile the army had also reached Mankulam on the A -9 through Operation Jayasikurui. It was only a matter of time before the army from Mankulam would have linked  up at Kilinochchi.

It was  at this juncture that the LTTE decided to seize Kilinochchi.Balraj conceived, coordinated and commanded the operation.An important component of the military strategy was to prevent reinforcements from Elephant Pass and Paranthan reaching Kilinochchi.

Balraj himself took up position at points between Paranthan and Kilinochchi. After fierce fighting the LTTE managed to prevent the army from moving to aid comrades under attack in Kilinochchi. Finally the soldiers withdrew after incurring heavy losses.Kilinochchi fell to the Tigers.This manoeuvre by Balraj was the precursor to his remarkable feat later during the Elephant pass battle.


Then came "Oyatha – Alaigal – 3 in 1999 November when the LTTE in a series of co-ordinated offensives overran military camps in Oddusuddan. Karippattaimurippu, Mankulam, Kanagarayankulam, Puliyankulam etc.

Most military gains of "Jayasikurui" were reversed.

"Oyatha Alaigal" or unceasing waves was an ongoing operation with more battles to follow in the Jaffna peninsula. The greatest of these was the lengthy series of operations to take the strategic military base in the Elephant Pass isthmus.

The key element in the LTTE's "encircle and enfeeble"strategy was the interdiction of supplies along the A – 9 highway between Eluthumattuvaal and Iyakkachchi / Elephant pass. The besieged Elephant pass garrison had to be "cut off" and isolated.

In a bid to prevent such an eventuality the armed forces had fortified a rectangular area extending from Thaalaiyaddy – Maruthankerny along the Vadamaratchy east coast of the peninsula up to the Puthukkaadu juction on the Jaffna – Kandy road.

This area known as the "Vathiraayan box"included Vathirayan , Pullaa veli, Soranpatru and Maasaar. Thus Elephant pass was assured of continuous supply from Eluthumadduvaal in the hinterland as well as Thaalaiyaddi in the littoral.


How the LTTE breached these impregnable defences amounted to a modern military miracle. It was Balraj's crowning achievement.

In an ambhibean operation on March 26th 2000 , the Sea Tigers led by "Col" Soosai succeeded in transporting 1200 cadre from the mainland coast to the peninsula coast.

These cadre led by Balraj landed at Kudaarappu – Maamunai and then moved clandestinely into the interior by walking through the inland lagoon and marshy lands known as "Kandal".

Army posts in Soranpatru and Maasaar were overrun . A 40 foot bund erected by the army at Maasaar was breached by Balraj's Tiger squad.The Tigers reached the A – 9 road near Puthukkaadu junction.

Thereafter the Tigers led by Balraj moved up and set up positions at a place called Ithaavil near Pallai thus blocking military supplies to Iyakkachchi – Elephant Pass.The  contingent led by the LTTE's deputy milit ary chief Balraj took a swathe of the Jaffna-Kandy road between Pallai and Eluthumattuvaal. These included the areas around Arasakerni, Ithavil, Indrapuram. Muhamaalai north  and Kovil Kadu.

The area under LTTE control amounted to about 4 km in length and 2 km in breadth. With this move , the LTTE effectively cut off the main road link between the Elephant Pass/Iyakachchi camps and Jaffna. On April 10, the armed forces recaptured a major portion of the road but failed to dislodge the Tigers completely.

The next few weeks saw an intense battle where Balraj and his band of intrepid fighters held on to a strip of land at Ithaavil against formidable odds. There were many twists and turns but Balraj fought on stubbornly beating back attempt after attempt to dislodge him.

After 24 days of fighting the army gave in. Elephant Pass was abandoned on April 19th. The LTTE hoisted its flag ceremoniously on April 22nd.


Balraj's incredible military feat was analysed and dissected in military manuals.

The LTTE under Balraj had demonstrated that it could engage in offensive and defensive positional warfare in deep enemy territory and triumph against superior armed forces without air support.

It was hailed as a paradigm shift in the conduct of "limited wars".

With this victory and the magnificient resistance displayed during "Operation Agnikheela " in retaining Elephant Pass the LTTE deputy – military chief's reputation was further enhanced. He became a larger than life legend.

But things changed as Balraj's health began to deteriorate. He had always had a "heart condition" and this began to worsen. In addition there was diabetes and kidney complications.

When the ceasefire was in progress Balraj went to Singapore with two bodyguards for advanced medical treatment. He obtained heart surgery there. Balraj's visa application to enter Malaysia for further treatment was refused.

There was trouble on the domestic front too.


In keeping with the LTTE policy of arranging marriages within the movement Balraj too had married a woman cadre Varathaa.

She was a close relative of LTTE supremo who had personally arranged the marriage. Varathaa like Balraj had injured her leg in a battle.

Married life however was not a state of bliss. There was temperamental incompatibility and the couple had serious differences. At one stage the wife started "complaining" against Balraj in public places.

This led to arguments and squabbles. Then Varathaa went to the LTTE police station and registered a complaint that Balraj had assaulted her.She also complained to the LTTE leader who was her kinsman.

Prabakharan then intervened and admonished Balraj. He also separated the couple. This increased Balraj's misery.

In a tragic twist Balraj's separated wife was stung by a Russel's viper and died.

Though separated, Varadhaa's death through snakebite caused inconsolable sorrow to Balraj.Apart from physical ill – health it is said that Balraj's emotional state declined considerably after his wife's death.


Due to his deteriorating health Balraj began to pursue a comparatively, sedate life. He was involved as a lecturer and instructor at the LTTE's military academy for officers.

Balraj taught military strategy, planning and tactics.He also provided specialised training for the LTTE commandoes and special forces.

He had earlier been a visiting instructor and demonstrator at various LTTE training camps. The recruits and conscripts liked to be taught by Balraj.  But there was no way in which his services on the military front could end.

In 2001 when "Col" Shankar was killed in a landmine attack by the army's deep penetration unit a virtual state of emergency was declared by Prabakharan.

Balraj was directed to coordinate a defence strategy to counter the DPU and prevent further attacks. Balraj was engaged in this when the ceasefire was promulgated on Feb 23rd 2002 .


During the ceasefire Balraj was sent to the east at one stage to strengthen LTTE defences. This was after the Karuna revolt.

Balraj was in Vaaharai when the tsunami struck on Dec 26th 2004. Balraj  was on the coast when he saw the huge waves and fired in the air. This alerted the people who saw the waves and they fled inwards. Balraj reportedly had a miraculous escape when he was engulfed by the water.

The last days of Balraj saw his health deteriorate drastically. He used to spend most of his time in a hospital in Puthukkudiyiruppu. Yet he would leave the hospital and undertake prolonged trips to the frontlines inspecting and supervising defences.  

The raising of the 59 division and its deployment in Manal Aaru / Weli Oya created fresh difficulties for the LTTE. Containing the armed forces in this strategically important terrain was of crucial importance.

 Once again Prabakharan turned to Balraj. Despite his ill – health Balraj began staying at the Frontlines for extended periods. This worsened his physical condition.

Finally the end came after he had been bed ridden for two weeks. Thus ended the life of brave commander "Brigadier"Balraj (ENDS)

DBS Jeyaraj can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it









Reactions to President Obama's speech on developments in the Arab World were a striking reminder of just how deep and troubling the disconnect in the US-Israel-Arab relationship, and how dysfunctional politics in the US have become.

Given the historical setting: dramatic changes taking place across the Arab World; the killing of Bin Laden; the floundering Arab-Israeli peace process coming up against the September deadline the President once suggested for the establishment of a Palestinian state; and the Republican Congressional leadership's invitation to Benjamin Netanyahu to address a joint session of Congress - the White House calculated that this was the appropriate time for the President to deliver a speech that framed a comprehensive vision of his administration's Middle East policy.

It was an impressive effort, but the questions that gnawed at me as I sat in the State Department's Benjamin Franklin room listening to the President were "who was the intended audience" and "how would this speech be received by the many audiences who would hear it"?

If directed at an American audience, it was a useful speech. The President's analysis of the Arab Spring was thoughtful and challenging, as was his resolve to "reset" relations with the broader Middle East in the wake of profound changes occurring in that region.

Our current "slash and burn" Congress may not be inclined to act in support of the President's initiatives, dooming them before they get off the ground, but it was important for Obama to challenge them to "put their money where their mouths are".

It was also a humble speech in which the President, at times implicitly and at other times, explicitly acknowledged the limits faced by US diplomacy in the region. He noted that the US did not make the Arab Spring, nor can the US direct its course.

As direct as the President was in addressing this democracy agenda, he was more oblique in his handling of the issue that drew the most post-speech attention - the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It was a valiant effort in which he tried to both lay down markers for Netanyahu while not creating a major confrontation with the pro-Israel lobby that is meeting in Washington.

Obama carefully parsed his words giving something to both sides. For example, he accepted the Palestinian argument that borders and territorial issues should come first, recognising the 1967 borders as the starting point, but then adding the need for "mutually agreed upon land-swaps" in deference to Israel's concern. He rejected the Palestinians' efforts to seek a United Nations' endorsement of their state, but added that the future Palestinian state should have borders with Israel, Jordan and Egypt and be "contiguous" - a slap at Netanyahu's efforts to severe Gaza from Palestine and maintain Israeli control in the Jordan Valley.

He had, of course, much more to say, but most of it had been said before and should not have surprised or shocked anyone. But it did.

The mainstream Press made much ado about the President's speech, with front page headlines and commentaries galore either heralding or denouncing the President's referencing of the "pre-67 borders". They did this despite the fact that President George W Bush had spoken of the 1949 Armistice lines as the starting point for negotiations - those lines being exactly what is meant by the pre-67 borders.

For their part, hardline pro-Israel groups became hysterical denouncing the President for ambushing Netanyahu, embracing a Hamas agenda, and condemning Israel to live within "Auschwitz" borders"!

Meanwhile, in the Arab World, the speech fell flat. Not interested in nuance or the careful parsing of terms, the speech the Arabs heard was too tired and too careful, in no significant way advancing the discussion beyond the Cairo speech of 2009.

And herein lies the problem. What the administration saw as a necessary, though risky, step at home, ended up outraging hardline Israelis, becoming partisan fodder at home, and being seen as "too little, too late" by many Arabs.

And this is only the beginning of what will no doubt be a most troubling week for US Middle East diplomacy.







O ther than in the Middle East, the only time I ever spent working outside Scotland was a brief two-year sojourn in England. At the end of the 1970s I was for a while the industrial correspondent of the Peterborough Evening Telegraph.

Given that this was during a period known as the winter of discontent, in spite of the fact that it stretched through a couple of summers it was a fairly interesting time to be covering industry.

There was a strike every other week.

But while covering the industrial turmoil of pre-Thatcher Britain was interesting, Peterborough most certainly was not.

So, when I got homesick I applied for a job as a financial correspondent back in Scotland.

Back then I knew absolutely nothing about finance and precious little about economics which is probably why I got the job.

The then financial editor of that esteemed publication seemed to be under the impression that monetarism was something to do with French painters and he clearly favoured a candidate who was as mystified about business as himself.

One of the first stories I wrote was about a slump in profitability at United Biscuits as a result of industrial action by their unions the previous year.

As someone who had come from a tabloid background I wrote pretty short intros and started the story with a line about UB profits crashing on the back of strikes.

A somewhat supercilious chief sub-editor pointed out to me that no matter what happened in Peterborough, in The Scotsman vehicles were occasionally involved in collisions - nothing crashed.

News reporters, over a light libation at lunchtime, were regularly asking me if I did not miss hard news and did I not find business boring.

I remember one reporter in particular telling me about how exciting the following day's debates at the then extremely left-wing Edinburgh District Council were likely to be and sneering - what are you doing tomorrow.

I was going to the Paris Air Show.

The point here is that as a kid from a council estate in the East End of Glasgow I have spent rather a lot of time flying business class and staying in five star hotels as part of my job.

When Guinness were fighting to take over the Scotch Whisky Industry the losing Distillers Company flew me to Paris and put me up in the Hotel de Crillon in Place de la Concorde.

Someone else once put me up in the Dolder Grand in Zurich for the launch of some technology stock on the local stock market, though for the life of me I can't remember their names.

Which brings me to the point.

One of the things you never seem to come across in five star hotels are maids.

They seem to spring into action the minute you leave your room and disappear long before you return.

So how come a maid walked into Dominique Strauss-Kahn's hotel room in New York?

More to the point, the minute she spotted him why did she not immediately leave?

Until the other week, outside of politics and finance, most people would probably not have heard of Strauss-Kahn outside France.

But he is quite clearly one of the most powerful men on the planet.

Unlike US presidents and British prime ministers he may not be able to launch wars against Iraq and Afghanistan. But the French gave up launching wars a long time ago.

But he can walk into a meeting in Europe and demand changes in Ireland's fiscal policy or demand liberalisation of Greek state industries. And he can get away with it.

It strikes me as unbelievable that the New York hotel he was staying in had not briefed all of its staff about the importance of this guest.

Certainly anyone who was going to come into contact with him would know who he was.

Yet the maid, who will undoubtedly never make up a hotel bed again in her life after she has sold her story to the media, claims she did not know who he was.

I do not think I have ever written a positive thing about the IMF in my life because they are an institution I do not like.

But something stinks here.

By the time Mr Strauss-Kahn appeared in court he had been headline news on every newspaper and television station around the world.

Everyone suddenly knew who he was and what he looked like.

So why did a US court refuse him bail?

If you are that famous you are hardly a flight risk when your face is on the front of every newspaper in the US.

The other week I was pointing out that I do not subscribe much to conspiracy theories. But something is not right here.

We have a guy who is French and was in the running to become the next president of France.

The Americans do not like the French and, over Iraq, tried to have what we in Scotland call chips but the yanks call French fries renamed.

Even George W Bush could not sell freedom fries to the fast food industry.

For Mr Strauss-Kahn what is probably even worse than being French in the eyes of the US is the fact that he is a socialist.

Exactly who would want to set him up for a fall I do not know.

I do not doubt the possibility that he may well be an idiot who is guilty of the allegations.

As far as the world's media is concerned he has already been tried and found guilty and even if he is proven innocent his reputation and career have been destroyed.

Great banking cover-up?

Dubai Bank was this week fully nationalised by the Government of Dubai to provide support to the bank and the Dubai banking system.

This move, widely anticipated restored faith not only in Dubai Bank but also in the Dubai government's willingness and ability to support its own banks.

The Dubai banking system has appeared a bit shaky for some time and the government has been stamping on corruption that was apparently rife across its financial system.

Three years ago two Bahrain-based British bankers got caught up in this clampdown.

Charles Ridley and Ryan Cornelius have been in a Dubai jail ever since having been charged with conspiring to defraud the state-run Dubai Islamic Bank of $501 million.

Last year a judge in the Dubai court ruled that they had no case to answer and dismissed the case.

The prosecution immediately filed further charges and the other week a new judge sentenced both men to 10 years in jail with the possibility of serving a further 20 years if they could not pay a $501m fine.

Double jeopardy does not appear to operate in Dubai courts.

Now here is an interesting thing. This fraud was apparently carried out in 2007. Yet if you look at the accounts of Dubai Islamic Bank since then there is no mention of a $501m loss.

Has DIB hidden this loss from its investors and depositors? Why is this loss not shown in DIB's audited financial statements for 2007 which are available on DIB's website? If the announcement of this loss has deliberately been withheld what other unpleasant surprises might also be hidden - not just by DIB but also in the balance sheets of other Dubai banks?

Whilst the takeover of Dubai Bank has been greeted with admiration and at the same time relief by the banking community, there remain serious questions concerning the health of the Dubai banking system particularly when losses of this magnitude, now it would seem for more than three years, are only now coming to public light.

DIB's current management needs to clarify the position of their loss, a loss that could continue to destabilise Dubai's banks and lead to further need for urgent Dubai government support.

If there is no loss then why are two British bankers in jail for a fraud that cost the bank nothing? - ARTHUR MACDONALD










There were several factors behind the decision to adopt the new stance.

What matters first and foremost is the increasing wave of diplomatic recognition of the new Palestinian state, which is an issue that is going to be discussed next September during the United Nations General Assembly. So far, 134 countries have recognized the Palestinian state located in territories inside the 1967 borders. This means that more than two thirds of the members of the UN General Assembly have recognized the fundamental right of the Palestinians to enjoy full membership in the UN. In the event that Palestine's accession to the UN is ratified, the United States and Israel would be obliged to respect the vote of the international community, but Israel does not recognize the 1967 borders and it is continuing to build settlements in the West Bank.

Recent regional developments have created a new atmosphere for dealing with the issue of Palestine. Last week was the 63nd anniversary of Nakba Day (Catastrophe Day), in which Israel celebrated its ill-fated creation and Arabs grieved over their loss. But this year's Nakba Day was totally different. Hundreds of thousands of displaced Palestinians marched toward Israel's borders with Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip. This represents an awakening in the Palestinian community. The third generation of Palestinian refugees, whose forefathers were silent for 63 years, has come to the border, demanding the right to return to their homeland. This is undoubtedly the direct result of the Islamic awakening in the region, which is threatening Israel more than ever.

The U.S. is also confronted with new challenges resulting from the Islamic awakening. So many years of support for Israel have not only put U.S. national interests in danger but have also cost Washington dearly in other ways. Therefore, the U.S. is attempting to come to terms with some new realities.

Modern Palestinian society is completely different than what it was in the past. It is greatly influenced by the current wave of awakening. There are many groupings on social networking websites calling for a rebellion against Acting Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. This shows that the man who honored the Oslo Accords and regards himself as an ally of Israel and the West will face huge protests by the Palestinian people. Therefore, the signing of a peace agreement could help the U.S. and Israel maintain their ally in power in the region.

Despite all this, Israel is still insisting on its previous rhetoric. The current Israeli administration is under intense internal political pressure. The latest meeting between Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was a clear sign of such a misunderstanding. Obama asked the Israelis to return to the 1967 borders, but Netanyahu rejected the proposal out of hand.

According to reports by Israeli news agencies, there have been more than 30 meetings and conferences in Israel about the new developments in the region. The participants reached the conclusion that Israel must swiftly change its stance toward the Palestinians and the Arabs if it wants to avoid serious challenges to its security.

It is an undeniable fact that the new Middle East is very different. The wave of popular uprisings is not just a series of small protests that can be dealt with through crackdowns and bombardments. It is a devastating tsunami that is going to sweep Israel away.






I wonder what the U.S. Administration makes of the idiom that includes the words pot, kettle and black.

The reason for this recent musing comes from revelations that a stash of pornography was found during the infamous Abbottabad raid in Pakistan by U.S. Navy seals.

Not only did the Obama gang boast that they'd finally got the world's most wanted man but they gleefully revealed a few days later that among the "millions" of intelligence documents was a pile of porn.

Of course we've not seen an ounce of evidence to support either of these claims, so not surprisingly there are those demanding that the Americans either 'put up or shut up'.

Obama argues he will not release pictures depicting the Al-Qaeda leader's death because they are too graphic and could offend and inflame Muslims across the world.

It's an odd argument since he then sees no problem in allowing people to think the Al-Qaeda leader wiled away his days with his head buried in dirty magazines.

But quite frankly, ever since the WMD lies peddled by the U.S. Government to justify the invasion and war in Iraq were exposed most people hold a healthy skepticism towards any official statements coming out of Capitol Hill.

The gullible truly want to believe their government and so they do, but cynics -- and they are growing in number even in America these days -- recognize weak, transparent propaganda when they see it.

And the OBL porn revelations were indeed weak, highly predictable but also hypocritical. I say this because if you chip beneath the thin veneer of U.S. respectability and family values the country is awash with X-rated smut.

Had Osama bin Laden checked in to the Marriott, Westin or Hilton hotel chains in America he could have had his pick of X-rated in-room, movies.

I'm told that demand is so high that the blue movie business generates more money than hotel mini-bars.

In Obama's Apple Pie America, cable and satellite companies pump pornography into millions of homes where the American Dream has, for some, become X-rated.

And the Americans are keen to share -- I remember one of the first things that followed the arrival of U.S. forces in Afghanistan was the sex industry.

Scores of channels promoting straight and gay porn suddenly became readily available on television sets without even the need to subscribe.

Yes, I bet that really helped Tony Blair and George W. Bush's crusade to liberate Afghan women.

The internet is also awash with obscene material which exploits women, and it is downloaded daily from U.S. military bases across the world -- some sites are so patriotic they even offer their services free of charge to those serving Uncle Sam.

The scale of the problem is so vast that 12 years ago Congress banned sales of sexually explicit material on military bases to keep the Christian right happy but it was never rigorously enforced.

I can reveal that certainly in Guantanamo the porn industry was very much in evidence when I visited with a documentary crew.

You'll have to take my word for it because the Gitmo PR team that escorted me around the base in May 2008 stopped me from filming the shelf racks at the local shop which was awash with dodgy magazines and videos. I still remember one lurid title "Debbie Does Dallas" sitting next to Penthouse.

I thought it would make a sharp contrast to the filming we'd just done in the library used by the Guantanamo detainees where shelves were filled with English classics, Islamic works and copies of the National Geographic.

Of course the reading material accessed by the detainees was specially selected by the authorities but perhaps the Pentagon should be equally selective over the material its soldiers access because there is a link between sexual predators and their reading and viewing material.

Just a few weeks ago 17 veteran and active-duty soldiers filed a lawsuit against the Pentagon. They accuse the U.S. military of permitting a culture that tolerates rape and sexual assault.

Reports show that as many as 3,250 reported rapes or other sexual assaults took place in the U.S. military, in 2009 alone. Military sources admit the unreported incidents could be as high as 16,000 because 80 percent of the victims may not have reported the incidents for fear of reprisal.

Instead of peddling silly propaganda about the