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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

EDITORIAL 24.05.11

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Editorial

month may 24, edition 000840, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul

 

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

For ENGLISH  EDITORIAL  http://editorialsamarth.blogspot.com

THE PIONEER

  1. MAYHEM IN KARACHI
  2. BHARDWAJ MUST GO
  3. GRABBING LAND FROM FARMERS - SANDHYA JAIN
  4. TERROR IN GOD'S NAME - AMBREEN AGHA
  5. IN THE END, IT'S BACK TO CONFLICT - SALMAN SHAIKH
  6. TURNING THE SCREWS ON BASHAR ASSAD

THE TIMES OF INDIA

  1. GET GOING NOW
  2. THAT INDIA LENS
  3. BLINDLY INTO THE ABYSS - BACHI KARKARIA
  4. THEY DESERVE RECOGNITION
  5. AWARD BRILLIANCE, NOT FLUFF - SRIJANA MITRA DAS
  6. WALK, DON'T RUN - RAGHU KRISHNAN

HINDUSTAN TIMES

  1. THE ENEMY IS INSIDE THE GATE
  2. GIVE US A SIGN
  3. HE'S A RETIRING SORT
  4. YES, TOGETHER WE CAN - TIMOTHY ROEMER
  5. FAMILY COMES LATER - RAMACHANDRA GUHA

THE INDIAN EXPRESS

  1. CALL HIM BACK
  2. TRIAL RUN
  3. SEASON'S END
  4. OUT TO AFRICA - C. RAJA MOHAN
  5. DELIVERING ON DEMOCRACY - PRANABDHALSAMANTA
  6. 'THE IDEAL WAY TO BRIDGE THE SKILL GAP IS TO PRIVATISE THE EDUCATION SYSTEM' - SHEKHAR GUPTA

THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

  1. NOT TOO BAD, CONSIDERING...
  2. FUELLING REFORM
  3. HOBBLE AND MUDDLE - MOHAMED A EL-ERIAN
  4. UNTANGLING URBAN TRANSPORT - PRODIPTO GHOSH

THE HINDU

  1. PAKISTAN'S ENEMY WITHIN
  2. KILLER ROADS
  3. MENDING THE FOOD SECURITY ACT  - JEAN DRÈZE
  4. DON'T LEAVE AFGHANISTAN, INDIA TOLD U.S.  - B. MURALIDHAR REDDY
  5. 'PAKISTAN'S ACTIONS AT THE UN MAY EMBOLDEN OTHER MEMBER STATES TO OPPOSE U.S. POSITIONS'  - SURESH NAMBATH
  6. WE ARE NOT AS ADVANCED AS YOU ARE IN RESPECT FOR FREEDOM OF RELIGION, PAKISTAN TOLD U.S.  - SURESH NAMBATH
  7. U.S. SURPRISED, HAPPY AT SAARC OBSERVER OFFER  - B. MURALIDHAR REDDY

DAILY EXCELSIOR

  1. CM'S JANATA DURBAR
  2. SOCIAL SERVICE CONCEPTS
  3. AFTER OSAMA EPISODEINDIA, PAKISTAN RELATIONS - BY COL J P SINGH, RETD
  4. BRICS: CHINA MUST MEND ITS ATTITUDE - BY DR ASHWANI MAHAJAN
  5. POWER SHORTAGE HITTING GROWTH - BY NANTOO BANERJEE

THE TRIBUNE

  1. A LACKLUSTRE BEGINNING
  2. "REVENGE" ATTACK
  3. PALESTINIAN HOMELAND
  4. PM'S PRODUCTIVE KABUL VISIT - BY INDER MALHOTRA
  5. BABE DI FULL KIRPA - BY V. K. KAPOOR
  6. TOWARDS PEACE FOR BALUCHISTAN - I.A REHMAN
  7. JUDICIAL SNUB FOR ZARDARI - SYED NOORUZZAMAN
  8. STAGNATING PAK ECONOMY - SAKIB SHERANI

BUSINESS STANDARD

  1. UPA'S STOCK-TAKING
  2. QUOTE, UNQUOTE
  3. IMBALANCE AMONG ECONOMISTS - AJIT RANADE
  4. THE CASE FOR MAKING FEWER FILMS  - VANITA KOHLI-KHANDEKAR
  5. MAJORITY RULES - A K BHATTACHARYA
  6. PHILIP ROTH AND THE MYSTERIES OF TASTE - NILANJANA S ROY

BUSINESS LINE

  1. SIGNAL PROBLEM
  2. RBI BATS FOR BIG MFI AUTONOMY - G. NAGA SRIDHAR
  3. WAYS TO IMPROVE GOVT'S CASH MANAGEMENT  - R. K. PATTNAIK
  4. CRACK CRIME WITH XBRL - S. SWAMINATHAN
  5. RETHINKING IDEOLOGIES  - ADITI NIGAM

THE ECONOMIC TIMES

  1. TWO YEARS AFTER
  2. PRICE OF STIMULUS
  3. GOING GREEN
  4. SAFARI WITH THE PEOPLE
  5. THROUGH THE THIRD EYE
  6. A NEW, INTELLIGENT AGE  - JEBY CHERIAN

MUMBAI MIRROR

  1. WHICH ONE IS YOUR IPL?

DECCAN CHRONICLE

  1. REIN IN PRICES, CREATE JOBS. THEN CELEBRATE
  2. THAT '70S SHOW
  3. WHY IS UPA GOVERNMENT SO NERVOUS?
  4. RAPE & HYPOCRISY
  5. A TICKET TO THE FUTURE
  6. THE WISE & THE FOOLS

THE STATESMAN

  1. BLAND BIRTHDAY
  2. KMC NET WIDENS
  3. SPURIOUS DRUGS
  4. WHO RULES AMERICA? - BY RAJINDER PURI
  5. YEDDYURAPPA IN COMFORT ZONE  - TYAGARAJ SHARMA
  6. THE FREE TICKET  - SOMDATTA MANDAL
  7. RELEASING POLITICAL PRISONERS NOT ENOUGH: UN

THE TELEGRAPH

  1. SECOND COMING
  2. HARD CHOICES
  3. ADVICE TO COMMUNISTS
  4. TIME FOR NEW LESSONS  - MALVIKA SINGH
  5. WINNING LESSONS FOR THE FUTURE  - COMMENTARAO S.L. RAO
  6. LOST IN THE MIST

DECCAN HERALD

  1. NO REMORSE
  2. THE SIEGE WITHIN
  3. MARXISTS AT CROSSROADS  - SUDHANSHU RANJAN
  4. EMISSIONS TRADING SHOWN INEFFECTIVE  - HAZEL HENDERSON
  5. RUSH-HOUR DENTISTS  - K J SHENOY

HAARETZ

  1. JEWISH RESPONSIBILITY
  2. JUST BLUFF AND DECEPTION  - BY NEHEMIA SHTRASLER
  3. THE SPOILER  - BY MOSHE ARENS
  4. THE INTIFADA THAT WASN'T - BY OUDEH BASHARAT
  5. OBAMA AT CANOSSA  - BY ANER SHALEV

THE NEWYORK TIMES

  1. OBAMA AT CANOSSA  - BY ANER SHALEV
  2. A BUDGET WITHOUT CORE PURPOSES, TAXATION WITHOUT COMPASSION - BY EDUARDO PORTER
  3. CHILLING ECHOES FROM SEPT. 11
  4. WHEN AUSTERITY FAILS - BY PAUL KRUGMAN
  5. WHEN THE INTERNET THINKS IT KNOWS YOU - BY ELI PARISER

HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

  1. GETTING IT WRONG ON BIG OIL TAX BREAKS
  2. CAROLINE BAUM
  3. 'CHUTZPAH' IS FINE BUT WHAT ABOUT 'HUBRIS?'
  4. OPPOSITION, RULING PARTIES MAKE GAINS IN GREEK CYPRIOT POLL - YUSUF KANLI
  5. THE REAL CRAZY PROJECT - AHMET İNSEL
  6. WHY WE HAVE SUPPORTED THE COUPS? - MEHMET ALİ BİRAND
  7. BAILOUT OR RESTRUCTURING? - ERDOĞAN ALKİN

THE NEWS

  1. AN EPIC FAILURE
  2. KHAROTABAD
  3. NOW OR NEVER  - AYAZ WAZIR
  4. POWER SECTOR CRISIS: SOME RECOMMENDATIONS  - DR ASHFAQUE H KHAN
  5. Major political shift in India  - Praful Bidwai
  6. GOVERNMENT BY DECEPTION  - AHMED QURAISHI
  7. TIME FOR PEACE TALKS  - DR MALEEHA LODHI
  8. OBAMA AND THE ME  - RIZWAN ASGHAR

PAKISTAN OBSERVER

  1. TERRORIST ATTACK ON NAVAL AIRBASE…
  2. TAKE NATION INTO CONFIDENCE…
  3. SOMEONE SHOULD ACCEPT RESPONSIBILITY & QUIT
  4. SQUABBLE OVER SIR CREEK REMAINS! - KHALID SALEEM
  5. WHY STRAUSS-KAHN HAD TO GO? - ALI ASHRAF KHAN
  6. OBLIVIOUS OF EMERGING THREATS - MOHAMMAD JAMIL
  7. CAN US GRAB PAK NUKES? - M SULEMAN SHAHID
  8. WORLD ACCORDING TO HENRY KISSINGER - PHILIP SHERWELL

THE AUSTRALIYAN

  1. LESS GETUP! MORE MAINSTREAM
  2. GOING IT ALONE IS POINTLESS
  3. BE BOLD, BARRY - POWER IN NSW IS RIPE FOR REFORM

THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

  1. LIFE SENTENCES WON'T DO JUSTICE
  2. THE CLIMATE CRUNCH
  3. SERVICES AND PUBLIC FAIL THE DYING

THE GUARDIAN

  1. SPAIN: LOOK FORWARD IN ANGER
  2. PRIVACY: THE HIGH POLITICS OF LOW GOSSIP
  3. IN PRAISE OF ... FOREVER YOUNG

THE JAPAN TIMES

  1. DIFFICULTY AWAITS IN RECONSTRUCTION
  2. JAPAN'S GDP TAKES A HIT
  3. INDIA'S STIRRING MIDDLE CLASS - BY RAMESH THAKUR
  4. DISORGANIZED DREAMS OF EGYPTIAN DEMOCRATS - BY ESTHER DYSON

THE JAKARTA POST

  1. THE NON-ALIGNED ENGAGEMENT
  2. PENI HANGGARINI
  3. OVERCOMING THE THREAT OF POPULATION BOOM - SUDIRMAN NASIR
  4. INDIA'S NAVAL MODERNIZATION PROGRAM ( PART 2 OF 2 ) - BRUNO ALEXANDER DE PAIVA  
  5. SRI LANKA: CONFRONTING THE KILLING FIELDS - STEVE CRAWSHAW

DAILY MIRROR

  1. CRICKET ELECTION OR SKANDAKUMAR REPORT?
  2. SHE IS NO MORE – YET CONTINUES TO BE
  3. THE ANTI-NATO PROTESTS
  4. SOME THUGS CAN'T EVEN NAME THEMSELVES…
  5. PREMATURE GOODBYES TO SCHOOL-LIFE
  6. WILL LEADERSHIP TRAINING PROGRAMMES BE OF VALUE?
  7. SACRED SCRIPTURES AND INALIENABLE RIGHTS  - BY JEEWAN THIYAGARAJA
  8. IS SRI LANKA REVOLVING OR DEVOLVING?

GULF DAILY NEWS

1.      KICKING IDEAS AROUND...    - BY B COMBER

 

TEHRAN TIMES

  1. HOW MANY SEALS DIED? - BY PAUL CRAIG ROBERTS
  2. NEVER-ENDING IDEOLOGICAL WAR IN AFGHANISTAN - BY KAYHAN BARZEGAR 

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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

MAYHEM IN KARACHI

PAKISTAN GETS A TASTE OF TERROR IT HAS SPAWNED


Pakistan is clearly imploding, with jihadis raised and nurtured lovingly by that country's Army and its super terrorist outfit, the ISI (politicians of all shades have been complicit in this criminal enterprise) turning on their masters with increasing audacity and frightening ferocity. The perpetrators of cross-border terrorism are now getting a taste of the murder and mayhem they have exported with impunity all these years, sniggering at the sorrow and plight of their victims. The boot, truly, is now on the other foot and it ill suits Pakistan to complain: It's time for just deserts. Nor should the US, of which Pakistan is a pampered major non-Nato ally whose manifest vices miraculously transmogrify into virtues when perceived by American eyes, have reason to feel upset. After all, to paraphrase a popular adage, those who live by terror are bound to be struck down by terrorists — sooner or later. As much was demonstrated in Karachi on Sunday night when a group of Pakistani Taliban desperadoes sneaked into Faisal Airbase using a riverine route (in a manner remarkably similar to Pakistani terrorists sneaking into Mumbai) and ran amok, blowing up at least two US-supplied P3C Orion maritime surveillance aircraft and other facilities. The high-security area where the attack occurred houses the Pakistani Air Force's Southern Air Command, Air War College and museum, as well as PNS Mehran, which is the main naval air station in Karachi. Since nothing that the Government of Pakistan says can be relied upon for veracity, we will never get to know the exact extent of damage inflicted by Pakistanis on what their Navy chief has described as "national assets". What we do know is that at least 10 security personnel have died in the attack; whether there were casualties among the Chinese and American citizens present at the base remains unknown. It has been claimed that four of the six terrorists involved in the attack have been killed; the other two have escaped to wage jihad another day.


Much as it is true that Pakistan has invited jihadi violence upon itself and is undeserving of either sympathy or pity, there is, however, cause for concern if not alarm. The ease with which the Taliban secured access to what is supposed to be a high-security zone under surveillance by special forces indicates that other military bases are equally vulnerable. Which, in turn, would suggest that fears of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal falling into the hands of the Taliban and Al Qaeda are not entirely misplaced or unjustified. In the past on two ocassions there have been unconfirmed reports of terrorists trying to gain access to sites where missiles, and possibly nuclear warheads, are based. Those attacks may have failed but it is obvious that with time the jihadis have further honed their skills. Hence, any assurances that emanate from either Islamabad or Rawalpindi about Pakistan's nuclear weapons stockpile being "safe and secure" should be taken with a generous fistful of salt. Interestingly enough, the US Administration, despite putting up a brave face, knows well enough that the danger of jihadis gaining access to Pakistani nuclear weapons is very real. Yet, there is little or no American pressure on Pakistan to secure its armoury. On the contrary, the Americans continue to let the Pakistanis add more bombs to their nuclear arsenal!

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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

BHARDWAJ MUST GO

HE HAS DEMEANED THE GOVERNOR'S OFFICE


Karnataka Governor HR Bhardwaj's report to the Union Government recommending dismissal of the State's BJP Government and imposition of President's rule has finally ended where it belonged — in the dustbin. The grounds that Mr Bhardwaj made for the dismissal of Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa's regime were so specious that even the UPA, otherwise itching to foment trouble in BJP-ruled States, could not accept the recommendation. Neither has the State Government lost its majority nor has there been a constitutional breakdown in Karnataka. Law and order is in place too. On what grounds could the Union Government accept the recommendation? The Governor relied on the Supreme Court's verdict quashing the Assembly Speaker's order disqualifying a group of rebel legislators to argue that the earlier trust votes taken by the Chief Minister were fraudulent. This is a strange premise because no court of law has questioned the validity of the confidence votes sought for an secured by Mr Yeddyurappa. Moreover, the trust votes were taken not once but twice in quick succession, and at Mr Bhardwaj's insistence. In seeking the Chief Minister's ouster, the Governor seems to have forgotten that the very same MLAs on the basis of whose 'rebellion' he launched his 'Operation Oust Yeddyurappa' are now with the Government. With so much water having flown under the bridge since last October when the conflict erupted, the Governor should have, in the first place, asked Mr Yeddyurappa to take a fresh vote of confidence. But he did not do so, perhaps because he knew the Chief Minister would secure that vote, now that the rebel legislators, both from within the BJP and the Independents, had returned to the fold and declared their support for Mr Yeddyurappa.


With the conspiracy hatched by him blowing up in his face, Mr Bhardwaj should quit office without delay. The Congress, on its part, would like to present a virtuous face by claiming it did not use the opportunity to sack a BJP Government. But the fact is that the Congress would have found it difficult, if not impossible, to foist that decision on the nation. For one, President's rule would not have passed muster in the Rajya Sabha. Second, for want of constitutional reasons, it would have been struck down by the courts. In both instances, the Congress would have been exposed to pitiless ridicule. The Congress was also mindful of the BJP going on the offensive at a time when the UPA is extremely vulnerable. However, this does not mean that the Congress will give up its efforts to destabilise and dislodge the Yeddyurappa Government; it will merely bide its time and strike at an opportune moment. Hence both Mr Yeddyurappa and the BJP would be well-advised to remain alert and desist from doing anything that will provoke the Congress to strike.

 

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THE PIONEER

COLUMN

GRABBING LAND FROM FARMERS

SANDHYA JAIN


The growing menace of state-driven expropriation of farmland for crony capitalists to build towns and malls is the Indian face of globalisation.


Indian agriculture lost one of its most cogent voices at a time when the farming community across the country is facing the growing menace of state-driven expropriation of land for crony capitalists. This trend, which we may designate as the corporatisation of private property, parallels the other disturbing tendency towards the privatisation of public resources; both may jointly be said to comprise the Indian face of globalisation.

Mahendra Singh Tikait emerged in the public arena in October 1986 to articulate a growing need for modern amenities to make farming productive and remunerative. As founder of the Bharatiya Kisan Union he called a panchayat at his native village, Sisauli, and led a movement against increased power tariff in April 1987. Over three lakh farmers gathered at Karmukheri power station in Muzaffarnagar districtof Uttar Pradesh, compelling then Chief Minister Veer Bahadur Singh, who headed a Congress regime, to roll back the hike.

Shunning politics, Tikait championed the genuine interests of farmers in Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Rajasthan. He cordoned the office of the Meerut divisional commissioner for 25 days in January 1988, and subjugated the Rajiv Gandhi Government with a stunning seven-day dharna at Boat Club, New Delhi, in October 1988, when five lakh farmers swamped the area from Vijay Chowk to India Gate. The Union Government accepted his demands, which included higher prices for sugarcane and waiving of electricity and water charges for farmers.

Tikait's approach of facing the Central or State leadership head-on, and refusing to be drawn into political alignments that could limit the spread and efficacy of his struggle, could have served his people well in the current struggle against forced acquisition of fertile farmland for corporate-driven development projects. But the doughty warrior lost a painful battle to bone cancer on May 15, 2011. The challenge before his political heirs is to reverse the policy of alienating agricultural land for non-agricultural purposes.

What needs changing is the Land Acquisition Act of 1894, whereby Government (as it was during the British Raj) can forcibly acquire private property for what it calls a "public purpose". This needs to be clearly defined. State Governments cannot be allowed to wantonly appropriate the land of farmers, first for Special Economic Zones which gave favoured industrialists land banks to develop mini-cities instead of merely adequate land for a specific industry; and now for shopping malls, housing colonies, and commercial complexes.

The core issue is protection of fertile land, particularly along waterways. We must recognise that financial compensation, no matter how adequate in terms of contemporary market prices, cannot offset the loss of the most fertile land along Ganga and Yamuna to soil-killing concrete high rises. The mindlessness with which the Union and State Governments have embraced this 'development' formula threatens national food security.

In the early decades of independence, the Government acquired land only for projects undertaken by the public sector. While affected groups could have legitimate grievances regarding compensation — because socialist rhetoric kept compensation packages low and civil society activists and fair-minded judges were still in the future — there was no malice in depriving the affected peoples of their land. Land acquired for thermal or hydro-power projects; for satellite launches; Army firing ranges; roads and highways; fell in this category.

Things changed with economic liberalisation. Instead of a level playing field where free market could get them the best price for their land if they wanted to sell, industrialists began to use friendly politicians and State Governments to forcefully acquire huge tracts of land for profiteering at the cost of citizens. Thus, a businessman wanting to set up a steel plant did not want land adequate for the steel mill, but huge surplus tracts that could be 'developed' to commercial advantage by building shopping malls, hotels, housing estates, office complexes, golf courses, etc.

Most of the Indian countryside has already been irreparably ruined by this contractor-driven growth. Readers who have villages to visit on holidays have only to recall the halcyon days when farmlands and large trees dotted the roadside as one left the major cities to realise the extent of industrial encroachment.

When Congress MLA Kuldip Bishnoi raised his voice against the forcible acquisition of farmers' land for a special economic zone for a leading Mumbai-based industrialist, the party high command swiftly cut him to size. But protests spread in other parts of the country — even though the courts found it prudent to remain mute — until finally the then Goa Chief Minister decided that he would not permit any of the three special economic zones cleared for his State to take off.

But by then the crony capitalists had tasted blood, and the malaise of being 'friendly' to industry became endemic. The madness reached its apogee at Singur in West Bengal when the State Government felt it was its public duty to forcibly acquire farmers' land for a private company which felt aggrieved when the effort failed.

Regarding the current conflict in Uttar Pradesh, there is no justice in forcing farmers to sell land at Rs 850 per square metre and allowing a private contractor to make Rs 30,000 per square metre. This is outright loot — another 2G Spectrum scam in the making. The protesting farmers insist they had no idea that their land was being used to build townships — an enterprise that could easily have been conducted in non-fertile, degraded lands elsewhere, and not alongside Yamuna.

Equally pertinent is the traditional farmer wisdom that land alone protects the family from starvation. Compensation disappears easily in fixing the roof, paying engineering college fees, or getting a daughter married. Worse, as most village land is the joint property of an extended family, the division of monetary compensation leaves them with nothing.

The silver lining in the high drama at Bhatta-Parsaul in Greater Noida was Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati's agility in disproving Amethi MP Rahul Gandhi's allegation before the Prime Minister that 74 people had been burnt alive in 70-foot-wide ash mounds, women raped, and houses set on fire by the State Police. Ms Mayawati called the Central Forensic Science Laboratory to take samples for testing; the media rushed to the affected villages but could not substantiate the story. Soon the CFSL said the ash was burnt cowdung — no bones, no explosives were found in the samples. A red-faced Congress has had to deny the scandal as a media 'misquote' two days later, but by then the Prime Minister-in-waiting had nixed his claim to the august office. Mr Manmohan Singh must be enjoying a quiet laugh.

-- The visual accompanying this article is the original poster of the iconic film Do Beegha Zameen produced in 1953.

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THE PIONEER

OPED

TERROR IN GOD'S NAME

AMBREEN AGHA


It is the extremist-terrorist spaces created by Pakistan for state-supported groups that allow them to flourish. Since all of them are mobilised on a pan-Islamist ideology of jihad, it is impossible to distinguish one terrorist group from another


I heard someone shouting 'Allah-o-Akbar' and then I heard a huge blast," Ahmad Ali, a wounded Frontier Constabulary trooper reported, after two suicide bombers attacked FC trainees on May 13 in the Shabqadar tehsil (revenue unit) of Charsadda district, 19 miles from Peshawar, the capital city of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province, killing 73 FC personnel and 17 civilians, and injuring another 140.


Soon after, claiming responsibility for the attack, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan declared, "This was the first revenge for Osama bin Laden's martyrdom. Wait for bigger attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan." Significantly, confirming the death of Osama bin Laden on May 2, 2011, the TTP spokesman had threatened to attack Security Forces. "Pakistan will be the prime target followed by United States. The US had been on a man-hunt for Osama bin Laden and now Pakistani rulers are on our hit-list as we also killed Benazir Bhutto in a suicide attack", the spokesman added in an audio message.


The Osama bin Laden killing, however, is more a platform than cause or provocation. The TTP has been executing a relentless stream of attacks against Pakistani SFs from the moment of its formation in the wake of the Army's Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) operation in 2007, after which suicide bombings targeting the SFs increased dramatically. An Interior Ministry report published on September 17, 2007, conceded that the Lal Masjid military operation had caused an increase in suicide attacks on Army and paramilitary forces. The report also revealed that the SFs were mostly targeted in KP and Federally Administered Tribal Areas. Significantly, the Lal Masjid radicals, prior to their declaration of a parallel judicial system to enforce Islamic laws in Islamabad, were trained and supported by the Inter Services Intelligence to fuel the insurgency in Jammu & Kashmir, a fact confirmed by Shuja Nawaz, author of Crossed Swords: Pakistan, its Army and the Wars Within.

Moreover, the Charsadda district, which borders Pakistan's volatile Mohmand tribal Agency in the FATA, has long been the location of a major Army onslaught against the TTP. Further, Pakistan's alliance with the US and its, albeit ambivalent, 'cooperation' with the US 'war on terror' has further escalated TTP violence against Islamabad and the SFs.


Conspicuously, on April 3, 2011, TTP spokesman Ehsan had reiterated, immediately after the Sakhi Sarwar shrine attack that killed 41 people and injured more than 100, "Our men carried out these attacks and we will carry out more in retaliation for Government operations against our people in the northwest." Four days before Operation Geronimo killed Osama bin Laden, the TTP killed nine persons and injured another 64 in two separate attacks at Naval establishments on April 26 and April 28. Claiming responsibility for these attacks, the TTP spokesman had declared, "Security Forces will be targeted in the future as well, because they are killing their own people in Waziristan and elsewhere on the behest of the US. Our organisation is still strong in cities of Pakistan".

Between 2001 and May 15, 2011, 423 incidents in which the Armed Forces were directly targeted, have been recorded, accounting for at least 1,322 SF personnel killed, and another 2,582 injured. This data includes the fatalities that occurred as a result of direct attacks either on a military camp, a Police check post or a SF convoy. Overall fatalities among the SFs, including a range of other terrorist incidents in which the SFs were not the primary target, stood at 3,631 over the same period.

Even more troubling is the fact that, despite the mounting SF fatalities in terrorist attacks across the country, there appears to be a substantial extremist infiltration into the military, and vice versa. Covert state support has hardened and strengthened extremist elements over the years. Immediately after the May 13 suicide attack, an unnamed Police official was reported to concede, "Certainly, the militants have an effective networking and some insiders may be leaking information to them."

More obviously, there is clear collusion between a range of Islamist terrorist formations and the Army and intelligence establishment in Pakistan, even as the SFs struggle to contain 'renegade' groups that have escaped or rebelled against military-intelligence control. The Osama killing itself, within the garrison town of Abbottabad and in close proximity to major military establishments, fairly clearly established the link between state security structures and the terrorist forces. Pakistan's Army and military intelligence apparatus has evident links with terrorist networks within the country. It is, indeed, the extremist-terrorist spaces created for state supported groups that allow the anti-state groups to flourish as well, since all these are mobilised on a pan-Islamist ideology of jihad that makes clear distinctions between cadres of different groups impossible.

Crucially, it is continuing state support to Afghanistan and India directed terrorist groupings that provides the context for domestic terrorism of the TTP variety. Indeed, Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, has repeatedly accused the ISI of having ties with the Afghan Taliban in the Northwest tribal belt, specifying, further, the links between the Pakistani military intelligence and the Haqqani network, an Al Qaeda allied outfit run by Sirajuddin Haqqani and based in the North Waziristan district of FATA. These links have further been confirmed by statements of Pakistani detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, disclosed by WikiLeaks. According to the testimony of one such detainee, Ziaul Shah, his direct supervisor in the Afghan Taliban was a man named Qari Saleem Ahmed, the 'commander' of the Punjab Chapter of Taliban, who was reportedly arrested around 1999 for being a member of the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, Harkatul Jihad al Islami and Lashkar-e-Tayyeba with "connections to subversive elements of the ISI". In another revelation, on April 12, 2011, Pakistani-American terrorist David Coleman Headley alias Daood Gilani and Pakistani-Canadian terrorist Tahawwur Hussain Rana, who allegedly planned and aided the attacks in Mumbai (November 26, 2008, also known as 26/11), implicated the Pakistani Government and the ISI in the attack.

In its second chargesheet in the 26/11 attacks, the US Government has named a serving ISI officer, Major Iqbal, as a key conspirator charged with providing funds to Headley. Major Iqbal, posted in Lahore during 2007 and 2008, was handling David Coleman Headley on behalf of the ISI. He provided $25,000 and fake Indian currency notes to Headley, to meet the latter's expenses during surveillance operations in India. Headley provided all his surveillance videos first to Major Iqbal and then to the LeT.

Such revelations only add to Pakistan's culture of impunity, with terrorists often going scot-free. The SFs have, of course, launched widespread campaigns against the TTP and some other renegade terrorist factions, including indiscriminate bombing and artillery barrages targeting civilian clusters across KP and FATA. Indeed, Chief of Army Staff, General Ashfaq Kayani, in his address at Kakul, the Military Academy at Abbottabad on April 23, 2011, had boasted, "The Army has broken the back of militants linked to Al Qaeda and TTP and the nation will soon prevail over this menace." The data on fatalities, however, does not indicate any dramatic diminution in the capabilities of anti-Islamabad formations such as the TTP, even as state supported groupings such as the Taliban and the LeT, among others, continue to flourish with visible state support. Despite the rising instability within, and the escalating international pressure on Islamabad, it is evident that the terrorist state, operating in the name of Allah, and its many terrorist proxies and renegades, remain alive and vibrant within Pakistan.

-- The writer is a research assistant with Institute for Conflict Management.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

IN THE END, IT'S BACK TO CONFLICT

SALMAN SHAIKH

 

Obama has pressed another reset button in order to restart Arab-Israel peace talks. But other than a vague call for the US, West Asia quartet and Arab states to get beyond the current impasse he has offered no way forward

It is often said by people in West Asia, especially Israelis and Palestinians, that "in the end, we always come back to the Arab-Israeli conflict". That is exactly what happened on Thursday, May 19, when US President Barack Obama delivered a major policy speech at the State Department, introducing new principles for negotiations based on 1967 borders, and this past weekend, when at least 10 unarmed protesters were killed by Israeli fire on a day the Palestinians call the "Nakba," or "Catastrophe". The Arab-Israeli conflict is once again front and center.


But if the broad brush strokes of this story are by now painfully familiar, the context and the particulars of this week may point to a different kind of flare-up while the US seeks to restart peace talks. There is, of course, the Arab Spring: The Palestinians see the new narrative of the Arab revolts for greater freedoms, justice, and equality joining their own decades-old search for the same, and for a state of their own. For Israelis, Sunday, May 15, was the day when the Arab awakening washed up on their own still provisional borders, reminding them yet again of how vulnerable they are and how isolated they have become.


Coordinated protests on Israel's 1949 armistice lines with Syria and Lebanon — as well as in the West Bank, Gaza, Egypt, and Jordan — have alarmed many Israelis and raised concerns that Israel lacks the practical means to counter mass demonstrations in the future. In fact, only a heavy security presence near the Egyptian and Jordanian borders with Israel prevented protesters from besieging these areas as well. Israelis are realising the tangible effects of a rapidly changing region in which old certainties are dying and fears of a return to conflict are revived.


Palestinian refugees, meanwhile, used the tools of today's revolutions — the Internet in general and Facebook in particular — to organise protests and assert their right to return to their homes in what is now Israel. An estimated 6,00,000 Palestinians are on Facebook in the West Bank and Gaza alone, and nearly one-third of them are thought to be politically influenced by social media. When Fatah and Hamas finally signed a reconciliation agreement two weeks ago in Cairo, they were responding in part to a campaign for Palestinian unity organised by Internet activists that had managed to mobilise thousands in both the West Bank and Gaza. Emboldened by these developments, activists are organising more mass protests and marches to pressure Israel, the international community, and their own leadership as the Palestinian-imposed deadline for statehood approaches in September.


What made this year's Nakba Day all the more remarkable, though, were the events along the Syrian-Israeli de facto border. Thirty-eight years of near-total calm along the nearly 50-mile frontier were shattered as dozens of Palestinian protesters trampled their way through the security fence into the Israel-occupied Golan Heights. The event marked a failure for Israeli intelligence and the military and showed the impotence of the 1,250-member United Nations observer force established to monitor the 1974 Separation of Forces Agreement. It also showed that Bashar al-Assad's Baathist regime is ready to export instability if necessary, especially to Israel; given the degree of restrictions on movement in the area, it is inconceivable that the protesters could have reached the security fence without the acquiescence and participation of the Syrian authorities and security forces.

With the situation in Syria likely to worsen in the weeks ahead, was the breach a power play from a regime determined to reinforce the point that only it can ensure stability? Or was this a means of diverting attention from Syria's own crackdown and bolstering Mr Assad's credentials as a resistance regime against Israel? In fact, it was likely both. The move may have backfired, however, leading Israel's military to conclude that Assad and his regime cannot be relied upon to deliver calm along their sensitive border. With May 15's events, the assertion that only with Mr Assad comes stability and after him there is chaos has already been turned on its head. This is the moment for the international community to send a clear signal that it will not tolerate being blackmailed by the Assad regime, especially when the region's stability and security are at stake.

Mr Obama's speech on Thursday proved that American and Israeli leaders can put off talking about these issues, but not for long. The President's mention of the 1967 borders as a basis for talks with the Palestinians provoked a sharp response from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu even before he got on the plane to Washington, where he is due to meet with Mr Obama on May 20 and speak to a joint session of Congress on May 24. Mr Netanyahu rejected Israel's withdrawal to such "indefensible" borders. As Haaretz columnist Aluf Benn opined in his recent editorial, Mr Netanyahu's aim is to bolster Israel's defences against the third intifada — not present major concessions.


By offering ideas on future security arrangements for a demilitarised Palestinian state as well as borders, Mr Obama has finally laid out parameters on two of the four main issues (the others being Jerusalem and refugees) of the conflict. He also stressed the importance of a contiguous and viable Palestinian state that borders Egypt and Jordan, but rejected the idea that Palestinians could establish a state through a vote at the United Nations in September.

The problem is that these ideas have come two years too late. The parties aren't speaking to one another, and their last attempt to do so only showed how far apart they are. There are also serious doubts as to whether the US President has the political will and political strategy to push both Israelis and Palestinians as he campaigns for reelection. At best, Mr Obama has pressed another reset button in order to start talks. He has not explained a clear way forward other than a vague call for the US, West Asia quartet, and Arab states "to continue every effort to get beyond the current impasse". Meanwhile, Palestinian leaders, particularly President Mahmoud Abbas, feel freed by the Palestinian unity deal and will likely pursue their efforts for recognition of a Palestinian state at the United Nations if serious negotiations do not start soon — despite Mr Obama's explicit rejection of this move.


This year's changes in West Asia and North Africa have had a profound impact on the prospects for peace in the region. The people of the Arab world are no longer willing to play by the old rules, in which peacemaking is determined by Israel's security concerns and the US's electoral calendar. There is a growing impatience to ensure justice for the Palestinians and a state of their own. Serious moves are required, therefore, to establish two states, Israel and Palestine, this year. The situation requires a new international effort similar to the Madrid conference that followed the first Gulf War in 1991. Back then, it was US leadership that brought new impetus to achieve peace between Arabs and Israelis. This time, clear parameters on borders and security arrangements, as presented by Mr Obama on Thursday, as well as the other core issues, could provide the basis and impetus for a final-status deal.


Failing that, the relevance of both Israeli concerns and American efforts will continue to recede as the Palestinians seize the initiative in an environment dictated by Arab popular will. It promises to be a long, hot summer in West Asia.


-- The writer is the Director, Brookings Doha Center.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

TURNING THE SCREWS ON BASHAR ASSAD

EU SANCTIONS ARE A SIGNIFICANT BLOW TO SYRIA'S PRESIDENT, SAYS DON MELVIN


The European Union imposed sanctions on Syrian President Bashar Assad because of his Government's continuing crackdown on anti-Government protesters, in which more than 900 people have reportedly been killed.

The 27-nation bloc instituted an assets freeze and a visa ban on Mr Assad and nine other members of his regime. Earlier this month, the EU sanctioned 13 people with links to the Syrian regime, but Mr Assad was not among them. A European official said at the time that the omission was part of a deliberately gradual approach.

But the killing of anti-Government protesters has continued unabated. Syrian security forces opened fire on a funeral procession for slain anti-Government protesters on Saturday, pushing the number of people reported killed in the two-month uprising to more than 900 and making it one of the deadliest of the recent uprisings in the Arab world.

Georges Chachan, an exiled opposition figure, welcomed the sanctions on Mr Assad. "It was about time," said Chachan, who is head of the Assyrian Democratic Organisation-Belgium, although he acknowledged the sanctions would not force Mr Assad from power.

"This was an important step because it's a symbol," he said. Mr Assad is the head of the system. He's the head of the regime. So by doing so, they said, "Well, the President is responsible for what's happening in Syria — killing and so on.'"

The sanctions are a significant personal blow to Assad, a British-educated, self-styled reformer who has made a high priority of efforts to bring Syria back into the global mainstream, efforts that included hosting a series of visits from European diplomats.

His wife Ms Asma was born and raised in Britain and educated there. Earlier this month, the Syrian Embassy in London was forced to deny persistent rumors that she had fled to Britain.

EU Foreign Ministers, meeting on Monday in Brussels, also adopted a statement that says "the EU condemns in the strongest terms the ongoing repression in Syria and the unacceptable violence used by the military and security forces against peaceful protesters." The statement said those responsible for the violence should be held accountable.

It urges the Syrian leadership to grant access to an urgent mission of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. And it expresses concern at mass arrests and torture and calls for the release of all political prisoners.

In addition, the statement says the EU is deeply troubled by the military closure of a number of Syrian cities, including Deraa, Banias and Homs, and by reports that access to medical care and basic services in those areas is being restricted. –

-- AP

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

 COMMENT

GET GOING NOW

 

Two years in the saddle, UPA bosses are in self-congratulatory mode. Congress president Sonia Gandhi has noted the recent assembly poll results were a mandate for good, effective governance. The remark went without frankness on the UPA's deficit on that score at the Centre. The message from the top is that UPA-II has scored big, delivering political stability, social progress and economic growth. Rhetoric won't withstand a reality check.

If Tamil Nadu's electoral rout or the narrow win in Kerala indicates anything, it's that the UPA big brother's sales pitch isn't really working. The Congress's southern discomfort has been made more acute by Andhra Pradesh's Jaganmohan Reddy factor and Karnataka's saffronisation. The party's denuded political heft is visible elsewhere too, be it Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar or UP. In Bengal, it is Trinamool's sidekick. In Maharashtra, the Congress-NCP has presided over the decline of a state that was a political trendsetter and economic frontrunner. Yet the Congress has no pan-India revival strategy other than to cynically mount pro-tribal or pro-kisan campaigns in Orissa or UP, fuelling fires of land-related strife instead of dousing them.

On issue after issue UPA-II has reacted to crises, not proactively resolved them. If Congress bosses now talk of fast-tracking the Lokpal Bill, the credit will go to Anna Hazare's campaign. The UPA was initially so complacent about corruption scandals that subsequent tough action through investigations and arrests hasn't refurbished its image. As for the forward movement promised now on revamp of the land acquisition framework,
Mayawati will claim to have forced the UPA's hand by loudly demanding why the Bill's in cold storage. Similar questions are being asked on judicial or police reforms. The goodwill the UPA had garnered for path-breaking initiatives like the nuclear deal or the right to information has largely been frittered away.

Most disheartening is the pussyfooting on economic reforms, which an economist-prime minister was expected to deliver. Even minus the Left, UPA-II's motto remains reforms by slow-moving stealth, via elusive 'consensus' or not at all. This, while high inflation and corruption menace growth and chase off investors. Besides fitful disinvestment and a half-hearted nod to financial sector reforms, UPA-II has little to show on GST, retail liberalisation, agricultural marketing reform or aggressive trimming of wasteful subsidies. In welfare, dole is more the accent than empowerment based on education, health, infra-structure and, crucially, labour reform. Pointing to 8.5% growth,
Manmohan Singh says that India's economy can outrun everybody else's. But can statistical feelgood last without reforms sustaining growth? On the contrary, if UPA-II brings India's much-vaunted growth story to an end, it will feel the political shock. So far, it has little to celebrate. Admitting that is the first step to changing course. Or it will end up like the CPM-led Left Front did in West Bengal.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

 COMMENT

THAT INDIA LENS

 

When US President Barack Obama said that Pakistan's obsession with India was a mistake - and that the true danger was homegrown, not external - he couldn't have imagined that he'd be proved bloodily right so soon. The brazen attack by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan not 24 hours later on a naval airbase in the heart of Karachi has driven Obama's point home in tragic fashion. And it comes on top of more attacks on security personnel in recent weeks. Could 15 gunmen have waltzed into a heavily fortified naval base without some kind of inside help? What of the WikiLeaks cable reporting former deputy chief of air staff for operations Air Vice Marshal Khalid Chaudhry bemoaning the radicalisation of airmen from rural areas by extremist clerics? And where does this leave the security of Pakistan's nuclear assets?

These are all questions that lead back to the basic point Obama made. In setting India up as an existential threat, the Pakistani army has created and used dangerous allies. And these allies have slipped the leash. Conversely, if
Islamabad were to make a strategic shift by dropping its India-centricity and focussing instead on its home-grown terrorist threat, peace would break out and the Pakistani economy and people, even Pakistani security, would be well served. The biggest ever terror attack on Pakistan's military assets ought to lead security agencies away from the delusion that radical groups can be 'managed' for strategic value. Obama's clear diagnosis of the situation is a step forward. Washington can also help by reversing Soviet-era policy and directing financial aid to Pakistan through the civilian government rather than the military.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

 TOP ARTICLE

BLINDLY INTO THE ABYSS

BACHI KARKARIA

 

The Parsis have been in the news for the wrong reasons. The fractious case which arose from the Bombay Parsi Punchayet's 2009 ban on two priests continues to make headlines. Earlier this month, a Harvard researcher reminded his Mumbai audience that there are only 69,601 Parsis left in India. Actually, this alarming figure belongs to the last Census; our present count is likely to be 45,000, and receding. The demographer bypassed the Big Bad Bogey of inter-marriage, and put the blame on low fertility and non-marriage.

The real concern should be the community's qualitative decline. Not mere numbers, but the right numbers have always been our forte. Herd hysteria could trample on this very asset which made us stand so tall. We seem hell-bent on squandering our legacy of vision, free thought, gender equality, and a generosity of spirit.

Low fertility has haunted us from the early 20th century, the by-product of swift westernisation during the British Raj. Research from the 1970s onwards has shown that the norm of late marriage has contributed to negative growth rates almost as severely as the never-married. Two years ago, a study found that, at age 50, one in five Parsi men and one in 10 women remains unmarried. Much more has been compromised than just numerical viability. The inevitable inbreeding has long turned us into medical disaster zones.

But, none of these time-bombs, or the decline in education and entrepreneurship appears to be cause for serious concern. Instead, the entire war machine is geared to defeat the 'barbarians at the gate'. Of course, inter-marriage poses real and present danger to our ethnic identity. The shrinking gene pool is both cause and effect. An estimated 31% marry outside the fold, up from 20% a decade ago. But this cannot justify the bellicose jingoism of our secular mullahs.

Choosing a non-Parsi spouse, especially husband, is condemned as high treason against the community and, worse, heresy against the faith. Children of 'parjaat' fathers cannot be raised as Parsi-Zoroastrians, and zealots are even trying to exclude the mother from her legal communal rights. It's no coincidence that we have perhaps the world's highest proportion of single females.

Which brings me to the separation of Church and State. Breached boundaries may litter the Indian landscape, but they compound our complex vulnerabilities. Moderates were aghast when, in 2009, the freshly elected 'traditionalist' trustees of the Bombay Parsee Punchayet (BPP) summarily barred two well-versed priests from conducting any ceremonies at Mumbai's Tower of Silence and in the two fire temples under its control. The BPP's mandate is unequivocally secular, but it assumed the right to punish the 'renegades' for performing 'unreligious ceremonies like praying for the dead who are cremated, performing the Navjote on children of non-Parsi fathers, and solemnising a marriage between a Zoroastrian and a non-Zoroastrian'.

Pulpit-thumping had also muscled into the BPP election a year earlier. The consortium of professionals was projected as dangerous reformists who would destroy the ancient religion, and give free run to 'half-breeds' and even converts. Parsis are not ignorant masses, but the community is getting older, poorer, and paranoid about being swamped. As with all threatened tribes, a simple rallying point which fused race and religion, and played equally on pride and fear had sure-fire appeal.

The traditionalists swept a shamefully ugly election. The moderates watched the hardening intolerance in the nodal Mumbai community in dismay. The high-handed 'defrocking' of the priests hit the panic button. Two prominent Parsis moved the Bombay high court, saying that the BPP had overstepped its jurisdiction and impinged on their rights as beneficiaries of the Punchayet's trust deed of 1884.

On March 11, 2011, a division bench fully upheld the plaintiffs' stand. Justice Chandrachud's far-reaching judgment reinforced the constitutional separation of church and state, and emphasised the distinction between race (Parsi) and religion (Zoroastrianism). The wise judge also appealed to leadership to promote inclusiveness, not create schisms.

A cogently argued online petition swiftly gathered 1,500 signatures. The petitioner, aged 80, told the trustees not to waste any more community funds on this case, and use them instead for the intended purposes of health and education. Undeterred, the trustees went into appeal. On April 7, the Supreme Court, expressing 'sadness' over the dispute in a 'tiny community' of which the 'whole nation is proud', asked the two parties to come to a settlement, and a week later appointed a mediator.

Reasonable Parsis hope that the sobering intervention will also make the community's warring factions start speaking to each other instead of the current declamations of the stone-deaf. We seem to have jettisoned all rules of engagement and descended into divisive and outrageously abusive communal politics.

Laws and judgments don't automatically effect social change, but they are a vital accelerator. Race and religion may appear to have a de facto fusion, but both would be in jeopardy if we were to abandon their de jure separation. Yes, ethnic identity is precious, but racial purity has proved to be a mythical unicorn with a flashy but fatal horn.

The pointedly enlightened Parsis might shudder delicately at primitive kangaroo courts which kill their boys and girls for violating gotra rules on marriage. But our own leadership has begun to look scarily like that of the khaps. No civilised identity can be preserved with bigotry or safeguarded by muzzled debate. The Parsis were exemplary because they stood high above the common divisiveness of caste and demonisation of The Other. We must remain a community that's worth emulating - and worth preserving.

 

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 THE TIMES OF INDIA

VIEW

THEY DESERVE RECOGNITION

 

There is nothing outlandish about actor Katrina Kaif's suggestion that the National Film Awards create a new category for item numbers. The awards - currently in their 58th year - were instituted with the aim of recognising excellence in Indian filmmaking. There is already an extensive range of categories - from Best Direction to Best Make-up Artist; Best Film on Family Welfare to Best Feature Film in Monpa - that lends credence to the awards as the most prestigious for cinema in India. Having a category for item numbers will further add to the representative nature of the awards.

There is no denying that item numbers have become integral to Bollywood films. They have taken the song and dance aspect of filmmaking to new heights. In fact, item numbers have been the centrepiece of several recent films and even promoted as such. Case in point, 'Sheila ki jawani' from the film Tees Maar Khan was a massive hit even though the film itself didn't do too well at the box office. Similarly, 'Munni badnaam hui' from this year's Best Popular Film Providing Wholesome Entertainment, Dabangg, has seen huge popularity.

Putting together an item number is an art. It simply cannot be subsumed in the Best Choreography category. Huge financial and creative resources are employed to create a successful item song - the right artiste, the right lyrics, the right visualisation etc. Critics may argue that item numbers are not highbrow enough for the National Film Awards. But there is no reason why the awards should be an exclusively arty affair. Item numbers are a product of popular culture that deserves as much recognition as intellectual cinema. As the hallmark of Bollywood, song and dance numbers are what international audiences associate with Indian films. In this scenario, item numbers definitely deserve their moment of glory.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

COUNTERVIEW

AWARD BRILLIANCE, NOT FLUFF

SRIJANA MITRA DAS

Movie star Katrina Kaif's suggestion - to institute a National Award for item numbers - should be taken about as seriously as item numbers themselves. The National Awards are meant to honour excellence in cinema whereas item numbers - normally featuring a scantily-dressed female dancing to an 'ethnic' song or 'nightclub' ditty - are inserted into films simply to pump up their glamour quotient and enhance commercial value. Beyond their spicy lyrics and hip-swinging action though, they add significantly little to the world of cinema. In fact, they subtract.

Right in the middle of a movie, usually with no ostensible link to it, an item number distracts viewers with an underdressed star gyrating inexplicably. An easy cop-out, it diverts with gleaming shows of skin, flashes of lehengas or plunging bikinis, freeing directors of the responsibility to provide tight, consistent cinema, lyricists to write beautiful, meaningful music. Yes, item numbers are fun breaks involving glittering eye-shadow, sculpted abs, pole-dancing and feathers; let's not confuse these with heartbreaking, mind-challenging cinema that endures through time and richly deserves awards.


And here's another twist: mostly featuring women mouthing raunchy lyrics to provocative steps, item numbers have grown increasingly sexist, even misogynistic. Barring 'Dard-e-disco' featuring Shah Rukh Khan, most swirl around women, soft-focussing and hard-selling their sexuality. Some may point out that men love this but women viewers don't mind either, even finding the ribaldry liberating. That may be true in some contexts but it's important to remember that in India, multiple environments rub shoulders, often uncomfortably, with each other. The same 'Sheila ki jawani', danced to by carefree teenagers at an urbane party in Delhi or Mumbai, can lead to girls being molested in Allahabad - as a recent petition in the city's high court stated. Can we seriously ask the National Awards to honour tunes that titillate? What's next? National Award for best pelvic thrust?

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

WALK, DON'T RUN

RAGHU KRISHNAN

 

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, goes a Chinese saying. A journey of a thousand months begins with a walk into the past. A rolling stone gathers not moss but memories. My favourite memories are of taking walks in almost every part of the country, courtesy a father who worked for the Indian Railways.

My earliest walking memories are of being taken to the railway club at Danapur (near Patna) for a kiddies' party where it suddenly rained multi-coloured marbles. My father was subsequently transferred to the zonal railway headquarters at Calcutta. Going to school meant taking public transport, sometimes standing on the last step at the entrance of the bus - the greater the number of people inside, the less the likelihood of falling out! It was invariably a relief to get down and walk home.

He was then deputed to the
Hindustan Steel Limited plant at Rourkela which was a total contrast to Calcutta since there was hardly any traffic. Even if one missed the Rourkela school bus, it was fun to walk from the senior officer's bungalow in Sector Four to the Ispat Public School in Sector 20 while looking up at shirt advertisement hoardings saying, ''Men of steel love the feel of Liberty''. I even studied for a while in Chennai where i would walk down from my grandfather's house to St Patrick's school on the river Adyar and via a majestic tree which was a favourite locale for shooting the black-and-white Tamil films of a simpler era when movies did not need song-and-dance sequences in Switzerland to become hits.

There was more scope for walking after passing out from school and moving on to Madras Christian College which had a sprawling campus. Even the initial angst of unemployment after leaving college was somewhat mitigated by the opportunities for walks from the railway colony in Malegaon (outside Guwahati), where a National Defence Academy cadet on vacation insisted we trek up the surrounding hillsides every morning. The joblessness continued for a brief while in
Mumbai where one had a good time singing sad songs while walking back late at night from the Akashvani theatre (after watching K L Saigal's Devdas) to the Badhwar Park railway colony opposite Backbay. For a change of mood, one could stroll down to the water's edge and recite Masefield's 'I must go down to the sea again/ To the lonely sea and the sky'.

Even after achieving one's level of incompetence as a journalist, one continued to walk. I still remember walking with my cousin, Anand, from
New Rajinder Nagar in Delhi to a cinema theatre in Naraina to catch a late-night show, and walking back. That was in an era before terrorism when late-night walking was not discouraged by the cops. There was a February drizzle on the way home and Anand suddenly started singing 'Zindagi bhar nahin bhulegi woh barsaat ki raat'.

It was decades later in
Bangalore that my walking really took off. A combination of late hours and irregular meals was taking its toll. One day, i suddenly decided that enough was enough and that i would walk home from the office every evening - a distance of seven km. It was initially tough going but i later realised that a pedestrian could notice so many things which a motorist would never see. One evening, i noticed a family living on the pavement. A bearded guy was hammering away at something and his spouse was cooking dinner under the sky while two small children were playing with twigs. The entire scene reminded me of the title of a book by Han Suyin: And The Rain My Drink. And i went home humming the lyrics of a Dylan song: 'When you got nothing, you got nothing to lose/ You're invisible now, you got no secrets to conceal'.

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

OUR TAKE

THE ENEMY IS INSIDE THE GATE

The irony of Pakistan's founding father Mohammed Ali Jinnah's words 'Expect the best, prepare for the worst' cannot be lost on its rulers today as the country found itself in a homegrown version of 26/11. The siege of its highly fortified Karachi naval base, a facility which houses its southern air command and air war college is a blow to the very might of the Pakistani State, its much vaunted-armed forces. At the time of going to the press, 12 security personnel and nine militants had been reported killed and there are unconfirmed rumours that some Chinese military officers working at the base had been taken hostage. To add to the doomsday day-like scenario, reports are rife that Mullah Omar, one of the most wanted terrorists after Osama bin Laden, has been killed in Pakistan.

US President Barack Obama was clearly prescient when he recently labelled Pakistan's India obsession a mistake. The biggest threat, he said, came from within. There was no doubt that the Taliban and its ilk would mount a spectacular strike within Pakistan to demonstrate their relevance in a post-Osama order. In fact, vital installations in Pakistan were on high alert for such an occurrence. But the seeming ease with which the terrorists were able to storm a top security facility with so much arms and ammunition suggests that there has been more than a fair degree of collusion from within the armed forces. The armed forces, whose once awesome reputation is in tatters after the Americans walked in and took out bin Laden from under their noses will be hard put to explain how a bunch of militants have been able to challenge them right on their own home ground. Experts have long warned that there has been a considerable degree of fundamentalism growing within the armed forces. This has created a situation in which serving officers are often sympathetic to the goals of the jihadis. The dangers of this in a nuclear armed State can't be overemphasised. The Karachi siege should serve as an eye-opener to Pakistan's armed forces that it can no longer use the militants it has nurtured as puppets to hit out against India or western targets. The latter, simply put, are out of control.

The last barrier between Pakistan and total anarchy is the armed forces. If it crumbles, as seems to be happening, then not just Pakistan but the world will have to — as Jinnah put it — 'prepare for the worst'. It is still not too late for the armed forces to change its role from being innkeeper to terrorists to doing their job of keeping Pakistan safe for its own people. But for that it needs to take a reality check and admit that its duplicity so far has been counterproductive. And perhaps go back to the words of Jinnah who said, "Our object should be peace within…"

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

GIVE US A SIGN

Tell any Indian politician that only non-performers resort to superstitions, and they will probably bring before you an array of believers who are performers too. So there's probably no inverse link between being superstitious and being good at work also or vice versa. Yet no one can deny that Indian politicians — cutting across party, region and language lines — are uniformly great believers in numbers, dates and everything that falls in between. Many have been known to be close to godmen, which India's never short of. Take the case of newly-crowned chief minister of Tamil Nadu, J Jayalalithaa. The Queen of Poes Garden, who has been the chief minister twice before, chose May 16, the root number being 7, for the swearing-in date. She also inducted 33, which when you add her, adds up to 7. So it is highly probable that many underperformers may have slipped into the cabinet only on the virtue of being a 'number'.

Bengal's giant-killer Mamata Banerjee also seems to have been bitten by this bug. Ms Banerjee seems to have taken a liking to Friday since she defeated the CPI(M) on May 13 and took over on May 20. Of course, Didi won't be found wanting in connecting this to realpolitik too. She also loves Friday because it's auspicious for Muslims, who form 27% of the state's population.

But there's no point blaming politicians alone. We all are a bit superstitious one way or the other. Some of us wouldn't cross a road if a cat crosses our path or walk under a ladder or have certain kinds of food on certain days. All this when probably there's nothing earth-shattering for us to look forward to. Neither is any money riding on us to hit a last-ball six and make a neat packet for that. But taking a cue from cricketers and politicians, we must also figure out lucky colours and numbers since the appraisal season is still not over. Maybe a couple of letters to the name could help add some zeros to the figure in the letter. Now let's keep our fingers crossed.

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

HE'S A RETIRING SORT

He's a retiring sort

Senior bureaucrats spend the last few months in office bending over backwards to earn some brownie points with the political leadership to be encashed for a post-retirement job. Union home secretary GK Pillai, due to retire next month, is determined not to fall into this trap. Pillai, who decided early in his career not to invest in shares to avoid any conflict of interest, wants to teach, sharing his experiences in subjects ranging from management, governance to commerce with the younger generation. Of course, after he catches up on lost time that he spent in office instead of on his grandchild. That's a grand idea.

Not quite a shoe-in

D Raja, CPI secretary and Rajya Sabha MP, lost his shoe in the melee at the swearing-in ceremony of AIADMK chief Jayalalithaa and her ministers in Chennai. It happened when he came to the aid of CPI general secretary AB Bardhan who was about to lose his balance in the jostling at the venue. An exasperated Raja turned to a policeman, who only said, "Where can we look for your shoe in this crowd, sir?" In disgust, Raja threw away his other shoe too before turning up for a lunch hosted by Jayalalithaa. Noticing his plight, actor-turned politician Sarath Kumar and his wife Radhika offered their vehicle to help Raja buy a new pair. The boot's on another foot now.

The ceiling has a sealing

India's civil service could miss another chance to have a woman break the glass ceiling. Alka Sirohi — the low-profile secretary of the department of personnel and training — this month made it to a short-list of officers to be considered to replace Cabinet secretary KM Chandrasekhar. But there are hints that this is as far as she will get. Sirohi is the third woman officer to reach this far over the last seven years. The other two, Reva Nayyar and Sudha Pillai, missed their chance, as PM Manmohan Singh gave the incumbent cabinet secretaries extensions. Sirohi might have to settle for something similar if her batchmate from the Uttar Pradesh cadre, Ajit Kumar Seth, makes it the top post. Seth, serving as a secretary at the cabinet secretariat, has a reputation of being an efficient and honest civil servant. Sirohi has an equally impressive track record. Clearly, not all glass is easily breakable.

Lessons in advance planning

The much-awaited first Indo-US Higher Education Summit, announced during President Barack Obama's visit to India last year, has been postponed indefinitely because US secretary of State Hillary Clinton and human resource and development minister Kapil Sibal — the two key Summit protagonists — are struggling to find a mutually suitable date. The two countries had agreed on mid-June in Washington DC and India even started making detailed preparations for the Summit. But it is learnt that the US has now communicated that Clinton will be occupied on the scheduled dates. An alternative date suggested by the Americans — around June 4 — is not convenient for the HRD minister. The two countries, keen on the Summit, are now trying to find a date in September for the meet. A blind date so far, it would seem.

Fall from the wall

Once known as "poster king", Union minister MK Alagiri is now at the receiving end of a new poster war unleashed in parts of Tamil Nadu following the DMK's rout. These posters put up in even in his old citadel of Madurai, declare him as "an absconding Union minister who has gone missing after declaring that the AIADMK would go missing after elections". They mockingly describe his qualifications as "Union minister who doesn't know English or Hindi". Before the elections, Alagiri's men had his posters deface houses in Madurai and other cities, excepting his own house because "annan doesn't like it." A paste and cut job for him.

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

YES, TOGETHER WE CAN

TIMOTHY ROEMER

After two years as a diplomat in this beautiful country, I have had a chance to reflect on the road we have travelled together during the formation of this global partnership. During my confirmation hearing to become the US ambassador to India, I said that the real test of the US–India partnership will be how we work together on global challenges of our era like terrorism, economic development, renewable energy, and poverty. Our two democracies have risen to almost every challenge and, in a post-Osama bin Laden environment, there are more opportunities to bring peace and stability in the region.

The revelations of al-Qaeda's continued global ambitions to create mayhem reaffirm the need to remain vigilant. Groups like Lashkar-e-Tayyeba and the Haqqani network have increased interest in regional recruiting and global targets. These threats strengthen President Barack Obama's focus on partnering with the international community for global security. As he said, such partnering to forge cooperation with 21st century centres of influence must include India as a respected power.

Our new Security Partnership has reached unprecedented heights in the past two years. Our Counterterrorism Cooperation Initiative, signed in July 2010, has expanded our security cooperation to megacity policing, maritime security, law enforcement collaboration, and forensics training. Our intelligence-sharing, including access to David Headley, has benefited both countries. Our armed forces have regular exercises that are increasing in size and complexity as our militaries become more familiar with each other.

This increased security cooperation is a by-product of India's arrival on the global stage and the world's need for India to play a constructive role in meeting the many global challenges. Such recognition was the impetus behind President Obama's historic announcement in the Indian Parliament that he looked forward to a reformed United Nations Security Council "that includes India as a permanent member".

Our economic partnership has made significant progress in the past two years on the trade and commercial front. Our vibrant economies are taking advantage of many opportunities in infrastructure, clean energy, mining, and technology for oil refining, and realising the president's vision of increased cooperation between the US and India that "will be a win-win proposition for both nations." In 2010, two-way trade was up almost 30% and India is now our 12th largest trading partner, up from 25th in 2000. With its high growth rates, booming middle class, and world class companies, I hope to see India in the top seven within the next several years.

While we were deeply disappointed in the MMRCA combat fighter decision, this multi-faceted partnership has moved beyond the next 'single big idea' and is no longer defined by any one deal. We have a potential pipeline of $8-10 billion in defence sales including the pending sale of C-17 aircraft that will create 30,000 jobs in the US as well as broaden the capabilities of India's armed forces, and strengthen our bilateral military relationship.

There have been some uncomfortable moments. While American officials haven't officially commented on WikiLeaks, we have seen positive outcomes. The reporting in India of these purported cables has shown that the US has a broad-based strategic vision for India and displayed a similar concern for terrorism spilling over from Pakistan.  Our reported privately expressed opinions have been consistent with our public message. Ultimately, our global partnership is only as strong as our people-to-people ties, the foundation of what we have accomplished to date and what we will accomplish together in the future. Throughout my travels in India, I have seen examples of the shared values between our countries. In Varanasi, I experienced India's religious freedom and diversity at an interfaith prayer meeting; at the Golden Temple in Amritsar, I viewed volunteers serve food daily to thousands of people; and I have witnessed the thirst for education visiting with young people and schools such as the Navodaya Vidyalaya school outside Delhi.

The formation of our global partnership is the beginning of a golden era in US-India relations. From defence to trade, from Africa to Asia, from education to health, we will collaborate on the major challenges of the day, use our collective strengths and lead the world toward peace and prosperity.

Timothy Roemer is the outgoing US ambassador to India. The views expressed by the author are personal.

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

FAMILY COMES LATER

RAMACHANDRA GUHA

In a democracy, elections always throw up a winner and a loser. Hence, the great hype over the defeat of the Left in West Bengal only highlights the significance of the unprecedented 34 years of continuously heading the state government, having won a record seven consecutive elections.

In December 2008, I spoke at IIT-Madras on the imperfections in Indian democracy, such as the conversion of political parties into family firms. I was followed by Kanimozhi, who began her talk by seeking to refute parts of mine. She said I sought to prohibit young Indians from following a career of their choice. If the son of a cricketer could become a cricketer, and the daughter of a musician become a musician, then surely it was undemocratic to disallow the son or daughter of a politician from taking to politics?

I wasn't persuaded. For one thing, the relatives of political leaders enter politics at a high level — they come in as MPs (as did Kanimozhi and Rahul Gandhi) party general secretaries (Rajiv Gandhi), and even as chief ministers (Rabri Devi). Someone with no connections would have to start as an ordinary party worker. For another, relatives of politicians enjoy an unfair access to state power and patronage. The commercials that Yuvraj Singh makes and is paid for are a direct consequence of the runs he makes and the wickets he takes. (The fact that his father also played cricket for India is irrelevant.) On the other hand, it is scarcely conceivable that Alagiri or Dayanidhi Maran would have become Cabinet ministers had they not been the sons of very powerful politicians themselves.

The entry into politics of the children of major leaders tends to degrade the parties they lead. The DMK and the Akali Dal both began as parties of social reform. The first sought to equalise castes, the second to rid the Sikhs of control by corrupt priests. Both articulated the interests of the region against the Centre. The Samajwadi Party and the Rashtriya Janata Dal claimed to stand for the interests of the backward and the excluded. In these cases — and more — the policies of the party's were, in its early years, animated by its ideology. With the entry of children, however, their leaders became preoccupied with the process of handing over power, and the fruits of power, to them.

Ten, or even five, years ago, the attitude of many middle-class Indians to these criticisms was fatalistic. It was, I was told, in our DNA. In living memory, most parties had been run as family firms. How or why should it be otherwise?

Now things may be beginning to change. Just before the Bihar elections of 2010, Lalu Prasad unveiled his young son before the state's electorate. The RJD was routed in the elections by an alliance led by two leaders — Nitish Kumar and Sushil Kumar Modi — who have kept their own families away from politics. Before the Tamil Nadu elections, M Karunanidhi reminded the voters of his many decades of service to the Tamils. The appeal was rejected. The Tamils admired his contributions to literature, but the conversion of the DMK into a family firm they wouldn't abide.

Many pollsters predicted the scale of Mamata Banerjee's victory in West Bengal; no pollster said the race in Tamil Nadu would be anything but close. Even more than Bihar, this election result must be read as a rejection of dynastic politics. Nor, I think, are these straws in the wind. Knowledgeable observers tell me that the decline of the Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh began with the projection of Akhilesh Yadav as his father Mulayam's successor, whereupon middle-ranking leaders who felt slighted by the young man's undeserved elevation left for other parties.

The move towards the rejection of dynastic parties is clear, but not, of course, comprehensive. Next year, when Punjab and UP go to the polls, the fate of the Badals and the Yadavs will be decided afresh — so, too, the fate of the Gandhis, in-so-far as Rahul Gandhi has laid great store by the revival of his party in UP. Still, I think that recent trends suggest that the aam aadmi is, so to say, now more on my side than Kanimozhi's.

In fact, there are indications that the aam aadmi may be coming increasingly to prefer politicians who either have no families or have no visible connection with their families. I mentioned Nitish Kumar — no one knows who or where his siblings and children are. Some other chief ministers are even more distant from their families. Mayawati, Narendra Modi, Jayalalithaa, Naveen Patnaik and Mamata Banerjee are all unmarried. Without question, the visible absence of kin has allowed them to project themselves as devoted to the interests of their state as a whole, rather than to the tiny slice of the electorate with whom they happen to share some genes.

The Indian democrat may be permitted to raise one cheer for the decline of the family firm. Only one, since the beast may yet revive, and because what is replacing it is not exactly in the best traditions of democracy itself. At least half-a-dozen states of the Union are now captive to the will, or whim, of a single individual. As chief ministers, Mayawati, Modi, and Jayalalithaa have all behaved in an authoritarian fashion. Their party, and their state, have been treated as an extension of themselves. Banerjee may soon follow suit. She was once always known as 'Didi'; but in the past year, when she was very clearly chief minister-in-waiting, her party colleagues began calling her 'Leader'. After her win, this has been changed to 'Supremo'.

Personal fiefdoms or family firms — asked to choose, I would probably choose the former. But I would rather not have to make the choice at all.

Ramachandra Guha is the author of India After Gandhi: The History of the World's Largest Democracy  ramachandraguha@yahoo.in. The views expressed by the author are personal.

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

CALL HIM BACK

 

The Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs met on Sunday night and after "carefully considering" the report from Karnataka Governor H.R. Bhardwaj, decided not to follow the course of action he had recommended. The BJP government in the state will stay for now. The governor had suggested that it be dismissed, following the verdict from the Supreme Court reinstating 16 MLAs who would have voted against the state government in a floor test had they not been disqualified by the speaker of the Karnataka assembly.

This is a sensible decision by the Centre. To start with, Article 356 should be used sparingly, and only at moments of genuine constitutional breakdown; it is a sign of the maturing of our politics that the frequency with which it is called into play has decreased. But given the blatantly suspicious grounds on which Bhardwaj's suggestion was made, it must also be asked why this decision was imposed on the Centre in the first place. If the governor of a state — an old Congress loyalist, who claims clout through the impression that he is close to party HQ — cannot be trusted to use the last resort available to him, the recommendation that the state government be dismissed, with sufficient responsibility, is there any purpose in asking him to remain in office? So while the Centre's call on the governor's report was right, it is disturbing that the government made such a to-do of "carefully considering" the report. The CCPA even postponed a meeting on Friday so that Sharad Pawar and Dayanidhi Maran could attend.

Bhardwaj has not covered himself in glory in Karnataka, to put it mildly. He had asked the government to be dismissed last year as well; he has put Raj Bhavan on a collision course with the B.S. Yeddyurappa-led ministry; and he has given the national BJP a rallying cry with which it can hope to drown out very serious allegations of corruption against its state unit in Karnataka. The simple truth is that, in this case, an old partyman has shown himself unable to adapt to the requirement that a governor be above the fray, and has instead inserted himself into the state's politics. That means that his interventions cannot be viewed, even by a Centre led by his own party, as sufficiently unbiased and well-thought out. Under these circumstances, his position becomes untenable. Delhi should recall Bhardwaj.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

TRIAL RUN

 

The CBI special court that rejected Kanimozhi's bail application presumably had the full backing of public opinion. The current spate of high-profile arrests, however, highlights a larger debate: pending a verdict, what are the comparative uses of jail versus bail?

The "bail, not jail" rationale that has been upheld by our higher courts is not leniency towards the powerful. The reason why an accused person is placed in custody is primarily to ensure that s/he shows up at the trial, and does not interfere with the investigative process. But it also conflicts with the presumption that a person is innocent until proven guilty and therefore has a right to liberty. Bail is a balance of those two interests. Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer decried the blurriness on the subject of bail in the criminal justice system, the fact that it hinged on a "hunch of the bench", or judicial discretion. And yet, he persisted, the issue is one of "liberty, justice, public safety and burden of public treasury, all of which insist that a developed jurisprudence of bail is integral to a socially sensitised judicial process". The Supreme Court has laid down guidelines that keep in mind the person's stakes in the system, their ties to the community, and if there is no substantial likelihood of them not showing for the trial, they suggest that the accused be let off on a personal bond. And in our rush to judgment, we must not elide the distinction between this kind of custody and actual conviction.

However, in recent years, the courts have tended to take a maximalist position on bail. Instead of pressing harder for convictions to go through (because we know that the powerful often end up evading legal consequences), we look to this kind of interim custody for some sense of justice. The rich and the powerful can enlist the best legal assistance to bolster their case, sometimes even from within jail. What's dangerous is the precedent of mechanically refusing bail and curtailing liberty.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

SEASON'S END

 

With a global audience of 4.77 billion in the 2010-11 season, and a total revenue of over 2 billion euros, the English Premier League hosts some of the strongest and most famous teams in the world, which act as powerhouses of talent for some of the world's biggest footballing names — Manchester United and Wayne Rooney, Chelsea and Didier Drogba, alongside Manchester City and Carlos Tevez.

Although this seasons eventual top four, Manchester United, Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal, were unsurprising, for huge swathes of the season the outcome looked much more uncertain. Alongside the closest relegation battle in years, which saw Birmingham City, Blackpool and West Ham drop, this is a season that is unlikely to be forgotten quickly. One thing it shows for the next is that, beyond knowing Blackburn Rovers won't get to Europe next time round, very little can be taken for granted. The 2010-2011 league was one of twists and turns.

This season too many of the stronger teams were struck by complacency: taking victories against weaker teams for granted. In this vein, Arsenal stumbled to a lacklustre fourth-place finish, beating the triumphant Manchester United, but losing to a much weaker Bolton. Additionally, Tottenham Hotspur, despite their stunning adventure in the top-tier Champion's League competition in which they beat current holders Inter Milan, only gained a pitiful 15 points out of the available 36 in their last 12 games. Meanwhile as the summer transfers begin, the action is not over yet. As Manchester City bombard Real with offers for Ronaldo, whilst Wenger admits that Arsenal need a change from his old formula to avoid falling from Europe's table of greats, and Spurs look to sign a top striker to consolidate their strong midfield and management, 2011-12 holds the promise of great football.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

OUT TO AFRICA

C. RAJA MOHAN

 

As he celebrates the rapid expansion of India's engagement with Africa this week, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh must also articulate a broader vision of India's international role, especially on the nature of Delhi's new relationship with the developing world.

Central to that vision must be the recognition of India's changing relationship with Africa that has always been an important priority for Delhi's foreign policy. One of the very first acts of independent India was to confront the question of apartheid in South Africa.

While many in the West were ready to acquiesce in Pretoria's racism in the name of respecting its sovereignty, India's first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, imposed unilateral sanctions against South Africa, which included cutting of trade, travel and sporting links. India's campaign for decolonisation and its emphasis on "Afro-Asian solidarity" provided the basis for the construction of the non-aligned movement.

But the notions of "collective self-reliance" (aka South-South Cooperation) and "collective bargaining" (the New International Economic Order) with the North on economic issues that so animated India and Africa in the 1970s and the '80s did not survive the tsunami of globalisation that enveloped the world in the '90s.

Despite the many fears in Asia and Africa, globalisation altered the international distribution of economic power in favour of China, India and many other nations in the developing world. The emergence of China and India as economic powers has brightened Africa's prospects by increasing the demand for its resources and making its markets more attractive. Beijing and Delhi also offer African leaders economic and political choices that did not exist in the immediate aftermath of decolonisation. Africa's ability to bargain with their former colonial rulers in Europe and the international financial institutions dominated by the West has significantly improved thanks to the new economic and commercial options generated by China and India.

The notions of South-South Cooperation and the New International Economic Order were merely aspirational objectives, devoid of any substance during the heyday of the non-aligned movement.

Similarly, the concept of Afro-Asian solidarity was entirely political in nature and had little economic content. Today the rise of Asia and its deepening economic integration with Africa is breaking up the old geopolitical axes — North-South and East-West — that shaped our understanding of international relations for so long. Implicit in all this is indeed a change in the nature of Africa's relationship with China and India — from the notions of political solidarity to ideas of economic and strategic partnership.

While Beijing and Delhi prefer not to acknowledge their improving power positions in Africa, the continent's leaders have no difficulty seeing it. For Africa, the question is not about the reality of the power shift in favour of China and India. African leaders want to know what kind of powers and partners that Beijing and Delhi might become. This precisely is the question that Dr Singh must address in Addis Ababa. The PM's answer must have at least three parts — economic, political and military.

On the economic part, India says its emphasis is on helping Africans help themselves through capacity-building. India argues it is not driven by an obsessive focus on resource security that is seen as colouring Chinese approach. India's private-sector role in Africa is contrasted with the Chinese engagement that is led by large state-owned enterprises.

While these arguments have much merit, Delhi will need to do a lot more to ensure that its economic interaction with Africa is principled, in tune with India's own political values and not liable to charges of "neo-colonialism".

Dr Singh must assure African leaders as well as Indian taxpayers that its growing aid volumes are well conceived, implemented with reasonable efficiency and free of corruption. Having been a major aid recipient once, India should know the importance of preventing the kind of resentments that foreign aid often breeds in recipient countries.

Delhi also needs a serious conversation between the government, private sector and the foreign policy community on how best to manage the risks and rewards of India's massive foreign investments in Africa and beyond.

Unlike China which has made military cooperation — including the sale of arms — a major element of its Africa initiative, Delhi has paid a lot less attention to the security dimension of its cooperation with Africa. To emerge as a comprehensive partner for Africa, India needs to develop domestic capabilities and a strategy for military diplomacy in the continent.

As a major contributor to the United Nations peace-keeping operations in Africa, India is deeply aware of the depth and expanse of violent intra-state conflict and its debilitating impact on nation-building in the continent and its economic cooperation with foreign partners.

Does its democratic experience have any relevance to India's partnership with Africa and the pacification of the continent's many internal conflicts? India has no reason to imitate the United States or Europe in preaching democracy or imposing freedom from outside.

But Delhi can't simply emulate Beijing and argue that state sovereignty and non-interventions are absolute principles. After all, Nehru's active opposition to apartheid was based on the recognition that there are universal values that must at least occasionally prevail over narrowly defined national interests.

India, then, must find ways to support the slow but steady evolution of African states towards political pluralism, federalism and respect for the rights of religious and ethnic minorities.

In offering to share its own democratic experiences, proposing mutual exchange of best practices on the management of diversity and offering help to build political institutions, India will have a chance to differentiate itself from a crusading and domineering West and a cynical China in the engagement with Africa.

The writer is Senior Fellow at the Centre for Policy Research, Delhi
express@expressindia.com

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

DELIVERING ON DEMOCRACY

PRANABDHALSAMANTA

 

On Sunday afternoon, a mob of suspected Maoists torched the camp office of the Upper Karnali power project in Nepal, being executed by the Indian company, GMR. This was the second time in two months the project was being attacked. Nearly a dozen Indians were at work there and while details are still being obtained, these attacks are being seen as a political statement against the pro-democratic forces. A divided Maoist power structure is acting at cross purposes as Nepal heads into a decisive moment, with the extension given to the Constituent Assembly drawing to a close on May 28.

This is a crucial week for Nepal's three-year quest to draw up a constitution. Despite having covered phenomenal ground, the Constituent Assembly has failed to deliver an agreed document. Dissensions have been guided by political interests and now this battle has spilled on to the streets of Nepal's cities, towns and villages — the turning point being the unexpected revival of the Nepali Congress. And a new breed of Maoists would like to return to their old anti-India political narrative and win back the political space its leadership seems to have lost.

This beleaguered Nepali Congress party charted out an ambitious mass-contact programme early last month, causing little stir then among its Maoist rivals. But when this culminated in a massive rally in Kathmandu last Friday, the response took everyone by surprise, including the otherwise faction-ridden Nepali Congress. Going by the official reports that reached Delhi, more than 50,000 people turned up to create a frenzied anti-Maoist atmosphere. Nepal's left-leaning prime minister, Jhalanath Khanal, who is in power because of a tie-up with the Maoists, has spent a nervous weekend trying to reach out to various influential sections, including Nepal's right-wing parties.

By itself, the Nepali Congress has not exactly toiled at the grassroots to counter Maoist might, as much as the Maoists have themselves been unable to handle power. The extreme activities of the Youth Communist League, which includes dishing out routine threats to the local population, coupled by prolonged political uncertainty despite the Maoists being the largest party, seemed to have generated sufficient public anger for crowds to throng the streets. On its part, the Nepali Congress has managed to sink its differences for the moment with its party head Sushil Koirala, reaching a consensus of purpose with the Sher Bahadur Deuba faction. Both leaders addressed last Friday's rally together as the Congress unveiled its 10-point agenda.

The battle in Nepal has now truly become political. A will to challenge the assumption that the Maoists are the only political force enjoying mass support is a potential game changer. The 10-point demand asks Maoists to live up to their commitments on integrating their armed cadre, give back confiscated properties and return all weapons to the Nepal government. More importantly, it states that this needs to be done before moving ahead with another extension to the Constituent Assembly. The document even talks of a new national consensus government to guarantee that these demands are fulfilled. This is being read as a call for some sort of national unity government.

The shadow battles in Nepal's political space have now moved to the streets, entering a new phase and bringing with it a fresh set of challenges for powers with huge stakes in that country. India is in the forefront when it comes to stakes in Nepal. New Delhi has been pursuing a prudent overall approach under Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on neighbourhood issues, one which rests on the basic principle of non-interference. Yet, India has had to take a position on Sri Lanka during the war against the LTTE and the fallout on the Tamil population. If that was more pronounced due to domestic political compulsions, the sudden emergence of the Bangladesh relationship as the touchstone of good neighbourly ties cannot be attributed to mere political coincidence.

A massive peaceful popular upsurge, as many Nepalese proudly recall, ejected one of the world's most well-entrenched monarchies. The Maoists were the popular choice to take over, but what has been forgotten is that this power was acquired through a democratic exercise. An impatient population, still waiting for the fruits of the change it effected, is rallying again. India has to read this narrative right and invest political capital accordingly.

When the king of Nepal was sending SOS calls as angry crowds thumped the royal gates of the Narayanhiti palace, India took a call to side with the people and then abide by the choice they made. Five years later, India needs to be equally fair in supporting the democracy narrative. Except, the characters making the calls have changed. As Sunday's attack shows, being a fundamentalist neutral is no insurance either. It's time the Indian political space woke up to the developments in Nepal, top politicians started responding to invitations from their Nepalese counterparts and the benign power of a democracy began to make its presence felt through political voices rather than bureaucratic notes.

pranab.samanta@expressindia.com

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

'THE IDEAL WAY TO BRIDGE THE SKILL GAP IS TO PRIVATISE THE EDUCATION SYSTEM'

SHEKHAR GUPTA

 

My guest today is the poster boy of Indian outsourcing industry and a very old friend, Pramod Bhasin. There is something about your business, that is IT-enabled businesses. You guys tend to switch not just your jobs but switch to very different lives at a very young age. And you tend to make news more when you are switching than when you are there.

Technology is changing so fast and it's deeply impacting our lives without our knowing it in many respects. Therefore, the change that youngsters grab onto is for people my age certainly incomprehensible. When you go out, you now meet people who say they don't even have email accounts because they are only on Facebook. You look at the aspiration of these young kids. They are charged up, they love this stuff. They grab this intuitively. You have to reach a new avatar at some point of time. And I think every five years, you better learn how to re-skill yourself.

What is this itch? Many others talk of retiring in their late 50s—at 58, 60. That's the age at which many people come to life in our country. So what's this about your business? Is this because you work with very young people or because your turnover is so high that you people always stay young?

You work with very young people. It's infectious—the energy, the enthusiasm, their grasp of new things. We send probably 5,000 people out every year from India. We hire them from small towns, train them and off they go and they are sitting in Seattle or New York or somewhere. There is no nervousness; they are full of confidence. It's the new India. I have been saying this for a while. The resurgence of India is all about confidence. That rubs on us and that makes us feel much more empowered to do new things, to experiment because they are ready to go, to do it with you.

So in the 15 years since you set this up, have you seen the young change?

Completely. Fifteen years ago, when we first started this, this industry was zero and it's worth 16 billion (dollars) or something. It's been created in the last 15 years from scratch. When we first started, it was very much something they were intrigued by. They were perhaps nervous, living in Delhi, men and women working together was new. Today, it is a sea change. They are ambitious. Now, employees are openly saying 'How are you going to keep me challenged? I'm young, I'm learning a lot. The world is ours out there. The company that will keep me challenged, will keep me going.' It also means that as a company, we need to change how we think about managing this. Because their view of life is radically different from 15 years ago. They want to be the general managers. They want to make money. They want to embrace technology. They are not scared.

Actually, it shows confidence when you are willing to borrow from your future.

Yes, none of these people know how it is like to hunt for a job. It's a big difference. A lot of their parents are actually in the government. They are perhaps clerical staff. They are perhaps working in the PWD. They all are earning more money than their parents ever did at the age of 55 or 60. They have no fear of this. It is fantastic to watch.

You see a growing impatience, is that a part of change?

Very much. Very impatient. Perhaps immature. They have not had to slog. They haven't gone through hard times.

You mean, you guys don't give them a hard time at work?

We make them work hard. But they know they have three jobs on offer at any time. We have the best attrition rate in our industry by a mile—while our attrition rate is 25 per cent, others are at 40 per cent...The ambition is dangerous because it makes India less competitive. But it's a hard fact to explain to them. There are two or three things that I love about our people. One is openness. They ask us very frequently, 'Why aren't you doing this? Why aren't you helping us here?'

And that won't happen, say, in China?

That won't happen in China. That won't happen in America. It won't happen in Europe. But here, it's open and direct. You can push back and they'll take that.

So this confirms the view that when it comes to knowledge businesses, depth of democracy works.

Absolutely. It's useful because it allows ideas to come up...I think all of India works incredibly hard. And it's part of our blood, we do it easily. And I think the rest of the world hasn't figured out how flexible we are.

That's what Tom Friedman said that in India, people want to work 36 hours a day, but in France, they don't want to work 30 hours a week.

Yes. But I don't know what is true. I go to France, Germany, America, and when you are sitting in Munich by the side of a cafe, traffic is fine, everything is fine, you are living a wonderful life...perhaps I would be tempted not to work too hard. But here, there is peer pressure and the franticness with which people work.

What's the most inspiring thing that a youngster has told you?

Actually the most inspiring thing is a parent coming and saying, "The job you have given my daughter has allowed us to buy a home, has given her a better prospect when she is looking to get married, it has allowed her brother to study." It has impacted the entire family in a way they couldn't have imagined. The father of one of the girls who works with us is a cook. My driver says he will make his children study computers. And they will earn more within two years than he has earned at his age. That's just one thing. The other elements are the phenomenal opportunities these kids see. And they take it for granted, which I think is good.

What is the most disturbing thing that a youngster has said to you?

Many things. And I think it's all about immaturity and entitlement. "Give me a job, give me money, otherwise I will leave you. I'm gonna quit if you don't treat me well". And I feel like grabbing them by the scruff of the neck and saying, "This is not how you should behave. This is not going to get you very far." They have had five jobs by the time they are 30.

The BPO industry is like armies of young irregulars because you don't want people lasting a lifetime.

We do. The BPO umbrella covers a thousand things. We do a lot of things and the call centre is about 10 per cent of our work. We employ nearly 800 accountants.

And the rest is efficiency enhancement.

Efficiency enhancement and complex analytical moulding to provide information on which medicines are selling to what types of customers in America.

Is that what led you to volunteer to help Delhi's hospitals? I think you did some work with Lady Hardinge.

Yes. And we have done it with Sanjay Gandhi Hospital. Basically, we have got a lot of experts who look at things and figure out how to make a difference. So what we have done with these hospitals is that we have gone into their emergency rooms, trauma rooms and the patient rooms and reconfigured it, studied it, seen what the hold-ups were. I don't want to make it sound so easy because it isn't. But it is a simple fact that by reconfiguring the routes the way patients are registered etc, you can increase the capacity 25 per cent. And it is that simple, because a patient should not wait 10 minutes at the first queue and then have to repeat it at the second queue.

In so many of our conversations over the years and now too, I see you publicly expressing dissatisfaction with the quality of education that young people are getting. In fact, you said somewhere that you can't recruit more than 6 per cent of the people who come to you. How bad is it and why?

Unfortunately, very bad. I think we underestimate the challenge. The teachers are wonderful, very dedicated people, but they really don't understand what our daily life is about. Their curriculum is old, the subjects they are teaching is old, the books they are teaching from are old and they are disconnected.

Two, the discipline of teaching isn't there. So if you go to a town hall with 500 people and ask how many got education in a very good college, the number of people who will raise the hand is less than 10 per cent. Most of the others will say, "I am self-taught and I got there because I'm smart". So the college became a filtration process, didn't become an education process.

Three, the fact is these children are not connected with the real world through business partnerships or work or summer training. One of the key areas that I was taught by one of my HR heads was that people have never worked for a living till they arrive at our office. So they don't know what it is like to work.

Unlike, say, in America where kids start working very young.

Yes, you would have delivered newspapers, washed dishes. I also think that dignity of work is something that has not gone into our heads. There is a lot of stuff about "I don't do that kind of work and I only do this kind of work" as opposed to saying whatever work we have, we will do it. So the skill gap is massive.

And how do you bridge it?

The ideal way I would recommend is that they have got to privatise the education system for it to move fast, a bit like healthcare has moved, airlines have moved. If they allow it to get privatised, I think you will get an explosion in India.

There is also unhealthy politics. If we look at Delhi University, look at the way teachers are opposing the semester system. For me, it's even more ridiculous than Delhi's autorickshaw drivers going on strike opposing GPS.

Opposing a semester system is just completely losing track of the ultimate aim that they should have. I have been on the board of a number of very fine institutions, and at the board level, we are discussing 'should we give the bursar extra money? Does the chowkidar deserve extra money?'

And the extra money is just a couple of thousands. I find that teachers and headmasters at international schools or upscale private secondary schools are paid much more than university professors in India.

Yes, university professors need to be paid. Public school teachers need to be paid much more. You know the biggest issue that these private schools face is that the fees are actually mandated by some law, and they can't pay their teachers enough. So they lose their teachers to companies like us.

You keep threatening to move into education in some way. So tell us what's the plan?

Somewhere in this whole conundrum of broadband wireless access, which should come in the next few years and reach 90 per cent of our villages; somewhere with those villagers getting access to bank accounts and having money to spend and somewhere in our ability to provide skill development which connects to employability, is a pony. And I am looking for that pony. Somehow, somewhere can I deliver that skill development? And it's not about reaching 10,000 people, it's about how we reach half a million people, how we reach a million people. And can I teach skill developments of all kinds?

So do you want to start something of your own or want to join the government in some way or are we looking at a new start-up?

I think it would be jointly with some people within some existing institution. Or I will start up on my own. I think I have to work out the model first and figure out, does it work well? I am sure a thousand people have tried this. But somewhere in that if we have access to villagers through broadband—right now, there are a lot of e-governance and other things being set up by the government that's not being used. So the broadband capability and the sort of kiosk they have set up are just not being used.

Is that the itch that made you take this step?

I think two itches. I have done this for 14 years. I strongly, firmly believe you should go in good time. It's against Indian ethos (laughs), but you should go in good time. Go when it's good.

Sunil Gavaskar said when he retired after scoring that great innings of 97 on a broken pitch in Bangalore that "you should go when people say why; don't go when people ask why not?"

Yes, and that's obviously why I have timed it, because everybody is saying "why?" Two, you go because this country has been good to us. We should do something. I strongly believe that you should make money to deliver on social causes. I think you must do both. Otherwise, it can lose its own steam. I have to see if I can use my brains to do that. We have learnt a lot about making things efficient. Is there a way I can make parts of the government more efficient? Government services more efficient? Is there a way we can help the revenue records be delivered faster or e-governance norms established better? And the scope for what we do is massive if they let you do. Frankly, they should let you do because you can do it in a very non-threatening way.

You are complaining about being labelled as the BPOs because there are all sorts of insinuation that it's a skill-less job where may be Pavitra Kaur becomes Patricia and speaks in a funny accent as if nothing else is required.

It's a complete misnomer. You know, we have 800 accountants, 3,000-4,000 MBAs. We are doing some of the most complex work and I think we represent more complexity than the average company in India. Ninety per cent of the companies in India are far less complex than what we do. Along with that, there are couple of other things that are wonderful. The number of new entrepreneurs coming out of our business is fantastic. Raman Roy (chairman and MD of Quatrro BPO and one of the earliest BPO entrepreneurs) came from our business. You can go across the country and you will find 20 others who came from our business. They are starting up with very small businesses with little technology applications.

So in a way these are all new IITs at a much larger level.

They are entrepreneurs. So the scale of entrepreneurship and venture capital that this is leading to is becoming a network.

It's also a leveller, isn't it?

Very much. These are people from all over India. And the joy of our industry is that if you know a little bit of core, you know a little bit of technology, you know a little bit of skill development in education, you can bang that together and come with a business proposition. You don't have to be a big shot. You don't have to own real estate. You have an office, you are up and running.

And it's equal opportunity?

Yes, look at the women and the impact this has had on them. Fifty to sixty per cent of our employees are women. They work, I hope, in a safe environment, there is no harassment. Harassment laws in our office are very tough.

They are from all strata of society?

We recruit from all over India. And there is a full network as you may know in Gurgaon and these towns, of how the people from rest of India come in and how they are welcomed, where they stay. There are towers in Gurgaon which are full of Genpact employees. These are things I only found out later on. All these informal networking over Facebook and e-mails give them shelter, great hope and economic freedom.

They are all effectively living the life that they are working.

Yes, they are. They are living in a way that I think they may have dreamt of when they were in the little town.

Transcribed by Vikram Vishal
For full text, visit www.indianexpress.com

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

NOT TOO BAD, CONSIDERING...

After a shocker from Infosys and Reliance's disappointing numbers, the earnings season picked up with HDFC Bank and TCS turning in splendid numbers. Bharti did badly after that, as did Sail; Hindustan Unilever was a pleasant surprise, but SBI was a real shocker. Ashok Leyland helped lift the gloom and the Street ignored L&T missing both top line and bottom line estimates and instead focused on its order book growing 27% y-o-y in the March quarter and the management view that orders could rise 15-20% this year.

However, there are those who feel a hostile macro environment will hold back creation of fresh capacity; and the order books of other equipment vendors like Thermax and ABB haven't shown the same buoyancy. Most managements have been cautious in their outlook; Maruti Suzuki said footfalls were slowing and that fewer enquiries at showrooms were being converted into sales. And both Infosys and Wipro have guided for pretty muted earnings growth this year.

While results are reasonably good at an aggregate level, there is room to be circumspect. For a sample of 1,686 firms (excluding banks and financials), sales are up 23.2% y-o-y, resulting in an operating profit margin of 16% and a rise in operating profits of 24%. But higher depreciation and interest costs have left the growth in net profit at a lower 19%.Top line growth must be seen in the context of high inflation, especially in prices of crude oil and metals. Moreover, for many firms, operating margins have contracted, thanks to a higher raw materials bill. Unless prices of commodities ease, firms will have to keep forking out more for inputs. Since inflation is expected to remain at elevated levels for the first half of 2011-12, consumer goods firms won't find it easy to push sales. The muted same-store-sales growth, seen in the March 2011 quarter at retailers like Pantaloon, shows inflation is pinching. With interest rates high, interest outflows in the March quarter were up 37% y-o-y compared with a rise of 18% y-o-y in the September 2010 quarter. Moreover, banks will have some trouble locating good credit risk. While earnings for 2011-12 have already been downgraded once, consensus is that earnings for Sensex firms will grow by just about 15-16% in 2011-12. On a base EPS of around R1,035 for 2010-11, that translates into earnings of about R1,190-1,216 for this year. At 18,165, this means the Sensex is trading at a forward multiple of 14.8-15 times, in line with its historical average.

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

FUELLING REFORM

Prices of petrol and diesel ... will be market determined. The overall impact on the poor and the vulnerable is being minimised." "Despite spiralling international oil prices, the retail selling prices of diesel, PDS kerosene and domestic LPG have not been increased after June 26, 2010 ... to protect the common man". Which one of the two statements, both from the same chapter of the UPA's Report to the People 2010-11, do you take seriously? One suggests the UPA is ready to get back on the reforms track, the other that it will be business-as-usual (BAU) when the GoM meets this week on the fuel price hikes—though petrol prices were decontrolled a year ago, oil PSUs never raised prices, and when prices were hiked after the assembly elections, these PSUs were incurring a loss of R10 per litre. Fuel subsidies, which were R78,159 crore in 2010-11, are projected to more than double this year on a BAU basis—in the last seven years of the UPA, fuel under-recoveries have been around R4,23,000 crore, and more than half of this has been borne by the oil PSUs, resulting in a sharp fall in their share prices.

That it is possible to hike prices while keeping consumer interest in mind was brought out by the Kirit Parikh report, which pointed out, in February last year, that the hike in per capita incomes since 2002 meant retail prices of kerosene and LPG could be raised by R6 per litre and R200 per cylinder, respectively, without affecting real incomes. Even this, however, was not done and prices were raised by R3 and R35, respectively, in June last year.

While the UPA's report card also talks of the need to keep other subsidies in check, it says the Right to Food Bill will be introduced soon—that, going by the PMEAC's estimate, will cost around R92,000 crore, as compared to the current food subsidy budget of R60,573 crore. The real issue, of course, goes beyond containing the fiscal deficit since every budget has some cushion—disinvestment receipts of over R15,000 crore last year were not taken into account in the budget estimates and another R15,000 crore can come from the charges for the 'extra' spectrum. Whether it is a land acquisition Bill, the GST Bill, the PFRDA Bill, the Companies Bill, operationalising the Chawla Committee on how to price natural resources, ensuring there are no delays as in the Cairn-Vedanta deal … the government has a long list of what it needs to do.

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

HOBBLE AND MUDDLE
MOHAMED A EL-ERIAN

Colleagues from around the world recently gathered at PIMCO's headquarters in California for our annual Secular Forum, when we leave behind high-frequency issues for a few days and, instead, debate what the next 3-5 years hold for the global economy. The perspective is global, informed by the insights of outside speakers, and the focus is on what is likely to happen, as opposed to what should happen.

The last two Secular Forums projected that, after the global financial crisis, the world economy would not reset in its traditional, cyclical manner. Instead, it faced multi-year re-alignments of both a national and global nature. The world economy would heal, but in a slow and uneven fashion, as advanced economies muddled through while the more dynamic emerging world gradually closed today's income and wealth gaps.

Developments since then have been consistent with this characterisation. The G7 recovery has been unusually sluggish, notwithstanding large and unprecedented policy stimulus (particularly in the US). As a result, unemployment has surged, now exceeding that of emerging economies. Meanwhile, deficit and debt indicators have worsened, both in absolute terms and relative to emerging economies, and the average risk premium on advanced economies' debt now exceeds that for emerging economies.

These are outcomes that fall well short of policymakers' expectations, be it in America or in Europe. Indeed, for most of the post-crisis period, all of them have been understandably fixated on stimulating growth.

Some have even embraced explicit policies to boost asset prices (for example, the US Federal Reserve's second round of so-called "quantitative easing"). Yet, along with "good" asset-price inflation, aimed at making people feel richer and spend more, these approaches have delivered "bad" inflation, owing to surging commodity prices, which impose a tax on both inputs and consumers. In Europe, every balance sheet available has been tapped to forestall a debt crisis in the periphery, resulting in large bailout packages for Greece, Ireland and Portugal, and the contamination of the ECB's balance sheet.

Looking ahead, some signs point to the global economy's accelerated healing and growing resilience, which bodes well for an orderly retreat from unconventional policies. There are also signs suggesting that emerging economies' breakout is well anchored, and that China, in particular, will be able to navigate its complicated middle-income development transition.

Unfortunately, other signs point to an uneven, faltering global recovery. In advanced economies, projected rates of growth are not sufficient to avoid mounting debt and deficit problems. For some, such as Greece, this means more difficult choices between restructuring and socialisation of losses. For others, like the US, future sacrifices are already required, most likely through a combination of higher inflation, austerity and "financial repression", as governments seek to impose on savers negative real rates of return. Needless to say, demographic transitions, commodity constraints and geopolitical uncertainties complicate all of this.

Most importantly, too many government and household balance sheets remain out of equilibrium in an excessively asset-based global economy. As a result, many long-standing promises will come under pressure over the next 3-5 years. Specifically, a variety of social contracts—for example, healthcare and pension entitlements, as well as unemployment benefits—will come under greater strain. At the international level, the standing of US-supplied public goods (including the dollar as the global reserve currency) faces gradual erosion.

To the extent that this scenario holds, the next few years will follow the same multi-speed dynamics that we have seen recently. Specifically:

l Advanced economies will face sluggish (call it 2%) growth and persistently high, increasingly structural (and therefore protracted) unemployment. Already-large disparities in income and wealth will continue to deepen, amplified by higher inflation and financial repression. And debt and deficit concerns will remain, with the virtual certainty of at least one sovereign-debt restructuring in Europe.

l Emerging economies will achieve higher growth (in the 6% range), and their income and wealth levels will continue to converge with those of advanced economies. But this will create its own challenges, including recurrent inflationary pressures and surges in capital inflows, leading to greater policy experimentation.

l Sovereign creditworthiness will continue to diverge, with a further deterioration in advanced countries and continued improvement in emerging markets.

l Inflation convergence—between high headline and low core rates, as well as between high emerging-market and low advanced-country rates—will occur at levels higher than currently anticipated.

l The global economy overall will hobble along, continuing its gradual transition from a unipolar to a multipolar world.

This baseline scenario is subject to two-sided risks that could well increase over time. On the upside, the US could have a "Sputnik moment": a sense of national unity, common purpose and shared sacrifice leads to structural reforms that focus on re-aligning balance sheets over the medium term, enhancing job creation, and improving competitiveness. Europe could re-engineer the Eurozone to enable debt sustainability and high economic growth. And emerging economies could unleash their consumers, boosting global demand.

The chances for such "grand bargains" have increased in recent months, but, at this stage, they can at best only offset the global outlook's downside risks. Above all, liabilities have simply been shifted around the global economy, which cannot continue indefinitely. Meanwhile, excessive income and wealth inequalities are weakening the fabric of societies; persistent joblessness in advanced countries is undermining productivity and skills; policy effectiveness and flexibility are deteriorating; and the world economy is facing increasing challenges in accommodating the development breakout phase in systemically important emerging economies.

Multi-year re-alignments are messy and complex, especially when they occur simultaneously at the national and global levels, and when multi-speed growth, inflation and credit dynamics are at work, as is the case today. Parameters become variables; balance sheet repairs proceed in a slow and uneven fashion; and policymakers experience an uncomfortable shift in the balance of benefits, costs, and risks.

As much as we may wish for a more reassuring outlook, the world economy will remain unusually fluid in the coming years. What appears as a systemically interconnected world will also turn out to be increasingly fragmented cognitively, with weak global governance and policy coordination. This is a global economy that must be navigated carefully, lest those that seek to benefit from change find themselves falling victim to it.

The author is CEO and co-CIO of PIMCO, one of the world's largest investment companies, with approximately $1.2 trillion of assets under management. He has also published 'When Markets Collide'

Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2011

www.project-syndicate.org

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

UNTANGLING URBAN TRANSPORT
PRODIPTO GHOSH

Urban traffic congestion is one of the major policy headaches of the city administration. Apart from loss of time and economic output, congested urban traffic is a primary contributor to poor air quality and high levels of respiratory diseases.

Recently, a news item highlighted that feeder bus operators for the Delhi Metro were agitated about 'illegal' operations by newly licensed 12-seater CNG rickshaws taking away their customers. A few weeks earlier, speaking at the Ficci Annual Day, Delhi's chief minister stated that a group of senior officers were busy redesigning the city's bus routes. These moves arise from a lack of understanding of the problématique of urban transport. Urban traffic congestion is taken to arise from too many cars (and two-wheelers) on the road, and believed to go away if only sufficient mass transport options are available. However, what would actually make citizens discard their cars for the joys of a BRT bus?

What is the problem at its most fundamental level? It arises from the fact that the demand for urban transport is highly differentiated. Apart from preferences (desired comfort levels, time to destination, waiting time, walking distance, willingness to pay), the demand for transportation between any pairs of origin and destination varies with time of day, day of week, month of year, and also changes over time. The demand is both patterned and non-patterned. The first is, in principle, discernable (children going to school, workers going to the factory, babus going to office, etc). The latter (episodic visits to the doctor, weekend social visits) are essentially random.

However, the patterned demand, even without considering variations due to preferences, is both complex and subtle. Complex, because the patterns have both a 'thick' structure (for example, how many people travel each hour during weekdays between Dwarka and South Delhi), and a 'fine' structure (for example, how many persons travel between Sector 7 of Dwarka and Nehru Place between 9 am and 9.10 am on Tuesdays). Subtle, because the detailed patterns are discernable only with meticulous and continuous observation. But who has the motivation to undertake such careful, detailed study? Why of course, somebody whose living depends upon it!

It follows that public agencies, which are not held to account for net revenues of operations on a daily basis, can, at best, determine through surveys and the like, only the 'thick', or highly aggregated aspects of demand patterns. This should enable public agencies to plan for major transport infrastructure—Metro routes, trunk bus services and the like. Over time, the alignment of these routes will themselves influence demand patterns, as people respond to locational advantages and disadvantages, conferred by the permanent transport infrastructure.

As a corollary, setting senior bureaucrats to redesign bus routes can, at best, only slightly improve the fit between supply of bus services and the 'thick' pattern of demand. Restricting feeder services for mass transport connectivity to publicly determined bus services will not improve usage of the latter, since the feeders cannot be tuned to the fine structure of demand.

Inducing people to shift from personal transport, whose advantage is the ability to respond precisely to the 'fine' structure of demand—comprising each individual's actual travel patterns and preferences—requires one to go further than provide infrastructure to respond to the 'thick' demand patterns.

What needs to be done? Inducing people to travel by mass transport would require that private, not publicly provided, transport options be enabled to provide both connectivity services to mass transport entry and exit points, as well as niche or peripheral demand patterns that cannot have a mass transport linkage. Such a move will perish if public transport authorities decree timings, fare levels, comfort levels and detailed routes and halts—these are attributes of the 'fine' structure of demand, and unknowable to public authorities. They must be left to the operators, who alone can acquire the information set necessary. In addition, one must not limit the numbers of operators—this would restrict competition in the supply of such services, leading to high cost and indifferent quality, limiting usage as a result. Where sufficient competition exists, those operators who satisfy the 'fine' structure of demand will survive; the others will exit. Only such restrictions need be placed on the operators as they will promote the objectives of reducing the overall numbers of vehicles on the road and pollution levels, while not seriously impeding the ability to meet the 'fine' demand patterns. This would require that large, medium and small capacity vehicles of different comfort levels, all of which should be clean fuel powered, be permitted.

What about the non-patterned transport demand? Since no pattern exists and travel patterns are random, these must necessarily be served by personal vehicles, or taxis/three-wheelers. No other arrangement can serve the contingencies of a child missing his school bus, or the missus' yearning on a rainy Thursday evening for a meal in a newly opened Greek restaurant in another part of town.

The author is former secretary in the ministry of environment and forests

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

PAKISTAN'S ENEMY WITHIN

In many ways the 17-hour siege of Pakistan Navy's air base, PNS Mehran, in Karachi is reminiscent of the attack on the General Headquarters (GHQ) in Rawalpindi in October 2009. It would be tragic for Pakistan if the latest of wake-up calls to snap out of its Janus-faced attitude towards terrorism is ignored — as it was after the GHQ attack or the discovery of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden from the "armpit of the Pakistan Military Academy" in Abbottabad. As always, the first official remarks on the attack had the stock phrase, 'Pakistan-is-a-victim-of-terror.' Nobody is denying that. But what will it take Islamabad to understand that terrorists cannot be assets, strategic or otherwise? If the events following bin Laden's killing are any indication, the chances of the PNS Mehran attack forcing a course correction look bleak. At the in-camera briefing by the military and intelligence establishment's top brass on the Abbottabad incident, India was again identified as "enemy number one," clearly indicating that this remains the defining factor of Pakistan's strategic policy. As though this were not enough of a signal, the in-camera briefing for Parliament and the subsequent resolution reposing confidence in the armed forces were a telling reminder of how the security establishment can orchestrate even adverse events to its advantage.

While the civilian government can distance itself from ownership of the strategic policy, it has no excuse for not even trying to change the mindset that has allowed such policies to continue three years after a democratically elected dispensation was voted in. The school curriculum packed with hate towards all things Indian and eulogies to 'jihad' is a problem that remains unaddressed though it is critical to the country's existence as a nation of multiple ethnicities and religious diversities. These are issues that are coming to haunt Pakistan almost on a daily basis and the armed services too are not insulated from such divisive tendencies. In fact, Chief of Army Staff Ashfaq Parvez Kayani is reported to have admitted as much after Punjab Governor Salman Taseer's assassination — going to the extent of fearing a revolt within if he condoled the death. From all indications, the PNS Mehran attack could not have been carried out without some inside help. How could the terrorists, armed to the teeth with even rocket-propelled grenades, have entered the high-security area undetected? Weeding out this kind of mindset created over 30 years of systematic indoctrination is not a task that can be undertaken overnight but Pakistan must cut its losses now.

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

KILLER ROADS

The tragic death of Tamil Nadu Minister N. Mariyam Pichai in an accident on a National Highway in the State should serve as a reminder that safety on our roads needs to be given the highest priority by governments as well as the public at an all-India level. The latest data for fatal accidents presented to Parliament by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways are for 2008, and they are frightening. A staggering 1,19,860 people perished in mishaps that year. The Law Commission of India has pointed out that the national and state highways account for nearly half of all road accidents. In spite of the shocking levels of death and disability, the central government has only been inching forward with reform. It is nothing short of a scandal that in a country witnessing 10 per cent annual growth in vehicles, and boasting a network of 3.3 million km of roads, the Bill for creation of a statutory National Road Safety and Traffic Management Board has been meandering through Parliament. Such an agency is vital to set standards for road design, inspect existing roads, and investigate accidents scientifically. If the death toll is to be brought down, its formation cannot be delayed any longer.

That India's Motor Vehicles Act lags far behind the needs of a fast-motorising society is painfully evident from its road safety record. The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture recognised this and suggested several modifications in the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2007 to strengthen enforcement and reduce the trauma of making a compensation claim. The proposed amendments are important and need to be brought in quickly — but the stark reality is that even the existing law is not uniformly implemented by the police. It will take a 'zero tolerance' policy towards the most common transgressions — dangerous and reckless driving; disregard for traffic rules; jumping red lights; driving under the influence of liquor; failing to use seatbelts; and driving without a helmet — to bring about a visible change. It is also true that disregard for labour welfare leads to accidents. Many professional drivers are forced to work longer hours than desirable from a safety standpoint. This can result in their being asleep at the wheel, with horrific consequences for passengers and for themselves. On the other hand, some drivers cause accidents through sheer recklessness. The response to this has to be the unsparing enforcement of rules. In the case of errant drivers, the Supreme Court has endorsed a deterrent approach in Dalbir Singh vs. State of Haryana. Enforcement, good engineering, and education are the need of the hour.

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THE HINDU

LEADER PAGE ARTICLES

MENDING THE FOOD SECURITY ACT

THE NATIONAL ADVISORY COUNCIL HAS PROPOSED A FRAMEWORK FOR THE NATIONAL FOOD SECURITY ACT. BUT ITS POTENTIAL COULD BE WASTED BY A FLAWED APPROACH TO THE PDS.

JEAN DRÈZE

Two years have passed since the Central government announced that a draft National Food Security Act (NFSA) would be posted on the Food Ministry's website "very soon." After prolonged deliberations, a detailed framework for this Act has recently been proposed by the National Advisory Council (NAC), and a draft is on the anvil. This is a "compromise draft" of sorts, heavily influenced by the government's own concerns and priorities.

The NAC framework includes important provisions relating, for instance, to child nutrition, reform of the public distribution system (PDS), and redress of grievances. It has the potential to put all food-related schemes on a new footing, in a rights framework. However, this potential is in danger of being wasted by a flawed approach to the PDS.

In this approach, the PDS rests on a three-way division of the population, among "priority," "general" and "excluded" households. (This article focusses on rural areas.) Priority households, covering at least 46 per cent of the rural population at the all-India level, are to get 35 kg of grain a month at "Antyodaya prices" (Rs. 3 a kg for rice, Rs. 2 for wheat and Re. 1 for millets). General households will get 20 kg at no more than half of the Minimum Support Price. And excluded households, which account for 10 per cent of the rural population, will get nothing.

This framework is problematic. First, it hinges on a lasting division of the population into three groups, without any clarity as to how the groups are to be identified. In the absence of any obvious alternative, the NAC is effectively falling back on the Below Poverty Line census to identify priority groups. This is a major setback — the NAC's entire work began with a virtually unanimous rejection of BPL-based targeting for the PDS. Exclusion errors in earlier BPL censuses were very large, and the next BPL census is unlikely to fare much better, judging from the pilot survey.

Second, since identification criteria are left to the Central government, with some discretion for State governments, nobody has guaranteed PDS entitlements under the Act, except for a few ultra-marginalised groups (such as the so-called Primitive Tribal Groups) which have a right of "automatic inclusion" in the priority list. Other households have no legal entitlement to be included in the priority list or, for that matter, in the general list. Therefore, they have no guaranteed PDS entitlements at all. This undermines the basic purpose of the Act.

Third, the transition from the current Above Poverty Line-Below Poverty Line framework to the NAC framework is likely to be disruptive. There are at least three major sources of disruption: the creation of an "excluded" category; the transition to a new BPL list; and the switch from household to per capita entitlements. Each of these changes entails a loss of entitlements for significant numbers of households. Meanwhile, the entitlements of other households will be enhanced. Can we expect this transition to happen without major tensions, or even to be completed at all?

Fourth, the NAC framework fails to "de-link" PDS entitlements from official poverty estimates, and to prevent a rapid shrinkage of PDS coverage over time. It is well understood by now that official poverty lines in India are abysmally low, and that undernutrition is not confined to households below the "poverty line." In the NAC framework, 46 per cent coverage of priority groups in rural areas corresponds to the proportion of the population below the "Tendulkar poverty line," plus a margin of 10 per cent for targeting errors. This is significantly higher than the current BPL coverage of about 33 per cent. But except for ruling out any reduction of PDS entitlements before the end of the 12th Five Year Plan (which is only a few years from now), nothing in the draft NFSA prevents the government from reducing PDS coverage in tandem with official poverty estimates over the years.

Fifth, the idea of a universal PDS in the poorest 200 districts was dropped from the NAC framework (after being agreed and placed on record). This was an important idea, because any targeting process here is likely to lead to massive delays, fraud, and exclusion errors. In many of these districts, the local administration has little credibility. Large numbers of poor households are outside the BPL list, and are likely to remain excluded from the proposed "priority" list. Further, targeting is pointless in areas where an overwhelming majority of the population is vulnerable to food insecurity. Launching a universal PDS in these districts would have addressed a large part of the food insecurity problem in rural India in one go, at a small extra cost.

Sixth, the NAC abandoned another important idea as it went along: the automatic inclusion of all Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (SC/ST) households in the priority list — unless they come within the standard exclusion criteria. This will be a major protection against exclusion errors, and a well-justified form of positive discrimination in favour of SC/ST families. But the idea was dropped, on the grounds that it is difficult to reconcile with pre-specified "caps" on the coverage of priority groups at the State level based on poverty estimates. Punjab, for instance, has a low poverty ratio but a high proportion of SC/STs in the population — there is no obvious way to handle this.

In short, the NAC framework not only perpetuates the flaws of BPL targeting but also institutionalises artificial social divisions under the law. It is not difficult to imagine the Act being used as a foothold to extend these divisions to other domains.

The obvious alternative, a universal PDS, is a 'no-no' for the Central government. Is there another way to repair, or at least contain, the damage? I believe there is. Before coming to that, let me mention an interesting finding of recent BPL identification studies (by Reetika Khera, Sabina Alkire, and Himanshu, and others). These analyses, mainly based on the 2004-05 data from the National Sample Survey or the 2005-06 data from the National Family Health Survey, suggest that about 25 to 30 per cent of households in rural India meet simple, transparent and verifiable "exclusion criteria," such as having a government job, owning a motorised vehicle, or living in a multi-storied pucca house.

This suggests a simple but far-reaching modification of the NAC framework: expand the excluded category, but extend "priority" entitlements (35 kg of grain at Antyodaya prices) to all other households. With an exclusion ratio of, say, 30 per cent, the foodgrain requirements will be the same as in the current NAC framework. The financial cost will be a little higher (because all entitled households will pay Antyodaya prices), but the extra cost will be a small fraction of the total food subsidy.

In this "quasi-universal" framework, every rural household will be entitled, by law, to 35 kg of grain a month at Antyodaya prices, unless it comes within the well-defined "exclusion criteria." Everyone will be clear about their legal entitlements. The burden of proof, so to speak, will fall on the government to exclude a household, and poor households will be well protected from exclusion errors. State governments will be free to move even closer to universalisation, if they wish, by waiving some exclusion criteria and contributing additional resources to the PDS (as many States are already doing). Automatic inclusion of SC/STs (unless they come within the exclusion criteria) will be built in. PDS entitlements will be de-linked from the APL-BPL rigmarole, and from poverty estimates. And while some social division will remain, it will be "at the top," without undermining solidarity among disadvantaged groups.

Two further modifications of the NAC framework will round up this proposal quite nicely. First, the idea of a universal PDS in the poorest 200 districts could easily be reinstated, by waiving exclusion criteria in these districts for an initial period of, say, 20 years. Second, the Act could be gradually extended to the whole country, over a period of, say, three years, starting with the poorest 200 districts. This will make it easier to meet the additional foodgrain requirements in a phased manner.

This approach is not perfect, but it seems much preferable to the confused, impractical and divisive framework that has emerged from the NAC (or rather, from protracted discussions between the NAC and the government). It will be easy to adapt the current NFSA draft to this approach, while retaining the valuable work that has been done by the NAC on other aspects of the draft. This small modification could make a big difference.

(The author is a Visiting Professor at the University of Allahabad. The views expressed here are his own.)

 

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THE HINDU

OPED

DON'T LEAVE AFGHANISTAN, INDIA TOLD U.S.

B. MURALIDHAR REDDY

NEW DELHI: After U.S. President Barack Obama announced his intention to begin withdrawing troops from Afghanistan starting 2011, Indian officials, worried that this would be to the detriment of India's security, urged Washington against the decision.|U.S. diplomatic cables originating from Islamabad and New Delhi, accessed by The Hindu through WikiLeaks, clearly suggest that India was concerned about U.S. plans to exit from Afghanistan, and its possible repercussions on India's security.

The planned drawdown of troops was announced by President Obama at a speech at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in December 2009.

At a meeting with visiting U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill in early 2010, National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon cautioned that if the Pakistani establishment felt that the U.S. commitment in Afghanistan was flagging, it would "sit it out and use the Indian threat as an excuse for not doing what was needed" on its western frontier.The concerns have led New Delhi to seek a greater role in Afghanistan. On a recent visit to Kabul, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh pledged $500 million more to India's $1.3 billion development assistance package to Afghanistan. He also backed President Hamid Karzai's bid for reconciliation with the Taliban.

In a February 25, 2010 cable ( 250737: confidential), Ambassador Timothy J. Roemer reported: "Menon said he may be a 'minority of one,' but thought there was more potential for success in Afghanistan than most observers in India think. "The British were convinced the Coalition would lose because they lost three wars there, but others had been able to tame the country."

The NSA "trumpeted" India's Afghan assistance programme of small, community-based projects: it had taken Indian officials one-and-a-half years "to navigate around the ministries in Kabul to get direct access to local people, but it had paid off enormously," Mr. Menon told the Senator.

He cited one instance in which 13,000 Afghans had applied for examinations to qualify for Indian scholarships; not all of them were qualified, but it showed how strong the desire was for such opportunities. "He concluded that success will require 'more than just a military effort'."

Senator McCaskill assured Mr. Menon that the U.S. "would continue to sustain the 300,000 strong Afghan National Security Forces even if we began to draw down troops in 2011."

Rather admiringly, Mr. Menon observed that "the wonder of the U.S. system is how quickly you learn; that cannot be said of any other country in the world."

Another cable dated February 11, 2010, sent from New Delhi on the eve of Senator John Kerry's visit ( 248366: secret), outlined Indian worries over the possibility of a U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan.

"On Afghanistan, there are underlying concerns that U.S. policy foreshadows an early exit from Afghanistan with negative security consequences for India. India has expressed concern about the outlines of the reintegration policy promoted by the Karzai government and supported by the US."

The cable, a "scenesetter" for a visit by Senator John Kerry, noted that New Delhi had begun to weigh a policy response that might include increased Afghan police and military training/assistance, and said that his Indian interlocutors would be interested in Senator Kerry's views on India's role in Afghanistan.

India's fears that its views and interests were not being taken into account had intensified lately, the cable said: "India was kept out of the Istanbul regional conference on Afghanistan (based on a Pakistani veto) and New Delhi was the odd man out at the London Conference over reintegration."

It underlined that India was "proud" of its own ongoing development assistance in Afghanistan. "Indian support for Afghanistan's government is long-standing and motivated by a variety of reasons, not the least being Afghanistan's strategic value as New Delhi seeks regional influence," the cable said.

Sent by the New Delhi Embassy under Mr. Roemer's signature, the cable said Pakistan's expectation that the government in Afghanistan should be pro-Pakistan and anti-India was "unrealistic" given President Hamid Karzai's "own long-standing ties to India and the goodwill that India's assistance and other elements of India's soft power have created in Afghanistan."

It noted that "India, with the exception of the Taliban era, has always had strong ties to Afghanistan since Partition; conversely, Islamabad with the exception of the Taliban period, has had strained ties with Kabul."

The cable revealed that after President Obama's West Point speech, the Ministry of External Affairs told the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi that "the GOI wishes to do more to help develop Afghan capacity, especially with regard to the police and military, but is also cognizant of USG 'sensitivities' about such assistance."

What India had heard about the Pakistan Army's ability to influence decisions on Afghanistan seemed to have added to its worries.

Ten days before Mr. Menon's meeting with the Senator, U.S. Special Envoy to Afghanistan-Pakistan Richard Holbrooke had confided to External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna that it was the Pakistan Army that had insisted on excluding India from a key conference on Afghanistan in Istanbul in January 2010, ahead of the London Conference. This was revealed in a cable dated February 1, 2010 ( 246564: confidential).

Holbrooke told the Indian Minister that the U.S. was "deeply disturbed by the GOP [Government of Pakistan]'s ties with the LeT" and described U.S. efforts to persuade Pakistan to take action against the group.

Sent under the signature of Ambassador Timothy Roemer from New Delhi, the cable noted that Holbrooke "assessed that the civilian government in Pakistan had a limited capacity to take such steps." It added that "the Army was the key decision maker," while Mr. Zardari had been sidelined.

"The military was not likely at this time to resume full control," Holbrooke told Mr. Krishna, "but would assert its views on relations with India and Afghanistan. Holbrooke cited the example of India's exclusion from an Afghan conference in Istanbul — despite efforts by Holbrooke and Secretary Clinton — as an example of the military's weight in decision making."

Even before President Obama outlined his new strategy in Afghanistan in mid-2009, India's top leadership was worrying about the consequences of the U.S. departing the scene.

Interacting with U.S. Under Secretary William J. Burns, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had conceded that while India was not able to send troops to Afghanistan, it fully supported efforts to stabilise and rebuild that country.

A June 11, 2009 cable ( 211549: secret) sent under the name of Charge d'Affaires Peter Burleigh, said Dr. Singh expressed the hope that all those engaged in the process of moving towards stability in Afghanistan would "stay on course."

"Singh hoped the international community understood that this would be a long-term process and that all those working in Afghanistan 'would stay the course'." Mr. Burns assured Dr. Singh that the U.S. had a long-term strategy and was committed to working for a stable Afghanistan.

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

     

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THE HINDU

OPED

'PAKISTAN'S ACTIONS AT THE UN MAY EMBOLDEN OTHER MEMBER STATES TO OPPOSE U.S. POSITIONS'

U.S. MISSION IN NEW YORK RAISED CONCERNS ABOUT PAKISTAN'S VOTING ON KEY ISSUES SUCH AS COUNTERTERRORISM AND HUMAN RIGHTS

SURESH NAMBATH

CHENNAI: As Pakistan continued to vote against U.S. positions and interests at the United Nations despite its ties with Washington, the U.S. Mission to the UN expressed apprehension that other member states would be emboldened to do the same.

A cable sent on June 6, 2006 by the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in New York, under the name of Ambassador John Bolton ( 66945: confidential/noforn) noted: "While much of its behavior in New York may reflect Pakistan's rivalry with India and its desire to block a permanent Indian seat on the UNSC (United Nations Security Council), the positions Pakistan adopts to curry favor with other member states often put it in direct opposition to U.S. policies."

While pointing out that Pakistan, along with Egypt, was "one of a handful of countries (including India, Brazil, and South Africa) that routinely oppose the United States in multilateral debates despite strong bilateral ties to the U.S.," the cable said unlike Egypt, Pakistan had managed to "cultivate a false image of constructive engagement among other delegations in New York, personified by Permanent Representative Munir Akram, even while working to block key U.S. priorities."

Pakistan, it said, effectively used its membership in the G-77, the Non-Aligned Movement, the Asia Group, and the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) to "project its views and achieve greater influence at the UN than its standing in the international community would otherwise suggest."

Providing a statistical analysis of Pakistan's voting record at the United Nations General Assembly, the cable said "Pakistan's voting correlation with the U.S. in the UNGA has been on a downward trend since 1996 and reached a record low of 17.4 percent last year. From 2001-2005, Pakistan's overall voting correlation with the U.S. was 21.9 percent, just below the UN median of 22.8. This ranked it 108th out of 190 member states. Pakistan was 62nd of 190 member states on disarmament and security issues, 99th on decolonization, 170th on human rights issues, and 174th on Palestine/Middle East votes."

The net result, it concluded, was a "paradoxical asymmetry" on a par with the U.S. relationship with Egypt.

In this context, the cable added wryly: "The fact that despite all this the U.S. provides to Pakistan annual assistance that is nearly twice the amount of our entire annual assessed contribution to the UN is not lost on many." Deputy Secretary General Mark Malloch Brown, it noted, had observed that Pakistan and Egypt form the core of opposition to meaningful reform at the UN "perhaps as a means of 'balancing' their friendship with the U.S. in the eyes of those parts of their publics that do not support U.S. policy."

Counterterrorism

Giving several instances of Pakistan's opposition to U.S. interests at the UN, the cable also pointed to the disagreements on the issue of counterterrorism (CT) strategies. "Pakistan, which undoubtedly sees counterterrorism at the UN through the prism of Kashmir, in addition to its credentials as a Muslim state, has long been a leader among the OIC in opposing U.S. CT positions through indirect criticism of U.S. policies. It has joined Egypt, Venezuela, and other NAM states in arguing that attacks perpetrated by peoples living under foreign occupation are not terrorism and in emphasizing the need to confront the 'root causes' of terrorism."

Pakistan had also insisted on references to "state terrorism" in UN counterterrorism strategies. "In one session, the Pakistani delegate argued that militaries engaging in foreign occupation often carry out 'wanton violence against innocent civilians and other non-combatants' and cited carpet-bombing, collective punishment, and targeted assassinations as examples of state terrorism."

Pakistan, according to the cable, had gone beyond long-standing positions to derail pragmatic compromises on UN counterterrorism strategies. "While the EU, U.S., Eastern Europeans and most Latin Americans urged the UNGA in May 2006 to adopt an action-oriented CT strategy based on areas where there is wide agreement, Pakistan led Syria and Iran, among others, to oppose any CT strategy unless there was agreement on all elements."

Arguing that exclusion of controversial issues would not produce a comprehensive strategy, Pakistan insisted on an exception for national liberation movements and a reference to state terrorism, the cable pointed out.

The U.S. Mission was equally critical of Pakistani positions on economic and social questions. Pakistan, it said, persuaded the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the UN and the General Assembly to "adopt positions on development, trade, and social issues at odds with the interests of the U.S. and other like-minded nations."

Another charge against Pakistan was that "by joining with notorious human rights abusers such as Cuba and Iran and playing a leadership role within the G-77 and the OIC, Pakistan helped ensure that U.S.-backed proposals to strengthen the Human Rights Council (HRC) were defeated."

On the issue of establishing a Peacebuilding Commission, the cable said, Pakistan, throughout the negotiations, focussed on buttressing the influence of the GA and the Asian Group at the expense of Western interests. "To this end, rather than engage in constructive efforts to create an effective institution, the Pakistani delegation often resorted to power plays and posturing."

While the U.S. accepted the eventual compromise in which the UNSC and GA passed concurrent resolutions creating the PBC, "Akram rejected that formula and maintained that at most, the UNSC could pass a subsequent resolution — which would need to be consistent with any UNGA PBC resolution — to clarify and 'operationalize its contribution' to the Commission."

On the day the PBC was created, the cable said, "Pakistan called P5 [Permanent Members of the Security Council] membership on the Commission — which was enshrined in the UNSC resolution creating the body — 'contradictory to the spirit of the (UNGA) resolution.'

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

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THE HINDU

WE ARE NOT AS ADVANCED AS YOU ARE IN RESPECT FOR FREEDOM OF RELIGION, PAKISTAN TOLD U.S.

SURESH NAMBATH

CHENNAI: In the face of criticism from the United States for encouraging "unhelpful resolutions, especially on issues relating to religious freedom and the Middle East" at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), Pakistan said it wanted "freedom of expression" to be balanced with "respect for religion."

According to a cable sent by the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad ( 153464: confidential) on May 12, 2008, Hasan Javed, Director General of the United Nations and Economic Cooperation Division of Pakistan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, responding to U.S. concerns on this issue, said: "We are not as advanced as you are" in terms of respect for freedom of religion and could not always control the reactions of sometimes ignorant crowds.

But, the cable suggested that Pakistan was defensive about its pro-active stand on resolutions that were not to the liking of the U.S.

"Hasan stated that the only reason that Pakistan took the lead on certain resolutions is that the other members of the Organization of the Islamic Council (OIC) [Organisation of the Islamic Conference] do not draft well in English."

The conversation took place in the context of Pakistan's plan to run for one of the four seats from Asia that fell vacant in 2008 on the HRC. Pakistan was eventually elected for the three-year term. The U.S. under the Bush administration had decided against running for the seats in the HRC protesting against the membership of allegedly repressive states, but the policy was reversed during the Obama administration. The U.S. was elected to the HRC in 2009.

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

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THE HINDU

U.S. SURPRISED, HAPPY AT SAARC OBSERVER OFFER

B. MURALIDHAR REDDY

NEW DELHI: The United States was surprised by an Indian suggestion in 2005 that it consider participation in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), and Washington saw that as a possible attempt by New Delhi to "balance" Pakistan's request to include China in the grouping.

Nine countries have been given observer status. Since the 14th SAARC Summit in New Delhi, they have attended the inaugural and closing sessions of the summits.

A U.S. diplomatic cable dated November 17, 2005 ( 45425: confidential), accessed by The Hindu through WikiLeaks, deals with the possible logic behind India sounding the U.S. on the proposal.

The cable, sent by U.S. Political Counselor Geoffrey Pyatt Jr., said that at a briefing on the 2005 SAARC Summit, Ministry of External Affairs Joint Secretary (SAARC) P.K. Kapur had told him that both Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran supported a closer U.S. role in the regional body and requested feedback from the U.S.

Mr. Kapur told the U.S. diplomat that the membership invitation extended to Afghanistan and the decision to offer China and Japan observer status were among the most important outcomes of the Summit.

"The offer for US Observer Status may be an attempt to balance Pakistan's request to include China, but it is a welcome opportunity to play a more prominent role in promoting US foreign policy goals for South Asian integration and reflect India's confidence in its relationship with the US," the cable said.

The U.S. diplomat quoted Mr. Kapur as saying that Prime Minister Singh was "very comfortable" and Foreign Secretary Saran was "quite positive" about the idea of U.S. participation.

Although "India would not suggest it," New Delhi would "welcome US interest in becoming an observer." Mr. Kapur added that the debate over including China as an observer created a unique opportunity for India to suggest a similar status for the U.S.

The cable said: '"If the US wants a closer association with SAARC anytime in the next ten years,' he observed, 'you should tell us now.' He requested feedback before the April 2006 Special Session of the Standing Committee of Foreign Secretaries, when the leaders will likely agree on a mechanism for Chinese and Japanese Observer status."

The cable added that Mr. Kapur indicated that India looked forward to Afghanistan's membership in SAARC and confirmed rumours about Nepal's attempts to block the invitation at Pakistan's request.

In his comment on the Indian suggestion, the U.S. diplomat said that if the U.S. wanted closer association with SAARC, it was the right time to move. He viewed the Indian invitation as a reflection of the dynamics of the current balancing act among South Asian powers.

The cable further noted:

"In return for Afghanistan's membership, Pakistan wanted Chinese involvement. Since India was not able to block this proposal, and since China has agreed to India's full participation at the East Asian Summit, New Delhi went along with Chinese and Japanese observer status.

"This invitation may be India's attempt to devalue China's observer status, but it is nonetheless a welcome opportunity for the US to support South Asian Integration. It also reflects India's growing trust in its strategic partnership with the US. We should grab this offer with both hands."

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

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

CM'S JANATA DURBAR

 

Sometimes old stories, looking more like myths, are revived to entertain listeners. We have heard legends about kings and rulers in ancient times roaming the streets of their cities incognito at night and listening to what the people have to say about the administration. The point is that there have been sensible kings and rulers who wanted to have first hand information about the administration of justice in their realms. As access to the top authority is usually difficult and rather impossible for an ordinary citizen; there exists a big gap between the ruler and the ruled in terms of delivery of justice.
We are reminded of former Chief Minister Late Bakhshi Ghulam Muhammad who had earmarked one day in a week for meeting the public in person and listening to their grievances. Innumerable stories of Bakhshi Sahib's quick judgment and decision are still remembered. This had endeared him to the people of the State. The reports are that Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has revived that practice of holding weekly Janata Durbars in order to be personally acquainted with the problems facing the people. The first Durbar held last week has been a success as the office of the CM is flooded with requests from the public for audience. The CM has a strong reason to have initiated the move. Past three summers were full of unrest and disturbances caused by stone pelting youth who are usually manipulated by miscreants. This has caused the state substantial financial loss and the government would not want the repeat of this sordid story. The main actors of those demonstrations were the unemployed youth who grumbled on many injustices done to them. The Chief Minister has said it publicly that the government is taking many steps to help the youth find employment including self-employment, and the process is ongoing. But at the same time, Chief Minister would want to meet with them and listen to them in person. This gives a personal touch and for a public leader it is of great benefit. The point is that many a problem gets stuck up owing to the complex red tape practices in administration. While interacting with ordinary people is a welcome step and a powerful instrument of winning public opinion, yet the need is that the administrative procedures have to be streamlined and bottlenecks cleared. This brings us to the question of bribery which is rampant in the administrative structure at the moment. One good thing that can emerge from these Janta Durbars is that the Chief Minister can have the opportunity of laying his finger on the malaise where it precisely affects the people. He can also get feedback on corrupt practices observed by some of the Government functionaries.
But we believe that as the Janata Durbar process gains full momentum, the Chief Minister will have to extend it to all the three regions and not remain confined to Srinagar only. Not only that, he may also think of holding such public meetings at each district headquarter once in two or three months. If his office plans it that way, one can say that it will go a long way in raising his public profile and it will bring him popularity that he rightly deserves. People in far off places in the State have very few chances of bringing their woes to the doorsteps of the Chief Minister. But if the initiative comes from him, it will mean establishing a permanent link between him and the people in those areas. Of course, when the CM holds the public meeting, the administrative paraphernalia has to gear up to the occasion and the entire machinery comes into motion. That is precisely what is needed to be done. A rare benefit of this policy will be that the people in remote areas will feel a sense of security against the atrocities of the militants. They will be equipped with greater moral courage to discard militancy. When they know they are connected to the Chief Minister through his public meetings, it will make the job of the security forces and the police much easier. The Janata Durbar programme of the Chief Minister is a welcome step and people have already responded to it very enthusiastically.

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

SOCIAL SERVICE CONCEPTS

 

Some decades back advanced western societies hit upon the idea of incepting Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) as an instrument to supplement the task of good governance. It was felt that democracy being the most popular form of government did need important input from civil society of how good governance could be brought about. Good governance, in short, means addressing maximum of problems of maximum numbers of people. Since human society is a complex phenomenon, the state is not able to comprehend most of its less visible problems and only NGOs are able to tackle these. Thus came into being the great idea of forming NGOs with different targets but essentially meaning to improve the life of the citizens. More advanced countries have more NGOs. But our State and especially Jammu is still far behind in making use of this organ. We have a few NGOs in Jammu but these are not really visible as they should be. Only very few of them are seen at work. For example, the Rotary Club Jammu Tawi organized a super specialty health camp at Rotary Bhawan the other day. A team of specialists in Cardiology, Dialectology, Urology, and Gastroenteritis examined more than 300 patients during the day long camp.
A large number of people from all walks of life availed different facilities available in the camp. Free ECG, BMD, Spectrometry and blood tests were also done on the occasion. This is a good example of what an NGO can do or can be made to do through the instrumentality of philanthropic organizations. If Jammu could give rise to many dedicated NGOs, these will find that a lot remains to be done to raise the standard of life in this beautiful city. One fails to understand that with given human resource and capability and also given the capacity to raise funds for philanthropic works, why don't we find many NGOs coming forward to undertake the much needed task of social service in the city of temples. The more NGOs we have the less do the people depend on the intervention of the government. And with that the chances of corruption also diminish. In our country the real task of NGOs is in the early phase and in due course of time it will gain momentum. Jammu should not lack behind.

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

AFTER OSAMA EPISODEINDIA, PAKISTAN RELATIONS

BY COL J P SINGH, RETD

 

Surprising discovery of hidden Osama in Abbottabad and the news of his killing sent shocker to the world. Pakistan once again came in the firing line of entire terrorism stricken world; this time for sheltering the most wanted terrorist leader of the world. Osama's secrecy has largely scuttled the goodwill Islamabad had earned for helping American war against terror. U S is now pressing Pakistan to come clean on how and when Osama was brought to Abbottabad and why he was protected from US hunt. American media and public is questioning Pak credibility as a trusted ally in their war against terror. American Congress is putting tremendous pressure on the administration to review its relations and aid package. By acting clever and fooling the world on whereabouts of most wanted fugitive, Pakistan is under scanner. Now onwards it will be under tremendous world pressure to bring other wanted Taliban leaders such as Mullah Omar and Sirajuddin Haqanni over ground. Even China, all weather friend, can't hold the earth slipping under its feet.
The CIA shattered its closest intelligence ally's credibility by hunting Osama in their fortified military cantonment right under their nose. Worse of all is the apprehension that American army can act at will; to kill, capture or destroy any one / anything in Pakistan or elsewhere if it so desires. Even the most guarded person or institution in Pakistan is not immune to American surprise action. America will never compromise on its national interests and security, be it Pakistan, Iraq, Libya or a European friend. A lesson for Pakistan and terrorist outfits wherever they may be. If history is any guide, Pakistan cannot be relied upon to support war against Al qaeda and Taliban. In the coming weeks, Islamabad will have to disclose some hidden secrets otherwise it suffers the consequences.
It has become clear that the CIA which created Taliban; has created a network of intelligence capability world over that can unearth the underworld of terrorism. Whereabouts of terrorist camps are no more secrets for the CIA. Many terrorist camps in Pakistan are known to India also. This intelligence network will expose ISI's double speak in its cooperation against terror much to the discomfort of Pak Military and civilian leadership.
Pakistan's strategic and security doctrines have long been shaped by its rivalry with
India. Since it had eaten a humble pie in each military misadventure against India, she changed its strategy from militarism to jihadism. It resorted to the use of militants and terrorists to further its interests against India and Afghanistan. Pak Army considers terrorists as strategic asset to further aggressive national policy. Jihadism worked because the ISI took over from where the army left and succeeded in exploiting our diversities clandestinely.
Pakistan now has two options. The 1st one is to reduce cooperation with the US counter terrorism campaign in Afghanistan and try to weaken the CIA hold in Pakistan. This option would put Islamabad on a collision course with US. If the Davis arrest and trial on murder charges despite his diplomatic immunity is any indication, the resulting tension between the intelligence agencies of two nations will make it difficult for them to work together. Mistrust will increase and CIA will increase its surveillance over ISI. Drone attacks and covert actions will increase. Such situation may force Pakistan fully into Chinese door steps and compel it mend ways with India. Prime Minster Gilani's current visit to China is a reflection of such predicament. The second option is to accept the fact that it is a failed nation whose survival is linked to American mercy and dole. In such case she has to allow US to enter its territories at will to hunt the terrorist. In such case the Army and ISI will quickly gain lost ground and the govt will have to stand to public wrath.
Since it is proven that Islamabad can no longer protect its jihadist and Taliban assets, it should abandon jihadist adventurism against India and Afghanistan. Pakistan will have to pay a heavy price if another 9 / 11 or 26 /11 type of attack is planned on its soil. There is an opportunity for the West to convince Pakistan to reevaluate its foreign policy lest she prefers to be hated, hunted and penalised
India should react to the latest Pak deceit in a careful and positive manner and leave the retaliation to US. India should continue its composite and sustained dialogue uninterrupted despite Osama episode and Gen Pasha's threats. Bilateral diplomatic and cultural exchanges should continue. India should engage both civilian and military leadership at the highest levels to push for a change in their hate India policy. The curt statement of Army Chief and goofed up list of 50 fugitive considered to be hiding in Pakistan should have been avoided. Pakistan's vulnerability at this critical moment can shape the course of Indo-Pak relations in a new direction provided India handles the critical situation with compassion.
(The author is a columnist, political analyst and social activist)

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

BRICS: CHINA MUST MEND ITS ATTITUDE

BY DR ASHWANI MAHAJAN


Recently 'BRICS' conference was held in Sanya, China. 'BRICS' is the name of the group of fastest emerging economies in the world, namely Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. Apart from showing extremely rapid growth, these five countries have now started challenging the economic supremacy of the developed world. The world's economic balance is changing very fast. Countries dominating the world, ten years ago, are not as powerful as they used to be. On the other hand these five fastest growing economies of the world have established themselves as economics powers to reckon with in the world. It may be noted that South Africa has joined this group for the first time. Earlier this group 'BRIC' included only Brazil, Russia, India and China. Now after South Africa joining the group, this group is called 'BRICS'.

 

Today China is second and India third most powerful economy of the world on the basis of purchasing power parity. We can say now that not only China and India; Russia, Brazil and South Africa also have emerged as economic powers. This process has been accentuated by global meltdown. This is happening because develop countries have either shrunk or are standstill. On the other hand there has been a fast and gradual growth in national incomes of 'BRICS' countries, ranging from 8 to 10 percent. This does not imply that people in these countries have reached the standard of living of the developed countries. Actually this growth is only at the level of GDP. But if we look at the per capita incomes, we find that it is a large gap between per capita income of developed countries and that of 'BRICS' countries.


Though it is true that Brazil, Russia, India and China constituted hardly one sixth of the world economy 10 years ago now they constitute one-fourth of the world economy. But this is also a fact that even on the basic of purchasing power parity, per capita income in India was only US$ 3280 and that of China US$ 6770 per annum in 2009. In the same year average per capita income in the developed countries was US$ 36473. Therefore it is natural that 'BRICS' countries despite being economically strong are not so fortunate in terms of human development. As per the recent data published by United Nations Development Programme(UNDP), India is still at 119th position and China at 89th position in the world in terms of Human development. Therefore despite fast growth economically, there is a long way to go for these 'BRICS' countries to improve standard of living of masses. In this endeavour to improve the condition of the common man, mutual understanding and co-operation among these countries can go a long way to improve the lot of the people in these countries.
Before recently concluded BRICS conference in Sanya, China, there have been two conferences of BRIC group of four nations (excluding South Africa), in Russia and Brazil. Despite fast rate of growth in BRICS nations, common man is still struggling for basic necessities of life. These nations are still fighting against the problems of food security, energy security, poverty and unemployment and also the problem of regional imbalances. Though there are signs of development, they are limited only to few sections of society. Size of middle class is expanding both in china and India, and side by side inequalities are also on rise. Even as on date per capita food grain availability in India is only 436 grams per day. Whereas per capita energy consumption in US is equivalent to 7766 kg oil, in India it is hardly 529 kg and in China it is 1484 kg oil. Thus there is dire need to improve conditions of human development in these countries.


This conference of BRICS nations can play an important role to improve mutual co-operation in view of these problems. But if we look at it in terms of India and China, there are various hurdles in improving Sino-Indian relationship. Foreign trade is one important aspect of mutual co-operation between two nations. But severe imbalances in the trade balance of India and China is a big problem. Today foreign trade between India and China has reached the level of US$ 60 billion. In 1990 it was negligible. But India exports are only worth US$ 20 billion, whereas India's imports from China are US$ 40 billion. India exports mostly consist of raw material and minerals. Reasons behind this imbalance in the foreign trade is the huge subsidies being given by Chinese Government to their industry. Facilitated by huge subsidy from the Government, industry in China is able to sell their products at much cheaper prices in the foreign markets. At the same time Chinese government has kept the exchange rate of Yuan artificially low. USA and other countries have been constantly demanding for appreciation of Yuan but Chinese government is not ready to inch ahead on this issue.


Tension between India and China is increasing due to raking up of unnecessary border disputes with India by China. India is forced to raise its expenditure on defence in wake of security threats from China. Preceding the BRICS Conference meeting of senior security officials, foreign ministers, finance ministers, central bank Governors, business delegations and representatives of financial institutions is a welcome step as it would step towards enhancement of cooperation between the BRICS nations and create goodwill. It is hoped that BRICS would follow the footsteps of G-8 group of developed nations in creating an institutional framework for mutual consensus, cooperation and coordination. But all this is not possible unless China changes its attitude towards India, stop creating unnecessary troubles in the best interest of development of this region in particular and BRICS nations in general. If China sheds its narrow selfish interests it would help writing a new chapter in the history of BRICS.


(The author is Associate Professor, PGDAV College, University of Delhi)

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

POWER SHORTAGE HITTING GROWTH

BY NANTOO BANERJEE

 

One of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin's most famous quotes read as "Communism is Soviet power plus the electrification of the whole country." Mao Tse Tung's definition of state power too had two specific elements: the barrel of the gun meaning military might and electricity. Both Russia and China, two of the world's three leading super-powers, have enough gun power and electricity to boast. China, last year, surpassed the United States of America (USA), the No. 1 super-power, to emerge as the world's largest energy guzzler. China is also the world's largest coal producer, the most reliable source of thermal energy. Russia is a large exporter of hydrocarbon - petroleum and gas. It has the largest proven reserves of hydrocarbon, far ahead of Saudi Arabia, the USA, China, Iran, Iraq, Venezuela, Nigeria and Mexico. India, which aspires to be a powerful country in this century, has none - neither enough energy, nor adequate modern fire power - to boast about.
The top three super-powers - the USA, Russia and China - are among the world's top manufacturers-exporters of arms and military equipment. On the contrary, India today is the world's largest arms and military hardware importer. A champion of peaceful co-existence, India's own defence manufacturing industry has been one the weakest links in its history of progress and development. Historically, the defence sector has always remained neglected. It is often linked with political corruption through successive national governments since the time of Jawaharlal Nehru, the country's first prime minister. India's external security is heavily dependent on imported arms, ammunitions, equipment and spares. Internally, the issue of energy security poses a big challenge to the future success of India's over-hyped growth story. India is constantly scouting for energy and defence products imports. Nearly 80 per cent of India's hydrocarbon needs are met through imports.
More than defence arsenal, the shortage of energy is a bigger concern before the nation. India's electric power mix heavily leans on coal-based thermal power, accounting for almost 65 per cent of total availability. Gas-based thermal power and diesel generation together make up for around 10 per cent, hydro-electric power provides for about another 15 per cent. And, the rest come from nuclear power, solar and wind energy, bio-gas, bio-diesel, geo-thermal and other non-conventional sources. Although there exists a tremendous opportunity for India to tap its vast sources of non-conventional energy, the country has been extremely slow to utilize it to the full extent to raise its share to 30 per cent or so. One reason is the initial high investment cost per megawatt. Others include small-size units, low generation capacity of each of the units and the country's easy-going attitude. The investment cost for nuclear power is much more expensive. But, it is preferred to non-conventional energy for its bulk generation capacity, which can be easily transmitted to a large number of consumers through linkage with the national grid.
There is no urgency on the part of the Government to develop new mines and to use latest technology to save wastage of coal in the seams. The environment ministry does not want new coal mines. Maoists are also opposed to it. As a result, some politicians and the coal mafia are having a field day at the cost of the nation. It is a 'Catch-22' situation. This is despite the fact that Coal India, the country's largest coal producer, has been making a massive afforestation effort around coal mines areas and offering best rehabilitation package to tribal population in the coal belt. A visit from the Bilaspur railway station in Chhattisgarh to Chirimiri coal mines will bear testimony of the massive artificial forestry created by Coal India. The Union Environment Ministry does not seem to be impressed.
Meanwhile, this summer, severe coal shortage threatens to disturb electricity generation in one-third of the country's 85 coal-based thermal power plants. The Central Electricity Authority is extremely concerned. So is the entire nation. Nearly a dozen of these power plants don't have coal stocks to last beyond three-four days. They are literally hand-to-mouth. Another 15 power plants have coal stocks that could see their boilers burning just for a week. These coal-starved power plants account for almost 30 per cent of the country's thermal generation of some 82,400 mw.
Yet, the government is rather unconcerned. In any other country, it would have called for an emergency cabinet meeting to deal with a situation as this. Even the media underplays these issues which affects the industry and the common man. Per capita energy consumption in India is among the lowest in the world. Not many of the country's 7,30,000 villages have electricity. Even those small numbers which are connected, it only acts as a show-piece more for statistical record than its utility value. Rampant and prolonged periods of power cuts and extremely low voltage make power supplies in rural areas almost useless. The country's peak period power shortage in the late morning and early evening periods is estimated at a whopping 10,000-15,000mw. The eight to nine per cent annual economic (GDP) growth rate had little impact on the supply deficit in the electricity front. Certainly, the administration is not losing any sleep over a grave situation as this. At least, there is no sign of any genuine concern about it on the part of the Government.
India's emergence as an economic power of any consequence without enough electricity is at best a wistful thought. At the current rate of generation, electricity is going to be an even scarcer commodity in India if it has to meet up with the additional demand of the country's growing population, which is projected to explode to 1.63 billion by 2050 making it the world's most populous country, well ahead of China. 'Population control' is a pair of dirty words in India ever since the late Sanjay Gandhi, the younger of the two sons of Mrs Indira Gandhi, tried hard to implement it during 1975-77 and was condemned. One of the reasons behind the Congress party's huge defeat in the 1977 national elections was Sanjay Gandhi's sterilization drive called nashbandi against married men and women having more than two children. The population explosion may cause further shortage of electricity.
The official think-tank at the planning commission and the departments of coal, power, petroleum and gas, atomic energy, non-conventional energy and environment must urgently sit together under the chairmanship of no other than the prime minister himself to address the burning issue of nagging electricity shortage in the country by devising and implementing a time-bound programme. Energy security should receive a top priority along with food security and financial stability in the government's scheme of things, if the country aspires to be a key player in the committee of nations at some point of time, if not soon. (IPA)

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

A LACKLUSTRE BEGINNING

UPA-2 STILL HAS TIME TO REDEEM ITSELF

 

The UPA has two options: muddle along or draw lessons from the poor immediate past. Celebrating his government's second anniversary in low key on Sunday, the Prime Minister vowed to fight corruption. To be successful, he needs to stop dithering. Had he not succumbed to the DMK blackmail on getting the Telecom portfolio for A. Raja, stopped the scandalous 2-G spectrum allocations midway, removed CWG chief organiser Suresh Kalmadi the moment the stink of scam arose and said no to the appointment of a tainted official, P.J. Thomas, as the Chief Vigilance Commissioner, an upright Dr Manmohan Singh would have spared himself the embarrassment of seeing his government embroiled neck-deep in corruption.

 

If coalition compulsions had held him back, he should have asserted himself and kept his image and the interests of the country above those of the party. The first lesson to learn, therefore, is zero tolerance towards corruption and a quick response to any wrongdoing. Instead of owning responsibility for the messy affairs, including a botched-up list of most wanted terrorists, the UPA fields spokespersons to explain things away. Pointing a finger at the BJP's Karnataka cover-up will not hide the party's own shady dealings. Politicking can help up to a point. There is no alternative to transparent, responsive, good governance.

 

The UPA still has three years to redeem itself. The way forward is to pursue reforms, which have got stalled even when there is no Red signal from an irritating ally. Apart from the much-discussed Lokpal Bill, the country is eagerly awaiting the goods and services tax (GST), which can economically unify the country but is held up by opposition from states. If the Opposition lets Parliament function, the government has a lot of business ahead: the land Bill, the Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill, autonomy for the CBI, diesel decontrol and opening up of the financial, insurance and retail sectors. A high growth rate has produced more billionaires than before, but the aam aadmi is weighed down by high prices. 

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

"REVENGE" ATTACK

QUESTION MARK ON PAK N-INSTALLATIONS

 

SUNDAY night's attack on Pakistan's Mehran naval air base in Karachi is perhaps the biggest strike by the Taliban against a leading military installation since guerrillas attacked the army's Rawalpindi headquarters in October, 2009. This was apparently in retaliation for Osama bin Laden's killing and the Pakistan government's ties with the US. This particular navy station might have been specifically chosen for its role in helping conduct surveillance against movements by militant groups along Pakistan's coast. The ease with which more than 15 Taliban militants managed to enter the highly fortified area and cause extensive damage not only shows that the Taliban have become more powerful and sophisticated in their planning and attacks but also underlines the possibility that they have sympathisers and insiders in the security establishment. Less than a month earlier, they had attacked navy bases in Karachi, killing four persons and injuring 56. Two days later, four navy personnel and one civilian were killed in a bomb attack on a navy bus in the capital.

 

Interior Minister Rehman Malik is as usual trying to sell the line that this attack shows that Pakistan is a victim of terrorism and is suffering. He wants to gloss over the fact that the Tehreek-e-Taliban is Pakistan's own creation. But in the rest of the world, the attack has raised new concerns about the capability of Pakistan to secure its considerable nuclear arsenal. US President Obama's statement that if necessary, it would carry out an Abbottabad-type operation yet again, needs to be seen in that light.

 

Unfortunately, any such measure would be a double-edged sword. As it is, there is strong reaction within Pakistan against the "attack" on its sovereignty. The criticism of the leaders may grow even louder for their failure to protect the Mehran base. It is an open secret that Pakistan's intelligence agencies maintain ties with guerrillas fighting American-led forces in Afghanistan. The tilt of some of these officials may now grow even more pronounced. Keeping a nuclear-powered country on an even keel is going to be a huge diplomatic challenge.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

COLUMN

PALESTINIAN HOMELAND

IT WILL HELP ISRAEL GET PEACE

 

The Israeli rejection of President Barack Obama's proposal for Tel Aviv to withdraw from all the Palestinian territories occupied in the 1967 war is not surprising. Israel has been arguing that over 500,000 Israelis living in the settlements in the West Bank and elsewhere cannot be uprooted. It has refused to give more land than what has already been handed over to the Palestinians. East Jerusalem (the Arab part of Jerusalem), too, Israel argues, has become non-negotiable now. The issue of the return of the Arab refugees to their homes in Israel, as Israel asserts, has ceased to have any meaning today. Then what is there to negotiate? Israel has been hinting that only a small part of the occupied territories is practically possible to be vacated provided it does not jeopardise its security interests.

 

But is this the way to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Can it be called justice? Can it bring peace to Israel it so desperately wants? President Obama's call for Israel to withdraw from all the occupied Palestinian territories is justified in view of the fact that no country has the right to annex another nation's territory on any pretext. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's argument is unconvincing as he says that Israel can never accept an idea that can compromise its security. What Mr Netanyahu wants the Palestinians to agree to amounts to asking the weak to accept the victor's justice!

 

Israel also says that it cannot agree to hold negotiations with the Palestinians so long as Hamas continues to rule over the Gaza Strip. The Hamas movement, accused of being involved in terrorist activities, is unwilling to give up its stand — which was the stand of all the Palestinian groups a few years ago —that Israel, transplanted in an alien geographical area, has no right to exist. Whatever may be the Hamas belief and stand, it came to power after winning UN-monitored elections. The Hamas right to rule, therefore, cannot be questioned. But all this has made the situation quite complicated for President Obama, who seems to be genuinely interested in getting the vexed issue resolved. This single issue is believed to have been behind the strong anti-US sentiment in the Arab world and elsewhere among the Muslims. 

 

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THE TRIBUNE

ARTICLE

PM'S PRODUCTIVE KABUL VISIT

THE POST-OSAMA ENDGAME HAS BEGUN

BY INDER MALHOTRA

 

ANYONE who heard Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's speech to Afghan Parliament, or has read it since, would know why his visit to Kabul has been such a success and so popular with the Afghan people. Recalling the close and deep friendship and cooperation between the two peoples since antiquity, he charmed his audience by declaring that he had come to "renew these ties", and had "no other agenda". His decision to stay in Kabul overnight despite security threats also sent a message to all concerned. This does not mean that he did not address the problems of the day and of the future, especially now that the endgame in war-ravaged Afghanistan has begun, but more about that presently.

 

First, it needs to be mentioned that Dr. Singh was the first head of government to visit Kabul after the killing of Osama bin Laden by the American Special Forces deep inside Pakistan practically under the nose of the all-powerful Pakistan army and its main spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate (ISI). The profound repercussions and ramifications of this were obviously on the agenda during Dr. Singh's talks with his host, President Hamid Karzai.

 

Substantively, the Prime Minister announced a fresh $500-million aid to Afghanistan, in addition to $1.5 billion given already. More importantly, he declared that as Afghanistan moved towards "assuming full responsibility for its security", India stood ready to "widen its cooperation in this area". The two countries are now strategic partners but without any Indian military footprint on Afghan soil. Of great significance is Dr. Singh's offer to train Afghan police officers, if only because in the post-America Afghanistan, the police would have a bigger role than that of the Afghan National Army. Of course, the Indian commitment to rebuild Afghanistan's Parliament building, infrastructure, schools and hospitals continues. Interestingly, the Prime Minister made a special mention of the Zaranj-Delaram Highway and the transmission line from Pul-e-Khumeri that brings electricity to Kabul.

 

Overall, Dr. Singh's message was that while India's role there would be what Afghans want it to be, instead of reducing its profile, it intends to raise it. He took care to add that the Indian presence in Afghanistan was not and would not be directed against any other country, and he made it a point to mention Pakistan specifically. Thus he was telling Pakistan that he remains steadfast in wanting to resume dialogue with it. Surely, it is time that Afghanistan should cease to be an irritant in India-Pakistan relations.

 

Not many Indians have any illusion that this would be easy to achieve. Pakistan has always objected to any Indian presence in Afghanistan and has constantly made the baseless allegation that Indian consulates in Jalalabad and Kandhar are sources of "interference" in Balochistan. In the post-Osama mess, in which the Pakistan Army is in the unfamiliar torment of being criticized by the people for either complicity in the American operation at Abbottabad or incompetence, a change in the established Pakistani mindset is unlikely. However, before discussing briefly the situation within Pakistan, that between the US and Pakistan and the impact of the entire tangled web on the region, let me mention what was perhaps the most important part of Dr. Singh's pronouncements in Kabul.

 

Reversing the Indian position on the controversial issue of "reconciliation with the Taliban", the Prime Minister recognised that this was what the Afghan government and people wanted. He therefore declared that India would go along with it. But he carefully added the nuance that the peace process must be "Afghan-led". Pakistan wouldn't like it, of course, but other countries in the region would surely welcome it. For the entire region, including Iran, has a stake in what Dr. Singh called "a secure, independent, prosperous and stable" Afghanistan.

 

Conspicuously missing is any reference to Afghanistan's "neutrality". One reason for this may be that the question of long-term presence of foreign (US and NATO) troops there is still unsettled. The US will start drawing down its forces from Afghanistan in July, but the bulk of them would remain until the end of 2014. Talks are now on for the presence of some American and NATO forces beyond that date which would need foreign bases.

 

]Pakistan is opposed to this idea because it wants the post-America Afghanistan as its backyard. That is why some days before the killing of Osama Pakistan's Prime Minister YousUf Raza Gilani, accompanied by General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and the ISI chief, Lt.-General Shuja Pasha, went to Kabul to "persuade" President Karzai not to allow long-term American and NATO presence in his country.

 

]In this context, it is noteworthy that General Kayani has since raised the ante. Not only he and the civilian government condemned the US for violating Pakistan's sovereignty but also the country's Parliament has passed a resolution to the same effect. There is a clamour in the country for a review of the relationship with America and a demand for a judicial inquiry into the Abbottabad episode. There is even talk of stopping supplies to the American and NATO forces in Afghanistan through Pakistan.

 

More significantly, General Kayani has flashed the China card presumably to scare the Americans. Mr. Gilani has visited Beijing. The question, however, is whether China, for all its "all-weather friendship" with Pakistan, would be willing to take on the US.

 

In any case, the US seems unimpressed. President Obama continues to demand full information on the "support system" for Osama and the role of the ISI in it. The US has already secured access to Osama's three widows and, as announced during the visit to Islamabad of Senator Kerry, the CIA and the ISI have stopped exchanging intelligence. The trial in Chicago of Rana is almost certain to bring out more dirt on Pakistan's duplicity over the war on terror.

 

To cut a long story short, US-Pakistan relations had sunk low even before Abbottabad. Today, they have reached the lowest depth. But, as in the past, so now, there won't be a total breach between the uneasy allies. Each side needs the other.

 

The latest word from Islamabad about this country is the threat by Lt.-Gen. Pasha (one had thought he was being made the scapegoat) that he had already identified targets in India and done the necessary rehearsals to strike in case of any misadventure by this country. This is cheap bombast. But then why blame Pasha when the Indian Army and Air Force Chiefs had earlier made equally uncalled for statements?

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

BABE DI FULL KIRPA

BY V. K. KAPOOR

 

Training the Delhi Police for the Commonwealth Games was a great experience. I found this close interaction enriching and educative. Every day the class consisted of 50 policemen of all ranks.

 

A policeman believes in law and order in a curiously innocent way. He believes in it more than does the public he serves. There is always a smouldering resentment against the public he serves. They are at the same time, his wards and his prey. As wards they are ungrateful, abusive and demanding. As prey they are slippery, dangerous and full of guile. He is exposed to countless temptations and dangers. Condemned while he enforces law, and dismissed when he does not.

 

I found that after two periods, I could open a direct pipeline to their psyche. After that the discussion used to be free and frank. We talked about the problem of alcoholism in the police, corruption, the behaviour and attitude of senior officers in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. A DSP told me that the bosses in the police lick above and kick below. They use, misuse, and abuse their position.

 

The subjects assigned to me were Attitude, Leadership, Motivation, Communication Skills and Stress Management. As I was talking about Positive Attitude, a young Sub-Inspector got up, and asked me as to who was my role model in life.

 

I told him that my role model was a Punjabi truck driver. He asked me to explain. The whole class was all ears. I told him that he starts from Amritsar and he has to reach Siliguri. If you ask him how he is, his reply is "Chardi Kala" (top of the world), and if you ask him about life, his reply is "Maujan Hi Maujan" (all very enjoyable) and on the front of his truck he writes "Babe di full kirpa" (God's blessing). I told him that it signifies two things — "Faith in God", and "Faith in your own self". He is fully conscious of the problems on the route. The police harassment and corruption, bad weather, the flat tyre, and still he says "Chardi Kala". I told them if you are prepared to take on life without allies, the allies come. There was a pindrop silence in the class.

 

There were some erratic moments. A lady talking about communication skills told the cops, that they should smile, look into the eyes of the listener and communicate coherently. A cop remarked: "Madam, Ek Bar Aap Ankhon Me Dekh Kar Muskra De To Bahar Aa Jaye" (If you look into the eyes and smile, there will be spring).

 

I asked her how she reacted to it. She said she ignored the remark, and saw a look of disapproval on the faces of others. Another lady told me that she had gone to the AIIMS. A cop recognised her, and was extremely helpful and took her to the doctor and got the needful done. She told me that cops are basically good human beings.

 

Recently, I had to catch a flight. I was delayed. As I reached the airport a young cop accosted me, and helped me through all the formalities.

 

As he was walking with me to the aircraft, I noticed that he had earned a rank. He had become an Inspector. I congratulated him. He smiled and said: "Sir, Babe di full kirpa".

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

TOWARDS PEACE FOR BALUCHISTAN

IF IT IS POSSIBLE THAT A PEACE ACCORD WITH THE BALOCH NATIONALISTS IS NECESSARY, THE NEXT STEP IS IDENTIFICATION OF ELEMENTS WITH WHOM A COMPACT WOULD BE MEANINGFUL.

I.A REHMAN

 

A REGIONAL consultation on intra-state conflicts in South Asia, caused by some minority communities' assertion of their right to autonomy, offered Pakistan's policymakers and students of politics a great deal of food for thought, especially in view of a lack of serious discourse on the subject in this country.

 

The consultation organised by the South Asian Forum for Human Rights discussed conflicts arising at the time of state formation on the inclusion of certain territories in new states and their demand for self-determination, dissatisfaction with the existing social contract and the growth of democracy deficit in highly centralised states, and the rise of minority demands for ethnic homelands.

 

The focus was on an audit of peace accords negotiated for the resolution of some of the conflicts in South Asia, such as the agreements with the Nagas, the Mizos and the Bodos in India and with the tribal population of the Chittagong Hill Tracts in Bangladesh. Also discussed were the autonomy movement in Madhes, Nepal, that has received a boost during the country's search for a new constitution and the nationalist upsurge in Balochistan.

 

The discussion on Balochistan was based on a fresh study that argued that peace in Balochistan is meaningful, even possible, only if an end to violence is accompanied by justice in terms of a change in the status quo by establishing fair power relationships between the civil and military authorities, the centre and the province, and the elite and ordinary people.

 

The immediate measures suggested for giving the peace process a promising start include cessation of military operations and human rights abuse, withdrawal of the army and the FC, recovery of the 'missing persons', an end to the state's plans to rule the province through its co-opted elite, and facilitating productive economic activity.

 

While these suggestions are generally in harmony with the domestic democratic opinion on Balochistan, a disturbing finding was that although the unrest in that province has been on the national agenda for more than six decades, there has been no peace accord between the Baloch and the state. This point was not one of the main issues on the agenda of the recent consultation but it needs to be addressed by all those who wish to secure peace and justice in Balochistan.

 

History supports the view that each Baloch uprising has been suppressed by the state through force and without any peace settlement. The first uprising (1948) was suppressed through a quick military operation and its leaders punished. The second uprising (Ayub regime) was crushed through a mixture of force and chicanery, and a festering sore was created when the state reneged on its pledge of amnesty given to Sardar Nauroz Khan. The armed struggle of the 1970s was ended by Ziaul Haq's offering palliatives to its political leaders but without any settlement on the issues that had caused the conflict.

 

Gen Musharraf not only ignored Baloch national aspirations but also looked down upon them and threatened them in the language of an insolent bully. He believed, more or less like Ayub Khan, that development projects could persuade any people to forego their autonomy demands. The present government has added political and economic concessions to Balochistan (the 18th Amendment, the reform package and the NFC award) to the policy of settling issues through force. That this strategy can't deliver is manifest for the simple reason that no package has been given shape in consultation with the people.

 

While the state has never considered the Baloch dissidents worthy of negotiations across the table, it has also largely been indifferent to non-state initiatives to establish peace and tranquillity in Balochistan. The Bhutto-Bizenjo accord of 1972 was wrecked by Bizenjo's rivals in his own party and Mr Bhutto himself. The memorandum of understanding signed by the MRD parties in the 1980s was never taken seriously by the signatories except for the Baloch.

 

During the Musharraf regime, the Senate committee made some sensible proposals but lacked the will to attach to the matter the priority it deserved. Thus, the Baloch believe that besides being oppressed by the state, they have also been abandoned by the country's political parties and the people in general.

The harmful consequences of not having a peace accord with the Baloch people are fairly evident. The state's lack of interest in negotiating a settlement with the nationalists, including those that are labelled as insurgents, amounts to a denial of their status as citizens who are entitled to be party to any social contract on which the state must be based. This leads to the Baloch people's alienation from the state.

 

Besides, in the absence of a peace accord, the parties to the conflict are without any legitimate framework or context for their demands and assurances. Focus on specific issues becomes difficult. The people outside Balochistan have no measure with which to judge the legitimacy or otherwise of the Baloch nationalists' demands or the state's policy of denial.

 

If it is possible for the powers that be to realise that a peace accord with the Baloch nationalists is necessary, the next step is identification of elements with whom a compact would be meaningful. There certainly are elements in Balochistan who believe that the time for a settlement within a federal framework has passed and if they are so numerous as to make the rest politically irrelevant, then too an accord with them will be necessary, only its terms will be different from those of an intra-federation settlement.

 

The trouble is that the state is not talking even to elements that are prepared for accommodation within the federation provided that their rights as an autonomous unit are fully secured. The present Balochistan Assembly does not have the requisite credentials. For one thing, the 2008 polls were boycotted by the nationalist parties and for another the present provincial government enjoys little real authority.

 

Unless the state can find a way of bringing all the diverse elements in Balochistan to the peace table, an early election to determine the people's genuine representatives will become unavoidable. The essential fact to be realised is that peace cannot be established in Balochistan without an accord on democratic self-government.

 

One should not be unmindful of the obstacles on the road to a peace accord in Balochistan. The custodians of the security state would go to any length to deny the Baloch nationalists their right to speak for themselves. The bureaucrats would be loath to give up the powers they have enjoyed for ages. The consequences of recognising 'outlaws and criminals' would be presented in lurid detail.

 

But a surrender to the vested interest would only mean adding to the agony of the Baloch people and undermining the state's capacity to deal with the crisis in future. The risks in allowing the present drift to continue are far greater and more serious than those in seeking peace by accommodating the angry, dispossessed and the deeply hurt Baloch.

 

By arrangement with Dawn

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

JUDICIAL SNUB FOR ZARDARI

WINDOW ON PAKISTAN

SYED NOORUZZAMAN

 

It is well known that Pakistan is in deep trouble because of the killing of Osama bin Laden by US forces in Abbottabad, a militarily significant town near Islamabad. But Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari's worries are different. Pakistan's judiciary, with its newly found independence, never loses an opportunity to give him sleepless nights. Some people believe that this is because he was not forthcoming in restoring the status quo of the judiciary that existed when former military ruler Gen Pervez Musharraf imposed the emergency and sacked a large number of uncooperative judges, including the present Chief Justice of Pakistan, Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry.

 

Whatever may be the reason, the latest from the judiciary is an observation made by the Lahore High Court that he should dissociate himself from his party, the PPP, as its co-chairperson so that he can maintain neutrality as the President of Pakistan. The court made this observation while disposing of a set of petitions questioning his holding of two offices —- that of the President of Pakistan and the co-chairperson of the PPP.

 

Dawn says in an editorial on the subject, "As the legal word goes, President Asif Zardari must part company with the PPP chairman. He must now prepare himself to face the fallout of this (court verdict)."

 

Will Mr Zardari accept the court advice and relinquish the party post he has been holding since the death of his wife Benazir Bhutto? There are clear indications that he will continue to hold both posts and challenge the Lahore High Court ruling in the Supreme Court of Pakistan. His party has gone to the extent of holding demonstrations in Sindh.

 

The judgement has serious infirmities which are bound to be exploited by Mr Zardari.

 

Faisal Siddiqi, a lawyer, says in an article in Dawn, "The judges accept that the President's holding a party position is 'not barred under law' nor can it be used for 'a case for disqualification' or removal of the President, nor is there a 'report of any political controversy or reaction' regarding this issue. Even then the judges go on to hold that party position/political participation 'is extraneous to the duties and functions of his high constitutional office' and that the 'duties and functions of the lofty office of the President of Pakistan are to be discharged by him with complete neutrality, impartialityand aloofness from any partisan political interest'."

 

According to Daily Times, "Such a suggestion is outside the purview of the court. Our honourable courts need to think whether giving such orders that are hard to implement would bear any fruit. It lowers the dignity of the judiciary to give such constitutionally questionable remarks."

 

However, in a vast section of the people, there is a feeling that the President of Pakistan should keep himself away from the affairs of his party. Such people have appreciated the court's suggestion. A letter carried in The News congratulated "the independent judiciary for upholding the constitution of Pakistan by giving a historic judgement against the holding of two offices by the President of Pakistan." But, apparently, it will have no impact on the scheme of things of Mr Zardari.

 

Mr Zardari is waiting for his son, Bilawal, to come back to Pakistan from England, where he is studying, and start functioning as the PPP chairman. But this will take some time. Bilawal is a Bhutto and, therefore, he will have no difficulty in smoothly running the party affairs. At present, Mr Zardri's sister, Ms Faryal Talpur, helps him a lot in party matters, but she cannot be even a temporary replacement for Bilwal, as she is not a Bhutto. PPP supporters cannot accept a person as its head if he or she is not a Bhutto.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

STAGNATING PAK ECONOMY

SAKIB SHERANI

 

RECENT numbers depict a painful picture of the economy, the relative prosperity of the farm sector notwithstanding. Private investment has sunk to an all-time low, while the surge in inflationary pressure is at a historic peak.

 

The economy has recorded its second lowest per-capita income increase (close to zero) in any three-year period since independence. While a substantial contribution to this state of affairs has been made by external developments, weak governance and poor management have exacerbated the challenges. A review of the numbers makes the story clearer.

 

The economy is estimated to have grown 2.4 per cent in the current year, well below the long-run trend rate of growth of over five per cent. The commodity-producing sectors of the economy have posted an anaemic 0.5 per cent increase. While last summer's unprecedented floods affected the economy, the impact on growth was far less than initially feared — and more ambiguous. Other than major crops, all other sub-sectors of agriculture have done well.

 

Similarly, other than urea production, many manufacturing sub-sectors have benefited substantially from the rural economy's prosperity due to a surge in crop prices. Nonetheless, despite strong output growth in important sub-sectors such as cars, motorcycles and sugar, the overall tone of large-scale manufacturing is one of weakness, with growth slowing down to a mere 1 per cent.

 

In fact, public administration and defence has provided a significant fillip to the overall growth number, without which the economy's performance would have been even weaker. In addition, the use of a fixed inter-censal growth rate of 7.5 per cent for small-scale manufacturing, a 'plug' number which has increasingly appeared out of sync with the reality, provides a false signal on the economy.

 

The average expansion in the economy over the past three years is down to 2.6 per cent a year. With a population growth rate of around 2.1 per cent, per-capita income has grown, on average, at less than 0.3 per cent since 2008, the lowest increase since 1951 (barring 1998-99). While export performance has been a bright spot, it is already unravelling with the ongoing price crash in textiles.

 

The situation with regard to investment, especially private investment, is even more alarming. While overall private investment grew by 1.1 per cent in 2010-11, as a per cent of GDP it has sunk to a new low of 8.5 per cent. More worryingly, investment in large-scale manufacturing, the driver of job-creation in the economy, has contracted 27 per cent in the current year, over and above a contraction of 14 per cent the year before.

 

Taken together, this is amongst the 'weakest' economic data recorded in Pakistan's 64-year history, confirming the view that Pakistan's economy is stagnating compared to its own past record.

 

While the economy is operating under several constraints, prima facie, the two major constraints are the internal security situation and the energy deficit. In reality, weak governance, which is amplifying the energy crisis, is the single biggest constraint to higher growth and investment.

By arrangement with Dawn

 

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EDITORIAL

UPA'S STOCK-TAKING

THE SINGH GOVERNMENT CAN CLAIM MANY CREDITS, BUT NOT ENOUGH

Speaking at a function to celebrate his second government's second anniversary, the prime minister said the United Progressive Alliance had "offered seven years of political stability, social progress, communal harmony, economic growth and increased engagement with nations around the world". Dr Singh also talked of having made growth "inclusive", and mentioned the enactment of various "rights" — to information, employment, education and soon to food. Among the challenges, the prime minister mentioned fiscal correction, inflation control, energy and food security, environmental sustainability and increased inequalities. Towards the end, Dr Singh brought up the subject on everyone's minds: corruption and governance.

As a summing-up of the situation, this is fair enough and credit should be given for achieving substantive results in a difficult and complex country. However, it is interesting that the prime minister chose to focus on seven years rather than the two — during which there have arguably been more minuses than pluses. Observers would have also noted that the prime minister was surprisingly silent on the Maoist problem, which has grown during his tenure, becoming (as Dr Singh has himself said on another occasion) the most serious internal security problem faced by the country. Critics will also aver that some of the achievements (engagement with other nations, political stability and – if you leave aside Gujarat – even communal harmony) could have been laid claim to by the previous Vajpayee government as well. Indeed, the transition to rapid growth happened in that government's last year, and the Singh government has not done enough with regard to economic reform to ensure further rapid growth. If anything, the big ideas are those identified with Sonia Gandhi, like the national rural employment guarantee programme and the law on the right to information. Indeed, at the second anniversary celebrations on Sunday, it was left to Sonia Gandhi to make the firm assertion that the Lok Pal, land acquisition and other key Bills would be passed in the monsoon session of Parliament.

 

 There is legitimate room for debate as to whether some of the government's major initiatives are unmixed blessings. The new laws on education have come in for heavy criticism from several quarters, and the proposed right to food carries with it the threat of upsetting the food economy by simply promising to do too much. Even the rural employment guarantee programme, while having a positive impact on rural wages and therefore on poverty, might have raised the costs of farming to a counter-productive degree — especially since the majority of farmers do not benefit directly from the increase in food procurement prices. The key issue on which the government has to make up its mind, when it comes to social security measures, is whether to provide for cash transfers or to intervene directly in markets and attempt physical delivery of goods and services — or, more correctly, to determine what is an effective combination of the two modes of amelioration.

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

QUOTE, UNQUOTE

SO WHY DIDN'T MR TATA SAY IT?

Ratan Tata appears to be unusually prone to the misfortune of being "misquoted" or "quoted out of context", from being pressured to bribe a minister to British managers and Mukesh Ambani's display of opulence. As it happens, most people will agree wholeheartedly with what he has just been misquoted as saying.

Consider his non-statement on the work ethic of the British manager. The average British manager's aversion to working overtime and his predilection to starting the weekend on Friday after lunch have been well documented, a tradition that has been preserved and refined in Calcutta, Britain's first colonial capital. As far back as the 1950s, it is now acknowledged, the British fondness for the weekend break helped the Soviet spies Donald Maclean and Guy Burgess defect despite a tip-off from the Americans. In the 1960s, Goscinny and Uderzo parodied this work ethic in Asterix in Britain with Julius Caeser conquering Britain by attacking only at tea-time and on weekends. Nobody would have faced these issues more than Mr Tata since he took over and, in short order, turned around two ailing firms — Corus (in 2007) and Jaguar Land Rover (2008). Obviously, this could not have been achieved by managers working nine to five, four-and-a-half days a week. The non-comments must have stung since they came a day after Mr Tata announced 1,500 job cuts in Corus.

 

There may be no scientific correlation between work ethic and economic ascendancy, but it is no coincidence that the Chinese, for whom an eight-hour workday is considered "laziness", boast the world's second-largest economy, overtaking Japan, a country no less reputed for its workaholic management. Also, Britain's position as the world's sixth largest economy relies significantly on the back of foreign direct investment (FDI) — it was once the world's fourth-largest recipient of FDI, much of it from workaholic Indians and Chinese companies.

Mr Tata's second non-statement on Mukesh Ambani's opulent lifestyle will also get a lot of heads nodding in agreement. Mr Ambani makes a lot of money from his business and he is entitled to spend it as he sees fit. Even so, there is something curiously insensitive to splurging on an over-the-top, 27-storey home that has no redeeming architectural qualities, in a country in which many Indians are homeless — even in Mumbai. To be sure, Mr Ambani is unlikely to have solved India's poverty problem if he hadn't built the tower on land once used to run an orphanage. Still, as Mr Tata suggested, he could well have spent it to mitigate the hardship of the poor. Two billion dollars, the reported construction cost for Antilla, could build several decent apartments for slum-dwellers being relocated from Dharavi, for instance. Mr Tata is much less wealthy and lives a life that is luxurious by most Indian standards. But he practises a dignified restraint and is backed by a level of welfare spending that his fellow industrialists would do well to follow. Mr Tata, in sum, should own up to what he did not say.

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BUSINESS STANDARD

IMBALANCE AMONG ECONOMISTS

CHARLES FERGUSON'S FILM INSIDE JOB REVEALS THE SEAMY SIDE OF ACADEMIA

AJIT RANADE

For movie buffs this is the season of Cannes, the iconic annual film festival on the French Riviera from where tomorrow's hit films and directors are launched, and at least one outrage can be expected every year. This year, too, the Danish director of the award-winning film Melancholia created a flutter by proclaiming himself to be a Nazi, for which he was promptly banned from the Cannes Film Festival. The Grand Prize, or the Palme d'Or, this year went to an American director, Terrence Malick. The last time an American won this golden award was in 2004, when Michael Moore won the prize for Fahrenheit 9/11. Fahrenheit was not a feature film; it was a documentary on the US war on terror, and the invasion of Iraq. But its satirical and hard-hitting content made it the highest-grossing documentary of all time. Last year, too, another American documentary debuted at Cannes and went on to win the Oscar for best documentary of 2011. The film Inside Job by Charles Ferguson is a fast-paced detective-style story of the financial crisis of 2008. Its absorbing content of contemporary history makes it hard to believe that it is actually non-fiction! In a matter-of-fact style, completely free of jargon, with finest quality cinematography, the story is narrated by Hollywood star Matt Damon. It is told in five parts: "How we got here"; "The bubble"; "The crisis"; "Accountability"; and "Where we are now". Without so much as an editorial comment, with its faithful recording of events, interviews and news footage, it pieces together the plot into a coherent story. Its commentary is mostly unsentimental, but you can't miss the controlled anger. It is remarkable that even one year after its release, with an impending implosion of Greece and fears of a double-dip recession, the movie is strangely as fresh as when it debuted. The movie begins with scenic Iceland and casually mentions: GDP $13 billion, outstanding bank loans $100 billion! There is no simpler way of explaining leverage. The collapse of Iceland's banks was the first domino to fall. This year it could be the Greek default that could trigger a fresh crisis. The crisis of 2008 has already been over-analysed in hundreds of books and articles. But the story hadn't been told in cinema form, in a language simple enough to be understood by everybody, but not dumbed down. Terms like credit default swaps, collateralised debt obligations, securitised loans and risky derivatives are explained in painfully simple terms.

Mr Ferguson has methodically exposed the role of the financial services industry lobby in the crisis. Whether it is regulatory capture, or revolving door access to the White House and policy makers, or influencing rating agencies, the finger prints are everywhere. And yet, despite several Congressional hearings and detailed testimonies, there is not a single high-profile indictment as yet, and nobody has gone to jail, as Mr Ferguson pointed out in his Oscar speech. There have been arrests for sexual misdemeanour (such as Eliot Spitzer, former New York governor, who was also the state's attorney general and prosecuted many Wall Street firms, and Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former managing director of the International Monetary Fund), but none for financial fraud. Strangely, both Mr Spitzer and Mr Strauss-Kahn are the "good guys" in the Ferguson movie.  But surely some criminal prosecution should have been possible. After all, the movie shows how the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the US had been warning of criminal activity in fraudulent documentation for subprime loans even back in 2005. Most high-profile Wall Street firms were fudging expense accounts to pay for drugs and prostitutes. Many of these firms were also shorting the very same securities that they were peddling to their customers. Wasn't neglecting their fiduciary duty a criminal act?  The non-pursuit of this line of prosecution, or indeed investigation, indicates that much remains unchanged in policy and regulation of financial services. The bonuses and earnings are higher than pre-crisis levels, and it is business as usual. A significant portion of the bailout money went into fattening the profits of Wall Street firms, and the residual players have become even bigger than the earlier ones who were too big to fail. (Dozens of banks did go into liquidation, only to be bought out by bigger sharks.)

 

 The most novel aspect of the film, which is perhaps least discussed elsewhere, is the role of academia and economists in particular. The corrupting influence of money power on politics is well known, for that's how the lobbyists prevented the regulation of derivatives or limits on leverage. Money power ultimately helped dismantle the Glass-Steagall Act, which removed the separation of investment and commercial banking. But the conflict of interest among academicians who were being paid to write favourable research articles about financial deregulation has not come under sufficient scrutiny. These economists also enjoyed lucrative board positions and consultancy from the same Wall Street firms. In the film, when asked sharp and direct questions, these academic dons fumble for words, or obfuscate, or simply stonewall. Some get angry that they are being exposed, and ask that the camera be shut off. This cast includes former Chief Economic Advisors Glenn Hubbard and Martin Feldstein, and Federal Reserve Bank Board Member Frederic Mishkin. Professor Mishkin had actually authored a report eulogising Iceland's banking as being the most advanced and robust, but failed to disclose that he was paid for it. Others who declined to be interviewed by Mr Ferguson must be thanking their stars. Nobody is spared, not even US President Barack Obama's Chief Economic Advisor Larry Summers, Ben Bernanke or Alan Greenspan. 

For many years there has been talk of global imbalances. These refer to high trade deficits in America and Europe, and high trade surpluses in China. These also refer to large fiscal deficits and now debts in the West, and large holdings of that debt by China and other Asian economies. It is claimed that persistent global imbalances can lead to sudden and drastic disruptions, and maybe the Lehman crisis was such a manifestation. Also, it may be apposite to highlight the growing imbalance in economic thinking. The western academics and leading universities are propagating an economic orthodoxy. This has to be questioned, if not jettisoned. But worse, the purveyors of the orthodoxy may be flirting with criminality, in not disclosing their conflict of interest. That's a serious imbalance.

The author is chief economist, Aditya Birla Group
The views expressed are personal

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BUSINESS STANDARD

THE CASE FOR MAKING FEWER FILMS

VANITA KOHLI-KHANDEKAR

Is it time to rethink the whole idea of scale in the film business? For a very long time, the label of being the "world's largest maker and consumer of films" has fascinated the Indians. It is the single biggest reason why corporatisation of the film business has been given a huge impetus from private and public capital. Investors staked their money in the hope that the Indians would continue to watch a lot of films.

As capital started flowing in, organised multiplex chains took off. This consolidated a fragmented and chaotic theatrical business. The results were startling. The film industry has grown over four times from about half a billion dollars in 2000, when the first multiplex took off, to over $2 billion in 2010. A bulk of this growth has come from multiplex chains. Clearly, the demand side has delivered.

 

On the supply side, as organised studios got going, it was thought that they would consolidate production and distribution and squeeze greater value out of the 1,100-odd movies made in India. But that has not happened. There are only three studios with any heft in the country: UTV, Eros and Yash Raj Films. Together they released 138 films in 2010. These studios accounted for just over 10 per cent of the industry's total revenues.

Compare that with the US, where just four studios – Fox, Paramount, Warner and Disney – released more than 50 films in 2010. They accounted for over 70 per cent of the total Hollywood revenues.

It is not a fair comparison since every variable – from the average ticket price ($7 to 50 cents) to screens (40,000 to 11,000) – is loaded against India. Besides, the US and India are at different stages of growth. But let us overlook these for a minute to look at Hollywood's approach to scale.

In 2010, Warner Brothers was the biggest studio in the world. It released 23 films including Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (part one) and Inception. Its film entertainment division earned nearly $12 billion, or just about half of parent Time Warner's total revenues. Disney released 16 films and its film division did $6.7 billion in revenues. Most studios made between $400 million and $500 million for every release.

Note that the revenues that a film company makes cannot be strictly attributed to the number of films it releases in that year. A part of the revenues comes from previous years' releases and releases in other formats such as home videos. But if you did a trend analysis over a decade or so, the average would hold. On an average, the largest studios release 12 to 16 films a year — or roughly one film every month. Then they simply squeeze every dollar possible out of them, and they are very good at it.

In India, while studios such as UTV have averaged around 12, Eros does 100 films a year. And Yash Raj does, say, three or four films. So it is not clear what the best number is. As for milking a movie release well, there are a number of reasons why that remains a challenge: not enough screens, low frequency of film viewing and so on.

However, the biggest reason why squeezing more out of a film is difficult is that we make too many films. It creates a clutter and makes it difficult even for films with moderately good prospects to reach their potential. "In India films are not made to do business but for personal reasons," says Sunaman Sood, director, Acendo Capital, a boutique media and entertainment advisory firm. What he means is that glamour-struck jewellers and builders don't really care if they lose money on a one-off film. But their entry spoils the market for the people who are trying to build a business.

It is a bit like news broadcasting in which politicians and real-estate companies desiring to wield influence launch news channels. India now has 122 news channels, the largest in the world. But most of them are making losses. The "largest film maker in the world" tag has, therefore, been a millstone. It actually keeps everyone from making enough money. The question is: will things change if we made fewer films?

vanitakohli@hotmail.com  

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BUSINESS STANDARD

MAJORITY RULES

TRUE AUTONOMY FOR PSUS WILL REMAIN A MIRAGE TILL THE GOVERNMENT REDUCES ITS EQUITY STAKE IN THEM BELOW 51 PER CENT

A K BHATTACHARYA

Last week, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee made a statement on the proposed rights issue by the country's largest lender, State Bank of India (SBI). The finance minister's statement drew little attention in the media, even though it was significant and symptomatic of how the interface between the government and state-owned or state-controlled undertakings has remained untouched by the economic reforms that have been taking place since 1991.

In his address at the annual general meeting of the Indian Banks Association in Mumbai, the finance minister had said that he would look at the question of the government subscribing to the rights issue proposed by SBI. The statement had immediately raised hopes in the capital market that the bank would indeed go ahead with its plan for an equity base expansion.

 

On its part, the bank has been keen on a rights issue to strengthen its capital base. This is necessary for the bank to take care of the norms for provisioning its bad or doubtful debt. The problem, however, is with the current ownership pattern of SBI. If the government does not wish to subscribe to the proposed rights issue its total shareholding in the bank will come down, either below the majority mark of 51 per cent or very close to that figure.

Given the nature of the political debate over disinvestment and privatisation, the government remains wary about diluting its shares in public sector undertakings like SBI below 51 per cent. Indeed, the SBI Act stipulates that the government's shareholding in the bank cannot go below that level. Moreover, the policy note on disinvestment, circulated by the United Progressive Alliance a few years ago, is not in favour of the government diluting its share in profit-making public sector undertakings below 51 per cent.

Hence, the government agreeing to consider subscribing to the rights issue of SBI is a significant development. In other words, the country's largest lender, with a substantial public shareholding, is not completely free to decide on expanding its equity base simply because the government as the majority shareholder continues to dictate terms on a key issue such as this.

There is nothing wrong in principle with the majority shareholder of a company deciding on how to run or manage its operation. However, the problem is with the perception that the government has created by disinvesting its shares in public sector undertakings. The government has favoured the policy on disinvestment on the ground that this allows a public sector undertaking to be listed on the stock exchanges, allows its management to perform in a competitive market environment, benchmark the functioning and efficiency levels with other privately held companies and distribute the capital gains from such shareholding among retail investors.

In reality, however, a public sector undertaking cannot function completely free from government controls as long as the president of India owns its majority shares. Economic reformers may not like this in the current Indian context, but in a corporate environment, the majority shareholder of a company should have the rights to run it the way he likes. Thus, the government will indeed decide on whether as the majority shareholder it should subscribe to the bank's rights issue and whether it should allow the bank to go ahead with the rights issue. Reformers need not shed tears over the loss of management autonomy for SBI.

Note that this issue troubles other public sector undertakings as well. Coal India Limited, a listed public sector undertaking with government majority shareholding, can go ahead with its decision on raising coal prices only if the government allows it to do so. Even its plan to mobilise more revenues from coal e-auctions may come to a halt, because other central ministries do not like the idea, since power-generating companies under them are now incurring higher costs on their coal purchase through e-auctions. Coal India Limited may rue the lack of management autonomy it has on such key issues. It has a huge wage bill to take care of, but it has no freedom to raise prices in spite of higher costs.

The oil marketing companies, which too are majority-owned by the government, suffer from a similar problem. They may be theoretically free to raise petrol prices, but that freedom is only on paper. Until the government, which owns majority stake in them, allows them to raise the prices, they would not be able to recover their losses through an otherwise logical price increase.

The key issue common to SBI, Coal India Limited and the state-controlled oil marketing companies is the government's majority ownership. On paper, the government may give them operational freedom to take key decisions on many issues, but it has retained the key lever of control by keeping more than 51 per cent stake in each of them. Thus, true autonomy for SBI, Coal India or for that matter any other state-controlled company will remain a mirage until the government reduces its equity stake in them below 51 per cent. That, whenever it happens, would be a decisive reform initiative.

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BUSINESS STANDARD

PHILIP ROTH AND THE MYSTERIES OF TASTE

NILANJANA S ROY

The controversy: The Man Booker Prize, often seen as the alternate Nobel, is given to a writer for his or her work over a lifetime, and is awarded once every two years. This year's jury – Rick Gekoski, Justin Cartwright and Carmen Callil – disagreed over the winner, Philip Roth. Ms Callil, former publisher of Virago Books, quit the jury in protest and said of Mr Roth: "He goes on and on and on about the same subject in almost every single book. It's as though he's sitting on your face and you can't breathe."

The argument for Roth: This might be summarised as "Give him the Nobel now". Every year, the American writer's name appears on the list of contenders for the Nobel Prize in literature; almost every review of Mr Roth's recent work (Nemesis, The Humbling) contains the phrase "possibly America's greatest living writer".

 

The argument against Roth: To quote Ms Callil: "There are great moments in Roth's work. He is clever, harsh, comic, but his reach is narrow. Not in the Austen, Bellow or Updike sense, because they use a narrow canvas to convey the widest concepts and ideas. Roth digs brilliantly into himself, but little else is there. His self-involvement and self-regard restrict him as a novelist."

From Goodbye, Columbus onwards, Mr Roth's essential world view has changed only very slightly. His obsessions have remained autobiographical; the fascination with exploring the world of American Jews, chiefly from the male perspective, has been constant; and almost all of his comedy and his view of the human condition are informed by this narrowness. His first and his second marriage, his affairs and years of therapy have all found their way into his novels, especially the nine books featuring Nathan Zuckerman and his family. Mr Roth's range, despite his flair for comedy, his precision and flamboyant style, is limited; and as the novelist Philip Hensher noted, his books are of the kind many might read only once.

What you should read anyway: "Goodbye, Columbus is a first book," Saul Bellow wrote of Mr Roth's debut, "but it is not the book of a beginner." Fifty-two years after it came out, Goodbye, Columbus remains a favourite first novel, not for its exploration of what it meant to be Jewish, assimilated or uneasily distant from the community, but because of Mr Roth's skill at walking around inside the skin of his characters, from Neil Klugman to Brenda Patimkin. The best of Mr Roth – the humour, the sharpness, the self-deprecation as he analyses the world he and his characters inhabit, the awareness of the deep dilemmas, and the silliness of the human condition – are all here.

Portnoy's Complaint (1969) was seen when it came out as an assault on the American Jewish family, with Mr Roth's devastating portrait of a young Jewish man driven by confusion and lust, and the very funny look at his family, which featured the original "Jewish mother". It was also, in retrospect, one of the first contemporary works of fiction to celebrate the relationship between therapists and their clients. With the passage of time, much that was shocking about Portnoy's Complaint, including the infamous scene where Alexander Portnoy violates a piece of liver intended for the family dinner, has softened; what is left is the rich humour of the book.

Perhaps the richest of the Zuckerman books, The Human Stain (2000), deals with the travails of a black man who passes for a white, Jewish professor who is accused of racism; all of this is observed by Nathan Zuckerman. Of his later work, The Plot Against America (2004) is interesting for its re-imagining of the history of the US — in his alternate history, Roosevelt is defeated by Lindbergh, and the America of the 1940s becomes progressively more anti-Semitic. And Nemesis (2010) won critical praise for Mr Roth's portrayal of the effects of a polio epidemic on a small and close-knit community.

Callil's Complaint: Ms Callil's real argument has been obscured by the many defences of Mr Roth. What she had to say was twofold: as a reader, Mr Roth didn't appeal to her, and there is no real defence against that argument. As a reader, I share her indifference to Mr Roth — he strikes no major chord in me, and his writings have not shaped my vision. There are many who would argue exactly the opposite, and who would see his work as evidence of his rich understanding of the essential comedy of the human condition.

But Ms Callil's second argument is more interesting: she made a plea to the jury to think differently about the canon a prize like the Man Booker was creating, to consider including more writers in translation, or to bring in the works of writers who were not such obvious choices. (The Man Booker jury considered 13 writers with close interest this year.) Ms Callil's real argument is against the stodgy canon handed down for years by Harold Bloom and company, which was filled with dead (or living) white male writers. In that sense, choosing Mr Roth is an easy, obvious and comfortable choice, a soothing sop to a writer who hasn't yet added the Nobel to his long list of gongs. But, at the risk of offending Mr Roth's fans, only the minor controversy over Ms Callil's exit makes this an interesting choice. The Man Booker jury made a safe, predictable and boring call this year.

nilanjanasroy@gmail.com  

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BUSINESS LINE

OPINION

SIGNAL PROBLEM

The RBI's tight monetary policy may help fight inflation but it may also result in higher prices downstream.

One of the usual complaints of the Reserve Bank of India has been that its monetary signals take an unduly long time to take effect because of "transmission" problems. The central bank's tweaking of its key rates, meant to signal changes in interest rates down the line, sometimes takes months to translate into lending interest rates, thus marring the overall objectives of the bank's policy intentions. When it comes to raising interest rates, most often, and especially in a growing economy where credit demand is robust, spikes in key rates do work almost immediately; the "transmission" problem, it seems, blocks downward revisions in interest rates more than upward changes.

That the RBI's persistent spikes in its key rates since last January have had some effect was evident when banks began to raise their own lending rates. While deposit rates stayed more or less constant, lending rates crept up, in the bargain increasing net interest margins to over 3 per cent for most banks. The RBI may have complained about those margins and goaded banks to increase their deposit rates but for most public sector banks at least, the margins were the fount of healthy incomes and profitability. Data for some state-owned banks for 2010-11 show interest incomes playing a far more active role in profits than fee-based incomes that bolstered private bank profits substantially in the fourth quarter of the previous year. The upshot of rising interest rates, however, has been detrimental for borrowers down the line; a study in this paper testifies to the baneful effects of rising interest rates on mid-size companies. Firms with turnover between Rs 100 crore and Rs 1,000 crore have witnessed an increase of 41 per cent in interest rate costs in the March quarter over the same period the previous year; for the sample firms under consideration, interest rate costs constituted 4 per cent of sales, compared with 3 per cent the previous quarter. For mid-size firms, the March quarter was not as healthy as the December one because of pinched net profit margins. Significantly, that was not the case with large-sized firms that could retain their margins for a host of reasons, from relying less on banks for working capital to a higher capacity to passing on the burden in the form of higher end-user prices.

The RBI is bent on a tightened monetary policy to fight inflation but, in the process, it may be transmitting higher prices downstream.

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BUSINESS LINE

OPINION

RBI BATS FOR BIG MFI AUTONOMY

G. NAGA SRIDHAR

There is no case for the RBI to cap the interest rate at higher than the 24 per cent suggested by the Malegam panel report.

Till early this month, there was an expectation among the various stakeholders that the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) would strike a balance on the contradictory responses to various recommendations put forth by its sub-committee — the Malegam panel — on a policy for microfinance institutions (MFIs).

But the RBI's announcement of a MFI policy on May 3, broadly on the basis of the Malegam panel's views, throws up more questions than answers on the health of the microfinance model.

An analysis of the key points of the RBI's policy suggests that the apex bank may be batting more for the big MFIs, leaving aside the smaller players and, more importantly, the poor.

To begin with, the fixing of the interest margin and interest rate cap at 12 per cent and 26 per cent respectively would still leave more profit margins for the bigger MFIs in a sector linked with financial inclusion and economic empowerment of the poor.

According to industry estimates, the average cost of funds for MFIs varies between 12 per cent and 14 per cent, while operational expenses for the big MFIs are 6-7 per cent. So, there is actually no strong case for the RBI to fix the interest rate cap at a liberal 26 per cent, against the 24 per cent cap suggested by the Malegam Panel.

Further, the RBI also seems to have turned a blind eye to the fact that, over a period of time, the incremental cost of operations would be less for major MFIs, which have a presence in a large number of States. They can also take advantage of core microfinance operations for other businesses such as sale of insurance, mobile handsets, and so on.

For instance, SKS Microfinance, which has announced plans to enter into lending against gold ornaments to tide over the microfinance crisis in Andhra Pradesh, will obviously use the same field force used for distributing micro loans, with little incremental cost but with augmented income.

The business models could still be viable for big MFIs, even if the interest is capped at around 20 per cent.

The RBI could well have gone for a two-tiered model for deciding the caps on interest margins and interest rates, taking into account the variations in the cost of operations across major and smaller NBFC-MFIs.

If the RBI really wants to protect the entire microfinance sector, it should also take into account the situation of medium and small MFIs.

PROBLEMS IGNORED

It also appears that the banking regulator is rather silent on some of the serious issues that came to light in Andhra Pradesh over the last year.

The root-cause of the MFI crisis in that State was the over-indebtedness of the poor, driven by multiple lending. However, as against the stringent norms in the AP MFI Act on multiple lending, it has been said in the policy that an indebtedness of up to Rs 50,000 could be allowed and a single member could take loans from two MFIs.

This is worrisome, as the annual income of poor (going by the data of the AP Government) is below Rs 36,000 per annum.

If one could get loans up to Rs 50,000, the maximum indebtedness, there can be multiple loans of different combinations for any MFI client. This means that the poor could be constantly in a debt trap from which they cannot escape because their indebtedness exceeds their annual income.

Under these circumstances, it may come as no surprise if a similar situation to the MFI crisis in Andhra Pradesh crops up in some other States, following the saturation of their markets.

SELF-REGULATION

The need to ensure a proper implementing agency has also been ignored in the policy. The question still remains: While on-paper regulation is done by the RBI, who is responsible for on-field regulation of MFI activities?

A gamut of operations — from ensuring transparency in interest rates, maintenance of interest caps, harassment-free collection and disbursal of loans, to name a few — have to be monitored very carefully.

By ignoring a reasonable contention of the Andhra Pradesh Government, that the lack of an enforcement mechanism is a serious problem, the MFI policy went along with the Malegam panel's suggestion that MFIs should be self-regulatory organisations.

Even for lending under the priority sector category, banks may have no choice other than to go by the interest margin/interest rate submitted by the MFIs!

CLARITY

Given the seriousness of the issue, the RBI should have also made a reference to the AP MFI Act in its policy.

The outward impression in the industry is that, along with other recommendations, the RBI had also accepted the Malegam view that there would be no need for the AP MFI Act if all of the panel's recommendations were accepted. But the fact remains that the RBI is part of the Government. It cannot be silent on an existing Act that totally contradicts the much-awaited policy on micro-finance institutions.

As the Andhra Pradesh Government is adamant about continuing with its Act, it remains to be seen how things will unfold.

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BUSINESS LINE

OPINION

WAYS TO IMPROVE GOVT'S CASH MANAGEMENT

R. K. PATTNAIK

In view of current problems, the separation of the debt management office from the RBI is not a good idea.

On April 22, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) issued a press release on WMA arrangement for GoI for 2011-12. While the press statement came with an inexplicable lag of 22 days, data published in the weekly RBI report revealed that huge loans had been given to the GoI. However, as the mutually agreed amount of WMA was not available in the public domain, it was not known to what extent the GoI had taken recourse to overdrafts from the RBI.

The present WMA scheme goes back nearly a decade and half. The current WMA limits tend to be in favour of GoI as there is scope to use this more as resources than as a cash management instrument. A continuation of this trend has a potential adverse impact on monetary policy, debt management and financial markets. Fresh thinking is urgently required on WMAs, surplus maintenance and investment.

The WMA scheme for the Central Government was introduced on April 1, 1997, after putting an end to the the four-decade old system of ad hoc Treasury Bills to finance the Central Government deficit. The ad hocs, which found their way as an innocuous, convenient administrative arrangement to help the Government maintain its cash balance at a required minimum level, assumed larger-than-life proportions, posing a threat to monetary stability and curtailing the Reserve Bank's freedom to operate instruments of monetary policy for price stability.

WMA SYSTEM

The WMA scheme was designed to meet temporary mismatches in the receipts and payments of the government. The WMA is vacated after 90 days. The interest rate on WMA currently is the repo rate.

The limits for WMA are mutually decided by the RBI and GoI. When the WMA limit is crossed the government takes recourse to overdrafts, which are not allowed beyond 10 consecutive working days. The interest rate on overdrafts would be 2 per cent more than the repo rate.

The minimum balance required to be maintained by the Government of India with the Reserve Bank of India will not be less than Rs.100 crore on Fridays, on the date of closure of Government of India's financial year and on June 30, the date of closure of the annual accounts of the RBI, and not less than Rs.10 crore on other days. The cash management of GoI has considerably deteriorated in the recent past, with situations of large surplus and large deficit. This has put tremendous pressure on RBI with respect to liquidity management and conduct of monetary policy.

Due to unavailability of high frequency data on WMA/overdraft/ surplus, technical analysis becomes difficult. For example, during 2010-11, after a maintaining surplus (above Rs 50,000 crore and sometimes higher than 100,000 crore) for a considerable period (about six months), suddenly, in April the GoI entered into a deficit of high magnitude (more than Rs 45,000 crore). This had resulted in a peculiar mutual agreement of two limits in April and quarterly limits during 2011-12.

In addition to higher accommodation from the RBI in terms of WMA, the GoI also borrowed from the market through Cash Management Bills, treasury bills of various maturities (91,182 and 364 days) and dated securities. This had resulted in firming up of yields across maturities. To some extent, this had also prevented price discovery.

DEBT MANAGEMENT OFFICE

One wonders whether the GoI, which has failed to put in place an effective and efficient cash management system, can handle debt management with a separate debt management office.

The RBI is right in its recent assertion that the separation of debt management from RBI is a sub optimal choice. In the same spirit one could also argue that fixation of WMA limits with mutual agreement which has largely remained arbitrary, is also a sub-optimal choice.

The GoI must realise that poor cash management practice not only wastes money, but also inhibits the development of local financial markets and undermines the effectiveness of monetary policy. First, the limits could be formula-based as it is for the state governments . Second, in order to even out bunching of receipts from advance income tax payments, a monthly basis system could be considered against the present system of quarterly basis.

Third, the receipts given to state governments in terms of grants and tax could be reworked taking into account the cash flows.

Fourth, since consolidated sinking fund has not been put in place so far for the GOI, it may be considered, to take care of the repayment system. Fifth, the calendar for market borrowings and treasury bills to a large extent take care of repayments but it could be re-examined taking into account the cash flow statement. For this to be effective, all the agents have to be pro-active, not leaving the management to RBI.

Sixth, the approach so far has been to treat cash management of GoI and State governments separately. It is appropriate to put in place a comprehensive approach. Seventh, it would be advisable to have an expert committee to review the current arrangements for WMA/ Overdraft/ surplus and prescribe the limits and other related arrangements.

(The author is professor of Economics at KJ Somaiya Institute Management Studies and Research, Mumbai.)

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BUSINESS LINE

OPINION

CRACK CRIME WITH XBRL

S. SWAMINATHAN

Over the last week, the CBI has been reeling under the embarrassment of goof-ups over incorrect information. In the Purulia arms drop case, the warrant had expired. In the case of the two wanted men who are actually in India even as the list given to Pakistan says that they are in Pakistan, the information was always available in the system but somewhere along the way the validation checks did not happen. All of these mistakes could have been avoided with XBRL. The government should seriously consider moving all crime records to XBRL to prevent recurrence of such incidents and, more importantly, to make investigations speedier and subsequent prosecution more effective.

XBRL or eXtensible Business Reporting Language, as its full form is, has been in use in India for the last three years at the RBI. From July onwards, some 30,000 companies will be filing their annual returns in XBRL. SEBI too is all set to start receiving filings in XBRL from mutual funds to start with and has drawn up plans to receive data from all market participants in XBRL.

Leaving a footprint

So, what then is XBRL. Simply put, it is an information standard which is also machine readable, or if one is familiar with the technical term, XML. Except that unlike most other XML standards, this is open source and royalty-free. Nobody owns XBRL, though there are several companies in the world which have written software for XBRL.

Every piece of information leaves a footprint. In the case of Feroze Abdul Rashid Khan, who has been lodged in Mumbai's Arthur Road jail, the records would have shown that he had been the government's guest since February 2010. If only the list had been generated from a set of records in XBRL, this information would have jumped out, pointing to the error. Similarly, in the case of Wazhul Kamar Khan, the man living in Thane, the fact is that he is out on bail. His footprints were visible all over the cases registered against him and by simply writing software to match information footprints, this contradiction too would have been caught. Moving the information to XBRL is about much more than merely creating a database of crime records. The XML nature of XBRL makes it machine readable; what comes over and above is the prescription of data standards which spells out how data will be captured fully.

In the most celebrated white-collar crime of recent times, the problems at Satyam would have been detected early, had the filings been in XBRL. It is unlikely that Ramalinga Raju would have allowed a provident fund deduction from the salaries purportedly paid by him to allegedly fictitious employees; amounts that he allegedly siphoned off for his own benefit. Even the JPC probing the telecom scam would do well to use XBRL in its investigation.

Avoid inherent contradictions

Whether it be white-collar crimes or crimes of any other colour, painstaking investigation requires the piecing together of information that tells a cogent story without inherent contradictions. In short, the footprints must match. With the help of XBRL that task will become a lot easier.

It is time the CBI, as the nodal investigative agency, or NATGRID, the National Intelligence Grid, the brainchild of the Home Minister, Mr P. Chidambaram, adopts information standards to make their respective tasks easier. XBRL is still in its early days in many parts of the world and the focus in many countries continues to be on business and financial reporting. India would be viewed as a pioneer if it looks beyond. The time to do that is now.

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BUSINESS LINE

OPINION

RETHINKING IDEOLOGIES

ADITI NIGAM

The author stresses the importance of inquiry into one's own beliefs to check intellectual, emotional and political stagnation, no matter what the ideology is.

May 24, 2011:  

Having grown up in Delhi in the 1970s, 'shakhas' in neighbourhood parks were a common sight. Men, young and old, fat and lean, wearing starched khaki shorts and white shirts could be seen exercising every morning. These were the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) workers, we were told.

As children, all that we knew about the RSS was that Gandhi's assassin, Nathuram Godse, belonged to it. Through the years, in a fast-globalising urban world, the shakhas have become a rare sight. And, if at all you spot one, most of its participants are either old or past their prime, at least in Delhi. So, what happened to the RSS — the 'cultural' organisation that professed to follow the Hindu way of life and propagated and worked for the establishment of a Hindu Rashtra? Did it stray away from its basic ideology or does it need to reinvent itself, like all ideologies must?

The organisation's role

Lost Years of the RSS by Sanjeev Kelkar, ex-Medical Director of Novo Nordisk Education Foundation and Founder Secretary of Diabetic Foot Society of India, associated with RSS since 1967, offers an insider's view of the 85-year-old organisation's role through various political changes in the country. It's role in the Bharatiya Jansangh and Hindu Mahasabha to Janata Party and the Bharatiya Janata Party — all members of what is now referred to as the Sangh Parivar. The book mainly deals with the period after the RSS founder and ideologue Keshavrao Hedgewar's death in 1940, the debates that followed, the beginning of the Guru Golwalkar era and the 'difficult years' of the ban on it, following the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi in 1948. The author presents a sort of ready-reckoner on RSS — from the 'purist' Golwalkar's abhorrence for political power, his aversion to publicity, to the emergence of  'pragmatist' Balasaheb Deoras, who was different in his approach and attitude.

Differences in approach

A good part of the book gives instances of the differences in approach between these two men — on the system of democracy and adherence to the Indian Constitution, which Golwalkar referred to as the "patchwork quilt of American, British, Irish and Canadian democratic models".

Deoras, according to Kelkar, tried to change the conservative dispensation of RSS by calling for Hindu unity to include the Dalits. The RSS had come a long way, says Kelkar, who admits to being uncomfortable about the 'covert Chaturvarnya system" that continued to exist in the RSS. Then came the Emergency in 1975, followed by the Opposition uniting to form the Janata Party, its subsequent disintegration and the return of Indira Gandhi with a thumping majority. And, finally, Deoras' bid to catapult Hindu interest to the centre-stage through political power represented by the BJP. "The Ram Janmabhoomi Mukti Andolan was one such cause which could fulfil both the conditions, that of rousing the RSS and the Parivar as Hindu society". The rest, as they say, is history. The author is critical of what the Sangh is today — individuals rather than deeds are being publicised, movements have shifted away from centre-stage and the "RSS and the parivar have lost their intrinsic balance of Deoras".

Kelkar, rightly, stresses the importance of inquiry into one's own beliefs to check intellectual, emotional and political stagnation, no matter what the ideology is — Left, Right or Centre.

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

TWO YEARS AFTER

MANY OF THE UPA-II'S PROGRESSIVE REFORMS ARE IN LIMBO. GET ON WITH THEM



Two years after its mandate , the UPA government is struggling to push through legislation that could make a big difference to growth. Many state governments are yet to agree to details of the goods and services tax (GST) and without such consensus, it'll be impossible to push legislation to streamline our tax system. A code to reform direct taxes also needs parliamentary clearance. India desperately needs to clean up its antiquated rules on mining, an activity that disrupts the lives of some of our most marginalised people, including forest dwellers. The draft of the new mining law is ready; the government just has to push it through Parliament, but has failed to do so. The demolition of the Left parties in the 2009 election means they have very few people in the legislature, and the UPA does not need Left support. This, it was thought, would be a good thing, freeing up UPA-II to pursue reforms opposed by the Left. Instead, many positive initiatives of the Sonia Gandhi-led National Advisory Council (NAC), which were championed by the Left in Parliament in UPA-I, now have few supporters in the legislature. So, important reforms including the enlargement of the food subsidy system and a new land acquisition law are in limbo.


After Singur, Nandigram and Jaitapur, the ruckus in UP's Bhatta Parsaul is the latest example of how state governments try to acquire land forcibly for projects of doubtful public interest and then encounter public unrest. India's existing law, drafted in the 19th century, allows the state to acquire land in public interest, not for private gain. Therefore, state governments have no right, even under the existing law, to get land from locals at depressed rates and then peddle them to businesses at much higher prices. A new law should make these provisions clear, but there's political debate about whether government should buy land for private-public partnerships or large industrial projects, and if so, how much. One draft allows the state to acquire up to 30% of land required for a project, leaving the rest for private players. This is unnecessary. The job of the state is to govern well, not broker land deals.

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

PRICE OF STIMULUS

WHY BE SURPRISED? RISING LOAN LOSSES ARE THE PRICE OF THE STIMULUS PACKAGE

 

Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee is concerned over rising defaults in bank loans. This is understandable. Rising non-performing assets (NPAs), especially in public sector banks, could threaten the banking sector and have serious implications for India's finances if a bailout becomes inevitable. As keeper of the government's purse-strings, Pranab Babu is correct to be concerned. But why is he surprised? The rise in NPAs is an inevitable consequence of a deliberate policy, taken by the government and the RBI, to ensure bank lending continued despite a slowdown after the global crisis. The system was kept flush with liquidity and banks were repeatedly exhorted to lend and restructure loans to keep the wheels of the economy churning. While private and foreign banks largely ignored these calls, state-owned banks faithfully did as bid. So today when the chickens have come home to roost, neither the finance ministry nor the government should be surprised.
The State Bank of India (SBI), the largest governmentcontrolled bank, might be a bit of an outlier, both in terms of the huge increase in provisions and a new chairman at its helm. But it's a fact that almost all banks have reported an increase in loan loss provisions. Last December, in response to a question in Parliament, the minister of state for finance said gross NPAs of banks had increased 30%. So the writing was on the wall. As the cycle reverses and interest rates rise, such losses are likely to increase. Many projects that looked bankable when real interest rates were a negative 6% or thereabouts, are unlikely to look so attractive when real rates turn positive. Higher provisions have also been necessitated by new norms like the provision-coverage ratio announced by the RBI in October 2009, when banks were told to maintain loan loss provisions of 70% of gross bad loans on an ongoing basis; from September 2010, banks are required to provide 70% of gross bad loans. But a rise in NPAs today is essentially the price we are paying for past attempts to stimulate the economy in a slowdown. The fault, dear minister, lies not in banks but in ourselves.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

GOING GREEN

WHY DISCOVERING O'BAMA IS QUITE LUCKY FOR IRELAND


How providential that a presidential visitor, even without an apostrophe between the first and second letters of his surname, has a part of him that remains forever Irish. So what if it was a galling lack of money that probably prompted an ancestor to leave Moneygall village in a county Offaly famous for its bogs, and settle down in Indiana, USA; the great-great-grandson has certainly made good. As there is no evidence of the current US President having ever kissed the Blarney Stone in County Cork, his famed power of oratory could thus be ascribed to that very ancestor — who went by the name Fulmouth Kearney. Indeed, some would cite that fact of Mr O'Bama being just 3.1% Hibernian as enough proof that the legendary luck o'the Irish was what elevated a modest Barack to the White House. With Mr O'Bama's maternal family tree apparently having not just English, Scottish, Welsh, Swiss, German and French roots, several countries apart from Kenya, Indonesia and the Emerald Isle could consider themselves Obama-nations with 'homecoming' potential to rival Moneygall if branches and twigs are also counted.


Last week, thoroughbreds and shamrock may have been enough to thrill the first British monarch to set foot in the Irish Republic, but the rest of the world has been less easy to please ever since it found out that the Celtic Tiger is not all that it is craiced up to be. Despite the prospect of a few months' visa waiver in 2012 and the lure of a cricketer's castle, Ireland ranks as an also-Ranji for Indian tourists. So, dependent as it is on nostalgia and geneology to keep its tourism industry buzzing, no wonder Ireland is thrilled to cite yet another US President (at least partially) as one of its own, just as some 22 of his predecessors were, to keep the Yankees coming.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

SAFARI WITH THE PEOPLE

INDIA WILL EARN A GREATER DEGREE OF GOODWILL THAN ANY OTHER COUNTRY IF IT HELPS AFRICANS IN THEIR REAL NEEDS


The second India-Africa Summit in Ethiopia comes at a moment when average economic growth in the African continent has returned to the decadal average of 5%. A growing Indian economic juggernaut and an upwardly mobile African economy are natural counterparts with more complementarities than competition in their product mixes.


Cognisant of the fundamental economic interests at stake, India and the 16 African states, whose heads of government and business delegations are attending the summit, are prioritising concrete trade, investment and technology transfer issues at the top of the agenda. There is a palpable sense across Africa that India's dynamic private sector can bring tremendous benefits to the continent's poor without the accompanying political bossiness characteristic of the EU and the US.


African leaders and people are also sanguine about attracting Indian economic resources with an eye on avoiding overdependence on China, which has upstaged the West to become the most powerful external force on the continent. The trademark Chinese footprint in Africa is spearheaded by state-owned enterprises with revolving door connections in the Chinese Communist Party. These Chinese majors are tightly controlled, conditional and political in nature, compared to India's private corporations, which do hew to the Indian state's overall advice but are motivated more by core economic purposes of creating and finding value at the bottom of the global pyramid.


China is believed to be building a military base at Chitamba Farm in Zimbabwe in the guise of an "intelligence academy" to prop up the authoritarian rule of President Robert Mugabe. Is it an omen of the future that Chinese companies are the largest economic investors in Zimbabwe, while the Chinese military hunkers down for a permanent presence in this trouble-torn southern African country?


However politically correct Indian policymakers have sounded about not being in competition with China in Africa and that there is "space for both China and India" on the continent, it is African leaders and people themselves who view India as a necessary alternative to placing all their eggs in the Chinese basket. India is being counterposed to China not in the corridors of strategic planning in New Delhi, but in the bylanes, farms and ports of Africa.


Since India lacks the foreign reserves to match the chequebook diplomacy of China, it is futile to imagine that economic munificence alone can give New Delhi traction in Africa. If credit lines and infrastructure construction become the sole pillars of India's strategy in Africa, it will end up second best forever vis-à-vis China. There are two under-realised policy domains in which India will have to step up its diplomacy to hold its own in Africa, viz. empowering African people and offering Indian good offices to resolve African armed conflicts. India's grassroots-based civil society organisations can transform remote parts of Africa through sharing best practices in social mobilisation, political accountability and environmental conservation. Indian activist Bunker Roy's Barefoot College has achieved a miracle by training some 140 African grandmothers in "solar engineering" in six-month-long training courses imparted by Indian grandmothers in rural Rajasthan. The skilled African elders returned home and provided solar power to over 9,100 homes in 21 African countries.
The more such people-to-people acts of cooperation emerge, the stronger will India's thick appeal be in Africa, irrespective of which ruling elite holds or remits power in specific countries. The Indian government, which is bankrolling Roy's learning initiative, can exponentially raise the scale of society-to-society 'win-win' pairings in Africa by devising a body of skilled Indian civilian volunteers who can reside in windswept recesses of the continent and impart mathematics, social and physical sciences, English, computing and other practically useful trades to underprivileged Africans.


    In 1961, US President John F Kennedy launched the Peace Corps with the aim of channelling the energies of recent American college graduates, who had a "desire for service not only in this country but all around the world", into a structured programme in postcolonial Africa and Asia. Despite its Cold War origins, the rationale of the Peace Corps was good — garnering goodwill for American society. To this day, the Peace Corps and likeminded ventures have left a lasting impression about the generosity and warmth of the American people. India needs that level of acceptance, especially in East and South Africa, where people of Indian origin have drawn flak for accumulating disproportionate wealth and siding with conservative elements.


The second India-Africa summit is taking place when the war in Libya is at the crossroads, with no visible winner. If India is to be qualitatively different from China and the West in Africa, it has to venture into the security realm and back the African Union's bid to end the violence in Libya through a negotiated settlement. The AU has often failed to break deadlocks and internal wars, but it has made the right call on Libya that dovetails with India's own discomfort towards Nato's "humanitarian bombing".


The summit in Addis Ababa can come alive if India vocally backs the AU's peacemaking solution in Libya. It would deliver a message that India is playing a constructive role in international peace and security, instead of merely minding narrow economic interests in Africa. India can leave a lasting mark in Africa not just through capacity building of the 'wretched of the earth' but also through policy coordination that fortifies the AU's institutional efficacy. Market access is the key for Indian companies, but our safari in Africa must include non-monetary sightings.

 

SREERAM CHAULIA VICE DEAN, JINDAL SCHOOL OF INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

THROUGH THE THIRD EYE


Elevation Politics

One intriguing aspect of UPAII's second anniversary function at 7, Race Course Road on Sunday night was the unusual interest Congress managers showed in Maulana Badruddin Ajmal of Assam's AUDF. Though he is not part of the UPA and he had unsuccessfully tried to spoil Tarun Gogoi's hat-trick bid, Ajmal was indulged by the Congress hosts. While the 'on-record' outside supporters of UPA-II like RJD chief Lalu Yadav and SP nominee Mohan Singh had to be content with being part of the larger audience, a visibly happy Ajmal was invited to sit on the podium along with the PM, Congress chief and top Congress ministers and leaders of UPA partners. Well, the buzz is the AUDF winning around 18 assembly seats and Ajmal's social clout in Uttar Pradesh might have prompted the Congress managers to humour him amidst political positioning for the crucial assembly elections in UP.


His Madam's Clout

The 'babus' who thrive in the Rail Bhawan corridors know who matters and who doesn't. So, on a day when Mamata Banerjee quit as Railway Minister and took oath as the West Bengal CM, a very nondescript name-plate appeared on what used to be her office room at Rail Bhawan till a day ago. Compared to the large goldplated name-plate of the two ministers of states — K H Muniappa and Bharatsinh Solanki — the new one announcing the arrival of Mukul Roy, Didi's new eyes and ears at the Railway HQ, was a plain, simple one. Yet, the whole day witnessed scores of officials making a beeline to this corner office to know when Roy will return from Kolkata to take charge and who will be part of his personal staff. And the inhouse curiosity also extends to finding out how Muniappa and Solanki are feeling about the arrival of a 'new MoS with a difference'. No prizes for guessing that.


Classic Shots

TR Balu's outing at the UPA anniversary bash turned out to be a mixed bag. Being chosen as DMK's token representative at the function given that his party, otherwise, remains tearful and emotionally distraught over Kanimozhi's tryst with Tihar jail, Balu was the main attraction for shutterbugs even though the seasoned politician in him tried to look every bit unexcited so that no politically incorrect impression reaches Chennai at this delicate phase. But as the PM and Congress president began vowing to 'fight the malady of corruption' and proudly announced that their government shall 'never interfere with the due process of law', Balu looked like a man frozen with an unreadable expression on his face. And the VVIPs flanking Balu on the podium too tried very hard to sit with straight faces. Postfunction opinion was divided as to whether Balu indeed had the dinner or left with an empty stomach since the DMK is supposedly in mourning.


List-Scanning
Knowing R K Dhawan's strategic importance in the Congress and given his extremely discreet ways, there was a general alert in the party when this old Gandhi family loyalist went public with advice to Rahul Gandhi to learn from the bad experience Rajiv Gandhi had for allowing some of his (Rajiv's) 'close relatives and friends' to be part of his inner political ring. Those who know Dhawan and the Congress style of functioning refuse to dismiss his words as a mere sign of frustration or a publicity stunt. Instead, some even wonder whether it was a loyal command performance, meant to alert someone. Many have started analysing the list of Rahul's known close relatives and friends to find who among them is, or are, showing signs of being politically risky. As for the erstwhile Congress old-guard Vasanth Sathe's public call for Priyanka Gandhi to join politics, it evoked near-unanimous yawning at the AICC given Sathe's undisputed political irrelevance.


Learning Curve

One thing you have to grant to real politicians is their enormous capacity to endure a tough life, travelling endlessly or working without proper sleep and timely food. After all, the quest for power isn't kid's stuff. So, we don't know whether Bengal's new finance minister Amit Mitra's real challenge will be learning to live the hard life of a real politician or getting Didi to let him implement what he has been preaching as Ficci secretary-general. No wonder, his first day at work (or rather, a very long night at Writers), as Didi spent long hours getting her ministerial team cracking, landed Mitra in hospital with a bad case of indigestion. Well, not a grand opening show but hopefully he will have the stomach for the tough life outside the cosy industry chambers!

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

GUEST COLUMN

A NEW, INTELLIGENT AGE

JEBY CHERIAN


Knowing what happened is no longer adequate. Leaders say they need to know what is happening now, what is likely to happen next and what actions they should take. Smart analytics driven by intelligence data analysis can help us know what we know, and significantly, what we don't.


Data analysis and information used to be a river, flowing in one predictable direction with a visible source. No more. Today, it's a roiling ocean of data, constantly expanding its shores. Fifteen petabytes of data are created everyday. What if we could turn all of that data, videos, pictures, text, blogs, market movements and transactions into smarter information for better decisions? How do we do that? It can be a daunting task for any enterprise to sift through and undertake massive data analysis, extracting information and transforming it into actionable knowledge. But action without data analysis is just guessing. The globally-integrated enterprise needs something more powerful. Today's information management and data analysis tools offer situational awareness and predictive abilities. This "new intelligence" combines human cognition with computational power, shifting the agenda from "sense and respond" to situational awareness and something very much like prediction.


New intelligence gives us more than a window into enterprise-wide current operations. It provides a likely view of what is just around the corner and even further down the road. Analytics and reporting tools slice and dice data, crystallising trends, patterns and anomalies that yield invaluable business insights to help you drive smarter decision-making. Understanding data patterns is important to industries like healthcare, energy and transportation. And the more we understand, the more answers we find. That's why data management and analysis is already helping to lower energy costs, ease traffic and detect diseases faster, all over the world.
New intelligence, applied well, gives organisations the ability to predict and steer rather than just sense and react to events. It brings together the power of human cognition and computational excellence. It shifts the agenda to situational awareness and prediction: sudden changes in customer demand, loss of a key supplier, new environmental regulations, a new product or service that disrupts an entire industry. Let's consider this. The Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS) used predictive analytics to create a tsunami early warning system that receives and analyses real-time seismic data from the depths of the Indian Ocean and notifies authorities of all tsunamigenic earthquake events within minutes of their occurrence. The smart warning system can predict the time at which an impending tsunami will occur, as well as its height and severity, allowing the government to issue detailed warnings and instructions to the populations at risk.


Whenever a preset threshold is crossed, the system generates alerts and sends them via a satellite-based virtual private network to emergency operations centers and authorised officials. For confirmed tsunami alerts, INCOIS is equipped to disseminate warnings directly to the public. The smart solution shares information with over 25 countries in the Indian Ocean region. This transforms scientific data into actionable information that could save millions of lives.


Similarly, the Indian Railways implemented a sophisticated, biometrics-enabled crew management system (CMS) to automate the day-today management of staffing on board its trains. CMS provides information about the crew at all times and allocates the crew to different types of trains depending on their driving skills. When there is a crew shortage, the system generates alerts that enable the supervisor to step in and take action. With direct data access over mobile phones, the system also provides greater transparency and visibility of information to the right person at the right time.


Today's business leaders face challenges that stand in stark contrast to those of their predecessors, who had the luxury of making strategic and operational decisions on the basis of intuition, and a close circle of advisors. Because new intelligence thrives on information complexity, simplicity represents lost opportunity, not strategic advantage. Today's CEOs have entirely new ways to pursue growth, but only if they are also able to pursue an entirely new approach to decision-making. Entering an emerging market? New analytics can quickly provide insights about social and cultural considerations. Integrating operations? Analytics can objectively show outcomes of alternative resource-allocation scenarios. Early evidence of a pervasive approach to analytics is encouraging. Industry outperformers are eight times more likely than underperformers to pursue business analytics at an enterprise level. Increasingly, smarter organisations will gain advantage by applying new intelligence to every function, location and department, and across every partnership in their business ecosystems.


(The author is director, strategy, IBM India/South Asia)

 

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MUMBAI MIRROR

EDITORIAL

WHICH ONE IS YOUR IPL?

INDIAN PARIVAR LEAGUE, INDIAN PUBLICITY LEAGUE, INDIAN PUNTERS LEAGUE, OR INDIAN PROBLEMATIC LEAGUE


The IPL is an abbreviation with many full-forms. It's called the Indian Parivar League for the conflicts of interest introduced by Lalit Modi and the Board's secretary N Srinivasan; the Indian Party League for it's legendary after-match dos that would put Charlie Sheen to shame; and, among the top players, quite simply, the Indian Paisa League.

 

The advertising world calls it the Indian Perception League; the legal community the Indian Prosecution League; financial advisors refer to it as the Indian Perjury League; and Bollywood stars perceive it as the Indian Publicity League.


 For bowlers, it is the Indian Punishment League; for batsmen, the Indian Paata League; for overseas players, some back from retirement, the Indian Phoren League, except for those from Pakistan, who call it the Indian Protest League.

 

The BCCI honchos secretly refer to it as the Indian Power League; bookies call it the Indian Punters League; commentators the Indian Promotion League; and for cheerleaders, who have to hear every lewd remark invented, it's the Indian Perverted League.

 

The most interesting, however, is that for the team owners, who first thought it was the Indian Potential League and then the Indian Profitable League, the IPL has now become nothing more than the Indian Problematic League.

 

For all the hype created around the IPL's fourth season, owners of the 10 teams that participate in the domestic T20 event, masquerading as the biggest cricket show in the world, are a worried lot. With less than a week left in the tournament, they have recovered only a small fraction of what they had hoped to. The World Cup – genuinely cricket's biggest show – has shown up the IPL as a format requiring less skill, and with a poorer fan-connect than when countries are involved. Followers who invested so much in India's victorious World Cup campaign are fatigued and emotionally drained. They are less enthusiastic, and thus the IPL lacks energy and eyeballs. "But to be fair," as one top BCCI official told me this week, "it's an abnormal year."

 

The previous season, the IPL, back home after a South African edition, had created waves, generating numbers beyond the franchisees' wildest expectations, even if a tad lower than exaggerated market projections. The stadiums were full, the conversations were only about "that Iqbal Abdulla over" and "those Yusuf Pathan sixes". The IPL's business side was, for the first time, starting to look robust. "But," as one top franchise manager told me yesterday, "we should've realised it was an abnormal season because the tournament was returning to India after being staged abroad."

 

IPL 2, played at the Wanderers and Kingsmead instead of Chinnaswamy and Wankhede, had been a financial nightmare. Some of the teams stayed afloat only because the BCCI stepped in to compensate for the increased travel costs and reduced income in half-empty stadiums. But it was seen as a temporary blip: they were in a foreign country, where no one cared about the Mumbai Indians and Delhi Daredevils; it was, after all, an abnormal year.

 

The first season, in 2008, was a grand success in terms of publicity and market perceptions, even if not in real numbers. The teams all made losses, most of them ranging between Rs 40-Rs 60 crore, but they didn't really care. They were learning the ropes, and just starting to build a fan base. It was the inaugural year, and therefore, an abnormal IPL season.

 

Which brings us to the main problem: four years down, due to a variety of reasons, the team owners don't know what a normal IPL season looks like. For a business so large – around Rs 1,000 crore at last count – there is neither a median, nor a bar defining minimum expectations.

 

Those among the eight original owners for whom the loss of a few tens of crores per year is small change, like Mukesh Ambani, or those who consider it an addition to their publicity budget, like perhaps Vijay Mallya, don't see this as a problem. But for GMR, Deccan Chronicle, Shah Rukh Khan's Red Chillies, and the Kings XI consortium, who treated the tournament as a genuine business prospect, the up-anddown returns are starting to hurt.

 

It's even worse for the owners of the two new teams – Pune and Kochi – who bought into the tournament, after a highly successfully third season, at five times what the first set of buyers paid. "We still don't know if this is a workable model," one franchise manager told me, "and if it is, what the maximum expenditure levels are for us to break even."

 

The Indian Premier League's postevent 'chintan baithak', by the time real cricket resumes in June with tours of West Indies and England, should be quite explosive.

 

KUNAL PRADHAN

 

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                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

REIN IN PRICES, CREATE JOBS. THEN CELEBRATE

 

The idea of holding an anniversary bash, an occasion on which a report card of the government is presented, is not native to the Congress. Such celebrations are not known to have been held in the time of Nehru, Indira Gandhi or P.V. Narasimha Rao. Admittedly, a Congress-led coalition such as the UPA is not the same as a Congress government proper. And yet, the culture of the UPA, and the manner of its essential functioning, do not differ in significant ways from an all-Congress dispensation. So, possibly a dinner party to which coalition allies, and parties that otherwise support the Congress in government, are invited is meant to communicate to the country that the Congress is perfectly capable of running a coalition government, an idea that many at one time felt was not possible. Even so, there appears to be no fixed periodicity about the anniversary festivities of the UPA. In UPA-1, the first anniversary do was held at the end of its fourth year in office, not every year. The government was in some difficulty with its Left supporters over the civil nuclear agreement with the United States. Even so the Communist leaders did attend on that occasion and were accorded top protocol in terms of seating arrangements at the table of Congress chief, Mrs Sonia Gandhi or the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh. The irony is that they would force the government to take a confidence vote barely two months later and quit the government's side. Therefore, it is hard to imagine that the fourth anniversary dinner of UPA-1 was tied to a celebration in particular. UPA-2, to be fair, appears to have opted for a celebration and a report card every year. But the event had to be called off in 2010 as an air crash took place in Mangalore. So, last Sunday the UPA-2 government held the first celebration dinner at the end of its second year in office, and a report card was duly issued. Possibly the most striking feature of the evening party at the Prime Minister's residence was the attendance of representatives of the RJD from Bihar and the Samajwadi Party from UP — Lalu Yadav, although somewhat subdued after his rout in the state Assembly election late last year, was present. (For all the speculative gossip in sections of the media, there was never any doubt that the DMK and Ms Mamata Banerjee's Trinamul Congress would send representatives.) With corruption being on everyone's mind since the exposure of the scam involving Mumbai's Adarsh Housing Society and the Commonwealth Games late last year, to be followed by the 2G spectrum allocation fiasco, it was to be expected that the Prime Minister and the Congress chief would allude at some length to a subject that continues to be the talk at every dining table in the country. Surprisingly, there was too little said on rising prices. This is not a dining table staple because those who suffer its impact the most possess no such object. But the Prime Minister was brave enough not to flinch from speaking of "inclusive" growth, the mantra that suffuses nearly all his speeches. Inclusive growth — meaning cushioning the poor against the ravages of the market — with prices showing no sign of stabilising at an affordable level for nearly four years now? The Prime Minister, quite rightly, chose to take credit for 8.5 per cent annual growth of the economy over the seven years he has been in office although the world was hit by a deep-going recession in this period.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

THAT '70S SHOW

 

Recent events in Bhatta-Parsaul, twin villages in the Greater Noida area adjoining New Delhi where land has been acquired for building the Agra highway, have kick-started the Congress' campaign for the Uttar Pradesh Assembly election of 2012. It began when Rahul Gandhi accused the Mayawati government of "state oppression" and said "people were being murdered… women had been raped". He spoke of "a large, 70-foot (mound of) of ashes there, with dead bodies inside". It now appears the mass graves and mass rapes were exaggerated. The Congress' impressionable general secretary probably believed the bush telegraph a little too easily, and went to the media without doing due diligence. Nevertheless, his party has backed his philosophy if not quite his sense of detail. Efforts to somehow prove Mr Gandhi right are being persisted with. The National Commission for Women claims women in Bhatta-Parsaul were stripped naked and bodies burnt in public view. There is no doubt violence occurred in Bhatta-Parsaul. The Uttar Pradesh police and the Provincial Armed Constabulary — which has an infamous history going back to the times when the Congress won massive majorities in the state — do not have exemplary human rights records. Yet, is Mr Gandhi correct in presenting a decidedly one-sided picture? After all, he is not a provincial hothead. He is a national figure, with a multi-state appeal, and hoping to lead a government in New Delhi. Given this, how should one assess his politics and rhetoric? In the past week, Mr Gandhi took a delegation of Bhatta-Parsaul village folk to the prime minister's house. This is not a privilege Dr Manmohan Singh accords every protester, whether the farmer in Jaitapur (Maharashtra) or that indomitable lady fasting against decades of genuine state oppression in Manipur. It helps, one supposes, to have a benefactor who chooses to adopt you. Speaking to the media outside Dr Singh's residence, Mr Gandhi said, "What I am concerned about is how we are treating our own people. Most of the people in that room said that they are more than happy to give their land for development. Most of them said that if a road is being built, we have no problem, we will give our land. And most poor people are of that view. Most poor people want development in this country and they are ready to sacrifice". It is necessary to analyse this complex, blockbuster statement. It romanticises poverty, or at least the fact of being poor. It implies poor people — a definition that now encompasses land-owning farmers living a short distance from the national capital — are virtuous and, by suggestion, well-off urban residents are not. As such, the latter need to salute the innate wisdom and morality of the countryside. The good people of Bhatta-Parsaul are willing to "give" their land "if a road is being built". Mr Gandhi then expands and extrapolates this generosity of spirit to the entire country: "Most poor people are of that view. Most poor people want development in this country and they are ready to sacrifice". Sacrifice? Sacrifice? Why should anyone sacrifice anything? What prevents Mr Gandhi and his party bringing in a system that promises the farmer a fair price for his land, without acquisition by the state and by state governments that play middle-men? What stops him advocating transparent benchmarks for "change of land use" as a first step towards establishing a genuine land market that farmers can benefit from? The use of the word "sacrifice" has another implication. Not only will the farmer be deprived of his land, it goes, he will almost by definition not gain from the land being converted into a highway and enhancing access to distant urban centres. In short, anything other than a framework that keeps him cocooned in his village should be considered a sacrifice. What if one juxtaposed this world view with the words Mr Gandhi used at a Congress meeting in Varanasi a few days ago? "Bhatta-Parsaul was just the beginning", he said, "see what we do in the future. We will fight from every village". Three things stand out. First, in its language and in the political economy it is promoting in Uttar Pradesh, the Congress is completely oblivious to the aspirations of contemporary India. Without justifying Ms Mayawati's brazenness, crony capitalism and North Korea-style statues, the fact is Mr Gandhi is not offering a more inspiring alternative. The Congress insists all of Uttar Pradesh's problems are due to 20 years of identity politics. As such much of the rest of the country — Gujarat and Tamil Nadu, even Andhra Pradesh and Orissa — is passing it by. How then will glorifying often subsistence farming, romanticising the village and presenting the construction of highways as a "sacrifice" rather than a straightforward entitlement help matters? This is Daridra Narayan-Raj Narain socialism right out of the 1970s. Second, oppositional politics for the sake of oppositional politics is tempting and can deliver short-term dividends. It helped Mamata Banerjee in Singur, and Mr Gandhi is attempting to replicate the formula in Uttar Pradesh. There is a difference though. In 2007-08, Ms Banerjee was the ultimate outsider. She had never been in power in West Bengal and was far from being considered establishment. Her argument that she would have handled the issue of development more sensitively and was not responsible for Bengal's mess was persuasive. In contrast, if religion and politics have been the only industries in Uttar Pradesh for most of India's Independent history, can Mr Gandhi and the political legacy he represents disown responsibility? Third, for a man who is the face of India's "natural party of governance", Mr Gandhi has been remarkably silent about the gun-fight that sections of protesters began in Bhatta-Parsaul. Two policemen were killed and the district magistrate shot at and injured. This has been used to partially explain — though it can obviously never justify — any subsequent police overreaction. However, that is beside the point. If some of the protesters — motivated by politicians and maybe rival real estate developers — were armed and firing bullets at the law, then where does it leave the story of unilateral and unprovoked "state oppression"? Perhaps the question lies buried under that 70-foot mound of ashes in Bhatta-Parsaul. * Ashok Malik can be contacted at malikashok@gmail.com

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

WHY IS UPA GOVERNMENT SO NERVOUS?

 

It is two years since the second United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government was elected to power with a stronger-than-before mandate, independent of outside support from the Left. The political Opposition to the ruling coalition has become weaker in this period. Yet, paradoxically, having entered his eighth year as Prime Minister of India, if Manmohan Singh seems less than enthusiastic, the reasons can be summed up in two words: inflation and corruption. Dr Singh's obsession with economic growth has not diminished a bit. He started his speech on Sunday evening by pointing out that the country's gross domestic product (GDP) had grown by an average of 8.5 per year over the past seven years despite high fuel and food prices. He promptly added that India will soon become the fastest growing economy in the world having already become the fastest growing democracy in the world. With mandatory mentions of "inclusive growth", the Prime Minister acknowledged the reality on the ground (using generalities he loves): "The challenge of social sustainability of growth is today a universal challenge. Rapid growth and urbanisation have contributed among other things to increased inequalities and inequities". The economic czars of India today have realised that there is indeed a trade-off between growth and inflation. Consequently, they are belatedly trying to curb persistent inflation by jacking up interest rates that would inevitably result in a slowing down of industrial investments as well as loan-driven acquisitions of real estate and cars. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has projected the rate of growth of GDP for the financial year ending March 31, 2012, to be somewhere between 7.4 per cent and 8.5 per cent, significantly below the nine per cent (+/- 0.25 per cent) estimate put out by the ministry of finance in its Economic Survey presented in late-February. For the first time in recent years, economists at the RBI have not minced their words by arguing that the Indian economy may soon go through a phase of "stagflation", or a period when a decline in the economic growth rate is accompanied with inflation. With headline inflation still at an uncomfortably high of nearly nine per cent, the RBI stated that "policy interventions are necessary" to control inflation even though risks to growth remain. The country's central bank pointed out that inflation would moderate slowly in 2012 but remain above the "comfort level". With diesel prices (and perhaps, the prices of cooking gas and kerosene) expected to rise in the near future, the government is clearly fighting a losing battle against inflation. The dependence on imported crude oil (around 80 per cent at present) is unlikely to diminish in the foreseeable future. The Prime Minister said: "As an importer of oil we have to adopt rational pricing policies. This is not just prudent fiscal management. This is a national security imperative. India cannot become too dependent on external sources of supply of our energy". On the issue of corruption, if the government thought it was sending out politically correct messages to the public, the presence of the DMK leader and former Union minister for shipping, road transport and highways, Mr T.R. Baalu, next to Sonia Gandhi told an altogether different story. Since public memory is supposed to be very short, it is worth recounting a few facts relating to Mr Baalu that have nothing to do with the kilometers of highways built during his tenure, nor with the number of persons who occupied the chair of the head of the National Highways Authority of India or with the fact that between May 2004 and October 2008, not a single one of the 47 projects in the second phase of the North-South-East-West national highways programme was completed. According to replies given in Parliament by Mr Baalu's own former deputy, the then minister of state K.H. Muniyappa, Tamil Nadu was the beneficiary of 30 road projects worth `10,000 crores during his tenure as minister — this amount comprised one-fifth of the total money spent on developing national highways all over India. Do you have any doubts about why voters in Sriperumbudur had elected Mr Baalu? But does that also explain why the people of Tamil Nadu have so decisively voted the DMK out of power? Why, unlike Mr Raja, was Mr Baalu denied a ministerial berth? Here is a possible reason. Between November 2007 and February 2008, the Prime Minister's Office forwarded no less than eight letters requesting the ministry of petroleum and natural gas to expedite the allocation of natural gas by Gail (formerly Gas Authority of India Limited) at concessional rates to two firms controlled by Mr Baalu's two wives/partners and two sons. The then minister for petroleum and natural gas, Murli Deora, had remarked: "Every day we get requests from people… If somebody tells me that this is a question of 2,000 people losing their jobs, I will call people, I will ask my officers to help. We are here to help, not harass people... There is no nepotism involved".

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

RAPE & HYPOCRISY

 

We may be thousands of miles away from the scene of action, and the culture wars across the Atlantic, but very few urban Indians today will ask "Dominique Strauss Kaun?" A globalised world of satellite television and the Internet produces scandals without borders. So, one of the most memorable images of the past week — that of an unshaven, manacled Dominique Strauss-Kahn (or DSK as he is called in his native France) flanked by New York Police Department officials, was transmitted instantly across the world. And everyone — not just the French and the Americans — was quick to adapt the scandal to their own needs and milieu. The enterprising Taiwanese promptly came up with an animation treatment of the DSK scandal. The rest is history, or its first draft, as a torrent of tweets. For us in India, the scandal can be a key tool to bust some of the popular myths about sexual assault and rape. Rape is not about sex and seduction. It is about power and abuse of power. Rapists don't necessarily look like ogres. They can be perfectly nice and charming in one setting and turn violent in another. Just because someone is intelligent and talented does not mean the person is incapable of a sexual assault. These qualities neither add nor subtract from the gravity of the crime. Similarly, it is irrelevant to delve into the sexual likes and dislikes of the victim (or survivor, as some would say) of a sex-attack. Rapists/sexual assaulters often have partners and can get sex from elsewhere. But they mostly get their buzz by hitting on those who are vulnerable and socio-economically inferior to them. How often do you hear of a man sexually attacking a female boss? To get back to the plot for the benefit of those who may have been hibernating the past week: Till last week, the 62-year-old Strauss-Kahn was among the uber-powerful on earth — managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and widely viewed as a presidential contender in his native France. He seemed to have it all — name, fame, riches, power, charm, choices that most of us can only dream of, and a beautiful glamorous wife, a former French TV icon. Then, all of a sudden, like Humpty Dumpty, he had a great fall. Mr Strauss-Kahn was arrested and charged with an alleged sexual assault, including an attempted rape, on a chambermaid in a luxury suite in New York City's Sofitel Hotel. From a $3,000-night suite it was the four walls of the notorious Rikers Island jail. At the time of writing, the former IMF boss has been released on a $1 million cash bail (and an additional $5 million in bond), but remains under house arrest in a building close to Ground Zero in New York, under surveillance by video cameras, armed guards and electronic monitoring devices. The scandal has all the necessary elements of a long-running serial. So we are assured of a continuous flow of tidbits about the accuser and the accused in the coming weeks. The reactions, so far, have been interesting. Barring some feminist groups and a few journalists, much of France thinks DSK was a victim of a "set-up". Friends of DSK are shocked that one of their highly respected national figures was handcuffed and paraded before the media. One close friend of the former IMF chief even called it a "lynching murder by the media". Many of his supporters have questioned the integrity of the maid. Then there are the myriad conspiracy theories and charges of a frame-up. In the United States, and much of the English-speaking world, very many people are seeing the case as a good example of an egalitarian justice system where an immigrant chambermaid can slap charges against a wealthy and powerful man who sexually assaulted her. The question that pops up again and again, however, has a sense of deja vu: How can an educated, talented, charming man, who had so many women friends, be a rapist? His wife, Anne Sinclair, says her husband is innocent and that she will stand by him. Does that have a familiar ring? The wife of Bollywood actor Shiney Ahuja who allegedly raped his 18-year-old maid, and is currently on bail, also said something pretty similar. DSK was a famed "grand seducer". "Yes I like women… So what?" he once quipped. But the critical issue today is something else. DSK is not in the dock because he liked women or because some of them reciprocated his feelings. He is in the dock because he is alleged to have forced himself on an unwilling woman. Those who have been screaming "honey trap" conveniently overlook the fact that a single mother and an immigrant, like the chambermaid, who levelled the charges against DSK, stands to lose everything if it is proved that she has been lying. The best lawyers that money can buy will be trying to prove that there had been no sex attack and the maid was making it all up. In India, we have been pretty slow to debunk myths about sex attacks and their perpetrators. However, there has been some movement forward. The health ministry recently took a strong stand against the degrading and traumatising practice of using the "two finger test" as a method to collect medical evidence in rape cases. "It is supposed to assess whether girls and women are 'virgins' or 'habituated' to sexual intercourse", a 2010 report by Human Rights Watch had noted in a scathing comment. This is not enough. It has to be ensured that such recommendations are followed in practice and across the country. There are other impediments to justice as well. Rape is still defined very narrowly — only forced peno-vaginal penetration is considered to be rape. The law needs to change, as do mindsets. The key lessons — sex attack is not seduction. Just because "nobody died", to use a memorable phrase by one of DSK's friends, does not mean no one was assaulted sexually. French feminists are out in the streets protesting. They are supported by men who are brave enough to question social mores. Activists worldwide, including in India, have been flagging these issues for long. Everyone is innocent till proved guilty. That applies to maids and moneybags alike. Meanwhile, can we change the slogan please from "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity" to "Liberty, Equality, End of Hypocrisy". * Patralekha Chatterjee writes on development issues in India and emerging economies and can be reached at patralekha.chatterjee@gmail.com

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

A TICKET TO THE FUTURE

 

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.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

THE WISE & THE FOOLS

 

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.

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

BLAND BIRTHDAY

A TOAST ONLY TO 'TINA'


ONLY those who dined at Race Course Road on Sunday can tell us if the token presence of the DMK caused indigestion, since it pointed to a partnership having soured. Or, conversely, if that virtual absence served as antacid in that there were fewer reminders that elements of the alliance were making do with short commons that very evening ~ in Tihar. Even if the spread at RCR was lavish, in reality it was a bland birthday for UPA-II, reeling as it is under the impact of rampant corruption, maladministration and political drift. True the "coalition compulsions" extend beyond the DMK ~ the sinister efforts of Praful Patel to destroy the national airlines and Sharad Pawar's mess on the food front must also "register". Yet the rot is wider: inflation, particularly food prices, runs riot and is a pointer to failure to manage the economy. The drive against Maoists has lost momentum, North Block has shamed itself submitting erroneous documents to Pakistan.


There has been no foreign policy initiative worth the name, defence contracts take painfully long to finalise and the "internal health" of the  forces has shown no improvement. The policy-drift is palpable: be it economic reform, striking a balance between development and environment protection, now land acquisition issues have exploded. Progress on infrastructure augmentation is not evident. Ministers speak in different voices: the Prime Minister and foreign minister were restrained when reacting to Bin Laden's killing, the home minister and defence minister shamelessly chased the American bandwagon. The environment minister is a bit of a loose canon... This list of negatives actually loses significance if assessed against the series of adverse observations of the apex court. The obvious question aam aadmi asks is "who is in control?"


Sadly, the answer is not to be found where the netas dined. Increasingly is Dr Manmohan Singh appearing an ineffective chief executive (if indeed he does wield executive authority), certainly no source of inspiration, not even within the Congress fold. His distancing himself from all that is going on no longer "sells". The situation is fast deteriorating to one where a call to "shape up or ship out" could be raised. The most telling commentary on UPA-II's performance was the absence of the customary press conferences, full page advertisements highlighting achievements etc. Back to the celebratory dinner. The "report card" was unimpressive, the speeches insipid. Only one toast could sincerely be raised. To "Tina" ~ the widespread public perception that There Is No Alternative!

 

KMC NET WIDENS

MORE AND MORE OR LESS AND LESS?

WHILE doing away with the multiplicity of agencies involved in the upkeep of Kolkata, there appears to be a two-fold underpinning behind the extension of Kolkata Municipal Corporation's jurisdiction, announced within 24 hours of the swearing-in ceremony. Salt Lake's Sector V and parts of Joka are to be brought under the purview of the KMC. The idea quite obviously is to provide better civic facilities to the IT segment, and to areas reaching up to the city's premier management institute. These areas are a part of the city, and deserve to be treated as such. And the move would raise no cavil if the KMC's performance in the areas it controls including the added areas of Behala, Jadavpur and Tollygunge had not been so dismal. Save the paving of sidewalks, the creation of road-dividers (now painted green) and the provision of street lights whose aesthetics leave a lot to be desired, there has been no visible improvement in quality of municipal services since Trinamul assumed charge a year ago. The fundamentals have not been tended to. Behala, for instance, showcases the worst in urban flooding. The tax-payer can be thankful for minor mercies; Mamata Banerjee appears to have dropped the idea of including the entire Salt Lake ~ a satellite town and no less ~ within the KMC's ambit. The grot within the KMC's jurisdiction ~ such as it is ~ is overwhelming, and as often as not almost nauseating. The disaster will deepen if more and more wards translate to less and less in terms of services. Primarily, it is the drainage that dates back to colonial Calcutta that needs a thorough overhaul. This is more urgent than the planned riverfront development in association with RITES, notably a Railway subsidiary.
The decision to make KMC wholly responsible for road maintenance ought to ensure tighter coordination and supervision. Enhanced responsibility must register a degree of improvement in the ever so deplorable road conditions with a single entity replacing the present PWD/KMC joint maintenance. The merger of the Kolkata Improvement Trust ~ now largely redundant ~ with the KMC and single-window operations should lead to streamlined functioning. But the major headache of the city remains unaddressed in the blueprint. Pavement hawkers are likely to remain where they are. The arrangement suited the Left; it shall suit Trinamul no less.

 

SPURIOUS DRUGS

BENGAL'S CESSPOOL OF CRIME

THIS is inconceivable in any civilized set-up; it may not exactly be an irony in West Bengal that the antidote to sickness and disease has degenerated to a cesspool of crime. It would be an understatement to call it corruption. And as Chief Minister cum minister for health, Miss Mamata Banerjee has a readymade problem to address. Yet the Centre can't evade its responsibility. The Union health ministry's Central Drug Standard Control Organisation would appear to have woken up horribly late. It was only on 13 May ~ incidentally the day of the Assembly election results ~ that the state's drug control department was directed to tabulate the  spurious drugs that are circulating in the stores. The state administration has also been asked to furnish data on the action against those involved, the number of arrests and prosecutions. Not to put too fine a point on it, there is perhaps nothing to report. The exercise is testament to the absence of monitoring both by the regulatory authorities in Delhi and Kolkata. It is a testament no less to the lack of administrative control that a directive from the parliamentary standing committee has spurred action.


 The modus operandi is fairly clear. Spurious medicines are being sold to drug stores by some pharmaceutical companies, they are being prescribed by doctors on the basis of the label and without tests, and then sold to patients, with prescription or without. As a report in this newspaper suggests, such drugs would not have been available across the counter if there was a semblance of certification. Small wonder that the Centre's order was issued after "large quantities of inferior quality" life-saving drugs and injections were found in drug stores of as many as four districts ~ Howrah, Hooghly, North and South 24-Parganas. An organised racket has permeated the public health system, one that has expanded over time. The tentacles have spread alarmingly and it may not be easy to stem the rot.

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THE STATESMAN

ARTICLE

WHO RULES AMERICA?

AFTER 30 YEARS OF CHINESE SUBVERSION

BY RAJINDER PURI

 

SOME time ago I wrote an article questioning who rules China. Circumstantial evidence suggested that a covert lobby comprising elements of the People's Liberation Army (PLA), Chinese Communist Party and the overseas Chinese based mostly in South-east Asia, who owned over 60 per cent of the assets in China, could overrule pronouncements of the Chinese President and the Chinese Premier. Several examples of this happening were cited. Now a revelation from WikiLeaks provokes the question of who rules America.
The spate of errors recently committed by Indian security raised the obvious question whether these arose from incompetence or sabotage. Well, the degree of errors committed by the American government over the past three decades pose the same question with much greater emphasis. Diplomatic cables leaked by WikiLeaks reveal that Benazir Bhutto, after the bomb explosion that greeted her when she first landed in Karachi on her return to Pakistan, requested the US government to provide her security because she had evidence that her enemies were out to kill her. She claimed that there were elements in the Musharraf government that were plotting her assassination. America refused to provide her security, stating that to do so in an election campaign in Pakistan would seem improper. Bhutto was advised to cooperate with the Musharraf government.
The US response was astounding. Could not the CIA have arranged covert private security to safeguard Bhutto? Recently it had no hesitation in deploying Raymond Davies clandestinely in Pakistan when it was required. Not surprisingly, Benazir Bhutto was killed. Immediately after that I offered an explanation for her murder. She was killed because she came with an agenda unacceptable to the vested interests that controlled Pakistan. Benazir was the only South Asian politician to state publicly what I had always advocated. She wanted to create a South Asian Union inspired by the European Union. Before leaving the US for Pakistan, Benazir said: "Learning from Europe following World War II, we will build democracies and common markets, we will open up markets, we will open up roads and we will open up endless opportunities for the people of South Asia ."
 How would the Al Qaida, committed as it was to the creation of global jihad and a fundamentalist empire in the region, have responded to this? How must have China, which signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Taliban approved by Osama bin Laden on 9/11 2001, have reacted to this? China had been propping up Pakistan for many decades with missiles and a nuclear arsenal to confront India and keep South Asia divided. That is why Benazir posed a threat to the most powerful vested interests in Pakistan. That is why with the collusion of the hardliners within the Pakistan military supporting Al Qaida and the PLA, Benazir was killed. The question arises, was America oblivious of the high stakes involved in safeguarding Benazir's safety after her specific warnings? Or was America unbelievably stupid? Or is America a subverted nation serving the interests of China rather than of the United States?


There is much evidence to favour the possibility of subversion. For years I have described the unholy nexus between America's corporate business lobby and the PLA as the world's real axis of evil. Consider this. For over three decades America allowed a five-to-one adverse balance of trade with the world's biggest dictatorship importing for the most part low-tech consumer items manufactured in factories owned by the PLA. With its export earnings the PLA built the world's largest army. America degenerated from being the lone global superpower to a nation owing trillions of dollars to China and become its hostage.
During all this time, America remained a helpless spectator while with Chinese support Pakistan became the hub of global terrorism and China's retail outlet for nuclear proliferation. This same helpless America did not hesitate to divert the war on terror against Taliban and Al Qaida from Afghanistan to Iraq on the basis of false allegations that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. Not surprisingly, Osama bin Laden escaped from Afghanistan to Pakistan where he lived comfortably in the protective custody of the Pakistan army until his recent assassination. American big business made short-term gain through earning huge profit by using underpaid workers in manufacturing units set up in China. By diverting investment from the domestic market to China, American big business increased unemployment in the US. American, politicians bribed by Beijing, turned a blind eye as US security was being raped. One PLA agent actually funded an American President inside the White House! The long-term gain from this nexus accrued only to China.
In the light of this, what should one conclude? Is America unbelievably stupid or is it subverted? Only in his second term did President George Bush attempt to reverse policy and halt subversion. President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are carrying forward that attempt. President Obama is trying to reverse US policy in the Middle East, towards China and towards Pakistan. Time will tell whether he succeeds. For success, he will have to ruthlessly deal with enemies within America. Will President Obama prevail or will he be derailed? Meanwhile India, while welcoming President Obama's effort, must exercise extreme caution while dealing with America. The US speaks with many voices. Often its actions belie its words. India must remain focused on its core interests. It must not thoughtlessly support policies that strengthen China at India's cost. It must learn to discriminate between suggestions offered by mainline America and subverted America.   

The writer is a veteran journalist and cartoonist

 

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THE STATESMAN

ARTICLE

YEDDYURAPPA IN COMFORT ZONE

THE KARNATAKA GOVERNOR'S UNHEEDED RECOMMENDATION FOR IMPOSITION OF PRESIDENT'S RULE IN THE SOUTHERN STATE HAS COME AS A BOON FOR ITS BELEAGUERED CHIEF MINISTER BS YEDDYURAPPA, WRITES TYAGARAJ SHARMA

Karnataka chief minister Mr BS Yeddyurappa has much to thank his arch enemy and Governor HR Bhardwaj. For, by recommending the imposition of President's Rule in the state, something that the Centre has ruled out, the Governor has helped the beleaguered Mr Yeddyurappa get a fresh lease of life.

This is because ever since he led the BJP to power in Karnataka,  Mr Yeddyurappa has been facing a series of crises. Beginning with the open rebellion by the powerful Bellary brothers and ministers ~ Mr Karunakar Reddy and Mr Janardan Reddy ~ when he was barely a few months in the saddle, the chief minister has been  busy, perforce, protecting his chair. In some cases, the discontent against him had also been fuelled by a few senior leaders in the party high command.

The regularity with which  partymen and ministerial colleagues alike have sought to unseat Mr Yeddyurappa would be hard to believe, especially since they chose to do so by neglecting to consolidate the gains from the BJP's maiden win in the south. Instead of strengthening the party's base by providing good governance, the ministers and senior partymen allowed their personal ambitions to come to the fore. This explains why Mr Yeddyurappa had to rush to New Delhi every few months to persuade the central leadership to rein in the dissidents and highlight his own role in leading the BJP to power in the state. But his entreaties also had a generous peppering of arm-twisting as he did not fail to emphasise on each occasion the key role played by the Lingayat community ~ to which he belongs ~ in helping the BJP secure a majority in the 2008 Assembly election.

Dissidence apart, the chief minister has also been charged with corruption and nepotism involving alleged land deals which have invariably thrown up a link with his family. In addition, a section of his ministerial colleagues embarrassed the government as it came under the scanner for alleged corruption, immoral acts and illegal appointments to government colleges. Above all, the BJP government's failure to check illegal iron ore mining has caused the state exchequer a loss of more than Rs 80,000 crore in the past five to six years. The state Lokayukta's first report in 2008 on illegal mining in Karnataka which bears this out, dealt a blow to the Yeddyurappa government's credibility.

As such, Mr Yeddyurappa has been busy protecting his back. His struggle for self-preservation became all the more acute when he realised that the chief of the BJP's state unit was making an unabashed bid for his chair along with an equally senior leader with considerable clout at the national level. Luckily for the chief minister, each crisis saw the party's seniors backing him for reasons baffling to the common man considering his government's poor show with respect to administration and good governance.

Accordingly, even though the Centre has snubbed the Governor for now, his adverse report on the Yeddyurappa government has gone  a long way in propping up an eternally-plagued chief minister. For Mr Yeddyurappa, Mr Bhardwaj's recommendation for imposition of President's Rule came as a blessing in disguise. For the first time, he found the party's central and state leadership coming together, throwing its full weight behind him to see to it that Mr Bhardwaj did not have his way. And, it is all but certain now that in the remaining two years of his five-year term, the chances of Mr Yeddyurappa being troubled by his party colleagues will be minimal.

Governor's provocation

The immediate provocation for the Governor was what Mr Bhardwaj regarded as the ostensible collapse of the Constitutional machinery in Karnataka thanks to the Supreme Court's 13 May verdict quashing the disqualification of 16 legislators. Among them are 11 BJP rebels who had conspired with the Opposition last year in a bid to topple the state government and had even ensconced themselves in resorts at their behest last October much to the disgust of the public. The rebels were then accused of selling their loyalty to an over-ambitious Opposition leader of the JD-S who was determined to bring down the BJP government at any cost. The dissidents eventually withdrew their support to Mr Yeddyurappa in October 2010, leading to their disqualification by the Speaker, Mr K Boppiah ~ a decision that was upheld by Karnataka High Court later. On 13 May, the Supreme Court reversed the HC order, triggering the Governor's controversial recommendation for imposition of President's Rule in Karnataka.


Following last year's rebellion, Mr Yeddyurappa survived two floor tests that the Governor had forced his government to take. It is another matter that the BJP unabashedly wooed Opposition legislators to bolster its then depleted strength in the House by deploying its very own controversial" Operation Lotus". The means adopted by the party predictably raised serious questions about its ethics or its lack thereof. At the end of the day, what mattered to the BJP was that it could prove its majority in the Assembly twice in a matter of one week ~ an unprecedented development in itself.

Sudden change of heart

Much to the discomfort of the Governor and the Opposition JD-S and the Congress, the 11 BJP rebels, however, did not lose any time in returning to the BJP after the Supreme Court order and publicly announced their support for Mr Yeddyurappa. This allowed the BJP to cobble together the required number of 121 to prove its majority in a depleted House of 223. But the Governor wasn't convinced.


For now, notwithstanding their public posturing against the Governor's controversial recommendation to the Centre, the BJP and  Mr Yeddyurappa  finds themselves in a comfort zone. It will not be surprising, though, if the party's leaders are found wishing in private for the imposition of President's Rule in Karnataka. Because such a move would not only relegate to the background the administrative and ethical lapses of the BJP government for the time being but also ensure a groundswell of voter support for the "wronged Yeddyurappa government". And, nothing could be better for the BJP two years before Karnataka goes to polls.

The writer is The Statesman's Bangalore-based Special Representative

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THE STATESMAN

ARTICLE

THE FREE TICKET

 NOW & AGAIN

SOMDATTA MANDAL


The airline had been warning me constantly through e-mails that if I didn't use up my accrued frequent-flier mileage points by a particular date, they would expire. I had actually taken great pains to accumulate the points and so I thought I must redeem them. What about a holiday during the summer vacation? I could book my free ticket and my husband could pay for his. So after the destination was decided and the hotel booked, I sat down to make airline reservations. I called the toll-free number of the carrier and a monotonous female voice on the IVR instructed me to press different buttons first. After an extended musical interlude, I was told that my approximate waiting time was eight minutes. Never mind the diminishing cell phone balance, I patiently stayed on the line. When I finally got to speak to one of the call centre agents, she asked me to go back to the airline website, calculate the worth in rupee of the free miles accured and then get back to her. I disconnected the line and logged on to the computer to do her bidding. After another melodious wait of seven minutes, my call was taken by a different person. So everything had to be repeated verbatim. Just when I was about to finalise my destination, my cellphone died on me. Oh, what a test of patience! I grabbed the landline phone to go through the drill for the third time. Now, another person was on the line. "Have patience, nothing that's free comes easily," I told myself. This young man was very helpful. After he had booked me on a flight and also issued me a PNR number, he asked me how would I like to make the payment. What payment? "Well, wasn't the ticket free?"


"Yes, ma'am. But a processing charge of Rs 1077.00 has to be paid now." "Fine. Here's my credit card number and you can do the needful." I was told that without registering my credit card with the airline in advance and without a One Time Password from the bank that had issued the card, no transaction could be made. So, I repeated the exercise with the credit card company and was issued the password with the warning that it would remain valid for only 30 minutes. Now, my iPhone decided to act up. The password sent by the bank got capped automatically! Undaunted, I called the airline agent again and narrated my plight. He probably had a good laugh at a technically-challenged woman but politely suggests an alternative. Perhaps I could go to the carrier's website again and fill out a mileage redemption form and then e-mail it to them? He reminded me that my booking was valid till next day noon and I must be sure to complete the formalities by then. Upon receiving the e-mail, once the carrier processed it, it would alert me so that I could collect the ticket by paying cash. I had begun the booking process around 4 p.m. and it was already 9 at night! 


Next day, a call to the carrier told me (after an interminable wait) that while the e-mail had landed, the attachment was missing. My deadline was extended by two days. I re-attached the redemption form and after sending the e-mail, made a call to check. No technical glitches this time but the airline would need three days to process my request. Finally, it was on the fifth day that I received the confirmation. Hurray, I had won my free ticket! My morale up, I drive down to the airport, paid the processing fee and come home with the "free ticket". I felt even better than Mahendra Singh Dhoni must have after winning the World Cup! Mission accomplished, I sat down to calculate how much I'd saved ~ a whopping Rs 5,000! I will surely spend that much while vacationing next month.

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THE STATESMAN

ARTICLE

RELEASING POLITICAL PRISONERS NOT ENOUGH: UN

 

The United Nation's special adviser for Myanmar, Mr Vijay Nambiar, briefed the Security Council on his recent trip to the country and welcomed the release of some political prisoners and the reduction in the sentences of others but said the measures had fallen short of expectation and were insufficient. At a closed-door session in New York, Mr Nambiar said his visit had offered an opportunity for the UN to engage with the new government six weeks after it was installed and to build on existing dialogue with key stakeholders.
According to information released by the UN spokesperson's office, Mr Nambiar welcomed the Myanmarese government's recognition of the country's most pressing political and economic challenges and the need to address them in a way that strengthened national unity and reconciliation. Mr Nambiar said that the government made an explicit commitment to keep the "peace door" open to political forces that had not accepted the recently-adopted Constitution or the political roadmap.
"While the government's stated commitments were encouraging at this stage, Mr Nambiar noted that gaining international confidence was as much a factor of leadership and policies as of delivering on popular expectations," UN spokesman Mr Martin Nesirky said.


Mr Nambiar reiterated the UN's call for the urgent release of all political prisoners. He said that the initial sentence reductions and release of some political prisoners were small steps in the right direction but insufficient in the end. "We continue to urge the Myanmar authorities to do more in order to be consistent both with their recent stated commitments and to meet the expectations of both its own people and the international community."
Mr Nambiar also apprised the Security Council of his conversations with Ms Aung San Suu Kyi and other leaders of the National League for Democracy as well as Myanmar's other Opposition and ethnic groups and representatives of civil society. He said the real test would be whether or how quickly the new climate could translate into a change in content. The UN spokesperson said that a meeting of the Group of Friends on Myanmar would be scheduled in the near future.


India elected to Rights Council

The UN Human Rights Council elected 15 new members, including India to the body. Six nations that have never served on the Council before are among 15 new members elected, according to a Press release issued in New York.

 

Austria, Benin, Botswana, the Republic of Congo, Costa Rica and Kuwait will make their debut for a three-year term each next month. Burkina Faso, Chile, Czech Republic, India, Indonesia, Italy, Peru, Philippines and Romania ~ also elected to the Council ~ have previously served since it was created in 2006.
General Assembly president Mr Joseph Deiss announced the results of the voting which was conducted by secret ballot among member states in New York. Four countries were elected in the African category, four in the Asian, three from Latin America and the Caribbean, two from Eastern Europe and two from the Western European and other states grouping.

 

Ban praises Obama speech

Secretary-General Mr Ban Ki-moon iterated his support for the aspirations of the people in West Asia and North Africa for greater freedom, dignity and a better life and welcomed President Barack Obama's speech on recent developments in the region.


A statement issued in New York by UN spokesman Mr Martin Nesirky reads: "The Secretary-General continues to call on the leaders throughout the region to reject the use of force, violence and repression, and to choose the path of comprehensive reform and inclusive dialogue." Mr Ban said he believed the people of the region had the responsibility to show the way and pledged the full assistance of the UN in that regard. Mr Ban said he believed that Mr Obama had offered important ideas which could help the peace talks move forward, consistent with international positions and in response to the legitimate core concerns of both parties on the peace process between Israel and Palestine.


He encouraged Israel's Prime Minister Mr Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to respond as "statesmen and peacemakers" to Mr Obama's speech. The Secretary-General hoped that all sides would demonstrate a renewed determination to achieve a peace agreement that provided for two states living side-by-side in dignity, security and peace, the statement added.


The UN and the Diplomatic Quartet also expressed an urgent need to resolve the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians and voiced support of the vision outlined by President Obama. The Quartet said in a statement that it "agrees that moving forward on the basis of territory and security provides a foundation for Israelis and Palestinians to reach a final resolution of the conflict through serious and substantive negotiations and mutual agreement on all core issues".


It iterated its strong appeal to the parties to the conflict to overcome the current obstacles and "resume direct bilateral negotiations without delay or preconditions". The Quartet also recommitted itself to its previous statements and principles with regard to the West Asia peace process.


anjali sharma

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

SECOND COMING

An anniversary is a convenient perch from which to look backwards and forwards. The completion of the second year of the present incarnation of the United Progressive Alliance government does not find it in a very comfortable position. The chief problem that the second UPA government faces is a pronounced increase in the incidence of corruption under its aegis. In fact, it would be no exaggeration to say that if it had not been for the unimpeachable personal integrity of the prime minister, Manmohan Singh, the UPA government would have been in complete disgrace. Beginning with money-making in the course of preparing for the Commonwealth Games in Delhi to the scandal involving the allocation of the 2G spectrum, too many skeletons have come tumbling out of the UPA's cupboard. This not only seriously damaged the image of the government but also brought proceedings in Parliament, so critical to the working of a democracy, to a complete standstill. What made matters worse was the tardy response of the government. It appeared as if Mr Singh was weighing for too long the pros and cons of moving against a powerful coalition partner. This initial lack of decisiveness was, however, more than made up for by the scale of arrests that followed. From the principal organizer of the Commonwealth Games to a cabinet minister to the daughter of the leader of a coalition partner to some of the leading managers of companies — no one has been spared. It can only be hoped that more arrests will be forthcoming.

In this context, the second UPA government and the prime minister need to remember two simple but fundamental principles. First is that corruption has no political colour. Second, no one — no matter how important and how powerful — is above the law. It follows that anyone tainted by the tar of corruption should be brought to book. If this means taking action against persons belonging to the principal constituent of the UPA, so be it. The government should not restrain the imposition of the law or restrict the activities of the investigating agencies. If the government has the courage and the will to do this, it will immediately ratchet up its flagging credibility and goodwill.

Stern and effective steps against corruption and its perpetrators will transform what is now a heavy liability into an asset. It will remove the main weapon the opposition parties have against the government and also make the latter more effective. It will enable Mr Singh to reassert his occupation of the moral high ground and to create conditions for the emergence of a new political will and mandate. Mr Singh has very little to lose. He has an opportunity to remove from the country the miasma of corruption.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

HARD CHOICES

The world "is moving too fast", Barack Obama recently said at a conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. But Israel, to whom this comment was offered as a warning, remains oblivious to the implications of the newly emerging geopolitical order. Stridently opposed to the suggestions put forth by the president of the United States of America to end the Middle East impasse, Israel is courting growing isolation and censure on the international stage. Matters have come to such a pass that it will soon be left to Mr Obama to try and dissuade his European counterparts from endorsing Palestinian claims of statehood in a forthcoming United Nations vote. Although Mr Obama claims to have every intention of defending Israel, the latter has given him little to work with in return. The Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, vehemently rejected Mr Obama's proposal that the Palestinian State be based on pre-1967 borders and mutually negotiated land swaps. Ironically, these were precisely the positions adopted by George W. Bush and Bill Clinton — only, unlike Mr Obama, they had chosen not to articulate them publicly.

In the aftermath of the Arab Spring, political alignments in the Middle East are bound to get upset. The recent clashes between Palestinians commemorating the annual nakba day and Israeli soldiers clearly revealed that a threshold has been crossed — the Palestinians are not going to take Israel's atrocities sitting down, and much of the Arab world will be supporting them in their struggle for sovereignty. By urging Israel to make certain 'concessions', Mr Obama is trying to forestall the bigger troubles that may erupt in the future. In doing so, he may be alienating himself from the Jewish electorate in the US, but he is, ultimately, acting like an astute statesman. With their eye on the 2012 presidential elections, the Republicans are taking advantage of Mr Obama's enormous political risk. But without such hard choices, Middle East peace will continue to be a mirage.

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THE TELEGRAPH

ADVICE TO COMMUNISTS

SHOULD THE LEFT BECOME SOCIAL DEMOCRATIC? PRABHAT PATNAIK

On a television channel on counting day, the panellists discussing the assembly election results were asked to offer advice to the Left, which had lost both the large states it ruled, one of them quite massively, on how it should reform itself for a future resurrection. The overwhelming opinion among them was that it should forget Lenin, and, as the anchor explicated, become 'social democratic'. The Left I suppose should be obliged to the panellists for being so concerned about its future; the question is: should it follow their advice and become 'social democratic'?

The central difference between social democracy and communism is the latter's acceptance of the category of imperialism; other differences derive from it. Indeed, the basic split in the Second International on the attitude to the First World War arose from a difference in perspectives on imperialism. On one side were those social democrats who supported their respective countries' war efforts since they did not see it as an 'imperialist war'; on the other side were those who not only were unwilling to do so, as they saw the war as an 'imperialist war' through which 'their' respective monopoly bourgeoisies were trying to grab more 'economic territory', but wanted the 'imperialist war' to be turned into a 'civil war' for the overthrow of the monopoly capitalist order, which made workers of one country fight fellow workers of another across the trenches. (A third position between these two, which tried to reconcile these irreconcilable positions, gradually lost relevance.)

The second group of social democrats split from the parent parties to form communist parties, and they included not only Lenin but also Rosa Luxemburg, who, notwithstanding her many differences with Lenin, attended the founding congress of the German communist party a fortnight before her murder. This underscores the centrality of the question of imperialism to the communist position vis-à-vis the social democrats. And bound up with this question is the case for system-transcendence: if capitalism can be made into a peaceful, non-imperialist, non-aggressive system, as the social democrats believed it could, then it can also be made 'humane', and any pressing need for its transcendence by socialism disappears.

Advising the communists to become social democrats amounts, therefore, to asking them to abandon not only their basic objective of socialism, but also their persistent opposition to imperialism; indeed, one panellist on the aforementioned TV show explicitly asked the communists to forget about 'imperialism'.

The proximate difference between the communists and the bulk of the NGOs, including some highly progressive ones which are associated with the World Social Forum, relates precisely to imperialism. Opposition to the Iraq war or to American interventions, which many progressive NGOs would express, does not necessarily mean accepting the concept of imperialism (even when the material interests underlying such interventions are recognized), since one can still see these as episodic events. The communists see imperialism not as a set of episodes, but as an entire order that springs from the nature of capitalism itself.

Even those who see only episodes of imperialism have missed, alas, certain glaring recent episodes, such as the killing of Osama bin Laden which violated all norms of international conduct. One country sent in troops to attack a target in another sovereign nation, without so much as a 'by your leave'; murdered an unarmed man, who was offering no resistance, in front of his family; took his body away; and dumped it into the sea. Osama may have been a villain, but what is at issue here is, first, the act of aggression against a sovereign country; and second, the ethical and legal questionability of the act of killing a person without a trial, which even the Nazi mass murderers were not denied. And yet, while Fidel Castro and Noam Chomsky have raised their voices on these questions, there has been a virtual silence over them in our country, as indeed there has been over the Nato bombing of Libya, which is in violation of international law (no matter how dictatorial Muammar Gaddafi may be).

There are no doubt fewer takers for the concept of imperialism today than was the case in the colonial era, when the imperial order was palpable. In particular, the much-hyped gross domestic product growth rates of China and India give the impression today that the earlier asymmetry between a first and a third world, implicit in the concept of imperialism, is disappearing, and that the latter is emerging as a replica of the former. This supposed replication, however, is obviously untrue: despite high growth, the working population in India and China continues to consist predominantly of peasants (including the landless) and petty producers, pushed even deeper into distress by such growth. Besides, this so-called levelling of differences across nations has strengthened, and not weakened, the position of first world capital. Much of China's export growth, for instance, which sustains its high growth, is accounted for by American corporations locating plants in China to export back to their home economy. The capitals of these and other 'emerging economies' too have grown stronger, but only by integrating themselves with metropolitan capital to the detriment of their own people. Hence, the concept of imperialism has not lost importance either in its sociological aspect (capitalism encroaching upon pre-capitalist producers) or in its spatial aspect (capital from the metropolis imposing an order where it expropriates for itself resources and primary commodities from all over the world).

But isn't obtaining resources from outside in lieu of one's own products what 'trade' is all about? Why should 'trade' be called 'expropriation'? This is because underlying what appears as normal 'trade' is a complex mechanism which deliberately compresses demand by the working people of the third world to 'release' exhaustible resources, and commodities producible only by the limited tropical land-mass, for the use of metropolitan capital. In colonial times, such compression was through taxation by the colonial regime, and the 'draining away' without any quid pro quo of the commodity counterpart of such tax revenue. Nowadays, such compression is through a variety of neo-liberal measures, all of which restrict purchasing power in the hands of the working people.

Such compression, the essence of imperialism, arises in turn from an asymmetry: these resources and commodities are either not producible at all or cannot be produced in sufficient quantities within the metropolitan countries, but the goods and services produced in the metropolis can, given time and appropriate arrangements, always be produced in third-world economies.

Communist practice must derive from theory, whose only test is correctness and not vote-catching capacity. Their forgetting 'imperialism', as the panellists advised them to do, will not only make them indistinguishable from others and hence historically irrelevant, but also leave the resistance to imperialism, which is bound to occur anyway, to terrorists, religious fundamentalists, and the Osama bin Ladens.

The reform they must undertake is not to abandon the concept of 'imperialism', but the very opposite, that is, to be even more firm in adhering to it. They must be even more vigilant that the basic classes whose interests they seek to defend — namely the workers, the peasants, the agricultural labourers — are provided relief rather than distress (through encroachments by imperialism and domestic corporate interests). And for this they must ensure space within the party for debate, discussion and dissent, so that it becomes a thriving hub of intellectual activity, rather than a monolithic entity where a decision taken at the behest of some local satrap or bureaucrat in a Left-ruled state is defended, as revolutionary duty, by its members and sympathizers all over the country.

It may be asked: isn't this what being 'social democratic' means? The answer is 'no'. Rosa Luxemburg rejected social democracy and, along with Karl Liebknecht, was murdered by troops under a social democratic government; and she believed in no monoliths. Nor did Lenin. When the besieged and beleaguered revolutionary government under him signed the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, over the objections of Bukharin and others, they brought out a theoretical journal, Kommunist, to attack the treaty, which the Bolshevik government or the party did not proscribe even in those times. Greater space for dissent within the party is not synonymous with 'social democracy'. The advice to communists to become social democrats, therefore, though well-meant, reflects only the Indian elite's own 'adjustment' with imperialism and distance from the working people.

The author is a former professor, Centre for Economic Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

TIME FOR NEW LESSONS

MALVIKA SINGH

The general political turmoil in India continues unabated, but at the same time there is great energy in some areas as newly-elected governments come alive in West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Assam. Idealistic beginnings contrasted with the horror of chronic administrative malfunctioning and fearful mismanagement during the last many decades make India an exciting but volatile reality. Change is happening at many levels but the all-consuming status quo debilitates the vitality and aspiration of a whole new generation wherever governments have a time lag before the next election.

The Central government appears to be confused, and has been unable to hold its head high while supporting the highest standards of probity. Years of condoning wrong practice, covering up half-truths, closing ranks in a concerted effort to defend the indefensible and so on have damaged the Indian polity. The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, an ally of the United Progressive Alliance, has become synonymous with corruption. This has raised many questions about coalition politics and its future. How can any leadership discriminate so blatantly by protecting politicians, administrators and corporate honchos by overlooking their wrongdoings while expecting citizens to abide by the laws of the land?

Some of the political and corporate players of the 2G spectrum scam have been put behind bars and denied bail, but the administrators who were privy to the corruption remain free. This has made ordinary people wonder if the unraveling of scams is really the beginning of a cleansing process. Indians as a people live and survive by hope. It has been the singular reason why a diverse, plural and often volatile Bharat has remained resilient and robust, continuing to adjust, grow and absorb new influences and ideas without splitting at the seams.

Free country

Across the border, in the landlocked kingdom of Bhutan, democracy has stepped into the shoes of what was an effective monarchy that prided itself on delivering Gross National Happiness to its subjects. It was the former king, an unusually enlightened leader, who designed and enforced 'democracy' in his kingdom. He gently introduced his kingdom to the outside world and to priorities such as good governance and GNH as the pillars of growth. The experiment is a challenge that could establish a contemporary and appropriate delivery system for goods and services, leading to a content, civil society. Bhutan has a strong foundation, and must avoid the dreadful pitfalls and damaging policies that some of its South Asian neighbours have been overwhelmed with.

The onslaught of the Information Age is palpable in Bhutan. Till recently, Bhutan was isolated and secure from exploitative socio-economic and political realities. Its cultural security had not been invaded by alien values and sensibilities guided by the Western world. It did not have to confront the clash of civilizations. The people were secure in their isolation. How will Bhutan engage with the world in this new millennium? Will it be able to set new standards of inclusive policies and transparent, participatory governance?

India has a great deal to learn from the leaders of Bhutan, from both the royal family and the elected representatives. They respect the people. They traverse, often on foot for days, the length of the country to connect with the people. Because the monarchs were wholly committed to their kingdom, the elected leadership must match the example that has been set in stone. India's democracy inherited an exploitative colonial system of governance and continues with that formula even today.

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THE TELEGRAPH

WINNING LESSONS FOR THE FUTURE

COMMENTARAO S.L. RAO

The celebrations are over; new ministers are getting to work and taking stock of their inheritances from the previous governments. What do these election results hold for the future?

It is premature for the Congress to celebrate. These elections have cost it seats and a trusted, if corrupt, ally in Tamil Nadu, set it on a cliffhanger course in Kerala, and made it part of a winning alliance in West Bengal to which the Congress's contribution is marginal. The only saving grace is Assam. The predilection of the Congress to dislodge winning chief ministers might have lost Tarun Gogoi his job after this victory, but better sense prevailed. Governance at the Centre is in a shambles. The economy is not going right, the Rahul Gandhi strategy of going it alone seems to have failed, the Congress is looking for future allies, and may well lose the next general election. The party has time to change, but it will need superior and clever leadership.

Corruption has become an issue for all social classes, and will remain so. The media, civil society, activists for the right to information, and the Supreme Court have drawn blood, and they will not stop. Governments, especially the Central government, will try to project an image of being proactive against corruption while desperately seeking ways of protecting key leaders. Trials will commence and will continue till the general elections in 2014, giving more grist to election propaganda. More ministers at Central and state levels must lose their positions before the general elections. Teflon-coated parties and leaders (like the Nationalist Congress Party), so far not charged except in whispers, must experience severe pressure. As the Congress cleans up its ministries to present a clean face for the general elections, Opposition parties, and especially the Bharatiya Janata Party, must catch up.

With more than three years to go for the next elections, the Congress will seek safer partners than the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and the NCP, whose leaders are either under investigation or may soon be so. In this search for less tainted partners, the strategy of going it alone will be given up. Regional parties like the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Samajwadi Party, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, and the remnants of the Left, will provide the new partners. The Congress should find a new prime minister before the year-end and go to the polls with a younger face who is not associated with corruption in the United Progressive Alliance government.

The UPA's minority in the Rajya Sabha could become a majority in the next year or so as members of parliament from the Trinamul Congress and the AIADMK replace the Left and the DMK. Mamata Banerjee will demand stronger representation at the Centre. She will take leftist positions on subsidies, prices, labour issues, public sector and so on. This will make fiscal stability and economic reforms more difficult to achieve. For example, she (joined by J. Jayalalithaa) might well resist pressure on state governments to raise electricity tariffs and privatize distribution to reduce the mounting losses of the state distribution enterprises. She will almost certainly stymie any attempt to privatize or shut down the nationalized airlines, a huge drain on resources, and a major fount of corruption. Surprisingly, she did not protest the Rs 5 per litre increase in retail petrol prices immediately after the elections, but she may not remain silent the next time, when diesel prices will rise with petrol prices — an inevitable outcome of crude prices being under pressure.

With Amit Mitra playing the key role in Bengal's economic affairs and policies, we might expect some moderation in Banerjee's leftist populism, but she is unlikely to permit a drastic reduction in subsidies, the consequent raising of tariffs and railway fares, privatization of public enterprises to release funds for other government programmes, more efficient infrastructure spending and so on. We will see little fiscal correction, and we will be fated to experience an economy that continues to stumble, with spurts of growth, followed by slowdowns, volatile foreign fund inflows, continuing worries about inflation, and higher nominal interest rates than in other countries.

The AIADMK fought the elections with the Left as ally. Jayalalithaa's personal inclinations are towards the Hindu Right (she had Narendra Modi at her investiture). Now the Congress is reaching out to her, preparing itself for a future without the DMK. Jayalalithaa has a record of ditching partners in their vulnerable moments, and the Congress's gesture speaks of its desperation about the future. Jayalalithaa cannot be prime minister, but will, like Banerjee, influence policies.

Tamil Nadu, and more so Bengal, will need initial Central financial support. Bengal is in a stronger position to demand it, but government resources may not enable it to do so. Both ladies belong to the culture of 'freebies' and that governments must pay for water, electricity, television sets, computers, mixers and so on, apart from the governments' other duties. They may not be subject to fiscal discipline and correction, especially by raising more revenues, cutting subsidies, and so on. The Centre is also not willing to cut debt, reduce wasteful expenditure, improve administration to cut leakages and enforce accountability. It depends on monetary policy to (ineffectively) control inflation. This is a pity, since Bengal and Tamil Nadu (as also India) can transform themselves with prudent fiscal management.

Kerala is headed for instability under a coalition ostensibly led by the Congress, one that is sharply divided, at cross-purposes with allies, and in danger of losing its majority easily as one or the other of its smaller partners defects to the Left coalition. Kerala needs internal labour discipline, better fiscal management, especially with a decline in overseas remittances, and a greater thrust to a services-oriented economy. The unsavoury reputation of the Congress and its chief minister in Kerala will make it difficult for them to pursue a focused course.

Assam under Gogoi seems to have settled down to the boring job of peace, governance and development. Perhaps Gogoi can teach a lesson to the Centre and Jammu and Kashmir. Similarly, Assam's approach to bringing peace by ending the civil war, and Banerjee's sympathetic approach to the Maoists, if emulated, might bring a welcome change in attitude to such internal revolts in the Northeast and in Maoist-controlled areas.

These elections, and the earlier one in Bihar, point to huge dissatisfaction among the electorate because of persistent inflation, rising inequalities, corruption at all levels, large-scale cheating on infrastructure projects, and a feeling of general helplessness. Good governance was rewarded despite incumbency — in Bihar and Assam. Bad governance was punished, as in Bengal. Corruption and organized thefts by ruling families were punished in Tamil Nadu. Had it not been for the poor leadership of Prakash Karat, the 87-year-old V.S. Achuthanandan would have won another term for the Left in Kerala. The Congress must not try out unconstitutional methods to destabilize Opposition governments — as it is doing in Karnataka, through its governor. All parties need to appear above board.

The other parties have not learnt their lesson. The BSP, SP and Janata Dal (Secular) are tainted and ineffective on development. The BJP is yet to pursue performance and honesty elsewhere as it has in Gujarat. It will rue its persistence with a chief minister in Karnataka who wins elections but cannot fight corruption. The Congress will have a better chance if, in the next three years, it projects a purposive leadership.

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

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

LOST IN THE MIST

HOMEWARD BOUND PERHAPS 'HOME' IS NOTHING MORE THAN A FABRIC OF FAVOURITE MEMORIES

I sat and watched a funeral procession snaking its way down the hill, through the rising mist and the languid, unceasing rain. Watching me watch the neat file of sombrely dressed men, women and a solitary child carrying a large, wooden cross was the driver of our vehicle, a Khasi who now lives in Guwahati. "Lucky man", he said, wiping a drop of rain from his brow, "dying where he was born, his home." I asked him whether he knew who had died, to which he nodded and turned the ignition key. Turning around, I saw that the gathering mist had swallowed the noiseless procession. It was as if it had not been there in the first place.

In a way, this journey — to Shillong, more than 20 years after I had first set eyes on this place of unreal beauty— was about my continuing engagement with the idea of 'home'. All that has remained with me of that earlier trip are little pools of memory: a green, gloomy pine forest, the warmth of a creaky wooden hotel with a piano that had shining white keys, the hoarse voice of ravens at dawn, a terrifying trip to a remarkably rainless Cherrapunji. But above all, what has endured is the feeling of discovering a place like no other, a sleepy town, made enchanting by mist and rain, which, on being loved, had loved me back unquestioningly. Home, I had read somewhere much later, tastes a bit like that love.

The car jolted, the sudden movement breaking my reverie and filling my mind with a passage in Pakdondi in which Lila Majumdar describes her joy of returning to Shillong: to a house on a hill, its twinkling lights welcoming the weary souls. As we climbed closer to Shillong, its lights glowing in the failing light, I knew what she must have felt.

Trudging past Police Bazar, Ward's Lake, the Polo Ground, the next morning, I discovered a Shillong that is vastly different. I could not find the bakery that had made delicious sweet buns . The tall, proud pine trees near Pinewood Hotel had all but disappeared and the piano lay locked in the hall. Plastic packets floated on the dull waters of Ward's Lake, while the fish nibbled at soggy potato wedges that drifted by. Teenagers lay sprawled, smoking joints and watching tourists on the meadow near the Polo Ground. The hills, some of them bare, had sprouted ugly buildings, there were too many cars and too many people in a hurry. I felt hopeful only once, during a brief spell of rain, when the light faded and the mist returned to hide the warts, and I heard, once again, that lost bird-call, each element bringing back the Shillong that I remember and love the most.

Late in the evening, as I sat listening to the sweet voices of a local church choir, I kept thinking about the dead man and his home that I could no longer recognize. He won't return, neither will the Shillong that I knew once. Perhaps home is no more than a fabric of favourite memories. It may also be a place, unreal yet alluring, that recedes further with every passing day, no matter how far one travels to find it.

UDDALAK MUKHERJEE

 

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

EDITORIAL

NO REMORSE

''THE CBI SHOULD ENSURE IT MAKES OUT AN EFFECTIVE CASE.''


The arrest of Kanimozhi, Rajya Sabha member and DMK leader K Karunanidhi's high-profile daughter, after rejection of her bail plea by a special CBI court, was not unexpected. The details that have come out of her involvement  in the 2G spectrum allocation scandal had clearly pointed to her close connections with those who took vital decisions to fraudulently allocate 2G spectrum, to her role in facilitating the illegalities and to the illegal gains made from the deals. These are yet to be proved in the court but there are strong circumstances that show her complicity. The judge rightly observed when he said that bail was being denied to Kanimozhi "considering the magnitude of the crime, the nature and enormity of the allegations, the character of the evidence on record and the apprehension that witnesses may be influenced in case the accused are released on bail." That puts the seriousness of the case in perspective.


None of the arguments advanced in her defence carries conviction. No one would believe that she had no knowledge of the Rs 200 crore payment made by a beneficiary firm to Kalaignar TV in which she has a 20 per cent holding. The CBI has documented her proximity to A Raja, the former telecommunications minister who made the wrongful allotments, and there are telephonic conversations that show her interest in making Raja the minister. The CBI's case that she was the active brain behind the scam can not be easily refuted. She also did not deserve any special consideration for being a woman because the law has to be fair and even-handed. The CBI should ensure that it makes an effective case so that justice finally prevails.


The DMK is deeply embarrassed by her arrest and it has come as a severe blow to the party after its humiliating electoral defeat. But the party has itself to blame because it was its permissive attitude to corruption and lack of respect for public morality that has brought it to this pass. But it is clear that it has not learnt any lessons from its travails because its leadership seems to blame others for them. It is a major partner in the UPA government but the Congress should take care that it does not succumb to any pressure tactics. The Congress itself is reeling under its baggage of corruption and any attempt to help its tainted ally will only be counterproductive.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

THE SIEGE WITHIN

''THERE ARE CONCERNS OVER PAKISTAN'S NUCLEAR ASSETS.''


The Pakistan Taliban had promised to avenge the killing of Osama bin Laden. And it has done so by attacking a major military base in Karachi. Besides killing over a dozen soldiers it had taken many, including Chinese military personnel, hostage at the Mehran naval aviation base. It has done considerable damage to military hardware. At least two of the Pakistan navy's premier anti-submarine attack jet - the US made P-3C Orion - were set ablaze. Since bin Laden's death, the Pakistan Taliban have accelerated their attacks.

 

They carried out a twin suicide bombing at a paramilitary police training centre in Shabqadar, killing at least 80 paramilitary recruits. Then on Friday a US consulate convoy in Peshawar was attacked, killing a Pakistani. The siege of the Mehran naval station is among the deadliest attacks militants have carried out in recent years, on par perhaps with the 2009 storming of the army headquarters in Rawalpindi.


 That around a dozen militants were able to storm a major military installation in Karachi and were been able to keep the security forces at bay for such a long time has laid bare their immense capacity to plan and execute major operations. Globally its credibility is under a cloud for having provided sanctuary to bin Laden. At home, it has been criticised by Pakistanis for failing to protect civilians from horrific attacks. Since bin Laden's killing it is under fire from Pakistanis for allowing US military helicopters to fly deep into Pakistan.


Now the military has shown itself to be incapable of protecting a supposedly heavily guarded military installation. The attack on the Mehran naval station will add to global concerns over the safety of Pakistan's nuclear installations from Taliban/al-Qaeda attacks. The Pakistani government has often said these are safe, but serious doubts have now cropped up.


 The attack on the naval base would not have been possible without support from within i.e. help from military officers. It confirms yet again that there are sections in the military that are working for and with the militants. Unfortunately, so bitter is the rivalry between the military and the civilian government that the two are unable to work together to rid the Pakistani state and society of extremists. The attack on Meheran base should serve as a wake-up call.

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DECCAN HERALD

MAIN ARTICLE

MARXISTS AT CROSSROADS

SUDHANSHU RANJAN


In West Bengal, the communist amassed huge wealth. It was because the party became more important than the govt.
The Left is facing the gravest existential crisis in the last five decades. After some soul-searching, CPI's general secretary A B Bardhan has admitted without mincing words that there is a need for the Left to connect to the middle class though the CPM is yet to come out with a concrete reply for its drubbing at the polls. The sympathisers of the Left have cautioned the comrades to change or perish. But Prakash Karat is not ready to take the blame saying that in West Bengal the CPM got 43 per cent of votes while in Kerala it emerged as the largest single party and the LDF got only 0.89 per cent votes less than the UDF. He also argues that the Left is not playing an important role in the politics of India only because of elections.


 In fact, communists did not believe in elections from the beginning. Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov (Lenin) dismissed the path of elections to bring about the revolutionary changes as 'parliamentary cretinism'. In fact, Lenin captured power in Russia in 1917 after the October Revolution with the help of the army, a section of which had rebelled against the Czar, despite being in the minority. So, Lenin's aversion for the electoral process is understandable.

However, in February 1956, Nikita Krushchev, in the 20th congress of the Soviet Union, famously denounced Joseph Stalin and approbated the path of election to secure fundamental social changes. Within a year, in India the communists came to power in 1957 in Kerala which was the first democratically-elected government anywhere in the world. Almost 13 years later in 1970, Salvador Allende was elected the president of Chile and acquired the distinction of being the first democratically-elected communist president of any country in the world. In 1967, the communists joined the West Bengal government headed by Ajay Mukherjee and from 1977 to 2011, the Left Front headed by the CMM ruled the state without any interregnum, and was in power in Tripura several times. The programme of the CPM envisaged that the parliamentary forum would provide a path to total revolution. After several decades, the communists are not in power in any other state and have a reduced presence at the Centre.


 Somnath Chatterjee has demanded expulsion of those responsible for the debacle saying that the party was cut off from the public. Chatterjee is right. In West Bengal, its cadres ruled the roost and in the process amassed huge wealth. Perhaps, it was as per Leninist formulation that the party became more important than the government. Ergo, in the Soviet Union, general secretary of the communist party wielded more power than the premier of the government. Thus, Nikita Krushchev or Leonid Brezhnev was more powerful than Bulganin or Kosygin. But Lenin also talked about building up a revolutionary cadre of the party which was conveniently forgotten.

Communist programme

Actually, the Indian communists held a position diametrically opposed to the basic formulations of Karl Marx on the issues of labourers, secularism and secessionism. Marx talked of labourers, not peasants, and opined that the whole capitalist system would wipe out villages and consequently peasants. In fact, when the manifesto for the Communist Party of France, set up in 1880, was being written, the issue of farmers was raised by many participants at the meeting that was held at the home of Frederick Engels. The issue of peasants was not included in the communist programme till Engels was alive. It was taken up only after his death in 1895. On the issue of secularism, they adopted the same bourgeois approach.

Marx was emphatic that the policy of the government and that of political parties cannot be influenced by religion. The state has neither any religion nor can it be associated with any religion. The concept of minority or majority is an anathema to any revolutionary society as every one is an equal citizen. India is a secular state but the education is divided between majority and minority. Besides, religious bodies are governed by religious trust boards set up by the government. Thus, the state's association with religion is quite pronounced.


In the European countries, there is no separate fund for minority educational institutions. In fact, Mahatma Gandhi had this model in mind. In 1946, when Christian missionaries and Muslims, led by Zakir Hussain, met him and wanted assurance from him for the minority-run educational institutions, he flatly said that there would be no majority or minority educational institutions. However, the Indian communists supported this concept of majority and minority. On the issue of secessionism, their stand has been inconsistent.


Since they believed in internationalism they supported India's partition on the ground that Muslims were a separate nationality and that they were justifiably demanding a separate nation on the basis of Islam and social justice. But they did not support the demand of Telangana or plebiscite in Kashmir. If the people's wish is the ultimate, how can they oppose it?


The Left can still play a significant role in the national politics but the hubris of some leaders has debilitated it beyond measure. Will its leaders do an honest introspection?

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DECCAN HERALD

IN  PERSPECTIVE

EMISSIONS TRADING SHOWN INEFFECTIVE

HAZEL HENDERSON


Economists' focus on carbon and its financial trading now seems a strategic mistake.


The Kyoto Protocol expires at the end of 2012.  Its global focus on CO2 emissions and trading schemes based in London and other financial centres has grown suspect. The 2007-2008 Wall Street meltdown with the help of the fossil fuel lobbies doomed prospects for a national 'cap and trade' bill in the US Congress. Widespread fraud in trading CO2 'offsets' led the UN police agency Interpol to warn that the next white collar global crime wave would likely be in trading these carbon derivatives.



Emission-trading schemes were devised to bridge divides between North and South, using 'neutral' market mechanisms. These markets for carbon in the Kyoto Protocols included a Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) to compensate developing countries for shifting to low-carbon technologies and development. Traders in Wall Street and London's big banks hailed these 'financial innovations' and set up trading desks and exchanges.

But large polluting industries in Europe's Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) quickly gamed the Kyoto Protocol. They lobbied EU governments for so many free CO2 emission permits that they crashed the ETS markets for CO2. Then, instead of shifting from fossil fuels to wind, solar, geothermal and energy efficiency, polluting industries purchased 'offsets' under the CDM to fund projects in developing countries.


Energy efficiency

Verification of these projects proved almost impossible, since so many would have happened any way, for sound business reasons like energy efficiency and more productive, cleaner technologies. Most of the offsets under CDM went to China, allowing it to develop solar, wind, and clean technologies. Now China has developed and captured these export markets; it has stopped selling 'offsets' to Europe's polluting industries, which must now go green and buy their new equipment from China.


Economists pushed policy proposals for 'market-based solutions' to climate change in the US Senate during the Reagan and Clinton administrations. Influenced by the ideologies of conservative economists and elite environmentalists, they joined the push to privatise, deregulate, and promote expansion of market-based globalisation. US policy dominated the UN's first climate summit in Kyoto in 1997, and led to the CO2 emissions-trading approach of the Kyoto Protocol. The focus on CO2 followed largely because financial traders on Wall Street and in London needed a single commodity — carbon — to construct tradable financial instruments.

Many developing countries were dubious about 'cap and trade,' understandably suspicious about turning their climate policies over to faraway trading desks in the major banks and new firms set up to trade carbon. They warned that these new carbon markets were not 'free' but created and administered by governments which set and policed the caps on emissions.


Pandering to market-fundamentalist economists, by focusing on carbon and its financial trading now seems a strategic mistake. There was a failure to disclose that setting up carbon caps and trading mechanisms actually entailed the creation of costly, complicated new bureaucracies. Monitoring, verifying the offsets, RECs (renewable energy certificates) while lowering the levels (caps) on CO2 emissions was opposed by the polluters. The CO2 permits were to be auctioned, but this quickly turned into massive giveaways to polluters, which then sold them at a profit, as global levels continued to rise.


Thus 'cap and trade' turned out to be less efficient then direct taxing and regulation. Meanwhile our Ethical Markets Green Transition Scoreboard researching all private investments in green technologies since 2007 reported $ 2 trillion by Q1 2011.  While politicians argued, Ethical Markets urged global pension funds and institutional investors to shift at least 10 per cent of their portfolios to green companies.


At the same time, the re-think on climate policy produced two ground-breaking reports from IPCC and UNFCCC itself with the World Meteorological Organisation. They advised broader approaches to global emissions beyond CO2 to focus on soot, methane, VOCs and ozone — pointing out that this could decelerate global warming more rapidly.

 

***************************************


DECCAN HERALD

RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE

RUSH-HOUR DENTISTS

K J SHENOY


As a pedestrian, it is an asset if you can, like an owl, turn your head 360 degrees.


Do you know that most of our city motorists have become 'dentists?' Now, do not get me wrong; when I say dentist, I am not referring to the magician who puts metal into your mouth, and pulls coins out of your pocket. I am alluding to the breed of motorist who strikes his metal against yours by acci-'dent' causing physical depression on your car's body and mental depression to you.


Show me a vehicle free from dents and I will show you one that hardly ventured out. At fault are motorists like 'Toofan Singh' who reminds one of a bull in a bullring. To him, the red light at the traffic signal acts like a red rag to a bull. So, like the bull, he scrapes his right 'hoof on the accelerator, snorts ominously (at the tail-pipe) and charges ahead in a cloud of smoke forcing other commuters to scurry for cover.


In a city where roads are treated like Formula One tracks, motorists have evolved their own set of traffic rules. For instance, their traffic manual exhorts them to overtake a) when there is heavy oncoming traffic, b) on blind bends, c) at intersections and d) in the middle of city centre. Their battle cry: Never allow more that two inches between your vehicle and one that you are passing; just one inch in the case of bicycles or pedestrians.

If you are a pedestrian, it is an asset if you can, like an owl, turn your head 360 degrees. It also helps if you expect an anxious driver to step on his accelerator confusing it for the brakes. Ultimately, you get a bit paranoid about being on the 'hit list' of all the motorists when you cross the road. And you begin to believe that people on the opposite footpath are the ones who were born there. During the rush hour, the only way you can change lane is by buying the car driving next to you! And the traffic jams are so protracted that you can get out of the car and play cards on the roof of the car.


Fade out 2011 and fade in 2015.You sign up for a driving course at a reputed motor driving school. They provide a training track that, besides potholes, has cows, goats, dogs and pedestrians roaming freely. Auto-rickshaws or bicycles that materialise from nowhere keep you on the edge of your seat. Specially trained road-rage artistes hone your fighting/shouting skills. By the time you graduate, you become such a careful driver that you honk your horn even when you go through a red light!

 

***************************************


******************************************************************************************

HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

 

JEWISH RESPONSIBILITY

American Jews have been dragged over the past few days into the controversy between their government and Israel's government, and that is neither to their benefit nor to the benefit of the State of Israel. On Sunday, U.S. President Barack Obama addressed the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee convention and candidly laid out his ideas for a permanent agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.

Unlike the many American politicians who turn Jewish organizational conferences into election rallies, Obama did not make do with rousing declarations about America's commitment to Israel's security and to the unity of Jerusalem. Though he is already thinking about his upcoming presidential election campaign, Obama looked the Jewish community in the eye and told the truth.

On the eve of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's address to that same convention, Obama presented the June 4, 1967 borders, with mutually agreed adjustments, as a key to the two-state solution. The president also adopted the position of his predecessor, George W. Bush, that Jewish population centers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem must be taken into account.

Obama stressed that only a peace agreement with the Palestinians based on the 1967 lines can ensure that Israel will continue to be a Jewish and democratic state and prevent unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state by the UN General Assembly. Yesterday, the European Union's foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, backed Obama, as did the other members of the Quartet.

The refusal by Netanyahu and his political allies to recognize the 1967 borders as a starting point leads permanent-status negotiations into a dead end. From there, the road is short to violent confrontation with the Palestinians, diplomatic isolation and perhaps even economic sanctions.

The large Jewish peace camp in the United States must support the president and reject political activists who have turned Israel's fate into a ball on America's domestic political court. The time has come for the Jews of New York and Illinois to stand beside their worried brethren in Jerusalem and Sderot who have welcomed Obama's message and are hoping for it to become reality. Between loyalty to Obama's way and loyalty to Netanyahu's way, they must choose loyalty to the future of the State of Israel.

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HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

JUST BLUFF AND DECEPTION

BY NEHEMIA SHTRASLER

There's nothing funnier than reading political pundits trying to get to the bottom of the fine points of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's speeches. When he said "settlement blocs," did he mean the evacuation of all the rest? When he spoke of a "military presence" in the Jordan Valley, did he mean the Israel Defense Forces, or an international force?

So many questions and interpretations over nothing. Because the truth is simple and down-to-earth: Netanyahu is not ready for any agreement, any concession, any withdrawal. As far as he's concerned, it's all the Land of Israel - for both historical and security reasons. All the rest is just words. Just speeches designed to relieve some of the pressure being applied by U.S. President Barack Obama. Just bluff and deception.

Netanyahu is not willing to return to the 1967 borders ("with slight adjustments" ), because in his opinion, they are not defensible. He is not willing to withdraw from the Jordan River, and he also wants the Palestinians to declare in advance that they will waive the right of return and recognize Israel as a Jewish state. That is why there is nothing to talk about with regard to resuming negotiations. There's no chance of that. And Obama knows it too.

The trumped-up argument over the "1967 borders" is a good example. The U.S. president said in his first speech that an agreement with the Palestinians must establish a Palestinian state based on the 1967 lines, with land swaps. Netanyahu deliberately distorted his words and angrily opposed the idea of a return to the 1967 borders. Then Obama explained, in his second speech, that there will be no return to those lines, because there will be land swaps that will take account of the demographic situation - in other words, the settlement blocs.

But Netanyahu meant something else entirely. He was not talking about Ariel or Ma'aleh Adumim - that's crystal-clear. He meant that Israel will not return to having the same "narrow waist" opposite Netanya that it did before 1967, regardless of whether or not the Palestinian state is demilitarized.

He is exactly the same Netanyahu as he was in 1996, during his previous term, when immediately after becoming prime minister, he energetically began destroying the Oslo Accords. He opened the Western Wall tunnel, igniting Jerusalem and the territories, and led to a bloodbath in the West Bank; he expanded the settlements and destroyed any possibility of an agreement.

There were several naive people who believed that his speech at Bar-Ilan University, in which he spoke of two states for two peoples, reflected a strategic change. But the speech had only one purpose: relieving the pressure from Obama. And what's the problem with saying "two states"? It depends on what kind of state you mean.

Netanyahu means a tiny statelet composed of three distinct pieces, with no rational territorial contiguity and with two large panhandles dividing them: Ariel and Ma'aleh Adumim. It will be far from the 1967 border in the west, without the Jordan Valley in the east, and without any foothold in Jerusalem. And that's a clear nonstarter.

But Netanyahu isn't worried. He believes that time is on his side. He is looking around him and waiting for something in the Middle East to explode. Perhaps a major crisis in Egypt, perhaps in Syria, perhaps an incident in Iran, perhaps Saudi Arabia will collapse. If so, Obama will be forced to get off our case, because he will be busy with more urgent problems.

In that way, we'll gain another year, or even two. And if meanwhile, another intifada or war erupts, we'll endure that too, as we have until now. The main thing is that we won't withdraw and won't endanger our existence.

After the horrifying murder in the settlement of Itamar, Netanyahu said, "They murder and we build," thereby summing up his worldview. It reminded me of an incident that took place many years ago: a meeting of the Alignment Knesset faction (Labor's forerunner ), with Prime Minister Golda Meir present, in 1973, at the height of the euphoria that preceded the Yom Kippur War.

Adi Amorai was then a young MK. He left the meeting for a moment, and when he returned the usher grabbed him at the entrance and said: Major General Gazit is calling and he wants to speak to Golda. Amorai took the phone and said to Gazit: Golda is about to speak in the faction; she can't be disturbed unless it's urgent. Gazit asked if he could send her a message: "The Soviet advisers along the Suez Canal are leaving."

Amorai approached the first row, where Golda was sitting, and whispered Gazit's message into her ear. Golda turned around and told him with a victorious look: "They're leaving and we're staying."

***************************************


HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

THE SPOILER

BY MOSHE ARENS

It seems that when the time comes to write the history of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, U.S. President Barack Obama will go down as the great spoiler. He never seems to miss an opportunity to push the process into a dead end.

He has done so again with his declaration that Israel should return to the "1967 lines" in any peace agreement with the Palestinians. He seems oblivious to the fact that the present fluid state of affairs in the Arab world, clouded by uncertainty regarding future developments among Israel's next-door neighbors, is hardly a propitious moment for risk taking by Israel. And he seems to ignore the coalition that has recently been formed between Mahmoud Abbas and the Hamas terrorists in Gaza, in effect removing any semblance of a Palestinian partner for negotiations with Israel at this time. Nevertheless, he urges Israel to agree to withdraw to the 1949 armistice lines with Jordan.

These lines, as he surely must know, run about 10 kilometers east of the Tel Aviv metropolitan area and right through the heart of Jerusalem, Israel's capital.

It started two years ago, when Obama in Cairo called for a settlement freeze beyond the 1949 armistice lines, making it clear that by that he also meant the cessation of building in parts of east, north and south Jerusalem that had been occupied by Jordan after Israel's War of Independence. As should have been expected, the Palestinian negotiators could not be less Palestinian than the president of the United States.

So the freeze on construction became their precondition for the resumption of negotiations with Israel, and that was the end of direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. It seemed for a while that Obama understood that he had made a mistake, forcing the Palestinian negotiators into an untenable position.

He retreated to calling for a temporary settlement freeze, but the Palestinians had already dug in their heels on his previous position, and he finally dropped the whole matter. By then he had already set back the peace process substantially.

Now he is calling on Israel to withdraw to the "1967 lines" and has pushed the Palestinians another step away from the peace process. This one is a giant step, and the damage is going to take a long time to repair. If and when Palestinian negotiators reappear, Israeli agreement to withdrawal to the "1967 lines" as spelled out by the president of the United States, will be their precondition for the start of negotiations. They now cannot possibly accept anything less than that. And that is a demand that Israel cannot accept. So here is another deadlock, made in Washington.

In baseball the batter is out after three strikes. Obama at bat on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process has already struck out twice. A third chance does not seem on the horizon at the moment. No doubt, his intentions were the best, but the results are greatly disappointing. Rather than advancing the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, he has managed to put obstacles in its way.

How did the president's good intentions lead to this impasse? A good part of the blame rests with mistaken advice that he received from "experts" on the Israeli political scene.

They no doubt told him when he came into office that most Israelis object to the settlements that lie beyond the "1967 lines" and that if he made an issue of these settlements he would have the support of most Israelis, and that this would force the Israeli prime minister to accept his demands or else lose his coalition in the Knesset.

It turned out to be poor advice. This time the many calls heard in Israel for a withdrawal to the "1967 lines," the demonstrations, the artist's boycott of performances in Ariel, the "tsunami" that the defense minister predicted for this coming September unless Israel came forth with some daring initiatives, all must have convinced him or his advisers that his call for an Israeli retreat to the "1967 lines" would be an offer that the Israeli prime minister would have to accept if he did not want his government to fall. Wrong again.

The Israeli "peace camp," advisers in Washington who believed that not only do they know what is good for Israel but that they also understand the Israeli political scene better than Netanyahu, have led Obama in the wrong direction.

They ended up pushing the peace they are seeking beyond the horizon.

***************************************


HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

THE INTIFADA THAT WASN'T

BY OUDEH BASHARAT

Israel's intelligence community suffers from two definitive syndromes. One is an acute failure to predict developments. From the Yom Kippur War of 1973, through the visit of Anwar Sadat, from the first intifada, the Arab Spring, right down to the reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah. The other syndrome is when they do predict something, they insist the prediction be realized in full. A decade ago, the intelligence estimate was that if talks at Camp David fail, it would spark another intifada. When a month had passed and no intifada seemed to be forthcoming, Ariel Sharon paid a visit to the Al Aqsa mosque, to encourage the Palestinians to implement the intelligence prediction. When even that didn't help, the Border Police pitched in, encouragingly killing seven demonstrators by the mosque.

This is how the second intifada began. In its first few days, Maj. Gen. (res. ) Amos Malka estimates 1.3 million bullets were fired, a number which can be compared, in scale, with a world war. This was, as we know, before the first suicide bombing. It's hard to tell who conducted an intifada against whom, especially in the fog of war, when a newspaper shows a giant photograph of an Arab youth, masked of course, wielding a stone; when the Palestinians went, as they do, for the most heated slogans; when over time, a murderous wave of terror attacks unrolled, claiming the lives of hundreds of innocent Israeli victims.

"Today is so much like yesterday," an Arab saying goes; only the picture is different. Last week, Yedioth Ahronoth published a scary photograph of an Arab youth, masked, of course, this time with a new "look" - wielding a meter-long knife instead of a rock. Who says Palestinians aren't learning?

For the benefit of the intifada forecasters we should recall that two fundamental, negative events are shaping the conduct of the new Mahmoud Abbas. The first is the Hamas coup, which signaled to him no one, including his own people, will show him any pity if he's weak. The second, his retreat from the Goldstone report, where he learned beyond any doubt the Israelis and Americans are ready to abandon him without so much as batting an eyelid.

Abbas is learning. He is facing attacks on two fronts. On the internal front, when he sternly says there won't be an intifada, and if you want a protest, you can only have a popular one, unarmed. The unity with Hamas won't distract him from his diplomatic plan and he reiterates that the Fatah line is the decisive line. All this is happening against the backdrop of his government's impressive success in curbing armed militias and in building serious institutions of state. He knows full well that no one, at home or abroad, will take him seriously otherwise.

On the other hand Abbas refuses, successfully so far, to become captive to American diplomacy, which, in its turn, is captive of the American right. Abbas knows that without international pressure on the United States, nothing will move. It seems Abbas knows something the rest of us are only guessing: That Barack Obama is asking to be pressured by the international community.

It's difficult to make predictions because everything Abbas does is his own concoction. The Palestinians will let forecasters down because an intifada is the last thing they need right now. The current situation is embarrassing: An intifada deluxe is unfolding on TV, radio and in newspapers, and there's no one to implement on the ground. Who's intifada is it anyway?

***************************************


HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

OBAMA AT CANOSSA

BY ANER SHALEV

It was not to the AIPAC conference that U.S. President Barack Obama went to deliver his speech on Sunday, but to Canossa. Like King Henry IV in 1077, who asked forgiveness from Pope Gregory VII at the Canossa fortress in Tuscany, Obama at the AIPAC conference surrendered to pressure from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Jewish lobby.

In 1077, the debate centered on investiture - in other words, the right to appoint clerics to church offices. In 2011, the debate is about the status of the June 4, 1967 lines and the right to influence the border between Israel and the future Palestinian state.

On the face of it, there were almost no differences between Obama's first speech, in the State Department, and his second speech, before over 10,000 Jews. Ostensibly, Obama displayed courage: In the second forum, he again explained his belief that the 1967 lines are the basis for negotiations over borders.

But the need to explain and clarify what may not have been properly understood in the first speech, which led to a public reprimand by Netanyahu, seemed almost like an apology. Even the claim that he didn't say anything new, but was merely reiterating the viewpoint of his predecessors, was like saying: Don't worry, I won't say anything new and I won't contribute anything.

Obama also displayed impressive verbal acrobatics when he told the AIPAC audience - presumably without changing his viewpoint - that there would be no return to the 1967 lines, thereby garnering applause and political support in his battle for survival in November 2012.

Obama's second speech was very Zionistic. In effect he accepted all of Netanyahu's positions, from acknowledging Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people through demanding that Hamas accept the Quartet's conditions as a precondition for negotiations to reiterating most of the contents of President George W. Bush's letter to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in 2004, which made it clear that the new demographic reality in the territories will affect the borders of the Palestinian state.

What caused President Obama, who is so far removed from Netanyahu both personally and ideologically, to take such a big step toward him? What caused Obama to go to Canossa?

There are several possible answers to this important question. First, Obama mainly seems to understand the language of power, in this case the undiplomatic criticism leveled at him by Netanyahu and others over his first speech.

In his conduct toward the changing Middle East, Obama similarly seems to be influenced more by power than morality. He is forgiving toward strong, cruel rulers like Syrian President Bashar Assad and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad; in spite of their brutal behavior toward their own people, he has not yet demanded that they be removed from power - a demand that he directed with record speed at his weaker and less brutal ally, former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

Second, Obama seems to be increasingly preoccupied with his political survival, and the danger of losing the Jewish vote and Jewish financial support in the 2012 election campaign is increasingly guiding his behavior.

On the face of it, Obama's speech was full of vision and loyalty to the peace process and the establishment of a Palestinian state. But in practice, he is making these goals virtually unachievable, both by opposing a Palestinian initiative in the United Nations in September and by understanding that it will be difficult for Israel to negotiate with a Palestinian government that includes Hamas. In the past, the internal Palestinian split served as an excuse for refraining from negotiations; now, Palestinian unity is the excuse. Thus in spite of the glittering, hopeful rhetoric, Obama's speech is a recipe for stagnation.

What caused King Henry IV to go to Canossa, barefoot and in simple peasant's clothing, was an attempt to ensure the continuation of his reign, even at the price of a reduction in his influence and power. That is also what brought Obama to the AIPAC conference. After years of tension, Netanyahu and Obama have finally reached an unusual agreement: Their battle for political survival is more important than the fate of the Middle East.

***************************************


 

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

EDITORIAL

 

OBAMA AT CANOSSA

BY ANER SHALEV

It was not to the AIPAC conference that U.S. President Barack Obama went to deliver his speech on Sunday, but to Canossa. Like King Henry IV in 1077, who asked forgiveness from Pope Gregory VII at the Canossa fortress in Tuscany, Obama at the AIPAC conference surrendered to pressure from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Jewish lobby.

In 1077, the debate centered on investiture - in other words, the right to appoint clerics to church offices. In 2011, the debate is about the status of the June 4, 1967 lines and the right to influence the border between Israel and the future Palestinian state.

On the face of it, there were almost no differences between Obama's first speech, in the State Department, and his second speech, before over 10,000 Jews. Ostensibly, Obama displayed courage: In the second forum, he again explained his belief that the 1967 lines are the basis for negotiations over borders.

But the need to explain and clarify what may not have been properly understood in the first speech, which led to a public reprimand by Netanyahu, seemed almost like an apology. Even the claim that he didn't say anything new, but was merely reiterating the viewpoint of his predecessors, was like saying: Don't worry, I won't say anything new and I won't contribute anything.

Obama also displayed impressive verbal acrobatics when he told the AIPAC audience - presumably without changing his viewpoint - that there would be no return to the 1967 lines, thereby garnering applause and political support in his battle for survival in November 2012.

Obama's second speech was very Zionistic. In effect he accepted all of Netanyahu's positions, from acknowledging Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people through demanding that Hamas accept the Quartet's conditions as a precondition for negotiations to reiterating most of the contents of President George W. Bush's letter to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in 2004, which made it clear that the new demographic reality in the territories will affect the borders of the Palestinian state.

What caused President Obama, who is so far removed from Netanyahu both personally and ideologically, to take such a big step toward him? What caused Obama to go to Canossa?

There are several possible answers to this important question. First, Obama mainly seems to understand the language of power, in this case the undiplomatic criticism leveled at him by Netanyahu and others over his first speech.

In his conduct toward the changing Middle East, Obama similarly seems to be influenced more by power than morality. He is forgiving toward strong, cruel rulers like Syrian President Bashar Assad and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad; in spite of their brutal behavior toward their own people, he has not yet demanded that they be removed from power - a demand that he directed with record speed at his weaker and less brutal ally, former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

Second, Obama seems to be increasingly preoccupied with his political survival, and the danger of losing the Jewish vote and Jewish financial support in the 2012 election campaign is increasingly guiding his behavior.

On the face of it, Obama's speech was full of vision and loyalty to the peace process and the establishment of a Palestinian state. But in practice, he is making these goals virtually unachievable, both by opposing a Palestinian initiative in the United Nations in September and by understanding that it will be difficult for Israel to negotiate with a Palestinian government that includes Hamas. In the past, the internal Palestinian split served as an excuse for refraining from negotiations; now, Palestinian unity is the excuse. Thus in spite of the glittering, hopeful rhetoric, Obama's speech is a recipe for stagnation.

What caused King Henry IV to go to Canossa, barefoot and in simple peasant's clothing, was an attempt to ensure the continuation of his reign, even at the price of a reduction in his influence and power. That is also what brought Obama to the AIPAC conference. After years of tension, Netanyahu and Obama have finally reached an unusual agreement: Their battle for political survival is more important than the fate of the Middle East.

 

***************************************

 


THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

A BUDGET WITHOUT CORE PURPOSES, TAXATION WITHOUT COMPASSION

BY EDUARDO PORTER

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.

 ***************************************


THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

CHILLING ECHOES FROM SEPT. 11

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.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

WHEN AUSTERITY FAILS

BY PAUL KRUGMAN

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?

 

***************************************


THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

WHEN THE INTERNET THINKS IT KNOWS YOU

BY ELI PARISER

Published: May 22, 2011

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 MoveOn.org. 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 MoveOn.org, is the author of "The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding From You."

 

***************************************

 


THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

WHEN THE INTERNET THINKS IT KNOWS YOU

BY ELI PARISER

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 MoveOn.org. 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 MoveOn.org, is the author of "The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding From You."

***************************************


 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

GETTING IT WRONG ON BIG OIL TAX BREAKS

CAROLINE BAUM

U.S. Senate Democrats want to eliminate a tax break for the five biggest multinational oil companies. Republicans oppose the idea on the grounds that rescinding a tax break qualifies as a tax increase.

Both parties are missing the boat. By confining their disagreement to select deductions for a few oil producers, lawmakers are squandering an opportunity to examine all forms of tax breaks and make a real dent in the deficit.

The tax deduction in question was enacted in 2004 and applies to all domestic manufacturers, not just oil and gas companies. It was designed to increase competitiveness in the face of the U.S.'s 35 percent corporate tax rate, among the highest in the developed world.

Democrats settled on the five biggest oil producers as their first target. These companies just happened to earn a combined $36 billion in the first quarter.

The Senate Finance Committee summoned the chief executive officers of Exxon Mobil, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Royal Dutch Shell and BP to Washington last week to discuss shared sacrifice. At a time when consumers are struggling to fill the tank with $4-a-gallon gas, senators wanted to know if Big Oil could relinquish a benefit that would save the government $21 billion over 10 years.

Of course, that saving, if it ends up being saved, is a drop in the bucket when the U.S. budget deficit will top $1 trillion in 2011 for the third consecutive year.

Eliminating the special exemptions that have been written into the tax code over the years would be one of the simplest and most fruitful ways to raise federal revenue. Tax policy experts put the annual cost of these so-called tax expenditures at roughly $1 trillion. That's real money.

Unless you believe this loss of revenue leads to smaller government, one person's tax break is another person's tax increase. How did the anti-tax GOP justify these tax expenditures in the first place?

The argument against tax breaks for oil companies is clear-cut.

"They make the economy less, not more, efficient and do nothing to reduce prices at the pump," said Jerry Taylor, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute in Washington. Any preferred tax treatment attracts private investment in search of higher artificial profits.

If lawmakers are serious about deficit reduction, they should look at all tax breaks for all industries and all companies, not just those for five profitable oil and gas producers.

Tax neutrality should be the goal: a tax system that encourages the private investment on its own merit, not for tax reasons. Tax neutrality would broaden the tax base and allow the government to lower income tax rates on individuals and corporations.

ConocoPhillips CEO James Mulva was right when he said the Senate proposal to rescind tax breaks on only five select companies was "un-American." (It was equally un-American to enact them.) Exxon Mobil chief Rex Tillerson called it "discriminatory" and "punitive."

"Everything for everybody everywhere ought to be on the table," Tillerson told the Senate Finance Committee last week. To her credit, Republican Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine said all subsidies and tax incentives, many of which are on "cruise control," should be re-examined.

The last time Congress took a stab at reducing corporate welfare was in 1986.

Snowe's colleagues were more interested in scoring points and playing "gotcha." Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York, used language like "gouged" at the pump to strengthen his argument for targeting Big Oil.

Every time Congress wants to raise the tax rate paid by his Wall Street donors, er, constituents, Schumer argues that any change has to be all-inclusive.

Members of the Senate Finance Committee tried to get the oil executives to admit they don't need incentives, at least in the sense most of us think of need. Most successful companies don't need them. The ones that do probably shouldn't be in business.

The argument for government-subsidized investment goes something like this. Government needs to intervene at times to stabilize the economy; to correct for market failures such as externalities, where economic transactions have an adverse effect on third parties; and to encourage desirable behavior, such as home ownership.

In addition, certain investments may have a hurdle rate before they turn a profit. Without government assistance, no company could survive long enough to see the investment bear fruit.

If you buy that logic, it means some bureaucrat or committee determines the allocation of capital, often with unintended consequences.

Ethanol subsidies, for example, were supposed to give us cleaner air and energy independence. Instead they became a boondoggle for farmers and ethanol producers, raised the price of corn-based products and increased gasoline consumption, according to a study by the Government Accountability Office.

Or consider the fallout from decades of promoting affordable housing with subsidies and mortgage-interest deductions, which are the third-largest category of tax expenditure, according to Congress' Joint Committee on Taxation.

A lot of folks bought homes they couldn't afford that are now in foreclosure. Housing finance agencies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are wards of the state. Home prices are still falling five years past the peak. The residential real estate market is a shambles.

One group at the Senate Finance Committee hearing seemed to get the message. Shell's Odum explained it to the senators.

If the goal is to reduce the deficit, the solution is more oil and gas production, more revenue for the federal government, more jobs for the U.S. economy, Odum said.

It's not clear any of the questioners were listening.

Caroline Baum is a Bloomberg News columnist.

***************************************


HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

'CHUTZPAH' IS FINE BUT WHAT ABOUT 'HUBRIS?'

SEMİH İDİZ

It was important and groundbreaking that U.S. President Barack Obama should have underscored the need for Israel to withdraw to its 1967 borders during his so called "historic Middle East address" last week.

This also put him very much in line with the Turkish view, and increased hope in the Middle East, and much of the world – where his remarks were generally welcomed – that the United States was finally coming around to an objective and realistic position on the Palestinian-Israeli dispute.

It was inexplicable, however, that the same President Obama should have given reason to the Israeli right wing – as he did only a few days later during his speech to AIPAC, the most powerful pro-Israeli lobby in America – to argue that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's determined stance against his suggestion had forced the president of the most powerful nation in the world to eat his words and backpedal.

Again the impression the world is getting is of the tail wagging the dog. This does not alter the fact, however, that even President Obama, and his Middle East advisors, in their moment of candor and realism, had little choice but to acknowledge the core problem in the Middle East.

When Turkish President Abdullah Gül suggested the same in his article to the New York Times in April, that carried the title "The Revolution's Missing Peace," Israeli officials, quoted by the Israeli media, were quick to accuse him of "chutzpah."

But as the Turks say, "the way of the mind is one" and anyone who desires to be objective about the Middle East recognizes this basic truth, along with other basic and glaring facts such as the continued grabbing of land that does not belong to it by Israel for the sake of new settlements.

As an aside here it must be emphasized that Hamas, which unlike many Turks, I consider a terrorist organization, and other Palestinian groups engaged in terrorism against Israel, have provided successive Israeli government with the best excuse for continuing their policies, especially on the settlement question.

Every deadly attack against Israel has been used to further Israeli interests such as the latest attack after which the Netanyahu government immediately authorized new settlements on Arab lands as "punishment." The damage that Hamas has done to genuine Palestinian interests is therefore vast.

The question for Israel, however, is clear. How can it, as one of the most isolated countries in the world, for which international sympathy continues to drop rapidly, hope to lean on a blindly supportive U.S. administrations forever? Developments in the region and Washington's somewhat desperate efforts to save its interests there suggest that this is not endless.

And article by The Associated Press' Robert Burns last week, which carried the title "US quietly expanding defense ties with Saudis," no doubt, provided Israeli policy planners some food for thought also, especially given the growing military ties between Washington and the Gulf states.

What makes the question posed here even more valid is the fact that anger at the way Israel is seen to be manipulating U.S. foreign policy is also on the increase in America itself. I was in Washington D.C. recently for a presentation at the Wilson Center on the latest developments in the Middle East. I was in the U.S. capital a few weeks before that also for a similar presentation at the Brookings Institution.

During both visits, my discussions with Americans made the growing impatience with Israel apparent to me, and this came as something of a surprise since it was not an attitude I had witnessed with such openness in my previous visits to Washington.

The latest commentary by Barry Lando in the Huffington Post, an increasingly influential Internet newspaper provides a concrete example for some of the things I was hearing.

Lando, in his scathing May 22 commentary titled "The President's Speech – What Obama Should Have Said to AIPAC," wrote the following:

"As president of the United States, I was elected to serve the interests of all 300 million Americans – not a tiny minority, numbering just 2.2 percent of our population. Of course, we value your great contributions to all facets of our society and our culture, but that doesn't translate into continuing to give AIPAC the right to call the shots on a key element of our Middle Eastern Policy. "

The full article is well worth reading in order to understand a mode that is emerging in the United States, which should of course be of deep concern not just to AIPAC members but also to Israel. The simple fact is that Washington cannot sustain its one-sided policy of supporting Israel come what may if it wants to serve its broader interest in the Middle East.

On the other hand, Israel itself cannot interminably sustain its present stance in the Middle East either in the face of what is going on in the region. There is no status quo ante here, no doubt much to the chagrin of hawkish Israeli officials. Put another way, there are no more user-friendly Hosni Mubaraks, and the situation is as President Gül told the Wall Street Journal last week.

In his interview Gül expressed satisfaction about President Obama's statement about the 1967 borders during his Middle East speech. He also expressed understanding for Obama's argument that Israel cannot be expected to negotiate with a Hamas that does not acknowledge its right to exist.

Gül also declared that Israel was right to put its security first. But he went on to say that to do that effectively, it needed to understand the meaning of the democratic uprisings in the Arab world, namely that new elected governments would no longer be allowed by their voters to tolerate "humiliating" Israeli policies.

Israelis are fond of accusing others of "chutzpah." No doubt they thought the same about President Obama after his Middle East speech. But there is another term bequeathed to us by the ancient Greeks in all their wisdom.

This in turn applies very much to the right-wing mentally that has taken over Israel, which believes that the Israeli tail can wag the U.S. dog endlessly. That term is "hubris." If you insist on hubris, eventually the gods on Mount Olympus intervene in anger to put an end to it.

Israel has the right to exist and everyone must acknowledge this unreservedly. It also has the right just as any country to protect itself against terrorism. But this does not give it the right to deny the existence of others. Neither does it give it the right to use overwhelmingly disproportionate force against Palestinians in the name of "retaliation against terrorism."

And finally, it most certainly does not give it the right to use terrorist attacks as an excuse to continually expand into lands that do not belong to it in the name of "punishment."

***************************************

 


HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

OPPOSITION, RULING PARTIES MAKE GAINS IN GREEK CYPRIOT POLL

YUSUF KANLI

Strange as it was, Sunday's election in the Greek Cypriot side of divided Cyprus produced victory of some sort for both the ruling socialist "Anorthotikon Komma Ergazomenou Laou" (Progressive Party of Working People), or AKEL, of President Dimitris Christofias and the conservative main opposition "Dimokratikos Sinagermos" (Democratic Rally), the DISY or DS, of Nicos Anastasiades.

Official results placed the DISY in first place with 34.27 percent of the vote and 20 seats in the 56-seat House of Representatives while Christofias' socialist AKEL party came in second place with 32.67 per cent and 19 seats. DISY's percentage in the 2006 parliamentary elections was 30.52 percent. Thus, the center-right party was the biggest winner of Sunday's election as it increased its vote share by 3.75 percentage points. In the same poll in 2006, the electoral support for the socialist AKEL of Christofias was 31.31 percent. Thus, in Sunday's vote, AKEL increased its electoral support compared to the 2006 result by 1.36 percentage points.

Indeed, reporting in this column some 10 days before the Greek Cypriot vote, of course taking into consideration the abundant public opinion polls, I wrote that DISY would be the first party with around 33 percent of the vote and would be ahead of AKEL by at least two percentage points. I was wrong, and correct. DISY received 34.27 percent, much higher than anticipated. AKEL received 32.67, again far bigger a victory than expected. Yet, there was almost two percentage points between the two parties and DISY was ahead of AKEL. Of course I am joking…

Obviously, though expected, Sunday's result was still a surprise and will have some serious impacts both on the presidential race in two years time and on the United Nations-led direct reunification talks process between leaders of the two communities of Cyprus. While AKEL has surprisingly increased its electoral support in Sunday's elections, all its coalition partners suffered seriously. The Greek Cypriot state has a presidential system of governance and the cumulative electoral support loss of the ruling coalition might not produce an immediate reflection to the presidential office. Yet, the junior members of the ruling coalition already has some serious rifts with AKEL and President Christofias over how the Cyprus talks continued as well as over regarding many of the social and economic policies. The ruling coalition, anyhow, has been coming to the verge of dissolution every other day and has been surviving on some last-minute magical formulae.

Can Christofias opt for a grand coalition?

Will Christofias and AKEL now take the unexpected road and engage in talks with DISY for a grand coalition which could indeed be a great contribution to the peace talks since such a strong government could walk the bitter extra mile in concocting a bitter compromise settlement on the basis of political equality with Turkish Cypriots? Can Christofias and his AKEL walk such a road? Can DISY manage to put aside the rhetoric and antagonism of daily politics and engage in such a compromise and a grand national coalition bid?

So far, it appears unlikely. Yet, under the Mediterranean sun nothing should be considered impossible. Such a coalition, however, might be very difficult to achieve if not impossible in light of the aggressive presidential aspirations of both parties. Christofias, of course, wants to be re-elected. Most likely, Anastasiades himself will not be a presidential candidate; though if he decides to run, it will not be a surprise either. In any case, however, the DISY, the party of legendary former President Glafcos Clerides, would die to take over the presidency from the communists.

Christofias will have to make that difficult decision. Though the election results showed that his AKEL is still running strong, the overall performance of the government is not appreciated by the electorate. Furthermore, the results might have shown the discontent and dissatisfaction of the electorate with how the Cyprus talks were continued by Christofias. Since the AKEL vote alone cannot help in Christofias' re-election bid, the Greek Cypriot leader might start considering to search for new political allies. Can he be pragmatic enough to knock on the door of Anastasiades?

Making peace will of course become far easier should the center-right somehow return to government in southern Cyprus. If a right-left grand coalition is forged, life could become really difficult for the Turkish Cypriot side because there would finally be strong leadership on the Greek side to engage in a give-and-take – something that could be traumatic for the Turkish Cypriot side as well. Such a development, though political actors might not wish to see it happen, would produce the best chance ever for a Cyprus settlement.

Now, the first test of the new political reality in southern Cyprus will be the election of the house speaker. We will see a hint in that election where things might eventually evolve.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

THE REAL CRAZY PROJECT

AHMET İNSEL

There is no political-social project in Turkey today crazier than providing a realistic and concrete solution to the Kurdish dispute.

Why is our crazy project not the solution to the Kurdish issue? Considering the current situation, is a project that targets a solution not a decade ahead of us but right after the June 12 general elections not crazy enough? This project may not be satisfactory for contractors, the construction sector, the men behind excavation works or those who dream of grabbing some unearned money in the end. But if the Kurdish conflict is not resolved quickly and peacefully, a most-probable social conflict will likely paralyze the expected profit and that would help us realize the truth.

In a meeting in support of the Democracy, Equality and Freedom Bloc's candidates, a female activist who has been exerting efforts for the independent candidates for years introduced this idea of an alternative crazy project. Today, indeed, can our crazy project not be the solution of the most troublesome issue of the day? People are dying and hundreds of them are arrested everyday as the gap between Turks and Kurds deepens; therefore, it could give birth to more serious incidents. So, could there be a crazier project than settling this issue in the country today?

The 'expertise' period

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan usually defines his "expertise period" as his concentration on putting capital accumulation into a higher gear. This is not against the political stream he is involved in. The ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, and Erdoğan dominate the center-right. From this point of view, it is normal for both the AKP and Erdoğan to announce that they would clearly prioritize policies to create profit opportunities as the main artery of center-right politics.

Erdoğan said other issues are no longer issues, and he has referred to the Kurdish question in a similar fashion. In line with the classical developmentalist mentality, he wants us to believe that the more quickly we grow, the quicker other issues will be settled.

Erdoğan has suggested building up two new satellite cities in Istanbul as the people of Turkey wait for the appearance of the crazy "Kanalİstanbul" project. He also wants us to adopt the idea of becoming the 10th biggest economy in the world in the next decade as a satisfactory and meaningful societal goal.

He, as the architect of these crazy projects, dreams of being the chief of this country. In fact, he is choosing the easy way which will be diverted and ruined by the difficulties he is trying to underestimate.

As emotional ties are lost

Won't these projects being put before us by Erdoğan be perceived as a provocation by the Kurdish youth who seem to be losing ties with the Turkish majority? This is such craziness that it will deepen the gap between the average per capita income of residents in the province of Istanbul and of those living in the southeastern provinces of Muş, Diyarbakır or Siirt. Mr. Prime Minister tells the good news that Turkey in 2023 will be more unequal in terms of geographic regions than today. However, he does not and cannot make a suggestion to remove this unevenness. Without settling the Kurdish dispute first, making attempts to resolve regional imbalances will simply be a ridiculous idea.

The Kurdish demands for political equality and having a say in the administration can no longer be postponed. So, it is not difficult to see what kind of a reaction Kurds are showing against this crazy project. The ground for different and authentic craziness is being prepared to say, "I will not let you use this godsend opportunity all by yourself."

Today, the Kurdish question has irreversibly passed the point of settlement that had simply based on the recognition of the Kurdish identity. Today, solid suggestions have been made to meet the demands of having a voice in the administration, expressing their true identity, being equal citizens with others and speaking their own mother tongue. The question, "What do Kurds want?" is a hypocritical one today. The common denominator of this question, which has multiple answers, is the recognition of Kurdish identity as equal citizens.

Erdoğan is not including a solution to the Kurdish conflict – which has been expressed "clearly and openly," as he put it – on the agenda. His definition of "crazy" refers to a big construction project. If we consider the mindset of average people, however, there is no other political and social project crazier, more realistic and solid than a solution to the Kurdish dispute in Turkey today. In the face of a domineering nationalism that has been forced onto society, is the really crazy idea not to work toward an equal and peaceful solution to the Kurdish question?

* Ahmet İnsel is a columnist for daily Radikal, in which this piece originally appeared. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.

***************************************


HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

WHY WE HAVE SUPPORTED THE COUPS?

MEHMET ALİ BİRAND

An article of mine made a splash last week.

Actually, I had spoken, with a loud voice, a truth that we all know. I had written that a significant portion of the central secular media was comfortable with "coup d'etats" and that it believed in the General Staff more than it believed in democracy. 

Our generation was brought up like this.

For us, it was only natural that the military intervened and regulated the system; and also readjusted our euphoria that was spoiled by the politician. 

In my article, I had, indeed, only pointed out a portion of the big picture.

The article had so many responses that I want to complete those portions that were missing in the last article. Because the general conception was that the military intervened because it wanted to or because it acted according to the signals it received from Washington.

No, the whole deal is not so simple.

It has always been the secular segment of society that pushed and forced the military for coups.

The breakdown of the secular segment of society is as follows:

· In general, the Republican People's Party, or CHP, is made up of social democrat politicians. It is full of those who know that they cannot ever be elected through the normal means of the election process but have somehow gained a position thanks to the military.

· Middle and large capital groups

· Retired and active judicial bureaucrats

· Academics

· Retired and regular army members

· The media

We all had a common goal: "Not to share our self-built system…"

There were two enemies: Fundamentalists and Kurds

The secular Turkish Republic formed by Atatürk and entrusted with the military had two enemies for years.

Reactionism was mentioned the most and also dealt with the most. There would frequently be photos of bearded men in newspapers with stories titled "Two more reactionaries have been apprehended." Black-chador-wearing women would be called names such as "black cockroaches." There was no distinction between the faithful, truly religious people and those who used religion as a political tool. This segment was seen as the biggest enemy of the system we had formed. We had no tolerance for them blending with us. We never tried to understand them in any way. 

The Kurdish problem was the other most feared enemy that was never mentioned. Each uprising of the Kurds was named as "insurgence" and "course to independence." Their genuine intentions were never sought. There was never a thought that a Kurdish ethnic group existed, nor the specifications of the region, poverty and the feudal structure ever reviewed. When the Kurdish problem was mentioned, it automatically brought to mind "separation of Turkey." We continuously maintained assimilation and rejection policies.

We never shared; we thought we could silence with the military

Since the formation of the republic, we have always adopted this tough stance against these two traditional enemies. We engineered our own system. While forming our own system, we never accepted that this country did not belong to us only and that we need to share it with the religious segment and the Kurds. We did not even give it a thought. We jailed those who did. 

We did not share the political system of the Republic nor the economic cake dominated by the secular segment. 

We have always said, "Only for us." 

Under such pressure, both of the two enemies became radical. They formed separate fronts and started asking for a fair share of the political-economic cake.

In each case, we immediate consented to the military.

In the name of democracy, we fine-tuned with coups.

The secular segment agitated the military. They were mentally ready to act anyway. They "copied" and took over the power three times. The international conjuncture between 1950 and 1990 was so fit for these types of coups that the military was applauded as the hero saving the suffering country. 

We never thought once that one day, Turkey and the world would change, and that these people we have always driven into a corner would one day gain strength to make us the minority.

The main reason we have reached this point is because we have always prepared our constitutions through our own angles and one sidedness, always adjusting it to ourselves. 

Take a look at all the constitutions we have prepared and you will see that they are full of fear and defense mechanisms against the religious and the Kurds.

We have a golden opportunity now, after this.

Will the constitutional draft that will be prepared after the elections eliminate our old diseases, fulfill everybody's feelings, or, just the contrary, will it, this time, restrict us to the same situation because of all that we have postponed until today?

In other words, will we be able to reach social peace or will the war continue? 

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

BAILOUT OR RESTRUCTURING?

ERDOĞAN ALKİN

If your debt rises to a critical level and your income is not enough to make monthly payments besides financing your necessary expenditures, you face two big financial troubles at the same time: accumulated debt and a budget deficit. There are two alternatives to solve these problems: Bailout or restructuring. It means that either you must find new financial support from somebody, or try to make a deal with your original lenders for a new credit line with longer term and/or lower interest rates. Both ways pose difficulties and troubles.

Even if you can find a new loan from a friendly lender to pay your original debt, you must convince your family members to live a more modest lifestyle in order to have a budget surplus instead of deficit to make monthly payments to your second lender. As a second alternative, if you can make a new deal with your original lenders, you again must convince family members to be thrifty.

The Greek people's revolt indicates openly the difficulties of convincing family members for sacrificing their usual daily life for the sake of their own family's future. However, it is not reasonable to blame them for their anger, saying that they are not responsible for the country's economic troubles by living beyond their financial limits. Responsibility of all national troubles obviously belongs to governments. As a result, those governments must take the real responsibility of convincing people for bitter remedies to save the economy. To put the blame on past governments is fruitless; simple people cannot understand the serious mistakes made in the past and they do not want to listen to them. They want to listen to good news for the near future, which is unfortunately impossible.

The Greek government has already cut public sector salaries and pensions, increased taxes, announced a 50 billion-euro privatization program and promised reforms such as overhauling the pension system. Naturally, potential lenders will first want to see some serious progress in those areas. This attitude might be justified because of Greece's bad track record in the past; however, it also must be accepted that because of the people's resistance, it will not be easy to implement all these measures and reforms in a very short time period. In addition, nobody wants to discuss openly tax evasion and corruption problems that might lessen the full influence of those measures and reforms.

Some wise men in Europe have unwisely advised that quitting the euro is the best solution for Greece's economic problems. They do not consider the political impacts of such a decision and a probable domino effect that might destroy the whole eurozone system. Some people in countries that have serious economic troubles also think that abandoning the euro and returning to use their old national currency or introducing a new one, with the help of a sharp devaluation, can bring a solution to their problems. This will not bring any solution to the huge deficits and enormous debt; moreover, it will shut domestic markets to international ones and create additional difficulties to get foreign financial support to solve existing debt and deficit problems.

Officials in EU countries must be realistic if they sincerely want to save Greece from bankruptcy. The pronounced amount of aid is not sufficient and the conditions are very unrealistic. With basic mathematics, it seems that normalizing macroeconomic balances could take many decades. It is better now to think about unlikable but more realistic solutions, such as to write off a large part of the debt. To decide on this, of course, is not easy for lender countries and institutions; however it is better to get back at least some part of their money instead of losing all of it.

It is understandable why this kind of a solution is not being discussed yet; there are other EU countries that have similar debt and deficit problems. The amounts might be different but the difficulties are the same. However, especially the leading EU countries, which did not or could not predict the problems of establishing a monetary union in haste, are obliged to find solutions. As the people of troubled countries are advised to sacrifice now for their future, some others must remember their responsibility and advise their people also to sacrifice for the future of the EU.

Instead, Chancellor Angela Merkel advises more work, less holidays and late retirement only for the people of troubled countries. This statement could be good for domestic politics, but it is not realistic. Democratic rule is not suitable for prolonged implementation of austerity measures.

ealkin@iticu.edu.tr

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 I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

AN EPIC FAILURE

 

There can be no doubt as to the bravery and devotion to duty of those members of our armed forces who laid down their lives in the fight to take back from terrorists the PNS Mehran airbase. Eight navy and two rangers personnel died and fifteen were injured. All of the terrorists – according to Interior Minister Rehman Malik – have been killed. The number of attackers was estimated at one point as being 22. The number of bodies in our possession – again according to Malik – is three with another possibly buried under the debris. Two of the attackers are thought to have escaped. The attack lasted almost 17 hours and destroyed billions of rupees worth of our maritime defence systems in the form of two P-3C Orion aircraft. The 11 Chinese and six Americans on the base were all rescued unharmed. The Taliban have claimed responsibility and there is little reason to doubt the claim.


PNS Mehran is not a remote outpost in a tribal area but one of our biggest bases. That half-a-dozen well-armed, well-trained and determined men were able to penetrate one of our – supposedly – most heavily guarded airbases and inflict crippling damage indicates a disconnect between the security forces' level of preparedness against attacks of this type and the level of threat they face. What this attack demonstrates is that the level of preparedness in every sense is outweighed by the threat. The attackers are said to have exploited a blind spot in perimeter camera surveillance and used two ladders to scale the walls. The perimeter itself is in parts overgrown by scrub. Those tasked with the security should have ensured a vegetation-free perimeter allowing better surveillance. Many questions arise. The militants seem to have known just where to get in from and where to find the Orions. This raid would have required weeks of planning, detailed reconnaissance and probably a practice run. Were they acting totally alone or did they have inside information of some kind? The abilities of our intelligence agencies too need to be reviewed. One of their key roles is to provide information that can help pre-empt such attacks. This is obviously not happening and many dangers arise from this. It seems even the most basic of security in terms of perimeter management at one of our most sensitive bases was lacking. Political rhetoric and a Cabinet Defence Committee meeting are not going to solve this one. This is an epic failure exposing an existential threat that will need epic leadership to countervail.

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

KHAROTABAD

 

The circumstances surrounding the deaths of five Chechens who were shot to death by security forces last week are disturbing. They were initially portrayed as "terrorists" on their way to attack an unspecified target in Quetta. It was said that they were armed, that one or more was wearing a suicide vest and that there was a shootout prior to their deaths. It was claimed that they had explosives in their vehicle, and that there had been an explosion. Suspicions were aroused when camera footage of the incident showed a woman moving her arm in the air before she was repeatedly shot from close range. She appeared to present little threat, was already wounded, and might have been captured alive, and there are unconfirmed reports that the five may all have been part of the same family.


Very little of the account tendered by the police and security services appears to be true. Some local residents at a press conference in Quetta Press Club have said this was an "encounter" engineered after some "demands" were made of one of the women by the security forces. None of the dead was wearing a suicide vest and no explosives were found in their vehicle. At no time did those killed open fire on anybody. Perhaps the most chilling aspect of the matter is phone-camera footage of what appears to be a police official removing a chain from one of the bodies and putting it in his pocket. Quetta CCPO Dawood Junejo has been placed "on special duty" pending an enquiry into the killings. At the very least this incident needs to be the subject of a searching enquiry, and a judicial tribunal headed by a Balochistan High Court judge, Justice Mohammad Hashim Kakar, has been constituted to investigate the matter. In the worst-case scenario, a group of innocent people have been gunned down, one of them a seven-months-pregnant woman. In the days before the mobile phone and rolling news channels, there would have been nothing to counter the "official" version of events, but with any citizen in possession of a mobile device being a potential news-gatherer, the security services have lost their immunity to scrutiny and are today open to challenge as never before. We need to know the truth behind how these people died, and soon.

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

NOW OR NEVER

AYAZ WAZIR

 

After the May 2 incident of Abbottabad the nation stood united on a one point agenda which was to ask the government to change its ill-conceived policies of war on terror through the 12-point resolution passed by the joint session of parliament on 13-14 May 2011. The Abbottabad debacle, we thought, had forced the government to give up the status quo position that it had adopted on policies inherited by it years back. The government seemed cornered with no choice but to implement the resolution or face the wrath of the nation in the next general election.


The nation's hopes were, however, shattered just two days after the passing of the resolution when Senator John Kerry arrived in Islamabad only to repeat what President Bush had said to Gen Musharraf. The president, the prime minister and the army chief are reported to have assured the senator of taking all necessary measures to remove US "apprehensions" about safe havens for militants in the country. The senator reminded us of President Obama's pledge of doing all that was possible to chase Al-Qaeda wherever it was found and that is exactly what they did in Abbottabad irrespective of the fact that our sovereignty was at stake. Guarding our sovereignty was not their responsibility. It was the duty of our government in which it failed miserably.

President Obama has said it again on May 22 that while his government respected Pakistan's sovereignty it would conduct similar attacks if Mullah Omar or other senior leaders of Taliban were found there. So now brazenly the net has been extended to Taliban also. Does that mean that now we should expect attacks again on the pretext of hitting Mullah Omar or the so-called Quetta Shura on the basis of airy fairy reports?

We had been telling the world for the last ten years that the 'most wanted' man was not in Pakistan. His killing in Abbottabad on May 2, 2011 exposed us thoroughly. It not only proved us wrong but led to accusations of complicity in the whole drama.


We need to do some soul searching and find honest answers as to what led us to this sorry state of affairs and we had to face such unprecedented humiliation in the international arena? The misfortune is that right from the beginning this country lacked continuity in political governance. Our internal and external policies were framed by dictators who turned the country into a big laboratory without realising the disastrous effects of their experiments.

Instead of learning lessons from our failures and scaling down the size of the military establishment after the East Pakistan debacle we saw it grow bigger and stronger, taking upon itself the responsibility of formulating foreign policy, a domain for which it was not trained. Gradually relations with neighbours took a new turn. Our preference of liberating Kashmir outside of the UN resolution and renewed efforts of achieving strategic depth across our western border only worsened bilateral relations with India and Afghanistan. Iran which had always been a close friend started drifting away from Islamabad because of our blinkered policies. China, an all weather friend, developed certain reservations as well.


The Americans used our resources and without deploying a single soldier of their own achieved the objective of becoming the only super power in the world. Then Pakistan faced one of the worst periods in its history of diplomacy. It was totally isolated and put under sanctions. It is sad to admit but the foreign office has been impotent since the late 1970s having been rendered thus by Zia, not having any say whatsoever in policy formulation. From that time it has only been used as an organ for creating and trumpeting justifications for decisions that are taken elsewhere.

Policies that we followed after 1979 were not in consonance with the interests of the country. The deployment of the army in Fata after 9/11 was yet another such example of ill conceived policies. Those keeping a close watch on developments in Fata considered this a strategic mistake which subsequent events proved absolutely right as it could not achieve the desired objective despite repeated military operations.


Fata was seen by the world body as a safe haven for militants and the hiding place of Osama bin Laden. Nobody paid attention to the fact that most Al-Qaeda leaders were arrested from places other than Fata.


The Abbottabad operation no doubt is a big success for the Americans ensuring re-election of Obama in the next election, but the real feather in their cap would be Pakistan's decision to take action in North Waziristan. Time is running out fast and the US is in a hurry to find face saving excuses for withdrawal from Afghanistan. Bin Laden's elimination and operations in the drone hit area of North Waziristan will, to a great extent, convince the US public of having achieved the objective thereby paving the way for withdrawal of troops from that country in accordance with the declared time table of July this year.


Now that the end game is obvious what do we need to do at this stage? Do we still need to keep telling lies or do we stand up? Too many lies have been told and far too many killings have taken place in the name of this war on terror but peace and stability is still a far cry. Let us put a stop to all this nonsense. Let us look at the situation afresh and see how best it can be improved. Are our own people (tribesmen) responsible for this mess or is it the creation of someone else?


Fata was never so bad before the whole thing started. It was extremely peaceful till the arrival of the army. What went so drastically wrong that the area became difficult for us to govern needs to be looked into. Who is responsible for this and how can it be corrected is not so difficult to understand but to do so the military leadership needs to treat the tribesmen as loyal citizens and listen to them rather than consider them an enemy to fight with. They are the people who know the problem and can guide the government to a permanent peaceful solution. One hopes that the culture of consultation will begin instead of depending on advice of crony subordinates who, for obvious reasons, lack the courage to confront their bosses with hard facts, in both civil and military establishments.


Let us not kill our people in this war on terror any more nor humiliate the nation by following policies framed by others for us. Let us follow what is best for the nation and not for a few individuals. The political leaders should have the courage to rise to the occasion now or else they will miss this golden opportunity. The political leadership needs to wake up from its slumber and take charge of events. It needs to prove that it is capable of running the government in accordance with the wishes of the people and in the best interests of the country. It needs to revisit its policy on terror and also set relations with our neighbours on the right track. Failure is not an option. There is just too much at stake. It's either now or never.

 

The writer is a former ambassador from Fata. Email: waziruk@ hotmail.com

 

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I,THE NEWS

OPINION

POWER SECTOR CRISIS: SOME RECOMMENDATIONS

DR ASHFAQUE H KHAN

 

Availability of power at an affordable rate is critical to economic growth and development. The growing shortage of power has emerged as a major structural constraint for Pakistan's economic growth. It has not only affected the lives of the people, but has also affected industrial and commercial activities in the country. This article looks at ways to address the power sector crisis in the short-run.


While the total installed capacity amounts to 19,246 MW, the dependable capacity is 17,779 MW. The average demand during the winter (November-February) months has been approximately 12,000 MW against the actual generation of close to 11,000 MW, exhibiting an average shortfall of 1000 MW. Since March, the average demand has increased to approximately 14,000 MW, against the actual generation of 11,242 MW, showing an average shortfall of 2,780 MW. It may be pointed out that the actual shortfall reaches over 5,000 MW on a particular date or week.


Factors responsible for the surge in shortfall resulting in increasing hours of loadshedding include: rising temperature increasing the demand for power; increase in generation, transmission and distribution (T&D) losses, increasing power theft as a result of rising power tariff, growing circular debt including fuel theft contributing to the decline in the supply of furnace oil (out of total demand of 29,700 metric tonnes per day, only 20,000 metric tonnes or 67 percent is regularly available), huge misallocation of scarce natural gas resources and a uni-directional focus on Rental Power Plants (RPPs) during the first two years of this government's tenure. It may be noted that this policy has failed miserably with only 62 MWs being generated by rentals at Rs 14.74/KWh as opposed to Rs 1.3/KWh for hydel, Rs 8.74/KWh for GENCOs, and 9.07/KWh for IPPs.

How should the power shortfall issue in the short-run be addressed? First, free electricity provision to Wapda employees must be stopped forthwith. This is a major source of power theft. Electric meters installed in the houses of Wapda employees must be audited by a third party. Purportedly, these meters are tampered with on a wide scale. Secondly, energy audits of Wapda's power plants need to be undertaken to identify fuel guzzling plants with a view to making targeted investment to improve their efficiencies.

Thirdly, about 19.3 billion units or 20.3 percent of total power generated were lost as T&D losses last year (2009-10). At an average tariff of Rs 7.5 per unit, the annual loss to revenue amounts to Rs 145 billion. All the CEOs of the distribution companies must be given T&D loss targets and monitored by the Parliamentary Committee.

Fourthly, Wapda's accounts must be audited by an internationally renowned accountancy firm and at the same time, its finance department must be strengthened by inducting professional accountants. Since Wapda's accounts are highly fragile, the required increase in power tariff is determined on the basis of such accounts.

Finally, power shortfall can be addressed to a larger extent in the short-run by addressing the misallocation of scarce natural gas resources. During the FY 2005-10 period, Pakistan's natural gas consumption increased from 1,159 billion cubic feet to 1,289 billion cubic feet, an increase of 130 billion cubic feet in five years. During the period, the transport (CNG) sector witnessed the highest increase of 305 percent in consumption, followed by industry (44 percent), commercial (36 percent), domestic (28 percent) and fertilizer (16 percent) sectors.

On the other hand, natural gas available for the power sector declined by a hefty 27 percent, that is, from 504 billion cubic feet to 367 billion cubic feet during the period — a decline of 137 billion cubic feet.

Due to the sharp reduction in gas availability to the power sector, 15.5 billion units less power was generated from natural gas in 2009-10 as compared to 2004-05. Consequently, the share of natural gas in power generation declined from 51 percent to 29 percent. Concurrently, the share of furnace oil in power generation increased from 16 percent to 38 percent. As power generation from natural gas is about right rupees (per unit) cheaper than from furnace oil, a decrease of 15.5 billion units from natural gas translates into annual incremental cost of Rs 123 billion.

Thermal power plants operated by Wapda and the KESC have low thermal efficiency rates, ranging between 27 to 32 percent as against newly installed IPPs thermal efficiency rates of 51 percent on natural gas and 45 percent on furnace oil.

If Wapda/KESC's thermal plants had thermal efficiency rates comparable with those of the latest plants, there would not have been any shortage of electricity to begin with. They could have generated an additional 17.5 billion more units of power with the same supply of natural gas and furnace oil.

About 500 million cubic feet per day of natural gas – nearly 12 percent of the country's current gas output and equivalent to production from Sui, has not been able to brought into the system due to long outstanding litigation involving the OGDC. It is suggested that such cases may be resolved commercially at the earliest and additional gas equivalent to the production from Sui be brought into the system to improve the supply situation.

The current power crisis is manageable even in the short run. The only viable solution is the reallocation of natural gas towards the power sector. Wasting precious natural gas in transportation needs to be stopped. The stakeholders in the CNG sector can be facilitated through a combination of conversion of CNG stations into regular fuel stations and/or allowing commercial use of sites where feasible. Such measure alone could yield annual savings of Rs 100 billion in power subsidies. By resolving cases the government can bring additional 500 million cubic feet of natural gas per day in the system. Massive energy savings could be realised by substituting Wapda/KESC's inefficient thermal power plants with new plants capable of generating more electricity with the same quantities of fuel.



The writer is principal and dean at NUST Business School Islamabad. Email: ahkhan@nbs.edu.pk

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

Major political shift in India

Praful Bidwai

 

The verdict from the recent elections in five Indian states carries an unambiguous message. The people will punish corrupt politicians who run cabals and sabotage democratic institutions even if they take some welfare measures. They will also reject those who profess progressive ideas but practise the opposite. And they will reward those who deliver public services while practising harmony, not divisiveness.

India's political parties can ignore this message at their own peril. West Bengal and Tamil Nadu, which witnessed a "wave" election, will play a disproportionately large role in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

West Bengal delivered a massive blow to India's parliamentary Left, comprising the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPM), CPI, Forward Bloc and Revolutionary Socialist Party. The Left faces a historic decline. To survive, it must radically rethink its ideological premises, programmatic perspectives, mobilisation strategies, and organisational practices.

The anti-DMK wave in Tamil Nadu against the party's corruption and misgovernance reduced it to a humiliating 23 seats in the 234-member assembly, putting its survival in doubt. Seventeen ministers lost. The rival AIADMK-led front won an 86 percent majority.

In Kerala, the Left Democratic Front lost by a tiny 1.68 lakh aggregate votes to the Congress-led United Democratic Front. This suggests there was no strong anti-incumbency. The LDF staged an impressive last-stage rally because of Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan's popularity.

The LDF could have won had the CPM not hesitated giving Achuthanandan a ticket, and then refused to project him as its prospective CM. The result is a slap in the face of CPM State Secretary Pinarayi Vijayan, who prevailed upon party General Secretary Prakash Karat to deny Achuthanandan his due.

The Congress doesn't have much to cheer about. It only won 42 seats in West Bengal by piggybacking the Trinamool Congress (184). It won 38 of the UDF's 72 seats in Kerala, at a lower strike-rate than its allies'. In Tamil Nadu, its tally plummeted to five, one-half of the CPM's.

It's only in Assam that the Congress did well. Its vote-share improved from 31 percent to 39 and its seats-tally from 53 to 78 in the 126-member assembly. This is largely attributable to Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi's responsive governance, action against corruption, a considerable improvement in public services, especially healthcare, and his efforts at reconciling ethnic differences and mainstreaming of the secessionist United Liberation Front of Asom.

Education and municipal services improved in Gogoi's two terms. Over 58 lakh schoolchildren were brought under the purview of free mid-day meals. Some 92,000 high-scoring students were given free computers/laptops, and 1.35 lakh Class 9 and 10 girls free bicycles.

State healthcare facilities improved dramatically. Rat-infested, ill-equipped, under-staffed and patient-unfriendly hospitals became clean, efficient and welcoming of patients. The credit goes to Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, who also drafted the Congress's electoral strategy. All his nominees won.

The elections' most important outcome was the tectonic shift in West Bengal. The Left Front's elitist, neoliberal policies isolated it from workers, poor peasants and tenant farmers. In its early period in power, it instituted land reform through tenant registration, decentralisation through what once was India's best panchayati raj system, wage increases, communal harmony and gender equality.

But soon, Left cadres – in particular, CPM cadres, 80 percent of whom joined the party after it took office – got entrenched in the new power structures and used them to narrow ends. The leadership's conservative social policies turned the state into a laggard.

West Bengal's school drop-out rate, at 75 percent-plus (all-India average, 60 percent), is the seventh highest in India and higher than Bihar's. Hospital beds number only 3.8 per one lakh people in rural Bengal (national average, 17.5.)

West Bengal only provides 14 days of work under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (national average, 42). The share of manufacturing in state GDP has fallen from 19 percent in the mid-1970s to 7.4 percent – lower than in neighbouring "backward" Orissa (13.6 percent).

On top of this terrible record came forcible land acquisition in Singur and Nandigram. These projects involved sweetheart deals, with the state subsidising 30 percent-plus of the investment. This brought the Left into an ugly confrontation with its core-base. It fired upon unarmed people but couldn't break their resistance.

Singur and Nandigram became symbols of a progressive current gone haywire, too arrogant to comprehend people's growing hostility.

Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee understood this. She expressed solidarity with people's struggles and campaigned energetically for change.

The CPM's seat-tally fell below even the Congress's. Twenty-six of the Front's 34 ministers lost, including Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya and his topmost colleagues.

In North Bengal, with a high concentration of Muslims, the Left won only 20 percent of seats, compared to 80 percent in 2006. In the Adivasi districts of West Medinipur, Purulia and Bankura, where the Left had won 86 percent seats, it won only about one-third.

This defeat is of the same quality as the Congress's rout in 1977. Karat underplayed this by claiming that the Left won 11 lakh more votes than in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections. This is no consolation. It wasn't "recovery" or "course correction", but the result of intensive cadre mobilisation.

The Left's leadership faces its final test. Can it learn and bounce back, or will it fade out? Some observers have pronounced the death of Communism in India. This is wrong. Communism and Marxism will survive not just as ideologies, but even in tangible organisational forms.

The question is if the organised Left will retain its centrality and relevance. It will, only if it defends livelihoods and advocates anti-capitalist policies. In West Bengal, these must effectively counter Trinamool's thrust under a Right-wing corporate-lobbyist finance minister and Banerjee's unpredictable moves.

For that other great loser, the DMK, the prospect is more dismal. DMK president M Karunanidhi (87) concentrated all power within his family, destroying his solid cadre-based party and severing it from its moorings in the Dravidian movement. His relatives built empires with his largesse. His party, bereft of ideology and vision, may not survive his departure.

The Asom Gana Parishad and BJP also performed badly in the elections. The AGP was wiped out from 21 of Assam's 27 districts, its seat-tally plummeting from 25 to 10. The BJP was reduced to just five seats. It didn't win even one percent of the 828 seats contested in the five states. This undermines its claim to be emerging as a national party.

The Congress's 3-to-2 score in the five states might appear respectable, but its Assam win came entirely because of local leaders. The corruption issue hit the Congress in Tamil Nadu and Kerala. And it lost the people's pulse in Puducherry.

More important, the results are a slap in the face of the "Rahul brigade". Rahul Gandhi had identified Tamil Nadu, with a claimed 1.3 million Youth Congress membership, as a key state. But all his nine nominees lost, including the state president and secretary. In Kerala, with almost half-a-million Youth Congress members, only three of Gandhi's 17 handpicked candidates won.

The "first family's" charisma isn't working. The Congress must go back to basics if it is to recover in the South, especially in view of the mounting Jaganmohan Reddy challenge in Andhra.



The writer, a former newspaper editor, is a researcher and peace and human-rights activist based in Delhi. Email: prafulbidwai1@yahoo.co.in

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

GOVERNMENT BY DECEPTION

AHMED QURAISHI

 

Pakistan's military seems to have made a strategic decision not to confront its ally, the United States military. No one wants a war declared on the US.


But our military leadership can and should consider a range of options to defend Pakistan's image and interests. Take the right to speak up publically, for example. Washington has the right to pursue its Al-Qaeda enemies, as Secretary Clinton said over the weekend. But it does not have the right to use our intelligence and then deliberately sidestep Pakistan and question its sincerity and use the alarmingly large American intelligence network inside Pakistan to stab the army and the air force in the back and demonise Pakistan worldwide.

The irony is that a foreign country, China, was faster and bolder in defending the Pakistani position and rejecting the deliberate American demonisation of Pakistan than Pakistan's political and military leaders who went unnecessarily on the defensive. By all standards, the US military breach inside Pakistan, by more than one hundred kilometres, was not possible without internal collusion at individual and multiple levels, and yet signs abound this episode will be buried under the carpet without accounting for the tremendous inroads CIA appears to have made in and around Islamabad.


More shameful is the fact that a long due parliament resolution to review the lopsided Pakistani-American cooperation on Afghanistan seems to have been set aside after Senator John Kerry's visit. Mr Kerry proved to be an unreliable emissary during the crisis over the jailed CIA mercenary. Let's remember that his words amounted to nothing when CIA decided to punish Pakistanis by killing forty of them in one shot hours after the mercenary issue was resolved in March. This time around he was reported to have given his word to the Pakistani military leadership there won't be CIA drone attacks during his visit. But an hour after he left Islamabad, a CIA drone fired a missile on Waziristan. So much for his pledge, written in blood as per his own dramatic description, that the United States is not interested in targeting Pakistani nukes. The day he arrived in Islamabad, a British newspaper ran a detailed report on US plans to deploy troops in Pakistan to 'protect' Pakistani nukes. They can't intervene without huge risks, but the story was classic multipurpose information warfare that one intelligence-gathering US agency has excelled in on many occasions, the last being the run-up to the 2003 Iraq invasion.


The decision not to confront the United States militarily, by for example not shooting down a CIA drone, is the right decision considering the circumstances. But Pakistan's civilian and military leadership should not expect Pakistanis to gloss over some glaring facts. One of them is that Pakistan's ally the United States has humiliated Pakistan's military and its commanders like no one has done before. American military and intelligence punished their Pakistani counterparts when we released a jailed CIA mercenary in March, and have repeatedly attacked Pakistani soldiers on the Afghan border. When it was time to take out Al-Qaeda terror chief, the CIA and the US military could have minimised the costs by jointly capturing Osama bin Laden. Instead, not only did they decide to go it alone, they decided to compromise Pakistani sovereignty in the ugliest way possible and make Pakistani military the butt of domestic and international jokes.

And now we have US diplomatic cables suggesting our army chief tacitly approved CIA drone operations inside Pakistan in addition to the known green signals from the president and the prime minister. The issue is not the drones themselves but the fact that we have allowed something that is now totally out of our control. It is also in violation of the UN mandate for the war in Afghanistan after 9/11. The Americans are right in being angry now if there are people from our side who granted them such concessions and were paid for that but are now trying to wiggle their way out of the commitment to save their skins.


No one is responsible for this reckless management of our relations with a foreign power than our own people. And in the absence of accountability and transparency, they should know they have caused one of the biggest divisions among Pakistanis in a long time.


The writer works for Geo television. Email: aq@paknationalists.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

TIME FOR PEACE TALKS

DR MALEEHA LODHI

 

The writer is special adviser to the Jang Group/Geo and a former envoy to the US and the UK.


In more ways than one, Osama bin Laden's death has changed the dynamic in the region and offered a new opportunity to pursue a political settlement to end the almost decade long war in Afghanistan.


Bin Laden's killing by a covert American mission has injected unprecedented strains in the long troubled Pakistan-US relationship. But in opening up possibilities to accelerate efforts for a diplomatic solution it also provides the two countries a chance to align their objectives in Afghanistan and recalibrate their frayed ties.


Pakistan has long insisted that the Afghan war can only be brought to a close by political not military means. The Obama Administration's pledge to move towards a 'diplomatic surge' and consultations launched in this regard by US special envoy, Marc Grossman, may help narrow the gulf with Pakistan but formidable hurdles will need to be overcome along the way.

 

In the US, Bin Laden's elimination has spurred a reassessment of the aims, nature and duration of the American engagement in Afghanistan. Coming ahead of the planned withdrawal in July of the first batch of US troops from Afghanistan, it has intensified debate in Congress and the Administration about the size and speed of this drawdown.

Both Republican and Democratic critics of the US military presence have renewed calls for a more rapid pullout, now that the principal reason for the 2001 American invasion of Afghanistan is gone. Others have cautioned against a premature declaration of victory and hasty rush for the exits. They have also invoked the painful lessons of the abrupt American disengagement from the region in the late 1990s to warn against a precipitous pullout.


As the Administration mulls over the decision about the pace and level of the July withdrawal, Al Qaeda's decapitation has given President Obama, whose public approval ratings have soared, much greater room to manoeuvre in charting a way forward. He is now positioned to sell the idea of talks with the Taliban without being accused by his opponents of being 'weak' on national security. Also helpful is the growing international consensus that an end to an increasingly unpopular war should be hastened by a peaceful political settlement involving negotiations among parties to the conflict. Most Nato countries want to see serious efforts to forge a peace deal.


Even before Bin Laden's death, President Obama had begun to change track even if civilians in his Administration and the military were not on the same page on talks with senior Taliban leaders. There were three key indications of a transition towards a diplomatic strategy. One, the February 2011 speech by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, which spelt out three "redlines for reconciliation" with the Taliban – renunciation of violence, abandoning Al Qaeda and accepting the Afghan Constitution – and clarifying, in a significant policy shift, that these were 'outcomes' not pre-conditions of any negotiation.


The second indication of a recalibration of Washington's Afghan strategy was last month's shake up of President Obama's national security team and the decision to replace General David Petraeus as commander of coalition forces in Afghanistan. Naming him to head the CIA was a way to get him out of a position to determine Afghan policy, as he, along with others at the Pentagon, remained intent on achieving a military outcome to the war. His successor Lt General John R Allen helped to secure a peace agreement with Sunni insurgents in Iraq.

The third indication of the Administration's move towards a political strategy is the mandate given to Grossman to explore a 'reconciliation' plan and his extensive 'tripartite' discussions in Kabul and Islamabad aimed at evolving a framework for peace talks.

In the wake of the Al Qaeda leader's killing, top American officials have also publicly mused whether this will make it easier for the Taliban to enter negotiations. Clinton, Defence Secretary Robert M Gates and General Petraeus have all said Bin Laden's demise could weaken Al Qaeda's influence on the Taliban because the alliance was more personal than organisational. Senator John Kerry went further, describing this as "a potentially game-changing opportunity to build momentum for a political solution" in Afghanistan.

The question this now raises is whether President Obama will use his July speech to go beyond announcing a troop pullout and also publicly commit to an Afghan peace process. In a BBC interview last week he edged towards this by saying that talks will "eventually" have to be held with the Taliban as there was no military solution to the conflict.

Several members of his administration want him to iterate US willingness to enter formal talks with the Taliban to generate the political momentum for a solution, which will need to be in place before 2014, the deadline set by Nato for an end to their combat mission in Afghanistan. They also view the period between July and December, when the next international conference on Afghanistan is to be convened in Bonn, as decisive in which progress in talks must be made so that Taliban representatives can be invited as partners in the peace process.

Pakistan's role is seen by both the US and Afghanistan as pivotal in helping to attain these objectives. Washington has already conveyed that the 'core' group that will be engaged in finding a solution in the 'reconciliation' process will consist of four parties: the Afghan government, the Taliban, Washington and Islamabad.

But tough challenges lie ahead in the quest to find a peaceful solution especially as the fighting season approaches in Afghanistan. Among the immediate challenges is how to reconcile the US approach of fight-and-talk with Pakistan's advocacy of de-escalation in violence involving a stand down or pause in fighting to open diplomatic space for negotiations.

Mounting US pressure on Pakistan to take military action against Afghan Taliban leaders has left Islamabad wondering whether Washington wants to target or talk to Taliban leaders. Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani has urged an inclusive Afghan peace process that does not exclude anyone willing to talk. He has also told his US interlocutors that Pakistan should not be pushed in a direction that the Americans will not eventually take themselves. But this circle has yet to be squared.

Another significant impediment to peace talks could be the proposed "Strategic Partnership Agreement" being discussed between the Karzai government and Washington. This would reportedly allow the Americans to retain several bases in Afghanistan – six according to one account – beyond 2014 in order to maintain 'training' personnel to assist the Afghan National Army and a 'scaled down' counterterrorism force, as an 'insurance policy' to make any political deal stick.

Although American officials portray this military presence as a 'non-threatening' force structure, if such an agreement is announced this July it could prove to be a deal-breaker even before serious talks have begun with the Taliban, whose main demand – indeed reason for fighting – is to ensure the exit of all foreign forces from their country.

An agreement providing for an indefinite US military presence in Afghanistan will be just as unacceptable to the country's neighbours. It will be seen in Pakistan as holding out a clear and present danger of unilateral strikes into its territory. Iran will deem it as a threat while Russia and China will view this as a way of maintaining US sway over the region.

The path towards a negotiated peace is strewn with many difficulties that are likely to make the process a complicated and protracted one. But the opportunity to end America's longest war must be seized sooner rather than later especially as it has so gravely destabilised Pakistan whose ability to find its balance and re-establish domestic peace depends so critically on stability on its western border and an end to the western military presence in the region.

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

OBAMA AND THE ME

RIZWAN ASGHAR

 

Last week US President Barack Obama delivered a significant foreign policy speech. He outlined an overall US approach – the Arab Spring. The speech has met with scepticism in various sections of the Arab world. Some analysts view it as a paradigm shift in US policy towards the Middle East. But many political observers are of the view that President Obama may not be able to follow his words with practical action. They think it such statements carry no weight as their execution conflicts with US imperial interests. A new Pew poll released recently – conducted in six predominantly Muslim countries and the Palestinian territories – showed widely-held negative views of the US and a lack of confidence in Obama.

An analysis of Obama's speech must be guided by three concrete realities: one, the US image in the Muslim world took a steep descent during the era of the Bush regime; two, Obama has so far failed to resurrect US soft power and restore confidence in US values of democracy, justice and human rights; three, it will require practical initiatives to translate Obama's vision into reality.

In a complete departure from his predecessor's stance on the Palestinian issue, President Obama has called for a negotiated Israeli pullback to pre-1967 war borders "with mutually agreed land swaps" and the establishment of a Palestinian state. President Bush had stated in 2004 that the return to 1967 borders is no more practicable in the face of facts on the ground. But President Obama has failed to present a formal peace plan – to the dismay of many in the Arab world – and has failed to make progress on the Israeli-Palestinian front since taking office in 2009.

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has rejected President Obama's stance of a Palestinian state on the basis of the 1967 borders. This shows that Netanyahu is not going to be squeezed under US pressure because he enjoys the active support of the right-wing coalition in his efforts to continue Israeli colonialism of Palestinian lands. Therefore Obama will have to put his foot down and refuse to knuckle under the pressure of the lobbies in Washington.

In fact, the tide of history has made it imperative that the US mend its relations with Muslim countries. Shrinking public support for the US in the Arab world has resulted in limited maneuvering space for the former to pursue its interests in the region. In extending unconditional support to Israel, maintaining a largely apathetic attitude towards the Palestine conflict, and invading two Muslim countries under the garb of the "war on terror," the US has evoked hatred among many in Muslim countries.

However, President Obama will face tough resistance from the 'Israeli' lobby in the form of strong prodding and intimidation tactics. Obama has hailed popular unrest sweeping the Middle East as a "historic opportunity" and ratcheted up pressure on Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, urging him to lead the democratic transition or "get out of the way". For the first time he has asked Bahrain's rulers to stop mass arrests and the use of brute force against Bahrain's citizens. Obama has to make hard choices or the credibility gap between the US and the Muslim world will widen further and already widespread feelings of mutual mistrust and antagonism will be reinforced.



Email:rizwanasghar7@yahoo.com

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

TERRORIST ATTACK ON NAVAL AIRBASE…

 

IN what is being described as the biggest attack so far on Pakistan's security forces, the terrorist hit PNS Mehran airbase in Karachi leading to martyrdom of 10 personnel, injuries to 15 others and major damage worth billions of rupees to installations and assets. In the long-drawn drama that continued for about 17 hours, several explosions were heard and there was intensive exchange of firing, which turned the whole place in inferno.

The magnitude of the attack and the resultant tragedy has shaken the entire nation, as people watched the unfolding events with shock, grief, dismay and despair. Suicide attacks and bomb blasts wherever they take place cause genuine concern but the situation becomes grimmer when the targets are highly sensitive and closely guarded premises. The attack on naval airbase assumes gravity and significance because it has various dimensions and contours. It is ironical that terrorist attacks on naval personnel and facilities started with bombing of a bus on April 26 and two more such incidents followed but regrettably no foolproof measures were taken to foil designs of terrorists/enemy. Then, after killing of Osama bin Laden in American operation in Abbottabad, militants have been issuing repeated warnings to target key defence installations and facilities like military academy in Kakul but despite that it seems the level of security was not satisfactory and the kind of vigilance required of our armed forces and security agencies is nowhere to be seen. Attacks on symbols of defence and security create more panic as these convey a vivid impression that what about the common man if our defenders are unable to protect themselves. The objective of the terrorists and our enemy is to create sense of insecurity among people and it seems they have got a free hand to implement their agenda. It is understood that attacks like the one on the naval airbase must have been minutely planned and executed , which was not possible without necessary support system but we have so far not been able to break this system. How is it possible that terrorists were able to infiltrate such a closely guarded place with rockets, missiles, detonators and other sophisticated devices? It is also highly deplorable that at a time when Pakistan was bearing the brunt of Abbottabad operation, the United States, instead of expressing solidarity with the country, preferred to adopt threatening posture. The remarks of the American President that he respects Pakistan's sovereignty but Abbottabad raid would be replicated, if needed, is indicative of the troubles that lay in store for the country in the time to come. Therefore a well-knit strategy is required to safeguard our interests…

 

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AKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

TAKE NATION INTO CONFIDENCE…

 

THE enormity of the naval tragedy has once again brought into sharp focus as to who was behind the organised campaign to destabilise Pakistan. Though, according to some reports, Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has accepted the responsibility for the dastardly attack but only investigations could reveal the truth.


Though none of the attackers could be apprehended but according to Interior Minister Rehman Malik vital evidence has been gathered which might help uncover the facts. In similar incidents in the past, security agencies nabbed perpetrators of terrorist attacks and suspects and they must have churned out information throwing light on the modus operandi applied and weapons used. The security agencies might also be in the know of who were the perpetrators and who were their handlers but so far people of Pakistan have been kept in the dark. It is generally believed that attacks on GHQ, naval airbase and ISI premises are planned and done not by ordinary militants or terrorists but with a strategic mindset with the sole objective of conveying an impression to the outside world that Pakistani forces are not capable of safeguarding their nuclear assets. Though there is multi-layer security for nuclear installations and assets but still a thorough review should be done of the existing arrangements and additional measures taken to beef them up further. Apart from the dire necessity of stepping up security for such assets, as any attack on them would be fully exploited by anti-Pakistan lobbies, there is also need to take the nation into confidence about findings of similar probes. Ultimately, it is people of Pakistan who are suffering because of insecurity and they have the right to know who is behind the conspiracy to destabilise the country. Otherwise too, we are a democratic polity and in a democratic dispensation, people are entitled to know about what is happening. The culture of hush hush must give way to sharing of information with the people and this should be done without loss of further time…

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

SOMEONE SHOULD ACCEPT RESPONSIBILITY & QUIT

 

IN this perspective question arises how come in Pakistan no individual or organisation accepts the failure to fulfil responsibility. There had been numerous similar heinous acts in the past when terrorists or enemy agents breached the security of sensitive installations and security assets causing losses in men and material. Inquiries were ordered giving assurances to the people that responsibility will be fixed and action taken over the failures but nothing came out of them.


In our opinion, though it is understood that security personnel cannot be deployed in every nook and corner of the country and practically it is not possible, yet an assessment can be made about the weak points from where the militants could sneak in as happened in the case of the attack at PNS Mehran base. We have been warning in these columns repeatedly that it is a war against Pakistan and many characters and forces within the country and abroad are involved in it. The militants, their planners and handlers must have chosen the target after lot of ground work but it is astonishing that our intelligence agencies failed to note the movement of strangers in the area. One reason could be that the base is in the populated area. We think the sensitive establishments of the armed forces must be far away from the population centres to check movement of unauthorized people. Pakistan Navy is constantly coming under attacks by the militants and we are confident that the authorities must have taken extra security measures. Despite that there appears to be some sort of laxity on the part of those who are assigned the security duties. What is more surprising is that whenever an incident takes place, no individual accepts the responsibility and quit instead blame game starts to shift the burden on the shoulders of others. We strongly recommend that a system of accountability is introduced and particularly after this incident at the naval base, some one should accept responsibility and quit. If no one do so voluntarily, the Board of inquiry must identify the faults and some heads must be rolled for their negligence to duty.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLES

SQUABBLE OVER SIR CREEK REMAINS!

FRIENDLY FIRE

KHALID SALEEM

 

When it was announced with an exaggerated bit of fanfare that the India-Pakistan negotiations were to be resumed, one had taken this news with the customary pinch of circumspection. The leaders of our blessed country have regrettably nurtured the unsavory habit of going overboard every time the least glimmer of light is visible at the end of the tunnel. They blindly rush in without even waiting to ascertain that the light aforesaid is not that of an oncoming train.


All the segments of the once-called composite dialogue that have been held so far have ended with a whimper rather than a bang. The latest round of 'negotiations' on the Sir Creek squabble turned out to be no different. When the talks on Sir Creek were announced there was a bit of optimism in the air. The Sir Creek squabble is arguably the most solvable of contentious issues on the bilateral table. It was hoped, therefore, that the two sides would reach an early settlement on this issue if only to establish their bona fides. But this was not destined to be. The joint statement issued at the end of the session takes the cake for being the lamest ever. The sides are said to have exchanged non-papers - perhaps for the umpteenth time — "with a view to finding an amicable settlement of the issue". This is neither here nor there. The only other inference that can be reached from the outcome is that the two sides are losing the grip on the art of drafting that had hitherto been their forte. This said; it would be in the fitness of things to dwell a bit on the contentious issue that carries the misnomer of the 'Sir Creek dispute', since on the equitable settlement of this issue would rest the extent of our Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in terms of the International Law of the Sea Convention. As things stand, Sir Creek region could very well qualify for the Guinness Book of Records as the most surveyed piece of territory ever. Shortly after the wretched composite dialogue commenced and the nauseating cycle of surveys was set in motion. It has since been the earnest hope of all right-thinking persons that the Sir Creek squabble would be expeditiously settled if only to set the ball rolling. This, regrettably, has not happened.


As stated earlier, arguably Sir Creek is the most 'solvable' issue on the bilateral table. Surveys or no surveys, it was always open to a quick and equitable settlement. That this has not taken place can only point to a lack of commitment to normalization of relations of one or both sides. From all accounts, both sides appeared to have been content with just marking time. Taking a step forward does not appear to be part of their plan of action, assuming that such a thing exists! Just to recapitulate how this squabble erupted! 'Sir Creek' happens to be a shallow meandering waterway that runs into the sea in the inhospitable coastal region bordering the former Rann of Katchch and the Pakistan province of Sindh. In the nineteen sixties, a mini-war of sorts had erupted between the armies of India and Pakistan over the control of this region. The spat started when the Indian forces surreptitiously sneaked into the area in an attempt to annex it and present a fait accompli. The Pakistan Army, in a classical maneuver, not only thwarted India's move but also reportedly gave the latter a bloody nose. The two sides, subsequently, agreed to submit the case to international arbitration. The Award of the International Tribunal was accepted by the two countries, which then proceeded to demarcate the disputed border in accordance with the terms of the arbitration award. The major portion of the border was successfully demarcated on the ground. Due to inexplicable reasons, however, the last segment of the border that would culminate in the land/sea terminus remained unmarked on the ground, despite apparent de facto agreement on an historic map - one of a series that depicted the agreed frontier between the Runn of Kachch and the then British Indian Empire. The segment of the frontier in question is marked on the relevant map as a dotted line some way off – but not abutting - the left bank of Sir Creek. Complications ensued when it was noticed that Sir Creek had started to shift its course northwards towards Pakistan. The shifting of the courses of shallow creeks is a normal geological phenomenon. Never slow at taking advantage of the flimsiest of pretexts, India put forward the bizarre claim that Sir Creek itself rather than the dotted line on the agreed map should form the boundary between the two countries. It relied on the preposterous argument that the frontier be drawn along the "deepest line" of the Sir Creek, in a brazen attempt at invoking the Thalweg principle. In so doing, India conveniently ignored the fact that the Thalweg principle is applicable only in case of deep and navigable channels, which normally maintain their courses. There have been unconfirmed reports of Indian attempts to artificially deepen the channel. The dispute would have been manageable had it not been for the fact that the creek has moved its course several kilometers. The confusion was compounded due to the fact that the issue has been commonly and erroneously termed as the "Sir Creek dispute", though the dispute is about the land boundary and has nothing directly to do with 'Sir Creek'.


One last word! Why is this issue of so much concern to Pakistan? In addition to the principle of the thing, Pakistan stands to lose tremendous economic benefits should the Indian contention be accepted. It would mean surrender to India of what may turn out to be several hundred square kilometers of territory. This could result in the shifting of the land/ sea terminus several kilometers to the detriment of Pakistan, leading in turn to a loss of several thousand square kilometers of its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) under the International Law of the Sea Convention.

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

WHY STRAUSS-KAHN HAD TO GO?

ALI ASHRAF KHAN

 

While American military conspiracies against Pakistan and Libya and others are on, there are other initiatives also going on in a bid so save American predominance in the world. Whatever is alleged to have happened in New York hotel last week in which the Chief of IMF Dominique Strauss-Kahn, a French Jew and an ardent reformer in the crusade for building and consolidating the Euro regime in the European Union, and a strong candidate in the forthcoming French presidential elections, has been LBW with a well hatched conspiracy to get him out of the way with a two-fold gain: to provide continuity in power in France to their American poodle Sarakozi, who is alleged to be involved in moral and financial corruption together with his committing genocide in Iraq, Afghanistan & Libya, and then, to get rid of an ardent fighter for a strong Euro that would pose an additional threat to the weakening dollar, a welcome alternative for many who want an end to the dollar domination.

This incident goes to prove the hidden agenda of an international vested interest group trying to build and secure an American Empire for their master, which has not spared even Strauss-Kahn, who has been fixed in a rape attempt with a 32 year old hotel maid in a country where teen aged unwed mothers are a normal accepted feature. The former French Foreign Minister Strauss-Kahn, once if he was elected as president of France would have worked to strengthen the Euro to bring down dollar, which was of serious concern for the Federal Reserve Board in the already ongoing currency war with China. John F. Kennedy, US president was murdered for his only sin of canceling Federal Reserve Act of 1913 in 1963, when for the first time dollar currency was issued with the seal of US government, soon after his assassination President Lyndon B. Johnson revived this Act to continue their financial exploitation.


One could argue that we Pakistanis are also a victim of IMF manipulation through the imposition of conditionality detrimental to our own economy and national interest, will some one some day assess, where we were in seventies and where are we now. The exchange rate for the dollar was kept under control at Rs. 64 during Gen Musharraf regime, thanks to a banker cum finance minister under so-called democracy, who floated dollars rate giving a jump of 30% increase to shelf prices of essential items creating untold miseries for the common men. May be this is right, though I can't observe any positive change in the policy of the IMF with regard to Pakistan and that alone is what counts for us. Secondly, I don't think that the world capitalist system dominated by the US can be reformed because the money mafia, which profits from liberalized and globalized markets and world-wide plunder, will not allow that. Thirdly, Strauss-Kahn had enemies because of this in the World Jewry that is why this whole matter stinks to high-Heaven. Firstly because, Strauss-Kahn was the likely candidate of the French Socialist Party who would have a good chance to face Sarkozy in the upcoming presidential elections. The IMF chief clearly had a leg-up on Sarkozy who has been also involved in a number of personal scandals and plunging approval ratings. But if Strauss-Kahn was set up, then it was probably by influential members of the western bank coalition, that shadowy group of self-serving exploiters whose policies have kept the greater body of humanity in varying state of poverty and desperation for the last two centuries.

But there is another feature also. The IMF primus Strauss-Kahn had recently broken free from the "party line" and was changing the direction of the IMF. His road to Damascus conversion was championed by progressive economist Joseph Stiglitz in a recent article titled "The IMF's Switch in Time". Here's an excerpt: "The annual spring meeting of the International Monetary Fund was notable in marking the Fund's effort to distance itself from its own long-standing tenets on capital controls and labor-market flexibility. It appears that a new IMF has gradually, and cautiously, emerged under the leadership of Dominique Strauss-Kahn. Slightly more than 13 years earlier, at the IMF's Hong Kong meeting in 1997, the Fund had attempted to amend its charter in order to gain more leeway to push countries towards capital-market liberalization. The timing could not have been worse: the East Asia crisis was just brewing "a crisis that was largely the result of capital-market liberalization in a region that, given its high savings rate, had no need for it. That push had been advocated by Western financial markets and the Western finance ministries that serve them so loyally. Financial deregulation in the United States was a prime cause of the global crisis that erupted in 2008, and financial and capital-market liberalization elsewhere helped spread that 'made- in-the-USA- trauma' around the world. The crisis showed that free and unfettered markets are neither efficient nor stable". So, Strauss-Kahn was trying to move the bank in a more positive direction, a direction that didn't require that countries leave their economies open to the ravages of foreign capital that moves in swiftly-pushing up prices and creating bubbles, and departs just as fast, leaving behind the scourge of high unemployment, plunging demand, hobbled industries, and deep recession. Strauss-Kahn had set out on a "kinder and gentler" path, one that would not force foreign leaders to privatize their state-owned industries or crush their labour unions. Naturally, his actions were not warmly received by the banker's mafia and multi national corporations who look to the IMF to provide legitimacy to their ongoing plunder of the rest of the world. These are the people who think that the current policies are "just fine" because they produce the desired results they're looking for, which is bigger profits for themselves and deeper poverty for everyone else. Here's Stiglitz this time was imparting the "kiss of death" to his friend Strauss-Kahn: "Strauss-Kahn is proving himself a sagacious leader of the IMF". As Strauss-Kahn concluded in his speech to the Brookings Institution shortly before the Fund's recent meeting: Ultimately, employment and equity are building blocks of economic stability and prosperity, of political stability and peace."


This would go to the heart of the IMF's mandate. It must be placed at the heart of the policy agenda. So, now the IMF was going to be an agent for the redistribution of wealth for strengthening collective bargaining, restructuring mortgages, restructuring tax and spending policies to stimulate the economy through long-term investments, and implementing social policies that ensure opportunity for all" writes Stiglitz. Can you imagine how much this kind of talk unnerves the Big Money guys? How long do you think they'd put up with this claptrap before they decided that Strauss-Kahn needed to take a permanent vacation? Not long. Check this out from World Campaign and judge for yourself whether Strauss-Kahn had become a "liability" that had to be eliminated so the business of extracting wealth from the poorest people on earth could continue apace: For decades, the International Monetary Fund has been associated claiming anti-poverty, hunger and development activists as the poster child of everything wrong with the rich world's fiscal management of the rest of the world, particularly of poor nations, with its seemingly one-dimensional focus on belt-tightening fiscal policies as the price of its loans, and a trickle-down economic philosophy that has helped traditional wealthy elites maintain the status quo while the majority stayed poor and powerless, a real reflection is Pakistan's economic and financial situation today directly attributed to the battery of its imported financial managers from the World Bank. With a world increasingly in revolution because of such realities, and after the global financial crisis in the wake of regulatory and other policies that had worked after the Great Depression being largely abandoned, IMF managing director Dominique Strauss-Kahn has made nothing less than stunning observations about how the IMF and the world need to change policies. In an article published in the Washington Post, Howard Schneider writes that after the 2008 crash led toward regulation again of financial companies and government involvement in the economy, for Strauss-Khan "the job is only half done," as he has been leading the fund through a fundamental rethinking of its economic theory. 'The pendulum will swing from the market to the state. But, it also has a dark side, a large and growing chasm between the rich and the poor."a fundamental rethinking of economic theory" and a greater "distribution of income" more stringent "regulation of financial companies", "central banks need to do more to prevent lending and asset prices from expanding too fast". With all this Strauss-Kahn had signed his own death warrant. There's not going to be any revolution at the IMF. That's baloney.


Our financial managers have not been able to convince the IMF to abandon conditionality in the light of new economic theory coined by Strauss-Kahn in its approach towards Pakistan suffering mainly due to IMF strings, whose economy is gripped with highest recession and unable to bear the burden of new taxation measures, whether be it RGST or any new gimmick, recent tour of Prime Minister Gillani to China has met with uncalled for remarks from US, who do not want any other country extending a helping hand towards Pakistan and recent Chinese announcement to extend project assistance and transfer of technology to bring Pakistan back on the rail and cheap supply of electricity. Which is our immediate requirement, Iran has offered to complete Oil & Gas pipeline project to boost Pakistan economically, we must immediately adopt Islamic Social Justice programme as the stepping stone for the future economic and financial well being and not bogged down to Western muscle twisting as seen in the case of Dominique Strauss-Kahn. God may bless us all. Long live Pakistan.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

OBLIVIOUS OF EMERGING THREATS

NEWS & VIEWS

MOHAMMAD JAMIL

 

Just listen to any street; it is public shrieks of despondency, frustration and disappointment oozing out from its corner to corner. Of course there is existential threat from militants and foreign enemies, but political leaders belonging to ruling as well as opposition parties seem to be oblivious to the dangers facing the country, as they are frantically entangled in their power plays. They believe in the righteousness of their cause, and blame each other for deceit, deception and corruption. They raise the banner of principled politics but in practice show utter disregard to democratic principles and have been scampering aboard the military dictator's bandwagon in the past. PML-N Quaid Mian Nawaz Sharif is one of them who continue with the litany that the primary reason for the problems of the country is frequent violations of the Constitution by military dictators, and that judges were time and again made to bend laws to legitimize their rule. Mian Nawaz Sharif should realize that he does not have moral high ground to oppose dictators, as he is also accused of being product of garrison's hatchery. PML-N's principled politics stood exposed when during movement for restoration of judiciary, as stated by recently released WikiLeaks cables.


The then Lahore US Consulate Principal Officer Bryan Hunt in a secret diplomatic cable describing his meeting with Shahbaz Sharif on March 14, 2009 had written to the US state office: "Shahbaz stated that following the restoration, the PML-N was prepared to end the issue and remove Chaudhry once and for all". In other words, Shahbaz was willing to have CJ removed after symbolic or 'face-saving' restoration. It was because of such hypocrisy and arrogance of its leaders that in 1998 despite having two-third majority in the National Assembly, PML (N) stood isolated in the sense that almost all parties had formed the Grand Democratic Alliance on one point agenda i.e. to get rid of Nawaz government. When the PML-N government got 15th amendment passed by the National Assembly, arguably to give the prime minister powers of Amir-ul-Momeneen, it could not get through the Senate because the PML-N lacked numbers in the senate. He is perhaps still living under that illusion and feels that he has the 'divine right' to impose his will on others. It is true that Mian Nawaz Sharif is leader of one of the major parties of the country, but there are other parties that have representation in other provinces as well that are national in character.


Whereas, no democrat or a person with average common sense would support martial law or military dispensation, politicians in Pakistan by their internecine conflicts and politics of confrontation provided justification to the then army chief to intervene to stem the chaos and anarchy. On 12th October 1999, all the political parties and people at large had welcomed General Pervez Musharraf and sweets were distributed throughout the country. Had Mian Nawaz Sharif shown statesmanship during his second stint as prime minister and not played havoc with the institutions, he would have been in power for a decade.

It appears that PML-N today once again stands isolated due to its leadership's flawed policies. Since Mian Nawaz Sharif could not muster support of any mainstream political party, he deemed it appropriate to seek support of unification bloc to save PML-N government in Punjab. Out of sheer desperation, he has started flirting with the nationalists of Sindh. He said that agendas and objectives of the nationalists and the PML-N are identical. He has also been assuring Shahzain Bugti that he would start a long march to Dera Bugti, but did not go beyond rhetoric.


On 18th May 2011, Mian Nawaz Sharif in an interview with Absar Alam of Aaj TV said that he would "pulverize" the establishment. Instead of pulverizing or disbanding the army or agencies, there is need to remove loopholes and provide the military with sophisticated arms. In Pakistan, when political leaders, media men, analysts and panelists talk about establishment they invariably mean military.


And Mian Nawaz Sharif, as obsessed he is with military because his government was removed on 12th October 1999 by then COAS General Pervez Musharraf, he means military; and otherwise also he never minces words. In common parlance, however, establishment means the ruling elite whether elected or unelected, and civil and military bureaucracy. In the same interview, Mian Sahib also said that India is not our enemy number one. When questioned as to who our enemy number one is; he said that "we are our own enemies". On the question of relations with the US, he said that Pakistan should not spoil relations with the US, adding that the US should bear in mind the sacrifices made by Pakistan. Mian Nawaz Sharif continued with the litany that the primary reason for all problems of the country is frequent violations of the Constitution by military dictators.

But Mian sahib has to be reminded that he was introduced by General Jilani to late General Zia-ul-Haq, and then there was no looking back. Shifting poles, changing positions and backing out of the promises and agreements are the norms of our politicians and political parties. There is no difference between the PPP and the PML-N on that count. Nevertheless, Mian Nawaz Sharif's somersaults in the past knock the bottom of his pretense of his principled stand in politics. After signing the Charter of Democracy with the late Benazir Bhutto in London, he wanted that the MMA should be inducted in the Alliance for Restoration of Democracy (ARD), which was opposed by the PPP on the grounds that the MMA had played a pivotal role in passage of 17th amendment. In the face of opposition by the PPP, the major component of the ARD, the PML-N had formed All Pakistan Democratic Movement (APDM) on the ruins of the Alliance for Restoration of Democracy with Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf and Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party. Later, when the APDM decided to boycott the elections, Mian Nawaz Sharif deemed it appropriate to participate in general elections after late Benazir Bhutto had paved the way for herself and Mian Nawaz Sharif to come back to Pakistan. He therefore ditched the APDM. One could infer from such actions that Nawaz Sharif was not willing to accept the views of others and wanted either to prevail upon the majority or wanted to wrap up the alliance, forum or platform. There is a perception that Mian Nawaz Sharif had arrogated to himself the powers that his should be the final word on every issue. It was because of his arrogance that all parties of the country were united on the platform of Grand Democratic Alliance in late 1990s, and had described Mian Nawaz Sharif as a civilian dictator, a security risk and a ruler who was at war with all the institutions of the country. Mian Nawaz Sharif had to his credit resignations of two presidents and resignation of army chief Jahangir Karamat.


He was overthrown while trying to sack General Pervez Musharraf. At this crucial juncture, the political parties - ruling as well as opposition parties - should understand the gravity of the situation, and instead of pursuing the confrontational path they should sit across the table to thrash out the differences amicably for the greater good of the nation and the country. They should not reinvent politics of 1990s otherwise the crises would further deepen, causing irreparable damage to the body politic of the country.


—The writer is Lahore-based senior journalist.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

CAN US GRAB PAK NUKES?

M SULEMAN SHAHID

 

After Operation Geronimo, a number of apprehensions are being raised. Both the Pakistani, international media and the analysts are claiming that US can make a grab at the Pakistan's strategic weapons. In this context the Pakistani Prime Minister Mr Gilani and Chief of Army Staff General Kiyani warned US to refrain from any kind of intrusion within the Pakistani territory. Recently, Britain Newspaper 'Sunday Express' revealed that President Obama has given green signal to his forces to take control of Pakistan's strategic weapons if terrorists try to take control to avenge Osama Bin Laden. Moreover it was stated that in this operation, the American forces or the Govt will not take permission from Mr Zardari and take hold of sensitive facilities including Sargodha Air base.

Now the million dollar question is that could really USA grab strategic weapons of Pakistan, a country which has the sixth largest army and processes one of the best command and control system of the world? Nevertheless if we study Pakistan's security system then there are three reasons that America would not try to seize its strategic weapons. First, as mentioned earlier that Pakistan has an advantage of a strong and robust command and control system which consists of a multi-tiered security system around the strategic weapons focused on 8,000 to 10,000 security personnel. Let's suppose that if the terrorists do get access to these weapons, the Permissive Action Links (PALs) which is based on "two or three man rules" would prevent these terrorists in detonating the nuclear weapons. Thus it is not possible for the terrorists to get access to strategic weapons and the US would have no reason to make their claim on the control of Pakistan's strategic weapons.

Secondly, if terrorists do attempt to control the strategic weapons of Pakistan then the question is would USA really take control of Pakistan's strategic weapons? It is a known fact that USA wants a safe exit from Afghanistan and this is not possible without Pakistan's assistance whether USA realizes it or not. In case USA confiscates Pakistan's strategic facilities, it would provoke Pakistan's public which is already against the US policies. Another interesting thing is that all American bases in Afghanistan are near the border of Pakistan in order to safe exit through Pakistan so If America takes possession of Pakistan's strategic facilities then American will be have to face confrontation from both Afghanistan and Pakistan. Since America has built almost all its bases near Pakistani boarders it would become very difficult to make a safe exit from Pakistan especially after the any future terrible incident. Thirdly, if the US forces do try to capture Pakistan's strategic weapons, then the US would have to know the exact locations of all its strategic weapons. But if they are unsuccessful in apprehend only one nuke then in retaliation, Pakistan is pretty much capable of targeting American bases as well as Israel which is USA's favorite child in the region. Thus in this scenario, it would be very difficult for the US to take control of the strategic weapons of Pakistan and jeopardize its interest as well as peace of the world. It's a mere USA's bluff to take control of Pakistan's strategic weapons. Now we see the other face of the picture. However after the recent Abbottabad incident, majority members of the parliament of Pakistan raised the question as to why Pakistan does not shoot down the drones? In response to the question, the DG ISI Lt. General Shuja Pasha answered that Pakistan has the capability to shoot down Drones, but Pakistan would not sustain the consequences of this type of confrontation with USA. His answer was met with a deafening silence from the parliamentarians.

To elaborate further it is observed that there are two main ingredients of deterrence i.e. capability and credibility. Pakistan possesses the capability of nuclear weapons as well as its sophisticated delivery system. Credibility revolves around two important factors namely 'Second Strike Capability' and 'Political Will'. Political Will means the strong spirit of political leadership to use the nuclear weapons when their national interests are threatened. It is also a backbone of nuclear deterrence; however the recent statements of DG ISI Pasha and the silence of the parliamentarians were very zilch in terms of nuclear deterrence.

So the statement of Gen. Pasha and the response of parliamentarians could tempt the US to make a grab at the Pakistan's strategic weapons. Now President Obama himself said in an interview with BBC that the US will not hesitate to carry out action such as the incident in Abbottabad. It is true that the US will do what they like with respect to Pakistan who in turn would not take action against violation of its sovereignty. These types of action will persuade USA for action against Pakistan's strategic weapons. It is a possibility that Pakistan and its forces would not take action against USA's raid on its sensitive facilities due to lack of political will. Again it can be mentioned here that Pakistan has one of the strong and robust command control system. In this context we can take example of a man that is well trained and has a sophisticated AK-47 but he would not use it due to the threat of consequence. One consequence being that this stance could prompt the US to make a grab at the strategic weapons of Pakistan. To conclude, Pakistan should realize that it has every ability to counter terrorists act as well as the capability to deter to the USA's aggression but they lack in terms of political will.

—The writer is a research scholar at NDU, Islamabad.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

WORLD ACCORDING TO HENRY KISSINGER

PHILIP SHERWELL

 

For a sweeping historical tome on China written by the most famous living practitioner of international statecraft, Henry Kissinger's latest book has a dedication striking for its unexpectedness. "To Annette and Oscar de la Renta", it reads, a tribute to the fashion designer and his wife, who lent Kissinger their opulent home in the Dominican Republic for his writing. But then the former US national security adviser and secretary of state has never been a conventional diplomat. Even when he dominated US foreign policy at the height of the Cold War, the Harvard professor with the distinctive German accent was also a media celebrity with a reputation as a ladies' man. "Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac," he once noted, dryly.

Another phrase associated with Kissinger is "shuttle diplomacy", coined to describe his Middle Eastern peregrinations in the 1970s. And just days before turning 88 later this week, he is still advising – and still shuttling. But if the focus there was the success of the long-established Atlantic alliance, Kissinger is also busy promoting his model for a new Pacific community. On China, his 13th book, is part grand historical tour, part riveting memoir, and part geopolitical analysis. With the world focused on the dramas of the Arab Spring and the killing of Osama bin Laden, it is a timely reminder that China and the US are jockeying for power and pre-eminence as the aspiring and existing superpowers of the 21st century. Kissinger's book connects China's ancient past and philosophy to its current global ambitions. But its core is his personal involvement: the veteran statesman has visited China more than 50 times since making his first secret trip in 1971 to broker the great rapprochement between Chairman Mao and President Richard Nixon. Kissinger is an engaging and sharp interviewee. We meet in his spacious New York office lined with photographs of him with half a century's worth of the great and the good: Kissinger with Barack Obama, say, and with George W Bush. And behind them, a portrait of Richard Nixon, the man who elevated him from academia to the most powerful job in American foreign policy.

"Don't draw any conclusions from those photos. The cleaner moves them each day," he insists, his accent still bearing witness to his Bavarian roots – his Jewish parents fled Nazi persecution in 1938 when he was 15. He also retains the measured tones of top-table diplomacy, parsing every phrase for nuance and emphasis.

As well as opening relations with China, Kissinger's legacy is, well, legendary. He introduced realpolitik – the 19th century German concept of power politics – to the US, oversaw a policy of détente with the Soviet Union, and negotiated the end of the Vietnam War – winning the Nobel Peace Prize in the process even though critics have portrayed him as an international war criminal for the secret carpet-bombing of Cambodia and other dark Cold War episodes. Realpolitik is a diplomatic modus operandi that is at odds with both the studious multilateralism of Obama, who arrived in office with a message to the world that he was going to tone down displays of American power, and the neo-conservatives who sought to spread democracy through American intervention. But what is striking as Kissinger surveys recent world dramas, is that America's current foreign policy highlights continuity with previous administrations as much as the fractures. "President Obama clearly reflects a different viewpoint from his predecessors. On the rhetoric there is a substantial difference. But in his actions, there are considerable parallels. On the Osama bin Laden operation, there would have been no difference at all. On China and Russia, I do not see any significant difference." In the wake of events in the Arab Spring, Kissinger has developed a theory of "pragmatic idealism" in determining whether the US should intervene militarily abroad to support human rights and democracy, or only as an expression of vital national interests. "Our values impel us to alleviate human suffering," he has written. "But as a general principle, our country should do so militarily only when a national interest is also at stake."

But he accepts there are exceptions – and Libya is one of them. "I unenthusiastically endorsed intervention," he says, although he does not back the broader interpretation by Britain and France of the United Nations mandate to protect civilians. Kissinger also warns that we are only at the first stage of a dangerous "five-stage act" in Libya. "The true test is what emerges. One cannot deduce the outcome of a revolution from the pronouncements of those who start the revolution. And one has to assess a revolution not only in terms of its initial enthusiasm. As a general principle, the greater the destruction of existing institutions, the greater will be the violence in re-establishing order." He is disdainful of the "cocktail-party wisdom that we should have seen an explosion was coming" in the Arab world. And of bin Laden's death, he notes: "It must have an effect on the morale of al-Qaeda and the view of their relevance, considering that there were so few protests in the Arab world." It is also, he believes, a major domestic political boost for a president who had been tagged by critics as a "wimp". As Obama and David Cameron now assess the options for reducing their nations' troop numbers in Afghanistan, the dilemma of how to withdraw forces from a far-away conflict zone is one of which Kissinger is all too aware. For although Nixon was elected in 1968 committed to ending the war in Vietnam, he wanted "peace with honour" and withdrawal "with dignity".

So how does he think the US and its allies should be handling a situation in Afghanistan that is often compared to Vietnam? "There is an emerging consensus that we should negotiate with the Taliban. But even if you can get an agreement from them about withdrawal how do you enforce that? Otherwise it develops into a unilateral withdrawal. That was the tragedy of Vietnam, where we thought we had an agreement but our domestic situation didn't permit it. "In Afghanistan, I think withdrawal will become a political necessity because of the inability to create a structure which we can turn over. So I would negotiate with surrounding countries who would be threatened by a terrorist Afghanistan if it emerged." And in this policy prescription of talks, he believes that including Pakistan is "an indispensable part". He is not someone who wants Pakistan cut out of the loop after bin Laden was found hiding deep in its soil. "We should stop beating-up on Pakistan," he says. — Courtesy: The Telegraph

 

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THE AUSTRALIYAN

EDITORIAL

 LESS GETUP! MORE MAINSTREAM

FOR Julia Gillard, addressing the annual ALP conference in her home state for the first time as Prime Minister should have been a crowning occasion.

But with Labor out of government in Victoria and on the ropes federally, Ms Gillard's weekend speech at Monash University was far from triumphant. It amounted to a plea for members to keep the faith. Reporting of the speech centred on a lame joke but the address did provide a window into Labor's current malaise. Struggling to connect with the vital mainstream of Australian political discourse, Ms Gillard focused on a program helping teenage mothers train for the workforce as an example of Labor values. "This is where Labor thinking has to be today," she said. The program seems worthwhile but this was a highly unusual pitch; to suggest Labor's main product differentiation is that it seeks to shift people from welfare to work, something the Coalition also trumpets. Ms Gillard spent a lot of time spruiking climate change policy and the carbon tax, a favourite crusade of Labor's trendy Left. And the joke she told about Tony Abbott being the love child of Sarah Palin and Donald Trump was part of another appeal to the Left, suggesting the opposition was trying to "Americanise" our national politics. So the speech talked about help for those on welfare, attempted to justify the broken carbon tax promise and played to the shibboleths of the trendy, inner-city Left. It offered little to the vast majority of mainstream Australians who populate the nation's suburbs, generate its wealth and make or break governments. A prime minister struggling to connect with the mainstream might have tried to allay concerns about cost of living pressures, economic uncertainty or border protection. Ms Gillard bristles when commentators refer to her leftist past, yet this speech was more like a rallying cry for Get Up! than an attempt to win over working families.

On Sunday former Labor leader Mark Latham explained on the SkyNews Australian Agenda program that dwindling union membership meant it was unsustainable for unions to continue dominating the ALP, which needed to become a "broad-based political movement". Mr Latham argued policy too often had followed ideological agendas when "probably the best thing to do is back what works". A flawed leader, Mr Latham sometimes offers great insight. On this occasion, the Prime Minister would do well to listen to his advice.

 

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    THE AUSTRALIYAN

EDITORIAL

GOING IT ALONE IS POINTLESS

CONTRARY to the preoccupations of the Gillard government's Climate Commission, the most significant issue facing Australians on greenhouse reduction is not how high the carbon tax should be set or whether the scientific link between human activity and greenhouse emissions has been proven definitively: the crucial question is whether Australia is moving ahead of many major economies and our main trading partners.

The Australian, which is committed to a market-based mechanism for cutting Australia's carbon pollution, agrees with the commission's report that investment in low-emission energy is critically important and believes

that as technology stands, it is vital to pursue both clean coal and nuclear energy.

Australia has often outperformed larger rivals in science and technology and has a major opportunity to do so with the challenge of climate science.

But as China heads towards 33 per cent of world emissions by 2030, the US 11 per cent and India 8 per cent, Australia must guard against moving too far ahead in carbon abatement and risking economic hardship for no environmental gain. The warnings of the government's climate change adviser, Ross Garnaut, in his early reports about the potential problems of carbon leakage were pertinent. Enforcing a high carbon price ahead of Australia's trading competitors is to risk trade-exposed heavy industries moving to developing economies where pollution controls are weaker.

Nor would it be rational for Australia to take a lead from Britain, where Prime Minister David Cameron has pledged to cut the nation's carbon emissions in half by 2025 from 1990 levels, provided other European countries follow suit. Britain currently derives about a fifth of its electricity from nuclear power, which it has produced for more than 30 years as coal production has been scaled back heavily.

The picture painted in The Critical Decade by Will Steffen is sobering, at least on paper -- with red graph lines predicting soaring temperatures if carbon pollution is not abated by 2020.

Even more sobering is the hard reality that Australians, who produce 1.47 per cent of global emissions, could abandon the continent and the impact on global emissions, including the future of the Great Barrier Reef, would be negligible.

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THE AUSTRALIYAN

EDITORIAL

BE BOLD, BARRY - POWER IN NSW IS RIPE FOR REFORM

IF anyone still needs convincing of the benefits of shifting energy assets into private hands, they need look no further than the report, revealed exclusively in The Australian yesterday, of the high costs of electricity delivery when governments run the show.

The report released by the Energy Users Association of Australia undermines claims by NSW Labor leader John Robertson that selling energy assets would lead to price hikes and a fall in living standards for struggling families. In an earlier life as boss of Unions NSW, Mr Robertson destroyed Morris Iemma's privatisation plans with claims the then government was guilty of "political arrogance at its highest". In September 2007, he said: "I don't think the private sector is in a position to deliver electricity in NSW without having an impact on workers and on prices for consumers." A few months later at state conference, he argued: "We expect Labor governments to look after the workers that get them elected."

The EUAA report suggests it is Mr Robertson who failed the workers by thwarting a selloff. It shows government-owned electricity networks in NSW and Queensland charge almost twice as much as privately owned operators in Victoria. Thanks to Mr Robertson's union movement, NSW voters have also seen billions of dollars wiped off the value of the state's power assets. The debacle over energy policy helped drive Labor from office in March -- a rout that left none other than Mr Robertson leader of the party, his opposition to privatisation undimmed. That's too bad, given the evidence of greater efficiency in Victoria where the Kennett government privatised in the 1990s -- even if the energy networks there have a denser population to serve.

Happily, Mr Robertson and his union cronies no longer pull the strings in NSW. New Premier Barry O'Farrell has been opposed to selling off the poles and wires but the appointment of former premier Nick Greiner as his infrastructure tsar offers the chance of a circuit-breaker and a bolder approach to privatisation. As the inquiry into Labor's botched privatisation efforts began yesterday, the Premier appeared to open the door to reform.

The EUAA report adds to the pressure for change. The wasteful spending and lack of cost-control suggested in the report are particularly galling for voters at a time when Canberra's plans for a carbon price are adding to the threat of price hikes. Already, ill-conceived climate-change policies from federal and state governments have increased the cost of electricity: state government subsidies for solar electricity have led to carbon emission reductions at a cost as high as $640 a tonne, or 25 times the price under the carbon pollution reduction scheme (or likely carbon tax rate). Mr O'Farrell has made an effort to address this charade with his decision to cut by one-third the price paid for electricity generated under the solar bonus scheme in NSW. It's not popular but the Premier should stick to his efforts to rein in power costs.

The EUAA comparison of the delivery costs of government and privately owned networks underlines NSW Labor's policy failures over several years. The workers, who end up paying the price for such political ineptitude, do indeed deserve better from their governments.

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

LIFE SENTENCES WON'T DO JUSTICE

THE O'Farrell government's pursuit of mandatory life sentences for those convicted of murdering police makes no sense. Like most serious crimes, the offence has many gradations - from cold-blooded premeditated execution through to irrational, spur-of-the-moment violence. No one suggests the state does not owe police a high duty of care or that the taking of a police officer's life should not be harshly punished. But exempting the murder of a police officer from the application of judicial discretion goes beyond enshrining police in a privileged legal status that holds a police officer's life is more precious than that of other citizens, including those called on occasionally to put themselves in harm's way so that others can be safer.

The exemption goes to the issue of legal effectiveness. If the murder of police does not warrant a judge's cool and wise weighing of factors of criminal severity and circumstance, why should we bother with judicial discretion in sentencing for any offence? Simply apply a mandated punishment to fit crime categories across the board, as was tried in NSW with such spectacular failure in the 1890s. Indeed, that initiative was promptly revoked when colonials came to recognise that punishments exceeded the crimes.

The government suggests none of us should be surprised by its announcement of legislation this week to ensure future convicted murderers of police are never released from jail. The Premier said it had been Coalition policy since 2002. But that is only one element of public expectation because the Attorney-General, Greg Smith, promised before the election, and seemingly authoritatively, to end the law-and-order auction that traditionally preceded NSW state polls.

Like his former boss Nick Cowdery, Smith must know that the singling out of murdered police is little more than a sop to the police union and others whose antagonism to judicial discretion appears predicated on the strange notion that being locked away in a jail for several years is a cakewalk, that any sentence short of ''never to be released'' is an incentive to do evil, that the dead are dishonoured and justice is denied if their killers do not cop an eye for an eye.

Smith served as a deputy to Cowdery when the latter was the NSW director of public prosecutions. Now the master admonishes the apprentice. ''It is surprising that a lawyer with Greg Smith's experience would support a retrograde move towards mandatory sentencing knowing that it produces injustice and has no effect in preventing crime,'' Cowdery said.

Welcome to the realpolitik, Mr Smith.

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

THE CLIMATE CRUNCH

THE release of The Critical Decade, the Climate Commission's first substantial contribution to the public's understanding of climate change, ought to end much of the misinformed sniping about this issue. Ought to - but probably will not. Why that might be so can be seen in the response to another climate-related statement over the weekend. The head of TRUenergy, Richard McIndoe, told the ABC program Inside Business that the effect of the federal government's proposed carbon tax would be to frighten off investment in power stations. That would eventually result in a shortage of power, which might lead to the doubling of electricity prices in six years. His words have been received eagerly by those anxious to see the carbon tax defeated - even though that was not his main point.

As the Climate Commission document makes clear, Australia's present debate over climate change is not being waged among scientists, who overwhelmingly regard global warming as a phenomenon caused by human activity. Instead the debate is between scientists, particularly climate scientists, on one side and a motley collection of politicians, religious leaders and media entertainers on the other. In this so-called debate any statement from any source can be seized upon if it gives the climate change deniers a little more leverage against an unpopular minority government. So it was with McIndoe, whose interest is not to pooh-pooh global warming, but to find a stable investment climate for power stations which typically have a life of four or more decades. He believes the carbon tax does not provide stability; an emissions trading scheme, however, would.

His view is shared by other power station operators. Unfortunately, the politics of climate change prevents their wish from being realised. The government sees the carbon tax as the first step towards an emissions trading scheme, with the latter awaiting broader international agreement on measures to combat climate change. Given the fate of the Rudd government's emissions trading scheme, this softly-softly approach seems reasonable. But as the Climate Commission makes clear, time is running out for action if the world is to have a chance of keeping the inevitable warming of the globe below 2 degrees - the point beyond which uncontrolled, catastrophic environmental changes become likely. A lot more needs to be done to reduce Australia's and the world's reliance on carbon-polluting forms of energy. Economic upheaval is foreseeable compared with which a doubling of electricity prices in six years will seem a trifle. The question is whether this rapid change will be managed - as far as that is still possible - or left to chance.

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

SERVICES AND PUBLIC FAIL THE DYING

MOST of us prefer not to contemplate our dying and death. When prompted, nine out of 10 people with life-threatening illnesses want to die at home with their loved ones at their side. Yet only about one in four can do so, largely because palliative care services fall far short of demand, according to a new state government report. About 7500 Victorians miss out on palliative care each year.

This is shameful for an affluent society. It is also poor budget management, since hospital care costs about five times as much as dying at home, the report notes. Palliative care is meant to relieve the pain and distress of people in their dying days, while also tending to their psychological and spiritual needs. With such care, people can die peacefully and with dignity - without taking the path advocated by euthanasia supporters.

John Donne addressed death in a poem that famously begins: ''Death be not proud, though some have called thee, Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so.'' The sonnet is a meditation on why death is not to be feared. Yet, until palliative care is greatly expanded, the fear of suffering and indignity will lead many people to see

All of us will have to confront decisions about palliative care, sooner or later. The state's draft report is open for consultation until the end of June. This is an opportunity for all Victorians to demand adequate care for their loved ones and themselves when the time comes. Unless they do so, and the government responds by boosting palliative care, the situation will become worse.

From 1990 to 2010, the proportion of people aged 65 years and over rose from 11.1 per cent to 13.6 per cent, and is forecast to be 16.4 per cent by 2015. The proportion of people aged 85 and over doubled. Health and ambulance services are all being swamped, and the oldest baby boomers are just entering retirement age.

An ageing society is driving demand, but service gaps also reflect a reluctance to commit funding to services in good time - largely because of political and public hostility to taxation. To meet the looming surge in demand, funding must be increased. As one of the lower-taxing advanced economies, Australia at least has the capacity to do so.

Political leaders won't confront the difficulties of caring properly for the aged and dying, which require a complete overhaul of funding and services, until public opinion demands it. The desire for a peaceful and dignified death for ourselves and our loved ones ought to be enough to get Australians to face up to these increasingly urgent challenges.

 

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

SPAIN: LOOK FORWARD IN ANGER

People are disillusioned with politics and politicians and there are hard times ahead

This was a car crash in slow motion and many in Spain's ruling socialist party saw it coming. Their 20/20 vision didn't make the impact any less painful. On Sunday the socialist vote collapsed. They lost power in most cities and almost all of the 17 autonomous regions, their worst result in local elections in three decades.

With a general election looming in less than a year, the party now faces the prospect of haemorrhaging votes to both right and left. Town halls and regional governments, which jointly account for half of all spending and most of the welfare state, will be in the hands of the rightwing Popular party. They will increase the pace of the spending cuts. But to the left also, the socialists are being shunned by the "indignant ones", the youth generation of protesters who have taken possession of squares and parks throughout Spain.

How far is the prime minister, José Luís Rodríguez Zapatero, personally to blame? His first incarnation was Keynes-lite. Focused on the record unemployment, he set Spain on a course which would allow it to work its way out of trouble. Then came the credit crunch, and the markets started treating Germany and Spain very differently. With the great and the good to advise him – economists Joe Stiglitz and Paul Krugman – Zapatero announced a programme of gradual spending cuts.

But then Greece happened, and Ireland was to follow. Spanish economists may despise the trader's acronym PIGS (Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain) and with it the association with Europe's imploding periphery. But the pressure from the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, grew until Barack Obama himself was on the line. Zapatero performed a spectacular U-turn in May last year, cutting civil service pay by 5% and €6bn of investments. The rest is history. He has been unable since to persuade Spain that a brighter day will dawn. The country probably has less to reproach its prime minister for than either Germany or the eurozone. Unable to devalue his currency, Zapatero was trapped. But that is not how voters saw it on Sunday.

Disenchantment with mainstream politics is growing – one in 25 voters spoiled their ballot papers, although 66% of an angry electorate turned out. Having drowned out the socialists, the protest movement of Puerta del Sol and dozens of other city squares will have a harder time with the right in power. But they should stay put until they produce a coherent set of demands. The movement should neither be co-opted nor ignored. The fact that such debate is happening in squares, rather than parliaments, only shows how wide the gap between established politics and people's lives has grown.

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

PRIVACY: THE HIGH POLITICS OF LOW GOSSIP

Who could have predicted a constitutional crisis between parliament and courts provoked by a footballer

Who, even a week ago, could have predicted a constitutional crisis between parliament and courts provoked by a footballer who played away? Within an hour of a judge refusing to lift an injunction barring the naming of the sportsman at the heart of an anonymous privacy injunction, a Liberal Democrat backbencher, John Hemming, stood up in the Commons chamber yesterday and named Manchester United's Ryan Giggs as the mystery claimant. Then, last night, the high court refused to overturn the now undermined injunction.

The case is, on the face of it, not a terribly attractive one for arguing either the cause of freedom of speech or for the supremacy of parliament. According to the original judgment, the matter involved a strong suggestion of blackmail by the former Big Brother star, Imogen Thomas, who had been trying to persuade Giggs to pay her to keep quiet about a relationship the two were alleged to have had. Ms Thomas had engaged the publicist Max Clifford to sell her story. In March Ms Thomas arranged a meeting in a hotel – very likely a "setup" so that photos could be taken – and demanded £50,000. When Giggs agreed to pay some cash, the silence money doubled to £100,000. This is hardly the stuff of Wilkes, Paine or Cobbett.

Some will disagree with the judge's decision to grant Giggs an injunction, but Mr Justice Eady's ruling can hardly be viewed as completely irrational. He was doing what parliament had asked the courts to do when it passed the Human Rights Act: to weigh up privacy and freedom of expression as embodied in articles 8 and 10 of the HRA. As required by section 12 of the act (at the urging of the press itself), judges must pay special regard to the media's own codes of conduct. The Press Complaints Commission's code guarantees exactly the same rights to privacy as the European convention and the HRA, unless there is a clear public interest in intrusion. The "public interest" includes the exposure of crime or misdemeanours. It's not obvious that an errant footballer clears that hurdle. So Mr Hemming's decision to pitch parliamentary privilege against the courts over this of all cases looks plain frivolous.

His justification was that a large number of users on Twitter had taken it upon themselves to "out" Giggs after his legal team was ill-advised enough to threaten to gag Twitter itself. This led to the apparently absurd situation whereby the press was "unfairly" unable to report something that had been widely published on the web. But this, with the growth of social media and the ability of anyone to publish on to the web, is bound to become more commonplace. People will take it on themselves to flout perfectly reasonable contempt rules (who in their right mind would want to prejudice the upcoming trial of Stephen Lawrence's alleged murderers?). Others have very strong views on the strict rules about reporting the family courts. What if some people on Twitter decided to name rape victims, or publish the current identity and whereabouts of Mary Bell, the child killer was who has, since 2003, been protected by a court order? There must be some agreed idea of the public interest – such as exists in the PCC code. The mere fact of publication on Twitter can't be an excuse for releasing the press from the internet's "unfair" advantage. Indeed, the press generally celebrates the code of practice that lies at the heart of self-regulation. That, it argues, is what raises it above the law of the jungle that supposedly exists on the web. To argue that the press must now be free to publish anything on Twitter places self-regulation itself in some peril.

The attorney general, Dominic Grieve, brought a measure of calm good sense to the affair by announcing a joint committee to investigate all the issues raised by privacy injunctions. A period in the long grass may be a good idea to allow some sense of perspective to return to the debate.

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

IN PRAISE OF ... FOREVER YOUNG

Bob Dylan, may your song always be sung

The world is awash with love songs, but there are too few to sing to friends and children. Bob Dylan's little blessing, Forever Young, is one. It may not be his greatest work, but it has in common with that the sense of having been discovered rather than composed, thanks to an organic blend of melody and pitch-perfect words. (What parent would not wish their child to "build a ladder to the stars" and "climb on every rung"?) The straightforward good-heartedness – "May you always do for others / And let others do for you" – is uncharacteristic, but the man himself must have been happy with it, since he stuck two versions back-to-back on Planet Waves. Singling out a hymn to eternal youth on this, Dylan's 70th birthday, might seem like bitter irony: his weathered looks and creaking voice betray a long life hard-lived. But think again. While the springtime turned slowly into autumn, the song and dance man's soul remained adolescent. Contemporaries such as Sir Paul McCartney are now establishment proper, while rock establishment stars like Mick Jagger strut the stage to defy their age, but in doing so reveal that they haven't felt a real creative spark since the 70s. But like a restless teen who keeps changing his look, Bob never stops reinventing. He goes electric, unplugged or gospel, gets God or loses him. The quality yo-yos infamously, because – besides the harmonica – the one constant is change. We know our wishes will come true when we say to him: may your song always be sung.

 

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THE JAPAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

DIFFICULTY AWAITS IN RECONSTRUCTION

The Reconstruction Design Council, an advisory body for Prime Minister Naoto Kan, is entrusted with the task of drawing a grand vision for the reconstruction of northeastern Japan following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, and the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. Prime Minister Naoto Kan has asked the council to draw a "creative reconstruction plan." He, for example, proposed building eco-towns in the Tohoku-Pacific region, which will be both eco-friendly and resilient to natural disasters.

But many areas in the region, still struggling with the removal of debris, have not yet started concrete reconstruction work. If the council works out a reconstruction vision without establishing a rapport with people in the devastated areas, they will only feel that it is trying to impose its vision on them. The council members should realize that their job is difficult. The devastated areas are vast and the situation is different from area to area.

Council chairman Makoto Iokibe said that the central government should first work out a framework for the reconstruction and that local governments should work out detailed plans. He added that in some cases, it would be better to establish councils of experts in communities within a municipality and to absorb opinions in a bottom-up way.

What he proposed is easier said than done. The council should not only present a grand goal but also draw concrete paths that will lead to achieving of the goal. Without this, the council's plan will lack persuasive power. It should pay special attention to the situation in Fukushima Prefecture, which is suffering from the contamination of the environment with radioactive substances from the crippled Fukushima No. 1 plant. The council should consider how reconstruction will be possible in areas to which residents are unlikely to return for some time.

The reconstruction will take a great deal of time and money. Mr. Kan should seriously consider what kinds of actions on his part will be the best for the rebuilding. If retaining political power is his priority, it would only deepen the misery of disaster sufferers.

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THE JAPAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

JAPAN'S GDP TAKES A HIT

The Cabinet Office on May 19 said that Japan's gross domestic product in real terms in the January-March period declined 0.9 percent from the October-December period in 2010 or an annualized 3.7 percent, marking negative growth in two consecutive quarters. GDP in nominal terms, which reflects changes in prices and is said to more accurately gauge the sentiment people and enterprises have about the economy, fell 1.3 percent or an annualized 5.2 percent.

The figures point to serious damage to the Japanese economy wrought by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami and the accidents at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. The April-June figures will likely depict a gloomier picture because production activities have been stagnant due to the power shortage caused by the nuclear crisis and the shortage of parts resulting from the disruption to supply chains.

Underpinned by strong demand overseas, exports increased 0.7 percent. But capital investment decreased 0.9 percent, the first fall in six quarters. Consumer spending, which accounts for about 60 percent Japan's GDP, dropped 0.6 percent, a fall in two consecutive quarters. The Cabinet Office's consumer behavior survey shows that the consumer attitude index in April dropped 5.5 points from March, the largest drop since April 2007 when the oldest comparable data were available.

The March 11 disasters have caused people to restrain their consumption. Their purse strings are likely to remain drawn tight because the prices of daily necessities, such as bread, are rising.

The spread of radioactive materials from the Fukushima power plant has caused a sharp decrease in the number of tourists visiting Japan from abroad and many tourism businesses have closed. The possibility cannot be ruled out that the restriction on electric power use in summer will worsen the business performance of small or medium-size enterprises, leading to dismissal of workers.

The government should quickly take steps to help brighten Japan's economic prospects. An important step in that direction should be to enact a budget as soon as possible to fund the reconstruction following the March 11 disasters.

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THE JAPAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

INDIA'S STIRRING MIDDLE CLASS

BY RAMESH THAKUR

Special to The Japan Times

CANBERRA — India is on the move, with millions climbing into middle class status and a growing pool of super-rich billionaires. Yet it also has more poor, hungry and illiterate people than any other country in the world; access to safe water and sanitation remains a pipedream for most people and disease is endemic; power, transportation and communications infrastructure are risible; and life continues to be nasty, brutish and short for millions.

Welcome to the land of contrasts, where in the city that hosts the world's largest teeming slum (Dharavi, the setting for the hit movie "Slumdog Millionaire") a multi-billionaire industrialist is building the world's costliest, 27-story family mansion complete with three helipads and six levels of parking.

On May 14, results were announced from elections in four states and one territory. In four cases, incumbent governments were swept away, comprehensively in three and narrowly in one instance. There are two notable features about the results:

(1) In every instance defeated governments immediately and without protests about unfair process or outcome submitted their resignations and new ones will be duly sworn in. (We just have to think of the volatility across the Arab world and recall the presidential victory handed to George W. Bush by the U.S. Supreme Court to appreciate the enormity of India's achievement in instilling elections as a norm beyond questioning for choosing and removing governments.)

(2) In addition to Sonia Gandhi being the most powerful politician in the country, India will now have four women heads of state government responsible for the fate of 368 million people: 30 percent of the country's total population.

A few years ago, in a country that is 80 percent Hindu, the president was a Muslim bachelor, the prime minister and army chief were Sikhs, and the woman behind the throne was an Italian Roman Catholic widow. Diversity and pluralism have no better champion. This is a powerful tribute to the maturity of India's democratic and secular political system.

It also highlights the imperative for good governance: (1) to hold the country together through flexible and pragmatic power-sharing arrangements that promote unity in diversity; (2) to provide the political-legal infrastructure to backstop growth and prosperity that will absorb the world's largest new pool of labor entering the economy each year; and (3) to channel the world-beating creative and entrepreneurial aspirations of the newly empowered young consumer.

Two of the four state results are of national significance. In West Bengal in the east, a communist party in power for 34 years oversaw a stagnation with declining shares of manufacture, capital and intellect flight, and falling educational and health standards and services.

In Tamil Nadu in the south, the head of the state government had installed his family members in the Cabinet, both in the state and in New Delhi, as a junior coalition in the Singh government. In effect Tamil Nadu had become a family profit enterprise. The voters have thrown both sets of rascals out.

As this suggests, contradicting irrational international exuberance, India suffers from some glaring governance deficits. Almost a quarter of the members of parliament face a variety of criminal charges. According to Transparency International, the World Bank and the United Nations, India fares poorly on global corruption, ease of doing business and human development rankings, respectively.

There is a lesson here: market-friendly policies can deliver pro-poor results. And punishing the corrupt would help to attract the necessary investment capital and also maximise the return on it.

Part of the explanation for these pathologies is that the rule of law is more notional than real in India. Australian firms still owed money for work done in the great Commonwealth Games scam have discovered this to their cost. In India law is owned by the politically powerful followed by the economically wealthy.

Justice has not yet been seen to be done with respect to the perpetrators of the anti-Sikh riots in Delhi in 1984 or the anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat in 2002. In both cases, powerful politicians incited the riots that killed up to 3,000 Sikhs and 2,000 Muslims while the police stood by passively. Indian Muslims and Sikhs worldwide are yet to reach emotional closure on those traumatic events.

Now some former high-ranking Congress Party officials do face the prospect of trials for the killings of the Sikhs in 1984 and the Bharatiya Janata Party head of the Gujarat government in 2002 is in the crosshairs of a Supreme Court ordered special investigation.

In the meantime, there have been other high-profile trials and even murder convictions of highly connected individuals, something that would have been unthinkable two decades ago. And some Cabinet ministers are in prison awaiting trial for corruption. There are three explanations for the welcome signs of reform in India's governance:

• The much exaggerated middle class may finally be consolidating as a political force to be reckoned with, especially in the urban centers. Educated and informed, the expanding middle class is starting to assert itself politically by exploiting the citizen's levers in a free society, including the judiciary and a vigorously competitive electronic and print media.

• Rising prosperity of the growing middle class has given many the financial means to travel abroad and evaluate domestic governance against international standards. The more they experience public service, infrastructure and governance in Southeast Asia, Japan and the West, the less they will settle for inferior standards back home.

• Civil society — lawyers, human rights advocates, social activists — has maintained the demand for criminal accountability through the press, the political process and the justice system. In an increasingly networked world, they have often joined forces with international counterparts to publicize, harass and otherwise exert pressure for a settling of accounts in India's notoriously slow courts.

India has an almost unmatched record of looking progress and prosperity directly in the face and resolutely turning its back to walk off in the opposite direction. But for the first time, recent developments suggest that winds of change may be blowing apart the unholy nexus of politics, big money and crime.

Ramesh Thakur is professor of international relations at Australian National University, and adjunct professor in the Institute of Ethics, Law and Governance at Griffith University

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THE JAPAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

DISORGANIZED DREAMS OF EGYPTIAN DEMOCRATS

BY ESTHER DYSON

NEW YORK — The Internet is an extraordinarily powerful tool. It has changed how we do business, how we do politics, and even how we change our leaders — at least some of the time. But the ease with which we now communicate, the efficiencies we take for granted, can give us a false sense of how easy it is to follow through on some of these changes. Despite the importance of social media in fomenting revolution, and even in deposing deeply unpopular leaders, governing in the real world is not as easy as governing online.

This struck me recently when I listened to one of Egypt's new online generation talking enthusiastically about the future. His thesis was that once people have tasted freedom, once the oppressive leader is gone, they will naturally live as free people and build a new, democratic society without much central oversight.

I wish I could believe it will all be as easy for Egyptians as a Facebook group.

Generally, the Internet is a tool for people whose basic needs are already being met. Members of the upper middle class in any country, including Egypt, often seem to forget that for most people, the value created on the Internet cannot feed, clothe and house their families.

In centuries past, revolutionaries were farmers or blacksmiths or merchants; now they are Google executives and Facebook friends. The Internet joins the elite of the world. But it also cuts people off from the past and a sense of history. The exciting things that happen online are not the same as what happened offline in countries such as Romania and Kyrgyzstan, let alone in Libya.

In fact, habits are often stronger and more persistent than either insights or presidents. People may want a world free of corruption, but it's hard to understand how such a world works. When you start a new company and you need to register it quickly, how can you get the bureaucrat to do his job and move the paperwork along? In many countries the answer is obvious. From the bureaucrat's point of view, his or her salary might be pathetic, but it comes with a steady stream of facilitation payments. That bureaucrat does not feel corrupt; he plays by the rules he signed on for when he got his job and he does not want them changed mid-game.

Many people are in a similar position, and they all depend on one another to make a corrupt system work. It is difficult for them to understand how it could be any other way. Of course, they know from the media — indeed, from the Internet — about transparency and freedom, but without quite understanding how it works.

I am often reminded of the Russian tech entrepreneur who said many years ago, back when the Soviet Union was falling apart. "It's great!" he said. "Our government is going to set free-market prices just like yours."

I don't want to be gloomy. People in the Middle East and other emerging democracies have definitely changed from their recent experiences and their expectations have been raised. But they need to understand the challenges they face. The Internet may have made this transition seem too easy. In Internet communities, it's fairly easy to build consensus. Membership is voluntary, and people who don't like the rules can leave. Or they can be kicked out: there is no requirement for due process.

Moreover, many resources are infinite on the Internet. People aren't fighting over scarce housing or lucrative jobs. They are befriending one another, sharing information, and accumulating status, points and experiences.

But in the real world, even online, things aren't so easy. Consider eBay, a wonderful and mostly successful melding of the online and offline worlds. It has a huge budget devoted to deterring and detecting fraud, and it can simply ban fraudsters. The company's success makes governance look easy, but that success is misleading. Unlike eBay, a country needs to put its criminals in jail and keep them there; it can't simply cancel their accounts.

Every society has its bad actors and it needs an established (and accountable) authority to deal with them. Otherwise, the bad guys will take advantage of the good ones. What that means is that the newly freed people of the Middle East must toughen their idealism with hard realism. They need to figure out how to negotiate and work with existing power structures — such as the army and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.

Like it or not, they cannot do that as a brigade of flower children; they need to pick leaders who can speak for them and negotiate for them. The modernizers need to form a coherent force — and most likely a political party — rather than simply relying on the wisdom (and good behavior) of the crowd to govern the country.

That does not mean that activists should abandon the cause for which they are fighting. But it does mean understanding that even democracy has many rules — ideally rules that a majority has chosen. But they are mostly not chosen directly; those rules generally reflect compromises among elected representatives who can argue and negotiate in person.

That may sound a little too much like the old system, but it doesn't have to be. Online, if you don't like the rules, you can simply leave and form a new community. Offline, you need to stay and help to change the rules for everyone.

Esther Dyson, CEO of EDventure Holdings, is an investor in a variety of startups worldwide. Her interests include information technology, health care and space travel. © 2011 Project Syndicate

 

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THE JAKARTA POST

EDITORIAL

THE NON-ALIGNED ENGAGEMENT

PENI HANGGARINI

The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) is conducting its 16th Ministerial Conference and Commemorative Meeting in Nusa Dua, Bali, from May 23 to 27. The event serves as a significant forum in the history of NAM, which was established 50 years ago.

Created with only 25 member states in 1961, now the movement has grown and will welcome Fiji and Azerbaijan as candidate members. In the forum, 118 member states, 18 observer states, 10 observer organizations and at least 30 invited countries will attend.

After the Cold War ended, questions were always raised about the movement's relevancy in responding to contemporary global issues. On its 50th anniversary, the questions as to NAM's relevancy should be replaced by questions about how to generate a sense of optimism for NAM's real contributions to global problems in the long term, at least for another 50 years.

At the Bali meeting, members will discuss the final document from the 15th NAM Meeting, held in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, from July 11 to 16, 2009. The document notes issues that deserve attention from NAM members.

Some of those issues are the problems of the global economy and monetary issues, the need to uphold the commitment to the United Nations (UN) charter and international law and the need to increase cooperation between developed and developing countries in an era of crisis that has been hindering economic and social development. In all, NAM is trying to pursue the interests of its members, particularly in an era of global governance crises.

The redefined goals of NAM in the document meet the relevancy of the changing contemporary world. However, the dynamics of global problems are part of an ongoing process of globalization. NAM should continuously refresh its goals to remain relevant in confronting global problems.

Yet, doubts are lingering. Domestic upheavals in member states are prevalent, not only those evidenced recently in Egypt, Libya and Bahrain. Other members are also suffering from internal political problems, including good governance problems. The internal problems, to some extent, have unavoidably influenced regional and international stability instead of creating a conducive environment for international peace.

Thus, how can we expect the movement to function as a whole in order to resolve transnational governance problems? It is also doubtful how member states can transform that spirit or the ability to deal with good governance.

NAM's potential contribution to global problems is highly expected. Its solidarity built among members serves as more than a great asset for the movement in becoming a partner with other groups of nations such as developed countries.

NAM's membership has reached more than half of the UN's membership. Hence, NAM member voices, both as members of the UN or as a movement, can be influential in serving member interests in creating international peace.

The Bandung principles delivered at the Asia Africa Conference in 1955 have proved significant for this movement. Also, the interpretation of NAM's goals and its capacities have been relevant for the contemporary world.

However, to be continuously relevant in the longer term, it is not the movement per se that needs to be redefined with the changing international environment. Instead, members also need to reconsider their engagements with the movement.

NAM needs members that can maximize the movement as a means to achieve the ends of peace creation. The engagement of member states should not be limited as only reserved engagement. Using numerous potential tracks for cooperation, members should have benefited more from this movement.

In this Bali meeting, the clear track to achieve the movement's goals in any development and anti-colonial initiatives need to be highlighted.

Member states do not need to be worried about major power interventions in the movement. Unlike any other "club", NAM does not offer perceived risks and dangers from major powers' involvement, as those powers were not included in this engagement since its inception.

NAM urgently needs to increase its potential problem-solving capability to accommodate global problems both through formal and informal arrangements. As one of the movement's founders, Indonesia can play a potential role in this case, as well as the engine for solidarity and optimism in the movement's future.

After all, the movement is another good chance to implement Indonesia's independent and active foreign policy in the longer term, at least for another 50 years.

The writer is a lecturer in the department of international relations at Paramadina University in Jakarta. She is also a Fulbright-DIKTI Ph.D. student in the department of political science at Northern Illinois University.

 

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THE JAKARTA POST

OVERCOMING THE THREAT OF POPULATION BOOM

SUDIRMAN NASIR

Several government officials, demographers and public health analysts have recently reminded us that the threat of a population boom in Indonesia is real.

In point of fact, population growth in the country during the period from 2000 to 2010 was 1.49 percent per year, compared to 1.45 percent during the period of 1990
to 2000.

The rate translates into at least 3.5 million births per year, which will significantly augment Indonesia's current population size of 237.6 million people.

In just five more years, Indonesia's population could swell to more than 250 million people. Furthermore, the United Nations has predicted the country's population will reach 263 million by 2025.

We should look at the above figures as an early warning, indicating the possibility of a multi-dimensional crisis in the next 15 to 30 years. For sure, the rise of annual population growth rate will over-stretch and overload Indonesia's limited resources as well as trigger various social, economic, security, ecological and public health problems in the coming years.

The fact that population growth tends to concentrate among people in the lower socio-economic background exacerbates the above data. Poverty, lower access to contraceptive methods compared to people from higher socio-economic backgrounds and lower levels of awareness of the importance of family planning and small family ethos are some factors that facilitate the rapid population growth among low-income people.

Lower adherence to family planning, therefore, may aggravate low-income people's health and wellbeing, worsening the cycle of poverty.

It is worth mentioning that in the past, Indonesia had a relatively successful family planning program. Since its initiation in 1970, the National Demographic and Family Planning Agency (BKKBN) had organized numerous efforts to make contraceptive methods better available and accessible to Indonesian families, and to promote the norms that support smaller families.

These programs contributed to the rapid increase in the contraceptive prevalence rate from 26 percent in 1971 to 60 percent in 2002, and decreased the total fertility rate from 5.6 to 2.6 during the same period. However, the 1997 economic crisis that hit Indonesia caused a severe financial crisis in the country and triggered a significant decrease of financial allocation to support family planning programs.

Furthermore, the decentralization policy after the fall of Soeharto's authoritarian regime that change responsibility from national to local governments in organizing family planning had contributed to a deterioration of the programs.

In fact, most heads of districts and cities in Indonesia do not perceive family planning as their priority and therefore do not provide sufficient political and financial commitment to support it.

There are several reasons why population growth is highly likely to concentrate among a low-income population.

First, according to the supply-side point of view, the lower contraceptive prevalence among people from lower economic backgrounds should be attributed to the fact that low income couples experience more constraints obtaining contraceptives because of financial difficulty or geographic isolation.

Second, from the demand-side perspective, attitudinal and cultural factors, including attaching high value to large families or viewing children as valuable assets as old age security may push poor couples to try to have large families and prevent them from accessing and using contraceptives.

Numerous studies found that the desire for more children, resistance to family planning and small family ethos or fears on negative health effects of contraceptive methods are among many other reasons for not using contraceptives.

Additionally, poor families are also highly likely to be less educated and less exposed to media that may promote family planning and the norm of having a small family.

It is therefore important to educate and increase the access of people from lower socio-economic background to contraceptive methods such as offering contraceptives at subsidized prices or free of charge. It is also important to reduce cultural and attitudinal barriers to family planning among people from lower socio-economic backgrounds.

Comprehensive health promotion programs, increasing the level of awareness of the importance of family planning and providing incentives for poor families to utilize contraceptive methods are needed.

Advocacy to provincial, city and district governments to provide more political and financial commitments to support family planning, particularly among the low-income population, is also crucial.

In addition, comprehensive interventions to reduce poverty and socio-economic marginalization are urgently needed since these contributed in creating and maintaining cultural barriers to family planning and hindering access to contraceptive methods.

The writer is a lecturer and researcher at the Faculty of Public Health, Hasanuddin University, Makassar.

 

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THE JAKARTA POST

EDITORIAL

INDIA'S NAVAL MODERNIZATION PROGRAM ( PART 2 OF 2 )

BRUNO ALEXANDER DE PAIVA

India's economic and energy security also stands to benefit from its regional engagement. India's demand for oil has risen sharply over the last decade as its economy continues to grow rapidly. Between January and October 2010, India imported US$82.1 billion worth of oil, the majority of which was sourced from the Middle East.

India, like China, has also invested heavily in Sudan's hydrocarbon industry and has established an Exim Bank of India credit facility worth $640 million for the development of Ethiopia's sugarcane/bio-fuel industry.

Overall trade between India and Kenya increased to $1.5 billion in 2009-2010, making that country India's sixth-largest trading partner. India also agreed to give Mozambique $500 million of credit in 2010 and both nations have stated a goal of increasing two-way trade to $1 billion by 2013.

Many of India's newfound economic, energy and strategic interests are thus well entrenched in Indian Ocean states. A revamped navy will help India to strengthen these interests well into the future.

While the West may welcome India's naval expansion and modernization as a counterweight to China's growing influence, India's main rivals China and Pakistan have responded with growing unease and have reacted by enhancing their own naval capabilities.

While China has used its expanding political and economic clout to gain influence in the Indian Ocean region, there are indications that it is also responding to India's overtures by fast tracking the development of its own blue-water naval aspirations.

Given the strategic competition that exists between India and China, the development of blue-water capabilities could put the two nations at greater odds with each other in the future.

Just as for India, the need to ensure continued access to energy reserves and mineral deposits, maritime trade and new markets is key to China's desire to secure influence in the Indian Ocean region.

China, like India, remains heavily dependent on access to oil, natural gas and mineral deposits in Africa, Central Asia and the Middle East to enable its economy to prosper.

The prospect of serious naval rivalry in the Indian Ocean, if left unchecked, could indeed become a reality in the years ahead. As the third-largest body of water in the world, the Indian Ocean has much less operating space than the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and risks becoming increasingly crowded.

China has responded to India's growing naval capabilities by enhancing its relations with countries along India's borders, such as Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar and Sri Lanka. In 2008, China overtook Japan to become the largest national donor to Sri Lanka. China has also become a principal arms supplier to Sri Lanka after the US stopped selling arms to Colombo in 2007.

China has built a deep-water port in Myanmar at Kyaukpyu on the Bay of Bengal coast and has assisted in the construction of a naval base in Sittwe, also on Myanmar's Bay  of Bengal.

In 2007, China donated an aid package worth $10.5 million to Bangladesh and has assisted it in building an anti-ship missile launch pad near the Chittagong Port, which was completed in 2008.

In March 2011, the Chinese government announced a $19 million military aid package for Nepal, largely in the form of medical equipment, logistics and engineering equipment.

Such initiatives indicate that China intends to rival India for strategic influence in what New Delhi sees as its backyard. For New Delhi, that makes India's naval modernization program crucial to ensuring control of its sea lines of communication.

India's naval modernization plan could also trigger a response from its traditional archrival, Pakistan. India already enjoys strategic leverage over Pakistan through its relations with Afghanistan and presence at Tajikistan's Ayni Air Base.

Pakistan's small coastline and comparatively inferior naval force makes it easier for India to blockade it. Such a situation would increase any sense of insecurity in Pakistan's government and armed forces. Pakistan has undertaken a modernization of its own navy in response to India's plans.

In March 2011, Pakistan's Defense Ministry asked the Cabinet to approve the purchase of conventional Chinese submarines. Pakistan has also undertaken a plan to build four F-22P class frigates with the help of China; the first entered service in 2009. Given the traditional rivalry between Pakistan and India, the modernization of both their navies has the potential to further inflame tensions in the region.

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. His primary areas of research include Chinese-North Korean relations and geopolitics in the Indian Ocean. 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 the member publications of Asia News Network (ANN).

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THE JAKARTA POST

EDITORIAL

SRI LANKA: CONFRONTING THE KILLING FIELDS

STEVE CRAWSHAW

A hard-hitting UN report has found compelling evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity during the final phase of the war in Sri Lanka in spring 2009.

In the face of repeated government denials, the report's authors reckon that up to 40,000 died in just a few terrible months in spring 2009 — kept out of the sight of television cameras, and out of the politicians' minds. The report calls for an international investigation, which could have far-reaching consequences.

Members of the Non-Aligned Movement, as they meet in Bali this week, have a critical part to play in ensuring these terrible abuses never happen again and that survivors of the conflict can seek justice, thus laying the groundwork for reconciliation.

They should encourage the UN and the government of Sri Lanka to implement the panel's recommendations on accountability, including the panel's call for the Secretary General to establish an independent mechanism to investigate these allegations.

In the lead-up to second anniversary of the end of the conflict on May 19, governments have praised the report — and then seemed ready to bury it. A different ending can, however, still be achieved.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon commissioned the report, but he and governments alike have so far failed to act on its main recommendation, a commission of inquiry — despite the fact that Ban and Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa jointly promised accountability.

The report, which talks of "a grave assault on the entire regime of international law", provides a chance to achieve reconciliation through truth and accountability, providing the stability that post-conflict Sri Lanka badly needs. It corroborates the evidence that human rights groups have been putting forward for the past two years.

If its recommendations are acted on, it may be possible to ensure accountability for the crimes committed by both sides. Conversely, the failure to act would be a missed opportunity on a grand scale.

The authors document violations by the rebel Tamil Tigers and Sri Lankan government forces alike. The UN Panel of Experts, who wrote the report, comprise a strong body of experience and expertise: Marzuki Darusman, former Indonesian attorney-general; Steven Ratner, professor at the University of Michigan and an expert on the laws of war; and Yasmin Sooka, who was a member of South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Crimes included the Tamil Tigers' use of human shields and the shooting of civilians who tried to escape the deadly trap in which they were caught, and the targeted shelling by Sri Lankan forces of crowded hospitals and civilian encampments inside an area which the authorities macabrely called a "no-fire zone".

Despite all this, governments have stood back. Robert Blake, US assistant secretary of state, argues for an internal Sri Lankan inquiry instead of the international investigation that the report calls for. Others have not even gone that far.

A credible domestic investigation would be welcome — but the word "credible" is the sticking point. The UN report concludes that the Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission, which the government set up to look into the war and its aftermath, is "deeply flawed" — in short, a continuation of what a 2009 Amnesty International report described as twenty years of make-believe.

An international inquiry, by contrast, would help Tamils and Sinhalese alike accept the reality of the charges leveled against the Tamil Tigers and Sri Lankan government forces, where there is currently too much denial.

In different contexts around the world, we have seen that acknowledging the truth of violations on both sides is a first step towards reconciliation.

The Sri Lankan government talked of "zero civilian casualties", even while the bloodbath (to quote UN on-the-ground spokesman Gordon Weiss) was under way.

Some took the Sri Lankan declarations at face value, despite abundant evidence to the contrary. As a human rights advocate in New York at that time, I remember a Security Council ambassador explaining that he hoped Sri Lanka would "continue" its policy of minimizing civilian casualties — a policy which, he implied, had enjoyed success so far.

Ban Ki-moon, contradicting his own panel of independent experts, suggests he can only establish an investigation with the consent of the government concerned.

That would set a sad precedent in terms of diminishing the moral authority of the Secretary-General's post. Ban, who faces re-election later this year, can still show leadership on the issue (just as he did by creating the Panel in the first place), not least by urging that the UN Security Council should act on the report's recommendations.

Some conclude that the deaths of tens of thousands of civilians somehow don't matter, as long as the Tamil Tigers — a group which was listed as a terrorist organization in many countries — were defeated.

The world's generals and politicians alike must understand, however, that there can be no justification for war crimes and crimes against humanity. What the UN report describes as the "discourse of triumphalism" finally needs to be confronted.

The UN report is not published in isolation. A Channel 4 television documentary, Sri Lanka's Killing Fields, will be broadcast early in June in the UK.

The one-hour program looks set to include footage not previously broadcast, as well as a shocking video of summary execution and rape-murder which Channel 4 News already aired (the video was denounced by the Sri Lankan government as a fake, and later authenticated by UN experts).

The UN report gives governments — at the Security Council in New York, at the Human Rights Council in Geneva and at the gathering of the Non Aligned Movement in Indonesia on May 23-27 — a wake-up call to ensure a measure of accountability. That historic opportunity must be seized.

The writer is international advocacy director of Amnesty International, whose 2011 annual report was published on May 14, 2011.

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DAILY MIRROR

     EDITORIAL

 

 

CRICKET ELECTION OR SKANDAKUMAR REPORT?

The speed at which cricket administration's behind-the-scene big hitters Thilanga Sumathipala and Jayantha Dharmadasa raced for a toss-up at a possible Sri Lanka Cricket election would have taken no one by surprise. Such a race had been written between the lines in the scorebook for the past four years after both men had been dismissed hit-wicket by the head-umpire who had not taken to the field but made his decisions after watching the game on his giant television screen under the shade of some trees.

Now not only the spectators but also the cricketers will be witnessing the developments in the run-up to the election, if there'll be one, with much interest. Whoever wins, we hope he will work towards a clean administration free from corruption instead of trying to protect private interests amid the money spinning Indian Premier League, the proposed Sri Lanka Premier League and other T-20 tamashas that will be lined up.

But the main question on the minds of those who want cricket to be cricket and not big business, will be whether an election is the solution to the grave crisis that has hit Sri Lanka cricket where the establishment has virtually been turned upside down and corruption is at its worst while the millionaire players are allowed to pick and choose the matches they will play.

As things stand, the pavilion politics appears to have already begun and the fear is that thuggery, intimidation and vote-buying may feature prominently in the race to become the keeper of not only the nation's passion but also the most influential and richest sports organisation where income and expenditure are counted in hundreds of millions. Some sleazy characters have already remarked that they will "rob and plunder with interest" if their camp is elected. This sends a chilling message whether cricket in Sri Lanka will degenerate from no-balls to bodyline bowling.

We are all for democratic elections to pick the men who will hold the bat straight in a new Sri Lanka Cricket administration whether it is Mr. Sumathipala or Mr. Dharmadasa. But after what has happened to cricket over the past decade and may be half a decade prior to that with elected bodies taking centre stage, it is important to ask whether a change in the system to make way for a Board of Governors to run the affairs of the game is an acceptable solution.

After all, we know the integrity of the men who had served Sri Lanka cricket with honesty and dignity.  Won't it be prudent to have on this Board of Governors men in the mould of S. Skandakumar, Michael Tissera, Sidath Wettimuny, Ana Punchihewa, Neil Perera, Roy Dias, Rumesh Ratnayake and Michael de Zoyza if they are willing and available.

It will make interesting reading if one can only take a look at the "Confidential Report" of Mr. Skandakumar who headed a probe committee that inquired into the team's conduct in the mid 1990s that made startling revelations and recommendations that are said to have paved the way for Sri Lanka to win the World Cup in 1996. We are not saying that it was a miracle report, but at least it helped draw the lines between player and administrator with each man knowing his responsibility and where discipline and accountability were part and parcel of the whole establishment.

What Sri Lanka Cricket needs today is not a popularity count, but yet another Skandakumar Report to put the team and the establishment back on the right pitch.

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DAILY MIRROR

EDITORIAL

SHE IS NO MORE – YET CONTINUES TO BE

The Rose that lived with thorns
Has withered
But not before being pierced through
Leaving behind the fragrance of her life so sweet
For us to remember…..

How good she has been;

How she used her goodness
To make others happy and gay.

I have seen her in tears
But she never became the cause
For any others' tears.

The depth of her suffering
We shall never know.

I could hear her faint voice
"………My life is spent with sorrow
And my years with sighing
My strength fails because of my misery
And my bones waste away."

How unfortunate we are.

We could not repay her smile
Which she shared with us so abundantly.

Now she has gone to eternity
(Although it is too early)

That is her reward for believing in God.

Her life- suffering and relief at the end
Should be just enough for others
To change their ways-behaviour.

(In remembrance of Kalzumi, a friend so dear, so   loving, so kind So generous…

WE ALL MISS HER)

-CBEU, SBI BRANCH

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DAILY MIRROR

EDITORIAL

THE ANTI-NATO PROTESTS

The furore in Afghanistan over the latest NATO attack that killed four Afghans, including two women, has caught on with another round of protests being staged in Taloqan.

An earlier protest had led to the deaths of 12 people as the situation got out of control when security forces opened fire to stop almost 2,000 enraged protesters from looting and attacking a German base.  Though there has been growing resentment against the foreign forces with every strike in which the civilians have been killed, the unusual thing about these protests is that these have taken place in the largely peaceful province of Takhar.

In addition, the Afghan government's denial of the last NATO attack having been a joint operation has been challenged by the international security alliance. Kabul, of course, would not like to be associated with any operation that may trigger an anti-government drive at this point. President Hamid Karzai has been a vocal critic of the civilian killings at the hands of the International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF).

In fact, the Afghan leader has raised this issue at every forum, urging the need to avoid any civilian death for the implications for both Kabul and the allies' war efforts.  Despite the constant warnings, and the earlier military focus on avoiding civilian casualties, one finds a regression in practice. Over the past many months there has been an increase in civilian deaths.

The problem is bigger than just quelling an odd protest in one part or the other. With the war entering a decisive phase, the insurgents are also likely to exploit the public sentiments against the Coalition. An effective mobilisation against the foreign forces may prove highly detrimental for both the Coalition and the government. While military strategists and those on the battlefront are not incorrect in explaining the difficulty in avoiding civilian casualties, it does not justify the killings. Accepting Western forces who are largely viewed as occupying forces has been hard enough for the Afghans. On top they have to contend with the massacre of women and children and unarmed civilians in accidental fire or night strikes. 

It is time that the coalition understand the necessity of separating short-term possible gains from firing wildly at presumed insurgents and relying more on human intelligence and planning operations against confirmed insurgent strongholds or hideouts.

Khaleej Times

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DAILY MIRROR

EDITORIAL

SOME THUGS CAN'T EVEN NAME THEMSELVES…

It has been reported that Rajiv Gandhi, on his way to sign the Indo-Lanka Accord, had told Tamil Nadu politicians that the agreement he was to sign with the then president of Sri Lanka, J.R. Jayewardene, would bring Sri Lanka under the Indian orbit, just like Bhutan.

The before and after of the Indo-Lanka Accord is well known, but considering the recent joint-statement issued by the ministers in charge of external affairs of the two countries, it is worth a recap.  India, under Rajiv Gandhi and before him, under his mother, Indira Gandhi, armed, funded and trained Tamil separatists from Sri Lanka and as such has remained the principal instigator of and contributor to terrorism and all its horrendous and tragic consequences.  

The 'after' of the Accord saw the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) engaged in wanton acts of brutality against the very people whose interests the accord was supposed to uphold. The IPKF is guilty of destruction, torture, death, displacement, rape, petty theft and other such 'peaceful' operations in the Northern and Eastern Provinces. Having rescued the LTTE from certain defeat via the Accord, India ended up having to deal with the wrath of the terrorists it spawned, breast-fed, spoon-fed and gun-fed.  'Tail between legs' was how the IPKF left Sri Lanka.  By this time, natural antipathy to a regional thug had beefed up the fascist JVP of Rohana Wijeweera to launch its second and infinitely more bloody insurrection, leaving 60,000 dead in just over 2 years.

India left behind one thing. The 13th Amendment to the Constitution, whose political worth lies in the legitimacy it gives to the boundaries of the Eelam map, never mind the objections of history, geography and demography.  While some say that India did help Sri Lanka in combating the LTTE, i.e. after 2005, no one can claim that such 'help' did not come with a political price tag.  It was not about a friendly and repentant neighbour doing the right thing. It was the neighbourhood thug engaged in extortion.

Today, two years after terrorism was vanquished.  We celebrate this moment and must remember that we can do so mainly because of the political leadership, the security forces and the citizenry of this country.  If India helped (even grudgingly) in some manner, we would say 'thank you', but we need to point out that it is the least that India could do, considering her considerable and significant contribution to problem-cause.

The statement referred to above clearly indicates that we should be sober in our celebrations.  It is one thing to defeat the LTTE and quite another to keep separatism at bay.  The one did not follow the other and only the naïve would believe that it should.  The LTTE represented the military option of the separatism, and for a time it did seem that guns could carve an Eelam out of Sri Lanka, whereby a community with no historical claim, amounting to less than 6 percent of the population (counting out Tamils living outside the so-called 'traditional homelands'), would get control over one-third the land area and half the coast.  After the military option petered out, Tamil chauvinism had to get back to what I call the Chelvanayakam Option -- a little now, more later – with 'little' being the legalizing of the homeland claim (not even supported by myth, by the way) through the 13th Amendment.

What's the source of India's fascination with the 13th?  Right now, the Congress Party is deep in some foul smelling matter.  Scandals, mismanagement and the usual dissatisfaction with incumbents have seen a drop in popularity, a decline which has found articulation in electoral debacle.  Tamil Nadu returned not ally but opponent.  It is clear that retaining power at the next General Election could come down to obtaining Jayalalithaa's support or else neutralizing it.  For all the antipathy that her state has toward Tamils from Sri Lanka when they do come there, either as refugees or on visit, the idea of a Tamil Homeland and related sloganeering continues to have a lot of political currency.  Placating Tamil Nadu is not a political choice for the Congress Party. It is an imperative. A 'must'.

The wording of the 'Joint Statement' indicates a lot of arm-twisting on the part of Delhi.  Mentioning 'investigations into allegations of human rights violations', shows that Delhi must have cited moves by international thugs to harass Sri Lanka; it's got 'we will protect you brother, but at a price,' the cost being the 13th Amendment, which too has been mentioned.  Well, mentioned with a 'plus sign', meaning land and police powers (included in the 13th as of now) and other things besides.  In reality, the small print is about editing the concurrent list in favour of Eelamist positions.

The Joint Statement shows that Sri Lanka's Minister of External Affairs had positioned himself (and thereby the country) as Indias vassal. There's no mention of India's endless wars, crimes against humanity, lack of domestic mechanisms to investigate known crimes against humanity (in Kashmir and elsewhere) and Sri Lanka's concerns about these followed by India's commitment to addressing them.

Why should Sri Lanka give guarantees of any kind to India?  Sure, Sri Lanka is not as big as India, has a smaller economy and even though the average standards of living are far superior, Sri Lanka doesn't have the fire power or the bucks that India can mobilize.  Sri Lanka is a smaller market and therefore cannot use its population statistics as leverage. For example, 'we are a huge market, remember!' is not a flag that can be waved to ward off the would-be de-stabilizer.

Sri Lanka has one thing that India does not, a 'one thing' that has stood us well over the centuries when dealing with invaders.  A sense of dignity.  Whatever is bartered away by politicians, the people recover, sooner or later. Whatever the costs!  The costs, in this case, will most definitely be a major electoral reversal for those who sell out.

Sri Lanka did not become another Bhutan.  It will not.  Where Rajiv Gandhi failed, his wife will not succeed. Where J.R. Jayewardene failed, G.L. Peiris will not succeed.

Twenty seven thousand members of the security forces paid with their lives to defeat the LTTE and keep separatism at bay.  Close to a hundred thousand of our citizens perished in this 30 year long conflict. Sixty thousand were killed in 1988-89 and India helped in that particular 'evacuation' by way of the Indo-Lanka Accord.  We have seen enough blood, courtesy of our neighbor.  They can make us bleed, again and again.  But death comes slowly.  This is something that India should realize. G.L. Peiris too. And of course Mahinda Rajapaksa.    

Malinda Seneviratne is a freelance writer who can be reached at msenevira@gmail.com

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DAILY MIRROR

EDITORIAL

PREMATURE GOODBYES TO SCHOOL-LIFE

 Whoever who thought distributing stationery and uniform material among the children who are in need of assistance is a lasting solution to the increasing number of school dropouts, they are seriously not in this world.

Recently, newspaper reports revealed that nearly two hundred thousand children had said goodbye to their school-life prematurely. It is rather sad that in a country where the education is free to every child and the text books and uniform material are provided by the government, the number of school dropouts is continuing to climb up the ladder.

Every time the issue has been discussed in the open, the first thing that escapes the notice of those who are concerned, is the fact that providing occasional material help, such as a pile of exercise books once a year is not a realistic attempt to send children back to school.

When the society questions the parents as to why their children have stopped their school education, they put forward their readymade answer- poverty. What is hidden behind the answer is that, the parents do not realize the value of education. In some instances, the children become breadwinners of the family or sometimes baby-sitters for their own younger siblings.

This is a common occurrence among the families in the estate sector, where the eldest kid stays behind to look after the younger siblings. What is sadder is that the parents, who resolve to burden the kid with the household work, do not see the importance of education; rather they are too uneducated to understand the value of education.

Apart from that, there is a certain sect of parents who think sending their children to school and providing for their education is a burden. They do not give any sort of assistance, let alone being keen about their studies. This lack of enthusiasm on the part of the parents scars the children's attitudes towards education in a major way.

The unseen side of the story is that, teachers paying less attention to slow, or below-the- average learners is another reason for these premature goodbyes. It has been a common scenario that the students who get top marks or do homework regularly steal the spotlight, while the not-so-keen learners always sit in the back row of the class. It is high time, even the student who scores the lowest at the term test be given a chance to sit in the front row.

Child labour, used in the estate sector and the sexual exploitation of children that is occurring along the coastal belt are two dark repercussions of school dropouts. Parents using children to fulfill their economic needs, has to be changed before the rural poverty devours the poor childhoods.

Until poverty alleviation becomes a total reality, there are a few practicable steps that can be taken to keep the children's attendance to school in tact. Making the school a pleasant place to attend, is certainly going to work the magic; this includes attitudinal changes of the teachers towards the slow and below-the-average students.

Making the parents realize that without education, their children's future would be as bleak as theirs is something that can be done without much effort; for those who can not afford to send their kids to school are the ones who were not being sent to school by their own parents.

Article 28 of UNICEF Convention on the Rights of the child states, "States Parties recognize the right of the child to education, and with a view to achieving this right progressively and on the basis of equal opportunity." While 'equal opportunity' has become a mere dream, children's right to achieve it 'progressively' is something that has to be assured by the adults-the state, the school authorities and the parents all alike. When money allocations end up in unknown pockets, NGOs and INGOs only know how to distribute their branded stationery and CSR projects are only there to put the companies in angel-robes, schools continue to close down and desks and chairs go vacant.

Don't look for him, he is not there, he is in a line-room putting his siblings to sleep!

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DAILY MIRROR

EDITORIAL

WILL LEADERSHIP TRAINING PROGRAMMES BE OF VALUE?

Seldom does a day pass without some strange events arise in our Paradise Island. Giving the amount of contradictions that arise no wonder Sri Lanka will be considered the wonder of Asia. The recent event of ordering new entrants to the Universities to enter army camps for a leadership training programme is one such development which had never been heard in this country. Strangely a Supreme Court's request for the authorities to postpone this training programme at least by one week till a fundamental rights petition against it has been taken up has been ignored by the Ministry. One does tend to wonder in such a situation whether the Supreme Court's request has a relevance to what some bureaucratic kingpin in a Ministry decides to do. Perhaps the rights of students have not been considered a constitutional right especially when a Ministry of Higher education official decides that leadership training is a requisite in a University system that was established in this country. This move has drawn criticisms from the opposition, student groups and human rights groups as the nature of compulsory military type training seen in conscription. Further one tends to wonder whether young Buddhist monks too who have gained entrance to the University will have to undergo such training and how it will impact on the religious training that they have received.

Higher education in Sri Lanka has been based on the several prominent Pirivenas from early times. The origins of the modern university system in Sri Lanka dates back to 1921 when a University College, the Ceylon University College was established at the former premises of Royal College Colombo affiliated to the University of London. However, the begin of modern higher education in Ceylon was in 1870 when the The University of Ceylon was established on 1 July 1942 by the Ceylon University Ordinance No.20 of 1942 which was to be unitary, residential and autonomous. The University was located in Colombo and several years later a second campus was built in Peradeniya. University of Ceylon became the University of Sri Lanka follow in the University of Ceylon Act No. 1 of 1972 resulting in a more centralized administration and more direct government control, this gave way for creation of separate universities after the Universities Act No. 16 of 1978. Now it appears that the government made it mandatory for all students selected for undergraduate courses in state universities to undergo compulsory leadership training at service camps in almost every camp in the island, from Trincomalee to Mahiyanganaya.

Surely a three-week leadership course is not going to have such a tremendous impact on a young student who  perhaps will  for the first time be away from home  and will have to adjust to what to many of them will be an alien atmosphere. Many distraught parents who had been requested to bring various items such a two pairs of shoes , white sheets , pillow cases etc . For the parents of the first batch of students have left their tearful children in these camps which apparently have a dormitory type accommodation.

 Most schools have Cadet Corps, Scouts and Girl Guide organizations surely these could have been used to provide the leadership training. Perhaps even at this stage the ministry officials who are praising the scheme  that appear to have been formulated  by them should let the public know what this training will entail  so that parents and students sitting for the university entrance will be aware of what the government is expecting of the future University entrants. 

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DAILY MIRROR

EDITORIAL

SACRED SCRIPTURES AND INALIENABLE RIGHTS

BY JEEWAN THIYAGARAJA

Rights cannot simply be derived from legal precedents of the past, nor from empirical evidence or logic, but require a "leap of faith." Support in religious traditions not only provides a foundation for rights, which may otherwise appear to be merely the consensus of a particular culture or a particular time, but also translates the imperatives of rights into the moral and spiritual language of different religious and cultural traditions. This allows more people to claim these rights as their own heritage and strengthens the contemporary affirmation that fundamental rights are, in fact, universal.

Countries in South Asia are characterized by a rich diversity of peoples, languages, religions and cultures. At the social level, religious fundamentalism and discrimination based on caste, race, gender and ethnic origin contribute to serious abuses and propagate discriminatory practices. At the grassroots level, citizens are challenged by violent internal conflicts, social and economic exclusion and makes the struggle for human rights more necessary than ever. At the same time greater cooperation in some places among people of different faith traditions and the support within their communities make the struggle for access to rights more encouraging.

Over the past few years communities of experts have been working on a draft declaration focused on the importance of human rights education and training. Concomitant with this process has been a burgeoning awareness among experts, practitioners and educators of the importance of religion in shaping the culture of rights over the course of this new century. During the 16th session of the Human Rights Council held in Geneva recently , the draft Declaration was passed. Article 5.3 of the Declaration states: "Human rights education and training should embrace and enrich, as well as draw inspiration from, the diversity of civilizations, religions, cultures and traditions of different countries, as it is reflected in the universality of human rights."

Buddhism and care for animals

The Court of Appeal recently, by way of an interim measure, enabled a Steering Committee to ensure humane treatment of all animals taking note of non-violence and care for animals prescribed in Buddhism.  The Acting Director General of Animal Production and Health has set up the Steering Committee to implement existing laws and regulations for the prevention of animal cruelty, ensure their  protection and promotion of welfare of animals and facilitate humane treatment of  all animals. The committee  comprises representatives of Police Department, Department of Wildlife, Department of Animal Production and Health, respective District Secretaries or their representatives as well as the Petitioners in the Writ application. The Petitioners wanted prevention of cruelty towards animals, measures for promulgation of regulations and rules under existing Parliamentary Acts, revision and re-consideration and review of the existing archaic guidelines and regulations on animal welfare.

Dharma and Law

The idea of dharma as duty found in India's ancient legal and religious texts is that there is a divinely instituted natural order of things and justice, social harmony and human happiness require that human beings discern and live in a manner appropriate to the requirements of that order.

Our Constitution and laws are rooted in notions of the Dharma to protect citizens, fauna, flora and animals. The Court of Appeal would not have otherwise have recognized the functions of the steering committee.

This writer has sought from the the President regulations and licensing  which ensure adequate food, water, health care, and where necessary, exercising of animals as mandatory for those running places of breeding and sale of animals.

The prevention and mitigation of cruelty against animals is a responsibility of duty bearers of. Two recent reports speak of crude explosive wrapped food set by poachers blowing the inside of the mouth of animals searching for food when hungry. When the jaw is fractured, animals are unable to eat and they die slowly even if antibiotics treat the wounds. One elephant died after suffering for one and half months and another bull is dying, slowly in pain. In both instances relief has been slow and inadequate and the killers remain at large.

This is repeated in small and bigger ways by cruelty in which citizens barter with impunity, the rights of animals who can neither speak nor seek justice through the law. With the Court of Appeal taking leadership on this subject, dharma should confront laws and prevail over cruel humans.

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DAILY MIRROR

EDITORIAL

IS SRI LANKA REVOLVING OR DEVOLVING?

In a significant Vesak declaration the Minister of External Affairs Dr G.L. Peiris changed attire to play Santa Claus to the 13th Amendment [13th] by agreeing with the Indian government for " A devolution package building upon the 13th Amendment, would contribute towards creating conditions for such reconciliation". No doubt, words he would have carefully chosen because he is not known, notwithstanding any other possible shortcomings, for a shortfall in his knowledge of the English vocabulary.

Grapevine sources say it was approved in Colombo after his earlier draft was comprehensively rejected?  It is unfair to fault Peiris; being responsible, he would have consulted the President.  Did we compromise too much in New Delhi, with a feeble negotiating team that had their eyes blindfolded and hands tied at the negotiating table, with hard talk, that Colombo found it hard to structurally modify the draft beyond a limit?

Previously the team to India led by Basil Rajapaksa with Lalith Weeratunga and Gothabhaya Rajapaksa were keener in mind and stronger in heart and countered India positively and won the day in the more troublesome days of the war. The mystery is why the team composition was changed? Can we send a junior team of rookies to play an Indian A team studded with pinch hitters?

 So it is 13 plus, for sure. Would it have been better if Poor Professor Peiris, stayed at home and maintained discreet diplomacy? He could have avoided the joint communiqué that will haunt him for many full moons. He had a ready card the government smartly plays at other times. LLRC is deliberating after public hearings-await their interim recommendations. LLRC probably is the sole surviving institution that has earned universal respect –the President's brainchild. It is logical to bide time, till they recommend.

According to the joint statement with India, devolution beyond the 13th Amendment [13th] is the formula for reconciliation? This is a phrase, with diminished ability to perceive, coined in New Delhi. Possible a line force-fed in India in failing to find a suitable phrase in favour of the 13th. Naïve is the word, closest to reconciliation, in this context.

 Many thoughts had been expressed in the search for reconciliation but the 13th, never came close for consideration due to the many ruptures  it caused. It has been a monumental failure that pleased none but India (the architect of the 13th) desirous of keeping all its neighbors eternally in a tangle by prescribing medicine that will disorient the patient.

 The standard Indian rope trick is to unbalance Sri Lanka. TULF knows the magnetic appeal the 13th has on India and dangled it before the Government trio negotiating with them. [Ratnasiri Wickremanayake realizing a time bomb was ticking under the negotiation table tendered his resignation.] TULF has the right to play to its strength. India will use the big stick to enforce it.

Game India, is transparent-they orchestrated the dialog between Government and the TULF - placed the 13th on the negotiating table with a friendly word in ear of the TULF. Then from a safe distance, watch with glee as the Government encounters problems with their loyal brigade that traveled solidly with them, during times of war and peace, in the firm belief it will not compromise to create the initial trappings of a federal state, the entrance to Elam. UNP craftily encouraged the Government to fall into the Indian trap. UNP waits to counter that the safeguards they introduced to the 13th are being dismantled. TULF will accept 13 plus and openly back the UNP at an election to travel the extra distance to the Promised Land.

 India- has the Asian cunning that the West lacks in South Asian matters-in making a regime change while being the unseen helping hands between the Government and the TULF. The UPFA or UNP in office matters least to India. It is the two Rajapakses'- Mahinda (MR) and Gothabhaya (GR)- that counts in a meaningful regime change to India and the West. [If MR falls GR follows is the grand design India seeks to make Sri Lanka politically and militarily weak.] India with a single communiqué throttled us to the extent of suffocation knowing well the West are after a pound of flesh. India 2011 is what Norway until 2009 was to Sri Lanka!

The answer to reconciliation is to settle the legitimate grievances of the Tamils. Making the TNA politicians that stood with the LTTE until vanquished, stronger with the 13th, without attending to the crying needs of the Tamil people who had to flee from the captive hands of the LTTE; is to place a hungry fox in charge of the home chicken run.

Tamil people will be at the mercy of the TNA politicians who will take them on an avenue named Federal pushing to an Elam state in the making. Is this the kind of reconciliation that the joint communiqué contemplated?

Peiris spoke of a 'devolution package' with the nostalgic memories of his authorship of the discarded 'political package' in days he was in the arms of Chandrika Kumaratunga. In the snug days with Ranil Wickremasinghe he extolled the Cease Fire Agreement.

Now it is 13 + as the formula for reconciliation for Mahinda Rajapakse? Folklore depicts a servile donkey as a carrier of a heavy burden on behalf of his current master to be unfairly treated with a carrot or a stick? Have mercy; some are more wronged than the wrong.

Is the concurrent list to be dispensed as a building block in constructing a devolution package?  The concurrent list is embedded in the Indian Constitution. So is it in the Malaysian and Pakistan Constitutions.Is India insisting we erase it at the bidding of the TULF?

H.L. de Silva in his article on Concurrent Powers and Devolution in Sri Lanka in the book Sri Lanka: A Nation in Conflict argues strenuously to retain the concurrent lists with cogent reasons as it would otherwise lead to a federal image.

The desire to omit the list of powers and functions to be concurrently shared by the Centre and the Provinces in the distribution of powers appeared at the time the Chandrika Kumaratunga government published the Constitutional Proposals of November 1999 with G.L.Peiris as her Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs.

 The concurrent list was removed by the Chandrika Kumaranatunga Government in the Constitutional Bill to repeal and replace the Constitution presented to Parliament on 3rd August 2000 by her Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs. Public opinion compelled the government to withdraw the Bill.   

Mangala Moonesinghe Select Committee suggested the dispensation of the concurrent list in its report published in the Parliamentary series No 47 of 12 November 1993.

Whether you are for 13 plus or minus, keep eyes glued on the concurrent list to watch the possible revolving or devolving exercise that India on behalf of the TULF will perform.

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GULF DAILY NEWS

COMMENT

KICKING IDEAS AROUND...  

BY B COMBER

Football is not, I must confess, something to which I generally give much thought. The idea of 11 players competing against a similar group to determine which of them is superior at kicking a ball into a net has always struck me as rather absurd and taking an interest in others doing so is even more so. Yet I have found myself pondering the fortunes of some of Britain's leading football clubs over the past few months and feel that I have spotted something that others have missed, which could make a great difference to their success.

Let us start with the team known, for some reason or other, as Arsenal. Not long ago, they were priding themselves on still being involved in all the competitions they had entered, yet within a brief period they were knocked out of everything. This, it seems to me, must have been caused by some sort of lapse of concentration and I think I have identified what caused it: the name of their manager.

Monsieur Wenger is, I am sure, as wise and knowledgeable on the subject of football as anyone, yet his players cannot, I feel certain, be happy about the pronunciation of his name.

He makes no secret of the fact that he is a Frenchman, yet he pronounces 'Wenger' in the German style. Surely a Frenchman ought to say something closer to "Vahn-Zhay".

Imagine the effect of a similar thought occurring to one of his players about to attempt some difficult kick.

"I do hope I get this right," the player will think, "or Monsieur Wenger will be most upset." Then he will pause and think, "Or is it 'Vahn-Zhay'? He says he is French. His first name, Arsne, even has a grave accent on it, yet he pronounces his surname 'Venger' in the Teutonic style. That cannot be right." And while he is thinking all this, he will miskick the ball, missing another opportunity.

The players representing Chelsea must have a similar problem, not with their manager but their owner. While exhorting themselves and each other to do their best for Mr (or should I say Gospodin) Abramovich, they too will pause to ask themselves which syllable the stress falls on: is it A-BRA-mo-vich or A-bra-MO-vich? The normal rule in Russian is that if it is a patronymic, meaning son of Abram, serving as a middle name, it is pronounced A-BRA-mo-vich, but if it is a surname, it should be A-bra-MO-vich. Yet the British Press and perhaps even the man himself while in this country, go for the A-BRA-mo-vich version.

Surely, with a ball whizzing past their feet or heads and members of the other side trying to take it from them, the poor players have better things to worry about. It is no wonder they occasionally make mistakes.

Is it any wonder that the men from Manchester United are doing better? There are not that many ways one can say "Sir Alex" or "Ferguson".

Yet there is, for the Arsenal and Chelsea chaps, a way out of this dilemma. All they have to do is get the Manchester men to ask themselves whether it would be more correct to address him as Sir Alexander. That should level the playing field.

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TEHRAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

HOW MANY SEALS DIED?

BY PAUL CRAIG ROBERTS

In a sensational and explosive TV report, the Pakistani News Agency has provided a live interview with an eyewitness to the U.S. attack on the alleged compound of Osama bin Laden. The eye witness, Mohammad Bashir, describes the event as it unfolded. Of the three helicopters, "there was only one that landed the men and came back to pick them up, but as he (the helicopter) was picking them up, it blew away and caught fire." The witness says that there were no survivors, just dead bodies and pieces of bodies everywhere. "We saw the helicopter burning, we saw the dead bodies, then everything was removed and now there is nothing."

I always wondered how a helicopter could crash, as the White House reported, without at least producing injuries. Yet, in the original White House story, the SEALs not only survived a 40-minute firefight with Al-Qaeda, "the most highly trained, most dangerous, most vicious killers on the planet," without a scratch, but also survived a helicopter crash without a scratch.

The Pakistani news report is available on YouTube. The Internet site, Veterans Today, posted a translation along with a video of the interview. Information Clearing House made it available on May 17.

If the interview is not a hoax and the translation is correct, we now know the answer to the unasked question: Why was there no White House ceremony with President Obama pinning medals all over the heroic SEALs who tracked down and executed Public Enemy Number One?

The notion that Obama had to keep the SEALs' identity secret in order to protect the SEALs from al Qaeda detracts from the heroic tough guy image of the SEALs, and it strains credulity that Obama's political handlers would not have milked the occasion for all it is worth.

Other than on the Veterans Today and ICH Internet sites, I have not seen any mention of the Pakistani news story. If the White House press corps is aware of the report, no one has asked President Obama or his press spokesperson about it. Helen Thomas was the last American reporter sufficiently brave to ask such a question, and she was exterminated by the Israel Lobby.

In America we have reached the point where anyone who tells the truth is dismissed as a "conspiracy theorist" and marginalized. Recently, a professor of nano-chemistry from the University of Copenhagen made a lecture tour of major Canadian universities explaining the research, conducted by himself and a team of physicists and engineers, that resulted in finding small particles of unreacted nano-thermite in dust samples from the wreckage of the World Trade Center towers, in addition to other evidence that the professor and the research team regard as conclusive scientific proof that the towers were brought down by controlled demolition.

No American university dared to invite him, and as far as I know, no mention of the explosive research report has ever appeared in the American press.

I find it astonishing that 1,500 architects and engineers, who actually know something about buildings, their construction, their strength and weaknesses, and who have repeatedly requested a real investigation of the destruction of the three WTC buildings, are regarded as conspiracy kooks by people who know nothing whatsoever about architecture or engineering or buildings. The same goes for the large number of pilots who question the flight maneuvers carried out during the attacks, and the surviving firemen and "first responders" who report both hearing and personally experiencing explosions in the towers, some of which occurred in sub-basements.

A large number of high-ranking political figures abroad don't believe a word of the official 9/11 story. For example, the former president of Italy and dean of the Italian Senate, told Italy's oldest newspaper, Corriere delia Sera, that the intelligence services of Europe "know well that the disastrous (9/11) attack has been planned and realized by the American CIA and the (Israeli) Mossad . . . in order to put under accusation the Arabic Countries and in order to induce the western powers to take part in (the invasions)."

Even people who report that there are dissenting views, as I have done, are branded conspiracy theorists and banned from the media. This extends into the Internet in addition to newspapers and TV. Not long ago a reporter for the Internet site, The Huffington Post, discovered that Pat Buchanan and I are critics of the Iraq and Afghanistan invasions. He was fascinated that there were some Reagan administration officials who dissented from the Republican Party's war position and asked to interview me.

After he posted the interview on The Huffington Post, someone told him that I was not sound on 9/11. In a panic the reporter contacted me, demanding to know if I disbelieved the official 9/11 story. I replied that being neither architect, engineer, physicist, chemist, pilot, nor firefighter, I had little to contribute to understanding the event, but that I had reported that various experts had raised questions.

The reporter was terrified that he might somehow have given a 9/11 skeptic credibility and be fired for interviewing me about my war views for The Huffington Post. He quickly added at the beginning and, if memory serves, ending of the posted interview words to the effect that my lack of soundness on 9/11 meant that my views on the wars could be disregarded. If only he had known that I was unsure about the official 9/11 story, there would have been no interview.

One doesn't have to be a scientist, architect, engineer, pilot or firefighter to notice astonishing anomalies in the 9/11 story. Assume that the official story is correct and that a band of terrorists outwitted not only the CIA and FBI, but also all 16 US intelligence agencies and those of our NATO allies and Israel's notorious Mossad, along with the National Security Council, NORAD, air traffic control and airport security four times in one hour on the same morning. Accept that this group of terrorists pulled off a feat worthy of a James Bond movie and delivered a humiliating blow to the world's only superpower.

If something like this really happened, would not the president, the Congress, and the media be demanding to know how such an improbable thing could have happened? Investigation and accountability would be the order of the day. Yet President Bush and Vice President Cheney resisted the pleas and demands for an investigation from the 9/11 families for one year, or was it two, before finally appointing a non-expert committee of politicians to listen to whatever the government chose to tell them. One of the politicians resigned from the commission on the grounds that "the fix is in."

Even the two chairmen and the chief legal counsel of the 9/11 Commission wrote books in which they stated that they believe that members of the military and other parts of the government lied to the commission and that the commission considered referring the matter for investigation and prosecution.

Thomas Kean, chairman of the 9/11 Commission, said: "FAA and NORAD officials advanced an account of 9/11 that was untrue . . . We, to this day don't know why NORAD told us what they told us . . . It was just so far from the truth."

Vice Chairman Lee Hamilton said: "We had a very short time frame . . . we did not have enough money . . . We had a lot of people strongly opposed to what we did. We had a lot of trouble getting access to documents and to people. . . . So there were all kinds of reasons we thought we were set up to fail."

As far as I know, not a single member of the government or the media made an issue of why the military would lie to the commission. This is another anomaly for which we have no explanation.

The greatest puzzle is the conclusion drawn by a national audience from watching on their TV screens the collapse of the WTC towers. Most seem satisfied that the towers fell down as a result of structural damage inflicted by the airliners and from limited, low-temperature fires. Yet what the images show is not buildings falling down, but buildings blowing up. Buildings that are destroyed by fires and structural damage do not disintegrate in 10 seconds or less into fine dust with massive steel beams sliced at each floor level by high temperatures that building fires cannot attain. It has never happened, and it never will.

Conduct an experiment. Free your mind of the programmed explanation of the towers' destruction and try to discern what your eyes are telling you as you watch the videos of the towers that are available online. Is that the way buildings fall down from damage, or is that the way buildings are brought down by explosives? Little doubt, many Americans prefer the official story to the implications that follow from concluding that the official story is untrue.

If reports are correct, the U.S. government has gone into the business of managing the public's perceptions of news and events. Apparently, the Pentagon has implemented Perception Management Psychological Operations. There are also reports that the State Department and other government agencies use Facebook and Twitter to stir up problems for the Syrian, Iranian, Russian, Chinese, and Venezuela governments in efforts to unseat governments not controlled by Washington. In addition, there are reports that both governments and private organizations employ "trolls" to surf the Internet and to attempt to discredit in blogs and comment sections reports and writers who are out of step with their interests. I believe I have encountered trolls myself.

In addition to managing our perceptions, much is simply never reported. On May 19, 2011, the fourteen-decade-old British newspaper, The Statesman, reported that the Press Trust of India has reported that the Chinese government has warned Washington "in unequivocal terms that any attack on Pakistan would be construed as an attack on China," and advised the U.S. government "to respect Pakistan's sovereignty."

As trends forecaster Gerald Celente and I have warned, the warmongers in Washington are driving the world toward World War III. Once a country is captured by its military/security complex, the demand for profit drives the country deeper into war. Perhaps this news report from India is a hoax, or perhaps the never-diligent mainstream media will catch up with the news tomorrow, but so far this extraordinary warning from China has not been reported in the U.S. media. (I had it posted on OEN.)

The mainstream media and a significant portion of the Internet are content for our perceptions to be managed by psy-ops and by non-reporting. This is why I wrote not long ago that today Americans are living in George Orwell's 1984.

Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Treasury, associate editor of the Wall Street Journal, a member of the congressional staff, and held academic appointments at Stanford University, Georgetown University, VirginiaTech, Tulane University, George Mason University, and the University of New Mexico.

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TEHRAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

NEVER-ENDING IDEOLOGICAL WAR IN AFGHANISTAN

BY KAYHAN BARZEGAR

Undoubtedly, the fact that Osama bin Laden has been killed does not mean that terrorism has been eradicated since he had not played an active role in Al-Qaeda for a long time and was more of a symbolic leader.

The war in Afghanistan was ostensibly started to fight Al-Qaeda, but it gradually took a new direction that was based more on the United States' national and regional interests.

In fact, nowadays Al-Qaeda is regarded as only one of the factors behind the continuation of the crisis in Afghanistan. The U.S. made a great mistake by turning the war into an ideological battle that would have to be a win-lose situation. This paved the way for Al-Qaeda to engage in holy war with the enemy, and this never-ending ideological war drags on and on. In other words, as long as the U.S administration keeps trying to eradicate the Taliban, extremists and ideologues will continue to have a place in Afghanistan.

Al-Qaeda has always been more than Bin Laden. The group has many branches around the world that act with considerable independence.

And as long as the U.S. continues its military presence in the region, the jihadists and extremists will have an excuse to continue the war.

Thus, the U.S. should begin withdrawing its troops from Afghanistan as soon as possible. This would take away the extremists' last justification for continuing the war.

But the war in Afghanistan is not all about Al-Qaeda and terrorism. The war with the Taliban is associated with the internal problems of Afghanistan. The war in Iraq was and continues to be an internal issue as well. Yet George W. Bush tried to turn both wars into ideological battles. But this instrumental approach could only serve the interests of the U.S. and its allies and eventually was a complete failure. In fact, this approach was a strategic mistake that the Obama administration apparently wants to continue.

Paradoxically, Obama's war against terrorism in Afghanistan has only intensified the levels of extremism.

And today, Washington is officially calling for negotiations with the Taliban, which is a 180-degree turnaround from the United States' original ideology in the campaign against terrorism. If the U.S. occupied Afghanistan to suppress the Taliban and its ideology, why is it making deals with the Taliban? Clearly, if the Taliban is given any role in the Afghan government, they will attempt to undermine the coalition government so they can take total control of the government.

Therefore, the prospects for Obama's strategy are not so promising because it will extend the crisis and allow the extremists and jihadists to gain more momentum after the death of their symbolic leader.

Kayhan Barzegar is a professor of international relations at Azad University of Tehran.

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