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Thursday, May 26, 2011

EDITORIAL 26.05.11

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month may 26, edition 000842 ,  collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul


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








































































The horrific practice of female foeticide in our country has yet again been highlighted with the recent publication of a shocking report in the prestigious medical journal Lancet . The figures in the report, if true, should shame us: Up to 12 million female foetuses have been aborted in the last 30 years by couples obsessed with begetting boys. This has led to a sharp decline in the sex ratio from 906 females for every 1,000 males in 1990 to 836 females for every 1,000 males in 2005. There is nothing to suggest that the trend has been halted since 2005 or that it has lost speed. It is clear that the laws against pre-natal sex determination — the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971 and the Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Act, 1994 — have not been very effective despite being amended to meet emerging challenges. It cannot be that there is little awareness about them because the Government has reached out to every nook and corner of the country, including remote rural regions, spreading the message that determining the sex of a foetus is a punishable offence. If the evil practice still continues it is because nobody bothers about these laws. Not just couples who seek female foeticide but also doctors who conduct sex-determination tests are responsible for the continuation of this reprehensible state of affairs. The ban on sex determination has done nothing to deter unscrupulous doctors, ironically many of them women, from conducting tests and aborting female foetuses on the sly for which they charge exorbitant fees. That there have been no worthwhile convictions ever since the laws were introduced tells the reason why they are followed more in the breach than in the practice.

Given the plunging sex ratio it is also clear that female foeticide is not limited to either illiterate families or rural India. It is prevalent and growing among the urban educated classes as well, those sections of our society who are supposed to be leading India into 'modernity'! The mushrooming of clinics that advertise 'assisted reproduction' reflects the extent to which this crime is practised in our towns and cities by those who are supposed to be socially aware. In sharp contrast, success stories in the enhancement of the sex ratio have come from rural areas where poor but enlightened families have emerged as beacons of hope. Community and religious leaders in rural areas have also been playing a sterling role in the campaign for protecting the girl child. For example, many rural areas in Punjab have recorded a healthier overall sex ratio largely due to the active role played by granthis in gurdwaras who have been using their enormous clout over the Sikh community to bring about a radical change in the manner in which people look at the girl child. Fatehgarh Sahib district is a living example of how a social evil can be put to rest and the trend of female foeticide not only halted but reversed. Similarly, in certain regions of Maharashtra — for instance, Chandrapur — local leaders have joined hands to raise social awareness across villages in favour of the girl child. But such happy stories have to be replicated on a largescale across the country if India is to rid itself of a modern day evil that harks back to shameful practices like sati of the past. Mere lip service to the girl child won't do. We must act collectively, now.






It must have been extremely galling for the discredited general secretary of the CPI(M), Mr Prakash Karat, who along with his JNU gang has led the party into political wilderness in West Bengal and prevented it from retaining power in Kerala, to acknowledge that the credit for the LDF's performance in the recent Assembly election, in which it won 68 seats as against the Congress-led UDF's 72 seats, must go to the octogenarian Marxist leader VS Achuthanandan. Instead of strengthening the former Chief Minister's hands in the run-up to the election, Mr Karat had chosen to play a partisan role in the factional war that has plagued the CPI(M) in Kerala ever since its State secretary, Mr Pinarayi Vijayan, found himself a very distant second to Mr Achuthanandan in popularity ratings. Unlike Mr Vijayan, who appears to enjoy the support of his party general secretary, Mr Achuthanandan has a clean reputation, is perceived as a doughty crusader against corruption and is not known to pander to communalism, especially of the Islamist variety, that seems to attract his comrades. If the CPI(M), unlike its pathetic performance in West Bengal where the party has been pushed to the margins of State politics in this poll, has been able to retain its clout in Kerala where it has won more seats than the Congress, it is entirely because of the spirited campaign mounted by Mr Achuthanandan and the consolidation of the Hindu vote on account of the Christians and Muslims rallying behind the UDF for all the wrong reasons. Ironically, if Mr Karat had had his way, he wouldn't have let Mr Achuthanandan contest the election — his name did not figure on the list till popular demand forced a change in the decision not to field him. It would be in order to recall that a similar situation had arisen in 2006, too.

Mr Karat's detractors would not hesitate to suggest that his incapacity to understand ground-level dynamics is matched by his inability to rise above petty factional politics — rhetoric spun around dogma and ideology is no more than a cover for his inadequacies; he presides over the Polit Bureau but it is doubtful whether he enjoys the confidence, leave alone respect, of the members. Yet, the architect of the CPI(M)'s 'strategy' in recent years, with amazing somersaults that saw the party from becoming the 'natural' ally of the Congress at the Centre to turning into its 'ideological' foe, is loath to admit that he has got all his sums wrong. Which only goes to show the extent of both his as well as his party's political bankruptcy. While it is for the CPI(M) to decide its future course of action, the country would heave a sigh of relief to see that the chief practitioner of 'Third Front' politics has been cut to size and his leadership reduced to no more than farce.









India must hasten the process of combat aircraft acquisition to meet the dual challenge posed by Pakistan and its 'all weather' friend China.

At a time when the credibility of the Manmohan Singh regime lies in tatters, thanks to the scandal-a-day allegations of corruption that it faces, the recent announcement of the Government, narrowing the list of qualified bidders, on the acquisition of 126 Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft has, happily, not invited any accusations of corruption, cronyism or nepotism. This is unquestionably because of the impeccable reputation for honesty and probity that Defence Minister AK Antony enjoys in India and abroad.

But, many like former National Security Adviser Brajesh Mishra aver that our defence procurement procedures are "antiquated and excessively time-consuming". They argue that Mr Antony's fixation with his 'image' of impeccable integrity, (he is often jocularly referred to as Saint Antony!), has resulted in serious delays in procurement of vital defence equipment, ranging from Army helicopters and 155 mm Howitzers, to combat aircraft and submarines. Mr Mishra warns that our defence planners have to note that since 2008 the China-Pakistan "all weather friendship" has become a "military alliance directed against India", against which "we may have to defend ourselves at the same time".

The Indian Air Force has a sanctioned strength of 39.5 combat squadrons. Barely 29 squadrons are operational at present. Some of them are equipped with aircraft of 1960s and 1970s vintage. Even with scheduled acquisitions, we will have 39.5 operational squadrons only in 2017. We will then find that facing the China-Pakistan alliance the IAF requires a minimum strength of 45 combat squadrons.

Pakistan's Air Force presently has 22 combat squadrons. It is set to acquire 10 to 12 squadrons of JF-17 and a couple of squadrons of J-10 fighters from China. The latter is an Israeli variant of the F-16. The Chinese Air Force already has 350 'fourth generation' fighter aircraft and is set to have an estimated 300 such combat aircraft based in the Lanzhou and Chengdu Military Regions bordering India. Despite these developments, we have proceeded at a rather leisurely pace with our defence modernisation, though in its growing fleet of Russian Sukhoi 30s, the IAF has one of the finest contemporary fighters.

India has adopted a transparent process of tendering for acquiring the MMRCA. The bids came from Russia (MiG-35), Sweden (Grippen), France (Rafale), the US (F-16 IN and F/A-18E/F Super Hornet) and the European Eurofighter Consortium, comprising Germany, Britain, Italy and Spain, for the Typhoon. Over the past two years, dozens of senior IAF officials have gone through each of these bids meticulously to see how far they fulfilled the 643 parameters the Air Force had laid down.

The aircraft offered have been put through rigorous flight tests in Leh (high mountainous terrain), Jaisalmer (hot desert terrain) and Bangalore, across the coastal belt. A high-level Technical Evaluation Committee laid down the guidelines for offsets India expects from suppliers, with the manufacturers required to effect substantial transfer of the aircraft's technology in an effort to boost India's aerospace industry which lags seriously behind its Chinese counterpart.

Following the rejection of the Grippen and MiG-35 bids, New Delhi recently announced that both the American aircraft, the F-16 IN and the F/A-18, had also failed to meet the IAF's requirements. The Americans argued that their fighters alone possess the unquestionably superior AESA radar, which gives them a combat edge. Moreover, the Americans have looked at the entire MMRCA acquisition in larger strategic terms.

American analyst Ashley Tellis, an expert on Indian defence and nuclear policies, asserted, "The winner (of the MMRCA contract) will obtain a long and lucrative association with a rising power and secure a toehold into other parts of India's rapidly modernising strategic industries. The aircraft will play a vital role in India's military modernisation as the country transforms from a regional power to a global giant." There is 'disappointment' in Washington, DC at the rejection of American bids, especially as President Barack Obama had personally lobbied with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on this issue. Hopefully, the Americans will understand that on issues like the acquisition of the MMRCA, India will not yield to external pressure.

Even the Americans acknowledge that both their warplanes are of relatively old vintage and cannot be upgraded any further. On the other hand, both the Eurofighter and the French Rafale are relatively new and can be upgraded substantially in future. With Pakistan already flying F-16s for over quarter of a century, there was little enthusiasm for the F-16 IN, even though it was a much more advanced version of what the PAF flies. The F/A-18 failed in high altitude flight trials in Leh in early 2010. Its acquisition would have placed us at a disadvantage when facing the Chinese Air Force. In some flight evaluations, the Grippen also performed better than the F/A-18. Moreover, India has found US conditions of end use monitoring of equipment it supplies irksome. Serious doubts also remain about American readiness for transfer of technology, which could substantially benefit our aerospace industry.

The US has little reason to complain when it loses out in the face of international competition. Defence deals with India, even during Mr Antony's tenure, have been substantial and included 6 C-130J Super Hercules transport aircraft, 10 C-17 Globemaster transport aircraft and 12 Poseidon maritime reconnaissance aircraft, apart from the troop-carrying ship, Trenton. India is also set to purchase a substantial number of light howitzers for its Mountain Divisions and consider an offer of 197 helicopters for the Army after having scrapped a deal with Eurocopter following American protests.

Equally, there is no cause for our worthy Communists, who never tire of espousing the cause of the Chinese while turning a blind eye to China-Pakistan nuclear and military cooperation, to celebrate Mr Antony's decision on the MMRCA. Mr Antony has inked more contracts with the Americans than any of his predecessors.

The Ministry of Defence appears to have understandably decided that cost will not be the primary consideration in the selection of the MMRCA. The Eurofighter was sold to Saudi Arabia at a cost of $123 million per aircraft — more than double that of its American and Russian competitors. The Rafale, priced at around $85 million, is also substantially costlier than its American and Russian competitors. The Eurofighter deal with Saudi Arabia was clouded with serious allegations of corruption and kickbacks. This should not be repeated in its dealings in India.

The visual accompanying this article is a photograph of the Typhoon, made by the European Eurofighter Consortium, which costs $123 million apiece.






Snubbed by the Union Government, HR Bhardwaj is now trying to play the innocent victim by pretending he meant no harm to either BS Yeddyurappa or the BJP Government he heads in Karnataka. In fact, he has gone to the extent of calling Yeddyurappa his 'good friend' who enjoys a 'huge majority'. The same Governor wanted the same Government sacked!

Now that the Union Government has rejected Mr HR Bhardwaj's recommendation to impose President's rule in Karnataka, the Governor must vacate Bangalore's Raj Bhavan. He is unwanted, distrusted and discredited in the State. He said recently that he was a guest of Karnataka and thus deserved respect going by the Indian tradition that holds a guest as god. True, but when that god turns demon it is time to exorcise it. While rejecting Mr Bhardwaj's suggestion, the Government issued an 'advisory' to the BJP Government in the State on the points raised by the Governor. This is a fig leaf that he can use to cover his political modesty, but it may not serve the purpose. He has been too widely exposed.

Mr Bhardwaj's political misadventure may yet fetch him some reward. After all, no one seriously believes he created all the turbulence without an assured lifeline from influential people in the Congress and the UPA regime. He is no ordinary Governor. He was until very recently a key member of the Cabinet, and is considered close to 10, Janpath. So, the Central snub notwithstanding, he has his admirers who will work to resurrect him if and when he leaves the State. Reports have it that he may even return to the Union Council of Ministers. If that happens, Karnataka's gain can be the UPA regime's loss, because Mr Bhardwaj's tenure as Union Law Minister was less than distinguishing.

There are only two ways he can shift out: Either voluntarily or being recalled by the Union Government. The Government has already ruled out his recall, because that would have been too much of an ignominy for a loyalist. Besides, the move would have been interpreted as the Union Government's complete capitulation to the BJP. Mr Bhardwaj can quit gracefully — or as gracefully as he can after fruitlessly messing up the State's politics — and leave it to posterity to be kinder to him. Of course, he can also hang on and continue to denigrate the Raj Bhavan till his admirers find him a suitable job.


The fact is, Mr Bhardwaj is the wrong person to be a Governor. He is a politician at heart and loves the skullduggery and intrigue associated with politics. He effectively converted the Raj Bhavan into a den of political subversion. Given his track record he is rather good at the game, if one excludes the Karnataka fiasco. He might just have succeeded here too if things had gone as planned by him and a few others who collaborated with him in the 'oust Yeddyurappa' campaign. To be fair to Mr Bhardwaj he failed not for want of trying but because certain events shot off in a new direction that he neither had plotted nor anticipated. For instance, he had not imagined that the 16 Legislators with whom he had been so indulgent when they raised a banner of revolt against the Chief Minister, Mr Yeddyurappa, would conduct a U-turn just when the time came to deliver the Chief Minister the knockout punch. After their disqualification was set aside by the Supreme Court, these legislators had the opportunity to avenge the humiliation by voting against Mr Yeddyurappa in a trial of strength. But in a remarkable turn of events that took even the seasoned Governor by surprise, the MLAs threw their lot behind the very man they had gone to elaborate extents to dislodge.

Understandably, after — from his point of view disturbing — recent events, the Governor had neither the enthusiasm nor the appetite to ask the Chief Minister for a trust vote. He had loved the mechanism in the past, compelling Mr Yeddyurappa to demonstrate a majority in the Assembly on two quick days late last year. But then he had used those tumultuous occasions to argue that the Chief Minister had survived in a dubious fashion, after the Speaker had disallowed the rebel Legislators to vote and disqualified them thereafter. There was no such happy point to be made this time around, because the Chief Minister would have won with a more emphatic margin after winning over the rebels. So the Governor meekly admitted that a vote of confidence was unnecessary since Mr Yeddyurappa enjoyed a "huge majority". For good measure, he added that the Chief Minister was his "good friend".

It is not clear when this friendship developed or whether Mr Yeddyurappa reciprocates the sentiment. But since we do know that Mr Bhardwaj stands by his friends — recollect how he has backed all the way the rebels and the Karnataka leaders of the JD(S) and the Congress in their bid to displace the Chief Minister — we eagerly await his rendition of yeh dosti hum nahin todenge. For now Mr Yeddyurappa is unwilling to add voice to what should be a duet. Perhaps it's only a coincidence that the Governor should have developed such warm feelings for the Chief Minister after being mauled by legal experts and various political parties for recommending the dismissal of an elected Government that enjoys the majority support in the House, and subsequent to getting gentle hints that the Centre was unwilling to accept his report.

The gush of warmth did not dry out with the unilateral announcement of friendship. The Governor applauded Mr Yeddyurappa for working '18 to 20 hours a day', for Karnataka's welfare. Good Lord, if that is true Mr Bhardwaj has been pushing for the dismissal of a Chief Minister who has been toiling hard for the State's development, not to mention the fact that he commands a huge majority in the Assembly. It is a defining contradiction, but then the Governor has been less than coherent ever since the Centre dumped his report and the Chief Minister won over the rebels.







The world must now seriously worry about the security of Pakistan's rapidly growing nuclear arsenal. The message from Mehran is clear: If Pakistani terrorists can raid a top-security naval airbase in Pakistan, they can attack a nuclear weapons facility too

The attack on PNS Mehran, the Pakistani Navy's important airbase near Karachi, which began at 10.30 pm, Pakistan time, on Sunday May 22, raises uncomfortable questions about the ability of that country's armed forces to defeat terrorism. The attack has some similarities with the 26/11 outrage in Mumbai in 2008. In both cases, well-armed and extremely well-trained terrorists entered building complexes, divided themselves into groups, stayed put, killed and destroyed, and held security forces at bay for prolonged periods — nearly 60 and 16 hours in the case of the Mumbai and Karachi attacks respectively.

The parallel, however, ends there. In Mumbai, terrorists, recruited, trained, and equipped by the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba in collusion with the powerful intelligence-gathering and covert operations arm of Pakistan's Army, the Directorate-General of Inter-Services Intelligence, attacked soft targets like luxury hotels, a busy railway station and a Jewish centre. PNS Mehran, in sharp contrast, is a highly protected restricted area and Pakistan's largest helicopter base. Yet, the terrorists entered it undetected with rocket-propelled grenades, grenades and automatic weapons.


Prima facie, the attack indicates a massive intelligence failure, underlying, once again, the need for a thorough scrutiny of the role Pakistan's intelligence apparatus, particularly the ISI, in the country's 'war on terrorism'. The point needs to be made particularly since the attack came three weeks after the killing of Osama bin Laden and a little over nine days after a suicide attack on Pakistan's Frontier Corps' fort near Shabqadar in Charsadda, which serves as a training facility, on May 13, killing over 80 people and injuring more than 100 others, in two devastating blasts. The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, which claimed responsibility for the attack on PNS Mehran, had also claimed responsibility for that attack. In both cases, it had announced, its aim was to avenge Osama bin Laden's killing.

Surely, the Shabqadar attack should have put the ISI and other Pakistani intelligence agencies into a surveillance overdrive and prompted the defence establishments to step up security. In fact, Pakistan should have made its key defence establishments almost impregnable long ago, and particularly after the terrorist attack on the General Headquarters of its Army at Rawalpindi in October 2009.

Its military establishment's failure to do so assumes a special significance in the light of the ISI's claim, made after Osama bin Laden's killing, that it had no idea that the Al Qaeda leader was living in Abbottabad, a town known for its heavy military presence, in a house located 685 metres from Pakistan Military Academy, the premier institution for training regular officers of the Pakistani Army and the country's equivalent of the US's West Point and Britain's Sandhurst.

Even if one chooses to believe this breathtakingly incredible claim in respect of officers at the ISI's topmost echelon, especially its Director-General, Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha, one can hardly dismiss the thought that a powerful section of the organisation knew of Osama bin Laden's presence and protected him. Significantly, US President Barack Obama has remarked, "We think that there had to be some sort of support network for Osama bin Laden inside of Pakistan." Stating that he did not know whether "there might have been some people inside of Government, people outside of Government" manning the network, he had added, "that's something that we have to investigate, and more importantly, the Pakistani Government has to investigate".

Did these people also provide the support system for the terrorists involved in the May 22 attack, which, as Pakistan's Interior Minister, Mr Rehman Malik, has said, was tantamount to an attempt to destabilise Pakistan? How would these elements react to an effort by the Government to purge the Army and the ISI of jihadis? Will there be a civil war? Or will there by no purge and the current drift will continue, leading to chaos and, eventually, a take-over of the country by fundamentalist Islamists allied with the Taliban and Al Qaeda?

One might have been indifferent to such a prospect but for a simple fact: Pakistan has the world's fastest growing nuclear arsenal and a delivery system which may soon acquire continental reach. What happens if fundamentalist Islamists allied with the Taliban and Al Qaeda take it over or attack a nuclear silo and escape with a couple of warheads? The world needs to ponder.







The military campaign in Libya began with what seemed a narrowly defined mission: To enforce a no-fly zone and protect civilians from attack.

Two months later, the campaign has evolved into a ferocious pounding of the country's capital, Tripoli, in what appears an all-out effort to oust Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. But that goal remains elusive, raising the prospect of a quagmire in the desert. And the political will of the countries involved is being sorely tested.

The Libyan opposition remains weak. Nato, the North Atlantic military alliance which took over command of the campaign from the US on March 31, appears to have no clear exit strategy. Two of the allies, Britain and France, have descended into public squabbling over bringing the fight closer to Col Gaddafi with attack helicopters. And the French Foreign Minister said on Tuesday his country's willingness to continue the campaign was not endless.

Part of the challenge lies in the original UN resolution: It authorised the use of air power but forbade ground troops, even as it authorised "all necessary means" to protect civilians following Col Gaddafi's brutal suppression of the popular uprising against his rule.

From Yugoslavia to Iraq, recent history has shown that ousting a regime through air power alone is, at best, exceedingly difficult.

In Libya, it is not for lack of trying. What seemed at first to be limited strikes on military targets — tanks heading for the rebel-held city of Benghazi here, some anti-aircraft batteries there — has now expanded to the point that early Tuesday saw the biggest bombardment of the capital since the conflict began.

The targets have come to include, for example, Col Gaddafi's presidential compound; one of the leader's sons was killed on April 30. Nato's official line is that the compound was a command-and-control center and it was not trying to kill Col Gaddafi. But clearly no one in the alliance would have shed a tear had the Libyan leader died.

There are signs of frustration, or perhaps desperation, among the allies. To avoid anti-aircraft fire, the campaign at first relied largely on high-altitude precision bombing, generally from above 15,000 feet (4,500 meters) — nearly three miles (five kilometres) high. But France said on Monday that it now plans to deploy helicopter gunships to hit targets more precisely in urban areas while risking the lives of fewer civilians.

So far, no allied servicemen or women have been killed in the campaign. But by using helicopters and flying far lower, the French would be putting their pilots at greater risk, underscoring their intense desire to finish the Libyan operation sooner rather than later.

"I can assure you that our will is to ensure that the mission in Libya does not last longer than a few months," Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said during a question-and-answer session at the French Parliament on Tuesday.

He said the action "may take days, weeks in my opinion (but) certainly not months."

The danger to pilots could be significant. Although Libya's surface-to-air missile network has been effectively destroyed, Col Gaddafi's forces are said to retain hundreds of heavy machine guns, automatic cannon and shoulder-launched missiles that would pose a danger to helicopters at lower altitudes.

In past conflicts, Nato has shied away from using slow-moving and low-flying helicopters and AC-130 gunships against opponents with such weaponry.

During the bombing of Kosovo and Serbia in 1999, the alliance quickly abandoned plans to deploy Apache attack helicopters after the defenders shot down or damaged half-a-dozen strike jets in the opening days of the campaign.

Not content with their own announcement, French officials also said that Britain would deploy helicopters too. British officials angrily denied that any decision had been made.

Nato declined comment about the proposed deployment of helicopter gunships because none had yet been placed under its command, saying only through a spokesman that it would be "grateful for all contributions".

The US, which launched the international air campaign on March 19 and handed off command to Nato shortly afterward, also welcomed the offer of helicopters.

US officials said on Tuesday that the "robust pace" of strikes in Tripoli was intended to send Col Gaddafi a message that "the pressure is not going to relent".

"It's actually going to increase. I think we want to underscore to Col Gaddafi that the foot is not going to come off the gas pedal in terms of the decisions he's going to have to make," said Ben Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser, travelling with President Barack Obama in London.

"It's a set of messages all of which convey to Col Gaddafi that leaving is in his best interests and the best interest of the Libyan people," Rhodes said.

But a Nato diplomat said frustration was growing in the North Atlantic Council, the alliance's governing body.

"There will be some tough questions asked about the endgame" if the conflict drags on until the end of June, when the military campaign needs to be reauthorised by the council, said the diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of standing rules.

Theo Farrell, a professor of war studies at King's College, London, said the introduction of attack helicopters in Libya might divert potential resources from the war in Afghanistan.

"Since mostly air and naval assets are involved in Libya, these resources wouldn't in any case be useful in Afghanistan," Farrell said. "The only area where it is a distraction is in terms of senior leadership attention and strategic planning."

The choppers, he said, were a different matter. "The more this happens, the more there would be tension about the diversion of resources."

He said this comes at a critical time in Afghanistan, where "the war is being won operationally and lost at the same time strategically" because of growing war-weariness in Nato countries and problems with President Hamid Karzai's Government and the militants' safe-havens in neighbouring Pakistan.

-- AP







The game is afoot in Africa. There was hype in the lead-up to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's appearance at the second Africa-India forum summit in Addis Ababa, and much speculation, some of it unnecessary, about how New Delhi would play catch-up with Beijing in the continent. Singh has managed to answer many of the questions that were raised, and just as importantly, neatly sidestep others about the purported rivalry between the two Asian giants. Engaging Africa is not a zero-sum game. By emphasising a model that builds on historical links and plays to some of India's strengths, Singh has effectively shifted the conversation.

The numbers make for impressive reading - a $5 billion Line of Credit for three years for development projects and $300 million for an Ethiopia-Djibouti railway line, among other initiatives. They must be understood in the context of a key phrase, repeatedly used at the summit - capacity building. This has been New Delhi's thrust since the first summit in 2008 when it offered $5.4 billion for regional integration through infrastructure development. In terms of trade, it isn't even in the same league as Beijing. China-Africa trade in 2010 was $126.9 billion while India-Africa trade was barely $40 billion. But by focussing on leveraging Indian experience in state-building and economic growth, there is a chance to enhance African capabilities, both material and human, in a way that is economically advantageous for India.

A key component of this is the involvement of the private sector. The government should encourage Indian industry to partner with their African counterparts and go local. There has been some rise in private sector involvement since the first summit, but New Delhi must do more: from free trade agreements with various African regions to developing strategic investment outlines that facilitate Indian companies getting the best bang for their buck. Agriculture, education and the IT sector are key areas of focus here.

From historical ties and a large diaspora to goodwill earned through peacekeeping operations and soft power in the form of educational links and film industries, New Delhi has many things going for it in Africa. And the importance of building on those is evident - energy security, the security environment of the Indian Ocean and getting in on the ground floor of what could be a crucial growth story in coming decades. It has been a good beginning. But whether that will mature into a mutually beneficial relationship will depend on New Delhi's capability to forge economic links tempting enough for Indian companies to utilise.







The divide between the rich and the poor in India is indeed a matter of concern. The idiom of a skyscraper next to a slum dwelling is often used to describe the inequality that mars the country's growth story. But in reality the burgeoning middle class - an essential symbol of upward mobility - is often left out of the picture. In this regard deputy chairman of the Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia's recent complaint against the electronic media for exaggerating the rich-poor divide may have an element of truth. There is no denying that stories of success and destitution make for engaging news as opposed to the mundane lifestyle of the middle class. Yet, the world over it is the vibrancy of the latter that is key to determining the socio-economic health of a country. Omitting this crucial middle segment is bound to create an inaccurate narrative of a society in transition.

On the other hand, images of affluence - often frowned upon as insensitive - could work in reverse. In an aspiration-driven society like ours they can be a symbol of hope and what is possible. Instead of the lifestyle of the rich being shrouded in mystique, media images could make them more available and therefore have a democratising effect, leading to greater equality over a longer term. In any case, while images may be powerful tools to mould perceptions they are no substitutes for empirical indices. And here what one needs to look at, apart from indicators of inequality, are measures of poverty and numbers moving into the middle class. Even more than inequality, it's the latter numbers that matter.









It is true that India's child sex ratio has declined alarmingly from 927 girls to 1,000 boys aged 0-6 in 2001 to 914 by 2011, and that there has been indiscriminate violation of the Pre-conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act, that prohibits doctors performing sonography and other tests on pregnant women from revealing the sex of the foetus. However, the government's decision, reported in the Times of India (May 19), to make abortion rules stricter as a means of addressing the dismal child sex ratio is somewhat knee-jerk and short-sighted. Far from halting the practice of sex selective abortion, it will end up making abortion even more inaccessible than it currently is to the poor and lead many to seek unsafe abortion.

In truth, safe abortion services are simply not available to millions of Indian women. Indeed, a recent study conducted by the Population Council in two districts each of Maharashtra and Rajasthan found that hardly any primary healthcare centres and just half or fewer community health centres or rural hospitals offered abortion services. Many women are forced to seek abortion from the private sector and unqualified individuals, and face the risk of complications. Many fear disclosing their unwanted pregnancy to family members or even the husband or partner, resulting in their seeking clandestine services from unqualified providers just because they offer confidentiality.

Many are unaware that abortion is legally available. The poor, the young, the unmarried in particular are so poorly informed about signs of pregnancy, the importance of early abortion (in the first trimester) and the location of safe services that they delay pregnancy termination until they are in the second trimester of pregnancy. And many poor women die from complications of unsafe abortion. As is well known, India has one of the highest maternal mortality ratios in the world, and unsafe abortion is the third leading cause of these unnecessary deaths to women.

Imposing conditions such as mandatory counselling, in which women may be "informed" (or frightened into believing) that abortion can affect their likelihood of pregnancy in the future, and in which women will be asked to go home and "think over" the decision will impose still more obstacles in their search for safe abortion services. Most women do not arrive at the decision to terminate a pregnancy frivolously, and many may prefer to seek an unsafe provider rather than make repeated visits to the facility or be subjected to probing questions. Many may prefer a provider who asks no questions than one who requires women to undergo counselling or to "think over" the decision and return to the facility if abortion is desired, clearly a burdensome procedure in time and money for poor women.

Contrary to public perceptions, most women who opt for an abortion do not do so for sex selective reasons and in order to have a son. They do so because they cannot afford another child, because contraception has failed, because they are unmarried, or because they were raped. These women do not need counselling; what they need is caring and respectful services that enable them to terminate their pregnancy with a minimum of probing questions.

There are, of course, those who violate the law and terminate a pregnancy carrying a female foetus illegally and these individuals must face the full extent of the
PCPNDT Act. But is making abortion difficult by imposing mandatory counselling an appropriate or realistic way of deterring those who seek to terminate a pregnancy carrying a female foetus from doing so?

The practice of sex selective abortion is most rampant in better-off states, in better-off parts of affected states, and among the better-off more generally. Imposing restrictions intended to apply to this group will unfairly disadvantage many others and, most notably, the poor, the unmarried and the young. And how useful will pre-abortion counselling be to women opting for newer methods of sex detection even before conception? And how will it be imposed since most women obtain their abortions from the private and unregulated sectors?

Mandatory counselling will not achieve its objective, and will only end up making the process of seeking abortion services even more difficult than it currently is for poor women. What is needed instead is mandatory implementation of the PCPNDT Act, with severe punishment meted out to providers who break the law, and to women or, more appropriate, the family members at whose behest the sex selective abortion is undertaken.

Also needed are wide-ranging and serious programmes to enhance the status of women and girls: ensuring education and livelihood skills-building for girls, ensuring economic opportunities for them, ensuring their representation in political processes and, in short, making them valuable and equal partners with men in families, societies and national development.

Indeed, programmes must attempt to change norms among the better-off who violate the PCPNDT Act to ensure both a small family size and a made-to-order sex composition of children, and build accountability among the unscrupulous providers who facilitate this practice. Denying women their rights under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act is not the way to go.








Following Dominique Strauss-Kahn's exit, it's a race for IMF's top job. While Christine Lagarde's jumped into the ring, India and other developing nations are seeking to build consensus on an emerging market candidate. Disturbingly, Lagarde's appointment is being pitched as an eventual fait accompli. India's representative at IMF Arvind Virmani has been quoted as saying the post-filling process is being rushed even as emerging economies are exploring a possible coordinated stand. Surely, in a changed world order, economic powerhouses like India and China don't need to accept done deals on the leadership of global financial institutions.

Developed nations publicly say global decision-making must be democratised to reflect 21st century realities. Will they put their money where their mouth is? In 2009, G20 pledged "an open, transparent and merit-based selection process" to choose IMF and World Bank heads. With reason. For over 60 years, Europe's monopolised IMF's stewardship while the US sits entrenched atop the bank. This cosy arrangement was fine when the West's clout was unchallenged. That's no longer the case. More so, in the post-Lehman world where emerging economies have helped the West beat recession's blues by driving growth, providing markets and offering investment havens.

A stakeholder in the status quo, Germany argues IMF's top job must go to a European qualified to handle Eurozone's crisis. That is to assume non-Europeans - irrespective of expertise and competence - can't assess and tackle global challenges. By the same insular logic, developing nations can reject western prescriptions on domestic issues. Is nationality or race to power global economic management? BRICS has rightly criticised nationality-based leadership as eroding IMF's legitimacy. Emerging economies must now put up a meritorious candidate even if the battle is lost in the final bout. It'll serve as strong protest against bullying and opacity in global decision-making.






The clamour for an Indian or for that matter anyone from the developing world to head the IMF is expressed in the language of equality, but actually conceals petty status insecurities. These shouldn't infect Indian decision-making. It should be a function of enlightened self-interest and that dictates we must support Christine Lagarde's bid to head the world's premier financial institution.

Her getting the job would certainly be good for the IMF, but it would also help us since we've no contender. The IMF gains by getting the person widely thought of as the best. Being a woman is a bonus since the organisation has never had a woman chief and staff is agitating against 'a male-dominated workplace'. Lagarde's leadership would be good for us because it would keep the developing world on an equal footing within the body. The thing is we don't know what a developing world chief would do. Agustin Carstens, the Mexican candidate might distort the Fund's policies and that's more than likely if Kazakhstan's Grigory Marchenko got the job, given that Russia backs him. South Africa's Trevor Manual is embroiled in a race row and shouldn't even be in the race. It would be disastrous if the Chinese got their man, Zhu Min in, as might happen now that BRICS want a non-European candidate. Much better then to go for a known quantity and that's Lagarde.

She will focus the IMF's energies on solving the EU's financial worries.
Greece has brought the European monetary union to a crossroads, notes the Bundesbank chief. The IMF can help the EU bridge its troubles and it must simply because the EU is our biggest trading partner. If the EU economy nosedives we too suffer. Moreover, an FTA is on the anvil. Ensuring that it expands trade requires first safeguarding Europe, and who better to do so than a Frenchwoman?







This USama bin Laden business started it all. Emboldened by no-longer-living proof that the world's Most Wanted man had been happily ensconced in his resort-fort in Abbottabad, India decided to strike while the guns were still hot. More quickly than a homemaker's grocery list, the home department cobbled together a list of 'Most Wanted' terrorists allegedly holed up in Pakistan, and dispatched it to our un-neighbourly neighbour.

Sadly, Mr
Chidambaram ended up with not just egg, but the whole incubation unit on his face. The media led by the Times of India revealed that several of the 'fugitives' on his list were in India itself. They were out on bail, in jail or beyond the pale and already onto Virgin No. 69 in paradise.

The red faces at the home ministry, CBI, etc have apparently not deterred other high-and-mighty-now-laid-low-and-turned-plighty. According to my Mole In High Places, they have distracted themselves from their present troubles by making their own Most Wanted wishlists. The unstigmatised are also doing so. Here's a sneak preview. Due to legal considerations, i cannot reveal their full identities, but i will provide a clue after giving you the topmost items on each list.

Since each new 2G entrant at Tihar is greeted with 'Et tu-ji', i will start there.

K's List: Estee Lauder toilet case, even if there's no proper toilet.

Unrestricted anna-amma visits. Ai-ay-yo, not that old Anna, and certainly not the present Amma.

Have had enough of Patiala House courts, want permission to hold court at Jail No. 6 attended by bosses of Kalainagar TV, DB Realty, Unitech, Swan Telecom, Reliance ADAG and all the others who might find themselves in the vicinity. Kalmadi is free to join provided he brings his proven expertise.

Clue: The author of this list was till recently heir to the literary throne of the DMK supremo in dark shades, and the power behind the toppled throne of A Raja.

R's List: Constitutionally enshrined fundamental right to privacy.

Similar guarantee against being misquoted in the British media.

Fundamental right not to be wronged by Indian media.

Clue: He is the sole occupant of the corporate high moral ground, as opposed to the much higher residential ground occupied by his corporate rival. Is particularly sensitive to Radiation.

M's List: Land for the farmer, and for a bumper political harvest.

Disappearing trick for awkward dilemmas such as providing the same scarce commodity for industrial development.

Crumpled whites as new fashion statement, and flip-flops as the new political fashion.

Clue: She is the Kali of Kalighat, the person who can say Ta-ta and buy-buy in the same breath. Rahul-baba seems to have become her follower on all items of this wish list.

K2's List: Item numbers should be considered for the Padma awards, the Sanskriti awards, and the Nobel Peace prize.

Clue: The author of this Most Wanted list is the first item on every Indian male's Most Wanted list.

O's List: World should not periodically proclaim my violent death. It should remember the rejoinder of Mark Twain (whoever this agent of the Great Satan may be) to his obituary in the
New York Journal, 'The reports of my demise have been greatly exaggerated.'

Clue: All clues have been banned by the

As opposed to these fancy items on the Most Wanted lists of national and global celebrities, ordinary people only wish for ordinary stuff such as bijli-sadak-pani/roti-kapda-makaan and freedom from malaria and malpractices. Strangely, this Most Wanted list is the Least Attainable.

Alec Smart said: "When freed, these high-profile prisoners won't be past their cell-by date. Pity."







As far as clever arguments go, Pakistan's favourite ploy of attributing terrorism to non-State actors is wearing a bit thin. The confessions of David Coleman Headley, a key player in the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, suggest that while so-called non-State actors like the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba may have executed the plot, the Pakistani State directly provided money and logistical support to those who carried out the 26/11 operation. So, logically this would mean that the non-State actor was nothing more than a front for the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) whose operatives handled agents like Headley and Tahawwur Hussain Rana, now on trial in Chicago.

Now pushed into a corner, Pakistan seems unable to keep up the pretence that it is a functioning democratic state. After the humiliation of the Americans killing Osama bin Laden inside Pakistani territory, the ISI chief Lt General Shuja Pasha appeared to have forgotten that he is a part of the State when he openly threatened India with retaliation if New Delhi were to try an Abbottabad. Though comparisons are odious, most Indians would not even know the name of our intelligence chiefs. There is now no doubt that there are more terrorists being sheltered in Pakistan. And the argument that the State and its wings do not know of their existence does not wash. The very fact that US President Barack Obama reiterated that he would not hesitate to go in again if there was someone the US wanted suggests that he is not convinced by Pakistan's protestations of innocence.

What is alarming is that despite the embarrassment of Osama bin Laden being found near a military camp and the ease with which militants have attacked a top security naval facility, there appears no introspection in Pakistan as to whether its policy of harbouring terrorists should continue.

Undoubtedly, it feels that this is one way of remaining a major irritant for India but it cannot have failed to notice that even its all-weather friend China seems perturbed by developments in Pakistan. Pakistan's open house policy for terrorists and fugitives is increasingly yielding fewer dividends in demonstrating its relevance. Indeed, the presence
of these subversive elements has been to the detriment of Pakistan, whose innocent people have paid a very heavy
price for the State's shortsightedness. Headley's confessions should provide an occasion to weed out the alleged rogue
elements, if they can be called that, in the ISI and perhaps army. But that might prove difficult today given that the
lines between non-State actors and the State have almost irrevocably blurred.




There seems to be no end to US President Barack Obama's longing to belong. Scarcely were we done with accounts of his boyhood days in Indonesia from his former barber, that we scanned the intricacies of his extended family in a Kenyan village, pausing for breath only to pore over the details of his 'live birth' in a Honolulu hospital. Recently, Mr Obama decided to revive the Kansas-part of his connections, tracing an ancestor Fulmouth Kearney, who had come to the US 160 years ago, back to the 300-strong Irish hamlet of Moneygall. There, in an intense, epiphanic moment, he declared: "I'm Barack Obama, from the Moneygall Obamas".

Now that Mr Obama has kicked up such a storm of multicultural root-tracing, we can only expect other heads of state and government to embark on similar journeys. The Americans are blessed in being inhabitants of a relatively young country, and in going to Ireland, Mr Obama was merely doing what John F Kennedy, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton had done earlier. Not all our movements involve sea-faring voyages, so Prime Minister Manmohan Singh would have to satisfy himself with just stepping across the border to sneak a peek at his native village in Pakistan's Punjab, while the former Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf's mission would stop right here in a Delhi haveli.

While Mr Obama is fortunate in having Kearney, a humble shoemaker's son, as an ancestor, others might not be so lucky, given that our history is a catalogue of colonisation, wars and genocide. No Brit worth his curry, for example, can risk finding an ancestor who looted Indian maharajas in 1857, and it would be extremely unflattering to trace a great grand uncle who might have been one of the early inhabitants of a penal colony in Australia. To avoid such damning disclosures, one might as well let sleeping ancestors lie.




The right spirit

Over the last centuries, proponents of secular ideals have claimed that as societies modernise, the role of religion in public and private life diminishes.

For them, rational thought, science and the ideal of representative governments as sovereign replace religion as a source of authority, regulation and security.

Now, it is being claimed that religion is necessary for us, not despite modernity but precisely because of it. Religion is required in the public space because only faith can  alleviate the pain caused by modern life. Since the 1970s, the secularisation thesis went on the defensive as a tide of religiosity — often 'fundamentalist' in nature — gained influence in the major traditions, including Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and Judaism. Religion thus returned to overtly public and political matters.

But how closely can sacred teachings inform politics and governance? A look at Muslim West Asia shows how the public role of religion has varied over time. The late 19th century saw several religious movements emerge in response to Islam's encounter with European colonialism and modernity. Traditionalists like the Wahhabis sought to preserve their Islamic heritage. Modernism advocated an evolving Islam that would flourish within this emerging modernity. Some others demanded separating Islam from the State.

West Asian public life has been the site of rivalry between a minority wanting to entirely secularise their society and Islamic fundamentalists who oppose many of these modern ideas. Ordinary people, meanwhile, have tried marrying their aspirations for basic rights and better material lives with their religious traditions.

The 1970s revived aggressive religious engagement in society and politics. The 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran bolstered a new era of religious politics by offering a tangible model of Islamic rule. That same year, Islamic militants seized the Grand Mosque at Mecca in a failed effort to dislodge the Saudi rulers. The shocking assault accelerated the rivalry between the Wahhabi and Salafi trends. By the mid-1990s, the public space in West Asia was dominated by Islamic movements, institutions and sensibilities — in mosques, media, NGOs, education apparatus, judiciary and on the streets. Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and Iran became Islamic states.

But an Islamic State carries seeds of its own decline. History shows that a faith-based state inevitably leads to the secularisation of theology, for leaders, religious or otherwise, must respond to the exigencies of governance. Sacred injunctions are bent, revised or cast aside to accommodate the requisites of governance or merely justify power. As in Iran, authorities ignore laws or proscribe people's religious obligations, if deemed necessary to secure the 'religious' state. Religion thus becomes a pliable instrument to serve secular objectives.

Cynical secularisation of the sacred by 'Islamic' states is alienating many Muslim citizens. Even members of the ulema have pleaded for the separation of religion from the State, in order to restore both the sanctity of religion and the rationality of the State. A post-Islamist trajectory is being sought, where faith is merged with freedom and Islam with democracy, where a civil democratic State can work within a pious society. 

For Muslim societies, not modernising is no longer an option. Only a secular democratic State respecting human rights for all can provide good and modern governance for the faithful and secular alike, where religion can flourish while the non-religious and religious minorities remain secure.

Asef Bayat is a professor of sociology and Middle East Studies, University of Illinois. His latest book, Life as Politics: How Ordinary People Change the Middle East (2010), is published by Stanford University Press

The views expressed by the author are personal

This is part of the Religion and Public Space series in collaboration with the UN Alliance of Civilisations and its
Global Experts project




Jairam Ramesh has certainly stirred up an endangered hornet's nest with his comment on the quality of research and the faculty in the IITs. I think he is being unfair.

Not at all, I think this was a first class comment, in fact, he's put his head in the tiger's mouth.

Kapil Sibal can be described as many things, but tiger doesn't spring to mind. I think Jairam was hoping to create a buzz in his old stomping grounds.

I certainly hope that the IITs feel the sting a bit. The teaching could certainly do with more teeth. It's a good thing that Jairam bared his fangs at them a bit.

He probably thinks they are white elephants in this day when educational institutions are as streamlined as cheetahs.
Well, he'll certainly never change his spots when it comes to tearing a strip off others. Wish he'd do the same with his own wildlife institutions.

Maybe he should take the bull by the horns and take over the human resource development ministry in the next reshuffle.
Yes, we do need some biodiversity in the cabinet.

Do say: He's caught the tiger by the tale
Don't say: Cat got your tongue?




It was a warm summer's morning last week in teeming old Faridabad, a chaotic, industrial town where nearly half the people live in slums. Praveen Kumar was talking to students at a government girls' senior secondary school. They complained about the broken fans, and they told him how there was just one sweeper to clean the stinky toilet.

A lean, graying man with a receding hairline and neatly trimmed moustache, 51-year-old Kumar heard them out and said he would return. He went home and picked up a bucket and a broom. "Where are you going with those?" his puzzled wife asked. "Don't lose them."

A homeopathy doctor by training, Kumar is an officer of the Indian Administrative Service (IAS). What he then did is a good example of how a few, committed bureaucrats keep intact this great but rapidly corroding steel frame of the nation.

Kumar went back to the school that hot, summer afternoon, lugging his bucket and broom. As astonished students and staff watched, he swirled cleaning liquid and water into the Indian-style squat toilet. After 20 vigorous minutes, the toilet was clean.

A man cleaning a toilet is, in itself, not an unusual event. But if that man is the deputy commissioner of a town in a country acutely conscious of hierarchy, status and roles, it must cause a kerfuffle.

So it did.

"We could not believe that the deputy commissioner cleaned the toilet of our school," principal Praveen Kaushik told my colleague Prabhu Razdan. Kumar has gained something of a reputation in Faridabad for being a maverick, a non-comformist, the odd one out, says Razdan. In the best ideals of public service, he answers his cellphone at any hour and does not mind getting down and dirty on the job, whether wading in to rescue people from a collapsed building or hanging out with slum dwellers to understand their problems. This hands-on approach to governance understandably vexes many colleagues who do not share his enthusiasm.

Kumar's toilet-training act is now being extolled in Faridabad school assemblies, where students are encouraged to do more for themselves and their campuses. Rajeev Arora, the district education officer, said that Kumar's 20 minutes with water and broom should inspire teachers and more than 150,000 students in 384 Faridabad schools.

There are elements of this story that are equally heartening and depressing.

It is wonderful, of course, that Kumar did what he did. There are more like him than we realise in public service but nowhere near enough. Too many public servants — in case we forget, that is what bureaucrats are — believe their position confers on them a status higher than those they serve.

It is also disquieting, in a sense, that Kumar had to clean the toilet. His actions indicate the rot in India's flailing state, revealing its inability to provide and maintain basic infrastructure like sanitation.

What is most depressing is that most Indians still find many menial jobs beneath their dignity. Cleaning a toilet tops the list, even though Mahatma Gandhi once said the ability to clean a toilet was the key to revolutionising India. Narayan Desai, son of Gandhi's personal secretary and biographer, narrates how toilet cleaning was the great soul's initiation for those who wanted to stay in his ashram, especially a Brahmin. "This person had to pass through an inner struggle," writes Desai. "because for thousands of years his community would never have done such a thing."

Despite Gandhi's effort, Indian attitudes haven't changed significantly. Very few Indians would deign to clean a toilet, and we are dismissive of those who do. Why else would the distasteful practice of manual scavenging be allowed to continue? In case you are unclear about this neat term, it means carrying someone else's shit in a basket on your head. More than half a million Indians still make a living clearing human excreta — delicately called 'nightsoil' — from dry latrines. Though the practice was outlawed 17 years ago, no one has ever been punished, and no one really cared until the National Advisory Council pushed the government to do something.

In January, representatives of 11 state governments and three Union government ministries evolved a plan to end scavenging by building more flush toilets and rehabilitating scavengers. Earlier this month, the Centre reiterated that manual scavenging is a criminal offence and five years in jail can result for those who "violate the dignity of a member of scheduled caste/scheduled tribe". As you may have guessed, scavenging is the preserve of the lowest castes.

Actions like Kumar's are important because they show young India that cleaning a toilet is not just the right thing to do in modern, democratic India but it also teaches you self-reliance and creative thinking. Think I am joking? Try understanding why that ring in the toilet bowl is so hard to remove (Hint: those fancy brushes don't work).

No, I am not a Gandhian, I am not a pacifist, I will eat any or all of God's creatures, you get the picture. But my mother had taught me how to clean a toilet, and when I left home, I found it distasteful that someone should have to clean up after me. It is now a habit, as easy as brushing my teeth or eating.  

If you can't clean your toilet, maybe it is time you learned. Then follow Kumar and show India how.






It's the great theoretical question of our time; if some dinosaurs had a big fight with some aliens, who would win? The good news is that we're about to get a definitive answer: Barry Sonnenfeld has announced that he plans to start work on a film called Dominion: Dinosaurs v Aliens as soon as Men in Black III is completed.

The less good news, however, is that nobody will watch it. This is because, by the time that Dinosaurs v Aliens rolls around, we'll have been hit over the head with such an extraordinary number of similar movies that we won't care whether the dinosaurs or the aliens win. Mark my words, soon we'll all be suffering from versus fatigue.

Already in the pipeline are films such as Strippers v Werewolves, Gladiators v Werewolves, Aliens v Ninjas, Boy Scouts v Zombies, Humans v Zombies, Aliens v Avatars, Cockneys v Zombies (starring Richard Briers and Honor Blackman, of all people) and Michael Bay's Zombies v Robots. Add this to the teetering stack of versus movies made by The Asylum (including Alien v Hunter, Mega Shark v Giant Octopus and Mega Shark v Crocosaurus) and you would be forgiven for despairing at the film industry's staggering lack of imagination.

It isn't hard to see why so many versus movie are being made.
For one, it's an example of the current hunger for genre mashups. Cowboys and Aliens -a versus movie in all but title -looks set to be one of this year's biggest films, and it'll soon be joined by titles such as Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.
And they're an easy sell, too. Scriptwriters don't need to craft detailed treatments about how their story is a rites of passage tale set against the backdrop of war-torn Chechnya. It's right there on page one. It's a versus movie.
Everybody from the initial script reader to the audience will understand that it'll be about two lots of slightly ridiculous things having a scrap.

The problem is that it's lazy titling. All stories need to have conflict, which means that all films are essentially versus movies at heart.
Star Wars is Luke v Darth. The Terminator is Woman v Robot. The Last Station is Wife v Fans. Rambo III is Rambo v All the Entire Soviet Union. Most literature falls into this category too -TheOldManandtheSeacould just as easily have been called Bloke v Fish, RomeoandJulietcould be Montague v Capulet and The Miller's Tale could be Red Hot Poker v Man's Bumhole. But they're not called that because they credit their audiences with a degree of intelligence. That said, I'd totally watch Red Hot Poker v Man's Bumhole.
Especially if it was in 3D.

It hasn't always been like this. There was a time when the word `versus' had at least some degree of ambiguity to it -Kramer v Kramer couldn't be more different from, say, King Kong v Godzilla -but to have so many versus movies all squabbling over the same solitary joke, in such a short space of time, seems like ridiculous overkill. It's time for this fad to end, please, or else it'll be case of Everyone v The Will to Live.

The Guardian The views expressed by the author are personal







India has signalled a robust engagement with Africa through Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to the resource-rich continent that looks to mature into the global economy's newest growth pole in the near future. At the second Africa-India Summit in Addis Ababa, the prime minister stressed the givens of India's Africa policy, founded on the stated objective of "capacity-building" — helping Africans help themselves through supporting infrastructure development, regional integration and HRD. He announced a $5 billion line of credit for development projects over the next three years and a further $700 million for building educational facilities and a business council of CEOs. The PM's speech also evoked the comprehensiveness of the Addis Ababa Declaration and the Africa-India Framework for

Enhanced Cooperation adopted at the summit, committing India and Africa to economic, political and cultural cooperation. Acknowledging this broad canvas, Dr Singh laid out in bold terms India's choice of strategy in Africa — a concrete definition of ends and means necessary from both the Indian and African perspectives.

African leaders themselves know only too well how the advent of globalisation shifted the economic balance of power in favour of countries like China and India, and how that has been fortunate for African states by increasing their own bargaining power with Western nations and financial institutions, thanks to the new opportunities from Beijing and New Delhi. Delhi itself is only too aware of how far ahead Beijing has stridden in Africa. However, the summit also emphasised that India is not in competition with anybody. Its involvement in Africa is on its own terms, at its own pace, for the mutual benefit of both sides. Given India's salient advantages, such as its democratic experience and efficient private sector (the latter's investments interface the continent and Delhi unlike China's state-owned enterprises), and also its resource limitations, India has rightly chosen to chalk out its unique path in Africa, avoiding both the crusading zeal of the West and the cynical non-interventionism of China.

But what Delhi needs next is a system of political accounting at home for its Africa policy, particularly a review system of the aid given to ensure it is not misused. Moreover, aid is rarely called so any more, and India and Africa are growing trading partners. Properly accounted for, this engagement with Africa can be the model for India's strategy in the developing world. As such, India's Africa policy has to be recast in a broader international perspective.






Witness what ensues when every unnecessary remark made by Jairam Ramesh is taken seriously — recently, he declared that the faculty at IITs and IIMs were not "world-class", they produced no worthwhile research and that their reputation rested entirely on their students. Beating up on the IITs and IIMs is to tactlessly puncture Indian illusions without offering any constructive suggestions. In response, IIT/ IIM faculty have sensibly pointed out that research isn't the only measure to judge faculty, that teaching, inputs to industry practitioners and policy interventions were also important criteria, and that "world-class" excellence comes when there's a larger ecosystem of reward and incentive for research, which doesn't exist in India yet.

But the political reactions to the statement have been competitively pointless. HRD Minister Kapil Sibal couldn't resist saying Ramesh's words perhaps reflected his own experience as a student at IIT Bombay. The BJP, seizing a chance to embarrass the Congress over a question of national pride, declared its heartfelt belief in the IITs and IIMs. Party spokesperson Rajiv Pratap Rudy added that we couldn't have world-class institutes until we had world-class ministers. Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari replied: "We do not appreciate the views of third-class persons on who should be first-class." Meanwhile, Ashwani Kumar, sensing a threat to his turf, asserted: "I am the minister for science and technology... I am better equipped to say that our institutions have done us proud."

Ramesh's words have clearly hit where it hurts. But instead of ignoring them, or asking him to back them up with some concrete ideas for improvement, politicians have chosen to respond with these non-sequiturs. After all, Ramesh himself has done much to undermine scientific temper in this country — putting the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee's opinion on par with civil society alarmists, playing his own whimsical politics with environmental clearances rather than basing them on clear, objective criteria. Pronouncements on the value of research and rigour, coming from Jairam Ramesh, are rich.






The declining child sex ratio is proving to be an extremely intractable problem. Routine ultrasound tests, which a pregnant woman needs for health reasons, also easily reveal the gender of the foetus. This has made almost impossible enforcement of the law to penalise doctors/ clinics complicit in revealing the gender of a foetus. (The law, as it operates and is enforced currently, serves no substantial purpose other than to assert, crucially, a parameter for social progress in this country — to defeat discrimination against women.)

Provisional estimates for Census 2011 put the CSR at 914, the lowest since Independence — that is there are 914 girls for every 1,000 boys in the 0-6 age group. The census figures also appeared to confirm what's been more than a suspicion — that regions with relatively strong economic growth were also reporting lower child sex ratios. Now, a study published in Lancet indicates that decline in the sex ratio is greater among families with higher incomes and literacy. It's another reminder that it's dangerous to be complacent and believe a rapid development alone will sort out the sex ratio problem.

Such widespread discrimination continues to take place under the radar of law enforcement. But the extent of the discrimination also makes it evident that at a personal/ individual level such cruel methods carry little stigma. After all, a right (to abortion) integral to women's equality is being used to discriminate against women. That says a lot about gender inequality in large tracts of this country. Governments have to be far more inventive in getting the message across —they need to work at the grassroots level to change the ecosystem that accommodates such discrimination so casually. They should harness local bodies, schools and health centres to spread awareness.








Two stories in the past few days have been very interesting. The first is the ranking published by Quacquarelli Symonds (QS Ranking) of the top 100 Asian universities. IIT Kanpur stands at 36, IIT Delhi at 37, IIT Bombay at 38, IIT Kharagpur at 48, IIT Roorkee at 56, IIT Guwahati at 82. On this list, there are several other universities from Japan, China, Korea, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia. These rankings are based on research output in terms of publications, books, patents, conferences, seminars, workshops and, of course, teaching excellence at undergraduate as well as postgraduate levels.

The second story is about a remark made by an honourable minister of the government of India who is also an IIT alumnus. The comment is about the IIT faculty not being "world-class" but only IIT students being so. The comment indicates that the research at IITs is not of "world-class" standard. This has created a flutter in society in general, and the academic world in particular.

So, what is the real situation at the IITs? The IIT system is 50-60 years old. The first 25 years were invested in creating infrastructure and a new model of technical education. The primary contribution of IIT faculty to India has been in terms of changing the paradigm of engineering education. Engineering science-based education is the single most important contribution of the first generation of IIT faculty. The infrastructure built at IITs as residential campuses too has not been an insignificant contribution of that period. The foundation of postgraduate engineering education was also laid then.

The research work is based on two primary components. The first is dissertations by postgraduate and doctoral students. The second is sponsored research work by faculty and students. This is funded by agencies and industrial organisations. Such activities evolved in the second 25 years of the IIT system. Among the contributions of IIT faculty to the development of Indian industry and infrastructure are: for space programme in terms of research in the field of controls and software; for aerospace programme in terms of development of light combat aircraft; for nuclear programme in terms of research under the Board of Research for Nuclear Sciences; for railway system in terms of the Technology Mission for Railway Safety. It also includes defence communication developed in the 1970s by establishing a network in the mountain region, disaster management in terms of earthquake safety, better design and manufacturing using Computer Aided Design and Manufacturing, as well as rapid prototyping.

The rise of the software industry can be examined in terms of the contribution of IIT faculty. Besides grooming the leaders of this industry, the faculty contributed to the development of software systems for the railway reservation system. The Tata Research, Development and Design Centre of TCS is one example of the contribution of IIT faculty towards the PPP model of research between IITs and industry. A significant result of this decade in the field of theoretical computer science was related to the unsolved problem of Primality Testing. To develop a polynomial time algorithm for determining if a given number is prime or not was an unsolved problem. Professor Manindra Agrawal and his students stunned everyone by developing such an algorithm. Encryption scheme for the Indian navy was designed and developed by Agrawal. The e-passport has been developed by Professor Rajat Moona and this technology is now being adopted by the government. The operating system for issuing smart cards at RTOs is also developed by the faculty of the IITs. Even some of the work related to the security of wireless communication networks as well as Wi-Fi networks has been adopted by the industry. The ministry of railways has accepted the real-time train information system, SIMRAN, developed by IIT faculty and engineers for an all-India roll-out. The technology of Zero Discharge Toilet developed by IIT faculty is being considered by the Indian Railways.

IIT faculty is actively working with the R&D units of companies like Microsoft, Texas Instruments, Intel, Autodesk and Geometric Software. Boeing Corporation is working with IIT faculty to use their expertise at the National Wind Tunnel Facility. Chevron Corporation has declared IIT Madras and IIT Kanpur as research partners — two out of nine universities selected worldwide.

As for the number of journal papers published, it must be said that IIT faculty is doing excellent considering their limited resources compared with other universities in the world, and even in Asia. If one compares the financial input provided to faculty in any international university and in an IIT, it is clear that the performance of IIT faculty is not low. As a matter of fact, a large number of teachers are visiting faculty at several internationally renowned universities. If their work is not world-class then such recognitions will not come their way.

Of course, a good faculty must be a good student. It is clear that the present level of excellence needs to be raised several more levels. In that context, the debate triggered by the remarks is welcome.

One would like to propose a specific plan of action to improve the situation further. IIT faculty should embark on more ambitious research programmes and establish higher level of excellence in research. Benchmarks can be set and necessary investments should be provided by society — government and industry — for this endeavour.

Developing a good cadre of postgraduate students as well as scientific support staff is essential. IITs will have to network with NITs, IISERs, IIITs and other institutions to attract the best undergraduate students. If the quality of postgraduate students improves, the quality of research will become better. This will change the rankings of IITs. The institutes should be allowed to hire faculty not just from India but from around the world, and offer performance-based, contractual salaries comparable to world standards. They should also be allowed to attract and financially support foreign students of high academic calibre. The cases of Singapore, Malaysia and China should be studied carefully. These countries have transformed their universities in the past 10 years. It is time for India to take urgent steps. The IITs can certainly take a lead. Thought-provoking remarks from any individual — alumnus or otherwise — will certainly help change the situation.

The writer is director, IIT Kanpur. Views are personal







The Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoists (UCPN-M) did not even hold a high-level formal meeting before it made a series of major announcements. It said it would not insist on an exclusive state force of its combatants, it would give up the demand for compulsory military training for Nepalese who are 18 and above, and it would be happy with the new constitution being called the "Constitution of Nepal", without any radical or revolutionary adjective appended to it. Differences between the Maoists and most other political parties during the past three years had delayed consensus on precisely these issues, along with many still outstanding ones.

A crisis of trust has been pulling political parties apart, but this latest gesture from the Maoists has provoked suspicion: why are the Maoists suddenly so flexible?

As everyone from Prime Minister Jhalanath Khanal to Maoist chief Prachanda admits, the Constituent Assembly will not be able to deliver the constitution by the May 28 deadline, and the House would need an extension of another year. In this context, the flexibility on the part of the Maoists could be tactical, a proof of good intention alongside the resolution moved by the government for an extension of the House.

The biggest threat to the peace process in the country, which is fundamentally linked to the drafting of a new constitution, comes from the non-implementation of several provisions in the Comprehensive Peace Accord signed in 2006. The Maoists are being squarely blamed for this by the other signatory, the Nepali Congress. The latter has now put forward a 10-point demand as a precondition for supporting the proposal to extend the House tenure, without which the constitution-drafting process cannot be completed.

The Nepali Congress wants the Maoists to dispose of their arms, disband their army, return property the insurgents captured during the years of conflict and transform the Young Communist League into a civilian outfit. Maoist vice-chairman Baburam Bhattarai, who is trusted by New Delhi and the Nepali Congress, responded promptly and positively. He said the Maoists would be willing to have their combatants integrated into a new force to be created under the directorate of the Nepal army: "Once that modality is accepted, issues like ranks, norms, training and command system can be settled later." Maoist leaders, meanwhile, say their flexibility should not be seen as a sign of weakness.

No one undermines the Maoists or believes that peace and the constitution-making process can be completed by bypassing them. However, not much headway was made on these two counts even though the Maoists had led the first government for 10 months after April 2008 — they have also dominated the House and committees all along.

The Nepali Congress and the Maoists have fallen out. The politics of consensus that all parties promised to pursue has collapsed completely. What injects fear into other parties, including the Nepali Congress, is the parallel move by the Maoists to bring the Left groups together and bulldoze resistance from non-Left quarters while making the constitution.

The Left's strength in the House is about 62 per cent. With support from others, it could get the two-thirds majority needed to draft the kind of constitution it wants. Therefore, the continuation of the House has become more of a Maoist agenda in particular, and of the Left in general.

It has triggered a sharp polarisation in Nepal politics. The only Madhesh-based party that had joined the ruling Left coalition, the Madheshi Jandhikar Forum (MJF), has been disowned by a majority of its parliamentarians. A faction of 13 MPs led by Jaya Prakash Gupta formed the MJF-Republican on Monday. All the other Madhesh-based parties have not only decided to oppose the extension of the House term but are also persuading the Nepali Congress to stand firm against the Maoists.

But what happens if there is no House? Political parties have yet to chart out a clear line on this. Former PM Surya Bahadur Thapa is the only one who has said the president should take over, an act Nepal's interim constitution is silent on.

The Maoists use the "absence of alternative" as the reason for a further extension. In the process, they are ready to promise anything that others may demand. After all, Nepal's recent politics has been about signing agreements without ever implementing them.

For a change, the people have now come out in a big way under different banners with a single message: that the House cannot get away with its non-accomplishments and partisan politics.

Yet, it could be the Nepali Congress — a party that still carries the legacy of pro-democracy movements in the past —that will chart out a future course for Nepal's politics. Its options are limited though: to find an excuse to support the Maoists to extend the House or bury the House that has failed over and over again.







Much has been said and written about the Indian demographic dividend — the young population that is actively fuelling the economic and consumer markets of India. Africa, however, is ahead of any other region of the developing world in youthfulness. In fact, Africa is one of the youngest markets in the world; with 41 per cent of its population under the age of 15. The number for India is 33 per cent. By 2050, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt and Uganda will join Nigeria and Ethiopia on the list of the 15 most populous countries in the world led by India and China. Africa's wave of youth has been called a "tsunami" and its baby boom hasn't even levelled out yet.

African youth are among the most optimistic people in the world. Although, as expected, they do have interests that diverge from their parents, a study by The Coca-Cola Company found that 19-year-olds across Africa were more conservative in their religious beliefs than their peers in other parts of the world. Parents played a far more important role in their lives than ever before. They drew their role models from intellectual, artistic and political leaders. In South Africa, young people pointed to Nelson Mandela, in Kenya, to poets and artists, in Morocco, to the king.

The relevant question is, will the youth bring a demographic dividend to Africa? Like India, they certainly will drive the consumer markets. These young people are not only a large market but also early adopters of new products. That is a good news for baby and pediatric products, uniform, toy and game manufacturers, food, health, pharmaceutical and personal care products, communication and electronic products and services, entertainment, fashion, sports and music industries, and several other sectors including transportation and education. Clearly the companies that have understood and catered to the Indian youth market will find huge extensions of these served markets in Africa.

The realisation of the demographic dividend, however, will depend upon whether the youth can participate in economic growth. The challenge for the businesses looking at the African youth markets, therefore, is to hire, educate and train the locals. This is not only good for profit margins, it is the most sustainable business model for the long run.

During travels to several countries for my book Africa Rising, I was amazed to find that there were fewer than 80 business schools in the entire continent of Africa of one billion people (We have more than 80 business schools in Texas, with a population of about 25 million people). In fact, according to one business school dean in South Africa, he was not sure about the quality of education in many of these schools. I heard similar stories from many experts on education and training schools in general. This is not to say that there are not some quality K-12 schools and universities in the region. In 2004, DAL Group founded the Khartoum International Community School (KICS) for high school students to develop future leaders for Sudan and Africa. Former McKinsey consultant Fred Swaniker (from Ghana) recognised the same need when he set up the African Leadership Academy in South Africa in 2008, where he brings in the most promising 15-18 year old students from all over Africa for leadership grooming. A former Microsoft engineer, Patrick Awuah founded the Ashesi University College in his native Ghana in 2002 to offer them world-class undergraduate liberal arts education. Professor Mahmoud Triki of Tunisia founded the Mediterranean School of Business and launched the first private, English-language executive MBA in the country. Al Akhawayn University was the first American-style university in Morocco when it opened in 1995. American University in Cairo and several universities in South Africa offer very high quality education.

The need for training and education in Africa has been recognised by institutions and organisations in India and China too. NIIT from India offers computer education in several African countries. China Europe International Business School (CEIBS), a globally-ranked business school by Financial Times, started offering MBA education in Ghana in 2009.

Given the diversity and size of the African youth market, there are huge opportunities for training and education at any level. Kidzee in India has demonstrated that a scalable organisation can be developed to offer pre-school education. Can this be done in Africa? The GEMS Education in Dubai is the largest K-12 private school operator in the world. The Varkey GEMS Foundation can certainly bring its expertise to offer high quality international education in Africa. India and the entire world have benefited from the establishment of IITs and IIMs. Can such pan-African institutions be developed in Africa? This will be a win-win situation both for the African youth and for business.

The May 23 issue of Fortune magazine carries an interesting story on the Rice University Business Plan Competition. For the 2011 competition, 510 teams from the various universities submitted their plans. The best 42 teams were asked to present their plans to individuals like Compaq founder Rod Canion. Winners are awarded cash, equity investments, and professional services. Can one imagine such a pan-African competition where successful African entrepreneurs like Mo Ibrahim and Indian entrepreneurs like Sunil Mittal are the judges, and the teams focus on business and social ventures for the African consumers? That certainly will be a great demographic dividend for Africa.

The writer holds the John P. Harbin Centennial Chair in Business at the University of Texas at Austin, and is the author of 'Africa Rising'








Restraining Pakistan

On the face of it, Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani's visit to Beijing last week should confirm all of India's worst assumptions about the China-Pakistan relationship.

Beijing's warm reception to Gilani and its strong defence of Pakistan's territorial sovereignty seem to affirm the claim in both capitals that their partnership is "taller than the mountains and deeper than the oceans".

In diplomacy, however, what is left unsaid is often more important than the soundbytes put out for popular consumption. Those who closely monitor China-Pakistan relations point to one important omission during Gilani's visit — the absence of a package of financial assistance.

Reports from Beijing say the Chinese leaders told Gilani that it is not their policy to provide cash transfers or bridge budget deficits in other countries.

A rising China has lots of cash and the demonstrated capacity to implement massive infrastructure projects anywhere in the world. But Beijing is not yet ready to become the "lender of last resort" to failing states even if they are China's "all-weather friends".

That job remains with the multilateral financial institutions controlled by Washington. China appears to have reminded Gilani that he has no choice but to negotiate with Washington if he wants to keep Pakistan's economy afloat.

If Gilani had any expectation that China would replace the United States, in the event that the Pakistan army chief, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani chooses to divorce Washington, that appears to have been dashed.

Beijing as a bridge

Gilani's visit underlined Islamabad's miscalculations about the nature of the current dynamics between China and the United States.

China certainly has ambitions to replace the United States as the dominant power in Eurasia in the distant future. But Chinese communists are realistic enough to recognise the importance of carefully tending the current relationship with Washington. At the tactical level too, China is now in a phase of improving ties with the United States after rocking them in 2010.

If Islamabad saw Beijing as a strategic alternative to Washington, China has seized the current crisis in US-Pakistan relations to make itself indispensable to both.

Since the US forces killed Osama bin Laden deep inside Pakistan on May 2, Pakistan has been virtually begging for Chinese support. Meanwhile Washington has pressed Beijing to encourage the Pakistan army to end its support to terror groups destabilising Afghanistan.

This has put China in the enviable position of a diplomatic bridge between the United States and Pakistan. Beijing has relished playing the part.

In public, it came out in strong defence of Pakistan at one of its most vulnerable moments, and warned the rest of the world against the violation of its sovereignty. In private, the Chinese message to Gilani was different. Beijing urged Pakistan to recognise the difficult circumstance it finds itself in, avoid needless confrontation, and look for tactical accommodation by stabilising the relationship with the US and calming the ties with its immediate neighbours.

Pawn sacrifice

Whether it takes China's sensible advice or not, Pakistan should be able to see a pattern in Beijing's response to its national security crises.

Despite the deepening strategic partnership with Pakistan over the last six decades, Beijing has never provided decisive support for Islamabad when its needs were the greatest.

In the 1965 and 1971 wars with India, the Chinese communists made a lot of noise including verbal ultimatums to Delhi. But they did not do what India most feared — open a second front to relieve the pressure on the Pakistan army.

During the summer of 1999, China adopted a neutral position when India used military force to vacate Pakistan army's aggression in the Kargil sector. Beijing also called on Islamabad to respect the Line of Control in Kashmir.

China continues to do a lot of extraordinary things for the Pakistan army — support its nuclear weapon and missile programme, modernise its conventional arsenal, and promote strategic development of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

Delhi, not surprisingly, is riled. But if it looks carefully, Delhi should be able to recognise the limits of the all-weather partnership between Beijing and Rawalpindi.

There is no doubt that China sees Pakistan as a useful instrument in the balance of power game it plays with the United States, the Middle East and India.

But it is also clear that China is not at the beck and call of the Pakistan army. In other words, it is Pakistan that is a pawn for China and not the other way around.

If Beijing's support to the Pakistan army is driven by a cold calculus and not sentiment, it is reasonable to assume that there are conditions under which China might sacrifice the pawn.

If the Pakistan army can't control the jihadi groups on its soil and is unable to help China achieve its regional objectives, it would not be surprising if Beijing begins to redo its sums. It is a good moment then for India to initiate a comprehensive dialogue with China on the future of Pakistan.

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







Charging wildly

In Rahul Gandhi's controversial claims about dead bodies and rape in Bhatta-Parsaul, the RSS has found an opportunity to plead Narendra Modi's case. An article in its weekly Organiser claims the Congress is used to making wild charges and getting away with it. "They have done that to Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi for almost 10 years over his complicity in riots without being able to produce any tenable evidence for the discerning public. The ostensible logic behind such a political move is that if you keep on repeating a lie people start to believe it," it says.

However, the article, says it was "undeniable" that the Uttar Pradesh government has unleashed terror on the farmers in Bhatta-Parsaul without compensating them at the market value. It says that these recent wild charges are being deliberately allowed to overwhelm the real issue of land grabbing. "Rahul Gandhi along with Digvijaya Singh and Jayanthi Natarajan are like Don Quixote and Sancho Panza tilting at the windmill," it says. Digvijaya Singh, it says, "made wild charges against Mumbai police during the 26/11 debate saying that the slain policemen called him up just before their death. One wonders why Osama bin Laden didn't call him up when US Navy Seals attacked and killed him?!" It says:"The same lessons are now being learnt by others in the Congress party. Even after making ridiculous charges against the Mumbai police, Digvijaya Singh has not been held responsible for chicanery. Now Rahul Gandhi, under his tutelage and with abundant support from veteran Congressmen like Manish Tewari and Jayanthi Natarajan, is hoping to get away with wild charges."

Planting suspicions

An Organiser article likens the controversial Jaitapur nuclear power project with the Enron project which had triggered a political row in the 1990s, saying that like the French now, the Americans had then mounted enormous pressure on the government over Enron.

Questioning the Manmohan Singh government's keenness on the Jaitapur project, it says: "It is said that Singh has given his word to Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, though neither the size of the project nor its finances have yet been finalised. Sarkozy came here last year, dumped this huge project on Singh's head and went away."

The article argues that very little is known about the project — except that it is going to be financed by the French and that the capacity will be around 9900 megawatts. "We have, in fact, Enron combined with Bofors all over again. Enron was also backed by the US government and its ambassadors in Delhi were breathing down our necks all the time," it says. "Why a project costing Rs 100,000 crore should be kept under wraps is itself a big mystery. Nobody has seen the design of the power plant, except government scientists who dare not speak against the government... We do not know how many units there will be, of what capacity, who will fabricate the plant, and what proportion of the cost will be paid for by India...The plant has been cleared by the environment ministry, but the report has not been published."

Matters of states

Panchjanya has dedicated a full page to the election results in Assam. A report from Guwahati says that the re-election of the Congress government was likely to result in an increase of illegal immigration from Bangladesh, which would be detrimental to the situation in the state. Alongside the report, it carries an interview with Dhirendranath Bezbaruah, former editor of The Sentinel newspaper published from Guwahati. Bezbaruah says that for the Congress government in Assam, the term "minorities" has become synonymous with Bangladeshi illegal immigrants. He says that nine districts in the state now have Muslim majorities because of this immigrant population.

In another article, the journal has lambasted Karnataka governor H.R. Bhardwaj, saying that he has been setting new records in the misuse of a constitutional post.







Let's begin this week with a question: as a news viewer, would you rather watch news about the Taliban attack on the Karachi naval base or about Osama bin Laden's five wives who were at each other's hair and throats all the time?

Be honest. You may believe that everyone would be far more interested, indeed greatly concerned about the "hamla" on the Karachi naval base and the fear that Pakistan's nuclear installations may be the future target of a Taliban raid — but you might be wrong. That is what the Hindi news channels are gambling on — Monday night, while the English news anchors looked grim-faced and as though they were facing a nuclear warhead, channels like News 24 and India TV offered us the not-so merry widows of the al-Qaeda chief. It was a choice between doomsday scenarios (what if Pakistan's nukes are stolen by the Taliban?) and gossip girls (what did the wife Najwa have against the wife Amal?).

If news was to be judged for sheer inventiveness and creativity, the choice would have to be the old and young wives' tales. Citing some book, News 24 claimed that Osama could have been betrayed by his wives; that the oldest of them, Najwa, hated the others because — now hear this — they were educated and she was not. What did she want to do — send them letter bombs? India TV took up the story and gave it another twist: according to the channel, the other wives detested the young one, Amal, because Osama bin Laden was besotted with her. On the night of his death, she reportedly tried to shield him with her body but she was shot in the ankle and so she and her brave effort to save him, fell flat. This report was colourfully illustrated with comic reconstructions that did no justice to her reported bravery.

Dawood Ibrahim is the other Hindi channel favourite. When they're out of "news", they turn to him. With Osama out of the reckoning, he's the man in focus as the new Public Enemy Number One. Now if only someone could spot him. Apparently, this is tough because no one knows what he looks like any longer. India TV, therefore, speculated on his looks: they did a visual projection which showed a plump face with a greying, straggly French beard, puffy eyes and balding head. But then we were told that well-informed sources claimed the "Don" had changed the direction of his moustache! It was so preposterous that you watched, fascinated, at the sheer audacity of it all. And sometimes, just sometimes, it is better than the fatalistic pronouncements on English news.

In another corner is Baba Ramdev, who is launching his own news channel on Aastha. There are regular news briefings on travels with Ramdev as he goes from village to village in Madhya Pradesh giving people his blessings and receiving their homage. These days he teaches yoga less and politics more. As the date for his satyagraha against corruption nears, he's exhorting people to come out and join him because those who do not are as corrupt as those who are corrupt, if you get his meaning. Apart from "kaala dhan", he's got land acquisition rights and state funding for elections on his mind, not pranayama.

He's also for changing the Constitution of India or so it seemed, when he asked his audience how many of them would like to directly elect the prime minister (they raised their hands as one). He's leaving nothing to chance for his showdown in Delhi in June. He helpfully provided a mobile number you can call to support these worthy causes. And he didn't forget to thank his sponsors, sorry, supporters: Lucky Cable, Aggarwalji, etc. It's said that you move from worldliness to spiritualism. Ramdev is headed in the other direction, but then he's good at headstands, isn't he?

Lastly, saw a good interview with K. Pathmanathan, the LTTE's former arms-procurer on CNN-IBN. He apologised for "the mistake" of V. Prabhakaran, for the death of Rajiv Gandhi. He cried. So now what?

And finally, is there a reason why the cricket commentators wore kurtas at the match between Chennai Super Kings and Royal Challengers Bangalore (Sony Max)? If there is, can't think of what it could be.








India's offer of a $5bn line of credit to help Africa achieve its development goals over the next three years, and another $700mn to train and establish the new institutions Africa so desperately needs, is the biggest support programme the government has ever announced. That underscores how serious India is about winning African hearts. In addition, bilateral trade is projected to rise to $70bn by 2015 from $46bn now. Apart from Indian investment of $25bn so far (this includes Bharti Airtel's $10bn Zain purchase) in Africa, there's help for medium-range weather forecasting, a collaborative institute for agriculture …What's important is that India is not operating in a vacuum. Given its higher GDP, the fact that it got into the Africa game earlier, the fact that it actually owns its $3tn forex reserves by virtue of large trade surpluses, China is streets ahead. Its investments in Africa are around $127bn. India's biggest hope is that while China's investments are exploitative, India's are aimed at African people. Investments in Africa's mines, it can be argued, are aimed at fuelling China's growth, and do little to help locals —The Economist's cover story on China's Africa foray is replete with horror stories of spilled oil lakes, poor mine safety, and the lot. By contrast, lower call rates from Bharti-Zain will benefit Africa's aam aadmi.

But it isn't so simple. Infrastructure that stays in Africa helps the aam aadmi — starting from the 1,860-km long Tanzania-Zambia railway, the 58,000-sq mt Cairo conference centre, to a harbour in Mauritania (see Mark Mobius's article in the adjoining columns) and a lot more, China's presence is overwhelming. China's purchase of a fifth of Standard Bank, the continent's biggest bank, means its Africa influence will rise. Its bilateral trade with Africa is thrice India's, and it even has a trade deficit with Africa. India's hearts-and-minds strategy, and leading with private sector firms, may still win—don't forget India's GDP growth will be higher than China's in a few years and is less resource-intensive—but will take some doing. The government track record in building infrastructure is dismal, so it is to be hoped the $300mn aid for the Ethio-Djibouti railway line will be used up by private firms. India's track record in weather forecasting or creating agriculture institutions in recent decades is equally uninspiring. India's best hope is its private sector—the ICICIs, the Daburs, the Taj Group, Punj Lloyd, Ranbaxy, Cipla, Bharti Airtel … They were focusing on Africa anyway, but the Prime Minister's visit has raised the hope the government will do its best to help them venture into Africa—the kind of help that wasn't forthcoming when Sunil Mittal wanted the government to allow dual listing of firms, critical to the success of the MTN deal he was working on.





After a string of indifferent results, the software industry has more headaches. Infosys has been subpoenaed by the district court of Texas to see if it had misused B-1 business visas—the WSJ reports the State Department is investigating Infosys. Infosys's SEC filing says an employee had filed a suit alleging it misused the B-1 visa; this was forwarded by a US Senator to the secretaries of State as well as Homeland Security. If Infosys is found guilty, its executives could be jailed for 10 years and its ability to get visas could also get affected, critical given how 60% of its revenues come from the US.

Infosys is also battling the Indian tax department which, six months ago, slapped a R450 crore tax notice on it, alleging some of its exports were just body-shopping and so did not qualify for tax exemptions. Wipro has also got a tax notice, some days ago, asking for details of its income in 2008-09—it is not certain if this is for body-shopping, though industry says this is probably the case. What is curious is that all software exports are certified by the Software Technology Parks of India which is part of the IT ministry—one arm of the state clearly doesn't accept what the other says.

The final word on visa abuse will be that of US courts or the US government, but a few things can be said. The allegation made says Jack Palmer, Infosys's US employee, attended meetings in Bangalore in March 2010 where company officials discussed the need to find ways to get around the H1-B shortages and Palmer refused to be part of this. By March 2010, however, the H1-B shortage had eased—according to WSJ, while it took just 2 days to fill up all the H1-B slots in 2008 and 1 day in 2009, this had risen to 264 days in 2010 and 300 days in fiscal 2011. Also, given that B-1 visas are for just 3 months versus 3 years for H1-B, it seems strange Infosys would want to use this—the per diem costs and the costs of flying people back and forth every 3 months would outweigh the benefits of the cheaper B-1 visas. Also, in line with industry practice, Infosys would likely have a 15-20% unutilised H1-B bench-strength at most points in time. Whichever way the case goes, India needs to make a stronger case for more relaxed visa rules—this is tough when the US jobs market is the way it is, but as FE reported some months ago, while the US issued 47,000 work visas to Indians in 2010, India issued 42,000 work visas to Americans.






There are some key forces both pushing and pulling China into Africa. First, China now has the world's largest amount of foreign reserves, reaching $3 trillion, more than twice that of Japan and far larger than most other countries. Up to now a large portion of these reserves have gone into US government debt but increasingly China is finding the necessity to diversify those reserves because of the growing precarious situation with the dollar and concerns about US government debt.

At the same time, China's burgeoning economy is demanding more and more natural mineral resources whether it is oil, copper, nickel, gold, etc. Looking further into the future, the demands of China's more sophisticated diets means that imports of food will be increasing as well. In both areas, minerals and food, Africa has great promise. It is well known that Africa is rich in a wide variety of minerals from oil to copper. Africa's vast amount of land could fit the entire land mass of not only China but also India, the US, Mexico, France, Italy and a number of other countries. Besides land, and more importantly, Africa has huge resources of water essential for bountiful harvests.

China's attraction to Africa is clear. Africa is also attracted to China—China is a developing country demonstrating a successful growth model and this is an opportunity for African leaders to learn from them. China has the money to import Africa's resources and the money to help build Africa's urgent need for infrastructure: roads, railroads, ports, electric power systems, etc.

In 2000, the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation was established to enhance economic and trade cooperation. Trade has expanded rapidly, moving from $12 million in 1950 to over $120,000 million now. China is now Africa's largest trading partner and, surprisingly, China has a trade deficit with Africa, importing more than it exports to Africa. Visit any shopping centre in any country in Africa and it is clear that China is flooding Africa with consumer goods and also machinery, automobiles and electronic items.

Africa's exports to China are about 80% raw materials like oil but increasingly it is also manufactured and agricultural such as Egyptian oranges, South African wines, Ghana's cocoa, Ugandan coffee, Tunisian olive oil, etc. In order to promote that trade, China has bilateral trade agreements with 45 African countries, a number of which now have zero tariff preference with China.

In addition to trade, investment from China into Africa between 2003 and 2009 grew from $490 million to $9,300 million in 49 African countries in mining, manufacturing, construction, tourism, forestry and fisheries. Part of the China's efforts is to sign a bilateral agreement, now with 33 African countries, for protection of Chinese investments. A China-Africa Development Fund has been created to invest in African equities. That fund has already reached $1 billion by investing in over 30 projects in agricultural machinery manufacturing such as electric power and mining. Plans call for the fund to expand to $5 billion.

China is also promoting economic and trade zones in Zambia, Mauritius, Nigeria, Egypt and Ethiopia, where companies can establish manufacturing and trading operations with appropriate infrastructure and certain government concessions. So far, over $600 million has been invested in such zones, employing over 6,000.

As early as the 1970s, China has been helping to build infrastructure projects in Africa, such as the 1,860-km Tanzania-Zambia railway, the 58,000 sq mt Cairo International Conference Centre and over 500 other projects such as a highway in Somalia, a harbour in Mauritania, a canal in Tunisia, a National Stadium in Tanzania and many more.

Preferential loans amounting to over $10 billion to finance projects for airports, housing and hydropower plants have been made.

The Chinese government has always supported African countries in their effort to reduce their debts, which have helped relieve their burden of debts to China. From 2000 to 2009, China cancelled 312 debts of 35 African countries, totalling 18.96 billion yuan. This demonstrates China's determination to help Africa develop, and to help Africa reduce the debt it owes to other countries.

With that kind of flow of money, banks have followed. The China Development Bank, Export-Import Bank of China, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, Bank of China and China Construction Bank are all now active on the continent. China has also supported the African Development Bank and the West African Development Bank by injecting funds, cancelling debts and establishing funds for specific projects.

Tourism is growing as well, with over 300,000 Chinese tourists visiting Africa each year. African airlines have direct flights to China and many Chinese airlines have direct flights to Africa.

All of this trade and investment is not without problems. Like other countries around the world, there have been scandals, corruption and disputes, such as a Chinese infrastructure project in Algeria mired in a bribery scandal or arbitrary seizure of property in Zimbabwe, among other issues.

There is no denying, though, that capital markets in Africa are developing rapidly. We have been investing in South Africa for many years and its stock market is one of the world's most sophisticated. In our frontier market funds we have been active in countries like Kenya, Ghana, Mauritius and others. Nigerian companies now constitute the largest portion of those forfeiter funds, which now have assets of over $1 billion and growing. We expect to expand even further in Africa and invest in many more countries. The future is certainly in Africa for investors from China seeking high growth and new opportunities.

The author is the executive chairman of the Templeton Emerging Marketing Group and has written several books, including "The Investors' Guide to Emerging Markets"








Eight of the world's top 10 most innovative companies of 2011 are in the ICT domain, reports a US based magazine Fast Company. Not surprisingly, all of these are product companies. While India is the largest exporter of ICT services, generating revenue of $76 billion from the IT sector, but products contribute to less than 2%. India's contribution to technology innovation is negligible.

The product companies witness non-linear growth (not proportionate to the head count)—the revenue per employee or profit per employee of Google or Microsoft is over 20 times that of India's top services companies. Also, these technology giants serve as a beacon and are the undisputed trendsetters on the world technology road map.

Chinese companies such as Huawei and ZTE are the world's leading telecom equipment providers. A report states that 45 of the world's top 50 telecom companies use Huawei products. What more recognition is needed? These companies have full backing from the Chinese government and the government also supports R&D initiatives—for example, the TD-SCDMA technology that competes with the global wireless 3G standards. Is there an Indian company that can compete with Huawei/ZTE? India has lagged behind China and Taiwan in the capital-intensive electronics hardware manufacturing industry also. But the recent policy push from the department of IT to encourage semiconductor wafer fabrication, electronics and telecom product manufacturing is a welcome move. Also, Trai recently made a recommendation for promoting domestic manufacturing of telecom products.

The loss-making PSU Indian Telephone Industries, once the flagship telecom switch and telephone maker in the country, failed miserably during the telecom boom due to lack of vision from the government. But the case is different with ISRO, whose success could be attributed to the autonomy it enjoys. Another example of a tech-savvy initiative is the UID programme Aadhar, which, though far from fully implemented, has proved that India can implement large-scale technological projects.

Although the domestic demand for IT products is increasing, most Indian product companies are yet to penetrate the market. The only exception is the banking software industry where India has emerged as a leader in core banking solutions offered by Infosys and Oracle-India. Yet Infosys's products business generates only about 5% of the overall revenue. In general, Indian companies are risk averse and prefer to enjoy the safety of services business, hence have not been able to succeed in creating product offerings.

But some Indian IT companies are successful in the outsourced product development (OPD) model, a pseudo ownership model, wherein the independent software vendors (ISVs) are involved in end-to-end product development for the customer but the ISV does not 'own' the product. Cloud computing can be a cost-effective and disruptive technology for further growth in OPD and pure-play product development companies. Nasscom indicates that delivery model innovations such as SaaS and innovative revenue models could fuel IT product adoption in future.

BERD (business expenditure on R&D) and patents/IP management are key indicators of a country's technology innovation capability. An EU commission report on ICT 2011 indicates that India lags behind China and other emerging economies in terms of BERD/GDP. While China has seen a 10-fold increase in the number of patent applications over the past decade, India's contribution is insignificant. Generating IPs and protecting them is just one part of the story. Realising value from the IP is a different ball game. Appropriateness of the solution is the key.

It must be said that Indian education system lacks an environment that fosters active partnerships between industry and universities. In the advanced countries, research in universities is given high priority and is supported by industry in the form of grants. As per the recent Anil Kakodkar Committee report, India lags way behind China in terms of university research in engineering and technology. The report also emphasises the need for improvement needed in research infrastructure. An OECD report indicates that India has less than one researcher per thousand employed, much below the global average.

Availability of risk capital is a key constraint for product companies to flourish but Nasscom sees an improving trend. Venture capital/angel investor ecosystem has improved significantly. There are 38 incubation centres across the country aimed at encouraging product development initiatives. India has seen 30% CAGR in start-ups over the past 10 years. The product market in India is expected to touch over $15 billion by 2015. The government's plan to invest R25,000 crore for setting up semiconductor fabs will provide an impetus for hardware-oriented product development.

The government can play a key role in helping start-ups and other companies engaged in software or hardware product development. There are many examples of how government intervention has yielded good results. Tax benefits for software export revolutionised IT industry in India. Israel supported companies working on networking technologies that helped Israel take a leading position in security. Taiwan supported electronic hardware that resulted in the emergence of the original design manufacturer market.

India has been a 'follower' in the ICT space and its product development capability has been patchy. It needs to move towards full-fledged product development in order to be a dominant player in the ICT arena. India's domestic market by itself will offer sizeable opportunities. However, for made-in-India to be a reality, it is imperative that the government aggressively drives a clear road map for technology innovation, encourages product initiatives, supports hardware and semiconductor industry and, most importantly, inculcates 'product culture' right at the universities.

The author is director, engineering,

Teleca Software Solutions India.

These are his personal views







In just a few weeks, a court in Chicago will decide the fate of Tahawwur Rana — the first of the men who guided Muhammad Ajmal Kasab and nine other Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists to Mumbai on November 26, 2008. The trial has provided dramatic new insights into just how those men came to kill 164 children, women, and men. Based on the testimony of the Pakistani-American jihadist David Headley, and a mass of evidence, prosecutors have charged that serving officers of Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence Directorate financed and directed the attack on Mumbai. In days to come, we will hear Mr. Rana's version of the story; his lawyers are expected to argue that he acted in good faith to help a childhood friend. The problem, however, is that Mr. Rana was at worst a bit-part actor in the Mumbai conspiracy. The men he is alleged to have answered to — commanders in the Lashkar, and their ISI mentors — are not in court, and there are no signs so far that Pakistan intends to bring them to justice.

The consequences the verdict will have for Mr. Rana's life, therefore, are likely to be dwarfed by those it will have for Pakistan's increasingly fraught relationship with India and the world. Pakistani investigators had conducted a separate investigation and claimed to have arrested key conspirators. Their account of events, however, made no mention of the intelligence officers who helped the Lashkar to strike. Nor did it indict key Lashkar figures. E-mail correspondence and testimony presented by the prosecution in Chicago shows that Sajid Mir, the Lashkar's commander for transnational operations, guided Mr. Headley through each stage of the operation. He figures nowhere in the charge sheet presented before a Rawalpindi court by Pakistan's Federal Investigation Agency (FIA). Muzammil Bhat, the Lashkar's chief military tactician and the man who trained the assault team, is also conspicuous by his absence. Pakistani investigators do not seem to have made any great effort, either, to pursue the 20 low-level fugitives wanted for their role in the attack, mainly crew members of the boats used to sail to Mumbai. The sole Lashkar fugitive to figure in the FIA's most-wanted list is Muhammad Amjad Khan, a Karachi-based operative who played a somewhat nebulous logistical role in putting together the operation. The trial in Rawalpindi itself has been deadlocked over procedural issues; there is no word on when, or even if, Pakistan will send a judicial commission to record evidence in India. Pakistan has long said it is committed to eradicating terrorism from its soil. Its conduct of the Mumbai prosecution shows just how little these promises are worth. The trial in Chicago marks one step forward in securing justice for the victims of the Mumbai attacks. But the path that must still be travelled will be long and hard.





The United Arab Emirates has exposed huge loopholes in international criminal law by announcing a $529 million contract with the Reflex Responses company for an 800-strong force of foreign mercenaries, which could be expanded to several thousand men. The firm was founded by Erik Prince, former owner of the notorious U.S. mercenary firm Blackwater. Within the Emirates, the mercenaries will defend oil installations and important buildings, and quell internal rebellions. They could also be used to repress dissent by foreign workers who form the bulk of the UAE's workforce. Nearly all of them work in conditions that have been widely criticised. As for the involvement of the mercenaries outside UAE territory, the relevant documents reportedly name one task as the destruction of "enemy personnel and equipment." No enemy is specified, and neither are any rules of engagement.

The deal raises major problems for regional relations. Mr. Prince moved to the Emirates after five Blackwater executives were indicted in the U.S. on charges that include bribery, lying to federal officials, and weapons offences. His earlier businesses got 90 per cent of their income from government contracts; his new venture is no different, and will operate in the tax-free Emirates. In April, U.S. federal prosecutors reopened a case against four Blackwater agents accused of killing 17 civilians in Baghdad's Nisoor Square in 2007. Colombian staff left Blackwater as they were paid less and treated worse than their Bulgarian colleagues; once home, they killed the recruiting agent. Colombians now working for Mr. Prince are reported to be virtual captives in their compound. His firm operates entirely in a legal grey area. Based in the Emirates, it is free of U.S. legal requirements for a licence to train foreign troops, and as a company it is not covered by the 1989 United Nations International Convention against the Recruitment, Use, Financing and Training of Mercenaries. The real agenda seems to be driven by the fear of Iran, which Washington, the Gulf rulers, and Mr. Prince share. The UAE may intend to retake Gulf islands that are disputed with Iran, and the Obama administration has said it would "make sense" for the Emirates to look for outside help. In a highly volatile region, both the U.S. and the UAE are using a crusader with an appalling record to outsource not security but war itself. International law and the related institutions seem powerless in the face of this outrage.







Among the rallying cries of the youthful revolutionary movements in the Middle East is a demand to reform higher education. The complaints are numerous and well founded. They include political interference at many levels, overcrowded classrooms, an inefficient and unresponsive administration, a decline in quality at all levels, an irrelevant curriculum, underqualified professors and, perhaps, most significantly — degrees that do not lead to jobs.


The problem is that most of these demands cannot easily be met, regardless of the goodwill of new government and academic authorities or of a strong commitment to academic change. The crisis of Middle East higher education is systemic and requires an entire reconsideration of national higher education strategy. Resources, human and financial, are needed to a scale that is not practical to provide, at least in the short and probably the medium term.

At play are several fundamental issues that are not unique to the Middle East. The first is the inevitable massification of higher education. In the past several decades, every Middle Eastern country has not only experienced an explosion of the youth population but also an expansion in the numbers of young people attending universities. An additional phenomenon, common to many developing countries including the Middle East, is that higher education expansion has outstripped the ability of the economy to absorb university graduates. It is simply easier to expand enrolments than it is to provide jobs. Also, governments have the further incentive to "park" young people in universities for a while, rather than have them immediately join the ranks of the unemployed. A final issue is the deterioration of the average quality of higher education in the mass systems. Again, it is not surprising that, in the context of a mass system generally unaccompanied by concomitant increases in funding, greatly expanded enrolments result in diminished quality. Not only are students literally unable to find room in classes, but also their teachers often have no more than bachelor's degrees themselves.

What can be done?

There are few "quick fixes" to deeply flawed higher education systems. One of these already being carried out in Egypt is depoliticising the universities. Students demanded the removal of political appointments of administrators, controls over student elections, surveillance of students, and the other elements of the police state that pervaded Egyptian campuses; and to a considerable extent this trend has been accomplished.

It may be possible to enhance administrative efficiency by emphasising sound academic values and installing officials committed to the improvement of the universities. Corruption can be rooted out. Publicly emphasising that the universities are now committed to academic values, excellence, and quality improvement may help boost morale, although this plan is not enough.

The long road ahead

Unfortunately, real change is harder and requires both resources as well as a roadmap. Neither of these policies is easy to mobilise. Resources without policy produce waste. Creating practical higher education policy for any Middle East country is difficult to accomplish.

The reality of mass higher education is universal. As Egypt has shown, it is not enough to expand existing universities to enrolments of 200,000 or more students and to create new mass universities without clear missions or any semblance of appropriate resources. Parts of a programme for reform and improvement include an appropriate mix of higher education institutions with differentiated missions, perhaps dismantling some of the mega-universities into smaller institutions, harnessing the growing but inadequately regulated private higher education to serve the public interest, and encouraging academics to obtain higher qualifications and paying them adequately.

Egypt, because of its large population and dependence on human resource for its future, also needs to have at least one world-class research university that can compete internationally, produce relevant research, and provide educated PhDs for the local market.

Other Middle East countries will have somewhat different circumstances and needs, but all face rather similar challenges.

The dilemmas

Implementing reform is a challenge. One of the main problems concerns funding. For countries like Egypt and Tunisia, which have traditions of free or low-cost public higher education, charging meaningful tuition at the public universities is tremendously controversial and perhaps politically impossible in the atmosphere. Yet, this strategy is, perhaps unfortunately, necessary, for it is impossible, except perhaps in Saudi Arabia and a few oil-rich Gulf countries, to have free-public higher education. Thus, ways will need to be found to introduce tuition fees, perhaps combined with appropriate loan and grant funds. There are simply insufficient public resources to support a quality mass higher education system.

The improvement of higher education in the Middle East includes upgrading the academic profession and providing an academic culture that promotes productivity. With a few notable exceptions, the quality of both teaching and research in the region is not high. Relatively few academics hold doctorates. With the exception of Saudi Arabia and a few Gulf countries, academic salaries are quite low. Academics have been kept down by the bureaucratic rules of the civil service, inadequate salaries, high teaching loads, and political repression — a powerful combination of negative forces. Ways will need to be found to build a creative academic culture and provide an academic environment so that the "best and brightest" will be attracted to teach and do research. Part of the problem will necessitate creating an academic system that rewards teaching and service in the majority of universities that accomplish little research.

Good governance also forms a necessary ingredient for any effective university. Academics must not only be well educated and reasonably paid, but also have a role in the governance of the university. This process will be especially difficult to implement in the Middle East, where a combination of political control and bureaucratic culture has stifled universities for decades. The demands of students to fully participate in governance are strong in the current environment, and students do have an appropriate role as members of the academic community. Experience shows, however, that the most successful universities are largely governed by the professoriate. Universities also need management, and professional administrators play an indispensable role. Thus the most-effective universities are complex institutions that require significant autonomy in a broader context of accountability to the public.

The final dilemma is one of the most difficult ones — the relationship between the university to the employment market. Even well-qualified graduates cannot be guaranteed jobs if the economy is stagnating. Unemployed university graduates are a potent political force in many countries, and it is difficult to match the output of graduates to the available employment opportunities. The best reforms the educational system can do is to ensure the education of well-qualified graduates.

No doubt, the deficiencies of the higher education system contribute to political instability in the Middle East. Clearly, a significant reform is mandatory. Achieving needed reform in difficult political, social, and economic circumstances constitutes a daunting challenge. First, a roadmap for change is needed. Then, a social consensus must emerge to implement it.

(Philip G. Altbach is Monan professor of higher education and director of the Center for International Higher Education at Boston College.)








CHENNAI: The United States Embassy in Islamabad was extremely concerned about the misappropriation of money given to Pakistan as reimbursement of costs of fighting terrorist outfits such as al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

A number of cables sent between 2007 and 2009 to Washington by U.S. Ambassador Anne W. Patterson called for a thoroughgoing review of the Coalition Support Fund (CSF), set up by the U.S. after the 9/11 attack to reimburse its key allies the costs of providing assistance in the 'global war on terror.' The cables suggested that money given for providing logistical, military and other support to U.S. military operations were "diverted" and that reimbursement claims made by Pakistan's military were "seriously inflated."

In a wire ( 114010: confidential) dated July 2, 2007, Ms. Patterson stated that the Embassy has increasingly engaged the Pakistan government to ensure that CSF reimbursements were "reasonable and credible." She mentioned that the "areas of greatest concern" were Pakistan's claims relating to helicopter operations ($83 million annually), radar maintenance ($65 million annually) and Joint Staff operations ($5 million annually). She added: "We are also seeking confirmation of the location of bunkers constructed ($35 million) and roads built ($20 million) since July 2006, and we have requested answers to anomalies in the cost of rations, flak vests and accommodations maintenance."

A cable ( 223755: confidential) sent on September 4, 2007, recorded Ms. Patterson telling Pakistan Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin that a $500 million CSF transfer that Pakistan was awaiting "could not be disbursed until the Pakistani military had properly accounted for its expenditures." She drew attention to its "continuing inability to provide receipts."

The cables were written at a time when the total CSF reimbursements to Pakistan exceeded $6 billion, accounting for 90 per cent of the total funding under the programme worldwide. The fact that the funds were usually channelled into Pakistan's general treasury complicated the problem of identifying their final destination.

Another cable ( 233602: confidential) dated November 6, 2009, quoted Mr. Tarin as having claimed to have done a detailed analysis. It concluded that of a total of $6.6 billion the U.S. had given Pakistan, only some $250 million had gone to the Pakistan Army: the rest had "gone into the regular budget." The Finance Minister is said to have stressed that coalition support funds count as income in the budget, thereby "positively affecting the fiscal deficit."

According to another cable ( 134295: confidential) sent on December 14, 2007, the two clear areas of misappropriation were helicopter readiness and medical support to the Frontier Corps. Although Pakistan received $55 million for helicopter operations between July 2006 and February 2007, the cable said the Embassy was confident that the Army Aviation Command never received the money.

It recorded that only two to six Cobra helicopters were "fully mission capable" at the time the Pakistan government "desperately need air power to fight spreading militancy."

Stating that the Pakistan Army had claimed $99 million over the past 12 months for medical operations — a claim that the U.S. had settled or was in the process of settling — the cable stated that "the Frontier Corps still did not receive basic medevac [medical evacuation] support."

Apart from this, a fully funded $235 million CSF lease assistance was provided for the acquisition of 26 new Bell 412 helicopters; however, the cable noted that "the Inspector General of the Frontier Corps had repeatedly requested U.S. assistance to provide assets for medevac, obviously unaware of the resources the U.S. has provided.

Adding that the $26 million claim for barbed wire and pickets were "highly suspect," the cable noted that despite repeatedly raising issues relating to CSF disbursement with high-ranking Pakistan officials, including the Prime Minister, the Embassy had "not received satisfactory responses."

Ms. Patterson listed four "potential options" to address the issue of ensuring that U.S. money was spent on meeting its counter-terrorism objectives.

The first was to "stop approving Pakistan's CSF reimbursement requests until we receive adequate assurances on disbursement" — an option she herself ruled out on the grounds that it would lead to a "major political clash" and damage the U.S.-Pakistan military relationship. The other three options were to earmark CSF money for specific areas, create a CSF "trust fund" that would allow Washington to control reimbursement and to obligate some funds for specific needs, and to convert the CSF into a direct cash transfer programme.

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








The Indian government's decision to choose two non-U.S. finalists for the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) competition was, as one U.S. official put it, "a source of puzzlement and disappointment" for the government and defence industry. After putting forward two of the most formidable fighters ever deployed — and investing millions of dollars in the competition — neither Boeing nor Lockheed Martin was able to secure a place among the finalists in the selection process. Had they been chosen, the U.S. aircraft would have also provided a ladder to ever higher levels of U.S. technology transfer.

That said, while U.S. government and industry officials are dismayed over the decision, it should not inhibit the continued deepening of defence ties between the U.S. and India. The U.S. and India have made substantial progress over the past half-decade in this regard and it should be noted that fitful transitions to new partnerships are not new for India.

Ronen Sen, India's former Ambassador to the U.S., captured the dynamic well in his April 1 speech to the Institute of Defence and Security Analysis (IDSA) when he outlined the historical phases of India's defence relations with various countries, to include the recent ties with the U.S. Sen observed: "During virtually all these transitional phases there were initial reservations and resistance to changes in significant sections of our political, bureaucratic and, to a lesser extent, military establishments. The debate on the current transitional phase in our defence cooperation is thus not unprecedented."

Level of uneasiness

However, while the debate goes on within the Indian government, there is a similar discussion going on within U.S. government and industry circles about what the future holds for the U.S.-India relationship. Most Americans fully understand that it will take persistence and patience to build this relationship. They also understand India's desire to protect its strategic autonomy and diversify its arms supply from a variety of sources. However, what is causing a measure of uneasiness within the U.S. is a sense that India may be viewing the relationship as transactional rather than a long term strategic partnership.

After concluding the civilian nuclear agreement, removing the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) from the U.S. Commerce Department's Entity List, and publicly supporting India for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, there has been a sense of disappointment at the rate of progress. While defence deals for cargo and surveillance aircraft are welcome and important, there is an American desire to take the partnership to the next level where both sides can work more seamlessly on areas of common interests such as maritime security in the Indian Ocean, counter-piracy, and humanitarian disasters. Instead, Americans perceive their Indian interlocutors as largely focused on technology transfer, co-production, and building its indigenous defence production capabilities, with much less enthusiasm shown for how both sides might work together on issues of common strategic concern.

Moving forward after the MMRCA decision, both sides need to develop a pragmatic approach to defence and security relations that is rooted in practical cooperation rather than the next giant step, like the civilian nuclear agreement or the multi-billion dollar fighter competition. In the words of Under Secretary of Defence Michelle Flournoy, the U.S. and India need to move towards a relationship that is "normal, expected, and routine." In this regard, the two countries should focus on initiatives that develop closer cooperation between the military services and foster a better understanding of how each government bureaucracy works.

Past instances of cooperation

While past instances of practical cooperation such as joint humanitarian efforts during the 2004 tsunami were notable, they are episodic and inconsistent. Both sides could start by developing procedures for cooperating on areas of mutual concern. For example, the Indian and U.S. navies, perhaps working through the U.S.-India Navy Executive Steering Group, could develop standard operating procedures for cooperating on humanitarian disasters, incidents of maritime proliferation, or counter-piracy. Developing such procedures is not dependent on signing defence agreements and would provide a practical way for both sides to deepen defence relations. Such practical cooperation would not impinge upon India's freedom of action; to the contrary, it would enhance India's ability to act as a provider of security and stability in the region and beyond.

It is also very important to remove bureaucratic bottlenecks that are impeding closer U.S.-India defence ties. As U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake recently said, the two countries need "to increase understanding of each other's processes, practices, and procedures to enable better cooperation in the future." For U.S. government and industry, South Block can be a mystery with paperwork or actions held up for months without any indication of when decisions might be taken. Indian officials sometimes perceive the U.S. bureaucracy as a source of confusion and frustration with unclear and inconsistent rationale on why particular technologies are granted or denied. While both sides conduct a range of bilateral defence dialogues, there is still a significant lack of understanding of how the bureaucracies in New Delhi and Washington work (or don't work as the case might be!).

Finally, both sides need to refrain from trumpeting any particular defence initiative or defence deal as a litmus test or indicator for the relationship. This does not mean that there should be no 'big ideas' of taking defence relations to the next level. Rather, it is an acknowledgment that in the case of U.S. and India, close defence relations need to emerge through routine interaction, rather than be punctuated solely by major defence deals or large exercises. Such an approach should be acceptable for India's domestic politics, mollify American demands for more practical cooperation, and keep Asia reassured about deepening defence ties between these two great democracies.

( Karl F. Inderfurth is Senior Advisor and Wadhwani Chair for U.S.-India Policy Studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and served as the Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia Affairs from 1997-2001. S. Amer Latif is a visiting fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and served as the Director for South Asian Affairs in the Office of the Secretary of Defense from 2007-2011. The views reflect only those of the authors.)






Ahead of the G8 summit in France on May 26-27, Russia has stepped up diplomatic activity in the Arab world in an effort to recapture the initiative it lost to the West in the recent turmoil in the region.

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov earlier this week met in Moscow with a delegation of the Libyan opposition led by former Libyan Foreign Minister Abdurraham Muhamed Shalgham. The meeting took place less than a week after representatives of the Libyan government and the special UN Secretary General's envoy for Libya Abdul-Ilah al-Khatib visited Moscow.

Mr. Lavrov said Moscow's main goal in engaging the two warring sides was "to promote an immediate end to the bloodshed, to the military activities."

"It is important at this stage to help define the participants in future talks… that would represent the interests of all political forces [and] all tribes in Libya," Mr. Lavrov said adding that a concrete list should be the result of an "all-Libya consensus." Russia abstained in the U.N. Security Council vote in March on international military intervention in Libya, but has since corrected its position strongly criticising the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) campaign as a flagrant breach of the U.N. mandate for imposing a no-fly zone in the North African country.

Even though the Moscow round of talks failed to produce agreement, Russia has won the support of both sides in the conflict for its mediation efforts. While Shalgham said rebels would not negotiate with the Qadhafi regime, he welcomed dialogue between the Transitional National Council (TNC) and Moscow. Russia agreed to accept the TNC as "a legitimate partner" in Libya even as it has retained formal ties with the Qadhafi government.

"We want it very much to be in touch with Russia, because it is a very important country, a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council," the rebel envoy said after talks with Mr. Lavrov. He also spoke out against the deployment of NATO ground forces in Libya. Russia's credentials as a mediator received a further boost on Sunday when Moscow hosted a meeting of rival Palestinian leaders from Fatah and Hamas. Mr. Lavrov announced after the talks that the Palestinians had agreed to an implementation mechanism for their reconciliation agreement signed in Cairo in early May. In contrast to the West, Russia has never branded Hamas as a terrorist group and invited its leaders to Moscow after Hamas won elections in Gaza. Moscow praised reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah, even as U.S. President Barack Obama called it an "enormous obstacle" to peace in the Middle East.

Russia's peace offensive on Libya comes at a time when the conflict there reached a stalemate and NATO looks increasingly likely to deploy ground forces to defeat the Qadhafi army. The Russian initiative clearly irked the West. This became evident when the TNC delegation visit to Moscow was postponed last week "for technical reasons."

Propaganda points

Even if the Russian mediation fails, Moscow will still score propaganda points by showing that there was a chance to resolve the crisis peacefully. Russia is bound to gain support in the Arab world which increasingly resents the West's military interference in Libya. Dialogue with the Libyan opposition will also help Russia safeguard its substantial economic and arms trade interests in Libya in the post-Qadhafi era.

Russian peace efforts in Libya have another important goal — to prevent a replay of the Libyan scenario in Syria, a key Russian ally in the Arab world, which hosts Russia's only naval base outside the former Soviet Union.

Syria is being tipped as the next target of the West's "humanitarian intervention." The U.S. and the European Union clamped down sanctions against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, but Russia and China blocked a Security Council resolution condemning the Syrian government's crackdown on opposition protests. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said he would oppose any U.N. resolution that would open the way for interference in Syria's internal affairs, remembering that the West "trampled upon Resolutions 1970 and 1973."

Two days before the G8 summit, where Libya and Syria would discussed, Mr. Medvedev reiterated Russia's support for the Syrian leader, telling him in a telephone call that Moscow stood up its "principled position regarding the events in Syria and around it" and hoped "the reforms launched by Bashar al-Assad will be implemented by the Syrian leadership dynamically and in a broad dialogue with the Syrian public."

Moscow's new activism in the Middle East and North Africa is putting to the test the Russian-U.S. "reset" and creates an intriguing setting for the one-to-one meeting between the Russian and U.S. Presidents on the sidelines of the G8 summit.




A response in connection with the Op-Ed article "Reinforcing the criticism of torture," by Salil Shetty, Secretary-General, Amnesty International, and published on May 13, 2011.

It has come as a great surprise to me that your prestigious newspaper, generally covering news with objectivity, has allowed the Op-Ed article "Reinforcing the criticism of torture" from the Secretary General of Amnesty International, Mr. Salil Shetty, to appear.

As the Ambassador of Cuba, one the countries which has done more for the development of human rights in the last 50 years, I cannot but feel outraged by the casual classification — by Mr. Shetty, following the ideological and political bias of Western nations, particularly the United States, which he considers to be "a big champion of human rights" — where Cuba has been included as a part of a group of repressive governments around the world.

I challenge Mr. Shetty to indicate any form of torture to any Cuban citizen or any journalist who has been beaten or killed, as it happens in many countries around the world. Why is there only the reference to Third World countries? Maybe the answer lies in his own words: "The human rights situation and civil and political rights in the developed world is better." Can that be true or is it the result of the origin of Amnesty's membership that he himself accepts is "… quite reliant on Western power base…" with their values and agendas?

It is incredible that Mr. Shetty does not dare to include the U.S. government or that of Israel as repressive governments despite Amnesty's detailed reports of the violations of human rights by both countries — many pages more and graver violations than whatever has been written about Cuba. Indeed, there is no need for these reports: hundreds of thousands of innocent people have been killed by the U.S. army and its NATO allies in Iraq, Afghanistan, now in Libya, by Israel in occupied Palestine and other Arab nations.

When he includes Cuba he does not have an excuse, as he was the Director of the U.N. Millennium Goals and he knows quite well what Cuba has achieved in providing human rights to its people, the right to education, to health, to gender equality and many others. He does not mention that the best country in the developing world to be a mother is Cuba, according to "Save the Children" organisation, or that Cuba has 100 per cent literacy or an infant mortality rate of 4.5 per 10,000 alive, the lowest in the Western hemisphere.

How is it that the actions of repressive police in Europe and in the U.S., the violent pogroms and anti-immigrant actions in the U.S. and Europe cannot be seen and judged with the same standard by Amnesty International?

How can anyone believe Amnesty International is a trustworthy organisation when it condemns the attacks of Qadhafi to Misrat and does not say a word against the NATO attacks on civilians, including children?

His rhetoric of defence of human rights lacks credibility, and especially so the article of reference which tries to criticise the acceptability of torture as a way to obtain a confession, but does not dare to condemn the nations that promote and condone the use of torture, particularly the U.S. government.

I would appreciate it if this reply is published in a prominent manner in order to respect my right to a reply which I am sure your prestigious newspaper will recognise.

Miguel Angel Ramirez

Cuban Ambassador

New Delhi

May 19, 2011








The testimony in a Chicago court of David Coleman Headley, the former Dawood Gilani, against Tahawwur Rana, his co-accused in the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, provides us with rich details of the links between the Inter-Services Intelligence, the spy branch of the Pakistani military, and the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba terrorist outfit in planning and executing 26/11.

Headley played the advance scout for this mission, and used his schoolfriend Rana's immigration business as a cover to visit Mumbai often. When he was pulled in by the American security agencies, he turned approver in return for a lighter sentence, and is now providing evidence in the trial against Rana, once his roommate at a well-known Pakistani military residential school. The other object of note in Headley's testimony — which ended after two days on Tuesday — is the plan he has revealed to assassinate Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray. Fortunately that did not materialise or the Mumbai region might have been turned into a tinderbox with Hindu-Muslim communalism touching fever pitch. That would have delighted both the LeT and its ISI patrons.
Headley's evidence is compelling. Email exchanges between him and ISI and LeT operatives have been presented to the court. But it is early days yet, and in the end it is up to the jury. But by offering Headley as the star witness in the Rana trial, the prosecution (US government) is indicating that it reposes faith in Headley's story. However, given the complexities of America's relationship with Pakistan, it is doubtful if Washington will publicly accuse the ISI's decision-making levels of colluding with LeT in attacking Mumbai. Even on the question of shielding Osama bin Laden for over five years at Abbottabad (where he was killed by US special forces earlier this month), let us remember that the US is officially fighting shy of pointing fingers at the ISI's top hierarchy, although this is strongly hinted at in observations by several senior US officials. What is clear, however, is that beating about the bush on the involvement of Pakistan's security services in the Mumbai attacks plays to the advantage of the ISI as well as the LeT, whose terrorist plans are now no longer confined to India.
In India we never had any doubts about the deep involvement of Pakistan's military establishment and its spy agencies in targeting this country's population centres. The grisly Mumbai episode was just one instance in a long chain of many attacks against civilians in India. When we accuse Pakistan, Islamabad wants mathematical proof. But when the evidence is provided, it seeks to brazen it out by saying that it doesn't add up. (Or it throws the red-herring of the so-called Indian involvement in supporting separatists in Balochistan. According to one Pakistani theory, even the Pakistani Taliban have been set up by India!) We should therefore be quite clear that even if Rana is convicted on the basis of Headley testifying against him, the Pakistani establishment would have us believe that these are mere individuals, and the link suggested with the ISI is less than tenuous.
Pakistan is also known to take shelter behind its court procedures. Perhaps this is the time for Pakistani courts to do a video-conference with Headley with the help of the Americans. That might bring a lot of material on record that is not emanating from India. But let's be realistic. This would never happen. Even so, after Bin Laden was discovered hiding for years in a Pakistani garrison town near Islamabad, the world no longer believes Pakistan on the question of terrorism. Frankly, nor do ordinary Pakistanis. They are like ordinary people anywhere. They keep quiet out of fear in a militarised state. The revelations made so far owe not a little to India keeping up the pressure.






The anger in Washington policy circles when the US fighter planes — the Lockheed-Martin F-16IN and the Boeing F-18 Super Hornet — did not make it to the Indian Air Force's Medium-range Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) shortlist, was a thing to behold. It was as if an ungrateful India had reneged on a done aircraft deal — just rewards for easing India's entry on to the verandah of the five-country nuclear weapons club.

The American incomprehension with the Indian decision is itself incomprehensible. Lockheed and Boeing actually believed they would win with platforms of late 1960s vintage jazzed up with a downgraded Raytheon APG-79 (or even a de-rated "81") version of the Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) look-down, ground-mapping, radar. The Indian Air Force is not the most advanced but its leadership, despite its flaws, knows when it is being palmed off with yesterday's goods. Had Washington offered the Joint Strike Fighter, the F-35 Lightning II, the IAF would have jumped at it and the decision would have been hurrahed along by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. In the event, the French Rafale and the EADS (European Aeronautic Defence and Space) Company's Typhoon Eurofighter progressed even as Lockheed and Boeing were sought to be pacified with two transport aircraft deals — the one for the C-130J making sense, the other for the C-17 not. Russia, likewise, was mollified with collaboration on the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA).

To my consternated friends in Washington who sought an explanation, I offered an analogy. Some two decades back, the Daimler-Benz car company entered the Indian market with older Mercedes models, convinced the cash-rich yokels would splash good money for anything with the three-cornered star on the bonnet. The outdated cars, by and large, remained unsold and the investment in production jigs and tools in their factory in Pune went waste. The Germans quickly corrected course, offering the newest Mercedes models, available in Dusseldorf, in Delhi.

The sale of Rafale or Eurofighter to India is a lifeline to both the Dassault Company and the French aviation sector generally and the four-country consortium producing, so far unviably, the latter aircraft that an expert acquaintance dismissed as something "Germany doesn't want, Britain can't afford, and Spain and Italy neither want nor can afford!" But, leverage-wise, it affords India traction with four European countries instead of just France in case Rafale is taken. But is either of these aircraft genuinely multi-role?

Dr Carlo Kopp, an internationally renowned combat aviation specialist, deems the Typhoon, a non-stealthy, short-range (300 nautical miles) air defence/air dominance fighter optimised for transonic manoeuvres, more a "lemon" than a "demon". Italian Air Force Chief Gen. Vincenzo Camporini, moreover, declared in 2008 that this plane was incapable of an "attack role in an economically sustainable manner", in part because EADS has no AESA radar. It hopes to develop one with the infusion of Indian monies if Typhoon is selected. Realistically, India will not get the strike variant until well into the 2020s as the Royal Air Force and the German Luftwaffe, for starters, will have the first lien on it. In short, for over a third of its lifetime, the IAF will have to make do with the more limited air defence version which, in effect, is an avionics-wise souped-up, ergonomically improved, MiG-21! Moreover, to expect timely, coordinated, supply of spares and service support from 20-odd countries (including Croatia!) roped into the Eurofighter programme will be a compounded logistics and maintenance nightmare.

Rafale is a smaller, semi-stealth plane with slightly better un-refuelled range than the Typhoon but, equipped with the RBE-22A AESA radar, can undertake ground attack, including nuclear weapon delivery. Critically, it has finessed the algorithm (patented, incidentally, by an Indian scientist) for more effective fusion of data from numerous on-board and external sensors (such as satellite) better than the Eurofighter. Except, as late as 2009, Rafale was ruled operationally inadequate perhaps because it is less agile in "dogfighting" — a role the IAF brass remains enamoured with long after advanced tactical missiles have made close-quarter aerial battle history. Rafale and Typhoon nevertheless cost a bomb, with the MMRCA eventually coming in at around $20 billion.

The F-16 was rejected because, in part, the Pakistan Air Force flies it. By this reckoning, Pakistan may also access Typhoon and Rafale. EADS is trying desperately to sell the Typhoon to Turkey. If it succeeds, PAF will end up familiarising itself with it, if not actually benefiting from surreptitious transfer of its technologies. Trying to ramp up its defence sales, France has explored the sale of Rafale to Pakistan as has Russia the MiG-35 in order to compete with China for influence in Islamabad (which is not barred by any provision in the FGFA deal with India).

The MMRCA is a rubbish acquisition. The defence ministry followed up the questionable decision with a singular display of lack of negotiating savvy. With the MiG-35 option on the table, India could have played the Europeans off against the Russians to secure the best terms, even if ultimately for Rafale/Typhoon. Instead, there's the appalling record of defence ministry officials and service officers repeatedly muffing deals, worse, acting as patsies for, or playing footsy with, the supplier states, resulting in treasury-emptying contracts that have fetched the country little in return. Learning from the past, defence minister A.K. Antony had better instruct his negotiators to insist on only phased payments linked to time-bound delivery of aircraft and full transfer of technology (including source codes and flight control laws for all aspects of the aircraft), and on deterrent penalties that automatically kick in at the slightest infringement or violation of clauses deliberately tilted to favour India. Considering Delhi — prior to signing the deal — is in a position to arm-twist almost anything out of the supplier firms using the threat of walking out on the deal, the litmus test of a "successful" MMRCA transaction will be whether, by way of offsets, and notwithstanding the initial problems with absorbing advanced technology, the Indian defence industry has gained top-edge technological-industrial competence across the broad combat aviation front (rather than rights to mere licenced manufacture as in past deals).

Bharat karnad is a professor at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi






If there is a fire next door, the neighbours are bound to get worried. The latest terrorist attack, on a major naval station near Karachi, may have been frustrated by the government forces but the crisis in Pakistan is much more serious than the events of the last two days portray. It should worry India, other countries in the region, the United States and other world powers.

Untackled, it can engulf the subcontinent, the US and other countries who would not know how to handle Pakistan erupting.

Pakistan is sitting on an explosive mix of jihadism, terrorism of varied hues and a militarist hubris born of the nuclear weapons it has piled up during the last few years.

India can legitimately tell Pakistan that the present situation is the outcome of past mistakes, like excessive reliance on the military for building a nation state and using terrorist groups as an aid to policy towards India in the east and Afghanistan in its northwest. It will, however, be politically incorrect for Indians to indulge in a "we-told-you-so" attitude, even if India has been victim of terrorism exported by Pakistan.

The US has been unpopular in Pakistan for some years now. The killing of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, just a few miles from Islamabad, earlier this month has seen the Pakistan Army lose face with the people. The attack on the Karachi naval base, which is actually a joint establishment of the Pakistan Army, Air Force and Navy, has sharply brought out how the Pakistani military establishment has failed to tackle threats from terrorist groups which can attack even a highly protected base.

The civil authorities at the federal headquarters or in the provinces are too weak to protect Pakistan from terrorist groups. This was evident when Pakistan's Parliament failed even to condemn the killing of Punjab governor Salman Taseer by his guard for criticising the blasphemy laws forced upon Pakistan by the jihadi groups. Even Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani did not condemn the jihadi groups for endorsing Taseer's murder.
More important is the fear that Pakistan's nuclear weapons can be captured by jihadi groups who can then blackmail the world, pushing it towards a bigger conflagration.

A serious possibility can also be visualised of the breaking up of Pakistan as a nation.

The scenario of a Pakistan broken into pieces can be more grim for India and the world than Pakistan as one country has been, even if it has been a problem nation for India and the rest of the world. India has no solution for Pakistan's problems, endemic or otherwise; nevertheless, gloating over its troubles, as some people are prone to, is not warranted. What is needed is cool reflection and working out different policy options to tackle contingencies.

It is not only India that should worry about the present situation acquiring critical mass. The US, Europe, Russia and nations in Pakistan's neighbourhood would need to get into consultations at different levels to take a view of the developing situation.

Even the Chinese, who have sought to restore Pakistan's shattered morale after what happened at Abbottabad, would need to ponder the possibility of Pakistan's nuclear weapons falling into the hands of jihadi groups and also about Pakistan splintering into small states.

In Pakistan itself a large number of people are deeply worried these days about the present and the future of their country. Among the Pakistan Army top brass also there could be a few generals who would know the dangers that have arisen for the state of Pakistan partly because of the dalliance between the Army and the jihadi groups which it used for several years for foreign policy purposes as well as for keeping a check on the rise of democratic forces.

On the other hand, there could also be elements in the Pakistan Army who were recruited by Zia-ul Haq to inject Islamist ideology into the Pakistan Army. Some of these officers may have been weeded out, but there could be others who would have by now become senior officers working in concert with jihadi groups. Gen. Kayani would know who these officers are and how a mutually-accommodative relationship with the jihadi groups has brought Pakistan to this pass.

Gen. Kayani certainly cannot be comfortable with the image of the Army in his own country and in the rest of the world after Abbottabad.

He has had also to see the ignominy of his Inter-Services Intelligence chief appear before Parliament and explain why the Army could not detect the US helicopters attacking Osama's house in Abbottabad. Men in uniform in Pakistan are not used to appearing before civilians who are always the object of sneers in Army messes.

The Karachi attack has been another blow. Hence his need to take steps to retrieve the lost image. How he goes about it remains to be seen.

Theoretically, there are many options.

He can be funny with the Americans on the Afghanistan border, or indulge in adventurism on the eastern border with India. Both these are risky propositions, and hence, unlikely propositions.

He could also stage a coup, send civilians back home and grab absolute power under the plea that only the Army can save Pakistan. The best option for him, however, is to cut the terrorists' umbilical cord and strike at the jihadi groups in Pakistan. This way, perhaps, he can save Pakistan from descending into chaos.
Whether he chooses this course or follows still another remains to be seen.

H.K. Dua is a senior journalist and currently an MP









Soon after India gained independence from the colonial rule in 1947, some of our leading political ideologues tried to approach national security issue from an idealist standpoint. They were less inclined to take a couple of lessons from world history, and drew mostly from indescribable code of ethics and morality. Their contention was that India was a colonized country, waged a long and bloody campaign for independence and had no ill intentions and aggrandizement against any country, much less against the neighbouring ones. Ideally that was the situation but the real politik does not go by desk-book norms. It is an old axiom that in the history of international diplomacy there are no permanent friends and no permanent enemies, there are only permanent interests. Thus the first shock that we had was the Pakistan- sponsored tribal incursion on Jammu and Kashmir, a virtual war thrust on India and which India had to fight. Then came the big debacle that brought us to blows with eastern neighbour and thereafter, our idealistic leadership opened its eyes on real-politik. The slogan of Chini-Hindi bhai bhai was short-lived and most deceptive. Thereafter we have fought three more wars with Pakistan, and the proxy war unleashed by Pakistan in 1990 is sill ranging with all its fury despite a lapse of two decades and more. Except for Sino-Indian war, we have almost won all the other wars in one way or the other. But we don't have a comprehensive history of these wars and that keeps our younger generation ignorant of our achievements or even our shortcomings. This is a big lapse and has to be overcome.

At an Air Force function the Governor recently made a very cogent point in his address. He advised that the history of our wars needs to be written and published. Great nations have always maintained a fairly honest record of their wars with their adversaries whether they won or lost them. The importance of keeping a record of the wars is that firstly we know the heroes of our armed forces who attained name and fame as valiant soldiers fighting to preserve the independence of our country. It makes every Indian proud of them and infuses in the younger generation a spirit of nationalism or to follow in the footsteps of these immortal heroes. Secondly, it also helps our nation to identify our weak points when forced to fight against an adversary, and how those can be remedied. Even a defeat in a battle has its positive side. Thirdly, we should know that we have a long border with two hostile countries to the north and north-east and to the west. Given the anti-India nexus that these two countries have formed and their avowed policy of harming us and denying us the status of a great power in South Asia, we need to be prepared to meet any threat from them to our security. All this makes it unavoidable for our historians and intellectuals that we maintain an unbiased and dependable record of the wars, both open and by proxy, Great war memoirs lend confidence and pride to nations. Look at Winston Churchill's five volume Memoirs of World War II, and one finds how many aspects of political, social and economic life of the country need to be highlighted for the information of the posterity. Sometimes biographies of great men and great Generals also serve as war history in part. We have the biography of Rommel, a great German war hero of World War II. Yet it is more of a history of war than a mere biography. We need to cultivate the culture of writing memoirs like those and biographies as well. After all we have made great achievements right from the times of the Mutiny of 1857 and subsequent years. We are not laying stress on political histories or biographies as much field has been covered in those two branches. We are essentially speaking of writing the history of the wars. A dependable history of our wars would no doubt remove any misunderstanding which some of the people in this country may have. It will prompt many thinkers and strategists to offer their respective security plans to the Government so that repeats like Kargil do not happen.







Some lessons should flow from 24 hour-long bloody siege of Mehran airport by the Pakistani Taliban gunmen. The first lesson is that even the most secured sites are vulnerable to terrorist attacks. The reason is that Pakistani locals are fraternizing with the TTP as the only redemption for the beleaguered Pakistani civil society. The Taliban and the TTP are the creation of Pakistan and its ISI. The TTP would not have gained such a strength and expertise in launching assaults on tightly protected areas without input from local conduits and moles. This means that the diehard terrorists in Pakistan working under different names can and have made inroads into the Pakistan army. Without support and encouragement from inside the Pak Army, these terrorists would not be able to achieve the type of success they have registered in which they have blown up two Orion reconnaissance aircrafts. It is becoming more and more noticeable that Pakistan's religious extremists have made dent in Pakistan Army, the bastion of Pakistan's security. The Mehran air base attack has come on the heels of American attack on Abbotabad and the also makes commentators and Pakistan watchers think that the terrorists in that country can also have access to the nuclear weapons either directly or indirectly through their moles in Pakistan armed forces. We are aware that in Pakistan Naval force as well as in its Air force contingents, rabid anti-state elements have been at work in the past. No fewer that 50 Pakistani air force personnel were charged with involvement in a plot to kill the then President General Musharraf. Same is true of Pakistan navy as well. Mehran air base assault will give Washington sleepless nights fearing that Pakistan's nuclear arsenal can one fine day pass into the hands of the terrorists. The multi-million dollar question is how to forestall this dangerous menace in Pakistan. Anti-state terrorists have already infiltrated into Islamabad's security paraphernalia. And in Baluchistan, the separatist movement is gaining momentum day after day.







Thanks to the policy blunders of the dictators and Generals of Pakistan, terrorism has grown to gigantic proportions in Pakistan in the last three decades. Now Pakistani leaders can be seen crying, "Pakistan itself is the biggest victim of terrorism." As a consequence of wrong decision making and policy failures, today Pakistan is begging for the world "support" to combat terrorism. Killing of Osama bin Laden by the US commandoes near the Pakistani capital has left Pak leaders speechless. Pakistani people and the ruling elite are nowadays faced with varying kinds of doubts. People are shocked by the failure of Pakistani army, security and intelligence system at a time when the US forces entered Pakistan, killed Osama and fled away with his body. The people of Pakistan are treating it as a "violation" of their "sovereignty."

Although public posturing of Pak rulers is same as that of the people, they are incapable of doing anything more than that. Washington is not only calling "Operation Geronimo" legitimate, it has also indicated that such an operation could be repeated in its national interest. Moreover, on the very next day of killing Laden, the US carried out yet another drone attack in Pakistani airspace. Albeit to show to the people of Pakistan, this time Pak army fired back on an American helicopter for "violating" its airspace. In retaliatory fire that followed, many Pakistan soldiers got injured. Amidst the rising tensions in the aftermath of Laden's killing, American senator John Kerry recently visited Pakistan. He clearly told Pakistan that America has no regrets for Operation Geronimo.

Pakistani establishment should ponder over the reasons for why it is faced with such harsh realities today. The world knows that Pakistan is the biggest nursery and sanctuary for terrorists. The international media has even started describing Pakistan a 'paradise of terrorists.' When terrorist training camps are functioning openly, and their heads are thriving fearlessly on the state's expense, how can some other nation be responsible for such a pathetic condition of Pakistan? This was the first time since the presence of Osama in Pakistan was substantiated after five years that Pakistan had to tell the world that it is "serious about combating terrorism" and very "concerned" by the accusations being imposed upon it.

In a special session of the Parliament of Pakistan called for this purpose, the ISI chief Gen. Shuja Pasha was faced with tough questions of the members. Most of them asked for the justification of the secret links between the ISI and the terrorists/Al Qaeda. Reluctant to answer such queries, Pasha offered to resign from his post. Declining his resignation plea, Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani came out in support of Pakistani security and intelligence agencies. He refuted the charge of the secret links between the ISI and Al Qaeda. A day later, the Pakistani Taliban killed over 80 people in an attack on Pakistani security forces. Through this attack, the terrorists have tried to convey that this is the beginning of the backlash of Laden's killing. In another attack on 22 May, Meharbaan Naval base of Pakistan Navy in Karachi was targeted in which 15 people, including 10 security personnel were killed. This attack is said to be the biggest on any Pakistani security installation in recent times.

Post-9/11, Pakistan has obtained billions of dollars and huge cache of arms and weaponry from the US in the name of combating terrorism. Is it a mere coincidence or a pre-meditated conspiracy of the Pak establishment that since Pakistan is procuring arms and money from America, the arsenal and power of terrorists has simultaneously increased during this period, and economic strength of these forces is also increasing rapidly. Pakistan owes explanation to the world vis-à-vis its contribution, if any, in combating global terrorism. More shameful for Pakistan was that its ally America didn't share with it the Operation Geronimo plan, thanks to the their distrust towards Pakistani security and intelligence agencies. Unwilling to learn anything from the Operation, the leaders of Pakistan are now targeting the peace loving India to divert attention from their own perennial failures. Indian Premier Manmohan Singh recently said in Afghanistan, "India is not like the US" to launch an Abbottabad-like covert operation in Pakistan. In response to this sensible statement, the ISI chief Shuja Pasha not only warned India of "retaliation" in case of any such step by India, he also told Pakistani lawmakers that "targets in India had already been identified." The contradictions embedded in Pakistani establishment's postures are easily noticeable. While they love to remain a puppet in the hands of Americans, at the same time, they find pleasure in insanely threatening and warning India of "consequences." They seem to have forgotten the biggest surrender of their forces to India in 1971.At the same time U S President Barack Obama and Former Pak Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif also opines that Pakistan should not treat india as its "enemy no. 1."

Amidst this chaos and anarchy in Pakistan, when Prime Minister Gilani seeks the world support to fight terrorism, the question becomes imperative- What kind of support Pakistan expects from the world? Does it need only arms and money to "fight terror", which has proved to be counterproductive? When the US has to substantiate the presence of the most dreadful terrorist in its backyard through a unilateral action, Pakistan finds it "violation of sovereignty." Therefore, it is in the best interest of Pakistan as well as the international community that Pakistan prepares a 'Charter' clearly depicting the kind of "support" it seeks from the world.








Human being is considered as most intelligent and highly evolved species . He has mastered control over other species existing on this earth. His progress in various fronts of development is awesome, he has set foot on moon,he has cracked human genome,engineered genetically modified organisms , revolutionized information technology , and put his footprints everywhere .

Despite all these achievements , man could not control his greed and remained selfish throughout .In contrast to wild creatures which remained need based in their survival instinct ,man nurtured greed and remained selfish throughout history . He did good things as well but could not wash hands of his greed as a result he plundered nature, exploited poor , played mischief , prioritized material gains and patronized corruption in almost all fields of the development.

Corruption became more rampant in modern times and it flourished as moral values took back seat in learning man turned materialistic. By and by corruption entered into man's psyche and society also stopped criticizing such people who were earlier looked down upon and not tolerated but not anymore.Corrupt outnumbered honest in all spheres of life including pious professions like education ,health ,and trend continued unhindered . Laws and law implementing agencies struggled initially but ultimately succumbed and became party to the designs and motives of corrupt bureaucrats, politicians, police officers and others.

Scourge of corruption percolated to all levels ,all institutions,all public servants and common man became helpless before unscrupulous dishonest mafia who distorted all rules and regulations and allured all those who were supposed to enforce anti corruption laws in the country . Now we have reached at such a stage where corruption has become a frightening monster challenging all those who dare to raise voice against corruption. Latest example of large scale bungling in organization of common wealth games in the country is an eye opener , it proves our commitment to corruption and has no shame in refuting the charges leveled against .Unless ,we overhaul our educational system inflict examplery punishment to offenders ,connect corruption with religious preachings and reward honest people for their contribution and moral values nothing can be expected of feeble fight against all powerful corruption .It is not easy to find honest persons like Lal Bahadur Shastri who despite being Prime Minister of India never thought of misusing power to his advantage .We need to inculcate such virtues and values within each Indian before it is too late.

Man has to turn towards nature and its wild creatures in imbibing its need based existence and shun greed based materialistic approach. By spoiling nature and its life support systems ,man is digging its own grave without realizing that earth and its processes all coexist and are intricately connected , harm at one level is going to harm whole harmony of nature.James Lovelock 's Gaia theory highlights this interdependence of nature and signals warning to human beings to mend ways if future survival is to be sustained on this earth. This cannot be accomplished in the prevalent atmosphere of materialistic greed and early we get rid of our corruption menace,better it is for future survival . Let us not eat into the vitals of our interdependent cosmos where all energy is constant and running through our bodies in delicately balanced biosphere .








With the Government signing a $150 million loan agreement with the World Bank with an aim to strengthen e-governance initiatives, e-governance is increasingly becoming the order of the day.

Shankar Aggarwal, Additional Secretary, Department of Information Technology, said, "We are certain that, this loan from the World Bank will support the National e-Governance Plan (NeGP) in its efforts to ensure efficient, cost effective, accessible and transparent delivery of public services across the country."
Efforts are also underway to bring in legislation to make it mandatory for every Central Government organisation and department to deliver public services using information and communication technology (ICT).
According to Aggarwal, who is also heading the e-governance initiative of the Centre, the draft of the bill called 'electronic service delivery' is ready. The benefits of the bill would include efficient, transparent and reliable delivery of web enabled public services in a definite and time-bound manner to citizens, thereby transforming governance.
Though Aggarwal says that once the bill is ready and sent to all the state governments, "it will be the prerogative of the state government whether to implement the act or not," states are not lagging behind. Over the years, a large number of initiatives have been undertaken by various State Governments to usher in an era of e-governance. Sustained efforts have been made at multiple levels to improve the delivery of public services and simplify the process of accessing them. Quite obviously, therefore, the objective of achieving e-governance goes far beyond mere computerization of standalone back-office operations.

Recently, more than 1400 state offices of the Haryana Government have been connected with the State Wide Area Network (SWAN) in order to improve various e-Governance services in the state. Haryana's Social Justice and Empowerment Department has launched the new pension distribution system aiming to make the policy implementation transparent and also to check corruption. "IT would improve the quality of life of the people, besides upgrading the standard of administration, especially in social and public services," said Bhupinder Singh Hooda, Chief Minister of Haryana.

On the occasion of the state's 51st anniversary, Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan's promised to provide more facilities through e-governance, shows the state's willingness. "The Government has decided to provide more facilities to the people through e-governance. We would make available all the decisions, information, rules and regulations on the website through the e-governance initiative."

The Kalyan Dombivali Municipal Corporation's (KDMC) e-governance model of delivering services, like payment of taxes, property related queries for telephone or internet connections, application for new water connection, application for any other service or application for birth/death certificate , simple registration of any civic complaint is another boost to the government's national e-Governance programme. The model would now be replicated in all 231 Urban Local Bodies across Maharashtra by 2012.

The Maharashtra Government is also in the process of developing software to put the medical drug inventory available online with pharmacists, in all districts and tehsil hospitals. The online monitoring system would prevent using old or expired drugs at districts and tehsil hospitals.

Earlier this month, in an e-governance initiative, Chief Minister Narendra Modi launched the Gujarat Swarnim Gram E-Broadcast Project in the villages of Amreli. Giving details the chief minister said that the Government will disseminate information useful to rural livelihood by erecting large LED screens in public places.
Praveen Bhadada, Manager, Zinnov, a leading management consulting firm, said, "We see a lot of initiatives coming in from the Government in the shape of e-governance. There are huge amount of investments that are taking place and administrators in India are trying to implement cloud computing in e-governance."
Some of the innovative and successful e-governance projects, include Gyandoot (state of Madhya Pradesh), Akshaya (state of Kerala), Bhoomi (state of Karnataka), eSeva (state of Andhra Pradesh) and HP-Kuppam (state of Andhra Pradesh), in the country that had an impact on thelives of citizens on whom they were targeted. (NPA)








Though India is one of the largest producers of the food in the world, nearly three hundred million people struggle for meeting two square meals a day and 21 percent of the national population are malnourished. This indicates the issues of accessibility to adequate and nutritive food to the poor. It is well documented that most poor families in the world spend eighty percent of their total income on food grains and sufficient purchasing power deprives them from accessing food in light quantity. In this back drop, an attempt is made to assess the trends in the food grain production, field and availability and examine the efficacy of food based security net of the govt. towards achieving its objective of universal food and nutritional security. The euphoria of green revolution and related measures started fading with time and there has been a progressive decline in public investment in agriculture during 1960 and 2009. There have been challenges and gaps in tackling the problem of poverty and hunger across the states in the country. All though India has been able to eradicate famine or has reduced the risks of famine like situation through the public distribution system network, the food sufficiency, quality and nutritive value of food grains have now emerged as a considerable challenge along with the related issues of poverty and nutrition. Problem of food security cannot be viewed only in terms of procurement and distribution of food. It should also be seen in the context of production of food grains, livelihood of people and over all management of food economy. Already food prices in India have skyrocketed, making lives of tens of millions miserable and threatening our food security. India has, therefore necessity to enhance farm productivity to make food accessible to all.

Right to food is a birth right for all and should be an integral part of the right to life as enshrined in article 21 of the Indian Constitution as well as Universal Declaration of Human Rights unless it gets enforced legally and socially, hunger will continue. In 1974 Food and Agriculture Organization had declared that by 1984 "no child, woman or man should go to bed hungry and no human being's physical or mental potential should be stunted by malnutrition. Seriously disadvantaged sections of our population like orphans, widows, old and infirm persons, pregnant women suffering from anemia. And Children in the age group of zero to two belonging to poor families and those affected by leprosy, tuberculosis, need to be provided food free of cost. In India, the right to food campaign launched in 2001 focused its demand to address the structural roots of hunger since India's commitments to tackle the problem of hunger and malnutrition are among the worst. Integrated child development scheme has been under implementation since early 1970s, but still 45% of our children were malnourished and underweight. Today hunger and deprivation affect about 260 million people in the country. India is a home to 40% of the world under weight children and ranks 126 out of 177 countries in the UNDP human development index. Gandhi Jee emphasized that hunger should be over come without eroding human dignity. He wanted every Indian to have an opportunity to earn his/her daily bread. During 1960s and 1970s agriculture received significant momentum and witnessed green revolution, but thereafter rate of growth of food grains in particular progressively declined. India has the largest irrigated land.

Research on improving farm productivity and return on farm investments to significantly enhance farmers prosperity is a continuous process. productivity of crops can be increased substantially by creating enabling environment, significant investment in infrastructure, establishing state of art, agri-meteorology, expanding irrigation and reclamation of waste lands. Strengthening research and extension and capacity building of farmers to bridge the huge yield gap. National commission on farmers has made recommendations to find long term solution to farmers problems in rain fed and drought prone areas. Immediate need is to evaluate the effectiveness of the implementation of recommendations and commitments made in the Parliament. Future belongs to nations with grains. Since our farmers have to produce food for 1.2 billion human beings and over one billion farm animals by hard labour under scorching sun and torrential rains, it more than justifies that every grain produced is to be stored safely. The storage in order to make cost efficient and producer. Food grains storage systems should be modernized to prevent insect and pest infestation. Prevailing mismatch between production and past harvest technology should end. Safe storage, marketing and value addition to primary products have to be attended at the village. A national grid of ultra modern grain storage facilities must be created without delay. It will help in making food accessible to all and end food insecurity.











What India has been saying from the housetops all this while is now being recorded under oath in a Chicago court by terror operative David Headley: that the ISI was actively involved in the Mumbai attack in 2008 which killed 170 people, including six Americans. This would have been sensational stuff even if he was an ordinary witness. But he is the American government's own key witness, who plea bargained with the government to escape death penalty. His testimony graphically describes how he reported to a serving ISI officer named Major Iqbal among others ahead of the attack and a Pakistani navy frogman helped land terrorists for the attack. His diary, whose two pages were produced as evidence in the court, contains phone numbers of two Major-rank officers of the Pakistani army, besides some others who handled the 26/11 attackers.


Headley's admission that he scouted Shiv Sena headquarters to assassinate its supremo Bal Thackeray is also a corollary of the shared hatred for the Shiv Sena because of its anti-Pakistan utterances. The terrorists who landed in Mumbai were only carrying out the agenda of the ISI. Bal Thackeray has chosen to make light of the threat, but the risk was real and grave. The conspiracy is a macabre reminder as to how far the ISI can go to make India bleed from a thousand cuts.


Headley is also providing elaborate details about the ISI's nexus with Lashkar-e-Toiba and other terrorist organisations. This is the second major embarrassment for Pakistan after the killing of Osama bin Laden right there in Abbottabad. Its attempts to discredit the Headley testimony on the ground that he was a double agent is not cutting much ice and pressure is mounting on the US to declare the ISI a terrorist outfit. Ironically, it has already branded it as such unofficially, as disclosed in secret cables. While the case for designating the ISI a terrorist entity is watertight, the US may not actually do so keeping in view the larger political and geo-strategic realities. Nevertheless, pressure is bound to mount on Pakistan to account for its blatant sponsorship of terrorism.









Going by her media statement of Monday last, Punjab Finance Minister Upinderjit Kaur does not seem to know that the committee set up to look into the debt problem of Kerala, West Bengal and Punjab has already submitted its report. It has rejected the request of the three states for relief, saying this would encourage fiscal mismanagement and set a bad precedent. Ironically, she had demanded an early submission of the committee's report. She was supposed to study it and go prepared for her date with the Planning Commission. She also pleaded that the tax holiday to the hill states should not be extended. The tax package expired in April last year and the Himachal leadership is pressing for its revival


Instead of focussing on one or two major issues, Dr Upinderjit Kaur made too many demands. Dr Montek Singh Ahluwalia gently advised her to improve the state's growth rate and enforce fiscal discipline. There is no convincing argument why the Centre should make an exception and write off the state's debt when there is no effort on the part of the state political leadership to cut wasteful expenditure, raise revenue and undertake austerity measures. The state has failed to benefit from Central schemes where matching contributions are required. While ministers and bureaucrats carry on with their reckless spending ways, it is the common people who suffer the brunt of the fiscal mismanagement. College teachers are hired on contract at pathetic salaries and rural doctors' meager salary is further cut.


When former Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal raised the debt issue last year and claimed a conditional debt waiver offer from the Centre, the Badals expelled him from the party because – apart from the succession issue – he questioned the politics of freebies needed to win elections. The Central conditions – cut power subsidy, levy user-charges, impose house tax, disinvest in sick PSUs and CAG audit of local bodies etc – are still relevant and can provide a roadmap for fiscal recovery.











Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh triggered off quite a controversy by saying that faculty at IITs and IIMs was "not world class". The minister often says more than necessary, and in this case too, he spoke about education, which is not the portfolio that he holds. Jairam Ramesh did not back his statement with facts, and in fact it was the kind of an off-the-cuff remark that has got him into trouble in the past also. However, to be fair, many would agree with what the minister said, and indeed even Education Minister Kapil Sibal endorsed it, and added that there were, no "world class" educational facilities in India. This is, indeed, the case, and some of the reasons for this state of affairs can easily be seen.


No doubt, the students who attend these institutions are top-class, largely because of intense competition they face to get admission. As for the faculty, even though many are the cream of the nation's teaching staff, they are burdened with teaching many classes. As a result, they do not devote as much time to research. Lack of industry participation in the institutions also negatively impacts research. We do not have a tradition of professionals taking sabbaticals, and moving to industry and back. If they were to do this, it would allow for them to gain a wider perspective that enriches the institutions they are a part of.


World class institutions need a vision, guidance and the right people to run them. It was Jawaharlal Nehru's vision that resulted in the setting up of IITs and IIMs, but that was then. The world has changed now, and when a former alumni of an IIT like Jairam Ramesh speaks out, it should be listened to. Higher education in India needs to take a long hard introspective look in order to identify the ills that plague it, and then it needs to work with the government and industry, to set the wrongs right. The primary function of a wake-up call should not be eclipsed by the noisy delivery.









At a time when the credibility of the Manmohan Singh government lies in tatters thanks to the scandal related revelations it faces on corruption, the recent announcement by the government, narrowing the list of qualified bidders, on the acquisition of 126 Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) has happily not invited any accusations for corruption, cronyism or nepotism. This is unquestionably because of the impeccable reputation for honesty and probity that Defence Minister A.K. Anthony enjoys in India and abroad. But many like former National Security Adviser Brajesh Mishra aver that our defence procurement procedures are "antiquated and excessively time-consuming".


They argue that Mr Anthony's fixation with his image of impeccable honesty (he is often jocularly referred to as Saint Anthony!) has resulted in serious delays in the procurement of vital defence equipment, ranging from Army helicopters and 155 mm Howitzers to combat aircraft and submarines. Mr Mishra warns that our defence planners have to note that since 2008 the Sino-Pakistan "all-weather friendship" has become a "military alliance directed against India," for which "we may have to defend ourselves at the same time".


The IAF has a sanctioned strength of 39.5 combat squadrons. Barely 29 squadrons are operational at present. Some of these are equipped with the aircraft of the 1960s and 1970s vintage. Even with scheduled acquisitions, we will reach a level of 39.5 squadrons in 2017. We will then find that given the Sino-Pakistan alliance, the IAF requires a minimum of 45 combat squadrons. Pakistan's Air Force (PAF) presently has 22 combat squadrons. It is set to acquire 10 to 12 squadrons of JF 17 and a couple of squadrons of J10 fighters from China. The latter is an Israeli variant of the American F16. The Chinese Air Force (PLAAF) already has 350 "fourth generation" fighter aircraft and is set to have an estimated 300 frontline combat aircraft based in the Lanzhou and Chengdu Military Regions bordering India. Despite these developments, we have proceeded at a rather leisurely pace with our defence modernisation, though in its growing fleet of Russian Sukhoi 30s, the IAF has one of the finest contemporary fighters.


India has adopted a transparent process of tendering for acquiring the MMRCA. The bids came from Russia (MiG 35), Sweden (Grippen), France (Rafale), the US (F16 IN and FA 18 E/F Super Hornet) and the European Eurofighter Consortium comprising Germany, the UK, Italy and Spain for the Eurofighter "Typhoon". Over the past two years, dozens of senior IAF officials have gone through each of these bids meticulously to see how far they fulfilled the 643 parameters the IAF had laid down. The aircraft offered have been put through rigorous flight tests in Leh (high mountainous terrain), Jaisalmer (hot desert terrain) and Bangalore, across the coastal belt. A high-level Technical Evaluation Committee laid down guidelines for offsets India expects from manufacturers, with they also required to effect substantial and substantive transfer of the aircraft's technology, in an effort to boost India's aerospace industry, which lags seriously behind its Chinese counterpart.


Following the earlier rejection of the Grippen and MiG-35 bids, New Delhi recently announced that both American aircraft, the F/16 IN and F/A18 E/F, also failed to meet IAF requirements. The Americans argued that their fighters alone possess the unquestionably superior AESA radar, which gives them a combat edge. More importantly, the Americans have looked at the entire MMRCA acquisition in larger strategic terms. American analyst Ashley Tellis, whose knowledge of Indian defence and nuclear policies is profound, asserted: "The winner (of the MMRCA contract) will obtain a long and lucrative association, with a rising power and secure a toehold into other parts of India's rapidly modernising strategic industries.


The aircraft will play a vital role in India's military modernisation as the country transforms from a regional power to a global giant". There is "disappointment" in Washington at the rejection of American bids, more so as President Obama had personally lobbied with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on this issue. Hopefully, the Americans will understand that on issues like the acquisition of the MMRCA, India will not yield to external pressures.


Even the Americans acknowledge that both aircraft they offered are of relatively old vintage and cannot be upgraded any further. On the other hand, both the Eurofighter and the French Rafale are relatively new and can be upgraded substantially in future. With Pakistan already flying F16s for over a quarter of a century, there was little enthusiasm for the F16 IN offered, even though it is a much more advanced version of what the PAF flies. The F/A18 E/F failed in high altitude flight trials in Leh in early 2010. Its acquisition would have put the IAF at a disadvantage when facing the PLAAF. In some flight evaluations, the Grippen performed better than the F/A 18. Moreover, India has found US conditions of "end use monitoring" of the equipment the US supplies irksome, if not demeaning. Serious doubts also remain about American readiness for transfers of technology, which could substantially benefit our aerospace industry.


The US has little reason to complain when it loses out in the face of international competition. Defence contracts with India, especially during Mr Anthony's tenure, have been substantial and included 6 C 130 J Super Hercules, 10 C 17 Globemaster Transport aircraft and 12 Poseidon Maritime Reconnaissance Aircraft, apart from the troop-carrying ship "Trenton". India is also set to purchase a substantial number of light Howitzers for its Mountain Divisions and consider an offer of 197 helicopters for the Army from the US after having scrapped a deal with Eurocopter following American protests. Equally, there is no cause for our worthy communists, who never tire of espousing the cause of the Chinese, while turning a blind eye to Sino-Pakistan nuclear and military cooperation, to celebrate Mr Anthony's decision. Mr Anthony has handed out more high value defence contracts to the Americans than any of his predecessors.


The Ministry of Defence appears to have understandably decided that cost will not be the primary consideration in the selection of the MMRCA. The Eurofighter was sold to Saudi Arabia at a cost of $ 123 million per aircraft - more than double that of its Americana and Russian competitors. The Rafale, priced at around $ 85 million, is also substantially costlier than its American and Russian competitors. The Eurofighter deal with Saudi Arabia was clouded with serious allegations of corruption and kickbacks. This should not be repeated in its dealings in India.









I walked over to the autorickshaw. The driver was sprawled on the passenger seat absorbed in a juicy conversation on his mobile phone. He glanced at me and quickly put the phone down. "You Amrikan?" he yelled. I told him in Hindi that I was actually from Canada.


The water bottle in my hand quickly became a vital suspect for exposing my NRI identity. I have lived in Canada for the past 26 years. However, I am a proud Indian who refused to shed his Hindi and Punjabi linguistic skills. I always try to blend in with the hoi polloi whenever I am in India. Nevertheless I have been ripped off frequently by crooked shopkeepers and shady autorickshaw drivers. Somehow they always figure out that I am an NRI.


Anyone who has been away from India for a long time begins to notice certain irksome peculiarities. A distinct one is the clever queue jumper. I was standing in a line waiting to purchase bus tickets from Delhi to Chandigarh. A mischievous young man attempted to squeeze himself in front of me. There were several people behind me but no one protested. I told the opportunist to get back to the end of the line. His initial reaction was a medley of shock, bewilderment, disappointment and anger. The people behind me who had been quiet so far began complaining loudly. Not even a selfrighteous bully has the guts to face the prospects of getting lynched by a mob of travellers. He sheepishly took his rightful place at the end of the line.


Like everyone else I too do not like being hoodwinked or let people taking advantage of me. It is possible that my regrettable NRI aura makes me an easy and soft target. Even the queue jumpers refuse to treat me with due respect.

It took a while to realise that I will never be accepted as a hundred per cent unadulterated Indian. I decided it was time to put on my Canadian Maple Leafs tourist hat. I ended up on Palolem beach in Goa. I soaked the sun all day, swam in the ocean and lay down in front of a shack under an umbrella. The beach was littered with foreigners but I could not locate a single NRI. As I had already spent most of my life being around white people I began to feel quite at home.


After watching the gorgeous sun set I walked into a busy beachside bar. I observed that I was the only Indian there. A waiter reluctantly walked over to my table. One beer wasn't enough so I wanted a couple more. The waiters kept on ignoring me. I walked over to the bar after a few minutes. The bartender refused to look at me and kept on providing liquor to the white folks in front of his counter. The truth dawned upon me in a flash. I was an Indian and the bar wanted to restrict its customer base only to white people.


Unfortunately, my Canadian passport was locked inside the safe of my resort owner. I would have loved to wave it in front of the bartender and demand a cold beer. I made a rude gesture and exited the bar. I eventually found another bar with a predominantly Indian crowd. I did not want to blend in. For a change I was feverishly praying that someone in the crowd would recognise me as an outsider and an NRI.








Mental retardation, the commonest form of developmental disability, is a condition in which there is delay or deficiency in all aspects of development, i.e. there is global and noticeable deficiency in the development of motor, cognitive, social, and language functions. It affects about 1-3 per cent of the population. There are many causes of mental retardation, but doctors are able to find a specific reason in only 25 per cent of cases. Ignorance about the causes of mental retardation and social stigma and discrimination generally observed among people add to the suffering attached with it.

Mental retardation, the commonest form of developmental disability, is a condition in which there is delay or deficiency in all aspects of development, i.e. there is global and noticeable deficiency in the development of motor, cognitive, social, and language functions. It affects about 1-3 per cent of the population. There are many causes of mental retardation, but doctors are able to find a specific reason in only 25 per cent of cases. Ignorance about the causes of mental retardation and social stigma and discrimination generally observed among people add to the suffering attached with it.

Chromosomal abnormalities are one of the leading cause of mental retardation and physical handicap. Most chromosomal abnormalities are due to an extra copy of a particular chromosome. Other causes may be chromosome breakage or arrangement in a wrong order. Abnormal chromosomes are caused by defective development of sperm or egg cells. It is difficult to pinpoint the exact nature of the cause but one thing is for sure. There is no cure for chromosomal abnormalities and for those suffering from such disorders life-long management is required.


About 70 per cent miscarriages in early pregnancy are thought to be the results of chromosomal abnormalities. In some chromosomal abnormalities, the fetus survives and grows up as an individual. Down's syndrome (DS), the most common cause of birth defects, is one such abnormality in which the fetus survives during pregnancy. It is a genetic condition in which a person has 47 chromosomes instead of 46. The presence of extra chromosome is referred to as trisomy. In about 95 per cent of cases of Down's syndrome there is an extra copy of chromosome 21 and hence, Down syndrome is often known as Trisomy 21. This extra chromosome causes problems with the way the body and brain develop. Trisomy 21 presents with a wide range of mental retardation. Several other effects associated with DS include mild to severe developmental delay, heart defects, epilepsy, respiratory problems, susceptibility to infection, celiac diseases, Alzheimer's etc.

Throughout the world the overall prevalence of DS is 10 per 10,000 live births. DS symptoms vary from person to person and can range from mild to severe. However, children with DS have widely recognised characteristic appearance i.e. head smaller than normal, inner cornea of eye may be rounded, small mouth, wide short hands with short fingers. Physical, mental and social development may also be delayed in children.

Advancing maternal age, having had one child with DS and being carriers of the genetic translocation for DS are some risk factors which increase the risk of having a DS baby. With the advancement of science and technology it is possible to detect these birth defects during the development of fetus i.e. during pregnancy. This is done worldwide through Prenatal Screening Programme.


During the development of fetus there are certain biomarkers produced in the fetus which pass through the placenta and enter into the mother's blood stream. Biomarkers are proteins or hormones secreted by growing fetal parts which pass via amniotic fluid and placenta and enter into the maternal circulation. These include AFP (alpha-fetoprotein), HCG (human chorionic gonadotropin), UE3 (Unconjugated estriol) and PAPP-A (Pregnancy Associated Plasma Protein A). These biomarkers can be measured in the mother's blood during the development of the fetus. Under normal conditions there is a specific pattern of increase or decrease of these biomarkers with the gestational age. Any deviation from this specific pattern helps to recognise pregnancies at higher risk of certain abnormalities.

These biomarkers are tested twice during pregnancy i.e. between 9th and 13th week (first trimester) and between 15th and 19th week (second trimester). The test for first trimester is called Dual test and for second trimester is called Triple test. The objective of screening is to segregate the test population into a low-risk group and a high-risk group.

Once the baby with DS is born then throughout life the child has to be managed. There is no treatment for total cure or eliminating DS, as it a birth defect. which means that the basic unit i.e. the cells of the body have abnormal number of chromosomes, which cannot be changed.

Through prenatal screening we can detect such birth defects during development of the fetus and through genetic counselling we can help the parents understand the disorder and its life-long management. The parents can further decide whether they want to continue the pregnancy or opt for medical termination. One important issue which I would like to highlight is that as per Indian law the medical termination is possible only before the 20th week of pregnancy. Hence, screening and confirmatory tests should be carried out as early as possible and before the 20th week of pregnancy, so that the parents can make an informed choice.

Various factors

Prenatal screening test and calculations depends upon various factors like:-

 Sensitivity of test
 Cut-off values for the population being tested
 Period of Gestation

It should be remembered that screening test is different from a confirmatory test. In a screening test we divide the population into low-risk group and a high-risk group, whereas a confirmed diagnosis is obtained in case of a confirmatory test. Low-risk means that chance of the occurrence of a disease is low, while high risk commands further testing to be sure that the fetus is normal. Further testing includes advanced ultrasonography, invasive testing like chorionic villus sampling or amniocentesis. In an advanced ultrasound we look for various softmarkers which are associated with congenital abnormalities and through invasive testing chromosomal number and structure are examined. It is important to note that all the testing procedures under prenatal screening must be completed within 20 weeks of pregnancy since, as per Indian law, medical termination cannot be carried out after this period.


Counselling to patients called Genetic counselling is another integral part of prenatal screening programmes. It is a continuous process where counselling is provided to all enrolled couples prior to their enrollment into the screening programme and at all stages of progress of prenatal screening to facilitate thorough understanding of the objective and process of screening procedure and the necessity of carrying out any additional testing. All tests are voluntary and informed consent is taken prior to testing.

There is an urgent need of our doctors to be aware of prenatal screening programme, its importance and necessity in today's time. It should be known that prenatal screening is not just one single test. It is a complete programme where testing, interpretation of results, ultrasound evaluation, confirmatory tests and genetic counselling must be provided.

Maternal and child health forms the backbone of the concept of healthy family and an essential part of the reproductive health package. Prenatal screening already forms an integral part of healthcare in all developed countries. Owing to their prevention-based approach, the mass screening programmes gain significantly over traditional treatment-based management. However, screening-for-all has shown little development in India except in very few selected centres in metropolitan cities and chiefly as private setups. India has a high birth rate and hence a very large number of infants with genetic disorders are born every year.

The available data point out that in India approximately 30,000 Down syndrome babies are born annually. Once a child with DS is born, then only management is available. The responsibility of the child throughout life rests with the family of the child. There are no insurance policies in India to take care of the medical needs of the child and provide financial support.

Parents often have to take the child to hospital from time to time for treatment of various defects associated with it. A handicapped child is not only a drain on the financial resources of the family but it is also extremely emotionally exhausting for the family members. Thus, physical and mental handicap in a member of the family exerts pressure on the limited resources of the family, society and the country and overall presents itself as a socio-economic burden.

However, preventive screening which is an integral part of health care throughout the world offers early information about genetic disorders in the fetus. Prenatal Screening for chromosomal disorders is available since 20th century in developed countries but, unfortunately, Indian health care policymakers have not yet even considered introducing an existing preventive health care facility in our country. The magnitude of numbers and the suffering, social stigma and economic burden that these disorders exert should shake us from our deep slumber of insensitivity and inspire health policy makers to bring into focus preventive health care facilities in our country along with the existing health care programmes.

Public health authorities need to organise genetic services in a comprehensive and integrated manner and promote awareness and availability of facilities so as to improve the standard of antenatal care. The success encountered by the government of India in its efforts to control communicable diseases, especially Pulse Polio Immunisation Programme can be easily replicated in case of genetic disorders if the government brings prevention-based screening into its direct focus for improving maternal and child health care.

The writer is Consultant Incharge, Genetic Centre; Assoc Professor, Physiology, Government Medical College and Hospital, Chandigarh


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Europe's sovereign debt problems are a reminder that the global financial crisis that the collapse of Lehman Brothers triggered in 2008 is far from over. However, unlike the US, whose financial and fiscal woes have consistently made the headlines, Europe's problems have tended to jump on and off the financial markets' radar screens. The latest warning signals come from Greece, which faced a debt crisis in May 2010 and was subsequently bailed out by a consortium of other Eurozone members and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that also put a long-term assistance package in place. However, like all rescue packages, fund disbursal was made contingent on commitment to extreme austerity and consolidation. Greece appears to have reneged on some of these commitments and its current problems stem from the fact that the consortium could hold back a tranche of ¤13.4 billion that are due in June. This could result in Greece defaulting on its obligations in the subsequent months. Besides, its bailout package stipulates some amount of market borrowings by the Greek government to finance its fisc. In 2011, it needs to raise about ¤11 billion and ¤40 billion in 2012. With yields on its 10-year sovereign debt benchmark paper at a crippling 17 per cent, the markets feel Greece will find it impossible to access the market. The bottom line is that there could be a series of defaults by Greece.

Greece might be a relatively small economy, accounting for about 2 per cent of Eurozone's GDP. Its sovereign debt stock at about ¤330 billion might not be minuscule, but is not of overwhelming size. The problem is that (unlike Argentina which went through a similar crisis in 2001 and whose debt was held largely by local banks) Greek sovereign paper is held by banks across Europe. If there is an outright default by Greece, the markets will factor in the possibility of other economies like Ireland following suit. The entire market for sovereign bonds of the fiscally stressed Eurozone members could then collapse, dragging banks down with it. So it may be less costly to bail Greece out than to let it default and then bail the banks out instead. In the near term, the EU-IMF needs to stump up the cash next month and also signal to the markets that some of its more immediate funding needs could effectively be taken off-market. However, periodic infusions of cash will not resolve Greece's fundamental insolvency issue. Debt restructuring could offer a more permanent, sustainable solution. This could be a combination of extension of the maturity profile of debt and a "haircut" on the outstanding obligations. This could create more breathing space for Greece and pull down its debt-to-GDP ratio to more manageable levels. Restructuring will hurt Greece's creditors, largely European banks.


 The very whiff of such an exercise could trigger a liquidity crisis in Europe's inter-bank markets since banks, unsure of their counterparties' exposure to restructured debt, could stop lending to each other fearing default. This could snowball into another full-blown financial crisis especially if markets begin to factor in the prospect of other fiscally stretched economies taking a cue from Greece and restructuring their debt. Thus, both the timing of its announcement and the way it is handled will determine whether its impact on the markets will be a mere ripple or a full-blown tsunami. It might just be prudent to give the markets some time to prepare for restructuring and announce it in early 2012. Besides, a liquidity back-stop from the European Central Bank is imperative as is financial assistance on the lines of US' troubled assets reconstruction programme (TARP) for banks that are hit hard by restructuring. These policies could somewhat soften the blow but it is unlikely that they can stave off another wave of risk aversion among investors. That is bound to take a toll on all "risky" assets in the months to come.







The government's decision last week to sell its equity stake in the loss-making Scooters India represents a significant policy shift. In the seven years of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), the government has sold equity in several public sector undertakings, mobilising Rs 54,800 crore. Much of that has happened in the last two years, since UPA-II does not need Left support, but none of the divestments has been a strategic sale. Now, the government seems ready to go beyond merely augmenting the flow of disinvestment proceeds; in short, it is willing to try its hand at full-scale privatisation.

However, the government will move cautiously, given the history of the Congress party's criticism of valuation decisions when Arun Shourie was disinvestment minister in the National Democratic Alliance government; controversy erupted in one case when there was an immediate follow-through sale at a higher price. This might explain why the government has stipulated that Parliament will approve the conditions of sale — a rider that could complicate the process. How will the government ensure that prospective buyers do not face any uncertainty because of delays and political hurdles? If there is no such assurance, will it limit the number of people willing to participate in an auction?


Scooters India is for all practical purposes a non-functional company; its value lies principally in its ownership of over 150 acres near Lucknow. In the late 1980s, the Rajiv Gandhi government had tried to sell the company to Bajaj Auto; the deal fell through because of the land question. A latter-day variation of this is the controversy over the land that belonged to Videsh Sanchar Nigam Limited when it was sold to the Tatas, with a proviso that the land would be separated from the rest of the company — something that is yet to happen, despite the passage of many years. A successful sale of Scooters India, without any controversy over the valuation of its land, would prepare the foundation for a more ambitious privatisation programme, badly needed as it is.







The G20 needs to leverage its clout to play a more proactive role in stabilising food and fuel prices

The rising food and oil prices in many parts of the Asia-Pacific region are emerging as major downside risks to an otherwise robust growth outlook for the region's developing economies. Projections made by the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and Pacific (ESCAP) suggest that these economies, led by China growing at 9.5 per cent and India at 8.7 per cent, should be able to average a growth rate of 7.3 per cent in 2011.


Since August 2010, food prices have increased between 10 and 35 per cent in various countries. Oil prices have increased by 45 per cent over the past year. The rising food and oil prices in many parts of the world over the past year have attracted a lot of attention. Concerns have been raised about the impact on the vulnerable sections of population and on the poverty reduction efforts in populous countries such as India.

In its latest Economic and Social Survey of Asia and the Pacific 2011, ESCAP has projected that an additional 42 million people may stay in poverty in the Asia-Pacific region in 2011 in addition to the 19 million already affected in 2010 owing to rising food and oil prices. These figures include the number of people who would be prevented to get out of poverty as well as those who would be pushed to poverty by rising prices. In the worst-case scenario in many developing countries including India, this would postpone the achievement of the Millennium Development Goal of poverty reduction by up to half a decade.

Adverse climatic conditions have affected supply in many countries including crop failures in Russia, Kazakhstan and Ukraine, floods in Pakistan and Australia, and drought in China. A number of countries like Russia imposed export bans in the wake of crop failures that further aggravated prices in international markets. Another factor has been increasing conversion of food crops into biofuels. In the US, 40 per cent of corn production is diverted to biofuels, which affects the supply of cereals in the market. But much more importantly, hoarding and heightened speculative activity in food commodities, backed by massive injection of liquidity in the advanced countries, have exaggerated the price surge.

Rising food and oil prices are leading to core inflation and monetary authorities are responding by taking monetary tightening measures, as the Reserve Bank of India has done so many times over the past year. However, considering that the rise in food prices has been mainly caused by supply shocks, the monetary policy instruments have their limitations in addressing them.

A durable solution to increasing food prices has to be found in addressing the supply-side factors and those that tend to exaggerate them. Price volatility for foodgrain should be addressed through the counter-cyclical use of buffer stocks. For smaller economies that do not have the capacity to sustain large national food stocks, price shocks can be managed cooperatively by establishing regional food stocks such as the Rice Reserve Initiative of the Association of South East Asian Nations Plus Three and the South Asian Association For Regional Cooperation Food Bank

The vulnerable sections of the population should be protected through public food distribution systems or food vouchers or targeted income transfer schemes besides reducing prices through lowering tariffs and taxes. In that direction, India's proposed Food Security Act is an important initiative to protect the nutritional security of the vulnerable sections.

In the medium term, efforts should be made to deliver a supply response by reversing the neglect of agriculture in public policy. This can be done by enhancing support for agricultural research, development and extension, and providing easier access to credit and other inputs to foster a new Green Revolution based on sustainable agriculture. The overall global food supply could also benefit from South-South and triangular cooperation on knowledge and technology transfer. For instance, India could assist in spreading the Green Revolution to vast tracts of cultivable land in parts of Africa and the Asia-Pacific region, which would help keep food prices low by expanding the overall supply while taking care of poverty and hunger situation in these regions.

Finally, there is a need for international cooperation in order to stabilise food and oil prices to curb practices that are fanning the price volatility. The G20, which has emerged as a major forum for global economic cooperation, should act decisively to moderate the volatility of oil and food prices given their disruptive effects on the development process. This may include curbing financial speculation in international commodity prices and regulating the diversion of food for biofuels. As regards oil price volatility, the G20, being the group of all major consumers, can match the power exercised over the oil markets by the cartel of producers, viz. the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). The OPEC and G20 may negotiate and demarcate a benchmark "fair" price of oil and agree to restrict the oil price movement within a band around it. An additional measure to moderate the volatility in the oil market is for G20 to create a global strategic reserve and release it counter-cyclically. It may expedite the implementation of the L'Aquila Food Security Initiative, which includes the provision of financing to developing countries for food security.

As a developing country G20 member with a large mass of poor and vulnerable people, India has a huge stake in stabilising food and oil prices. It should mobilise other developing country members and push this price agenda in the next G20 summit, which is to be hosted by France. The French presidency has been quite supportive of regulating the financial markets and disciplining speculative activity in food commodities. By coordinating its position with like-minded countries in the G20, India would be able to push a consensus on these issues. Having mainstreamed "development" on its agenda at the Seoul summit, the food and fuel crisis is very much within India's ambit, given the crisis' potential to reverse the development gains.

The author is chief economist of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and Pacific, Bangkok.
The views expressed are personal.









The private corporate sector is increasingly considered an ideal problem-solving model for India's governance issues. Its professional, "result-driven" work culture, it is thought, precludes the kind of corruption and inefficiency that plagues the chaotic world of Indian public administration. The "corporate approach", thus, is sporadically applied to the political sphere in desperate hope that structured, objective methods will provide solutions to the complexities that are India.


 Rajiv Gandhi was one early adopter of this belief, filling his famous "baba-log" Cabinet with friends and associates from the corporate world, demanding that discussions on critical issues be précised into presentations (agonising for bureaucrats in the days before PowerPoint) and launching a raft of technology "missions" (analogous to the "corporate project"). Chandrababu Naidu was another adherent, styling himself Andhra's "Chief Executive" and aligning himself with the infotech boys. Towards the end of his chief ministership, Jyoti Basu described himself the chief marketer for West Bengal. Both Narendra Modi in Gujarat and Nitish Kumar in Bihar have corporate-style feedback mechanisms to keep them informed on the progress of designated schemes.

Did it work? Mr Gandhi's one five-year term was too brief to gauge the success of his approach, and he died before he had a chance to extend it. Mr Naidu's CEO-ship stumbled on the sword of rural neglect in Andhra. As for Bengal, well…. And for Mr Modi and Mr Kumar, corporate-style governance is just one element of an extensive programme that is rooted in solid grassroots work.

Yet the belief persists and nothing reflected this yearning for the corporate approach in public life better than the first municipal polls in Gurgaon, the glass-and-concrete global city that's been superimposed on a rural template. Inevitably, it was corruption that dominated the discourse with each candidate offering Gurgaon's middle class professionals a haven of smooth roads, green belts, law and order and continuous water and electricity supply. A subject like child labour, so glaring on the construction sites, was never mentioned and few spoke to the city's substantial rural population (which turned out in larger numbers on polling day). Several candidates pushed their MBA or American university degrees, appropriate for a city that has developed around foreign direct investment.

My ward presented a microcosm of this corporatist wishful thinking. Enclosed with the newspapers was a dossier from an organisation called Citizens for Clean and Corruption Free Politics (CCCFP). It urged us to vote for one Mr Manish who had, we were assured, scored the maximum "points" on a weighted matrix of 11 parameters.

Mr Manish's election symbol, we were told, was "stool", which along with the short form for the defunct Democratic Indira Congress (Karunakaran), DIC(K), now ranks as my favourite piece of election trivia. But the parameters and points system in the matrix were even more entertaining. There was Age, Qualification, Elected posts held in the past, Residence in ward, Occupation/income, Perception of general public of his stand and record on corruption (from a sample of "25 random people"), Personality, Social Activity Record, Is the candidate likely to change after getting elected?, Family background, Time candidate shall (note the emphatic verb) be able to spend after getting elected on his duties.

No doubt the unalloyed comic value of the matrix with its hilariously arbitrary judgments escaped its creators. For instance, it deemed that anyone between 36 and 45 years would score a perfect 10 (a candidate over 60 would score -6). Mr Manish scored 8, which puts him between 30 and 35 years.

In terms of occupation/income, a "well-off" candidate scored 10 and an "average" occupation/income got 5 — but there was nothing to indicate what CCCFP defined as "well-off" Occupation/income. Anyway, Mr Manish is "well-off" so presumably immune to the loaves and fishes of office.

Yet neither he nor any other contestant scored the highest marks 10 ("Impeccably clean") in public perception, the parameter that carried the most weight (30 per cent). Most scored 7 ("clean") and a couple 5 ("neutral", whatever that means).

On "Personality", Mr Manish scored a seven ("Good"). Only one contestant made it to 9 ("V. good") but no one touched 10 ("Excellent"). But on how these judgments were made or who made them, the voter was unenlightened. Since honesty was considered separately, did a "Good" personality indicate that Mr Manish is even-tempered? Hard-working? Intelligent? Approachable? Brave?

The parameter Family Background was even more mysterious. Mr Manish scored 8 ("V. good"). Does "V. good" specify caste, social standing, religion, legitimacy, non-criminality? We only know that a 4 meant a candidate's background is "Not known" (no one hit rock bottom here). So we can assume that Mr Manish's "V. good" Family Background is, at the very least, "known" to somebody.

Tragically for Mr Manish, the voters were unimpressed by his 7.3 weighted points. The winning candidate, who recently sent us "A Big Thank You!!" together with a flier of Chawla's Fine Dining Restaurant, didn't figure in this matrix. But maybe he'll get us 24x7 power supply yet.






The government should continue with the scheme till an alternative is found

Senior officials of the finance ministry have, in the last few days, commented on the need to scrap the Duty Entitlement Pass Book (DEPB) scheme because it is purportedly costing the exchequer Rs 8,000 crore. The main debate for removing the DEPB, in the last few years, has been based on the concern that it is not compatible with India's obligations at the World Trade Organisation (WTO).


By scrapping the 14-year old DEPB scheme the government seems to be moving towards removing a popular tax refund scheme that is available to exporters and is compatible with India's current WTO obligations. It is important for the government to continue with the scheme till an alternate scheme is drafted that neutralises all the taxes paid since it is an accepted principle in international trade that taxes are not exported.

The government has been giving tentative extensions to the scheme since 2005 because it has been of the view that the scheme does not meet with the obligations under the Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures of the WTO. To understand the need to continue with the DEPB there is a necessity to look at the arguments that have been put in its favour as also against the continuation of the scheme in the country.

The scheme has principally been popular because of its simplicity, which allows small exporters to reimburse taxes from products for export without much problem. However, some officials and analysts have expressed a view that the DEPB amounts to an incentive to exporters, which may not be completely true.

The government had formed a committee headed by Anwarul Hoda that submitted its report to the prime minister. It was reported that the committee had suggested that there is a need to have an alternative scheme before scrapping the DEPB. An important issue that needs to be looked at while discussing the need to continue with the DEPB scheme is to understand the debate of an incentive versus neutralisation of taxes for exporters.

India should certainly not look at providing incentives, even if allowed, to exporters because India's export performance has been reasonably good in the last few years. There is certainly a need to stay away from incentives and keep to neutralisation of all taxes and simplification of procedures to help exports grow.

As of today an exporter faces several state taxes besides the central taxes, which reportedly are not fully covered by the various schemes that are available. To ensure that Indian exporters are able to compete on an equal footing in global markets there is a need to introduce a tax neutralisation scheme that covers all state and central level taxes.

The debate on this issue is, at present, diffused because industry needs to come forward with a cohesive thought on how the DEPB can be replaced by another scheme. There is a need for greater engagement by industry with the government on finding a replacement to DEPB before it is scrapped because an analysis of India's WTO obligations show that the DEPB scheme is not completely incompatible with the country's current obligations at the multilateral trade body. There has also been a view that with the introduction of the goods and services tax (GST) the DEPB can be scrapped. However, this may not be true since the current proposal on the table for GST may not cover all the taxes paid by exporters. This will need a deeper study by industry.

Given the fact that Indian exports have been growing well over the years there is a need to look at a consolidated export strategy that looks at the various pillars that support trade. The strategy has to be drafted with the help of inputs from all government agencies that deal with trade and the industry. There is an urgent need to look at important issues such as infrastructure, procedures and taxes that hamper exports and identify solutions that can sustain and increase Indian exports.

The DEPB has over the years become a popular scheme for industry, especially in sectors such as textiles, chemicals, auto and steel, among others. The tentative nature of the scheme has been hurting the long-term interests of exporters. Given the fact that there is a need to take a long-term view on exports the government should consider continuing with the DEPB scheme and quickly come up with an alternate scheme that neutralises all taxes.

(The author is Principal Adviser with APJ-SLG Law Offices






A majority of the country's sizeable workforce is engaged in sectors that require low skill sets and education

Agriculture continues to play a pivotal role in the Indian economy, even though its share in the national income has declined over the years. Together agriculture, forestry and fishery have the largest share of workforce. However, the agriculture sector has seen the highest drop in share of employment – from 61.7 per cent in 1993-94 to 55 per cent in 2007-08 – according to the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) data. The shift of workforce away from agriculture has not been easy, with education and skill sets not meeting the demands of the economy. Consequently, the construction sector's share in employment has moved up the most since it has ample of opportunities for those with low skills and educational levels. Construction accounted for 3.6 per cent of the total workforce in 1993-94, increasing to 6.9 per cent in 2007-08. On the contrary, the manufacturing sector's share has remained relatively stagnant over this period, from 11 per cent to 11.6 per cent of the total workforce.


A striking feature of India's growth performance has been the strength of its services sector, but expansion of workforce here, too, has been limited. In 1993-94, the services sector accounted for 22.5 per cent of the total workforce and in 2007-08 it increased to 25.7 per cent. Trade (wholesale and retail), hotels and restaurants – the sub-sector with the fastest growth among services – has absorbed an increasing share of labour, and is the third-largest employer now, accounting for 10.9 per cent of the total workforce. The sector comprising community, social and personal services has fallen from the third position to the fourth, pointing to the declining role of the government as an employer.(Click here for PRIMARY COLOURS)

Sectoral share of employment 




Agriculture, forestry 
and fishery






Others: services, 
construction, mining, 
electricity, water and 
gas supply



The share of workforce in agriculture, forestry and fishery is more than 50 per cent in 23 states. Chhattisgarh, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh have more than 70 per cent of the workforce engaged in agriculture, while other large states where less than half the workforce is in this sector are Punjab, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. The dominance of the secondary sector in terms of workforce is mostly seen in the small Union Territories and states. Dadra & Nagar Haveli and Daman & Diu have become manufacturing hubs in the last decade and more than 45 per cent of the total workforce there are employed in the secondary sector. Mizoram, Assam, Chhattisgarh, Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland are at the bottom with less than 10 per cent of the workforce engaged in this sector. When it comes to services, Chandigarh and Delhi lead with more than 65 per cent of the workforce in this sector, while Orissa, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh have less than 20 per cent of their workforce in the services sector.

Clearly, there is a sharp asymmetry between the income and employment shares in different sectors, and the wide state-wise differences are indicative of structural imbalances across the economy. This points to the need to create broad-based employment opportunities. Also, the mismatch between the growing demand from the non-agricultural sector and the skill sets of the workforce needs to be corrected to enable a smooth transition.

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








Privately-owned institutions are more likely to attract the best-in-class faculty and ensure stronger industry linkages, because to them only merit would matter.

If cars need petrol, the software industry needs trained skilled manpower. So at the cusp of the new decade, when industry talked of new software export vision of $375 billion for the year 2020, it tagged on a caveat: India's dominance in software outsourcing would hinge largely on the availability of a trained pool of manpower, among other factors. It had reason to worry: After all, employability of engineering graduates for technology services is only 26 per cent. But things seem to be changing on the ground now. For the first time, large companies such as Cognizant and Infosys are acknowledging an improvement in the quality of engineering graduates. Much of this is because of interventions in educational institutions by the industry. Over the last few years, the industry has collaborated with technical institutes not just for the curriculum. It has also been involved in train-the-trainer initiatives for universities, engaged in workshops and training modules and lent subject experts as guest lecturers to colleges. Also, where volumes are concerned, the industry can derive comfort from the spurt in the engineering enrolment at colleges — over a million at the last count. That will mean more hands on the production floors a few years from now.

That said, there can be no doubt that more needs to be done. Even today, IT sector invests $1.4 billion to convert 'trainable talent' into 'industry ready' professionals. And, because the education system does not make them "first day-first hour job ready'', freshers joining companies have to undergo months of training. Even then some do not make the cut in the end. Second, the growing chasm between the quality of output from leading colleges and those from smaller technical institutes needs to be bridged. The latter still suffer from old curriculum and unavailability of good faculty. The solution lies in adopting a radical approach and taking bold decisions because reforms in higher education are critical. Industry veterans are also talking about structural changes in education system, given the glaring disconnect between what is being taught in colleges and what the industry really needs. Citing the benefits accrued through privatisation in the healthcare and airline sectors, many argue that privatisation itself could be the panacea for all that ails the education system today. It will bring in the much-needed capital to attract the best-in-class faculty, overhaul outdated curriculum and ensure stronger industry linkages.

The Government needs to remind itself of Deng Xiaoping's working principle: As long as the cat catches the mice, its colour doesn't matter. Whether education is state- or privately- provided should be irrelevant. True, politics will be a factor in a country divided socially as India is, but that does not mean ownership of educational institutions should be the chosen instrument of either politics or social change. Indeed, privately-owned institutions are far more likely to achieve these ends because, to them, only merit would matter.






Let each country be made accountable for its currency through the backing of whatever it can offer by way of exchange — be it gold, copper, oil or coal.

Wistfulness and nostalgia are not the preserve of revisionists' alone. Even down-to-earth persons not given to cloying sentimentality indulge and revel in them from time to time.

The issue of international reserve currency has been agitating the minds of economists and governments alike for several decades now, especially after the 2008 financial crisis that rocked the world and called into question more than ever before the wisdom of setting store by and large by a single currency, the US dollar which ironically held its own even as the US economy went into a tailspin.

How the US hooked the world to its currency in 1944 on the back of the formation of the Breton Wood twins, the World Bank and the IMF, after the Second World War is sufficiently well-known and does not bear a repetition. It dangled the bait of an ounce of gold for every $35 in what was arguably the best but deceptive manifestation of gold exchange standard.

The offer was too good to last and the US predictably reneged on it in 1971 when the first oil shock shook the world and made gold the safest haven even as the IMF members grudgingly marvelled starry-eyed at its gumption. The international financial community hooked to the US dollar has been willy-nilly persisting with it, thanks to its first mover advantage and the TINA (there is no other alternative) factor.

The TINA factor

The TINA factor which is a sad admission of helplessness is in evidence in many walks of life, including politics where failed parties continue to win for want of emergence of a credible alternative. Much the same is happening in the more rarefied and less decipherable world of currencies.

The Euro has clearly flattered to deceive and a currency tentatively named oil was still-born when oil exporting nations such as Russia, Venezuela and Iran developed cold feet in the last minute. The Chinese currency Yuan remains in shell due to the reluctance of the Chinese government to float it in the international market for the fear of unveiling its true value that would hurt its exports, the mainstay of its economy.

In the event, the bulk of the international payments be they for trade or investment or travel purposes is still being done in the US dollar and provide a crutch to the US economy and its currency.

Even those keen on breaking free of the US dollar by entering into barter deals, which reportedly accounts for more than a fourth of the international trade according to the WTO, cannot completely wish away the US dollar because while it may not be used by them as a medium of settlement, it still remains the medium of valuation of what they bring to the table.

Pining for gold standard

There are quite a few economists and policy wonks that are pining for the return of the gold standard this time round on a fuller and all-encompassing scale to address the problem of a true international reserve currency.

It is true that if all individual currencies of the world are unified and underwritten by gold, there may be a semblance of order in the financial world and it could mark the end of the supremacy of a single currency because at the end of the day all currencies would be linked to the mystique yellow metal. In a way what they have mind are the advantages of standardisation a la the IAS (international accounting standards).

Accounts, it is said, must speak in a single language and should not be held hostage to and clouded by the practices and laws of different countries. Accounting standards facilitate comparison of accounts. But it is one thing to standardise accounts, but quite another to standardise currencies.

Depleting reserves

It is well-known that the gold reserves like oil reserves are fast depleting and fresh discoveries are hard to come by. Many gold producers are scraping the bottom of their mines, so to speak and the Indian government has long given up on its only gold mine, the Kolar Gold Field. The central banks of the developed world led by the US are sitting on a pile of gold. In the event if countries of the world are mandated to back their currencies with gold, it would not only give an undue advantage to these nations but trigger a mad scramble for gold, thus making the entire exercise counter-productive.

Standardisation should not introduce newer and greater rigidities, uncertainties and inequities. Developing countries instead of pursuing their developmental agendas would be driven to pursuing the mirage of gold. Besides, the oil exporting countries, for example, can turn around and ask with righteous indignation what is wrong with backing their currencies with oil just as Australia can plump for the backing of its currency with coal and copper.

No straitjacketing

The point is each country has it own unique advantage and it would be wrong to straightjacket the currency issue into a gold case. But then this is not to rubbish the case for providing a solid backing for a currency. Let each country be made accountable for its currency through the backing of whatever it can offer by way of exchange - let it be gold, copper, oil or coal.

Of course this will put service economies such as the US and India at a severe disadvantage. The US dollar is holding sway despite the US government providing no concrete guarantees except perhaps through its technological and military might.

The point is service economies may willy-nilly have to go for a gold rush if the world reverts to some credible standard, but gold should not be thrust on the world as the only credible guarantee.

In such a denouement, the Indian government would have to gird its loins to bring into the mainstream the mind-boggling quantities of gold and gold ornaments piled up by its people over the years estimated at 15,000 tonnes most of which either languish in bank lockers or dingy lofts.

(The author is a Delhi-based chartered accountant.)






It would probably be appropriate for a multi-level marketing firm to make some disclosures about its business model, financials and risk management practices.

The Latin doctrine of caveat emptor advises the buyer to be aware of the products he buys. After micro-finance, it is the turn of direct selling and multi-level marketing companies to expect a regulator soon.

The controversy over the online survey-and-reward company, Speak Asia (SA), is forcing protestors to ask the Ministry of Commerce to regulate the sector.

Multi-level marketing (MLM) is a marketing strategy in which the sales force, who need not necessarily be employees, are compensated not only for sales they personally generate, but also for the sales of others they refer, creating a stream of distributors and a hierarchy of multiple levels of compensation. Few entities have been in business in India for decades.

Bangladesh law

Bangladesh has taken a lead to draft and attempt to enact a Multi-level Marketing (Control) Act, 2011. Bangladesh had about 62 MLMs registered with the Registrar of Joint Stock Companies and Firms. A MLM enticingly named Destiny 2000 had about 4.5 million clients. A premier bank in Bangladesh warned the people against investing in MLM companies that offer abnormal profits in a short span of time.

Business Model

The business model of MLMs probably necessitates a separate legislation. Many of these are registered abroad and conduct their business through their Web site.

In case they have a branch or representative office in India, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) directions require that it should at least be made aware of their existence. In case the business is conducted through a joint-venture with an Indian entity, the Registrar of Companies (Roc) would be in the know in case the joint venture opts for the company model.

Many of these MLMs would not meet the parameters laid down by the RBI to register themselves as non-banking finance companies since they identify themselves as marketing companies, and not finance companies.

The model adopted by SA was to charge a subscription fee for an online magazine, encourage subscribers to participate in surveys and pay them a fixed fee for that and a variable fee for the number of referrals made.

While this seems to be a perfectly legitimate business, investors would need to look at the relationship between the online magazine and the surveys they are taking as one is paying for a magazine and getting paid for a survey. They would also need to look at the long-term sustainability of this model, including the possibility of cash burnout if the incentives exceed the subscriptions - a theoretical possibility.

In a legitimate MLM company, commissions are earned only on sales of the company's products or services. No money may be earned from recruiting alone ('sign-up fees').

One must analyse the compensation plan to determine whether participants are paid from actual sales to customers, and not from money received from new recruits. If participants are paid primarily from money received from new recruits, then one can be sure that a pyramid scheme is operating as Madoff proved last year.

On the part of the MLM entity, it would probably be appropriate to make some disclosures about its business model, financials and risk management practices as these could anyways be information that could be sought under the Right to Information Act.

The proposed regulator should, inter-alia, mandate publishing the financial statements and cash flows on the Web site along with all necessary disclosures.

US rulings

In a 1979 ruling in the case of a marquee MLM company Amway, the US Federal Trade Commission ruled that it was not a an illegal pyramid scheme, but ordered Amway to cease price fixing and cease misrepresenting the apparent success achieved by the average distributor. Seven years later, it had to pay up $ 100,000 in a consent decree for violating the 1979 ruling, after Amway placed ads that represented higher-than-average distributor earnings without stating the actual average results or percentage of distributors who actually met the represented claims.

Caveat Investor could well be the new mantra.

(The author is a Bangalore-based chartered accountant.)








The finance ministry's move to delay income tax refunds is simply mindboggling. It reveals a mindset that reform was supposed to have altered forever, one of an all-powerful government that has scant regard for citizens' rights. The refund amount belongs to the taxpayer. Holding on to it is like holding back salaries. Why don't the babus proposing going slow on tax refunds think, instead, of deferring their salaries? Tax evaders would watch with smug satisfaction as the government piles on the burden on the poor saps who actually do pay their taxes. This is not the way to go about reforming the tax system or to balance the fisc. If revenues fall short, please tighten your belt, cut the expenditure. The department should be encouraged to sustain the progress it has been making, not to go back to the old habit of making refunds the prize of a long chase past tripping red tape, hidden persuaders and a mountain of correspondence.

Tax refunds must become automatic. This can happen if both banks and the tax administration make efficient and creative use of information technology. A widening of the tax base is a must to boost revenue collections and raise the level of tax collection to GDP. Today, less than 3% of the people in the country file tax returns and only a few thousand admit to earning income of over . 10 lakh a year. This is unacceptable. The tax administration should go after the big fish who are outside the tax net. The ideal way to track evaders and stop black money generation is to expand the coverage of the annual information returns that identify potential taxpayers by examining their expenditure patterns. Every financial transaction should be dovetailed to the permanent account number (PAN), which is the tax department's unique identifier. A fool-proof PAN and an efficient tax information network would lower the government's dependence on information through tax returns. All salaried taxpayers should also be spared the chore of filing tax returns. Rather, an IT-empowered government should tell citizens how much tax they should have paid instead of taxpayers telling the government how much they earn. This could even obviate the need for refunds.







Environment minister Jairam Ramesh has kicked off a furore, saying that faculty at the IITs and IIMs are not world class, unlike their students. What, if anything, is wrong with the IITs which were perceived to be among the finest science and engineering institutes anywhere? First, there's a grain of truth in what Ramesh has said: though there are individual faculty members in the IITs who research and publish in global journals, their numbers are low and likely to be falling. Professors and researchers at the cutting edge of any field find themselves stifled in most Indian campuses. Funds for primary research are tiny and hard to come by, governments and businesses in India are stingy when it comes to financing fundamental research or hiring PhDs, limiting the scope for research and knowledge creation. Serious scientists lack the environment for research and discussion here, and are forced to travel frequently. Unsurprisingly, many who sample the scholarly environment overseas, decide to stay over permanently. If you're world class, the rest of the world is ready to welcome you, but not India. We should be thankful to the existing faculty for staying put in this country and focusing at least on teaching, which, Ramesh would grant, has its uses.

Outing the inconvenient truth is not enough. The government and the private sector must work to build and sustain centres of scientific excellence in India. History proves that funding is necessary but not sufficient for this. Other factors also matter. For example, for science and research to flourish you need a certain number of people working closely to generate and churn new ideas. As happened at the Cavendish labs, Cambridge, which attracted academic stars from all over the world in disciplines as diverse as nuclear physics and genetics in the inter-War years, or in the US, post-War. In recent years, tiny Singapore is trying, with some success, to nurture a dynamic global academic community. India should liberalise its higher education policies to get similar results. We might not create MITs out of IITs overnight, but unless we make a start now, we'll never get there.








  At a time when white collar crimes are top of the mind, US President Barack Obama's faux pas at the official dinner given by Queen Elizabeth II could hardly pass unnoticed. Actually it can be blamed on the very nature of white shirts: they stand out in a world that is increasingly moving towards easy maintenance colours, stripes and prints. Be it a perp walk or at the high table, white collar crimes have a knack of catching the eye. Like the famously envious catchline of a bleaching soap, the contrast between the pristine condition of white shirts and the dim future of the wearers, is unmistakable during court appearances these days. Given that incarceration is not conducive to keeping shirts white, it is unclear whether they choose to wear them just to beat the heat, to underline the classification of their alleged crime or to highlight their innocence of all wrongdoing. President Obama's crime, of course, seems piffling in comparison to what many of today's other alleged white collar infringers are accused of, but that may not have cut any ice with his hostess who has spent a lifetime amid stiff upper lips and stiff collars. In a society that sets great store by tradition, his American disregard for a stand-up wing collar to prop up his white tie under his penguin suit at the state banquet in his honour would be regarded as insulting. In fact, more so than his mistaking the British national anthem God Save the Queen for the American song, My Country 'Tis of Thee. He could be forgiven the gaffe of not pausing when it was played because not only do both have the same tune, the latter was sung by Aretha Franklin at the Obama inauguration in January 2009. His white collar crime, though, could just be a dress rehearsal of future differences between the two nations on other matters of policy.








The comedian Jerry Seinfeld once joked about how amazing it is "that the amount of news that happens in the world every day always just exactly fits the newspaper." This cosy analog template that was locked up in the printing presses late night and delivered at your doorstep early morning was rudely disturbed by the arrival of the digital media: first radio and television, with its possible 24/7 news delivery; then the Internet and the frills and spills it brought (such as social media, citizen journalism, etc), all of which combined it to give us a 60/24/7/52/365 news cycle. Suddenly there was too much news. It was fun at first, and as we swam expansively into the ocean of information, we left behind both the confines and comfort of pool-sized print media exposure. Newspapers in the West, where the digital media revolution hit with gale force around the turn of the century, shrank and shrivelled. Some died, others barely survived; no one prospered.

But what is news? How accurate is it and how much of it is accurate? Who determines the line between hearsay and news? Who are the arbiters of truth — and taste? In the tsunami of information unleashed by the digital media, how does one navigate past the flotsam and jetsam to find the pearls among oysters that enrich our lives?
A recent study by a French Internet company has concluded that it is "easier to assimilate and retain information read in a newspaper than on an iPad." The study build on earlier research that showed, using eye tracking technology, that web purveyors read in an "F-shaped" pattern, i.e., they read the first few lines of a story keenly before tapering off towards the bottom. The French study also showed that newspaper readers were able to retain more of the information they read than iPad readers. Further analysis showed that the eyes linger longer on the paper than on the digital version; just 70% of participants recall an article read on an iPad, compared with 90% for paper.


How rigorous and precise was the research is open to question (exact metrics of the study were not provided), but there is a growing sense that when it comes to the news business, digital domain is not all that it is bruited to be. News needs some form and structure. At the same time, it is widely acknowledged that the print medium has its limitations, particularly when it comes to immediacy, interactivity, and moving images (video).

The publishing pioneer William Randolph Hearst recognised early on that "the coming of the motion picture was as important as that of the printing press." In the spirit of his exhortation to the print media that "putting out a newspaper without promotion is like winking at a girl in the dark — well-intentioned, but ineffective," analog mavens gathered recently at the annual conference of the International Newspaper Marketing Association (INMA) drummed up ideas and experiences which suggest that far from rolling over and dying from the digital onslaught, print pashas are, to paraphrase one champion, "rediscovering their mojo." Case studies and presentations rolled out by the Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and Norway's Verdens Gang newspaper, among others, point to the print domain co-opting digital strengths in their effort to remain current and profitable in the fast-changing business. Many newspapers are re-engineering every position in the workplace to equip their staff with multi-media skills, embracing speed and immediacy in the process.


Print pioneers, confident of the quality, distinctiveness, and exclusivity of their content, are going behind paywalls, often offering free digital access to traditional paid subscribers. Legacy companies which spun-off digital domains believing them to be a different creature of distinct DNA are now rolling them back into their traditional business — including newsroom and advertising integration — to impart fresh ideas and momentum.The key, says Verdens Gang CEO Torry Pedersen, is to take what used to be a "monoproduct" (a plain vanilla newspaper) and transform it to complex, multiplatform delivery — a malleable product that is available in analog or digital, stationary or mobile.

During the recent royal wedding, Verdens Gang online coverage included heavy use of video coordinated by three young women in a studio, available on a range of products and platforms. On the advertising front, the company created a new approach called VG 24, emphasising the brand's ability to reach people at all hours of the day through all outlets.

The upshot, says Pedersen, is that VG is able to maintain its profit margin (around 33%) even though traditional newspaper strength is weakening. Legacy print giants such as NYT, WSJ, and FT are also adopting similar techniques to shore up the bottom line, and in some cases, even bump up the print subscription (NYT buyers, like that of The Economist, get free online access).

Keep your mind on the objective, not the obstacle, Hearst advised. They have heard him. There is still plenty of life left in the old dogs.










Environment minister Jairam Ramesh's comment on the quality of research and faculty at the IITs and IIMs has unleashed a storm. Actually, it was dust storm that obscured visibility. The real issues were forgotten as political parties, ministerial colleagues, alumni and faculty members stepped in to say their piece, most of it denying Ramesh's contention.

The IITs, the first of which was established in 1951 at Kharagpur, represent the pinnacle of our science and technical education set-up. If the best of our educational structure is performing below par, it is not difficult to imagine the shape of those at the base. In a sense, Ramesh's comment is a reflection on the entire science and technology education system. When the Nalini Ranjan Sarkar Committee recommended setting up the IITs, it had the MIT as its model. That half a century and more later, the IITs have failed to make the grade and not maintained themselves as excellent undergraduate engineering schools, is a cause for concern. This situation worries HRD minister Kapil Sibal, who has time and again raised the issue of quantity and quality of research and faculty. Clearly, 1,000 PhDs a year, at a time when China produces 8,000, is cause for concern. More so, as science and technology will drive and sustain India's economic growth and innovation. The entire focus has been on Ramesh's characterisation of the IITs as being excellent on the strength of its students, no attention was paid to his comment that government-run institutions failed to attract young talent. If the affronted IIT and IIM professors took a minute, they would realise that Ramesh had in part echoed their own argument for better remuneration, flexibility in pay packages and for financial autonomy.

The lack of adequate research in IITs has been a longstanding problem. Three committees set up by the government of India have dealt with the issue. In 1986, the Y Nayudamma Committee prodded the IITs to make a conscious and concerted attempt to excel in research and to be in the forefront of at least a few areas with research groups of international standards. The concerns were reiterated by the 2004 P Rama Rao Committee and more recently by the Anil Kakodkar Committee.

Ramesh did not say anything new; that is why the ensuing uproar is disturbing. It is a far greater cause of concern than the low quantum or quality of research. The "discussions" and "reactions" following the minister's comment made it clear that we are unwilling to accept any critical or non-celebratory view, especially when it comes to persons or institutions we hold in high esteem. So it could be the IITs today, Sachin Tendulkar tomorrow, and so on. We are loath to consider that our gods may have feet of clay. This inability to deal with critical inputs in rational manner is partly due to an unusual manifestation of national pride. This prevents us from taking a hard look at ourselves. It would appear that to accept that all is not well at the IITs, or that there is a lot of room for improvement, is somehow wrong. In doing this, we close all avenues of improvement. Our unwillingness to consider alternative and critical views is not limited to the outsider. In this case, Ramesh is an IIT and MIT alumni and his father was an IIT professor, making him the ultimate insider. The inability to deal with a differing viewpoint coming from an insider is not a good omen. It prevents a proper and considered evaluation, closing doors to change and progress.

Finally, the propensity to politicise critical issues effectively scuttles the possibility of a concerted non-partisan approach to resolve the problem, in this case the failure of the IITs to emerge as world class institutions undertaking cutting-edge research. The BJP quickly stepped in, taking a dig at the Congress, and making it clear that it was proud of the IITs and IIMs. It chose to ignore how its very own senior leader Murli Manohar Joshi as HRD minister questioned the IIMs' lack of contribution to national priorities, or set up the P Rama Rao Committee which, among other things, dealt with the issues of research and faculty in IITs.

The Congress played it safe. Given Ramesh's proximity to the party leadership, it did a tightrope walk — let Ramesh explain for himself even as it batted off criticism from the BJP. Not to be left behind, Ramesh's ministerial colleague, the minister of state for science and technology, claimed that it was his sole right to give out certificates, and proceeded to give the IITs a pat on the back. And in this melee, the central concern, the lack of research and the reasons for it, was all but forgotten.








The crisis in the Eurozone, centred now on Greece, is turning out to be a lot worse than thought earlier. Emerging economies, including India, must brace themselves not only for slower growth in the advanced world but for uncertainties in capital flows caused by jittery financial markets.

The world economy came through 2010 without the 'double-dip' recession that many economists had forecast. It grew at 5%, the pre-crisis growth rate. The advanced economies grew at 3%. But the numbers flattered to deceive. In 2011, the IMF projects growth to slow down to 4.4%, with the advanced economies crawling at 2.4%. The high level of government debt in the advanced economies and high oil prices are two important risk factors. A third factor, one that promises to be the most troublesome of the lot, is the crisis in the Eurozone. The IMF's World Economic Outlook (April 2011) believes that if the crisis gets out of hand, it alone could depress global output by 1percentage point.

Last May, as the possibility of a Greek default on sovereign debt loomed, the European Union (EU) and the IMF put together a €110 billion rescue package. But the terms of the rescue clearly indicated that the problem had only been postponed, it hadn't gone away.

Greece's debt-to-GDP ratio is expected to rise to 160% of GDP this year. Faced with this huge wall of debt, private investors are in no mood to finance Greece. If private money is not forthcoming and Greece is not to default, official money must come in. That is what the EU-IMF rescue last year was all about.

At the time, the hope was that official support would be temporary. Nobody now believes this to be the case. The better off nations in the EU will have to support Greece indefinitely. Taxpayers in these countries are in no mood to permit this.

If Greece is to have some chance of accessing the markets, some of Greek's debt must be written down, that is, investors in Greek government bonds must accept some loss on their investments. European banks are said to be holding around $150 billion in Greek government bonds. To the extent that a 'haircut' (bankers' code for losses) is imposed on investors, European governments will have to recapitalise their banks and also provide capital to Greek banks.

Restructuring entails other complications that analysts have pointed out. The EU has lent €34 billion under last year's rescue package. This debt is on the same footing as government debt. So, a 50% debt write off will impose an immediate cost of $19 billion on the EU. The European Central Bank too faces losses on Greek government bonds it holds.

EU governments thus face an unappetising choice: if Greek debt is restructured, they have to fork out money to support their banks; if there is no restructuring, they still have to fork out money to keep Greece going. Some analysts warn that restructuring is not an option at all. They say it could prove to be a 'Lehman event', unleashing chaos in the financial markets and destabilising the world economy. The costs of restructuring might still be acceptable if they produced solvency in Greece. Not so, it appears. One economist, writing in FT(May 12), estimates that even if half of Greece's debt is written off, and with all the austerity it can practice, Greece would not be able to bring its debt-to-GDP ratio down to the 60% mandated by the Maastricht Treaty.
It would still need to borrow from abroad in order to keep going. Its exports lack the competitiveness needed for it to grow its way out of trouble. The only way out, then, for Greece would be to exit the EU and devalue its currency. If that happens, investors in Greek debt would again face steep losses. There appears to be no happy ending in sight. The leaders of Germany and France are inclined to do what politicians everywhere prefer when faced with a crisis: temporise. They want, not restructuring, but 're-profiling'. Greek government debt would not be written down nor would the interest rate on it be lowered. Instead, some of the existing bonds would be replaced by longer maturity bonds. The idea is that Greece gets more time to work out its problems. But this is just evasion and it won't fool investors. In present value terms, Greek bonds would be worth less, so investors would have to accept losses. The consolation is that, for banks, re-profiling does not technically constitute a default. Banks will not have to cough up enormous sums towards credit default swaps written by them. To that extent, re-profiling entails lower costs than restructuring.

Whichever course is accepted, re-profiling or outright restructuring, Greece is not likely to return to solvency in the near future. Investors, including banks, will continue to face losses and the financial mar kets will remain in a state of suspense. Other troubled economies — Ireland, Portugal and Spain — will contribute to the general nervousness. It does seem bizarre but, in today's globalised financial markets, a handful of small countries can keep the world economy off the tracks for a long time.









Kurdo Baksi's memoir, Stieg Larsson, My Friend, begins with the day of Larsson's (1954-2004) funeral. "On the back of the order of service," Baksi writes, "was a poem by Raymond Carver, 'Late Fragment', from the collection he completed shortly before his death. 'And did you get what/you wanted from this life, even so?/I did./And what did you want?/To call myself beloved, to feel myself/beloved on the earth'."


Baksi continues, "When Carver was asked how he wanted to be remembered, he replied, 'I can think of nothing better than to have been called an author.' Not many of the congregation in the chapel that afternoon would have realised that the same applied to Stieg.


"That he would be remembered as the author of one of the biggest, least expected publishing successes of modern times. For most of us he was a tireless hero in the fight against racism—there was no battle for democracy and equality that he was unwilling to take part in. He was aware that there was a high price attached to doing so, but it was a price he was prepared to pay."


Baksi was a political refugee who left Kurdistan to settle in Sweden in 1980. He and Larsson had very similar interests: they both edited anti-racist magazines, and were concerned about the growing neo-Nazi movement in Sweden and in Europe generally in the 1990s.


They were also concerned with violence against women. They met almost every day for ten years, Baksi says, and though Larsson was fifteen years older, they were colleagues and friends, "big brother" and "kid brother". It was to him that Larsson turned when his magazine Expo began to flounder as a result of constant threats and violence and the resulting fall in advertising revenue.


The memoir is movingly written, but, as Baksi himself says, it's "not a blind tribute to a friend". Larsson worked himself to death and expected others to work as hard for little in terms of financial remuneration. Again, Baksi did not feel it was right at all to allow very young supporters to infiltrate neo-Nazi organisations, it was just too dangerous.


And, even though Baksi pointed out that he could be faulted for running a magazine with virtually no women or immigrant employees, Larsson had no time to deal with these equations.


But there are very interesting details about the way Larsson wrote the trilogy. "Having finished a chapter of the first book in the series, he would immediately write a chapter in book two, and when that was finished he would do the same in book three." Baksi says he never regarded the novels as separate books, because so many parallels ran through his head. He was very fond of his characters.


When the reviews began to appear, Baksi was both thrilled for Larsson, and sad that he was not alive to enjoy them. But Baksi did notice some changes in Larsson once the books had been accepted for publication. He became more relaxed, more outgoing, met more people, gave interviews, and gave up his trademark clothes: "The slipshod working-class lad had progressed to reserved austerity and had now returned to being slipshod." Baksi disliked intensely the baggy t-shirts that Larsson began to wear.


And on whom were his famous characters based? Various commentators have various theories. According to Baksi, Larsson had more in common with Lisbeth Salander than with Mikael Blomkvist. Neither Larsson nor Lisbeth had much faith in so-called authorities.


They were both reluctant to talk about the past, especially their childhoods. Lisbeth is Stieg as a phenomenal researcher. She is cleverer and faster than he was — "but after all, everything is easier in fiction than in real life". Baksi's memoir was published by Maclehose Press London 2010, and translated from Swedish by Laurie Thompson.



                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL




The testimony in a Chicago court of David Coleman Headley, the former Dawood Gilani, against Tahawwur Rana, his co-accused in the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, provides us with rich details of the links between the Inter-Services Intelligence, the spy branch of the Pakistani military, and the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba terrorist outfit in planning and executing 26/11. Headley played the advance scout for this mission, and used his schoolfriend Rana's immigration business as a cover to visit Mumbai often. When he was pulled in by the American security agencies, he turned approver in return for a lighter sentence, and is now providing evidence in the trial against Rana, once his roommate at a well-known Pakistani military residential school. The other object of note in Headley's testimony — which ended after two days on Tuesday — is the plan he has revealed to assassinate the Shiv Sena supremo, Mr Bal Thackeray. Fortunately that did not materialise or the Mumbai region might have been turned into a tinderbox with Hindu-Muslim communalism touching fever pitch. That would have delighted both the LeT and its ISI patrons. Headley's evidence is compelling. Email exchanges between him and ISI and LeT operatives have been presented to the court. But it is early days yet, and in the end it is up to the jury. But by offering Headley as the star witness in the Rana trial, the prosecution is indicating that it reposes faith in Headley's story. However, given the complexities of America's relationship with Pakistan, it is doubtful if Washington will publicly accuse the ISI's decision-making levels of colluding with LeT in attacking Mumbai. Even on the question of shielding Osama bin Laden for over five years at Abbottabad, let us remember that the US is officially fighting shy of pointing fingers at the ISI's top hierarchy, although this is strongly hinted at in observations by several senior US officials. What is clear, however, is that beating about the bush on the involvement of Pakistan's security services in the Mumbai attacks plays to the advantage of the ISI as well as the LeT, whose terrorist plans are now no longer confined to India. In India we never had any doubts about the deep involvement of Pakistan's military establishment and its spy agencies in targeting our population centres. The grisly Mumbai episode was just one instance in a long chain of many attacks against civilians in India. When we accuse Pakistan, Islamabad wants mathematical proof. But when the evidence is provided, it seeks to brazen it out by saying that it doesn't add up. (Or it throws the red-herring of the so-called Indian involvement in supporting separatists in Balochistan. According to one Pakistani theory, even the Pakistani Taliban have been set up by India!) We should therefore be quite clear that even if Rana is convicted on the basis of Headley testifying against him, they would have us believe that these are mere individuals, and the link suggested with the ISI is less than tenuous. Pakistan is also known to take shelter behind its court procedures. Perhaps this is the time for Pakistani courts to do a video-conference with Headley. That might bring a lot of material on record that is not emanating from India. But let's be realistic. This would never happen. Even so, after Bin Laden was discovered hiding for years in a Pakistani garrison town near Islamabad, the world no longer believes Pakistan on the question of terrorism. They are like ordinary people anywhere. They keep quiet out of fear in a militarised state. The revelations made so far owe not a little to India keeping up the pressure.






The anger in Washington policy circles when the US fighter planes — the Lockheed-Martin F-16IN and the Boeing F-18 Super Hornet — did not make it to the Indian Air Force's Medium-range Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) shortlist, was a thing to behold. It was as if an ungrateful India had reneged on a done aircraft deal — just rewards for easing India's entry on to the verandah of the five-country nuclear weapons club. The American incomprehension with the Indian decision is itself incomprehensible. Lockheed and Boeing actually believed they would win with platforms of late 1960s vintage jazzed up with a downgraded Raytheon APG-79 (or even a de-rated "81") version of the Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) look-down, ground-mapping, radar. The Indian Air Force is not the most advanced but its leadership, despite its flaws, knows when it is being palmed off with yesterday's goods. Had Washington offered the Joint Strike Fighter, the F-35 Lightning II, the IAF would have jumped at it and the decision would have been hurrahed along by the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh. In the event, the French Rafale and the EADS (European Aeronautic Defence and Space) Company's Typhoon Eurofighter progressed even as Lockheed and Boeing were sought to be pacified with two transport aircraft deals — the one for the C-130J making sense, the other for the C-17 not. Russia, likewise, was mollified with collaboration on the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA). To my consternated friends in Washington who sought an explanation, I offered an analogy. Some two decades back, the Daimler-Benz car company entered the Indian market with older Mercedes models, convinced the cash-rich yokels would splash good money for anything with the three-cornered star on the bonnet. The old cars, remained unsold and the investment in production jigs and tools in their factory in Pune went waste. The Germans quickly corrected course, offering the newest Mercedes models, available in Dusseldorf, in Delhi. The sale of Rafale or Eurofighter to India is a lifeline to both the Dassault Company and the French aviation sector generally and the four-country consortium producing, so far unviably, the latter aircraft that an expert acquaintance dismissed as something "Germany doesn't want, Britain can't afford, and Spain and Italy neither want nor can afford!" But, leverage-wise, it affords India traction with four European countries instead of just France in case Rafale is taken. But is either of these aircraft genuinely multi-role? Dr Carlo Kopp, an internationally renowned combat aviation specialist, deems the Typhoon, a non-stealthy, short-range (300 nautical miles) air defence/air dominance fighter optimised for transonic manoeuvres, more a "lemon" than a "demon". Italian Air Force Chief Gen. Vincenzo Camporini, moreover, declared in 2008 that this plane was incapable of an "attack role in an economically sustainable manner", in part because EADS has no AESA radar. It hopes to develop one with the infusion of Indian monies if Typhoon is selected. Realistically, India will not get the strike variant until well into the 2020s as the Royal Air Force and the German Luftwaffe, for starters, will have the first lien on it. In short, for over a third of its lifetime, the IAF will have to make do with the more limited air defence version which, in effect, is an avionics-wise souped-up, ergonomically improved, MiG-21! Moreover, to expect timely, coordinated, supply of spares and service support from 20-odd countries (including Croatia!) roped into the Eurofighter programme will be a compounded logistics and maintenance nightmare. Rafale is a smaller, semi-stealth plane with slightly better un-refuelled range than the Typhoon but, equipped with the RBE-22A AESA radar, can undertake ground attack, including nuclear weapon delivery. Critically, it has finessed the algorithm (patented, incidentally, by an Indian scientist) for more effective fusion of data from numerous on-board and external sensors (such as satellite) better than the Eurofighter. Except, as late as 2009, Rafale was ruled operationally inadequate perhaps because it is less agile in "dogfighting" — a role the IAF brass remains enamoured with long after advanced tactical missiles have made close-quarter aerial battle history. Rafale and Typhoon nevertheless cost a bomb, with the MMRCA eventually coming in at around $20 billion. The F-16 was rejected because, in part, the Pakistan Air Force flies it. By this reckoning, Pakistan may also access Typhoon and Rafale. EADS is trying desperately to sell the Typhoon to Turkey. If it succeeds, PAF will end up familiarising itself with it, if not actually benefiting from surreptitious transfer of its technologies. Trying to ramp up its defence sales, France has explored the sale of Rafale to Pakistan as has Russia the MiG-35 in order to compete with China for influence in Islamabad (which is not barred by any provision in the FGFA deal with India). The MMRCA is a rubbish acquisition. The defence ministry followed up the questionable decision with a singular display of lack of negotiating savvy. With the MiG-35 option on the table, India could have played the Europeans off against the Russians to secure the best terms, even if ultimately for Rafale/Typhoon. Instead, there's the appalling record of defence ministry officials and service officers repeatedly muffing deals, worse, acting as patsies for, or playing footsy with, the supplier states, resulting in treasury-emptying contracts that have fetched the country little in return. Learning from the past, defence minister A.K. Antony had better instruct his negotiators to insist on only phased payments linked to time-bound delivery of aircraft and full transfer of technology (including source codes and flight control laws for all aspects of the aircraft), and on deterrent penalties that automatically kick in at the slightest infringement or violation of clauses deliberately tilted to favour India. Considering Delhi — prior to signing the deal — is in a position to arm-twist almost anything out of the supplier firms using the threat of walking out on the deal, the litmus test of a "successful" MMRCA transaction will be whether, by way of offsets, and notwithstanding the initial problems with absorbing advanced technology, the Indian defence industry has gained top-edge technological-industrial competence across the broad combat aviation front (rather than rights to mere licenced manufacture as in past deals). Bharat Karnad is professor at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi







Being back in Cairo reminds me that there are two parties in this region that have been untouched by the Arab Spring: the Israelis and the Palestinians. Too bad, because when it comes to ossified, unimaginative, oxygen-deprived governments, the Israelis and Palestinians are right up there with pre-revolutionary Egypt and Tunisia. I mean, is there anything less relevant than the Prime Minister of Israel going to the US Congress for applause and the leader of the Palestinians going to the UN — instead of to each other? Both could actually learn something from Tahrir Square. To the Palestinians I would say: You believe the Israelis are stiffing you because they think they have you in box. If you resort to violence, they will brand you terrorists. And if you don't resort to violence, the Israelis will just pocket the peace and quiet and build more settlements. Your dilemma is how to move Israel in a way that won't blow up in your face or require total surrender. You have to start with the iron law of Israeli-Arab peace: whichever party has the Israeli silent majority on its side wins. Anwar Sadat brought the Israeli majority over to his side when he went to Israel, and he got everything he wanted. Yasser Arafat momentarily did the same with the Oslo peace accords. How could Palestinians do that again today? I can tell you how not to do it. Having the UN General Assembly pass a resolution recognising an independent Palestinian state will only rally Israelis around the Prime Minister, Mr Bibi Netanyahu, giving him another excuse not to talk. May I suggest a Tahrir Square alternative? Announce that every Friday from today forward will be "Peace Day", and have thousands of West Bank Palestinians march non-violently to Jerusalem, carrying two things — an olive branch in one hand and a sign in Hebrew and Arabic in the other. The sign should say: "Two states for two peoples. We, the Palestinian people, offer the Jewish people a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders — with mutually agreed adjustments — including Jerusalem, where the Arabs will control their neighbourhoods and the Jews theirs". If Palestinians peacefully march to Jerusalem every Friday with a clear peace message, it would become a global news event. Trust me, it would stimulate a real peace debate within Israel — especially if Palestinians invited youth delegations from around the Arab world to join the marches, carrying the Saudi peace initiative in Hebrew and Arabic. Israeli Jews and Arabs should be invited to march as well. Together, the marchers could draw up their own peace maps and upload them onto YouTube as a way of telling their leaders what Egyptian youth said to President Hosni Mubarak: "We're not going to let you waste another day of our lives with your tired mantras and manoeuvring". Crazy, I know. Mr Bibi is reading this and laughing: "The Palestinians will never do that. They could never get Hamas to adopt non-violence. It's not who the Palestinians are". That is exactly what Mubarak said about the Egyptian people: "They are not capable of being anything but what they are: docile and willing to eat whatever low expectations I feed them". But then Egyptians surprised him. How about you, Palestinians, especially Hamas? Do you have any surprise in you? Is Bibi right about you, or not? As for Bibi, his Tahrir lesson is obvious: Sir, you are well on your way to becoming the Hosni Mubarak of the peace process. The time to make big decisions in life is when you have all the leverage on your side. For 30 years, Mubarak had all the leverage on his side to gradually move Egypt towards democracy — and he never used it. Then, when Mubarak's people rose up, he tried to do it all in six days. But it was too late. No one believed him. So his tenure ended in ruin. Israel today still has enormous leverage. It is vastly superior militarily and economically to the Palestinians, and it has the US on its side. If Netanyahu actually put a credible, specific two-state peace map on the table — not just the same old vague promises about "painful compromises" — he could get the Americans and Europeans to toss in anything Israel wanted, including the newest weapons, Nato membership, maybe even European Union membership. It could be a security windfall for Israel. Does Bibi have any surprise in him or do the Palestinians have him right: a big faker, hiding a nationalist-religious agenda under a cloak of security? It may be that Israeli and Palestinian leaders are incapable of surprising anyone anymore, in which case the logic on the ground will prevail: Israel will gradually absorb the whole West Bank, so, together with Israel proper, a Jewish minority will be ruling over an Arab majority. Israel's enemies will call it "the Jewish apartheid state". America, Israel's only true friend, will find itself defending an Israel whose policies it does not believe in and whose leaders it does not respect — and the tensions between the US and Israel in Washington last week will seem quaint by comparison.







DC Debate: After the S.C. judgement, Karnataka CM and Speaker should be replaced The loss of faith is irreparable Ravivarma Kumar It all started with 16 members of the Karna-taka Assembly writing to the Governor, Mr H.R. Bhardwaj, withdrawing support to the Chief Minister, Mr B.S. Yeddyurappa. They were disqualified by the Speaker, Mr K.G. Bopai-ah, and could not take part in the confidence vote. The Supreme Court has held the disqualifi-cation of the five Independent MLAs invalid on the ground that the mere extension of support by them to Mr Yeddyurappa earlier was not sufficient to indicate that they had joined the BJP. As for the 11 BJP rebels, the Supreme Court came down heavily on the Speaker and held that he acted in great haste and disregarded procedures. His conduct was virtually deemed to be partisan. In the light of this, the following inferences are evident — that the Speaker acted in haste to enable the Chief Minister to manipulate a majority; that the Speaker was hand in glove with the chief minister in disqualifying the MLAs; and that the Chief Minister failed to take a valid trust vote before October 12, 2010, as directed by the Governor. Once Mr Bhardwaj sets a deadline for a vote of confidence, and Mr Yeddyurappa fails to do so, he no longer enjoys the pleasure of the governor, in terms of Article 164. Clearly, Mr Yeddyurappa did not enjoy the support of the majority on the stipulated date. The 16 MLAs withdrew support to Mr Yeddy-urappa through a letter of October 6, 2010. On May 15, 2011, 11 of them changed that position. Thus, Mr Yeddyurappa did not enjoy the support of the majority of the House from October 6, 2010 to May 15, 2011. Thus, the continuation of Mr Yeddyurappa in office is an affront to the Constitution. The loss of confidence is irreparable. There is no way such a Chief Minister can continue in office. Such manipu-lation is a fraud on the Constitution. The Speaker is above party politics. But in the present case the conduct of Mr Bopaiah let down the institution of the Speaker so badly that the Supreme Court had to pass strictures against him. As such, he has disqualified himself from holding his present office. He will not carry respect, dignity and authority needed to discharge his functions as a Speaker. Mr Bopaiah is thus an affront to the dignity, decorum and authority of the institution of the Speaker. So, its would be better if Mr Yeddyurappa and Mr Bopaiah both quit. * Prof Ravivarma Kumar, senior counsel and constitutional expert * * * It is definitely a political demand S. Suresh Kumar When the 16 MLAs in question, whose petition went to the Supreme Court, expressed their lack of confidence in the government headed by the Chief Minister, Mr B.S. Yeddyurappa, instead of referring the matter to the Chief Minister — as the issue of confidence or the lack of it falls within the purview of the legislature party, the Governor asked Mr Yeddyurappa to prove his majority. This was strange. Then, following a petition by Mr Yeddyurappa in his capacity as the leader of the BJP legislature party that the 16 MLAs be disqualified, the Speaker, Mr K.G. Bopaiah, duly issued notices, gave the MLAs a fair hearing, and then disqualified them. The Supreme Court has held that ordinarily the court will not sit in appeal over a decision of the Speaker. We know through newspapers, that bet-ween October 4 and October 11 last year, forces inimical to the very existence of the first ever BJP government in south India misguided the MLAs. Now these individuals — with their status as MLAs restored by the Supreme Court — are back in the BJP, and are bound by the party's whip. The Supreme Court's verdict in the present case will be revisited in the coming years. With due respect, I submit a very well known, accepted, view. "The Supreme Court is final. But it is not infallible." The Speaker acted in his quasi-judicial capacity, and after observing the necessary procedures came out with his decision. This was upheld by the high court. Now, the Supreme Court has come out with a different viewpoint. While doing so, it has made a few observations against Mr Bopaiah (and also Mr Yeddyurappa). It is pertinent that the Supreme Court did not hear Mr Bopaiah's version before making these observations. Unfortunately, the different views between one quasi-judicial and two judicial authorities are being interpreted in a particular way by a few friends for obvious political purposes. Mr Bopaiah's judgment, which was upheld by the high court, has been nullified by the Supreme Court. This should not be construed as a moral blow to the Speaker, or warrant his resignation. By that analogy, all judges whose decisions are nullified by higher courts may also be asked to resign. And the demand for the resignation of Mr Yeddyurappa is a purely political demand. We have been hearing it continuously for the last three years. Everyone knows the motive behind it. * S. Suresh Kumar, law and parliamentary affairs minister, Karnataka







If there is a fire next door, the neighbours are bound to get worried. The latest terrorist attack, on a major naval station near Karachi, may have been frustrated by the government forces but the crisis in Pakistan is much more serious than the events of the last two days portray. It should worry India, other countries in the region, the United States and other world powers. Untackled, it can engulf the subcontinent, the US and other countries who would not know how to handle Pakistan erupting. Pakistan is sitting on an explosive mix of jihadism, terrorism of varied hues and a militarist hubris born of the nuclear weapons it has piled up during the last few years. India can legitimately tell Pakistan that the present situation is the outcome of past mistakes, like excessive reliance on the military for building a nation state and using terrorist groups as an aid to policy towards India in the east and Afghanistan in its northwest. It will, however, be politically incorrect for Indians to indulge in a "we-told-you-so" attitude, even if India has been victim of terrorism exported by Pakistan. The US has been unpopular in Pakistan for some years now. The killing of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, just a few miles from Islamabad, earlier this month has seen the Pakistan Army lose face with the people. The attack on the Karachi naval base, which is actually a joint establishment of the Pakistan Army, Air Force and Navy, has sharply brought out how the Pakistani military establishment has failed to tackle threats from terrorist groups which can attack even a highly protected base. More important is the fear that Pakistan's nuclear weapons can be captured by jihadi groups who can then blackmail the world, pushing it towards a bigger conflagration. A serious possibility can also be visualised of the breaking up of Pakistan as a nation. The scenario of a Pakistan broken into pieces can be more grim for India and the world than Pakistan as one country has been, even if it has been a problem nation for India and the rest of the world. India has no solution for Pakistan's problems, endemic or otherwise; nevertheless, gloating over its troubles, as some people are prone to, is not warranted. What is needed is cool reflection and working out different policy options to tackle contingencies. It is not only India that should worry about the present situation acquiring critical mass. The US, Europe, Russia and nations in Pakistan's neighbourhood would need to get into consultations at different levels to take a view of the developing situation. Even the Chinese, who have sought to restore Pakistan's shattered morale after what happened at Abbottabad, would need to ponder the possibility of Pakistan's nuclear weapons falling into the hands of jihadi groups and also about Pakistan splintering into small states. In Pakistan itself a large number of people are deeply worried these days about the present and the future of their country. Among the Pakistan Army top brass also there could be a few generals who would know the dangers that have arisen for the state of Pakistan partly because of the dalliance between the Army and the jihadi groups which it used for several years for foreign policy purposes as well as for keeping a check on the rise of democratic forces. On the other hand, there could also be elements in the Pakistan Army who were recruited by Zia-ul Haq to inject Islamist ideology into the Pakistan Army. Gen. Kayani certainly cannot be comfortable with the image of the Army in his own country and in the rest of the world after Abbottabad. He has had also to see the ignominy of his Inter-Services Intelligence chief appear before Parliament and explain why the Army could not detect the US helicopters attacking Osama's house in Abbottabad. Men in uniform in Pakistan are not used to appearing before civilians who are always the object of sneers in Army messes. The Karachi attack has been another blow. Theoretically, there are many options. He can be funny with the Americans on the Afghanistan border, or indulge in adventurism on the eastern border with India. Both these are risky propositions, and hence, unlikely propositions. He could also stage a coup, send civilians back home and grab absolute power under the plea that only the Army can save Pakistan. The best option for him, however, is to cut the terrorists' umbilical cord and strike at the jihadi groups in Pakistan. This way, perhaps, he can save Pakistan from descending into chaos. Whether he chooses this course or follows still another remains to be seen. * H.K. Dua is a senior journalist and currently an MP








WEST Bengal has always found a coveted place in India. The state is unique in terms of socio-economic, cultural, political and demographic factors. With a population of 8,02,21,171 (7.81 per cent of India's population), it is blessed with a strategic location, availability of fertile farmland, access to ports, huge mineral wealth and a rich pool of talent.

Bengal has of late been the focus of national discourse because of  certain policies and programmes and their implications. For the past three decades, it has been among the middle ranking states of the country. It has slipped to the 10th position in terms of per capita income and human development indicators.
Nearly 34 per cent of the rural population is below the poverty line. The income distribution is inequitable. Rural Bengal is one of the poorest in the country. The income level of people dependent on agriculture is low. Urban unemployment stands at 7.6 per cent. The state has only 5.8 per cent of the country's factories, contributing only 11 per cent of its NSDP.

Agriculture plays a pivotal role in Bengal's economy. Nearly 75 per cent of the population is directly or indirectly involved in agriculture. The total food production in the state in 2006-07 was 15.82 mt. West Bengal is the largest producer of rice and the second largest of potatoes. It has achieved food security in both these items.
The state has achieved notable progress in land reforms covering three segments: i) the redistribution of agricultural land; ii) the regulation of sharecropping relationships; and iii) the distribution of homestead plots. Some of the factors behind the success are: favourable legislative provisions spelt out in the Land Reforms Act by the CPI-M led Left Front government that came to power in 1977; choice of the right target group, namely small scale sharecropping tenants and landless agricultural labourers; an innovative process of implementation and active involvement of the local leaders.

Operation Barga, a watershed achievement in terms of land reforms, has been widely praised. While land reforms have addressed the problem of acute poverty to some extent, certain problems still persist. Seventy-five per cent of its population still depends on agriculture. An estimated 80 per cent of the farmers have an average landholding size of 0.64 hectares.

The number of cultivators as a proportion of agricultural workers is declining. But there is today a degree of indifference on the part of the people and the government towards land reforms.

Modifications of the law could have ensured a positive impact of the Act in terms of  equitable distribution of land and agricultural production. To sustain the success of land reforms, diversification of the production base and an increase in non-farm activities are essential. Serious thought needs to be given to strengthening grassroot democracy. The dependence of the people on agriculture as a source of sustenance needs to be reduced.
In the 1960s, Bengal had recorded the highest per capita real GDP among all the states. It had contributed to 15.8 per cent of the country's total factories. There was a 24 per cent increase in employment potential. It is still the third largest economy in India. The jute/textile manufacturing sector, the most prominent industry in West Bengal, is going through a structural change. Many of the major engineering units are downsizing their workforce. Out of 37 cotton mills in the state, only few are in operation; even that is confined to the spinning departments on a job-conversion basis. The workers and staff are not getting their wages and salaries in time.
The state has identified IT as a priority sector to be developed into a growth engine. There are around 300 small and big IT companies employing around 55,000 people.  And yet this sector is facing challenges and serious constraints in realising its potential. The lurking question is whether the benefits of the IT sector will reach the common people, as distinct from the small, educated elite. Prospects are uncertain given the negative perceptions and campaigns against the initiatives towards industrialisation.

Some companies have withdrawn and some others have reduced their capacity. Developments in Singur, Nandigram and Vedic Village have almost stalled the growth of the IT sector. Embroiled in land controversies, the state government, on 7 September 2009, scrapped its plan to set up an IT-related township in Rajarhat.
Land is essential for industrialisation. West Bengal has a low quantum of non-arable land. It has only 9,073 hectares of vested non-agricultural land available for industry. Therefore, agricultural land is required for the setting up of industries. To bring about a balanced development of the different regions in the state, the first attempt should be to use the non-arable or less fertile land for industrial purposes. Also to ensure the minimum displacement of the people.

In states like Bengal, the establishment of Special Economic Zones requires large tracts of land. The acquisition of agricultural land requires a transparent, fair procedure and clarity on the steps involved. This calls for a suitable land policy. The land policy should identify land for SEZs, the principles of valuation; and the mode of compensation. The role of the stakeholders and their part in the transaction must also be enunciated.  Singur and Nandigram have demonstrated the administrative inefficiency and difficulties in acquiring fertile agricultural land for industries.

West Bengal today is in a very precarious position. In the year 2000, the state was earning Rs 5 for every Rs 20 spent. The fiscal position has deteriorated alarmingly and the budget deficit has reached 9 per cent of the SDP.


Many industries, which were the source of employment and sustenance for thousands of people, were shut down.

The industrial and employment scenario continues to be grim. The number of factories and the generation of employment has been stagnant in recent years. The average daily employment from 1996 to 2005 has been around 8,85,788 while the average number of factories in the same period was 11,720. The employment of women in factories is gradually decreasing. The average daily employment of women workers from 1996 to 2005 is 21, 270.  West Bengal has reached a turning point in its history. It faces new challenges. It needs to become a more developed and prosperous state. It should redeem itself from the present political, agricultural and industrial morass. The responsibility lies not only on the government but also on the shoulders of other stakeholders, notably industry, media, bureaucracy, intelligentsia, educationists and those who mould public opinion. Collective action is imperative. The government should act as a team. Judicious decisions will have to be taken if West Bengal has to keep pace with the rest of the country.

 It is essential to restore work ethics; step up the private sector's commitment to corporate social responsibility; invite investment, both domestic and foreign; revamp education, health, transport and power; v) build more townships all over Bengal with adequate infrastructure; and maintain peace and order with adequate security.

The writer is Principal, St Xavier's College (Autonomous), Kolkata






NOT long ago, a leading Pakistan columnist warned me that if the Taliban ever came to occupy Islamabad, lakhs of Pakistanis would cross into India. I did not take the remark seriously. But it made me sit up and think. After the Taliban's 16-hour attack on the naval airbase in Karachi, I wonder if the warning needs serious attention. I am not trying to sound panicked. But we should not rule out such an eventuality.
Terrorism is what India and Pakistan should be discussing, not any other issue, however important. The Sir Creek problem, pending for years, requires an urgent solution. Yet the entire scenario has taken a different shape. The Taliban have attacked Pakistan, going beyond bomb blasts at places near the Afghanistan border. They have proved again, if any more proof was needed, that they can strike anywhere, even the highly-protected places, at any time. They had already hit army and air force installations. This time, they have not spared the navy.

The killing of Osama bin Laden may have spurred them on to take revenge. But this is not the real cause. The Taliban declared a war against Pakistan sometime ago. That the responsibility for the Karachi attack has been taken by the Pakistan Taliban makes the problem more serious. It means that the Taliban have spread its tentacles all over the country and penetrated the Intelligence agencies and even the armed forces.
No doubt, there had been glaring negligence in guarding most key installations. This is nothing new. The nonchalant attitude was apparent when US commandos killed Osama at Abbottabad in the heart of Pakistan. Yet, the admission of lapse does not absolve those who gave the clue about Osama's presence or those who connived at the operation.

By this time, some higher-ups should have been singled out and held accountable. But this may not be possible because even Pakistan's National Assembly and the Senate are not willing to face the fact of failure. It is an open secret that the Taliban are dangerously close to nuclear weapons in Pakistan. And if their supporters are not uncovered, a catastrophe cannot be avoided.

I suspect that the oft-touted threat from India would once again let the military off the hook, although civil society in Pakistan is increasingly reluctant to accept the bogey of India. My recent tour to Pakistan gives me the impression that people are separating propaganda from reality. They realise that the enemy is within, not without. Their worry is that not enough is being done because vested interests want the Indian angle to cover up for their mistakes. People in India honestly believe that the integrity of Pakistan is essential for the integrity of their country.

It is heartening to see Prime Minister Mr Yousuf Raza Gilani presiding over a meeting in which top military officers were present. Such things strengthen the hope that the civilian government will come to have full control over the administration. However, I continue to harbour the belief that the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) is a law unto itself. The ISI link in the 26/11 attacks, as revealed in a US federal court at Chicago, only reconfirms what is generally said about the outfit. The testimony of David Headley may have many holes and one should wait for the verdict before reaching any conclusion. Yet there is no doubt about the ISI being larger than life.

When the joint session of Pakistan parliament backed the armed forces, it was full of appreciation for ISI chief Ahmed Shuja Pasha's statement that Pakistani forces were prepared to combat any strategic strikes by India and had even "selected targets" in the neighbouring country. He should have been taken to task by the Prime Minister for his irresponsible statement but Mr Gilani did not do so, probably knowing that army chief General Pervez Kayani was India-centric. This should ring alarm bells in Pakistan.

 However, I adhere to my earlier contention that we should retrieve Pakistan from the brink at which it is teetering. And we should make some unilateral gestures to wash out the anti-India poison from the Pakistan body politic. But is Islamabad willing to reciprocate and change the policy it has followed practically since the birth of Pakistan? What should New Delhi infer from the statement by Pakistan foreign secretary's that the 26/11 was too old to be recalled? India, on the other hand, is awaiting the outcome of the trial of the charge-sheeted Pakistanis. The litmus test is the action that Pakistan takes against Hafiz Saeed, the chief of Lashkar-e-Taiyyaba, alleged to have planned and executed the attacks on Mumbai.

Former Prime Minister Mr Nawaz Sharif's approach towards India has been different. He entered into a time-bound solution of the problems, including Kashmir, with India's then Prime Minister Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee who journeyed in a bus to Lahore. However, General Pervez Musharraf, chief of army staff at that time, had some other ideas and initiated the Kargil misadventure. Consider his own admission that Pakistan had trained jihadis to cross over to Kashmir. Islamabad must realise that the course it has taken so far has led it nowhere. In fact, it has lost 35,000 people at the hands of jihadis.

New Delhi has also made many mistakes. But going into the past would only deepen bitterness and not act as a balm. The future is important, more so when the USA will probably reach an agreement with the "good" Taliban and begin to withdraw its forces. Maybe, the news of the death of Taliban leader Mullah Omar has been deliberately circulated to announce to the world that Washington is done with its job of chasing Al Qaida and the Taliban.

America looks after its own interest while staging the drama of democracy. We in the region, both India and Pakistan, have to join hands to eliminate terrorism. How can we do so when we do not trust each other? We may be prisoners of history but we cannot build the future without purging hatred and hostility from our minds.

We too can have an understanding with the Taliban who want to join the mainstream.
This takes me back to the warning from the Pakistani columnist that if the Taliban advanced in his country, lakhs of Pakistanis would cross into India. New Delhi has to strengthen Islamabad's hand, however jaundiced and military-oriented its views are. That's because India has too much at stake.

The writer is a veteran journalist and commentator







How and when does an evening become cultural was the theme of a seminar held sometimes back in some distant Pacific island. Scholars from many countries, laden with reference books, attended without arriving at any conclusion. Let us examine this issue in an Indian context.

For a rich housewife, attending fashion show at a five-star hotel constitutes a cultural evening. For others it is the theatre or an art exhibition in the evening. For most university teens, culture is no more than the occasional preference for the churidar or the lehnga. For others, apparel no longer proclaims the evening. It only proclaims night. There is no night life in Delhi except of the obvious kind. The 2011 census supports this contention. The same can be said about the whole of India where wealth accumulates and men decay, where culture suffocates and creation triumphs.

But no longer so in Warsaw which has maximum number of theatres in a single city in the world, or Moscow which has the maximum number of playgrounds in the world, only in India with the maximum number of slums and dogs. Playing football in Chowringhee Square  may be cultural but reading Gita in Park Street may not be so.

In Mumbai, culture has a different connotation altogether. There meeting a girl friend in the local train in the evening is innately cultural, so is suddenly meeting a former landlady or a domestic help. But meeting a film star is boring. The trouble with our filmstars is that they look much more intelligent than they actually are. About 50 years ago, going to an art gallery was culture no matter how dimly lit the galley was, how lengthy were the brochures and labels and how oddly-dressed the artist. Today, Dalal Street determines culture.
In Punjab, incidentally, culture and agriculture have the same origin. When you cultivate the soil, it is agriculture but when you cultivate the mind, it is culture. GB Shaw said culture lies in the butcher's shop. That is why there are more such shops in Punjab than elsewhere. That was the observation of the greatest butcher of colonial history, General Dyer whom we Punjabis gave a Saropa in our holy city Amritsar. In Punjab, there are no cultural evenings, only cultural nights. In Himachal, culture means sachi-mutchi. In Jammu it is karam-ka-saag and rajma while in Kashmir it is shaljam-ki deg around a bonfire.

Someone said culture has gone to dogs. I have asked many dogs, their reply is that culture has not yet come to them. May be it has gone to cats. I asked some cats. They laughed. It, therefore, transpires that anything that makes the cats laugh is culture.

Farmers in Crete begin their day with a glass of wine. They end it with another glass. In Finland, a visit to the sauna in the evening is the height of culture. In Moscow, 40 drops of vodka qualifies for culture. I once took only 39, and was disqualified. In Turkey, the dance of the Dervish is a hallmark of culture, particularly when the Dervish attains the state of haal(ecstasy).

I once asked a beggar at the Boat Club in New Delhi: "Baba, the provision for begging will increased three-fold in the 12th Plan." The beggar, whom the day had brought neither cheer nor charity, raised his begging bowl ~ the kashkool ~  and said: "Will I get more alms in the 12th Plan"? And recited a couplet: "Aj paisa kisse nahi ghalya/Mers feem da vela chalya" (Nobody has given me any money this evening /While my opium-time is fleeting).






Recent events in Pakistan have left the world confused. Is the confusion deliberately created or accidentally caused? Let us consider the two most recent events and attempt to unravel the truth. The Mehran naval base in Karachi was attacked by terrorists to claim 14 deaths, including Pakistani military personnel, and destruction of two valuable naval aircraft. The precision with which the attackers operated in the locale of the base has led to the widely-accepted conclusion that a section of the Pakistan military was complicit. The Taliban have claimed responsibility for the attack perpetrated to avenge Osama bin Laden's assassination. Responsible sections of the Pakistan media have stated that there is a revolt against the top leadership of the Pakistan army by middle rank officers supportive of the jihadi outfits. The question that needs to be probed is whether the Pakistani military personnel aiding the terrorist attack on the Mehran base were Pashtun.

The second event was related to the mysterious fate of Mullah Omar. Afghan media claimed that Mullah Omar was being escorted from Quetta to Waziristan en route to Afghanistan by the ISI but was killed by the Pakistani army. The Taliban have contradicted this report and have claimed that Mullah Omar is alive. Allegedly former ISI chief Hamid Gul was escorting Mullah Omar. Gul has rubbished the report and has opined that the Americans are putting out false reports about Omar's death in order to justify a troop withdrawal from Afghanistan. Whether alive or dead, Mullah Omar as yet is missing.

Is Hamid Gul speaking the whole truth? Could he have accompanied Mullah Omar who may still be alive? The Afghans allege that there was a deal between Afghanistan and the Pakistan army to hand over Mullah Omar to the authorities in Afghanistan. The Afghan government and the Pakistan government have maintained silence on the issue up till the moment of this writing. Hamid Gul, according to the CIA, helped save Osama bin Laden's life in 1998. He speaks fluent Pashto but is not a Pashtun. He belongs to the martial Punjabi Rajput Janjua clan that is dominating the Pakistan army.

Whether he is dead or alive, Mullah Omar's unexplained disappearance will be a more powerful emotive issue for the Taliban than the killing of Osama bin Laden. It may be recalled that contact with Mullah Omar's emissaries had been established by the Americans in search of a reconciliation formula. The Haqqani outfit that owes allegiance to the Pakistan army and ISI was not on the same page as Mullah Omar and the Afghan Taliban.

What remains to be seen is whether there is a concerted covert plan behind these seemingly disparate events in Pakistan. It also remains to be seen whether the Afghan government, the Pashtun section of the Pakistan army and the Taliban owing allegiance to Mullah Omar are working in concert to consolidate a Pashtun revolt. If that is the case, terrorist attacks inside Pakistan will escalate. It could lead to a possible civil war dividing the army and the nation.            

The writer is a veteran journalist and cartoonist







Sufficient attention is not being paid to a sinister security threat that India is facing. It emanates from frequent terrorist attacks successfully penetrating high-security locations of Pakistan's military establishment. It is a matter of time before similar terrorist penetration occur in Pakistan's nuclear facilities. If that happens, India will be the prime target for a nuclear attack. Even if there is a nuclear explosion inside Pakistan, the radiation fallout could seriously damage India. The problem, therefore, can no longer be swept under the carpet.   
The BJP has demanded steps by the world powers to denuclearise Pakistan. The Congress has criticised the BJP for raising this sensitive issue through the media. Is the Congress privy to steps by foreign powers to address the problem and therefore would not like to publicise the issue? If indeed the UPA government is seized of the problem and is silently contemplating steps to address it, should not all Opposition parties be taken into confidence? Hypothetically, if the Western powers, after obtaining sanction from the UN, were to forcibly neutralise Pakistan's nuclear arsenal, would that be a satisfactory response? I believe not. The risk of minimal retaliation by Pakistan cannot be dismissed. The brunt of the danger from a desperate nuclear reprisal by Pakistan would have to be borne by India. And quite frankly, the USA and other Western powers inspire little confidence about devising a foolproof method of defusing Pakistan's nuclear weapons.

The threat from uncontrolled nuclear weapons in Pakistan is heightened by the Pakistani mindset in a state of denial and teeming with conspiracy theories. Pakistan's Dawn newspaper's columnist Ejaz Haider, in a recent article, insinuated that America and India might have indirectly fomented the recent terrorist attack on the Mehran naval base in Karachi. Mr Haider's reasoning is based on his assumption that America and India are beneficiaries of the terrorist attack on the Mehran base. This just goes to show how far removed from reality even enlightened Pakistani analysts are. To think that successful terrorist attacks against the Pakistan military establishment please India is the height of absurdity. Such attacks make India and the rest of the world sweat from fear that Pakistan's nuclear weapons might fall into terrorist hands. That the Pakistanis seem oblivious of this imminent threat indicates how urgent the crisis is.      

Instead of forcible denuclearisation of Pakistan, there is a radical non-violent alternative that might be considered. India can offer jointly with Pakistan to denuclearise its weapons as per a two-phase plan. In the first phase, both nations could allow representatives from the UN and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) access to our nuclear installations to ensure their security. In the second phase, both nations could allow the world bodies to destroy our nuclear arsenals after all nuclear nations are made to accept a concrete time-bound plan to achieve total nuclear disarmament in the world. This is what Rajiv Gandhi had proposed to the UN. This is what a terrorism-infected world needs for its safety. The challenge is to devise a practical nuclear disarmament plan that makes the UN sole custodian of all nuclear weapons allowed to survive in the world.   Many decades ago, America's renowned military analyst General Maxwell Taylor wrote The Uncertain Trumpet. He pointed out how ineffective nuclear weapons were for actual deterrence. The use of nuclear weapons in war might be contemplated only in a situation demanding total mutual destruction. If India wants security, it must create an infantry-trained citizen army that renders foreign occupation of any Indian territory impossible.

This proposal might appear quite crazy and Utopian today. How would it appear if there did take place some time in the future a terrorist nuclear attack in South Asia? If Pakistan considers this proposal unacceptable, we might even request Islamabad to let the Chinese safeguard their nuclear arsenal after giving a public guarantee to the world that the weapons would not fall into the wrong hands. After all, Pakistan trusts China and apparently is yearning to be its colony. Beijing also should not mind guarding nuclear weapons that it helped create. An official assurance by Beijing would inspire much greater confidence than anything uttered by Islamabad. If Pakistan cannot accept any such offer, it should not be surprised by a future pre-emptive strike by the West. The situation is just too dangerous.

The writer is a veteran journalist andcolumnist








India's offer of a stupendous $5.4 billion credit line to Africa is a gesture befitting an 'aspiring superpower'. Poised on a steady growth curve, India is well on its way to claiming the title at a macro level. But what does the micro-reality look like? All indicators of development remaining true, India continues to be one of the poorest regions in the world, with a poverty rate closely rivalling that of sub-Saharan Africa. In India, the basic markers of development — three square meals a day, a roof over one's head, healthcare, literacy — continue to elude a vast section of the population. So it may well be asked if India is in a position to afford such a massive act of generosity in the first place. If concern for the well-being of humanity is to have any meaning, it must first be reflected in positive differences made at home. The ironies become bleaker when one considers the discourtesy shown towards the Indian prime minister by two of Africa's top economies, which sent downgraded delegations to meet him.

But beyond the question of principle lies the no less troubling challenge of execution. Given the size of a continent like Africa, as well as the notorious levels of corruption in its various member states, how fairly and effectively can India disburse the funds? Are there going to be checks and balances to ensure that the money reaches the people and the projects that it is meant to support? As members of the African media and delegates from the continent pointed out, in spite of the regular flow of substantial aid into Africa from all over the world, the plight of common Africans does not appear to get any better. In contrast, the lives of political leaders and other government officials seem to become more and more extravagant. Clearly, under the present system, the rich are getting richer and the poor more miserable. India is not unfamiliar with such bitter truths on its home turf. Earlier this year, Britain decided to withdraw much of the funds it used to give to development projects in India as corrupt middlemen were steadily pilfering the bulk of the British aid. The Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, in particular, suffered badly, as millions of pounds allocated to it were swindled. So in spite of its good intentions, India needs to factor in the ground realities, however disturbing they may be, or else the precious money that it is parting with will end up filling the pockets of the nefarious, not those of the needy.







The enigma of India's "missing girls" has long pervaded discussions and research on public policy. The strangest thing about it is that while it is now known where the girls have gone, and are still going, nothing could be done to stop them from going missing. The recent study from Canada's Centre for Global Health Research adds to this inglorious knowledge. It shows that India's preference for male children has led to an increase in sex selective abortions that have resulted in the skewed sex ratio borne out by the 2011 Census. But the most unnerving bit about this study is its finding that the rich and educated have opted for the practice in more certain terms than their poorer counterparts in rural and urban areas. Not merely that, educated women have shown less discretion in embracing and resorting to the practice than the less educated. The findings undoubtedly do terrible damage to the belief that rising literacy levels and income and female education would check the downslide in the gender gap. This belief is not necessarily correct. In fact, the findings prove that there is no direct correlation between money power and education and a change in the cultural value system. Had there been one, Kerala, the most literate state in the country, would have come out of the throes of the dowry system and a prosperous Punjab would have been a champion of gender equality.

This means that fundamental questions need to be raised — about education, about what money is capable of buying and about India's policy on abortion itself. Since the rich and educated are buying, albeit illegally, the technology to eliminate girl children, should the State limit the use of technology in reproductive health? Since educated women now have a say in reproductive matters, should that right be curtailed? These questions need serious thought. It should also be kept in mind that the issue of femicide places women's right to choose at loggerheads with larger societal and gender concerns. The findings of this study definitely show that India has failed to effectively implement the laws it has on sex selection and abortion. Deep-set social conditioning and lax medical ethics are partly to blame for this. Greater sensitization and public debate are necessary to bring India back from the brink. But under no circumstances should the attempt to eliminate female foeticide trample on women's right to safe abortion.





The steadily rising rate of economic growth in India has recently been around 8 percent per year (it is expected to be 9 percent this year), and there is much speculation about whether and when India may catch up with and surpass China's over 10 percent growth rate. Despite the evident excitement that this subject seems to cause in India and abroad, it is surely rather silly to be obsessed about India's overtaking China in the rate of growth of GNP, while not comparing India with China in other respects, like education, basic health, or life expectancy. Economic growth can, of course, be enormously helpful in advancing living standards and in battling poverty. But there is little cause for taking the growth of GNP to be an end in itself, rather than seeing it as an important means for achieving things we value.

It could, however, be asked why this distinction should make much difference, since economic growth does enhance our ability to improve living standards. The central point to appreciate here is that while economic growth is important for enhancing living conditions, its reach and impact depend greatly on what we do with the increased income. The relation between economic growth and the advancement of living standards depends on many factors, including economic and social inequality and, no less importantly, on what the government does with the public revenue that is generated by economic growth.

Some statistics about China and India, drawn mainly from the World Bank and the United Nations, are relevant here. Life expectancy at birth in China is 73.5 years; in India it is 64.4 years. The infant mortality rate is fifty per thousand in India, compared with just seventeen in China; the mortality rate for children under five is sixty-six per thousand for Indians and nineteen for the Chinese; and the maternal mortality rate is 230 per 100,000 live births in India and thirty-eight in China. The mean years of schooling in India were estimated to be 4.4 years, compared with 7.5 years in China. China's adult literacy rate is 94 percent, compared with India's 74 percent according to the preliminary tables of the 2011 census.

As a result of India's effort to improve the schooling of girls, its literacy rate for women between the ages of fifteen and twenty-four has clearly risen; but that rate is still not much above 80 percent, whereas in China it is 99 percent. One of the serious failures of India is that a very substantial proportion of Indian children are, to varying degrees, undernourished (depending on the criteria used, the proportion can come close to half of all children), compared with a very small proportion in China. Only 66 percent of Indian children are immunized with triple vaccine (diphtheria/ pertussis/tetanus), as opposed to 97 percent in China.

Comparing India with China according to such standards can be more useful for policy discussions in India than confining the comparison to GNP growth rates only. Those who are fearful that India's growth performance would suffer if it paid more attention to "social objectives" such as education and health care should seriously consider that notwithstanding these "social" activities and achievements, China's rate of GNP growth is still clearly higher than India's.


Higher GNP has certainly helped China to reduce various indicators of poverty and deprivation, and to expand different features of the quality of life. There is every reason to want to encourage sustainable economic growth in India in order to improve living standards today and in the future (including taking care of the environment in which we live). Sustainable economic growth is a very good thing in a way that "growth mania" is not.

GNP per capita is, however, not invariably a good predictor of valuable features of our lives, for those features depend also on other things that we do — or fail to do. Compare India with Bangladesh. In income, India has a huge lead over Bangladesh, with a GNP per capita of $1,170, compared with $590 in Bangladesh, in comparable units of purchasing power. This difference has expanded rapidly because of India's faster rate of recent economic growth, and that, of course, is a point in India's favour. India's substantially higher rank than Bangladesh in the UN Human Development Index (HDI) is largely due to this particular achievement. But we must ask how well India's income advantage is reflected in other things that also matter. I fear the answer is: not well at all.

Life expectancy in Bangladesh is 66.9 years compared with India's 64.4. The proportion of underweight children in Bangladesh (41.3 percent) is lower than in India (43.5), and its fertility rate (2.3) is also lower than India's (2.7). Mean years of schooling amount to 4.8 years in Bangladesh compared with India's 4.4 years. While India is ahead of Bangladesh in the male literacy rate for the age group between fifteen and twenty-four, the female rate in Bangladesh is higher than in India. Interestingly, the female literacy rate among young Bangladeshis is actually higher than the male rate, whereas young women still have substantially lower rates than young males in India. There is much evidence to suggest that Bangladesh's current progress has a great deal to do with the role that liberated Bangladeshi women are beginning to play in the country.

What about health? The mortality rate of children under five is sixty-six per thousand in India compared with fifty-two in Bangladesh. In infant mortality, Bangladesh has a similar advantage: it is fifty per thousand in India and forty-one in Bangladesh. While 94 percent of Bangladeshi children are immunized with DPT vaccine, only 66 percent of Indian children are. In each of these respects, Bangladesh does better than India, despite having only half of India's per capita income.

Of course, Bangladesh's living conditions will benefit greatly from higher economic growth, particularly if the country uses it as a means of doing good things, rather than treating economic growth and high per capita income as ends in themselves. It is to the huge credit of Bangladesh that despite the adversity of low income it has been able to do so much so quickly; the imaginative activism of Bangladeshi NGOs (such as the Grameen Bank, the pioneering microcredit institution, and BRAC, a large-scale initiative aimed at removing poverty) as well as the committed public policies of the government have both contributed to the results. But higher income, including larger public resources, will obviously enhance Bangladesh's ability to achieve better lives for its people.


One of the positive things about economic growth is that it generates public resources that the government can devote to its priorities. In fact, public resources very often grow faster than the GNP. The gross tax revenue, for example, of the government of India (corrected for price rise) is now more than four times what it was just twenty years ago, in 1990-1991. This is a substantially bigger jump than the price-corrected GNP.

Expenditure on what is somewhat misleadingly called the "social sector"— health, education, nutrition, etc. — has certainly gone up in India. And yet India is still well behind China in many of these fields. For example, government expenditure on health care in China is nearly five times that in India. China does, of course, have a larger population and a higher per capita income than India, but even in relative terms, while the Chinese government spends nearly 2 percent of GDP (1.9 percent) on health care, the proportion is only a little above one percent (1.1 percent) in India.

One result of the relatively low allocation of funds to public health care in India is that large numbers of poor people across the country rely on private doctors, many of whom have little medical training. Since health is also a typical example of "asymmetric information," in which the patients may know very little about what the doctors (or "supposed doctors") are giving them, even the possibility of fraud and deceit is very large. In a study conducted by the Pratichi Trust — a public interest trust I set up in 1999 — we found cases in which the ignorance of poor patients about their condition was exploited so as to make them pay for treatment they didn't get. This is the result not only of shameful exploitation, but ultimately of the sheer unavailability of public health care in many parts of India. The benefit that we can expect to get from economic growth depends very much on how the public revenue generated by economic growth is expended.


When we consider the impact of economic growth on people's lives, comparisons favour China over India. However, there are many fields in which a comparison between China and India is not related to economic growth in any obvious way. Most Indians are strongly appreciative of the democratic structure of the country, including its many political parties, systematic free elections, uncensored media, free speech, and the independent standing of the judiciary, among other characteristics of a lively democracy. Those Indians who are critical of serious flaws in these arrangements (and I am certainly one of them) can also take account of what India has already achieved in sustaining democracy, in contrast to many other countries, including China.

Not only is access to the Internet and world opinion uncensored and unrestricted in India, a multitude of media present widely different points of view, often very critical of the government in office. India has a larger circulation of newspapers each day than any other country in the world. And the newspapers reflect contrasting political perspectives. Economic growth has helped — and this has certainly been a substantial gain — to expand the availability of radios and televisions across the country, including in rural areas, which very often are shared among many users. There are at least 360 independent television stations (and many are being established right now, judging from the licences already issued) and their broadcasts reflect a remarkable variety of points of view. More than two hundred of these TV stations concentrate substantially or mainly on news, many of them around the clock. There is a sharp contrast here with the monolithic system of newscasting permitted by the state in China, with little variation of political perspectives on different channels.

Freedom of expression has its own value as a potentially important instrument for democratic politics, but also as something that people enjoy and treasure. Even the poorest parts of the population want to participate in social and political life, and in India they can do so. There is a contrast as well in the use of trial and punishment, including capital punishment. China often executes more people in a week than India has executed since independence in 1947. If our focus is on a comprehensive comparison of the quality of life in India and China, we have to look well beyond the traditional social indicators, and many of these comparisons are not to China's advantage.

Could it be that India's democratic system is somehow a barrier to using the benefits of economic growth in order to enhance health, education, and other social conditions? Clearly not, as I shall presently discuss. It is worth recalling that when India had a very low rate of economic growth, as was the case until the 1980s, a common argument was that democracy was hostile to fast economic growth. It was hard to convince those opposed to democracy that fast economic growth depends on an economic climate congenial to development rather than on fierce political control, and that a political system that protects democratic rights need not impede economic growth. That debate has now ended, not least because of the high economic growth rates of democratic India. We can now ask: How should we assess the alleged conflict between democracy and the use of the fruits of economic growth for social advancement?


What a democratic system achieves depends greatly on which social conditions become political issues. Some conditions become politically important issues quickly, such as the calamity of a famine (thus famines tend not to occur at all when there is a functioning democracy), while other problems — less spectacular and less immediate — provide a much harder challenge. It is much more difficult to use democratic politics to remedy undernourishment that is not extreme, or persistent gender inequality, or the absence of regular medical care for all. Success or failure here depends on the range and vigour of democratic practice. In recent years Indian democracy has made considerable progress in dealing with some of these conditions, such as gender inequality, lack of schools, and widespread undernourishment. Public protests, court decisions, and the use of the recently passed "Right to Information" Act have had telling effects. But India still has a long way to go in remedying these conditions.

In China, by contrast, the process of decision-making depends largely on decisions made by the top Party leaders, with relatively little democratic pressure from below. The Chinese leaders, despite their scepticism about the values of multiparty democracy and personal and political liberty, are strongly committed to eliminating poverty, undernourishment, illiteracy, and lack of health care; and this has greatly helped in China's advancement. There is, however, a serious fragility in any authoritarian system of governance, since there is little recourse or remedy when the government leaders alter their goals or suppress their failures.

The reality of that danger revealed itself in a catastrophic form in the Chinese famine of 1959-1962, which killed more than 30 million people, when there was no public pressure against the regime's policies, as would have arisen in a functioning democracy. Mistakes in policy continued for three years while tens of millions died. To take another example, the economic reforms of 1979 greatly improved the working and efficiency of Chinese agriculture and industry; but the Chinese government also eliminated, at the same time, the entitlement of all to public medical care (which was often administered through the communes). Most people were then required to buy their own health insurance, drastically reducing the proportion of the population with guaranteed health care.

In a functioning democracy an established right to social assistance could not have been so easily — and so swiftly — dropped. The change sharply reduced the progress of longevity in China. Its large lead over India in life expectancy dwindled during the following two decades — falling from a fourteen-year lead to one of just seven years.

The Chinese authorities, however, eventually realized what had been lost, and from 2004 they rapidly started reintroducing the right to medical care. China now has a considerably higher proportion of people with guaranteed health care than does India. The gap in life expectancy in China's favour has been rising again, and it is now around nine years; and the degree of coverage is clearly central to the difference.Whether India's democratic political system can effectively remedy neglected public services such as health care is one of the most urgent questions facing the country.


For a minority of the Indian population — but still very large in actual numbers — economic growth alone has been very advantageous, since they are already comparatively privileged and need no social assistance to benefit from economic growth. The limited prosperity of recent years has helped to support a remarkable variety of lifestyles as well as globally acclaimed developments of Indian literature, music, cinema, theatre, painting, and the culinary arts, among other cultural activities.

Yet an exaggerated concentration on the lives of the relatively prosperous, exacerbated by the Indian media, gives an unrealistically rosy picture of the lives of Indians in general. Since the fortunate group includes not only business leaders and the professional classes but also many of the country's intellectuals, the story of unusual national advancement is widely and persistently heard. More worryingly, relatively privileged Indians can easily fall for the temptation to focus just on economic growth as a grand social benefactor for all.

Some critics of the huge social inequalities in India find something callous and uncouth in the self- centred lives and inward-looking preoccupations of a relatively prosperous minority. My primary concern, however, is that the illusions generated by those distorted perceptions of prosperity may prevent India from bringing social deprivations into political focus, which is essential for achieving what needs to be done for Indians at large through its democratic system. A fuller understanding of the real conditions of the mass of neglected Indians and what can be done to improve their lives through public policy should be a central issue in the politics of India.

This is exactly where the exclusive concentration on the rate of GNP growth has the most damaging effect. Economic growth can make a very large contribution to improving people's lives; but single-minded emphasis on growth has limitations that need to be clearly understood.







Imagine your only child being forcibly taken away by officials and adopted by foreigners who believe it's an orphan. This is the terrible tragedy that has been taking place in some remote mountainous villages of Hunan, Mao's birthplace. The irony is that this is being done ostensibly to implement the one-child policy. The victims form the most vulnerable section of Chinese society — migrant labourers who leave their children behind in villages in the care of grandparents or other elderly relatives. The children targeted need not be illegal second children. Even the first born can be taken away. In such cases, documents are forged: the father 'confesses' that he'd taken in an abandoned child without following due procedure. The documents show him voluntarily giving the child up to the government officials. These documents are prepared with the help of the village committee and the police. The child is then given to an orphanage, which puts in a notice for 60 days in the local papers giving details of the child. But the orphanage is in the city, and the grandparents living in mountainous villages may never get to see the newspaper in time. So, more often than not, no one claims the child.

Some families, tipped off in time, have traced their children to the orphanage. But the fines slapped on them by special family planning courts for having violated the one-child norm, or broken adoption laws, have been so prohibitive — 6,000 to 10,000 yuan — that they've watched helplessly as their own flesh and blood has been given away. Or, they've come to know too late, much after the child has been adopted. Parents have tried to petition Beijing, but party officials have quickly conducted "inquiries'' which conclude that the parents were in the wrong, and the family planning departments acted correctly.

Horror stories

For everyone but the parents, this is a perfect situation. Successful implementation of the one-child policy is a factor in deciding promotions of party officials. The penalties imposed on parents who violate this policy are a source of government income. Then, there's the money gained from foreign adoptions. The adoption fee for foreigners is US $ 3,000. This amount is shared by local party officials, adoption agencies and the orphanage.

This terrible tragedy was brought to light through an in-depth investigative report in New Century, a new Beijing-based weekly, considered a trailblazer in Chinese journalism. Between 2001 and 2005, says the report, which names the officials involved, 16 children were taken away from just one county. On the eve of its publication, the author of the report wrote a letter to his colleagues, expressing the fear that his story may be "harmonised'' — removed from circulation from the internet. He requested it to be shared widely.

This isn't the first such investigation by this reporter. Last year, a story he co-authored for another outspoken publication, Southern Metropolis Daily, featured in a list of 10 best investigative stories of the year. The seven-part story documented the case of an author detained for writing a book on the mass migration of villagers forcibly relocated in the 1950s due to the building of a dam on the Yellow river.

Expectedly, his latest story has created a sensation. But the authorities' assurance of an investigation may not be enough. Editorials have demanded that the government must help the victims file suits against concerned officials, and reunite them with their children wherever possible. There have even been calls for a review of the one-child policy. The photographs accompanying the story — gaunt faces of grandparents staring out of dark and grimy homes — haunt you. Will they haunt the family planning officials?






A couple of weeks ago, there was a news item regarding the dangers of harmful radiation from the low- power-consuming electric lamps that are now rapidly replacing incandescent bulbs at homes, offices, roads and commercial establishments around the world. This warning has been issued by scientists in Germany, with a special caution regarding bedside reading lamps, which may lead to prolonged exposure to radiation. No quantitative figures were quoted regarding the extent of the radiation. The fact that the disposal of these new, power-conserving lamps poses even greater environmental radiation hazard had not been publicized before. The news item has not yet made any waves as, for example, the disappearing ozone layer did some years ago. It may be a matter of time before these findings gather momentum.

Around the time the news of radiation from low-power-consuming lamps appeared in the media, an article by Mark Buchanan entitled, "The Fantasy of Renewable Energy" appeared in the popular weekly, New Scientist. The article claims that "it is a mistake to assume that energy sources like wind and waves are truly renewable". Quoting extensively from the work of Axel Kleidon of the Max-Planck-Institute for Biogeochemistry in Jena, Germany, Buchanan states that "building enough wind farms to replace fossil fuels could seriously deplete the energy available in the atmosphere, with consequences as severe as climate change".

One may be inclined to dismiss such extreme conditions on the widespread use of wind turbine to battle climate change as fanciful. Kleidon's logic, apparently, is based on the laws of thermodynamics and, inescapably, on the fact that only a fraction of the solar energy reaching the earth can be exploited to generate the energy we can use. Although the energy reaching the earth from the sun may appear to be unlimited, Kleidon is quoted as having drawn attention to the concept of "usable" energy. Scientists have tended to ignore the impact of this "usable" energy on the earth's climates, ocean temperature, atmospheric precipitation, agricultural production, and so on.

Solar energy, to become economically viable, has still some way to go, with researchers feverishly pursuing cheaper and efficient solar cells as well as novel and commercially viable storage technologies. Economically sustainable solutions are yet to emerge for more widespread use. The challenge for mankind, therefore, remains to drastically reduce per capita energy consumption in the developed world, while adopting cleaner, safe and proven technologies in the rapidly emerging economies.

A quarter century after the Chernobyl nuclear plant disaster, nuclear power has once again come under enormous public suspicion and fear following the recent disastrous catastrophe at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan. While the road to once again convincing people about the continued relevance of safe nuclear power generation for clean energy is likely to be long, expensive and tortuous, it must also be admitted that there aren't any obvious commercially viable alternatives, in the foreseeable future, to safe nuclear power in the battle against climate change. Following Fukushima, the term "safe nuclear power" will have to be much more clearly, unambiguously and convincingly defined. How this can be achieved in a manner that will convince the public, and what such an exercise may add to cost, remain unclear, as of now.

The primacy of a well-defined, new initiative regarding safety, and the inevitability of the need for investing in nuclear power in India for the next 20 to 30 years, is not convincingly well-articulated and understood by the lay people. The need to invest in safe and reliable nuclear plants is not a political issue; however, it is an issue which can only be addressed by a non-governmental and independent scientific and technological committee made up of eminent and internationally-recognized Indian scholars, whose advice will be considered credible by civil society across India. If there is a need for an independent and reputable regulatory lok pal, it would be for the very purpose of defining, monitoring and overseeing India's investment in safe and reliable nuclear power, at least for the next 50 years.

Suspicion and fear are real human reactions worldwide and are ignored or ridden roughshod at enormous social and economic peril. There are many instances where such fears are obviously irrational. For example, a politician in Madhya Pradesh has claimed that if a crop or a vegetable is grown from genetically-modified seed, it becomes "non-vegetarian". This is a preposterous, completely misleading and damaging observation. Besides better traditional and newer agricultural practices to improve yield and productivity, it is beyond any doubt that GM seeds will play a pivotal role in accelerating cereal and vegetable production and will provide sustainable per capita availability in countries like India in the foreseeable future. Plant genetics will also play a crucial role in battling the vagaries of climate change and the annual cycle of monsoon. These issues have been obfuscated by amorphous public debate until now.

Like nuclear power generation, GM seeds also need independent regulatory and eminent scientific and technological clearance to guarantee acceptance and convincing human and environmental safety. For nuclear safety and plant genetic safety, India urgently needs an independent body made up of eminent scientists and agricultural technologists to underpin a national regulatory regimen which must be truly independent of all political and commercial interests in order to reassure the Indian people about their concerns regarding safety and reliability. Such initiatives can only be undertaken by eminent leaders from Indian science and engineering academies, which have a history of independence and scholarship and are internationally recognized. The academies, if required, can also draw from the global pool of eminent scientists of Indian origin. Unless such truly independent regulatory initiatives are taken urgently by India's reputable and genuinely independent scientific and technology academies, the country's energy needs and food security will remain dangerously uncertain.

India must continue to invest in renewable energy and green technologies; it must, however, be realistic about the time frame for economically viable alternatives to emerge. In the meantime, the use of safe nuclear energy and genetically moderated agriculture must be aggressively explored under independent regulatory bodies comprising renowned academic leaders who must be empowered to clearly define the risks and the means to mitigate these risks in order to reassure the citizens of India.





Like many other countries, Iceland —a tiny island nation in Europe — was in crisis after September 2008. The story was the same. Its banks, which had financed the real estate bubble with easy credit from foreign banks — mostly European — were in a spot when the bubble burst. But, unlike others, Iceland let its runaway banks fail while protecting domestic depositors. Thereby, it allowed foreign lenders to pay the price for their greed and folly rather than make its own people pay for the bad debts of the banks. Also, it avoided financial panic by imposing capital controls by limiting the ability of the residents to pull funds out of the country. Both decisions were bold and historic, considering that Iceland was the only country, before or after the crash, which went against global financial institutions.

Landsbankinn (picture), a leading bank in Iceland, had collected approximately $5 billion of overseas deposits through branches in Britain and the Netherlands. Iceland didn't guarantee those deposits at the time it seized the bank, as it did for domestic customers, leading to a dispute with the British and Dutch governments. So Britain and the Netherlands had to step in and pay some 350,000 of their citizens who had lost millions when Landsbankinn went bust. Failure to reach an agreement about the terms on which Iceland would repay has been a major impediment to the country's recovery, hitting its relations with the European Union. A deal under which Iceland would have paid up to 5.5 per cent in interest to Britain and the Netherlands fell through after a decisive 'no' vote in a referendum. This was a historic achievement since Iceland was the first country after the 2008 crash to uphold democratic values by involving its people directly in a crucial economic decision. In December last, as the economy improved, Iceland agreed to compensate Britain and the Netherlands for their payments to their depositors.

The crash had hit the economy very hard. The currency had lost 58 per cent of its value by end-November 2008, inflation spiked to 19 per cent in January 2009 and gross output contracted by 7 per cent that year. Economic contraction continued, beginning from October 2008 till the third quarter of 2010 when the economy expanded by 1.2 per cent. However, it contracted by as much as 3.5 per cent in 2010. The central bank forecasts the economy to expand 2.8 per cent this year, 3.2 per cent in 2012 and 3.4 per cent in 2013. Unemployment reached 8.9 per cent last February, but is expected to fall to 5 per cent by 2013.

The historic significance of Iceland's decisions is understood when seen in the light of two recent G 20 summits where the leaders of sovereign states displayed one emotion — fear. In the June 2010 summit, containing budget deficits and public debts were discussed threadbare as the leaders were terrified that the financial markets would demand higher prices for their bonds if they fail to cut budget deficits significantly. So, they agreed to halve the deficits by 2013, without considering the high joblessness. In the June 2011 meet, the leaders tried in vain to persuade China to revalue the yuan. Two pertinent issues, namely guidelines on the reforms of global financial institutions and financial market stability, were left out.

What made Iceland take such bold decisions is the democratic nature of its polity, where the government did what the people wanted.






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Contrary to expectations that improved literacy and economic prosperity would make Indians less willing to get rid of their girl child, it appears that sex selective abortion after a first child is highest in wealthy, educated households. A study by a group of Indian and Canadian researchers has revealed that when the first born is a boy there is no decline in the girl-boy ratio. However, when the first child is a girl, a steep decline in the ratio of girls to boys is evident. The figures speak for themselves. Between 1990 and 2005 the sex ratio of second births declined from 906 per 1,000 boys to 836 when the first born is a girl. What is particularly shocking is that the decline is more precipitous among educated and rich families than in illiterate and poor households. Although son preference exists in all sections of Indian society, including the diaspora community, it is the better off that have access to and can afford ultra-sound tests to reveal the sex of the foetus. According to the study, around 12 million girls were aborted in India over the past 30 years and the shortfall in the number of girls under six to boys has grown dramatically from 4.2 million in 1991 to 6 million in 2001 and 7.1 million this year.
It has often been argued that poverty drives people to get rid of their girl child, the argument being that since parents have to pay heavy dowry for a daughter and since she goes away to her husband's home after marriage, a girl is looked upon as a burden who is best gotten rid of even before she is born. Hence the sex-selective abortions. However, the issue is clearly far more complex. Sex-selective abortions are prompted not so much by poverty as property. People are anxious that their land and other assets will go to their son-in-law instead of remaining within their family and hence the desperation for a male heir.

That the richer and better educated are the worst offenders when it comes to committing female foeticide dashes hopes that socio economic progress and education would lead to a change in attitudes. However, being able to read and write or being highly educated does not by itself inculcate social awareness or the right attitudes. Problems like female foeticide and gender discrimination have their roots in patriarchical mindsets which needs to be tackled to end female foeticide.







The Middle East peace process — whatever little existed — lies in tatters thanks to Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu's hawkish obduracy and unreasonableness. He has flatly rejected US president Barack Obama's call to base talks between Israel and the Palestinians on borders that existed prior to the 1967 war ie before it captured the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. In doing so, he has put himself in opposition to not only the US — his closest ally — but also others of the United Nations, the European Union and Russia. Indeed, he has annoyed almost all of the international community. Rarely has Israel been as isolated globally as it is today and Netanyahu and his hardline allies at home can take full credit for bringing the country to this sorry state.

Understandably, the Palestinians are upset. Recognition of the 1967 line as the starting point, while allowing for mutually agreed land swaps, has been their long-standing demand. And Netanyahu's rejection of that has stamped out all hopes of even starting a dialogue. The Palestinians are now threatening to seek UN recognition of Palestine as an independent state. They cannot be faulted for pursuing this path as they have tried every means to make that happen. Netanyahu's no to what is a fair starting point for dialogue — in fact, it is more than fair to Israel as it allows for mutually agreed land swaps — is the last straw on the camel's back. His reluctance to be a reasonable dialogue partner has pushed the Palestinians to lose all faith in the dialogue process.

The Palestinians must move cautiously. Going to the UN to push their case for statehood, while an attractive option, might not result in success. A bid to become a UN member requires not just General Assembly approval, where the Palestinians could win the majority needed, but the support of the UN Security Council, where the US can be expected to veto such a move. The fact that Israel is today rather friendless and its credibility as a dialogue partner is at an all-time low will tempt the Palestinians to go to the UN to press for statehood. However, they must work on the recent reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas. Their cause will be best served by building unity among themselves before they go to the world body.







Apart from selling off fertile land, the government has placed part of agriculture in the hands of powerful western agribusines­s.

With nine per cent economic growth, India has apparently arrived. It is not too clear where 'destination India' happens to be, but it is one that includes nuclear weapons, a space programme, luxury townships and an upcoming Formula 1 race track for rich men to drive expensive cars and for the well-to-do to watch. Eye-catching stuff. What more could a country want?

How about policies that prioritise food sovereignty and water security for a burgeoning yet vulnerable population, delivered by a thriving agriculture sector?

Take the current building of the Delhi to Agra Yamuna expressway, for instance. Will this project benefit the 70 per cent, mainly rural folk who struggle to get by on less than two dollars a day, or is it just intended to benefit the rich and their planned townships and sports cities along the road and tourism? Huge tracts of fertile land have been gained cheaply and sold for massive profit. Parts of the area are now up for sale at 18 times the price that was paid to farmers for the land.

Farmers' leaders claim the number of deaths over this land acquisition to be at least 70. Police action has included firing live bullets and rapes on peaceful and unarmed people demanding justice and their rights. This is symptomatic of what is happening across the country.

In Jaitapur, police recently opened fire on peaceful protesters demonstrating against the proposed nuclear power park in Maharashtra. In Orissa, state forces are to be deployed to assist in what many regard as the anti-constitutional land acquisition to protect the stake of India's largest foreign direct investment project, the Posco steel project. The anti-Posco movement in its five years of peaceful protest has faced state violence numerous times.

Decent roads and other infrastructure are necessary, but at what cost to whom and at what sacrifice as far as other infrastructure such as agriculture is concerned?

Apart from displacing people and selling off much needed fertile land, the government has placed part of agriculture in the hands of powerful western agribusiness. You don't have to look far to read the many reports and research papers to know the effects — biopiracy, patenting and seed monopolies, pesticides and the use of toxins leading to superweeds and superbugs, the destruction of local rural economies, water run offs from depleted soil leading to climate change and severe water resource depletion and contamination.

Export-oriented policies that are part of agricultural globalisation have led to a shift in India from the production of food crops to commodities for exports. Where farmers traditionally grew paddy, pulses, millets, oilseeds and vegetable crops, they now grow cotton for export or wheat. India's biodiversity is being uprooted. The subcontinent used to have 30,000 varieties of rice to cope with different climates. There are now 15.

Change in priorities

One in four people in India is hungry and every second child is underweight and stunted. But environmentalist Vandana Shiva argues that hunger is a structural part of the design of the industrialised, globalised food system and of the design of capital-intensive, chemical-intensive monocultures of industrial agriculture. In her view, this type of agriculture merely created a market for corporations to breed crops that respond to high chemical inputs. It has increased production of wheat and cotton at the cost of the production of other crops, some of which is now imported.

Shiva argues for a shift towards ecological, biodiversity-intensive, low-cost farming systems. Her organisation, Navdanya, is helping farmers across India implement a practical shift away from centralised, globalised food supply controlled by a handful of corporations towards decentralised, localised food systems that are resilient in the context of climate vulnerability and price volatility. She asserts such a system could feed India's population.

Of course, the biggest beneficiaries of what is currently happening are the Monsantos, Syngentas and Cargills. The biggest losers are the many farmers who have been conned, forced into debt and have committed suicide en masse.

If the present path is continued, the mass of the population will find itself increasingly reliant on an insecure supply of food that is unnecessarily shifted around the planet, increasing water scarcities and expensive food that has less nutritional content and involves a greater threat to health. An article in the journal 'Hortscience' in 2009 indicated falling nutritional values as a result of industrialised agriculture, and various studies point to the health risks from intensive, industrial methods as chemicals and the impact of genetic modifications become prevalent within the food chain.

According to officialdom, current construction projects comprise 'necessary infrastructure', and giving free rein to agribusiness serves 'public purpose'. The reality is however that such trends form part of a skewed notion of 'development' dictated by elite interests in India and at the World Bank and by the corporations that pull the strings at the World Trade Organisation, who have all succeeded in getting their 'free trade' agendas accepted.

Where is the logic in giving the thieves the keys to your home? Why hand over the country to those who regard food and fertile land as resources to be looted for profit?

India may have nine per cent economic growth, but this doesn't give the true picture. Surely, like some of the plants now grown, it's a case of 'abnormal swelling.'








Developing countries will have negligible say unless they take a firm, collective stance behind a consensus candidate.

European powers appear set on perpetuating their arbitrary 'entitlement' to the position of managing director of the International Monetary Fund in the wake of the controversy that precipitated the resignation of managing director, Dominique Strauss-Kahn. Despite claims from the IMF that the selection this time around would "take place in an open, merit-based, and transparent manner" as well as a longstanding commitment to open the position to nationals of all member states, most developed country representatives had expressed clear preferences for European candidates even before nominations opened on May 23.

Their stances will do nothing to allay fears among developing countries and civil society that pledges to address unrepresentative governance at the Bretton Woods institutions are mere window dressing. They are in direct contravention of the explicit recommendation that resulted from extensive civil society consultations last year that the election would be conducted "without pre-selection by any sub-group of powerful countries". Particularly since the arguments being proffered in favour of European candidates fly in the face of reason and logic.

Collective amnesia
In an act of collective amnesia, some Europeans have argued that their current economic woes demand a European at the helm of the Fund, having asserted that objectivity was necessary in the IMF's approach following the Asian economic crisis of the late '90s. This repeats the U-turn in logic that accompanied their shift to becoming net contributors from net recipients, when these institutions were founded following World War II. It is somewhat ironic that the current front-runner for the managing director's position is French since France was the first recipient of an IMF loan.

The apparent change of heart in evidence at the Spring meetings earlier this year were lauded by Joseph Stiglitz and others as "marking the Fund's effort to distance itself from its own long-standing tenets on capital controls and labour-market flexibility". Together with reform of quota shares, the pronouncements revived long-frustrated hopes in the possibility of a new IMF. At the Spring 2011 meetings Strauss-Kahn called for more cooperation of the sort that had staved off the worst effects of the financial crisis. "We are now in an interconnected world which does not leave any room for local solutions to global challenges that are decided by countries without taking into account the consequences on others" he said.

Such cooperation is unlikely when the managing director is perceived to serve the interests of a few countries. As Jesse Griffiths of the Bretton Woods Project puts it, "The head of the IMF must be — and be seen to be — independent of powerful governments, and well versed in the problems of low and middle-income countries, where most IMF operations take place. They should display a commitment to reducing levels of global inequality and poverty."


Developing countries and emerging economies that account for most of the world's population, over half the world's output and who are being pressed to increase their capital contributions, will have negligible say in the decision unless they are willing to take a firm, collective stance behind a consensus candidate. Statements from South Africa and Australia on behalf of the G-20 committee on IMF reform have been encouraging in this regard.

Farsighted developed countries too would do well to look beyond narrow, parochial, short-term interests in their choices or risk further erosion of the legitimacy of the Fund at a time when lack of trust from its stakeholders could fatally undermine its potential role in restoring and reforming the international monetary system at a critical time. In the words of Oxfam spokesperson Sarah Wynn-Williams: "The only way to give the new IMF head legitimacy and authority is through open voting, with the winner backed by a majority of countries, not just a majority of shares. The time has come for the IMF to accept an open and merit-based approach to choosing its leaders."







If rocking music can substitute for crude lyrics, we do not need poets.
I couldn't believe my ears when I heard my close friend's four-year-old humming loudly a song that I had detested for many days now. Yup, the one Deepika is swaying her hips to the item song in 'Dum Maro Dum'. I casually asked Sneha the little one, if she knew what the line in the song meant? Pat came the remark "Aunty it is potty pe bethe nanga', don't you know what it means?

Purvi her mom laughed loudly as she gave me a hug to calm my stunned expression and said, "C'mon it is this generation song what is there to feel so bad. The question left me wondering if the lyricist wrote the song actually in the studio or elsewhere. Wherever he wrote I am sure people like me would never appreciate language to be diluted so much that it causes me to be ashamed to spell it out.

It is not the first time that vulgar lyrics have been prompted in large scale mediums like films. One such song was the Karishma-Govinda starrer song 'Sarkhai lo khatiya jada lage', though popular made my parents to switch of the television sets in case little guests had come home or worse watch those movements danced to the dance number. I am sure Karishma now would never think of this song and she would get amnesia if someone mentioned that she had danced to this song.

Forget 2000 onwards; if one thinks of the era of great lyricists like the 50s-70s, I wonder if lyricists like Majrooh Sultanpuri or Shailendra would ever find a job of writing even one song in the current lyricist's generation. Could they attempt to write in their wildest dreams lines like 'Shaam ko daaru, Raat ko ladki' from 'Shoot out at Lokhandwala' or 'Kal meri skirt keechega' from 'Dum Maaro Dum'?

If people argue that rocking music can substitute for nonsensical or crude lyrics then we do not need poets. Obviously the need of the hour then is those who can write songs which are controversial and blend it with foot tapping beats. Better sill write songs that can make children and teenagers smirk when parents try to switch off the radio or TV set. Another opportunity for children to show they can rebel by listening or lip-syncing to such songs!

As I left my friend's place in my car, the RJ on the radio announced the top 10 songs and the one that had been on my mind however much I detested all morning came back again. This time however I decided to accept it as a phase that will soon pass as I thought one needs such songs to cherish good from bad.









There is a surfeit of city rabbis in Israel. But instead of doing away with the bloated religious councils, the treasury wages chief capitulated to political pressures from the ultra-Orthodox parties and agreed to the wage hike.

Treasury wages director Ilan Levin announced this week that in accordance with decisions made by the Knesset Finance Committee, which he had been party to, he has reached an agreement with Religious Services Minister Yaakov Margi to raise the salaries of new municipal rabbis by 150 percent.

This was explained by a need to reduce the gap between the salaries of new city and neighborhood rabbis and those of veteran ones.

This was a mistaken decision, based on inaccurate data. The salaries of city and neighborhood rabbis are no lower than those of other professionals in in public service. In fact, they are considerably higher.

A rabbi beginning his career in a small community of 2,500 residents gets a starting salary of NIS 6,500 a month. Compare this to the salaries of doctors, teachers, nurses, social workers, psychologists and other welfare, education and health professionals, who also work long hours, often dealing with life-and-death matters.

Given the many labor disputes in the economy, this generous wage hike for the rabbis raises questions. Even more serious is the fact that senior rabbis are earning up to NIS 27,000 a month - and in some cases, even more.

Religious services in Israel, including job descriptions, length of tenures, and the employment terms of city and neighborhood rabbis have little connection to the real needs of the cities, neighborhoods and communities, creating an ongoing distortion.

Under pressure from the religious parties, the Olmert government backed down from its plan to implement a reform in religious services, which had been promised back in 2000, and reopened the Religious Services Ministry, which had been closed in 2003. The Netanyahu government is now aggravating this distortion.

There is a surfeit of city rabbis in Israel (in Tel Aviv alone there are 52 neighborhood rabbis ), some of them earning very high salaries. But instead of doing away with the bloated religious councils, which operate according to clear political formulas, the treasury wages chief capitulated to political pressures from the ultra-Orthodox parties and agreed to the wage hike.

This acquiescence is an example of unwarranted and harmful opportunism. Instead of raising the rabbis' wages, it would be better for the government to implement the recommendations of the Tzadok Committee from the 1970s and streamline the delivery of religious services.







When Benjamin Netanyahu became prime minister, he had to formulate a peace strategy. He had to decide whether he aspired to reach an interim agreement or a final-status one with the Palestinians. He opted to go for a final-status agreement.

But throughout the time when it would have been possible to establish a Palestinian state while evacuating only illegal outposts and isolated settlements, Netanyahu did not act. He promised the Americans and Europeans that a peace agreement with the Palestinians was within reach. He promised well-meaning Israelis that he would follow in Yitzhak Rabin's footsteps. If only Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas would climb down from his tree, he whispered. If you just give me a chance, I'll surprise the world with a peace initiative the likes of which have never been seen before.

This week, Netanyahu got his chance. Granted, Abbas has not climbed down from his tree, nor will he: The Palestinians are not on our side. In addition, U.S. President Barack Obama treated Netanyahu rudely and pettily.

But in the end, Obama's speech to AIPAC largely corrected the flaws in his earlier speech at the State Department. He made it clear that there would be no withdrawal to the 1967 lines before the problem of the refugees was solved. He committed himself to Israel being a Jewish state, to Palestine being demilitarized and to territorial exchanges that would take the existence of the settlement blocs into account.

Thus the combined outcome of Obama's speeches was very good for Israel. What was called for in response was an Israeli move that would help the president defend the Jewish state against a hostile world. What was needed was an Israeli contribution to the American effort to prevent an imminent diplomatic collapse and leave open the possibility of peace in the future. Netanyahu had to make an Israeli gesture, to demonstrate Israeli generosity. He had to offer an Israeli peace plan.

But Netanyahu didn't do it. There was no gesture, no generosity, no peace plan. After four months of anticipation, the king's speech was nothing more than one long, fluent stutter.

A week ago, I wrote that Netanyahu's speech would stand or fall on 30 words. He didn't have to open the gates of heaven; he merely had to indirectly adopt a sensible, comprehensive and creative diplomatic formula.

But even this, Netanyahu wasn't capable of giving. Even a mere 30 words frightened him. Time after time, the prime minister brought the senators and congressmen to their feet, but he himself fell down. Netanyahu missed the last chance that history will give him.

In another few months, reality will come knocking. Israel will find itself in nonsplendid isolation at the United Nations. Israel will be ostracized from the family of nations.

At the same time, a new Palestinian uprising will begin. The liberated masses of the Arab world will support it. There will be no quiet on the security front. There will be no economic growth. There will be a collapse.

Will Netanyahu be the direct cause of this collapse? No. But Netanyahu will be the man who didn't do everything in his power to prevent it. And therefore, Netanyahu will be seen as the one responsible for it. In this terrible sense as well, he will become Golda Meir.

Now, the ball has been passed to Ehud Barak and Dan Meridor. Netanyahu has been misleading these two dovish ministers. And he has caused them to mislead Americans, Europeans and Israelis. If the defense minister and the deputy prime minister continue serving in this failed government, they will be the 2011 versions of Moshe Dayan and Yisrael Galili in Golda's government. For they saw, they understood, they issued warnings, they knew - but they didn't make any waves.

Barak and Meridor must make it clear to the prime minister this week that if an Israeli initiative doesn't materialize pronto, they will quit. They must put a pistol to his temple. Who knows? Perhaps the sight of that pistol will do to Netanyahu what the sight of Obama and Congress didn't do. Perhaps, faced with a real threat, he will finally emerge from his shell.

But if he doesn't, then Barak and Meridor belong in the opposition. They must support opposition leader Tzipi Livni in trying to bring down this terrible government. For there can be no confidence in a Netanyahu government that is running Israel into a wall.







The "speech of his life" must now quickly become the speech of Prime MInister Benjamin Netanyahu's political demise. The hour is pressing, there is no time and nothing is going to come of Netanyahu any more. Even the snake oil peddlers who proffered masses of expectations in advance of the speech, who told us that Netanyahu 2 is different from Netanyahu 1, that the man had "matured," "internalized," "grown wiser" and "become more moderate," that he has learned the lessons of his previous term in office and that we can expect "sensational surprises" from him - they, too, must now admit the bitter truth. The Israeli Leonid Brezhnev is occupying the Prime Minister's Bureau. A man of yesterday, frozen and rigid, uncompromising, deaf to the sounds of his surroundings and blind to the changing times. His term in office, heaven forbid, must not drag on for nearly 20 years, the way Brezhnev's did.

In the coming days, he might still be able bask in the warmth of the American legislators' hollow ovations. But once this foam on the surface of the water disperses, the question will arise in full force: What now? Then it will become clear that this prime minister has got us in trouble. Big trouble. We lost the Palestinians a long time ago, and now also the White House's America. Once the speech ended, the chances ended. Before it, we didn't know (ostensibly ) where the prime minister was heading. After it, we know the crystal clear answer: nowhere. To some more gained time after which there is nothing, except for increasing dangers and a chance missed once again.

To Netanyahu's credit it must be said he is not the first. Quite a number of his predecessors wallowed in the belief that empty and lost time will heal all ills. For way too much time here, the belief in time has been the only belief. But the times they are a-changing, there's a battle outside and it's raging and Netanyahu isn't budging from the old road. No and no and no. No to the 1967 borders, no to Jerusalem for two nations, no to the right of return, no to the Palestinians' justified demand to be free, like all peoples.

Now it is certain: Netanyahu will go down in the history of Israel and of the world as a forgotten footnote. What did he do? What did he coin? That we live in "the land of our forefathers" and the settlers are not occupiers. Good job, Bibi. That he is prepared to be "generous," without understanding that we are the occupiers and occupiers, just like robbers, can never be "generous."

Rather, what we have to be is just. We are not "giving up" anything; we can only restore what we have stolen to its rightful owners and restore justice. Who is going to buy the tiny crumbs he has thrown to the Palestinians and to the world? At one time, perhaps, there were buyers in the world for this stale merchandise. No more. There is a new world around us, and Netanyahu refuses to acknowledge its existence. What is he going to tell this world now, a world of popular uprisings, struggles for freedoms and human rights? That he is in favor of freedom for the Arab peoples, just not in our backyard?

What is he going to tell the demonstrators at the fence before September and those who will raise their hands in favor of a Palestinian state in September? That this is the land of our forefathers, exclusively our forefathers? That Congress applauded him? At the end of this oratory season, the Israelis, too, will have to ask themselves: What next? Blind and deaf, will we continue to follow this Brezhnev of ours? And how will we confront the storm raging around us? And what will we do with U.S. President Barack Obama, who at long last will have to act and not just talk?

Netanyahu could have been a successful businessman. He could have been flying around in private planes to his heart's desire, without anyone asking where they came from; he could have been hobnobbing in the palatial abodes of the world's zillionaires, enjoying life's pleasures and having fun with his wife as much as he liked, without anyone asking anything. The most fateful mistake of his life was going into politics. Why did he need this for, all the Mimounas and the primaries, the deals and the spins, the Danny Danons and the Hotovelys, if this is what he's planning to leave behind? Why did he have to run a first time and a second time, if all he's going to leave behind is such emptiness and disaster? Why does he deserve this and, above all, why have we deserved this?







There is no shortage of institutions in Israel involved in preventing cyber warfare. For years, the Shin Bet security service has operated a national authority for information protection, which teaches organizations and companies that have networks of information deemed strategically important how to protect them from attack. It's done quite a good job of it.

Within the IDF, two branches (and their commanders ), intelligence and computer systems, have been competing for top ranking in the field. A fickle boundary appears to separate protection of the army's computer networks from external hackers, on the one hand, and intelligence attacks and intelligence collection undertaken by Israeli cyber warriors, on the other hand.

The police also operate a special unit for investigating computer-related crimes, and the Finance Ministry, by virtue of its responsibility for government computer systems, is also active in the field. The National Emergency Authority (that operates under the auspices of the superfluous ministry headed by Matan Vilnai ) is involved in preparing for an Internet catastrophe. And hovering over them all is a special committee within the National Security Council that is meant to outline policy, and in particular, determine which organizations receive protection against cyber attacks (in some cases, protection that is imposed on them ).

In addition, there is the private sector, with several high-tech companies that rank as world leaders in providing solutions to secure computers and their networks.

How ironic is it, then, that of all people, Benjamin Netanyahu, who envisioned and established the National Security Council during his previous stint in the Prime Minister's Office, is now undermining it by establishing yet another institution that will operate in the same field - a national cyber headquarters. Aside from more political infighting and power struggles, it is not clear what this new creature will contribute to the existing array of institutions active in the field. But Netanyahu wants to be like heads of other Western states who have already established such organizations and invested billions in them. He has taken his cue from David Cameron, the British prime minister and public relations master, who carried out a similar move several months ago. But prior to establishing the cyber headquarters, Israel's situation was far better than Britain's - a country which in recent years has suffered several embarrassing breaches of its national data base.It seems, though, that nothing improves a prime minister's popularity more than making an ostentatious move under a public relations friendly title.

There is no need for a new organization. What is needed is swift revisions to the law that would apply to private companies that control a large share of the national-strategic infrastructures. These amendments should ensure that companies like these, which control services and data bases deemed critical to the public's welfare - cellular phone operators, Internet companies and private banks, for example - comply with more stringent standards of information security.

Not only the government and the defense establishment deserve protection. So do ordinary citizens. For that reason, the police need to receive better resources to prevent invasion of privacy, as well as identity and credit card theft by criminal organizations. A national emergency plan for coping with widespread computer malfunctioning is also necessary.

Cellcom's major malfunction half a year ago, which caused millions of Israelis to be cut off for a day from their cellular oxygen supplies, is but one small example of such a glitch. What caused the recent air fuel contamination at Ben-Gurion Airport is still unclear, as are the reasons Kiryat Motzkin's water supply was polluted. All these incidents may have been caused by the deliberate sabotage of computer systems, and worse could happen.

Cyber attacks have caused major malfunctions in Estonia, Ukraine, Georgia and Iran. Despite world-class computer security systems, there is no guarantee that Israel won't be targeted as well.







Only in Israel, only in a community lacking all self-respect, are such reactions possible: Members of both the American Houses of Congress applaud the prime minister of the Jewish state, rising to their feet time after time to emphasize their agreement with what he says, and the hearts of most Israeli commentators turn sour. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dared to present his plan and no, not as they have been trying to dictate for years, not their plan. And therefore, "There is no Israeli plan."

The peak of the fury came when Netanyahu declared, to the sounds of the most prolonged applause registered during the entire speech, that the Jewish people has an ancestral right to the land of its forefathers and it is not an occupier in Judea and Samaria (and he even dared speak aloud the ineffable names of these tracts of land ). And if Congress so sweepingly adopts the Jewish right to the land, where are all those Israelis coming from, who for years have been explaining to the world that this is occupied territory? It seems some of those members of Congress felt regret, far more than Jews in Israel, when Netanyahu declared that despite our historical and religious ties to the places where the Jews became a people, Israel is prepared to give up, for the sake of a permanent status agreement, parts of its historic homeland. This was, without a doubt, one of the smaller days for politicians and commentators in Israel. Smallest of all was Kadima MK Shaul ("the Likud is our home" ) Mofaz, a political panhandler, who accused Netanyahu of suppressing every hope for peace. And Amram Mitzna: Netanyahu is endangering the state of Israel.

To my total chagrin, Netanyahu did sketch a clear, though at this stage general, outline of concessions. The gist as I interpret it: The head of the Likud is giving up the heart of the land of our forefathers. And a Palestinian state will arise there. And there will be settlements that will not be inside Israeli territory. And along the Jordan there will be security arrangements and not Israeli sovereignty.

Netanyahu's opponents, who prayed that U.S. President Barack Obama would bring him to his knees, are full of frustration at his having succeeded in winning the heart of Congress and moderating the pressure from the White House. Is it any wonder the Palestinians waited for the disappointed reactions in Israel in order to recite them in their entirety?

The aim of the pens that took aim at Netanyahu was to minimize his important diplomatic achievement. They cannot forgive him for having proved that also standing on basic principles can enlist America's support, and to that end there is no need for total surrender. They will not forgive him for not having presented in Congress, the Channel 2 commentators' political doctrine or the leading Army Radio broadcasters' identification with the Palestinians.

Israel has been lucky, and there exists in the world one legislature in which there aren't elements trying to undermine its existence, and where there aren't people who participate in Hezbollah and Hamas conferences and express open support for terror and Israel's enemies. It has also been lucky that some influential media organizations remain supportive of Israel. Fox News, for example. Even CNN did not hesitate to heap praise on Netanyahu. And The Washington Post last week attacked Obama for his attitude toward Israel.

Only from them did we not hear again and again that "Congress does not determine foreign policy."

If we had a responsible opposition here, all parts of the nation, certainly those who do not want total surrender to Obama, would have to congratulate themselves on the prime minister's success in Washington. Most regrettably, this is not the case when it comes to the opposition in Israel.



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





Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature have already adopted a state budget that drastically cuts funds to schools and local communities — cuts that were far deeper than needed to balance the budget because of Mr. Cuomo's indefensible refusal to extend a tax surcharge on New York's wealthiest residents. Now they want to adopt a cheap political tool — a 2 percent property tax cap — that would only further devastate communities around the state that can least afford it.


Mr. Cuomo calls the proposal "a game changer." He's right. In the same way that Proposition 13 has ravaged California, a New York property tax cap would do huge damage to already struggling schools and the state's long-term economic competitiveness. California's education system was once the envy of the nation. Education Week now ranks it 46th for achievement in grades K-12, below Alabama and South Carolina. New York schools currently rank 8th. For how much longer?


Not surprising, the Albany politicians and business leaders championing the tax cap don't like to talk about California. Instead, they point to Massachusetts, which capped property taxes at 2.5 percent in 1980. It wasn't a happy tale there, either. Communities starved of needed revenues were forced to lay off teachers, police officers and firefighters and to shut libraries and senior centers.


Massachusetts schools suffered so badly that the Legislature had to pump in more and more state financing, especially to the poorer school districts.


Mr. Cuomo and other backers insist that communities will still have a choice. The cap could be overridden by a vote of 60 percent of residents in the tax district. (Whatever happened to a simple democratic majority?) Wealthier taxpayers may well vote that way, especially to maintain good schools. It is far less likely to happen in the poorer districts.


When New York's politicians go on about how New York fails to draw businesses because of high taxes, even they must know that's ridiculous. Taxes generally rank behind education, infrastructure and other criteria when businesses decide to relocate and invest. Employees and bosses want to know about the schools. Business owners want to know if there is an educated work force. No public services? Who wants to move or work there?


Let's be clear: A tax cap is nothing more than a political crutch for politicians who don't have the courage to argue the case for more taxes or for spending cuts.


Mr. Cuomo, the Legislature and local politicians have to make the tough decisions to raise revenue and wrestle down personnel costs, streamline services and rationalize costly state mandates.

Property taxes in New York are undeniably high. But a tax cap is not the answer. It is an invitation to disaster.








After their surprise victory in a heavily Republican Congressional district of western New York, Democrats believe they have the magic formula for winning back the House next year. "Medicare, Medicare, and Medicare," said Representative Steve Israel of Long Island, who runs the Democratic election effort in the House. There is enormous power in Mr. Israel's new cudgel. Even Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin Republican who wrote the plan to privatize Medicare and end its guarantee to the elderly, admitted that it played a significant role in the victory by Kathy Hochul, the Democrat. Nonetheless, effective as the playbook was in one special election, Democrats cannot expect to build their entire 2012 campaign around attacking the Ryan plan. It's a useful reminder of the vast differences between the parties, but defines only the Republicans, not the Democrats.


Sooner or later, Democrats will have to admit that Medicare cannot keep running as it is — its medical costs are out of control, and a recent report showed its trust fundrunning out of money in 2024, five years earlier than expected. Bill Clinton was right on Wednesday to warn his party that it must bring down those costs if it is to have any credibility on the deficit and the economy.


Many Republicans are ruefully admitting that the House went much too far in passing the Ryan plan last month. Hypnotized by their own rhetoric, firmly believing that the 2010 elections gave them a mandate to dismantle essential programs rather than raise taxes on the rich, House Republicans approved a budget that went far beyond the comfort level of the nation's center. On Wednesday, five Republicans refused to support the Ryan plan in a symbolic vote in the Senate.


But not all Medicare cuts are the same. Democrats don't like to admit this, but President Obama's health care law reduces Medicare spending by more than $500 billion through 2019. This is done mostly by reducing the increases in payments to providers and cutting Medicare Advantage plans. After the law was passed, Mr. Obama proposed reducing health costs even more sharply. The subject is so confusing to voters that Republicans have used these cuts to suggest that everyone wants to cut Medicare. That's why Nancy Pelosi prefers a more simplistic pitch: "We have a plan. It's called Medicare."


At some point in the next year, Democrats will have to do better than that. They can start by defending their cuts and clearly differentiating them from Mr. Ryan's extreme plan, which makes the program unrecognizable. It might require, as Mr. Clinton put it, giving up some short-term political gain, but voters might also appreciate a dose of honesty and realism in their political diet.








Hey, did anybody notice that the Democrat won a special Congressional race in a Republican district in upstate New York? Apparently, she campaigned a lot on protecting Medicare.


OMG! The Democrats are levitating with joy. Never have you seen so many smiling liberals.


"I'm feeling great. I'm ecstatic," said Steve Israel, the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Israel is also a member of Congress from New York — a state where, in case you hadn't heard, a Democrat won a special Congressional race Tuesday night.


There is no escaping our fate. We are going to spend the next 17 months hearing about how the Republicans want to kill off Medicare. By 2012, the current video on the Web showing a guy who resembles Representative Paul Ryan pushing an old woman off a cliff will look like a Teletubbies skit. By the fall, there will be ads showing the Republicans hacking their way through rows of bedridden seniors with scimitars.


Anybody who is hoping the two sides can come together and work out a plan to control health care costs should plan a lengthy visit to some other country. I hear Finland is nice.


"Look, if they didn't get the hint in the special election in New York last night, they never will," said Israel.


]Did I mention that there was a Congressional election? And the Democrat won?


So far, the Republicans are increasing their opponents' Glad Bag of Happiness by sticking to their guns. Ryan, the House budget guru, was back on YouTube Wednesday with another defense of his Medicare plan and a cogent explanation of how the current health care system is all screwed up, rewarding doctors for the number of procedures they do rather than how well they treat their patients.


"Washington has not been honest with you," Ryan told the camera. He is the powerful chairman of the House Budget Committee, and, therefore, you would think, Washington.


Meanwhile, in the Senate, Republicans were complaining about Democratic triumphalism. They had a point. How are we going to fix the hugely expensive, deeply flawed fee-for-service health care system with all this demagoguery?


"I don't think it's responsible to try to scare seniors for political points," said Senator John Cornyn.


Cornyn, a Texas Republican, is the author of the Health Care Bureaucrats Elimination Act. That bill would kill off the part of the Obama health care law that is aimed at reforming the hugely expensive, deeply flawed fee-for-service health care system.


"They say the way to win the next election is to scare the daylights out of senior citizens. I think that's irresponsible," said Cornyn, who predicted, back in 2009, that the Democrats were going to turn Medicare into "a health care gulag."


The Democrats are still bitter about the way the Republicans demonized them with those "death panel" diatribes. Sensible Republicans say that was very unfortunate, but you have to remember that when they tried to fix Social Security during the Bush presidency, the Democrats said they were trying to bankrupt retirees. We can keep going on like this until we get to the Battle of the Field of Blackbirds in 1371.


The Senate had plenty of time to discuss who said what about whom, since they were engaged in a debate over the House budget, which includes the famous Medicare plan. The one that was such a big topic of discussion in upstate New York, where there was a special election on Tuesday. Which the Democrat won.


The Republican House and Democratic Senate are pursuing a bipartisan agenda this year, the Let's Only Vote on Things That Will Fail initiative. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid decided to call for a vote on the House budget to trap the Republican moderates into choosing between betraying their party and ticking off their constituents. This is such a tiny group that you'd think torturing them would be illegal under the Endangered Species Act. But no.


Meanwhile, over in the House, videos were surfacing of a town hall meeting in which Rob Woodall, a Georgia Republican, argued health care with a Democratic activist who wanted to know what she was supposed to do without Medicare when her employer didn't provide coverage for retirees.


"Hear yourself, ma'am. Hear yourself," Woodall responded, rather triumphantly. "You want the government to take care of you because your employer decided not to take care of you. My question is: When do I decide I'm going to take care of me?"


Asked why he allowed the Congressional health care program to take care of him,Woodall responded, "because it's free."


Really, it's hard to think of anything more the Democrats need to achieve total political bliss. Except maybe G.O.P. Presidential Nominee Newt Gingrich.









At the beginning, I knew only about a young teenage girl imprisoned on the third floor of a brothel in a red-light district here in Kolkata.

The pimps nicknamed her Chutki, or little girl. She had just been sold to the brothel-owner and seemed terrified.

Investigators with International Justice Mission, a Washington-based aid group that fights human trafficking, had spotted Chutki while prowling undercover looking for prostituted children. I.J.M. hoped to convince the Kolkata police to free the girl, but it would help to have more evidence that the girl was still imprisoned. So an I.J.M. official asked: Would I like to accompany him as he sneaked into the brothel to gather evidence?

India probably has more modern slaves than any country in the world. It has millions of women and girls in its brothels, often held captive for their first few years until they grow resigned to their fate. China surely has more prostitutes, but they are typically working voluntarily. India's brothels are also unusually violent, with ferocious beatings common and pimps sometimes even killing girls who are uncooperative.

Unicef has estimated that worldwide 1.8 million children enter the sex trade each year. Too many are in the United States, which should prosecute pimps much more aggressively, but the worst abuses take place in countries like Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Cambodia.

So I set off with the I.J.M. investigator (who wants to remain anonymous for his own safety) into the alleys of the Sonagachi red-light district one evening, slipped into the brothel, and climbed to the third floor. And there were Chutki and three other girls in a room, a pimp hovering over them. Perceiving us as potential customers, he offered them to us.

We demurred but said we'd be back.

The Kolkata police agreed to raid the brothel to free the girl. I.J.M. told them the location of the brothel at the last minute to avoid a tip-off from police ranks. The police casually asked us to lead the way in the raid since we knew what Chutki looked like and where she was kept.

So along with a carload of police, we drove up to the brothel and rushed inside to avoid giving the pimps time to hide Chutki or to escape themselves. With the I.J.M. representative in the lead, we hurtled up the stairs, brushed past the pimp and found Chutki and the three other girls in the same room where we had seen them before.

Two female social workers from I.J.M. immediately began comforting Chutki, who police said was about 15 and looked terrified. They explained that this was a police operation to rescue her, and they helped her put on a robe for modesty's sake.

Then another of the girls in the room asked if she could be rescued — but a few days later. She explained that if she left now, the brothel-owners would blame her for the raid and possibly harm her grandmother, whose address they knew.

We told the girl that this chance might not come again. She dissolved into tears, wavered and then decided to come out. Then a third said that she wanted to escape as well.

The girls tipped off the police that the brothel-owner was in another building, arranging to sell a new girl named Raya for the very first time, either that evening or the next night. The police hurried off and returned with Raya, a wide-eyed girl of about 10 years.

It seemed that the brothel had purchased Raya just a week earlier, after her own brother-in-law tricked her and trafficked her. If the raid had been delayed by a few hours, she might have faced the first of many rapes.

With Raya was a 5-year-old girl who seemed to have been abandoned. Perhaps the brothel-owners were grooming her for sale in a few more years. So we emerged from the brothel with five lives that had just been transformed.

Equally important, one pimp had been arrested and arrest warrants had been issued for two more. There are no quick fixes to human trafficking, but experience in several countries suggests that prosecuting pimps and brothel-owners makes a difference. A study in Cebu, Philippines, found that helping police and courts target child prostitution resulted in 87 arrests over four years — and a 79 percent reduction in the number of children in the sex trade.

We drove the five girls to a police station to fill out paperwork so that they could move into shelters and receive schooling or vocational training. Raya, the 10-year-old who otherwise at that moment might have been enduring her first rape, was giggly and carefree as she pretended to drive the car. She behaved like a silly little girl — which was thrilling.







MEDICARE has suddenly taken center stage in American politics, with Democrats now trying to score an advantage from the unpopularity of the Republican plan to overhaul the government health insurance program. Apart from the politics, though, Medicare's financing challenges are worsening: this month, Medicare's trustees projected that the insurance program would become insolvent by 2024, five years earlier than previously estimated.


Much has been said about the growing gap between the program's spending and revenues — a gap that will widen as baby boomers retire — but little attention has been focused on a problem staring us in the face: Medicare spends a fortune each year on procedures that have no proven benefit and should not be covered. Examples abound:


• Medicare pays for routine screening colonoscopies in patients over 75 even though the United States Preventive Services Task Force, an independent panel of experts financed by the Department of Health and Human Services, advises against them (and against any colonoscopies for patients over 85), because it takes at least eight years to realize any benefits from the procedure. Moreover, colonoscopies carry risks of serious complications (like perforations) and often lead to further unnecessary procedures (like biopsies). In 2009, Medicare paid doctors more than $100 million for nearly 550,000 screening colonoscopies; around 40 percent were for patients over 75.


• The task force recommends against screening for prostate cancer in men 75 and older, and screening for cervical cancer in women 65 and older who have had a previous normal Pap smear, but Medicare spent more than $50 million in 2008 on such screenings, as well as additional money on unnecessary procedures that often follow.


• Two recent randomized trials found that patients receiving two popular procedures for vertebral fractures, kyphoplasty and vertebroplasty, experienced no more relief than those receiving a sham procedure. Besides being ineffective, these procedures carry considerable risks. Nevertheless, Medicare pays for 100,000 of these procedures a year, at a cost of around $1 billion.


• Multiple clinical trials have shown that cardiac stents are no more effective than drugs or lifestyle changes in preventing heart attacks or death. Although some studies have shown that stents provide short-term relief of chest pain, up to 30 percent of patients receiving stents have no chest pain to begin with, and thus derive no more benefit from this invasive procedure than from equally effective and far less expensive medicines. Risks associated with stent implantation, meanwhile, include exposure to radiation and to dyes that can damage the kidneys, and in rare cases, death from the stent itself. Yet one study estimated that Medicare spends $1.6 billion on drug-coated stents (the most common type of cardiac stents) annually.


• A recent study found that one-fifth of all implantable cardiac defibrillators were placed in patients who, according to clinical guidelines, will not benefit from them. But Medicare pays for them anyway, at a cost of $50,000 to $100,000 per device implantation.


The full extent of Medicare payments for procedures with no known benefit needs to be quantified. But the estimates are substantial. The chief actuary for Medicare estimates that 15 percent to 30 percent of health care expenditures are wasteful. Medicare spending exceeded $500 billion in 2010, suggesting that $75 billion to $150 billion could be cut without reducing needed services.


Why does Medicare spend so much for procedures and devices on patients who get no benefit and incur risks from them?


One reason is that Medicare's reimbursement procedures are not sophisticated enough to track the appropriateness of the care provided. Medicare delegates its claims administration to private local contractors based on how quickly and cheaply they can process claims.


These contractors have few incentives to audit the taxpayer dollars they are paying out, and even if they wanted to, they would need information often not available on the claim form. For example, a claims administrator, processing a claim for a screening colonoscopy, does not know when the patient's last colonoscopy was, or whether there was a new clinical reason for repeating it. While this information is available, finding it would require extra steps, and there are no incentives to do so.


Moreover, denying payment after a procedure is performed invites the wrath of both patient and physician. Medicare and private insurers are also keen to avoid situations that could be viewed as telling doctors how to practice medicine — even if such advice is in the patient's best interest. The political sensitivity of limiting services based on age, for example, was illustrated by the uproar over the Preventive Services Task Force's findingtwo years ago that women in their 40s do not benefit from routine mammography.


Another factor is the shocking chasm between Medicare coverage and clinical evidence. Our medical culture is such that if the choice is between doing a test and not doing one, it is considered better care to do the test. So while Medicare is obligated to follow the task force's recommendations to cover new preventive services, it has no similar mandate to deny coverage for services for which the task force has found no benefit.


Changing the system would be relatively easy administratively, but would require a firm commitment to determining whether tests and procedures truly benefit patients before performing them. Unfortunately, in a political environment in which doctors providing end-of-life counseling are called death panels, and in which powerful constituencies seek to preserve an ever-increasing array of procedures and device sales, this solution remains hidden in plain view.


Of course, doctors, with the consent of their patients, should be free to provide whatever care they agree is appropriate. But when the procedure arising from that judgment, however well intentioned, is not supported by evidence, the nation's taxpayers should have no obligation to pay for it.


Rita F. Redberg, a cardiologist, is a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, and the editor of Archives of Internal Medicine.









ONE night, after I'd pulled the rolling metal gates down over the storefront of Elaine's, the legendary restaurant on the Upper East Side, and just as I was about to put the padlocks on, I realized that I wasn't sure if my boss, Elaine Kaufman, had left or not.


She had. But in that moment, at 4 a.m. on the sidewalk, it occurred to me that Elaine might have been perfectly happy spending the night locked in her restaurant. Her relationship with her joint, as she called it, was co-dependent. She didn't want to be anywhere else, and the place couldn't exist without her.


It really couldn't. Elaine's restaurant opens tonight for the last time, and then will close for good, less than six months after Elaine's death.


What made the place famous was, of course, fame. Tell a story about Elaine's, and you're likely telling about a celebrity. I worked behind the bar at Elaine's for 11 years, from 1986 to 1997, and my highlight reel includes Jackie Gleason behind the oak doing his "Joe the Bartender" routine; pouring Champagne into the Stanley Cup when some of the New York Rangers came in with it after winning the 1994 National Hockey League championship; and watching Hunter S. Thompson set himself on fire drinking flaming shots of Bacardi 151 rum.


One evening, when it seemed that all of Elaine's literary lions were in for dinner — William Kennedy, Kurt Vonnegut and George Plimpton, to name a few — Elaine sat with the thriller writer Mary Higgins Clark. Later, Elaine came up to the bar. "She sells more books than all of them combined," she said with a satisfied expression, one woman sticking up for another.


But what I find more remarkable than the celebrities and writers who flocked to Elaine's is that the restaurant has been open since 1963, and for much of that time has been packed with customers, and this even though Elaine ran it like a candy store. In this age of computerized point-of-sale systems and restaurant-reservation apps, she wrote all the dinner checks by hand, took reservations over a pay phone and had an old NCR cash register behind the bar that seemed to ring all night. Back when flatbed trucks hauled huge rolls of newsprint paper down Second Avenue past the restaurant toward the New York Times presses, Tommy, my bartending partner, would look out the window and say, "Here's Elaine's shipment of cash register tape."


At the end of business, I'd hand Elaine the receipts and a fat roll of cash, which she'd slide into her brassiere. Then she'd push her glasses up on her forehead, look at the totals of the tape through a squinted eye and say, "Nice," in a throaty whisper.


I was often asked if I knew the secret to the restaurant's success. I have no idea, I'd say. Though the food wasn't as bad as some made it out to be — even considering the afternoon I saw the chef breading slabs of roast beef because he'd run out of veal cutlets — it certainly wasn't the fare that drew the crowds. Perhaps the chance to rub elbows with the rich and famous attracted some of the customers. Then again, we New Yorkers pride ourselves on our immunity to celebrity fever.


I'm sure some would say that Elaine was the reason for the restaurant's popularity. But those of us who knew her well would never accuse her of being a crowd pleaser. On busy nights, she'd sit on the cashier's seat at the end of the bar, stab her pencil in the electric sharpener and bury her head in the dinner checks.


She was much more at ease in the afternoons, when the restaurant was closed. She was always there, reading the tabloids or paying the liquor bill or the fish man. We'd gossip about the customers, and she'd tell stories of the old days of the restaurant. But she was never nostalgic. Nor did she seem all that concerned about the future. One afternoon she was on the pay phone when I came in. I listened as she answered questions about the Queens neighborhood where she grew up and the grammar school she went to. After she hung up, I inquired about the call. "An obit writer," she said offhandedly. "They keep them on file."


Maybe that's the reason her restaurant was successful: for Elaine, there was no profit in worrying about tomorrow or yesterday. What mattered to her were the names in the reservation book for that night.


Brian McDonald is the author of "Last Call at Elaine's: A Journey From One Side of the Bar to the Other."









Gliding along like sharks among sardines, those accustomed to power or celebrity feel they are entitled to whatever they fancy right now; sex, wealth, prideful display. Grab, don't wait. Impulse control is not their thing. And one day of course they overreach, and down they go, rattling the status quo, sending the media into feeding frenzies.

So it has been with two lords of global financial oversight, first Paul Wolfowitz of the World Bank and now Dominique Strauss-Kahn of the International Monetary Fund, both of whom stepped across the line with women who were not their wives.

Sex seems to be the urge most often loosed by power. John F. Kennedy, François Mitterand, and Bill Clinton were famously unable to keep their trousers properly zipped. Some of Julius Caesar's assassins were almost certainly senators whose wives he had slept with.

Next to sex in the entitlements of the great comes money. Those who rise to power see wealth as their natural due. In fact traditional societies, where wealth tends to validate leadership, expect their rulers to be ostentatiously rich. The courts of the new Egypt are now emptying the pockets of the Hosni Mubarak regime officials to the tune of tens of millions of dollars. The oil minister, who lived across the street from me in a country that will remain unnamed, salted away a million dollars a day for three straight years. He oversaw the national income stream, he was entitled to it.

You see a different sense of entitlement, a special narcissism, in true believers, single-cause obsessors. For them, impulse control would be a sell-out, the purity of their cause gives them license to endanger for an ideal, to tear down, torch, or shoot, if it is called for. Provocation, low-wattage terrorism is their goal. One thinks of food purists in Europe and anti-abortionists in America.

One also thinks of the group about to put Turkey's name at risk again. The Humanitarian Relief Foundation, or İHH, plans to send its ship the Mavi Marmara and a flotilla of other vessels from Istanbul and European ports toward Gaza a month from now. Nine people were killed last year when the Mavi Marmara, on a similar mission, was intercepted and boarded by the Israel military. An international "cause célèbre" erupted. Israel was faulted by the United Nations Human Rights Council for unlawful interception and human rights violations. The council suggested on the other hand that the aim of the flotilla seemed to be as much political as it was humanitarian.

That was a charitable characterization. Of course the aims of the Humanitarian Relief Foundation are political. Humanitarian aid is an all-purpose fig-leaf label. Humanitarian supplies are never delivered through confrontation. It is done through agreement with the authorities, in this case, the Israelis. One might not like the authorities, might see them as unjust, but that is beside the point if the real objective is to deliver human necessities. If a fight is the objective, however, then all the altruistic nongovernmental organization pretensions boil down to dangerous adolescent bluster.

Ten days ago a ship sent by a Malaysian non-governmental group called the Perdana Global Peace Foundation was driven away from Gaza by Israeli warning shots. No one was hurt; one hopes that it did not disappoint the organizers of the mission. If and when the Turkish-led flotilla sails in June, Israel will surely be more sensibly ready and less likely to be lured into an over-reaction than it was last May 31.

The question now is how ready the Turkish government is to farm out its foreign policy to adventurers, and claim, as it did last year, that the Humanitarian Relief Foundation is an NGO and therefore somehow free to act even while wrapped in the star and crescent. Wiser heads in Ankara must see that a further blowup with Israel would be in no one's interest.

The Mavi Marmara is set to sail a week or so after the coming national elections. There is unlikely to be any impulse control, any consideration of wider national interests, among the İHH leaders as they gird for their big show. If Ankara indulges them, and fails to clamp down as it has in so many other sectors, the new government could find itself in a swirl of global name-calling even worse than last year's. Given the name recognition of the Mavi Marmara, the flotilla will be seen as an essentially Turkish project no matter how many others join it.






It was a shock. When I received a call from a close friend in northern Cyprus late Tuesday afternoon I just could not believe my ears. It was like a nightmare.

Rauf Denktaş, the founding president of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, leader of the Turkish Cypriot Resistance Movement, or TMT, during those terrible years when Greek Cypriots were trying to annihilate Turkish Cypriots from the eastern Mediterranean island, or simply the father of my childhood friend Serdar, was reported to have suffered a stroke and was hospitalized.

Soon reports started to spread around that he had hemiplegia and was in critical condition. All of a sudden I remembered the age of Denktaş; he was 87 years young. A stroke in that age might… No… No… No, I would not have such bad worries.

The telephones of all members of the Denktaş family were unreachable. The telephones of the personnel of the working office of the founding president were unreachable as well. Hold on, finally telephone of retired colonel Naci – who was the aid-de-camp to Denktaş when he was still the president – became available.

"Colonel," I said, "Please, some good news," I said as tears started to roll down my cheeks. "Please," I begged.

Col. Naci answered with a rather calm voice: "Yusuf, don't worry. The president is a stubborn man. He will not accept defeat. Soon, he will be back in good health, working round the clock and making us work round the clock. He will not give up," he said.

"What have the doctors said?" I asked. Reluctantly, he said Denktaş was conscious when they hospitalized him but he was unable to move his left leg and arm. He said that even when the ambulance was taking him to the hospital Denktaş was still acting as if nothing had happened to him. "He has high morale. The entire family is with him. Serdar is at the hospital," he said.

"Should I come?" I asked. He immediately understood what I meant. "No, no, the president will get better by this time tomorrow, don't worry. He will not give up and you know he will be very angry if he sees people around weeping and crying," he said. I realized that I was not hiding at all my crying.

The last time I cried was when my sister informed me that my father suffered a stroke and lost his life on the way to hospital in an ambulance. And Denktaş has always been very much like a father to me. I remembered my first interview with him. It was in October 1981, days after Andreas Papandreou became prime minister in Greece and there were hopes that the new Greek government would probably be more forthcoming for a "just and lasting settlement" on Cyprus. That day, the "Denktaş, the father of my friend Serdar" was replaced with a Denktaş "the leader of Turkish Cypriot people" wishing to pass on a message to the Greek government through this apprentice journalist.

"I am ready for a just and lasting federal settlement based on the political equality of the two peoples of Cyprus … Indications are that Greece of Papandreou do not wish to walk that road and instead will opt for a course that will further aggravate the Cyprus issue," or something like that, he had said. When he was talking to me he was flanked by two huge German shepherds.

Tears were pouring. My wife Aydan tried to console me saying, "You know him, he will not give in easily," as I was on social networks communicating with Turkish Cypriot friends on the island and across the globe, exchanging good wishes.

In less than three hours it became clear that doctors would try to improve the condition of Denktaş with medication and though not categorically ruling out, they were not considering an operation. Doctors at the Near East University Hospital were stressing that if the clot that developed the condition could be removed through medication Denktaş, who maintained his conscience and was still joking with the doctors and other health personnel around him, could be stabilized without the need to give him an operation.

In the early evening Professor Dr. Ercan Kaptanoğlu disclosed that Denktaş had been given anticoagulants and was responding positively to the treatment, therefore surgery was not necessary. He also said Denktaş had started moving his hands and legs; when he was first brought to the hospital, he could not move his left side very well. Still, he stressed that the former president, who has a long history of heart problems, high blood pressure and diabetes mellitus, was still in critical condition. Then, Kaptanoğlu gave the good news: "Just before coming here the president smiled and told me, 'I am OK. Tell everyone, I am OK. No one should worry about me.' He is in good spirits."

In such a condition he was trying to comfort other people, he was that kind of a leader or perhaps that was why even in the years since he left the presidency, he is still "The President" for most of us Turkish Cypriots.

President Denktaş, we wish you a quick recovery. Our prayers are with you. Hold firm!







The economists, the statisticians and the investment bankers have done their work, and everybody in the financial world now has more or less the same picture of the future in their minds. The predictions are so consistent that even the general public thinks it knows where the trends are leading us: Asia and Latin America up, Europe and North America in a holding pattern, Africa and the Middle East down. But maybe the predictions are wrong.

Goldman Sachs started the game almost a decade ago with its study predicting that the BRICs, the four largest emerging economies (Brazil, Russia, India and China), would overtake the rich countries of the G7 (the United States, Japan, Germany, Britain, France, Italy and Canada) some time in the 2030s. The world's economic center of gravity, the study implied, was shifting from the West to Asia.

Hardly anybody disputes this model any more; the pundits just differ on the details, like when China's economy will pass that of the United States. As soon as 2020, said PricewaterhouseCooper. 2027, says the latest Goldman Sachs prediction. 2035, says the Carnegie Institute and as late as the mid-2040s, according to Karen Ward's recent study for HSBC. But they all agree it's going to happen.

Ward's study, "The World in 2050," is particularly interesting for two reasons. One, because it is more realistic about China, whose economy is currently the biggest bubble in world history, and two, because it offers predictions for the world's 30 biggest economies, not just the top 10.

China's economy, at $25 trillion annually, is only a couple of trillion ahead of the United States in 2050. (All calculations are in constant dollars of the year 2000.) Then there is a long drop to India at $8 trillion and Japan at $6 trillion, and no other country reaches $5 trillion.

Places five to 11 are mostly filled by the rest of the G7 countries, with only Brazil and Mexico breaking into the magic circle. The rest of the Top 20, however, are almost all developing countries (Turkey, South Korea, Russia, Indonesia, Argentina, Egypt and Malaysia), with only Spain and Australia from the developed world. So in this model, Asia and Latin America really are taking over, with 11 out of the top 20 slots.

Now, you can quibble with bits of this, like categorizing Russia as an emerging economy. In terms of infrastructure, average education level and birth rate, Russia is clearly a developed country. But if these predictions are roughly correct, then it is definitely Asia and Latin America up, and Europe and North America (plus Japan) in a holding pattern.

And are Africa and the Middle East really down? Up and down are purely relative, of course, and there are certainly some large African countries with quite respectable projected growth rates, like Nigeria and South Africa. But despite the world's highest population growth rates, no African country's economy makes it into the Top 20 by 2050.

Of the Middle Eastern countries, only Egypt scrapes in at No. 19, just ahead of Malaysia, which is only a third of the size of Egypt in terms of population. Most of the non-oil economies face virtual stagnation, and there are big question marks over the claimed oil reserves of a number of the oil states. Africa and the Middle East down.

It's only a game: only the very brave or the very foolish would base major investment decisions on such a long-term extrapolation of current trends. But it's the sort of thing that the strategists and the geopolitics experts love, and it could be wrong. Not just wrong in detail, but utterly, spectacularly wrong.

All of these predictions assume that global conditions will remain essentially unchanged for the next 40 years. That is highly unlikely.

The predictions are not simple-minded straight-line extrapolations. They all assume, for example, that China's economy, which has grown at 10 percent for the past 20 years (and therefore doubled in size every seven years), will drop to about half that growth rate (doubling only every 14 years) well before 2050. But they do assume that energy, especially oil, will remain plentiful and relatively affordable for the next 40 years.

Even more implausibly, they also assume that global warming will not cause serious disruptions in the world's economies over the next two generations. Yet there is already enough warming locked into the system by past, present and near-future emissions that severe disruption is virtually guaranteed, especially in the tropical and sub-tropical parts of the planet.

The old-rich countries of the G7 are all in the temperate zone, which may get away with relatively minor damage from global warming in the period to 2050. All the big "emerging" economies except Russia and Argentina are located wholly or largely in the tropics and/or the sub-tropics. That means they will almost certainly suffer very serious disruption, including huge losses in food production.

This is monstrously unfair. Just when the poorer countries finally start to catch up economically with their former imperial masters, the warming caused by two centuries of greenhouse gas emissions by the rich countries knocks them back yet again. This may also knock all those predictions that claim emerging economies will soon overtake the developed ones into a cocked hat.







"Are you crazy my friend?" I shouted. "You're about to kill me!"

Jailed journalist Nedim Şener suddenly appeared through the big window in the lawyer-client visiting room of the prison behind journalist Ahmet Şık while I was chatting with him. He was grinning at us. As Ahmet was going back to his cell, Nedim was brought in to the visiting room. He seemed quite dandy. I said to myself, "We got used to this," and then I added, "Though it's strange to feel happy for them that they get used to this…" Then, we talked about good things. Or it was our initial intention as we were about to sit around the table.

'Survivor' of Silivri

"I heard that you are watching Survivor," I said to Nedim. He responded with a smile, "We feel like we're on Survivor Island here! And we are trying to survive here."

"Is this why you got a tan?" I asked him.

"Yes, yes… The Silivri Beach, a five-star one! Come on, I'm going out to the yard for fresh air. … Otherwise, one gets depressed here. Spring has arrived, we are feeling better," Nedim continued.

It's a full-blown concrete building, the Silivri Prison. How could one understand if the spring arrives here? I look through each other's face because they look at each other in order not to look at the concrete walls.

Pressure by the press!

I get more serious with Nedim. He is annoyed again by journalist "friends:"

"Even the police don't cuff you unless you commit a crime.  This is professional solidarity. But journalists… In fact, there is not only legal or political pressure there, but also peer-pressure from the other media!"

"The press raids," I said. "Exactly," he said and went on:

"This has never been seen in any part of the world, I think. The press has started an elimination within the press." Our journalist friends are pointing fingers at each other as the target. In the reports on Turkey, which are served to the world, this professional-pressure needs to be included, too. I don't get what will happen! Does it mean that the readers of Hürriyet and Milliyet daily will be forced to read Zaman daily? What is the ultimate target of this part of the press while trying to eliminate the other?"

  The seed and the corpse

Then, he became saddened but continued: "I read a quote from Hippocrates: 'My colleagues are my brothers,' he says. I wonder how many press members there are in Turkey feeling that way. Look at Ahmet. He started from scratch, lived a white-clean life. He is a man who wants everyone to be equal to the end. In fact, this is why his trials are followed by so many. Mehmet Baransu, on the other hand, gets into the trial room alone. I wonder, I say, are these friends turning ambitious as they see such crowds? Is this why they are trying to suppress us?"

Something leaps into his mind and Nedim smiles:

"Actually, experienced officers say, 'I wish everyone looks like the Ergenekon members. They are so gentlemen.'"

We laughed at that hard. Then, Nedim said:

"Once I am out I will work really hard not to send them in. Perhaps, I will aim so high, but I will do so. People don't find it convincing when mothers who lost their sons say, "My son is dead, don't let other sons die.' This is the same way. Once it happens to you, then you understand what these mothers are trying to say. We are here anyway. When you are buried, you either turn into a corpse or a seed. I am trying to be a seed, to remain a seed…"

Nedim looks better and seems that he has gotten used to the prison atmosphere.

"Ahmet is the man with whom everyone wants to be," he said. This is strange, because Ahmet said the very same thing moments ago about Nedim. There is one more thing both said to me without each other's knowledge:

"Come more often because it is good to see you here and it is also good to know that you will come."

He is right because at this five-star Silivri Beach, the concrete walls divide spring into two, making people miss each other.

* Ece Temelkuran is a columnist of daily Habertürk, in which this piece appeared Wednesday. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff and re-published with special permission from the newspaper.






Benjamin Netanyahu's furious rejection of U.S. President Barack Obama's proposal to use the 1967 borders as the basis for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, frontiers that he called "utterly indefensible," reflects not only the Israeli prime minister's poor statesmanship, but also his antiquated military philosophy.

In an era of ballistic missiles and other weapons of mass destruction, and, in which the planned Palestinian state is supposed to be demilitarized, why is it so vital for Israel to see its army "sit along the Jordan River?" If such a tripwire is really necessary, why shouldn't a reliable international force carry out that task? And how can hundreds of isolated settlements spread amid a hostile Palestinian population ever be considered a strategic asset?

Netanyahu should, perhaps, have studied the lessons of the 1973 Yom Kippur war on the Golan Heights before denouncing Obama's idea. When the war started, the first thing the Israeli army command sought was the evacuation of the area's settlements, which Israel's generals knew would quickly become an impossible burden, and an obstacle to maneuver, for their troops. Indeed, the last war that Israel won "elegantly," in the way that Netanyahu imagines wars should be won, began from the supposedly "indefensible" 1967 lines.

That is no accident. Israel's occupation of Arab lands in that war, and its subsequent deployment of military forces amid the Arab population of the West Bank and close to the powerful military machines of Egypt in the south and Syria in the north, exposed it to Palestinian terrorism from the east. At the same time, occupation denied Israel's army the advantage of a buffer, the demilitarized zones were the key to the 1967 victory against both Egypt and Syria.

For borders to be defensible, they need first to be legitimate and internationally recognized. But Netanyahu does not really trust "the gentiles" to supply that type of international recognition of Israel's borders, not even when the United States is behind him, and not even when Israel today has the most powerful military capabilities in the Middle East.

The son of a renowned historian who served as the personal secretary of Zeev Jabotinski, the founder of the Zionist right, Netanyahu absorbed from childhood his father's interpretation of Jewish history as a series of tragedies. The lesson was simple: The gentiles cannot be relied upon, for Jewish history is one of betrayal and extermination at their hands. The only remedy to our fragile existence in the diaspora lies in the return to the Biblical Land of Israel. Our Arab neighbors should never be trusted; hence, as Jabotinski preached, the new Israeli nation must erect an Iron Wall of Jewish power to deter its enemies forever.

To be fair, such an existential philosophy was not the right's monopoly. The legendary General Moshe Dayan, who was born in a socialist Kibbutz on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, was no less a skeptic about the chances of coexisting with the Arabs. A gifted orator, this is how he put it in a eulogy to a fallen soldier in 1956:

"Let us not be deterred from seeing the loathing that is inflaming and filling the lives of the hundreds of thousands of Arabs who live around us. Let us not avert our eyes lest our arms weaken. This is the fate of our generation, this is our life choice, to be prepared and armed, strong and determined, lest the sword be stricken from our fist and our lives cut down. We are a generation of settlers and, without the steel helmet and the cannon's fire, we will not be able to plant a tree and build a home."

Yet the same Dayan, who in 1970 said, "the only peace negotiations are those where we settle the land and we build, and we settle, and from time to time we go to war," was forced by cruel reality to admit that the best security, to which Israel can aspire is that based on peace with its neighbors. Eventually, he became the architect of a historic peace with Egypt. His book "Are We Truly Condemned to Live by the Sword to Eternity?" marked the transformation of the soldier into a statesman.

If Netanyahu is ever to lead a historic reconciliation with the Palestinian people, he should start by endorsing a courageous, almost post-Zionist insight reflected in Dayan's 1956 eulogy. Fully aware of the bitter legacy of Palestinian disinheritance following the 1948 war, Dayan refused to blame the murderers. On the contrary, he understood their "burning hatred."

Unfortunately, Israel today has a prime minister with the mentality of a platoon commander who nonetheless likes to cast himself as a latter-day Churchill fighting the forces of evil bent on destroying the Third Jewish Temple. Of course, a great leader must always have a sense of history. But, as the French philosopher Paul Valery put it, history, "the science of things, which are not repeated," is also "the most dangerous product which the chemistry of the intellect has ever evolved," especially when manipulated by politicians.

Menachem Begin, a hawkish predecessor of Netanyahu as prime minister, once had the insolence to say to the great historian Yaakov Talmon, "when it comes to the 20th century, I am more an expert than you are."

Talmon responded with "The Fatherland is Imperiled," a pivotal article whose conclusions are as relevant today as they were in 1981. Not until occupation ends, Israel lives within internationally recognized borders, and the Palestinians recover their dignity as a nation will the Jewish state's existence be finally secured.

*Shlomo Ben Ami, a former Israeli foreign minister who serves as vice-president of the Toledo International Center for Peace, is the author of 'Scars of War, Wounds of Peace: the Israeli-Arab Tragedy.' This piece was provided by Project Syndicate, at







For a while, I have been writing about who played what roles in past coups, who applauded coups and why, and even how, coups were stimulated.

All hell broke loose. I was accused of betrayal and stigmatized as a "partisan." I couldn't care less.

I know I am writing the truth, the one I lived right inside.

I know because I am a person who has produced documentaries of and written books on all past coups. Moreover, I am not blaming anyone. I am only saying, "We were raised that way." I am not clearing myself and incriminating others.

I am making an observation.

It is not a huge disclosure of unknown facts.

I wrote things every one of us knew.

That we believed in everything the state told us. To hold the General Staff above democracy, above politicians. I mentioned whenever we wanted the power to change, we wrote articles saying: "Dear general, the country is falling apart. Where are you?" And we automatically carried the cassettes, photographs and stories serviced by the military to screens and headlines without questioning much.

Are these lies?

Do you want me to list one by one? 

You wouldn't. You wouldn't like it.

Instead of turning up your noses and blaming, at least keep quiet and like me, say, "Yes, I was thinking that way on that day but now, the circumstances in Turkey and the world have changed. I have changed also," and be at ease.

Do not be afraid of the realities and the truth.

I am watching the AKP now

Come and let us all look at the era in front of us. It was the wish to design a Turkey according to them and the wish to protect and maintain this system with the Constitution and laws of the secular segment that formed the basis of past coups.

Today, the equilibrium has changed. We are the minority now. "The other Turkey" has become the majority. And now, a new constitution will be prepared after the elections.

We should be watching the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, and the new constitution. Will it repeat the same mistakes the secular segments have been doing for the past 65 years, or, on the contrary, will it open the Constitution to all segments? Will it be able to make a constitution for all of us after consulting everybody including Kurds, secularists and the pious?

Or will it try to create a Turkey that will make the secular segment experience the difficulties they had to go through for years?

We should stop the AKP from making this error. If we do not want to see new instability and coups in the future, we should watch the AKP closely.

It should be the officials, not Abbas Güçlü, paying the price 

I was very scared when the prime minister, though not naming him, openly accused Milliyet writer Abbas Güçlü saying, "He will pay for this." Unfortunately, the fact that the prime minister of the great Republic of Turkey was almost targeting a journalist, talking as if he were threatening him, is unfortunately no longer a surprise for us, but it does create concerns for many. If the prime minister is so intolerant toward criticism today, what will happen to us when he retakes power with a landslide victory? 

What has Güçlü done?

He pointed out the mistakes of the Student Selection and Placement Center, or ÖSYM, in these examinations and criticized it from the field of education – of which he has been an expert for years. Even the prime minister admitted ÖSYM chief Professor Ali Demir was incapable of managing this job. It was far from being convincing to libel Güçlü's articles as a "policy of attrition" and saying he would pay for this. If there is anybody needing to pay for this, that person is certainly not Güçlü, but Demir.

Where does media freedom stand?

The real unfortunate side of this reprimand of the prime minister is that it appears at a moment when freedom of speech and freedom of the media are being discussed the most in Turkey and journalists are being held behind bars for unconvincing reasons.

With this approach, the prime minister almost denies the arguments saying, "There is total freedom in the country." The discourse saying the government is not oppressing the media is losing ground. 

Just as U.S. Ambassador Francis J. Ricciardone said using the Turkish expression, "Bu ne perhiz, bu ne lahana turşusu" – an expression used to indicate someone whose behavior seems contradictory.

If Güçlü can start a campaign by himself and convince all of us, the head of the government should not question Güçlü but his own team.

These types of discourses, the judicial view of the media and the general approach of the government are also making me increasingly scared.






There are times when it is hard to defend your own opinion because the people with power put great pressure on you. Turkey is going through such times.

However, there are some things that are so obvious that many people can find the courage to step up and not bow down to authority. The recent bans on the Internet have become one of these issues. Regardless of the government's pressures, thousands of people gathered to protest the new legislation of filtering, which will be effective as of Aug. 22. They could do it because there is no doubt the government is going to use filtering for its own causes and limit our freedom. I was very happy that finally the citizens remembered their power over the government. Many columnists joined the cause as well.

However, the day I read Akif Beki's column about the recent developments on the Internet bans I was shocked. Beki, a former spokesman for Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, is a columnist for daily Radikal. In his May 17 column, Beki insults the people who demonstrated for free Internet last Sunday. He openly suggests that all of the demonstrators were porn-loving Republican People's Party, or CHP, supporters who do not know what they want. According to Beki, those who are against the filtration of Internet are unable to think for themselves. He goes further to say that the protesters are backward-thinking.

He is not the only one who thinks we are a bunch of freaks. The ex-Transportation and Telecommunication Minister Binali Yıldırım said that saying filtration is censorship is "the same as saying our children shouldn't be protected against involvement in child porn." He stated anyone who writes or talks about censorship will have to face him. I beg him to face all the people who are fighting for freedom. Then we will see who is right.

Some newspapers took a stand against freedom lovers as well. Yeni Şafak wrote the protests were organized by Internet security firms who are afraid of losing large amounts of money if the government filters the Internet for free. However, they ignore the fact that TTNet, the largest ISP in Turkey, already provides filtration services for free.

I do not understand how a basic thing such as not wanting the government to filter and monitor all Internet communications can be turned into a crime. But it shows us that we are on the right track if it made so many people so angry. The people who oppose free Internet always talk about sex and child porn when we rise against them. Somebody should tell these people that it is not about porn, it is about freedom. If we give the government the authority to censor at its own will, there is no guarantee it will not exercise its power in an abusive way tomorrow.

The same people who suggest that we are porn freaks also say we would be free to choose the type of filtered Internet we want. Therefore, they say, there is no need to demonstrate as we will be "free to choose how we want to be filtered."

I say they can call me a porn freak. I say the real freedom is to be able to choose not to choose. And I know that despite people like Beki, the protests will go on.







After the assault on PNS Mehran, one of the most successful militant strikes in over four years, the million-dollar question on everyone's mind is: if bases and high-value assets aren't secure, is there a guarantee Pakistan's nuclear assets can't be attacked, and successfully? During a news conference on Tuesday in Kabul, even Nato Secretary General Rasmussen acknowledged being concerned about the safety of Pakistan's nukes. New WikiLeaks cables also reveal intense US monitoring of Pakistan's nuclear programme. Is this alarmism justified? First the technical answer: not really. The weapons are under the control of the army's Strategic Plans Division, which ensures their protection following international standards of command and control. Security at the nuclear bases is much tighter than at the Mehran base and the weapons are kept in bunkers guarded by over 10,000 soldiers and monitored by the SPD's independent intelligence section. Staff at the facilities goes through extensive political, moral and financial checks as well as psychological testing and the 2,000 scientists working in ultra-sensitive areas are closely watched round-the-clock with security monitors. Also, warhead cores are physically separated from their detonation components and the warheads electronically locked to ensure they cannot be detonated even if they fall into the wrong hands. Finally, while the Mehran facility is on the premises of a large air base that borders residential and commercial areas, the nuclear facilities are isolated and access to them infinitely more difficult.

On the political front, alarmism about the safety of Pak nukes can be read as a way for the world, particularly the US, to add pressure on the Pakistan government. This is counterproductive and will add fuel to suspicions about US designs and increase antipathy toward America in Pakistan. However, what is important is that even if our installations are hundred percent safe and the world's concerns completely unjustified, attacks like the one in Karachi do legitimately shape fears and create the perception that the Pakistani state is weakening and collapsing. This encourages not just more unilateral operations but also serves the militants set to exploit tensions between Pakistan and the United States in the wake of the Abbottabad raid. In order to control alarmism around our nukes in particular and our commitment to countering terrorism in general, we need to put our own house in order. Targeting militant elements selectively is too dangerous a game to play for a nuclear-armed state. Also, the debate, both in Pakistan and around the world, should be less about the safety of Pak nukes and more about the intentions and future of the custodians of these nukes, the Pakistan army.







With every passing day, we become increasingly aware of the kind of revenge we are in for, following the killing of Osama bin Laden. The latest attack – once again on a security target – has taken place in Peshawar where a suicide bomber rammed a vehicle packed with explosives into a police station located on the busy University Road, killing at least six and injuring 28 others in an explosion that rocked buildings across the city. As was expected, the Tehrik-e-Taliban has claimed responsibility. The strike that claimed Osama's life may have been carried out unilaterally by the US but the price is being paid by Pakistan and its people. The question to ask is: Do Pakistanis have the capability and the capacity to defend themselves? Grave doubts have been raised about this over the last few days, and this is largely the result of the failure to bring law and order under any kind of control over the past many years. The country has heard nothing of substance from Interior Minister Rehman Malik – whose ministry bears the principal responsibility for checking the downwards spiral turning into complete chaos that is apparent now.

The hopes that had arisen a few years ago of an improvement in the situation or of a return to peace have long faded and, right now, things look grimmer than ever before. It is also now clear that the Taliban have no intention of showing mercy. They have no qualms about killing helpless people or destroying the assets of a country of which, technically speaking at least, most of them are citizens. The question is: Do our government and security agencies have any plans to tackle this situation? So far, there is no evidence that there has been any solid thinking in this regard. There is just a deepening sense of panic, as the Taliban strike again and again. Will the DCC come out with a comprehensive plan in addition to the much repeated rhetoric?







As a continuation of the plan recently announced by Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif to raise desperately needed revenue from the country's own resources, the Punjab government, according to a report in this newspaper, has decided to levy additional taxes on the rich. This comes as a marked change from the usual practices that squeeze the poor and the salaried without mercy – raising utility rates indiscriminately. Measures that aim to make the wealthiest in society pay more will be welcomed by many who see the injustice inherent in the existing system under which financial hardships have been heaped onto those least capable of bearing them.

The steps that the Punjab government is reported to be considering include taxes on the owners of farm houses measuring over four kanals, those who have swimming pools in their homes, and those with multiple sources of income, including agricultural land and industry. We hope that the new taxation proposals can be fairly implemented. In the past, many with influence – members of government included – have used it to evade taxation. Given the pressing need to climb out of the existing crisis, politicians need to step forward and set an example. Records of taxes collected from them in recent years are laughable. The new proposals are encouraging – provided that the means can be found to ensure that they are enforced in a just fashion and that additional resources acquired are genuinely used to benefit the country and its people. We hope these reports are not just empty boasts aimed at deriving political mileage without any real substance.








As a continuation of the plan recently announced by Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif to raise desperately needed revenue from the country's own resources, the Punjab government, according to a report in this newspaper, has decided to levy additional taxes on the rich. This comes as a marked change from the usual practices that squeeze the poor and the salaried without mercy – raising utility rates indiscriminately. Measures that aim to make the wealthiest in society pay more will be welcomed by many who see the injustice inherent in the existing system under which financial hardships have been heaped onto those least capable of bearing them.

The steps that the Punjab government is reported to be considering include taxes on the owners of farm houses measuring over four kanals, those who have swimming pools in their homes, and those with multiple sources of income, including agricultural land and industry. We hope that the new taxation proposals can be fairly implemented. In the past, many with influence – members of government included – have used it to evade taxation. Given the pressing need to climb out of the existing crisis, politicians need to step forward and set an example. Records of taxes collected from them in recent years are laughable. The new proposals are encouraging – provided that the means can be found to ensure that they are enforced in a just fashion and that additional resources acquired are genuinely used to benefit the country and its people. We hope these reports are not just empty boasts aimed at deriving political mileage without any real substance.








Today our country is dysfunctional and sleepwalking toward disaster. A pall has descended on the nation and we are fast approaching Arthur Koestlers' Darkness at Noon. The tragedy is that each man feels what is wrong, and knows what is required to be done, but, with the exception of Imran, none has the will or the courage or the energy needed to speak up and say 'enough is enough'. No more drone attacks. No more American interference in our internal affairs.

The country has been humiliated but it is business as usual in the corridors of power. If we absolve these people who put us here, we cut off any chance to learn from the Abbottabad debacle. We need to place the blame where it belongs. Otherwise, they will do even more damage in the days to come.

Once we were the envy of the developing world. That is now the stuff of nostalgia. We seem exhausted, rudderless, disoriented. Our great dreams have given way to a corrosive apprehension, fear, uncertainty and frustration. Today most youngsters graduate directly from college into joblessness.

It is like a nightmare in which you foresee all the horrible things which are going to happen and can't stretch out your hand to prevent them. Such is the feeling conjured up by corrupt, inept rulers of Pakistan as it enters a period of great uncertainty and sinks deeper and deeper into the quagmire.

It is torture to live in an un-republican republic. Today Pakistan, a camouflaged, thinly disguised civilian dictatorship, is a land of opportunities, heaven for a handful and hell for countless millions of poor people.

The American footprint in our country is growing larger and heavier by the day. Nuclear Pakistan is now an American colony and is used as a doormat on which the US can wipe its bloodstained boots. American military personnel criss-cross our border without let or hindrance. Their drones violate our air space with the agreement of our government and kill innocent men, women and children. No questions asked. No public outrage. No country-wide protest demonstrations. No self-respecting country, big or small, would tolerate such intrusions.

Were politics in our country burdened with such notions as shame, integrity, accountability, rule of law, and last but not least, inviolability and supremacy of the constitution, all of them including Musharraf, would be in jail today.

All the pillars of state, with the exception of the Supreme Court and the media, are dysfunctional. The president, the symbol of the unity of the federation, is mired in corruption, totally indifferent to public welfare and is interested only in protecting himself and his ill-gotten wealth. Parliament, the so-called embodiment of the will of the people, is fake like a Potemkin village. Its "stunning" performance fascinates only a few enlightened souls; whereas nine out of ten Pakistanis are totally indifferent and unaware of its existence. Quite a few members of this august body are fake degree-holders.

Today all the symptoms which one had ever met within history prior to great changes exist in Pakistan. The country appears to be adrift. Nobody knows where it is headed without wise and mature leadership to guide or direct it. We are on the verge of a political collapse. The social contract between the government and the people has collapsed. The dialogue between the rulers and the ruled has broken down.

How will this crisis pan out? Either this is a cyclical crisis in the system and it will soon resolve itself, or it is a crisis of the system and we will soon witness the passage of one epoch to another. Whether the distortions, conflicts and resentments that exist in our society today are peacefully resolved or explode in revolution will be largely determined by two factors: The existence or absence of dynamic democratic institutions able to redress grievances through legislation and the ability of intellectuals to transform a local fire into a nation-wide conflagration and fan the flames of social discontent and transmute specific grievances into a wholesale rejection of the existing order. One thing is certain. For anything to change in this country, everything has to change.

Where are the voices of public outrage? Where is the leadership willing to stand up. We have sullied ourselves enough. Why are we so passively mute? How can we be so comatose as a nation when all our political institutions are crumbling before our own eyes?

Today the survival of the country, its hard-won democracy, its independent judiciary, its liberties all are on the line. No one is safe, and perhaps no place on earth more closely resembles Hobbes's description of state of nature in which life is "nasty, brutish and short".

At a time like this, people detest those who remain passive and love only those who fight. In this transcendent struggle, neutrality is not an option. You're either with the people or against them. It is as simple as that. One thing is clear. The day is not far off when status quo will shift, corrupt, inept rulers will get their just dessert, and people will once again believe in the "power of the powerless".

The writer is a former federal secretary. Email:,








Throughout the Cold War the US projected communism as the greater threat than India to Pakistan's existence. Both in 1965 and 1971, the US "tilted" more towards Pakistan than India, when the chips were down we did not manage to get much more than tea and sympathy. With sanctions imposed after the 1965 war on both India and Pakistan, India's armed forces got off scot-free, being equipped mostly with Soviet- or European-origin arms and equipment. Almost wholly dependant upon the US for its military supplies (an ally in both Cento and Seato), Pakistan not only had to scrounge and diversify, it was also forced into self-sufficiency when the sanctions put us repeatedly out in the cold every ten years.

Despite the Indians' "non-aligned" status and Soviet connections, the US became India's largest supplier of arms and defence equipment because of the 1962 India-China war. Despite this US largesse (which nearly included submarines to fight the Chinese in the Himalayas), India, for all intent and purposes, remained very much on the side, if not an active part, of the Soviet bloc throughout the Cold War. Who did they give whole-hearted support to during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan? Ambassador Chester Bowles subsequently laid the groundwork for stated US policy for the future with his famous memo dated May 25, 1965, supporting "democratic" India as a regional power to take on China, even at the expense of Pakistan. The collapse of the Soviet Union saw India starting to change tack. 9/11 allowed them to seize the opportunity to align themselves with the US desire to contain China. India used the "war against terrorism" to successfully label freedom fighters in Kashmir as "terrorists." The 26/11 Mumbai incident in 2008 reinforced Indian claims that Al-Qaeda had India in its sights along with the US. CNN provides a platform for motivated Indian propaganda. Fareed Zakaria uses this media pulpit to for this.

There is no deep-rooted perfidy in US policy towards Pakistan, as our conspiracy theorists insist on suggesting. It has not changed in half a century. The US economic and military aid to Pakistan is (and always was) on an "as required" basis. We are a platform for their war in Afghanistan and, because of that, a victim of the terror proliferating throughout our heartland. We should learn not to resent realpolitik. India's vast population makes it commercially more important than us. Even then, it was over violent Indian objections that the US stood its ground in keeping with its prime mission statement to protect US national interests no matter what. One has no reason to question US [resident Obama's sincerity in believing that the existential threat to Pakistan comes from the terrorists running amok and that we must rid ourselves of the anti-Indian mindset. Unfortunately, the Indian armed forces deployment seems to have escaped US attention, or maybe in pursuit of their national interest they are choosing not to look! We are forced to juggle our priorities and our forces to combat both the threats.

The Indian forces on, or in proximity of, our eastern borders is not a figment of imagination but a real threat to our existence. Deployed to support operations in Siachen and Kargil, the Indian 14 Corps is mainly facing China (an infantry and mountain division each and armoured brigade): (1) 15 Corps facing us in Kashmir has two infantry divisions and an infantry brigade, 16 Corps comprising three infantry divisions and an armour and artillery brigade with 9 Corps having two infantry divisions and three armoured brigades; (2) In Punjab 11 Corps has three infantry divisions and an armoured and mechanised brigade each with 10 Corps having one infantry and three Reorganised Plans Infantry (Rapid) Divisions; (3) Haryana has two (Strike) Corps with one armoured, one rapid and one infantry division with an armoured and engineer brigade each as well as an armoured and engineering brigade; (4) Rajasthan 12 (Desert) Corps having two infantry divisions and an armoured and mechanised brigade each.

Well positioned to swiftly reinforce these forces (already more than three times our conventional strength at maximum stretch) on our borders, the Indians further have (1) 21 (Strike) Corps with an armoured division, a rapid division and infantry division and one artillery, armoured and engineering brigade each; and (2) 1 (Strike) Corps with an infantry division, a mountain division and an armoured division and 21 (Strike) Corps with an armoured division, a rapid division, an infantry division and an armoured, artillery and engineering brigade each. In face of this overwhelming 4:1 superiority, some of our available forces to deter this favourable attack ratio have been redeployed for counter-insurgency (COIN) operations.

Facing Bangladesh and China the Indians have 33 Corps with three mountain divisions, 3 Corps with one infantry and 1 mountain division and 4 Corps with three mountain divisions. Their logistics plans are in place to move another 10-15 percent from their eastern borders to join the 70 percent of their land forces already facing us within 2-3 weeks. With redeployment of their air force's South-western command paralleling the army deployment, their air capacity has similarly overwhelming numbers.


Carrying out as many as 11 exercises in which 50,000 troops or more have been involved. Why is the Indian military trying so hard to operationalise its "Cold Start" Doctrine (CSD) against Pakistan for the last seven years? According to Masoodur Rahman Khattak, during the past month alone the Indian military concluded the six-day long joint military exercise "Vijayee Bhava" in Bikaner and Suratgarh in the Rajasthan Desert just 70 kilometres from the Pakistani borders. Blitzkrieg-type robust armoured incursions against Pakistan by mechanised and rapid divisions were practiced, emphasising rapid penetration into our territory and testing out their war fighting capability to launch night-time operations. India is placing eight Independent Brigade Groups (IBGs) close to the border with Pakistan to save mobilisation time and is further relocating its Strike Formation headquarters, armoured divisions and armoured brigades from their existing locations in central India and (in depth) in Punjab to forward locations. Having no strategic depth, Pakistan has its deployment close to our borders, the comparatively less time than India to deploy our forces offsets the element of surprise that CSD envisages.

Given the overwhelming numbers of the Indian deployment thereof, Pakistan should be forgiven for maintaining a minimum deterrent. To create a favourable environment maybe the US president could convince the Indians to publicly renounce their CSD option and redeploy even a token of their forces deeper into India. One would certainly like to have India as a friend, only peace can bring prosperity to South Asia. Can the country afford to take an existential gamble on Obama and Mian Nawaz Sharif coincidentally being on the same page with respect to their strategic threat perception that "India is not our enemy"? Can we declare India a "friend" when it persists in behaving as an enemy, and makes no secret about it?

What motive would the terrorists have in destroying Pakistan's naval eyes and ears capacity? Who is the sole beneficiary of the loss of our P3C-Orions making our navy temporarily deaf and blind? Are we expected to be dumb also?

The writer is a defence and political

analyst. Email:








The director general of Pakistan's key intelligence agency, the ISI, is reported to have stunned parliamentarians, his audience, when he expressed his readiness to resign over of the criticism levelled against the agency he supervises. This came at a time when the Inter-Services Intelligence was under fire for intelligence failures related to the Abbottabad operation, which was conducted to target the world's most-wanted terrorist, Osama bin Laden.

Reforms are a better option than resignations. If for nothing else, rectification should help politicians earn trust credit with regard to the intelligence agencies. This approach can in the long run remove the other fault lines.

The policy positions in Pakistan prepared after the raid on Bin Laden in Abbottabad tried to address the country's civil-military imbalance. This is a problem that often deepens over security-related issues. It took the top decision-makers several days to come forward and own up a statement that condemned the intelligence failure behind our inability to trace Bin Laden and to be alerted to the US choppers that entered Pakistani territory. The joint session of the two houses of parliament was briefed by the relevant military hierarchy, including the director general of the ISI. Misgivings of the political leadership were meant to be removed at the session.

The civilian government and the military leadership tried to appear on the same page regarding the Abbottabad operation, but the political opposition did not. Interestingly, the opposition's wrath, or the wrath of the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), is directed more against the military than against the government in power. Not only did former prime minister Nawaz Sharif refuse to attend the joint session, but he set aside the idea of formation of a military commission, on the grounds of the military being a party to the dispute. (As of now, two commissions including one led by parliament, is going to probe the matter.)

The unwillingness of the Nawaz League to support the ISI during the so-called testing times is the result of the tense relationship between the politicians and the intelligence apparatus.

While intelligence agencies around the world have to eat dirt in the external environment, it needs no reminder that the criticism of Pakistan's intelligence agencies, not least its primary external agency, the ISI, isn't heard of in the international galleries only. The agency has generated more heat than light when it comes to political leaders who take exception to its interference in political wheeling and dealings. The not-so-secret joint session is reported to have been an occasion for sharp, critical and probing questions about the ISI. These questions compared the agency's efficiency at political manipulations at home with its ineffectiveness in its operations on foreign soil.

However, calculation of any political loss attributed to the intelligence agencies can be based on the power equation between the political class and the military echelons. In a country with a history of mistrust between civilians and military, the operational subservience of an intelligence agency to one of two players goes to the political advantage of one of the players. It applies as much to the Intelligence Bureau as to the Inter-Services Intelligence. To present an argument that is not so hypothetical, if it were not the ISI, it would have been another agency that the politicians targeted to denigrate and malign.

The above reasoning may lead many people to say that the civilians are contesting the space of the agencies purely for political reasons. True, but the same scale is enough to measure the distance of all players, including civilians, from the real work of the external agency: information gathering in the external domain, or, to put it simply, foreign policy.

In their political point-scoring, both sides, the intelligence apparatus and its domestic critics, deprive a key foreign policy instrument of input. What needs to be absorbed is that the national policy framework will remain questionable if an instrument extending foreign policy doesn't enjoy open support of the civilians, should Pakistan want to be a parliamentary democracy. It is therefore imperative for us to work out the rationale for reforms, and the way they are to be carried out.

It has never been as critical as now for Pakistan and its society to bridge institutional gaps, because this is a time when terrorism has truly become a threat to the country's very survival. The division of agencies along administrative and geographical lines, originally meant to increase efficiency, can further increase the already crushing bureaucratic workload. Pakistan is already under the burden of the civil-military divide. These go to the advantage of the terrorists, who are also known as non-state actors. The most dangerous thing about the terrorists is that they can cross boundaries between states and provinces at will.

Little wonder, then, that every time there is a major security hazard related to terrorism, such as the attacks on the General Headquarters and the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore, both in 2009, officials have been dissatisfied about inaction on the information that had been provided in the days leading up to the attacks. Regarding the Osama bin Laden mess-up, the director general of the ISI was not wrong in saying that other agencies, such as the provincial law-enforcement apparatus, must also share the blame. The result: more distrust.

While the real issue may be the trust deficit, institutional responses can certainly facilitate the bridging of the gap. They also have the potential of laying the groundwork for revisiting the larger problems, such as how can civilians assert their position on the country's foreign policy.

The writer is a graduate in International Relations from Boston University. He teaches foreign policy and is an independent analyst. Email:







THE writer is a freelance columnist and former newspaper editor

So what do we have today? We have a state within which very little seems to be right. The PNS Mehran catastrophe has left us all shaken. There is still uncertainty surrounding details of the incident such as how many militants were involved in the attack. The possibility that they had inside help only adds to the sense of terror we all feel.

After a ten-hour marathon session, parliament has essentially accepted the superior role of the military in the scheme of things. In the tribal areas, things are as chaotic. The lack of access to these parts makes it impossible to know what the inhabitants of the tribal areas really think – although it seems quite obvious that their real priority is simply to find peace and get rid of the militant groups that disrupt it.

On another note, the energy crisis has brought people out onto the streets in Multan and elsewhere and for many, the economic losses suffered as a result have brought them close to breaking point.


Perhaps to cope with all this, we have built a kind of fortress of dreams around ourselves. This consists of conspiracy theories that border on insanity and are built around the idea of a false patriotism, set up on the strength of the notion that forces of all kinds are working against Pakistan.

The idea that something could be wrong with ourselves is not one we seem to be able to face up to. Instead, we are ever ready to lie and deceive, perhaps hoping someone will believe us if we keep repeating these lies long enough.

The media, desperate to put out stories that 'sell' goes its own way promoting ideas which are sensational but not necessarily true. The western media is just as guilty as its less experienced Pakistani counterpart when it comes to engaging in this questionable practice.

Our inability to look inwards is startling. Except for a tiny fringe theatre and film set-up, we rarely explore what is happening within a society torn apart by violence. Few films address real issues.

Yet just like the scenario depicted in Iranian director Asghar Farhadi's award-winning film, 'Nader and Simin: A separation' our society is also subject to social stratification that grows more extreme by the month.

The film, a family drama, subtly explores the contrast between ideas held by 'intellectuals' and the traditional beliefs rooted in religion that are held by poorer Iranians. We too have similar divides, made more complex by a class gap that grows wider and wider every passing day.

A tiny but influential, elite lives – much like its counterparts in the West – largely oblivious to the conditions in which a majority of people in the country live, or in fact, hover on the edge of survival. Some fall over the edge committing suicide to escape poverty or giving in to the temptation of crime which lures in increasing numbers of young people everywhere.

We need to attempt a reformation. The real question is how this is to begin, and whether it is too late to succeed. The answers can come only if there is an attempt to put things right and move a few steps forward rather than engaging in the endless, often inane rhetoric we hear too often.

Change, if it is to come, should really start at the school-level, ending a destructive cycle that, notably since the 80s, has produced generations of people brain-washed into believing in all kinds of twisted notions about religion, about our geographical neighbours and about gender roles.

The stereotypical content of school-books has changed only slightly since those days. Even today, children are taught to think of India as an 'enemy' country and of non-Muslims as lesser human beings.


The question also is not just one of text-books but of equal opportunity. As things stand today, the pre-school a child attends determines his or her likely place in life in the years ahead. The government school system has collapsed to a point where it seems impossible to imagine anyone emerging from it being able to hold his own against the products of elite private schools.

There are, of course, exceptions. But these are few and far between. Then, just to add to the whole unpleasant mixture that is never likely to produce a palatable cake, we have thousands of madressahs operating in cities, towns and villages everywhere. So far there has been no serious effort to end this multi-dimensional element to our education system.

There is little doubt that we need to resurrect the public-sector schooling system and ensure that it is able to meet at least the most basic needs of pupils. At present, this is not the case. Teacher absenteeism is high, the standards of learning low, and pass rates in exams at all levels dismal.

It is not just the quality of education but also the kind of thinking that goes with it that is creating problems. We need to use our schools to produce thinking, tolerant individuals, who are able to look at their country realistically and will help put an end to the frenzied violence within the country.

The future of the madressahs in particular, needs to be thought about very, very seriously. All attempts at regulating them have failed. We need to ask why they exist at all and what impact they have on society as a whole.

If we can change the environment in our schools, and also make children more conscious of the needs of others who share social space with them we would be taking a giant stride towards dismantling the ill-built structures that have crept up across our country and replacing them with others that are sturdier, more practical, and more pleasing to the eye.

It is important that we do not wait any longer to bring about such changes. We need to straighten out our system and produce a new generation of people who are able to look at it fairly and consider what has gone wrong.

This is the first step towards establishing a state within which citizens are willing to work for, rather than against, each other, and by doing so, building a viable order which is not likely to disintegrate into chaos every time a new challenge of some kind crops up.








Each one of us has a role to play in defining and defending the future of Pakistan. Given the present circumstances, we move between hope and fear, and between optimism and pessimism, and we find it difficult to distinguish between friends and foes. We are confused at best and indifferent at worst.

History teaches us lessons but we don't learn and the result is that history repeats itself to our disadvantage. We need to rise to the occasion and try to understand the dynamics of a nation – its rise and fall, its strengths and weaknesses – in order to know where we are and where we ought to be.

Pakistan at present stands at a crossroads; its nuclear capability, its huge population, its geographical position and, most importantly, its ideological foundation make it the centre of gravity for the whole world.

But at the same time, political instability, religious intolerance, and economic dependency keep the country in a state of despair.

The question of whether Pakistan will be safe has no answer in "no" or "yes." It all depends on what we sow today.

We, as a nation, are living in an environment where the family, schools and other institutions are elements shaping our personalities. More specifically, we make sense of the world by using the lens provided by our surroundings.

When we see that corruption pays, when we hear that might is right, and when we observe that wealth is the measure of success, we will have no choice but to follow the trend of the times.

The future of Pakistan depends on our actions today. If we want it to be a safe place to live in, our leaders (not the political leaders alone), at home, at school, and in the society at large, must do what they can to clarify the essence of Pakistan to the youth, through their own actions.

Mere rhetoric will not suffice to make Pakistan a strong and progressive country. In other words, the leaders must be role models for the youth to emulate. Pakistan is rich in human and natural resources; the problem is a persistent leadership crisis.

The youth in Pakistan, like anywhere in the world, can move mountains – they can do wonders – if they are able to understand what lies ahead and are prepared for it.

Unfortunately, what happens today to the youth is making them weapons of mass destruction. Extremist tendencies, shaped by a narrow worldview, have pushed Pakistan into fire.

Also, our blindly following liberalism is making the youth renounce our roots. Both extremism and liberalism make Pakistan what it was not destined to be.

Teachers have a heavy responsibility to shoulder. They are the builders of nations. They can infuse the spirit of patriotism, honesty, tolerance, and humility in students, in addition to imparting knowledge which enlightens their hearts.

They can develop students to be responsible citizens and true Muslims. Pakistan can no longer afford to live with shortcuts.

The writer is assistant professor at FAST-NU, Peshawar. Email:









AN investigative report carried by this newspaper on Wednesday has brought to surface some of the hitherto unknown dimensions of chilling terrorist attack on PNS Mehran base in Karachi. It reveals that the entire plan was conceived and executed by foreign elements with apparent guidance and financing by agencies of one or two hostile countries.

Though Minister for Interior Rehman Malik is always quick to lay blame on TTP or Lashkar-e-Jhangvi for reasons best known to him and in this case too he linked the incident to TTP and a meeting held in Waziristan but the way the attack was meticulously planned and professionally carried out speaks volumes about who were behind it. It is beyond the capacity of the poorly trained and equipped local militants to carry out such sophisticated attack as we witnessed at the naval base. The information pieced together by Pakistan Observer indicates that three of the attackers appeared to be from Uzbekistan having full knowledge of the area and technically updated in urban warfare. This shows that Central Asian youth are being trained by foreign intelligence networks for conducting high profile attacks inside Pakistan. It is also believed that some of the attackers also belonged to Balochistan, which again confirms involvement of the foreign hand, as there are substantive reports of foreign involvement in training and arming youth from Balochistan for carrying out subversive activities. Apart from inflicting damage to Pakistan by destroying valuable P3C Ordion aircraft and creating sense of insecurity, the objective of the attackers was to target Chinese present at the base. Luckily, the agencies concerned moved swiftly in shifting the foreign nationals to safer places, which foiled designs of the enemy to create bad blood between Pakistan and China. Here we may point out that in view of the extreme lawlessness and free for all activities of the foreign agencies, neither government nor security agencies can deliver without complete backing of each and every citizen. It is, therefore, our responsibility to exercise greater vigilance to counter designs of the enemy.








NOW it is no secret that the ultimate objective of those who are trying to soften Pakistan is to portray the security issue in such a dreaded manner that it creates justification for making demands for hand over of the country's nuclear assets to the custody of the United Nations. Already, officials privy to relevant developments claim that the United States has long been demanding joint supervision of such assets, a demand firmly rejected by Pakistan for obvious reasons.

The latest statement of NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, made in Kabul, also lends credence to such apprehensions. He expressed confidence that Pakistan's nuclear weapons were safe but added that security had become a matter of concern and 'we are following the situation closely'. Western media is also spreading rumours and confusions in a bid to paint a negative picture about safety and security of Pakistan's nuclear assets. Reuters has also jumped into the fray by conjecturing that naval base attack could be a blueprint for nuclear base raid by terrorists. The enemies are indulging in venomous propaganda despite the fact that Pakistan has one of the finest command and control system in place, which is thought to be more elaborate and perfect than some other nuclear states. The idea that terrorists could attack and get hold of a nuclear weapon is absurd in the sense that these weapons are not in a deliverable form at the shelf. Different components of the device are scattered over different places and well protected. However, the real issue is not the security of these assets but the nuclear capability of the country itself, which is a sore in the eyes of some countries who want to see Pakistan denuclearized. We have repeatedly been emphasizing in these columns that the enemy could target our nuclear installations and sites to paint a doomsday scenario about our nuclear assets. Relevant authorities must exercise highest possible vigilance and there should be zero tolerance for any suspicious movement or activity in and around our nuclear sites. We are saying this because despite several attacks on naval targets, no extraordinary security was put in place for protection of naval installations, a weakness exposed by attack on PNS Mehran.






THE Indian government has forced Economist Magazine to cover up a map in its latest edition showing disputed borders in Kashmir which reflects a hostile censorship in a country which is never tired of claiming to be a secular democracy. Indian customs officers ordered that 28,000 copies of the newsweekly must have stickers placed over a diagram showing how control of Kashmir is split between India, Pakistan and China.

Editor in-chief of the Economist John Micklethwait took a very serious notice of the Indian stance and commented that India is meant to be a democracy that approves of freedom of speech but they took a much more hostile attitude on this issue than either Pakistan or China. The map was used as an illustration for a front page story on the world's most dangerous border between India and Pakistan emphasising the need for the solution of the decades old dispute. The covering of the Kashmir map with stickers would not change the ground realities as the State is recognised world over as a disputed territory till the Kashmiri people decide their future through a free and transparent plebiscite in line with the UN resolutions. But the Indian censorship negates its tall claims that there is freedom of speech and expression in the so-called world's largest democracy. Many wise and sensible voices in India saw no point in taking this decision as the stickers would cover the Kashmir map in India only while the world over people would go through the map and the news story with more curiosity and thus further highlight the Kashmir issue at the international level through censorship. India will not be able to suppress the struggle of the Kashmiri people and the international media from highlighting the dispute. It would be appropriate for the leadership and policy makers in India to accept the ground reality and allow the Kashmiris to exercise their right to plebiscite as that is real democracy rather than suppressing and victimising the people through deployment of more than seven lakh troops.








This is the era of 'regional organizational' politics, or so one is led to believe. Instances abound. We have the European Union that has gone far towards settlement of its regional issues. ASEAN is often cited as a success story. Why then is this approach not successful in our part of the world? Why, it may be asked and with reason, have the organizations that Pakistan belongs to not taken off the ground? Does the fault lie with us or the fact that this happens to be an accident-prone region?

Pakistan is a member of SAARC, ECO and on a larger plane of the OIC. It would be interesting to note the reaction of these organizations to the flood-related crisis in Pakistan. The OIC reaction was nothing better than a belated – and somewhat lame – statement that went largely unheeded. SAARC and ECO did not go even that far! In the present piece, one would devote attention to only SAARC.

When India announced its donation for flood relief, it was done on a bilateral basis. Since this given out as humanitarian gesture, it should have been accepted immediately at face value. The fact that a response was delayed unnecessarily allowed interested parties to play politics with the issue. It would have been preferable if this had been avoided. In this context, it must be added that all unsavory controversy could have been avoided if the Indian offer had come under SAARC auspices but this was not to be, considering that this organization has tied itself up into knots for reasons that are not difficult to fathom.

SAARC as a regional grouping appears to have failed to live up to its promise. Not only has it been a singular failure in efforts to add an economic dimension of note to regional ties, its record in regional planning and problem-solving has been pathetic.

What can one say about an Organization, summit after summit of which is completely over-shadowed by the prospect of side-lines meeting between two of its member states? Meetings on the side-lines of international conferences are a part of the multilateral diplomacy culture, but to move the limelight away from the Summit itself to a now-on-now-off meeting on the sidelines is hardly fair either to the spirit of SAARC or, indeed, to the host nation.

Looking at the last SAARC summit, should the members not have bent their energies to issues of vital concern to the region as a whole? It is true that references to bilateral issues are discouraged. But, then, there are several issues that are no longer of purely bilateral concern. The issues of 1) natural disasters; (2) apportionment of waters; 3) sharing of energy resources; 4) preservation of environment; 5) education for all; 6) poverty alleviation; as also extremism and terrorism are, or at least should be, of common concern. The need to pool resources to face natural calamities in one or more member states hardly needs to be over-emphasized.

No member of SAARC should have the license to squeeze the water supply of another member. Pakistan has had water issues with India for quite some time. Should SAARC have allowed such a vital matter to be swept under the proverbial rug on the excuse that it is a 'bilateral issue'? Now that Afghanistan has been admitted as a member, it would need to be ensured that flows of waters of the Kabul River into Pakistan are not tampered with. But will it and will SAARC intervene if it comes to that?

Despite agreements, commerce and trade among member states within the SAARC region is hardly anything to write home about. A comparison with other regional groupings, such as ASEAN, shows up SAARC in very bad light indeed.

The transit trade agreement between Pakistan and Afghanistan could very well have been negotiated within the framework of SAARC. In order to bring the economic and commercial ties on an even keel, SAARC should take it upon itself to regularly set targets and then to monitor progress.

Many countries of the SAARC region are energy deficient. A cogent and well thought out energy sharing plan could go a long way in ironing out the kinks. For this to happen, a healthy environment of self and mutual help is imperative. This is conspicuously lacking. Energy sharing could well provide the cement to bind member states together. Conservation of the environment is also a matter of common concern. To take just two examples: The Siachin stand-off between Pakistan and India threatens an ecological disaster of gigantic proportions due to the imminent danger of melting of the glacier due to the activities of armed forces of the two sides in the area. The Maldives faces the looming threat of submersion posed by global warming. Should SAARC not take cognizance of these potentially explosive issues and then follow up on its decisions?

'Education for all' and 'poverty alleviation' are two issues on which a lot of hot air is expended in SAARC meetings and forums, but regretfully all to no avail. It is high time that the powers that be in member states start taking themselves seriously on these and allied issues.

Last, but by no means the least, is the matter of eradication of extremism and terrorism from the region. If the member states deliberate on it with the seriousness it deserves, they will find this malaise to be more wide-spread than is generally recognized. In fact, a majority of the member states of SAARC suffer and bleed from this affliction. If it is recognized and tackled betimes as an issue of common concern, it may be more amenable to a solution to the satisfaction of all.

All in all, SAARC is being held hostage to the tension created due to the non-settlement of the contentious issues between its two largest member states. A regional organization cannot be divorced from the fallout due to bilateral stresses and strains between members. As the two largest members, India and Pakistan bear a heavy responsibility for the stupor that SAARC finds itself in at this period in time.








In wake of Obama's statement that US will attack "high value" target in Pakistan, there is a need to adopt "Apketa: nation, nation now or never" policy to permanently end Washington's meddling in Pakistan and uphold national interests. Apketa is a Greek word, which means enough. The Greeks used the slogan to ouster west backed Dictator George Papadopoulos in 1973. Every year on 25th of November, Greeks hold protest marches to commemorate the uprising against Papadopoulos. For the last 37 years, they start the march from technical institution and disperse after protesting in front of American embassy to honor their nation's struggle for dignity, freedom and end foreign control. Islamabad should therefore scrap infamous Kerry-Lugar Bill, scrap 7000 visas, end military cooperation, and bring US diplomatic presence to single digit.

The attack on a naval setup in Karachi is a reaction to the strengthening of Pakistan's relations with other countries in the region. It is a reaction to agreed Pak-China economic, military and cultural agreements. Reportedly, Islamabad is being arm twisted to maintain pro-Washington policy because Islamabad nudged Kabul to abandon Washington for Beijing, to counter emerging China in the region and control energy resources of the world (US needs strong military to protect trade routes, 23 May, local media). The reports of deliberations on Gwadar between Islamabad and Beijing including its projected use by the Chinese warships have blow to west's strategic balance in the region. It will allow transportation of Middle Eastern oil and natural gas overland to Western China freeing Beijing to avoid US dominated critical chokepoints in Persian Gulf and Straits of Malacca. Karachi Naval Base attack is not an act of terrorism but an attack on regionalism and stall Golden Age of Asia.

Thawing of Pak-Russia relationship will support "Asia's Century". It will help materialize the strategic plans of linking ME oil and gas to Europe through Pak-China-Russia route, which in turn will bring an era of peace, prosperity and stability for Pakistan. Russia is already exporting gas to China and start of $4.6 bn Sino-Russia Oriental Refinery shows growing convergence of energy interests of Europe and Asia. As part of "Look East policy", Russia's Gazprom has been allowed to work in Saudi Arabia. Riyadh is therefore positive about Pak-China-Russia energy corridor, which opens an alternate oil and gas route to Asia and Europe. Beijing is the second largest consumer of Saudi oil. Its realization will free Gulf States from west's hegemony. The targeting of Saudi Consulate and its staff therefore has more to do with protecting west's geo-strategic interests in the region than showing it as an act of terrorism.

The establishment of Pak-China-Russia energy corridor will break Europe's traditional support for America and disintegrate EU and NATO that thrives on security and energy interests of the small European states. Cognizant of the unfolding development's in Asia, Washington is using so-called war against terrorism (SWAT) to protect its economic, energy, trade and military interests (Pax Americana, 23 May, China Daily). Obama is already in UK to form joint National Security Body to tackle world challenges on long-term basis (23 May, The Guardian). With France already on its side, Washington is trying to resurrect Cold War. Infamous Cameron is sacrificing sick, orphans and old on the alter £30 bn controversial defense project despite strong public opposition. Washington's refusal to scrap its missile program in Europe despite Moscow's stern warning shows that peace is not a priority of America. Beijing is therefore right in strengthening SCO, ASEAN and formally warning America in unequivocal terms that any attack on Pakistan would be construed as an attack on China.

On the legal front, Islamabad needs to need to adopt multipronged approach to end American unilateralism and downright disregard for international laws and conventions. Islamabad should take up cases against American political, military and intelligence leadership in ICC. The UN Charter prohibits its member states from attacking other UN member states. UNHCR has condemned drone attacks and called them violations of Pakistan's sovereignty and international laws. Ban Ki-moon should therefore uphold UN laws to protect Pakistan against illegal American attacks, which are "crimes against peace" and violate basic spirit of Nuremberg Trials (Chapter 7, UN Charter). Obama's address to AIPAC is yet another example of his unilateralism in which he rejected recognition of independent Palestine state by the UN that would help bring peace in ME, recognize Israel, return of millions of refugees and fight poverty.

Islamabad with help of judiciary, civil society and media should help victims of human rights abuses to access the US federal courts under the Alien Torts Claim Act to bring American political, military and intelligence leaders and their allies to book for their alleged roles in renditions, human trafficking, tortures, drone attacks and meddling in state institutions including judiciary. Moreover, Islamabad, Kabul and Iraq must demand US Congress to pass Civilian Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act (CEJA) to prosecute American contractors and federal employees for their overseas crimes. Today, there is no law in America to bring such Americans to book. People like Kerry and Munter are bluffing Pakistan with respect to US spy legal proceedings.

At the macro level, Washington and its allies are colluding to deconstruct 3rd world state structures, sovereignty, economy, education, judiciary and politics. In his work, "The Darker Nations" Prashad writes that after the 1973 oil embargo the Library group (G-7) decided to put the 3rd world in their place. Bilateral trade has replaced collective negotiations powers of the commodity produces, corporations get to set prices of commodities instead of their producers and workers. Written contracts have replaced unions to deny workers their due rights. Developing states are being forced to scrap subsidies resulting in poor economies and literacy. The UNSC was made the executive authority instead of General Assembly to scuttle the interests of 3rd world states.

The book "Egypt in the Era of Hosni Mubarak" by Galal Amin shows how west destroyed affluent Egypt of 40s in next seven decades. Thus, the developing world is systematically being destroyed while being told that it is being saved from famine and brought freedom and democracy.

In wake of US court entertaining Mumbai drama, Islamabad needs to pass the dual nationality bill tabled in National Assembly to uphold Pakistan's constitution, end Musharraf era protectionist policies and protect Pakistan's national and security interests. Similarly, as part of international jurisprudence, Pakistan's judiciary, academe and media should analyze events of global importance in national interest. There is need to bring to book all those who are responsible for millions of deaths in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, Kashmir, operation of Phoenix in Vietnam, bombing of Cambodia, Jallian Wala Bagh (April, 1919). The statement of Gen. Dyer's to Hunter Commission inquiry in which he said that he would have used machine guns if he could have got them in the compound.

West's disdain for 3rd world, is evident in airport pat downs in America, virginity tests of 3rd world women on Heathrow, and discriminatory employment and visa policies. Finally, history shows that insolated challenges however serious cannot deter a state from pursuing its national interests.

It should scrap Musharraf era's financial, military and foreign policy deals with America including (its) support for SWAT. Instead, Pakistan should strengthen its relations in the region and develop its resources including Gwadar, establishing of rail and road links with China to usher in Asia's century. Bring culprits to ICC to end to evil and darkness. It is will of the world. Similarly, Kabul should also make its choice between dignity, independence and peace, or eternal subservience and darkness. It is now or never.







Book Review

Name of the book : Hayat-e-Nau

Author : Khurram K Siddiqui

Reviewed by : Hina Iram

Publisher : A R Printing Press,


Pages : 160

Price : Rs 150/-

Literature can never be di vorced from life. Both life and literature have indispensable relation with each other. Life with all its manifestations is a raw material for literature. According to the classical tradition of literature, "Literature is a mirror to life". A literary writer whether he is a poet or a prose writer has a unique vision of life, his hopes, his feelings, his ideas and he adds to it his direct and indirect experiences of life while creating literature.

A poet gives his ideal vision of life after finding an order in the chaos and humdrum of daily incidents. A poet is gifted by God to see beyond what meet the common eye and to harmonize and synthesize it in a cohesive and charming pattern of the arrangement of words which other may also grasp and appreciate. He must first harmonize his inner world with the outer realities and then should give something new with which his readers may also identify themselves. The combination of experience of life, harmony of objective and subjective truth and the deep sense of aesthetics and tradition is what constitutes the finest poetry.

If we analyze the history of world poetry in general and Urdu poetry in particular, we shall discover that only those poets have survived the test of time who have managed to absorb the tradition and the new experiences of their times with effortless ease and then blended it with the balance of their inner and outer self and the aesthetics while composing poetry.

The great poets like Rumi, Homer, Virgil, Dante, Chaucer, Spencer, Donne, Goethe, Iqbal, Neruda, Faiz and others not only represented the ethos of their times and the realities of their age but also discovered new horizons of inner aspect of human existence. By striking a balance with their purely spiritual to emotional experiences and their times, they have discovered the universal principle of common existence. The reader of every time and age may relate to them and may find the reflection of his own self in them at one place or the other.

Khurram Khiraam who has published his first collection of his Urdu poetry Hayat-i-Nau seems to be aware of this governing principle of literature. Therefore, he writes in his preface: "To be poet is not to be devoid of action, it is infact the most responsible and sacred activity and this duty is entrusted to the chosen ones" and "I have absorbed the light of the luminaries of world literature, mysticism, and the direct experiences of outer and inner spheres of my existence and then after passing through the rigours of the process of art, have expressed whatever I felt like a true creative writer."

We find a freshness of vision yet not exotic engulfing us when we pass our eyes through the beautifully composed Ghazals by him. The freshness of diction, unique lyricism, and fresh themes tinged with deep social and political insight take us into a new world of wisdom and delight. Urdu Ghazal as we know is the most ancient and stubborn literary genre of Urdu poetry. It has been the most representative and esteemed means of poetic creations in Urdu literature from Wali to Meer and Ghalib and from Iqbal to Faiz and Faraz, Nasir Kazmi and Munir Niazi .

All of them made their unique mark in this genre. It is very difficult for any new Urdu Ghazal poet to avoid repetition of themes and diction and the influence of these great masters mentioned above and to produce an original and impressive Gazals. It is impossible without being consciously aware and a part of tradition and then carefully avoiding the style and themes already expressed. By expressing the old themes in modern, colloquial and rough and odd way which most of the Ghazal poets are doing today is not originality.

The originality lies in both thought and style. Khiraam has managed to do exactly the same thing. He has not only produced original themes but also in a unique lyrical style.

Like his Ghazals Khiraam has broken new grounds in Nazam as well. He has sensibly included variety of genres in his first collection of poetry. We find the major forms of Urdu Nazm like Paband Nazm, Azad Nazm and Nasri Nazms(Prose Poem) in the book. This not only adds variety to the book but also gives him opportunity to explore new and unusual themes characterized by modern sensibility. His poems are tinged with the social and political themes, romance, resistance and the philosophy of life. While dealing with the theme of love Khiraam has harmonized his personal experience of love with the collective experiences and has expressed them in various formats not loosing the grip of inner lyricism ever.

His poems life Kuch Kehnay say Pehlay, Amad ,Zara Si Bat, Who Aankhen Muntazir Hain, Puranay Mosmon mein Aik Mausam Hay ,Naseeb, Moon Soon and Valentine Day deal with theme of love realistically. The reader not only relates himself with these poems but also get some deep awareness in the nature of love.Lurking out from the corner of the door

Dumb and speechless

Like an integral part of the scene

A faint figure

Glimpsing through the mirror of eyes

Shrinking into the heart and then spreading

Like an exotic season

Waving and twisting

On the pathways, homes and mansions

Dancing barely

Strumming with the drum beat

Hovering before your and my eyes

A faint figure

The scenario of my era

Each attractive prospect of my future

Past already covered by the dust of amazement

My unison with you, Your hands in mine, Everything is merely a faint figure

(Translated by Hina Iram)

To conclude we can term Hayat-i-Nau by Khurram Khiraam a significant milestone in the tradition of Urdu poetry which is deeply rooted in tradition and at the same time brimming with the freshness of vision and new sensibility.







During 9/11 when the first aero plane hit the twin towers the news flashed all across USA was "a plane accidentally crashed into twin towers", after one minute when the second plane hit the towers the headlines read "USA is under attack". How much will it take for us to make same assertions, Pakistan is in for a roller coaster ride, the rodeo cow boys on the side lines. The one minute which changed Uncle Sam forever is the literally defining moment which defined the 21st century. Pakistan is still waiting for its minute of changing the perception the way Pakistanis think.

Psychological makeup is one thing which is very much attached to the human genome; nations are catalogued in history as per this index. Are Pakistani people from a lower breed, which is non reactive even to the utmost of prodding events. Euro-Asian stock is otherwise famous for the traits well kept. The attack on naval base at Karachi and its aftermath is going to dictate the demeanor which this nation will adoubt in this comity of nations. Pakistan is under attack from all the four directions, rather five. The Mehran naval base was the symbol of strength and maritime avarice of a professional and proud force. Admirality at all stages demand prudence, cause the behavior otherwise, will land you nowhere. Mahan the thinker on maritime strategy and workable philosophy proposed that it is eventually going to be the navy of any nation which will decide the place of a nation in the world pecking order. Another thinker, the Mackinder even further upped the ante by adding the importance of land mass in the vicinity of the coast.

On the fateful day of 22nd May Pakistan lost its Mahan and Mackinder. Loss of men and material is colossal, loss of dignity and pride is unfathomable. Rags can be repaired but tags when attached are there to stay. Pakistan is what, a country between rags and tags, or a nation in search of direction. A president of a Swiss bank gave simple yet poignant remarks that "Pakistanis are poor people but Pakistan is not a poor country." A country with all the endowments of nature, supportive weather system, hardworking people and the ideal geography is a combination which only few enjoy in this world. The menace of terrorism is spreading. It is about to devour the state itself, by mere firefighting these Davey Johns will not go away, there has to be a comprehensive policy on counterinsurgency and counterterrorism.

A difference has to be between these two. Naval base as an icon of Pakistan's sovereignty came under attack. Two P-3C Orion aircraft were destroyed, the weapon known as the force multiplier. It is a long range surveillance and anti submarine aircraft (Westland lynx and sea king are equally capable Pakistan navy helicopters but with limited endurance). Who has tried to denude 1,046 km of coastal line and the outreach of Pakistan into Arabian Sea? Who is the beneficiary of this Shakespearian Murder? Big brother, India.

The probable aim of these attacks was to achieve the duel objective of mitigating the capability of navy and discrediting the armed forces as the savior of nation. The armed forces of Pakistan are always taken in high esteem due to its perennial sense of loyalty to the nation few sporadic incidents of some adventurous (ambitious) generals cannot lower the same even to a single notch. Scenario builders are deliberately creating an atmosphere of ambiguity, woven around their search to ascertain that whether this was a breach of security or a security lapse, buddy how can you breach without lapse, so forget about the academic non essentials and concentrate on the substance.

Pakistan is under attack, wants to play ostrich or desirous to give a monolithic response. Countries when formulate foreign policies apply three principles; one, policy should have high aims, the idealistic approach; second the policy should cater the ground realities, the realist approach, thirdly the policy should be humane, without hubris, the altruistic approach. Pakistan is left with Hobson's choice, formulate a counterinsurgency and counter terror policy in the light of three principles of foreign policy.

What Pakistan needs the most today is slogan given by father of the nation i.e Unity, Faith and Discipline. These words never resonated with such an appeal before all the state institutions both formulated under statute and outside it have to unite in response, what can be a better response than the display of loyalty, which the poor country is demanding from every denizen. Rise or fall for ever. Mend the rag or wear the tag. Whatever, it has to be done immediately, time is not only running out it is also running away.








Better education, particularly among mothers, is widely associated with better health. Experiences in several countries have shown the power of education to increase the nutritional levels and the health status of the poor. Girls' education is one of the most effective investments a nation can make toward development and better health.

In urban India, for example, it has been found that the mortality rate among the children of educated women is almost half that of children of uneducated women. In the Philippines, primary education among mothers has reduced the risks of child mortality by half, and secondary education by a factor of three.

A study in rural Ghana on health-protective behaviours related to HIV/AIDS infection among adults found that more educated individuals practiced more protective health behaviour, thus decreasing the risk of contracting infection.

In addition, those living in poverty and suffering from malnutrition show a higher propensity for contracting a host of diseases, a lower learning capacity, and an increased exposure and vulnerability to environmental risks. Poor children frequently lack stimuli critical to growth and development.

Poverty cannot be defined solely in terms of lack of income. Little or no access to health services, lack of access to safe water and adequate nutrition, illiteracy or low educational level and a distorted perception of rights and needs are also essential components of poverty. Poverty is one of the most influential factors for ill health, and ill health — in a vicious cycle — can lead to poverty. Education has proven to be critical to breaking this cycle.

Poverty and health are linked. Illness impairs learning ability and quality of life, has a negative impact on productivity, and drains family savings. Poor people are more exposed to environmental risks (poor sanitation, unhealthy food, violence, and natural disasters) and less prepared to cope with them.

Because they are also less informed about the benefits of healthy lifestyles and have less access to them as well as to quality health care, the poor are at greater risk of illness and disability. It is estimated that one-third of deaths worldwide — some 18 million people a year or 50,000 a day — are due to poverty-related causes.

More than 1.5 billion people in the world live in extreme poverty, 80 percent in developing countries. Poor people have little or no access to qualified health services and education, and do not participate in the decisions critical to their day-to-day lives.

Those who live in extreme poverty are five times more likely to die before age 5, and 2½ times more likely to die between 15 and 59 than those in higher income groups. The same dramatic differences can be found with respect to maternal mortality levels and incidence of preventable diseases.

The level of education in relation to health is particularly important among women. In addition, education for women is closely associated with later marriage and smaller family size. Increased income alone cannot guarantee better nutrition and health because of the impact of other factors, notably education, environmental hygiene and access to health care services, which cannot necessarily be bought with increased income in the developing world.

Several strategies can be used to improve the access of mothers and children to educational opportunities as a way of improving their health status. National governments, particularly in developing countries, have to establish education — including the education of the parents — as a priority, and provide necessary resources and support. Interventions should be targeted to vulnerable groups such as those with lower income or with less access to adequate food. At the international level, lending institutions have to implement debt-reduction policies for those countries willing to provide increased resources for basic education.

Although an important goal is to reduce economic inequity to improve the health status of populations, emphasis on education can provide substantial benefits in the health of populations even before reducing the economic gap between the rich and the poor. The writer is a public health consultant for several international organizations.

—Courtesy: The Japan Times








Australia boasts one of the most astonishing opera houses in the world, on one of its most beautiful harbours, so it makes sense to exploit both in what promises to be a ravishing cultural experience. Opera Australia's announcement of a three-week season of La Traviata -- on the water -- is ambitious and exciting, with every chance of becoming a world-class event. With premium seats going for $350, next year's Opera on the Harbour is pitched squarely at international tourists but its packaging as entertainment and a big night out -- and some seats priced at $85 -- mean its appeal will be much wider. Indeed, the performance of a classic opera where the Sydney Opera House and the city itself are part of the backdrop is likely to make this great, if sometimes intimidating, art form far more accessible to the public. All in all, it is an inspired move by OA artistic director Lyndon Terracini to extend the brand in a way that is truly Australian -- as well as turning a buck. Overseas broadcast rights should attract strong bids. At the famous Glyndebourne festival in Britain, it's black tie and champagne all the way. A dress code hasn't been specified for the local event, which will be performed on a showy floating stage off Mrs Macquaries Point, but if it stretches to Speedos, we would not be surprised.






NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell must stick to his guns and proceed with the rollback of the state's innately flawed solar bonus scheme if he intends to honour his election pledge to western Sydney and ensure "that western Sydney has equal opportunities to anyone else who lives anywhere in Sydney" . Under Labor's solar panel program, the battlers in outer suburbs whom the party once claimed to represent were made to subsidise the green aspirations of the prosperous north shore and eastern suburbs middle classes the party once despised. The battlers had the satisfaction of throwing the government out in March, but those unable or unwilling to grab the subsidy are still paying for Labor's folly through soaring power bills.

Mr O'Farrell is nervous, however, of alienating pensioners, farmers and low-income earners who are among the 110,000 households to have installed the panels. The government has promised "hardship payments" to ease their losses when the tariff paid to households generating electricity is wound back from 60c a kilowatt hour to 40c. Such concessions might ease the rollback legislation through the NSW upper house, where Mr O'Farrell will need the support of the Shooters Party and Christian Democrat MP Fred Nile.

But the Premier should be wary of making a bad situation worse by opening up an uncapped liability in the form of compensation. His central objective must be to slash the runaway costs of the program, which have blown out from $355m to $1.9 billion.

Research by the Productivity Commission, the Institute of Public Affairs and others has left no doubt that renewable energy programs are one of the main factors in soaring power bills, with the target of 20 per cent renewable energy set to push electricity generation costs up more than 30 per cent by 2020. Not surprisingly, the Greens, whose electoral base is professional elites in expensive suburbs and inner-city areas that formerly voted Liberal, or perhaps Labor if they work in universities, want the scheme retained and will oppose its rollback in the NSW upper house.

Such a position reflects the scant interest of Greens leader Bob Brown and his team in maintaining employment, productivity or curtailing the cost of living pressures faced by millions of ordinary Australians. Senator Brown's economic views are informed by his neo-Arcadian fantasy of phasing out fossil fuels as rapidly as possible in favour of renewable energy. The lesson from the solar panel scheme, however, is that while the wind and sun are free, turning them into electricity is not. The Greens' national feed-in tariffs scheme will mean that battlers across the country will be paying to satisfy the eco-vanity of Senator Brown's inner-city supporters. Nor does the Greens leader grasp the fact that it is kinder to the planet for China to burn high-quality Australian coal than dirty coal from elsewhere.

In his frustration over his forced cave-in to the government, which will set an initial carbon price much lower than the Greens' preferred $40 a tonne, Senator Brown yesterday unleashed a shameful harangue about Resources Minister Martin Ferguson, one of the government's better performers. The minister's head, he ranted, was "buried right in the industrial age . . . a pro-logger . . . a purveyor of huge, big, new coalmines which are against the interest of the planet".

But not the same planet that Senator Brown inhabits.






Wayne Swan's work ethic and parish-pump instincts have made him a good local member and party state secretary but they are not enough to get him by as the Treasurer of Australia. His inadequate grasp of the nation's second-most powerful job is apparent in his response to Western Australia's decision to hike mining royalties and thus increase the costs of the rebates that Canberra must pay to the mining companies under its mining tax proposal.

It is hardly the first time that the division of spoils has degenerated into a federal-state spat, but the Treasurer managed to kick an own goal and turn the attention away from the merits or otherwise of WA's claims to a question of his integrity, his judgment and his ability to negotiate with stakeholders. In the process, Mr Swan threw doubt on the budget of the resource-rich state that is driving the nation, calling it "dodgy" with a hole of "hundreds of millions of dollars". With about $150 billion of investment in the pipeline for WA, one would have thought the man charged with managing the national economy could have avoided talking down the powerhouse state.

Mr Swan has been accused of lying about not being told in advance about WA's decision to increase royalties by $2bn. The evidence suggests he had plenty of warning. He signalled a sympathetic approach to funding through the Grants Commission when WA raised some royalty rates last year.

Clearly, the Treasurer was looking for short-term gain last Friday when he suggested the higher royalties were a surprise. In doing so, he showed poor judgment, just as he did 18 months ago when he flicked through the comprehensive Henry tax report and pulled out a mining impost that, portrayed as a "super tax" on rich miners, helped destroy Kevin Rudd's leadership and severely damaged the Labor government. Mr Swan was playing "postcode" politics just as he did in the recent federal budget -- trying to redistribute money from the rich. In the tumultuous debate on that tax early last year, Mr Swan angered the miners by excluding company tax from his calculations of how much tax they paid. And he was embarrassed when it was revealed he had used a draft paper by an American PhD student and his supervisor to try to justify the tax.

Back when Malcolm Turnbull was leader of the opposition, the Treasurer was held to account -- although then prime minister Mr Rudd and then deputy Julia Gillard worked to protect Mr Swan in parliament. These days, Mr Swan often goes unchallenged. His opposite number, Joe Hockey, should have finished him off this week, but the opposition Treasury spokesman gives every impression he is struggling in this portfolio. Tony Abbott ought to take a cool look at Mr Hockey, who in the last election damaged the Coalition with his mismanagement of the costings of proposed cuts.

The Prime Minister argues that she receives no complaints from business about the Treasurer, but chief executives are notoriously gun-shy about challenging the government of the day. Privately, over lunch in boardrooms such as our own, the most regular complaint from business -- after anxiety about industrial relations laws -- is Mr Swan. Ms Gillard should take note.







THE good news about the effect of rising power prices on households is that the politicians are missing the point. The Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, is peddling his concerns over the slug the government's "great big new [carbon] tax" will impose on even the Weet-Bix in our breakfast bowls (about $0.0006 per biscuit). The Gillard camp, meanwhile, has found itself backed into a corner, devoting too much energy to defending the tax, and the $200 to $300 a year it will add to household power bills. In reality, multibillion-dollar upgrades to the power network drive the biggest power tariff rises, not a carbon tax. All this noise, though, distracts us from the main point. There is a simple and cheap way to offset higher costs - use less energy.

The International Energy Agency estimates global emissions could be cut 20 per cent by 2030 just by using energy more efficiently across industries, transport and homes. Efficiency is what the agency calls the "low-hanging fruit" of emissions abatement. Australia has made some efforts, such as energy-saving light bulb give-aways, new building regulations and even the maligned household insulation scheme. Yet a recent IEA survey ranked Australia last out of a sample of 18 nations in public spending on energy efficiency measures. A broad private-sector coalition is lobbying the government to set a national energy efficiency target, which is long overdue. However, the plan requires electricity retailers to help their customers cut usage. That would create a conflict of interest: no retailer of any product or service, electricity included, wants customers to consume, and therefore spend, less.

This does not mean a national energy efficiency scheme will not work or should not be pursued; only that incentives for retailers may need to be built into any scheme, as they have been in California. Water restrictions, water tanks and other water-saving devices achieved a 14 per cent reduction in household water usage Australia-wide over the drought years of 2001-2006. Measures such as turning off standby power, and running dishwashers and washing machines at night on off-peak power are simple. Even buying a new plasma TV cuts power use by between 30 and 40 per cent over the previous generation of sets. There is little doubt many homes could halve their electricity use to offset higher costs; particularly with targeted support for low-income families. However our electricity consumption figures reveal a large efficiency gap. Some households run on as little as 3-6kW of electricity a day, but the guzzlers still use about 45kW a day. That gap is worth investigating - and closing.





SYDNEY has lost Australia's Olympic swimming trials - to Adelaide, no less. An outcry would once have followed such a snub for the city that hosted the Olympic Games in 2000. But Sydney sank into complacency after the Games, allowing Melbourne and Brisbane to pick up the baton of drive and entrepreneurship in sport, culture and urban renewal. Lately, though, Sydney shows signs of seizing it back and rediscovering its dynamism - nowhere more than in its revival as the leading cultural and financial city.

The Sydney Writers' Festival, just ended, has grown from also-ran status to one of the biggest of its kind in the world. In the same expanding Walsh Bay cultural precinct, the Sydney Theatre Company has announced bigger profits and ticket sales for 2010. Some, but not all, reflect the pulling power of Cate Blanchett and Andrew Upton, the artistic directors. Blanchett's enthusiasm for putting her creative leadership back into the city that trained her as an actress shows her faith in Sydney's future; audiences have responded positively to her message.

Sydney's two leading public art museums are pushing ahead with ambitious evolutions. The Museum of Contemporary Art has secured $53 million to open a second building next March. About one-third comes from Simon Mordant, an investment banker, the rest from governments and private donors. The Art Gallery of New South Wales has unveiled the $35 million contemporary art collection of John Kaldor, a textile businessman, said to be the country's biggest private art donation to a public gallery. The Iemma state government gave $20 million so the gallery could expand its space, and the Belgiorno-Nettis family $4 million for its refurbishment. Both galleries' initiatives combine philanthropy, entrepreneurship and government support, the exact business model any global city needs to move ahead successfully. In the same spirit, Opera Australia is breaking free of the Opera House next year to stage Verdi's La Traviata on Sydney Harbour, an event certain to capture world attention.

And this weekend, Sydney will be the first Australian city to host an Asia-Pacific conference on international dispute resolution organised by the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators. It will help to cement Sydney's emerging role as a regional financial and professional services hub.

The author Patrick White once talked of the "cynical streets of Sydney". True, Sydneysiders are a sardonic lot about the city's shortcomings, often with good reason. But such cynicism sometimes obscures the city's capacity for reinvention of the sort our cultural and financial movers are taking on. Would that our political leaders could offer similar forward thinking.






FROM what might be called a narrow business perspective, James Packer's Crown casino group has scored an impressive coup with the hiring of former ALP national secretary Karl Bitar to manage its relations with federal and state governments. From Mr Packer's point of view, and that of Crown's shareholders, who could be better to conduct negotiations on the company's behalf with Julia Gillard's federal Labor government, in particular? After all, this is the man who until last month ran Ms Gillard's party and who last year played a key backroom role in facilitating Ms Gillard's leadership coup against Kevin Rudd.

But from a broader public interest perspective, the appointment is deeply worrying and points to the need for an overhaul of the regulatory regime that so weakly governs the lobbying industry.

By employing Mr Bitar as a full-time member of staff, rather than signing a contract with him or any one else to lobby on Crown's behalf, the company has neatly side-stepped rules that require lobbyists to detail their clients and meetings with government ministers on a central, public register. As a Crown employee, rather than a registered lobbyist, Mr Bitar will be able to meet cabinet ministers and ALP faction leaders and government backbenchers - the sort of people he had regular contact with and substantial influence over in his role as administrative and tactical leader of the ALP from 2008 until April this year - without the public having any knowledge of such meetings. The anti-gambling senator, Nick Xenophon, is right in his summing up of the situation: ''This guy has inside information about the government that Crown Casino has effectively just bought.''

The conflict between the interests of the individual business and the public interest is evident, and two public policy advances suggest themselves. First, the Federal Parliament and the states should broaden the reach of lobbyist registers to cover the activities of in-house as well as third-party lobbyists. The principle behind the registers - that the public should have at least some knowledge of the activities of paid lobbyists seeking to influence government policy - is sound, and it should apply to all lobbyists, not just those who work on a contract basis with a range of clients. Second, Australia should follow the lead of the United States and Britain by introducing so-called cooling-off periods, under which not only former politicians but former government advisers and party leaders are barred from exploiting their contacts in government for a period of several years. Such limits on the use of people's so-called intellectual property are routinely applied in the corporate world; they are all the more necessary when people move from senior positions in public life to private enterprise.

Such reforms will take time. In the meantime, it appears that Mr Bitar's first big assignment in his new job will be to try to persuade the federal government to abandon or water down its planned new law to require gamblers to set a prior limit on how much they are willing to lose on poker machines. The so-called pre-commitment law is designed to reduce the social damage caused by problem gambling. The extent of the problem is highlighted by the fact that Crown believes the proposed law could cost it as much as $145 million in the first year of operation. Some estimates put the potential losses to the gambling industry at $4 billion. The equation is simple: pre-commitment legislation will damage the bottom line of Crown and other gambling companies, but should reduce the damage done to people addicted to gambling. Labor claims to be the battlers' party. In the battle between the ALP and Crown on problem gambling laws, the public interest will be best served if Mr Bitar's former employer prevails over his new boss.





WHEN Premier and Arts Minister Ted Baillieu spoke at the launch of the National Gallery of Victoria's 150th anniversary celebrations earlier this year, he said that ''in many ways, the NGV's story is the story of Victoria''. The truth of that judgment is evident not only from many of the art works to be found in the NGV's display spaces, but in the relationship it has developed with the people of this state. Victorians have every reason to feel proud of the NGV, which is Australia's oldest public art institution and holds collections in its St Kilda Road and Federation Square galleries that few comparable cities could aspire to possess. That it does so reflects the generosity of many benefactors, but above all of the Felton Bequest, which since 1904 has helped the gallery obtain 15,000 art works, valued at about $2 billion out of a total collection worth $3.5 billion. Without the funds derived from Alfred Felton's £378,033 legacy, the NGV would be just another provincial gallery.

This week the bequest's trustees delivered a characteristically bountiful 150th birthday present. A $6 million array of presents, in fact. They include, as The Age reports today, Gennevilliers Plain, yellow field by the French Impressionist painter Gustave Caillebotte. But the greater part of the bequest's latest purchase - announced on Tuesday, the NGV's anniversary, by Governor Alex Chernov - consists of 173 works of indigenous art. They are a many-layered gift. Living Water, an exhibition of 107 paintings by Western Desert artists, can be seen at Federation Square, as can 63 shields from the 19th and early 20th centuries. The gifts also include three works commissioned in honour of the 19th-century indigenous artist William Barak, by Vernon Ah Kee, Brook Andrew and Jonathon Jones.

This is the NGV's biggest acquisition of indigenous art to date, and an astute choice: as the chairman of the bequests committee, Sir Andrew Grimwade, has said, ''We now realise that indigenous artists have transformed the way we see the land and the history of art in Australia.'' The gifts have also, however, drawn attention to a shortcoming of the NGV, though one arising from its success. Nine years after opening the galleries at Federation Square, it no longer has sufficient space to display its indigenous collection of more than 3000 works. It is time to build a new gallery for indigenous art, perhaps adjacent to the existing Australian galleries but certainly nearby. Arts Minister Baillieu, please note.








The challenge of declining influence is not the relationship between America and Britain, but that of both countries to the non-western world

They are a remarkable couple. The grandson of a Kenyan cook in the British army who was detained and brutalised as a Mau Mau suspect stood up before both houses of parliament in Westminster Hall and a proceeded to give them a lecture on leadership. He got rapturous applause. No less memorably, his wife took the pupils from a north London secondary school whom she first met two years ago around an Oxford college. She was inspirational, not least to her immediate audience. Here was a high-achieving woman who declared, without any reservations or compromise to her career ambitions, the centrality of motherhood and the importance of relationships and children to her as a mother.

For one brief day in this nation's political life, the truth about the special relationship or the educational prospects of students from ethnic minority backgrounds (who make up a tiny proportion of Oxford's undergraduates) receded to the symbolism of two people whose lives embodied the triumph of aspiration over reality. No other American presidential couple could have pulled off this trick or done it with such ease, warmth and passion. They did not stoop, but they did conquer. They are indeed potent ambassadors, and the adjectives we use about Britain's relationship with this particular couple – special, essential or indispensable – hardly seem to matter.

Barack Obama was no less ambitious in his message: that America and Britain still had the ability to lead the world, not by force, but by example, drawing on the strength of our common patchwork heritage which showed people could be united by ideals. He rejected the false choice between our interests and our ideals, between stability and democracy. At times this address came perilously close to being George W Bush's freedom agenda without George W Bush. As Mr Obama rightly acknowledged, democracy could not be imposed. It was a route that each nation on its own had to travel. Translating that message into policy, a variety of paths could be pursued. Will Mr Obama's administration be quite as comfortable with free elections in Egypt and Tunisia, both of which he promised to help with aid, if the primary beneficiaries of that representative process are conservative Islamists of the Muslim Brotherhood? Maybe it will, and just to reinforce its intent the Brotherhood is sponsoring a large number of Coptic Christians as its candidates. But move over just a few more inches on the map and see whether the same logic and the same universal principle applies to the elections that Palestinians will hold next year – elections which, if they go ahead, will be contested by both Fatah and Hamas. No, here you get a different response – the Palestinians have "hard questions" to answer.

It is up to the Palestinians to choose their leaders, and the most dispiriting aspect of the duel that was conducted in Washington recently between Mr Obama and the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, over the basis on which peace talks would start, was that this joust took place over Palestinian heads, as if their aspirations or reactions were incidental. In a few lines of a speech designed to present a positive roadmap to negotiations, Mr Netanyahu dismissed two of the three final-status issues that have been on the table since Oslo – the division of Jerusalem and the Palestinian right of return. He received 28 standing ovations from Democrats and Republicans alike in Congress. Has America's ability to mediate the Israeli-Palestinian conflict increased or declined as a result? Our betting is the latter.

As the stage now moves across the Channel to the G8 summit in Deauville, the challenge of declining western influence is not the relationship between America and Britain. It is the relationship of both countries to the non-western world. And that is whom Mr Obama should be addressing.





There is nothing to stop the PCC regaining a prominent role in issues of privacy - but that is best done by the collective will of editors

There was a significant, if little reported, intervention in the current storm over privacy injunctions this week with the appearance on BBC2's Newsnight of Baroness Buscombe, the chair of the Press Complaints Commission (PCC). She said directly that if Ryan Giggs had chosen the route of self-regulation rather than the courts, the PCC would have stopped the press from publishing the story of his alleged extramarital relationship. Lady Buscombe queried the public interest in the story and said that the PCC had "an almost 100% success rate" in stopping such stories when people approached it.

Her remarks are important, because they indicate that the love life of an errant footballer does not, in her view, meet the PCC's public interest test (of exposing crime or serious impropriety) – and suggest that the press's own regulator is in broad agreement with the Giggs case judgment by Mr Justice Eady. This is a very different narrative from the one being advanced in some quarters – that it is all the fault of out-of-touch and unelected judges.

Lady Buscombe's intervention is also important in the light of a letter from Lord Wakeham, a former Chairman of the PCC, in yesterday's Daily Telegraph. He argued that the intention of section 12 of the Human Rights Act (HRA) was that the PCC, not the courts, should be the main forum for resolving privacy matters and that the HRA now needs to be amended to limit the role of the courts "to dealing with issues that affect only public authorities and the state". In Lord Wakeham's mind, this would reassert the role of the PCC.

It is not clear whether Lord Wakeham has read the recent judgments in privacy cases, but the judges invariably do take account of section 12. In some cases there has been no attempt to argue any public interest. In one case the media organisations dropped their opposition to an injunction having heard medical evidence. So it is not clear that the PCC would have offered the press any more joy than the courts in some of the more notorious recent cases. In any event the PCC has much to prove, having acted so feebly in response to phone hacking.

The European convention requires governments to display that there are remedies when human rights are infringed – including the rights of individuals, and not only when the harm is caused by the state or public authorities. It is partly because the PCC was so ineffective in matters of privacy (including, it has to be said, under Lord Wakeham) that the courts' role has become more prominent. If the PCC wants to get back in the game there is nothing to stop it. But that is best done by the collective will of editors rather than rewriting the HRA.






It's time to find a different figure than the celebrated monarch when talking of judges and court injunctions

Throughout the recent agitation over court injunctions and Twitter, one celebrated figure whom even Schillings cannot attempt to rescue has repeatedly been defamed. It happened again in our letters column yesterday when a former tabloid editor declared that the judges involved "must surely now concede that they look like latterday King Canutes floundering to turn back the tide". While the Guardian would not seek to endorse all that was said and done by a monarch who in 1015-16 so brutally ravaged and savaged his way to the kingship of England, that does not make him guilty of the hubristic act so often imputed to him – his alleged command to the waves to recede at his royal whim. It's by no means certain that this incident ever took place. But most reputable historians, pondering the account left behind by Henry of Huntingdon, agree that if it did his purpose was to illustrate to his courtiers that forces existed that even a king as mighty as he could not hope to control. That these libels persist indicates the need for some alternative cliche appropriate in such instances. One obvious candidate might seem to be the case of the ostrich, burying its head in the sand rather than facing reality; but that will not do, since zoologists say that this is a smear invented by Pliny the Elder. Perhaps if his prediction for this coming October fails as miserably as his earlier prediction for May, the US evangelist who keeps requiring the world to end on a date that he stipulates might be best placed to fill the vacancy.








SINGAPORE — Much of central China along the Yangtze River is in the grip of its worst energy crisis in years. The electricity cuts for industry and households have been exacerbated by a five-month drought that has dried up rivers, reducing hydroelectric generating capacity and leaving many people and large swaths of farmland short of water.

It is a symptom of a key challenge for China in the 21st century. The world's most populous nation and second-biggest economy must make difficult choices between two vital resources, energy and fresh water. Both help drive economic expansion, grow food and raise living standards.

Coal-fired power plants produced 84 percent of China's electricity last month, followed by 11 percent from hydropower (down from 16 percent in 2009). Nuclear and wind generated only about 2 percent each of the country's electricity.

By 2020, China's electrical generating capacity is expected to double to 1,900 gigawatts (GW). At least 500 GW (around 500,000 big plants) will come from coal.

China's coal production, 3.15 billion tons in 2010, is projected to rise to over 4 billion tons by 2020. Its coal reserves are vast but they lie in arid northern and western regions where annual rainfall is sparse.

Coal mining requires lots of water for cutting, dust suppression and washing. So do power plants that burn coal. They consume roughly twice as much water as gas-fired plants.

Meanwhile, China's total water reserves have fallen sharply since 2000. Over the next decade, water consumption is forecast to rise from nearly 600 billion cubic meters last year to 670 billion cubic meters in 2020.

Of the 70 billion cubic meter increase, as much as 50 billion cubic meters will be needed by the coal sector. Where will it come from?

China's challenge highlights a wider problem. Global energy demand, especially in Asia, is rising fast at a time when many scientists are warning that climate disruption and extreme weather events are intensifying, due largely to the burning of fossil fuels and the cutting of water-conserving forests.

The World Policy Institute (WPI), a nonpartisan U.S. think-tank, says that the competition between water and energy needs is a critical economic, security and environmental issue that has not yet received the attention it merits.

Energy production, to make transport fuels and generate electricity, consumes large amounts of water and will take even more in future. In turn, providing water for agriculture, industry and home use needs energy. Pumping, conveying and treating water is highly energy intensive.

Steven Solomon, author of "Water: The Epic Struggle for Wealth, Power and Civilization," calculates that each day every person living in an industrialized nation consumes an average of four-plus tons of water. Of course, most of it is not direct. It is embedded in the food we eat, the products and high-tech gadgets we use, and the energy we need.

In the United States, agriculture consumes about 80 percent of total water use, a level also typical of major developing economies with substantial farm sectors. Of the remaining 20 percent, coal, gas and nuclear power plants account for an estimated one-fifth. The water is for cooling and to make steam that drives turbines to generate electricity.

A recent WPI study found that wind and solar voltaic electricity consume minimal water and are the most water-efficient forms of conventional or alternative electricity production. Yet they contribute only a small proportion of the world's electricity and will take time to scale up.

China, India and Southeast Asia have some of the fastest growth rates of power consumption in the world. A study last year by the World Resources Institute found that availability and quality of freshwater are rapidly declining in many parts of South and Southeast Asia due to population increase, rising demand and climate change.

India, the second most populous nation after China, faces critical water shortages in the next decade. Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam are expected to suffer localized water pollution and shortages, with climatic patterns shifting towards longer dry seasons with more concentrated bursts of rainfall and resultant flooding.

Yet over half the existing and planned generating capacity for major power companies in South and Southeast Asia is in areas considered to be short of water. Most of this capacity is coal and hydropower.

The best solution is to improve efficiency and conservation in using energy and water, and to control demand by raising prices. This is potentially unpopular and politically risky.

New technology could help. One of the "cleaner" coal systems, the integrated gasification combined cycle process, cuts coal plant water consumption by half, while also reducing carbon emissions and other pollutants.

Asia needs sustainable and well-integrated energy and water policies — sooner rather than later.

Michael Richardson is a visiting senior research fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore.







ANKARA — As the Arab Spring enters its fourth month, it faces challenges but also presents opportunities. Despite setbacks in Libya, Yemen and Syria, the democratic wave has already begun to change the Middle East's political landscape.

The national reconciliation agreement in Palestine between Fatah and Hamas, signed in Egypt on May 3, is one of the major results of this sea change. Other substantial developments are certain to follow — and Turkey stands to gain from them. Indeed, the Arab Spring strengthens rather than weakens Turkey's position in the Arab world, and vindicates the new strategic thrust of Turkish foreign policy.

Turkey's policy of engaging different governments and political groups in the Arab world has transformed Middle Eastern politics. Turkish officials have stated on various occasions that change in the Arab world is inevitable and must reflect people's legitimate demands for justice, freedom, and prosperity. Moreover, change must occur without violence, and a peaceful transition to a pluralist democracy should be ensured.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan sought to achieve this in Libya before the ongoing fighting in that country broke out. Erdogan's quiet, behind-the-scenes diplomacy sought to ensure a peaceful transition to a post-Gadhafi era. This gradualist approach complements Turkey's principled position on the need for reform in the Arab world, including Syria, with which Turkey shares a 900-km border.

Over the last decade, Turkey has developed different types of relationships with the countries of the Middle East, targeting improved relations with both governments and the public. Indeed, Turkey is probably the only country that has been able to promote relations at the two levels in the Arab world.

This engagement policy has paid off in several ways, in the process raising Turkey's profile in the region. Arab intellectuals, activists, and youth leaders of different political inclinations have taken a keen interest in what some describe as the "Turkish model." Turkey's stable democracy, growing economy, and proactive foreign policy have generated growing appreciation of the country's achievements, which has augmented its "soft power" in the region.

This is reflected in the Arab world's lively debate about how Turkey has been able to reconcile Islam, democracy, and economic development. That debate, more importantly, is about how Arab countries should restructure themselves in the 21st century. The growing gap between governments and people in the Arab world has become an unsustainable deficit — a point that has gained new significance as the Turkish experience has gained greater salience in these countries.

As the Arab Spring unfolds at different speeds in different countries, Turkey continues to urge Arab governments to undertake genuine reform. Arabs deserve freedom, security and prosperity as much as any other people, and Turkey stands to gain from a democratic, pluralist, and prosperous Arab world.

A democratic era promises to give the Arab world a chance to be the author of its own actions. It will also enable Arabs to develop a new paradigm for relations with the West, based on equality and partnership — a position that Turkey has come to symbolize.

Finally, Turkey's policy of engaging various actors in the Middle East — repudiated by some as controversial, extreme, and even terrorist — has played a significant role in bringing at least some of these forces into mainstream politics. Given the new political realities in Egypt, Tunisia, and the Palestinian territories, as well as in Lebanon, Libya and elsewhere, the more important of these actors are no longer secret or illegal organizations.

Simply put, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, the Nahda Movement in Tunisia, and Hamas in Palestine will all play important and legitimate roles in the political future of their respective countries. This means that Americans and Europeans will need to engage these groups publicly and directly, as Turkey has done. After all, they are now part of the emerging political order in the Arab world,

A democratic and prosperous Arab world will make Turkey's standing in the region stronger, not weaker.

Ibrahim Kalin is senior adviser to the prime minister of Turkey. © 2011 Project Syndicate






Special to The Japan Times

HONG KONG — Which of the following often used words is wrong — "Japan's the world's third biggest economic power"?

Clearly it is the use of the word "power." In the last week, there has been a major change at the International Monetary Fund with the enforced resignation of its managing director Dominique Strauss-Kahn and the scramble to find a successor

I have been looking in vain for a statement from Tokyo on how it regards the world's top financial job and who should fill it, or whether it is even aware of the problem. Japan is still the No. 2 shareholder in the IMF with 6.25 percent of the vote after the United States with 16.80 percent.

Nominations only opened Monday, but leading European nations are ganging up demanding that Christine Lagarde, France's finance minister, should succeed her compatriot Strauss-Khan and maintain the European monopoly and recent French stranglehold over the IMF chief executive's job. It now requires the unlikely event of the emerging markets countries getting together with Japan and the U.S., and agreeing and naming an alternative candidate for Lagarde to be stopped.

The IMF's predilection for secrecy continues. Under the new, supposedly fairer rules of the contest, the nomination of candidates — who "will have a distinguished record in economic policy-making at senior levels ... will have an outstanding professional background, will have demonstrated the managerial and diplomatic skills needed to lead a global institution" — continues until June 10.

Nominees' names will be revealed to the 24-member IMF executive board, which will draw up a shortlist of three, and only then will the shortlist be published. The executive board will meet the short-listed candidates and then go into its private huddle to decide, preferably by consensus. In other words, back-room dealing still rules.

European Union members and Switzerland have eight of the 24 seats, and have 34.28 percent of the votes. With U.S. support, the Europeans would have 53 percent if it came to a formal vote.

Leading think-tanks and bloggers have demanded the end of the European monopoly and suggested a raft of good non-European candidates. Nancy Birdsall at the Center for Global Development had the bright idea of sending an e-mail survey to all members allowing them to list the strengths and weaknesses and rank suggested candidates and even write in their own candidates. The Economist compiled a list of candidates, in which Lagarde lagged in 10th place with odds of 14 to one.

They were all too slow. Lagarde's steamroller was on its way. German chancellor Angela Merkel called Lagarde "distinguished" and "very experienced"; Italy's Silvio Berlusconi said she was a "great choice"; and after other Europeans had chipped in with their support, George Osborne, the U.K. chancellor of the exchequer, over the weekend claimed that Lagarde was "outstanding" and "Britain will back her."

Sadly, the international financial media are playing the European game like glove puppets. Columnist Wolfgang Munchau in the Financial Times led calls for continued European succession, with the bogus claim that since the biggest issues confronting the IMF are European, then the chief executive must be European. On this argument, during the 1997 financial crisis, the French head of the IMF should have resigned to let an Asian to take over.

The International Herald Tribune, the global edition of the New York Times, added its contribution with a front-page paean of praise to Lagarde, and not one but two pictures of her, one extending across four columns. No other potential candidate got such coverage

Wolfgang Schaeuble, Germany's finance minister, defended the deal in which the U.S. chooses the World Bank president and the Europeans, the IMF CEO. He more or less told non-Europeans to get lost with the argument that "After all, the U.S. and Europe pay far the biggest share of the contributions. It's like in a publicly traded company: those who hold the majority of shares will also get to name the chairman."

To accept Schaeuble's logic, why shouldn't the U.S., as the biggest shareholder of the IMF and World Bank, control both? If the fund and bank were mere corporate entities, China would surely be prepared to use some of its $3 trillion reserves to buy a bigger slice and make a takeover bid for both. But they are not supposed to be national playthings, but global institutions helping to promote a better world, dealing, respectively, with the finance and economic development issues of the global economy

Whoever takes over from Strauss-Kahn has to deal with a host of immense issues, which make the European debt crisis seem parochial. They include: global imbalances, including the potential for trade and currency wars; high unemployment levels; regulation of complex financial instruments to prevent future shocks and instability; economic development issues, especially financial liberalization, fiscal austerity and privatization; and governance and reform of the IMF itself.

That is why it is disappointing that the supposedly more open IMF rules don't allow open manifestoes or questioning of candidates on how they would deal with the hot issues, and how they would handle the demands of the big shareholders.

Nobel laureate Robert Mundell told me that for all the attention paid to the European managing director, more damage had been done to the IMF and to those countries unfortunate enough to have to borrow because of interference from the U.S. treasury, either through the U.S. first deputy managing director or directly, in demanding stiff conditionality. It is time for a rule prohibiting the top shareholders of the IMF from supplying either the CEO or the deputy.

The shareholders get their chance to make their views known at government and board meetings of the IMF. The managing director and her or his team should be free to formulate their policies professionally and without day-to-day government interference.

The one thing favoring a European as IMF head is that there is no European view on any of the burning issues.

Even among the French, Strauss-Kahn and Lagarde are very different: he with socialist concern about threats from widespread unemployment and rising inequality and the damage of neoliberalism; she, from the center-right and clearly of sterner stuff, has little patience with French penchant for philosophizing and declared that everyone needed "to roll up our shirt sleeves and get to work."

Lagarde, called a "rock star" of the financial world by Harvard professor and former IMF chief economist Kenneth Rogoff, does not drink alcohol, smoke or eat meat. She speaks fluent, lightly accented English from her 24 years in the U.S. culminating as head of law firm Baker and McKenzie. She has said that men, left to themselves, will usually make a mess of things, and that the financial crisis can partly be blamed on hairy-chested, testosterone-fueled trading rooms. On her office wall, she had a satirical cartoon of herself dressed in leather and cracking a whip to tame wayward bankers.

What does Japan think of this? Does anyone care?

Kevin Rafferty, a veteran journalist, was managing editor at the World Bank, the IMF's sister organization.






The perseverance that people in northeastern Japan have shown after the massive earthquake and tsunami devastated their communities March 11 has impressed many people around the world.

In Northeast Asia, anti-Japan feelings in China and South Korea seem to have receded since the catastrophe, thanks to Tohoku people's dignified behavior.

Under these circumstances, Prime Minister Naoto Kan held meetings with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and South Korean President Lee Myung Bak on May 21 and 22 in Fukushima and Tokyo. In a sense, the timing of the summit enabled Mr. Kan to gain politically by enabling him to take advantage of the postdisaster situation.

Even so, the summit has produced meaningful results although they are not grand-scale achievements.

In preparing the summit, Mr. Kan was apparently obsessed with the idea of enhancing his political image. There is the impression that Mr. Wen and Mr. Lee were cajoled to go along with Mr. Kan's notion of what the summit should convey.

On May 19, the Global Times, under the wing of the Chinese Communist Party's organ People's Daily, had criticized Japan in its editorial for not showing diplomatic courtesy during the planning stage of the summit.

On May 21, the three leaders visited the city of Fukushima, 60 km from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, where major nuclear accidents have caused radiation leaks and forced tens of thousands of people to evacuate.

Mr. Kan welcomed Mr. Wen and Mr. Lee at a gym where evacuees of the nuclear crisis are staying.

The three leaders taste-sampled local agricultural produce such as cherries, tomatoes and cucumbers — in a show crafted by the Japanese side to alleviate concerns that Japanese agricultural products are contaminated with radioactive substances.

Earlier in the day, Mr. Wen and Mr. Lee separately visited Miyagi Prefecture to visit disaster victims.

The meeting of the three leaders, held the next day at Tokyo's Guest House, started with a one-minute silent prayer for the souls of those who perished in the March 11 calamity.

Mr. Kan said Japan will use "revival from the disasters" as a chance to make Japan again a country full of vitality, pushing reconstruction by bringing in "vitality" from overseas countries and opening Japan to the international community.

In their joint declaration, the leaders "expressed our determination to bolster Japan's efforts to overcome this difficult situation through trilateral cooperation in various areas" — an encouraging promise for Japan, which is reeling after the catastrophe.

The declaration included a point, strongly desired by Mr. Kan, concerning efforts to minimize economic damage to Japanese exports from groundless rumors that products are contaminated with radioactive substances emitted from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.

The declaration stressed the importance of taking a careful approach, based on scientific evidence, to assure the safety of Japanese products that suffer from the effect of the nuclear crisis. Mr. Wen said China will partially ease restrictions on Japanese agricultural imports if Japan guarantees their safety.

The decision will apply to produce from Yamagata and Yamanashi prefectures, thus reducing the number of prefectures subject to the restriction to 10.

Mr. Wen also said China will cooperate with Japan to increase the number of Chinese tourists to Japan, which has plummeted since the March 11 disasters.

While these are welcome developments for Japan, Mr. Wen also expressed a hope that Japan will understand China and South Korea's worries about the release in April of highly radioactive water from Fukushima No. 1 into the sea.

Japan should seriously take his request to heart and disclose accurate information about the nuclear crisis without delay to both Japanese people and foreign governments.

On the issue of large-scale disasters, the three leaders agreed that if any of their countries is stricken by a such disaster in the future, the other two countries will offer their utmost support to the country, including dispatch of emergency rescue teams.

The leaders also agreed that experts from the three countries will visit the areas hit by the March 11 disasters for research. It is hoped that trilateral cooperation in disaster prevention will contribute to the lessening of friction between Japan and each of the two other countries.

On the economic front, the three leaders decided to accelerate the joint study on a trilateral free trade agreement with the aim of concluding the study within 2011, one year earlier than agreed previously. Talks on the FTA is likely to start in 2012.

A trilateral FTA would enhance cross-border economic activities among Japan, China and South Korea, whose combined gross domestic product accounts for about 20 percent of global GDP.

Mr. Kan should not forget the open and sincere manner in which Mr. Wen and Mr. Lee offered their helping hands to him at the summit. He must be careful not to waste the good will and the achievements attained at the summit.

Mr. Kan must carefully handle Japan's diplomacy toward China and South Korea. The seeds of friction, such as issues related to the Senkaku Islands and the Takeshima Islets as well as natural gas development in the East China Sea, still remain.








National bankers have again expressed great concern over the increasing foreign dominance of Indonesia's banking industry and the much greater freedom foreign banks enjoy in this country, in sharp contrast to the bureaucratic barrier and harassment Indonesian banks have been facing in their bids to open branches overseas.

According to the latest data, foreign ownership of Indonesia's banking assets has increased to more than 45 percent now from less than 20 percent before the 1997 crisis.

But we cannot simply blame the Finance Ministry or central bank for foreign banks' expansion here because that condition was partly the result of the 1997-1998 banking crisis that forced the government to nationalize virtually all major private and state banks.

When economic rationale and the need for good corporate governance eventually required the government to sell most of the nationalized banks to the private sector, it was mostly foreign investors or foreign banks that won the competitive bids — because of their financial strength and technical and managerial competence.

But we also should acknowledge that the entry of major international banks of high esteem contributed greatly to the development of good governance practices and banking expertise within our financial-service industry.

Good governance is vital especially for banks because they are not simply a business entity in the most ordinary sense, in view of their vital role as the purveyor of lifeblood (credit) for the economy and their fiduciary responsibilities.

This is why those who want to become controlling owners and members of the management and supervisory (commissioner) boards of banks must pass the "fit-and-proper" tests run by the central bank to assess their technical competence, business vision, philosophy and integrity.

All these supervisory and regulatory measures allow us to rest assured that it is not the nationality of bank owners that matters most, but the capital resources, business philosophy, technical competence and integrity of their major or controlling shareholders and management.

So we don't think the latest concern raised over the expanded role of foreign banks was prompted by xenophobic sentiment. What state bank chiefs complained about most at their meeting with the Finance Commission of the House of Representatives on Monday was the excessively arduous licensing procedures they have been encountering in their efforts to open branches in Singapore, Malaysia, Japan and the United States.

This hostile environment is strikingly different from Indonesia which allows foreign banks or investors to own up to 99 percent of a bank and provides broader leeway for foreign banks to open branches in 12 cities. So it makes sense for Indonesian banks to urge the government to implement a reciprocal principle in bank licensing so they can receive the same treatment overseas that foreign banks enjoy here.

It is also high time for the government to amend the 1999 Law on Banking to fit in with the latest developments of national banks. We think the stipulation allowing foreign banks or investors to own up to 99 percent of a bank is too liberal now, given the substantial progress made by our banking industry over the past 10 years.





Indonesia put its diplomatic skills on display by co-hosting the ministerial meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), along with chair Egypt, in Bali this week. The meeting, which also celebrated the organization's 50th anniversary, charted a new vision for the group's 120 members.

As one of the founding members, Indonesia has a stake in NAM's future direction. Created at the peak of the Cold War as a forum for countries that refused to be aligned with either major bloc, its main raison d'etre virtually ceased to be when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. Since NAM had grown so large, members felt that the movement could be put to good use to rally around common causes.

As is clear from the new vision, to maintain its relevance, NAM is being turned into a movement to represent the interests of "developing countries", even though several of its members are now among the wealthiest in the world such as Singapore, or in emerging large markets such as India  and China.

In a unipolar world, it is a mistake to turn NAM into a bloc to oppose the United States. Given the decline of the US's preeminence and the rise of China, this is a moot point anyway. While not exactly a poor man's club (the meeting took place in a luxury hotel on the Indonesian holiday island), NAM could represent the collective voice of developing countries in fighting for better deals at the United Nations.

As with all big organizations, NAM will likely be cumbersome and slow in getting members to rally behind particular causes. Forging consensus among the 120 members with diverse interests and levels of development will be next to impossible. Members should temper their expectations. The test of NAM's unity and effectiveness comes in September when the Palestinian Authority will submit for membership at the United Nations.

For better or for worse, NAM historically has been used as a policy tool by the chair. Hosting the summit is a huge and costly undertaking that the chair nation would understandably want to capitalize on — beyond winning the prestige that comes with it — and push its own foreign policy agenda.

The leadership, to a large extent, determines NAM's performance and effectiveness on the global stage. In 2012, the baton will move from Egypt to Iran. That should be interesting.







A casual conversation with a friend reminded me of one important view about borders. He jokingly said "in a modern world like this, I thought borders are no longer an issue." I have been learning about border issues for a couple of years now and managed to learn one important thing: Borders do matter and they even still dictate nations in the world. In this context, my friend's statement, to an extent, surprises me.

However, I also understand that he must not be alone. There might be millions of people, if not more, who do not realize that the world is changing when it comes to international borders.

One might agree that the most attention-grabbing border dispute in Asia recently is between Thailand and Cambodia. The two countries dispute sovereignty over a piece of land in their border area close to three temples: Preah Vihear, Ta Moan and Ta Krabey.

The latest incident took place early this month, claiming the lives of several people and forcefully displacing many more. The recent report by The Jakarta Post (May 19, 2011) revealed that the "repeated skirmishes have claimed at least 23 lives on both sides since early this year".

Indonesia, in its capacity as the current chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has proactively offered mediation to help Thailand and Cambodia achieve a solution. Meetings held on April 7-8 in Bogor were a positive sign of ASEAN's involvement, even though the result did not seem to be satisfactory.

Thailand tends to believe that the solution must be achieved bilaterally, while Cambodia welcomes third party intervention. In addition, it is worth noting that ASEAN has a policy of non-interference in each other's domestic affairs, which, to an extent, also limits ASEAN's role in finding solutions. Meanwhile, internal issues in Thailand and Cambodia also, to an extent, add fuel to the tension.

It is tempting to say that the solution for the Thai-Cambodia border dispute has to be very quick, for it is urgent. That might be the reason why people expected too much out of the recent 18th ASEAN Summit in Jakarta. Some opined that the summit was a failure because it achieved no significant results concerning the border dispute between Thailand and Cambodia.

Interestingly, border issues seemed to overshadow other important agendas of the summit, as if the border dispute was the only important issue to deal with. This once again indicates how important border issues are for nations in the world. Borders do matter.

Settling borders is by no means an easy task to accomplish. It involves technical and legal expertise for the use of political solutions. Borrowing the view of Stephen Jones (1945), creating boundaries involves four important steps, which are not necessarily sequential: Allocation, delimitation, demarcation and administration. Allocation deals with territory where parties agree on a broad division of territory.

In the delimitation step, parties involve political, legal and technical experts to decide on a precise alignment of boundaries and illustrate them on maps. Demarcation is required on the ground. The points and lines agreed in the delimitation stage are then defined on the ground where they are physically marked with pillars, posts and fences. The last step is administration, involving activities to maintain the boundaries, including comprehensive development for people residing around border areas.

In the case of Thailand and Cambodia, it seems that the allocation step has been agreed. However, precise division of land area around the temples (delimitation and demarcation) apparently needs more work. It is worth noting that the dispute is not about the ownership of the temples, as it has been decided by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in 1962.

Cambodia is attempting to use the 1962 ICJ decision to strengthen its position in the current dispute. On April 28, 2011, Cambodia filed an application to the ICJ requesting interpretation of the 1962 judgment. In response, the ICJ has scheduled a public hearing on May 30-31, 2011, where both parties will be given opportunities to express their views through oral observations.

The role of technical expertise reminds us of a phenomenal border settlement in America around 250 years ago. Charles Masson (an astronomer) and Jeremiah Dixon (a surveyor) are acclaimed for their work to settle the borders among four British Colonies in America: Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware and West Virginia.

To acknowledge their role, the line is called Masson-Dixon line. While their technical expertise certainly helped them settle the borders, political will demonstrated by relevant parties undoubtedly made the settlement possible. Having learned from this border-making history, it seems that Thailand and Cambodia also need to demonstrate positive political will to solve border issues between them.

Good intentions from Indonesia/ASEAN and other third parties, when allowed, can only be effective with positive political will. As a surveyor, I don't question the important role of technical expertise, but I also acknowledge that technical people cannot do much in the absence of political will.

The world is currently watching what happens between Thailand and Cambodia. While acknowledging that external parties cannot do much without the willingness of the parties in question to solve an issue, it is fair to say that the world has put hope and expectation on Indonesia's leadership in ASEAN.

Finding a solution for the Thailand-Cambodia border dispute is essential for paving the way toward an ASEAN community in 2015. If there is anything we want the world to talk about when it refers to ASEAN, it is certainly not the issue of border disputes.

The writer is a lecturer at the Department of Geodetic Engineering, Gadjah Mada University. His research interests are in technical/geodetic and legal aspects of boundary delimitation and demarcation. The opinions expressed are his own.






"The world is impressed as it watches the attitude and courage that Japanese people have shown in their effort to recover from the disaster... I believe and hope that Japan will rebuild soon," South Korean President Lee Myun-bak said in Sendai, Japan, on Saturday.

"It was my decision to come to Fukushima. I come here on behalf of all the Chinese people," said  Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao after visiting tsunami victims,  just 60 kilometers from the devastated Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant.

Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan accompanied his two guests. Later on Sunday, the leaders of Asia's economic giants held a trilateral summit in Tokyo, where both President Lee and PM Jiabao pledged to do all they could to help Japan recover from the worst natural disaster in Japan's history and the ensuing nuclear catastrophe.

"The fact they [Lee and Jiabao] did this was the best way of showing the world that the food in Japan is safe. It was a big help," Kan said after their meeting.

The summit was an extreme contrast to the remarks by the governments of Korea and China after the March 11 tsunami that was followed by the nuclear disasters. The two countries were deeply concerned about possible radiation impacts from Japan.

Their politicians often criticized Japan for its slow response and lack of transparency at the early stages in informing the international community about the development of the nuclear problem. They worried about the radiation and its impacts on their tourism industries and the safety of their export products.

On its official website, Seoul tried hard to assure foreign visitors and its trading partners that "the accident has hardly done direct harm to neighboring countries including Korea." It also acknowledges that "some governments took such projections seriously to advise their public against visiting Korea and to step up checks on Korean agricultural imports for possible contamination."

Who has ever thought that a nuclear disaster would come from Japan, a nation which is famous for its high discipline, sophisticated technology and its rule-abiding culture?

In the last few decades, the nuclear threat from North Korea continually haunted countries in East Asia, including Japan and South Korea and to a certain extent China.

The fear that the irrresponsible exploitations of nuclear power by North Korea's unpredictable leader, Kim Jong-il, certainly has strong grounds, but the recent nuclear meltdown in Japan proved that no country was free or able to overcome natural and human  disasters.

The March 31 tsunami, which was followed by the ruin of Japan's nuclear power plant in Fukushima, is certainly outside the wildest imagination of the Japanese people and perhaps also its neighbors.

But will the tsunami and the world's worst nuclear crisis after the 1986 Chernobyl explosion serve as a blessing in disguise for the often-fragile relations among Asia's three economic giants?

I have no doubt at all that domestically Japan will be able to recover, but at the same time the helping hands from and cooperation with other nations, especially its close neighbors, will be very meaningful to accelerate the recovery efforts. By helping Japan, the neighbors also eventually help themselves to get rid of the negative consequences from the suffering of the nation in their backyard.

Knowing the deep feelings of love and hatred among the three nations — bitter colonial trauma, overlapping border claims, North Korea's unpreditable leadership and their high economic dependence — it is too naive, however, to expect that they will be able to overcome all the pains overnight.

But hopefully Japan, China and Korea will have much more mature attitudes toward each other, because the disasters again show that no matter how strong they are or how sophisticated their preparation to anticipate the worst incident is, still they have to rely on each other.

The case of Japan proves that it will never be able to rebuild itself without the assistance of its neighbors. More open markets in China and South Korea are extremely important for Japan.

As Indonesia will host the East Asian summit in Bali later this year, the encouraging approaches by Korea and China are productive to creating more trust among the major economic powers.

President Lee and PM Jiabao have proven that extending hands to neighbors in need will help the whole region remove the impacts of the disasters, accelerate the rebuilding of Japan and its econonic growth and ensure political stability and security of the neighbor nations.

The author is a staff writer at The Jakarta Post.






It is indeed a historic coincidence that the commemoration of half a century of the birth of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) on May 23-27, 2011, on the island of Bali, is held just three days after the National Awakening Day on May 20, 14 days after Indonesia hosted the 18th ASEAN Summit on May 7-9 and 28 days after the commemoration of 56 years of the Asian-African Conference (AAC).

Fifty six years ago, Indonesia initiated organization of the AAC, which took place in Bandung, April 19-24, 1955. The spirit of AAC and the National Awakening Day over a century ago appeared to be very relevant for Indonesia to renew its spirit to play key roles in leading ASEAN and hosting the 50th anniversary of the NAM, which now features 118 countries.

At its golden jubilee, this commemoration is a momentum of reflection to determine the direction of NAM for the next 50 years and beyond based on its vision, basic principles and experience along its journey since the Cold War era. As an inherent part of its future determination, a collective dream has to be renewed to address the existing global injustice, extreme gap between North and South and the existing political crises and social
tension in the Middle East and North Africa.

It is therefore important to reflect on the spirit of the AAC 56 years ago that triggered the birth of NAM, what NAM has contributed to its members and how to keep the AAC spirit alive in the entire process of the NAM transformation into  the future.   

The AAC was born in the midst of a confrontation between two superpowers — the US and the Soviet Union. Asian and African countries did not want themselves to be trapped in polarization. They woke up with a single dream to build a new emerging front for maintaining neutrality and independence.

Indonesian president Sukarno called the Bandung Principles a manifesto to the establishment of new emerging forces (NEFOS). This communiqué then created extraordinary social and political resonances, especially in Asian and African nations.

In Africa at that time, out of 43 nations, only five were independent, while the rest were still colonies of Britain, France, Belgium and Germany. The newly independent states took the Bandung Principles as their common ground and spirit to leverage up their bargaining power — politically, socially and economically.

So, six years after the AAC, the leaders of Asian and African countries reiterated their collective commitment against global injustice and hegemony under the domination of the two superpowers (the US and Soviet Union).

This collective commitment was a determinant factor in the birth of NAM during its first summit in Belgrade from Sept. 1-6, 1961, at the initiative of a number of third world leaders at that time.

Founders of the NAM were President Sukarno of Indonesia, Gamal Abdul Nasser of Egypt, Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Marshal Tito of Yugoslavia and Jawaharlal Nehru of India, all of whom committed themselves to comprehensive solutions on how to break away from dependence on the two superpowers. They voiced NAM neutrality and denounced all forms of colonialism across Asia and Africa.

As the name implies, the NAM member countries only have one single option, which is not to be an instrument of any political interest or tool in service of either superpower.

In the course of its long history over five decades, however, NAM experienced hard times, which likely caused them to lose clear orientation, especially after the disintegration of Soviet Union and the emergence of US as the world's only superpower.

NAM, as a new emerging force, was unable to play significant roles in the international arena. In such a situation, NAM finally focused itself on issues that were not controversial, which among others included poverty, population, environment, climate change, smuggling, narcotics and trans-national organized crime.

This situation changed gradually, especially after the 9/11 tragedy a decade ago. NAM again searched for a new common denominator based on its original root adopted in Bandung in 1955 to fight for dignity, independence and justice for weak countries.

Therefore, in the cases of Libya, Egypt, Tunisia and the political crises in the Middle East and North Africa, NAM may put these uprisings as common crises to strengthen its social cohesion and redefine its role in this unipolar global arena. Developing countries have to maintain sovereignty rather than fall victims to the political power of developed countries.

A half-century has passed, but nothing can change the past. However, anything NAM does today will change its future. There are now 118 countries under NAM, representing over two-thirds of the world's population. But the strength and greatness of NAM will be in vain if it fails to immediately find a unifying factor or common denominator that provides a solid basis for realization of its noble ideals.

To me, the unifying factor is nothing other than the revitalization and renewal of the spirit of the Bandung Principles adopted at the AAC 56 years ago.

Indonesia's key role to host the NAM golden jubilee may stand as a profound example. It can share its experiences and best practices with the Middle East and North African countries on how to manage multidimensional crises during  the transition from an authoritarian, militaristic and centralistic regime to a decentralized and democratic system.

Indonesia may call NAM countries to jointly seek the most immediate recovery in those nations in crisis, especially immediate cease-fire and reconciliation in Libya, and remove all intervention beyond the NAM and AAC spirit.

Finally, hopefully with the leadership of Indonesia in ASEAN and in the 50th anniversary of NAM, NAM could extend new synergism and real strategic partnership in accordance with the spirit of the Ten Principles of Bandung in order to achieve peace, stability and prosperity on both continents and across the world.

The writer, a professor at the State University of Jakarta, is former director general of human rights at the Ministry of Law and Human Rights and a UNESCO consultant for the Asia-Pacific Region






The G20 Conference in Bali earlier this month, which addressed international bribery and a number of bribery cases involving politicians that are handled by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), reminds me of an old tale about pirates that were arrested by Alexander the Great's forces.

The legend says that, in ancient times, Alexander the Great's troops arrested a pirate captain. Alexander's forces had long targeted groups of pirates because their activities were disturbing and harmful. In an interrogation, the king asked, "What kind of right do you have that you plunder the seas?"

"I have the right to plunder the seas as Your Highness has the right to plunder the world. It's just because I use a boat that I am called a pirate, while Your Highness has a large fleet, so you are called Maharaja (emperor)," the pirate captain said.

Alexander gasped when he heard the pirate captain's answer, which was straightforward and very critical.

Weeks ago, news reports were dominated by the hijacked Indonesian-flagged ship in Somali waters. From the perspective of power, we may conclude that the existence of power outside that of the state does exist, and often such power is out of reach. But what does the story of the Somali pirates imply for Indonesia? What to do with the most debated topic here: Corruption?

Please take note of the pirate captain's answer. He calls himself a pirate, a relatively small force because he sails on a boat, while he refers the authorities as "real pirates" because they own a big state fleet with great power, which is systematic, financed from taxes collected from the people, legitimized by formal law and has a strong political position.

In the House of Representatives' terms, "the fleet" could be the authority to determine the budget, pass a law along with the president, choose public officials such as heads of the House commissions, Chief Justice, etc and to supervise the government.

From a number of studies we know that there are powers beyond the formal government in corruption cases. Moreover, the invisible powers have the control over decision-making processes in this country.

Some define the phenomenon as a "political cartel", a term used to describe a condition that participants do not fight in a real competition but tend to implement the concept of power sharing.

On the other hand, there is a rent-seeking approach to describing the affair between political power and the bureaucracy with businessmen. Such a conspiracy has a reciprocal relationship.

The political and bureaucratic actors provide "services" — policy or rules that benefit the business — while the latter give money or other benefits in return. This relationship has been studied by many observers and political economists, both with their own orientation: free-market based orientation or idealist orientation.

John T Sidel uses the term "bossism". In his book, Capital, Coercion and Crime: Bossism in Philippines (1999), he says, political power and the state facilitate the accumulation of capital and profits among capitalists, so the distribution of power and economic resources is controlled only by a specific group of politicians called "state" which, in fact, is formed and dominated by the "bosses". They are both exploiters.

In other words, instead of managing the state for people's welfare, the authority attached to the state organizers only benefits the "bosses" in a small circle. Here it seems that the state has a strong position, although its function has been hijacked so that it no longer serves the interests of the people.

In 1995, William Reno mentioned an interesting term to describe the power that referred to the politics-business collusion that emphasizes the non-state actors: the shadow state and the informal economy. Based on his research in Sierra Leone, he found some of the main characters in piracy practices of state functions were by non-state forces.

This phenomenon occurs in a weak state or fragile country, especially when the officials and state executives tend to serve interests outside the trusts and duties given to them.

The goal is simple: Share the short-term profits between the owner authorities (politics, bureaucracy and state officials) with business interests and organized crime.

One party is to get the "service" policy and regulation while others take advantage of bribes, kickbacks or other concessions that are difficult to identify by the naked eye.

Political-business conspiracy seems to be one of the most fundamental problems in Indonesia today besides rampant corruption, political power becoming the bumper
of corruption and irregularities, which are vulnerable, hijacked legislation and bribes to officials and House members.

From a number of cases being handled by the KPK, one by one, puzzle pieces from a bigger picture of how the hijacked state functions with corrupt forces can be seen. Based on the classification of corrupt actors snared by the KPK, the Indonesian Corruption Watch (ICW) recorded 42 House members who had been prosecuted to date, scattered in eight major cases.

All corruption cases showed a conspiracy between the mafia business in the banking sector, forestry and procurement of goods and services with House members who had authority in policy making.

In conclusion, we can contemplate further what the pirate captain said. Sure enough, some "fleets" are controlled by the organizers of this country and used to rob its own people. However, corruption certainly is not done by an individual alone.

If the decayed condition of the country and the eradication of corruption is still just political jargon, the "shadow power" will remain large, taking over the state function to protect its people and build a shadow government (shadow state) that is increasingly powerful. At the end, the shadow power will transform into a real pirate state.

We must combat the robbery hand in hand with political forces that have not yet been contaminated by corruption: Religious social forces and the civil society.

One of the immediate challenges is to draft revisions on the Anticorruption Law and the Anticorruption Commission Law. It is obvious that there are systematic efforts to weaken the KPK.

Why has the KPK become a target? Quite simply, this institution, though it could have done more, has been very disturbing against those intending to "proclaim a government of the pirates".

The "pirates" will do their deeds until their dream of a "pirate state" is materialized, while our ideal state will eventually collapse due to acts of the "decomposer", called the "fleet of the state".

The writer is coordinator for the division of Legal and Judicial Monitoring at the Indonesian Corruption Watch (ICW)









Among many Tamils, the Tamil National Alliance has become a stigma on the Tamil community. So are the Diaspora. Some may disagree. TNA,   with it s superiority complex has created more troubles within communities than bringing them together.

Last week the venerable TNA said it would request Russia and China to urge the Sri Lankan government to work out a long lasting political solution to the national question, Parliamentarian and party media spokesman Suresh Premachandran said.

TNA should do degrees in world history in the first place.

Russia and China supported Sri Lanka in its war against terrorism and as permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, had at the time thwarted an attempt to bring a resolution against Sri Lanka.

Bringing solutions is good. But then, what are the problems?

The bloody war is over. Some may be still saying "Will all great Neptune's ocean wash this blood clean from my hand? No, this my hand will rather the multitudinous seas incarnadine, making the green one red." This is hacked. So is the so-called national problem.

The fact is when the problem started the global situation was entirely different. Opportunities were limited. It was polarized. Private sector commercial activity was in its infancy.

In such a scenario a thing like "standardization" did affect adversely the youth who have high aspirations.

Now we are talking about it after 40 years.

Governments have opened up. Nobody cares about vernacular languages. Today, even a trishaw driver wants to send his child to English medium school!

The IT field has taken English even further high. "Sinhala Only" will have to use binoculars to take a peep at the benefits of English. Still many political leaders and sadly many voters believe in the political rhetoric of language politics.

So, since the world has changed the context of the problem too has changed. In fact the stumbling block has been eliminated.

Now a talented youth can zoom into top slot positions had he has the talent. Global corporations do not have a column that asks your nationality.

So when the main cause of the problem is removed naturally there is no problem.

But still TNA et al harp on the some problems.

True enough, the three or more decade of war has left many maimed and devastated, mainly the Tamil speaking population. (The use of "Tamil" is only for the purpose of reference). And as a responsible government should and sincerely set aside the pettiness that is always associated with it, should speedily help these people rebuild their lives.

Selvarasa Pathmanathan alias KP, who succeeded Prabhakaran as the LTTE leader has also echoed that the UN Secretary General's panel report on Sri Lanka  wouldn't help any reconciliation and rather it disturbed reconciliation.

"If you go to Wanni and (discover) 1,000 families or 100,000 families benefiting from this UN report, then it's a different story. But the truth is that no one gets any benefit from such reports," he had added.

"The past is past. War means first (many people) die. War means who dies first. Truth (also dies). War means the same everywhere. You cannot say good war and bad war. War is war," he had been quoted as saying.

We see one Asoka in him.

To finish today's thought, how many of you know that now many countries are encouraging foreigners to buy land and property in their country and inviting foreigners to make their country their second home!






The two extracts from the Joint Communiqué issued by the External Affairs Ministers of India and Sri Lanka following the recent visit of the latter are especially significant for Sri Lanka in this postwar, post –Panel period and into the future as well.  They underscore what at times is obscured in the din of sloganeering and propaganda.  The most important bilateral relationship for Sri Lanka is that with India, whether some of us like it or not.  China is very important; but India is pivotal.  And at this time too, when we needs friends in the global South who will look to India and take their cue from Delhi when it comes to Sri Lanka in any international fora.

Consequently, the communiqué needs careful reading, not so much for what the GOSL indicated it has done and would do, but more in terms of what Delhi felt important to emphasize and include.   Note there is no reference to the Panel Report or to accountability. Yet there is reference to "investigations into allegations of human rights violations".  Delhi "urges the expeditious implementation of measures" in this regard. Note too, that is it is inconceivable that Minister Peiris would have agreed to anything in the communiqué without first getting the go-ahead from the President.  Consequently, the President is surely as responsible for what is contained in this communiqué as his minister. Indeed it would not be an exaggeration to say that the joint communiqué contains the measures the regime should take in order to neutralize any adverse consequences of the Panel Report.

2011 is not 2009.  In 2009, India proactively lobbied on behalf of Sri Lanka in the Human Rights Council and backed the Rajapaksa regime to the hilt in defeating the LTTE.  In 2011, Delhi has awoken to a Sri Lanka situation in which the Chinese are popularly seen as the closest friends of Sri Lanka and accordingly Chinese assistance is given greater prominence and publicity than the steady flow of assistance Delhi continues to send our way. Especially galling, may well be the simple fact that whilst Delhi gives us grants and the Chinese loans, the latter seem to get the greater share of praise and thanks.  Furthermore, as the joint communiqué reveals there are a number of outstanding issues ranging from the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) to the Sampur coal power plant, a number of other development projects and the violence meted out to Indian fishermen. 

An underlying thread in all of these issues is the political commitment to expedite movement.  In the case of CEPA though, the issue is as much about political commitment as it is about the ideological bias underpinning that lack of commitment.  Procrastination over CEPA is more about the regime subscribing to the primordial fears of the Sinhala nationalist lobby with regard to Sri Lanka being swallowed up by the big brother to the north than it is about anything substantive.  It is indeed a shame that those within and around the regime who recognize the benefits of CEPA for this country, keep quiet – a measure perhaps of their own insecurity within the existing power structure?

Delhi's perspective on Colombo will now be coloured by its relationship with the Jayalalithaa government in Chennai.  As has always been the case, the Tamil Nadu factor in the Indo- Sri Lanka equation gets activated when Tamil Nadu sees utility in using Sri Lanka as a source of leverage in its relations with Delhi and to a lesser extent vice versa. In this respect there is probably a period of six months maximum in which Jayalalitha will also beat the human rights accountability drum in respect of Sri Lanka and therefore Delhis position on Sri Lanka could be expected to reflect this, though not in the fullest measure of Tamil nationalist fantasies and Sinhala nationalists fears.  Whilst Delhi will be sensitive to Tamil Nadu, South Block is not going to allow policy to be dictated by a state government.

Delhi's position seems to be that there is a historic opportunity for Sri Lanka to move into a post-conflict phase.  The responsibility for this lies, as indeed it must, with Sri Lankan actors who should take national initiatives and measures to achieve meaningful unity with reconciliation.  Consequently, Sri Lanka must be given time to do this.  However, whilst there is no deadline to be imposed, this should not be interpreted to be an indefinite and elastic period.  Moreover, there has to be demonstrable progress to assure that the trajectory of change is within the framework of meaningful reconciliation and unity.  Were this not to be the case, there are options to be exercised including at the international level. 

This point could well be reinforced at present by action or the lack of it, calculated not to stymie momentum, such as there is, vis-a-vis the Panel Report.  No proactive, explicit endorsement of its findings and recommendations or proactive involvement in the expediting of action in respect of them. The mention of human rights violations is significant and not mere window dressing as is the omission of any explicit mention of the Panel Report and accountability.  The Rajapaksha regime has a window of opportunity to come good on what the international community and local human rights organizations have been asking of it as a basic minimum.

Human Rights violations and the Panel Report aside, there is the pivotal issue of a political settlement, which Delhi has consistently championed.  In this context, the phrase "building on the Thirteenth Amendment" holds out hope that the Thirteenth Amendment Plus formula will still be in play and with it those unimplemented sections relating to land and police powers to boot. " Building on", in this context, also presumably means that the "Plus" relates to the powers devolved to the provinces and that the proposal for a second chamber is in this respect, essentially extraneous to the principal task at hand, though complementary to it at the margins.  The message is surely that of getting real and down to brass tacks.  Placating and distracting attention with elaborate and protracted sideshows like the APRC, will only result in the regime fooling itself, and its fellow travellers.

The Panel Report underpins the joint communiqué.  It should be seen as a catalyst, a sharp reminder to the regime that whilst bread and circuses and shrill pronouncements about a nation besieged may keep the masses relatively docile and supportive, governance in the globalized world of the twenty –first century requires mature policy making and tough decisions. 

As for national sovereignty, it surely must depend on more than the national interest and benevolence of Russia and China?





The Minister of Higher Education, S.B. Dissanayake, is a man in a hurry and a man with a mission. He says his mission is to put the universities in order, which he claims no one has dared do until he arrived on the scene. He is in a hurry because he wants to do it right now. But one's not always sure whether his intention is to make the universities or to break them.

One cannot be blamed if one begins to suspect and one hopes all other men and women of discernment in this country will do the same, whether he is more bent on the letter than on the former. Why does one say this? Because in the recent past, he has been making pronouncements about the state universities that can only tarnish their reputations and set in motion the beginning of the end of the state university system as we know it — that is, as the proud flag-bearers of public higher education in Sri Lanka whose contribution to creating a meritocracy of sorts in this country is beyond measure.

 In an interview [aired over many TV channels the past few days], he claims that the state universities produce what he calls "Kaala Kanni." The bright young students who, according to him, constitute the crème de la crème [except he did not quite use the French term] of our education system, come out Kaala Kanni after four years at university! And who, may one know, is responsible for this terrible metamorphosis in the best and the brightest? The university dons of course, who else?

One could respond to his statement, delivered with the Minister's characteristic aplomb in one of two ways. One could ask, for instance, if the Minister's finally revealing the truth about the state universities a terrible truth shrouded in secrecy up to now. In which case, he has to be applauded for his act of bravery, his local John Wayne act. But the revelation is both devastating and damning for a country and its tax payers that not only pays for that education but depends on the recipients of that education to give leadership to the country on many fronts. Take the educators, administrators, journalists and members of the electronic media, policy planners, engineers architected and scientists in turn. Or even member of the legal fraternity and the judiciary.

He has in fact, gone on record as saying that universities must earn money if university academics want higher salaries, a form of "self-privatization" as someone has called it. Those who make this claim forget that universities enjoy no autonomy when it comes to student, admissions or free-levying programmes -- all such activities centrally controlled by the University Grants Commission. Cuts in spending have eaten into the availability of resources such as state-of-the-art teaching aids, smaller class sizes, tutors, library acquisitions, etc., that is a pre-requisite for quality higher education.

Undoubtedly, university academics are highly trained in their subjects. But they are neither wizards nor conjurers able to produce something out of nothing. The low salaries don't help matters. Not only has it led to a mass exodus of academics elsewhere, it has forced those who remain to focus more on making ends meet, not exactly a conducive environment in places devoted to the noble pursuit of knowledge-generation! But, of course, in the recent past, political interference into the recruitment of academic staff and purely politically motivated appointments into the highest positions in university administration have only accelerated the decline.

But the question still remains. Has the decline led to universities becoming the breeding ground of kaala kanni or the wretched? And is that why he has decided to send the students selected to university to military camps, before they arrive at university, where they will learn to say, as in that memorable biscuit ad, if nothing else, "athi vishistai, Sir!" [everything's perfect, Sir]. Perhaps the Minister of Higher Education sees himself as the presiding augur of doom for public higher education, which perhaps does not fit the agenda of the new economic and political vision for the country. To break the backs of university academics is to break the backs of the state universities.

Carmen Wickramagamage,

Department of English,

University of Peradeniya






Several experts have examined records pertaining to conflict and peace in Sri Lanka and shared with this researcher some   salient facts for public reading.

Displacement, imprisonment and killing

The UTHR (University Teachers for Human Rights) reports that from 1987 the LTTE launched a campaign of assassination against civilians suspected of being collaborators with India or potential opponents of LTTE. Many of these assassinated were former members of other militant groups, killed on suspicion of wanting to re associate with their former units.  75,000 Muslims were given 48 hours to leave Jaffna and Mannar. By closing the  Mavil Aru sluice gates, denying water to over 15,000 families in the area displacement was caused with a further 40,000 civilians from Muslims Mutur escaping from a LTTE attack. UTHR   further reports prisoners in captivity from 3000 to 4000.'' The brutal manner in which the LTTE torture the prisoners, using young boys who are even below the age of 16 to torture them, in the underground bunkers, and the sadistic nature of the boys who are involved in this dastardly act brings out the true colour of the struggle." 'Rolex' Mudalali, who is mentioned in Report No.9, told UTHR inadvertently that out of 1350 who were with him, when he came out that he realised that those taken out earlier on the pledge of release had been killed. Undoubtedly, several thousands were exterminated.'' On 8th February, the Army was very close at Iruddumadu. The prisoners pleaded with intelligence chiefs Pottu Amman and Kapil Amman who came there to release them.  After conferring with other LTTE officials, Pottu Amman ordered 140 others to be executed. They were mainly members of other Tamil groups, Sinhalese or Muslims suspected of security forces connections.

The question which arises whether government had a duty to save people from a group which has been displacing and killing citizens from 1987, must be seen in this context.


When the A9 route was blocked, Jaffna peninsula had to be supplied by sea and air. Between, 2006 and September 2009, 534,227 MT of food and non food items were delivered to Jaffna by sea with 257 voyages .Passengers travelled by sea and air. Power was provided with private generators. All other essential amenities were provided notwithstanding the ICRC refusing to lend its flag to vessels or be present on ships transporting essential items to the people of Jaffna. Private vessel owners were reluctant to charter their vessels, and demanded war risk premiums.

Ultimately in the Wanni the LTTE refused to let the civilians leave despite being formally conveyed by the Co chairs and by the UN.

Supplies to civilians in Wanni

Though the LTTE was in control of much of the Vanni until the year 2008 and 2009, the GoSL supplied the people in these areas with essential items and services including; food, medicine, fuel, fertiliser, salaries for public servants such as teachers, doctors, pensions for the retired public servants and maintained all public facilities such as schools and hospitals.

The food sources available to the LTTE were the same as those available to the civilians, the LTTE did not have medical supplies apart from the medicines sent by the GoSL for the civilian population nor fuel apart from the fuel supplied by the GoSL for civilians. The GoSL continued to send supplies to the civilians in the un-cleared areas knowing that these supplies would be used by the LTTE to sustain its violent activities against the state of Sri Lanka. Food and non food essential supplies into the Wanni were categorized into three groups: monthly rations to the IDPs under the World Food Program (WFP) ; supply of essential items to IDPs displaced prior to 2005 by the Ministry of Resettlement Disaster Management and Relief Services (MRDRS) ; all supplies to MPCS for sale to the general public. 

A fleet of 300 trucks, belonging to the 'Lorry Owners Association' in Kilinochchi were registered with the GA Vavuniya and maintained.  Special arrangements were made for GoSL/WFP trucks to be checked and sealed in Colombo by Sri Lanka Army (SLA).Priority lanes at check-points were established for ICRC and UN vehicles to expedite this food delivery operation. The food sent into the Wanni un-cleared areas was in addition to the food already available in these areas from agricultural activities. Requirement of fertilizer on a subsidized basis as given to farmers in the rest of the country was made available to the farmers of these two districts. Kerosene was supplied to the un-cleared areas for people to cook, operate their farming equipment and meet other household requirements. In September 2008 the GoSL facilitated the sale of excess rice from within the un-cleared areas to enable the farmers to clear their excess stock. The security situation on the ground completely halted supplies by road on 23 January 2009.

A sea route from Trincomalee to Mullaivaikkal was the only available option to deliver essential supplies to the un-cleared areas. The government was compelled to use passenger vessels and tug boats to transport items resulting in 30 voyages to Mullaivaikkal.  There were no port facilities for unloading at either Mullaivaikkal or Puttumatalan. Unloading of the cargo was done mid sea, amidst rough conditions onto fishing boats. Passenger vessels and tugs had no unloading equipment and thus the entire transfer of cargo was handled manually. In the event of a ship being attacked, the government was liable to provide compensation to the vessel owner as insurance cover was not available.

Transmitting Healthcare in Wanni

As in the other provinces in Sri Lanka, medical supplies were made available by the Ministry of Health, based on the annual estimates made by Regional Director of Health Services (RDHS), medical and surgical supplies were dispatched quarterly. The 4th quarter supplies were for 2008, was sent on 1st October which meant there was no backlog. All hospitals in the un-cleared areas were supplied, maintained and their staff paid for by the GoSL throughout. The medical supplies sent to the LTTE controlled areas were in par with and sometimes exceeded the medical supplies provided to the other provinces. There was approximately 900 government health staff in Mullaithivu and Kilinochchi including doctors, nurses and other staff. They were supplemented with ICRC staff up to March 2009. When road access for aid convoys into Wanni was no longer possible, medical supplies were shipped along with other essentials including medicine, surgical items, equipment and other life saving supplies requested by the RDHSs. Medical supplies sent to the Wanni un-cleared areas included; antibiotics, local anesthetics, surgical supplies, equipment and other life saving items.

To be continued tomorrow.





In a country living with the reality of caste and striving constantly to offset disadvantages created on the basis of social hierarchy, the central government's decision to hold a caste census does have wide appeal. The enumeration of castes is to be undertaken along with a 'Below Poverty Line' census in such a way that there is a simultaneous mapping of the economic, caste, and religious backgrounds of the entire population. A mere caste census may have meant just a headcount of diverse communities, but with the plan to integrate socio-economic data with the caste count, there is hope that the country might at last have a set of quantifiable data that would justify key administrative measures predicated on caste identity. Over the years, the debate over the use of caste as the basis for ensuring social justice in education and public employment has been resolved in favour of caste-based reservation for 'socially and educationally backward classes.' Once caste was accepted as the main parameter on which social justice would be measured, it was only a matter of time before the country came round to the view that a restoration of the pre-Independence system of including caste in the decennial Census was necessary. The continuance of existing levels of caste-based reservation also hinges on collection of caste-wise data. For the judicially imposed limit of 50 per cent on the quantum of reservation — flowing from a constitutional scheme that says the extent of reservation, being the exception, cannot exceed equal treatment, the norm — can be overcome only by providing hard data to the court.

However, a caste census will be much more challenging than a lay view suggests. For one thing, a precise headcount of a particular caste may ultimately prove elusive, given the number of sub-castes and sects that the Indian caste system has spawned, and the inevitable scope for confusion over the inclusion or exclusion of a sect from a larger caste umbrella. The nomenclature used by a caste group to refer to itself may vary from region to region, while there could be confounding similarities in name between different sects. And even more scientifically challenging would be the exercise of integrating the headcount of a caste with the socio-economic profile of the population falling under it and coming to a reasonable conclusion about its precise state of backwardness. There are other questions, too, such as whether the final caste-wise breakdown of the population would be used to parcel out all opportunities under the state solely in proportion to the strength of the communities or whether there would be some exiguous space for open competition so that the longer-term goal of a caste-free society is not lost sight of.

The Hindu






 Sri Lankans celebrate the second anniversary of the military defeat of the LTTE, with significant pride in that achievement and justifiable joy that one of the most ruthless terrorist organizations in the world has been effectively wiped out, although two years on, there are legitimate questions to be asked about the nature of the peace dividend that Sri Lankans of all ethnicities, whether Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim or Burgher have received.

 1. Sri Lanka pledges a political solution to IndiaForeign Minister G.L. Peiris visited India last week and had meetings with the Indian Prime Minister and other senior Indian officials. At the end of those meetings, the two governments issued a joint statement which covered the gamut of bi lateral relations between the two countries. The Sri Lankan Government pledged to the Indians the implementation of a political solution with the devolution of political power. As paragraph four of the joint statement stated "Both sides agreed that the end of armed conflict in Sri Lanka created a historic opportunity to address all outstanding issues in a spirit of understanding and mutual accommodation imbued with political vision to work towards genuine national reconciliation. In this context, the External Affairs Minister of Sri Lanka affirmed his Government's commitment to ensuring expeditious and concrete progress in the ongoing dialogue between the Government of Sri Lanka and representatives of Tamil parties. A devolution package, building upon the 13th Amendment, would contribute towards creating the necessary conditions for such reconciliation".  

Joint statements are serious things, as Sri Lanka realized through the joint statement with the UN Secretary General in May 2009. The pledge of accountability in that statement is the "member state commitment" that the UN used to establish the expert panel and proceed with following up on the accountability issues of the conflict.

2. Jalyalalithaa wins big in Tamil Nadu

Jaylalithaa Jayaram, affectionately known as "amma" by her people and leader of the AIADMK party was swept to power in a landslide victory at the recently concluded Tamil Nadu state elections. The Congress Party and the DMK of former Chief Minister Karunanidhi were demolished in the elections which saw the DMK go down to just twenty three seats in the state assembly and not even becoming the chief opposition party in the State Assembly. "Amma" is back with a vengeance and here is a political forecast. The Congress Party, not wanting annihilation in Tamil Nadu at a future general election will change its alliance from the out of favour Karunanidhi and the DMK to Jayalalithaa and the AIADMK. Chief Minister Jayalalithaa should want to match her power in the State with influence in the Centre and should be amiable to such an arrangement.

All this of course is relevant to Sri Lanka because Jaylalitha has called for international war crimes charges on the Sri Lankan political leadership. Sri Lanka relies heavily on India to shield her from opprobrium at international fora and India has thus far solidly obliged. It is to be seen however if Indian foreign policy is likely to be influenced for change as Jayalalithaa and the AIADMK becomes increasingly influential at the Center, in Indian politics.

3. Emergency rule and Democracy
 Sri Lanka celebrates the second anniversary of the end of the war, while still continuing with the war time emergency regulations, which erode the democratic rights of citizens. It is a very valid question as to whether our normal laws, penal code and criminal justice system is so inadequate (it seems to have served us well enough before 1983) that we now cannot live or govern without emergency laws. While there is a public debate about group rights in the context of ethnic minorities in Sri Lanka, surely there is no debate about our democratic rights and freedoms. These too are suspended at executive will through emergency regulations and it would be an appropriate peace dividend for them to be rescinded, normal law reestablished and individual and democratic rights and freedoms strengthened.

Much of the international concerns arise not from the war we fought, which the whole world supported, but at the nature of the peace handled.