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Friday, May 27, 2011

EDITORIAL 26.05.11

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Editorial

month may 27, edition 000843 ,  collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul

 

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

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

THE PIONEER

  1. BEASTLY BEHAVIOUR
  2. KEEPING A KILLER ALIVE
  3. BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE - CLAUDE ARPI
  4. A BILL THAT DAMNS THE MAJORITY - ARUN JAITLEY
  5. IITS AND IIMS HAVE LITTLE TO BOAST ABOUT - ARINDAM CHAUDHURI

THE TIMES OF INDIA

  1. LOSING CASTE - SARKARI SCOURGE
  2. THE TANGLED WEB THEY WEAVE - S K SHARMA
  3. 'INDIA'S FOREIGN POLICY APPROACH MAY SUIT ITS INTERESTS'
  4. STATUS QUOTIENT
  5. NEHRU'S SCIENTIFIC HUMANISM - ASHOK VOHRA

HINDUSTAN TIMES

  1. REWORK THE FUNDAMENTALS
  2. IT'S NOT ROCKET SCIENCE
  3. PAINTED INTO A CORNER - JAGMOHAN

THE INDIAN EXPRESS

  1. ALL FOR THE STATE
  2. THE 10,000 HOUR RULE
  3. ON THE HOUSE
  4. TRADING A NEW ROUTE - MK VENU
  5. WITH THE GRAIN - YOGINDER K. ALAGH
  6. THE MOST DANGEROUS ARGUMENT - SHYAM SARAN
  7. MISSION UP - SEEMA CHISHTI
  8. SLAVERY IN SONAGACHI
  9. 'ONE PRIORITY SHOULD BE TO GARNER AS MANY RESOURCES FROM OUTSIDE BENGAL AS POSSIBLE' - MIHIR S SHARMA

THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

  1. CHECKING ABUSE OF POWER
  2. LANDING IN A MESS
  3. RATING THOSE MERCHANT BANKERS - SHOBHANA SUBRAMANIAN
  4. AFRICA IS OPEN FOR BUSINESS  - SERETSE KHAMA IAN KHAMA

THE HINDU

  1. INDIA IN AFRICA
  2. FIGURING OUT THE TEXTILE CRISIS
  3. RUSSIA: WHO WILL BE THE NEXT PRESIDENT?  - VLADIMIR RADYUHIN
  4. 'IS IT SAFE, OR IS IT DANGEROUS?'  - HIROKO TABUCHI
  5. SOMALIS ARE TOLD TO STOP BICKERING OR LOSE FINANCING  - JEFFREY GETTLEMAN
  6. CHASING RICHES AND FINDING ONLY SQUALOR  - SUZANNE DALEY

THE ASIAN AGE

  1. INDIA-AFRICA TIES: A STEP FORWARD
  2. FRIENDSHIP, CAUTION - SHASHI THAROOR
  3. NATURALLY NEHRU - MAHESH RANGARAJAN

DAILY EXCELSIOR

  1. HEADLEY'S STARTLING CONFESSIONS
  2. WOMEN TROOPERS
  3. PAKISTAN IN DENIAL - BY TAVLEEN SINGH
  4. SAARCPOL, TO CHECK TRANS-NATIONAL CRIMES - BY SUBHASHIS MITTRA
  5. FREE TRADE CRITICAL TO DEVELOPMENT - BY APRAKRITA SHANKAR NARAYANAN

THE TRIBUNE

  1. CONTROLLING THE IMF
  2. HELPING THE ENEMY
  3. ACADEMIC DECAY
  4. BRICS HAS ITS RELEVANCE - BY M. RASGOTRA AND H. H. S. VISWANATHAN
  5. A TRAVELLING EPISODE - BY RANBIR PARMAR
  6. FRESH DIRECTIONS IN CUSTODY BATTLES - ANIL MALHOTRA
  7. NO QUICK FIX SOLUTION IN CUSTODIAL CONFLICTS

BUSINESS STANDARD

  1. NATIONAL SECURITY AND PRIVACY
  2. NOT THEIR FAULT
  3. GLOBAL COMMODITIES AND INDIA - AKASH PRAKASH
  4. WHOSE COMPANY IS IT ANYWAY? - BHUPESH BHANDARI
  5. 'TATA' TO WORK ETHIC - SHYAMAL MAJUMDAR
  6. TOWARDS A REAL COST OF LIVING INDEX - ARCHANA NARESH

BUSINESS LINE

  1. TAKING STOCK OF COTTON EXPORTS
  2. HIS PASSION: TEACH, TEACH, TEACH
  3. IN DEFENCE OF THE IITS: AN INSIDER'S VIEW - R. KRISHNA KUMAR

THE ECONOMIC TIMES

  1. GOOD FOR COMPETITION
  2. LEASE, DON'T BUY
  3. TECH 2G(REEN)
  4. LET EUROPE TAKE IT ONE LAST TIME
  5. CAN ISI BE DECLARED TERROR ORGANISATION?  - AJAI SAHNI
  6. TRAVEL PLAN FOR THE TAXMAN - LUBNA KABLY

MUMBAI MIRROR

  1. THE WATER WARS

DECCAN CHRONICLE

  1. INDIA-AFRICA TIES: A STEP FORWARD
  2. THE UNCHANGED PATH TO WEST ASIA PEACE
  3. HEADLEY NAILS PAK LIES IN A US COURT
  4. NATURALLY NEHRU
  5. CURSE OF THE BOMB
  6. LIVE YOUR VALUES

THE STATESMAN

  1. REOPENING SILDA
  2. CLOWNS IN KHAKI
  3. HEALTH OF THE NATION
  4. LATE LADEN & LUTYENS' DELHI - BY ABHIJIT BHATTACHARYYA
  5. ANGER ON THE STREETS  - OFF LIMITS ~ SEEMA MUSTAFA
  6. EMERGING NATIONS AWAIT IMF TOP JOB  
  7. THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX  - AJENDRA SRIVASTAVA

THE TELEGRAPH

  1. UNEQUAL POWER
  2. KEEP IT SIMPLE
  3. A FRESH ALTERNATIVE

DECCAN HERALD

  1. DUPLICITY EXPOSED
  2. LOGJAM IN NEPAL
  3. DANGER ACROSS BORDER -  KULDIP NAYAR
  4. CHINA KEY TO US'S AFGHAN ENDGAME -  ANATOL LIEVEN, IHT
  5. HEART OF GOLD  - NAVARATNA LAXMAN

HAARETZ

  1. IRAN SANCTIONS ON ISRAELI FIRM ARE AN EMBARRASSMENT
  2. THE GIRL NEXT DOOR  - BY NEHEMIA SHTRASLER
  3. TOO LATE, TOO UGLY - BY YOSSI SARID
  4. GRANDSTANDING WON'T STOP HISTORY  - BY LARA FRIEDMAN
  5. A SIX-DAY (SOLAR ) WAR  - BY DAVID ROSENBLATT, YOSEF I. ABRAMOWITZ

THE NEWYORK TIMES

  1. THE MIDEAST PEACE PROCESS: NO PLAN FOR TALKS
  2. HOW THE OTHER HALF LIVES, STILL
  3. END OF THE LINE
  4. MEDICARE SURVIVAL GUIDE - BY DAVID BROOKS
  5. AMERICA'S FORGOTTEN LIBERAL - BY RICK PERLSTEIN

HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

  1. DAVUTOĞLU MUST REIN IN HAMAS - SEMİH İDİZ
  2. YOU ARE BIZARRE – 'ACCORDING TO OUR BELIEFS' (II) - BURAK BEKDİL
  3. THE 'OTHER' MEDIA SHOULD NOT FALL INTO THE SAME TRAP AS WE DID - MEHMET ALİ BİRAND
  4. SEX TAPES: WHOSE WORK IS IT? - YUSUF KANLI

THE NEWS

  1. COST OF WAR
  2. SCORCHING HIKE
  3. SECURITY DRIFT
  4. CAN WE POSSIBLY LEARN SOMETHING FROM ISRAEL? - AYAZ AMIR
  5. PAKISTANIS WANT A BETTER FUTURE, JUST LIKE US  - CYNTHIA P SCHNEIDER AND AAKIF AHMAD
  6. THE GAPS IN THE NARRATIVE  - DR MUZAFFAR IQBAL
  7. ISRAEL AND PEACE  - I HUSSAIN
  8. FLIGHT OF HONOUR  - SHAFQAT MAHMOOD
  9. SIDE-EFFECT  - HARRIS KHALIQUE

PAKISTAN OBSERVER

  1. DCC COMES OUT WITH NEEDED RESOLVE
  2. ANOTHER HIKE IN POWER-GAS TARIFF
  3. MICROFINANCING A STIMULUS FOR ECONOMY
  4. NATO "SAVING CIVILIANS" THRU BOMBS - M D NALAPAT
  5. PAK-CHINA DEFENCE COLLABORATION - SULTAN M HALI
  6. WHAT IS TAQWA? - SYED ABUL HASAN
  7. NETANYAHU'S PLAN IS HOBSON'S CHOICE - SAEED QURESHI
  8. SPENT-FUEL THREAT FROM US NUCLEAR PLANTS - MARK CLAYTON

THE AUSTRALIYAN

  1. LEADERSHIP IS NEEDED TO RECLAIM TAXPAYERS' ABC
  2. HELPING TO TURN THE CRICKET TIDE
  3. SHAPING PALESTINE'S DESTINY

THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

  1. O'FARRELL TAKES ON THE UNIONS
  2. HUMAN RIGHTS AND WRONGS
  3. THE BOOK OF KINGS AND COMMONERS
  4. MINERS SHOW UP MYTHS IN POLITICAL TAX BATTLES

THE GUARDIAN

  1. GEORGE OSBORNE: A LONELY FIGURE
  2. IN PRAISE OF … BLACKBURN WITH DARWEN
  3. RATKO MLADIC: AN OLD MAN FACES JUSTICE

THE JAPAN TIMES

  1. RIPPLES FROM AN ARREST
  2. DALAI LAMA'S WORDS OPEN DOOR FOR BEIJING - BY FRANK CHING

THE JAKARTA POST

  1. A REPUBLIC OF FEAR, AGAIN?
  2. DEMOCRACY BEFORE PEACE
  3. CALL FOR NATIONAL POLICY RESPONSE TO THE INCREASING WORLD OIL PRICE - LATIF ADAM
  4. IDENTIFYING AN INDONESIAN 'OSAMA' - AL MAKIN |
  5. AFTER OSAMA'S DEATH THE AUDACITY TO HOPE ARISES - MOH YASIR ALIMI

DAILY MIRROR

  1. DIPLOMATIC BLUNDERS: TENSION WITH INDIA
  2. THE AFGHAN-LIBYA DUO
  3. OBAMA GETS JUICE ON HIS FACE

GULF DAILY NEWS

  1. A MORBID EPISODE...   - BY JENNIFER GNANA  

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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

BEASTLY BEHAVIOUR

RACIST AMERICANS HAVE AN ATTITUDE PROBLEM


The Government of India has done well to support the legal action initiated by Ms Krittika Biswas, daughter of our vice consul Debashis Biswas at the Indian Consulate in Manhattan, for her wrongful arrest and confinement at the instigation of the principal and mathematics teacher of the New York school she attends, John Browne HS Senior, on charges that have been found to be entirely spurious. But extending support is not enough. The Government should step forward and hire the best lawyers to take the case to its logical conclusion. The issue at stake is not the damages ($1.5 million) that have been claimed by Ms Biswas who has filed a suit against the New York City Education Department: No amount of money can compensate for the indignity, trauma and humiliation she has had to suffer because of rude and racist Americans who think they are beyond accountability and do not have to answer for their boorish behaviour and worse, especially when Indians are involved. The nation's prestige is at stake and even if it pains the Prime Minister to see Americans being put in the dock for abusing the freedom and dignity of Indians, he must step aside and let the Government robustly defend the rights of Ms Biswas. Nothing less than this shall suffice; the time has come to tell the Americans where they get off — their President cannot come looking for jobs in this country while they treat Indians like criminals in their country. Not only must New York City be made accountable, the arrogant school principal who still refuses to admit his mistake should be made an example of. Meanwhile, all diplomatic privileges extended to American diplomats posted in India, as well as their wives and children, must be immediately suspended till the US State Department apologises in writing and provides an assurance that such beastly acts shall not be repeated. There is no reason why we should continue to be needlessly nice to Americans who hold us in contempt.


This is not the first time that Indians, that too those who enjoy diplomatic immunity, are being subjected to harassment and humiliation in the US. Last December, India's Ambassador to the US, Ms Meera Shankar, a top diplomat, was groped in the guise of a 'pat-down' at an American airport by officials who, we are expected to believe, found a person wearing a sari suspicious. Our Permanent Representative to the UN, Mr Hardeep Puri, also a senior and distinguished diplomat, was asked to take off his turban at another American airport. When he protested, he was held in a detention room. India's former President APJ Abdul Kalam was asked to take off his shoes before entering an American aircraft, ostensibly because the American security officials thought he could be a potential shoe-bomber. In Ms Biswas's case, even after she pleaded with the police that she held a diplomatic passport, that her father was employed with the Indian Consulate, she was handcuffed and frog-marched to a prison by American officials who rudely mocked at her. The American Embassy in New Delhi and the State Department in Washington, DC, will predictably wave aside the latest instance of American arrogance as a stray incident and offer lip-service to assuage hurt feelings. We must not get distracted by such hollow gestures which mean nothing.

 

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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

KEEPING A KILLER ALIVE

KASAB'S SECURITY ALONE COSTS RS 11 CRORE


It is immaterial whether the Government of Maharashtra or the Union Government has to foot the huge Rs 11 crore bill that the ITBP has raised for providing foolproof security at Arthur Road Jail in Mumbai where the 26/11 terror attack convict Ajmal Kasab is being held. The point really is: Why should the public exchequer be made to pay such enormous sums for the safety of a terrorist who is guilty of mass murder, a cold-blooded killer who laid to waste the lives of innocent citizens and security personnel? It is nothing but cruel irony that the man who targeted the security of our nation should be guarded like a 'VIP' by security agencies of that very nation. Lakhs of rupees have been spent on the prison cell where Kasab has been lodged with a view to make it secure. No one knows how much more it will cost the exchequer to keep Kasab, sentenced to death, alive. Apart from the security provided to him, he has been pampered enough with jail authorities anxious not to offer him any opportunity to complain. There is no reason for the authorities to be so defensive in dealing with a murderer. He should be treated at par with other convicts and be provided (or denied) facilities like others on the death row. True, given the extraordinary sensitivity of the case, jail authorities have to be extra careful with him, but that should not amount to giving him preferential treatment in order to keep him in good humour. It would have been in the fitness of things had Kasab been transferred to the death row of a high security prison. It is there that he would have lived through the psychological trauma he richly deserves.


A person who has taken innocent lives and is not in the least remorseful for it, deserves no mercy. Throughout the trial in the lower court and later in the High Court, the Pakistani terrorist often ridiculed the judicial system by making fantastic demands and throwing tantrums. By being so lenient with him, the Government is setting a wrong example. No one is suggesting that the authorities flout the law, but there are ways of being ruthless with people like Kasab even while remaining within the law. Perhaps the Government is being careful in not wanting to provide Pakistan and its patrons an opportunity to raise fingers over the issue. But frankly, how we deal with this terrorist is none of Islamabad's (or anybody else's) business. Given the present state of affairs, Kasab has every reason to be happy. Even if his death sentence is upheld by the Supreme Court, he can hope to extend his life by filing a mercy petition: Since there's a huge backlog pending, he can put off his date with the hangman for the foreseeable future. There's a long queue ahead of him and it is anybody's guess as to whether the Government will ever have the courage to send him to his death.

 

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THE PIONEER

COLUMN

BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE

CLAUDE ARPI


The US finds itself trapped in a situation of its own making in Pakistan: Washington can neither take Islamabad to task nor pretend all is well!


The Americans made fools of the Pakistani Army and its intelligence agencies by dropping silently into the centre of one of their most secured cantonments to kill Osama bin Laden. This unannounced intrusion obviously upset the Pakistani establishment.


Feeling slighted, Islamabad hinted at avenging its humiliation by letting it be known that it "might let the Chinese take a look" at the remains of the American stealth helicopter that had crashed during the raid and was blown up by the US SEALs. An article in the Chinese-language Shanghai Evening Post said that although the US wants the pieces of the helicopter back, "Pakistan may invite China to participate in the study (of the debris)."

In the event, the US prevailed upon Pakistan to return the remains of the helicopter. But that does not rule out the possibility of the PLA's intelligence wing receiving a few pieces of the ruins of the abandoned helicopter as a 'souvenir' or even a 'reward'.


After all, Pakistan cannot refuse this to a friend. On May 11, when Pakistan's Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani opened his country's second Chinese-made nuclear reactor, he praised the "unwavering support" from its ally at a time when the rest of the world was trashing Pakistan for having hosted the dreaded Saudi terrorist for so long in a comfortable safe house.


Mr Gilani hammered the nail in: "It is yet another illustrious example of Pakistan-China cooperation in the field of nuclear science and technology. The high level of friendship that the two countries enjoy continues to be a source of strength for Pakistan." This may not help smoothen out Islamabad's already strained relations with Washington, DC.


The new 330 MW reactor, built in Chashma (Punjab) will be followed by two more units, also made-in-China, at the same plant. China's nuclear ties with Pakistan have always been a source of tension for the US. Pakistan has a very poor track record as far as proliferation is concerned. Nobody has forgotten the saga of AQ Khan, Pakistan's top nuclear scientist; and there is always a risk of nuclear weapons falling in the wrong hands.


Though the Government in Islamabad maintains that nuclear weapons are safe in Pakistan and that it is impossible for terrorists to get hold of them, Washington does not often trust Islamabad's utterances (as in the case of Operation Geronimo to execute Osama bin Laden).


This is not the first time that Washington is nervous. In 2009, soon after US President Barack Obama announced that Pakistan's nuclear arsenal "will remain out of militant hands", the US Ambassador in Islamabad, Ms Anne W Patterson, sent a cable to the State Department expressing her concern. She was deeply worried that a stockpile of highly enriched uranium was kept near an ageing research reactor in Pakistan. There was enough material to produce a nuclear bomb.


In her cable, sent on May 27, 2009, Ms Patterson reported that the Pakistani Government was dragging its feet on an agreement reached two years earlier wherein Islamabad had agreed that the United States would remove the material. The US Ambassador had been told by a Pakistani official: "If the local media got word of the fuel removal, they certainly would portray it as the United States taking Pakistan's nuclear weapons."


The cable, put out by WikiLeaks, does not tell us how the story ends. Hopefully the fuel has been removed since then. It, however, remains a fact that Pakistan's nuclear programme has been giving 'sleepless' nights to successive US Presidents.


Perhaps even more interesting than the WikiLeaks cable is a series of US documents published by the National Security Archives of George Washington University on how Pakistan acquired the bomb in the 1970s. This period witnessed the military coup by General Zia-ul Haq who imposed martial law on July 5, 1977. The documents show that though the Carter Administration was deeply upset with the Zia regime, the arrival of Soviet troops in Afghanistan at the end of the 1970s made the US officials 'forget' that Pakistan had become nuclear. Later, it was too late to stop the nuclear train.


Already in the 1970s, the Pakistani nuclear weapons programme was a source of anxiety for US officials, especially when they discovered AQ Khan's network. The Carter Administration would have been even more worried if it had known that AQ Khan and his team were providing nuclear weapons technology to Libya, Iran and North Korea with the help of China, but that is another story.


The entire nuclear process had started after Pakistan's defeat in the 1971 war that led to Bangladesh's liberation. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto realised that Pakistan would never be able to defeat India in a conventional war. So he decided to secretly develop nuclear weapons. In 1973, Pakistan began negotiations to buy a nuclear reprocessing facility (used for producing plutonium) from a French firm.


In August 1974, US intelligence agencies estimated that Pakistan would not have nuclear weapons before 1980, even with "extensive foreign assistance". But a year later, the CIA predicted that Pakistan could produce a plutonium-fuelled weapon as early as 1978, as long as it had access to a reprocessing source. The CIA, therefore, thought that it was enough to stop the transfer of a reprocessing plant to end the process. Unfortunately, the US intelligence agencies made some wrong assumptions.


The US documents also confirm that Gen Zia's main objective was the consolidation of the nuclear programme initiated by Bhutto who had bragged "we are ready to eat grass" to possess what he called the 'Islamic Bomb'. Thanks to AQ Khan, who managed to steal the blueprints for a gas centrifuge uranium enrichment facility, the Pakistani dream became a reality right under the eyes of the Americans who "wanted to maintain good relations with that country, a moderate state in an unstable region".


Reading these historical documents, one realises that Secretary of State Cyrus Vance and his colleagues believed that "a package of tangible inducements" would dissuade Pakistan from taking drastic steps. But with China remaining Pakistan's main support to acquire the bomb, even 'tangible inducements' were not enough. Though the Carter Administration worked hard on a non-proliferation policy, Pakistan still managed to build its nuclear arsenal. It certainly brought deep frustration to President Carter and his team.


Another US document admits that during the 1980s, "the US was criticised for providing massive levels of aid to Pakistan, its military ally, despite laws barring assistance to any country that imported certain technology related to nuclear weapons. President Ronald Reagan waived the legislation, arguing that cutting off aid would "harm US national interests".


One moral of the story is that when a country, especially one like Pakistan, is desperate to get nuclear weapons technology, it is difficult to stop it with either sticks or carrots. More than the growing rift between Pakistan and the US, what worries American officials is Beijing's growing influence in Islamabad. Whenever there is a problem between the two 'allies', China is not far away and always ready to help its 'all weather' friend.


A piece of a damaged helicopter's tail is probably a small reward for such support.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

A BILL THAT DAMNS THE MAJORITY

ARUN JAITLEY


The draft Prevention of Communal Violence Bill appears to be the handiwork of those social entrepreneurs who have learnt from the Gujarat experience of how to fix senior leaders even when they are not liable for an offence

A draft of a proposed legislation titled "Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill, 2011" has been put in public domain. The draft Bill ostensibly appears to be a part of an endeavour to prevent and punish communal violence in the country. Though that may be the ostensible object of the proposed law its real object is to the contrary. It is a Bill which if it is ever enacted as a law will intrude into the domain of the State, damage the federal polity of India, and create an imbalance in the inter-community relationship of this country.


What does the Bill in effect state

The most vital definition of the Bill is of the expression 'group'. A 'group' means a religious or linguistic minority and in a given State may include the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. The Bill creates a whole set of new offences in Chapter II. Clause 6 clarifies that the offences under this Bill are in addition to the offences under the SC & ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. Can a person be punished twice for the same offence? Clause 7 prescribes that a person is said to commit sexual assault if he or she commits any of the sexual act against a person belonging to a 'group' by virtue of that person's membership of a group. Clause 8 prescribes that 'hate propaganda' is an offence when a person by words oral or written or a visible representation causes hate against a 'group' or a person belonging to a 'group'. Clause 9 creates an offence for communal and targeted violence. Any person who singly or jointly or acting under the influence of an association engages in unlawful activity directed against a 'group' is guilty of organised communal and targeted violence. Clause 10 provides for punishment of a person who expends or supplies money in the furtherance or support of an offence against a 'group'. The offence of torture is made out under clause 12 where a public servant inflicts pain or a suffering, mental or physical, on a person belonging to a 'group'. Clause 13 punishes a public servant for dereliction of duty in relation to offences mentioned in this Bill. Clause 14 punishes public servants who control the armed forces or security forces and fails to exercise control over people in his command in order to discharge their duty effectively. Clause 15 expands the principle of vicarious liability. An offence is deemed to be committed by a senior person or office-bearer of an association and he fails to exercise control over subordinates under his control or supervision. He is vicariously liable for an offence which is committed by some other person. Clause 16 renders orders of superiors as no defence for an alleged offence committed under this section.


Any communal trouble during which offences are committed is a law and order problem. Dealing with the law and order is squarely within the domain of the State Governments. In the division of powers between the Centre and the States, the Union Government has no direct authority to deal with the law and order issues; nor is it directly empowered to deal with them nor it can legislate on the subject. The Union Government's jurisdiction restricts itself to issue advisories, directions and eventually forming an opinion under Article 356 that the governance of the State can be carried on in accordance with the Constitution or not. If the proposed Bill becomes a law, then effectively it is the Union Government which would have usurped the jurisdiction of the States and legislated on a subject squarely within the domain of the States.


India has been gradually moving towards a more amicable inter-community relationship. Even when minor communal or caste disturbances occur, there is a national mood of revulsion against them. The Governments, media, the courts among other institutions rise to perform their duty. The perpetrators of communal trouble should certainly be punished. This draft Bill however proceeds on a presumption that communal trouble is created only by members of the majority community and never by members of the minority community. Thus, offences committed by members of the majority community against members of the minority community are punishable. Identical offences committed by minority groups against the majority are not deemed to be offences at all. Thus a sexual assault is punishable under this Bill only if committed against a person belonging to a minority 'group'. A member of a majority community in a State does not fall within the purview of a 'group'. 'Hate propaganda' is an offence against the minority community and not otherwise. Organised and targeted violence, hate propaganda, financial help to such persons who commit an offence, torture or dereliction of duty by public servants are all offences only if committed against a member of the minority community and not otherwise. No member of the majority community can ever be a victim. This draft law thus proceeds on an assumption which re-defines the offences in a highly discriminatory manner. No member of the minority community is to be punished under this Act for having committed the offence against the majority community. It is only a member of the majority community who is prone to commit such offences and therefore the legislative intent of this law is that since only majority community members commit these offences, culpability and punishment should only be confined to them. If implemented in a manner as provided by this Bill, it opens up a huge scope for abuse. It can incentivise members of some communities to commit such offences encouraged by the fact that they would never be charged under the Act. Terrorist groups may no longer indulge in terrorist violence. They will be incentivised to create communal riots due to a statutory assumption that members of a jihadi group will not be punished under this law. The law makes only members of the majority community culpable. Why should the law discriminate on the basis of religion or caste? An offence is an offence irrespective of origin of the offender. Here is a proposed law being legislated in the 21st century where caste and religion of an offender wipe out his culpability.


Who will ensure implementation of this Act?

The Bill provides for a seven-member national authority for communal harmony, justice and reparations. Of these seven members at least four of them, including the Chairman and Vice-Chairman, shall only belong to a 'group', that is, the minority community. A similar body is intended to be created in the States. Membership of this body thus shall be on religious and caste grounds. The offenders under this law are only the members of the majority community. The enforcement of the Act will be done by a body where statutorily the members of the majority community will be in a minority. The Governments will have to make available police and other investigative agencies to this authority. This authority shall have the power to conduct investigations and enter buildings, conduct raids and searches to make inquiries into complaints and to initiate steps, record proceedings for prosecution and make its recommendations to the Governments. It shall have powers to deal with the armed forces. It has a power to send advisories to the Union and State Governments. Members of this authority shall be appointed in the case of Union Government by a collegium which shall comprise the Prime Minister, the Home Minister and the Leader of Opposition in the House of People and a leader of each recognised political party. A similar provision is created in relation to the States. Thus, it is the Opposition at the Centre and the States which will have a majority say in the composition of the Authority.


What are the procedures to be followed ?

The procedures to be followed for investigations under this Act are extraordinary. No statement shall be recorded under section 161 of the CrPC. Victim statements shall be only under Section 164, that is, before courts. The Government will have a power to intercept and block messages and telecommunications under this law. Under clause 74 of the Bill if an offence of hate propaganda is alleged against a person, a presumption of guilt shall exist unless the offender proves to the contrary. An allegation thus is equivalent to proof. Public servants under this Bill under clause 67 are liable to be proceeded against without any sanction from the State. The Special Public prosecutor to conduct proceedings under this Act shall not act in aid of truth but 'in the interest of the victim'. The name and identity of the victim complainant will not be disclosed. Progress of the case will be reported by the police to the victim complainant. The occurrence of organised communal and targeted violence under this Act shall amount to an internal disturbance in a State within the meaning of Article 355 entitling the Union Government to impose President's rule.


The drafting of this Bill appears to be the handiwork of those social entrepreneurs who have learnt from the Gujarat experience of how to fix senior leaders even when they are not liable for an offence.


Offences which are defined under the Bill have been deliberately left vague. Communal and targeted violence means violence which destroys the 'secular fabric of the nation'. There can be legitimate political differences as to what constitutes secularism. The phrase secularism can be construed differently by different persons. Which definition is the judge supposed to follow? Similarly, the creation of a hostile 'environment' may leave enough scope for a subjective decision as to what constitutes 'a hostile environment'.

 

The inevitable consequences of such a law would be that in the event of any communal trouble the majority community would be assumed to be guilty. There would be a presumption of guilt unless otherwise proved. Only members of the majority community shall be held culpable under this law. Members of the minority community shall never commit an offence of hate propaganda or communal violence. There is a virtual statutory declaration of innocence under this law for them. The statutory authority prescribed at the Central and State level would intrinsically suffer from an institutional bias because of its membership structure based on caste and community.


I have no doubt that once this law is implemented with the intention with which it is being drafted, it will create disharmony in the inter-community relations in India. It is a law fraught with dangerous consequences. It is bound to be misused. Perhaps, that appears to be the real purpose behind its drafting. It will encourage minority communalism. The law defies the basic principles of equality and fairness. Social entrepreneurs in the National Advisory Council can be expected to draft such a dangerous and discriminatory law. One wonders how the political head of that body cleared this draft. When some persons carried on a campaign against POTA — an anti-terrorist law — the members of the UPA argued that even terrorists should be tried under normal laws. A far more draconian law is now being proposed.


The States will be watching hopelessly when the Centre goes ahead with this misadventure. Their power is being usurped. The search for communal harmony is through fairness — not through reverse discrimination.

The writer is Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

IITS AND IIMS HAVE LITTLE TO BOAST ABOUT

ARINDAM CHAUDHURI


Jairam Ramesh has a point when he says the faculty in IIMs and IITs is not worth writing home about. That is the brutal truth; we should wake up to this reality rather than peddle and believe in fiction

So what is wrong with India's most guarded and hyped institutions of higher education, the IITs and the IIMs? Well, if you ask me, it's difficult to find what is right, apart from the acres of land at their disposal and the good PR machinery that they have. Now, before anyone accuses me of competitive bitching, without wasting words, let me proceed systematically.


The first question we must ask is what makes a great institution? The answer to that is actually very simple. Great course content and great faculty. Course content, however, is copyable and quite standardised — at least amongst the world's finest institutions. Faculty, therefore, becomes the most important distinguishing factor. Different streams of education require different kinds of faculty expertise. Management education requires faculty members, for example, to have great communication skills, great consulting and industry interface, and of course, regular research and writing.


Similarly, engineering requires faculty to undertake research first as a key aspect apart from other things like the ability to teach and communicate. And this is where the IITs and the IIMs have a massive problem (apart from many other huge problems, for example, the lack of global exposure or the rank bad selection criteria of students at IIMs where primarily male engineers get through to their management programmes instead of commerce and arts graduates who have relatively higher EQ — a far more important criteria to become a better manager than simply having a high IQ).


So what exactly is the problem with the IIM and IIT faculty? The first and foremost problem is that there is no faculty. I mean, there is a huge dearth of faculty. I list some research and comments to support this. The University of Pennsylvania lists a 2008 document by the journal Science (the number one global science research journal), which mentions "16 centrally-funded Indian universities are already facing a shortfall of nearly 2,000 teachers, and IITs have about 900 vacant faculty posts. According to the All-India Council for Technical Education, almost a third of faculty positions in academia are unfilled."


Well, last year, the Lok Sabha questioned our Minister of State for HRD, D Purandeswari, on this issue. The Minister accepted the horrible situation and gave a reply that "IIT Kharagpur is facing the maximum vacancies of 299 faculty, followed by 222 in IIT Bombay, 194 in IIT Roorkee, 138 in IIT Madras, 78 in IIT Delhi, 69 in IIT Kanpur and 65 in IIT Guwahati." The Minister also accepted that the number of vacancies increased from 877 in the seven old IITs in 2008-09 to 1,065 in 2009-10. "The Government has started eight more IITs in the last two years and in these centres, the number of vacant posts stood at 280," Ms Purandeswari said. The Minister further confirmed that there are 95 vacant posts in the seven IIMs with IIM-Bangalore having the maximum vacancies of 35 posts followed by 29 in IIM-Ahmedabad.


So basically, we are talking of a thousand plus faculty shortage in the IITs alone. And what happens when there is a shortage of faculty is that the existing faculty are heavily burdened with taking more and more classes; worse still, doing more and more of administrative work and obviously less and less of research. As per an article in Business Line, in an assessment of research capabilities in business schools in India, two professors from the London Business School, Nirmalya Kumar and Phanish Puranam, found "poor representation of Indian business schools in the 40 peer-reviewed journals that the Financial Times uses to rank research in MBA schools worldwide." Analysing the research contributions in two decades till 2009, their study shows that just a handful of faculties from some IIMs and IITs have contributed papers to such journals.


And why go far, Mr Sudhir K Jain, Head, Department of Management Studies, IIT Delhi, has himself said, "No doubt, management education in India has evolved, but it has evolved more in terms of quantity and not the quality. Although there are a few dozen good B-schools in India, these constitute not even a few per cent of the total. There are several loopholes, but the most important loophole is the dearth of quality faculty. With the establishment of a large number of B-schools in the country, the demand for faculty has grown tremendously whereas the supply side has remained stagnant. If you look at the output trend of PhDs in Management and Fellows of IIMs in the past 20 years, the factual position will be clear. With the bulk approvals of B-schools, the top educational planners in AICTE, UGC, MHRD, Planning Commission, and educational institutions, should have ensured higher supply of faculty with doctoral degrees in management through suitable policy interventions directed towards high quality higher education."


A Wall Street Journal Live Mint article mentions, "In the race for numbers, quality (of faculty at IIMs) is often compromised. Some former IIM faculty members say at least half the faculty in various IIMs doesn't deserve to be there. This is also the view of Mr Vijay Shanker Pandey, a former joint secretary in the Union Ministry for Human Resource and Development… He conducted an enquiry and found IIMs had many members who neither teach properly nor do research. No wonder IIMs are always on the lookout for good faculty." The same has been admitted by Anindya Sen, Dean (programme initiatives), IIM-Kolkata from 2005-07, who had said in 2007, "It is becoming increasingly difficult to get quality faculty for IIMs. Part of the reason is the low salaries. Talented people out there have plenty of opportunities to look for. They don't see teaching at IIMs attractive anymore." If we talk of the new IIMs, then things get more shocking! Classes in IIM Rohtak, Ranchi and Raipur are conducted primarily by visiting faculties.


Speaking about the students' plight to Wall Street Journal LiveMint, P Rameshan, director of IIM-Rohtak, which is running out of a temporary campus inside Maharshi Dayanand University in Rohtak, said this year itself, "I am the only permanent faculty. All courses are being taught by visiting professors. Students have missed out the benefit of having permanent faculty and this shortage of full-time teachers is affecting the learning process as well as summer placements, which are typically handled by full-time faculty members."

But perhaps most shocking was when the presently Earl C. Daum 1924 Professor of International Business and founding director of Tuck's Center for Global Leadership, Dr. Vijay Govindarajan (known as VG), spoke to our sister magazine The Human Factor, When asked about Indian management education he said, "I will be blunt and brutal because that will only help - I think it stinks! The student quality is world-class and as good as Harvard or Wharton and having taught at IIM (A), I certainly know the quality there. But the quality of faculty is abysmal because there is no research culture in India. If you don't research, you keep teaching the same things over and over again. Research is the process of discovering knowledge, without which, you are retelling someone else's ideas. When I teach 'Reverse Innovation', that is the idea I created. Therefore, I am going to teach it at a level of depth, which may not be possible for someone who reads my article and teaches from it. If you don't research, you don't read and so you teach the same thing."


According to the National Knowledge Commission, "The number of researchers in India was 112 per million inhabitants compared to 633 in China and 4,374 in the US in 2002. The growth in the number of doctorates has been only a modest 20 per cent in India during 1991-2001 compared to 85 per cent in China." It really is time for Indians to realise that Mr Jairam Ramesh has said the brutal truth. There's too much lacking in the IITs and IIMs and it's time they wake up to this reality


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

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

 COMMENT

LOSING CASTE

 

Does the rise of India and China threaten the West? President Obama reassured his British hosts this wasn't the case during his recent visit to the UK, but also reminded them that the days were over when Roosevelt and Churchill could sit in a room and sort out the world's problems between themselves. If the 1990s were marked by the fall of communism and the triumph of western democracies, today's keynote seems to be the arrival of the new kids on the block: India, China, Brazil, Indonesia and other emerging economies. And the status anxiety that this has given rise to in the West has all but eclipsed the triumphal note of the 1990s.


Of course, a cosy club of rich industrial nations not being able to resolve the world's problems among themselves does pose some problems for world order. Obama has invoked the indispensability of European and American leadership precisely at the point when it is failing. The last successfully concluded global trade negotiation was the Marrakesh agreement of 1994. The current round of WTO negotiations, launched as far back as 2001 at Doha, looks interminable as there's still no agreement in sight. Similarly, climate negotiations have stalled and the Kyoto Protocol is moribund.


The solution must be to bring others into the club as well and listen to what they have to say, not simply to wallow in thoughts of the West's inevitable decline. The UN Security Council, whose permanent members are still the victors of World War II, is a good example of the obsolescence of global institutions. The public mood in many western industrial nations is currently marked by anxiety, despondency, truculence and defensiveness. But then, as Obama pointed out in his speech, the very success of free enterprise has spurred imitators across the world. Asian and Latin American nations are discovering the secrets of prosperity, and soon African nations may join them.


Rising prosperity in the rest of the world is in the interest of western nations, as they will have bigger markets to sell to. Petty harassment, such as asking Indian IT firms to pay for erecting border defences that will keep Mexicans out of the US, is mean-spirited and won't save American jobs. Meanwhile, the Arab spring demonstrates that ideas of democratic freedom are not a western monopoly. It's not so much that the West is in decline as that it's getting more provincial. Rather than being mired in despondency, it should celebrate the arrival of a global civilisation with shared values. The West mustn't be afraid to lose caste - we're all the same.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

 COMMENT

SARKARI SCOURGE

 

The story would be amusing if it weren't emblematic of the sarkari attitudes permeating our public sector. Recently, an employee of state-owned Indian Bank faced flak for apparently failing to extend "basic courtesies" to his superior. He had locked in his car keys while loading the luggage of his boss, who was kept waiting at the airport. For this lapse, the bank chairman and managing director reportedly had Banabihari Panda, an executive of 34 years' experience, suspended. The latter wrote to apologise, explaining what should've been obvious: it was a mistake. He also delivered the luggage, if belatedly. For his pains, the Mumbai zonal manager's been reinstated, but not without a transfer to Chennai. Plus, the incident is now under 'investigation'!


It beggars belief that a major public sector bank can squander time and energy on a minor incident, even wasting money 'probing' it. This would suggest the bank staffer was expected to be subservient to the point of being resigned to his humiliation. Blame it on the culture of servility that pervades babudom and politics. Recall the police officer who instinctively bent down to wipe Mayawati's sandals with his handkerchief. UP's chief minister, known to transfer cops at whim, hadn't exactly stopped him. Democracy's representatives are expected to combat outdated ideas of domination and subservience, yet these have been institutionalised. Consider the sahayak, essentially an army officer's helper. We got the idea from colonial rulers, but the British abolished the post after World War II. All we've done is try to ensure sahayaks aren't treated as household servants, without great success. Civil society must decry practices attacking human dignity, and laws be framed wherever possible to eradicate institutional servility. Let's start by passing the Civil Services Bill, which would free civil servants from being beholden to politicians for plum posts.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

 TOP ARTICLE

THE TANGLED WEB THEY WEAVE

S K SHARMA

 

The US and its allies have hailed the killing of al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad as a significant victory. Analysts believe that bin Laden's killing might not necessarily sound the death knell for al-Qaida but will definitely weaken the terror outfit and its network worldwide. However, the fight against terrorism has not become any easier with networks like the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) spreading their tentacles across the globe.

In a recent statement, Admiral Robert F Willard, commander of US Pacific forces, expressed concern to the US Congress about the LeT's reach, warning that it is no longer focussed only on India and South Asia, and that the US had evidence of LeT's presence in Europe and the broader Asia-Pacific region. He also noted that the group has declared holy war against the US and its forces in Afghanistan. The serious threat that the LeT poses to the US can be gauged from the involvement of David Coleman Headley in the Mumbai terror attacks and the series of LeT sleeper cells that were busted in the US since 2001.


LeT poses a far graver threat to peace and stability than al-Qaida. The group has been campaigning for more rigorous implementation of blasphemy laws in Pakistan and inciting people to adopt the 'way of jihad' to overthrow the government. Considered a strategic asset by the ISI and Pakistani army, the outfit has no fear of prosecution by the state.


LeT chief, Hafiz Saeed, on February 5, Kashmir Solidarity Day, said if India refused to part with Kashmir, Pakistan must launch a jihad to free Kashmir. He recently told his supporters that "their journey of defence, progress and survival goes through Kashmir and jihad for Kashmir will not only result in the freedom of Kashmir but also supremacy of Islam".

 

By all accounts, LeT, perhaps next to Jamaat-e-Islami, has the most organised and expansive network of supporters and offices in Pakistan. It runs over 180 schools, 80 madrassas, several charitable organisations and technical colleges besides publishing houses and farms and training campuses in several parts of Pakistan. It also has an annual training budget of $5 million generated from private donations, NGOs, madrassas and businesses spread throughout South Asia, the Middle East and Europe. LeT is also perhaps the only terrorist group in the world which gets grants from the government. Last year, the Punjab government gave a grant of close to $1 million to LeT's parent body, Jamaat-ud-Dawa.

LeT's deep and abiding relationship with the Pakistani army and ISI was underscored by the spate of confidential documents from the US State Department made public by WikiLeaks. The diplomatic cables reveal the proximity the terrorist group enjoys with the Pakistani military establishment. These documents show the power and influence of the LeT in Pakistan and its value to the military in achieving various strategic objectives. Until the 2008 Mumbai attacks, the group had kept a low profile, thereby managing to strengthen its resource base, public support and political linkages. This was a deliberate plan, helped by the army which wanted a jihadi asset which can be trusted, used and kept as a secret weapon against India. Following the Mumbai attacks, the army has reluctantly asked LeT to go underground again.


The LeT has also amassed popular support in Pakistan and millions of dollars in donations by engaging in charity and relief work - an area where the feeble administration has not been able to deliver. Moreover, Saeed enjoys both religious and political clout in Lahore and elsewhere. In the aftermath of the Mumbai attacks, he was allowed to remain in a guesthouse and, as expected, charges were not pressed against him in court. This allowed him to be set free within a few months of an attack that shook the world.

Despite the global uproar over the Mumbai attacks, the US has been seemingly hesitant in taking direct action against the LeT, not because of lack of information or understanding of the threat it poses, but for short-term interests and the fear of losing strategic space to China in Pakistan. For the US, Pakistan remains the key in untangling itself from Afghanistan; therefore, it is not willing to push the Pakistani military leadership beyond a point. Till some Americans were killed in the Mumbai attack, the US had viewed LeT as a regional threat and not as a global one. This has proved to be a grave miscalculation on the part of successive US administrations.

This dimension of LeT's current activities and the successful elimination of the al-Qaida chief have raised the possibility of the US, at some point in the near future, leaning on Pakistan to take decisive and visible action against the LeT leadership and its terrorist infrastructure. However, history proves that when the heat gets turned on the Pakistani army, its intelligence wing cleverly manufactures a new group or new terror leadership to protect its long-term strategic assets like LeT.


It is becoming clear that the US and other western nations have failed to rein in one of the most resourceful and powerful terrorist groups in the world. The group has not only remained intact after the Mumbai attack but has grown manifold in the years since then.


The writer is a columnist on South Asian affairs.

 

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 THE TIMES OF INDIA

Q&A

'INDIA'S FOREIGN POLICY APPROACH MAY SUIT ITS INTERESTS'

 

David Malone was Canada's high commissioner to India and now heads Canada's International Development Research Centre (IDRC). He has also just published a book on contemporary Indian foreign policy titled Does the Elephant Dance? He spoke to Deep K Datta-Ray :


Your book on Indian foreign policy relies on categories such as soft power, realism and idealism but can these concepts, developed by Anglo-Saxons to describe western international politics, be used to describe what we do?

The term "soft power" was coined by an American scholar-practitioner. It could readily be dismissed as a facile slogan in India. But look at India's actions. Delhi developed a soft power capacity, hingeing on the strong pull of India in terms of its history, culture and even landscapes through the incredibly successful Incredible India campaign. If that isn't iconic of a soft power approach then what is? India can build on this approach by also showcasing its democracy, without seeking to export it, and the country's admirable struggle for human rights. As for realism and idealism, Nehru was influenced by both, and so are today's politicians, although India's possibilities in foreign policy are vastly expanded now.


In your book do you recount history or advance an analytical argument?

Both, actually. I believe it's impossible to understand contemporary policy without knowing where it came from. For instance, Nehru's strategic thinking, much debated, is being reassessed currently, generally in a positive light and it reflects on India's international relations today. Beyond an anti-imperialist strand, Nehru saw India, well before Independence, as primarily an Asian power. This vision is only being realised now. In 1947, Nehru had very few international cards to play, but he played them well. Today, India has more options and makes more choices.


Does being a practitioner make your writing about our foreign policy distinctive?

Having been part of the foreign policy development process in Canada and a delegate at the UN often seeking to forge compromise perhaps makes me less excitable than commentators seeking to impress with bold claims. Overall, being a practitioner makes me more empathetic to the challenges faced by Indian policymakers but there's a risk too in my approach - that of getting stuck in the weeds and failing to outline the trees and to identify a forest.


I have to ask the Tanham question. Do we possess a strategic culture?

There is strong strategic sense at any given time among several Indians shaping foreign and security policy, sometimes retired, as was the late, great K Subrahmanyam when at his most influential. Their disposition is generally prudent, but they see further than the rest of us, and are less likely to be waylaid by the lure of sentimentality or ideology than us. India has never for long locked itself into foreign policy or national security frameworks. These generally just keep on failing elsewhere. Hence India's approach, while often reactive, may suit the country's interests better, given an Indian genius for improvisation, however late in the day it sometimes occurs!

Finally, what is IDRC and how does it engage us?

We specialise in helping developing countries to generate evidence-based policy through their own research communities. Our annual budget is $270 million, mostly provided by the Canadian Parliament. About $50 million is currently funding about 150 projects in India ranging from core support for think tanks to project funding for other institutions and individuals. We also fund work on economic and social challenges in a range of areas from agriculture to gender issues. We often work with partners such as the Gates Foundation, Canada's aid programme and the UK government's international development department.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

STATUS QUOTIENT

 

Reading a news report recently i tut-tutted over the falling standards of journalism when i spotted an obvious misprint. What were newspapers coming to these days. Or rather, where were they going to. Look at this howler, for instance. How could any sub-editor worth their printing ink have allowed such an obvious bloomer to pass? A car, priced at R 2 crore. What nonsense. Then i looked closer. And i saw that there was indeed an error. But the error was not on the part of the newspaper, but on mine. I'd miscounted all the zeroes that came after the 2. There weren't seven zeroes as i'd thought, but eight of the sneaky devils. Eight zeroes? What did eight zeroes coming after a 2 add up to, apart from my total confusion? And the answer - when i'd finally worked it out - was 20 crore. And that was the price of a car. One car. Not a fleet of cars, one for each day of the week. Not even a couple of 'His' and 'Her' cars, blue for 'Him', pink for 'Her'. Made by someone called Aston and a buddy of his called Martin. The same two guys, if i recalled right, who'd made the car James Bond drives. But 20 crore? Even Bond would have to think 007 times - or maybe even 00007 times - before whacking out 20 large Cs for a set of wheels, no matter how ritzy they were.


How could a car cost 20 crore? i asked myself. What did it have that could justify a price that would get you a whole parking lot full of Nanos if instead of Messrs Aston and Martin you plonked for apro Ratan instead? What special accessories did a 20-crore car come with? A platinum engine? Solid gold hubcaps? Diamond-studded headlights? Narain Karthikeyan as chauffeur for life?


Then it struck me what it was that made a 20-crore car worth 20 crore. It was the 20-crore price tag itself, nothing more or less. For the 20-crore tag didn't just spell out 20 crore. It spelt out much more than that. It spelt out Status with an S that was not just a capital S but a positively capitalist S. Never mind what else it had. What was important, what made the 20-crore car a 20-crore car, was the Status Quotient, or SQ, it bestowed on the person who could afford to buy it.


Of all the ingenious things devised by marketing experts by far the most ingenious is the function of price as a provider of SQ. Suppose someone comes up with a totally useless product, something for which literally no practical, or even impractical use, can possibly be found. A square wheel, for example. Now if the inventor of the square wheel were smart - a doubtful proposition, considering he'd gone and invented a square wheel in the first place - instead of tossing his invention into the rubbish bin and going back to the drawing board to try his hand at something else - Hey! What about a perpetual motion machine? - he'd go to a team of marketing experts and get the experts to turn his square wheel into a money-spinning best-seller. How? By putting not just a huge but an extra-extra-huge price tag on the square wheel. And thanks to that e-e-huge tag, people with more money than SQ would get into a push-and-shove contest to be the first to buy it before someone else did. I was first in line! Weren't too, i was!


Why would people pay a humongous amount of money for something that obviously wasn't worth all that much, in fact wasn't worth anything at all, like a square wheel, say? Because by doing so they'd show everyone, including themselves, that they could afford to spend that kind of money on something of little or no intrinsic value. What they were buying was not a product - a square wheel, for instance - but the SQ given to the product by the XXL price tag.


That's what those smart guys, Mr Aston and Mr Martin, were doing. They were getting people to buy not their car - heck, anyone could buy a car; ask Ratan - but the price tag the car came with. Smart move, fellas. But a smarter move would be for someone to bypass Aston-bhai and Martin-bhai and go to a local print shop and pay 20 bucks to get a 20-crore tag printed to stick on the back of his bargain-basement jalopy. Status Quotient doesn't stand a chance when it meets up with Suraiya Quotient. Aston-bhaiya, Martin-bhaiya, please excuse.

jug.suraiya@timesgroup.com

http://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/jugglebandhi/

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

NEHRU'S SCIENTIFIC HUMANISM

ASHOK VOHRA

 

We attach so much importance to the notion of God that according to many thinkers like Voltaire, even if God did not exist it would be necessary to invent Him. According to them, God is a psychological necessity for "the mind of man has always been trying to fashion some such mental image or conception which grew with the mind's growth".

In addition, it is our natural tendency to depend on someone else - who we consider to be superior to us in all aspects - in knowledge, competence, power and perfection, for instance. God is the paradigm of virtues and ideals cherished, on whom we can rely in times of crisis and whom we can blame for our failures.

Countering the argument of those who upheld the necessity of God or a God-like concept, Nehru argued, "Even if God exists, it may be desirable not to look up to Him or to rely upon Him." He argued, "Too much dependence on supernatural factors may lead, and has often led, to a loss of self-reliance in man." It would, according to him, ultimately result in "blunting of his (man's) capacity and creative ability".

Nehru had a tremendous faith in the human. In order to show the supremacy of man over God he argued, "God we may deny, but what hope is there for us if we deny man and thus reduce everything to futility."

Instead of having faith in God and religion Nehru advocated humanism - which he termed as 'scientific humanism'. It represents 'synthesis between humanism and scientific spirit'. Scientific humanism advocated by Nehru "is practical and pragmatic, ethical and social, altruistic and humanitarian. It is governed by practical idealism for social betterment".

The doctrine of scientific humanism rejects the philosophic, mystic or theoretical approach to humanism in which the quest is primarily for ultimate reality and for individual salvation. For scientific humanism on the contrary, "humanity is its God and social service its religion". It recognises the fact that "every culture has certain values attached to it, limited and conditioned by that culture". It also recognises that human nature is such that "every generation and every people suffer from the illusion that their way of looking at things is the only right way or is, at any rate, the nearest approach" to knowing and realising the truth to which they accord permanent validity.

Scientific humanism wins over this general tendency and upholds a radically opposite view, namely that "the values of our present-day culture may not be permanent and final; nevertheless they have an essential importance for us for they represent the thought and spirit of the age we live in". In view of this Nehru concludes that "we have...to function in line with the highest ideals of the age we live in, though we may add to them or seek to mould them in accordance with our national genius".


Like Sartre, Nehru, too, upholds the view that man continually accepts the challenges faced by him in achieving the targets and goals chosen by him. "Life," according to him, "is a principle of growth, not of standing still, a continuous becoming, which does not permit static conditions." For man, life is a long adventure and an opportunity to test his will and his worth. He does not rest until goals are reached. From every disappointment and defeat, the spirit of man 'emerges with new strength and wider vision'. Nehru expressed this characteristic of the human spirit poetically thus:


"I count life just a stuff/ To try the soul's strength on..."

www.speakingtree.in

Join the world's first spiritual networking site to interact directly with masters and seekers.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

OUR TAKE

REWORK THE FUNDAMENTALS

The International Monetary Fund is not organised on democratic lines. It is more in the nature of a corporation where voting rights devolve along shareholding — in this case the position a country occupies in the global economic pecking order. And it is an extraordinary occurrence for a company to be run by managers appointed by minority shareholders, even if the latter accomplish the rare feat of coming together on the issue. With just above 50% of the IMF vote between them, the US and Europe are in a position to shoot down any candidate for the managing director's job if the rest of the world were to put one up. The process of a global economic shift towards emerging economies is far too gradual to be able to change this arithmetic in the foreseeable future. Yet it is in the IMF's interest to heed the developing world when it asks — as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has — for a more plural and transparent approach to choosing the fund's boss!

For one, the IMF has to stay relevant. As more of the world climbs out of poverty, their need for emergency loans from the fund diminishes. On the other hand, crises in the advanced economies — as the 2008 financial meltdown shows — are much bigger that what the IMF can handle. Member nations contribute around a percentage point of the world's output to the fund every year. Second, the argument that a European chief now would be better placed at handling the continent's debt crisis sounds hollow to Asian and South American countries that have sought loans over the decades from an IMF headed by Europeans. Finally, the structural adjustments that accompanied most IMF lending were predicated on a certain understanding of capitalism that is in doubt today. For a pertinent approach to the crises of the future the IMF can only gain by infusing new blood from economies that are demonstrably doing better by deviating from the regulatory regimes that have been laid low.

The call for transparency is more pressing. The IMF's executive board cannot operate like a tightly held company

and yet find the acceptance it needs as a multilateral institution. Backroom deals are brokered easily when there is an obvious lender of last resort. That scenario is changing:

the Asian worker has over the previous couple of decades proved to be a bigger lender to the western consumer than

any bank. Asia's export-led strategy, built on artificially low exchange rates, gives it an inordinately big voice in currency talks. Any impression that it is being denied entry into global institutions can exert a perverse pressure to dig deeper into entrenched positions on exchange and interest rates, to the detriment of world trade.

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

IT'S NOT ROCKET SCIENCE

When minister of environment and forests Jairam Ramesh recently said that the faculty in the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) wasn't "world-class", he would have expected the furore that followed. But he, an IIT alumnus himself, would have also known that he was merely articulating Indian higher education's worst-kept secret.

In December 2000, management consultancy firm McKinsey submitted its report 'Shaping the Knowledge Economy in India: The need to set up a national mission for technology education' to then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The report concluded that attracting and retaining good faculty was the single biggest problem facing the IIT system. Research output is a critical indicator of faculty quality. Between 1993 and 1998 while the number of citations per faculty member (which attests to the quality of papers being written) for Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) was 45, and for Stanford's engineering school 52, a typical IIT professor could hope for only two or three. In 1996-97, 102 patents were granted to MIT professors and students. The number for an IIT was between three and six.

OK, this is old data, and things may have improved dramatically since then, though one doesn't see how. The hi-tech wonderland of Silicon Valley was born around a university, Stanford, with professors encouraging PhD students to turn their laboratory work into commercial enterprises. Thus did Hewlett-Packard get started off, as did Sun Microsystems, and Google, and scores of other companies pushing the frontiers of technology. But has the presence of an IIT in Mumbai done anything for the chemical industry in Mumbai? Has the presence of an IIT in Kanpur done anything for the engineering industry in and around Kanpur? They have been islands with no links to even their immediate geographical environments, forget the broader industrial landscape. And it's not that Indian industry has a bias against any new technology developed in an IIT.

A few years after the McKinsey report, the government set up a high-powered committee to study the IIT system and suggest ways forward. I was invited by IIT Kharagpur as one of the alumni to interact with the committee. There was not much interaction — one committee member was repeatedly dozing off — and the same problems were discussed: faculty, faculty and faculty. Soon after, then HRD minister Murli Manohar Joshi got into the act, trying to curb whatever little autonomy the IITs had over who to hire and what to teach.

And not that the government wasn't interfering even before that. The McKinsey report clearly concluded that the selection process of IIT directors wasn't always merit-based and that directors lacked autonomy in critical areas like financial issues and personnel policies. Said an IIT director to McKinsey: "I had to drop out of a conference last year because my clearance from the ministry didn't arrive in time. Why should the ministry approve my travel?" Complained another director: "On paper, I can remove a non-performing faculty member, but in reality it's virtually impossible."

But to go back to the root of the problem: why would a brilliant engineer want to teach in an IIT? An IIT professor's annual compensation package is perhaps one-sixth of what he would earn in industry. As a result, to borrow Tennessee Williams' immortal phrase, the IITs are dependent on "the kindness of strangers" for good-quality faculty, on bright people who are also idealistic and not too concerned about money. This is clearly a situation that is not sustainable. In the US too, professors get paid less than people in industry, but it's not one-sixth or one-seventh that of a person with similar skills in industry.

Traditionally, most IIT graduates, if they had a research bent of mind, would go to a American university, where the facilities were better and the challenges more futuristic. And typically, a non-IIT graduate would join a post-graduate programme in an IIT, go on to do his PhD there and join the faculty. So in the large majority of cases, IITs end up with the also-rans as faculty. But surely you can do something with them after that? But there are no aggressive faculty enhancement programmes. Koch University in Turkey selects high-potential students in the masters' programme for doctoral training. It pays all their expenses for the four to five years it takes for a PhD in an American university. The quid pro quo is that they will have to return to Koch to teach. In Ireland, Catholic University pays all expenses for faculty presenting papers at US conferences. The prestige associated with these conferences stimulates quality research. Singapore Management School has a deal with Wharton Business School for sending young faculty members to learn at Wharton for one year. And it pays equivalent US salaries to its faculty.

Years ago, I was sitting with legendary IIT professor and former director of IIT Madras, PV Indiresan. "Let's face it," he told me bluntly, "Most teachers in the IITs are inferior to the students." Mrs Indiresan, sitting next to him, objected. "You shouldn't say things like that!" she admonished. "The truth is the truth, so why try to hide it?" insisted Indiresan. "And the reason is simple. Every IIT student is one out of 100 people who took the entrance exams. But the professors are not one out of every 100 applicants for a post."

To be fair, the picture is not all bleak. There is cutting-edge research going on in several IITs, often in collaboration with some of the world's best technology companies. But these projects are the exceptions to the rule. The undeniable truth remains, that till IIT professors' salaries are delinked from government scales and raised to competitive levels, till these pay packages are based on their performance, till they are allowed to receive direct compensation from industry without any limits, and the quality of campus infrastructure improved to give the faculty a better personal lifestyle, these institutes that we are supposedly so proud of will have to rely on sheer luck to attract "world-class" teachers.

Sandipan Deb is an IIT alumnus, a senior journalist and author of The IITians

The views expressed by the author are personal

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

PAINTED INTO A CORNER

JAGMOHAN

India's first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, had an instinctive revulsion towards slums. He once wrote: "I believe in no argument, economic or other, which is based on creation of slums. I have a horror of slums. I don't mind a person living in the open like a vagabond or a gypsy. I am a bit of vagabond myself. I have often said if you cannot provide buildings for those living in slums, give them open space to live in and give them some social services like water supply, and sanitation. The rest will follow."

But, sadly, even after over six decades of planning, 35% of our urban population still lives in slums. In Mumbai, about 55% of the total population lives in slums; Dharavi, where about a million people live in just 1.75 square kilometre area, has earned worldwide notoriety for its size. Bangalore, the capital of India's thriving software industry, has a slum population of about two million spread over 1,000 shanties and as many as 90,000 street-children and ragpickers. In Delhi, if the dilapidated katras of the Walled City are added to the 1,600 unauthorised colonies and about 1,000 jhuggi-jhopri clusters then about 77% of its population would be found living in slums.

Since the introduction of the economic reforms in 1991, slums have increased. A global study — The Challenge of Slums: Global Report on Human Settlements (2003) — has underlined that after the forces of neo-liberalism gained ascendancy, a new social class of informal sector workers whose living conditions are marked by 'low status, low wages, long hours of work and insecure habitats' is fast emerging in developing countries.

To solve this problem, we require a new approach to make the process of migration more organised. A few migrant colonies with organised layouts, basic amenities and with facilities to impart skills to enable the new arrivals to secure regular and worthwhile jobs in the urban economy need to be set up every year. Migrants should be allowed to move into these colonies by paying a nominal rent for the space allotted.

An essential pre-requisite of the approach is that the urban as well as urbanisable lands should be acquired in advance for  comprehensive development of the cities and, out of those acquired lands, suitable chunks should be earmarked to set up migrant colonies. The objective would be to make the migrant a lawful allottee and also a skilled individual who can make a positive contribution to the orderly development of the city.

All this will require the rigorous intervention of the State. The forces of neo-liberalism may have done a lot of good in the arenas of business, industry and commerce, but they have spelt disaster for the urban poor. The few schemes started under the 'public-private partnership' model have either failed or are on the verge of failure. The much-touted project of Tehkhand in Delhi has not moved an inch in seven years. And the Mumbai-Dharavi project has been lingering on for about 15 years. It is slowly becoming a bonanza for private developers. It is time that we act quickly. We should not forget that by 2030, India's urban population would mount to  590 million — about double the total population of the US — and about 68 cities will have to house more than a million people each.

Jagmohan is a former Union minister
The views expressed by the author are personal

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

ALL FOR THE STATE

 

Much hope surrounds India's land acquisition bill, which is to be introduced into Parliament soon. Given how questions about pricing and purchasing agricultural land have begun to affect, and in some cases warp, politics all over India, much depends on getting the institutional framework right. It is necessary to ensure that the land-use change that accompanies this urbanisation be carried out fairly, efficiently and effectively. It has already been held up for far too long, in particular by intransigence on the part of the Trinamool Congress's Mamata Banerjee.

The earlier draft of the bill required end-users to buy at least 70 per cent of the land in a desired area before the government could step in, declare that handing the land over to industry served a "public purpose", and compulsorily acquire it. It was this that Banerjee objected to: 30 per cent, she implied, was too large a group of naysayers. State power should not be used; the individuals concerned should be approached directly by the purchasers. It is this too that the National Advisory Council looked at in its recommendations on the land acquisition bill that it hammered out in a meeting on Wednesday. Except, they reached absolutely the opposite conclusion. For large projects — those affecting over 400 people — they have said that the private sector should not be involved in the purchasing at all. The entire operation should be done by government. This is, oddly, exactly the position taken by large real-estate developers, who would prefer that land for large projects be arranged for using the government's powers.

There is much that is ill-thought-out about the NAC's recommendations. Land acquisition needs to be made more market-based, and to involve less state power — or the capacity for rent-seeking will remain. It certainly is unlikely to reduce the feeling of disempowerment shared by many who fear losing their land without receiving compensation based on a proper, market-determined price for it. Compensation, the NAC suggests, should be six times the registered price. But, so often, the registered price means nothing in real, market terms, so stunted is the market for agricultural land. The ability to change the use to which land is put, too, can increase the value of land by several orders of magnitude. In the end, too much of this proposal smacks of the pre-1991, controlling mindset — not least the fact that it will make already powerful interests very happy.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

THE 10,000 HOUR RULE

 

For all Jairam Ramesh's condescension, plenty of people in this country still believe that IIT is the ultimate portal to success. IIT-JEE results, and profiles of the exulting winners, are a yearly media ritual. Like with all stories of endurance and triumph, we want to know what it took, the odds they fought, to crack this ferociously competitive examination. Nearly always, they are heartwarming stories about small-town kids making good. Sometimes, they don't even want to be scientists and engineers — this year's No 1 intends to shift to the civil services later — but the IIT-JEE is a test of mental prowess and dedication.

The place where all this yearning for IIT has been converted into a thrumming growth industry is Kota, in Rajasthan. Students from across India descend on the city to spend a year of two in intense preparation for engineering and medical entrance exams (50,000 students arrived in Kota in 2009 alone). There's a pretty formidable entrance test for the better-known coaching centres. And, in fact, these institutes supply around a quarter of the IIT's intake. Over the years, they have perfected the IIT cheat code, boiled down the extensive material to be mastered into a set of key lessons. Of course, most of the students who come to Kota are incredibly industrious anyway, and willing to dedicate some of the best years of their lives to the IIT project, studying for 10-12 hours a day and sinking Rs 2 to 3 lakh for tuition. Unlike Bihar's phenomenally successful Super 30, which picks a few disadvantaged students every year, and prepares them for the test, Kota is clearly a large industry.

More power to them, for showing that genius and merit are a matter of clocking in the hours, a combination of some natural ability and then, obsessive practice.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

ON THE HOUSE

 

Given Hansraj Bhardwaj's insistence on insinuating the Bangalore Raj Bhavan in moves to topple the Karnataka government, Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa has drawn far more sympathy than he would otherwise have. In the latest instance, the governor's report to the Centre suggesting that the Yeddyurappa-led BJP ministry be dismissed and the state assembly placed under suspended animation ended up relieving the CM of the onus to react to a crucial Supreme Court ruling this month. The court, over-ruling a decision of the Karnataka high court, had restored the membership of 16 MLAs, including 11 of the ruling BJP, who had been disqualified by the speaker before a very controversial vote of confidence last October. It is a significant ruling that clarifies crucial questions on the anti-defection law. And in dwelling on the October vote, it puts a moral obligation on Yeddyurappa to revisit the vote in question. It demands a far more sober and reflective response from him than he appears to be willing to offer.

Now, even as the threat of dismissal has passed, Yeddyurappa has found another opportunity to bristle at what he terms political motivation on the part of the UPA government. The Union home ministry has issued an advisory to the Karnataka government asking that law and order be maintained and extra-constitutional activities be prevented. On Karnataka, the BJP and the Congress lose no opportunity to fling themselves into rhetorical combat, and each can be expected to raise questions about the constitutional propriety of the other's actions. But given that Yeddyurappa has spent his entire tenure so far scrambling to retain the confidence of the House, no amount of grandstanding on his government's federal rights will obscure the circumstances of the October vote that the SC has ruled on, casting grave questions about the speaker's actions.

The BJP legislators who had rebelled now claim to support Yeddyurappa. The CM himself collected them all and flew them to Delhi and paraded them before the president as proof that his government commanded a majority. But the place to do that, now, is the assembly. The governor's act of constitutional overreach cannot be balanced by the CM's unwillingness to be accountable to the House.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

TRADING A NEW ROUTE

MK VENU

 

During Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Addis Ababa earlier this week, a leading Ethiopian newspaper prominently published a picture of Mahatma Gandhi with his quotation saying, "The commerce between India and Africa will be of ideas and services, not manufactured goods against raw materials after the fashion of Western exploiters."

What Gandhi said decades ago is being adopted as a leitmotif of India's foreign policy for the African continent, widely seen as the biggest driver of global growth in the decades ahead. While addressing the second India-Africa Forum Summit at Addis Ababa, Manmohan Singh clearly emphasised, "Africa possesses all the pre-requisites to become a major growth pole in the world. India-Africa partnership is unique and owes its origins to history and our common struggles against colonialism, apartheid, poverty, disease."

Clearly, India is trying to position itself in the African continent as an equal partner with immense soft power as opposed to China, which pursues a more instrumental relationship based on pure commerce and exploitation of natural resources. India will have to work very hard at this brand differentiation from China. It is not an easy act to follow.

For it is also a fact that fast growing emerging economies like China and India are trying to access precious resources like oil and metals around the world to secure their future growth. Only China is going about its task of securing resources far more aggressively, creating a scare among other nations.

The "Western exploiter" of raw materials in Gandhi's imagination could well be substituted by a non-Western entity like China or even India. The West is already peddling this narrative. Indeed, there is a growing perception among the intelligentsia in many resource-rich African nations that China is too focused on grabbing natural resources. Of course, the Chinese are also funnelling huge amounts of money in critical infrastructure like airports, roads and bridges in Africa. Many African governments have welcomed Chinese investments with open arms.

Karl Marx had said more than a century ago that global capital will naturally go to every nook and corner of the world to seek potential surpluses. He had further argued that this process gathers momentum when the developed world reaches a saturation point in productivity growth. Today that is what is happening in Africa. The only difference is that a large portion of cumulative foreign investment in Africa in recent years is from other emerging market economies rather than from the developed world.

Interestingly, India's strategy in Africa so far is quite different from that of China's. China follows a straight model of state-led investments in infrastructure projects in the African continent in return for market access and resources. China's annual trade with Africa is over three times that of India at over $125 billion. China's cumulative investment in Africa is over $150 billion, again close to four times that of India.

India realises that it is lagging way behind the Chinese in terms of pure trade and investment engagement with Africa. Until a few years ago India seemed a bit complacent that it had a big advantage over China in terms of the "soft power" it exercised over Africa due to historical linkages.

However, of late, India has realised that it needs to work more aggressively on differentiating its brand image in Africa. The idea is to use soft power to enhance trade and investment with Africa in a big way. The Indian government will play a focused role in enhancing institutional capacity in the area of trade, markets and education so that long-term linkages are established with African peoples.

African scholars are agreed that India is a more natural partner for Africa to effect a South-South cooperation in an open trade and market architecture. In this context, Jakkie Cilliers, a South African scholar and professor at Pretoria University, said: "African development would, in fact, look much like that of India and that it is towards Delhi that Africans should be looking if they wish to picture their most likely path(s) to development."

The allusion here is to the fact that many African nations are seeing a period of rapid capitalist development simultaneously with democracy taking roots. A study shows in the 1980s there were only three democracies in sub-Saharan Africa. In 1996, the number had risen to 20 and in 2006 to 26. The last decade-and-a-half has also seen the highest per capita GDP growth rates in the emerging economies of sub-Saharan Africa.

African scholars therefore believe that the simultaneous rise in democracy and market-led growth would make Africa and India natural partners. This is quite visible in the way strong Indian consumer brands have made a big foray into Africa. Consumer brands create an emotional connect with the people as they impact everyday life. Imagine the impact a Unilever brand like "Dalda" had on Indian lives through the 1970s and 1980s. Dalda became a generic name as a cooking medium for millions of Indian households.

So Indian consumer brands like Bharti Airtel, Tata Motors, Mahindra Jeep, Maruti are already creating a similar impact in African markets. The editor of a Tanzanian newspaper told me how he was waiting for the launch of the Nano in Africa. Consumer brands can be seen as an extension of "soft power" which political scientist Joseph Nye broadly defined as a nation's ability to attract and persuade rather than coerce. In this respect, India certainly has an advantage over China which does not have strong private sector brands in the consumer space, except perhaps in electronics.

According to Nye, "The soft power of a country rests primarily on: its political values when it lives up to them at home and abroad; its foreign policies when they are seen as legitimate and having moral authority."

So India can differentiate itself from China if the government does its job of partnering with Africa in institutional capacity building in various spheres and the private sector takes the lead in creating new markets for goods and services on a sustained basis. Another unique advantage India has is that about 20,000 students from Africa study in Indian universities every year. This number must be increased four times in the coming years. This will create a more lasting impact in the minds of African youth about India than anything else.

The writer is managing editor, 'The Financial Express', mk.venu@expressindia.com

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

WITH THE GRAIN

YOGINDER K. ALAGH

 

India has large wheat stocks already yet policy dictates they increase. In states like Punjab, Haryana, UP and Gujarat prices have fallen and are below the minimum support prices. This is a policy-induced outcome. A safe game in grains is fine, given the global politics of grain trade and the great ability of Indian politics to subsidise the wrong man in the vote bank — but how safe is safe?

The danger is elsewhere. With falling non-foodgrain relative prices and acceptance of general inflation, their production will not grow. The demand for oil, sugar, fruits and vegetables doesn't wait for government orders. In spite of all the talk, official policies are against diversification. They don't give price support, technology or market infrastructure. There are powerful vested interests against export and freer trade —and there are possibilities for corruption in assigning export quotas.

In Gujarat, it began to be argued about a year ago that Sardar Sarovar canals were not delivering any water, and khet talavdis — which we all love, including me — were responsible for the state's agricultural growth. If you don't like government canals, I have to remind you that you're ignoring the social cost of energy in pumping out water.

I found the argument a little puzzling. For one thing I travel a lot in Gujarat, talking to farmers. I am the first one to admit that we need to be faster in building SSP canals and distributaries. But I have seen Narmada waters in farmers' fields.

But the macro story, if you look at it with a trained eye, strikes a wrong note in the received talk. The story was that markets appeared in Gujarat agriculture, there were farm ponds and so diversification and yields went up and, presto, agriculture was growing at 6 per cent. To begin with, irrigated yields did not go up. The state government does not publish irrigated yield statistics cropwise any more but for wheat we know that irrigated yield was 27.1 quintals/hectare in 1999/ 2000, a year of average weather; and it was 28.35 quintals/hectare in the period of 2006/07 to 2008/09. I don't have the 2009/10 figures which would make it worse. Informally, we know the same story is true in other crops if you take good and bad years into account. Actually there was a setback to diversification and Gujarat went back to paddy in a big way. In the last few years wheat and paddy area went up in Gujarat. Now this makes you ponder. The SSP planners did not want more paddy and wheat but traditional canals get you into paddy. Are markets not important? Oh yes, they are and have always been so in Gujarat. Read Dantwala's classic on cotton marketing in Saurashtra. Before the upsurge of paddy in the 1980s and 1990s, grain areas were going down.

So yield is not going up in irrigated areas, neither is diversification. Gujarat's agriculture remains market savvy. But the source of its growth is coming from irrigation. With more in irrigation, total yield goes up. Is it all farm ponds? Sorry, there is a lot of irrigation. Of course, we want more, thrice as much, and we want it controlled so that more persons benefit and our land is not spoiled and our crops are diversified. But Planning for Prosperity said in1985 that Gujarat's agriculture will grow by 6 per cent after it delivers and that's the way it is. Only some of our experts got it wrong and no one prepared for the markets and now the chicken are coming home to roost and the same experts want MSPs. But when production potential goes up, we don't plan and end up in huge contradictions all around, including in Gujarat.

That last state, much to the embarrassment of international think tanks which say it is specialising in commercial crops, is growing more rice and wheat and the share of area with grain crops is up again. Flush with Narmada waters, some directly and some through tanks since the lower level canal system is yet to come up in a big way, the area under rice has gone up to 0.76 million hectares and the price of paddy in the mandis is nearly the lowest in India. Ditto for wheat and of course Bt cotton, where the technology is still a forward force. Some day, we will stand by the farmers. It is good to hear Delhi and Gandhinagar support the wheat farmer, maybe later paddy.

The writer, a former Union minister, is chairman, Institute of Rural Management, Anand, express@expressindia.com

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

THE MOST DANGEROUS ARGUMENT

SHYAM SARAN

 

My recent visit to Canada and the United States coincided with the assassination of the al-Qaeda chief, Osama bin Laden, in Abbotabad by US Special Forces, and its aftermath. Anger over Pakistan's duplicity was pervasive. A sense of closure and even relief was evident in the US, but there was apprehension that this would not mean the end of terrorism. There was expectation of revenge attacks.

Most analysts were convinced that the Pakistan army and the ISI had been fully complicit in providing refuge to OBL. There were differences of opinion on how Pakistan should be dealt with. However, few suggested that economic and military assistance to Pakistan should be curtailed or eliminated, though there was demand for greater accountability. It was argued that supply lines through Pakistan remained critical to ISAF operations in Afghanistan. Pakistan could also exert influence on the Afghan Taliban, with which the ISI has maintained intimate links over the years, to facilitate a political settlement in Kabul while restraining attacks by them on ISAF forces across the border.

Therefore, it is clear that the OBL affair is unlikely to change the transactional relationship the US has built up with Pakistan over the past several decades. Strategic misalignment between them will continue to be trumped by tactical exigency on both sides.

What should be of growing concern to India is a parallel argument which seeks to "explain", and sometimes justify, Pakistan's long-standing and continued use of cross-border terrorism as an instrument of state policy. In the blizzard of commentary about the OBL affair, there are, invariably, references to the Pakistani obsession or paranoia about a threat from India; that exaggerated or even misplaced as this perception may be, it is, after all, ground reality.

It is argued that the already large and growing asymmetry between India and Pakistan in all indices of power is what Pakistan seeks to address through reliance on cross-border terrorism, as well as augmenting its already significant nuclear arsenal. Without saying that cross-border terrorism against India is justified, nevertheless, it is often asserted that unless India is leaned upon to settle the Kashmir issue, draw down its armed deployment on the India-Pakistan border and reduce its presence and activities in Afghanistan, the US and the West will not be able to persuade Pakistan to abandon its role as a breeding ground for terrorism, which threatens Western interests in Afghanistan and in their own homelands.

It is not what the US and the West have done to alienate Pakistan that is the cause of the latter's recalcitrance, but Indian "obstinacy." The fact that the America is the most hated country in Pakistan, that American and Western soldiers are being killed by Taliban forces, aided and abetted by Pakistan, and that US largesse has made no dent in Pakistan's negative perceptions, are all minimised as contributory factors while highlighting the so-called India factor.

In Agra in 2001, Musharraf had brazenly described terrorism in Kashmir as a "freedom movement". There were sympathies with Pakistan's view in several Western capitals. This was no longer possible after 9/11 later that year. The world belatedly endorsed India's long-standing assertion that no cause, however great, justified the killing of innocent men, women and children. What we are witnessing again is a creeping tendency to seek justification for Pakistan's misdemeanours, which can only undermine the global war on terrorism.

A view is beginning to crystallise that the way to political settlement and stability in Afghanistan and the amelioration of the fundamentalist and terrorist threats to the West, could be facilitated by persuading India to become invisible in Afghanistan and resolve the Kashmir issue to Pakistan's satisfaction (for anything less would hardly make a difference). Taken to its logical conclusion, India may have to cut itself into smaller pieces so that Pakistan feels safe! What makes India feel safe or unsafe, and that India, too, may have legitimate security concerns, does not seem to matter.

A typical example is the latest issue of The Economist (May 21, 2011) which has the header item, "The world's most dangerous border." Remember how during his visit to India in March 2000, President Clinton had used a similar doomsday description of the India-Pakistan border? This formulation is a pernicious one, because its spreads the blame even-handedly on both sides, rather than acknowledge the obvious source of the threat itself. The Economist says, with categorical certitude, that the Americans have made a mistake, "to see Pakistan in the context of the fighting on its north-west frontier, and thus to ignore the source of most of the country's problems, including terrorism: the troubled state of relations to the East". Please note the telling phrase "including terrorism". The article makes another bizarre deduction: "If Pakistan's world view were not distorted by India, it might be able to see straight on terror". Really? The Economist's solution? America should lean on India to "show restraint in and flexibility on Kashmir."

What a far distance we have travelled, since 9/11 brought a long overdue clarity on the nature of terrorism as an unmitigated evil. What The Economist is suggesting is that we reward Pakistan's use of cross-border terrorism as an instrument of state policy, rather than make it abundantly clear that terrorists and states that provide safe haven to terrorists risk being drummed out of respectable company and be put on ice as a rogue state. Instead of using "extra clout" on India to make concessions to Pakistan, should not the "extra clout" acquired as a result of the OBL affair be used with Islamabad to compel a change in its behaviour?

The Economist faults the US for its civil nuclear agreement with India, because it "destabilised things in 2008", heightening Pakistan's fear of India. Is this any different from Chinese arguments that its decision to build two additional nuclear reactors in Pakistan, in defiance of NSG norms, is justified by the need to maintain a "balance" in the subcontinent?

Indian diplomacy is thus faced with a serious challenge. It must not allow the old India-Pakistan hyphenation to again become a major constraint. We should make it clear that India's vital interests, both on Kashmir as well as on the larger issue of combating terrorism are not up for being used in a cynical attempt to assuage Pakistan. Our pursuit of closer relations with Afghanistan has its own independent logic. It is not up for trade with Pakistan or anyone else. There should be a categorical and powerful rebuttal of the revisionist arguments which seek to undermine the global consensus on unreservedly fighting the forces of terrorism. The world cannot be made safe from terrorism by making India unsafe.

The writer is a former foreign secretary, He is currently a senior fellow at the Centre for Policy Research, Delhi

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

MISSION UP

SEEMA CHISHTI

 

Mission UP

In an editorial titled 'UP aur Congress ka mansooba' (UP and the Congress plan) on May 20, Hyderabad-based daily Siasat writes: "After the encouraging results of five assembly elections, the Congress has started preparing for Uttar Pradesh, the largest state of the country and considered a gateway to power at the Centre, which goes to the election next year. The Congress wants the credit for success in UP to go to its young general secretary, Rahul Gandhi. The party has decided to exploit the Bhatta-Parsaul episode, encouraged by Mamata Banerjee's success with the Nandigram issue". The paper adds, "Rahul Gandhi's charisma has failed miserably in many states, particularly in UP's neighbouring state, Bihar. The Congress, however, hopes that it will work in UP."

Hyderabad's Munsif writes in its editorial: "Even though Congress leaders are supporting their young leader's statement, there doesn't seem to be a firmess in these words, as Congress leaders also feel that Rahul Gandhi has, in his enthusiasm, spoken a bit too much, providing a chance (for criticism) to the opposition parties... We want the real extent of truth in Rahul's statement to be established." Mumbai-based daily, Urdu Times, in its May 13 editorial, writes: "The problems of the Mayawati government have definitely increased. She captured power on the basis of promises of welfare for the socially backward sections. Now, if the farmers are alienated, it will not be easy for her to win the election in 2012."

Attack on Pakistan

Reacting to the terrorist attack on the naval base in Karachi, Rashtriya Sahara, in its editorial on May 24, writes: "Obviously, what can we call but a 'fixed match' (noora kushti) can be given to this beautiful love-hate relationship between the United States and Pakistan? Perhaps the terrorist outfits active in Pakistan also understand this situation. Otherwise, what is the meaning of directing anger over Osama bin Laden's death at the Pakistani navy and paramilitary recruits? Osama has been killed by the American Naval Seals. Therefore, if Osama's followers had to avenge his killing, it should have been against the Americans. But that the attacks have taken place on Pakistani soil and against the Pakistani navy and paramilitary forces, means that there is something, not easily understood by outsiders, behind these attacks." The paper predicts that the worst in Pakistan is yet to come.

'Most Wanted' muddle

Munsif, in its May 19 editorial, writes: "Including Indian national Wajhul Qamar Khan in the list of 'Most Wanted' persons (while he is in custody in Mumbai) has exposed the ignorance and callousness of our security and investigative agencies... They need to learn a lesson and change their way of functioning. The tendency to implicate certain people without solid proof and evidence amounts to a violation of secularism, democracy and human rights. It will not only bring a bad name to the country; our claims are also likely to lose credibility at the global level."

Rashtriya Sahara writes in its May 11 editorial: "The government should try to reach the bottom of this whole case... Who prepared the list first? Was Wajhul Qamar's name in the first list given by the Maharashtra government? If not, where was this name included? What necessary steps were taken by the NIA and CBI before forwarding this list?" The paper has objected to the Union home minister's casual dismissal of the error. Sahafat says: "Whatever the reason, the Wajhul Qamar episode definitely shows that India's intelligence agencies are not very competent (bahut pukhta naheen hein). We have had to suffer great humiliation and disgrace because of this goof-up."

Electoral leap

Delhi-based daily Jadeed Khabar, in its editorial on May 18, writes that Muslims have recorded unprecedented successes in the recent assembly elections. "In West Bengal, the number of successful Muslim candidates from different parties has risen from 49 to 60 (TMC: 29; CPM: 13; Congress: 12; others: 6)", according to the paper. In Kerala, the paper says that Muslim League candidates have won 20 seats from the Malabar region alone, becoming the second largest party in the ruling coalition. In Assam, the number of successful Muslim candidates is 28 (16 of the 18 AIUDF MLAs are Muslims) in a 126-member assembly. The rest are from the Congress.

According to an agency report published in Sahafat (May 20), out of 824 seats, Muslim candidates were elected in 130, compared to the corresponding figure of 105 in the elections of 2006 — an increase of about 24 per cent. In Kerala, according to the report, a total of 36 Muslim candidates were elected, compared to the equivalent figure of 25 in 2006.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

SLAVERY IN SONAGACHI

 

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. She had just been sold to the brothel-owner and seemed terrified. Investigators with International Justice Mission, a group that fights human trafficking, had spotted Chutki while prowling undercover. IJM needed evidence to convince the Kolkata police to undertake a raid to free the girl, so an official asked: Would I like to accompany him as he sneaked into the brothel to gather some?

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

So I set off with the IJM investigator 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, casually asking us to lead the way 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. We hurtled up the stairs, brushed past the pimp and found Chutki and the three other girls in the same room. Two social workers from IJM began comforting Chutki, who police said was about 15. Then another of the girls asked if she could be rescued — but a few days later. If she left now, the brothel-owners might harm her grandmother, whose address they knew. We told her a 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 said 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. 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 five-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 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 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 per cent 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.Nicholas D. Kristof

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

'ONE PRIORITY SHOULD BE TO GARNER AS MANY RESOURCES FROM OUTSIDE BENGAL AS POSSIBLE'

MIHIR S SHARMA

 

Has the Left Front left Bengal "broken"?

As a general statement about the Left's rule, that is part of anti-Left propaganda. In the beginning decades, a great deal has been done for the rural poor in terms of genuine land reform, stimulation of investment in irrigation and agricultural productivity, and substantial decentralisation with some significant local-level anti-poverty programmes (not all of which were centrally sponsored). Unlike in many parts of India, the Left also made the poor conscious of their rights and energetic in their participation in the political process, which Trinamool Congress has now used to their benefit... Agricultural productivity has tapered off in recent years, as it has in many other states in India (including Punjab). So the political capital out of agricultural growth that the Left enjoyed in earlier years is largely exhausted.

The state government has miserably failed in (a) industrial expansion; (b) an overhaul of the education and health system; (c) physical infrastructure, roads, electricity, etc; and (d) management of the public finances. Of these if one takes (a), Trinamool is largely responsible for frustrating the belated efforts of the Left over the last decade. In (b) the Left has corroded the whole system for the sake of short-run partisan benefits. And (c) is largely on account of (d). In (d), today's fiscal bankruptcy is caused partly by bad management on the part of the Left government and partly by the large salary burden it has borne (none of the political parties, including Trinamool, has opposed overmanning of the public sector) and the low revenue receipts (lack of industrial expansion as well as party-sponsored malfeasance is responsible). High youth unemployment has fed the criminality and local protection rackets that both the Left and the non-Left parties have encouraged in their political mobilisation efforts.

If Bengal's finances, job markets, and law and order situation are "broken" today the anti-Left opposition cannot completely escape the blame that is (to some extent, rightly) heaped on the Left.

What should be the new government's first priority?

Both infrastructure and education and health should have priority, but both require time to have a major impact. In the short run one priority should be to garner as many resources from outside the state (both private and public) as possible for investment, with some credible guarantees that the money will be well-spent. The other priority is an overhaul of the police and administrative structure, which also takes time, but even in the short run a number of rewards (for jobs well done) and penalties (for ineptitude or theft) can be introduced, and the inevitable opposition from unions neutralised. The new administration has to make credible commitments to de-politicise and re-energise the police and bureaucracy. Trinamool's way of running the two large district panchayats and the municipal government of Kolkata under its control in recent years and its leader's knee-jerk populist inclinations do not make one very hopeful.

Can the Trinamool fix the state's deficit? Where will the funds for social-sector spending come from?

In the short run Trinamool can only fix the deficit with infusion from a friendly finance ministry in Delhi. The tax base cannot be expanded without more job and wealth creation in the higher-productivity industrial and service sectors. But in the short run the taxable urban property assessment system can be reformed (as has been done in some other states) and some form of betterment levy and surcharges on the appreciation in land values in urban and peri-urban areas can be a major source of revenue, some of which may be earmarked for time-bound programmes of measurable improvement in education and health.

Are land-availability issues are as much of a hurdle to industrialisation as some claim?

All the estimates I have seen of the land required for industries come to a tiny percentage of the total cultivated land in West Bengal. The more important barrier to overcome is the naive and populist "ma-mati-manush" (mother-soil-humanity) mantra that Trinamool has chanted all these years. Surveys show that more than 80 per cent of farmers' children want to get out of stagnant agriculture. A "land bank" will be useful, but the crucial issues are that of land compensation, which has to include a substantial annuity (that the land sellers can use for investing elsewhere and educating their children) and localised skill-formation and job-training.

Do you think the private sector will invest more?

In the last decade or so the private sector has not been particularly discouraged by the leftist nature of the government, but more by political agitations, weak infrastructure and lackadaisical bureaucracy. Changing all this will take time.

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

CHECKING ABUSE OF POWER

 

US vs Microsoft. European Commission vs Microsoft. Both are landmark cases in the global history of anti-trust battles—the first on Microsoft trying to promote Internet Explorer at the cost of other browsers and the second on bundling Windows Media Player with the computer's operating system. So, when the Competition Commission of India (CCI) cites the two cases in its show cause notice to the National Stock Exchange (NSE is India's largest exchange), it suggests CCI has taken the allegations made by rival MCX-SX very seriously. MCX-SX had made two charges. One, it said that NSE waived charges on currency futures trades on it—it incurred a loss on this, but could sustain this loss since it made money elsewhere, and used this to squeeze the newcomer MCX-SX which could ill-afford the losses. Two, MCX-SX said that one of its promoters, Financial Technologies, had developed a trading software ODIN—NSE withheld some important codes from ODIN which ensured NSE's clients did not use this software while making certain kinds of trades on NSE.

While NSE has been given a week to respond to the show cause, CCI's judgment cites several instances to suggest NSE was trying to kill the competition. In 2000, CCI says, NSE's decision to waive transaction charges in the futures and options segment ensured it beat BSE—once this was done, the waiver was withdrawn. In 2010, when BSE entered into the Gold ETF segment and got a market share of 19%, NSE decided to waive/reduce transaction fees here. There is a fine distinction between predatory pricing and marketing strategy. No newcomer, for instance, can be accused of predatory pricing even if it prices below cost—which is why the cellular phone firms' charge of predatory pricing didn't stick when newcomer RComm offered large discounts some years ago. Market power is critical for proving predatory pricing. NSE and its lawyers will dissect the show cause notice, argue that the derivatives market was different from the overall market and just because it was a big player in the equity market didn't mean it had market power in currency derivatives. The last has not been heard on the case, both sides have a lot of hard work ahead, both in and out of the country's courts. Either way, its impact will be huge and will be felt across sectors. India's CCI has finally made its presence felt.

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

LANDING IN A MESS

On the face of things, the National Advisory Council's suggested draft land acquisition act will take care of most of the problems India faces when it comes to land acquisition for large projects. Industry will welcome the suggestion that the government acquire all the land since it was uncomfortable with the suggestion that it be asked to acquire 70% of the land for a project first—after this, the government would acquire the remaining 30%. Even this was not acceptable to the UPA's key ally Mamata Banerjee who wanted industry to acquire 90% of the land itself. While industry would welcome the 100% suggestion, it's an open question as to whether Banerjee would go along.

That said, there are serious issues with the NAC proposal. For one, there is the issue of whether disallowing the private sector from acquiring land is a good idea and the kind of delays this would cause, apart from giving the government one more opportunity to play favourites since it will decide which industrialist it will acquire land for. There is then the issue of the invariable protests that come up. The NAC's solution is annuities of the type Uttar Pradesh and Haryana have, 10 days of wages per month at the minimum wage for 33 years to stake holders who lose their livelihood as a result of the land sale, preference for jobs, and so on. In addition, a one-time payment that equals six times the registered value is to be paid. This pretty much leaves the ball back with the state since it is the government which decides what the circle rate is. A critical piece here is a 25% capital appreciation clause. Impossible to implement in practice, it says a fourth of any capital appreciation up to 25 years after the land is sold will have to be shared with the original landowner. So, if a flat built on a land got for a housing complex is resold after 13 years, a fourth of the capital appreciation will be given to the landloser. How track is to be kept of the original landowner, or of how much of the capital appreciation is due to the land and how much due to fact that a industrial park came up alongside are some questions that come to mind. This 25% clause, it appears, has yet to be ratified by the NAC. Whether industrial projects or housing projects are to be considered 'public purpose' enough for the state to acquire land is also undecided. Much simpler to specify conversion rates for agriculture to industrial/commercial use which will allow farmers to realise the market value for land, and allow private firms to acquire the land on their own.

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

RATING THOSE MERCHANT BANKERS

SHOBHANA SUBRAMANIAN

 

The capital market regulator's suggestion that investors be made familiar with the track record of merchant bankers, as part of an IPO prospectus, doesn't seem to have gone down well with the fraternity. A recent newspaper report said investment bankers were opposed to the move, which was originally mooted late last year, especially since the format is to include the performance of the stocks post listing. Apparently, they believe that price movements of the stocks were 'irrelevant'. No one denies that market conditions do play an important role in how any stock performs. But the fact that so many of the IPOs that have hit the market over the last year or so are out of the money suggests that merchant bankers need to be more than just a post office service delivering shares from the company to investors.

Of the 239 IPOs, handled by the top 10 investment bankers since January 2007, just 82, or about a third of the total, are trading above their issue price. One is not expecting that stocks won't fall when the market does and neither is one asking for these stocks to significantly outperform their respective benchmark indices, but the fact that two-thirds of the IPOs are out of the money is simply not acceptable. In fact, at one point, 70% of the issues that listed in 2010-11 were trading below their IPO prices and a fair number were quoting at a price 50% below the IPO price. So, clearly, there is something wrong with the way IPOs are being priced; indeed, most of them seem to be grossly overpriced. Take the case of Future Ventures India; despite promoters forking out R26 crore to prop up the stock, which debuted on the bourses on May 10, 2011, it failed to stay above the issue price of R10 per share for the first 10 sessions and even now trades at R8. Even the much-touted Muthoot Finance is now trading at R155 compared to its IPO price of R175. On the other hand, the Coal India stock, priced at R245, is still trading at R377. However, in the past, the government too has been guilty of mispricing stocks; follow on offers of NTPC and NMDC had to be bailed out by state-owned institutions and the NMDC stock performed poorly for a long time after the new shares listed.

The IPO market seems to have become one in which everyone's looking for instant gratification; after the initial spurt on listing, the stock languishes. While promoters will do anything to get the best value for their stock, and equities are ultimately all about risk, it's up to the regulator to see that small shareholders don't get a raw deal. One doesn't want to kill the market and neither does one want to go back to the days of the Controller of Capital Issues because that would be regressive. But a note on the performance of the merchant bankers tracking the share performance of the IPOs managed by them relative to the respective benchmark index, in the offer document, seems harmless. It will give the public some idea of how they have performed. In fact, it's surprising that merchant bankers are being so defensive about having their resumes included in the offer documents, especially since they're ever ready to share league tables that show how many issues they've managed and how big these were. If they believe they've been doing a good job, they should take on the challenge. The other thing that can be done to help investors gauge whether a company is worth investing in is to encourage independent research because, as Sebi has also pointed out, the prospectus contains too much information and virtually no perspective.

However, ultimately, retail investors will need to be far more circumspect while writing out a cheque and should stay away if unsure. Indeed, retail subscription has been thinning, as seen in many of the recent IPOs. For instance, the Galaxy Surfactants IPO was withdrawn after four days despite the merchant bankers having roped in anchor investors like ICICI Prudential Life and Goldman Sachs. Even a few months ago merchant bankers were flaunting anchor investors, who incidentally can sell the shares after a month, as a sign of how good the issue was. Sebi's objective, while introducing the concept of anchor investors in mid-2009, was to help facilitate price discovery and reduce volatility on the day of listing. It would be interesting to know for how long these investors actually hold on to the shares, though it's now evident that they don't have too many followers.

That's the good news. The bad news is that a dull IPO market is leading to some undesirable practices. A few days ago, Sebi held back the listing of Vaswani Industries, deciding to probe the issue, which was subscribed four times, and the price for which was fixed at R49 per share; the regulator is reportedly enquiring into whether the majority of the applicants could have been dummy investors, acting on behalf of a few big operators. The idea would be to give investors the impression that the issue is a popular one and subsequently withdraw applications after the book building process is over. To Sebi's credit, it has cracked down quickly and the move should send a strong signal to the market. While investors may want to withdraw an application for genuine reasons, there has to be some way to stop misuse of such facilities. The last thing we need is a vitiated environment; as it is, retail investors are not enthused by the markets and unless Sebi keeps a close watch, more such scams could occur.

shobhana.subramanian@expressindia.com

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

AFRICA IS OPEN FOR BUSINESS

SERETSE KHAMA IAN KHAMA

A decade ago, doing business in Africa was perceived as a difficult and complex undertaking due to various reasons including, among other things, the cost of doing business, the numerous processes associated with the issuance of clearances such as work and residence permits, a fragile investment climate and inadequate infrastructure. In addition, conflicts and war emanating from undemocratic elections, undemocratic practices, corruption and abuse of good governance compounded the unattractiveness of doing business in Africa. But, with fewer conflicts, more democratic elections and economic growth rates that gradually have begun to compete with those of other developing regions, Africa is proving itself a continent of positive change.

To this end, Africa has realised the importance of having an open trade regime and is moving away from the protectionist policies of the post-independence era. This has been done by replacing import substitution policies with trade liberalisation. The recent wave of liberalisation in Africa has been driven by events in the multilateral arena with successive negotiations having been concluded under the GATT/WTO.

Even more recently, regionalism has come to the fore throughout the continent. According to the World Bank, Africa is the continent that more than others is pursuing regional integration arrangements, whether it is within the continent or abroad (World Bank 2005). Therefore, Africa is liberalising both at the regional and multilateral level.

Africa's desire to integrate into the world economy can be witnessed in a number of ways, one of which is its willingness to alter domestic policies to create a conducive business environment to enable integration into the world economy. The structural adjustment policies adopted in post-independent Africa serve as an example of the willingness of African governments, regardless of their successes or short comings, to create an environment that would attract foreign direct investment (FDI) and enhance trade.

Governments throughout Africa have been adjusting policies to better compete for FDI by, amongst others, developing investor-friendly immigration laws, offering tax breaks, creation of industrial parks, promoting trade facilitation and protecting property rights.

The continent is indeed open and ready for global business. China, India and Brazil as well as Russia have already started doing business in Africa. As a result of this, upsurge in economic activity, traditional trading partners such as the UK, the US, Japan, Germany, France and others are considering business opportunities in Africa with renewed interest and vigour.

More opportunity exists for Africa to further open up, in "doing business". For example, an annual series of reports issued by the World Bank and the International Finance Corporation indicate that two African countries ranked among the top 10 reformers worldwide who have made the most significant advances, pointing to the fact that other African states can do the same. However, the role of the government is extremely important in achieving this, given the limited capacity of other stakeholders such as the civil society and the private sector.

Thus, governments should aim at increasing the capacity of their agencies to not only address impediments to doing business but also to diversification efforts. As partners, governments and other stakeholders can also identify new products or sectors of strategic economic value for further exploration and exploitation. Finally, governments should create an enabling business climate and regulatory framework to allow enterprises to flourish.

There are a number of success stories emerging from both African and foreign entrepreneurs, who have proved that with a little financial push and an enabling business environment, much can be achieved in promoting private investment and closing the poverty gap in Africa.

According to the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) and the UN trade agency, UNCTAD, Africa offers the highest return on direct foreign investment in the world, far exceeding all other regions. While petroleum products are the driving force behind those returns, other sectors offer impressive growth. Among the top performing sectors are tourism and construction, in addition to telecommunications.

Locally, Botswana offers political and economic stability resulting from a proven record of good economic governance, a stable macroeconomic environment and economic growth, a liberalised economy and free market enterprise.

Having abolished foreign exchange controls in the past two decades, Botswana continues to provide a conducive investment climate and boasts of transparent international legal instruments, thereby allowing banks and other credit institutions to provide credit and loans to non-resident controlled companies.

The tax regime in Botswana is very attractive and is the lowest in the region at 15% for manufacturing companies, Botswana IFSC and Botswana Innovation Hub companies, and 25% corporate tax for others entities. Botswana further offers free repatriation of profits, dividends and capital, and has double taxation treaties with a host of countries including South Africa, the UK, Sweden, Mauritius, India and Russia.

The author is the President of Botswana

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

INDIA IN AFRICA

The second India-Africa summit at Addis Ababa has set the stage for a comprehensive re-engagement between the world's largest democracy and an emerging continent. The Africa-India Framework for Enhanced Cooperation and the Addis Ababa Declaration adopted at the summit envisage economic and political cooperation, and also cooperation in a host of other areas including science and technology, social and infrastructure development, tourism, culture, and sports. Africa and India recognise the opportunities they bring to the table for each other; both are now better positioned to use these opportunities in ways that can give substance to the old political slogan of 'South-South cooperation.' As a leading player in the global economy, it is natural for India to seek participation in a resource-rich continent that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has described as the "new economic growth story." His announcement of a $5 billion credit line over the next three years was the eye-catcher of the summit, but clearly, African nations are interested in enhancing their own skills and capabilities. India, with its substantial technology knowledge pool, is well placed to contribute to such capacity-building. This will also help in better utilisation of Indian financial assistance — of the committed credit line, unused funds from a previous financial package comprise $3.4 billion.

Following the first summit in 2008, India initiated several such efforts, including the Pan-African e-Network Project across 43 countries, which drew appreciation from the beneficiary countries. That new proposals for capacity-building discussed at this summit cover fields as diverse as information technology, textiles, food processing, and weather forecasting underscores the needs of a continent seeking to stabilise itself economically and politically. As important, it highlights Africa's recognition of rising India's capabilities to assist other developing countries. The India-Africa relationship is not new; it draws on a long, shared history of struggle against European colonialism, and a determination to ensure equality in the post-colonial world order. Africa has played host to a large Indian diaspora, and independent India was among the first to take a firm stand against apartheid in South Africa. Reducing India's ties with Africa to a 'rivalry' with China is to take a narrow view of history. Given the realities, it is also meaningless — China's $126 billion trade with Africa is way ahead of India's $ 46 billion. It is best for New Delhi to use the present momentum to build its relationship with Africa in ways that will be of optimal benefit to both sides.

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

FIGURING OUT THE TEXTILE CRISIS

By downing shutters for a day this week, cotton spinning mill units may not have reduced the huge glut that has built up in yarn stocks. But they have succeeded in turning the spotlight on the complex web of public policy the central government has woven in the years since Independence. Few will quarrel with the objective of securing for cotton growers a remunerative price. Where the government has gone wrong is in simultaneously taking upon itself the burden of ensuring that high cotton prices do not result in high yarn prices for handloom weavers or for power looms. In this effort at squaring the circle, it has ended up creating a tangle of quantitative and tariff controls on cotton as well as yarn interspersed with duty drawback incentives, concessional lending to units engaged in the value chain of the textiles industry, and so on — in short, a bureaucratic process of Kafkaesque proportions. Much of this was supposed to be calibrated in real time in line with changes in global and domestic demand and supply. What is clear is that this policy framework is badly in need of a reality check in many crucial respects.

For instance, the continuous capacity addition in yarn manufacture ought to have tempered official fears of yarn shortage for weavers and knitted garment manufacturers while formulating policy. That has not been the case. Similarly, it is well recognised that as an approach to cloth-making hand weaving is now more expensive than mass manufacturing. It is no surprise that the poor of the land have found cheaper alternatives in fabrics woven by machine. Another anomaly is that while the law reserves several varieties for the handloom sector, these mass consumption fabrics whose parity depends on yarn prices are actually made by power looms. Yet official policy maintains the pretence that this mandated reservation is for the benefit of millions of handloom weavers — who are the poorest members of the value chain after farmers. Indeed, so out of tune with reality is official policy that the proportion of the total output a yarn manufacturer must compulsorily wind in a coil form (hank) so as to be amenable for use by handloom weavers has remained the same despite the substantial changes in mass clothing habits. Nothing in the track record of governance witnessed over the last six decades gives room for any optimism that the government can handle this complexity and deliver on desirable policy outcomes. It is time a comprehensive nation-wide enquiry was conducted into the economics of the cotton textile sector, covering all its constituents and seeing how they have fared. Appropriate policy changes can follow.

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THE HINDU

LEADER PAGE ARTICLES

RUSSIA: WHO WILL BE THE NEXT PRESIDENT?

NEITHER VLADIMIR PUTIN NOR DMITRY MEDVEDEV HAS RULED OUT RUNNING IN THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION OF 2012, AND NEITHER HAS STATED CLEARLY HE WILL CONTEST.

VLADIMIR RADYUHIN

With 10 months to go before the next presidential election in Russia, domestic and foreign Kremlin-watchers are agog with speculation on who will be the next President. The choice boils down to two credible candidates: incumbent Dmitry Medvedev and his powerful predecessor and current Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

Opinion polls show that none of the other potential contesters has any chance against either Mr. Medvedev or Mr. Putin, whose support ratings have consistently stayed well above 50 per cent. The two leaders have repeatedly said they would not compete against each other in 2012, and would amicably decide which of them will stand in the election. Neither Mr. Putin nor Mr. Medvedev has ruled out running in 2012, and neither has stated clearly he will contest.

Mr. Putin stepped down as President in 2008 as the Constitution banned him from seeking a third straight term. He promoted Mr. Medvedev as his successor. The first thing the new President did was to appoint Mr. Putin as Prime Minister. The two have since been ruling in tandem. Analysts and think-tanks are split on whether Mr. Medvedev, 46, would seek a second term in 2012 or make room for Mr. Putin, 59, to return to the Kremlin. The only thing experts agree on is that it will be Mr. Putin's decision.

Throughout Mr. Medvedev's presidency, Mr. Putin has kept the reins of power firmly in his hands, while his protégé appeared quite content playing the second fiddle. The situation was accurately summed up in a joke that became popular after Mr. Medvedev was elected President: Mr. Putin gives his protégé a car without a steering wheel. "But where is the wheel?" asks Mr. Medvedev. "Don't worry," answers Mr. Putin. "I'll do the driving."

The joke still rings true — three years later. Mr. Medvedev has done precious little to assert his hold on power. Even though the Constitution gives him sweeping powers to sack any Minister — or even the Prime Minister — without as much as explaining his reasons, he has hardly made any key appointments on his own. Even his own staff in the Kremlin consist mostly of Mr. Putin's appointees.

Mr. Medvedev has cast himself as different from his senior partner, more liberal and forward looking. He has called for combating rampant corruption and modernising Russia's political and economic system but he has been slow in delivering on his promises. Cynics say that the only reforms Mr. Medvedev has seen through in the past three years is reducing the number of Russia's time zones from 11 to nine and cancelling the seasonal switch to daylight, saving time.

Mr. Medvedev's handling of the foreign policy has admittedly been a success. He presided over the military thrashing of Georgia when it attacked the breakaway South Ossetia in 2008, signed a milestone arms pact with U.S. President Barack Obama as part of a "reset" between the two countries, and turned around the soured relations with Russia's key ex-Soviet neighbour, Ukraine. But then Mr. Putin's hand was prominent in all these achievements. Alleged cracks in the relationship between Mr. Putin and Mr. Medvedev over domestic and foreign policies that have been played up by the media appear to be a deliberate tactic by the tandem to appeal to different audiences inside and outside the country and to show that Mr. Medvedev is not Mr. Putin's clone.

As the March 2012 elections draw nearer, Mr. Medvedev has sought to raise his profile as an independent and no-nonsense leader. He has ordered top members of Mr. Putin's Cabinet to quit from the boards of state-controlled companies in favour of independent directors. He has also stepped up criticism of the government for serious lapses and failures. Addressing his first big news conference last week, Mr. Medvedev said while he and Mr. Putin shared strategic goals they differed on "tactical" issues, with Mr. Medvedev favouring faster modernisation reforms.

However, Mr. Medvedev's leadership has lacked the bite. The removal of Ministers from state company boards proved symbolic as the same Ministers were allowed to choose their replacements. Mr. Medvedev's repeated censure of the government was not followed up by any action either.

Asked at last week's press conference why he had not touched any member of Mr. Putin's government despite public outcries of their failure, Mr. Medvedev argued, rather unconvincingly, that it would be wrong to single out officials for punishment over problems in their agencies even as the government overall performed well as a team. "Medvedev is a lightweight President under a heavyweight Prime Minister," said political analyst Stanislav Belkovsky.

Mr. Medvedev's recent activism appears to be less of an attempt to emerge from Mr. Putin's shadow. It is more of an effort to prove that he has leadership qualities. Here lies the real problem: after three years at the helm, he is yet to prove he can lead Russia on his own.

Lack of political ambition has made Mr. Medvedev the target of jokes in the Russian political comity. One such joke runs as follows: "Everybody knows that the Kremlin is split into two camps — supporters of Putin and Medvedev. What nobody knows is which camp Medvedev will join."

Even though Mr. Medvedev has not made any attempt to assert his grip on power, Mr. Putin is not leaving anything to chance. Earlier this month, he launched a new political movement, People's Front, that united labour unions, youth and veteran groups around his ruling party, United Russia. The move allows Mr. Putin to kill two birds with one stone. It should help United Russia, which has been losing electoral support, to retain a two-thirds constitutional majority in the State Duma, the lower house, in the election due in December. The People's Front conveniently shifts the electoral focus from United Russia, discredited as the party of corrupt bureaucracy, to Mr. Putin whose popularity has stayed high.

The new movement also deprives Mr. Medvedev of an independent political base from which to run. Not that Mr. Medvedev seems to mind. He has made it clear he is prepared to wait for the blessing of his senior partner. If he decides to run for re-election, Mr. Medvedev said at last week's press conference, he wants to be supported "by the same political forces" as in 2008, that is, by Mr. Putin's United Russia and its allies. "Medvedev has demonstrated that he would like to run again but will wait for Putin to endorse his bid," said independent analyst Dmitry Oreshkin.

While pre-election manoeuvring is well under way, neither Mr. Putin nor Mr. Medvedev has indicated which of them will contest. Mr. Putin appears to follow the same tactics that he did three years ago, when he waited until after the parliamentary election in December 2007 to declare support for Mr. Medvedev to succeed him.

Meanwhile, uncertainty has unnerved the bureaucracy, which is anxious to bid on a winning horse. However, the Putin-Medvedev tandem has firmly put down any attempts by officials and politicians to embrace one side or the other. When Mr. Putin's protégé Sergei Mironov, Speaker of the Federation Council, upper house of the Russian Parliament, pledged loyalty to Mr. Medvedev, he was swiftly stripped of his post. Mr. Medvedev, in turn, sacked political technologist Gleb Pavlovsky, a long-time Kremlin consultant, after he publicly stated his opposition to Mr. Putin's return to the Kremlin and supported Mr. Medvedev. A couple of MPs were also punished for backing either of them for President.

The duumvirate's tactics of delaying the moment when they announce the Kremlin's choice of presidential candidate makes sense in the Russian political system, because nominating one member will make the other a lame duck way before the election day.

Asked for the umpteenth time last month if he or Mr. Medvedev would run in 2012, Mr. Putin said that naming the Kremlin candidate too early would send "the wrong signal" to the government for it would just stop working in anticipation of change.

In any case, Mr. Putin has complete control of the steering wheel in the car he handed over to Mr. Medvedev three years ago. He has quite a choice to pick from. He can return to presidency and appoint a Prime Minister of his choice; he can let Mr. Medvedev stay on as President for a second term and keep the post of Prime Minister for himself; or he can even step down as Prime Minister but retain his lock on power through the ruling party that is likely to win a supermajority in the next Parliament.

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THE HINDU

OPED

'IS IT SAFE, OR IS IT DANGEROUS?'

A HUGE OUTCRY IS ERUPTING IN FUKUSHIMA OVER WHAT PARENTS SAY IS A BLATANT GOVERNMENT FAILURE TO PROTECT THEIR CHILDREN FROM DANGEROUS LEVELS OF RADIATION.

HIROKO TABUCHI

The accusations flew on Wednesday, May 25, at the local school board meeting, packed with parents worried and angry about radiation levels in this city at the heart of Japan's nuclear crisis.

"Do you really care about our children's health?" one parent shouted. "Why have you acted so late?" said another. Among other concerns: isn't radiation still raining down on Fukushima? Shouldn't the entire school building be decontaminated? The entire city? Can we trust you?

"We are doing all we can," pleaded Tomio Watanabe, a senior official of Fukushima's education board.

A huge outcry is erupting in Fukushima over what parents say is a blatant government failure to protect their children from dangerous levels of radiation. The issue has prompted unusually direct confrontations in this conflict-averse society, and has quickly become a focal point for anger over Japan's handling of the accident at the nearby Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, ravaged in the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

Guidelines and exposure limits

At issue are updated government guidelines that allow schoolchildren to be exposed to radiation doses that are more than 20 times the previously permissible levels. That dose is equal to the international standard for adult nuclear power plant workers.

Adding to the anxiety, there is little scientific knowledge of the sorts of radiation dangers that Japan may now be facing. Scientists say readings in most areas are too low to cause immediate illness — even among children, who are more vulnerable — but they have a limited understanding of how low radiation doses over a long period of time can affect health.

"People in Japan want a simple answer: Is it safe or is it dangerous?" said Kuniko Tanioka, a member of Parliament's upper house, on a recent visit to Washington. But given the state of radiation science, "there is no such thing" as a simple answer, Ms. Tanioka said.

For two months, the children at the Soramame Children's House, a day care centre about 37 miles from the stricken plant, spent their days indoors, windows sealed shut to keep out radiation, their favourite buckets and spades contaminated and strictly off limits.

Decontamination

But when the local authorities made no effort to decontaminate the area, caregivers took matters into their own hands. On the advice of local environmental groups — they said local officials had none to give — a group of parents and teachers donned makeshift protective suits and masks, took up spades and disposed of the playground's topsoil.

After the topsoil removal, radioactive materials, which tend to be deposited in the soil, fell from about 30 times the levels naturally found in the environment to twice those levels.

"It breaks my heart that they did nothing for the children," said Sadako Monma, herself a mother of two, who has run the Soramame centre for 15 years. "Our answer was to stop waiting for someone to help us."

On Monday, a group of angry parents from Fukushima staged a rowdy protest outside Japan's Education Ministry in Tokyo, bearing signs reading "Save our children" and demanding to speak with the minister. They were rebuffed.

Yoshiaki Takaki, the Education Minister, later stressed that the government would allow children to remain exposed to the updated levels of radiation.

"We will endeavour to bring radiation levels down," Mr. Takaki told reporters on Tuesday.

Slow action by the government has set off a revolt among the usually orderly ranks of Japanese bureaucrats.

Some smaller towns and cities in Fukushima Prefecture have spurned orders from Tokyo, declaring their schools unsafe and sending in bulldozers to remove contaminated soil from the school grounds. A handful of individual children's facilities, like Soramame, have done the same. In April, an adviser to Prime Minister Naoto Kan resigned over the new radiation guidelines, saying he would not let his own children be exposed to those levels.

"I don't believe the government," said Kanako Nishikata, 33, a mother of two elementary school children here. "The air here is dirty. The soil is dirty. They are leaving Fukushima to suffer and perish."

The new radiation guidelines are one of many decisions the Japanese government will have to make about which areas around the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant remain habitable, experts said.

Radiation hot spots

That decision is complicated because the radioactive materials from the plant have not emanated in neat circles. Instead, there are radiation hot spots outside the government-imposed 12-mile evacuation zone around the plant, straddling several towns and villages and parts of Fukushima City, home to nearly 300,000 people.

Although some of those towns and villages have started evacuations, Fukushima City, which includes parts with similarly high radiation readings, has routinely been excluded from evacuation plans. That has made some residents suspicious.

"They know it's impossible to evacuate such a big city," said Seiichi Nakate, a social worker who rallied local parents to found the Fukushima Network for Saving Children from Radiation. "But at least they should help evacuate the children, or do more to bring down the radiation."

For now, life in Fukushima City seems suspended in competing, parallel realities. Many people roam the streets without the protective facial masks that others don religiously. Parents talk of not letting their children drink milk or tap water, or eat locally grown vegetables, while businessmen warn that such hysteria helps taint Fukushima's reputation. The chatter at supermarkets is peppered with discussions of radiation levels. School fields and playgrounds across the city are eerily quiet.

At the meeting on Wednesday, parents pressed officials of the Fukushima education board for more action.

Of about 70 elementary and secondary schools in the city, officials have said workers will replace the soil at 26 schools with the highest radiation levels. The contaminated soil will be buried at least 20 inches deep within the school grounds. At some schools, work will not be done until mid-June.

Schoolchildren will still spend the bulk of the sweltering Fukushima summer indoors, with windows shut and no air-conditioning. (Japanese schools are rarely fitted with that luxury.) The city has promised at least four electric fans per classroom.

At the Soramame child care centre, radiation levels remain low two weeks after its big soil transplant. The contaminated soil has been buried 20 inches below the surface. There is a new set of swings, but buckets and spades still lie in a heap, waiting to be thrown away.

Only 9 of the 23 children enrolled there before the disaster remain. Some have fled Fukushima with their families.

"It will be a long road back to normal," said Mrs. Monma, who runs the centre. "And even then, we will need to warn future generations that we have buried something dangerous, just below the surface." ( Matthew L. Wald contributed reporting from Washington.)

  © New York Times News Service      

 

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THE HINDU

OPED

SOMALIS ARE TOLD TO STOP BICKERING OR LOSE FINANCING

JEFFREY GETTLEMAN

Members of the United Nations Security Council sent an unusually blunt message to Somalia's leaders on May 25, Wednesday, to stop fighting among themselves or risk losing millions of dollars a year from Western donors.

Somalia's leaders survive solely on international support, but instead of using that money to fight the Islamist militants who rule much of the country, or the innumerable pirates who cruise Somalia's seas, they have recently paralysed the government with bitter infighting, disappointing Western donors and most Somalis with their passivity and lack of progress.

Representatives of the Security Council met with Somali officials here in the Kenyan capital, after visiting Sudan earlier this week.

They held a news conference in Nairobi on Wednesday, during which they offered stark warnings, as they tried to push Somalia's leaders to work together.

"The bickering has to stop," said Mark Lyall Grant, Britain's representative on the Security Council.

Twitter post

Susan E. Rice, the American Ambassador to the United Nations, was on the trip and was even more direct in a Twitter post. "Get your act together, resolve your differences or lose intl support," she wrote.

The current political crisis pits the speaker of Somalia's Parliament, Sharif Hassan Sheik Aden, a wily, illiterate livestock trader, against the President, Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed, a religious teacher who came into office two years ago amid great expectations. The two used to be close, but the Speaker is now trying to persuade fellow members of Parliament to oust the President and elect him as the new president.

Many Somali officials said the Speaker was more popular than the President and that he had tapped into his vast wealth to buy allegiance from the Parliament. The President seems to know this, which is why he has been opposing elections anytime soon.

Somalia's military forces are embarrassingly weak, analysts say, and if not for the 8,000 African Union peacekeepers in Mogadishu, Somalia's capital, the government would fall in hours. The European Union pays the salaries of Parliament members.

"And that money could be spent elsewhere," Mr. Grant warned.

The United States has shipped in weapons. Still, the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia controls only a small patch of the capital. Much of the rest of country, which is nearly the size of Texas, is ruled by militants.

In August, the mandate for the transitional government expires. The United Nations officials said they were calling on Somalia's politicians to agree on a plan and to focus more on stemming extremism and piracy.

Earlier this week, six foreigners, including one American, were arrested at the airport in Mogadishu with around $4 million in cash. Somali government officials said the money was ransom for a pirate gang — paying ransoms is the most common way of resolving pirate hijackings. The Somali government has yet to say what it is going to do with the foreigners or the money.

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THE HINDU

CHASING RICHES AND FINDING ONLY SQUALOR

A LOOK AT THE PLIGHT OF THOUSANDS OF NEW MIGRANTS MAKING THEIR WAY TO EUROPE ACROSS THE MEDITERRANEAN — THE RESULT OF THE POLITICAL UPHEAVAL IN NORTH AFRICA.

SUZANNE DALEY

Back home in Gambia, Amadou Jallow was, at 22, a lover of reggae who had just finished college and had landed a job teaching science in a high school.

But Europe beckoned.

In his West African homeland, Mr. Jallow's salary was the equivalent of just €50 a month, barely enough for the necessities, he said. And everywhere in his neighborhood in Serekunda, Gambia's largest city, there was talk of easy money to be made in Europe.

Now he laughs bitterly about all that talk. He lives in a patch of woods here in southern Spain, just outside the village of Palos de la Frontera, with hundreds of other immigrants. They have built their homes out of plastic sheeting and cardboard, unsure if the water they drink from an open pipe is safe. After six years on the continent, Mr. Jallow is rail thin, and his eyes have a yellow tinge.

"We are not bush people," he said recently as he gathered twigs to start a fire. "You think you are civilized. But this is how we live here. We suffer here."

The political upheaval in Libya and elsewhere in North Africa has opened the way for thousands of new migrants to make their way to Europe across the Mediterranean. Already some 25,000 have reached the island of Lampedusa, Italy, and hundreds more have arrived at Malta.

The boats, at first, brought mostly Tunisians. But lately there have been more sub-Saharans.

Experts say thousands more — many of whom have been moving around North Africa trying to get to Europe for years, including Somalis, Eritreans, Senegalese and Nigerians — are likely to follow, sure that a better life awaits them. But for Mr. Jallow and for many others who arrived before them, often after days at sea without food or water, Europe has offered hardships they never imagined. These days Mr. Jallow survives on two meals a day, mostly a leaden paste made from flour and oil, which he stirs with a branch.

"It keeps the hunger away," he said.

The authorities estimate that there are perhaps 10,000 immigrants living in the woods in the southern Spanish province of Andalusia, a region known for its crops of strawberries, raspberries and blueberries, and there are thousands more migrants in areas that produce olives, oranges and vegetables. Most of them have stories that echo Mr. Jallow's.

From the road, their encampments look like igloos tucked among the trees. Up close, the squalor is clear. Piles of garbage and flies are everywhere. Old clothes, stiff from dirt and rain, hang from branches.

"There is everything in there," said Diego Cañamero, the leader of the farm workers' union in Andalusia, which tries to advocate for the men. "You have rats and snakes and mice and fleas."

Keeping in touch with home

The men in the woods do not call home with the truth, though. They send pictures of themselves posing next to Mercedes cars parked on the street, the kind of pictures that Mr. Jallow says he fell for so many years ago. Now he shakes his head toward his neighbours, who will not talk to reporters.

"So many lies," he said. "It is terrible what they are doing. But they are embarrassed."

Even now, though, Mr. Jallow will not consider going back to Gambia. "I would prefer to die here," he said. "I cannot go home empty-handed. If I went home, they would be saying, 'What have you been doing with yourself, Amadou?' They think in Europe there is money all over."

The immigrants — virtually all of them are men — cluster by nationality and look for work on the farms. But Mr. Cañamero says they are offered only the least desirable work, like handling pesticides, and little of it at that. Most have no working papers.

Occasionally, the police bring bulldozers to tear down the shelters. But the men, who have usually used their family's life savings to get here, are mostly left alone — the conditions they live under are an open secret in the nearby villages.

The mayor of Palos de La Frontera did not return phone calls about the camp. But Juan José Volante, the mayor of nearby Moguer, which has an even larger encampment, issued a statement saying the town did not have enough money to help the men. "The problem is too big for us," he said. "Of course, we would like to do more."

In the six years he has lived in Spain, Mr. Jallow has found temporary work in restaurants or in the fields, sometimes making €30, or about $42, for 10 hours of work. He says he has made about €12,000, close to $17,000, since coming to Europe, and sent maybe a third of it home. He has not talked to his family in months because he has no money.

"Times are bad for everyone here," he said. "Not long ago, I saw my uncle in the woods. But I told him he was nothing to me." ( Rachel Chaundler contributed reporting.)

   © New York Times News Service

     

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THE ASIAN AGE

EDITORIAL

INDIA-AFRICA TIES: A STEP FORWARD

In the neo-Western narrative, India is playing catch-up with China in the vast African continent — the repository of fabulous mineral wealth (gold, diamond, coal, bauxite, cobalt — you name it, besides petroleum) with the potential of growing economically at a faster pace than any other continent, although poverty is pervasive. This is at best a partial appreciation. While not wholly incorrect, it misses the nuances of India's terms with Africa as a whole, both past and present.

 

As India rises economically, it would naturally seek to buy from and sell to all regions (including Africa), and expand mutual investment ties. This is non-prejudicial logic. But it does not hurt to keep perspective. The United States and some major European nations have deeper — and older — commercial and economic interests in Africa than any other country. Indeed, this is why they move with alacrity when a political crisis looms in that continent and try to influence the outcome. Thus, when India shows initiative to partner Africa in modern sectors — as the just-ended second Africa-India forum summit in Addis Ababa, where Prime Minister Manmohan Singh elaborated India's message, demonstrates — it will be only one of several players, and way behind most (including China) on factors like trade and investment. But so huge is Africa — 53 countries, a combined population of around 1.5 billion, rapidly urbanising — everyone has the chance to earn money and goodwill. It will really turn on what the Africans themselves want and think of their interlocutors. For India, much will depend on how it conducts its journey in relation to the Americans, the Europeans or the Chinese. It has some advantages. Its outlook and attitude has not been colonial and it partnered many African nations in their search for political freedom. Its specialists have proven expertise in key modern sectors and get on well with Africans. The knowledge of English — a language common in most of Africa — also helps.
It is plain to see that India arrived on the scene when it could. The invoking of rivalry with China is, therefore, an ahistorical construct. Fifteen years ago, India could not have offered Africa what it can today. In Addis Ababa, Dr Singh made official a $5 billion line of credit for three years for development projects and $300 million for an Ethiopia-Djibouti railway line. The mantra was "capacity-building" in Africa, a key element of nation-building, but without political strings as is sometimes the case with US attempts at democracy-building in sundry regions. It is also distinct from China's focus on cornering mineral extraction rights. At the first summit in 2008, India had offered $5.4 billion for regional integration through infrastructure development.
It is pertinent to recall that in all corners of sub-Saharan Africa, Indians — for the past three or four generations — have been known as "teachers" and held in high esteem, including in Ethiopia which Dr Singh has just visited. Building capacity for civil servants and different branches of the infrastructure industry that are coming up in Africa, not to mention in information technology, agriculture, agro-industry, rural handicrafts and marine products, is the present-day avatar of "teaching". The recent Indian thrust in Africa has a prologue, which goes beyond Mahatma Gandhi in South Africa. In the past couple of decades, Indians have done multi-sector work — not least in pharmaceuticals — that has been noticed in southern Africa, mainly in the oil sector but also transportation in West Africa (Nigeria), and trade and commerce in East Africa. It would be great if Indian cinema throws in its lot with Africa and begins location shootings there. Anyone who has set foot in Africa, or read Winston Churchill's accounts, knows of its glorious beauty.

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

EDITORIAL

FRIENDSHIP, CAUTION

SHASHI THAROOR

In my last column, I suggested the time had come for India to broaden the scope of its contacts with Taiwan, instead of being overly respectful of the sensitivities of China, especially since Beijing has rarely shown the same regard for our sensitivities. This is not just about self-assertion, or even showing China that we have options.

It is also, quite simply, about self-interest. First of all, Taiwanese companies and government institutions have a lot of money sloshing about, looking for a place to plant itself. Taiwan invests some $300 billion in the economy of mainland China, and many in Taipei wonder whether it is wise to place quite so many eggs in the People's Republic of China's basket. Taiwanese investment in India is a measly $1 billion so far, and the potential for more is considerable. Most of it is currently concentrated in a handful of industries in a couple of states (Tamil Nadu and the bits of Andhra Pradesh that are easily accessible from Chennai). Diversification is clearly on the cards; when I was in Taipei in April, I met a businessman who was about to buy 10 per cent of a petrochemical industry in Gujarat, and was open to more. Kerala, with its upcoming Technocity in Thiruvananthapuram and Smart City in Kochi, will want to talk to Taiwanese IT firms about setting up shop in its sylvan environs. There are many other examples. Attracting investment isn't just about growing gross domestic product (GDP); it generates employment, which is vital if we are to benefit from our "demographic dividend" (having a young, dynamic workforce at a time when the rest of the world, including China, is ageing).
If India is skittish about opening its arms nationally to Taiwan, why not take advantage of our federal system to allow our states to deal directly with the island nation? In an economy which is already witnessing considerable competition between states for investment (remember the offers flooding into Tata after the Nano pulled out of West Bengal?), I see no reason why we shouldn't encourage Kerala and Gujarat to sell their wares to Taiwanese investors. In the end, it is India that will benefit.
Another obvious area of cooperation is educational and scientific exchange. Taiwan is host to some of the best universities in the world, especially in the areas of science and engineering. Degrees earned there are recognised worldwide (even in India!). They are also more affordable than university courses in the United States or the United Kingdom, and of comparable quality. There's only one catch: for the most part, the medium of instruction in Taiwan is Mandarin Chinese. But Taiwan is also the best place in the world outside Beijing to learn that language, mastery of which will count for more in the world as China acquires superpower status in the next few decades. So, encouraging Indian students to both learn Chinese and undertake advanced study in Taiwan is potentially of double benefit. Taiwanese minister of education Wu Ching-ji recently came to India, accompanied by 22 university presidents from his country. He and his colleagues are keen on opening their portals to young Indians. There are currently 500 Indian students in Taiwan; the minister, and his country's energetic representative in Delhi, Philip Ong, would like to see that figure change to 2,000 within two years. The potential is for 10,000, Mr Ong says, in five years. The word just needs to get out.
If we send you students, I joked to the Taiwanese, please send us your tourists! India has been receiving just 25,000 Taiwanese visitors a year, a negligible figure from a country of affluent travellers (1.8 million of whom travel every year to Hokkaido alone!). As the birthplace of Buddhism, the majority religion in Taiwan, and as a country that has much to offer the East Asian tourist, India should be doing a better job of selling its attractions to Taiwan.
Alongside the development of this relationship, we would need to increase official-level contact between our two countries, encourage journalists and scholars to travel to and write about each other, establish connections between our smarter think-tanks, and get Parliamentarians to meet to exchange their experiences of fractious democracy in action. Political leaders from various parties could also be welcomed in each other's countries.
All of this, of course, immediately begs the question, won't China object? Will such overt engagement with a "pariah state" incur Chinese disapproval? It might, but I believe we should stand our ground. No country needs to apologise for doing something that is unambiguously in its own national interest, and that is not gratuitously offensive to the other. So we should stop short of doing anything that implies treating Taiwan as a sovereign state; no prime ministerial namaste for the Taiwanese President, for instance, which would naturally rile Beijing. But inviting an ex-President of Taiwan to deliver a lecture in India, or getting a presidential candidate to familiarise herself with New Delhi before entering the electoral lists, should be possible, indeed desirable.
And we should do it. I mentioned in my previous column how much intimate and direct contact China already has with Taiwan. It has also made important international concessions, notably permitting the International Olympic Committee to admit a separate Taiwanese team, albeit under the name "Chinese Taipei" and without flying the Republic of China's flag. Recently, Taiwanese delegates were allowed to participate in the World Health Assembly, the global gathering of the United Nation's World Health Organisation (WHO), though China ensures they are not treated on a par with governments. If "one country, two entities" is a viable formula in those two places, it can be contemplated carefully elsewhere.
So let us not be, as the French put it, "plus royaliste que le roi", placing restrictions on ourselves that the Chinese have long ceased to observe (but insist on imposing on others). After all, China too has its own interests in preserving a good relationship with India — a gigantic market for its products and project exports, and a trade balance weighted hugely in Beijing's favour. The onus should not always be on us to bend over to accommodate their concerns. As long as we draw the line short of political recognition, India should deal enthusiastically with Taiwan. On its own merits — and for our own sake.

Concluded. The first part of this two-part series was published on May 13
Shashi Tharoor is a member of Parliament from Kerala's Thiruvananthapuram constituency

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THE ASIAN AGE

EDITORIAL

NATURALLY NEHRU

MAHESH RANGARAJAN

The death anniversary of India's first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru is a time to pause and reassess his legacy. For better or worse, he played a key role in the making of modern India and, in more than a tangential way, the world as it is. But even as his record in politics and economics is hotly debated and widely discussed, his

environmental record has been mostly viewed at the level of a morality play.
Modern environmentalists are prone to quote from is speech, delivered at the Bhakra Nangal dam, on dams as the "temples of modern India". Just as places of worship had given solace to the spirit, these mega projects were seen as harbingers of progress.
Quite apart from the speech, a conversation Nehru reportedly had with a labourer at the Tungabhadra dam site made headlines. This construction worker told the head of government how the work was vital as it would light lamps in a thousand homes.
Forty-seven years after his passing, the dams, like so much of his legacy, have come into question. They not only displace huge numbers — 20 million in Independent India is a conservative estimate — they also disrupt riverine ecologies and submerge huge areas of forest. In most ecological accounts of our past or future, Nehru plays a prominent role; but his role is seen as malign, not benign. Yet, to see his legacy in such simple terms, appealing as it may be to a polemicist, may be wide of the mark. After all, he was only typical of his times. Dam building was seen as proof of the prowess of many rival political systems in the mid-20th century.
The Soviets harnessed the Dnieper. The Hoover dam on the river Colorado was the first of many in the Unites Stated of America. Chairman Mao Zedong wrote a poem about how he wished to build a dam on the Yangtze at the Three Gorges. The Turks named their dam on the Euphrates after Mustafa Kemal Ataturk while Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt simply named his own regime's handiwork on the Nile, the Aswan Dam.
In fact, two of the three big dams in India as of the year 2000, were built in the post Nehru era. The reason was simple enough: India was starved of capital after the foreign exchange reserves accumulated in World War II ran out. Nehru's India did build dams, but not as many as it might have liked to.
In any case, he was hardly alone in wanting dams. Meghnad Saha, the great physicist, saw them as a means of flood control even when he taught physics in Calcutta. At the other end of the spectrum in bone-dry Bikaner, Maharaja Ganga Singh drew up the first blueprints of what would later become the Rajasthan (now the Indira Gandhi) canal, to draw surplus waters from the Indus system to the Thar.
What is significant about Nehru is not just the fact that what he did was typical of his age. What is equally striking is where he stood out among the statesmen of his time.
This is best illustrated in the way he saw peace with nature as inseparable from peace among people. In 1949, in a message to the Shankar's Weekly, he asked children to go to the forests and mountains without fear but with love in their hearts. The animals, he was sure, would befriend them.
The same year he was puzzled over what to do about a request from the children of Japan who wanted an elephant calf to replace the one killed in the Allied bombing of Tokyo in 1945. In return, the Japanese government promised to gift India a pair of giant salamanders.
Now, despite his encyclopaedic knowledge, neither the Prime Minister nor his staff had any idea what a salamander really was, leave alone what it looked like. For the record, the salamander is an amphibian and the giant variety is uniquely Japanese and then, as now, was a rare creature.
The female elephant calf was sent off and to this day it is ingrained in the memory of Japanese citizens. Premier Shinzo Abe referred to it in his address to the Joint Session of India's Parliament.
A year earlier, it was his intervention that helped save the last lions of Asia in the Gir Forest. When the Nawab of Junagarh fled to Pakistan, trigger-happy landholders entered the forest hoping to bag a lion as trophy. Acting on a telegram from British naturalists, Nehru got the civil administrators, Shiveshwarakar and N.M. Buch, to ensure all shooting platforms were dismantled and no lions shot.
Yet, one of his last contributions to global peace was the Partial (Nuclear) Test Ban Treaty of 1963, a major step to reducing nuclear contamination of air and water.
There is ample evidence of his sensitivity to nature and of a larger awareness of the limits of technology as a means to subdue nature. Being critical of his record is essential but mere demonising can do grave injustice to history. The children of Japan and the lions of Gir might serve as evidence for rethinking how we view Nehru and nature.

Mahesh Rangarajan is an environmental historian and co-editor of The Environmental History of India

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

HEADLEY'S STARTLING CONFESSIONS

 

At last bowing to the demand of the Chicago court which is trying James Headley as a facilitator of 2008 Mumbai attack by LeT outfits, Washington has unsealed the records compiled by the US intelligence agencies about the confessions made by the Pakistan-born US citizen Coleman Headley. These are startling revelations that prove close interaction between Pakistan's ISI and the terrorist organization, Lashkar-e-Taiyyaba based in Pakistan. What has been told by Indian sources to Pakistan about the involvement of ISI and the LeT in Mumbai carnage is now endorsed and with full details by Hadley. Interestingly he deposed that he was eager to be given an assignment in Kashmir but failed to obtain it. The reasons are not known. According to his disclosures, he had favoured LeT terrorist attach on National Defence College of which he seems to have made good survey. But the ISI handlers did not allow him an assignment in Kashmir and instead asked him to make a survey of Mumbai which he did.


After Hadley's court statement unsealed by the United States to facilitate the Chicago court's prosecution of the culprits of Mumbai attack of 2008, Pakistan can no more deny ISI's involvement in the crime. India stands vindicated. It is now the job of the US and the members of European Union to tell the world what they think of Pakistan as a state that sponsors terrorism on its soil covertly. Notwithstanding these revelations, Pakistan government has been repeating its commitment of not allowing Pakistani soil to be used against India. The ground situation is that Pakistan is earnestly sponsoring terrorism on its soil and providing all facilities to these outfits to carry out anti-Indian subversion after clandestinely infiltrating into Indian Territory. The unsealed documents reveal the names of persons who were handling Headley and arranging his training at the camps. In fact Headley seems to have undergone thorough training in terrorism at the camps which ran over several courses. Zakir Lakhvi, who is one of the important persons in hatching the conspiracy of 26/11 had been keeping a close eye on Headley and giving him instructions. According to Headley, the LeT handlers were watching the entire happening in Mumbai on 26/11 in TV in Pakistan and were also communicating intermittent instructions to the attackers. Thus the unsealed recording of Headley is the final and indisputable proof of ISI's involvement in Mumbai carnage. With these revelations, it becomes easier for India to take the case of Mumbai attacks to international court if she desires.

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

WOMEN TROOPERS

 

Inspector General of BSF said in a press meeting that the organization had decided to raise battalions of women troopers in J&K, and they would be deployed along the border districts of Poonch and Rajouri to become part of border security force's tactics of preventing clandestine infiltration by the militants. So far there were no women troopers of BSF in J&K though the organization has women troopers in Punjab. There are many reasons why the BSF decided to take this step. The border districts of Poonch and Rajouri in Jammu province are prone to infiltration by the PoK-based militants, essentially owing to its geography and vulnerability. This is a largely porous border and the militants have been forcing local population at the point of gun to guide them along secret paths. Once they enter the Indian part, they proceed over Pir Panchal heights and passes to move towards Kishtwar and Doda where they are trying to raise safe havens. Secondly, it has been found that they are deploying women on both sides of the LoC as messengers and also as conduits to carry arms and ammunition. On the Indian side, the BF has been showing full respect to women and they are not frisked as they are taken as genuine citizens not involved in any clandestine activity. However of late, some instances have come to the notice of the BSF in which women were being used by the militants to lend them logistic support for infiltration, passing messages and materials to persons and destination on the India side of the LoC. This was done because the militants knew that the Indian BSF personnel did not subject the women to body search.
Though the number of such cases is very small, yet these incidents call for precautionary measures. By and large people in these border areas are law abiding citizens and would want no disturbance of normal life. And that is what the militants do not want. Their objective is to create conditions of unrest and disturbance and thus hinder the state from making progress. Raising battalions of women troopers will provide employment to hundreds of women who successfully complete their training. This will have a good impact on the economic wellbeing of the people living in border areas where avenues of employment and limited. It will also instill sense of security among the womenfolk and thus intimidating them will not be that easy for the militants.
Women who could carry out their clandestine activities along the border were not frisked by the BSF jawans just to respect the modesty of womanhood. But the women troopers will frisk them and make them undergo personal check, and this will be a major hindrance for the malevolent elements in carrying out their anti-national activities. Women disciplined by the BSF as part of the organization will get a sense of belonging to a wider organization which will also mean that their interests will be recognized and protected institutionally. For backward districts like Poonch and Rajouri, this will serve as a boon and there are already large numbers of takers of the scheme. It would be in fitness of things if the BSF raises such battalions in the valley and in Ladakh also so that all the three regions of the state are brought into a grid of women troopers of BSF. From intelligence point of view also, this seems a right step. The final objective of this scheme is to ensure that law and order is maintained in the state and peace is given a chance to return to the war-torn region.

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

PAKISTAN IN DENIAL

ON THE SPOT

BY TAVLEEN SINGH

 

Let me begin by recounting a conversation I had last week with a Pakistani lady. We met by accident in a restaurant and when she heard that I was a journalist she asked if I believed that Osama bin Laden had really been killed in Abbottabad. I said that I had no doubt at all that he had been and that if she still needed proof then she should pay attention to Al Qaeda's own confirmation of the death of their leader. 'Ah, but what is Al Qaeda,' she scoffed 'who knows if there is even such an organization or if it is just something the Americans have invented to suit their war against Islam and Muslims. It is very hard to know what to believe any more.'
It is the sort of conversation I seem to have whenever I meet Pakistanis these days but what made this one especially interesting was that this lady, so filled with doubts about jihadi terrorism, was a victim of it herself. Her family moved to Dubai after a suicide bomber caused major damage to one of their main business assets and yet she was not prepared to concede that there was such a thing as jihadi terrorism. It was all American propaganda, she said, and it was not just Muslims who thought this way. In Dubai she regularly ran into 'intellectuals' from foreign countries who shared this view.
The reason why I began this piece by relating this conversation is because it reflects what I believe to be Pakistan's most important problem: denial. Or to use that old cliché – a collective decision to keep one's head buried ostrich style in the sand. Even supposedly moderate Pakistanis have spent the past decade, since 9/11, in a state of deep denial about the role of the Pakistani army in creating, financing and spreading Islamist terrorism across the world. David Headley is currently telling a courtroom in Chicago the gruesome details of how the attack on Mumbai was planned at every stage by the ISI and yet Pakistan's official spokesmen continue to dismiss him as a less than credible witness. It is the job of official spokesmen to defend the Government they represent but what is much harder to understand is why ordinary Pakistani citizens do the same. The funny thing is that while many Pakistanis are happy to condemn their civilian politicians and charge them with corrupt practices their hackles rise if anyone dares to criticize the army or the ISI. It is as if they do not dare admit that the institution that has been the mainstay of the Pakistani state since it came into being is rotten to the core.
As someone who can claim the dubious distinction of having covered political changes and other events in Pakistan for nearly thirty years I believe I am in a good position to observe that this patriotic defense of the army is a new trend. In the eighties when I first traveled to Pakistan the army was so hated that it was hard to meet anyone who would speak in defense of it. Zia ul Haq was in power then and he was seen as an evil dictator who was held personally responsible for executing a popular, democratically elected prime minister. After Zia was killed, in that mysterious plane crash, and Benazir Bhutto took charge the army was so unpopular that although she was not their choice as prime minister they were unable to stop her from taking the job. They did prevent her, though, from interfering in matters of foreign policy and defense and this made the Generals even more unpopular.
So when did things change so much as to make the army almost sacrosanct in the eyes of ordinary Pakistanis? In my view it started in the late nineties when Nawaz Sharif ran such a corrupt and venal government that he gave civilian politicians a bad name. When he was ousted by General Pervez Musharraf in a coup in 1999 it was a popular move in Pakistan even if Musharraf was seen as the villain of Kargil in Indian eyes. When Kargil proved that a conventional war against India was unwinnable Musharraf started the process of using vicious, fanatical jihadi groups to continue the war against India. And, it has to be sadly admitted that India was completely unprepared for this new kind of warfare. Had we been more prepared we would at least have noticed that two of the most evil terrorists in the world – Maulana Azhar Masood and Omar Sheikh – were rotting unnoticed in Indian jails for five years. It was an unforgivable lapse on the part of the Indian government that only came to attention when they were exchanged for the passengers of IC 814.
They may have gone unnoticed while they were in jail in India but they became big public figures in Pakistan and everyone knew that they had the support of the ISI but somehow there was no outrage on the part of ordinary Pakistanis. There was no outrage either when soon after 9/11 the world discovered that a Pakistani national hero, A.Q. Khan was running a black market in nuclear technology with the full approval of the Pakistani army. He exported nuclear technology to Libya, Iran and Osama bin Laden and yet he remains a hero in the eyes of most Pakistanis.
Is this because what liberals like to call 'civil society' has itself become infected by Islamism? I believe this is what has happened which is why it is so difficult for there to be public condemnation of either the jihadi groups or their progenitor, the Pakistani army. The discovery of Osama in his Abbottabad safe house and last week's Taliban attack on an important naval base have caused some Pakistanis to ask questions about the army's role but this is mixed up with the valid fear that only the army stands between Pakistan and a descent into chaos. An unfortunate consequence of the army's new popularity is that the lie that India wants to destroy Pakistan is now more widely believed than it ever was before. Pakistanis need to realize that their biggest problems are homegrown, and not made in India, before we can begin to take the peace process forward in any meaningful way.

           

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

SAARCPOL, TO CHECK TRANS-NATIONAL CRIMES

BY SUBHASHIS MITTRA

 

Against the alarming backdrop of cross-border crimes emerging as the biggest security challenge in South Asia, SAARC nations are seriously pondering over creation of regional police force-SAARCPOL- and network among the eight member countries.


At a recent meeting in Colombo of police chiefs from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Afghanistan and the Maldives discussed threadbare terrorism and drug traffic-related problems in the region. Host Sri Lanka underlined the need for deeper regional cooperation in South Asia to combat transnational crime, particularly terrorism.


Working well within the limitations of what could be achieved in a grouping that includes India and Pakistan, the meeting talked about best practices in drug abuse prevention being followed in each country. It also highlighted drug demand and supply patterns.
SAARCPOL will focus on areas including the extradition of fugitives, control on pan-South Asia counterfeit notes racket and drug-trafficking in the region and the force could be modeled on the Interpol.
Controlling the counterfeit notes racket has been New Delhi's priority under Home Minister P Chiadmbaram. Seizure of counterfeit Indian banknotes by law enforcement agencies and the RBI grew by more than 100 per cent in 2008 to cross Rs 30 crore. Nearly 75 per cent of these notes, printed in Pakistan, made its way to India through Nepal, say sources in the security establishment in the North Block.
Sri Lanka's powerful Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa speaking at the conference emphasised the need for regional law enforcement agencies to work together in order to maintain security in the region.
"Regional police forces should take collective action to counter terrorism, drug trafficking, human trafficking and other transnational crimes in the region. If these critical matters are well tackled, the people will be able to witness political freedom, social feeling and economic development'', said Gotabhaya, the younger brother of Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapksa, who has been instrumental in plotting the military defeat of the LTTE rebels in 2009.
The Lankan military crushed the rebels in May 2009 and ended the ethnic conflict that killed between 80,000 and 1,00,000 people. The LTTE waged a bloody three-decade civil war for a separate state for the Tamils of Sri Lanka, alleging discrimination against the minority community at the hands of the majority Sinhalas.
"A quarter of the world's population lives in the South Asian region which faces terrorism, organised crimes and social problems,'' he told the conference where top brass of law enforcement agencies shared knowledge and experience to combat these issues.
He pointed out that, "Destructive no-state actors with sophisticated communication network beyond the borders have delayed much needed development and social freedom."
Sri Lanka's Inspector General of Police Mahinda Balasuriya also noted that the SAARC Police conference would be a forum to boost professionalism of law enforcement agencies in the region and promote goodwill among police officers in the SAARC region.
Sri Lanka, as the host nation, offered a training program on the Strategic Management of Counter Terrorism, covering anti-terrorism, strategic planning and handling strategic intelligence/counter intelligence at the Sri Lankan Police College.
The recommendations and proposals including the extradiction of fugitives, control on pan-South Asia counterfeif notes racket and drug-trafficking in the region, mooted at the last 2008 SAARC police chiefs' conference held in Islamabad were discussed in details.
Sri Lanka's original proposal on the regional police force has undergone modifications and amendments with inputs from the member states. The proposal of a SAARC police force is an acknowledgement by member countries that trans-border crimes are not for them to deal with in isolation.
The imperatives of a cooperative arrangement and the willingness to devise such an arrangement are manifest in the proposal of a regional police force.
At the Islamabad meet, India had suggested better border control management in the region to curb smuggling of drugs and called for enlarging the scope of exchange of information that could be used to control terrorism.
The members also recommended an exchange of lists of terrorist organisations to benefit from each other's experience in fighting terrorism.
Nepal has proposed the creation of SAARC police network to facilitate the sharing of information that could lead to the arrest of fugitives. A draft proposal has also been circulated among the member states.
India has already proposed an internet-based police network among the SAARC nations for exchange of information.
The fourth meeting of the focal points of SAARC Terrorist Offences Monitoring Desk (STOMD) and the fourth meeting of focal points of SAARC Drug Offences Monitoring Desk (SDOMD) consumed a major part of the deliberations at the SAARC conference. While SDOMD has made some progress treading on common ground, the terrorist offences monitoring desk is yet to achieve the same amount of success.
The STOMD was established in Colombo in 1995. The objectives of the Desk are to collate, analyse and disseminate information on terrorist offences, tactics, strategies and methods.
On police issues, there was a lot more success and sharing, with both India and Pakistan offering training slots to other countries in the region. Each country shared its expertise in a field of policing in which it had achieved some success. Sri Lanka, for instance, offered to share its experience on counter-terrorism through a module for officers in the region while Bangladesh also offered to run a programme on tackling organised crime that did not confine itself to national boundaries.
Since last year, India had been offering training programmes at the National Institute of Criminology and Forensic Science.
Broad-basing the progress achieved in sharing experiences and establishing instructions to deal with pan-SAARC issues have, however, not taken off Delay in establishing SAARCPOL is an example. Also, still under consideration is Pakistan's proposal to set up a SAARC Institute of Criminology.
Over five decades ago, John F Kennedy had stated that geography has made us neighbours, history has made us friends, economics has made us partners and necessary has made us allies. Today, these wise words are more relevant than they were 50 years ago.

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

FREE TRADE CRITICAL TO DEVELOPMENT

BY APRAKRITA SHANKAR NARAYANAN

 

The various scams exposed one after another have terribly shaken the confidence of the market. These scams have caused serious waste of resource. In a city like Mumbai where there is a shortage of schools and hospitals for the poor, valuable Government subsidised properties that is otherwise can be used for these purposes, have been time and again cornered by the corrupt. The situation is analogous to the Pigs in Orwell's classic "Animal Farm" where they corner the apples because they do superior mind work leading to a corrupt set-up in the farm. In fact scams like Adarsh Society just exposes the rot in the society. Shouldn't we put a stop to wanton corruption and build a system where retribution and justice is swift, impartial and certain?
It is very evident from the events of the last two years that a robust regulatory framework is a must for a successful free market economy. India should be careful while building the framework. It should ensure that the shoulders of the regulators are not misused by the incumbents to keep out competition. A robust banking system is vital for any free market to function. A rogue operator in a free market can be a risk for all. The failure of Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers and AIG roiled the World Markets and nearly created a repeat of the Great Depression of 1929. The key for the success of free markets in India would be our ability to build Institutions that create the regulatory framework that will let free enterprise thrive without hindrance but at the same time is alert to systemic risks. Tasks will range from ensuring that Banks are well capitalized or Securities laws are followed or predatory lending practices are not allowed or Price gouging is prevented. Regulators are the referees of the free market system who ensure that the system is fair.
But it is vital that regulations don't become a maze of mind numbing red tape and become another layer of bureaucracy that hinders Human creativity and enterprise. They have to ensure that the system is fair, that there are no cartels or anti-competitive behaviors. Building of these institutions would be the key for India in the coming decade. The honesty, integrity, objectivity and capability of the regulators and the regulatory framework will be vital for the sustained prosperity of our country.
What could be "the heart" that markets need? While Man has mastered production so that there is enough food minimum for people to survive, most of the problems of Poverty can be traced to vested interests who stymie Competition. Why is it that as India has become prosperous Naxalism has emerged as a threat in some of India's poorest Districts? It can be traced to the fact that there is exploitation by vested interests of the poor. Land is forcibly acquired and the indigenous people are given very little compensation. This compensation rapidly diminishes in value due to inflation or is wasted on drink. With no skills to eke a living and no state support they become susceptible to such reprehensible ideologies such as Naxalism.
It becomes incumbent on the Political leadership to ensure that every one could derive the fullest advantages that free markets offer. Free markets throw up losers from time to time. Typically the worker whose job is gone or skill has become redundant. It becomes incumbent for the political leadership to ensure that opportunities for constant up gradation of skills are available.
A critical element is to ensure access to opportunity for all. The benefits of a free market and the future of India would come only if all have equal access to opportunity. It is vitally important that every child gets access to primary education and based on his or her ability have the opportunity to progress to the full potential. In India recently there has been a notification that every school in the country should accept 25% of their students from the economically weaker sections of society. This is in the right direction. Gifted children should have the opportunity to go to exclusive schools regardless of the economic status of their parents.
As a capitalist society throws winners and losers it is vital that the system is seen as fair and as providing equal opportunity for all. It is cronyism, corruption and anti competitive practices that gives free markets a bad name.
The other critical factor for development is free trade. Only Free Trade can accelerate the sustained growth - of India and any other country. The failure of the Doha Round due to intractable unreasonableness especially of the Developed Countries on Agricultural tariffs has cost countries like India dear.
Free economies live within a world of incentives and new possibilities. Such a system is designed to get the best out of people, to inspire their creativity and cooperative impulses. This may seem like an ideal. But it is imperative for India to embrace such ideals and let the free market cure our poverty. (IPA)

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

CONTROLLING THE IMF

IGNORE BRETTON WOODS CONVENTION

 

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's view that there is urgent need for reforming the system of controlling the international institutions like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) reflects the feelings of a large number of developing countries.

 

He found the right opportunity to give the call for changing the criteria for selecting the heads of the Bretton Woods twins (the World Bank and the IMF) and other such institutions when some European Union (EU) officials pointed out that the convention demanded that the new IMF chief must be from Europe like the disgraced former head, Mr Dominique Strauss-Kahn, a French national.

 

The argument led to French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde declaring her candidature from Europe. That she is considered quite competent for the job is a different matter. Her involvement in a court case is the only factor that may come in the way of her getting the top slot at the IMF.

 

However, the time has come for ignoring the nationality of the candidate when the selection process begins. There is a strong feeling all over the world that merit should be the primary deciding factor. However, the powers influencing decisions at the IMF will accept this view only when there is solid backing for it from major economies of the world.

 

BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) as a powerful bloc may play a major role in the Bretton Woods archaic convention being abandoned, but only when they speak in one voice. They have issued a joint statement criticising the EU stand, but without finding a suitable candidate having their backing. India's Montek Singh Ahluwalia, a well-known economist, had the right credentials, but the age factor prevented his case being pushed up (He is 67, whereas a claimant for the IMF's top position must not be more than 65 years in age).

 

BRICS nations appeared to be not as serious as they ought to be about getting their viewpoint upheld when France declared that China favoured the candidature of Ms Lagarde as the replacement for Mr Strauss-Kahn and Chinese Foreign Ministry declined to deny this. Similar voices were heard from Brazil too. What Dr Manmohan Singh, therefore, said was basically aimed at telling the BRICS member-countries that they must remain united if they wanted the global institutions to reflect the changing reality. 

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

HELPING THE ENEMY

TV CHANNELS HAVE LESSONS TO LEARN

 

The testimony of 26/11 co-accused David Headley in a Chicago district court is not only a blow-by-blow account of the Pakistani perfidy, but is also an object lesson in how we ourselves conceded many self-goals. He has described how the Lashkar handlers sitting in Pakistan watched the 2008 Mumbai carnage live on Indian TV channels and guided the attackers on the phone.

 

Not only that, they also asked them to change their tactics to challenge the advancing commandos. Hordes of cameramen were zooming in on the buildings under siege. No commando movement was hidden from them. The breathless reporters ostensibly trying to keep the public informed were indirectly helping the enemies of the nation.

 

Something similar had happened during the 1999 Kandahar plane hijack also. The hijackers were later found to be exulting that the Indian TV channels were focussing non-stop on the misery of the people whose relatives were on board the Indian Airlines Kathmandu-Delhi flight IC814 that was commandeered to Amritsar, Lahore, Dubai and finally Kandahar in Afghanistan.

 

The more their sorry plight was beamed, the more the government came under pressure to accept the demands of the hijackers. Thus, the freedom of the Press became a handy tool for the terrorists to blackmail the country.

 

A lot of debate has taken place on these issues over the years and today the TV coverage is not quite as chaotic as it used to be. But a lot still remains to be done. Much needs to be learnt from the American media which enjoys far greater freedom than the Indian counterpart but when it comes to national security and interests, it never loses its sense of proportion and balance.

 

The mad race for "exclusives" in search of TRP points — as the film "Peepli Live" presented – should not be allowed to degenerate into a free for all that can put innocent lives at risk.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

COLUMN

ACADEMIC DECAY

STUDENTS' FUTURE IS AT STAKE

 

Time and again irregularities have surfaced in privately run educational institutions in the northern region, exposing chinks in the regulatory mechanism. Punjab has seen a haphazard growth of engineering, management, B.Ed and nursing schools and colleges. 

 

Since the government institutions are unable to meet the demands of a growing population's hunger for technical education, the private sector has a complementary role to play but under a watchful eye.

 

There is a huge demand for nurses all over, particularly in the Western countries. Given the craze for foreign migration among Punjabi youth, it is but natural that the nursing course should attract so many applicants.

 

On the one hand is the large unmet demand for nurses and on the other are greedy managements of private nursing institutions which not only charge hefty fees from candidates — mostly from poor and middle-class families — but also accommodate many more students than permitted by the rules and available infrastructure.

 

The regulatory body, the Punjab Nurses Registration Council, has not only failed to check irregularities but also tried to shield some shady institutions from the scrutiny of public-spirited citizens seeking information under the RTI Act.

 

There is laxity in regulating government educational institutions too. Political patronage often drives some of those running educational institutions to break or bend the rules for convenience or personal gain. It is shocking how the Vice-Chancellor of Maharshi Dayanad University, Rohtak, over-ruled the Head of the university's Law Department and allowed a girl to appear in an LLB examination even though she did not meet the mandatory condition of attending 70 per cent of the class lectures.

 

In fact, she never attended any class. The Vice-Chancellor's reported act of favouritism forced the Head of the Law Department to resign. It all boils down to the urgent need for regulating private and public educational institutions and curbing political interference in the law-enforcement process.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

ARTICLE

BRICS HAS ITS RELEVANCE

BUT IT'S AN EVOLVING FORUM WITH LIMITATIONS

BY M. RASGOTRA AND H. H. S. VISWANATHAN

 

The coverage of the recent BRICS Summit at Sanya (China) in the Western media in particular raised questions about the relevance or utility of the grouping.  For example, Phillip Bowring, a reputed commentator writing in The New York Times, called BRICS "a real gang of five, or just a list of nations with no common agenda other than a shared resentment of the United States" and added "this was a summit meeting the emerging world does not need".

 

On the other hand, an article in Pravda noted that with the rise of BRICS, "the season is ending in which two or three Western powers — UN Security Council permanent members — could meet in a room and come out of there ostensibly speaking on behalf of the international community."

 

Both judgments are premature and in need of a good deal of tempering: for BRICS is still a very new grouping, trying to find its niche area at the global stage. This was only the third summit (and the first with membership just expanded to five to include South Africa).   

 

Clearly, there is no particular glue holding the five members together; they differ with one another on a number of matters. India, for example, bears no resentment against and, in fact, is engaged in forging a closer relationship with the United States.  On the other hand, at least in the matter of political organisation and the system of government, India has little in common with China. 

All the five countries — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — are at different stages of economic development, and the group defies the fixed templates of international groupings. Unlike the European Union, ASEAN or SAARC, BRICS does not fit into any of the defining characteristics of a grouping — shared ideology, common values, regional contiguity or cohesion, converging security interests, or identical economic interests and policies.  

 

It is a new idea in a new international context, and even as all BRICS member-countries aspire for a larger role in the world, they approach the task in varied ways and in differing partnerships or alliances, etc.  They have one thing in common though: they are all rising economies.

 

It is widely recognised that after the global financial crisis of 2008, the international financial system and its management need serious improvements.  In the major task of securing changes in the decision-making processes in the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, the concerted approach of these rising economies played a role that has re-aligned the functioning of an outdated system somewhat closer to the present-day reality and current needs.  The recent increase in the voting power of developing countries in the IMF and the World Bank is a testimony to BRICS' relevance.

 

BRICS is not a political or power bloc, and it does not project itself as such. As of now, it is not even envisaging a formal structure with a secretariat. The fear in the West that within the G-20 the BRICS countries might form a bloc is equally misplaced. India, for example, has maintained that in G-20 the member-countries' leaders participate in their individual capacities. India also prefers decisions by consensus. It is in nobody's interest to split G-20 along the lines of the OECD/non-OECD or the old versus the emerging economies.

 

Dethronement of the US dollar has sometimes been wrongly projected as one of the goals of BRICS. A glance at the foreign exchange reserves of the five countries will show how exaggerated the notion is. China, for example, holds more than 3 trillion dollars in denominated US government bonds and other Instruments. Any precipitous decline in the value of the US dollar would seriously erode the net worth of the assets of the five countries.

 

Perhaps, no country other than China sees the Chinese Renminbi (Yuan) replacing the dollar as the global currency in the foreseeable future. The Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) have been talked about for some time as an alternative, but that too is something for a distant future.  Increasing the quantum of the SDRs in requisite measure and revising the basket of SDR currencies will take time.

 

At the Sanya summit, the development banks of the five countries signed an agreement to extend credits to each other in their national currencies, and a small step in this direction has already been taken between China and Russia. But it is not certain that the idea will gather momentum.

 

There are serious differences among the BRICS countries on trade deficits between China and the rest. The Yuan exchange rate is of concern not only to the US, but also to India, Brazil and South Africa whose exports to third markets are becoming uncompetitive due to the under-valued Yuan.

 

On the question of the expansion of permanent membership of the UN Security Council, in which Brazil, India and South Africa are interested, China is not willing to commit unequivocal support.  Reaction and responses differ also in regard to vital political issues of our time such as the Arab uprisings against dictatorial regimes in West Asia.

 

Differences have emerged among its members even in regard to the composition and functioning of the grouping. Whereas Russia is for deepening cooperation to consolidate the grouping with a formal structure, China prefers its expansion to include countries like Turkey, Mexico, South Korea and Indonesia.

 

The effects of BRICS' overlap of membership and interests with blocs like IBSA (India-Brazil-South Africa), RIC (Russia-India-China) and BASIC (Brazil-South Africa-India-China) are not yet clear.  Each has a niche area of expertise. Of the three, RIC will probably be absorbed in BRICS sooner or later. IBSA has some inherent cohesion because of its members' shared values and interests and their similar socio-economic problems about which they can learn from each other's experience.

 

BRICS is an evolving process, and any exaggerated notion of it becoming a power bloc will be out of place. It might work towards "a multi-polar (or poly-centric) world", which a former Brazilian President had described as an important goal of BRICS, but in no sense is it a ganging-up against the US or the West.

 

It is a five-nation forum for consultation and concerted action on specific economic and social issues of global significance. At the Sanya summit the leaders rightly decided to "advance cooperation in a gradual and pragmatic manner, making it inclusive and non-confrontational."

 

Some reports in the Indian media wrongly stated that South Africa's inclusion in the forum was due to China's initiative or insistence.  The move, in fact, was initiated by India at a Track 2 meeting of BRIC think-tanks at the Observer Research Foundation (ORF) in New Delhi in May 2009.  That meeting was organised by the ORF to prepare recommendations for the summit's consideration, and its recommendation for South Africa's induction was accepted by the summit. After that China as the summit's host formally invited South Africa to join BRICS.

 

Mr Rasgotra is a former Foreign Secretary and currently the President of the Centre for International Relations at the Observer Research Foundation (ORF). Mr Viswanathan served as India's Ambassador in many African countries and is currently working at the ORF

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

A TRAVELLING EPISODE

BY RANBIR PARMAR

 

Certain things about this world you learn only when you travel. No amount of listening to exhaustive anecdotes or going through the well-documented travelogues will make you wiser about these facts. For instance, nobody cared to tell me, before I actually visited London last year, that sun sets well after 9.30 p.m. in that part of the world.

 

When my host motioned me towards dinner table, I gaped with disbelief at shining daylight outside the polygonal bay-window. I had to dine without my regular daily drink which I religiously take after sunset.

 

Similarly, I had to travel right up to New York to learn that Americans drive on the right side of the road, not the left, and they call a lift an elevator. The usual toilet becomes a restroom there and an engaged phone busy. Our desi Metro, which is called a tube in London, transforms into Subway in New York.

 

But sometimes these learning experiences turn out to be a bit sour if not altogether bitter. This we found out during our first chance to travel outside our country a few years ago when I, accompanied by my wife, embarked upon a trip to Dubai. The place being famous as a shopping heaven, we were burdened with requests from our relatives and friends. Most of them insisted on paying in advance for these articles. Our wallets were overflowing with hard cash when we reached the airport. We did not take the trouble to exchange our Indian rupees into some international currency though there were many outlets available. In this era of liberalised currency laws, who will bother about us taking a few thousand rupees outside the country, we thought.

 

But we were proved wrong. At the custom clearance checkpost, we were interrogated by a grim looking official about how much currency we were carrying with us. All the contents of our wallets and handbags were emptied on the table. Our holdings amounted to Rs 90,000. The official told us in a cool, businesslike voice that we are entitled to carry Rs 5,000 per person only and the rest of the sum would be confiscated. He was unmoved by all our pleadings that we were unaware of the regulations else we would have exchanged the money on entering the airport. Ignorance of law is not an excuse for breaking the law, he parroted the cliché vacantly.

 

But he softened a bit when I told him that I was a bank employee on my first trip abroad on a shoestring budget. Staring straight into my eyes, he asked me to pay him eight thousand rupees and he would allow us to exchange the rest of the amount. "And not a rupee less will do," he added with an air of finality.

 

When I returned after exchanging my money and handing over the amount of bribe to a person manning the bank counter, cursing that custom man all the time, I found him standing with my wife where I left him.

 

"Are you thankful to me?" he asked handing over our boarding passes to me.

 

"I am not sure," I mumbled.

 

"You should be," he whispered, smiling wistfully. as we turned on our way to board the plane.

 

Later, on board the plane, a co-passenger enlightened me about the custom regulations. He expressed his surprise as to why that custom official let us off. "These officers get 10 per cent of the confiscated amount as reward or recovery-fee, the sum exactly equal to what he took from you as bribe!" the co-passenger added.

 

Till today, I have not been able to decide as to how I should remember that custom official — as an ordinary cog in our corrupt bureaucratic machinery or a compassionate benefactor. And I wonder how someone like Anna Hazare or Arvind Kejriwal will interpret this episode.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

FRESH DIRECTIONS IN CUSTODY BATTLES

A RECENT JUDGMENT OF THE SUPREME COURT PROVIDES SOME DIRECTION IN THE EVER-INCREASING BATTLES FOR CUSTODY OF CHILDREN. BUT A LEGISLATIVE FRAMEWORK IS ALSO URGENTLY REQUIRED SO THAT DECISIONS ARE NOT JUST LEFT TO JUDICIAL SUBJECTIVITY

ANIL MALHOTRA

 

The world has shrunk. Inter-continental travel is easier, affordable, faster and comfortable. As a corollary, it has lead to a surge in relationships between individuals of different nationalities and diverse backgrounds. International mobility has dismantled inter-cultural taboos. But when marriages break down, the children become the worst victims. Caught in the cross fire of broken human relationships with ensuing disputes over custody and relocation, children are traumatised and torn between parents. Attempts are often made to remove the children and take them to other countries. The hazards of international child removal are accentuated by the chronic problems of maintaining access or contact internationally and have often defied legal solutions.

However, the Supreme Court of India on 13 May, in a cross-border child custody battle, has laid down principles and created a precedent which is bound to have wide-ranging impact. The matter arose in a US based NRI couple's case. The wife left her husband in the US and returned to India with her son. She moved a Delhi Guardian Court and got custody rights. In a suit filed in the USA by her estranged husband, who claimed that his wife had abducted the child, a US Court issued a red corner notice against the wife and directed her to return to the USA.

 

Courts differ

While the wife, who had decided to settle down in India, took refuge in a Delhi district court order allowing her custody of her son, the husband filed an appeal before the Delhi High Court, which set aside the lower court's order. It upheld the appeal and ruled that since a US court had already issued an order in the custody case and since the parents and the child were all American citizens, Indian courts had no jurisdiction in the matter and all issues needed to be agitated before courts in the USA. The wife then preferred an appeal to the Supreme Court.

The Apex Court this month set aside the judgment of the Delhi High Court and directed that while the proceedings shall go on before the Delhi Guardian Judge to be disposed off as expeditiously as possible, till then, the interim custody will remain with the mother and the father will enjoy visitation rights only.

 

The Apex Court culled out three questions for determination. The first question related to the jurisdiction of the 'Guardian Judge' to entertain the petition for adjudicating custody issues. Interpreting the phrase "ordinarily resident", the Court held that the intention of parties would also go to determine this important question. The fact that the child was studying and residing in Delhi for the past three years, the court held, had clearly established that both the mother and the child were 'ordinarily residents of Delhi'. E-mails produced by the wife as evidence also established that the father of the child was a party to this arrangement. Hence, it concluded, the Guadian judge in Delhi had the jurisdiction and competence to decide the custody rights.

 

The Court also held that the jurisdiction of the Guardian Judge could not be declined on the principle of comity of Courts. Examining earlier precedents, the Court ruled that proceedings in Habeas Corpus matters are summary in nature which may lead to determination of custody issues when the child is within the jurisdiction of the High Court. Distinguishing and contrasting Guardianship proceedings based on evidence, it has been held that if the removed child is not ordinarily resident within its jurisdiction, the Guardian Judge has no jurisdiction to entertain the proceedings even if it is an act of violation of a foreign Court custody order.

 

Disapproving of the application of the "Comity of Courts" principle in the matter, the Supreme Court held that no foreign court order had been violated by the wife. There was no final decision by any US Court, the minor was voluntarily in India and there was no intention of the wife and the child to return to the USA. The Supreme Court held that the interest of the minor would be better served if the mother continued to have the custody of the child, which was also a more acceptable option.

 

Balanced view

With all fairness to the husband, the Supreme Court in the third question also modified the order of the Guardian Judge and granted visitation rights to him during the pendency of the petition before the Court in Delhi. Holding that the "father's care and guidance" is necessary at the "formative and impressionable stage" of the child's life, the Court viewed that for the "child's healthy growth and to stay in touch and share moments of joy, learning and happiness with each other", the father be granted visitation rights through telephonic contact, video conferencing and visits during vacations as determined by the Guardian Judge. This was indeed a humane and a benevolent view of the whole situation.

 

The well settled and balanced verdict is a harmonious blend of legal principles, a positive interpretation of parental rights, a decisive pronouncement of jurisdictional issues and brings out a confluence of earlier precedents by distinguishing them on factual basis. It is a much needed decree of the Apex Court on legal battles over child removal and normally fought on uncertain grounds with no legislation on the subject. There is, therefore, a dire need to enact a statutory law on inter-parental child removal to be uniformly followed in all such matters. An appropriate legislative solution will be in the larger interests of children. The yeoman effort by the Courts to carve out solutions on a case to case basis can only be a time consuming exercise which cannot be stretched indefinitely.

 

With the increasing number of Indians migrating to other countries and the growing number of Overseas Citizens of India status, inter-parental child removal needs to be resolved on an international platform. It is no longer a local problem. The phenomenon is global. Parallel Court proceedings in two jurisdictions by warring parents reduce the child to be won over as a trophy at the end of a legal war. Steps have to be taken by joining hands globally to resolve these conflicts by interaction of Courts and countries.

 

Till India does not become a signatory to the Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, this cannot be achieved. It is equally important to create a domestic uniform law with clear, authentic and universal child custody principles before India accedes to the Convention. The machinery to implement the convention must first be devised. Divergent views only divide children. Removed children cannot be allowed to live on a no man's land. The temptation to wrongfully remove children must be deterred. The cruel abduction of children must find a legislative solution forthwith.

 

The writer, a lawyer, has authored several books including "India, NRIs and the Law" and is a member of the U.T. NRI Cell, Chandigarh. 

 

Fresh guideline laid down by the Supreme Court of India

 

The Supreme Court laid down the following principles in its judgment on the case delivered earlier in May.

The expression "Ordinarily resides" in Guardian & Wards Act to be determined also by 'intention' of parties and not merely on residence abroad or overseas nationality.

 

Custody Orders issued by foreign courts not to be taken as conclusive and binding but should be considered as just one of the factors or consideration that would go into the making of a final decision by an Indian Court. "Objectivity and not abject surrender is the mantra in such cases, " says the apex court's order.

Habeas Corpus petitions being summary in nature can determine custody issue of children present in its jurisdiction and also embark upon a detailed enquiry in cases where welfare of a minor is in question. In Habeas Corpus proceedings, the legality of the detention of the alleged detenue in the territorial jurisdiction of the Court will be gone into.

 

The principle of "Comity of Courts" in child custody cases has generally held that foreign judgments are unconditionally conclusive. However, welfare of the minor being paramount, the Supreme Court now says, Indian Courts are duty bound to examine the matter "taking the foreign Judgment only as an input for final consideration."

 

(Judgment delivered by Justice Tirath Singh Thakur for the bench on May 13)

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

NO QUICK FIX SOLUTION IN CUSTODIAL CONFLICTS

 

The number of cases related to inter-parental child custody conflicts has gone up sharply. As more and more marriages fall apart, Non-Resident Indian parents often remove their children to India or to foreign jurisdictions either in violation of a foreign court custody order or in infringement of the other spouse's parental rights.

 

l The Hague Convention, a multilateral treaty developed by the Hague Conference on Private International Law provides an expeditious method of returning a child taken from one member nation to another.

 

l But though the Convention concluded on 25 October 1980 and the treaty became effective from 1 December 1983, India is still not a signatory despite the fact that it has been accepted by 80 nations so far.

 

l The Convention was drafted to "ensure the prompt return of children who have been abducted from their country of habitual residence or wrongfully retained in a contracting state not their country of habitual residence."

 

l The primary intention of the Convention is to preserve whatever status quo child custody arrangement existed immediately before an alleged wrongful removal or retention thereby deterring a parent from crossing international boundaries in search of a more sympathetic court. The Convention applies only to children under the age of 16.

 

l But "Inter-parental child abduction" is neither defined nor is it an offence under any statutory law in India. Hence, it is extremely difficult to prove or establish child removal at the hands of a parent who is a natural guardian of the child.

 

l The most expeditious remedy is to file a Writ of Habeas Corpus in the High Court or the Supreme Court for return of custody by a parent on the strength of a foreign Court order or in violation of parental rights.

 

l The alternative remedy is to initiate guardianship proceedings under the Guardian and Wards Act, 1890 by leading evidence and placing all cogent material on the record before a Guardian Judge. Process is cumbersome, tedious and time consuming. Also difficult and slow for a foreign parent.

 

l In 1984, in Surinder Kaur Vs. Harbax Singh Sandhu & in 1987, in Elizabeth Dinshaw Vs.Arvind M. Dinshaw, the Supreme Court exercising its summary jurisdiction returned the removed minor children to the foreign country of their origin on the basis of foreign court custody orders.

 

l In 1998, in Dhanwanti Joshi Vs. Madhav Unde & in 2000, in Sarita Sharma Vs. Sushil Sharma, the Courts favored keeping the child's welfare and best interests in mind over all other aspects. Accordingly, Foreign court orders became only one consideration in child custody disputes which were to be decided on the merits of each case without any summary return.

 

l In 2010, in V. Ravi Chandran Vs. UOI and again in 2010 in Shilpa Aggarwal Vs. Aviral Mittal, the Supreme Court, following Habeas Corpus petitions, directed the summary return of children to USA and UK respectively, leaving all aspects relating to child welfare to be investigated by Courts in the foreign jurisdiction.

 

l In May 2011, in Ruchi Majoo Vs. Sanjeev Majoo, in an appeal, in a Guardian and Wards petition, the Supreme Court has directed that the proceedings for deciding custody rights shall go on before the Guardian Judge at Delhi and till then the interim custody shall be with the mother. The father has been given visitation rights. 

 

Why should India be interested in joining the 1980 convention?

 

l India is no longer impervious to international inter-parental child removal

 

l The present situation plays into the hands of the abducting parent

 

l The offending parent at times usurps the role of the competent Court

 

l India's non-signatory status has a negative influence on a foreign Judge who often declines a parent from taking the child to India fearing non-return.

 

l The Convention avoids the problems that may arise in Courts of different countries which are equally competent to decide such issues

 

The best possible solution would be to become a signatory to the Hague Convention and enact a Indian International Child Abduction Law and create a Central Authority for liaison and for seeking adjudication before designated existing Indian Courts to resolve such disputes to decide summary return or to render decisions on merit. In the interest of children, the stalemate must end. 

 

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

EDITORIAL

NATIONAL SECURITY AND PRIVACY

CIVIL LIBERTIES ARE NOT GETTING THE NEEDED ATTENTION

Privacy issues are coming into focus as a result of a variety of government initiatives. The Aadhar programme, for issuing unique identity numbers, raises obvious questions of privacy as personal data are compiled in a central database. Then there is the proposed National Grid, designed as a network of 21 available databases across government and private agencies, and meant to help flag potential terrorist threats. On top of these, there is the discussion paper issued by the department of information technology on a national cyber security policy, which says the government wants a law that goes beyond what is there in the amended Information Technology Act.

Each of these initiatives is well-intentioned, and meant to serve an important objective. The Aadhar programme will deliver multiple benefits, ranging from financial inclusion and low-cost money transfers to the targeted delivery of government services. The National Grid is a specific response to the attack on Mumbai in November 2008, and is meant to track patterns in digital data flows to spot potential terrorist activity. And the discussion paper on cyber security seeks to address chinks in the cyber world.

 

Those involved in these initiatives argue that they do not reach into private space any more than existing databases do. The Aadhar programme, for instance, is said to capture less data than what people already share willingly with a variety of service providers (like phone and credit card companies). Similarly, NatGrid will track not individual actions so much as look for patterns, and drill down only where suspicious trends are spotted. And the cyber security initiative seeks to have legally binding agreements with internet service providers "to support law enforcement, information security incident handling and crisis management". In the present law there is no provision for any private agreement with intermediaries or network service providers, who can only be engaged with orders issued in specific instances.

All this is fine, when it comes to the initial intention behind each initiative. The question is how it will work in practice, and whether the government has shown sufficient awareness of, and sensitivity to, the legitimate worries that arise with regard to the protection of privacy. The operating assumption in India must be that if someone is given power, it will be misused at some stage. This has become all too clear after the recent revelations on how easily telephones were allowed to be tapped, possibly for collateral purposes – it was income tax that asked for the phones to be tapped, but the taxmen did nothing with the information collected, whereas the information was of greater use in the corporate wars being fought at the time – over gas supply and telecom licences. There has also been little spotlight on the states, where the practice of tapping telephones is even more rampant. So, while centralised or networked databases are an attractive idea, and perhaps inevitable in the contemporary world, it is important to guard against the implicit dangers. Even when they do nothing more than put together what individual databases already have, they place a much greater degree of power in the hands of those controlling the databases. This is good enough reason to worry.

This is not to argue against the need for measures to beef up security, at a time when the country faces the constant threat of terrorist activity. Nor is it an argument against the Aadhar programme, though libertarians in many countries have objected to such identity programmes and democracies have only recently begun adopting them. The concern is that there is no matching concern in government circles for protecting citizens' privacy, and for putting enough safeguards in place against the misuse of information that is collected.

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BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

NOT THEIR FAULT

THE FACULTY AT IITS AND IIMS ARE VICTIMS OF GOVERNMENT POLICY

With his penchant for grabbing attention, Jairam Ramesh has set off a furious debate over the quality of teaching and faculty at the country's elite professional institutes, for technology and management. Some would say that the minister for environment has merely spoken some obvious home-truths, when he says that the students at these institutes are of a higher order than the faculty. No Indian institute or university ranks among the top 30 in Asia, and the highest rank for an Indian university (Delhi) is 77. In contrast, their alumni feature in the rankings of world leaders in the corporate, financial and associated worlds. QED, it would seem.

However, it is not open and shut. All rankings are subjective, and need to be examined closely for what exactly they are rating. Most international rankings place emphasis on research, which gets low priority on Indian campuses — logical when the staff-student ratio is already stretched and the teaching load is heavy. The US model where research-oriented professors take barely one course in a semester is not the one to copy, for it raises the cost of education to a level that is unwarranted in the Indian context (and may be inappropriate even in the US, considering that students are paying off educational loans into their late 30s). Nor is it reasonable to dismiss the quality of teaching out of hand. The value addition that takes place for a student who spends two years in an Indian Institute of Management (as reflected in the different salaries that an IIT engineer and an IIT engineer with an IIM diploma would get) would be impossible if there wasn't a considerable degree of quality education being imparted. 


Yes, students may also be working hard at mastering the curriculum — but that is what you would expect in a leading educational institution.

 

However, some constraints can and should be removed. Teaching has been rendered unattractive in India by low salaries, mandated by the government. The gap between university and private sector salaries has grown over the years. If one leaves aside relativities and merely looks at whether teaching pays enough to meet life's essential requirements (save enough for retirement, get a roof over one's head and educate one's children), the answer would be obvious. The fault does not lie with the faculty; it lies with ministers who make policies that render these end results.

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BUSINESS STANDARD

 

GLOBAL COMMODITIES AND INDIA

INDIA NEEDS A CALIBRATED POLICY FRAMEWORK TO OPERATE IN AN INCREASINGLY RESOURCE-SCARCE WORLD

AKASH PRAKASH

India needs a calibrated policy framework to operate in an increasingly resource-scarce world

Once again the buzz is around commodities and their long-term outlook. Goldman Sachs has just raised its outlook on commodities and reaffirmed their long-term bullish thesis. Morgan Stanley and Macquarie have also raised their oil forecasts for 2011 and 2012 to $120 and $130, respectively. Jeremy Grantham of GMO has recently come out with a paper outlining the case for commodities to remain in a structural bull market. He feels that we are running out of all commodities, and the 100-year downtrend in real commodity prices has been conclusively broken. The fact that a 100-year, 70-per cent real decline in commodity prices till 2002 has been erased entirely since then indicates that we are now entering a new paradigm, far removed from the old downtrend.

 

Much of the bullish argument about commodities centres around China. China today consumes over 50 per cent of the world's cement and iron ore, and between 43 and 50 per cent of steel, copper, nickel and zinc. The bulls will argue that China is still a poor country, with per capita GDP only 20 per cent that of the US. Even as China continues to grow at 8 or 9 per cent per annum, its demand for all commodities will keep compounding, to the point where supplies will remain strained.

The fallacy of this argument (at least for base metals) is that though China is a poor country, its per capita consumption of these metals is already higher than its developed peers. On a per capita basis, China already consumes 34 per cent more zinc, about as much copper and nickel and only 16 per cent less aluminium than the US (source: BCA). The per capita consumption of these metals has been stagnant in developed countries over the past few decades, reflecting the shift towards services in their industrial structure.

This implies that as China continues to grow, and more closely resemble the industrial structure of a developed economy, in the coming decades its per capita commodity demand will not be substantially different from what it is today.

The BCA has modelled out the annualised growth in base metal consumption that China will experience if its per capita consumption in 2030 converges with South Korea, another manufacturing powerhouse. Remember that Korea's per capita consumption is three times the US'. These studies indicate that China's copper consumption will grow at only 6 per cent per annum over the next 20 years, compared to the 15 per cent annualised growth over the past decade. This would mean a 30 per cent reduction in annual incremental demand in terms of copper tonnage. For aluminium, the last decade's growth rate of 17 per cent drops to under 5 per cent — something similar has happened in the case of other metals.

This implies that for the prices of these commodities to remain at elevated levels, another growth driver – most likely India – will have to kick in. If India were to have a less commodity-intensive growth profile than China as it develops, it is unlikely that prices will sustain, given the supply coming on line. Therefore, it is India, not China, that will determine the future pricing trajectory of base metals in the coming years. The fact is the world cannot support another equivalent of China, and unless we want all commodity prices to spike, our growth model has to be a lot less commodity-intensive.

Unfortunately, the story for oil is far less sanguine. China consumes only about 10 per cent of world supply, roughly equal to its GDP share. As China continues to grow, adding more automobiles on the road, its current low per capita consumption will rise. A significant downward shift in the growth of Chinese demand for crude oil over the coming years is unlikely. On the other hand, Indian demand will accelerate. Oil consumption will, thus, peak within a decade. Globally, over 70 per cent of crude is used for transportation. Unless we move away from the internal combustion engine, we cannot overcome our addiction to crude oil.

The story for agricultural commodities also seems grim. Here, as Mr Grantham points out, the growth in crop yields per acre has dropped to about 1.2 per cent per annum, which is close to the growth rate of global population. Little new arable land is available, and as the poor consume more meat, the grain intensity of their diet triples. So, we have very little margin of safety.

India is quite vulnerable to global commodity prices. Our whole macro economic framework comes under pressure if commodity prices surge, with the current account, fiscal balance and inflation all under stress. While we cannot control global oil prices, our energy efficiency is pathetic and we need to reform the whole pricing mechanism. The economy has to be given appropriate price signals, reflecting the true scarcity of crude and our import dependence.

In agriculture, too, the whole supply chain has to be cleaned up so that producers receive true and remunerative market-based prices. We continue to have yields well below global averages for most crops except cotton (where Bt seed has made a difference). There is plenty of scope for technological inputs to lift yields and boost farm-level economics. The policy framework has to allow this to happen.

In other commodities like iron ore and coal, we have huge reserves, but again a very poor policy framework in place. We cannot afford to take nine or ten years to operationalise mines. The whole approach towards the allocation of mineral resources is opaque and open to abuse. The government has spent years trying to formalise a mining bill, but to no avail. We must be the only country in the world that despite having huge reserves of coal will need to import over 100 million tonnes over the coming 24 months, enriching the economies of Indonesia and Australia. This is because we are unable to get our policy co-ordination right.

For such a vulnerable economy, and one that on the margin will drive the prices of many commodities globally, we do not seem to have a holistic commodity security strategy in place. Our policy framework is inadequate to ensure full and effective utilisation of domestic resources, and we do not have the infrastructure or global assets to ensure uninterrupted access to critical raw materials. Unlike China, where the state is active in ensuring long-term access to key raw materials, we seem to have sub-contracted this to our private sector and hope for the best. Much work needs to be done across many areas.

The author is founder and CEO, Amansa Capital.
The views expressed are personal

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BUSINESS STANDARD

WHOSE COMPANY IS IT ANYWAY?

BHUPESH BHANDARI

 

The Mohandas Pai affair has brought to life the age-old debate of promoter versus professional — who runs the company best. There are arguments on both the sides. A professional is likely to play safe and not take the risks that can fetch huge rewards. A promoter, on the other hand, may not have the managerial bandwidth to lead an enterprise. Votaries of each viewpoint can inundate you with data to prove their point. The debate is unlikely to end in a hurry.

 

But are Indian promoters ready to give up control and hand over the company to their professional managers? What does experience tell us? Actually, such instances are few and the results have been a mixed bag. The first perhaps to professionalise was Deepak Lal of Eicher when he handed over the reins of the company to Subodh Bhargava. Eicher came to be known as a nice place to work with high-quality people and processes.

Some went a step further — they put professionals before family. Lala Charat Ram had elevated Neelkanth Ratnakar Dongre from an employee to a business partner, much to the annoyance of his family. The two together came to be known as the Charat Ram-Dongre group. Mr Dongre was fiercely loyal. Workers had once laid siege to the Jay Engineering Works factory in Kolkata, which belonged to Mr Charat Ram. The situation was desperate. Mr Dongre loaded all the important documents in a truck, smashed a wall with it and drove all the way to Delhi. Mr Charat Ram, in turn, took good care of him.

Then the inevitable happened. Blood proved thicker than water. Mr Charat Ram made up with his son, Siddharth Shriram, and Mr Dongre was isolated and finally ejected from the business. Mr Dongre fought hard to retain the companies he thought rightfully belonged to him – Shriram Rings & Pistons and Usha International – but lost in the boardroom as well as the courts. He could never make a comeback.

In the early-1990s, Bhai Mohan Singh and his son, Parvinder Singh, had fought a no-holds-barred battle, in the boardroom as well as outside it, over who should run Ranbaxy. Parvinder Singh wanted to groom D S Brar as his successor. Bhai Mohan Singh was old-fashioned and couldn't bear the thought of an outsider at the helm. After a fierce battle, Bhai Mohan Singh quit the board and Parvinder Singh had his way. In the fight with his father, Parvinder Singh was supported by Mr Brar and other key professionals who were enthused by the thought of one day running the company independently.

When Parvinder Singh died of cancer in 1999, Bhai Mohan Singh began to lobby for board positions for his grandchildren, Malvinder and Shivinder. The two put out a statement that they would abide by their father's philosophy of segregating ownership from management, and were, therefore, not interested in any board position. Things happened swiftly thereafter. Malvinder rose quickly within Ranbaxy and was soon on the board. Then Mr Brar decided to exit, and the road was clear for Malvinder.

Let's admit it — most Indian CEOs are very smart people. Mr Brar has set up a nice business of his own, and the business model is far less risky than Ranbaxy's. While Ranbaxy has had to contend with legal issues in the United States, Mr Brar is cruising along smoothly. Or take the example of Pramod Bhasin of Genpact, who has been no less an entrepreneur than any businessman. He took the company from just an idea in Jack Welch's mind to great heights. Mr Bhasin now wants to do something on his own, and possibly for himself.

Egos begin to clash when professionals begin to think they are indispensable to the business — this is more likely to happen in a family-controlled business than a company like Genpact which is owned by private equity. I have taken the company to where it is, so many times have I heard a CEO say in private, but I own nothing of it. Disdain for the talents of the promoter is implicit in all such conversations. It finally shows up in the interface with the promoter. Whatever else they may be accused of, businessmen are all very sharp people; they can sense it very well when their turfs are threatened. That is when the axe falls on the CEO.

The boundary lines are sharply drawn — the CEO is paid to maximise the wealth of the shareholders. The CEO is gone the moment he crosses it, however empowered he might have been. One smart Alec lost his job because he said in a party for all to hear that he had been hired to transform the business from a Lala company to a professional one. His mistake was that the party had been thrown by the promoter to introduce him to his other employees and associates; his boast had left the promoter badly embarrassed.

I have so far talked about experiments that didn't work. The Burmans of Dabur have relinquished all executive roles in the company and are happy to be in minority on the company's board. Their interventions are minimal. The executive team had done acquisitions, developed products, introduced brands and taken strategic initiatives. And there is nothing to suggest that the company has lost its sting.

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BUSINESS STANDARD

'TATA' TO WORK ETHIC

MANY BRITISH EMPLOYERS HAVE ALREADY SAID WHAT RATAN TATA SAYS HE DIDN'T

SHYAMAL MAJUMDAR

 

When his comments on the work ethic of British workers and their unwillingness to work out of hours were widely reported, Ratan Tata quickly distanced himself from the row caused by his remarks. But a survey done by The Mail, London the following week suggested that Mr Tata may have unwittingly revealed an uncomfortable truth.

 

An Indian friend posted in a bank in London said too many of his British colleagues suffer from a behaviour called professional automation, a phrase he borrowed from the book — The Peter Principle. To the professionally-automated, it is clear that means are more important than the ends; the paperwork is more important than the purpose for which it was originally designed. The professionally-automated worker no longer sees himself as existing to serve the public; he sees the public as the raw material that serves to maintain him, the forms, the ritual, the hierarchy.

A vast majority of government officials in India would of course find all this too familiar, but let's for the moment stick to the British work culture — now in the limelight because of Mr Tata. The Tata Group chief's reported observations are in consonance with the concerns expressed in the past by many British government officials including former Prime Minister Gordon Brown. In a keynote speech at an event in London, Mr Brown said parents must want their children to do better than they did themselves but that this "cannot be achieved without people themselves adopting work ethic and aiming high."

British employers themselves have berated the failings of the local workforce several times. For example, a survey by the British Chambers of Commerce had revealed the rock-bottom opinion held by bosses of many British workers. The survey said bosses are being forced to hire record numbers of migrants because they have a shockingly low opinion of local British workers.

The bosses of more than 300 small and medium-sized businesses were asked: "What reasons do you have for employing migrant workers?" The answer: migrant workers from anywhere from Poland to India have a better work ethic and are more productive and that British workers also lack the required skills.

An opinion that has been gaining ground is blaming the lazy work culture to generous unemployment benefits. A report by the Centre for Economic Performance said there are 2.6 million adults who claim the handout meant for the sick and incapable, with around 20 per cent thought to be fully able – but unwilling – to work. The report said it has long been recognised that generous unemployment benefits create moral hazard — workers are partly protected against the consequences of being unemployed, so they are less likely to work or search for jobs with the same intensity.

A reader of the report promptly wrote that the newcomers (migrant workers) have a better work ethic and are more productive as they have not been worn down by years of living in "rip-off Britain". "Once they have benefited from all that Britain has to offer, perhaps then the newcomers will not be quite as productive as they are now," he wrote.

Finally, I am tempted to give a few examples of the "work ethic" from my personal experience during a trip to Europe. On our way from Switzerland to Italy, the bus – hired by our tour organiser from a British transport company – broke down in the middle of nowhere. An hour later, the driver informed us that he has telephoned his boss and that "nothing else can be done though things are looking bleak." So, we had to wait.

Another couple of hours and a few frantic calls by the passengers themselves saw the arrival of a mechanic who could speak only French and hence could not communicate with the driver who knew only pucca British English. The sign language went on for a few minutes, after which the driver said things are looking doubtful because the mechanic apparently hasn't experienced such a problem before. In any case, it was lunch time for both; so we had to wait for some more time.

The engine finally came back to life after a five-hour ordeal, but the driver announced that he has to take rest for at least half an hour more because he is not supposed to be "at work" for more than four hours at a stretch!

Here is another one from another European country. In Paris, our local tourist guide cheerfully informed us that the tube (metro rail) drivers are on a flash strike and, therefore, we can be assured of a relatively easy city tour as most office-goers have skipped work. So Paris will be less crowded and she can end the tour much earlier than scheduled.

I am now a firm supporter of what Mr Tata says he didn't say

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BUSINESS STANDARD

TOWARDS A REAL COST OF LIVING INDEX

A GOODS AND SERVICES PRICE INDEX THAT INCORPORATES INTANGIBLE SERVICES COULD PROVIDE AN APT REFLECTION OF THE COST OF LIVING

ARCHANA NARESH

In India, inflation has always been one of the most closely monitored macroeconomic indicators. In recent times, double-digit inflation has made headlines and the rising food prices have been a cause of concern for policy makers. The inflationary trends highlight the need to have an appropriate price index. Till recently there were two indices to measure inflation, the wholesale price index (WPI) and the consumer price index (CPI). WPI is more widely used because it has a wider coverage of goods and is available on a weekly basis for primary articles. We have two distinct CPI numbers — for industrial workers (CPI-IW) and for agricultural and rural labourers (CPI-AL/RL). A new series of WPI was launched in September, 2010 with the base year 2004-05.

Recently the Central Statistical Organisation (CSO) also released a new series of consumer price indices for all-India and states and Union Territories, separately for rural, urban and combined. The new series includes some services under "housing", namely education, medical care, recreation & amusement, transport & communication and personal care & effects. The detailed methodology, however, has not been made public. The release of CSO's series begs some questions. First, given the multiplicity of price indices, which price index should be used as deflator? Second, with CSO now releasing CPI, what is the significance and relevance of CPI released by the Labour Bureau? Also, we need to note that CPI usually has two different series for urban and rural consumers. Thus, it is plausible to argue that the difference in the consumption basket of the urban and rural population shall be more pronounced in case of services than in case of agricultural and manufacturing items. Also because "services" are expected to have a higher income elasticity of demand, it is likely that the kind and quality of services available in urban and rural areas are very different.

 

The other two indices mentioned above comprise only the tangible goods and ignore the intangible services. A price index without services would not reflect the true cost of living because services contribute to more than 50 per cent of the GDP. For example, an increase in fuel prices gets captured in WPI and CPI, however, the consequent increase in transport fares does not get captured and hence the two indices paint an incomplete picture. A way out can be a "goods and services price index" (GSPI)that incorporates goods and services as a composite price index. GSPI should be a true cost of living index and it should reflect the expenditure required to maintain a certain standard of living. Compilation of GSPI will certainly be difficult because of several reasons. First, collection of price data for services is problematic. Services are highly customised and hence it's extremely difficult to get a representative price for any service. For example, in a city like Delhi the consultation fee of a doctor varies from Rs 50 to Rs 1,000 for a visit. There is also a problem of administered or regulated prices with respect to certain services like railways and postal services. In case of railways, prices usually change only with the annual Railway Budget. There are sectors in which "price" per se is difficult to identify. For example, in the banking sector, financial intermediation is the primary role of the banks. But the question arises, what is the price of "financial intermediation"? Theoretically, interest rate is the cost of the capital and hence we should subtract this from earning on loans to arrive at price for advances. The concept paper on "Banking Service Price Index" prepared by the Office of the Economic Adviser (OEA), Ministry of Commerce & Industry has sought to address this issue by the proposed "reference rate". The concept paper estimates this price as loan price = interest rate received on loans - reference rate and deposit price = reference rate - interest rate paid on deposits. The issue of what should be the reference rate is yet to be resolved.

Now to come to technical issues. There is always a possibility of a "new outlet bias" if we use Laspeyre's index (as is the case of WPI and CPI) due to rotation of outlets or units into and out of the index sample. At the time of rotation, any difference in the price between items in the old outlet and the new outlet is implicitly assumed to reflect a difference in quality. Further, the "qualitative change" that we experience in services is difficult to capture. Also, since the product basket in case of services would change rapidly, it would necessitate releasing of new or revised series (with a new base) more frequently. As for weighting diagram, traditionally it is devised by assigning weights to various products in accordance with their shares in the total output or revenue. But in case of services we may not be able to capture the disaggregation at every level, for instance, in case of healthcare it would be appropriate to look at the consumption expenditure data of NSSO while deciding on the weights. Weighting bias in case of services is also likely because these fall largely in the unorganised sector.

The Paasche index is another index that is not so widely used. It uses quantities in the current year for devising the weighting diagram. It has limitations of understating inflation. The effect of substitution would be that a greater importance would be placed on the goods that are relatively cheaper in the current year. The Paasche index also requires information on current quantities, which is not feasible. The Fisher's index, a geometric average of Laspeyers' and Paasche Indices, is theoretically an "ideal" index because it has no substitution bias and it has the time reversibility property. It is also consistent with the revealed preference theory. Fisher's Index also comes closest to Robert Pollak's social cost of living index, which is the ratio of the total minimum cost or expenditure required to enable each of the households present in the two periods to attain their reference utility levels in the two time periods*.

A step forward in this direction has already been taken in the form of the development of business service price index (BSPI) scheme. The idea was mooted when the Rangarajan Commission set up by the Ministry of Statistics & Programme Implementation in its report in 2001 had recommended that a separate service sector index should be developed initially as a component to WPI and later to be merged with WPI once it attains some stability. The present scheme of BSPI of OEA covers ten services and sectors, namely banking, trade, business services, postal, telecommunication, air transport, port services, insurance, rail transport and road transport for development of experimental service price index. Surprisingly, the most dynamic services – information technology and information technology-enabled service – are not part of this basket. OEA has already placed concept papers for railway service price index and banking service price index in public domain. One must view both these indices with caution as these prices are largely administered prices. Nevertheless, it is a step in the right direction. Finally, when OEA merges WPI and BSPI, it may come up with an index close to suggested, yet elusive to GSPI.

*W Erwin Diewert — Index Number Issues in the Consumer Price Index, Journal of Economic Perspectives, Winter 1998

The author is an officer of the Indian Economic Service. The views expressed are personal. The author is grateful to Dr Kaushik Basu, chief economic adviser, Ministry of Finance for his comments on an earlier draft

 

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BUSINESS LINE

OPINION

TAKING STOCK OF COTTON EXPORTS

While cotton farmers' interests should be taken into consideration, it would also help to get a fix on the consumption and stock situation.

The crisis-ridden textiles industry is once again in the news, with the demand to lift curbs on raw cotton exports gaining momentum. In Saurashtra, the ginners have been on strike from May 17, demanding that the Government permit more exports of cotton. The Union Agriculture Minister, Mr Sharad Pawar, has thrown his hat into the ring, demanding a revision of the 55 lakh bales (of 170 kg each) quota for cotton exports this season. While farmers' interests should be taken into consideration, it would also help to get a grip on the consumption and stocks situation. At the end of February, the Cotton Advisory Board (CAB) estimated that cotton production this season to September would be 312 lakh bales. Of this, 294 lakh bales have hit the market, with18 lakh bales still to arrive. Farmers could be holding barely 10-12 lakh bales of cotton, lower than 3 per cent of the projected output. Hence, it is a moot point whether the removal of export curbs will help them in a big way.

The Government's move to allow cotton yarn exports in April has not helped spinners either. The buyers call the shots in the global yarn market now. China, Pakistan and Bangladesh, which were buying yarn from India earlier, are no more interested and are, in fact, looking to export. All these have left ginners with raw cotton inventories. While cotton prices have dropped some 35 per cent since the first week of April to Rs 4,375 a quintal in Gujarat markets, they are still Rs 900-1,000 a quintal higher than they were a year ago; and above the minimum support price fixed by the Government.

The trend in prices is easily explained. The CAB has estimated that carryover stocks would be of the order of 27.5 lakh bales at the end of the season. Even if one were to account for reduced consumption by mills because of their problems, carryover stocks could, at best, rise to 35 lakh bales by September-end. At a monthly cotton consumption rate of 22 lakh bales, the stocks will hardly last two months. Although the new crop will start arriving in October, it would take a couple of months for arrivals to peak. For textiles and garment manufacturers, already hit by policy and other factors, this could be a double whammy. They have been already affected by the closure of dyeing units in Tirupur, and there has been a further dent to in their fortunes as a result of has been caused by the Government's proposal to levy 10.3 per cent excise duty on branded garments. All in all, the Government finds itself in a situation where it would be damned if it did and damned if it didn't. But the quagmire that it finds itself in, on cotton exports is only a logical outcome of its long held obsession with controlling the textile sector across the entire value chain. It can extricate itself only by making a clean break with the past and allow the market forces to decide how prices and output will move. The Government doesn't pretend to be the 'know all' in other sectors of the economy. There is no reason why it should view textiles any differently.

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BUSINESS LINE

OPINION

HIS PASSION: TEACH, TEACH, TEACH

T C A SRINIVASA RAGHAVAN/CHITRA NARAYANAN

From pioneering IT education to setting up a picturesque university in the Aravalis, Mr Rajendra Pawar is a well-travelled veteran on the knowledge highway.

Mr Rajendra Pawar, the current latest chairman of Nasscom (National Association of Software and Services Companies), has a lean and efficient look.

After all, if you have your fingers in so many policy pies, efficiency — like greatness is forced upon you.

Leanness, however, has to be acquired, which is perhaps why when we invited him to lunch at the spanking new Leela Hotel — it squats like a lotus in a grimy pond of shoddy government 'quarters' – he chose a fresh lime soda, tomato soup (albeit with cous-cous) and a seafood ravioli pasta.

He could have chosen the Qube's speciality pizza, wood-fired and what-not. It costs 'only' Rs 9,999 because it has Canadian lobster, thyme scented mascarpone, Iranian beluga caviar and frozen blue goose vodka chaser.

Sadly, no such luck.

The NIIT Group Chairman and Co-Founder, who recently turned 60 and was awarded a Padma Bhushan for pioneering IT education in the country, does not see himself yet as a backbencher with an advisory role in his company.

"Absolutely not. Not now when we are in the midst of transformation at NIIT Technologies as well as NIIT Ltd and in high growth phase for both companies," he says.

What sort of transformation, we ask?  

Business rejig

"In 2006, instead of being a tech-driven company we decided to make NIIT Technologies a domain-driven one. We took a hard decision to opt out of many businesses and go only for select chosen verticals. We got out of almost 45 per cent of the business then. Today, 87 per cent of the businesses we do are in chosen verticals," he says.

Similarly, NIIT, the learning business, is now venturing into newer areas such as cloud campuses. Old is not gold any longer.

With recent events at Infy on our minds, we segue onto the no-no question. "Is there a succession plan at NIIT? Who will take on the mantle after him, co founders Vijay Thadani, P. Rajendran and NIIT Tech CEO Arvind Thakur?"

"That's not an issue. We have very good leaders coming up," he says quickly. "But one should never underestimate the complexities of succession," he adds. We nod in complete understanding.

Pet project

We eat while he talks about his pet project — the new NIIT University at Neemrana in Rajasthan - and which is about as designer a label you can get. The picturesque university on the Aravalis dovetails neatly into another of his pet ideas – that of making the Delhi-Jaipur highway into a knowledge corridor the likes of MIT's Route 128.

The University itself, created as a post-industrial knowledge era campus, will be work in progress for the next 100 years, he insists. Talk about the long view.

Right now, though, it offers courses in computer science and informatics but going forward will have liberal arts courses, too.

"Behavioural sciences will be a big thing for India," predicts Mr Pawar and adds how both his daughters Urvashi and Unnati have chosen psychology.

His son Udai, an IIT-trained engineer, has moved to Bollywood. "He worked on Sudhir Mishra's Yeh Saali Zindagi – very good film," he says, in a proud-dad voice.

Pawar, Panwar and Parmar

How come you are called Pawar if you are from Jammu, we ask. We get a short lecture on the origins of Pawars.

"Pawars are originally Agnikula Rajputs from Madhya Pradesh - a lot of them went to Maharashtra, some went to Uttar Pradesh where they became Panwars, some to Himachal where they became Parmars," he explains.

"My ancestors came to Akhnoor.  My granddad was the village head. My father joined the army and was in J&K State Forces and with Maharaja Hari Singh, while two of my uncles stayed in the village farming."

That also explains Mr Pawar's closeness to Mr Karan Singh, who is NU's Chancellor and has chosen the university's motto, 'AnadiAnant' (without beginning and without end).

Vital Vittal

We drag the conversation back to Nasscom.

Perhaps influenced by all that food around us, Mr Pawar says "Nasscom is like a well-baked cake with reasonable icing on top. We don't have to re-bake the cake."

But will there be a lot of lobbying with government involved now at Nasscom or is this industry treated more leniently? "The oft quoted joke is that thank god, the government was sleeping when we were building the IT industry!" laughs Mr Pawar. But he does not agree with this view, and gives a lot of credit to Mr N. Vittal who was a hands-on secretary in the Department of Electronics.

"He was a liberal thinker. I was president of MAIT at that time and saw at close hand how he solved many of the teething problems of software companies. We would run to him with our requirements and he would always find solutions," says Mr Pawar.

"Is this new responsibility a crown of thorns," we ask. "Not at all," he says, declaiming with customary enthusiasm about his three-point agenda for Nasscom.

Nasscom's distinction

An early member of Nasscom, which came up in 1987, Mr Pawar claims it is one of the few industry bodies that actually drive the industry.

Nasscom is an unusual organisation in the sense that many of the founders are still around. Success has given us enough elbow room and people are keen to collaborate," he says.

Three priorities 

His three priorities, he says, are to provide visibility to the emerging companies - the SMEs of the IT sector. "We want to remove the covers and give them a platform for growth, advocacy." The second priority is to flag off IT for India. "Many States have created IT departments and have an IT policy now, but we want to drive adoption by accelerating the supply side," he says.

As an anecdotal example, he points how there could be a small IT company in Karnataka that has digitised land records of the State and has experience in this domain. But this may not be known to another State government looking for a similar vendor. "Nasscom now has an e-governance portal where 155 companies have put up their works on governance," he says.

And the third priority is the skills sector – to scale that up significantly. Nasscom is working in tandem with National Skills Development Corporation on that.  

Sweet tooth

We ask if Nasscom's Vision 2020 for the IT industry to contribute up to 9 per cent of India's GDP an achievable target?

"Do you know that the $225 billion size projection for year 2020 for the Indian IT-ITES industry – in that 80 per cent will be from businesses that don't even exist today," says Mr Pawar. He means the less tapped verticals such as healthcare, utilities and new areas like cloud computing.

By now, thanks to the severe air-conditioning, we have almost frozen. The time has also come to order dessert. Our combined girth makes us pause but Mr Pawar is not having that. "I have an ultra-sweet tooth," he says as he orders a ras-malai and eats it with gusto.

We give in and order homemade ice-cream, but at the end of the big meal, only Mr Pawar retains the lean and hungry look.

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BUSINESS LINE

OPINION

IN DEFENCE OF THE IITS: AN INSIDER'S VIEW

R. KRISHNA KUMAR

The Environment Minister, Mr Jairam Ramesh, created a flutter with his candid statement that not IITs, but their students, are world-class. He added that experience of 60 years shows that the government set-up cannot produce world-class research institutes. Supporting his colleague at the time, the Education Minister, Mr Kapil Sibal, said IITs would be world-class, had they figured in the list of top 100 universities of the world.

As the anti-IIT decibel level rises by the day, it may be useful to take a closer look at the institution, and put certain facts in perspective.

Going by data in the Web site www.topuniversities.com, IITs are not in the top 100. The list is dominated by the US (29), followed by the UK (17); China has two entries.

The same Web site gives world rankings for Engineering and Technology. In this, all five older IITs make it to the Top 100 — IIT-B (47th rank), IIT-D (52), IIT-K (63), IIT-M (68), and IIT-KGP (90). India is close to Germany's six ranks and is on a par with Japan and China.

This vindicates the academic standing of IITs as it is engineering for which they were started and for which they are famous the world over. IITs were mandated to be engineering schools, and not universities such as Harvard or Stanford.

Mr Jairam Ramesh's other observation that private partnership will enhance research is intriguing. That the private sector in India has till date hardly produced a world-class product through research, be it hardware or software, stands testimony to this fact.

Knowledge dissemination

Apart from their rankings which confirm their academic standing, what are the contributions of IITs to India in the spheres of education, industry and nation-building?

Many may not be aware of the programmes of IITs to help engineering education. Several initiatives, including Quality Improvement Programmes for university teachers, winter and summer schools, and user-oriented programmes have been pursued with passion and enthusiasm by IIT faculty for the last two decades.

One such programme, NPTEL, started four years ago, has resulted in the largest collection of educational videos in the world: 4,932 lectures, of 50 minutes each, are available on YouTube. With 69,000 subscribers, the total hits for these lectures are a whopping 44.7 million! One comment posted on the Internet by a user summarises it all: "IITs not only teach Indians, but the whole world." The third largest number of hits, after India and the UK, are from Pakistan. Knowledge diplomacy, it seems, is a more powerful binding force than cricket diplomacy!

IITs have been criticised for not helping Indian industry, not developing technologies, not carrying out cutting-edge research and indulging in largely theoretical research. These criticisms must be analysed in totality.

Universities in the West were started centuries ago. In Europe, Oxford University and University of Paris were established in the 12{+t}{+h} century. They were seats of knowledge much before knowledge became commercialised. During the feverish pace of the Industrial Revolution, innovations and technology preceded scientific explanations. Steel was made much before the thermodynamics of steel-making was understood. Even at that time, innovations did not happen at the universities. Universities were busy catching up with the science behind the technologies.

Then came a time when further progress in engineering and technology could happen only with firm scientific foundation. Industries naturally turned towards universities, mainly for manpower and, to a lesser extent, for research and development.

Wright Brothers ran a printing press, Henry Ford was not a university professor, nor did Ibuka, the father of Sony Corporation, incubate his company within a university. Many of these giants relied on research for their growth and used universities for it. After all, industry–institute collaboration can sustain only out of necessity, not compulsion.

The Indian situation was different. IITs were born along with Indian industry. Collaborative ventures with established international companies obviated the need for industry to pursue research. Hence, IITs were never on the radar screens of industry for their research needs till the 1990s, when the economy opened up.

Research initiatives

Many realised, rightly, that technologies cannot be developed at educational institutes.

Technology needs a much larger canvas, encapsulating manufacturing, testing procedures, quality standardisations, and so on.

Research is only one part of technology development and, for obvious reasons, universities can work only on this segment. Indian industry only now understands the importance of long-term research and the need to enhance the science part of technology.

IITs, once the biggest exporters of brains from India, have witnessed a steady decline in the number of their students going abroad.

Today, a mere 15 per cent of their students go abroad. Many prefer India-based industry for the opportunities it provides.

This beginning has to be taken to the next logical level, with more sponsored research from the industry. This is reflected in the research-based consultancy charts of IITs. In my Department (IIT-M's Department of Engineering Design), JK Tyres, Tivitron, Caterpillar and AutoDesk have set up Centres of Excellence, while Ashok Leyland and Bosch have sponsored the entire department building. In a globalised world, the industry is not restricted by geographical boundaries. Yet, going by past performance, IITs are sure to rise to the occasion.

Not fully tapped

What is the contribution of the IITs to policies, nation-building, socially relevant work, and so on? Ironically, it is Mr Jairam Ramesh's own Ministry that included IITs as part of the "Clean the Ganga" project!

It is well known that IITs have been actively involved in projects of national priority in space and Defence research. IIT professors have been part of the Prime Minister's scientific advisory panel, national knowledge network and many other panels and committees, but it has never been the tradition in India to seek serious academic inputs in drafting engineering and technology policies. This needs to change. The Government has to look at IITs as a national resource, a large talent pool and use them for national growth.

It is unfair to state that IITs have not delivered. Maybe more needs to be done. But one must understand the psyche of researchers. They are like artists, though one uses the left-brain and the other the right. Give them the recognition they deserve, and see the effect!

(The author is Professor, Department of Engineering Design, IIT Madras.)

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

GOOD FOR COMPETITION

THE COMPETITION COMMISSION'S DECISION ON NSE IS WELCOME BUT INCOMPLETE


The Competition Commission of India's (CCI) has reportedly found the National Stock Exchange (NSE) guilty of abusing its dominant position in the currency derivative (CD) market. Its ruling is welcome on two counts. One, it shows the regulator has finally shaken off its somnolence. Two, the NSE's virtual monopoly in the exchange business, in all its verticals, is being institutionally questioned. To start with, it will encourage competition in the CD segment, judicial review permitting. NSE waived the transaction fee in the CD segment in 2008. This was valid to develop a nascent market, sans any competitors. But the CCI sees no justification now in NSE continuing to offer these services free of charge. It has, hence, ruled that NSE's zero pricing policy is destructive and unfair to its competitor and recent entrant MCX-SX that is allowed to operate only in the CD segment and has no other source of income with which to cross-subsidise currency derivative trading. Clearly, MCX-SX needs to diversify its income sources through more operating avenues. It should be allowed to operate in all segments including equities. This will ensure that MCX-SX is on equal footing with NSE. So, the CCI is right in saying that the perception of unfairness would not have been so blatant had the two bourses been on an equal footing in terms of resources and scale of operation.


Unfortunately, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) has refused to grant MCX-SX any further operating avenues, saying that it is in violation of its regulation, the Manner of Increasing and Maintaining Public Shareholding in Recognised Stock Exchanges (Mimps). The rule, which restricts ownership of exchanges to 5% for any person, even to begin with, thwarts competition in the exchange space and creates entry barriers for new players. As we have argued, Sebi should amend the Mimps regulation to allow bourses to compete. While the NSE brought about a paradigm change in the way stock markets functioned in this country, that is no justification for granting it a monopoly status. Competition among professionally-run bourses will expand the capital market and its base. India needs that, badly.

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

LEASE, DON'T BUY

THE NAC IS WRONG. INSTEAD OF FORCIBLE ACQUISITION, TRY LEASING LAND


The job of government is to administer the rule of law, not to make land deals and broker property deals. India's influential National Advisory Council (NAC) seems to have forgotten this simple rule. It has decided that it's fine for governments at the Centre and states to acquire up to 100% land, even for private projects, as long as these projects serve some public purpose. This is a pernicious argument, which will embolden some regimes to go on a land-grabbing spree, forcing out original owners under the pretext of development, and then hawk the land to mall builders at inflated prices. The NAC has learnt nothing from widespread protests against land-grabbing governments in many states, one of which eventually toppled a 34 year-old Left regime in Bengal. It has tried to sweeten its proposal with strictures on how original residents should be compensated. These include a payment structure that is six times the registered value of land, meaningless in communities where land has been held for generations with minimal paperwork. The existing land acquisition law of 1894, which includes only things like schools, healthcare, slum clearance and government projects in the ambit of 'public purpose', and none for private industry, is more reasonable in this respect.


Fortunately, the NAC's word is not law, yet. So, while modernising the land acquisition law, Parliament should follow a few simple rules. Leasing is an alternative to acquisition of land. Land could be leased from special purpose vehicles (SPVs) of land-holders, for varying durations, subject to renewal with higher rentals every five years or so. That will allow the original owners of land to benefit from the appreciation of land prices that comes with development. This will also provide a steady stream of income to families that were earlier dependent on the leased land. With the law on their side, district councils, panchayats and gram sabhas should be educated about their rights and taught how to form and run the SPVs before starting negotiations with developers. Land-grabbing will be replaced by lease negotiations.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

TECH 2G(REEN)

ASIF BALWA'S TABLET COMPUTER PRECEDENT CAN SAVE MILLIONS OF TREES


Jairam Ramesh should thank 2G scam accused Asif Balwa for doing his bit to save the environment — by getting the court to agree to his using an iPad. The chargesheet of the 2G scam runs to 80,000 pages, and has 17 accused; since each of them is supposed to be provided a copy, as well as the judge and concerned lawyers, it adds up to at least 16 lakh pieces of paper. And that leaves out photocopies for the wider circle of legal and other aides on all sides of this high profile case. The standard calculation is that one tree produces around 8,500 sheets of paper, which means each copy of the chargesheet has gobbled up a little less than 10 trees. Had Balwa not offered a technological solution to the logistical difficulty of carrying and sifting through so many pages efficiently in order to direct his defence team, the total number of trees notionally entombed in these documents by the end of the case could have outnumbered those flourishing in New Delhi's prized Lodhi Gardens. Thanks to his timely intervention, the chargesheet has scalped just a modest DDA park's worth of trees.
The idea of all litigants henceforth being allowed to use space and time-saving new gadgetry would undoubtedly please the makers of such high-tech items and save forests of Amazonian proportions. A less expensive and more universally applicable solution, however, would be shorter, more succinct chargesheets. But that would entail so fundamental a change in our legal system that no mere mortal would have the temerity to moot it. Yet, there is a case for a wider movement for freedom from legalese, officialese, academese, medicalese and even computerese — if not for the sake of the befuddled common man, at least to save the earth's fast disappearing green canopy.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

LET EUROPE TAKE IT ONE LAST TIME

BRICS IS WASTING TIME AT THE IMF FIGHTING A DESPERATE EUROPE AWARE OF ITS DIMINISHED ROLE


There are three odd things about a brewing global controversy that was engendered by certain alleged events in a New York hotel room.


First, why are many highly informed and experienced people, for example, Manmohan Singh, persisting in arguing that Europe's attempt to again grab the IMF top job is a power exercise by the truly powerful? Europe's shabby and risible arguments are informed by real and growing self-awareness that European power is a depreciating currency in the global market for powerplay.


If Europe was confident, if its muscle-flexing mattered as much as chanceries in European capitals want it to, European leaders would not have made the now infamously silly argument: debt-ridden Europeans need a European IMF head. That kind of illogic is born out of the fact that IMF is probably the only global institution with some clout where Europe's writ can still run.


If you want to understand why European leaders are so shrilly insistent on perpetuating the 'tradition', look at the world from their point of view. World Bank will continue to have an American boss (no one's seriously challenging that as yet). WTO has a sort of open-field selection for its chief. UN doesn't really matter in terms of powerplay (which is why it got non-Western bosses earlier than all other global institutions). On most major global negotiations and trouble spot responses, Europe is far, far less important than America. Given all this, it is a matter of near desperation for Europe to hold on to the IMF top job. That's what we have seen in European leaders' arguments on the IMF — desperation. The really powerful don't appear desperate. True, as Dr Singh said, the powerful don't want to give up power. But only those with waning power are forced to employ terribly unconvincing logic and look as if they are clinging on.


The second odd thing about the IMF succession question is the formal Brics challenge, which has come via Brics's IMF representatives issuing a statement. Unlike Europe's 'debt-ridden Europeans need a European IMF boss' argument, the Brics statement meets the test of logic. It also conveys confidence; these are countries that know their power is growing. But here's the strange aspect — has Brics made this formal challenge because it hopes to win or because it hopes to make a point?


If it's the first, Brics would have to make some heroic assumptions. Europe has the most votes in IMF, the US is very unlikely to openly side with BRIC on this issue given European desperation to retain the IMF top job, and non-Brics emerging economies aren't necessarily going to accept Brics guidance if it comes down to hectic global lobbying. So, what are the chances of a Brics candidate or a Brics-sponsored candidate against Europe's already announced candidate? Plus, picking a Brics candidate or a Brics-sponsored candidate is not an easy job. Say this much for Europe, everyone there is backing the French candidacy for the IMF top job. But China, India, Russia, Brazil and South Africa agreeing on a candidate is not a simple matter. Matters become less simple when you add non-Brics major emerging economies in the mix.


Given this, the tactical value of the Brics' IMF intervention isn't clear. Maybe, the Brics IMF statement, and Dr Singh's statement in Addis Ababa, were intended to make a point. However, the point is already made. In fact, and as has been reported, during Dominique Strauss-Kahn's election as IMF chief in 2007, Europeans themselves had said that the next chief shouldn't be from Europe.

 There's virtue to repeating a valid point, of course. But in diplomacy, using a high profile, official forum to reiterate a point usually signals a tactic, a plan. What's odd here is that Brics's IMF representatives were given the go-ahead by their governments to issue a strong statement — without a clear plan in sight. The plan can't be to shame Europeans. They will most likely refuse to be shamed in this matter now. It could be argued that a strong Brics intervention now, even if the outcome is what Europe wants, will completely clear the way for abandoning Europe's hold on IMF's top job. However, that probably would have been the case anyway, unless emerging economies suffer a future blowout or Europe becomes a major global powerplayer — both unlikely outcomes. Europe's desperate attempt to retain the IMF boss's post this time also signals that this is most likely the last attempt to keep the 'tradition' going. So, the question persists: what is Brics thinking?


And here's the third odd thing: The first two odd things wouldn't have happened had certain alleged events not happened in that New York hotel room. Had DSK, as the IMF ex-boss was known in his native France, finished his stint at the IMF, or had quit voluntarily in tolerably honorable circumstances, Europe would have been as unhappy as now about giving up the IMF top job claim, but it would have been less desperately determined.
The vacancy came up suddenly, and suddenly Europe was put in the position of giving up a plum quota job. European IMF chief resigns in disgrace, first emerging economy IMF chief takes over — that would have been too much for Europe to stomach. Brics leadership, therefore, should not waste time fighting a Europe that, in turn, is fighting for what will probably be its last opportunity to pick an IMF boss. Brics should prepare for the next round.

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

FACE OFF

CAN ISI BE DECLARED TERROR ORGANISATION?

AJAI SAHNI


EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, INSTITUTE FOR CONFLICT MANAGEMENT & SOUTH ASIA TERRORISM PORTAL US Will Merely Tighten the Screws

With the Headley exposures in Chicago, the role of the ISI as a source of terrorism is now being judicially documented. As details accumulate, it is possible that investigations may be widened to include the ISI or some of its officials. These risks were already present during the ISI chief, General Shuja Pasha's visit to Washington in April, with apprehensions that he may be impleaded in the trial, or even be arrested in connection with the ISI role in the case.


All this tremendously increases pressures on the ISI, but it remains unlikely that the organisation will be declared a terrorist entity. Such a declaration is an executive, and not judicial, function, and a wide range of considerations would bear upon it. It is important to understand that the Chicago disclosures don't constitute any radical discontinuity with what is already known about the ISI.


Public memory tends to be short, but the truth is, Pakistan has been on the verge of being declared a terrorist state by the Americans for a long time. Considerations of expediency — and not any lack of evidence — have always intervened. Shortly after the US embassy bombings of August 1998, the Clinton administration had threatened to declare Pakistan a terrorist state if it continued to support groups associated with Osama bin Laden. Nothing came of that as a result of hectic lobbying in Washington and because Pakistan had recently 'become a nuclear state'.


Of late, there have been a slew of statements and disclosures demonstrating that the US has long been aware of the ISI's role. The Guantanamo Bay files on Wikileaks indicate that the ISI is already regarded as a terrorist organisation by US authorities, albeit covertly. Given the US entanglement in Afghanistan, and its perceived dependence on Pakistan — specifically on the army and ISI — it is unlikely that the US will do anything more than incrementally tighten the screws on Islamabad. It is equally unlikely, given the expectations of an imminent US withdrawal from, or dilution of military presence in, Afghanistan, that Pakistan will significantly alter its conduct or abandon its strategic ambitions in the South Asian region.

 

ASWINI K RAY FORMER PROFESSOR, JNU Legally Logical, but Unrealistic

David Headley's deposition in the Chicago court, implicating the ISI as having masterminded the Mumbai terrorist strike provides legal authentication to a conclusion based on earlier evidence, including Kasab's confessions. A participant in its planning and execution, Headley in his "plea bargain" has blown the whistle on the precise role of the ISI, thus stoking the legitimate question posed in the title of this exercise.
But, howsoever legally logical, such a possibility appears operationally unrealistic. For a start, because international law is yet to codify a precise definition of terrorism, thus leaving it to be politically decided by the global power structure. This power hierarchy predictably prioritises terrorism differently, within the formal global consensus condemning all acts of terror. Thus acts of terror in India, including the attack on Parliament, have been condemned, but its identified perpetrators are high profile residents of US' main strategic ally; and the principal beneficiary of its economic and military aid.


This is in sharp contrast to the swift action against the terrorists of 9/11, till the main culprit was clinically executed in the ally's military heartland as spectacularly as the terrorism of 9/11, presenting the fait accompli to the stunned world, including its strategic ally. This contrast around terrorism in different locations underscores the reality of the weak operational salience of any possible global action based exclusively on legal or moral grounds.


It is fortuitous that there were six Americans among the numerous victims of 26/11, which is what the basis of the Chicago trials is. We must, sadly, count our blessings on this score and hope the two culprits are punished. But as long as the US needs Pakistan as a strategic ally, we must learn to be self-reliant around our strategic needs and pursue them with a degree of professionalism without recurrent "clerical errors".
The CIA and ISI are hand-in-glove for long and know their strong and weak points; it is unlikely to be changed by Headley's confessions, howsoever embarrassing to the allies in the thieves' kitchen.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

LAW STREET

TRAVEL PLAN FOR THE TAXMAN

LUBNA KABLY

 

Zenobia Aunty is one perplexed lady. Things appear to be in a complete flux in tax-land. One stand is taken today and yet another the next day. These days, poor Aunty is scared to read the newspapers or tune in to the news.


Years ago, in the famous case of Azadi Bacho, the Supreme Court has made it quite clear that Mauritius resident will not pay capital gains tax in India on sale of Indian shares. Further, the India-Mauritius tax treaty does not even have a limitation of benefit clause, as was pointed out by the apex court, in this judgement.
Yet, a recent news item says that E Trade (Mauritius), which had already obtained a favourable ruling from the Authority for Advance Rulings (AAR), will have to face some sleepless nights. News reports cite that the Supreme Court has sent a notice to E Trade (Mauritius) seeking its response to the special leave petition filed by the tax department challenging this ruling given by the AAR. She wonders whether tax treaties have any sanctity at all.


While Zenobia Aunty is vehement that tax treaties are sacrosanct and bring about certainty and must be adhered to till amended, she is rooting for the efforts to bring back black money into India.


In 2009, the Income tax Act, 1961, was amended to enable the government to enter into agreements with specified 'non-sovereign jurisdictions' (tax havens). Since then, India has entered into a number of exchange of information agreements with various tax havens; the first such agreement was with Bermuda.


As regards countries with which India already has a tax treaty, negotiation is ongoing in many instances to bring about amendments to ensure exchange of information if such a clause does not exist in the tax treaty. For instance, a revised treaty containing an exchange of information clause was signed with Switzerland.
These are steps in the right direction and such efforts need to be applauded. But Zenobia Aunty, being an impatient lady and a cranky one at that (she blames her crankiness to a severe allergic cold), is asking: where is the moolah?


According to her, perhaps, India needs to take a second look at the step adopted by the UK. Last October, the UK and Swiss governments signed a joint declaration to work towards taxing UK-owned Swiss bank accounts. Recent news reports say the deal is almost concluded and will be announced shortly.


Swiss banks will now be obliged to tax interest payments made to UK bank account holders. Switzerland will impose a 50% withholding tax (earlier this percentage was believed to range 20-30%) on income from Swiss bank accounts. This would be collected by Swiss banks, forwarded to the Swiss tax authority and then remitted anonymously to the UK's treasury authorities. While this withholding tax will apply from the start date, it is reported that investors will have to pay a separate oneoff levy in recognition of past unpaid taxes. We need to wait and see what the final fine print will be.


As part of the agreement, Swiss banks will require all British clients to supply evidence that their bank accounts comply with the UK's tax system.


The money collected in withholding taxes will be collectively handed over to the UK treasury and will not include any details of who has paid them. The deal, therefore, allows the UK to collect tax on Swiss bank accounts and at the same time allows Switzerland to retain its banking secrecy.

The UK treasury estimates that British tax residents have £125 billion hidden in Swiss banks. The interest earnings are not being declared and, therefore, not being taxed by the UK tax authorities. Hence, this deal with Switzerland will be a lucrative victory for the UK treasury. It has been estimated that the UK treasury will earn between £3 billion and £6 billion British Pounds over the next few years as a result of this agreement.
Maybe, India needs to think along these lines. It is true that under such an agreement, India will never know the names of those who stashed their money overseas. But the endresult is that India will get its share of revenue, which it would have never captured or got into its kitty after ages. After all, a bird in hand is worth two in the bush.


India must be perceived as a country that is not against foreign investments or cross-border transactions. Unfortunately, with the mixed signals being thrown out, foreign investors are perplexed. Simultaneously, India must also be perceived as a country that is willing to take action to ensure that it gets its due share of money that is illegally stashed in secret bank accounts overseas. Since this is the summer season and many are on vacation, Zenobia Aunty quotes one of her favourite travel authors. Paul Theroux said: "Tourists don't know where they've been, travellers don't know where they are going." But, the tax administration and judiciary need to know the right path to walk upon, to ensure results that are best for India in the long term.

 

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MUMBAI MIRROR

EDITORIAL

THE WATER WARS

MUMBAI IS FACING A WATER CRISIS, AND MOST OBVIOUS SOLUTION, RAINWATER HARVESTING, IS BEING VIEWED AS AN INTRACTABLE PROBLEM

 

In the year 2047, one hundred years after its birth, India has splintered. Independent states are at war. The situation is desperate. Countrystates melt glaciers and divert water courses. One plans to tow an iceberg into the Bay of Bengal. And the independent states are at war: over water.

 

This is one of the many themes running through Ian McDonald's River of Gods, a difficult, challenging but, as the Guardian described it, a "brave, brilliant and wonderful" award-winning science fiction novel. In many ways, the book seems prescient: some of its set pieces seem already to be with us, perhaps none more so than our water crisis.

 

A few days ago, shortly after the first round of 100 per cent water cuts across the city, Maharashtra's water resources minister told the Times of India that this year the state was unlikely to face a water shortage. He said it was "the best ever situation in recent years". The newspaper's report is full of statistics of the million litre cubic metre (mlcm) capacity and availability in various areas. What is missing in the claims of the minister and municipal officials is any assessment of demand.

 

Let's not be fooled by this talk of plentiful water. We are not on the edge of a crisis. We are right in the middle of it. Mumbai does not have enough water for its needs, and will not for the foreseeable future.

 

In 2003, the city's water demand was 3,500 million litres per day (mlpd). The MCGM supplied only 2950 mlpd — a shortfall of 550 mlpd. A 1995 MMRDA report says that there is a shortfall of about 500 mlpd across the entire Mumbai Metropolitan Region. These figures of water supply shortage are based on artificial norms: 135 litres per capita per day (lpcpd) in high-rise buildings, 90 lpcpd in the chawls and 45 lpcpd in the slums. How realistic these numbers are depends on who you are and where you live. The showers of luxury apartments use anything between 10 and 12 litres every minute. The MCGM's documents show a continuing shortfall till 2021.
 

As usual, the lower you are down the city's economic scale, the greater your problems. Recently, in the midst of a case regarding the rehabilitation of slum dwellers from the Sanjay Gandhi National Park, a lawyer for some of those who have already been 'rehabilitated' told the High Court that the MCGM was not supplying enough water.

 

He mentioned the number in terms of 'tanker loads'. Converting this into litres, and dividing by the population served, a back-of-the-envelope calculation gave us a figure of 8-12 lpcpd. Assuming you follow medical advice in part, and drink 4 of those litres, that leaves you 4-8 litres each to bathe, wash, cook and clean. For the rest, you must buy water. In some areas, there is no water supply at all, and the poor in these areas spend between 10 and 30% of what little they earn in buying water.

 

The documented causes of the water crisis in Mumbai are well known: 25-30% transmission losses (in 2010, Mumbai's water supply losses exceeded the entire supply to Pune), routine stealing of water, outdated water lines that often run too close to sewers, no network maps; our own complete indifference to the problem (we routinely leave taps running), and the apparent inability of the municipal authorities to have its departments work in unison. Every day new luxury apartments are advertised, each with their own swimming pool (some even have private infinity pools for each apartment). In a city like Mumbai, this does not just make for a stark contrast. It creates a form of social tension and injustice.

 

Yet it is these developments that define our notion of 'progress', and that is perhaps why nobody in this city has paid any serious attention to something that seems obvious but is, in Mumbai, treated as the most insurmountable problem: rainwater harvesting.

 

Other than insisting that new constructions in the suburbs make their own arrangements, there is no systematic policy for rainwater harvesting for the rest of the city. We are told that the soil is too silty or too hard, that there aren't enough aquifers, that storage solutions are difficult. In fact, there are many solutions, as Chennai, a chronically waterstarved city where individual homes and buildings have for many years harvested rainwater, shows.

 

Why should we not have a policy that requires all new commercial and residential construction to build, at their cost, reservoirs that can be accessed for public distribution? Or insist that cooperative societies make arrangements for rainwater harvesting, at their cost, to supplement water supply?

 

Consider what we are losing: harvesting rainwater off the roofs of the bungalows of the Municipal Commissioner, the Chief Minister, the RBI Governor, the Port Trust Chairman and the Mayor would probably yield over 5 lakh litres of water even assuming only 24 inches of rain. Think of the numbers without water who could be helped with that.

 

GAUTAM PATEL

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                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

INDIA-AFRICA TIES: A STEP FORWARD

 

In the neo-Western narrative, India is playing catch-up with China in the vast African continent — the repository of fabulous mineral wealth (gold, diamond, coal, bauxite, cobalt — you name it, besides petroleum) with the potential of growing economically at a faster pace than any other continent, although poverty is pervasive. This is at best a partial appreciation. While not wholly incorrect, it misses the nuances of India's terms with Africa as a whole, both past and present. As India rises economically, it would naturally seek to buy from and sell to all regions (including Africa), and expand mutual investment ties. This is non-prejudicial logic. But it does not hurt to keep perspective. The United States and some major European nations have deeper — and older — commercial and economic interests in Africa than any other country. Indeed, this is why they move with alacrity when a political crisis looms in that continent and try to influence the outcome. Thus, when India shows initiative to partner Africa in modern sectors — as the just-ended second Africa-India forum summit in Addis Ababa, where Prime Minister Manmohan Singh elaborated India's message, demonstrates — it will be only one of several players, and way behind most (including China) on factors like trade and investment. But so huge is Africa — 53 countries, a combined population of around 1.5 billion, rapidly urbanising — everyone has the chance to earn money and goodwill. It will really turn on what the Africans themselves want and think of their interlocutors. For India, much will depend on how it conducts its journey in relation to the Americans, the Europeans or the Chinese. It has some advantages. Its outlook and attitude has not been colonial and it partnered many African nations in their search for political freedom. Its specialists have proven expertise in key modern sectors and get on well with Africans. The knowledge of English — a language common in most of Africa — also helps. It is plain to see that India arrived on the scene when it could. The invoking of rivalry with China is, therefore, an ahistorical construct. Fifteen years ago, India could not have offered Africa what it can today. In Addis Ababa, Dr Singh made official a $5 billion line of credit for three years for development projects and $300 million for an Ethiopia-Djibouti railway line. The mantra was "capacity-building" in Africa, a key element of nation-building, but without political strings as is sometimes the case with US attempts at democracy-building in sundry regions. It is also distinct from China's focus on cornering mineral extraction rights. At the first summit in 2008, India had offered $5.4 billion for regional integration through infrastructure development. It is pertinent to recall that in all corners of sub-Saharan Africa, Indians — for the past three or four generations — have been known as "teachers" and held in high esteem, including in Ethiopia which Dr Singh has just visited. Building capacity for civil servants and different branches of the infrastructure industry that are coming up in Africa, not to mention in information technology, agriculture, agro-industry, rural handicrafts and marine products, is the present-day avatar of "teaching". The recent Indian thrust in Africa has a prologue, which goes beyond Mahatma Gandhi in South Africa. In the past couple of decades, Indians have done multi-sector work — not least in pharmaceuticals — that has been noticed in southern Africa, mainly in the oil sector but also transportation in West Africa (Nigeria), and trade and commerce in East Africa. It would be great if Indian cinema throws in its lot with Africa and begins location shootings there. Anyone who has set foot in Africa, or read Winston Churchill's accounts, knows of its glorious beauty.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

THE UNCHANGED PATH TO WEST ASIA PEACE

 

It was not a new US policy concerning the borders of Israel, nor should it have been surprising to Israeli leaders, when US President Barack Obama stated: "The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognised borders are established for both states". UN Security Council Resolution 242 of November 22, 1967, concluded the war of that year and has been widely acknowledged by all parties to be the basis for a peace agreement. Its key phrases are, "emphasising the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war", and "withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict". These included the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, plus lands belonging to Lebanon, Egypt and Syria. At Camp David in 1978, Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat accepted the following words: "The agreed basis for a peaceful settlement of the conflict between Israel and its neighbours is United Nations Security Council Resolution 242, in all its parts". Specifically concerning the West Bank and Gaza, the Israelis and Egyptians mutually agreed: "In order to provide full autonomy to the inhabitants under these arrangements the Israeli military government and its civilian administration will be withdrawn as soon as a self-governing authority has been freely elected by the inhabitants of these areas..." As a result of the Oslo Accords of 1993, a self-governing authority was freely elected in January 1996, with Yasser Arafat as President and 88 Parliament members. The International Quartet's Roadmap for Peace in April 2003, supported by President George W. Bush, began with these words: "A settlement, negotiated between the parties, will result in the emergence of an independent, democratic and viable Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with Israel and its other neighbours. The settlement will resolve the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and end the occupation that began in 1967..." In addition, all 23 Arab nations and all 56 Islamic nations have offered peace and normal relations with Israel, but called upon Israel to affirm: "Full Israeli withdrawal from all the territories occupied since 1967..." All these statements assume, of course, that Israel may live in peace within its internationally recognised borders — but not including territories it occupied during the 1967 war. Israel withdrew from Egypt's Sinai as a result of the 1979 peace treaty, but still occupies and is colonising with settlers the Golan Heights of Syria, East Jerusalem and the West Bank. (When I was negotiating during the 1970s, it was clear that neither Israel nor Egypt wanted to retain control of Gaza, from which Israel withdrew in August 2005, but continues to hold under siege.) For more than three decades, Israel's occupation of Arab land has been the key unresolved issue. Stated simply, Israel must give up the occupied land in exchange for peace. There has never been any question regarding the occupied territory in international law as expressed through United Nations resolutions, the official policies of the United States, nor those of the International Quartet (the United States, the United Nations, the European Union and Russia). A number of peace proposals have included the caveat found in President Obama's recent speech: that the pre-1967 border can be modified as a result of mutually agreeable land swaps to permit Israeli settlers in areas close to Jerusalem to remain in what is now occupied Palestinian territory, with an equivalent amount of Israeli land to be transferred to the Palestinians. One interesting proposal that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon made to me in 2005 was that this exchanged land might comprise a corridor between Gaza and the West Bank (about 35 miles), on which a railroad and highway could be built. It would be provided security by Israelis but owned and operated by Palestinians. This is just one possibility. Two recent developments add urgency to the peace process: moves to unite the major Palestinian factions so they can negotiate with a single voice, and the potential vote in the UN General Assembly in September to recognise Palestine as a state. It is likely that about 150 UN members are prepared to take this action. The only viable peace alternative is good faith negotiations, with the key issue remaining the same: Israel's willingness to withdraw from the occupied territories, with the exception of small land swaps as mutually agreed with the Palestinians. Jimmy Carter, the 39th President of the United States, is the founder of the Carter Centre. He was awarded the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

HEADLEY NAILS PAK LIES IN A US COURT

 

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.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

NATURALLY NEHRU

 

The death anniversary of India's first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru is a time to pause and reassess his legacy. For better or worse, he played a key role in the making of modern India and, in more than a tangential way, the world as it is. But even as his record in politics and economics is hotly debated and widely discussed, his environmental record has been mostly viewed at the level of a morality play. Modern environmentalists are prone to quote from is speech, delivered at the Bhakra Nangal dam, on dams as the "temples of modern India". Just as places of worship had given solace to the spirit, these mega projects were seen as harbingers of progress. Quite apart from the speech, a conversation Nehru reportedly had with a labourer at the Tungabhadra dam site made headlines. This construction worker told the head of government how the work was vital as it would light lamps in a thousand homes. Forty-seven years after his passing, the dams, like so much of his legacy, have come into question. They not only displace huge numbers — 20 million in Independent India is a conservative estimate — they also disrupt riverine ecologies and submerge huge areas of forest. In most ecological accounts of our past or future, Nehru plays a prominent role; but his role is seen as malign, not benign. Yet, to see his legacy in such simple terms, appealing as it may be to a polemicist, may be wide of the mark. After all, he was only typical of his times. Dam building was seen as proof of the prowess of many rival political systems in the mid-20th century. The Soviets harnessed the Dnieper. The Hoover dam on the river Colorado was the first of many in the Unites Stated of America. Chairman Mao Zedong wrote a poem about how he wished to build a dam on the Yangtze at the Three Gorges. The Turks named their dam on the Euphrates after Mustafa Kemal Ataturk while Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt simply named his own regime's handiwork on the Nile, the Aswan Dam. In fact, two of the three big dams in India as of the year 2000, were built in the post Nehru era. The reason was simple enough: India was starved of capital after the foreign exchange reserves accumulated in World War II ran out. Nehru's India did build dams, but not as many as it might have liked to. In any case, he was hardly alone in wanting dams. Meghnad Saha, the great physicist, saw them as a means of flood control even when he taught physics in Calcutta. At the other end of the spectrum in bone-dry Bikaner, Maharaja Ganga Singh drew up the first blueprints of what would later become the Rajasthan (now the Indira Gandhi) canal, to draw surplus waters from the Indus system to the Thar. What is significant about Nehru is not just the fact that what he did was typical of his age. What is equally striking is where he stood out among the statesmen of his time. This is best illustrated in the way he saw peace with nature as inseparable from peace among people. In 1949, in a message to the Shankar's Weekly, he asked children to go to the forests and mountains without fear but with love in their hearts. The animals, he was sure, would befriend them. The same year he was puzzled over what to do about a request from the children of Japan who wanted an elephant calf to replace the one killed in the Allied bombing of Tokyo in 1945. In return, the Japanese government promised to gift India a pair of giant salamanders. Now, despite his encyclopaedic knowledge, neither the Prime Minister nor his staff had any idea what a salamander really was, leave alone what it looked like. For the record, the salamander is an amphibian and the giant variety is uniquely Japanese and then, as now, was a rare creature. The female elephant calf was sent off and to this day it is ingrained in the memory of Japanese citizens. Premier Shinzo Abe referred to it in his address to the Joint Session of India's Parliament. A year earlier, it was his intervention that helped save the last lions of Asia in the Gir Forest. When the Nawab of Junagarh fled to Pakistan, trigger-happy landholders entered the forest hoping to bag a lion as trophy. Acting on a telegram from British naturalists, Nehru got the civil administrators, Shiveshwarakar and N.M. Buch, to ensure all shooting platforms were dismantled and no lions shot. Yet, one of his last contributions to global peace was the Partial (Nuclear) Test Ban Treaty of 1963, a major step to reducing nuclear contamination of air and water. There is ample evidence of his sensitivity to nature and of a larger awareness of the limits of technology as a means to subdue nature. Being critical of his record is essential but mere demonising can do grave injustice to history. The children of Japan and the lions of Gir might serve as evidence for rethinking how we view Nehru and nature. Mahesh Rangarajan is an environmental historian and co-editor of The Environmental History of India

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

CURSE OF THE BOMB

 

It is said that Pakistan was born on August 14, 1947. But like other hazy snapshots in the tampered-with album of our wishful history, this fact, nurtured through rote and repetition, has faltered under the weight of reality. If the fervour of homage and sacrifice is a reason to reconfigure Pakistan's creation story, then the country was actually born on May 28, 1998. On that day, Pakistan announced it had carried out five successful nuclear tests; patriotism in Pakistan would henceforth be defined as a belief in the power to kill millions. Since that day, a large section of Pakistanis have dutifully worshipped their bomb, imagining in its capacity to destroy, a safety that would insulate them from incursions by nosy neighbours and meddling powers, from wars that would chip off territory and skirmishes that would disrespect borders. The bomb will save us, they believed, it will sustain us in these trying times (we cannot be backward if we have the bomb) and save us from trying too hard (who needs a super economy if you have a super bomb?). In times of trouble and fear, when watching the bombing elsewhere — a punished Baghdad amidst its dusty ruins, a desolate Kabul with its bombed-out streets — these Pakistanis turned to the bomb for comfort, however elusive. But like so many other things — infrastructure and institutions, roads and rituals — the bomb too has failed Pakistan. In the past month, Pakistan's borders have been casually ignored, security walls scaled and planes destroyed — all this despite the possession of the omnipotent trump card residing at the sacred altar of our national consciousness. The bomb that was supposed to deter and defeat has been unable to frighten anyone into leaving us alone. It has revealed, instead, the flimsy remains of our national pride and a confused, conspiracy-infested mental landscape. Never united otherwise, Pakistanis can now share the heartbreak of knowing that they were never invincible after all, that a few men could easily outwit and outsmart, and that situating their self-worth in a bomb is exacting an infinitely bloody price. No longer cosseted by the myth of a cure-all weapon, the bomb like an unveiled bride must be assessed in the fluorescence of a depressing and unwelcome day. It was widely known to have been procured through deception and disguise, lies and falsehoods. The man, who developed it, was chastised publicly and heroised privately, despite what some saw as his mendacity. These sins we forgave, unwilling to recognise their potent if silent attack on national morality now poised to elevate someone accused of selling nuclear technology and promoting proliferation. It is poised to accept that it is entirely forgivable to sacrifice what is right for what is needed and most damningly that the power to destroy is more venerable than the power to befriend and create. The losses brought by the bomb would likely be forgiven by Pakistanis if they were moral concerns alone. In the cold estimations of post-Soviet calculations, nuclear power was a deterrent, its possession meant that others would stay away, that possession alone equalled power, especially for small countries with few friends. However, in the era of terrorism, where every living thing is a target and the propagation of fear is a means to control, a markedly different equation of nuclear power is in operation. Under its deductions, weak states with nuclear weapons attract rather than deter non-state enemies. Ideologically motivated non-state actors see weak countries as easily penetrable targets which can provide access to nuclear capabilities that would make the absence of territorial control largely irrelevant. While the weapon caches of countries like the US are impenetrable to such groups, those of weak countries are perceived as achievable. In simple terms, there is a school of thought that Al Qaeda and similar groups will not stop targeting Pakistan as long as it possesses the nuclear bomb. In fact, maintaining the power to destroy might well mean the slow but sure destruction of the country itself. Non-state terror groups are not alone in bestowing unwanted attention on Pakistan. Superpowers, both existing and emergent, have their own interests in the bomb, and fears that Pakistan may not be able to keep its assets secure could well increase their efforts to meddle with and muddy existing configurations. These fears do not appear far-fetched if little more than a couple of ladders, dark clothing and crossing a stream is needed to enter a naval base and wreak havoc on men and material. If defences are seen as so fragile and security so decrepit then the concerns of those that have much to lose cannot simply be shaken off with the blind faith bestowed on the military in decades past. Pakistanis have done a lot for the bomb; in the six squabbling decades of a meagre existence they have sacrificed education, water, sanitation and even the patched-together shreds of a national conscience to fund and fuel the military machine which birthed the bomb. As long as Pakistanis continue to rely on conspiracy to rationalise the collage of military failures and cling to denial and delusion the curse of the bomb will not be revealed. Perhaps the 30,000 dead Pakistanis, the young brave faces of martyred naval commandos, the lined-up bodies outside mosques, will provoke the question of what the bomb, so unconditionally loved, has really given Pakistan. Rafia Zakaria is a US-based attorney teaching constitutional law and political philosophy *By arrangement with the Dawn

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

LIVE YOUR VALUES

 

Everyone admits the importance of values and a value-based life. There are no two opinions about this. The only problem is that when we are face to face with the ground realities, we find that it is not so easy to put our lessons on values into practice. The problem remains the same from student to adult life — students know that they should concentrate and work hard, but they complain about lack of concentration; businessmen wish they could follow values in their daily transactions only if the work environment was much better. It is clear that we cannot live someone else's life and vice versa. People try to guide and advise us, but they cannot live our life. So, if we really want to do anything with our life, we have to take charge and become responsible. Generally, we give excuses and blame others for what happens. When we lose our temper, we do not accept it, instead we claim that the other person instigated or irritated us. When I say that I have to live my life, the question that follows is, "How do I do that?" When we build a house, we have to make sure that the foundation is firm and strong and the materials used are of superior quality. On what foundation are we going to build our life? What are the materials to use? It's one's vision that is the foundation, and values form the material. Generally we look at problems only superficially and try to solve them. That is not enough. To control bribery, we appoint vigilance officers. But that is not the solution. Nothing much happens because there is no enquiry into the basic problem. People say that they know all the values of life, but cannot live by them. The simple reason is that the knowledge is not their own. We may say we know, but we are merely repeating from other sources. What we know is only information and has not been experienced or established by us. A wise man acts in accordance with his nature; beings will follow their own nature; what can restraint do? We may have knowledge, but our conduct continues to be according to our nature. Our nature evolves over the years and does not change easily. This does not mean that knowledge is useless or that it cannot change our nature. Knowledge does change us, provided we make it our own. Until then we will only behave according to our nature. Swami Chinmayananda would give a simple example: "There is sugar in a cup of coffee, yet the coffee tastes bitter. The reason is that it has not been stirred. The sugar is at the bottom; it has not dissolved. We have to stir the coffee until the sugar becomes one with it and only then will it taste sweet". When we live life superficially and try to solve problems superficially, without taking into account the entire foundation and values, no lasting change is possible. There is no quick-fix and cosmetic methods don't help. This is why it is important to understand the fundamental principle — "I alone have to live my life". Otherwise, we will continue to say things like, "Nowadays that is the way of life. Everybody is doing such things". When it is time to face consequences, nobody comes forward to help. Our own children and relatives disown us. Then we feel cheated and disillusioned. We are not able to live our knowledge because we are unable to see the consequences of either following it or not. We see only the immediate results and the glamour, not the long-term results. If we understand the full implications of our actions, we will never be tempted to do wrong things. The points to remember are very simple and clear: I have to live my life and face the consequences of my actions. My life will be what I make of it. I cannot live another person's knowledge. To make it my knowledge, I must live it. Live a simple life in accordance with your knowledge. True happiness will be the result! Swami Tejomayananda, head of Chinmaya Mission Worldwide, is an orator, poet, singer, composer and storyteller.

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

REOPENING SILDA

BENGAL STILL FAR FROM NORMAL


THE plot thickens over Silda where as many as 24 jawans of the Eastern Frontier Rifles were killed by the Maoists in February 2010. The puzzle last year was the location of a paramilitary camp near a market area, a logistical failure that provoked the West Bengal government to move out the IG. The puzzle a year later, and one that may not be easy to work out, is the seizure of a formidable cache of arms ~ looted by the extremists during the Silda outrage ~ from a CPI-M camp in the vicinity. The police are as yet clueless as to whether the weapons ~ along with the party flag ~ were dumped in the CPI-M premises by the extremists only to discredit the party in the season of elections. Or whether the cache had been seized by the CPI-M armed cadres from the Maoists. Or something more sinister. The recovery has verily stumped the police hierarchy. Comment on how and when the ammunition, ostensibly seized by the Maoists from the EFR, found its passage to the CPI-M camp must await the report of the investigation that has been ordered by the Director-General of Police. Suffice it to register that the failure of Intelligence persists in such places as Silda and Enayetpur, where the party office is located. Just as Intelligence had no clue that the Maoists would strike at Silda, so too has there been a palpable absence of feedback on the loot and the subsequent transportation.


Having stumbled in India's dealings with Pakistan, it doesn't quite behove Mr  P Chidambaram to pontificate that the Mamata Banerjee government "has its task cut out to redouble its drive against illegal arms". The drive is on and arms have been seized even from the satellite, New Town, on Monday. The Chief Minister's claim that "no political violence is taking place" is decidedly at odds with reality. That claim coincided with the killing of a CPI-M activist in Baruipur and rape, murder and political clashes in other districts. While  Miss Banerjee has directed the police to act, ignoring party considerations, the nub of the matter is that confrontationist postures persist. Across the state, tension rages an inch beneath the seemingly normal life and perhaps more killings a further inch beneath tension. The paribartan must now translate to an appreciable degree of normality.

 

CLOWNS IN KHAKI

TACKLING TERROR IS NO TAMASHA

JUSTICE Mulla, on reflection, was being kind when he made that celebrated, caustic observation that Indian policemen were "criminals in uniform". Kind because criminal activity requires a degree of "grey matter", and recent events point to even top-flight police organisations suffering an IQ-deficit. First was the national embarrassment over the faulty "most wanted" list submitted to Pakistan. That has been followed by the Indo-Tibet Border Police sending a bill of a whopping Rs 10.8 crore to Maharashtra for providing protection to Ajmal Kasab ~ the lone terrorist taken alive in Mumbai on 26/11. And equally idiotic is the "response" to dispense with the ITBP, entrust the state police with keeping Kasab secure. The ludicrous  signal to the international community is that even arguably the second most horrific terror strike in recent times ~ certainly the worst this country has suffered ~ has failed to bring Indian security agencies within a common anti-terror "net". The much-trumpeted focus and sense of purpose after the 26/11-induced change in North Block has proved a balloon, since deflated. Sadly, the home ministry took no immediate action to quash the billing dispute. Regardless of how it is resolved, in the public eye the counter-terrorism endeavour has been reduced to tamasha.


It may be technically correct that central agencies routinely bill states for services rendered. But this was no routine matter, it had an international angle. Surely the home ministry ought to have been kept posted? To digress a trifle, would the government make public details of bills submitted and payments made for the aid provided by the CRPF, BSF, ITBP, SSB etc in countering insurgency/terrorism  in J&K, the North-east, the Maoist belt and so on? Or election duties? Perhaps the ITBP leadership had more than money in mind. That force, as its name suggests, has a specific speciality ~ that must get diluted when deployed on tasks of another nature. Getting its men back from the Arthur Road prison might have been a hidden objective. Still, it has been a display of all-round silliness. A larger, serious query arises. Why are state police forces still so incapable of executing major responsibilities, or are they unwilling to do so?  Part of the blame could fall in the political domain: yet the slaughter of nine cops in another Maoist ambush points to cops refusing to "learn", despite several times more than Rs 10.8 crore having been made available for the requisite upgrade.

 

HEALTH OF THE NATION

WHO'S SUGGESTION ON PUBLIC SPENDING

THE World Health Organisation has few bouquets to offer to an ascendant India. In its latest survey, it has implicitly advanced a strong case for increased public spending on the health of the poor. This may not be concordant with the neo-liberal paradigm, but it definitely is cause for alarm if the UN agency has to tell the Government of India that the country is suffering from what it calls a "double burden" of diseases afflicting both the perdurably poor and the disposable income group. While the first category of the populace has to contend with infectious diseases, the second suffers from chronic lifestyle ailments. Not that the health authorities are unaware of the disconcerting trends; WHO has attempted a precise diagnosis of why the public health policy has gone haywire.  Given the impressive GDP growth rate, the country long ago ceased to be in the poor segment. Yet the disconnect is stark; the per capita health expenditure is of the equivalent of $32 ~ approximately the same as the health budgets of the impoverished bloc. This is the finding that must make the WHO report so critical.  Much as India tries to vie with China in terms of economic strength, the performance in public health is a matter of cold comfort. China's focused health expenditure has made a "remarkable dent" over the past decade with a dramatic reduction in infant mortality rates and the spread of infectious diseases among the poor. India has performed dismally on both counts; at another remove, "there has been a marked incidence in non-communicable diseases among the well-to-do", to quote the report. On the whole, public health policy has been a failure, one that can't be said to be uniquely Bengal.
The implicit suggestion on an increase in public spending calls for reflection. In the manner of food security ~ as yet a non-starter ~ the Below Poverty Level target group must first be identified. Such imposts as diagnostic surcharge and other taxes ought ideally to apply to the upper strata, precisely the beneficiaries of company reimbursement and medical insurance. Logically, this should generate a fair amount of revenue to enhance public spending on the poor, at any rate above WHO's figure of $32. The praxis will have to change. Healthcare can't be reserved only for those who can afford it. India's experiment with neo-liberalism has been neither here nor there.

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THE STATESMAN

ARTICLE

LATE LADEN & LUTYENS' DELHI

INCREASED UNCERTAINTY IN SOUTH ASIA

BY ABHIJIT BHATTACHARYYA


OBAMA emerged the victor; Osama ended as the vanquished. Abbottabad surfaced as the battlefront. The Pakistan army-ISI combine stands exposed as the silent and treacherous villain in disguise. It has been a landmark development in history.


In the midst of this chaos and high-voltage drama stands a nonplussed India, trembling from the sidelines. The dilemma is over "how to proceed" from this juncture. What exactly is the road ahead for Delhi which, since 1989, has had to cope with Pakistan-sponsored cross-border terrorism perpetrated by fundamentalists?
The sinister trend that began with 9/11 ended with the US special forces violating Pakistan's international border and sovereignty with impunity. The obvious underpinning was to protect the vital national interest of the USA. But what are the lessons for India which continues to be plagued by its neighbour's cunning, deception and duplicity? How does India move on from here?       


Truth to tell, India's options to deal with a rogue neighbour, which is a universally acknowledged terrorist state, are extremely limited. It is essentially confined to "hopes" and "expectations" in the form of aman ki asha, based on the concept of "love thy neighbour". The fact of the matter is that India is no USA. Governance is marked by confusion, chaos and contradictions. The result has been a weak-kneed policy towards Pakistan despite the traditional hatred and violence.


On the contrary, Pakistan's army-ISI combine plays a pivotal role in both domestic as well as foreign affairs. Its "real enemy" is  India. In the aftermath of the killing of Osama, Pakistan has stepped up its tirade against and posturing towards India.


Not that India does not have the capability to strike at Pakistan. What it lacks is the political ability and the will to take a clear-cut stand. Terrorism has to be confronted. But how? Through the politics of soft diplomacy laced with nostalgia for the lost hearth! That sounds romantic, but is absurd. And that absurdity is evident in the perceptions of certain Indians who imagine that Lahore is the "ultimate reality" of this unreal world and Aamaar Shonar Bangla will once again be accessible in the fullness of time. They don't realise that their shared history and culture is history. India must face the reality and assess the lurking danger.
The Pakistan army and ISI have renewed the threat to India. India's former National Security Adviser and now West Bengal Governor, Mr MK Narayanan, had suggested in July 2009 that Pakistan's ISI needed to be "destroyed". The former US President, George Bush, wondered "who controls the ISI"? The Afghan President, Hamid Karzai, accused the ISI of being at the root of violence in his country; and two democratically elected Prime Ministers of Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, had to quit because they questioned the Army/ISI's strategies.


The conspiracy against civilian rulers began long ago with the Rawalpindi conspiracy of 1951 when senior officers were booked for conspiring to overthrow Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan and install a military style nationalist government. Major-General Akbar Khan; Brigadier Abdul Latif Khan; Air Commodore MK Janjua; Major-General Nazir Ahmed; Brigadier Sadiq Khan; Lt-Col. Ziauddin; Lt.-Col Niaz Mohammed Arbab; Captain Khizar Hayat; Major Hassan Khan; Major Ishaq Muhammad and Zafrullah Poshni were arrested for hatching the conspiracy. Sixty years later, that conspiratorial attitude towards the civilian authorities persists. The  army-ISI duo is at the root of the Osama fiasco at Abbottabad in 2011. 


The reality in Pakistan is so stark that even President Zardari had to swallow the bitter pill of insubordination from the army/ISI, which did not carry out his order. Instead, the President had to reverse his decision in public. Zardari today is wiser than before after having pressed the wrong power button twice when he wanted the "control" over the ISI to be shifted and "agreed" to send the Director-General, ISI, to India after 26/11. The military establishment's attitude hardened in the wake of Zardari's public statement in May 2009: "I have never considered India a threat." This was totally unacceptable to the army. The absence of the so-called "India threat" makes the Pakistan military and ISI  virtually inconsequential.  


Three recent statements of Zardari have served to expose the ISI's designs. First, "only a democratic government of Pakistan tries to improve relations with India". Second, Taliban is the creation of America and ISI; third, "Taliban is the greatest threat to Pakistan". It was almost a frontal attack on the military-ISI nexus. In the army and ISI's perception, Zardari is ineffective and almost a liability.


Clearly, there is an inherent contradiction in Pakistan's governmental structure. It is the army and ISI that take decisions on India, Afghanistan, Kashmir, nuclear policy and operations. However, the US special force's operation has placed the army-ISI combine in an extremely humiliating position. They just cannot face their soldiers in the barracks and the people in the countryside. Islamabad's defence suddenly appears vulnerable. The ineptitude of the army and air force has been exposed. The multi-million dollar air defence system has turned out to be ineffective in the face of US technology. The entire Pakistani top brass appears to be part of, and party to, the strategy of "saving and protecting Osama against US onslaught".


For India, the fallout can be negative. America will never allow India to take any pro-active or pre-emptive anti-terrorist action on the western front, even if the situation demands. US interests shall always override the needs of other countries, however bona fide or urgent they may be. A nuclear-armed Pakistani army-ISI combine cannot be left in the lurch by the USA given the existence of oil and gas in the landlocked Central Asian terrain and the territory around the Persian Gulf. Pakistan has antagonised America, but a rupture in relations is unlikely.


Moreover, China is making its presence felt in South Asia and the Middle East. This makes Islamabad a compulsion and not choice in America's perception. India figures somewhat low in the overall construct. Laden dead implies unforeseen, unanticipated and enhanced turbulence ahead for the lords of Lutyens' garden city.
The writer is an alumnus of the National Defence College of India and a practising advocate

 

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THE STATESMAN

ANGER ON THE STREETS

OFF LIMITS ~ SEEMA MUSTAFA

Pakistanis no longer bother to hide their critical view of the current government and manipulated media reports against India do not seem to have been able to mitigate their anger at the establishment 

Pakistan is in the grip of a strong anti-USA wave that has engulfed the Zardari government and to a lesser extent, its army. The unilateral killing of Osama bin Laden by US Navy Seals followed by the disastrous attack on a naval base in Karachi has spawned intense anger in Pakistan that even its media is not immune to. And, most importantly, the man on the street no longer bothers to hide his anger and critical view of the current government.
The Pakistani establishment, of course, is hard at work to divert the people's anger towards India with several newspapers in the country citing "sources" to claim that India and the USA had been behind the Karachi attack. In fact, more than one newspaper column has suggested that India stands to gain from the Karachi attack which the scribe concerned has attributed to the Research and Analysis Wing. So far, the Pakistani people have not bought this and manipulated media reports do not seem to have been able to mitigate the anger they feel at the establishment. But then, as recent history has shown, the tide often does turn quite unpredictably and if the Pakistani authorities continue to persist, they may just succeed in stoking anti-Indian sentiments. But, for the moment, that seems a remote possibility.

Usually, whenever the Pakistani government is trying to foment anti-India feelings, Indian visitors to the country feel the heat. Frowns at shops, stoic silence from the normally-garrulous taxi-drivers, grim immigration officials at the airports ~ all indicate that neighbourly goodwill is at a discount. But this time, a visit to the country right after the Karachi attack did not invite even the slightest hostility or anti-India feelings.
Even the Kashmir card doesn't seem to be working though Islamabad is doing its best to rake it up. A huge conference on Kashmir organised by Jammu and Kashmir University at Muzaffarabad recently received the full support of the Pakistani government for two reasons. One, election is due in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir next month and secondly, to bring the world's attention back to Kashmir. Effort to this end was visible at the international conference attended by delegates from India and the Kashmiri diaspora in the USA, UK, and Turkey. Pakistan Prime Minister Mr Yousuf Raza Gilani was scheduled to inaugurate the conference and he did that, despite the Karachi attack having taken place the evening before. The siege was on even as he was on his way to Muzaffarabad. Given that Mr Gilani chose not to cancel his appearance at the event despite a terrorist attack on a naval base, it becomes clear how much importance the Pakistani government was attaching to the conclave. Directing his address more to Pakistanis than the international delegates present, Mr Gilani launched a tirade against India, employing choicest rhetoric while insisting on a solution for Kashmir. He spent a very short time with the delegates before leaving to attend to more pressing matters. But clearly, invoking Kashmir with such vehemence at a time when the Taliban were running riot was a ploy to bait India and deflect his countrymen's attention from the incompetence and inefficiency of Pakistan's military and government.
But Mr Gilani was not successful. The Pakistani media remained focused on Karachi and while the Kashmir conference did get covered, it didn't get as much coverage as it would have normally commanded. TV discussions and editorials remain firmly focused on Karachi and the killing of Osama bin Laden and conspiracy theories abound. One has heard everything by now ~  from how the Pakistani establishment, including its army and ISI, in collaboration with the USA had killed an already dead man; to how bin Laden's body had been kept frozen for his death to be announced at an "appropriate time"; to whether the Pakistan army was really in the know. But hard questions about Pakistan's sovereignty remain the common denominator though there are not many who believe the US version of the precision attack, capture and subsequent slaying of bin Laden.
The people of Pakistan have practically no faith in the government at the moment. And, this can be extremely dangerous. There is nothing that the government says that the people find fit to believe. Pakistan army chief General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, surprisingly, still gets a somewhat patient hearing but the views of the civilian leadership are instantly dismissed. President Asif Ali Zardari is taking care, though, to keep out of the political limelight and only appears for "safe" events such as funeral prayers for his father. He is extremely unpopular in Pakistan today and his words are simply disregarded. ISI chief Lt-General Shuja Pasha was able to extricate himself from the dock after appearing before Pakistan's parliament and insisting that he had informed President Zardari and others as soon as he had heard of the US operation against bin Laden. The powerful army in Pakistan has, in that sense, been a little more successful than the civilian authorities in deflecting popular criticism. It seems its influence on the media, vested interests and other institutions in Pakistan is paying off. It does seem at this point as if President Zardari is in the direct line of popular ire rather than either General Kayani or Lt-Gen Pasha.

The common Pakistani is also fed up with the escalating and unrelenting violence and wants it to end. Pakistanis squarely blame USA for the mess and believe that things will improve only if the Americans leave the region. But they are equally aware that the USA will not leave in a hurry. With hope diminishing, conspiracy theories are gaining ground, unnerving Pakistanis all the more.

In a very short time, the USA has managed to be counted as the most despised country in Pakistan. Except for a couple of articles in newspapers urging restraint, the call for strengthening relations with China at all levels is gaining wide support. Beijing is being seen as an antidote to the USA to the point where the government seems to have the peoples' mandate to embrace China in a giant Pathan hug.

The unfortunate and dangerous side of these developments is that the Pakistani leadership is unable to read the signals, analyse these and hammer out a strategy that works best for the nation. Most official reactions are, at best, ad hoc with little understanding of the situation on the ground. Kashmir and India remain the only cards in the Pakistani establishment's basket at a time when country's people are taking a hard look like never before at Abbotabad and Karachi.

The writer, Consulting Editor with The Statesman,

is currently on a visit to Pakistan.

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THE STATESMAN

ARTICLE

EMERGING NATIONS AWAIT IMF TOP JOB

 

How much claim do emerging economies have on the International Monetary Fund (IMF) top job now up for grabs? More today than at any time since the fund was set up in 1945. Their expanded and still growing participation in the global economy justifies a managing director appointed from their midst. To be more than a symbolic acknowledgement of enhanced clout, nevertheless, a successful non-European nominee, like anyone else, must have what it takes: an outstanding record in high-level policymaking, managerial and diplomatic skills to lead a global institution, commitment to building consensus on key issues to advance IMF goals, and the ability to set a strategic vision for a diverse and professionally specialised staff.


The demanding job description also includes appreciation of multilateral cooperation and capacity to be objective and impartial. So long as a candidate fulfils these latter requirements, perhaps it matters less where he or she is from. Yet, since the IMF executive board began its search last Friday, the selection process seems to have strayed towards nationality rather than fulfilling the board's wish that it be "open, merit- based and transparent". Europeans have rushed to support French finance minister Ms Christine Lagarde, who has announced her candidacy, because she is European more than because she is well-qualified. The previous 10 managing directors have been European ~ four of them French ~ but her backers seem to think that this argues for rather than against her candidature.


They have insisted that a European IMF head is best placed to help European countries deal with their sovereign debt crisis. This is an argument that is as hollow as it is expedient. Europeans did not demand that the IMF appoint a Latin American in 1987 when that region was struggling with a similar crisis. Neither did they argue for an Asian appointee during the 1997 financial crisis in Asia. Affected countries in those regions then had a French incumbent to goad them along the painful road to recovery. Surely Europeans must hope that the next chief, European or not, will be able to help Greece, Portugal and other euro zone nations leave their financial troubles behind well before the term ends by 2016?


Front-runner Ms Lagarde might eventually be chosen, but the consensus by which the IMF usually makes such decisions would merely have glossed over dissatisfaction among major emerging countries. The IMF should now be on notice to look further afield for leadership to, in the words of Singapore's Deputy Prime Minister Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam, "strengthen IMF's relevance in a new global economic environment".



the straits times/ann 

 

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THE STATESMAN

ARTICLE

THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX

AJENDRA SRIVASTAVA


During 9-13 May, 2011, leaders of around 150 countries, including the poorest 48, gathered at Istanbul, Turkey for the fourth United Nations Conference on Least Developed Countries (LDCs). The purpose of the conclave was to assess the implementation of the Brussels Programme of Action for 2001-2010 adopted at the third United Nations conference on the LDCs and to adopt new strategies and measures for the sustainable development of LDCs in the coming decade. The Turkey conclave, also known as LDC IV, adopted an ambitious "Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2011-2020" which set the targets of halving the number of LDCs during the next decade from 48 to 24, to achieve at least 7 per cent annual economic growth rate and to halve the proportion of people living in poverty and people suffering from hunger by 2015 as envisaged in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). There are currently 48 LDCs ~ 33 in sub-Saharan Africa, 14 in the Asia-Pacific region and one in Latin America. With a total population of 880 million, LDCs as a group represent the poorest and the most vulnerable people of the world.
The Istanbul Programme of Action, as it came to be known as, adopted on the concluding day of the conference begins with some startling revelations. It notes, inter alia: "The least developed countries continue to have the lowest per capita incomes and the highest population growth rates. They are the most off track in the achievement of the internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals, and are at the bottom of the Human Development Index rankings." The report further notes that the LDCs suffered from geographical constraints as well and their productive capacity was limited. "Least developed countries' productive capacity is limited, and they have severe infrastructure deficits. Similarly, least developed countries continue to struggle with improving human and social development. Some least developed countries lack adequate governance capacities and institutions, including those emerging from conflict." Mainly, it underlined limited productive capacity, huge financial crunch, weak and poor infrastructure and environmental vulnerability as critical areas of concern.


The Istanbul Programme of Action has identified eight "priority areas for action" which include productive capacity; agriculture, food security and rural development; trade; commodities; human and social development; multiple crises and other emerging challenges; mobilising financial resources for development and capacity-building and good governance at all levels. The programme of action reads: "We are committed to assisting the LDCs with an overarching goal of enabling half of them to meet the criteria for graduation through eradication of poverty and the achievement of accelerated, sustained inclusive and equitable growth and sustainable development."


But the most striking thing about the action programme is that, unlike earlier ones, it relies on the private sector track of development besides relying on the inter-governmental track. The stakeholders have realised that in order to inch towards the goals, the role of private sector is indispensable. One of the reasons why most targets set in the previous Brussels Programme of Action are off track is the heavy reliance placed on the inter-governmental track, that is to say, official development assistance (ODA). Under the Brussels Action Programme, it was agreed that members of the Development Assistance Committee( DAC ) ~ the donor countries ~ would provide between 0.15 per cent and 0.25 per cent of their gross national income (GNI) to LDCs. But of the 23 donor countries, only nine met their commitments.


The Istanbul Programme of Action is a startling expose of the condition of millions of people of the "other world" living in abject poverty and with structural handicaps. It points out a contrast between "Northern elite" and the millions who are semi-starved and has come out with "strong strategies and measures to finding lasting     ins: If the strategies and measures in the previous plans were unable to make any headway, how can one be sure of similar strategies recommended in the latest programme of action making a significant difference?
History has a difference story to tell. Since global attention was turned to the LDCs in 1971, only three of them could shed their LDC tag. At the same time, the number of LDCs has increased from 24 to 48. The message is clear: these perfunctory programmes of action are of little significance unless they are made result-oriented and are supported by a strong international legal framework. For this to happen, the United Nations will have to be more aggressive with regard to implementing its development agenda. At the same time, there is also a lesson for the LDCs: while they need massive aid from the developed world as a matter of right to enable them to cope with the problem of staggering fiscal deficits, they too, need to evolve beyond their role of mere recipients of development aid to assume a more active role in their own development processes. They need to think outside the box and devise need-specific programmes as conventional development models are only leading them to more economic dependency and poverty.


The writer is Associate Professor of Law, Banaras Hindu University

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

UNEQUAL POWER

It seems to be an idea whose time has come, and there are influential voices, both in industrialized countries and in emerging market economies, that are calling on Europe to let go of its stranglehold on the job of the chief of the International Monetary Fund. In a strong statement during his Africa visit, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said that it is time to let go of the decades-old convention that a European should head the IMF. In almost the same breath, he also acknowledged that powerful nations are unlikely to go easily. His "displeasure" with the current method of picking the managing director of the IMF was echoed in a statement issued by the Brics countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa). In the meantime, the French finance minister, Christine Lagarde, said that she is a candidate for the position, and is endorsed by the European Union. Agustin Carstens, the head of Mexico's central bank, has also thrown his hat in the ring. Trevor Manuel, South Africa's former finance minister, could be another possible candidate. India's Montek Singh Ahluwalia fits the IMF executive board's job description, but his age put paid to his chances — at 67, he is over the prescribed limit. In its 65-year history, the French have headed the IMF for 37 years; of the 10 MDs since inception, four have been French (there have been two Swedes, and one each from Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and Spain). But the Europeans are unlikely to let go of their grip on the job easily.

Mr Singh also said that international relations being about power relations, on May 26 and 27, a meeting of the powerful — the G8 heads of State — will take place at Deauville, France. Two connected issues — the year-long debt crisis in the Eurozone, and the selection of the IMF chief — are not on the formal agenda, but will nevertheless dominate the discussions. Outside the Eurozone, the United States of America and the United Kingdom are in no better shape — one struggling to raise its debt ceiling and the other with a massive deficit. Under the circumstances, the likelihood of these nations endorsing a candidate from outside their club is minimal.

It is also not clear how the emerging market economies envision the IMF and its role in global affairs. Apart from talking about reforming the voting strength on the IMF's board, a larger vision for the IMF has not been articulated. The selection process involves prospective candidates meeting IMF board members in a series of interviews where their perspectives on vision, mission and assessment of global issues are sought. While those planning to 'apply' for the position may have these ready, none of them has been publicly articulated. Given the degree of realpolitik involved at this stage of the game, the chances of a non-European getting the job are very small. It is an unequal power equation.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

KEEP IT SIMPLE

In sharp contrast with the the Left Front's 'divide and rule' policy, unification seems to be the operative word for the new dispensation in West Bengal. What the Left Front regime could not do in three decades, a week-old government in power has already done. The city of Calcutta is finally under one compact and comprehensive police jurisdiction, thanks to a proposal by the state cabinet. Since the integration of several additional areas with the city of Calcutta in 1984, the responsibility for maintaining law and order in the city has been divided between the state police and the Calcutta police. Such a messy system has not only caused endless harrassment to ordinary citizens but also encouraged red-tapism. As it is, lodging a simple complaint with the police in India can be a nightmarish ordeal. But with such an odd division of labour between the state and city police forces, people often had to run from pillar to post before they could figure out which authority to rightfully turn to. For the Calcutta police, the task of booking offenders proved to be a tricky challenge as well. Before taking any action, they had to first determine whether they had any jurisdiction over the area where the offence had been committed. As a result, justice went for a toss, with the culprits going scot free or earning their reprieve by greasing a few unscrupulous palms.

It remains to be seen if ordinary Calcuttans' experience of the police will improve much after such a major shift in logistics. Getting more areas to control means having to do more work, something that the police under the Left Front regime had become unused to. The idea of a single force for the entire city is laudable indeed. But its success will depend on the efficiency with which the Calcutta police is able to fulfil the new responsibilities that have been thrust upon it. Streamlining the administrative paraphernalia is just one part of a process of long systemic change that will require substantial individual will for its success.

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THE TELEGRAPH

A FRESH ALTERNATIVE

THE BJP HAS TO MAKE AN INFORMED CHOICE TO REINVENT ITSELF SWAPAN DASGUPTA

Judging by the costly but purposeless media blitz launched by the United Progressive Alliance to mark the end of the second year of its second incarnation, the Congress leadership seems hell-bent on getting over its annus horribilis. Undaunted by the ash clouds that have grounded the government, party strategists have calculated that the jailing of 'tainted' politicians and the harsh action of the courts against errant corporates will persuade the electorate that the UPA is capable of setting in motion a process of ethical cleansing. An ambitious legislative agenda has been set for the next session of Parliament that includes a land acquisition bill, the lok pal bill and even a draconian communal violence bill.

The government's ability to restore its own credibility and inject a sense of purpose into the Congress is a possibility but is by no means a certainty. It only requires some fresh revelations on either the 2G spectrum scandal or the Commonwealth Games fiasco to upset calculations. In addition, there is always the likelihood that some of the subterranean whispers of crony capitalism could come into the open and add to the government's woes. Despite the seeming nonchalance, the government is nervous about the months preceding the Uttar Pradesh elections next year.

The only solace for a beleaguered Congress lies in the fact that there is no evidence to suggest that the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance has reinvigorated itself. The BJP had initially calculated that the defeat of the Left Front in West Bengal and Kerala would put an end to all future hopes of a possible third front and contribute to greater political bipolarity: those sitting on the fence would have to choose between the UPA and the NDA.

Unfortunately for it, the BJP's pathetic performance in all the five assembly elections clearly revealed that there was little by way of an incremental vote the saffron party could bring to the table in enticing unattached regional parties to join the NDA. The Congress performed disastrously in Tamil Nadu but even that was much, much better than what the BJP could ever dream of.

In 1998, many regional parties had climbed on to the BJP bandwagon because the national momentum created by Atal Bihari Vajpayee added to the vote share of regional parties. Today, this is no longer the case. The BJP is strong in the Hindi belt, western India and Karnataka, but a non-starter in about 250 parliamentary constituencies. Most important, its inability to recover lost ground in UP has meant that the NDA, as presently constituted, will need many post-poll partners if it is to even entertain the idea of a non-Congress dispensation at the Centre in 2014. At the same time, as the Assam results so vividly demonstrated, a covert post-poll arrangement not only hands over the stability plank to the Congress but also runs the risk of losing the core vote.

The BJP, for example, performed dismally in the Barak Valley because its core Bengali Hindu vote felt that a Congress government, led by Tarun Gogoi, was better placed to meet the challenge of the Badruddin Ajmal-led Assam United Democratic Front than a BJP sitting in the Opposition. Had the party negotiated a pre-poll alliance with the Asom Gana Parishad, it could at least have projected an alternative to the Congress. Fighting separately (albeit with a covert understanding with the fractious AGP), the BJP failed to reassure its traditional voters that it was a serious player. The same factors that saw a large chunk of its middle-class vote move to the Congress in the Lok Sabha polls in 2009, now worked to its disadvantage in Assam.

The lessons of the recently-concluded assembly elections are daunting for the BJP. Unless the party is able to attract more regional parties or dramatically improve its position in UP, it is guaranteed to remain in the Opposition after 2014. The viability of regional players such as J. Jayalalithaa or Naveen Patnaik won't be compromised by their inability to be a partner in the government at the Centre; for the BJP, three consecutive election defeats will have a catastrophic effect on its morale nationally. The BJP needs the regional parties more than the other way round.

Yet, there are outstanding questions. If the BJP is of no consequence in the states where the regional parties dominate the non-Congress space, why should those parties be averse to a pre-poll alliance with an eye to power at the Centre? Why should the regional parties be wary of a mutually exploitative relationship with the BJP that protects each other's turf?

The answers are not flattering to the BJP. Any national alliance with the BJP runs the real risk of the regional parties triggering a minority reaction against it without, at the same time, generating a countervailing Hindu consolidation. If the NDA, with a BJP prime ministerial candidate, does manage to include some additional regional players, the Congress is certain to play the 'secularism' card aggressively. Where the BJP isn't a factor, Muslim votes follow one set of logic; where the BJP is relevant, the single focus is to defeat it. This is a situation that the regional parties would not like to countenance.

The BJP may live in denial of an unstated minority veto against it — and its allies — but it is a grim fact of life. And it can only be overcome by a counter-consolidation of Hindus, which seems a remote possibility.

There is a paradox that confronts the non-Congress and non-Left Opposition. No alternative, non-Congress dispensation at the Centre is possible without the BJP. However, the leadership of the BJP in such an alliance could dilute the unity of the public outrage against a non-performing UPA. Worse, it could inject an extraneous element such as secularism into the electoral calculus.

There is a perception in the BJP that this problem can be overcome if the party gets over its unending leadership impasse and projects a moderate, modern, Vajpayee-like face as its prime ministerial candidate. In addition, a conscious sensitivity to federal issues and advocacy of state interests in Parliament could earn the BJP brownie points in the right quarters. However, for these shifts to have a larger impact, the BJP has to be in a position to register a dramatic improvement in next year's UP assembly elections. At least 30 parliamentary seats from UP and the retention of existing bases are necessary if the BJP is to aspire to overtake the Congress as the largest party in the Lok Sabha.

Minus a recovery in UP, the regional parties are unlikely to countenance any pre-poll understanding with a formation led by the BJP: the political costs of the enterprise are, as yet, not commensurate with the potential returns. However, national politics could change quite dramatically if the BJP was persuaded that the likelihood of a victory in 2014 would be greatly enhanced if the NDA was to project a non-BJP leader as its prime ministerial candidate. The experience of Bihar, where the Janata Dal (United) and BJP struck a harmonious alliance and even succeeded in winning the votes of minorities, is instructive. It could become the model for a broad front of anti-Congress impulses.

An NDA battling for federalism, integrity, harmony and good governance led by the unifying figure of Nitish Kumar is an idea whose time is fast approaching. But for this to happen, the BJP has to overcome its internal stalemate and paralysis and make an informed choice.

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


THE TELEGRAPH

A FRESH ALTERNATIVE

THE BJP HAS TO MAKE AN INFORMED CHOICE TO REINVENT ITSELF SWAPAN DASGUPTA

Judging by the costly but purposeless media blitz launched by the United Progressive Alliance to mark the end of the second year of its second incarnation, the Congress leadership seems hell-bent on getting over its annus horribilis. Undaunted by the ash clouds that have grounded the government, party strategists have calculated that the jailing of 'tainted' politicians and the harsh action of the courts against errant corporates will persuade the electorate that the UPA is capable of setting in motion a process of ethical cleansing. An ambitious legislative agenda has been set for the next session of Parliament that includes a land acquisition bill, the lok pal bill and even a draconian communal violence bill.

The government's ability to restore its own credibility and inject a sense of purpose into the Congress is a possibility but is by no means a certainty. It only requires some fresh revelations on either the 2G spectrum scandal or the Commonwealth Games fiasco to upset calculations. In addition, there is always the likelihood that some of the subterranean whispers of crony capitalism could come into the open and add to the government's woes. Despite the seeming nonchalance, the government is nervous about the months preceding the Uttar Pradesh elections next year.

The only solace for a beleaguered Congress lies in the fact that there is no evidence to suggest that the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance has reinvigorated itself. The BJP had initially calculated that the defeat of the Left Front in West Bengal and Kerala would put an end to all future hopes of a possible third front and contribute to greater political bipolarity: those sitting on the fence would have to choose between the UPA and the NDA.

Unfortunately for it, the BJP's pathetic performance in all the five assembly elections clearly revealed that there was little by way of an incremental vote the saffron party could bring to the table in enticing unattached regional parties to join the NDA. The Congress performed disastrously in Tamil Nadu but even that was much, much better than what the BJP could ever dream of.

In 1998, many regional parties had climbed on to the BJP bandwagon because the national momentum created by Atal Bihari Vajpayee added to the vote share of regional parties. Today, this is no longer the case. The BJP is strong in the Hindi belt, western India and Karnataka, but a non-starter in about 250 parliamentary constituencies. Most important, its inability to recover lost ground in UP has meant that the NDA, as presently constituted, will need many post-poll partners if it is to even entertain the idea of a non-Congress dispensation at the Centre in 2014. At the same time, as the Assam results so vividly demonstrated, a covert post-poll arrangement not only hands over the stability plank to the Congress but also runs the risk of losing the core vote.

The BJP, for example, performed dismally in the Barak Valley because its core Bengali Hindu vote felt that a Congress government, led by Tarun Gogoi, was better placed to meet the challenge of the Badruddin Ajmal-led Assam United Democratic Front than a BJP sitting in the Opposition. Had the party negotiated a pre-poll alliance with the Asom Gana Parishad, it could at least have projected an alternative to the Congress. Fighting separately (albeit with a covert understanding with the fractious AGP), the BJP failed to reassure its traditional voters that it was a serious player. The same factors that saw a large chunk of its middle-class vote move to the Congress in the Lok Sabha polls in 2009, now worked to its disadvantage in Assam.

The lessons of the recently-concluded assembly elections are daunting for the BJP. Unless the party is able to attract more regional parties or dramatically improve its position in UP, it is guaranteed to remain in the Opposition after 2014. The viability of regional players such as J. Jayalalithaa or Naveen Patnaik won't be compromised by their inability to be a partner in the government at the Centre; for the BJP, three consecutive election defeats will have a catastrophic effect on its morale nationally. The BJP needs the regional parties more than the other way round.

Yet, there are outstanding questions. If the BJP is of no consequence in the states where the regional parties dominate the non-Congress space, why should those parties be averse to a pre-poll alliance with an eye to power at the Centre? Why should the regional parties be wary of a mutually exploitative relationship with the BJP that protects each other's turf?

The answers are not flattering to the BJP. Any national alliance with the BJP runs the real risk of the regional parties triggering a minority reaction against it without, at the same time, generating a countervailing Hindu consolidation. If the NDA, with a BJP prime ministerial candidate, does manage to include some additional regional players, the Congress is certain to play the 'secularism' card aggressively. Where the BJP isn't a factor, Muslim votes follow one set of logic; where the BJP is relevant, the single focus is to defeat it. This is a situation that the regional parties would not like to countenance.

The BJP may live in denial of an unstated minority veto against it — and its allies — but it is a grim fact of life. And it can only be overcome by a counter-consolidation of Hindus, which seems a remote possibility.

There is a paradox that confronts the non-Congress and non-Left Opposition. No alternative, non-Congress dispensation at the Centre is possible without the BJP. However, the leadership of the BJP in such an alliance could dilute the unity of the public outrage against a non-performing UPA. Worse, it could inject an extraneous element such as secularism into the electoral calculus.

There is a perception in the BJP that this problem can be overcome if the party gets over its unending leadership impasse and projects a moderate, modern, Vajpayee-like face as its prime ministerial candidate. In addition, a conscious sensitivity to federal issues and advocacy of state interests in Parliament could earn the BJP brownie points in the right quarters. However, for these shifts to have a larger impact, the BJP has to be in a position to register a dramatic improvement in next year's UP assembly elections. At least 30 parliamentary seats from UP and the retention of existing bases are necessary if the BJP is to aspire to overtake the Congress as the largest party in the Lok Sabha.

Minus a recovery in UP, the regional parties are unlikely to countenance any pre-poll understanding with a formation led by the BJP: the political costs of the enterprise are, as yet, not commensurate with the potential returns. However, national politics could change quite dramatically if the BJP was persuaded that the likelihood of a victory in 2014 would be greatly enhanced if the NDA was to project a non-BJP leader as its prime ministerial candidate. The experience of Bihar, where the Janata Dal (United) and BJP struck a harmonious alliance and even succeeded in winning the votes of minorities, is instructive. It could become the model for a broad front of anti-Congress impulses.

An NDA battling for federalism, integrity, harmony and good governance led by the unifying figure of Nitish Kumar is an idea whose time is fast approaching. But for this to happen, the BJP has to overcome its internal stalemate and paralysis and make an informed choice.

 

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

EDITORIAL

DUPLICITY EXPOSED

''ISI'S ROLE IN MUMBAI TERROR TAKES THE CASE TO A NEW PLANE.''


We are at a stage where we do not need further evidence of the involvement of official Pakistani agencies, specifically the ISI, in terrorist activities in India. India has conveyed such evidence to Pakistan, and has drawn the world's attention to it but Pakistan has always ignored or denied it. More evidence has now come in the testimony of terror operative David Coleman Headley in a Chicago court which indicts the ISI for the Mumbai terrorist attack of 2008. Headley is the star government witness in the trial of Tahavvur Rana in the Mumbai attack case and he has plea bargained for a lighter sentence. His revelations under oath carry credibility and they confirm all the charges made by India and present more details in their support.


Headley has stated that he reported to a serving ISI officer called Major Iqbal before the attack and a Pakistani navy frogman had helped in taking the terrorists by sea to Mumbai. His diary which contains the phone numbers of Pakistani army officers and his communications with ISI and Lashkar-e-Toiba operatives have been produced in the court as evidence. What emerges is that the LeT worked as an adjunct of the ISI, whose people planned and executed the Mumbai attack. Headley also scouted the Shiv Sena headquarters in Mumbai and has disclosed a plot to assassinate Sena supremo Bal Thackeray. If the plan had succeeded it would have created major communal violence in India. The role that the ISI had in the Mumbai attack takes the case to a new plane.

Pakistan's claim that non-state actors and floating terrorists were responsible for the attack and it cannot be blamed for their actions has again proved to be false.


The network of deceptions and duplicity that Pakistan has built up over terrorism and anti-India activities is being increasingly exposed. The killing of Osama bin Laden in a US raid in Abbottabad had graphically made this clear. The fact that Pakistan is itself a major target of the frankenstein it created has not made it wiser. It is still in denial mode about Headley's testimony, dismissing him as a double agent whose revelations can not be believed. If the Pakistani establishment has not come to its senses with so much of internal mayhem and outside pressure, when will it do so? The answer is important not just for that country, but for India and the world.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

LOGJAM IN NEPAL

''THE NEPALI CONGRESS IS TRYING TO BLOCK THE EFFORT.''


Never has Nepal's future seemed as uncertain or bleak as it does today. With just a day to go for the term of the Constituent Assembly (CA) to expire and no constitution in sight, the crisis has assumed critical proportions. Without an extension of the CA or a new constitution, the country will have no legal framework or government after May 28. One would think that the enormity of the crisis that confronts the country would push Nepal's ever squabbling politicians to bury the hatchet and work for a compromise that would end the political and constitutional stalemate. However, they seem keener on using the tense situation to wring out concessions from each other. Prime minister Jhalanath Khanal who is supported by the Maoists is seeking to get the CA's term extended. But the opposition Nepali Congress is doing its utmost to block the effort. It is demanding the resignation of the government as a precondition for its support for extension of the CA's term.


Those who are opposed to the CA's term being extended are arguing that if it hasn't been able to get a draft done over the past three years, it is unlikely to do so in another few months. Underlying their opposition however is fear that an extension of the CA benefits the Maoists as they control key ministries in the government. But dissolving the CA without a clear idea of what comes next and how it will be achieved will put Nepal in a dire situation. Lurking in the shadows are the royalists who are calling for a revival of the 1991 constitution, which will enable the return of constitutional monarchy to Nepal.


Elections to vote in a new CA, presidential intervention backed by the army, a return to confrontation with the Maoists, a constitutional vacuum — these are among several options before Nepal today. Compared with these, an extension of the CA's term seems the most benign. The CA is an elected body. It must be allowed to complete the task it was voted in to perform. It is true it has failed miserably in taking Nepal's peace process to the next stage. But going in for polls at this juncture or leaving a void for violence to fill will only deepen Nepal's multiple woes.

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DECCAN HERALD

MAIN ARTICLE

DANGER ACROSS BORDER

 KULDIP NAYAR


The litmus test is the action Pakistan takes against Hafiz Saeed, alleged to have planned and executed the attacks on Mumbai.


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-air base at Karachi, I wonder if the warning needs serious attention. I am not trying to sound panicky. 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 a bomb blast at places near Afghanistan, Wazirstan border. They have proved again, that they can strike anywhere, even the highly-protected places, at any time.

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 some time ago. They are only pursuing their objective. 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 all over the country and penetrated the intelligence agencies and even the armed forces.


No doubt, there is a glaring negligence in guarding most key installations. This is nothing new. The nonchalant attitude was apparent when the US commandos killed Osama at Abbotabad 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 high ups should have been singled out and held accountable. This may not be possible because even the National Assembly and the Senate are not willing to face the fact of failure. Finding fault with the security apparatus does not amount to turning back on the armed forces. 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.


It is heartening to see prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani presiding over a meeting where top military officers were present. Such things strengthen the hope that civil 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 the 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 size.


Retrieve 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 politics. 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 that the 26/11 is 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-Toiba, alleged to have planned and executed the attacks on Mumbai.


Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif's approach towards India has been different. He entered into a time-bound solution of the problems, including Kashmir, with the then India's prime minister A B Vajpayee who journeyed in a bus to Lahore. However, Gen Pervez Musharraf, chief of the army staff at that time, had some other ideas and initiated the Kargil misadventure. Look at his own admission that Pakistan trained the jihadis to go into 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 who are mere terrorists.


New Delhi has also made many mistakes. But going into the past would only deepen bitterness, not act as a balm on the pent-up anger. The future is important, more so when the US will probably reach an agreement with the 'good' Taliban and begin to withdraw its forces. 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 mind.


That takes me back to the warning sounded out by the Pakistani columnist that if the Taliban advanced in their country, lakhs of people from across the border would cross into India. New Delhi has to strengthen Islamabad's hand, however jaundiced and military-oriented its views are. We have too much at stake in Pakistan's viability.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

IN  PERSPECTIVE

CHINA KEY TO US'S AFGHAN ENDGAME

 ANATOL LIEVEN, IHT


China seems to have assumed that it could do separate deals with the Taliban and their allies.
The affairs of Afghanistan and Pakistan are becoming the biggest test of whether the United States and China can cooperate to maintain global peace and stability in the 21st century.


They are an even bigger test of this than the Korean Peninsula, for the security equation there is largely frozen, whereas in Afghanistan and Pakistan it is very volatile indeed, as circumstances surrounding the death of Osama bin Laden have emphasised.


The future of Afghanistan is also a test of other great-power relationships that will largely define the 21st century in Asia: Of whether China and India are doomed to mutual hostility or can find areas of cooperation; and of whether the Chinese-Russian relationship will become a true partnership that will seek common solutions to key problems.


As the US moves toward a withdrawal of its ground forces from Afghanistan, the role of the region is bound to become increasingly important. The question now is whether Washington is prepared to accommodate its wishes to those of other powers in the area, and help broker a regional settlement for Afghanistan in which the US will be only one player among several.


Commercial investment

China, along with Pakistan, India, Russia and Iran, has a critical role to play. It borders Afghanistan, albeit for only a few miles. China's possession of a huge Muslim territory in Xinjiang makes it acutely conscious of the threat of Islamist extremism both to its own territory and to former Soviet Central Asia. China has committed itself to far the biggest commercial investment in Afghanistan — $3 billion in the Aynak copper mine.


Finally, China has a very great stake in Pakistan, which is indeed China's only real ally in the world. The importance of this relationship has been emphasised by statements of support for Pakistan from Beijing in the wake of Osama's death, and the visit of Pakistan's prime minister, Yusuf Raza Gilani, to China. Reports from Kabul say that Pakistan has been encouraging the Karzai administration to look to Beijing, not Washington, as a future sponsor.


Many Pakistanis are now open in their desire that China replace the US as Pakistan's main international backer. China's aid to Pakistan is still considerably exceeded by that of the US, but China has become a key provider of military equipment to Pakistan, and has also invested heavily in Pakistani infrastructure.


China's stake in Pakistan is threefold. There is the desire dating back to the 1960s to use Pakistan as balance against India, with which China has a major border dispute and that China regards as a potential rival. China has also used Pakistan as a link to Islamist groups in the region. Finally, China is building up energy routes from the Gulf via Pakistan to insure China against any future naval blockade by the US or India.


At the same time, China is by no means unconditionally committed to Pakistan, and this should give Washington room for manoeuver. Beijing has in fact played a rather cautious hand, keeping its aid limited. Both the corruption and incompetence of the Pakistani state and the spread of Islamist insurgency in Pakistan have made Beijing wary of a deeper commitment.

Up to now, China seems to have assumed that it could do separate deals with the Taliban and their allies to exclude Uighur militants, and that it may be able to do the same kind of deal to defend the Aynak mine. This is a mistake.


While American and Indian hopes that the Taliban can be defeated in the Pashtun areas are clearly impossible, so to are Taliban hopes of sweeping to power in the whole of Afghanistan. The US, India and Russia will make sure that, as before 9/11, non-Pashtun armies continue to defend their own areas against the Taliban. This is a recipe for unending civil war.


Another reason why China should help seek an Afghan peace settlement is for the sake of Pakistan's stability. Continued war in Afghanistan will mean continued radicalisation in Pakistan. This in turn will increase the risk that Pakistan-based terrorists will strike at the US or India. Especially following Osama's death, a terrorist attack with links to Pakistan would so infuriate Americans that retaliation against Pakistan would be a real possibility, and no concern either for the risks or for US relations with China would prevent this.
If China truly cares about Pakistan's survival, it should be doing everything possible to get the Pakistanis to prevent international terrorism based on their soil.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE

HEART OF GOLD

NAVARATNA LAXMAN


Mother Nature does not discriminate among her children.


On May 16 the newspapers carried the headlines heralding the spectacular victories of the inimitable political queens Jayalalitha and Mamata Banerjee who swept the polls in Tamil Nadu and West Bengal respectively. The same dailies, in stark contrast, carried a distressing piece of news about a devil of a father from Warangal who rushed into the maternity ward and strangulated his just born child, only because it was a baby girl, reflecting the two extreme characters and psyche of our society.


This miniscule example, representing such barbaric tendency in our land, explains why the number of baby girls is down to 914 for every 1000 boys as revealed by the 2011 census. This should be enough to stir the national conscience. It is indeed a cruel irony that despite the aware


ness that life on this planet would be meaningless without the loving care of the female species — as mother, wife, daughter and sister, the male chauvinistic society resorts to heinous acts of female foeticide and infanticide. It is a matter of shame that even in this age when women have proved their capability of playing any role — often better than men — in guiding the destiny of nations, such a gender bias exists in many parts of our land.


It is amazing and thought-provoking that the world population has an almost equal proportion of men and women. This itself is ample proof that at least Mother Nature does not discriminate among her children and it is our retrogressive mindset that is irrationally trying to upset the balance of nature — an unpardonable sin indeed.

Despite all this, the woman does not consider these offenders as villains! On the contrary, she pours out her unflinching love and serves them with devoted care, forgiving the atrocities perpetrated on her race. This divine instinct is not limited to elite strata of fair-sex; it is a natural boon which is a part of her being, irrespective of her disposition in life.


I can never forget a singularly touching incident which is indelibly etched in my memory, involving a lady from a very humble background whose life has been a shining example of forgiveness. She spent all her life as a cook at my father-in-law's house. Married off at a tender age of nine she hardly lived for a couple of days with her husband who turned out to be a debauch. Having deserted her mercilessly, he went on to lead an utterly loose life with several women. Not once did he, in the course of nearly 60 years, so much as remember his legal wife. When he became destitute and bed-ridden due to a self-inflicted malady, she rushed to his place, nursed him till his death and arranged for his cremation! A true 'Kshamaya dharithree' indeed!


I wonder if the much-touted 'superior sex' would have displayed the same degree of forgiveness had the role been reversed!

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HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

IRAN SANCTIONS ON ISRAELI FIRM ARE AN EMBARRASSMENT

BUT ISRAEL WANTS TO MAKE MONEY, AS IN SELLING WEAPONS TO IRAN DURING ITS WAR WITH IRAQ, ISRAEL KNOWS HOW TO CLOSE ITS EYES.

The Ofer family started its shipping business in Haifa during the British Mandate era. With perseverance, resolve and business acumen the small agency grew into an economic empire. One of its scions, David, preferred to stay in public service and later became a police commander. His two brothers, Sammy and Yuli, bought merchant ships and tankers, expanded their fleet and spread their business over seas and continents.

Over the years the Ofer Brothers, reinforced by the family's next generation, became an influential force in the Israeli economy. In the Ofer family's business, the sale of a tanker for $8 million is a drop in the ocean, and the family chalks up the Americans' objections to a misunderstanding. But its alleged sale of a ship to Iran evokes bewilderment and embarrassment.

The questions arising from it should be addressed not only to the Ofer Brothers but to Israeli officials and institutions - the Prime Minister's Office; the ministers of defense, finance and foreign affairs; Military Intelligence, the Mossad and the navy. Where were they all when Israel was making a mockery of its own demands that the world fight Iran's military nuclearization?

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu portrays Iran as a threat to Israel's survival. He champions an economic siege on it, as a last resort before an attack. While Netanyahu likens Tehran's current rulers to Berlin's on the eve of World War II, his own shortcomings have enabled a major Israeli corporation to circumvent the sanctions and trade with a satanic foe.

True, the used-ship business is characterized by layers of brokers and the concealing of the owner's identity by flying another country's flag. But for some reason, when Israel confronts the Karin A, Victory and other vessels operating on the Iran-Hezbollah-Palestine line, it manages to discover what's hiding under the rug. But when it wants to make money, as in selling weapons to Iran during its war with Iraq, Israel knows how to close its eyes. The American suspiciousness is a natural outcome of this basic truth.

The Ofer family will try, with its lawyers and lobbyists, to settle its affairs with the administration in Washington, in a bid to remove the sanctions on the sanction breakers. But the Israeli authorities' defective performance in this affair necessitates a thorough investigation, either by the state comptroller or a subcommittee of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

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HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

THE GIRL NEXT DOOR

ISRAELI SOCIETY IS BEING DIVIDED AND RIPPED ASUNDER FROM EVERY SIDE. IF ITS ONLY REMAINING COMMON DENOMINATOR - SERVICE IN THE IDF - IS TAKEN AWAY, IT WILL DISINTEGRATE.

BY NEHEMIA SHTRASLER

My neighbor, generally a calm person, clutched my shirt and would not let go. "You have to hear a story," he said. And since I like stories, I invited him in, made coffee and sat down to listen.

The neighbor was excited: "You won't believe what happened to my daughter." "What happened?" I asked warily. "No, don't worry, it's actually something good," he said. And since good things are rather rare in these parts, I pricked up my ears.

"She began her army service two months ago," he began, "and now she has finished basic training and is in a specialist course. At the ceremony concluding her basic training, the commander said it can't be taken for granted today that young people will enlist, so he sees every young woman in the parade as someone with values, someone who is prepared to give of herself for the general good."

"Okay, so what's so special about that?" I asked.

"You know my daughter," he smiled. "What does she have to do with values? She is not prepared to give a thing to anyone, and certainly not to the state.

"But something happened to her during her basic training. It was possible, for the first time in years, to speak to her quietly. She took everything seriously. She prepared her lessons, read on the Internet about the Lamed Hey (35 soldiers killed during the fighting that preceded the state's establishment in an attempt to reinforce the Gush Etzion settlements ) and even listened to what was said during the ceremony on Memorial Day.

"She even went to the shop to buy Bristol paper to prepare an 'effective presentation' of a topic, something she never did when she was at school. And you have to understand, these commanders are only a year older than she is, at best, whereas in school, the teachers were adults with pedagogic experience."

"And how about physical training?" I asked. "After all, she's not so interested in sports."

Here, too, he had a surprise.

"It suddenly turned out that she is able to do sports. Every morning they did fitness training and she joined in. She carried tables and lifted chairs. She was suddenly no longer spoiled. And her headaches and dizziness disappeared.

"One time I took her to her base with a friend. You should have heard the two of them en route, rehearsing methods of camouflage and shooting so they would pass the next test. I pretended I wasn't listening, but I promise you she never prepared for a matriculation exam like that."

Now it's true that isn't why the Israel Defense Forces were established. The army's purpose was never to turn teenage girls into mature young women. But even though that wasn't its purpose, it nevertheless helped to achieve it.

It's also true that not everything in the army is ideal. Just this week, the IDF ombudsman published his annual report, which included thousands of examples of humiliating and disparaging behavior by commanders toward their subordinates. Yet that is the exception, not the norm - and it's good that such cases are publicized and dealt with.

Even today, the IDF remains the melting pot of Israeli society. Only there can someone from North Tel Aviv meet and befriend soldiers of Ethiopian origin. Only there can a kibbutznik and a new immigrant from Russia do military exercises in the same squad. And all of them know that anyone who does not toe the line risks hurting his comrades.

Therefore, it is vital to reject the idea of abolishing compulsory service in favor of a professional army. If that happens, only the lower classes will do military service, while the elites will not enlist at all, as is the case in the United States. Only those seeking social and economic mobility will go into the army, where they can climb the ladder of professional advancement in a way that is difficult in civilian life.

If the IDF becomes a professional army, it will be easier for leaders to pull the trigger and go to war, because neither their sons nor their friends' sons will be in the army. Former minister Yossi Sarid, who is also opposed to abolishing compulsory service, once told me how at cabinet meetings, whenever there were reports of a military operation, ministers would surreptitiously leave the room one after the other to telephone and find out where their sons serving in combat units were.

What can one do? Everyone worries about those closest to him.

Israeli society is being divided and ripped asunder from every side. If its only remaining common denominator - service in the IDF - is taken away, it will disintegrate. Without that prop, what little unity and sense of mutual responsibility still exist will disappear.

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HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

TOO LATE, TOO UGLY

IT IS BECAUSE OF MY ADMIRATION FOR TURKEY THAT I FIND IT DIFFICULT TO UNDERSTAND ITS INSENSITIVE POSITION ON THE ARMENIAN ISSUE. AFTER ALL, IT WAS NOT THIS GENERATION THAT SPILLED THE BLOOD 100 YEARS AGO.

BY YOSSI SARID

I have achieved a great success: Finally the Knesset plenum has enabled its Knesset Education Committee to conduct a public discussion of the genocide of the Armenian people. This is the discussion that was prevented for decades. For generations our governments firmly opposed it.

And this, of all governments, is the one that agreed. All the MKs present voted in favor, nobody was opposed, a unanimous decision that exudes a bad smell: too late, too ugly, yuck.

Zahava Gal-On, who returned to the Knesset with renewed strength, made a very nice speech. That is how she assumed her place in the relay race and the mission of her movement, the only one in Israel to avenge the honor of the Armenian people and demand that the historical lesson be learned from an orphaned genocide - victims without murderers. Ahead of time I wished her success where her predecessors - the heads of Meretz - had failed; and my wishes came true.

But it was not my wishes that changed the parliamentary decision, and the reason for the reversal is clear: The Israelis no longer favor the Turks, and are willing even to give up the charms and temptations of Antalya; that's how angry they are. Now we will demonstrate to you what happens to a country that Israel no longer favors - we will seat it in the low chair; revenge against the gentiles. Now we'll show them who's boss.

So we showed them, and how do we look: All the past explanations in favor of the Turks suddenly sank to the bottom of the glass of anger, for which Israel is famous. These, as we recall, were profound explanations from the Sea of Marmara, to which our leaders lent an ethical character, even accompanying them with historiosophical insights.

Eleven years ago, on the 85th memorial day, I went to the Armenian church in Jerusalem, and as "a human being, as a Jew, as an Israeli and as the minister of education of the State of Israel" - that is how I introduced myself - I spoke about the historical justice that must be done, about the special commitment of the Jewish people to the Armenian people, and about my plan to teach our students the universal significance of genocide.

The scandal erupted immediately. My prime minister objected sharply, and Ehud Barak was swiftly joined by Shimon Peres: "These events," he said, "should be left to historians and not to politicians."

He was struck dumb last week, when the right thing was done for the wrong reason, and the voice of Shimon was not heard.

At the time the Turks declared me a persona non grata. They, like me, sometimes get confused between rivals and friends, and I consider myself their friend. Turkey is today a developing world power, an example of economic prosperity, which conducts its affairs in the regional and international arena wisely. It is also proof that an Islamic regime is not necessarily Iranian, and that Europe is bitterly mistaken when it locks the gate to Ankara instead of opening it.

The bad guy - Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan - is good for the Turks, and was reelected by an increasingly large majority. This week he said that he tried to convince Hamas to recognize Israel, and will continue to do so.

It is just because of my admiration for Turkey that I find it difficult to understand its insensitive position on the Armenian issue. After all, it was not this generation that spilled the blood 100 years ago; many countries have accepted responsibility for crimes committed in their name a long time ago. Only this week Queen Elizabeth II visited the Irish Republic and offered her hosts regret and identification with all the Irish people who ever suffered at the hand of England. It is not clear why Turkey alone remains intransigent.

But it is quite clear why Israel supported it all these years. In addition to security and financial interests, there is something else concealed here: If everyone begins to acknowledge the tragedy of the other - his own part in the Nakba - what will become of us?

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HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

GRANDSTANDING WON'T STOP HISTORY

YES, HAMAS IS A TERRORIST ORGANIZATION, BUT SIMPLY ASSERTING THAT FACT IS NOT A POLICY.

BY LARA FRIEDMAN

This week Capitol Hill got a one-two punch on Israel. Members of Congress got to hear Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lay out his vision of what Israeli-Palestinian peace must look like - the details of which contradict the very notion of peace-making, but no matter. They also were treated to the spectacle of thousands of AIPAC supporters coming to lobby them, hard, to support positions AIPAC presents as the epitome of "pro-Israel" but that in fact are anything but.

This year, the focus of AIPAC's Hill lobby day was going after the Palestinians for their efforts to seek United Nations recognition of a state and for trying to achieve national reconciliation.

Members of Congress who truly care about Israel need to look past the self-righteous narratives and the self-serving talking points and recognize that far from helping Israel, support for such positions makes peace and security less likely for Israel.

Peace for Israel requires Palestinian national unity. Congress should welcome reconciliation efforts, not undermine them. For years the United States has erred by opposing Palestinian reconciliation rather than encouraging it. Congress does Israel no favors by compounding this mistake today.

The Gaza-West Bank split is a very real hurdle to peace. Critics of past peace efforts were correct when they argued that Israel can't make peace with only half the Palestinians. Instead of criticizing and threatening the Palestinians for their national reconciliation effort, Congress should welcome the potential emergence of a Palestinian government that represents all Palestinians and that can take responsibility for security and governance in both the West Bank and Gaza. Such a government is essential to achieving and implementing any peace agreement.

Yes, Hamas is a terrorist organization, but simply asserting that fact is not a policy. Years of American sanctions against Hamas failed to significantly weaken or sideline the group. It is time to embrace another approach. A unified Palestinian government will be more capable of making peace with Israel, and it will make Hamas genuinely answerable to its people. This is more likely to lead to a change in behavior, or a loss of domestic credibility, than American sanctions ever could.

Likewise, the real threat facing Israel today is not the Palestinians' diplomacy campaign. The real threat is the void created by the absence of any credible peace effort - a void this campaign seeks to fill - and the danger of what else may fill this void. The demonstrations and subsequent violence witnessed recently in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza, and on Israel's borders with Lebanon and Syria, are a foreshadowing of what could be on the horizon.

Given these realities, rather than demanding that the Palestinians desist from their diplomatic efforts, Congress should be demanding that U.S. President Barack Obama show real leadership by getting serious about Middle East peace, as he began to do with his speeches last week and this week.

Such leadership, not congressional threats and bluster, is the only thing that will convince the Palestinians to suspend their recognition campaign. Absent such leadership, the Palestinian people will continue to ask why the Arab Spring, with its promise of freedom and democracy, doesn't apply to them, and recent demonstrations offer ample evidence that many will no longer sit quietly and wait. And absent such leadership, Palestinian leaders will have no reason to question their conclusion that they can no longer wait for U.S.-led peace efforts to deliver Palestinian dignity and self-determination. After two decades of disappointment, it should surprise nobody that they have come to believe that until the U.S. is ready to get serious, they must pursue their own course, irrespective of what the White House or Congress think.

America has a stake in all of this. The Middle East is in flux and there is growing sympathy in the international community for the Palestinians' efforts to break out of the current peace process paradigm. As President Obama mentioned in his speech to AIPAC, even America's closest allies are making it increasingly clear they are ready to pursue their own independent foreign policies in this arena.

President Obama spoke the truth at AIPAC. Absent a reinvigorated peace effort, international readiness to engage a unified Palestinian government and support recognition of Palestine will only gain momentum. Congressional grandstanding will not stop this trend. It will only exacerbate growing U.S. and Israeli isolation and further undermine the chances of achieving peace and security for Israel.

In this season of "pro-Israel" point-scoring in Washington, members of Congress would do well to keep in mind that the most pro-Israel Congress is not the one whose members try to outflank each other with dogmatically hawkish positions on the Palestinians or the Arab world. The most pro-Israel Congress is the one whose members understand that Israeli-Arab peace is essential to Israel's security, well-being and viability as a Jewish state and a democracy. It is a Congress whose members recognize and embrace this fact: Sustained, credible U.S. efforts to achieve Israeli-Arab peace are an essential element of U.S. support for Israel.

Lara Friedman is director of policy and government relations at Americans for Peace Now.

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HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

A SIX-DAY (SOLAR ) WAR

IF THE WHITE HOUSE CAN HAVE SOLAR PANELS, WHY NOT THE KNESSET? LET A NEW LIGHT FINALLY SHINE FORTH FROM ZION.

BY DAVID ROSENBLATT, YOSEF I. ABRAMOWITZ

June 5 marks not only World Environment Day and the anniversary of the Six-Day War; this year it also marks the ribbon cutting for the first solar field in the history of the Jewish people. Just as the 1967 war ushered in a new chapter in the strengthening of Israel's long-term viability, the affixing of the mezuzah on Israel's first solar field holds the promise of a new era by ending fossil fuels' role as the exclusive power source for Israel's growing energy needs.

The prime minister has been occupied by the Palestinian question, so other important matters of state had to take a backseat, including the strategic question of energy independence. Yet this is precisely an arena where the premier can shine, for he is not dependent upon any external partners. It is simply a question of his leadership.

Cutting the ribbon on the first solar field with the international press present, Benjamin Netanyahu could announce a "Six-Day Solar War" to transform Israel's energy security and international standing. This war on fossil fuels, one victory a day starting June 5, might look as follows:

June 5: Pre-emptive strike. Instead of fueling a new arms race in the Middle East, Israel should quickly announce a 50-percent renewable energy goal by 2025, challenging the region for renewable energy supremacy as measured by solar megawatts. Saudi Arabia recently announced a 5500-megawatt solar program, dwarfing Israel's modest one. Furthermore, Abu Dhabi has a $15-billion solar program under way. Called the "Masdar Initiative," it includes a sustainable city, university and major research projects to advance new technologies. Without apologies, Masdar is positioning itself as the global king of green energy. Israel could trump this and other regional initiatives with its own rapid deployment of renewable technologies, green energy entrepreneurship and chutzpadik government policy that takes no prisoners in its effort to achieve the 50-percent renewables goal.

June 6: Eliminate tanks. Gas tanks, that is. The unfortunate fact for the electric car industry is that it still needs fossil-fuel-burning power plants to generate the electricity that powers the vehicles. However, if the government announced that it was mandating that for every electric car plugged into the national grid, there would be a 1:1 renewables offset - such as feeding solar power into the grid in equal proportion to the polluting fuels used to charge the cars - then it would mean that the electrons fueling the cars would effectively be green rather than black. Get this one right now, and Israel could set a global example.

June 7: Liberate Jerusalem. Declare the intention to replace all the street lamps in the Holy City with solar-powered ones, sponsor a solar field in the Negev to offset the carbon footprint of the new light rail, limit electric cars that do not have a carbon offset, ensure that every school and government building is covered with solar panels, including the famously flat Knesset roof, thus making a new Google Earth solar landmark. If the White House can have solar panels, why not the Knesset? Let a new light finally shine forth from Zion.

June 8: Rally world Jewry, on Shavuot. Nigel Savage, leader of the Jewish environmental organization Hazon, challenges the Jewish people to be the first carbon-neutral people on the planet. Every Jewish family and community in the world can calculate its carbon footprint on the Jewish National Fund website, and offset the carbon dioxide by planting trees, underwriting solar projects for Israeli schools and investing in solar fields. Let's not only plant a tree in Israel, but also install a solar panel. David Schwartz of Chai Planet also plans to create opportunities for world Jewish communities to underwrite pilots for emerging Israeli green technologies.

June 9: Strengthen a moral military. Decide to make the Israel Defense Forces the only carbon-neutral fighting force on the planet. The IDF is the Israel Electric Corporation's largest domestic customer and it could become carbon-neutral within five years. Since the IDF is already building a fence along the sunny Sinai border, add a 100-meter-wide strip of solar fields along that same 250-kilometer route. It could produce 2500 megawatts of solar power and be the world's largest solar installation.

June 10: Declare Palestinian independence. Energy independence, that is. The PA in the West Bank gets all of its power from the Israeli grid, which causes strain and probably will bring blackouts this summer. Incentivize and assist the Palestinians to produce their own green energy; it will be cheaper in the long run, and this is an Israeli confidence-building measure that U.S. President Barack Obama and the Europeans would actually applaud and perhaps even sponsor.

While the above program would attract billions of dollars and create thousands of green jobs, none of it will be possible if the current climate of regulatory and policy instability continues. To its discredit, the government has frozen the next stage of its modest solar program, even though that same government is headed by someone supposedly committed to ending the world's dependence on oil. A lightning victory for the prime minister would be to accelerate the installation of the 4000 green megawatts the government has mandated, with a steadily decreasing price paid for the green energy until grid parity, which is the point, probably around 2015, when the price of regular fossil-fuel electricity equals that of solar. With this correction in place, hopefully by June 5, the country can begin to consider transformative solar plans and become a world leader.

David Rosenblatt and Yosef I. Abramowitz are co-founders of the Arava Power Company, with Kibbutz Ketura, and serve respectively as vice chair and president of its international board. This op-ed is the fourth in a series on green energy.

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

EDITORIAL

THE MIDEAST PEACE PROCESS: NO PLAN FOR TALKS

This is the time for bold ideas to salvage Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel did not seize it. In his address to Congress, he showed — once again — that he has no serious appetite for the kind of compromises that are the only way to forge a two-state solution and guarantee both Palestinians their long-denied state and Israel's long-term security.

President Obama showed more rhetorical initiative when he spoke, but he doesn't appear to have a strategy for reviving negotiations. Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, is refusing to come back to the table and is apparently betting his people's future on a misguided deal with Hamas and symbolic gestures.

This is more than just a wasted opportunity. Continued stalemate feeds extremism. And there is a deadline looming: Absent negotiations, Palestinians plan to ask the United Nations in September to recognize their state. The measure won't get them what they want, and the United States will veto it when it gets to the Security Council. But the exercise will further isolate Israel and Washington.

President Obama vowed to revive the peace process but checked out when Mr. Netanyahu rejected his demand for a settlement freeze and Mr. Abbas refused to negotiate without it. Mr. Obama got back in the game last week. In a speech on the Arab Spring, he goaded allies, including Israel, to take political risks for peaceful change.

What drew the most attention was his call for negotiations on a Palestinian state based on Israel's pre-1967 borders — with mutually agreed land swaps. The idea has been the basis of all negotiations for more than a decade, including those backed by President George W. Bush.

Mr. Netanyahu immediately insisted that Israel would never return to the "indefensible" pre-1967 boundaries. Playing to his conservative base at home, and on Capitol Hill, he ignored the second half of Mr. Obama's statement about "mutually agreed swaps so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states."

Pretty much everyone but the hardest liners — on both sides — assumes that in a peace deal Israel will retain many of its West Bank settlements and compensate Palestinians with other land. On Monday, Mr. Netanyahu acknowledged as much, saying that "in any peace agreement that ends the conflict, some settlements will end up beyond Israel's borders."

His aides had raised hopes that Mr. Netanyahu would offer new ideas to revive talks, but there was really nothing new there. He insisted that Jerusalem "will never again be divided" and Israel's Army would remain along the Jordan River. And while he basked in Congress's standing ovations, Ethan Bronner reported in The Times that in Israel the trip was judged a diplomatic failure. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz said Mr. Netanyahu's "same old messages" proved the country "deserves a different leader." Palestinians dismissed the visit and said they would focus on nonviolent protests leading to September.

So what happens now? More drift and recriminations, unless Mr. Obama comes up with a plan to get the parties into serious talks. We see no hint that he is working toward one. We are told that he has no immediate plans to appoint a new envoy to replace George Mitchell, who resigned, or to send Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to the region. Negotiations will become even harder once the unity government with Hamas is formed and it gets closer to September. Time is running out.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

HOW THE OTHER HALF LIVES, STILL

At the Lower East Side Tenement Museum in Manhattan, visitors can view meticulously recreated moments in the lives of the immigrant families who lived there, like the Moores of Ireland. Their dark, stifling apartment sits ready for the wake of a baby girl, dead of malnutrition. This was in the 1870s, when America's newcomers struggled mightily against poverty and isolation.

They still do. New immigrants crowd into derelict apartments. Parents toil, children suffer. But while most of the last centuries' newcomers were Americans in the making, many today have no way to naturalize. They live in the shadows, so their American-born children do, too.

"Immigrants Raising Citizens," a study by a Harvard education professor, Hirokazu Yoshikawa, followed nearly 400 of these young children in New York City. It found that while mothers and fathers showed great effort and ingenuity in trying to provide for their children, the children have paid a steep price for their parents' precarious lives.

Depression, anxiety and crushing work schedules, plus the stress and discomfort of crowded apartments, make it hard for parents to provide adequate nurturing. Fear of deportation and lack of information keep parents from enrolling children in government programs that offer help with nutrition, child care and early education. From the start, the children's development suffers. Their reading and language skills lag. These early results bode poorly for their future academic and job success.

If conditions are this bad in New York City, with its array of social services and nonprofit organizations, what would he have found in Arizona or Texas or other places where immigrants are pushed ever farther into the shadows? Professor Yoshikawa estimates that four million preschool-age children of immigrants are American citizens. Their hindered development will haunt this country.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

END OF THE LINE

In 1995, some 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were massacred in the town of Srebrenica. It was the worst ethnically motivated mass murder in Europe since World War II. Now, finally, Ratko Mladic, the Bosnian Serb general who masterminded that butchery, is where he should be — in custody, facing prosecution before the International Criminal Court and, we hope, a lifetime in prison.

The arrest should be a warning to other butchers that they, too, will be caught and held to account, no matter how long it takes. It is also a reminder that sustained international pressure works. Europe's leaders made Mr. Mladic's capture and delivery to The Hague a condition for Serbia's admission to the European Union.

For more than 15 years, Mr. Mladic managed to evade capture, almost certainly with the help of some Serbian officials. Serbia's president, Boris Tadic, is a new sort of leader, and, last year, Serbia finally accepted responsibility for the Srebrenica massacre and apologized.

With Thursday's capture of Mr. Mladic, he has proved his sincerity. Europe now has to prove its sincerity and move Serbia's application to the European Union forward.

We hope the arrest will also facilitate reconciliation among Bosnia's ethnic factions. There is plenty of blame. But the Bosnian Serb leadership in particular needs to abandon its fantasies about dismantling the multiethnic Bosnian state. It has few friends left in Belgrade and none anywhere else.

There is one more fugitive wanted for war crimes: Goran Hadzic. President Tadic vowed that he, too, will be arrested. But Mr. Mladic is the last of the big three butchers. Radovan Karadzic, the Bosnian Serb political leader is on trial in The Hague on charges of genocide. Slobodan Milosevic, the former Serbian president and the war's architect, died in 2006 while his trial was under way. It is small solace for the dead, but these ruthless men ultimately are being made to answer for their crimes.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

MEDICARE SURVIVAL GUIDE

BY DAVID BROOKS

Sometime this summer, the Democrats and the Republicans will go toe-to-toe over whether to raise the debt ceiling. At the height of the confrontation, President Obama may well address the country and say that even though he has offered the Republicans more than $1 trillion in spending cuts (unspecified), the Republicans have not been willing to compromise on a deal. He will then announce that, even without an agreement, the U.S. will still have enough money to continue payments to its creditors.

Unfortunately, he will go on, the government will not have enough money to continue with many other programs. Federal agencies will send out letters advising parents that because of the deadlock in Congress, student loans will be suspended. Other letters will advise seniors to make arrangements with banks for credit lines until their Social Security checks can resume. National panic will ensue.

A few weeks ago, the Republicans might have been able to withstand this. Then it was possible to argue that Americans are so fed up with runaway spending and unsustainable debt that they would support a party brave enough to put the country on a sound fiscal footing. After the Republican defeat in New York's 26th Congressional District, it is harder to argue that. After these results, 2012 looks more like a regular election — whichever party can be accused of cutting entitlements will get pummeled.

Already many consultants are telling Republicans to drop austerity and go back on offense: Spend 2012 accusing the Democrats of sponsoring death panels. The Democrats will spend 2012 accusing Republicans of ending Medicare. Whichever party demagogues best wins.

But, over the past few days, I've spoken with a number of Republicans — in Congress and elsewhere — who don't want to do that. They fervently believe the country is in peril. They want to find a way to reduce the debt without committing political suicide.

Doing that is a two-step process. First, Republicans have to make a grand offer on raising the debt ceiling. This offer should include a bipartisan commitment to reduce the growth of Medicare spending. Republicans need Democratic fingerprints on a plan to restrain entitlements. In exchange, Republicans should offer to raise tax revenues on the rich. They should get rid of the interest deductions on mortgages over $500,000 and on second homes. They should close corporate loopholes and cap the health insurance deduction. They should offer a plan that follows the outline of the Simpson-Bowles report and what the now "Gang of Five" in the Senate is working on. (Senator Mark Kirk has a proposal roughly on this latter point.)

Democrats may not agree to this offer. Since the election, Democrats have gone into the fiscal fetal position, hoping to offend no one while Republicans catch all the flak. This week, Senate Democrats voted on four separate budget proposals and not a single Democrat voted for a single one. Even President Obama's budget received zero votes. The Democrats don't want to be on record for any governing choice that might be painful.

Moreover, President Obama may use this occasion to pummel the Republicans mercilessly on Medicare, no matter what the consequences for the country.

But if the Republicans made an offer that included revenue increases, they would at least show they are willing to compromise to prevent a national catastrophe. And Democrats might take them up on it. Many Democrats understand the fiscal peril. Many Democrats don't want to go down in history as the people who did nothing while bankruptcy loomed.

More broadly, Republicans need to reconnect with the working class, the sort of people who live in upstate New York Congressional districts. Republicans won in 2010 because the working class fled from the Democrats' top-down big government liberalism. But these families have seen the pillars of their world dissolve — jobs, family structure, neighborhood cohesion. They understandably reject any new proposals that introduce even more risk and uncertainty into their lives. Republicans need to be the party of order, stability and steady growth.

They need to lay out the facts showing that Medicare is unstable and on a path to collapse, as Representative Paul Ryan is doing. But they also need to enmesh Medicare reform within an agenda to build solid communities: more money for community colleges and technical schools, an infrastructure bank, a values agenda to shore up marriage and family cohesion, tax holidays to help the unemployed start businesses, tax reform to limit special interest power.

The Boston Consulting Group foresees a manufacturing renaissance as Chinese wages rise and workers in low-cost states like Mississippi find they can compete once again. If Republicans can help foster that, and if they can cut a bipartisan deal that illustrates that we are all in this together, they can do good for the country while doing well politically. If not, it's the same old story: whoever is bravest on entitlements will lose.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OPED

AMERICA'S FORGOTTEN LIBERAL

BY RICK PERLSTEIN

Chicago

JANUARY was the 100th anniversary of Ronald Reagan's birth, and the planet nearly stopped turning on its axis to recognize the occasion. Today is the 100th anniversary of Hubert H. Humphrey's birth, and no one besides me seems to have noticed.

That such a central figure in American history is largely ignored today is sad. But his diminution is also, more importantly, an impediment to understanding our current malaise as a nation, and how much better things might have been had today's America turned out less Reaganite and more Humphreyish.

Our forgotten man was born in eastern South Dakota to a pharmacist, a trade the son took over after the family moved to Minnesota. That biographical fact was the source for the derisive title of a 1968 biography, "The Drugstore Liberal" — that is to say, like a "drugstore cowboy," a small-timer, not really a liberal at all, at a time, quite unlike our own, when a liberal reputation was a prerequisite for the Democratic presidential nomination. The unfairness was evident only in retrospect.

Humphrey made his national political debut in 1948 when, as mayor of Minneapolis and a candidate for Senate, he headed the Minnesota delegation to the Democratic National Convention. There he led a faction insisting the platform include a federal fair employment commission, a controversial goal of the civil rights movement.

Segregationist Southerners threatened to walk out, a move that could have paralyzed the entire fragile Democratic coalition and handed the White House to the Republicans. The Democrats' first presidential defeat in 16 years might have been laid at the feet of this ambitious 37-year-old.

Humphrey could have been excused for quietly backing down. Instead, the man who had earned the nickname the Happy Warrior gave one of the greatest speeches in American political history.

"To those who say this civil rights program is an infringement on states' rights," he thundered from the convention podium, "I say this: The time has arrived in America for the Democratic Party to get out of the shadow of states' rights and to walk forthrightly into the bright sunshine of human rights."

The motion carried. The Southerners walked out and ran Strom Thurmond for president. When Harry S. Truman won nonetheless, Democrats were on their way to becoming the party of civil rights. Hubert Humphrey catalyzed that change.

He joined the Senate as a tireless champion of expanding the New Deal, but the exigencies of power were not kind to his liberal reputation. In June 1964 he was instrumental in passing the landmark Civil Rights Act. That August, however, President Lyndon B. Johnson turned to Humphrey to broker another deal at a Democratic convention, this time playing the opposite role: selling out a group of Mississippi civil rights activists who had hoped to be seated as delegates instead of the racist "regular" Democrats.

It was part of Johnson's condition for making him his running mate: he wanted someone who would do what he said without question. Soon Vice President Humphrey was the spokesman for the president's unwise war in Vietnam. He took to the role partly out of loyalty, partly out of conviction: to a certain sort of old-line liberal like him, Vietnam was a crusade against imperialist expansionism. To younger "New Politics" Democrats, however, the war embodied the very opposite: a racist assault by an administration that was itself practically imperialist.

It was Humphrey's misfortune to inherit the presidential nomination in 1968, with the Democratic Party split down the middle between these factions — a tragedy sealed in blood, after Humphrey's faction won the convention, in the streets of Chicago; and at the ballot box, with Humphrey's agonizingly close loss to Richard M. Nixon in the general election.

The defeat came in part thanks to his refusal to denounce the disastrous war in a forthright and timely fashion, and in part thanks to the abandonment of the ticket by the New Politics liberals who called him a warmonger (often, heckling him on the campaign trail, to his face).

Was Humphrey really as hawkish as all that? Johnson didn't think so; he actually preferred that Nixon win the election. He didn't trust Humphrey to hold firm on the war.

Poor Humphrey could never catch a break. Resolutely committed to quiet coalition-building at a time when ideological self-righteousness was the new normal, resolutely unhip at a time when political hipness was at a premium, he was now not just a loser but an embarrassment. He came in second place for the 1972 nomination; the victor, the self-righteous but significantly more hip George S. McGovern, then came in a distant second to Nixon.

In the book by which many would remember that election, Hunter S. Thompson's "Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72," each mention of Humphrey drips with mocking vituperation. Here, then, to many, is the Humphrey of history: an also-ran, a sellout, a joke.

For progressives today, however, the joke's on us. In the 1970s the Democratic Party turned its focus from a New Deal-inspired politics of economic security toward a Watergate-inspired embrace of institutional reform. The move was explicitly anti-you-know-who: "We're not a bunch of little Hubert Humphreys," proclaimed Gary Hart, the leader of the "Watergate Babies" Democratic Congressional class of 1974.

Their reforms, however, largely failed in their intention to liberalize the nation. Conservatives and business interests were able to bend the new campaign finance rules and Congressional committee systems to their own ends. That, in turn, helped bring about what Paul Krugman calls the "Great Divergence": the economic inequality that has made a mockery of ordinary Americans' aspirations to join and stay in the middle class.

The trends were already in evidence during the presidential season of 1976. The only thing missing was any organized Democratic response among the candidates — besides, that is, Hubert Humphrey, who was once more an also-ran for the Democratic nomination.

Instead Humphrey, who had re-entered the Senate in 1971, spent the rest of the decade doggedly devising legislative solutions to the Great Divergence. His Balanced Growth and Economic Planning Act, introduced in May 1975, when unemployment was at a post-Depression high of 9 percent, proposed a sort of domestic World Bank to route capital to job creators. (It spoke to his conviction, in a knee-jerk, anti-corporate age, that pro-labor and pro-business policies were complementary.)

And at a time when other liberals were besotted with affirmative action as a strategy to undo the cruel injustices of American history, Humphrey pointed out that race-based remedies could only prove divisive when good jobs were disappearing for everyone. Liberal policy, he said, must stress "common denominators — mutual needs, mutual wants, common hopes, the same fears."

In 1976 he joined Representative Augustus Hawkins, a Democrat from the Watts section of Los Angeles, to introduce a bill requiring the government, especially the Federal Reserve, to keep unemployment below 3 percent — and if that failed, to provide emergency government jobs to the unemployed.

It sounds heretical now. But this newspaper endorsed it then, while 70 percent of Americans believed the government should offer jobs to everyone who wanted one. However, Jimmy Carter — a new kind of Democrat answering to a new upper-middle-class, suburban constituency, embarrassed by industrial unions and enamored with the alleged magic of the market — did not.

"Government cannot eliminate poverty or provide a bountiful economy or reduce inflation or save our cities or cure illiteracy or provide energy," President Carter said in his 1978 State of the Union address, a generation before Bill Clinton said almost the same thing, cementing the Democrats' ambivalent retreat from New Deal-based government activism.

Mr. Carter saw to it that only a toothless Humphrey-Hawkins law passed — one that made fighting inflation the government's implicit policy goal while the toll of high unemployment was given much lower priority.

Hubert Humphrey died of cancer on Jan. 13, 1978, a Happy Warrior to the end. "Sometimes I felt discouraged," his wife, Muriel, recalled, "but Hubert never did."

Argue against his supposed heresies if you will. But the post-1970s deregulatory consensus that replaced them, embodied as much by Reagan then as Robert E. Rubin today, has hardly done a great job either. With unemployment once again at 9 percent, inflation minimal, corporate profits at record levels even in the face of criminal perfidy by bankers, the trade deficit at $48.2 billion and racial resentment running as high as ever, shouldn't we perhaps spare a thought, on Hubert Humphrey's 100th birthday, for his road not taken?

Rick Perlstein is the author of "Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America."

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

DAVUTOĞLU MUST REIN IN HAMAS

SEMİH İDİZ

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said on more than one occasion he does not consider Hamas to be a terrorist organization. He is not alone in this internationally. Russia a key United Nation. Security Council Member is of the same opinion. Switzerland, on the other hand, has condemned terrorist acts by Hamas but this has not prevented Swiss officials from holding talks with members of the organization. The European Union for its part has designated Hamas as a terrorist organization, while Jordan, an Arab and overwhelmingly Muslim country, banned Hamas as far back as 1999.

As can be seen from this cursory list the picture is mixed. I am on record in this paper and elsewhere as saying I consider Hamas to be a terrorist organization. I believe the terror tactics it uses, which are no different to the tactics of the Israeli Irgun and Stern Gang, or Lehi, which were active prior to the founding of the state of Israel, amounts to terrorism pure and simple.

On the other hand any Israeli who denies that the Israeli groups I mentioned were not terrorist organizations has no right to consider Hamas a terrorist organization.  He or she also has to explain to the families of the over 90 people killed in the King David Hotel bombing as well as the massacre at Deir Yassin, where Menachem Begin is remembered for reasons other than the Nobel Peace Prize he got many years later, why these groups are something other than terrorist gangs.

Anyway this is not the issue here. The fact is just as Irgun and Lehi were part of the political equation at the time, Hamas is very much part of the political equation today, as many would argue the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, in Turkey is. This may not be to the liking of the Netanyahu government and the Israeli public, but it is a fact.

On the other hand it is clear Hamas has provided little to benefit the Palestinian people, who clearly did not elect it in 2006 so it would provide Israel with excuses to engage in brutality against them in the name of retaliation. Hamas has probably realized this today and this is likely to be one the factors, which pushed it into a rapprochement with Fatah, and into accepting Mahmoud Abbas as the sole negotiator of the Palestinians in any peace talks.

But this also makes it incumbent on Hamas to rein in its hotheads and ensure they do not engage in new terrorist acts against innocent Israeli men, women, and children. It also puts it in the position of ensuring, as the dominant power in Gaza, that other groups do not so.

The bottom line here is along with the dramatic changes underway in the Middle East, the position of the Palestinians is also changing. This was undoubtedly another reason forcing the rapprochement between Hamas and Fatah brought about by Egypt. 

Israel, together with regional dictators who all of a sudden see their futures as shaky, is of course, deeply concerned about what is happening in its region, and is making this more than apparent. The decision by the transitional military authorities in Egypt to open the Rafah border crossing with Gaza, subject to certain conditions, no doubt has only fueled this concern.

Needless to say it is ironic as a country that always boasted of being the only democracy in the region, along with Turkey, Israel is now deeply worried about the prospect of democracy coming to Arab countries, and especially to Egypt, where this form of government will reflect the will of the people, and not of user friendly dictators like Hosni Mubarak.

Prime Minister Netanyahu, on the other hand, demonstrated in the United States Congress a few days ago why we should not expect peace in the region any time soon,  despite his remarks that suggested unconvincingly he was ready to accept some new conditions.

Neither is it surprising that the Israel public, according to news reports, fully supported his position in Washington despite the difficulties it will cause with the Obama administration, which unlike Congress holds the constitutional right to conduct foreign policy as it sees right in the greater interests of the U.S., and free of "constituency concerns."

At any rate it is clear if Hamas, or any group in Gaza, were to continue terrorist attacks against Israelis in the current environment, it would play directly into the hands of today's radicalized Israel by providing it with the necessary excuse to not just derail any international peace efforts it does not like, but also to continue with disproportionate retaliations against Palestinians, as well as expanding settlements on lands that does not belong to it.

On the other hand it is more than apparent at this stage that there is no early rapprochement in the making between Turkey and Israel since the lines have firmly been drawn by the two governments. I said all along this was unlikely anyway as long at the present prevailing powers in the two countries remain in place.

This does not mean however Ankara can not, or should not, use its influence to try and curb in Hamas in terms of terrorist activities, and ensure that it respect its promise of letting President Abbas do the talking in an unencumbered way.

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu is always keen to highlight the influence Turkey, meaning himself and Erdoğan of course, has over Hamas, and has even suggested in so many words that it was he who was a prime mover in the Hamas-Fatah rapprochement, even if not every Arab diplomat in Ankara is of the same opinion.

But if he is as influential over Hamas as he maintains, and has very good ties with the organization's leadership then he should ensure this group behaves according to the highly sensitive needs of the day, rather than continuing with its armed Jihad against Israel.

He should also work to ensure that this organization accepts the right of Israel to exist, which will of course be very much in line with the fact that Turkey, the first Islamic country to recognize the state of Israel, acknowledges this fact.

On the other hand, the opening of the Rafah border crossing, albeit under specific conditions, also provides Mr. Davutoğlu with an argument now to convince the Humanitarian Relief Foundation, or İHH, which is sending the Mavi Marmara to Gaza again in June, there is no need to be provocative at such a delicate moment.

If he can also convince Hamas to free Private Gilad Shalid, then, you never know, Israel may even move towards acknowledging its mistake in killing nine Turks last year on the Mavi Marmara, even though this expectation appears no more than wishful thinking at this stage.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

YOU ARE BIZARRE – 'ACCORDING TO OUR BELIEFS' (II)

BURAK BEKDİL

I am quite relieved I am not the initiator of the latest controversy over polygamy in Islam, although I often question the wisdom of dogmatic interpretation of the Quran, requesting "moderate" Muslims give us a good reason why we should believe the verses that command abstinence from, for instance, alcohol are timeless and universal; but those that allow men to marry up to four wives may not be so. I am certain Sibel Üresin, the protagonist of the controversy, is not a reader of this column.

Ms. Üresin is a family consultant and life coach who conducts seminars on inter-family communication for Istanbul's conservative Justice and Development Party, or AKP-controlled municipalities. Herself a conservative Muslim, Ms. Üresin argues that: "Polygamy (for men only) exists in our religion… It is written in the Quran."

Ms. Üresin's practical solution is to legalize multiple official marriages because most (conservative) men already keep one official wife and up to three "imam-wed" (unofficial/religiously-wed) wives and legalizing polygamy would entitle such wives to their husband's property.

Ms. Üresin is correct that "up to four wives" is not a legend without basis: "And if you be apprehensive that you will not be able to do justice to the orphans, you may marry two or three or (up to) four women whom you choose. But if you apprehend that you might not be able to do justice to them, then marry only one wife, or marry those who have fallen in your possession (The Quran, 4:3)."

According to the timeless and universal Quran, therefore, Muslim men today have the right to practice polygamy. Also, scholars often interpret the clause "marry those who have fallen in your possession" as meaning slave-girls who were captured in a war. Men may "marry" them because slaves do not incur very much expense, at least not as much as free women do.

Abul Ala Maududi, a Sunni Pakistani journalist, theologian, Muslim revivalist leader and political philosopher and a prominent 20th-century Islamist thinker, paraphrases the meaning of that clause as: "If you need more than one wife but are afraid you might not be able to do justice to your wives from among the free people, you may turn to slave girls because in that case you will be burdened with less responsibilities."

But there is a complication, which makes the basis for the classical feminist/liberal Muslim interpretation that objects the idea of multiple marriages for men.

"It is not within your power to be perfectly equitable in your treatment with all your wives, even if you wish to be so; therefore, in order to satisfy the dictates of Divine Law, do not lean toward one wife so as to leave the other in a state of suspense (The Quran, 4:129)."

Moderates and stealth Islamists who are programmed to hide the not-so-modern aspects of dogmatic Islam would interpret 4:129 as canceling polygamy in 4:3. But there are tough questions they often find difficult to answer: How can Allah permit a practice in one verse and then fail to see a man's inability to carry it out in a later verse in the same sura? Why not prohibit polygamy altogether from the start if men, by nature, are incapable of treating all their wives equally?

In reply, your always unconvincing Islamist propagandist would start a lecture invariably beginning with the words "but in those times…," and go on with "so a better re-interpretation should be…" But the time-framing of verses is against the essential Quran teachings, at least the dogmatic ones. Also, with what authority could any mortal soul declare that some verses have an expiry date and others not?

If the verses about "spreading hatred among Christians until doomsday," "cursed Jews," "never make friends with Christians or Jews," "99 lashes for adulterers" and many others "reflect the social conditions of 14 centuries ago and we should not much bother about them," what guarantees that the verses on abstinence from pork and alcohol do not fall into the same category?

Ms. Üresin, unwillingly, has sparked a very useful debate. Legalizing multiple wives does not sound too bad. But since the secular state must be at an equal distance to every faith, and in democracies 0.00001 percent always equals 99.99999 percent, a million other practices too should be legalized and illegalized depending on the individual's choice of faith.

We can always start by pondering what to do when my Zinxist friend argues that his holy book, the Bibruq, considers minarets and church domes as symbols of arrogance against "his" God. For me, the problem is much less serious. I shall try to obey the holy orders and deprive myself from the fifth wife, or go seek girl-slaves somewhere.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

THE 'OTHER' MEDIA SHOULD NOT FALL INTO THE SAME TRAP AS WE DID

MEHMET ALİ BİRAND

Up until today I have written about the role of the secular media and its support for the past coups. I have discussed "our neighborhood." I have listed our mistakes.

Today, I want to speak about the ones that were suppressed while we were wandering around as the dominant power, the ones that were not accredited, their news sources limited, to say it more openly, the ones who were suffering; "the neighborhood from the other Turkey." I want to mention, "the media that supports the government."

Today they are the majority and they are dominant. I have noticed that past pains and concerns have not yet faded. They are supporting the government today without questioning just as we, once upon a time, supported the military without questioning anything. I see that today, the opposite neighborhood is repeating the mistakes we once did. The same lynch-like attitude, the same prejudice and exaggerated headlines. They are showing examples of a rather ideologically journalistic approach. Whereas, a Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who has reigned for eight years and who has overcome all the obstacles and fortified his position, should not be in need of this kind of approach.

My true fear is the scene we will face after June 12. A very strong Justice and Development Party, or AKP, government (the central media has already surrendered) would not want to hear even one voice of discord. Not purely happy about it, they would want more support from the media that is already on their side; they would want to interfere with everything, from words chosen in headlines to photos used.

This is inevitable.

In short, let us all get together and find a "middle way."

Let us not neither make destructive, exaggerated, blind opposition nor make efforts to look nice to the prime minister.

Let us not forget, prime ministers, chiefs of general staff come and go, but the media stays.

At least, let us protect common ethical values again a little bit. So that we don't regret things afterwards. 

They applaud Gül but don't do what he says

The echoes of U.S. President Barack Obama's last speech on the Middle East and Israel are still continuing. Washington, for the first time, has made such correct statements and started to overturn taboos about the developments in the region and about the policies of Israel that have now gone beyond being spoilt, that I ask myself, "Why did you wait so long before reaching this point?"

Then I went into my archive and reviewed Turkish President Abdullah Gül's statements starting from the Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers in Tehran in 2003, to his speech in Indonesia and several interviews he has given to Middle Eastern newspapers. 

Gül has been warning continuously.

He has brought it to their notice of both leaders of the region's countries and Israel.

I would like to give a few examples in a nutshell.

You are unable to meet the expectations of the people you are governing. People now yearn for basic rights and freedoms. Those regimes that cannot foresee the future, fearing fundamentalist groups, maintain their status quos and never opt for any reforms. In that case, they both face popular internal reactions and pave the way for external interventions. Those who claim that democracy and Islam cannot coexist should now see that they are wrong and accept the facts. Israel cannot survive with daily short-lived policies. The region is changing in all aspects. That approach wears both itself and the region. In a democratized Middle East, the Palestine issue can no longer continue as it is. Israel cannot live surrounded by those who hate it. Israel also has a right to live and it has to have that right.  

The messages were clear but landed on deaf ears 

When you read these warnings now and consider the democratic uprisings in the region, one says, "They must have applauded the speeches but none of them gave a thought on them. It landed on deaf ears…"

If the contrary were true, then they would have taken steps before reaching these points.

The biggest taboo Obama has toppled is indeed, Israel.

None of the U.S. presidents up to now had turned to Israel and said so bluntly that they should "pull back to their 1967 borders." Israel should now do some serious thinking.

None of the U.S. presidents up to now had turned to the dictators in the Middle East and said, "We will support democratic movements…" Panic has started among Arabs now, indeed.

Instead of just applauding Gül, if they had slightly lent an ear to him, they might not have been trapped in the difficult situations of today.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

SEX TAPES: WHOSE WORK IS IT?

YUSUF KANLI

There are some key questions ahead of Turkey as it heads to a crucial election.

Why is there such a concerted effort to tarnish the image of the Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, and push it below the anti-democratic 10 percent national electoral threshold?

Why all of a sudden have some penslingers of the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, started to be listed on newspaper front pages as probable names on the hit list of the separatist Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, terrorist gang?

Why are Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and other spokespersons of the ruling AKP so adamantly targeting and, indeed, confronting the Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, or the political wing of the PKK gang? Why has the AKP sometimes refused to meet with the main opposition Republican People's Party, or CHP, to discuss the so-called Kurdish opening even as it was meeting with the BDP and seeking its support in such endeavors? Why is the ruling party now acting as if it only just discovered for the first time the organic relationship between the BDP and the PKK? And why is it acting far more nationalist than the far-right MHP?

But, before anything else, perhaps we need to have answers to why the sex-tape plot was staged against Deniz Baykal; why he was forced to step down from leadership of the CHP; and how it happened that a political newcomer like Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu found himself sitting in the leadership chair of a party older than the Turkish republic?

Do we have answers to those questions? Yes, we might have some ideas, or we may indulge in some speculative discussion over those questions, but we need some more time perhaps before we have a better and clearer view of the picture which unfortunately has been so blurry for the time being.

Yet, an answer to the question of why the CHP, which was almost absent in most eastern and southeastern provinces, has started all of a sudden to find huge crowds at rally grounds in those regions may perhaps guide us to understand better the changing political equilibrium in this transforming country.

New Turkey, new parties

Indeed, the "transforming Turkey" description is the catchword. There is obviously a "New Turkey" and a "New CHP" and in that "New Turkey" while the AKP is no longer the "new reformist Islamist party" trying to carve out itself national and international legitimacy, the "New CHP" is becoming a hope not only as a probable government alternative but more so for the completion of the transformation of Turkey from the Cold War mentality – and obsessions – to a Turkey that has managed to overcome its democratization woes as well as integration with the global society of democracies.

Then, can we say the Baykal sex-tape was the trigger to achieve transformation in the CHP which was required to play such a crucial role in the transformation of Turkey? Who pulled the trigger then? A hand from inside Turkey, or an international network? Is there a link between what has happened to Baykal, how Kılıçdaroğlu ascended in politics and how the entire Middle East neighborhood is evolving through unrest, reforms or regime changes nowadays? Do we see some products of the so-called Greater Middle East and North Africa Project?

But, would there not be the danger of derailment for Turkey because of the absence of nationalists, to be more precise, the MHP, in Parliament at a time when Turkey is geared to transform itself into a stage where through some magical compromise the Kurdish problem and an absence of other perennial woes linked to the lack of democracy are all left behind? Don't we need the MHP more than ever in Parliament to achieve such painful national reconciliation? Or, would the absence of an important segment of the Turkish political spectrum not complicate and indeed endanger a resolution for the national and territorial integrity of Turkey?

Well, should Turkey overcome its democratization problems, and in the meantime the Kurdish issue and other minority problems, without impairing its integrity?

But, what is the connection of all this with the sex tapes that forced 10 senior members and parliamentary candidates of the MHP to step down?

If Baykal's going and Kılıçdaroğlu's coming has helped produce a more credible CHP tilting toward a real social democratic political line; if that new CHP has started to give hope that it might be an alternative to the AKP government, there is definitely a new situation.

Despite the Machiavellian mentality and the Goebbels-style methods they have been applying, the penslingers of the AKP are having difficulty in convincing people of the so-called collaboration of the nationalists, patriots and the separatists, or the so-called "Slivri-Kandil line." The prime minister and his penslingers are losing their credibility as people are increasingly worried about the possibility of a spread of urban violence, as in the case of Thursday's bomb in the upmarket Etiler neighborhood of Istanbul.

But, if the MHP sex tapes aim at bringing about a "new MHP," to what purpose would that serve? If Devlet Bahçeli has successfully pulled the MHP from the streets ever since he took over the party's leadership, does the power that pulled the trigger on the MHP sex-tape plots want the MHP to take to the streets again like the 1970s?

What purpose would that serve?

Should I vote for the MHP?

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 I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

COST OF WAR

 

While images of the aftermath of terrorist attacks remain rooted in our minds, we tend to remember less often that the war is also hurting us in other ways and leaving wounds that ooze constantly. According to a report in this newspaper, the Economic Survey for the Fiscal Year 2010-11, to be released soon by Finance Minister Hafeez Shaikh, will show that since Pakistan allied itself with the US after the events of 9/11 2001, it has suffered a colossal loss of $68 billion due to the war. According to statistics recorded till April 2010, the country suffered 8,141 incidents of terrorism – many more have occurred since then. In return, the country has received only $15 billion to $17 billion in assistance, at an average of some $374 million a year. It doesn't take an expert to establish the strain this places on the economy. This is a matter Pakistan needs to take up urgently with its allies. It should gain encouragement in this from the remarks by British Prime Minister David Cameron at a joint press conference with President Barack Obama in London that Pakistan is needed if the war is to be won. President Obama has said much the same himself. The question that arises then is why Pakistan has not been receiving the help it needs. The links between poverty, deprivation and terror have been well established. Only sustained economic growth can rescue people from this vicious cycle. The huge cost of war can only make development and empowerment all the more difficult to offer to people, especially given the many resource constraints that already exist.


Pakistan should be able to put its case more forcefully before a world that acknowledges its crucial role in the war on terror. The issue of lack of trust is one that, under the circumstances, simply cannot be ignored. It has come up before. It is clear that there is a reluctance to hand over large sums of money to the government. The reasons for this are hardly secret. Even aid for reconstruction work in the northern areas has frequently been channelled through semi-autonomous bodies. Pakistan needs to address such issues as it devises strategies for a war it has been engaged in for almost a decade, with limited help from the outside.

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

SCORCHING HIKE

 

As temperatures continue to rise across the country, there are reports that in the summer months of June and July, the government is planning to push up the power tariff by over a rupee per unit. In addition, gas prices are to go up by around five rupees per unit for Sui Southern Gas Company Limited consumers and seven rupees for those utilising gas provided by its sister company in the north. This 'double whammy' would push up household expenditures by thousands in a season when power consumption in particular is at its highest. Citizens also face up to 20 hours of loadshedding but still end up with bills they cannot afford to pay. This is all the more true given that they struggle to earn a livelihood, in many cases as a direct result of the power cuts.

Not so long ago, the prime minister had made an assurance that any power-tariff rise would not take place unless loadshedding was controlled. This was yet another empty promise. Gas loadshedding continues in parts of Punjab and protests over the power situation in particular have been staged in many places. But the suffering of people is obviously immaterial to our leaders and no one is ready to hear them let alone respond to their increasingly desperate cries for help, with more hardship being added to the formidable burden they already bear.

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

SECURITY DRIFT

 

 It may come as a surprise to many but Pakistan has a National Counter-Terrorism Authority (Nacta) that was set up in late 2009 and part of whose brief was to 'chalk out a national counterterrorism plan after consultation with all stakeholders.' Nacta had the support of the president and the prime minister and a funding commitment from the European Union. Sadly, Nacta has yet to become functional because of a dispute over who it should be accountable to. This is particularly galling in light of recent events as Nacta should have been the point agency to formulate a national strategy to counter the terror that strikes us almost daily. Had it been functional it would have had a place at the table in the meeting of the Defence Committee of the Cabinet on Wednesday. This was the seventh meeting of the DCC to be triggered by a terrorist attack and the government has so far failed to come up with even a sketch map of what a national anti-terrorism strategy might look like, and Wednesday's moot did not advance the cause of national security by very much either.

While it is possible that we are not being told the whole story, statements emanating from the meeting are a cold collation of hollow rhetoric designed more to soothe and smooth than actually tackle the problem head-on. We are told that coordinated efforts would be made to prevent and preempt acts of terrorism. Is that so? And if it is, why were such efforts not being made before? We are told that "defence and law-enforcement agencies will be authorised to use all means necessary to eliminate terrorists and militants." Is that so again? Is that not what they were supposed to be doing anyway with so much being spent annually on defence and security agencies? A small group of determined men just punched a huge hole in our maritime defences. Perhaps those at the helm of affairs could try and understand why people expect something much more meaningful than empty rhetoric about fighting terrorism. Investigations have been ordered, reports commissioned, enquiries made and the nation is no closer to a unified counterterrorism strategy that it was before the DCC meeting started. We drift up to our ankles in our own blood. And the terrorists? They get on with their 'planning'.

 

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I,THE NEWS

OPINION

CAN WE POSSIBLY LEARN SOMETHING FROM ISRAEL?

AYAZ AMIR

 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's address to the joint sitting of the US Congress should be compulsory viewing for Pakistan's political and military class, even at gunpoint should that be necessary.

For the one overwhelming thing it will tell us is that you don't have to be strident to be patriotic and being civilised does not amount to surrendering what we in our jungle of myth and emotion label as national dignity.

Netanyahu was standing before the assembled Congress only a few days after President Barack Obama's declaration that for a viable peace in the Middle East, Israel should return to its 1967 borders, with minor adjustments. The task before Netanyahu was to rubbish this proposal.

He did it with such extraordinary beauty and finesse that he had the joint session eating from his hands. I have never watched a spectacle like this, the US legislators standing up time and again – I think no less than 20 times – to give him standing ovations.

I had no idea Netanyahu was such an orator. He was using words and images and symbolism attuned not to an Israeli audience but the crowd before him and his audience loved it. Obama's proposal is all but dead, for the time being at least, and Netanyahu performed the funeral rites with an aplomb that has to be admired.

In Pakistan we have a problem. We either give the impression of sucking up to the Americans or nursing some kind of terminal hostility towards them. If we have to spread a carpet for them we go all the way. But if we mount the high horse of super-nationalism we start sputtering inanities about national honour and dignity.

Israeli leaders don't go red in the face talking about national sovereignty. They just stand up for what they consider to be their national interest even in the face of the strongest American pressure. Netanyahu has embarrassed the present US administration by not retreating an inch on the question of Israeli settlements on the West Bank. But addressing the US Congress he was all sugar and honey, giving an impression as if there was not the slightest problem with the administration.

Agreed Pakistan is not Israel and there is nothing like the Jewish lobby scouting and defending for Pakistan. Still, there is a way of doing business with the US, as indeed with any other power. And that is by speaking in a language the other side understands and, in the case of the US, by pitching Pakistani interests and concerns in a manner persuasive to American ears.

There is an elementary lesson in international relations to be imbibed here. The world has to be taken as it is, not as we would like it to be. Love or hate the US, you can't ignore it. No country in the world can afford this luxury.

We have had a strong relationship with the US dating back to the 1950s. This should have enabled us to play American sensibilities, if not with Israeli virtuosity, at least with something comparable. Instead we seem to have acquired an expertise in something quite the opposite: feeding the mills of a needless anti-Americanism.

We can't do without the US...our armed forces certainly can't. But because of an inner craving, yet to be properly analysed, we can't do without mounting the housetops and denouncing the US, for some sins real and some quite imaginary. The louder we perform this feat the more energised we feel.

This gets us nowhere. When Americans listen to us and juxtapose images of jihad and Al Qaeda with what they hear, they can be forgiven for thinking this is some kind of a crazy country. There was a time when this craziness suited them, as in the first Afghan 'jihad'. They exploited our capacity for sentry duty and the loudest of our current patriots – like my friend Gen Hamid Gul – were the foremost in flowing with the current. Just as the military patriots of today showed few signs of rebellion when Musharraf allied himself to the US a bit too hurriedly post Sep 2001.

Mercifully, there is a growing feeling that we made mistakes in the past. But this recognition should not mean swinging to the other extreme and seeking solace in anti-Americanism...and pinning the blame for all our failures on American shoulders. Between toadying up to a superpower and fanning the flames of hostility against it, there should be some middle ground.

The myth being promoted by the religious parties and Imran Khan that the terrorism stalking Pakistan is a product of American policies could do with a reality check. The American presence in Afghanistan has fuelled the fires of holy war. This I think would be granted on all sides. But Al Qaeda's presence in Pakistan, Fata as a haven for foreign fighters allied to Al Qaeda, and the growth of religious extremism in Pakistan – helped by the explosive growth of religious madressahs across the length and breadth of the country – predate America's Afghan adventure.

Even if the Americans hadn't come into this region our problem with religious extremism would have remained. And it is wishful to think our military establishment would have easily discarded the notion of 'jihad' as an instrument of strategy and foreign policy. While those theories still survive – fallacies such as those cultivated over the years by our military minds not easily uprooted – the freedom to pursue them was severely curtailed by our US alliance post-2001. We could no longer do as we pleased. The situation had changed.

But since old habits die hard, we continued to play our favourite double games, being one with the Americans and at the same time not wholly cutting our various 'jihadi' connections. After Osama bin Laden's discovery and death this has become a difficult act to keep up. Beyond the embarrassment he has caused us, the Sheikh at least has done us this small favour.

So maybe, just maybe, the US invasion of Afghanistan saved us from the destiny towards which we seemed bent on hurtling: the Somalisation of Pakistan, Pakistan becoming another Somalia. Our tragedy was not that we were helpless before the forces of extremism. We were quite capable of crushing them. It was that the most powerful elements of the Pakistani state – and you get my meaning – were themselves getting imbued with the flavour and ideology of extremism. This link between extremism and the state has been sundered, or at least it has come under pressure, because of the American presence in and around us. This is the larger picture, I think. The rest are details.

We keep saying the Pakistani state should change. Our wish-list is long but on its own it won't come true. Left to its own devices our state and its military machine are incapable of changing, incapable of discarding their most cherished beliefs. The military cannot give up its India-centrism or its expectations of Afghan glory. It will not easily relax its stranglehold on national resources. Moving decisively against the forces of internal religious extremism may be a challenge our governing class may have little stomach to undertake.

So let us thank the furies for Pakistan no longer being wholly its own master. This may be the best thing to have happened to it in recent years, for it opens up a new range of possibilities.

Just as Germany on its own was incapable of de-Nazification, we on our own may be incapable of detoxification. Let us not forget that the subversion of Jinnah's Pakistan has been our most successful endeavour over the last 63 years. To reclaim that idea, to salvage something from the wreckage of our dreams, we could do with all the help from the stars that we can get. So much for national sovereignty.



Email: winlust@yahoo.com

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

PAKISTANIS WANT A BETTER FUTURE, JUST LIKE US

CYNTHIA P SCHNEIDER AND AAKIF AHMAD


As Americans try to decipher where the Pakistan government, military and intelligence services stand in the fight against extremists, ordinary Pakistanis are busy trying to make their country a better place. In many cases they do his in spite of, or, to put it more kindly, in lieu of their bureaucracy.


But how could the average American know that Pakistan has an incredibly vibrant civil society? Our news is wall-to-wall Pakistan, but search for something about daily life (outside the neighbourhood of Osama bin Laden's compound) and you will come up empty-handed.


Some polls say about 68 percent of Americans and Pakistanis distrust the other. The way Americans and Pakistanis view one another today will not change on its own. But change it must, because the third and sixth most populous countries in the world have significant strategic and demographic reasons to build a constructive long-term partnership.

"When we say we hate America, it is never the people." This is how a student from LUMS (Lahore University of Management Sciences, an elite American-style university) opened a recent conversation in Lahore. He and other people we met had no trouble distinguishing between government policies and the people of a country.

In February, at the height of the controversy surrounding Raymond Davis, the CIA contractor who shot two Pakistanis during what he asserted was a robbery, we travelled to Lahore with 15 other Americans in various fields seeking Pakistani partners to develop civil society initiatives that would add value on both sides. Over three days we argued, laughed, listened and learned.

By the end of the meeting, participants had conceived more than a dozen partnership ideas, including a web-based "sister-schools" program between sixth, seventh and eighth graders, several collaborations among colleges and universities, and initiatives in farming, dairy, irrigation and "sister-cities."


With plans to meet five more times in the next three years, this "US-Pakistan Leaders Forum" will seek to develop cooperation in areas such as entrepreneurship, women's empowerment, health, social services, energy, trade, media, culture and governance.


Despite the prevailing winds of anti-Americanism, Pakistani leaders in business, nonprofits, education, agriculture, media and technology felt the partnership building we sought was long overdue, and urgently needed. Many Pakistanis recall an era of constructive civil society relationships with the United States, and want to build new ones.


Among our Pakistani counterparts there was a consensus that corruption had become institutionalised at all levels of Pakistan's government. Their response? To take up the slack, and develop civil society solutions.


Before Egyptian youth were cleaning up Tahrir Square, the Pakistani youth organisation Zimmedar Shehri (Responsible Citizen) was galvanising citizens of Lahore to take responsibility for the cleanliness of their historic city and clean up the garbage in the streets.


Private citizens and organisations are trying to compensate for the dire state of education in Pakistan. According to one participant, as many as 30 percent of Pakistani children have no school to attend, while another 30 percent go to public schools that don't have books, where buildings are falling apart and teachers hardly ever show up.


Pakistan's solution will sound familiar to Americans: charter schools, or privately run schools that are open to the public. Take for example, Seema Aziz, co-founder of the Bareeze clothing line and retail chain. She not only provides and raises funds for education, but also runs an organisation that manages more than 200 schools supporting 150,000 kids.


Another group, the Citizen's Foundation, operates schools that accommodate 100,000 students in urban slums and rural Pakistan. These leaders speak passionately about every child deserving a quality education, and like many of their counterparts, both Aziz and the Citizen's Foundation have a strong focus on creating educational opportunity for girls.


Our American colleagues were impressed with the creativity, entrepreneurship and can-do attitude of the Pakistanis they met. From the conference table to the local farm, school and village shop, values Americans hold dear were on display in Pakistani society.


As long as the Pakistani government is beset by corruption and the threat of extremism, it cannot be expected to serve as the best partner for US aid, private or public. But there are so many other options, and there are hopeful signs that the Pakistani population is open and receptive to American initiatives that add value.


Just ask anyone from Pakistan what music they listen to, and chances are that they will answer "Coke Studio." Coca-Cola sponsors a popular television series that records innovative mixes of traditional and pop music. According to one Pakistani we met, "Coke helps keep music alive in Pakistan."


Let's not confuse Pakistan's population of 180 million with the government or military. Not only do the Pakistani people want the same things we do – education, economic opportunity, justice, rule of law – but they are working hard, often in the private sphere, to achieve them. They are ready for partnerships; let's meet them halfway.

The article first appeared on the CNN website.

 

Cynthia P Schneider, a former US ambassador to the Netherlands, is a professor of diplomacy, and a senior nonresident fellow at the Brookings Institution. Aakif Ahmad is vice president and co-founder of Convergence, a firm delivering consensus-based solutions to issues of national and international policy.

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

THE GAPS IN THE NARRATIVE

DR MUZAFFAR IQBAL


The standard narrative of the Pakistan-US relationship always goes back to Liaquat Ali Khan's so-called historic visit to the United States in May 1950, but there are gaps in that narrative which have never been filled. While it is true that Liaquat Ali Khan received a very warm welcome, it is seldom mentioned that this was due to the foresight of President Harry S Truman, who saw opportunities in Pakistan against the Soviet Union with which the United States was locked in a cold war. Truman eagerly cultivated his relationship with the emerging country.

Despite his warmth for the Americans, however, Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan did not sell out Pakistan to the United States; he remained focused on pursuing a semi-nonalignment foreign policy in a world where the two superpowers were forcing nations to side with them. When North Korea attacked pro-American South Korea, Pakistan condemned the attack, but refused to send Pakistani combat troops to join the UN force on the Korean Peninsula. The next major test for Liaquat Ali Khan came when the United States demanded that he use his influence over Iran for the US efforts to secure the transfer of Iranian oilfields; Liaquat declined the request. The United States then threatened to withdraw its support for Pakistan's Kashmir cause. Liaquat Ali Khan responded by asking the United States to evacuate Pakistani airbases. This was a bombshell in Washington.

Liaquat Ali Khan was mysteriously assassinated on Oct 16, 1951, while addressing a public meeting at Company Bagh, Rawalpindi. The police immediately shot the assassin, who was later identified as Said Akbar Babrak, and who was well-known to the police as a professional assassin. This assassination was a turning point in Pakistan-US relations, because after Liaquat, the rest of the politicians were merely fake coins in Jinnah's pocket, as he himself described them. The focus of America's Pakistan policy now shifted to Pakistan's military, and since that first coup in 1958, there has never been a break in this military-dominated relationship. There has never been a political leader who could wrest Pakistan free of US influence. Z A Bhutto is said to have tried and paid the price for his attempt to regain political control over the Pakistan-US relationship.

Since 1958, it has always been the Pakistani military which has decided the main contours of the Pakistan-US relationship. Pakistan's weak politicians have been a junior partner in selling Pakistan to the United States. The US, on its part, has invested billions of dollars to buy Pakistan through various programmes which take Pakistan's future military leaders to America for "training." What these people receive in America is a very low level of military training and a strong dose of American values and way of life, and they often return brainwashed. They become convinced that Pakistan's interests can only be protected by its remaining a satellite of the great superpower. What they learn by way of military training is obvious from the three terrible defeats Pakistan's army has suffered in its wars.


An alarming view of how Americans have remained focused in their effort to buy Pakistan through their relationship with the military is provided by the recently leaked US cables. In cable number 153436, then US ambassador to Pakistan Anne Patterson wrote after her address to the National Defence University (NDU) in Islamabad that she had received "astonishingly naive and biased questions about America." She lamented that America has lost "a generation of military officers who did not receive training in the United States during the sanction years when the International Military Education and Training programmes was discontinued. We need, in particular, to target the 'lost generation' of Pakistan military who missed IMET opportunities during the sanctions years," Ms Patterson stressed. The "sanctions years," in this case, are apparently the years during which the Pressler sanctions were effective. "The elite of this crop of colonels and brigadiers are receiving biased NDU training, with no chance to hear alternative views of the US. Given the bias of the instructors, we also believe it would be beneficial to initiate an exchange programme for instructors," Ms Patterson noted.

In the current climate, one is not even allowed to wonder aloud about American ambassadors, who seem more like American spies. But at least one can say out loud what is already known through cable No.153436: An American colonel by the name of Michael Schleicher was actually allowed to attend a course at NDU. He then had a meeting at the embassy where he provided his insights: "The senior-level instructors had misperceptions about US policies and culture and infused their lectures with these suspicions, while the students share these misconceptions with their superiors despite having children who attended universities in the US or London." Col Schleicher told the embassy's political officer. "Students in the junior course, too, shared many of the biases prevalent in the Muslim world, including a belief the US invaded Iraq for its oil and that 9/11 was a staged 'Jewish conspiracy,' " according to Col Schleicher. In contrast to criticism of the US, students and instructors were adamant in their approval of all things Chinese, the cable adds.


Americans are deciding who rules Pakistan's various state institutions, they have their eyes set on the emerging army officers, they influence decisions about where Pakistan's military should next fight their war of terror, and they have the entire political leadership in their pocket as the Wiki cables have clearly established. Yet, Col Schleicher is still worried that "of the 135 senior course students, only two openly drank alcohol." But he has something else for us: "The Pakistani military students appeared to come from wealthy families or from military families and were proud they received amenities, including private quality schools and good healthcare, as an incentive to stay in the military. Officers at the brigadier rank touted their privileges, including a house, car, and a driver. The NDU students also obtained financial perks, such as a free trip for a pilgrimage that could be taken at the end of the class's official travels."


Let us conclude by stating another obvious fact: Pakistan is now an American colony.

 

The writer is a freelance columnist. Email: quantumnotes@gmail.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

ISRAEL AND PEACE

I HUSSAIN


 President Obama has stirred up a hornet's nest by indicating that the pre-1967 war borders between Israel and the neighbouring Arab states should serve as a basis for peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. His comments have evoked fierce criticism from his opponents in the Republican Party and Israel's supporters in the US especially the powerful American lobby, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). (According to noted political science professors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt who wrote a path breaking book on Israeli lobbies in the US, AIPAC "has a stranglehold on Congress".)


This negotiating formula is by no means new since Resolution 242 of the United Nations, which was adopted by the Security Council in November 1967, explicitly asks for the withdrawal of Israeli forces from territories occupied as a result of the June 1967 war. While what he said was by no means novel, Obama's mentioning it in a key policy speech has generated an outcry from Israel and its American supporters who have long suspected the president as being biased in favour of Muslims (or at least of not being sufficiently pro-Israeli like previous US presidents) because his Kenyan grandfather and father were Muslims, as was his Indonesian step-father.

Refusing to back off in view of the charges made by leading Republican contenders that he had "thrown Israel under the bus", Obama instead doubled down on his suggestion when addressing AIPAC's membership last week. This occurred a day or two after he had received a talking down from the Israeli Prime Minister Nethanyahu on live television. Those watching the television clips of the White House meeting between the two leaders could not but have scratched their heads wondering whether any other country's head of government would have been so brazen and/or foolhardy as to address the US president in such a patronising manner – more akin to a school teacher chiding an inattentive pupil for not getting it than a meeting between two heads of allied countries one of whom just happened to be the most powerful man in the world, albeit in a curious role reversal.

President Obama recognises what many Israelis cannot bring themselves to do which is that Israel's continued existence as a Zionist state depends not so much on its military superiority and its annexation of the territories seized as a result of the 1967 war (along with the Jewish settlements subsequently established thereon) but its acceptance of a peace deal that guarantees a viable state for the Palestinians based on the pre-June 4, 1967 borders.

The president referred in his address to the changing demographics of the Middle East and the flowering of nascent democracies as a result of the "Arab spring" but what has made Israel's implacable opposition to any peace agreement untenable is one that the president referred to only in passing in his AIPAC speech. This is that ongoing changes in technology have made a peace agreement essential not only for satisfying the Palestinian demand for statehood but for Israel's own long term survival.


What President Obama hinted at but did not spell out was essentially this: In a world where military technology leaks, either legally or surreptitiously, is any country really safe? Even the US with its massive spending on 'homeland security' is deeply concerned about nightmare scenarios such as the smuggling of a "dirty bomb" into the country. How many people are willing to go along with the supposition that Israel will be the only country in the region to have a monopoly of nuclear weapons and missiles to deliver them ten years from now? It is worth mentioning that recent news reports suggest that the cost of producing a nuclear warhead that can raze a medium sized city and vaporise its inhabitants has been reduced considerably thanks to the "experience curve". This makes nuclear technology more affordable for any country determined to join the nuclear club as no doubt will happen despite the US and Israel's best efforts to prevent this.


President Obama recognises the changed political scenario in the Middle East and wants to be the transformative president who brought about a genuine peace in that troubled region. In essence, he is underlining that security comes from a durable peace between the parties that is just and mutually acceptable rather than one which is one-sided and imposed. Like many previous American presidents, he will in all likelihood fail at this formidable task because of the odds stacked against him; he may even fail to get re-elected because of his position on this issue. On the other hand, if he were miraculously to succeed he would thoroughly deserve the Nobel Peace Prize which he was awarded, even by his own reckoning, prematurely.


Impartial observers recognise that the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will reduce terrorism significantly since a major recruiting tool for Al-Qaeda and other terrorist organisations is the inhumane treatment by Israel of the Palestinian people and the denial of their fundamental human rights. Indeed former US President Bill Clinton recently speculated that up to 50 percent of the incidents of international terrorism could be attributed to the long festering Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Many countries are undoubtedly sympathetic to the claims of establishing an independent Palestinian state so we may well witness, in the forthcoming UN General Assembly session in September, an overwhelming vote in favour of an independent Palestinian state despite opposition from the US and Israel.

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

FLIGHT OF HONOUR

SHAFQAT MAHMOOD

 

The trophy for the most ridiculous statement of the year goes to Admiral Noman Bashir. If the attack on the naval base was a security success, then please tell us Admiral, what failure looks like.


Words are not enough to describe the courage of those who died fighting in the line of duty. These young men and women give hope that there is a future for the country.


With tears streaming down, one heard the brave words of the late Lt Yasir Abbas' mother. These sacrifices by the youth of the country in the armed forces, the police, and the paramilitary outfits, shine like shooting stars in the night skies of our despair.


It is the greying old men, clinging like leeches to their positions of power, that add to the ferocity of our anguish. Will no one ever take responsibility? Is there no honour left to admit failure and leave? And, in doing so, reassure us that there is still some nobility left in this country despite its troubles!


This dithering civil leadership, burdened by its corruption and incompetence, has no stomach to seek any accountability. There are so many skeletons rattling in its cupboard that its fears far outweigh its responsibilities.

In these terrible times, the country is ruled by a tainted cabal. The saddest part is that the glue holding them together is not some higher national interest, but greed and avarice. This poor benighted country has given them so much, far beyond its means, but it is not enough. They want more.


The democratic shield, behind which the ruling class hides, is beginning to wear thin. If a consensus resolution of a joint sitting of parliament, calling for an independent commission of inquiry into the Abbottabad incident remains unimplemented, then what kind of a democracy is this?


We have grown tired hearing again and again the mantra of parliament's supremacy. Not because there is no desire for it, the people want their representatives to be the ultimate arbiters of their fate. But, because it always appears to be a farce – a form of deception to cover the plunder of the state.


The attitude of the rulers towards parliamentary diktats is a testimony to this. Why has an independent commission still not been formed? Again, I repeat, the purpose of it should not be to malign the armed forces but to look into lapses and failures.


There is no need to make the report entirely public either, but an independent inquiry would at least ensure that the lapses are not repeated. And if there is a command failure, at whatever level, the person concerned can discreetly bow out so that others following know that lack of vigilance will not be tolerated.


If we gloss over failures, we will never be able to self correct. A vast, indeed overwhelming, majority of officers and other ranks in the armed forces are dedicated to their duty. They are ready to sacrifice everything, including their lives, to protect this nation. But those who falter and then refuse to take responsibility have no business remaining in positions of authority.


It is also important, indeed an imperative, that the armed forces dedicate themselves totally to operational preparedness. All other activities should be minimized, if not finished altogether. It was sad to hear that the air force's Faisal base, which has a common perimeter with the navy's Mehran base, was freely accessible because of a marriage hall.


This sort of thing has to end. It is not the primary business of the armed forces to run commercial outlets, business enterprises or housing colonies. Welfare activities are important but they should be separated from the fighting arms.


It does no good to our defence ability if senior commanders spend a fair amount of time looking after house affairs or other such activities. If some of these are necessary for soldier welfare then let a separate organisation take care of them, and the military has many of them. Those assigned by the nation to protect it, should dedicate themselves entirely to that job.


It is true that with the world looking questioningly at us, we must stand by our armed forces and our intelligence agencies. They represent the only defence capability we have and it does no good to jump on them brandishing spears.

But supporting the armed forces is one thing and asking those who failed in their duty to take responsibility is quite another. Without accountability, there would be a general decline in overall performance. If people start to feel that come hell or high water, no one can touch them, it leads to complacency and lethargy.


Recent events also indicate serious flaws in our counterterrorism response. By default, this has become the domain of Inter Services Intelligence, which has enough on its plate already. While it should continue to play a supporting role, just as every other intelligence agency and indeed all other government organisations, there is a need to bring all our efforts into focus through a dedicated counterterrorism agency.


The government had created something called the National Counter Terrorism Agency but it never got off the ground. Neither the government nor the armed forces gave it much importance, with the result that it has withered away. Its first director, Tariq Pervaiz, a highly qualified police officer, resigned in disgust and left.


This has to be revived. It is, as should be, a civilian agency that must have the authority and the support to coordinate and receive all possible information on terrorists. It does not help the military to keep all eggs in its own basket. It only adds to public disaffection with it when things go wrong.


Also, the entire talent of the nation be it in civil government, the private sector or the military, needs to be harnessed to fight this serious counterterrorism war that we are in. Such an agency would make this possible. There are many brilliant officers with extensive experience in police work, who should be part of it besides specialists from the military and the private sector.


This outfit, if supported, could emerge as a smaller version of the homeland security department in the United States that has brought many state agencies under its wing to defeat terrorism. It is no coincidence that since 9/11 there has been no significant terror attack in the US. We would do well to take a leaf out of their experience and improve our performance.


This has been a very painful time for those who have lived long enough to remember better days in this country. Every morning we now wake up to one horror story after another. Things that one could never have imagined are happening here. There is no other remedy than to take a searching look at everything we are doing and put together a national strategy for survival.

Is there anyone in this great land who will stand up and take responsibility?


Email: shafqatmd@gmail.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

SIDE-EFFECT

HARRIS KHALIQUE

 

Shahab Khattak (advocate) is a comrade-in-arms who lives in Peshawar. He related a telephonic conversation between a father and a son the other day. Father: "So when are you coming back son?" Son: "Soon Father soon. You must now stop baking breads in the tandoor (oven). You should relax, meet friends and devote yourself to social activities only. By the grace of Almighty, my training is over and I am now to be a permanent member of the Frontier Constabulary (FC). Today, I and my friends feel as if it were Eid."


This was the last exchange between the aging father and his young son who was killed in the attack on fresh FC recruits last week that took 80 lives in Shabqadar, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. One in a series of continued attacks on civilians and soldiers by Taliban or related extremist outfits but massive in terms of heavy loss of life in a single incident.

The mourning for Shabqadar had just begun when PNS Mehran in Karachi was attacked by the same people causing enormous damage to the assets of Pakistan Navy besides the loss of lives of personnel belonging to the navy and rangers. The young lieutenant from Lahore, Yasir Abbas, and his soldiers put up a brave fight when they were confronted by the terrorists after the security lapse at PNS Mehran and PAF Base Faisal within which it is housed.


There may be technical incompetence involved in all or many episodes of soldiers, policemen, innocent civilians and important installations being successfully hit. Incompetence, negligence or betrayal from within the ranks if found has to be eliminated. But that is not the trigger for these attacks. Pakistan is at war. It is at war on multiple fronts. The first is against Al-Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban. It is allied with 38 other countries fighting international terrorists in Afghanistan under a UN resolution, unlike the war in Iraq. The two wars are different although both were supported by Saudis and some other Arab countries.


On the other front, Pakistan is supposed to fight the international terrorists taking refuge on its own side of the border. That remains a bone of contention between our military and the US-led forces fighting in Afghanistan. They see our land being used for regrouping and planning for fresh attacks on their soldiers and Afghan institutions.

Lastly and most importantly, war is waged against the state and people of Pakistan by the local terrorists. These are the terrorists Pakistani establishment was complacent about for reasons known to all. But they are now aligned with international terrorists and in their own perception, fighting for a greater cause. The cause is to gain control of Pakistan itself. Swat is a case in point where the terrorists entered into a pact with the state and then flouted it in no time. The internal front is the most crucial for the survival of the country.


Those still saying that this is not our war are either naïve or deliberately insulting the martyrs of Shabqadar and PNS Mehran. Jamaat-e-Islami, JUI-F and the likes are to be condemned in unequivocal terms for providing legitimacy to terrorism by offering prayers for Osama. Master of confusion Imran Khan with his designer PTI was agitating in Karachi against drone strikes on the Haqqani network in North Waziristan when PNS Mehran was hit. What he doesn't get is that the citizens of Pakistan are not a trophy to be lifted in the final competition of a spectator sport played in a dozen out of 200 countries.




The writer is an Islamabad-based poet, author and public policy advisor. Email: harris.khalique@ gmail.com

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

DCC COMES OUT WITH NEEDED RESOLVE

 

AS a joint investigation team has been constituted to look into different aspects of the terrorist attack on naval airbase and base commander changed (though Pakistan Navy has surprisingly denied it is linked in any way to the unfortunate incident, which is being described as utter security failure), the Defence Committee of the Cabinet (DCC) also deliberated at length as to what happened and how to prevent such attacks in future. The resolve expressed by the top civilian and military leadership to fight out the menace of terrorism and spare no efforts in this regard is need of the hour and would send the right message to foreign funded and trained terrorists.

The determination of the policy and decision-makers to launch pre-emptive strikes on sanctuaries and hide outs of the militants and make coordinated efforts against the war on terror, if implemented in the same spirit, would help minimise the threat. It is understood that recent terrorist attacks are in retaliation to the killing of Osama bin Laden and there are apprehensions that more such attacks are in the offing. Though OBL was killed by the United States in an operation which Washington kept secret from Pakistani authorities but Pakistan is the easy target for the terrorists, as they can't do anything worthwhile against Americans who have chosen to fight the war thousands of miles away from their homeland on our soil and that of Afghanistan. We have also seen that instead of helping Pakistan out of the existing mess, our so-called friends are exploiting the situation to put more pressure and malign the country on this or that account including its resolve to take upon militants and its ability to safeguard its nuclear assets. Seen in this backdrop, the mere pronouncements of the DCC would not suffice until and unless these are backed by visible action and progress. In the first instance, our intelligence gathering system seems to be rusted as foreign agents and militants are getting a free hand to play havoc with the lives of the people, their morale and symbols of defence and security of the country. Secondly, despite repeated claims by the Government to take steps to increase coordination among security apparatus, the objective seems to be a far off cry, and the enemy is fully exploiting the situation. Thirdly, it is true that no one can do much to prevent suicide bombings but it is utter failure on the part of our agencies that they have not been able to identify their sources of supply and funding and take measures to choke them. Again, their inability to prevent organized attacks, as we witnessed in the case of Mehran episode, clearly shows that despite being in a state of war, our law enforcing agencies and armed forces are not really ready in the true sense of the word to exercise the needed vigilance. If Americans can establish a network of informers then why can't we, as we have many advantages over others. A proactive approach would be required to eliminate terrorism but it would be wrong to lay emphasis on use of force alone and that too when the United States, United Kingdom and Karzai Government have initiated the process of dialogue with Taliban. We too have to go for this option as well, as this is the only way to ensure sustainable peace and progress.

 

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AKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

ANOTHER HIKE IN POWER-GAS TARIFF

 

THE latest increase in power and gas rates is nothing but senseless move to crush the economy and already hard pressed consumers. Apart from regular increase in the tariff of electricity in fulfilment of understanding with the IMF, the Government lashes consumers with frequent hikes in the name of fuel adjustment surcharge, which has been determined at a phenomenal rate of Rs 1.07 for the month of April alone, meaning thereby that an average consumer using 300 units will end up paying Rs 321 more. And this will be accompanied by Rs 7.54 increase per MMBTU for gas.


These are pre-budget gifts and it is anybody's guess as to what kind of measures the new budget would contain when the authorities have agreed to fix the revenue target at over Rs 1900 billion for the next year despite the fact that the much less target of Rs 1588 billion for the outgoing year has become a Herculean task to achieve. It is understood that these increases would push up prices of almost all items and services making life of the people miserable besides increasing the cost of production. What kind of policy this is to render our products incompetitive in the international market? What is the point in seeking market access from European Union and the United States when we will have nothing to send to these markets because of crippling shortage of energy forcing industrial units to close down and with upwards adjustments in energy rates making our products costlier as compared to competing nations?

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

MICROFINANCING A STIMULUS FOR ECONOMY

 

WORLD over Microfinance is getting recognition that it helps in development of small businesses and create self employment opportunities particularly in countries where large scale investors are reluctant to invest for different reasons. Pakistan too is facing a similar situation as foreign direct investment has gone down significantly due to law and order situation and higher interest rates have forced the local entrepreneurs to think twice before going for investment in large scale industries.


The international economic scenario and the domestic situation have led to slum in our economy resulting in unemployment, price hike and increase in poverty. To cope with the situation, one alternative is to encourage microfinancing to enable the people to get small loans and set up their own businesses. Fortunately the microfinancing institutions in Pakistan have taken roots and their performance is much better as the poor people who get loans work hard not only to earn livelihood for their families but also they prefer to repay the loans on time to avoid difficulties as we witness in the case of commercial banks. A status report launched by the Microcredit Summit Campaign (MSC) shares details on a new initiative to recognize institutions from the globe that are committed to the economic uplifting of the people. It is encouraging that the Report has recognised Khushhali Bank, a premier Pakistani microfinance institution as one of the biggest microfinance entities of the region. According to President of the Bank, Ghalib Nishtar it reflects the firm resolve and sheer commitment of the Khushhali Bank to empower the people of Pakistan and reduce poverty. The bank is providing access to credit for self-employment and other financial and business services to the poor families of Pakistan. We believe that the performance of Khushhali Bank shows that there is great potential to expand the scope of microfinancing if there is a dedicated leadership. Many countries have encouraged the establishment of cottage industries through micro financing and if this trend is promoted in Pakistan, the country can increase export of embroidery and other hand made items which are in great demand abroad and that would give the much needed stimulus to economic activity in addition to relieving pressure of unemployment.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLES

NATO "SAVING CIVILIANS" THRU BOMBS

GEOPOLITICAL NOTES FROM INDIA

M D NALAPAT

 

All talk about the "emergence" of India and China has stopped with the continuance of the ceaseless bombarding of Libyan cities by NATO. This alliance seems able to go into action only in situations where it faces very weak opposition. Against such weaklings, its


soldiers, sailors and aircrew fight eagerly, conducting their missions with impunity, whether it be against the Serbians in the former Yugoslavia a decade ago or against the legally recognized regime in Libya, that made the mistake of surrendering its WMD capability peacefully in 2003,only to now face attempted decapitation. Each bomb dropped by NATO on Libya shows up the weakness of China and India, both of which have been forced to watch this attack on a defenseless country in silence. Those who believed that they could rely on Beijing to block UN Security Council action crafted by the majority group of the US, the UK and France have now been shown to be wrong. The Chinese do not want to annoy the NATO powers, on whom it depends for much of its export markets.


What a contrast to the period when Mao Zedong or even Deng Xiaoping was in charge. Those two were revolutionaries, unafraid to challenge the world. Chairman Mao at one time went against both the US and the USSR, although the 1960s were harsh years for the economy of the Peoples Republic. Unlike the present, when Beijing is silent at the assault on Libya by a coalition led by France and the UK, in the past it provided immense assistance to North Vietnam in that entity's successful battle against the US. But for such help, the Vietnam war would have been far longer and much less difficult for the US to carry out. Of course, in 1979, Deng had in effect become China's Paramount Leader when that country punished Vietnam by a brief 1962-style war, that was conducted not to gain territory but to make the point that Chinese interests could not be ignored by any neighbour. In 1962, the Peoples Liberation Army swept aside Indian forces in the north-east, only to return to the earlier positions once Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru had been shown to be a "paper tiger" in his numerous statements that India would "reclaim the land occupied by the Chinese".


In India, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi showed that she was capable of defying superpowers in taking action to defend the national interest. The concerns of the US were brushed aside in the beginning of the 1970s, when a policy of assistance to those in then East Bengal was adopted, finally ending in open confrontation between the Indian and Pakistani militaries. Just as the Chinese had in 1962, the Indians withdrew completely from what became Bangladesh, releasing the Pakistani PoWs without agreeing to the request from Dacca that some of them be put on trial for war crimes. In a skillful show of diplomatic finesse, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto won back for Pakistan on the negotiating table at Shimla almost all the strategic ground lost on the battlefield. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was advised by her brilliant and liberal advisor, Parmeshwar Nath Haksar, to agree to Bhutto's terms "in order to strengthen the civilian establishment in Pakistan" vis-a-vis the military. Then as now, Delhi saw the civilian establishment in Pakistan as prospective allies, unlike the Pakistan military, which has never ceased to hope (and to plan) for inflicting punishment on India for the East Pakistan operation.


In this, Indian policymakers have sharply differed from the US, which has been a backer of the military establishment in Pakistan since the days of Ayub Khan. Policymakers in Washington find the civilian leadership in Pakistan to be almost as fractious and troublesome as that in India, in contrast to the military, which is generally better behaved in conference rooms and which has a more businesslike attitude. Top experts on Pakistan such as Stephen Cohen or Anatol Lieven push a policy of relying on the Pakistan military, a course of action that is anathema to India, which ceaseless seeks to promote the civilian establishment in Pakistan, so that someday it can have as much control over the military as is the case in India.


Of course, in India the pendulum has swung much too far in the other direction. So allergic was Jawaharlal Nehru to the men in uniform that he ensured their separation from policy. Decisions in the Defense Ministry get taken by civil servants who get seconded to the department after stints in the Agriculture or Culture ministries. Care is taken to exclude the uniformed services from any of the echelons of the Defense Ministry, unlike in the US or Japan, where the armed forces are an integral part of the functioning of the Defense establishment. Even the essential step of creating an integrated staff for all three services has not proceeded very far. The civilian establishment in the Defense Ministry does not want any challenger to emerge to its total power over decision-making, which for long has been used mainly in the granting of lucrative contracts for weapons purchases. The carrying forward of the Nehru-era policy of denying the Indian private sector access to defense production has meant an opening of the door for foreign suppliers, who earn tens of billions of dollars each year from what has become one of the three largest defense markets in the world, together with China and the Gulf Cooperation Council powers.


What purpose is served by the huge defense outlays of the GCC countries? They have stood on the sidelines as NATO has attacked Libya, with only Qatar joining hands with the alliance to pound Libyan forces. More than the aircraft flown by well-trained Qatari pilots, what NATO has found of immense value is the full-hearted support it has got from Al Jazeera for its invasion of Iraq. This channel has immense popularity within the Arab world, a status that it has earned by its excellent reporting. However, these days, by completely backing NATO operations in Libya, the channel is at risk of alienating many within the region and in the rest of Asia. With each bombardment of a helpless Libya by NATO, anger is growing against this one-sided duck shoot. Although neither BBC nor CNN (nor Al Jazeera) talks about it, the fact is that hundreds have been killed by the NATO strikes, and thousands maimed. An entire country is being reduced to a wasteland, just as Iraq was in the 1990s because of UN sanctions. Of course, between 2003 and 2007,that country was pulverized by NATO occupation. A case of "liberation through destruction".


The so-called "international" justice system has come to be taken over by the NATO powers, with the consequence that none of the actions of the alliance are ever subject to the scrutiny of judges who are eager to place in the dock any international figure who is seen as a challenge by NATO. Thus far, there has not even been a mention of the 800,000 deaths caused in Iraq by sanctions and by occupation, nor the deaths in Libya caused by NATO bombardment. Clearly, for the International Court of Justice, all actions by NATO are by definition valid "humanitarian" missions, no matter how grave the collateral damage. Such an immunity goes back into the past, for example in Vietnam and Cambodia, two countries where tens of thousands died because of US bombing. His policy of carpet-bombing Vietnam and Cambodia did not earn a jail term for Henry Kissinger, but a Nobel Peace Prize. Exactly the award that was given to Barack Obama for the "humanitarian" wars he has been conducting in locations across the world, now most lately in Libya.


Hosni Mubarak faithfully served US interests for four decades, even going to the extent of cutting of essential supplies to the inhabitants of Gaza. He is in jail now, together with his two sons, and with his wife under house arrest. Colonel Kaddafy followed the trusting advice of his sons and gave up all WMD stocks that he had. He gave all the information in his possession about the A Q Khan network. He cooperated with the NATO powers in counter-terrorism operations. None of this has saved him from NATO's efforts to kill him or force him to surrender and either face death by hanging (the way Saddam Hussein did) or - if NATO is merciful - spend the rest of his life in a jail in Europe. Those in the GCC who are relying on NATO for their protection must be feeling the pangs of doubt about an alliance that can thus treat those who cooperated wholly with it. However, they have no option. The Libyan case has shown that China, India and Russia are still too weak to challenge NATO in international fora. All three powers have watched in impotence while Libya is being attacked. In the months to come, only protests from Arab peoples against the attack on Libya may halt the NATO operation to destroy Libya as a functioning country. Certainly, India, Russia and China seem too weak to challenge the NATO attack on yet another country. Indeed, they are standing by while the UN system has been twisted to legitimize the sway of European powers over their former colonies. Thus, Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has legitimized Italy as the headquarters o conferences about Libya, while France has been given the green light to send troops into the Ivory Coast. One wonders at what stage Mr Moon will ask Japan to send its troops into a former colony. South Korea, in the way that he has invited the NATO powers to intervene militarily in several key countries around the world.


—The writer is Vice-Chair, Manipal Advanced Research Group, UNESCO Peace Chair & Professor of Geopolitics, Manipal University, Haryana State, India.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

PAK-CHINA DEFENCE COLLABORATION

SULTAN M HALI

 

Six decades of friendship is more than enough for two friends to prove the mettle of their relationship, however, true friendship does not require tests; it is there through thick and thin. Pakistan and China's relations have withstood the test of time and on numerous occasions both countries have reiterated the depth and solidarity they feel for each other. Diplomatic relations between the two came about on May 21, 1951 but the first test for the military came about when India provoked war with China in the Ladakh region. Pakistan, though itself a fledgling, stood by China. In 1965, China returned the favour by ensuring that India restrains itself from any adventurism in East Pakistan during the Pak-India war. Following the war and US imposition of an arms' embargo, left war ravaged Pakistan in a quandary, the Chinese, whose own military weapons' system production was in the stages of infancy, provided arms ammunition, fighter aircraft and whatever was available. In 1971, when India declared war again and severed East Pakistan, the western wing was able to defend itself through the Chinese military hardware.


The depth of Chinese defence collaboration with Pakistan can be gauged from the fact that they are willing to transfer technology with no strings attached. They provided weapons manufacturing factories, tanks and heavy weapons as well as aircraft and radar rebuild factories, fast patrol boat missiles and gunboats as well as Frigates building capability to Pakistan. The JF-17 Thunder, The Karakoram-8 advanced training aircraft, the Al-Khalid Main Battle Tank and F-22P Frigates are some examples of the joint collaboration. The Deep sea port of Gawadar, with its strategic location has been constructed with Chinese assistance and investment. At a time when the west accused Pakistan of nuclear proliferation, imposed sanctions but embraced India, it was China that helped Pakistan establish civil nuclear facilities.


Terrorism is a malaise, which has plagued both countries. Pakistan has been heavily embroiled in the war on terror following 9/11 but China has suffered heavily through organizations like the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), who have been instigating the Uyghur in Xinjiang province. Some of the ETIM leaders had sought refuge in the tribal belt between Pakistan and Afghanistan and joined forces with the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. In 2003, Pakistan Army killed ETIM leader Hasan Mahsum in a raid on Al-Qaeda hideout. In 2007, ETIM militants in cars shot Chinese engineers in Balochistan and sent a videotape of the attack to Beijing, in retaliation for an execution of an ETIM official earlier that July. ETIM also took credit for a spate of attacks before the 2008 Summer Olympics, including a series of bus bombings in Kunming, an attempted plane hijacking in Urumqi, and an attack on paramilitary troops in Kashgar that killed 17 officers. Pakistan and China have joined forces to combat the scourge of terrorism. Joint military exercises, exchange of intelligence, provision of anti-terror equipment are part of the cooperation.


The May 02, 2011 US Navy Seals attack on a house in Abbotabad, which was allegedly housing Osama bin Laden, has made Pakistan the butt of ridicule as well as insinuations by the west. The US is claiming that Osama bin Laden was killed in the attack and his body has been dumped in the sea, despite the fact that there are credible reports that Osama had died of renal failure many years earlier. Whatever the truth, Pakistan's sovereignty was breached, while Pakistan Army and the ISI are being targeted as being complicit in providing sanctuary to Osama bin Laden. At this moment, when Pakistan stood isolated as there were threats by belligerent and irate US parliamentarians to stop financial and military aid to Pakistan as well as take punitive action against it, China has come out loud and clear to declare its solidarity with Pakistan. It has asked the world to take cognizance of Pakistan's sacrifices in the war against terror, to "respect Pakistan's sovereignty and solidarity", and has "warned in unequivocal terms that any attack on Pakistan would be construed as an attack on China", formally conveyed by the Chinese foreign minister at last week's China-US strategic dialogue and economic talks in Washington. The Chinese government has agreed to expedite the delivery of 50 additional JF-17 Thunder aircraft to beef up Pakistan's Air Defence.


The bloody attack on PNS Mehran has crippled Pakistan's maritime surveillance capability and brought more ignominy to Pakistan's armed forces. China is standing by Pakistan and has held its hand to encourage it overcome the trauma of the attack. Its acceptance of Pakistan's offer to administer and regulate shipping in the strategic Gawadar sea port will go a long way in comforting Pakistan and deter India from further adventurism against Pakistan.


This is reminiscent of the time China had stood isolated and unrecognized by the world body and Pakistan endeavoured to get it its rightful place in the comity of Nations in 1971. Once again China has proved that its defence collaboration and unequivocal stand for Pakistan is unflinching. It is for the government and people of Pakistan to take cognizance of the rock solid ties between Pakistan and China and follow the advice King Claudius of Denmark had given to his son Hamlet in the epic play of the same name by the renowned playwright William Shakespeare: "The friends thou hast, and their adoption tried, grapple them to thy soul With hoops of steel, but do not dull thy palm with entertainment of each new-hatched unfledged comrade."

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

WHAT IS TAQWA?

THE SPIRIT OF ISLAM

SYED ABUL HASAN

 

Any thing which is repeatedly re cited is not usually pondered over deeply. If the Holy Quran is recited and pondered over it would make your nights sleepless. It can provide stimulus not only to the body but also to the mind and soul. Almighty Allah says:"O you who believe! If you fear Allah"; this word "God-fearing" is not an ordinary one. If somebody fears Allah he is known as Muttaqui (God-fearing). One who refrains from back biting and slander, people say he is God-fearing. But Taqwa, according to the language and definition of the Holy Quran, has a very broad and revolutionary meaning.


It can reverse the systems of the whole world. Almighty Allah says if you become God fearing - it does not literally mean fear of God - it means fear of God in your beliefs and actions, aims and objectives, morals and behaviour, and in your dealing with fellow human beings. People will point towards you and they will look up to you. Thinking of you at times people will loose their sleep and at other times they will wake up from their slumber. "Look! there goes a Muslim" "Look! Muslims are so pious" will be their comments.


If you thus fear Allah, He will elevate you to a position of distinction. From wherever a God-fearing Muslim would pass by, one who obeys the orders of Allah and His Rasool, one who is a well-wisher of humanity, one who is compliant to the will of Allah, one who keeps his gaze down, one who controls his tongue, one whose heart is devoid of material gains, and one whose mind is pure from intrigues and conspiracies, then people will look at such a Muslim curiously. "Look! there goes an obedient servant of Allah." When this becomes your means of recognition Almighty Allah will grant you a place of honour and distinction (I can not but translate the Arabic word Furqan as distinctive position because it has various meanings and its translation in any other language is not easy).


People will point towards you and they will look up to you. Thinking of you at times people will loose their sleep and at other times they will wake up from their slumber. "Look! there goes a Muslim" "Look! Muslims are so pious" will be their comments. A Muslim is someone who does not gaze at strange women (Na-mahram), he does not hinder a thoroughfare or hurt anyone. A Muslim moves about with a purpose and is dignified. He is a well-wisher and sympathizer of humanity. With such a description only a few, may be just a family who could be counted on fingers, if they reached an area, time is witness almost the whole area embraced Islam just by seeing those Muslims as if swept by a wave. This wave of Islam prevailed over material greed, desire for position and other evils prevalent in the society.


Almighty Allah has given human beings the power to impress and emulate. I can say as student of history, as one who knows human psychology and as a counsellor, that in spite of dark deeds, infidelity and idol worship, intemperance, worship of wealth, barbarism and injustice, it is due to this factor of receiving impression - the inherent element for reform and adopting what is good - this world is not shattered and ruined. Let me open up my heart to you, to this huge assembly, and say that the desire in man to emulate impressions and improve is the real secret behind the existence of this world and it is for this reason the world is still vibrant. Almighty Allah who created this world knows that man still possesses this capacity. I am going to tell you something which no other person may say. I do not have any misconceptions about them but I fear that they may not say this after all they are humans. In the country you are living, you should live a life which mirrors the honour you have been accorded, that is, Furqan, position of distinction. Your distinctive position should be so impressive that it changes the belief, behaviour and morals, outlook, feelings, emotions, relations and dealings of the people around you. Such a large number of Muslims live in a country yet fail to carve out a definite impression is unbelievable. Almighty Allah says if you will fear Allah He will bestow upon you a distinctive position. Such an honour will be completely novel and will change the beliefs, morals and relationships of people.


If you "fear Allah" and live according to the teachings of Allah's messenger, the outcome will be a "position of distinction" for you. People will consider you an object of emulation, and people will be attracted towards you. You will be a role model for people. The life of people will thereafter change for good. Materialism, moral dissipation, thirst for power and position, worship of authority and politics - all these social maladies will be lessened if not erased totally. It will be difficult for people to hold on to their mis-beliefs, their desires and their yearn for unfair gains. Seeing the Muslims with typical Islamic characteristics, people will be attracte towards Islam. Great national leaders, known politicians, reputed writers, eloquent orators, poetic speakers, will not be able to stick to their beliefs, their ideas, their leadership and their politics. Unfortunately this is not happening! Why? Please examine your own lives and see whether it is Islamically moulded. Therefore, to bring a change in the world, first of all your Faith must be correct, your dealings must be right, your goals and aims must be right. These should be different and distinct. People should notice that a Muslim removes any hindrance from wherever he passes by and he is always helpful. The difference in your material desires and your natural human weaknesses should be apparently lesser than the rest. "He is a Muslim" should be ascribed above all qualities to describe you. It is a historical fact that a handful of such Muslims wherever they reached have revolutionised and changed nations.


Just think of the Arabian peninsula, the cradle of Islam, and of Spain where countless masses accepted Islam. Think of Turkey, think of Algeria, Morocco and West Asia where Islam was accepted and Islam is still the way of life, with the exception of Spain where a systematic annihilation of Islam and the Arabic language was carried out under a conspiracy for which the Muslims are also to be blamed. If you consider the distances by land and passage of time, the differences of languages and ideas, you will realise that these are as wide apart as earth and sky, yet nations after nations embraced Islam, impressed by the character shown by Muslims, by their Dawah and Tabligh The behaviour and conduct of Muslims became an example for all. Compare that with the present day position of Muslims. I urge you to adopt the life of a true Muslim and start today to practise Islam in its totality and according to the orders of Almighty Allah: "If you fear Allah" and "This day have I perfected your religion for you, completed My Favour upon you and chosen for you Islam as your religion" (Holy Quran: 5:3) and "O you who believe! Enter into Islam wholeheartedly and follow not the footsteps of Satan. He is you avowed enemy." (Holy Quran: 2:208)

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

NETANYAHU'S PLAN IS HOBSON'S CHOICE

COLUMN FROM DALLAS

SAEED QURESHI

 

The peace and settlement process between Israel and Palestinians is back to square one. It is like proverbial Hobson's choice which does not brook any choice for the other party. The Israeli hardliner Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu now in United States has been very specific this time to lay down his conditions for the creation of a Palestinian state that would be acceptable to Israel after a further process of negotiations. He did not right away give his unequivocal assent for the establishment of a home land for the Palestinians uprooted way back in 1948. He gingerly gave a kind of lip service approval to the creation of a state for the Palestinians provided his four conditions were met in advance.


Prime Minister Netanyahu outlined the Israeli perception of peace with the Palestinian and his vision of a Palestinians state before the United States joint session of Congress in a 50 minute long address punctuated intermittently by the loud applause and rousing ovation by the Israel friendly Congress. As a matter of fact he did not unfurl or offer any new proposals or ground breaking plans that would bring a watershed thaw in the decade's old stalemated dispute between the Israel and the people of Palestine. It is fundamentally a replay of what Israel's stance has been all along.


Of these four conditions the first is that the Palestinian Authority under Mahmood Abbas should abrogate its agreement with Hamas. Israel does not want Hamas to be a party in the negotiations that are purported to take place sometime in the future between the two inveterate rivals to deliberate upon the two states road map. That would be utterly impossible for Mahmood Abbas to agree because Hamas are by race as genuine Palestinians as the other Palestinians are. The demand of isolating Hamas are patently aimed at dividing the two factions and break their unity that was made possible after much of efforts and quid pro quo and that lent strength to the Palestinian cause.


The second condition of Netanyahu is to make Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. It is an issue of contention that would not be accepted by the Palestinians under any circumstances. The East Jerusalem is to be located in the Palestinian state which cannot be bargained or abandoned by the Muslims or Christians for the sake of accepting a state without Jerusalem. Israel annexed East Jerusalem in six days war of 1967. East Jerusalem includes several holy places for all the three Abrahamic religions. The complete control of Jerusalem by Israel will not be accepted also by the other Islamic states particualry in the Arab lands because this place is as holy for Muslims as it is for Jews and the Christians. Until 1948 Palestinians lived in the entire Palestine including Jerusalem. In 1948 and in later wars, their lands were usurped including the holy places. Now that occupation is being solemnized in the new plan as envisaged by the Israeli prime minister.


The third condition that is untenable and will not be agreed upon by the beleaguered Palestinian people is that Israel will not vacate the lands that it forcibly occupied in 1967 war. These territories consist of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and much of the Golan Heights and, until 1982, the Sinai Peninsula. Israel withdrew from the Sinai Peninsula in 1982, as part of the 1979 Treaty. If Israel plans to legitimatize its occupation of Palestinian and Arab lands that it took by aggression in 1967 war then it would set off a wicked tradition of occupying others' lands by military means and then refuse to vacate them. This violation also flies in the face of the United Nations charter that negates forcible land grabbing of the weaker countries or nations by powerful countries. Netanyahu's call to hold on to swaths of West Bank land including East Jerusalem, where Palestinians want their capital is neither legal nor moral.


The fourth condition is that the Palestinians that have been uprooted and became Diaspora or confined to the occupied lands will not be allowed to become citizens of the new sate of Israel. This is an indefensible demand that does not merit any consideration. It is tantamount to the blatant denial of the rights of the Palestinian to live in any part of the land where they wish to be located. This condition spells out the demographic change that Israel has been straining to inject in any settlement plan. Now the cat is out of the bag and he has made his mind open on this most diabolic condition.


Israel is concerned about the forthcoming development by which the United Nations General Assembly would grant the legal status to the Palestinian state. All these eye-wash initiatives are aimed at forestalling that upcoming eventuality. The Israeli lobby in the United States has worked overtime to make the Israeli prime minister's visit as a thumping success as witnessed by the generous ovation given to him during his speech delivered with great emphasis on every word and phrase that he uttered.


But for all indications this stalemate would continue until Israel is prepared to agree by catering for the Palestinian proposals and treat them as equal partners. In the present situation it appears as if Israel was talking in such a way as if it was dealing with an inferior partner and throwing crumbs would be enough to pacify it. It appears as if Israel is under the erroneous impression that with surrender of some land she was placing Palestinian under an overwhelming gratitude. She might also take it for granted that by simply agreeing to parting with some land and the settlements therein she could override and sidetrack other substantive thorny issues related to a consensus solution of the lingering dispute. Unless Israel makes her stance more agreeable and pragmatic, a lasting and durable co-existence of the two nations in two separate independent states cannot be achieved. While the state of Israel already exists, the one for the Palestinian people is yet to be established and that is the core issue. With Israel's intransigence, the objective of creating two states in the light of the UN resolution 181 (adopted on 29 November 1947),one Jewish and one Arab, would remain elusive, entailing more sufferings for the Palestinians.


—The writer is a senior journalist and a former diplomat.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

SPENT-FUEL THREAT FROM US NUCLEAR PLANTS

MARK CLAYTON

 

A spent-fuel pool fire at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant made headlines after March's earthquake and tsunami – but the threat may be worse in America. Spent nuclear fuel stored in water-filled pools at many nuclear reactor sites in the US far surpasses in volume and radioactivity the threat posed by such material at Fukushima, according to a new study. The huge hazard could be largely eliminated by moving older materials from the pools into dry cask storage, it said."Unprotected and crowded spent nuclear fuel pools pose an unacceptable threat to the public," said Robert Alvarez, a senior scholar for nuclear policy at the nonpartisan Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), as well as a former Department of Energy official in the Clinton Administration, in a statement. "Dry cask storage is a much safer alternative to pools. Some people say they are too expensive, but considering the extreme risks, the cost of doing nothing is incalculable," he added. A new report from the IPS, "Spent Nuclear Fuel Pools in the US: Reducing the Deadly Risks of Storage", written by Dr. Alvarez, details for the first time how much radioactivity is contained in spent nuclear fuel at all individual reactor sites in the United States – and the threat they pose.Today, some 65,000 metric tons of spent fuel is stored at reactor sites around the country, 75 percent of it in US spent-fuel pools, according to data from the Nuclear Energy Institute cited in the report. The other 25 percent is in dry cask storage. Each pool contains spent-fuel rods that give off about 1 million rems of radiation per hour at a distance of one foot – a fatal dose in seconds, the report says. The radiation is kept in check by tons of water continually flowing around the rod assemblages.Some 30 million such rods are stored in spent-fuel pools at 51 sites around the country that "contain some of the largest concentrations of radioactivity on the planet," the study said. The rods are usually kept in tightly-packed racks submerged in pool water, which requires a steady flow of electricity to keep from overheating. If water drains from a spent-fuel pool, it can lead to a catastrophic fire that emits dangerous radioactive elements like Cesium 137.


Typically, spent-fuel pools are rectangular, about 40 to 50 feet deep, and made of reinforced concrete walls four to five feet thick, with stainless steel liners. Those without liners may crack or corrode more often, the report says. — Courtesy: The Christian Science Monitor

 

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THE AUSTRALIYAN

EDITORIAL

LEADERSHIP IS NEEDED TO RECLAIM TAXPAYERS' ABC

EDITORS WHO ASPIRE TO QUALITY JOURNALISM KNOW THE SIMPLE QUESTION THAT DETERMINES IF A STORY SHOULD BE RUN OR BE SPIKED: WHY? WHY IS IT NEWS?

 If the forthcoming answer rests on a line of attack from a lobby group or political operative, then editors should be highly sceptical. In an age when spin doctors, lobbyists, publicists and political activists outnumber journalists by at least a dozen to one, reporters need the judgment to pick through the spin and report the facts.

The failure to observe these basic editorial principles is at the heart of the malaise in ABC news and current affairs. Few significant stories are broken, the response to live events is slow and idiosyncratic and its commentators indulge in an elitist conversation in which everyone concurs on climate change, the evils of profit-driven enterprises and the racism of those concerned about border protection. The rules against ABC hosts becoming commentators are so widely flouted these days that there is rarely any doubt what is on a presenter's mind. We know, for example, that Radio National's Fran Kelly is morally opposed to mandatory detention, Deb Cameron is uncomfortable with most forms of commerce and Jon Faine, until recently, at least, thought The Australian's attempt to hold the Victorian Police Commissioner to account was a vendetta. After this year's budget, we also know that all three share this newspaper's distaste for middle-class welfare. Yet the public utility from which Kelly, Faine and Cameron derive their sinecures has itself become an egregious example of middle-class welfare, indulging the tastes of a privileged few at the expense of the rest of the community.

Under Mark Scott's leadership, the ABC no longer aspires to be "Your ABC", the slogan it adopted on Australia Day 1997 to launch its now familiar wave-form logo. A sly coup by a coterie of like-minded, inner-city staff has commandeered the ABC's transmitters and stipend to broadcast almost exclusively to the vocal minority who share their prejudices.

It was not always so. The ABC was established 79 years ago on the democratic, liberal principles of Lord John Reith, the BBC's first managing director, who believed that a government-funded wireless service should be a companion at the hearth of both rich and poor. Successive ABC managers and board members have paid lip-service to their duty to satisfy the corporation's investors: the taxpaying public. Mr Scott apparently rejects that principle, judging by remarks attributed to him in The Guardian in a profile by the left-of-centre newspaper's head of media and technology Dan Sabbagh. Sabbagh reports that Scott no longer believes the ABC has a universal service obligation and is best described as "a market failure broadcaster". "If you believe the arguments about public service broadcasting it doesn't mean you have to be offering something to everybody," he is reported to have said.

Public broadcasters should not be discouraged from specialised programming. Indeed, the ABC should be an investment in cultural capital that stimulates creativity and promotes excellence. But a democratically-accountable body loses its mandate when it strays too far from the values of its own constituency. Suppose, for example, news breaks of the death of the world's most wanted terrorist. Most viewers would want to hear it from the mouth of an Australian journalist or, failing that, from trusted sources in Britain or the US. If someone in the ABC's control room decided to flick the switch, albeit belatedly, to the Qatar-based al-Jazeera for the news of Osama bin Laden's death, something would be going very badly wrong. Yet that is precisely what occurred earlier this month. The ABC is clearly sensitive to the suggestion it has become a niche broadcaster, judging from its reaction to The Australian's recent FOI application for access to audience research reports. Intuitively, we would expect it to show that the ABC has a large audience in the regions, where it largely fulfils its duty to rural and remote communities poorly served by commercial media. In metropolitan areas, we would expect the ABC is well received in the inner-city areas, but is all but invisible in the outer suburbs. Its audience is largely tertiary educated and working in the public sector. If this assumption is wrong, perhaps Mr Scott would release the data instead of hiding behind the FOI loophole that exempts programming information.

As Chris Kenny reports in today's Inquirer, it appears Mr Scott has surrendered his role as editor-in-chief, leaving the staff to run amok. It is understandable that he might not relish confronting his employees, since the history of the ABC is littered with the tombstones of those who tried, from short-lived chairman Sir Henry Bland to managing director Jonathan Shier. But ABC legitimacy is steadily eroded by a culture that does not acknowledge the public broadcaster's fundamental purpose. Instead of sustaining civil society it sustains itself as a permanent, moral-political oppositional force, with its journalists at the mercy of favoured lobby groups and activists.

Mr Scott has a habit of dismissing advice from this newspaper claiming, wrongly, that it is tainted by the corporate aspirations of our parent company, News Limited. What is at stake here is the accountability of a publicly-funded cultural institution. Commonwealth funds should be used for the intended public purpose and, whether that is producing quality television or constructing a school assembly hall, it should not be siphoned off by those with other agendas. If Mr Scott cannot pull his staff into line, the national broadcaster will wither on the vine. If journalists in the ABC are to lift their standards by learning to ask themselves where the real facts fall and how the mainstream will be effected, they need to know that, when the phone rings, it could well be the managing director or another senior editor on the line asking: "Why?"

Mr Scott needs to style himself not as the staff's representative to the people, but the people's representative to the staff. ABC employees should never forget that the people in the suburbs and regions who pay their taxes are entitled to expect relevance and respect from their ABC.

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    THE AUSTRALIYAN

EDITORIAL

HELPING TO TURN THE CRICKET TIDE

TERRY JENNER WAS A KEY PLAYER IN THE REVIVAL OF SPIN BOWLING.

If Shane Warne had been a boxer, Terry Jenner would have been the ageing could-a-been champion who spotted something special in a raw young talent. Together they would have striven to glory and an inspiring Hollywood ending. In real life, Jenner was a fine leg-spinning all-rounder who represented his country and his adopted state of South Australia. A knockabout bloke, he became a popular sporting identity after cricket but his own life spun out of control. He was convicted of embezzlement and spent more than a year in prison. Afterwards, building his new life, he met Warne, the young cricket academy whizz kid and wild boy. Whatever shortcomings Jenner had as a player, he made up for as a mentor. Apart from the guile of leg-spin, he knew to guide the prodigy away from some of life's other possible wrong turns. In a period when every child in the country was intent on long run-ups and fast bowling, Jenner nurtured the rarest of talents. Of course, Warne went on to become perhaps the finest bowler of all time and he has always remained generous and grateful about Jenner's contribution to his wiley craft. Jenner will be sadly missed by many in the cricket world. Part of his legacy is a legion of children practising off a short run, working on their wrong-uns.

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THE AUSTRALIYAN

EDITORIAL

SHAPING PALESTINE'S DESTINY

EXAGGERATED RHETORIC IS A SURE WAY TO AVOID PEACE.

When he addressed the US congress, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a telling point that should have been immediately embraced by Palestinian leaders. To change the course of history, he argued, all Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas had to do was utter six words: "I will accept a Jewish state." Mr Netanyahu pledged that with those six words "the Israeli people will be prepared to make a far-reaching compromise".

Unsurprisingly, Mr Netanyahu's suggestion has fallen on deaf Palestinian ears. So, too, has the rest of his speech in which he pointed out that the conflict with the Palestinians is not about the establishment of a Palestinian state, on which all are agreed, but Israel's right to exist.

Mr Abbas's spokesman, Nabil Shaath, mindlessly labelled the speech a declaration of war against the Palestinians, a claim that underlines the reality that until the Palestinian leadership emerges from its state of delusion, peace prospects are bleak. The experienced Mr Shaath should have kept the inflamatory rhetoric to himself. But with Fatah in the embrace of the Iranian-backed Hamas terrorists, who refuse to recognise Israel and are hell-bent on its destruction, extremism has overwhelmed reason.

It is nonsense of course to describe Mr Netanyahu's speech as a declaration of war. The Prime Minister set out Israel's parameters for peace talks, insisting Jerusalem would never again be divided, a return to Israel's 1967 borders would be untenable, negotiated new boundaries should incorporate settlements in the West Bank, and the problem of Palestinian refugees should be resolved beyond Israel's borders. Tellingly, he also pointed out that of the 300 million Arabs in the region, only the million-plus in Israel enjoyed democracy. He insisted there could be no talks until Mr Abbas abandoned Hamas.

Some believe Mr Netanyahu should have announced concessions aimed at thwarting a Palestinian Authority attempt to win recognition as a state at the UN, an obvious concern for Israel. But until the Palestinians, including Hamas, recognise Israel's inviolable right to exist and stop seeking its destruction, it is unreasonable to expect significant concessions. Mr Netanyahu obviously over-simplified things by saying just six words are involved. But he's on the right track, and the sooner the Palestinians accept that, the better.

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

O'FARRELL TAKES ON THE UNIONS

JEFF KENNETT, the former Victorian Liberal premier, advised Barry O'Farrell before the state election to ''go fast early on'' once he came to government. It seems O'Farrell has listened to the advice. His plans for a thorough overhaul of the way public sector wages and conditions are set in the state show every sign of following the Kennett strategy. In taking on the public sector unions in this way, though, O'Farrell has set himself a formidable challenge.

The exercise is necessary for several reasons. The first is to control the regular cost blowout in the NSW budget caused by public sector wage increases in excess of the budget's target. Under Labor, the fiction was that those increases could be paid for from productivity improvements that were promised in return. But as O'Farrell has pointed out, while the wage increases were paid in full by the government, it received only some of the productivity gains in return. O'Farrell quite rightly wants to reverse the order of things: first the productivity gains, then the wage rise to match.

The second reason is broader. If successful - as we believe it should be - the exercise will help to break the culture of control that public sector unions have exercised over the NSW bureaucracy. We have referred before to the way Labor ministers' attempts to overhaul their departments have often been thwarted by unions that, using factional pressure on MPs and cabinet, get decisions overturned. That does not work with Coalition governments, obviously. Nonetheless, public sector unions are used to getting their way, as the threat from the police union on Tuesday showed. The power of the union kept in place a rostering system that drains away scarce personnel and makes policing less effective than it might be. Similar examples exist elsewhere. If it is successful, as it should be, the Premier's plan should open the way to further reform the public service.

O'Farrell's government won power in a landslide. He is banking on that support to effect early change against the opposition of unions representing workers - police, teachers, nurses - who enjoy considerable public support. It is a gamble, and its outcome will determine his government's fortunes. If O'Farrell wins, and cuts back the unions' power to interfere in the management of government departments, NSW can expect a new era of reform. If he fails, it is possible the problems that dogged Labor in its last, hapless years will return to shackle the progress of the O'Farrell government - record majority and all.

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

HUMAN RIGHTS AND WRONGS

THOSE who want to will agree with Navi Pillay, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, who has criticised Australia for its racist attitudes over the treatment of both asylum seekers and some in its indigenous population. But though Pillay's bald depiction may be superficially correct, it lacks insight - so much so, indeed, that it misses the point.

As we have stated in the past, it is undeniable that racism has continued to survive in Australian attitudes and in our politics, a hangover from the earliest days of Federation when racist attitudes were accepted and largely uncontroversial. Racism - in the form of immigration controls to prevent non-white immigration - was one factor that unified the colonies. History is not an excuse, but it is a fact. From a modern viewpoint, Australia's racist genesis is a regrettable part of its history, and it is equally regrettable that despite 60 years of gradual opening up to the world, including the final abolition of the White Australia Policy nearly four decades ago, some racist attitudes still remain. But given the enthusiasm with which they were held in the first part of the 20th century, it would also be surprising if they did not. Politicians, who deal in the real world, have to take those attitudes into account. Australia takes in

a great many immigrants now without discriminating on the basis of race. It takes in many refugees too. But in order for that program to enjoy continued support in the broader community, with its at times unreconstructed attitudes, it must be shown to be orderly. It would be better if Australia's politicians could agree to a bipartisan approach here. Alas, that seems a long way off. But it is brought no closer by name calling.

It is true also that the federal government's intervention in the management of indigenous affairs in the Northern Territory required a suspension of anti-discrimination laws. It was thus, in the baldest sense of the word, discriminatory. Yet the motive for this emergency response to evidence of gross abuses was so far from discrimination that criticism on that ground has little force. Moreover, though the intervention has had mixed results

and has become controversial for various reasons, it should be noted that it retains strong support among some in the indigenous community - mostly those who put women's rights at the forefront of their concerns.

Pillay's view, lacking any attempt at nuance, fails to acknowledge this, and concentrates on indigenous Australians' status as victims of others' oppression. Perhaps, unfortunately, the politics involved in asserting the primacy of human rights over all other considerations, as Pillay may feel she must, requires this purblind, undifferentiated approach. It is a great pity.


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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

THE BOOK OF KINGS AND COMMONERS

FOR a book forged in the fire of the English reformation and stained with the blood of various battles down the ages, the King James Bible has survived otherwise intact over four centuries. This month, the translation celebrates its 400th anniversary, and the majestic power and the glory of its language, the transcendently grave and beauteous rhythms that permeate its pages, remain evocative and enduring: there is fair argument that the greatest story ever told should also be the greatest ever written.

As The Age's religion editor, Barney Zwartz, points out today, the King James is possibly even more important in literary than religious terms. Even Richard Dawkins - an atheist, to whom this book should be anathema - has described it as ''a precious English heritage'', but essentially a literary one.

Yet, it is still a wonder that the King James Bible ever achieved universal success. The obstacles to becoming a best seller were formidable: it was commissioned as a compromise solution at a religious conference; it was written in archaic prose; and it was translated by committee. As Adam Nicholson asks in his history of the King James, ''How did this group of near-anonymous divines, muddled, drunk, self-serving, ruthless and obsequious, manage to bring off this astonishing translation, which has never been bettered?''

Well, somehow, they did; the English-speaking world owes these 54 divines considerable debt. As English phraseology becomes further tortured and twisted by Twitter and text, the heavenly length and linguistic inspirations of the translation of 1611 have embedded themselves so naturally into common usage, their provenance is often disregarded. Linguist David Crystal has identified 257 popular expressions directly attributed to the King James translation. They include: ''know for certain'', ''eat, drink and be merry'', ''flesh and blood'' and ''labour of love''. The last of these could be said to be a true reflection of the endeavours of the anonymous translators.

The crucial question, sad but inevitable, is the diminishing importance of the King James Bible in modern society. For a book designed to be read, heard and comprehended, its original purpose has been overtaken by a liturgy that increasingly relies on personal reading, as well as overtaken by more modern, less successful and more clunky, translations. What cannot be taken away, though, is the effect the King James has had over 400 years on our thought and expression.

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

MINERS SHOW UP MYTHS IN POLITICAL TAX BATTLES

Dishonest debates are crippling urgent structural reform.

THE annual rich list shows just why last June's protest rally led by Gina Rinehart and Andrew Forrest against a new federal mining tax looked ludicrous. Ranked No.1 and 3, the mining magnates' estimated wealth greatly exceeds any extra tax take from coal and iron ore profits in budget estimates. More seriously, this points to imbalances in budget revenues and between states.

Ms Rinehart's $10.3 billion fortune is almost as much as the budgeted revenue of $11.1 billion in three years after the tax takes effect from July 2012. Four of the top five in BRW's Rich 200 list made their $30 billion from resources, mainly coal and iron ore, to which the tax is now limited - slashing the first two years' revenue from $12 billion to $7.7 billion. The difference in the impact of the mining boom on individual fortunes and federal revenue is startling. The worth of the three most outspoken tax critics, Ms Rinehart, Mr Forrest and Clive Palmer (fifth on the list), jumped by $8.62 billion, or 67 per cent in a year, to $21.53 billion. Treasurer Wayne Swan budgeted for an extra $8.27 billion, up 12 per cent from a year ago, from all company and resource taxes.

Huge surges in mine profits are not producing a fair return to Australians, on whose behalf publicly owned resources are leased to be mined. The Coalition fights Labour's attempts at reform without offering solutions to a widely acknowledged problem. The Age has observed the inconsistency of the federal Coalition's attitude to Labor's supposedly crippling tax and Western Australia's iron ore royalties hike. The state aims to collect at least $5 billion a year in 2013-14 and 2014-15. That is more than double the royalties paid before a Liberal government took office in late 2008.

The WA move and its threat to federal revenue (because miners were promised reimbursement for royalties among the Gillard government's many compromises) highlight political obstacles to reform. Now that WA is the richest state per capita, it wants to get back more of the revenue it generates. Yet for decades WA gained more than it lost from the Commonwealth Grants Commission. Even in the 1990s, WA growth was below average. Unless Australia is to accept an entrenched geographic divide, governments must observe the principle that the Commonwealth spreads wealth so that all citizens enjoy similar services and benefits.

Another problem relates to the mythology that this is a high-tax country, so only ''reckless'' spending causes deficits. Budget papers show the government averted recession with a 16.3 per cent jump in spending in 2008-09, much the same as a 15.6 per cent increase that treasurer Peter Costello applied in 2000-01 at the cost of a deficit. That downturn was brief. Revenues bounced back. This time they haven't. Indirect taxes have not lived up to the promise of GST reform and miners' profits are not matched by revenue gains. Budget payments for 2010-11 are on par with 2000-01, at 25.2 and 25 per cent of GDP, but receipts are down from 25.8 per cent to 21.9 per cent.

Shadow treasurer Joe Hockey's response to the budget unwittingly hinted at the problem. He compared Australia's net debt of 7.2 per cent of GDP with the surpluses of the ''fastest runners in the field'': Norway (157.3 per cent), Finland (52.6 per cent) and Sweden (13.8 per cent) among Western nations. All are rich, with Norway well ahead of Australia and the others just behind. The key difference is that tax receipts as a percentage of GDP are about 50 per cent higher than Australia's. That may cause Australian eyes to water, but everyone in those countries enjoys excellent publicly funded services.

Australia governments shifted the burden to individuals who pay for private education, health and cars as public services struggle. Middle-income earners feel hard done by, so anti-tax campaigns flourish. Until our leaders find the courage and integrity to debate and tackle such structural problems, expect the ills of a two-speed economy and society.

 

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

GEORGE OSBORNE: A LONELY FIGURE

Far from things getting better for the economy, under Osborne they are getting steadily worse

Rare is the George Osborne speech that does not begin with a roll call of groups that support his spending cuts. Sadly for the chancellor, though, supporters for his historic austerity package are themselves increasingly rare. David Cameron's star guest this week, Barack Obama, was polite but conspicuous in his disagreement with the coalition's one-track stance. "We've got to make sure that we take a balanced approach and that there's a mix of cuts, but also thinking about how do we generate revenue," said the president. Then there was the chief economist of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Pier Carlo Padoan, who said there was "scope for slowing the pace" of cuts. Given how much the coalition has made of OECD approval for its policies, this is extraordinary.

The chancellor's newfound loneliness matters both economically and politically. Economically, those OECD comments followed on from its admission that prospects for the UK are getting worse. Last May the thinktank predicted that UK GDP would grow 2.5% in 2011; yesterday that forecast was cut (yet again) to 1.4%. That is higher than the prediction from the chancellor's Office for Budget Responsibility, but the OBR has also reduced its expectations for economic growth time and again. The Bank of England has had to do the same, and so have a whole host of private-sector forecasters. True, other countries have fallen subject to the same fate – but not so dramatically. The consensus is clear: far from things getting better for the economy, under Mr Osborne they are getting steadily worse.

Flick through the economic reports published this week and the same plangent theme sounds again and again. The CBI reports a "sharp" decline in trade for restaurants and other consumer-service firms over the first three months of this year. That is backed up by the detailed GDP figures this week showing a slump in household spending, to its lowest level since the height of the banking crisis. The chancellor's answer to how Britain emerges from its slump is a boom in business investment – but that collapsed 7.1% in the first part of the year. There is no good way of playing these figures – just like those big-picture forecasts, they are not going the government's way.

A canny tactician, Mr Osborne sold his austerity plans to the public as being the tough medicine prescribed by every economist going. Yet one by one, his allies – whether in the CBI, the G20 or the OECD – are distancing themselves from his policies. The chancellor may have claimed to be the consensus once; now he is out of sympathy with both the centre ground and economic reality.

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

IN PRAISE OF … BLACKBURN WITH DARWEN

With a high youth population, the towns' comprehensive children's centres helped inspire Sure Start

The wheel turns. An industrial powerhouse declines from the busiest cotton-spinning town in the world, with 2.5m spindles in 1870, to a handful of specialist, residual textile firms today. A great international name shrinks to provincial status; was it Blackburn we were talking about. Or Burnley? Or Bolton? What is the difference between them anyway? The future lies elsewhere. Such conversations no doubt still take place in bastions of ignorance away from the north, but reality is now winning out. Not only in the shape of successful engineering of aircraft, but in news about the exceptional number of young people who live in Blackburn with Darwen. One in four of the population is under 15, officially the largest proportion in the UK. Elsewhere, this might be considered a drain on resources. In Blackburn with Darwen, it is being turned to good account. The towns' comprehensive children's centres helped inspire Sure Start and, through careful budgeting and protection from cuts, continue to flourish. No local child is more than a pram push away. It has an elected "youth MP" and youngsters are involved in the governance of such regenerative centres as Blackburn College and the £8m YouthZone which opens later this year. Its online children and young people's directory is hosted at a textese web address: URBwD.com. Young people, in return, overwhelmingly want to stay and make their lives in Blackburn and Darwen. There could be no better shoulder to the wheel than that.

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

RATKO MLADIC: AN OLD MAN FACES JUSTICE

Belgrade has sent a clear message that it intends to turn the page and start rebuilding the country and the region

The 16 years in which Ratko Mladic has roamed free in Serbia is not a long time in Balkan memory. It's no more than the blink of an eye. Besides, the arrest of Europe's most wanted war crimes suspect has as much to do with the present as the past. The chief prosecutor of the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal (ICTY), Serge Brammertz, was just about to deliver a damning verdict on Belgrade's reluctant pursuit of Mladic to the UN, a report which would almost certainly have doomed Serbia's bid to be declared a formal candidate for EU membership later this year. Serbia has already fallen years behind Croatia, which can reckon on becoming the 28th member in 2013. President Boris Tadic, who faces unrest on the streets and a challenge from a strengthening nationalist opposition, had to deliver – and deliver quickly. The EU, for its part, will now come under strong pressure to reciprocate. It is no exaggeration to say that the arrest of one man could open a new chapter in relations between his country and Europe.

Nothing about the stocky former general has ever been diminutive. He has, according to just two counts on the ICTY charge sheet, the blood of 17,000 victims on his hands – the massacre of 7,000 men and boys at Srebrenica in 1995 and the siege of Sarajevo, which claimed 10,000 lives. This was more than died during the German occupation. And yet the fact that he has evaded capture for so long speaks volumes about the raw memory of those terrible events. Consider the reaction yesterday of the Serbian Radical party, whose spokesman accused Serb police of treachery for arresting a Serb hero. According to one poll, 40% concur with that view, and 51% would not hand Mladic over to the tribunal. Mladic's insider knowledge of how the security services worked was surely not the only factor that kept him one step ahead of the game for 16 years. It was also the fact that he remained, to the people who began protesting in Belgrade last night, a hero worth protecting.

The cauldron of ethnic cleansing is still warm to the touch in this part of Europe, and it was only last month that Serbia agreed to hold face-to-face talks with Kosovo, whose independence it refuses to recognise. Belgrade also plays a major role in the calculations of the Bosnian Serbs, and their demands for a breakaway statelet from Bosnia-Herzegovina. If the Kosovans were allowed to break away from Serbia, why, they argue, are Bosnian Serbs to be denied the same right? The embers of this fire are still smouldering and could easily reignite. The trial of Mladic, and the painstaking unveiling of the evidence against him, will do nothing immediately to douse passions. Indeed they could fan them. The demonstrations organised by the Serbian Radical party will inevitably turn up the heat in the nine or 10 days that it will take for Mladic to be transferred to the international tribunal in the Hague. In that time, the courts and Tadic himself will both have to hold firm.

But in the long run, the state's unswerving determination to deliver Mladic to international justice is the strongest message any government in Belgrade could give to its neighbours that it intends to turn the page of history and start rebuilding the country and the region. Put to one side the carrots of EU membership. Mladic's deliverance to the Hague is the only conceivable route to establishing normal relations between all the beleaguered, and still impoverished, communities of the region. It is the only way of re-establishing Serbia's place in the Balkans, not as a pariah state but as a modern trading partner. It could also be a reminder to those manning fortress Europe of the cost of keeping the gates shut. France, Germany and the Netherlands, all suffering from enlargement fatigue, have been setting new conditions on Croatia's membership. Yesterday, Nicolas Sarkozy changed tack, acknowledging that it was impossible to tell Serbia now that the door was closed. The dinar has dropped.

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THE JAPAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

RIPPLES FROM AN ARREST

The arrest of Mr. Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), on charges of sexual assault in New York City has been the occasion for all sorts of salacious gossip and speculation.

It has prompted the usual arguments about the differences in French and American culture — legal, journalistic and sexual — and the inevitable dark musings about conspiracies.

We leave those ruminations to the professionals; instead we will focus on the implications of Mr. Strauss-Kahn's predicament for both international economic governance and French politics. After his arrest, Mr. Strauss-Kahn resigned his position as managing director of the IMF.

But his troubles come amid a growing clamor for reform of international economic institutions. Emerging nations argue that the two key bodies, the World Bank and the IMF, are redoubts of Western imperialism, with their two top positions reserved for Americans and Europeans, respectively.

With emerging economies assuming an ever-greater role in the generation of global wealth and growth, the reservation of those positions smacks of a colonial mentality — to say nothing of the poor performance of Western economic policy makers in recent years. They have not demonstrated any inherent superiority for the job.

Europeans counter that the crisis in the eurozone requires that another European replace Mr. Strauss-Kahn. The difficulties in Greece, Spain, Ireland and Portugal put a premium on having an office holder who is comfortable talking to the heads of those governments, along with the European Central Bank, as they struggle to deal with those situations.

For the traditionalists who make this argument, Ms. Christine LaGarde, France's finance minister, is the best candidate to replace Mr. Stauss-Kahn.

Of course, this argument could have been used with equal force 14 years ago, when Asia was trying to deal with its own financial crisis. Then, there was no concern about special relationships being needed to ensure that the IMF's work was successful.

In fact, historically it has been argued that this sort of coziness between bankers and borrowers (to put the relationship bluntly) would be subject to abuse. It was far better to have someone distant from the particularities of a given situation, who could be objective to ensure that the IMF's funds were put to the best possible use.

Ms. LaGarde is most likely to get the post, hypocrisies notwithstanding. Europeans may disagree a great deal, but they will band together to safeguard their prerequisites. And it is unlikely that emerging economies can unite around a single alternative candidate, even though there are plenty of good choices, such as Singapore's finance minister, Mr. Tharam Shanmugaratnam, Mr. Trevor Manuel, a former South African finance minister, and the former head of Brazil's central bank, Mr. Arminio Fraga.

Mr. Haruhiko Kuroda, the former Japanese vice finance minister and the current president of the Asian Development Bank, should be among the choices. He has all the right credentials, having helped create a currency swap scheme among Asian countries during the Asian crisis over a decade ago; he is not an emerging economy candidate, but he would break Europe's iron grip on the post.

No matter who ultimately takes the post, however, it is time to reassess some of the "givens" in international economic governance.

Mr. Strauss-Kahn's situation also transforms French politics. Until his arrest, he was expected to win the Socialist Party nomination to run for the office of president of France next year.With President Nicholas Sarkozy's popularity plummeting, the Socialist frontrunner's chances looked especially good in the April 2012 ballot.

If, as many anticipate, this ends Mr. Strauss-Kahn's election prospects, Mr. Francoise Hollande, a longtime party leader, looks set to replace him as the Socialist candidate.

Mr. Strauss-Kahn's departure from the election changes the election dynamics. He was expected to win a comfortable victory over any challenger: His "champagne socialism" was supposed to appeal to the center, and his successes at the IMF would confer the international status that would have made him a shoo-in.

Mr. Hollande, far more enamored with traditional socialist policies, will not have it so easy. Even so, if Mr. Sarkozy cannot engineer a rebound in the pools, he will pose little challenge next April. But Mr. Hollande will face a tough runoff against Ms. Martine Le Pen of the National Front, daughter of the rightwing firebrand, Mr. Jean Marie Le Pen.

Mr. LePen made it to the runoff in 2002, when he squared off against (and lost to) incumbent President Jacques Chirac. His presence in the second round shocked many observers as Mr. Le Pen's positions were unapologetically nationalistic and xenophobic.

His daughter shares many of those views but she is a shrewder and more polished politician. She has managed to avoid the cruder expressions of those views without veering too far from their substance. She is an unlikely winner in next year's campaign, but election dynamics are radically altered with Mr. Strauss-Kahn out of the picture.

Of course, there may be more surprises to come between now and that ballot.

 

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THE JAPAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

DALAI LAMA'S WORDS OPEN DOOR FOR BEIJING

BY FRANK CHING

HONG KONG — The election of Lobsang Sangay, a Harvard Law School scholar, as prime minister of Tibet's government-in-exile was followed immediately by China's rejection of any talks with him on the future of Tibet.

This should not be taken as a rebuff from Beijing. Ironically, the retirement of the Dalai Lama from the government-in-exile while retaining his role as spiritual leader may open up an opportunity for talks between his representatives and the Chinese government.

For one thing, the Dalai Lama is no longer an official of a government that Beijing does not recognize.

Moreover, Beijing should appreciate the significance of his recent address to the Tibetan parliament-in-exile when he said that, as a result of the proposed changes, "some of my political promulgations such as the Draft Constitution for a Future Tibet (1963) and Guidelines for Future Tibet's Polity (1992) will become ineffective."

This was in effect a disavowal of Tibetan independence. The 1963 document was explicitly committed to Tibetan independence. And while the 1992 Guidelines do not call for independence, there is a clear implication in that document that Tibet is not a part of China.

By saying that these previous documents are now "ineffective," the Dalai Lama has opened a door for Beijing. Besides, the newly drafted constitution encourages talks between the Dalai Lama and Beijing, asserting that "His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama" will "remain engaged in the efforts to reach a satisfactory solution to the question of Tibet and to accomplish the cherished goals of the Tibetan people."

Although he is now limiting himself to a spiritual and not temporal role, the reverence that Tibetans have for him is evident. The new constitution, for example, calls him "the guide illuminating the path, the supreme leader, the symbol of the Tibetan identity and unity, and the voice of the whole Tibetan people."

He will certainly be difficult to replace, in more senses than one. China has called the Dalai Lama's retirement a "trick" to deceive the international community.

Professor Robert Barnett, a Tibet specialist at Columbia University, explained China's suspicions in a recent article in the New York Review of Books. He wrote of "a little-known 17th-century precedent in which the retirement of a Dalai Lama concealed a convoluted plot to prevent China from choosing his successor."

It turns out that in 1679, the fifth Dalai Lama, an extraordinarily capable man, announced that he had appointed a young Tibetan to act as regent while he went into retirement. His intention was to prevent the Manchu court in Beijing from interfering in the choice of a successor after his death. He gave instructions that his death was not to be made public, and so it was that when he died in 1682, the regent announced that the Dalai Lama was in retreat.

For 14 years the Chinese emperor did not know of his death and, when he did, the next Dalai Lama had been identified and educated, with Beijing prevented from having any say over his selection.

According to tradition, the next Dalai Lama will be the reincarnation of the current one and the boy can only be identified through an elaborate process.

The Chinese government has said that its endorsement is an indispensable step in the process. If, as is likely, Beijing and Tibetan exiles identify different boys as the next Dalai Lama, there may well be rival claimants to be the 15th Dalai Lama.

The current Dalai Lama disclosed recently that steps are being taken by the exile community to identify his successor while he is still living. He disclosed that leaders of the different schools of Tibetan Buddhism have met to discuss how his successor will be chosen and "perhaps this year we will finalize our position."

Surely, this is additional reason for Beijing to talk to the Dalai Lama, who enjoys such reverence among Tibetans and who is already 75 years old. A successor is unlikely to command such respect and support. More important, a successor may not be committed to maintaining Tibet as part of China while asking for autonomy and the preservation of Tibetan culture.

Time is running out, not only for the Dalai Lama but also for Beijing to reach an accord with him while he is still in a position to secure the support of Tibetans for any agreement that may be reached.

Frank Ching is a Hong Kong-based journalist Email: Frank.ching@gmail.com Follow him on Twitter: @FrankChing1

 

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THE JAKARTA POST

EDITORIAL

A REPUBLIC OF FEAR, AGAIN?

What do the two shooting incidents in Central Sulawesi and the bomb threat at the Surabaya airport on Wednesday mean to the Indonesian people? Will the bloody civil war in Central Sulawesi begin again? What about the bomb hoax in Surabaya? What should the police – as the country's sole domestic security guarantor – do in response?

Three separate incidents – the bomb threat at Juanda International Airport in Surabaya, East Java, and the shooting incidents in Central Sulawesi's capital Palu and in Poso regency – shocked the country at a time when the nation was being assured of the country's effective security management after the foiled bomb attacks in Tangerang, Banten, and the subsequent arrest of suspects in several Indonesian cities last month.

As the bomb threat at Juanda was neutralized, the shooting incident in Palu, where two helmeted gunmen on two motorcycles fired at three police officers who were guarding BCA Bank office, took the lives of two officers and wounded another. The shooting in Poso was not deadly, as the two gunmen just fired their guns into the air.

The three incidents, plus the recent disturbing issues surrounding the revival of the Islamic State of Indonesia (NII) movement, have undoubtedly given the impression to the general public that the arrest of bombing suspects last year and the death of leading al-Qaeda-related bombing suspects Azahari and Noordin M. Top in previous years had not completely put a stop to terror in the country. The latest incidents should serve as a wake-up call for the police to take immediate measures to regain control of the country's security and strive to anticipate and prevent similar incidents from happening in the future.

As the police are still collecting evidence about the bomb threat at Juanda airport, they have yet to discover the motives or if there is any relationship between the shooting incidents in Sulawesi, including any potential motives for terror. They also have yet to identify whether the incidents in Palu and Poso have any links with the armed robbery at a CIMB Niaga Bank in Medan, North Sumatra, in August of last year and the attack on the Hamparan Perak Police station in North Sumatra's Deli Serdang regency in September, also last year.

Still, the police deserve praise, as their hunt for the perpetrators in the Palu incident immediately bore fruit as they arrested the two motorcycle riders and confiscated three rifles from them in a police raid at the province's intercity road early Thursday morning. As of Thursday afternoon, the police were still in pursuit of the two Poso suspects, who reportedly fled into the jungle.

The police's rapid responses to the latest incidents are surely expected. Still, they are considered fire extinguishing measures. What is more important and badly needed are anticipatory measures by the police so as to prevent such incidents from happening in the future, and systematic efforts involving all parts of the nation to tackle the root causes of terror and violence, which have repeatedly haunted the country.

No one expects that fear will haunt our republic again.

 

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THE JAKARTA POST

DEMOCRACY BEFORE PEACE

This may seem a novelty to bringing peace in the Middle East: promote democracy as far as possible in the Arab world, including in the Palestinian territories, before pushing them and Israel to settle their long-drawn conflict.

That was the chief message of US President Barack Obama's speech when he laid out his new Middle East policy that accounted for the democratic uprisings that dramatically shook the Arab world. This message, representing a major policy shift, however, was lost, as the focus of attention quickly turned to Obama's insistence of a position – held by all his predecessors – that the border before the 1967 Arab-Israeli war should be "the basis" of negotiations for peace. Whatever Israel has to say about the pre-1967 border, it is the premise that is supported not only by the majority of Palestinians but also by the United Nations.


While Obama was correct in prodding Israel to use this historic opportunity to make peace with its Arab neighbors, given the fluid situation in the Arab world, peace talks would have to take a back seat for now while Arab countries resolve things by themselves – one way or another – about the kind of governments they want to set up.


Egypt and Tunisia are already ahead in opening the way for democracy, but in countries such as Libya, Syria and Bahrain, long-entrenched dictators are pushing back and even killing their own people who are clamoring for freedom and democracy. The two major rival Palestinian political factions have already made peace and are now preparing for democratic elections that would unite their people currently divided, both physically and politically, between the West Bank and the tiny Gaza Strip.


No one can predict what the Middle East and North Africa will look like in one or two years, just as no one predicted that the Arab Spring would shake all the tyrannical regimes in the region. But the international community, including the United States, must come on the side of the people wanting freedom, democracy and dignity.

A government that is democratically elected and fully accountable to its people is much less likely to wage war on another democracy. We should give democracy a chance to work in Egypt and hopefully in other countries in the region and pray that peace will somehow come to the Middle East. It's certainly worth a try.

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THE JAKARTA POST

EDITORIAL

CALL FOR NATIONAL POLICY RESPONSE TO THE INCREASING WORLD OIL PRICE

LATIF ADAM

The world oil price continues to increase. Between January and April 2011, the average price of Brent oil was at US$109.53 per barrel.

During the same period, the average Indonesia Crude Price (ICP) reached $109.20 per barrel, far higher than that assumed in the state budget of US$80 per barrel.

The continued increase in the oil price has widened the price disparity between subsidized (premium Rp 4,500 per liter) and non-subsidized (Pertamax Rp 9,250 per liter) fuels.

This has led to a shift in the pattern of people's fuel consumption. On the one hand, the level of premium consumption rises very rapidly.

In March 2001, premium consumption accounted for 2.016 million kiloliters (kl), an increase from 1.821 million kl in January 2011.

This premium consumption of March 2011 is also higher than that of March 2010 (1.904 million kl).

On the other hand, the level of Pertamax consumption decreased significantly from 7.999 million kl (February 2011) to 7.699 million kl (March 2010).

This Pertamax consumption of March 2011 is also lower than that of March 2010 (13.414 million kl).

In this year's state budget, the subsidized fuel quota is set at 38.591 million kl (23.190 million kl of premium, 13,084 million kl of diesel fuel and 2,315 million kl of kerosene) with a budget of Rp 79.313 trillion (Rp 41.189 trillion for premium, Rp 29.567 trillion for diesel fuel and Rp 8.557 trillion for kerosene).

The increase in oil prices and the migration of consumers from Pertamax to premium is predicted to increase fuel subsidies by Rp 28.37 trillion, with the following details.

First, the Center for Economic Research of the Indonesian Institute of Sciences {(P2E)-LIPI} has calculated that for every oil price increase of $1.00 per barrel higher than that assumed in the state budget, the fuel subsidy budget will increase by Rp 700 billion ($81.39 million).

This means that the rise in the ICP to the level of $109.20 per barrel will potentially add extra subsidized fuel cost of Rp 20.44 trillion.

Second, by assuming the rise in the oil prices will escalate volume of subsidized fuel by 10 percent (from 38.591 million kl to 42.45 million kl), then the subsidized fuel budget will increase by Rp 7.9 trillion.

Oil pressure on the state budget may be more than Rp 28.37 trillion ($3.3 billion) if we take into account the country's oil production.

As BP Migas (the upstream oil and gas regulatory body) noted, oil production continues to decline from 911,000 (January-April 2011) to 907,000 barrels per day (mid-May 2011).

The realization of this production is much lower than the government's target of 970,000 barrels per day. The problem is that for every 10,000 barrels of oil short of the targeted figure, the budget deficit will increase by Rp 2 trillion.

Jointly or partially, the high pressure of the rising oil prices, increasing the volume of fuel that must be subsidized, and decreasing oil production on the state budget should initiate the government to make some adjustments.

Otherwise, it is highly likely that the government budget will dry up in trying to compensate for a significant increase in the subsidized fuel budget, and only a small budget will be left over to support more productive spending, such as infrastructure spending and other goods and capital expenditure.

At least there are two options that the government could choose to respond to problems that arise from rising oil prices, the increasing volume fuel that must be subsidized, and decreasing oil production.

First: impose restrictions on the consumption of subsidized fuels. This means that premium and diesel should only be consumed by motorcycles and public transportation vehicles.

The government predicted that if this policy were implemented in Greater Jakarta, there would be a saving in the budget of Rp 3.8 trillion to 5.8 trillion.

However, the implementation of this policy could result in a rise in the rate of inflation. By assuming that price disparity between Pertamax and premium is 100 percent (the price for Pertamax is Rp 9,000 per liter), P2E-LIPI predicted that the implementation of this policy in Greater Jakarta would potentially push up the rate of inflation by 1.04 percent.

Second, adjustment on subsidized fuel prices, particularly premium, gradually to approach to its economical price. By assuming the price for premium is increased by Rp 500 per liter, P2E-LIPI predicted that there will be a saving in the state budget of Rp 11.575 trillion. In addition, the implementation of this policy will only increase inflation by 0.33 percent.

Of the two policy options explained above, the latter is economically better than the former. The latter provides a higher benefit (the budget that could be saved) and lower cost (the inflation rate) than the former.

Moreover, the implementation of the former is relatively complex as this will require excellent supporting infrastructure and tight supervision to anticipate distortion of the policy (oil black market).

Until now there have been no sign hinting at which policy option the government will choose to adapt to rising oil prices, increasing the volume of fuel that must be subsidized, and decreasing oil production.

The government has actually promised several times to make a decision regarding subsidized fuel. Unfortunately, the government has been slow to realize its promise.

There is a strong indication that the government puts a bigger emphasis on political concerns than economic realities.

What are you waiting for all you government officials? Your slow response will endanger the sustainability of the state budget.

The writer is a researcher at the Center for Economic Research (P2E)-LIPI.

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THE JAKARTA POST

EDITORIAL

IDENTIFYING AN INDONESIAN 'OSAMA'

AL MAKIN |

Although Osama bin Laden was killed, radicalism on behalf of Islam – as some of the groomed "heirs" to the throne of al-Qaeda have vowed to avenge the blood of the mastermind and many pundits have prophesized in various media – looks to live on. With or without Osama, extremism, which has given birth to various atrocities, bombs and suicide attacks, goes on.

A bomb exploded in Pakistan a week after Osama's death. In Surakarta, hundreds of men masked their faces as they took an oath on the street rallying to retaliate. A few days later, the anti-terror squad arrested and shot dead more suspected "terrorists" in neighboring Sukoharjo.

With or without Osama, the Islam Defenders Front (FPI) holds its radical faith firmly. This group publicly mourned the death of Osama, whom they regarded as a martyr, and condemned US President Barack Obama, whose figure embodied the super power.

Grief, however, does not weaken the FPI's spirit. Nor does it stop them from thinking of a new agenda. This group showed their teeth and fangs in attempting to halt Hanung Bramantyo's pluralism-themed film in Bandung.

It appears that the pundits' prophecies and the radicals' vengeances were fulfilled. But be prepared to see more.

For two decades, Osama's simple rhetoric filled the air we breathed. His curse of the superpower's hegemony remains enshrined and is repeated in the Internet, Facebook, blogs and Twitter. Due to its simplicity, people easily understand the logic. But with this reasoning, radicals have failed to cope with the reality. They can never comprehend this world's complexity. Nor can they accept their own defeat.

In whose figure in Indonesia can Osama's be compared?

According to Abu Bakar Ba'asyir, a firebrand radical preacher from Ngruki, Sukoharjo whose excessive media coverage has sparked envy from rival jihadist preachers, he is the one whose reputation in terms of jihad is comparable to that of Osama's. It is unclear whether Ba'asyir is proud or unhappy when surrounded by the tight security forces in the court. What is obvious is that he imagines himself as Osama, whose death and life has become a subject of a never-ending debate.

Indeed, between Bin Laden and Ba'asyir there are some points worthy of comparison.

Of course the two share the same perceptions about a clear-cut division of the world into believers and infidels, perpetual wars against infidels and formation of jihadist networks that operate beyond country and nation.

Both see secular government as the main obstacle in their bid to establish an Islamic caliphate. Both Bin Laden and Ba'asyir detest America, which they regard as the enemy of Islam. The two also cursed their own countries. While Bin Laden condemned Saudi Arabia for its relation with the US government, Ba'asyir denounced the Indonesian government and called President Yudhoyono an infidel – a serious offense which the President seems to have never taken into account.

No proof confirms that Baasyir's network falls under the command of Osama directly. However, the former hailed the latter on many occasions. Unlike Ba'asyir, top terrorists Umar Patek, Hambali, Noordin M. Top and Abu Jibril were Afghanistan jihadi alumni whose bonds with Osama were strong. According to a source, Ba'asyir visited Afghanistan, but what he did during his stay there remains unclear.

What is the difference between Osama and Ba'asyir?

While Osama proudly showed his responsibilities for many atrocities, one of which was the 9/11 attack, Ba'asyir has always denied his role in the acts of terror targeting Indonesia. It is tricky business, as Ba'asyir preaches hatred and often hails jihadist actions but denies playing a role.

Does Ba'asyir's reputation match that of Osama? It seems unlikely. True, Baasyir is a symbol of Indonesian radicalism for his critical role in propagating the core ideology of Islamism – a role that Osama also played well.

However, unlike Osama, Ba'asyir is likely not a foot soldier. Nor is he a commander in the field. But he is somehow in the network taking part as an ideologue and perhaps also fundraiser. Thus, Ba'asyir is a half of Osama.

To whom is Osama comparable in Indonesia? Osama is a combination of an image builder like Ba'asyir and a foot soldier like Noordin M. Top, Abu Dujana, Hambali, Azahari and Umar Patek, whom Baasyir knows well. And Osama's threat to the public is as latent as those made by the FPI.

The writer is a lecturer at Sunan Kalijaga Islamic State University, Yogyakarta.

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THE JAKARTA POST

EDITORIAL

AFTER OSAMA'S DEATH THE AUDACITY TO HOPE ARISES

MOH YASIR ALIMI

When Obama marched to the White House and, with the power of words and sincerity and vision, ignited the audacity of hope in the hearts of many Americans and many men and women in the Islamic world alike.

It was a hope that the world would turn into a better place in which the West and the Islamic world would coexist and unite in humanity, learn from and respect each other and shoulder to shoulder overcome the huge ecological challenge facing the 21th century.

There is no precedence in history that a Western leader can raise such enthusiasm and hope in the Islamic world, from a sleepless corner in Cairo to a bustling neighborhood in Jakarta.

After the Sept. 11, 2001, tragedy, the US and Islamic worlds were divided by prejudice.

The US tends to see Islam as a religion of violence and herself the champion of freedom, while Muslims on the other side see Islam as the believer and the West as the non-believer and the champion of materialism.

Moved by such enthusiasm, an audience in the crowd gathering at Cairo University interrupted the long applause following Obama's speech and cried: "Barack Obama, we love you!"

Obama has inspired both the US and the Islamic world at a time of confusion and despair to have the audacity to hope and overcome the shackles of prejudice, stereotype and suspicion.

He encourages talks on centuries of coexistence rather than on differences, about Islam as part of American culture and Islam as the foundation of European enlightenment, as well as democracy, humanity and women's rights as the essential elements of Islamic culture.

The path to coexistence would not be easy, however. The audacity of hearts to overcome suspicion and have place for others in the heart will be tested on several occasions. Among the test is how to respond to the death of Osama, which can illustrate the existing ruptures and encounters.

Many Muslims thought that Americans rejoiced in the death of Osama. Conversely, many Americans feel something wrong in the jubilation.

A call for a mindful response to the death also rings loudly in America together with the popularity of a quote once was believed to belong to Martin Luther King Jr.

"I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an
enemy. Returning hate for hate
multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that."

Though this quote later could not be confirmed to belong to Martin Luther King Jr., this quotation still encapsulates the feelings of many Americans that hate only spirals down us to deeper darkness.

On the other side, many Americans also thought the Muslim world mourn the death of Osama, a myth often exaggerated by Muslim writers themselves. On the contrary, many Muslims think Osama and his men have killed more Muslims than American fellows. He created more destruction in the Islamic world than in the West.

That is why, Asghar Ali Engineer, a leading Muslim intellectual living in Mumbai India, not far from Abbotabad where Osama was killed, wrote: "The Muslim world does not need Osama". The Islamic world is better without Osama.

The moral of the story: There is immense stock of sensitivity and prejudice in the US and Islamic world, which can be easily exploited by the fundamentalists and ruthless politicians on both sides. At times like this, audacity is needed so that the width of difference does not blind us from the width of similarity we share.

There is a gap, but the choice is only coexistence or non-existence. The destiny of the US is determined by the destiny of the Islamic world, and vise versa.

The only way back from the audacity of hope is the audacity of nightmares.

Each party should not break the audacity of hope that has emerged and created a bond. Obama and politicians in the Islamic world should have the guts to restrain themselves from exploiting hatred to pop up their popularity at the expense of the God-given dignity of humans. Exploiting hatred will make us spiral down into a deeper darkness.

As Martin Luther King Jr. once warned us: "Hate is like an unchecked cancer. Hate corrupts personality and eats away its vitality. Hate destroys a man's sense of values and objectivity. It causes him to describe the beautiful as ugly and the ugly as beautiful, and describe the true as false and the false as true".

In the same line, the Koran also reminds Muslims to be sincere, just and passionate to those different to us particularly at the most difficult times.

These two sources underline that at times of conflict and suspicion, we should have the audacity to follow humanity consciousness rather than identity consciousness, the audacity to acknowledge weaknesses and learn from the other and the audacity to overcome arrogance and selfishness.

Muslims should have the courage to heal Islam from terrorism, violence and intolerance that impoverish the Islamic world and from legalism that drains Islam from divine spirituality.

The Muslims should have the audacity to realize Islam as rahmatan lil alamin, not only for its Muslim brothers, but also for all humanity.

On the other side, the US should dare enough to consistently implement what Obama has outlined in Cairo, the audacity to behave justly to the Islamic world in accordance to the principle enshrined in its constitution.

It is easy for humans to lose sight of basic principles when they are confronted with difficulties. The West and the Islamic world should hold firmly to toughmindedness and heart tenderness: Toughmindedness to listen to the voices of conscience and the voices of the other and heart tenderness to forgive others.

The writer is a researcher at the Center for Cultural Pluralism and Character Building, Semarang State University.

 

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DAILY MIRROR

     EDITORIAL

 

 

DIPLOMATIC BLUNDERS: TENSION WITH INDIA

For Sri Lanka, last week was eventful for one reason or the other. The week began with religious observances and celebrations for Vesak, with the added significance of it being the 2,600th year of the Lord Buddha's enlightenment.

It is ironic that though the Lord Buddha is revered as the greatest son of India, Sri Lanka appears to be again having serious problems with its giant neighbour and the Southern State of Tamil Nadu. In a much delayed effort at building bridges of accommodation and understanding, External Affairs Minister G.L. Peiris last week wrote to Tamil Nadu's new Chief Minister Jayalalithaa Jeyaram congratulating her on her election victory and on her sbeing sworn-in as Chief Minister of the most populous Tamil State. The message came in the wake of Ms. Jeyaram calling for a  an international probe on accountability issues during the final stages of the war in Sri Lanka. Speaking on her own channel, Jaya TV, Ms. Jeyaram  said it was India's responsibility to ensure a dignified and honourable existence for the Tamils in Sri Lanka.

Last week Dr. Peiris also visited New Delhi virtually on his own for crucial talks with India's foreign policy high priests. The joint statement that came out of the meeting is seen by many political analysts as a tacit agreement committing the Rajapaksa regime to fully implement the "Made in India" 13th Amendment. This means the 13th Amendment plus which in turn means that provincial councils and especially those in the North and East will get and fully exercise police and land distribution powers.  Essentially this is what the LTTE tried to achieve militarily, but now big brother India appears to be forcing it down the Rajapaksa regime's throat diplomatically. While on the one hand, the Sri Lankan government has been telling the United Nations, the United States, the European Union and the Human rights Council that the reconciliation process in Sri Lanka is on the right track and in line with the aspirations of the Tamil people, the joint statement with India states otherwise. It announces that India and Sri Lanka have agreed that the end of the armed conflict in Sri Lanka has 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. The key word is "Genuine". The statement means Dr. Peiris affirmed the Rajapaksa regime's commitment to ensuring expeditious and concrete progress in the ongoing dialogue between the Sri Lankan Government and representatives of Tamil parties. Dr. Peiris also reiterated that the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission appointed by the government was looking into accountability issues and would act accordingly.  But India was non committal on its stand regarding the controversial report by the experts' panel appointed by UN Chief Ban Ki-moon to examine and advise him on accountability issues during the last stages of the war in Sri Lanka. The experts recommended there were "credible allegations" regarding genocide or war crimes and they felt a probe by an independent international group was necessary.

A pertinent question that has to be asked is whether the external affairs ministry lacked experienced officials well versed with the politics of India and knowledgeable in subtle diplomatic nuances to accompany the minister whose visit turned out to be a flop. In recent years the government has been recruiting more political henchmen or women for important diplomatic posts and this has created a major crisis.  Opposition leaders and even some government allies like the Patriotic National Movement are saying that Dr. Peiris had betrayed this country and protests are being organised against India's crafty interference in the internal affairs of sovereign Sri Lanka.

It's sad to see Sri Lanka, which government leaders say is on the threshold of being the wonder of Asia now wondering around Asia not knowing what to say or what to do and struggling to get its act together especially on the UN report and the reconciliation process.

 

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DAILY MIRROR

EDITORIAL

THE AFGHAN-LIBYA DUO

Cameron and Obama have a duo to address. Irrespective of their stated positions that they won't tolerate Libyan dictator Col Muammar Gaddafi in power any longer, both the allies are in need of re-strategising their priorities.

Afghanistan and Libya are issues that are not only pending on their desktops but on their minds, alike. Though Washingtons backseat policy in the case of Libya is not without a purpose, it has landed its allies, London and Paris, in a fix. A prolonged episode over the skies of Tripoli and Benghazi is not helping Britain, and this is why Cameron looks up to Obama to ensure an early exit from the North of Africa. What extra mile can the US administration walk in rescuing London is not difficult to guess, as it finds itself in a (new crisscross since having become an ardent supporter of Arab Spring from Tunis to Sanaa?

Apart from Libya, it's high time both the US and Britain showed their cards on Afghanistan. Obama's desire to see his troops come out of the mess in Southwest Asia by July is still on the table. Exiting Afghanistan means literally ending the bogey of war on terrorism, and that too close on the heels of killing the world's most wanted terrorist — Osama bin Laden. Though they should stick to the exit plan, they shouldn't blunder this time around as they did after defeating the Soviet Red Army. Two of the world's major democracies need to spell out a Marshal plan of reconstruction and reengagement with the dispensation in Kabul, as they move on  to the norms of peace diplomacy.

Cameron and Obama can do well by sharing notes on Pakistan alike, and do away with the impression of jumping over the gun when it comes to detecting and defeating the terror network. The United States has an opportunity in disaster, as it is still the only power that could turn the tables while dealing with the war-weary North African state. The Nobel Peace laureate is in need of initiating personal diplomacy with the Libyan leader, and can help his allies, too, in exploring an amicable way out of the crisis.

America and Britain have a chance to undo the mess of Iraq and Afghanistan by prudently deciding over Libya. Kneejerk reactions have hardly helped in formulating a policy. All it requires is leadership.

Khaleej Times

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DAILY MIRROR

EDITORIAL

OBAMA GETS JUICE ON HIS FACE

A few days before the November 1960 presidential elections, Democratic Party candidate John F. Kennedy, told his friend and confidant Charles Bartlett that he wanted to confide in him something that was troubling him.

Kennedy told Bartlett that he was hosted to dinner by wealthy and prominent Jewish leaders in New York. One of them had told him that he knew the campaign was in a financial difficulty and offered to help significantly if Kennedy as president "would allow them to set the course of the Middle East policy over the next four years".

Kennedy told Bartlett that he felt insulted that anybody would make that offer, particularly to a man who even had a slim chance to be president.

He said if he ever did get to be president, he would push for a law that would subsidise presidential campaigns out of the US Treasury. He added whatever the cost of this subsidy, it would insulate presidential candidates in the future from this kind of pressure and save the country a lot of grief in the long run. (For more of this, read Paul Findley's They Dare to Speak Out, 1985, Lawrence Hill.)

Some half a century later, President Barack Obama, considered to be Kennedy's political heir, faced a similar situation. But this time there was indifference to the insult. The Jewish lobby's power is such that a visiting Israeli prime minister could criticize the US president — the most powerful political leader on earth — in full view of the media. A shaken and stunned Obama could only keep his hand on his mouth and listen while he was being lectured on by Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the White House Oval Office — the US seat of power.

No wonder some analysts say the United States is the extended territory of Israel.

It was only a day before the Friday meeting with Netanyahu that Obama roared like a lion, intimidating hostile Arab despots and mollycoddling friendly dictators. Obama's speech was a major disappointment to the people in the Arab Street because it smacked of the usual hypocrisy and double-standards. The only silver lining was his remark that "the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states".

Israel was furious though the US position was nothing new. Since the time of President Bill Clinton, the US has been indicating that the future Palestinian state should be based on the 1967 border. But it was Obama who for the first time said it in public and made it a matter of policy.

 

The 1967 border is not what the UN partition plan had envisaged. It came to be known as a de facto border only after the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.

The Palestinians have made a great sacrifice by agreeing to set up their state within the 1967 borders instead of insisting on the 1947 UN partition resolution that gave the Zionist Jews 56 percent of what was the Ottoman province of Palestine to set up a state. By agreeing to the 1967 border, the Palestinian land mass on paper had shrunk from 44 percent to 22 percent, but in reality illegal Israeli settlements, their expansion and military zones have eaten into more Palestinian land.

Yet Obama's mentioning of the 1967 border drew a dressing down from Netanyahu, in spite of the fact that the US President did not fail to mention in his speech the United States' commitment to protect Israel. Even Obama's description of Israel as a 'Jewish state' — a kind of endorsement of Netanyahu's demand that the Palestinians should recognize Israel as a state only for the Jewish people — failed to appease Israel's hardline leaders.

On Sunday, a servile Obama stood before the American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee — the official name for the Jewish lobby — and pledged his allegiance to Israel. After all, didn't Obama, weeks before he was elected President, appear before the AIPAC and say that Jerusalem was the undivided capital of Israel — a remark that earned him the lobby's endorsement and the much needed campaign funds?

Well Obama is not Kennedy, whose assassination is still a mystery. Poor Obama has little option because he knows the road to his reelection in 2012 is through the AIPAC and Israel. He may be the hero who eliminated Osama bin Laden, the United States' public enemy number one. But that feat is not enough to win elections. The economy is in bad shape and the rightwing politics is on the rise. His visit to Ireland this week sent a campaign message to America's white racists: Although he has a black father from Kenya he is also as white as some 40 million Irish Americans because his mother's ancestors are from Ireland. But the bin Laden killing and white blood are not enough. He needs the support of the Jewish lobby which controls Capitol Hill, America's finances and the media.

So Obama told the AIPAC on Sunday, "I and my administration have made the security of Israel a priority. It's why we've increased cooperation between our militaries to unprecedented levels. It's why we're making our most advanced technologies available to our Israeli allies. It's why, despite tough fiscal times, we've increased foreign military financing to record levels. And that includes additional support-beyond regular military aid-for the Iron Dome anti-rocket system."

Obama even went to the extent of justifying Israel's war crimes mentioned in a UN report, saying Israel has the right to self defence. Though these words won a big applause, Obama's future is not clear because the Jewish lobby and Israel feel he has not done enough for the Zionism's cause. They are also not sure what a wounded Obama would do in his second term during which he will not be beholden to the lobby.

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GULF DAILY NEWS

COMMENT

A MORBID EPISODE... 

BY JENNIFER GNANA

IT was Bahrain's National Day some 12 years ago and a family friend and I were supposed to perform for an annual gathering at church.

It was weeks of preparation, excitement and nerves. It was also very personal for me as my mum was undergoing a major operation on the same day.

That was perhaps one of the few memories I have of the girl who performed with me.

I had been staying with her family for around a year as my parents had left Bahrain to get medical treatment abroad for my mum.

More than a decade later I shockingly heard her name being broadcast on Indian TV channels and saw her story in the GDN ('Girl kills father during rape bid' May 20).

She had been charged with the murder of her father who it is alleged attempted to rape her at knife-point.

The last I heard she was in detention in a southern Indian jail and her brother was attempting to get her out on bail.

Local rights groups have spoken out against the fact that she was remanded in custody when she acted apparently in self-defence.

Repeated calls to the police station went unanswered and when I got through to an inspector, he refused to say anything.

I have no idea if she got bail, though a newspaper reported that she was to be produced before a magistrate.

It came as a shock to hear the incident being repeated on TV the whole day.

It was cruel that she had to face so much trauma, especially when she was about to complete her final year of university.

It's also cruel that she allegedly had to face attempted rape from her father who was the only parent she had after her mum died in 2004.

I couldn't picture her going through this ordeal. The family I knew when I was eight was like any other.

They celebrated Christmas with an enthusiasm I haven't seen anywhere else.

The mum, a nurse at a Bahrain hospital where my mum initially received treatment, was very keen to make her precocious daughter succeed.

I remember how involved she was with every piece of homework her daughter was assigned - making sure she placed her full stops with precision and didn't miss her dance classes.

Birthday parties for her were planned months in advance and I remember her consulting her friends over everything from where to get the best dress or pizza for her daughter.

As someone who lived away from my parents for a long time, the family seemed a picture-perfect postcard of happiness and contentment.

The father, I recollect, occasionally liked a drink, but I also knew him to step in to get his daughter ready for school when the mum was away on late shifts and make us breakfast some days.

When her mum died, my parents had been reluctant to let me know as they thought it would upset me.

It's hard to imagine the horrible incidents you hear in the news happening to "normal" families. It's even more unbelievable when it happens to someone you know.

I can't imagine my old family friend to be associated with the morbidity of the whole episode.

Whenever I think of her, it's of the little girl who wore all her dresses with matching earrings, shoes and bags, who zealously guarded her treasure trove of curios, who collected all her pencil shavings in a big box, not the person at the centre of an international scandal. * Ms Gnana is a former Bahrain resident now studying in Mumbai.

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