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Monday, May 30, 2011

EDITORIAL 30.05.11

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media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya



month may 30, edition 000845, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul


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






































































US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's reported remark that Pakistan was not aware of Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden's presence in the country before he was gunned down by American SEALs is a shocking clean chit to a terror-sponsoring state which is also the crucible of jihad. Just what prompted Ms Clinton to make that remark apart from the fact that she was on a trip to Islamabad, is unclear. There is certainly no evidence at hand for her to come to such an amazing conclusion. The CIA is still analysing the huge amount of material it collected during the Abbottabad raid in which Osama bin Laden was killed to determine Pakistan's complicity in harbouring the wanted terrorist. There are other inquiries going on to find out who protected Osama bin Laden for years while he lived in Pakistan, that too in close proximity to Islamabad and in a high security Army garrison town to boot. It would be absurd to deny that he survived for so many years only because he had the support of certain well-placed individuals in the Pakistani establishment, if not organisations like the ISI or even the Army. Ironically, even as Ms Clinton issued her stunning certificate of good conduct to Pakistan came reports that documents seized by the US forces indicated Osama bin Laden and his associates had discussed the possibility of striking a deal with the Pakistani Government. The fact that the terrorist had toyed with the idea of signing a truce with Pakistan shows there were people in the Islamabad-Rawalpindi establishment who had access to him and were favourably placed to consider his suggestion. Ms Clinton has chosen to ignore these hard realities. There are other facts that she has conveniently glossed over in her enthusiasm to please Pakistan. For instance, the fact that her own Government had kept authorities in Pakistan in the dark about Operation Geronimo because it could not trust the latter. She also forgets that her President, Mr Barack Obama, has warned Pakistan that he will not hesitate to order more such raids.

The prevalent view across America, and certainly among law-makers and investigators, these days is that successive the US Administration has pampered Pakistan long enough without succeeding in forcing Islamabad to mend its ways; they now want a tough, no-nonsense approach, as reflected in the demand on the Hill to cut aid to Pakistan. Yet Ms Clinton has chosen to speak in a different language, thus demonstrating the duplicity and hypocrisy of the US Administration. The State Department is now tying itself up in knots while trying to clarify that her statement should not be seen as absolving the ISI; that she was referring to higher authorities in the civilian Government in Islamabad; and, that Pakistan does not stand exonerated. But that's so much balderdash. Ms Clinton, more than anyone else, knows that the real power in Pakistan lies with the Pakistani Army and its spy agency, the ISI. If they were involved in providing succour to Osama bin Laden, it is as good as the Government of Pakistan being complicit. In any case, Pakistan's sponsorship of terror is not merely a Washington-Islamabad issue that can be resolved through placatory statements; it affects the entire world and hits India directly. The US Administration is welcome to peddle fiction and mollycoddle a terror-sponsoring Pakistan, but let that not become a burden for others.







One of the main reasons why the Congress-led UDF in Kerala could get only a wafer-thin majority in the Assembly election was the charges of corruption and sexual misconduct against its top leaders, but it seems to have failed to learn any lessons from that experience. The 20-member UDF Cabinet headed by Congress's Chief Minister Oommen Chandy has at least three Ministers facing serious charges of corruption or immorality. Mr Chandy refused to listen to the advice of Leader of the Opposition VS Achuthanandan and even his own party colleagues against inducting tainted persons into the Cabinet. The Minister to be sworn in after the Chief Minister was Muslim League's de facto supremo PK Kunhalikutty who has been accused of sexually abusing a minor girl back in 1996 and bribing victims, witnesses and even judges of the Kerala High Court in the infamous ice cream parlour sex scandal. Mr Kunhalikutty was forced to resign from the then Chandy Government in 2004 on account of the same scandal. Though Mr Chandy has said that his Government will not derail the ongoing investigation, Keralites do not have reason to trust him. The other two tainted Ministers are Mr Adoor Prakash, who has been given the portfolio of health, and Mr CN Balakrishnan. A vigilance case is still on against Mr Prakash for allegedly demanding bribe from his own party colleagues for granting licences for ration shops when he was Food and Civil Supplies Minister in the former UDF Government. Mr Balakrishnan, a close confidant of State Congress president Ramesh Chennithala, has been accused of swindling money from a cooperative bank. Ironically, he is no in charge of the cooperation portfolio.

The presence of tainted persons in the Chandy dispensation does not end there. Last week the UDF Government appointed Mr PC Iype as the Additional Advocate-General despite the fact that he has been accused of trying to bribe judges on behalf of Mr Kunhalikutty. This appointment has enraged the entire legal fraternity of Kerala. There's more. Mr R Balakrishna Pillai, chairman of UDF member Kerala Congress (B), jailed for a year by the Supreme Court for corruption, is now accused of deciding policy matters. His son and Minister KB Ganesh Kumar was first given the tourism portfolio but Mr Pillai forced Mr Chandy to change that into forests. Under the latest spell of UDF rule, which started on May 18, Mr Pillai has already got parole twice and the Government is reportedly thinking of commuting his punishment. The CPI(M)-led LDF has threatened to launch an agitation against the UDF on this and related issues of probity. But Mr Chandy is unconcerned and his Government insensitive to the mounting view that the regime will brazenly protect and promote tainted politicians.









Dominique Strauss-Kahn is not the first high-profile person to face charges of sexual misconduct, nor shall he be the last.

No matter what people may say, most of us are interested in tales of sleaze, lust and illicit sex. But the important thing for the person indulging in either sleaze or illicit sex or both is to remain discreet and within limits. Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who has had to resign as managing director of the IMF after being accused of and arrested for attempting to rape a maid in a posh Manhattan hotel, has a long history of such deeds. He is currently on bail.

Ms Tristane Banon, the 31-year-old god-daughter of Strauss-Kahn's second wife Brigitte Guillemette, claims he attacked her almost similarly during a television interview when she was a trainee journalist. Strauss-Kahn, then an Opposition leader in France, had offered her an interview in a studio apartment in Paris. She was 22 at the time of the incident and was persuaded by her mother, a regional councillor in the Socialist Party and friend of the Strauss-Kahn family, not to take any action. "At the time there was absolutely no doubt that it had happened. My error at the time was to think that it was a moment when he went off the rails," recalls Ms Banon's mother Anne Mansouret.

Sex workers are available at every nook and corner in American and European cities. Had Strauss-Kahn been found in their company, he could have got away as it would be consensual sex and not attempted rape as in the present case. Yet, that would not have discounted the fact that ethics, values and morals are vital for those holding important positions, for instance the top job at the IMF. But Strauss-Kahn is not the first high-profile person — nor will he be the last — to be charged with sexual misdemeanour. Others have gone down this road before, including several Presidents of the US and powerful people in other countries.

Mr Bill Clinton is only the latest US President to be impeached for lying under oath over his affair with a White House intern, Ms Monica Lewinsky. Other American Presidents who are guilty of extra-marital sex include Thomas Jefferson: This has been been confirmed through DNA testing on his descendants in 1998. A later study by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation came to the same conclusion — he had fathered a child out of wedlock.

Before Grover Cleveland became the President of America, a store clerk, Maria Halpin, named him as the father of her illegitimate son. Cleveland didn't dispute the charge, and the child was quietly adopted. Similar allegations were made against Presidents John F Kennedy, Lyndon B Johnson and Franklin D Roosevelt.

Indian politicians tend to keep things under wraps. The media, even if it gets a whiff of sexual escapades by politicians and the high and mighty, tens to play it safe to avoid charges of libel. But sometimes nasty stories do get out into the public domain. A Governor of Andhra Pradesh was caught on a hidden camera in his Raj Bhawan bed with three women. The tape was telecast by a Telugu channel. The Andhra Pradesh High Court subsequently restrained the channel from showing the tape. As it happens in most such cases in India, nobody confesses to his or her involvement. So also with this case: The incident was denied. But it led to the resignation of the Governor who is now involved in a paternity suit — a young man has claimed that he is his biological father. Sex scandals involving senior politicians have been reported from many States.

Amarmani Tripathi, erstwhile Cabinet Minister in Uttar Pradesh, was arrested in September 2003 in connection with the death of poetess Madhumita Shukla with whom he allegedly had an affair and who was brutally murdered. Investigations revealed that she was pregnant and the DNA of the foetus matched that of Tripathi. The Supreme Court rejected his bail plea; he is currently in jail, sentenced to life imprisonment. There are such other examples. Uttarakhand's Revenue Minister Harak Singh Rawat had to resign in 2003 amid allegations of his 'links' with an unwed mother. Opposition members had raised the issue of his alleged affair with the Assamese woman who later gave birth to a child.

Charlatans posing as swamis have also been charged with sexual assault. For example, Sun TV telecast a tape showing a Karnataka-based godman in a compromising position with a Tamil actress. Swamis are supposed to lead the life of a celibate or a brahmachari. They are not expected to indulge in worldly pleasures. They are expected to follow high standards of moral integrity. But some of them are exposed for what they are.

Had Strauss-Kahn, or any other foreign dignitary, had committed a similar deed as the former IMF chief has been charged with while visiting India, nothing would have happened. The hosts would have flatly denied the occurrence of such an incident and charged the person levelling the allegation with trying to ruin a person's reputation. The same argument would have been proffered if a 'VIP' is charged with any major crime, including corrupt practices.

When I was heading the CBI, I had ordered that the Chief Minister of a State be arrested for his role in the infamous fodder scam. The then Prime Minister had reacted by saying that the CBI had ruined many a reputation without a shred of evidence. Assessing the credibility of the evidence gathered by the investigating agency is the job of the courts. Since the Government of the day did not dare interfere in the judicial process, I was transferred from CBI for not being pliant. The transfer order was issued while I was abroad attending an Interpol conference.

We also know that in our country pressure is often applied on victims or complainants to withdraw charges. If pressure does not work, then money is used to for striking a 'compromise'. Sadly, even the media is amenable to pressure and blacks out news of such incidents. If at all the story appears in print or goes on air, the details are at best sketchy.

There is a lesson to be learned from the manner in which the US authorities have treated the Strauss-Kahn affair: No matter how important or powerful a person is, he should not be allowed to get away with criminal deeds, including sexual offences, by using connections and clout. The effort should be to ensure swift and fair trial so that the perpetrator gets his just deserts.

Meanwhile, those who take sexual assault and related offences lightly would do well to ponder over this: Sex is not the answer, sex is the question. 'Yes' is the answer, but only if the other party is willing. As Don Schrader once famously said, "To hear many religious people talk, one would think god created the torso, head, legs and arms, but the devil slapped on the genitals."







Instead of looking at the manufacturing and services sectors for West Bengal's economic revival, the State Government should consider making the State into a hub of high quality educational institutions that will attract students from all over the country. Let Bengal use the Bengalis' intellect for a second renaissance

Bengal, its elite especially, has not been short of talent in recent centuries. What then would explain the decline of West Bengal over the last seven decades? The unnoticed seeds of the deterioration happened to be sown with the advent of the industrial revolution. The seeds need not have flourished but for the people's agrarian preoccupation. The landlord was looked up to, the lawyer and the doctor were respected. The businessman, however, was not held high in esteem and industry, especially with the advent of the 19th century, began to be the virtual monopoly of the British. In the process, the Bengali elite remained largely divorced from entrepreneurship. The middle class took up Government jobs or teaching while the working class was confined to skilled labour; anything manual was mostly handed over to migrants from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.

Education of the elite, often called bhadralok, was, however, put on high priority. Relative leisure emanating from land incomes encouraged those who wished to study or participate in the various arts, so much so that many parts of India looked up to Bengali teachers as among the best. Little wonder that the India's renaissance was a phenomenon dominated by Bengal. A curious corollary of these Bengali strengths was that the youngster who did not take up a profession often became a trade union leader. The substantial fruit of the industrial revolution thus went to the British. When the British left, their industries were mostly bought out by Marwari entrepreneurs. Very few Bengalis, no matter their wealth, came forward. Thus the Sun set on the belief in 'What Bengal thinks today, India thinks tomorrow'.

Having enumerated the Bengali strengths, let us now look at the opportunities. Of the four major economic sectors, West Bengal has already performed well in agriculture. The manufacturing sector or industry requires large scale investment plus complex infrastructure. In the light of memories of the Red trade union terror, outside investment of such magnitude may be difficult to revive. No one says it publicly but there is an increasing apprehension among Hindu entrepreneurs about the rising tide of the Muslim population, whether indigenous or migrant. More so because in their view, the Bengali Hindu view of the Muslim threat is lackadaisical. The Bengali Hindu is perceived to believe that Bengal is far more important than religion. He finds it difficult to realise that the Muslim's priority is different. It did not take long for Kolkata to forget the Great Calcutta Killing and all that happened before and since August 1946. Nor is serious notice taken of the virtual ethnic cleansing in East Pakistan and then Bangladesh. In any case, most of the old industries would be obsolete and the new ones would have to compete with the latest manufacturers not only in India but the world over.

From the viewpoint of opportunity, the growing demands, that can be fulfilled by the Bengal situation would be in the third or the service sector. Here again, as far as information technology is concerned, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chennai and Pune have already established themselves. What, therefore, is necessary is to recognise that teaching is not merely a social service but also an important facet of the earning service sector. Today, there is a widespread awareness in India that education is the key not only for national success but also for an individual's career. The number of students now hungering for teaching institutions of a wide variety and of various levels is enormous. No State in India is yet in a position to satisfy its own full need. Uttar Pradesh, Uttarkhand, Jharkhand, Bihar, Odisha and even Bangladesh and Nepal all are short of teaching facilities.

On the other hand, West Bengal has an old tradition and rich goodwill for education. True, the standard of teaching dropped during the period of Leftist agitation followed by Communist rule. But no university, college or school was ever disrupted by students unlike in some other States. Even today, IIM, Joka as well as IIT, Kharagpur enjoy first class reputation in their respective fields. Development on a much greater scale around these institutions can be made. To take more examples, two or three medical colleges can be built and attached to every hospital across the State. More and better hospitals can be built and more and more colleges can be set up around them.

If a Government patronised agency can enable loans to be obtained for the hospital-owners to build colleges, they would be happy to create all other facilities. The fees that parents are prepared to pay for quality education can boggle many a mind. There should be no conscience about high fees so that under-the-table deals can be avoided. Most doctors would be reluctant to do whole-time teaching but most medical men, after being successful, have a desire to teach even if for a few hours a week. Similarly, engineering colleges can be developed around industries. Why not a chemical engineering complex in the Haldia belt? There is no shortage of barristers and advocates in Koklata. Yet there is hardly any law institute across the West Bengal hinterland. With its proven success in farming, several agricultural engineering institutes would also have the scope to flourish and do well.

Schools and colleges would be more affordable to construct, to promote and unlike industries, would bring income into the State almost immediately after development. To restate, education is much nearer the Bengali aptitude than industrial entrepreneurship. Until Australia and Canada began using universities as engines of growth, education was looked upon only as a social service, especially for the local youth. Seldom was it looked upon as enterprise with international markets.

Another enormous area for West Bengal's economic revival is the State's northern region. The Himalayas epitomised by Mount Everest and other famous mountain peaks are not only well-known throughout the world but are also potentially more attractive than the Swiss snow peaks. It is just that Himalayas do not have the infrastructure or the logistics or even facilities of a scale that would attract international tourists in big numbers. Should not the State Government consider involving the resources of airlines as well as enterprising hotel chains and support them to develop the region as a super Switzerland? No doubt, soft loans would have to be enabled. Moreover, commercial advantages, if not individual demi-monopolies, would have to be offered for the airlines and the hotel chains to involve themselves seriously. This would be the fourth economic sector to be made to also serve as a vanguard for West Bengal's economic revival, if not eventually to precipitate a second Bengal renaissance!







Clubbing well-off OBCs with Dalits for quotas is unfair

Leaders of the 'other backward classes' who, since the early-1990s, have managed to wrest concessions from the Union Government and judiciary on their unceasing demands for reservations in Government jobs and educational institutions, are again rearing their heads. They want to thwart the centrally-sponsored BPL survey, launching in July, because the exercise intends to verify whether social backwardness and poverty are linked. Findings to the contrary would effectively trash the OBC claim to quotas, which was last conceded during the Congress-led UPA1 when the proposal of the then Union Minister for Human Resource Development, Arjun Singh, of setting aside 27 per cent seats for OBCs in all institutions of higer education was implemented. JD(U) chief Sharad Yadav has reiterated his demand for listing caste in the national population Census while condemning the BPL survey along caste lines.

But those who have since long been demanding that caste-based reservations be replaced by quotas, based on economic conditions — seen as a fairer index of eligibility than just birth in certain social groups — welcome the BPL survey, which will also note the religion of every household. Under new below poverty line criteria, laid down by the Planning Commission, a rural Indian needs to spend less than Rs 15 daily, and an urban Indian, less than Rs 20 daily, to qualify for State largesse. The OBCs, most of whom have some land, and whose hereditary vocations are farming, livestock rearing and running dairies, police and armed forces, and running security agencies and transport agencies are not only much above the poverty line but would fail to be eligible for reservations, if the policy is recast on economic lines. What they lack in formal higher education, they amply make up in terms of entrepreneurship.


Since 1991, when policy reforms were initiated, and foreign investment permitted in core infrastructure, the stupendous real estate growth has been driven by OBCs, whose vast land-holdings have been sold by them to developers for the purpose of expanding NCR towns and creating new townships, highways, recreational complexes, factories and the like. OBCs, in fact, are the greatest beneficiaries of economic liberalisation, not merely because they have hit the jackpot by selling land at exorbitant rates but by turning into developers, builders and property agents, and providers of ancillary services in the mushrooming townships. Many still retain some farmland, or have invested their newly acquired money in buying up land cheap in the new States of Uttarakhand, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh. This threatens to alter the demographic profile in tribal belts. In OBC villages, in Delhi, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, where colonies keep mushrooming, residents have augmented their income by renting out rooms at high rates to migrants from other States, and even built grocery shops and the like on their premises. Their prosperity is in sharp contrast to the condition of tribals, forced out of their villages by Naxalite violence, and working as domestic help and cheap labour in cities; and landless scheduled castes, who similarly eke out a frugal living.

The strident protests that marked Arjun Singh's move, though not quite so violent as the anti-quota demonstrations that erupted after implementation of the Mandal Commission report in August 1990, indicated that reservations for OBCs was still a sore point in the larger students' community. Eventually, on December 14, 2006, the Central Educational Institutions (Reservation in Admission) Bill, 2006 was passed in the Lok Sabha with the support of all parties. Amendments, moved by the BJP, for including minority institutions within the purview of the proposed act were rejected. Presidential assent was given on January 3, 2007, and the act came into being. Powerful and well-off land-owning and farming communities, comprising the rural elite, thus managed again to gain easy entry into the echelons of the urban elite, though the Supreme Court in November 2006 dismissed a PIL seeking exemption of the operation of the 'creamy layer' rule among OBCs, for persons engaged in hereditary vocations.

The creamy layer, first mentioned in the Supreme Court verdict of November 16, 1992, placing a 50 per cent ceiling on reservations, which limited the OBC share to 27.5 per cent, was exempted from the benefits of reservations. In 1993, the creamy layer criterion was an annual income of Rs 1 lakh and above. The income ceiling was raised to Rs 2.5 lakh in 2004, and in October 2008, further hiked to Rs 4.5 lakh. Opponents of the OBC quota rightly point out that the ceiling of Rs 4.5 lakh is too high. No such income slab has ever been laid down for scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, the first groups to be eligible for reservations in Government jobs and educational institutions, 15 and 7.5 per cent, respectively, under the Constitution. Rather, recent reports indicate that Dalit quotas in educational institutes continue to remain largely unfilled. The reasons presumably are the high drop-out rate among Dalit students, most of whom need to start work early in order to survive. Moreover, the rudimentary learning they acquire in village schools make them ill-equipped to cope with the pressures of elite portals of technical and other education.

Given this scenario, clubbing well-heeled OBCs with Dalits in the race for quotas is most unfair. The reservations formula needs to be re-worked by replacing caste with economic criteria.







The record of UPA2 after two years in office has been extremely poor on all fronts. It will have to perform faster and better if Congress wishes to remain relevant

When Prime Minister Manmohan Singh completed his one-year in office in 2005, he gave himself six out of 10 for his Government's performance. At the end of seven years, how many marks will he give himself? Could it be four or five going by the number of scams the Government has been facing in 2010-2011? He will certainly agree that compared to UPA1, the record of UPA2 has been dismal on several fronts.

The Manmohan Singh Government celebrated its second birthday of UPA2 with promises of making course corrections on certain issues. While the Opposition has criticised the Government for its poor performance on several fronts, including tackling corruption and price rise, the Government has patted itself on its good performance with a favourable report card. The message from 7, Race Course Road on was that UPA2 had scored big by delivering stability, economic growth and social progress.

However, the perception is that the Government is moving from one crisis to another, reacting to them on daily basis, be it the 2G Spectrum scandal, the Adarsh housing scam or the Commonwealth Games mess. Even on economic reforms, UPA2 has been dragging its feet on banking, labour and insurance reforms, introducing GST and opening up retail despite the absence of any pressures from the Left which was the case during the tenure of UPA1. That apart, rising prices should worry the Government.

The third year is a crucial year for any Government at the Centre, as it will decide the course of the future direction. Realising this, the Prime Minister has admitted that there is a need for course correction.

What will be the challenges facing the Congress and the Government next year? Politically, the Telangana crisis is staring at the Government and it is a volatile and sensitive issue. The Congress has to take a decision one way or the other and either way there is going to be trouble in Andhra Pradesh, which may lead to President's rule. The other immediate problem is to deal with the threat by Baba Ramdev to go on a fast with about 50,000 of his followers to force the Government's hand on corruption, especially black money. His demands like nationalisation of assets, demonetisation, etc, requires not only debate but also political will. Will the Government yield to Baba Ramdev's demand as it did to that of Anna Hazare after he went on a fast over the Lok Pal Bill? The Government has to answer why it is not fulfilling it 2009 election promise to bring back black money within 100 days of coming to power.

On the political side, preparations have already started for the 2012 Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh and then in Gujarat. The party's concentration, aided by the Centre, will be totally on boosting its image. Mr Singh started his third year by announcing compensation for farmers injured in the clashes over land acquisition in Greater Noida villages whose cause Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi has taken up in a big way. The Congress thinks that the proposed Lok Pal Bill, Food Security Bill, Land Acquisition Bill and the Communal Harmony Bill may give some boost to the image of the party and the Government.

The most important challenge is image correction. Mr Singh and Ms Sonia Gandhi have taken note of the concern of the public on curbing corruption and black money. Some measures have been taken already and cases are going on against A Raja, Suresh Kalmadi and others pertaining to some of the scams. These cases may bring out more embarrassing facts. People are getting disenchanted with the Government.

To meet the challenges of land-related issues, the Government will also have to pass the Land Acquisition Bill in the next session of Parliament. The Government has to bring to Parliament other important Bills like the Food Security, Communal Harmony Bill, Lok Pal Bill and other controversial issues. There is a chance that it may even bring the jinxed Women's Reservation Bill before the Uttar Pradesh poll. Facing a minority in the Rajya Sabha, each Bill needs a formidable strategy for the Government's floor managers. Even in the Lok Sabha the UPA's strength is razor thin now.

This is where the question of the stability of the Government comes in. The photograph of the leaders sitting on the dais showed the real state of affairs. WIth DMK Ministers boycotting the function to protest against Kanimozhi's arrest, the party was represented only by its parliamentary leader TR Balu. With the relationship between the Congress and the DMK strained, it is only a question of days before the latter withdraws support.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee also did not attend the function, leaving it to her parliamentary party leader Sudip Bandopadhyay. Although the Trinamool Congress-Congress relationship is good at present, Ms Banerjee, with her mercurial behaviour, can give trouble on any issue. The NCP-Congress relationship is strained in Maharashtra, affecting even convening of its Cabinet meetings. The Government cannot depend on the support of the SP or BSP — both have high stakes in Uttar Pradesh







Double digit growth is not only a possibility but something that can be a reality if we know how to work for it. Innovation, like everywhere else, can provide the key to take the nation forward

The concept of non-performing assets is a nightmare to any head of an institution. Unfortunately, the focus of non-performing assets is focussed on financial dealings or material assets. A great anxiety overtakes an organisation when the NPAs cross the threshold mark. The problem, however, is not just there but for a much larger manner in a different sector altogether. Consider India of one billion population. The extent of poverty is 30 per cent. Approximating the figures, it means 300 m people are still below poverty line. Poverty here really indicates the non-performing assets. If one does not have skill development and capacity building then non-performing asset — read 'poverty' — is destined to grow.

There are seminars which talk of demographic dividend. They confine themselves to numbers, at time total numbers. There are on others occasions when people talk of the age factor. Very few are actually do move on to the conversion factor of these numbers to productive worth. Conversion will come out of knowledge development and skill development.

The overwhelming part of Indian intellectual elite is anchored in prestigious learning centers of the West. They derive their status from association with Cambridge, Oxford, Harvard, Cornell and more. There is nothing wrong with that. In fact, it is an index of intellectual international benchmarking. However, by itself it does not go far enough because what gets recognition in those centers may not necessarily be relevant for Indian developmental processes. The skill development and capacity building for the Indian poor begs attention.

There is a broad awareness of this dimension and every one once in a while one hears of technicians' development plan or skill up gradation corporations. What is needed is an all India vision. If the acme of growth and recognition continues to be prestigious assignments in the IMF or the World Bank or the Asian Development Bank, it causes a streaming of energy which while exhilarating is not necessarily edifying and certainly non-relevant to the operational ground conditions of development in India.

The full package will have to include emancipated processes and not necessarily prescriptions written by doctors who have tried to understand the malaise by downloading websites or looking at simulated statistics.

This package will have to include economic enablement at the grass route level. Enablement itself is a complex situation and at times requires the realignment of existing social structure. Consider the case of Panchayti Raj. It is attractive at the conceptual level to the point of being seductive. However, if this is to mean handing over power to khap panchayats of particular variety , its wisdom is open to serious doubt.

Mercifully such aberrations are not universal. Therein lies hope. Participatory democracy has to be encouraged and that would mean a great deal more than the political right of casting votes. For any of this to happen, service delivery has to improve and rural penetration of technology friendly transportation and ICT has to be almost universal. The Government clearly lacks the financial muscle to make this happen. Sporadic intervention under CSR by corporates can not create all India impact. When this is coupled up with retail corruption, the leakages are enormous and the parasite class of entrepreneurs which survive on tapping funds meant for other beneficiaries swings into action. What is needed is an integrated vision on the assumptions and premises of development.

The current effort by political parties to score brownie points out of the lapses of the opponents, while entirely understandable, contributes to overall dysfunctionality. The steps of RTI and the rural employment scheme are clearly well intentioned but they do not have the capacity to get to the root of the problem which is structural and deformed by systematic distortion brought about by vested interests.

Double digit growth is not only a possibility but something that can be a reality if we know how to work for it. Innovation, like everywhere else, would provide the key to take matters forward.

This may require recasting of the university system itself. Innovation research programmes need to be launched at different levels, with different intensity, depending upon the nature of the institutions. Assessment needs to be made on what will be the return of investment, what will be the value addition that will emanate, where could be the findings disseminated and what was the commercial aspects for funds being given. A systematic process needs to be adopted in innovation research programme.

This is one way of reducing NPAs and enabling double digit growth.












The American strategy in Pakistan has failed. This much has become clear over the past month or so. From Abbottabad to Mehran, the Pakistani military's backdoor dealings with extremist elements and the resultant dangers have been put on display. US secretary for homeland security Janet Napolitano, on her recent trip to New Delhi, has acknowledged that the Lashkar-e-Taiba has morphed into a terror threat as big as al-Qaida. And with each passing day, David Headley's testimony fleshes out New Delhi's suspicions about the involvement of Pakistani state players in 26/11.

Yet, American policymakers seem subject to a Pavlovian conditioning that compels them to rush back to their purported allies no matter how flagrant the abuse of their trust and money. Thus, the attempt now by US secretary of state Hillary Clinton to give the Pakistani establishment a clean chit on Abbottabad. Granted, this has been preceded by unusually strong statements by US President Barack Obama stating the US right to protect its interests via unilateral action as in Abbottabad. An optimistic reading is that Washington is trying to bring its wayward ally in line by employing the good cop, bad cop routine. But that is precisely what such an assessment would be - optimistic and, unfortunately, not in keeping with what past experience has shown about US inability to turn the pressure on Pakistan.

Nevertheless, there can be no better time to turn up the heat on the Pakistani military. Both Germany and France have asked Pakistan to explain Osama bin Laden's presence. The latter has also withheld the supply of heavy weapons to Pakistan. In doing so, it has highlighted the best way to reduce the Pakistani military's power and enable the civilian administration to take control. To change the power dynamics in the country Washington must, among other things, change the way it is pumping in aid. Cutting off that aid entirely would be counterproductive. But sharp cuts in the military component coupled with increases in civilian aid, directed to Islamabad and some going directly to civil society groups, would redefine Pakistan's internal power dynamics substantially for the better.

It may not be a painless path. But for all of Washington's cavilling about the necessity of keeping Pakistan happy as an ally in the war on terror, what has its money gotten it? Rawalpindi continues to support the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network, undercutting US efforts in Afghanistan. And it continues to build its nuclear arsenal at an alarming rate, particularly worrying now when Mehran has cast doubt on the security of those assets. It's time to roll the dice and try something different.







Genuine champions of farmers and consumers will smile. An inter-ministerial group has formally backed allowing FDI in multi-product retail as a key "inflation-busting measure". It's not hard to see why. Too many middlemen and traders in the commodity market are the bane of India's farm sector, denting agricultural incomes on one end and inflating aam admi's food bills at the other. If high transaction costs, structural inefficiencies and predatory pricing mark traditional markets, retail liberalisation will help remove bottlenecks in the farm-to-fork supply chain by giving farmers direct links to big organised retailers. Fair price discovery by growers is non-negotiable if they're to prosper and have resources to plough back into farms, raising productivity. The consumer-friendly impact of this on retail prices doesn't need rocket science to figure out.

Modern organised retail comprises just 5% of our woefully underdeveloped retail industry. Reform will ramp up investor stakes in agriculture and allied activities, luring funds to help build back-end infrastructure and distribution networks. Lack of cold chain and storage facilities leads to colossal waste of 40% of farm produce yearly - an estimated annual loss of around Rs 50,000 crore. To build capacity, deep-pocketed big players must come in, home-grown and foreign. It's fearmongering to argue this means nemesis for kirana stores. Small and big retailers coexist everywhere. Indian consumers are diversified enough to allow such cohabitation here as well. Supported by marketing reform linking food producers to end-consumers and relaxed contract-farming rules, retail reform can transform agriculture, adding millions of jobs and giving growth and revenues a boost. The government must stop treating the issue as a hot potato requiring 'consensus'. That's either a stalling tactic or a recipe for policy paralysis. Retail liberalisation's a win-win for farmers as well as consumers. What better reason to bite the bullet?









It is cricket's equivalent of the Icelandic volcano. Spewing ash for a while and waiting to erupt full throttle. The Gautam Gambhir incident has finally forced the club versus country debate to take centrestage, bringing to the fore a problem that will perhaps determine the way world cricket is governed in future. Many have suggested, drawing on the Gambhir controversy, that cricket is going the football way and club versus country will from now on be a key issue in cricket courtesy the IPL. While the latter is true, it is of prime importance to note that there's a fundamental difference between cricket and football, which will impact the way the issue is dealt with in each of these sports.

Unlike in football where a player plays for the club for more than 10 months a year, in cricket he plays for his country for a similar length of time. While Wayne Rooney is a Manchester United man for most of the year and wears England colours only during qualifiers or major tournaments like the European Cup or World Cup, Sachin Tendulkar will always be an Indian player who plays for the Mumbai Indians for six weeks in a year. Again, with the IPL being a BCCI tournament and with all the franchises ultimately governed by the BCCI, country, more than club, will always have primacy in cricket in principle if the BCCI so wants.

The key question that crops up is: What does the BCCI want? Will it, taking a lesson from the Gambhir controversy, instruct contracted Indian players to opt out of the games if they are suffering from injury or will they allow the franchises to take the final call given they have spent huge sums in buying these stars? Will they continue to tell the world that nation comes first and hence KKR was perhaps in the wrong by playing their best player and risking aggravation of the shoulder injury? Or will they, given the huge monetary gain the BCCI makes from the IPL, suggest that the club versus country debate cannot in future be resolved in black and white terms?

To elaborate, there might well be a situation where the BCCI suggests that certain tours like England, Australia and South Africa will have primacy but others like a series against the West Indies or
Bangladesh will have lower priority compared to the IPL.

The IPL, given its commercial significance, is at the root of the BCCI's dominance of world cricket. It is solely because India is world cricket's financial nerve centre that the BCCI could coerce the Sri Lankan board into submission and ensure Sri Lankan players continued to play the IPL days before an important bilateral series starts in England. In this scenario, there's no denying the significance of the IPL from the standpoint of India's positioning in world cricket.

The moot point then is hypocrisy. One fails to comprehend the pressing need to claim that a bilateral series will always have primacy just because it involves India. Such high moral claims will inevitably land cricketers and the BCCI in controversies. Rather, if a priority list is drawn up and fans told that not always will the best players play for India for commercial or other reasons, controversies can be avoided.

For example, when Leander Paes opted out of the Asiad and played the world doubles masters in London in November 2010, no one questioned his commitment to the nation. Paes, an ardent nationalist, continued to be so. This is because he had clearly stated his priorities and reasons for choosing the masters competition over the Asian Games. Indian cricketers, on the other hand, continue to emphasise that an India cap is always more important when in reality it is not always so. Just like a tennis player will prefer Wimbledon to the Davis Cup on occasion, in cricket too it is only natural that a player will prefer the IPL over a relatively low TRP West Indies tour. One only needs to stop claiming the contrary.

Failure to effectively deal with this issue may compromise BCCI's position as the arbiter of global cricket. For example, the BCCI, which always claims nation comes first, acted contrary to its claims in forcing Sri Lankan players to stay back or allowing Chris Gayle to play the IPL against the wishes of the West Indies Board. If the league was organised by Cricket Australia and India was due to tour England, would the BCCI ever dream of allowing Tendulkar or Dhoni to play in Australia for their respective franchises days after the Indian team had departed for a high-profile series? Unless the BCCI faces these issues head on and offers clear directives, questions will be raised about its notions of social responsibility, more because it has the financial muscle to influence cricket's future direction thanks to the IPL.

It is a choice the BCCI has to make. Will it allow cricket's future to be partly franchise-driven given that this is where the money is or will it continue to assert that nation comes first? If it's the former, the Gambhir issue will be rendered a non-starter. If it's the latter, Chris Gayle or Lasith Malinga shouldn't have played all the IPL matches. Either way, the BCCI is facing its biggest ever challenge, one that will determine its own future and also the course of world cricket.

The writer is senior research fellow, University of Central Lancashire.








Ayumi Fujino took over as the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) representative in India in July last year. She began her career with UNIDO in the 1980s. At UNIDO headquarters she designed and implemented various projects for the development of micro, small- and medium-scale enterprises (MSMEs). She spoke about the challenges of promoting green industries and strengthening MSMEs in India with Surojit Gupta :

How does UNIDO promote the greening of industries?

UNIDO coined the concept Green Industry to focus on the critical contributions businesses can make towards meeting global sustainable development challenges. UNIDO, with the support of the Swiss government, is working to apply best practice carbon accounting methods to cement and other sectors in India, through the CII-Godrej Green Business Centre. To this end, UNIDO helps developing countries to secure resource-efficient low carbon growth. It helps countries move to clean technologies as well as implement multilateral environment agreements, and provides services and expertise to promote sustainable patterns of industrial production.

What are the initiatives UNIDO is taking to promote clean technologies in India?

UNIDO builds up National Cleaner The Economic Times Centres (NCPC), which help enterprises to adopt cleaner production technologies, reducing waste, pollution, energy and water use in a cost-effective way. In India, the NCPC was set up with the United Nations Environment Programme in 1995 within the host institution - the National Productivity Council of India. The Centre has carried out over 350 cleaner production/energy efficiency assessments in diverse sectors such as leather, pulp and paper, dyes and dye intermediates, textile, cement and auto component industries. And assisted small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in implementing viable cleaner production options, resulting in reduction of pollution and improving the bottomline. Regional Cleaner The Economic Times Centres are also operating in the states of Karnataka, Gujarat, Punjab and West Bengal. In addition, a project titled Cleaner Technology Promotion in India, funded by the Swiss government, is being implemented through the NCPC in Gujarat and Karnataka where regional initiatives to create cleaner production capacity have been successful.

What is the future of SMEs?

SMEs are supported as they make substantial contributions to growth of productivity and, consequently, competitiveness and aggregate economic growth. In addition, SMEs are known to be specially effective job creators and enjoy the reputation of being sources of income, providing training opportunities as well as important basic services for disadvantaged people. Promotion of SMEs can thus be viewed as an important trigger for poverty reduction both indirectly, by adding to productivity and overall economic growth, and directly, through the immediate contribution of SMEs to employment and income generation, skill upgradation and the decentralised provision of goods and services. The issue is of helping them to realise their potential.

A major initiative associated with UNIDO relates to SME cluster development. Underlying this is the fact that many of the obstacles faced by SMEs stem not only from their size, but their isolation. Hence, closer cooperation among SMEs as well as between the SMEs and related institutions in their surrounding environment hold the key to their overcoming the challenges. Tirupur in Tamil Nadu, for instance, is a fine example of a cluster that developed into an agglomeration of over 7,000 SMEs, as a major exporter of cotton hosiery to the EU, USA and other countries.

UNIDO has been implementing cluster development programmes in India since 1995 with its counterparts. UNIDO interventions have aimed at exposing the productive units to international technology and global markets. The Integrated Cluster Development Programme launched recently and the Consolidated Project for SME Development in India which is nearing completion, are both examples of UNIDO's cooperation with I






It was Saturday evening and my husband and i were looking forward to winding up a hectic workweek with a relaxed weekend. Sunday, of course, would mean waking up close to noon, then doing household chores like ordering vegetables for the week, dealing with the presswala and the raddiwala and maybe catching a movie in the evening.

After a quick dinner at our favourite seafood joint, we walked into the house on Saturday night. A small white rectangle of paper lay face up in the passage. A visiting card. It had presumably been slipped under the door while we were away. I picked it up and dumped it in the drawer where we keep bills and menus and forgot about it almost immediately. On Sunday morning, i saw the card poking through the bills and grabbed it while ordering my week's stock of sabzi. Welcome Paper Mart, it said. We deal in all papers, magazines, metals, bottles etc. Contact Hemant Bhai. Free Home Service was written above the address. To endorse the 'express' nature of the service, the address had an extra line that said, "Below this building". I was convinced that if i had newspapers to sell, Hemant bhai would be there faster than the Vodafone 3G zoozoo.


But i was more than happy with my current raddiwala. Jaswant was a strapping lad with a great smile and a deep voice. We only met once a month but i knew - and i knew he knew - it was special. I was definitely not going to cheat on him with the Hemant bhai. Better still, i would report the society's guards to the managing committee for allowing this Hemant bhai to come up to all flats and slip his card under our doors. I almost tossed the card away.


Until i saw something stapled to the back. It was a handwritten note. Paper Rs 12 a kilo, it said in Hindi. My affection for Jaswant almost instantly evaporated. Rs 12?!! Jaswant had always, in his deep voice, said: 'Ek kilo ka saat rupaiya' (Rs 7 a kilo), his bewitching smile never leaving his face. And i would place my trust - and the whole month's newspapers - in his strong hands. But now, in one clean shot, Hemant bhai had exposed Jaswant's game.

I stared at the visiting card, speechless. The vegetable vendor at the other end of the line long forgotten. I went through the four stages of break-up - denial, anger, grief and acceptance - in as many seconds. I decided to just move on to Hemant bhai, no questions asked. But i had to deal with the fifth emotion that was building up inside me: revenge. I couldn't let Jaswant get away with this. He had to know how i felt. Better still, he had to feel what i felt: a sense of betrayal.

I would call them both together, Hemant (it was time to drop the 'bhai') and Jaswant. And then i would choose Hemant over Jaswant. I called Hemant first, he said he was in the building and would be at my flat in a jiffy. Then i called Jaswant, who obviously didn't notice my clipped tone and cheerily told me he'd be there in a jiffy too. Hemant came first. He was tiny and his hair oil made me want to gag but i give him my brightest smile. Jaswant strolled in soon after. My heart ached but i didn't let it show. Then he saw Hemant and stopped in his tracks. I felt good. "Ek kilo ka rate kya hai," i asked in my haughtiest memsahib voice. But before Hemant could announce his winning price, Jaswant boldly said, "Rs 13." My heart soared. Hemant bhai melted into oblivion. Jaswant smiled that magnetic smile. We were back in business.







We deeply sympathise with Karnataka governor HR Bhardwaj. Not only does he have to put up with a volatile chief minister, he now says that Raj Bhavan is a like a prison where he is a "jailbird".

Yes, it must be unsettling to rattle around in 60 rooms with lackeys jumping to attention every time they spot you and insisting on serving you everything on a silver salver. This is most restricting. We wish more of our public luminaries thought like Mr Bhardwaj. And if they acted on this, we would be delighted.

Imagine them shunning the salubrious and gracious confines of their bungalows to live like the rest of us in spaces where there is not enough room to swing a cat. It must also be morally unacceptable for people like the good governor to have the taxpayer take care of all his needs.

It must severely curb his sense of independence, of wanting to break free. The same brand of exasperation can be seen among some of our filmstars who never fail to tell us that they are not in the business for money or fame, in fact they shun those, but for the higher ideal of making good cinema.

So, in that cause they suffer the pains of shooting in the Caribbean, the Riviera and Switzerland.

Now we humble hacks have no such qualms. Given half the chance, we would jump at the chance to lounge around in a Raj Bhavan doing a job which is long past its sell-by date.

How hard can it be to inspect the silver on Sunday and talk to the roses in the afternoon? Then we have corporate honchos who, despite having hefty bank balances, tell us that they live a frugal life.

Why would you eat gobi-mutter when you can wolf down Beluga caviar?

We could go on about all the glorious things we could do if we had a few pennies more. Maybe Mr Bhardwaj would like to trade places with us for a day and see how it feels to be free as a bird while we get a taste of life as jailbirds.





The government appears to have handed the Opposition an issue with which to beat it on a silver platter. The draft Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence (Access to Justice and Regulations) Bill 2011 appears to have re-energised the BJP which has torn it to shreds.

There is little doubt that the draft leaves itself wide open to criticism.

While the idea of a separate Bill to deal with communal violence is welcome, the fact that it makes provisions for punishment only for communal violence against the minority communities is its biggest flaw.

Surely if communal violence were visited on members of the majority community, the law cannot ignore this fact. This could mean that subversive elements in the minority community could indulge in communal violence without any fear of the law.

The 'group' which encompasses the religious or linguistic communities which may be subject to communal violence could also include SC/STs, says the draft Bill. This means that offences against SC/STs could come under the draft Bill and also the existing SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989.

Now this creates a great deal of confusion. The most disturbing aspect of this Bill is the underlying presumption that it is only the majority community which will cause communal violence. The law cannot distinguish among wrongdoers on the basis of religion, ethnicity, language or gender to name a few distinctions.

The Bill is to be implemented, when and if it comes into force, by a seven-member national authority of which at least four members must be from a minority community. This certainly goes against the principle of the best man or woman for the post.

This is bound to raise the hackles of those who believe in the law being a level-playing field. To have rushed to make public an ill-thought-out document will serve to politicise it as can be seen from the opening salvos fired by the BJP.

Communal violence is far too serious an issue to become a political football. The National Advisory Council, vested as it is with enormous power and resources, should have done its homework better and ironed out the glitches in the Bill before making it public. Granted, it is only a draft Bill and can be modified.

But given the sensitivities on communal issues, there is every chance that the Bill will become the victim of differences among political parties, and indeed the public at large. It would not hurt for the Bill to be withdrawn and redrafted after more broad-based consultations.

This way, it will not be dead in the water even before it gets past the drawing-board.






Brazil is seen as a country of diverse faith. But though religion is an important reference point, the extent of religious diversity in this sprawling country is not as pervasive as belief itself. 

Globally, the image of Brazil is connected to African traditions and religions. While referring to the 2000 census data, the Brazilian sociologist Flávio Pierucci found that Brazil is a Christian country, perhaps the largest Christian country in the world.

Around 73.8% of the population calls themselves Catholic, 15.4% evangelical with Christians accounting for 89.2% of the population. A mere 0.3% were adherents of the African religions Candomblé and Umbanda. Pierucci asks: Where is our proclaimed religious diversity?

It is true that this data does not take into consideration  what we call 'multiple belonging', that is the practice of calling oneself Catholic but going regularly to Candomblé cults; I attend Mass on Sundays and visit my Mother of Saint in the yard on Fridays.

Yet the hegemony of Christianity has political ramifications, despite the separation of church and state under the 1891 Brazilian constitution. During the 2010 presidential campaign, religion was used to bolster conservative views, especially on sexuality and reproductive questions.

Cultural flashpoints — the right of gay men and lesbians to a legal union and the legalisation of abortion — became the focus of inflamed public discussions. This investment in dogmatic arguments during a political campaign was highly unusual for Brazil, even though the culture is permeated with religious values.

In previous campaigns, religious symbols and doctrinal principles were not so directly raised.

But the use of religious dogma to influence the political process shows the significant public role that religion, particularly the Catholic Church, plays in Brazilian society. Those that believed in secularism, or the separation of religion and state, were forced to aggressively oppose religious intervention.

The divisiveness points to a growing trend of anti-religiosity in the country. In each census, the number of people declaring themselves "without religion" grows most.

Juan Marco Vaggione, an Argentine sociologist, argues that "religious narratives are publicly articulated and become debatable material not only by secular groups but also by those who, being religious, do not agree with some aspects of the official doctrine". Indeed, during the 2009 electoral campaign, one case became a cause célèbre.

A nine-year-old girl, raped by her stepfather and made pregnant, sought a legal abortion. When her bishop attempted to prevent the termination of that pregnancy, the reactions and discussions in the media came not only from the secular sectors of civil society but also from church members, other Catholic bishops, priests and Protestant pastors, offering evidence of dissident ways of thinking internal to the churches.

After the October 2010 polls, evangelical groups in Congress increased their presence from 43 to 71 members. The electoral campaign and the focus of religious groups on securing positions in Parliament forces us to consider the public role of religions in modern societies and secular States.

Are these public interventions of the Catholic Church and election of Protestant pastors a violation of the democratic principle of the separation of church and state?

Or is this a demonstration, and a result, of the acceptance of democracy, one which allows religious groups and institutions to participate in the public debate regarding questions of interest to society at large?

The emerging public debate over religion's role in Brazilian politics foretells a more diverse and complex religious landscape within Brazil's society that promises to be exciting to see and to live.

(Maria José Rosado-Nunes is a graduate professor of sociology of religion and feminist studies at the Pontifical Catholic University of São Paulo. The views expressed by the author are personal. This is part of the Religion and Public Space series in collaboration with the UN Alliance of Civilisations and its Global Experts project.)





The circumstances of Osama bin Laden's location and death have sharply worsened relations between the US and Pakistan but also reminded Americans of their lack of options in dealing with that country. Indeed, if the Pakistanis can persuade China to increase aid, then Islamabad may turn out to have wider options than Washington.

This also limits India's possibilities in dealing with Pakistan.

If it were proven that the Pakistani army had sheltered bin Laden, then US options would be much greater and much more ferocious. But as so often with Pakistan, nothing is proven or certain. The balance of probability is that some group within the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) knew that bin Laden was there, but incompetence remains a possibility.

And even if the ISI was responsible, it would not be clear if this was on the orders of the high command (probably with a view to keeping him as a bargaining counter for some later deal with the US), or a work of Islamist sympathisers within that organisation.

In fact, the only thing that seems certain is that we will never know for sure.

Nonetheless, anger among the American public and the US Congress is great, and the media is full of discussions about how the US can exert greater pressure. Most discussions focus on cuts in aid.

The problem is, however, that when it comes to US economic and development aid under the Kerry-Lugar programme, not much has actually been delivered, due to a combination of already existing Congressional anger at Pakistan's sheltering of the Afghan Taliban, along with the inability of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to monitor how the money is actually spent on the ground.

After what has happened, it seems probable that Congressional opposition will make it impossible to disburse more than a small proportion of Kerry-Lugar.

That leaves us with the possibility of reductions in US military assistance. This, by far, is the greater part of US help to Pakistan, thanks to the military's predominance in Pakistan and because most of it is at the discretion of the US presidency and not subject to Congressional veto. This is where the issue of China's aid to Pakistan becomes acute.

Due to the growth of its economy, China is now in a position to match the US weapon for weapon and dollar for dollar if it chooses to do so. Beijing's statements over the past two weeks have made it clear that as a last resort, China will back Pakistan against US pressure.

Finally, Pakistan has its own means of pressuring the US in the form of the supply routes to US and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) forces in Afghanistan. The US could opt for Central Asian routes, but that would tie it to some extremely nasty regimes in that region, while making it very dependent on Russian good will — necessitating concessions to Moscow in other areas.

The success of the Abbottabad raid may create a temptation in both the US and India to emulate it to capture or kill other militant leaders in Pakistan. Short of a complete breakdown in Pakistani co-operation, however, such a strategy should categorically be rejected.

The Abbottabad raid was conducted for the highest-profile target in the world, and involved a lot of luck. If this becomes a pattern, sooner or later a US force will run into a Pakistani unit — and given the anger of ordinary soldiers at US behaviour, the chances are that they will fight.

Where does this leave US and Indian strategy with regard to Pakistan?

On Afghanistan, the chances of real Pakistani compliance in attacking the Afghan Taliban seem close to zero, given the calculations of the Pakistan's security establishment, the sentiments of its people (especially the Pashtuns), and the general perception that whatever happens, the US will soon pull back its forces.

To turn Pakistan from a problem to an asset requires a shift in US and Indian strategy towards negotiations with the Afghan Taliban leadership. The most important aspect of such a deal would be the withdrawal of all non-Afghan armed forces from Afghanistan. That would mean al-Qaeda, as well as anti-Indian, anti-Russian and anti-Pakistani terrorists; but it would also mean all US and Nato troops.

The Taliban would be given predominant power in the south and east of Afghanistan, and a share of power in a weak government in Kabul. They would also have to promise to suppress the heroin trade in return for international aid to their regions.

This is a deal that Pakistan would be glad to broker, and for which it is seeking Chinese support.

It would, of course, be very difficult for Washington and Delhi to accept, but leaders in both capitals need to ask themselves whether anything better can in fact be achieved in Afghanistan, given the West's failure in the last 10 years to create an effective Afghan civilian state, and the way in which the speed of withdrawal of US ground troops is being dictated by America's domestic political agenda.

Of course, any such agreed role for Pakistan in an Afghan settlement depends categorically on its preventing international terrorist attacks from its soil. If there is a major terrorist attack on the US by Pakistanis, then the overwhelming public demand will be for a very harsh response. This will also be true, albeit to a lesser extent, if there is a new terrorist attack against India.

So Pakistan must keep arresting key al-Qaeda figures like the Yemeni Mohammed Ali Qasim, captured in Karachi last week, and it must go on reining in Lashkar-e-Taiba and other groups from resuming their terrorist campaign against India — not for our sake, but for Pakistan's own.

(Anatol Lieven is a professor in the War Studies Department of King's College London and author of Pakistan: A Hard Country --Penguin. The views expressed by the author are personal)





The two most important national level committees responsible for wildlife conservation in India are increasingly being turned into rubber stamps for whatever officialdom wants done.

The National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) has become a forum to greenwash a host of 'development' projects that threaten wildlife habitats, while the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) continues to steamroller a blinkered model of conservation.

In both, civil society members have been reduced to either ineffective dissent, or silent complicity.

A meeting of the NBWL Standing Committee on April 25, chaired by the minister of state for environment and forests Jairam Ramesh, dealt with nearly 60 infrastructure and other projects in/around wildlife habitats in two hours.

About 30 of the agenda items were sent to members two days before the meeting, while the notification setting up the Standing Committee states that agenda items must be sent to members two weeks in advance.

Dissent from NGO members regarding projects likely to have negative impacts was reportedly brushed aside by the Chair. Subsequent dissent notes were, however, included in the minutes, though they were posted online without waiting for members' comments.

The NBWL has faced governance problems for years. A number of crucial conservation issues, like mining in wildlife habitats, declaration of eco-sensitive areas among others have not been taken up in the last three or four meetings.

While the MoEF insists that that stringent conditions are imposed to minimise damage from developmental projects, it is well aware of its abysmal record in enforcing compliance to such conditions.

Research based on RTI data obtained by colleagues in Kalpavriksh revealed that of the over 6,000 projects given clearance, officers can check on them once every three to four years. Conditional clearance is a colossal fraud on the nation.

The NTCA suffers from similar problems. Its meetings are few and far between (the last two were in January 2010 and March 2011). Minutes regularly do not reflect full discussions, leaving out inconvenient or uncomfortable issues taken up by non-official members.

The minutes of the March 2011 meeting do not reflect the minister's own observations that the Biligiri Rangaswamy Temple Sanctuary (BRTS) was improperly notified as a tiger reserve by the Karnataka state government, without waiting for final approval from NTCA.

It is obvious that these Committees are facing serious crises, with NGO members being forced to accept decisions arrived at by powerful individuals in the MoEF. While some have protested, many are not even raising their voice.

If civil society is silenced or resorts to self-censorship, the Committees cannot do a good job of conserving India's wildlife.

(Ashish Kothari is associated with Kalpavriksh, Pune. The views expressed by the author are personal)







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

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

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

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






On his way back from a trip to Africa, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was asked his opinion on oil subsidies. "There are problems with regard to the burden of oil subsidies," he said, and went on to say that in "the weeks and months to come" the problem would be "tackled". It is fortunate that the government's attention is swinging around to this problem, for it is one of the biggest holes in its current fiscal projections, and one of the areas most desperately in need of immediate reform.

India is in a bind. There are only three options before the Centre: first, that matters be left as they are, which means that oil subsidies will be considerably higher than those projected in this year's budget; second, that the subsidy outgo is moderated, but that the duties charged by the government are cut, which will hit revenue receipts and, once again, impact the projected fiscal deficit; and third, that the prices of oil products be hiked, which will pass some of the internationally higher prices to end-users. None of these options are attractive, but the last is responsible and forward-looking. Oil prices have shown themselves to be both variable and on a lasting upward trend, making them difficult to budget for, and also something that a government must not commit to subsidising forever. The price of petrol has indeed been hiked by about Rs 5 a litre, but that is obviously not enough. Diesel and kerosene continue to be cross-subsidised, causing the growth of massive black markets and distortions; too little of the subsidy reaches the desired end-users. India's structure of cross-subsidisations is simply too complex and too costly to survive variable and higher international crude oil prices, and must be rationalised.

It is not just that, without this reform, the government will face a fiscal squeeze that will put all its other plans in jeopardy. It is also that it is the right thing to do, given a future in which we will have to adapt the way in which we use petroleum products. As the world grows richer, there is simply no way in which oil prices are going to be low again. Indian consumers will need to make the right choices about how they use oil, and the government must get out of the way and allow them to make those choices. The PM and his government must indeed pay close attention to fixing this issue immediately.






The BJP's internal tensions have erupted in public again, this time over the question of who made the dodgy decision to associate with the powerful mining lobby in Karnataka. After Sushma Swaraj disclaimed all responsibility for the Bellary brothers making it to the state cabinet, saying that Arun Jaitley, Rajnath Singh, B.S. Yeddyurappa and others made that decision out of "political compulsions", party chief Nitin Gadkari has made it clear that it was the BJP's "unanimous decision".

However, apart from the shadow-boxing in the BJP's leadership, the big question is — why is the party looking so scattered in a state that was one of its biggest political achievements, won after years of patient organisation-building in the South? Karnataka has become a glaring moral liability, making it difficult for the BJP to make unambiguous statements on the pressing questions of our politics now — crony capitalism, the optimal way to allocate natural resources, how to maintain a balance between local leaders and the central party organisation. It could have been a test case for the BJP, a platform to display its forward-looking policy ideas. Instead, the highly questionable moves to get its numbers right are draining the Karnataka unit of all coherence. The Supreme Court's ruling earlier this month was a severe statement on the legislative drama that occurred last year, when the Yeddyurappa government was a hairsbreadth away from collapse. There is little the party can do rhetorically or tactically to embarrass the UPA government on its overly mischievous governor in Bangalore, as long as its Karnataka record can be flung back at it.

More worryingly, this confusion points to the Opposition-shaped hole at the national level. In these recent assembly elections that decimated the Left and did nothing much for the Congress, the BJP won a total of six seats. Granted, they were held in areas where it has no traditional presence, but for a party that aims to revive itself as a second pole around which smaller parties can be rallied, the inordinate excuse-making in and on Karnataka cannot be a good strategy.






The Nehru Memorial Museum and Library (NMML) in Delhi is a vast sepia reserve of modern Indian history, with manuscripts stored in over 20,000 boxes, tapes that contain thousands of hours of interviews and valuable files of old photographs and newspapers. It is now stepping out of the old to the new: it is digitising its archives to be gradually uploaded on its website.

History, recent and distant, needs to be liberated from inaccessible archives and made readily available. And that is why libraries have made inventories, which can be indexed and investigated with ease. This is of a piece with this robust information age of ours. But in India, what is and what is not in public domain has more often than not been problematic. While the government has to, under the law, regularly declassify documents, there has been a great reluctance to do so, often restricting access in the name of "public interest". Even the NMML has been no exception, for example, even denying a scholar access to the P.N. Haksar papers and at another time being selective about opening up the Nehru archive.

The new openness at the NMML is certainly welcome: even the Haksar papers will be available online now along with pre-Independence Nehru papers. It is really about time NMML's online avatar came within the reach of teachers and scholars, in fact of anyone interested. However, NMML's openness should not be confined to a mere flirtation with technology. It should go all the way, revealing its entire repository, without holding back anything. That would be the real mark of openness.








Concerns about slowing investment, both domestic and foreign, have become stronger in recent months. The sluggishness in new projects being announced since the global financial crisis has continued, resulting in a slowdown in the growth rate of private corporate investment. This is bad news for both growth and inflation, as growth will slow down and inflation will remain high. At the same time, real interest rates remain low, both historically and in comparison with other emerging economies.

While advanced economies were hit sharply by the crisis, India appeared to remain unaffected. The transmission of the slowdown in the world appeared to be limited to a fall in exports. Monetary policy responded rapidly to the risk of a fall in growth. Fiscal expansion was already on the cards due to NREGA, the increase in subsidies because of a rise in world oil prices, and the sixth Pay Commission. These fitted in as part of a fiscal stimulus. As a consequence, growth did not slow down, and the Indian economy appeared to have braved the crisis very well.

However, one thing did change after the crisis, and that trend has not reversed since. While investment appeared to be unaffected, as projects under implementation went on to be completed, new project announcements slowed down sharply. This was first expected to be temporary as bank credit became tight and bankers unwilling to lend due to the increase in risk perception. Most people expected that this trend would soon change and animal spirits would be asserted. But that has not happened. CMIE Capex data shows disturbing trends in new investments. First, new investment announcements have continued to fall sharply. Data available till March 2011 shows that new investment announcements continue to be fewer quarter after quarter. In addition, there is a sudden rise in projects abandoned. So even out of projects that were announced despite the slowdown in project announcements, many more projects have been abandoned.

Investments decisions are based on expectations about the future. An investment appears profitable when the price of outputs is expected to be higher than the cost of producing them. There are many reasons that could possibly be attributed to the decline in expected profits of investment decisions in the country. While it is easy to blame the scams for the slowdown in investment projects, it has not happened suddenly. However, the policy environment, in a much larger sense, is certainly responsible for the change in sentiment about India. Private investment was the biggest driver of growth in India in the 2000s. Unlike in China, where external demand might have played a bigger role, in India it was the sharp increase in the share of private corporate investment that led to GDP growth acceleration. The fiscal expansion meant a large and expanding government borrowing programme that preempted private resources. Policy uncertainty introduced by land use, resource extraction and environment policies created regulatory uncertainty. It started making sense to wait and watch before planning new investments.

A crucial element in the decision to invest is expectations about profits. When input costs and output prices are volatile, making predictions about profits becomes difficult. As a consequence, it is seen that highly volatile inflation reduces investment. The years since 2005 have seen not only inflation rise, but the volatility of inflation in India nearly doubled. This has made making forecasts about the inflation rate in India increasingly difficult. As an example, we can look at the differences between the inflation forecasts by the RBI and the actual inflation at the end of each fiscal year for which RBI makes the forecast. During this period, the monetary authority, with a large research team that is supposed to specialise in this field and which has policy levers that give it the power to impact the inflation rate, has got the forecast wrong every single time by 100-200 basis points. For businesspersons with neither the specific training to make inflation forecasts, nor the monetary policy tools to impact it, the task is naturally much harder.

What can policy do? Fiscal policy, more people agree now, needs to be contractionary. In the long run most people would agree that monetary policy should provide the economy with a low and stable inflation rate. However, it is in the short run when one of the elements of this strategy is to raise interest rates that industry lobbies start arguing for keeping the cost of investment low by maintaining low interest rates. This argument normally looks at nominal interest rates, rather than real interest rates. In India too, even at the currently high levels of inflation and low real interest rates, we often hear arguments in favour of keeping rates low. If the RBI has to fight inflation it will have to raise real interest rates.

But raising interest rates is not going to be enough to fight inflation. Bringing inflation now may be much harder now that inflationary expectations have risen. A central bank can successfully fight inflation only when it has commitment, credibility and a proper communication strategy. If the RBI continues to fight for turf on other issues such as who will run the debt management office for the government, it will continue to communicate to the public that its commitment to fighting inflation is limited. This will make its job of providing low and stable inflation much harder. It would not be surprising if the coming year continues to witness inflation in the range of 9 to 10 per cent while the RBI continues to raise interest rates. Communicating its commitment to low and stable inflation cannot be done only in monetary policy statements. It needs to be done even when the role and function of the central bank is under discussion.

The writer is a professor at the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy, Delhi,







The weeks since the killing of Osama bin Laden by US Special Forces have witnessed intensified recriminations and engagement between the US and Pakistan. Last week, President Barack Obama said that Pakistan's obsession with India as an existential threat was misplaced, reiterating a theme he and his top advisers have embraced since assuming office. In doing this, the Obama administration has been attempting to assuage Pakistan's purported insecurities vis-à-vis India in order to redirect its energies towards addressing challenges at home and along its western frontier.

There is an unwillingness on the part of the US to recognise and completely contradict Pakistan's pernicious national narrative. This narrative has directly compromised the integrity of the Pakistani state and the well-being of its public, as well as the security of every state actively engaged in Pakistan's neighbourhood. This narrative consists either of complete fabrications or, more frequently, half-truths or select facts bereft of context. Although often associated with the military, Pakistan's recent diplomatic overdrive illustrates how the civilian leadership is equally culpable for its perpetuation.

Washington's response, both before and after bin Laden's killing, has been uneven. It has forcefully rejected certain elements of Pakistan's narrative, its obsession with India being but one. The State Department has also made sustained attempts of late to encourage Pakistan to get its economy in order, and thus transfer responsibility to the Pakistani government for the country's economic well-being and offset the moral hazard of international aid. Furthermore, while Washington may regularly pay lip service to Pakistani sovereignty, it is perfectly willing to interfere in Pakistan's internal affairs if they impinge on US national security interests. The US should therefore be expected to continue unilateral cross-border strikes and intervene in support of democracy despite Pakistani protestations.

At the same time, the US tacitly tolerates other elements of Pakistan's narrative. For example, Pakistani leaders regularly state that their country remains a victim of terror, and is responsible for capturing several leading terrorists. This may be true, but it does not absolve Pakistan of either its support for terror groups acting abroad or its offers of sanctuary. Vociferous public anti-Americanism is yet another element of Pakistan's narrative, employed to delineate limits to its manoeuvrability, yet Washington nonetheless tolerates the ISI's sustained efforts to shape public opinion against America.

Finally, there are those elements that Washington continues to give credence to, or at least leave unquestioned: Pakistan's insecurities are legitimately propelled by fears of encirclement, India's growing resource base, its nuclear weapons programme, and its reported "Cold Start" doctrine, thus adequately justify Pakistan's inordinate military spending, greater investments in its nuclear and missile programmes, and support for terror groups targeting India and Afghanistan. That lasting peace between India and Pakistan and the settlement of the Kashmir dispute to Pakistan's satisfaction will almost entirely eliminate its insecurities. That the army remains the only secular institution in Pakistan that "works" and is therefore deserving of support. And that Pakistan's top military and intelligence officials bear little or no responsibility for the actions of their subordinates and affiliates, a claim even less credible given revelations from the ongoing trial of Tahawwur Rana and the testimony of David Coleman Headley. The erroneous conclusion drawn by the Obama administration from such questionable assumptions is that demonstrations of Indian magnanimity will allow Pakistan's misguided, but not necessarily malevolent, security forces to reallocate resources towards improving the country's security and economy.

Responding to Pakistan's narrative requires an important cognitive leap, one that most in Washington are still reluctant to take: Pakistan's purported obsessions and insecurities are self-inflicted, created and consistently advanced to serve important private interests, almost always to the detriment of the country and its people. This applies equally to all the challenges commonly associated with Pakistan, be it the military's political preponderance, the proliferation of nuclear technology and materials, the cultivation and use of terrorist proxies against both adversaries and nominal allies, the growing radicalisation of the body politic, and periodic India-Pakistan crises. There is also little clarity regarding Pakistani pleas for a long-term strategic relationship, which it professes to desire as a symbol of legitimacy, but also works to undermine through its transactional demands and poorly concealed enthusiasm for a hasty US withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Although the US is using bin Laden's whereabouts as leverage to extract short-term concessions, it remains unwilling to recognise the centrality of Pakistan's self-defeating narrative and the dire need for its complete reversal, absent which the multifarious challenges associated with Pakistan are unlikely to be meaningfully addressed. This, in turn, necessitates the coordinated advancement of a counter-narrative by states whose national security interests are compromised by Pakistani misbehaviour, including India, Afghanistan and — most importantly — the US. What must be promoted is an entirely different conception of Pakistan's national interest, including its self-identification as a non-revisionist and peaceful state wholly responsible for its own behaviour and well-being. Based on the mixed signals from Washington, it is unclear whether even the dramatic circumstances of bin Laden's death will produce that desirable outcome.

The writer is a programme officer with the German Marshall Fund in Washington DC,







Despite our boast about our ancient civilisation, India has a mere 7,000 protected historic buildings compared with 600,000 in the United Kingdom — a country no bigger than Uttar Pradesh. Not surprising then, that India in 2010 attracted under 5 million tourists while the city of London alone was visited by 15.6 million.

Why do most of our monuments no longer inspire the awe that their descriptions in history books do — where are the famous halls of a thousand pillars, the gilded domes? Could it be because past glory has been lost, disfigured by hesitant repairs by those who were simply not familiar with our building craft traditions? On a recent visit to Jaunpur, near Varanasi, where Emperor Akbar built several buildings, I was fascinated to see an early Mughal-era hamam survive in its entirety — except, alas, its original decorative plasterwork. Except for barely a square foot of intricate plaster, the rest of the structure has now simply been covered with whitewash — significantly destroying its historic character and appeal. Comparable hamams in Iran, several of which are still functional, leave visitors awestruck with the intricate workmanship on the wall surfaces.

When the Archaeological Survey of India was established — 150 years ago — it pre-dated any similar agency in the UK. Archaeologists, engineers and architects assumed responsibility for preservation. The British did not realise, however, that building craft traditions lost in Europe were still actively practised by craftsmen in India until colonisation dismantled traditional systems of preservation and patronage. Craftsmen were traditionally employed to preserve the monumental buildings of the Mughals — tombs, mosques, madrasas, bridges, aqueducts — with revenue generated from estates attached to the buildings by those who built them. The significance of historic buildings often lies in the original builder's intention; ruins may be romantic, but our great medieval buildings were not meant to be reduced to ruins.

Many of our Mughal craft traditions, such as making ceramic tiles, lime punning or araish, where marble-like plaster was used on important buildings, inlay work with semi-precious stones on marble, stone carving for lattice screens, vaults and domes still survive — though only barely — with largely illiterate craftsmen who still do not understand the vocabulary of modern construction.

Historic buildings in India today suffer on several counts. For one, conservation is seen as an elitist pursuit that no longer creates jobs. A single consultant preparing a "management plan" for a World Heritage Site today costs over 25,000 man-days of craftsmen's wages. Restoration is not only about aesthetic effects — original building elements such as lime plaster, ceramic tiles, stone facing, water spouts, chajjas (eaves), etc also had a significant protective function. Restoring original material to the monument — as our craftsmen did until only a hundred years ago — often significantly enhances the life of the building. However, unlike a hundred years ago, formally established conservation norms suggest restoration only where the original builder's intention can be documented and is not a matter of conjecture.

There is a renewed appreciation for the old in new India, but unlike the handicrafts sector, building crafts have not been patronised by the government. Though the Delhi Urban Art Commission has recently stated that the use of traditional building crafts will count towards the mandatory 2 per cent spend on artwork in public projects, how can a revival of building crafts and employment of craftsmen be expected when these works are no longer seen on the monuments that are the principal product of these crafts?

In 1922, the director-general of the ASI, John Marshall wrote its conservation manual that is still followed. His directions included, "As funds will be limited ... preservation should be aimed at and repair (restoration) attempted only in cases where special funds can be provided." Yet, when funds have been made available, certain conservation attempts have left the "intelligentsia" confused. It then becomes the responsibility of those in charge of the preservation and upkeep to ensure that works being undertaken draw upon the skills of our master craftsmen and are based on sound archival research coupled with an in-depth study of the monument. Employment opportunities for craftsmen and revival of craft traditions, better understanding of our heritage by tourists, neighbourhood improvement, restoring pride in local communities are only some of the by-products of conservation.

The Red Fort has no doubt become more "red" than Emperor Shahjahan ever desired it to be. The original lime punning layer — a 1 mm thick coat of lime and marble dust plaster on Diwan-i-Aam to give the sandstone building a marble-like appearance was scraped off in the 20th century to reveal the then more fashionable red sandstone underneath. Plastered buildings in the Red Fort were simply painted red at the Naubat Khana and white at the Moti Masjid.

Mughal lime plaster was usually 15-20 cm thick and applied in several layers with the base layer containing brick aggregate in addition to lime and sand; the next layer lime, sand and brick dust; and the final lime punning layer simply lime, marble dust and occasionally, for polished wall surfaces, egg-white. The ASI's efforts to remove cement layers and replace these with traditional lime plaster layers used by the Mughal builders, including the significant final layer will no doubt look give buildings a "new" look until a few good monsoons restore the "dignified" patina. It will also ensure better preservation by protecting the underlying layers and allowing the porous sandstone to breathe — which the impervious cement layers did not, and which resulted in accelerated deterioration.

Sadly, not all buildings can be recovered from the well-meaning, yet inappropriate repairs of the past. Zafar Hasan, ASI Superintendent Archaeologist described the inner chamber of Humayun's Tomb on October 19, 1914: "the domed ceiling ... adorned originally with gilding and tile work, is now covered with whitewash ... traces can still be seen, in several places, of the original tile decoration". A century later, expectant visitors are greeted with bare whitewashed walls and no evidence remains to restore the original builder's intention. If only the craftsmen had remained empowered, this past glory would not have been lost forever.

The writer is a conservation architect and project director of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture








The 10-day strike by the 850-strong Indian Commercial Pilots Association (ICPA) resulted in a loss of an estimated Rs 200 crore to an already ailing Air India. The government capitulated by reinstating all sacked and suspended pilots and re-recognising the association, and assuring it that "legitimate" demands for pay parity would be looked into by the Justice Dharmadhikari committee. The direct, blatant interference by the civil aviation minister and his mandarins — negotiating with the striking pilots, on the ground of the inconvenience caused to the public due to the strike — have further emasculated the management.

There are talks of infusing yet more public money into the airline, to save it from certain catastrophe. The last civil aviation minister was confident of a turnaround when, upon his advocacy, Rs 2,000 crore was pumped into Air India with further plans of another Rs 1,200 crore this year. As per the recommendations of the financial consultant, Deloitte, Rs 17,500 crore is desperately needed. Nobody is convinced by such illogical arguments or reports — other than the affected employees, the ministers, and high-flying officials running vast fiefdoms from the ministry.

Forget the hon'ble minister, even a low ranking undersecretary of the civil aviation ministry can be seen boasting about perks like free upgrades and appropriate acknowledgment by flight attendants, stewards and even pilots on Air India. Another kind of subsidisation: a government circular mandating compulsory travel by Air India for all official or LTA journeys by government employees. The tickets are sold at full published rates, much higher than the market rates of other competing airlines.

A real-life example would more accurately illustrate the enormous waste of taxpayers' money. While on an official training programme to Washington DC, I was handed a gift voucher valued at Rs 2,10,000 by the personnel ministry and advised to approach the Air India office in Janpath to redeem it against an economy-class return ticket between New Delhi and Washington. The price of the voucher was four times the competitive market price of an equivalent ticket from another airline. Not only this, the transactional costs were unreasonably high: I had to bear the brunt of making two additional errands to the Air India office at Janpath from my duty station at Chandigarh, since Air India charged an additional fee for booking and issuing tickets from its office at Chandigarh. Since the additional fee, which was not nominal, was not reimbursable, those two additional journeys to Delhi were made at governmental costs — all to claim the "free" ticket. These hidden wasteful subsidies to the corporation, combined with the additional costs incurred in transacting and the dissatisfaction of the consumer, never get accounted for in a financial analysis.

The accumulated losses of Air India pile up to a staggering Rs 14,000 crore. With a bloated employee per plane ratio, 160 per cent of the industry average; an operating ratio below 60 per cent; poor aircraft usage, a mere 9 hours per day; and debt soaring to Rs 40,000 crore, no amount of transfusion of mere money by the government can bring around a desperately needed turnaround. It can be but a temporary reprieve, to meet day-to-day liabilities like salary and fuel bills.

These public sector companies serve the personal needs of a caboodle of freeloaders who prevent their sale on various frivolous grounds of national sentiment and security. If these arguments are held valid, the present inefficiencies can be better addressed by leasing the Maharaja to a private operator, who can efficiently take care of emergency situations like the recent North Africa evacuations. This would save the government not only the daily losses currently incurred, but also earn it decent income with better customer service, without compromising the above concerns.

But instead of management and the board making strategies like purchasing of new aircraft, rationalising routes, and market-based employee remuneration packages, one sees the sordid spectacle of the managing director of the airline doing the rounds of the ministry and the prime minister's office, to whom he owes his job. We witness the ministers directly interfering with day-to-day affairs — forcing the two national carriers to merge, without a proper plan or future strategy in place; ordering the purchase of over 100 new aircraft, without a plan for their proper utilisation. These decisions, in turn, burdened the airlines with huge debts and the present crisis over the issue of parity between pilots flying domestic and international sectors.

There are promises galore, but no systemic accountability to check whether such promises made by ministers to the nation are kept. Instead of acting on behalf of the 1.2 billion shareholders, questioning the board before infusing more taxpayers' money into the airline, ministers and high officials treating these corporations like personal fiefdoms. Unless the airline is freed from the stranglehold of politicians and high-flying officials, and the management made truly accountable to the board, the airline cannot transform itself from the bureaucratic culture of government departments into a professional corporation.

No amount of public money can ensure even average industry returns unless the board and the top management are and given operational freedom. The best strategy in the alternative is to cut further losses and privatise, without being sentimental and overly concerned about "national emergencies." There are enough national emergencies at hand to be addressed like the Maoist insurgency, poverty, education and malnutrition.

The writer is an IAS officer and director, social justice and empowerment, Haryana. The views expressed here are personal






I first visited Kolkata in 1982 as a backpacking law student. I stayed at a hostel in the Howrah slums and regretted that my camera could record only images, not the equally memorable stench.

In my visits over the next 25 years, Kolkata, and much of India, seemed little changed. China, where the national bird was jokingly said to be the crane, would be transformed every year or two, while Kolkata was the same: a decrepit city where barefoot men pulled rickshaws beside foetid canals.

That's why India has been a bit of an embarrassment for those of us who believe in democracy, especially when compared with China. The Communist Party in China did a much better job fighting poverty than democratically elected Indian governments. India tolerated dissent, but it also tolerated inefficiency, disease and illiteracy.

But after my trips to India and China this year, I think all that may be changing. Despite the global economic slowdown, India's economy is now hurtling along at more than 8 per cent per year. Yep, India is now a "tiger economy." It's stunning to see the new high-rise towers in Kolkata, new air-conditioned shopping malls, new infrastructure projects, new businesses.

In elections this month, the longtime Communist Party government here was ousted, and the new chief minister is a woman and a dynamo, Mamata Banerjee. She's part of a broader trend of charismatic female politicians: one-third of India's people are now ruled by chief ministers who are women.

The northern state of Bihar used to be even more of an embarrassment. I once visited a health clinic in Bihar where employees dumped medicines in a pit in the ground, so they wouldn't have to dispense them. I visited villages where gangsters raped, robbed and ruled at their pleasure. Businesses fled, kidnapping became rampant, and Bihar seemed hopeless. Yet Bihar has, wondrously, turned around since 2005, when a reformer named Nitish Kumar took over as chief minister. There are still enormous inefficiencies, but crime has been suppressed, corruption has diminished and the local economy is booming at double-digit rates. And if Bihar can turn around, any Indian region can.

Look, India still lags far behind China, it faces risks of Pakistani extremism, it needs further economic reforms and it too readily accepts inefficiency as the natural order of the universe. India's education and health system is a disgrace, especially in rural areas. But change is in the air. Infant mortality is dropping, voters are pushing for better governance, and I think India has three advantages over China in their economic rivalry.

First, India's independent news media and grass-roots civic organisations — sectors that barely exist in China — are watchdogs against corruption and inefficiency. My hunch is that kleptocracy reached its apogee and is now waning in India, while in China it is getting worse. I've written scathingly about India's human trafficking and oppression of women, but it's also true that civil society is addressing these issues.

Second, China's economy may be slowed by the ageing of its population, while India's younger population will lead to a "demographic dividend" . Likewise, China already reaped the economic advantages of empowering its women, while India is just beginning to usher the female half of its population into the formal labour force.

Third, India has managed religious and ethnic tensions pretty well, aside from the disgraceful anti-Muslim pogroms in Gujarat in 2002. Perhaps as a result, India has the world's third-largest Muslim population but few jihadis. And while India has sometimes behaved brutally in Kashmir, civil society watchdogs are pressing for better behaviour there. In China, by contrast, tensions with ethnic Tibetans and Uighurs are worsening.

China's autocrats are extraordinarily competent, in a way that India's democrats are not. But travelling in India these days is a heartening experience: my hunch is that the world's largest democracy increasingly will be a source not of embarrassment but of pride.Nicholas D. Kristof






I hope that Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton understand that right now — right this second — Egypt needs something more from Washington than money: quiet, behind-the-scenes engagement with Egypt's ruling generals over how to complete the

transition to democracy here.

Here's why. After the ouster of Hosni Mubarak in February, his presidential powers were shifted to a military council, led by the defence minister. It's an odd situation, or as the Egyptian novelist Alaa Al Aswany, author of The Yacoubian Building, put it to me: "We have had a revolution here that succeeded — but is not in power. So the goals of the revolution are being applied by an agent, the army, which I think is sincere in wanting to do the right things, but it is not by nature revolutionary."

To their credit, the Egyptian generals moved swiftly to put in place a pathway to democracy: elections for a new parliament were set for September; this parliament will then oversee the writing of a new constitution, and then a new civilian president will be elected.

Sounds great on paper, and it was endorsed by a referendum, but there's one big problem: The Tahrir Square revolution was a largely spontaneous, bottom-up affair. It was not led by any particular party or leader. Parties are just now being formed. If elections are held in September, the only group in Egypt with a real party network ready to roll is the one that has been living underground and is now suddenly legal: the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood.

"The liberal parties need more time to organise," said Naguib Sawiris, an Egyptian billionaire who's heading the best organised of the liberal parties, and is urging all the liberal groups to run under a single banner and not divide their vote.

If the Muslim Brotherhood wins a plurality it could have an inordinate impact on writing Egypt's first truly free constitution and could inject restrictions on women, alcohol, dress, and the relations between mosque and state. "Because the Muslim Brotherhood is ready, they want elections first," adds Osama Ghazali Harb, another reform party leader. "We as secular forces prefer to have some time to consolidate our parties. We must thank the army for the role it played. But it was our revolution, not a coup d'état... If there are fair elections, the Muslim Brotherhood will only get 20 per cent."

America, though, cannot publicly intervene in the Egyptian election debate. It would only undermine the reformers, who have come so far, so fast, on their own and alienate the Egyptian generals. That said, though, it is important that senior US officials engage quietly with the generals and encourage them to take heed of the many Egyptian voices that are raising legitimate concerns about a premature runoff.

In short, the Egyptian revolution is not over. It has left the dramatic street phase and is now in the seemingly boring but utterly vital phase of deciding who gets to write the rules for the new Egypt.

And how Egypt evolves will impact the whole Arab world. I just hope the Obama team is paying attention. This is so much more important than Libya.Thomas Friedma






Media Pro, the 50:50 JV between the distribution arms of Star India and Zee Entertainment, has the potential to change the way India reports its television revenues. Right now, thanks to the way the Local Cable Operators (LCO) under-declare revenues, the broadcasters get around a fifth of estimated spend by households and the MultiSystem Operators (who give the signal to the LCOs) get around a tenth. Given that Media Pro will be the country's largest broadcasting bouquet, with over 68 channels and controlling an estimated 40% of TV viewing, it can negotiate better with the LCOs. Since none can hope to survive without Zee and Star—in the past, many would choose to carry either the Star or the Zee bouquets when Colors was free—they will be more inclined to fall in line now. So under-reporting of subscription revenues, estimated at 75-80% of the total of R19,000 crore, should reduce significantly.

How the situation will pan out for the multi-system operators (MSOs) depends on whether they choose to side with the broadcasters or the LCOs. The MSOs apprehend Media Pro might misuse its near monopoly status and are believed to be rallying together, but it would be surprising if Star and Zee tried to squeeze them since it is obvious where the problem lies. Ideally, content costs for MSOs shouldn't go up. The MSOs need to work together with the broadcasters to ensure that both piracy and under-declaration of subscription revenues reduces; after all, they stand to gain as much as the broadcasters.

As far as DTH operators are concerned, they have been in a commanding position so far since revenues that broadcasters earn from DTH subscriptions exceed those that they earn from cable operators. Theoretically, the Media Pro alliance, with its strong bouquet of channels including Star Plus, NDTV 24x7 and Cartoon Network, would now have greater pricing power and so content acquisition costs for DTH operators could go up, but keep in mind that 70-80% of DTH capacity belongs to TataSky and Dish—Sky belongs to Star and Dish to Zee. The challenge for broadcasters lies in being able to get LCOs to report the true number of subscribers. Since digitisation is gaining momentum, the LCOs may as well come to terms with better industry practices. In this context, the government should push through the digitisation Bill so that LCOs don't remain complacent. Should digitisation become mandatory, analysts estimate that in five years time, India could have 150 million digital households so that an ARPU (average revenue per user) of even R200 per month would yield revenues of R36,000 crore a year.





Though food inflation has risen by one percentage point, to 8.5% in the week-ended May 14, 2011, this is substantially below the peak levels of 21.4% touched in May last year. And if the monsoons are good as predicted, food inflation is likely to come down to less than half the 15% levels reached in each of the last two years. Even so, it is probably higher than what politicians would like, so you can expect some more pressure on RBI to hike rates once again. It's worth keeping in mind, however, that no study of inflation is complete without studying what's happening to income levels—if RBI's rate-hikes start affecting growth, without being able to dampen inflation, it'll be a double-whammy. Since the NSS thick round data for 2009-10 won't be out for another 6-8 months, it's difficult to know what's happened to household incomes. It is, however, difficult to see how, unless there's been a sharp rise in inequality levels, real incomes (that's nominal incomes minus inflation) have not gone up for even the poorest fifth of the population—during 1994-95 to 2005, when real net national product rose by 6.2% per annum, real incomes rose 4.5% for the lowest quintile according to NCAER-CMCR data. With economic growth picking up since, logically, this growth should be higher even with higher inflation levels.

In the absence of NSS data on consumption, even though it understates consumption in the economy, it's best to look for proxies. Data on strikes and lockouts show that disruption in production due to workers unrest has touched new lows, with the number of strikes and lockouts dipping to 45 between January and March 2011 as compared to 70 in the corresponding period of the previous year, and mandays lost have come down from 4.2 lakh to 2.7 lakh—if inflation wasn't accompanied by higher wage increases, chances are there'd be more strikes. Government employees are protected by their DA, but ASI data for units registered under the Factories Act shows wages went up by 17.6% in 2006-07, 15.2% in 2007-08 and 17.1% in 2008-09 (data after this is unavailable)—total emoluments went up by 19.2%, 18.8% and 22.7% in the last three years. When politicians and RBI are examining inflation data and charting policy action, they'd do well to keep the income side of things in mind as well.






Let's assume environment minister Jairam Ramesh is right when he says the IITs do precious little good research, that they add little value to the students they give degrees to—that is, since the students who get admission to the IITs are top 0.1% of the eligible population, they're bound to be bright. Look at various ratings of Indian universities, and they seem to suggest Jairam is right. IIT-Delhi was among the top 500 universities in the world in 2003 (it was ranked between 451-500) but by 2010, it was nowhere to be seen on the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) list. IIT-Kharagpur managed to remain in the list but with a fall in the score. China has 16 universities in the top 500 (13 in engineering, 1 in medicine and 1 in social sciences) while India has just 2 (IIT-K is in the 401-500 list while the Indian Institute of Science is in the 301-400 rank). China has 6.8% of the world's top 500 universities and accounts for 19.8% of global population—India's figures are 0.4% and 17.1%, respectively.

Or let's assume Jairam is wrong, as education minister Kapil Sibal has suggested. Sanjay Dhande, director of IIT Kanpur, argued in The Indian Express the other day that the IIT faculty had done a pretty good job and listed various IIT work such as the encryption scheme for the Indian navy, e-passport and real-time information on trains. Others, such as Manish Sabharwal who runs India's largest temping firm Teamlease, have argued in FE that you can't have research unless the overall economic environment favours R&D and that's beginning to happen only now.

But when you see that just 13,602 students passed the IIT Joint Entrance Examination this year, you see just how much of a non-issue the whole debate over the quality of the IIT/IIM faculty is. The debate then moves on to how poor the quality of private education—the alternative to the IITs and the IIMs—is and how much of a ripoff it is. Indeed, the more learned will point to 'externalities' that can get captured only by publicly-funded education. Since there's no gain to be made by doing research, they argue, private engineering or management schools will never encourage faculty to concentrate on research. And research, we know, is what made the MITs and Harvards what they are. So, let's not waste time with this private education ripoff, just build top class government institutes—a parallel argument, by the way, is made about corporate hospitals. All of this is probably true, private hospitals like private universities probably overcharge and hugely so, but what is the alternative? If the government had the capacity, both financial and managerial, it would have built the colleges and the hospitals, and life would have been perfect for everyone. But the fact is the government hasn't done it, so there's no reason to suspect it will in the future.

It is obviously true that a Manipal University can't compete with an IIT, just as it's clear that a for-profit University of Phoenix can't compete with a Harvard when it comes to the standard of learning, the quality of faculty, the kind of alumni. But while pouring scorn on the University of Phoenix, let's keep in mind that, after being set up in 1636, there is just one Harvard and it has a total of 21,000 students. Phoenix was set up in 1976, has 200 campuses and nearly 5 lakh students.

In an ideal world, every Indian who wants to be an engineer should go to an IIT, but for now India's needs are a lot more basic. They're not even about just education, they're about just making Indians job-ready to begin with—the under-two-year-old National Skills Development Corporation goal is to skill/upskill 500 million Indians by 2022, for instance. Or take the numbers put out by Columbia professor Arvind Panagariya the other day at the NCAER. According to Panagariya, a greying OECD will have 35 million less persons in 20-49 age group by 2025, China will have 63 million less. The gap, and more, will be made up by India which will add 139 million persons in this age group. Perfect, you'd think, there's a gap in the world and there's a supplier to make good the gap.

Not so fast! Just 13% or so of the 113 million persons India has in the 20-24 age group today actually go to college—for China, the comparable gross enrolment ratio is 23%. So the world needs 100 million or so well-educated persons more in 2025 (assuming, incorrectly, that the demand for more educated people doesn't rise) but, at current GERs, India can supply only 18-20 million. That's hardly going to help either the world or India. Certainly, India's 8-9% GDP dream is going to be history without a lot more people getting a basic education, through distance learning at Sikkim Manipal University or Punjab Technical University if need be. Wage rates for semi-skilled and uneducated painters are already up to around R450 per day in metros like Delhi or around $3.3 per hour on a PPP basis compared to $8 in the US—without a significant increase in productivity that only education brings, you can pretty much start writing off India's growth story.

If India needs to raise its game, it needs to improve education all around, not just concentrate on the IITs and the IIMs. You have to read the Annual Status of Education Report to know just how broke the schooling system is—only 53.4% children in the fifth standard in rural India can read a second standard level text; the proportion of first standard children who could recognise numbers from 1-9 declined from 69.3 % in 2009 to 65.8 % in 2010; children in the fifth standard who could do simple division problems also dropped from 38 % in 2009 to 35.9 % in 2010. And yet, instead of encouraging people to set up more schools—public, private, not-for-profit, for-profit, how does it matter?—we're trying our best to kill private schools thanks to the onerous Right to Education Act which specifies the size of rooms in schools as well as the salaries to be paid to teachers. As a result of what we've done to restrict growth on one ground or the other, while the private education business is estimated at around $40bn today, the amount spent by Indian students abroad is around $6-8bn! Imagine what we'd do for education, and India, if that kind of money was spent here instead.





How does one assess Mamata Banerjee's eight days in office as West Bengal's 11th—and first woman—chief minister? On the face of it, it's been a dramatic week, right from the time she was sworn in as CM amid a sea of humanity on May 20, and she chose to walk, along with the people, from Raj Bhavan where she took oath, to Writers' Buildings, the secretariat, and now her office.

On day one itself, she held a Cabinet meeting, and even before portfolios could be decided for the 37 MLAs who took oath along with her (only Amit Mitra's name was announced as finance minister and loyalist Partha Chattopadhyay as industry minister), Mamata's first announcement was that the government had decided to return 400 acres to farmers who had unwillingly handed over land for the Tata small car project at Singur. True, the Singur issue was the fulcrum on which her ascent to power rested and her party had made the return of land at Singur a campaign promise, but this promise will be particularly difficult to keep, as she soon realised over the next few days.

For one, land once taken for industry and deemed legal—the Calcutta High Court had ruled that the acquisition is legal—is almost impossible to return, though the TMC government is looking at the Tamil Nadu precedent, wherein the government introduced a new section—48 (B)—in the Land Acquisition Act, enabling it to take away land from the lease holder and give it back to the original owner. But at Singur, the disputed land has about 1,500 claimants and it's no longer agricultural land—the Tatas had already constructed the outer structure when they had to exit the state. On Wednesday, when she chaired her second Cabinet meeting, she announced that the Tata-Bengal land deal would be made public, but she soon realised that that was easier said than done for the Tatas had got a stay from the high court on making the whole document public.

On the crucial finances front, too, the early signals coming from the TMC government are ominous. Even before Mamata and state finance minister Mitra meet Union finance minister Pranab Mukherjee on Sunday to find out the likely contours of a special package for cash-strapped Bengal, the chief minister has announced several populist measures, from waiving water tax to lifting embargo on foodgrain for below the poverty line families, which alone will lead to an outgo of R350 crore and more. She also said that North Bengal Development Council funds will be hiked from R60 crore to R200 crore. The state has run up debt of R2 lakh crore and needs around R2,500 crore a month just to pay salaries and pensions.

The TMC has come to power with a huge mandate, and perhaps she should use it to her advantage by taking some necessary harsh decisions. Expectations are high, but people will understand if she steers clear of populist measures for the long-term benefit of the state. To give the first-time CM her due, she announced at least two great measures—a unified police force for all 141 wards under the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (this will save many harried citizens from police red-tapism) and the plan to expand the Kolkata Municipal Corporation limits to include Sector V in Salt Lake, the IT hub of the city, and the IIM campus at Joka to ensure both areas are better administered.

As health minister—Mamata is looking after the key portfolios of home, land, power and health—the chief minister has been paying surprise visits to government hospitals. In her usual manner, she has been brusque with inefficiencies, directing hospitals not to turn away patients even as harassed citizens rush to complain to her about gross negligence and lack of beds at top government hospitals. Health has been the Left's bugbear, and despite its 30 years in office, this is one department where there is gross mismanagement. But the chief minister will have to do a lot more than spot inspection. If the health sector has to succeed, there has to be a bottoms-up approach and the district and village-level hospitals and health centres must be spanked into shape.

Mamata loves to reiterate that she is a people's person, but being a people's chief minister also means greater responsibility. In her choice of Cabinet itself there's a story—she said she would have a small team, but ultimately veered towards a larger one because so many expectations had to be met. These are dangerous signals for a state that has to revive on all fronts, from agriculture to industry, from health to services, to survive.







The fourth edition of the Indian Premier League faced several challenges. Coming so close on the heels of ICC ODI World Cup, the competition had to grapple with viewer fatigue. The addition of two more franchises, Kochi Tuskers and Pune Warriors, increased the number of matches from 60 to 74. Despite a lukewarm beginning, the IPL came back well in the subsequent phases. The competition ended on a night of triumph for the Chennai Super Kings at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium. CSK, led by Mahendra Singh Dhoni, among the most successful captains in international cricket, became the only team to win the competition twice. The Chennai side, which has reached the IPL final thrice and also won the Champions League title, has firepower in batting, variety in bowling, and cool when it matters most. When the team appeared heading for a defeat in the first qualifier against Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) in Mumbai, strokeful left-hander Suresh Raina conjured a 50-ball unbeaten 73 to clinch a thriller. In the summit clash in Chennai, opener Murali Vijay displayed a wonderful sense of occasion by producing an explosive near-century. The solidity of 'Mr. Cricket,' Michael Hussey (492 runs in 14 matches at 41.00), the pace and thrust of Doug Bollinger (17 wickets in 13 games at an economy rate or ER of 7.00), the masterful wielding of the bludgeon by Dhoni whenever needed, and the control and craft of off-spinner R. Ashwin (20 wickets in 16 matches at an ER of 6.15) served CSK splendidly.

Fittingly in the finale, CSK came up against the game changer of this IPL. Chris Gayle, signed up by RCB after he was left out of the West Indies squad for the ODIs against Pakistan, had batted right through like Superman, blowing away attacks at will. Ashwin's prising him out with a delicious piece of deception in the first over was a rare moment of sporting drama. Gayle, who was adjudged Player of the Tournament, made a sensational 608 runs in 12 matches at an average of 67.55 and a strike rate of 183.13. Slinger Lasith Malinga of the Mumbai Indians was the outstanding bowler with 28 wickets from 16 games at an ER of 5.95. The Sri Lankan's toe-crushers were on target. The IPL provides a platform for emerging players to showcase their skills, and aggressive opener Paul Valthaty (Kings XI Punjab), promising leg-spinner Rahul Sharma (Pune Warriors), and combative left-arm spinner Iqbal Abdulla (Kolkata Knight Riders) made headlines. The cash-rich IPL has reopened the club versus country debate. While there are no easy answers, the BCCI should make a sincere effort to ensure that the India cricketers do not play too much cricket at least 15 days before and after the popular Twenty20 competition to combat player fatigue and reduce the risk of injury.





Another long manhunt has ended with the arrest of Ratko Mladic, the "butcher of Bosnia." Unlike Osama bin Laden, the former chief of the Bosnian Serb army was not behind incidents of global scale. But he is held responsible for an incident known as the worst single atrocity in Europe since World War II — the slaughter of 7,500 Bosnian Muslim men and boys at Srebernica in 1995. For this, he has been indicted by The Hague tribunal, an international court set up in 1993 to prosecute crimes committed during the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s. A key member of the Serbian leadership during those years, Mladic had evaded arrest since 1995, apparently with ease, especially after slipping into Serbia during the reign of his friend, President Slobodan Milosevic. The 2000 ouster of Milosevic and his subsequent extradition to The Hague laid the ground for Serbia's agreement with the tribunal to hand over war crimes suspects. But the real game-changer in its co-operation with the tribunal was the country's growing desire to join the European Union. Of the constituents of the former Yugoslavia, Slovenia was admitted in 2004, while Croatia, Macedonia, and Montenegro are on the road to membership. A year after the 2008 arrest of the Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, Serbia applied for EU membership in 2009. But its failure to hand over Mladic was a stumbling block. Even though the unresolved Kosovo question could still trip up its European dream, and one last Serbian fugitive still remains at large, the Mladic arrest will incline the EU to take a positive view of Serbia's candidacy when it meets to discuss the membership later this year.

The elements of Serbia's struggle to transform itself from an outlier in order to be accepted as part of the modern European community have striking parallels with another country — an entrenched military; a powerful intelligence agency; a network of officials with delusions of ethnic supremacy; an economic crisis; ultra-nationalist public attitudes dominated by the sentiment that the country is being made a whipping boy by the West; and, to top it all, a weak political class. A Prime Minister was assassinated in 2003 for promising to hand over war crimes suspects. The difference between Serbia and Pakistan — aside from the smallness of one and the global implications of the crisis in the other, not to mention its nuclear arsenal — is that since 2008, one of them has had a leader unafraid to challenge the military and the nationalist forces, and is credited with thus bringing a change in public opinion. Were it that it was Pakistan.







The spate of recent suicides by Dalit students studying at leading educational institutions calls for introspection. Affirmative action to promote education and employment for historically non-dominant groups is practised in many parts of the world and achieved through targeted recruitment, preferential selection policies and quotas. Special treatment for women and people of African origin in Scandinavia and South Africa respectively are examples. However, the issues are not only complex but also clouded by one's personal background and emotively charged by one's politics.

Intelligence and populations: Recent research has challenged the prevalent dogma related to human intelligence. The unitary concept has given way to an acknowledgement of the pluralistic nature of intelligence. A realisation of the reduced role of heredity and the increased impact of nurture has changed perspectives. The role of environment in explaining the differences in the intelligence of population groups finds much greater acceptance. Our inability to assess the diverse aspects of intelligence accurately at a single point in time using particular instruments is acknowledged. Psychometrically measured intelligence is only one of the many contributors to social outcomes. It accounts for less than a quarter of scholastic and occupational achievement.

It is well recognised that schooling itself impacts on intelligence scores, which are heavily influenced by the quality of teaching. There is a realisation that social circumstances outweigh test scores in predicting future performance and that differences between racial and social groups are better explained by environmental variations. There is increasing recognition of the fact that the human brain is extremely plastic, has a remarkable capacity to change and that new connections are constantly being made based on experience and learning. Many researchers would argue that most tests of intelligence measure past learning rather than the potential for scholarship. Tests of aptitude face similar criticism. Current entrance examinations for Indian universities are essentially screening tools to reduce the number of applicants rather than to test intelligence or aptitude. They favour those who have mastered rote memorisation and have past exposure to exercises in pattern recognition. In fact, sceptics would contend that most tests, which document the inequality of intelligence and aptitude across social and racial groups, do so by intent and design.

Opportunity and class: The Constitution clearly recognises the need for social justice and has many provisions to produce an egalitarian society. However, this dream remains on paper. Social class seems to determine destiny and is decided at birth. Social circumstances, rather than talent or hard work, determine outcomes. Income inequality has worsened and the climb up the social ladder has become steeper. School leaving results are more closely tied to parental income than ever before. Nevertheless, academia and professional organisations seem to prefer and perpetuate class privilege in their recruitment policies.

Equality of opportunity does not happen in societies as grossly unequal as found in India. The barriers preventing the ascent of the underprivileged have grown higher, while the safety nets provided by rich parents that prevents even the dimmest of privileged children from slipping have grown stronger. One's educational qualifications, or lack thereof, determine socio-economic outcomes, health and longevity. Socio-economic privilege and deprivation transmit inequalities in life from one generation to the next. The "cycle of disadvantage" results in intergenerational transmission of poverty and deprivation, while the "cycle of advantage" results in continued benefits and privileges. The concept of social class identifies inequality; caste is often a proxy for class in the Indian context.

Intersecting odds: The combination of class and caste is toxic with an exponential increase in difficulty for those at the bottom of the ladder. On the other hand, being on top of the class and caste divide provides unimaginable benefits. Over-coached but mediocre applicants from private schools win over bright but underprivileged students from substandard institutions, despite the fact that the latter's achievements are personal triumphs against high odds.

Universities and institutions of higher learning are, by their very nature, elitist. They take students who have benefited from 14 years of schooling and give them a period of what has been described as a transformative experience. Students who have not been exposed to good schooling are massively disadvantaged, a situation which does not vanish as they walk through the hallowed portals of our universities. Pursuing a quest for knowledge, mastery of abstraction, self-discovery, development of creative and intellectually rigorous thinking and understanding practice are daunting tasks for those from less privileged backgrounds. While lowering university entrance grades may give a leg-up for many disadvantaged students, it also throws them in the deep end. Young people who have succeeded against odds, instead of being proud, sink into despair and feel intimidated by the confidence of their better-educated and privileged peers. Some stagger from examination to examination, increasingly demoralised. Others drop out or become angry with their institutions for failing to provide support. The indifference of the faculty, most of whom come from a privileged class and caste background, adds insult to injury. Discrimination, both subtle and not-so-subtle, continues to plague their career and life. The focus of university programmes on the elite and the blindness of the faculty to the need for additional support to students from disadvantaged backgrounds often seal their fate. In fact, it is a miracle that many of the less privileged actually make it through our universities.

Political rhetoric and ignorance: The poor performance of students selected through affirmative action is often equated with a fall in educational standards. The loss of opportunities for those who have traditionally enjoyed privileges rankles and infuriates. Their subsequent frustration spawns arguments against reservation policies. The fact that only the privileged minority benefited for decades from subsidised education at many of India's leading educational institutions is often forgotten. The lack of opportunities for the majority, the lower castes, in these temples of learning is dismissed. The relationship between privilege, opportunity and so-called merit is disregarded.

The impact of reservation policies, viewed from specific social and economic backgrounds, can be considered unjust for particular individuals. However, national guidelines, which focus on issues facing the vast majority, are justified in fostering education and employment opportunities based on social justice for the less privileged.

The way forward: Programmes which uphold affirmative action should focus on not only providing equal opportunities but aim for equality of outcomes. The underprivileged from the lower castes and the adivasis have to fight against odds to make it. Educational opportunities must start long before entry into universities if they are to have any real impact. The issues are much more than just about schooling. A child who has newspapers, books, television, computers and internet access at home is already privileged, irrespective of his or her schooling. While the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan is an attempt in the right direction, it has a long, long way to go to provide the kind of opportunities available to the 'upper' class/caste children.

Many reports have documented the fact that the only countries that nurture talent, regardless of class, are those where there is equity in incomes and lifestyles. The Nordic countries do best, because the social ladder is short and easy to climb while the social penalty for slipping is much less. The U.S. has the least social mobility and the steepest ladders, making the "anyone-can-make-it" American dream a myth for a significant proportion of the population.

There are many highly successful examples of reservation producing quality students and professionals, while maintaining standards of teaching and practice within institutions of higher education in India. The health system in Tamil Nadu is also an example of the success of such a strategy. Such successful affirmative action is undergirded by continued support of these students throughout their training. Such empathy is only possible with a strong belief that equal opportunity for all will result in equal outcomes across racial and social groups.

The concept needs to be supported by a commitment from the institutional administration and faculty to support those who have made the minimum necessary grade required for academic success through the course, provide an environment which encourages individual growth and attempt to overcome the pernicious effect of long-term deprivation. Support, counselling and mentoring are crucial. Many students from institutions that have provided these have gone on to compete internationally. Successful institutions are motivated by social uplift rather than political considerations. These institutions recognise that "merit" is often more about available opportunities rather than ability or aptitude. The country needs to provide reservation and quality education for its deprived castes and classes and support them through the entire process. The success of India's reservation policies should be measured by equality of outcomes.

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









NEW DELHI: The sale by the United States of F-16 military aircraft to Pakistan, announced in 2005, was celebrated as a sign of deepening strategic ties between Islamabad and the Bush administration in Washington. Described by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as an attempt to "break out of the notion that [India and Pakistan are in] a hyphenated relationship," the decision was met with anguish in New Delhi. But leaked U.S. diplomatic cables suggest that the sale was used only to further America's broad strategic interests, with Pakistan standing to gain little from the deal.

The despatches, from the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, indicated that the deal was, among other things, meant to assuage Pakistan's fears of an "existential threat it perceived from India." The diplomatic cables, accessed by The Hindu through WikiLeaks, suggested that the purpose of the sale was to divert Pakistan's attention from "the nuclear option," and give it "time and space to employ a conventional reaction" in the event of a conflict with India ( 151227: confidential). Privately, however, the U.S. acknowledged the "reality" that the F-16 programme would not change India's "overwhelming air superiority over Pakistan." In fact, the cables bluntly assert that the F-16s would be "no match for India's proposed purchase of F-18 or equivalent aircraft."

Given India's "substantial military advantage," one cable ( 197576: confidential) even surmised that the F-16s would at the most offer "a few days" for the U.S. to "mediate and prevent nuclear conflict."

Fully aware of such limitations, the U.S. continued to press ahead with the deal, and cables document hectic parleys to bring it to fruition. Before the agreement was signed in September 2006, the U.S. played hardball to make Pakistan sign the Letter of Acceptance (LoA). Islamabad had threatened to delay it further, raising additional demands. The U.S. Ambassador to Islamabad, Ryan Crocker, suggested that Washington "convene" the Pakistani Ambassador, Ali Durrani, to remind him that "missing the deadline [to sign the LoA] would have serious ramifications."

"Do not think there is a better deal out there if this one expires," was one of Ambassador Crocker's suggested bargain lines for Washington to use ( 77877: confidential/noforn). The agreement was inked two weeks after the cable was sent.

At the time of signing the LoA, Major General Tariq Malik, Additional Secretary in the Ministry of Defence Production, had expressed reservations about the payment schedule as an "immense strain on Pakistan's fiscal and foreign exchange reserves…, jeopardising growth." But Mr. Malik's memo was dismissed by Mr. Crocker as "separate from the valid, legal contract" ( 80337: confidential/noforn).

But when "a cash-strapped" Pakistan government approached the U.S. two years later for Foreign Military Financing (FMF) to perform mid-life updates for the existing F-16 fleet, the succeeding Ambassador, Anne W. Patterson, was concerned that Washington would be "rewarding economic mismanagement." The annual disbursement of FMF had "produced a culture of entitlement within the Pakistani military," according to the diplomat ( 151227: confidential).

Why, then, did the U.S. push hard to realise the agreement, apart from the stated objective of "additional business for U.S. defense companies"?

If, according to American diplomats, the threat from India was the primary consideration for the Pakistan military, the F-16 sales would not tilt the strategic balance by their own admission. However, the cables suggested that the U.S. was confident that Pakistan would "still fully invest in its territorial defense, despite current economic challenges." On the other hand, "our [U.S.] cancelling the sale would emphasize that we favor maintaining Indian superiority at Pakistan's expense and feed anti-Americanism throughout the military" ( 197576: confidential).

Another reason to sell F-16s, according to the same cable, was to "exorcise the bitter legacy of the Pressler Amendment" in the 1990s, when the U.S. refused to deliver F-16s that Pakistan had paid with "national money." Pakistan was even made to undertake costs for storing the fighters in Arizona. For the Pakistan military, the new deal would be tangible proof of the "post-9/11 bilateral relationship."

Avoiding a blow-up

"The bottom line is that Pakistan cannot afford the $2 billion required to complete this F-16 program," wrote Ambassador Patterson in 2009 ( 189129: secret). "At the same time, nothing is more important to good military-military (and overall U.S.-Pakistani) relations than avoiding a blow-up over the F-16 case."

Even if the sale was considered only "symbolically important" by the U.S., the deal came with many strings attached.

The U.S. was more interested in the use of F-16s by Pakistan for counter-terrorism purposes along the Af-Pak border.

Although the Pakistani Air Force (PAF) had been disinclined to use F-16s "due to the risk of collateral damage in civilian areas," Ms. Patterson suggested linking the FMF for mid-life updates to "explicit commitments by the PAF that accept Close Air-Support training" ( 151227: confidential).

A year after the agreement was concluded, Pakistan learnt that mid-life updates for the F-16s could only be performed in a third country. Since the LoA did not bear any references to "cryptokeys" for the aircraft, officials were also worried that the U.S. would withhold the capability of the F-16s. When these concerns were raised by President Pervez Musharraf and Air Chief Marshal Tanvir Mehmood, the U.S. response was hardly comforting.

"We know many in Washington are dismayed by what they consider a juvenile reaction on Pakistan's part. The Pakistanis do not fully understand our requirements for sharing encrypted devices and need to be reassured that the aircraft will still fly without the cryptokeys." ( 122429: secret)

Eventually, it was agreed that Pakistan would pay $80 million to perform the updates in Turkey. The U.S. also expressed concerns about basing the F-16s in Pakistan due to "concerns about potential technology transfer to China." The outcome? Pakistan was made to fork out another $125 million to "build and secure a separate F-16 base" ( 197576: confidential).

The purported aim of selling the F-16s to Pakistan was to "yield foreign policy benefits for the U.S.," but the cables reveal that these benefits were gift-wrapped almost always at Pakistan's expense.

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








The United States is running out of a rare gas that is crucial for detecting smuggled nuclear weapons materials because one arm of the Energy Department was selling the gas six times as fast as another arm could accumulate it, and the two sides failed to communicate for years, according to a new Congressional audit.

The gas, helium-3, is a by-product of the nuclear weapons programme, but as the number of nuclear weapons has declined, so has the supply of the gas. Yet, as the supply was shrinking, the government was investing more than $200 million to develop detection technology that required helium-3.

New technology

As a result, government scientists and contractors are now racing to find or develop a new detection technology.

According to the Government Accountability Office report, the Energy Department's National Nuclear Security Administration, which gathers the gas from old nuclear weapons, never told the department's Isotope Program about the slowing rate of helium-3 production. That is in part because it was secret information that could be used to calculate the size of weapon stockpiles.

For its part, the Isotope Program calculated demand for the gas not in a scientific way but instead on the basis of how many commercial companies called to inquire each year about helium-3 supplies.

Representative Donna Edwards of Maryland characterised the situation as "gross mismanagement." As the ranking Democrat on the House Science Committee's Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight, Ms. Edwards was one of the members of Congress who asked the accountability office to study the problem after it was detected in 2008.

"With so much riding on helium-3, it is shocking to learn that the department's forecast for demand is based simply on a telephone log tracking those who called asking about the availability of helium-3," she said.

Release of report

The report is to be released in the coming week by Ms. Edwards and Representative Brad Miller of North Carolina, the ranking Democrat on the science committee's Subcommittee on Energy and Environment.

Energy Department officials said that since the discrepancy was discovered, they had moved the Isotope Program under the umbrella of the agency's science division and had worked harder to forecast supply and demand for various materials. But they did acknowledge the bureaucratic fumble; the Isotope Program is responsible for the supply of materials it produces, but not for the supply of those it distributes but are produced by other parts of the Energy Department.

The helium-3 is considered a "legacy material," something that exists only because of past activities. Ms. Edwards pointed out that helium-3 was also used in the oil and gas industry and in research.

Because of divided responsibilities and a sudden new source of demand, "all of a sudden we realized we had this additional factor and had to come up with something different," Steven Aoki, the Deputy Under Secretary of Energy for Counterterrorism, said in a telephone interview. He said he was optimistic that new technologies using more readily available materials would be ready in a year or two.

Some members of Congress, though, are more sceptical about the time frame — and the cost. The Department of Homeland Security spent $230 million to develop the detection technology calling for helium-3.

From 2003 to 2009, the Isotope Program was selling the gas at a rate of about 30,000 litres a year, while the weapons programme was producing only 8,000 to 10,000 litres, the accountability office found.

The Energy Department and its predecessor, the Atomic Energy Commission, have produced various isotopes for commercial and governmental use for decades.

Helium-3, once considered a waste product, is produced by the radioactive decay of tritium, a form of hydrogen used in nuclear weapons to increase the yield. But the United States stopped producing tritium in 1988 because of safety problems at the reactors that made it.

The Energy and Homeland Security Departments "built large, multibillion-dollar programs around an assumed endless supply" of helium-3, according to a staff report from the House Science Committee.

The detection programme that relies on helium-3 has since been scaled back.

The Energy Department is negotiating with a nuclear power company in Ontario that might be able to supply some helium-3. Canadian reactors, unlike the models used in this country, produce significant quantities of tritium as a by-product of electricity production. But working out the commercial arrangements and setting up the equipment necessary to gather the helium-3 will probably take years, experts say.

There are other ways to build equipment to detect smuggled nuclear material, but helium-3 is nontoxic and nonradioactive and is considered more accurate. The neutrons given off by plutonium and uranium are hard to detect, but when helium-3 is hit by a stray neutron, it creates a charged particle, which is readily detected and measured.

    © New York Times News Service





UNICEF is, for the first time, publicising what drugmakers charge it for vaccines, as the world's biggest buyer of lifesaving immunisations aims to spark price competition in the face of rising costs.

On Friday, May 27, UNICEF posted on its website the actual prices that it has paid individual drugmakers for 16 vaccines purchased over the last decade. It's a move that a few Western pharmaceutical companies don't support. Novartis AG and Merck & Co., which only sells one of its many children's vaccines to UNICEF, both declined to have their prices published.

UNICEF said it will continue to disclose pricing of future vaccine deals, with the hope that the transparency will push drugmakers to cut prices and thus allow the organisation to vaccinate more children and save more lives.

"Transparency will also help foster a competitive, diverse supplier base," said Shanelle Hall, director of UNICEF's supply division. She noted that it also will help UNICEF's partners and those governments that buy vaccines on their own to make more informed decisions in price negotiations with drugmakers.

UNICEF last year spent $757 million to provide 2.5 billion doses of vaccines to 99 countries, reaching an estimated 58 per cent of the world's children.

Its price list shows significant disparity, with Western drugmakers often charging UNICEF double what companies in India and Indonesia do. Just as striking is the steady rise in prices in the last decade, with the cost of vaccines against measles, polio and tetanus roughly doubling between 2001 and 2010. Prices of a few vaccines have remained flat or declined as additional competitors entered the market. There's also a huge spread in prices among various vaccines. As might be expected, shots that have been around for some time and those vaccines made by multiple companies cost just pennies per dose, such as tetanus and tuberculosis shots and oral polio vaccine. But a combination shot for immunisation against diptheria, tetanus, whooping cough, hepatitis B and haemophilus influenza can run UNICEF $3 or more per dose. The dual vaccine against 10 or more strains of pneumococcal disease, which causes ear infections and meningitis, costs $3.50 a shot. And some of the vaccines require more than one booster shot, adding to the cost.

The cost is partly justified by the complex manufacturing process used to make combination vaccines. And UNICEF still pays far less than the $71 and $114 per dose, respectively, that is charged in the U.S. for those two vaccines. But given that the organisation's mission is to immunise entire populations of at-risk children, any savings means more can be vaccinated.

Many of the largest global pharmaceutical companies, most recently Johnson & Johnson, have jumped into the vaccine business in recent years to diversify revenue as many of their blockbuster pills are facing generic competition. Vaccines are all but immune from generic competition in developed countries, and some newer shots, such as Pfizer Inc.'s Prevnar pneumococcal vaccine, now bring in billions of dollars in revenue each year.

Those big companies are looking to less-developed countries for future sales growth, and vaccines against crippling and deadly childhood diseases are cost-effective purchases for countries with small health budgets.

— AP






The curtain came down Saturday night on a crowded, contentious and controversial Indian cricket season with the final of the Indian Premier League's fourth edition won by defending champions Chennai Super Kings. By all accounts it was a long and extraordinary season, with the World Cup final hosted by India and IPL-4 starting barely six days after the last ball was hit for six by home team skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

While Indians wore the biggest smiles after their team won the World Cup (50 overs) after 28 years, they were also left debating hotly over the amount of cricket being played these days in what is avowedly the real professional era of the game marked by the arrival of IPL and other such "big bang for your buck" kind of Twenty20 cricket.
In its most recent avatar, the game has been invaded by the club versus country argument that used to mark soccer in which the players were always beholden to their clubs while playing for the country was an attractive option only once in about four years — at the World Cup and its qualifiers. Injuries and sport inevitably go hand in hand, which is the reason why Gautam Gambhir, nominated to lead India in the Caribbean while Dhoni rested, was unfairly picked on and pilloried by a section of the media for appearing in Kolkata Knight Riders colours wherein he injured his shoulder and became unfit to take up national duty. At nearly `11 crores per annum, Gambhir is IPL's most expensive player, which means he faces the greatest pressure to deliver for his franchise. However, in appearing for his IPL team, he is only playing official cricket under the aegis of the Board of Control for Cricket in India. While there is no cricketer who would not deliberately and without genuine reason refuse to turn out for his country in Tests and limited-overs games, the amount of cricket being played now is putting them under greater stress than ever before. The list of absentees from the Caribbean tour reads like a who's who of Indian cricket — but no one blames Sachin Tendulkar if he opts out for personal reasons, seeking some balance between sporting commitments and family life. Why then does anyone have to pounce on Gambhir merely because he played cricket for money, which is what nearly 200 cricketers who have IPL contracts do every season? India Inc. does not stop selling products because some of them might go against certain national priorities and damage national health, nor does a country shy away from using energy sources which in the long run might contribute to global warming. Just as a balance has to be struck between means and ends in all things, so too must sport and cricket find ways to strike a balance between need and greed.
The Indian cricket board can help immensely if it can so much as plan its schedule to optimise its human resources in highly talented cricketers who, as a class, are looked up to by the nation. There is a pressing need for the BCCI not only to seek an international window for its glamorous T-20 league that combines cricket and entertainment, but it must also leave a clear 30 days after the event free for all its players to physically recover. It seems odd that the world's top-ranked Test team must send a virtual second XI to the West Indies. The issue is not about players wishing to skip touring what in cricketing terms today is the wilderness, but about a greedy cricket board accepting to play international cricket in June. It's not about club versus country but about the BCCI organising its calendar better and giving higher priority to its players' welfare.





India has been undergoing much political churning in recent times, leading to heightened uncertainty, fluctuating business confidence and administrative stasis. India's political risk ratings have been declining of late and now with the state Assembly polls successfully concluded a fresh political risk appraisal is in order.

The short story is that the state elections have left the ruling coalition in New Delhi with increased stability in the short term but rising risks in the medium and long terms. Ironically, the defeat of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam-Congress combine in the southern state of Tamil Nadu has proved most beneficial for the ruling consortium in the short term as it has allowed, if not impelled, the dominant coalition partner, the Congress Party, to harden its stand against corruption.
Rampant corruption at all levels of the administration in the Central government had massively heightened risks of doing business in India as touts, politicians and powerful bureaucrats were capable of short-circuiting established procedures in the award of contracts, dispute settlement, permissions and so forth.
Corporates and big businesses were forced to turn to intermediaries, some of them distinctly dubious, to get their work done. The "New Delhi fixer" emerged as the symbol of the times, side-lining honest officials and even company managements.
However, it was often the more unscrupulous, cannier businessman with better political contacts who got his way, undercutting rivals and shifting the goal posts. Now with the government at New Delhi signalling tougher counter-measures against corruption, including imprisonment for the rich and powerful, there is bound to be increased confidence in the government and a levelling of the playing field for economic and civil society players. With increased consistency in policy implementation and procedures, the medium- and long-term political risk indicators are bound to decline.
The other aspect of the risk scenario has to do with the stability of the coalition government and its leadership, the consistent and successful implementation of declared policies and the formulation of new policies, rules and procedures to facilitate economic growth and improve conditions for the country's underprivileged.
Post-state elections, the political risk picture is mixed but largely positive. In the states of Assam and Tamil Nadu, political risk indicators have declined due to the conclusive mandate received by one party — the Congress led by chief minister Tarun Gogoi in Assam and the All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam led by chief minister J. Jayalalithaa in Tamil Nadu. Political risk is down in the Union Territory of Puducherry as well with the decisive victory of former Congress chief minister N. Rangasamy, who is expected to provide continuity in policies and clean governance. Mr Gogoi is more secure with an absolute majority and unlike in the past not constrained by uncertain coalition partners.
Ms Jayalalithaa, too, will be forced to run a clean and open administration and abjure any radical agenda. She will be hugely benefited by the shrunken DMK presence in the Legislative Assembly and the emergence of her poll partner, the Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam led by Vijayakanth, as the main Opposition.
Political risk is up in West Bengal despite the clear victory by the Trinamul-Congress combine due to two factors: major and difficult policy changes in the offing and complicated local politics that will increasingly come to the fore in the medium and long terms. In Kerala, the Congress-United Democratic Front (UDF) has secured a victory which is neither convincing nor entirely happy given that the state witnessed voting along communal lines in many places. This should be reason for long-term concern for chief minister Oommen Chandy. Outgoing Marxist chief minister V.S. Achuthanandan has emerged stronger within his party after the polls and will seek to challenge the UDF ministry at every step, further complicating the already-involved politics of that state.
The impact of state politics on the ruling coalition at the centre is mixed. Kerala, Assam and West Bengal results have helped stabilise national politics, while the Tamil Nadu polls and the arrest of two senior DMK leaders potentially threaten the alliance's durability. DMK supremo M. Karunanidhi is reported to be furious with the Congress top brass but cannot act precipitately at this juncture and further isolate himself, although he knows that his continued support is critical to the continuance of the Congress at the Centre. The DMK will remain a high-risk element in the medium term.
The biggest short-term advantage for the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government is the fact that no major political party or grouping wants elections at this juncture. The fundamentals of the UPA stock, however, remain weak due to its thin parliamentary majority.
The UPA has been progressively losing support in Parliament, a process that began with the departure of the Left parties and Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in 2008. Mulayam Singh's Samajwadi Party (SP) with its 22 members of Parliament would be too happy to lend support but at a price, which could undercut Congress leader Rahul Gandhi's attempts to appear as an independent force in Uttar Pradesh politics.
The Congress Party's failure to implement radical reforms or cleanse the administration coupled with the continued erosion of its support base in the states, its mistakes in choosing the right coalition partners and its inability to articulate a coherent mass line, all suggest rising long-term risk quotients.

Indranil Banerjie is an independent security and political risk consultant









With the passage of time Abhinav Theatre has become part of the cultural history of Jammu. Keeping in mind that theatrical art is part of broader cultural aspect of a progressive society the complex was affiliated to the State Academy of Art, Culture and Languages, and became its part. By sheer good luck, a centrally located and sufficiently spacious site was allotted to the Academy in Jammu. Inception of the Academy and its component, especially Abhinav Theatre provided an excellent venue for the flourishing of artistic talent of Jammu. History had already gifted it with enviable tradition of music, dance, drama and painting. As the Cultural Academy of Jammu widened its canvas and area of activity, taking into its fold the folklore and hitherto rich but unexplored aspects of culture abounding in the rural areas of Jammu region, Abhinav Theatre became a household name with lovers of art in Jammu. Thus a commodious auditorium and annexes with requisite paraphernalia came up to give the theatre a proper shape. Abhinav Theatre became the hub of major cultural activities in Jammu region. It can genuinely boast of being the venue for many a historical event though essentially cultural in import but allowing other aspects of life and history also to be depicted under its portals. Now Abhinav Theatre has virtually become part of Jammu's cultural life.

But with the passage of time, the cultural canvas has become very broad and all embracing. It is touching upon all major aspects of life. In particular, the politics of the State has undergone a sea-change with direct impact on our cultural and social life. Abhinav Theatre began to host socio-political events with cultural propensities bringing up the tail end. There was nothing wrong in it because civil society required a platform wherefrom it could vent its pent up feelings through the idiom of culture. By some strange quirk of destiny, the Government did not find it in good taste to let the Abhinav Theatre be used for intellectual activities not strictly falling within cultural parameters. Unable to realize that a very thin line divided new parameters of politics, society and culture, the Government disallowed holding of intellectually powered seminars, conferences and meetings in the Abhinav Theatre. After 1998, the renovation task in the Abhinav Theatre complex fell into a spell of negligence and the theatre began to lose its shine. Many of its rooms were given to the Cultural Academy to be used as offices. Maintenance of the auditorium and administration of the complex received little attention. The air conditioning system crashed or has become dysfunctional, seats are worn out and disjointed, the complex has lost it tidiness, and its dull environs and lounges no more attract visitors. The popularity and freshness that were once the pride of Abhinav Theatre have waned. The Theatre was partly renovated in 1998 and thereafter nothing has been done to streamline the complex. As such, a lot is needed to be done to make this complex stay fast to its well-known history.

In the first place, the decision of putting the prestigious Abhinav Theatre complex in the charge of Cultural Academy needs to be revisited. Normally in all major cities, a theatrical complex functions as an independent entity and is not put under the overarching administrative control of any department even though their activities in some respects may be akin or complimentary to each other. It means that the Abhinav theatre should be an independent unit, administered, supervised and maintained directly by the Ministry of Culture and not the Academy of Art, Language and Literature. Secondly, in view of growing importance and impact of current politics, our cultural life has to readjust to political realities. As such a complex that will cater to the new realities and needs of civil society has to be provided. There seems little sense in disallowing seminars, debates, discourses symposia and conferences of socio-political and cultural content in the Abhinav Theatre. Of course, we do not mean that the complex be used for political campaigning and such other activities as make mass involvement a part of the process. But for all intellectual exercises, the theatre should be made available. Lastly, and more importantly, total renovation of the complex is called for. Either the present structure be demolished and in its place a huge and modern building raised or an entirely new structure with state of art equipment and facilities like sound proof and air conditioned auditoriums, conference and seminar rooms, side rooms, library, and lounges, self-serving eateries etc. be raised under a master plan. All offices allotted to the Cultural Academy in the Theatre complex be removed and housed within the premises of the Academy. All this has to be done with a futuristic vision. Jammu needs a complex for both intellectual and artistic activities.







Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh is rightly worried about the unfolding security situation in Pakistan as terrorists of various hues are striking at will in cities, towns, security force headquarters and airbases. The Mehran airbase attack of 22 May is causing serious concerns in our country as it shows how far the TTP have succeeded in penetrating the rank and file of Pakistan's security forces. Their containment, as Dr. Singh rightly said, is not only a matter of concern for India but also for the country of its origin which now is known to the world as the cradle of international terrorism. India wants a stable, strong and peaceful Pakistan. That is not only in the interests of Pakistan but also in the interests of India, the region and the world. There is increasing apprehension in western circles about Pakistan's nuclear arsenal falling into the hands of the terrorists. Though Islamabad has repeatedly said that it has foolproof control of its nuclear installations, yet the vulnerability of Mehran airbase, destruction of two Orion surveillance aircrafts and the 24 hour siege all are grave indications that Pakistan's home-bred terrorists could have the capacity of laying their hand on her nuclear arsenal. Pakistani civilian and military authorities shall have to take note of this grave concern of world community.








India needs to look not only within but outside also while making plans to meet the threat posed to its security by terrorist groups. The growing strength of these groups in Pakistan who are virtually hitting high security targets with a regularity which is comparable to situation prevailing in Iraq and Afghanistan should be a cause for worry. The targets hit include military installations, police stations and places of religious worship.
The situation prevailing in Pakistan has been compared by many experts to a war within which the Pakistan establishment is fighting. Agreed Pakistan Army has a strong hold on its assets and this includes the nuclear arsenal. But infiltration in armed forces by religious elements including those who are sympathetic to Taliban's and other elements opposed to pro-U.S policy of Pakistan Government in fighting terrorist elements in that country and also against support extended by Pakistan Government to the war against Taliban's in Afghanistan is one fact which can not be ignored.

To what extent the lower ranks in Pakistan army and other services have come under the influence of hard core elements is difficult to assess , but there is some evidence to suggest that some elements in armed forces have been providing support to terrorist elements. The attempt to assassinate former Pak President Musharaff and attack on Pakistan naval base in Karachi had some inside support. Agreed that there was not much protest in Pakistan when Osama Bin Laden was picked up from a Cantonment close to Pak capital Islamabad and killed, but there is lot of resentment against drone attacks carried out by Americans.

It is no secret that U.S may have provided billions of dollars to supply weapons to Pakistan forces and to help its ailing economy, but if a popularity contest was held in Pakistan, Americans will figure at the bottom only. Under the circumstances the assurances held out by Pakistan Government and backed by Americans that nuclear arsenal of Pakistan was safe can not be accepted at face value. There is, however, very little that can be done by India on its own except to work through international agencies and strengthen civil administration in Pakistan and hope that civil society will become aware of the threat posed to their country and meet the challenges posed by fundamentalists whose number is small but they wield influence far in excess of what they should based on their members.

Pakistan has not reached a point of no return like Afghanistan or Iraq, but the situation there is certainly alarming which should be taken note of by the international community in general and India in particular which is its closest neighbour. The fact that many terror groups based in Pakistan have been encouraging groups to undertake terror activity in India sometime on their own and in few cases with encouragement by official agencies can not be ignored.

These activities are justified in some cases on account of Kashmir dispute.

The border between Indian part of Kashmir and area under the Pakistan occupation has been discribed as the most dangerous and volatile border which can flare up any time by experts.

As such a question can be asked what exactly India or the Indian Government can do to meet this situation. One way out is to continue a dialogue with the Pakistan Government which Dr. Manmohan Singh Government is doing despite opposition to it by political parties like BJP who want to make the process of engagement with Pakistan conditional to action being taken by Pakistan authorities against elements involved in attack on Mumbai

But the question being asked is if this will be enough. If Pakistan continues to go on the current path, the threat will not remain confined to that country but become a danger for countries in this region and world in general. The recent attacks on Pakistan naval base or disclosures made during the trial of Rana in U.S may come as matter of satisfaction for some elements in Delhi as confirmation of what had been obvious to many for a long time, but will it help in checking the menace.

War against terror is difficult in any circumstances and the current strategy which justifies attacks by Drones is only helping in the growth of sympathy for Taliban's in Afghanistan and hard core elements in Pakistan. U.S has a presence in the region, but is threatening to pull out any day as such the worry should be for people of India and Pakistan who will have to live with these elements when NATO forces withdraw.
What we need is a joint strategy to meet threat from fundamentalists and this war will have to be fought in Pakistan. India will have a heavy stake in it as a bush fire started across the border will not respect artificial barriers and will pose serious danger to us also. (NPA)








The Kashmiri Pandits have for long been in the news . Sometimes for the valid causes ; occasionally for the wrong reasons . Their discourse has, mainly, revolved round the matters of bare physical existence . So, the emphasis was logically on the interim measures like relief and rehabilitation . Well, that is understandable given the threat to their life and limb, they faced in not too distant a past. In consequence whereof they got uprooted . Time for them has, probably, arrived when the narrative should shift to other matters which concern the broad issues ,like their survival as a distinct race and making themselves integral to the Valley's milieu , like in the past . Because that is the place we belong to . Here, the Pandit is no better ( worse ) than the Parsi - Zoroastrian . On the major societal denominators both the communities are similarly situated ; facing various challenges , mainly the demographic one . Churning is going on in the Parsi intelligentsia; they have become conscious of the decline of the community on the various counts . A noted Parsi columnist and author Baachi Karkaria , writing in Times of India , brings out the predicament of her community ; " The real concern should be the community's qualitative decline . Not mere numbers, but the right numbers have always been our forte. Herd hysteria could trample on this very asset which made us stand so tall. We seem hell-bent on squandering our legacy of vision , free thought ,and a generosity of spirit ." She then mourns the Parsi's low fertility and attributes it to the ' swift westernization during the British Raj .' Late marriage and one child norm are, according to the writer , major causes of the decline in their numbers . The problems arising out of the inter -caste marriages , too, beset them. The columnist describes them as ticking time bombs .
This is the very similar to the Pandit's misplaced concept of nuclear family , which has brought down their demographic growth to the near zero .

Their numerical strength is fast dwindling. The community can only ignore the decline in the numbers and weakening of the family bond at its peril . Unfortunately, these matters seem to have escaped the notice of the community leaders. Our vision has become myopic . We do have warring factions in our tribe . But then which literate community doesn't have them . Nonetheless, there are times when they could join heads; at least on the issues where there appears to be a good deal of convergence . The leaders and the opinion- makers of the community will have to do it for the protection of the ethnic identity and racial purity of the Pandits .
Parsis and probably Sikhs are inseparable to the Indian idea for being possessed of exemplary qualities of head and entrepreneurship, which made every other section of the India society almost dependent on them, in one way or the other .The Pandits do possess intellectual capabilities and have the social enlightenment , with no belief in divisiveness of the caste and creed .Their intellectual capabilities are known world over. These exceptional characteristics made the Pandits stand tall and be counted , notwithstanding their shortage in numbers . They need to sharpen them more and be part of the State administration, politics and the culture. The Pandits need statutory protection of their certain rights. However the inter- societal relations and the intra -social changes require no legal support . The bond of societal interdependence has to be strengthened . The Parsi writer concludes: "We must remain a community that is worth emulating - and worth preserving ." This applies to the Kashmiri Pandits who, as a distinct race, are on the verge of extinction. The future of our community is bleak. In order to survive as a community we all have to devise meaningful methods so that we survive and prove to the world that we can also contribute to the world culture. We have a rich cultural and intellectual legacy. We have produced great thinkers and writers. In exile we can hold our community together if we rise above relief, rehabilitation and the concept of exclusive homeland. The need of the hour is to 'rise higher and higher' and put an end to the ideas that land us in a morass of confusion and directionless ness.
(The author is former Principal Distt. & Sessions Judge)








The process of selecting the new Head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has been started after resignation of Dominique Strauss-Kahn. French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde appears to be ahead in the race. French nationals have been the head of IMF in 25 of the past 36 years. This tradition is set to continue with Lagarde's accession. There is an unwritten agreement between the United States and European countries that head of the World Bank will be an American while head of the IMF will be a European. Prime Minister Man Mohan Singh has desired that a person from the developing countries should head the institution instead. However, he has accepted that the selection is finally undertaken by dynamics of power which is stacked against the developing countries.

Policies espoused by the IMF have deep impact on the developing countries. Before Strauss-Khan, the IMF wholly advocated free market policies. It wanted developing countries to encourage private sector, allow entry to multinationals, privatize public sector undertakings, minimize role of the government and leave exchange rate of the currency to be determined by the market. Thinking was that this would unleash the energies of the private sector, raise the rates of economic growth and reduce poverty. Strauss-Kahn moderated this neoliberal approach and placed employment generation and reduction of inequality explicitly on the agenda of the IMF. Lagarde is known to be a hard line neoliberal. It is likely that she will steer back the IMF in the direction of the unrestricted free market.

Such a change will deeply impact the economies of the developing countries who borrow from the IMF during financial crises. The IMF imposes certain conditions before granting loans even in times of distress. For example, IMF can require the borrowing country to reduce import duties on items like cloth. The loan would be granted only if the borrower agreed to this condition. Such conditions impact the people adversely. Domestic weavers lose their livelihoods. But these conditions are music to the developed countries. Their companies get access to developing country markets and multinationals are able to make investments. Yet, developing countries had to accept such hard conditions faced with financial bankruptcy. Choosing head of the IMF from the developing countries would prevent imposition of such hard conditions. India had made such a borrowing in 1991 when faced with balance of payments crisis and also accepted certain conditions.
Proof of the adverse impact of the conditions imposed by the IMF lies in the East Asian crisis of late nineties. Those countries had eagerly implemented the IMF prescriptions but they landed into crisis. Western multinationals suddenly pulled out their investments and their currencies had to be devalued severely. Standards of living of their people fell. The developed countries were not much affected though. They got back their money. The basic question, therefore, is whether the IMF will promote the interests of the developed- or developing countries?

He who pays the piper calls the tune. So also is with the IMF. The IMF is structured like a private company. Countries are allotted quotas just as private companies allot shares after an Initial Public Offering. Member countries contribute to the corpus of the IMF and also get voting rights in this proportion. The IMF was formed after the Second World War. At that time the United States was center of the world economy. Europe stood at No 2. Quotas were determined in line with this reality. The United States and European countries were the major contributors with rest of the world being marginal players. The IMF started its lending activity with this corpus. The structure of the world economy has changed much since then, however. Share of the developing countries has increased dramatically but the quotas remain more or less at the old level. For example, India's share of the world income according to purchasing power is 6.2 percent but her vote share in the IMF is 2.5 percent. On the other hand, Germany's share in the world economy is 4.0 percent but it has a vote share of 6.1 percent. The present quota system, therefore, does not reflect the true status of the world economy. The developing countries are demanding that the quotas be redistributed according to the present status of a country in the world economy but the developed countries are not accepting this.

Why should they? They have contributed to the IMF in order to promote their economic interests. The IMF, naturally, promotes the interests of their multinational companies and not those of the businesses of the developing countries. A parallel objective is to maintain stability of the world economy-a stability that secures the present dominance of the developed countries. The developing countries also borrow directly from foreign banks in addition to borrowings from the World Bank and the IMF. Foreign companies invest in their share markets. The whole global financial system can breakdown if a major developing country defaults on these repayments. Such a breakdown would not only lead to huge losses for the Western banks but also jeopardize dominance of the developed countries. Thus developed countries prefer to provide loans to the troubled developing countries and prevent such an eventuality. They do not wish to hand over the reins of IMF to the developing countries for this same reason.

An institution under the name of 'Chiang Mai Initiative' has been established in the year 2000 under the leadership of China, South Korea and Japan to face this arm twisting by the developed countries. The corpus of Chiang Mai is US$ 120 billion which is quite respectable considering that corpus of the IMF is US$ 750 billion. Chiang Mai will operate like the IMF and provide assistance to Asian countries in distress. Role of Chiang Mai can be understood by an example. Say a villager is under financial distress. Normally he would approach the village moneylender. He would mortgage his land and perhaps remain indebted for decades. However, if there was a Self Help Group that could provide the financial assistance then he would be saved. Chiang Mai is like the Self-Help Group. East Asian countries have resolved to bail their brother-in-distress out instead of having to approach the IMF. Then they would not have to bear the burden of conditions imposed by the IMF.
Developing countries should not expect the developed countries to hand over control of the IMF voluntarily. Prime Minister Man Mohan Singh should, therefore, take the initiative to establish an Asian Monetary Fund; and encourage Africans and South Americans to do the same. Role of the IMF will be then reduced and there will no longer remain a necessity to seek appointment of a developing country national to lead that institution.










Though US Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano in New Delhi on Friday preferred to avoid answering journalists' questions on Pakistan still using terrorism as an instrument of state policy, she did admit that after Al-Qaida, the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) was the most dangerous terrorist outfit in the world. There were many other terrorist organisations like the Pakistan Taliban, the Jaish-e-Mohammed and the Jamat-ud-Dawa which were well-entrenched in Pakistani society. Then there are jihadi outfits engaged in mainly Kashmir-related activities. They all contribute to terrorism from Pakistan. Islamabad is doing very little to de-radicalise Pakistani society obviously because this does not suit its terrorism-based policy for achieving its geopolitical objectives. The world community cannot afford to keep quiet as the situation is very disturbing for peace in South Asia and elsewhere.


Pakistan cannot mend its ways unless the US forcefully tells it to do so. A strong US message to Pakistan was expected after the killing of Al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, near Islamabad, but this did not happen. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Islamabad on Friday did not go beyond saying that Pakistan's problems could not be solved by nursing anti-Americanism or believing in conspiracy theories. Instead, she should have clearly stated that the US aid to Pakistan could not continue so long as it remained the hub of terrorism. The Pakistan government must launch a strong anti-terrorism and anti-extremism drive with a clear message to one and all that any kind of terrorist activity would not be tolerated. It must destroy all such outfits root and branch.


The Generals in Pakistan, the de facto rulers, will never take seriously any suggestion from Washington DC and other influential capitals unless they fear that their inaction may result in Pakistan not getting aid from international sources, which may lead to its economic collapse. But this requires a US policy change, which is unlikely to come about. The US scheme of things for the region today prevents it from employing strong language against Islamabad. The US wants to use Pakistan for safeguarding its interests in Afghanistan. Such a policy cannot help stamp out terrorism from South Asia. 









A dedicated body to probe major aircraft accidents was long needed in India and the Ministry of Civil Aviation has taken the right step in setting up the five-member Accident Investigation Committee (AIC) to look into future air mishaps. It will be charged with identifying the causes of accidents and making recommendations based on them, monitoring compliance with these recommendations, helping the Ministry of Civil Aviation to set up courts or committees of inquiry, and coordinating with such bodies. This would, on paper, take away from the Directorate-General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) the role of an investigator, and it would thus work now solely as the regulator. Until now, the DGCA was performing both roles, which violated the norms of the International Civil Aviation Organisation.


While the goal of an independent body to investigate aircraft accidents is desirable, the proof of the pudding will lie in its eating. As of now, all members of the AIC have been inducted from the DGCA. Not only this, the committee will be headed by the Director of Air Safety, who is an official of the DGCA. Last year's Mangalore air crash, which cost 158 lives, had led to the demand for setting up an independent accident investigation body, and the recent crash of the air ambulance in Faridabad, which claimed 10 lives, acted as a catalyst for the formation of the organisation. Preliminary findings have blamed the weather for the crash, but questions have also been raised about the suitability of a small single-engine aircraft being used as an air ambulance. It has been pointed out that there are no rules regarding operating air ambulances in India, a regulatory lapse.


The fact that small aircraft, like the one involved in the mishap, are not required to have flight data recorders means that valuable information that could have helped to pinpoint the cause of the accident is simply unavailable to the investigators. The newly formed AIC has quite a task ahead of it. It should be suitably empowered so that it can allow us to learn lessons from air accidents, and thus enhance air safety in a nation which has been shaken up by the increasing number of accidents involving aircraft.











Getting a Green Card, as the United States Permanent Resident Card is known, is a dream for many immigrants. Since it is a visible symbol of their immigration status, it also authorises them to live and work in the US on a permanent basis. Too many of such Green Card holders, it seems, are so happy with it that they fail to take the next logical step of seeking US citizenship, even when they become eligible for it. Green Card holders need to be US residents for five years to apply for citizenship. This period is three years if the resident is married to a US citizen. The US Department of Homeland Security estimates that approximately 7.9 million of the estimated 12.5 million lawful permanent residents living in the country are eligible to apply for naturalisation, the process through which they become US citizens.


The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is launching an awareness campaign which is focused on non-English speaking immigrants. It will use various media to increase awareness of the benefits of citizenship among those who are eligible for it.


While the initiative to bring in more people into the citizenship process is laudable, it is a fact that even with only an estimated 63 per cent of Green Card holders applying for citizenship, the system takes too long and there are many barriers, including an obdurate and non-transparent bureaucracy and a high rate of rejection of candidates on various grounds, before Green Card holders become US citizens. Now that the USCIS is encouraging more people to apply, it must also ensure that it beefs up its processes with the required personnel and systems to ensure a smooth and quick processing of applications from people who seek to move from their current status to US citizens. 










THE recently released WikiLeaks documents have thrown considerable light on Pakistan's unreliable and totally undependable attitude towards dealing with those responsible for the terrorist attack on Mumbai in November 2008. After the Mumbai attack, the US and Pakistan discussed about sending the Pakistan Intelligence Chief, Gen Shuja Pasha of the ISI, to India to demonstrate their seriousness in cooperating with New Delhi in the investigations. While Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani was agreeable to send him, Army Chief Gen Ashfaque Kayani intervened and negated the idea.


Pakistan has also been dragging its feet in pursuing the prosecution of the Mumbai attack accused in its courts. Consequently, the top three LeT militants arrested by Pakistan in connection with the Mumbai attack have been set free. Pakistan complained that India was at fault as Islamabad was not given certified evidence by New Delhi. On the urging of the US, an appeal was filed by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) of Pakistan at the Supreme Court. The US urged Pakistan to deal with the matter seriously since the Sharm-el-Sheikh meeting between the Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan was due to take place on July 15, 2009. Here again, the (FIA) complained of lack of evidence against those who were being prosecuted at the Supreme Court.


The Chief Minister of Pakistan's Punjab province was none other than former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's younger brother, Mr Shahbaz Sharif. The prosecuting officers and law officers of the Punjab government asked the federal government of Pakistan for evidence, but soon after Pakistan Interior Minister Rehman Malik told the Punjab government that he had no evidence. The WikiLeaks states that Mr Shahbaz Sharif's frustration peaked when after Mr Malik promised that the Attorney-General would show up in the court, he failed to appear which led to the withdrawal of the case by the Punjab Chief Minister. All these resulted in Hafiz Saeed walking away free.


Another WikiLeaks document has revealed that in May 2009, the US feared yet another Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) attack in India and warned Pakistan to disrupt those plans. The US also warned that if such an attack happened, it could hinder Washington's efforts to provide military and non-military aid to Pakistan. This warning to Pakistan was issued under the name of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton so as to underscore the seriousness of the issue.


The US advised Islamabad that the Indian government had shown readiness to re-engage with Pakistan, but critical to this was Pakistan's progress in bringing the perpetrators of the Mumbai attack to justice. Another Mumbai style or major LeT attack on India, especially if launched from the Pakistan side, could close this historic opportunity and put to risk stronger Indian response. Pakistan was asked to take all steps to eliminate the LeT permanently while in the short term taking all possible action to disrupt the LeT attack plans and other activities. The US pointed out to Pakistan that UN Security Council Resolution 1267 had asked for sanctions against the LeT and the Jamat-ud-Dawa and taking action against anyone providing material support to these terrorist outfits.


Giving evidence before the Pakistan Parliament, the ISI chief recently said that if India carried out attacks like the American operation in Abbottabad, Pakistan was ready to launch Mumbai-like attacks in metropolitan centres for which targets had been identified and a rehearsal had also been carried out. This was a serious statement and there was no occasion for such a strong assertion. The statements made by the Indian Army Chief and Air Chief that Indian armed forces were capable of carrying out Abbottabad-like operations in Pakistan, if ordered, did not mean that India was planning such an action. The ISI chief's statement led to a sense of foreboding and the Prime Minister held a meeting with the three Service Chiefs to discuss India's defence preparedness.


More than anything else, the very fact that the US seriously believed on the basis of hard evidence that the LeT was planning Mumbai-style attacks in mid-2009 shows that such strikes in India cannot be totally ruled out in the foreseeable future and this would be under the aegis of the ISI itself as it happened in Mumbai in November 2008.


The Indian edition of Bruce Riedel's book, "Deadly Embrace", has just been released. It is a monumental book from an expert in the field of counter-terrorism. He is a Senior Fellow on foreign policy at the well-known American think tank, the Brookins Institution. Riedel has put in 30 years of service in the CIA. He was Senior Adviser to four US Presidents.


Reidel mentions in his book's preface that in 1998 he wrote a memorandum to President Bill Clinton titled "Pakistan is the most dangerous country in the world". Pakistan had just tested nuclear weapons, and nowhere else on the planet were so many ominous trends colliding in a uniquely combustible way. During subsequent crises with India, Pakistan issued threats of nuclear war and today it has the fastest growing nuclear arsenal in the world.


Independent estimates by security and intelligence officials have suggested that Pakistan now has the capability to add 8-10 China-model low-yield nuclear weapons in its kitty every year. Pakistan has recently tested surface-to-surface missiles meant for carrying smaller warheads. It has been following the Chinese model of having low-yield nuclear weapons.


Pakistan recently activated its fourth reactor for which uranium supply has been made possible through China. Reidel goes on to say that Pakistan's complex behaviour and motives are certainly difficult for outsiders, including the US President, to grasp especially when they learn that Pakistan has been equally fickle and also duplicitous in its relationship with the US. The facts are often far from clear and much about Islamabad's behaviour remains a mystery. What cannot be disputed, however, is that the country lies in a dangerous part of the world and its internal politics is violent and volatile.


Bruce Riedel points out that within a decade or so, Pakistan will be the largest Muslim state in population overtaking Indonesia. Soon it will have the fourth or fifth largest nuclear weapons arsenal in the world. It has the potential to be a game changer for the global jihad like no other country.


Al-Qaida has put Pakistan at the top of its priorities. Its leaders judge Pakistan as the most vulnerable country for them to hijack. It is already their safe haven. They have built alliance with fellow jihadis like the Pakistan Taliban and the Lashkar-e-Toiba and these function as force multipliers for Al-Qaida.


The Abbottabad operation by the US has exposed Pakistan's duplicity even towards its benefactors, the US, beyond doubt. As a Pakistan analyst summed up: "If we do not know Bin Laden was in Abbottabad, we are a failed state. If we did know, we are a rogue state. It is believed that Pakistan is a bit of both. That is why it is feared that a Mumbai-like attack by Pakistani elements is possible anytime, anywhere in the country.


President Obama's advice to Pakistan not to remain obsessed with India, but to look within for embedded terror groups and deal with them has come in time. The attack by more than a dozen terrorists on the Pakistani airbase in Karachi on May 22 demonstrated how accurate Mr Obama's advice was. Hopefully, Pakistan would adjust its priorities. However, until there is demonstrable evidence that Pakistan's attitude towards India has undergone a change for the better, India cannot afford to lower its guard.n


The writer, a former Governor of UP and West Bengal, was the Intelligence Bureau chief.









Knee-high socks and buckled shoes, hair tortured into ringlets and skewered with bows, drinking milk pockmarked with ghee bubbles, eating vegetables that squished in the mouth, the ladling in of dals that resembled the squashed insides of sundry beings living in drainpipes … so went a childhood haplessly vacillating between a 'do' and a 'don't', between a slap and a pat, between a smile and a tear….


I swore that when I became a mother, I would let my children run wild – allow them to muck around in mud, get wet in the rain, dig their pearly whites into gooey chocolates and then go to sleep with the taste still lingering in the mouth rather than in the mind. I swore that I would never force them to dutifully mutter 'hello uncle, hello aunty' and never, never would I urge them to perform their 'party pieces' for a roomful of glazed eyeballs and fixated smiles.


Ah! The arrogance of youth to believe that the canker of childhood resentment was to be cauterized by the healing glow of independent motherhood!


Shift focus to the present …


My children have to gag their way through two massive mugs of milk in the morning and do an encore in the evenings. They have to live through their day, marching to an endless drone of 'what's good for them…'. They are hounded on the state of their cupboards, the pigsties they call their rooms and the dumpsters they call beds. Visitors are regaled with their epic adventures by a euphoric choir of grandparents and parents from the time they enter the door to the time they hurriedly exit!


Soon a time is going to arrive when suitable spouse material is going to be identified for them. Never mind that the parents debunked the notions of caste, creed and religion as old fashioned and had what is tamely referred to as an 'intercaste marriage'. And never mind that one set of grandparents did the same thing as well! Not so for the kids, particularly the daughter of the house. The father skulks around the house, eavesdropping on her telephone conversations and then chews his nails off in a demented frenzy, convinced that she is talking to a BOY. All candidates will go down in history for having postmortems conducted on them while still alive.


And as for the son ….the good intentions of course were to not burden him as a child for there would be time enough for him to feel burdened when he would be lugging a family around his neck like the proverbial albatross! But when you see this comatose thing drag itself from bed to school and back, get grunts in reply to your queries and find yourself pathetically grateful when it snuffles its lone way through family size pizzas … well, then it is certainly time to do a rethink! Out pours a litany of dire forecasts of the son of the house running a roadside tea-stall if he does not start learning to spell 'books'! And now that he is set to follow his sister abroad for higher studies, everyone is having nightmares of a mini-skirted blonde memsahib turning up one day and introducing herself as the daughter-in-law! There is even talk of what if the grandchildren have one blue eye and one black eye each!


Ah well! Let's see what tomorrow brings. Until then yesterday it is!




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




Land acquisition for non-agricultural purposes is one of the oldest policy challenges that modern governments have faced. It is, therefore, not surprising that it has become a major political issue in India as urbanisation spreads, new industries grow and major infrastructure development takes place. To imagine that complex political challenges faced in widely varying agrarian, social and economic contexts can be suitably addressed by one common national law is a flight of fancy of which both policy makers and social activists at the all-India level seem to be equally guilty. Merely because a colonial government had enacted a countrywide law in 1894 does not mean that a "central" government in a federal democracy can arrogate to itself the right to impose a nationwide policy without factoring in regional variations in the political, social and economic situation. Therefore, the anti-establishment voices of the National Advisory Council (NAC) are as off the mark as the establishment voices of the Government of India in the latest attempt to draw up a nationally acceptable land acquisition law. The best option for the central government is to draw up a model law and allow state governments to legislate local variations of it. Land is a local issue. It is up to state governments to attract investment in manufacturing and infrastructure by adopting appropriate laws for the acquisition of privately owned agricultural land.

The principles laid down by the NAC as the ones that should guide any legislation on land acquisition are well taken. Surely no democracy can accept "forced displacement" (as does happen in China) so the NAC is right to make this a basic requirement of any new law. Minimising any adverse impact on people, habitats, environment, biodiversity and food security, including discouraging the acquisition of agricultural land, is a good goal, even if a nebulous one. In the case of large projects, the principles of correctly identifying project-affected people, of providing just compensation and rehabilitation packages, which are sensitive to the aspirations, culture, community, natural resource base and skill base of the affected people and ensuring humane, participatory and transparent processes and the like are all valid objectives. However, for smaller projects in which industrial units seek land in tens of acres rather than thousands, these criteria may be far too daunting or difficult to deal with. The NAC is also right to conclude that merely getting the government in as an intermediary doesn't ensure fairness or transparency if governments have been captured by vested interests (was that not Mamata Banerjee's entire argument?) So, though the NAC is right to say that the existing land acquisition law has been quite hostile to the interests of the landowner since it attempts to coercively make land available to government at a minimal price, coercion is not the preserve of governments. In Tamil Nadu, members of the erstwhile ruling DMK are alleged to have amassed massive tracts of land around the state using state power indirectly. The role of private mafia is well known. In Hyderabad, both political and mafia power have been used by politicians from both the Telugu Desam Party and the Congress to forcibly acquire land from even middle-class owners. All these challenges cannot be legislated away by a new law in New Delhi. What India needs is greater transparency in land delineation and greater protection to small landowners. Once this can be assured, the market should be allowed a larger role than the government in the actual transaction.







Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's African safari has helped raise the region's profile in India. However, the government's initiative of offering a $5 billion line of credit over the next three years will amount to something only if private enterprise steps in to do its bit. Even the initiative to offer an additional $700 million to establish new institutions and training programmes will require private sector engagement to make an impact. India has a longstanding people-to-people (P2P) link with African countries, about which Dr Singh spoke at length, and has been engaged in reviving the government-to-government (G2G) relationship, but both need a stronger business-to-business (B2B) partnership between Indian and African enterprise for the relationship to blossom and benefit the wider Indian Ocean community.

The multiple initiatives announced by Dr Singh should help develop a stronger B2B relationship. These include the setting up of an India-Africa Food Processing Cluster that would contribute to value-addition and the creation of regional and export markets; an India-Africa Integrated Textiles Cluster that would support the cotton industry and its processing and conversion into high-value products; an India-Africa Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting that would harness satellite technology for the agriculture and fisheries sectors and contribute towards disaster preparedness and management of natural resources; and the establishment of an India-Africa University for Life and Earth Sciences that can help develop synergies in bio-technology and pharmaceuticals. India has also offered to establish an India-Africa Institute of Agriculture and Rural Development, and institutes for English language training, information technology, entrepreneurship development and vocational training, as well as rural technology parks, food testing laboratories, food-processing business incubation centres and centres on geo-informatics applications and rural development. All these sound like G2G initiatives but their success would depend entirely on their ability to establish closer P2P relationships and open up new B2B opportunities.


 It is this comprehensive nature of the India-Africa relationship that makes it different from the unidimensional China-Africa relationship which is largely a top-down G2G relationship. China is, of course, doing a lot to catch up and, as was seen during the Beijing Olympics, is working hard to establish closer P2P relations. So Dr Singh's other initiative to offer 22,000 scholarships to African students over the next three years is another good idea that must be implemented with care, given Indian racial prejudices. The new engagement with Africa has also been made possible by Africa's own rise and the emergence of a new middle class. Indians dealing with Africa should know that they are now dealing with a more self-confident people. Old attitudes and even old slogans have no role or relevance. As Africa's successful hosting of the 2010 FIFA World Cup showed, the so-called dark continent is now increasingly bright.







The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is not an association of equals, nor is it a meritocracy in which the best and the brightest get to dispense money and advice to the needy and distressed. Far from it. The IMF was a western-funded – and managed – institution that was used to build a new global economic order after World War II.

At the time of its inception, the largest shareholder, the United States of America, rejected the professional economist's view that John Maynard Keynes put forward of creating a global central bank run by professionals. Instead, the US viewed both the IMF and the World Bank as instruments of strategic policy, aimed at extending the US' influence in the post-War world.


The IMF's shareholding pattern and management structure reflected this and its staffing policy ensured this. To qualify for a job at the Fund one had to first acquire a degree from a western academic institution. For over half a century, this is how the IMF was run.

The IMF was meant to help the member countries that had an external payments problem. In doing so, it sought to shape the internal policies of debtor nations. In the bad old days of the Cold War, the world's socialist economies stayed outside the IMF, so the West ran the organisation and told the Rest what was good for them. Then came China.

China was one of the 35 founding members of the Fund. At the time of the Fund's inception, it secured a larger vote share in the face of Indian protestations. When British India's representatives at Bretton Woods complained, one of the architects of the Fund, John Maynard Keynes, asked the Indians to shut up and put up.

Communist China was kept out of the Fund after 1949 and its seat was occupied by Taiwan till 1980. In seeking to win the Cold War and destroy the Soviet Union, the US teamed up with China and facilitated its re-admission in April 1980. The Fund's economists went out of their way to be kind to China in the 1980s, choosing not to question either China's policy choices or its non-transparent statistics as long as China kept opening up to American multinationals. China undertook some token borrowing from the Fund in 1981 and 1986 and has never returned to it as a borrower. China has in fact emerged as a major source of funding for the IMF in recent years.

Given this geo-economic and geo-political context, it was only natural that China's representatives in the Fund hardly protested when the IMF imposed hugely destructive economic policies on post-Soviet Russia in 1998. The destruction of the Russian economy was a strategic manoeuvre that benefited both the US and China.

As China pushed its export-oriented growth model, learning not to repeat the mistakes made by Latin American economies, it ensured that it would never fall foul of the Fund. When the Asian financial crisis struck the newly industrialising countries of Asia, especially Thailand, South Korea and Indonesia, China stepped in over night to help Thailand, but allowed the US to administer its bitter policy medicine on South Korea and Indonesia.

China emerged stronger within the IMF, with Russia and much of East and Southeast Asia nursing their wounds from the crises of 1997-98. So it is not surprising that China has revealed its cards at this point by seeking the Fund's No. 2 job for Min Zhu, a special advisor to the managing director, for the post of deputy managing director. Mr Zhu was deputy governor of the People's Bank of China, and like most Fund staffers, has a US degree with a PhD in economics from Johns Hopkins University and a masters in public administration from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University.

For all the talk about a "Beijing Consensus" replacing the "Washington Consensus" in economic policy, the fact remains that China has opted to be a status quo power in the global system. Unlike India, China has been accommodated by the West into multilateral institutions. It secured its seat in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and on the IMF board with the support of western powers. It was included in the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) as a nuclear weapons power. Today, it stands on the threshold of being admitted to the higher management of the IMF.

China has played its cards well. It preserved its accommodative relations with the US and the European Union, striking deals with France that while the latter's finance minister Christine Laggard will inherit the top job, its own Mr Zhu will become the second in command. On the other hand, in the run-up to the IMF race in Washington DC, it convened a summit meeting of BRICS – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – and has promoted the idea of a BRICS candidate for the job. Even if Mr Zhu were not to seek the BRICS position, yielding to another country, China has inserted itself into the decision-making process.

Many commentators in India and outside have criticised the Indian government for not playing the game. Theirs is an ill-considered criticism. India has done well to remain on the sidelines. It will take some time for India to accommodate itself in global councils of decision making – be it the UNSC or IMF – or in security regimes like the NPT. India's leaders should constantly remind the world that this is an unequal and unjust world order and keeping a democracy of a billion like India out does little to enhance the credibility of global institutions.

However, India should resist the temptation to either seek positions of power before it is ready to deal with them or to accept such positions as concessions from the powerful.

The anger and irritation of Indian economists abroad, especially those based in the US, with India's low-profile approach to the IMF contest, are understandable. Many of them would benefit from India's activism on the world stage. Many Indian diplomats also become greedy seeking international positions in the name of the country but with an eye on pension and perks. India should, however, remain patient. Its turn will come.







As the US moves towards military withdrawal from Afghanistan, will its commitment to continental Asia slide?


 The question is important to both the US and India. It matters to Washington because Americans have other interests in Central Asia, quite apart from prosecuting the war. It matters to India because Central Asian governments will have fewer strategic options if the US simply fades away.

What should be the future of American policy? And shouldn't the US and India cooperate? A recent report from the Project 2049 Institute in Washington tried to answer these questions. I was its principal author, but the report reflects the conclusions of a bipartisan study group chaired by former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage.

Here's the central reality: the US withdrawal from Afghanistan will mean a reduced footprint in Central Asia. But the US certainly doesn't have to disappear.

For two decades, the US has had four principal interests in Central Asia.

First, to preserve not just the independence of Central Asian states, but also their ability to exercise sovereign political and economic choices, free from external coercion.

Second, to diversify transit options, reducing the dependence of Central Asian economies on a single market, infrastructure link, or point of transit.

Third, to build institutional capacity, so that states can govern effectively and justly, deliver services, and resist pressure from those who seek to overthrow legitimate institutions. More than one Central Asian state has the potential to fail within the next decade.

And fourth, to reconnect this landlocked region to the global economy, thus increasing the prospects for sustainable economic progress.

The US and India have shared strategic interests, not least in facilitating the reconnection of Central Asia to the world economy.

Central Asia was once integral to the Silk Road and the great caravan trade. But in the 17th century, it was pushed to the fringes of global commerce when the marginal cost of maritime trade dropped below the cost of continental trade. World Bank research shows that, today, landlocked countries, such as those in Central Asia, can face a growth deficit as high as 1.5 percentage points because transaction and other costs are so high.

That's bad because Central Asian countries, with the exception of Kazakhstan, remain fragile and sometimes volatile. So infrastructure and market linkages are essential to bolster opportunities for growth. And diversifying transit links from one (trans-Russia) to two (trans-China), to three (trans-Caspian), to four (trans-South Asia) directions on the compass would also reduce Central Asia's vulnerability to political and economic pressure from a single source.

In fact, that's just where the US and India can make a difference. Central Asians aim to broaden their partnerships beyond Russia and China. Our task force argues that Washington should work with India, among others, to assume a greater role as a facilitator of diversified foreign investments in the region.

The good news is that India has taken some interest in transcontinental links within Eurasia. But Washington and New Delhi inevitably bump up against two central constraints. One is the lack of a sustainable India-Pakistan trade and transit regime. The other is the degree to which India looks to Iran as its point of entry and exit to and from Central Asia.

Just take the reconnection of power lines: Central Asia has significant seasonal electricity surpluses and the potential to develop thousands of megawatts in new capacity. Its hydroelectric potential is particularly tempting. And gas and coal resources add to that capacity.

For its part, South Asia needs energy to fuel its economic expansion. Electricity demand is rising in both India and Pakistan. And while the Kyrgyz Republic has, for example, historically earned about one US cent per kilowatt hour on power sold northward, Pakistan's generation costs have averaged about 5 cents — India's cost for peaking power may double even that.

The opportunities would be considerable if countries could cooperate to develop the right infrastructure and investment regime. But the state of India-Pakistan relations sets obvious constraints on the idea of moving Central Asian hydropower not just to Afghanistan and Pakistan but to India through coordinated purchase and supply arrangements and a reconnected grid.

Iran also remains a constraint on regional opportunities. The ancient Silk Road ran to Persia. But Tehran's noncompliance with nuclear safeguards agreements and defiance of UN Security Council resolutions virtually guarantee that Washington will oppose enhanced linkages.

The US and India can do much together. For one, they need to develop a shared strategic understanding of Central Asia. Continental Asia has been an arena for US-India disagreement, even rancour. So a candid, if sometimes painful, discussion of what a post-American Afghanistan means for Central Asia is needed, and soon.

And the US and India can cooperate in more tangible ways too. India already hosts many students from Central Asia and its programmes complement US strengths through India's own English-language educational offerings. By working with India – or even co-funding Central Asian students to study in India – the US could supplement its own offerings, promote Central Asia's linkages with India, and strengthen the US-India partnership.

Washington and New Delhi have every reason to multiply one another's strengths in Central Asia through enhanced strategic coordination. The ultimate test will be to promote economic linkages and continental trade, but coordinated project finance, trade, aid, and investment policies would be a good place to start.

The author is head, Asia Practice Group, at Eurasia Group, and is also adjunct senior fellow for Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations, Washington, DC







It is widely accepted that the trinity of free or liberal capital flows, an independent monetary policy and a managed exchange rate cannot coexist, at least in extreme situations. In the 1920s, the accepted wisdom in then leading economies (the US, the UK, Germany and France) was to give up an independent monetary policy. The result in the UK and Germany was huge unemployment and both had to change policies. Germany adopted exchange controls, and Britain suffered a huge devaluation in the early 1930s, only after inflicting enormous pain on the poor. The US and France did not follow the 1920s accepted theology very faithfully and emerged from the 1920s as the two strongest economies. It is difficult to argue that the global depression of the 1930s did not have anything to do with the policies of the 1920s.

Over the last 30 years the fashion propagated by the Anglo-Saxon ideology and the International Monetary Fund has been to give up the managed exchange rate. Over the initial decade and a half of economic reforms, Indian policymakers did not adopt extreme policies: the capital account was gradually liberalised, but broadly speaking, the exchange rate was so managed as to keep the rupee reasonably stable in real effective terms. Despite the need for reform of the index, which I have argued in earlier columns, the policy worked reasonably well: the gap between external earnings and expenditure was just $7.5 bn in 2003-04, even as domestic savings and investments grew rapidly. India built up reserves of the order of $200 bn by the end of fiscal 2006-07, as the central bank continued to absorb surplus capital inflows. In the first few months of 2007-08, it seems that the exchange rate was deliberately allowed to appreciate, but then held steady for the rest of the year through intervention (reserves $300 bn by March 2008). 2008-09 was the year of the financial crisis, a huge amount of capital went out, the central bank sold almost $50 bn, even as the currency fell sharply. There was hardly any net intervention in 2009-10 and none since December 2009, thus completing the dramatic change from a reasonably managed exchange rate to a fully-market determined one. The income expenditure gap went up to $90 bn in 2009-10.


The result is a dramatic increase in the net external liabilities of the country, from a reasonably stable level of around $47 bn at the end of 2003-04 to more than $158 bn at the end of March 2010 and perhaps to $200-plus bn by March 2011. Surely this is a large enough number in relation to GDP for policymakers to think about, particularly in the context of the fact that an ever increasing proportion of the total liabilities now consists of (potentially quick to reverse) portfolio investments and short term credit aggregating $186 bn on 31-3-2010. Overall, while external deficits have so far been easily financed through capital inflows, the quality, as distinct from quantity, of the capital inflows has continued to deteriorate.

To come back to market-determined exchange rates, the March 2011 issue of Finance and Development carried an article titled "Gyrations in Financial Markets" by three IMF economists. While correctly arguing that "gyrations in financial markets have greatly influenced real activity around the world" it refers to real estate, credit and equity markets, carefully avoiding any reference to the exchange market: no wonder of course. The virtuousness of a market-determined exchange rate is an integral part of the IMF theology. Interestingly, the same issue carried a report on an interview with Nobel Laureate Robert Solo. He argues that, "in the modern world, it is impossible to pursue macroeconomics without taking account of finance; and second, financial markets are not necessarily stable or self-correcting." Market-determined exchange rates are necessarily more volatile, increasing risks in cross-border trade and making investment in the tradables sector less attractive, affecting manufacturing growth — a point to which I will come back next week.

I have earlier expressed my apprehension that the unannounced, undebated change in exchange rate policy during the last few years seems to be aimed at pleasing the Americans in the G20 forum. It is strange that we still have faith in Anglo-Saxon wisdom in understanding financial markets. In 2006, the Icelandic banks got a resounding certificate of their soundness from a soon-to-be governor of the Federal Reserve, Frederic Mishkin. Iceland had followed the script: a fully-convertible currency, market-determined exchange rate and so on. It was perhaps thought incidental that the banks' assets had bloated to 50 times GDP. What happened to the Icelandic banks and the economy just two years later is now well-known. And, the mortgage crisis itself was the result of policymakers' faith in the wisdom of market participants in managing risk, in pricing assets, in efficient markets generally. The end result, lest we forget, was that the world suffered the deepest recession since the 1930s. (Only a return to Keynesian measures avoided a worse fate.)





Did US Federal Reserve's aggressive monetary policy, and in particular quantitative and credit easing, pull its economy from the brink of a second Great Depression?

The Great Depression of the 1930s was caused by a simultaneous contraction in credit and money supply. Deleveraging reduces the velocity of money. According to Fisher's equation (M*V = P*Q), at any given money supply a reduction in the velocity of money would lead to either a decline in nominal prices (deflation) or output, or both. Hence increasing money supply should stabilise GDP.


Central banks have little control over credit markets. But they can certainly influence money supply. Could better use of monetary policy have prevented the Great Depression of the 1930s? Yes, say two celebrated historians of the Depression, one of whom is none other than Ben Bernanke, current chairman of the US Federal Reserve (the other is of course Milton Friedman). During the Great Depression the Federal Reserve was constrained by the gold standard in driving up money supply to counteract deleveraging. Rather fortuitously, one of these economists was at the helm of the US Federal Reserve just as the world stood on the brink of a second Great Depression in 2007-08.

This time round the US Federal Reserve was ahead of the curve. It started monetary easing even when policy makers elsewhere were still combating inflation. Deflation was perceived as the greater danger that lurked just beyond the inflationary horizon. As the threat of deflation crystallised with the credit freeze, US monetary policy became aggressively zero bound. The Bank of England and the European Central Bank followed in its wake as the Great Recession unfolded.

The limits of monetary policy were tested in the 1990s during the banking crisis in Japan when interest rates became zero bound following repeated cuts. The Bank of Japan continued to pump liquidity by buying government treasury bonds in what came to be known as quantitative easing. Central banks had long been accommodating fiscal policy through purchase of treasury bonds. However, used as a purely monetary policy tool following zero bound short-term interest rates was a Japanese innovation.

Quantitative easing could not stimulate the Japanese economy back to former levels of growth. There was, therefore, no proof that it was the way out of a liquidity trap. It could nevertheless be argued that Japanese trend growth itself was declining consequent on structural and demographic shifts.

This did not deter Ben Bernanke from testing his theories during the recent financial crisis. Quantitative easing on the epic scale envisaged by Ben Bernanke virtually amounted to dropping money on the economy by the aerial route, and had earlier earned him the epithet "Helicopter Ben". The US Fed embarked on aggressive quantitative (purchase of treasury bonds) and credit (purchase of private securities) easing on a scale unmatched even by the Bank of Japan in the nineties.

After retreating for six quarters the US economy is back on the path of growth, albeit tepid and below trend, as is to be expected in the case of balance-sheet recessions. Did aggressive monetary policy, and in particular quantitative and credit easing, pull the economy from the brink of a second Great Depression? This is, at present, a matter of conjecture, and a lively subject for future research. There are, however, at least three reasons to doubt its efficacy.

First and foremost, instead of expanding credit, much of the fiat money created by the Federal Reserve found its way back to the Fed through a sharp and continuing increase in the voluntary holdings of depository institutions. While one can quibble whether the problems lie more on the supply or demand side, this strongly suggests that quantitative easing is no way out of a liquidity trap. Instead of stimulating the domestic economy, the flood of liquidity is spilling into emerging markets and inflating asset and commodity prices. Neither has quantitative easing devalued the dollar to the extent that the US could export its way out of low growth and unemployment, perhaps because of its reserve currency status.

Second, while monetary policies might influence the investment behaviour of firms, the extent to which they influence consumption and savings by households is arguable. This behaviour is culturally specific and very sticky. The predilection of US households to borrow, and of the Swabian housewife to save, is legendary. Investment behaviour is ultimately dependent on the consumption patterns of households and overseas demand that drive animal spirits. The response of US households to their damaged balance sheets is to sharply increase savings, which have risen from a low of 1.5-2.5 per cent of personal disposable income in 2004-2006 to almost six per cent at present. Since the post-war average is closer to 10 per cent, the savings rate could continue to rise consequent on balance sheet repair and regulatory tightening. Easy monetary policy is not inducing households to consume more.

Third, the rise in personal savings and fall in investment was countervailed by government dissavings that pushed up the budget deficit from 1.2 per cent of the GDP in 2007 to 8.9 per cent in 2010. This dramatic fiscal expansion, unparalleled in peace time, may be propping demand. It is at, at present, difficult to separate the effects of monetary and fiscal policies in counteracting extreme recessionary conditions. Indeed, it is argued that the firewall between the two has broken down, and that the two have become virtually indistinguishable.

Monetary policy is currently crippled by the monetary trap deriving from the breakdown of transmission channels. Have central bankers now flogged monetary policy beyond limits, just as governments had earlier done with fiscal policy? And will this excess, like the fiscal excesses of the seventies, eventually lead to inflationary outcomes? Would central banks be able to suck out the excess liquidity before it is too late? This could prove tricky if trend growth has indeed drifted lower, and the phenomenon of "jobless growth" persists. Headline inflation in the US is rising, although core inflation continues to be low. Neither loose monetary policy before the crisis, nor loose monetary policy after the crisis, could drive core inflation upwards, even as asset and commodity prices boomed. But this could simply be the tail-end of the "good deflation" deriving from globalisation, in particular the integration of China and India into the global economy. Why consumer price inflation is much higher in EMEs is another issue, but they are also growing at near trend and their inflation measurement is different.

The author is a civil servant. The views expressed are personal.








The lines between framing a policy and responsibility for its implementation have been fudged, to the detriment of the country's image.

The Cairn-Vedanta-ONGC imbroglio has taken a new turn in the wake of the Group of Ministers (GoM) recommending that the Government approval for Vedanta acquiring a stake in Cairn India be made conditional to the latter agreeing to bear a part of the royalty burden. Whether such royalty payable to the Government is a joint burden of the contractor — in this case, Cairn India — and of ONGC, which holds the licence for the Rajasthan Block, has huge implications for the valuation of shares of Cairn India. Cairn had represented to the Indian public in its offer document issued in connection with the public offer that the royalty is payable by ONGC. Now, were it to agree to the latest stipulation that such royalty paid be treated as 'cost recoverable' in its operations in India, investors could legitimately argue that the company had made false claims, and that opens up all sorts of financial and legal implications for the company. Vedanta's valuation too can be expected to be drastically different, depending on whether royalty is recoverable from Cairn's operations or not. Cairn India and ONGC are locked in a legitimate commercial dispute, which should be resolved through the formal legal process. Any attempt at linking it to the grant of approval for changes in ownership of Cairn India is, prima facie, flawed. That is not to say that ONGC is wrong on the royalty issue. It may well have a case as, after all, it does seem strange that ONGC should be expected to recover its share of the investments made in the field from the meagre surpluses that would be left to it as its share if royalty payable to the Government were borne solely by it. The issue is certain to snowball into another major controversy that will raise questions about India's treatment of foreign capital invested in its economy. And only because the Government has wasted so much time in making up its mind.

The country has put in place an exploration policy for extracting mineral wealth. It should then be perfectly possible for the Petroleum Ministry to give a ruling on individual transactions involving stake sale, or any commercial dispute, taking into account the views of other Ministries as well. Indeed, the Telecommunication Ministry did precisely that in the allocation of 2G spectrum resources, overruling objections from other Ministries as it was the agency implementing an official policy. It is another matter that it went to the extent of brazenly disregarding established conventions in doing so. In the present case, the lines between the concept of laying down a policy and the administrative responsibility for its implementation have needlessly been fudged, to the detriment of the country's image. Little wonder that foreign investors, for the most part, have been giving the much-hyped NELP rounds the go-by.






The banking system is mature enough to appropriately price savings bank deposits.

Savings-bank account-holders have been earning negative real interest rates for quite some time, as inflation has exceeded the administratively determined 3.5 per cent return on such deposits.

The central bank now wants to take the final plunge of deregulating the last bastion of regulated interest rates. Some of the concerns of the central bank have been put forth in a discussion paper on deregulation of savings bank (SB) rates in late April 2011.


The discussion paper has posed a few questions for feedback. First, is the issue of an administered nature of interest rate on savings bank deposits itself. In the present system, there is only one administratively determined interest rate applicable to SB depositors of all categories, and irrespective of geographical location.

However, banks practice differentiation in the SB deposit space extending additional services to customers who maintain balance in SB accounts beyond a threshold. The nature of additional services like free locker facility, waiver of loan processing charges, etc, differs from one bank to another and in that sense there is already competition in the SB deposit space.

Even so, large value SB depositors subsidise some of the services offered to the small value SB depositors. Cross-subsidisation is not advisable from an economic efficiency point of view.

Post-deregulation, the competition in the SB space will be more explicit, but the market mechanism will ensure that the price discovery will take place in a manner that will serve the interest of both banks and depositors.


The second issue pertains to how to protect the interest of small savers in general and that of senior citizens, pensioners and no-frill account holders post deregulation.

One way of protecting the interest of small savers would be to link the return on such deposits to a policy rate. The ideal policy rate for this purpose would be the reverse repo rate.

The reverse repo rate is the rate at which RBI pays interest to the banks for the overnight deposits parked with it.

The reverse repo acts as the floor of the interest rate corridor within which RBI would like the short term money market rates to fluctuate. It would be logical as well as just that banks pay a rate to small savers linked to what they get when they have surplus funds in the short term horizon.

The RBI can think of putting a minimum floor of, say, 3 per cent less than the reverse repo rate, for the SB rate after taking into account the negative carry costs associated with SB deposits such as maintenance of CRR and SLR by the banks. The minimum floor rate would be adjusted as the policy stance changes, reflecting liquidity situation. The spread between the reverse repo rate and the floor for SB rate should also be flexible.


The empirical study undertaken in the discussion paper suggests that interest rate differential between savings and term deposits plays a role in deciding the share of savings bank deposits in the total deposits in all regions, except the metropolitan areas. In other words, savings bank deposits are rate-sensitive in rural, semi-urban and urban areas. Based on the empirical results, the discussion paper maintains that post deregulation, the attractiveness of savings deposits in the rural, semi urban and urban areas will increase.

This line of reasoning assumes that rates on SB deposits will increase post deregulation. This need not be the case. Further, there are issues related to the choice of variables which needs to be considered while reading the empirical results.

The reference of term deposit rate used for the empirical exercise is the term deposits of maturity of '1-3 years' and '6 months to 1 year'. If one used the term deposit rate of a shorter duration than what has been used, the results could vary. Based on the empirical results, the discussion paper maintains that rate is a deciding factor in small savings in the rural areas but not in metropolitan areas.

This sounds counter-intuitive as customers have more choice to strike a better deal in metros than in rural areas.


Another question the discussion paper poses is whether it is the right time to go for deregulation of SB rate. Indian banking system has transited quite nicely from a regulated interest rate environment to a deregulated one.

The savings bank rate remains the only major banking product whose price is administratively determined.

Over the last two decades of reforms, Indian banks have developed maturity and competence in pricing the various loan and deposits products. There is no reason to believe that banks cannot appropriately price saving bank deposits.

Moreover, the opinion of the banking fraternity was not sought before deregulating the interest rate on other deposit products. It was the central bank's decision, and rightly so, to go in for a deregulated interest rate environment that helps in better allocation of resources and in improving the overall efficiency of the system.





David Malone's bewilderment at India's boring foreign policy seeps through like maple syrup off a pancake. But his book is a superb 'tour de horizon'.

If politics is the last refuge of scoundrels, foreign policy is the first refuge of the erudite. So most foreign policy analysis, which is in reality individual opinion, is passed off as expertise.

There is another harsh reality as well. Policy is for those with means; opportunistic practice is for the rest. Until recently, India did not have the means. But its moral compass, which has now assumed a subordinate role to national interest, prevented opportunism. That meant extreme cosiness with a few and extreme prickliness to the rest.

That, if you ask me, was practice posing as policy. It also left me to wonder over all these years: at what point does practice become policy in South Block? But this variability has had one advantage: it has made talking about Indian foreign policy very easy. Everyone with a measure of erudition does it.

Writing sensibly about it, on the other hand, is altogether different and indeed very hard. This is because for every statement, there is an equal and opposite statement; for every assessment, there is an equally convincing negation; and for every prediction, there is the near-certainty of failure.

David's Goliath

A good book, I have always felt, should minimise these knee-jerk Newtonianisms. This one does so with knobs on — by the simple tactic of being absolutely comprehensive. All objections are pre-empted in it.

The result is that this big but precise book by David Malone, who served as Canada's ambassador to India for two years between 2008 and 2010, is at least a superb tour de horizon if not quite a tour de force. As a 360 degree survey goes, it is hard to surpass.

Mr Malone has taken great care to be accurate. So, by and large, the book is free of boo-boos. The index, however, is poor, though the bibliography makes up for it. Much of what Mr Malone read (or has cited) is dross; but that is probably inevitable in a project of this magnitude.

Confusion as strategy

I am not a professional foreign policy commentator. Nor am I a retired diplomat. Nevertheless, thanks to certain personal circumstances, I can claim more than a mere passing knowledge of several aspects of the practice of it. So I think I can quite fairly conclude that this book captures, almost perfectly, the main driver of India's foreign policy: Confusion. That confused thinking is a national trait is not to take away from Mr Malone's achievement.

His natural response to Indian foreign policy is one of bewilderment, which he tries very hard to conceal. But it seeps through the book like maple syrup on a pancake. He surely deserves a medal for his diplomatic detachment and nuanced prose and for resisting the temptation to say rude things.

The books starts with a chapter on methodology and sources, goes on into another chapter of potted history, then moves into India's security challenges before turning to questions of foreign policy in the next 10 chapters. These are written partly like a fully defensible Ph D thesis, partly like an in-depth story in newspapers with extensive quotes, and partly as a potential WikiLeak cable that ambassadors feel obliged to send to headquarters just to show they are alive and that they deserve a better posting next time.

Not flawless

There are, however, three major flaws in the book. Mr Malone can rectify them to the extent possible in the second edition, which is sure to come. First, Mr Malone seems inadequately acquainted with the way the Indian elite actually think about the rest of the world.

Perhaps because he spent so little time here or perhaps because his job brought him into contact only with the current affairs subset of the Indian elite, he has been unable to spot its defining characteristic: its intellectual ambivalence. Intellectually, it is neither fish nor fowl, neither wholly Indian nor wholly Western liberal. This deeply affects the categories in which it thinks — sometimes in morally absolute categories and sometimes in context-sensitive ones. Confusion is a natural consequence.

The second flaw is that Mr Malone attaches far too much importance to the views of commentators, who suffer from three disabilities as a group. First, they don't know enough about the background and the minutiae of the engagements between countries; so, second, they don't know when they are being used, by whom, and for what purpose; and third, their community is so small and so closed that no one but professional Indian diplomats can actually gauge the worth of their commentary, suggestions and analyses.

The expansiveness of the commentators is matched by the tightly shut mouths of the diplomats. Together, they form what in maths are called non-intersecting subsets.

The third flaw is a more serious one. Mr Malone has entirely missed a new feature of Indian foreign policy — its need to take into account the interest of the States, especially on economic matters, even though the treaty-making power is the Centre's alone.

(Dr Kripa Sridharan, formerly of the National University of Singapore, whom Mr Malone cites in the context of Asian regionalism, has written a path-breaking paper on the subject: http://onlinelibrary.wiley. com/doi/10.1046/j.1467-8403.2003. 00160.x/abstract).

'Bumbleo ergo sum'

Has policy confusion been part of a deliberate Indian strategy? Is it a mere tactic? Going by outcomes, it would appear so because, far from hindering, bumbling may have actually been very successful because others under-estimate you. You can get what you need by being a windy and silly bore.

The point is this: when you set aside the grumbling about small setbacks, little pinpricks and gratuitous insults to it and assess our policy towards the countries and regions that matter most to India, you get an astonishing result.

Pakistan is disintegrating from both sides. China is allowing India to import cheaply and thus helping growth accelerate. The US, along with Russia and West Asia, is firmly on India's side in a variety of ways. Trade with Latin America is booming.

What more can you ask for?








The government's move to free up foreign direct investment (FDI) in multi-brand retail, signalled by the support of an inter-ministerial group headed by chief economic advisor Kaushik Basu, is welcome. This committee was asked for ways in which inflation could be moderated, and the freeing up of overseas investment in retail was one of its suggestions. Today, it's estimated that about 40% of all farm products rot by the time they reach the final point of sale. Apart from the enormous waste that this generates, it creates upward pressure on food prices, hitting consumers hard, with no benefit to farmers. The lack of organised storage and transport chains is the main culprit behind these losses. Allowing FDI will not only bring financial capital into the market, it will also bring in new technologies for storage and transport. India today allows 51% FDI in single brand retail and 100% for wholesale. It's expected that FDI in multi-brand retail will also be capped at 51%. Actually, the government should remove these overseas investment caps because they have no function apart from generating rents for local businessmen, and restricting the inflow of much-needed overseas capital. In the last year, India's FDI inflows have fallen off a cliff, partly because of the environment of scandal surrounding the government but also because our rules make it tough for foreign investors to do business here.
For about a decade, the issue of retail FDI has been a political hot potato, opposed by the BJP as well as the Left parties, which argue from opposite ends of the political spectrum that overseas funds will kill small shopkeepers. Today, both parties are politically irrelevant at the Centre, leaving the government free to open up retail. But experience, rather than political dogma, shows that the local Indian shopkeeper can more than hold his own against organised retail. Even with big domestic players like Bharti, the Birlas, Tata and the Future group in the market, the share of organised retail in India is a tiny 4% of the total, opposed to 20% in China, 30% in Indonesia and 55% in Malaysia. Opening up retail is a good idea, removing FDI caps will be an even better one.







As the government twiddles its thumbs on allowing export of surplus grains, wheat prices have plunged below not just the government's promised minimum support price but also the price of maize. This has prompted poultry feed manufacturers to substitute wheat for maize in their produce. So chicken will eat wheat this year. As prices stay depressed, farmers will switch from wheat to some other crop or just simply reduce acreage, come next sowing season. There could well be a shortage of wheat next year, thanks to policy that makes chickenfeed of wheat. This is most unfortunate. Blame it on the bureaucracy's refusal to take a decision. Domestic grain prices have plunged, thanks to bumper harvests, stocks far in excess of buffer stocking norms and a steadfast refusal to allow export of grain. As of May 1, India's food stocks stand at 27.8 million tonnes of rice, 31.4 million tonnes of wheat and 0.1 million tonnes of coarse grains, adding up to a food mountain twice as large as is required by official buffer stocking norms. The reason trotted out for not allowing exports, despite the fact that a largish portion of the stocks are in the open, in danger of being drenched in pre-monsoon rains and spoilt beyond redemption, is that the government does not know how much of grain would be required to implement the food security law. Since the private trade knows that the government would not allow exports, it is not entering the market. The government's own capacity to procure grain is limited outside the traditional procurement areas of Punjab and Haryana, making nonsense of the concept of a minimum support price outside these privileged states.

For the babu, it is safer to endanger actual food security by destroying the incentive to grow grain next season than to take a stand on how much grain can be exported this year, considering the excess stocks already built up. And the food minister, whose job it is to take decisions when his babus dither, seems clueless. The chickenhearted, and not just chicken, are gobbling up our future food, in other words.









A leopard was spotted at Hema Malini's bungalow in Goregaon, Mumbai, one fine early morning last week. The actor was not at home, and the leopard soon left, probably disappointed. Now, celebrities often attract stalkers but rarely a real one from the wild. What led the leopard in question to jump the 10-ft wall around the bungalow and enter the building, we can only speculate. The devotion of a true fan, who brooks no obstacle in connecting with the object of worship or a thirst for pure drinking water, from the brand of reverse osmosis water purifier endorsed by the actor along with her winsome daughters, who can tell? Given the quality of drinking water supply in Indian cities, one should not dismiss this as a wild theory. Or did the big cat come with a complaint for the ears of Hema, the politician? Will she champion animals' right to their habitat, for protection against encroachment from celebrity settlements? Or could it be the hand of destiny, which plays a major role in life as depicted by Bollywood, that directed the spotted cat to Hema's house?

In any case, the incident served to highlight the efficiency of different government arms. The leopard arrived at around a quarter past eight in the morning, and the police were informed immediately. The police reached within half an hour. Now, half an hour is the grace time the police normally give our filmy hero to single-handedly overcome an army of rogues, before they arrive, handcuffs at the ready for those baddies who manage to survive heroic martial arts. So the police come out clean. But not so, the forest officials, who reportedly came in only shortly before noon, with tranquiliser guns, only to find no feline felons hanging around to receive their ministrations. Their cat is out of the bag.







Pakistan has removed the commander of the PNS Mehran airbase which came under Taliban attack last Sunday. It has also ordered a probe into the assault that has exposed the extreme incompetence of Pakistani forces. Even the number of attackers is not known, and numbers stated by various authorities vary from 6 to 20. None was captured in spite of a huge presence of armed personnel. Moreover, extremely expensive aircraft were all concentrated together and were sitting ducks.

This dramatic attack, which was preceded by several minor as well as major strikes following the killing of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad by US soldiers, increases my nervousness about rogue elements in the army, or the nuclear establishment, getting their hands on either bombs or fissile material. In fact, for long, I have publicly expressed my worries about such a possibility; the Pakistani military has been on the back foot since the killing of Bin Laden, and some of the other major strikes in the country included an attack on a training academy in Charsadda, northwest Pakistan, that killed 98 people; a Saudi diplomat's killing in Karachi, attack on a security post in Peshawar which killed 17 people; assault on a US consulate convoy in Peshawar and the slaying of 16 people in the Khyber tribal region.

Every time something happens, the Strategic Plans Division, which has custodial responsibility for Pakistan's nuclear weapons, comes out with bland assurances. This time around, it will have a still harder time convincing people. For its part, the Pakistani army will continue to selectively encourage militancy and, as in the past, get away with it. Earlier, it had sent militants across the Line of Control in Kargil and given a tacit nod to the Lashkare-Toiba's plans for the Mumbai operation. Interestingly, the response from the Pakistani media lashed out at the military for complicity in the attack.The News wrote in its editorial: "Political rhetoric and a Cabinet Defense Committee meeting are not going to solve this one. This is an epic failure exposing an existential threat that will need epic leadership to countervail." One thing is sure: the country's leadership will continue to outstare the West, and US military and economic aid to the country will continue. As for the US: its options are very limited because it will have to pick a fight with a nuclear-armed state. Until the US finally pulls out from Afghanistan, it will remain dependent on Pakistan as a supply route, and for restricting the Haqqani network's activities in North Waziristan.

In fact, Bin Laden's killing on May 2 gave the civilian government a great opportunity to reclaim some of the powers taken away by the army, but our visionless government chose to keep the status quo. The Abbottabad operation — in which Bin Laden was killed in a gunbattle with Navy SEALs and CIA paramilitary forces in a unilateral strike —could also encourage India to pursue a similar operation in Muridke or Bahawalpur against the Jaish-e-Mohammed or Lashkar-e-Toiba. However, this would be a tragic mistake. Instead of Pakistan looking the other way as it did in the Bin Laden operation, India will likely receive a very different and disproportionate response from Pakistan. It could go nuclear.

Now, while it is true that the al Qaeda is losing support in Pakistan, this country has become a battleground in which there are several contending jihadi groups. Some are pro-Saudi and pro-Pakistan, like the Lashkare-Toiba, Jaish-e-Muhammad, and Hizbul Mujahideen. Others, like the Tehreek-e-Taliban and the Al-Qaida, are fully engaged in fighting the Pakistani and Saudi establishments. Still others, like the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Sipah-e-Sahaba, are largely focused upon killing Shias. In the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, there are many more groups, some of which are more criminal than ideological. It is a terrible mess. Clearly, Pakistan is becoming a dangerous place for many groups. It is most dangerous for Ahmadis, followed by Hindus and Christians. But even for Shias, who had initially been enthusiastic about Islamisation of Pakistan, things have become very difficult. Pakistan has slowly turned into a religious extremist country, although there are still islands of tolerance left here and there. This is the direct consequence of the Pakistani state's desire in earlier decades to breed militancy within its borders.

I also believe that the ties between Islamabad and Beijing will become stronger now because Pakistan sees China as a major power to turn to as relations with the US undergo strain. On his recent visit, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani declared China as Pakistan's "allweather friend".

(As told to Ullekh N P; Pervez Hoodbhoy, Professor of Nuclear Physics at Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad, is also a renowned journalist)








 Singur, Greater Noida, Posco, Jaitapur and so on. The issue of land acquisition seems to now have acquired dimensions which political parties are finding it difficult to deal with. As each state faces political problems, it has tried to pass on the buck to the Centre arguing that they are merely doing what the central Land Acquisition Act 1894 (the Act) allows them to do. The implication is that as land is acquired for special economic zones, roads, highways and buildings, etc., states are merely doing what the Act permits. While not going into the merits and demerits at the moment of whether land acquisition is right or wrong, I will, in this article, try to show that most of these acquisitions are actually a violation of the Act. Surprisingly, the courts also do not seem to be able to settle the issue. While the old Act might well require to be redrafted, this is certainly not the obvious consequence of the recent acts of land acquisition nor the only solution.

The most crucial part of the Act is the definition of "public purpose" as given in clause 3 (f). Contrary to the popular view, public purpose is quite clearly defined as "... provision of village sites", planned development using public funds "in… pursuance of… policy of the government", "provision of land for residential purposes to the poor or landless", etc. The broad purpose is clearly the acquisition of land for any governmentsponsored development scheme. Thus, clause 3 (f) (viii) clearly excludes the acquisition of land for companies. Section 5 deals with the hearing of objections from people whose land is acquired and section 6 makes it mandatory that before acquisition, a government signatory must make a declaration that the land is being used for public purpose as defined above.

From the above, it seems that most of the acquisitions do not satisfy section 3 (f). For example, in Singur, land was obtained for Tata's Nano car project which clearly violates the condition that the land would not be acquired for a private company. In the case of Greater Noida, while it was perfectly justified to acquire land for the Yamuna Expressway, the subsequent sale of adjoining land for residential construction by private companies was again a clear violation of 3 (f). The case of Posco actually does not fall under the purview of this Act as it relates to forest land which is typically owned by the state and where the provisions of the Forest Act should apply. Finally, take the case of the Jaitapur nuclear plant. While it was within the provisions of the Act to use the land for a power plant, it is a different issue whether residents have the right to object to living next to a nuclear installation.

Many commentators have argued that section 17 of the Act needs to be changed as it enables the state to take land at short notice, on grounds of "urgency", without any public objection. This is again a misreading of the Act. Section 17 (2) specifically mentions the cases where this kind of urgent acquisition is permissible. These are maintenance of railway traffic, irrigation, water supply, road communications and electricity. In no case is taking over land for private purposes permitted under section 17 (2).

Could the Act be used to acquire land for private companies? This is covered in Part VII, articles 38-44.


However, 38 (A) clearly indicates that this is only permissible in case of land to be used for erection of houses for the workers of the company or provision of amenities. Under section 40, no government consent can be given for such acquisition unless the company is "engaging itself in any industry or work which is for a public purpose". Further, section 44 (a) specifies that the land given to the company cannot be transferred by "sale, gift, mortgage, lease...." without the sanction of the government.

Further clarification is seen in section 44 (b) which states that no land should be acquired for a company not engaged in public purpose if it is not a government company. Should creation of employment be considered public purpose? This is ridiculous as then we would have a communist regime where all activity is done on behalf of the state!

Should the Act be amended? It actually was in 1985. Then why the current clamour for a new Act? I think political parties are trying to deflect attention from yet another example of state corruption. One doesn't need to be a rocket scientist to see that all the government needs to do is to simply change land use in areas around public road projects and step back after that. The million-rupee question: who will then fund the elections? The bottomline? If the issue is one of venality of governments then what we need to change is the mindset rather than the Act. The issue is of corruption not inadequate legislation.

(The author is faculty at JNU)








By now it is clear who attacked Mumbai on 26/11. Contrary to general opinion, it was a wily plot by India itself to malign the good name of Pakistan. 9/11: it was a Jewish conspiracy, didn't you know? Use the Roman principle of cui bono — who benefits — and the truth is self-evident.

  Didn't the Americans use 9/11 to invade Israel's enemies, control oil-rich lands and encircle Pakistan? The attack on PNS Mehran in Karachi: aircraft meant to fight the Indian Navy were destroyed, so it must be the Indians. Cui bono.


 I have spent the past week conducting an interesting and revealing experiment of only watching the Pakistani news channels and these are some of the overwhelming narratives I have come away with. Channel after channel is full of talk shows where expert after expert comes in spinning these loony theories.
    Sure, there is always the token lone liberal voice in each discussion speaking hesitantly about how the nation must seriously introspect within but the overwhelming narrative is one of an injured and humiliated Pakistan, an embattled Pakistan, a Pakistan under siege, a Pakistan at war.


A month after the Abbottabad attack, the ghost of Osama still rules the Pakistani airwaves. It hovers like a poisonous presence on every TV debate and what comes through is a deep sense of crisis and lingering anger. Not because he was found in a prestigious military cantonment, but because American commandoes could get in and fly away with impunity. The moot question of what was Osama doing in the heart of the Pakistani establishment has been conveniently airbrushed away from this storyline entirely.


Perhaps conspiracy theories are the "ultimate refuge of the powerless" as one analyst argued in talking of a similar epidemic of conspiracies in the Arab world. It is comforting to blame others if the reality is too painful and you are too powerless to change it.


 Perhaps the talking heads, almost always defence experts and former generals, are a form of psychological spin by the "deep state" as Pakistanis call the Army and the ISI. Yet, the striking thing is that their loony conspiracies are hardly ever challenged by anchors and on these TV debates at least, they seem to have already passed into received wisdom.


Now there is a clear distinction between the narrative on TV and that in the English-language Pakistani print press. The newspapers have been full of honest soul-searching and hard questioning by anguished columnists of the priorities driving the military-ISI complex. But if television is the window into a society's consciousness, then there is cause to be seriously worried indeed.


Only three years ago, Pakistan's boisterous TV channels were at the forefront of a Pakistani spring, when they heroically led the charge against General Musharraf and mid-wifed the return to democracy. Yet, listen to their television now and it is rare to even hear a mention of the fundamental imbalance at the heart of the Army's security strategy: the distinguishing between 'good' jihadis, the ones who attack India, and the 'bad' jihadis, the ones who attack Pakistanis.

These are the kind of issues that Nawaz Sharif has raised, about his country reaping the fallout of a narrowfocused Army-centric worldview and a permanent complex about India, to the detriment of everything else. But if the TV discourse is any indication of the national mood then the "deep state" is in a state of deep denial and living in a parallel reality.


So on one talk show for instance, the journalist Hamid Mir virtually lumps the Americans and the anti-Pakistan Taliban elements in the same category. In this view, the American drone attacks are clear examples of 'state-led terrorism' against Pakistan and it is being squeezed between this and regular terrorism by 'non-state' actors.
    On another talk show, a retired general talks with disgust about the weakness of Pakistan's current rulers. If he had been Corps Commander in Peshawar, he says, he would have immediately taught the Americans a lesson by closing the supply routes to NATO troops in Afghanistan. "Why are we so scared when we have our foot on the Americans' necks?" he asks rhetorically.


From talk show to talk show, the villain is the civilian government led by Zardari. It is too weak, if only the Army had a free hand, if only there was martial law, everything would be fine, goes the refrain. And everybody nods.

There is the helplessness of a proud people seeing their country breaking apart, their most cherished ideals being blown away, the longing for a strong hand and a return to grandeur, but virtually no critical questioning on their most powerful mass media.


 It is all very Wiemar Republic, Germany in the 1920s. And we know what a shared sense of acute victimhood led to there, don't we. Or maybe I am giving too much importance to television. After all, what would the Pakistanis think if they saw our Hindi news channels regularly? Now there is a thought.




                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL




The curtain came down Saturday night on a crowded, contentious and controversial Indian cricket season with the final of the Indian Premier League's fourth edition won by defending champions Chennai Super Kings. By all accounts it was a long and extraordinary season, with the World Cup final hosted by India and IPL-4 starting barely six days after the last ball was hit for six by home team skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni. While Indians wore the biggest smiles after their team won the World Cup (50 overs) after 28 years, they were also left debating hotly over the amount of cricket being played these days in what is avowedly the real professional era of the game marked by the arrival of IPL and other such "big bang for your buck" kind of Twenty20 cricket. In its most recent avatar, the game has been invaded by the club versus country argument that used to mark soccer in which the players were always beholden to their clubs while playing for the country was an attractive option only once in about four years — at the World Cup and its qualifiers. Injuries and sport inevitably go hand in hand, which is the reason why Gautam Gambhir, nominated to lead India in the Caribbean while Dhoni rested, was unfairly picked on and pilloried by a section of the media for appearing in Kolkata Knight Riders colours wherein he injured his shoulder and became unfit to take up national duty. At nearly `11 crores per annum, Gambhir is IPL's most expensive player, which means he faces the greatest pressure to deliver for his franchise. However, in appearing for his IPL team, he is only playing official cricket under the aegis of the Board of Control for Cricket in India. While there is no cricketer who would not deliberately and without genuine reason refuse to turn out for his country in Tests and limited-overs games, the amount of cricket being played now is putting them under greater stress than ever before. The list of absentees from the Caribbean tour reads like a who's who of Indian cricket — but no one blames Sachin Tendulkar if he opts out for personal reasons, seeking some balance between sporting commitments and family life. Why then does anyone have to pounce on Gambhir merely because he played cricket for money, which is what nearly 200 cricketers who have IPL contracts do every season? India Inc. does not stop selling products because some of them might go against certain national priorities and damage national health, nor does a country shy away from using energy sources which in the long run might contribute to global warming. Just as a balance has to be struck between means and ends in all things, so too must sport and cricket find ways to strike a balance between need and greed. The Indian cricket board can help immensely if it can so much as plan its schedule to optimise its human resources in highly talented cricketers who, as a class, are looked up to by the nation. There is a pressing need for the BCCI not only to seek an international window for its glamorous T-20 league that combines cricket and entertainment, but it must also leave a clear 30 days after the event free for all its players to physically recover. It seems odd that the world's top-ranked Test team must send a virtual second XI to the West Indies.






India has been undergoing much political churning in recent times, leading to heightened uncertainty, fluctuating business confidence and administrative stasis. India's political risk ratings have been declining of late and now with the state Assembly polls successfully concluded a fresh political risk appraisal is in order. The short story is that the state elections have left the ruling coalition in New Delhi with increased stability in the short term but rising risks in the medium and long terms. Ironically, the defeat of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam-Congress combine in the southern state of Tamil Nadu has proved most beneficial for the ruling consortium in the short term as it has allowed, if not impelled, the dominant coalition partner, the Congress Party, to harden its stand against corruption. Rampant corruption at all levels of the administration in the Central government had massively heightened risks of doing business in India as touts, politicians and powerful bureaucrats were capable of short-circuiting established procedures in the award of contracts, dispute settlement, permissions and so forth. Corporates and big businesses were forced to turn to intermediaries, some of them distinctly dubious, to get their work done. The "New Delhi fixer" emerged as the symbol of the times, side-lining honest officials and even company managements. However, it was often the more unscrupulous, cannier businessman with better political contacts who got his way, undercutting rivals and shifting the goal posts. Now with the government at New Delhi signalling tougher counter-measures against corruption, including imprisonment for the rich and powerful, there is bound to be increased confidence in the government and a levelling of the playing field for economic and civil society players. With increased consistency in policy implementation and procedures, the medium- and long-term political risk indicators are bound to decline. The other aspect of the risk scenario has to do with the stability of the coalition government and its leadership, the consistent and successful implementation of declared policies and the formulation of new policies, rules and procedures to facilitate economic growth and improve conditions for the country's underprivileged. Post-state elections, the political risk picture is mixed but largely positive. In the states of Assam and Tamil Nadu, political risk indicators have declined due to the conclusive mandate received by one party — the Congress-led by the Chief Minister, Mr Tarun Gogoi, in Assam and the All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam led by the Chief Minister, Ms J. Jayalalithaa, in Tamil Nadu. Political risk is down in the Union Territory of Puducherry as well with the decisive victory of former Congress chief minister, Mr N. Rangasamy, who is expected to provide continuity in policies and clean governance. Mr Gogoi is more secure with an absolute majority and unlike in the past not constrained by uncertain coalition partners. Ms Jayalalithaa, too, will be forced to run a clean and open administration and abjure any radical agenda. She will be hugely benefited by the shrunken DMK presence in the Legislative Assembly and the emergence of her poll partner, the Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam led by Mr Vijayakanth, as the main Opposition. Political risk is up in West Bengal despite the clear victory by the Trinamul-Congress combine due to two factors: major and difficult policy changes in the offing and complicated local politics that will increasingly come to the fore in the medium and long terms. In Kerala, the Congress-United Democratic Front (UDF) has secured a victory which is neither convincing nor entirely happy given that the state witnessed voting along communal lines in many places. This should be reason for long-term concern for the Chief Minister, Mr Oommen Chandy. Former Marxist chief minister, Mr V.S. Achuthanandan, has emerged stronger within his party after the polls and will seek to challenge the UDF ministry at every step, further complicating the already-involved politics of that state. The impact of state politics on the ruling coalition at the centre is mixed. Kerala, Assam and West Bengal results have helped stabilise national politics, while the Tamil Nadu polls and the arrest of two senior DMK leaders potentially threaten the alliance's durability. The DMK supremo, Dr M. Karunanidhi, is reported to be furious with the Congress top brass but cannot act precipitately at this juncture and further isolate himself, although he knows that his continued support is critical to the continuance of the Congress at the Centre. The DMK will remain a high-risk element in the medium term. The biggest short-term advantage for the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government is the fact that no major political party or grouping wants elections at this juncture. The fundamentals of the UPA stock, however, remain weak due to its thin parliamentary majority. The UPA has been progressively losing support in Parliament, a process that began with the departure of the Left parties and Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party in 2008. Mr Mulayam Singh's Samajwadi Party with its 22 members of Parliament would be too happy to lend support but at a price, which could undercut the Congress leader, Mr Rahul Gandhi's attempts to appear as an independent force in Uttar Pradesh politics. The Congress failure to implement radical reforms or cleanse the administration coupled with the continued erosion of its support base in the states, its mistakes in choosing the right coalition partners and its inability to articulate a coherent mass line, all suggest rising long-term risk quotients. * Indranil Banerjie is an independent security and political risk consultant






I had some time to kill at the Cairo airport the other day so I rummaged through the Egyptian Treasures shop. I didn't care much for the King Tut paper weights and ashtrays but was intrigued by a stuffed camel, which, if you squeezed its hump, emitted a camel honk. When I turned it over to see where it was manufactured, it read: "Made in China". Now that they have decided to put former President Hosni Mubarak on trial, I hope Egyptians add to his indictment that he presided for 30 years over a country where nearly half the population lives on $2 a day and 20 per cent are unemployed while it is importing low-wage manufactured goods — a stuffed camel, no less — from China. That's an embarrassment for Mubarak and America, which has donated some $30 billion in aid to modernise Egypt's economy over the last 30 years — and US President Barack Obama just promised a couple billion more. Egypt's economy has nose-dived since the uprising, and the new government really does need the money to stay afloat. But I only hope that Obama and secretary of state Hillary Clinton understand that right now — right this second — Egypt needs something more from Washington than money: quiet, behind-the-scenes engagement with Egypt's ruling generals over how to complete the transition to democracy here. Here's why. After the ouster of Mubarak in February, his presidential powers were shifted to a military council, led by the defence minister. It's an odd situation, or as the Egyptian novelist Alaa Al Aswany, author of The Yacoubian Building, put it to me: "We have had a revolution here that succeeded — but is not in power. So the goals of the revolution are being applied by an agent, the Army, which I think is sincere in wanting to do the right things, but it is not by nature revolutionary". To their credit, the Egyptian generals moved swiftly to put in place a pathway to democracy: elections for a new Parliament were set for September; this Parliament will then oversee the writing of a new Constitution, and then a new civilian President will be elected. Sounds great on paper, and it was endorsed by a referendum, but there's one big problem: The Tahrir Square revolution was a largely spontaneous, bottom-up affair. It was not led by any particular party or leader. Parties are just now being formed. If elections for Parliament are held in September, the only group in Egypt with a real party network ready to roll is the one that has been living underground and is now suddenly legal: the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood. "Liberal people are feeling some concerns that they made the revolution and the Muslim Brotherhood can now take it. This is not true", Esam el-Erian, one of the party's leaders, insisted to me. But that is exactly what the urban, secular moderates, who actually did spearhead the Tahrir revolt, fear. They are only now forming parties and trying to build networks that can reach the millions of traditional Egyptians living in the countryside and persuade them to vote for a reform agenda and not just: "Islam is the answer". "The liberal parties need more time to organise", said Naguib Sawiris, an Egyptian billionaire who's heading the best organised of the liberal parties, and is urging all the liberal groups to run under a single banner and not divide their vote. If elections happen in September and the Muslim Brotherhood wins a plurality it could have an inordinate impact on writing Egypt's first truly free Constitution and could inject restrictions on women, alcohol, dress, and the relations between mosque and state. "You will have an unrepresentative Parliament writing an unrepresentative Constitution", argued Mohamed ElBaradei, the former International Atomic Energy Agency czar who is running for President on a reform platform. "Because the Muslim Brotherhood is ready, it wants elections first", adds Osama Ghazali Harb, another reform party leader. "We as secular forces prefer to have some time to consolidate our parties. We must thank the Army for the role it played. But it was our revolution, not a coup d'état... If there are fair elections, the Muslim Brotherhood will only get 20 per cent". Free elections are rare in the Arab world, so when they happen, everybody tries to vote — not only the residents of that country. You can be sure money will flow in here from Saudi Arabia and Qatar to support the Muslim Brotherhood. America, though, cannot publicly intervene in the Egyptian election debate. It would only undermine the reformers, who have come so far, so fast, on their own and alienate the Egyptian generals. That said, though, it is important that senior US officials engage quietly with the generals and encourage them to take heed of the many Egyptian voices that are raising legitimate concerns about a premature runoff. In short, the Egyptian revolution is not over. It has left the dramatic street phase and is now in the seemingly boring but utterly vital phase of deciding who gets to write the rules for the new Egypt. And how Egypt evolves will impact the whole Arab world. I just hope the Obama team is paying attention. This is so much more important than Libya.






UP's coolers go 'cool' MLAs in Uttar Pradesh have finally begun investing in their future sensibly. They want all the jails in the state to be upgraded and equipped with modern facilities, and their shopping list is rather cute: computers, libraries, coolers. Obviously, the legislators are not acting on any jail reform report, but are merely trying to ensure that before their imminent visit, the premises are upgraded and spruced up. "With scams tumbling out of the closet everywhere, it is only a matter of time before a large number of politicians and bureaucrats find themselves in jail," a senior official in Lucknow said. The two Bahujan Samaj Party MLAs who were recently awarded life sentence in murder cases — Shekhar Tiwari and Anand Sen Yadav — set the trend when they requested some comfort items. And since they represent two powerful vote banks, the state government listened and has already placed orders for air coolers. A comrade's last innings Despite being "censured" for blaming the former chief minister, Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, and the former industry minister, Mr Nirupam Sen's policies for the Left Front's debacle in Bengal, the irrepressible CPM leader, Mr Abdur Rezzak Mollah, is at it again. When asked recently why the Left Front had failed to return the 400 acres of land forcibly acquired from farmers in Singur when Ms Mamata Banerjee could find a way to do the same, Mr Mollah shrugged and said, "The Left Front could not return to power because it did not return the land". And when he was reminded that he was again inviting disciplinary action, Mr Mollah said: "Look, this is my last innings and I will play with a straight bat. I do not care whether the ball comes from the right or the left." A popular peasant leader, Mr Mollah is the only CPM leader who has not lost any Assembly election in the past 40 years. The Left, and the Right, should listen to him more intently, perhaps. The thumb and the hand The scene was straight out of a Quentin Tarantino film: Officers of Rajasthan's Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) were keeping an eye on an executive engineer, N.C. Singhvi, of the public works department, who was to receive a bribe amount he had demanded. The money was paid and the sleuths were upon him and the raid on his premises was under way when one officer noticed a small paper with some noting. But before he could grab the chit, Mr Singhvi lunged and shoved it in his mouth. And when the ACB officer tried to retrieve it, Mr Singhvi chewed off his thumb. State Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders have found a prophetic message in this gory incident. The thumb, they are going around saying, is part of the hand, "which is also the symbol of the Congress Party… Not only the thumb, but the whole Hand (Congress) is deeply involved in taking bribes". Many of them are nurturing dreams of chewing the whole thing off soon. Channel wars in Assam News travels fast, and politicians learn quick. After the recently concluded elections, politicians in Assam have been studying who did well and why and have come up with the answer: Own a TV channel, win elections. That's why at least three new news channels will soon be launched in Assam, in addition to the existing five. Most of the existing and upcoming channels are owned by Congress leaders, and leading this pack is the state minister, Mr Himanta Biswa Sarma, who won with a margin of over 70,000 votes. He remained on News Live throughout the elections (the channel is owned by his wife). Among those who are planning to launch channels are two ministers of the Gogoi Cabinet — Mr Rockybul Hussain and Mr Pradyut Bordoloi. Mr Anjan Dutta, the veteran Congress leader and MLA, is also exploring the possibility of launching a news channel, in addition to the daily newspaper (Dainik Batori) he already owns, to spread his political clout far and wide. The expanding 2G family With the Supreme Court monitoring investigations and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) stepping up their probe, the 2G scam family is growing at a cathartic rate. More evidence means new accused and that in turn means more chargesheets. The 2G files are getting fatter even as new ones are being added every day. But the CBI team is not complaining. Talking about filing a separate chargesheet in the case, a CBI officer quipped: "The 2G family is now expanding. Four more persons have joined the family. The total strength is now 12." The 2G family is also, we hope, pleased with this development. With the apex court hearing the case on a day-to-day basis, the 2G family members get to say hello, howdy, and discuss what they had for breakfast at Tihar. The ratio of failure If you thought more teachers per student was the answer to better teaching, read on. The Tareen Committee, set up by the University Grants Commission to decide on teacher-student ratios in central universities, had submitted that for the social science stream the ideal ratio is 1:30 and for science subjects it is 1:25. But a new government college offering BA courses in Burhanpur, western Madhya Pradesh, set a new record by offering a fantastic teacher-student ratio. For just five students enrolled, the college had a staff of five (all of them guest lecturers), plus a "principal in-charge" who was heading the show being run from a rented building. However, the results which are just out have rubbished the ratio game. All the five students flunked and the five teachers and their five students may meet again in the new academic year, 1:1. Charges for chargesheets One would imagine that legal luminaries who also dabble in politics keep track of momentous happenings in court. Not so. For most lawyer-politicians in the Congress, chargesheets are money-spinning items which are to be read only when someone is paying for the reading. A senior Supreme Court lawyer, who is also an All-India Congress Committee functionary, was chatting with journalists recently when one of them asked if he had read Kanimozhi's chargesheet and if she is likely to get bail. He replied straight-faced, "So long as you are not paid, you do not need to read."







UP's coolers go 'cool' MLAs in Uttar Pradesh have finally begun investing in their future sensibly. They want all the jails in the state to be upgraded and equipped with modern facilities, and their shopping list is rather cute: computers, libraries, coolers. Obviously, the legislators are not acting on any jail reform report, but are merely trying to ensure that before their imminent visit, the premises are upgraded and spruced up. "With scams tumbling out of the closet everywhere, it is only a matter of time before a large number of politicians and bureaucrats find themselves in jail," a senior official in Lucknow said. The two Bahujan Samaj Party MLAs who were recently awarded life sentence in murder cases — Shekhar Tiwari and Anand Sen Yadav — set the trend when they requested some comfort items. And since they represent two powerful vote banks, the state government listened and has already placed orders for air coolers. A comrade's last innings Despite being "censured" for blaming the former chief minister, Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, and the former industry minister, Mr Nirupam Sen's policies for the Left Front's debacle in Bengal, the irrepressible CPM leader, Mr Abdur Rezzak Mollah, is at it again. When asked recently why the Left Front had failed to return the 400 acres of land forcibly acquired from farmers in Singur when Ms Mamata Banerjee could find a way to do the same, Mr Mollah shrugged and said, "The Left Front could not return to power because it did not return the land". And when he was reminded that he was again inviting disciplinary action, Mr Mollah said: "Look, this is my last innings and I will play with a straight bat. I do not care whether the ball comes from the right or the left." A popular peasant leader, Mr Mollah is the only CPM leader who has not lost any Assembly election in the past 40 years. The Left, and the Right, should listen to him more intently, perhaps. The thumb and the hand The scene was straight out of a Quentin Tarantino film: Officers of Rajasthan's Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) were keeping an eye on an executive engineer, N.C. Singhvi, of the public works department, who was to receive a bribe amount he had demanded. The money was paid and the sleuths were upon him and the raid on his premises was under way when one officer noticed a small paper with some noting. But before he could grab the chit, Mr Singhvi lunged and shoved it in his mouth. And when the ACB officer tried to retrieve it, Mr Singhvi chewed off his thumb. State Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders have found a prophetic message in this gory incident. The thumb, they are going around saying, is part of the hand, "which is also the symbol of the Congress Party… Not only the thumb, but the whole Hand (Congress) is deeply involved in taking bribes". Many of them are nurturing dreams of chewing the whole thing off soon. Channel wars in Assam News travels fast, and politicians learn quick. After the recently concluded elections, politicians in Assam have been studying who did well and why and have come up with the answer: Own a TV channel, win elections. That's why at least three new news channels will soon be launched in Assam, in addition to the existing five. Most of the existing and upcoming channels are owned by Congress leaders, and leading this pack is the state minister, Mr Himanta Biswa Sarma, who won with a margin of over 70,000 votes. He remained on News Live throughout the elections (the channel is owned by his wife). Among those who are planning to launch channels are two ministers of the Gogoi Cabinet — Mr Rockybul Hussain and Mr Pradyut Bordoloi. Mr Anjan Dutta, the veteran Congress leader and MLA, is also exploring the possibility of launching a news channel, in addition to the daily newspaper (Dainik Batori) he already owns, to spread his political clout far and wide. The expanding 2G family With the Supreme Court monitoring investigations and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) stepping up their probe, the 2G scam family is growing at a cathartic rate. More evidence means new accused and that in turn means more chargesheets. The 2G files are getting fatter even as new ones are being added every day. But the CBI team is not complaining. Talking about filing a separate chargesheet in the case, a CBI officer quipped: "The 2G family is now expanding. Four more persons have joined the family. The total strength is now 12." The 2G family is also, we hope, pleased with this development. With the apex court hearing the case on a day-to-day basis, the 2G family members get to say hello, howdy, and discuss what they had for breakfast at Tihar. The ratio of failure If you thought more teachers per student was the answer to better teaching, read on. The Tareen Committee, set up by the University Grants Commission to decide on teacher-student ratios in central universities, had submitted that for the social science stream the ideal ratio is 1:30 and for science subjects it is 1:25. But a new government college offering BA courses in Burhanpur, western Madhya Pradesh, set a new record by offering a fantastic teacher-student ratio. For just five students enrolled, the college had a staff of five (all of them guest lecturers), plus a "principal in-charge" who was heading the show being run from a rented building. However, the results which are just out have rubbished the ratio game. All the five students flunked and the five teachers and their five students may meet again in the new academic year, 1:1. Charges for chargesheets One would imagine that legal luminaries who also dabble in politics keep track of momentous happenings in court. Not so. For most lawyer-politicians in the Congress, chargesheets are money-spinning items which are to be read only when someone is paying for the reading. A senior Supreme Court lawyer, who is also an All-India Congress Committee functionary, was chatting with journalists recently when one of them asked if he had read Kanimozhi's chargesheet and if she is likely to get bail. He replied straight-faced, "So long as you are not paid, you do not need to read."







I am writing this column and hope to write a few more from the exotic environs of Kerala, often described as "God's own country". The large and picturesque green expanse of tea gardens in Kerala is an absolutely gorgeous surrounding. And equally fascinating is the view of men and women plucking tea leaves and tossing them into the baskets on their back. After the process of crushing, tearing and curling, these leaves, in a completely different form, will be used in our kitchens and restaurants to help us relax with a cuppa. Tea leaves, which look so splendid, once plucked, however many tasty cups of tea they may churn up, have no life of their own. They will never grow again. Well, that is the fate of all leaves and branches. Plucked or cut, if not grafted onto another plant/tree, they will simply dry up and die. But do leaves and branches have a choice, can they refuse to be chopped, trimmed or cut off? Do environmentalists ever ask for a ban on plucking of tea leaves or for that matter for so many other types of leaves? It is interesting to find a parallel of the same in the Bible and that too in a very crucial context, with regard to our relationship with God, our Creator. In the 15th chapter of John's gospel, we come across such a passage which, incidentally, bears significant relevance to our life. In the concerned passage Jesus says, "I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener... No branch can produce fruit alone. It must stay connected to the vine. It is the same with you. You cannot produce fruit alone. You must stay joined to me. I am the vine, and you are the branches. "If you stay joined to me, and I to you, you will produce plenty of fruit. But separated from me you won't be able to do anything. If you don't stay joined to me, you will be like a branch that has been thrown out and has dried up". Jesus was a master communicator and was well-versed in picking up revealing material from ordinary happenings and events in the lives of His listeners. He would then quite skilfully relate them to correct their wrong understanding and image of God. Here Jesus was telling his disciples that their relationship with Him and with God, the Father, was not limited to prayer time, when one would visit the synagogue (or temple, church, mosque and gurdwara), or while reading the scriptures, or performing a puja or indeed during pilgrimage to holy places. He was drawing the disciples' attention to another level, in fact to the ultimate level where they can have a deep and intimate relationship with the Divine. How wonderful it would have been if we could have looked at our life and conducted our relationship with God on such warm and intimate terms. Curiously, one of the allegations made against Jesus by the religious leaders of his time and which was held against him at the time of His trial leading to His crucifixion was that of blasphemy. And what could be that blasphemous act of Jesus to earn the wrath of the Pharisees and Sadducees? The strange but true reality was that Jesus had dared to address God, residing up in the heavens, with an intimate term, as Abba or Father. Those who had always thought of God as inaccessible, deserving enormous respect as the mighty Creator, could not take in the fact that Jesus was showing them an entirely unique way of addressing that God. — Father Dominic Emmanuel, a founder-member of Parliament of religions, is currently the director of communication of the Delhi Catholic Church. He was awarded the National Communal Harmony Award 2008 by the Government of India. He can be contacted at











DO the high defence officials of Pakistan and India meeting here on Monday to tackle the Siachen stand-off have a mandate to abandon oft-iterated positions and start afresh? If not, and history dictates what is brought to the table, and current tensions provide the "flavour", the delegations might as well keep their briefcases shut, talk about the not-necessarily pleasant weather and call it a day. For while 20 years ago a draft agreement was close to finalisation, "prestige" pulled the plug ~ and things have not changed much in the several rounds of jaw-jaw thereafter. Sadly, there are few indications of the delegations being authorised to take bold initiatives, so Dr Manmohan Singh's talk of converting the world's most elevated battlefield (in physical terms) into a "mountain of peace" is likely to remain a mere mirage. Realistically, the prevailing political climate does not lend itself to a solution which must entail give and take. "Giving" is possible only when genuine goodwill abounds, which is not the case now; there is nothing to suggest any narrowing of the trust-deficit that was rendered as wide as the ocean on 26/11. And to be fair to the delegates from Islamabad, they have decidedly more pressing issues at hand. But since the talks are part of a bid to revive a multi-dimensional discussion ~ "comprehensive dialogue process" has been dubbed a four-letter word lately ~ they must proceed, routinely. At best it could be hoped that what transpires does not further complicate a vexatious situation. Negative atmospherics, and petty one-upmanship are not uncommon in the bilateral conversation, the level of rhetoric reflects the state of the larger relationship.

There are conflicting views of the strategic/tactical relevance of "holding" Siachen ~ to be more accurate the Saltoro Ridge on the western flank of the ice-flow. There is no dispute that the fighting there has been overly romanticised, laced with conflicting claims on the "ground position". India's insistence on an authentication of that could expose many a Pakistani claim ~ or so goes the perspective from the Indian side of the unmarked extension of the Line of Control (drawn after the 1971 war). Ideally both sides could withdraw to their Base Camps (save their exchequers paying a king's ransom every day), but since Pakistan has easier access to the Ridge the Indians deem that a risky oversimplification. With Chinese "activity" in POK upping the ante, the background music for Monday's meeting militates against a breakthrough in the offing.




DESPERATE situations demand desperate remedies. In keeping with revised international thinking, the government is working on a notification that will permit Indian-flagged merchant vessels to embark a squad of armed security personnel to counter Somali pirates. Ship owners have been seeking that, both to protect the vessel and perhaps contain the skyrocketing costs of insurance cover. A time-honoured tradition of unarmed merchantmen is being suspended, raising queries of both principle and pragmatism. Could armed "defence" have a backlash, leading to the pirates seeking heavier weaponry and adopting more vicious tactics? Firefights at sea have a host of implications, casualty-evacuation among them. Greater international coordination and commitment will be critical to the success of upping the ante thus. Could some unscrupulous governments be tempted to misuse the armed squads to actually bolster their "influence" at sea and on land? Who will "police" these squads? Another adverse impact could be a worsening of the conditions in which several merchant seamen ~ no dearth of Indians among them ~ are being held hostage. Ever since India authorised its marine forces to take a pro-active posture, sink craft and arrest pirates (some going slow is now evident), Indians have been singled out for "special treatment" ~ a "first" was registered when the pirates collected the ransom money but released only a section of the Indian crew in the hope the others would be exchanged for captured pirates now in Indian custody.

  Several such factors could now come into play. The process will have to be thoroughly thought through. Apart from principled objections to the privatisation of security, the effectiveness of the armed guards will have to be monitored. Obviously the Navy and Coast Guard lack the manpower for such "civilian" duties, the reputation of private security agencies is hardly reassuring. None have "sea-time". It might be worth considering a crash programme to raise a force of ex-servicemen ~ possibly on the lines of some territorial army units ~  led and supervised by serving or retired naval personnel. If, like the TA, some provisions of the Navy (or Army) Act could apply then discipline could be ensured, a command and control structure put in place, the training and experience of the ex-servicemen gainfully harnessed. And since it could be a long haul, avenues for re-employing the veterans would open up. Speedy examination of such a proposal by the shipping and defence ministries might address some "sticky" issues.




THE G-8 message from Deauville in Normandy is at best a signal of intent, if past experience is anything to go by. Small wonder there are misgivings already not merely within the Afro-Arab world but also in non-governmental circles on whether it will deliver. The summit has pledged a multi-billion pound partnership with the purportedly new democracies born out of the Arab Spring, but there is no matching commitment on the division of the amount, let alone a time-frame. In tangible terms, there is little or no indication on the details of the package, far less the collective responsibility of  G-8. Only a rhetorical effusion on what it called the "historical potential" of the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt and a promise on international aid to buttress stability and growth. International donors have been urged to channel funds to these countries on condition they don't deviate from the discovery of democracy. The reality, of which G-8 can't be unaware, is that the Arab Spring is fading to a summer of discontent and not least in Egypt. Reports in the western press suggest that President Barack Obama, with the support of the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, has blocked the host, French President Nicolas Sarkozy's proposal that the G8 countries should promise a package of $40 billion. If not discord, the amount remains an unsettled issue. The focus at Deauville was substantially on Egypt and Tunisia, though the jasmine revolution has swept Yemen, Syria and Bahrain no less dramatically. No wonder critics have occasionally derided G-8 as a "promise machine"; as often as not, specific pledges have been broken. The $50 billion, which in 2005 was "pledged" over five years to Africa, has fallen short by $ 19  billion. The Western offensive against the regime places Libya in a different strata altogether. And close to two months after NATO launched its operation, the Deauville declaration has called upon Muammar Gaddafi to quit. There was even an indication that Apache attack helicopters would be mobilised against the beleaguered regime. Notably, the G-8 aid pledge has skirted Libya, a nation virtually in tatters. Even the faintest commitment on reconstruction will doubtless hinge on how events unfold. The country has been on a turbulent course, as yet far removed from democracy.









Early this month, I was in Hanoi to attend the annual meetings of the Asian Development Bank. Hanoi was all spruced up for the visit by thousands of bankers, academics and the press.  The city is a blend of the old and the new. Hanoi has preserved much of its colonial French architecture, whilst building the new outside the city centre.  Everyone seemed to be on the move, a city chock full of young people on mopeds, simultaneously driving whilst speaking on the mobile phone.  There was a buzz in the air, as if the city and the country are reaching for the Asian century.  

The Sofitel Metropole by the lake in central Hanoi is as elegant as ever, with old world service and new world amenities. Hanoi is the ideal place to reflect on the future, even as we look backwards to our history and our culture. For the future to happen, we must examine where we came from, what is our present status and where we are going.  To look forward, it may be worthwhile to look back in two ways.

First, it was not that long ago that we suffered the Asian financial crisis (1997-99). Few who went through the pain of that crisis would forget that the journey out of darkness was months of sleepless nights and stress-filled days. But that pain was worth it because there was sufficient change to weather the current global financial crisis. There was enough creative destruction to ensure that new competitors and better governance emerged out of the ashes.  But there is still a long way to go for Asian standards to meet global standards.  Hence, reform in Asia is still a work-in-progress. 

Second, to judge whether Asia has made sufficient progress in the last decade, we need to look back from the hypothetical point in the future when Asia overtakes the West in terms of total GDP. What must Asia achieve to attain that goal, recognizing that competition is never static?  Indeed, the pain and humiliation that advanced countries are going through may precisely be the spur for structural reforms that they have delayed for years.  
The current momentum of growth in Asia and other emerging markets cannot be taken for granted.  This global financial crisis is a stark reminder that for all the improvements in macro-economic management, we have not avoided the trade cycle. Nor must we forget that Asia is still dependent on the advanced countries for exports, innovation and technology.  If they slow down further in the next five years and Asia mismanages this current round of overheating, the next global crisis will again be Asia-based. 

What did Asia do right during the Asian crisis, what are the advanced countries doing wrong this time around and what should Asia do in the years ahead?     

With the benefit of hindsight, the Asian crisis was due to excess leverage in the corporate sector, bad credit management by the banking system and weak macro-management of inconsistencies in handling the 'impossible trilemma' - rigid exchange rates, open capital markets and effective monetary policy. What the crisis revealed was a governance crisis, famously labelled crony capitalism.

Post crisis, there was much effort to make the necessary reforms, assisted by better and clearer international standards. But the key lesson was the higher degree of self-insurance, with larger current account surpluses and higher foreign exchange reserves, so much so that this action has been blamed as one of the causes of the global imbalance. 

Looking back at the intervening years, it is clear that reforms of the international financial architecture were insufficient, because the IMF surveillance mechanism was largely ignored by the advanced countries when it came to their own affairs.  No one heeded the real lessons of the Asian crisis that all financial crises are caused by excess consumption financed badly. No one paid heed to frail balance-sheets and what was vaunted as sound macro-management was premised on the misplaced hope that free markets could discipline financial engineering greed. 

Although the real causes of the current global crisis will be debated for years to come, there is sufficient consensus that it was a systemic crisis, badly diagnosed and flawed in prognosis. There was flawed macro-economic theory, lax monetary and fiscal policies and weak financial supervision over a turbo-charged finance industry that was subsidised by public guarantees.  

Finance had become a political force by being too big to fail, too important to jail.  

Have we solved the root causes of the current crisis? 

No, because there are collective action traps at the national level simultaneously with the global trap.  At the national level, there is no willingness to impose higher taxation to dampen excess consumption, relying on more public debt to replace losses in private debt.  At the global level, there is no agreement to cede sovereignty to global central banking, fiscal management and financial supervision. Without leadership and statesmanship, we have a crisis of global fiat money, caused by excessive credit creation with no hard budget constraints.
What should Asia and emerging markets do? 

Macro-economic management is particularly difficult in a world of highly distorted prices, led by zero interest rates and highly leveraged capital flows. For Asia to take leadership, Asia must maintain higher standards of fiscal probity, sound money and prudent supervision. If we cannot solve the global gridlock, we should put our own houses in order.  Most of our real sector objectives are universal - higher quality of life, sustainable ecology, less inequality and better governance. But finance must remain a servant of the real sector, not its master. 

~ Asia News Network

The writer is Adjunct Professor at the University of Malaya, Tsinghua University, and is author of  From Asian to Global Financial Crisis, published by Cambridge University Press






This is the age of global crises, and of heroic action to prevent them. Leaders of the group of 20 meet at least a couple of times every year and reflect upon crises in Iceland, Ireland, Greece, and whichever country will be the next. They have poured billions of dollars into the International Monetary Fund, and promise to make billions more available should financial emergencies require it. Nothing opens their purse strings more readily than the fear of a financial crisis. Their generosity knows no bounds when it comes to financial institutions, but they are extremely stingy when it comes to health. The total budgeted revenue of the World Health Organization in 2010-11 was $4.54 billion. Of this, countries' annual contributions came to less than $1 billion, and promises added another half a billion. The rest were sums collected by the WHO by persuading countries to fund special programmes of interest to them. Its member countries contribute so little to the WHO that it has become a marketeer of special programmes.

It needed a running cash balance of $1 billion to keep its various programmes running; often it did not have even that much in hand. When it asked for more, its member countries appointed a Global Policy Group, which told it to cut costs on staff, printing, offices, contractors and so on. The Group's approach was so unhelpful and negative that it is a surprise it did not ask the WHO to close down. Many of the countries promised and did not pay; Argentina, Iran, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Kenya, Sudan and Venezuela are amongst countries which have defaulted for two years. India paid on time, but the contribution of this budding global superpower in 2011 was $2.5 million or roughly Rs 10 crore, paid out of a Central budget of over Rs 5 lakh crore. China, in comparison, paid $14.8 million. WHO has been caught in a vicious cycle. The stinginess of its members has starved it of funds and forced it to spend a large proportion of what it gets on basic administration.

That gave member countries a chance to accuse it of fattening its staff and doing nothing useful. To counter that criticism, it took up programmes promoted or partnered by those ready to finance them; such sponsorships skewed its priorities. The outcome in the long run is that the WHO is far from fulfilling its original objective or the felt needs of its members; the further away it moves, the less support it gets from its members. Such drift is common to a number of old United Nations organizations; and the governance of the UN is such that member countries cannot summon the will to give its organizations a direction. This is the kind of problem that the Indian prime minister should press G20 to tackle, instead of wasting time on financial hiccups.







Modernity can turn out to be a menace in disguise. At one level, the invention of the mobile phone and its dissemination among the masses have revolutionized daily life. The cell phone is a great social leveller. From the corner-store owner to the CEO, people of all classes are able to afford it. It has simplified modes of communication, increased people's access to essential services, and cemented the illusion of the world being a global village. However, at another level, it has also radically redefined behavioural patterns, especially among the young. There has been an outbreak of SMS addiction, and boys and girls are being literally killed by their cell phones. Recently, two schoolgirls were run over by a train while they were engrossed in their phones. Such incidents have become routine affairs. Every now and then, well-meaning voices are raised about the perils of using cell phones while walking or driving. Yet, people seem to remain impervious to even the direst warnings.

One reason for such deadly nonchalance is the lack of privacy in the lives of people — especially among young people growing up in middle-class families. Few boys and girls have a personal space, let alone a room of their own, where they can use the phone away from the prying eyes and ears of the elders. The young can be fully free only when they are outside the house — a fact that partly explains their dangerous obsession with their mobile phones. Of course, this is only a part of a much more complex picture. With some, no matter what the situation at home, the phone is more like an extension of the self that must be attended to in movie theatres, at restaurants, over dinner with others and, if possible, at unholy hours of the night. Unlike the West, the rest of the world does not care for social etiquette when it comes to using electronic devices in public domain. People use cameras, cell phones and whatnot indiscriminately, with no concern for the comfort of others around them. Unfortunately, very often, they end up paying a steep price for such obliviousness.






This time last year, more or less, we were picking over election bones. I looked forward with optimism to 'a strong and elastic coalition' government where the worst of old-fashioned, small c conservatism and tribal politics would be sidelined by a more consensual style of party leadership and government. Young leaders, including, one had hoped, David Miliband rather than his clumsier younger brother, were going to lead us cheerfully, if uncomfortably, up the rocky road towards a regenerated economy and would finally get to grips with much-needed and perpetually-debated political and institutional reform. I also wrote that, for the first time, the prime minister was younger than me and I felt part of an older generation: a year later, I feel like Methuselah, and my view is inclined to turn ever more backwards than forwards.

Over the last couple of weeks, childhood memories have come rushing to the fore. Nothing bad, you understand, the sort of childhood where detail has been lost in the haze of sunlit gardens, country streams, dogs and ponies that were the mark of privileged but unexceptional early years in the English countryside. There are a series of programmes on the BBC over the next few weeks on hidden English country houses; the first was the medieval manor house that belonged to my mother's family for 500 years and where I lived as a child.

It is extraordinary watching a television historian describe a chunk of your own history — the house now beautifully restored with period furniture by its current pop star owner but without the rather dull family portraits that one barely noticed on the walls or the swords that hung above the great hall and, still razor sharp, were presented to a museum after an incident when duelling in a distant bedroom suddenly seemed a sensible amusement for a wet afternoon. The extraordinary fabric of the house is the same, ghosts and all. Sir Walter Raleigh is meant to have smoked his first American tobacco when visiting the house, staying in what became my father's dressing room. I don't remember the whiff of his pipe, probably too much other Virginia tobacco was smoked in the house in the less-healthy, 1960s days, but there was at least one room where the dog's hackles rose and my lifelong fear of the dark may have something to do with the gargoyles of monsters eating babies above the front door.

I wander, however, from my point, which concerns both the cavalcades of politicians who lived in that house from the 15th century and those who continued to pass through my parents' and grandparents' doors both there and in other houses throughout my youth. What I remember most, and what seems so singularly lacking among our generally younger political leaders today, is the great wind of history that seemed always to enter with the great men of those times; whether privileged patricians like Harold Macmillan and Alec Douglas-Home or men of the people like Ted Heath, and certainly the great Labour leaders too. History enveloped their presence and informed their beliefs. In itself that hardly means they all got things right, but they understood their political existence in a much greater context than today's politicians appear to do, and I cannot but feel that is a good thing. Mrs Thatcher may have been the first to live solely for the present, although she, like Tony Blair more recently, was not above assuming the mantle of Winston Churchill when it came to going to war.

Our current leaders are a highly educated bunch, focused on the job, with none of the long foreign holidays, weekend shootings and hunting, uninterrupted by modern communications of Conservative politicians, in the early post-World-War-II years, but history for them seems to start in 1997. I exaggerate, of course, but the New Labour reinvented politics, or believed that it had. I was not alone in leaping onto that bandwagon but, this time round, I am warier. David Cameron's "Big Society" seems nothing more than an intellectual revamp of the New Labour dream rooted in this extraordinary belief that what has gone before can be swept to one side and the new, or nominally new, can metamorphose society with little reference to the past. I exaggerate again. For a start, this government has so many economic pieces to pick up before it can move forward that it was always going to be hobbled in its ambitions before it began. But the shiny, new convictions of current Conservatism are nevertheless flagged up as the righteously shining light at the end of the tunnel.

I had lunch recently with a member of parliament, newly elected last year, but with far greater political credentials already in place as one of the main exponents of the Big Society philosophy. This is a man, unlike many of the current political crop, who has done a great many other things before he entered the political arena. He has been a banker, run large charitable organizations, been a university teacher, and heaven knows what else. He is exactly what politicians should be: middle-aged but youthful, energetic, intellectually rigorous and highly experienced in the ways of the world. But he gives the impression that all of that has been cast aside in favour of the message of the moment. He appears also to assume that this message is so right that, at the least, anyone with whom he might be lunching is bound to agree with it. Political thought has become so narrow and so much for the moment that it no longer encompasses history or allows for the reasoned argument of dissent.

Hopes that the Liberal Democrats would be able to provide that argument appear, in the usual clichéd phrase, to be in tatters. With the Liberal Democrat dream in pieces after their trouncing over electoral reform in the referendum this month, rubbed in by the loss of many council seats, the prime minister and his Conservative cohorts are on top of things in government and their arrogant determination that they know best is as arrogant and short-sighted as I would have expected at the point I voted Lib Dem in hopes of diluting their impact.

Nick Clegg has fallen dramatically from grace on the back of the referendum and local election results. No surprises there, but I had hoped for better things from Cameron than the way the referendum battle was fought, which owed nothing to his Big Society principles so far as one could see and everything to old-fashioned party political backstabbing. The referendum should undoubtedly not have taken place on the Alternative Vote, the most downgraded form of proportional representation — many who are long term believers in PR voted against this watered down version, so now we have the worst of all worlds. PR is seen as having been damned by the people in favour of the status quo and the Nos are chortling. No further hope of reform is expected for generations.

Reform of the House of Lords is now once again on the table. Nobody believes the current system is right, nor has done for more generations, but there is little impression of any real energy or urgency driving reforms to change this historical anachronism and more of a general flim-flam and fluffing about round the edges of necessity. The trouble here is that there has never really been a proper plan and nobody knows what they actually want, so a few more committees are round the table and may or may not come to any conclusions any time soon.

Greater zeal for change in the National Health Service is going to get the government into hot water. We all know that the NHS has huge problems, that costs and wastage must be reduced massively and the whole unwieldy machine made more efficient if it is to survive our economic woes or be fit for purpose in the future. But we love the NHS, quite rightly. For all its faults, it is a remarkable institution, and to reduce it to some sort of a system of medical insurance will be a tragedy that will inevitably impact most on the poor. Plans to take much of the administration of the NHS out of the hands of bureaucrats in favour of putting doctors in charge of commissioning are seen as mistaken, not least by many doctors. At the moment, there is a push-me-pull-you effort in government with Clegg backing off from the reform agenda he earlier appeared to support in order to shore up his collapsing public image, and the Conservatives enraged but nervous, too, of the popular feeling.

The philosophy of Big Society stresses "independent institutions, and horizontal ties" and not "what the state can do for you or you for the state but on what we can do for each other". New Labour believed in the importance of 'community'. The trouble is that we still want our State institutions, we don't entirely believe in a reinvention that makes us, in the most simplistic terms, rely on our fellow man to supply our needs; a form of society that, like it or not, we have been moving away from consistently as society and communities have become ever more fluid and even family ties are looser bound. A growing voluntary sector has to be a good thing, but we are a long way off from wanting to lose or dramatically reduce the institutions that continue to underpin our lives and provide us, especially the poorest in our society, however shakily, with a safety net.

Aneurin Bevan fought passionately for the NHS in 1948, urging his colleagues and the nation's doctors to "take pride in the fact that, despite our financial and economic anxieties, we are still able to do the most civilised thing in the world, put the welfare of the sick in front of every other consideration". After more than 60 years, nobody imagines healthcare reform is not needed as much as electoral reform, but today's ministers suffering today's financial and economic anxieties would do well to go back to their history books before they end up throwing the baby out with the bath water in a fit of innovative zeal.





This time last year, more or less, we were picking over election bones. I looked forward with optimism to 'a strong and elastic coalition' government where the worst of old-fashioned, small c conservatism and tribal politics would be sidelined by a more consensual style of party leadership and government. Young leaders, including, one had hoped, David Miliband rather than his clumsier younger brother, were going to lead us cheerfully, if uncomfortably, up the rocky road towards a regenerated economy and would finally get to grips with much-needed and perpetually-debated political and institutional reform. I also wrote that, for the first time, the prime minister was younger than me and I felt part of an older generation: a year later, I feel like Methuselah, and my view is inclined to turn ever more backwards than forwards.

Over the last couple of weeks, childhood memories have come rushing to the fore. Nothing bad, you understand, the sort of childhood where detail has been lost in the haze of sunlit gardens, country streams, dogs and ponies that were the mark of privileged but unexceptional early years in the English countryside. There are a series of programmes on the BBC over the next few weeks on hidden English country houses; the first was the medieval manor house that belonged to my mother's family for 500 years and where I lived as a child.

It is extraordinary watching a television historian describe a chunk of your own history — the house now beautifully restored with period furniture by its current pop star owner but without the rather dull family portraits that one barely noticed on the walls or the swords that hung above the great hall and, still razor sharp, were presented to a museum after an incident when duelling in a distant bedroom suddenly seemed a sensible amusement for a wet afternoon. The extraordinary fabric of the house is the same, ghosts and all. Sir Walter Raleigh is meant to have smoked his first American tobacco when visiting the house, staying in what became my father's dressing room. I don't remember the whiff of his pipe, probably too much other Virginia tobacco was smoked in the house in the less-healthy, 1960s days, but there was at least one room where the dog's hackles rose and my lifelong fear of the dark may have something to do with the gargoyles of monsters eating babies above the front door.

I wander, however, from my point, which concerns both the cavalcades of politicians who lived in that house from the 15th century and those who continued to pass through my parents' and grandparents' doors both there and in other houses throughout my youth. What I remember most, and what seems so singularly lacking among our generally younger political leaders today, is the great wind of history that seemed always to enter with the great men of those times; whether privileged patricians like Harold Macmillan and Alec Douglas-Home or men of the people like Ted Heath, and certainly the great Labour leaders too. History enveloped their presence and informed their beliefs. In itself that hardly means they all got things right, but they understood their political existence in a much greater context than today's politicians appear to do, and I cannot but feel that is a good thing. Mrs Thatcher may have been the first to live solely for the present, although she, like Tony Blair more recently, was not above assuming the mantle of Winston Churchill when it came to going to war.

Our current leaders are a highly educated bunch, focused on the job, with none of the long foreign holidays, weekend shootings and hunting, uninterrupted by modern communications of Conservative politicians, in the early post-World-War-II years, but history for them seems to start in 1997. I exaggerate, of course, but the New Labour reinvented politics, or believed that it had. I was not alone in leaping onto that bandwagon but, this time round, I am warier. David Cameron's "Big Society" seems nothing more than an intellectual revamp of the New Labour dream rooted in this extraordinary belief that what has gone before can be swept to one side and the new, or nominally new, can metamorphose society with little reference to the past. I exaggerate again. For a start, this government has so many economic pieces to pick up before it can move forward that it was always going to be hobbled in its ambitions before it began. But the shiny, new convictions of current Conservatism are nevertheless flagged up as the righteously shining light at the end of the tunnel.

I had lunch recently with a member of parliament, newly elected last year, but with far greater political credentials already in place as one of the main exponents of the Big Society philosophy. This is a man, unlike many of the current political crop, who has done a great many other things before he entered the political arena. He has been a banker, run large charitable organizations, been a university teacher, and heaven knows what else. He is exactly what politicians should be: middle-aged but youthful, energetic, intellectually rigorous and highly experienced in the ways of the world. But he gives the impression that all of that has been cast aside in favour of the message of the moment. He appears also to assume that this message is so right that, at the least, anyone with whom he might be lunching is bound to agree with it. Political thought has become so narrow and so much for the moment that it no longer encompasses history or allows for the reasoned argument of dissent.

Hopes that the Liberal Democrats would be able to provide that argument appear, in the usual clichéd phrase, to be in tatters. With the Liberal Democrat dream in pieces after their trouncing over electoral reform in the referendum this month, rubbed in by the loss of many council seats, the prime minister and his Conservative cohorts are on top of things in government and their arrogant determination that they know best is as arrogant and short-sighted as I would have expected at the point I voted Lib Dem in hopes of diluting their impact.

Nick Clegg has fallen dramatically from grace on the back of the referendum and local election results. No surprises there, but I had hoped for better things from Cameron than the way the referendum battle was fought, which owed nothing to his Big Society principles so far as one could see and everything to old-fashioned party political backstabbing. The referendum should undoubtedly not have taken place on the Alternative Vote, the most downgraded form of proportional representation — many who are long term believers in PR voted against this watered down version, so now we have the worst of all worlds. PR is seen as having been damned by the people in favour of the status quo and the Nos are chortling. No further hope of reform is expected for generations.

Reform of the House of Lords is now once again on the table. Nobody believes the current system is right, nor has done for more generations, but there is little impression of any real energy or urgency driving reforms to change this historical anachronism and more of a general flim-flam and fluffing about round the edges of necessity. The trouble here is that there has never really been a proper plan and nobody knows what they actually want, so a few more committees are round the table and may or may not come to any conclusions any time soon.

Greater zeal for change in the National Health Service is going to get the government into hot water. We all know that the NHS has huge problems, that costs and wastage must be reduced massively and the whole unwieldy machine made more efficient if it is to survive our economic woes or be fit for purpose in the future. But we love the NHS, quite rightly. For all its faults, it is a remarkable institution, and to reduce it to some sort of a system of medical insurance will be a tragedy that will inevitably impact most on the poor. Plans to take much of the administration of the NHS out of the hands of bureaucrats in favour of putting doctors in charge of commissioning are seen as mistaken, not least by many doctors. At the moment, there is a push-me-pull-you effort in government with Clegg backing off from the reform agenda he earlier appeared to support in order to shore up his collapsing public image, and the Conservatives enraged but nervous, too, of the popular feeling.

The philosophy of Big Society stresses "independent institutions, and horizontal ties" and not "what the state can do for you or you for the state but on what we can do for each other". New Labour believed in the importance of 'community'. The trouble is that we still want our State institutions, we don't entirely believe in a reinvention that makes us, in the most simplistic terms, rely on our fellow man to supply our needs; a form of society that, like it or not, we have been moving away from consistently as society and communities have become ever more fluid and even family ties are looser bound. A growing voluntary sector has to be a good thing, but we are a long way off from wanting to lose or dramatically reduce the institutions that continue to underpin our lives and provide us, especially the poorest in our society, however shakily, with a safety net.

Aneurin Bevan fought passionately for the NHS in 1948, urging his colleagues and the nation's doctors to "take pride in the fact that, despite our financial and economic anxieties, we are still able to do the most civilised thing in the world, put the welfare of the sick in front of every other consideration". After more than 60 years, nobody imagines healthcare reform is not needed as much as electoral reform, but today's ministers suffering today's financial and economic anxieties would do well to go back to their history books before they end up throwing the baby out with the bath water in a fit of innovative zeal.



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India's extension of a $5 billion credit line to Africa to help it achieve its development goals should silence those who have been accusing it of engaging in a 'neo-colonial grab' for the continent's resources. Unlike most countries that go to Africa to exploit its resources and sell it weapons, India has signalled that it is keen to partner Africa in achieving a better life for its people. Besides helping Africa with massive credit on easy terms, India will engage in institution building there.

It has also announced an array of initiatives to provide Africans with opportunities in education, training and capacity-building. Critics have accused India of aggressively pursuing Africa's natural resources and dealing with authoritarian regimes that are involved in gross violation of human rights. While it is true that India is keen to access Africa's oil, diamonds and uranium, India's strategy to build influence there has been different from that used by the West or China.

Instead of selling arms as the west has done to prop up dictators, India has sought to reach out to people through capacity-building. Even as it accesses uncut diamonds from Africa, it is providing training in cutting and polishing to locals there. Those who are critical of India's role in Africa would do well to explore the many people-centric initiatives that India is involved in there.

India has always enjoyed public goodwill in Africa. It has a long history of interaction with African countries. It supported their anti-colonial and anti-apartheid struggles. And it has a large population of Indian origin living there. Few countries in the world enjoy the kind of goodwill that India has. Delhi must build on this as it deepens interaction with Africa.


It must learn from the mistakes of other countries. China for instance uses its own people to execute projects. This has resulted in tens of thousands of Chinese being moved to Africa. This has triggered anger among the local population. India must also bear in mind that while doing deals with authoritarian regimes there, it must not alienate the local population.

The western media is pitting India against China in Africa. India must avoid falling into that trap. China's investment in Africa is far greater than that of India. Its strategy is vastly different. India must resist the temptation of following China's path through Africa as its strengths and priorities there are different.







The plight of four men from Karnataka, all victims of the kafeel (employee sponsorship) system and languishing in jail in Saudi Arabia, should stir Indian authorities to do more for Indian nationals jailed abroad. The four men are among tens of thousands of Indian who have gone to various West Asian countries with dreams of earning well, only to arrive there to find they have been duped by wily employment agencies back home with false promises and exploited by their new employers. Under the kafeel system, employees cannot change jobs without their employer's approval or leave the country without him signing their release papers.

Should the employee jump jobs as the four from Karnataka did to escape exploitation, they are accused of violating contracts with their employers and jailed for doing so. Leaving the country is rarely an option for Indian workers employed in the Gulf as their employees hold their passports. Although thousands of Indian workers are reported to be languishing in jails in the Gulf countries the Indian government has done precious little to protect these workers or to ensure they get a fair trial. Several Indians who have returned home after a harrowing time in prison in countries like Saudi Arabia or UAE say that embassy officials there were not bothered with their problems.

Indian officials never fail to help rich and powerful Indians living or travelling abroad. They seek special privileges for them and are ever willing to bail them out of trouble when they violate local laws. However, labourers in trouble abroad are ignored. This is deplorable as it is this section that needs the help of the government most. Most labourers are illiterate and unaware of rules abroad. Neither do they have the money to buy their way out of trouble.

In dealing with governments in the Gulf, India tends to tip-toe. It is reluctant to raise nettlesome issues that affect the well-being of its nationals working there. It must work with other South Asian countries, all of which have large numbers of people working in the Gulf, to push these governments to reform employment rules. Importantly, India needs to take stern action against travel/employment agencies at home that are cheating people with false promises and fake jobs.







When Gilani clambers aboard, he does tend to go overboard with a consistency that is clearly becoming a comfort to foes and an embarrassment to friends.

Pakistan's foreign policy is guided by professional diplomats who have, in a sense, no option except to be exceptional, given the scale and continuity of the challenges they face. But when politicians rush into space where diplomats fear to tread, there is a lot of cleaning up to do for the service.

Gilani topped off a four-day visit to China with a claim that will surely enter the history books. Pakistan and China, he said, were 'like one nation and two countries.' We shall not discuss the fine distinction between nation and country, except to note that the prime minister could have easily interchanged the terms without significant loss of meaning in his personal political dictionary. For mere outsiders, a question is inescapable: has Pakistan re-positioned itself as the new Hong Kong?

Beijing has not let us know whether it has accepted this generous offer by the world's most powerful Islamic republic to become an associate member of the world's most important atheist state. But it has given a 'back-present' to Gilani of 50 fighter jets, which may or may not be a symbol of shared nationalism.

Perhaps there was a spirit of competitive genuflection in the Gilani delegation. His defence minister Ahmad Mukhtar told media on his return to Islamabad that his government had gifted an entire naval base to China, at Gwadar, on the mouth of the Gulf. His exact words left no room for confusion: "We have asked our Chinese brothers to please build a naval base at Gwadar." He added that China had been invited to manage the port's commercial operations as well, despite the fact that a Singapore company has a multi-decade contract for doing so. When Mukhtar gets generous, Singapore becomes irrelevant.

Similar passion and clarity were missing in the Chinese response. Jiang Yu, a spokesman of the Chinese foreign ministry, responded with a far less dramatic "...I have not heard of it. It's my understanding that during the (Gilani) visit last week this issue was not touched upon." Since the time of Confucius the Chinese have given us so much wisdom that it is perfectly likely that they, rather than the Americans, warned the world that there is nothing called a free lunch, or indeed a free naval base.

Outsourcing security

Pakistan has sought to outsource its security from its inception. This was understandable, since fear of a larger neighbour was a logical outcome of partition from India, which could not, and cannot, accept a two-nation theory inspired by the thesis that Hindus and Muslims cannot live together in one country. But the premise has taken a total somersault from what it was in the 1950s. The meaning of security has altered completely.

The threat to Pakistan is not India-centric any longer. India has become a status quo-ist power. It will not surrender any part of the geography it possesses, but it does not covet any more land, in Kashmir or elsewhere. India has not engineered the daily havoc that is Pakistan's narrative of 2011. India did not mastermind the attack on the naval base in Karachi.

This is not the first, but fourth such attack on the Pak navy, and military authorities have picked up and are interrogating their own navy personnel to find out more about previous assaults. Pakistan's crisis emanates from a civil war with organised militias who have launched a 'jihad' not only against the United States and India but also against their own homeland in the belief that they can capture power in Islamabad and use the state's assets, including its nuclear capability, for their own ends. Such ends could easily include the 'liberation' of China's sole Muslim-majority province, Xinjiang, from Beijing. As evidence being currently given in the Headley trial in Chicago proves, many of these 'jihadis' have been nurtured by intelligence operatives in the Pak military who thought that such volatile double and triple games would never backfire.

Such contradictions have strained Pakistan's relationship with its oldest benefactor, America, to breaking point. Gilani's excitable formula is explicable only as an anxious attempt to switch security from an American umbrella to a Chinese net, if the relationship with Washington goes belly-up. History tells us that China is sophisticated enough to manoeuvre through nuanced degrees of separation or proximity. China's policy towards lands south of the Himalayas is unlikely to be either open-ended or inflexible. Tactically, it will play with options. But its  strategy will be guided by China's security interests, not Pakistan's.

The bottom line is a basic law of international relations. A sovereign nation cannot purchase security in the marketplace. Otherwise, it may remain a nation but it will be neither sovereign nor stable.








Obama has taken a gradualist approach that is based on America's bitter lessons in Iraq.

President Barack Obama has subtly shifted Washington's public explanation of its goals in Libya, declaring now that he wants to assure the Libyan people are "finally free of 40 years of tyranny" at the hands of Muammar Gadhafi, after first stating he wanted to protect civilians from massacres.

But if toppling Gadhafi is now the more explicit goal, Obama's European trip this week has highlighted significant tensions over how much time the NATO allies have to finish a job that is now in its third month.

Obama has urged strategic patience, expressing confidence that over time the combination of bombing, sanctions and import cutoffs will force Gadhafi from power.

But in Europe and in Libya, patience is calculated differently. Many countries are struggling with the rapid pace of operations. Some, like Norway, have already said they will sharply reduce their forces beginning next month. According to NATO officials, Gadhafi has a calculation of his own: facing a possible indictment by the International Criminal Court, he may soon have few places to go and nothing to lose by waiting out NATO and betting that European public opinion will tire of the bombing campaign and its costs.

New strategy

In interviews in Washington, in NATO headquarters in Brussels and in the alliance's southern command center in Naples, Italy, officials have described a new strategy to intensify the pressure — and drive out Gadhafi, a goal that officials now acknowledge extends beyond the boundaries of the United Nations mandate to protect civilians.

This week they are intensifying attacks on government targets in Tripoli, the Libyan capital. They plan to step up the effort even more this week, with the arrival of a dozen French and four British attack helicopters that can hit targets more precisely in and around Tripoli, but are also more vulnerable to ground fire.

Obama, however, has taken a gradualist approach that is based on America's bitter lessons in Iraq. From the start, he has declined to commit ground troops, and quickly handed off the lead in combat operations to other NATO allies, a move widely seen in the US and Europe as an effort to avoid 'owning' a war in a nation the US does not consider strategically vital.

But Obama's description of the objectives there has shifted. In a speech to the nation in late March, he described the effort as simply one of protecting civilians, and the White House denied that ousting Gadhafi was critical to that effort.

While sporadic attacks on civilians continue, the US and its allies have largely achieved that objective, NATO and US officials contend. The rebel-held ground in eastern Libya is secure, and rebel forces backed by allied air power have pushed back Gadhafi's loyalist forces from the contested port city of Misrata. But Obama suggested that the objective had broadened.

In Europe, however, the tension is over how long that process will take, and how long the NATO nations now leading the attacks are willing to sustain the effort. The helicopter deployments reflect the concerns of Britain and France, in particular, that an extended, grind-it-out campaign will lose NATO partners and public opinion, so the campaign needs to be escalated, even if that means putting the helicopters within range of Libyan shoulder-fired missiles.

In the 1999 Kosovo air war, NATO planes eventually hit high-profile institutional targets in Belgrade, the Serbian capital, instead of forces in the field. Although they were legitimate military targets, destroying them also undermined popular support for the Serbian leader, Slobodan Milosevic.

Expanding the range of targets would face stiff political opposition in this war, allied political officials said.

That uncertainty has preyed on many countries, like Norway, whose air forces are already finding it hard to sustain the rapid tempo of operations.

Col L S Kjoeller, who commands four Danish F-16s flying eight daily strike missions from the Sigonella air base in Sicily, said Denmark could maintain that pace — the most demanding combat tour ever undertaken by the country's small air force — for about a year, but that more than that would be difficult.

With Libyan troops largely hunkered down, finding new targets has become harder, and Danish F-16s are dropping fewer bombs than they did several weeks ago, Kjoeller said. To prevent complacency and overconfidence, he said, Danish pilots will rotate every six weeks "to keep their edge."






Marriages may be made in heaven but the bill is picked up on the earth.

We were half way through the wedding lunch when a catering boy started handing over a paper napkin to each of the diners. We did not know why but nevertheless we collected it and continued with eating a delicious fare but served in a hurry. A few courses later the same boy started keeping a steel bowl in front of each banana leaf. Why for? I wondered because the paper napkin itself was something new — not the napkin, but distributing it at a wedding lunch. And now the steel bowl — another novelty. Yielding to my curiosity I inquired with the boy. "Oh! It is finger bowl, sir," he said in a matter of fact tone and continued with his work.

I have eaten at many weddings over the years but at the end of each meal we are used to walking to the wash room where a line of taps awaited us to wash off all the remnants of the food we had just partaken. But here I was spared of this ritual because as the meal was nearing an end a chap came with a kettle of warm water and started filling the bowls. All that now we had to do was to dip our foodridden fingers into it and wash them off. Now I knew why the paper napkins were served. You don't even have to take out your handkerchief to dry your hands!

Walking back home I mulled over the changes that have creeped in at the wedding lunch. There were no tables once — you had to squat on the floor if you wanted to eat, even if you had arthritis. Now hardly anyone sits on the floor. First came just the tables then someone introduced the paper roll that is spread on the table to make it more hygienic. Sometimes a thin plastic sheet between the banana leaf and the table serves as the insulating material.

We drank water from steel tumblers; now use and throw plastic cups have taken their place. No need to clean the tumblers. Going a step ahead some well to do hosts give half a litre mineral water bottles for each invitee at the dining table. If a coconut is a must at the wedding as a takeaway item, fancy bag to carry it is also a must. Here again the budget of the host decides the quality and design. Along with the coconut betel leaves and betel nuts are unavoidable and some use a zippable small plastic pouches for packing them.

One might admire these innovations but they leave a deep hole in the pockets of the helpless bride's father who normally foots the bill. Each wedding heralds some improvisation — like paper napkins and finger bowls — and the marketing people are always thinking of ways to nullify the simple marriage concept and let it remain a mere idea. What next? I am looking forward to the next wedding invitation. Marriages may be made in heaven but the bill is picked up on the earth.








First one of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's favorite neoliberal lies - that work is the way out of poverty - was refuted by the fact that 60 percent of the poor have jobs. Then came the ongoing doctors' strike, which is exposing the next lie of Netanyahu and his fellow money and power lovers: Education is the key to getting out of the cycle of poverty, to earning a decent salary, to making headway in life.

Medicine is among the professions that demand the most education. Yet doctors' salaries in Israel range between NIS 23 and NIS 26 per hour for a young intern and NIS 42 an hour for a senior doctor. Where are all the promised advantages of education?

One after the other, professions that require many years of study are collapsing: social work, psychology, law and, of course, teaching. How can the teachers - who should be the ones passing the torch of education from one generation to the next - speak in praise of education when it is taking them to the bottom rung of the pay ladder?

You've got it right: All this is happening in the public sector. In the private sector, lawyers' salaries have gone up during the past three years by about 12 percent, and psychologists and doctors in private practice can earn very well indeed. Therefore, we are being told a lie: In Israel today, it isn't education that leads to economic well-being; it is economic well-being that leads to economic well-being. Individual health care expenses for Israeli citizens have been rising steadily since the National Health Law was passed, and today the amount Israelis pay is among the highest of all OECD countries. In other words, those who have money can obtain health care (and education ) and those who don't have money will not.

The gender issue also proves the lack of connection between education and economic security: The pay in medicine, teaching, social work and law (in terms of public-sector jobs ) went down as more women entered these professions. The status of those women has has also gone down, no matter how educated they are. In the private sector, women are earning a lot less than men. Ultra-Orthodox women can be far more educated than their husbands, but will still be subordinated to them and their rabbis, and subjected to segregation and humiliation.

Make no mistake: Netanyahu knows that education is necessary but not sufficient. In 2005 he used Russia as an example. There, the investment in education is very large, but the economy is failing because, he said, the country doesn't have a genuinely free economy. He chose to ignore the fact that it was precisely the free economy and extensive privatization that destroyed anything good in Russia - and there were good things - and made the vast majority of citizens there much worse off economically, while eliminating the excellent education system that used to exist there.

Capitalism has also turned Russia into an outstanding exporter of its finest, most educated daughters, who are sold into prostitution. In fact, the phrase "liberal capitalism" has become a notorious term of disparagement in Russia, where many people mourn the destruction of the egalitarian welfare systems that used to exist there.

What determines a citizen's standard of living and quality of life is the level of equality. Israel is among the countries with the most unequal income distribution in the world, so many of its citizens can be educated and employed, yet be in economic distress.

Israel's doctors are fighting for a health care system that used to be egalitarian and excellent. Netanyahu wants to have that just as much as he wants a Palestinian state. He must not be allowed to sell us the idea that the doctors are not our partners.






Defense Minister Ehud Barak's decision, approved by Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Benny Gantz (though Gantz recommended and Barak approved, in reality ) to promote Brig. Gen. Orna Barbivay to the rank of major general and appoint her chief of the IDF personnel directorate, has produced responses mainly in the folklore department: a small step for Eve, a giant leap for the IDF, an ornament or Barbie Doll for the chief of staff's desk.

In reality, the fig leaf that turns a brigadier general into a major general will also become a burden of proof - that Barbivay's promotion was justified in and of itself, as opposed to the product of organizational politics and a means of letting off lobbyist steam.

The expectations from her are practical, but also symbolic and her personal task will be to prove the doubters wrong.

Her superiors could have considerations other than seniority, others candidates in line for the job and military records. Defense Minister Moshe Dayan in his day sought a bereaved father for the job of chief of the personnel directorate, and drafted from the reserves Brig. Gen. Moshe Gidron.

Until the mid-1970s, and the changing of the generational guard following the Yom Kippur War, all the major generals came from the same assembly line: Ashkenazi, Jewish, non-Orthodox (except for the chief military rabbi ) males. That was the way of the world - to the extent that GOC Northern Command Yitzhak Rabin revealed his ethnic proclivities in a meeting of the General Staff in November 1958 with the participation of prime minister and Defense Minister David Ben-Gurion, Chief of Staff Haim Laskov, Defense Ministry director general Shimon Peres, Air Force commander Ezer Weizman and others. A closed club of males and competitors with much more in common than not.

The rank of major general was handed out sparingly in those days, and after a minimum period of time that sometimes seemed like the maximum. Military Intelligence chief Yehoshafat Harkabi worked hard for three years in the rank of colonel before being promoted to general officer.

Harkabi had analyzed the intelligence warning of attack by an Arab army. Without committing himself to a specific number of days, he promised there would be a warning before an Arab attack. The Arabs would not be able to surprise Israel.

"Are we not exaggerating the human inferiority of the enemy?" Ben-Gurion asked him. "No," Harkabi said. "We conducted research together with the university [the Hebrew University, there was none other at the time] and we processed the results of a questionnaire given to prisoners," referring to Egyptian prisoners from Operation Kadesh. The conclusion: the Arab weakness is not only technical, it is "internal-social."

Ben-Gurion was troubled by the pretentiousness of the major generals, confident in their Western superiority, in beliveing they could penetrate the mind of the enemy.

"Is it not a worrisome fact that only Ashkenazis are sitting here," Ben-Gurion asked. Rabin volunteered to explain why the single ethnicity of the General Staff should make them feel secure: "That is more proof that what Fati [Harkabi] said is right," Rabin said.

The arrogance in that statement was shown up in the intelligence failure vis-a-vis Egypt as early as 1960 and again in 1967 and 1973, but only in the mid-1970s and thereafter were major generals of Middle Eastern and North African extraction appointed.

Then came the turn of the Orthodox men from the combat and technology units, rather than just as officers in the military rabbinate, a Druze (in 2001 ) and now a woman.

The first Druze major general, Yosef Mishlev, is still the only one. The former chief of staff, Gabi Ashkenazi, supported Brig. Gen Kamil Abu-Rukun as coordinator of activities in the territories, but Barak prefered to promote his military secretary, Eitan Dangot.

If Barbivay succeeds she will pave the way for other women, like Brig. Gen. Ayala Hakim, commander of the communications unit Lotem, who in a few years will be the leading candidate to command the IDF communications branch. If Barbivay's work is not impressive, it will turn out that Barak and Gantz will this time have only done the minimum required.

The head of the personnel directorate was, during some periods, a key position in the military leadership, as a tool for monitoring, filtering and promoting loyalists. Tzvi Tzur filled the post on the way to the position of chief of staff.

In recent years, it has become less important. The appointment of Barbivay as head of the personnel directorate is the fifth in a row from within the directorate, following Yehuda Segev, Gil Regev, Elazar Stern and Avi Zamir, who were skilled adjutants.

She is not likely to fail any more than her predecessors, but she will have to work hard to embarrass those who say that the job and the rank had more worthy candidates.






Who said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hasn't changed? Who would have believed that the dear son of that combative family would utter indecent words like "Palestinian state" without spitting immediately after? Who would have dreamt that the prince of the right would even hint at the possibility that settlements would be evacuated? A veritable revolution. Instead of brandishing a thorn-filled club, Netanyahu is waving a fresh olive branch; he has learned that there is no better way to perpetuate the frozen peace process, expand settlements and increase his political longevity.

The prime minister is no longer the man Ehud Barak designated "Mr. No." We are now dealing with a new leader, a much more sophisticated and dangerous one. Meet "Bibi I'll Have It Both Ways."

This Netanyahu is in favor of a stable and prosperous Palestinian state and against a two-state solution on the basis of the 1967 borders with an agreed exchange of territory. He is concerned about the Jewish and democratic character of the State of Israel, and is also busy turning it into a binational state (or an apartheid state ), through his doomed and unprecedented demand that the Palestinians declare that Israel is a state for the Jewish people. He supports having Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas represent the population of Gaza in negotiations, and is opposed to the unity agreement between the Fatah government in the West Bank and the Hamas government in Gaza.

The "both ways" doctrine of the right is not new. Twenty years ago, U.S. President George H.W. Bush asked Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir to choose between expanding settlements and securing financial guarantees to help Israel take in new immigrants. The Likud leader, who was essentially dragged to the Madrid peace conference, sought to prove that it is possible to build settlements in the midst of peace talks as well as receive special assistance for the absorption of immigrants.

With the help of Jewish American political activists, Shamir rallied congressional support in his campaign against the administration. He believed that Israel's friends would bring the president to his knees. But instead of getting everything he wanted, Shamir ended up getting none of it, ending up without guarantees and out of government.

Even though he was in the midst of the struggle for his second term in office, Bush refused to abandon the fragile peace process and risk U.S. interests in the Middle East. The president defeated Congress, and Israeli voters defeated the right at the polls. When there is a leader in the White House who is willing to take political risks and makes it clear that there is a cost to trying to have it both ways, Israelis know to distinguish between the good and the bad.

But Obama enabled Netanyahu to return home from Washington without paying any political price for trying to have it both ways. Moreover, he allowed the prime minister to laugh all the way to Jerusalem over the statement that the 1967 borders, with agreed territorial exchange, should serve as the basis for negotiations. Netanyahu knows that statements that are not accompanied by political action, and which come with no bill for time lost, are worth about as much as the pledge in the 2003 road map to freeze all settlements and dismantle the outposts.

The PLO Central Committee has already decided to accept the parameters set out by Obama in his latest speeches as the basis for negotiations toward a permanent agreement, demonstrating its commitment that the reconciliation deal with Hamas does not alter its political positions. Abbas made it clear recently that negotiations on the basis of the 1967 lines and a three-month freeze in settlement construction would lead the Palestinians to abandon their effort to win support for an independent state at the United Nations in September. He also said: "In my calendar there is no October."

In other words, if serious negotiations about borders do not begin by September, in October the Palestinians will no longer agree to cooperate with Israel on either political or security matters. There will no longer be a semblance of a peace process even as Palestinian lands are stolen in broad daylight.

Obama said last week that a true friend must tell Israel the truth. A true friend has not fulfilled his obligation if all he did was describe the abyss to which Netanyahu is leading us. A true friend does everything in his power to prevent the mad rush to the abyss. The time has come to show that the emperor has no clothes, to strip the garments off the King of Having It Both Ways - before it is too late.







Without a doubt, Egypt's decision to open the Rafah crossing point is good for the inhabitants of the Gaza Strip and for the Hamas government. The question of whether it is good for Egypt remains open. As for Israel, even though at first glance it might not look that way, it is also good.

The fact that Gaza will now be directly connected to the Arab world might make it easier for Israel to untangle itself from a number of knots and a thoughtful and wise response to the new reality could make it easier to deal with the next flotilla.

Though Israel evacuated the Jewish settlements from the Gaza Strip and withdrew the Israel Defense Forces from the territory, it kept its hold on the supervision of entry and departure there by land, sea and air. After the Hamas takeover of Gaza, this external control became a blockade - which hadn't initially been included in the idea of the disengagement.

The aims of the of the blockade emerged gradually: Legitimate intentions like preventing provision of armaments to Hamas mingled here with more complex aims like a desire to topple the Hamas regime and bring about the release of Gilad Shalit.

None of these aims have been achieved and the blockade's diplomatic repercussions on Israel's international standing have never been publicly discussed. Instead of reaping the diplomatic rewards of the disengagement, Israel has been perceived as oppressing a million and a half civilians.

An absurdity has developed: Even though Israel is no longer controlling the Gaza Strip, it is viewed as responsible for the distress prevailing there. We have also reached an embarrassing situation in which a special unit has formulated a list of allowed foods for the inhabitants of Gaza - as though it were a collective prison under our control.

Thus we fell into the trap set by the organizers of the flotilla from Turkey and came across as violent occupiers, who are not only oppressing a civilian population but also killing people who try to bring them humanitarian aid.

However - and it is hard to admit this - what brought about the near-total cessation of Qassam-fire out of the Gaza Strip was Hamas' fear of another brutal Israeli military operation.

The fact that the Gaza Strip has another border - with Egypt - was forgotten and that country's cooperation with Israel in also closing its own border with the the Gaza Strip did not attract attention. Israel alone was perceived as responsible for their distress.

Now, upon the opening of the Egyptian border, the time has come to complete the disengagement from the Gaza Strip. Israel must lift the naval and air blockades and at the same time shut down entirely the land crossing points from Israel to Gaza. The Gaza Strip is enemy territory and from the moment it is open to the wider world through the Rafah crossing, all the remnants of the Israeli occupation as manifested in the naval and air blockade should be eliminated, thereby removing from us the responsibility for provisioning the Gaza Strip.

The border between Israel and Gaza should be like the border between Israel and Lebanon, and just as Israel is not imposing a naval blockade on Lebanon it should not be imposing one on Gaza.

If this policy is implemented, transferring provisions and humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip will be done through Egypt - or directly to Gaza. If the organizers of the flotilla to Gaza want to reach Gaza - you are welcome: This is none of our business. There is no Israeli blockade, and so-called human rights activists - whose only aim is to embarrass Israel - aren't bringing weapons there anyway.

Anyone who wants to bring weapons has been doing it for years via the tunnels and we haven't been able to stop that. A total disengagement could also decrease the motivation of some of the flotilla participants.

Gaza is a foreign country. It is hard to digest this, but this is the logic of the disengagement, which must now be completed. Thanks are due to Egypt for having made this possible.






Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is proud of his diplomatic achievement over the weekend: He managed to influence the concluding statement of the G8 summit in France. Netanyahu lobbied Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and convinced him to oppose a reference to the formula proposed by U.S. President Barack Obama in which the border between Israel and a Palestinian state would be based on the 1967 lines, with mutually agreed corrections.

Harper agreed with Netanyahu that there is no reason to stress the border issue and not other aspects of the Obama plan, including recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. The G8 makes it statements by consensus, and the Canadian leader's opposition was enough for the U.S. and European leaders to change the wording.

It's nice that Netanyahu found a leader of an important Western country ready to support his pronouncements, after other leaders turned him down. But Netanyahu's lobbying only brought Israel the illusion of success. Obama didn't change his position and neither did the leaders of the European Union. Even after supposedly yielding to Netanyahu's demand, they still believe that Israel should retreat from the West Bank, evacuate the settlements and allow the Palestinians to set up an independent state, with its capital in East Jerusalem.

Instead of engaging in verbal gymnastics and fiery speeches, Netanyahu should work to resolve the conflict with the Palestinians and partition the land, as he promised once again in Congress last week. The unnecessary censuring of the international community's position distracts us from the heart of the matter: changing the situation on the ground to end the occupation and provide Israel with a permanent border with an independent Palestine.

Netanyahu finds it easier and more pleasant to hold talks with Western leaders in diplomatic parlors, to indulge forever in public relations and smear the Palestinian leadership than to make vital decisions on Israel's future. Netanyahu forgot, probably, that Israel doesn't need peace with the G8, but with its Palestinian neighbors, and that it must reach out to them instead of digging in behind the claim that there is no partner.



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




Chief Justice John Roberts is one vote short of moving the Supreme Court to a position so conservative on states' rights that it would be to the right of the Tea Party's idea of limited government. That chilling possibility was evident in the court's recent ruling in the case of Virginia v. Stewart.

The principle at stake dates back to a 1908 case, Ex parte Young, in which the Supreme Court held that federal courts have a paramount role in stopping a state from violating federal law. Despite the 11th Amendment's protection of a state from being sued in federal court, all state officials must comply with federal law, which the Constitution calls "the supreme Law of the Land."

States' rights has been a politically charged concept for even longer. It was a basis for secession and then for years of Southern defiance on segregation. Now it is used as an excuse for rejecting national immigration policy.

Ex parte Young, however, has long stood above legal politics, recognized by conservatives and liberals as defining an essential rule. Indeed, last month the court relied on it in ruling that a federal court could stop a Virginia agency from violating federal statutes requiring it to provide records of mentally ill or disabled patients who had died or been injured while in its care. It was noteworthy that the opinion was by Justice Antonin Scalia.

But there was a dissent by Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. joined by Justice Samuel Alito Jr. and an opinion concurring with the majority by Justice Anthony Kennedy joined by Justice Clarence Thomas. To these four justices, there is no longer an inviolable principle that federal courts can stop state officials from violating federal law.

The Roberts view is this: By letting one Virginia agency sue another to stop it from violating federal law, the majority has permitted "precisely what sovereign immunity is supposed to guard against" — the indignity of a federal judge deciding "an internal state dispute."

The Kennedy view: While the court is right to let the lawsuit go forward, the interest served by doing so must be balanced against "the dignity and respect afforded a state" that is protected by sovereign immunity.

To understand why these opinions are threatening, it's necessary to set them in a larger context. The Rehnquist court made states' rights a central concern, especially sovereign immunity. Its vision was resolute, with a series of 5-to-4 votes won by conservatives limiting the power of Congress to subject states to state lawsuits and federal administrative proceedings as well as federal suits.

Yet Chief Justice William Rehnquist didn't waiver from the view that it is not a breach of sovereign immunity to allow a suit against a state official alleged to be violating federal law, because if he is violating it, he is not acting with the state's sovereign authority.

The April ruling was the first dealing with the topic by the Roberts court. Justice Kennedy has proposed the same unwarranted balancing before. But it is disquieting news that Chief Justice Roberts seems to endorse it, as if there were a state sovereign interest to balance where Supreme Courts for a century have seen none. That puts Justice Roberts and Justice Alito notably to the right of the Rehnquist court. If the chief justice gets a fifth vote, there will be no apparent check, like the federal law's supremacy, against gutting Ex parte Young.







MOST Americans know that Memorial Day is about honoring the nation's war dead. It is also a holiday devoted to department store sales, half-marathons, picnics, baseball and auto racing. But where did it begin, who created it, and why?

At the end of the Civil War, Americans faced a formidable challenge: how to memorialize 625,000 dead soldiers, Northern and Southern. As Walt Whitman mused, it was "the dead, the dead, the dead — our dead — or South or North, ours all" that preoccupied the country. After all, if the same number of Americans per capita had died in Vietnam as died in the Civil War, four million names would be on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, instead of 58,000.

Officially, in the North, Memorial Day emerged in 1868 when the Grand Army of the Republic, the Union veterans' organization, called on communities to conduct grave-decorating ceremonies. On May 30, funereal events attracted thousands of people at hundreds of cemeteries in countless towns, cities and mere crossroads. By the 1870s, one could not live in an American town, North or South, and be unaware of the spring ritual.

But the practice of decorating graves — which gave rise to an alternative name, Decoration Day — didn't start with the 1868 events, nor was it an exclusively Northern practice. In 1866 the Ladies' Memorial Association of Columbus, Ga., chose April 26, the anniversary of Gen. Joseph Johnston's final surrender to Gen. William T. Sherman, to commemorate fallen Confederate soldiers. Later, both May 10, the anniversary of Gen. Stonewall Jackson's death, and June 3, the birthday of Jefferson Davis, were designated Confederate Memorial Day in different states.

Memorial Days were initially occasions of sacred bereavement, and from the war's end to the early 20th century they helped forge national reconciliation around soldierly sacrifice, regardless of cause. In North and South, orators and participants frequently called Memorial Day an "American All Saints Day," likening it to the European Catholic tradition of whole towns marching to churchyards to honor dead loved ones.

But the ritual quickly became the tool of partisan memory as well, at least through the violent Reconstruction years. In the South, Memorial Day was a means of confronting the Confederacy's defeat but without repudiating its cause. Some Southern orators stressed Christian notions of noble sacrifice. Others, however, used the ritual for Confederate vindication and renewed assertions of white supremacy. Blacks had a place in this Confederate narrative, but only as time-warped loyal slaves who were supposed to remain frozen in the past.

The Lost Cause tradition thrived in Confederate Memorial Day rhetoric; the Southern dead were honored as the true "patriots," defenders of their homeland, sovereign rights, a natural racial order and a "cause" that had been overwhelmed by "numbers and resources" but never defeated on battlefields.

Yankee Memorial Day orations often righteously claimed the high ground of blood sacrifice to save the Union and destroy slavery. It was not uncommon for a speaker to honor the fallen of both sides, but still lay the war guilt on the "rebel dead." Many a lonely widow or mother at these observances painfully endured expressions of joyous death on the altars of national survival.

Some events even stressed the Union dead as the source of a new egalitarian America, and a civic rather than a racial or ethnic definition of citizenship. In Wilmington, Del., in 1869, Memorial Day included a procession of Methodists, Baptists, Unitarians and Catholics; white Grand Army of the Republic posts in parade with a black post; and the "Mount Vernon Cornet Band (colored)" keeping step with the "Irish Nationalists with the harp and the sunburst flag of Erin."

But for the earliest and most remarkable Memorial Day, we must return to where the war began. By the spring of 1865, after a long siege and prolonged bombardment, the beautiful port city of Charleston, S.C., lay in ruin and occupied by Union troops. Among the first soldiers to enter and march up Meeting Street singing liberation songs was the 21st United States Colored Infantry; their commander accepted the city's official surrender.

Whites had largely abandoned the city, but thousands of blacks, mostly former slaves, had remained, and they conducted a series of commemorations to declare their sense of the meaning of the war.

The largest of these events, forgotten until I had some extraordinary luck in an archive at Harvard, took place on May 1, 1865. During the final year of the war, the Confederates had converted the city's Washington Race Course and Jockey Club into an outdoor prison. Union captives were kept in horrible conditions in the interior of the track; at least 257 died of disease and were hastily buried in a mass grave behind the grandstand.

After the Confederate evacuation of Charleston black workmen went to the site, reburied the Union dead properly, and built a high fence around the cemetery. They whitewashed the fence and built an archway over an entrance on which they inscribed the words, "Martyrs of the Race Course."

The symbolic power of this Low Country planter aristocracy's bastion was not lost on the freedpeople, who then, in cooperation with white missionaries and teachers, staged a parade of 10,000 on the track. A New York Tribune correspondent witnessed the event, describing "a procession of friends and mourners as South Carolina and the United States never saw before."

The procession was led by 3,000 black schoolchildren carrying armloads of roses and singing the Union marching song "John Brown's Body." Several hundred black women followed with baskets of flowers, wreaths and crosses. Then came black men marching in cadence, followed by contingents of Union infantrymen. Within the cemetery enclosure a black children's choir sang "We'll Rally Around the Flag," the "Star-Spangled Banner" and spirituals before a series of black ministers read from the Bible.

After the dedication the crowd dispersed into the infield and did what many of us do on Memorial Day: enjoyed picnics, listened to speeches and watched soldiers drill. Among the full brigade of Union infantrymen participating were the famous 54th Massachusetts and the 34th and 104th United States Colored Troops, who performed a special double-columned march around the gravesite.

The war was over, and Memorial Day had been founded by African-Americans in a ritual of remembrance and consecration. The war, they had boldly announced, had been about the triumph of their emancipation over a slaveholders' republic. They were themselves the true patriots.

Despite the size and some newspaper coverage of the event, its memory was suppressed by white Charlestonians in favor of their own version of the day. From 1876 on, after white Democrats took back control of South Carolina politics and the Lost Cause defined public memory and race relations, the day's racecourse origin vanished.

Indeed, 51 years later, the president of the Ladies' Memorial Association of Charleston received an inquiry from a United Daughters of the Confederacy official in New Orleans asking if it was true that blacks had engaged in such a burial rite in 1865; the story had apparently migrated westward in community memory. Mrs. S. C. Beckwith, leader of the association, responded tersely, "I regret that I was unable to gather any official information in answer to this."

Beckwith may or may not have known about the 1865 event; her own "official" story had become quite different and had no place for the former slaves' march on their masters' racecourse. In the struggle over memory and meaning in any society, some stories just get lost while others attain mainstream recognition.

AS we mark the Civil War's sesquicentennial, we might reflect on Frederick Douglass's words in an 1878 Memorial Day speech in New York City, in which he unwittingly gave voice to the forgotten Charleston marchers.

He said the war was not a struggle of mere "sectional character," but a "war of ideas, a battle of principles." It was "a war between the old and the new, slavery and freedom, barbarism and civilization ... and in dead earnest for something beyond the battlefield." With or against Douglass, we still debate the "something" that the Civil War dead represent.

The old racetrack is gone, but an oval roadway survives on the site in Hampton Park, named for Wade Hampton, former Confederate general and the governor of South Carolina after the end of Reconstruction. The old gravesite of the Martyrs of the Race Course is gone too; they were reinterred in the 1880s at a national cemetery in Beaufort, S.C.

But the event is no longer forgotten. Last year I had the great honor of helping a coalition of Charlestonians, including the mayor, Joseph P. Riley, dedicate a marker to this first Memorial Day by a reflecting pool in Hampton Park.

By their labor, their words, their songs and their solemn parade on their former owners' racecourse, black Charlestonians created for themselves, and for us, the Independence Day of a Second American Revolution.

David W. Blight, a professor of history and the director of the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance and Abolition at Yale, is the author of the forthcoming "American Oracle: The Civil War in the Civil Rights Era."






The Arizona immigration law was controversial from the beginning. Critics said it was ripe for abuse, implicitly discriminatory and probably unconstitutional as well. Business groups and liberal activists joined forces to oppose it.

But now that it's been implemented, it might just be a model for nationwide reform.

No, I'm not talking about the Arizona law that empowers local police to check the immigration status of anyone they detain, which generated a wave of boycotts and a surfeit of Gestapo analogies last spring. I mean the 2007 Arizona law requiring businesses to confirm their employees' legal status with the federal E-Verify database, which was upheld last week in a 5-to-3 decision by the United States Supreme Court.

The E-Verify law was never as polarizing as last year's police-powers legislation, but it still attracted plenty of opposition. Arizona business interests called it unfair and draconian. (An employer's business license is suspended for the first offense and revoked for the second.) Civil liberties groups argued that the E-Verify database's error rate is unacceptably high, and that the law creates a presumptive bias against hiring Hispanics.

If these arguments sound familiar, it's because similar critiques are always leveled against any attempt to actually enforce America's immigration laws. From the border to the workplace, immigration enforcement is invariably depicted as terribly harsh, hopelessly expensive and probably racist into the bargain.

Not to mention counterproductive: advocates for "comprehensive" reform, the holy grail of liberal Democrats and moderate Republicans alike, have long implied that it's essentially impossible to prevent illegal immigrants from finding their way to eager employers. Instead, they argue, we have no choice but to ratify the status quo — i.e., mass low-skilled immigration from Mexico and Central America — by creating a vast new guest-worker program and offering citizenship to illegal immigrants already here.

So far, though, Arizona's E-Verify law seems to be providing a strong counterpoint to this counsel of despair. According to a recent study from the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California, the legislation reduced Arizona's population of working-age illegal immigrants by about 17 percent, or roughly 92,000 people, in just a single year. (This effect was entirely distinct from the Great Recession's broader impact on immigration, the study argues.) And the swift attrition was mainly achieved through voluntary compliance: the number of employers prosecuted under the law can be counted on one hand.

These results suggest that maybe — just maybe — America's immigration rate isn't determined by forces beyond any lawmaker's control. Maybe public policy can make a difference after all. Maybe we could have an immigration system that looked as if it were designed on purpose, not embraced in a fit of absence of mind.

At least in the short term, there's no good reason for such a system to include any kind of amnesty. This was a dubious idea even during the last decade's economic boom. It would be folly (and a political nonstarter) in this economic climate, which has left Americans without high school diplomas (who tend to lose out from low-skilled immigration) facing a 15 percent unemployment rate.

But eschewing amnesty doesn't require shutting down immigration. Quite the opposite: With increased enforcement (to date, only a few states have Arizona-style E-Verify laws on the books, though the Obama White House seems to be stepping up prosecutions of employers), the United States could welcome as many immigrants as we do today. But instead of shrugging as low-skilled workers jump the border to compete with the struggling American working class, our immigration policy should focus on recruiting well-educated migrants, opening the door to greater legal immigration from Asia, Africa and Europe.

As it happens, a system along these lines exists right now — in Canada. A recent report from the Manhattan Institute found that the United States still assimilates immigrants more successfully than many Western European countries. But culturally and economically, we lag well behind our northern neighbor when it comes to integrating new arrivals.

In part, this is because Canada fast-tracks immigrants to citizenship. But it's also because Canada does more to recruit highly educated émigrés than the United States — and the Dominion's more international, geographically diverse immigrant population probably discourages balkanization and self-segregation. (No single country or region dominates Canada's immigration numbers to the extent that Mexico and the rest of Latin America dominate immigration to the United States.)

The result is a system that welcomes newcomers but serves the national interest as well. America isn't close to that sweet spot at the moment, but it's what we should be aiming for. By learning from Arizona, and becoming more like Canada, we might finally have an immigration policy worthy of the U.S.A.









Nowadays, a new wave of domestic turmoil is allegedly threatening Georgia's political stability. Last week's popular protest against President Mikhail Saakashvili, organized by one of his previous comrades-in-arms, former parliamentary speaker Nino Burjanadze, demanded his immediate ouster.

The demonstrations immediately attracted the attention of the international public, which has been engrossed in recent popular uprisings in the Middle East. A certain segment of the Western media, for instance, particularly those who basically follow the events from their offices in Moscow, was not late in describing the demonstration as the latest Arab spring wave and one set to sweep through the former Soviet republics.

Burjanadze, too, plays to this card. She accuses Saakashvili of monopolizing political power in Georgia and claims that a "new revolution" has inevitably started in Georgia. The fact that the rallies were launched to thwart the annual Independence Day parade in one of the main squares of Tbilisi suggests that the opposition is trying to create a kind of "Tahrir Square effect" in the country. The organizers of the protest have indeed declared that they are modeling their actions on the popular uprisings that swept the Middle East recently.

Since his rise to power on a wave of democratic optimism during the famous 2003 "Rose Revolution" that toppled Eduard Shevardnadze, I have been following Saakashvili with mixed feelings. On the one hand, I appreciate his reforms, first and foremost his vivid fight against corruption. I traveled through almost all the ex-Soviet countries and have closely observed that it was this institutionalized daily-life phenomenon that raised many people's hackles.

On the other hand, however, I have been critical of Saakashvili's semi-authoritarian tendencies and overdosed self-confidence, best exemplified by his attempt to solve the impasse in the Abkhazian and South Ossetian problems by military means. Indeed, in those days his decision to resort to force was a kind of self-destruction. It was very clear that Russia, due to the Kosovo crisis, would respond extremely harshly. Those who sincerely want to find out what led Saakashvili to take such a decision need to look to the commitments he was given by the neo-cons of the George W. Bush administration, particularly by then Vice President Dick Cheney. 

I still believe, nevertheless, that reservations similar to those of mine are not enough to demand his resignation. And more importantly, to compare what is going on in Georgia with the recent popular uprisings in the Middle East is nothing more than nonsense. The reasons are very simple:

The driving force for change in the Middle East has sprung from youth motivated by a lack of hope, as well as disgust. Yet those who took part in the recent demonstrations in Georgia are older people, struggling to cope with low pensions and rising prices. The heart of their beef with the president is the accusation that he has failed to tackle poverty. In contrast, the Georgian youth find their hope in Saakashvili and they are somehow embedded with the regime. Neither they nor the newly emerging middle class want a return to the political instability or corruption that plagued the country before Saakashvili rose to power.

And more importantly, the popular uprisings in the Middle East arose from a deep ground swell. It was spontaneous. The "new revolution" in Georgia, in turn, is one designed from the top. It seems to be compulsive. Accordingly, opposition in Georgia lacks credibility among ordinary Georgians. They are divided. For instance, several opposition parties refused to take part in Burjanadze's protest.

There is one final trait that needs to be emphasized: In the course of several visits to Georgia, I have closely observed how nationalistic the Georgian people, the youth in particular, are. As long as there is Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, whose sword of Damocles hangs above the head of Mr. Saakashvili, the Georgian people will continue to rally around their president. I mean, who would be particularly happy to see their president "hung by his balls" by a leader of another country, as Putin so colorfully put his intentions during the war of August 2008.






You could not miss it even if you wanted to. Stuck in an endless line of cars leading to the Bosphorus Bridge almost on a daily basis, you have no other choice but to keep yourself busy with other pastimes: looking at the slopes of fresh green grass on the side of the motorway, admiring the spring flowers where tulips in all conceivable colors make up the overall majority; gaze at groups of people obviously nostalgic about their villages, enjoying themselves just by sitting on the grass and gazing at the endless army of cars stuck in first gear in the morning traffic.

And if you've done all that and have gotten dead bored having visited every radio station, your eyes will inevitably wander around some more and probably alight upon a space that has become very popular for advertising in recent times: a small framed surface underneath the street lights that usually host ads from the Istanbul Municipality.

Being utterly frustrated at having again miscalculated the time I needed to cross the first bridge, I noticed the other day the latest announcement on that small ad space underneath the city lights on the side of the street: "558. Yılı Kutlu Olsun" (Happy 558th Anniversary).

It has been 558 years since Constantinople fell to the Ottomans and to their 21-year-old ingenious leader Mehmet II. Already a depopulated capital of a devastated empire, Constantinople could not survive the onslaught of the new, much-larger army of the Ottomans. It was the last act of a drama that had started perhaps two centuries earlier. So far I understand.

But I have a problem with historical anachronisms. They blur the past for the sake of the present. The fall of Constantinople and its replacement with Istanbul as the capital of the Ottoman Empire is a historical fact which has been the subject of a great number of historians all over the world. They have researched and written about the reasons of its collapse as the capital of the Byzantine Empire and the reasons for its rise as the capital of the new regional superpower, the Ottomans. This is a fascinating subject which continues to offer a wealth of new information as archaeological work unearths more fascinating evidence. Istanbul does not only have a dynamic present, it also has a dynamic past.

My objection with this year's anniversary-and every year's anniversary during the last decade or so, is its ceremonial aspect. On Sunday, May 29 – the actual date of the event which took place in 1453 – major ceremonial enactments of the final battles before the end of the siege six centuries ago took place. Hundreds of Turkish extras dressed as Muslim Ottomans and Orthodox Christians fought in full fake weaponry in the presence of thousands of spectators. The modern Fatih mounting his white horse entered the city under the powerful sound of the Ottoman military bands and the expensive fireworks brightened the night in the memory of the real fires of destruction and victory all those centuries ago.

With an Islamically rooted political party in power in Turkey for almost a decade and with the same party about to return to power in a few weeks' time, I can understand the boost of Ottoman nostalgia as a means to gather more support. But if the conquest of perhaps one of the most beautiful cities in the world was so important to the conquerors, then I would have thought that the preservation of its history and cultural texture should have been equally important. To be also the keeper and protector of Istanbul's pre-conquest past should be, I would have thought, not only a show of respect but also of cultural maturity. I know I am unrealistic or impractical but I would still put forward my idea for replacing next year's "Istanbul Fetih Kutlamaları" with "Istanbul Kutlamaları" as a celebration for the city itself as one of the oldest urban monuments of mankind.

Perhaps not next year, but at least some time in the future. For this year, though, I will have to limit myself to a bit of gastronomic history as offered by an imaginative restaurant in the area of Sultanahmet, which has announced that this year "Between May 13 and June 3, for the 558th anniversary of the Conquest of Istanbul, our restaurant, next door to the Hagia Sophia and Topkapı Palace, will be serving Ottoman Imperial Court dishes from the table of Sultan Mehmed." 

But it might prove to be a gastronomic disappointment because the late Stefanos Yerasimos, who wrote a book on royal Ottoman recipes in the 16th century, once said, "I tried to cook those dishes, but I must say they were not suitable to our modern palates." He had added that the recipes lacked all those products like potatoes, tomatoes and eggplants that did not appear until the discovery of America. Ottomans used a lot of meat and honey in their recipes.







You might have heard of the "Great March of Anatolia." A handful of volunteers from 11 different points of Anatolia and Thrace set out on the road to raise awareness against the country's deregulated, careless, developmentalist nightmare. The colorful march of people, camels and donkeys reached the suburbs of Ankara on May 20 but they were banned from entering the city by the police state. The marchers have been kept at a roadside empty lot at the 24th kilometer of the Ankara-Konya highway. Civil society, not to mention the right to peaceful demonstration, has been blockaded at Gölbaşı, like all other NGOs elsewhere which are not in line with the government's actions.

The marchers, however, are voicing simple facts that are acceptable by all: "We could not remain silent against the destruction of our centuries-old cultural heritage. We set out on the road to protest wrongful energy and development policies that see our natural assets as a way to earn personal benefits and to keep our nature and culture, which are about to be destroyed. We could not shut our eyes to the ill-treatment of our creeks and rivers by hydroelectric power plants, our mountains by mining firms, our forests by field plunderers, our fresh air by nuclear and thermal power stations, our domestic seeds by hybrid and GMO seeds, and our animals by imported breeds."

An ambitious and limitless development target set by the governing Justice and Development Party, or AKP, which very much overlaps with the ruling party's "mastership" period, lies ahead of Turkey. The conservative AKP is revolutionary when it comes to nature conservation! The natural and cultural destruction we have begun to see prototypes of in various regions of the country will grow concurrently with the AKP's "ever-growing Turkey."

Similar development moves were made in developed countries in past centuries in the wildest ways. But it is now impossible to impose similar methods on human societies at a time when nature no room left to accommodate the developmental frenzy.  

Environmental awareness?

Aside from the constitutional and legal regulations to be made, there is a lot to be done on the issue of environmental awareness and consciousness. The Environment Report by professors Ali Çarkoğlu and Ersin Kalaycıoğlu that was recently released should be read as new evidence of how hazardously we are treating environmental awareness. But the worst are the obstacles placed in front of environmental awareness – as seen by the police action banning marchers from entering Ankara.

Another striking example: It is no secret that the dense industrial activity in the northwestern province of Kocaeli causes harm to both human and animal health, as well as the environment. According to information at, research published by Professor Onur Hamzaoğlu a few years ago titled "Causes of Death for People Living in Dense Industrial Areas" laid out the excessive nature of cancer-related deaths.

Dr. Hamzaoğlu shared his research with scientists and politicians. But the minute he publicly said, "Forget about blood and slop, we have come across zinc, iron, aluminum, lead and cadmium in breast milk. The danger is big," the doctor faced trouble. The court case filed by local administrations against Hamzaoğlu for causing panic among the population was sent to the university administration by the office of the prosecutor. If Kocaeli University gives permission, Dr. Hamzaoğlu will go to trial facing two-to-four years in prison for his research. A protest will be organized this week to support him but also for the sake of children, living creatures and nature.

Now let's turn to the legal framework. Articles on the rights of other living creatures and nature are rarely seen in the constitutions of countries. But on the other hand, sensitivity in this regard is a global obligation. The Green Party recently shared an array of views that came out of the Ecological Constitution Conference held on May 15 that focused on "seeking ecological rights in the new constitution."

To define the right of nature and to describe nature as a subject of rights is not an easy task. It's been stressed that it would be more concrete if the protection of nature is defined in the Constitution as a public responsibility and a civic duty as humans are the ones both destroying and cleaning nature. Similarly, the concept of "crimes against cities" is being discussed as a way to watch over cities that are under assault.

A Turkish society that wants to get rid of a state-oriented constitution and adopt a human-oriented supreme charter needs to consider an ecosystem-oriented charter.

All social theories were built so as to change the world; from now on, however, they will have to focus on the conservation of the world.







The question of what exactly President Barack Obama wanted to achieve by his Middle East speech was on everybody's mind in Washington last week, which was filled by Israel related events. Obama's speech on the Middle East and "shocking" 1967 lines reference created a political earthquake between him and Israeli right wing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu along with conservative Jewish-Americans, many of whom I talked with during the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC's annual conference in Washington.

The AIPAC crowd was not only woeful with Obama's rhetoric but also was disturbed by repercussions of the Arab Spring across the region in addition to serious signals about the possibility of the peaceful protests' arrival into Palestine. These vexations subjoined by the fear of loosing regional allies left and right were clearly reflected on Netanyahu's body language at the White House, while lecturing Obama in front of a whole world.

Turkey was also another source of exasperation among the AIPAC crowd, which was lengthily discussed in two AIPAC panels. Robert Wexler, a former co-chair of the Turkish Caucus at the Congress, therefore had two extremely difficult tasks at the conference; to defend Obama's speech against mostly wrathful audience, and explain the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, leadership to some other ireful listeners as not a total "enemy," an observation, which Wexler only laughed at when I conveyed to him during post-panel conversation.

There certainly seems to be a "Turkey" problem for Israel, though it increasingly appears from Washington that the United States administration has been settling for a "modus vivendi" with "fretful" Turkish administration, by mainly pursuing a case by case approach in the relations. 

Dr. Anne-Marie Slaughter, director of the Policy Planning at the State Department until just a few weeks ago, as the first woman to fulfill the position in U.S. history, in an interview after Netanyahu's theatrical joint session of Congress address on Tuesday, stated Turkey did not exactly live up to the expectations of Washington as a regional partner in last two years, citing primarily the Tehran Reactor Deal, in which she refused to elaborate how exactly the accident happened. 

On Syria, Slaughter sees the Turkish diplomatic efforts to persuade Assad regime so far "ineffective... since Syria is still continuing its violence against its people," though she believes that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu "have a real opportunity to exercise regional leadership here."

Ankara so far neither went far enough to join the West in sanctions against Assad regime, nor was able to stay indifferent to Damascus' brutal crackdown on its civilians. In result, neither Damascus nor the West has come to appreciate its efforts.

Views greatly vary over what constitutes 'naivete' or "foresight" for Turkey's Syrian policy. One "realist" Turkey and Middle East expert this week was seeking an answer behind what the expert called Turkey's "unrealist" policy towards Syria, arguing that "since the basic power structures of the Syrian regime are strong and civilian protests are over-blown by the Western media," why then does Ankara push Assad into Iran's arms and demolishes decade long political and economic investments there?

What is taking place is probably the following: While S. Arabia, by large, is taking the lead of the counterrevolution forces in the region, the discussions continues in Ankara whether to take a lead of the "pro-change" forces during "the fourth wave of democratization," as Slaughter calls the Arab Revolution, and this indecisive state of Turkish mind produces half-measured and thankless policies. "All previous waves of democratization have resulted in more democracies overall, those countries that make it, that cast off dictatorship and succeed in electing governments… over time they will also make the Middle East a more stable, peaceful, and prosperous region," said Slaughter.

It is not only the Arab world but also Turkey has a tough road ahead. While the Arab world will live through upheavals, Turkey will undertake a historic mission to write its own, civilian Constitution following the June elections, deal with the Kurdish reality head-on and witness if the Ergenekon trials will do a just, so Turkey can start its normal life.

Slaughter warned, "The world is watching Turkey particularly in light of all the turmoil across the Middle East. Can Turkey continue to provide a model of a democracy, which embraces pluralism, tolerance, and basic human rights, including freedom of expression, in a Muslim-majority country? If it can, it will play an increasingly important role in 21st century politics. But if it fractures along religious-secular, civil-military, urban-rural, or democratic-autocratic lines in ways, which fail to integrate universal human rights with religious parties in a true democracy, it will lose its leadership position."

Indeed, in the post-election period, it is Turkey who will have to update its own democratic credentials by creating such an inclusive constitution so it can lead by its own example in an evermore democratized region.

If the Turkish leadership cannot get these vital issues right, I am afraid, or confident, that we will witness the spirit of the Arab Spring begin with startling splashes in many corners of Turkey.

That is why, there is no other way for Ankara but to set audaciously a sample for best democratic norms, for its and region's future.






I was bombarded by an organized group of "tweeters" yesterday urging me to lend an eye to their problems. I must say they were so organized but gentle that though I pretended not to read what they wrote soon I found myself tweeting with them. They were what I call the slave-teachers.

The term may appear awkward, but indeed that's perhaps the best description I may find for them. These people are teachers who work for public schools without proper contracts. They have limited social security and social rights and no job guarantee. They earn a meager monthly salary – often less than the minimum pay – the amount of which varies from province to province.

Thus, today's column is composed of tweets from those contracted slave-teachers who were frustrated with repeated assurances of the prime minister and consecutive education ministers that they would be given full civil servant status. They were hoping to generate sufficient pressure on the government so that they might be officially appointed as teachers before the forthcoming June 12 elections. Awkward as it is, these young teachers were right in developing such an expectation given the fact that the government is reported to have been preparing to recruit soon some 300 of these contracted teachers.

Main complaints

As I managed to gather from the tweets of contracted teachers, these are some of the dominant complaints:

- There are sharp social security, social rights and pay differences between appointed teachers and contracted teachers. For example a contracted teacher cannot benefit from maternity pay.

- Contracts are for a fixed period. There is no guarantee of employment once the contract period is over. Appointed teachers have job guarantee.

- Contracted teachers cannot assume administrative or inspection duties.

- Unlike appointed teachers, they do not receive any sort of seniority pay.

- Parents of students don't take contracted teachers seriously. "Teacher you are on a contract!" has become the most hated sentence. Even students treat contracted teachers as if they were just passersby.

- Salaries of contracted teachers are not paid regularly on the 15th of every month like appointed teachers. Often they wait until 23rd or 24th of the month to get their pay.

- Contracted teachers cannot advance in their profession and even if they serve for many years, they are treated and get paid as if they just started the job.

- As they have no job security and thus have no idea about their future, contracted teachers have difficulty building their own lives, getting married. Families [as claimed] refuse to accept marriage of their daughters with contracted teachers [Are they all men?]. Banks are refusing loans to contracted teachers as they have no job guarantee and thus no guarantee they may pay back their debts. Though its implementation has been suspended for now by the Council of State, the contract specifically underlines that either the "contracted teacher" or the Education Ministry may terminate the contract with 30-day notice without citing any reason.

- If the Education Ministry appoints someone to the post in which the contracted teacher has been serving, then the contract is nullified. Thus, there is no job security.

- Now, they are trying to silence contracted teachers with a pledge saying, "Wait, once elections are over, we shall appoint you!" However, many of them will boycott the elections.

Main demands

Again as I gathered from the tweets of contracted teachers, they have two main demands:

1. To appoint all contracted teachers and put a full stop to this awkward practice.

2. Apply the same employment, social rights and of course equal pay to contracted teachers as well and terminate the "slave-teacher" practice.

Of course, if appointed and contracted teachers will have the same rights and payment – which indeed ought to be the case – then is there any reason in continuing this absurd duality and discriminative policy or non-policy in education?

As I said, I just tried to summarize what has been tweeted to me by contracted teachers.






I was on a plane from Istanbul to the southeastern province of Diyarbakır recently.

My intention was to join the Freedom Train (Hürriyet Treni) of the daily Hürriyet in Diyarbakır.

Let me explain at this point that the train had set out on the road for missions such as taking the pulse of Turkey in advance of the June 12 election, lending an ear to local administrators and politicians as well as NGOs while allowing children to enjoy theater plays.

You should see what big attention was paid to the train since the moment it arrived at the station.

Anyway, let me go back to the Diyarbakır plane. I was surrounded by leading names.

Right in front of me, renowned, best-selling author Ayşe Kulin was sitting as the famous poet Murathan Mungan in addition to Mario Levi and Nazlı Eray was behind me.

A few seats in front of me, one of the leading names in restoration, architect Professor Zeynep Ahunbay and her archeologist husband, Metih Ahunbay, were sitting.

Other than authors, architects and archaeologists, academics, journalists and businessmen were on board, too.

Even this picture alone is an indicator showing how fast Diyarbakır has made progress in being one of the most vivid, dynamic and assertive cities in Turkey.

The authors I mentioned here were the guests of the TÜYAP Book Fair, which was being held in Diyarbakır for the second time and visited by over 100,000 book-lovers.

Tourist potential

The number of authors that participated in the fair was around 300.

Zeynep Ahunbay told me that she and her husband were on their way to Diyarbakır for the restoration of the one of the most important aspects of cultural heritage in Diyarbakır, the Ulu Cami, or Great Mosque.

Transformed from a church into a mosque in 639 A.D., the premises is one of the oldest in Anatolia.

However, it has gone through a few "unfortunate" restoration phases, just like the Diyarbakır city walls.

As I said, Diyarbakır is on its way to becoming one of the most ambitious cities. But Diyarbakır Mayor Osman Baydemir coming to visit the Hürriyet Train said the province did not have rail lines to connect with other important cities in the region while the infrastructure of the organized industrial zone had yet to be completed.

And the most important deficiency in the city is a civilian international airport.

If a businessperson from Diyarbakır, which has increasing trade with Iraq, wants to go to the city of Arbil in northern Iraq, s/he has to go to Istanbul for a transit flight.

In other words, a 6-7 hour travel by car takes about the same time by plane.

If an international airport is opened in Diyarbakır, the city promises to have an enormous tourism potential.

The biggest Armenian church in the Middle East is in Diyarbakır, said the mayor, adding that the city could attract 5 million tourists.

If correct farming and stockbreeding policies are followed, the city could possibly turn into a strategic food center, according to Remzi Can, head of the Diyarbakır Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

One of his sons is at the mountain and the other is in military service

The Diyarbakır-Urfa Stockfarming Organized Zone, which will come into service this summer, is a critical step for the development of stockbreeding.

In short, the people of Diyarbakır seem hopeful about the future economic potential of their city.

But on the other side of the coin, peace is delayed as the Kurdish conflict still exists despite the initiatives.

One of the first visitors of the train, Abdullah Demirtaş, mayor of the township of Sur, gave an example to show a tragic aspect of the Kurdish question.

Demirtaş stood trial for using some letters in Kurdish alphabet such as "w, q and x" in the books published in Kurdish since the municipality provides services in Turkish, Kurdish, Armenian and Syriac.

"Because of this unjust case my 16-year-old son headed to the mountain," said Demirtaş, who has not heard from him at the Kandil Mountain for two years while he is preparing to send his other son for military service.

One son is in the mountains while the other is due for military service.

"We are the last generation to be involved in negotiation. The next generation is pressuring us. We are living in days when grandfathers follow in the steps of their grandsons. We have to understand each other and have to have empathy for each other. An ember burns where it falls," Baydemir said.

To understand the Kurdish impasse better, you should definitely go see Diyarbakır.







The arrest of Ratko Mladic and his possible eventual extradition to the International Criminal Court in The Hague to be tried for unspeakable war crimes is an important event. The Balkan wars that followed the breakup of Yugoslavia at the end of the last century were as bloody and brutal as any ever fought in Europe. They were fuelled by rabid nationalism and intolerance, and both are exemplified in the figure of Ratko Mladic. He it was that presided over the Srebrenica massacre, when over 7000 men and boys, all Muslims, were butchered over a period of several days almost under the noses of the Dutch UN force that was supposed to protect them. It was the worst case of mass-murder in Europe since the Second World War. Many Serb nationalists still see Mladic as a hero-figure and there have been small-scale protests at his arrest.

Mladic had lived in hiding for much of the last 16 years, protected by powerful networks of supporters. There are strong suspicions that the Serbian government had known where he was for years, but chose not to move on him. Eventually international pressure became too much. Serbia wanted to join the European Union. The EU was having none of it unless Mladic was arrested. A deadline was approaching and realpolitik trumped nationalism – Mladic was duly arrested and now awaits extradition. The crimes he will be tried for relate very specifically to the Muslim populations who lived in Serbia at the time of the war. Ethnic and religious divisions have riven the Balkans for centuries, and still do. Today the region is at peace, fragile in places, more durable in others. Inevitably, analysts and commentators have drawn parallels between Mladic and Osama bin Laden. Both had their "supporters". Both tapped into powerful religious streams that fostered schism and violent change. One is dead, the other about to go through a justice process that will be lengthy, thorough, very public and transparent. Evidence will be presented, examined, challenged. Questions will be answered. A verdict delivered. Eventually there will be a sense of closure. But with Osama bin Laden, we have none of these things. Questions are going to be eternally unanswered, evidence unseen and closure forever denied to many that seek it. Justice may have been late in arriving at Mladic's doorstep but arrive it did, and we can only speculate on what might have been the outcome had it arrived in similar manner at the door of Osama bin Laden.







Recently a lady lecturer was detained by the Islamabad Airport Police for an entire night. Her crime: she dared question the driving etiquette of a major of the Pakistan Army who called the Islamabad Military Police and ordered her arrest without charge or FIR. Lady constables only arrived at the scene after the media learnt about the incident the following morning. When asked under what law the lecturer was kept in custody all night, the SHO of the airport police station, Rawalpindi, only smiled. The woman had written an application of protest the night of her arrest; it was made part of her record but was retracted the next morning when both parties 'agreed' not to proceed further with the disagreement.

The incident has caught the imagination of a public which has long complained of the tendency of armed forces officers to step out of line with civilians. There have been occasions in the past too where personnel from the armed forces violated discipline and chose to take the law into their own hands on strictly personal grounds. This tendency must not be condoned by the top brass who need to take swift and firm action against those who abuse their positions. Incidents of this nature can only harm the image of the armed forces, already taking a bruising following the recent events in Abbottabad and Karachi. The public belief, right or wrong, that the armed forces can get away with anything without being taken to task must be countered by strong action and accountability. This is as true of major national debacles such as the Osama affair and the PNS Mehran attack as it is of acts by individual officers, such as the recent incident involving the lady lecturer. The nature and seriousness of these incidents may be very different but the common denominator is often the same: many army officers consider any check on even genuine transgressions a personal affront and get away with anything with little more than the conviction that they just can. In these difficult times, the army urgently needs to tackle this impression. As things stand today, major attitudinal changes are required – quite apart from changes in the army's institutional thinking – to strengthen people's trust.






Alternative energy and energy saving devices – apart from the ubiquitous light bulbs – have struggled to catch the imagination and attention of government and public alike. Energy saving bulbs have, in the last few years, largely replaced the old heat-generating and power-hungry bulbs of yore and we all are the better for it. But other energy savers and the development of alternative forms of power generation have lagged behind. It is now being suggested by the chief of the Alternate Energy Development Board that we explore the construction of energy-efficient housing as a way of addressing the massive power deficit we face. Clearly this is not a quick fix, but even though the idea may seem to be a little exotic it has merit, particularly when part of an integrated policy for alternative power generation and power saving.

Currently most of our power is generated by burning oil, by far the most expensive form of power generation; and our oil import bill is projected by the Asian Development Bank to rise to $38 billion annually by 2015. Subsidies will come off, unit prices are inevitably going to rise and electricity is set to become a luxury many will not be able to afford by 2020 – a mere nine years away. Our gas reserves are depleting rapidly, we have failed to build the dams that would have provided cheap hydroelectricity and against that backdrop a suggestion that we build energy-efficient houses that consume 60-70 percent less power is not so farfetched. We are a low-rise country, living increasingly in cities that are a suburban sprawl rather than a concentration of high-rise blocks — which are considerably more energy-efficient. Roofs can be insulated to cut down interior temperatures; in some areas small roof-mounted windmills can generate sufficient power for fans and lights and everywhere solar panels can work to our advantage. All of this requires vision, investment and political will. A few have the vision – let us hope it can be turned into investment and political will.









There has always been a gap of understanding between the developed and developing countries. The developing countries lack in financial resources and are therefore reliant on the developed countries for aid, loans and credit. However, aid, loans and credit are, in fact, a misnomer; they are actually trade mechanisms. However, they are not easily available and the recipient countries have to buy machines, raw materials and spare-parts against them from the developed countries. Additionally, a part of the whole is consumed by the consultants who administer the aid, loans and credits.

Consequently, the payment is actually smaller and the recipient countries must pay back in foreign exchange. One of the solutions which have been actively considered is for the developing countries to rely on each another, and to collaborate more between themselves than with the developed countries.

The developing countries must consider economic alignment with each other through mutually extended economic relations. In recent years, these countries have increased their mutual trade. Their exports to the present level have never been seen before. The setting up of joint enterprises is also receiving consideration and is raising hopes for economic integration. However, economic ties between the developing countries are not keeping pace with the quantum of foreign trade between these countries.

The preservation of a united front between the developed countries in turn creates the need for economic cooperation between the developing countries. The steps in this regard can include conclusion of bilateral agreements on multilateral and inter-governmental trade, payments and credit. They can also include treaties for cooperation in production and the establishment of trade and economic blocs, alliances and groupings. The developing countries may also give greater preference to each other in trade and reduce imports of secondary goods from the developed countries. If no international commodity agreements can be concluded, then at least an understanding should be reached between the developing countries on the pricing of raw material exports to the developed countries.

Economic cooperation between the developing countries essentially differs from the economic integration of the Western capitalist powers. One of the objectives of the Western countries is to preserve the existing international division of labour and consolidate their influence over the developing countries. By contrast, economic cooperation between the developing countries is aimed at changing the existing division of labour, which benefits the developed countries, to eliminate the inequitable system of their external economic ties with the Western powers, and to set up a new and truly reciprocal basis for their own economic relations.

In order to meet even the modest target of the UN development inter-value growth rate, the developing countries will have to increase their mutual imports and exports. Until now, their exports, the chief source for the financing of import of capital equipment and materials, have run at a lower level. The expansion of international trade is taking place mainly through the extension of commerce between the Western countries, while the share of the developing countries in world trade has been steadily declining. Thus, the developing countries are confronted with the problem of their traditional export markets giving dwindling returns, as against their growing import bill.

The narrowness of the developing countries' markets now makes them build new production facilities, while existing ones operate below capacity and manpower resources are not fully employed. This causes a loss in potential output or, in other words, a loss in large part of their national incomes. Hence, it is clear that if the developing countries are to boost their economies, they must pool their natural resources, finances, technical know-how and skilled personnel.

Over the last few years, the developing countries have drawn closer together in the economic sphere, mainly in order to withstand the expansionist line of the West, and provide an effectively protective response to it.

Industrial output in the developing countries is much above the pre-war level, with growth in mining more than in manufacturing. In the manufacturing sector, heavy industry has been developing at a fast rate. A further growth in output will help create some sort of economic foundation for cooperation between the countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America.

One is struck by how trade between the developing countries constitutes only a small fraction of their total foreign trade. It is true that trade between the developing countries has considerably expanded and mutual exports have been growing. But exports to the West have grown at a faster pace.


But there are factors which inhibit the fostering of mutual economic cooperation among developing countries. The developing countries' individual economic structures are still more competitive than complementary. They have yet to set up their own organisation for establishing economic ties with each other more effectively. They are badly in need of convertible currency to pay for import of equipment, which makes them more interested in selling their goods in Western markets, rather than regionally.


Establishment of all manner of reciprocal preferential regimes in things such as customs tariffs, currency and credit relations is therefore very desirable. On a small scale some developments have taken place. Pakistan, Iran and Turkey formed the organisation Regional Cooperation for Development. Indonesia and Pakistan have set up an organisation for bilateral economic cooperation. There are several other organisations which can be made use of. The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) is one and the India-Pakistan Chamber of Commerce and Industry is another, to name only two.

Let India and Pakistan resolve their bilateral issues, including Kashmir, which are hindering increased trade between the two countries. If that happens, economic gains will be much greater than political gains. India, for example, is known for engineering, chemicals and automobiles, and Pakistan for agriculture and mines (coal, copper, gold and silver). Similarly, such organisations can play a role in trade relations between countries like Malaysia, Nepal, Singapore and Bangladesh. If mutual relationships are established, the developing countries can deal with burning issues, like the much debated subject of sovereignty.

The separation of the Asian, African and Latin American countries by currency and associations under the control of former colonial countries is also a hindrance to their economic cooperation – a hindrance greater than the backwardness of their economies. The conclusion of preferential payment agreements between the developing countries could stimulate a wider use of local or national currencies and help foreign exchange.

A joint reserve fund may play an important part in mobilising gold and foreign exchange reserves and in allowing members greater mobility in the use of available reserves. All of this opens up definite possibilities for mutual assistance, technical aid, the exchange of technical information and cooperation in the training of personnel. The greatest benefits would accrue from the establishment of cooperation in production and the coordination of national economic plans, which is essentially the basis for the long-drawn-out process of economic integration of the developing countries. Otherwise, they will continue to be at the mercy of countries belonging to the developed world, which have been using the developing countries as nothing more than markets for their products, to say the least.









When Rudyard Kipling called empire the white man's burden, he was voicing the ideological idiom of that particular point in time. However, fairly recently, General Musharraf chose to share that burden, owning the 'war on terror' with ruinous consequences. Dumped by the United States, his legacy endures and flourishes with the NRO brigand he left behind that prides itself on being a coalition partner.

A coalition is based on consultation and compromise. But ours is based more on betrayal and on undermining an ally by treating it like a puppet. Given the aftermath of Charlie Wilson's War there were many who strongly advocated the hypocrisy of the United States and the inherent dangers in fighting their war. They were branded as Taliban loving pen-pushers.

The Telegraph has reported how President Obama got Russia to sign the START treaty to limit nuclear arms. It reveals that the US secretly gave Moscow serial numbers of each US-provided Trident missile in the British ballistic missile inventory. This enabled Russia to confirm the size of the British nuclear arsenal.

A 2009 US cable released by WikiLeaks described Libya as a "critical ally in US counterterrorism efforts." Qaddafi is a pariah today, his sons and grandchildren are being murdered as the United States aids and arms Libyan 'rebels'. We too chose to become a critical ally at the cost of our sovereignty and survival. The frightening lack of logic in our decisions has led the country to ignominy and disaster. The 'dollar' lining is only for those who 'dealt' their way to power.

Lord Cromer famously worded the British Empire's influence on Egypt when he said "we do not govern Egypt; we govern the governors of Egypt." Similarly, the United States is governing the governors of Pakistan today.

Selig Harrison is Director Asia Programme at the Centre for International Policy and a senior scholar of the Woodrow Wilson International Centre for Scholars. Having worked for many years in this region he is acknowledged as a South East Asian specialist. He is frequently invited to testify as an expert witness before congressional committees. He also lectures at the United States National Defence University, the National War College and the State Department's Foreign Service Institute. He is best known for prophesying foreign policy crises. He predicted the Pak-India 1965 war 18 months before it happened. A year before the Russians invaded Afghanistan he wrote about the same in the Foreign Policy journal. He was also one of the earliest to foresee the Soviet Union withdrawal from Afghanistan. His many predictions and pieces of advice have found willing ears at the highest echelons in subsequent US administrations.

In "Free Baluchistan," Selig Harrison explicitly calls for the United States to "aid the Baluch insurgents fighting for independence from Pakistan in the face of growing ISI repression." He also explains the meddling merits by stating, "Pakistan has given China a base at Gwadar in the heart of Baluch territory. So an independent Baluchistan would serve US strategic interests in addition to the immediate goal of countering Islamist forces." He also specifically calls for carving off Baluchistan to gain a permanent foothold in the region to counter Iran and an emerging China. He also sees it as a tool of thwarting Islamabad-Beijing relations.

A 2005 report of the US National Intelligence Council and the CIA forecast a "Yugoslav-like fate for Pakistan in a decade, with the country rive by bloodshed and inter-provincial rivalries". According to the NIC-CIA, Pakistan is slated to become a "failed state by 2015, as it would be affected by civil war and struggle for control of its nuclear weapons". The arrest of Raymond Davis, his contacts with Lashkar-e-Jhangavi and the TTP, and the subsequent ISI-CIA standoff appear to have accelerated this foul plan. To achieve this end, the often pleaded but routinely dismissed nexus between the CIA, RAW, RAM (Afghanistan's Riyast-i-Amniyat-i-Milli) and Mossad is in over-drive mode. Our complacency of a pliant vassal state helps the evolving US agenda, which favours disruption and disarray in the very foundations of Pakistan.

The above Nostradamic prophecies gain strength given the lack of cohesion amongst our own rank and file. There is a total disconnect between the political leadership and military, the executive and the judiciary and most importantly, the people and the state.

The premise that the intelligence agencies and defence forces can preempt each and every attack successfully is irrational. However, the PNS Mehran debacle did happen on the heels of the Abbottabad incursion. It emboldens those who theorise our status as a vulnerable nuclear state. It also serves as a body blow with six people managing to decapitate our navy's total surveillance capabilities. The Chief of Naval Staff's failure to admit a security lapse is, to say the least, unpalatable. Accepting an error is the first step towards reform; after all our defence forces are the instruments of our sovereignty.

The American brass has come visiting again. In a strange coincidence Ustad Ahmed Farooq has surfaced as Al-Qaeda's official for Pakistan and a Mohmand faction of the TTP has claimed it will continue fighting even if the Americans leave Afghanistan. The props are in place, the gory drama continues. The known duplicity of the political elite too stands confirmed by the barrage of leaked US cables.

These trying times call for the leadership to form a unified national policy to counter the relentless onslaught. Those who thrive on the status-quo propagate the need for fighting a perpetual war to merit an alm-funded alliance. Sanity cautions otherwise. No equation could be more convoluted, no logic more perverted, where 35,000 innocent lives are lost, not to mention $68 billion blown away to beseech an enslaving $17 million in aid. In the recent past we managed to survive years of sanctions, without receiving a single penny as aid in the wake of the Pressler Amendment.

Our 'governors' ignore unanimous parliamentary resolutions and continue to work towards deterring a stand which calls for making and finding indigenous solutions to our problems. A Bishop Tutu quote readily comes to mind – "White man came to my country with the Bible in his hand. He said to me, son, kneel down, close your eyes and pray. I did and when I opened my eyes, I had the Bible and he had my land."

We were given dollars and a gun in our hand, told to close our eyes and kneel down. Still on our knees, how long before we open our eyes, only to find a smoking gun in our hand and nothing left to see?

The writer is a freelance contributor.Email:








Today I am worried that the Pakistan of the Quaid-e-Azam and Allama Iqbal is on the verge of destruction and bankruptcy.

Never before during the past 63 years have we had such incapable, corrupt and shameless rulers. Did we not see President Zardari smiling broadly with Kerry on TV on May 16? It is as if Kerry was telling jokes and Zardari was enjoying them. As if nothing happened in Abbottabad on May 2. Ditto for the meeting with Prime Minister Gilani.

Those pictures of our leaders with Kerry reminded me of the pictures of two drone attacks in which 10 people were killed. And this immediately after the resolution by the joint session of parliament demanding that the drone attacks be stopped. This was the reply the US had for us. If our public representatives behave in this way, who is going to respect our sovereignty?

On May 28 and 30, 1998, we tested our nuclear devices in response to Indian nuclear tests on May 11 and 13. Pakistan emerged as a nuclear power on the world map, and the nation could hold its head high.

A few months after this event, Saudi defence minister Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz and his son Gen Khalid bin Sultan visited Kahuta. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the three services chiefs were also there. They were shown the nuclear facilities and the long-range guided ballistic missiles named Ghauri, which my team had successfully tested on April 6. Prince Sultan observed that our achievements had made the whole Muslim world proud. "We feel as if we have achieved this capability," he said.

It is our misfortune, and definitely a curse from Allah, that 13 years after that achievement, the country is now in such a painful and distressing condition. Unemployment, inflation, loadshedding, terrorism, suicide bombings, foreign interference have engulfed this poor nation.

There is one institution that benefited most from our work. Freed from the Indian sword on their throat, they thrust a dictator named Musharraf on us. It was a godsend for him and his colleagues and in eight years, a proud country was turned into one carrying a begging bowl, a banana republic and a foreign colony. He came, he looted, he destroyed and then left aptly applies to Musharraf's rule.

On this important occasion I miss that great Pakistani, strategist and intellectual, Mr Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Had he been alive, he would have seized the opportunity to become the leader of the Islamic world. He would have attracted huge investments from the Middle East and turned Pakistan into a strong, respected and developed country. When that giant of a man was removed at the behest of foreign powers, pygmies pursued their policies based on nonexistent wisdom and foresight and brought Pakistan to this most painful state.

Instead of benefiting from our achievements, both at the domestic and international levels, our rulers initiated a series of blunders. The first was the freezing of the foreign currency accounts of both locals and expatriates. One has to totally lack foresight to undertake such an action or to listen to such advice and act accordingly. It caused total lack of confidence in our nationals abroad, who could transfer billions of dollars at a single call.

The second blunder was the supersession of a highly competent officer, Gen Ali Kuli Khan. I met him a number of times when he was chief of the general staff and I was highly impressed by his qualities and background. Instead, a commando was appointed army chief and the result is there for us all to see.

Even worse than these two blunders was the entry into politics of those known to be corrupt and incompetent, followed by the "friendly opposition." There is a well-known expression, "Once bitten, twice shy," but that refers only to people of understanding. Solemn promises made to the public were broken without compunction and a game of "I don't see; I don't hear and I don't understand" was played out. This policy – and only this policy – is the root cause of our present malaise.

This "friendly opposition" has taken us nowhere. Not a single problem has been solved. On the contrary, the country is in the worst stage of its history. I believe it would be best for the country if all the old party leaders retired and cleared the field for young, energetic, educated leaders to save the sinking ship.

If that is not done, it is up to the public to dump all the old parties that have proved themselves to be unworthy and form new ones, join hands with each other and save the country. A good place to start is with Imran Khan. Young, honest people should come forward and work together for the good of the country.

It is sad and disheartening that all our Herculean efforts and achievements have gone down the drain. Only a few selfish looters are enjoying life while the majority of the people suffer from unemployment, hunger, loadshedding, price hikes, suicides, murders and kidnappings.

Patriotic Pakistanis are having sleepless nights over the situation and one is compelled to think that Mr Bhutto's dream of Pakistan becoming a nuclear power is no more than a mirage. The dream has definitely gone sour. We, the public, are extremely worried while our rulers seem to be completely unworried. The party goes on undisturbed. In short, instead of benefiting from the achievements of May 28 and 30, 1998, we are worse off now than we were 13 years ago.

The present alarming situation in the country demands immediate cooperation between young, energetic, educated people to get together in the larger national interest. Mr Javed Hashmi, Ahsan Iqbal, Imran Khan, young workers from the Jamaat-e-Islami, Mr Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Sen Safdar Abbasi, Mrs. Naheed Khan, Mr Haneef Abbasi, and others likeminded people should join hands to form a credible block.

Many of my colleagues, acquaintances and I would, if asked, be happy to offer advice in finding solutions to economic, educational, agricultural, water and energy problems. Our country does not need to be a "colony" or enemy of any other country. We should follow a neutral policy – friendship with all, animosity with none. National interests and mutually beneficial trade should be the yardstick of our friendships. No aggressive designs against any country and no permission to anybody to use our land for aggression against anyone should be the rule.

Ours is a beautiful country, blessed by Allah with many riches, manpower and scenic beauty, and together we can turn it into a prosperous, advanced and well-developed homeland. We should look ahead. There is very little time left, and we should not waste it. We should turn Pakistan into a true Islamic welfare state.









Inside PNS Mehran, it seemed like any normal Sunday night. Just a few minutes were left before the dreaded 'pipe down' would commence at 2200 hours, sharp. Sailors smartly dressed in their civvies hurried towards the gangway to sign the roll log as they returned from their short leave, as they did any other Sunday. Officers (exempted from signing the log) exchanged casual salutes on their way to their barracks. It was a long day of 'liberty' (jargon in naval term) which began at 0800 hours. Most of the men at the navy base broke the monotonous routine and headed to the city for fun on their only day off the base. But rules require that their entertainment ends before the 2200 hours deadline.

The speakers suddenly started to crackle at the dot of 2200 hours. The high-pitched whistle squeaked from the internal audible system, followed by the announcement 'pipe' by the duty officer. He repeated the routine three times which signalled to all and sundry to turn off their lights and go to bed. Only the watch officers and the men on duty could roam about after the curfew.

'Pipe down' means business and austere regimen must be followed at all costs. All men in uniform start their day early at 0500 hours. Some crept in their beds without slipping into their night attire; some made calls to their loved ones narrating the weekend's proceedings; some switched on their table lamps with low watt bulbs and read their way to sleep; but all worked their way in the dark to escape being reprimanded by the officer in charge.

They were not the only ones at work in the dark. Terrorists were scaling the outer walls of the base from the desolate, rear side, hidden from the sentry on the watch tower. The croaking of frogs and chirping of grasshoppers from the nearby marshes must have dampened the splashes made by their boots as they carried state of the art ammunition to accomplish an ingenious, difficult, and devastating plan – that too with a bang.

Half an hour into the pipe down, the first of the rockets from the rocket launchers hit the P-3C Orion plane which went up in flames. The great ball of fire heralded the commencement of a long battle and terrorists had gained the early tactical advantage. It seemed as if the miscreants had deliberately chosen the time and day for their "well-coordinated" attack. Could there be an element of help and connivance from insiders as is believed to be the case in the October 2009 attack on the GHQ?

Here's what followed: Half a dozen terrorists engaged hundreds of troops from law enforcement agencies and navy commandos, managed to kill 12, maim 16 trained uniformed men, and held hostage the all important navy installation for 16 hours.

I'm sure they were not the Ultimate Warriors programmed to bear all sorts of pain, designed to terminate their targets with lethal precision and make a get-away. Still, the perpetrators wreaked havoc on navy turf with ruthless alacrity.

While those 16 hours were broadcast live to 14 million homes, in the aftermath, the sailors were left to collect the pieces of their past. As the men in white regrouped after the climax and headed towards their barracks with heavy hearts, sleep was far from their minds. One of the fallen martyr's colleagues logged onto the internet in his room and put up a page on facebook – "In memory of those who fell at PNS Mehran". Within hours, comments started to fill the page, commending the valour of the brave souls. Elegies were posted by friends, families, and complete strangers, and hundreds 'liked' the page.

The next day, early morning at exactly 0500 hrs, the speaker came alive again, marking the start of a new day. Officers and sailors gathered for a physical training session while in the background rubble from the recent carnage was being loaded for disposal. Questions lingered in their minds – what brought these annihilators to their doorstep considering the inconsequential role that the Pakistan Navy plays in the war on terror? Who will take the blame for the monumental loss? Why weren't we informed in advance of the impending threat? All these questions remain unanswered.

As the day progressed, the visiting investigation team gathered important evidence for the Intel report while others on the base returned to their mundane duties.

The log sheets of May 23 must be revisited to rule out any speculation of inside support. It is possible that a man, perhaps several men who were accomplices to terrorists made their way out on short leave and never came back, or returned fighting for the other side. And if such evidence is found then it must be revealed to the public.

There is no harm in accepting that this showdown was a security lapse. Realisation is the first step towards curing disease.

The writer is a correspondent for Geo News. Email:








The writer is a former member of the Pakistan Foreign Service.

The joint session of parliament held on May 13-14 condemned the US commando operation in Abbottabad; declared that such unilateral actions as well as continuing US drone attacks on Pakistan territory were unacceptable; and demanded that drone strikes must be stopped forthwith. If anyone ever imagined that the parliamentary resolution would prompt a review of US policy, he should have been disabused by now. In the two weeks since the resolution was passed, Washington has made it abundantly clear by deeds and words that it has no such intention. This message was also conveyed by Hillary Clinton on her visit to Pakistan last week. This should not surprise anyone.

According to Firdous Awan, Gilani told Clinton categorically that the government intended to implement the parliamentary resolution through a review of the rules of engagement with the US in the "war on terror". One Pakistani newspaper had reported earlier that Pasha asked the visiting CIA Deputy Director Morell on May 21 to come up with a strategy that stops the drone strikes. Otherwise, Pakistan "would be forced to respond."

The Pakistani public is unlikely to be impressed. The popular belief that the Pakistan military, like the political government, tacitly approves drone attacks, while occasionally condemning them in public, was strengthened by the recent revelation in a WikiLeaks cable that in 2008 Kayani asked the then commander of US Central Command for increased surveillance and round-the-clock Predator coverage over Taliban strongholds in North and South Waziristan.

The public has also been mystified by the statement made by the deputy chief of air staff (operations) in parliament that Pakistan has no control over the Shamsi air base. Adding to the confusion is the assertion by an American military official that there are presently no US military personnel at Shamsi but he could not speak for the CIA or "contractors" used by any other US agencies. The drone attacks, as is well-known, are carried out not by the US military but by the CIA.

This same ambivalence is evident also in the government's position on the Abbottabad raid. When Obama telephoned Zardari to tell him about the US commando operation, Zardari extended his congratulations. Kayani also reportedly congratulated Mullen on the "good news" when the latter called the army chief to inform him about the raid.

A criticism of the unilateral US operation was conspicuously absent from the first statement of the foreign ministry on the commando raid. It stated simply that the operation had been conducted by the US forces in accordance with the declared US policy that Osama would be eliminated "in direct action by the US forces, wherever found in the world." Whether Pakistan approved this policy, or condemned it, was left unsaid.

Pakistan's official stance, including that of the military leadership, hardened later to reflect the deep public anger felt throughout Pakistan at the violation of the country's sovereignty by a professed ally. An additional important consideration for the military was no doubt the outrage felt in the ranks of the Pakistani armed forces at the apparent acquiescence of the top leadership in the unilateral operation carried out by the US commandos.

It took nearly 36 hours after the killing of Osama before the government for the first time voiced its unhappiness over the raid. A statement issued by the foreign ministry expressed "deep concerns and reservations" on the manner in which US had carried out the operation without prior information or authorisation from Pakistan and affirmed that it "shall not serve as a future precedent for any state, including the US". Such actions undermined cooperation and might also "sometimes" constitute a threat to international peace and security – hardly a ringing denunciation of the raid.

It was fully ten days after the attack that the government for the first time condemned the "US unilateral action in Abbottabad in violation of Pakistan's sovereignty". This was done through a press release issued by the Defence Committee of the Cabinet. The resolution passed at the joint parliamentary session also condemned the attack in similar terms as a violation of Pakistan's sovereignty.

Nevertheless, the government has refrained so far from declaring explicitly that the raid was a breach of international law. It has not even lodged a formal protest with the US. In his press conference on May 5, the foreign secretary raised the question of the legality of the US raid but did not give an answer. It was, he said, for the jurists and the historians to judge and decide this question.

While Pakistan has been dilly-dallying, US officials have repeatedly made it clear that a repeat of the commando operation was not ruled out against other high-value targets. In the joint statement issued on May 16 after Kerry's meetings with Pakistani leaders, the two sides pledged to work together in any future actions against high-value targets in Pakistan. But in the US view, this does not restrict its freedom to act unilaterally again.

This has been made amply clear by no less a person than Obama himself. In an interview with the BBC broadcast on May 21, he said that while he was "very respectful" of the sovereignty of Pakistan, his job was to secure the United States, indicating that he would order another covert military raid like that which killed Osama if it was necessary to stop terrorist attacks.

This is clearly indefensible under international law. Respect for sovereignty is one of the most sacrosanct principles of international law and the UN Charter. An attack on the territory of another state is permissible only if it is authorised by a resolution of the UN Security Council or if the other state consents. Neither of these two grounds existed for the Abbottabad raid.

Some Western legal experts, such as John Bellinger III, who served as legal adviser in the US Department of State in the Bush administration, have therefore tried to conjure up another justification. Bellinger contends that the host country's consent is only required when it is both capable and willing to deal with the problem itself. In Osama's case, he says, US was justified in concluding that Pakistan was unwilling or unable to stop the threat; and Pakistan's consent was not necessary because of past concerns about the close ties between the Pakistani intelligence services and the Taliban and the fact that Osama was in a house, on a street right down the road from a "Pakistani military base". This is a dangerous argument. If it is accepted, it would amount to reverting to the law of the jungle.

Other experts do not agree that the US raid is covered under international law. One of them, Kai Ambos, an internationally renowned expert at the University of Göttingen (Germany), writes: "None of the UN Security Council resolutions on the fight against international terrorism, and in particular Al-Qaeda (Res. 1267 of 1999 to Res. 1974 of 2011), authorise the carrying out of operations on foreign territory, nor the arrest, and even less the killing, of (suspected) terrorists. These resolutions can, at best, be read, in line with the various Terrorism Conventions, as allowing the extradition or prosecution (aut dedere aut iudicare) of terrorism suspects."

It is very important, given the position taken by US that Pakistan should explicitly reject Obama's assertion that US would be justified in carrying out further unilateral raids against high-value targets in Pakistan. Otherwise, our silence will be interpreted as acquiescence.

If the government is serious about implementing the parliamentary resolution, it should as a first step reject the Obama doctrine in a formal statement or, better still, in a letter from Gilani to the US president; and then circulate the document among members of the UN Security Council. There is no assurance that it will stop the US, but if we fail to do so, further US raids are all but guaranteed.









When a column has run as long as this one – it started in January 2005 – there are inevitably going to be recurrent themes. Education, health, security and an ever-changing world have all made several appearances. Of late it has been about perceptions – us of them, them of us. We tend to get our information about how others see us (I am as much a part of this now as many of you who were born here) from the public pronouncements of international figures – and Wikileaks. They are Olympian, delivered from on high, and do much to shape the stereotypical views of us held by those who are not us.

During much of my working day music is an accompaniment. Apart from my own collection of CDs I often listen to a classical music station on the internet, broadcasting as a non-commercial public service from a big American university. I like its eclectic mix of ancient and modern music, the absence of commercialism and the knowledgeable comments between the pieces they play. So I sent them an email saying what I thought and in doing so opened the door to a whole new set of perceptions and a chance for myself to in a small way, influence them.

Cutting a long story short the manager of the station asked if he could interview me about how I came to be listening to their broadcasts, and a little about myself and life in Pakistan. There is a twelve hour time gap between Bahawalpur and Milwaukee, and I was fingers crossed that the line between my mobile and their landline was good enough for broadcast quality, but on the day all went swimmingly. And lasted rather longer than I had expected.

What was very quickly apparent was just how little the man interviewing me knew about Pakistan, and moreover that much of what he thought he knew was based on a set of assumptions formed by how Pakistan is presented on American media. It is a picture that is almost exclusively negative. This is not because there is a wilful desire to portray us negatively; it is just that when events are reported they tend to be bad news rather than good. And if all you ever seem to generate is bad news stories then it is hardly surprising that a body of negative perceptions grows up alongside that. Add in a grumbling antipathy to many things Muslim in an overwhelmingly Christian culture that is no less fundamentalist in some parts than is Pakistan; and you have a recipe for perceptual distortion.

So we spent some time re-calibrating his view of Pakistan, its people and what life for those of us in the mainstream is like. That most of us go about our lives uninterrupted by bombs and bullets. That we travel on planes and trains and buses like everybody else, do not have two heads apiece and a tail to match. Yes we are mostly poor, but no we are not a failed state. We may be bumping along the bottom, nudging failure, but we are not there yet.

The interview was edited into chunks and goes out between the music the station plays 24/7. The station is listened to by many thousands of middle-Americans. Is it too much to hope for that a few perceptions may alter because of it? I think not. Radio is a much undervalued medium. It speaks with a directness that TV never does or will. There was a mail in my inbox from a listener this morning. 'You really opened my eyes' it said. Everything is possible.

The writer is a British social worker settled in Pakistan. Email:








IN the difficult economic scenario, the National Economic Council(NEC) on Saturday gave approval of Rs 730 billion Public Sector Development Programme(PSDP) for the next financial year. Of this the Federal PSDP would be of the size of Rs300 billion while the Provinces would spend Rs430 billion.

It appears that there has been some loud thinking on the part of the Government about the way forward when external financial assistance is drying up and foreign investment is not forthcoming due to internal security situation. Naturally the country has to rely on its own resources with widening of the tax net and improvement in recovery system. The Finance Minister Dr Hafeez Shaikh who announced the approval of the PSDP appears to be certain that the country would generate the required resources as he increased the size of the overall development programme by Rs 10 billion as against the recommendation of the Planning Commission. From economists point of view, higher spending by the government on development projects spur economic activities in all sectors and lead to job creation and perhaps that was in the mind of the Finance Minister when he increased the size of the programme. It is a pragmatic approach that instead of spreading resources thinly on new projects, emphasis has been laid on completing the ongoing projects to extend their benefits to the people. It was also satisfying that national importance projects like Diamer-Bhasha dam have been included despite crunch on the financial resources and we would stress that work on this vital project must be initiated as soon as possible. We expect that the allocations made for the annual development programme would be made available because in the past we have seen that massive cuts are applied in the development sector to meet the short fall in resources. It is however worrisome that the GDP is likely to grow by 2.5% in the outgoing year and the target for the next year has been set at 4.2%, which is lowest in the region. Efforts need to be devoted to increase it to around 7% and this could be achieved with more incentives to industrial, agricultural and services sectors. Anyhow all eyes are now on the next year's Federal Budget and we hope that the people would not be further burdened with additional taxes and instead given some relief to improve their living conditions.








THE PML-N Chief Mian Nawaz Sharif has given a warning to the government of public mutiny if it continued with policies of pledging national sovereignty to foreign hands and patronizing corrupt elements. Mian Saheb who was addressing a largely attended function to mark the 13th anniversary of the country's nuclear tests was expected to speak on the frustrations of the masses and give a road map to take the country out of the present quagmire but it fell short of expectations.

Youm-e-Takbeer is an important occasion in the history of Pakistan and it is addressed by the former Prime Minister as he rightly claims that against heavy odds and arms twisting he gave a green signal for going ahead with the nuclear tests and no doubt credit goes to him. But developments in the past one month have led to frustration among the people and they expected Mian Nawaz Sharif who is rightly perceived as head of one of the two largest parties of the country to come up with his own futuristic course of action. However he in his typical diplomatic language stated that he would join the people if they take to the streets to oust the government. As leader of the main opposition party and former Prime Minister Mian Saheb should have given a categorical statement of leading from the front and what should be the way forward instead of mere saying that he would do what the people want. It appears that the PML-Chief is in a fix and undecided on the future course of action. We appreciate that he wants the government to complete its mandated term to allow the democracy to take roots, but he has a national responsibility to check the rulers as and when something goes against national interests. After the US raid in Abbottabad and the attack at PNS Mehran, there is uncertainty and frustration among the concerned citizens who are perturbed as to what direction the country is heading. At the same time all sorts of pressures are being exerted on Pakistan to do more to eliminate terrorists from its soil or face a cut in US aid. In this situation, the country appears to be directionless and we hope that in the days to come, Mian Saheb would come up with an unambiguous agenda in line with the aspirations of the masses to restore Pakistan's honour and dignity in the comity of nations and for a secure future.







UNFORTUNATELY two incidents took place almost simultaneously in Lahore and Gujrat the other day when four murder accused were shot dead in the courts premises. At both the places rivals killed the accused murderers to take revenge instead of keeping faith in the trial courts to deliver justice to them.

These are not stray incidents but it is happening almost every day across the country and reflect that people's faith in getting justice is crumbling down. There is no denying the fact that it takes years and even decades in disposal of cases in the lower courts and even there is lack of trust of the people that at the end of the day justice will be delivered to them. So the aggrieved parties wait for the opportune moment and go for the killing to get rid of long agony and desperation. The two incidents show that the system is crumbing down and people have started taking law in their own hands. It is a worst situation that people have lost faith in established institutions like courts and police. We may look a bit odd by saying that these are ingredients of a failed state. Though it could be said that the firing and killing incidents in courts take place due to lack of security but the need is to go into the reasons of these happenings. We would request the Chief Justice of Pakistan that people have pinned high hopes on him for delivery of speedy justice and this is being witnessed in the apex court. However the system is not improving at the lower level and there is need for atleast some mechanism to improve the situation and a time frame be laid out for disposal of cases rather than prolonging them for an indefinite period to avoid incidents of murder in court premises.








Since 1950s, Pakistani governments, both military and civilian have been fatally addicted to US financial assistance. Pakistani rulers have always been ready to bend backwards to receive another dose of US aid. Hillary Clinton and Admiral Mullen were certainly not short of affirmatively nodding audience during their recent visit to Pakistan.

However, at a common man's level, sponsors of anti-Pakistan strictures on American aid like congress-men Glenn, Symington, Pressler, Brown, Kerry-Lugar etc are house-hold names in Pakistan, reminding the nation of chequered history of American sanctions and strings.

American perception has it that Pakistan is almost at the brink of bankruptcy and it is the US assistance that is providing the lifeline for sustenance. Direct and indirect beneficiaries of American aid in Pakistan faithfully work overtime to strengthen this feeling amongst the Pakistani public as well, however statistics speak otherwise. Ishrat Husain, a former governor of State Bank has recently opined that US aid does not help the government's precarious fiscal situation in any meaningful way as only '12-15 per cent of the total amount is channelled for budgetary support…Assuming that whole $3 billion (per annum) in economic and military is disbursed fully, this accounts for less than seven per cent of the total foreign exchange earnings of the country...The increase in export revenues and remittances in the current year was almost twice that amount.'

It seems that every American Congressman and Think Tank has an opinion on what the US should do with its aid to Pakistan. There have been calls to freeze all assistance to Pakistan as well as calls to stay the course. Nearly three out of four Americans back cuts. Many of the loudest voices in Congress have been for attaching additional strings to the aid.

As regards significance of the aid, World Bank data shows that during the previous five years, net Official Development Assistance (ODA) from all sources to Pakistan has averaged less than 1.5 per cent of its Gross National Income. Per capita aid from all sources in 2009 was US$14 only! These facts do not point towards any meltdown if the American aid is withheld.

Shahid Javed Burki, a former World Bank Vice President is of the view that 'cutting of civilian aid would have only a 0.14 percent impact on Pakistan's GDP growth'. "As long as the multilateral aid continues, it won't impact Pakistan's economy," says Sartaj Aziz, a former finance minister. Out of $ 1.5 billion per annum authorisation by Kerry-Lugar-Burman Act, actual disbursements have been $275 million and $676 million during 2009 & 2010 respectively. This includes flood relief donation of $500 million. Therefore, it would be naïve to presume that withholding of US assistance is so significant that it would result into strategic collapse. But the real concern for Pakistan's solvency would be loss of support from international lenders like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF); both look towards the US before deciding. IMF may deny the bailout request until a last-minute nod by the White House.

On numerous occasions, American aid has been used as carrot and stick to entice Pakistan to do the American bidding. The carrot has been the promise of additional financial aid while the stick has been the threat of withholding of already sanctioned aid. Financial experts in Pakistan have pointed out that out of the lump sum assistance sanctioned by the US, only a fraction reaches the national exchequer; bulk is siphoned off as consultancy charges to the US appointed agents and overseers.

A candid estimate puts losses to Pakistan's economy due to its participation in war on terror around US$ 70 billion. The US has provided $20.7 billion to Pakistan since 2002, which makes about 0.1 percent of the American treasure spent on war on terror over the same period. A little more than two-third of $ 20.7 billion went to military use, the remainder to civilian. The biggest head, consuming $8.9 billion, is "Coalition Support Funds." Washington sanctioned this amount for Pakistan's military as compensation for services rendered on behalf of the US military. However, a sizeable portion of it remains un-remitted. The US is getting obnoxiously stingy on reimbursements of this fund, rejecting 44 percent claims in 2009, as compared to 1.6 percent in 2005.

The uncertain environment that arose as a sequel to 'Operation Geronimo' has compelled Pakistan to launch an aggressive outreach plan for mobilizing alternative contingency sources. China and Russia are particularly alarmed by the renewed American unilateralism. Both are increasingly sympathetic towards Pakistan's predicament and are deeply concerned about fresh US inclinations towards unilateralism. Russian and Chinese reactions to the Abbott Abad raid spared the Pakistani establishment from rampant criticism.

Pakistani President's recent visit to Russia was interesting. Though the visit was already planned, the timing appeared promising for Pakistan. Russia has been increasingly uncomfortable with India's rapprochement with the United States and realizes the potentially damaging implications of India's diversification of foreign relations for Russo-Indian partnership. Pakistan has now taken centre stage in Russia's efforts to play a more active role in Central and South Asia as Moscow braces for the drawdown of American led coalition forces in Afghanistan. Moscow now sees Islamabad as part of solution to region's problems. Recent visit of Colonel General Alexander Postnikov, Russian Ground Forces Commander-in Chief, to Pakistan indicates that Pak-Russian relations are moving ahead on sound footing.

On the heels of Presidential visit to Russia, Pakistani Prime Minister visited China. Most glaring outcome of this visit was handing over of the management of Gwadar port to China. The Statesman, reported while quoting the Press Trust of India that the Chinese government has warned Washington "in unequivocal terms that any attack on Pakistan would be construed as an attack on China," and advised the US government "to respect Pakistan's sovereignty." Iran is ready to provide oil on deferred payments and electricity on competitive prices. We can always count on Saudi Arabia, UAE and other friendly countries for economic support.

Economic assistance from developed to developing countries always accompanies strings of various kinds. American aid to Pakistan is no exception; however it has become a highly touchy matter due to differing perceptions about its hidden agenda. Perpetual dependency has resulted in relegating Pakistan to a client state or a 'rental commodity'. America has been able to accrue an unbalanced influence over Pakistan's policy resulting into a subservient association.

Pakistan's military leadership needs to re-evaluate the necessity of American military hardware viz. a. viz the incremental erosion of our national sovereignty. Though American systems are far ahead in technological superiority, we need to look towards recent Indian decision of declining American offer of F-16 and F-18 aircraft and going for alternative sources of supply. If India can do without American hardware, we can also live without it.

Now, it is time for the Pakistani nation to carry out a reality check, take a fresh stock of the cost benefit asymmetry and make a distinction between reality and myth of American aid.

—The writer is international security, current affairs analyst and a former PAF Assistant Chief of Air Staff.









Sometimes it so happens that the high powered emissaries who come to Muslim countries are power drunk and come on a bad mission too. They come like viceroys to ask compliance of their orders. This was not so with Hillary Clinton's recent mission to Pakistan. She is a graceful decent lady, but she was on a wrong mission. Her President has no idea of Pakistanis resentment on US churlish Abbotabad mission violating Pakistan's territorial sovereignty. Things cannot be the same for US in its Pakistan relations after this disregard of Pakistan's sovereignty. Americans should know Pakistani public is highly patriotic and is prepared to pay any price to safeguard it. . Sometimes such miscalculations about public reaction on some wrong steps harm the relations irreparably. The Abbotabad operation has done great damage to Pak-US relations . The Pakistani power elite who has been quite subservient to US even if they want to ignore the public and Parliament's anger on violation of Pak sovereignty was so deep that even if they want to go back to their docile role with US they cannot ; though in the past PM Bogra adopted two face policy with US . He had a public posture of changing what he declared was his policy, but in private posture he would assure the Americans that nothing has changed, and ask them to disregard what he had declared in the public. Probably that cannot be done now.

Quite clearly Hillary Clinton has done some tough talk in private talks with the top leadership and what she ands Admiral Mike Mullen said in the public was not a threat but warning that Pak-US relations have reached an impasse indicating it by somber talk avoiding any smile while speaking to the media .

Let me confine my comments only to two aspects of her mission . There are perhaps several matters on which other writers would point out but I would confine only to two.

One such point seemed to trying to suggest that anti-American feelings in Pakistani public are unjustified. – and while acknowledging that Pakistanis have suffered more deaths than anyone else , she seemed to be asking that Pakistan do more as if it has not suffered enough already.

It is surprising that if one American is killed any where US goes into action against the country where the American has been killed but US kills Pakistani like pigeons by drone attacks in Pakistan's own backyard, killing far more innocent civilians than so-called militants or terrorists, it shows no remorse. Killing of Libyans in Civil War leads to US-NATO air strikes and what not but Pakistani civilians is alright. Drone attacks on Pakistan have become unbearable. US treats Pakistan as its subordinate or a minion whose task is to obey its master the US. Its sovereignty as a wax and Obama announces arrogantly that he will repeat the Abbotabad like operation, No Pakistan is not a country to e taken for granted. It will ensure its sovereignty and dignity respected. If not it would withdraw its support. And there should be no mistake that there is no national will behind this resolve. Nor Pakistan is an ordinary country in any sense. Besides if Pakistan withdraws its cooperation with US, It will be in a lurch in Afghanistan. If Obama thinks that he can use India in Afghanistan or against Pakistan that too would be a miscalculation. The situation is that Pakistan is the worst sufferer in this war on terror. Drone attacks, on one side and "Taleban" attacks on the other that is from both parties to the War on terror Pakistan is a target. .

The claim that anti-American feelings of the public have no justification , I would submit is a wrong statement. It is high time US understood some basic facts about its policies and actions in the heart of Muslim world, and the Muslim supra-national psyche where other hurtful US policies cause public adverse reaction on US.. Muslim world from Mauritania to Indonesia feels and reacts on hurtful policies to anyone in this community. It so happens that since the days of Bush Administration all military actions for subjugating the peoples has been taken ONLY in the Muslim world. Bush went after Iraq – on false clams of Iraq possessing fantastic weapons of mass destrutction and destroyed Iraq a very prosperous and strong Arab country in the Middle East and then had him hung through a so-called trial, like that of a conquerors revenge from the defeated. Then Afghanistan became the next target. I have said it before and I need say it again – justified or not- that Bush and Usma Bin Laden were two sides of the same coin. Bush –action- Usama Bin Laden reaction., horrible reaction, and nobody will justify the Twin Tower Tragedy in New York. It was a crime yes.

In Muslim world, US and the West again merciless colonialism has been revived. It is necessary to state a link between American actions in the Muslim world and the current situation of which Pakistan is the greatest victim. May it be stated that all military action of US and NATO has been exclusively the Muslim countries. As if it was not enough to target Afghanistan and Pakistan's tribal areas , now US –NATO are targeting quite blatantly Libya and started G-8 is meddling in the turmoil in the Arab world. The Western gun boat diplomacy under the façade of supporting a tiny opposition group- I would like to say through a traitor group in Libya – is being played. Every body knows that the West is after Ghaddafi's blood for thirty years and now has come its way an opportunity to play the colonialist role in the murky situation in the region. Fools only will be msled by the bogus and hollow sanctimonious slogans Obama and Sarkoz are using to blanket their and NATO's colonialist game in Libya. If US and NATO feel that Muslims would be hoodwinked by plainly transparent slogans put on imperialist-colonialist aims one is living in a make belief world. Certainly Obama is looked upon as an imperialist tool.. We know how much Alavite regime of Bashara el Asad is shaky in a Sunni dominated and Ikhwan infested Syria, there had been many voices against Alavte junta being corrupt etc. Yet we also know that Syria was the only steadfast anti-Israel country which NATO, West and US wanted to eliminate for long time. Undoubtedly there is a public movement in Syria but US and NATO have gone against Bashara El Asad not because f corruption etc, but because they are interested in eliminating Syria as a strong Arab military power.

Then while the Arab world is in turmoil- it remains to be seen whether the turmoil is "Arab Spring" or what , - America's plan to recraft the Middle East have gone into operation. Right away new sanctions have been planned for Iran. Ban Ki Moon has become a pliant tool of American colonialism. UN will in no time produce any Reso;ution under Chapter VII to give universal legitimacy to colonialist-aggresdsive policies.

All these violent operations in Muslim world cause resentment, anger, anti-American policies among the Muslim masses every where .This is wherein is the root of what Hillary calls Anti American feeling and brands them as unjustified, and names them as " conspiracy theories." Is there justification for her grievances? Or Pakistan has legitimate grounds to feel that its cooperation with US is giving it beating from US and from the Taleban. Any way who are thy , who is financing them, training them, providing them weapons, providing them access to international weapons market etc.








In awarding the certificate to Pakistani top hierarchy that, "nobody at the top of the tree knew that Osama bin Laden was here (Pakistan), the visiting US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, was vocal enough to say that, "somebody, somewhere" was surely assisting him somehow. The State Department spokesman Mark Toner, later clarified that, despite assurances, Secretary of State did not absolve ISI for having a clue of OBL. He categorically said that, "I don't think she (Clinton) gave them (ISI) a free chit." The spokesman further said that, US understands and acknowledge the difficulties in the bi-lateral relationship of both countries, but the, "bottom line is that this is a relationship that's in our interest and in Pakistan's interest, and so we need to work through these challenges moving forward." He said that the Secretary of State in her press conference in Islamabad yesterday was appreciative of the Government of Pakistan giving US access to the compound of Osama bin Laden. Indeed, after the Abbotabad incident, Pakistan has principally decided to review its policy towards its future relationship with U.S. The level of trust between Pakistan and US also reached to the lowest ebb in their bilateral history. Under lot of misperceptions and apprehensions, Hillary Clinton paid a very brief and intense visit to Pakistan and met with all stake holders. Prior to her visit, US Armed Forces Chief, Admiral Mullen met the military leadership as a vanguard. It was visualized that, this visit of US top officials was perhaps aimed at damage control, in fact, to avert the further deterioration in the Pak-US relationship, after the unilateral raid by US Navy SEALs.

Instead of being regretful on violating the Pakistani sovereignty on May 2, 2011, the visiting US delegate under Secretary of State was more forceful, dictating and demanding. The delegate demanded Pakistan to give details and launch military operations (may be a joint operation) against five militant leaders wanted by US. These US wanted militants include; Ayman al Zawahiri; deputy of late OBL, Siraj Haqqani of the Haqqani network, Ilyas Kashmiri, the head of the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami, Atiya Abdel Rahman, al-Qaida operations chief, and Mullah Omer; the Taliban leader. From the dictates one would visualize as if these people are under the safe custody of Pakistan. Unfortunately, like US Government, some of the leading US news papers believe that these militants are in Pakistan and US is optimistic that, "Pakistan would provide intelligence for prompt and joint actions against these militants." Surely they are not in Pakistan, however, the US raid to haunt OBL fake or real (history would reveal later), has made us suspicious in the eyes of US and in the world opinion. In that episode, this seasonal Pakistani ally has not only embarrassed us but also, put us on defensive.

During her visit, Secretary Clinton, indirectly accused Pakistan of "vicious terrorists" having found sanctuaries on Pakistan soil and Afghan militants operating from safe havens in FATA, and demanded Pakistan to bring an end to this practice. Even in a threatening tone, Hillary Clinton said that, failure of Pakistan of taking a decisive action against these terrorists, "could irreversibly harm itself." She was rather blunt in saying that, "There can be no peace, stability, no democracy, no future for Pakistan unless the violent extremists are removed." After having met the top slots, the Secretary of State, however, said that, she has been assured by Pakistani authorities for taking concrete steps against the terrorist network wanted by US. As per Secretary of State, she has been committed by Pakistani authorities "to some very specific action." She said that, "I return to Washington ever more committed" to the relationship.

However, despite this assurance, as per Los Angeles Times, Pakistan rejected the US demand of maintaining a status quo on, "intelligence fusion cells" at Peshawar and Quetta. Pakistani authorities have already ordered closure of these intelligence centres, used for intelligence sharing with Pakistani ground forces. Pakistan has ordered the US personnel connected with these intelligence fusion cells to leave the country. One of the reasons of the visit of US Secretary of State and Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff was to persuade Pakistan for let these centres to remain operative, which Pakistan did not agree as yet. Pakistan, however, allowed the CIA to inspect forensically, the compound which remained in the use of OBL, until he was killed on May 2, 2011. Furthermore, US understand that, for a successful conclusion of its military operation in Afghanistan, it needs Pakistani assistance at all costs. However, being a super power, U.S does not want to present this inevitability as its weak spot. For this many a time, U.S has hinted that it has the options to make use of alternative routes via Russia and Central Asian Republics. But, U.S and its NATO allies perhaps understand the limitations of using that route; being too lengthy, insecure and Russian factor. Moreover, route for logistics is not the only facility, Pakistan providing to US and NATO forces. Pakistan has been rendering active support to ISAF along the Pak-Afghan border.

Despite the fact that there remained dissent on either side during the talks, both countries perhaps agreed to move forward to fight the ongoing war against terrorism, in the common benefit of both. In the wording of US delegate, "both recognise that there is still much more work required to be done and it is urgent. Today we discussed in even greater detail cooperation to disrupt, dismantle and defeat Al Qaeda and to drive them from Pakistan and the region. As per Hillary Clinton, "We will do our part and we look to the government of Pakistan to take decisive steps in the days ahead. Joint action against Al Qaeda and its affiliates will make Pakistan, America and the world safer and more secured." On Pakistani side, the Presidential spokesperson, Farhatullah Baber, said that, meeting between President and US delegate was "candid, constructive and positive." President Zardari however, clarified to the US delegation that the "will of the people and prevailing public sentiment on issues of national sovereignty, security and Pakistan's national interests in line with the unanimous Resolution recently adopted in the joint sitting of the Parliament."

Despite passage of unanimous resolution by Pakistani parliament, US has not respected it and continued its CIA driven drone attacks, killing hundreds of innocents Pakistani national. Even after the resolution, US President Barack Obama, said many a time that, in case another such like target, is traced inside Pakistan, US would unilaterally act against it. There have been many such like statements from other officials of the State Department as well as the Pentagon. The question asking the Pakistani nation is that, after all, why should we accept such a humiliating treatment from a super power, turned hyper? After all how long we will take dictation from U.S in managing our own security issues.

—The writer is an International Relations analyst.








It has been now thirteen years of nuclearization of Pakistan. This was a long journey that Pakistan has covered for triumph the final destiny. Pakistan's nuclear ambitions had been India centric in nature. The ever changing international/regional scenario wielded pressures on these ambitions. Pakistan goes nuclear in retort of Indian as it is a threat to Pakistan security. Pakistan leaders had interest in the nuclear program from the very start for the peace full usage.


Pakistan's civilian nuclear programme started in 1956. Pakistan Atomic Energy commission was developed also in 1956. The first achievement by PAEC was Uranium deposits were discovering in the Dera Ghazi Khan district in 1963. Pakistan Institute of Nuclear Science and Technology, at Nilore near Islamabad it is an important mile stone in Pakistan nuclear program it was developed in 1965. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto established Pakistan's Nuclear Program in 1972. This resolve is to acquire nuclear weapons capability was reinforced by India's detonation of a nuclear device in May 1974.In response to Indian detonation of nuclear device Smiling Buddha Pakistan president of that time Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto said that If India builds the bomb, we will eat grass and leaves but we will get one of our own.

Even before the Indian nuclear explosion, Pakistan had entered into negotiations with France for a nuclear reprocessing plant, signing the formal agreement in 1976. A separate nuclear weapons site was established in Kahuta in 1976. Pakistan scientist worked very hard in mid-80's Phase for making a final product. Pakistan knows that having an effective nuclear program is in its strategic and security interest and also for the equilibrium of power in the region. Many sanctions had been imposed on Pakistan. These sanctions were however limited since US economic assistance had already decreased considerably and also lacked support from International Financial Institutions (IFIs). Threat perceptions were very much for Pakistan in the mid-eighties as India conducted brass tack exercises and in those days there was a international media reports about a possible Indian pre-emptive strike on Kahuta.

In 1990, US imposed sanctions on Pakistan under the Pressler Amendment and withheld the supply of F-16s. United States believed that the most likely means of delivering a Pakistani nuclear weapon was the US-supplied F-16s. Therefore, the supply and spare parts were stopped to deprive Pakistan a delivery capability. The basis of Pakistan's Nuclear program is highly enriched uranium (HEU) produced at KRL. By early 1990s, Kahuta had an estimated 3,000 centrifuges in operation, and Pakistan continued its pursuit of expanded uranium enrichment capabilities. In 1990, Pakistan began to pursue Plutonium production capabilities. In April 1998, Pakistan built the 40 MWt (megawatt thermal) Khushab Research Reactors at Joharabad with Chinese assistance. In the mid 1980s, Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission began to pursue Plutonium production capabilities.

In the start of nineties certain propaganda was made against Pakistan for pressurize Pakistan. In 1993, there are some reports in media that US satellites detected a convoy of trucks moving out of Kahuta, toward an air base where F-16 fighter jets stood ready. These types of stories were made public to support sanctions against Pakistan. On May 14th India carried out successful nuclear test. Pakistan take about fourteen days to respond to this and on May 28th 1998 the day which is consider to be the biggest and the remember able day in history of Pakistan when Pakistan conducts successful nuclear tests.

Pakistan has very robust command and control structure. NCA (National Command Authority) take care matter related to command and control of nuclear assets and also there safety and security. Civilian and military high command is member of NCA. The secretariat of NCA is SPD(Strategic Plans Division) at JS HQ. The development of the nuclear weapons is a difficult task that was made possible only though hard work of the Pakistani scientists. In 1999 Pakistan signed the Lahore accord with India, agreeing on a bilateral moratorium on nuclear testing. These weapons Played a very important political role in the region both pre and post 1998 phase. We can see effective nuclear deterrence in de-escalating the crises such as Kargil in 1999, 2001-2002 military standoff and in Mumbai crisis 2008.Pakistan became the seventh nuclear power in the world. Pakistan put up lot a of struggle for the program and through many years to come to this position.








Much of central China along the Yangtze River is in the grip of its worst energy crisis in years. The electricity cuts for industry and households have been exacerbated by a five-month drought that has dried up rivers, reducing hydroelectric generating capacity and leaving many people and large swaths of farmland short of water.

It is a symptom of a key challenge for China in the 21st century. The world's most populous nation and second-biggest economy must make difficult choices between two vital resources, energy and fresh water. Both help drive economic expansion, grow food and raise living standards. Coal-fired power plants produced 84 percent of China's electricity last month, followed by 11 percent from hydropower (down from 16 percent in 2009). Nuclear and wind generated only about 2 percent each of the country's electricity. By 2020, China's electrical generating capacity is expected to double to 1,900 gigawatts (GW). At least 500 GW (around 500,000 big plants) will come from coal. China's coal production, 3.15 billion tons in 2010, is projected to rise to over 4 billion tons by 2020. Its coal reserves are vast but they lie in arid northern and western regions where annual rainfall is sparse.

Coal mining requires lots of water for cutting, dust suppression and washing. So do power plants that burn coal. They consume roughly twice as much water as gas-fired plants. Meanwhile, China's total water reserves have fallen sharply since 2000. Over the next decade, water consumption is forecast to rise from nearly 600 billion cubic meters last year to 670 billion cubic meters in 2020. Of the 70 billion cubic meter increase, as much as 50 billion cubic meters will be needed by the coal sector. Where will it come from?

China's challenge highlights a wider problem. Global energy demand, especially in Asia, is rising fast at a time when many scientists are warning that climate disruption and extreme weather events are intensifying, due largely to the burning of fossil fuels and the cutting of water-conserving forests. The World Policy Institute (WPI), a nonpartisan US think-tank, says that the competition between water and energy needs is a critical economic, security and environmental issue that has not yet received the attention it merits.Energy production, to make transport fuels and generate electricity, consumes large amounts of water and will take even more in future. In turn, providing water for agriculture, industry and home use needs energy. Pumping, conveying and treating water is highly energy intensive.

Steven Solomon, author of "Water: The Epic Struggle for Wealth, Power and Civilisation," calculates that each day every person living in an industrialised nation consumes an average of four-plus tons of water. Of course, most of it is not direct. It is embedded in the food we eat, the products and high-tech gadgets we use, and the energy we need.

In the United States, agriculture consumes about 80 percent of total water use, a level also typical of major developing economies with substantial farm sectors. Of the remaining 20 percent, coal, gas and nuclear power plants account for an estimated one-fifth. The water is for cooling and to make steam that drives turbines to generate electricity. A recent WPI study found that wind and solar voltaic electricity consume minimal water and are the most water-efficient forms of conventional or alternative electricity production. Yet they contribute only a small proportion of the world's electricity and will take time to scale up.

China, India and Southeast Asia have some of the fastest growth rates of power consumption in the world. A study last year by the World Resources Institute found that availability and quality of freshwater are rapidly declining in many parts of South and Southeast Asia due to population increase, rising demand and climate change. India, the second most populous nation after China, faces critical water shortages in the next decade. Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam are expected to suffer localised water pollution and shortages, with climatic patterns shifting towards longer dry seasons with more concentrated bursts of rainfall and resultant flooding.


Yet over half the existing and planned generating capacity for major power companies in South and Southeast Asia is in areas considered to be short of water. Most of this capacity is coal and hydropower. The best solution is to improve efficiency and conservation in using energy and water, and to control demand by raising prices. This is potentially unpopular and politically risky. New technology could help. One of the "cleaner" coal systems, the integrated gasification combined cycle process, cuts coal plant water consumption by half, while also reducing carbon emissions and other pollutants. Asia needs sustainable and well-integrated energy and water policies — sooner rather than later.

— Courtesy: The Japan Times








IN matters of personal behaviour, choice and individual responsibility are generally the best regulators. In relation to gambling and sport, the government also has a role to play to minimise the chances of corruption by enacting rules that are balanced and reasonable.

At a time when the AFL is investigating three cases of irregular patterns on exotic bets and former Canterbury Bulldog Ryan Tandy has been charged over his alleged involvement in a failed NRL betting plunge last year, Sports Minister Mark Arbib's move to add clout to the fight against gambling-based corruption in sport is timely and necessary.

Most Australian sports lovers, who have seen cricket on the sub-continent sink into a mire of corruption, will welcome moves to make cheating in sport a criminal offence. The ban on the promotion of live odds and the spruiking of gambling websites during commentary will annoy some, although many fans, including parents concerned about the impact on their children, will be happy to see such overt gambling promotion disappear from sporting arenas and broadcasts.

Far more controversial than the sports betting crackdown, however, is the Gillard government's impending legislation on poker machine regulation, designed to appease independent MP Andrew Wilkie.

Predictably, the states, which are more addicted to poker machines than most punters, are reluctant to jeopardise the rivers of gold that the machines pour into their coffers. They are holding out for a voluntary model in which a player would choose to set their own limits, arguing it would be more successful at restraining problem gamblers.

Julia Gillard now faces a political fight. On one hand, she needs to retain the support of Mr Wilkie on the floor of parliament. On the other, a split appears to be opening up in Labor ranks, with Tara Moriarty, secretary of the Liquor and Hospitality Union, writing to Mr Wilkie to argue that imposing compulsory regulations would cost tens of thousands of members' jobs. Ms Moriarty is also NSW Labor deputy president and a member of the party's national executive.

Although it is not a first-order economic issue, gambling has the potential to be a minefield for Ms Gillard. The government might prefer the issue to go away, but the push for tighter rules by Mr Wilkie and independent senator Nick Xenophon has shone a light on a major social issue for many Australians, whose average losses from gambling, $1300 per year, are the highest in the world and who collectively lost more than $19 billion in 2008-09. The debate should continue.






JUST why it has taken Serbian authorities 16 years to find General Ratko Mladic, the Butcher of Bosnia, remains to be ascertained, but there can be no overstating the importance of his arrest in bringing a symbolic end to the most shameful and savage episode in post-war European history.


Neither can the significance of Mladic's apprehension be over-emphasised, given events unfolding elsewhere. The lesson for the likes of Libya's Muammar Gaddafi, Syria's Bashar al-Assad and other tyrants whose stock in trade is murder and pillage is that eventually, like Mladic and his cohort Radovan Karadzic, their crimes against humanity will catch up with them and they will be brought to book. Just as the USA caught up with Osama bin Laden in the Pakistani garrison town of Abbottabad.

The parallels between the prolonged hunt for bin Laden and the ability of Mladic to evade capture for so long are remarkable. Pakistani authorities unconvincingly claim they had no knowledge of Bin Laden's presence. Similarly, successive governments in Belgrade have pleaded ignorance about Mladic, even though in 2000 he was photographed watching a Chinese-Yugoslav soccer match in the capital, attended his brothers funeral in 2001, and often visited the grave of his daughter after she committed suicide.

Now, on the day European Union Foreign Affairs Commissioner Catherine Ashton was due in Belgrade to discuss Serbia's membership application - which the EU said was contingent on Mladic's arrest - he has been apprehended.

His detention precedes an imminent report by the UN War Crimes Tribunal chief prosecutor expected to be highly critical of Serbia's efforts to find Mladic.

Just who helped Mladic avoid capture for so long should be revealed in due course. As the commander of the Bosnian Serb army, he stands indicted of crimes so grotesque they defy comprehension - the 1995 massacre of 8000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica and the siege of Sarajevo between 1992 and 1995, which killed 10,000 people, including 3500 children.

Serbian president Boris Tadic has pledged Mladic will be turned over to the UN War Crimes Tribunal within seven days. Nothing must impede that process. Murdering tyrants must learn from Mladic's belated capture that they, too, will never escape their past and sooner or later they will be on their way to prison in The Hague.





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.







WHEN they gather to decide the futures of two long-serving magistrates, NSW MPs will need to show greater fairness and commonsense than did the members of the state's Judicial Commission, who recommended that the two should be removed. It is now up to Parliament to rule on these recommendations. What is at stake here is not just two careers, but also this society's attitude towards mental illness.

In the case of Brian Maloney, a magistrate since 1996, there had, over several years, been complaints about his sometimes eccentric and inappropriate behaviour in court. Early last year, he was diagnosed with bipolar 2 disorder, and undertook treatment and medication. Since then, there have been no known complaints about his conduct.

Even so, the Judicial Commission found he had a "permanent condition with episodic but unpredictable outbreaks" and said, in effect, that Parliament should decide whether he should be dismissed for what he might do in future if, for example, he stopped taking his medicine. Last week, Maloney lost a Supreme Court appeal against the finding.

The case of magistrate Jennifer Betts, who had served for more than 17 stressful years, is similar. While she was trying to wean herself from anti-depressant drugs, she was the subject of complaints about her behaviour in court, including intemperate language. She resumed treatment early last year and, again, there have been no complaints since.

For MPs to go down the path suggested by the Judicial Commission would be to opt for precautionary dismissal, indeed, pre-emptive punishment - notions foreign to Australian principles of justice. Thanks to modern medical science and drugs, a great many Australians suffering from potentially disabling physical and mental illness today pursue fulfilling, demanding and socially useful careers.

While their mental condition is treated and controlled by medicine, there is no reason why the jobs of judicial officials should be at hazard in a way that those of doctors, pilots and, yes, other lawyers with similar problems are not. To sack a magistrate because he or she might stop taking medication is a bit like sacking a man who has a heart or lung operation because he might take up smoking again.

Parliamentary action against both or either of these magistrates would send a counterproductive message to others with mental illness. Far from encouraging people to seek the effective treatments that are available, it would probably lead them to try to struggle on, hiding their problem until it overwhelms them, with grave consequences for themselves and others.


Another look at Barangaroo

BRAD HAZZARD is proving adept at navigating the shoals around Barangaroo. It took him only a month in the chair as NSW Planning Minister to pull the developer Lend Lease and its critics back from the brink of legal warfare over Sydney's largest development project. Now, in a clean break with Labor's dubious approach to planning approvals, he has initiated a ''short, sharp'' inquiry to review key aspects of the controversial $6 billion proposal. It is the right response.

Having said that, nobody should underestimate the challenges the government faces in balancing the interests of business, community groups and the city of Sydney itself. Yet where so recently anger and suspicion prevailed, a degree of patience and goodwill has emerged. Central to the minister's success so far has been his willingness to hear all sides, while remaining focused on the potential benefits the redevelopment of the East Darling Harbour site promises for the city's amenity and the state's economy. None of which is to suggest the dispute has

been resolved. Hazzard has given two Victorian consultants only eight weeks to address such important issues as the scale of the project, the adequacy of public transport links, and whether planning laws were contravened to push the development through. Lend Lease is happy with the tight time frame. It has already invested $100 million for the development rights. The company says work will continue parallel with the review and it hopes to begin construction by the end of the year. Hazzard says the review must be not only brief, but also ''be sensible and something that can be achieved and give people and the community and business certainty''.

But is it reasonable to expect the consultants also to evaluate the proposed headland park, the over-the-water hotel and planned relocation of the cruise ship terminal to White Bay? Probably not. The truth is that Barangaroo will make or break Hazzard's political career. There is nowhere for government to hide on this project. The public has been sensitised by Labor's ''crash through'' tactics and will not wear a repeat performance. Get it right first; then get it through. Barangaroo is like a nose job - the risk of spoiling what you seek to improve is a serious one. The old container terminal is an eyesore the city must repair, but we have lived with many such excrescences to our harbour since European colonists first set foot here. Eternal vigilance is the price of keeping Sydney liveable as well as beautiful.






ADDICTS often give false justifications for their actions. So it is with states that have joined the gaming industry in resisting federal moves to limit gamblers' losses. In opposition, Ted Baillieu condemned Victoria's reliance on gaming taxes. Now, to protect its finances, his government threatens a High Court bid to block attempts to require poker machine users to cap losses in advance. Gaming Minister Michael O'Brien says Julia Gillard's government is forcing through ''a grubby political deal'' with independent MP Andrew Wilkie. What is truly grubby is the state's willingness to defend a revenue source based on human misery.

Victorians' pokie losses this financial year may top the record of $2.7 billion. While Mr O'Brien claims the state's policies are better than the ''ineffective'' federal policy (why then are the industry and states so alarmed?) the budget forecasts strong gaming tax growth. Gaming machine revenue is predicted to rise 3.1 per cent to $1.031 billion in 2011-12. Total gaming revenue is tipped to rise 4.6 per cent, to $1.74 billion, in what is the most gambling-dependent state.

Last year's Productivity Commission report confirmed that ''the pokies'' are among the most addictive forms of gambling. About 15 per cent of users are problem gamblers. Another 15 per cent are at risk. As the source of 40 per cent of the losses, problem gamblers are worth $400 million a year to the Victorian government.

Critics of the federal plan want to have it both ways: they say the rules will be ineffective but warn that clubs, pubs and other community venues will lose money and jobs. Gaming's community benefits are grossly exaggerated, however, as the commission and past Age reports have shown. Claims that precommitment is technically difficult and intrusive ignore existing loyalty card schemes that enable loss limits.

Mr Baillieu and his ministers should focus on the harm each problem gambler causes family, friends and employers - five to 10 others on average, the commission found. Family break-ups, depression, bankruptcy and fraud are common outcomes. The state's policy would leave it to an addict to cut short their gambling. Would the government argue against the legal ban on serving people who are drunk? It is reasonable to require gamblers to set limits on their losses. They retain the right to choose, while effectively ''sober'', their own limits.

The government refuses to face up to a truth that most Victorians have long known: the state won't give up an addiction to revenue that requires it to turn a blind eye to unacceptable levels of social harm. That is shameful.





IN POLITICS, what passes for wisdom increasingly denotes little more than a clutch of widely held but unexamined assumptions. Since the Tony Abbott-led Coalition demolished the Gillard government's majority in last year's federal election, one such assumption has been that Mr Abbott's tenure of the Liberal leadership is secure, and that he can be expected to present himself to the Australian people as the alternative prime minister in the election that is due in 2013.

Publicly at least, Mr Abbott seems to subscribe to this view: his budget reply speech this month contained very little commentary on the budget, and a great deal of bluster about the impending doom of the government. It was the speech of man who feels he has been robbed of the prime ministership and believes that most of Australia's voters share his assessment. What also appears to concern Mr Abbott, however, is that influential members of his party do not seem to share this confidence in his, or the party's, future.

Last week an email to Coalition MPs from Chief Whip Warren Entsch rebuked five of their number for missing a parliamentary vote that the opposition would have won had they been present. Among the five named and shamed by Mr Entsch was Mr Abbott's predecessor, Malcolm Turnbull, and it is known that the Opposition Leader saw the email before it was sent, and made no objection. The document was quickly, and reasonably, interpreted as not just a reprimand for lapses in parliamentary attendance, but as a warning to a man who may still hold leadership ambitions. It was remembered that Mr Abbott had deposed Mr Turnbull as Liberal leader in December 2009 by just one vote, and that on the day few had seemed as surprised by the outcome as the winner. The notion that last August's federal election has incontestably remade the Liberal Party in Mr Abbott's image quickly began to crumble.

Its crumbling has also been fuelled by Mr Abbott's earlier, acrimonious duelling with his Treasury spokesman, Joe Hockey, another leadership contender in 2009, who had, indeed, entered the ballot as the favourite. In the lead-up to this year's budget, Mr Hockey aroused the ire of the Liberals' coalition partners, the Nationals, by suggesting that trusts, which farmers and other small-business proprietors often use to reduce tax liabilities by distributing income among family members, should be taxed at the corporate rate. It is a proposal that has long been urged by campaigners for a fairer, less complex, tax system but which invariably has been stymied by sectional interests. So it was again, with Mr Hockey being slapped down by Nationals leader Warren Truss, and then accusing the Opposition Leader, in a telephone conversation whose contents quickly became public, of having embarrassed him by a lack of support and of having left him ''swinging in the wind''.

The reappearance of leadership tensions in the opposition ranks is not only, or chiefly, significant because of rival ambitions. Indeed, Mr Hockey has appealed to Coalition colleagues to put personal enmities aside. But the three men hold divergent philosophical views on crucial issues in Australia's politics, not least climate change. It is well known that Mr Turnbull supports an emissions-trading scheme, and he has supported tax reform, too, having called for Australia to create a sovereign wealth fund. Mr Abbott, meanwhile, grows ever more populist in his pitch to voters, preferring ''direct action'' measures to comprehensive reform through the pricing of carbon emissions, and in his public utterances saying just enough to encourage climate-change denialists while insisting that he is not one of them. Whether the next election is held early or when Parliament has served its term, voters will cast their verdict on matters of fundamental importance to the future of the nation. The problem is that it is increasingly uncertain just where the alternative government will stand.






Given the fate of Andrew Lansley's NHS plans, it would be foolish to assume the welfare reforms will proceed smoothly

He had sauntered towards Downing Street with Etonian nonchalance, but 100 days into his term a succession of ready-to-run ideas on health, education and welfare had emerged, and David Cameron was suddenly looking like – in his own phrase – "a man with a plan". The Economist plastered the PM on its cover with a mohican, and hailed him as the punk to smash up the old bastions of state power and put the users in charge of public services.

The road towards the coalition's promise of a smaller but smarter state, however, soon turned out to involve an inelegant segue through the forests and the yards of schools scheduled for a rebuild. Next came universities, where the big idea of harnessing a price mechanism to secure value for money went awry once institutions from Oxbridge to former polytechnics lined up to whack their students for the maximum allowable £9,000 fee. Meanwhile, the great Cameronian police reform, elected commissioners, ran into possibly terminal trouble in the House of Lords. Now, most extraordinarily of all, the conveyor belt in the law factory has been ratcheted into reverse with the health reforms. Announcing the Liberal Democrats' great triumph of obstruction last week, Nick Clegg explained his party's success in taming the Tory urge to privatise was so complete that the Commons would now consider afresh legislation which the chamber had previously all but passed.

For anyone worried about creeping commercialism in English medicine, Mr Clegg's announcement is warmly welcome, and an important reminder that this is a coalition of two parties, born of a hung parliament. This constellation of political forces is not one in which the Tories should ever have been allowed to assume that their controversial plans could be railroaded through. Andrew Lansley was able to work his NHS plans up from blueprint to bill within a few short months in government because he had been preparing them for six years in opposition. But their fate is a reminder that the best-laid schemes often go awry.

Consequently, no one should assume that battle will proceed smoothly in the one other field commanded by a minister who had a similarly long time to prepare his ground. Iain Duncan Smith has been poring over the intricacies of social security ever since he lost his party's leadership. The former face of the Tory's unbending right is evidently passionate about the myriad ways in which the system can ensnare those it is designed to help. But his moral certainty that he has the answers invites doubts about whether he has truly grasped the inherent dilemmas between encouraging work and protecting those destined to remain without it. With welfare in line for £18bn in cuts, the single largest portion of budgetary pain, these dilemmas are heightened mightily.

Nervous about public anger against real or imagined scroungers, Labour abstained at the second reading of the welfare reform bill. As ever more devilish details come to light, however, a more full-throated opposition is now being actively considered. Potentially dire knock-on effects on childcare, housing and local government finance are slowly emerging.

The biggest worry for Mr Duncan Smith is that Liberal Democrats are also getting decidedly jittery on one point in particular. The crude benefits cap which won George Osborne easy cheers at the Tory conference and in the Sun is now coming unstuck. It would plunge big families into penury, since they currently get larger cheques for the good reason that they have more bodies and souls to keep together. In London, where the cap will also restrict high housing benefit payments, poor parents could soon be asked to raise each child on just £3 a day. Mr Cameron should avoid another coalition bust-up that ends in forced retreat. Better to do away with the last vestiges of the head-banging mohican, by calmly removing this cap at once.





Sir Arthur Arnold's achievement in rethinking social housing endures

In case you missed it, yesterday was Arnold Day. Arnold Day? This new annual celebration marks the birthday of the Liberal politician, newspaper editor and reformer Sir Arthur Arnold, chairman of the London county council in the mid-1890s. It was Arnold who led the council in its attempt to raise local authority housing into something approaching an art form, if not quite an earthly paradise. The LCC's Boundary Estate, off Shoreditch High Street, was opened by the Prince of Wales in 1900. Its 20 five-storey housing blocks were designed and built to enviable standards set by William Morris's Arts & Crafts movement. Radiating from a circus crowned with a handsome bandstand, this was not just a replacement for some of the most infamous of all Victorian slums, but architecture, designed by Owen Fleming and his young LCC team, of a very high order. The estate was feted throughout Europe. The circus at its heart was named after Sir Arthur and yesterday summer planting around the bandstand was completed by local residents working with the Friends of Arnold Circus. A band played. Tea was served with Arnold Biscuits baked on the estate. Council housing has rarely been so prized. Arnold himself was concerned that the new estate might shift the poorest people into new slums further away from the city centre – it did – yet his achievement in rethinking social housing endures. Arnold Day is now a fixture in the calendar of London life, European architecture and British city planning.






New figures show we are still hurtling towards dangerous climate change - at a time when policymakers are running out of ideas

Sometimes a quotation really does say it all. As chief economist of the International Energy Agency, Fatih Birol is not given to overstatement – so his comment in our paper today that the latest figures on greenhouse gas emissions are "the worst news" should be taken seriously. It is not just that the statistics showing another record leap in carbon output – 30.6 gigatonnes of CO2 over 2010 – to make the highest annual total in history are grim. They also come at a point when the old centrist certainties about how to tackle climate change are palpably out of date, and yet no new ideas have come along as replacement.

Over the past half-decade, three global-warming orthodoxies have pertained: the first diplomatic, the second economic, and the third industrial. The diplomatic orthodoxy was this: the best way to negotiate reductions in carbon emissions was the UN. That was the fairest forum, which allowed poorer, smaller countries a platform alongside the old economic behemoths. It could be effective, too: the 1989 Montreal protocol to phase out the use of CFCs and other ozone-harming substances had been described by former UN secretary general Kofi Annan as "perhaps the single most successful international agreement". Even the Kyoto treaty could be seen as a success, if you squinted hard enough. But then came Copenhagen in 2009, which was a flop. More negotiations take place at Durban this December, and already the British and the Americans are warning observers not to get their hopes up.

Economically, the optimists argued that the great recession of 2008-09 would give governments and industrialists a vital breathing space. A contracting world economy would naturally reduce carbon emissions, meantime, public and private sectors could strike a green new deal that would begin a shift towards low-carbon growth. Today's figures give the lie to all that: the link between GDP growth and greenhouse gases remains overwhelming. True, the distribution may have shifted eastwards since the Kyoto protocol – but that is partly because the west increasingly imports its manufactured goods. Finally, industrially, the great bet was that rich countries would wean themselves off fossil fuels and on to a mix of nuclear and renewables. Yet Fukushima has prompted Germany, Italy and Switzerland to mothball their nuclear power projects.

Today's figures, then, show a world still hurtling towards dangerous climate change – at a time when policymakers are out of solutions for slowing this process. "A nice utopia" is how Mr Birol describes the hope of keeping a rise in global temperatures below 2C. And if he thinks that, we should all be alarmed.







North Korean leader Kim Jong Il visited China for about seven days from May 20. It was his third visit to China in a year. He traveled more than 4,000 km on a special train. Both Beijing and Pyongyang are mum about his visit. But it seems that the main purpose of his visit was to appeal for economic cooperation from China.

He mainly visited economic development zones in China. His destinations included a solar power panel factory in Yangzhou and a liquid crystal factory in Nanjing, both in Jiangsu Province. And on May 25, he met with Chinese President Hu Jintao in Beijing.

South Korea's JoongAng Ilbo newspaper reported the next day that China agreed to actively take part in North Korea's development project on Hwanggumpyong Island in the Yalu River (China-North Korea border).

In exchange, China reportedly will get the right to use a wharf in the port of Rajin in North Korea, which faces the Sea of Japan.

While in Tokyo on May 22, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao had told South Korean President Lee Myung Bak that Mr. Kim was invited to China to help him understand how China's economy has developed so that he can apply the knowledge to his own country. During his previous visit to China in August, Mr. Kim was urged by Mr. Hu to push economic reform in the North.

North Korea plans to become a "powerful and prosperous" country by 2012, the 100th anniversary of the birth of the late Kim Il Sung, the founder of North Korea — who is Mr. Kim's father.

To smooth the power transfer to his third son, Kim Jong Un, Mr. Kim needs to stabilize and strengthen his country's economic foundation.

His task will be difficult because his country's isolation has deepened as a result of international sanctions against it over its nuclear test and the stoppage of trade with South Korea following the North's artillery attack on the South's Yeongpyeong Island in November. North Korea also suffers from a severe food shortage.

In this situation, China is the only country the North can rely on for economic reconstruction. North Korea should realize that its isolation will end only when it shows concrete signs of dismantling its nuclear weapons program.





Voices critical of Prime Minister Naoto Kan appear to be getting louder within the Democratic Party of Japan. One cannot give high marks to Mr. Kan for his performance as the nation's leader in the wake of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

Even so, as Japan faces the difficult task of reconstruction and bringing the nuclear accidents at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant under control, DPJ politicians should realize that now is not the time for intraparty bickering.

It has been reported that on April 12, former DPJ leader Ichiro Ozawa hinted to DPJ lawmakers close to him that he may support a no-confidence motion against Mr. Kan if the Liberal Democratic Party submits such a motion to the Diet. He reportedly said that a "no-confidence motion is the only way to get Prime Minister Kan to resign."

In an unusual move, Upper House President Takeo Nishioka, who is supposed to be politically neutral because of his position, contributed an article to the Yomiuri Shimbun's May 19 issue in which he severely criticized Mr. Kan.

He wrote, "Prime Minister Kan, you should resign immediately" and "perhaps you have no self-awareness of your duty related to state affairs as prime minister."

On May 25, former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama criticized Mr. Kan for his handling of the nuclear crisis, praised Mr. Ozawa for his readiness to take decisive action, and hinted at the possibility that he may support a no-confidence motion against Mr. Kan. Mr. Hatoyama later toned down on the last point.

DPJ lawmakers should pay attention to the fact that more than 100,000 victims of the March 11 disasters are still living in temporary shelters, and work to remove debris from the devastated areas is moving slowly.

Although the current Diet session ends June 22, a bill to issue bonds necessary for implementation of the initial 2011 budget and a separate bill to lay down principles for the reconstruction have no prospects of being enacted soon.

DPJ lawmakers must unite to move the government work forward. For his part, Mr. Kan must involve DPJ politicians outside his inner circle in important policy-related tasks to restore unity in the ruling party.






NEW YORK — Are some of those who write for The New York Times utterly unaware of the rest of the world — including the United States?

Take the article last month, "Culture of Complicity Tied to Stricken Nuclear Plant" (April 21, 2011). "Given the fierce insularity of Japan's nuclear industry," the article by Norimitsu Onishi and Ken Belson triumphantly began, "it was perhaps fitting that an outsider exposed the most serious safety coverup in the history of Japanese nuclear power."

Onishi and Belson went on to detail how the regulators "colluded" with the regulated not to reveal the possible flaw pointed out by "an outsider," a Japanese-American inspector working for General Electric — without mentioning that GE was the designer of the troubled nuclear reactors. For that matter, they did not refer to the March 15 ABC News article, "Fukushima: Mark 1 Nuclear Reactor Design Caused GE Scientist to Quit in Protest." The protest and resignation happened 35 years ago.

The rest of the Onishi-Belson story was predictable. The disaster was a result of the regulatory laxity created by "politicians, bureaucrats and industry executives" — and scientists, too — who are "single-mindedly focused on expanding nuclear power." These people form "the nuclear power village" where they work in a network of backslappers and backscratchers, rewarding one another with "lucrative positions" and such while ostracizing those who disagree with them.

"Just as in any Japanese village," the reporting duo did not forget to add, as if the inhabitants of a village of any other country would act any different.

Actually there's no need to bring in the urban-rural split prevalent in every part of the world. The "village" could be a town, a gated community, a co-op building. But Onishi and Belson had to show off their awareness of anthropological peculiarities long ascribed to Japan.

Is complicity, along with collusion, one distinguishing trait of Japanese "culture"? It definitely is not. Remember the torrents of news articles on the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill last year?

On April 20, 2010, BP's giant oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico exploded, killing 11 people. BP estimated the resultant oil leak occurring 1.5 km below on the sea floor at a rate far below what would later become an accepted figure.

Outside scientists protested at once, but no matter. The U.S. government went along with the BP estimate. They said they had no independent means of measuring it. The rest, as they say, is history.

Onishi and Belson, let alone their editors, surely knew all this when the news came out that the earthquake and tsunami damaged the Fukushima nuclear reactors. Just glancing at the Internet for headlines, you at once come up with the following:

• "U.S. exempted BP's Gulf of Mexico drilling from environmental impact study" (The Washington Post, May 5, 2010).

• "Gulf oil spill: Is MMS so corrupt it must be abolished?" (The Christian Science Monitor, May 7, 2010).

• "The Spill, The Scandal and the President" (RollingStone, June 8, 2010).

• "Barton BP Apology Spurs Rebuke From Other Republicans" (Businessweek, June 17, 2010).

Complicity? Collusion? Backscratching? Single-minded focus on energy development? It was all there.

"MMS" in the Christian Science Monitor headline is Minerals Management Service, the government agency responsible for oil drilling and other resources development.

The article from Rolling Stone went on to say: "According to reports by Interior's inspector general, MMS staffers were both literally and figuratively in bed with the oil industry. When agency staffers weren't joining industry employees for coke parties or trips to corporate ski chalets, they were having sex with oil-company officials."

I don't know if coke or sex was involved in "the nuclear power village."

"Interior" is the Interior Department, the overseer of the MMS, just as Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, the promoter of nuclear energy, is of the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency.

The U.S. government's report that came out in January, "Deep Water: The Gulf Oil Disaster and the Future of Offshore Drilling," characterized MMS' mission as "conflicted" by "oversight — and oversights." This outcome was inevitable or "mandated."

The agency was tasked, the report said, to "awkwardly" combine "two priorities, as a series of congresses, presidents, and secretaries of the interior — responding to competing constituencies in explicitly political ways — sought to reconcile the sometimes conflicting goals of environmental protection, energy independence, and revenue generation."

"Barton BP Apology" in the Businessweek headline referred to the infamous incident after President Barack Obama worked out a financial deal with the British oil company to pay for the damages of the oil spill.

During a subsequent hearing by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Texas Republican Joe Barton accused Obama of perpetrating a "shakedown" on the company and "apologized" to its CEO, Tony Hayward. This was too much even for Republican stalwarts, and they forced Barton to "apologize."

Did Barton's act change anything?

No, sir. The House lawmaker went on to easily win his 13th term in the 2010 midterm election. Not only that, House Republicans were able to "shellack" Obama.

On May 10, another pair of New York Times reporters gave an interesting twist to the matter with the headline: "Lag in Closing a Japanese Nuclear Plant Reflects Erosion of a Culture of Consensus." But that's another story.

To go back to Onishi and Belson, "insularity" is one of the half-dozen words with which foreigners have long delighted in saying the Japanese are a race apart — since Ruth Benedict's "The Chrysanthemum and the Sword."

And many Japanese, lest they disappoint them, have aped them.

"Insularity," in fact, was among the reasons Edward Seidensticker gave in declaring he was leaving Japan for good, back in the 1980s. The famed scholar of Japanese literature announced his decision to divorce Japan, as it were, in his foreword to Jared Taylor's "Shadows of the Rising Sun."

Seidensticker, however, went back to Japan, and died there. Taylor, who grew up in Japan and stated in his book that his Japanese is so good most Japanese took him to be a native Japanese over the phone, went on to gain prominence as a white supremacist.

Hiroaki Sato is a translator and essayist.








NEW YORK — The ketogenic diet, a high-fat, adequate-protein and low-carbohydrate diet, is regaining popularity in treating difficult-to-control cases of epilepsy, particularly in children. The classic ketogenic diet contains a 4 to 1 ratio by weight of fat to combined amounts of protein and carbohydrates.

The diet has proven to be effective in half of the patients who try it, and very effective in one third of the patients. It has given new hope to parents whose epileptic children status couldn't be improved by anticonvulsant medication.

After stroke, epilepsy is one of the most common neurological disorders. It is estimated that if affects 50 million people worldwide. Most people with epilepsy can successfully control their seizures with medication. However, 20 to 30 percent fail to do so, despite trying different drugs. Particularly for them the diet is again proven valuable in epilepsy management.

Knowledge of this diet isn't new. Ancient Greek physicians treated diseases, including epilepsy, by altering their patient's diet.

In the book "Epidemics," Hippocrates describes the case of a man whose epilepsy was cured with drastic diet and fasting. Erasistratus, a Greek anatomist and royal physician under Seleucus I Nicator of Syria stated, "One inclining to epilepsy should be made to fast without mercy and be put on short rations."

In modern times, the first study of fasting as a treatment for epilepsy was conducted n France in 1911. A few years later, an osteopathic physician named Hugh Conklin from Battle Creek, Michigan, treated his epilepsy patients with fasting and obtained very good results. Because he believed that epilepsy was caused by a toxin produced in the intestines he recommended a fast lasting 18 to 25 days and a "water diet" to allow the toxin to be eliminated from the body.

In 1921, Dr. Rusell Wilder, at the Mayo Clinic, used previous research in coining the name "ketogenic" to describe a diet that produced a high level of compounds called ketones in the blood through an excess of fat and lack of carbohydrates. During the 1920s and 1930s, when there were only a few effective anticonvulsant drugs, this diet was widely used and studied to treat epilepsy. In 1938, with the discovery of phenytoin, an anticonvulsant drug, the focus shifted to developing new compounds of this kind.

The ketogenic diet has had a revival in recent times after it was found that children with difficult-to-treat epilepsy were more likely to find relief with the ketogenic diet than to benefit from trying a different anticonvulsant drug. There is now evidence that adolescents and some adults can also benefit form this diet. However, children with a focal brain lesion are more likely to become seizure-free with surgery than with the ketogenic diet.

This year, "epilepsy action," from the U.K., published a review of the diet in which they state: "The ketogenic diet has recently been "rediscovered" and is achieving increasingly widespread use. Its modern role as an alternative management for children with difficult-to-control epilepsy is currently being re-defined."

In 2009, at the 63rd Annual Scientific Conference of the American Epilepsy Society, Eric Kossoff, M.D., from Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, stated that "many clinical ketogenic diet experts realize that the ketogenic diet works so well that perhaps we should be using it before epilepsy becomes so difficult to control that families become angry it wasn't tried earlier."

ABC News had a piece of news this year about the increasing use of the diet, particularly in children difficult-to-treat with anticonvulsants.

Although the ketogenic diet can be very effective, it is not totally benign, and there may be complications from its use.

About 1 in 20 children on the ketogenic diet will develop kidney stones, which can be prevented to a certain extent by providing some specific supplements.

In adults, some common side effects include weight loss, constipation and raised cholesterol levels.

In addition, the diet can present some difficulties to caregivers and to the patients due to the time commitment involved in planning meals and measuring the ingredients, particularly because a strict adherence to the dietary plan is required. However, since the diet can provide a treatment for children without the use of dangerous drugs, it is an approach worth taking when dealing with this serious disease.

Cesar Chelala, M.D., is an international public health consultant.







The weaknesses of internal controls revealed in the central bank audit of priority (personal) banking services at Indonesia's 23 largest commercial banks shows how imperative it is now to establish a single entity to supervise all financial service institutions, as required by the 2004 Law on the Central Bank.

Bank Indonesia deputy governor Muliaman Hadad told the House of Representatives on Wednesday that the audit showed how the largest banks were also acutely lax in their management of operational risks, including the enforcement of the know-your-customer principle, particularly to avoid money laundering.

However, we were discouraged to note the latest deliberations on the Financial Service Supervisory Authority (FSSA) bill on Thursday remained bogged down in strikingly different opinions, between the government and House of Representatives, on the structure of the Financial Supervisory Commission (the governing council) of the FSSA.

The chief of the House special committee in charge of deliberating the bill even cautioned that the draft legislation could simply be returned to the government if both sides could not resolve their differences by June 10.

The situation, we think, is rather worrisome. First because the establishment of the FSSA is now almost 18 months behind the Dec. 31, 2010 deadline, set out in the 2004 law.

Even if the bill is approved next month, it will still take at least two years to complete all the legal frameworks and integrate the supervision of banks — a task currently managed by the central bank — and non-bank financial companies and the capital market — presently under Bapepam-LK.

A more fundamental reason for this need was reflected in the recent spate of bank insider fraud cases, involving millions of dollars in customers' money.

The string of scandals that hit several large state and private banks over the last few months showed how separate supervisory institutions are no longer effective in detecting and preventing banking and financial crimes that have become increasingly sophisticated and involve multiple transactions across different financial service companies.

The idea of the FSSA is that a single supervising agency can be more effective in monitoring risks across financial institutions and corresponding to real or potential systemic risks and can better understand risks arising not only from a single financial intermediary but also a group of intermediaries.

The 2008 global financial crisis, which started in the United States, was further evidence of how deeply integrated the financial services industry has become, and how a failure in one segment of the industry could cause extensive damage to another.

The central bank and its employees who until last December were still strongly opposed to the integration of financial service oversight have finally realized and accepted the fundamental objective of a single oversight agency.

It would be quite damaging to the future of Indonesia's financial service industry if the much-needed law again fails to be enacted only because of a single contentious issue: the structure and the selection of members of Financial Service Commission of FSSA.

The most important thing is for the House to ensure that the FSSA will truly be a politically independent institution. The most effective way for it to do so is by establishing a credible recruitment and selection process for its commissioners.






In the past few years, Indonesia has made a resounding progress in various fields. The first reform movement that we launched in 1997 has posited Indonesia as one of the vibrant democracies in the world. A series of elections are held peacefully nationwide. And, good governance has become our top-credo in moving Indonesia toward a more stable and prosperous nation.

Indonesia's economy performance has made these achievements more impressive. Where once financial obituaries were written about the demise of Indonesia gripped by the 1997 crisis, the country today is thriving as never before.

Last year, the GDP grew up by 6.1 percent, topping the other G-20 members. And better still, other statistical indicators, such as foreign reserves amounting to more than US$120 billion, relatively low inflation rate, and increasingly stronger Rupiah (Rp 8.500) against the US Dollar, have further raised our hope that in the near future Indonesian economy will be far more robust, matching of those Chinese and Indian. This year, it is expected that our economy will grow around 7 percent primarily due to strong domestic consumption, investment and export.

In order to achieve such a target, for the next five years, Indonesia will need around US$150 billion to finance its infrastructure projects, such as: Seaports, airports, highways and railways, to name a few.

Bearing these in mind, many analysts have started to refer Indonesia as "a success story", and "the next India". All ends with a positive note. Indeed, Indonesia — under the leadership of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono — is currently a country with a steady political order and vibrant economy. In a broader perspective, today's Indonesia deserves to enjoy a leap frog to a more sustainable growth trajectory that will secure our economic growth in the years to come.

Such a claim is not without foundation.

Facts show that Indonesia was one of the few that continued to make positive growth in the past few years, including during the last global financial turbulence (2008). A combination of Indonesia's positive GDP growth, improving investment climate, stable macro-economic policies and domestic political stability have made Indonesia a very attractive investment destination for foreign investors.

These impressive performances have increasingly strengthened our position as one of the most vibrant economies in the world. It is not surprising if investors are now talking about BRIICS — Brazil, Russia, India, Indonesia, China and South Africa. Fitch Ratings announced that Indonesia's sovereign credit rating has increased to one notch below investment grade, reflecting Indonesia's resilience to the recent global financial crisis. Many analysts even predict that soon Indonesia will be able to reach the investment grade.

Better still, Indonesia is now a member of the G-20 that has become the prime-mover for international economic cooperation. This is a clear evidence of the international recognition of our rising economic power.

With the total GDP of around US$700 billion, Indonesia is also the largest economy in Southeast Asia and in that regard plays an active role in shaping the agenda within the regional frameworks such as ASEAN, ASEAN+3, ARF, East Asia Summit and APEC.

With regard to Indonesia — China bilateral relations, nobody doubts that China is currently the darling of the world with whom every country would love to have a special relationship. Indonesia is no exception.

Indonesia and China signed the Joint Declaration on the Strategic Partnership in 2005 and its Plan of Action in 2010 boosting up bilateral cooperation in the field of economy, politics and socio-culture.

The signing of those two platforms is indeed a watershed in the history of our bilateral relations. They signal our determination to work hand in hand in various fields by putting the interests of our people at the forefront as to enable them to enjoy stability and prosperity, especially in this tumultuous era which is still marred by lingering economic and financial crises.

Last year, Indonesia and China agreed to sign and carry out a Plan of Action (POA) to implement the partnership, covering the establishment of a bilateral dialogue mechanism on technical cooperation, cooperation in international and regional affairs, and on funding arrangement.

The strategic partnership has proven to be effective in boosting our bilateral ties. China now emerges as the largest trading partner of Indonesia, while Indonesia is one of the biggest trading partners for China. Last year, the two-way trade volume stood at US$42.7 billion, a much higher increase compared to the year before (US$28.3 billion).

Having considered the continuing positive trend of our trade relations, Indonesia and China pledged to deepen economic cooperation in various fields to meet the newly-set trade target of US$80 billion by 2015. We are also eyeing the influx of people-to-people contacts, in particular in the grass roots level that is aimed at fostering a better understanding between us. Aside from these sectors, Indonesia and China also promote a more intensified cooperation on energy, disaster prevention and relief, education and cultural exchanges.

The recently concluded visit by Premier Wen Jiabao to Indonesia on April 29-30, 2011, has further solidified our bilateral ties. Both leaders emphasized the importance of promoting mutually beneficial cooperation benefitting our two peoples.

The writer is a Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy graduate and currently serves as Ambassador of the Republic of Indonesia to the People's Republic of China and concurrently accredited to the Republic of Mongolia. The article is an excerpt of his speech presented before the Diplomatic Briefings Series organized by the Asia Society Hong Kong, on May 18, 2011.







In mid-November of 2011, Indonesia will host the sixth East Asia Summit (EAS) in the newly built Nusa Dua Convention Center in Bali.

Based on the Kuala Lumpur Declaration of 2005, this year's summit will continue to be a forum for dialogue on broad strategic, political and economic issues to promote "common security, common prosperity and common stability". The EAS is welcoming two new members — the US and Russia — into the East Asian community.

Although the US is not a part of the East Asian map, the US's abstraction from East Asian political, security and foreign policy mapping will eviscerate a fundamental element of the East Asian community building process, which is the EAS's paramount goal.

Meanwhile, Russia — currently the world's largest oil producer and partly bordered by North Korea, Japan and China — is geographically strategic for the rest of East Asia.

For example, on Jan. 1, 2011, the Eastern Siberia Pacific Ocean oil pipeline began operating, exporting Russian crude oil to Asia-Pacific markets (Japan, China and South Korea).

In the midst of the world trying to devise a new global order following the 2008 global financial crisis, which sheds light on the shifts of global economic power to the east and south, and East Asia trying to strike a dynamic equilibrium of power, where should the EAS's place be in this evolving and increasingly convoluted regional and global architecture?

Formulating this year's EAS agenda must be strategic, and there will be conflicting interests with the formulation.

For example, while the US wants nothing less than bringing security issues, including securing free navigation and avoiding any power's dominance in the South China Sea, on the table, China will do anything to avoid this.

There are also regional challenges that need to be contained, like
the Thai-Cambodia border conflict and other territorial disputes, the Korean Peninsula, maritime issues, terrorism, piracy, transnational crime, pandemics and natural disasters.

The old functional agenda, including education, finance, energy, disaster management and the prevention of avian flu, will be continued since there are already existing mechanisms for those areas created at previous summits.

Two new items are likely to be added to the agenda: connectivity, which is being lobbied by China,
and a dynamic relationship between traditional and non-traditional security, which is being lobbied by
the US.

The new agenda is appreciated for two main reasons. On the one hand, connectivity is consistent with the Master Plan of ASEAN Connectivity.

Physical connectivity is imperative to connect ASEAN (Southeast Asia, more generally) with China (Northeast Asia, more generally) and to build an integrated East Asian community. The plan includes the construction of the Singapore-Kunming rail link that may be extended to as far as Surabaya in East Java.

The ASEAN Connectivity agenda will also include institutional and people-to-people connectivity, including regulatory reforms and education.

The interplay of traditional and non-traditional security is a timely and pending issue with the ongoing territorial disputes and other non-traditional security issues such as maritime piracy that are encroaching in the Indian Ocean.

As the host of the EAS 2011, Indonesia supports the inclusion of geopolitical security issues.

To what extent this is politically feasible is still a question, but it is likely that the security issue agenda may overlap with the agenda items of the ASEAN Defense Minister's Meeting-Plus (ADMM+), whose member states are the same as those of the EAS.

These include humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, peacekeeping operations, maritime security, military medicine and counterterrorism.

At the conclusion of the 2011 ASEAN Summit, ASEAN leaders reiterated the importance of the 2002 Declaration of Conduct and the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea as means to peaceful dispute resolutions.

Enacting a regional code of conduct for the South China Sea border dispute and pressuring the US to ratify the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, which the US has signed, will be more challenging issues.

Nevertheless, the EAS should strengthen the commitment to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation signed by all EAS members.

The inclusion of new members provides an invaluable opportunity to hold policy dialogues on energy security.

Asia's surging demand for energy may inflict rivalries on energy resources instead of cooperation. From the Sino-Japan contestation over oil and gas reserves in the East China Sea for the past decade to Chinese activism in the Indian Ocean, which causes anxiety in India, EAS leaders must seek paths to cooperation and find a win-win solution.

With Russia as the largest oil producer and China as the largest oil consumer, the EAS could facilitate a discussion on energy prices. On top of this, Japan's nuclear crisis also sheds light on the importance of holding dialogues on nuclear security.

This bipolar dominance of the US and China should be avoided. In his recent visit to Indonesia, Premier Wen Jia Bao reiterated that ASEAN should remain in the driver's seat.

The EAS is built on cracking ground because of the Thai-Cambodia dispute. Therefore, Indonesia should act softly and slowly but decisively.

Instead of making a great leap forward, it might adhere to Deng Xiaoping's phase to "cross the river by feeling for stones", because mutual trust can only be earned and not given.

The writer is a researcher at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Jakarta and a lecturer in the economics department at the University of Indonesia.







The Cambodia-Thailand territorial dispute and violent conflict has remained a widely discussed topic, not only during the recent ASEAN summit, but also at the ASEAN Civil Society Conference (ACSC)/ASEAN Peoples' Forum (APF).

The growing concern is due to the fact that the quarrel between the two neighboring countries has marred the image of the organization and may destabilize the region, not to mention its impacts on civilians who live near the disputed area.

As reported, the discussion of this issue during the summit was not an easy process. Both parties disagreed over many alternatives of peaceful settlement offered by members of the group.

Yet in the end they finally agreed that Indonesia as the chair of ASEAN would play a role as an observer and mediator.

Without any intention to underestimate the effort and role that the Indonesian government, in particular the Foreign Ministry, has played so far, we have to realize that there will be many limits for Indonesia to carry out its job.

Those obstacles arise due to the nature of observer's role itself and the fact that Indonesia is the only one playing the role. In the end, these limitations may also determine the success or failure of this process.

To begin with, in a spectrum line which represents the role, authority and equipment of peacekeeping efforts, an observer is located at the far left of the line, with peacekeeping missions in the middle and peace enforcement forces at the far right.

As the role of peacekeeping operation is to maintain a cease-fire by creating a buffer zone between both conflicting sides and peace enforcement to compel disputants to a cease-fire, an observer has neither the role nor authority.

Its role is purely to observe and report the situation without any intention to create a buffer zone. This is also due to the fact that an observer mission usually has no military equipment whatsoever that can be used to defend itself, let alone force both sides to stop fighting.

Moreover, unlike peacekeeping and peace enforcement missions whose members are mostly military personnel, an observer mission at most times consists of civilians.

Even one person can act as an observer because there is not really much to do in this role.

Such characteristics will by default become the flaws of any observer mission, including in the case of Cambodia-Thailand. While Indonesia's observer team was not established, let alone present, it barely could do anything when the skirmish between troops erupted last April.

Beside its lack of capacity to urge both sides to lay down arms, the observer's mandate would not permit it to do so either. Another limit is the lack of consent from both Cambodia and Thailand in Indonesia's mediation role.

The initial stance of both sides in resolving the conflict demonstrated a hesitance toward the adoption of a regional mechanism.

Cambodia, at first, bypassed its co-members of ASEAN and called for attention from the UN Security Council to intervene.

Thailand, on the contrary, was very eager to resort to bilateral negotiation. Those initial preferences reflected the parties' lack of trust in the middleman. In a business of resolving conflicts, trust from the mediated parties is vital. A lack of trust, therefore, will be a major complication toward the peace process.

In this case, the lack of confidence in Indonesia might be a result of the perception that the country was a dominant actor in the region but its ability to manage domestic conflicts was in doubt.

For the parties to trust a third party, they first must be sure on its neutrality. Being neutral does not only mean favoritism on one side, but also freedom of interest.

Naturally, a third party will always be suspected of hiding vested interests. Such suspicion will loom larger when the third party is a "big power", assuming that it would have more interest in the conflict.

It explains why in most cases around the world where a third party was involved, be that as an observer, peacekeeper, or peace enforcer, major powers such as the US seldom took part.

In the context of the Preah Vihear conflict, Indonesia's stature as the "regional big power" can weigh in negatively towards its acceptance by Cambodia and Thailand.

Although Indonesia clearly has no particular interest in the disputed territory, it is understandable that the parties may suspect Indonesia is looking for a bigger political leverage within the organization by, for instance, working in favor of one side.

Additionally, Indonesia's initiative may also be perceived as a breach of sovereignty and a violation of the ASEAN sacrosanct principle of non-interference. Doubts over the Indonesian government's ability to solve domestic conflicts may also be the root of this trust deficiency.

Although Indonesia managed to resolve major conflicts such as the Aceh rebellion, recent developments at the national level indicate a decline in the government's ability or will to address conflicts such as separatism in Papua.

With those problems at hand and the ambition to maximize its role as the current ASEAN chair, what Indonesia should do is look beyond the Cambodia-Thailand conflict.

That is to say that instead of focusing only to resolve this conflict, Indonesia must seek to design a proposal for a dispute settlement body. The idea to set up the ASEAN Institute for Peace and Reconciliation is a positive move. However, the institute needs more authority in resolving conflicts instead of issuing recommendations.

For example, it gets to decide which dispute settlement mechanism is to be applied in certain cases, including, when needed, whether observers or a peacekeeping mission are necessary to be sent.

Furthermore, to ensure its impartiality, the institute has to consist of neutral representatives from all ASEAN countries; for instance, academics, prominents of the civil society movements and former diplomats whose experience has been proven but no longer have direct ties with their respective governments.

Intervention in the form of sending peace missions to end the violence and maintain cease-fire is essential because only in that way both sides can start peace talks.

And last but not least, such an intervention is pressing to protect civilians from falling victim to armed conflicts or being affected in any way directly or indirectly. That is, of course, if ASEAN really cares about its people.

The writer is an assistant lecturer in international relations at the University of Indonesia.






The recent news on a possible halt to the ongoing discussions over the draft presidential decree on tobacco control has certainly raised serious concerns among the health community in this country.

With statistics showing a 26 percent growth in tobacco consumption over the last 15 years, placing Indonesia among the world's three largest tobacco consumers, pressure is mounting on the government to toughen regulations concerning prevention of tobacco-related diseases, particularly cancer, and cardiovascular and lung diseases, which kill more than 200,000 citizens every year.

In a country where smoking prevalence reached 34 percent in 2008, with 63 percent of men smoking and the number of adolescents taking up smoking on the rise, the impact of secondhand smoke, therefore, cannot be taken lightly. The majority of smokers here consume cigarettes made of tobacco and cloves.

Among measures that have been proposed to reduce tobacco consumption is an imposition of higher taxes, known as "probably the most effective tool".

Simulations show that if the maximum legally allowable tobacco tax rates are implemented (70 percent of sales price is the global benchmark, against 37 percent in Indonesia in 2008), between 1.7 and 4 million tobacco-related deaths among smokers could be prevented, as higher cigarette prices drove the demand down.

Studies have shown, however, the decrease in tobacco demand is smaller than the increase in price. In other words, many smokers would continue to smoke despite higher tobacco prices.

Simulations have also demonstrated that additional revenues generated from doubling tobacco tax could create nearly 300,000 jobs, but the policy is bound to hurt farmers who currently depend on tobacco and clove for their livelihoods, and transition to alternative crops would not only be difficult but also time-consuming.

Clearly, Indonesia is faced with the dilemma of discouraging smoking while relying on the revenues from the tobacco industry in the forms of excise, value-added tax and income tax.

In fact, almost 98 percent of excise came from the tobacco industry in 2009. The industry also generates millions of jobs, directly and indirectly, including farmers, workers and those involved in the distribution chain — not to mention the advertising sector, which will suffer a great blow if the tobacco control takes effect.

The Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) was initiated under the auspices of the World Health Organization in 2003, with Indonesia the only country in Asia that has not ratified it.

One measure that has never been suggested is to "neutralize" the content of tobacco smoke, which consists of a mix of chemicals and organic and non-organic compounds. While most of these organic compounds interact with our body system in the form of polymers, others form free radical gases, which cause diseases.

As for nicotine, there is no evidence that reducing its level will impact on health as indicated in the joint study conducted by the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Indonesia (Barber et al, 2008).

Certainly, such a solution appears nothing short of "bizarre" but, apparently, a biochemist from the Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB) has found a way to do just that — neutralize tobacco through a nanobiological process. i.e. a process characterized by the interplay between physics, materials science, synthetic organic chemistry, engineering and biology. The researcher has successfully treated a number of terminal lung cancer patients through a detoxification method that includes smoking the "healthy cigarettes" of her invention.

Indeed, the nanostructure molecular blocks of these health cigarettes remove the electrons of the free radical gases contained in tobacco smoke, in particular those promoted by mercury, thereby neutralizing the ill-effects of smoking. Unlike regular cigarettes, this cigarette smoke is "odorless".

Naturally, the controversial method has raised controversy in the wake of the anti-tobacco campaign here and around the world. Speculation has also been rife that she might work for the tobacco industry. It's not true, of course. Years ago most patients would only survive in the next few months due to their poor prognostics, but many of whom are still alive.

As controversial as it may seem, the detoxification process is based on meta-engineering, for example, the development of new knowledge, and is part of a new science called complexity science that focuses on nonlinear and complex adaptive systems that are believed to be the best way to understand systems involving neurons in the human body.

This science, which includes the less popular quantum physics, deals with cells and interaction between cells. It thereby enables a better understanding on how the whole body system functions, thus leading to the achievement of "holistic health". Hence, we are speaking of a science that potentially brings about breakthroughs in medical science which is generally based on reductionism, or a science that may well "revolutionize" medicine.

The detoxification method has been presented in a number of international forums attended by scientists working on Theoretical Physics and Nano or Computer Science, such as the recent ICEME (International Conference on Engineering and Meta-Engineering) in Florida, the US.

That said, just imagine if farmers in the country learn how to grow "harmless" tobacco, the industry would be able to continue producing and selling healthy cigarettes, generating tax revenues and keeping millions of jobs intact.

Of course, convincing WHO that tobacco can be "neutralized" is another matter Indonesia will have to deal with. Indeed, we can agree that the idea sounds preposterous, but then again who believed in the past that man could walk on the moon until it was proven?

The writer is specialized in public health and sociology and currently the program director at Kapeta Foundation.









Many years ago Sri Lanka had a very vociferous and active civil society which were very concerned about social and political issues in the country. In fact if we to go back to pre independence days it was to a great extent stalwarts in civil society who clamoured for various rights for the people . Persons such as the late Dr. E. W. Adikaram who spearheaded the Temperance movement, C.W.W. Kannangara though a politician advocated free education. Certain other civil society members were those who agitated for various social and economic reforms which would be of benefit to all citizens. Today unfortunately organization that were said to speak out on social and economic issues were defined as Non Governmental organizations were accused of getting embroiled in partisan issues and this tended to make their comments to be viewed with suspicion.

It was stated recently that in February this year that the 'National Intellectuals and Professionals Organization' was formed. The organization's objectives were explained by the speakers at the inaugural convention held recently and was apparently founded by various intellectuals and professionals serving throughout the island. Office bearers, a national organizer and an executive committee for the new organization were elected and they appear to be a representative group consisting of those of diverse specialties. Keynote speakers stressed at this inaugural meeting that 'society in Sri Lanka is silent, (we) wish the 'National Intellectuals and Professionals Organization' would have strength to break this silence.' And '.There are intellectuals and professionals in all parts of the island. However, they do not play any role in the social structure' and another speaker commented 'We should attempt to find solutions for issues as intellectuals and professionals by joining our forces experiences and abilities. Hence, the step we are taking today is a very important one and one with a strong will. What commences today is the process of changing the society with the mediation of intellectuals and professionals.'

Giving such views on the stance that should be taken by all influential members in civil society we hope that this organisation too would not go the way of all other organisations and that the founder members will be able to create awareness among the public of contentious issues that prevail and provide a voice to the voiceless. As the National Bhikku Front Patron Ven. Attaggne Ratanapala Thera said "those who advised the rulers of the country should provide effective guidelines for the government to run the nation in an exemplary manner.

People are fully aware of the need for permanent peace, good governance, continued impartial enforcement of law and order, justice, observance of human rights and media freedom, individual and collective security and social welfare let us hope the new organization can give the much needed direction to realize these issues.





The decision of the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka to have veteran members of the higher judiciary to probe specific cases of violations in the war-ravaged North-East may have been an after-thought on the Government's part. It may have even come a day too late in the context of the Darusman Report. If taken to the logical conclusion it can still provide a basis for Colombo to address the genuine and not-so-genuine concerns of the international community on this score.

The current decision, announced by HRC Chairman and retired Supreme Court Judge, Priyantha Perera, seems to be addressing friends of Sri Lanka in the global sphere. If nothing else, the Government needs to help friends in the global South to help it, at UN and elsewhere, whenever allegations of human rights violations, based particularly on the Darusman Report are thrown at it.

The 'flawed' nature of the Report, as outlined by Colombo, owes mostly to procedural aspects. It has not contested the contents. It is possible that the Government did not want to confer respectability on the report by going into the details. It may not have helped but it kept the focus of the Government reaction on what it said – and not what it did not want to say, but has found a place in the Report.

The Government would still have to prove to the international community, particularly its friends that it meant business this time. In the past, where it had not prevaricated, Colombo had given the impression that panels were being appointed only to buy time, for the world to pass on to another crisis situation -- either in the country or elsewhere. The Justice Bhagwati panel was/is one example. 

The Government cannot tire its friends, too. It needs to look inwards and decide what all about the final stages of the war it would have wanted the international community not to embarrass/harass it with. The Government did not do adequate homework. Instead, it went into a denial mode from day one.

The Darusman Report lacked credibility from day one, in a different way, too. It is inconceivable that the backers of the move had thought that it would pass muster in the UN Security Council and Human Rights Council, when friends of Sri Lanka like China and Russia are well-embedded as 'veto powers'. Today, the only achievement of the Report is to force the TNA to take to the Government's path and knock at the doors of China and Russia.

In intervening the Sri Lanka visit of US Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake has only softened the nuanced Chinese reaction to the Darusman Report. Blake's conciliatory concessions to the Government meant that China went all out on the Government's side when External Affairs Minister G L Peiris visited Beijing.

In the final analysis, the three-member Darusman panel, appointed to advise UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, has ended up becoming a prosecutor of sorts. Like external facilitators of the peace process in the past, the panel seems to have equated the Sri Lankan and the non-State actor, post-war. If China and Russia were expected to oppose the Report, whenever submitted and in whatever form, what did the UN chief hope to achieve by naming an advisory panel in the first place?

Sure enough, the Report embarrassed the Sri Lankan State, Government and President Rajapaksa, as could have been pre-judged. The UN may need to examine if the Report could form an FIR (First Information Report) of sorts from someone to charge the Sri Lankan Government in some criminal court or the other – and if it was an intended outcome, if it came to that.

In political terms, the report may have also given false hopes to Diaspora groups, who have been using the international community to score debating points vis a vis the Colombo dispensation for decades now. In their hour of revived hope, when everything else had been lost, some among them could still lay faith in the future.

In this context, the arrest of Perinbanayagam Sivaparan alias Nediyavan in Norway, at the instance of Dutch authorities wanting to come down on LTTE fund-raising, falls between two stools. It should not be confused with media reports that the  Norwegian Embassy in Colombo had helped Tamil elements to find their way to Oslo in the past.

Instead, the Nediyavan arrest is a strong message to the Sri Lankan Government that the international community was still on its side in putting down LTTE terrorism with an iron-hand. Colombo's response to allow the Dutch authorities to meet with Kumaran Pathmanathan or KP, the one-time LTTE arms procurer, is reflective of the shared concerns that continue till date.

Yet, KP's handlers in Colombo still need to learn more about politics in the Indian neighbourhood before letting him talk about the Rajiv Gandhi assassination and the ideological sustenance that LTTE's Prabhakaran had purportedly derived from the defeated DMK in southern Tamil Nadu elections. It's again about credibility as KP had not apologised to India for the assassination all these months when he was in Government custody in Sri Lanka.Western initiatives such as Nediyavan's arrest also delineate Diaspora moderates from militants, and confer legitimacy of operations, if not of cause, on the former. The inexplicable existence of the 'Trans-national Government of Tamil Eelam (TNGTE)' in the virtual world with a 'prime minister' based in the US is a cause for concern in Colombo, and confusion otherwise. Post-LTTE, the Diaspora groups have changed their tactics, not their strategy or goal. Or, so it seems.






The first non-Western head of the International Monetary Fund should be from Asia, home of two of the three biggest economies and holder of most of the world's foreign exchange reserves.

Yet even before the arrest of Dominique Strauss-Kahn it was clear that not only were the odds still biased in favour of Europe, but Asia would find it very difficult to agree on a candidate, let alone one acceptable to the West.

That is a pity because East Asian countries have the greatest interest in ensuring global monetary stability, low inflation and international trade, which would be threatened by another round of mayhem in debt and currency markets. Asians have no interest in soft handouts to developing countries. Nor is it in their interest for the IMF to continue to be obsessed with the problems of the euro zone, which are fundamentally more political than economic.

When the succession issue was discussed on the sidelines of the recent Asian Development Bank meeting in Hanoi it was clear that the front runner to succeed Strauss-Kahn – who was then expected to compete for the presidency of France – was Christine Lagarde, the French finance minister, who announced that she would run for the top job. She was able to play a high profile role in Hanoi thanks to France's chairmanship of the Group of 20; she impressed many with her grasp of issues and ability to say what many wanted to hear.

Meanwhile, divisions within Asia seemed to override misgivings about another European at the helm.

China gave the impression that it knew the chances of a Chinese candidate were thin due to the reservations of other large Asian countries, as well as many in the West. Until Beijing has a fully convertible currency and produces an individual viewed as capable of rising above Beijing has no particular desire to push for anyone from another Asian country.

A Japanese leader would be a logical choice, given Japan's years at the top table of international finance; and the country has very able officials. But they are seen, fairly or not, to lack political weight and public presence. Japan's domestic debt problems undercut its massive foreign reserve strength. China, too, would prefer not to have a Japanese in the top post.

One Indian name has been mentioned – Montek Singh Ahluwalia – who has excellent credentials as a former IMF official and is seen as a liberalising force in Indian economic policy. But there is scant support in East Asia for a candidate from India, which has been a fringe player on Asian as well as international financial issues. The same applies to Indonesia.

As a middle-sized developed economy, South Korea might qualify but there are no obvious candidates. With a Korean heading the United Nations there is a limited appetite for another Korean in a top international job.

Publicly many Asian countries back the demand for an IMF head from anywhere but the West. But privately many are not at all sure whether they want someone from a non-Asian developing country such as South Africa or Latin America, however competent the individual. Major Asian countries know that world finances are in a fragile state and the IMF needs a head with intellectual and political clout.

Until they can agree with one of their own the big Asian nations may prefer to stick with the devils they know. Change must come when voting reforms at the IMF come into force, but it will not be easy to agree on who will be the first Asian to lead it.

Philip Bowring is a renowned analyst on foreign affairs

Courtesy Khaleej Times






Indian women politicians are having a moment. Soon after Mamata Banerjee crushed the 34-year-old unbroken rule of the Left (or whatever was left of it) in West Bengal in the recent provincial elections, Jayaram Jayalalithaa trounced her bete noire M. Karunanidhi's DMK (Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam) by a whopping margin.

Interestingly, the quartet of behenji (Mayawati), amma (Jayalalithaa), aunty (Sheila Dixit) and didi (Mamata Banerjee) will now be controlling the destinies of some 368 million Indians in the states of Uttar Pradesh (200 million), West Bengal (80.2 million), Tamil Nadu (72. 14 million) and Delhi (16.5 million). This is a third of India's 1.2 billion people and translates as 168 seats out of a total of 545 in the current Lok Sabha (lower house).

The impressive numbers do transmit a rosy picture of gender equity in Indian politics. For instance, silver-haired Dikshit enjoys the distinction of being the longest serving woman Chief Minister in post-independent India. She has helmed Delhi for 12 years now, winning three consecutive elections. No mean feat this when you consider what a volatile cauldron India's political nerve centre can be.   

BSP supremo Mayawati has similarly ruled the roost in Uttar Pradesh for nearly five years. She rewrote the rules of the power game in India's largest state soon after her appointment as the country's first Dalit woman chief minister in 2006.

It's interesting to note that all these women are either single or widows. Could this be interpreted as the Indian electorate's thumbs up to baggage-free politicos and a disenchantment with dynastic rule? After all, when you have no over-ambitious sons, daughters or husbands to bequeath your political legacy to, chances of nepotism also plummet correspondingly. Who'd know this better than the corruption-fatigued Indians? 

Interestingly, India's 'Steel Magnolias'—or the ladies who rule with an iron hand and a velvet glove—have deftly manipulated the caste game too. Despite India's economic superstardom, caste is still a clincher in the country's politics. Ergo, Mayawati has successfully projected herself as a 'champion' of the Dalits (former untouchables) who languish at the bottom of the Hindu caste pyramid. Jayalalithaa, who is taking over the reins of Tamil Nadu for a third five-year stint, has similarly leveraged her personal charisma as a former film star to tide over the caste equation. Though a Brahmin, she has been repeatedly elected in a state dominated by anti-Brahmin politics. She leads the All-India Anna-Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), a party that espouses the cause of Dravidians over that of Brahmins and the other upper echelons of Tamil society.

Ironically, despite the undeniable political savvy and grit of these women, people are still asking if they can improve the lot of women in their states? Pray, is this the only duty of women CMs – to look after the fair sex? Why must we review the work of female politicians through the narrow prism of gender? Why not broaden the canvas to ask, for instance, how good they are as administrators? And if they are providing political stability, better governance, more jobs, compulsory education for kids and nutritious food for all?  

It's true that none of these chief ministers has a shining record as a feminist. In the just concluded elections, Jayalalithaa's AIADMK contested 160 assembly seats but gave tickets to only 13 women. In West Bengal, Banerjee fielded 34 women (mostly film stars or other high-profile women) or 14 per cent in the 228 seats her party contested as against the Left parties' 15.8 per cent.

Similarly Mayawati's BSP is India's only political party without a women's wing. She's all silken salwar suits, bling and a swinging handbag. But has she swung a better deal for the women in her state? Not really. In UP, the female sex ratio is just 899 in the 0-6 year age group, female literacy stands at 59.3 per cent, way below the national average of 65.46 per cent and the infant mortality rate — for 2009 it was 67 for every 1,000 births, the lowest in the country. But it would be unfair to blame Mayawati for all her state's ills when Uttar Pradesh has had a dismal human development record for decades.

Dixit presides over a state notoriously unsafe for women. The national capital city's  female sex ratio is also disquieting—with just 866 females for every 1,000 males, far below the national average of 914. But to be fair, Dixit has introduced a raft of women-centric welfare schemes and put up a spectacular Commonwealth Games last year. She also has enormous infrastructural development to her credit including the Delhi Metro.

Ironically, despite proving themselves, Indian women are yet to achieve political parity with men in parliament. According to the UN's 2008 survey of women in politics, India's Parliament had only 9.1 per cent women. A bill reserving 33 percent of seats in state and central legislatures for women politicians is languishing in the Lok Sabha since 1996 due to fierce resistance from male legislators.

Given the odds – legislative, social and parochial – Indian women politicians have to fight against, the electorate's thumbs to them is worth applauding. From a political landscape – bustling with husbands, fathers and sons – Indians are now at least willing to give its women a fair chance at governance. Isn't this sentiment itself worth raising a toast to in the world's largest democracy?   

(Neeta Lal is a New Delhi-based journalist)






My dear Mahinda aiyah,

Ayubowan, vannakum, assalamu allaikum and best wishes as we move into June which is traditionally associated with brides, but the government may find its wedding dress turning black unless it pulls itself out of an international crisis over alleged war crimes.

Addressing the massive Victory Day celebration at the Galle Face Green on Friday, you vowed the Rajapaksa regime would not allow Sri Lanka to be brow-beaten by foreign powers. You repeated the maxim or cliché that the truth is the first casualty of war and claimed that though Sri Lanka had won the war by defeating the LTTE two years ago, the government was facing international conspiracies led by foreign-based LTTE terrorists who were still trying to destroy your regime by spreading untruths.

A spokesman for the United Nations said in New York last week the world body was standing by the report of the panel of experts appointed by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to probe accountability issues during the final weeks of the war against the LTTE in May 2009. The spokesman said the UN Chief was still waiting for an official response from the Sri Lankan government on what the experts said were "credible allegations" of war crimes and crimes against humanity, both by the LTTE and the government. spokesmen for the government now say it will not respond to the UN report following the confusing pattern of ministers saying different things at different times.  The super-power United States is also maintaining a tough stand against the Sri Lanka government as are Britain, France and other countries in the European Union. Earlier they were apparently pushing for the experts' panel report to be taken up at the UN Human Rights Council which will be holding its annual sessions in Geneva from this week. If a resolution was taken up and passed then the issue would become official and Sri Lankan leaders might have had to face an international war crimes trial. But latest reports indicate the Western powers are more intrested in the crisis in Libya and other Middle East countries. Therefore any resolution on Sri Lanka is likely to be put off till the next UNHCR sessions in September. A key player in this drama will be Asia's regional super-power India. Last year, India led a group of Non-Aligned Movement nations in opposing the resolution against Sri Lanka and the resolution was defeated.  But this year, India is maintaining a deafening if not dangerous silence on the issue and the reason maybe the mysterious double-games or treble-games that super-powers are playing with geo-political objectives.

External Affairs Minister GL Pieris last week visited New Delhi for crucial talks with Indian leaders and top officials. Surprisingly and for some strange reason Dr. Pieris was not accompanied by any Indian Affairs Expert from the External Affairs Ministry. Whatever was discussed or not discussed the joint statement issued after the talks has created a crisis within a crisis or a conflict within a conflict.

In the statement, India and Sri Lanka pledged to work towards genuine reconciliation of the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka. Most analysts say the keyword in this statement is the word "genuine" which might mean the full implementation of the 13th amendment. This would mean the 13th amendment plus, giving additional powers to the provincial councils. Analysts say the Northern and Eastern provincial councils especially would obtain and exercise police and land distribution powers. Sinhala nationalist groups say this would mean giving to the North and East virtual federal state powers which the LTTE failed to obtain through ruthless terrorism during three decades of war. 

The analysts believe that India is remaining silent or non-committal on the alleged war crimes issue because it wants to give Sri Lanka time to fully implement the 13th amendment. In other words India is using it as a bargaining chip. If Sri Lanka meets the grievances and aspirations of the Tamil people, then India might help it overcome the crisis in the Human Rights Council. Otherwise India might join the West in trying to haul Lankan leaders on alleged war crimes trials. Either way the Rajapaksa regime is likely to face serious trouble.





Solar greenhouses have played a vital role in China's agricultural scene for years. New innovations in greenhouse design are allowing growers to produce more varieties of vegetables, even during long winter months. In a recently published report Chinese scientists called solar greenhouses "the most important type of infrastructures for growing horticultural crops in China."

A team of researchers from the College of Agronomy and Biotechnology at China Agricultural University presented an extensive report on single-slope solar greenhouses in a recent issue of HortTechnology. Based on 20 years of systematic studies, the report noted: "Increased proliferation of efficient solar greenhouses in China may contribute to solving worldwide problems such as the energy crisis and global climate change."

Single-slope solar greenhouses are built facing the south using support and insulation walls on the north, east, and west sides. A short roof is installed on top of the north wall. The south side is supported by metal or bamboo frames (or a mixture of both materials), and is covered with plastic film and an insulating blanket. These energy-efficient greenhouses use solar energy as the only source of light and heat for winter crop production in the region between latitudes 32°N and 43°N for production of warm season crops such as tomato and cucumber.

As in other parts of the world, the feasibility of using solar greenhouses in China largely depends on the relative duration of sunshine in the winter and temperatures at the greenhouse site. Solar greenhouses are widely used in the regions north of Huai River and the Beijing area, where greenhouses usage has greatly reduced energy demand and carbon dioxide emissions. The success of China's solar greenhouse operations has contributed to the structures' adoption by countries such as Japan, Korea, and Russia.

The researchers noted that while solar greenhouses have many advantages—energy savings, reduced pollution, and improved economic development—the structures also have distinct disadvantages due to their heavy reliance on the sun and weather conditions. Especially during winter, less solar radiation and low temperatures can have a significant negative impact on warm-season vegetable productivity of the greenhouses, and addressing these issues can be challenging.

"Innovation and optimization of the greenhouse structure needs to continue. More work needs to be done on gutter-connected, double-arched, and semi-underground greenhouses. New wall insulation materials need to be developed to reduce the thickness of the wall while improving its insulation efficiency and expanding space utilization, said Zhen-Xian Zhang, lead author of the study. The study also recommended that breeding new varieties of horticultural crops that can adapt to low light and winter temperatures in solar greenhouses will provide another strategy to ensure sustainable development of the greenhouse industry.

"The solar greenhouse has a very bright future, especially given the amount of concern over the global energy crisis and climate change. Additionally, significant energy savings can be realized from switching to solar greenhouses. We hope this technology can be applied to regions of similar climate to help reduce energy consumption and CO2 emissions," Zhang said.










Economic growth is best defined as a long-term expansion of the productive potential of the economy where sustained economic growth should lead to higher real living standards and rising employment. Emphasis here on two words: 1 Long-term 2 sustained and on two outcomes 1 higher real living standard 2 rising employment.


Before we start talks about jump-starting the economy we should first understand the path towards achieving economic growth. Based on this, here are some proposals:


What the government should not do:


Give away handouts either through honorary gifts or through the proposed 25 per cent increase in wages. This will only create a one-off growth in the form of an increase in government expenditure. It will show a large growth in government expenditure and a temporary growth rate for the year. This might help offset some of the economic losses incurred but it will be a one-time increase which will not be felt the year after. Conversely, a portion of it can translate into higher inflation due to a sudden increase in consumption. Since the increase is only intended for the public sector, then those receiving it will be consuming at the expense of those who did not, therefore the net effect on consumption will be minimal. In addition, wages is a secondary problem while unemployment is the primary one. This is by far the worst solution.


Embark on a massive housing and construction spending spree. This will create a three-five-year growth in the construction, manufacturing and retail sectors of the economy which makes it a better choice than the above but not the ideal one (economically speaking and not socially). Since these sectors have the lowest Bahrainisation rate, it will not generate much local employment to ease unemployment and will cause an increase in remittances as a side effect.


Invest or spend on sectors that are least affected and the least to generate local employment.

The path to be taken:


Invest instead of consume. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) consists of four items: consumption, investment, government spending, and net exports. The government, just like households and businesses, can choose to spend on public consumption or public investment. However, unlike consumption, investment spending purchases tools that workers can use to produce more goods and services. Once you invest, it brings around consumption for free, hitting two birds with one stone. Therefore, if the government starts to invest rather than consume it will generate a more sustained effect on the economy.


Invest in projects that have the best domino effect on the economy. We pride ourselves in the GCC by being large energy exporters but we squander it just because it is subsidised. Investing in energy-efficient technology products for example provides another two-for-one benefit: the initial spending creates jobs while those jobs create technologies that reduce the cost of subsidising energy. Increases in the price of oil and gas means that the opportunity cost of selling more is being wasted through more local consumption. Investing in energy-efficiency can be best done through encouraging or subsidising factories that produce energy-efficient products used for both households and businesses. Another example would be building an alternative energy industry such as wind and solar power that can efficiently export their products. Instead of subsidising energy why not subsidise these industries enabling their products to compete internationally while having the capacity to produce and encourage local usage. This way we have increased GDP through investment but will also receive higher consumption and export all while establishing a skilled workforce.


F1 race should take place. Not only has the race had a direct contribution to tourism and retail sector, it accounts for 2 per cent of our country's GDP. It is essential for the event to take place even if attendance is low since it will lay the groundwork for normalising and improving the tourism industry once again, which has been the most affected as well as help build up more successful future races.


The government should choose wisely for the future and should not be pressured by the mass to do otherwise










The recent wave of uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa is regarded as one of the most striking events in the history of the region.


But it is still not clear where this movement is heading and how much change it will bring about. However, it is certainly a sociopolitical tsunami that has changed the equations in the Middle East and North Africa and will continue to do so in the future.

Two basic points should be considered in this regard.

First is the issue of similarities and differences between various countries in the Middle East and North Africa and the impact on the extension of the developments to other parts of the region. Generally speaking, besides the religion of Islam and geographical proximity, the most significant similarity between these countries is that they have been ruled by dictators and corrupt regimes. There are also some domestic and social differences as well. For example, Egypt is an integrated country in terms of its people, but Libya consists of various tribes in different parts of the country. The Arab states of the Persian Gulf are more like large trading companies, and they do not have established systems of political governance. They are ruled by families, and due to oil money, they have experienced a great deal of corruption in their history. Their political structure is a mixture of the medieval and modern systems. They are also pro-Western and backed by the United States, and enjoy much influence in the endeavors to deal with regional and internal issues.

In light of all this, we can better analyze the impact of the similarities and differences of countries in the Middle East and North Africa on the extension of developments throughout the region. In countries like Egypt and Tunisia, there is an established civil society with a relatively longer history of political activity and intellectualism. Conversely, in Arab states of the Persian Gulf like Saudi Arabia, there is a weak civil society and a very small and less active middle class. These countries also have a large number of foreign residents, and in some cases the foreigners even outnumber the locals in various administrative positions.

This is the reason for the difference in the rate and speed of change brought about by the popular uprisings. For instance, Egypt and Tunisia experienced a much faster political change, but developments in the Persian Gulf countries, except for Bahrain, have been much slower.

The second point is whether the trend of these movements is a kind of revolution or just a reform. Political analysts disagree on how to describe the nature of these movements. Some call it revolution, some describe it as reform, and some others believe it is a hybrid form of change called refolution or better described as color revolutions.

I'm also not going to call the recent developments a revolution. According to the theory of revolution, as long as the social, economic, and political pillars of a country have not experienced major changes, these developments cannot be called a revolution. Of course, it is possible that some of these developments will provide the foundations for democratic revolutions in the future, but so far there is no evidence to support the idea of revolution. For example, the Ben Ali family was deposed in Tunisia, but the political structure remains in place. The same applies to Egypt, in which there is no Mubarak, but there are still remnants of the ousted dictatorship in power. In Bahrain, we are witnessing bloodshed backed by foreign governments -- Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates -- and the rulers are trying to suppress the majority of their own country.

Therefore, the prospects for change in the Arab world are not so promising. Establishing a democratic system takes more time and cannot happen overnight. It also requires democrats and a democratic culture, but neither factor can be found in the Arab countries of the Middle East and North Africa region today.

However, countries like Turkey and Iran are in a better situation in terms of democracy, which is the result of a long history of struggle for freedom and liberty.

Egypt could also play the role of the standard-bearer for the movement to establish democracy in the Arab world, but compared to India and many other developing countries, the Middle East and North Africa region unfortunately lacks the determination necessary for democracy, which is a situation that does not augur well for the future of the region.

Professor Nader Entessar is the chair of the Department of Political Science and Criminal Justice of the University of South Alabama.








I went to see Munib Masri in his Beirut hospital bed on Friday morning. He is part of the Arab revolution, although he doesn't see it that way. He looked in pain -- he was in pain -- with a drip in his right arm, a fever, and the fearful wounds caused by an Israeli 5.56mm bullet that hit his arm. Yes, an Israeli bullet -- because Munib was one of thousands of young and unarmed Palestinians and Lebanese who stood in their thousands in front of the Israeli army's live fire two weeks ago on the very border of the land they call "Palestine".


"I was angry, mad -- I'd just seen a small child hit by the Israelis," Munib said to me. "I walked nearer the border fence. The Israelis were shooting so many people. When I got hit, I was paralyzed. My legs gave way. Then I realized what had happened. My friends carried me away." I asked Munib if he thought he was part of the Arab Spring. No, he said, he was just protesting at the loss of his land. "I liked what happened to Egypt and Tunisia. I am glad I went to the Lebanese border, but I also regret it."

Which is not surprising. More than 100 unarmed protesters were wounded in the Palestinian-Lebanese demonstration to mark the 1948 expulsion and exodus of 750,000 Palestinians from their homes in Mandate Palestine -- six were killed -- and among the youngest of those hit by bullets were two little girls. One was six, the other eight. More targets of Israel's "war on terror", I suppose, although the bullet that hit Munib, a 22-year old geology student at the American University of Beirut, did awful damage. It penetrated his side, cut through his kidney, hit his spleen and then broke up in his spine. I held the bullet in my hand Friday, three sparkling pieces of brown metal that had shattered inside Munib's body. He is, of course, lucky to be alive.

And I guess lucky to be an American citizen, much good did it do him. The U.S. embassy sent a female diplomat to see his parents at the hospital, Munib's mother Mouna told me. "I am devastated, sad, angry -- and I don't wish this to happen to any Israeli mother. The American diplomats came here to the hospital and I explained the situation of Munib. I said: 'I would like you to give a message to your government -- to put pressure on them to change their policies here. If this had happened to an Israeli mother, the world would have gone upside down.' But she said to me: 'I'm not here to discuss politics. We're here for social support, to evacuate you if you want, to help with payments.' I said that I don't need any of these things -- I need you to explain the situation."

Any U.S. diplomat is free to pass on a citizen's views to the American government but this woman's response was all too familiar. Munib, though an American, had been hit by the wrong sort of bullet. Not a Syrian bullet or an Egyptian bullet but an Israeli bullet, a bad kind to discuss, certainly the wrong kind to persuade an American diplomat to do anything about it. After all, when Benjamin Netanyahu gets 55 ovations in Congress… why should Munib's government care about him?

In reality, he has been to "Palestine" many times -- Munib's family comes from Beit Jala and Bethlehem and he knows the West Bank well, though he told me he was concerned he might be arrested when he next returns. Being a Palestinian isn't easy, though, whichever side of the border you're on. Mouna Masri was enraged when her sister asked her husband to renew her residency in east Jerusalem. "The Israelis insisted that she must fly from London herself even though they knew she was having chemotherapy.

"I was in Palestine only two days before Munib was hurt, visiting my father-in-law in Nablus. I saw all the family and I was happy but I missed Munib very much and so I returned to Beirut. He was very excited about the march to the border. There were three or four buses taking students and faculty from the university here and he got up at 6.55 on the Sunday morning. At about 4pm, Munib's aunt Mai called and asked if there was any news and I began to feel uneasy. Then I had a call from my husband saying Munib had been wounded in the leg."

It was far worse. Munib lost so much blood that doctors at the Bent Jbeil hospital thought he would die. The United Nations peacekeepers in Lebanon -- disastrously absent from the Maroun al-Ras section of the border during the five-hour demonstration -- flew him by helicopter to Beirut. Many of those who travelled to the border with him had come from the refugee camps and -- unlike Munib -- had never visited the land from which their parents came. Indeed, in some cases, they had never even seen it.

Munib's aunt Mai described how many of those who had gone on the march and by bus to the frontier felt a breeze coming across the border from what is now Israel. "They breathed it in, like it was a kind of freedom," she said. There you have it.

Munib may not believe he is part of the Arab Spring but he is part of the Arab awakening. Even though he has a home in the West Bank, he decided to walk with the dispossessed whose homes lie inside what is now Israel. "There was a lack of fear," his Uncle Munzer said. "These people wanted dignity. And with dignity comes success." Which is what the people of Tunisia cried. And of Egypt. And of Yemen, and of Bahrain… I suspect that Obama, despite his cringing to Netanyahu, understands this. It was what, in his rather craven way, he was trying to warn the Israelis about. The Arab awakening embraces the Palestinians too.

(Source: The Independent)

Photo: A Palestinian demonstrator wounded in his arm keeps low as fellow protesters lie on the ground during clashes with Israeli soldiers in Maroun al-Rass near the Israeli border in south Lebanon on May 15, 2011. (Reuters photo)








Since George W. Bush took office in January 2001, efforts to oust Hugo Chavez failed three times:


-- in April 2002 for two days, aborted by mass street protests and support from Venezuela's military, notably its middle-ranked officer corps;

-- the 2002-2003 general strike and oil management lockout, causing severe economic disruptions; and

-- the failed August 2004 national recall referendum, Chavez prevailing with a 59% majority.

Nonetheless, disruptive activities continue, including malicious propaganda, CIA subversion, funding opposition forces, sanctions, and militarizing the region, notably in Colombia as well as gunboat diplomacy by reactivating the Latin American/Caribbean Fourth Fleet for the first time since 1950 despite no regional threat.

Ignoring America's appalling human rights record, on April 11, the State Department issued its 2010 Human Rights Report: Venezuela, claiming Chavez government responsibility for largely uncorroborated, exaggerated or falsified abuses.

Then on May 24, the State Department imposed sanctions for the first time against Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), the state owned oil company for "delivering at least two cargos of reformate (a hydrocarbon product for gasoline) to Iran between December 2010 and March 2011, worth approximately $50 million."

They "prohibit the company from competing for U.S. government procurement contracts, from securing financing from the Export-Import Bank of the United States, and from obtaining U.S. export licenses."

They don't apply to PDVSA subsidiaries (including U.S.-based CITGO) or prohibit crude oil exports to America. In 2010, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration data, Venezuela was America's fifth largest supplier after Canada, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, and Nigeria. In fact, Venezuela has the world's largest oil reserves, including its heavy and extra-heavy oil.

Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg called sanctioning PDVSA a "clear message" to companies violating America's 1996 Iran and Libya Sanctions Act (ILSA), renamed the Iran Sanctions Act (ISA) in 2006, now the 2010 Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability and Divestment Act (CISADA), warning they'll "face serious consequences."

Along with extremist Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R. FL) and Jeb Bush (former FL governor and Bush family member), Mack got President GHW Bush (in 1990) to pardon Orlando Bosch's criminal downing of Cubana flight 455 with Luis Posada Carriles, killing all 78 passengers on board.

As part of their hard-line agenda, Ros-Lehtinen and Mack now wage war on Chavez, failing in 2008 to designate Venezuela "a state sponsor of terrorism" through HR 1049.

Mack also called Ecuador's Raphael Correa "a pawn for his fellow friend and thugocrat, Hugo Chavez."

Allied with bipartisan extremists in Congress, today's Republican controlled House is infested with others like him.

So is the Obama administration, including former National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair, naming Chavez in his Annual 2010 Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, calling him a "leading anti-U.S. regional force" by:

-- "imposing an authoritarian populist political model that undermines democratic institutions (a convoluted oxymoron);" and

-- allying with "radical leaders in Cuba, Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, and until recently, Honduras," adding that he opposes "nearly every U.S. policy initiative in the region." For sure, all imperial ones.

Responses to Venezuelan Sanctions

Venezuela rejected them, saying:

"The Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela....expresses its strongest rejection to this decision (it calls a) hostile action on the fringes of international law that violates (UN Charter) principles..."

Calling Washington's action "imperialist aggression," it "calls on all the Venezuela people, laborers and especially the oil workers, to stay alert and mobilized in defense of our PDVSA and the sacred sovereignty of the homeland."

An official statement said a "general assessment of the situation (will) determine how these sanctions affect the operational capacity of our oil industry, and therefore, the supply of 1.2 million barrels of oil per day to the U.S."

Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro said:

"We are not afraid of these sanctions, nor are we going to debate the reasons that the North American government may have, but Venezuela is sovereign in making its decisions."

Energy and Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez added:

"The imperialist powers are hoping to dictate the rules to us. They will have to go without, because we are going to keep advancing towards creating unity between oil-producing countries."

Responding, Chavez twitted:

"Sanctions against the homeland of Bolivar? Imposed by the U.S. imperialist government. Bring it on, Mr. Obama. Do not forget that we are the children of Bolivar," telling over 1.5 million followers that "the true impact of this latest U.S. aggression is the strengthening of our nationalistic and patriotic morale in Venezuela!"

In other tweets he added:

"We don't just have the largest oil reserves in the world. We also have the most revolutionary oil company in the world."

"So, they wanted to see and feel the flame of the people of Bolivar defending the independence of the Venezuelan homeland? Well, there you have it!"

Majority members in Venezuela's National Assembly also rejected U.S. sanctions, warning Washington to halt hostile actions or face possible oil shipment recriminations.

On May 25, PDVSA workers rallied across Venezuela against U.S. sanctions, supporting their government, president and company. Women's groups, peasant organizations, communal councils, and alternative media also organized a Caracas march.

The Bolivarian Alternative for the Peoples of the Americas (ALBA) also condemned U.S. sanctions, its member countries "expressing our indignation and rejection in the strongest terms… in the framework of its unilateral policy of sanctions against the Islamic Republic of Iran."

"Faced with this hostile measure, (ALBA members) express our absolute backing to (Venezuela), which, guided by a solid conviction of solidarity, has promoted mechanisms of energy cooperation aimed at strengthening the unity between our peoples."

ALBA nations include Antigua and Barbuda, Bolivia, Cuba, Dominica, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, as well as Venezuela. Before Washington's June 2009 coup ousted President Manuel Zelaya, Honduras was also an ALBA member.

Friends of Venezuela issued a "Declaration of Rejection to U.S. Sanctions," responding to Washington's unilateral action, asking U.S. individuals and organizations to oppose it.

Denouncing "a grave and dangerous move by Washington to justify further aggression against the Venezuelan people," they "unequivocally reject this latest attempt… to demonize (Venezuela) and undermine the vibrant democracy of the Venezuelan people."

Using its oil wealth responsibly, over 60% of it goes for healthcare, education, job training, subsidized food and housing, community media, reducing poverty, and supporting thousands of communal councils engaged in grassroots participatory democracy.

"We find it outrageous that (Washington) demonize(s) the one (country that's put) people before profits. And we call on our representatives… to suspend these sanctions… immediately."

They'll remain, and so will determined millions against them, weakening Washington's corrosive influence everywhere.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at; also visit his blog site at




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