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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

EDITORIAL 01.06.11

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Editorial

month june 01, edition 000847, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul

 

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

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

THE PIONEER 

  1. GOOD RAINS EXPECTED
  2. OUR RIP VAN WINKLES
  3. HOLDING THE HEIGHTS - MANVENDRA SINGH
  4. CPM FACES LEADERSHIP CRISIS - SHIKHA MUKERJEE
  5. FROM CHICAGO, WITH LOVE TO PAKISTAN - TCA RANGACHARI
  6. DON'T PAUPERISE FARMERS FOR PROFIT - GOPAL K AGARWAL

THE TIMES OF INDIA

  1. REALITY CHECK
  2. PILE PRESSURE
  3. FEEDING ON FALSE FEARS - PRASHANT BHUSHAN
  4. MIDAS TOUCH - JUG SURAIYA

HINDUSTAN TIMES

  1. ARRIVE AT A MEETING POINT
  2. AT A LOSS FOR WORDS
  3. TOO MANY PLANS, TOO FEW GAINS - ANURAG SRIVASTAVA
  4. NO BREAKING NEWS - ASHOK MALIK
  5. IS BAKING A FEMINIST ACT? - LAGUSTA YEARWOOD

THE INDIAN EXPRESS

  1. A DANGEROUS TWIST
  2. ICON WORSHIP
  3. TAKING INDIA ABROAD - MIHIR S SHARMA
  4. QUEEN'S PARK CRISIS - SANDEEP DWIVEDI
  5. THE GRAND ILLUSION OF ZERO GROWTH - SURJIT S BHALLA
  6. A MAJOR GROUSE WITH MINORITY INSTITUTIONS - VALSON THAMPU
  7. UNDOING THE NETWORK - C. RAJA MOHAN
  8. POVERTY BY NUMBERS - MANOJCG

THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

  1. GDP SLOWS, ALL EYES ON RBI
  2. RAINY DAYS AND MONDAYS
  3. THE GRAND ILLUSION OF ZERO GROWTH - SURJIT S BHALLA
  4. PAKISTAN'S ROAD TO CHINA - SHAHID JAVED BURKI

THE HINDU

  1. BEAUTY AND DOMINANCE
  2. QUESTIONS OVER YEMENI DEMOCRACY
  3. THE CASE OF THE MISSING BJP
  4. INDIA AND THE U.S. MOVING CLOSER ON AFGHANISTAN?
  5. TERESITA AND HOWARD SCHAFFER
  6. THE NEXT 90 DAYS IN NEPAL  - PRASHANT JHA
  7. U.S. ENGAGES WITH AN IRON LEADER IN EQUATORIAL GUINEA  - ADAM NOSSITER

THE ASIAN AGE

  1. LOKPAL: DON'T LET ROW DELAY THE BILL
  2. A PRECIPICE CALLED PAK - INDER MALHOTRA
  3. IN SEARCH OF HOME - SHANKARI SUNDARARAMAN

DAILY EXCELSIOR

  1. JUSTICE OR VENDETTA
  2. REVAMPING SFC
  3. INDIAN REFORMS: YESTERDAY AND TODAY - BY PROF. JAGDISH BHAGWATI
  4. NUCLEAR ARSENAL IN PAKISTAN - BY PROF.P.L.BAKHSHI
  5. FALLING FOOD PRICES IS NOT GOOD FOR AGRICULTURE - BY DR ASHWANI MAHAJAN
  6. KASHMIRI PUNDITS AND KASHMIRIAT - BY AMIT KUSHARI

THE TRIBUNE

  1. BACK TO THE STREETS
  2. KASHMIR GIRL'S SAD SAGA
  3. A SETBACK FOR MUSHARRAF
  4. INDIA SHOULD TALK TO TALIBAN - BY D. SUBA CHANDRAN
  5. IN GRIEF (OR RELIEF!) - BY SURJIT SINGH
  6. STRIVING FOR EXCELLENCE OR JUST SURVIVING? - MOHIT SHARMA

BUSINESS STANDARD

  1. THE NEW NORMAL?
  2. KILL SUBSTANDARD DRUGS
  3. THE SUBBARAO YEARS - A DEFENCE - ABHEEK BARUA
  4. DOES RAIL BHAVAN NEED A CABINET MINISTER? - A K BHATTACHARYA
  5. THE POWER AND GLORY - M J ANTONY
  6. IS IIM/IIT FACULTY WORLD-CLASS?

BUSINESS LINE

  1. SLOWING GROWTH
  2. SOLAR POWER PROSPECTS BRIGHTEN - V. RISHI KUMAR
  3. CORRUPTION STEMS FROM SLOTH  - R. POORNALINGAM
  4. BRICS KNOCK AT IMF'S DOOR - RANABIR RAY CHOUDHURY
  5. NEW TRENDS IN FINANCIAL INCLUSION - SUMITA KALE

THE ECONOMIC TIMES

  1. SUBDUED, BY POLICY
  2. TIME FOR TELANGANA
  3. BEGINNING IN JUNE
  4. COMMODITY SELLOFF TO GAIN TRACTION  
  5. REMAINS QUITE BULLISH

MUMBAI MIRROR

  1. TWEEDLEZEE AND TWEEDLEDUMB

DECCAN CHRONICLE

  1. LOKPAL: DON'T LET ROW DELAY THE BILL
  2. A PRECIPICE CALLED PAK
  3. LIKING IS FOR COWARDS

THE STATESMAN

  1. DIVIDE AND FOOL
  2. 'HONOUR' SUICIDE
  3. DRAMATIC U-TURN
  4. CALLING AMERICA'S BLUFF - KURT JACOBSEN AND SAYEED HASSAN KHAN
  5. DR SINGH AND MERKEL DISCUSS TERRORISM
  6. INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT TO BE CONSTRUCTED SOON IN HP
  7. INDO-PAK TALKS END IN STALEMATE

THE TELEGRAPH

  1. FRESH START
  2. COLD MOUNTAIN
  3. VIEW FROM BELOW  - SRINIVASAN
  4. HURDLES AHEAD  - SUMANTA SEN

HAARETZ

  1. BROWBEATING THE LAW ENFORCERS
  2. NUMERUS CLAUSUS IN HEBREW  - BY ALUF BENN
  3. EQUALITY FIRST  - BY AVIRAMA GOLAN
  4. UNTIL THE CHIEF OF STAFF TAKES HIS SEAT  - BY AMIR OREN
  5. ON OUR MORAL DUTY  - BY ALON IDAN

THE NEWYORK TIMES

  1. BAHRAIN'S LATEST PROMISES
  2. THE LONG, HOT FORECAST
  3. QUALIFIED IMMUNITY, UNQUALIFIED DOUBT
  4. HANDS OFF OUR HOUSES - BY MATIAS ECHANOVE AND RAHUL SRIVASTAVA
  5. WAITING FOR A SCHOOL MIRACLE - BY DIANE RAVITCH
  6. NON MEANS NON – BY MAUREEN DOWD

HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

  1. ON THE WAY FOR A NEW FLOTILLA CRISIS - BARÇIN YİNANÇ
  2. THE MEANING OF CHP IN DIYARBAKIR - YUSUF KANLI
  3. TOWARD A POST-KEMALIST CHP? - MUSTAFA AKYOL
  4. THE FAMOUS 'MUSLIM-METER' RETURNS - BURAK BEKDİL
  5. THE INTERNET REVOLUTION DOES NOT BELONG TO EVERYONE - NAZLI ÇAKIROĞLU
  6. WHY DOES THE ARREST OF A GENERAL CREATE SUCH A SURPRISE? - MEHMET ALİ BİRAND

THE NEWS

  1. PROCLAIMED OFFENDER
  2. INSIDE JOB?
  3. BYE-BYE AFRIDI?
  4. IF WE LIED, SO DID THE US   - MOHAMMAD MALICK
  5. TURF WARS  - M SAEED KHALID
  6. THE KAHN SCENARIO – IN ISLAMABAD - HUSSAIN H ZAIDI
  7. FIXING THE DISCONNECT  - ISMAIL KHAN
  8. GAP BETWEEN CHALLENGE AND RESPONSE  0 DR MALEEHA LODHI
  9. CLINTON'S CANDOUR  - TANVIR AHMAD KHAN

PAKISTAN OBSERVER

  1. NWA OPERATION TO FURTHER DESTABILISE PAK
  2. A STATE WITHOUT FOREIGN & DEFENCE MINISTERS
  3. AFRIDI SHOULD NOT BE LOST LIKE THAT
  4. PAK INSECURITY MEANS US INSECURITY - SAJJAD SHAUKAT
  5. WEAK LEADERSHIP - SHAUKAT MASOOD ZAFAR
  6. WHERE IS THAT LEADER? - SAEED QURESHI
  7. BUDGET — EXPECTATIONS & POSSIBILITIES - MALIK M ASHRAF
  8. MINI-WEAPONS FOR NEW AGE OF WARFARE - W J HENNIGAN

THE AUSTRALIYAN

  1. NATIONAL INTEREST MUST INFORM CARBON TAX PLAN
  2. AUSTRALIA MUST HELP STOP CRUELTY
  3. MERKEL IGNORES ECONOMIC SENSE

THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

  1. THE POLITICS OF GARNAUT
  2. FOOTBALL TRIPS ON OWN GOAL
  3. TWO FITZROY PROPERTIES ABOUT TO HIT MARKET            
  4. FARLEY TO JOIN JONES LANG LASALLE

THE GUARDIAN

  1. FOOD: A HUNGRY WORLD
  2. IN PRAISE OF… ADAM CURTIS
  3. FIFA'S FUTURE: DON'T GET MAD, GET EVEN

THE JAPAN TIMES

  1. MR. KAN'S LOFTY ENERGY GOAL
  2. COMMUNICATION BREAKDOWN
  3. CHINA STEPS UP DRILLING, INTIMIDATION - BY MICHAEL RICHARDSON
  4. LIBYA: RUNNING OUT OF OPTIONS - BY GWYNNE DYER
  5. STRONG TRILATERAL TIES IN ASIA ARE KEY TO STABILITY - BY YOON YOUNG KWAN

THE JAKARTA POST

  1. PANCASILA REDUX
  2. BACK TO PANCASILA IDEALS: WHY? - FRANZ MAGNIS-SUSENO
  3. REVIVING PANCASILA, BUT NOT ITS MYTH - DONNY SYOFYAN
  4. VIEW POINT: WHEN NATURE CALLS - JULIA SURYAKUSUMA
  5. RETURN TO PANCASILA THAT UNITES THE NATION - ASVI WARMAN ADAM

DAILY MIRROR

  1. PANCASILA REDUX
  2. BACK TO PANCASILA IDEALS: WHY?
  3. FRANZ MAGNIS-SUSENO
  4. REVIVING PANCASILA, BUT NOT ITS MYTH - DONNY SYOFYAN
  5. VIEW POINT: WHEN NATURE CALLS - JULIA SURYAKUSUMA
  6. RETURN TO PANCASILA THAT UNITES THE NATION - ASVI WARMAN ADAM

GULF DAILY NEWS

  1. WELL VERSED IN DECENCY  -  BY B COMBER

TEHRAN TIMES

  1. BLADE OF SANCTIONS BECOMING DULLER DAY BY DAY - BY HESHMATOLLAH FALAHATPISHEH
  2. TEN REASONS WHY CHINA IS DIFFERENT - BY STEPHEN S. ROACH 

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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

GOOD RAINS EXPECTED

A BETTER MONSOON MAY HELP CURB FOOD PRICES


The south-west monsoon has touched the Kerala coast, its threshold to the Indian sub-continent, ahead of the normal schedule just like the Indian Meteorological Department had forecast weeks ago. Rains heralding the monsoon's arrival started in Kerala on Saturday and there were enough indications on Tuesday that it was indeed strengthening, generating hope that it could turn out to be normal this year. Weathermen have predicted that India might receive 98 per cent normal rainfall in the June 1-September 30 monsoon season. A normal monsoon means the country receives rainfall between 96 and104 per cent of a 50-year-long period average of 89 cm during the season. All available factors point to the possibility of on-schedule progress of the monsoon through the country. If the indicators are to be trusted, the monsoon's progress to the Konkan and Maharashtra coasts could be witnessed by June 10 and rains are likely to hit the eastern and north-eastern areas, including West Bengal, as per normal schedule. Scientists this time do not expect any disruptions in the progress of the monsoon across the country unlike last year when two cyclones threw its time-table off the track. This is the sixth consecutive year the monsoon has visited the country ahead of the normal appointed date of June 1 but its early onset is no guarantee for rich rainfall. In 2009, weathermen had predicted near-normal monsoon but the country suffered a rainfall deficit of 22 per cent causing tragedies in the agricultural sector and food price front. Scientists are also apprehensive of intervening weather factors due to climate change. Kerala used to witness a normal monsoon generally but last year it suffered a 10 per cent deficit while the country average remained normal. For Kerala, abundant rainfall is vital for its economy and normal day-to-day life as its entire power is generated by hydel stations.


The south-west monsoon's overall performance in the past five years — except for absolutely unexpected aberrations in 2009 — has proved that the Indian weather forecasting system has come of age. Scientists of the IMD are of the opinion that their forecasts have minimum risk factors as they are using the model based on principal component regression technique with six predictors: Minimum temperature over north-west India, pre-monsoon rainfall peak in the south, outgoing long-wave radiation over South China Sea, lower tropospheric zonal wind over south-east Indian Ocean, upper tropospheric zonal wind over equatorial Indian Ocean, and outgoing long-wave radiation over South Pacific. Also, the absence of the negative El Nino influence and the presence of positive La Nina condition over the Pacific Ocean strengthen the hopes of a good monsoon.

A normal monsoon this year is all the more important for the country as well as the UPA Government which is finding it hard to control the spiralling prices of food. Any shortfall in the monsoon rainfall could affect the Government's credibility and economic management plans as it would have to import foodgrains as in 2009 when drought sabotaged the hopes of a stable crop situation. The south-west monsoon is the lifeline of over 25 crore farmers in the country where 15 per cent of the GDP is expected to come from the agricultural sector.

 

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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

OUR RIP VAN WINKLES

GANGA BOARD WAKES UP AFTER 11 YEARS!


The Ganga Flood Control Board has turned out to be one of those government organisations that bleed the exchequer without rendering any meaningful service. This must surely have been at the back of the minds of members of the board when they met a few days ago after a long gap of 11 years to prepare plans for mitigating flood disasters that affect the Ganga basin States. Although the board was constituted way back in 1972, there have altogether been just 14 comprehensive sittings. This in itself demonstrates the lack of seriousness with which the Government, and particularly the Union Water Resources Ministry, deals with an issue of national importance. Some of the basin States like Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal are regular victims of massive floods that claim precious lives and lead to losses amounting to tens of thousands of crores of rupees. They have been crying themselves hoarse that the Union Government should frame a strategy so that a concerted joint effort is made to tackle the danger. Yet the Water Resources Ministry has apparently slept over the issue, waking up now and then in a brief show of activity. It remains a mystery as to what keeps the Ganga Flood Control Commission — the executive arm of the board — that comprises a chairman, full-time members, directors and nearly a 100-member-strong support staff, occupied through the year.


One thing is for sure: The taxpayer's money has been freely used to meet its financial demands and there has been no accountability from the Government on the matter. Even the 2008 disastrous Kosi floods in Bihar did not merit action from the board. What is shocking is not just the inaction but also the reported remark by a senior official that floods keep happening all the time and that alone was not reason enough to summon a full board meeting. In the face of the non-functioning of the board, the States have been left to their own devices to face the fury of annual floods. But if the States had the ability and the resources to individually handle the problem, there would have been no need for a centralised command structure for the purpose. Besides, since the mighty Ganga flows across several States, a coordinated approach is essential to have an effective plan of action. Also, a Central umbrella organisation is required to interact with neighbouring countries like Nepal whose cooperation is necessary in containing floods. So while given the absence of any firm Central initiative the Government of Bihar has directly taken up the matter with authorities in Kathmandu, such an approach is not always possible or desirable. In any case, it can at the most have only limited success and not affect the prospects of the various other States that are part of the Ganga basin.

 

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THE PIONEER

COLUMN

HOLDING THE HEIGHTS

MANVENDRA SINGH


Talks with Pakistan on resolving the Siachen dispute will never succeed till India has a political leadership which carries credibility with the Indian Army.


The eleventh round of talks to resolve the Siachen dispute between India and Pakistan have just got over in New Delhi. These are being held after a gap of four years, but that has done nothing to lessen their importance and neither has it done anything to suggest a breakthrough is imminent. Pre-meeting briefings carried enough hints that said neither side expected a change in the status quo. Both were equally prepared for more of the same, a continuation of the highest conflict humankind has ever seen. Except that there has been a ceasefire holding since 2003, much like the rest of the Line of Control.


Which is what the conflict is all about, a continuation of the Line of Control, from the cessation of hostilities in 1948 till today. The 1949 Karachi Agreement referred to it as the 'Ceasefire Line'. It became the Line of Control after the 1971 war and the Simla Agreement. In both cases, though, the language remained the same, and in describing the passage of the line both agreements remained equally vague. Whilst accurately delineating up to Point NJ 9842, both the Ceasefire Line and the Line of Control, continued the language of the first agreement — "thence north to the glaciers". And that is where the problem emanates from. What was assumed to be the case in 1949, and even in 1971, can no longer be taken for granted, for, as they say, a lot of water has flown down the Indus.


India began its Siachen moves on April 16, 1984, under the cover of 'Operation Meghdoot'. That is the official launch date, but there had been moves in the previous years to get a grip on things happening on the heights. Numerous mountaineering expeditions from the Pakistani side through the 1960s and 1970s had got the goat of the military authorities in India. Even when the 1949 agreement had said "thence north to the glaciers" the expeditions were clearly coming into areas that were well east of the north as recorded in the agreement. Which is really the crux of the Pakistani argument. And in order to get to the root of the problem it is important to hear the Pakistani argument in toto.


The assumption in Pakistan was that "thence north to the glaciers" from Point NJ 9842 meant taking the line in a east-north-east direction to end at the Karakoram Pass and the border with China. On the basis of this interpretation Pakistani authorities permitted numerous mountaineering expeditions up to the Siachen glacier. In the process the United States Defence Mapping Agency began to show a delineated border by the late-1960s that corresponded roughly with what the Pakistani authorities were claiming. The increase in the number of mountaineering expeditions continued well into the 1970s. With each expedition seemingly underlining Pakistan's claims on the passage of the Line of Control from Point NJ 9842 to the glaciers.


This remained the trend until about the late-1970s when the Indian Army's High Altitude Warfare School was tasked with finding out, and laying its own claims. The Indian Army expedition of 1978 placed its flags at Saltoro Kangri and began the process that was to culminate in a full-fledged operation in April 1984. This has also resulted in the coinage of 'oropolitics' as a word to describe this high altitude competition. A stand-off between the Pakistan Army Special Services Group and a patrol of the Ladakh Scouts in the summer of 1983 precipitated the movement of troops into the heights. So it was in the earliest possible days of the mountaineering season of 1984 that the Indian Army moved into the heights west of Siachen glacier, where they have remained pretty much since then.

The current positions are atop the Saltoro Ridge, a part of the Karakoram Range. The actual glacier lies below the ridge to its east. While the Indian Army holds the heights, the Pakistani Army is nearby, in some places ridiculously close. The summer of 1987 was the peak fighting season for control of the Siachen battlefield. The Brigade Commander from the Pakistani side was none other than General Pervez Musharraf and there were audacious attempts at undoing Indian military gains. One of them included SSG troops slung on under helicopters so as to inflict greater surprise.


The gains made in 1987 by soldiers of the 8 Jammu & Kashmir Light Infantry became legendry in Siachen military lore. Though there have been attempts to change the ownership and control of the ridgeline after 1987, notably in 1990, 1995-96 and lastly in 1999, none of them succeeded. And status quo remains pretty much what it has been since 1987.


So what next? Do the two armies continue to occupy the coldest battlefield in the world, or is a settlement possible? The 11 rounds of talks suggest that a settlement is not appearing in the near term. For the sticking point is to decide the current locations of troops. The Indian Army doesn't like politicians and bureaucrats, much like all armies in the world. And so it fears that agreeing to vacate the heights for political brownie points could cost it dearly because one day the political leadership will tell it to regain the heights.


Since you can't trust the Pakistani Army to keep to an agreement, you can't take a chance and do as the politicians tell you. This is the Army's thinking in India. The fears are driven by the moves to open trade through the high passes and if people can think of linking Gwadar Port with a rail line through the Karakoram Range, there is every possibility of the heights being lost without a shot fired. So the Army thinks. And that is why it sticks to its point of verifying the current positions, the Actual Ground Position Line, through physical and technical measures.


This is something the Pakistani Army refuses to agree upon. By acknowledging the existence of an AGPL, the Pakistani Army concedes it holds lesser territory than it has been claiming domestically. It has come up with a proposal that suggests an acknowledgment of the AGPL but through oblique ways. Upon agreeing to withdraw, the Pakistani Army will accept that it withdrew from the current positions, and that the Indian Army withdrew from its current positions, and hence, the AGPL will be acknowledged.


It is a clever proposal, but it needs a political class that carries credibility with the military to pull it off. The state of governance being the mess it is, no official, civil or military, will stick his neck out to salvage an agreement that may not be adhered to in the first place.


-- The visual accompanying this article shows three Indian soldiers on duty at Siachen, the world's highest and coldest battleground, climbing a steep and frozen rock face near the glacier.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

CPM FACES LEADERSHIP CRISIS

SHIKHA MUKERJEE


The problem of weak leadership in the CPI(M) is not limited to its national headquarters in Delhi; it extends to Kerala and West Bengal. Many believe that in West Bengal Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and his colleagues have proved to be poor leaders. And, like any other party, without good leaders the CPI(M) can sink into greater chaos. That's the threat facing the Marxists


Leadership is the CPI(M)'s problem. Facing up to or evading it, whatever the CPI(M) decides, will begin in Hyderabad when the party's central committee meets to undertake the forensic investigations into the causes of the plunge from popularity to the periphery in the aftermath of the 2011 election results in West Bengal. Leadership has been its problem since 2008, if not earlier.


Confirmation of the leadership problem, if one were needed, is contained in Mr Sitaram Yechury's disclosure that the issue of a change of leadership could be on the table in Hyderabad. While that discussion would inevitably be inconclusive given the structure of the CPI(M) and the rituals it has created for arriving at decisions, the fact that he admits to the possibility is independent substantiation of Mr Prakash Karat's apparently casual remark after May 13 that he had reached the age of retirement.


Arguing that the leadership of the CPI(M) was collective rather than individual, the general secretary of the party, Mr Karat has managed to stave off the discussion about how responsibility is to be apportioned for the series of defeats that have brought down the once invincible fortress in West Bengal. Denial of the speculation that in Kerala the formidable VS Achuthanandan would not be the CPI(M)'s leader has not killed the story that Mr Karat was indeed trying to manipulate his exit in order to turn the State into his fiefdom. Collective or individual, there are top jobs on the line within the CPI(M) and everyone knows it.


By the cast in stone rules of the CPI(M) the issue would be formally raised at the central committee and if it is approved would be included in the agenda for the all important party congress to be held next year. The build up, through all the tiers of the organisation will either diffuse the crisis and allow the leadership to carry on pretending that it is business as usual or there could be a controlled release of pent up frustration or there could be a messy, nasty falling out. Whatever be the outcome, the run up to the party congress and its proceedings would be of some general interest and of great consequence for the CPI(M) in its key States.


Ever since 2008, Mr Karat's leadership has been challenged, albeit indirectly. His decision to quit the United Progressive Alliance coalition did not receive unanimous support; it failed to raise a cheer among the foot soldiers against 'US neo-imperialism'. The decision certainly destabilised the CPI(M) in West Bengal which was already in crisis over Singur and Nandigram. In 2008, the differences between Mr Karat and West Bengal's leadership had already widened over industrial rejuvenation fuelled by liberalisation-globalisation. Impatient over questions raised by Mr Karat, Mr Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had snapped: West Bengal is a part of India. I will not turn it into North Korea.


The 2008 panchayat elections in West Bengal followed by the 2009 Lok Sabha results in West Bengal and Kerala made it obvious that the crisis had grown larger. In West Bengal 'economic policy' was the trigger for the political crash. Whereas Mr Karat did not offer to resign for the misadventure of attempting to form a Third Front, Mr Bhattacharjee did. Ideologically the two men were poles apart and their different responses to the crisis reflected in plummeting numbers indicated the vastly different ways in which the issue of responsibility was addressed. Mr Bhattacharjee believes in individual responsibility whereas Mr Karat prefers to crouch behind the collective wall.


Leadership and ideology are conjoined. Debatable as the idea may be of which comes first, ideology or leadership, the fact is that nothing can change unless there are people to initiate the change. For much too long, the CPI(M)'s leaders have dodged the problem by claiming that there is a seamless fit between ideas and practices. Theoretically that may be so, but in reality, the CPI(M) does not know how to fit in its opposition to the idea of economic liberalisation-globalisation with the compulsions of working within the Indian system where liberalisation and globalisation are the drivers.


As a concept, many heads being better than one in managing complex and complicated issues, is sound; in practice, it has not worked under Mr Karat's leadership. The reasons could be many. Mr Karat may be politically wiser and skilful than his comrades and so able to demolish the opposition in the internal debate. The crisis of the CPI(M) now suggests that he was no such thing. Or, the quality of the collective may be so poor that it was easily defeated. Or, every one within the collective had different reasons to want to side with Mr Karat rather than with someone else. Or no one in the collective leadership wanted the burden of leading and so declined the invitation to challenge Mr Karat.


The challenge could have come only from the West Bengal contingent, because in terms of numbers it constituted one large block. Clearly, the block was either too timid or disunited or both to want to challenge Mr Karat or else it was easily manipulated. Or maybe the West Bengal contingent did not like the alternative leadership on offer. West Bengal did not stand up to Mr Karat over Mr Somnath Chatterjee; it did not say much when Mr Achuthanandan was ousted from the Polit Bureau. It did not protest Mr Karat's final declaration that the debacle of 2011, 2010, 2009 and 2008 were all because of poor collective leadership and a weak organisation.

The choices within the CPI(M) are limited. West Bengal's leaders have no appetite to function from party head quarters. The Kerala contingent too seems disinterested. Few have been groomed to think of themselves as heading the party, individually and collectively. Almost none have any track record of successful leadership, barring Mr Manik Sarkar from Tripura, where he seems indispensable.


Whereas it was obvious that Harkishen Singh Surjeet would succeed EMS Namboodripad and that Mr Karat would succeed Mr Surjeet, nothing is clear now. Not unless the party collectively decides that it prefers to let Mr Karat carry on or it replaces Mr Karat by choosing Mr Yechury.


The problem of weak leadership in the CPI(M) is not limited to party head quarters; it extends to Kerala and West Bengal, where many believe that Mr Bhattacharjee and his comrades are poor leaders. A party without a 'leader', be it an individual or a collective, is a party that can only sink into greater chaos.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

FROM CHICAGO, WITH LOVE TO PAKISTAN

TCA RANGACHARI


The Rana-Headley case has underscored the importance of India working with the US for accessing actionable intelligence and keeping pressure on Pakistan. But the strategy is not without constraints as American and Indian interests in Pakistan have a limited congruence


Shorn of the verbiage and detail, the information that is now becoming available through the Rana-Headley trial in the US into the 26/11 terrorist attack in Mumbai makes one conclusion inevitable — Pakistani complicity. Much of it is largely a confirmation of what India has known, and pointed to publicly, for several months now. As the Prime Minister said to the Press on his way back from Africa on May 28, there is nothing new to be said. A distinction may well be sought between some elements (retired, rogue, low-level) connected with the ISI, and the ISI itself. But, reasonable opinion even within Pakistan now acknowledges that Pakistan was complicit, irrespective of whether they choose to lay the blame at official or non-official doors.


Press reports touting former Pakistan Foreign Secretary Shaharyar Khan's remarks to CNN-IBN as the first public admission of ISI's involvement in 26/11 are a case in point. Reactions of outrage and indignation are bound to follow; as it happened in the aftermath of the killing of Osama bin Laden in Abottabad; another instance of complicity.


Is this pattern of deed, dissembling and denial unprecedented? Have we not seen this from the time when the 'Razakars' came into Jammu & Kashmir six decades ago? And, more recently, was the same pattern not repeated with Kargil, nuclear weapons, terrorism, to cite but a few? In that sense, in dealing with Pakistan, India's options now are no different from what they have been in the past. A report in The New York Times dated May 27, 2011 on US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton's six hour visit to Pakistan — the highest ranking American official to visit Pakistan since the Osama bin Laden killing — in the company of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, quoted an unnamed administration official as saying, "The Pakistanis really have to make decisions themselves about what kind of country they want to live in."

Whether Pakistan wishes to be treated as a responsible and responsive member of the international community or as a failing, delinquent, unstable state (or whatever other term one wants to adduce to signify progressive loss of control) would then depend on its willingness to behave as a state that abides by the internationally accepted norms of inter-state conduct. That would entail being responsive to the international community's continuing demands, as put by the British Prime Minister David Cameron last July. Pakistan would be required to stop looking both ways on terrorism; demonstrate its good faith as a responsible international citizen by joining the global effort at nonproliferation, inter alia, by ceasing to be the sole hold-out on the FMCT, have its current democratic dispensation channel its energies into constructive ways including respecting the rule of law, being inclusive, respecting minority rights, shifting its domestic priority to the uplift of its people and regional priority away from India-centricism. As PML(N) chief and former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said at a Press conference in Karachi on May 14, "Pakistan must stop treating India as its biggest enemy... if we want to go forward and progress."


Clarity on the future direction of Pakistan has to emerge from policies that Pakistan chooses to follow rather than pronouncements it makes. Expectation from the outside based on hope or despair are no substitute for forming a judgement. Indeed, Pakistan might be unable to evolve a national consensus and remain torn between the several different courses that diverse constituencies in the polity and society wish to be determinants of or outcomes for the country's future.

India can, under the circumstances, do no better than to have several different options under debate in anticipation of the differing consequences that will inevitably ensue, depending on the choice that Pakistan makes. India can then consider the options that would best serve its purposes in protecting its interests, including in maintaining peace and stability, good neighbourliness, friendship and cooperation in a sustainable, mutually beneficial way. As of now, the options being discussed range from a plea for an 'un-interrupted and un-interruptible' dialogue to discounting the proposition that a strong and prosperous Pakistan is in India's interests. Meantime, public intolerance with the 'thousand-cuts' approach is sufficiently strong to support, even precipitate, punitive action should another cut be inflicted, which would do little for peace or dialogue even as it precludes calm judgement.

The Rana-Headley case has underscored the importance of working together with the US for accessing actionable intelligence and to keep up pressure on Pakistan to refrain from treating terrorists as 'good' and 'bad' depending on whether they face the East or West. But there are constraints to this strategy since US and Indian interests in Pakistan have a limited congruence. Patience and powder-dry may well be the order of the day.

-- The writer is a senior diplomat and former Indian Ambassador.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

DON'T PAUPERISE FARMERS FOR PROFIT

GOPAL K AGARWAL


Agricultural land is being acquired from farmers at throwaway prices by the Government and is being handed over to builders, who are developing mega projects and selling them to middle class investors. In the process, the farmer is the ultimate loser


Dimensions of corruption have changed over the recent past. Unchecked globalisation and economic development have created a situation where large amounts of unaccounted money are chasing limited available assets. This black money is generated through corruption, deficit financing and several welfare scheme freebies.

The major portion of this money is finding its way into the real estate sector. Corrupt politicians, Ministers and bureaucrats, in connivance with builders and developers, are exploiting gullible middle class investors who dream of owning a house.

Agricultural land is being acquired from farmers at throwaway prices by the Government and is being handed over to builders, who are developing mega projects and with the efforts of their brand managers, dream-sellers and marketing personnel are selling them to middle class investors. Local authorities are part of this racket and are now operating as real estate development companies. They are helping fill the coffers of some corrupt politicians.

When farmers whose land has been acquired come to know of these manipulations at a later stage and find out that their interests have not been protected by the faulty and outdated Land Acquisition Act, they are bound to agitate. This is what is happening in villages like Bhatta- Parsaul near Greater Noida. And if any corrective action takes place under pressure from courts or due to the agitation of the local people, leading to cancellation of these projects, then the middle class investor's money goes down the drain.

Similar is the situation in the case of land acquired for mining and industrial development. The economic development of the country also suffers. Land acquisition for industrial purposes has become one of the very contentious issues now. Land acquisition, in principle, is governed the by the Land Acquisition Act of 1894. The Act, despite getting amended in 1967 and 1984, does not address the twin issues of rehabilitation and resettlement of the displaced people.

In view of this, the Government of India announced the National Policy on Resettlement and Rehabilitation for Project-Affected Families in 2003, which came into force in February 2004. Later, in order to make the policy more effective and the Act consistent with it, two Bills — the Land Acquisition (Amendment) Bill, 2007, and the Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill, 2007 — were drafted but have been kept pending without being put up to Parliament.

The Government must immediately take corrective measures. Foremost is the need to pass an amended Land Acquisition Act, taking into consideration proper compensation for farmers not only in monetary terms but also securing their livelihood. This can be done by paying compensation in installments over a longer duration, giving farmers a stake in the future profitability of the development project, and providing some form of employment for the families of those losing land.

To secure the interests of investors and control the real estate development lobby, there has to be a regulatory authority which will scrutinise all schemes, check disclosures regarding promises and risk factors, and make sure these are backed by proper legal documents. It also has to ensure that developers deliver on their promises and in the event of any dereliction, investor interests are properly protected and they are duly compensated.

An important aspect from the point of view of the national economy is the need to break the nexus between real estate developers, corrupt politicians and their Public Private Partnership projects which generate black money through corrupt means. Otherwise, over a period of time, a real estate bubble will be created and will lead to unprecedented problems in our economy.

This asset bubble is also the result of the deficit financing to which the Government resorts every year. Experts have said that emerging economies such as Brazil and India face fiscal and current account deficits and a crisis similar to the one triggered by the global financial meltdown is inevitable.

The recent chain of events — whether it is the farmers agitation in Uttar Pradesh or the Maoist insurgency in various other parts of the country — reflect this point. We must immediately act on these issues and check this particular corrupt practice.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

 COMMENT

REALITY CHECK

 

The Lokpal Bill joint committee's run into summer squalls as June - with its drafting deadline of the 30th - arrives. Disagreements between the panel's government and civil society representatives are many. The government does not want the Prime Minister, MPs in Parliament, the judiciary, defence personnel, officers below joint secretary rank, the CVC, CBI and departmental investigative agencies to fall under the Lokpal's purview. Given this wish-list, civil society representatives are not amused. Anna Hazare's group described its recent meeting with the government as disastrous. It also indicated it might walk out of the next one on June 6.

In expressing its demands, the government has displayed how terribly out of touch it is with the nation. Under its watch, a stream of scandal has flown forth from the unlikeliest - and least desired - of sources.
India was shamed by MPs waving wads of cash inside Parliament, the cash-for-votes issue exploding within the august house itself. Even as other scams unfolded, the ISRO telecom episode involved no less than the Prime Minister's office. And to its horror, the nation learnt its defence forces were no longer inviolable. The building allotted for the widows of Kargil martyrs - named Adarsh or 'ideal' - was carved up between army top brass, politicians and rich civilians. In this atmosphere, demanding unquestioning public credence in these institutions is astonishing. The government should actually have insisted these offices come under the Lokpal's surveillance. That measure would go a considerable way in restoring tattered public confidence precisely where it should fly high.


Alongside, the civil society activists must remember it takes two to tango. Having an all-or-nothing approach won't forward public interest faster. It's practical to restrict the Lokpal's operations to officers above a certain cut-off rank in seniority terms, ensuring petty corruption isn't being constantly investigated with little time to check on the big plays in town. It's also over-zealous to demand the CVC, CBI and departmental investigative agencies come under the Lokpal's purview. These suffered deeply from being under the government's thumb. Civil society should insist these operate now as fully independent bodies, assisting the Lokpal, but not becoming an appendage.


Finally, the judiciary must be kept out of the Lokpal's purview, another group monitoring the former's accountability. It's vital a constitutional body exists to keep an eye on the Lokpal, checking this powerful office remains thoroughly above board. What's needed is an elegantly-designed, sensibly-integrated system of checks and balances, stopping one institution from overriding others. The Lokpal's office will be a vital one. However, it'll be one amongst many. The June 6 meeting should proceed on this understanding.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

 COMMENT

PILE PRESSURE

 

Two and a half years on, nothing about the aftermath of 26/11 has been straightforward. But evidence of ISI involvement in the attack has been mounting, from David Headley's evidence, to former Pakistan foreign secretary Shaharyar Khan's admission of a possible ISI role, to the sophistication of the operation itself, to Pakistan's reluctance to take action against the Lashkar-e-Taiba ( LeT). Another attack on the lines of 26/11 would result in a warlike situation between India and Pakistan. It's imperative, therefore, that diplomatic pressure be brought to bear on Islamabad for 26/11, to reduce the incentives for another attack.


Since New Delhi has little leverage and few policy options to influence Pakistan directly, it must work closely with the US and build its case at the bar of international opinion. It must validate its claims in a New York court by becoming party to a lawsuit filed by the relatives of the Chabad House victims - Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife Rivka - against the Lashkar-e-Taiba and ISI chief Shuja Pasha. The Holtzbergs' case is, after all, the same as those of the many Indian victims of 26/11. Home secretary G K Pillai has called it a political decision, pointing to the old logic of keeping Pakistan sweet. But this is a false opposition. It is possible to pursue dialogue with Islamabad while building an international consensus against terrorism sponsored by state agencies in Pakistan. The latter can, in fact, reinforce the former. At the same time New Delhi needs to strengthen its internal defences against terror, where it has dropped the ball in recent times.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

TOP ARTICLE

FEEDING ON FALSE FEARS

PRASHANT BHUSHAN

Ever since the joint drafting committee for the Lokpal Bill was formed, many issues have been raised about the proposed Lokpal by several persons, some of whom are highly respected. The criticism by some people, including some sections of the media, has however been irresponsible. It is said that the Bill makes a mockery of democracy and seeks to create a 'Supercop' which could turn into a Frankenstein's monster. When such criticism is made by respectable people and run as a campaign by sections of the media, it is natural for innocent citizens who are not familiar with the issues to become confused and start wondering if there are indeed serious problems with the Bill.


These critics are saying that the Lokpal has been given draconian powers of contempt, search and seizure, laying traps, telephone interceptions, and attaching assets of public servants. But these powers are vested with all investigative agencies and are essential for effective investigation. The difference is that the Lokpal will not need the authorisation of the home secretary for tapping telephones. The Lokpal, being an independent multi-member authority selected by a transparent and broad-based selection process whose functioning will also be transparent, is a much safer body than the home secretary to be entrusted with this power. The power of contempt is required to ensure that the orders of the Lokpal are complied with. The power of freezing assets of public servants and their abettors which have been acquired by corrupt means is essential if those assets are to be recovered. This is a lacuna with the existing law that the Lokpal Bill will seek to plug.


It has also been alleged that the Lokpal will be the investigator, prosecutor and judge, all rolled into one. Such criticism arises from a gross misunderstanding of the Bill. The Lokpal will have an investigative wing and a prosecution wing under its administrative and supervisory jurisdiction. If, at the end of the investigation, the investigative wing finds that a corruption offence has been committed, it will send the case to the prosecution wing which will prosecute the case before the special courts which will be part of the normal judiciary. The special courts will not be under the Lokpal. The Lokpal will only periodically assess how many such courts are required to complete the trial of corruption cases expeditiously and the government will be required to set up that many special courts. One of the serious problems today in bringing corrupt people to book is that the prosecutors being under the control of the government often compromise the case. And the inadequate number of courts to try such cases allows them to drag on for years during which time witnesses become unavailable or get compromised.


Concern has also been raised about what will ensure the integrity of the Lokpal itself. The Bill seeks to address this by providing several layers of checks. In the first place, the Bill requires that the entire functioning of the Lokpal machinery be totally transparent. It will be required to put the entire record of any investigation on its website. Any complaints against the investigation or vigilance officers can be made directly to the Lokpal or to an independent complaints authority to be set up in each state. These authorities would be required to expeditiously decide complaints against the vigilance officers in public hearings to ensure transparency. Complaints against Lokpal members could be made to the Supreme Court where five senior judges would, if they found a prima facie case of misconduct, constitute a bench to inquire into the complaint. Moreover, the Lokpal's orders would be subject to judicial review before the high court or the Supreme Court. These measures should make the Lokpal and its officers sufficiently accountable.


Some respectable retired officials have raised concerns about the proposal to bring the CBI and Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) under the Lokpal, and want them to be left out. But the entire raison d'etre for an independent and empowered Lokpal is because the CBI is controlled by the very government whose senior officials it is required to investigate. That is why it cannot function independently. It has also become corrupt since it is not accountable to any independent body. The CVC enjoys mainly recommendatory powers which are frustrated by the government often not accepting its recommendations. Moreover, CVC members are selected by a committee comprising the prime minister, home minister and leader of the opposition, all of whom have a vested interest in having weak or pliable officers for a body which can investigate them. That is why they need to be brought under an independent, empowered and accountable Lokpal.


Corruption in India has assumed such proportions that it robs public resources, distorts and undermines development and threatens democracy itself. It must be tackled urgently by creating a strong, empowered, independent and accountable anti-corruption institution. That is what the Lokpal Bill seeks to do. We must remain firm in our resolve and steadfast in our course. This is one of the decisive battles of our times which, if lost, would consign us to becoming a banana republic and a mafia state.


The writer is a senior Supreme Court advocate and a member of the Lokpal Bill joint committee.

 

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 THE TIMES OF INDIA

MIDAS TOUCH

JUG SURAIYA

 

Everyone's long known that politics in India is a potentially lucrative business. Just how lucrative it is has been revealed by studies conducted by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) and the National Election Watch (NEW). According to these organisations, the assets of recontesting MPs in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections had increased by 289% over the five-year period of their previous tenure. Compared with this, gold registered a rise of 138%, or less than half the increase that accrued to our netas. Other investment options - such as the stock market, mutual funds and bank fixed deposits - saw far more modest gains: 64% for the sensex; 67% for mutual funds on an average; and 46% for bank fixed deposits.


While MLAs didn't fare quite as profitably as their counterparts in Parliament, they didn't put up a bad showing either. According to an ADR survey based on legislative assemblies from four states and one Union territory - Tamil Nadu, Assam, Kerala, West Bengal and Puducherry - over a five-year period the MLAs had notched up gains ranging from 71% (for West Bengal) to 195% (for Tamil Nadu). In Tamil Nadu, no fewer than 97 MLAs tripled their asset values. The number of crorepatis in the four states and Puducherry has reportedly risen from 97 in 2006 to 268 in 2011. Such figures corroborate what the recent spate of scams and swindles has brought to the forefront of public attention: that Indian politics is arguably the most remunerative of all career options for the enterprising individual.


Our politicians are the best wealth generators in the business, much more so than any professional mercantile banker, portfolio manager, market analyst or hoarder of gold bullion. The only glitch is that the wealth they generate - and have been generating all these years - is only for themselves and not for the rest of their fellow citizens. Which helps to explain the economic paradox that has long puzzled many: why is it that India is a potentially rich country inhabited by an overwhelming majority of extremely poor people? Just how poor the poorest of India's poor are can be gauged by the fact that the Planning Commission has proposed an expenditure cap of Rs 20 a day to identify the below the poverty line (BPL) population which is eligible for benefits under the government's projected social security scheme.


How do you get at least a little bit of the wealth-generating capacity so ably demonstrated by our political representatives to trickle down to those whom they supposedly represent? One suggestion has been to confiscate to the public exchequer the assets of any public office holder caught in a scam. But this not only limits the field to proven scamsters and their assets but is also tantamount to killing the goose that lays the golden eggs. Or rather, the geese that lay the golden eggs.


The geese are our elected politicians. And instead of metaphorically killing them, we should turn them into negotiable instruments open for investment by the general public, like government bonds or mutual funds or shares floated by individual companies. Investors should be enabled to invest in a particular MP or MLA, or in a diversified portfolio consisting of various MPs and MLAs, much as people do now in mutual funds. The mutual fund so created - call it the Midas Touch Funda, or whatever you will - would invite investments from individuals and from social and economic groups representing all strata of society, from the lowest to the highest. As in the case of other mutual funds, the MPs'/MLAs' fund would declare regular dividends, based on the performance of the participating politicians, which would be distributed on an equitable basis among all the shareholders.

Next time round, don't just vote for your local MLA and MP. Put your money where your ballot is and buy shares in them. It's likely to be the best investment you ever made.

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

OUR TAKE

ARRIVE AT A MEETING POINT

The efforts to draft a Lokpal bill acceptable to both the government and the civil society activists led by Anna Hazare seem to be going round and round the mulberry bush with the two sides seemingly unable to come to any agreement.

The sticking point is the category of people who will come within the ambit of the bill. The government after initially going along with the demands of the Hazare-led group seems to have had a change of heart on including the higher judiciary, the actions of MPs inside Parliament and the prime minister in the bill.

This once again raises the contentious issue of bringing the judiciary into the public domain of accountability. Then there is the issue of the prime minister. He himself has in the past signalled his willingness to have his office open to scrutiny.

The government has to think of a way of getting around the possibility of the lokpal making the Prime Minister dysfunctional and his office eing hobbled by motivated charges. The government, which is on the ropes after a series of ugly corruption scandals, should not be seen to be obstructionist in setting up a mechanism which will ensure greater transparency and accountability.

The judiciary itself should perhaps come forward and accept that it should be monitored by an external body rather than plump for the government's proposal of self-regulation. This could be observed more in the breach than the norm and will do nothing to add to the weight and credibility of the judiciary.

If the two sides cannot come to an agreement, there is every likelihood that the June 6 meeting will result in a further hardening of positions. This could mean that the next session of Parliament will be held hostage to this issue.

However, the Lokpal has to have a clear line of command and has to be accountable. At the moment, the whole concept seems to be floating above the fray, fuelled only by the noble motive of cleaning up public life. If there is no accountability mechanism, the Lokpal could be subject to misuse and its value undermined.

However recalcitrant the government may be, Hazare and his followers would be well advised not to take to the streets as they have threatened.

Far-reaching legislations like the Lokpal can only be crafted after negotiations, gruelling though they may be, and not solely through agitational politics. Both sides have to come back to the drawing board with new suggestions on how to get around the sticking points.

The initial meeting may have been 'disastrous' but this should only spur both sides to stop moving on parallel tracks and work out a meeting point some way ahead.

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

AT A LOSS FOR WORDS

As part of that rare group of humans that make their living solely by mincing words, we scribes have always believed in the superior might of the pen. But as our fellow practitioners of the written word, the writers — who, one must add, write with greater flourish and attract larger fame than us — have shown us, words can indeed serve as a reliable, handy weapon even in adversity.

Wielded skillfully, they inflict far greater damage than a mere blade of metal. When words clash, they also create a rather un-pretty yet strangely gratifying episode for the rest to behold. It explains our sense of loss at knowing that the 15-year-old feud between Nobel-winning writer VS Naipaul and fellow writer and friend-turned-foe Paul Theroux has been made up over an insipid handshake.

Not that the standards set by the Naipaul-Theroux slugfest can claim to have set any new high. A signed copy of his book Fong and the Indians, which Theroux had lovingly gifted to Mr Naipaul, had found its way into the second-hand book market, presumably thrown out by the latter's second wife Nadira. When challenged about the affront, Mr Naipaul is said to have told Mr Theroux to "take it on the chin and move on".

That turn of rhetoric, even you the reader will agree, may have served its purpose but would be no match to the right hook that Mario Vargas Llosa dealt to Gabriel Garcia Marquez (both Nobel winners) at a Mexico theatre in 1976, leaving the latter bloodied and sparking off a celebrated literary feud.

And while Mr Theroux may have got his own through an uncharitable portrait of his foe in Sir Vidia's Shadow, or written disparagingly about Mr Naipaul's shortcomings — "his tantrums, his envy, his meanness, his greed, and his uncontrollable anger"— he obviously lacked the edge that marked Truman Capote's terse dismissal of fellow American Jack Kerouac's work, saying "that's not writing, that's typing".

While we, close observers of episodes when writers bare their fang and sharpen their talons, did enjoy the dramatic tension of the Naipaul-Theroux act while it lasted, we cannot but be dejected by this disappointing denouement.

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

TOO MANY PLANS, TOO FEW GAINS

ANURAG SRIVASTAVA

It might help the disgruntled middle-class Indian, who has recently discovered his remarkable aversion for corruption, to learn of a covert form of corruption: doing nothing. The money earmarked for health, education and other essential services — 'plan funds' — is not fully spent for a given year even in the face of India's abysmal record on human development indicators.

Why?

To begin with, instead of recounting the legion of political and bureaucratic failures, let's locate how it may be possible to effectively spend the plan funds that concern key developmental goals.

If funds and functions are devolved to the local level, better outcomes are possible. We do have a Panchayati Raj Act that stipulates 29 key functions, funds and functionaries to directly accrue to the panchayats. But that is a paper tiger at best.

Decentralisation has been little more than a placebo, especially if one considers the parallel narrative of deepening centralisation since the Act came into force in 1993. Therein lies the problem. And it's all about power.

The plan funds, which cover basic social services, have been increasingly concentrated in what is called CSS (centrally-sponsored schemes), whose authority lies with central ministries. It is from the CSS that money is channelled to state departments and bodies that lie above the state, thereby bypassing states as well as panchayats.

The CSS has come to constitute two-thirds of the central financial assistance from about one-third 20 years ago. In 2009-10, states received more than R1 lakh crore for CSS, mostly for subjects like heath and education, which fall under the state list.

Politically, the CSS are a vote cow. The ruling party in the state is often indifferent and, in cases, hostile to the schemes' success. It sees such schemes providing populist mileage for the Centre, in many cases representing the competing party in the state.

The Centre also stands culpable of controlling these for electoral dividends — more so with the significant emergence of regional parties in recent years.

Numbering between 250 and 300, the CSS are unnecessary as well as unmanageable — given that 80% of funds are concentrated in only ten schemes with the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS), the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM), the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) and the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) being the key ones.

For a given scheme, the states are expected to contribute with a matching (usually 25%) share. Often, states not releasing their share on time is cited as the reason for non-execution of plans. Almost as a rule, optimal utilisation occurs in the last quarter of the year — with obverse failures.

The bureaucracy controls the execution and the budget with eventual line control by the Centre. Centralisation and bureaucratisation, then, are the key culprits behind unspent funds.

But the CSS are here to stay. The best way forward for effective expenditures is by making local bodies the spending authority. The CSS should be cut down on numbers and converge with local plans with money reaching directly to panchayats, bypassing the bureaucracy, which has the key operational control and is likely to condemn the proposal. 

Communities are not homogenous. Sharp divisions of caste, class and gender exist. Yet, devolution is a better choice. Even 'devolution of corruption' is a better option.

Being closer to people, conflicts will pave the way for capabilities faster than any notion of external, top-down 'governed' assistance. Even for the privileged classes, it is far easier to hold a ward councillor accountable than a cabinet minister.

Having said that, such a policy shift will require political will.  

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

NO BREAKING NEWS

ASHOK MALIK

In early 1980, Sunil Gavaskar stepped down from the Indian captaincy and announced he was too tired and unavailable for the upcoming tour of the West Indies. Eventually, the tour was cancelled. However, Gavaskar spent the summer not resting at home in Mumbai but playing county cricket for Somerset.

Gavaskar's friends saw nothing hypocritical in this. The winter of 1979-80 had seen India play 13 home tests, including an exhausting series against a strong Pakistani side. India's best batsman was mentally fatigued and not in prime shape to travel to the Caribbean Islands — and take on what was then the best team in the world. County cricket in England was quite different.

In 1952, Vinoo Mankad faced a similar predicament. Months before India's tour of England that summer, Mankad, then India's best all-rounder, requested the selectors to pre-confirm his place in the squad. He had an attractive offer from Haslingden, a club in the Lancashire League, and as a professional wanted to safeguard his earnings. If the selectors confirmed he was touring England, he would turn down Haslingden.

The selectors refused to guarantee Mankad's place in the team. The left-hander dropped out of the tour and went on to play for Haslingden. Mid-series, a devastated Indian team was forced to request Haslingden to release Mankad. It even sent a replacement cricketer.

As is apparent, 'country versus club/county' debates and choices are not new to Indian cricket. These have long preceded the Indian Premier League (IPL). Where Mankad and Gavaskar were lucky was that their decisions were not dissected by that 24/7 khap panchayat called Indian news television.

On this count, the recent fracas involving Gautam Gambhir and the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) has been revealing. It has shown up the media for a fundamental inability to understand a sportsman's ethic. It has emphasised the dangerous sensationalism news — particularly cricket news — is subjected to.

Finally, it has been a reminder of the tawdry and crude nationalism that (at least some) news channels have made their calling card.

What were the facts of the Gambhir case? He was carrying a niggle since the world cup, as were it seems Virendra Sehwag, MS Dhoni, Sachin Tendulkar, Zaheer Khan and others. Some of them were carrying niggles even before the world cup.

A niggle is a problem but is not necessarily life or career threatening, not always enough to miss a tournament as big as the world cup or as lucrative as the IPL. Pride and money are both legitimate motivations for a sportsman.

Once Gambhir reported for the KKR pre-IPL camp, he was assured of his season fee. Whether he played the crucial play-off game against Mumbai or didn't would have made zero difference to his bank balance. Why then did he play that match and refuse to discuss the MRI report?

He was desperate to play because his team had a realistic chance of winning the IPL. By this stage, he was driven by competitiveness and not cash.

When the MRI report was received, Gambhir only asked: Will it get worse if I play the Mumbai game? The answer was: No, the injury requires rest at some point but will not get worse. That made up Gambhir's mind. He would play and discuss the MRI findings later.

Take another example from KKR itself. Brad Haddin too arrived for IPL 4 carrying a niggle. Early in the tournament, the team physiotherapist advised him an X-ray. The Australian wicket-keeper was reluctant. The momentum had set in; he wanted to finish the IPL and didn't want potentially bad news interrupting him. The physiotherapist insisted.

The X-ray was done. It was found the injury would get worse if Haddin continued playing. The player's first response was: "I wish I hadn't done that damned X-ray." His IPL was over, but never — not before the X-ray and not after — was his season fee at risk.

Did news television report any of this? The Haddin story was censored as too inconvenient. The KKR CEO Venky Mysore was accused of "walking out of an interview" on being asked "pointed questions".

It was obvious on screen that he had done nothing of the sort. A wild and as it now appears concocted story was telecast alleging that the KKR management had injected a steroid into Gambhir's body without his knowledge.

Do mainstream channels realise the damage they are doing to their credibility?

More important, why have some channels taken it upon themselves to hand out certificates of nationalism every evening at 9 pm? Who is to decide who is anti-national and who is a nationalist?

How is commitment to India to be tested — by deciding which cricket matches you play and which you don't; by demanding an instant verdict on the villain of the day, be it a cricketer or a politician or anybody else?

In resorting to such sanctimonious gimmicks, some news channels are setting themselves up for a backlash. After all, as CLR James might have said, "What do they know of nations who only nationalism know?"

(Ashok Malik is a Delhi-based political commentator. The views expressed by the author are personal)

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

IS BAKING A FEMINIST ACT?

LAGUSTA YEARWOOD

It's time we give women the respect they deserve for tasks like cooking

`B aking is the less applauded of the cooking arts, whereas restaurants are a male province to be celebrated. There's something intrinsically misogynistic about decrying a tradition because it has always been female... I'm not being entirely facetious when I say it's a feminist tract.'

Nigella Lawson's recent comments that her bakery cookbook, How To Be A Domestic Goddess, should be read as a "feminist tract" may at first sound bizarre -how is baking a cake a feminist act?
Here's how.

If we are working toward a society in which women are valued equally with men, it's not enough to champion what I call the `Hillary Clinton route': women accessing careers that have historically been the provenance of men. Of course, this needs to be done -there are glass ceilings to smash and equal wages to fight for aplenty -but we need to do the opposite, too: champion what has traditionally been devalued as `women's work' and respect it for what it is -work.

It's true, as Lawson points out, that in our current food-obsessed culture, savoury cooking -the meatier and manlier the better -is slavishly praised by a foodie elite. Women chefs are only just now becoming accepted at top restaurants, and the food culture has a weakness for the women who present themselves as ultra-tough; matching the current nose-to-tail fetish by serving exotic animal bits is a quick way for a woman restaurateur to grab some press.

But feminism was never supposed to be about making women more like men.
In my view, mainstream feminism has lost focus in the past 20 years or so because of its tunnel vision for the Hillary Clinton route as the only path to liberation. I want to see a society in which not only can women attain positions of power in government and business based solely on their qualifications, but, more than that, I want a society in which child-rearing and baking and laundry and cleaning and cooking -not cheffy restaurant cooking, but everyday dinner-on-the-table cooking -are seen as equally important contributions to a balanced society. And since we're at it, I want to see that the qualities usually associated with women -a certain softness, a gentleness -are not thrown away in the race to prove how tough (and therefore manly) women are, thus deserving of rights previously only granted to men.

All these silly gender-assigned qualities have just got to go, don't you think?
They're so tiresome, after all. Straight men are, it seems to me, increasingly fed up with holding up their end of the deal, and would be relieved to be able to cry in public and take care of the house while their female partners work on their career for a while without worrying if they will look soft to their friends.

I wish we could take all the traits we think of as `feminine' and `masculine', toss them on the floor and let each person pick up a few randomly. What would happen?
Women CEOs would no longer be "women CEOs" and if one of those women CEOs brought in an elaborate home-baked confection for an office party, her power and respect at the office wouldn't somehow diminish.

We've bought into stereotypes that are no longer useful -that women who thrive in positions of power can't also enjoy `girly' hobbies like baking, for example. Or that men who bake must be either gay or somehow weak.

After all, what's more hardcore and deserving of awe and respect, really, than baking? Every baker I know is much smarter than your average chef, who tosses ingredients into a sauté pan with no thought of maths or ratios. Bakers -even everyday home bakers known for their birthday cakes and Christmas puddings -have an understanding of chemistry and maths and a certain exactitude deep in their bones.

Baking is a feminist act. It's time to celebrate it as such. Sponge cakes for all!

The Guardian

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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

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

A DANGEROUS TWIST

 

Devinder Pal Singh Bhullar may not be awakening all the ghosts of a sanguinary past, but his case has the potential to stir up enough trouble if irresponsible politics is given a free rein in Punjab. Unfortunately, the conduct of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), at the head of the state's governing coalition, is adding fuel to this very flame. The passion invested in public sentiment over this issue can engender a destructive twist in Punjab's politics, with just about three quarters of a year to go before the assembly elections next February. That is why it is imperative for all stakeholders in the state's electoral process to exercise restraint. Instead, the SAD has flown high on its own rhetoric, not willing to waste any bit of the political potential of the president's rejection of Bhullar's mercy petition.

While the SAD has pitched it as "another discriminatory" act by the Congress-led government at the Centre, the Congress too has not been able to find its voice, with Amarinder Singh, former chief minister and chief of the party's state unit, saying in his personal capacity that he is opposed to the death sentence. Choosing a side on this debate is one thing; but the motive behind one's stand and the manner in which it is justified should be watched. Therefore, buying into and endorsing the argument that the rejection of Bhullar's petition "shall give a signal that... Dara [Singh] was pardoned because he belonged to the majority community while Bhullar is from a minority community" is unbecoming of a governing party.

As it happens, the Bhullar case has been very controversial. Those opposed to the death sentence claim that Bhullar was merely a Khalistani ideologue, with no evidence of violent activity against him. Also, in one of the two cases against him — the September 1993 Delhi blast which killed nine people — he was convicted on the basis of a "confession" made in police custody, a confession he retracted in court. Punjab buried militancy long ago, and there hasn't been a major terror attack in the state for a decade-and-a-half. Yet, the wounds of militancy and the anti-Sikh riots of 1984 will take longer to heal. Thus, a religious colouring to the Bhullar case is dangerous; any political backing for that attempt is doubly so. Some religious organisations have already warned the Centre of "serious consequences". It is the responsibility of both the ruling SAD-led coalition and the opposition Congress to prevent the usurpation of the state's politics by anger-mongering.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

ICON WORSHIP

 

Given how often it is called upon to intervene when Gandhi's personal effects are under the auction hammer, the government is considering amending the Antiquities and Art Treasures Act to give its actions some legal teeth.

While we might need to update our approach to "national treasures", randomly inserting the Gandhi memorabilia question into a law that is meant for entirely different purposes and much older artefacts is absurd, as it is to insist on the repatriation of all objects that may be associated with him. Will the law be for Gandhi-related objects alone? What about other historical figures who have a hold on the national imagination, and why? Where will this end? While some individuals may believe that it demeans Gandhi's memory to have his glasses or letters sold to the highest bidder, or insist that they are part of our cultural patrimony, why should the state be drafted into these battles? A couple of years back, a bizarre drama played out in New York, when a rather whimsical American called James Otis put up several things for auction, and promised to withdraw them only if the Indian government shifted its budget priorities to provide greater healthcare for the poor. The items finally went under the hammer, but were painfully acquired by "India", when Vijay Mallya bought them for $1.8 million.

Gandhi was a cosmopolitan man, and many of his personal belongings are likely to be scattered across the world. What does bringing back these things and sticking them in a museum achieve? A few months back, we displayed a similar clinginess about Rabindranath Tagore's paintings being sold at Sotheby's, never mind the fact that Tagore himself had given them away. The prime minister was petitioned to stop the sale of these "priceless treasures of Indian culture". And for all the possessiveness about these material objects, our ideas about these vivid historical figures are flat and childish. Any attempt to humanise Gandhi is indignantly rejected, as recently happened with the Joseph Lelyveld book. Instead of engaging with his ideas, we are more comfortable putting him at a safe distance, sanctifying him and jealously guarding his relics.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

TAKING INDIA ABROAD

MIHIR S SHARMA

 

Politically, India is unique. No democracy so large and diverse has grown like it has; and our political parties, left, right and fragmentary, have come to a quiet agreement that economic growth is essential — and spreading its benefits a bit makes it politically sustainable. Our politics is noisily divided, but on this, the most crucial of political points, every major formation at state and Centre agrees.

Economically, India is unique. No economy has grown so quickly thanks to the private sector — while yet being so restricted. This is not China, where the private sector only recently overtook the public sector in output, in spite of it being easier to do business there.

But is India unique in how it reaches out to the world? It tried to be, once; but that attempt at moral leadership floundered, seen as self-serving, self-righteous and hypocritical. An unsurprising image, since too much of it consisted of stuffy lectures read out in stuffy halls filled with dictators.

Yet India can, and should reach for uniqueness again in how it engages the less-developed world. And you can begin to discern hints of what that engagement could look like, and how it could transform how we think of "assistance" and "aid", when you read accounts of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's trips to Afghanistan and Africa.

"India has no agenda in Afghanistan," Singh declared in Kabul. "Our nations span the diversity of the human condition," he reminded the leaders of Africa in Addis Ababa. Contained within those sentences are the strengths and the weaknesses of India's approach to the less-developed world.

India has no agenda? Possibly. Certainly, an often-repeated devotion to Nehruvian non-interference means we keep quiet about things that we shouldn't. We were late, for example, to recognise what Tahrir Square meant for the Arab world.

That means, true, that governments view us with less suspicion. But, in the 1950s, non-interference meant that we stood for something, the right of the Third World to make its own mistakes, unaffected by the First World's imperial dreams, or the Second's internationalist delusions. Today? It stands for pretty much nothing. But no nation can aspire to greatness — and India, given its size, must aspire to greatness or wallow in mediocrity — without standing for something.

Something even deeper is signalled by Singh's appeal to a heritage of similar problems, of parallel strengths: that we "share the diversity of the human condition". This makes explicit, after all, the basic problem with an India that stretches out to help: aren't most of the world's poor in India? Should we not look to our own problems first, before taking on those of the world?

Those who make this claim — and there are many — miss the two ways in which India is unique, politically and economically. Our state was failing, and yet our private sector learnt to survive; our state has failings, and yet our politics is slowly training it to work for those that need it.

Sharing these abilities, as we learn them, is neither the traditional definition of aid, nor is it something that we need to postpone till some dim, distant future when we meet the descriptions of today's ever-so-slightly smug, First-World aid-givers. We have the advantage of not talking down to people who are, after all, in the same boat we find ourselves; of knowing that money can vanish down a blackhole of corruption and ineptitude; of sparing every rupee; of being large enough to innovate and experiment.

We've used these advantages for a while, actually. The International Training and Economic Cooperation scheme, or ITEC, was set up the year Nehru died; it routes our engagement abroad. ITEC trains foreign government servants, and focuses on specific programmes. India's experience with its own governance, and its unique, democratic pressures to reform a development-focused state has caused it to do this better, perhaps, than most other aid-givers. An example is the aversion, according to a recent Chatham House survey of India's aid efforts, to "three-year projects" which may be set up with fanfare but fall into disrepair when assistance ceases. The projects actually chosen are supposed to be small, cheap, focused, sustainable and empowering — diamond-polishing colleges, waste-collection facilities, low-cost housing centres — vastly different from how traditional aid-giving countries and organisations operate.

Such projects nevertheless serve, frequently, to further Indian state policy. In Afghanistan, regardless of the fact that Delhi has no agenda, Delhi has an agenda: a centralised, independent, democratic state, which policy-makers believe will keep Pakistan out. Hence support to a parliament building in Kabul, to road-building from that city, to its electricity supply. Small Pacific islands might get better communications links, using our rural telecom expertise; in return, we get some heft at climate-change talks. In Africa, countries with an Indian diaspora get priority, and those with valuable mineral resources.

But, nevertheless, as an approach to expanding India's footprint in the developing world, it appears to show not just a certain humanity, but an admirable humility and deftness, something one doesn't expect from our dearly beloved heavy-handed state. That is because it isn't really planned, evolving instead because state capacity stops us from overreaching, and because of our blind bureaucratic allegiance to tradition, in this case to "South-South cooperation."

Yet much will change. India's private sector, which is leading India's charge, will soon have interests to defend, different perhaps from the Indian state's — but Delhi's bhavans frequently can't detect that difference. Overreach will become a temptation, too. So the time has come for Delhi to turn India's haphazard reaching-out into a concrete, deliberate, named strategy, something it has carefully avoided doing so far. And it is time, too, that our capacity to implement that strategy is expanded. If the 700-odd people at the ministry of external affairs are overstretched — and they are — take overseas assistance out of their hands, and give it to a separate, new department, as is the case in pretty much every other major economy.

But, most of all, own the strategy, trademark it, hold yourself to account against it. Don't call it "democracy promotion" perhaps, now that everyone thinks the phrase means the US Marines. But the world's largest democracy is taming its state, and now must orient that state towards the world's other aspirational poor, not towards its dictators. This is a long game India's playing. As a people, we're backing ourselves and winning. It's time to back other countries' peoples, too. That's what we should stand for.

mihir.sharma@expressindia.com

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

QUEEN'S PARK CRISIS

SANDEEP DWIVEDI

 

Anyone who has a mention in the CV — "has sold air conditioners in Antarctica" — should be rushed to Trinidad and Tobago at the earliest. Because convincing fans to storm Queen's Park Oval or to switch on the television for the India-West Indies T20 tour opener this weekend isn't something that can be expected from your average glib-talking marketing man.

That turf is made famous by the giants of the game — it is here that the epic Sunny-Vishy partnership saw India's record-breaking fourth-innings chase, and Curtly Ambrose shot out England for 46. And now the place will host Lilliputians, making it a hard-to-sell series.

Saturday will see Suresh Raina and Darren Sammy walk out for the toss and, for once, the old timers' disgust for the present as they go down memory lane will be justified. This is not to undermine the two skippers, but the Queen's Park Oval's Hall of Fame houses real legends. The 24-year-old Indian captain Raina wasn't a regular in the playing XI during this World Cup and is way down the hierarchy in a full-strength team. As for the modest Sammy, his military medium bowling or his ungainly batting style isn't the kind that would make fans travel miles.

Raina leads a team that has Manoj Tiwary, Abhinav Mukund, Shikhar Dhawan and Vinay Kumar — names that one connects to the India A team. From an average Indian fan's perspective, the present-day, new-look West Indies squad provides zero connect. During the 1980s, the West Indies was cricket's Brazil — a team with a global appeal. Even when it played against India, it was acceptable here to support the highly skilful entertainers from the Caribbean. The slide has been gradual but the last decade saw a free fall. Today, Sammy has under his wings players like Lendl, Hyatt and Nurse in a largely unknown team. In case these names bring tennis, hotels and hospitals to your mind, it isn't an insult to the obscure players but a true reflection of the times in West Indian cricket.

As is the case with the big names in Team India, several fit and in-form West Indies stars will be missing the forthcoming series. That puts the two teams in the same boat despite the contrasting health of the game in their respective countries. The seemingly similar aliment has a diagonally opposite root cause — Indians are overpaid, the West Indians underpaid.

India's T20 experiment — the Indian Premier League — was an unprecedented success making the already rich Indian cricketers richer. But a venture floated along similar lines by a dubious Texan billionaire in the West Indies turned out to be a Ponzi scheme. The whiff of greens made the West Indies hungry for more. Many were keen to cut off their ties with their board and pursue T20 cricket around the world to make a quick buck. The Indians didn't have to leave home shores since easy money was available playing in their backyard. So as the IPL started to fulfil their cricketing appetite and swelling their bank balance, some players now prefer it to Test matches.

But wishing away ventures like the IPL is foolhardy as there are enough supporters of the event among both fans and players. Periodic review of such ventures is mandatory. This year the long-drawn-out tournament that started within days of the World Cup had very few thrilling games. The players appeared drained as they did their best to live up to the expectations of the excited owners in the stands. But the load was too much to take as most of the World Cup performers failed to come up with an encore at the IPL. And to make matters worse they were way too exhausted to report back to national duty when it all ended.

So what's the way out? An overall change of mindset — involving both the players and the cricket board. There are several Indian players who have the stature and security (both financial and professional) to set a precedent and, in case their body needs, rest for an IPL season to prepare for international cricket.

As for the BCCI, they need to play the visionary and stop behaving like an opulent bully with short-term gains in mind. Being the most powerful cricketing board, they need to initiate a debate on scheduling. The annual IPL-time controversy of players forced to choose between country and club too needs to end. With more T20 enterprises on the cards around the world, the problem will be getting complex in the coming days. And if things don't get sorted, low-key international matches between depleted sides will increase.

sandeep.dwivedi@expressindia.com

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

THE GRAND ILLUSION OF ZERO GROWTH

SURJIT S BHALLA

 

The Congress-led UPA 2 has just announced the implementation of yet another of its trademark bankrupt policies: the implementation of a caste census for the first time since 1931 and the authorisation of the ministry of rural development to conduct a census of families below a new seven-parameter poverty line — a poverty line that would replace the existing poverty line of Rs 15 and Rs 20, per person per day, in rural and urban areas, respectively. I will try and document the intellectual and other dishonesties that are so pervasive in India's definition of the poor and policies towards the poor.

The first indication that something is massively wrong with India's battle against poverty is that there is no other country, either in the past or in the present that has conducted itself in quite the same (dishonest) manner. Poverty is not exactly a newfound problem, though of late the Indian poverty industry looks much more like the lobby of corrupt cigarette manufacturers. It is fighting for protection against extinction.

High growth in China, India and even Africa, has meant that the world has changed drastically since the World Bank coined the slogan that it dreamt of a world free of poverty. Yet, curiously, after each decade of high growth, the proportion of World Bank poor has stayed constant at around 25 to 30 per cent. In 1987, according to its calculations, 28.7 per cent of the world's population was absolutely poor; in 2005, the proportion of world poor: 25.2 per cent. During the same period, per capita incomes in the entire developing world nearly doubled! Yet poverty stayed the same? How come? Because, while ostensibly keeping the poverty line constant in real terms, the World Bank "inadvertently" increased it by close to 60 per cent.

This is how dishonesty is practiced — by increasing the absolute poverty line.  There is every reason to increase the absolute poverty line — and I believe that it should be further increased by about 20 per cent — but one should at least be honest about it. If the World Bank were to be honest, then it will turn out that overall growth does reduce poverty, that the Millennium Development Goal of reducing poverty by half between 1990 and 2015 was achieved more than a decade before the target date, and that absolute poverty as we know it is, joyfully, in terminal decline.

Most developing countries, especially China, ignore the World Bank calculations. But not India, and especially not those who profit the most from the perpetuation of the myth of ever increasing, or not decreasing, absolute Indian poverty. According to the wrong and exaggerated World Bank measure of poverty for all countries, more than 40 per cent of the population in India was absolutely poor in 2005 (and, not so coincidentally, the same proportion was poor in 1983.) But our intellectuals, especially those who staff the soon-to-be-defunct Indian communist parties, and/or the National Advisory Council (NAC) headed by Congress president Sonia Gandhi, are ever more imaginative in their assessment of poverty in India and what is needed to redress it.

Why are our intellectuals so bankrupt? One leading NAC member, Jean Dreze, documents how the Congress's flagship anti-poverty employment program NREGA is a "loot for work" program; loot for the administrators of the program, the middlemen and politicians. His proposed remedy? A concentrated expansion of the programme — propelled by the smug belief that since a Gandhian is involved, corruption would be eliminated.

Other fellow-travelling Indian intellectuals want to document that the poor are getting poorer, and as evidence, use the fact that the consumption of calories by the poor has barely increased, and perhaps even declined. That this is a historical worldwide pattern that is to be expected with a reduction in poverty is not relevant. This is dishonest: look at the food consumption of the poor. In 1983, the consumption of fruits and vegetables by the poor was 14 per cent of the consumption of fruits, vegetables and foodgrains; in 2004-05, this ratio had doubled to 28 per cent! In the West, and in Ireland, and in every rudimentary economics textbook, the discussion is about the change in consumption pattern from potatoes to meat (from more calories to considerably less calories and considerably more protein). But this pattern is an exploitation plot according to the intellectual luminaries at JNU.

Yet another NAC member, N.C. Saxena, feels that the public food distribution system (PDS) is plagued with corruption. After correctly documenting the corruption, he, not unlike Dreze, believes that expansion of the PDS system would considerably reduce, if not eliminate, corruption. And how does expansion of the food subsidy system decrease corruption? By making the right to food an act of Parliament! The same Parliament that has 143 out of 543 members with criminal cases against them; the same Parliament that passed the Emergency; and the same parliament that passed the employment guarantee act that Dreze correctly described as "loot for work".

The intellectual corruption continues. A magazine normally known for well-documented investigative research against the establishment, Tehelka, feels compelled to state that the Indian poverty line of Rs 15 per capita per day in rural areas is too low to describe people as poor; it believes this poverty line is close to a starvation line. (Since the Indian poverty line is very close to the new enlarged World Bank line, Tehelka believes the World Bank is also practicing deception). As evidence, it provides interviews with several poor individuals. One such individual, Riaz Ahmad Batt, of Kashmir, a helper and cook at the local government high school states, "Buying the basic, flour, rice, dal, sugar,  tea, alone costs Rs 38 a day for my family of six. What happens in an emergency?" According to Batt, very basic food costs Rs 6.30 per person per day — but Tehelka's "starvation" line is Rs 15 per person per day. So rather than change the poverty line a la the World Bank, Tehelka conveniently changes a per-person expenditure to family (six-person) expenditure. What matters, when the goal is so noble — of showing no progress for the poor, despite capitalist economic growth?  

The author is Chairman of Oxus Investments, an emerging market advisory and fund management firm

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

A MAJOR GROUSE WITH MINORITY INSTITUTIONS

VALSON THAMPU

 

St Stephen's, they say, is in the news for the bad reasons. It has been so for nearly four years. This in itself is amazing. But what is even more amazing is that no one bothers to find out why it is so. Apparently people are expected to believe that there is something wrong with the college, simply because it is nudged into the news.

I have been pleading repeatedly with the detractors of the college to provide the markers of the communalism they impute to it. Here is the charge-sheet that I have been able to piece together from the sporadic allegations made so far.

(a) The college admits Christian students on priority. As a minority educational institution, St. Stephen's has the right to admit students preferentially from the minority community concerned. This is settled in law. It is another matter if availing oneself of legal and constitutional provisions is deemed to be communal. At any rate, if any communalism is suspected in this respect, lawful and dignified remedies are available. The courts in the country can settle this matter justly.

(b)That St Stephen's appoints Christian teachers. As of now only less than 10 per cent of the teaching faculty, counting the principal, is Christian. Legally, a minority management can appoint candidates who meet the "minimum eligibility requirements" prescribed by the regulatory authority. The college has never invoked this provision. Instead, it has always gone by sheer merit, virtually wiping out Christian presence in the faculty footprint of the institution. Among the 25 faculty appointments made last year, for example, only one Christian has been appointed in a permanent position and two against temporary positions.

(c)That Christian worship is happening in college. The college has always had a chapel at the centre of its campus. This is because of the deep faith that underlies the founding of the college. The educational vision of St Stephen's is that God is the ground of our being and that the inspiration to attain excellence combined with greatness comes only from godliness (as opposed to narrow religiosity, which the college shuns.) While laying the foundation stone of the academic block of the college in 1939, C.F. Andrews read out the following verse from the Bible. "Unless the Lord builds the house the workers labour in vain/ Unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman keeps vigil in vain." Godliness, which transcends all religious divides, is the rock on which the college is founded.

What we are witnessing today is the browbeating of spirituality with pseudo-secularism, which is nothing but communalism by other means. It takes a virulently communal mind to label minority rights as communal.

The three charges listed above fall within the ambits of Article 30(1) and Article 25 (right to worship), both of which enshrine fundamental rights. The Constitution of India does not drive a wedge between religious freedom and the educational rights conferred on minorities.

Indeed, Article 30(1) is meant to help religious and linguistic minorities to conserve their religion and script; for religious and linguistic homogenisation will blot out secularism and degrade democracy into fascism. Legally, it is incumbent on institutions under the canopy of Article 30(1) to preserve their religious identity.

When the minority status of St Stephen's was debated in the Delhi high court and the Supreme Court of India in the '80s and '90s, the honourable courts attached special significance to, among other things: (a) the name of the college, which is outright Christian (b) a cross standing on the dome of the academic block (c) the church-affiliation of the college written into its constitution — the bishop of Delhi being ex-officio the chairman of the governing body and the supreme council (d) the unique structure of governance (having a supreme council mandated to oversee the Christian character of the college and to appoint the principal) (e) instructions in the life and teachings of Jesus Christ being imparted in college and (f) the existence of a chapel at the centre of the campus. The motto of the college, lest we forget, is "Ad Dei Gloriam" (to the glory of God). It is a significant pointer to the ideological and attitudinal degradation that is undermining our society that these very markers of the special identity of the college, sanctified under the recognition of the hon'ble apex court, are today criminalised as communalism.

Mercifully, this is the first time that St Stephen's College — affectionately referred to as "the College" by thousands of her grateful academic progeny — is being branded as communal.

I am deeply touched by the expressions of solidarity with the college received from all over the country. The silver lining on the present scenario is that the enduring bedrock of loyalty that Stephanians have for their alma mater is now visible as never before. The mark of a great institution is that pricks and kicks only renew and invigorate it towards greater robustness.

The author is principal, St Stephen's College, Delhi, and a member of the National Integration Council

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

UNDOING THE NETWORK

C. RAJA MOHAN

 

Undoing the network

The Pakistan army chief, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani may be ready to comply with one of the main demands of the Obama administration after the killing of Osama bin Laden in the raid on Abbottabad last month.

At the top of the list of "specific steps" put forward by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during her visit to Islamabad last week was the launch of army operations against the Haqqani network, which has destabilised Afghanistan with its sanctuaries in North Waziristan, part of Pakistan's troubled western borderlands.

The network headed by Afghan Pashtun warlord Jalaluddin Haqqani is allied with the AfghanTaliban and is said to have close links to al-Qaeda. More importantly, the Haqqani network has been nurtured and supported by the Pakistan army's spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

Earlier this month, Washington put a top commander of the Haqqani network, Badruddin, son of Jalaluddin, on the list of those involved in or supportive of terrorist organisations. Badruddin's brother Sirajuddin, another top commander of the network, is said to be on a list of top five terrorists that Clinton gave Islamabad last week.

The US is apparently demanding immediate action against them by the Pakistan army. The others in the list are said to be two senior al-Qaeda figures, Ayman al-Zawahiri and Atiya Abdel Rahman; the leader of the Afghan Taliban, Mullah Mohammad Omar; and Ilyas Kashmiri, who runs the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HuJI).

While the American demands for action against the Haqqani network are not new and have been on the table for years, Kayani's apparent willingness to act now seems to be one of the main results of the post-Osama pressure on Pakistan from Washington.

The Pakistan army has long seen the Haqqani network (besides the Taliban) as one of its instruments to gain influence in Kabul after the departure of the American and international forces from Afghanistan in the not-too-distant future.

Kayani had sought to promote contact and talks between the Haqqanis and the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai. Not surprisingly, Kayani had found all possible excuses to avoid taking action in North Waziristan. The Obama administration has reportedly made it clear that if the Pakistan army did not act against the Haqqanis, the US and allied forces would act unilaterally.

That the United States did not ease up on the drone attacks and the NATO helicopters have continued to violate Pakistani airspace to attack terrorist hideouts in North Waziristan have constrained Kayani's choices.

While the Pakistan army has not confirmed the reports on the impending operations in Waziristan, the local population and the aid groups operating there have been notified.

Sceptics, however, will wonder if the Pakistan army will really go after one of its most important strategic assets.

They argue Kayani might find a way to whittle down the US demands. They insist that Kayani might demonstrate some military motion in North Waziristan but will resist American pressures for a decisive movement against the Haqqani network. The coming weeks will reveal how far Kayani will go and how much slack Washington is ready to cut him.

Kayani's turn

Whether he acts purposefully against the Haqqani network or not, Kayani will have to face some political backlash at home. Having raised anti-American rhetoric to new heights and unsuccessfully played the China card in recent weeks, Kayani will want to be seen by the Pakistan people as bowing to American demands.

Some Islamic parties — including the Jamaat-e-Islami and the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islami — have already declared their opposition to Kayani's move, but the army knows how to manage the noise from these groups and the national security hawks occupying the electronic media space.

Kayani will also have to cope with the bold retaliatory moves by various extremist organisations, including the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, on the country's urban targets and military installations. Since the killing of Osama, the TTP has launched large terrorist attacks, including one on the Mehran naval station in Karachi a few days ago.

The India excuse

While Pakistan has deployed more than a 100,000 troops on its western borders to counter the insurgent groups on its borderlands, it will need a lot more troops if it is to make a decisive military impact in North Waziristan.

This, in turn, would mean moving troops away from the Indian border. Kayani has often argued that he can't act in North Waziristan because of the perceived threat on the Indian border.

Sections of the Pakistan media are already pointing to the dangers from the current Indian military exercises on the borders. Delhi, one can only presume, is smart enough to avoid presenting itself as the easy excuse for the Pakistan army for not acting in North Waziristan at this juncture.

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

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

POVERTY BY NUMBERS

MANOJCG

 

Poverty by numbers

The CPM has slammed the Planning Commission's definition of the poverty line. The lead editorial in People's Democracy says such "sham" exercises not only make a mockery of the commitment to provide food security, but also mask the real intention to aggressively pursue neoliberal economic policies.

It says the absurdity of these figures — according to the Plan panel, daily expenditure of Rs 20 on essential requirements for those living in urban areas and Rs 15 for those in rural India was enough to keep them out of poverty — can be gauged from the fact that the Planning Commission itself prescribes a minimum intake of 2,400 calories daily to sustain oneself. "This requires an expenditure of at least Rs 44 per day. This, of course, does not include any expenditures on shelter, clothing, education, transportation etc," the editorial says. It says that by implication, all others earning more are ruled out of the safety net proposed by the food security act.

It says that according to reports, the methodology to estimate BPL population approved by the Union cabinet will mean that a family of five earning members earning more than Rs 27,000 per annum would be automatically excluded from the BPL list. "This has been calculated on the basis that a per capita monthly income of about Rs 447 is sufficient to be treated as being not poor. This is exactly in sync with the Planning Commission's estimation that Rs 15 a day in rural India is sufficient to live a life above the poverty line!...The elaborate methodology worked out by the Union cabinet....only reinforces the mockery and the fraud proposed by the Planning Commission," it says.

The neoliberal future

UPA 2 has completed two years in office, and the Left, which a key supporter in its first term, believes that the UPA is abandoning even the pretext of concern for the aam admi. In an article, Sitaram Yechury says that "the prime minister's speech, on this occasion, does not even make a customary reference to the burdens being imposed on the people through this price rise. On the contrary, there appears to be a justification that this is due to global rise in the price of oil and food articles."

The prime minister, he says, highlighted the economic achievements of the last two years, namely the annual growth rate of 8.5 per cent and of seeking inclusive growth. "There could not have been a more cruel joke. During the course of of the last two years, the number of US dollar billionaires in India has increased from 26 to 52 now standing at 69. Their combined asset worth is equivalent of a third of India's GDP. On the other hand, 77 per cent or more than 80 crore of our people survive on less than Rs 20 a day. The vulgar disparities of income and wealth are widening rather than reducing as the PM wants us to believe," he says.

He says the PM's blueprint for the future is worrisome. The urgency to reduce "fiscal and revenue deficits", he says "means that the government must reduce its expenditures while increasing its revenues. The former means that whatever little that is being spent in the social sectors for improving people's welfare will now see a sharp reduction. The latter means that greater burdens would be put on the vast majority of our people through higher prices."

Save AMU

CPI weekly New Age carries a letter from its general secretary, A.B. Bardhan, to the prime minister on the crisis engulfing Aligarh Muslim University, and the agitation directed against the vice chancellor, Prof P.K. Abdul Azeez. Bardhan says Azeez has been accused of financial irregularities, charges that he has faced before as vice chancellor of Cochin University, and that he is an incompetent vice chancellor: "During the last 3-4 years the university was closed down sine die three or four times." He said the immediate provocation for closing AMU was a campus clash that could have been easily defused by better handling. "A prestigious institution is in crisis and I fail to understand the government's silence on the matter," says Bardhan, asking for the vice chancellor to be removed and a high-level investigation into the matter.

Compiled by Manoj C.G.

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

GDP SLOWS, ALL EYES ON RBI

Thanks to yet another hike in estimates for agriculture growth, taking it to a whopping 6.6%, the CSO has beaten all expectations to come up with a 8.5% GDP growth for 2010-11. This is heartening since it suggests the growth momentum has not been hit by the series of interest rate hikes, but keep in mind the numbers for the full year hide the fact that the growth momentum has been slowing for four quarters now, from 9.4% in Q4 2009-10 to 9.3% in Q1 2010-11 to 8.9% in Q2 to 8.3% in Q3 and finally to 7.8% in Q4.

If the overall GDP number holds in 2011-12, there is reason to be satisfied. But, with inflation still being high, RBI will be focused on interest rate hikes. Industrial growth and investment has proved to be quite resilient to higher interest rates. But, for how much longer will this hold? Manufacturing growth has declined continuously over the four quarters—from 15.2% in Q4 2009-10, it fell to 12.7%, 10%, 6% and finally 5.5% in Q4 2010-11. Agriculture growth could be a saviour, but keep in mind we have never had two successive years of high agricultural growth, which means that getting a number of 5%-plus in FY12 will be a challenge; indeed, FY11's growth comes on the back of just a 0.4% growth in FY10—the sharp growth in cotton and maize, thanks largely to the introduction of better seeds, is a good sign though.

The government's budget shows that expenditure will be only marginally higher this year and, therefore, there will not be too much support coming from this sector. This turns the onus on industry (manufacturing and construction) and services (trade, transport and finance) to propel the economy. The financial sector's growth is linked with that of the rest of the economy and cannot independently grow. The focus will hence be a lot on industry and construction to provide a fillip and this is where interest rates will play a major role. Both manufacturing and construction have grown by a little over 8% in FY11 and will have to grow even faster in FY12.

Going back to the rudimentary textbook formulation of GDP, it comprises consumption, investment, government and trade. High inflation will affect consumption and we will have to look at investment to bridge the gap, given that government expenditure will increase only marginally and the trade balance will be in the negative zone. The coming year will hence be the ultimate test for the relation between interest rates and investment. To borrow an analogy from the tennis court, which is the current flavour, so far it appears to be deuce, with advantage to investment. The serve in FY12 will be for the game and it needs to be seen whether it will be 'game', or reversion to 'deuce'.

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

RAINY DAYS AND MONDAYS

Analysts who had downgraded the earnings of Sensex companies to R1,190-1,216 for FY12, from R1,252 a few months ago, may just have to get back to their excel sheets if Monday's results are anything to go by. Of the 50 companies which declared their results on Monday, 12 showed a fall in profit for the full year, and a lot more showed a fall in Q4 profits.The biggest losses, not surprisingly, came from the oil sector where ONGC and IOC declared their results on Monday. Revenues for the oil majors rose from R1,65,578 crore in Q4 FY10 to R2,02,091 in Q4 FY11, and profits fell from R11,225 crore to R9,317 crore thanks to under-recoveries rising substantially, and the government asking the oil PSUs to pay a higher share of this. ONGC's R12,135 crore share of subsidies in the fourth quarter was almost equal to the total of past three quarters—it was R4,999 crore in the fourth quarter of 2010. This took ONGC's subsidy payout in the full year to R24,892 crore, more than double than the previous year. Though ONGC sold each barrel of crude for $108.9 in Q4 as compared to $79.2 a year ago, it ended up with just $38.75 in hand—it got $51.42 in Q4 FY10. All eyes are on what the Group of Ministers, which meets later this week, proposes since estimates are that the under-recoveries may double this year.

With RCom's profits falling by 86% (despite a change in accounting practices) and Bharti's by 14% (Idea has postponed its results till June), Q4 profits for the two listed telcos have fallen from R3,263 crore in 2010 to R1,568 crore in 2011—full year profits fell from R13,631 crore in 2010 to R7,391 crore in 2011. While the African operations weighed on Bharti's bottom line, high interest costs were the culprit in RCom's case. Apart from the financials, more problematic was the sharp fall in the monthly ARPU, which fell from R220 in 2010 to R194 for Bharti and from R158 to R116 for RCom—minutes of usage fell from 468 a year ago to 449 in March 2011 for Bharti and from 333 to 262 for RCom.

In the real estate sector, Omaxe reported a fall of 17% in profit and 22% in top line revenues on Monday. Among the real estate firms that declared results last week, DLF, the country's largest developer, reported a 19% fall in profit for the quarter ended March this year as compared with the same quarter last year. Unitech, the second largest developer, reported 16% decline in net profit during the same period. In the auto sector, while Mahindra & Mahindra declared a 6.3% hike in profits in Q4, the future may not be as bright, as dealers for all auto firms are reporting huge pile up in inventories, and even the management of Maruti Suzuki has underlined the fact that fewer enquiries at showrooms were being converted into sales.

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

THE GRAND ILLUSION OF ZERO GROWTH
SURJIT S BHALLA

The Congress-led UPA-2 government has just announced the implementation of yet another of its trademark bankrupt policies—the implementation of a caste census for the first time since 1931 and the authorisation of the Ministry of Rural Development to conduct a census of families below a new seven parameter poverty line, a poverty line that would replace the existing poverty line of R15 and R20, per person per day, in rural and urban areas, respectively. Over the course of this and the next article, I will try and document the intellectual and other dishonesties that are so pervasive in India's definition of the poor and policies towards the poor.

The first indication that something is massively wrong with India's battle against poverty is that there is no other country, either in the past or in the present (or in the future), that has conducted itself in quite the same (dishonest) manner. Poverty is not exactly a newfound problem, though of late the Indian poverty industry looks much more like the lobby of corrupt cigarette manufacturers. It is fighting for protection against extinction. High growth in China, India and even Africa has meant that the world has changed drastically since the World Bank coined the slogan that it dreamt of a world free of poverty. Yet, curiously, after each decade of high growth, the proportion of World Bank poor has stayed constant at around 25% to 30%. In 1987, according to World Bank calculations, 28.7% of the world's population was absolutely poor; in 2005, the proportion of world poor: 25.2%. During the same period, per capita incomes in the entire developing world nearly doubled! Yet poverty stayed the same? How come? Because, while ostensibly keeping the poverty line constant in real terms, the World Bank "inadvertently" increased it by close to 60%.

This is how dishonesty is practised—by increasing the absolute poverty line. There is every reason to increase the absolute poverty line, and I believe that it should be further increased by about 20%, but one should at least be honest about it. If the World Bank were to be honest, then it will turn out that overall growth does reduce poverty, that the Millennium Development Goals of reducing poverty by half between 1990 and 2015 was achieved more than a decade before the target date, and that absolute poverty as we know it is, joyfully, in terminal decline.

Most developing countries, especially China, ignore the World Bank calculations. But not India, and especially not those who profit the most from perpetuation of the myth of ever increasing, or not decreasing, absolute Indian poverty. According to the wrong and exaggerated World Bank measure of poverty for all countries, more than 40% of the population in India was absolutely poor in 2005 (and, not so coincidentally, the same proportion was poor in 1983). But our intellectuals, especially those who staff the soon to be defunct Communist Party of India, and/or the National Advisory Council (NAC) headed by Congress chief, Ms Sonia Gandhi, are ever more imaginative (and does one dare say dishonest) in their assessment of poverty in India and what is needed to redress it.

Why are our intellectuals so bankrupt—and so dishonest? One leading NAC member, Jean Drèze, documents how the Congress's flagship anti-poverty employment programme NREGA is a "loot for work" programme; loot for the administrators of the programme, the middle men and politicians. His proposed remedy—a concentrated expansion of the programme propelled with the smug belief that since a Gandhian is involved, corruption would be eliminated. Other fellow travelling Indian intellectuals want to document that the poor are getting poorer, and as evidence use the fact that the consumption of calories by the poor has barely increased, and perhaps even declined. That this is a historical worldwide pattern that is to be expected with a reduction in poverty is not relevant for these dishonest champions of the poor.

How does one prove dishonesty? By looking at the food consumption of the poor. In 1983, the consumption of fruits and vegetables by the poor was 14% of their total consumption of fruits, vegetables and foodgrains; in 2004-05, this ratio had doubled to 28%! In the West, and in Ireland, and in every rudimentary economics textbook, the discussion is about the change in consumption pattern from potatoes to meat (from more calories to considerably less calories and considerably more protein). But this pattern is an exploitation plot according to the intellectual luminaries at JNU.

Yet another NAC member (NC Saxena) feels that the public food distribution system (PDS) is plagued with corruption. After correctly documenting the corruption, he, not unlike Drèze, believes that the expansion of the PDS system would considerably reduce, if not eliminate, corruption. And how does the expansion of the food subsidy system decrease corruption? By making the right to food an act of Parliament! The same Parliament that has 143 out of 543 members with criminal cases against them; the same Parliament that passed the Emergency; and the same Parliament that passed the employment guarantee act that Mr Drèze correctly described as "loot for work".

The intellectual corruption continues. A magazine normally known for well documented investigative research against the establishment, Tehelka, feels compelled to state that the Indian poverty line of R15 per capita per day in rural areas is too low to describe people as poor; it believes this poverty line is close to starvation line. (Since the Indian poverty line is very close to the new enlarged World Bank line, Tehelka believes the World Bank is also practising deception). As evidence, it provides interviews with several poor individuals. One such individual, Riaz Ahmad Batt, of Kashmir, a helper and cook at the local government high school, states, "Buying the basic, flour, rice, dal, sugar, tea alone costs R38 a day for my family of six. What happens in an emergency?" According to Batt, very basic food costs R6.3 per person per day and the Tehelka starvation line is R15 per person per day. So rather than change the poverty line à la the World Bank, Tehelka conveniently changes a per person expenditure to family (six person) expenditure. What are lies and dishonesty when the goal is a noble one of showing no progress for the poor despite capitalist economic growth?

This is the first in a two-part series.

The author is Chairman of Oxus Investments, an emerging market advisory and fund management firm. Please visit www.oxusinvestments.com for an archive of articles etc;

comments welcome at surjit.bhalla@oxusinvestments.com

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

PAKISTAN'S ROAD TO CHINA
SHAHID JAVED BURKI

Large events sometimes have unintended strategic consequences. This is turning out to be the case following the killing of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, a military-dominated town near Islamabad, Pakistan's capital.

The fact that the world's most wanted man lived for a half-dozen years in a large house within spitting distance of the Pakistan Military Academy, where the country trains its officers, has provoked a reaction that Pakistanis should have expected, but did not. The country's civilian and military establishment has been surprised and troubled by the level of suspicion aroused by the events leading to bin Laden's death—many Pakistanis call it "martyrdom"—and there is growing popular demand for a major reorientation of Pakistan's relations with the world. Unless the West acts quickly, bin Laden's death is likely to result in a major realignment of world politics, driven in part by Pakistan's shift from America's strategic orbit to that of China.

I have personal experience of how quickly China can move when it sees its "all-weather friend" (Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Gilani's phrase) in extreme distress. In 1996, when Pakistan was near bankruptcy and contemplating default, I went to Beijing as the country's finance minister to ask for help. My years of service overseeing the World Bank's operations in China had put me in close contact with some of the country's senior leaders, including then-Prime Minister Zhu Rongji.

At a meeting in Beijing, after telling me that China would not allow Pakistan to go bankrupt under his watch, Zhu ordered $500 million to be placed immediately in Pakistan's account with the Federal Reserve Bank in New York. That infusion of money enabled Pakistan to pay its bills while I was in charge of its economy.

China seems to have adopted the same approach to Pakistan today, as the US Congress threatens to cut off all aid. Gilani recently took a quick trip over the mountains to Beijing, and returned with an offer of immediate delivery of 50 fighter planes to Pakistan. Much more has been promised. Given China's record as a provider of aid to Pakistan, these promises will quickly be realised.

In the meantime, Pakistan continues to pay the price for bin Laden's death, with his supporters striking a town not far from Islamabad just days later, killing more than 80 people. That was followed by a brazen attack on a naval base in Karachi, in which some very expensive equipment, including aircraft, was destroyed. The terrorists struck for a third time two days later, killing a dozen people in a town near Abbottabad. The human toll continues to rise, as does the cost to the economy.

On May 23, the government issued an estimate of the economic cost of the "war on terror" that put the total at $60 billion, compared to the $20 billon the Americans have supposedly paid in compensation. In fact, a substantial share of the promised US aid has yet to arrive, particularly the part that is meant to rescue the economy from a deep downturn.

While Gilani was in Beijing, finance minister Abdul Hafeez Shaikh returned from Washington with empty hands. He had gone there to persuade the IMF to release the roughly $4 billion that it was withholding from the $11 billion that Pakistan had been promised in late 2008 to save the country from defaulting on its foreign debt. The IMF's decision was in response to the Pakistani government's failure to take promised steps to increase its abysmal tax-to-GDP ratio, which stands at less that 10%, one of the lowest levels in the emerging world.

The Fund was right to insist that Pakistan stand on its own feet economically, but, in early June, Shaikh will present his 2011-2012 budget, in which he wants to ease the burden on ordinary Pakistanis. This has put Gilani's two-year-old government in a real bind. Whether Shaikh can balance the IMF's demands with ordinary people's needs will not only determine the Pakistani economy's direction, but will also have an enormous impact on how Pakistan and its citizens view the world.

The only comfort that Pakistan has received from the West came in the form of assurances given by US President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron following Obama's state visit to London. In a joint press conference, both promised that their countries would stand with Pakistan's government and people. Pakistan, they said, was as deeply engaged as their countries in the war against terrorism.

Pakistan will continue to receive American and British help. But the US and Britain find it difficult to move quickly, and strong voices in their capitals want Pakistan to be punished, not helped, for its wayward ways. In the meantime, China waits with open arms.

The author, former finance minister of Pakistan and vice-president of the World Bank, is currently Chairman of the Institute of Public Policy, Lahore.

Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2011.

www.project-syndicate.org

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

BEAUTY AND DOMINANCE

Only the rarest of sporting performances leaves a spectator with the feeling that it isn't merely high art, it's also the most just outcome. Barcelona's 3-1 victory over Manchester United in the Champions League final at Wembley will resonate for a long time with every lover of football. It showcased everything that's great about the Spanish club, and, in so doing, drew attention to the relationship between form and function. Football Club Barcelona doesn't endeavour to just win; victory must be achieved by playing attractive football. It's the most difficult objective to attain in sport, the marriage of beauty and dominance. Barcelona has achieved just that. What's more, it has done it with home-grown talent, avoiding for the most part the transfer-market spending top European clubs undertake as a matter of course. Lionel Messi, Xavi, and Andres Iniesta, three of the world's finest, are graduates of La Masia, Barcelona's youth academy, as are first-team players Pedro, Sergio Busquets, Gerard Pique, Carlos Puyol, and Victor Valdes. Coach Pep Guardiola is another alumnus. Is it any wonder that the slick, imaginative one-touch game Barcelona plays — 'tikki takka,' as it's affectionately known — appears natural and intuitive?

The ease of Barcelona's style, which was shaped by the great Johan Cruyff, belies the effort expended to produce it. Not only is the possession-based play physically demanding, requiring persistent pressing so the ball may be swiftly won back; it is also mentally exhausting, for space has constantly to be found. The only team that has had any degree of success against Guardiola's Barcelona — Jose Mourinho's Internazionale Milan, last year's European champion — did so by manipulating space expertly. Knowing it had little chance if it attacked the ball, Inter willingly gave it up and 'parked the bus,' which is to say it compressed the last one-third of the pitch defensively so Barcelona wouldn't find a way through. Mourinho attempted a similar strategy with Real Madrid this year, but Guardiola and Barcelona had learnt well. When a team attempted to engage Barcelona as an equal, as English champion Manchester United did, it was hopelessly outplayed. United's manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, not prone to easy praise, said Barcelona, which had also beaten his side in the 2009 Champions League final, was the best he had seen. This final will also be remembered for Messi's luminosity, which far from outshining the rest of Barcelona actually showed it in its best light. But the defining image of the Spanish club's spirit will be that of Eric Abidal, the defender who had recovered from a tumour to start the final, accepting the trophy for his teammates.

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

QUESTIONS OVER YEMENI DEMOCRACY

The truce announced on May 27 by the opposition leader Sadiq al-Ahmar highlights the strength of the forces ranged against supporters of democracy in Yemen. The immediate cause of the five days of fighting, in which over 100 died in the capital, Sanaa, was President Ali Abdullah Saleh's third refusal to sign a deal brokered by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). The deal required Mr. Saleh to step down in return for immunity from prosecution by a unity government. The Yemeni President has a reputation for breaking agreements, and is yet to show any indication of acting even on his earlier promise of a "constitutional" transfer of power at the end of this year. There are several complicating factors in the political situation. The current truce may appear to be based on popular feeling, but it is actually the result of a decision taken by Mr. al-Ahmar, who heads the country's most powerful tribal grouping, the Hashed confederation. Another bloc has been formed by General Mohsen al-Ahmar (no relation of the opposition leader), who claims to support the public protests but has long been a member of the political elite and defected from the government only in March 2011. Further, Sadiq al-Ahmar's brother Hameed runs the mobile phone network that the protesters use, and helps fund the opposition coalition.

Ordinary Yemenis, who number 24 million in one of the world's poorest countries, are therefore at serious risk of exclusion from the very movement they had the courage to initiate in January. The issues they face are not solely of domestic origin. Other Gulf countries, which have shown no inclination to share their oil wealth with their southern neighbour, are very nervous about the presence in Yemen of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), and about its potential expansion during any instability that might follow a change of state. That anxiety is shared by the United States and the United Kingdom even though the AQAP is not, as of now, a major force in Yemen, the land of origin of the bin Ladens. The G8 has been persuaded to provide $40 billion in support of those West Asian and North African states that have undertaken reforms in response to the continuing pro-democracy protests, but there too nothing is as it seems. Most of the money had been allocated earlier, mainly to Tunisia and Egypt. In effect, what domestic Yemeni factions, the GCC, and the G8 are revealing is a desire for a handover of power between existing groups. If that takes place, it will expose the hollowness of western talk of support for democracy in West Asia. It will also amount to a betrayal of the people of Yemen.

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THE HINDU

LEADER PAGE ARTICLES

THE CASE OF THE MISSING BJP

TWO YEARS INTO ITS SECOND TERM, THE CONGRESS LOOKS BRUISED AND BATTERED. BUT THE BJP HAS DONE NOTHING TO EXPLOIT THE SITUATION.

VIDYA SUBRAHMANIAM

Some months ago, a senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader confessed to journalists that he was in no hurry to send off the corruption-hit Manmohan Singh government. The longer the Congress-led ruling alliance stewed in its own juice, the better it got for the BJP: "Each day the Congress spends in office facing corruption charges is a bonus for us."

There was a second reason why it made sense to keep the government bound hand and foot and gasping for breath. Chaos and confusion would surely follow its premature departure. In a Lok Sabha where the Congress held 207 seats and where the Left and the right would never unite, much less gather the rag-tag pieces required for a new coalition, who would put together the next unlikely government? And if that was not an option, who, if anyone, would be willing and ready to face another general election? On the other hand, a government perennially in crisis mode offered the advantage of time and strategy to its rivals while itself suffering the disadvantage of growing anti-incumbency.

The logic was unassailable. In two short years, the re-elected United Progressive Alliance, the Congress in particular, had become damaged goods. Not many would recognise the battered, bruised alliance that sat edgily in office in 2011 as the 2009 wunderkind that had beaten the odds to win a second term. And yet with three years to go for the 2014 Lok Sabha denouement, only an infantile Opposition could assume that the situation would not get any better for the government; indeed that the Opposition could take a sabbatical while the government slowly and surely self-destructed.

Here in fact comes the twist in the story. The Congress has undoubtedly shot itself in the foot. But where in all this is its principal adversary? It is a fair bet that at least in the past decade, no event has so completely dominated the news headlines as corruption in UPA-II. And yet, the BJP would be lucky to even figure in the footnotes of any documentation of the scam and scandal saga that has, over the past year, become the staple of newspapers and television. If the 2G scam is a household word today, it is thanks to the tedious work done by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India and the Supreme Court under whose watch the gargantuan fraud eventually unravelled. Anna Hazare pitched in to spread the word. The BJP remained satisfied with short bursts of energy during Parliament sessions and stock responses during TV studio debates.

For a role model of Opposition behaviour, rewind to the spectacular days of 1987 when V.P. Singh quickly and dramatically moved in to take charge of the anti-Bofors campaign. News of the kickbacks broke over Swedish Radio on April 16, 1987, when Singh was still part of the Rajiv Gandhi government. Nonetheless, by May 3, 1987, he had already hit the road, following up a Brashtrachar Bhandapod (exposure of corruption) campaign announced in Lucknow with a flurry of rallies mostly in Delhi and across Uttar Pradesh. Singh had wisely calculated that Uttar Pradesh with 85 Lok Sabha seats was the key to unseating Rajiv Gandhi. By the time of the 1989 election, he had whipped up an electric mood against the Rajiv Gandhi regime, carrying his message to the nooks and crannies of the villages in north India. The untiring foot-work saw him replace Rajiv as Prime Minister.

Of course, Singh succeeded because he carried credibility with the voters. There was not a whiff of scandal about Singh which set him in bold relief against a government widely perceived as corrupt. The BJP, with its track record of ducking every allegation against the B.S. Yeddyurappa government in Karnataka, is obviously not in the same league as Singh who majestically occupied the moral high ground in his time. But the BJP has a bigger problem today. It is no longer in the consciousness of the larger public and the media, resulting in an alarming absence of audience even on the rare occasion that it has exerted to stir up trouble — as it did recently over the farmers' agitation in the twin villages of Bhatta and Parsaul in Greater Noida.

Conscious of the upcoming 2012 Assembly election, the BJP had jumped into the fight against Mayawati. But once Rahul Gandhi arrived Rambo-like on the scene, the audience quickly moved to his side. Thirsty TV cameras followed the Congress heir's every move, anchors hung on to his every word, and if he made gaffes, as he did, it was so much the better for prime time news. The BJP's Kalraj Mishra shouted himself hoarse. It was apparent that his version of events matched Mr. Gandhi's almost in toto: The police had killed 35 farmers, and hundreds had gone missing, he said, but to no avail. It was the Rahul tamasha that got the spotlight.

Tied in knots

In Delhi, the BJP leadership tied itself in knots, caught between having to back Mr. Mishra and knock Mr. Gandhi on his howlers. The drama established one thing: The Congress knew how to make news. Whatever the party's eventual fate in U.P., it had forced itself into the frame when it mattered. The BJP, which was once master of all it surveyed in the State, could not even pull off a PR stunt, much less tweak the public imagination so that at least visually it had the look of a fighter.

The year 2009 was disastrous for the BJP with the party winning no State election. In 2010, the BJP fought and won a magnificent election in Bihar. However, that turned out to be the only leap of the graph in its fortunes. Of the 824 seats up for grabs in the recent Assembly elections, the BJP won five to the Congress' 170. Thirteen States, accounting for 2059 seats, went to the polls between April-May 2009 — when UPA-II took office — and April-May 2011, when the regime completed two years. Of these, the Congress won 546 or 26 per cent of the seats. The BJP won 177 or 8.9 per cent of the seats. By any yardstick this was unremarkable showing by the Congress. But if the trend held, the BJP would certainly have to abandon its dream of a 2014 general election victory. It ought to be a sobering thought for the party that of the 177 seats, as many as 91 came from Bihar. To be sure, some of the big ticket BJP States have still to go to the polls. Of the 726 seats on offer during the last Assembly elections in Gujarat, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, the BJP won 338 seats. But even allowing for an encore in these States, the BJP has a long way to go before reaching the fitness levels required to seriously fight the 2014 general election.

The bulk of the 116 Lok Sabha seats the BJP won in 2009 came from its core strength States of Gujarat, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Bihar. To improve on this performance, the BJP needs major alliance partners — and here the party has made no headway at all. The BJP currently has only three steady allies — the Shiromani Akali Dal, the Shiv Sena and the Janata Dal (United). The status of the Telangana Rashtra Samithi, which came from nowhere to partner the BJP in 2009, remains uncertain.

The Congress and the BJP tend to set off opposite dynamics in coalitional politics. The BJP is ever eager to embrace allies who, however, seem increasingly disinclined to consider it a partner. The imperious Congress disdains alliance partners, missing no opportunity to show them their place. Even so, it does not lack for wannabe partners, among them Lalu Prasad and Mulayam Singh.

Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal and Jayalalithaa in Tamil Nadu were both originally in an alliance with the BJP. Today, they have better options. For a growing number of regional parties, it is also a cost-benefit calculation between gaining the BJP and losing the support of the minorities. Naveen Patnaik dropped the BJP ahead of the 2009 Lok Sabha poll, not wanting the anti-Christian attacks to damage his image. In 2010, Nitish Kumar drew back from the brink, and has since emasculated the BJP and set his own agenda.

For the BJP, it is a catch-22 situation — and despite the current sorry state of the Congress. For the party to become a player in any post election calculation in 2014 — this is assuming the Congress alliance is defeated — it would need to gather a critical mass of support.

Potential allies would find the BJP attractive only if it won enough seats to head a broad-based alliance. But winning a large cache of seats would require the party to be in a strong alliance in the first place.

It is no help that the BJP continues to make news for the wrong reasons. Last week, Sushma Swaraj indirectly attacked her rivals, drawing unwelcome attention to the BJP's unceasing intra-party warfare. Who will lead the Congress in 2014 is a valid question to ask. But in the case of the BJP there are two questions to ask. Who will lead the BJP? And where is the BJP?

 

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THE HINDU

OPED

INDIA AND THE U.S. MOVING CLOSER ON AFGHANISTAN?

THE U.S. AND INDIA ARE GETTING MORE INTERESTED IN NEGOTIATIONS WITH THE AFGHAN TALIBAN. THEIR EVOLVING POLICIES COULD BENEFIT FROM CLOSER U.S.-INDIA CONSULTATIONS, AND FROM BACKCHANNEL INDIA-PAKISTAN TALKS ON AFGHANISTAN.

TERESITA AND HOWARD SCHAFFER

In the weeks since the dramatic U.S. raid on Abbottabad that killed Osama bin Laden, the signs point to a subtle shift in the way both India and the United States are looking at Afghanistan's future. The U.S. interest in negotiations that include the Afghan Taliban grows steadily stronger; India's willingness to work with an Afghanistan where Taliban share in power has also grown. The Afghan dance India has initiated cannot be completed without some additional Pakistan steps.

U.S. interest in negotiations with the Taliban has been taking shape for the past six months at least. The late Richard Holbrooke championed a "reintegration" programme to bring Taliban foot soldiers into the government's tent. He spoke of the U.S. preference for "Afghan-led reconciliation," focussing on Taliban figures who were prepared to eschew violence and break with al-Qaeda. His successor, Marc Grossman, a less flamboyant but more systematic diplomat, has made creating a real negotiating option his priority. The first crisis of his tenure, the Ray Davis affair that convulsed U.S.-Pakistan relations from January through March 2011, nearly closed down communications between the United States and Pakistan. The U.S. administration has long believed that it cannot achieve a satisfactory outcome in Afghanistan without Pakistani cooperation. The poisonous relations between the U.S. and Pakistani security establishments over the Davis affair made that goal much harder to achieve — but arguably more important.

The adjustments in India's policy toward Afghanistan were on public display when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited Kabul on May 12-13. Two key points stood out. One struck a familiar note: his commitment to an additional $500 million in civilian aid, with a broad portfolio of humanitarian, infrastructure, and institutional development projects. He also renewed India's commitment to provide training for Afghanistan's police, an important potential contribution to security.

The new feature of Manmohan Singh's visit to Kabul lay in his good wishes for Afghanistan's "process of national reconciliation," code for negotiations with the Taliban. He stressed India's commitment to seeing Afghanistan at peace with its neighbours. This is the most authoritative and explicit statement to date that India will accept a negotiating process in which Taliban participate. The Prime Minister's declaration that Osama's death created a "new situation" further evidenced India's interest in helping shape a peaceful future with Afghanistan.

The United States, trying to rescue a working relationship with Pakistan from the wreckage of the Davis and Osama episodes, received Manmohan Singh's Kabul message warmly. Washington has long supported India's economic contribution to Afghanistan. Now, Washington is looking more warmly on India's broader training offers — not just for new parliamentarians and the Afghan election commission, but also in the more sensitive area of policing. The U.S. is gingerly moving toward a greater consciousness of the regional dimension in shaping Afghanistan's future.

But the most difficult piece of this regional puzzle is Pakistan. Like it or not, geography and history make it an essential participant in working out the future modus vivendi among the major Afghan players. Pakistan's goal is to freeze India out. India's new message treats Pakistan with more care and subtlety than the old one: Manmohan Singh's Kabul speeches referred repeatedly to the importance of peace with all Afghanistan's neighbours, and the latest statements come against the background of some modest progress in economic talks between India and Pakistan. But the Pakistani press, especially its more nationalist members, zeroed in on Indian statements in Kabul that appeared to be code words for keeping Pakistan at arm's length.

India's Afghan dance has had a promising beginning, though there will be difficult passages ahead. Two moves could improve its chances of success over the long term. The first is a significant deepening of U.S.-Indian dialogue on Afghanistan, including not just economics but also politics and security. This is especially important at a time when the U.S. and Pakistan are trying to recalibrate their relationship, with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's just-concluded visit to Islamabad.

The second would be to add Afghanistan to the agenda for backchannel talks with Pakistan, should that channel reopen. This is a tough assignment. Pakistanis, deeply suspicious about Indian activities in Afghanistan, question the value of such talks without a general improvement in Indo-Pakistan relations. They spurned the suggestion the Indian Foreign Secretary made earlier this year that the issue be added to the resumed India-Pakistan dialogue. But a back channel effort, out of public view, might in time strengthen prospects for peace among all three countries.

(Teresita and Howard Schaffer are former U.S. ambassadors, with long years of service in South Asia. They are co-founders of southasiahand.com. Howard Schaffer teaches at Georgetown University; Teresita Schaffer is a nonresident senior fellow at Brookings Institution.)

     

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THE HINDU

OPED

THE NEXT 90 DAYS IN NEPAL

NEPALI PARTIES CANNOT AFFORD TO WASTE A SINGLE DAY IF THEY WISH TO MAKE THE CONSTITIUENT ASSEMBLY'S TERM EXTENSION MEANINGFUL. THE MAOISTS HAVE TO IMPLEMENT THEIR PROMISES.

PRASHANT JHA

By striking a deal at the last minute to extend the term of the Constituent Assembly (CA) by three months, Nepal's political parties averted a major constitutional crisis, and saved the only democratically elected institution in the country.

But the real challenge begins now. In the next 90 days, parties have to form a new national unity government, arrive at a detailed agreement on the integration and rehabilitation of former Maoist combatants and begin implementing the process, and prepare the first draft of the constitution. And they have to do all this simultaneously, since there is no luxury of time. If parties fail to show progress, they will find it almost impossible to ask for another extension on August 28.

Five-point agreement

The CA's term was extended on the basis of a five-point agreement signed between the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), Nepali Congress and the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist). The United Democratic Madhesi Front (UDMF), comprising five Tarai parties, did not participate in the house vote since their demand that Prime Minister Jhalanath Khanal resign immediately was not fulfilled. They however welcomed the CA extension.

The final deal stated that Mr. Khanal would resign to make way for a national government — but it did not specify the time-frame. The opposition has already demanded the government's resignation as a prelude to creating national consensus, while Mr. Khanal has said he will quit only after there is national consensus.

The government's supporters argue that resignation without an alternative would lead to a repeat of last year's experience when Mr. Madhav Nepal stayed on as caretaker Prime Minister for seven months. All parties would also end up concentrating on re-engineering power alignments rather than getting the peace process completed.

But there is a powerful counter-argument. If Mr. Khanal does not resign, it will increase mistrust. The NC, Madhesi parties, and even sections of Mr. Khanal's UML will see it as a betrayal since this is already enshrined in the written text. This in turn could limit their incentives in cooperating with the Maoists to work out a detailed agreement on the future of the Maoist army. After the CA polls, the governments led by Maoist chairman Mr. Prachanda and Mr. Khanal excluded the NC while Mr. Madhav Nepal's government left the Maoists out — all three failed. The lesson is that the Maoists and NC, the two forces who conceptualised the 12-point agreement, have to work together.

There is a way out, which links up power sharing and the question of leadership with the peace process, which in current discourse is defined largely in terms of the future of Maoist combatants. As head of Special Committee for supervision, integration and rehabilitation of the Maoist combatants, Mr. Khanal could spend the next few days in facilitating a detailed deal on the peace process. This will allow him to claim credit for taking the process forward. He could then commit to resign within one month, while other stakeholders work out the shape of the new unity government.

In the run-up to May 28, NC president Sushil Koirala told Maoist chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal 'Prachanda' that the NC would support the Maoist leadership if the party detached itself from arms and combatants. Over the next 30 days, if Maoists do take "irreversible" steps in the peace process, the NC should feel reassured enough in supporting a Maoist prime minister — in return, it could keep powerful ministries like home and defence. There could also be an in-built rotational clause which would allow the NC to take leadership when the country moves in for the next elections. Alternately, if the Maoists do not take the required steps on integration which would win the trust of other parties by June-end, the former rebels should accept an NC prime minister. The same rotational principle could apply — after completing the peace process, the Maoists could get leadership of government while the constitution is promulgated and the next polls are held. The Madhesi front also needs to be included in the next government.

Given that there are multiple claimants to prime-ministership within each party, once the principle of who gets to lead first is decided, it would be best that parties resolve the leadership question internally. Neither the NC nor the Maoists should tell each other who to pick from their respective parties.

A detailed peace deal

Even as a new power-sharing deal is being worked out, there has to be simultaneous movement on the peace process. Past agreements have couched this issue in ambiguous terms — which allowed all sides to define it in their own ways. But in the pre-CA extension negotiations, parties did talk about specifics of integration and rehabilitation of combatants.

The Maoists, in particular, have a role in generating momentum on this issue. Five years after entering the peace process, they need to feel secure. Efforts to isolate them from the power structure have failed, and Maoists should stop treating the PLA as an "insurance policy." In a way, their position that constitution writing and peace process should move simultaneously has prevailed till now, but the peace process must end before constitution promulgation. And for this, the process needs to begin immediately. The Maoists should take advantage of the relative flexibility of the other parties, and the growing marginalisation of the 'no integration' line advocated earlier by the right wing in the Nepal Army (NA), NC and UML.

In the next two weeks, the Special Committee will deploy monitors to the seven cantonments and 21 satellite camps, representing the state's greater control over the Maoist army. On the modality of integration, all parties, including the Maoists, have accepted the NA's proposal of creating a mixed force under an NA directorate. The NA and NC suggested 4,000 combatants could be integrated while Maoists are pushing for 8-10,000 fighters. A compromise could be around the 6-7,000 mark. But parties also have to bridge differences on four other contentious issues — norms for entry; rank harmonisation; mandate of the new mixed force; and rehabilitation packages which will include a "golden handshake."

Once there is a detailed deal, survey teams will go to the cantonments to ask the combatants about their preferences, and judge whether those wanting integration meet the criteria. This would lead to regrouping into two distinct groups of those to be integrated and those opting for rehabilitation, and the discharge of those fighters who wish a voluntary exit and/or shift to Maoist party work. The Maoists have also agreed to end a dual security system (where leaders are protected both by state security personnel and People's Liberation Army), hand over weapons meant for protection of leaders, and regularise illegal party vehicle number plates.

In the best case scenario, this is the maximum the parties can achieve on the "fundamentals" of the peace process in three months. But these steps would play a major role in trust-building, and would provide the basis to ask for more time to conclude the next phase of actual integration into security organs.

Similarly, to arrive at an integrated first draft of the statute, there has to be serious and sustained discussions in the Constitutional Committee, and its sub-committee on dispute resolution led by Mr. Prachanda — especially on the form of government and electoral system. On federalism, the government is thinking of finally forming the constitutionally-mandated State Restructuring Commission, but Madhesi parties have expressed reservations fearing this would undermine the CA. An inclusive SRC can be set up, but its recommendations will not be of a binding nature which should reassure smaller ethnic and regional parties that they can still push their agenda in the CA. If parties build enough common ground for the first draft, there will be legitimate ground to extend the CA's term one final time for public consultations, thrashing out differences on the remaining few issues, and final constitution promulgation.

This is probably the last chance Nepali politicians have to institutionalise a federal democratic republic within the current political framework. If they adopt rigid positions, and drag their feet, it will be very difficult to salvage the process three months down the road. And parties then will have no one but themselves to blame.

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THE HINDU

U.S. ENGAGES WITH AN IRON LEADER IN EQUATORIAL GUINEA

ADAM NOSSITER

While the United States has turned its back on some authoritarian rulers in North Africa and the Middle East, its attitude toward strategically placed autocrats in less restive corners of Africa is more ambiguous, and perhaps nowhere more so than in this oil-rich speck of a nation in the Gulf of Guinea.

Officially and unofficially, Americans do business with one of the undisputed human rights global bad boys, Equatorial Guinea, Africa's fourth biggest oil exporter. Its widely criticised record on basic freedoms has offered little barrier to broad engagement by the United States, commercially or diplomatically.

2009 WikiLeaks cables

American oil companies have billions of dollars invested here. One American diplomat, using language that makes human rights advocates fume, praised the "mellowing, benign leadership" of the dictator in power for more than 30 years, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, in 2009 cables released by WikiLeaks. And a leading American military contractor with strong Pentagon ties has a multimillion-dollar contract to protect his shores and help train his forces.

The contractor, Military Professional Resources Inc., or M.P.R.I., led by a top aide to former Defence Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, works on maritime security and human rights training for Mr. Obiang's police forces. But even with the training, the United Nations, human rights groups and local dissidents say torture by the nation's authorities remains systematic. And maritime security touches on the most sensitive aspects of personal defence for Mr. Obiang, especially in an island capital where coup attempts have come from the sea.

Until March, President Bill Clinton's former special counsel, Lanny J. Davis, had a million-dollar-a-year contract to help Mr. Obiang with an image makeover. "He feels very vulnerable, without any friends," Mr. Davis said in an interview late last year.

Among the most repressive

Mr. Obiang's government could be considered a tough sell. Freedom House, the watchdog group, has ranked Equatorial Guinea among the nine most repressive "Worst of the Worst" nations in the world, along with Libya, Turkmenistan and Myanmar. It called the country's government "a highly corrupt regime with one of the worst human rights records in Africa."

Decades of repression and "systematic" torture, according to the United Nations, have created a culture of fear in this former Spanish colony of 670,000 people, Africa's only Spanish-speaking country.

"They don't even hide the torture instruments," said Manfred Nowak, until recently the United Nations' special rapporteur on torture. "It was just on the table."

Interviewed at the presidential palace here, Mr. Obiang, sub-Saharan Africa's longest-serving ruler, rejected such assertions. "We don't have torture," he said, adding: "International organisations have accused our police of mistreatment of prisoners. That's why I hired M.P.R.I., to train our police. And our police are acting appropriately."

Mr. Nowak found otherwise. "I'm deeply convinced it is a governmental policy," he said. "They know exactly what is going on."

Citizens who are audacious enough to talk about the political climate here joke behind closed doors about North Korea as a role model. Last month, opposition leaders were arrested for putting up a poster calling for a demonstration against Mr. Obiang, who overthrew his notoriously brutal uncle in a 1979 coup and won the last election here in November 2009 with more than 95 percent of the vote.

Strolling in the wrong neighbourhood lands you at the police station. A visit to Parliament's lone opposition member in his crumbling downtown walk-up is quickly known to the security services, bringing stern warnings from the information minister. The government publishes the only newspaper, and it is five months out of date at the leading hotel, a former torture centre.

Still, American officials have called for a far rosier vision of the country. The United States Embassy here, in 2009 cables, advised that it was "time to abandon a moral narrative" about Equatorial Guinea and dismissed reports of corruption that have been widely documented by the United States Senate and others.

"Things are clearly looking up," one cable concluded.

The current American ambassador here defended Mr. Obiang's government against the statistics of the World Bank and human rights groups that show a huge gap between the country's oil wealth — largely accruing to the Obiang family — and the widespread poverty of the population. Infant mortality, for instance, has actually increased since the discovery of oil here in the 1990s, the World Bank said, adding that Mr. Obiang holds "absolute executive power."

"You can have a debate about every one of the statistics," Ambassador Alberto M. Fernandez said. The American presence here is discreet but vital, and Mr. Obiang professes great love for the United States. Chevron, Marathon Oil and Noble Energy have substantial interests in Equatorial Guinea, onshore and off, and American oil workers are easily spotted at the diminutive airport at the edge of town. The sea around Bioko Island, where Malabo, the capital, is located, is dotted with telltale flares from oil company installations.

The presence of M.P.R.I., the Virginia military security company led by the retired general Bantz M. Craddock, the former supreme allied commander in Europe, has raised eyebrows among human rights groups and local dissidents. The State Department vetoed the company's work here because of Equatorial Guinea's poor human rights record , but finally acceded under President Bush in 2005 amid promises of reform by Mr. Obiang's government, according to Human Rights Watch.

Despite M.P.R.I.'s work with the country's police, Mr. Nowak, the former United Nations torture investigator, found that guards and soldiers took turns administering electric shocks to political prisoners at the Playa Negra, or Black Beach, prison adjacent to the presidential palace in downtown Malabo.

Mr. Nowak discovered these practices in November 2008, at least a year after M.P.R.I. had begun its human rights training here, according to the government's chronology. He and dissidents here contend that torture continues to be an ingrained government policy, though there is no evidence that M.P.R.I. either condones it or takes part.

Still, Mr. Nowak said, "if I were a trainer, I would leave the country because I would feel I was being used. It's a fig leaf operation."

M.P.R.I. declined to comment, except to confirm, through a spokesman last November, that it had recently received a contract from Equatorial Guinea to "in an overall, generic way, to provide security for the coastline, some coastal surveillance," a domain touching on Mr. Obiang's security concerns. In the most recent coup attempt, on February 17, 2009, the presidential palace was attacked by gunmen who arrived at the dock below in boats. M.P.R.I.'s contract is worth $250 million, according to a press release. — © New York Times News Service

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THE ASIAN AGE

LOKPAL: DON'T LET ROW DELAY THE BILL

The fifth round of discussion on Monday in the joint drafting committee for the proposed Lokpal Bill — comprising five ministers and five civil society representatives who emerged from the recent Jantar Mantar movement led by Anna Hazare — has indicated a developing impasse on the contents of the much-awaited legislation. The bill was to be got ready for introduction in the coming Monsoon Session of Parliament, and the Prime Minister assured the country more than once that it was the government's intention to stick to that schedule.

Briefing the media after the committee's last session, the civil society representatives — admittedly drawn from a small pool — expressed the view that the government's intentions were "suspect", and threatened to renew their agitation if the bill was not as per their expectations. Such a threat is out of order when discussions are still on and the drafting committee meetings have not been abandoned, although differences between the government side and the non-officials appear acute.
The self-nominated civil society spokesmen are keen to bring into the ambit of the Lokpal's jurisdiction the Prime Minister, members of the higher judiciary, and the conduct of MPs while discharging their duties inside Parliament (it is not entirely clear what this means). The government side apparently believes that bringing the Prime Minister under the Lokpal's scrutiny can make the country's highest political executive dysfunctional as the person holding that office can be made a target of motivated or vexatious allegations. No matter what the dichotomy in perception between the two sides, the government should not resile from its commitment to introduce the Lokpal Bill in the Monsoon Session. Also, the fresh legislation that comes on the agenda cannot be identical with its earlier version that is lying with a parliamentary standing committee. After Monday's round, a spokesman of the government on the drafting committee said the divergences between the official side and civil society representatives would be forwarded to the states and (to) political parties for their comments. The government might do well to also involve a wider section of citizens in order to realise a full-fledged public discussion on the subject. All this needs to be done quickly. And it might be useful to remember that no matter what the committee recommends, Parliament will have every opportunity to discuss, amend or modify the draft bill once it is tabled.
The government needs to be conscious that the broad issue of corruption — as underscored by a variety of scandals in the past few months — and absence of transparency in government has come to undermine the people's confidence in our governing structures. Perhaps a way should be found through appropriate national debate to shield the office of Prime Minister from motivated charges while not insulating it from investigation when so warranted. This admittedly won't be easy. In such situations, recourse has been taken to the judiciary. However, in the Bofors case, Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi came to be politically hobbled although he did not lose his majority in the House. This particular instance might be usefully kept in view as we wade through the current discourse. On the question of bringing the higher judiciary under the Lokpal, the Chief Justice of India has spoken of the necessity to maintain a balance between safeguarding judicial independence and ensuring the judiciary's accountability. These are important discussions for Indian democracy as it matures. But all things considered, a Lokpal Bill different from what we have known so far should not miss the deadline of the Monsoon Session of Parliament.

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THE ASIAN AGE

A PRECIPICE CALLED PAK

INDER MALHOTRA

After the killing of Osama bin Laden by the US Special Forces practically under the nose of Pakistan's all-powerful Army and its premier spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the excruciating scene in Pakistan has become more confused, complex and challenging, not less. Moreover, the problem is by no means confined to Pakistan and Afghanistan

or AfPak, as the Americans have nicknamed the duo. All other major stakeholders in the region — besides the United States that is fighting a war in Afghanistan, now in its eighth year, and whose relations with its "key ally", Pakistan, have sunk very low — are understandably concerned.
Instead of facing squarely the grim realities of the near-lethal fallout of the landmark event, the military-dominated Pakistani ruling establishment has reverted to its usual denial and defiant mode. Army Chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani as well as leaders of the civilian government swear that they were completely unaware of Bin Laden's presence for nearly six years in one of their most important cantonments. The country's Prime Minister, Yusuf Raza Gilani, blandly declared that the failure to detect Bin Laden's whereabouts was "global". Still, there was trauma among the Pakistani people and much criticism by thinking Pakistanis of the Army — for its pretence of ignorance of Al Qaeda founder's presence close to the Pakistan Military Academy and for its possible complicity in the US operation. To overcome this the Army leadership had to present itself in Parliament for questioning, something that had not happened since the liberation of Bangladesh in 1971. However, the civilian government and the majority behind it jumped to the defence of the Army and the ISI and turned their anger against the Americans for "violating Pakistan's sovereignty". The parliamentary resolution demanded an assurance from the US that this would not be repeated ever again, and backed Gen. Kayani's call for a "review and re-visit" of the entire US-Pakistan relationship.
To say this is not to overlook the fact that the leader of the Opposition and former Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, was sharply critical of the Army. At one stage he pleaded for "civilian control" over the Army budget so vehemently that ISI chief Lt. Gen. Ahmad Shuja Pasha told him: "Please, don't treat us as an enemy". Probably, this explains why retired Lt. Gen. Talat Masood, in an article in the New York Times, has warned: "If the Army is pushed too far, it would hit back hard".
Gen. Kayani may not find it necessary to stage a coup, but in the current context he was happy to flash the China card at the Americans while Mr Gilani left for Beijing on a pre-scheduled and much-hyped visit. The Chinese were lavish in their praise for Pakistan — including for its "sacrifices" in the war on terror — and promised to expedite the supply of 50 J-17 fighter jets to it. They also stressed the need for "respecting Pakistan's sovereignty" without saying a word about the US operation or Bin Laden's elimination. But on the issues that matter they offered their "all-weather friends" little comfort. They declared that they had no intention to make capital out of America's "misgivings" about Pakistan, and indeed counselled continuation of US-Pakistan cooperation in counterterrorism. They went so far as to say that China could be a bridge between the two, so that China, Pakistan and the US could jointly combat terrorism, including that by the Uighurs "on both sides of the Pakistan-Xingjiang border". The official spokesperson of the Chinese foreign office lost little time in dismissing reports that China would establish a naval base at the Chinese-built Pakistani port of Gwadar, close to the strategic Gulf of Hormuz. Above all, despite its super-abundant riches, China didn't promise Pakistan a single penny as economic aid. That is where a succession of high-level, high-profile American visits to Pakistan — of which the most important was the "surprise" visit of US secretary of state Hillary Clinton accompanied by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen — comes in.
In their separate briefings to the media after her extensive talks with Pakistan's civilian and military leaders, both Ms Clinton and the Pakistan foreign office spokesman took parallel but not identical lines. Behind the smoke screen of rhetoric about "common interests and mutual respect", the two sides admitted that their relationship was in something of a crisis. Ms Clinton spoke of a "turning point" in it. The Pakistani spokesman said that the relationship with the US had entered a "new defining phase" that called for "course correction". The American dignitary, while declaring that no top leader of Pakistan knew of Bin Laden's presence at Abbottabad, stated that Pakistan needed to "do more" to kill or arrest leaders of Al Qaeda and its associates in Pakistan. She recommended "joint action" for this purpose. The Pakistani side harped on the demand for "no repetition" of Abbottabad-type action and cessation of drone attacks within Pakistan.
As of now America seems disinclined to accept either of these two demands. However, the bottom line is that, however strained, the US-Pakistan relationship will not reach breaking point. For the US, the route through Pakistan for supplies to its and Nato troops in Afghanistan remains critically important. Pakistan, with its bankrupt economy, simply cannot exist without America's colossal military and economic aid that several US senators are threatening to curtail or terminate.
In relation to India, Pakistan remains as inimical and obdurate as ever. As they promised, the jihadis are indulging in almost daily orgy of terrorist attacks on Pakistani military targets to avenge Bin Laden's "martyrdom". Yet Pakistanis go on blaming India for the horrendous attack on the Mehran naval base in Karachi on the specious plea that the destruction of India-specific P3 Orion marine reconnaissance aircraft "benefited only India". They are also brazen about the damning revelations in the ongoing Chicago trial.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has therefore done well to tell Pakistan that its use of terrorism as an instrument of state policy is unacceptable not only to India but also to the entire civilised world. The question is whether Pakistan would respond positively even as the India-Pakistan dialogue goes on.

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THE ASIAN AGE

IN SEARCH OF HOME

SHANKARI SUNDARARAMAN

During the recently concluded Asean Summit on May 7 and 8, 2011, there was little emphasis on how to deal with the issue of human rights, particularly the plight of the Burmese Rohingya community. Even as Burma stated its preparedness to be the chair of the Asean in 2014, the unresolved problem of the ethnic Muslim Rohingyas

will place international pressure on Asean to ensure that Burma does not hold the Asean chair.
Since April, the issue of Rohingya refugees has once again received international attention. The ethnic community's attempt to escape by makeshift rickety boats, through the seas in search of a new home, has rekindled memories of the boat people of the Nineties. "Boat people" is a term commonly used for refugees who use boats and travel by sea to escape ethnic cleansing in their home country, in search of a "home" in a more accommodating host country, where their rights are more likely to be respected and protected.
The Rohingya community, which originally belongs to the Arakan (Rakhine) regions of Burma, has moved to countries in South Asia, particularly Bangladesh which has hosted hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas for more than three decades. But at least 2,00,000 Rohingya refugees have no legal rights there and many have migrated to both Pakistan and India. However, given the security situation within South Asia and the stricter control along the Bangladesh border, their entry into India has become more problematic now. This has pushed the community to look to Southeast Asia, which means a perilous travel by sea.
In 2009, the Thai government incurred international condemnation for turning away nearly 1,000 asylum seekers who had taken to the seas to escape from Bangladesh. The Thai government escorted the boats back to sea and left them adrift, without adequate food and supplies.
In an attempt to cross the seas, Rohingyas often have to pay huge amounts of money to unscrupulous businessmen who promise to ferry them to other destinations, including Indonesia and Malaysia.
The Rohingyas, numbering two million, are today considered one of the largest homeless communities in the world and there is overwhelming concern over their plight, especially after the publication of a report — "The Silent Crisis", by Refugee International (a US-based rights group) which documents their desperate situation.
One main concern is that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has recognised only about 50,000 Rohingyas and registered them as official refugees with legal status and refugee rights. The rest of the Rohingyas, who have migrated to Burma's neighbours, have not been given the "refugee" status and are considered to be illegal migrants, which makes them easy victims of abuse and extortion.
Ethnically, the Rohingyas are Sunni Muslims who originate from the Rakhine provinces of Burma. In the initial years after Burma's Independence in 1948, the Rohingya community was not in the same condition as it is today. During the early years of the U Nu government, Rohingyas held government jobs and were part of the administrative structure. Till 1981, the community had citizenship rights within Burma. It was in 1982, when the Ne Win government consolidated its position in favour of the ethnic Burmese community and denied the rights to other ethnic minorities, that the Rohingyas lost their right to statehood.
They remain one of the most persecuted ethnic minorities in Burma — they have been denied even the basic rights to citizenship, the rights of free movement within the country and remain woefully backward in terms of education and employment. The Burmese government treats the Rohingyas as Bangladeshis. The junta has often used the community as cheap and low cost labour for projects funded and carried out by the military. Regions and villages with large Rohingya population often report incidents of human trafficking and extortion.
Two factors drive the movement of the Rohingyas from Burma and Bangladesh to Malaysia, Indonesia and other countries. First, as predominantly Muslim majority countries, their integration will not face the same challenges as their status within Burma. Second, as a community in search of a better economic future, Southeast Asia represents a viable destination compared to Bangladesh.

In 2009, the Asean initiated a process called the Bali Process to look into the plight of the Rohingya Muslims and offer them "status" within the countries in which they were seeking asylum. The process initially emerged as a mechanism by which the issue of human trafficking across the Asia-Pacific region was to be addressed. The Bali Process that emerged as early as 2002 was an initiative in which over 50 countries participated — all countries that faced the problem of Rohingya migration were members of the initiative. However, Burma, which lies at the root of the problem, was not a part of the process. This was the biggest lacuna in the attempts to find a solution to the Rohingya issue.
Given the political impasse in Burma and the opaqueness of the junta, there is little effort to address the condition of the Rohingyas there. And that is why the Asean countries need to focus on the plight of the Rohingyas. Since the initiation of the Asean charter in 2008, the issue has become more urgent. Under its charter the Asean has a three-pronged approach to building a security community, an economic community and a socio-cultural community. In the efforts towards a socio-cultural community, the Asean has looked at community-building through a people-centric approach in which it intends to create a new legal framework to push forward the formation of a more humane and caring society. The violation and denial of the most basic of rights to nearly two million people of the region cannot be ignored if the vision of the Asean is to be realised.

Dr Shankari Sundararaman is an associate professor of Southeast Asian Studies at the School of International Studies, JNU

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

JUSTICE OR VENDETTA

 

A Pakistani anti-terrorism court has declared former President Pervez Musharraf a proclaimed offender or fugitive for failing to cooperate with investigators probing the assassination of former premier Benazir Bhutto. The court has been hearing the case of Benazir Bhutto's murder in 2008 by jihadis. The trial of five suspects, including a would-be suicide bomber, suspected of involvement in Bhutto's killing has been held up for several months due to Musharraf's refusal to cooperate with the investigators. Owing to non-existence of extradition treaty between Pakistan and UK, the latter could not help Pakistan in implementing the warrant against Pervez Musharraf who has been living in UK since 2009 and aspired to float a political party and fight election in Pakistan.


As a military ruler after the coup of 1998, Pervez Musharraf had made himself the President of Pakistan. As there was growing demand among the people and political parities in Pakistan for a democratic rule, and the US was interested in Pakistan returning to democracy, a deal was reportedly struck between him, PPP chief Benazir and the Americans. Under the deal, all cases against Benazir and her husband hitherto framed by the military rule of Musharraf were to be withdrawn, Benazir was to return to Pakistan and elections to the Pakistani Parliament were to be held. The US wanted that some semblance of a democratic dispensation worked in Pakistan so that its war on terror in Afghanistan or Af-Pak region would come to a victorious end. But, according to the allegations that indirectly implicate Musharraf, it is gleaned that he was not too happy with the deal as it was almost imposed on him. As such, he was visualizing his ouster in the forthcoming elections as Benazir, the chief of PPP, was bound to win with a landslide victory. At the same time, the jihadis in Pakistan, too, viewed this political development as a setback to their plans and programmes. They too were not happy with the formulation. Thus conditions were developing in Pakistan under which a civil strife was imminent. After all Pakistani jihadis and fundamentalists never looked eye to eye with Benazir and her party's progressive ideology. The third element, namely the Pakistan Army, sill under the influence of Musharraf, was essentially never happy with the idea of return of Benazir to political power. Thus we find that on the ground many threats and warnings for Benazir were fairly visible. Many observers did apprehend danger to the person of Benazir but thinking that the deal had the patronage of Washington, nothing would go wrong. It is now admitted by the American circles also that they had some miscalculations or were given false assurances. The entire story remains shrouded in mystery. But when the inevitable happened, President Musharraf was quick to state that all necessary security arrangements of protecting the life of Benazir were in place and there was no loophole anywhere. He even went to the extent of saying that she should not have stuck her head out of the bullet proof car window. Thus he absolved himself and his government of all responsibility for the assassination of the would-be Prime Minister of Pakistan. This was the thinking in almost all moderate circles in Pakistan and they never trusted the word of Musharraf. The PPP was never convinced that the attack was carried out on any organization's own behest though informed circles said that TTP led by late Baitullah Mehsud was responsible for the attack and assassination. It is also said that an impartial inquiry was never conducted into the assassination and the story was gradually swept under carpet.

 

But now that PPP is in power, a case of assassination has been brought to a special court of law and former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf was summoned to depose before the court as prosecution process went on. He avoided to respond to the court summon and is now declared an offender. His physical absence from Pakistan does not obstruct the law of the land take its normal course. Now the point is whether this episode involving the former Army Chief and President of Pakistan is an exercise in bringing justice to the victims or is it only a vendetta? Political vendetta is not uncommon in the history of the sub-continent, democracy or any other form of Government, and only the future course of events will provide an answer to this question.

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

REVAMPING SFC

 

The important purpose of establishing State Financial Corporation was to boost state's industrial and commercial profile which also indirectly meant more opportunities of employment. For some time in the past, the SFC has run into difficulties essentially partly because of inefficiency and partly of allegations of corruption and mismanagement. At one point of time, the corporation had come under a thick cloud. But keeping in mind the role of the Corporation once it is put back on rails and is made efficiently functional, the Government and especially the Finance Minister has focused attention on it. One of its serious drawbacks was lack of strict accountability. But now the Finance Minister has announced support money of 150 crores to rebuild the funding capacity, the corporation will kick start it's normal and desired functioning. The Chief Minister has given it time till March 2012 to raise its stock to over 500 cores rupees and also draw a comprehensive plan for the future. The support money of 150 crores has been sanctioned by the centre under Prime Minister's Relief Package. It will be recalled that the Rangarajan Committee appointed by the Prime Minister had also recommended that one hundred crore rupees be provided to the state for revamping SFC and another fifty crore rupees to supplement employment schemes that would show up in the process. Thus we find that the centre has been frugally contributing to the economic and industrial growth of the State not in any one particular aspect but in all round developmental plans. The State Government cannot absolve itself of the responsibility of certain amount of mismanagement of the Corporation. Therefore the future functionality of the Corporation depends on streamlining of its administrative structure, strict accountability and transparency. It is expected of the Government to bring home to the Board of Directors what the government expects them to do in the matter of revamping the SFC.

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

INDIAN REFORMS: YESTERDAY AND TODAY

BY PROF. JAGDISH BHAGWATI

 

For decades, India was unique in her democracy among the post-colonial countries that had gained Independence. Today that uniqueness has thankfully disappeared as several countries around the world have followed in India's footsteps and transited from authoritarianism, even military dictatorships, to democratic forms of governance. The embrace of our democracy from the outset does, however, set us apart from China whose egregious denial of democratic and other human rights detracts hugely from admiration for its stellar economic performance.


India has not just the Lok Sabha and elections; it also has all the elements of what we now call a "liberal democracy". We have an independent judiciary that has also advanced the cause of our poor and the underprivileged with Public Interest Litigation. We have a free and lively press. Most of all, we have innumerable and growing number of non-governmental organizations, the social action groups, that make up our civil society. We have therefore what Naipaul called a multitude of mutinies.
I have long argued that economic betterment, in a country with an immense backlog of poverty, inevitably takes time. On the other hand, democracy gives the poor and the underprivileged instant affirmation of what Americans call their "personhood", a sense of equality with the castes and classes above you in a strongly hierarchical society. The elections are preceded by the elite politicians courting your vote and not ordering you around; and the election day is when you have the sense that you can turn the bums out.
I wrote about this when Prime Minister Indira Gandhi returned to power in 1980; after the Emergency in 1975 and the electoral disaster that tuned her out in 1977. I did not have the vote as Indians abroad could not vote. But I nonetheless went with our family cook, who was from the Hills, to the election booth to observe what was going on. I was pleasantly surprised that, normally deferential, he stood in front of me in the line, not behind, and when I asked him if he was going to vote for Mrs. Gandhi, he said that he did not have to tell me. That was his day. So I reflected on this and wrote at the time that democracy matters more to the poor than to the rich: a proposition that the celebrated political scientist Stepan endorses and calls the "Bhagwati Law"!
But permit me to turn now to the central question that I wish to address today: the question of economic reforms, what they have accomplished, and where we are and should be headed. On what we have accomplished so far, what I call the Reforms Yesterday; there are two conflicting "narratives" that we find currently, one adoringly celebratory and the other hypercritical and condemning.
Perhaps the most dramatic, optimistic view of India has come from the once sceptical magazine, The Economist, which famously wrote nearly 20- years ago that India was a tiger that was crouched for long but unable to leap. But the magazine wrote a raving cover page story on September 10th 2010, abandoning its reservations and arguing that India's steadily accelerating growth rate since the 1991 pro-market, liberal (or "neo-liberal" if you wish to make them sound sinister) reforms was not a flash in the pan. Apparently throwing caution to the wind, it speculated that India's growth rate "could overtake China's by 2013, if not before".
But then, the naysayers, among them the socialists in the currently ruling Congress Party, have rejected the "miracle" produced by the reforms by asserting darkly that the growth "lacks a human face". Perhaps the most articulate critics are the "progressive" novelists of India, chief among them Pankaj Mishra whom the op-ed page editors of The New York Times regularly and almost exclusively invite to write about the Indian economy, a privilege they do not seem to extend symmetrically to American novelists to give us their profound thoughts on the US economy!


Mishra's latest Times op-ed on 2nd October 2010, writes of the "alarmingly deep and growing inequalities of income and resources in India", "the waves of suicides of tens of thousands of overburdened farmers over the last two decades", "a full-blown insurgency …in central India" to defend tribals against depredations by multinationals, "the pitiless exploitations of the new business-minded India", and much else that is allegedly wrong with India!


While economic analysis can often produce a yawning indifference, and Mishra's narrative is by contrast eloquent and captivating, the latter is really fiction masquerading as non-fiction. The fact is that several analysis show that the enhanced growth rate has been good for reducing poverty while it has not increased inequality measured meaningfully, and that large majorities of virtually all underprivileged groups polled say that their financial situation has not worsened and significant numbers say that it has improved.


The enhanced, and increasing, growth rate since the reforms follow a period of abysmal growth rates in the range of 3.5 to 4.00 per cent annually for over a quarter of a century, starting in the 1960s. The cause had to deal with the fact that we got very little out of the investment we undertook. The reason was that we had a counterproductive policy framework whose principal elements were:


1) Knee-jerk intervention by the government through a maze of Kafkaesque licensing and regulations concerning investment, production and imports, prompting the witticism that Adam Smith's Invisible Hand was nowhere to be seen;


2) Massive expansion of the public sector into many areas other than utilities, with occasional monopoly granted to public enterprises by excluding entry by the private sector, with predictable inefficiencies that multiplied through the economy; and3) Autarky in trade and inflow of equity investment which was so extreme that the Indian share of trade to GNP had fallen, while it had increased in most countries, whereas the inward flow of equity investment had been reduced to minuscule levels.


It is often suggested that the Indian policy changes were imposed from outside, reflecting what has come to be known by ill-informed observers as the Washington Consensus in favour of liberal reforms at the Bretton Woods institutions. But that is no truer than to argue that the Soviet perestroika under president Gorbachev and the Chinese economic reforms starting in the late 1970s were imposed by Washington. In all three cases, the driving force was endogenous, a realization by the leadership that the old, counterproductive policy model had run their economies into the ground and that a change of course had to be undertaken. (INAV)

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

NUCLEAR ARSENAL IN PAKISTAN

BY PROF.P.L.BAKHSHI

September 11, 2001 acquired historical significance as on this day the horror came out of clear blue skies in the United States of America. The day got christened as a Day of Terror and America's illusion of invulnerability was shattered. On this black day, which in abbreviated form is now known as 9/11 and immediately became shorthand for violence, the unthinkable happened at the two renowned places of the world's superpower. The international terrorists audaciously attacked the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York, and almost simultaneously the Pentagon, a concrete fort in Virginia, killing round about three thousand innocent people of various religious faiths and belonging to different countries of the globe. Nineteen indoctrinated hard core terrorists hijacked American passenger planes scheduled for long flights and plunged them into the predetermined targets along with hapless passengers and maimed crew so as to put the humanity in grief. This was horrendous terrorism brought to near perfection in a dramatic form. It was one of the most heinous acts in world history. Al Qaeda supremo Osama bin Laden admitted that he ordered the attacks.
After ten years of hunting, Osama Bin Laden was finally killed on May 2, 2011 in an operation by United States. He had moved from the remote, barren mountains on Afghanistan's inhospitable border to a comfortable $1million mansion in one of Pakistan's most picturesque and affluent cities- Abbottabad, 50 km. north of Islamabad.. Five US helicopters secretly entered Pakistani air space, flew 150 kilometers into the country and then a team of US Navy SEALS descended on Bin Laden's luxurious abode in the garrison town of Abbottabad and killed him. Bin Laden was taken completely by surprise by the special forces who had spent the best part of a decade stalking him. The US commandos also seized what the authorities describe as a treasure trove of intelligence material. No one in the Pakistani government or military was notified beforehand, infuriating and humiliating the Pakistan government machinery. Senator John F Kerry, chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee said that it was necessary for US to keep Pakistan in the dark before the Bin Laden raid to ensure its success and asked Pakistanis to "see this in its historical, critical light".
After Osama bin Laden was killed on Pakistani soil, it appears that US ties with Pakistan are teetering on the brink threatening to deprive Pakistan of desperately needed aid. Members of the US Congress started asking "tough questions" about ongoing economic assistance to Pakistan and some of them want to curtail or even cut off the aid which has amounted to approximately $20 billion since 2001. Over $2 billion in security aid and reimbursements approved in mid-April 2011 by Congress is presumed to be held up.
The nuclear armed Pakistan began focusing on nuclear weapons development in 1972 under the leadership of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto who founded the program while he was Minister for Power and Natural Resources. He later became Prime Minister and like many other Pakistani leaders was all along spitting venom against India. Refering India's nuclear-weapon making efforts he said that the nation of 180 million would match rival India's capabilities even if they had to eat grass. Inspite of declining economic growth Pakistan is currently able to increase its nuclear arsenal by seven to 14 warheads per year.
It is impossible to have a friendly Pakistan because a nexus between military, ultras and mullahs in that country was responsible for the terror infrastructure there which is still standing tall and intact on its soil. Pakistan military has all along backed the Islamic militant group as a surrogate force against India. David Coleman Headley recently pleaded guilty and told a federal jury in a Chicago court that he spend two years in India scouting out targets for Pakistani terrorists who finally unleashed the Mumbai attacks in November 2008 that led to the death of 164 innocent people, including six US citizens. Headley outlined how he, his childhood friend Tahawwur Rana- a Chicago businessman and a former doctor for the Pakistani military, members of the Pakistan based terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba alongwith the Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) planned the deadly Mumbai attacks. He testified that during the training he did with Lashkar he was trained in espionage by the ISI. He was pleased to watch the carnage unfold on 26/11 from about 1,000 miles away on the television screen in Lahore.
There is a global worry that political instability in Pakistan, the current offensive against the Taliban and the Navy SEAL assault that killed Osama bin Laden, the terrorists having safe haven in Pakistan may seize control of the strategic nuclear weapons. If Osama bin Laden could spend six long years living in an affluent suburb of Islamabad in the protective neighborhood of hundreds of Pakistani security officials there is a good reason to believe that unlawful elements can also find their access to the nuclear arsenal. The daring commando style Taliban raid on May 22, 2011 on the naval base in Karachi that destroyed some of the country's newest surveillance planes and killing 10 military personnel was retaliation for the US raid that killed Bin Laden, and has heightened concern that the armed forces are unable to guard its own assets, including nation's nuclear warheads. The 16-hour siege in Karachi by six guerrillas wearing night-vision goggles armed with rocket launchers and grenades raises the pertinent question about the poor state of security at sensitive infrastructures in the country. Earlier also terrorists have organized a number of such raids into the establishments of the armed forces including the General Headquarters in Rawalpindi in 2009. There is widespread belief that militant organizations have ideological support within the security establishment because they openly trained them and fought with them before 9/11. The official machinery claims that such breaches are unlikely in the case of nuclear establishments where, according to them, there is a multi-layer security. The vivid incompetence and complicity at different levels with terrorists reduce the value and dependability of such official assurances. Pakistan's move to develop short range tactical nuclear weapons may also make them more vulnerable to theft or a mutiny by a group of military officers. The entire world would be as much affected as Pakistan by any breach of the physical security of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal. It is, therefore, important that the international community should not remain satisfied with Pakistan's verbal assurances alone.

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

FALLING FOOD PRICES IS NOT GOOD FOR AGRICULTURE

BY DR ASHWANI MAHAJAN


It has been said that the only people who can change the world are those who want to. The world needs to move from its current non-renewable energy paradigm to a future powered by entirely renewable energy supply. It is only by making such a transition that we will be in a position to avoid the very worst impacts of climate change. A large number of leaders across the world from within the policy arena, business, media and civil society are questioning the views of conventional experts on the world's energy future and their business as usual scenarios, embarking on a serious search for realistic alternatives. The world has reached peak conventional oil and gas consumption, meaning thereby oil and gas companies are digging deeper and deeper into unconventional sources, with disastrous environmental and social consequences. Coal is still relatively readily available but catastrophic in terms of climate changing emissions. The world can no longer afford to hang on its old energy paradigm and its dangerous dependence on fossil fuels.

 

The Energy Report, produced through a joint effort of WWF and Ecofys, breaks new ground in the energy debate; a possible system in which all of the world's energy supply is provided by renewable sources by 2050. The Energy Report shows that this future is within our reach and provides a vital insight into how it can be achieved. The report puts together strategies and technology options that have already been put in practice to create a feasible global scenario. WWF wants to help change the old paradigm for the energy and articulate a new pathway for the future.

 

Renewables will play a greater role than either nuclear or carbon capture and storage by 2050. About 13 per cent of the world's energy come from renewable sources in 2008, a proportion likely to have risen as countries have built their capacity since then, with china leading the investment surge, particularly in wind energy. But by far the greatest source of renewable energy used globally at present is burning biomass- about 10 per cent of the global energy supply which is problematic because it can cause deforestation, leads to deposit of soot that accelerate global warming and cooking fires cause indoor air pollution that harm health. Wind power by contrast met about 2 per cent of global electricity demand in 2009, and could increase to more than 20 per cent by 2050.


Renewable energy is already growing fast- of the 300-giga watts (remember one gigawatt is equivalent to 1000 megawatts) of new electricity generation capacity added globally between 2008 and 2009; about 140 GW came from renewable sources such as wind and solar power. The investment that will be needed to meet the greenhouse gas emissions targets is likely to amount to about $ 5 trillion in the next decade, rising to $ 7 trillion from 2021 to 2030. Developing countries have an important stake in the future- this is where most of the 1.4 billion people without access to electricity live yet also where some of the best conditions exist for renewable energy deployment. Renewable energy can also meet the growing demand of developing countries where over 2 billion people lack access to basic energy services and can also do so at a more cost-competitive and faster rate than conventional energy sources.


Today, we do not use energy in a judicious manner. More than half the heats we pump into our homes disappear through walls, windows and roofs- yet we know how to construct buildings that require virtually no energy for heating or cooling. We favor big, powerful private cars over far more efficient forms of transport. Energy-hungry appliances clog the market, even though there is a wide range of efficient alternatives available. Manufacturers could use far less energy by reassessing their materials and processes. Energy conservation is something every one can embrace. We simply require to start making wise choices today. Nuclear meltdown in Japan after powerful earthquake in March 2011 clearly reveals why society should no longer bear the risks of nuclear disaster. And that is why it is clear now than ever before that the energy of future for the safer, more prudent society will come from renewable energy. The more we use renewable energy, the more we benefit the environment, strengthen our energy security, create jobs locally and help improve our economy. Here we can explore ways to use renewable energy.


Using Biomass Energy

Ever since humans started burning wood to keep warm and to cook food, we have been using biomass energy. Today we can also use biomass to fuel vehicles, generate electricity and developed bio-based products. Here we can explore the different ways to use biomass energy. For instance, by using fuel for vehicle with ethanol or biodiesel, using clean electricity generated from biomass, using products like plastics made from biomass.


Using Hydrogen

Hydrogen- a colorless and odorless gas is the most abundant element in the universe. However, because it combines easily with other elements, it is rarely found by itself in nature. Hydrogen usually combines with other elements, forming organic compounds called hydrocarbons. Hydrocarbons include plant material and fossil fuels such as petroleum, natural gas and coal. Water is produced during the burning of any hydrocarbon. Hydrogen can be separated from hydrocarbon through the burning of heat- a process known as reforming. Currently, most hydrogen is made this way from natural gas. An electric current can also be used to separate water into its components of oxygen and hydrogen. This process is known as electrolysis. Currently, hydrogen has great potential as a power source for fuel cells. Hydrogen fuel cells can provide heat for homes and buildings, generate electricity and power vehicles.


Using Hydropower

Flowing water creates energy that can be tapped and turned into electricity. This is called hydropower or hydroelectric power. If we have access to flowing water on our property, we can use a micro hydropower system to generate our own electricity. Micro hydropower system usually generate up to 100 Kilowatt (KW) of electricity.


Using Solar Energy

If we step outside on a hot, sunny day, and we will experience the power of sun's heat and the light. We can use solar energy to heat our homes through passive solar design or an active solar heating system. We can also use it to generate our own electricity. We can use it to heat water in our home or swimming pool. We can use it to light our home both indoors and outdoors.


Using Wind Energy

We have harnessed the wind's energy for hundreds of years- from windmills that pump water or grind grain to today's wind turbines that generate electricity. If you live on at least one acre of land with an ample wind resource, you can generate your own electricity using a small wind electric system. You can also use a small wind turbine for pumping water. You may have the opportunity now or in the future to buy clean electricity from a wind power plant.


One thing that looks imminent is the fact that the future belongs to renewable energy. Scientists and industry expert may disagree over how long the world's supply of oil and natural gas will last, but one thing is for sure that it will rather sooner or later exhaust.

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

KASHMIRI PUNDITS AND KASHMIRIAT

BY AMIT KUSHARI

 

Quite often people have requested me to write articles on Kashmiri pandits. "Why do you write only on the problems of Kashmiri Muslims? Aren't the pundits citizens of Kashmir also?"- they ask me often. I usually write about the Kashmir imbroglio and its various possible solutions. The key to any solution of this imbroglio basically lies in a just and fair division of land and assets between the Kashmiri Muslims, the Dogra Hindus, the Sikhs, the Ladakhis and the nomads. Since the Kashmiri Hindus have become a landless community after being driven out of their land, they will not be a significant player in this issue. It is because of this reason I had maintained silence on this issue although in a few places here and there I did mention that at the appropriate time the authorities of Kashmir will have to make reservations for Kashmiri pundits in Government jobs and in the legislature of Kashmir.


Recently, I watched an NDTV programme on Kashmiri Pundits and this programme has inspired me to write this article on Kashmiri Pundits. Yes, indeed Kashmiriat or Kashmiriness could be a common point for Kashmiri Muslims and Pundits to get together.The chief pillar of Kashmiriat is the Kashmiri language which binds the two communities. Both Muslims and Pundits , like to speak in this language although they have not given this language any significant recognition in official work or in education. Kashmiri is not the official language of Kashmir. The educated Muslims speak to their children in Urdu or English and Pundits speak in Hindi or English. If this trend continues in the next century Kashmiri will be a dead language. In Pakistan, similar is the position for Pushtu, Punjabi and Sindhi where Urdu overshadows the local languages. In India, however, this is not the situation. Local languages like Tamil, Telegu, Bengali, Gujrati etc. are very powerful languages and Hindi could never dream of overpowering these languages. These languages are used in government, in courts, in universities and educated people speak to their children in these languages only. The people of West Bengal are tied to the people of Bangla Desh through the Bengali language in which every year hundreds of books and newspapers are published, hundreds of movies are released. The more rich and developed the language is, closer is the bond between Muslims and Hindus. In Kashmir, is the Kashmiri language so developed that it can bring back the Pundits to the Kashmir valley by a strong magnetic attraction? Perhaps, no.


Nevertheless, Kashmiri language indeed provides a bond (however weak) between the two communities. A Kashmiri Muslim businessman opened a shop in a busy Chennai market. He was sick and tired of hearing Tamil all the time and he yearned to speak in Kashmiri. Nobody could understand his language. While sitting in his shop one day he spotted a woman in the crowd with dejuru in her ears. Dejur is a traditional earring that is worn by Kashmiri Pundit women. The businessman ran after her and requested her to come to his shop for a few minutes. He told her " Please speak to me in Kashmiri for a few minutes. I have not heard my mother tongue for ages." The woman came to his shop and chatted with him for a few minutes in Kashmiri. The businessman was overjoyed. The lady said that she would be a sister for him in Chennai and she would tie a rakhi around his wrist.


However, unfortunately, in Kashmir the Pundits cannot share their deep feelings with Muslims. For Muslims 90% of Kashmiriat consists of only Islam which is the overpowering force every where...in every bond. The remaining 10% is not made up of sophisticated things like music and literature and movies- but more trivial things like kangri, phiran, samovar, wazwaan, kashmiri vegetables like haak and nadroo. Even in these day to day trivial items of use there is a distinction between Pundits and Muslims. The phiran used by Pundits has a wide border below the knees. The Samovar of Muslims is made of copper whereas the "batta"( Hindu) samovar is usually made of brass. The Hindus do not prepare "gushtaba" and "rista" in their weddings although these two are the prime items in a waazwaan (special Kashmiri feast). Kashmiri Muslims have "harissa" for breakfast in cold winter mornings-whereas many Pundits have not even heard what it is. 'Harissa" is a sort of mutton halwa prepared by boiling the meat overnight. It is somewhat like the "Haleem" of Hyderabad.


Frankly speaking, I feel amused when I hear people discussing on television the prospects of Pundits returning to the valley. How and where will the Pundits return? Their houses have been burnt, their agricultural lands have been alienated. The society in which they lived earlier does not exist anymore because more than twenty years have passed. The circumstances in which the Pundits had to flee were very painful and frightening. Since I happened to live in the heart of Srinagar in the 1990s I am a witness to all those frightful incidents. I used to hear frightening announcements from the neighbouring mosques "Kafiron, zaalimon, yeh Kashmir chhorh do!" Governor Jagmohan had correctly compared Pundits with 'frightened pigeons'. The circumstances are very similar to those in which in 1947 the Hindus of Sindh, Punjab and Dhaka, Chittagong had to take shelter in India. Can we ask our Indian Sindhis, Punjabis and Bengalis to go back to Karachi, Lahore or Dhaka? It is unlikely that any Pundit will ever agree to take the risk of going back and forget the carnage that they had seen in 1990-92.


(The author is former Financial Commissioner of J&K and can be contacted at amitkus@hotmail.com or 09748635185)
(The views of the author are personal)

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

BACK TO THE STREETS

DIFFERENCES CROP UP OVER LOKPAL

 

It is unfortunate that the government and Anna Hazare's Civil Society representatives are already on a collision course, putting serious question marks on the future of the Jan Lokpal Bill. Anna's men have not only suspicions about the government's intentions, but have also called their supporters to get ready to take to the streets again. Indeed, there are major differences over vital issues like bringing the Prime Minister and the judiciary under the purview of the proposed Bill, probing MPs' parliamentary conduct and merging anti-corruption bodies like the CVC, the CBI and departmental vigilance wings into the office of the Lokpal. While the Civil Society representatives insist that not taking these steps will make the Lokpal a powerless watchdog, the government representatives swear by self-regulation.

 

While self-regulation appears to be an excellent idea on paper, the harsh truth is that it has not worked in the past 60 years. The country may have had some excellent Prime Ministers and Chief Justices but still corruption grew by leaps and bounds. The public frustration and anger has grown in step with that. What the common man wants is a foolproof mechanism with the help of which he could break this wall against which he has to bang his head every day.

 

Anna Hazare's movement was only a manifestation of that disillusionment. Whether the Lokpal will be the right tool to curb corruption is secondary. What matters is that the public is sick and tired of the present corrupt system. How to get rid of this menace is what matters the most. But the political class, in cahoots with the business and the bureaucracy, has instead tried to discredit the public protests. Sidelining the Gandhian form of public protests would be dangerous because that would bring into picture the radical elements which swear by violent means of protest. The politicians should treat Anna's men as their friends instead of adversaries, for they represent the voice of the people. It is no point talking of a clean administration and not bringing it about. 

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

KASHMIR GIRL'S SAD SAGA

POLICE ROLE POINTS TO ILLS IN SYSTEM

 

Between a gushing Chenab and police custody, Rahida Banoo chose the Chenab and met her end. She was just 20 and had dreams of becoming a teacher. If the police, supposed to be the protector of citizens' rights in a democracy, carries such a terrifying image, it is a matter of shame and concern for society in general. The incident also exposes the vulnerability of young women at the hands of the law enforcers.

 

Towards May end, when day after day headlines declare exemplary achievements of girls in bold letters in school and college results, it comes as a shock that an educated girl had to lose her life in Doda district in such unfortunate circumstances. Rahida Banoo, was neither a proclaimed offender nor a fugitive. She was an ordinary girl, pursuing the B.Ed course, and had come to hand over her admission form to a friend, Najab Din, in a tea shop. It was then that on a call from someone, four policemen arrived with great alacrity and grilled her and her friend about their relationship. Rahida had to call her father and make him tell the police that she was there, " with his permission". There cannot be a more unfortunate statement on the status of women in our society than this! Yet, the police insisted upon taking Rahida into custody, at which point she chose to jump into the river.

 

This shocking incident, unfortunately, is not one odd case. The police is often caught on the wrong side of the law, especially when it concerns dealing with women. There is no record available on the number of cases pending against policemen caught molesting women. The numbers that go unreported are anyone's guess. Therefore, suspension of one ASI and two constables involved and search for the persons who called the police and putting the blame on them will not prevent such cases in the future. Each one should bear the responsibility, including those who witnessed the incident and did not intervene, for letting things slip to such a morass.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

COLUMN

A SETBACK FOR MUSHARRAF

PAYING FOR HIS ANTI-JUDICIARY ROLE

 

Pakistan's former military ruler Gen Pervez Musharraf has no dearth of friends in the Army who have been doing all they can to help him establish himself as a politician. Yet he is finding it difficult to realise his latest dream because Pakistan's judiciary is full of elements opposed to the retired Army Chief. The judiciary with Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry as the Chief Justice of Pakistan has never been as powerful as it is today. The declaration of General Musharraf as a "proclaimed offender" by a Rawalpindi-based anti-terrorism court should be seen against this backdrop. The judge handling the Benazir Bhutto assassination case termed him a "fugitive" on a request by the Federal Investigation Agency as General Musharraf was allegedly not cooperating with the court in the trial proceedings, but there is more to it than meets the eye.

 

General Musharraf has been living in self-imposed exile in London since 2009 mainly to prevent his opponents from getting him jailed on some pretext. The best case to throw him behind bars is the killing of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in December 2007 after she addressed a party rally at Rawalpindi. The charge against General Musharraf is that he as the then President of Pakistan failed to provide adequate security to Benazir, leading to her death in a suicide bomb attack. His argument that the PPP leader lost her life because of her carelessness in security matters has few takers.

 

General Musharraf knows well that he can win his battle only through politics. That is why he formed his own party — the All-Pakistan Muslim League — some time ago when his former stooges controlling the Pakistan Muslim League (Qaid), once derisively called the King's Party, refused to lend him any help. He has a large number of followers who give him credit for saving Pakistan from getting reduced to another Afghanistan after 9/11 with his tactical u-turn on his Taliban policy. But it is not easy for him to achieve his objective unless he mends his fences with the judiciary. 

 

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THE TRIBUNE

ARTICLE

INDIA SHOULD TALK TO TALIBAN

EMERGING REALITY CALLS FOR A POLICY SHIFT

BY D. SUBA CHANDRAN

 

It is important to revisit India's objectives and strategies to achieve them in Afghanistan in the changing regional security environment after the killing of Osama bin Laden and the Prime Minister's address in Kabul to the Afghan Parliament. What is likely to be the political situation and internal equation within Afghanistan, and how best India could achieve its long-term strategic objectives? If the Taliban is likely to play a major role either as a part of a coalition or directly in the future political dispensation, should India still stick to a moral position?

 

In case India (and the rest of the international community) is unable to prevent the Taliban from taking over Afghanistan in the next few years, should it at least not have a channel of communication open? In short, should India also consider talking to the Taliban?

 

India's strategy — whether or not to talk to the Taliban — should be based on a cold and rational calculation of an emerging situation in Afghanistan, and how best India could safe-guard its interests in that environment. First, there should be an appraisal of what is likely to happen in Afghanistan, in terms of the emerging political situation, after the killing of Osama bin Laden. Osama's departure is likely to shape the public opinion in the West (do not read narrowly as that of the US) in terms of what should be the likely objective and strategy in Afghanistan. President Obama in his speeches has made it clear that his primary objective is disrupt and dismantle the Al-Qaida network. He also made it crystal clear in his last speech that the US was not there in Afghanistan to meet each and every threat faced by the Afghans.

 

Not only has the US taken such a stand. Even the NATO made a similar observation during the Lisbon summit in 2010. The Chief of the NATO has categorically stated that the Afghans will be made the owner of their security. More importantly, the civil society in the US, the UK, Canada, Germany and other countries, which have made substantial investments in Afghanistan, is likely to question their government's continued presence in Afghanistan after the killing of Osama.

 

Besides public pressure, the battle fatigue will result in the international community removing its boots from the Afghan ground. If at all there is any presence, it will be a minimal presence, mainly by the US in and around Bagram air base. This presence is likely to primarily serve their larger strategic objective in the region, rather than protecting any Afghan interest. The rest of the international community's presence in Afghanistan is likely to be limited to the various developmental projects which have been in progress.

 

As a result, the US (along with the rest of the international community), before leaving Afghanistan, will attempt to stitch a loose coalition with everyone including the Taliban. This is where one is likely to see Pakistan's efforts to get some of its stooges within the Taliban on board. The idea of the "Moderate Taliban" or "Good Taliban" is actually a Pakistani strategy, which works well with the American objective of leaving Afghanistan, with a workable arrangement.

 

The Haqqani network in particular is likely to become a part of this coalition sooner than later. In fact, efforts have been already made to get the Haqqani network on board; there have been multiple reports in the Pakistani media on President Karzai meeting the leaders of the Haqqani network in the presence of Gen Ashfaque Kayani. This meeting would not have happened without the approval of the US. In fact, the US has also been attempting to reach out to the Taliban. Though one is not sure, how much they have succeeded and with which sections of the Taliban, in principle, the US is agreeable to a future dispensation in Afghanistan with a Taliban presence?

 

Second, besides what the international community wants and is likely to do, India should seriously take into account what Afghanistan wants. President Karzai, who figures in India's future strategy, has made his intentions clear. He has already entered into a formal dialogue with the Taliban. Besides the above-mentioned secret meeting between General Kayani and the Haqqani network, Mr Karzai has signed two major agreements with Pakistan — the trade and transit agreement and a deal on the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan (TAP) pipeline. Both agreements were to include India; the former got scuttled because of Pakistan's reluctance, and the latter due to India's.

 

Within Afghanistan, Mr Karzai has formed a Peace Jirga to negotiate with the Taliban. The Peace Jirga is an official body, constituted and mandated with full support from the Afghan Parliament, which the Indian Prime Minister addressed in May. While the progress between this Peace Jirga and the Taliban is not known, one is clear that there is a parliamentary approval to negotiate with the Taliban.

 

What appears clear from the above two happenings at the global level and within Afghanistan is a deal with the Taliban (or sections of it) by the international community to safeguard Afghan interests and to ensure a stable polity by reaching out to them.

 

What should be India's strategy in terms of talking to the Taliban? Should it be based on the above environment, or on any rhetoric and self-imposed moral code — come what may, we will not talk to the Taliban?

 

If the international community and the Afghans are willing to work with the Taliban, India shying away will not yield any positive dividends and protect its investments in Afghanistan. The primary problem, even if New Delhi decides to initiate a channel of communication with the Taliban, will be: whom to talk to within the Taliban?

 

The Taliban in Afghanistan is not a monolithic entity; one could observe three different factions within the Taliban. One is led by Mullah Omar and believed to be headquartered in Quetta (hence referred to as the Quetta Shura). The second faction is led by the Haqqanis — once they had their headquarters in Nangarhar province (now it has been uprooted by coalition troops and has shifted its base to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas or the FATA region in Pakistan). While the first is powerful even today in southern Afghanistan, surrounding Kandahar, the second one is strongly based in eastern Afghanistan. While the Quetta Shura, under the leadership of Mullah Omar, is considered independent, the Haqqani network is totally under the control of the ISI.

 

Pakistan is unlikely to allow either of these two factions to interact with India. In fact, the Haqqani network is actively being exploited by the ISI to target Indian investments and presence in Afghanistan, including the attack on the Indian Embassy in Kabul. While India may not be able to break into the Haqqani network, one should understand that the Mullah Omar group is neither under the total control of the ISI nor is absolutely anti-Indian.

 

The third faction of the Taliban is what India could tap into; this includes the former Afghan Mujahideen and warlords, who later joined the Taliban. Of course, these erstwhile mujahideen leaders, who are now a part of the Taliban, have never been democrats and are not known for their respect for human rights. But should this prevent India from interacting with them?

 

As an emerging power, India should have enough leverages, especially when it is not in a situation to influence the environment. This could be done primarily by opening multiple channels, then investing in one person or party, as New Delhi has done so far in Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan. If the international community and the Afghan Parliament are willing to negotiate with the Taliban, should India avoid the real politic and still continue to emphasise on rhetoric? Should it go ahead with such a policy even if it is to affect India's future interests in Afghanistan and result in all its investment going down the drain?

 

The writer is Director, Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies,New Delhi, and Visiting Professor, Jamia Millia Islamia.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

IN GRIEF (OR RELIEF!)

BY SURJIT SINGH

 

The proverbial swan song, "Ghalley ave Nanaka sadde uth jaye", titles most Sikh obituaries placed in the daily newspapers.

 

"With 'profound grief' we inform the untimely (over 80 years) passing away of our beloved . . .!" Most of the grief, however, melts away once the cremation is over. The next 12 hours are spent on animated discussions among the 'nears and dears' on the date of the Antim Ardas and the bhog ceremony. Convenience emerges as the frontrunner to facilitate outstation relatives and friends and to help shorten the span of grieving, to boot. While in days and times gone by it was believed that grieving did not last for more than two years, today the 'grief' turns into relief the moment the bhog ceremony is over.

 

In the good old days the last meal to bid farewell to the departed soul was a simple one comprising daal, sabzi, raita and roti followed by kheer. Today the best caterers are commissioned and the atmosphere is one of opulence and indulgence in which the poorly ignored 'profound grief' is desperately looking for an escape route. With fattened stomachs the 'nears and dears' depart in their chauffeur-driven cars.

 

The dear departed soul has to wait for the next 11 months to be remembered again through kirtan followed by Guru ka langar and by slow degrees is mentioned only in dispatches in the form of an annual memoriam that is likely to last for a decade or so, at best! Thereafter the soul is left to rest in peace.

 

A sampling of obituary ads makes interesting reading. A recent trend is visible in half a dozen obituaries sponsored by immensely grieved corporate, political admirers or sycophants (sic!). The photograph accompanying these is quite often that of a smiling youthful person snapped in his/her days, more so in the case of uniformed services.

 

Memoriam ads are invariably couched in poetic excellence that could hold a candle to Ghalib or Hali on their home turf. Ladders seem to be particularly in demand. Sample this for instance—"If memories could build a ladder/ I would be with you forever", only to return to mother earth at the break of dawn to be on time to file an income tax return for the income/family pension of the deceased in question.

 

In the case of the passing away of a parent of children settled abroad the obituary mentions the kin's name which is followed by the USA, Canada, Australia or England, prominently in parenthesis. These are Honoris Causa degrees conferred on the demise of their dear ones!

 

It won't be long before dying becomes an event management portfolio!

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

STRIVING FOR EXCELLENCE OR JUST SURVIVING?

DO IITS AND IIMS, OUR PREMIER INSTITUTIONS, PROMOTE A CULTURE OF EXCELLENCE? JAIRAM RAMESH'S CONTROVERSIAL COMMENTS ABOUT THE STUDENTS BEING EXCELLENT AND FACULTY BEING LESS THAN 'WORLD CLASS' CREATED QUITE A RUCKUS. A CROSS-SECTION OF STUDENTS AND TEACHERS FROM THESE INSTITUTIONS GIVE THEIR VIEWS ON WHETHER THE RESEARCH AND TEACHING ARE OF INTERNATIONAL STANDARDS. DO WE AS A SOCIETY VALUE EXCELLENCE AND HAVE THE WHEREWITHAL TO ACTIVELY PURSUE IT?

MOHIT SHARMA

 

I wish Jairam Ramesh had not made that statement. It is excusable and ignorable when it comes from fashionably cynical kids on campus. But when a man of his standing and experience makes such an oversimplified and scathing assessment, there is the very real danger of people taking his word at face value, given how he has been a part of the system here at IIT. In one stroke he labels faculty members as incompetent and the students as world-beaters. If only the world was as black and white.

No one would disagree with him on the major premise of the IITs not being world-class research institutions. For an institute with such name and pull our research output in terms of research papers and patents is far too low. How do you decide whom to pin the blame on? Top institutes around the world have two common features: access to funding and autonomy. The world class institutions that the minister refers to, one among which is University of California at Berkeley (a state university), have budgets running into hundreds of millions of dollars. Stanford University, a private university, has a multi-billion dollar budget, in addition to a Goliath-sized corpus. In comparison, our research budgets rarely exceed a few million dollars, and we have, at best, a pittance for a corpus.

 

Research needs money. Research needs a lot of labs and facilities. And most of all, research needs a culture. We are better equipped on all three counts than most other Indian universities, but we need a lot more if we are to compete with the big boys and call ourselves world class.

 

On the question of autonomy, we need to ensure that our institutes have enough of it. Give the IITs and IIMs more control over the donations made to them. Let them choose how many students they want and how they wish to admit them. Stop controlling their merit lists with quotas. Free them from the clutches of the government. But the minister already knows all of this and does not need a college student to lecture him on it I would assume.

 

Let us get to the elephant in the room then. Are our faculty members world class? Dicey question. I had asked a senior the same thing in my first year. His response, "Look, you are going to have good professors and bad professors in universities all over the world." In a way, that sums it up. I could reel off names of professors who have been masters of their respective specialisations and attending whose classes has been an absolute pleasure.

 

The other extreme then - do we have people in our institute doing Nobel Prize-winning work? I took this question to our mess tables and the consensus was a resounding 'no'. Nobel-winning research, one must understand, is a lot about the environment you work in and this is where the importance of a research culture kicks in. The world's top universities, apart from having generously funded and well-equipped laboratories, have highly competitive lab groups with a motley mix of undergraduate, postgraduate and doctoral students. They compete against each other and against researchers from the rest of the world for rewards in the form of more funding, journal papers and patents. The environment is such that everyone around you aspires for those rewards and good ideas are in abundance. This is one area we can work on. But to pin all the blame for a less-than-average research culture on faculty members is unfair.

 

Which brings me to the other part of the Hon'ble Minister's assertion - are our students really world-class? Are we potential somethings waiting to explode, given the right encouragement and facilities, and inhibited only by

less-than-world-class professors and the system? Most students here are brighter than average, true. Sadly though, there is a whole huge bunch of us who are just not enthused by engineering. Quite a few of us were driven to IIT and engineering only for the brand and because it was not fashionable in our cities and towns for high scoring folk to get into liberal arts. The result? A lot many of us put in just about enough effort to scrape through our exams every semester and channelise our energy elsewhere – clearly not ideal raw material for a good culture. Which is not to say that there are not students in the institute who are not passionate about science and research, I know a few of them myself. But then, they are exceptions rather than the norm.

 

The IITs are not really thriving. We barely seem to be surviving, as the minister rightly points out, and it is more on reputation than anything else - a reputation built up by our more illustrious alumni from the last 50 years. In that sense, the students we had at the time (the Hon'ble Minister was a student here) were, in all probability, world class. The sense of this system's future that I get after being a part of it for five years, however, is not a very positive one.

 

I believe the minister would be serving the country better by directing his broadside towards his own

government than his alma mater. He is smart enough to know what needs to be done without any one of us telling him. Simplistic, fatalistic demagoguery is okay when it spews forth from the mouths of his less illustrious peers. But you, Mr. Jairam Ramesh, we believe in you enough to hold you to a higher standard.

 

(The writer is a final-year student of civil engineering in IIT, Bombay)

Facultyspeak

Two senior members of IIT, Bombay, on the condition that their names would be withheld had this to say:

Make it attractive for the best 

The profession of teaching and research is not an attractive profession for most young students due to financial reasons. The top talent is not opting for a career in teaching and research. There are perhaps only 25 per cent of faculty members who do research that can be termed "of international standards". The IITs are far ahead of any university in India in terms of research quantity and quality. The socio-economic conditions must improve in order to create world class universities and institutes. World class institutes did not  become world class  in 50 years. The top universities in the world have a long tradition and attract talent from all over the world.

The Government must provide autonomy to institutions of higher learning. The UGC and AICTE have failed in managing higher education. There is a lot of corruption in these bodies. Every minister in charge of the Ministry of Human Resource Development tries to change something in IITs to get public attention. They will serve the country better by improving schools and colleges which are in a pathetic condition. Once these improve, there will be better people going in for higher education. 

The Chinese invest heavily in higher education and elementary education. They offered 50 per cent of the American salary to the Chinese who were teaching in developed countries. As a result, hundreds of Chinese came back and enriched their universities. There are talented Indians abroad, the MHRD should devise a strategy to encourage good researchers to come back. In developed countries, teaching is a respected profession but in India it is not. One may ask any class in a school and verify this. Hardly any one wants to go in for teaching and research. Creation of world class institutions requires full autonomy, a good pay and a large proportion of people going in for higher education.  Until this happens, we cannot have world class institutes.

No roadmap for higher education in the country

In my opinion, the decision to open new IITs without having an adequate number of skilled scientific/technology manpower in the country was, by itself, a wrong decision. It was only motivated by considerations that were non-professional and had to do more with realpolitik in the then ruling class that took the decision. It is slightly irresponsible on the part of the minister to  make such statements, instead of helping out the IITs that are already facing far too many difficulties due to the government's decision of opening IITs in a thoughtless manner.

The IITs have a better faculty than most state universities but that is hardly any consolation given that they have larger funding and better facilities. The entire thing boils down to one moot question.: It is not this government (to which Jairam Ramesh belongs) or that government, but no government in India has the desire to work out a well thought out roadmap for higher education in the country. The late Rajiv Gandhi made an attempt to start something in that direction but it was all lost later. (As told to Vipul Grover) 

Why not find out the truth? 

Whether  IIM/IIT faculty are world class or to what extent can be verified by looking into their CVs and their contribution to research and publications in the journals of International repute. Therefore my personal suggestion to the Government. is to set up a committee to find out the contributions in terms of research/publications  and accordingly determine whether they are up to the level of world class standards or otherwise. Making opinions either in favour or against will not reveal the real truth about the quality of faculty members.

These are my personal views and are in no way connected with my association with IIM Lucknow.

BK Mohanty (The writer teaches Operations Research in IIM, Lucknow)

 

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

EDITORIAL

THE NEW NORMAL?

THE PERCENTAGE POINT GAP BETWEEN UPA I AND II CAN BE BRIDGED

In its first five years in office, the Manmohan Singh government of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA-I) gave the country an unprecedented run of an average annual growth rate of around 9.0 per cent. In its last year in office, the economy slowed to a GDP growth rate of less than 7.0 per cent owing to the trans-Atlantic financial crisis and the consequent global economic slowdown. After that the Indian economy has not been able to cross the 9.0 per cent threshold. However, the average growth rate in UPA-II's first two years (2009-11) is a little over 8.0 per cent. The latest GDP data show that in fiscal 2010-11 the economy grew at 8.5 per cent (close to the expected 8.6 per cent), but in the last quarter of 2010-11, the quarter-on-quarter growth rate of GDP slipped to 7.8 per cent. This slowdown is expected to extend into the first quarter of 2011-12 (April-June). There are two ways of looking at this news. The optimists would say that even a new normal of around 8.0 per cent GDP growth is good, considering global trends. India would still be among the world's fastest-growing economies. Given the concerns about inflation and supply constraints at home, a slowdown from the heady 9.0 per cent of UPA-I to a more manageable 8.0 per cent of UPA-II may give comfort.

Many arguments can be put forward to justify the new normal, including the recent fashionable view that this would curb carbon emissions. However, the fact remains that India has demonstrated its ability to sustain 9.0 per cent growth and there is no reason why policy makers should not aim to return to that higher growth trajectory. If, despite the policy paralysis of the last year, the economy managed to grow by close to 8.0 per cent per year, with improved economic and political management, a return to the 9.0 per cent growth path is possible. The real challenge is in the industrial sector – manufacturing, infrastructure and construction – where investment is sluggish. In fiscal 2010-11, quarter-on-quarter manufacturing output growth decelerated from 15.2 per cent in January-March 2010 to 5.5 per cent in January-March 2011. There was a similarly sharp deceleration in the mining and quarrying sector — the comparable numbers were 8.9 and 1.7, respectively. In the trade, hotels, transport and communications segment the quarter-on-quarter growth rate numbers were 13.7 per cent and 9.3 per cent. In the face of such a sharp deceleration in these sectors, what held up overall growth was an improved performance in banking and insurance and agriculture. The former saw the growth rate go up from 6.3 per cent to 9.0 per cent in the corresponding quarters and the latter saw a phenomenal jump in growth from the lowly 1.1 per cent in the last quarter of 2009-10 to 7.5 per cent in January-March 2011.

A focused improvement in the policy environment, with improved fiscal management, speedy implementation of new infrastructure projects, especially through public-private partnerships, and improved policy coordination between the Centre and states can once again unleash the animal spirits of enterprise and accelerate growth.

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BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

KILL SUBSTANDARD DRUGS

USE NEW BAR-CODING TECHNOLOGY

 

The Union ministries of commerce and health have set themselves an identical goal of putting in place a system whereby every package of medicine (bottle, blister, vial) can be monitored under a system of tracing and tracking, preferably using two dimensional (2D) bar-coding technology. The commerce ministry wants to safeguard Indian pharmaceutical exports from the bad name they were given when some spurious medicines in Africa, labelled "made in India", were eventually traced to China. It has issued a notification to make this system compulsory by July. The health ministry wants to replicate that for medicines sold within India to strike a decisive blow against the menace of substandard and spurious medicines. While surveys have shown that spurious medicines are rare, being substandard is another matter. Medicines available through the public healthcare system are routinely found to be substandard. If such bar-coding covers government procurement, pinpointing the culprits will become easier, which will open a new chapter in public health care.

 

Predictably, small and medium drug makers are up in arms since many of them do not follow good manufacturing practices and survive on the patronage of state procurement and through heavily discounted sale by chemists. Equally predictably, the Indian Pharmaceutical Alliance, representing large Indian-owned pharma companies, is willing to go along with the new requirement but has sought more time and phased introduction. Most major drug regulators around the world are making such bar-coding mandatory and exporters to regulated markets have to fall in line. Small manufacturers say the bar-coding will impose an unbearable financial burden on them, make the use of automatic packaging mandatory, and remove their current cost advantage. In any case, the exporters have to fall in line. So the real issue is whether what is safe and mandated for the rest of the world also holds good for India. Unfortunately, even regulation sometimes follows two different standards in India, recently reiterated for export of ayurvedic products, whereby the Indian consumer is denied the health safeguards mandated for foreign consumers. While the common linear bar codes – they can become unwieldy on a small pack – cost no more than a paisa or two an item, the 2D ones, incorporating a lot more data in much less space, will cost almost 10 paise. More importantly, the manufacturer will have to install a few PCs, coders/printers, cameras and, preferably, automatic packaging lines. These cost around Rs 20 lakh each, though the small and medium enterprises manufacturers' body claims it is nearly Rs 1 crore. Under the proposed system, a package going out of a factory will have an identifying bar code and unique number that can be read at any point in the supply chain right up to the retail shop. These can then be matched with the batch number and other manufacturing details stored in a central database to find out if the package is genuine or not. Any cell phone will be able to snap up and transmit a picture of the bar code and the number, and the verification will come from the database in seconds. There is a need to break the back of the substandard drug economy and this is a good chance to do that. A cheap half-good medicine is no medicine.

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

THE SUBBARAO YEARS - A DEFENCE

THE CRITICISM OF THE RBI GOVERNOR?S HANDLING OF INFLATION IS FRAUGHT WITH AN OVERSIMPLIFICATION OF THE CURRENT INFLATION DYNAMICS

ABHEEK BARUA

 

As the Pepsi tag line went, "Nothing official about it." However, if the rumour mills are to be believed, these are the last few months of Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Governor D Subbarao's tenure at the helm of the central bank. I am not going to add to the speculation over who is likely to succeed him. Instead, I would like to put in two bits on what the "ideal" successor would be like. First, we need someone who has a feel and regard for the financial markets. Unlike the government's fiscal arm, the central bank has a real-time relationship with the financial markets — be it the bond, equity, foreign exchange or credit market. The markets take every little sound bite from the RBI extremely seriously and trust the central bank to provide stability. This trust needs to be reciprocated.

 

Second, we need someone who can find the right balance between two very different forces that are currently impacting the economy. One, it is imperative for a domestic policy maker to have a first-rate understanding of what is happening in the rest of the world. This is particularly important since we are going through a phase in which there is a deep disconnection between economic policy in the developed and developing world. I would argue that it is much easier to manage the business cycle when trends across the world move in the same direction. On the other hand, when there is a divide, the likelihood of a domestic policy decision boomeranging on our own financial markets is far more acute. The interest rate-exchange rate nexus is an obvious example. In a scenario where all central banks are raising rates, the risk of currency appreciation – and an erosion in competitiveness – on the back of arbitrage-driven capital inflows is low. In a situation where the RBI is raising key policy rates but the Fed and the European Central Bank are desperately pumping in liquidity, the decision to raise rates becomes far more complex.

However, despite the global system's obvious influence, there is something unique about India's current imbalances and problems. Since 2004, for instance, there has been a massive shift in terms of trade in favour of agriculture, which has had an impact on inflation. Schemes like the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) have paid off in term of raising rural incomes. At the same time, they have involved a massive reallocation and skew in resources, which have been manifested in acute shortages in the labour market. Thus, going by the NREGA experience, more large-scale social welfare programmes – like the right to food – are likely to breed imbalances and impact the way things like inflation behave. Therefore, monetary policy, or any macroeconomic policy for that matter, has to factor in this complex interplay of global influences and domestic trends.

This brings me to what I had initially planned to do in this article: assess Dr Subbarao's legacy. It has become a fashion now to take potshots at the governor based on his inflation management record. The argument is that he fell "behind the interest rate curve" and let inflationary pressures take root. The assumption is that if he had indeed raised policy rates a couple of times more or a little earlier, inflation would have come under control. While some of this criticism might appear legitimate considering that inflation is actually very high, it involves a gross oversimplification of the dynamics of the current inflation. More importantly, it shifts focus from what was, in my opinion, Dr Subbarao's principal mandate — to manage the impact of the global financial crisis on India.

Public memory tends to be short and people seem to have forgotten how bad things were in the last few months of 2008. Banks were winding up credit lines at a great speed, short-term interest rates had soared, the trade credit market had dried up and Indian industry was just days away from a shutdown. Yet there seemed to be utter confusion among both policy makers and professional economists about how aggressive the monetary response in India should be. Quite a few of them were still arguing that inflation should get top priority (remember that oil prices had gone through the roof in the first half of 2008) and that the Indian economy was reasonably insulated from the rest of the world. This was dangerous advice that Dr Subbarao rejected, opting instead to go in for massive monetary easing. I think we owe the RBI and the governor a debt of gratitude for the fact that the economy bottomed out at a growth rate of 5.6 per cent in the third quarter of 2008-09 and did not plunge any further.

Dr Subbarao not only managed the crisis well, he also ensured that Indian markets did not fall prey to the post-crisis anti-market dogma. The fact that his regime actually stepped up the process of market development (the currency and interest futures markets, the steps towards making the credit default swap market operational and reinvigorating the corporate bond market) gives us a sense of the lessons that Dr Subbarao took away from the crisis. He clearly – and correctly, if I may add – did not believe that the collapse in global markets did not constitute a compelling case against financial deepening in a relatively underdeveloped market. India stood to gain a lot by creating new financial instruments, and the risk of a local crisis was minimal given that the degree of complexity of instruments was in no way comparable to those in the developed world.

I have a feeling that Dr Subbarao understood at some stage that given the massive structural changes that the economy had gone through (I have referred to the terms of trade shift and the tightness in the domestic labour market earlier) and the asymmetry in global policy that bred things like commodity bubbles, domestic monetary policy alone would fail to stem inflation. If there is a legitimate criticism of the governor, it is the fact that he failed to communicate this to the market early enough. I think this was partly because of his natural reticence. Markets tend to like uber-confident, alpha male central bank governors. Dr Subbarao was certainly not one. In retrospect, that could turn out to be his biggest flaw.

The author is chief economist, HDFC Bank

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BUSINESS STANDARD

DOES RAIL BHAVAN NEED A CABINET MINISTER?

A K BHATTACHARYA

It is reasonable to assume that Rail Bhavan, headquarters of the railway ministry, has not had the privilege of receiving full-scale attention and care of a Cabinet minister for at least the past three months. Mamata Banerjee presented her second Railway Budget as a minister in the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government in the third week of February. Soon after that, she headed for West Bengal to unleash an electoral assault that eventually ended the Left Front's rule in that state.

She did come back to Rail Bhavan in early March to complete the formalities necessary to get Parliament's approval of the Railway Budget, but that was only for a couple of days. Once the Railway Budget received Parliament's assent, she was back in West Bengal for the Assembly election campaign. The Assembly election results were out on May 13 and a week later, Ms Banerjee quit the UPA government, severed her links with Rail Bhavan and took oath as West Bengal's first woman chief minister.

The point is, in these three months, Rail Bhavan hardly felt the absence of its railway minister. You could argue that Ms Banerjee was keeping a close watch on the affairs of the Indian Railways even as she remained physically away from Rail Bhavan, immersed in her election campaign. However, if the Indian Railways could function without the close supervision of its railway minister for over 12 weeks, serious questions are likely to arise on the prevailing structure of ministerial governance and the need for, or relevance of, such ministerial supervision.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh answered these questions in his own inimitable way. He took upon himself the Cabinet-level responsibility for looking after the railway ministry and brought in an additional minister of state for the railways from Ms Banerjee's political party. The message was too obvious for anyone to miss: If the railway ministry could do without the full-scale services of a Cabinet minister for three months, the same arrangement could continue for some more weeks until the prime minister decided to reshuffle his council of ministers.

There was another – and more subtle – message. By not filling the Cabinet-level vacancy in Rail Bhavan, Dr Singh may well have re-ignited the debate over whether the responsibility of looking after the Indian Railways could vest instead with a minister of state. The debate could not have surfaced at a more opportune moment. The prime minister is toying with the idea of a Cabinet reshuffle either in June or just before the forthcoming monsoon session of Parliament. There are a few crucial vacancies in the Cabinet, caused by the departure of two ministers representing the UPA's two partners.

Dr Singh lost A Raja of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), who was the minister of communications, to the 2G spectrum scandal. Since Mr Raja's removal, the prime minister has transferred the communications ministry to Human Resources Development Minister Kapil Sibal as his additional responsibility. In the forthcoming Cabinet reshuffle, Mr Sibal may have to give up one of his two ministries. It is likely that the prime minister may ask him to retain the communications ministry and the human resources development ministry may go to a new minister.

The big change is in the equation between the Congress and the DMK. The Congress is in a far stronger position in the alliance, particularly compared to the DMK after its disastrous performance in the Tamil Nadu Assembly elections. Thus, in the forthcoming Cabinet reshuffle, the prime minister should be in a rare advantageous position of allocating any relatively insignificant ministerial slot to a DMK candidate, in lieu of Mr Raja. In the current situation, the DMK is likely to limit its protestations only to minor statements without rocking the alliance.

This will give Dr Singh the necessary headroom for allotting a nominee of Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress a Cabinet berth other than the railway ministry. Not having a Cabinet minister for the railway ministry will kill many birds with one stone. It will deny Ms Banerjee's party an opportunity to continue exploiting the Indian Railways and announcing populist schemes for political gains.

More importantly, it will give the government an opportunity to dispense with the need for continuing with the annual ritual of presenting a Railway Budget in Parliament. There is no need for the Indian Railways to present its annual accounts and programmes in a separate Budget before the Lok Sabha. The Union Budget can include the key financial numbers and the programmes for the Indian Railways, as it does for the Department of Posts and many other government departments.

The benefits will be numerous. Prospects of the Indian Railways operating on sound commercial principles with greater autonomy will be brighter. The social costs it incurs would then become more transparent and the government would be able to target such schemes to benefit only the economically underprivileged passengers. Most importantly, of course, we will not have to suffer the trauma of a minister reading out in Parliament a seemingly endless list of new trains and services that the Indian Railways hopes to launch!

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BUSINESS STANDARD

THE POWER AND GLORY

MISGIVINGS ABOUT THE SUPREME COURT?S INITIATIVES ARE UNFOUNDED

M J ANTONY

 

After a stormy half year, the Supreme Court has gone into its summer recess. In the past months, people have viewed with dismay its orders on disparate subjects like the 2G scam, ill-gotten money cached in tax havens, distribution of food to the poor and protection of forests. Is it the court's role to wipe tears from every eye or decontaminate the polity?

 

Some constitutional questions arise: What is the source of the court's power to issue such directions; can the authorities carry out the diktats and what if they don't?

These misgivings are not entirely new. The Supreme Court, in of its several judgments in the past three decades, has justified its role in intervening in social and development issues. It is still monitoring the rehabilitation of people ousted by big projects, reforms in police force, working conditions of the subordinate judiciary and protection of natural resources.

The Supreme Court of India is often described as the most powerful one in world constitutions. Our founding fathers might not have planned it that way. But the fundamental rights they drafted have given the court enormous powers. The potential of Article 19 (right to freedom), Article 21 (right to life and liberty) and Article 32 (writ powers) was unleashed only in recent times. The full impact of the expansive interpretation given to these rights since the 1979 judgment in the case, Maneka Gandhi vs Union of India is being felt now.

Recently, the Supreme Court justified its role as a catalyst of change, not a mere umpire in disputes between people with deep pockets (State of Uttarakand vs Balwant Singh). Justifying the public interest litigation (PIL) movement, it traced the development of this revolutionary concept over the past three decades. In its first phase, it dealt with only the right to life of inarticulate people withering away in overcrowded jails and illegal custody. In the second period, it encompassed public grievances against environmental degradation and quality of life. In the third and present stage, the court is dealing with probity and transparency in public life and integrity in governance. The judicial power expanded to fill up the space abandoned by the rulers.

Last week, the court asserted that under Article 142, it may pass such orders "as is necessary for doing complete justice in any case before it." (Yomeshbhai vs State of Gujarat). Its orders are enforceable throughout the country and the government is bound to obey it.

The thornier issue is whether orders like those passed in the case, PUCL vs Union of India (food security), can be implemented. Food Minister Sharad Pawar had politely stated that it is not practical to implement such orders. One recalled US President Andrew Jackson's (1829-37) famous taunt about a Supreme Court order: "Chief Justice John Marshall has made his decision; now let him enforce it." In practice, the three arms of the state avoid a showdown in any mature democracy. Media glare is another new factor that helps the judiciary. The threat of contempt of court and summons to top officials are rarely used.

In several areas, the orders have worked, surprising the cynics. When the Delhi citizens were covered in soot from vehicular pollution two decades ago, a petition was moved demanding clean air (M C Mehta vs Union of India). Though no such right is written in the Constitution, and the carbon capitalists employed every legal and extra-legal ruse to stall the move to introduce CNG, the Delhi government had to implement the change-over to the clean fuel.

The forests are saved, not so much by the laws passed by Parliament and soon stymied, but more by the dynamic action of the Supreme Court in several petitions, like Godavarman Tirumulpad vs Union of India. Two "forest Benches" are making rules and monitoring the enforcement of their orders. The examples can be extended to other fields also, like the right of children, release of bonded labour and protection of women at the workplace. Few have alleged that the court has misused its powers, unlike what one hears about Parliament and the executive.

The government's attitude is not as adversarial as it seems. Much of it is posturing. It is not uncommon to see government counsel pleading, literally, for a court order to solve a prickly social issue so that the authorities can go out and enforce the order. If the government itself does it, it will be embroiled in political conflicts.

After using the court's paw to pull out chestnuts from political fire, there is a bonus waiting for the executive. If the problem is ultimately solved by the court formula, it can hog the credit. The way the Delhi government crowed about CNG and got awards is one instance. Similarly, the central government is now claiming kudos for flinging tainted cabinet ministers behind bars. The government set up a crack team to unearth black money abroad, only at the prodding of the Supreme Court. The spin doctors and points men for the government, in fact, should engage surrogates to move PILs on sensitive social and political issues so that the buck is passed on to the shoulders of the judges.

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BUSINESS STANDARD

IS IIM/IIT FACULTY WORLD-CLASS?

Judged on parameters like research and thought leadership, they may not meet world standards, but discussions on whether the 'tag' is deserved are pointless because it ignores the real issues at hand.

VISTY BANAJI
CEO, Banner Global Consulting

 

For years the IIM faculty has been bled of their best and most experienced members through retirement, attrition or dilution (for staffing newer IIMs)

A question like this doesn't have a simple "yes" or "no" answer but, if one is forced, there is no doubt it has to be answered in the negative — even at the risk of alienating some of my close friends at the IIMs.

Perhaps the debate arises because we have been immunised to the tag "world-class" by copywriters who sprinkle the word as liberally as ajinomoto is in a Chinese takeaway. If we accept the definition of world-class as "being of the highest calibre in the world", we should start with some global ratings of MBA institutes. I picked three well-respected surveys and found that, out of the 10 IIMs that now exist, only one (IIM-A) appears in the Financial Times as well as The Economist ranking of 100 best MBA institutes and only two (IIM-A and IIM-B) appear in Business Week's list of non-US MBA schools — both in the "Not considered for ranking" class.

It might be argued that aggregate ratings like these don't only reflect on the faculty. But that argument can cut both ways. Perhaps even the institutes that make it to the lists owe their entry more to the super-intelligent students they attract, the opportunity these exceptionally smart individuals are provided to interact competitively with each other as well as with industry and a well-oiled system and syllabus designed by educationists and professors, who pioneered and built these institutes, rather than the existing faculty.

Can we try picking more direct tests for judging the faculty quality and, in particular, its contribution to research and management thought-leadership? We were all very thrilled when four Indians appeared in a much publicised list of the World's 10 Top Management Gurus a while ago. Two of them (C K Prahalad and Vijay Govindrajan) even taught at an IIM. Unfortunately, that was more that 30 years ago. Though statistics are not readily to hand, I suspect if we were to trace institute-of-author for seminal books on management, the share garnered by the current faculty at the IIMs may be equally meagre.

This was not always the case. When there were just three IIMs, professors of the stature of Vasant Mote, Pradip Khandwalla and Udai Pareek (I limit myself to mentioning just three because there is a word-limit on this article) could hold their own in any global sweepstake. But that was then. For years the faculty at the IIMs has been bled of their best and most experienced members through retirement, attrition or dilution (for staffing newer IIMs). Given the war for talent in India, the IIMs haven't had the resources to recruit or the time to groom as sparkling a constellation as they have lost. This is not to say there is just no one of international stature available among the faculty today. The true question is: how many such stellar teachers and thinkers do we now have to spread over 10 IIMs? Consequently, how frequently does an average student benefit from their presence?

The foregoing should not be automatically construed as a denigration of the effort or innate quality of the current faculty at the IIMs. There are many reasons the IIM faculty is in its present parlous state and most of them are not of the faculty's doing. In the past few days, I have heard several apologists for the faculty at the IIMs on the televisison, who have put the blame on paucity of resources, lack of autonomy and the government's handling of the institutes. If these analyses direct us to seek solutions, I am all for them, but I find they are often self-contradictorily trotted out by speakers who first deny that any faculty problem exists for the IIMs and then go on to justify how such problems are inevitable under the current ruling dispensation.

Unless we accept the fact that we are not already world-class, we risk remaining complacent in our belief that our emperor institutes are attired in the best of faculty whereas we are actually down to our professorial "inner wear" on a global standard. The bee's nest stirred by Jairam Ramesh has the potential to yield a store of honey if we shoo away the angry drones and focus on removing the impediments to making IIM faculty world-class.

AJAY PANDEY

Faculty member, IIM-A

It would be more appropriate to ask whether the IITs and IIMs have enough people joining academia within India. If not, how can we have world-class faculty?

The debate on remarks made by the Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh on the quality of IITs and IIMs and their research output is, to an extent, pointless.

The minister's comment is neither terribly original nor does it add insight to what has been voiced by his colleagues on either side of the political divide. Most insiders (read faculty) at IITs and IIMs are not insane enough to claim that these institutions are "world-class" in the sense that they are doing cutting-edge research or are unmatched by other institutions in the world.

This kind of comment has been often used to berate institutions and soften them up for whatever the political masters have in mind. Insiders dread these attempts to fix all kinds of problems, including the lack of "world-class" institutions in India. After all, they have already made India "world-class" in every other dimension!

The popular "world-class" perception of students is derived from the fact that global firms hire IIT and IIM students and that some of these students have become successful entrepreneurs or managers within and outside India. The fact that some of them later studied at "world-class" institutions abroad corroborates this hypothesis. There are no such widely reported achievements of the faculty at IITs and IIMs.

The problem with the popular superlative-based classifications (world-class, excellent and so on) and judgments is that they ignore statistical odds, are based on what is reported in the media and fail to raise meaningful questions.

There is a difference between becoming a world-class plumber, electrician or a manager and becoming a world-class physicist, biologist, historian, musician, actor and so on — professions that are much more competitive and in which the odds are low for anyone to be called world-class. In some cases, the term "world-class" has no meaning.

How do you define Jane Goodall, who spent almost her entire lifetime studying chimpanzees? Is she "world-class" and if so, in what? Or, do we expect only those who are interested in general and abstract issues to be world-class like Einstein, Ramanujan or Darwin?

The second problem with this type of classification is that it confuses "unit of analysis". What is "world-class"? The faculty or the institution? Is there any empirical (not logical) connection between the two? In reality, world-class academic institutions, or for that matter, football clubs, compete with each other to get the best academics and soccer players, respectively. If they succeed, they also end up attracting world-class academicians and players.

It would be possibly more appropriate to ask whether the IITs and IIMs have enough people joining academia within India. If that is not happening, how can we have world-class faculty in India? Another relevant question would be whether Indian institutions can attract or retain such world-class academics and if not, then what needs to be done. The IITs and IIMs will not become better by competing with each other or by the entry of private institutions without competing for the key resources, that is, potential world-class faculty members. If the basic ingredients are missing, are we going to build large-scale systems or institutions by relying on individual brilliance or do we want a competitive space in which excellence is sought by a large number of aspirants?

One intervention in the direction of making these institutions "world-class" in the recent past has been to open more of them without bothering about infrastructure or faculty. Ramesh is right about IITs/IIMs, but he is even more correct about some of the new IITs/IIMs because they neither have faculty nor a track-record to speak of. Another interesting intervention to make them "world-class" has been to expect the established IIMs to be self-sufficient by generating enough revenue through programme fees, consulting and training income. These revenues should not only support institute expenses but also PhD programme students and their own research. Nonetheless, the faculty is expected to not only do more research but be accountable for the quantity and quality of research!

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BUSINESS LINE

OPINION

SLOWING GROWTH

Moderation in industrial growth could check inflation and input costs but if food prices do not drop, the effect on growth could become worrisome.

Slowly but steadily the straws in the wind foretell a slowing down of the growth impulse, something that policymakers had hoped this last twelve months, wouldn't happen. Ever so often officials from New Delhi's North Block and other policy units would predict more than 8 per cent growth all through the early weeks of the new financial year. This was surprising since the evidence of the third quarter suggested, and the fourth quarter confirmed, that capital goods and investments were not as gung ho as would be expected of a cresting economic revival. Then the Reserve Bank of India, in its April monetary policy, confirmed the slowing down of key economic indicators and suggested a moderation in business confidence about growth. Now the evidence on the ground confirms the drop in optimism among producers.

Anecdotal evidence from select corporate performance only tended to reinforce this perception as in the automobile major Mahindra and Mahindra reporting a less than expected rise in profits forcing, in the process, its share price downward. The reason for the less-than-anticipated results despite a healthy jump in revenues: high input costs of steel, rubber and other commodities that spiked more than 30 per cent. The results conform to a general trend of declining profitability noticed by rating agency Crisil in its report on corporate earnings for the January-March quarter. Barring upstream oil companies and integrated metal producers that are accessing natural resources much in demand across the globe, the final consumption-driven firms in the steel, cement, automobiles and real estate sectors, significantly just the driving force of growth, would, Crisil said, witness pressures on margins. This is so despite the growth in revenues. Policymakers wishing to keep to a surface view of things may find in this growth in revenues evidence of expansion but the fact that margins are under pressure will force many firms to mull the immediate future more sombrely. A report in this paper notes that FMCG players will cut back on adspends on account of input costs, and that is just the beginning. Soon, firms will cut back on plans for additional or fresh capacity and that may affect an already depressed capital goods sector and, more ominously, affect the investment climate — a foretaste of which the RBI has already warned about. As if that were not enough, with cultivation costs on the rise, the minimum support price of most kharif crops have risen some 15 per cent, and that will further fuel inflation.

Moderation in industrial growth and effective demand could help tamp inflation and input costs but if food prices do not drop, the overall effect on growth could become more than just worrisome

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BUSINESS LINE

OPINION

SOLAR POWER PROSPECTS BRIGHTEN

V. RISHI KUMAR

Research into new materials and structures is under way. Innovative technologies are being tried out. But it has to result in large-scale manufacturing applications. DR. MADHUSUDAN V ATRE, PRESIDENT AND M.D., APPLIED MATERIALS, INDIA

The Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (NSM) and its guidelines have created significant excitement in the industry with the announcement of new projects, setting up of assembly units and States vying with one another to offer incentives. With critical mass coming in, several large players are looking at backward integration, possibly manufacture of wafers.

Dr. Madhusudan V Atre, President and Managing Director, Applied Materials, India that is among the top suppliers of equipment and technology for solar industry and semiconductor segments, provides insights into the way forward.

Applied Materials and IIT-Bombay have joined to set up National Centre for PV Research and Education and a Clean Lab to work on new materials. Dr. Atre, who has been appointed a member of the advisory committee to drive the sector's growth, touches upon prospects and challenges in an interview to Business Line. Excerpts from the interview:

What is happening in the solar industry? How do you perceive some of the changes and challenges?

A lot of developments have taken place since the Solar Mission. Various projects have been finalised. On the photo-voltaic side, projects ranging from 1MW to 5MW and on the solar thermo lighting, 50 MW to 70 MW have been finalised.

Many projects approved under the NSM have achieved financial closure and completed land acquisitions.

Apparently things are moving. From the Government's perspective, it must be reasonably satisfying.

Apart from solar cell manufacturing and utilities, backward integration into wafering and polysilicon is also under way. All this will lead to the creation of a very vibrant solar ecosystem in India.

There have been developments at the Central and State Governments. Gujarat continues to drive a lot of solar-related projects.

What about the semiconductor business?

The Government wants to pitch in $5 billion on setting up infrastructure. The modifications in the Semiconductor policy in 2007 will be reviewed. Many changes are proposed in the policy. It is good the Government is thinking seriously about fabs.

That would be good from a manufacturing perspective but depends upon the local market. Areas of healthcare, automotive, and industries will need them.

These are big guzzlers of semiconductor chips. The changes recommended in the policy can probably make it a little more practical with the perspective of helping set up a fab.

Many companies are getting into an implementation mode. Some of them are raising finances and setting up units, such as Lanco and Moser Baer. What stage are they in capabilities?

Many have attained financial closure and acquired land, approved either by the State or Central Government and started their projects. The manufacturing technology is not a widely prevalent expertise. They have to depend on established technology and Applied Materials is one of the players.

Besides just the cell and module manufacturing which is usually thought of in the solar arena, some want to go a few steps aheadin terms of either manufacturing polysilicon itself or taking polysilicon blocks and making wafers out of them. Till now wafers needed for the crystalline silicon solar cell manufacturing are imported. Some are considering why not bring the silicon and do wafering.

Why should we bring the silicon and do the wafering , why not manufacture the polysilicon here is another line of thinking.

If you look at the chain which essentially comprises silicon, wafers, cells and various utilities, there are players who are now looking across the chain, and not just at a cell or a module. That is important.Through vertical integration, you can bring down costs. If you import a wafer, you are not only paying the guy from whom you are buying the wafer for his manufacturing cost but you are also paying for imports, logistics and transport. Internally, there is an inherent nailing down of costs.

This will be a domain only for serious players with deep financial resources. Backward integration brings about a cost and investment escalation. In the long run, serious and non serious players will get segregated.

Two years ago we were talking of Rs 19 crore for 1MW of installation; now they are saying Rs 15 crore and some of them a little lower than that. What is your assessment of ground reality?

They are talking of Rs 15 crore per MW, the figure has been arrived at after extensive study and with industry inputs. The cost will go down as a function of time, technology escalation, efficiency escalation. That is why now the tariff stands at Rs 12 per kilo-watt. That will decrease year on year as the technology goes up and cost goes down.

Do you see some new technology challenging usage of solar devices? What is your assessment from a research perspective?

Huge amount of research on technologies and devices is under way into new materials and structures.

Some are doing the corrugation of a solar cell on a certain dimension to capture more sunlight, so as to increase the efficiency. Innovative technologies are being tried. But it has to result in large-scale manufacturing applications. R&D to manufacturing process is a significant step.

For instance, flexible solar cell is something that can be used to wrap around objects. This will increase the mobility of solar units. Many new technologies and applications can come up. At the end of the day, it depends on how much of it can be scaled up in terms of size, manufacturing and scaling down of the cost.

We are talking about large installations, what about small units?

Power plant utilities are as important as standalone distributed solar applications. The policy lays a lot of effort on rooftop, lighting applications and other commercial applications.

The higher the utility, the cost and investment is that much more. There is a lot of focus on this by distributors and small scale plants.

The Solar Mission had taken out a directive that out of the 1 Gigawatt generated 100MW has to be diverted towards roof-top applications.

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BUSINESS LINE

OPINION

CORRUPTION STEMS FROM SLOTH

R. POORNALINGAM

A system where top managements are held accountable for inaction and callousness is a better option than enacting more laws.

Corruption is a great evil holding back the progress of India and the Indian media is rightly engaged in a debate on eradicating it. But will another law like the Lok Pal Act really help?

Based on my 40 years in public administration, I believe that the root cause of corruption is our lack of governance, or poor governance. The definition of "good governance" might be debatable, but its outcome should enable citizens to get their legitimate services without delay or harassment.

But today citizens are pushed to bribing officials even for basic rights such as getting a ration card, a driving licence, or filing an FIR. While incidents of major political corruption attract media attention, what irritates the common man is the day-to-day corruption he faces in interaction with the bureaucracy.

Little attention is paid to this, probably because everyone has learnt to live with it. Elimination of this type of corruption is vital for enhancing the quality of life and is the first step towards a corruption-free administration, made possible only through good governance.

To illustrate the point on good governance and the ineffectiveness of well-intentioned laws, let me narrate my recent experience with the Union Ministry of Law and Justice.

An Indian friend living in the US, has a pending issue — service of summons in a civil dispute, which is routed through the Ministry. Finding it extremely difficult to get any response, he approached me for help. I believed this simple issue could be easily resolved, little realising the time and ordeal I would be put through.

Ministry contacted

Introducing myself as a retired Secretary to the Government of India, I requested the officer concerned in the Ministry to expedite the service of the summons, pending there from November 2010.

He explained that summons were never held up in the Ministry, but were immediately sent to the concerned District Courts. When that court was approached, the officials denied having received the relevant papers. I once again approached the officer in the Ministry, and he asked for a fax, which was sent immediately. Since there was no response, I tried to contact him again. This time, he refused to even take my call! I then sought the help of the Public Grievances Officer of the Ministry. Unfortunately, the person I contacted was no longer in that position.

RTI route

Reaching a dead end at the Ministry I thought of trying my hand at the Right to Information Act (RTI), and made an RTI application asking when the summons was received by the Ministry, when it was forwarded to the District Court, the reference number and what time the Ministry would take to forward the summons, and when my friend in the US would get any information on the matter.

This time, to my great surprise and delight, I got a reply, even though inadequate. It said: "The documents for service of summons… is under process and after the receipt of the report of Distt.Court, a report on the same will be sent to USA authority."Even without this reply, we all know that the Government is continually "processing our cases".

Refused again

So I filed an appeal pointing out that under Sec. 7(9) of the RTI Act, the information shall be provided in the form it is sought. The Ministry was swift in rejecting my appeal without any reference to Sec 7(9). I now have no choice, but to appeal against this order to the Chief Information Commissioner.

I cannot think of any logical reason for this refusal. The Ministry gains nothing by refusing to divulge this information, yet it is willing to waste considerable time and money on hearings, appeals and orders!

Only under such circumstances can corruption breed. Instead of wasting four months to get this information, a citizen might be tempted to use an intermediary and acquire it — for a price. This is what goes on in almost every Government department; inordinate delays lead to corruption. The RTI Act was launched with great fanfare amidst claims of bringing about greater transparency in the working of the Government by empowering the citizen. But as my experience shows — and surely it is not exceptional — the implementation of the Act has failed even at the highest level in Government, the Ministry of Law and Justice.

More attractive option

It is easy to imagine the far greater trouble in getting information from lower levels in the bureaucracy. The shortcut of paying somebody becomes a more attractive option that many are driven to adopt. The first step to improve governance is to make Government employees realise their main duty is to serve the public. Members of the bureaucracy believe and act as if they are public "masters" because of lack of any kind of accountability.

Better governance, with an aim to create a responsive and responsible administration, as is the case in many developed countries, is the only way to effectively fight corruption.

Once this is achieved, the issue of corruption will be effectively tackled. Otherwise, attempts to bring it under control are like trying to eradicate mosquitoes with insecticides without bothering to control their breeding ground. Without good governance, even if more stringent laws are enacted, ways to circumvent them will easily be found.

Our public debate should, therefore, focus on making our system more responsive and responsible. This can be achieved only by making top management more accountable.

Once this is achieved, administrators will be bound to resist corrupt practices of their political bosses.

Political leaders too would then lead from the front and citizens would demand good governance, rather than freebies.

(The author is a former Secretary to the Government of India.)

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BUSINESS LINE

OPINION

BRICS KNOCK AT IMF'S DOOR

RANABIR RAY CHOUDHURY

BRICS are aiming for the Deputy Managing Director's post, which has always gone to an American. Once this is achieved, the prize positions will fall in no time

On May 28, the visiting French Defence Minister, Mr Gerard Longuet, told reporters in New Delhi (as only a Frenchman can do), "there is a sign of the importance of India for France", adding that his colleague, the French Finance Minister, Ms Christine Lagarde, would "begin her campaign for the IMF (managing directorship) in India".

Expectedly, Mr Longuet was unable to put a firm date to the projected Lagarde visit. The French envoy to India, Mr Jerome Bonnafont, however, added the detail that New Delhi would be among the "first stops on a global tour, but would not necessarily be the start". Incidentally, Ms Lagarde is beginning her tour – aimed at gathering support for her candidacy of the IMF managing directorship – from Brazil, which is a BRICS country, and thereby hangs a tale.

PAST AND PRESENT

The long and the short of it is that the world has changed beyond recognition since the 1944 Bretton Woods conference at New Hampshire. So, what precisely is so sacrosanct about the top positions of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, the two most important Bretton Woods institutions, that they must continue to be controlled even today by the Americans and the Europeans, respectively?

Clearly, there is no doubt at all that this is one more anachronism which is bound to die a natural death, as has been the case with most other similar shibboleths going back to the early post-Second World War years.

The question is, when?

The developing countries have raised questions about the IMF's managing director being a European and the World Bank's president being an American, which indicates that the churning has begun in right earnest.

The formal aspect of the churning was provided by the May 24 media release by the BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) which stated, among other things, that the informal grouping was acting concertedly on the matter of "the selection of the next managing director of the IMF".

And, secondly, that the process for the selection of the IMF chief "and other senior positions in the Bretton Woods institutions" (meaning the World Bank's presidency) must be "a truly transparent, merit-based and competitive process".

The statement added, "if the Fund is to have credibility and legitimacy, its Managing Director should be selected after broad consultation with the membership. It should result in the most competent person being appointed as Managing Director, regardless of his or her nationality."

What are the chances of the BRICS move succeeding? Frankly, none at all because such an important change in the selection process of the IMF and World Bank chiefs – which would in reality represent a huge concession on the part of the "developed" world – requires the agreement of all the major players which, briefly, is not yet in place.

AIMING FOR NO 2 SLOT

In fact, as the Russian President, Mr Dmitri Medvedev, who attended the recent G-8 summit at Deauville in France, has said clearly, the West is almost agreed on the choice of Strauss-Kahn's successor - Ms Lagarde.

But, importantly, he also added that Moscow had tabled a proposal at the summit for the first Deputy Managing Director's post to go to the BRICS countries; the present incumbent, the American, Mr John Lipsky, leaving the position at the end of August.

Clearly, since conventionally the IMF's No. 2 position has always gone to an American, the first target should be this position. Once this is achieved, the prize positions will fall in no time. The reform cannot be stopped; but progress has to be made step by step.

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BUSINESS LINE

OPINION

NEW TRENDS IN FINANCIAL INCLUSION

SUMITA KALE

 

The Inter Bank Mobile Payment Service can revolutionise the way payments are made. With corporates coming in as business correspondents, banks, telecom players and companies can work out a viable model for financial inclusion.

Universal financial inclusion, talked of for decades by policymakers, finally may be coming to fruition. All the requisite pieces have been coming together, some rather rapidly in the past few years, and some of the most dramatic changes to sweep the economy have happened in the payment and settlement system.

For years, India has been seen as lagging behind, with Kenya pointed to as the poster boy of mobile money and financial inclusion, even though India had all the components of a conducive environment — large unbanked population, stable banking system, growing tele-density with a competitive mobile landscape, and significant technological capabilities.

The several regulatory roadblocks here have recently been eased at a sizzling pace — the push on business correspondents, the first step away from the branch model of expansion, has increased with progressive relaxation in guidelines, and last September corporates were allowed to act as BCs for banks, a big breakthrough in providing a comprehensive eco-system for financial inclusion.

MOBILE SERVICES' POTENTIAL

While large multi-player telecom and banking sectors augur well for competition, the flip side is the need for inter-operability to allow payments and settlements seamlessly across service providers. This link is in place now with the Inter Bank Mobile Payment Service (IMPS), provided by the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI), a service that is set to revolutionise the way payments are made across the country.

The speed with which the service has picked up is remarkable — from a pilot project involving four banks last August, to 20 banks and 10 million members now. Since May, merchant payments have been allowed. While this opens possibilities of mobile payments for grocery and vegetables, to begin with, customers will limit these payments to known vendors, such as utility bills.

One of the critical elements in expanding this service is the need to keep the IMPS interchange fees low so that there are no disincentives for low-value transfers — an environment conducive to low-value transactions is the one that will move faster across the population.

For customers, individual banks are allowed to set their own charges and currently, there are no fees as the market is nascent; despite fast growth, there are just 10 million registrations out of the 350 million bank account holders.

More significantly, this service is open only to those who have bank accounts. So for optimal outreach, banks need to roll out into the unbanked segments across the country and take full advantage of the relaxed BC requirements.

Here the UID is expected to play a crucial role for segments like migrants who have stayed out of the system so far.

Banks also have to raise awareness amongst their own customer base. Axis Bank and ICICI Bank lead with the number of registered customers for IMPS, but all banks need to get into the fast track mode to allow maximum use across sectors and people. The service needs to be marketed aggressively, with tie-ups with other trusted service providers, like LIC, that can help raise the comfort and trust levels for users.

NON-BANK MODEL

It has to said that there is no lack of demand for financial services in India. Banks have typically refrained from innovating for the bottom of the pyramid, deterred by the low values here. On the other hand, mobile operators are in sync with transaction-based business models for low value transactions that are the need for those out of the formal financial system.

There is, therefore, a perfect synergy here to be exploited and with the RBI pushing for financial inclusion now, it is for the telecom operators, banks and merchants/companies to work out a sustainable business model.

Meanwhile, the world over, such countries as the Philippines and Indonesia are allowing non-banks into the fray, experimenting with new models for financial inclusion.

Unlike a bank-based model, where customers have a direct contractual relationship with a bank (even though a customer may deal only with BCs), in a non-bank-based model, there is no direct contractual relationship with a bank, and the customer exchanges cash for electronic value recorded in a virtual account on the non-bank's server. Yet, in both cases, banks and non-banks have roles to play.

Regulations for non-bank e-money issuers vary across countries and generally include provisions for 'fund safeguarding' (maintaining unencumbered liquid assets equal to the amount of issued electronic value), 'fund isolation' (insulating funds underlying issued e-money from institutional risks of claims by issuer creditors), minimum initial capital requirements, etc.

While so far the RBI has focused on a bank-led approach, it has also maintained that a regulated non-bank model can kick in, if banks fail to deliver on the financial inclusion front. This could well happen some day; after all, despite all the resistance, for-profit companies have been let into what is today the most happening space in finance and banking.

(The author is with Indicus Analytics, New Delhi. blfeedback@thehindu.co.in)

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

SUBDUED, BY POLICY

STEP UP POLICY MOMENTUM AND REALLOCATE FUNDS TO INVESTMENT, TO BOOST GROWTH

 

While the revised estimates of GDP growth for 2010-11 at 8.5% shaves just 0.1% off the advance estimate, India's economy expanded just 7.8% in January- March 2011 in real terms, the slowest rate in five quarters. Indeed, combating inflation through monetary and fiscal tightening called for a slowdown. Growth in gross fixed capital formation decelerated to 0.4% in the fourth quarter, thanks to tight money and a general crippling of investor confidence. Fixed capital formation has been slowing since the second quarter of 2010-11, after recording a 17.4% rise in the first quarter. It rose by 11.9% and 7.8% in the second and third quarters, respectively. Yet, the growth momentum has far from collapsed. Private consumption expenditure continues to be strong. It rose 8% in the fourth quarter, from a year ago, after growing about 8.9% in the first and second quarters and about 8.6% in the third quarter. Other positives for the economy were the strong growth of external trade. Export growth continued to be robust at 25% in Q4, after rising 24.8% in the previous quarter. Imports too rose 10.3%, after a sharp slowing in the third quarter when it grew only 0.4%.


If investment stays subdued, the momentum in the domestic consumption cannot sustain (car dealers are already reporting slowing of sales and the inventory pile up at the dealers). Such trends may become visible in other sectors such as consumer durables if the RBI continues to lift interest rates in the next few months. The external environment too is somewhat tenuous, given rampant inflation. The government can offer two constructive responses to slowing growth. One, it can restore confidence in its ability to govern, breaking out of the virtual paralysis it has lapsed into. Two, it can change the composition of government expenditure, cutting back on subsidy and stepping up investment instead. Most oil and farm subsidies are pure waste. Invest, instead, in building new courtrooms to house thousands of new judges, a new capital for Andhra Pradesh sans Telangana or new rural roads. Since inflation remains a threat, the response cannot be to relax monetary or fiscal discipline.

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

TIME FOR TELANGANA

A SEPARATE STATE WILL BE GOOD FOR THE REGION, THE ECONOMY AND THE CONGRESS

 

It is time for the Congress to take the plunge and carve the state of Telangana out of Andhra Pradesh. There are many reasons to do so, not least the fact that historically, state boundaries get drawn and redrawn many times. When it became a republic, India was composed of 14 states. Now, at 28, it has double the number. Many states like Andhra Pradesh itself, were carved out of bigger entities after linguistic or ethnic movements. The three newest states, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Uttarakhand, were created as recently as 2000. State boundaries are not carved in stone, but need to adjust to local needs and politics. The argument for Telangana is simple: the region's people want out and a new state of their own. Statehood might give the backward region a chance to run things better. Indeed, there is evidence to show that smaller states carved out of bigger ones tend to do better than their parent states: in 2008-09, the average person in Jharkhand was 50% better off than the average Bihari, the average Chhattisgarh resident was 54% better off than someone in Madhya Pradesh and income per head in Uttarakhand was 95% more than that in Uttar Pradesh. Why should we doubt that Telangana, home to much forest and mineral wealth, could take off on a similar trajectory after becoming a state?


Most of the reasons for the Congress' chicken-hearted dither over Telangana do not exist any more. Its powerful chief minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy, an opponent of the idea of Telangana, is no more. Son Jaganmohan is a rebel who has just beaten the Congress in recent bypolls. The main opposition party, the TDP, oscillates opportunistically between pro- and anti-Telangana postures. The current administration headed by Kiran Reddy has no platform. Creating Telangana will win the Congress many hearts and votes in the region, and stem the losses in Rayalaseema and coastal Andhra. It will also create the opportunity to create a new capital, with all the new spending and infrastructure that's required, away from Hyderabad. There is precious little to lose — and much to gain, from creating Telangana state. Get on with it.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

BEGINNING IN JUNE

THIS IS THE MONTH WHEN CHANGE IS IN THE AIR, APART FROM THE MONSOON


Kalidas would have written M e g h d o o t (The Cloud-Messenger) at this time of the year. For hundreds of years before and after the poet wrote M e g h d o o t, the advent of the monsoon has symbolised a moment of rejuvenation and a time for beginning afresh as the heat and dust of summer are washed away by the rains. If India lives in her villages, it is the monsoon which provides the climactic moment of the year by reviving the rural economy. And this year, the Indian Meteorological Department has predicted a normal monsoon to the extent of 98%. Which is the percentage students long for in their school final exams whose results are announced at this time of the year. June is when plans are finalised for the coming academic session and when forms are filled for admission into colleges throughout India. If January 1 is when people wish each other a Happy New Year, June is when these wishes could actually be fulfilled.


However, June is not just about careers at a micro-level or the kind of macro-analysis India's meteorological department and Planning Commission indulge in. It is also, as Kalidas reminds us in his epic poem, a moment of poetic inspiration. The protagonist in M e g h d o o tasks the cloud to convey a message to the loved one from whom he is separated. Kalidas was not the first poet or the last person to be inspired by the monsoon cloud. The latest monsoon could trigger off a burst of creativity among a new generation of children looking out of their classroom windows at dark clouds dissolving into rain to the spectacular sound-and-light effects of thunder and lightening. "Those things are better which are perfected by nature than those which are finished by art," the philosopher Cicero observed in ancient Rome.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

GUEST COLUMN

COMMODITY SELLOFF TO GAIN TRACTION

THAT IS IN THE SHORT TERM; THE MEDIUM TERM OUTLOOK FOR COMMODITIES REMAINS QUITE BULLISH

 

Commodities prices have returned to global prominence with a vengeance. The run-up in prices which saw oil trading at a two-and-a-half year high of $125 a barrel coincided with launch of a multibillion dollar IPO by Glencore — world's largest commodities trader. It is apprehended that sale of Glencore may herald beginning of the end of the commodities super-cycle, much as the flotation of Goldman Sachs, the investment bank, in the late 1990s and private equity house Blackstone in 2007 marked the collapse of the equity bull markets.
In fact, Glencore's sprint towards its IPO coincided with wild price gyrations across most commodities markets. Oil saw a record drop of $10 in a single day, and other raw materials also weakened substantially.
The recent fall in commodities prices in first three weeks of May (rebounded somewhat since) has been far from uniform. A 7.4% drop in S&P GSCI (Goldman Sachs Commodity Index) in May masks a wide divergence in underlying prices, with silver down 25% but corn up 0.1%.


Before 2006, correlation between different commodities in S&P GSCI was rarely above 20%. As commodity prices began their long bull run, driven higher by Chinese growth and loose global monetary policy, the 12-month moving average correlation doubled to more than 40% for most of 2009 and early 2010.
During the recent sell-off — triggered by fears that tighter monetary policy in China, the Eurozone and possibly US will slow global growth — this correlation has fallen to 30%, reflecting differential supply and demand dynamics for individual commodities. Corn and wheat prices, while off their April highs, have stayed high reflecting concerns about global supply. Ratio of corn stocks to demand could fall below 15% this year — lowest for four years.


We are still in a secular bull market for physical commodities. Agricultural commodities tend to peak a bit later than metals; so grains, for example, probably have another leg up in the short term.


By contrast, oil prices are vulnerable to weaker developed country economies. Opec crude oil output is expected to rise in May as extra oil from Saudi Arabia, Nigeria and Iraq counters a further decline in Libyan supply.
MasterCard Spending Pulse report has reported that gasoline demand is down by 131,000 barrel per day or 1.4% to 9.176 million barrels per day. American Petroleum Institute reported gas inventories rose by 2.44 million barrels, a sign that worries about gasoline supply may be overstated.


Meanwhile, base metal markets look particularly weak: stock-to-demand ratios for zinc and aluminum are already above their long-term averages, while copper and nickel inventory balances are improving. This matters because correlation between commodities and equities continues to be ironclad. Mini-bubbles in asset prices — visible in the recent Linked In IPO, as also in silver — implies investors are finding it harder to make money. Chart the FTSE-All World stock index against the Dow Jones-UBS industrial metals index and it is hard to differentiate.


Over history, periods of strong upswings in commodity prices have coexisted with flat performances for shares. So a top-down view of the world where commodity prices are deemed to be leading indicators of global economic growth still predominates.


Not only is China's economy facing a significant slowdown, there are fears that drought could cause electricity shortages hurting industrial production and adding to inflation.

Since Fed began buying bonds — its aim being to jumpstart US recovery — the dollar has become an attractive way to fund 'Carry trades' or 'Riskon/Risk-off trades"— sell dollar, buy emerging markets, buy commodities and commodity-linked currencies.


    The conclusion of QE2 could trigger a wave of short covering as investors buy back the dollars they sold. Data from CME (Chicago Mercantile Exchange) shows hedge funds and pension funds have already reduced value of bets against the dollar (lowest since January) by $8 billion to $25.5 billion in the week to May 17.
The impasse over the US debt ceiling may, counter-intuitively, have provided the dollar with support, as rising risk aversion has boosted haven demand for the greenback. The Dollar index, which tracks its progress against a basket of six leading currencies, has rallied nearly 5% since hitting a 33-month low of 72.696 on May 4 and currently stands at 76.077. The minutes of Fed's last policy meeting provided trigger for the rebound.
Fed's latest communications show that currency market is mistaken in assuming the Fed to be super-loose indefinitely. Movement in commodities is not just a play on the demandsupply mismatch. When dollar goes down, CRB (Commodity Research Bureau) Index goes up. Dollar goes up, CRB Index goes down, month by month, week by week, hour by hour, minute by minute (see chart).


To be bullish on commodities, you have to be bearish on US dollar. To be bearish on the dollar, you have to be bullish on the euro. With Greece heading dangerously towards default, it is difficult to be bullish on the euro.
Another leg of correction to this manic phase of metal and metal derivatives buying is likely to resume shortly. Investors will have a few months to better parse out real end use demand from inventory builds.
Fed Business Surveys suggest large drop in manufacturing ISM. Slowing global GDP growth indicates oil prices could drop 15-30 % over next few months.


Food prices may cool down further in August when northern hemisphere harvests come in. However, there are commodities (unromantic things as fluorspar, but not, silver) where there are real supply problems.
In US, an election is to be contested, in Europe a union to make closer, in Japan a reconstruction budget to be parceled. In China (most significant economy for commodities), only thing more frightening than commodities inflation will be its accelerating deflation. Count on that deflation being cut short after October 2011.

 

SUNIL KEWALRAMANI CEO, GLOBAL MONEY INVESTOR

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

DOCUMENT

ECONOMISTS WRITE TO SONIA GANDHI


May 31, 2011 Dear Smt Gandhi,
We, a group of academic economists, are writing to you about the proposed National Food Security (NFS) Act legislation that is of profound importance to India's economy.
We believe that it is appropriate that India pursues the goal of genuine food security for all through a law that guarantees a minimum transfer to every adult except a small subset of the most affluent who are easy to identify (only income-tax payers, government employees and owners of motor vehicles and landed property worth more than . 10 lakh should be excluded.) Experience has shown that any less inclusionary programme inevitably leaves out large numbers of poor people and thus defeats the goal of food security. Moreover, the inclusion of the "middle classes" creates a body of relatively empowered citizens who will protest whenever the benefits stop coming.


However, expanding coverage to a majority of the population through the PDS is problematic. More than two decades of research is remarkably consistent in showing large illegal diversions of subsidised grains to the open market. In addition, numerous case studies have shown that even when the poor possessed the ration cards, they face problems with respect to the low quality of grain, unpredictable availability, and irregular hours of operation of the PDS shops. Many poor households do not use the PDS even when they have the necessary entitlement.


It is vital, therefore, to not only consider comprehensive reform of PDS but also to actively and urgently explore alternative models of subsidy delivery. For instance, it is very likely that in the very near future, technology and infrastructure may allow us to deliver subsidies seamlessly through direct transfers whether in terms of food stamps or cash.


We wish to stress that while the theoretical case for direct monetary transfers (indexed to food prices) is quite strong, we are not advocating an immediate switchover to such a system. We believe that experimentation with alternatives will provide us the evidence to expand whichever system is shown to work the best.
Accordingly, we urge you to draft the National Food Security Act in a way that would (1) provide an entitlement to a fixed basket of food or its monetary equivalent to all but the richest individuals, and (2) permit alternatives to the public distribution system for delivering this entitlement. The method of delivering the subsidy should be left open to change as the available technology and the associated infrastructure change. Sincerely,


Dilip Abreu, Princeton University; Farzana Afridi, Indian Statistical Institute, Delhi; Pulapre Balakrishnan, Centre for Development Studies, Thiruvananthapuram; Abhijit Banerjee, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Sangeeta Bansal, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi; Pranab Bardhan, University of California, Berkeley; V Bhaskar, University College, London; Sukanta Bhattacharya, University of Calcutta; Archishman Chakraborty, York University; Satya Chakravarty, Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata; Amrita Dhillon, University of Warwick; Anil B Deolalikar, University of California, Riverside; Chandrahas Deshpande, Maharashtra Economic Development Corporation, Mumbai; Bhaskar Dutta, University of Warwick & Indian Statistical Institute, Delhi; Mukesh Eswaran, University of British Columbia; Maitreesh Ghatak, London School of Economics; Chetan Ghate, Indian Statistical Institute, Delhi; Parikshit Ghosh, Delhi School of Economics; Ashima Goyal, Indira Gandhi Institute for Development Research, Mumbai; Sumeet Gulati, University of British Columbia; Tarun Kabiraj, Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata; Ashok Kotwal, University of British Columbia; Amartya Lahiri, University of British Columbia; S Madheswaran, Institute for Social and Economic Change, Bangalore; Anandi Mani, University of Warwick; Debasis Mishra, Indian Statistical Institute, Delhi; Manipushpak Mitra, Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata; Dilip Mookherjee, Boston University; Anirban Mukherjee, Globesyn Business School, Kolkata; Sharun Mukand, University of Warwick; Karthik Muralidharan, University of California, San Diego; Rohini Pande, Harvard University; Bharat Ramaswami, Indian Statistical Institute, Delhi; Debraj Ray, New York University; Ranjan Ray, Monash University; Tridip Ray, Indian Statistical Institute, Delhi; Shubhro Sarkar, Indira Gandhi Institute for Development Research, Mumbai; Arunava Sen, Indian Statistical Institute, Delhi; Rajiv Sethi, Barnard College, Columbia University; Sudhir Shah, Delhi School of Economics; E Somanathan, Indian Statistical Institute, Delhi; K Sundaram, Delhi School of Economics; Sandip Sukhtankar, Dartmouth College; Vandana Upadhyay, Rajiv Gandhi University, Itanagar; Wilima Wadhwa, Indian Statistical Institute and ASER Centre, Delhi.

 

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MUMBAI MIRROR

EDITORIAL

TWEEDLEZEE AND TWEEDLEDUMB

ONE FAT MAN HEADS TOWARDS PEAK WHILE ANOTHER TUMBLES DOWN FAST


Zach Galifianakis is one of the coolest, freshest things to have happened to Hollywood comedy in the last decade. Mining discomfort for laughs and being both atrocious and adorable at the same time, the bearded buffoon he typifies on screen possesses the elegance of a Stooge, the quick-wittedness of a Wooster, and the eloquence of a Costanza. And yet there is invariably something profoundly sad about a chubby clown wallowing in naïveté, however bad-natured his actions and words may seem to be.

 

That, and, as Mr Chow giggled most inappropriately and most contagiously after Zach keeled over with pain in the first Hangover movie, "It's funny because he's fat." A line that defines Jack Black's career. Black can be a blast on screen, don't get me wrong, and I dug School Of Rock as much as any true blue Stevie Nicks fan, but the actor has started to rely far too much on his girth to get laughs.

 

Gulliver's Travels was as vile as spitting onto the dust-jacket of one of the greatest books of all time, but the realization that Black was now a hack came with Tropic Thunder, a modern day comic masterpiece where everybody came up aces – heck, even Matthew McConnaughey did well – but Black showed up refusing to evolve, still mired in mediocre slapstick, the comedic equivalent of bestiality. And as Jack Black recycles the weakest moments of Tenacious D for a new generation and prepares to face the camera by turning away from it, we the audience are faced by that immensely depressing sight: a formerly funny man in bloated denial.

Which is why it was perfect that we didn't get to 'see' him at all in the delightful Kung Fu Panda 2, a rollicking sequel that makes up for its linearity with striking visual flair. Black's voicework isn't as stellar as in the first – and thus the leading character is more than outshadowed by James Hong playing the dad and Angelina Jolie as the most hardcore of tigresses – but watching him from behind a cuddly Panda visage blunts the blow considerably – even if he is still getting his big hyuks from people bouncing off his stomach. Boinnng, then.

 

Galifianakis, meanwhile, stars in the lesser of the week's sequels, the incredibly unambitious Hangover 2. More remake than followup, this trades the original's path so doggedly the only surprise it throws up is the total lack of one. The backdrop is new, as are the gags, but the film's only salvation lies in director Todd Philips identifying that this needs to be Zach's show through and through, and giving him the ball to play (havoc) with.

Right now, if you aren't watching enough of Galifianakis, you're missing out. Outside of the Hangover movies, he's plain terrific in HBO show Bored To Death, wildly uproarious infunnyordie.com series Between Two Ferns, and carried off lunacy wonderfully well in Due Date. This is a performer to celebrate, a weird and wondrous, righteous and repugnant, fabulously fearless fool – and true originals don't come by that often. Just ask Captain Jack Sparrow.

 

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                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

LOKPAL: DON'T LET ROW DELAY THE BILL

 

The fifth round of discussion on Monday in the joint drafting committee for the proposed Lokpal Bill — comprising five ministers and five civil society representatives who emerged from the recent Jantar Mantar movement led by Anna Hazare — has indicated a developing impasse on the contents of the much-awaited legislation. The bill was to be got ready for introduction in the coming Monsoon Session of Parliament, and the Prime Minister assured the country more than once that it was the government's intention to stick to that schedule. Briefing the media after the committee's last session, the civil society representatives — admittedly drawn from a small pool — expressed the view that the government's intentions were "suspect", and threatened to renew their agitation if the bill was not as per their expectations. Such a threat is out of order when discussions are still on and the drafting committee meetings have not been abandoned, although differences between the government side and the non-officials appear acute. The self-nominated civil society spokesmen are keen to bring into the ambit of the Lokpal's jurisdiction the Prime Minister, members of the higher judiciary, and the conduct of MPs while discharging their duties inside Parliament (it is not entirely clear what this means). The government side apparently believes that bringing the Prime Minister under the Lokpal's scrutiny can make the country's highest political executive dysfunctional as the person holding that office can be made a target of motivated or vexatious allegations. No matter what the dichotomy in perception between the two sides, the government should not resile from its commitment to introduce the Lokpal Bill in the Monsoon Session. Also, the fresh legislation that comes on the agenda cannot be identical with its earlier version that is lying with a parliamentary standing committee. After Monday's round, a spokesman of the government on the drafting committee said the divergences between the official side and civil society representatives would be forwarded to the states and (to) political parties for their comments. The government might do well to also involve a wider section of citizens in order to realise a full-fledged public discussion on the subject. All this needs to be done quickly. And it might be useful to remember that no matter what the committee recommends, Parliament will have every opportunity to discuss, amend or modify the draft bill once it is tabled. The government needs to be conscious that the broad issue of corruption — as underscored by a variety of scandals in the past few months — and absence of transparency in government has come to undermine the people's confidence in our governing structures. Perhaps a way should be found through appropriate national debate to shield the office of Prime Minister from motivated charges while not insulating it from investigation when so warranted. This admittedly won't be easy. However, in the Bofors case, Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi came to be politically hobbled although he did not lose his majority in the House. This particular instance might be usefully kept in view as we wade through the current discourse. On the question of bringing the higher judiciary under the Lokpal, the Chief Justice of India has spoken of the necessity to maintain a balance between safeguarding judicial independence and ensuring the judiciary's accountability.

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

A PRECIPICE CALLED PAK

 

After the killing of Osama bin Laden by the US Special Forces practically under the nose of Pakistan's all-powerful Army and its premier spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the excruciating scene in Pakistan has become more confused, complex and challenging, not less. Moreover, the problem is by no means confined to Pakistan and Afghanistan, or AfPak, as the Americans have nicknamed the duo. All other major stakeholders in the region — besides the United States that is fighting a war in Afghanistan, now in its eighth year, and whose relations with its "key ally", Pakistan, have sunk very low — are understandably concerned. Instead of facing squarely the grim realities of the near-lethal fallout of the landmark event, the military-dominated Pakistani ruling establishment has reverted to its usual denial and defiant mode. Army Chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani as well as leaders of the civilian government swear that they were completely unaware of Bin Laden's presence for nearly six years in one of their most important cantonments. The country's Prime Minister, Yusuf Raza Gilani, blandly declared that the failure to detect Bin Laden's whereabouts was "global". Still, there was trauma among the Pakistani people and much criticism by thinking Pakistanis of the Army — for its pretence of ignorance of Al Qaeda founder's presence close to the Pakistan Military Academy and for its possible complicity in the US operation. To overcome this the Army leadership had to present itself in Parliament for questioning, something that had not happened since the liberation of Bangladesh in 1971. However, the civilian government and the majority behind it jumped to the defence of the Army and the ISI and turned their anger against the Americans for "violating Pakistan's sovereignty". The parliamentary resolution demanded an assurance from the US that this would not be repeated ever again, and backed Gen. Kayani's call for a "review and re-visit" of the entire US-Pakistan relationship. To say this is not to overlook the fact that the leader of the Opposition and former Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, was sharply critical of the Army. At one stage he pleaded for "civilian control" over the Army budget so vehemently that ISI chief Lt. Gen. Ahmad Shuja Pasha told him: "Please, don't treat us as an enemy". Probably, this explains why retired Lt. Gen. Talat Masood, in an article in the New York Times, has warned: "If the Army is pushed too far, it would hit back hard". Gen. Kayani may not find it necessary to stage a coup, but in the current context he was happy to flash the China card at the Americans while Mr Gilani left for Beijing on a pre-scheduled and much-hyped visit. The Chinese were lavish in their praise for Pakistan — including for its "sacrifices" in the war on terror — and promised to expedite the supply of 50 J-17 fighter jets to it. They also stressed the need for "respecting Pakistan's sovereignty" without saying a word about the US operation or Bin Laden's elimination. But on the issues that matter they offered their "all-weather friends" little comfort. They declared that they had no intention to make capital out of America's "misgivings" about Pakistan, and indeed counselled continuation of US-Pakistan cooperation in counterterrorism. They went so far as to say that China could be a bridge between the two, so that China, Pakistan and the US could jointly combat terrorism, including that by the Uighurs "on both sides of the Pakistan-Xingjiang border". The official spokesperson of the Chinese foreign office lost little time in dismissing reports that China would establish a naval base at the Chinese-built Pakistani port of Gwadar, close to the strategic Gulf of Hormuz. Above all, despite its super-abundant riches, China didn't promise Pakistan a single penny as economic aid. That is where a succession of high-level, high-profile American visits to Pakistan — of which the most important was the "surprise" visit of US secretary of state Hillary Clinton accompanied by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen — comes in. In their separate briefings to the media after her extensive talks with Pakistan's civilian and military leaders, both Ms Clinton and the Pakistan foreign office spokesman took parallel but not identical lines. Behind the smoke screen of rhetoric about "common interests and mutual respect", the two sides admitted that their relationship was in something of a crisis. Ms Clinton spoke of a "turning point" in it. The Pakistani spokesman said that the relationship with the US had entered a "new defining phase" that called for "course correction". The American dignitary, while declaring that no top leader of Pakistan knew of Bin Laden's presence at Abbottabad, stated that Pakistan needed to "do more" to kill or arrest leaders of Al Qaeda and its associates in Pakistan. She recommended "joint action" for this purpose. The Pakistani side harped on the demand for "no repetition" of Abbottabad-type action and cessation of drone attacks within Pakistan. As of now America seems disinclined to accept either of these two demands. However, the bottom line is that, however strained, the US-Pakistan relationship will not reach breaking point. For the US, the route through Pakistan for supplies to its and Nato troops in Afghanistan remains critically important. Pakistan, with its bankrupt economy, simply cannot exist without America's colossal military and economic aid that several US senators are threatening to curtail or terminate. In relation to India, Pakistan remains as inimical and obdurate as ever. As they promised, the jihadis are indulging in almost daily orgy of terrorist attacks on Pakistani military targets to avenge Bin Laden's "martyrdom". Yet Pakistanis go on blaming India for the horrendous attack on the Mehran naval base in Karachi on the specious plea that the destruction of India-specific P3 Orion marine reconnaissance aircraft "benefited only India". They are also brazen about the damning revelations in the ongoing Chicago trial. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has therefore done well to tell Pakistan that its use of terrorism as an instrument of state policy is unacceptable not only to India but also to the entire civilised world. The question is whether Pakistan would respond positively even as the India-Pakistan dialogue goes on.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

LIKING IS FOR COWARDS

 

A COUPLE of weeks ago, I replaced my three-year-old BlackBerry Pearl with a much more powerful BlackBerry Bold. Needless to say, I was impressed with how far the technology had advanced in three years. Even when I didn't have anybody to call or text or e-mail, I wanted to keep fondling my new Bold and experiencing the marvellous clarity of its screen, the silky action of its track pad, the shocking speed of its responses, the beguiling elegance of its graphics. I was, in short, infatuated with my new device. I'd been similarly infatuated with my old device, of course; but over the years the bloom had faded from our relationship. I'd developed trust issues with my Pearl, accountability issues, compatibility issues and even, towards the end, some doubts about my Pearl's very sanity, until I finally had to admit to myself that I'd outgrown the relationship. Do I need to point out that — absent some wild, anthropomorphising projection in which my old BlackBerry felt sad about the waning of my love for it — our relationship was entirely one-sided? Let me point it out anyway. Let me further point out how ubiquitously the word "sexy" is used to describe late-model gadgets; and how the extremely cool things that we can do now with these gadgets — like that spreading-the-fingers iPhone thing that makes images get bigger — would have looked, to people a hundred years ago, like a magician's incantations and how, when we want to describe an erotic relationship that's working perfectly, we speak, indeed, of magic. Let me toss out the idea that, as our markets discover and respond to what consumers most want, our technology has become extremely adept at creating products that correspond to our fantasy ideal of an erotic relationship, in which the beloved object asks for nothing and gives everything, instantly, and makes us feel all powerful, and doesn't throw terrible scenes when it's replaced by an even sexier object and is consigned to a drawer. Let me suggest, finally, that the world of techno-consumerism is therefore troubled by real love, and that it has no choice but to trouble love in turn. Its first line of defence is to commodify its enemy. You can all supply your own favourite, most nauseating examples of the commodification of love. The message, in each case, is that if you love somebody you should buy stuff. A related phenomenon is the transformation, courtesy Facebook, of the verb "to like" from a state of mind to an action that you perform with your computer mouse, from a feeling to an assertion of consumer choice. And liking, in general, is commercial culture's substitute for loving. The striking thing about all consumer products — and none more so than electronic devices and applications — is that they're designed to be immensely likeable. If you consider this in human terms, and you imagine a person defined by a desperation to be liked, what do you see? You see a person without integrity, without a centre. In more pathological cases, you see a narcissist — a person who can't tolerate the tarnishing of his or her self-image that not being liked represents, and who therefore either withdraws from human contact or goes to extreme, integrity-sacrificing lengths to be likeable. If you dedicate your existence to being likeable, however, and if you adopt whatever cool persona is necessary to make it happen, it suggests that you've despaired of being loved for who you really are. And if you succeed in manipulating other people into liking you, it will be hard not to feel, at some level, contempt for those people, because they've fallen for your shtick. Consumer technology products would never do anything this unattractive. They are, however, great allies and enablers of narcissism. Alongside their built-in eagerness to be liked is a built-in eagerness to reflect well on us. Our lives look a lot more interesting when they're filtered through the sexy Facebook interface. We star in our own movies, we photograph ourselves incessantly, we click the mouse and a machine confirms our sense of mastery. And, since our technology is really just an extension of ourselves, we don't have to have contempt for its manipulability in the way we might with actual people. It's all one big endless loop. We like the mirror and the mirror likes us. To friend a person is merely to include the person in our private hall of flattering mirrors. I may be overstating the case, a little bit. The simple fact of the matter is that trying to be perfectly likeable is incompatible with loving relationships. Sooner or later, for example, you're going to find yourself in a hideous, screaming fight, and you'll hear coming out of your mouth things that you yourself don't like at all, things that shatter your self-image as a fair, kind, cool, attractive, in-control, funny, likeable person. Something realer than likability has come out in you, and suddenly you're having an actual life. Suddenly there's a real choice to be made, not a fake consumer choice between a BlackBerry and an iPhone, but a question: Do I love this person? And, for the other person, does this person love me? This is not to say that love is only about fighting. Love is about bottomless empathy, born out of the heart's revelation that another person is every bit as real as you are. And this is why love, as I understand it, is always specific. Trying to love all of humanity may be a worthy endeavour, but, in a funny way, it keeps the focus on the self, on the self's own moral or spiritual well-being. Whereas, to love a specific person, and to identify with his or her struggles and joys as if they were your own, you have to surrender some of your self. The big risk here, of course, is rejection. We can all handle being disliked now and then, because there's such an infinitely big pool of potential likers. But to expose your whole self, not just the likeable surface, and to have it rejected, can be catastrophically painful. The prospect of pain generally, the pain of loss, of breakup, of death, is what makes it so tempting to avoid love and stay safely in the world of liking. And yet pain hurts but it doesn't kill. When you consider the alternative — an anaesthetised dream of self-sufficiency, abetted by technology — pain emerges as the natural product and natural indicator of being alive in a resistant world. To go through a life painlessly is to have not lived. * Jonathan Franzen is the author, most recently, of Freedom. This essay is adapted from a commencement speech he delivered on May 21 at Kenyon College, Ohio. By arrangement with International Herald Tribune

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

DIVIDE AND FOOL

PREVENTION OF COMMUNAL VIOLENCE

 

OSTENSIBLY to prevent and punish communal violence in the country, the draft Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill, 2011, will if enacted intrude into the domain of the State and damage the federal polity of India. It is a dangerous and discriminatory Bill which presumes that the majority community is always to blame for communal violence. In that sense it is as pernicious as the two-nation theory. In the aftermath of the Gujarat violence in 2002, there was a sustained demand from some academics, self-appointed intellectuals and NGOs for a separate law to deal with communal violence, as if the existing laws were inadequate. It was in this background the present Bill was drafted, not by Parliament but by the extra-constitutional National Advisory Council. This does not auger well for Indian democracy. The NAC is the handmaiden of Sonia Gandhi and is made up of her fan club members, including a select band of NGOs. To become a member of the charmed NAC, one should express faith in the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty's 'divine' right to rule and bad-mouth those who threaten it. The NAC has bypassed democratic institutions and is acting as a super Parliament. Right from the day the United Progressive Alliance came to power, Mrs Gandhi, in her capacity as its chairperson, has been bypassing democratic institutions and violating democratic norms.  Instead of allowing elected members of Parliament to choose their leader, she picked a Rajya Sabha member to become the Prime Minister, not the sign of a vibrant democracy. Parliament has been reduced to a mere showpiece to reassure people that we are a democracy. The NAC cannot be given the mandate to draft crucial Bills and set priorities for the nation. That is the exclusive responsibility of elected representatives of the people.
It is against this backdrop that the communal violence Bill should be viewed.  Packaged in the garb of progressive politics, its intent is flawed and its content is positively dangerous. Once the Bill becomes law, Mrs Gandhi can dispense with services of incompetent Governors like Bhardwaj and rely on professional riot-organisers to hold State governments to ransom. By exempting minorities from punishment for fanning communal riots, the proposed legislation actually encourages bigots. The Bill proceeds on the assumption that communal disturbance can be created only by members of the majority community and never by the minorities. Identical offences committed by minority groups against the majority community are not deemed to be offences at all. This is absurd. The Bill is tailored to present Mrs Gandhi as a savior of minorities, the only person who understands their needs. It is a dangerous weapon and strikes at the roots of democracy. The sooner members of Parliament realise they are being sidelined, the better it will be for Indian democracy.

 

'HONOUR' SUICIDE

GRAVE IMPLICATIONS FOR J&K

 

FIRE-FIGHTING is a task to which Omar Abdullah appears condemned. Doda may not be ablaze over Sunday's heartbreaking death of a young woman student who preferred to drown herself rather than face further humiliation from the police, yet that could result in many "modern" thinking young people further distancing themselves from the state machinery. An impression that the cops have taken to moral policing under the influence of fundamentalist religious forces would certainly run counter to the image the chief minister seeks to project. There can be no justification for the police cracking down on a student couple at a tea stall, thrashing the man and abusing the woman in public, hustling them away to a police post, and ignoring the girl's father (she had made a passionate plea on her mobile phone) explaining she was merely exchanging notes with a co-student. When the insults became unbearable she broke loose, preserved her honour by jumping into the swift-flowing Chenab. There is no evidence to back the police suspicion they were eloping ~ even if they were, is that a crime? Many colleges in the state are co-educational, proof that the jihadis' bid to replace Kashmiriyat with narrow, overly-conservative social mores has been resisted. A year ago two young women in the adjoining Kishtwar district also committed suicide in the wake of police harassment. If senior police officers think routine suspension, probe, punishment will suffice they are mistaken. Admittedly there are more demanding law-and-order situations to tackle, but young folk in the state are already frustrated: totally unwarranted moral policing could push them over the brink. The alibi from senior cops that the person who "reported" the couple to the police must also share some responsibility is sheer nonsense ~ do policemen have no discretion, no capacity to think for themselves? Unpleasant though the query is, it cannot be ducked ~ have sections of the J&K police been "Talibanised"? Or are they simply idiots? Will Omar take a call?


  Simultaneously, it would be an oversimplification to perceive this as the cops coming under "local" influences, for similar attitudes have frequently been displayed in other parts of the country too. It reconfirms ~ along with a whole lot of other manifestations ~ that the training, leadership and the mindset of Indian police personnel remains antiquated, rooted in the misconception that a lathi is a cure-all. When, oh when, will police reform assume priority on the national agenda?

 

DRAMATIC U-TURN

GERMANY RENOUNCES NUCLEAR POWER

THE catastrophe at Fukushima has had its impact on another part of the world. Not seismically though, but in terms of policy. Germany has signalled the curtains on the nuclear era, as it were, with Chancellor Angela Merkel announcing to the world that all atomic power plants would be closed by 2022. This definitely marks a dramatic swingback from her response in the immediate aftermath of the tsunami-triggered disaster in Japan. Chiefly, the assertion that undaunted Germany would extend the network of nuclear power plants. Monday's announcement, a calculated U-turn, makes Germany the biggest industrial nation to completely renounce nuclear power as a source of energy. The phased exercise has been studiously calibrated. It envisages a ten per cent reduction in power consumption and a doubling of renewable energy sources to 35 per cent by 2020. This will entail a "fundamental change" in energy policy, if  Ms Merkel's statement of intent is anything to go by, she wants "electricity to be safer and, at the same time, reliable and economical".

 

There is little doubt that the underpinning is profoundly political. Is it possible that Ms Merkel has buckled under popular pressure? An estimated 56 per cent of Germans are said to be opposed to nuclear power. In the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster, Germany has witnessed a surge in the support for the Green party, buttressed by the anti-nuclear protests across the country. This has served to reinforce the almost principled opposition to nuclear energy at the popular level. Ms Merkel has eventually read the anti-nuclear message, addressed to her conservative-led coalition. Hence the deft political move, one that has readily been endorsed by the Greens ~ "Germany is going to be ahead of the game." Ms Merkel has effected a retreat to the pre-2005 policy of the centre-left coalition. Geographically, Germany may seem so different from Japan. Nonetheless, an event on one side of the world has had its repercussion on the other.

 

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THE STATESMAN

ARTICLE

CALLING AMERICA'S BLUFF

HUNTING MONSTERS OF ITS OWN MAKING

KURT JACOBSEN AND SAYEED HASSAN KHAN

 

HAS Obama unwittingly called his own bluff? The spooky so-called mastermind Osama bin Laden is rubbed out, courtesy a Hollywood-style hit squad operation that Arnold Schwarzenegger in his muscle-bound prime would have been thrilled to lead, on a safe stage set. What more is there to say? Everything, actually. But nervous authorities want to curb jubilation so as not to give the hard-pressed and exasperated American public any funny ideas about pulling their stupendously expensive military apparatus out of battered Afghanistan.
Many American tycoons are profiting like bandits from these perpetual small wars and, with those same profits, are calling all the shots in Washington DC. Yet Osama bin Laden apparently was out of the active terrorist equation almost since 9/11 itself, cut off from real command except for his role as a symbol for a tiny contingent of angry Arab youth. Can the troops ~ 'kill squads'and predator drones and all ~ please go home now? The quick shoulder-shrugging answer from impervious imperial Washington is, nothing has changed since Bush told us everything had changed. The top brass and the arms dealers are addicted to hunting monsters largely of their own making everywhere, and do so forever. That's a pretty pricey enterprise for a US leadership that tells its citizens that the country is broke, as if it is the citizenry's fault and not that of the bankers, brokers and other sleazy money magicians.


The few American citizens who still swallow the official storyline that the US is in Afghanistan solely to destroy Bin Laden's organization are about to face the stark fact that the government has been lying to them from the minute the initial jet hurtled into the first of the Twin Towers. By poll data at least, two-thirds of the American people want to withdraw troops from Afghanistan now. The declared purpose of the "war on terror" was to snuff out the reputed leader and financier of 9/11, not to crush the Taliban or install the phony democracy it now has. George W Bush showed remarkably little zest in ferreting out the alleged culprit ~ "alleged" because the US actually could not prove anything at the time. Here was a serenely arrogant empire doing what it pleased gunslinger-style to destroy an ultimately pathetic, if widely hated, figure.
According to their own comically ever-shifting accounts, American spokespersons found Bin Laden himself really posed no threat. Al Qaida was a brand name anyone could adopt for their own violent purposes without any contact with the original wild bunch. So George W. Bush probably had a point; Bin Laden really wasn't worth fretting about anymore except as a mobilizing figurehead to keep enough of the American public on the government's side to continue the vastly overblown and unwise war on terror ~ really, a government programme for feeding vast profits into Wall Street, energy companies and other well-connected industries. Even if Pakistan's leadership had with full knowledge parked Bin Laden in Abbotabad in a safe house he was doing invaluable service for American elites by staying alive. One intriguing but unprovable conspiracy theory is that certain covert elements in the US knew where he was all along and only went in when it was time to call off the entire bloodthirsty and energy resources-driven enterprise in Afghanistan.


Bin Laden, accidentally or not, fulfilled the dearest desires of the second-rate rightwing ideologues occupying Washington after the judicial coup of 2000. Osama and Bush, and their allies, ever since played happily into each other's hands at the cost of all the rest of us. Osama certainly sensed that his arrogant enemies would pounce on this opportunity to attack Muslim lands, gut civil rights at home, bankrupt the economy, and antagonize the rest of the world in the course of enacting their own greedy agenda. Once any "mission" is set in motion, as any bureaucrat knows, a hundred additional reasons get concocted to enable it to continue well beyond the stated goal. Yet the US clearly cannot afford to act as the world's policeman nor even, for that matter, as the world's hit man.  The US economy remains on its knees, or at least for 90 per cent of citizens who find they do not count anymore. Americans reside in a class society where the rules, once somewhat fair, have been reordered to award the rulers total licence ~ and everyone else but them pays the freight. Osama was an excuse, not the reason, why the US has plunged so deeply into the Middle East and South Asia.
Does Pakistan, as American pundits demand, owe the US an abject apology for Osama's presence in Abbotabad? Must heads be hung in shame and amends be made? Why exactly? Never forget that Osama bin Laden surfaced during the 1980s Afghan war under the tender patronage of the US and its sidekick Saudis. Bags full of high denomination dollars were stuffed into tattered pockets of Afghan refugees in Pakistan to lure them to serve the holy cause of expelling the Russkies. Later, and not without many warnings, Bin Laden turned against his masters and started a jihad against the western imperialists and their clients in the Middle East. During the mercifully short rule of the Taliban in Afghanistan an Islamic mini-Caliphate on the model of the earliest Islam was imposed. Scarcely anyone wants to relive that miserable experience but, foremost, Afghans want Americans and NATO out.


Osama briefly was a major figure among the Taliban but soon, for his own authoritarian reasons, he had to distance himself from them. Reporter Robert Fisk met him several times and noticed that Osama preferred Fisk be escorted by his own Al Qaida guards during and after these visits. Osama clearly felt safer in Pakistan than in Afghanistan where he was dependent on the fickle Taliban. Now that Osama is beneath the waves there is no central figure to direct the movement, although there will be groups of Muslims who will assume a franchise and fight futilely in the name of Al Qaida. The next phase will likely be an armed version of Trotskyism, one that will acquire its devotees both in the upper class as well as ordinary Muslims without the remotest chance of ever succeeding.


Osama left no concrete or coherent legacy, except for a vague exhortation to form an Islamic Caliphate, which never existed. Obama never had a better chance to cease the military mayhem in Afghanistan yet he looks intent on passing up the chance. Pakistan owes the US the profoundest and most abject of apologies only if indeed US forces pack up soon and depart.  If the military does not bug out, then Osama never mattered and it will be the US that ought to be doling out apologies for all the lies its spokespersons have been telling about its motives in the region.

 

(The writers are freelance journalists
and researchers)

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THE STATESMAN

DR SINGH AND MERKEL DISCUSS TERRORISM

NEW DELHI, 31 MAY: Terrorism in the region and security situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan were among the host of issues discussed during the first Indo-German inter-governmental meeting here today with Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh asserting that terrorism will have to be fought "on all fronts and not selectively".
Led by Dr Singh and German Chancellor Mrs Angela Merkel, who arrived here this morning, meetings between the two sides saw wide-ranging talks on bilateral, regional and international issues such as cooperation in the strategic areas of defence and security, trade and UN Security Council reforms.

"We discussed the developments in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Terrorism is a serious challenge which will have to be fought on all fronts and not selectively," Dr Singh told a joint Press conference with Mrs Merkel.
"India and Germany have the same goal in Afghanistan, as an independent country with security in its hands. Afghanistan should develop an independent security architecture," Mrs Merkel said.

She said Germany will be hosting the next conference on Afghanistan by the end of the year in which the issue of reconciliation will be discussed in detail. After the talks, India and Germany also inked four pacts to expand their cooperation in areas relating to education, research and high-tech areas like nuclear physics.

Eurofighter Typhoon: 'Germany's best'

NEW DELHI, 31 MAY: Chancellor Mrs Angela Merkel today made a strong pitch for German-led four-nation consortium EADS's Eurofighter Typhoon, shortlisted by India for a USD 10.4 billion defence deal, saying they have the "best product". Maintaining that Germany would "wait, watch and see" the procurement process of Medium Weight-Multi Role Combat Aircraft (M-MRCA) and will not try to influence the procurement process, Mrs Merkel said "We are convinced that we have the best product". pti

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THE STATESMAN

INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT TO BE CONSTRUCTED SOON IN HP

statesman news service


SHIMLA, 31 MAY: The state government is actively pursuing a proposal for constructing an international airport which may cost anything up to Rs 3,000 crore. Two sites have been identified, and the process of selecting one of them and acquiring the land for the purpose is expected to start in the near future. According to Mr Arun Sharma, director of Tourism and Civil Aviation department, 3,315 bighas of land have been identified in the Kangra-Hamirpur belt and another over 1,100 - bigha site near Kandaghat close to Shimla.
Though the Khandaghat land may be easier to acquire since nearly 750 bighas belong to the government, the other larger site with scope for adequate infrastructure (and expansion in the future) may be preferred ultimately. Besides, the quickly changing weather has made Shimla flights prone to sudden, last-minute cancellations frequently. All three regular airports near Himachal's international tourist destinations now (Shimla, Kullu, Dharamshala ) are adequate for operating only small aircraft with uneconomical carrying capacity. Their expansion may also have too many limitations. Such small commercial "metal birds" have a higher inherent risk factor in hilly areas with less predictable weather conditions.


The rather high flight fares ~ also caused by the Centre's reluctance to subsidise fares to this state (which has only four Lok Sabha seats) on the pattern of J&K and North East ~ have been an impediment to tourism to this beautiful state. Successive state governments have received only lip-sympathy, symbolic gestures and announcements from the Centre ~ far less than what several other states could obtain due to their political clout and other compelling factors. Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee was the only Prime Minister in recent times to extend considerable support to development in this state.


According to Arun Sharma, widely credited with introducing many special and novel initiatives for boosting tourism in Himachal, the project may be worked out in partnership with corporate sector. It will also need environment and other relevant clearances.

 

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THE STATESMAN

INDO-PAK TALKS END IN STALEMATE


NEW DELHI, 31 MAY: The two-day 12th round of defence secretary level talks between India and Pakistan ended in a stalemate today as both sides stuck to their stated positions on the Siachen issue. Pakistan presented a non-paper on Siachen just before the conclusion of the talks and both sides agreed to meet in Islamabad at a mutually-convenient date.


The only positive outcome of the talks was the joint statement which said "the discussions were held in a frank and cordial atmosphere, contributing to an enhanced understanding of each other's position on Siachen".
The discussions between the Indian defence secretary, Mr Pradeep Kumar, and his Pakistani counterpart, Lt-Gen Syed Athar Ali (retired), accepted that ceasefire was "holding" since November 2003 and that "both sides agreed to continue the discussions in a meaningful and result-oriented manner".


The joint statement is the fourth since February this year, with the earlier ones being at the meeting of foreign secretaries, commerce secretaries and home secretaries in the past three months.
Pakistan's "non-paper" on Siachen, official sources said, was to help India understand Pakistan's position better on the issue. A non-paper, in government parlance, is an off-the-record, unofficial presentation of a stated policy.
The talks were part of the two nations' larger effort to resolve the outstanding issues between them. The two countries decided to resume their dialogue, which was put on hold after the 26 November 2008 Mumbai terror attack, following meetings between their Prime Ministers in Bhutan's capital Thimphu in April 2010.
The Siachen Glacier is under India's control since April 1984 when its troops beat the Pakistani Army by a day to occupy the icy heights, ranging from 16,000 to 22,000 feet, along the Saltoro Ridge in Jammu and Kashmir.
Since the ceasefire between the two sides began in November 2003, Pakistan has wanted India to demilitarise the glacial heights, but New Delhi has asked Islamabad to first authenticate the 110-km Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL) before any talks can begin on withdrawing troops from the glacier.


While the Pakistani delegation had two civilian officials and four military officers, the Indian side included special secretary RK Mathur, director general of Military Operations (DGMO) Lt General AM Verma and Surveyor General S Subha Rao. Even as both sides are in favour of demilitarising Siachen, the world's highest militarised zone, the question is who will take the first step in this direction. Analysts feel "both sides have to create a climate conducive for such a step which is a major one and in the prevailing atmosphere it may not be possible".  
"The AGPL is not clearly marked beyond the grid reference point of NJ-9842. The two countries have decided to de-militarise the Siachen Glacier, but the matter is stuck as there are apprehensions on both sides," an official said. The defence secretary-level talks between the two countries on Siachen date back to 1985. The decision to hold joint talks was taken by the then Prime Minister the late Rajiv Gandhi and the Pakistan President the late General Zia-ul-Haq.
The talks became a part of the composite dialogue with Pakistan, on all issues, including Kashmir, from the eighth round of talks in August 2004 in New Delhi. Eleven rounds of talks have been held so far. India wants Pakistan to authenticate the position of each others' troops on the Siachen glacier, but Pakistan has been reluctant. As a result more than 15,000 Indian troops and as many Pakistani ones are positioned along the 100-km battleline.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

FRESH START

Between the promise of change and its fulfilment falls the light of good intentions. The new chief minister of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee, who came to power as the harbinger of change, has made her intentions clear in the course of her first few days in office. The most significant signal from her came on Monday on the floor of the newly-elected legislative assembly. She requested the Speaker of the House to give "more importance to the Opposition'' and, if necessary, to give the Opposition members more time than to those belonging to the government. Her words marked a break with the immediate past. She highlighted this by saying that the government under leadership wanted democracy and not party rule. She thus removed the barrier between "we'' and "they'' that had been erected by the previous regime. Her statement immediately created an atmosphere of goodwill within the assembly, as was evident in the behaviour of the Opposition members, many of whom wanted to shake her hand, and in the speech made by the leader of the Opposition, Surjya Kanta Mishra.

Mr Mishra made the point, forgotten by his party, the Communist Party of India (Marxist), when it was in power, that in a democracy the House belongs to the Opposition. The importance of this point cannot be over-emphasized. The Opposition is an essential part of parliamentary democracy — without an Opposition, the idea of democracy is meaningless. In the context of West Bengal, what should not be overlooked is that even though members of the Opposition are in a hopeless minority, they represent a sizeable portion of the electorate. Their voices thus need to be heard. In a parliamentary democracy, the Opposition is the only legitimate channel of dissent. The word, 'legitimate', is used advisedly since those sitting in the Opposition benches are the elected representatives of the people and, therefore, accountable. Democracy becomes meaningful and functional through the continuous interaction between the government and the Opposition. Under the rule of the Left, the Opposition was considered irrelevant within and without the legislative assembly. Ms Banerjee's statement and Mr Mishra's response may be the first steps in the restarting of a process that had been interrupted for three decades in West Bengal.

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

COLD MOUNTAIN

The talks over Siachen between India and Pakistan may have ended inconclusively, but the fact that they were held after an interval of three years and are likely to be resumed again in Islamabad marks a major movement forward in the bilateral ties between the two neighbours. With the inclusion of Siachen, the talks have come within inches of the full reinstatement of the composite dialogue process, which was suspended after the Mumbai carnage in 2008. It is remarkable that the peace process has survived provocations from either side and has been carried forward despite Pakistan's unwillingness to proceed with the trial of the suspects in the Mumbai case and the flood of evidence against Pakistan that has surfaced from the ongoing trial of Tahawwur Rana in the United States of America. The reappearance of Siachen in the talking list, in fact, shows that India, despite the misgivings of its political establishment, has delinked the dialogue process from the terrorism issue. There has, of course, been a series of sharp retorts from India's top leaders on Pakistan's inaction on the terror front in the run-up to the Siachen talks. But the comments were all event-specific and should not be presumed to be deliberately intended at scuttling the "atmospherics" of the defence secretary level talks on Siachen.

In other words, the reason why the Siachen talks could not achieve a much-desired breakthrough is not India. Siachen, despite being a "low-hanging fruit" in the wider conflict over Kashmir, is not an easy issue to resolve. This is not merely because of Pakistan's reluctance to demarcate the actual ground position line, which India has been insisting on as the first step towards the gradual demilitarization of the area. This is because unlike India, Pakistan comes to the table with a mandate from the army, and the latter would not sanction any move that shows it in poor light. The delineation of Pakistan's outposts would clearly mark out India's superior position in the region post-1984, which Pakistan is not willing to accept. As the pressure mounts on the Pakistan army to rein in militancy within its borders, it might try to refocus all energies on the conflict with India. Siachen may become a victim of this end game, resulting in the issue becoming more fraught than before. To make Siachen a mountain of peace, it has to be isolated from the emotive and strategic content it has been burdened with.

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THE TELEGRAPH

VIEW FROM BELOW

THE IMF DESPERATELY NEEDS TO BE HEADED BY A NON-EUROPEAN KRISHNAN SRINIVASAN

An international organization with a capital and lending capacity of hundreds of billions of dollars will have a vacancy at its top almost immediately as a result of the personal indiscretion of its managing director that has been an acute embarrassment to himself and the International Monetary Fund. Everyone may agree that the IMF requires a comprehensive overhaul under visionary leadership. But the race to lead the IMF is not open to the swifter, higher, stronger — in the words of the Olympic motto — but confined to a narrow clique of European central bankers and politicians. This is because, by convention, the IMF's chief executive is appointed by the Fund's 24-member executive board, and to date, the chief executive has always been chosen from a West European country. The latest and tenth managing director, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, from France was to retire in any case in October. In 2009, after a full decade of working groups, position papers and learned reports, it was agreed that the IMF should adopt "an open, merit-based and transparent process" of selection for the top management, but this formula, apparently, has not yet been applied to the selection of its chief executive.

The Bretton Woods institutions, the IMF, the World Bank and the World Trade Organization, are part of the United Nations family. The governing structure of the IMF and the World Bank is heavily weighted in favour of the industrialized countries, although their clientele, in numerical terms, is from the developing world. At the end of 2010, India and Brazil were given additional quotas to join China and Russia among the top ten IMF shareholders, but strong economies like India and China, even with the added powers, together still possess less than 10 per cent of the voting strength. This anachronistic dispensation requires revision in keeping with the changed world order. To restrict the leadership of the World Bank to the United States of America, and that of the IMF to Europe — the two regions responsible for the global meltdown and financial panic in the first decade of this century — is patently absurd.

When this writer asked an economics professor, one closely identified with the now discredited and disempowered Communist Party of India (Marxist) regime in West Bengal, whether the IMF should mark a departure by appointing a non-European at its head, he loftily enquired why it should matter who takes over the leadership of that international financial organization. The riposte to the academic's pomposity is that the leadership issue does matter, and it is something the developing world has been struggling to extract from the grip of the developed countries in recognition of the shift in the balance of power from the industrialized economies to the new emerging powers illustrated by the Brics — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

Gordon Brown, until last year the Labour Party prime minister of the United Kingdom, has said that had he known better, he would have more strictly regulated the banking industry. This sent his former finance minister, Alistair Darling, into a sharp reaction. Darling alleged that he had repeatedly urged the then prime minister to do just that, and had been rebuffed. While the Labour Party shows disunity even in its retrospective reflections on the parlous state of the British economy, the Conservative prime minister, David Cameron, is mulling over whether to support Brown's undeclared but obvious plan to be the next managing director of the IMF. Cameron has declared that this international financial organization needs someone who understands the dangers of excessive debt and excessive deficit, implying that the present British government is more aware of the problems and their remedies than its predecessor. This is interpreted as a thumbs-down for Gordon Brown.

If the credentials of the new managing director are such that will make him or her wary of debts and deficits, as suggested by Cameron, such views will be of relevance to the world. But that is hardly the full prospectus of what the IMF badly needs at this time, which is nothing less than root and branch reform. The organization was shown to be ineffective during the Asian financial crisis of 1997, and its advice was resented and discounted by the affected countries in making their recoveries, especially in matters of capital controls that placed restrictions on free movement of currencies across trans-national borders. The IMF also failed to anticipate or deal with the global financial meltdown of 2008, which was caused by, and afflicted most gravely, its leading shareholders, namely the western developed economies, all of whom are still languishing in various phases of the financial doldrums. In fact, the IMF's favoured policies of free capital flows have pushed several countries into crises, such as Spain, Portugal, Greece, Ireland and Iceland. Its prescriptions are rigid and its one-cap-fits-all solutions are belatedly considered to be ill-conceived, to say the least.

The IMF has lately been progressively overshadowed by the G20, a body that sets out policies for the world economy but without any executive ability. The G20 agreed to expand the IMF's ability to lend to countries hit by recession, but the Fund has managed to advance only about 15 per cent of the monies at its disposal, and its conditions remain stringent, emphasizing the restoration of fiscal balance through restrictions of wage and employment opportunities, essentially through cuts in social spending. At the same time, volatile capital movements have continued unhindered, and they threaten to create instability in the finances of vulnerable nations. Poor and middle-income countries complain bitterly that their economies are being knocked off the course as a flood of hot money assails their markets as a result of policies adopted in the West.

Whether the IMF has finally learnt to slip out of its monetarist straitjacket is very debatable. It is still wedded to controls being used sparingly, in specific conditions and only temporarily. It prefers to concentrate on capital inflows, investments, reserve requirements and lock-in periods rather than outflows, which have always had a more pernicious effect. Countries that have large capital inflows are unlikely to be the developing countries, where such a phenomenon would, in fact, be welcomed as providing Bottom of the Pyramid support. In other words, these are nations that would have no need for advice from the IMF in the first place. Chile, Brazil, Thailand and Malaysia had instituted controls on capital inflows well before the IMF changed its traditional tune. In countries with BoP problems, the IMF still persists in advocating open capital accounts and further liberalization to secure investor confidence, and there is no evidence of any introspection despite IMF nostrums having made the maladies worse for several patients in the past.

What does the IMF think about the high food and fuel prices, commodities futures markets, or financing facilities without conditionalities? Would the forthcoming leadership change in the IMF be able to make any difference? It is facile for the economist in Calcutta to scoff and be cynical, but at one of the most turbulent times since World War II, the appointment of the next IMF head acquires considerable significance. The new leader should give due recognition to the essential role of State spending in maintaining incomes and employment. Historian Hugh Trevor-Roper once wrote, "it is European techniques, European examples, European ideas which have shaken the non-European world out of its past, and the history of the world for the past five centuries, insofar as it has significance, has been European history."

Such opinions have no contemporary relevance. The membership of the Fund has increased from the initial 29 to 187. While the Eurozone has lurched into an existential crisis, a so-called advanced European economy is as likely to apply to the IMF for a bail-out as one in Saharan Africa, and the biggest borrowers in value terms are now Greece, Portugal and Ireland. A massive change has taken place in moving the centre of gravity of the global economy away from the industrialized West, and solutions and practical examples offered by the new emerging economies will be more apposite for the IMF's role than the failed policies of the past. An IMF managing director from outside Europe will be better placed to re-position the organization. Such an appointment will also reflect a welcome and overdue awareness that history has moved on from a handful of nations in the West to a much larger group in the South. It is an irony that one of the few world leaders who had consistently pressed for the reform of the IMF and a new global financial architecture is none other than Gordon Brown. Even if he is ruled out by his successor, it is far from clear if any non-European candidate is ruled in.

The author is former foreign secretary of India

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

HURDLES AHEAD

SUMANTA SEN

There is no tradition in this country of assessing a new government's performance after its first 100 days in office. Instead, the Opposition tends to be lenient and allows the new dispensation time to settle down. A hundred days may not be enough for a government to deliver the goods in any sphere but, at least, it is sufficient to give observers an idea of how things are going to proceed in the days to come. For West Bengal, however, the time is too short to give even an inkling of what the new bosses of Writers' Buildings propose to do about the two most pressing issues: the demand for Gorkhaland and the Maoist insurgency. Uncertainty is bound to persist on both fronts.

On the Gorkhaland issue, the government, of course, can choose to walk along a new path and begin to proceed on how a new state can be created. In the present mood of euphoria, that may be accepted by the people in the plains, particularly if the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha can be persuaded to give up its claims on parts of the Dooars in Jalpaiguri district. But the issue does not involve just the Writers' Buildings and the GJM. The Centre will have to consider the step in the light of similar demands from elsewhere in the country, particularly with regard to the carving out of Telangana from Andhra Pradesh.

There is also the question of geographic location. The situation in neighbouring Nepal is in a state of flux, and is expected to remain that way in the foreseeable future. Will New Delhi agree to a new state in such a sensitive location, given the strong Maoist presence on the other side? Or will its advice to the West Bengal government be not to say 'no' as the Left Front had done, but at the same time, to keep the issue hanging, as in the case of Telangana? The plus point of such an approach is that a statement from Calcutta that, in principle, the government is not against the demand may well be lapped up by the GJM as a big victory, enabling it to wait without any loss of face.

Grave threats

This, of course, is a cynical approach. But since any permanent solution seems beyond the reach, the Centre may well hit upon this course of action. This should also suit the new chief minister who, in her avatar as an Opposition leader, had assured the GJM of her sympathy. The point, however, is: does Mamata Banerjee have the guts to take drastic measures at the risk of being held responsible for a second Banga- bhanga or break-up of Bengal? When one comes to think of it, the hills were never a part of Bengal — they should have continued to be with Sikkim and Bhutan but for the British. Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong are the only towns in the state that have nothing Bengali about them. A separation may entail some revenue loss for West Bengal, but that can surely be worked out with the Centre. Actually, a separate hill state is an emotive issue on both sides and populism does not allow emotions, no matter how unfounded, to be ignored. Hence the impasse is likely to continue.

The Maoists are a different matter. They have no demands which can be conceded. The only issue is whether they are a law-and-order problem or a political one. Banerjee would do well to realize that the former is the case since it is inconceivable that those who have no faith in democracy can be made to see reason. The problem is this: having always opposed a police operation, she will find it hard to endorse it now. That will, of course, make the Maoists happy but, in their jubilation, they may cause further mayhem, and no state administration can allow that. Certainly not the Centre, which has repeatedly identified the Maoists as the single biggest threat to the nation. Actually, with the Maoists, Banerjee may soon realize that in her bid to isolate the Marxists from the tribal people, she may have landed herself on the back of a tiger.

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HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

BROWBEATING THE LAW ENFORCERS

At this week's annual Bar Association conference, former Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann assailed the investigations of sitting prime ministers that have been launched over the last several years. Friedmann lamented the results of these probes - one of which was visible yesterday in the Jerusalem District Court, where former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert began testifying in his own defense - and claimed that they have exacted "an enormous strategic and economic toll" on Israel.

To limit such probes, Friedmann and his successor, Yaakov Neeman, both support establishing a politically-influenced ombudsman's office to supervise the prosecution. The idea seems to be "if you dare to supervise us, we will supervise you."

Friedmann and Neeman have created a wonder drug for concealing governmental corruption: If the prosecution and its head, the attorney general, get the message, there will be no indictments, and consequently, also no convictions. Those suspected of corruption will be eternally presumed innocent, and peace (and the government ) will reign in Israel.

The dangers of this approach ought to be obvious to everyone. But if proof were lacking, it leaped out from Gidi Weitz's report in yesterday's Haaretz on the draft indictment against Avigdor Lieberman - the deputy prime minister, foreign minister and leader of the second-largest faction in the coalition.

Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein is due to hold a hearing for Lieberman, after which he will make a final decision on whether to indict the foreign minister. Meanwhile, months have passed, and will yet pass, and Lieberman is still dictating fateful decisions.

According to the draft indictment, Lieberman is to be charged with fraud, breach of trust, aggravated fraud, money laundering and witness tampering, because even while serving as a Knesset member and minister, he secretly continued his business dealings, which netted him millions. Among other things, the draft says, Lieberman is suspected of abusing his position as foreign minister to obstruct the investigation against him.

Neeman was brought into the government by Yisrael Beiteinu - indeed, at Lieberman's explicit demand - and the justice portfolio he holds is one of those allotted to that party. The logical continuation of the Friedmann-Neeman approach is to forgivingly halt the investigations against Lieberman and other ministers as well.

It's possible to understand them. But the leadership of the main opposition party, Kadima, is disgracing itself by allowing Kadima MKs to join with those from other parties in this assault on the prosecution.

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HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

NUMERUS CLAUSUS IN HEBREW

BY ALUF BENN

On July 22 the parliament in Budapest met to vote on Law Number 25 which established the entry requirements to universities in Hungary. The bill stated that for higher learning only those of "unblemished ethical standard, who have demonstrated loyalty to the Hungarian nation," would be let in, and that the university student body must reflect the nations and ethnic groups in the country in accordance to their relative numbers in the overall population.

On the face of it, the bill was meant to ensure fair and equitable representation but everyone realized its real purpose: to dwindle the number of Jews among the student body. Only six percent of the Hungarian population was Jewish at the time, but they made up as much as 30 percent of the student body. When the bill was brought to a vote, most of the parliamentarians from the centrist parties were absent from the plenum. The bill passed with the votes of the extreme right wing and entered history as the Numerus Clausus Law, the first institutional expression of anti-Semitism in Europe during the interwar years.

Among the thousands of Jewish students who abandoned Hungary were John von Neumann and Edward Teller, who went on to develop game theory and the hydrogen bomb. Their skills and those of their colleagues did not interest Hungarian nationalists. They wanted to throw the Jews out, even at the cost of a brain drain. Politicians in Budapest were only concerned about international pressure, which indeed eased the restrictions a few years later. But the damage had already been done: The Jewish geniuses were gone, and Hungary continued its downfall into fascism.

The proposed Affirmative Action bill, which passed last week through the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee and is on its way to a preliminary reading, is marching along the same path. The bill proposed by MKs Hamad Amar, David Rotem and Alex Miller of Yisrael Beiteinu seeks to give preference to those who served in the IDF in receiving civil service jobs. On the face of it, justice is being done in favor of "those who lay in ambush and risked their lives," to quote Amar, preferring them over those who evaded the draft and were able to go to university at age 18.

But like in Hungary of 1920, so too in Israel of 2011, the spirit of the law is more important than the language, and everyone is clear on its purpose: to get rid of the Haredim and the Arabs. The state is the one that exempted them from mandatory military service and now wants to punish them for alleged "evasion."

MK Rotem, who chairs the Knesset Law Committee, explained his position during discussions: "I hear constantly talk about the right to equality. I think that the military cemeteries should be closed, there is no equality there. They do not bury Arabs there."

To the Shas representative MK Nissim Zeev, who opposed the bill, Rotem said: "I do not care about your world."

Rotem responded rudely to the representatives of ministries who expressed reservations at the bill, saying it was redundant and possibly also illegal. "At noon today you will see how legal it is," Rotem told attorney Tziona Koenig-Yair, Commissioner for Equal Opportunities at the Workplace. "What is your [lawyer's] license number?"

"19893," she said.

Rotem then went on to deal with the Justice Ministry's representative, attorney Dan Oren: "And what is your license number?"

What is the relevance, wondered Oren, and insisted: "It is our function and we have expertise in these matters."

Koenig-Yair gave in: "I apologize to the chairman if there was something offensive in my statements."

The government of Benjamin Netanyau, which has sought to oppress the Arab community since it was established, was, of course, in favor of the "Affirmative Action Bill." Not all committee MKs fell in line: Benny Begin voted against the bill in the preliminary reading, Isaac Herzog petitioned against it, but Rotem said that "he can no longer file a petition."

During the vote in the Law Committee, it was an opposition MK, Otniel Schneller (Kadima ), who was most ardently in favor: "From a moral point of view, I consider this a most important law," he said. Schneller joined the two representatives of Yisrael Beiteinu, and against the two Haredi MKs, passed the bill to the next stage.

The nationalists in Israel, like their predecessors in Hungary during the past century, do not care to lose talent or to exacerbate domestic tensions. They are interested in harming minorities and pushing them out. And like their predecessors in the parliament in Budapest, the representative of the center in our Knesset opted to sit at the cafeteria instead of fighting against racist bills.

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HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

EQUALITY FIRST

BY AVIRAMA GOLAN

Sometimes it seems that this is exactly what the Netanyahu government wants: That out of the great fear of the eternal and supposedly unsolvable conflict, the citizens will not be free to deal with their lives and future. Until September, for example, all of us are expected to sit shaking with fear lest the world recognize a Palestinian state and the Iranians go nuclear and Hezbollah sharpens its missiles. This way no one will notice that the life of the average citizen - the citizen who did not inherit a fortune, or exit from a high tech firm, or make personal arrangements with income tax, and merely works like a dog - has become too difficult to bear.

It is not easy to notice this. On the face of it, compared with many European countries where the financial crisis hit hard and increased unemployment and the government deficit - countries that are now forced to stretch out their dense social security network - Israel's situation is wonderful. True, the welfare state has collapsed, the prices of apartments are monstrous and the cost of living is much higher than what we can afford with our salaries, but unemployment is dropping and the number of people working full time, including women, is constantly on the rise.

However even this good news has additional dimensions. Even in families where both partners work full time, it is becoming more difficult to maintain a decent standard of living light of public services that have now become privatized; and, anyway, those who are working more now are those who always worked. The percentage of employed persons in the Arab and ultra-Orthodox sectors, and among the lower classes who have no education, has hardly increased.

In this context, the salient figure that the government likes to boast about is the increase in the number of women participating in the work force - from 50.1 percent in 2003 to 53 percent in 2009. However this achievement dissipates in the face of three other data: the still huge gap in the average monthly salaries between men and women (NIS 10,106 for men as opposed to NIS 6,869 for women ); the distribution of professions between the genders (most of the women work in education, welfare and nursing, professions that are exhausting and not well paid ); and the fact that many people drop out of the work force with age. The older people get, the fewer of them work, and here too the gap between men and women is huge, in men's favor. In a little less than a month, the Nissan committee which is discussing whether to change the law that will defer women's retirement to the age of 64, or leave it at 62, will present its conclusions to the Finance Minister. The government is presenting figures and basic assumptions that fit in with its policies, and is describing the deferment of the retirement age for women as something that encourages them to join the work force and improves their status in the economy. Since life expectancy is on the rise and more careers are opening up for women, there is no doubt that women would gain from continuing to work, saving money and improving their quality of life in old age.

True, many women prefer not to retire before 67 and perhaps even 70 or more. These are educated and active women whose health and professional standing is good and they must be allowed to continue to contribute to society and themselves. But in an undisciplined work market which favors workers from manpower agencies and a high turnover, and discriminates against women in pay and work opportunities, women who are not included in this group could lose out if the retirement age is raised. In any case, more than half of them are fired by the age of 45 or 50, and any increase in the retirement age means delaying their entitlement to a pension stipend.

Even if they want to work, they have great difficulty finding a vacant position. In jobs involving secretarial work, or waitressing, there is a clear preference for attractive young workers, and in the typically "female" professions in which there is an enormous amount of burnout - nursing, welfare and factory work - even those who are capable of carrying on, ask - and justifiably so - to invoke their right to retire which they earned with much hard work.

Like in many other spheres, the discourse around postponing the retirement age for women refers to the top decile and ignores a large and weak public of women who are likely to be harmed. Deferring retirement will be justified and responsible only if the committee takes into account all the variables and gaps, and creates a flexible network that will enable the retirement law to turn into a genuinely egalitarian law and not one that merely appears to be so.

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HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

UNTIL THE CHIEF OF STAFF TAKES HIS SEAT

BY AMIR OREN

Israeli acquaintances of General Martin Dempsey, the chairman-elect of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the Pentagon, speak extremely highly of him. He is a pro, keeps away from politics and from self-aggrandizement, a military authority, and serious. President Barack Obama announced his appointment, which has to be approved by the Senate, four months before the term of office of Admiral Michael Mullen ends. Alongside him, and slightly above him, Dempsey will encounter a new Defense Secretary, Leon Panetta, the successor to Robert Gates who will retire at the end of the month.

Obama has chosen the summer of 2011, about a year before the election season warms up in 2012, to refresh his national security staff. Within a few short months, he released his national security adviser, the retired General James Jones, in favor of his deputy, Tom Donilon; he parted from Gates; he transferred Panetta from the CIA to the Pentagon and General David Petraeus from commanding the forces in Afghanistan to the CIA; and he signed another round of senior military appointments. His image as supreme commander was strengthened following the success of the campaign against Osama bin Laden.

Dempsey, like Petraeus and others of their generation, is a thinking officer who reads and writes a great deal. As head of Tradoc, the Training and Doctrine Command of the ground forces, he aimed at enhancing it as an organization that can learn new things, and adjust to surprises and new and unknown rivals. Most of his time in the past two decades has been devoted to the Middle East - as an operations officer with the armored corps in the 1991 Iraq war, as a planner in the joint chiefs of staff, as the head of the American delegation that upgraded the Saudi Arabian national guard, as the commander of an armored division in Iraq in 2003, as the person responsible for training the new Iraqi army, and as the replacement for a commander who was ousted in the Central Command that covers Iran and Egypt, Syria and Jordan.

Dempsey is familiar with the Israel Defense Forces both from his days in Tradoc that first gained praise for studying the lessons of the Yom Kippur War just when the young Dempsey, a fresh Second Lieutenant from West Point, preferred the armored corps to the other corps, and from exchanges of information and opinions between the ground forces of both armies in recent years. The IDF has a permanent liaison officer with Tradoc at its headquarters in Virginia. Tradoc has also studied in depth the lessons of the 2006 Second Lebanon War, Operation Cast Lead and the war against terrorism in the territories.

The head of the chiefs of staff does not command the corps but serves as the senior military adviser to the president. During the 1990s, only generals from the ground forces served in this position - Colin Powell, John Shalikashvili, and Hugh Shelton (whose bureau Dempsey headed ). In the past decade, only officers from the Air Force, Marines and Navy were appointed. Dempsey's appointment reflects the decisive part played by the ground forces, which Dempsey headed for only a few weeks, in American intervention overseas, mainly in the Middle East. It is deeply involved with its current assignments and does not have strength for further involvements.

Therefore the changes in leadership at the Pentagon are not merely an American story. The chance that Dempsey, at the start of his term of office, would advise Obama to attack Iran, or to permit Israel to do so, is not high. The outgoing head, Mullen, is likewise not enthusiastic about that but his ties with the IDF's general staff are close and it can be assumed that, if Benny Gantz was persuaded to sign a plan by Benjamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak, Mullen would not be happy but would also not torpedo it.

The conclusion is that between the end of June and Gates' retirement, and the end of September and Mullen's retirement, the danger that Netanyahu and Barak will aim at a surprise in Iran is especially great, especially since this would divert attention from the Palestinian issue. As the Supreme Court explained to Moshe Katsav's lawyers, some plans for summer vacations might be canceled.

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HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

ON OUR MORAL DUTY

BY ALON IDAN

"This is my duty as a Jew and as an Israeli" is cliche that is meant to revive anyone from their dogmatic coma. Each time this religious-nationalist conjunction is used, accompanied by a certain obligation, usually moral, the listener must assume that behind the pomposity and the drama hides some shame that is seeking to be retroactively erased.

So as not to remain in the theoretical sphere, let's examine the full statement made by Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin on Monday after he decided to hold an annual Knesset session to mark the Armenian genocide by the Turks. "It is my duty as a Jew and as an Israeli," he said, "to recognize the tragedies of other peoples. Diplomatic considerations, important as they may be, do not allow us to deny the disaster of another people."

Rivlin made the statement about a week after the Knesset allowed its Education Committee to discuss the issue for the first time publicly, and about a year after former Meretz chairman and MK Haim Oron was authorized to hold a secret meeting about it in the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. That, more or less, is how under the pretense "my duty as a Jew and an Israeli," 63 years of Jewish disregard for and denial of the slaughter of between 1 million to 1.5 million human beings just melts away.

And so, Rivlin decided that: "Diplomatic considerations, important as they may be, do not allow us to deny the disaster of another people." He's right, and every molecule of that rightness conceals a nucleus of the ridiculous. After all, diplomatic considerations, as important as they may be, did indeed allow us, that is, the government of Israel, to deny the disaster of another people for 63 years. Diplomatic considerations, important as they may be, for 63 years, prevented the state's leaders, from the indicted Ehud Olmert to the television star Shimon Peres - from discussing the matter, not to mention officially marking the genocide.

Rivlin needed a cliche precisely because as Jews and Israelis, we were partners to a moral injustice of historic proportions. He inflated the words to cover up a spindly moral reality. After all, Rivlin also knows that if we have to sum up in one phrase the reason for this moral redress, it would be a small and trivial one: the unraveling of our ties with Turkey. We are now able to discuss the murder of 1.5 million people because of political-diplomatic circumstances, and not because 1.5 million people were murdered. What common sense and dictates of conscience did not do, was accomplished by a ship by the name of the Mavi Marmara and statements by a politician named Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Discussion of the Armenian genocide permits scrutiny of the relationship between morality and diplomacy in Israel. Instead of ethical considerations trumping political ones as the foundation for policy, it turns out that morality is nothing but a derivative of politics, an appendage of narrow national interests. The dictate of the national conscience is the outcome of whatever we can get in exchange.

Moral flexibility is not a one-time position having to do only with the Armenian genocide. One and a half million people are never a one-time matter and silence over their murder cannot be perceived as coincidental.

In fact, the change in attitude toward the Armenian genocide should be seen as an indication of an overriding Israeli principle that says: Good is what is worthwhile, bad is what is not worthwhile. A codicil to this principle is: Good can always become bad; bad can always become good. A moral calculation as a derivative of cost-efficiency is, in fact, the true duty of every "Jew and Israeli."

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

EDITORIAL

 

BAHRAIN'S LATEST PROMISES

After months of brutalizing protesters, Bahrain's government now says that it will lift a state of emergency beginning on Wednesday and soon begin a "comprehensive serious dialogue — without preconditions" on reforms. That is certainly what is needed. The monarchy has made similar promises before and not delivered.

Even as he vowed on Tuesday that "reform is the mission from which we shall not digress," King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa failed to mention specific changes that might satisfy Shiite-led protesters, such as more representation in government or access to jobs with the Army or police force. A chilling warning from the Justice Ministry — that further challenges to authorities will result in "consequences" even after emergency rule is lifted — did not inspire confidence. News reports said the ministry branded the demonstrations as "criminal acts."

Once known as the most liberal of the gulf states, Bahrain's crackdown has been unrelenting. At least 30 people have been killed since March, and hundreds of others, including political leaders, have been arrested. The hospital in Manama, the capital, even became part of the battleground — its entrance blocked by tanks and soldiers who took wounded protesters seeking treatment to jail.

In the face of repression, demonstrations have subsided, but not the abuses. According to McClatchy newspapers, last week the State Department withdrew a human rights officer from the American Embassy after he was attacked by name in pro-government newspapers and Web sites. Clearly, the government has a lot to hide.

Bahrain is home to the United States Navy's Fifth Fleet, and President Obama tried quiet diplomacy. He got nowhere. In his speech on the Arab Spring, he finally took a tougher public line, insisting that "the only way forward is for the government and opposition to engage in a dialogue." He needs to keep pushing and warning Bahrain's government that the only way to put the unrest behind it is with an end to the repression and real political reforms.

Bahrain has suffered huge losses from the fall off in tourism and business. The government is eager to hold a lucrative Formula One race this year. There can be no return to normalcy until the government and the opposition agree on changes that address the legitimate demands of all Bahrainis.

There certainly can be no credible dialogue while leaders of the opposition remain in jail and the government continues to bully and threaten its people.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

THE LONG, HOT FORECAST

Heat can be deadly. A one-week heat wave in Chicago in July 1995 killed 739, more than double the death toll from the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Give credit, then, to the city's leaders for making long-term preparations for a warmer, stormier climate.

With much of the rest of the nation stuck in climate-change denial or passive fretfulness, Chicago has been planning, moving, doing — adapting streets and buildings to the coming reality of snowier winters, wetter springs and hotter summers. By the end of the century, as Leslie Kaufman reported in The Times, the place will feel more like Baton Rouge, La. Other cities should pay attention.

City planners examined a century's worth of weather records and found the long-term trends grim. Using thermal radar, they are pinpointing the hottest areas and finding ways to cool them: removing impermeable blacktop that traps water and heat, building rooftop gardens, planting southern varieties of trees and adding air-conditioning to classrooms. The city hopes that these investments will save money. They will surely save lives.

Much of these efforts were begun under former Mayor Richard Daley, who took to heart the conclusions of the Kyoto conference on global warming. But the city, like other high-risk areas, is also facing pressure from insurance companies, which don't relish the prospect of huge future payouts for disaster damage that could have been prevented or alleviated.

It would be far better if there were a federal framework to plan and guide the nation's adaptation to the challenging years ahead. Given the politics on Capitol Hill, we are not optimistic. But at least in Chicago the change is taking hold.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

QUALIFIED IMMUNITY, UNQUALIFIED DOUBT

The Supreme Court's ruling Tuesday on the use of the material witness statute in combating terrorists was a victory for former Attorney General John Ashcroft and those who would shield Bush administration officials from accountability for their actions after Sept. 11, 2001.

But the 8-to-0 vote (Justice Elena Kagan was recused because of her involvement as solicitor general) was hardly as unanimous as it seemed and did not resolve whether the material witness law was misused under President George W. Bush. Some justices seemed deeply concerned about the use of the statute.

The question before the justices was: Should Mr. Ashcroft be held personally liable for brazenly misusing the material witness statute to hold an American citizen in brutal conditions on the pretext that he was a witness in a case in which he was never called to testify?

The Justice Department arrested Abdullah al-Kidd in March 2003 before he boarded a plane to Saudi Arabia, where he was going to work on his doctorate in Islamic studies. For 16 days, he was treated like an enemy of the state — shackled, held in high-security cells with the lights on 24 hours a day and sometimes humiliated by strip searches.

The eight justices agree that qualified immunity protects Mr. Ashcroft. Mr. Kidd, they said, did not prove that, at the time of his detention, it was "clearly established" that it was unconstitutional to use the material witness statute in that way. Beyond that, their views splinter.

For himself and the court's four other conservatives, Justice Antonin Scalia goes beyond the limited holding to find that Mr. Kidd's detention was reasonable and didn't violate the Constitution. Precedents keep the court from considering Mr. Ashcroft's motives in this case, Justice Scalia contends, so the five reject Mr. Kidd's claim that Mr. Ashcroft used it unconstitutionally as a pretext.

In separate opinions, however, Justices Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor, all joined by Stephen Breyer, stressed that the holding "leaves unresolved whether the government's use of the material witness statute in this case was lawful."

To reach its position, the majority assumes that the government validly obtained the warrant to detain Mr. Kidd. How could that be so, Justice Ginsburg asks, "when the affidavit on which it is based fails to inform the issuing magistrate judge" that the government had no intention of using him as a witness against another man?

A Federal District Court judge in Idaho must decide whether the two F.B.I. agents who wrote the affidavit and arrested Mr. Kidd acted lawfully or, if not, whether they and the federal government are liable for damages.

To issue a warrant under the material witness statute, a magistrate must be convinced an affidavit shows testimony is "material" and, because the witness is a flight risk, it might become "impracticable" to secure his testimony with a subpoena. The affidavit in this case, Justice Ginsburg said, was threadbare. Mr. Kidd "might have been spared the entire ordeal," she writes, if the magistrate had "insisted on more concrete" evidence, which may not exist. The facts are unresolved because there is no record: Mr. Ashcroft chose to appeal a ruling against him before a full one could be developed.

Their doubts suggest that judges must hold the government to much stricter use of the statute and that, if required to decide the question, these justices might well rule that the use of the law to detain suspects who pose no flight risk is unconstitutional. If Justice Kagan were to join them, that would form a very different majority.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

HANDS OFF OUR HOUSES

BY MATIAS ECHANOVE AND RAHUL SRIVASTAVA

Mumbai, India

LAST summer, a business professor and a marketing consultant wrote on The Harvard Business Review's Web site about their idea for a $300 house. According to the writers, and the many people who have enthusiastically responded since, such a house could improve the lives of millions of urban poor around the world. And with a $424 billion market for cheap homes that is largely untapped, it could also make significant profits.

The writers created a competition, asking students, architects and businesses to compete to design the best prototype for a $300 house (their original sketch was of a one-room prefabricated shed, equipped with solar panels, water filters and a tablet computer). The winner will be announced this month. But one expert has been left out of the competition, even though her input would have saved much time and effort for those involved in conceiving the house: the person who is supposed to live in it.

We work in Dharavi, a neighborhood in Mumbai that has become a one-stop shop for anyone interested in "slums" (that catchall term for areas lived in by the urban poor). We recently showed around a group of Dartmouth students involved in the project who are hoping to get a better grasp of their market. They had imagined a ready-made constituency of slum-dwellers eager to buy a cheap house that would necessarily be better than the shacks they'd built themselves. But the students found that the reality here is far more complex than their business plan suggested.

To start with, space is scarce. There is almost no room for new construction or ready-made houses. Most residents are renters, paying $20 to $100 a month for small apartments.

Those who own houses have far more equity in them than $300 — a typical home is worth at least $3,000. Many families have owned their houses for two or three generations, upgrading them as their incomes increase. With additions, these homes become what we call "tool houses," acting as workshops, manufacturing units, warehouses and shops. They facilitate trade and production, and allow homeowners to improve their living standards over time.

None of this would be possible with a $300 house, which would have to be as standardized as possible to keep costs low. No number of add-ons would be able to match the flexibility of need-based construction.

In addition, construction is an important industry in neighborhoods like Dharavi. Much of the economy consists of hardware shops, carpenters, plumbers, concrete makers, masons, even real-estate agents. Importing pre-fabricated homes would put many people out of business, undercutting the very population the $300 house is intended to help.

Worst of all, companies involved in producing the house may end up supporting the clearance and demolition of well-established neighborhoods to make room for it. The resulting resettlement colonies, which are multiplying at the edges of cities like Delhi and Bangalore, may at first glance look like ideal markets for the new houses, but the dislocation destroys businesses and communities.

The $300 house could potentially be a success story, if it was understood as a straightforward business proposal instead of a social solution. Places like refugee camps, where many people need shelter for short periods, could use such cheap, well-built units. A market for them could perhaps be created in rural-urban fringes that are less built up.

The $300 house responds to our misconceptions more than to real needs. Of course problems do exist in urban India. Many people live without toilets or running water. Hot and unhealthy asbestos-cement sheets cover millions of roofs. Makeshift homes often flood during monsoons. But replacing individual, incrementally built houses with a ready-made solution would do more harm than good.

A better approach would be to help residents build better, safer homes for themselves. The New Delhi-based Micro Homes Solutions, for example, provides architectural and engineering assistance to homeowners in low-income neighborhoods.

The $300 house will fail as a social initiative because the dynamic needs, interests and aspirations of the millions of people who live in places like Dharavi have been overlooked. This kind of mistake is all too common in the trendy field of social entrepreneurship. While businessmen and professors applaud the $300 house, the urban poor are silent, busy building a future for themselves.

Matias Echanove and Rahul Srivastava are the co-founders of the Institute of Urbanology.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

WAITING FOR A SCHOOL MIRACLE

BY DIANE RAVITCH

TEN years ago, Congress adopted the No Child Left Behind legislation, mandating that all students must be proficient in reading or mathematics by 2014 or their school would be punished.

Teachers and principals have been fired and schools that were once fixtures in their community have been closed and replaced. In time, many of the new schools will close, too, unless they avoid enrolling low-performing students, like those who don't read English or are homeless or have profound disabilities.

Educators know that 100 percent proficiency is impossible, given the enormous variation among students and the impact of family income on academic performance. Nevertheless, some politicians believe that the right combination of incentives and punishments will produce dramatic improvement. Anyone who objects to this utopian mandate, they maintain, is just making an excuse for low expectations and bad teachers.

To prove that poverty doesn't matter, political leaders point to schools that have achieved stunning results in only a few years despite the poverty around them. But the accounts of miracle schools demand closer scrutiny. Usually, they are the result of statistical legerdemain.

In his State of the Union address in January, President Obama hailed the Bruce Randolph School in Denver, where the first senior class had a graduation rate of 97 percent. At a celebration in February for Teach for America's 20th anniversary, Education Secretary Arne Duncan sang the praises of an all-male, largely black charter school in the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago, Urban Prep Academy, which replaced a high school deemed a failure. And in March, Mr. Obama and Mr. Duncan joined Jeb Bush, the former governor of Florida, to laud the transformation of Miami Central Senior High School.

But the only miracle at these schools was a triumph of public relations.

Mr. Obama's praise for Randolph, which he said had been "one of the worst schools in Colorado," seems misplaced. Noel Hammatt, a former teacher and instructor at Louisiana State University, looked at data from the Web site of the Colorado Department of Education.

True, Randolph (originally a middle school, to which a high school was added) had a high graduation rate, but its ACT scores were far below the state average, indicating that students are not well prepared for college. In its middle school, only 21 percent were proficient or advanced in math, placing Randolph in the fifth percentile in the state (meaning that 95 percent of schools performed better). Only 10 percent met the state science standards. In writing and reading, the school was in the first percentile.

Gary Rubinstein, an education blogger and Teach for America alumnus who has been critical of the program, checked Mr. Duncan's claims about Urban Prep. Of 166 students who entered as ninth graders, only 107 graduated. Astonishingly, the state Web site showed that only 17 percent passed state tests, compared to 64 percent in the low-performing Chicago public school district.

Miami Central had been "reconstituted," meaning that the principal and half the staff members were fired. The president said that "performance has skyrocketed by more than 60 percent in math," and that graduation rates rose to 63 percent, from 36 percent. But in math, it ranks 430th out of 469 high schools in Florida. Only 56 percent of its students meet state math standards, and only 16 percent met state reading standards. The graduation rate rose, but the school still ranks 431st, well below the state median graduation rate of 87 percent. The improvements at Miami Central are too small and too new to conclude that firing principals and teachers works.

To be sure, the hyping of test-score improvements that prove to be fleeting predated the Obama administration.

In 2005, New York's mayor, Michael R. Bloomberg, held a news conference at Public School 33 in the Bronx to celebrate an astonishing 49-point jump in the proportion of fourth grade students there who met state standards in reading. In 2004, only 34 percent reached proficiency, but in 2005, 83 percent did.

It seemed too good to be true — and it was. A year later, the proportion of fourth-graders at P.S. 33 who passed the state reading test dropped by 41 points. By 2010, the passing rate was 37 percent, nearly the same as before 2005.

What is to be learned from these examples of inflated success? The news media and the public should respond with skepticism to any claims of miraculous transformation. The achievement gap between children from different income levels exists before children enter school.

Families are children's most important educators. Our society must invest in parental education, prenatal care and preschool. Of course, schools must improve; every one should have a stable, experienced staff, adequate resources and a balanced curriculum including the arts, foreign languages, history and science.

If every child arrived in school well-nourished, healthy and ready to learn, from a family with a stable home and a steady income, many of our educational problems would be solved. And that would be a miracle.

Diane Ravitch, a research professor of education at New York University, is the author of "The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education."

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

NON MEANS NON

BY MAUREEN DOWD

           PARISIn Woody Allen's "Midnight in Paris," an American writer clambers into a yellow vintage Peugeot every night and is transported back to hobnob with Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Picasso, Dali, Toulouse-Lautrec and Gertrude Stein in the shimmering movable feast. The star-struck aspiring novelist from Pasadena, played by Owen Wilson, gets to escape his tiresome fiancée and instead talk war and sex with Papa Hemingway, who barks "Have you ever shot a charging lion?" "Who wants to fight?" and "You box?" 

Many Frenchmen — not to mention foundering neighbor, the crepuscular Casanova Silvio Berlusconi — may be longing to see that Peugeot time machine come around a cobblestone corner.

Some may yearn to return to a time when manly aggression was celebrated rather than suspected, especially after waking up Tuesday to see the remarkable front page of Libération — photos of six prominent French women in politics with the headline "Marre des machos," or "Sick of machos." 

"Is this the end of the ordinary misogyny that weighs on French political life?" the paper asked, adding: "Tongues have become untied." 

In the wake of the Dominique Strauss-Kahn scandal, as more Frenchwomen venture sexual harassment charges against elite men, the capital of seduction is reeling at the abrupt shift from can-can to can't-can't. Le Canard Enchaîné, a satirical weekly, still argues that  "News always stops at the bedroom door," but many French seem ready to bid adieu to the maxim.

As Libération editor Nicolas Demorand wrote in an editorial: "Now that voices have been freed, and the ceiling of glass and shame has been bashed in, other scandals may now arise." 

After long scorning American Puritanism and political correctness on gender issues, the French are shocked to find themselves in a very American debate about the male exploitation/seduction of women, and the nature of consent. 

Nicolas Sarkozy is trying to reverse his spiraling fortunes by shaking off his old reputation as a jumpy and flashy Hot Rabbit and recasting himself as a sober and quiet family man. One newspaper noted that the enduring image from the G-8 summit meeting in Deauville was Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, in white smock, showing the other leaders' wives her baby bump. 

The French president wasted no time jettisoning a junior minister — also the mayor of Draveil — who was accused of sexual assault by two former employees. Georges Tron resigned on Sunday after the two women in their mid-30s said they had gotten the courage to come forward after the Strauss-Kahn arrest. 

Tron, it seems, liked to give foot massages and sometimes more.  It got to the point where some women would wear boots if they knew Monsieur Masseur was coming to a meeting. 

"Yes, my client is a reflexologist," riposted Tron's lawyer, Olivier Schnerb. "He's never hidden it. He has given conferences at the Lion's Club. It's a healing treatment." 

In Le Journal du Dimanche, Valérie Toranian, the editor of Elle, wrote about the puncturing of France's "Latin culture of seduction": "We laugh about our Italian neighbors, but the stone today is in our garden." (She probably didn't want to use a shoe-on-the-other-foot metaphor given the foot fetishist on the loose.) 

On Tuesday, Libération presented interviews with a parade of women who poured out long-stifled grievances about their paternalistic culture: How they feel they must wear pants to work to fend off leering; how they're tired of men tu-ing instead of vous-ing and making comments like "O.K., but just because you have pretty eyes"; how they're fed up with married pols who come to Paris three days a week and sleep with their assistants; how, as Aurélie Filipetti, a socialist representative, complained, male pols and journalists squat on 80 percent of the political space.

Filipetti remembers hearing a male representative say during a ceremony, in front of three female representatives, "Hunting is like women. You always regret the shots you didn't take." 

Corinne Lepage, a former environment minister, talked about the de trop dirty jokes, recalling how once, when a female representative mentioned a rape, a male colleague called out: "With her face, it's not going to happen to her." 

Nicole Guedj, a lawyer and former minister, said wistfully of  male colleagues: "One thinks, 'I wish you wouldn't just look at me. I wish you would listen to me.' " 

Roselyne Bachelot, a government minister, warned about lechers: "Something important has happened in these last few days. The lifting of a very real omertà, which had been reinforced by a legal arsenal that protected private life. I think that public men have understood that the respect of privacy now has some limits." 

Getting French men to change will still, she said, be pushing up "le rocher de Sisyphe."

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

ON THE WAY FOR A NEW FLOTILLA CRISIS

BARÇIN YİNANÇ

United Nation Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon decided to extend the working period of the U.N. panel to investigate Israel's deadly attack on Gaza-bound flotilla, which took place exactly a year ago.

Turkey's wish all along for the panel to complete its mission before the first anniversary of the deadly attack, which has dealt a potentially deadly blow to Turkish-Israeli relations was well known.

We can easily speculate the prolongation of the workings of the U.N. panel comes as a result of Turkey's reaction to the first draft of the panel's conclusions.

As I had reported earlier, the panel did not reach the conclusion that Israel broke international law by attacking Mavi Marmara in international waters. While the first draft says Israel resorted to disproportionate use of force, it falls short on calling Israel to apologize.

Obviously, this outcome must have led to cries of joy in certain quarters in Israel. They shouldn't rejoice however, if they think "Israel has won, Turkey has lost," because Israel is not the winner. What has been lost is "Turkish-Israeli relations." And this means Israel will also be a "looser" in the long run.

The U.N. panel could clear the record for Israel. But Israel will remain condemned in the conscience of Turkish nation, unless it comes with an apology.

We are talking about the death of nine "unarmed" Turkish citizens. Israel cannot just expect Turkey to forget about it and continue its political relations, as if nothing has happened.

Now we are facing a new flotilla crisis. As the flotilla is expected to sail toward Gaza in the last week of June, one can be sure it will head on towards a perfect storm, since the journey will start in the immediate aftermath of the Turkish elections.

The ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, is expected to win the elections. Whatever the ratio of the votes it receives, it will not change its present stance, that of not preventing the flotilla to leave. If it will receive 45 percent or more of the votes, its current self confidence will grow even more, and it will be more willing to openly challenge Israel. If on the contrary, it will see a sharp decrease on its votes, then again, it won't be an option for the AKP to give the perception that it is backing down under U.S.- Israeli pressure.

We will therefore see the flotilla leave for Gaza.

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said yesterday that force will be used if necessary to stop the flotilla.

It will be a fatal mistake to expect the Turkish government to sit and watch the Israeli army attack the flotilla. This time the government will instruct the army to be on standby and a scenario, which might leave the two countries air and naval forces facing each other is not improbable.

I am sure some in the flotilla will do every provocative act in order to prompt a major crisis. But I am also sure the government will at least try to secure that the activists set sail unarmed. If Israel is decided not to let the flotilla go to Gaza then it should make sure it finds ways to block it without using force.

I earlier said that last year's crisis had dealt a potentially deadly blow to bilateral ties. I used the term "potential" because relations are not "dead" despite strong calls from within the cabinet to suspend all diplomatic ties with Israel. But an armed confrontation could this time deal a truly deadly blow to Turkish- Israeli relations

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

THE MEANING OF CHP IN DIYARBAKIR

YUSUF KANLI

What he said, the "puşi" or the local black and white shawl on his shoulders, his frequent stammers and slip of the tongue were not at all important.

Had he disclosed some revolutionary ideas perhaps that would make some cash. Though he has advanced his skill in oration since he became leader of the main opposition Republican People's Party or CHP, last year, this time Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu is still not a speaker capable of firing up the crowds.

He will never ever be in either the eloquent speech club of Deniz Baykals, Süleyman Demirels, Necmettin Erbakans, Turgut Özals, nor will he ever belong to the school of macho leaders of people like Recep Tayyip Erdoğans and Alparslan Türkeşs. If he has time in political leadership perhaps he eventually will join in the club of soft-speaking, intellectual, tender, poetic but somehow charismatic leaders such as Bülent Ecevit or if we are to give an example from outside the country, the founding father of India, Mahatma Gandhi. Indeed, that is perhaps why since he started occupying a prominent place in Turkish politics Gandhi has become some sort of an alias for Kılıçdaroğlu.

He, however, has become the symbol of "soft change" for the main opposition party of the country and a hope for the masses aspiring to see a democratic force, which may indeed pose a political challenge to the existing Islamist government in office and become a viable alternative for governance of the country. The CHP of today is no longer the CHP of May 2010 or the party of the last decade or so. It is no longer the party that Erdoğan was saying would not dare to go further than Sivas.

For the first time since the 2002 election campaign period the CHP was in the rally grounds in Hakkari last week and Diyarbakır yesterday.

CHP returned to Diyarbakır

Yes. The CHP held a rally in Diyarbakır and according to the ruling party executives did not say anything new or worth remembering. Indeed he said many things worth mentioning in length but as was said right in the first sentence of this article, what he said was irrelevant. Kılıçdaroğlu speaking to a crowd, the size was as well not that important but according to local sources and news agencies it was not a small crowd at all, particularly if it is remembered in the last election CHP got only about 2 percent in that city, in the Diyarbakır's central square was itself the big news. "CHP returned to Diyarbakır" must have been the real message.

In 1989, it was the CHP, which for the first time publicly, acknowledged with a comprehensive report the Kurdish reality of this country. It was the coalition government of Süleyman Demirel's center-right True Path Party, or DYP, and the social-democrats led by Erdal İnönü who publicly underlined the "Kurdish reality" of this country.

But, since the 2002 elections the CHP was unable to hold rallies in many southeastern and eastern provinces, a fact exploited by Erdoğan with his cliche "They [the opposition parties] cannot go further than Sivas." statement.

After Hakkari, CHP was in Diyarbakır yesterday and though Erdoğan most likely would come up with an accusation that the Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP or the political wing of the separatist Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, terrorist gang was lending support to the CHP in eastern cities in gathering crowds to rally grounds. Both two parties are denying such an organic relationship but of course even though it might sound difficult and rather incomprehensible for Erdoğan, there is nothing abnormal for political parties to sometimes cooperate.

Besides, rather than "accusing" the CHP of "collaborating" with the BDP, the prime minister perhaps should try to see the bigger picture. What is the bigger picture? The political party, which has been campaigning for more democracy, individual rights and advancement of the supremacy of law in this country has become the CHP, while the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, has apparently even given up its drive of trying to create a perception in the country that it aims to enhance democracy, rights and achieve social peace.

The rally in Diyarbakır was a demonstration that irrespective of what percentage point of votes the party may get in the elections the CHP was back in east; not yet perhaps sufficiently social democrat but progressing towards becoming one; and it is in a serious bid to mend fences with the people without any discrimination. It was a demonstration that the CHP has started becoming a viable alternative to AKP in the administration of the country.

Erdoğan is a clever man and he sure has understood that Kılıçdaroğlu's Diyarbakır message was not "Erdoğan is promising to build a prison here; I will build instead a factory." He must have realized that power has started slipping out of his hands. If not immediately now, then tomorrow. The process has started; he is on the way out.

Thus, expect to see an even more stubborn and arrogant Prime Minister Erdoğan.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

TOWARD A POST-KEMALIST CHP?

MUSTAFA AKYOL

"Is this a post-Kemalist or a neo-Kemalist CHP?" That was a good question posed by Taha Özcan, the director of the Ankara-based think tank SETA, on a panel at which we both spoke last week. It was also a question that is not easy to answer.

To begin with, the CHP, of course, is the Turkish acronym for "Republican People's Party," Turkey's oldest political organization. It is the oldest, for as the "party of Atatürk," it has never been attacked, purged and closed unlike the parties from of all other political traditions. The all-mighty and all-sinister Turkish state, in other words, has been all too sympathetic to the CHP, because the party's ideology has also been the ideology of the state.

Social democratic deviance

Those who know something about Turkish political history would object to what I have just said, and they would be partly right. For there was in fact an exception to the traditional alliance between the state and the CHP, which began when the party moved from Kemalism to a mild form of democratic Marxism in the 1970s. This "social democratic deviance," under the leadership of the late Bülent Ecevit, was the reason why the Kemalist junta of 1980 closed down the CHP as well along all other political parties.

But the old CHP was redeemed in the late 1980s. Under the leadership of Deniz Baykal, the party went through a Kemalist restoration, and positioned itself close to the military against the "Islamic threat" supposedly posed by the Justice and Development Party, or AKP.

This neo-Kemalist CHP could not gain anything more than a static 20 percent of Turkish votes, but that was not a big problem. Because the party could already dictate some of its policies via like-minded generals and judges. When Baykal and his team wanted to block the freedom to wear headscarves on campus, for example, all they needed to do was to take the AKP's reform initiative to the Constitutional Court, which was using its powers to uphold Kemalism and punish its dissenters.

However, that authoritarian system has gradually died out in the past few years, as the military lost its political power and the judiciary lost its ideological coherence. So, the main opposition party had a startling discovery: If it wanted political power, it needed to win elections.

That is why Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the current leader of the CHP who replaced Baykal about a year ago, was the right man at the right time. Like Ecevit of the 1970s, he was a "man of the people." He had made a name for himself not for being a zealous enemy of the headscarf, but a meticulous critique of what he saw as corruption in the AKP.

No wonder Kılıçdaroğlu's leadership indeed began a new era in the CHP, which is becoming more and more apparent. The party is speaking in a much more liberal language when it comes to key issues such as Kurdish rights. (No wonder Kılıçdaroğlu was able to speak to a large audience in Diyarbakır on Tuesday.) This new CHP is speaking about its projects, rather than simply bashing those of the AKP's. It is even trying to be, as political scientist Ayşen Uysal told daily Taraf, a "catch-all party" which tries to maximize its votes.

Reasons to suspect

There are, of course, reasons to be skeptical about the depth and sincerity of this change. First of all, the very way that Kılıçdaroğlu replaced Baykal, through a sex-tape plot that ended the latter's career overnight, is a shadowy point. Many people look at that unusual genesis of Kılıçdaroğlu, and suspect that his leadership might be a "design" by the Kemalist "deep state." They might well be right.

Second, the "new CHP" has not appeared to give us a good explanation of its transformation from orthodox Kemalism to something like social democracy. The two ideologies are hardly compatible, and that's why Ecevit's reforms in the CHP of the 1970s was coupled with a critique of Kemalism. Neither Kılıçdaroğlu nor his team present us such a compelling explanation for the "change" they claim to have realized in their party's ideology.

Third, there are elements within this "new CHP" who represent the most radical form of orthodox Kemalism, such as the jailed suspects of the Ergenekon case, some of which have been nominated as candidates for Parliament. That gives credibility to those, like Özcan of SETA, who argue that what we are seeing is just a refurbished "neo-Kemalism," rather than a true "post-Kemalism."

Yet still, I am willing to be lenient to Kılıçdaroğlu. As a total outsider who has never been a great fan of the CHP, I welcome the changes in the party's rhetoric, and hope for only more. It is possible that some of the "catch-all" messages of today might disappear after the elections, but as far as Kılıçdaroğlu is in his seat, he can't retreat from some of the liberal positions he has taken lately on political issues.

Let us also not forget that the AKP's transformation from Islamism to post-Islamism, too, began with necessity and proceeded erratically. Why not give the CHP a similar chance?

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

THE FAMOUS 'MUSLIM-METER' RETURNS

BURAK BEKDİL

In its May 26 issue, The Economist wrote: "[Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan] is increasingly rude about the EU and has gone as far as to declare that Turkey no longer has a Kurdish problem. Even more controversially, he has taken to attacking Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the leader of the main pro-secular opposition Republican People's Party, for being an Alevi, a liberal branch of Shia Islam with 20 million adherents in Turkey – with the subtext that he is not 'a real Muslim.' In Turkey Sunni Islam and nationalism have long gone hand in hand," in an article titled "Turkish sex scandals: Feeling blue."

Precisely. This is why every sensible constitution orders political parties to get their hands off religion in order to make elections a fair competition. But the political tradition Mr. Erdoğan comes from has the habit of producing votes out of religious sentiments, hence Mr. Erdoğan's never-ending resentment over constitutional secularism.

At every political rally in the last month Mr. Erdoğan reminded crowds of Mr. Kılıçdaroğlu's Alevi identity, although the opposition leader has never revealed his religious beliefs. We simply do not know, but Mr. Erdoğan is certain about his rival's choice of faith. Mr.. Kılıçdaroğlu comes from an Alevi family, but this does not make him an Alevi. He may have chosen to practice as a Sunni, have secretly become an apostate, an atheist or an agnostic, and that is no one's business. But sadly, it's essentially Mr. Erdoğan's business.

On Monday, Mr. Erdoğan, at another campaign rally, condemned Mr. Kılıçdaroğlu because the opposition leader had said, "he is not against imam schools" and "the number of such schools must be proportionate to the number of imams the country needs." That is insane, an angry Mr. Erdoğan shouted, with the pious crowd booing Mr. Kılıçdaroğlu for prescribing just enough imam schools.

With that speech, Mr. Erdoğan is telling the electorate he is a real Muslim and Mr. Kılıçdaroğlu is not, since a real Muslim would wish every pupil to attend imam schools. On the same day, the "bipartisan" (read: Justice and Development Party) parliament speaker, Mehmet Ali Sahin, expressed his dream that "one day an imam could be the acting president of Turkey."

Religion is the theme at the campaign rallies, and the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party is not immune to accusations of not being "Muslim enough" either. A few days ago, the always angry Mr. Erdoğan accused Kurdish politicians of "burning Kurdish children to stop them from being Muslims." So, like the main opposition, the Kurdish opposition is not "real Muslim" either. 

This is a most annoying ethos of the pious Turk who overtly or covertly believes only he and Muslims like him qualify as "real Muslims." And this, despite the fact there are very strict commandments in the Quran that Muslims should avoid gauging other people's "Muslimness," for only Allah can judge.

In 2007, when the then-Parliament speaker, now deputy prime minister, Bülent Arınç angrily remarked that his party's opponents "merely wanted to block the election to the presidency of a Muslim," he was speaking along the lines of the same thinking. In Mr. Arınç's, or Mr. Erdoğan's, or other Islamists' thinking, previous Turkish presidents were not Muslim, Muslim enough or real Muslims.

But at the same time this thinking is in serious contradiction with another oft-repeated line, one of the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, folks' favorite points of information: Turkey is 99 percent Muslim. For decades, the pious teased the less pious by calling them "ID Muslims only," a reference to the ID cards that proudly showed the word Muslim in a small box. The less pious, according to the pious, were Muslims only because their IDs said so, in reality, they were not. And that is because they did not practice Islam in exactly the same was as the pious did.

Now, Mr. Erdoğan calculates that he can cash in more votes by presenting Mr. Kılıçdaroğlu as an Alevi, someone who is not a real Muslim. He may be right. But this is one of modern Turkey's most predictable elections anyway. So relax, Mr. Erdoğan. And remember real Muslims do not walk about with a Muslim-meter in their hands.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

THE INTERNET REVOLUTION DOES NOT BELONG TO EVERYONE

NAZLI ÇAKIROĞLU

"The internet revolution doesn't have a flag, it doesn't have a slogan, it belongs to everyone,"  echoed the inspiring words of French President Nicolas Sarkozy at the opening speech of the e-G8 meetings last Tuesday, amidst the gorgeous environs of the Tuileries Gardens in Paris. The first-of-its-kind, Paris was home to this very curious event on May 24-25, organized by President Sarkozy in order to put the Internet on the agenda of the Group of Eight countries, which was scheduled to meet a few days later in Deauville, France: The event gathered 800 luminaries from the digital world ranging from Google Inc. executive chairman Eric Schmidt, and Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg to discuss digital policy at a global level, including the concern of the possible splintering of the Internet along national lines on issues like censorship, privacy, copyright enforcement and network access.

With these inspiring words by Mr. Sarkozy kicking off the conference, for a moment, any member of the audience could have thought, steering away from the protectionist direction the French president has so far taken towards the Internet, he was calling for a much freer, more progressive Internet policy in his country and in the world. However, only thirty seconds later, his continuing speech brought us back to real life: "The world you represent is not a parallel universe where legal rules and generally all the basic principles, which govern society in democratic countries do not apply," Sarkozy told hundreds of Internet luminaries. So we were brought back to real life, and the real life existed of governments perplexed about how to control the Internet, increasingly seeing it as a threat. Sarkozy wanted to step up centralized control over the Internet, using the forum to work towards a "civilized Internet," a concept he borrowed from the Chinese government, which is notorious for its crackdown on all spheres of expression, including the online sphere.

Not that Sarkozy is alone in his moralizing on the Internet medium and that this is going to be the first or the last of the attacks by governments on the Internet. Despite the ceaseless rhetoric from the Obama administration about net freedom, it is by now clear the administration is actively engaged in online censorship, while Congress puts together a draconian plan to impose an Iinternet filter. And what about the proposal by a working group of the Council of the European Union to create a "Great Firewall of Europe" by blocking "illicit" web material at the borders of the bloc? Iran is taking steps toward an aggressive new form of censorship, a so-called national Internet, which could, in effect, disconnect Iranian cyberspace from the rest of the world? Or the troubling trend in Turkey as the government plans to implement a much-criticized Internet filtering regulation on Aug. 22, which would bring serious restrictions to online freedom of expression?

Thankfully, the Internet is not alone the playing field of governments: Governments pitted against big corporations and civil society was the real picture at the gorgeous Tuileries Gardens in Paris. Take the clash between the French president and the chairman of Google, Eric Schmidt: "Governments should not try to regulate on privacy and copyright issues, because technology changes too fast and will resolve these problems itself," were the bold words of the chairman of the technology giant. Civil society was not even officially invited to the forum, holding their own press conference in parallel to the forum, warning governments from imposing such regulations on the Internet and restricting freedom of speech.

We didn't need the ritzy e-G8 forum to realize that online innovation and freedom of expression needs strong defenders against governments, as everyday, in each country including our very own, strong defenders of the Internet clash with their respective governments.

Moving our lens back to our own troubled country, we can see more than anywhere else, Turkey needs strong defenders of a free Internet and these defenders need to come from the public, major civil society initiatives and businesses. We have enough reason to hope Turkey already has its strong defenders: A few days after conflicting visions about the Internet has pitted companies against governments at the e-G8 forum, Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç and the president of the Turkish Industry and Business Association, or TÜSİAD, Ümit Boyner, plunged into a fierce debate over Internet freedom, when TÜSİAD declared it respects the revision of regulations and inspections concerning Internet use based on universal measures, however not at the level of restrictions about to be introduced in Turkey on Aug. 22, which are unconstitutional.

More than 40,000 citizens organized protests on May 15 all around the country, the trigger for the protests being the decision by Turkey's Internet regulator to introduce a selection of filters, which Turkish Internet users would choose from before browsing the Internet.

"You cannot own free speech. And the effort to do so is highly inimical to establishing a democracy," John Perry Barlow, one of the advocates of a free Internet, founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation declared as one of the odd voices at the eG8 forum.

As long as we have the dissenting voices in Turkey defending a free Internet, we have plenty of reason to hope that the Turkish government will also not be able to own free speech.

*Nazlı Çakıroğlu, MSc London School of Economics and Political Science, is a communications and corporate social responsibility expert.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

WHY DOES THE ARREST OF A GENERAL CREATE SUCH A SURPRISE?

MEHMET ALİ BİRAND

Turkey has been in total astonishment since Monday evening.

War Academies Commander Gen. Bilgin Balanlı was one of the top commanders on duty in the Turkish Armed Forces, or TSK. He was heading one of the most crucial centers of the TSK such as the war academies and most probably he would have become the Air Force Commander in three months. The prosecutor presented his evidence to the judges, the court decided to arrest him.  

Now, the same questions are being asked over and over.

- How come War Academies Commander Gen. Bilgin Balanlı is being arrested?

- How come such treatment is done to a general who was to become Air Force Commander in three months?

- Starting such a procedure just 13 days prior to elections, doesn't it show that there is Justice and Development Party, or AKP, involvement?

A significant portion of the public surprise is due to the fact that such things have never been seen in the past. In the past, it was impossible even to take a corporal to court. Today, you now see that a big general is arrested. Prejudices of a segment of the public become apparent and minds are confused. 

Nobody can say anything against this approach of the judiciary.

If the judiciary can extend its hand to the "untouchable" top generals of TSK, we should be happy about it.  

But…

The judiciary should also start acting in such a way that it should eliminate various public concerns. Because from the start of the changes until now, the judiciary was not transparent; it did not act in a way that would satisfy the questions in the public mind and this attitude is still continuing. Because of this, conspiracy theories cannot be stopped. 

Unbelievable scenarios are being produced from theories to wear down the military to arresting the commander to win the elections. 

The judiciary should now be transparent in Ergenekon-Balyoz issues. Otherwise, those two cases will completely destroy the prestige of the judiciary.

The military should also adopt these circumstances

Let us now ask the question that is in everybody's mind:

How will the TSK react to this arrest?

Unfortunately, these questions are still being asked. Because, our people are not so sure of the situation.

Last week, TSK canceled a major exercise in the Aegean region at the last minute without asking anyone and according to hearsay; the military canceled the exercise as a reaction to the possible arrest of Balanlı. The TSK did not issue any denial. Thus, accepted it with its silence. 

I am against such an attitude that would mean that the institution of the military is rebelling against the political power. The military cannot sulk to the political power; it cannot give lessons. 

What will happen now?

Will TSK react?  

No, it should not. There is no point in showing any reaction and such a step would also mean a change in the silence principle that Chief of General Staff Gen. Işık Koşaner has adopted since he took office. And it would mean going back to the old military-civilian fights. Such an environment is no good to anybody. 

There must be disturbances within the military; they must be disturbed.  

This is very natural because they are now facing an unprecedented situation. But now we also have to adapt to these situations. Both Turkey and the world have changed. TSK should also change. They should get used to new circumstances.  

Historical change in CHP

I have read the Republican People's Party, or CHP's, Democracy Report from top to bottom and to tell the truth, I have acquired high hopes for Turkey's future. 

The CHP of Kılıçdaroğlu has cut ties with its old approaches and is undergoing a historic change that is suitable for a social democratic party.

Kılıçdaroğlu is extremely serious in democratization steps he has promised to take and will take. Most importantly, he does not say, "We have special conditions," he sticks to global values. He does not obstruct democracy with the fear of, "We would be separated." On the contrary, he takes it further forward. 

He has grabbed the flag and is leading… Starting from autonomy to the self-determination right of the Kurds, he thinks broadly. 

He speaks out loud those words we have never heard before.

"General Staff should be connected to the Defense Ministry," he says. Would you know that after May 27 [coup in 1960], it was CHP votes that passed [the draft bill of] General Staff being connected to the Prime Ministry? And look at today…

He says, "The military should report to the Parliament." Whereas, CHP, until very recently, would not allow any ill word against the military.

CHP is changing and in on the right track.

Kılıçdaroğlu is now making a difference in the party. 

This development will benefit Turkey in the long run.

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 I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

PROCLAIMED OFFENDER

 

For as long as most of us can remember, accountability has been selective in our country. To be still more specific, those belonging to certain institutions have always remained more or less immune from the principles of justice applied to ordinary citizens. For this reason, the declaring of former president and chief of army staff General Pervez Musharraf as a proclaimed offender by a Rawalpindi anti-terrorism court in the case of the assassination of Benazir Bhutto is significant. It is, after all, a rare occurrence in our country to see orders issued for the pictures of a former army chief to be published in newspapers, labeling him a wanted 'PO'. This development is all the more significant given that Musharraf himself has, on more than one occasion, spoken with derision about Pakistani courts and made it quite clear that he has no intention of appearing before them. This, coming from a man who once held a position of responsibility in the land, sets a bad example. The former president's message seems to suggest that individuals who wear uniform cannot be expected to accept subservience to a civilian authority or obey court orders. It is also ironic, as people have not forgotten how his ambition and hunger for power moved him towards taking steps that brought discredit

In contrast, it is interesting to see what's happening in Turkey, where a top general has been jailed for attempting, in 2003, to topple the government of then prime minister Tayyip Erdogan. General Bilgin Balanli, who heads his country's military academies, is the highest ranking officer to be charged with involvement in the conspiracy. An Istanbul court continues to look into other, similar attempts in past decades. The case comes at a time when tensions between the military and the civilian government continue to escalate. But the verdict could also help establish a much needed element of balance within the Turkish political system and as such create greater safety for elected governments and a sense of 'fair play'. This is something we need to establish as well. If the system of justice is to work, no one can be placed on a pedestal. The fact that this has repeatedly happened explains why there has been little faith in the judicial system. To build more faith, the system needs to demonstrate that every citizen is equal before the law. As a man who has little hesitation in praising his own deeds, and as a person who has made it clear that he intends to play a future role in Pakistani politics, General Musharraf must do the 'right' thing by appearing before the court, giving his side of the story, and demonstrating that he is brave enough to face the courts rather than hide from them miles away from home.

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

INSIDE JOB?

 

From the moment the dramatic and dangerous events at PNS Mehran began to unfold before a stunned nation, suspicions had surfaced of an 'inside' hand. Senior naval officers also alluded to this possibility. Without detailed information about the precise location of key assets, the lay-out of the base or the presence of foreigners there, the possibility of a handful of militants taking over a base manned by thousands would appear very remote to many. Evidence may now be emerging that inside help was the case. A security team in Lahore has 'picked up' five men in the city, including Kamran Ahmed, a former commando with the Special Services Group-Navy, his brother Zaman Ahmed and three other unidentified men. It is suspected that Kamran Ahmed – dismissed from the navy in 2003 after a court martial which followed a clash with a senior – had supplied maps of the facility where he served in the past, to militants.


The matter needs to be investigated thoroughly. It is not clear what links Kamran may have retained within the navy. The unfortunate security lapses must also be investigated. It is noteworthy that Kamran was picked up, interrogated, but then released after the 2008 attack on the Naval War College in Lahore. It is therefore plausible to assume that there was some reason to suspect his involvement in that act of terrorism too. Perhaps a more thorough investigation would have led to more being uncovered about Kamran's alleged links with terrorists, and the law could have been used to bring him to justice thereby avoiding the PNS Mehran incident altogether.

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

BYE-BYE AFRIDI?

 

Given the volatility of our cricketing scene it is impossible to say whether the retirement of Shahid Afridi from international cricket is a storm in a teacup or a negotiating position. It has been 11 days since he was sacked by the Pakistan Cricket Board as captain of the one-day side, and the fiery all-rounder says that it is his outspokenness that has finally given him 'out'. He has given broad hints about disharmony within team management and it is no secret that he and the coach Waqar Younis and PCB Chairman Ejaz Butt are far from being the best of friends. He claims to have been given no reason for his dismissal and Butt has refused to meet him. He has also hinted at a cabal made up of the 'Lahore and Punjab' group for whom life will apparently be easier with him off the wicket, thus picking at old ethnic schisms.

Butt is a player long past retirement age who simply refuses to leave the crease, much to the detriment of Pakistan cricket as a whole. Afridi is a player who has a career studded with flashes of brilliance and glamour and an almost equal number of gaffes. He is a national hero at a time when heroes are in short supply. His stint as captain showed promise, taking his demoralized team to the World Cup semi-finals and winning a one-day series against the West Indies. There were signs that a young team battered by match-fixing scandals and a string of defeats was finally on the mend. But all may not be lost for Afridi as he says his retirement is 'conditional'; and as many pundits point out, his retirement may be more self-imposed exile rather than a final exit. It is conditional upon a change at the top of the PCB, but as Butt has friends in high places himself this might be a little over-optimistic. Afridi may have been mercurial, and was probably a nightmare to manage, but Mr Butt has done a greater disservice to the game than his wayward star player ever did, and it is time he made a graceful exit. Afridi will be remembered for his glory days, Butt for serial incompetence.

 

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I,THE NEWS

OPINION

IF WE LIED, SO DID THE US

MOHAMMAD MALICK

 

  When it comes to this "bloody war" the war on terror, one thing is certain: it can't be business as usual anymore between Pakistan and the United States. Both need to reinvent themselves, both need to stop taking the other for a sucker. If the US has the might of a superpower, then Pakistan too has the resilience of a desperate survivor. Needless acrimony is unlikely to throw up any single winner but may surely create two very sorry losers.

At a glance, the situation looks impossibly bad. Hundreds of billions of dollars have been ploughed in (overwhelmingly on the Afghan side and not necessarily wisely either) but the Taliban and other terrorist are still galloping around in their Toyota 4x4s. Innocent civilians continue dying in droves in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The US and its Nato allies appear as bewildered and clueless as they were ten years and billions of dollars earlier. The good thing about man-made problems however is that they can always be solved. The solution lies in an honest resolve backed by effective measures.


Our conundrum is no different. For starters, we need to stop lying and the US must start telling the truth. We have to admit our past unholy alliances no matter how holy the cause, abandon some of our old habits and views and chart a new course. For its part, the US too should eschew its past dirty tricks and start coming clean on its present and future plans for the region.


Let's face it, both have been lying to one another. For every "freedom fighter" Hafiz Saeed of ours, the US too has a "diplomat" Raymond Davis. If we had undeclared illegal combatants to help out with otherwise legitimate conflicts, then the US too has its brigade of illegal combatants fighting outright illegitimate wars.

Have our strategic thinkers been frugal with truth in the past? Yes. But the Americans weren't misers with fibbing either. To cite the Raymond Davis episode alone, everyone lied, including President Obama. As for Hillary Clinton, well her pre-secretary of state views on "defence contractors" a la Blackwater are well known.

She happened to be one of the two senators to have thrown their weight behind the ill-fated Stop Outsourcing Security (SOS) Act, 2007, which sought to

throw out contractors from combat-oriented and security operations. As for her views, here's what she had to say: "These private security contractors have been reckless and have compromised our mission in Iraq." She continued: "The time to show these contractors the door is long past due."

But after taking over as secretary of state, one of Hillary's earliest actions was to award a $120 million to Blackwater, the very same people she thought should have been shown the door a long time back. She also personally flew into Pakistan, all huffing and puffing, to rescue her contractor-diplomat. And then Pakistan alone is accused of duplicity.

In the latest Osama incident, the Americans were in bed with the Afghan intelligence and effectively treating Pakistan, its declared ally, as an undeclared enemy. Simply put, they lied to us for years. And who knows what explosive revelations may come out of the Mehran Base attack investigations where reportedly some "extremely interesting and shocking" linkages are starting to emerge. There is talk of some big lies going to be exposed in the coming weeks.

The two sides can continue lying to one another, of course, but only to their mutual peril. Typical turf battles between intelligence outfits must be avoided. The crisis is way bigger than the ISIs and CIAs of the world put together. And with a loose cannon like Gen Petraeus taking over the CIA, much greater caution and supervision needs to be exercised by the top US leadership.

A nuclear-armed Pakistan with a functioning polity and military apparatus is nothing like Iraq and Petraeus must be made to realise that.

It is diplomatic rehab time for both countries. Detox is needed to flush out old biases and grievances, both genuine and imaginary. The US has to stop swaggering like a drunken empire and be more appreciative of all that Pakistan is doing and suffering. The tendency of unilateral actions will ultimately create a bigger mess than anyone in Washington can ever imagine.

Washington must allow Islamabad to take a lead in deciding how to deal with the Pakistan Taliban issue in particular. On second though, forget about what the Pakistanis have to say. US policymakers would be wiser to pay heed to the observations made by their own venerable diplomatic doyen, Henry Kissinger, who recently warned against ignoring Pakistan's legitimate apprehensions of being "encircled" by Indian and other unduly exaggerated interests in the region. Shrugging shoulders and accusing Pakistan of suffering from India-phobia without doing anything to help mitigate Pakistan's legitimate concerns may be a convenient strategy but not the right one. A tense eastern border curtails Pakistan's ability to bring calm on the western one. It's as simple as that.

Pakistan may have made mistakes or policy errors over the years but it has been dealing with the Afghan question for over three decades now. Nobody else has had its ears to the ground and for so long. None other has a similar degree of understanding and vested interest.

The US must place greater faith in our understanding of the issue and realise that contrary to what the cowboys back home may say, Pakistan is part of the solution. and not the problem. Sen Kerry already said that, Hillary said it too, as did President Obama. But unless they mean it, things won't move in the right direction.

Right now Pakistan is caught in a tight judo arm-lock. Its economy is in a mess. Its top leadership stands compromised because of corruption and incompetence. Its army stands embarrassed. Islamabad will probably do everything that Washington wants because our visionless leaders see no other option. So what does the US want now? Short-term transitory gains or a long-term mutually beneficial relationship as a popular and reliable ally? The choice will be made-in-America but the consequences will be purely made-in-Pakistan.



The writer is editor The News,

Islamabad.

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

TURF WARS

M SAEED KHALID

 

May 2011 may go down in history as the month that saw Pakistan in the throes of terrorism related violence giving rise to self-doubt as never before. It began with the Americans gunning down their most wanted man in one of our suburbs raising questions about the existence of a pro-Osama support network in Pakistan. As the month progressed, Al-Qaeda and their Pakistani affiliates issued warnings of massive revenge for Osama's death, followed by a killing spree that would be horrific even for a country labelled as the most dangerous in the world. And with the attack on a naval base that also deprived the country of vital navy aircraft, the monster of terrorism stares down at Pakistan as the outside world reverberates with concerns about the safety of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal.

Ironically, terrorism's warlords who have no qualms about turning young people into human bombs for killing soldiers and civilians alike, and who consider high-tech navy aircraft as fair game now want the world to believe that Pakistan's nuclear installations are not on their hit lists. It is hard to imagine a more diabolical reasoning for further undermining the authority of the country and the state that are owners and custodians of those nuclear assets.

The Pakistani nation is understandably nervous about the evolving situation not merely about what has happened but equally because of the lack of any signs of reassurance. What we are witnessing instead is a blame game on a massive scale, characterised by finger-pointing, one-upmanship and turf warfare involving politicians, military brass, civil-society, talk-show hosts and analysts. The result so far being that we know more than we care about who is at fault but precious little about what can be done to pull us back from the precipice.

Statesmen or military leaders need not tell the public how badly off the country is because the people, more than anyone else already know that. Those who are entrusted with the sacred duty of leading should be able to infuse confidence with their words and deeds. They call upon the citizens to give blood and sweat, but set no examples of self-sacrifice so that they can be considered worthy of the high offices they hold.

There is a widespread sentiment in the country that the May 2 episode should have acted as a wake-up call for the establishment. But it looks as if those who guide the destiny of this nation, civil or military, ruling or opposition, did wake up, but from the wrong side. Instead of informing the domestic and international public about cracking down on terrorists with greater vigour, they came out beating chests over why Uncle Sam took the liberty of disturbing the peace of Abbottabad. Instead of looking for a tactful way out of a highly embarrassing situation, almost everybody especially the mass media rushed to whip up public anger against the US. The result of this clumsiness is obvious: we have been formally handed a list of five more grandees of international terrorism to prove our good intentions. In common language, that would be termed as a repeat wake-up call. But as head of US diplomacy, Hillary Clinton used another simile, simply stating that Pak-US relations were at a turning point.

The most dreaded words in the English language, as far as we are concerned: "do more," have returned with a bang with the Clinton-Mullen visit to Islamabad. I have opposed this frequent advice to Pakistan on the basis that the West, Afghanistan and India want us to do more to curb terrorism so that they can get away with doing less. After all Pakistan has suffered more in fighting terror than all these countries put together. But with the discovery of inside help in the attack on PNS Mehran, we do need to "do more" in going after known terrorists wherever they may be. Let us not ignore the low intensity turf wars that have sapped our capacity to confront the external or internal enemies.

Turf wars between civilians and military, executive and judiciary, politicians and bureaucracy, army, air force and the navy, should no longer be allowed to impede the emergence of a sorely needed new comprehensive mechanism to identify, apprehend and speedily prosecute those who are sworn enemies of the Pakistani state.

The writer is a former ambassador to the European Union. Email:saeed.saeedk@gmail.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

THE KAHN SCENARIO – IN ISLAMABAD

HUSSAIN H ZAIDI

 

The former managing director of the International Monetary Fund, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, is facing charges of harassment and attempted rape of a hotel attendant in New York. The IMF is one of the two most powerful institutions of global economic governance. However, that didn't matter for the law enforcers who went after its head. Whether the allegations against Mr Kahn will hold in the court of law is, for the moment, beside the point. What is important is that he, despite his stature, was put on trial. That's rule of law, which lies at the heart of democracy.

Now imagine for a minute that the same incident had taken place in Pakistan. One doesn't have to be a genius to guess what would have been the outcome:

"Sir, there is an important matter that I need to bring to your notice," the chief security officer of a luxury hotel in Islamabad told his general manager.

"Yes?"

"One of our attendants has complained that she was sexually assaulted by a lodger."

"You know very well that our organisation has zero tolerance for crimes against women. I guess you have reported the matter to the police."

I'm afraid not, sir," the CSO replied. "Actually, the person she has lodged the complaint against is the honourable Mr Kahn, the IMF chief."

"What!" Are you sure?"

Yes, sir."

"Where is the girl and where is Mr Kahn?"

"The girl is in my office and our guest is in his suite."

"Who else knows about this incident?" the GM enquired?

"No one, sir. The girl came straight to me from Mr Kahn's suite, where she alleges the incident took place."

"Have you spoken to Mr Kahn? The girl may simply be lying."

"No, sir. I think the matter is too delicate for me to handle by myself. But the attendant swears by God that she's speaking the truth."

"Well, this is not for us to find out. But, yes, you're right: the matter is too delicate. I think I should first meet the complainant. Let's go to your office... (To the attendant) My dear lady, are you sure the incident took place?"

"Yes," the girl sobbed, and narrated the details. She bristled when she realised the GM was not convinced. "I'm working here for several years. What makes you think that I would lie to bring disgrace to myself, not to mention the organisation?" the attendant demanded.

"Granted that you're right, do you know where this would lead to? We can't proceed against this gentleman; only the police can. And I'm certain that, given his stature, they will not register your complaint. So my advice to you is to forget the incident. After all, even by your account, it was just an attempt."

"What are you saying, sir?" the attendant was aghast. "A man tried to molest me and I should just forget what happened? If the police don't register my complaint, I'll speak to the media about that, and you can guess what will follow."

The attendant's threat alarmed the GM. He knew that they couldn't detain the girl for long and, once out of the premises of the hotel, she would spill the beans to the media. The GM also understood well that if the media got an inkling of the affair, it would pounce upon it like a ravenous wolf.

"Let me speak to the guest," he said, and went to the lodger's suite.

The guest denied the charges and reminded the GM of his high position. Shortly, the matter came to the knowledge of a powerful minister known for sorting out the trickiest of situations. He rushed to the hotel almost immediately.

"Bibi," the minister said to the girl. "Do you know the awkward situation you have put us in? I think you don't." Mr Kahn is here on the invitation of our government to negotiate a much needed aid agreement. He is our guest and guests need to be welcomed rather than have to face groundless allegations."

"He is certainly our guest, sir, but we female members of the hotel staff are his hosts, not his slaves. He can't treat us like playthings," the girl replied in a trembling voice.

"Even if your account is correct, you must realise that Mr Kahn is enormously powerful. He can hire the best lawyers in the world to defend him. So in the event that we arrest him and put him on trial, you will never be able to prove your charges and he will go free, and we will be disgraced before the whole world. You know the case of Raymond Davis. He was accused of killing two Pakistanis. But what happened? He had to be released and the government paid millions of rupees to the families of the deceased. So my advice to you is to hush up the matter. On my part, I promise to have you rewarded adequately for your cooperation," said the minister.

"And we will pay you compensation," the hotel owner joined in.

"But, sir," the girl protested, "nothing can compensate for my loss of honour."

"Your honour hasn't been violated. He just made an unsuccessful attempt. Besides, no one outside this room knows about this incident and we will keep it to ourselves. You have my word."

"It's simply shameful. Instead of helping me get justice you are trying to draw a veil over the whole affair. No, sir, if you don't listen to me, I'll go to the media."

"Look, stupid woman, I'm being nice to you, but you're not being reasonable," said the minister, who seemed to be at the end of his tether. "Do you think if you speak to the media you will get justice? If getting justice were that easy, we would be a more just society. When the whole system is against you, seeking justice is a futile exercise. To be brief, if you don't drop your charges, we will be forced to lodge our own complaint with the police. The hotel management will charge you with theft and you will be put behind bars. And I tell you the jail is a far less secure place than this hotel for a pretty young woman like you. So it is up to you. Keep your mouth shut or get ready for the worst."

The attendant thought for a while, and gave in.

"That's a good girl. I'll see what I can do for you," the minister responded with a malicious smile. Then, addressing the hotel owner said: "As the matter is settled, let's go to our worthy guest and apologise to him for the intense mental torture he has been through."



The author is a freelance contributor based in Islamabad. Email: hussainhzaidi @gmail.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

FIXING THE DISCONNECT

ISMAIL KHAN

 

The fresh timeline on terrorism already speculated what US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had to offer during her recent surprise visit to Pakistan. In the past month alone, two top terrorist attacks were unleashed on Pakistani soil.

First, a US Navy SEALs-led special operation killed the world's most-wanted terrorist, Osama bin Laden. That bin Laden was settled in a safe compound in Pakistan emboldened a question mark put ahead of Pakistan's undertaking of militancy. It was only later that Secretary Clinton herself screened the scepticism charged against Pakistan by discarding the involvement of top officials and thereby the state, but not ruling out collaboration from the lower level.

Two, amidst Pakistanis debating defence preparedness against the intrusion of US forces for the OBL operation, terrorists, associating themselves with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), launched an attack on PNS Mehran, the navy's aviation station in Karachi. In what is measured as the greatest loss to terrorism in Pakistan, this single attack cost millions of dollars, as terrorists set ablaze two P-3C Orion aircraft.

Add the above-mentioned incidents to the larger equation of terrorism, read the narrative of Pakistan on terrorism, and the result shows the unparalleled vulnerability of Pakistan: Here is a country which, despite having lost more than 35,000 people in the on-going war and having discovered some of the world's most wanted top terrorists in its urban areas, is still dragging its feet when it comes to ownership of the war.

With such a context in mind, Secretary Clinton might have thought it easy as pie to take Pakistan's word on war. Yet, the sombre session of Secretary Clinton with the top decision-makers of Pakistan once again, as we are told, ended with both countries expressing a need to empathise with the other.

Since Secretary Clinton's post-session speech was directed at both, policy makers and Pakistan's general public, it is the interplay of the two layers that demands strict scrutiny for both the United States and Pakistan.

At the policy level, the desire to understand the other partner, or trust deficit, revolves around the modus operandi of terrorism. Despite Pakistan and the United States having been allies for the past 10 years, what was supposed to attract them to each other – that is the issue of terrorism – consistently repels them. In the post-Raymond Davis affair and before OBL's end, the outreach enjoyed by the Haqqani network remained an irritating occurrence. In their meeting with Clinton-Mullen, Pakistani officials also filed complaints to the US against drone attacks in Pakistan.

Pakistan's disconnect from the United States on the issue of terrorism is symptomatic of an old distrust whereby the US is blamed for not taking Pakistan's security considerations into account. During the Cold War, Pakistan joined military alliances such as Seato and Cento in its attempt to deter India despite the fact that these treaties aimed at containing Communist Soviet gains. Today, Pakistan's indecisiveness when it comes to taking on all the groups is fixed upon the significance of some groups, should the US exit Afghanistan. At the same time, the narrative of the US as a short-term, perfidious partner is partly clarified through the US-Pakistan strategic dialogue.

Nonetheless, obstacles in reaching the US persist along the way. The inability of the top decision makers to come clean about their deals with the United States partly stems from the fear of a backlash in the domestic arena. The ruling elite base their reluctance about making any major security commitment on the angry mood on the streets. Then there are instances such as General Musharraf publically refusing to hand over Dr A Q Khan to international inspectors or Gilani pleading with Secretary Clinton to leave him "political space."

A section of Pakistan's polity goes off the deep end at even the utterance of the word 'US'. Only recently, Imran Khan, a Pakistani cricketer-turned-politician, led a rally against drone strikes; he was joined by myriad groups, many of whom find in a strike against drone strikes an opportunity to give vent to emotional outbursts against the United States.

Hatred of the US or anti-Americanism, transcends beyond day-to-day events and instead, extends from a powerless, Islamic country hating a powerful country with a global presence. In its attempt to find answers to the decline of its own political power, the Muslim world got a ready-made answer – America. And the idea that power was bequeathed to America by the declining British Empire in late 1940s, became an instead hit despite the US having no direct role in the disputes surrounding the maps of Muslim countries. The televangelical Islamists of today plagiarised the Third World discourse, dominant during the Cold War, by painting an Islamic colour to it.

In simple words, even though Secretary Clinton (in her recent speech) called for Pakistan to avoid "anti-Americanism and conspiracy theories" while dealing with "internal problems," it is due to the inability to find solutions to "internal problems" that the external foe is being blamed.

What it aggregates into is an imbalance between political commotion thrown or floating in the air and policy constraints on ground. Consider these three recent incidents:

One, after America's OBL operation, frenzy was fuelled with both the political and military leadership hiding for being the guilty partner and opposition throwing sharp barbs at the military or the civilians; yet just a few days ago, Pakistan reportedly allowed the CIA to inspect the OBL compound.

Two, the Raymond Davis affair generated heat with top policy elites offering different stories on the immunity of Davis, so much so that the foreign minister had a public outburst against the idea of immunity; yet Davis' flight to the US, paid for by Saudi Arabia and booked by the Punjab government, speaks of the whole incident as a case study of Pakistan's foreign policy limitations.

Three, while there have been public statements backed by public officials against drone attacks, new revelations keep pouring in – political and military leaders comment on the precision of, and in some cases, even the expansion of drone strikes.

The point is that it is for the government to clearly assess its situation and, without feeding fantasies to people, take a firm decision. Good or bad, public sentiments are represented through an election process. Exploiting them without sharing the constraints unduly makes the public officials afraid of their own shadows. Leaving people to hear through the grapevine keeps on peddling the conspiracy cycle. That chain needs to be broken.



The writer is a graduate in International Relations from Boston University. He teaches foreign policy and is an independent analyst. Email: ismkhan84@gmail.com

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

GAP BETWEEN CHALLENGE AND RESPONSE

DR MALEEHA LODHI

 

The writer is special adviser to the Jang Group/Geo and a former envoy to the

US and the UK.

At the heart of the predicament that Pakistan finds itself in today is a form of systemic paralysis. This is as much a consequence of the quality of leadership at the helm and its priorities as the lack of will to break out of a dysfunctional state. The deleterious result of this is before us – feeble official responses to the daunting problems at hand, which are multiplying the afflictions of an already tormented and embattled nation.

At a time of unparalleled challenge in conditions of unprecedented disarray the official belief persists that muddling through is somehow a viable way to address the country's problems. Whether it is managing issues of national security or of a fragile economy, ad hoc and fitful responses characterise the approach of the authorities. There is no strategy or coherent plan guiding policy actions on either count. Firefighting remains the order of the day.

In recent weeks the nation has been jolted by the realisation that the depth of the malaise also encompasses the country's security apparatus. This has compounded the sense of national demoralisation and deepened the mood of public despair. Starting with the Abbottabad episode the events of the past month have shaken public faith in the ability of the security forces to deal with the enduring and emerging dangers to the country. The May 2 raid laid bare telling gaps in Pakistan's defences and also how rudderless the country is. The series of unconvincing and often contradictory official explanations that were marshalled out further eroded public confidence.

The gap between challenge and response came into even sharper focus with the spate of bloody revenge attacks across the country in the wake of Osama bin Laden's killing. Considering these were widely anticipated, the lack of preparedness by the law enforcement authorities was both shocking and inexcusable. There have been at least ten terrorist attacks in the past two weeks, almost half of which were major ones.

Of these the brazen terrorist assault on the Navy's Mehran airbase was the most serious. The fact that the militants managed to infiltrate so deep into an ostensibly high-security base, engage in a prolonged siege, and so easily destroy high-value assets exposed the gross inadequacies of the security arrangements. The faltering and inchoate public explanation of this incident by the Navy's spokesmen compounded the debacle. It offered no assurance of how such a security breach can be avoided in the future.

The ongoing reprisal attacks may well continue or intensify. A similar backlash was witnessed in the wake of the military operations that were undertaken against militants in Swat and South Waziristan. And if, as news reports suggest, a new offensive of some kind is being contemplated in North Waziristan, the blowback that can be expected is certain to be even bloodier.

But the crucial difference in the national environment when the previous operations were launched and now is that the country was then more united against fighting terrorist violence than it is at present. The public consensus that had evolved at that time has not since been sustained by any official strategy, much less consistent attention or effort.

Confronting terrorism in a situation of disarray when both the civilian and military authorities seem to be rattled and overwhelmed (and obsessively consumed by foreign policy) does not offer a way forward. Surely the first order of business is to put our house in order and ensure that the means to restore law and order are put firmly in place. This requires as much an improved and effective framework of governance as a comprehensive anti-terrorism strategy that has widespread support and sustained public cooperation. The ability to formulate and implement a strategy rests on getting governance right and the priorities of our governors in order.

Corrective action in security structures and procedures is also not possible without instituting accountability. Shattered public confidence in the country's security apparatus cannot be restored by platitudinous rhetoric, cosmetic steps or efforts at public relationing. It can only be revived by an honest appraisal of the facts and identification of the lessons learnt by the security failures – from Abbottabad to Mehran. This needs a wide-ranging security review.

The aim of a broad review of security policies, plans and practices is not to demoralise the very institutions and agencies that are needed to confront the terrorist threat and defend the country, but to evaluate and institute the changes that are necessary to deter or defeat the dangers to Pakistan's security.

Riding out the present crisis in the hope that the public has a short attention span, which will eventually shift, is self-delusionary. It is a disservice to the country to engage in hiding reality rather than face up to it and use the opportunity to overhaul and update security structures. How can national security be safe guarded or strengthened if the security fault lines that have been exposed are left unaddressed?

The task of leadership in this dire situation is to evolve a unity of purpose to help build a capacity to deal with our problems and shape our own destiny rather than let events and outside pressure drive us like hapless victims. Yet the official preoccupation is more with how to respond to and what to 'show' outsiders than with fixing our problems and reviving the trust of our people.

This fixation with the 'external' diverts attention from what needs to be done at home and has in the past acted as an alibi to avoid taking the steps that are necessary for internal reform and rectification. The excessive official concern with managing foreign 'partners' and looking outside at the expense of focusing on formulating national strategies betrays a lack of self-confidence. It also overlooks a fundamental reality. Nations rebound and turn themselves around by their own efforts. Foreign help can supplement but not supplant national endeavour.

Pakistan's challenges especially the overriding and interconnected problems of security and solvency are complex and imposing. But they can be addressed by short and longer-term measures. This requires that the authorities first give primacy to domestic priorities, overcome their aversion to reform and rectification, set a clear direction and mobilise public support for policy actions, once they are comprehensively and professionally framed.

External relations can be fixed by addressing the internal situation and not the other way around. And this needs statesmanship rather than stagecraft.

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

CLINTON'S CANDOUR

TANVIR AHMAD KHAN

 

Secretary Clinton visits Pakistan frequently enough sweeping behind her a train of elegance, smiles and infinite powers of persuasion. But the latest visit in which she was accompanied by Admiral Mullen, the chief of the greatest army of human history, was different.

The visit was front loaded with stark choices and razor sharp statements and phrases: turning point, do more, take decisive steps, world's worst terrorists living in Pakistan for a decade, choose between conspiracy theories and anti-Americanism and partnership with the United States to have a better future.

With Shah Mahmood Qureshi drumming up support for a leadership more responsive to the people, the home side seemed to be without a spokesman that could give a local spin.

The foreign office is nothing if not a 'word-smithy' and yet it was not till May 28 that it could do its talking points for the media. By then Pakistan's burgeoning media had exhausted itself with its own excesses.

The foreign office claimed a course correction but did not explain how that miracle was achieved. Leaks in the American media, however, suggest that what Clinton called "expectations from Pakistan" were tersely worded demands, the non-fulfilment of which could terminate $2 billion worth of assistance.

It would ease the nerves of a nation afflicted with existential anxiety if any credible agency of the government would reveal the demands and the extent to which compliance has been promised.

I ask this question because it may take some Bob Woodward at least a year to lift the veil from the events that have rocked this country since the second of May. Here is an opportunity to recover at least some credibility destroyed by a spate of Wikileaks about our leadership's double-speak.

Meanwhile, the think tanks that refuse to think and the media that is increasingly driven by ratings may focus profitably on the emerging new contours of a dusted-up Bush doctrine. Obama, Cameron and Sarkozy seem to have concluded that where Bush went wrong was to spend a trillion dollars while cheaper strategies to reconfigure the world, especially the swath from Morocco to Indonesia, are available.

Obama reminded parliament in London that "it has become fashionable in some quarters to question whether the rise of these (China, India Brazil etc) nations will accompany the decline of American and European influence around the world" and that "the time of our leadership has passed". He reassured his global audience that "the time for our leadership is now".

Both Cameron and Sarkosy translate 'leadership', correctly as 'hegemony'. The Empire is striking back with globalised Nato as its main instrument. Obama illustrated his eloquent thesis with several references to the Arab world, Iran and Afghanistan.

The great new dimension in the enterprise is the willing participation in it of GCC states, which have 45 percent of the world's oil, are currently receiving $123 billion worth of military equipment and collectively face the bogey man called Iran.

These states are our time tested friends and what they decide will have implications for Pakistan.

Clinton has made it clear that it is decision time in Pakistan. A widening chasm between the government and the people and the government's inability to craft either a viable response to American 'expectations' now being asserted impatiently or come up with alternatives in case American coercive diplomacy leads once again to sanctions and cut-offs have produced a paralysis of policy and not an upfront engagement with decision time.

The deafening silence after Clinton's visit was evidence enough that the ostrich is still burying its head in sand.



The writer is a former ambassador and foreign secretary.

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

NWA OPERATION TO FURTHER DESTABILISE PAK

 

THOUGH there is no official confirmation from Pakistan side but reports trickling down in pieces from different directions clearly indicate that ultimately Pakistani authorities have succumbed to intense pressure from Washington and launching of a full-fledged military operation in North Waziristan Agency (NWA) of FATA is now a matter of time. Pakistan has so far been resisting demands of Washington in this regard because of genuine reasons and factors but it seems it has now been forced to take a plunge into dreadful dark.

It is regrettable that a decision, which will have grave implications and consequences for the country, has been made in a hush-hush manner by our leadership. Reports appearing in American media suggest that the understanding was arrived at during the visits of Senator John Kerry and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton/Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mullen to Pakistan. On both occasions, it was the American side that revealed that the two countries have agreed on a set of immediate measures to rebuild the dented relationship and the sense of achievement was visible from their remarks and statements. And now Mike Mullen, in an interview to a US television network, has announced in a categorical manner that Pakistan Government would launch a major offensive on militants in North Waziristan. Reports in Pakistani media also corroborated his revelation, as authorities have reportedly asked aid agencies to be ready for evacuation. We would warn all concerned that if Pakistan actually went for an all out military operation in NWA then it would further destabilise the country, rather we may say it would be suicidal. Though information leaked by relevant circles tried to mitigate the seriousness of the situation by telling people that it would be selected and targeted operation but war has its own dynamics and you can't fight it as per your own plans and wishes. Pakistan has already deployed 140,000 troops on the Western border but military experts in Washington say the country will have to bring in more troops for the operation to succeed, which means thinning of the strength on the eastern border and other important locations. It is understood that borders on the whole would be more insecure and that too at this point of time when India has adopted a hostile posture and is indulging in provocative acts as highlighted by firing of Indian troops in Sialkot sector the other day leading to martyrdom of an innocent person. It is also a foregone conclusion that the collateral damage of the operation would cause resentment and give birth to more extremism and terrorism, the consequences of which will have to be borne by people of Pakistan. As the cost is horrendous, we will urge both civilian and military leadership as well as the opposition to review the decision and adopt a united and unified stand.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

A STATE WITHOUT FOREIGN & DEFENCE MINISTERS

 

PAKISTAN is passing through a highly critical phase of its existence with serious challenges to its security and very survival but unfortunately the Government lacks necessary seriousness and vision to provide an effective leadership. This is evident from a number of things but more importantly absence of a full-fledged Foreign Minister and absence of the Defence Minister for all practical purposes because of his lacklustre attitude towards his onerous responsibilities.


At a time when Pakistan is in a very delicate and intricate diplomatic engagement with important regional and global players, it needs a vibrant personality with highly communicative skills at the Foreign Office to put across the country's point of view in a persuasive manner but the slot of the FM is vacant ever since Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi was dropped in a cabinet reshuffle because of differences over Raymond Davis incident. Minister of State Hina Rabbani Khar enjoys good reputation because of her habit of doing her homework well but it is understood that she has certain limitations and the country needs an experienced and seasoned personality at the helm of foreign affairs. We have a defence minister in Ahmad Mukhtar but he has more interest in business ventures, an aptitude that would have made him a good commerce minister, than his coveted office. He has hardly made any contribution to the cause of defence and security during his entire tenure and instead, at times, some of his statements created frustration among masses. All this shows that affairs of the state are being run in whimsical manner and almost all things are done either by the presidency or the interior ministry whose incumbent pokes his nose everywhere.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

AFRIDI SHOULD NOT BE LOST LIKE THAT

 

FOR understandable reasons, Shahid Afridi Pakistan's recently axed one-day captain has announced his conditional retirement from the international game, as a mark of protest against the way he has been humiliated by the PCB.


The former Pakistan captain took the decision saying that there is nothing bigger than a person's self-respect and emphasised that there is a limit to everything. One may say that Afridi is not the first victim but several prominent cricketers earlier sacrificed their career due to vested interests who have been given lucrative jobs in the Board. Things were not smooth during the West Indies tour as Afridi had developed differences with coach Waqar Younis, in particular over matters of selection. Afridi on his return also referred to that and stated that he would talk with the Chairman of PCB. That was his natural reaction because as a Captain it is his responsibility to deliver in the field. Once the Selection Board selects a team, it should be left to the Captain to decide who should be included in the final eleven because he is answerable to the Board and above all to the Pakistani nation. The former Captain who is very fondly and popularly known as boom-boom Afridi and considered as a cricket hero should not be lost by the dictatorial handling of the PCB. He electrifies the crowd when he enters the stadium and gives his hundred per cent in fielding, encourages the teammates and his presence is felt in the stadium not only by the players but by the crowd as well. Though we may say that as a batsman his performance in the World Cup and during the West Indies tour was not up to the mark, but he proved his worth in bowling and fielding and emerged as the top wicket-taker in the tournament. Pakistani is already a broken team and we cannot afford to loose a player like Afridi. Therefore we hope that better sense would prevail in the PCB and Afridi would be persuaded to return to the team.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLES

PAK INSECURITY MEANS US INSECURITY

SAJJAD SHAUKAT

 

Despite tough statements of the US high officials, showing a paradoxical approach of Washington against Islamabad in connection with Osama Bin Laden who was killed in a US military raid at Abbottabad in Pakistan, America wants to continue its relationship with Pakistan which is a frontline state of war on terror. On May 18, this year, some US Senators and law-makers urged the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defence Secretary Robert Gates to review the security assistance of Pakistan, while some suggested cutting off the aid of the former, saying that some of its intelligence agencies were aware of the hideout of Bin Laden. But on May 19, Defence Secretary Gates and Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen stated that there was no evidence that leaders in Islamabad knew the whereabouts of the Al Qaeda chief before a US raid. They also advised against cutting off aid to Pakistan for its failure to go after terrorist leaders, while indicating that Washington had important interests at stake and that Islamabad had already been "humiliated" by the raid.

Meanwhile in wake of trust deficit and strained relations between Islamabad and Washington, the visit of the US Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator John Kerry to Islamabad was of great significance. While showing previous contradictory approach of America towards Pakistan, on May I6, John Kerry pointed out that future relations of the United States with Islamabad would be determined by "its actions, not words," emphasizing to 'do more' against the militants by ignoring the sacrifices of Pak Army and intelligence agencies—especially ISI regarding war against terrorism. However, having resolved some of the puzzles, lingering since Bin Laden's death in Abbottabad, Pakistan and the US agreed to work together in any future actions against high-value targets in Pakistan. Senator Kerry also remarked that the US respects Pakistan's national interest and sovereignty. But his words coincided with the CIA-operated two drone attacks which killed more than ten people in Miranshah. At the same time, Pakistani ground troops opened fire on two NATO helicopters that crossed into Pakistan's airspace from Afghanistan and targeted a security check post of our country. Afterwards, attacks by the US predators continued intermittently, killing a number of innocent persons on Pakistan's soil.


While on May 15, during his trip to Afghanistan, John Kerry had clearly revealed that the US will consider "all options" including high-value targets in Pakistan, if it has intelligence that the elusive Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Omar is hiding in Pakistan. The statement of Kerry was verified by the US President Obama who made it clear in a BBC interview on May 22 that he would "approve a new incursion into Pakistan, if the United States found another leading militant there."


Nevertheless, America's such an ambivalent policy is not without some hidden agenda. In this context, under the pretext of high-value targets in Pakistan, cross-border-terrorism in relation to Afghanistan, blame game against Pakistan's spy agency ISI and allegation about other Al Qaeda leaders' presence in Pakistan—the US which is in collusion with India and Israel, wants to 'denuclearize' Pakistan as the latter is the only Islamic country, possessing nuclear weapons. In this regard, secret agencies such as American CIA, Indian RAW and Israeli Mossad are collectively destabilizing Pakistan by supporting various subversive acts like bomb blasts, suicide attacks and targeted killings. It is mentionable that on September 3, 2008, American Special Operations forces attacked a Pakistani village, Angoor Ada, conducting a ground raid on Pakistani soil, which killed more than 60 innocent people. Notably, since the announcement of the US new strategy to "include targeting Pakistan's tribal areas" as disclosed by the Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen on September 10, 2008, US drone strikes on Pakistan's tribal areas have intensified, while May 2 raid at Abbottabad including American intentions to conduct more high-value targets in Pakistan are clear indications that the US wants to make Pakistan insecure. In fact, due to its failed adventure in coping with the Afghan Taliban, America has already made itself insecure as ambush assaults and suicide attacks continue on the Afghans and coalition forces in Afghanistan. Now by ignoring the dangers of its new strategy to directly strike Pakistan's tribal regions—violation of the sovereignty of an independent state, without caring for the reaction of the elected government as well as the people of the country, Washington is challenging the security of our country, thus making itself more insecure in turn. This is of particular attention that renowned power-theorists, Morgenthau, Waltz and Kissinger see international relations as constituting a search for security in the world where there is no super agency to impose law, and where maximization of power is the only route to state security. This is because of this reason that America and its allies of war on terror want security only for themselves, and seek to guarantee it through lethal force. Intermittently, heavy aerial bombardment and ground shelling by their forces in Iraq, Afghanistan and inside Pakistani border, killing tens of thousands of innocent civilians might be cited as an example. A similar pattern of state terrorism could be noted in case of Palestine, Kashmir, Somalia etc.


On the other side, Muslim militants, fighting against the imperialist powers through ambush rocket attacks and suicide bombers have broken the myth of old model of power-based security which only safeguards the interest of the US-led western countries at the cost of the small states. In this regard, particularly Pakistan has already been facing multifaceted crises owing to its support to Washington. In this respect, a perennial wave of suicide attacks in the country, targeting law-enforcement agencies coupled with a continuous battle with the militants in the Frontier Province could be noted as an instance. As violations of Pakistan's sovereignty show that America does not care for any internal backlash in Pakistan, so it is determined to create insecurity in the country.

Nonetheless, US war-mongering hidden strategy against Pakistan will further expedite extremism among the young men, turning them into suicide bombers, radicalizing a vast region from Pakistan to Syria, ultimately making America insecure—besides endangering the world peace. In Pakistan, it will certainly result into more unity among the elected government, security forces, the general masses and even the Pakistani religious organisations, consequently massive hostility and resistance against Americans. In such a scenario, Islamabad could be compelled to stop NATO supply to Afghanistan as public in the country is already protesting against the NATO containers which pass through Pakistan. In the present era of globalization, there is a direct relationship between internal and external security. If America intends to convert Pakistan into a "failed state" by causing instability, it is, in fact, creating external insecurity which is likely to further harm America's larger geo-political and economic interests on regional and global level.


In the aftermath of 9/11, western thinktanks have recognized inter-relationship between economics, politics and terrorism. Now, they agree in light of the US failed strategy, prolonged war against terrorism and defeatism in Afghanistan that religious fanaticism and stiff resistance of the Islamic militants are linked to political and economic injustices. Taking cognizance of this fact, the US must abandon its revised military strategy which entails Pakistan as the former still depends upon old power factor which has already failed. Instead, America should increase its economic and security aid to Pakistan and must make practical efforts for the development of infrastructure in FATA. In this context, Washington should also favour peace deals with the militants not only in Pakistan but also in Afghanistan where more lawlessness is causing more terrorism. As regards the question of Pak-US security, perhaps Washington has failed to recognize that security is a two-way traffic. If America needs security, Pakistan also wants the same. Security cannot be obtained by endangering the security of our country. In these, terms, Pakistan's insecurity means US insecurity.



—The writer is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations.

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

WEAK LEADERSHIP

SHAUKAT MASOOD ZAFAR

 

US continuing presence in Afghanistan as well as its increasingly aggressive "creep" over the Afghan-Pakistani border has been justified under the ambiguous and omnipresent threat of "terrorism." In reality, the true goal is to contain the rise of China and other emerging economies using the pretense of "terrorism." It is notable that Pakistan is the only nuclear country in the Islamic World; hence the US, India, Israel and some western powers are determined to weaken it. The fact of the matter is that CIA, RAW and Mossad are collectively working inside Pakistan. In this context, these secret agencies have been spending huge money to train and equip the militants who have been entering Pakistan on daily basis and have been conducting suicide attacks in our country, and assaults on our security forces including targetted killings—inciting sectarian violence.

Yet another reason is that in fact US want to break and divide Pakistan to easily get Baluchistan's rich minerals. Pakistan's extensive oil and gas reserves, largely located in Balochistan province, as well as its pipeline corridors are considered strategic by the US and its allies, requiring the concurrent militarization of Pakistani territory. Balochistan's strategic energy reserves have a bearing on the separatist agenda. Following a familiar pattern, there are indications that the Baloch insurgency is being supported and abetted by UK and the US. The American Administration is in complete favor of this Baluchistan's freedom. This plan has gained great popularity in US diplomatic and policy making circles. Baluchistan remains totally under the radar of the US news cycle. Gwader is the main part of new US great game. Pakistani rulers can not even think of standing as a barrier in front of any US interest and they would be ready to play any mega project or any contract drama to handover the minerals to them. So an independent Baluchistan would serve U.S. strategic interests in addition to the immediate goal of countering Islamist forces." In addition to the Gwadar port in Pakistan's Baluchistan region, China has also built dams, roads, and even nuclear power plants in the country. China has also supplied Pakistan with a tremendous amount of military technology. The only cards US seems to have left in its hand to counter this growing relationship are threats of destabilization, the subsequent stripping of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal, and Pakistan's Balkanization into smaller, ineffectual states.

During the present regime, with the help of Indian RAW and Israeli Mossad, Blackwater has rapidly established its network in Pakistan. Ex- ISI Punjab Regional Commander, Brigadier (retired) Ghazanfar says "Days after the mystery of 9/11, the CIA operatives landed in Pakistan in order to train Pakistani troops and authorities concerned for counter terrorism, but with the passage of time, their demands increased, and now the CIA network has a strong grip". It has recruited those Pakistani nationals who are vulnerable giving them high financial incentives. This force has been recruited, trained and equipped by the CIA operatives to target the Pakistan Army personnel, armed forces' installations, markets, hospitals, schools and public places to destabilise Pakistan. It has also been reported that Blackwater has been recruiting smugglers, employees of the security companies, experts of the psychological warfare, scholars and journalists in order to fulfill anti-Pakistan designs of America including India and Israel. CIA operatives and its ally agencies have infiltrated the Taliban and Al-Qaeda networks, and have created their own Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) force in order to destabilise Pakistan. There are also other factors at work. The so-called leaders of the Pakistani Taliban are on the US payroll. One was Baitullah Mehsud, the self-styled leader of the Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan. Similarly, in Swat, Mullah Fazlullah, another self-proclaimed Taliban leader, was frequently visited by CIA operatives. The US also recruited a large number of tribal leaders as well as politicians in the Frontier Province. Today, the CIA has hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Pakistanis on its payroll, earning $10,000 per month or more and operating in Pakistan. The same is true of tribal leaders bought for sacks full of dollars. Although Pakistan's security forces have successfully coped with the Taliban militants in the Malakand Division and South Waziristan, yet situation has deteriorated in the country where subversive events like suicide attacks, targeted killings, attacks on buildings, oil pipelines, sectarian violence etc. During the Malakand and Waziristan military operations, ISPR spokesman, Maj-Gen. Athar Abbas has repeatedly indicated foreign hands in helping the insurgents in order to destabilize Pakistan. The CIA's operations in collaboration with RAW and Mossad, which were suspended in Balochistan, Punjab, Islamabad and other areas of the country after the Raymond Allen Davis (RAD) incident, have now been restored. All US policies toward Pakistan are bad, and some are perhaps worse than others. The entire terrorism network has been managed by CIA, RAW, and Mossad stationed in Pakistan. Pakistan is unstable because of Zardari and his civilian government's complete lack of leadership — a lack of moral fiber and weakness. With the US preparing a major military escalation in Pakistan, the corrupt ruling elites have demonstrated their contempt for the Pakistani people. Unable, and unwilling, to solve the deep-seated structural problems facing their nation—unemployment, lack of security, rampant crime and corruption, the lack of public education, the absence of health care, free expression and the right to be left alone to live in peace— the Zardari administration has cut a deal with the imperialist overlords who now threaten destruction on a planetary scale.

Zardari is weak and ineffective. He and his government on the one hand depend on the Pakistani army to keep the country under control and on the other hand have close coordination with US authorities and CIA who is operating to destabilize the country. There seems failure in Pakistan on all counts. It is a fact that US has pushed for a compliant political leadership in Pakistan, with no commitment to the national interest, a leadership which serves US imperial interests, while concurrently contributing under the disguise of "decentralization", to the weakening of the central government and the fracture of Pakistan's fragile federal structure. The political impasse is deliberate. It is part of an evolving US foreign policy agenda, which favors disruption and disarray in the structures of the Pakistani State.

The symptoms of a deeper problem are quite visible. There is not going to be any good news from Pakistan for the last three years, because the fundamentals of the state are either failing or questionable. Under the present regime Pakistan is rapidly loosing its "stateness," that is the qualities that make a modern government function effectively. It is not likely to recover easily from political and economic mismanagement, divisive policies, lawlessness, corruption and ethnic friction. The Pakistani ruling elite have created a narrative of U.S.-Pakistan relations which is showing the United States letting Pakistan down. It is the incapacity of the state to educate its people in a modern fashion; it's the failure of the Pakistani economy to grow at all. In addition to its territory, which is strategically important, there is much more in Pakistan that is of benefit to its people yet it always needs outsiders for economic help. The conflict with India drains most of its budget. Our rulers think US some superflous power. If everything done in this world was under US wishes, so countries like Iran and North Korea wouldn't have existed in the world map. In Pakistan's case, it has already been divided into different parts and is in state of war which is due to the evil-doings of its own rulers who now miss no chance to malign the armed forces.

Wake up my countrymen, Get rid of America and get out of being allies of America in America's war of terror. This is our home, our nation, our forces, our Pakistan we are talking about. The U.S. continues to attack Pakistani territories and killing innocent Pakistani people in FATA and other areas. Our forces are already in trouble and encountering severe problems. If you can't do something physically, for god sake at least don't discourage the ones who are actually striving for their nation's security, who are under oath to protect the country and they stand by it whenever needed. U.S. and Pakistan share no mutual interests in Asia. U.S. wants a strong India to compete with China, and is worried about China's rise. Admittedly the military has made many mistakes and must be held accountable at some appropriate time.

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

WHERE IS THAT LEADER?

COLUMN FROM DALLAS

SAEED QURESHI

Two indispensible features have all along been lacking in the political landscape of Pakistan. One is selfless, motivated and patriotic leadership. The other is the institution building. The newly born country had fallen prey to the vandals of worst pedigree. It has been wantonly and relentlessly pillaged financially and crippled institutionally, by self-perpetuating people and rapacious groups that had scant concern or interest in its welfare, stability and its evolution as a modern nation state.

From the dawn of independence, it remained lorded-over by creepy bureaucrats, ravenous feudal classes, insidious dwarf politicians, hypocritical religionists and murderous mafias that kept exacting their pound of flesh throughout. There has always been severe and acute famine of leaders with nobility of character and sublimity of spirit to serve this county for its greatness and glory. The foundational and structural flaw was its two wings that were poles apart in every manner except the religion. Religion failed as a cohesive and uniting force between Former East Pakistan and the present West Pakistan. The dismemberment of Pakistan was destined to happen sooner or later. The egalitarian and democratic spirit of the Bengali nation was a check on the parasitic and fiefdom mentalities of West Pakistan. However, after 1971, when East Pakistan seceded, the left over western part had become an exclusive grazing ground for all exploitative classes and greedy ruffians to turn it into a barren land politically, socially and economically.

The search for a great leader has been elusive so far. It is a dismaying coincidence that the perpetual crises in Pakistan have not produced a leader of sterling integrity and high caliber with powerful intellect, iron will and lofty ideals to lead Pakistan towards a splendid destiny. There have been mediocre, mean-spirited, self-centered, exploitative, oppressive individuals grabbing power by trickery, deceit and ignoble machinations. The leaders on the whole, were infected with the undying desire of self fortification in the power citadel, loot of national wealth by every conceivable devious means, destroy or dibilatate democratic traditions and nation building institutions.

The political parties and their stalwarts depend more on intrigues and back door maneuvers to dislodge and depose the sitting governments and not by established democratic traditions of fair and free elections. The political anarchy that interminably hovers over Pakistan has been the dirty and loathsome work of the politicians than the army. The generals always stepped in at the behest of the selfish political cronies or as a result of a totally collapsed system of governance. If politicians would have behaved and adhered to and promoted democracy culture, the army could have never ruled Pakistan for half of its post independence period.

The accumulated mess of six decades has to be cleared by someone or else Pakistan's survival as a viable state is at stake. You name one institution and you would lament that it is dysfunctional due to incompetency, kickbacks, bribery, and lack of funds or malafide intentions not to make it efficient. The Parliament, Senate, ministries, police, airlines, railways, courts, municipal administrations, industries, presidency, Prime Minister House, education, health, social services, law and order are being run on borrowed time. The state or national institutions are in a state of complete or near wreck. The worst sufferers are the majority of the people of Pakistan. The elite classes, the aristocracy, the ruling cliques, the big businessmen, and snobbish bureaucarts are immune from the myriad predicaments and day to day tragedies and hardships that a common man encounters. So let us talk about a unique leader who can address this morbid situation and redeem Pakistan from a colossal drift and national calamity that if remained unchecked could push it towards an irredeemable decay and terminal disintegration.

Such divinely gifted leaders have appeared in history who changed the destiny of their nations from total collapse to resplendent redemption. Let us indulge in a fanciful utopia, and subjective reckoning and wishful reflection. Let us ponder that if we have one like Hazrat Omar, Mamun-ur-Rshid of Abbasid dynasty, Salahuddin Ayub of medieval Iraq, Kamal Ataturk of 20th century, Imam Khomeini of Iran, Li Kuan of Singapore, Fidel Castro of Cuba, founding fathers of the United States, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto of Pakistan, De-Gaulle of France, Mau Zedong or Ding Xiaoping of China, Hochi Minh of Vietnam and so on. Bhutto was a dazzling flash in the chequered and tumultuous history of Pakistan but it extinguished for his own temperamental flaws and by the external forces in league with the local quislings. His achievements are distinctive and excel his failings. He was a trendsetter but fell victim to the work of local intriguers and the foreign string pullers. On the political horizon of Pakistan there is no other lofty figure (leave the founder of Pakistan) who could be portrayed as a leader of true national stature. Pakistan needs a radical progressive, reformist, a firebrand, iron willed revolutionary, chivalrous and visionary leader. He should be a leader who is incorruptible, astute and farsighted. He should be the one who can keep his nose to the grindstone and never budge or bend on matters pertaining to national honor, sublime mission for change and reconstruction of Pakistan as a modern, developed state. He should be the enemy of status quo, of sectarianism, of vested interests, of selfish pressure groups and cartel, corruption, nepotism, feudalism, comprador classes, and the false and exploitative sainthood. He could lay down his life but would not dither nor compromise on his lofty ideals of nation building. He should be a person hating self aggrandizement, wealth, personal galore and glorification, live a simple life and shun ostentation.

He should speak and plead for the masses He should mobilize the downtrodden and intellectuals and intelligentsia for a gubernatorial change. He should stand for consolidation of healthy and efficient institutions, for equality, unalloyed justice and social services for all on equal basis. Am I asking too much for a leader to rescue this harassed nation from a catastrophic abyss of sufferings? Well if it is a wishful thinking then let it be so. There have been such matchless and legendary leaders who led their nations in the most critical periods and drove them out of the dire straits of untold afflictions and rejuvenated them from the ashes of annihilation. Can this miracle happen in Pakistan too?

—The writer is a senior journalist and a former diplomat.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

BUDGET — EXPECTATIONS & POSSIBILITIES

MALIK M ASHRAF

 

In the modern era budgets are not merely a statement of revenue and expenditure of the government but a comprehensive manuscript that mirrors state of the economy, delineates a set of policy initiatives to nudge and accelerate growth and unfurls measures envisioned to promote the well being of the masses. Because of their wholesome character they affect each and every segment of the society in one way or the other. That adequately explains why people evince so much interest in the budget and the expectations that they have in regards to improvement in their economic situation.

Frankly speaking the state of the economy is not in an enviable position with projections of a 2.4 % growth in GDP during the current fiscal year and the budgetary deficit escalating between 6-7% of the GDP. The mother of all the economic ailments afflicting the economy and obstructing growth, the budgetary deficit has spiked to Rs.11.2 trillion. It has increased sharply to 66 percent of the GDP in March this year from 54.5 per cent in June 2007 which is attributed to excessive borrowing by the government from outside and from the banking system within the country. The detractors of the government heap opprobrium on the government for its inability to check this trend and pushing the country into an economic spin. The criticism of the government in this regard, is not wholly justified and is being hurled completely out of context. These critics are not prepared to give it the allowance for the fact that the country had to bear an additional burden of US$ 74 billion due to war on terror, the devastation wrought by the floods that will require Rs.160 billion to rebuild the infrastructure and the huge liability that had to be shouldered for the rehabilitation of the IDPs. The dilemma for the government is that it perforce has to borrow considerably to invest in defence, public services, infrastructure projects, dams, electricity generation, etc. etc. During the current fiscal year it had to borrow excessively from the central and commercial banks because of its inability to implement RGST for raising tax revenue and the squeeze on the external funds which were reduced to Rs.89 billion in the first 10 months of the year against an anticipated inflow of Rs.566 million for the entire year.The precarious law and order situation in the country, a corollary to the war on terror, also discouraged the prospective foreign investors to invest in the country. Rising oil and food prices internationally also had a negative affect on the economy besides adding to the economic woes of the people by nudging inflation. It is thus evident that all these factors were beyond the control of the government. The sluggish economic growth, uncertain political and security environment and irregular flow of funds from donors and multilateral financial institution forced government's hand to continue borrowing to meet its inescapable needs. There is no doubt that the government is committed to reversing this trend. It is targeting reduction in the fiscal deficit from 6% of GDP to 4.5% and a growth rate of 4.2% during the next financial year. The Asian Development Bank has forecast a growth rate of 3.7 percent during the next year citing persistent energy crisis and security situation as the hampering factors. There is a unanimity of view among the economic managers of the government and the economists that the reversal is only possible through reduction in the fiscal deficit driven by expansion in the tax net and reduction in subsidies, as being contemplated by the government. The government is envisaging to net Rs.1.9 trillion through different taxes and fiscal measures during the next financial year which represents 16% increase over the target for the current year. Most of the analysts are of the view that there is hardly any room to cut on the expenditure side as 75% of the revenue collected by the FBR goes to debt servicing, interest repayment and security related expenditure.

In regards to expanding the tax net, the government is relying on taxing all kinds of incomes including incomes from agriculture ( which will be implemented with the cooperation of the provinces as the subject has fallen into their domain after Eighteenth Amendment), imposition of RGST if it can win the support of its allies and the opposition, resort to greater emphasis on direct taxes instead of indirect taxes that spur inflation and adoption of a system of targeted subsidies benefiting the poorer sections of the population. Additional revenues are also likely to be generated through removal of general sales tax (GST) exemptions on given on fertilizers, tractors, pesticides, garments, leather, carpets, surgical and medicines. These steps are in line with the IMF recommendations and do not require parliamentary approval. The new Transit Trade Agreement between Pakistan and Afghanistan could also immensely contribute to raising additional revenues. Presently the estimated trade between Afghanistan and Pakistan is over US$ I billion, while the black market trade is several times greater than the legitimate bilateral trade due to the loopholes in the previous agreement. The new protocol, to a great extent, plugs those cleavages and takes care of the illegal trade by providing an appropriate mechanism to check the unscrupulous elements.

The resort to direct taxes will help in bringing down the inflation from the present 14% to the contemplated figure of 12% during the next year, supplemented by targeted subsidies and reduction in the government borrowing that will curtail the money flow into the economy. In regards to accelerating growth and tackling the problem of un-employment, the government has decided to rely on private-sector led growth instead of leading the process itself. Plans are also on the anvil to strengthen the existing security nets and providing relief to the salaried class. Conceptually it is hard to take issue with the policies that the government contemplates to unfurl but under the prevailing situation, understandably, one should not expect miracles to happen.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

MINI-WEAPONS FOR NEW AGE OF WARFARE

W J HENNIGAN

 

Under mounting pressure to keep its massive budget in check, the Pentagon is looking to cheaper, smaller weapons to wage war in the 21st century. A new generation of weaponry is being readied in clandestine laboratories across the nation that puts a priority on pintsized technology that would be more precise in warfare and less likely to cause civilian casualties. Increasingly, the Pentagon is being forced to discard expensive, hulking, Cold War-era armaments that exact a heavy toll on property and human lives. At L-3 Interstate Electronics Corp. in Anaheim, technicians work in secure rooms developing a GPS guidance system for a 13-pound "smart bomb" that would be attached to small, low-flying drone. Engineers in Simi Valley at AeroVironment Inc. are developing a mini-cruise missile designed to fit into a soldier's rucksack, be fired from a mortar and scour the battlefield for enemy targets. And in suburban Portland, Ore. Voxtel Inc. is concocting an invisible mist to be sprayed on enemy fighters and make them shine brightly in night-vision goggles.

These miniature weapons have one thing in common: They will be delivered with the help of small robotic planes. Drones have grown in importance as the Pentagon has seen them play a vital role in Iraq, Afghanistan and reportedly in the raid on Osama bin Laden's hideout in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Now, engineers in Southern California and elsewhere are refining drone technology to deliver a powerful wallop with increasingly smaller robotic planes — many of which resemble model aircraft buzzing around local parks. This work is aimed primarily at one buyer —the Pentagon, which is seeking a total of $671 billion for fiscal 2012. Of that, drones represent $4.8 billion, a small but growing segment of the defense budget — and that doesn't include spending on robotic weapons technology in the classified portion of the budget.

This comes at a time when expensive weapons programs, like Marine Corps amphibious assault vehicles and Navy cruisers, are being eyed for trims. Although some mini-weapons may resemble toys, they represent a new wave of sophisticated technology in modern warfare, which has forced the military and weapons-makers to think small. And they are just a few under development that have been disclosed. "There are a lot of weapons in the military's arsenal," said Lt. Col. Brad Beach, an official who coordinates the Marines' drone technology. "But what we don't have is something small." The military is flush with multi-ton bunker-busting bombs designed to reduce fortified buildings into smoldering rubble. But Marines on the front lines in Afghanistan say there is an urgent need for a weapon that is small and powerful enough to protect them from insurgents planting roadside bombs. Marines already have small spy drones with high-powered cameras, but what they need is a way to destroy the enemies that their drones discover.

Looking to fill the need, the 13-pound "smart bomb" has been under development for three years. The 2-foot-long bomb is steered by a GPS-guided system made in Anaheim. The bomb is called Small Tactical Munition, or STM, and is under development by Raytheon Co. "Soldiers are watching bad guys plant" roadside bombs and "can't do anything about it," said Cody Tretschok, who leads work on the program at Raytheon. "They have to call in an air strike, which can take 30 to 60 minutes. The time lapse is too great."

The idea is that the small bomb could be slung under the spy plane's wing, dropped to a specific point using GPS coordinates or a laser-guidance system, and blast apart "soft" targets, such as pickup trucks and individuals, located 15,000 feet below. Raytheon does not yet have a contract for the bomb and is building it entirely with its own money. "We're proactively anticipating the military's need," said Tretschok, who is testing the technology at the Army's Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona.

— Courtesy: Los Angeles Times

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THE AUSTRALIYAN

EDITORIAL

NATIONAL INTEREST MUST INFORM CARBON TAX PLAN

PROFESSOR Ross Garnaut deserves praise for three years of detailed work helping the Rudd and Gillard governments devise a climate change policy.

While he must have been frustrated by the backdowns and back-flips, he needs to avoid the posture of a crusader. Regardless of the various political, scientific and economic positions in this debate, there is broad agreement that because Australia accounts for only 1.5 per cent of global emissions it would be an exercise in economic self-harm, for negligible environmental benefit, if we were to move too far ahead of the rest of the world. So it was of some concern that on this crucial point Professor Garnaut said yesterday: "I don't accept that my country is a pissant country."

The Australian hopes this crude riposte does not betray an enthusiasm on Professor Garnaut's behalf for our nation to prove its mettle by being at the vanguard of climate action. That is not a sensible place for Australia to be. This newspaper has consistently supported a market mechanism to reduce carbon emissions, but we have cautioned that we must take our lead from the largest emitters, including the US and China. Australia is certainly a significant country, but we should not handicap ourselves.

With France, Japan and Canada ruling out a second round of Kyoto commitments unless there are binding targets on the developing world, and the US also refusing to budge, now is not the time for Australia to be playing some kind of Crocodile Dundee game with the international community -- "Now that's a carbon tax."

The Europeans have long been the greatest enthusiasts for putting a price on carbon, even though their own emissions trading scheme has had limited success. It was a diplomatic masterstroke in 1997 for the Europeans to retrospectively negotiate 1990 as the benchmark year for Kyoto targets. In the early 1990s, Britain's switch from coal to North Sea gas saw fixed-generation emissions plummet and the fall of the Berlin Wall saw the collapse of dirty industries in Eastern Bloc nations. So, until now, the Europeans have given themselves an easy ride.

Australia needs to balance these realities against the advantages, identified by Professor Garnaut, of starting relatively early. A comparatively cheap start could prevent future pain. His final report provides a plausible path forward for Julia Gillard. He continues to support taxation reform as part of the carbon tax compensation package, including an increase from an effective tax-free threshold of $16,000 to $25,000. This is a useful contribution to the debate and, if implemented carefully, has the potential to support the government's welfare-to-work agenda. However, by suggesting a carbon price of $26 a tonne and predicting a 10 per cent increase in electricity prices, the report will undoubtedly add fuel to the opposition's cost-of-living campaign.

The call for an independent body to set Australia's emissions targets is pure folly and must be rejected. The whole basis of our democracy is to charge governments with such crucial decisions, not to outsource them to unelected officials. On that score, the time for reports and recommendations is now over and the government must urgently finalise a settled policy so the nation can proceed with well-informed consideration of the path forward.

 

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    THE AUSTRALIYAN

EDITORIAL

AUSTRALIA MUST HELP STOP CRUELTY

AUSTRALIANS have been deeply moved over the pain inflicted on Australian cattle in Indonesia and many might feel relieved that Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig has banned live exports to 11 abattoirs.

This measure is not a solution in itself and must be followed with swift, resolute action by the meat industry and the government, in co-operation with Indonesian authorities. Humane killing, especially the use of stunners that do not contradict halal meat processing requirements, must be introduced to all Indonesian abattoirs without delay.

The answer to the horrific cruelty uncovered is not, as some demand, a total cessation of live exports from Australia to Indonesia. Such a course would jeopardise a $300 million trade and thousands of jobs for nothing, merely opening the way for animals exported by other, less humane nations to suffer protracted, agonising deaths preceded by beatings, kickings, eye gouging and broken legs. A ban would remove the chance of the kind of reforms Australia can help enact.

The ABC's Four Corners and Animals Australia did an outstanding job bringing details and footage of the brutality to the attention of Australia and the world. Footage of rearing cattle smashing their heads on concrete and shaking in fear as they watched others being brutalised will not be forgotten. A handful of Indonesian abattoirs have made improvements but it is alarming that repeated training by Australians has failed to redress local incompetence and inhumane practices.

Watching bound cattle tumbling out of the restraining boxes provided by Australians was deeply disturbing and made the promise by Livecorp chief executive Cameron Hall that Australian animals would be going to facilities with such boxes only until the end of next year seem cold comfort. On their own, the boxes cannot replace stunning. But their use is less horrendous than traditional slaughter methods in which beasts are roped and knocked down with their heads made to face Mecca as their throats are slashed.

The program confirmed the high standards of Australian cattle production and the humane transport of the animals by boat. As newly prosperous Indonesians buy more meat, Australia faces an important challenge in helping to improve abattoir standards. We should not abandon it to others.

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THE AUSTRALIYAN

EDITORIAL

MERKEL IGNORES ECONOMIC SENSE

THE political imperatives behind German Chancellor Angela Merkel's announcement that all the country's nuclear power plants will close by 2022 are obvious.

But by blatantly reneging on her own commitments in order to cosy up to the Greens, she looks like the ultimate nuclear Nimby.

With more than a quarter of Germany's energy supplied by domestic nuclear power, the government has said it will make up the shortfall through wind and solar power. Few believe that's feasible in an industrial giant that already imports substantial energy supplies from nuclear power plants in France, Switzerland and Poland. The inescapable consequence of the announcement is that there will have to be a substantial increase in those imports, something that does not bother Ms Merkel, provided the nuclear plants are not in her own back yard and she can get the Greens on side.

Her blatant opportunism is all about the next election and the irrational wave of fear that has swept Germany since the Fukushima accident in Japan, leading to polls showing 56 per cent of Germans now oppose nuclear power.

In the Bundestag two months ago, Ms Merkel gave a firm assurance that she would not be rushed into abandoning nuclear power, recognising that doing so would not make economic or scientific sense. Shutting nuclear power plants, she said, would only mean importing more energy. She changed her tune after a string of disastrous election results for her Christian Democratic Union and its Free Democrat allies, blamed largely on her perceived pro-nuclear stance. The FDP, in particular, has been losing votes almost as fast as the Greens gain them, while the Greens have defeated the CDU in its Baden-Wuerttemberg heartland and outpolled them in Bremen for the first time. For Ms Merkel, the Greens now look a better bet as an electoral ally than the FDP.

That the Chancellor has allowed herself to be spooked by the Greens and irrational post-Fukushima hysteria is regrettable. Germany will be weakened as an industrial nation, pushing up power prices, making emissions goals more difficult to achieve and forcing reliance on coal and gas. Ms Merkel isn't the first leader strongarmed by fear of the Greens into permitting cynical political expediency to trump economic sense. Germany will pay a heavy price.

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

THE POLITICS OF GARNAUT

ROSS GARNAUT, in the last report of his climate change review, has come directly to grips with the difficult politics of the issue. He has recommended generous compensation, increasing with time, for lower-income households. That should overcome the suspicions many hold about a carbon tax.

In his address launching the report yesterday he fired heavy salvoes at some of industry's biggest foot-draggers, the Business Council, big mining companies, and the Australian Workers Union. His analysis explodes their arguments, and exposes the self-serving nature of their position.

But his recommendations also recognise that on this issue, politicians are subject to pressures they are mostly too frail to withstand. He has recommended key decisions be taken out of their hands. An independent authority should decide what Australia's greenhouse gas emissions target should be, and also the emissions cap under the trading scheme which is envisaged to start from 2014.

There are precedents - some encouraging, some less so - for removing controversial decisions from politics. The salaries of politicians and some others are set by the Remuneration Tribunal, established in an attempt to take the heat out of an issue which can inflame public opinion. It has had mixed success: politicians still have to legislate to alter salaries, and at that point the system not infrequently fails, due process falling victim to familiar prejudices.

The setting of interest rates is perhaps a closer parallel. This fundamental instrument of economic management is no longer regulated by the treasurer but by the Reserve Bank - a change which is now universally accepted. Just as the settings of a carbon tax or emissions trading regime would, interest rate changes affect every part of the economy. It should be the model: no legislation should be necessary to adjust or fine-tune climate policy.

Acceptance, though, is the key to success - but here the parallel falls away. It took decades for the public to accept an independent arbiter of interest rates. The climate change debate is still in its infancy, as can be seen in the often infantile contributions from some politicians seeking to win favour by denying scientific evidence of the problem. Equally inane demands from business and unions for special exemptions to protect powerful interests from change show the same lack of insight. The whole point of the policy is to hasten change.

Garnaut is right. But it appears some industries, employees and consumers will take time to accept his prescriptions. Let us hope they get the point before it is too late.

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

FOOTBALL TRIPS ON OWN GOAL

FOOTBALL isn't exactly burning. Indeed, the world's most prevalent sport grows stronger. Everyone wants a part of it and administrators of other sporting codes look upon soccer with envy and admiration. The code's emperors, however, fiddle (in more ways than one) while their greed and indulgence sully the sport that gave them prominence.

For soccer is not the beneficiary of the sorry lot that make up the code's ruling body, FIFA. It is the other way round, as it was with the Olympics movement until International Olympic Committee delegates were caught selling their votes so Salt Lake City could host the 2002 winter games.

In structure and practice, FIFA is a council of warlords where the weak beg for the strong's protection and the potent dispense patronage with an eye to extending hegemony or vanquishing rivals. For years FIFA kept its dirty fighting in-house, but anyone with a passing interest knew the laundry was soiled. The lid is finally lifting because it is the nature of participants in bodies such as FIFA to overstep, to go beyond the tolerance of a nod and a wink. Football will be better for the sunlight.

Sepp Blatter, the 75-year-old Swiss president of FIFA, might seem to have survived the battle and is on course today to be re-elected unopposed to a fourth and final term. The colossus of world soccer, however, is mortally wounded because few seriously think he emerges with his hands clean.

His chief rival for the presidency, the Asian Football Federation boss Mohamed bin Hammam, who orchestrated his native Qatar's surprise selection as host of the 2022 World Cup, is at least temporarily on the sidelines, having been suspended from the FIFA executive committee along with Jack Warner, boss of soccer for the Caribbean, north and central America, and two other Caribbean officials. They're accused of bribing Caribbean nations to vote for Qatar last December.

"I will not put my personal ambition ahead of FIFA's dignity and integrity," bin Hammam said on standing aside from the presidential race. Too late, sir.

Now is a ripe time for reformers to lead a long overdue insurrection. Don't wait for the slippery Blatter to make good his promise to eradicate corruption because he only recently denied its existence.

Australian soccer stands mute on the issue, presumably waiting for a safe course to reveal itself. England is not such a minnow, and already has indicated a willingness to stand up to Blatter, bin Hammam and Warner. The mother of the modern game might be a useful rallying point.

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

TWO FITZROY PROPERTIES ABOUT TO HIT MARKET    

Two properties in prime positions on Brunswick and Smith streets in Fitzroy are set to hit the market through Colliers International this week.

A block of four retail shops at 382-394 Brunswick Street on a combined site area of more than 1411 sq m is for sale for the first time in more than 40 years in an expressions of interest (EOI) campaign. The portfolio is tipped to fetch more than $12 million if sold as a whole, or from $3 million each if sold as individual properties. The other property, at 237 Smith Street, is a retail and office building that is available at an asking price of $3.8 million.

Matt Stagg and Jeremy Gruzewski are the agents for Brunswick Street, while Mr Stagg is also handling Smith Street with colleague Ted Dwyer. The Brunswick EOI closes on June 30 at 5pm, and the Smith Street private sale ends on June 30 at 5pm.

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

FARLEY TO JOIN JONES LANG LASALLE

JONES Lang LaSalle has appointed Tim Farley to its corporate solutions team in the Melbourne office. Mr Farley, formerly of CBRE, will join the firm as a director in June. Mr Farley has more than 10 years' experience in the property industry, including commercial agency and client management roles in London and Scotland. He will focus on tenant representation, having acted on behalf of key clients such as Newell Rubbermaid, Kodak and Santos both nationally and internationally.

 Spence to Walker Corp

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Michael Spence has been appointed asset manager for Walker Corporation's Collins Square development in Melbourne. Mr Spence was previously Investa's general manager of its flagship asset 120 Collins. Collins Square has the potential to deliver 180,000-square-metres of office space, making it the largest commercial development under construction in Australia.

 

Colliers expands team

Colliers International has appointed Hamish Burgess to the position of executive, investment services, as part of the expansion of its Melbourne East investment services team. He will work alongside directors Peter Bremner, Pat Burke and associate director Tim Grant, to focus specifically on metro commercial, suburban strip retail, auctions and city fringe sales. Before Colliers, Mr Burgess spent two years with Teska Carson in Richmond.

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

FOOD: A HUNGRY WORLD

An Oxfam report published yesterday forecasts that a billion people will go undernourished this year

Charities and development economists necessarily focus so much attention on hungry people that you might be forgiven for thinking this was a problem only and always getting bigger. Not so. The number of hungry people worldwide actually fell between 1969 and 1997; and it dropped sharply after the great food-price spike of 2008. Those are headline statistics, of course, but they show one thing: this is not an intractable problem.

It is, however, a resurgent one. An Oxfam report published yesterday forecasts that a billion people will go undernourished this year. It is not the only one to sound the alarm: last week the UN warned that spiralling food prices could well lead to riots, as happened in 30 countries three years ago. Then there is Christian Aid, which recently put out its own report on hunger, and the World Bank, which has talked more and more of late about food poverty. However alarming Oxfam's predictions this week about the future of food might be – that the average price of staples will more than double in the next couple of decades, hitting the world's poorest hardest – few of the other NGOs working in this field would sharply disagree with them. Nor would Oxfam's description of the food-supply system as "bust" be too controversial. Any system that produces enough food for the entire world and yet fails to feed one in seven people, which is subject to rampant speculation and land-grabbing, and where crops and land that could be used to feed people are instead turned into fuel for Hummers, is patently not working.

The question is what to do about it. Typically, the solutions divide into three. The first is to leave the market to sort it out: financiers and an open trading system will supposedly shunt more cash into agriculture. This may be the case over the long term, but this logic completely failed in 2008 and the resulting disaster cost human lives. Free-traders sometimes point to the export bans instituted by Egypt, Malawi and so many others as being the prime culprit of the price spiral, but they were really a response.

The second is at the opposite extreme, and consists of wailing about population growth. Yet it is not African villagers who are eating more than their fair share. The British eat 85kg of meat a year; in newly rich but often vegetarian India, that figure falls to 3kg. The problem is not population numbers but consumption, and here the west punches well above its weight.

Finally, there is an answer that lies in treating food security as a priority, rather than as a soft commodity to be traded like any other. Its production and trading should be much more heavily regulated, and protected.

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

IN PRAISE OF… ADAM CURTIS

A documentary film-maker who can link the colour revolutions of eastern Europe to the communes of California

If you are looking for a documentary film-maker who can link the colour revolutions of eastern Europe to the communes of California – via the botanist Arthur Tansley, Field Marshal Jan Smuts, Jay Forrester, Ayn Rand, cybernetics, and machine theory – then Adam Curtis is your man. Curtis aims each of his series at a well-defined target, even if it turns out to be a somewhat idiosyncratic one. In The Century of the Self (2002) it was how Freud's theories were used as a means of control in an age of mass democracy. In The Power of Nightmares (2004) it was the deadly symbiosis of Leo Strauss's neoconservatism and Islamic jihadism. In his current series, All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace, the target is the illusion that nature is self-balancing, and how machines make us believe in a stable world. You don't have to be convinced by every link in the chain to find this grand, author-driven intellectual tourism stimulating. The colour revolutions of Ukraine, Georgia and Kyrgyzstan were not utopian projects. Just look at the leaders they threw up and the forces backing them. Curtis's scripts are full of sentences like: "This is the story of the rise of the dream of the self-organising system and the strange machine fantasy that underpins it." Curtis is not afraid to spread his canvas wide, but where he succeeds he grounds a familiar narrative of catastrophe in an equally disaster- prone history of ideas. The collage of archival film is rich. This is documentary as it was before the arrival of reality TV – provocative.

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

FIFA'S FUTURE: DON'T GET MAD, GET EVEN

Reformers should vote against Mr Blatter, but the real need is for the critics to adopt an achievable strategy for the future

Football is the planet's favourite game. But Fifa, international football's global super-body, has become an outright embarrassment to the sport. The catalyst for Fifa's unprecedented current discredit was the extraordinary award of the 2022 World Cup, the single biggest decision the body can take, to Qatar, a country that would struggle to beat the Falkland Islands or the Vatican City in a football match, but which is stonkingly well-endowed with money and the five-star hotels in which Fifa executives and their hangers-on like to spend as much of their lives as possible at other people's expense.

The Qatar decision exposed the dominant culture of Fifa in the era of its longtime president Sepp Blatter to unsustainable strain. Under him, Fifa has become a vastly wealthy organisation, selling lucrative World Cup and international football sponsorship and media rights – worth well over £1bn. The accusation is that this money is recycled, in return for votes, into the pet schemes of the satraps who make up Fifa's self-perpetuating executive. Today, after a gloriously damaging campaign for Fifaland, the discredited Mr Blatter will be "re‑elected" – but not in the manner that football supporters would understand the term.

Unfortunately for football, there has as yet been no equivalent of the Arab spring to topple the system over which President Blatter presides. In an ideal world, today's Fifa election in Zurich would be postponed. The congress would adopt a reform programme with anti-corruption safeguards of the sort that the International Olympic Committee was forced to introduce after its own Qatar moment, the bought decision in 1995 to give the 2002 Winter Olympics to Salt Lake City. These would include a complete clearout of the feuding executives who presided over the discredited Qatar award, the reopening of the 2022 process, strict expenses-only limits on what Fifa members can accept or be offered by bidding nations, term limits and age ceilings for Fifa executives, transparency of voting and accounts, and the addition of a group of independent members to the board, perhaps including such football luminaries as Franz Beckenbauer or Roger Milla to restore public confidence.

Yet it must be faced that we do not currently live in such a world. The indignation felt against Fifa in this country and a few others is not as widely shared as it should be, though a tide may be moving in the critics' direction. But the critics also need to be clearer about what they want to put in place of Mr Blatter's regime. It is easier to make the romantic suggestion that football should be controlled by the fans who pay for their tickets than to say the form that such a system would actually take. If Fifa collapsed, it is more likely that it would be challenged by a system of international football run in the interests of the world's football powers and the major clubs who could attract the sponsors, rather than in the interests of the developing world. Many developing-world countries still feel, not illogically in the case of some influential small ones, that they have more interest in the status quo, with all its faults, than in a challenge to it led by rich and established Europeans. And Europe itself does not speak with one voice. The latest twists and turns of Mr Blatter's rotten rule may have been front-page news in this country yesterday. But the Fifa congress rated only page 11 of L'Equipe and page 15 of Gazzetta dello Sport yesterday – two of Europe's most prestigious specialist sports dailies.

Even if the anti-Blatter mood was more widespread, the chances of putting together an effective challenge to the regime at such short notice are negligible. Reformers should certainly vote against Mr Blatter today, but the real need is for the critics to adopt an achievable strategy for the future. They need a manifesto. They need organisation. And they need a candidate to replace Mr Blatter. At the moment they have none of them. They need to get serious.

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THE JAPAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

MR. KAN'S LOFTY ENERGY GOAL

Prime Minister Naoto Kan said last week in France that Japan will generate 20 percent of its electricity from renewable sources in the early 2020s. The new goal is 10 years ahead of the government's original 2010 plan.

He also mentioned a plan to install solar panels in 10 million households.

Although he failed to declare that Japan will reduce its dependence on nuclear power generation, his goal is reasonable in view of the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

On the same day, the Japan Trade Union Confederation (Rengo), Japan's biggest labor organization and the largest supporter of the Democratic Party of Japan, decided to freeze its policy of pushing nuclear power generation, adopted in August 2010. Rengo's decision is likely to boost Mr. Kan's efforts.

He hopes to reduce the cost of voltaic solar panels for power generation to one-third the current level by 2020 and to one-sixth the current level by 2030 through technological innovation.

Currently the percentage of renewable sources in Japan's power supply is only about 1 percent, and if hydraulic power generation is added, the rate is about 9 percent.

The goal set by Mr. Kan is very high. The government should secure funds to promote not only solar power but also wind and other renewable energy sources. Since the supply of renewable energy sources can be unstable, significant investment will be required to improve the power grid.

At present, a system exists in which power companies buy surplus power generated by solar panels. To promote renewable power sources, Mr. Kan must strive to ensure that a bill is enacted that will obligate power companies to buy surplus electricity from all other renewable sources, including wind, geothermal, small-scale hydraulic and biomass.

As long as Japan's 10 power companies monopolize power transmission lines, people will have difficulty buying power from small-scale power generating entities that use renewable energy sources.

Mr. Kan must exercise strong leadership to liberalize the power-distribution system.

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THE JAPAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

COMMUNICATION BREAKDOWN

Confusion over the information on the injection of sea water into the No. 1 reactor at the stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant highlights the communication problems plaguing the prime minister's headquarters and Tokyo Electric Power Co.

Both should realize that their credibility has been severely damaged. On May 21, the joint government-Tepco headquarters announced that although Tepco started injecting sea water into the reactor at 7:04 p.m. on March 12 — the day after the earthquake and tsunami hit the plant — it stopped the injection at 7:25 p.m. but resumed it at 8:20 p.m.

In the Diet, Prime Minister Naoto Kan faced criticism because of suspicion that his interference caused the interruption of the injection.

On May 26, Tepco revealed that there was no interruption. It explained that (1) Tepco management and the power plant head, Mr. Masao Yoshida, had agreed in a TV conference that the sea water injection should be suspended because a Tepco official who visited the prime minister's headquarters reported that in the absence of Mr. Kan's judgment on the sea water injection, there was an "atmosphere" against it; that (2) despite the agreement, Mr. Yoshida continued the injection; and that (3) he raised no objection to the agreement during the conference.

Tepco management must be criticized for deciding to suspend the injection because of the "atmosphere" at the prime minister's headquarters. It ignored Tepco's accident management manual, which gives a nuclear power plant head prerogative to inject sea water into a reactor in an emergency situation.

Mr. Yoshida's decision to give priority to cooling the reactor and continue the sea water injection was correct. But he should be criticized for failing to insist on his prerogative during the conference and for hiding his unilateral action.

This development points to the distrust people on the scene have toward Tepco management.

The management's decision seems to have been influenced by Mr. Kan's earlier behavior. He should improve communication with Tepco. He (and Tepco management) must leave technical decisions to people who best know and understand the situation at hand.

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THE JAPAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

CHINA STEPS UP DRILLING, INTIMIDATION

BY MICHAEL RICHARDSON

SINGAPORE — China recently launched an oil and natural gas drilling platform that may be as significant as military modernization in buttressing Beijing's claims to control most of the islands, water and seabed in the maritime heart of Southeast Asia.

Designed to withstand typhoons, the giant rig was delivered to the state-owned China National Offshore Oil Corp. (CNOOC), the country's largest offshore energy producer. The company says it plans to use the platform to start drilling in the South China Sea in July.

It has not said where, but China's Global Times said that the deepwater rig, which is taken to its destination by powerful tugs, would "help China establish a more important presence in the largely untapped southern part of the South China Sea."

It is in this zone, which includes the widely-scattered Spratly Islands, that China's sweeping South China Sea claim overlaps with those of Taiwan and four Southeast Asian states — the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei.

China's increasingly assertive policy in the South China Sea dispute was underscored last weekend when Beijing rebutted a protest that it had violated Vietnam's sovereignty. Hanoi said that three Chinese marine surveillance ships had damaged the cables of a seismic survey vessels operated by PetroVietnam, the state oil and gas firm, as it worked off the coast of central Vietnam.

According to Hanoi, the clash occurred just 215 km from Vietnam's shore, deep inside its Exclusive Economic Zone. China responded by saying that the measures taken by Chinese authorities are "normal marine law enforcement and surveillance activities undertaken in territorial waters under China's jurisdiction."

China claims control over approximately 80 percent of the South China Sea, as far south as waters off Indonesia's Natuna Island and the Malaysian state of Sarawak. But so far, China has limited its unilateral oil and gas search to the northern sector, which is contested only by Taiwan.

However, China's military power is growing and demand for energy to fuel its turbo-charged economy is increasing. As a result, China is becoming more assertive in protecting its island and maritime boundary claims, and the economic resources they contain.

The Global Times, which often voices nationalistic views, said that energy-thirsty countries around the South China Sea had been tapping Chinese petroleum resources for years. It quoted Song Enlai, chairman of CNOOC's board of supervisors, as saying that the losses in oil and gas for China were equivalent to 20 million metric tons of oil annually, about 40 percent of the country's total offshore production.

"The value of the South China Sea natural resources is immense," said Zhao Ying, a scholar with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. "Now that technologies are available for China to tap resources there, efforts to guard its operations and deter foreign illegal exploration become meaningful and necessary."

According to Chinese officials, 180 oil and gas fields and more than 200 prospective reservoirs had been found in the South China Sea by mid-2010, with most located in water depths at between 500 and 2,000 meters.

China's Xinhua news agency said that CNOOC plans to invest $31 billion to drill 800 deepwater wells to raise its output of oil and gas from deepwater zones to the equivalent of 500 million tons of oil by 2020. This investment is expected to be spread over prospective areas in the East China and Yellow seas, as well as the South China Sea.

The new Chinese rig, the first in a planned series, was launched May 23 in a blare of publicity in the official media. It will enable China to cease being totally reliant on foreign contractors for deep-sea drilling and allow it to explore in waters up to 3,000 meters deep, six times deeper than before.

Built over the last three years at a reported cost of $923 million dollars, the rig is as high as a 45-story building. It weighs 31,000 tons and is topped by a platform 114 meters long and 90 meters wide, about the size of a standard football field. It was made by China State Shipbuilding Corp. to drill 12,000 meters below the seabed.

Noting that countries like Vietnam and the Philippines cannot find and exploit oil and gas at such depths, Lin Boqiang, director of the Center for Energy Economics Research at Xiamen University, said it was "always a first-come, first-served game when vying for non-renewable resources in disputed sea areas, as the resources are not infinite."

China and the Philippines have also been in dispute recently over offshore energy rights in the South China Sea. Manila made an official protest to Beijing, claiming that on March 2 two Chinese patrol boats harassed a Philippine vessel surveying for oil and gas in the Reed Bank, about 250 km west of the Philippine island of Palawan.

On March 25, two days after the Philippines Department of Energy had announced that the seismic survey of Reed Bank was completed, the Chinese Foreign Ministry warned that "any activities by countries or companies to explore for oil or gas in the sea waters in China's jurisdiction without the permission of the Chinese government will constitute a violation of China's sovereignty and ... will be illegal and invalid."

Whether China will use its increasingly powerful navy to protect the new rig if it is sent to the southern sector of the South China Sea remains to be seen. But the jumbo rig alone would be a potent symbol of China's rising power and influence.

It is a marine version of a Battleship Galactica. Although unarmed, any attempt by Southeast Asian military forces to restrict the rig's movement in the South China Sea would risk retaliation from Beijing.

It could also cause a pollution disaster if the rig was drilling or producing petroleum at the time, with the intervening country likely to suffer the main damage because it was far closer to the spill than China.

Michael Richardson is a visiting senior research fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore.

 

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THE JAPAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

LIBYA: RUNNING OUT OF OPTIONS

BY GWYNNE DYER

LONDON — They swore blind that there would never be foreign "boots on the ground" in Libya, but as NATO's campaign against Moammar Gadhafi's regime enters its third month it is getting a lot closer to the ground. It started with Tomahawk missiles fired from over the horizon; then it was fighter-bombers firing guided weapons from a safe height; now it's helicopter gunships skimming the ground at zero altitude. They're getting desperate.

In London on May 25, Prime Minister David Cameron said that "the president and I agree we should be turning up the heat on Libya." Standing beside him, U.S. President Barack Obama declared that, "given the progress that has been made over the last several weeks," there will be no "let-up in the pressure that we are applying."

And you have to ask, what progress? The front lines between Gadhafi's forces and the rebels are still approximately where they were two months ago, except around the city of Misrata, where the insurgents have pushed the besieging troops back some kilometers.

Tripoli, the capital, is still firmly under Gadhafi's control. There has been no overt defiance of the regime there for many weeks, and the city is not even suffering significant shortages except for fuel. Are Obama and Cameron deluding themselves, or are they just trying to fool everybody else?

Maybe both — and meanwhile they are cranking up the aerial campaign against Gadhafi in the hope that enough bombs may make their claims come true. They must have been told a dozen times by their military advisers that bombing alone almost never wins a war, but they have waded into the quagmire too far to turn back now, and they have no other military options that the United Nations resolution would allow them to use.

They are already acting beyond the limits set by U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973, which on March 17 authorized the use of limited force to protect Libyan civilians. It has become a campaign to overthrow Gadhafi, and they hardly even bother to deny it anymore.

"I believe that we have built enough momentum that, as long as we sustain the course we are on, (Gadhafi) will step down," said Obama in London. "Ultimately this is going to be a slow, steady process in which we are able to wear down the regime forces." Well maybe so, and maybe not, but in either case that's not what Resolution 1973 said. No wonder Russia condemned the latest air raids as a "gross violation" of the resolution.

Russia did not want to stand by and let Gadhafi massacre innocent civilians, which seemed imminent when the defences of the rebels in eastern Libya were collapsing in mid-March, so it let the resolution pass. So did China, India and Brazil, which would normally oppose any military intervention by Western powers in a Third World country. But it was all decided in a weekend, and they did not think it through.

Neither did France, Britain, the United States, Canada and a few other NATO countries, which immediately committed their air forces to the task of saving the rebels. They destroyed Gadhafi's tanks and saved the city of Benghazi, but then what? There was no plan, no "exit strategy," and so they have ended up with a very unpleasant choice.

Either they stop the war and leave Gadhafi in control of the larger part of a partitioned Libya, or they escalate further in the hope that at some point Gadhafi's supporters abandon him. The U.S. Air Force had a name for this strategy during the Vietnam war: they were trying to find the North Vietnamese regime's "threshold of pain." They never did find it in Vietnam, but NATO is still looking for it in Libya.

We'll never know if Gadhafi would really have slaughtered tens of thousands of civilians if Benghazi had fallen. He was making blood-curdling threats about what he would do when the city fell, and he has certainly killed lots of people in the past, but with the eyes of the whole world on him he might not have done it this time.

Nevertheless, that threat was what created the extraordinary (though temporary) consensus at the Security Council. It was, for the West as well as for the other major powers that backed the original resolution, a largely humanitarian action with little by the way of ulterior motives. (And don't say "oil"; that's just lazy thinking.)

Gadhafi has been playing by the rules for the last five years, renouncing terrorism and dismantling his fantasy "nuclear weapons programme." He has been exporting all the oil he could pump. He wasn't threatening Western interests, and yet NATO embarked on a military campaign that it knew was likely to end in tears in order to stop him.

Let us give NATO governments credit for letting their hearts overrule their heads. Let's also acknowledge that they have been meticulous and largely successful in avoiding civilian casualties in their bombing campaign. But it isn't working.

So what do they do now? They can escalate for a few more weeks, and hope that the strategy that has failed for the last two months will finally succeed. That might happen, but it's not likely to. In which case the only remaining option will be to accept a cease-fire, and the partition of Libya between the Gadhafi regime and the "Transitional National Council" in Benghazi.

Gwynne Dyer is a London-based independent journalist.

 

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THE JAPAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

STRONG TRILATERAL TIES IN ASIA ARE KEY TO STABILITY

BY YOON YOUNG KWAN

SEOUL — Like many regions of the world, Northeast Asia faces severe political challenges in creating a viable structure of peace. But given China's rising power, such a regional structure is becoming all the more necessary if today's lack of trust is not to devolve into military antagonism.

Relations among the region's three major powers, China, South Korea and Japan, are burdened both by territorial disputes and by the bitter historical legacies of Japanese colonialism.

Of course, economic interdependence has deepened over the past three decades, but nationalism remains a convenient tool for political mobilization — and of manipulation for domestic and diplomatic purposes. Moreover, although the Cold War is two decades in the past, South Korea and China remain divided nations.

Furthermore, North Korea's development of nuclear weapons, its economic fragility, and uncertainty about its very future as a state, are causes of deep anxiety among its neighbors. Yet, despite all of these obstacles, there are signs that momentum is building for greater regional cooperation in overcoming them. The recent trilateral summit of China, South Korea, and Japan is the fourth such meeting to be held, in addition to meetings that take place at international gatherings such as the ASEAN summits.

Unfortunately, however, the leaders of China, South Korea, and Japan have not yet made any major breakthrough on the most sensitive security issues that divide them. But this lack of quick success does not mean that these efforts are futile. Indeed, any breakthrough to the sort of trust needed to resolve these festering security disputes will require that the three countries establish their annual gatherings as a meaningful multilateral body in its own right — one that can address major issues in dispute and plan for a better regional future.

For example, at the first trilateral summit, held in May 2008, as the global economic crisis was gathering pace, currency-swap arrangements were agreed upon among the three powers. At the second summit, in May 2009, the three heads of state agreed to start a feasibility study on a trilateral free-trade agreement (FTA). If such a trilateral FTA can be realized, its political and economic significance has the potential to equal that of the creation of European Coal and Steel Community in 1952, the first step in Europe's integration process.

At last year's third trilateral summit, the leaders went further still, agreeing to establish a Trilateral Cooperation Secretariat in Seoul for institutionalizing cooperation among the three governments. They also adopted a blue print for cooperation over the next 10 years.

Among the issues discussed at this year's summit in Tokyo, a few stand out. First, Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan, President Lee Myung Bak of South Korea, and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao agreed to strengthen mutual cooperation on nuclear safety and disaster-relief activities, reflecting the three states' concerns about how effectively they can cooperate in preventing and confronting a nuclear crisis like the Fukushima disaster.

They also promised to cooperate on development of renewable energy, improvement of energy efficiency, and denuclearization of North Korea. In addition, they agreed to speed up the feasibility study for an FTA. South Korea and China have already finished a feasibility study for a bilateral FTA, and probably will enter into formal negotiations soon.

In the summit's joint declaration and the three leaders' remarks at the concluding press conference, one can see China's clear intention to improve bilateral relations with Japan by promising cooperation on the issue of Japanese imports that might be contaminated by radiation from Fukushima. Such political goodwill is essential for regional stability, particularly given the deterioration in Sino-Japanese relations following last year's confrontation over the arrest of a Chinese fisherman by Japan's coast guard.

China's cooperative approach on Japanese imports was a response to Kan's ongoing effort to calm international concern about the safety of Japan's agricultural products. Kan undoubtedly hopes that success in convincing trade partners to lift their bans on such products will boost his exceptionally weak domestic political support.

Lee, meanwhile, sought to bring to the fore the issue of North Korea's drive for nuclear weapons. Thus, he solicited commitments from China and Japan on denuclearization and realization of the 2005 agreement on North Korea reached by the six-party talks (involving the United States, China, Russia, Japan, North Korea and South Korea).

Though the history of the trilateral dialogue between China, Japan, and South Korea is short, it marks a new and constructive effort toward regional cooperation. This kind of pragmatic and functional approach, if strengthened, promises to generate momentum for cooperation on more sensitive security issues.

At least so far, security relations between South Korea and Japan, both U.S. allies, and China have been more or less confrontational. Strengthening these two countries' relations with China would increase the possibility of building a new, peaceful order for Northeast Asia. Indeed, measures aimed at creating a climate of genuine trilateral cooperation are the only effective way to improve regional security.

Yoon Young Kwan, South Korea's foreign minister in 2003-2004, is currently a professor of international relations at Seoul National University. © 2011 Project Syndicate

 

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THE JAKARTA POST

EDITORIAL

PANCASILA REDUX

Pancasila means many things to many Indonesians. For some it is the totem that defines the virtues of this nation. For others it is a burden of insignificance. Arguably, the state ideology has received a bad rap, often tainted by a somewhat prejudiced persona as the New Order regime abused it as a raison d'etre, which ultimately led to political suppression of political freedoms.

Any child born in the late 1960s and early 1970s would have experienced firsthand the "dullness" of Pancasila as they attended courses and even ideological workshops that were educational requisites. In fact all civil servants through the 1980s were required to have certificates of passing the "indoctrination" workshops. It was no surprise that the five principles of Pancasila were neglected in the post-reform era.

Fortunately it has not been forgotten, and now in this age of political mayhem, religious conservatism and questions of identity, the tenets of Pancasila — belief in one God; just and civilized humanity; unity in diversity; democracy guided by the inner wisdom in the unanimity arising out of deliberations among representatives; and social justice for the all of the people of Indonesia — need to be rekindled.

June 1 marks the designated anniversary of Pancasila. The date coinciding with Sukarno's speech during the opening of the BPUPK — the Investigation Committee for Independence Preparation Efforts — in 1945 in which he outlined, albeit in a slightly different manner, his vision for the philosophical foundation of the soon to be republic.

The genius of Sukarno's vision was his ability to recognize and encompass the diversity of this soon to be nation. With illuminating foresight he understood that the very characters that could make the archipelago great were also weaknesses that could undermine it. Such was the nation's unique diversity that it required five pillars that accommodate the inimitable beliefs, customs and creeds that flourish with the 17,000 islands of the archipelago.

The creative distillation of socialism, nationalism and monotheism was refined, honed further to become modern day Pancasila.

Putting aside the recent political abuse of Pancasila, we know that these tenets truly exemplify the soul of what Indonesians should be. Pancasila deserves a place not in our memory, but our hearts. The practice of Pancasila is beyond indoctrination, rather the application of a liberal, just and plural society.

Indonesians have an atrocious habit of turning mortal leaders into cults of personalities, faiths into dogma and ideological tenets into pious canons. Practices no longer coherent with the liberal, creative and thinking creatures that Indonesians have become.

There is no malevolence or obsolescence with Pancasila, instead people rejected how it was being imposed on them by force rather than free will for decades. Contrary to how it was used, the very essence of Pancasila encourages diversity and celebrates variance. These are the lessons the present and future generations of Indonesians need to nurture.

We are confident the essential values of Pancasila will survive in the hearts of Indonesians as long as they are treated as a moral rudder instead of a set of restrictive rules.

Let us celebrate the birth of Pancasila by observing new ways to infect our children with the spirit of diversity, democracy, humanity, justice and equality, the way Sukarno would have truly wanted.

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THE JAKARTA POST

BACK TO PANCASILA IDEALS: WHY?

FRANZ MAGNIS-SUSENO

June 1 is Pancasila Day in Indonesia. On that day 66 years ago, young engineer Sukarno succeeded in uniting two opposing camps in the BPUPKI (a board of Indonesians tasked by the Japanese rulers to prepare a constitution).

The dividing question was whether Islam or secular nationalism should be the basis of the new republic of Indonesia. Sukarno received unanimous applause when he proposed that Indonesia be based on five principles he called Pancasila (five principles).

It took lengthy, and sometimes stormy discussions until Pancasila got its definitive form in the preamble of the Constitution which was approved on Aug. 18, 1945 and therefore called the 1945 Constitution: Belief in one God, just and civilized humanism, Unity of Indonesia, People's power (or relatedness to the people) led by the guidance of wisdom in common deliberation/representation and social justice for the entire Indonesian people.

While foreigners sometimes wonder what was so special about those five principles, Indonesians offer a question whether Pancasila maintains its "ideological" power. But why, on the other hand, has Pancasila since a few years ago been taken up again by Indonesian intellectuals, mainstream Muslim (and other) religious leaders and even politicians.

The return to Pancasila (if that's the case) must be understood on the background of the growing worry of many Indonesians about the actual situation in the country.

At first sight this seems strange. Although not perfect the country seems to be on a solid path to success. Except for some parts of Papua you can move freely and efficiently around the whole country. Poverty is not up. And in spite of serious acts of terror, security in general is much better here than in many other countries.

But this is only the surface. Competent economists point to serious weaknesses: National economic growth comes almost exclusively from the extraction of natural resources.

There is no significant growth in industrial production, unemployment is consistently high, infrastructure is in a worrying state and almost 50 percent of the population still lives below welfare levels.

And there are two really distressing developments. The first is the all pervasive corruption involving the political elites. There are almost no politicians who do not dirty their hands on. Every month a new scandal surfaces and overshadows the previous scandals.

The popular outcry against the planned construction of 28-story building for the House members, originally projected to cost US$188 million, arose from the justified suspicion that the 560 politicians would get a significant cut from the project. It is widely known that politicians who sponsor a project in a region receive kickbacks between 7 and 13 percent. No legislation will be endorsed without the politicians being paid extra money.

Corruption is now worse than the situation under Soeharto. This means nothing else than that reformasi, the reform movement that forced Soeharto to step down, has failed to live up to eradicate corruption, collusion and nepotism (KKN) as expected. It also means that our state is losing its moral dignity.

It is clear that this situation gravely endangers the fruits of reform: democracy and human rights. When people perceive democracy as nothing more than a project of the political elites who reap the most out of it, democracy will be over. What would follow then is every body's guess.

At the same time, since reformasi gave us all democratic freedoms, a new hardline, extreme and exclusive religiosity is steadily infiltrating the minds and hearts especially of young students and intellectuals.

This mostly Middle East inspired religiosity pretends to offer a clear-cut, morally respectable alternative to the general trend to Western consumerism, hedonism and corruption. It means that values like "the nation" or Pancasila are left behind.

This new hardline religiosity goes together with an open contempt for religious tolerance and a growing readiness to use violence in the name of religion. At the same time the state seems to have lost the courage to enforce its constitutional duty to give zero tolerance to violence.

It is heartening to observe that mainstream religious leaders are now alerted of this danger. In this connection they bring Pancasila back into the national discourse.

Johann Wolfgang Goethe once wrote about the "two souls living in my breast". The one is the part of the heart illuminated by a deep attraction to the good, the other is a devilish abyss where evil lurks in the dark.

The same might be true for the soul of a people. Indonesians now feel as if the spell of darkness is descending on our country and the devils arise in the forms of intolerance, hatred, bloodthirstiness (imagine preachers calling on their community to "kill, kill, kill" in the name of God!), as well as greed, irresponsibility, egoistic desires and corrupt mind.

It is on the heels of the awareness of the crucial importance of Pancasila arises. Pancasila expresses the shining noble part of Indonesia's soul. It paints Indonesia as Indonesians dream how she should be, the ideal Indonesia Indonesians would be proud of, as expressed in Pancasila's beautiful five principles.

But Pancasila is more than that. Indonesians recount Aug. 18, 1945, the day when Pancasila was inaugurated, as one of Indonesia's most shining hours, the day when Indonesians, for the sake of national unity, committed themselves to accepting each other in their respective religious, cultural, ethnic and racial identity.

What happened? On the morning of Aug. 18, 1945 the constitutional assembly (PPKI) agreed unanimously to drop an addition to the first principle of Pancasila (belief in God), i. e. that Muslims were obliged to live according to the sharia They recognized that naming one religion in the most basic philosophy of the state would make full identification of the others impossible.

Thus for the sake of national unity even the formal representatives of Islam agreed not to push for that point. As a consequence Indonesia endorsed the 1945 Constitution where the majority religion (Islam) does not get any special treatment. Many say that only the willingness of the Muslim majority not to insist on special privileges has made unity of all those different people between Aceh and Papua possible.

Thus Pancasila embodies the finest hour in the formation of the Indonesian nation. It is the documentation of the fact that Indonesians, at a decisive moment in their history, were able to overcome their respective narrow, sectarian and particular interests and prejudices in order to build one nation, united by the ideals of Pancasila, in quest for a "free, united, sovereign, just and prosperous" nation.

Now that Indonesians of different backgrounds try hard to re-actualize Pancasila, they want to bring Indonesia back to her most shining idealism.

The writer, a Jesuit priest, is professor at Driyarkara School of Philosophy in Jakarta.

 

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THE JAKARTA POST

EDITORIAL

REVIVING PANCASILA, BUT NOT ITS MYTH

DONNY SYOFYAN

Indonesians marks the anniversary of the official state ideology, Pancasila, on June 1, despite controversy. As the state ideology, Pancasila should be the source of political and legal order for government and public life. Now, it is deplorable that a 13-year reform period has witnessed the fading of the Pancasila following the downfall of Soeharto's New Order regime.

Pancasila, which was used as a means of repressing ideological freedom under Soeharto era, is now lost in competition with the massive adoption of transnational ideologies. In the contemporary political dynamic, Pancasila as the state ideology is being criticized severely.

Some radical transnationalists have accused the Pancasila of failing to tie diversity and consider it diachronic thought. To them, the Pancasila is out of line with the ideology of absolute truth they believe in, that is to say, theocracy. Various attacks against Pancasila through social movements have apparently been made to deconstruct the unitary state of Indonesia.

Anti-Pancasila groups grew quickly and declared frankly their aim to change the state ideology and ruin Indonesia.

It is ironic that the state took part in relegating Pancasila to a lower or outer edge. The Post-New Order administration has regarded Pancasila as the myth of this country's existence.

Any efforts to revitalize Pancasila have been abandoned. For instance, Pancasila is no longer categorized as major or special curricula from secondary school to university level.

The results of a research report on ideology in 2009 came as a surprise. More than 61 percent of respondents said they did not view Pancasila as being capable of getting over this diverse country's problems, while 45 percent said Pancasila was less valuable and meaningful than religion. Talking about cognitive aspects, of 1,000 youngsters in the 18-23-year-old group, 59.2 percent failed or were unable to memorize the Pancasila (Syofyan: 2009).

Why is the Pancasila being thrown overboard?

The answer lies in the fact that people remain traumatized and relate it to the New Order's means of oppressing people and establishing social injustice on behalf of political stability and economic growth.

It is high time to provide a jumping-off point for reviving the Pancasila. This will take hard work, following the public cynicism of the previous government and aggressive Western influence over Indonesian values. The need for reviving Pancasila calls for the following strategic steps:

First, people need to recognize that Pancasila is not a myth or ideology of sacred and absolute truth. It is supposed to be subject to public discussion and discourse with its liberating force. Society should participate in the process of the reinterpretation of Pancasila in keeping with place and time.

Amid the growing religious radicalization, for example, Indonesians may return to the country's original and widely respected values of tolerance and mutual respect, with Pancasila as the bedrock.

Reviving Pancasila is also aimed at rejuvenating nationalism. What our founding fathers meant about nationalism had nothing to do with being an isolated country or a chauvinistic one, but a nationalism recognizing world brotherhood and a family of nations. The spirit of Indonesian nationalism should not be a forerunner to xenophobia.

Pancasila must be a living ideology, a working ideology that can be anticipative, adaptive and responsive. Pancasila is not a strict dogma as that would prevent it from becoming responsive to the challenges of the era. It should be able to face current and future challenges.

Second, reviving Pancasila is in need of living examples from the country's leaders in terms of social justice, spirituality, and humanism. Better change should start with our leaders, because our people are taking their cues from them.

Indonesian leaders' living examples are expected to make people to realize Pancasila, allowing peoples of different ethnic and religious backgrounds to bond. The failure to do so would definitely make both leaders and people just implement Pancasila in books, in writings and speeches, but then betray it in daily life.

Third, Pancasila needs to play role in establishing egalitarianism respecting principles of civility since it is the people's ideology. For that purpose, the government should also abridge regulations that fly in the face of the core Pancasila principles.

Legal reform fitting the Pancasila is necessary. The country's law must stand for both the rich and the poor. At the moment, laws that are not impartial remain scattered. It is important to highlight the need to spread the use of the ideology past the confines of a ceremonial day on the first of June, for example by respecting and helping each other and caring about environmental issues. These are actually the principles of Pancasila.

Reviving Pancasila means a joint commitment and hard work, mainly involving the government and people. Relying too much upon House members would be fruitless, on the strength of their political party's interests over public aspirations. In making that mistake, this country remains on the verge of meeting real chaos.

For better or worse, Pancasila remains Indonesia's common denominator to bridge the yawning gaps in assorted political power.

The writer, a graduate of the University of Canberra, Australia, teaches politics and culture at Andalas University, Padang.

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THE JAKARTA POST

EDITORIAL

VIEW POINT: WHEN NATURE CALLS

JULIA SURYAKUSUMA

Last week I experienced a family crisis, or rather, Yayah, my cook did. Sobbing, she told me that Dina, her 16-year-old daughter who lives in their village with her grandparents, has stopped going to school. She plans to marry her boyfriend instead.

Yayah was crushed. She worked hard to give her daughter a better life than she has had. Dina is bright and could have had a bright future. Her mother was devastated that she wanted to cut it short in her teens.

Yayah is about 50, quite old for an Indonesian village woman with a teenage daughter. She herself only went to elementary school, and then only as far as second grade.

On occasion she fantasizes about what she might have been, had she had a proper education. Hard-working, disciplined, intelligent and good-humored to boot, she would have been successful if she had continued with school. No wonder she pinned her hopes on Dina, who had until then been a model child and pupil.

Like many poor village women, Yayah had to leave her two kids behind to work in the city to earn enough to support them and put them through school.

This became even more necessary when eight years ago her husband, who worked in another city, married another woman and stopped providing for Yayah and his kids. Yayah has struggled ever since to single-handedly support Dina and her brother Edi, now 23.

I helped Yayah to travel back to the village to try to jolt her daughter out of her determination to marry. She failed.

But she did find that Dina was lonely and yearned for a father figure, hence her desire to marry. That would likely be leaping out of the frying pan and straight into the fire, as few of these early marriages work out well.

Dina's behavior is in many ways a classic case of teenage rebellion. But it's also related to the social and economic issues that affect so many families like theirs. Poverty and limited education are, of course, the primary factors.

To earn a living, families split up, with the parents often forced to migrate to work in different locations. The children are left with relatives (often grandparents).

Poorly educated themselves, they soon lose their authority when the kids left in their care become teenagers.

We live in a fatherless society anyway. Ironic that, considering that patriarchy is the norm. Even Barack Obama wrote Dreams from My Father partly as a way to "create" the dad he never really knew. Maybe Dina should follow Obama's example. Who knows, maybe writing a book might stave off those mating urges?

But then again, marriage culture is very strong in Indonesia, and religion always follows fast on the coattails of sexual desire. The reason Yayah caved in so quickly to Dina's demands is, she said, "It's better to get married than to kumpul kebo" — an Indonesian expression that means "to mate like buffaloes" (horny beasts that don't wait for a marriage certificate).

Traditionally, girls are considered symbols of the honor of their family and community. So when girls come of age they get married off in anticipation of their biological urges, and often well ahead of them.

Yayah's dictum has a religious basis. We are told the prophet Mohammad married Aisha when she was still a child, aged 9 or maybe younger.

This belief has long been used by conservative Muslims as a justification for child marriages, despite the 1974 Marriage Law fixing the minimum ages as 16 for girls and 19 for boys.

Remember the notorious Syekh Puji, 43, who married Ulfa, age 12? Muslims like Syekh who go "by the book" are basically thumbing their noses at the law. Even Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), the biggest Muslim mass organization in Indonesia (and, indeed, the world), recently stated that it was in favor of underage marriages.

In any case, Dina is 16 and feels mature enough to decide for herself. Obviously she's not, but village norms are on her side. And what will she do after she gets married? Work? As a high school dropout she will have limited options. Have a baby? Very likely, despite the numerous ill-effects of teenage pregnancy, including increased infant and maternal mortality.

The drawbacks of marrying too young are well-known, but not by the rural poor, judging by the high incidence of young marriages in Indonesia.

According to the Central Statistics Agency (BPS), a whopping 47.79 percent of women in villages marry under the age of 20 (compared to 21.75 percent in urban areas), and about 35 percent under 16.

Since the 1990s, women's NGOs have been trying to crank up the marrying age to 20 for women and 25 for men through various proposals to amend the 1974 Marriage Law.

Among these, ironically, is Fatayat NU, the NU women's organization, which often has very different ideas than its conservative "parent" organization.

Its proposals are currently before the House of Representatives, but who knows if they'll get an airing at all, or when?

There's no money in it for legislators, and the hardliners hate it, so I can't see our deeply unimpressive legislators treating the marriage age for women as a priority.

In the meantime, generations of girls like Dina will fall into the teenage marriage trap, while our politicians and religious leaders follow their own, uh, calls of nature, and the nation goes further down the toilet.

The writer (www.juliasuryakusuma.com) is the author of Jihad Julia.

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THE JAKARTA POST

EDITORIAL

RETURN TO PANCASILA THAT UNITES THE NATION

ASVI WARMAN ADAM

On July 5, 1959, Sukarno issued a presidential decree on the reintroduction of the 1945 Constitution. While it is not necessary for Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to issue his own presidential decree, a presidential decision would suffice declaring the first of June the date of the birth of Pancasila.

Such a decision would serve as an official acknowledgement that it was Sukarno, not M. Yamin and Supomo, who first brought up the subject of national principles, as well as the proper way to recognize that Sukarno was the one who came up with the idea of Pancasila, which faced a reduced role during the New Order regime.

The decision would also mean that the government was willing to admit that the policy of Kopkamtib (Command for the Restoration of Order) to ban the commemoration of Pancasila, effective as of June 1, 1970, was a mistake.

When Sukarno brought forward his idea of the five principles, the other founding fathers had their share of input, which was all included in the Preamble of the 1945 Indonesian Constitution that was ratified on Aug. 18, 1945, by the Indonesian Independence Preparation Committee.

In the reformation era, the 18th of August was announced as Constitution Day as per Presidential Decree No. 18/2008. But the question remains: Why didn't the government decide to make the 1st of June Pancasila Day?

It turns out certain individuals in the political elite objected to the idea.

An Islamic figure, then member of the Regional Representatives Council, AM Fatwa, wrote a letter to the President stating that since the 18th of August had been decided as the day of the constitution, and Pancasila was already embedded in the preamble of the Constitution, declaring a day of the birth of Pancasila would not be relevant.

The reason raised by the objecting party was: Pancasila is not an article or paragraph in the 1945 Constitution; Pancasila gives life to it. What that means is that Pancasila is positioned higher than the Constitution. Both deserve to be commemorated on different dates.

Once the government has recognized these facts, it would then be proper to establish a body or agency responsible for publicizing Pancasila.

Setting up a special body or commission would take time, particularly when the stigma on the BP7 — the board for developing education and implementing guidelines for instilling and applying Pancasila — still lingers.

The best thing to do is to assign the role to an existing ministry. In my opinion, the Religious Affairs Ministry would be the one most suitable to assume such a responsibility and changing its name to the Religious Affairs and Pancasila Ministry would be appropriate.

There are at least two reasons for this: First, the ministry is allocated a large portion of the state budget (although still below what is provided to the National Education Ministry).

Second, their duties relate to inculcating positive values (of faith/religion in individuals as members of society and of Pancasila in citizens of Indonesia).

Faith and Pancasila are not conflicting forces and people should not make an issue over differences of faith and Pancasila; they should complement each other.

In a program broadcast by a private TV station, the national education minister said his ministry was prepared to include Pancasila in their syllabi.

However, he did not admit that Pancasila was currently no longer a mandatory subject and argued that it was now embedded in civics classes.

Under Law No. 2/1989 on the National Education System, the subject of Pancasila, along with religion and civics, was mandatory, but Law No. 20/2003 on the National Education System wiped Pancasila out and retained religion and civics.

Regulation No. 22/2006 of the National Education Ministry on Standards of Contents of Elementary and Secondary Education Units specifies standards of competence for civics.

For elementary school, only one out of 10 required items talks about Pancasila; for junior high, no item on Pancasila is taught; while for senior high school, there is only one course (out of nine) on "Pancasila and the 1945 Constitution".

So when National Education Minister Muhammad Nuh said that Pancasila was part of civics I don't think he lied; he just didn't tell the truth that courses on Pancasila have almost completely disappeared from Indonesia's national education system.

It is time for the national education minister to make a policy stating that Pancasila is a mandatory subject at the university level and a key subject in schools. Pancasila is not part of civics; rather, it is a combination of elements of civics and character-building.

Pancasila's principle of "unity" has been proven and tested in the history of this country. Indonesia has seen a number of insurrections since its independence. We were once a federal state (the Federal Republic of Indonesia) for several months.

Our leaders, however, decided to reunite. The people of Indonesia are aware of their differences in religion, language, custom and tradition, and they are united despite all that diversity.

However, unity will suffer when the first and the fifth principles of Pancasila are not properly implemented. Whenever inter-faith or intra-faith conflicts arise and socio-economic gaps are widening, Indonesian unity is on the brink of collapse.

Returning to Pancasila will mean the government and the people of Indonesia applying all of its five principles coherently and consistently.

The writer is a historian at the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI).

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DAILY MIRROR

     EDITORIAL

 

 

MAHINDA WOOS JAYALALITHAA

A pro Tamil Tiger website described the victory of Jayalalithaa at the recent elections as 'mummy returns.' Velupillai Prabhakaran and Tamil Tigers too recognized Indira Gandhi in the same way as a 'mother' at that time .They said, Indira Gandhi was the 'mother' of their Eelam struggle, for it was people like Indira Gandhi who supported the Eelam struggle. During that period, Jayalalithaa's partner MGR, the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister helped Prabhakaran and Tamil Tigers. When Prabhakaran and Tamil Tigers were extolling Indira Gandhi as their 'mother', they treated MGR as their Godfather. Now, the Tamil Tigers view Jayalalithaa as their second 'mother'. This was why they called Jayalalithaa's victory as 'mummy returns'. They are aware that Jayalalithaa's politics is not going to end with Tamil Nadu. Ambitious as she is, she is obsessed with her next goal   to become the Indian Prime Minister. It is her cherished dream that at the next Indian general elections she contests as a candidate of an Alliance and secures the post of Prime Minister. The Tamil Tigers are well aware of this. It is on this account they compare her with Indira Gandhi.The Sri Lanka (SL) Govt. which is also aware of this has arranged a well orchestrated PR campaign to win over Jayalalithaa. As a first  move in this direction , SL External Affairs Minister Prof. G L Peiris conveyed his congratulations to Jayalalithaa  on her victory , and announced that the SL  Govt. is in readiness  to co- operate with her . The second move was using KP who is now in SL Govt.'s custody and drive a wedge between Jayalalithaa and the Tamil Tigers.

It is a well and widely known fact that Karunanidhi is Jayalalithaa's arch enemy and any information or data which concerns or contributes to the destruction of this arch enemy is of monumental  value to her. Every detail and data which can be used to pulverize Karunanidhi is of paramount importance to Jayalalithaa.  KP's announcement that Karunanidhi's DMK party imparted the ideology to Prabhakaran to kill Rajiv Gandhi was well and thoroughly exploited by Jayalalithaa gleefully to her advantage against Karunanidhi. In the same way, she used KP's declaration that Tamil Tigers attempted to assassinate her. 'I have been living under LTTE threat since 1991,' she mentioned. In her maiden speech immediately after her election victory, Jayalalithaa asserted, Mahinda Rajapaksa ought to be brought before   a war crime Tribunal. But, after her appointment as the Chief Minister, in her first media discussion, she talked about the threats to her from the LTTE. This was a consequence of the success of the SL Govt.'s PR campaign which orchestrated KP's media interview prior to her media discussion. In the end, the media did not have occasion to question her on the SL Tamils' issue or the war crimes at her first media discussion. The SL Govt.  was successful in as far  as  distracting her from these issues by questioning her on the Rajiv Gandhi assassination and putting her on an anti Tamil Tiger  platform . At the same time, it is deducible that in case KP has not told that the DMK was behind Gandhi's killing, she wouldn't have still given answers pertaining to KP's interview.

When Prabhakaran went to Tamil Nadu asking for assistance from MGR , her partner  was the chief Minister of Tamil Nadu at that time .  KP too accompanied  Prabhakaran.  KP knows how Tamil Nadu contributed towards the fortification of the Tamil Tiger Organization during that period. Today, KP is harbouring the fear that the Tamil Nadu may become a source of strength to the Tamil Tiger Organization which is rearing its head once again in Tamil Nadu. He is therefore seeking to create a rift between Tamil Tigers and Jayalalithaa. It is in order to instill fear in her that he highlights that Rajiv Gandhi was killed by Tamil Tigers because he was a Brahmin, since Jayalalithaa is a Brahmin herself. This constitutes the second PR campaign of SL Govt. to win over Jayalalithaa to its side.

It is Jayalalithaa's aspiration to become the Prime Minister after fielding as a candidate of an alliance. The SL Govt. which is aware that the BJP is commanding influence over Jayalalithaa 's aim to become the Prime Minister is wooing her through the BJP leadership. This is the third campaign of the SL Govt. In this connection, a most senior advisor of Mahinda Rajapaksa is scheduled to leave for India. This advisor was a powerful Minister under the UNP Govt. of Ranil in 2002, and who has established close rapport and cordial relationship with the BJP. He, later on joined the Govt. of Mahinda Rajapaksa. The profound ties he established was with Chandra Baba Naidu ,a BJP leader who was a prominent chief Minister of Andra Pradesh and current opposition leader . The senior advisor is to tour India to meet him and Moorthy , the  BJP leader who has leverage over Tamil Nadu.  It is the senior advisor's objective to meet the two of them and through them woo and win over Jayalalithaa.

 It is well to recall, the SL Govt. similarly used Minister Arumugam Thondaman  to win over former chief Minister Karunanidhi. Thondaman via Karunanidhi's daughter succeeded not only in wooing Karunanidhi but even the entire DMK party. At all events, right now, it cannot be foretold for sure whether Jayalalithaa can also be wooed and won over through the Govt.'s present PR campaign.

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DAILY MIRROR

EDITORIAL

THE IMPLOSION IN YEMEN

The crisis in Yemen seems to have escalated beyond control. Even as a ceasefire was declared between the government and Sheikh Sadeq al-Ahmar, the head of the powerful Hashid tribe after violent clashes left more than a hundred dead in parts of the capital Sanaa, trouble of other sorts started elsewhere.

Alleged Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, AQAP militants apparently seized the port city of Zinjibar, leading to the government using air strikes against militant positions. Both the opposition and residents of the area have denied that it is Al Qaeda militants, thereby raising suspicions that President Ali Abdulla Saleh may be using the terrorism card to obtain regional support to stay on in power. These armed militants apparently are local tribesmen constituting a group called Ansar al-Sharia. While the objective of this group is to create a fundamentalist emirate, it is not part of Al Qaeda or at least till now.

Other tribal militias are said to have attacked government installations elsewhere even as defections within Saleh's elite Republican Guards started. The rapid unravelling of the situation only within the past week may be attributed to the presidential camp. Saleh's refusal to sign the peace deal proposed by regional states of the Gulf — one which the opposition groups had agreed to — has exacerbated the crisis. Comparable to an implosion, the whole political crisis has now slid into a civil war.

The dynamics of Yemens tribal and militant society adds further significance, demanding an immediate end to the turmoil. Even if the militants in control of Zinjibar are not AQAP affiliates, their extremist inclination may be ground enough for them to join ranks with the terrorist umbrella entity that will likely extend support to consolidate power.  Moreover, even a breakup of Yemen along the tribal and sectarian lines may not be far off unless better wisdom prevails in the ruling camp.

Another thing is that Saleh may have lost any previous advantage at selling to a wider audience his ability to keep terrorists and instability at bay. By indulging in policies that have only added to the chaos, Saleh may have inadvertently let loose all forces of instability, be it sectarian, tribal or terrorists. Whether he played his cards to unleash these deliberately, knowing the inevitable course of Yemens political and security dynamics only to prolong his stay in office is something only time can tell. This is why his recent actions even after the GCC proposal entailing his safe exit raises doubts over his intentions. High time Saleh steps down after putting a halt to the fighting currently raging on in Yemen.

Khaleej Times

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DAILY MIRROR

EDITORIAL

PUNISHING SRI LANKA: MYTH OR REALITY?

Prof. Rohan Gunaratne- international terrorism expert addressing the business community last week convincingly and openly cautioned that "India might 'punish' Sri Lanka if Sri Lanka leans elsewhere to India's detriment. This is a very serious statement, especially if Indians do not intend doing so.

To prove his point, he quoted a meeting with the first Research and Analysis Wing Chief who had told Gunaratne their concerns over President JR Jayewardene stepping away from the Non Alignment Movement, Jayewardene's intentions to economically favour the USA by opening the Trincomalee Port and the intention to handover China Bay oil tanks to the USA, Voice of America eavesdropping on India etc.

Gunaratne would not have had any personal antipathy or bias towards India when he emphatically quoted the past to predict the future. 

Indo- Lanka Joint Statement (JS)

The attempt here is to observe whether such punishment could be inferred from the latest hinting basing Indian approaches stated in the JS between India and Sri Lanka, date-lined May 17th 2011. JS definitely reflects India's immediate concerns and could be perceived as an accumulated response to Sri Lankan political behaviour after May 2009. To me the JS seems an effective diplomatic exercise- i.e. strategically hiding issues, while sending strong messages. 

Outputs of the JS
When the JS said "The two sides reviewed the entire gamut of bilateral relations" one expects the most important current issue for Sri Lanka (i.e. UN Panel Report) would have been the top priority subject discussed. But horrifyingly, the two words "Panel Report" or anything means that do not appear in the JS. The word UN appears under sections 10 and 11 of the JS where reform of the UN Security Council and Sri Lankas support for India's legitimate claim for permanent membership in the Security Council are mentioned respectively. 

While focus on relief, rehabilitation, resettlement, reconciliation, children, development etc. extensively stated in the UN- Government Statement date-lined May 23rd 2009, it is surprising that both countries did not least point out that the Moon or Darussman Report continuously worshipped 'accountability' as most sacred, though there is only one sentence reference to 'accountability.'

These were the previously allured topics of interest to dignitaries like Indian Ministers Mukherjee and Krishna, Advisor Menon and Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao. Yet, the Parties at least do not question the UN on not appointing an Advisory Panel for such long-term interests! Was this the genuine stance expected of the Indians by Sri Lanka, when Peiris visited India searching a straw- not the last? The 'last' may be elsewhere. Or, was it that Sri Lanka failed to convince the Indians on this point? Or, did not Indians wish to hear our plea?

The JS speaks of the parties assessing the developments taken place since President Rajapaksa's visit to India in June, 2010 and the bilateral Joint Commission meeting at ministerial level in November, 2010. Issues relating to regional and international common concerns too had been discussed. However, we know that 'accountability' on the events during the latter period of conflict was not the most pursued by Indians, when Indian dignitaries visited North-East and Colombo. Undeservingly for Sri Lanka this sentiment is not expressed in the JS. It prioritizes other issues wherein paisas are involved.

Referring to the Sri Lankan current situation, JS pointed it as a historic opportunity to address outstanding issues in a spirit of understanding and mutual accommodation imbued with political vision to work towards genuine national reconciliation. While this statement is really rhetoric, the preamble itself is not very heartening, as it indirectly reverberates non-usage of such opportunity by Sri Lanka and its failure to be genuine. Have the affirmations made by the Sri Lankan Government considered not genuine or committed?  Why is the genuineness of the government suspected when thousands are resettled in the North and especially East, peace restored to a great extent, detainees released in hundreds after rehabilitation, schools reopened, infrastructure developed, positive financing happens etc?

Tamil National

Alliance (TNA) and Devolution
Have the statements made by TNA spokespersons (e.g. Parliamentarians R Sampanthan et al) and withdrawal of Senior Minister Ratnasiri Wickramanayake from the Government – TNA dialogue etc discoloured the government's "commitment to ensuring expeditious and concrete progress in the ongoing dialogue between the Government party and representatives of Tamil parties?"  Are these irreparable?

Nevertheless, the JS committing for a devolution package vehemently differs from this government's previous fluttering and wavering stances on devolution. Have these stances in the face of TNA's consistent  demands for power sharing provoked Indians to incorporate in the JS the need for a "devolution package, building upon the 13th Amendment" contributing  to create the necessary conditions for such reconciliation?"

Why did Peiris subscribe Sri Lanka's agreement with India when the government emphasis on devolution differed? Was he the loner signatory or backed by delegated collective responsibility? If it is the latter, he does not deserve to be crucified by criticism.  Or, was it to deliberately give false hopes to Indians to overcome a problematic situation?  The latter could be dangerous and knave.

This may be the umpteenth time greater devolution has been 'demanded' by India. Under whatever circumstance, the JS may be a firm written response from the incumbent Sri Lankan Government. Have the Indian dignitaries by committing Peiris for the JS supplied ammunition to Alliance partners, JVP and media to adversely react causing adverse exposures of government's intents, so that the internationals have another steak to gulp? Is this elementary 'punishing' of Sri Lanka? If it was the Indian intention, are not the Alliance partners who hate devolution and criticize India mercilessly, playing in to Indian hands?

Since a hard Indian stance will boost Jeyalalithaa Jeyaram's relationships with New Delhi, is India killing two birds with one stone? Having sent Peiris to gain Indian support to battle the UN Report, has Sri Lanka ultimately supported India to settle its domestic political issue? Did Delhi's South Block beaten Colombo's Republic Square?

Restitution / Reconciliation and the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation

Commission (LLRC)

Lankan Minister has also reiterated the commitment of the Government to continue to address issues related to resettlement and reconciliation. While giving evidence before the LLRC (August 18th 2010) I quoted the internationally accepted Pinheiro Principles (PPs) of which a summary was handed over to each Commissioner.  The PPs address restitution issues, with deep attachment to international rights laws stated in Section 5- JS and Recommendations 2- v and vi of UN Report. In fairness to the government, positive action is reported as highlighted by President Rajapaksa at the Victory Celebrations.

As Gunaratne said the mandate of the LLRC has to be reviewed. While giving evidence I quoted from the Preamble of South African Act No: 34 of 1995 Promotion of National Unity and Reconciliation. I was not for duplication of South Africa, but to learn lessons from the past and international experiences and summarily mentioned how the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Committee on Human Rights Violations, a Committee on Amnesty and Committee on Reparation and Rehabilitation were to be established under this Act. May be whatever Sri Lanka establishes indigenously could focus differently and could be term-bound. Such could take the critical venom by being positive in the interim.

If such propositions were at least partially heard, at least appropriately and selectively implemented, Peiris have gained from the LLRC's positive actions and constructive nature in a wider perspective. The Inter-Agency Advisory Committee chaired by the Attorney General could have pursued implementing the Interim Recommendations more effectively and showed larger output, and even reinforced Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe at the UN Human Rights Council.

Sri Lanka could have exhibited the LLRC as a show-piece of a constructive domestic institutional arrangement, months before the UN Report or JS spoke of rights of the affected and won the kudos and acclaim of internationals. The opportunity to prove the Urdu saying "Elephant has two sets of teeth- one for chewing and the other for show" was thus missed!

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DAILY MIRROR

EDITORIAL

STOP THE SELF-GLORY; SEEK A SOLUTION NOW

No one, will grudge the Rajapaksa regime, President Mahinda Rajapaksa or his brother and Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa their moments of glory or the bouquets they deserve for defeating the LTTE, claimed to have been the most ruthless terror outfit, and eradicating its brand of terrorism from Sri Lanka's soil and most importantly bringing to an end the 30-year-old war.

We can now move about in peace without suspecting any unattended parcel or package to be a terrorist bomb or a person acting suspiciously of being a cyanide-wearing suicide bomber.

We cannot  forget those who lost their lives and limbs either in the war front or having fallen victim to the mindless acts of suicide bombers. Let us also not forget that this long-drawn out war was bitter and traumatic not only for those who were in the war front, but also for their family, friends and peace-loving citizens of this country.. We were all on tenterhooks till those who went to work in the morning returned home at dusk, knowing the fate that could befall them. But thankfully this is now past history.

Having said that, the questions that have to be answered are whether it is necessary to gloat over the war victory. Is it necessary to pour salt into the wounds of the vanquished? Is this how we set about in the unenviable task of uniting our battered, bruised and bloodied nation? In such hostile surroundings, reconciliation, the much spoken-about mantra for our ills will find it difficult if not impossible to take root and grow into a massive tree where all communities, irrespective of race, caste and creed, could find shade and shelter.

Do we need such a massively expensive victory day parade every year to showcase our military might or military hardware and cap the day's proceedings with a Victory Day message broadcast live over TV and radio? Such messages could be delivered at any place, day or time at much less expense and at a simpler ceremony, whenever the head of the nation decides to do so. What matters most is whether the sweetly worded messages remain just rhetoric like they do most of the time or whether they are planted on the ground and take root to bear good fruit.

Opposition critics and independent analysts believe the big military parade, which was held for the second time with roads closed for a week was an apparent attempt to shore up waning support for the government. Amid growing protests over the retired hurt private sector pension scheme and the crisis in universities,  political analysts say the annual event is like squeezing out a dry cloth or the hackneyed cliché, 'like flogging a dead horse'. Should not the victor be graceful and magnanimous in victory and use the money spent on extravagant shows to develop the country whether in the North, South, East or West and provide better facilities to our war heroes and their families?

What matters are not the empty words about the rapid rise in Sri Lanka's per capita income, but rather the kind of attention paid to ground realities that cannot be easily glossed over. We only need to look out of the window to see so many still living in hovels. VVIPs do not stop at traffic lights but if they do they will notice the increasing number of people approaching the vehicles for a handout. According to the latest government census, people in some 20 districts are living below the poverty line. Is extravagant spending or large-scale plundering and wasting of public resources by government politicians any consolation to the poor and destitute?

"The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were when we created them," said Albert Einstein.

We need to move out of the rut or the mud hole that has trapped us wittingly or unwittingly and without a paradigm shift or a change in perception we will continue to be well and truly stuck.

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GULF DAILY NEWS

COMMENT

WELL VERSED IN DECENCY 

 BY B COMBER

Whenever I hear of alleged wrongdoings at a hotel, I am reminded of John Betjeman's fine poem about the arrest of Oscar Wilde at the Cadogan Hotel.

In view of recent news from New York, I am therefore moved to verse:

The plane was at JFK airport;

A man in first-class breathed a sigh,

For his thoughts were already in Paris

To New York he was waving goodbye.

The passengers fastened their seatbelts,

The policeman then came aboard too

And announced "Would the passenger

Mr Strauss-Kahn

Please make himself known to the crew".

The fellow was visibly startled;

All over he started to quake.

He said to the police "Je suis Strauss-Kahn,

Mais surely il y a some mistake?

"Be off now and summon the steward,

For champagne and pate de foie,

I'm not just first class, I'm a true VIP,

The IMF chieftain, c'est moi."

"There's been a complaint," said the

policeman,

"From the hotel where you have just been.

A chambermaid there is alleging

That you're guilty of acts quite obscene.

"I'll now have to ask you to get off the plane,

I don't think I need to remind you

What's likely to happen if you don't agree,

With hands cuffed securely behind you."

The IMF boss pondered briefly,

But thought that he'd better comply,

He hadn't much option to judge from

the gun

And the look in the New York cop's eye.

He turned up in court the next morning

And said to the judge, "Grand me bail.

Or Portugal's currency and that of Greece

Without me will certainly fail."

"Your bail's denied," said the judge then,

"Your argument's awfully weak.

The Federal Bureau does not give a Euro

For Portuguese problems or Greek."

"But these accusations are nonsense,"

Protested the hapless accused.

"How dare you waste time on this

chambermaid's claim

That she's been severely abused?

"You cannot take seriously such a charge

As this hotel servant has hurled;

For I am the Master-in-chief of the fund

That's the financial hub of the world."

His penthouse suite became a cold and

dank cell,

And anyone wanting to talk

To the head of the IMF had to write

To: The Jail, Rikers Island, New York.

The moral is this: If you're head of

the world's

Most powerful financial forum,

You're still duty-bound to conduct your

affairs

With decency, tact and decorum.

 

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TEHRAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

BLADE OF SANCTIONS BECOMING DULLER DAY BY DAY

BY HESHMATOLLAH FALAHATPISHEH

 

TEHRAN - After months of negotiation between Iran and the members of the 5+1 group (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany), it seems that the points of divergence have gone beyond the dispute over Iran's nuclear program.

By pursuing the extremist policies of the Western powers, the 5+1 group is trying to isolate Iran and give the impression that the issue is a real crisis.

The Islamic Republic of Iran believes that the Western powers are playing the nuclear card to divert attention from the real global crisis. And Iran can play a key role in dealing with the situation in the Middle East and North Africa, where popular uprisings are being harshly repressed. But the wall of mistrust between Iran and the West has created many problems in this regard.

The last round of talks between Iran and the 5+1 group ended in a stalemate and Iran was threatened with a new series of sanctions by the West. But the new developments in the Arab world and the emergence of new anti-Western sentiments in the region put the dispute over Iran's nuclear program on the back burner for a time.

Now the West is again trying to create a crisis out of Iran's nuclear issue, which has raised suspicions on the Iranian side. Iran is very skeptical about the policies and stances of the 5+1 group and believes they are a part of the psychological operations being conducted against the country by the Western media.

However, there is no clear consensus about the new round of sanctions against Iran. Despite a UN Security Council resolution, more than 120 countries are not interested in participating in this process and it is only limited to a few Western countries.

Since coming to office, International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Yukiya Amano has published reports that are completely politicized. His latest report was based on a number of points that are pure speculation in order to create more crises about the Iranian nuclear program.

The current situation in the Middle East and North Africa region, in which anti-Zionist sentiments have intensified, will be another decisive factor in Iran's future interactions with Western governments. Meanwhile, the opening of the Rafah border crossing and other anti-Israeli policies adopted by Egypt can strengthen the strategic depth of Iran's diplomacy vis-à-vis Western governments.

Iran does not welcome sanctions and prefers diplomacy. The West is also compelled to take the path of diplomacy because it has no other way forward. In addition, Iran is not very worried about these sanctions because it is finding new ways to deal with them. The blade of sanctions is becoming duller day by day, and Iran is making progress in its nuclear program.

MP Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh is a member of the National Security and Foreign Policy Committee of the Iranian parliament.

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TEHRAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

TEN REASONS WHY CHINA IS DIFFERENT

BY STEPHEN S. ROACH

 

The China doubters are back in force. They seem to come in waves -- every few years, or so. Yet, year in and year out, China has defied the naysayers and stayed the course, perpetuating the most spectacular development miracle of modern times. That seems likely to continue.

Today's feverish hand-wringing reflects a confluence of worries -- especially concerns about inflation, excess investment, soaring wages, and bad bank loans. Prominent academics warn that China could fall victim to the dreaded "middle-income trap", which has derailed many a developing nation.

There is a kernel of truth to many of the concerns cited above, especially with respect to the current inflation problem. But they stem largely from misplaced generalizations. Here are ten reasons why it doesn't pay to diagnose the Chinese economy by drawing inferences from the experiences of others:

Strategy

Since 1953, China has framed its macro objectives in the context of five-year plans, with clearly defined targets and policy initiatives designed to hit those targets. The recently enacted 12th Five-Year Plan could well be a strategic turning point -- ushering in a shift from the highly successful producer model of the past 30 years to a flourishing consumer society.

Commitment

Seared by memories of turmoil, reinforced by the Cultural Revolution of the 1970s, China's leadership places the highest priority on stability. Such a commitment served China extremely well in avoiding collateral damage from the crisis of 2008-2009. It stands to play an equally important role in driving the fight against inflation, asset bubbles, and deteriorating loan quality.

Wherewithal to deliver

China's commitment to stability has teeth. More than 30 years of reform have unlocked its economic dynamism. Enterprise and financial market reforms have been key, and many more reforms are coming. Moreover, China has shown itself to be a good learner from past crises, and shifts course when necessary.

Saving

A domestic saving rate in excess of 50 percent has served China well. It funded the investment imperatives of economic development and boosted the cushion of foreign exchange reserves that has shielded China from external shocks. China now stands ready to absorb some of that surplus saving to promote a shift toward internal demand.

Rural-urban migration

Over the past 30 years, the urban share of the Chinese population has risen from 20 percent to 46 percent. According to OECD estimates, another 316 million people should move from the countryside to China's cities over the next 20 years. Such an unprecedented wave of urbanization provides solid support for infrastructure investment and commercial and residential construction activity. Fears of excess investment and "ghost cities" fixate on the supply side, without giving due weight to burgeoning demand.

Low-hanging fruit: Consumption

Private consumption accounts for only about 37 percent of China's GDP - the smallest share of any major economy. By focusing on job creation, wage increases, and the social safety net, the 12th Five-Year Plan could spark a major increase in discretionary consumer purchasing power. That could lead to as much as a five percent point increase in China's consumption share by 2015.

Low-hanging fruit: Services

Services account for just 43 percent of Chinese GDP - well below global norms. Services are an important piece of China's pro-consumption strategy -- especially large-scale transactions-based industries such as distribution (wholesale and retail), domestic transportation, supply-chain logistics, and hospitality and leisure. Over the next five years, the services share of Chinese GDP could rise above the currently targeted four percent point increase. This is a labor-intensive, resource-efficient, environmentally friendly growth recipe -- precisely what China needs in the next phase of its development.

Foreign direct investment

Modern China has long been a magnet for global multinational corporations seeking both efficiency and a toehold in the world's most populous market. Such investments provide China with access to modern technologies and management systems -- a catalyst to economic development. China's upcoming pro-consumption rebalancing implies a potential shift in foreign direct investment -- away from manufacturing toward services -- that could propel growth further.

Education

China has taken enormous strides in building human capital. The adult literacy rate is now almost 95 percent, and secondary school enrolment rates are up to 80 percent. Shanghai's 15-year-old students were recently ranked first globally in mathematics and reading as per the standardized PISA metric. Chinese universities now graduate more than 1.5 million engineers and scientists annually. The country is well on its way to a knowledge-based economy.

Innovation

In 2009, about 280,000 domestic patent applications were filed in China, placing it third globally, behind Japan and the United States. China is fourth and rising in terms of international patent applications. At the same time, China is targeting a research-and-development share of GDP of 2.2 percent by 2015 -- double the ratio in 2002. This fits with the 12th Five-Year Plan's new focus on innovation-based "strategic emerging industries" -- energy conservation, new-generation information technology, biotechnology, high-end equipment manufacturing, renewable energy, alternative materials, and autos running on alternative fuels. Currently, these seven industries account for three percent of Chinese GDP; the government is targeting a 15 percent share by 2020, a significant move up the value chain.

Yale historian Jonathan Spence has long cautioned that the West tends to view China through the same lens as it sees itself. Today's cottage industry of China doubters is a case in point. Yes, by our standards, China's imbalances are unstable and unsustainable. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has, in fact, gone public with a similar critique.

But that's why China is so different. It actually takes these concerns seriously. Unlike the West, where the very concept of strategy has become an oxymoron, China has embraced a transitional framework aimed at resolving its sustainability constraints. Moreover, unlike the West, which is trapped in a dysfunctional political quagmire, China has both the commitment and the wherewithal to deliver on that strategy. This is not a time to bet against China.

Stephen S. Roach, a member of the faculty at Yale University, is Non-Executive Chairman of Morgan Stanley Asia and author of The Next Asia.

A version of this article first appeared on Project Syndicate.

Photo: Thousands of Chinese students holding Communist flags and a portrait of China's late leader Mao Zedong gather to mark the 90th anniversary of the founding of China's Communist Party at a school in Taiyuan, north China's Shanxi province on May 30, 2011, as part of their celebrations for the Children's Day. (Getty Images)

 

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