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Thursday, June 2, 2011

EDITORIAL 02.06.11

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Editorial

month june 02, edition 000848, 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. CRISIS OF LEADERSHIP
  2. A CORRECT RESPONSE
  3. BENGAL NEEDS DISCIPLINE - SUNANDA K DATTA-RAY
  4. TRAGIC DEATH OF A JOURNALIST - SHASHI SHEKHAR
  5. HE LOST HIS LIFE FOR TELLING THE TRUTH - B RAMAN
  6. PAKISTAN, WINDOW TO POLITICISED ISLAM - NADEEM F PARACHA

THE TIMES OF INDIA

  1. TURN IT ON
  2. NO ARAB SPRING
  3. MUZZLING THE MEDIA - RAVINDRA DHARIWALRAVINDRA DHARIWAL
  4. NOT YET IN MARADONA'S LEAGUE
  5. THE NEW KID WINS OUT - ANIL THAKKARANIL THAKKAR
  6. PEPPER-RONA PIZZA - BACHI KARKARIABACHI KARKARIA

HINDUSTAN TIMES

  1. INTOLERABLE IN ITS INTOLERANCE
  2. YOGI & THE COMMISSARS
  3. A VICIOUS CIRCLE - YOGESH ATAL
  4. COURTSHIP MADE EASY - SP VIJAYARAGAVAN
  5. WHO'S AFRAID OF THE LOKPAL BILL? - JAGDEEP S CHHOKAR

THE INDIAN EXPRESS

  1. TAP DOWN
  2. ACT NOW, AT LEAST
  3. GAGARIN IN MUMBAI
  4. THE CHANGING GAME - C. RAJA MOHAN
  5. WINNING SERB - ADITYAIYER
  6. WHERE NOBODY IS SAFE, AND NOBODY TALKS - MURTAZA RAZVI
  7. IS NO NEWS GOOD NEWS? - SHAILAJA BAJPAI
  8. THE DECADE OF LIVING DANGEROUSLY
  9. HINDU BACKLASH - MANOJCG

THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

  1. TIME TO COOL OFF
  2. MORE HEAT ON BPO STREET
  3. JUST FDI IN RETAIL ISN'T ENOUGH - MADAN SABNAVIS
  4. ASIA'S THREESOME TURNS FOUR - YOON YOUNG-KWAN

THE HINDU

  1. THE HABIT OF COVERING UP
  2. NUCLEAR EXIT
  3. CAMERON'S BARBECUE DIPLOMACY  - HASAN SUROOR
  4. MYTH, MIGHT AND MISERY - RAFIA ZAKARIA
  5. A MAP RULED BY CONFLICT  - KHALED FATTAH
  6. EUROPE'S DROUGHT MAY BRING POWER CUTS  - JOHN VIDAL

THE ASIAN AGE

  1. PAK: US IS FOOLING NO ONE, ONLY ITSELF
  2. IT'S TIME TO WAKA WAKA - SRINATH RAGHAVAN
  3. NEW AGE BABAS - SIDHARTH BHATIA

DAILY EXCELSIOR

  1. HOME FOR MILITANCY
  2. VALLEY'S CHANGING LANDSCAPE
  3. ENEMIES OF DEMOCRACY - BY INDRANIL BANERJEA
  4. MANAGEMENT OF ELECTRONIC WASTE - BY VIDUSHI SHARMA
  5. FALLING FOOD PRICES IS NOT GOOD FOR AGRICULTURE - BY DR ASHWANI MAHAJAN
  6. ENGAGING SPOS - BY SHIVANANDA

THE TRIBUNE

  1. A NUCLEAR NIGHTMARE
  2. THE SIACHEN QUESTION
  3. DEATH OF A DOCTOR
  4. BEYOND 'DO BIGHA ZAMIN' - BY B.G. VERGHESE
  5. PLAYBOYS OF THE GOLDEN TRACK - BY HARWANT SINGH
  6. GENDER TILT TO ENVIRONMENTAL DEGRADATION - ANNAM SURESH

BUSINESS STANDARD

  1. MR QURAISHI'S WISDOM
  2. COTTONING ON TO A PROBLEM
  3. NTP 2011 OBJECTIVE: BROADBAND - SHYAM PONAPPA
  4. LAND AND THE SOVEREIGN'S RESPONSIBILITY - VINAYAK CHATTERJEE
  5. BY THE PEOPLE, OFF THE MARK - BARUN ROY

BUSINESS LINE

  1. WHY MICROFINANCE NEEDS THE BILL
  2. IPR RULES AND THEIR UNCERTAIN EFFECTS - MADHUKAR SINHA

THE ECONOMIC TIMES

  1. LOKPAL'S LIMITS
  2. POWER FAILURE
  3. BLEEDING HEARTS
  4. AUDITING CONGRESS INC AND BJP LTD
  5. IT'S ALL IN THE MIND  - RAKESH BEDI
  6. TO AFRICA WITH LOVE, OF ONESELF  - T K ARUN

MUMBAI MIRROR

  1. TILL HUMAN VOICES WAKE US

DECCAN CHRONICAL

  1. PAK: US IS FOOLING NO ONE, ONLY ITSELF
  2. IT'S TIME TO WAKA WAKA
  3. THE HOLES THAT BIN LADEN HAD US DIG
  4. BIG BUSINESS VS FARMERS
  5. NEW AGE BABAS
  6. COME, WRESTLE WITH GOD

THE STATESMAN

  1. CHINESE 'INCURSION'?
  2. THOUGHT AND ACTION
  3. A DOCKETED REPORT?
  4. CAIRN-VEDANTA DEAL - SAM RAJAPPA
  5. BETWEEN THE LINES  - KULDIP NAYAR
  6. NOW & AGAIN   - BUDDHADEB MUKHERJEE
  7. 100 YEARS AGO TODAY  

THE TELEGRAPH

  1. HOPE IN HILLS
  2. SAFETY FIRST
  3. A SCHOOL FOR SALE
  4. WHEN A MYTH WAS BROKEN  - SOROOR AHMED
  5. A DECISIVE MANDATE FOR CHANGE  - SHYAMAL DATTA
  6. HEED THE SIGNS OF BREWING TROUBLE

HAARETZ

  1. PLAYING POLITICS WITH SUMMER VACATION
  2. WAR AND PEACE  - BY ARI SHAVIT
  3. WAR AND PEACE  - BY ARI SHAVIT
  4. THE CITY THAT WAS FROZEN TOGETHER  - BY ISRAEL HAREL
  5. WHOSE CIVICS IS IT, ANYWAY?  - BY RIKI TESLER

THE NEWYORK TIMES

  1. THE CELLPHONE STUDY
  2. QUIET? IN NEW YORK CITY?
  3. PLAYING WITH MATCHES ON THE DEBT
  4. WHEN THE NILE RUNS DRY - BY LESTER R. BROWN
  5. SHE'S 10 AND MAY BE SOLD TO A BROTHEL - BY NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
  6. A WAY THROUGH THE DEBT MESS - BY JOSEPH A. CALIFANO JR.

HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

  1. ENCOUNTERING THE EU'S COUNTER TRENDS - DAVID JUDSON
  2. PLAY IT AGAIN, HALICI - ERSU ABLAK
  3. SEX-TAPES BACK, THIS TIME AKP 'TARGETED' - YUSUF KANLI
  4. NOBODY SHOULD BE ANGRY, WE ALL STIRRED UP THE STREETS - MEHMET ALİ BİRAND
  5. WOMEN'S SUPPORT FOR ÜMIT BOYNER AND CHRISTINE LAGARDE - MERAL TAMER
  6. SCHENGEN DEBATE: A SPILL-BACK IN EU INTEGRATION? - FATMA YILMAZ-ELMAS
  7. LIBYA: TWO AIRPLANES - RICHARD REID

THE NEWS

  1. GIVE AND TAKE
  2. WILL WE EVER KNOW?
  3. ANOTHER BIZARRE THEORY  -  RAHIMULLAH YUSUFZAI
  4. WASTED LIVES  -  BRIAN CLOUGHLEY
  5. HIS FINEST HOUR  - IKRAM SEHGAL
  6. CRISIS OF VALUES  - AMIN JAN NAIM
  7. COULD THE TALIBAN WIN? - KAMILA HYAT
  8. PATH TO PEACE  - NAUMAN ASGHAR

THE AUSTRALIYAN

  1. SALUTING A TOP SOLDIER
  2. GLOBAL ACTION IS KEY ON CARBON
  3. GDP FIGURES SHOW WE NEED ONGOING ECONOMIC REFORM

THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

  1. CHALLENGE RISES IN AFGHANISTAN
  2. ABBOTT RESISTANCE RUNS OUT OF PUFF
  3. ECONOMIC BLIP REVEALS TWO SIDES TO BOOM

THE GUARDIAN

  1. RESIDENTIAL CARE: IN A DECREPIT STATE
  2. IN PRAISE OF… STEWART LEE
  3. SYRIA: TRUTH WILL OUT

THE JAPAN TIMES

  1. A LONG-AWAITED ARREST
  2. PRIVACY AND PUBLIC INTEREST - BY HUGH CORTAZZI
  3. PAKISTAN AGAIN TURNS TOWARD CHINA - BY SHAHID JAVED BURKI
  4. JAPAN'S COSTLY LESSON IN RISK MANAGEMENT - BY ROBERT SHILLER

THE JAKARTA POST

  1. BIN LADEN'S TRUSTED CONFIDANTE IDENTIFIED

DAILY MIRROR

  1. TAKE IMMEDIATE ACTION AGAINST THIS CORRUPTION
  2. EUROPEAN PARLIAMENTARIANS CASTIGATE BAN KI-MOON'S MOCK PANEL  - BY JAYANTHA GUNASEKERA-
  3. CEB ENGINEERS' UNION HAMPERS FIGHT AGAINST CORRUPTION
  4. QUESTIONS OVER YEMENI DEMOCRACY
  5. FIGHTING CORRUPTION SHOULD NOT BE REDUCED TO A NATIONAL
  6. PASTIME

 GULF DAILY NEWS

  1. THAT JUSTICE BE DONE...   - BY HERBERT GRIMES

TEHRAN TIMES

  1. NEW ASPECTS IN IRAN'S NUCLEAR CASE - BY SEYYED ALI KHORRAM
  2. THE ANGLO-AMERICAN SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP AND THE ARAB SPRING - BY MOHAMMAD REZA KIANI
  3. THE U.S.-ISRAELI TRAIN WRECK - BY JEFF GATES
  4. RATKO MLADIC AND THE END OF IMPUNITY - BY GWYNNE DYER

 

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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

CRISIS OF LEADERSHIP

A LIMP-WRISTED REGIME CAN'T FIGHT CORRUPTION


The Prime Minister and his Cabinet colleagues suddenly find themselves trapped between a rock and a hard place on the issue of fighting corruption by setting up the institution of the Lok Pal. The so-called representatives of 'civil society' led by Anna Hazare who were co-opted in the grandiosely named Joint Drafting Committee, a first of its kind which not only flies in the face of parliamentary tradition but sets a dangerous precedent of the executive abdicating its authority and responsibility, are adamant that their version of what they call the 'Jan Lok Pal Bill', which is stuffed with absurdities, including empowering the Lok Pal to monitor the activities of Members of Parliament inside the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha, must prevail over common sense and reason. The Government cannot be faulted for seeking to keep the offices of the Prime Minister and the Chief Justice of India outside the purview of the Lok Pal's jurisdiction: The chief executive and the seniormost member of the judiciary are presumed to be, and must continue to be presumed to be, individuals with unimpeachable integrity. If we were to begin doubting their credentials and casting aspersions on them, then, by the same logic a Super Lok Pal should be appointed to ensure that the Lok Pal does not stray from the strait and the narrow. It is equally absurd to suggest that the Lok Pal should have the power to scrutinise policy decisions of the Government: That would not only cripple the executive but also render the legislature irrelevant. The Government is answerable to the people of India, not self-appointed guardians of morality, ethics and probity. Yet, there is no cause to feel sorry for the Government which now finds itself confronted by an intransigent and cussed lot who believe that they alone are virtuous. A Government weakened by corruption at high levels, exemplified by the Great 2G Spectrum Robbery right under the nose of the Prime Minister, had no other option but to bend over backward to accommodate Anna Hazare and his men in the drafting committee; had it been strong and upright, it could have told them to go take a walk. Similarly, having painted itself into a corner, the UPA regime now finds itself grovelling before Baba Ramdev who plans to stage a huge protest in Delhi against the Government's failure to act on the issue of black money despite several promises to do so.


It would be silly to suggest that the concern expressed by either Anna Hazare or Baba Ramdev is misplaced and unwarranted. They have successfully articulated popular anger against mounting corruption and an effete Government's inability to confront the menace fearlessly. But while community leaders like Anna Hazare and Baba Ramdev are well within their rights to mobilise public opinion and bring pressure on the Government, they cannot be seen to be dictating policy and action — that must remain the realm of the executive and the legislature. Much as we may deride the 'system' and tar all politicians with the same brush, we must remember that our democracy has survived and flourished precisely because of the 'system' that, while corroded, still facilitates the democratic functioning of the Government and its allied institutions. True, the rot has to be checked. But that can be achieved only if India's crisis of leadership comes to an end.

 

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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

A CORRECT RESPONSE

YEDDYURAPPA REJECTS CENTRE'S 'ADVISORY'


The Karnataka Chief Minister has done well to reject the advisory issued to him by the Union Home Ministry on the basis of a spurious report submitted by the State's Governor, Mr HR Bhardwaj. Since the advisory was essentially a face-saver for the Governor whose recommendation for sacking the State Government had been dumped by the Centre, it never deserved to be taken seriously in the first place. There are also reports that the so-called advisory was not addressed to the State Government — as such advisories are generally are — but to Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa. If that is true then the Home Ministry missive was a mere letter drawing the Chief Minister's attention to certain issues, and not really in the nature of an advisory that it addresses to State Governments under the Constitution's provisions. Even then, the State Government has responded to the letter, reportedly refuting in great detail the charges made by the Home Ministry. The contentious issue of ongoing illegal mining in the State and the alleged involvement of certain powerful Ministers in the illegality has become a handy tool for opponents of the BJP to repeatedly strike at the Yeddyurappa Government. Not surprisingly, therefore, the matter came up in the Home Ministry's letter. But the Ministry must bear in mind that the State Government has ordered a ban on the export of iron ore from Karnataka's mines and cracked down on illegal mining in Bellary and neighbouring regions. Both these steps have been taken with the intention of curbing irregularities in the mining sector. Of course, no one contests the fact that some illegal mining continues to happen in the State despite the curbs and that it should be halted. The Chief Minister himself has admitted that illegal activities are still on, but he has promised to check them. We should wait and see if he walks the talk before passing judgement.


Meanwhile, the Union Government must not entertain the idea that the 'advisory' can form the precursor to the imposition of President's rule in the state. The Government enjoys a huge majority in the Karnataka Assembly for it to be summarily dismissed on grounds of 'political instability'. Nothing has changed since Mr Bhardwaj's ill-advised recommendation to the Home Ministry. If anything, Mr Yeddyurappa is now more fortified after the rebel legislators switched their allegiance back to the Chief Minister in the wake of their earlier disqualification being quashed by the Supreme Court. However, Mr Yeddyurappa cannot altogether breathe easy because he is likely to face a dilemma after the State Lokayukta, Justice Santosh Hegde, submits his findings on illegal mining. There are already reports that those findings could implicate powerful members of the Chief Minister's Cabinet.

 

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THE PIONEER

COLUMN

BENGAL NEEDS DISCIPLINE

SUNANDA K DATTA-RAY


The only solution to the mess that prevails in the West Bengal Government is strict enforcement of rules without baulking at summary punishment.


A new broom sweeps clean, as the saying goes. Hence the commendable idealism with which Ms Mamata Banerjee requested the Speaker of West Bengal's Legislative Assembly to "give more importance to the Opposition". That, as well as her pledge to democracy and not party rule, should usher in a period of political harmony, notwithstanding stray signs of Trinamool Congress-Left Front conflict.


West Bengal's first woman Chief Minister needs peace to tackle the challenges of Maoist rebellion and Gorkha unrest. But it's the administration that demands immediate attention, and it's there that the new broom shows signs of being impetuous and, sometimes, a trifle high-handed. Ms Banerjee's well-meaning reforms would be more effective if they were part of a structured overall framework of methodical change. Mr Pranab Mukherjee, whom she has christened "guardian of West Bengal", may provide the funds, but the strategy and the energy and discipline needed to execute it must come from the Trinamool Congress.


The two million people outside Raj Bhavan when Ms Banerjee was sworn in on May 20 and the huge crowds that surround her everywhere she goes indicate soaring expectations from her regime. They give a foretaste of public pressure if she fails, and also warn of a populism that is irreconcilable with good governance. If people merrily abandon their offices and take to the streets every time the Chief Minister stirs out, West Bengal can say goodbye to all hope of recovery under a dynamic new Government.


That's where the lady herself must set an example by opting for quiet administrative reforms instead of flash-in-the-pan gestures. Like Haroun al Rashid, the legendary Caliph of Baghdad who wandered his capital incognito to pick up what his subjects were saying, Ms Banerjee has been dropping in unannounced on Kolkata hospitals. But unlike the caliph, she is surrounded by reporters, cameramen and adulatory mobs which can make these visits look like public relations exercises.

 

She must be commended for persuading Kolkata's once elite Europeans-only SSKM Hospital to admit a young man with a cracked skull waiting outside. But even after admission, he had to lie on a blood-stained mattress on a dirty floor because there were no beds. Only by ensuring that patients are properly bedded and treated can she convince people that the ad hoc improvements she is making will be sustained.


There's no denying that West Bengal's public hospitals can be filthy and overcrowded places, lacking adequate staff, equipment or medicines. Ms Banerjee's sudden descents can set a welcome precedent only if they are part of a serious effort to investigate abuses and find solutions. That doesn't seem to be the case when an institute chief's abrupt suspension seems to be due more to his less than deferential manner than to the avowedly disgraceful quality of his establishment.


A caring Government must set up institutions with adequate accommodation, trained staff, proper treatment facilities and medicines throughout the State. I was amazed to find that an official researcher who claimed Indian medical facilities were as good as China's was comparing China's public health system with expensive and exclusive Kolkata nursing homes like Bellevue and Woodlands!


Every aspect of the public services in West Bengal is chaotic. While spending all one morning recently shuttling from office to office and desk to desk in the Kolkata Municipal Corporation, I watched people rolling in for duty around mid-day. One employee remained absorbed in his game of computer solitaire oblivious to the crowds around him. The KMC has been under Trinamool control for several years but no one has the will or courage to take shirkers to task.


It would be illogical to expect senior IAS, IPS and WBPCS officials who condoned dereliction of duty for 34 years suddenly to see the light just because they are now high in Ms Banerjee's favour. Ordinary office workers won't believe their previously indulgent bosses have miraculously been transformed into diligent disciplinarians. At the same time, personnel changes are causing resentment among bureaucrats who blame politics and not performance for the shifts.


The only answer is strict enforcement of rules without baulking at summary punishment when necessary. Nothing else can introduce (restore would be the wrong word) discipline. Strictness can come only from the top. Is Ms Banerjee prepared to risk dissipating some of the popular adulation in which she now basks by taking unpopular steps? She must, if she is to fulfil even an iota of her manifesto.


Given her relations with the UPA chief, she is assured of Central help in both funds and channelling investment. But job creation doesn't necessarily demand a huge influx of capital. Tamil Nadu started with modest industrial estates like the one at Guindy. As Chief Minister, Siddhartha Shankar Ray sought to serve the same purpose with his abortive proposal for six dispersed growth centres that banked on traditional engineering skills and available iron and coal. Now, the blueprint can extend to software and Information Technology.


Apart from raising Rs 3.5 lakh crore to clear inherited debts, Mr Amit Mitra, the new Finance Minister, must persuade the wealthy trading community which had a cozy arrangement with the Marxists all these years to invest in people instead of in the party. They must also acquire land for their enterprises through the mechanism of the free market they claim to uphold. One reason why state acquisition will always be resisted is that the recorded sales never reflect actual price.


Growth demands much else like investing in primary education, restoring the primacy of English in schools, roads, housing and electricity, and removing the grievances that turned Muslim voters (30 per cent of the total) against the Left Front. Many facilities that exist on paper are criminally abused, like children in slums and villages being forced to pay for 'free' school textbooks or even to be promoted. But I draw the line at arbitrarily banning Kolkata's autorickshaws and pavement hawkers. They are a menace, but industriousness commands respect. They serve a need, theirs as well as the public's. To sweep them away without satisfactory alternative arrangements would cause severe dislocation.


Kolkata doesn't have to resemble London to be a habitable city. But when it comes to managing change, it does have a lot to learn from the quiet behind-the-scenes planning and determined execution that transformed Singapore and Shanghai. Ms Banerjee will learn. These are early days still.


sunandadr@yahoo.co.in

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

TRAGIC DEATH OF A JOURNALIST

SHASHI SHEKHAR


The outrage in Pakistan over the death of journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad is predictable. But the significance of his death will be registered most outside Pakistan for his reporting that offered a rare window into the murky world of Pakistan's military-jihadi complex. Will the truth behind his murder ever see the light of day? Or will Pakistani media now tow the line of least resistance?


Syed Saleem Shahzad, the Pakistan Bureau Editor of Asia Times Online, was found dead near Islamabad. Shahzad's body was discovered more than 48 hours since he was reported missing on his way to a TV studio in Islamabad. He is survived by his wife and three small children. There is predictable outrage within certain sections in Pakistan over his death under murky circumstances. A probe has also been ordered by that country's Prime Minister, according to some reports.


But the significance of this death will be registered most outside Pakistan for Shahzad's reporting offered a rare, if not always accurate, window into the murky world of Pakistan's miltiary-jihadi complex. For a whole a class of Pakistan watchers and jihad analysts across the world, Shahzad's reportage was most often the first-hand account of the inside story with its many distortions and embellishments.


This writer's tryst with Shahzad's columns started in the aftermath of the November 26, 2008 attack on Mumbai. When much of the Indian reportage of 26/11 was mostly an amplification of the official line with little original investigation or reporting, it was interesting to note that Shahzad's articles during December 2008 had revealed much on what we would learn only in late 2009 through the arrests in Chicago of David Coleman Headley and Tahawwur Hussain Rana. For example Shahzad had in December 2008 laid out the contours of what we now call the 'Karachi Project' that saw elements within the ISI and Lashkar-e-Tayyeba collaborating with elements within Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami and Al Qaeda's '313 Brigade' and Karachi-based criminals of Indian origin.


Shahzad shot into fame in mid-2009 with his interviews of the 313 Brigade's Ilyas Kashmiri that appeared in Asia Times Online right after it was suspected that the terrorist had been killed in a drone strike in North Waziristan. Shahzad's interview was the first confirmation of Ilyas Kashmiri's resurgence. This close proximity Shahzad was able to strike with murky elements of the jihadi world saw him have two near-death experiences earlier, including his abduction in 2006 and an attempt on his life earlier this year.


It is said Shahzad played all sides to cultivate sources. Ultimately this trait, it appears, imperilled his life with his death coming on the close heels of an expose on the recent attack on a Pakistani Naval Air Station in Karachi. In that expose, Shahzad had alleged Al Qaeda infiltration of Pakistan's naval ranks thus attributing the attack to the underlying conflict between Al Qaeda sympathetic elements within the Pakistani military-jihadi complex.

A curious aspect of Shahzad's reporting has been his glorification of Ilyas Kashmiri's record, often attributing responsibility for many attacks to Kashmiri's genius. One instance where Shahzad's reportage was off the mark was the December 2009 suicide bombing at a CIA base in Khost. Shahzad's initial reportage which attributed the responsibility to Kashmiri was focussed on the role of an Afghan Intelligence officer when subsequent reports and eventually a martyrdom video with Hakeemullah Mehsud revealed the role of a Jordanian double agent.

Much can be learned from Shahzad's columns on the shifting contours of conflict within the Pakistan military-jihadi complex right since the September 2001 attacks in the United States if one is able to sift fact from what perhaps was an occupational hazard — fiction.


This columnist owes a special gratitude to Shahzad's columns for therein lay much of the insight and background into our understanding of the Karachi Project. Shahzad's columns also offered this columnist a view into the duplicitous role played by the ISI in recruiting Lashkar operatives and then turning them in as Al Qaeda operatives whenever opportunity so demanded. In Shahzad's columns we also see the many raw faces of jihad in Pakistan, the many betrayals and mutinies. Unfortunate but perhaps fitting that Shahzad managed to release his book titled 'Inside Al-Qaeda and Taliban: Beyond Bin Laden and 9/11' a week before his death.

We may perhaps never know who killed Shahzad. But in the larger picture that question is irrelevant for we are talking here of a country that is incapable of being honest with itself on even the death of a person no less than its former Prime Minister. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh recently remarked that a stable and strong Pakistan was in India's interests. Shahzad's death reminds once again on how Mr Singh misses the point so completely. A nation that lives on lies cannot be at peace with itself, forget being at peace with its neighbours.


Shahzad in a way was Sanjaya reporting on the Kurukshetra war within Pakistan with the entire Pakistan state for a Dhritarashtra, blind to reality and in deep denial. Pakistan's tragedy, of course, is there is no side fighting for dharma in its Kurukshtera war. But for us on the outside the smaller tragedy, of course, is we just lost Sanjaya.

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THE PIONEER

OPED

HE LOST HIS LIFE FOR TELLING THE TRUTH

B RAMAN


Pakistan's blood-stained history is replete with instances of mysterious elimination of inconvenient people. Syed Saleem Shahzad's murder is the latest tale of that country's murky politics. He died for daring to look into incidents that the ISI wanted to be kept under wraps


The brutal murder of Syed Saleem Shahzad, the Pakistan Bureau Chief of Asia Times Online, is unlikely to be solved satisfactorily by the investigating agencies of Pakistan.


Shahzad went missing on the evening of May 29, 2011, while going to the Islamabad studio of a private TV news channel and his car with his dead body was reportedly found at a place about 150 kms from Islamabad on May 31. His body reportedly had torture wounds, indicating he had been severely tortured in order to extract information from him.


What was that information? Who was interested in that? The widely believed suspicion in Pakistan is that the information sought to be extracted from him through torture must have had a bearing to the first part of a despatch which he had sent to Asia Times and was carried by it on May 27.


This is related to the daring attack by some terrorists on PNS Mehran, the base of the Naval Air Arm of the Pakistan Navy, at Karachi on the night of May 22. In this attack, the terrorists destroyed two US-supplied Orion maritime surveillance aircraft which were being used by the Navy to patrol the sea to prevent any Al Qaeda attack on ships bringing logistic supplies for the Nato forces in Afghanistan.


The responsibility for the attack was claimed by the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan as the Pakistani Taliban is known. It said that it carried out the attack to avenge the death of Osama bin Laden during a raid by US naval commandos at his hide-out in Abbottabad on May 2 ,2011.


The investigation into the attack by the local police has not yet made much progress. However, the arrests of some suspects in Karachi and Lahore, including an ex-naval commando of the Special Services Group, who was allegedly sacked 10 years ago on disciplinary grounds, have been reported.


Shahzad did not appear to have believed in the claim of the TTP. His enquiries indicated that the attack was carried out by the 313 Brigade of Ilyas Kashmiri, a former commando of the Special Services Group, which operates from North Waziristan as an affiliate of Al Qaeda.


Shahzad said in the first part of his investigative report: "Asia Times Online contacts confirm that the attackers were from Ilyas Kashmiri's 313 Brigade, the operational arm of Al Qaeda." He alleged that "Al Qaeda carried out the brazen attack on PNS Mehran naval air station in Karachi on May 22 after talks failed between the navy and Al Qaeda over the release of naval officials arrested on suspicion of Al Qaeda links."

He had also indicated at the end of the first part of his despatch that the second part would cover "the recruitment and training of militants".


He was the only Pakistani journalist to have visited the headquarters of the 313 Brigade in October 2009 at the invitation of Ilyas Kashmiri. One of the purposes of Ilyas' invitation was to disprove rumours then circulating in Pakistan that Ilyas had been killed in an American Drone (pilotless plane) strike in South Waziristan in September, 2009.


Subsequently, after the terrorist attack on the so-called German Bakery in Pune in February 2010, Shahzad was in receipt of a message purporting to be from Ilyas indirectly hinting that the 303 Brigade had a role in the Pune attack. Shahzad had written about it in Asia Times.


Shahzad was thus well-informed on the activities of the 303 Brigade and Ilyas Kashmiri. He was reportedly the only Pakistani journalist with good contacts in the 303 Brigade.


Who killed him — the ISI as it is widely suspected in Pakistan or the 303 Brigade or the two acting in tandem? Next to the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba, the 303 Brigade has the closest contacts with the ISI. By virtue of his former association with the SSG, Ilyas is believed to have a network of contacts in the Army, the SSG and the ISI.

It is apparent that Shahzad was killed either because of what he reported in his despatch of May 27 regarding the penetration of the Navy by Al Qaeda or because of what he intended reporting about the training camps of the 303 Brigade.


Thus both the ISI and the 303 Brigade had a common motive for having him eliminated. Was their decision to eliminate him only related to his story on the Mehran attack or was there more to it? Whoever took the decision to eliminate him was in a desperate hurry. He was kidnapped within 48 hours of the first part being published. He would have most probably despatched the second part in the week beginning May 30. His captors wanted to do away with him before that.


Well-informed contacts in the Pakistani Police say that his kidnapping and murder were related not only to his investigation into the Mehran attack, but also his investigation into the local support base of Osama bin Laden which facilitated his undetected stay for over five years at Abbottabad. His investigations post-May 2 were dangerously moving in that direction. His discovery of the penetration of the Navy by Al Qaeda was only the first step in his investigation. According to these police sources, he was digging deeper into Osama bin Laden's support base.


To have waited till he found out the details would have been suicidal for the ISI. The Police sources suspect that the ISI joined hands with the 303 Brigade to eliminate him before he made any progress in the matter.


The 'real' truth will never be known just as the 'real' truth behind the murder of Murtaza Bhutto in Karachi in 1996 and behind the murder of Benazir Bhutto at Rawalpindi in 2007 was never known.


People will be arrested and prosecuted, but they will not be the real perpetrators. The history of Pakistan is full of such instances of mysterious elimination of inconvenient people. Shahzad is the latest to join the ranks of such mysteriously eliminated people. He has paid with his life for daring to look into two incidents which the ISI wanted to be covered up — the Mehran attack and the stay of Osama bin Laden at Abbottabad.

-- The writer, a former senior officer of R&AW, is a strategic affairs commentator.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

PAKISTAN, WINDOW TO POLITICISED ISLAM

NADEEM F PARACHA


While actors like the 7/7 bombers and Faisal Shahzad are obvious embarrassments to Pakistan and to the Pakistani diaspora, so are the growing number of rabid, tech-savvy young people floating around various websites to mouth obnoxious ideas about Islam and politics


The most convenient understanding of the phenomenon of Pakistani extremists that one hears being echoed from TV studios and their favourite 'guests' suggests that young Pakistanis turning into religious fanatics has something to do with illiteracy and unemployment. Though not entirely incorrect, this notion however is a complacent explanation.


It fails to explain the emergence of young religious extremists such as Omar Shaikh, Shahzad Tanveer, Hasib Hussain and Faisal Shahzad. Each one of these young men came from educated middle-class families.

Saying they were products of western societies that they were raised in is a weak retort. This attitude simply refuses to seriously address the issue of educated young Pakistanis falling for a myopic and nihilistic brand of the faith — something that was once explained as a vocation only of the illiterate and the financially desperate. There has been an alarming rise in the number of young, educated middle-class Pakistanis (here and abroad), embracing the most reactionary and anarchic strains of the faith, believing it to be a justified and logical portrayal of 'true' Islam.


The state and the Government of Pakistan will have to thoroughly investigate and rectify this alarming trend. While actors like the 7/7 bombers and Faisal Shahzad are obvious embarrassments to Pakistan and to the Pakistani communities in the West, so are the growing number of rabid, tech-savvy young people floating around various interactive websites to mouth the most obnoxious ideas about Islam and politics. There are websites out there glorifying utter mad men and propagating most twisted conspiracy theories, and many of these are owned, run and frequented by Pakistanis who work and are comfortably settled in western countries.

Just as the sudden rise of certain crackpots (via TV) in Pakistan was keenly followed and supported by a chunk of young, urban Pakistanis, various cranks are happily catering to the already confused religious and ideological bearings of Muslim Pakistanis living abroad. Much has been written about people like Zaid Hamid, Aamir Liaquat and Zakir Naik - men who cleverly represent (and glorify) the increasingly chauvinistic mindset of the current generation of young urbanites.


A recent book on Farhat Hashmi's organisation, Al-Huda, (written by a Pakistani woman), accuses her of spreading hatred against Christians, Hindus and Jews among Pakistani women living in Canada. In the wake of the Faisal Shahzad episode in New York last year, the Muslim Canadian Congress, a group of liberal Muslims living in Canada, accused American Islamic organisations of refusing to distance themselves from the doctrine of armed jihad waged by extremists, as did the Deobandi ulema's conference back home late last year.

The MCC goes on to state that many young Pakistanis living in the United States and Canada regard Pakistan as a safe haven for their preparation and training for waging wars against the West. Organisations like the MCC have also come down hard on outfits such as Al-Huda, refuting their claim that they are on a mission to convert westerners to Islam.


Nevertheless, even in liberal countries like US, UK and Canada, organisations like the MCC are coming under direct attack and threats from their more myopic counterparts who, it seems, are free to peddle away hatred and confusion to Muslims living abroad.


But, of course, the situation is more alarming in this respect in Pakistan. Political Islam — a mid-20th century philosophy that advocates the creation of a theocratic society and state through the Islamisation of politics — was once the prerogative of conservative scholars and established political parties such as Abul Ala Mauddudi and his Jamat-i-Islami. However, ever since the late 1980s it has rapidly disintegrated into a bare but populist entity with two prominent strains.


One strain has striped off this philosophy's more scholarly aspects and left only its violent jihadist aspects to work with. This strain can now be found in the barbaric ways of extremist organisations like the Taliban and many of Pakistan's sectarian outfits. The other strain has been working to turn political Islam into a populist set of easy-to-digest ideas through which, either elections can be fought or the military-establishment can be infiltrated and used as a patron.


The JI tried flaunting the populist aspects of political Islam during the 1977 and 1993 elections, but failed. Nawaz Sharif's PML-N did so throughout the 1990s and somewhat did succeed but only with the help of the military-establishment. Political Islam's historical drubbling in elections in Pakistan has increasingly made this philosophy the vocation of certain powerful sections of Pakistan's military and its many mouthpieces in the popular Urdu media and in so-called Islamic evangelist movements.


Its most recent advocate (again with a more than a little help from certain sections in the military establishment) is cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan. Though Imran's party, the PTI, has been quite a disaster in the two elections that it took part in, he has suddenly been propped up by an aggressive Right-wing electronic media and an increasingly confused number of young middle-class urbanites.


Though, quite like Mr Imran Khan, most of his followers' lifestyles are rather 'westernised,' these are no liberals believing in concepts like democratic pluralism or in the importance of tolerating and promoting religious, sectarian and ethnic diversity. By the looks of it, they see democracy as a threat to Pakistan's imagined existence as a monotheistic state and society based on a single (state-sanctioned and clergy-approved) strain of the faith.


Mr Imran Khan's fans, like the pro-Musharraf 'moderates', have, at best, sound like 21st century versions of Zia-ul Haq. Instead of a sherwani and a stern frown, they can be seen in modern, western clothes and designer shalwar-kameez spouting the most worn-out rhetoric and narrative that was started by the state under Zia-ul Haq and his politico-religious sidekicks.

 

t's the usual beat: Pakistan and democracy are not compatible; democratic pluralism promotes ethnocentricity; secularism is akin to atheism; religious extremism and violence are the handiwork of the 'anti-Pakistan' and 'anti-Islam' elements (mainly foreign), and the state and intelligence agencies of Pakistan have nothing to with it. Also to these Ipod carrying 'revolutionaries' there is only one correct version of Islam but most Pakistanis follow a corrupted and adulterated version because they are illiterate and superstitious; anyone questioning these assumptions is a traitor and that only politicians are corrupt, and we need a strong leader who cannot come through democracy because most Pakistanis are ignorant.


Furthermore, anyone also questioning the obvious and yet padded extremism and soft authoritarianism peddled by the Mr Imran Khan brigade is a 'liberal extremist' who is undermining religion and promoting 'corrupt politicians'. And should I even get into their take on the need of a worldwide caliphate? Maybe not. Don't want to turn this piece into a black comedy, if you know what I mean.

The writer is among the most popular Pakistani columnists. He writes for Dawn. Courtesy: Dawn.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

 COMMENT

TURN IT ON

 

On promoting nuclear safety, India and Germany agree. On nuclear energy use they beg to differ, and understandably. Germany plans to decommission its nuclear power plants by 2022. In the post-Fukushima scenario this isn't entirely unexpected for a country harbouring strong anti-nuclear power lobbies, including the influential Green Party. But with domestic energy consumption increasing by around 6% annually, India can't follow suit. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has been frank on this score in German chancellor Angela Merkel's presence. He's stressed that India must harness power sources like nuclear to meet both emissions targets and developmental goals.


A power-hungry nation with burgeoning oil import bills needs a diversified energy basket including nuclear power and renewables. Given our plans to quadruple nuclear power capacity by 2020, an absolute must however is to raise standards of safety, whether through upgraded plant and reactor design, better disaster management strategies or arming a tough, independent overseer for the sector. We must do this, since raising energy output in every way possible is key to sustaining growth.


Reform of the power sector is just as imperative, not least because its estimated financial losses amount to over 4% of GDP. Policy making has sought to bring in the private sector over the past decade, as is evident from the Electricity Act. Yet investors avoid the sector, which is in dire need of funds to expand, innovate, attract skills and build infrastructure. Power producers today fear plant shutdowns thanks to non-remunerative tariffs, lack of movement on distribution reforms and poor supply of inputs like fuel. New projects are non-starters thanks to coal scarcity, while many installations are working below capacity. Consequently, people have to sweat it out for another long, hot, powerless summer even as trade and industry are impeded.


The problem is that the state stranglehold on the power sector remains. Be it pricing, issue of licences or building grid capacity, government has a finger in every pie. Coal-based power output, for instance, accounts for 66% of total power generation. But, despite talk of reform, the coal sector is a state monopoly leading to production shortfalls and poor quality that hobble projects. If government must get out of coal mining, states must do more to put distribution and transmission in private players' hands and facilitate electricity transfer from surplus to deficit areas. As essential to boost power trading, 'open access' giving large buyers like industry direct access to producers needs encouraging. Also, if state electricity boards aren't dismantled themselves, subsidies going their way need to be slashed to remove market distortions at private players' cost. In 21st century India, the demand-supply mismatch for electricity is growing even as millions still have no access to power at all. Surely a country aspiring to be a global player should fix the situation on a war footing.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

 COMMENT

NO ARAB SPRING

 

The torture and murder of leading Pakistani journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad throws into sharp relief an ironic twist in the politics of the Muslim world. As the populations of one Middle Eastern country after the other revolt against authoritarianism in favour of democracy, Pakistan is headed the other way. Shahzad's death follows two other high-profile murders. Earlier, the minister for minority affairs Shahbaz Bhatti was apparently slain for supporting Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman jailed for blasphemy. Also killed was the governor of the Punjab, Salman Taseer, by his own bodyguard. Combined, the murders suggest a trend at the heart of the Pakistani state, whereby dissent from official views is no longer tolerated.


Shahzad's murder also suggests that he was onto something. It's hard to believe that his disappearance, just after he filed a story about the Pakistani navy being infiltrated by terrorists, is a mere coincidence - particularly since there is a history of Shahzad being threatened by the ISI for previous reports filed by him. Couple that with growing evidence of ISI involvement in 26/11, and Pakistan's 'state-within-a-state' may be as threatening to its own citizens as it is to India and the world. Along with Abbottabad and the Mehran naval base raid, Shahzad's murder is another blot on the face of Pakistan's security establishment. Whether authorities have the will to trace Shahzad's murderers or not will be a test of what sort of country Pakistan is turning out to be. Don't be too surprised if not much is done to apprehend them. Isn't the trail also running cold when it comes to investigating the perpetrators of 26/11?

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

TOP ARTICLE

MUZZLING THE MEDIA

RAVINDRA DHARIWALRAVINDRA DHARIWAL

 

What better way to control the Press than to decide the salary of newspaper employees? How can a journalist write fearlessly against a government when he knows that it is this same government that decides his salary? Successive governments in India have found a simple way to try to control the Press: set up a statutory wage board for newspapers, fix unrealistically high wages enforceable under law.


The Indian newspaper industry is the only industry in the country to have a statutory wage board at all! Even other media sectors like TV, radio, internet, etc, do not have this retrograde practice. Why, in this era of liberalisation where licences, quotas, permits etc are being dismantled in all spheres of economic activity, would it be that only the newspaper industry has wages fixed by the government; particularly when they are not based on market demand and supply, and are without consideration for skills and professional qualifications?

Singling out the newspaper industry like this is plainly discriminatory. It is aimed at fettering the freedoms granted to the media by the Constitution. More so, when it resolutely ignores the recommendations of the National Commission on Labour headed by the former labour minister, Ravindra Verma, which had, in 2002, stated: "There is no need for any wage board, statutory or otherwise, for fixing wage rates for workers in any industry."

In fact, statutory wage boards have not been constituted in any other industry after 1966 (except in the sugar industry where the last wage board was set up 26 years ago and subsequently abolished). This did not result in any unrest as the personnel were satisfied with the wages, and their unions were able to effectively negotiate wages in a market demand-supply scenario.


Hence, the primary motive in wage boards being constituted, only for newspapers, repeatedly, and their recommendations being accepted without regard to reality, would only appear to be to make the Press dependent on the government, thereby allowing people in power to utilise this leverage.


Fixing wage boards, and giving them arbitrary powers without adequate guidelines, is not merely undemocratic and unviable, but an outright attempt to influence. It is also against our most basic freedoms enshrined in the Constitution. Our fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression as guaranteed by 19 (1) (a) of the Constitution not only includes the freedom to write and publish what the author considers proper, but also the freedom to carry on the business of print media so that information may be disseminated and excessive prohibition circumventing such freedoms by state intervention and/or regulations may be avoided.


How can newspapers carry on their business when they have no say in the process of salary fixing of their own employees? This is outright manipulation of their business whereby the government holds out a threat to their viability and eventual survival. How can newspapers remain viable if already disproportionately bloated wage bills turn astronomical? For instance, they would, as per the latest recommendations, have to pay peons and drivers up to Rs 45,000 a month - several times what a jawan risking his life on our borders gets! Why doesn't the government pay its employees the salary it is recommending?


Ironically, in this entire exercise, the government neither has to pay a penny of the wages it so blithely mandates, nor does it have to bail out the newspapers which sink under the weight of such action. A Hewitt survey indicates that wage board employees before these current recommendations are getting 26-44% more than their counterparts even in high-profile MNCs.

That is why the latest Justice Majithia wage board's recommendation of a huge 80-100% wage hike - coming on top of an unprecedented 30% interim relief with effect from January 2008 - has led to an outcry in the newspaper industry which, thanks to previous mandates, already had very high entry level wages for workmen vis-a-vis market rates. The print media's apex Indian Newspaper Society has said that implementing these rates would shut down most newspapers - and not just the small and medium ones. A leading newspaper group, ABP Pvt Ltd, has already gone to the Supreme Court.


It is now in the government's own interest to restore this basic freedom to the Press so that it can carry on its business without state regulation. Because tools like the wage board not only pressurise the Press and control the media in the crudest and most untenable manner possible - but also subvert our very basic freedoms, by making the Press unviable.


The writer is CEO, Bennett, Coleman & Co Ltd.

 

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 THE TIMES OF INDIA

TIMES VIEW

NOT YET IN MARADONA'S LEAGUE

 

Ever since the great Diego Maradona hung up his boots, it's been a favourite parlour game to look for other footballers who allegedly surpass the legend he created. Many stars have tried and failed. The latest in this league is Lionel Messi who, some of his diehard fans feel, has already surpassed Maradona. The basis for this spurious claim is, for the most part, a highly successful season with 53 goals, including his inspirational, match-winning performance in Barcelona's 3-1 victory over Manchester United in the Champions League final. But, as they say, one swallow doesn't make a summer.


Statistically Messi is nowhere near Maradona's level, let alone surpassing him. In a 21-year career, Maradona made 680 appearances and scored 345 goals at an average of a goal every other game, or 0.51 goal per game. Moreover, he featured in four World Cup teams, including winning the 1986 Cup. Maradona's performance at the 1986 World Cup is considered the best by an individual player in soccer's history. Even at the club level, Maradona won four domestic titles playing with three different first division teams. And he achieved this without having the luxury of a fabled attack like Messi's Barcelona.


On the other hand, Messi has been to two World Cups, including last year's edition in South Africa which turned out to be a disappointing campaign for Argentina. He failed to elevate his national team's performance like he does for his club, FC Barcelona. Also, can we attribute Barcelona's success to Messi alone? Football is as much about collective effort as individual brilliance. And currently, Barcelona has assembled many talented players like Xavi, Andres Iniesta and David Villa. Let's not forget that these three were instrumental in Spain's first-ever World Cup glory in South Africa. Messi might have what it takes to become one of the greatest players of the sport, but he still has a long way to go before he enters football's pantheon.


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THE TIMES OF INDIA

THE NEW KID WINS OUT

ANIL THAKKARANIL THAKKAR

 

It was supposed to be an epic clash at the English fortress of Wembley - the mighty Red Devils taking on the continental club that had dazzled its way to the Champions League final. What it turned out to be, instead, was an utter hiding as Barcelona routed Manchester United 3-1. And their victory revolved, as so many this season have done, around Lionel Messi. He has seemed unable to do any wrong, playing the beautiful game in a manner so sublime that many have now started to say what would have been considered heresy even a few years ago. This Argentine is better than Argentina's favourite son, Diego Maradona.


And they are right. Consider the magnitude of his achievements so far. All of 23, he has won both the Ballon d'Or and FIFA World Player of the Year awards as well as the inaugural FIFA Ballon d'Or award. Five La Liga and three Champions League titles have put him in the clear of anything Maradona was able to achieve by this age. And with his appetite for goals only seeming to increase - 38 in 2008-09, 47 in 2009-10 and a phenomenal 53 in 2010-11 - there's no telling what he will go on to achieve.


But there is an added dimension to Messi that puts him ahead of Maradona. He has combined brilliance with an innate humility on and off the field, a grace that the other man sometimes lacked. Targeted by the opposition in every game, hacked down by zealous defenders in tackles both fair and foul, he has responded to everything with a rueful smile. And then gone on to produce magic yet again. And off the field, his is a character unlikely to attract the kind of controversies Maradona did. As for those who protest that he hasn't performed for his national team in the way that Maradona did, the argument is a weak one. Should, say, Johan Cruyff or George Best not be considered legends of the game because they never led their countries to World Cup victories?

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

ERRATICA

PEPPER-RONA PIZZA

BACHI KARKARIABACHI KARKARIA

 

What connection could there possibly be between political inclinations and the leaning tower of pizza? Here's the latest takeaway. The US-based hunch.com analysed the responses of 7,00,000 members, and came to the conclusion that if you prefer thin-crust pizza you are a liberal, and the denser deep-dish variety labels you as a conservative. Inescapably.


So where do we stand? India's most powerful woman may be to the pizza born, but has developed a severe allergic reaction to the very mention of her Italian origins. It's near-fatal - for the mention-er. This, however, has not deterred her critics from whispering that her favourite midnight snack is Spam Progetti.


Her self-anointed inner circle insists that she is long pasta this connection. In fact, it reacts as violently to anyone voicing the link. Even ignorance is hiss, as i discovered during my stint at Delhi's TOI. Part of a small lunch group at the Italian embassy to advise on the opera it was bringing to India, i suggested what i naively thought was the obvious: Sonia G as Chief G. The blanched silence was so mortifying that even Berlusconi would have blushed.


Alas, i exposed myself to another salami slicer not long after. Interviewing Gursharan Kaur when she first became First Lady, i asked what she liked to cook. She mentioned pasta, so i jokingly asked if she had taken any tips from Sonia-ji. "No," said Mrs Manmohan Singh. In the eggshell world of party politics, umbilically yolked to Delhi gossip, this light-hearted exchange promptly acquired a loaded dimension, or so it was whispered. It was like raw spaghetti spiralling into fusilli.


Which brings me back to the US survey and the political dish of the day, also known as the plat du joust. Does Neta Neopolitan reflect the pizza-base theory of political ideology? First, a disclaimer: the liberal-conservative line is as porous as our borders. Our politicians, or even parties, saunter across with the impunity of infiltrators. Or goats. Having said this, yes, it is possible to find a connection between our powerati and pasta, pizza and its local variants.


The current BJP imbroglio is a steaming dish of desified risotto. Isn't it about 'Rice Plate is Reddy'? The simmering succession battle came to a boil over the tainted mining baron brothers. Sushma Swaraj, accused of having inducted them into the Karnataka cabinet, threw the spatula back into the rival Jaitley pan; chief minister Yeddyurappa is liberally sprinkling his own chilli flakes.


In pizza terms, this is making the party tread on very thin crust. But, whatever the US study may have concluded, this definitely does not mean that the BJP is now a liberal parivar.


The Reddy red-facer is only the latest sign that the BJP has curdled. We would add, 'like ineptly made carbonara', but that would be culturally polluting for the BJP's reigning powerani. And not only because this sauce is non-Indian, and Italian to boot. This Lazio regional specialty combines cream with egg, an object which the 'shuddh shakahari' Smt Swaraj and her family "do not even touch". Too bad that egg has the nasty habit of touching face without permission.


To return to the pizza, it's the topping which truly connects it with our politicians. Local versions of 'peeza' come with stuff that is about as Italian as a 'Gucci' bag from Mumbai's Dabboo Street - paneer tikka, mushroom Manchurian, bhaji sans pav, all slathered with Amul 'chizz'. Similarly, our politicians dish out whatever the public wants with nary a care for ideological purity. Neta Neo-politan will also give you a combo-party pack. Now if only they would deliver in 30 days, or our money back.

 

Alec Smart said: "Looks like it's fast becoming the Lockpal bill."

bachi.karkaria@timesgroup.com

http://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

OUR TAKE

INTOLERABLE IN ITS INTOLERANCE

 

This is a classic case of the dog that did bark, and ferociously so. The murder of Syed Saleem Shahzad, a Pakistani journalist, has been so brazen and open that it has shocked even Pakistan's battle-hardened journalist community.

In several editorials, the killing has been described as a black day for journalists in that they are now caught between the terrorists and the intelligence agencies, notably the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) believed to be behind his death.

The fearless Shahzad knew he was on the ISI's radar after he was warned by it for writing about how deeply al-Qaeda had infiltrated the Pakistan navy. He had also written in the past about the number of retired military officers who had become part of al-Qaeda's network.

The fact that the killers did not bother to engage in any degree of stealth when they abducted, tortured and murdered Shahzad suggests that they are certain of either not getting caught or of getting away with it. The same lack of concern for the law was seen in the manner in which the late Punjab governor Salman Taseer was assassinated in broad daylight by his bodyguard with other guards looking on.

Pakistan's press has held out under all odds, the country was described as the most dangerous for journalists by Reporters without Borders. But it has tirelessly exposed the seamless manner in which Pakistan's intelligence agencies, its army and terrorists have blended.

The killing is clearly a signal to other journalists that any exposes like Shahzad used to do will not be tolerated. It is also clear that those behind the killing felt that even though great opprobrium would attach to the intelligence agencies, it was worth silencing his voice.

Given the manner in which shadowy terrorists and army and intelligence officials are calling the shots, one cannot place much faith in Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani's promise that the killers would be brought to book.

It is now clear that the space for an independent judiciary, at one time the pride of Pakistan, a fearless press and a robust civil society has shrunk. An all-pervasive culture of fear has silenced almost anyone who could stand up the usurping of the Pakistani State by extraconstitutional powers and non-State actors.

Many sections of the Pakistani press have urged their fellow journalists not to be cowed down by the sort of threats Shahzad faced. But in an atmosphere where threats are no longer veiled and killers are venerated, it will be difficult for many to stand firm.

This makes it all the more urgent for the international community, especially the US, to push Pakistan to rid itself of these sinister elements.

Or else the dog barking will have been in vain as it was this time around.

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

YOGI & THE COMMISSARS

Is Baba Ramdev, with his rage against all things corrupt, the latest in a long line of union-busters?

The much vaunted largest democracy in the world has important lessons to offer when it comes to dealing with complicated and somewhat emotive issues.

If, as in the present instance, it is beset with a succession of allegations of corruption, with the malodorous, festering rot in the system infecting members of the government of the day, it would be interesting to know how it addresses such systemic inadequacies, or what it does to set its house in order.

What are the chances that you guessed that the said government (of this land of ancient spirituality, of course) sends its emissaries to a saffron-clad guru, perhaps in its bid to partake of the omniscience denied to other mortals?

Saffron is, however, not the only robe donned by Baba Ramdev. A self-styled yoddha sanyasi, he has taken on the mantle of the crusader against corruption, with a meticulous bill of demands that call for a special ordinance to bring back black money that has been stashed abroad, ratifying the United Nations Convention against Corruption, abolishing high denomination currency notes and drafting of a strong Lokpal Bill.

On the last mentioned issue, his stance has been typical of near-divine figureheads, ambiguous and equivocating, as he goes back and forth on whether the Bill should include within its ambit the offices of the Prime Minister, higher judiciary and acts of MPs inside the Parliament, closing ranks only to move apart from his fellow-crusader Anna Hazare's stance on the scope of the Bill.

That the government sent four of its ministers to the airport, waiting for the guru to arrive from Ujjain to New Delhi, may suggest motives more down to the wretched earth than other-worldly.

As of now, Ramdev has refused to withdraw his protest fast against black money and corruption. It doesn't need much divine wisdom to figure out that a wavering stool pigeon, when set among the more common variety, could be more likely a liability than an asset.

But what do we, professional conspiracy theorists, know?

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

A VICIOUS CIRCLE

YOGESH ATAL,

Last week, caste featured in the news on two separate occasions. First, addressing party workers in Varanasi, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi criticised those who play caste politics. Second, the Cabinet announced its decision to enumerate caste and religion as part of a below poverty line (BPL) census.

The enumeration for the concluded 2011 Census included caste. It will now be covered again as part of the BPL survey, costing R4,000 crore.

Why was the money not used to eliminate poverty instead?

Independent India pledged to eliminate caste and abolish poverty. But it tried to abolish poverty via caste. The result: neither of them disappeared. Caste, exploited for the sake of the 'votebank', has become a gateway to politics.

A Planning Commission pilot study covering 166 villages in 22 states says: "The findings reiterate the long-held hypothesis that Dalits are the most under-privileged sections of the population and the easiest marker of poverty."

Caste, as enumerated in earlier censuses, was a confused category. Not knowing the exact boundaries of caste, people mentioned all sorts of designations — their place of origin, 'gotra' or even a family title. Thus, the 3,000 odd castes in 1931 census are a queer mix. The same is likely to be repeated this time.

Those already belonging to any of the three reserved categories will retain that status while others will gain entry either into the already included lists or in the lists of new claimants. Definition-by-others, needed to corroborate the claims of self-definition, will be absent.

This list of castes will become a tool of political empowerment, ensuring longevity of the system.

It is the 1931 data that became the basis for the preparation of the initial lists of scheduled castes (SC) and scheduled tribes (ST) in the 1950s. The list included 212 tribes. There were many who protested their non-inclusion in the SC category.

The government responded by setting up a commission under Kaka Kalelkar's chairmanship to consider the claims and put the eligibles in the category of 'backward classes'. Interestingly, the Kalelkar report was never put before Parliament as Kalelkar himself was opposed to the idea of using caste as a variable for backwardness.

Today, there are more than 700 tribal groups, several hundred castes in the SC category, an increasing number in the other backward classes (OBC) category while resource-rich agricultural groups are mounting violent agitations for inclusion in the OBC list.

Minority communities are also demanding to be included in SC and OBC categories originally meant to redress discrimination within the Hindu caste system.

The caste census was meant to help the colonial ruler understand the Indian social structure. Minority groups like the Muslims or the numerically strong SCs were largely seen in terms of the vote bank.

These groups, the Congress now feels, are drifting away from it. It is paradoxical that while there is a belated acknowledgment of this 'menace' of caste, there is also a simultaneous attempt at re-rooting it through the instruments of government.

BPL families are a subset of caste but the set of BPL families cuts across caste boundaries. The backward groups — ST, SC and OBC — were originally designed to eliminate caste distinctions. They've ended up fostering their solidarity, despite the loss of their original cohesiveness. All policies and programmes are re-rooting caste rather than uprooting it.

Ironically, we're investing crores to ensure the continuity of caste politics that Sonia Gandhi publicly discards.

(Yogesh Atal is a sociologist and former principal director of Unesco, India. The views expressed by the author are personal)

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

COURTSHIP MADE EASY

SP VIJAYARAGAVAN

After a month-long vacation, many courts have reopened. This is the right time to acquaint ourselves with some of the legal jargon lawyers love to spout each time they spot a 'civilian'. Commonly used words in civil matters include 'suit', 'plaint', 'written statement', 'summons' and 'appeal'.

Well, these words are scary. But they wear false teeth. The word 'suit', for instance, once defanged, is quite friendly. It just means the case that comprises of a 'plaint' and a 'written statement' that set out the material facts relied on by a party for his claim or defence and evidence in terms of documents and witnesses.

Within the pleadings, one may come across awful Latinates like 'inter alia' (which just means 'among others'), 'ipse dixit' (no, not any relation to the Delhi chief minister, but which means 'by itself'), 'bona fide' (honesty) and 'malafide' (dishonesty), yada yada yada.     

'Summons' is the notice issued by the court calling the party to whom it is addressed to answer either the plaint or the application made by an aggrieved person or even a 'suo moto' notice.

The word 'suo moto' has no roots in Japanese sumo wrestling but means 'on its own' i.e., every court has inherent powers to take notice without anybody's written or oral application or complaint, of certain acts, violations or events and call all responsible persons before it to answer on such violations, commissions and omissions and thereafter determine the matter as per law. (I just sounded like a dyed-in-the-wool lawyer suffering from Tourette's, didn't I?)    

'Issues' are neither offspring nor problems raging between parents and teenage kids. They are framed by the court after the completion of pleadings for it to pass necessary judgement. In the process of deciding the suit, the parties will have to let in evidence viz. documentary or materials ('exhibits') and through witnesses.

The term 'viz', from the Latin term 'videlicet' means 'that is to say' and is used by lawyers in their writings to show how smart they are.  

The words used in a criminal case are much less complicated than in a civil case. 'Actus non-facit reum nisi mens sit rea.' I'm sure all of you got that. But for the decidedly stupid among you, there's no harm providing an explanation. That (Latin again!) line means: The act does not make a person guilty unless the mind is also guilty.

Which lies at the heart of the whole concept of the intent and purpose of a crime act rather than the criminal act itself. Meanwhile, a 'cognisable offence' is one in which a police officer may arrest you without a warrant and can start investigating without orders or direction from the court.

The 'non-cognisable offence' is anything that's not 'cognisable offence'. Another way of categorising offences would be 'bailable' and 'non-bailable' — but I personally prefer rolling the word 'cognisable' around my tongue.  

Thankfully for the lawyer, there are always 'loopholes', not nylon things men may wear in the evenings when they want to be in touch with their other side but gaps in the law that can be used to tweeze a client out of 'trouble'.

To cut a long story short: Where there is a will, there is a way; where there is a way, there is a rule; where there is a rule, there is a law; where there is a law, there is a loophole; where there is a loophole, there is a lawyer. Yes, now for the same thing in Latin…

(SP Vijayaragavan is a senior associate of a Chennai-based law firm. The views expressed by the author are personal)

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

WHO'S AFRAID OF THE LOKPAL BILL?

JAGDEEP S CHHOKAR

 

The proposed Jan Lokpal Bill has evoked strong reactions, a number of them emotionally charged. One is struck by the conflicting claims and counter-claims in the media. While it's hard to determine the truth in such matters, a summary of some of the misgivings and the possible intentions, with an assessment of what possibly is the reality, follows:

*The Lokpal is being dubbed as a Leviathan

Fear: Being a much too powerful agency, it is being projected to be a threat to democracy. It is being said that it should not have powers of search, summons, phone tapping, contempt of court, etc.

Reality: The existing law enforcement and investigative agencies such as the Enforcement Directorate, the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Income Tax Department enjoy all these powers. No new powers have been suggested for the Lokpal. But the corrupt will be all too happy with a weak Lokpal. So the Lokpal must be strong but with adequate checks and balances.

*Is the jurisdiction of the Lokpal too large?

Fear: The jurisdiction of the Lokpal proposed in the bill is vast. It should be curtailed to only politicians.

Reality: The nexus between the political executive and the bureaucracy is well known. No politician can indulge in corrupt acts without active connivance of bureaucrats and vice versa. Trying to curb corrupt acts of only one kind of actors is ineffective and inefficient. This model has been in existence in several states for lokayuktas and has completely failed.

Almost no corruption starts at the level of a politician. It normally starts with a bureaucrat who writes something on the file, maybe under pressure. The politician's role becomes visible after many levels. This is why almost no case reaches the lokayuktas.

The Delhi Lokayukta has jurisdiction only over politicians. Justice Mohammad Shamim, former Delhi Lokayukta, had complained that though the government spent almost R1.25 crore on his institution annually, he received less than five actionable complaints every year. The Karnataka Lokayukta, with jurisdiction over both politicians and bureaucrats, works very well.

The annual conference of all lokayuktas has been consistently demanding that this fractured mandate given to them covering only politicians was serving the interests of only the corrupt and should be expanded to cover bureaucrats, thus replicating the Karnataka model in every state.

*Should the Lokpal deal with judicial corruption?

Fear: This will endanger independence of the judiciary.

Reality: Under the present system, one has to obtain permission from the Chief Justice of India to file a first information report (FIR) against any judge. In the last 20 years, such permission was granted in just one case despite innumerable cases of blatant corruption by judges exposed in the public domain.

This system has encouraged corruption in the judiciary. The Jan Lokpal Bill only provides that a seven-member bench of Lokpal should grant such permission in open hearings. The present system, which protects corrupt judges, is seriously compromising the independence of the judiciary.

*There are no mechanisms to deal with corruption within the institution of Lokpal.

Fear: What's the guarantee the Lokpal won't turn corrupt?

Reality: Some of the proposals to check corruption within the Lokpal include the annual financial and performance audit of the Lokpal by the comptroller and auditor general of India, the annual appraisal of the Lokpal by the relevant parliamentary committee, the setting up of complaints authorities in each state that also involve people from civil society, open hearings by the complaints authority, internal transparency in the functioning of the Lokpal, regular social audits of various levels of the Lokpal, complaints against members of the Lokpal to be made directly to the Supreme Court.

More checks and balances can and need to be thought of.

*The Lokpal will suffer in no time from overload

Fear: Given the widespread prevalence of corruption in the country, the Lokpal will be swamped with and paralysed by the sheer number of complaints. It should, therefore, deal with corruption only at higher levels.

Reality: Members and the chairperson of the Lokpal are not envisaged as a set of investigators who would  be able to handle only a limited number of cases. What possibly is intended is an anti-corruption system capable of enforcing the Prevention of Corruption Act. Lokpal members will not directly deal with any case.

There will be a set-up under them that will deal with the cases. They may have a certain number of special investigative units directly under their control to deal with high profile cases. But the rest of the machinery will receive and investigate smaller cases.

After developing cold feet and agreeing to demands that were fundamentally unpalatable to them, the politician-bureaucrat-business nexus has regrouped and has been looking to discredit the entire anti-corruption effort. This was first attempted by some crude allegations aimed at what were considered to be vulnerable individuals.

When that did not get much traction, seemingly ideological opposition was raked up. Two major principles in use seem to be 'divide and rule' and 'delay is the most effective form of denial'.

The Jan Lokpal Bill, if it comes into force, will not eradicate corruption or its root causes from society. Only large-scale social change impacting basic values of society can do that.

The Jan Lokpal can only put obstacles in the path of — and fear of the law into the minds of — the potentially corrupt. It is not a panacea for all of India's social ills. Nothing can be. But it certainly is a good and necessary step in a long journey.

(Jagdeep S Chhokar is a former professor, dean and director in-charge of the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad. The views expressed by the author are personal)

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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

TAP DOWN

 

It is absolutely undeniable that the degree of threat India faces from organised terrorism requires government surveillance. We live in an age of electronic communication, and a duly constituted authority should have the power to examine emails and phone transcripts if suspicions are justifiably aroused, just as they have the power to search businesses and homes.

Yet such power must necessarily be constrained, in a liberal state, by procedures that enforce accountability and restraint. Without such processes, there is no reason to suppose the state will not overstep itself, and serious invasions of privacy might happen. Finding a balance between privacy and security is an essential quest for modern, tech-savvy societies; and, in each case, the logical answer has been to ensure that duly accountable structures are put in place to examine each occasion in which individual privacy is breached for the sake of collective security. Reports that the government is seriously addressing the question of how often, and with what degree of care, investigative agencies in the states access private telephone conversations should be seen in this light. While the Centre has not accepted an earlier recommendation that the income-tax authorities be denied the power to tap phones — a recommendation that this newspaper welcomed — it is at least trying to ensure that authorities in the states use similar powers with circumspection.

It is also vitally important to ensure that the records of such taps, some of which have possibly found their way to the public domain in the past, be better secured. The Centre wants records destroyed within 48 hours if permission has not been granted for the tap after the fact — usually by the home secretary of the state in question. This has been objected to by several states. Yet it is undeniable that the tapping process needs greater efficiency and accountability, and the states should work with the Centre to make sure that it happens. Furthermore, accountability for each tap should be imposed; if a leak should occur, there needs to be prosecution, with the possibility of stern, speedy punishment if guilt is proven — and electronic measures should be put in place that allow guilt to be proven if it exists. In some cases, security trumps liberty. But never, in a liberal society, does it trump accountability.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

ACT NOW, AT LEAST

 

Saleem Shahzad's journalism straddled a very difficult space in Pakistan, consistently reporting on the links between terror networks and sections of the army and intelligence. His last Asia Times Online article claimed that al-Qaeda attacked PNS Mehran because of the navy's ongoing investigations against certain naval officers with links to religious terror networks, and the second part of that investigation was set to indict the military even further. And so his recent abduction, torture and murder, which many suspect the security agencies of having engineered, could equally have been carried out by a terrorist group.

Shahzad's killing has shocked the world, and focused renewed attention on the ease with which oppositional voices are mysteriously silenced in Pakistan — whether it is someone who investigates the dark side of power, like Shahzad, or politicians like Salman Taseer or Shahbaz Bhatti who were killed for objecting to the illiberal blasphemy law, or even the assassination of Benazir Bhutto in broad daylight. And these murders seem to go unpunished, almost as if the victim had provoked forces far greater than he or she could face down. Whether it is the struggle between conservative Islam and liberal modernity or the complicated tangle between the army, intelligence and various terrorist groups, open killing has now almost been normalised. This murderous culture is unsustainable, if Pakistan is to survive intact, rather than implode under the pressure of these competing forces.

This is a fork in the road for Pakistan. Osama bin Laden's killing and the consequent spotlight are piling up pressure on the security establishment to break out of the old, destructive patterns — they may have no option but to step up their game in North Waziristan and seriously go after the terrorist groups they had tacitly nurtured. Perhaps this could also signal a more fundamental internal reorientation. India, for its part, knows that stabilising Pakistan is not in our own narrow, self-serving interest — it is a common concern shared by China and the West. Rather than these scenes that seem to indicate a slow-motion disintegration, Pakistan could use this opportunity to redefine its politics and its institutions.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

GAGARIN IN MUMBAI

 

The stamp of professional genuineness often elevates an individual above the political baggage of the regime s/he serves. Thus, Erwin Rommel was the least hated Wehrmacht officer outside the Third Reich. Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin was not Rommel, although a military officer; nor was the erstwhile Soviet Union, for all of Stalin's crimes, an equivalent of Nazi Germany. The "most loved" Soviet citizen in the West, Gagarin was never the Soviet Union's hero alone.

A little more than a month after the world marked the golden jubilee of Gagarin's Vostok 1 flight on April 12, 2011, the Russian consul in Mumbai has requested the new Lalbaug flyover be named after him. Since the flyover "is designed to be primarily used by the former mill-workers", and since Gagarin "exemplified the views and ideals of the working class of the Soviet Union", wouldn't this be a fitting tribute, given that Gagarin had visited Mumbai after Vostok 1, and since Soviet/ Russian cities honoured many Indian figures with "venues" commemorating them?

Gagarin, with the smile "that lit up the Cold War", was unsurprisingly capitalised on as a propaganda tool. So famous and useful was he that the Soviets forbade him from flying into space again, lest an accident claimed his life. He did die, tragically, in a MiG 15 crash in 1968. A measure of the battle for his legacy would be the initial attribution of "[Gagarin] didn't see any god up there" to the man himself — a phrase later tied to Nikita Khrushchev during the 1958-64 anti-religion campaign. Gagarin apparently baptised his elder daughter and has been equally claimed by the Orthodox church. If the Lalbaug flyover is to be named after him, let it be named after Yuri Gagarin, the First Human in Space, a legend in his own right, shorn of the political baggage. There's also a need to look at the default "Soviet nostalgia" option: why are the Einsteins and Armstrongs always ignored?

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

THE CHANGING GAME

C. RAJA MOHAN

 

A month after Osama bin Laden was found and killed deep inside Pakistan by US Special Forces, there is mounting pressure on Rawalpindi to go after the forces of violent extremism that it had nurtured for so long.

Under pressure from the US, the Pakistan army is on the verge of launching operations against the extremist sanctuaries in North Waziristan. After resisting US demands for long to go after the Haqqani network and other groups operating in North Waziristan, Pakistan's army chief, General Ashfaq Kayani, may have no choice but to comply now.

Many in India will argue that the US pressure on the Pakistan army is not comprehensive enough and that there is no evidence to suggest that eliminating Rawalpindi's support to the Lashkar-e-Toiba is at the top of the Obama administration's priorities. The sceptics will conclude that Kayani will find ways to evade American pressure and will not discard the decades-old tradition of using terror as an instrument in the pursuit of its long-term objectives in Afghanistan and India.

Such an outcome cannot be ruled out. But India would be unwise to conduct its diplomacy on the premise that Pakistan will return to business-as-usual. Such an approach will be defeatist on India's part. Delhi must, instead, grasp the opportunities that have presented themselves after the killing of bin Laden and find ways to ensure that the current crisis will lead to significant structural changes in Pakistan's internal and external orientation.

Limited though it might be, the international pressure on the Pakistan army to clean up its act is real for now. Kayani's initial response was to whip up anti-Americanism and reach out to China as a potential alternative to the US. Both these moves were not enough to extricate the Pakistan army from the mess it has found itself in. The defiant resolutions in Pakistan's National Assembly, approved at the behest of the army, have not stopped the US drone attacks in Pakistan.

The Obama administration has shown that it has the resolve and the means to coerce Kayani. Beijing, while offering tea and sympathy for Islamabad, has asked the Pakistan army to replace its bravado with a policy of befriending neighbours and responding to international concerns on terrorist safe havens in Pakistan.

The Pakistan army's reported decision to start military operations in North Waziristan, then, marks a turning point in the evolution of Pakistan's Afghan policy. Whether there will be a similar shift in Pakistan's approach towards India will, however, depend on what Delhi does in the coming weeks and months.

India can't expect changes in Pakistan's policy by issuing public statements or private démarches to Islamabad. Nor can it succeed by complaining about what other powers do with Pakistan. India needs a pro-active policy that can influence the strategic calculus of the main actors in the current dynamic on our north-western frontiers. India's intervention must necessarily have four different strands.

The first is a long-term commitment to the security and prosperity of Afghanistan as the US prepares to reduce its military footprint starting this July. This is precisely what Prime Minister Manmohan Singh did when he travelled to Kabul last month. By stepping up India's economic assistance by another $500 million, offering to train Afghanistan's security forces, backing President Hamid Karzai's efforts to reconcile with the Taliban and avoiding anti-Pakistan rhetoric, Dr Singh has repositioned India in what could be the endgame in Afghanistan.

Second, Delhi must now actively prevent any possible military tension on the borders with Pakistan. Delhi has no reason to present itself as an alibi for Rawalpindi to wriggle out of international pressures to launch sustained military operations against terrorist hideouts in North Waziristan. India must also bring the first round of renewed negotiations with Pakistan to a successful conclusion. Any progress in India's relations with Pakistan will be a welcome contribution to international efforts to end the conflict in Afghanistan.

Third, Delhi must intensify its conversation with Washington on how best to secure Afghanistan. After Dr Singh's visit to Kabul, which saw India drop its opposition to an engagement with the Taliban, the divergence between Delhi and Washington on Afghanistan has begun to narrow.

India must also talk with the US about Pakistan. Until now, Delhi and Washington have had demands on what the other needs to do vis-a-vis Rawalpindi. If they choose to cooperate with each other, however, India and the US have a better of chance of moving Pakistan away from its support to violent extremism.

Finally, this is also the moment for India and China to begin a dialogue on the future of Afghanistan and Pakistan. While Washington might have the option of vacating Afghanistan in the not-too-distant future, Delhi and Beijing have no exit strategies to consider, and must live with the potential disorder in their shared Af-Pak neighbourhood.

As Rawalpindi's ability to control its internal and external environment erodes amid pressure from the US and jihadi groups, China will find it hard to rely on the Pakistan army alone to achieve its growing regional interests in South and Southwest Asia.

The political future of Pakistan, then, is a common problem today for India, the US and China. Until now, India's Pakistan strategy has been conceived in a very narrow bilateral framework. India now has a rare opportunity to help itself by cooperating with the US and China in stabilising Afghanistan and Pakistan.

By offering constructive solutions to the conflicts on Pakistan's eastern and western borders, India can make gains in its own war on terror, deepen its strategic partnership with the US, and remove a major obstacle in the improvement of its relationship with China.

The writer is a senior fellow at the Centre for Policy Research, Delhi, express@expressindia.com

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

WINNING SERB

ADITYAIYER

 

A couple of weeks after Apollo 11's lunar odyssey in 1969, a shy Australian achieved the moon, so to speak. Wielding his wooden racquet, wristy Rod Laver conquered New York, and the world watched in awe as the 30-year-old navigated tennis gloriously through uncharted territory — the Open era. By winning all four majors in a year for the second time (he had won a Grand Slam in the pre-Open 1962), Laver was bestowed with the title of the greatest tennis player ever. To this day, he is worshipped by his most worthy successors. Pete Sampras modelled his game on him; Roger Federer cannot maintain a dry eye in Laver's presence; Rafael Nadal stopped singing lavish praises of his Swiss arch-rival after uncle Toni narrated heroic tales of Laver on a flight to Melbourne.

That's what it once took to be the best in the business — revered by colleagues, adored by fans and worthy of feats unachievable by the rest of mankind. Today, public perception has perhaps made it a lot easier. The title now rests with a man whose claim to fame is being on the verge of equalling an outlandishly long streak, set over a quarter-century ago.

There's no doubt Novak Djokovic is playing better tennis than he has in his entire career, and possibly the best tennis this year has witnessed. But to claim he is playing better than anybody in the history of the game is plain wrong. Even if the 24-year-old has done what few in the history could by winning 43 matches on the trot, and 41 this calendar year. For streaks are freaks — it cannot be prepared for, the way one could for a Grand Slam.

Without taking any credit away from the Serb, it will be interesting to see how he will be perceived once the anomaly comes to an end. One burst of rhythm, like in Djokovic's case, is at best a stepping stone to the pinnacles that the likes of Federer and Nadal have achieved.

John McEnroe's 1984 run of 42 unbeaten matches in a year and Guillermo Vilas's 46-match streak on all surfaces in 1977 are under threat. But does that make it better than when Federer was unbeaten for 65 matches on grass over five seasons, or even a smudge on Nadal's 81-match purple patch on clay? These too are record streaks, ones where form stayed constant, week after week, season after season.

In 2011 so far, Djokovic has seized control of everything he's stepped on, conquering Melbourne, the hard courts of Dubai, Indian Wells, Miami and his beloved home town of Belgrade. But it was the last two clay tournaments of Madrid and Rome that forced the gaping spectators to replace his joker tag with that of king. Taming Nadal twice on his surface of choice probably had something to do with it. With a fantastic command over his double-handed backhand, Djokovic has negated Nadal's affinity to break down the weaker side of a tennis player. By hitting lower and flatter while standing on the edge of the baseline, he has countered the unbelievable top-spin revolutions the Spaniard gives to a tennis ball. It's easy for an above-average player to look good on the run, but only a true champion, as Djokovic is turning out to be, shows his class from defensive positions and pressure zones.

What makes for an interesting case study is the eagerness with which the modern-day tennis fan waits to kill the prophets. Even before Djokovic can go on to do anything substantial (winning two Australian Opens doesn't gain anyone an entry into the pantheon of the great), Federer is erased from popular memory. All this while he is still the third in world rankings. His record 16 Slams, a trophy on every surface, an unbelievable 237 weeks on top of the world and a half-dozen encryptions on London's SW 19 helped him capture the human mind with possibilities, much the way Laver did. Blessed with an art that both W.B. Yeats and Jimmy Page would have been inspired by, Federer's technical skill-set bordered on flawlessness. And by the time he was Djokovic's age, he had won three of the four majors, and a total of six Slams.

To put things in perspective, Federer has had two consecutive all-surface streaks of over 35 — Sampras's best was 32. Djokovic, going for broke ever since he won the Davis Cup for his country, has had one terribly long and astonishingly successful run. Even labelling him Federer's successor is an insult, as Nadal, just a year older than the Serb, has won nine Slams to Djokovic's two — in all four cities to Djokovic's one.

Djokovic could very well be the new prototype in the art to command the baseline for future generations. But as far as being the greatest is concerned, his truest test will begin once the amnesia-inducing streak is broken. The moon, in Djokovic's case, is still an astronomical distance away.

aditya.iyer@expressindia.com

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

WHERE NOBODY IS SAFE, AND NOBODY TALKS

MURTAZA RAZVI

 

Free for all" and "killing fields" are the clichés that best describe Pakistan today. From a former prime minister to a sitting governor and a cabinet minister; from ordinary citizens to journalists to the police and the armed forces, no one is safe here anymore. This is a country at war with itself — and nobody's talking about it, because an all-enveloping cloud of denial is suspended over its skies and refuses to go away. Those who dare talk pay with their lives, like journalist Saleem Shahzad did on Monday.

He was made a horrible example of: abducted, tortured to death and then dumped in a canal to be discovered a day later at a head works downstream. The whole affair remains curiously suspicious indeed. Even the efficiency with which the Punjab police moved to find, identify, process and return the body to his heirs is suspect. Accusations of a more serious nature have since been flying in all directions: such-and-such intelligence or security agency killed him; the ISI is the global favourite in such matters of late, so the consensus falls on the obvious rogues who are believed to have infiltrated the ranks of the formidable spy agency — though religious extremists cannot be ruled out as the perpetrators, either acting on their own or at the behest of the agencies.

The prime minister, like a responsible head of a democratic government, has ordered an inquiry into the gruesome murder of a journalist who had a reputation for courageous reporting, for knowing his subject — terrorism and its military nexus — all too well, routinely ruffling many feathers. He rubbed shoulders with al-Qaeda, the Taliban, the Lashkar-e-Toiba, the Jamaat ud-Dawa and such like insiders; and the ISI had warned him of the danger posed to his life only last year.

What more now is the official enquiry going to reveal? It's all there for anyone to see, in black and white, for the colours here have long gone missing; even spilled blood turns black by the time all is said and done. In a country where government-commissioned Scotland Yard and UN inquiry teams were shunned arrogantly by sitting civil-military officials in the matter of questioning to get to the murderer of Benazir Bhutto, Saleem Shahzad is a mere statistic. Last year, 11 Pakistani journalists were killed in the line of duty. This year again we wait for December for Reporters Without Borders to tell us whether we've improved on last year's figure.

So who are the killers that carry out such cold-blooded assassinations? There's a long list of the accused: political parties, ethnic nationalists and insurgents, foreign and home-grown militants, criminals, the gung-ho amongst the security and intelligence apparatus and ordinary citizens acting on their own to win a place in Paradise (like Governor Salman Taseer's killer). The killing of four Chechens in cold blood by the security agencies in Quetta two weeks ago in broad daylight, with TV cameras capturing the two unarmed men and two women — who showed no signs of resistance and were willing to court arrest — are scenes right out of Wild West flicks. While the Supreme Court has taken suo motu notice of the shooting, you could be certain that no heads would roll. Killing fields, indeed.

And even when you are caught killing red-handed, like the CIA spy Raymond Davis was, the family of the victim is often cajoled into accepting blood money to let the killer walk free, under a very controversial Islamic law. It would be unfair to say that only the likes of Raymond Davis get away under such circumstances. For every Davis caught in years, scores of Pakistanis walk away with murder virtually every day, due to the patent injustice that controversial Islamic laws have unleashed. As for the judiciary which presides over such laws, consider the example of Justice Khalil ur-Rahman Ramday of the Supreme Court — the chief justice's handpicked favourite, whose tenure he got extended last year. In a remarkable statement challenging the attorney general on the recently-passed 18th Amendment to the constitution, he asked a hypothetical question with words to this effect: If tomorrow parliament passes a law declaring our legal system secular, do you expect us to accept that too? What a country, and what a sense of constitutionalism!

The minorities and women are in double jeopardy. A whole set of controversial Islamic laws threatens their very existence. In many cases their testimony is one-half of that of an adult male Muslim, and you need only two adult male Muslims to proceed against a blasphemy accused. One wrong step by a woman or a minority citizen and they've had it. Intolerance to changing the status quo has reached alarming levels. Where threats don't work to silence a whistleblower, abductions and killings do the job.

Little did Jinnah know when he declared before the constituent assembly of Pakistan on August 11, 1947: "In this state of Pakistan, you are free to go to your mosques, your temples and places of worship... religion shall have nothing to do with the business of the state..." Since then, so much has gone wrong with his Pakistan that nothing short of a Gandhi can fix it. Our tragedy is that we were not built to raise Gandhis.

The writer is an editor with 'Dawn', Karachi

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

IS NO NEWS GOOD NEWS?

SHAILAJA BAJPAI

 

You know there is no news that TV news considers newsworthy when the prime time 8 pm bulletin is an awards ceremony. And so it came to pass on Tuesday evening for those viewers wanting to know if the UPA government could move fast enough, with measures to control black money and prevent Ramdevji from fasting for the cause, or the fate of the Pakistani journalist who broke the behind-the-scenes story on the Karachi naval base attack, or indeed, the latest on the uncivil war over the Lokpal bill. All these questions were set aside to watch our cricket World Cup winning team receive a token of appreciation from the BCCI (not amounting to more than Rs 2 crore!). You had to feel for the man who won the best umpire award and received only Rs 50,000 for standing so much cricket.

Well, of course we wanted to see Sachin "Endulkar" win yet another prize. Besides, it was hot and humid and we needed something cool. What can be cooler than Mahendra Singh Dhoni's demeanour, Yuvraj Singh's open neckline, Zak's (Zaheer Khan to you who stand on formality) hair-prongs?

Speaking of hair, thank god Sonu Niigaam has got rid of some — last seen, he was giving Lady Gaga a bit of competition. Now, he's cut it down to size and isn't he looking much the cooler for it? He's on The X Factor (Sony), the latest music talent show, alongside judges Shreya Ghoshal and Sanjay Leela Bhansali. The show looks every bit like Indian Idol, in terms of auditions, backroom reactions, judges' actions (Bhansali embraces contestants), contestants' agony and ecstasy, etc. Indeed, the only difference visible to the naked eye right now is the size of the stage — much larger in this case.

With the IPL over, this is the season of new releases. So Sony has another new show which is rather different. Bade Achche Lagte Hain is about a rich, but lonely — and very portly — gentleman meeting a poor but lonely — and rather lovely — tuition teacher (what else would you call a person who only teaches at tuition classes?). Both of them are ignored by their respective families although both possess hearts of gold. They are destined to meet and eventually marry — we're not letting out a secret here, because that information is in every promo, every hoarding. This is a love and marriage saga for those who are 35 years old and above. It stars old favourites Sakshi Tanwar (Parvati of Kahani Ghar Ghar Ki) and Ram Kapoor who hosted Rakhi Ka Swayamvar. The rest of the cast has the usual suspects — a wicked mother, spoilt daughters, helpless fathers. But there's something about the two main characters — they have the X factor! Let's see for how long.

And how long can Dolly Bindra keep a civil tongue? Yes, madam foulmouth of last year's Bigg Boss is back, but this time she is smelling as sweet as the rose-crimson lipstick she is wearing. She plays the, ahem, confidante to Ratan Rajpoot on Ratan ka Rishta (Imagine) and formerly of Agle Janam Mohe Bitiya Hi Kijo.

Now Ratan is following in Rakhi Sawant and Rahul Mahajan's footsteps to choose her marriage partner, although not necessarily life partner, on air, and Dolly is helping her. In this role, alas, she has to be polite and engaging. So welcome to Miss Congeniality, Dolly Bindra. Wow, does that take some getting used to.

There's something coming up that you might like to watch: it's a hastily assembled story of how Osama bin Laden met his end. The Death of Osama bin Laden on June 5 (Discovery) will reveal a few secrets of how that "mulaqat" was arranged. We won't reveal more. Such a clever idea to get this out before Hollywood does.

And finally, TLC is still showing royal weddings from the past, long after we have seen royal visits to Ireland by Queen Elizabeth and then the Obamas at Buckingham Palace. It's getting to be a royal you-know-what.

Much better to watch the French Open on Star Sports. You get to watch some wonderful tennis, plenty of tennis balls and a few cheeky tennis players.

shailaja.bajpai@expressindia.com

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

THE DECADE OF LIVING DANGEROUSLY

 

Visiting the Middle East last week, and then coming back to Washington, I am left with one overriding impression: bin Laden really did a number on all of us.

I am talking in particular about the Arab states, America and Israel — all of whom have deeper holes than ever to dig out of thanks to the bin Laden decade, 2001 to 2011, and all of whom have less political authority than ever to make the hard decisions needed to get out of the holes.

Let's start with the Arabs. In 2001, Osama bin Laden attacked the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon. Just a few months later, in 2002, the UN issued the Arab Human Development Report, which described the very pathologies that produced al-Qaeda and prescribed remedies for overcoming them. The report, written by Arab experts, said the Arab states suffered from three huge deficits: a deficit of freedom and respect for human rights as the bases of good governance, a deficit of knowledge in the form of decent schooling and a deficit of women's empowerment.

Instead of America and the Arab world making that report their joint post-bin Laden agenda, they ignored it. Washington basically gave the Arab dictators a free pass to tighten their vice grip on their people — as long as these Arab leaders arrested, interrogated and held the Islamic militants in their societies and eliminated them as a threat to us.

It wasn't meant as a free pass, and we really did have a security problem with jihadists, and we really didn't mean to give up on our freedom agenda — but Arab leaders, like Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, sensed where our priorities were. That is why Mubarak actually arrested the one Egyptian who dared to run against him for president in his last election, and he and the other Arab autocrats moved to install their sons as successors.

As the Arab leaders choked their people that much tighter, along came Facebook, Twitter and cellphone cameras, which enabled those people to share grievances, organise rebellions, lose their fear and expose their leaders: "Smile, your brutality is on Candid Camera."

That's the good news. The challenging news is that because of the bin Laden decade, these newly liberated Arab states are in an even deeper hole in terms of economic development, population growth and education. They each have a huge amount of catch-up to do that will require some painful economic and educational reforms.

But as one can quickly detect from a visit to Cairo, right now Egypt has a political vacuum and, if anything, is tending toward more populist, less-market-oriented economics. Yet, in return for infusions of cash, Egypt will probably have to accept some kind of IMF-like austerity-reform package and slash government employment — just when unemployment and expectations are now sky high. Right now, no Egyptian party or leader has the authority that will be required to implement such reforms.

In America, President George W. Bush used the post-9/11 economic dip to push through a second tax cut we could not afford. He followed that with a Medicare prescription drug entitlement we cannot afford and started two wars in the wake of 9/11 without raising taxes to pay for them — all at a time when we should have been saving money in anticipation of the baby boomers' imminent retirement. As such, our nation's fiscal hole is deeper than ever and Republicans and Democrats are just demonising one another.

As the Israeli political theorist Yaron Ezrahi points out, governance is based on authority "that is generated in one of two ways — by trust or by fear. Both of those sources of authority are disintegrating right now." The Arab leaders governed by fear, and their people are not afraid anymore. And the Western democracies governed by generating trust, but their societies today are more splintered than ever.

Israel has the same problem. The combination of Yasser Arafat's foolhardy decision to start a second intifada rather than embrace President Bill Clinton's two-state peace plan, followed by the rise of bin Laden, which diverted the US from energetically pursuing the peace process, gave the Israeli right a free hand to expand settlements.

Absent some amazing Palestinian peace overture, and maybe even with one, I do not see any Israeli leader with enough authority today to pull Israel out of the West Bank. So, for now, Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu and bin Laden both win: In the short run, Bibi gets to keep the West Bank, with 300,000 Jews occupying 2.4 million Palestinians. And in the long run, bin Laden helps to destroy Israel as a Jewish democracy.

For all these reasons, I find myself asking the same question in Cairo, Washington and Jerusalem: "Who will tell the people?" Who will tell the people how deep the hole is that bin Laden helped each of us dig over the last decade — and who will tell the people how hard and how necessary it will be to climb out? THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

HINDU BACKLASH

MANOJCG

 

Hindu backlash

Analysing voting patterns in Kerala and Assam, an article in RSS journal Organiser concludes Hindus have, perhaps for the first time, voted as a bloc — for the Left and the Congress, respectively — and observes that in the post-Ayodhya rath yatra era, this trend has significant implications for the future.

With alliance partners Muslim League and Kerala Congress (M) appealing to the sizeable Muslim and Christian communities, the Congress-led UDF as a whole had strongly canvassed for support among them: "The aggressive mobilisation and wooing of Muslim and Christian voters has resulted in the polarisation of Hindu voters towards the Left. Accordingly, the LDF did remarkably well in Hindu-dominant regions," it says, and notes that tactical voting and reverse mobilisation of Hindus in a high-literacy state like Kerala was significant. In Assam too, it says a similar trend was witnessed, but in favour of the Congress because of the aggressive mobilisation of Muslims by the AUDF.

In the light of the Hindu voting patterns in Kerala and Assam, it says the moot question is whether the Congress's explicit attempts at appeasing Muslims through communal statements — the article discusses Digvijaya Singh's attacks on the RSS and his referring to Osama bin Laden as "Osamaji", and targeting of Narendra Modi — would produce a Kerala-type reaction among Hindus all over the country.

Opening minds

The Organiser also joins the debate on the quality of research and the faculty of IITs and IIMs, following Jairam Ramesh's remarks. It says the government, the chief promoter of these institutions, is solely responsible for this state of affairs.

It argues that IITs and IIMs have always been "perfect guinea pigs" as political games take precedence over quality control. It also makes a reference to the extension of reservations to the IITs and IIMs in 2008. "Ramesh has only got to turn around and ask his boss why such policies have been made at the cost of quality of IIT and IIM faculty and research," it says. It also talks of outdated curricula and the lack of corporate support for research and development. It claims that Ramesh's "newfound enlightenment on IITs and IIMs probably was a smart ploy to skirt the issue of a joint venture with Reliance Group to set up a marine diversity research facility in Jamnagar... But the fact remains that his government will have to take responsibility for the gradual reduction in the quality of output of premier educational institutions in India, which are owned by the government itself. And if the government is also serious about opening up the educational sector to foreign players it has to find ways to improve the existing players in the sector rather than complain publicly about inconsistent

research and low-quality faculty of these institutions."

Terrible twos

Panchjanya has a full-page article on the occasion of the UPA government completing two years highlighting its "failures" on issues such as corruption, inflation, Naxalism and foreign policy. The article claims Manmohan Singh has led the most corrupt government in independent India's history. "There is no doubt that this government would be remembered for scams, price rise, irresponsibility and its general incapability to govern," it says.

The journal also has two articles that aim to "expose" Swami Agnivesh's activities in the light of the recent incident in Gujarat where he was manhandled at a public function. The magazine says that Agnivesh's disparaging remarks on the Amarnath yatra and his meetings with separatist leaders in Kashmir were ample proof that he was working with a "political agenda".

Compiled by Manoj C.G.

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

TIME TO COOL OFF

The Great Recession is technically seen as having ended back in 2009, as unprecedented stimuli and central bank intervention were harnessed to pull the US and Eurozone out of the biggest crisis since the Depression. While growth is back, there seems some softening of late. After growing 3.1% in Q4 last year and 2.6% in the quarter before that, Q1 GDP for 2011 in the US grew 1.8%, thanks partly to a fall in government stimulus which took away one percentage point from growth. The Conference Board's consumer confidence index, the most widely recognised index in the US, dropped from 66 in April to 60.8 a month later. This is on the back of an official confirmation of a double-dip in home prices across America by the Case-Shiller index, a leading constant quality house price indices from S&P, which showed a 3.6% fall in March from the same quarter annualised, and is the weakest the gauge has been since March 2003. Given how homeowners have negative home equity, the houses are worth less than what the owners paid for them, this will force them to save more. Not surprising then, that as compared to Q4 2010, consumer demand added a lot less to Q1 GDP—1.53 percentage points in Q1 versus 2.79 percentage points in Q4 2010. Moreover, that manufacturing expanded at the slowest level in 7 months in both the US and Eurozone, compounds concern. The Institute for Supply Management's manufacturing index for the US declined to 57.2 in May, from 60.4 in April, while Markit Economics' manufacturing index for the Eurozone dropped to 54.8 in May from 58 in April.

The natural reaction is to spend more, and certainly countries like Germany have healthy enough balances to do so. Apart from the fact that the budgets of most countries like the US no longer allow for that luxury, the last thing the world needs is a third round of Quantitative Easing by the US which, more likely than not, will push up global inflation and, with flows increasing in emerging markets, interest rates there will also rise. Maybe the slowing will have a sobering effect on prices of commodities including oil which are really the cause of high inflation in countries like India—any more inflation, largely global in origin, will leave RBI no option but to follow policies that will choke off GDP growth.

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

MORE HEAT ON BPO STREET

 

Winds of high cost consolidation are sweeping across the Indian BPO industry. Wooing has become extremely expensive in the sector and UK firm Serco's acquisition of BPO outfit Intelenet—announced on Tuesday—can trigger higher valuations. Serco let go a sum of R2,864 crore ($635 million) to purchase the BPO firm, leading to the exit of PE giant Blackstone, which was the majority shareholder in the company. While the deal is significant in terms of the amount involved, more importantly, the transaction can now help other companies on the block get great valuations. BPO firms like EXL and Firstsource are said to be looking out for suitors, and the Intelenet windfall can only mean good tidings for them.

Since 2007, a series of large deals have taken place in the Indian BPO space. Firstsource bought out MedAssist in 2007 for $330 million, and then a year later WNS gobbled up Aviva's captive unit for $230 million. The TCS-Citi Global Services deal was the biggest with a cash transaction topping $500 million. Last month, BPO company Genpact ventured into the IT services territory by swallowing Headstrong for $550 million. But the Intelenet deal is a real stunner, forcing some analysts to comment that Serco paid a bit too much in the bargain. Now Intelenet had revenues of £170million and operating profits of £19 million for the year ended March 2011. Its valuation at £335 million stands at two times its revenues and 18 times its operating profit. That makes the deal an expensive proposition, but Intelenet and Blackstone will now walk away happy. With this transaction, Blackstone Advisors India will sell its entire 67% holding in Intelenet, at estimated returns of almost three times. The private equity firm had invested over $150 million in the outsourcing firm in 2007.

The TCS-Citi deal was valued only at about six times the operating profit. This just shows how the Indian BPO industry has evolved in the last three years. Globally, 70% of the BPO market belongs to captives and here's where the maximum value lay for investors. The key point is international firms now want to have a foothold in the Indian BPO space, given the pace at which the international business process market (estimated to be $350-500 billion and growing at 15% per annum) has been growing. Global companies are seeking out new ways to improve their service and reduce costs, and India is always a nice destination to shop from. The handsome margins of the Indian BPO firms are unmatched worldwide. So, expect more of the same over the next 12 months.

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

JUST FDI IN RETAIL ISN'T ENOUGH

MADAN SABNAVIS

 

There is talk once again of allowing FDI into retail. This thought has been driven not so much by change in ideology of being less xenophobic but by the high food inflation numbers. The fear is quite palpable that inflation may not come down that easily and that FDI can provide some comfort. Let us see how this can work.

FDI in retail as typified by Wal-Mart or Carrefour are examples of how quality products are delivered to the customer at low prices. These companies provide end-to-end solutions to deliver superior results with the creation of logistical support being an integral part of their business models. They procure foodstuff cheap and have it delivered via their retail outlets through modern storage, processing and transportation, thus eschewing wastages. All this is done maintaining standardisation in quality, which adds value for the customer.

This looks like the cure that we are looking for, as the government has admitted that the extent of losses in horticulture could be around 40% due to absence of cold storage chains. The Budget provides incentives here and there, but definitely cannot create such superstructures. This is where FDI matters. Today, FDI is permitted in cold chains, but no one is interested as retail, which is the creamy layer, is out of its purview. Once allowed, their business models would bridge the gap. A study carried out by NABARD some years ago showed that the farmer gets just around 30% of the final price paid by the consumer in certain horticulture products. The World Bank puts this at around 15%. FDI will help to truncate this value chain and ensure that both sides get a better deal as it rakes in its profit. This way it is a win-win situation.

If the solution is quite simple then what is holding us back? Essentially the retail segment in India is in the unorganised sector with just about 3-4% qualifying as organised. A large number of small mom-and-pop stores exist that serve as points of sale with many being brought into the fold of some of the Indian corporates. A sudden influx of FDI would threaten these small outlets as well as the corporates that have built this retail franchise in the smaller towns.

Today consumers are driven by prices and quality. If both are offered, which will be the case with FDI, then the natural choice would be to switch loyalties. This is already evident in the metro cities where organised retail has made significant inroads, with the positioning in a mall working well for the owners as well as for the consumers from all income streams. Given that around 33 million are employed in this segment, will there be any adverse consequences? The kiranas will still have their place, given the smaller quantities that they deal with, provision of home delivery, credit etc.

Further, the solution would be to integrate these outlets in the model where they become franchisees of the superstore for a commission just as being done by chocolate, soft drinks and cosmetic firms. In fact, the fresh employment opportunities that will be generated would be significant with superior skill sets being imparted. The icing will be provided to the government in the form of better tax collection as organised retail has a tax audit trail.

The class to be affected severely would be the intermediaries who would lose their grip on the market. The barrier here will be erected in the form of political interference as there will be parties that are sympathetic to this class who will oppose this move as it will virtually keep them out of business once the model develops.

There is a concern of the FDI entrants squeezing the farmers, which has been the case in the West. This is something that the government has to address with its price support policies that are otherwise relevant for only rice and wheat in out context. This will minimise this threat of farmers being squeezed.

There are, however, two reforms that have to be implemented as precursors to getting in FDI into food retail. The first is that the APMC laws have to be amended to allow for free movement of farm products across states. In the absence of the 2003 Model Acts being passed, it will not make sense for any investor to enter this area. Currently, there are restrictions on the movement of goods across states and, as a result, products grown in a state can be sold only in the same region, which, in turn, imparts rigidity to prices given that the mandis are oligopolistic in nature. The other is to formally permit and encourage the concept of contract farming as this will benefit the farmers directly once the FDI investors are in. In fact, these two reforms will provide the current domestic organised retail this advantage that can minimise the distance between the foreign counterparts when they are permitted.

But, will this help to reduce food inflation? The answer is still a shoulder shrug because there are certain factors at play that have severed the relation between higher production and lower prices. The first is the price policy of the government. MSPs tend to increase the benchmark prices in the market even when there is no direct procurement. The second is that as farm productivity has been stagnant or increasing only marginally, farmers will increase their prices to maintain their consumption levels at higher inflation levels.

FDI, as a rule, is good for the country and in the case of retail (food) will definitely bring in value by filling lacunae that we have not been able to address in the last 60 years. By truncating the value chain and cutting down wastages, it can, along with 'domestic organised retail', change the landscape of retailing of food products. The farmers will gain, consumers will be better off, kiranas will survive or get integrated in the model while the nation benefits from the investments. The intermediaries will probably have a hard time, but then they were anyway not really adding value. Therefore, this should be welcomed and introduced with some urgency when sentiment is also at a high. But, this may not yet be a panacea for our price woes.

The author is chief economist, CARE Ratings. These are his personal views

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

ASIA'S THREESOME TURNS FOUR

YOON YOUNG-KWAN

 

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 mobilisation—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 neighbours.

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 realised, 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 institutionalising 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 denuclearisation 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 denuclearisation and realisation of the 2005 agreement on North Korea reached by the six-party talks (involving the US, 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 towards 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 US 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.

The author, currently president of the China Society of World Economics, is a former member of the monetary policy committee of the Peoples' Bank of China and former director of the Chinese Academy of Sciences Institute of World Economics and Politics.

Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2011.

www.project-syndicate.org

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

THE HABIT OF COVERING UP

Two years into UPA-II, Sonia Gandhi made the brave statement at a celebratory event that the Congress-led coalition would "take corruption head on" and "demonstrate through actions, not words, that we mean what we say." She went so far as to claim that "transparency, accountability and probity are the very heart of our governance." Prime Minister Manmohan Singh sounded similar sentiments in lower key, acknowledging that public concern over the "pervasiveness of corruption" was legitimate and pledging that his government would take "corrective action" and would not hesitate to act against "misuse of public office." Considering how low the credibility of the UPA government has sunk on the issues of corruption and abuse of power — notwithstanding the Prime Minister's undisputed personal financial integrity — the task is uphill all the way. The 2-G spectrum allocation scam is India's biggest ever corruption scandal. Conducted right under the Prime Minister's nose and in defiance of the caution he advised, the scam progressed, enjoying immunity from serious investigation for an inordinately long time. But thanks to a rare combination of factors — the most important of which are public pressure, in part generated by the news media, and judicial intervention — some progress has been made by the Central Bureau of Investigation in bringing some of the corrupt to justice. Mr. A. Raja, ex-Telecom Minister, has been locked up in Tihar Jail and l'affaire Kalaignar TV has been exposed but the two questions on everyone's lips are: What about the role of other Ministers and bigwigs in the telecom mega scandal, which clearly goes back some years before 2007-08? And where has the rest of the money gone?

A Cabinet Minister now in the eye of the storm is Textiles Minister Dayanidhi Maran, also of the DMK. Relying on material thrown up by independent media investigations, first by The Economic Times (May 21, 2011) and then, in much greater detail, by Tehelka magazine (issue of June 4, 2011) — publications that have not been deterred by legal threats — the main opposition party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, has aggressively posed questions to Mr. Maran and the UPA government that can no longer be ignored. The questions relate to specific actions, policy changes, and transactions that took place during Mr. Maran's tenure as Telecom Minister (2004-07) or soon after. They focus on the sudden change of FDI norms in the telecom sector, which raised the FDI limit to 74 per cent; the consequences of this big policy change; the taking of the authority of determining the pricing of spectrum out of the purview of the Group of Ministers on the written insistence of Telecom Minister Maran; the allocation in November 2006 of 14 2-G Unified Access Services Licences for a throwaway price of Rs.1,399 crore to Aircel after the Malaysian business conglomerate, the Maxis Group, acquired a 74 per cent stake in the telecom operator; and subsequent investments by a Maxis subsidiary in Sun Direct TV Pvt Ltd and other Maran family-owned companies. The Congress spokesman's response to the effect that it is up to Mr. Maran to answer these questions, and that the Joint Parliamentary Committee could perhaps go into the issues, is the latest example of what WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange characterised, in an interview to The Hindu, as "a habit of covering up allegations of corruption." The questions raised by the media investigations, and by the BJP, must be answered immediately by the UPA government and the Prime Minister — and the whole matter must be speedily investigated, without fear or favour.

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

NUCLEAR EXIT

Germany's decision to shut down its nuclear power plants latest by 2022 is a historic response to rising public opinion after the Fukushima disaster. It is momentous because it comes from a conservative, business-oriented coalition that earlier viewed nuclear power as vital for competitiveness. It is worth recalling that Chancellor Angela Merkel's government legislated last year to overturn a similar commitment on closure made by its centre-left predecessor. But the nuclear accident in Japan and the swelling tide of public protests led to the dropping of the plan to extend the lifespan of 17 nuclear power stations until 2033. What is more, seven old reactors were retired. Chancellor Merkel's bold move clearly derives much confidence from a forward-looking energy plan that emphasises cleaner and better power from natural gas and coal, and an expanded role for renewable energy sources such as solar and wind.

The prospect of doing away with nuclear power has world-wide appeal although the imperatives are not the same in every country. The German story is one of an industrialised society that has no compulsion to meet the energy needs of robust economic growth and rapidly rising living standards. In fact, nuclear energy meets 29 per cent of its needs and now requires alternatives. India, on the other hand, needs a safe and efficient mix of sources to cater to massively expanding demand. It must, in parallel, reduce the energy intensity of growth. The way to go would be to actively cooperate with countries like Germany on building efficient coal-fired power plants, tapping newer technologies such as river turbines, and aggressively expanding solar-based technologies. Multiple options are necessary also to stay aligned to carbon emission goals.

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THE HINDU

LEADER PAGE ARTICLES

CAMERON'S BARBECUE DIPLOMACY

WHILE AMERICANS HAVE BEEN MOSTLY BUSINESSLIKE IN THEIR DEALINGS WITH BRITAIN, THE CAMERON GOVERNMENT HAS FALLEN BACK ON THE DEFAULT BRITISH POSITION: A DESPERATE DESIRE TO FEEL "WANTED" BY WASHINGTON.

HASAN SUROOR

The mood music around U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Britain last week couldn't have been more artfully contrived, starting with the hype that he was only the third American President in 100 years to be honoured with a full state visit. It was presented as "proof" that reports of the imminent demise of the "historic" trans-Atlantic alliance were grossly exaggerated.

The visit's enduring image was of President Obama and Prime Minister David Cameron rolling up their sleeves and serving burgers to the families of servicemen at a special Downing Street barbecue (of course, telecast live) while their wives, Michelle and Samantha, did the salads. And then the nation was treated to a supposedly impromptu game of table tennis (again telecast to millions of television viewers) with the Obama-Cameron XI taking on the students of a London comprehensive.

Throw into the mix pictures of the "First" ladies ensconced on the Camerons' £1400 new sofa in their customised minimalist kitchen; President Obama's "historic" address to a joint session of Parliament; and the pomp and ceremony at Buckingham Palace where the Obamas were welcomed personally by the Queen (they even got to stay in the luxury Belgian suite where, only days earlier, Prince William and Kate had spent their first night after their wedding) and it seemed that the "special relationship" was in super shape.

In such super shape, in fact, that President Obama and Mr. Cameron declared that it had now graduated into "an essential" relationship which, to one commentator, sounded more like a "loveless" marriage in which the couple is "forced to stay together." A joint article they wrote for The Times ahead of the visit dripped with familiar platitudes and references to the "shared values" and "emotional" bonds between the two countries. A former diplomat dismissed it as a "lot of diplomatic guff."

"This is the sort of thing that can be written about any two countries on such occasions," he said.

In one of the most widely quoted extracts, the two leaders laboured to explain how the "special" relationship had moved one notch up to become an "essential" bond: "Yes, it [Anglo-U.S. relationship] is founded on a deep emotional connection, by sentiment and ties of people and culture. But the reason it thrives, the reason why this is such a natural partnership, is because it advances our common interests and shared values. It is a perfect alignment of what we both need and what we both believe. And the reason it remains strong is because it delivers time and again. Ours is not just a special relationship, it is an essential relationship — for us and for the world."

The mood music had started to play even before the Obamas arrived in Britain. Their first stop on their week-long European tour was Ireland, a place of pilgrimage for most American Presidents because it plays well with voters of Irish descent back home. President Obama's visit took him to Moneygall, a tiny village of 300 people in the deep Irish countryside, where his great-great-great-maternal grandfather Falmouth Kearney was born and lived until the family migrated to New York in 1850 at the height of Irish potato famine. And, boy, what a "homecoming" it was.

"It is unbelievable, nothing short of a miracle," was a typically breathless reaction amid extraordinary scenes of celebration concluding on an appropriately "high" note with a mandatory pint of Guinness beer. Ollie Hayes, owner of the pub, boasted that he had just pulled the "most important pint I will ever pour."

The scramble for star-dust intensified as the President arrived in London where for the next three days he was treated like a rock-star. At Westminster where he addressed MPs — the first U.S. President to do so — he had to force his way through a crowd of awe-struck political leaders, diplomats, civil servants, army brass and the media.

"It was like teenagers surrounding a pop star, but with very less excuse: grown men and women, with a long record in public life behind them, abandoned all judgment and propriety. The face of John Bercow [the Commons Speaker] as Obama spoke was a picture: like many other members of the audience ... he appeared to be undergoing a profound, mystical experience,'' wrote The Telegraph columnist, Peter Oborne, describing the scenes as a "national embarrassment."

The Observer's Andrew Rawnsley, a self-confessed Obama fan, found the sight of British politicians falling over each other to catch the President's eye "cringe-inducing."

"When he'd received his standing ovation, it was mildly cringe-inducing to witness gnarled British politicians jostling like love-sick teenagers to grab the hand, exchange a few words or just touch the hem of the one," he said.

Old-fashioned observers of state visits voiced concern over what they saw as the "Oprah-isation" of British politics in which the hard business of the state was replaced by a pursuit of celebrity endorsement. The fawning behaviour of Britain's political elite struck many as yet another demonstration of who really was the junior partner in this "special/essential" relationship.

Critics recalled how Gordon Brown, when he was Prime Minister, had to chase President Obama through the kitchens of the U.N. headquarters in New York in order to exchange a few words with him; and how, when he visited Washington, he was denied even a joint press conference with the President, routinely granted to visiting world leaders.

When the Tories came to power last year thanks to a little help from Liberal Democrats, they went out of their way to declare that the era of Britain's "subservient" relationship with America (epitomised by Tony Blair's unquestioning loyalty to the Bush administration) was over and that henceforth London would deal with America on more equal terms. Foreign Secretary William Hague envisaged a more mature relationship guided by Britain's national interests rather than sentiment. London was to stop harping on "special relationship" and — in the words of Mr. Cameron on being elected party leader — Britain would no longer be "America's unconditional associate in every endeavour."

There were matching signals from Washington suggesting that the Obama administration was not particularly enamoured of Europe and Britain particularly was way down its laundry list. It was also reported that President Obama regarded Mr. Cameron as a bit of a light-weight after their first meeting when he was still aspiring to become Prime Minister.

While Americans have stuck to their plan and have been mostly businesslike in their dealings with Britain, the Cameron government, despite its initial bold promise to chart an "independent" path, has fallen back on the default British position: a desperate desire to feel "wanted" by Washington and to be seen to have its ears.

Mr. Cameron sought President Obama's endorsement of the British line on Libya, Afghanistan, the Palestinian peace process and his government's handling of the economic crisis. But even as Americans claimed that the two governments were in "perfect alignment," President Obama made no attempt to hide the divisions. At their joint press conference, Mr. Cameron found himself repeatedly on the wrong side of President Obama who used his trademark measured-but-firm tone to make clear that Americans had their own priorities and were not going to ditch them simply to humour the Brits.

So, where does it leave the relationship after all that effort — the beer, the burgers, the pomp and ceremony at Buckingham Palace? The short answer, according to analysts, is: exactly where it was on May 24, the day President Obama arrived in Britain. The personal chemistry between the two leaders may have improved after all that forced bonhomie but, in hard policy terms, nothing has changed: Americans remain reluctant to be dragged deeper into the Libyan mess, cool to the idea of talking to the Taliban in Afghanistan, and still opposed to the Palestinian move to seek U.N. recognition for an independent state. Britain has exactly the opposite position on all these issues: it seeks greater American engagement in Libya, favours high-level talks with the Taliban, and backs the Palestinian plan.

One MP was reported as saying that the relationship remained one-sided despite public declarations of mutual admiration. "We are still their [Americans] first call, but we can't take it for granted,'' he said.

Analysts argued that the fuss over the visit itself gave the game away. "When the relationship between Britain and the United States really was the hinge on which the world was constructed ... nobody needed grand state ceremonial occasions to make the point. Now that it matters very much less so, we do," wrote Mr Oborne.

The barbecue diplomacy was a nice try but sceptics doubt if it will be remembered in Washington as anything more than an interesting photo-op for Mr. Cameron.

 

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THE HINDU

OPED

MYTH, MIGHT AND MISERY

IN THE CARNAGE IN KARACHI LIES A MAIMED CITY WHERE THE BOUNDARIES BETWEEN RESILIENCE AND A DELIBERATE AND NECESSARY HEARTLESSNESS NO LONGER EXIST.

RAFIA ZAKARIA


Life goes on, the smog-smeared and heat weary stalwarts of Karachi will tell you again and again. You will hear the mantra muttered proudly in wedding halls packed with biryani craving hundreds, on the lips of the McDonalds delivery man bearing MacArabias at your bidding, in the chatty afterthoughts of the legless beggar after he has cornered his daily, even in the purposefully accented Urdu of a Chanel infused society begum. Repetition is the key to denial: and at least in the collective exercise of pushing ahead with their plans Karachites are united. But like so much else in Pakistan, the obsessive performance of normalcy is an illusion. In recent months, no fewer than several thousand of this city's residents have been felled in a bloodthirsty political rivalry between Muhajirs who settled here after Partition and the continuous stream of Pashtuns pouring into the city from the drone weary villages of Pakistan's North West. The former control the land and the latter transportation; without one there is nowhere to go and without the other no way of getting there. In perpetually smouldering Karachi, tracking the daily smoke plumes to stores or buses reveals which migrants new or old have inched ahead in an interminable conflict that devotedly demands funeral congregations at dusk.

The attack

It takes a bit to stun a city so wracked with violence and so dutiful in its commitment to remaining unaffected by catastrophe. The waxing hours of the weekend of May 20 proved that it could be done. In the late evening, barely freed from the clutches of an infernal weekend, which saw at 46°Celsius the hottest day in 30 years, a band of men scaled a few walls, skipped across a dry river bed and managed to destroy planes worth millions. The battle between the terrorists and naval commandoes at PNS Mehran lasted all night, the shots and blasts could be heard in houses all around, familiar sounds now housed in a new location. Sounds of the fighting echoed around families snatching shreds of rest in makeshift beds on sun baked roofs. Most had been without power for over a week, already victimised by a strike by Karachi Electric Supply Corporation.

In the morning, there were questions. The base was a familiar landmark, located on Sharea Faisal, passed by all those on the way to Jinnah International Airport. It was believed to have good security, a conclusion erected on the flanks of the official looking burgundy lettering fanning the arched entrance, the solemn duo of guards stuck to its sides. Unlike other naval bases in the city that have thrown their lawns open for valimas and Iftars, PNS Mehran has remained off limits to upstart Karachiites always on the hunt for cheaply rented party venues. But on this Monday morning the well nurtured mystery portending a secret strength beyond its walls was wrested from the inhabitants of a city that has never had much to believe in. Battling the paranoia that doggedly pursues those sweating out muggy nights, Karachiites discovered that they were not the only ones without power.

Darker dialogues

Of course, Karachi's interchanges with the military have not been limited to party rentals and convenient landmarks. Darker dialogues date back decades, in 1992 when democracy was even newer than now and military rangers were first brought in for "Operation Clean Up." At the time, migrants from India had only recently been politically organised into the Muhajir Qaumi Movement; they wanted to govern their own city, wanted representation in the tight ethnic quota system where only four ethnicities, Sindhi, Punjabi, Balochi and Pashtun were recognised. Tanks patrolled the streets and curfews regulated movement, troops caught and killed many and as things go in Pakistan, no one that disappeared was ever accounted for, the blood dried up on sidewalks and life went on.

But those were the afflictions of bygone days, when the ethnic lines in the city were drawn between Muhajirs and indigenous Sindhis and mediated by a largely Punjabi Army. Those demographics are no more; the rapid incursion of Pashtuns fleeing fighting on the Pakistan-Afghan border imposing new unwieldy realities and exacting a cost in young lives.

In this new conglomeration, the exposition of the mediating military as weak, even hapless at the hands of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan is ominous. With this new revelation, the military imagined as a watchful parent tolerating ever ready to step in and disperse the errant games of Muhajirs and Pashtuns is transformed to that of a force whose power maybe just as questionable as the electric supply. Newly emboldened by this revelation, Karachi's murderously naughty children can now plan their next rout with even greater audacity.

The attack on PNS Mehran was a blow to the Pakistani military, but it also reveals how the war against terrorism thought to be territorially limited in Pakistan's northwest is now able to take on an ethnic garb. In the days after the attack, Altaf Hussain, the leader of the Mottahida Qaumi Movement (the party was newly rechristened in the late 1990s in an attempt to shed the burden of an ethnic genesis) decried the attack calling the war on terrorism Pakistan's own war and saluted the sacrifices of the Pakistani military in their quest to exterminate radical elements. His message to Karachiites was clear: the military must be supported, especially if it is Pushtuns that are attacking it. It's a messy calculation; on the other side of the ethnic equation Pashtuns in the city may similarly believe that they must support the Tehreek-e-Taliban.

Life has always been precarious in Karachi; dacoits regularly enter homes and loot families at gunpoint, kidnappings for ransom are a burgeoning business, jihadi outfits openly recruit in its streets; and the police watches and never does anything. Plagued by this morbid array of ills, Karachi needs something to believe in, the possibility of order, even if mythic a crucial crutch against a rabid reality that daily descends to new depths. The takeover of PNS Mehran eviscerated this possibility, the dream that there could be a return to order even if it was an imposition. In the carnage lies a maimed city where the boundaries between resilience and a deliberate and necessary heartlessness no longer exist.

(Rafia Zakaria is a PhD candidate in Political Theory/Comparative Politics, Indiana University, Bloomington, columnist, Dawn Pakistan and General Secretary, Board of Directors, Amnesty International USA.)

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THE HINDU

OPED

A MAP RULED BY CONFLICT

THE MOVEMENT TO OUST ALI ABDULLAH SALEH MAY NOT BE ABLE TO SAVE YEMEN FROM ITS LONG EXPLOITED DIVISIONS.

KHALED FATTAH

Since the beginning of Yemen's popular uprising in February, President Ali Abdullah Saleh has been putting into practice his skilful art of "dancing on the heads of snakes."

On the domestic front, he first offered the protesters a number of concessions, but then withdrew them again. He then applied police and military repression as well as exploiting the deep fissures in Yemeni society. For the regional and international audience, Saleh waved his two warning cards: al-Qaeda and civil war.

Strategically located at the intersection of the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean, and being perceived as the homeland of the most dangerous branch of al-Qaeda, Yemen is indeed of vital interest to regional and international security. Despite such significance, however, Yemen is the most fragile, least developed and most "food-insecure" political entity in the Middle East. But despite this, over the last three months, Saleh has shown that he is one of the most talented Arab leaders in terms of manoeuvre and survival. Four months after the first calls for him to go, he clings on.

At the end of May, for example, Yemeni army helicopters airlifted the UAE's international ambassadors out of their besieged embassy in the capital city of Sana'a. The ambassadors had been trapped by armed pro-Saleh supporters who were angry at the deal brokered for the President to step down after more than three decades. But once at the presidential palace, the ambassadors were informed that Saleh had decided not to sign a deal with the opposition after all. It was the third time that he had changed his mind at the last minute and frustrated the regional and international mediators who have been negotiating his political exit for weeks.

Yemen's revolution

A glance at Yemen's uprising reveals how it is such a unique specimen in the political aquarium of Arab revolutions. While the Tunisian revolution was ignited in a village and Egypt's in the capital city, the Yemeni social intifada started from everywhere.

Yet it is no coincidence that Yemen's popular revolution was launched from numerous geographical locations. Saleh adopted "management through conflicts" as one of his essential tools of governance. As a result, on the eve of the revolution, the map of Yemen was completely scarred with deep, unresolved violent conflicts: a northern rebellion, a southern separatist movement, militant jihadists, and bloody intertribal disputes. Each of these conflicts created its own geographical zone of political, economic and security grievances. Each created its own orbit of victims and beneficiaries. The Yemeni revolution is a geographical amalgamation of all of these. Unlike the other Arab countries where popular protests blossomed, the Yemen of Saleh is neither a police state nor a military dictatorship. It has been governed by a complex, overlapping and competitive structure of familial, clanistic and tribal networks that are constantly mirrored in the security apparatus and in the military.

Saleh cannot hold on for ever, and he will find it increasingly difficult to negotiate the terms of his departure. But while his exit from the political arena will be a symbolic victory for the people, his replacement with another leader will not save the country from its divisions.

Yemen is a deeply fractured country that is in conflict with itself. And it has a long way to go to undo the terrible legacy of state fragility, violence and instability. Tunisia and Egypt are currently in dire need of redefining the relationship between state institutions and citizens. Libya will need to construct a civil society. Syria must open the gates of its closed political arena. Yemen, however, will need to build a state. ( Khaled Fattah is an expert on state-tribe relations in Yemen.) — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2011

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THE HINDU

EUROPE'S DROUGHT MAY BRING POWER CUTS

RIVER LEVELS MAY CAUSE NUCLEAR REACTORS TO GO OFFLINE, WHILE DRY WEATHER IN NORTHERN AND EASTERN EUROPE WILL RAISE FOOD PRICES.

JOHN VIDAL

One of the driest springs ever recorded in northern Europe could lead to power blackouts this summer, with nuclear reactors going offline because of low river levels. The exceptionally dry weather will also raise food prices and has already forced water restrictions on millions of people, say governments, farm groups and meteorological organisations across the continent.

Large parts of southern Britain, northern France, Germany, Switzerland, Austria and other northern and eastern European countries have had their driest three-month spells in more than 50 years, receiving just 25-60 per cent of their long-term average rainfall since February. This has led to parched soils and difficult growing conditions for farmers, as well as to river levels that are dangerously low for wildlife.

Patchy rain has moistened soils in parts of northern Britain, France and Germany over the past few weeks, but with summer approaching and temperatures soaring to over 30°C in France, it is not expected that any rains will compensate for months of exceptionally dry weather.

Last week the European Union warned that soils were now "critically dry" in six countries. The French wheat harvest is now expected to be 11.5 per cent-13 per cent down on average despite an increase in the area planted this year and German output is expected to fall seven-nine per cent. In south-east England, many farmers expect crops to fail dramatically unless steady rains come soon.

Dry weather may cut grain and oilseed yields by as much as 20 per cent, said Allan Wilkinson, head of agriculture for HSBC Bank. Last week wheat prices rose in Chicago for two days running on the expectation that dry weather has hurt crops in France, Germany and the U.K., and the UN warned that rising food prices risked riots in developing countries. On Monday, Oxfam said the average price of staple foods would more than double in the next 20 years.

River levels, n-reactors

The drought has led to some of Europe's lowest river levels recorded in more than 100 years. According to the German Federal Hydrological Agency, ships on Europe's two biggest rivers, the Rhine and Danube, are being forced to sail 50-80 per cent empty because they are having problems navigating in such low water. The Danube fell to a 100-year low for May in Austria.

Concern is now mounting that some of Europe's nuclear reactors may be forced to temporarily close within months if there is not substantially increased rainfall. Most of France's nuclear stations rely on river water to cool them and falling rivers could force closure.

So far the dry conditions have not caused blackouts, but EDF has said it lost 2.1 terawat (trillion)-hours of hydro electric power in the past three months because of low water levels. Water reservoirs for electricity production are now 54 per cent full, 10 percentage points below the same week last year and nine points lower than in 2009. France gets about 20 per cent of its power capacity from running water through turbines.

Observers said a trend towards drier springs appeared to be gaining momentum. This year's drought in April follows exceptionally dry years in 2007, 2009 and 2010. "2011 was up to now one of the driest 10 years in nearly whole Switzerland since 1864. April 2011 was one of the 10 driest April months in Germany since 1881, in continuation of similarly dry April months in 2007, 2009 and 2010. Last winter was very dry in western Europe", said a spokesman for the World Meteorological Organisation. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2011

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THE ASIAN AGE

PAK: US IS FOOLING NO ONE, ONLY ITSELF

Two recent developments are a parable for what is wrong with Pakistan. But they are no less a reminder of the abiding mystery that the United States should continue to have faith in the sincerity of the Pakistani armed forces to deliver the goods in the fight against jihadist terrorism even after the rubicon was crossed, namely Al Qaeda chieftain Osama bin Laden was found living for many years in a garrison town near Islamabad.

The murder earlier this week of Pakistani journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad is thought by Pakistanis to be the handiwork of the Inter-Services Intelligence, the dreaded spy wing of the Pakistan armed forces. The ISI had a history of run-ins with Mr Shahzad and the last straw was his disclosure that the attack on the Mehran naval base in Karachi on May 22 could be accomplished because the Al Qaeda had developed a network within the Pakistan Navy. This incident had attracted world attention as many began to worry that it would be no big deal for jihadists to get into a Pakistani nuclear facility if they had the organisational panache to breach Mehran, which is guarded to the teeth. The concentric circles of anxieties also naturally raised questions about the extent to which the Pakistani armed forces as a whole, including the ISI at all levels, were subverted by the ideology of jihadism. This issue has been in the air for a number of years but an urgency has now come to be associated with it since it is commonly held — rightly or wrongly — that the endgame in the Afghan theatre could be near. In the event, if the jihadists have overtaken the Pakistan armed forces — who are among Washington's closest allies in the world — it is they who would be directing the politics of that endgame, whether the US likes this or not. A denouement such as this is hardly calculated to cause any comfort to India which has its own sound reasons to stay engaged with Afghanistan.

While questions on the political morality of America's involvement with the Pakistan armed forces are suddenly brought into relief by the chance murder of an enterprising journalist whose last articles told us of the extent of bonding between the Pakistan military and the jihadists that Washington is sworn to fight, another fascinating facet of the Washington-Islamabad axis, which has just been exposed, is no less an instructive tale. On Tuesday, David Coleman Headley revealed to a Chicago court (in the course of the Mumbai attacks trial) the plan of Ilyas Kashmiri, a former Pakistan Army officer-turned Al Qaeda's James Bond, to send out his scouts in the US to monitor the movements of Lockheed Martin's CEO with a view to mounting an assassination bid. Mr Kashmiri — known in this country for coordinating ISI-Al Qaeda efforts in Kashmir — wanted to kill the head of the company that makes the drones operating in Pakistan's North Waziristan tribal belt where Al Qaeda has thrived. The drone attacks are seen by Washington as a key element in the war against Pakistan-based terrorism. The alleged ISI killing of Shahzad, and Mr Kashmiri's reported attempt to mount a particular assassination, together speak to us of the incorporated efforts of the same combine. With one of them Washington is inextricably linked for reasons which may not seem to everyone to be good enough. After Bin Laden's killing, Washington sought to play down — witness the recent observations in Islamabad by US secretary of state Hillary Clinton — the Pakistan military/ISI role in sheltering the Al Qaeda chief, saying only lower level operatives might have been involved. America could be fooling no one except itself.

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THE ASIAN AGE

IT'S TIME TO WAKA WAKA

SRINATH RAGHAVAN

The recent India-Africa summit held in Ethiopia may mark the beginning of a new phase of Indian engagement with Africa. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh held out a credit line of $5.7 billion and a slew of projects for African countries. The economic sinews of Indian foreign policy are clearly giving it much greater reach and, hopefully, influence than before.

Several commentators have remarked that India has come a long way from the airy resolutions and vacuous statements that characterised the era of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). But before we throw out the baby with the bath water, it may be useful to consider just how the current engagement with Africa differs from that of the past and what might be learnt from the experience of that period.

Indian policy towards Africa began to take shape even before India formally attained Independence. It essentially rested on two pillars: a firm commitment to Africa's struggle against colonialism, and an effort to ensure that the emerging institutions of international politics reflected the concerns of the weak and subjugated. India's engagement with Africa was fired by idealism but was also deeply political. The first steps in giving shape to this policy were taken in September 1946 when South Africa promulgated the so-called Ghetto Act, which sought to segregate the Indian community in that country by restricting their ability to purchase and control land. The vice-president of the newly-constituted interim government of India, Jawaharlal Nehru, despatched a strong diplomatic contingent to the United Nations (UN) and piloted a resolution in the General Assembly calling for a repeal of the Act. This set the tone of India's policy with regard to racial discrimination. When the system of apartheid was formally instituted, India was quick to impose sanctions by severing its trade and travel links with South Africa. Later, in 1961, when South Africa sought to join the British Commonwealth, Nehru's India blocked the move by a veiled threat to relinquish its own membership of the Commonwealth. During these years, India also extended its support to other African countries that were caught in the vice of colonial rule. It scuppered an attempt by South Africa to annex the erstwhile League of Nations "mandate" of South-West Africa (present-day Namibia), opposed Britain's brutal suppression of the Mau Mau rebellion in Kenya, and despatched an Army brigade under the UN umbrella to Congo in 1961 to prevent that country from being rent apart by a dangerous Molotov cocktail of civil war, meddling by colonial powers and superpower competition.

All this not only forged close political ties between India and Africa, but also gave India unprecedented legitimacy and standing in international affairs. Yet Nehru was no uncritical supporter of African leaders and their policies. He openly disapproved, for instance, of Ghana's first Prime Minister Kwame Nkrumah's attempts to promote a personality cult.

In the post-Nehru years, the link with Africa was subsumed under the NAM. Nehru himself had never been particularly enthusiastic about such an organisation. And after his departure, India's engagement with the non-aligned countries of Africa grew routinised and captive to rhetorical sloganeering. Indira Gandhi sought to add a fresh dimension to this relationship by focusing on the inequities of the international economic system and calling for a New International Economic Order (NIEO) which would enable greater participation by and benefits to the developing countries. Although some of these ideas were influential, the package failed to gain purchase on the major powers. At the famous North-South summit at Cancun in 1981 and at a follow-on conference in New Delhi the next year, Indira Gandhi deplored the "protectionism of the Western countries" and called for "collective self-reliance" by the poor countries. This was an early articulation of the concept of South-South cooperation. But translating it into effective action proved rather difficult. This was the period when many developing countries fell into the grip of international financial institutions, incurring public debts that few of them were able to surmount. Besides, there was the contemporaneous example of East Asian countries (including China) that made rapid economic strides by embracing liberalisation. By the time India followed suit, the Cold War was at an end, rendering both NAM and NIEO empty acronyms.
After a gap of nearly two decades, Indian policy towards Africa is yet again anchored in certain guiding principles and key interests. In this phase, though, economic relations have come to the fore. India's approach is shaped by the burgeoning needs of its economy in a number of areas: quality coal and oil for its energy requirements; key minerals for its fertiliser (and hence food) requirements; iron ore and non-ferrous metals for its industries. Africa is also an attractive market for Indian manufacturing and service industries. Lastly, there is the concern about China's large footprint in Africa and its efforts to corner natural resources in the continent. The Indian private sector was quicker than the government in getting off the blocks and has made its presence felt in Africa. But unlike Chinese companies, which are effectively arms of the government, Indian companies have been hamstrung by the government's inability to keep pace with their needs and ideas. The Prime Minister's visit will hopefully galvanise the official machinery.
Yet, a purely economic relationship can only go so far in advancing our position and interests in Africa. New Delhi needs to think hard about what kind of political engagement it is willing to undertake. India's stand on the ongoing Libyan crisis — it abstained on the UN resolution and is now supportive of the African Union's efforts to facilitate a ceasefire — suggests that it is not shy of overt engagement in African matters. This is essential not merely to buy support for India's UN Security Council candidature, but also to signal its willingness to provide independent and credible leadership in international affairs. The history of its relations with Africa may provide New Delhi with some intellectual resources to move towards a more robust political engagement with the continent.

Srinath Raghavan is a Senior Fellow at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi

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THE ASIAN AGE

NEW AGE BABAS

SIDHARTH BHATIA

India has always had a love affair with sadhus, sants and sundry babas, but till not too long ago, these worthies tended to stay out of public life. They had large numbers of followers and it was hardly a secret that many politicians were among them, but the holy men (and a few women) did not dabble in politics, at least not openly.

Ministers and governors (and Supreme Court judges too) routinely fell at the feet of such babas, but if at all any politics was discussed, it was behind closed doors..


The "guru universe" of the 1960s, '70s and '80s was a well-defined one. There were hundreds of small gurus with dedicated bands of devotees and then there were the handful of superstars who had a pan-Indian and even

global presence. The institutions they built spread out far and wide.

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was the first who became internationally known once the Beatles and Mia Farrow visited him. Mahesh Yogi patented Transcendental Medication and it was his boast that his disciples could levitate. John Lennon remained unconvinced and his illusions were further shattered when the Maharishi allegedly made a pass at a female devotee; Lennon wrote the satirical song Sexy Sadie with the words, "Sexy Sadie what have you done. You made a fool of everyone".

Sathya Sai Baba and Acharya (later Bhagwan and then Osho) Rajneesh had their own pitches too — the former performed miracles, the latter spouted philosophy and assured his rich followers that it was okay to wallow in luxury and indulge in sensual pleasures. Each stayed out of other's hair but more importantly, despite their larger than life persona, resolutely remained aloof from politics. The sole exception was Dhirendra Brahmachari, who allegedly meddled in political affairs, but even he did so discreetly.
The modern baba or guru is much more in your face. He is in the papers and on television holding forth on every problem under the sun. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar happily holds forth on social issues and though he refrains from expressing his preference towards any political party, many critics say his views are aligned with the Sangh Parivar's.


Now Baba Ramdev has gone several steps ahead. Not only has he launched a political party, which presumably will contest in the forthcoming elections, he has also decided to take on the government. He wants to launch a movement to bring Indian money stashed abroad back to the country, an unexceptional agenda by itself.
But his means are not spiritual but political. Moreover, he is now telling the government what exactly to do. And his chosen means of protest is the hunger strike, a political weapon with proven efficacy in the Indian context. A timorous government, having been singed by the drama around Anna Hazare's fast to demand the Lokpal Bill doesn't want to take chances; it has been pleading with the guru to give up his plans. No one should be surprised if the Baba is roped into some high-powered government committee to come up with ideas to bring Indian wealth back from abroad.

After all, with his vast property holdings in foreign countries, he should have some thoughts on the subject.
What has changed over the last few years that these babas have become confident enough to throw their hat into the political ring? After all, with all his following, the Sathya Sai remained essentially a doer of good deeds and refrained from interfering in the political process.
On the other hand, Baba Ramdev, till just the other day a minor yoga teacher on a minor channel, has no hesitation in holding forth on everything from black money to the Lokpal Bill. How long before he tells the ministry of external affairs how to run foreign policy?
Two factors may be at work here. Firstly, with the low credibility of politicians, people are ready to listen to alternative voices. The establishment appears venal and mendacious, interested only in money making and narrow self-interest. The bureaucracy and even the Army are looking seriously compromised. The judiciary enjoys respect but the justice system is seen as slow and ponderous. Anyone stepping into the vacuum with no obvious personal interest is seen as a saviour, almost a messiah. These new-age gurus have figured that out and know that they will be heard.


The second, and connected element, is the mass media. The media, especially 24-hour new television, has a symbiotic relationship with these gurus (and with film stars and cricketers too, but that is another matter). Both need each other.
Baba Ramdev's yoga lessons on the religious channel Aastha helped him reach out to millions in one go. Many swore by his techniques and when he began talking about issues that bother people, such as corruption and black money, he had a ready-made audience.
Meanwhile, television channels, instead of showing some good old-fashioned scepticism and ignoring him, built him on prime time as the man with all the answers. For the moment he is all over the news and the narrative is, "Baba shakes up the government". And the government is behaving as if it is duly shaken. It would be surreal and funny if it wasn't so frightening.
Nothing much may come out of it eventually. The media will forget the baba once another sexy, made-for-television story surfaces. That is the superficial nature of our news cycle.
As far as the political party is concerned, it is too early to say how effective it will be. That the baba wants to join politics is his business; but what does it say about us that we are ready to follow him?

Sidharth Bhatia is a senior journalist and commentator on current affairs based in Mumbai

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

HOME FOR MILITANCY

 

The US Congressional Research Service report defining Pakistan as the home of terrorist outfits is of much significance to India. It formally mentions one of the five main Pakistani militant groups targeting India including Kashmir for terrorist attacks and subversion. The report sets at rest a two decade long ambivalence of the United States over India's repeated allegations of terrorism being sponsored and abetted on Pakistani soil. Although Pakistan has been vehemently denying that her soil is used for terrorist attacks on India, yet the US Congress has now a clear report that should dispel all her doubts. CRS said India-and Kashmir-oriented militants, especially the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT), Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), and Harakat ul-Mujahideen (HuM), are based in both the Punjab province and in Pakistan-held Kashmir. This repudiates Islamabad's plea that there could be non-state activists running the militancy training camps in Pakistan.


The CRS report gives rise to some serious questions for the Government of India. In the first place, the new thinking among the US Congressmen cannot go without direct impact on the overall temper of Indo-Pak talks in which Washington has been pinning hope for quite some time. Our Prime Minister, too, has throughout been a supporter and promoter of continuing talks with our neighbour. But knowing that Pakistani jihadi outfits, determined to bring terror to India including Kashmir, enjoy patronage from her intelligence establishment, there has to be a new approach to the entire gamut of bilateral talks. If Islamabad finds that talks and good relations with India would contribute to normalization of Pakistan's internal disorder, then it has first to settle its score with the Army and ISI In other words, it has to evolve a mechanism by dint of which all jihadi outfits on Pakistani soil are liquidated. Pakistan can approach India as well for her assistance in dealing with the menace. We come to the conclusion that unless terror structure is dismantled in Pakistan, there seems no real purpose in pursuing the talks. It is one thing to say that talks should continue but its import is different. Lashkar-e-Tayyeba, the terrorist outfit assigned with operations in Kashmir is a long standing beneficiary of Pakistan's ISI. Therefore its operations in Kashmir and India are essentially sponsored and supported by ISI. This was proved amply by the investigations into the 26/11 incident and the deposition made by Headley in a Chicago court. Islamabad refused to handover LeT chief Hafiz Saeed to India where he would be tried for international conspiracy of subversion in another country. He is receiving full protection of the ISI and is often hosted as the guest of GHQ in Rawalpindi. LeT seems to have now overgrown its size and is bossing over two other militant organizations that are involved in Kashmir fighting.


Now is the time that New Delhi puts its foot down and tells Washington in very clear words that unless Pakistan dismantles the terror structure on her soil, there can be no progress in bilateral talks nor can there be any change in status quo. This will blunt the edge of American pressure on New Delhi. Secondly, there seems very less relevance in inducting the third element in talks with the Kashmir separatists who have been demanding the same. The team of interlocutors has been at the wheel for nearly a year now and its report is awaited. But apparently the report cannot and should not ignore the threadbare analysis carried by the Congressional Research Service report.


Lastly, the CRS report underlines the fact that Pakistan wants to grab Kashmir through internal subversion and by inciting the masses of people in Kashmir by playing up their sensitivities. As this is the part of established policy of Islamabad to wrest Kashmir from Indian hands through the use of lethal weapons and stratagem, India should reserve and exercise the right of retaliation for defending her own position. Any small thinking of making concessions internally or externally will mean dealing a hard blow to country's territorial sovereignty. No concession is imaginable in view of what the CRS report says. Also what New Delhi should know is that various solutions to the vexed problem are floated day in and day out only to deepen the dilemma and create mistrust among the people of the state. The people in the valley have to realize that they owe responsibility to their future generations. Their thinking has to be clear and they should not submit to any blackmail.

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

VALLEY'S CHANGING LANDSCAPE

 

Fast disappearing is the memory of the days when the valley presented an image of lush green countryside. Insatiable greed for money and dipping profits in agriculture will soon present a new landscape in which the fields of the Valley will get buried under skyscrapers, factories and automobile workshops. Modern age is setting by stealth into the valley. According to the records in the registration offices, acres of agricultural land are being sold by farmers across the Valley everyday. These are being used for non-agriculture purposes. The outskirts of Srinagar and other towns in the Valley, which used to present a visual feast for the eyes, are today being deprived of their historic countryside ambiance. New townships are fast expanding and gobbling up all agriculture lands around. One reason is that agriculture continues to be a largely non-profit-making activity in Kashmir and that is why farmers sell their ancestral lands to those who come up with handsome offers. People are heard saying that a liter of water costs more than a liter of milk here. If we calculate the exact cost and the labour that go into agriculture, it is not a lucrative occupation at all. Land in the countryside is shrinking as developmental activities gather pace. Roads are being widened, railway tracks are being laid and the construction of hydroelectric projects is in full swing. New office complexes and shopping malls are coming up. The net result is that the cost of land has increased phenomenally in the Valley. A kanal would sell for around Rs 20,000 in the vicinity of Ganderbal a few years ago. Today, it is priced at Rs 8 lakh. This is quite tempting for a poor farmer, who wants to sell the land and set up some business for his unemployed educated son. Large chunks of agricultural land alongside the Srinagar-Leh National Highway in Ganderbal- Mamar villages have been sold to buyers from Srinagar and other places that are setting up business enterprises.

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

ENEMIES OF DEMOCRACY

BY INDRANIL BANERJEA

 

One of the foremost thinking politicians of our time was the late Jyoti Basu. Despite his advanced age and failing health, he continued to lead an amazingly active intellectual life. The ideology he espoused might have many crucial frailties but, he remained a communist whose contribution to the cause of democracy is highly valued.


In an interview, he had advanced certain ideas which must be debated seriously by all lovers of democracy. In a cardinal departure from the Stalinist theory of party building, he had advocated that a communist party must not look upon the mass organisations controlled and led by it as "feeder organisations". In other words, communist-led worker, peasant, student and youth "wings" ought not to be treated as mere "conveyor belts" to recruit party members from within these bodies.


Going a step further, he had even mooted the idea of "one class, one organisation"-that is, there should be only one broad-based trade union in the country, only one peasants' organisation, one students' federation, etc, in which activists of different political parties may work in a democratic manner. Basu had contended that the democratic movement gets divided and, hence weakened, by the multiplicity of intra-class organisations led by different political parties. Of course, that the idea had come from Basu was not proof in itself of his party's commitment to it. It was first mooted in a slightly less developed form by the CPM as far back as 1978 in its Salkia plenum.


The reason is obvious: Schism between theory and practice. All political parties in India are adept practitioners of competitive (read, divisive) politics, which they know has to be played by its own unscrupulous rules. Even Basu could not change this reality as far as his party was concerned, which just goes to show that uniting and democratising the political process has to be an all-party endeavour.


But here we shall not discuss the specific aspects of Basu's idea and why it remains unimplemented by his party. Our interest h78


Here is to examine the basic divisive role of political parties, only a limited manifestation of which had been touched upon by the CPM leader.


The first thing to be said about the kind of elective democracy in vogue in India is that it is highly divisive. It divides people like no other known divisive factor (like caste, religion, language, etc) does. Indeed, caste, religion and language would not have assumed such ominously divisive character but for the competitive, corrupt and unprincipled manner in which political parties have been conducting elective democracy.
The manner of selecting candidates, the nature of campaigning, the formation of ministries, the working of the ruling and opposition parties inside as well as outside the elected bodies are all tailor-made for creating and deepening fissures in society. All political parties are guilty of this, the difference being only one of degree.
No wonder, politicians' words ring hollow when they exhort the people to fight disintegrative forces in society as they themselves continue to exploit caste, communal and linguistic considerations in the way they contest elections and conduct their politics between elections.


Political parties divide people also in several other ways. By making the capture of power to be the be-all and end-all of their competitive activities, they have inflicted immense damage to the spirit of cooperation in society. As a result, a dangerous mindset has formed among people of all strata that, to get things done it is not necessary to work in the spirit of unity and cooperation, but rather to humour those in, or likely to be in, power. And since there are always parties, or even factions within the ruling party, which are opposed to those in power, competitive politics ensures permanent splits in the ranks of the people.


The developmental (or, rather, maldevelopmental) history of post-Independence India is littered with painful examples of how projects have been badly conceived and executed, delayed, sabotaged or altogether abandoned, all because of competitive politics. And one finds these examples right from the gram panchayat level upwards. Almost every village is divided between two or more rival camps, each aspiring to retain, or capture political power at the expense of the others.


These camps are linked to bigger rival camps at the district levels, which, in turn, are constituents of competing camps at the state level. The individual leaders of these factions may change, and so may their flags, but the one unchanging reality is that the common people continue to be pawns in the games power-chasing politicians play.
Instead of setting an example of unity and cooperation which people could emulate, political parties today de-motivate them in the pursuit of these national values. Being a developing country India, which has still to overcome immense socio-economic challenges, can ill-afford to fritter away valuable unity and cooperation. This has, however, never crossed the minds of our power-hungry leaders.


Indeed, it is not even the case that the programmes and manifestos of our political parties are so radically different from one another as to preclude cooperation in the developmental effort. If only they distance themselves a little from their maniacal obsession with power, they will find that they can share common ground on a whole host of developmental issues.


Indeed, experience has shown that progress in specific areas has been possible only when all the major political parties and social organisations have come together to work unitedly. The best and the most recent example of this is the highly successful literacy campaign in Kerala.


The Constitution provides many rights and safeguards for the citizen's welfare. Successive governments have drawn up numerous schemes which, on paper at least, are meant for the benefit of the people. What then can possibly prevent all trade unions to unitedly campaign, for instance, for industrial and environmental safety? Or what prevents united action among political parties on civic issues like public health and hygiene? That there is no such cooperation is because parties at all levels have forgotten the meaning of the term "constructive cooperation", used as they have become to the politics of destructive competition for power.


This is not an accidental development. The political parties have forgotten the basic principle of democracy-namely, raajkarma (politics) without samaajkarma (constructive social work) is meaningless and also hazardous to the well-being of society. The freedom movement, under the leadership of Gandhiji, combined the two in a mutually beneficial way.


In the foregoing, we are not arguing that political parties and elective democracy are irrelevant to the needs of society. Not at all. In any civilised society, political parties serve-or, rather, ought to serve-as the main vehicles to mobilise the people in participating in its key democratic institutions.


But when they are not wedded to the common ideal of nation building, when they do not follow the practical imperatives of that ideal, when their leaders use politics to enrich themselves and protect the rich, and when they do not even hesitate to play a divisive and destructive role in society, then they verily become enemies of democracy. (INAV)

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

MANAGEMENT OF ELECTRONIC WASTE

BY VIDUSHI SHARMA

 

The growing convergence of information, communication and entertainment has given a new impetus to the Electronics Hardware Sector which comprises mainly of four sub-sectors namely :
* Industrial Electronics
* Computers and peripherals ;
* Communication and Broadcast Equipment ;
* Strategic Electronics and Components.
In India the demand for hardware is fuelled by a variety of drivers which includes high growth rate of the economy, emergence of a vast domestic market catering to the gennext and thriving middleclass populace with increasing disposable incomes. The production and growth trend of the Indian Electronics and IT-ITes industry since 2004-05 has been given in the above table.
According to data available with the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) 48 million rural consumers took a new mobile connection in the first six months of calendar 2009 compared with just 32 million in the cities, thus taking the mobile penetration in rural India to around 17%. Increased utilization of electronics goods due to wide choices is unable to keep in pace with the rapid obsolescence thereby generating voluminous and unmanageable E-wastes quantities. Economic growth and Digital revolution i.e. the Information Technology (IT) sector has contributed significantly to the overall economic growth. The important aspect of this waste is that it is easier and more convenient to replace than to repair these products .
E-waste is one of the fastest growing waste streams today and is growing almost three times the rate of municipal waste, globally. E-waste is highly complex waste to handle due to its varying constituents, it also contains precious metals and many rare materials, which are highly valuable. A computer contains highly toxic chemicals like lead, cadmium, mercury, beryllium, Brominated Flame Retardants (BFRs), PVC and phosphorus compounds. Here are some startling facts to understand the market drivers for Electronics Hardware products in India. There are over 60 million Internet users as on 31.3.2009, Broadband subscribers have touched 7.40 million as on 31.10.2009 , over 7 million DVD players were sold during financial year 2008-09, 6.78 million PCs sold ; installed base of 30 million (as on 31.3.2009 ), 15.5 million TVs sold ; Installed base of 150 million (as on 31.3.2009), in the fledgling telecom sector subscription had reached to 525.65 million at the end of October 2009, installed base for mobile phones stand at 488.40 million subscribers (as on 31.10.2009) with 10-12 million new mobile subscribers added every month ! India with population of over I billion with a growing economy and increasing consumption is estimated to be generating approximately 4,00,000 tones of e-waste annually (computers, mobile phone and television only) and is expected to grow at a much higher rate of 10-15% . As per current estimates, the global e-waste market is forecasted to reach 53 million tones by 2012 from 42 million tones in 2008; thus growing at a CAGR of six percent. While India generates about 4,00,000 tones of e-waste annually , almost 90% of the available E-waste continues to be recycled in the informal sector. Some of the processes involve burning or direct hearting, use of acid baths, mercury amalgamation and other chemical processes to recover materials. These result in the release of toxic materials into the environment through as emissions or effluents. Some of the impacts of the current informal sector recycling are
* Release of toxins into environment.
* Loss of natural resources due to low recovery of materials.
* Hazardous health impact to workers.
* Some solutions on E-waste management.
* Material substitution or use of less toxic materials in the manufacturing process also brings down the environmental footprint of the product. The European regulation-ROHS (Restriction on use of Hazardous Substances)- is one regulatory instrument which has been an important driver in reducing toxics in electronic products. This regulation aims at gradually reducing the use of Mercury, Lead, Cadmium, Hexavalent chromium, PBB, and PBDE.
* Down stream solution would essentially attempt to address technological issues of recycling, a frame work of responsibility of stakeholders and setting up of a reverse supply chain process.
* In the Extended Producers Responsibility (EPR) is considered an effective tool for finding solutions to the complex issue of product disposal and pollution prevention. It implies that the responsibility of the producer extends beyond the post consumer stage of the product.
Regarding re-cycling infrastructure E-waste is gradually being viewed as an important resource due to the presence of some precious and rare metals and some entrepreneurs have come forward to handle this waste and have been authorized by the respective Pollution Control Boards to undertake specific processes based on their capacities.
Regarding the legal framework currently E-waste in India is covered under the Hazardous Waste (Management, Handling and Trans Boundary Movement) Rules, 2008. The existing Hazardous Waste Rules was primarily drawn up to address issues of waste generated in industrial processes and is inadequate to cover issues specific to E-waste. The GoI issued Guidelines for safe management of E-waste in the country. The guideline is a voluntary instrument and largely attempts to address the technological gap.

 

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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

ENGAGING SPOS

BY SHIVANANDA

 

The naxalite violence in Chhattisgarh is not abating, and in May 76 people, including paramilitary personnel have fallen victims. It appears that neither the Central nor the state government have evolved a policy to deal with the situation.


On April 25, 2011, the Supreme Court of India pulled up the centre and the Chhattisgarh government for appointing Special Police Officers (SPOs) and arming them with weapons in the trouble-torn areas of Chhattisgarh under Section 17 of the Police Act, 1861 and Section 9 of the Chhattisgarh Police Act, 2000.This has once again raised questions on the counter-naxalite operations being undertaken in the heartland of India.
SPOs were first deployed in 1990 in Kashmir during the height of militancy to assist the security forces in conducting combat operations in limited areas. These are generally recruited from among the locals on a temporary basis because they are familiar with the terrain of specific locations. Their training period is limited to one or two months and they are paid a monthly honorarium that ranges from 1500 to 3000 rupees. This is not deemed to be a regular employment. The SPOs are different from the Salwa Judum though they are generally considered to be synonymous. On record, they function under the supervision of the state police, but in reality they are an unorganised village force. Some times known as Village Defence Forces, they do not have the capability to combat militants who are much better trained and equipped. Despite being an unorganised force, SPOs are deployed in Chhattisgarh, in the insurgency active areas of Manipur and in left wing extremist affected areas of Jharkhand, Bihar, West Bengal, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra. But while Manipur and other states have recently begun to recruit SPOs, Jammu and Kashmir has discontinued the practice since 2008. After 18 years, the Jammu and Kashmir government found the SPOs to be more of a liability.
According to the apex court bench consisting of Justices B. Sudarshan Reddy and S.S. Nijjar, the 1861 Act on the basis of which SPOs are recruited was a legacy of colonial policing whose validity after the framing of the Indian constitution is suspect. The court expressed serious reservations on whether the appointment of SPOs without any accountability was sustainable in the eyes of the law and questioned the central government for providing finances to the State Government for arming them.


The state government has, however, justified the deployment of SPOs in naxal-affected areas on the grounds that they are locals and hence familiar with the terrain, language and the weapons being used by the adversary. However, this strategy of pitting civilians against anti-state actors has been counter-productive. There are risks attached to arming youths who are educated up to class V only. When an anti-national mindset group has taken up arms against the state, the government is arming the unarmed. By doing so, the state is encouraging the people in naxal-affected areas to fight against each other. Viewed from another perspective, the basic reason why naxalism has flourished in these areas is the inability of the state governments concerned to provide good governance. Instead of facing the ground realities and framing an implementable strategy to address them, the state government is resorting to short-term defensive plans of securing the naxal-affected areas by arming the people, whom the state instead should be protecting. In due course of time, the Kashmir experience with SPOs is bound to be repeated in Chhattisgarh and other states.


The deployment of paramilitary forces serves the purpose of engaging the anti-national militants in an organised manner and they can be pulled out once the situation improves. But in the case of SPOs once the security environment improves the government will have to disarm and rehabilitate them or consider absorbing them in the state police constabulary. Besides, most of the armed naxals are better organised for conducting guerrilla operations like ambushes, sabotage and tactical assault and these can be handled only by experienced and trained troops. Moreover, in the emerging security environment where even committing the army to anti-naxal operations is being reviewed after the Dantewada incident of April 2010, when 75 CRPF personnel (COBRA) and a policeman were gunned down in an ambush by left-wing extremists in the Mukrana forest during operation 'Green Hunt,' the SPO experiment could prove to be disastrous. Given their lack of training, combat exposure and expertise in use of weapons; the SPOs are unlikely to be effective even in the defensive line of action. Therefore, the state and the central governments need to reconsider the policy of arming unarmed civilians as SPOs and look for other options to enhance security. Raising a new armed constabulary like Indian Reserve Battalion (IRB) composed of local recruits could be an option, as it would serve the twin purposes of generating employment and restoring security. (INAV)

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

A NUCLEAR NIGHTMARE

SAFETY OF PAKISTANI STOCKPILE IS SUSPECT

 

It is a worst-case scenario too horrifying for words: terrorists take over Pakistan and its huge nuclear stockpile falls into their hands gratis. The accumulated weaponry is so daunting that the zealots can hold the whole world to ransom, and even vaporise a large section of it. Islamabad, of course, discounts such a possibility in public and so does the US, but a top American expert, Dr Jack Caravelli, a former adviser to at least two US Presidents, has now revealed that secret plans are in place to take control of Pakistan's nuclear weapons in case the unthinkable does take place. Volatile elements in Pakistan can be depended upon to ignore the rider that the US would act only if the country falls to terrorists, and condemn this contingency plan as yet another frontal attack on its sovereignty after the Osama strike. But for the rest of the world, this revelation would be somewhat reassuring, given the heightened fears over the safety of the nuclear stocks and installations.

 

The threat is real and immediate. Although a Taliban spokesman has asserted that it has no plans to launch such an attack, since "Pakistan is the only Muslim nuclear power state", nobody is taken in. Significantly, a prominent Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) leader, Sajjad Mohmand, has pledged to liberate the atomic weapons from the control of "traitors ruling the country and use them to defend Pakistan and Muslims worldwide". The threat is ominous.

 

Paklistan's nukes may be widely dispersed at secure places but the fear of at least some of these weapons and facilities falling into wrong hands is itself chilling. The Mehran naval airbase which was attacked on May 22 is only about 25 km from the Masroor air base, where Pakistan is believed to have a large depot of nuclear weapons that could be delivered from the air. There are enough extremist officials within the military establishment to facilitate such a raid. The threat perception has become more acute ever since Pakistan showcased its capability to build low-yield short-range plutonium-based weapons that are mobile and can be transported and used easily. If these fall into the hands of jihadised elements, the temptation to use them as terror weapons will be immense. 

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

THE SIACHEN QUESTION

PLAYING CHINA CARD WON'T HELP PAKISTAN

 

Whenever Pakistan is in a situation where its stand defies logic in its dealings with India, it chooses to play the China card. This has been noticed during the latest round of talks on the Siachen glacier demilitarisation issue. Knowing well that any reference to China will be disapproved by India, the Pakistan Defence Ministry representatives who held talks on Monday and Tuesday with their Indian counterparts in New Delhi pushed for China to be represented during the negotiations because Beijing controls the Shaksham valley in the Siachen area. Besides this, Pakistan wants India to withdraw its troops from the vantage points held after great sacrifices without the areas' proper demarcation. How can India vacate the areas it had captured in Operation Meghdoot without any guarantee that they would not be surreptitiously occupied by Pakistan? Islamabad's stand is that India's occupation of those areas has altered the status quo that existed when the Simla Agreement was signed. But the truth is that there is no mention of these Siachen points in that accord.

 

India and Pakistan were faced with a similar situation during their talks on the Siachen issue before the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attack, which killed the composite dialogue process that was on between the two sides. Then also India insisted that the areas under its control must be demarcated before the withdrawal of its troops, but this was not acceptable to Pakistan. Islamabad's refusal to accept the demarcation idea clearly shows that its intentions are not pious. The next round of talks, scheduled to be held in Islamabad, can be fruitful only if Pakistan substantially accommodates the Indian viewpoint.

 

The standoff after the talks that concluded on Tuesday was already in the air because of the confidence deficit between the two sides. An atmosphere conducive to any agreement between India and Pakistan is missing today. It is difficult to say when the situation will improve. In fact, the tension between India and Pakistan is likely to go up owing to Pakistan's unwillingness to punish all those guilty of the Mumbai terrorist killings despite India having provided enough proof to nail them. 

 

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THE TRIBUNE

COLUMN

DEATH OF A DOCTOR

DEAL FIRMLY WITH VIOLENCE IN PRISON

 

The unfortunate lynching of a doctor by convicts in a Bihar prison raises several uncomfortable questions about prison administration, the role of the police and that of medical practitioners themselves. Although the state government acted promptly, completing an official inquiry within a day and quickly booking the culprits, who are life convicts, its failure to take immediate action against prison officials remains baffling. It is clear by reports coming out from the prison that the convicts colluded with a section of the prison staff to call the doctor on a false pretext of serious and sudden ailment. When the doctor, who had earlier resisted pressure to write false medical certificates to stall the transfer of the convicts to a central jail, entered the ward in question, the convicts fell upon him and lynched him. The officials in the prison cannot escape their responsibility for not taking sufficient precautions before sending the doctor in and for their failure to check the claim of sudden illness.

 

The collusion between inmates and the jail staff is fairly common in Indian prisons. Sporadic raids by the police have often led to the discovery of mobile phones, firearms and home-cooked food besides luxury items denied to the inmates. In the jails of Punjab, even banned drugs and substances have been smuggled in as prison officials looked the other way. Influential inmates and the ones who enjoy notoriety and clout in the underworld are also known to have enjoyed privileges that are normally denied to the convicts and those under trial. What is less known is the complicity of jail doctors. Many of them are too willing to write false certificates to enable prisoners to move into hospitals outside or even to claim temporary insanity in their defence.

 

The tragic incident in Bihar should prompt a wider scrutiny into all that is wrong with our prison system. At the same time, unacceptable behaviour and violence resorted to by inmates need to be tackled differently. One of the many possible suggestions could be to isolate such elements , specially those who are already convicted as in the instant case, and send them to prisons far away from their own state.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

ARTICLE

BEYOND 'DO BIGHA ZAMIN'

FARMERS MUST GET A FAIR DEAL 

BY B.G. VERGHESE

 

Tolstoy's famous question, "How much land does a man require?", was answered when the Count who had ruthlessly exploited his serfs was buried in a grave measuring 7 x 4 x 4 feet. And that, Tolstoy concluded, was all the land a man requires.

 

Is corporate and infrastructural greed in India today destroying the small, hapless farmer, the bedrock of traditional society and culture, for a pittance in the name of some "public purpose" on behalf of the greater common good? Are these "land wars" over land acquisition the apocalyptic end of everything or no more than a painful transition to a new stage of social equilibrium?

 

Land acquisition is part of the story of civilization. All traditional societies are land/farm based. But there comes a time when needs, population pressure, innovation and the desire to better their lives drive communities to foster industry. Land is acquired for habitation, infrastructure and manufacture, and farmers find themselves able to feed growing numbers through increased productivity of land and water and/or trade. After a period of adjustment, all benefit. The trick is to smooth the transition, not fight it mindlessly as some neo-Luddites would do in India in the name of ecology, displacement, culture and habit. These are not empty values but they can be exaggerated beyond their true worth.

 

The other major problem is that critics tend to view these issues with tunnel vision and in the here and now. They lack perspective and ignore the relevance of both time and space. Both these permit tradeoffs and compensation and must be factored into any calculus. A dynamic society in terms of numbers and rising expectations will be overwhelmed by mounting impatience and social pressures if it merely stands still wringing its hands, hoping that the flood will pass. Too many worry about what might happen to their ideology or caring missions for the disadvantaged should the poor begin to stand up. They fear intellectual and moral displacement.

 

Several fallacies coalesce to confuse thinking. Some believe that nature is unchanging and that all we see around us is pristine. On the contrary, nature is fickle and some of it replicable. Others ignore population growth. India was 336 million in 1947, is 1.2 bn today and could grow to 1.7 bn by 2060. Yet our land area remains the same. Land acquisition is inevitable. The notion that diversion of land for industry will jeopardise food security is fallacious. The overall area required is but a tiny fraction of available land, except in particular locations, whether it be for dams, mines, factories, communications or townships. Can we do without better infrastructure and connectivity? If SEZs are required to keep only 30 per cent of land acquired for "production", is the remainder necessarily grabbed by the land mafia? The rest is required for roads, services, schools, hospitals, banks, markets, parks and so forth and for housing the work force in what are green-field cities. These parameters must surely be regulated. But to exclude them from industrial planning would be to cast the entire burden of housing, transport, other infrastructure and urbanisation on municipal authorities or hell-hole shanty towns.

 

It is often asked why the developer of a public-private project like the Taj Expressway, currently in the public eye, should be given adjacent land at "throwaway prices" for real estate, golf courses and even a Formula One race track. The answer is that the developer, Jaypee, is to build the Rs 11,000 crore expressway at its own cost. Since nobody has this kind of surplus money, Jaypee will generate the funds by developing and selling housing and other facilities that will provide the wherewithal to build the expressway. Such packages need to be formulated within given guidelines and be subject to regulation. And this is what is being done.

 

\Why the hurry? Because development has a multiplier in terms of income, employment, secondary activity and revenue to the state while delay entails loss for everybody. Again, with a national requirement to add 10 m jobs net per annum, just to absorb new entrants to the labour force, let alone cater to the huge backlog of unemployed, underemployed and distress migrants, time matters. Disparities and neglect have spawned naxalism, unrest and social violence. These could destabilise the state.

 

The land can no longer provide. Uneconomic holdings are resulting in farmers selling their land and becoming labourers or seeking non-farm occupations. Farmers do want to sell land – for education and to better their life chances. But they must get a fair deal and some share in incremental values that come with land use changes and economic growth. How this is done can be negotiated and there cannot be on one rigid all-India formula. A consensus is being developed on the 1894 Land Acquisition and Relief and Rehabilitation amendments. Many states and some corporate houses have evolved innovative packages.

 

Industrialisation does not only mean large industries. The tiny and small sector must be assisted to grow. Agro-processing and byproduct utilisation offer huge employment and productive possibilities.

 

Tribal interests and forest rights must also be protected but tribal India does not want to be caged in living museums. Tribals aspire for a better life, developing at their own pace. Neglect of the Fifth Schedule has been the primary reason for tribal distress. This is still nowhere on anybody's radar screen, so hollow and uninformed is the debate.

 

Poverty is India's greatest polluter and ecological enemy. Steady 9-10 per cent growth over the next decade could eliminate stark poverty and underpin social and economic rights as the undermass rapidly wins empowerment. Jairam Ramesh has fought the good fight and come to the right conclusion. Growth is not the enemy of the environment. He has pleaded against techno-phobia and growth scepticism.

 

At the same time he has rightly posed limits to growth in the medium and long term. In doing so, he recalls Gandhi's axiom that there is enough for everybody's need in this our world but not enough for everybody's greed. That should be the bottom line.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

PLAYBOYS OF THE GOLDEN TRACK

BY HARWANT SINGH

 

SOMETIMES a picture can convey a story and a state far more eloquently than what is possible even in a thousand words. Capturing an event or a moment on camera, at just the right point, is not every press photographer's forte.

 

At an army recruitment rally at Amritsar, nearly 18,000 prospective candidates were put through the basic physical fitness test of running. That only 1,200 measured up to that test tells its own tale of the pathetic state of physical fitness of the youth of Punjab. But it is the picture of a young man collapsed, with face down and crumpled body, lying on the track, exhausted and spent, that made a telling story. Drugs and liquor (thanks to the Punjab government's drive to earn ever more revenue by promoting sale of liquor and the politico-police nexus in the state, for smuggling of drugs) has taken its toll.

 

This sad picture takes the mind back to the days when Punjab's youth was known for his physique, fitness and

endurance. It was in the early fifties that the All-India Athletics were held at Government College, Ludhiana. Those days, the college stadium used to be full of young boys and girls doing the rounds of the 'track'. Some were preparing for the big event and the rest were there just to keep fit.

 

At the great event, Jagdev breasted the tape to win the gold in the 400 metres low hurdles, while Hardev took the gold in the 110 metres high hurdles. Yet another ex-student from the college, Flight Lieutenant Amit Singh Bakshi, sailed home in the 400 metres to take the gold. We collected some more gold in the relay races. It was a big day for the college, though the greater show was yet to come.

 

At the long jump pit were displayed boards indicating India, Olympic and World long jump records. It was Jaijee from the college who created a sensation. As he kicked off from the board and leapt into the air folding himself and then midway in the air opening out like a long compressed spring, he sailed well past the line indicating the Olympic record.

 

A deafening roar reverberated through the air and everyone in that stadium was on his feet. The judges assembled to closely examine the 'sandbar' and found a small 'nick.' Whether it was the result of Jaijee's spike touching it or the staff repairing the 'sand bar' doing a shoddy work, there was no telling. The judges in their wisdom decided not to take note of that historic leap, sending a wave of disappointment in the crowd. Jaijee had to be content with just gold.

 

Today, we ask ourselves, what has become of the youth of Punjab, leave alone the playboys of the golden track, or for that matter the state's Milkha Singhs!

 

That one picture of a young man, as he lay collapsed on the track, viewed in the backdrop of the time when Punjab's youth  dominated the physical fitness field, epitomises  the sad story of Punjab 's downward slide, not only in physical fitness but in almost every other field.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

GENDER TILT TO ENVIRONMENTAL DEGRADATION

WHILE DISASTERS AND DEGRADATION SEEM TO BE GREAT LEVELLERS, A REALITY CHECK SHOWS THAT THE IMPACT OF ENVIRONMENTAL DEGRADATION HITS WOMEN, PARTICULARLY THE RURAL AND URBAN POOR, FAR MORE THAN IT HITS MEN. IT IMPACTS NEGATIVELY THEIR HEALTH, INCOME-GENERATING OPTIONS, EDUCATION AND EVEN DOMESTIC LIFE. AND YET, WOMEN ARE NOT AT THE FOREFRONT OF POLICIES THAT WILL SAFEGUARD THEIR ENVIRONMENT AND THEIR WELL-BEING

ANNAM SURESH

 

Sabita smokes 20 cigarettes a day-and not on the sly. She has one square meal spread over three days. She does a half marathon every day, part of it carrying weights as heavy as 10 kg. She looks much younger than her years.

We are not talking about a Size-0 anorexic gym-hitting model who every third urban teen is waiting to emulate.

Sabita, in fact, is just eleven years old -but looks younger than nine. While most of her upper middle class counterparts are close to attaining puberty, Sabita still sports the body of a child that is a long way from adolescence.

Never heard of her? That's because she is not famous.

 

Sabita is every other girl in the most backward areas, who has been denied schooling so she can help her mother. Her weightlifting and marathon are the increasingly lengthening treks to fetch fuel and water. Her 'smoking' comes from the long hours cooking over a smokey chulha for the family. She gets to eat if and when there is something left over after the menfolk have eaten. And these are privileges when the going is good. Drought, floods, famine, epidemics, pollution of soil, water or air - all these make the going even tougher. Her lifestyle ensures that undernourishment keeps her looking smaller than her years as milestones like puberty are delayed. The same circumstances, coupled with the burden of several pregnancies will ensure that she looks and feels far older than her years a decade later - if her environment lets her live that long. She is not confined to the rural hinterlands. A Sabita is as easily found in the growing number of urban slums and new settlements that mushroom around new developmental activities - upcoming buildings, highways, metro-rails and flyovers that invariably spawn new urban clusters of migrant labourers and their families.

 

Women's lives, particularly in the Third World, are so intimately interwoven in innumerable ways with their environment that changes and degradation have immediate as well as far-reaching impact on their lives directly and indirectly. Since they play a critical role in income-generating and community sustaining activities like cooking, gathering fuel and fodder, looking after children and the elderly, farming, fishing and selling the produce, every environmental change or crisis comes bundled with class-gender effects. These include an increase in the workload, poorer access to resources, deteriorating health and deprivations along with an unfair decrease in return and benefits. Hence, sustainable development demands the recognition and incorporation of these in any programme or policy that purports to address issues of environment and grassroots development.

 

Harsh reality

 

While the metrosexual man is occasionally seen cooking, cleaning and tending to baby with a smile in urbane commercials and soaps, the reality for a large majority of women is completely different. As one descends the economy ladder, the gender divide in chores becomes more marked. Urban signs of convenience — like refrigerators, gas stoves, electricity — begin to disappear lower down the economic scale, and so does the man's share in 'domestic chores'. In fact, the woman's presence begins to increase not only in running the house and caretaking activities, but in sharing the breadwinning, irrespective of her age, health and the additional demand of other responsibilities.

 

Since ensuring there is food on the plate is a woman's job, all associated activities too become her responsibility - from procuring the grains, meat and farm produce, getting fuel, and water and ensuring that the whole exercise is done in time, no matter what it costs her. Development activities that include creating structures and destroying vegetation makes her domestic chores more time-consuming as she trudges through longer and more difficult terrain or procedures to collect fuel - whether she is using twigs, wood, or kerosene. It could mean hours gathering twigs, preparing and making use of cowdung or in harder times, dry leaves and vegetable and farm waste. Or waiting endlessly for her share of kerosene. It could mean unending treks for water, more exhausting hours of cooking and cleaning and dragging out her daughters from school to help her do all this.

 

Since receding forest cover and spreading urbanisation directly impacts the quantity, quality and nearness to water, fuel and fodder the energy left for direct agricultural or income-generating activity reduces steadily. This often forces girls to leave school to help at home or even find work. The whole scene leads to harder work, poorer economic returns and steadily worsening nutrition and health. A vicious circle that pushes women deeper into poverty.

 

It is not surprising that women pay a greater price when environmental degradation takes place. Deforestation, water scarcity, soil degradation, building and urbanising activities, exposure to agricultural and industrial chemicals and organic pollutants. They all affect women's workloads, productivity, nutrition, health, development and overall well-being.

 

A family's health suffers when fuel shortages force families to consume raw or partially cooked foods, as these can often be toxic, especially if these are from animal sources. Women and girls suffer the most since in most places they eat last and the least.

 

Women are more exposed to the hazards of polluted water than men. They are not only the primary carriers of water, but they wash clothes and utensils, bathe the children and cattle, mostly with polluted water.

 

Moreover, since childcare is primarily the woman's responsibility, when children get infected, women are more likely to catch the disease.

 

When firewood is scarce, people switch from using logs to little twigs and branches, then they move to crop residues, cow dung and even dry leaves. This reduces the dung available for manure. Those that can afford, switch to chemical pesticides - leading to a whole new batch of problems for man and beast from exposure to pesticides. Women's unique biology renders them and the children they breastfeed more vulnerable to the poisonous effects of pesticides.

 

Exposure to certain agricultural and industrial chemicals and organic pollutants, especially as a result of shifting to chemical fertilisers and pesticides from conventional options like cow dung and dry leaves (which are increasingly used as fuel to save time and effort spent in travelling long distances to gather wood) increases women's vulnerability in pregnancy and childbirth as well as to diseases and delayed growth among adolescent girls.

 

Broken homes

 

As food becomes scarce during extreme conditions like drought, men migrate to towns, but the women are left behind with the children and the old. Very often men find new partners and abandon the women they have left behind.

 

Households where women are the sole bread earners tend to be poorer. This is a worldwide phenomenon and one of the factors why 70 per cent of the world's poor are women. In India, a fourth of all poor families have women as primary breadwinners.

 

The consequences on children raises numerous questions about the schooling programmes needed in areas suffering from an ecological damage. Most rural schools show low female enrollment and high female dropout - particularly in those seasons when the cumulative burden of work at home and in the fields is very high. Merely providing schools even within easy reach, even with sops like free meals and uniform, is not enough since a heavy workload on the mother means the daughter is denied education even if there is a school nearby.

 

While protecting the environment, making food, fuel, water and fodder easily available is an important political agenda as a long-term mission to improve the lot of women and raise literacy levels. Equally important, in the immediate future, is the schooling format to keep with the local agro-labour calendar giving children time to help their mothers, rather than have girls pulled out, especially during peak labour season.

 

Policy-making role

 

The gender tilt of these consequences stems from traditional gender inequalities in the division of labour and in the distribution of subsistence resources, access to assets, income-earning opportunities and participation in public decision-making forums.

 

Women's active participation in forest protection and wasteland development schemes ensures success and promotes gender equity, increases women's participation in public decision-making bodies, enhances women's bargaining power within and outside the household, and contributes to their overall empowerment.

 

Women's absence from policy-making bodies limits their influence over governance. Worldwide, women hold less than 20 per cent of seats in government. And though women are keenly affected by environmental degradation, they are rarely involved in policy decisions at the local and national levels. This limited participation means their perspectives; vulnerabilities, risks, needs, knowledge and best solutions are often ignored.

"Beasts" of burden

Studies have shown that in most rural areas, females on an average spend more than seven times as many hours in wood and water collection as males. A WHO estimate says that the energy used to carry water may consume over one-third of a woman's daily calorie intake. Coupled with poor access to sufficient food, malnourishment is an inevitability. Cooking on chulhas or cheap kerosene stoves which consume too much fuel and emit hazardous smoke affects women and children in particular. Indoor air pollution kills more women in developing countries than does atmospheric pollution. A fireplace operating burning 4 kg of wood for an hour generates 4,300 times more carcinogenic particles than 30 cigarettes. A chulha is 500 times more polluting than an oil burner and 1000 times more than heating with gas! Cooking on a chulha calls for burning one kg wood per person. Every kg emits 129 mg of carbon monoxide while a cigarette emits only 58.8mg (so that's where Sabita's smoking comes from). One of the reasons biomass energy has received so little attention in national energy planning is that it is seen as 'women's fuel'.

The Kolkata-based commentator on social issues is a Sir Ratan Tata Trust Fellow

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

EDITORIAL

MR QURAISHI'S WISDOM

FIGHT AGAINST CORRUPTION MUST BEGIN WITH ELECTORAL REFORM

After conducting flawless elections in difficult terrains like West Bengal (against organised violence and booth capturing) and Tamil Nadu (against money power), the reputation of the Election Commission of India is sky-high — a reputation it had established earlier when voters in Bihar were able to ring in change despite the lawlessness there not so long ago. The latest round of elections was marked by the way ever-stricter norms were enforced with what can only be described as military efficiency, made possible by elaborate staggering of polling where necessary so that security forces were not too thinly spread out. All this makes the institutional wisdom of the Commission formidable, requiring it to be carefully heard on electoral reforms; more so because the current chief election commissioner, S Y Quraishi, is particularly forthright and articulate on the matter. His cardinal point, articulated ever since the movement to curb corruption – built around the issue of the Lok Pal Bill – gained momentum, is that elections have become the root of corruption. If a person spends, say, Rs 2 crore to Rs 5 crore – way beyond her means – to get elected, then she will naturally want to recover the money. This acts as the greatest bulwark against the enactment of effective laws that can fight corruption. If a lawmaker is born in sin, she can hardly be expected to help create a regime to fight sinfulness.

The place to begin is to have a realistic ceiling on electoral expenses and then plug all the loopholes used to disregard the ceiling. The biggest loophole that exists is that what a candidate's friends and well wishers, as also his party, spend is not counted under the ceiling. The law has to be changed so that any entity keen to support a candidate financially or materially will have to issue a cheque in her favour and then account for it in her statement of electoral expenses. What a party spends on its election publicity, like posters or advertisements not specifically mentioning a candidate, can also be allocated to all its candidates on a pro rata basis, again coming under the candidate's ceiling. The next steps will have to be rigorous monitoring of campaigning activity on the ground to assess how much money is being actually spent (this is being done) and rigorous auditing of party and candidate statements of expenses by auditors selected by the Comptroller and Auditor General (not being done). The various tax machineries of the government, from the Income Tax Department to the Directorate of Enforcement, should get into the act right at the time of filing nominations and scrutinise the candidate's wealth and tax liability. This will ensure that she is not a tax dodger and has spent from her accounted-for wealth on her election campaign. Mr Quraishi has done well to shoot down the idea of state funding of elections, the favourite of leftists, because that is neither here nor there, leaving open the role of black money in unaccounted electoral expenses. If the foregoing is made into a law then in the long run the country may not need a Lok Pal.

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

COTTONING ON TO A PROBLEM

INDIA SHOULD ALLOW COTTON AND COTTON YARN EXPORTS

 

Policy confusion has once again created uncertainty in cotton trade. Cotton prices have plunged by more than 30 per cent in the past couple of months and inventories of both cotton and cotton yarn have begun to pile up. Little wonder then that a section of the cotton ginning industry recently went on strike and spinning mills downed their shutters for a day in protest against the government's apathy towards their plea that cotton and cotton yarn exports be further liberalised. The entire quantity of 5.5 million bales of cotton that the government had allowed to be shipped abroad has been fully dispatched. Sizeable stocks of cotton are either lying unsold with farmers or awaiting processing at ginning units. The spinning industry has, for the time being, decided to cut down production by one-third to prevent yarn inventories from increasing any more. At home the textile industry, notably garment manufacturers, faces an uncertain market with domestic demand not picking up adequately, despite the dip in raw material prices. The industry is, therefore, lukewarm about any suggestion that it pass on the advantage of lower costs to consumers.

Time is of the essence because the cotton sowing season has already begun. If the downturn in prices is not stemmed soon, growers may consider cutting down cotton plantings. That will impact the next season's sowing and in the new cotton season beginning October 2011 supplies would dwindle. Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar has already cautioned the government against any further delay in taking a call on reopening exports. Clearly, Mr Pawar does not want a repeat of what happened in the case of sugar. Controls on sugar exports at a time when international prices ruled high hurt domestic industry. Should cotton meet with the same fate?

 

China is the biggest gainer from India's absence in the international cotton and cotton yarn bazaar. Ironically, uncertainty on this count has been allowed to persist despite all the ministries concerned, including those of textile, commerce and finance, being favourably inclined to increase cotton export quotas. However, none of them seems sure of the quantity of additional cotton or cotton yarn that can be allowed to be shipped without jeopardising supplies for the local industry or hurting interests of the suicide-prone cotton growers. Misgivings on this count arise largely because of the ambiguity on cotton production and the amount of surplus available for export even at this late stage in the 2010-11 season.

The estimates of cotton output made by the Union agriculture ministry and the Cotton Advisory Board (CAB) differ sharply, as always. While Krishi Bhawan is certain that the cotton harvest in 2010-11 was a record 33.93 million bales, the CAB had pitched this number at 32.9 million bales in February but subsequently lowered it to 31.2 million bales. However, even taking the lower estimate of production into account, and keeping in view the likely consumption by the mill sector and the stocks held by farmers, net availability of an additional 1.5 to 2.0 million bales of cotton for exports seems like a good idea to pursue. Rather than offer fiscal subsidies, that the industry will inevitably seek if faced with a weak home market, it is best to allow export trade to bridge the gap between demand and earnings.

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

NTP 2011 OBJECTIVE: BROADBAND

THE INDIAN GOVERNMENT HAS TO CHOOSE BETWEEN ACCESSIBLE, AFFORDABLE SERVICES AND SHORT-TERM REVENUE

SHYAM PONAPPA

 

The Indian government has to choose between accessible, affordable services and short-term revenue

 

Apart from the scams, confused ideas are roiling India's telecom sector. One instance is the finance ministry urging spectrum auctions to collect Rs 30,000 crore to help bridge the fiscal deficit. Another is the Ashok Chawla committee recommending spectrum auctions for transparency, making transparency the criterion for managing spectrum. The committee apparently does not mention the disastrous US auction, and attributes the UK fiasco to extraneous reasons; presumably, they knew the facts1. Such issues need logical and systematic remedies. Otherwise, the success of the telecom sector will degenerate into yet another failure.

Apart from transparency, public asset sales, including spectrum, need three other criteria:

·      Objectives: the transaction should be structured in the public interest;

·       a life-cycle analysis of costs and benefits, and not just windfall revenues (since short-term cash drives the finance ministry's concerns, it is important for the ministry and the government to step back and consider alternatives, such as the sale of BSNL's vast real estate. If the goal is ubiquitous and affordable broadband, this would be much less damaging to the public interest than spectrum auctions); and

·       end-to-end solutions are required from an integrated systems perspective.

THE NEW TELECOM POLICY '11


For the New Telecom Policy 2011 (NTP '11), the first requirement is to define convergent goals. We could take a leaf from countries with excellent broadband that built high-quality next generation networks. While the US and UK have strong initiatives, Japan, Sweden, South Korea and Finland have highly rated broadband. Australia and Singapore are now building next-generation networks. Both are common-access, open-to-all service providers.

SPECTRUM MANAGEMENT
In India we must begin with unravelling the mess of spectrum management. There are two separate skeins. Legacy issues of irregularities and scams form one stream, to be dealt with by the process of law. On the other hand, policies for next-generation networks need a process of stakeholder workouts to deliver services. Broadly, there are two ways of approaching spectrum management. One is to allocate specified bands for exclusive use, as was customary until now. An alternative is to create a common spectrum pool for use by all service providers. In other words, any provider can dynamically access spectrum for carrying voice, image and/or data. This method of dynamic spectrum access is now feasible, and the US is starting off with TV white space. The Federal Communications Commission has appointed nine companies including Spectrum Bridge and Google as database administrators; a tenth, Microsoft, is under consideration. India could start out on this if the government chooses the objective of accessible and affordable services. ( COSTS AND BENEFITS OF PRIVATE VERSUS PUBLIC ACCESS TO SPECTRUM )

NETWORK VS REVENUE
The choice is between building/configuring a high-quality, least-cost network and high short-term government collections. Over a longer period, a restrained approach emphasising networks and services is likely to be superior to aggressive government fees, as we found with NTP '99 — revenue sharing resulted in explosive growth together with higher collections than the amount foregone from licence fees (see data from the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India and the Comptroller and Auditor General2).

How can the government evaluate this trade-off? The diagram outlines alternative approaches to spectrum allocation and the likely outcomes. The outcomes should be evaluated as public interest costs and benefits.

The first step is to choose between exclusive spectrum use and common access. Exclusive use entails allocation through auctions; methods like first come, first served (FCFS); or "beauty contests", for example, the evaluation of stipulated criteria such as technology, financial capacity and so on. Auctions are transparent. Common access, too, is completely transparent, provided the usage and payment systems have integrity.

If there are few operators (three or four), each can be allocated 20 MHz or more for exclusive use. In such circumstances, the relative merits are not obvious. However, in an emerging economy like India – without a ubiquitous network and with too little spectrum distributed among many operators – the logical choice for efficient spectrum management is common access.

Auctions often lead to service deprivation because of high costs (the "winner's curse"). However, there are exceptions, where bidding is kept reasonable, as in Finland, or France because of its timing, after the fiasco of the European auctions. The other alternatives, FCFS or beauty contests, can result in low or high costs depending on government policies. High fees ratchet up costs with windfall gains to government in the short term, but users are deprived of these funds for networks and services. For example, in India, while the government collected nearly Rs 1,03,000 crore for 3G and broadband wireless access auctions, new facilities and services have been slow. Instead, this spectrum is largely used to support 2G users.

Low fees would have improved the odds of high-quality and low-cost facilities, affordable pricing, and better coverage. The government, however, would have lost its short-term windfall gains.

Once the government sets the objective of affordable, high-quality services, the next steps will be:

(I) Spectrum allocation and management

The deciding criteria are:
# Technology: The rationale for optimal channel width is that with lower capital cost there is greater throughput with a 20 MHz band than with several smaller bands.

# Economics: The capital cost of shared facilities through common access is far lower than if each operator invested in separate access networks.

# Practical results: High-quality broadband in countries like Japan, Sweden and South Korea was built without spectrum auctions.

# Carbon footprint and resources: Both are minimised with shared facilities, such as towers and equipment.

These reasons make common spectrum the logical choice, as against auctions for exclusive allocations.

(II) Common network

The same logic of economics and carbon footprint/shared resources extends to the whole network. The rationale of common access for oil pipelines, railways, airways, roadways and electricity networks applies equally to communications networks.

A common network is, therefore, a logical and environmentally sound choice. The question is: How best to own and operate it?

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BUSINESS STANDARD

LAND AND THE SOVEREIGN'S RESPONSIBILITY

VINAYAK CHATTERJEE

 

Exasperated with the public perception of its role, the Indian government appears keen to somehow abdicate its key sovereign function of making land available for economic development by dumping it on the private sector. This is wrong. The maintenance of up-to-date land records, the scientific identification of tracts for a shift from agricultural to non-agricultural uses and the smooth transfer of land assets are the functions of the sovereign. The Land Acquisition (Amendment) Bill, 2009, to be introduced in conjunction with the National Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill (R&R Bill), as originally formatted, for all practical purpose, threw the baby out with the bath water.

In the ongoing debate on the Land Acquisition Bill, the National Advisory Council (NAC) has got the perspective right. It is advocating that the government play a proactive role and not leave it entirely to private hands and market forces. It is also recommending that the issues of land acquisition, R&R and economic development be seen as a holistic effort and hence the two separate Bills, the Land Acquisition (Amendment) Bill and the R&R Bill, should be consolidated and integrated under the possible title of the National Development, Acquisition, Displacement and Rehabilitation Act. Finally, it is prescribing that a National Commission for Land Acquisition, Resettlement and Rehabilitation be set up, with powers to supervise and exercise oversight over land acquisition, resettlement and rehabilitation. It will do this in three ways. One, by promoting public accountability and ensuring compliance with legally established policies, procedures and practices. Two, by mediating and responding to complaints and dis putes in the capacity of an ombudsman. And three, by advising the government.

 

 The NAC's recommendations would certainly please large sections of industry by making the process of acquiring land more participative as well as transparent. The NAC feels that if the acquisition affects less than 400 households, industry has a choice. It can either buy directly from farmers or request the state government. But for large projects affecting more than 400 households, industry should come to the government. Industry will have to bear the entire cost of not only the land acquisition but also rehabilitation and resettlement. This is an eminently fair and practical suggestion.

The NAC's viewpoints come as a breath of fresh air and a reaffirmation of "going back to practical realities" by large sections of the private sector. The Confederation of Indian Industry has for long been advocating that the state continue to play a developmental role in this crucial "factor of production", stridently putting forth its view through press releases, memoranda to government, and espousing the cause at public fora. This is also in a context where certain industry bodies and industry leaders have been toeing the line of "leave it to market forces" without understanding fully the difficulties and consequences.

Identifying large tracts of land and their subsequent acquisition should be sterilised politically. This means that land is acquired ex-ante, and partially or fully developed, before it is allocated to a particular private sector entity, or entities, and before controversies erupt over government acting at the behest of any particular industrial group. The clause "public purpose" should be redefined to empower the state to acquire land not only for infrastructure or defence purposes but also for developing land for potential use by private sector-led industrial, commercial or institutional purposes. This is all the more relevant in an era when public private partnership is being encouraged in bus terminals, sports stadia, hospitals and so on.

Land Bank Corporations in the public domain would be an appropriate 21st century institutional response to fulfilling the required objectives. The focus of these State Land Bank Corporations would be to scientifically acquire large tracts of primarily non-cultivable land, develop them as land banks for the future, build appropriate infrastructure linkages and have a transparent mechanism to pass them on to the private sector. The Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill requirements should be handled by the Land Bank Corporations and the costs should be passed on to the private sector.

In case site requirements are large (like a refinery, or steel plant), or very specific (like a mine), it is clear that the effort has to go beyond ex-ante land banking. Here industry and the government have to work together. Buying land should be a tripartite arrangement and must involve the government, the seller and the buyer. The Land Bank Corporation can be the market maker. As Chief Economic Advisor Kaushik Basu wrote: "Modern economic theory ... comes out on the side of government intervention … the land acquisition process cannot be left to voluntary transactions. The state must have a role." Among the three classical factors of production, the government plays a pivotal role in developing and regulating capital and labour markets; it cannot excuse itself from the third factor of production — the land market.

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BUSINESS STANDARD

BY THE PEOPLE, OFF THE MARK

WEST BENGAL HAD A DEMOCRATIC ELECTION, BUT THE BUILD-UP TO IT CAN HARDLY BE CALLED SO

BARUN ROY

 

There couldn't have been a better example of India's democracy at work than the Election Commission of India's handling of the recent Assembly election in West Bengal. The task was difficult but performed with such efficiency and diligence that one can't help but greet it with unqualified praise. It was a triumph of democracy that every Indian should be proud of.

But that's only one side of the story. The other side isn't a particularly savoury one and raises doubts if India can really be, in spirit, called a mature democratic nation. For, the democratic battle in West Bengal between the two main protagonists, the Left Front and Trinamool Congress, was fought in a not so democratic manner and brought out the worst of our undemocratic instincts, and, thus, our biggest democratic challenges.

 

Both sides used threats and armed might to peddle their authority. People in many areas in rural West Bengal lived in constant political fear. Many were driven from home, or killed. Arms proliferated, bomb-making became a cottage industry, vigilante camps mushroomed and extortion became an established political practice.

Political decency stooped to its lowest depths. Leaders on both sides used language that was openly abusive, lacked culture and belonged in the world of gangsters and criminals. Masks came off bhadraloks, campaigning became a slang fest and political speeches assumed the character of frenzied calls to war. Often, the attacks became personal.

Intolerance and disrespect were the accepted values. If rank partisanship and arrogance did the Leftists in and led them to an inglorious exit from power, the opposition treated them no better and refused to acknowledge they even existed. Mamata Banerjee and her lieutenants treated Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee like a pariah and subjected him to a kind of political ostracism that's unheard of in a democracy.

In fact, the entire campaign against his government was based on an unfortunate, but deliberate, distortion of truth. Singur and Nandigram might have given Mamata a convenient political handle, but in neither place was the government at fault. Land in Singur, for Tata's Nano plant, was acquired legally (in accordance with existing law), with the concurrence of 83 per cent of the involved landowners, and after paying a compensation package that was, at that point in time, the best in the country.  In Nandigram, acquisition was considered, but the idea was abandoned even before the process could start, Buddhadeb promising that no chemical hub would be set up there.

But his was a cry in the wilderness. Having sniffed political blood, Mamata was in no mood to listen. Her campaigns became increasingly vitriolic and aggressive. Buddhadeb was portrayed as a dirty land grabber out to rob poor farmers of all their fertile lands to please private tycoons. The more he denied her allegations, the more she bayed.

When certain "intellectuals" – painters, writers, actors, dramatists, retired civil servants, equally averse to truth and fired with the same ambition of booting the CPI (M) out by any means – joined the fray, the campaign turned into a jihad, where people waited to be liberated from a hated tyrant. And, when police, unwisely, opened fire to tackle a combative crowd in Nandigram, killing 14 villagers, Buddhadeb was accused of genocide and regime change no longer remained a simple democratic desire. Some went to the extent of calling it a second war of independence. 

In the hysteria that followed, when skeletons from the CPI (M)'s often murky past were being systematically dug up with crusading zeal, the truths about Singur and Nandigram were lost forever from public memory. Even economists, who had earlier thought the chief minister was right with his industrial policy, wouldn't back him any more. Incumbency became a crime. Boycott of the government and destruction of its legitimacy became the only desirable goal.

Could the opposition have fought Singur and Nandigram in a court of law, as would have been the right democratic thing to do? No, because there was no case. Were the Leftists victims of their failure to communicate well with the people? Yes, but when hysteria is in the air and rumours are deliberately dressed up as truth, who would listen? Or believe? So, Trinamool's siege of a national highway and Mamata's rampage in the Assembly House in the wake of Singur, for which there wasn't even an apology, were written off as genuine expressions of protest.

It was even convenient for many to forget that the agreement reached at the Raj Bhavan between Buddhadeb and Mamata was for returning to farmers the maximum possible of the acquired Singur land, not 400 acres as Mamata kept claiming. So, yes, West Bengal has had a democratic election all right, and a much-awaited change of regime, but the build-up to it could hardly be called democratic; and continuing post-poll violence suggests that the follow-up isn't any different either.  

rbarun@gmail.com

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BUSINESS STANDARD

BY THE PEOPLE, OFF THE MARK

WEST BENGAL HAD A DEMOCRATIC ELECTION, BUT THE BUILD-UP TO IT CAN HARDLY BE CALLED SO

BARUN ROY

 

There couldn't have been a better example of India's democracy at work than the Election Commission of India's handling of the recent Assembly election in West Bengal. The task was difficult but performed with such efficiency and diligence that one can't help but greet it with unqualified praise. It was a triumph of democracy that every Indian should be proud of.

But that's only one side of the story. The other side isn't a particularly savoury one and raises doubts if India can really be, in spirit, called a mature democratic nation. For, the democratic battle in West Bengal between the two main protagonists, the Left Front and Trinamool Congress, was fought in a not so democratic manner and brought out the worst of our undemocratic instincts, and, thus, our biggest democratic challenges.

 

Both sides used threats and armed might to peddle their authority. People in many areas in rural West Bengal lived in constant political fear. Many were driven from home, or killed. Arms proliferated, bomb-making became a cottage industry, vigilante camps mushroomed and extortion became an established political practice.

Political decency stooped to its lowest depths. Leaders on both sides used language that was openly abusive, lacked culture and belonged in the world of gangsters and criminals. Masks came off bhadraloks, campaigning became a slang fest and political speeches assumed the character of frenzied calls to war. Often, the attacks became personal.

Intolerance and disrespect were the accepted values. If rank partisanship and arrogance did the Leftists in and led them to an inglorious exit from power, the opposition treated them no better and refused to acknowledge they even existed. Mamata Banerjee and her lieutenants treated Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee like a pariah and subjected him to a kind of political ostracism that's unheard of in a democracy.

In fact, the entire campaign against his government was based on an unfortunate, but deliberate, distortion of truth. Singur and Nandigram might have given Mamata a convenient political handle, but in neither place was the government at fault. Land in Singur, for Tata's Nano plant, was acquired legally (in accordance with existing law), with the concurrence of 83 per cent of the involved landowners, and after paying a compensation package that was, at that point in time, the best in the country.  In Nandigram, acquisition was considered, but the idea was abandoned even before the process could start, Buddhadeb promising that no chemical hub would be set up there.

But his was a cry in the wilderness. Having sniffed political blood, Mamata was in no mood to listen. Her campaigns became increasingly vitriolic and aggressive. Buddhadeb was portrayed as a dirty land grabber out to rob poor farmers of all their fertile lands to please private tycoons. The more he denied her allegations, the more she bayed.

When certain "intellectuals" – painters, writers, actors, dramatists, retired civil servants, equally averse to truth and fired with the same ambition of booting the CPI (M) out by any means – joined the fray, the campaign turned into a jihad, where people waited to be liberated from a hated tyrant. And, when police, unwisely, opened fire to tackle a combative crowd in Nandigram, killing 14 villagers, Buddhadeb was accused of genocide and regime change no longer remained a simple democratic desire. Some went to the extent of calling it a second war of independence. 

In the hysteria that followed, when skeletons from the CPI (M)'s often murky past were being systematically dug up with crusading zeal, the truths about Singur and Nandigram were lost forever from public memory. Even economists, who had earlier thought the chief minister was right with his industrial policy, wouldn't back him any more. Incumbency became a crime. Boycott of the government and destruction of its legitimacy became the only desirable goal.

Could the opposition have fought Singur and Nandigram in a court of law, as would have been the right democratic thing to do? No, because there was no case. Were the Leftists victims of their failure to communicate well with the people? Yes, but when hysteria is in the air and rumours are deliberately dressed up as truth, who would listen? Or believe? So, Trinamool's siege of a national highway and Mamata's rampage in the Assembly House in the wake of Singur, for which there wasn't even an apology, were written off as genuine expressions of protest.

It was even convenient for many to forget that the agreement reached at the Raj Bhavan between Buddhadeb and Mamata was for returning to farmers the maximum possible of the acquired Singur land, not 400 acres as Mamata kept claiming. So, yes, West Bengal has had a democratic election all right, and a much-awaited change of regime, but the build-up to it could hardly be called democratic; and continuing post-poll violence suggests that the follow-up isn't any different either.  

rbarun@gmail.com

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BUSINESS LINE

OPINION

WHY MICROFINANCE NEEDS THE BILL

A legislative framework that enables the healthy growth of the microfinance sector will help avoid the ills that have plagued the cooperative banks.

It is not surprising that the Microfinance Sector (Development and Regulation) Bill has gone back into cold storage. Critics would even question whether this stillborn Bill had ever come out of deep freeze in the first place. After all, the Bill was first proposed over four years ago and introduced in Parliament shortly after. It was meant to enable the orderly growth of microfinance institutions, provide universal access to such finance by the poor and disadvantaged classes, and regulate the sector. Unfortunately, with the end of previous Lok Sabha, the proposed Bill died an unsung death. There have since been some tame attempts at reviving it; a few months ago, the Centre was believed to be busy framing a Bill, but decided, again, to defer it. The trigger for another attempt at framing legislation was the impact of developments in the MFI sector in Andhra Pradesh over the past year that led to a confrontation between the AP State government and the Reserve Bank of India. Both claim their respective right of jurisdiction on the MFI sector — the former pointing to the RBI's inability to monitor MFI operations at the ground level and criticising its faith in self-regulation by MFIs.

The State Government has also asserted the sovereign right of the State legislature to frame the necessary laws on the subject and implement them, even if it is at variance with what the RBI says. For instance, the Act mandates that Government permission is required before MFIs disburse loans and that collection of dues must be done only at a public place. Dual regulation for the microfinance sector is a reality we have to live with, given the constraints of our federal system. Despite legislative areas being demarcated between the Centre and State to minimise conflict, there are situations and developments that defeat those good intentions. So, while money-lending is a State subject under the Constitution, the RBI is the regulator for those NBFCs engaged in this business. The situation is tailor-made for conflicts, which flare up whenever a financial institution gets into a crisis. This has happened repeatedly in the cooperative banking sector, where the RBI has slowly wrested control in bank after mismanaged bank and tried to impose some discipline on State governments that often directly or indirectly contribute to the problem.

It has been argued that the existence of an interest rate cap, a limit on margins and RBI regulation over the main NBFCs engaged in the MFI business make the need for a Central legislation redundant. It is also pointed out that the volume of business for MFIs in places other than Andhra Pradesh is low. While this may be true for now, it would be wise to plan for the future and put in place a legislative framework that allows for a healthier growth of the microfinance sector. The sooner the Centre gets a grip on this, the better, as it would help avoid the ills that have plagued the co-operative sector.

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BUSINESS LINE

OPINION

IPR RULES AND THEIR UNCERTAIN EFFECTS

MADHUKAR SINHA

If TRIPS has not yielded some of the expected benefits, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement that seeks cross-border IPR protection only gives rise to another set of concerns.

When the TRIPS (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) Agreement came into force in 1995, it was the most comprehensive multilateral agreement on IPRs (Intellectual Property Rights). Globally, it set the minimum standards for protecting and enforcing almost all forms of IPR, including patents.

To comply with the TRIPS obligations, developing countries had to make significant changes to their IP laws.

These nations were told that since TRIPS expanded and strengthened IPR protection, there would be an increased flow of FDI (foreign direct investment) and technology transfer, besides local innovation being stimulated.

Fifteen years later, looking at where India and other developing nations stand in terms of intellectual property and FDI, it is clear that the promises of benefits from TRIPS have not all come true. For instance, the technological gap between the North and the South has not narrowed.

Many developing countries had then voiced the fear that higher IPR protection would actually limit access to technology. Critics had also warned that TRIPS would foster an environment favouring developed countries with advanced national systems of innovation where multinational companies hold patents over many high-technology products they can manufacture or sell worldwide.

TRIPS essentially has an innate inclination to favour big companies seeking returns from existing innovations, making future innovations more difficult for the less technologically advanced countries. Even within developed nations, over-protective IP regimes have been seen to have a negative impact on downstream innovations.

CORRELATION WITH FDI FLOWS

On the supposed link between stronger IP laws and higher FDI inflows, there is little evidence to substantiate such claims. Instead, data on FDI inflows to nations with low IPR protection indicates that FDI was not hindered by this. In Brazil, FDI rose substantially after the 1970s, until the debt crisis of 1985. Thailand experienced an FDI boom in the 1980s.

Conversely, many developing nations that adopted stringent IPR laws still failed to show significant FDI inflows. This lends credence to the argument that FDI inflows are likely influenced by many factors such as availability of skills, R&D infrastructure, macro-economic policies, and so on, rather than only the IPR protection level.

After the TRIPS experience, developing nations are again at the crossroads since the ACTA (Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement) looms large.

Unlike the multilateral TRIPS, ACTA is a plurilateral agreement on enforcement of IP rights among a group comprising the US, Japan, the European Union, Australia, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea, Canada, Singapore and Switzerland.

Concerns over ACTA

There are some potential areas of concern with ACTA, as proposing nations seek to increase cross-border protection of IPRs beyond the present multilateral regime's coverage.

ACTA seeks to empower judges to issue injunctions not only against accused infringers but against third parties too; thereby, suppliers of materials used to produce a product infringing IPRs might be subject to these provisions even if they themselves have not violated IPRs anywhere.

Provision of damages could lead to excess valuation of damages to the rightsholder as it allows judges to use "lost profits, value of infringed goods or services measured by the market price or the suggested retail price", as submitted by the rights-holder in estimating the total damages.

ACTA would allow the Customs authorities to act on their own initiative against 'suspect' in-transit goods. Even if goods are in transit between two nations not party to ACTA but the transit port is in an ACTA member's territory, the latter can act against 'suspect' in-transit goods. Moreover, ACTA doesn't need legal establishment of IPR violations.

Furthermore, if goods don't violate IPRs in the nation of origin or the destination country, but are suspected of doing so in the transit country that's an ACTA member, the latter can "suspend the release of, or detain" the suspect goods. Although these provisions don't cover patents and won't justify seizures of Indian drugs (as happened in Europe in 2008), they could be applied to other forms of IPRs.

For example, if it is alleged that a drugs consignment used trademarks incorrectly, ACTA provisions would apply automatically, seriously jeopardising legitimate trade in generics, particularly in the absence of effective judicial review norms. Worse, with no prescribed time limit for the Customs to initiate legal action, the goods could be detained indefinitely.

Given the certainty of such unsavoury incidents, it is imperative that India and other like-minded nations assess the potential impact of ACTA on their legitimate trade and social interests. Developing nations would do well to also bear in mind that while TRIPS contained provisions permitting some degree of flexibility for countries to accommodate their own patent and intellectual property systems and development needs, ACTA allows no such leeway with its TRIPS-plus provisions.

(The author is Professor, Centre for WTO Studies, Indian Institute of Foreign Trade.The views are personal.)

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

LOKPAL'S LIMITS

THE LOKPAL SHOULD HAVE POWERS TO PROBE MINISTERS AND BABUS, NOT MPS AND JUDGES

 

 The government and assorted civil society representatives — some self-proclaimed — are in a tizzy about how to define the ambit of the ombudsman to keep a check on corruption. The answer is simple: restrict it to the functioning executive. This means that the Lokpal should have jurisdiction over ministries, including the Prime Minister and the PMO. Ministries and various departments are the functioning arms of the government, which make and enforce rules that are vital for trade, commerce, investment and almost every facet of people's lives. The root of corruption lies in these rules, how and why they are created and when they are bent to favour some and fix others. People say that it's unnecessary to bring the Prime Minister's office under the ambit of the Lokpal. This is not correct. The Prime Minister is the head of the Cabinet but he's also the first among equals; he is a minister, as liable to scrutiny as his peers. But politics is fickle and politicians seldom survive in power for long. The structure of regulation — and graft — is held together by bureaucracy, which has fixed tenures and near-immunity from prosecution. This immunity, too, has to go and bureaucracy brought under the ambit of the ombudsman. Unless rule-makers and enforcers are open to scrutiny, the Lokpal will be truly toothless.
That said, the Lokpal should not have unlimited powers. For example, it shouldn't have any jurisdiction over the conduct of members of Parliament. The legislators are accountable to their political parties and to the people who elect them. That will suffice. Finally, the Constitution has made the judiciary independent of the executive so that it can act as an effective check on the latter. This independence has to be respected and the Lokpal shouldn't meddle with the judiciary. In any conflict, the courts will be the final arbiter, not the ombudsman. True, we do need to institute oversight of the judiciary but not through the Lokpal. That task should vest with a committee of the legislature. The constitutional scheme of checks and balances and separation of powers would be strengthened by restricting the Lokpal's remit to the executive, and damaged, if not.

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

POWER FAILURE

POWER SECTOR REFORM HAS ABORTED AND REQUIRES URGENT POLITICAL ACTION


A front page report in this newspaper on an impending crisis in the power (ET, June 1) cites serious shortage of coal and mounting losses in state electricity boards (SEBs). Clearly, power sector reforms have gone off the rails and call for urgent remedial action. The losses of SEBs already a staggering . 70,000 crore or nearly 1% of the 2010-11GDP, according to the Planning Commission, are likely to grow to . 1,50,000 crore by 2014-15. This is untenable. It clearly shows that reforms including the Electricity Act 2003 and the creation of independent regulatory commissions to improve the financial viability of the power sector have not worked. The power sector is starved of fuel, cannot levy and realise realistic tariffs and is overseen by regulators who have no teeth to ensure viability of the sector. The resulting paucity of electricity will cripple the Indian economy's growth targets. As the sector turns financially unviable, there is the real danger of those having lent to the sector coming under stress. Real reform brooks no delay.


The paucity of coal, even for pit head plants, stems from state monopoly of coal mining and inefficient mining practices restricted to open cast mining with attendant large-scale environmental damage. The government should scrap the Coal Nationalisation Act and throw the sector open to commercial mining that replaces inefficient captive mining and undertakes beneficiation of coal before dispatch. In tandem, power theft needs to stamped out, which is at the root of SEB losses. A few states such as Gujarat and West Bengal have taken explicit political decisions to stamp out power theft, reaping rich dividends. Other states should muster the political will to end patronage of all theft of power. If tariffs have to go up, they must. Regulatory subservience to populist political pressures is not something the Electricity Act had foreseen. The law needs to be amended to bring in the central regulator's intervention when it sees incompetence or worse on the part of state level regulators. Power must become a commercially viable sector for the Indian economy to sustain growth.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

BLEEDING HEARTS

ARE THEY CRUCIAL EQUIPMENT FOR THE LEGAL PROFESSION?


It is not surprising that the Delhi High Court has rejected eminent lawyer Shanti Bhushan's contention that his heart is essential to the conduct of his profession and should be regarded as a 'plant', and expenses incurred upon its upkeep, eligible for tax deduction under the relevant provisions of the Income Tax Act. Indeed, Mr Bhushan's claim that a heart was as germane to his profession as fingers are to a cricketer or a guitarist, would also be dismissed by many ordinary people who firmly believe that lawyers are the only species on Earth who survive and thrive without that vital organ. Their presumption would be bolstered by Mr Bhushan's own earlier argument before the IT Appellate Tribunal that the heart bypass operation he had undergone nearly 20 years ago was "not a life saving operation" but merely a requirement to carry on his profession more efficiently and actively. Of course, that Mr Bhushan has sought to have the heart deemed a piece of machinery and therefore subject to taxdeductible repairs, rather than a throbbing (and bleeding) item of mortal ephemera, is indicative of how lawyers actually regard it. In this context, the court's observation that the heart should then have been listed as an 'asset' in Mr Bhushan's I-T returns, is very valid and it would be interesting to see how many lawyers take it to heart.


Whichever way his case goes in the Supreme Court, Mr Bhushan should consider public interest litigation on the broad point. As good health and life itself form a pre-requisite for all professions, the whole human body should be considered a 'plant, machinery or furniture' and thus eligible for all relevant tax sops for repairs and insurance, to maximise its usage. Then judges and the people may be more inclined to buy his original contention.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

GUEST COLUMN

AUDITING CONGRESS INC AND BJP LTD

THE POLITICAL REFORM PROCESS MUST BEGIN WITH MANDATORY DISCLOSURE OF FINANCIAL ACCOUNTS BY PARTIES

 

 Are the audited financial accounts of political parties available for public scrutiny? Technically, yes: they are submitted every year to the income tax (IT) department — but crucially not to the Election Commission (EC). Political parties are exempt from paying income tax and accessing their annual balance sheets from the IT department is a tortuous process. The accounts submitted to the EC are principally details of funds received and spent by parties during specific elections. The EC does not mandatorily require submission of annual audited profit and loss accounts. Three years ago, the Chief Information Commissioner (who has quasi-judicial status) declared that political parties were "public authorities". It was only after this declaration that most parties began to submit their audited balance sheets on a regular basis to the IT department — though still not, a senior Election Commission officer confirmed, to the EC, contradicting the Congress spokespersons' official position.
The balance sheets hide more than they reveal. Large national political parties like the Congress and the BJP receive funds through donations. In 2008-09 (the latest available audited accounts), for example, the Congress had total income of .496.88 crore (see chart). The EC cap for a Lok Sabha candidate's expenditure is .40 lakh. Actual expenditure varies between .10 crore and .50 crore per Lok Sabha seat. A major national party contesting, say, 400 Lok Sabha seats as part of a larger coalition would spend at a conservative estimate at least .4,000 crore during a major election campaign. If a party's total income is .500 crore, the deficit of .3,500 crore is obviously made up through unofficial corporate donations. Illegal gratification from myriad scams — 2G spectrum, Commonwealth Games, rice exports, PPP infrastructure projects, etc — also finds its way into the electoral system. The key to reducing this corruption is tough, uncompromising public scrutiny of the expenditure and income of political parties. As declared "public authorities", political parties must face at least the same level of scrutiny as, for example, listed entities governed by Sebi's strict regulatory code. Political parties must put up on their websites audited balance sheets. Crucially, these balance sheets must reveal a list of all donors. It is important to know which business house or individual has donated how much to which party. Possible conflicts of interest would then unravel.


As an electoral reform, state funding is a red herring because it won't solve the problem of black money spent during elections. No audit can prevent illegal cash from going into the deep coffers of political parties. As long as India's black economy comprises an estimated 30-50% of the real economy, political parties — like businessmen — will exploit this structural lacuna. But mandatory public disclosure of the financial statements of political parties will be the first important step in stemming the use of black money in our political system which sustains and nurtures corrupt electoral practices — from bribing voters in cash or kind to horsetrading of MLA and MPs.


Political corruption takes many forms: illegal mining leases, electricity and water theft, skimming of NREGA funds meant for the poor, the road contractor-municipal nexus and in-built PPP commissions. Unfortunately, vested political interests and their media proxies have deliberately muddied the issue of political corruption. No one — certainly not anti-corruption activist Anna Hazare — has accused Indian voters of being corrupt, a quote some senior commentators are misleadingly attributing to him today. What anti-corruption activists have said and continue to say is that many (not all, many) Indian politicians are corrupt and bribe voters in order to reap the rich fruits of office. We saw this clearly in Tamil Nadu. That the voters of Tamil Nadu did not succumb to such illegal inducements demonstrates that: (a) most voters are wise, (b) many (far too many) politicians are corrupt, and (c) given the above, the electorate is at constant risk of being exploited. Voters are not the problem. Politicians are.


    Politicians exploit every voter vulnerability — poverty, illiteracy, caste, region and religion — with a combination of muscle power and money. That exploitation has damaged the evolution of our democracy. Voters have to rise above this and they often do, as we saw recently in five assembly elections. But they would not need to if the attempt to exploit them was not made in the first place. By implying (falsely) that anti-corruption activists regard voters as corrupt, senior commentators are allowing political venality to escape criticism under cover of deliberate obfuscation.


The momentum built up by anti-corruption civil society activists for political reform is fortunately now unstoppable. Voters are increasingly educated, enlightened and empowered — a stated objective of the proactive Chief Election Commissioner S Y Quraishi. The EC has already exceeded its official mandate by (rightly) taking suo motu action against political parties directly bribing voters before elections. It is considering debarring candidates against whom a criminal chargesheet has been filed. And most importantly, it is debating whether it should derecognise (it does not yet have the power to de-register) political parties which do not publish their audited accounts or give tickets to candidates with criminal records.


To introduce professionalism and good governance in our politics, the EC must now introduce mandatory term limitations for office bearers of political parties at all levels, including president, to encourage real internal democracy. Violation should attract automatic de-recognition of the offending political party. As "public authorities", political parties must set, not lower, the standard of best practice. Our voters and democracy deserve nothing less.

 

MINHAZ MERCHANT

CHAIRMAN, MERCHANT MEDIA LTD

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

NEURAL NET

IT'S ALL IN THE MIND

RAKESH BEDI


December 7: "I am strong enough to break the history of mankind in two." December 18: "The world will be standing on its head for the next few years...I shall rule the world from now on." December 21: "...Today no other name is treated with so much distinction and reverence as mine." December 25: "In two months I shall be the foremost name on earth." December 29: "The most remarkable thing here is...the complete fascination that I exert — over all classes of people. With every glance I am treated like a prince."


No, these lines are not the rabid ravings of a hallucinating Hitler, neither have they been written by a megalomaniac Mugabe nor by a grandstanding Gaddafi and certainly not by the self-proclaimed troubadour of Tora Bora, Osama. These grandiose pronouncements are epistolary gleanings from Nietzsche's correspondence at the end of 1888, a few days before he embraced a badly whipped horse in Turin on January 3, 1889 and descended into complete madness, ending his career as aphilosopher (Nietzsche lived for another 11 years, suffering from dementia paralytica, but as a mute witness to the world around him, for he could neither speak nor write).


The genetic code of philosophers and long-ruling and people-hating dictators must be similar; the only strain that is perhaps different is in their brain. A philosopher sits in complete solitude in his chair in his room and lords over his mind while a dictator sits surrounded by courtiers (or by female bodyguards, as the case may be) and sits on a throne (or in a tent, as the case may be) and lords over his territory using all the deviousness that his mind makes available to him. But both — the seer and the tyrant — think of humanity. Philosophers are seers and they see so much and in so many colours that the sheer abundance of their thought can make them nuts. Too much cogitation can lead to uncontrollable mental agitation and madness. Dictators are tyrants who take off from philosophers and try to build grandiose projects using their imaginings as a foundation. Many of their projects remain grandiloquent gestures and end up as boondoggles, sending their always-active minds straight into boondocks. Like Rousseau, when he had his epiphany at 37, they collapse, not under a tree but everywhere, even in a fortified compound in Abbottabad, trying furiously to keep their carefully built image intact, with dyes and desiccated dreams. Hitler owed a debt to Nietzsche, who was part of the inner circle of Wagner, a philosopher-musician whose vision exerted a great pull on Nazis and their fuhrer. The Jew-hating Wagner, whose music was used in Dachau and some say in other death camps too, wrote in his essay Das Judenthum in der Musik how Jews are alien to German culture. His strong vision for his Fatherland came coupled with Jew-baiting, something Hitler, who fancied himself a philosopher, also inherited. The fuhrer fumed all the time against Jews and ended up annihilating millions of them in his death camps where he relentlessly gassed them to extinction.


Osama, an ardent follower of Sayyid Qutb, had this crazy vision of a pan-Islamic world which stayed with him all his life, as a mujahid against the Russians and as a globally bombing terrorist always at war with the United States. Qutb set his intense face against the Americans, so did Osama, his acolyte in thought but not in deed. His manic vision forced him to crash jetliners into the twin towers killing, at one stroke, thousands. Aphilosophy easily turned into hate, a diabolic and murderous hate.


Mugabe, revered in Zimbabwe when he started as a leader, is now abominated and excoriated by the same people who loved him with all they had. His atrocious rule, and there are no signs of it ending, has extinguished the lives of thousands and has purged, with dogged intensity, his country of whites, a colour Mugabe detests with all the strength he can muster at 87. His brutal treatment of his opponent Tsvangirai was a chilling reminder of how a philosophy taken to its extremes can go so utterly and horribly wrong. A despot is a philosopher manque. Tyrants give as swag to their countries and their people an oppressive life, desecrated freedoms and enormous devastation. The mind is just the source of the depredation that affects an entire nation and its hapless millions. In the case of genuine philosophers, their mind is where the tumult takes place, sometimes leaving it atrophied and bereft of ideas, even crazy ones. Insanity binds both, but its repercussions are vastly different.

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

CURSOR

TO AFRICA WITH LOVE, OF ONESELF

T K ARUN

 

Aland of poverty and backwardness, full of magicians and wild beasts: that description is not of Africa but of India. That was how a senior journalist from the Democratic Republic of Congo had imagined India to be till a couple of years ago, based on the information then available to her.


Of course, with Ram Dev occupying the national centrestage and experts ratcheting up poverty estimates every passing day, the Congolese journalist hadn't perhaps been all that misinformed. But that little bit of missing information makes for all the difference between myth and reality. The lack of awareness in India about Africa is probably even greater. Such mutual ignorance aborts opportunities for bettering lives in both India and Africa.


Of course, Africa is not a unitary entity that India can engage with as a whole. At present, Africa is organised into 54 countries (55, if you recognise the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic that broke away from Morocco as a separate state). Before European colonisation, Africa had some 10,000 different political units. Some of those old affiliations survived the colonial experience of coalescence into larger units. Later, these loyalties survived decolonised organisation into modern nation-states. As the departing colonial powers drew straight-line borders to create new states, communities found themselves torn asunder and thrown into different countries, while other communities found themselves closeted with traditional enemies to form new nations devoid of internal cohesion. Wars and civil wars were the natural consequence.


Much of this has subsided, and the economies of Africa are now growing rapidly and consistently. The African region's combined growth rate is expected to be 4.5% this year. This might seem slow to Indians today but three decades ago, India would have considered that a miracle rate of growth. Per capita incomes are rising, consumption growing, feeding aspirations. This growth offers a huge opportunity for Indian business, sections of which have already moved in. African papers carry full page advertisements for Tata trucks. Bajaj three-wheelers have already started clogging some city streets. Many Africans recognise NIIT as an Indian company that empowers them to be part of the new age business. Bharti's acquisition of Kuwaiti telecom company Zain's operations in 15 African countries for $10.7 billion has created another vital Indian connection for Africa. Bangalore-based Karuturis grow roses in Kenya and Ethiopia, from where they export 650 million flowers (stems, in the trade's jargon) to Europe. Karuturi represents the new breed of Indian businessman in Africa — not the too clever-by-half trader from an insular, resident Indian community that refuses to mingle with the larger society, but a sophisticated modern employer who conscientiously follows local labour laws and goes beyond, to ensure acceptance. Karuturi's more ambitious plan to acquire hundreds of thousands of hectares of land to grow the food that a prospering world demands in everrising quantities is raising some local eyebrows, though. Businessmen coming out of India seem to meld well into African expectations. Their reputation is benign, compared to that of the Chinese, considered hustlers oblivious to local sensitivities.
The government of India is proactive on Africa, as the recent India-African Union summit showed. India has offered billions of dollars worth of lines of credit, apart from capacity-building projects. The Africans complain of tardy implementation, but of little else.


A symposium of African and Indian editors at Addis Ababa, an initiative of India's external affairs ministry, discussed how to enhance Africa's presence in Indian media and India's presence in African media. It is easier to generate news and features about each other than to persuade local media to carry these. Should an Indian news editor carry news on Africa when she is starved of space for a story from, say, Trichy? It is vital to create demand for each other's news among readers.

This is where business and Bollywood can help. If Bharti's stock takes a hit because of its Africa operations, its shareholders might be interested in the developments that hurt their company. Similarly, if Bollywood heroes and heroines cavort in Africa's spectacular locales, Indians are likely to follow in their trail, as tourists and eager consumers of celebrity news. It would make sense for the government of India to offer aid to African countries by way of incentives for Indian film units to shoot in Africa! African music, which resonates in Kerala's drums as much as in a range of American music that has a keen following among India's urban young, offers another link with rich potential.


It is time India and Africa started seeing each other directly, rather than through a western prism.

 

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MUMBAI MIRROR

EDITORIAL

TILL HUMAN VOICES WAKE US

ONE OF THE MAJOR THEMES OF THE LITERATURE OF THE LAST CENTURY WAS NON-COMMUNICATION


Years ago, books from Russia, especially books for children were available here very inexpensively. I still have one of them, How Dunno Became a Poet by Nikolai Nosov. It's so charming that I wish I had bought the set. Dunno is a small boy, and "when nothing came of Dunno's efforts to be an artist, he decided to become a poet". So he goes to see a senior poet and asks him to teach him to write. "Have you any talent?" asked Posey. "Of course I have. I'm very talented," said Dunno.

 

But Dunno fails Posey's tests. A rhyme for 'waiter'? 'Mister'. A rhyme for 'scissors?' 'Zizzers. Fizzers…' Frustrated, Dunno tells Posey to find a rhyme for 'scissors' himself. Posey "stood in the middle of the room, crossed his arms on his chest, cocked his head on one side, and began to think. Ultimately he concedes there is no rhyme for that particular word. "My head's going round," Posey says. "Write anything you like as long as it rhymes and makes sense, and that will be a poem."

 

Dunno writes poems about his friends: "Hungry Swifty, I am told,/Ate an iron that was cold." Swifty is outraged. "I never ate a cold iron in my life!" "Don't shout. I said it was cold just for the sake of the rhyme." "But I never ate a hot one, either," cried Swifty.

 

At the other end of the spectrum, there is T S Eliot's Prufrock who finds it impossible to communicate with the people in the elite circles in which he moves. "If one, settling a pillow or throwing off a shawl,/And turning toward the window, should say,/'That is not it at all,/That is not what I meant, at all." At the end of the poem there are some of the most poignant lines ever written about the life of the imagination, and the shock of uncomprehending humanity. "We have lingered in the chambers of the sea/By sea girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown/Till human voices wake us and we drown."

 

 One of the major themes of the literature of the last century was noncommunication. Attitudes to religion, war, morals, the meaning of life changed rapidly, with the writings of Darwin, the horrors of the Great War, and other such. The language of the novel, painting, theatre all changed. Readers can hardly be faulted if they weren't too sure of what to make of some of the work of Eliot, Joyce, Ezra Pound.

 

But for the most part, the mismatch between author and reader has more ordinary reasons. We tend to have preconceived ideas about writing: a poem should be in the Romantic mode, a novel should have a clear plot. We forget that the views of the characters in a novel are not necessarily those of the author. The "I" in a poem or a novel doesn't mean it's the author speaking in a confessional mode. The reviewer/critic who describes a book doesn't necessarily subscribe to all its values. It's one of the hazards of writing. Once a text is published, an author has no control over its reception.

 

 It's sometimes helpful to find a way into a text, particularly if it is unfamiliar or difficult. Students, for instance, when reading Eliot's The Wasteland, find it useful to use an approach suggested by the fragmentary form of the poem itself. Certain episodes lend themselves to instant recognition: the loveless marriage of Albert and Lil, the nervy, hysterical woman whose partner offers her no reassurance, the typist who is so bored by sex that all she does when her "lover" leaves is "to smooth her hair with automatic hand/and put a record on the gramophone". Then one can explore the other great theme, the possibility of salvation.


    As Eliot himself says, "Genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood."

 

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                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

PAK: US IS FOOLING NO ONE, ONLY ITSELF

 

Two recent developments are a parable for what is wrong with Pakistan. But they are no less a reminder of the abiding mystery that the United States should continue to have faith in the sincerity of the Pakistani armed forces to deliver the goods in the fight against jihadist terrorism even after the rubicon was crossed, namely Al Qaeda chieftain Osama bin Laden was found living for many years in a garrison town near Islamabad. The murder earlier this week of Pakistani journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad is thought by Pakistanis to be the handiwork of the Inter-Services Intelligence, the dreaded spy wing of the Pakistan armed forces. The ISI had a history of run-ins with Mr Shahzad and the last straw was his disclosure that the attack on the Mehran naval base in Karachi on May 22 could be accomplished because the Al Qaeda had developed a network within the Pakistan Navy. This incident had attracted world attention as many began to worry that it would be no big deal for jihadists to get into a Pakistani nuclear facility if they had the organisational panache to breach Mehran, which is guarded to the teeth. The concentric circles of anxieties also naturally raised questions about the extent to which the Pakistani armed forces as a whole, including the ISI at all levels, were subverted by the ideology of jihadism. This issue has been in the air for a number of years but an urgency has now come to be associated with it since it is commonly held — rightly or wrongly — that the endgame in the Afghan theatre could be near. In the event, if the jihadists have overtaken the Pakistan armed forces it is they who would be directing the politics of that endgame, whether the US likes this or not. A denouement such as this is hardly calculated to cause any comfort to India which has its own sound reasons to stay engaged with Afghanistan. While questions on the political morality of America's involvement with the Pakistan armed forces are suddenly brought into relief by the chance murder of an enterprising journalist whose last articles told us of the extent of bonding between the Pakistan military and the jihadists that Washington is sworn to fight, another fascinating facet of the Washington-Islamabad axis, which has just been exposed, is no less an instructive tale. On Tuesday, David Coleman Headley revealed to a Chicago court the plan of Ilyas Kashmiri, a former Pakistan Army officer-turned Al Qaeda's James Bond, to send out his scouts in the US to monitor the movements of Lockheed Martin's CEO with a view to mounting an assassination bid. Mr Kashmiri — known in this country for coordinating ISI-Al Qaeda efforts in Kashmir — wanted to kill the head of the company that makes the drones operating in Pakistan's North Waziristan tribal belt where Al Qaeda has thrived. The alleged ISI killing of Mr Shahzad, and Mr Kashmiri's reported attempt to mount a particular assassination, together speak to us of the incorporated efforts of the same combine. With one of them Washington is inextricably linked for reasons which may not seem to everyone to be good enough. After Bin Laden's killing, Washington sought to play down — witness the recent observations in Islamabad by US secretary of state Hillary Clinton — the Pakistan military/ISI role in sheltering the Al Qaeda chief, saying only lower level operatives might have been involved. America could be fooling no one except itself.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

IT'S TIME TO WAKA WAKA

 

The recent India-Africa summit held in Ethiopia may mark the beginning of a new phase of Indian engagement with Africa. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh held out a credit line of $5.7 billion and a slew of projects for African countries. The economic sinews of Indian foreign policy are clearly giving it much greater reach and, hopefully, influence than before. Several commentators have remarked that India has come a long way from the airy resolutions and vacuous statements that characterised the era of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). But before we throw out the baby with the bath water, it may be useful to consider just how the current engagement with Africa differs from that of the past and what might be learnt from the experience of that period. Indian policy towards Africa began to take shape even before India formally attained Independence. It essentially rested on two pillars: a firm commitment to Africa's struggle against colonialism, and an effort to ensure that the emerging institutions of international politics reflected the concerns of the weak and subjugated. India's engagement with Africa was fired by idealism but was also deeply political. The first steps in giving shape to this policy were taken in September 1946 when South Africa promulgated the so-called Ghetto Act, which sought to segregate the Indian community in that country by restricting their ability to purchase and control land. The vice-president of the newly-constituted interim government of India, Jawaharlal Nehru, despatched a strong diplomatic contingent to the United Nations (UN) and piloted a resolution in the General Assembly calling for a repeal of the Act. This set the tone of India's policy with regard to racial discrimination. When the system of apartheid was formally instituted, India was quick to impose sanctions by severing its trade and travel links with South Africa. Later, in 1961, when South Africa sought to join the British Commonwealth, Nehru's India blocked the move by a veiled threat to relinquish its own membership of the Commonwealth. During these years, India also extended its support to other African countries that were caught in the vice of colonial rule. It scuppered an attempt by South Africa to annex the erstwhile League of Nations "mandate" of South-West Africa (present-day Namibia), opposed Britain's brutal suppression of the Mau Mau rebellion in Kenya, and despatched an Army brigade under the UN umbrella to Congo in 1961 to prevent that country from being rent apart by a dangerous Molotov cocktail of civil war, meddling by colonial powers and superpower competition. All this not only forged close political ties between India and Africa, but also gave India unprecedented legitimacy and standing in international affairs. Yet Nehru was no uncritical supporter of African leaders and their policies. He openly disapproved, for instance, of Ghana's first Prime Minister Kwame Nkrumah's attempts to promote a personality cult. In the post-Nehru years, the link with Africa was subsumed under the NAM. Nehru himself had never been particularly enthusiastic about such an organisation. And after his departure, India's engagement with the non-aligned countries of Africa grew routinised and captive to rhetorical sloganeering. Indira Gandhi sought to add a fresh dimension to this relationship by focusing on the inequities of the international economic system and calling for a New International Economic Order (NIEO) which would enable greater participation by and benefits to the developing countries. Although some of these ideas were influential, the package failed to gain purchase on the major powers. At the famous North-South summit at Cancun in 1981 and at a follow-on conference in New Delhi the next year, Indira Gandhi deplored the "protectionism of the Western countries" and called for "collective self-reliance" by the poor countries. This was an early articulation of the concept of South-South cooperation. But translating it into effective action proved rather difficult. This was the period when many developing countries fell into the grip of international financial institutions, incurring public debts that few of them were able to surmount. Besides, there was the contemporaneous example of East Asian countries (including China) that made rapid economic strides by embracing liberalisation. By the time India followed suit, the Cold War was at an end, rendering both NAM and NIEO empty acronyms. After a gap of nearly two decades, Indian policy towards Africa is yet again anchored in certain guiding principles and key interests. In this phase, though, economic relations have come to the fore. India's approach is shaped by the burgeoning needs of its economy in a number of areas: quality coal and oil for its energy requirements; key minerals for its fertiliser (and hence food) requirements; iron ore and non-ferrous metals for its industries. Africa is also an attractive market for Indian manufacturing and service industries. Lastly, there is the concern about China's large footprint in Africa and its efforts to corner natural resources in the continent. The Indian private sector was quicker than the government in getting off the blocks and has made its presence felt in Africa. But unlike Chinese companies, which are effectively arms of the government, Indian companies have been hamstrung by the government's inability to keep pace with their needs and ideas. The Prime Minister's visit will hopefully galvanise the official machinery. Yet, a purely economic relationship can only go so far in advancing our position and interests in Africa. New Delhi needs to think hard about what kind of political engagement it is willing to undertake. India's stand on the ongoing Libyan crisis — it abstained on the UN resolution and is now supportive of the African Union's efforts to facilitate a ceasefire — suggests that it is not shy of overt engagement in African matters. This is essential not merely to buy support for India's UN Security Council candidature, but also to signal its willingness to provide independent and credible leadership in international affairs. The history of its relations with Africa may provide New Delhi with some intellectual resources to move towards a more robust political engagement with the continent. * Srinath Raghavan is a Senior Fellow at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

THE HOLES THAT BIN LADEN HAD US DIG

 

Visiting West Asia last week, and then coming back to Washington, I am left with one overriding impression: Osama bin Laden really did a number on all of us. I am talking in particular about the Arab states, America and Israel — all of whom have deeper holes than ever to dig out of thanks to the Bin Laden decade, 2001 to 2011, and all of whom have less political authority than ever to make the hard decisions needed to get out of the holes. Let's start with the Arabs. In 2001, Bin Laden attacked the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon. Just a few months later, in 2002, the United Nations issued the "Arab Human Development Report", which described the very pathologies that produced Al Qaeda and prescribed remedies for overcoming them. The report, written by Arab experts, said the Arab states suffered from three huge deficits: a deficit of freedom and respect for human rights as the bases of good governance, a deficit of knowledge in the form of decent schooling and a deficit of women's empowerment. Instead of America and the Arab world making that report their joint post-Bin Laden agenda, they ignored it. Washington basically gave the Arab dictators a free pass to tighten their vise grip on their people — as long as these Arab leaders arrested, interrogated and held the Islamic militants in their societies and eliminated them as a threat to us. It wasn't meant as a free pass, and we really did have a security problem with jihadists, and we really didn't mean to give up on our freedom agenda — but Arab leaders, like Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, sensed where our priorities were. That is why Mubarak actually arrested the one Egyptian who dared to run against him for President in his last election, and he and the other Arab autocrats moved to install their sons as successors. As the Arab leaders choked their people that much tighter, along came Facebook, Twitter and cellphone cameras, which enabled those people to share grievances, organise rebellions, lose their fear and expose their leaders: "Smile, your brutality is on Candid Camera". That's the good news. The challenging news is that because of the Bin Laden decade, these newly-liberated Arab states are in an even deeper hole in terms of economic development, population growth and education. They each have a huge amount of catch-up to do that will require some painful economic and educational reforms. But as one can quickly detect from a visit to Cairo, right now Egypt has a political vacuum and, if anything, is tending towards more populist, less-market-oriented economics. Yet, in return for infusions of cash, Egypt will probably have to accept some kind of International Monetary Fund-like austerity-reform package and slash government employment — just when unemployment and expectations are now sky high. Right now, no Egyptian party or leader has the authority that will be required to implement such reforms. In America, former US President George W. Bush used the post-9/11 economic dip to push through a second tax cut we could not afford. He followed that with a Medicare prescription drug entitlement we cannot afford and started two wars in the wake of 9/11 without raising taxes to pay for them — all at a time when we should have been saving money in anticipation of the baby boomers' imminent retirement. As such, our nation's fiscal hole is deeper than ever and Republicans and Democrats — rather than coming together and generating the political authority needed for us to take our castor oil to compensate for our binge — are just demonising one another. As the Israeli political theorist, Yaron Ezrahi, points out, governance is based on authority "that is generated in one of two ways — by trust or by fear. Both of those sources of authority are disintegrating right now". The Arab leaders governed by fear, and their people are not afraid anymore. And the Western democracies governed by generating trust, but their societies today are more splintered than ever. Israel has the same problem. The combination of Yasser Arafat's foolhardy decision to start a second intifada rather than embrace former US President Bill Clinton's two-state peace plan, followed by the rise of Bin Laden, which diverted the US from energetically pursuing the peace process, gave the Israeli Right a free hand to expand West Bank settlements. There are now some 500,000 settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Absent some amazing Palestinian peace overture, and maybe even with one, I do not see any Israeli leader with enough authority today to pull Israel out of the West Bank. So, for now, Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu and Bin Laden both win: In the short run, Bibi gets to keep the West Bank, with 300,000 Jews occupying 2.4 million Palestinians. And in the long run, Bin Laden helps to destroy Israel as a Jewish democracy. For all these reasons, I find myself asking the same question in Cairo, Washington and Jerusalem: "Who will tell the people?" Who will tell the people how deep the hole is that Bin Laden helped each of us dig over the last decade — and who will tell the people how hard and how necessary it will be to climb out?

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

BIG BUSINESS VS FARMERS

 

DC Debate: Opening up retail to FDI will reduce food prices, expand economy A cautious route is necessary By Nirmala Sitharaman This is a brief response to a complex debate. Let us be clear here that we are not talking of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in multi-brand retailing. The failure of the existing framework in effectively providing food items at optimum prices to the rural and urban consumer is felt by every one of us! Simultaneously, the failure of the system in ensuring that the farmer gets attractive price is well documented. Lack of foresight and planning to provide a chain of scientifically-managed storage facility is staring at us. The farmers are made to run from pillar to post for that very elusive minimum support price. Two to three-year-old stocks of grains rot in Food Corporation of India godowns in a country which is subsidising foodgrain distribution — are we subsidising the rot? Even where there is no government procurement involved, as in the case of tomato, farmers in the recent past, threw their entire tomato crop on the highways and went back home empty-handed because the price they were getting for their toil was not worth even collecting. There is a huge wastage of perishables such as fruits and vegetables due to the present incapacity in storage and inefficiency in transporting them. Food is precious. We should put in place a system that procures, stores and redistributes through a retail network effectively. For the government to suddenly budget for, build and operate such facilities may be too much of a task. A public private participatory model may be useful. We no longer can put the blame on unseasonal rains, flash floods, failure of monsoon and the crop cycle for our food distribution woes. We have to find a way to work around them and to survive reasonably and respectably in spite of them. Technology and transparent administration can give us solutions. FDI for retailing food may be considered in this context, albeit with a sense of caution. We cannot afford to create an efficient FDI-backed retail food distribution network to violate the "food miles" concern with impunity. We shouldn't end up having sun-dried Spanish tomatoes having killed our Kurnool or Nasik farmers. As it is we are reminded sometimes, with a touch of sarcasm, that to get wheat from Australia is cheaper for the southern states than to have those from Punjab. Can there be a greater irony? We cannot forget that a large section of self-employed people in this country are traders. They have never been supported by the institutions that exist to better their operations. A cautious approach is necessary. * Nirmala Sitharaman is a spokesperson for the Bharatiya Janata Party * * * It will help only business houses By Akhilesh Yadav Many in the country claim that Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in retail will help contain the soaring inflation. The basic contention is that this move will tame price rise by eliminating middlemen who are accused of being behind the spike in the price of agricultural commodities and others of daily use. If the government is confident middlemen are the problem, why does it not tackle the problem head-on instead of coming up with simplistic solutions like allowing FDI in the retail sector? I am afraid the idea to have FDI in retail has really been floated to help certain big business establishments, both within the country and abroad. After all, India is home to the largest middle-class population in the world and presents quite a lucrative market to a few big business conglomerates. However, should India allow its market to be tapped by top investors of advanced market economies? This also runs the risk of drain of wealth without any tangible transfer of technology. Potential investors in retail maintain that they want to organise the market by eliminating the middleman element and ensure that consumers can buy their needs at more affordable prices. But there would always be the fear that once these big business establishments capture the market, they would attempt to monoplise the price structure. This would eventually affect consumers adversely. I would like to ask: If the government has really diagnosed that the problem set are middlemen, black-marketers and hoarders, why does it not go after them in a big way? To me it seems that the government has been lax about moving against black-marketers in a decisive manner. Millions of people in our country are engaged in the retail sector. What would happen to their livelihood if big business establishments, who have the money power to crush the small sector, capture that space? Instead of inviting FDI in retail, the government should focus on ensuring that small- and family-owned businesses are not driven to the wall. Otherwise, we will have another crisis on our hands. States like Delhi have put up their own retail infrastructure from where they sell consumer products at much cheaper rates than the market. This can be replicated. The retail market has already seen the mushrooming of big shopping complexes run by big corporate houses. It appears there is no law to regulate them. There are millions of small shopkeepers who need to be protected. * Akhilesh Yadav, Samajwadi Party leader


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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

NEW AGE BABAS

 

India has always had a love affair with sadhus, sants and sundry babas, but till not too long ago, these worthies tended to stay out of public life. They had large numbers of followers and it was hardly a secret that many politicians were among them, but the holy men (and a few women) did not dabble in politics, at least not openly. Ministers and Governors (and Supreme Court judges too) routinely fell at the feet of such babas, but if at all any politics was discussed, it was behind closed doors. The "guru universe" of the 1960s, '70s and '80s was a well-defined one. There were hundreds of small gurus with dedicated bands of devotees and then there were the handful of superstars who had a pan-Indian and even global presence. The institutions they built spread out far and wide. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was the first who became internationally known once the Beatles and Mia Farrow visited him. Mahesh Yogi patented Transcendental Medication and it was his boast that his disciples could levitate. John Lennon remained unconvinced and his illusions were further shattered when the Maharishi allegedly made a pass at a female devotee; Lennon wrote the satirical song Sexy Sadie with the words, "Sexy Sadie what have you done. You made a fool of everyone". Sathya Sai Baba and Acharya (later Bhagwan and then Osho) Rajneesh had their own pitches too — the former performed miracles, the latter spouted philosophy and assured his rich followers that it was okay to wallow in luxury and indulge in sensual pleasures. Each stayed out of other's hair but more importantly, despite their larger than life persona, resolutely remained aloof from politics. The sole exception was Dhirendra Brahmachari, who allegedly meddled in political affairs, but even he did so discreetly. The modern baba or guru is much more in your face. He is in the papers and on television holding forth on every problem under the sun. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar happily holds forth on social issues and though he refrains from expressing his preference towards any political party, many critics say his views are aligned with the Sangh Parivar's. Now Baba Ramdev has gone several steps ahead. Not only has he launched a political party, which presumably will contest in the forthcoming elections, he has also decided to take on the government. He wants to launch a movement to bring Indian money stashed abroad back to the country, an unexceptional agenda by itself. But his means are not spiritual but political. Moreover, he is now telling the government what exactly to do. And his chosen means of protest is the hunger strike, a political weapon with proven efficacy in the Indian context. A timorous government, having been singed by the drama around Mr Anna Hazare's fast to demand the Lokpal Bill doesn't want to take chances; it has been pleading with the guru to give up his plans. No one should be surprised if the Baba is roped into some high-powered government committee to come up with ideas to bring Indian wealth back from abroad. After all, with his vast property holdings in foreign countries, he should have some thoughts on the subject. What has changed over the last few years that these babas have become confident enough to throw their hat into the political ring? After all, with all his following, the Sathya Sai remained essentially a doer of good deeds and refrained from interfering in the political process. On the other hand, Baba Ramdev, till just the other day a minor yoga teacher on a minor channel, has no hesitation in holding forth on everything from black money to the Lokpal Bill. How long before he tells the ministry of external affairs how to run foreign policy? Two factors may be at work here. Firstly, with the low credibility of politicians, people are ready to listen to alternative voices. The establishment appears venal and mendacious, interested only in money making and narrow self-interest. The bureaucracy and even the Army are looking seriously compromised. The judiciary enjoys respect but the justice system is seen as slow and ponderous. Anyone stepping into the vacuum with no obvious personal interest is seen as a saviour, almost a messiah. These new-age gurus have figured that out and know that they will be heard. The second, and connected element, is the mass media. The media, especially 24-hour new television, has a symbiotic relationship with these gurus (and with film stars and cricketers too, but that is another matter). Both need each other. Baba Ramdev's yoga lessons on the religious channel Aastha helped him reach out to millions in one go. Many swore by his techniques and when he began talking about issues that bother people, such as corruption and black money, he had a ready-made audience. Meanwhile, television channels, instead of showing some good old-fashioned scepticism and ignoring him, built him on prime time as the man with all the answers. For the moment he is all over the news and the narrative is, "Baba shakes up the government". And the government is behaving as if it is duly shaken. It would be surreal and funny if it wasn't so frightening. Nothing much may come out of it eventually. The media will forget the baba once another sexy, made-for-television story surfaces. That is the superficial nature of our news cycle. As far as the political party is concerned, it is too early to say how effective it will be. That the baba wants to join politics is his business; but what does it say about us that we are ready to follow him? Sidharth Bhatia is a senior journalist and commentator on current affairs based in Mumbai

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

COME, WRESTLE WITH GOD

 

World Wrestling Entertainment offers crazy entertainment, especially when the giant Indian, the "Great Khali" aka Dalip Singh Rana, decimates opponent after opponent with enviable ease. When Khali visited India sometime ago, thousands of fans flocked to meet this desi wrestler who looms large at seven-feet three-inches and 190 kilos! It's unlikely that these fans will fancy wrestling with Khali. If there's worry about wrestling with Khali, wouldn't wrestling with God be a weightier matter? Religious stories describe human beings grappling with God. In a popular Biblical passage, Jacob is portrayed as wrestling with a divine being. The setting of the story is significant. Jacob has deceived his elder brother Esau by robbing him of the special blessing, given by their father, meant for the eldest son. Years later, Jacob repents and returns to his homeland, although he fears that his brother will seek vengeance. Jacob then spends the night in a camp and that night "a man wrestled with Jacob until daybreak". The result of this unexpected "wrestling bout", so to say, is four-fold: first, the man wrenches Jacob's hip at the sciatic muscle; second, Jacob refuses to let the man go until he blesses him; third, the wrestler changes Jacob's name to "Israel"; and, fourth, Jacob calls the place Peni-el (Face of God) saying, "I've seen God face-to-face". When God changes the name of a person, s/he is given a new identity and fresh purpose in life. Similar to this narrative, the Hindu tradition has an ancient Sanskrit poem entitled Kiratarjuniya by Bharavi, which describes an episode of the Mahabharata wherein Arjuna combats Lord Shiva disguised as a kiraata or a tribal hunter. So pleased was Lord Shiva with Arjuna's bravery that he gave him the powerful weapon Pashupatastra, which aids Arjuna against the Kauravas during the Kurukshetra war. Jacob and Arjuna's struggles with God have some elements in common: first, it is God who takes the initiative to encounter them; second, both do not recognise the Divine in their struggles; third, their grappling with God seems to bring benefits and blessings; fourth, it is the Divine One who makes the struggle successful and a new awareness of God is achieved. Like Jacob and Arjuna, do you and I not wrestle with God? There is always an inner struggle in trying to fathom "who" or "what" God is. We also wrestle with God when we ask questions of ultimate meaning. We all yearn for truth and can never be content with lies. It's not only the onus of believers to grapple with God. Genuine seekers, atheists and agnostics must also grapple with God — rather, without God — for scepticism and science haven't provided satisfactory answers about our origin and destiny. Sitting back and viewing the kushti of the Great Khali is absorbing. However, grappling with God is far more elevating. So, like Jacob and Arjuna, arise and enter the fray! — Francis Gonsalves is the principal of the Vidyajyoti College of Theology, Delhi. He is involved in interfaith dialogue and peoples' initiatives for fostering justice, harmony and peace. He can be contacted at fragons@gmail.com

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

CHINESE 'INCURSION'?

CLARIFY THE SIACHEN DISCUSSION

DID the bland joint statement issued after the defence secretaries of India and Pakistan discussed Siachen conceal more than it revealed? A newspaper report, admittedly just one, should set alarm bells ringing for it suggests Pakistan wanted China to be taken "on board" since the northern part of the Siachen sector abuts the Shaksham Valley which is under (illegal?) Chinese control. If even partially correct, that report confirms Indian army apprehensions over the increasing PLA activity in POK, and the Islamabad-Beijing nexus determining Pakistan's Siachen strategy ~ India's gun positions at the northern end of the Saltoro Ridge do "threaten" a section of the Karakoram Highway. An authentic clarification from both the defence and external affairs ministries is imperative, for it could mean Siachen is becoming a vastly different ball game. And that those who questioned the value of "holding" the Ridge were myopic. Also demanding clarification is a report that the Pakistani delegation presented a non-paper indicating that Siachen could not be dealt with in isolation: its demilitarisation had to be considered in the context of the larger, seemingly intractable, J&K dispute. Thus dissipating like a snow plume from a tall peak is Dr Manmohan Singh's fantasy about converting the world's highest battlefield into a "mountain of peace".


Even if both those factors are officially negated, the purpose of the 12th round of talks is open to question; at best they kept the negotiating process in place ~ which only diplomats would deem a success. Yet again has been confirmed the futility of high-level interaction ~ let's not write off defence secretaries as mere babus ~ without some advance groundwork, either by less-senior officials, or through "back channels". The official statement leaves no one in doubt that both sides stuck firmly to well-stated positions, that both armies were determined to spend huge monies, subject their soldiers to health risks, since distrust dictates the course of the action. Similarly, the revived bilateral discussions on other major issues have remained stalemated. So what aim has been served, were the talks resumed under international pressure? While it would be convenient to point the accusing finger at GHQ Rawalpindi ~ particularly in the light of the two "revelations" ~ what cannot be overlooked is that AK Antony's pet pastime of Paki-bashing, even on the eve of the talks, hardly created a conducive atmosphere. Are he and the Prime Minister on different pages?


THOUGHT AND ACTION

BEYOND INSTINCTIVE SHOWMANSHIP

A BOLD and positive initiative has at last been taken to spruce up the decrepit rural health sector. The move comes after a week that witnessed "unannounced" visits to certain city hospitals and "surprise" inspections that yielded nothing beyond an unseemly public spat between the Chief Minister and the Director of a hospital. The public health segment in rural Bengal is verily on notice with the Health department's decision to monitor the performance of the Chief Medical Officers of Health in every district. Crucially enough, the official order was issued on 27 May, the day after Mamata Banerjee's showdown with the Director of Bangur Institute of Neurology. Hopefully, the initial bout of negativism has given way to a degree of positive thought and action. The order will cover hospitals from the district headquarters to the zilla parishad level. While the initiative is to be commended, it bears emphasis that the virtual collapse of the health sector in rural areas is not wholly rooted in the human factor. The absence of the basic infrastructure is no less a factor behind the overwhelming malaise. Small wonder that the government has failed to bolster the rural health service with qualified and dedicated doctors. Clearly, one problem has aggravated another and the new government's pledge on an "extended form of decentralisation" is only of theoretical interest.

The decision of the health department ~ under the Chief Minister ~ to issue a booklet on the "duties and responsibilities" of district medical superintendents would have been laughable were it not for the profound implications for the ailing. Doctors are duty-bound in terms of the Hippocratic oath. If they need to be told what is to be done, it is an indirect admission of the near-total abdication of responsibility over three decades of Communist rule. And if a doctors' duty roster has to be prepared, the level of indiscipline can well be imagined. The decision to bring the CMOH cadre under the scanner is at best an essay towards addressing the problem. The task is difficult after years of sloth. Visits to hospitals, scheduled or unannounced, are only expressions of instinctive showmanship. They must be backed up by decisive action.


A DOCKETED REPORT?

SILENCE OVER VISVA-BHARATI

THE feet-dragging by the Centre over the inquiry committee's report on Visva-Bharati University is suggestive of an attempt to get the Vice-Chancellor off the hook. Close to nine months after the Sabyasachi Bhattacharya committee ~ set up at the behest of the Prime Minister ~ advanced its report, there has been no response from the Centre on the alleged violation of recruitment rules by V-C Rajat Kanta Ray. Suspicions that the Centre is waiting for his term to end in June are not wholly unfounded. Once the next V-C is appointed, the ICHR chairman's findings will almost certainly be airbrushed. Which appears to have reportedly provoked Professor Bhattacharya ~ a renowned historian and former V-C ~ to remark: "I am beginning to wonder whether the members of my committee and I performed any useful function. I wonder why no action has been taken against Ray."


Let alone action, it devolves on the proactive HRD ministry to divulge the contents of the report. Is it possible that the Centre doesn't want to open the can of worms in Santiniketan in the year of Tagore's 150th anniversary? That certainly would be embarrassing amidst the university's song-and dance schedule. Yet having commissioned the inquiry against the V-C, it does devolve on the Prime Minister to disclose the findings. Prima facie, Rajat Kanta Ray is alleged to have violated the appointment rules by not submitting the short-list to the executive council for approval. Over the past four years, appointment letters were issued unilaterally to close to a hundred people. To have obtained post facto approval of the executive council is to proceed from conclusion to premise. Not that the V-C was unaware of the rules; appointment irregularities are common in this university that has to contend with a vested interest too many. Barely a few years ago, a former V-C was arrested for having cleared an under-qualified person for appointment as lecturer in the mathematics department. As Chancellor, the Prime Minister must intervene... as he had done last year. The Vice-Chancellor is said to have been indicted. Has the report been docketed? From Santiniketan to Delhi, the silence is intriguing.

 

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THE STATESMAN

ARTICLE

CAIRN-VEDANTA DEAL

BARTERING AWAY NATIONAL ASSETS

SAM RAJAPPA


LAST Friday's decision of the Group of Ministers headed by Pranab Mukherjee to approve Edinburgh-based Cairn Energy selling majority stake in its Indian unit to London-listed Vedanta Resources plc, albeit with certain preconditions, is not in the best interests of the nation. State-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corporation holds 30 per cent stake in Cairn's Indian unit and has the right of first refusal. The estimated reserve of its Barmer oilfields in Rajasthan alone is in the region of six billion barrels. At $100 a barrel, this works out to $600 billion by way of revenue. It, therefore, does not make sense why this valuable oil reserve should be allowed by the government to be transferred for around $9.6 billion to Vedanta when the ONGC has the right of first option.


Cairn India recorded a total revenue of Rs.1 0,277.93 crore and a profit after tax of Rs 6,334.40 crore for the year ended 31 March 2011. The basic earning per Rs.10 share was Rs 33.3. The average production for the year was 149,103 barrels of oil a day. There are pending disputes relating to payment of royalty and cess presently paid by ONGC and not recovered as cost from Cairn. The excess liability to be paid by Cairn to ONGC on royalty alone is more than Rs 12,000 crore. The deal becomes cheaper to Vedanta to the extent that ONGC has to pay excess royalty. The original deal was structured in a manner by which the entire liability of royalty and cess devolved on ONGC and not on Cairn.


Cairn Energy plc on 16 August last announced that it was selling most of its stake in Cairn India to Vedanta without even consulting ONGC. As per the terms of the production sharing contract signed by Cairn and its units, it was mandatory for them to take prior permission from the Government of India for the stake transfer. Cairn Energy took more than three months to comply with the regulation of seeking formal approval for selling most of its stake in Cairn India to Vedanta. The final application reached New Delhi only by November-end.
As the petroleum ministry was processing the application, British Prime Minister David Cameron wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, saying, "I want to encourage a growing appetite among British companies to invest and expand in India. But the sort of difficulties (unexpected hurdles to delay the Vedanta deal) which I have outlined, are a deterrent to potential investors. They risk jeopardising our joint goal of a much stronger trade and investment relationship." Earlier this year, Sesa Goa purchased 10.4 per cent steak in Cairn India held by Malaysia's Petronas in a block deal.


Vedanta is leveraging on the iron ore mineral assets of Sesa Goa, in which it has controlling stake, to raise a loan to finance the Cairn deal. It is not bringing any fresh investment from the UK.  The iron ore reserves of Sesa Goa are worth Rs. 2 lakh crore and are owned by the people of the country, according to the ruling of the Supreme Court in the Mukesh Ambani controlled Reliance Industries Limited vs Anil Ambani controlled Reliance Natural Resources Limited case. Anil Agarwal of Vedanta, in effect, is purchasing Cairn's oilfields in Rajasthan with the wealth from the iron ore fields of Sesa Goa, owned by the people of this country.
Newspapers in the country quoting PTI said on 22 May that the Serious Fraud Investigation Office of the corporate fraud investigation organisation has recommended prosecution of Sesa Goa on nine grounds, including over and under-invoicing of export/import of more than Rs 1,000 crore. After investigation spanning one-and-a-half years, SFIO found the iron ore exporter has over-invoiced import receipts of coking coal by Rs 14.6 crore and also the sale of iron ore by Rs 42.51 crore, while under-invoicing exports by Rs.1,002 crore.  Under-invoicing is normally done to avoid paying tax. The SFIO also found Sesa Goa making excess payment of agency commission to sales agents amounting to Rs 40.6 crore to facilitate its exports of iron ore to foreign countries. Such sales agents included Mitsui & Co and Nissho Iwai Corporation of Japan, Ahmed Jaffer & Co of Pakistan and Arim Peks of Turkey. SFIO recommended prosecution of the managing director, independent directors, statutory auditor and company secretary of Sesa Goa. Fraudulent companies are normally blacklisted by the government, but Vedanta, with a powerful godfather in the Union Cabinet, is allowed to corner oil and gas fields leased to Cairn India worth a few hundred billion dollars for a pittance.
Vedanta will now have to decide whether it should pay Rs 405 per share, or $6.65 billion, to buy 40 per cent stake in Cairn India from its Edinburgh-based Cairn Energy plc or a lower amount in view of the GoM's condition that royalty on Rajasthan oilfield will be recoverable. Cairn India does not pay royalty on its 70 per cent share of 175,000 barrels of oil per day, but will now have to agree to deduct the royalty paid by ONGC. The original agreement got structured in a manner by which 100 per cent liability of royalty and cess devolved on ONGC, holding 30 per cent stake in the oilfields, and none at all on Cairn India, holding 70 per cent stake. The excuse trotted out was that the government wanted to attract foreign investment in oil exploration. This issue needs to be investigated and responsibility fixed, as it has been done in the case of 2G spectrum. The guilty should be prosecuted under the Prevention of Corruption Act. When Vedanta agreed to buy Cairn India in August last, the price of crude in the Indian market was around $75 a barrel.  Cairn India got $94.2 a barrel for the January-March quarter.  The current price is $110 a barrel.  Production has gone up from 175,000 barrel to 240,000 barrel a day.


The CPI-M has warned the Prime Minister that a 2G spectrum-like scandal was brewing and cautioned him against giving his seal of approval to a "fly-by-night operator" with no expertise or experience in the oil sector, when the deal comes before the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs. Tapan Sen, Rajya Sabha member of the Marxist party, wanted the Comptroller and Auditor-General to conduct a valuation of Cairn India's oilfields in Rajasthan before the Cabinet clears the deal.  Accusing the government of facilitating crony capitalism, Sen, who is also a member of Parliament's standing committee on petroleum and natural gas, in a letter to Dr Manmohan Singh, said: "I therefore again urge upon you to bring the deal transparently in the public domain through Parliament immediately to avoid another 2G like situation in the days to come."


The recent financial scandals have taught us that collective decision is no guarantee against corruption or loot of public assets. Natural resources are covered by the doctrine of public trust as held by the Supreme Court.
The Cairn-Vedanta deal is not a policy matter but involves simple arithmetical calculations which even a high school student could do to determine whether it is profitable for ONGC to exercise the right of first refusal. The valuation report, oil reserves, price of oil, number of oilfields and the loss on royalty and cess on the existing deal are quantities that have to be factored in.  Unlike the 2G scam, there is nothing presumptive about these losses. It is hoped that the size of reserves and the price of oil will not be manipulated as was done at the time of handing over discovered oilfields to Reliance Industries.


If the deal is allowed to go through, Anil Agarwal and Mukesh Ambani will decide the price of petrol we have to pay in future. Do we want this?


The writer is a veteran journalist and former Director, Statesman Print Journalism School

 

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THE STATESMAN

BETWEEN THE LINES

KULDIP NAYAR

 Civil society and government are seldom on the same page. The reason is not because their interests clash but because their adversarial role does not allow them to concur. India is in the midst of an experiment which brings the two on the same side. This is on the Lokpal Bill which already has the word Jan (popular) prefixed to it. Both government ministers and activists, five each, have been sitting across the table for almost a month. They are drafting a legislation to devise ways to fight corruption in high places.


The institution of ombudsman (Lokpal) is sought to be set up to supervise the entire official machinery engaged in taking action against the dishonest. The Lokpal Bill envisages to bring within its ambit the Prime Minister, High Court and Supreme Court judges and MPs so that action against the delinquent among them can be taken and that is the point at issue.


The Bill has made substantial progress. That the Lokpal will be independent and will scrutinise complaints relating to corruption in high places goes without saying. It is a good thing that its decision will be subject to judicial review. The point ~ made by many ~ that the Lokpal should be answerable to the people lacks merit. This argument sounds good on paper. But if the Lokpal's impeachment depends on the verdict of Parliament, it will tell on the ombudsman's independence. Political parties can join hands to "punish" the Lokpal for having taken action against a delinquent MP or minister. Like the Central Election Commission, the Lokpal can be a creature of Parliament but independent enough to take action against corrupt MPs and ministers.
Both parties ~ the government and the activists ~ have more or less reached a consensus except on bringing the Prime Minister and judges in the Lokpal's abmit. Government representatives feel that the inclusion of Prime Minister will expose his office to frivolous charges and political vendetta. Activists argue that if the Prime Minister needs to be tried on charges of corruption, those will be first screened by a high-power committee. As for the judges, the Centre wants to set up a judicial commission to process allegations against them and pronounce judgment. The argument is that the judges will be out of the Lokpal's domain once the Lokpal is appointed.


The differences are minor and agreements major. The government has accepted the demand of the activists to place under the Lokpal purview the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), the Enforcement Directorate and other probe agencies. This is a welcome step because the CBI and other agencies are at the beck and call of those in power in Delhi. The Central Vigilance Commission appointed by Lal Bahadur Shastri has been rendered so toothless that it will be better if it is abolished. Its vigilance officers can then be absorbed by the Lokpal.


After five meetings, which were constructive according to human resources minister Mr Kapil Sibal, one got the impression that the government was willing to take effective steps against the corrupt. Activists were happy that their demands were being met. It was too good to be true. Now, the government has shown its hand. It does not want the Lokpal to have the authority to probe the Prime Minister's probity in any circumstances. Nor does the government want the judiciary to be scrutinised by the Lokpal. And MPs, even if caught with their hands in the jam jar, will not come under the Lokpal's purview. Mr Justice Santosh Hegde, one of the activists sitting on the drafting panel, rightly asked during the last meeting with ministers what exactly the government wanted the Lokpal to do since at this rate, it would soon be left with no one to investigate.


Home minister Mr P Chidambaram, also on the ministerial committee to draft the Bill, says civil society is itself divided. That is a good thing, not something detestable in a democracy. The task before the nation is not how to correct the ills of civil society but how to eliminate corruption in high places. Probably, this question would not have assumed the shape it took ~ spontaneous demonstrations in response to Gandhian Mr Anna Hazare's fast ~ if one scam after another had not tumbled out of the government's closet.
Nobody has ever doubted the personal honesty of Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh. But one is horrified to see that he had known all along about telecom minister Mr A Raja's transgression and had chosen not to do anything about it till the media exposed the spectrum scandal. Even in case of the recent scandal involving Union textile minister Mr Dayanidhi Maran, the media brought it to the world's notice. Mr Maran allegedly extended favours to a company which in turn invested in his television network. The Prime Minister is yet to ask him to quit the Cabinet. The government may need the support of Mr Maran's party, the DMK, to survive but must the nation suffer for what the Prime Minister once rationalised as "coalition dharma"?
Today, the government faces a crisis of credibility. People are not sure what to believe ~ what the media exposes or the explanations that pour out in their aftermath. The constitution of Lokpal may restore the confidence of people in the Manmohan Singh government. When the Prime Minister has himself asserted that he is willing to be scrutinised by the Lokpal, why should his ministerial team have any problems?
The proposal to set up the institution of Lokpal was first mooted by the Santhanam Committee when Lal Bahadur Shastri was India's home minister. At that time, no suggestion had been made to bring the Prime Minister's Office under the Lokpal's purview. The ruling Congress party has been discussing Lokpal off and on but has never gone beyond including it in its election manifesto. Now, the government cannot face reality because at least two Prime Ministers have been found lacking integrity. According to a statement made by a retired Chief Justice of India some years ago, 15 per cent of the members of the judiciary were corrupt. But the judicial commission ~ to which the Centre proposes High Court and Supreme Court judges will be answerable is not even on the horizon. And, where does it leave the people when they see judgments palpably favouring the rich and the powerful?
In the face of the government's volte face, what should civil society do? It would be foolhardy to walk out of the talks until the government's duplicity is fully exposed. Since the negotiations involving the drafting of the Lokpal Bill have been tape-recorded in their entirety, if not video-taped, activists should be easily able to refer to the ministerial team's earlier position and compare it with its changed stand. Had there been Constitutional permission to hold a referendum, one should have been conducted to find out how the public is reacting. Maybe, the government should go to the people to get their view on its steps to dilute the Lokpal.

The writer is a veteran journalist
and commentator 

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THE STATESMAN

NOW & AGAIN

BUDDHADEB MUKHERJEE


I first visited Singapore in 2000. I went to the beautiful island state again in 2003 with my family. At that time, my son was attached to National University of Singapore. Years passed. My son left Singapore and joined Macquarie University in Sydney. In the middle of 2010, my son returned to Singapore to conduct research for a few months.
One morning, he rang me in Kolkata and entreated me to come to Singapore with my little granddaughter who had accompanied me during my last visit there. I wanted to spend a month with my son but was hesitating because of my infirmity. He brushed my protests aside, saying Singapore Airlines will do a perfect job of making my journey comfortable both ways. Tickets were soon purchased and one evening, I fetched up at NSC Bose International Airport with my little escort. My daughter, and the mother of my pretty companion, requested airport personnel to page the man who would guide us till embarkation. After a 10-minute wait, a uniform-less attendant sans any identity card approached us causally and took charge. He deposited me on a wheelchair which he pushed along with our baggage trolley and helped us cross the immigration hurdle after necessary formalities were completed. The attendant then proceeded to take leave of us at the waiting bay saying someone else will help us board the aircraft. As he lingered, I understood and handed him a Rs 50 note. He saluted me and left. About an hour before the plane was due to take off, another gentlemen, this time appropriately attired with an identity card proclaiming his legitimacy, approached us and transferred me to another wheelchair. He waited as security checks were conducted on us and then deposited us with the air-hostess waiting at the door of the Singapore Airlines aircraft. The smiling woman helped us find our seats, ensured we were comfortable and promised to take care of everything at Changi. After we had landed in Singapore and the crowd of passengers had thinned, the young woman came to fetch us. She obtained a very comfortable wheelchair for me and soon after transferring me to it, handed over our charge to another smiling woman. Our new acquaintance took us to a conveyer belt, helped us identify our baggage and escorted us to my son who was waiting eagerly outside. Formalities completed in no time, she helped load our luggage onto a taxi. We thanked her and left. The days in Singapore passed happily.

 

The day we returned, my son saw us off at the airport. Formalities were completed with the least fuss and my son bade us farewell after making sure that we were comfortable in a well-furnished waiting room meant for the infirm. We were treated as the guests of Singapore Airlines. A smart woman appeared and said we would be escorted to the boarding point in due time. Half an hour before the plane was to take off, a shining carriage arrived to fetch us. All checks were run in minutes and I boarded the plane in a wheelchair along with my granddaughter. The four-hour journey was very comfortable. As we landed in Kolkata, another attendant sans uniform and identity card came to collect us. He put me in a shabby, uncomfortable wheelchair and began pushing it with a vengeance with little care for my safety till we reached a conveyer belt. It started dispensing luggage after half an hour. We collected ours with his help after my granddaughter had identified them. That done, he began pushing my wheelchair recklessly again and eventually deposited us with my daughter who had come to pick us up. The attendant assisted in loading the luggage in the car trunk and then silently extended his left hand. I deposited a Rs 50 note on his upturned palm but he wanted more. As I took out a Rs 100 note to offer him, I couldn't help thinking of the smiling face of the helpful attendant at Changi.

 

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THE STATESMAN

100 Years ago today

Prisoners Riot In The Jail


On Sunday evening the French jail of Chandernagore was the scene of a desperate attempt on the part of a large number of prisoners to regain liberty, in the course of which the warder in charge was stabbed. Matters assumed such a serious aspect that the jailor had no alternative but to open fire on the mob, as a result of which one prisoner was killed and two were seriously injured, and had it not been for the tact and resourcefulness displayed by the Bengalee jailor in quelling the riot, the results might have been still more serious.
It appears that about a week ago, twenty-four convicts were transferred from the French capital, Pondicherry, to Chandernagore to serve out the rest of their terms of imprisonment. The French escort was assisted by the British constables at different places, and especially in Calcutta, through which the prisoners had to pass, in view of the fact that the latter often showed indications of getting turbulent. They were however, safely conducted to Chandernagore without any trouble. On Sunday evening the armed constable on duty, who was acting as a warder, ordered the men back to their cells as usual, when they assumed a defiant attitude, and refused to go. The whole of the prisoners at once made a dash for liberty. Some of the criminals, fell upon the constable, seized the keys of the cells, and took his bayonet. They stabbed him with the bayonet inflicting severe wounds upon the poor man. In the meantime, the rioters rushed towards the gate, which was in charge of another constable, but realising the gravity of the situation, this man had locked the gate. The Bengalee jailor came out at once armed with a revolter and accompanied by a number of constables. The rioters had in the meanwhile gained in strength and showed fight. They were ordered to surrender but they paid no attention and attempted to scale the prison wall. Seeing the jailor and his men at close quarters, they at last rushed upon him. At this stage the jailor had to open fire on the mob, as a result of which one man was killed, while two others were badly injured  and are now lying in a precarious condition.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

HOPE IN HILLS

Simple gestures of goodwill and mutual trust can go a long way towards resolving seemingly intractable issues. Mamata Banerjee's first meeting as West Bengal's chief minister with Bimal Gurung can justifiably raise hopes for a new beginning for Darjeeling. The significant thing about the meeting was the ambience of mutual trust and cooperation. It was in sharp contrast with the air of confrontation that marked the dialogue between the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha and Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee's government. Mr Gurung's "happiness" over his meeting with Ms Banerjee is also remarkable because she had always made her stand on the Darjeeling imbroglio absolutely clear. She opposed not only the creation of a separate state comprising the three hill subdivisions but also the inclusion of the adjoining areas in the plains in any new administrative set-up for Darjeeling that the GJM wanted. Even so, Mr Gurung seems hopeful that the new chief minister would give the people of Darjeeling a fair deal that the Left Front government denied them. Such confidence is essential in resolving political and administrative issues. If the new regime at Writers' Buildings and the GJM leadership move forward in this spirit, it will be easier for New Delhi also to find an answer to the "Gorkhaland" question that would be acceptable to all sides.

However, there are simpler, but more urgent, issues that the people of Darjeeling would like Ms Banerjee to address. Much of the hill station's civic infrastructure is in disrepair. Most of the major roads in Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong are in a mess. The condition of the roads leading to the tea gardens and villages is even worse. The near-collapse of a tolerable road network has made the transportation of essential goods and services an uphill task. But the worst problem for the people is the scarcity of drinking water. There has been practically no administration in Darjeeling since the term of Subash Ghisingh's Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council expired three years ago. The GJM took over the political space vacated by Mr Ghisingh but the administrative vacuum continued, thanks to the Left Front government's total abdication of authority in the hills. As with so much else in Bengal, Ms Banerjee will have to rebuild many things in Darjeeling. A political-administrative structure replacing the DGHC is the most important among the new initiatives. But it may be even more important to rebuild bridges of understanding between Calcutta and Darjeeling.

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

SAFETY FIRST

The task is Herculean — one minister has compared it with the challenge of unifying East and West Germany in 1989 — but Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, is determined to shut down all nuclear reactors in Germany by 2022. This means that in about 10 years, Germany will have to find alternative sources for 23 per cent of its energy. Tough as this may sound, the idea is commendable, especially as the recent explosion of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear unit in Japan, following a tsunami and an earthquake, has taught the world a bitter lesson about the perils of nuclear power. Only a year ago, Ms Merkel was committed to extending the lifespan of her country's 17 nuclear reactors, with the last one to close down in 2036. But the crisis in Japan has escalated her fears, and Europe's biggest economy is poised to become one of the few major industrialized nations to shun nuclear energy. (Of the G8 nations, only Italy has given up nuclear power.) Understandably, there is a lot of scepticism around Ms Merkel's decision, which has been criticized by her party colleagues as "knee-jerk politics". Experts are also wondering if a nuclear-free Germany will be pushed to import nuclear energy to avoid blackouts during the winter months.

Although Ms Merkel has assured to make up for the energy deficit by investing in the energy infrastructure, the suspicions are well founded. The move from nuclear energy will not only cost dearly in terms of money, even to a powerful economy like Germany, but also increase the country's dependence on fossil fuels and import of electricity. These will not only cause pollution but also cost ordinary people more money. Compared to families in France, where 80 per cent of the electricity comes from atomic plants, German households end up paying twice as much for their daily power usage. In other parts of the world with huge and ever-rising demands for safe energy, the shift to nuclear energy is a necessary and unavoidable step. For developing nations like India to grow as well as to reduce emissions, nuclear power is so far the safest alternative to the more traditional sources of energy, which are corrosive for the environment. Of course, such major changes must be accompanied by adequate checks and balances. But even the best safeguards, as the world has tragically come to realize, can never be foolproof.

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THE TELEGRAPH

A SCHOOL FOR SALE

 PUBLIC AWARENESS CAN CURTAIL COMMERCIALISM IN EDUCATION ANDRÉ BÉTEILLE

Not very long ago, I received a letter which left me perplexed. The letter contained an offer for the purchase of a school. People have from time to time tried to sell me all kinds of things, from used air-conditioners to homeopathic treatment for hair loss, but I did not even know that there was a trade in the sale and purchase of schools.

The letter in question was addressed to me by name but I doubt that the person who wrote it knew much about me except that I was the chairman of the managing committee of a prominent school in south Delhi. The subject of the letter was marked in the appropriate place as "Proposal for M&A, tie-up or take-over of School in DLF Gurgaon". It pointed out that the organization it represented had a well-established and reputed nursery school on a plot measuring 0.37 acres and with a covered area of 4,000 square feet. It was not made very clear as to which was the more tempting part of the offer, the little children in their innocence and joy or the prime land with its well-constructed covered area.

I rang up the principal the same morning and asked her whether we should not discuss the letter. She seemed censorious not only about the offer but also about my question. She told me somewhat coldly that she had sent the letter to me because it was addressed to me, and that if it had been addressed to her she would have put it in the waste-paper basket.

When I brought the same matter up with another person who is not a school principal or a school manager, but active nevertheless in the promotion of education, I got a different answer. He asked me why, if a useful service was being provided in a country that badly needed such a service, I should object because those offering the service expected to be paid. He told me that I was simply a prisoner of the ideological prejudices common to Left intellectuals in India whose mindless hostility to business had harmed the development of both education and the economy.

There are now many who advocate the use of the 'business model' in every kind of institution, association and organization. There are various reasons behind the growing appeal of the business model. Most people think of the government and the market as virtually the only two alternatives for the satisfaction of wants. After some 60 years of government mismanagement in almost every sphere of activity, people are now ready to seize the opportunities offered by the market if only to escape the clutches of the government. But while business is a most important component of every modern society, its record of performance even in its own sphere of competence is not altogether unblemished, and one might ask if that sphere of competence itself extends to every field of society.

I do not wish to suggest that business is governed solely by the unscrupulous pursuit of material gain. There is a business ethic that is in significant respects different from the bureaucratic ethic. There is also a professional ethic, appropriate to such fields as law, medicine and education, which is, or ought to be, different from both. This simply means that a university, a hospital or a legal service cannot operate as just another business or just another department of the government. It does not mean, however, that they can operate without keeping in mind the rules of the government or the constraints of the market.

In an essay on the professions and social structure, the great American sociologist, Talcott Parsons, had pointed to the significance of professions such as law, medicine and education in the life of every modern society. He noted that the professions could make their contributions effectively only if they acted in the awareness that their role in society was different from that of business. He also pointed out that the professions did not enjoy the same significance in all societies but occupied a position of unique significance only in modern societies, by which he meant modern Western societies.

While acknowledging the independent significance of the professional ethic, we must not assume that it will be able to hold its own against the business ethic always and under all circumstances. The social significance of the professional ethic has waxed and waned with the decline and rise of the business model. There is little doubt that today that model is in the ascendant not only in India, but in most parts of the world. The economist Benjamin Friedman wrote in The New York Review of Books on April 29, 2010, "Some years ago my employer, Harvard University, decided to become a university with a hedge fund attached. Or maybe the idea was to be a hedge fund with a university attached." This was no doubt written partly with tongue in cheek, but the message is quite clear. More than one American academic has told me that today the first thing that one must understand about the American university is that it is run like a business firm, so pressing are the problems of fund raising and fund management. And yet, the best American universities now have no rivals in the world.

I must make it clear in the end that in the field of education, the distinction between the business model and the professional model does not correspond necessarily with the distinction between private schools and government schools. Most government schools operate in accordance with the bureaucratic rather than the professional model, and there are private schools whose managers and teachers work with a keen awareness of their professional obligations as educators.

It is easy enough to establish and expand new professions, but there is no easy way of creating a professional ethic and insulating it from rampant commercialism or abject surrender to the bureaucracy. The professional ethic is not a gift of nature. It has to be cultivated and nurtured. What is required for this is not simply commitment and application from the professionals themselves but understanding and sympathy from the wider public. Educational institutions must be held to account for the funds they receive and use, but they should not be submitted to continuous pressure to generate their own revenues and to make profits in addition.

Businessmen can also be philanthropists, and the wiser ones among them recognize that the cultivation and transmission of knowledge need to be supported in the larger interest of society, and, indeed, in their own long-term interest. Philanthropists have always provided support to educational institutions, although this support has not been as generous in independent India as it might have been. In our times, even the most generous among philanthropists do not act only in the public interest. They are aware of the tax concessions and other benefits they receive by making donations to educational institutions, and there is no reason why they should not benefit from those concessions. But there are businessmen who take advantage of the concessions, and then run the institutions mainly for profit. This cannot be stopped altogether, but greater public awareness and vigilance can help to curtail its excesses.

The author is Professor Emeritus of Sociology, Delhi School of Economics, and National Research Professor

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

WHEN A MYTH WAS BROKEN

SOROOR AHMED

On May 27, three days after a national daily carried a detailed report on rampant discrimination against girls among the educated middle class of India, a somewhat unique development took place in Bihar's capital, Patna. Shahzadi — alias Najo — the daughter of a cycle-rickshawpuller and a domestic help, organized a function to celebrate the 40th day — known as chilla in local parlance — of the birth of her daughter.

Invitations were sent to people cutting across class lines. The guests included ladies from the households where Shahzadi's mother used to work. Chicken, pulao, mitha-pulao, roti were offered to the guests. Food was sent to those who could not make it to the event. The function was organized on the campus of the Shamshul Hoda Madarsa (junior section), near the prestigious Patna Science College. In the morning, milad (a religious ceremony) was organized and traditional songs sung. The baby girl, Alia Mahwesh, was made to wear her best dress. Shahzadi's father and a cook prepared the delicious food.

Such functions often go unreported. Some affluent people opined that Shahzadi should not have spent lavishly on such an occasion as her family was poor.What Shahzadi and her family could not imagine was that by doing so they, inadvertently, had made big news — at a time of heated debates over issues such as missing girls, the fall in gender ratio and discrimination, a poor Muslim family in Bihar was celebrating the birth of a daughter in a big way. Shahzadi and her family were totally oblivious of the frantic discussions on television and in newspapers. For them, the birth of a child— be it a boy or a girl— does not make any difference. Incidentally, this was not an isolated incident: a daughter's birth is celebrated with equal fanfare in such families.

Grim truth

Shahzadi's parents are not literate, but she and her three sisters and two brothers can read and write a little. Before her marriage a couple of years ago, Shahzadi used to work as a domestic help even as she continued with her studies in the local maktab. Her marriage was organized in the same madarsa campus where her daughter's chilla was celebrated. The colour and design of the marriage card were approved by the bride herself.

It is not as if the section of society to which Shahzadi belongs is free from social ills. Yet the function on the occasion of her daughter's birth went a long way in exploding the myth that there is discrimination against the girl child among the poor. It is a slap on the faces of affluent members of society who often prevent the birth of girl children by taking recourse to illegal methods. Tragically on the same day came the news from another part of the state where a woman committed suicide on being forced to go for a third child by her in-laws after she had given birth to daughters twice.

The birth of a girl child is often resisted. But what is more shocking is the revelation that infant and child mortality rate is higher among girls. This is because parents, in many cases, do not take adequate care of them. Parents allow girls to die when they fall ill. Families often prefer to abort a female foetus. If that is not possible, parents try and abandon her after birth. If that too is not possible, they let her perish for the want of proper food and medicine.

Undoubtedly, some people are providing proper education to their daughters, celebrating their birthdays and treating them equally as they seriously believe in gender equality. But such people are in a minority. Besides, many among them want to prove to society that they do not discriminate between a girl and a boy. That is not the case with Shahzadi for whom the idea of gender parity comes quite naturally.

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THE TELEGRAPH

A DECISIVE MANDATE FOR CHANGE

THE BENGAL ELECTION RESULT IS A CHALLENGE TO AND AN OPPORTUNITY FOR THE BELEAGUERED LEFT FRONT, WRITES SHYAMAL DATTA

A bloodless electoral revolution swept the state of West Bengal, decimating the Marxists who had ruled for 34 years without a break. The resounding victory of the Trinamul Congress-led alliance has shattered the Communist Party of India (Marxist).The defeat of the former chief minister, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, at the hands of a political greenhorn came as another shock, forcing him to contemplate stepping down from the politburo as well as from the central committee. This clearly indicates the measure of frustration that has enveloped the party and its leadership.

Never has the Left Front fallen on such difficult times.The tally of seats won by the CPI(M) fell from 176 to 40, less than those of the Congress, the junior ally of the TMC, which won 42. Most of the ministers tasted defeat, leaving the party with very little choice when it came to selecting the leader of the opposition. The pall of gloom brought in its wake reports of desertions from the party and its organizations.The districts that were known to be the CPI(M)'s fortresses tumbled like a pack of cards. Stray incidents of violence continued to take a toll of the lives of the party cadre, while the seizure of arms and other contraband items from party hideouts embarrassed law-enforcement agencies.

Interestingly, the CPI(M) general-secretary, Prakash Karat, put up a bold face and argued that electoral politics was just a part of the party's agenda, and that there are other important preoccupations such as ideology, people's rights and class struggle. What he tried to convey was that ideological moorings and purity were more important than electoral politics. Implicit in his argument was the insinuation that the poor showing of the party reflected inadequacies with regard to these preoccupations. The central leadership of the party refused to admit that the historic victory of the TMC-led alliance was in any way an indictment of the party and its ideology. This is a classic example of a mind still cast in the Stalinist mould.

Echoing Karat's views, another politburo member went a step further, pre-empting any possibility of reforms in the party's ideological stance and style of functioning at the forthcoming meeting of the central committee in Hyderabad. She said that the Left would endure without compromising on the tenets of class struggle and on championing the cause of the working class.

Karat and his party do not appear to be in a mood to introspect on the causes of the electoral drubbing. They nurse serious mental reservations about accepting the fact that Bengal's election results reflect that a lot has gone wrong in the state in the past 34 years. For instance,the so-called class struggle has been weakened by the growing dimensions of change in social dynamics. The solidarity of the working class has been dented because of a sharp decline in Bengal's industrial progress. The middle class and the youth are now taken in with consumerism and materialism.The high-handed manner in which farmlands were acquired resulted in farmers turning their backs on the party.

Besides dealing with these thorny issues, the CPI(M) has to apply its mind to a more fundamental problem — calibrating its strategy of using parliamentary democracy as an instrument to intensify class struggle. This has led to autocracy that has troubled people the most. The wanton killings, violence, intimidation, social boycott and destruction have vitiated the environment. The politics of fear has adversely affected growth and development, causing considerable strain on the state's economy. This has stunted employment growth, alienating the youth further.

The CPI(M) will do well to take a hard look at these challenges. It will also have to address the more complex question of reconciling the party's underlying contradictions when it comes to capturing political power through a democratic process. Fear has remained the most powerful weapon in the party's arsenal, seriously undermining social values and democratic politics. The party has deployed thugs and satraps for the purpose of advancing its interests at all costs.The politics of fear, which has been employed to suppress the voice of dissent, has adversely affected every aspect of human life in West Bengal. It has made the Marxists forget that it is not the party but the people who are the makers of history.

Mamata Banerjee succeeded in making the people conscious of this 'fear' that was corroding their courage to stand up against the party's hegemony. This awareness, reinforced by a free and fair election organized by the local administration under the directives of the Election Commission, helped the people to turn up in massive numbers and exercise their franchise. The peaceful polls ensured the triumph of freedom over fear.

The central committee will do well to bear in mind that the relevance of the Left is going to be tested in the coming days during the presidential election and the next Lok Sabha polls. The electoral arithmetic had tilted sharply against the Left after the 2009 Lok Sabha elections. The electoral reversal in 2011 will deny the CPI(M) an opportunity to play an important role on the floor of Parliament or elsewhere. The party's strength in the Rajya Sabha is going to get further depleted. The party will also get marginalized during the election of the president of India. Based on current estimates,the electoral prospects of the Left, given the fact that it is out of power in both West Bengal and Kerala, appear grim.

The mandate of the Bengal elections offers a challenge as well as an opportunity to the CPI(M) and its allies to embark on a course correction. The election results send out twin messages: Bengal has to change, and so do the Marxists. It will be in the interest of the central leadership to consider tempering ideological preoccupations to the exigencies of the situation on the ground.

The Marxists cannot be written off. They have enjoyed a solid vote bank over the decades in West Bengal. It will be prudent of the CPI(M) if it were to take steps to reconnect with the people. The time has come for the Marxists to try and win the hearts and minds of the people, demonstrating political maturity and summoning moral courage. For this, they could undertake the following measures: declare emphatically that the party accepts the mandate of the people with humility; beg forgiveness for all the things it had done that had hurt the populace; Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee should visit Mamata Banerjee with a bouquet of flowers and congratulate her on her momentous victory; the party should play the role of a responsible and constructive Opposition and treat the chief minister and its opponents with utmost courtesy; it should also direct its cadre to maintain peace and order and avoid confrontations even in the midst of provocations; it should do nothing to exacerbate the tension on the political front.

These gestures, together with reciprocal action from the ruling parties, will go a long way in bridging the political divide. The need of the hour is reconciliation across the social and political spectrums to put Bengal back on the road of progress and social amity.What is required is a conscious effort on the part of everyone to change and make a difference. The communist parties of the world have not remained ossified. They have transformed themselves to adjust to changing situations in their respective countries. If such a thing has taken place around the world, why should communist parties in India remain far behind? Change is,therefore, a must if the CPI(M)-led Left has to endure.

The author is former director of the Intelligence Bureau, and the former governor of Nagaland ***************************************


THE TELEGRAPH

HEED THE SIGNS OF BREWING TROUBLE

ENEMY WITHIN THE RECENT INCIDENT AT THE FAISAL AIRBASE IN KARACHI SHOWS THE PAKISTANI ARMY IN A POOR LIGHT

Karachi is the only Pakistani city that has headquarters of all three branches of the armed forces: the navy, the air force and the army. It is a fortress surrounded by land, sea and air warriors. And yet this garrison gets invaded by a small band of fanatic fighters, who destroy at least two P-3C Orion ASW aircraft at the naval air station within the Faisal airbase in Karachi.

One wonders how a band of 10 to 12 armed men wreaked havoc, breaching layers of security in the high-alert defence zone of a nation that traditionally prides itself on its military prowess. Is it possible to undertake such a deadly mission deep inside a naval/air base without the help of 'insiders'? Whatever the case may be, the fact is that the impossible has been made possible, thereby showing the State and its commanders in a poor light. The episode at Karachi clearly exposes the lack of will of the State high command to take on the 'enemy within Pakistan'.

To analyse the present turbulence, one needs to delve into the psyche of Pakistani soldiers. It is a well-known fact that the more the turbulence in a country, the more difficult it is to keep up the morale of the men in the barracks. Pakistan now finds it hard to recruit men in the army because the Pashtun- dominated territories stretching across Kabul and Islamabad have known no peace for rather too long. Desertion and indiscipline of Afghan soldiers are now a common feature.

For Pakistani soldiers, an additional disruptive factor is their widespread sympathy for co-religionists who fall victim to the bullets of the 'outsiders' — the Americans. Thus, although Osama bin Laden was an 'unwanted' fugitive in Pakistan, he was also a Muslim killed by non-Muslims in the dead of the night. This killing had another fallout. The rank and file of the cantonment and the 'Islamized' officers today deeply resent the cowardice of their army chief and of the boss of the Inter-Services Intelligence.

Here one needs to appreciate the fundamentals of soldiering. First, soldiering is done for victory, and not for defeat. Second, the soldier fights an external, and not an internal, enemy. Third, soldiers like to be commanded strongly, not by weak-kneed men. Fourth, no soldier can fight in a state of mental instability, thinking about the turbulence in his village affecting the safety of his family.

So far as the armies of South Asia are concerned, one of their main binding factors has been religion. It would be wrong to assume that Pakistani soldiers would be immune to the strong religious sentiments attached to the death of a 'cult figure' like bin Laden.

In short, May 2011 does not augur well for Pakistan's armed forces. The force, whose foremost and final foe was India on the eastern frontier, seems to be at a loss on feeling the heat from the west, from the Afghan border, as in Abbottabad. The men in fatigues also appear dejected with the repeated blunders of their commanding officers.

One hopes that the army chief-ISI boss duo of Islamabad will resist the temptation of playing the India card as the ultimate tool for fixing the trouble coming from the United States of America. For an army with a sinking image and the ISI with a failed chief, one hopes that the priorities of war will not override the possibility of a civil war in Pakistan.

ABHIJIT BHATTACHARYYA

 

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HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

PLAYING POLITICS WITH SUMMER VACATION

The Education Ministry on Tuesday surprised millions of pupils and their parents by announcing that this year's summer vacation would be shortened, with school starting on August 26 instead of September 1. To make up the days, the Sukkot, Hanukkah and Passover vacations will be extended.

It would have made more sense to announce this change at the beginning of the school year than at the end of it. Many families have already made vacation plans for August, and will now have to either cancel them or pay fees to make changes. The Education Ministry acted with bureaucratic obtuseness by making such a late announcement, exhibiting a total lack of consideration for parents.

The decision was explained in a report by a tendentious committee, which recommended creating "significant continuity for studying the Tishrei holidays" in the Jewish school system. Arab pupils, meanwhile, will start school on September 1, as they always have.

Once again, it seems that Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar, who is determined to strengthen "Jewish and Zionist education," is subjugating the educational system to his political goals, this time by abusing the parents.

The education system suffers from a multiyear delay in improving the teaching of basic skills like reading, writing, English and math. This neglect is obvious in Israeli pupils' poor showing on comparative international exams.

One could justify changing the vacation schedule were it aimed at strengthening the study of basic subjects. But Sa'ar seems much more concerned with the holidays, which as it is take up too much of the curriculum.

The ideology of the right, which aims to emphasize every Jewish thing and to sharpen the division between Jewish and Arab pupils, is more important to our education minister than his commitment to improving academic achievement.

The school vacation schedule is indeed worthy of periodic review, so it can be adjusted to the changing needs of teachers and parents. But it would have been better to cancel Hanukkah vacation - which is observed only by the school system and is a burden on working parents - and create an unbroken period of study between the fall holidays and Passover.

Shortening summer vacation with a last-minute announcement shows a lack of management, and will cause parents unnecessary trouble without contributing a thing to education. The National Parents Forum is correct in demanding that the decision be retracted.

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HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

WAR AND PEACE

BY ARI SHAVIT

There will be no peace with the Palestinians. Not this year, not this decade, perhaps not this generation. Even if Ehud Olmert becomes prime minister again, there will be no peace with the Palestinians. Even if Tzipi Livni resumes the negotiations with Ahmed Qureia, there will be no peace with the Palestinians. Even if Yossi Beilin goes to Geneva and shuts himself up with Mahmoud Abbas on the lakeshore, there will be no peace with the Palestinians.

In the coming years the Palestinians will not compromise on the right of return. They will not recognize the Jewish national state. They will not turn their back on Hamas. Even before the Arab Spring there was not much chance for a long-lasting peace with the Palestinians. But because of the Arab Spring even that flimsy chance has been lost.

The democratization in the Arab world is wonderful, but it has killed the peace. In the coming years no moderate Palestinian leader will have the required legitimacy to make the historic '48 deal with Israel in exchange for '67. In the coming years no moderate Palestinian leader who will be able to face the refugees and persuade them to give up their homes and villages. No Palestinian Anwar Sadat will rise in the foreseeable future and there will be no Israeli-Palestinian peace.

So the really important question is different - will there be peace with the world?

Ehud Barak has many defects. But by going to Camp David in 2000 Barak made certain the world would stand beside Israel in the second intifada. Ehud Olmert also has some defects. But by going to Annapolis in 2008 Olmert made certain the world would stand beside Israel in Operation Cast Lead.

Both Barak and Olmert proved to the world in acts that the conflict is not about the settlements but about survival. Both Barak and Olmert proved to the world Israel is not an occupying power but a democratic Jewish state that wants to end the occupation.

Both these unpopular men served Israel not by acting to achieve peace with the Palestinians, but by achieving peace with the world. Thanks to them, when Israel had to exercise force it had the right and the ability to do so. Thus Israel defeated Yasser Arafat and deterred Hamas. Thus Israel gained years of quiet, prosperity and growing strength.

But there's another question, no less important - will there be peace with ourselves?

Camp David 2000 made the Zionist left stand behind Operation Defensive Shield in the spring of 2002. Annapolis 2008 kept the Zionist left from castigating Operation Cast Lead at the beginning of 2009. Barak and Olmert's far-reaching moves failed vis-a-vis the Palestinians, but succeeded vis-a-vis the Israelis. They healed a torn, divided people. They restored an overall sense of vindication. They created an inner Israeli peace.

The willingness in the last decade to divide the country has united the nation. It created a certain ideological harmony that enabled us to stand together in the face of difficult external challenges. It united society and strengthened the state. Camp David and Annapolis did not given us peace with our neighbors, but they brought us peace with ourselves.

There is a high risk of war breaking out in the autumn. We all hope it will be merely a diplomatic war. But it is important to prepare for the possibility that sooner or later the diplomatic struggle will take on a popular or military dimension. It will be harder than in Operation Cast Lead. It could be as hard as in the first or second intifada. But the situation will be worse because this time we will be going to battle without international backing and without Israeli unity. Without peace with the world and without peace with ourselves.

Unlike Barak and Olmert, Benjamin Netanyahu has not prepared the ground for the expected campaign. He has not taken the diplomatic move required to ensure victory. It is not peace with the Palestinians that Netanyahu is losing. Netanyahu is losing the Israelis' next war.

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HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

WAR AND PEACE

BY ARI SHAVIT

There will be no peace with the Palestinians. Not this year, not this decade, perhaps not this generation. Even if Ehud Olmert becomes prime minister again, there will be no peace with the Palestinians. Even if Tzipi Livni resumes the negotiations with Ahmed Qureia, there will be no peace with the Palestinians. Even if Yossi Beilin goes to Geneva and shuts himself up with Mahmoud Abbas on the lakeshore, there will be no peace with the Palestinians.

In the coming years the Palestinians will not compromise on the right of return. They will not recognize the Jewish national state. They will not turn their back on Hamas. Even before the Arab Spring there was not much chance for a long-lasting peace with the Palestinians. But because of the Arab Spring even that flimsy chance has been lost.

The democratization in the Arab world is wonderful, but it has killed the peace. In the coming years no moderate Palestinian leader will have the required legitimacy to make the historic '48 deal with Israel in exchange for '67. In the coming years no moderate Palestinian leader who will be able to face the refugees and persuade them to give up their homes and villages. No Palestinian Anwar Sadat will rise in the foreseeable future and there will be no Israeli-Palestinian peace.

So the really important question is different - will there be peace with the world?

Ehud Barak has many defects. But by going to Camp David in 2000 Barak made certain the world would stand beside Israel in the second intifada. Ehud Olmert also has some defects. But by going to Annapolis in 2008 Olmert made certain the world would stand beside Israel in Operation Cast Lead.

Both Barak and Olmert proved to the world in acts that the conflict is not about the settlements but about survival. Both Barak and Olmert proved to the world Israel is not an occupying power but a democratic Jewish state that wants to end the occupation.

Both these unpopular men served Israel not by acting to achieve peace with the Palestinians, but by achieving peace with the world. Thanks to them, when Israel had to exercise force it had the right and the ability to do so. Thus Israel defeated Yasser Arafat and deterred Hamas. Thus Israel gained years of quiet, prosperity and growing strength.

But there's another question, no less important - will there be peace with ourselves?

Camp David 2000 made the Zionist left stand behind Operation Defensive Shield in the spring of 2002. Annapolis 2008 kept the Zionist left from castigating Operation Cast Lead at the beginning of 2009. Barak and Olmert's far-reaching moves failed vis-a-vis the Palestinians, but succeeded vis-a-vis the Israelis. They healed a torn, divided people. They restored an overall sense of vindication. They created an inner Israeli peace.

The willingness in the last decade to divide the country has united the nation. It created a certain ideological harmony that enabled us to stand together in the face of difficult external challenges. It united society and strengthened the state. Camp David and Annapolis did not given us peace with our neighbors, but they brought us peace with ourselves.

There is a high risk of war breaking out in the autumn. We all hope it will be merely a diplomatic war. But it is important to prepare for the possibility that sooner or later the diplomatic struggle will take on a popular or military dimension. It will be harder than in Operation Cast Lead. It could be as hard as in the first or second intifada. But the situation will be worse because this time we will be going to battle without international backing and without Israeli unity. Without peace with the world and without peace with ourselves.

Unlike Barak and Olmert, Benjamin Netanyahu has not prepared the ground for the expected campaign. He has not taken the diplomatic move required to ensure victory. It is not peace with the Palestinians that Netanyahu is losing. Netanyahu is losing the Israelis' next war.

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HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

THE CITY THAT WAS FROZEN TOGETHER

BY ISRAEL HAREL

Two days ago, at the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva in Jerusalem, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed a hope for "a more built up Jerusalem" next year. Is that a promise to overturn the de facto freeze? Is it a response to the housing minister regarding the fact that for almost two years there has been no public construction in Jerusalem?

When Netanyahu surrendered to U.S. President Barack Obama's dictate for a construction freeze he thrust out his chest and said defiantly: Jerusalem is not a settlement. There will be no freeze there.

However on the ground in greater Jerusalem - certainly relative to its size and needs - the construction halt is almost total: No more than about 350 government-sponsored residential units were sold in the past year in the city.

In many places in Judea and Samaria there are pauses or delays in construction, but these stem mainly from the plethora of petitions submitted to the High Court by Peace Now. In Jerusalem, on the other hand, and even without the court or B'Tselem, it is mainly Netanyahu who is responsible for the stoppage.

In the Pisgat Ze'ev neighborhood, with about 60,000 residents, the Prime Minister's Office (according to what statutory right? ) is delaying the construction of about 650 residential units. In Homat Shmuel (formerly Har Homa ), about 950 residential units have been delayed. In Ramat Shlomo, the situation has been unclear since the incident with U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden. And worst of all: For about two years, in other words since Netanyahu came to power, about 400 residential units stand ready for sale in the East Jerusalem neighborhoods. "Someone" is delaying the approval for their sale.

Netanyahu, if he ever becomes a man of truth and wants to continue to prove to Obama that he is a determined leader and not just a man of words - must immediately permit construction. Certainly in places where permits are in place: Ramot, Homat Shmuel, Gilo and others. Becuase of the freeze, real estate prices in Jerusalem are skyrocketing proportionally well beyond any other city in the country.

That is the main reason for the fact that the young people are abandoning the capital, and not, according to the slanderous claims of people with vested interests, because of Haredization.

Haredization does in fact exist and is burdensome, but it is actually those who want to prevent the domination of the Haredim who must lead the movement to prevent the departure of the secular population. In effect they are doing the opposite: They are waging a scare campaign, exaggerated for the most part, to cause people to become disgusted with life in the capital.

Due to arguments based on ecology and landscape preservation, they are also leading the opposition to construction west of the city, where there are considerable land reserves. And of course to the east, but there the opposition is political.

Official Jerusalem is well aware of what has to be done in order to fulfill the promises made over the years, by governments of both the right and the left, that the united city will remain the capital of Israel for eternity. Two-thirds of the residents of the city today are Jews, but the natural growth rate among the Jews is 1.6 percent, compared with 3.3 percent among Arabs.

In addition, there are many Arabs who are entering the city illegally - no doubt because of the deep suffering of the East Jerusalem Arabs.

In order to increase the number of Jews we must build extensively. In area E1 (between Jerusalem and Ma'aleh Adumim ), for example. These are government lands, like the lands of East Jerusalem and Ma'aleh Adumim itself.

And the plans exist. All that is lacking is adherence to the goal (unless it's all only talk ) and the courage to implement the declarations made two days ago in Mercaz Harav and yesterday at the Jerusalem Day ceremony on Ammunition Hill.

Massive and fearless construction in those areas will also strip of content any United Nations recognition of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.

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HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

WHOSE CIVICS IS IT, ANYWAY?

BY RIKI TESLER

Civics instruction in Israel is akin to screening a silent and violent movie whose subtitles change every two years with the arrival of a new producer/education minister, or a new director/Pedagogical Secretariat chairperson. The subtitles change because in the absence of a constitution that lays down an agreed upon vision for the state, the courts and the education system become the boxing ring in which political players with an agenda - either personal or communal - attempt to influence the character and implementation of the vision.

The replacement of one education minister with another is always followed by personnel changes at the top and middle levels that lead to frequent curriculum changes. This process has two main effects.

The first is the devaluation of the role of the state in shaping values education. The result is that the ministry's own programs are rendered irrelevant, the forces out in the field become stronger, and the schools base their instruction in values education on their own perspectives.

The second is less social cohesion in the absence of shared fundamental values, a shared language and agreed upon rules. The result: sector-based groups that become entrenched in their positions and develop a politics of hate instead of mechanisms of consensus-building.

The main problem in civics education has to do with how the following question is interpreted: Who is part of Israel's civil community? The Jewish people (an ethno-national interpretation ) or all citizens of the state, including minorities (a liberal interpretation )? The Education Ministry, unexpectedly, has taken a stance. Over the years it has formulated a policy, which was incorporated into an amendment passed in 2000 to the State Education Law, which strikes a balance between the interpretations. It links Judaism and democracy while specifying educating toward respect, tolerance and recognition of the equal rights of all Israeli citizens. This decision also forms the core of the school civics curriculum: the cultivation of a shared Israeli identity.

There is another problem surrounding the question: Who decides? Here, too, the Education Ministry has ruled: a pluralistic professional committee with representatives from all streams and opinions, as an instrument for balancing political pressures, which holds professional and public debate and find a common denominator for teaching the subject.

And now, Dr. Zvi Zameret, chairman of the ministry's Pedagogical Secretariat, wants to revive the "melting pot" and push aside all of the agreements. He decides to emphasize the ethno-national interpretation; so much for equal citizenship. He decides to dissolve the (critical ) professional committee, and instead of educating for critical thinking in a complex world, he seeks to educate for Jewish history, for patriotism and for militarism. Dr. Zameret ignores the Education Ministry's core curriculum program. He takes action to cut civics instruction hours, decides to redesign the core of the civics curriculum (with a new committee composed of like-minded members ) and interferes with curriculum content.

Here is what we have to say to Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar: Civics is not yours alone. The chairman does not have authority to take measures that bypass the professional levels and are not worthy of the state and that jeopardize social cohesion. There is a limit to political appointments. The education minister has an obligation to keep the ministry free of partisan interests. The public's revulsion at the political ritual of political influence over the education system demonstrates that we have matured and that the time has come for reform. That means appointments based on professional qualifications only, from the ministerial level on down.

The author heads the Academic Committee for Civics Instruction.

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

EDITORIAL

THE CELLPHONE STUDY

Cellphone users have every right to be befuddled. Just last year, a major study in 13 countries found no clear evidence that exposure to the radiation from cellphones causes brain cancer. Yet, this week, a panel convened by the same agency, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, declared that the radiation is "possibly carcinogenic" to humans. It made this pronouncement by press release before publishing a monograph that will lay out the basis for its concerns — and will give independent scientists their first chance to evaluate this new judgment.

The agency, a unit of the World Health Organization, based its determination on what it called "limited evidence" that heavy users of cellphones had an increased risk of developing a rare brain tumor known as a glioma. Cellphones were placed in a "possibly carcinogenic" category that also includes pesticides, dry cleaning chemicals, engine exhaust, lead, pickled vegetables and coffee.

The I.A.R.C. is a respected organization whose judgments influence regulatory policies in many nations. Still, many experts remain dubious. Despite a huge upsurge in cellphone use over the past two decades, brain cancer rates in the United States have been declining. Scientists are mostly stumped as to how the radio frequency waves emitted by cellphones, which lack the punch to break chemical bonds or disrupt DNA, might cause cancer.

The Food and Drug Administration, which regulates the safety of cellphone emissions, said it would review the forthcoming monograph carefully but that "the existing weight of scientific evidence does not show an association between non-thermal radio frequency energy and adverse health outcomes."

For now, it seems reasonable to conduct more research and to monitor usage by children, who could have a lifetime of exposure ahead. Heavy users of cellphones might want to use head sets, speaker phones or text messaging to keep the device at a distance. Most would be surprised to learn that cellphone manufacturers, presumably to ward off liability claims, already advise users in very small print to hold the phones a short distance from the body while calling.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

QUIET? IN NEW YORK CITY?

The irony would not have been lost on John Lennon. Musicians at Strawberry Fields, a memorial to the murdered Beatle and one of eight quiet zones in New York City's Central Park, have drawn more police attention lately. If some minstrel belts out "Imagine" or gets a crowd to sing along hoping to carry away a hatful of coins, this busker could face a fine ranging from $50 to $200.

Why this more urgent push for silence at the center of this wonderfully boisterous metropolis? Why forbid singing and guitars, even if the tune is not always in harmony with some of the park's ritzy neighbors? A similar impulse to keep the park tidy has led to rigid limits on demonstrations and political rallies on the park's Great Lawn.

Adrian Benepe, the city's parks commissioner, said that with Central Park getting 38 million visitors a year, the city is "trying to avert the tragedy of the commons," where too little regulation destroys a good thing for all. A saxophonist playing at Bethesda Terrace, a newly designated quiet area, could wipe out the gentle sound of the Bethesda Fountain for everyone else. Besides, he said, the eight quiet zones (most in place for years) make up only 5 percent of park land and amplification equipment, including large radios, has long been barred without a permit.

While that may be true, the new zeal in enforcing the rules seems an odd use of park police. They seem busier than usual silencing or ticketing street musicians, including those who like playing in a stone passageway near the Bethesda Fountain because of its rich, natural acoustics.

This is New York, a very big noisy place that should not be forced to keep quiet.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

PLAYING WITH MATCHES ON THE DEBT

Just ignore Tuesday's vote against raising the debt ceiling, House Republican leaders whispered to Wall Street. We didn't really vote against it, members suggested; we just sent another of our endless symbolic messages, pretending to take the nation's credit to the brink of collapse in order to extract the maximum concessions from President Obama.

Once he caves, members said, the debt limit will be raised and the credit scare will end. And the business world apparently got the message. It's just a "joke," said a leader of the United States Chamber of Commerce, and Wall Street is in on it. Not everyone found it funny.

No matter how they tried to spin it, 318 House members actually voted against paying the country's bills and keeping the promise made to federal bondholders. That's an incredibly dangerous message to send in a softening global economy. Among the jokesters were 236 Republicans playing the politics of extortion, and 82 feckless Democrats who fret that Republicans could transform a courageous vote into a foul-smelling advertisement.

The games that now pass for governing in an increasingly embarrassing 112th Congress are menacing the nation's future. It was bad enough when Republicans threatened to shut down the government to achieve their extreme and extremely misguided spending cuts, but that threat would have caused temporary damage. The debt limit is something else altogether. If the global credit markets decide that the debt of the United States will regularly be held hostage to ideological demands, it could cause significant harm to investment in long-term bonds and other obligations. That, in turn, could damage domestic credit markets and easily spark another recession.

To prevent this from happening, 114 Democrats in April asked for a "clean" vote without conditions. But Republicans were not about to set their hostage free. Knowing that the clean vote would not pass — and imposing a two-thirds majority requirement to ensure its failure — House Republicans gave the Democrats what they requested. They then voted it down, sending their reckless message to the world.

But there was no excuse for so many Democrats to go along with that message, including the leadership. Steny Hoyer, the minority whip, urged his members to vote no so they would not "subject themselves to a political 30-second ad attack" with all Republicans voting no. Apparently Mr. Hoyer did not trust voters to understand what a dangerous and dishonest game the Republicans are playing.

The exercise has prompted the White House to convene talks to discuss the Republicans' scattershot demands, which have ranged from trillions in spending cuts to the outright dismantling of vital safety-net programs like Medicare and Medicaid. Democrats have hoped to get an increase in revenues out of any deal, but House Republican leaders emerged from a White House meeting on Wednesday spouting the usual discredited claims that higher taxes on the rich would impede job growth.

What Republicans seem unwilling to acknowledge is that the debt-limit debate is not about future spending. It is about paying for a deficit already incurred because of two wars and tax cuts approved by both Republicans and Democrats at the behest of a Republican president. Tuesday's vote was a chance to do the right thing and educate the public on why it was necessary. Instead, too many lawmakers walked away from the truth.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

WHEN THE NILE RUNS DRY

BY LESTER R. BROWN

Washington

A NEW scramble for Africa is under way. As global food prices rise and exporters reduce shipments of commodities, countries that rely on imported grain are panicking. Affluent countries like Saudi Arabia, South Korea, China and India have descended on fertile plains across the African continent, acquiring huge tracts of land to produce wheat, rice and corn for consumption back home.

Some of these land acquisitions are enormous. South Korea, which imports 70 percent of its grain, has acquired 1.7 million acres in Sudan to grow wheat — an area twice the size of Rhode Island. In Ethiopia, a Saudi firm has leased 25,000 acres to grow rice, with the option of expanding. India has leased several hundred thousand acres there to grow corn, rice and other crops. And in countries like Congo and Zambia, China is acquiring land for biofuel production.

These land grabs shrink the food supply in famine-prone African nations and anger local farmers, who see their governments selling their ancestral lands to foreigners. They also pose a grave threat to Africa's newest democracy: Egypt.

Egypt is a nation of bread eaters. Its citizens consume 18 million tons of wheat annually, more than half of which comes from abroad. Egypt is now the world's leading wheat importer, and subsidized bread — for which the government doles out approximately $2 billion per year — is seen as an entitlement by the 60 percent or so of Egyptian families who depend on it.

As Egypt tries to fashion a functioning democracy after President Hosni Mubarak's departure, land grabs to the south are threatening its ability to put bread on the table because all of Egypt's grain is either imported or produced with water from the Nile River, which flows north through Ethiopia and Sudan before reaching Egypt. (Since rainfall in Egypt is negligible to nonexistent, its agriculture is totally dependent on the Nile.)

Unfortunately for Egypt, two of the favorite targets for land acquisitions are Ethiopia and Sudan, which together occupy three-fourths of the Nile River Basin. Today's demands for water are such that there is little left of the river when it eventually empties into the Mediterranean.

The Nile Waters Agreement, which Egypt and Sudan signed in 1959, gave Egypt 75 percent of the river's flow, 25 percent to Sudan and none to Ethiopia. This situation is changing abruptly as wealthy foreign governments and international agribusinesses snatch up large swaths of arable land along the Upper Nile. While these deals are typically described as land acquisitions, they are also, in effect, water acquisitions.

Now, when competing for Nile water, Cairo must deal with several governments and commercial interests that were not party to the 1959 agreement. Moreover, Ethiopia — never enamored of the agreement — has announced plans to build a huge hydroelectric dam on its branch of the Nile that would reduce the water flow to Egypt even more.

Because Egypt's wheat yields are already among the world's highest, it has little potential to raise its agricultural productivity. With its population of 81 million projected to reach 101 million by 2025, finding enough food and water is a daunting challenge.

Egypt's plight could become part of a larger, more troubling scenario. Its upstream Nile neighbors — Sudan, with 44 million people, and Ethiopia, with 83 million — are growing even faster, increasing the need for water to produce food. Projections by the United Nations show the combined population of these three countries increasing to 272 million by 2025 — and 360 million by 2050 — from 208 million now.

Growing water demand, driven by population growth and foreign land and water acquisitions, are straining the Nile's natural limits. Avoiding dangerous conflicts over water will require three transnational initiatives. First, governments must address the population threat head-on by ensuring that all women have access to family planning services and by providing education for girls in the region. Second, countries must adopt more water-efficient irrigation technologies and plant less water-intensive crops.

Finally, for the sake of peace and future development cooperation, the nations of the Nile River Basin should come together to ban land grabs by foreign governments and agribusiness firms. Since there is no precedent for this, international help in negotiating such a ban, similar to the World Bank's role in facilitating the 1960 Indus Waters Treaty between India and Pakistan, would likely be necessary to make it a reality.

None of these initiatives will be easy to implement, but all are essential. Without them, rising bread prices could undermine Egypt's revolution of hope and competition for the Nile's water could turn deadly.

Lester R. Brown is the president of the Earth Policy Institute and the author of "World on the Edge: How to Prevent Environmental and Economic Collapse."

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

SHE'S 10 AND MAY BE SOLD TO A BROTHEL

BY NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF

KOLKATA, India

M. is an ebullient girl, age 10, who ranks near the top of her fourth-grade class and dreams of being a doctor. Yet she, like all of India, is at a turning point, and it looks as if her family may instead sell her to a brothel.

Her mother is a prostitute here in Kolkata, the city better known to the world as Calcutta. Ruchira Gupta, who runs an organization called Apne Aap that fights human trafficking, estimates that 90 percent of the daughters of Indian prostitutes end up in the sex trade as well. And M. has the extra burden that she belongs to a subcaste whose girls are often expected to become prostitutes.

M. seemed poised to escape this fate with the help of one of my heroes, Urmi Basu, a social worker who in 2000 started the New Light shelter program for prostitutes and their children.

M., with her winning personality and keen mind, began to bloom with the help of New Light. Both her parents are illiterate, but she learned English and earned excellent grades in an English-language school for middle-class children outside the red-light district. I'm concealing her identity to protect her from gibes from schoolmates.

Unfortunately, brains and personality aren't always enough, and India is the center of the 21st-century slave trade. This country almost certainly has the largest number of human-trafficking victims in the world today.

If M. is sold to a brothel, she will have no defense against H.I.V. and other sexually transmitted diseases. Decisions about using a condom are made by the customer or the brothel owner, not by the girl. In one brothel I slipped into to conduct some interviews, there was not a single condom available.

The police make more effort to help girls like M. than they did a few years ago, and in a column a week ago I described a police raid on a brothel and the rescue of girls inside ages 5, 10 and 15. Yet the police force's progress is uneven, with one prostitute explaining why brothels hide young girls from police: "Because when the police come through, they confiscate the very young girls, and then the brothel owners have to pay a bribe to get the girls back from the police."

Now at age 10, M. is running out of time. Her parents have pulled her out of her school in Kolkata and are sending her back to their native village hundreds of miles to the west.

"Our family situation is such that we have to take her back," said her mother. She is vague about the reasons, except to say that the girl's grandfather insists upon it. M. has a scholarship through New Light to study free in Kolkata, so the cost of M.'s education is not a factor.

This leaves Basu and me with an extremely bad feeling, fearing that once she is back in the village and away from her protectors at the New Light shelter, her grandfather could sell her to a trafficker for transfer to a red-light district anywhere in India.

When we ask M. what she thinks, she looks down and says in a small voice that she worries as well. But she says she will never give up: "I will not stop my studies," she told me firmly.

Then again, she is unlikely to be consulted. And traffickers offer families hundreds of dollars for a pretty girl.

I'm here in Kolkata with America Ferrera, the actress from "Ugly Betty," to film a television documentary. Ferrera fell in love with M., and M. with Ferrera; they spent much of their time giggling together.

"When I look at her, I see all the 10-year-old girls I've ever known," Ferrera said. "She's bubbly, silly, and optimistic. It would be heartbreaking to lose such a beautiful spirit to a life of violence and prostitution."

Ferrera, Basu and I jammed into M.'s one-room shack to beg her parents to let her stay in school in Kolkata. "I'm pleading with you," Basu said. "Let your daughter have this opportunity!"

We got nowhere. Her parents have bought M. a train ticket back to the village in a week's time.

I don't know how this will end up. Ferrera said she will be writing letters to M. in hopes that this may make her family nervous about a sale. And Basu is counseling M. on what to do if she is sold to a trafficker. We just don't know what else to do.

What I do know is that it is surreal that these scenes are unfolding in the 21st century. The peak of the trans-Atlantic slave trade was the 1780s, when just under 80,000 slaves a year were transported from Africa to the New World.

These days, Unicef estimates that 1.8 million children a year enter the commercial sex trade. Multiply M. by 1.8 million, and you understand the need for a new abolitionist movement.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

A WAY THROUGH THE DEBT MESS

BY JOSEPH A. CALIFANO JR.

THIS week House Republicans overwhelmingly rejected a plan to raise the nation's debt ceiling without simultaneous cuts in taxes and spending, setting up a showdown with President Obama this summer over the budget.

Mr. Obama is not the first president to confront the Cerberus of debt limits, taxes and spending cuts. Indeed, Lyndon B. Johnson's struggle in 1967 and 1968 to raise the debt ceiling, ward off draconian spending cuts and raise taxes offers important lessons for Mr. Obama.

The first problem for Johnson was how much the government could go into debt. Because of increased domestic spending and the war in Vietnam, the deficit grew rapidly during the 1960s, and in 1967 we on the White House staff asked Congress to raise the country's debt ceiling.

It wasn't the first such request; before 1967 raising the limit had been routine, supported in the Senate by almost all Democrats and liberal Republicans. Even in the House, where members faced re-election every other year and thus largely opposed such measures, we believed a favorable vote was inevitable.

So, despite high-decibel opposition to raising the limit unless money for Johnson's Great Society programs was cut, at our insistence Representative Wilbur Mills, a conservative Democrat from Arkansas and the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, brought the proposal to the House floor on June 7.

To our surprise the bill was rejected, 210 to 197. Enough liberal Democrats had joined Republicans and conservative Democrats to defeat the bill, attributing their negative votes to opposition to the Vietnam war, which, they charged, was short-changing domestic programs.

Johnson was furious. "There's plenty of money for domestic programs," he told me. "Tell them we're prepared to put big public housing projects right in the middle of their districts to show their constituents how much money is available for domestic programs. Maybe that'll change their minds."

This wasn't just an idle threat; he knew that a little hardball, combined with some well-placed promises, could save the bill. Indeed, after some choice conversations with liberal representatives — and a quiet commitment to conservatives to curb domestic spending — the increase passed the House on June 21.

But that wasn't the end of Johnson's woes. Like Mr. Obama now, he knew that he had to raise taxes to reduce the deficit (though Johnson's $28 billion in red ink was chump change compared to today's trillions) and that Congress and the public would strongly oppose such a move. For months, Johnson resisted going to Congress — he had predicted that "all hell will break loose."

Indeed, when, a few weeks after the debt limit increase, Johnson proposed a 10 percent income tax surcharge on corporations and most individuals, Congress put our entire budget — education, food stamps, even our proposal to finance a public broadcasting system — on the chopping block. Then as now, most members of Congress preferred spending cuts, especially in programs for the poor, to increasing taxes on the affluent.

Again, Johnson played rough. He ordered reductions in defense, highway and public works spending to win support from governors who would be affected by such cuts. But none of this mollified Mills and other conservatives.

The White House and Congress fought over the tax bill for the rest of the year and into 1968. Most people forget that much of Johnson's famous TV speech on March 31, in which he announced that he would not run for re-election, was an urgent plea that Congress pass the bill.

Eventually Johnson reluctantly agreed to a $6 billion reduction in domestic spending as the price for passage of his tax surcharge. It was a clever move: rather than compromise on the tax bill itself, he simply let Congress make its own budget cuts — betting that it wouldn't agree on what and how much to slash.

He was right: Congress cut less than $4 billion from the 1969 budget. He even got the last laugh, as the year ended with a $3.2 billion surplus, the first in decades, and the Great Society survived.

In other words, Johnson won because he knew Capitol Hill's pressure points. Like a great general, he understood the difference between tactics (the private promise, the discreet promise) and strategy (the order of bills, his legislative goals) and he understood how to make them work together.

Today the White House confronts a similar need to raise the debt limit and eventually increase taxes, alongside demands that domestic spending be sharply reduced. True, Mr. Obama faces a more divided Congress and an unemployment rate more than double that of 1967, but not the kinds of divisions over race and war that prompted Johnson not to seek re-election.

Mr. Obama would be wise to look to the fiscal battles of 1967 and 1968 for inspiration. To slay his own political Cerberus without savaging social programs will take a similar measure of commitment, political wiliness and courage.

Joseph A. Califano Jr., who was a special assistant for domestic affairs to President Lyndon B. Johnson, is the founder and chairman of the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

ENCOUNTERING THE EU'S COUNTER TRENDS

DAVID JUDSON

The book "Megatrends," published almost 30 years ago, was remarkable for more than its 9 million sales and two years on the New York Times Bestseller list. The remarkable observation that has stayed with me since I read the tome as a young man was author John Naisbitt's prediction about the coming integration of Europe under what was then the European Community.

The book has long ago escaped my possession. But as best as my memory provides, Naisbitt's point was that integration at one level, a European megatrend in 1982, which was to expand in ways even Naisbitt could not foretell, also sets in motion counter trends on another plane. Perhaps the reason the point stayed with me so vividly was that along with the centrifugal strains he predicted would test the emergence of a "European" identity, he offered the humorous lament, "and yes, God forbid, the French will only become more French."

A panel discussion Sunday, in which I participated, sent me on an unsuccessful Internet search for Naisbitt's precise nugget of wisdom. The discussion was frustrating as it largely turned on the contours of debate with which we are familiar: Should Turkey still seek to join? Is the European Union sincere? What's in it for either side? Will new negotiation chapters open or old ones close? My deep sense at the end of the meeting was that we were debating the wrong questions. In my subsequent hunt for bits of Naisbitt, I did stumble across a copycat book published by a Dutchman: "Megatrends Europe" published in 2006. Its predication is by 2050 the EU will have collapsed; replacing it will be the Islamic state of "Eurabia." That's an intellectual red herring, of course. But it does offer a bit of insight into the state of thought in the Netherlands.

My point was, and is, that those of us interested in Turkey's integration with Europe would do well to spend some more time on the counter trends.

Go to Athens, the parlor discussions turn on whether Greece should stay in the rapaciously-run, German-led eurozone. Go to Berlin, you'll find the mirror of this discussion: should Germany allow the lazy and profligate Greeks to stay in the eurozone?

There has been some discussion in Turkey as to the meaning of the April elections in Finland, where the surprise was the 20 percent garnered by the xenophobic, anti-EU "True Finns" who have now joined the governing coalition. But there has been less discussion here of the May 5 vote for a new assembly in Scotland, perhaps understandably so in light of Turkey's own looming election.

The winner, with an outright majority of 65 seats among 129, was the Euro-skeptic Scottish National Party. Forget what the SNP thinks about the EU. The party has promised a referendum on its goal to pull Scotland out of the United Kingdom. (Scotland joined the U.K., by the way, in 1707).

The NATO-led assault on Libya has certainly commanded a great deal of our attention, particularly to Turkey's multitude of stances on this new geopolitical mire. But have we thought through the implications of the Franco-German policy split that preceded it? It is arguably the biggest rift between the two main pillars of the EU since they crafted the Treaty of Rome in 1957.

I realize that the Eurovision song festival is just Euro-trash and serves little more purpose than distraction. I know no one has enjoyed the distraction of Azerbaijan's victory more than my own household, which includes my Azeri-origin wife. But it's worth Googling for the lyrics of the poorly scoring Portuguese band "Homens de Luta," (Men of Struggle.) Their song was an anti-EU screed wildly popular back home with a populace fed up and angry at EU-ordered financial reforms. The song is on YouTube where it has been downloaded tens of thousands of times.

And nowhere in Turkey have I seen any discussion of the decision on May 12 of the so-called "Visegrad 4," comprising Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, to form a nascent but independent army. Under the command of Poland, the four Central European nations will have an autonomous "battle group" to be up and running outside of NATO and EU supervision by 2016.

"What the Visegrad Group decided to do last week will, I think, resonate for years," wrote the futurist George Friedman at the site of his independent intelligence company, www.stratfor.com. "The obscurity of the decision to most people outside the region should not be allowed to obscure its importance." His analysis even suggests that when Turkey wakes up to this development, she might want to join. I encourage a reading of his assessment.

So maybe the essence of Naisbitt's argument three decades ago still holds. Perhaps suspended within the political amniotic fluid of the gestating EU, the nurturing of unique regional organs is just healthy and natural. But I don't really believe that. As so many debate in Europe whether Turkey's "axis is shifting," the old axes of the EU are straining at the leash.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

PLAY IT AGAIN, HALICI

ERSU ABLAK

Binali Yıldırım, the former minister of transportation and telecommunications, is a very happy man these days. He has all the reasons to be. He is not really bothered about the Internet bans, censorship or sex videos of rival parties, which are released almost on a regular basis. He was in such a good mood on Monday, he joked about how much happier people would be if the Internet was shut down for a week. He said then that there would be no quarrels about the sex tapes, because without Internet no one would try to blackmail the Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, with them. "Life would be easier for all of us."

His words remind one of the first education ministers of the Ottoman Empire, Emrullah Efendi. During the early 20th century, he said it would be a lot easier to be the minister of education if there were no schools. Yıldırım, who has the power to identify and stop the people who are trying to destroy a very strong political rival party, isn't doing his duties and is instead making fun of the situation.

I can't really take his joke lightly but, of course, it doesn't really matter what I think because the opposition seems not to be disturbed by Yıldırım's attitude. On the very same day Emrehan Halıcı, the Republican Peoples' Party, or CHP's, vice president responsible for technology was on Saba Tümer's night show. Tümer is a very popular figure and her show has a large number of viewers. Halıcı didn't bother to talk about Internet bans; instead he played drums and solved puzzles. It was as if he attended the show as an entertainer not as one of the leaders of the main opposition party. He only talked about technology in general for about two minutes.

To tell you the truth, I would also be very relaxed and joyous if I were Yıldırım as well. Just think about it, he is free to do and say anything he pleases because the opposition leaders prefer to play drums instead of talking Yıldırım down. This goes not only for Yıldırım; any speaker of the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, can say anything and not pay a political price because the opposition is busy doing things other than being an opposition.

Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç openly suggested the chairwoman of Turkish Industry & Business Association, or TÜSİAD, Ümit Boyner should be ashamed about wanting more freedom over Internet usage. Arınç said "Boyner is a mother. I don't understand how a mother could want her children not be saved from child pornography. If she or her allies comes to power they can make all porn available." He even went further to say there are only 15-20 people who don't want filtration and who protested, "Those protesting were porn lovers and even gays."

Arınç, who clearly insulted thousands of people who were at Taksim Square to show support for a recent demonstration to protest Internet censorship; Boyner; all members of TÜSİAD; and gays, could get away with it because the opposition do not have the guts to speak up for the people who showed solidarity in the midst of immense pressure. The CHP has let its voters down.

I guess there is only one thing left to say: Play it again, Halıcı, for it is clear playing drums is the only thing the CHP can do for us.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

SEX-TAPES BACK, THIS TIME AKP 'TARGETED'

YUSUF KANLI

It was awkward as perhaps it might as well be an answer to some claims. Or, perhaps it was part of a larger, complicated and rather vicious plot. Or, simply perhaps it was an attempt to refute charges by some opponents who placed the blame of the last two waves of sex-tapes on the ruling Justice and development Party, or AKP.

After the so-called "Farklı ülkücülük" (Different idealism) group a new "Farkli ülkücüler" (Different idealists) group appeared on the social media. The Farkli ülkücüler group claimed social media accounts of the Farkli ülkücülük were all hacked and "taken over" by some adversaries and only messages announced on the new site were valid. As both the first group and the second group were very shadowy it was of course impossible to authenticate the claims.

But, soon after the group announced it changed its name and electronic media sites, it issued first what appeared to be a veiled threat message, "Those who have attacked our struggle will all be eradicated." Then, through the same website, the group issued what appeared to be a sheer blackmail message: "Justice and Development Party wait for June 9.You AKP, wait for June 9."

A second message was more to the point, "Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, you will apologize from the entire community of idealists on June 9."

A third message was not only a veiled threat but content wise was also rather dirty. It was addressing a conservative writer who applied for parliamentary candidacy from the AKP ticket but was not made a candidate by the ruling party. The wife of the writer was AKP deputy in the previous parliament but did not seek reelection.

Obviously, I will not give the names but the message in summary was asking the husband writer whether he knew what his parliamentarian wife was doing in Strasbourg on October 4-8, 2010. The message was ended with a veiled threat as he should wait for a few days if he wanted to learn.

Are the "Farklı ülkücülük" and "Farklı ülkücüler" indeed the same group? Should these messages be taken seriously? These issues will of course be examined and the necessary measures will hopefully be all taken by the telecommunications authority of the country. Since this time the ruling party and the prime minister are targeted I bet the telecommunications authority would do its best to stop any "hazardous material" being published on the web or Turks having access to such "hazardous material."

Obviously irrespective of whether such indecent political blackmail and deplorable violation of privacy should be opposed irrespective of whether it targets an opposition politician, a deputy of the ruling party, a journalist, businessman or whoever. No one should even think for one second that the mentality, which condemned the past sex tapes as "general immorality" not a "violation of private life," deserved even worse. If such an attitude is developed, at that point all the difference between values and norms of the modern society and the primitive world view of the person who made such an awkward remark would be nullified.

Despite his arrogance, demonstrated habit of exploiting all values and norms in a Machiavellian style, and all he has said in the sex-tapes sham so far, even the AKP leader does not deserve to be the victim of such a deplorable and totally disgusting electronic warfare.

But, could it be that the prime minister and his AKP have realized the sharp retreat in popularity of the ruling party and the advance of the Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, since the sex-tapes were released in two batches and now are in efforts to "balance out" the situation with some similar attacks on the AKP?

As election bans have started as of today, unfortunately I cannot provide the percentages but a public opinion poll conducted in May by the Metropol company, which has been conducting public opinion polls for the ruling AKP, has reportedly showed the MHP vote increased by almost 5 percentage points and exceeded the electoral threshold comfortably by several percentage points, before undecided votes distributed, while the AKP retreated by almost 5 percentage points compared to its April performance. That is, according to AKP's polling company, sex-tapes counter-worked.

Perhaps most people in the media preferred to ignore both the Metropol poll and the sex-tape threats issued against the AKP on the social media with a suspicion that the AKP is concocting something to win back lost popularity as the voting day draws closer. That is not what most probably the AKP expected. Would the release of any tapes change the situation? Most probably the media will prefer to turn a blind eye to them.

The Military is not "helping" the AKP either. With the latest arrest of four-star general Bilgin Balanlı there are 30 generals behind bars and 28 generals in military barracks. Yet, the military, thank God, is not making a nasty statement this time and refusing to give the AKP the pretext of portraying itself to the electorate as the aggrieved.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

NOBODY SHOULD BE ANGRY, WE ALL STIRRED UP THE STREETS

MEHMET ALİ BİRAND

Really, nobody should be angry. Nobody should take the responsibility alone and nobody should escape responsibility. At the root of the events on the street, which have emanated suddenly in recent days, lay the extremely tough campaigns of our leaders launched at each other and their speeches blaming each other. Add to this the provocation of the media, you can see the result.  

One side is no more or less than the other. 

The prime minister is using his style, which some adore and some criticize, the most in these elections. Nerves are strained. His accusations affect everyone. If you come from a segment who believed everything the leader of the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, said, then pity whoever opposes you.

If you observe the main opposition Republican People's Party, or CHP, leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, he comes out with such tough accusations and hits Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan from top to bottom and an impression is created as if he is not talking about the person and the party who has ruled this country for eight years but a group and its leader who can only dwell on corruption. Ten of thousands who fill the squares and hundred of thousands who watch TV also feel indignation. Even those who are happy with some of the work done in the AKP era are angry at the prime minister.

Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, leader Devlet Bahçeli is the master of tense speeches. As soon as he is seen at the screen, he tells of other leaders who either deserve to be slapped, or given a lesson, or of a lesson that has to be taken from the grey wolves, the youth organization of the far right. He maintains a high level of toughness.  

If you look at the Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, they are in another state. They refer to the situation they have fallen into and what we should expect after elections in a rather provocative language. They do not refrain from using "war" discourse.

When we look at our media, we also, broadcast and publish all campaigns with praises over and over again.

Maybe our leaders can only gather their supporters around them in this way and increase their votes but they also harm society. The toughness, which feeds on the speeches at town squares, rebounds on the streets from time to time.  

The tension of the town square speeches lies beneath the stoning of the prime minister's convoy in Hopa and before that, being shot at by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, and beneath the clashes with police, though not acceptable at any level, at demonstrations organized in Istanbul and in Ankara on Tuesday for Metin Lokumcu, who died in Hopa.

As I said, nobody should take it personally. Also, nobody should attempt to blame the AKP and the prime minister only. The true responsible for the tension on the street is all of us.

If we want the elections to be carried out easily, we should all now pull the brakes.

Kılıçdaroğlu has taken the first step

The Diyarbakır rally of the CHP has shown how many votes the CHP can gain in the Southeast. After a full nine years since a CHP leader came to Diyarbakır. It was a top curiosity how he would be met.

The crowd was not too big. A few thousand showed up. Great waves of excitement were not experienced. A point worth mentioning was that this time BDP supporters were not seen at the square. Probably, they did not want to hand in new ammunition for the prime minister to use in his, "They are acting side by side," criticism.

You may want to evaluate this situation, based on facts, and say it is not very bright but compared to past times, a very important development caches the eye. Let us remind ourselves that this party's share of votes from this region in the last elections was only two percent. Even if it raises this to four percent, it would become a beautiful result.  

Some additional statements on the Kurdish issue were expected at this speech of Kılıçdaroğlu.  

It did not happen; the expected did not come true.

Probably he did not want to take new risks before the elections. He may not have wanted to take the risk of losing votes on the Western regions.  

As a result, we can say the CHP has for the first time reconciled with Diyarbakır. After nine years, the CHP has done a symbolic gesture and has received a response.

Now, the rest should follow. Since the CHP has entered the region, it should demonstrate whether or not it will be able to truly win the hearts of the people of Diyarbakır.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

WOMEN'S SUPPORT FOR ÜMIT BOYNER AND CHRISTINE LAGARDE

MERAL TAMER

When French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde announced her candidacy for the International Monetary Fund presidency, Sabancı Holding's top executive Güler Sabancı issued a press statement:

"The fact that a knowledgeable, competent woman as Christine Lagarde, with whom I have had the opportunity to meet in various occasions and have shared significant experiences, has become a candidate for IMF presidency is not only a matter of pride for women, it is also an opportunity for all the women of the world. I hope this opportunity can be made good use of. If she gets the post, it would be a chance on the way to women holding top positions in international organizations. Also, the IMF presidency selection will be done, maybe for the first time, based on competence."

Competent women holding top positions in international organizations may bring several benefits for women and for the world that we may not be able to foresee from today. Sabancı has conveyed not only mine but many women's thoughts.

We are supporting Boyner

Women, these days, are standing behind another women who is the head of the Turkish Industry and Business Association, or TÜSİAD, Ümit Boyner, the person who Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç accused of being a porn supporter because she was opposing Internet bans. Our colleague Beste Önkol reported from the Retail Leaders Conference in Barcelona and these words of Ümit Boyner even caught me by surprise: "In the future, when our children ask us, 'What were you doing?' while we were going through the most burgeoning days of the Republic, are we going to tell them that we were involved in 'opening more stores and trying to obtain the best location in malls?'"

If the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, government has brought Boyner, the person who had approached them very positively since their first day, to the point where she utters the above sentences, then wow. When Boyner became TÜSİAD president she had a set of attitudes made up of an understanding approach and an extending hand and she had drawn a serious reaction from the secular segment. Now, look at where we have come!

Pornographer, go-girl

Boyner referred to the incident where the president of Hak-İş, Salim Uslu, called TÜSİAD a "civil society go-girl" before the referendum and said, "In every election period, TÜSİAD becomes the target. But I can clearly say that the level has never sunk so low before. I condemn these kinds of speeches aiming to obtain political gains."

In fact, before every election, it becomes a political game to attack the symbol institution of the big capital, TÜSİAD. Every government has done that. The difference that AKP officials make is not that it is sex that comes first to their minds, but that it was not enough for them to have been approached positively. You have to be exactly like them. You have to be at the exact frequency with them. Otherwise they undercut you.

Just as Boyner says, "Arınç's attitude is horrific at a time when everybody is exerting efforts for Turkey to become a democracy made up of more free individuals. The fact that whenever criticisms against limitations of individual freedoms and private life come up, Arınç directly connects them with sexual abuse, porn and violence, demonstrating an unhealthy mentality. During the pre-election period, attacking the head of a civil society association over moral values with such heavy insults, in an unexplainable delirium," is simply low-quality political abuse.

We, as women, support Boyner to the end.

*Meral Tamer is a columnist of daily Milliyet, in which this piece appeared Wednesday. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

SCHENGEN DEBATE: A SPILL-BACK IN EU INTEGRATION?

FATMA YILMAZ-ELMAS

Europe has recently engaged in a debate over the Schengen system triggered by a Franco-Italian proposal. French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi asked the European Commission to make changes on Schengen rules in favor of member states. The proposal came to the agenda following the Tunisian migrant crisis, which strained relations between France and Italy. On April 26, the two leaders signed a letter proposing the introduction of border checks at the internal frontiers in case of a serious threat to public order, i.e. exceptional circumstances.

The commission responded to the letter by publishing a communiqué on migration on May 4. In this publication, the commission commended the possible amendment of Schengen rules in terms of internal border controls. The positive response of the commission then led to new concerns and debates. 

The debate on Schengen has prompted discussion by critics not only about its possibility but also its meaning about, and impact on, European integration. Some say Europe is on the brink and the ideal Europe in the mind of the founding visionaries simply remains in the rhetoric. Some, in contrast, find the debates overblown and assess the attempt to change the rules as a need to reinforce the governance of Schengen, which was planned well before the recent uprisings in North Africa. European Commission President José Manuel Barroso, even though being critical of the reintroduction of de facto border controls, defends the commission's proposal by stating that it is "not a knee-jerk reaction." Hence, it seems the Franco-Italian call for a rewrite of the Schengen Treaty has left Europeans swinging in between the strengthening of Schengen and the dismantling of Europe.

Those who are critical of the proposal because it would change Schengen rules have a good reason pointing out the fact that free movement is the main principle of European Union integration and that the proposal is an attack on the EU's main achievement. Even if isn't, such an attempt would lead to a development of a two-track Europe where some can freely travel in Europe while others cannot, according to the complaints of some commentators. In addition, one can expect a future trend to reinstate border checks in other Schengen members.

That is to say, a domino effect will follow the Franco-Italian trend mainly because the reintroduction of border checks will divert the destination of migrants toward the countries under Schengen rules. The Denmark case is the first concrete example of the mentioned trend. On May 11, the Danish center-right government agreed on the introduction of customs controls and border checks on the frontiers with Germany and Sweden. Most probably, this will lead to other decisions in many Schengen members one by one and incrementally in a series of setbacks for free movement. The rest will not want to shoulder the overall burden of migrants, particularly those fleeing from North Africa.

Recalling the roots of the EU integration process, the thing that would be anticipated to happen incrementally was integration itself. Through the logic of spill-over, referred to the way in which the creation and deepening of integration in one sector would create pressure for further integration, progressive achievements would lead further integration. This happened to a large extent in the EU integration process, ultimately transforming the coal and steel community into the union. However, the recent attempt to, somewhat, "renationalize" the Schengen system seems to infringe on the level and scope of EU authority, i.e. spill-back. It looks like the Schengen rules have appeared less relevant to the members' interests; therefore, the rules will be no longer regularly followed and gradually more and more members will seek to deal with border problems unilaterally.

For the time being, the Schengen case is not too gloomy. Despite the commission opening the possibility of amending Schengen rules, the idea seems based on the regulation of Schengen governance by avoiding the prospect of any renationalization of the current system. Whatever the reason, this would mean one step back from European integration, given that "it sends discouraging messages, one which is deeply negative and contrary to the Europe that the Europeans need," as J. F. Lopez Aguilar, chair of the Parliament's civil liberties committee, indicates, especially in a long period in which its economic performance and efficiency in global affairs have been in question.  

*Fatma Yılmaz-Elmas is researcher at the International Strategic Research Organization, or USAK, Center for EU Studies. She can be reached at fyelmas@usak.org.tr.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

LIBYA: TWO AIRPLANES

RICHARD REID

Attack aircraft are cut out for sharply different roles, some of which are so foreign to general combat experience the planes designed to fit them turnout to be white elephants.

The A-10 Warthog and the AC-130 gunship are not such warplanes. They're being mentioned more and more these days because NATO badly wants them for Libya, believing that as premium ground-support aircraft they could be decisive in breaking the stalemate there. The United States has been reluctant to provide either of the planes, possibly because Washington, already bracketed with Iraq, could be blamed for the fall of another Arab government if it's seen as a main cause of the takedown of the Gadhafi regime.

While the U.S. wants to see Colonel Gadhafi go, it wants to be sure the responsibility is perceived as shared.

Both of the planes NATO wants in the air over Libya are old, heavily armored, and slow, totally unlike the F-16s and Mirages, which flash over the Western desert and disappear in moments, hoping the smart ordnance they have dropped is really smart and will hit the targets picked for them by surveillance planes and satellite imaging.

Neither the A-10 or AC-130 have to hope they have done their job. They can eyeball the results as they circle their targets at low attitudes. Built to hammer away at close quarters, they are essentially gun platforms, cannon-blast aircraft, not bombers.

The A-10 Warthog, a stubby plane the size of a fighter jet, is close to 40 years old. It was designed as a tank-killer, meant as a foil to the Soviet armored columns expected to course across the plains of eastern Europe if a conventional war between NATO and the USSR broke out. Later, in the first Gulf War, A-10s proved themselves to devastating effect, knocking out a reported 900 Iraqi tanks. During that war I watched them wheel along the ridges of the mountains beyond Zakho, passing so low that one could make out the pilots.

No one could call the A-10 a beauty. It has tall, ungainly-looking twin tails; its snub nose was probably what caused it to be dubbed the Warthog.

The AC-130 is even older than the A-10, going back more than half a century to its original manufacture as an all-purpose military cargo plane, which came to be called the C-130 Hercules. This continuously upgraded workhorse can operate from grass airstrips and is now flown by most of the world's air forces.

The AC-130 is a heavily armored gunship version of the Hercules, armed with multi-barrel Gatling cannons, which fire nonstop as the plane banks around its target in tight circles. It can absorb heavy fire from the ground, and is far less liable to be shot down than helicopters are.

U.S. reluctance to deploy the A-10 and the AC-130 may be the sense even these planes might not quicken the end of the Libyan standoff, Gadhafi's forces could devise tactics to elude them, and only NATO boots on the ground can finally do the trick.

And therein lays the rub. The U.N. resolution approving civilian-support action in Libya strictly forbade the entry of troops. It hoped air action would drive Gadhafi out. Three months of NATO bombing have failed to do that. The stalemate seems permanent. The U.S. is unlikely to be talked into putting such special assets as the A-10 and the AC-130 into what looks like a hopeless cause. In the end we will probably see a divided Libya, two states; and we will probably never see two old but formidable aerial warhorses in action there.

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 I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

GIVE AND TAKE

 

Looking at the deregulation of the pricing of petroleum products, we see a recipe for muddle and confusion which in the end seems to benefit few. Firstly and most importantly, this is not complete deregulation as in opening petroleum products to unfettered market forces. High speed diesel and kerosene will continue to be regulated by the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (OGRA); but petrol, High Octane Blending Component (HOBC), Light Diesel Oil (LDO) and Aviation fuels (JP-1 and JP-4/8) are at least theoretically, free to 'float'. In reality the government is going to find that it has little by way of control over the imported price of petrol products (and almost everything that is burnt here is imported) and Pakistan is tied, as is every other oil purchaser, to international pricing and the spot market. Within that limitation, the partial deregulation of POL will perhaps trigger competition between petrol product retailers, but with margins as narrow as they are there is little real room for manoeuvre and prices at the pump are unlikely to see much significant variation. The upper price limit to the end user is going to be determined by the government which should curtail rampant profiteering; and the ex-refinery price cannot be more than the PSO average of actual import prices over the previous month excluding incidentals like wharfage.


The government gives with one hand and takes away with the other. Consumers will pay more for soft drinks, cakes and bread, and cigarettes. The 2011-12 budget is to add eight-percent duty to the ex-factory sales of sugar, which will be passed to the consumers of all bakery products and any product that uses sugar in its manufacture. Cigarettes are to cost more – a move difficult to argue against given the appalling state of hearts and lungs in this country. The reason for the hike is that the government missed its revenue target in the last Financial Year and the Federal Excise Duty on cigarettes is being revised to put another nine billion rupees into the exchequer. The net result of this fiscal jiggery-pokery is that irate consumers are sweetened with what will be a temporary drop in fuel costs for the common man; accompanied by a rise in the cost of many staple foods. Once again the poor get stung for a universal tax that cuts into their shrinking budgets.

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

WILL WE EVER KNOW?

 

The abduction and murder of journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad has caught the attention of the world's media. He was a man with an international profile who had stepped on many toes in the last decade, and it may be that a story he wrote in the days before his death became the cause of his undoing. He was aware of the risks he ran and had warned his wife and others that he feared for his life. Within hours of his disappearance on Sunday evening the Pakistan representative of the Human Rights Watch had alleged that Shahzad was being held by an intelligence agency and that interlocutors had said he would eventually be released. But this was not to be. Shahzad's body bearing marks of torture was found tangled in the netting near the Rasool Barrage in Mandi Bahauddin and his car at Sarai Alamgir about 35 kilometres from where the body was found. Even before his death, fingers were being pointed by many in the media at the intelligence agencies, amid speculation that he had 'disappeared' because they were enraged about his story of militancy within the armed forces. Once his death was verified, the TV channels were quick to run evening talk shows which pointed fingers in much the same direction.


As ever a host of questions arises – few of which are ever likely to have definitive answers. The military and intelligence establishments were not the only ones to have an axe to grind with Shahzad. The Afghan Taliban kidnapped him in 2006 while he was in the Helmand province and accused him of being a spy. He was lucky that time and was freed after seven days. He will not have endeared himself to the Pakistani Taliban or the local franchise of Al-Qaeda either for having alleged their penetration into the military. None of those at whom the finger is being pointed, although without evidence and still nothing beyond speculation and hearsay, are ever going to own up even if it was they who are responsible. There is never going to be anything beyond a purely cosmetic attempt to find out who it was that killed him, and we are not likely to see anybody in court for his murder. What we do know is why he was murdered. It was because he was a journalist. A man who probed, asked awkward questions, wrote stories that were uncomfortable truths in a world of deceit and obfuscation. Pakistan is said to be the most dangerous country in the world for a journalist to work in – over 70 journalists have been killed here since 2000 – and there is no record of a successful prosecution for the murder of any of them. Censorship and intimidation can come in many forms, and killing the messenger is but one of them. We may have little to be proud of these days, but we can be proud of those who have the courage to be the messengers.

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

ANOTHER BIZARRE THEORY

 RAHIMULLAH YUSUFZAI

 

There have been speculations and plain rumours on how the United States obtained intelligence to find Osama bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad. As no authentic information about this secret operation is available, people in the media and elsewhere are having a field day adding their own theories to those already available on how the world's most wanted man was tracked down.


Earlier, the Al-Qaeda deputy leader Dr Ayman al-Zawahiri was mentioned in certain unsubstantiated media reports as the source of information that led the Americans to Bin Laden's house. It was even suggested that Zawahiri had developed differences with Bin Laden and had, therefore, manipulated to have him removed from the scene. These kind of media stories appeared to have been planted by spy agencies seeking to create divisions in Al-Qaeda, already weakened due to the death and capture of some of its top operatives and having suffered the biggest blow to date following the assassination of Bin Laden in the US Special Forces operation on May 2.


Another widely believed story was that Bin Laden was hunted down when the US sleuths intercepted a phone call made by his courier Abu Ahmad al-Kuwaiti, who was also killed in the covert raid in Abbottabad and was reportedly to be one of the two Pakistani brothers protecting the Al-Qaeda leader. This story obviously has more credibility than the one regarding Mullah Baradar tipping off the Americans on the Bin Laden hideout as part of some deal.


The latest speculation in a media report is that Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the detained deputy leader of the Afghan Taliban movement, leaked the whereabouts of the Al-Qaeda leader to American investigators under a "deal" in which the US promised to withdraw its troops from the Taliban strongholds in Afghanistan. The idea of such a deal taking place is far-fetched, though neither the US nor Mullah Baradar are presently in a position to clarify or deny it. The situation on the ground in the former Taliban strongholds also doesn't provide any indication that such a deal was in the works. The US has no intention of pulling its troops out from these areas in the southwestern provinces and other parts of Afghanistan where the Taliban have traditionally been strong. Besides, the Taliban have yet to show any inclination to settle for a deal with the US by giving up their ambition of returning to power in the whole of Afghanistan and instead settling for control of some provinces only.

Those who know something about the secretive Taliban movement are aware that an individual, even if it happened to be Mullah Baradar, cannot make a "deal" on his own. Decision-making is done by the Taliban shura rather than by individuals. It is unimaginable that a Taliban leader in custody would make such a significant deal by giving away information about Bin Laden's whereabouts in return for withdrawal of US soldiers from certain Taliban strongholds. It would be unacceptable to the Taliban shura and rank and file and could never be implemented. Moreover, the Taliban have proved to be resilient and they aren't known to easily divulge information about their leaders and allies.


It can be argued that the US may have obtained information about Bin Laden's hideout from Mullah Baradar by tempting him with the offer of withdrawing its troops from Taliban strongholds in Afghanistan without meaning to implement it. This is also unlikely because the Pakistani intelligence authorities holding Mullah Baradar ensured that their own agents were present when the American spies were given access to interrogate the Taliban deputy leader. The Pakistani sleuths present in these few meetings between Mullah Baradar and the Americans would also have obtained any such information regarding Bin Laden's whereabouts and immediately acted upon it. In that case, the Americans through the CIA would not have beaten the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) to the Abbottabad compound of the Al-Qaeda founder and Pakistan's military command would not have faced the embarrassment of being unaware of his presence in the Pakistani garrison city.

In any case, Mullah Baradar would have known more about Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar's whereabouts than that of Bin Laden. In fact, it is unlikely that he would have known about Bin Laden's hideout because in Pakistan Al-Qaeda members mostly interacted and depended upon Pakistani militants instead of the Afghan Taliban for protection. The Pakistani Taliban and jihadis could protect the Al-Qaeda figures better and provide them sanctuaries in Pakistan than the Afghan Taliban, who themselves are alien in Pakistan and need the protection of the local people and authorities. If the American CIA agents couldn't obtain information from Mullah Baradar about Mullah Omar's whereabouts, then it is unbelievable that they managed to get any clues

from him regarding Bin Laden's hideout.


Certain other things mentioned in this media story about Mullah Baradar making a deal with the Americans are wrong. It states that Baradar is in his early 40s, which is wrong because the Mullah Baradar that this writer knew during the Taliban rule should now be in his late 50s. The story describes Mullah Baradar as the co-founder of the Taliban movement in Afghanistan. This isn't really true because Mullah Omar was the founder and Mullah Baradar was one of the 30 odd Taliban who gathered at Singesar village in Kandahar province in the autumn of 1994 to launch the movement. One could say he was among the 30 or so founding members of the Taliban movement instead of describing him as the co-founder. The story also refers to Mullah Baradar as the "father of the IED"; for pioneering the use of the roadside improvised explosive devices that have been the biggest threat to the US-led coalition forces in Afghanistan. This again is debatable because the names of many Taliban military commanders and even foot-soldiers are mentioned for inventing and perfecting the IEDs.

Referring to him as the leader of the Quetta Shura of the Afghan Taliban is also wrong because there cannot be any head of the movement's top decision-making shura, or council, except Mullah Omar, who is still referred to as the amirul momineen (commander of the faithful) by his Taliban followers. According to this strange media story, Mullah Baradar was one of Bin Laden's most trusted allies. This again seems far-fetched because Bin Laden interacted mostly with Mullah Omar, Mullah Jalil and Mullah Kabir during the Taliban rule and was close to them compared to other Taliban leaders. Referring to Mullah Baradar and others as "moles" within Al-Qaeda feeding crucial information to the US intelligence is also far-fetched. It could possibly be an attempt to create confusion and suspicion in Taliban and Al-Qaeda ranks about each other. Mullah Baradar was a Taliban rather an Al-Qaeda leader and it is the first time that he is being mentioned as someone belonging to Al-Qaeda and working for the US intelligence. Nothing could be farther from the truth, but this is how sections of the media carry stories without verifying anything and do sensational reporting in a bid to look different.

Though this media reports says that Mullah Baradar after his arrest in a joint operation by Pakistani and American intelligence agents in Karachi last year was released in October 2010, there is no evidence that he has been freed. In fact, Afghan Taliban sources have denied his release. It is unlikely that such an important Taliban leader, and someone also linked to Al-Qaeda, if this particular media story is to be believed, would be released just like that. He should still be in some special detention cell or safe-house of Pakistan's premier intelligence agency, just like Mullah Obaidullah, the former Taliban defence minister, and a few other Afghan Taliban leaders.

So much about Bin Laden is secret and unknown that such stories will continue to appear in the media. As in life, Bin Laden generated controversies even after his death. The rather bizarre story about Mullah Baradar making a "deal" with the Americans and leaking the whereabouts of Bin Laden is neither the first of its kind nor will it be the last.


The writer is resident editor of The News in Peshawar. Email: rahim yusufzai@yahoo.com

 

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I,THE NEWS

OPINION

WASTED LIVES

 BRIAN CLOUGHLEY

 

One day last week eight American soldiers were killed in Afghanistan. As I write this piece the news comes in of the deaths of two more British Royal Marines. What did these youngsters die for? Did they give their lives fighting for freedom? Can their grieving families comfort themselves that their deaths could possibly, in the words of the United States Declaration of Independence, further "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness"?

Did the 4,454 US soldiers killed in Iraq die for the cause of liberty and happiness? It's difficult to argue they did, because the Washington Post reported on May 26 that "thousands of young men marched through Baghdad's Sadr City to prove they could restart the insurgency if American troops do not leave the country by the end of the year. The parade by Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army lasted for hours as seemingly endless clusters of men marched past tens of thousands of well-wishers."

 

The 'Mahdi Army' is a reminder of other imperial forays that wasted so many other young lives, as described in the diaries of a British officer who fought the Mahdi Army in Sudan and wrote on March 13, 1885 that: "Everyone lives in hope that government will see the utter folly of trying to repair their miserable policy by a fresh campaign next autumn – if they do they will only get into a worse mess than they are now. Suppose we do take Khartoum next winter, of course at enormous loss of life and money, what will happen? The Mahdi of course will be 200 miles away, and an English force can't follow him......and surely we don't want this accursed country."

"This accursed country", indeed. How many young soldiers, dead before their time in Iraq and Afghanistan, would have agreed with the writer? But there are some people who don't concur.


One of them is a particularly smug little British politician called William Hague. (In fact, William Jefferson Hague; how delightful.) A few years ago he was a comically ineffective head of the Conservative Party and is now, heaven help us, the foreign secretary. A lifelong machine politician, his earliest publicity came from a speech to the party's national conference at the age of 16.


He is academically notable, certainly. But as with many such people he imagines that skill at political tap dancing equates to tangible achievement. And like almost all politicians he's addicted to balletic spin. When newspapers reported that he had shared a hotel bedroom with a male employee (who then resigned) his immediate and pathetically vulgar response was to publicise the fact that his wife had suffered several miscarriages. His association with an iffy billionaire donor of mega-cash to his party gave rise to the well-deserved observation in the Guardian newspaper that he was "forced to choose between appearing as a conspiring knave or a credulous fool".


The picture I'm painting is that he's a prat. And in no way did he demonstrate his prattishness more effectively than by declaring on May 22 that Iraq "is a much better place than we found it [before the 2003 invasion]. Remember it was a ruthless dictatorship, and a menace and a danger to the peace of that region and the wider world."

On the day of his pronouncement there was massive violence in Baghdad and elsewhere in that hapless country. "The city was hit by at least seven deadly explosions" and "at least seven people have been killed in separate attacks in northern Iraq....a roadside bomb targeting an Iraqi army patrol killed two soldiers in Kirkuk." Two American soldiers were killed.

But assertions continue that Iraq is a better place than it was before the illegal US-led conquest that destroyed the country. Certainly, Saddam Hussein ruled viciously, and no doubt the world is better without him. But he wasn't any worse than all the other dictators who have been – and are being – so slavishly supported by Washington and London.


When foreign troops withdraw from Afghanistan in three years' time there will be similar claims that the country "is a much better place than we found it." At the moment it certainly isn't a "better place".


After nine years of foreign military operations it's a violent shambles. The deaths of a dozen children in the hamlet of Salaam Bazaar in a US airstrike on May 28 prompted President Karzai to protest in the strongest terms and declare that if such atrocities continue, then foreign forces will be regarded as occupation troops rather than allies.


Three days before Hague's comments the US president mentioned 'Iraq' a whole four times in a major speech about the Middle East, and in the understatement of the year observed that "like all new democracies, they will face setbacks." Yes: "setbacks" – like 4000 citizens being savagely killed last year and over a million Iraqis having to flee their homes because of persecution.


Western military imperialism has fostered political confusion, social disruption, economic bedlam, massive corruption, and death and destruction in Iraq and Afghanistan.


And onMay26 it was reported from Iraq that "Ali al-Lami, the executive director of the Justice and Accountability Commission, was shot dead". He had been one of the most energetic opponents of Saddam Hussein for years and had lived (sure, pretty tensely) throughout Saddam's reign. But Saddam didn't kill him. Eventually he was murdered in what Washington and London consider to be a "better place than we found it".


Ali al-Lami died because he believed in freedom. But all these thousands of foreign soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan fought and died – and are fighting and dying – for nothing. Just like the dozen kids killed in Salaam Bazaar.


Their lives were wasted at the whim of smug western politicians who continue to wash their hands in blood.



The writer is a South Asian affairs analyst. Website: www.beecluff.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

HIS FINEST HOUR

IKRAM SEHGAL

 

The Pokhran nuclear explosions by India on May 11 and 13, 1998, plunged Pakistan into a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" crisis. The gloating rhetoric and venom flowing out of the BJP leadership then governing India was startling, if not altogether shocking. Clearly intent on rubbing our noses in the dirt, their rhetoric pushed us into a corner. As a knee-jerk reaction an immediate tit-for-tat nuclear blast was a non-starter. However, the morale of both the military and civilians across the board nosedived within days to an all-time low. It was a Hobson's choice: unless we reacted, we would not have any credible deterrent; if we did, international condemnation (and sanctions) would swiftly follow.


Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's single-minded obsession was to get a nuclear deterrent to equal India's bomb even if we "had to eat grass." To Nawaz Sharif's credit, he took the brave decision to carry out the nuclear blast in the face of international pressure. In a perverse way, one must be thankful to the Indians: the Pokhran blasts forced us come out of the nuclear closet, without that cast-iron "casus belli," we would have had to face the full weight of international retribution. We soon messed up our nuclear "coming out" party. The freezing of all foreign currency accounts within hours of the Chagai blast destroyed our credibility as a financial safe haven, probably for good.

Nawaz Sharif's economic-oriented vision envisaging rapid development of the socio-economic infrastructure was symbolised by the Islamabad-Lahore Motorway. However, he could not quite reconcile to his businessmen colleagues (and himself) paying the taxes that make up the revenues for running any country. At his urging, Moinuddin Khan had abandoned a seven-figure salary with Standard Chartered Bank in Hong Kong to become chairman of the CBR (now FBR). He died of a broken heart at this rank duplicity. Sharif talked the good talk about the economic reforms crafted by Sartaj Aziz but failed to implement them because of political and personal compulsions. Musharraf's economic golden years of the early 2000s was possible only because of (1) Nawaz Sharif's policies being implemented, and (2) hard cash in US military aid to Pakistan after the 9/11 attacks being diverted to budgetary support. The ultimate tragedy is the perception of our armed forces gobbling up the more than $10 billon received from the US for military hardware. Actual figures show they got less than 15 percent, 85 percent went to support the consumer-friendly budget sustaining the "feel good" economic environment prevalent. Musharraf allowed the master of PR, Finance Minister Shaukat Aziz, to short-change the defence services so that he could look good as the leader of an upwardly mobile "economically prosperous" country.

Both Mian Nawaz Sharif and Musharraf have a lot in common. Counting on the notoriously short memories of the Pakistani public, they conveniently gloss over their repeated faux pas. In Sharif's case the infamous "yellow cabs" scheme, in Musharraf's case, Kargil. Neither Sharif nor Musharraf belonged to the landed gentry or had any background of politics, and both are products of the army. While berating the military, Mian Sahib conveniently forgets he came into politics because of the direct patronage of Zia's martial law.

It is not unusual in South Asia for individuals to turn upon their benefactors and biting the hand that fed you. As prime minister, Sharif fell out with five successive army chiefs, Gen Mirza Aslam Beg, Gen Asif Nawaz (died in office) and Gen Waheed Kakar in his first tenure. During his second stint as prime minister, Gen Karamat was retired early for advocating the National Security Council. Sharif interpreted this as a conspiracy by the military for a more active role in Pakistani politics. Superseding the far more deserving (and nominally senior) Lt Gen Ali Kuli Khan, he appointed Musharraf as COAS. When he attempted to remove Musharraf on Oct 12, 1999, Sharif's action backfired. While he does have a genuine grouse against Musharraf for the counter-coup that ousted him as prime minister, why is he persisting in attacking the whole army? Given deep pockets to sustain a battery of lawyers, why doesn't he go legally after Musharraf? The rest of the generals had no idea about Musharraf's ambitions. They just did not take kindly to Sharif throwing out one army chief after another.

The Sharifs are blatantly hypocritical about their holier-than-thou stance about the rule of law. In November 1997, PML-N rank and file, bussed in by Shahbaz Sharif from Lahore, physically attacked the Supreme Court, even entering the courtrooms and performing "Bhangra" live on CCTV. "Wikileaks" has revealed that, during Pakistan latest judicial crisis Shahbaz Sharif told US consul general Bryan Hunt in confidence that "even if he was restored, Iftikhar Chaudhry would soon be replaced."

Abbottabad embarrassed and humiliated Pakistan. Voices were raised across the world for Pakistan to be "punished" for "harbouring" Osama bin Laden for a decade. How come no one raises questions about how Serb general Ratko Mladic, responsible for the genocide of over 8,000 Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica, evaded the dragnet of all Western governments and their intelligence agencies for over 15 years in his cousin's house in a village in Serbia? And what about his boss Karadzic doing the same for 12 years, even running a medical clinic in the centre of Belgrade? The US should reveal the contents of the computer discs and hard discs the Seals unit removed from the Bin Laden compound that clearly is the "smoking gun" about the purported "official" or "unofficial" support for Bin Laden in Pakistan. Accessories to the murder of over 40,000 Pakistanis, we need the names of these despicable characters.

With Imran Khan's appeal spreading far and wide, particularly among newly registered young voters, Mian Nawaz Sharif's latest political forays represent a rather belated change of heart (nothing to do with the recent heart procedure he had in London). By clambering onto the bandwagon of the causes Imran Khan has been espousing, Mian Sahib is vainly attempting to steal Imran Khan's thunder.

The Indian deployment on our eastern borders constitutes more than four times our total strength, further depleted by the moving of some of our operational reserves to fight counterinsurgency operations. Does Nawaz Sharif understand the dangerous implications of India operationalising its Cold Start doctrine? The same man who stood tall on May 28, 1998, now says that India "is not our enemy." There is a limit to appeasement. Mian Sahib needs to read up about Munich.

Pakistan should be thankful for the deterrent value of the nuclear bomb. While May 28, 1998, was certainly his finest hour, his reputation has gone downhill since (not counting the "breakout" from Raiwind on March 16, 2009, that led to the restoration of the chief justice). Will the real Mian Nawaz Sharif please stand up and be counted for what he really stands for?


The writer is a defence and political analyst. Email: isehgal@pathfinder9.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

CRISIS OF VALUES

AMIN JAN NAIM

 

Underlying the turbulent political and social phenomena we are witnessing in Pakistan today, is a crisis of values. The entire nation is rent asunder in this regard. It is desirable to effect a transformation from intolerance and dogmatism to basic humanistic values of universal importance. Such an imperative change of direction needs to be on modern and progressive lines. The fact that many universal values are embedded in the West need not lead to a rejectionist stance by us. In a reversal from bigotry and obscurantism, we should imbibe all that is good and sound, irrespective of whether it originates from the Confucian tradition or derives from Greek thought.

Life in today's world has become hectic, confused, disorganised and disoriented. The reflective thought of ancient Greece has contemporary relevance as a beacon for humanity. Free and unfettered dialogues in the spirit of the philosophic dialogues of ancient Greece can help in submerging fissures. What is needed is an overall conception for us, which can be provided by ancient Greek thought.


The underpinnings for the new spirit require intellectual depth. The senselessness and infernos of trouble around the globe are a hallmark of our times. There is need to transcend petty squabbles so as to focus on the real enemies which are organised crime, cunning malice and the use of technology for underhanded motives. In combating this challenge, the reflective thought of ancient Greece can help us individually and socially, to obtain courage, inner fulfillment and harmony. The study of Greek thought by us would cast significant light on contemporary problems and difficulties with a view to their amelioration.


Then there is the valuable legacy of Greek aesthetics and love of beauty. In our milieu of religious orthodoxy, obscurantism and bigotry, we need to induce a culture of aesthetics so as to make life in Pakistan less morose. The inculcation of western classical music would be a step in this direction.


The talented French pianist Helene Grimaud mentions the role of music in the movement towards the universal, towards the point of possible reconciliation of opposites. She believes that blind obedience to any ideology, nation, or religion is ultimately destructive. This viewpoint is a significant trend towards the future. Plato has said that if we want to change a society, we need to change its music.


The elemental in human experience is most loftily denoted in Beethoven's genius. His music has made a tremendous achievement for mankind. The appreciation of Beethoven by us would lead to intellectual and artistic uplift so vitally needed in our society. We often imbibe the western alphabet and mathematics, western medicine, the Internet, the English game of cricket and other such influences. Why not also partake of the apogee of German greatness in the music of Beethoven?


The state of education in Pakistan is abysmal. Its crisis is in terms of values, methods, as well as framework. It reflects the schisms in our society. The purpose of a good education is not only to impart academic learning but also the inculcation of ethics and sound values and the development of emotional well-being.


Ideas which are built on reason and understanding are genuinely radical in seeing what requires to be done. At a higher level, there is a unity of reason, aesthetics and morality. This is one of the valuable legacies of Ancient Greek thought to humanity. A good education needs to encompass all three - reason, aesthetics and morality.

There has been extensive debate in recent decades of the need for progress and of the kind of processes involved in it. The matter is not always considered from the viewpoint of a well thought out philosophic outlook. Nor has it been approached from the viewpoint of the intellectual processes of artistic creation. A number of thinkers have now proposed the idea of increasing Gross National Happiness in addition to increasing the Gross National Product.


We need to remove malignant values from our society and, instead, inculcate healthy ones. The sufferings and struggles undergone by us, which are still continuing unabated, have deeply affected the national psyche; but this might also lead eventually to transcendence and overcoming in the sense propounded by Karl Jaspers.

The writer is a former ambassador.

Email: aminjan@comsats.net.pk

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

COULD THE TALIBAN WIN?

KAMILA HYAT

 

The writer is a freelance columnist and former newspaper editor

Since the US raid in Abbottabad on May 2 this year, over 150 people have already been killed in 'revenge attacks' staged by the Taliban. Our most important naval base was taken over by a handful of militants who were able to create havoc during the 17 hours it took to overpower them. Amidst all this a kind of hyped-up anti-Americanism continues even as tens of thousands of Pakistanis seek visas that would allow them to live and work in that country.

As things continue along a familiar path we must ask ourselves a crucial question. Is it possible that the Taliban could win the war that is currently being fought? Could we find ourselves a nation run by barbarians who think nothing of beheading people who stand in their way or whom the Taliban deem guilty of 'immorality'.

This is a future scenario that we must force ourselves to face. We must also keep in mind that it is our own hypocrisy and lack of willingness to face up to the truth that has brought us to this dangerous point in our journey.

Today, our journey has become a struggle for survival. We face a monumental challenge should we hope to retain even a degree of civilisation in our state and to advance beyond the conspiracy theories which seem to have bound us in a tight net made up, almost entirely, of fantasy.

We have, for instance, heard all kinds of accounts emerging from people who should know better, of events at PNS Mehran having been staged by the US in some effort to grab our nuclear assets. Similar conjecture about other issues has also been heard in the past. We have heard prominent scientists argue that the floods of 2010 may have been the result of US experimentation with new kinds of weaponry. More rational scientists have quickly ruled out the capability of any devices using radio waves to create earthquakes, floods or other natural disasters by moving giant tectonic plates.

Additionally, after Faisal Shahzad tried to bomb the Times Square in New York last year, the incident was presented by many TV anchors as a deliberate plot against Pakistan – followed by profound silence once Shahzad rather proudly confessed to his involvement in the plot.

Dr Aafia Siddiqui has meanwhile been adopted as a national hero for reasons that are almost impossible to understand, and we hear almost constantly, a flood of criticism directed at the US for its acts of discrimination against Muslims.

There is plenty to criticise the US for. It can never be forgiven for the horrors it inflicted on the people of Vietnam in the 1960s, those of Iraq several decades later, and for its efforts to impose dictatorial rule in many places to suit its own interests.

But, looking at things more realistically, we should also look down at our own hands and see if they are entirely clear of even the smallest speck of blood. That of millions of former East Pakistanis covers the palms of some; the blood of young Balochis stains those of others.

When we speak of the risks faced by Muslims living in the West, we must also ask if they are safer there than in a country that was established in the name of Islam. The guards we see outside mosques are a reminder of just how often bombers have struck, and of the particular risk faced by Shias and now also Barelvis.

Ahmadis of course, cannot even call themselves Muslim. And while acts of racism and bias occur everywhere, for the most part Muslims in the UK, US, Canada, India, and elsewhere, are able to pray with greater assurance that they will emerge back out of the mosque alive and unhurt.

As our state tumbles into greater and greater chaos, and episodes such as the discovery of Osama in the middle of a garrison town spawn a series of cartoons that mock Pakistan, the possibility of a Taliban victory looms larger. In some ways they have already won.

The force appears to have infiltrated our security set-up. The unfortunate Mehran incident could not have happened without inside help, nor could Osama have remained hidden for so long in a conspicuous bungalow without anyone knowing.

The fact that over 75 percent of our people believe – according to a survey conducted by the Washington-based Pew Research Centre – that laws should be based on religion, also marks a Taliban victory.

We have lost the ability to look at ourselves dispassionately and instead, much like an unhappy child, inhabit a world of make-believe to persuade ourselves that all is well. This makes it more likely that the Taliban - and other extremist forces – will capture ever-increasing space in our strangled society

While it is true that many, indeed most, people dislike the violence of the Taliban – especially in the tribal areas where they have established control over the lives of people – it is also a fact that opposition to them is somewhat ambiguous. The feelings of hatred for the US and its control over the country, fuel this ambiguity.

It is clear that the degree of intervention we see from the outside needs to be cut down drastically and more control needs to be established over the country by our own leaders who must also work to reduce the degree of animosity that exists for the West. They must also help people break free of the conspiracies promoted by the media, by word of mouth, and by carefully designed propaganda.

We must accept that the Taliban and the mindset that allows them to thrive are largely our creation. We must also turn away from rhetoric and hypocrisy and accept the fact that they could be winning. The consequences of this would be terrifying – but such an outcome can be avoided only if we learn to look at the truth – however hard it may be to accept – and acknowledge that growing distrust of Pakistan in the world is the result of actual events within the country as well as the acts of Pakistanis outside it, and not just bias directed towards a country where terrorist groups have somehow been able to thrive for many years.



Email: kamilahyat@hotmail.com

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

PATH TO PEACE

NAUMAN ASGHAR

 

The Hamas-Fatah reconciliation deal concluded on April 27 was a good omen for the stalled Palestine peace process. Both factions reached an agreement on forming an interim government for holding legislative and presidential elections. But the resignation of George Mitchell as US envoy in the Middle East dashed the hopes of any progress being made.


Mitchell, a 'tireless advocate' of peace, failed in the face of Israeli obduracy despite his extraordinary skills. A few days ago, President Obama called for a peace plan for Palestine based on a return to the 1967 borders. This speech annoyed Netanyahu who, in no ambiguous terms, rejected the suggestion.


The Palestine problem remains as intractable today as it was six decades ago. In many respects, it has become more complex. Understanding the protracted conflict will require answers to two questions: What are the fundamental issues bedeviling the relations of the disputants? And why have all peace initiatives undertaken come to naught?


Core contentious issues include the status of East Jerusalem, Israeli settlements, the right to return of refugees, and the appropriation of natural resources. Both Israelis and Palestinians lay claim to Jerusalem as their capital which under Israeli occupation in 1967. Israel is also concerned about religious places in East Jerusalem.

Moreover, Israel has apprehensions about the security of its residents in the neighbourhood. The Palestinians have legitimate grievances regarding the welfare of sacred sites under Israeli control.


Over four decades, Israel has established its communities in the occupied territories of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. In 2006 a unilateral disengagement plan was mapped out by Ariel Sharon and all settlement buildings in the Gaza strip were destroyed. But Israel has pressed ahead with its policy of building settlements in the West Bank. Most of these lie deep into Palestinian territory hence dividing the Palestinian population.

All these Israeli settlements are illegal under international law. The UN has through Resolution 465 declared that the Israeli policy of settling parts of its population and new immigrants in occupied territories constitutes a serious obstruction in achieving comprehensive, just, and lasting peace in the Middle East.


Above all, the International Court of Justice in its ruling delivered in 2004 has declared that Israeli settlements in the Palestine Occupied Territory, including those of Jerusalem, are illegal and an obstruction to peace and socio-economic development.


The settlements are also the cause of great inequalities in access to natural resources between Israelis and Palestinians. Many settlements are built on fertile agricultural lands confiscated from Palestinians or on water resources like the Western Aquifer Basin.


In the absence of trust, peace remains elusive and the contracting parties succumb to imaginary fears. Israel views an independent Palestinian state as a vital threat to its existence while the Arabs are threatened by Al-Naqba (the catastrophe). The unconditional support extended to Israel by the West has encouraged the former to adhere to an inflexible, rigid stance. Thus there is need to free the peace process from being held hostage by the militants' extremist agenda.

In order to work towards an amicable solution, the leaders of both parties must get ready for out-of-the-box thinking. The UN resolutions coupled with the Arab peace plan propounded by the Saudi King in 2002 could provide guidelines. Israel must face the reality of the Palestinians' right to self-determination. It must do away with the condition of recognition of Israel as a Jewish state as a pre-requisite for peace. The Palestinians should end all internal dissensions. Meanwhile, the Obama administration should pressure the Netanyahu government to relax its hard-line stance and push Israel towards a two-state solution.

 

The writer is a Rhodes scholar who teaches law at the University of Punjab. Email: naumanlawyer@ gmail.com

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THE AUSTRALIYAN

EDITORIAL

SALUTING A TOP SOLDIER

DEFENCE Force chief Allan Grant (Angus) Houston's contribution to Australia and its security has been immense in the decades since he joined the RAAF as a cadet pilot in 1970.

His retirement on July 4 will mark the end of six intense years during which he has overseen Australian deployments in Afghanistan, East Timor, Iraq and the Solomons. As a pilot, Air Chief Marshal Houston flew Iroquois helicopters in Australia, Papua New Guinea and Indonesia, and in 1980 was awarded the Defence Force Cross for a daring rescue during a gale off the NSW coast in which he saved three lives. As leader of the forces, he has served under five defence ministers from both sides of politics - Robert Hill, Brendan Nelson, Joel Fitzgibbon, John Faulkner and Stephen Smith. Within the ranks, his competence and concern for the good of the services and its personnel have earned him widespread respect. While committed to victory in battle, he built a reputation for compassion and intelligence.

 

Air Chief Marshal Houston's watch will be remembered for the Gillard government's historic decision to open all frontline ranks in the services to women with the fighting skills and strength to fill them. The reputation of the services, unfortunately, has been badly tarnished in recent years by a series of sexual harassment scandals. But in six years Air Chief Marshal Houston made headway in reforms to limit bullying and bastardisation.

Quietly spoken, Air Chief Marshal Houston has been a strong, resolute leader with a reputation for working 100-hour weeks. He did not shy away from stoushes with ministers on both sides of politics. And he showed a commendable willingness to assert the independence of the ADF when, as Air Force chief, he told the Howard government there was no evidence that children had been thrown overboard from an asylum-seeker boat days before the 2001 election, advice he reiterated to a Senate inquiry in 2002.

The appointment of Air Chief Marshal Houston's deputy, Lieutenant General David Hurley, as his successor is ideal. General Hurley, who was awarded the DSO for his work commanding the 1st Battalion of the Royal Australian Regiment during the peacekeeping operation in Somalia in 1993, takes the helm at a difficult time. Two Diggers were killed in Afghanistan this week, bringing Australia's casualty toll to 26 dead and 176 injured in the nation's longest running war.

 

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    THE AUSTRALIYAN

EDITORIAL

GLOBAL ACTION IS KEY ON CARBON

GARNAUT report seems to overstate international efforts.

Annual carbon emissions from China, currently about 8.5 billion tonnes or 15 times greater than Australia's, are set to double over the next decade or so while we reduce ours. If all goes to plan, in about 10 years China's emissions will be more than 30 times greater than ours. This information is not an argument for inaction but it does help keep our national carbon emission reduction debate in perspective, and highlight the primacy of international action.

In his final report, the Gillard government's climate change adviser, Ross Garnaut, has made some rather heroic claims about the extent of global action. "The diplomatic fiasco of the Copenhagen conference disguised a breakthrough new agreement that addressed the great failing of the Kyoto Protocol," he claimed. "It incorporated mitigation targets for the US and the large developing economies, notably China." This is gilding the lily. The reason Copenhagen was viewed as a failure was because the participants did not sign up to binding targets. And China's non-binding targets relate not to emissions but to carbon intensity. The Asian giant will work to generate cleaner and more efficient energy, but most of its power growth will still come from coal and its emissions will grow as its economic modernisation continues. Likewise for India. The lesson for Australia is that we need to be cautious and proportionate in our response.

Professor Garnaut has likened the carbon tax to the tariff reforms he championed in the 1980s. But the tariff reductions lowered costs for consumers and created incentives for companies to improve productivity, modernising our economy. The carbon tax is designed to produce an environmental benefit. It does this by imposing a cost and providing a disincentive to emit carbon. The so-called first mover advantage is that we allow our economy to adapt gradually to a low-carbon global world, minimising future shocks and opening us up to some early opportunities. The government needs to be wary of overstating these advantages because they will quickly disappear if the rest of the world stalls. A realistic assessment of global action to reduce carbon emissions remains the crucial missing link in the government's carbon tax justification. The Productivity Commission's report on this issue is with the government -- we await its release with great interest.

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THE AUSTRALIYAN

EDITORIAL

GDP FIGURES SHOW WE NEED ONGOING ECONOMIC REFORM

THIS time the problem was all ours, but what if China slows?

While the prevailing economic message is that we shouldn't panic, the contraction in Australia's GDP during the March quarter does highlight our susceptibility to the vagaries of the mining boom. This time, the problem was all on the supply side, with the Queensland floods closing mines and cutting off supply routes to ports. We can remain calm because we know the mines are reopening, the rail lines are being repaired and the seemingly insatiable Chinese demand for our coal and iron ore should ensure economic growth returns this quarter.

But we should view this experience as a salient warning of the medium-term risks. If the world economy slows or China loses control of inflation and then is forced to overcorrect, we could face a contraction on the demand side. This is the possibility Wayne Swan must focus on. The Treasurer needs to ensure the Australian economy is sufficiently dynamic and productive enough to sustain the nation outside of our current record mining boom conditions. The immensely favourable terms of trade cannot last forever, of that we can be sure, but Mr Swan's budget last month is predicated on those terms and the demand continuing unabated for close to a decade. We hope he is right, but he has been wrong before.

In the lead-up to the global financial crisis, Mr Swan was chasing his tail, worrying about inflation at a time when we should have been focused on maximising growth. The Australian pointed this out at the time, just as we warned about some aspects of the 2009 stimulus package. It is clear now that the opposition leader during that period, Malcom Turnbull, was correct. He supported the initial pension-based "cash splash" but argued that the main $42 billion stimulus should have been reduced by half and targeted more prudently. So while Australia dodged recession because of the strength of our financial system, the rapid rebound in Chinese demand for our mineral resources and, perhaps in part, because of the domestic monetary and fiscal stimulus, Mr Swan's judgment has been far from perfect. We would be better placed now if he had not overreacted to inflation fears in 2008 or over-egged the stimulus. Now we worry that he is being complacent.

There can be no time to waste reining in government spending and forging a reform agenda but the budget dodged these issues by delivering only $2.7 billion in net savings over four years. With the high dollar making our exports more expensive, we need to reduce costs at home, primarily by seeking to improve productivity. As industrial editor Ewin Hannan reported yesterday, industry and employer groups are urging reforms aimed at increasing labour flexibility. Rather than resort to the predictable mantra about the re-emergence of Work Choices, Mr Swan should take up the challenge as one important step towards insuring the nation against the inevitable mining downturn. And from opposition, Tony Abbott should pursue the same agenda.

Former prime minister John Howard used to allude to a race where the finish line kept getting further away, and his predecessor, Paul Keating, talked of burning the road behind you like the Road Runner. Both were absolutely right -- if you are not reforming, you are going backwards.

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

CHALLENGE RISES IN AFGHANISTAN

The deaths of two more Australian soldiers highlight the growing dangers our troops face as Afghan forces assume greater responsibility for fighting Taliban insurgents on their soil.

We don't yet know why 25-year old Lance-Corporal Andrew Jones was killed by the Afghan soldier he was mentoring at an outpost in remote Oruzgan province on Monday. Dozens of NATO and allied force soldiers have been attacked by their Afghan National Army colleagues for various reasons in this long war. The Taliban say they planted Andrew Jones's killer in the Afghan National Army months ago. True or false, infiltration is an established part of insurgent strategy as the handover to Afghan military leadership in 2014 nears.

The death of another Australian, aviator Lieutenant Marcus Case, 27, in a helicopter crash in Zabul province on Monday, brought Australia's losses in the conflict to 26. The deaths came in the same week that a new Australian Defence Force chief was appointed. Lieutenant-General David Hurley, the vice-chief who succeeds Angus Houston next month, will preside over the delicate transition to local military leadership in Afghanistan.

Australians mourn as a family when a Digger is killed. They honour the Anzac tradition, but don't want to see young men and women sacrificed. The longer this war goes on - and it's already Australia's longest - the more it will be questioned.

We believe Australia was right to join the international effort to rid Afghanistan of terrorist bases in 2001. It is equally right to gradually transfer the bulk of the responsibility for order to the Afghans themselves. The original objective to capture or kill Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda's top echelons, and prevent them using Afghanistan as a terrorist base, has been achieved.

The more complex challenge of stabilising and democratising Afghan government is not so easy by force of arms. As transition takes shape, the status quo built around the Karzai government, and our commitment to and confidence in it, will be tested.

There is serious talk of bringing the Taliban into government. Issues are not black and white. As we mourn fallen heroes, we should spare a thought for ordinary Afghans whose families are targeted by militants if they co-operate with foreign forces. The killing of our troops is meant as a warning to them as well, and their courage deserves respect. Our leaders, meanwhile, should avoid widening the gap between rhetoric and reality. Slogans such as ''go the distance'' and ''whatever it takes'' no longer are appropriate.

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

ABBOTT RESISTANCE RUNS OUT OF PUFF

POLITICAL realities have merged with commonsense to drag Tony Abbott from the indefensibility of sticking up for Big Tobacco against Australia's public health interests. If one needed evidence that the plain packaging of cigarettes would damage the economics of selling a killer drug - the government's precise intention - the tobacco industry's multimillion-dollar denial campaign should do. Why would an industry worry at all about regulation the industry claimed would prove fruitless?

The answer is in two parts: Big Tobacco has a fair idea that plain packaging will hurt its sales, and it wanted the initiative aborted in its Australian birthplace before other countries follow suit, once the effectiveness of plain packaging is demonstrated here.

The Opposition Leader was quick on Tuesday to insist his acquiescence on plain packaging was no backflip because, he said, the opposition previously had no position. That is mere sophistry. His previous refusal to pledge support for the intentionally ugly packaging of cigarettes left no one in doubt that the opposition was leaning towards a vote against plain packaging.

Abbott was more interested in opposition for its own sake, rather than any

persuasion the tobacco companies might exercise through their donations to Coalition coffers. As a former health minister, Abbott knows better than most the horrible damage done by tobacco: the 15,000 preventable deaths a year, the many thousands more left diseased, the $30 billion burden in care costs and lost productivity. He knows the tobacco industry is no pushover, that it has resources and techniques to counter public health messages and to claw back some of the attrition in smoker numbers from a wartime peak of 50 per cent of Australian adults to slightly less than 20 per cent now.

Abbott has an unwillingness to judge policy issues on national interest grounds if he scents political points. Most Coalition voters don't want automaton naysaying. Most support this latest assault on well-armoured tobacco interests.

But that is not what convinced Abbott to submit. His resistance was futile anyway, given the government had the parliamentary numbers. But his mind was made up by threats of at least one Liberal MP - the medico Mal Washer - to cross the floor and support the legislation. Party disunity is the last thing Abbott wants ventilated.

Meanwhile one tobacco chief, David Crow, warns taxpayers of expensive legal action against brand restraints. Nothing like as expensive as government sitting on its hands. Let the battle begin.

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

ECONOMIC BLIP REVEALS TWO SIDES TO BOOM

Wise policy in good times prepares for future shocks.

THE economy hasn't suffered a reversal like it for 20 years. A 1.2 per cent fall in gross domestic product in the March quarter confirmed that Australia took ''a very big hit'' from recent natural disasters, as Treasurer Wayne Swan said yesterday. Yet unlike the dark recessionary days of 1991, the government is justified in treating the national accounts data as a blip. The main policy challenge is still to manage the resources boom.

Yesterday's result highlights the value of resource exports. Half of the contraction in GDP resulted from a 6.1 per cent fall in mining output because of floods across eastern Australia and cyclones in the north-east and west. A 27 per cent plunge in coal exports cost $4.6 billion. The fall in iron ore exports cost $1.3 billion. Agriculture was also affected, cutting 0.2 per cent off quarterly GDP. Manufacturing's battle with the high dollar had a similar impact. Growth for the year to the end of March was just 1 per cent.

Investors responded by pushing the dollar higher. They share Mr Swan's view that the economy is basically strong. Employment and incomes grew strongly. Capital investment is set to increase by a third in 2011-12. The mining sector's rebound will accelerate as new iron ore, coal and gas projects come on stream. The quarterly blip was all about supply disruptions; there was no problem with demand. The terms of trade, representing the prices Australia gets for exports compared to what it pays for imports, jumped 5.8 per cent to be 22.4 per cent higher than a year ago. Domestically, too, a 1.4 per cent rise in public consumption suggested economic health. The non-resource state of Victoria added a nation-leading 0.4 points to GDP.

The message, then, in this week's figures is two-fold: Australia can look forward to a sustained commodities boom, but must also invest in the non-resource side of its two-speed economy. The impact of a brief cut in mining output illustrates vulnerability to falls in demand and prices. This is not an immediate prospect, but preparing for such an event is a long-term project. Australia needs to get to work now to guard against future shocks.

This applies especially to coal if the world ''decarbonises'' to cut greenhouse emissions. Australia is the world's biggest coal exporter with earnings of $43.1 billion last year, a 9 per cent increase from 2009. The value of metal ore and mineral exports jumped 50 per cent to $69 billion. (Manufacturing earned $40.4 billion, a 4 per cent increase.) Energy and mineral earnings are set to surge in the next few years. There has never been a better time for using resource taxes - based on values rather than volume-based royalties - to build investment funds for diversification, infrastructure and technological development.

Other resource-exporting countries, starting with oil producers, have long used the proceeds of booms in this way. One of the largest sovereign wealth funds, worth almost $600 billion, was set up in 1990 by Norway, a nation of 4.9 million people, to smooth out export price fluctuations, erase debt and prepare for a time when oil revenue declines.

Australia has taken only tentative steps in this direction. The Future Fund was set up to cover public service superannuation and does not draw directly on resource revenue. Then came infrastructure, health and education funds, overseen by the Future Fund board. The structure and scope of these funds - worth less than $100 billion in all - fall short of a true sovereign wealth fund that draws on a dedicated revenue stream to restructure, diversify and develop the economy. When Labor announced plans in 2007 to tap the Future Fund to finance a broadband network, the Coalition denounced this ''raid''.

Recently, however, Coalition frontbencher Malcolm Turnbull has led calls for a sovereign wealth fund to capitalise on unprecedented resource prices, to the benefit of current and future generations. Such a fund, set up to sustain national prosperity beyond any boom, really ought to be a bipartisan project.


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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

RESIDENTIAL CARE: IN A DECREPIT STATE

The corporate brokering will seal the fate of the faltering care giant, Southern Cross

Around 30,000 of our frailest citizens have suddenly acquired an anxiety-inducing interest in complex negotiations between executives, landlords and financiers. The corporate brokering will seal the fate of the faltering care giant, Southern Cross – and also determine how many residents of its hundreds of homes will be shunted out. Moving house is rarely easy, and the strain of uprooting is incomparably greater for people who can barely move themselves. Some mix of state action and commercial compromise may yet avert a lethal mass arthritic exodus, but as the crisis unfolds there is an abject lack of guarantees. This sorry tale is, at root, about a failure of responsibility.

The specific ideal of honouring our elders is familiar from Confucius to the commandments, and a more general injunction to protect the weak is also shared by faiths around the world. Alas, such ethical edicts need spelling out precisely because human nature so often falls short. The horrific treatment of people with learning difficulties at a Bristol hospital, brought to light this week by BBC's Panorama, is sadly the latest in a long catalogue of institutional abuses that stretches from the old mental asylums to children's homes. It is not, however, such cruelties which condemn ever-more people to see out their days in residential homes, but rather extended families' reluctance to devote themselves to their elderly as they may once have done. In a world where households rely on both partners working, this reluctance is understandable enough – and all the more so since medical advances stretch conditions of geriatric infirmity which would once have lasted a few months to many years. The real problem is that our collective desire to find someone else to do the caring is not matched by a shared willingness to foot the bill.

The terms of the Dilnot commission, which is due to report in July, make plain cost controls will remain centre stage. Its unarguable but politically poisonous message to baby boomers may well be that those who do not want to care for parents themselves will have to accept big consequences in terms of what they will inherit. The only alternative is a further withering away of quality and coverage. In stark contrast with the health service proper, where commercialisation remains the controversy of the hour, privatisation of elderly care got going in earnest two decades ago and is now all but complete. Few illusions linger about the comprehensiveness of the service, and a Financial Times probe this week suggested poorer care was more widespread in for-profit than charitable institutions. But farming care out has, perhaps, allowed cash-strapped public authorities to imagine the demographic tide of decrepitude as someone else's problem. As Southern Cross teeters, this final delusion is falling away.

Should Southern Cross collapse, councils will have obligations to re-house some but not all of the residents. What they will not have is the power to commandeer assets to meet these duties, assets they mostly sold years ago. When the utilities were privatised, emergency provisions were written into the law to allow the government to seize the reins in the event of corporate failure to make sure, for example, that the lights stayed on. The care of the frail was not deemed worthy of similar protection.

Of course residential institutions are supposed to meet all sorts of standards. But as with restaurant hygiene rules, everything depends upon inspections, which the Bristol debacle have found wanting. While Southern Cross has been free to dabble in sale-and-leaseback property bets that have now gone so wrong, the Care Quality Commission seems oddly constrained: one of its inspectors this week revealed his fears about a "dangerous" situation only on condition of anonymity. That body should start by taking responsibility for speaking frankly about the state care is in. All of us will then have to take responsibilty for fixing it.

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

IN PRAISE OF… STEWART LEE

His performances unfurl like a stroll on a summer's day: scenery and good companionship take precedence over destination

When praising a comedian it is generally a good idea to quote one of his or her jokes. The trouble with Stewart Lee is that he doesn't really do gags – at least not in the traditional sense of set-up, fire, reload. His performances unfurl like a long stroll on a summer's day: scenery and good companionship take precedence over destination, and any laughter seems almost serendipitous. For all of his self-deprecation and apparent hesitancy, Lee is evidently a practised charmer. So too with the apparent shambling of his act: it is just that, a put-on. In a recent episode of his latest BBC series, Stewart Lee's Comedy Vehicle, Lee discusses the evolution of modern comedy (something he is an expert on, as revealed in last year's memoirs How I Escaped My Certain Fate): "What the comedy is now – it's not like the 80s – what it is now, it's a load of people and they all hate their electrical appliances." This jibe about modern comedy's turn from shouty politics to smug consumerism slowly turns into a riff about how Mr Morphy Richards strives to make toasters that work, then advice on how to return broken toasters. Yet Lee can also do precise structure, as demonstrated by his sharply observed music journalism and his comedy musical Jerry Springer: The Opera. But let us return to the original question: what is a typical Lee gag? In desperation, this paper turned to the comedian's publicist. She could think of only one conventional one-liner ever made by Lee – and he'd bought it from another comedian for a quid. Typical.

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

SYRIA: TRUTH WILL OUT

President should let foreign press in to hear the Syrian people speak for themselves

Every revolution has its face. In Iran, it was Neda Soltani, who was shot in the chest during a demonstration. In Tunisia, it was a fruit seller called Mohammed Bouazizi who set himself on fire. In Egypt, it was Khaled Said, who was beaten to death after posting online a video showing police officers sharing the spoils of a drug haul. And in Syria it has now become Hamza al-Khatib. A YouTube video showing the appalling injuries this 13-year-old boy received in mysterious circumstances (the judge and the coroner both claimed his corpse bore no marks of torture) has gone viral. Hamza has now become the face of the Syrian revolution.

We do not know the circumstances of his horrific death. But we do know more about the systematic killings and torture by Syrian security forces as they attempt to suppress demonstrations in the city of Deraa where the revolt started. Human Rights Watch has done an invaluable service in attempting to document such crimes as the attack on the al-Omari mosque, ambushes of unarmed demonstrators or the blockades in which they attempted to starve communities into submission. But this report should only be the start. At least 418 people have been killed in the Deraa governorate alone. HRW found two witnesses who survived detention at a local football field, where detainees were picked at random from a crowd of 2,000 and summarily executed. And they also uncovered evidence of protesters killing members of the security forces.

The US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, sharpened her tone in her reaction to Hamza's death. She is right to dismiss the political moves of President Bashar al-Assad as empty gestures. First he lifted the state of emergency, and has now declared a general amnesty for political prisoners, moves which appear bold until the small print appears. Neither has stopped nor inhibited the brutal Baathist crackdown. Bashar is proving to be his father's true son. As that crackdown continues into its third month, pressure is growing at the UN to hold Assad and key members of the security apparatus accountable for crimes against humanity. Syrian dissidents meeting in Turkey had no desire to form a government-in-exile or a transitional council, as Damascus had feared. They are pushing instead for a UN security council resolution, similar to the one passed on Libya, which would allow an investigation by the international criminal court.

For a president who put so much effort into burnishing his image as a reformer in western eyes, a solution lies at hand: let the foreign press in. Let the Syrian people speak for themselves about the conflict in their midst. What could a popular leader possibly have to fear?

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THE JAPAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

A LONG-AWAITED ARREST

Gen. Ratko Mladic, the world's most wanted war crimes suspect, was arrested last week in Serbia. His detention, while delayed, is a victory for justice nonetheless. It is a powerful reminder to those who would contemplate similar crimes that they will know no rest; they will have to live their lives in fear of being hunted down and held accountable for their acts — as they should.

Gen. Mladic led Bosnian Serb military forces during the breakup of the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s. His moment of greatest infamy came during the 43-month siege of Sarajevo, a former host of the Olympics and a city that had been celebrated for its cultural diversity.

Looking down from the hills from which his forces surrounded the city, he told his troops simply to "burn it."

That savagery was only exceeded by the genocide at Srebrenica, a city that was ostensibly protected by United Nations peacekeepers. Determined to show that he answered to no higher authority, Gen. Mladic in July 1995 ordered and oversaw the culling of the city's population, smiling benignly, even offering candy, as women and children were separated from the men.

Then out of view of onlookers, his forces massacred 8,000 men and boys, murdering them in cold blood and burying the bodies in mass graves. It was the largest mass murder in Europe since World War II.

Ironically, his savagery likely hastened the end of the Yugoslav war, the defeat of Bosnian Serb dreams and the dismemberment of that state. His humiliation of the U.N. forces forced the West to punish the Serbs and defend the integrity of the world body. It also alerted Western diplomats to the need to act quickly when facing Serb nationalism in the future.

Gen. Mladic was indicted by the International Criminal Court for the Former Yugoslavia and charged with genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, along with other authors of that dreadful conflict: Serb President Slobodan Milosevic and Mr. Radovan Karadzic, the political leader of the Bosnian Serbs.

While Mr. Milosevic remained in power, those men, and other accused, flouted the court, living openly without fear of arrest. That changed in 2000, when Mr. Milosevic was turned out of office.

Gen. Mladic then went into hiding, although he continued to draw a military pension and videos of him periodically popped up on the Internet. A hero to Serb nationalists, he enjoyed protection from much of the public, security services and even criminal groups.

Even after Mr. Milosevic was forced from office, the government in Belgrade was reluctant to arrest war crimes suspects. In 2003, Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic was murdered — reputedly by organized crime elements — but the message was received that hot pursuit of the war crimes suspects was a dangerous idea. Officially, Gen. Mladic could not be found by the Serbian authorities.

Eventually, however, Serbian aspirations to join Europe overwhelmed the nationalists' desire to protect their heroes.

The European Union — and particularly the Netherlands, which had sent the peacekeepers that Gen. Mladic humiliated — conditioned membership on full cooperation and compliance with the international tribunal.

The EU showed its seriousness in May 2006 by suspending preliminary negotiations with Serbia on the Stabilization and Association Agreement, one of the key preliminary steps toward membership. In national elections in 2008, a more pro-European party, the Democratic Party, formed a coalition government.

Shortly after that Cabinet took office, Mr. Karadzic was arrested. Serbia applied to join the EU the next year.

The European Commission is scheduled to decide in October whether to give Serbia candidate status, which is a prelude to full accession talks. Reportedly, the United Nations was going to condemn Serbia in a forthcoming report for not doing more to capture Gen. Mladic. His arrest changes the evaluation considerably, although the Commission may hold out if the last war crimes suspect, Mr. Gorad Hadzic, is not arrested by then.

Remarkably, Gen. Mladic and other men who are charged with such crimes, remain popular. Nationalist currents run deep, and not just among the Serbs. Two Croatian generals were recently convicted of war crimes by the international tribunal, decisions that generated protests in that country.

Yet the Serbs believe that they have been singled out for especially harsh treatment while the crimes committed against them go unpunished.

The international tribunal has done a good job of pursuing justice for all the victims of the bloody Yugoslav conflicts. Indeed looking back after a decade, the savagery of those wars is still numbing. The speed and determination with which individuals from all sides were prepared to commit atrocities against people who had been their neighbors and friends just before says something deeply disturbing about our humanity.

It is alarming that so-called civilized societies can descend to this level of violence and anarchy so quickly. It sometimes seems that the only hope we have for maintaining even a thin veneer of civilization is the promise of some form of justice, no matter how long it takes. Gen. Mladic's arrest is a sign that that promise is being kept.

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THE JAPAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

PRIVACY AND PUBLIC INTEREST

BY HUGH CORTAZZI

LONDON — How far is privacy a human right? This question has become a issue in Britain and Europe in recent weeks.

One episode that has highlighted the differences between attitudes toward privacy in the United States, France and Britain is the case of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former head of the International Monetary Fund and possibly a future president of France.

He was arrested at Kennedy Airport in New York on a charge of attempted rape of a chamber-maid at a hotel in New York. The French public were shocked to see photographs of a disheveled Strauss-Kahn, known as DSK, in handcuffs, later transferred to a notorious New York jail. A grand jury has agreed that DSK should stand trial in New York. He has been granted bail on strict conditions. Even if he is acquitted his political career is almost certainly over. How are the mighty fallen!

In France privacy laws are strict and the sexual behavior of French politicians is not a subject of media attention. It has been alleged that French politicians are admired by at least some members of the French public for their virility and powers of seduction while extra-marital affairs are accepted as the norm. So DSK's reputation as a womanizer was not apparently regarded as either exceptional or as a bar to his becoming president of the republic. Anglo-Saxon codes of morality were irrelevant in France.

The French code of conduct for politicians does not, however, condone rape or the use of force in seduction. But where should the line be drawn?

Since DSK's arrest, a number of other allegations against him of sexual harassment have surfaced and questions have been asked whether French privacy laws have allowed such cases to be glossed over if not buried.

Questions are also being asked about the way in which sexual misdemeanors can be covered up in Britain on grounds of privacy. A number of cases have come to light recently in which rich soccer players, media stars and business people have been granted injunctions forbidding disclosure of their sexual peccadilloes. In some cases the courts have granted so-called super-injunctions in which even the existence of the injunction must not be revealed.

The grounds for granting these injunctions have apparently often been to protect the children of the offending party or prevent blackmail. But personal embarrassment and possible implications for their business interests (especially if they are involved in advertising products) have surely also provided motives for seeking such injunctions.

The British media have campaigned vigorously against these gagging orders and have received a good deal of support in parliament and from the general public. The injunctions in a small number of cases have been breached by being referred to in Parliament, where statements by members in the house, unlike statements made outside the house, are privileged and cannot be punished as contempt of court.

The injunctions have also been breached by statements on the Twitter website, and by publications abroad which cannot be made subject to the jurisdiction of U.K. courts except in so far as they circulate in the United Kingdom. They have also been nullified in one case by publication of the name of the soccer player concerned in a Scottish newspaper that comes under Scottish law, which is separate from English law.

One of the injunctions was taken out by one of the BBC's leading presenters Andrew Marr. He was "persuaded" by the British satirical magazine Private Eye that it was hypocritical of someone in his position in the media to take out an injunction against revealing his liaison with another media personality.

One super-injunction "outed" in parliament was that procured by Sir Fred Goodwin, the former boss of the Royal Bank of Scotland, to prevent circulation of allegations of an affair which he is said to have had with a senior colleague at the bank before it collapsed and had to be rescued by the government. Goodwin, popularly known as "Fred the Shred" for the ruthless way in which he cut staff, their salaries and perks, is regarded as a man personifying bankers' greed as well as being responsible for the takeover of the Dutch bank ABN Amro, which was a major factor in the bank's collapse. The media and parliamentarians want to know whether Goodwin's sexual fling with a senior colleague was in breach of the bank's code of conduct and was correctly reported to the board.

In the case of Goodwin, at the very least, there is a real public interest in revealing misconduct. There may not be so much public interest justification for mud-raking in the case of soccer players and media stars. But these personalities have been earning astronomic sums and it does not seem unreasonable to most people that, if they seek fame and prestige, they should not expect the media merely to promote their image but should also expose their weaknesses.

It is noteworthy that all these injunctions and super-injunctions have been sought by wealthy male individuals; none by women. A person of modest means could not afford to seek an injunction to protect his private life.

Naturally the lawyers, representing applicants for injunctions, are arguing strenuously for the maintenance of the present system and for action to be taken against leaks through Twitter and in parliament, but it is becoming increasingly difficult to see how these injunctions can be enforced.

Soccer players, media stars, businessmen and politicians, if they want to maintain their reputations and protect their families and their good name, have a simple remedy. That is to behave in accordance with the accepted norms of society. If they cannot control their libidos and do not want to be shown up, let them retire on whatever gains they've acquired and return to the obscurity where they should have stayed.

In Britain we probably do not want our media to be as uninhibited as in the U.S. We may need improved rules on privacy, but the present position is farcical and wrongheaded.

Hugh Cortazzi served as Britain's ambassador to Japan from 1980-1984.

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THE JAPAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

PAKISTAN AGAIN TURNS TOWARD CHINA

BY SHAHID JAVED BURKI

ISLAMABAD — Large events sometimes have unintended strategic consequences, as the killing of Osama bin Laden in a compound in Abbottabad, a military-dominated town near Islamabad, Pakistan's capital, shows.

The fact that the world's most wanted man lived for a half-dozen years in a large house within spitting distance of 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 my 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 U.S. 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 realized.

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 billion the Americans have supposedly paid in compensation. In fact, a substantial share of the promised U.S. 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 International Monetary Fund 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 percent, one of the lowest levels in the emerging world.

The IMF 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 U.S. 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 U.S. 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.

Shahid Javed Burki, former finance minister of Pakistan and vice president of the World Bank, is currently chairman of the Institute of Public Policy, Lahore. © 2011 Project Syndicate

 

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THE JAPAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

JAPAN'S COSTLY LESSON IN RISK MANAGEMENT

BY ROBERT SHILLER

NEW HAVEN, Connecticut — The basic principle of financial risk management is sharing. The more broadly diversified our financial portfolios, the more people there are who share in the inevitable risks — and the less an individual is affected by any given risk. The theoretical ideal occurs when financial contracts spread the risks all over the world, so that billions of willing investors each own a tiny share, and no one is over-exposed.

The case of Japan shows that, despite some of our financial markets' great sophistication, we are still a long way from the theoretical ideal. Considering the huge risks that are not managed well, finance, even in the 21st century, is actually still rather primitive.

A recent World Bank study estimated that the damage from the triple disaster (earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis) in March might ultimately cost Japan $235 billion (excluding the value of lives tragically lost). That is about 4 percent of Japanese GDP in 2010.

Given wide publicity about international charitable relief efforts and voluntary contributions to Japan, one might think that the country's economic loss was shared internationally. But newspaper accounts suggest that such contributions from foreign countries should be put in the hundreds of millions of dollars — well below 1 percent of the total losses. Japan needed real financial risk sharing: charity rarely amounts to much.

Insurance companies operating in Japan repaid some of the losses. The same World Bank study estimates that total claims accruing to insurers in Japan might ultimately cost these companies $33 billion. Clearly, the insured risks were a small part of the total risk. Moreover, much of that risk, even if insured, continues to be borne in Japan, rather than being spread effectively to foreign investors, so Japan is still alone in bearing the costs.

Before the disaster, Japan issued about $1.5 billion in earthquake-related catastrophe bonds as a risk-management device: the debt is canceled if a precisely defined seismic event occurs. This design helped spread the earthquake risk from Japan to foreign investors, who could accept the risk and were enticed by higher expected yields.

Unfortunately, $1.5 billion is little better than what charity could do — and still only a drop in the bucket compared to the extent of the damage. Worse yet, even this triple disaster often did not fit the definition of the seismic event defined by the bond indentures. We need far more — and better — catastrophe bonds.

Of course, compared to Japan's two "lost decades" since 1990, even this year's triple disaster pales in significance. Japanese real per capita GDP growth averaged 3.9 percent a year in the 1980s, but only 1.4 percent since 1990. If real per capita GDP growth had continued after 1990 at the rate of the 1980s, Japan's economy would be 60 percent larger than it is today — implying losses in the trillions of dollars.

Japan could have insulated itself from a good deal of the effects of GDP fluctuations if it had managed this risk accordingly. Though no country has ever practiced risk management on such a massive scale, it is important to consider such an innovation now.

I (among others) have been arguing for years that countries should cover their risks by issuing a different kind of national debt, tied to their own GDP or a similar measure of economic success. In its simplest form, the securities could be shares in GDP. My Canadian colleague Mark Kamstra and I have proposed issuing shares called "trills," which would pay a dividend each year equal to a trillionth of that year's GDP, in domestic currency.

If the Japanese government had issued trills in 1990, when Japan's nominal GDP was ¥443 trillion, the dividend paid to investors the first year would have been ¥443. Every year thereafter, the dividend paid would fluctuate in response to changes in GDP. Investors around the world would take on Japanese GDP risk in return for an expected yield, just as with catastrophe bonds.

The trills would most likely have sold for a very high price in 1990, perhaps with a dividend yield under 1 percent. After all, people in 1990, witnessing recent high growth rates, would have expected Japanese GDP to grow rapidly in subsequent decades.

In 2010, when GDP was still only ¥479 trillion, the same trills would pay a dividend of ¥479, not much larger than the initial yield and no doubt disappointing many investors. So, with lower growth expectations, the trills would likely have a much lower price now. That lower price would be a bane to investors but a boon to Japanese, compensating them for the losses that they have suffered.

When considering today's concern about Japan's high public debt-to-GDP ratio, now at 202 percent on a gross basis, one needs to reflect that the ratio would most likely be profoundly lower if Japan had in the past financed more of its deficit spending with trills instead of conventional debt, and issued them to investors around the world. A lower debt burden would certainly help Japan deal with its economic slowdown.

There is nothing we can do now to compensate for failures to manage risks in the past. But disasters and economic crises can have a silver lining if they spur fundamental innovation by forcing us to think about how to manage risks in the future.

Robert Shiller is a professor of economics at Yale University and chief economist at MacroMarkets LLC. © 2011 Project Syndicate

 

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THE JAKARTA POST

EDITORIAL

BIN LADEN'S TRUSTED CONFIDANTE IDENTIFIED

KATHY GANNON, ASSOCIATED PRESS

The courier who led U.S. intelligence to Osama bin Laden's hideout in Pakistan hailed from the Swat Valley, a one-time stronghold of militant Taliban fighters, according to Pakistani officials.

The officials on Wednesday identified the courier as Ibrahim Saeed Ahmed. He and his brother Abrar were shot dead in the daring U.S. Navy SEAL raid May 2 that also killed bin Laden and two other people.

The brothers apparently linked up with bin Laden after they returned to Swat Valley from Kuwait, where their parents had immigrated.

Swat is about 70 miles (110 kilometers) north of the city of Abbottabad, where bin Laden had been hiding for about five years. The Wall Street Journal, which first reported the real names of the two brothers, said they were from the Swat village of Martung.

The U.S. commando attack, conducted without notification of Pakistani officials, was a huge embarrassment for the country given that bin Laden's compound was in a military garrison city and only about 35 miles (60 kilometers) from the capital Islamabad.

Pakistan has denied suspicions of involvement in sheltering bin Laden and set up an independent commission to probe possible links and intelligence failures. Among the challenges is trying to determine whether bin Laden's support network spread beyond the brothers.

"I am sure he could not have lived without a local network. He had to get messages out. The kind of help that he needed to be there meant he had help from somewhere, some groups maybe," a senior Pakistani intelligence official said on Wednesday on the usual condition that his name not be used.

"Every possible link is being looked into," he said. He flatly denied involvement of the Pakistani intelligence agency known by its acronym ISI. While the U.S. administration has publicly said there is no evidence that anyone in a position of leadership harbored bin Laden, they have not ruled out lower level assistance.

The CIA first learned Ahmed's nom de guerre in 2002 from a detainee being held by another country and wouldn't learn his real name until years later.

Ahmed, who is said to be in his early 30s, was a protege of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the Sept. 11 mastermind, and a close associate of Faraj al-Libi, a top al-Qaida operative captured in 2005 about 12 miles (20 kilometers) from Abbottabad.

Both Mohammed and al-Libi lied about their association with Ahmed while being held in CIA secret prisons. But a top al-Qaida operative named Hassan Ghul also in CIA custody helped the agency connect the dots: Finding Ahmed, who had been identified as someone important, could lead to bin Laden.

The captives said the courier was known by the nom de guerre Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti, which he adopted because their parents lived in Kuwait.

But U.S. intelligence only found the courier last August, through a chance interception of Ahmed's phone call. That set in motion the secret CIA search of the Abbottabad region, culminating with the May 2 raid and bin Laden's killing.

President Barack Obama's decision to keep Pakistan in the dark about the raid infuriated the military and its intelligence agency. Relations sank to new lows.

The U.S., however, has warned it will do the same again if it has solid intelligence on the whereabouts of any of five most-wanted figures.

Topping that list is Ayman al-Zawahri, al-Qaida's No. 2. Others are: Libyan Attiya Abdul Rahman, believed to be an operational chief; Pakistani Illyas Kashmiri, on whom the U.S. place a $5 million bounty last month; Sirajuddin Haqqani, the military chief of the Taliban-allied Haqqani network and son of its leader Jalaluddin Haqqani; and the Taliban's reclusive leader Mullah Mohammad Omar.

The list was handed to Pakistani authorities during a hurried visit last Friday by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen. They warned then that they would again go it alone if they discovered the location of any of the five.

Pakistan's ISI made a slight overture to the CIA by allowing access to bin Laden's compound last week.

"It was a gesture to say let's start to patch things up," he said.

"We don't want this relationship to end," he said, but another raid like the one on May 2 "may be the straw that breaks the camel's back."

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DAILY MIRROR

     EDITORIAL

 

 

TAKE IMMEDIATE ACTION AGAINST THIS CORRUPTION

 

ur post independence history is rife with instances of its interests being held to ransom at the hands of trade unionists; often acting with vested interests. Increasingly corruption has been the 'real interest' blocking many an ambitious programme for development. The plight of State institutions and consumers playing fodder to such corrupt practices are too numerous to mention. Yet, its effects have always been at heavy cost to the national coffers and more tragically go with never any action against the perpetrators. A phenomenon: threatening the stability of the CEB today.

A crucial state institution dabbling in millions of rupees on a daily basis, corruption has continued to raise its ugly head at regular intervals at the CEB. Any moves to clean-up the outfit have died a tragic albeit a mysterious death with the intervention of the so-called professionals making up its trade unions. The allegations against some of the most professionally qualified persons within the institution have been shocking. The attempts to use its trade unions to avert such moves seem even more shameless. The number of professionals with impressive career records aligned with corrupt practices within the CEB speaks volumes of the need for mature political intervention.

A former Chairman of the CEB interviewed in our opinion pages today stands witness to this despicable situation. He speaks of the direct influence and pressure exerted by the CEB Engineers' Union against every move to rid it of such corruption. The manner in which the Union has ensured the change of some seven Chairmen at the CEB over a five--period must stand proof of the interests at hand.

It is sadly the same game being played with the present management of the CEB today. Threatening to destabilize its operations as its corrupt members stand exposed of some very serious charges of corruption is a proven game of operation here. One; that need necessarily to be ended if the impressive records that the power and energy sector has achieved recently, are to be continued. The longer the powers-that-be delay difficult but responsible action against such corruption, the heavier the toll on innocent consumers already burdened by moves to make a few at the top rich. 

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DAILY MIRROR

EDITORIAL

EUROPEAN PARLIAMENTARIANS CASTIGATE BAN KI-MOON'S MOCK PANEL

BY JAYANTHA GUNASEKERA-

PRESIDENT'S COUNSEL

It appears that the EU Parliament has now become wiser and realized what frauds the LTTE Diaspora are.  Quoting the CDN, "the European parliament on 13th May 2011 defeated an attempt to seek the immediate establishment of an international justice mechanism on Sri Lanka during an urgent debate called by the Socialist Green Parties at the Strasbourg Plenary Sessions, to draw attention to the so called UN Panel report, on accountability issues in Sri LankaHowever, the remarks made about the Sri Lankan judiciary was baseless and unwarranted.

Geoffrey Van Orden heading a group in the EU Parliament said, "we regret that we are having this debate today.  I suspect that it has been prompted by extremist elements in the Tamil diaspora – the same people who have helped to sustain the LTTE terrorist campaign over many years, through political activities and funding, often from the proceeds of crime.  Instead of trying to bring together the peoples of Sri Lanka, there are those that seek to continue a campaign of hatred and division.  They see this Darusman report as a weapon in this campaign and just want to put the SL government in the dock.  This approach is malicious and counter productive."

He further said, "let us do all we can to support the govt of SL, instead of attacking them."  He urged the EU parliament to remain vigilant concerning those that seek to re-ignite the embers of LTTE terrorism.  "I call on the EU and European govts to be more active in dealing with extremists in our midst," he added.  This position was confirmed by the German MEP, Thomas Mann.

Representing the European Conservatives and Reformists the MEP for UK, Dr Charles Tannoch said, "the report is a far cry from the reality and was heavy on criticism but light in substance."  This appears to be a direct hit on the intellectual capacity of the mediocre former Attorney General Marzuki Darusman, and also a hit on the other 2 panelists, Yasmin Sooka of South Africa and Steven Ratner of the USA.

Dr Charles Tannoch further said, "Sri Lanka has finally achieved peace by defeating a ruthless terrorist organization as the LTTE, which had rejected all peace bids made by the govt.  The word genocide is being mentioned by some, even without knowledge of its meaning."  He questioned the Socialists and Greens, asking, "how anyone could accuse the Sri Lanka Army for genocide, of crimes against humanity, when the same army rescued more than 300,000 Tamil civilians from the LTTE, and have now helped re-settle most of them."

However, some of those within the European parliament – influenced by the LTTE diaspora, have still not given up maligning Sri Lanka.  This is a damning indictment on the intellectual capacity and integrity of not only Ban ki Moon, but also his so-called expert panel, Darusman, Sooka and Ratner.  They are no experts than the man in the moon.  They have been picked up by Ban from the dustbin, as it were.

Sri Lanka is being condemned by the western powers and their corrupt stooges in the UN, regarding human rights violations.

A mock panel was appointed by Ban Ki-moon WITHOUT the SANCTION of (a) the General Assembly, (b) the Security Council or, (c) the Human Rights Council.  This was a unilateral decision of Ban, in consequence of being PRESSURISED by some WESTERN POWERS who were attracted by the FILTHY LUCRE offered  BY THE LTTE DIASPORA.  For such people, human rights is only a façade.

They blindly go on the basis that "friendship with the West can be revoltingly rewarding while enmity could be revealingly reviling."

Excesses are an accepted reality in war, but on the contrary, the humanitarian exercise by the Sri Lanka Forces to save 300,000 Tamil civilians from the grip of the LTTE (from the jaws of death), itself proves their bona fides.  They were a highly principal force, with no intention (mens rea), to inflict harm on unarmed civilians.

As regards violation of Human Rights by the US targeting and killing thousands of unarmed civilians by unmanned aerial vehicles – drones, in Pakistan and Afghanistan, this is what a Judge of the US Federal Court said in his judgment "there is a painful conflict between human rights and national security. Fundamental human rights have to be sacrificed at the altar of national security".

This is now settled law in the US and is often cited regarding the killing of Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan and the killing of Libyan leader Gadaffi's son and grand children. 

Hillary Clinton must apply the same principle enunciated by the US Federal Court as regards the Sri Lankan conflict which took place 2 years ago and was a forgotten chapter till some Western countries prodded their stooge Ban Ki -moon to appoint a panel of so called experts.  By the actions of a few leading politicians in the US, UK, France and EU, these leaders are inviting hatred towards their countries. Already the Arabs detest them. Pakistan hates them. South American countries and some African countries spurn them. The Non Aligned Group do not condone their interference in the internal affairs of their members. In short, more than half the world are critical of their attitude, because they themselves  violate Human Rights with impunity. North Korea has threatened the US with Nuclear Holocaust, while Ahmadinejad of Iran is no admirer of the US either. Such is the hatred towards the West.

It is sickening to think of the "holier than thou" attitude of the western countries who are attempting to probe Human Rights violations of Sri Lanka while they violate Human Rights with a vengeance. This mock panel of experts have been very pliable and have yielded to the influence of the Tamil Diaspora. They have by their shallow report proved that they are a  set of insignificant people who have been picked up from no where by the already partial Ban Ki-moon. They have proved that they are not worthy of their standing in any bar of any country. Their report is based on hear say, unsubstantiated video clips and are not based on any rational law followed in any civilized democratic country; not English Law, not Roman Dutch Law, not American Law. In short, they have followed the law of the jungle. 

Navaneethan Pillai, the Tamil UN Human Rights Chief influenced by the Tamil Diaspora has obviously been an enormous influence in securing this laughable report. Her outlook is entirely communal.

If our forces wanted to kill the Tamils, all they had to do without wasting their bullets was to watch Prabhakaran and his men massacring the Tamils when they were running away from the clutches of the LTTE to the Government side. These Tamils were herded like cattle with no food or medicine and forcibly moved from place to place, using them as human shields.

Ban and his mock panel have not had a word of praise for the Forces saving the lives of these 300,000 Tamils when the SL Forces put their own lived in harms way to save these Tamils.  This was perhaps the only massive humanitarian exercise in the whole world, which cost the lives of hundreds of SL Forces.

After the deaths of Prabhakaran and his cohorts, the SL government fed the refugees, clothed them, medicated them, sheltered them and built  hygienic toilets to prevent an outbreak of cholera. Every conceivable precaution was taken for their wellbeing, while the Tamil Diaspora contributed nothing to look after their own displaced people for whom they now shed crocodile tears.

They are a set of mean dirty low down people, who directly and indirectly contributed to the deaths of their own brethren.    

At the most recent 17th UN Human Rights Council Session held in New York, Cuba, Pakistan and China amongst other countries vehemently apposed any intervention in Sri Lanka. The Western countries, US, UK, France and the EU had a major set back. These Western countries are clearly influenced by the Tamil Diaspora and their filthy lucre and not Human Rights. Human Rights is only a façade to justify their conduct.

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DAILY MIRROR

EDITORIAL

CEB ENGINEERS' UNION HAMPERS FIGHT AGAINST CORRUPTION

 

Q: What is your plan of work as the chairman of the Industrial Development Board?

It has been one year since I assumed duties as the chairman of the Board. During this period, I spent my time in restoring the organizational structure of it.  I corrected various structures such as administration, accounting, financial management and auditing. By the time, I took over, six out of the 12 director posts remained. There was no corporate plan. I have now prepared the corporate plan for the next three years. 

Q:What are the latest developments in the small and medium scale industrial sector in the country?

Our idea is to develop this sector as a vital part of the economy.  We have now formed a Federation of Small and Medium Entrepreneurs which comprise 22 district level bodies. Altogether, there are 4000 members now. The major problem confronting this sector is the lack of management knowledge. It is my duty to provide these skills to the entrepreneurs.  This sector has been neglected for so many years. Entrepreneurs should consult experts before investing their money. Sometimes, they invest money without proper guidance and end up in failure.  We have to provide a solution to that issue. Sometimes, they have basic ideas, but don't know how to implement them. Also, they are not unaware of other matters involved.

In the developed countries, the small and medium scale enterprises contribute a lot for the Gross Domestic Products. In Sri Lanka too, it should be developed to a sustainable level. In the countries such as China and India, there are domestic huge markets for entrepreneurs in those countries. Here it is small. What I want these entrepreneurs is to start their businesses initially as small business ventures and then develop them to large scale ones. They can expand them to district and provincial levels.  Then, we can generate new employment opportunities too. Then we need to consult experts in this exercise.  When we want to seek medication, we consult qualified doctors   or medical practitioners. When it comes to litigation too, we consult professional lawyers. But, for investment, we do not do so.

Q:How crucial is industrial peace to economic development in your opinion?

It is very important. In other countries, we have 24-hour economies. Economic activities are taking place right throughout the day. Here, most of the time, we are sleeping. Only at some places of work such as garment factories, we see the system of working on shifts.

Q:How much would you say the trade union sector contributes to this aspect of development?

Trade unions should act with a sense of responsibility.  They should also have knowledge about the management and administrative structure of the organization concerned.

Q:How would you analyze this matter in terms of your experience as the former chairman of the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB)?   

There are problems created by trade unions. During the last few year period starting from 2005, there have been seven or eight chairmen. There is a misalignment between the management and trade unions at the CEB. I do not say employees. They are not well aware about the management, administrative and governance structures.  They try to dominate everything. This category of persons cannot do it.  As a result, there is a great disadvantage. It involves a huge cost to the public at the end of the day. They are not willing to accept management practices.

Q:It means that these   trade unions have not understood what the CEB is meant for? 

They cannot understand. The CEB is a commercial venture according to the criteria laid by the Treasury. This is a public commercial enterprise. At the end of the day, both consumers and the venture have to be satisfied. These trade unions are a problem to achieve that target.

Q:What are the other areas where the problem has aggravated in the CEB?

There is a management principle that power should be delegated to the authorities concerned in a structured organization. The management has the power to take back whatever the power devolved when the authorities concerned do not perform well as expected. This is what has happened at the CEB. This category of persons at the CEB does not like it. The management has to act in such a manner to improve efficiency. 

Q:How difficult has the move to curb corruption at the CEB become due to the influence of these trade unions, particularly the Engineers' Union?

It is at the maximum level. It is impossible to implement the projects according to the stipulated budget limits and time frames. It is all the more serious regarding the major power projects such as Upper Kotmale or Norochcholai.  If you take any power project in the Colombo city for example, none of them have been implemented in time with the budget estimated initially. When the time limit is extended again, the cost is high.

Q:At what level does corruption take place within actually?

It happens at technical and tender evaluation committees. I do not know whether it happens due to lack of knowledge on the part of those involved. I wonder whether they do it deliberately.  I can cite examples. It happened at that time in the purchase of equipment.  In one power line project of the Upper Kotmale plant, I remember the contract had been at RS.550 million. Again, it had been given to another subcontractor at 350 million.  There had also been a third subcontractor who did for Rs. 150 million. In this case, who has done the estimates? It is engineers. I wonder whether it is willful or lack of knowledge. It can be interpreted as corruption. This is the engineers' usual   pattern.

Q:How do these engineers try to enjoy total control over the CEB?

 They firmly insist that the CEB should be chaired by an engineer. But, it is an organization that can be managed by a management expert.  It is something to do with management and administration. But, they do not accept it. They start fighting with trade union action. They start work to rule campaign. They send threatening letters to other employees. 

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DAILY MIRROR

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.

The Hindu

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DAILY MIRROR

EDITORIAL

FIGHTING CORRUPTION SHOULD NOT BE REDUCED TO A NATIONAL PASTIME

 

It's possibly since the years preceding the proclamation of emergency in end-June 1975 that governance issues, starting with corruption and probity in public life, have captured national attention on a broad scale. Where scams had remained even earlier, and scam-masters by the political masters and courts in the days since Independence, it is only in these two instances that there are reasons to believe that the people at large are becoming increasingly aware of and conscious about the happenings around them - and are ready to use the power of their vote to try and set matters right.

Elections-2011 in Tamil Nadu, Kerala and West Bengal prove the point. In West Bengal, the ruling Left Front paid heavily for decades of government without governance. In the past, as in Tamil Nadu of 1996, and Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh (1982), people have voted on issues that went beyond price rise and unemployment rates, two basic issues that had concerned ordinary voters. The parliamentary polls of 1980, 1998 and 1999 likewise focused on political stability and Government delivery being stymied by political instability at the Centre.

Anna Hazare may not be a Jayaprakash Narayan, nor Baba Ramdev, an Acharya Kriplani, Vintage-75. Yet, the results of Elections-2011 have boosted the morale of civil society activists and organisations fighting on issues of governance, starting with free and fair elections and corruption. The Centre's suspect resolve on the Lok Pal Bill has since given way to conceding the demand for civil society participation in the drafting of a new piece of legislation, possibly for the first time since Independence. However, the absence of the political Opposition from the discourse is noticeable. Not being part of the process, they thus reserve the right to oppose any legislative measure that may come up before Parliament. If such measures were to involve constitutional amendments, they would require a two-thirds majority, which the ruling Congress-UPA does not command on its own in either House of Parliament. Some such measures may also require clearances from a majority of State Assemblies. If one went by the course that a unanimous legislative initiative like the one on women's reservations has gone through, the non-involvement of the political Opposition would hurt when one would expect it not to hurt. Likewise, the exclusion of regional parties, whether in Government at the Centre or not, would also matter, for any Bill as envisaged by the Anna Hazare camp, to have its way, both in Parliament and possibly in State Assemblies. The tendency now seems to be to keep the non-governmental participation on civil society organisations. They too seem happy for it.

As outlined by Government representatives, all legislations will have to fall within the broad framework of the Constitution, or the 'basic structure' as indicated, though not defined by the Supreme Court. To try and over-do the NGO cause would take the current movement towards involving the civil society in motivating and drafting new pieces of legislation away from its scope and goal. It is also doubtful if the larger population, particularly the urban middle class, having handed down an electoral verdict that had produced more than satisfactory results from their personal and societal perspectives, would be in a mood for further street-fights until they feel compelled to. Experience in the matter is not encouraging, either.

Through and through, the higher judiciary in this country has felt offended at finger-pointing, and the need for accountability. There is justification in the arguments that the higher judiciary should be insulated from issues that are administrative at best, but political otherwise. The 'Justice V Ramaswamy impeachment issue', the only one of its kind that Parliament was called upon to vote, was decided not on ethical grounds, or legal arguments. It was voted out, based on a political-divide in Parliament. Our political scheme and parliamentary system have not reached such levels for individual members to be able to draw a dividing line. The anti-defection law has conferred greater legitimacy to the 'three-line whip' issued by party leadership to Parliament members, and this may have deprived some of the freedom that otherwise might have been available to them in matters of conscience and ethics.

It is also political. Needless to point out that around the time the Supreme Court was seized of the 2-G scam and CWG deals in November-December 2010, the Government stopped talking about piloting a Bill on judicial accountability. Union Law Minister M Veerappa Moily had promised a Bill in the winter session of Parliament, in the same period. It is not as if the higher judiciary is shy of accountability issues. It is possible that the Executive was/is shy of de-linking the two and proceeding with the one, independent of the other. Yet, the strength of the argument for accountability of the higher judiciary has only grown over the same period as the 2-G scam. The allegations, cases and impeachment proceedings pertaining to Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan, and Justice P D Dinakaran and Justice Soumitra Sen should implore the higher judiciary to evolve a mechanism for unimpeachable and credible internal modes, where deniability and delaying tactics that are being occasionally denied to ordinary litigants are used/abused/misused. The Rs 23-crore Ghaziabad PF scam is a pointer where nothing much has come out thus far.

With the civil society at work on the Lok Pal Bill, the Government and the nation's polity should encourage the higher judiciary to evolve mechanisms, and consider their possible inclusion in the draft law when presented to Parliament. If in the wisdom of the higher judiciary, such a methodology need not be written into a parliamentary legislation, its views should be respected. For its part, the judiciary cannot close its eyes to the increasing awareness of the people, and its impact on their perceptions not only about the judiciary but also about related issues of governance and democracy as a whole. Such perceptions, if allowed to run riot, could prove worse than the problems and their possible solutions. In this context, the higher judiciary should take cognisance of earlier attempts of the kind that had been half-way houses that failed to meet the high standards of probity to begin with, and accountability, otherwise. If effective, we would not have had the likes of the cited instances.

Courtesy Observer Research Foundation

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GULF DAILY NEWS

COMMENT

THAT JUSTICE BE DONE... 

BY HERBERT GRIMES

 

The handiwork of Ratko Mladic gave to the political lexicon the foulest euphemism since the Final Solution.

The practice of "ethnic cleansing" in the Bosnian war of 1992-95 meant forced expulsion of populations. Its methods encompassed arson, torture, murder, mass rape and genocide. As commander of Bosnian Serb forces, General Mladic was its principal practitioner.

His capture in Serbia hastens the belated exercise of justice against the perpetrators of the most barbarous crimes committed in Europe since the defeat of Nazism.

A recent poll indicated alarming support for Mladic within Serbia, with 40 per cent respondents regarding him as a hero. Particular credit is thus due to Serbia's government and security services for arresting Mladic and extraditing him to the UN Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague.

It is scarcely conceivable that his whereabouts had been unknown to all Serb officials since he disappeared from public view 16 years ago.

Yet his long-delayed capture signals that the rule of law cannot be escaped by the passage of years, and that Serbia has faced its own responsibilities to history and the victims. Serbian President Boris Tadic declared that Mladic's arrest closed a chapter in the country's history.

His hope is justified. The arrest removes the biggest obstacle to Serbia's accession to EU membership. It demonstrates the country's commitment to European norms of justice and symbolises the abandonment of a dark past.

The regime of Tadic's predecessor Slobodan Milosevic, whose murderous and xenophobic pursuit of a Greater Serbia forced the dissolution of Yugoslavia, was by contrast an atavistic and sickeningly recognisable strain in central Europe's 20th-century history.

The significance of the Mladic extradition is far wider than for Serbia alone, however. Most important, it asserts that the most fundamental international legal standards apply everywhere.

When, 20 years ago, Milosevic's forces and allies sought to suppress and scatter other nationalities within the Yugoslav federation, the free world was slow to recognise the fact.

A case of aggression against emerging small nations was misinterpreted as a resurgence of intractable ancient hatred in a local dispute that intervention was powerless to stop.

In that context, Mladic and Radovan Karadzic, his political master who is on trial at The Hague, had opportunity for evil.

The charges the UN has laid out against both include genocide and crimes against humanity. The most notorious of those crimes is the massacre of more than 8,000 unarmed Bosnian Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica in 1995.

When Mladic entered this supposed safe area he gave assurances to the refugees it contained. They were worthless. Within 10 days his forces had killed every male Muslim they could find. Other crimes cited in the indictment include the shelling of streets, markets, a picnic and a playground to spread terror among civilians.

The responsibility for these depraved acts lies with the perpetrators and no-one else. Yet there is a wider culpability.

Western governments knew of the crimes of which Mladic and Dr Karadzic stand accused, yet refrained from using air power to stop them.

The responsibility to protect threatened populations has been painfully learnt, and recently acted on in Libya. The arraignment of Mladic testifies to the horrific human costs of evading it.

 

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TEHRAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

NEW ASPECTS IN IRAN'S NUCLEAR CASE

BY SEYYED ALI KHORRAM

 

Up until a few months ago, the discussion over Iran's nuclear program was a purely diplomatic and technical issue, and the negotiations were never influenced by the post-election incidents of 2009 or Iran's human rights record.

But after the recent developments in the Middle East and North Africa, the approach used by the European Union, the United States, and the United Nations Security Council toward Iran's nuclear program was overshadowed by new political trends.

They are now studying the case in connection with issues related to human rights and the developments after the 2009 Iranian presidential election. In fact, the recent popular uprisings in the Middle East paved the way for the adoption of such a new approach toward negotiations over Iran's nuclear program.

EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton is looking for a new pretext to reject Iran's proposals to continue the negotiations. She is now investigating the post-election incidents and the nuclear issue as a single case. This is the reason why she responded to the recent letter sent by Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, Supreme National Security Council Secretary Saeed Jalili, in a flippant manner. Thus, the West is looking for new excuses.

Two other factors influencing the current position of the West are the cyber war against Iran and the sanctions imposed on the country, which the Westerners believe are effective tools for decelerating Iran's nuclear activities.

After looking at Iran's economic situation, they have come to the conclusion that the sanctions have been effective and have paralyzed the Iranian private sector and caused some problems for state-run companies, too.

These two factors, the cyber war and the sanctions, will influence future negotiations between Iran and the West.

The EU and the United States are not interested in negotiating like before. They are looking for some excuses in the area of human rights and other areas not related to the nuclear issue. However, Iran is only concerned about the technical aspects of the issue. This situation can create some new challenges for future negotiations between the two sides.

Seyyed Ali Khorram is Iran's former representative to the United Nations Office in Geneva.

 

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TEHRAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

THE ANGLO-AMERICAN SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP AND THE ARAB SPRING

BY MOHAMMAD REZA KIANI

 

Significant developments in previous years in the Washington-London relationship led analysts to argue that there is no more "special relationship" between U.S. and Britain.

It is perceived that UK's Iraq record strained "special relationship" between the United States and United Kingdom. According to an American expert, Britain's lack of interest in Iraq after the invasion has "cast a long shadow" over the country's military reputation. In addition, David H. Ucko of the RAND Corporation, argued in an article for the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) journal that "Britain's position in the changing world" has to be called into question. "Having entered Iraq as a junior coalition member, Britain was always less interested in seeing the operation through or responding robustly to new challenges," he wrote." The limited engagement had crippling effects on the troops in theater and strained the partnership with the United States. (1)

The American writer was critical to UK's presence in Afghanistan as well. The latest U.S. diplomatic documents released by Wikileaks contain harsh criticism of the UK military effort in Afghanistan from 2007 to 2009. Criticism of the British military effort goes back to 2007 when Gen. McNeill was in charge of NATO forces. He criticized a deal with the Taliban which allowed British troops to be withdrawn from Musa Qala in 2006, saying it "opened the door to narco-traffickers in that area, and now it was impossible to tell the difference between the traffickers and the insurgents". (2) In addition, recent British forces withdrawal from Helmand under new U.S. plan for Afghanistan, the move brought back unhappy memories of the 2007 withdrawal from Basra in southern Iraq, which provoked jibes about British forces being bailed out by the Americans.(3)

Moreover, the release of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, Lockerbie bomber, by the Scottish government was an important factor which badly affected the U.S.-UK relationship. Al-Megrahi was freed on compassionate grounds by the Scottish Government on August 20, 2009 following doctors reporting on August 10, 2009 that he had terminal prostate cancer and was expected to have around three months to live. U.S. took critical stance on Lockerbie bomber release. While U.S. President Barack Obama expressed surprise at the decision, stating "I think all of us here in the United States were surprised, disappointed and angry about the release". (4) According to analysts, British government may have been pressuring for the release of Al-Megrahi in order to secure economic deals with their new allies in Libya, which is contrary to international law and despicable behavior. It can be argued that the release of Al-Megrahi , for the Americans, is not just about justice; it is also about trust -- the White House sees the release of Al-Megrahi as a blatant breach of an agreement given by the British Government that he would serve out his sentence in Scotland. "It is impossible to sustain a relationship, let alone a special one, if one partner can no longer believe what the other one says." In Whitehall there are already nervous mutterings about whether intelligence-sharing and military cooperation will be able to continue in the same way. (5)British Petroleum (BP) disaster in the Gulf of Mexico was another important factor which negatively affected the U.S.-UK relationship. U.S. President Obama pledged to hold BP accountable for the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history. The event impacted Obama as he came under pressure to show that his administration is in charge of the effort to contain and stop the oil spill.

These developments undermined the quality of the U.S.-UK relations. However, recent changes in the Middle East have brought together these strategic allies once more. Ever since a man in Tunisia burned himself to death in December 2010 in protest at his treatment by police, pro-democracy protests have erupted across the Middle East. If fact the uprising in North Africa and the Middle East is led by middle-class; tech-savvy young people seeking economic and political justice. Tunisia's president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali has fled his country after weeks of mass protests culminated in a victory for people power over one of the Arab world's most repressive regimes. In Egypt, after 18 days of mass protests former president Hosni Mubarak resigned and handed power to the military. The wave of protest spread to the other authoritarian Arab states Yemen, Bahrain and to Libya. However, unanticipated crackdown by Muammar Gaddafi was not tolerated at all by western countries, and they attacked Libya in a concerted action. The rationality behind implementing such an international interventionary policies was that, by pooling their resources and acting in concert, they can improve their overall power position within the international system and their security relative to states outside the alliance. The U.S. president in his recent visit to Britain ended false perception about the U.S.-UK relationship by insisting that the two countries has a special responsibility to spread their shared values in the world, although those aspirations are colliding with facts on the ground.(6) "Together we have met great challenges. But as we enter this new chapter in our shared history, profound challenges stretch before us," Obama said. The visit culminated in Obama becoming the first U.S. president to address both houses of parliament in the medieval Westminster Hall, a venue he used to insist that Washington's alliance with the former colonial power in the old world was "indispensable" today.

Today, the relationship with the United States represents the "most important bilateral partnership" in current British foreign policy while United States foreign policy affirms its relationship with the United Kingdom as one of its most important enduring bilateral relationships,(7) as evidenced in aligned political affairs, mutual cooperation in the areas of trade, commerce, finance, technology, academics, as well as the arts and sciences; the sharing of government and military intelligence, and joint combat operations and peacekeeping missions carried out between the United States armed forces and the British Armed Forces. Bearing in mind that British forces participated in the United States-led war in Iraq-Afghanistan and unlike France, Canada, Germany, China, and Russia, the United Kingdom supported the United States. The recent development and Arab spring is a determining factor in understanding the depth of the U.S.-UK relations and illustrates that the "special relationship" is still special.

Notes :

1-http://www.politics.co.uk/news/foreign-policy/uk -s-iraq-record-strained-special-relationship--$213 82337.htm

2-http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/mobile/uk-11906147

3-http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/a fghanistan/7530725/British-forces-to-withdraw-from -Helmand-under-new-US-plan-for-Afghanistan.html

4-"US Senators believe BP was behind release". BBC News. 16 July 2010. Retrieved 16 July 2010.

5- http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnist s/rachel_sylvester/article6816407.ece

6-http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/1b473af4-86b0-11e 0-9d41-00144feabdc0.html?ftcamp=rss#axzz1NftrvlzD

7- Matthew Lange, James Mahoney, and Matthias vom Hau, "Colonialism and Development: A Comparative Analysis of Spanish and British Colonies", The American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 111, No. 5 (March 2006), pp. 1412-1462

*Mohammad Reza Kiani is a final year Ph.D. candidate at Iran's Islamic Azad University, Science and Research Branch, and executive manager of Iranian Journal of Political Science and International Relations

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TEHRAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

THE U.S.-ISRAELI TRAIN WRECK

BY JEFF GATES

 

President Barack Obama hopes to head off a train wreck in September at the UN General Assembly. That's when member nations plan to press for an independent Palestine. The Israel lobby is furious.

Critics doubt that the General Assembly has the authority to recognize Palestine. Yet protection of member sovereignty has been a goal of the UN since its founding. Thus the priority that Israel placed on UN recognition after President Harry Truman acknowledged Israel on May 14, 1948, eleven minutes after the Zionist enclave declared itself a state.

Truman refused to recognize this enclave as "the Jewish state." Despite Barack Obama's reference to the Jewish state in a recent speech on the Middle East, during the final days before granting recognition and thereby "legitimacy," Truman was consumed with the fear that Zionist aspirations would lead to a racist or a theocratic state.

Those concerns led Zionist leader Chaim Weizzman to lobby Truman with a seven-page letter reassuring him that Jewish settlers envisioned a thoroughly secular state similar to the U.S. and Great Britain. Truman underscored that understanding when he recognized not the "Jewish state" (a description he crossed out) but the "State of Israel."

Today's train wreck should have been foreseen when Weizzman lied to Truman about Zionist intentions. As with every U.S. president since, Truman was deceived.

The Joint Chiefs cautioned Truman about the "fanatical concepts" of a Jewish-Zionist elite that sought recognition as a legitimate state. Even then, U.S. military leaders warned that this extremist enclave sought "military and economic hegemony over the entire Middle East." Truman, a Christian-Zionist, chose to believe otherwise.

Albert Einstein was also worried. He and other concerned Jews described the Zionist political party that produced Menachem Begin, Ariel Sharon and now Benjamin Netanyahu as a "terrorist party" with "the unmistakable stamp of a Fascist party."

The train wreck

Truman's worst fears have since been realized except that the effects were far worse than either he or the Joint Chiefs envisioned. To persuade other nations to endure this enclave of fanatics, the U.S. assured nearby Arab neighbors that Israel would seek no more land.

We now know that the Zionists saw nation-state recognition as only an initial foothold in the region from which to expand their territory and wield geopolitical influence -- behind a U.S.-enabled facade of legitimacy.

Secretary of State George Marshall assured Truman that if he recognized these extremists as a legitimate state, Marshall would vote against him. This former WWII general anticipated the dynamics that have since devastated U.S. national security as we Americans were induced to expend our blood and treasure in support of Zionist goals.

The U.S. now appears culpable due to our alliance with a nuclear-armed theocratic enclave of extremists with an apartheid domestic policy and an expansionist foreign policy.

The U.S. diplomatic community also warned Truman against recognition, as did the intelligence community and the policy planning staff at the State Department. Clark Clifford, chairman of Truman's 1948 presidential campaign, told Truman that if he withheld recognition, campaign funding expected from the Israel lobby would be withheld.

Ally or agent provocateur?

Fast-forward to 1967 and we find this same transnational network pre-staging a conflict designed to appear defensive. Since mythologized as the heroic "Six-Day War," that agent provocateur operation set in motion geopolitical reactions still playing out today.

How far ahead of time was this provocation planned? An Israel Air Force general conceded that attack simulations began in the early 1950s. United Artists president Arthur Krim and his wife, Mathilde, began a strategic friendship with Texas Senator Lyndon B. Johnson. By acquiring property near the LBJ Ranch, Mathilde, a former Irgun operative, could carry on an affair with Johnson while her husband chaired the finance committee for the Democrats.

On the night that the Six-Day Land Grab began, Mathilde was enjoying a sleepover in the Johnson White House. But for that Zionist aggression, would Israel have been able to live peacefully with its neighbors? Israel and its supporters staged an elaborate charade to recast this provocation as defensive. That ruse included the cover-up of an Israeli assault on the U.S.S. Liberty that killed 34 Americans and left 175 wounded.

Then as now, the fabled "Israelites" were portrayed as victims of a hostile world. Then as now, anyone chronicling the consistency of this duplicity risks portrayal as an "anti-Semite."

This trans-generational deceit continues to undermine U.S. national security at every turn. Zionist treachery began long before George Marshall and the Pentagon cautioned Truman against what these fanatics would now deny the Palestinians: legitimacy.

By the consistency of our support over more than six decades, the U.S. now appears guilty by association. If the UN vote becomes a diplomatic train wreck, we have only ourselves to blame.

Jeff Gates is author Guilt By Association – How Deception and Self-Deceit Took America to War. See www.criminalstate.com

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TEHRAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

RATKO MLADIC AND THE END OF IMPUNITY

BY GWYNNE DYER

 

Last week's arrest of the former Bosnian Serb military commander, Ratko Mladic, for the murder of 7,500 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica in 1995, helped Serbia's campaign for membership in the European Union. But more importantly, it is a big step in the international effort to enforce the law against those who used to be free to murder and torture with impunity.

They were free to do so because the old rule was: kill your wife or your neighbor, and you will be punished for murder. Kill thousands of innocent people while in the service of the state, and you will get a medal. The state was above the law, and so were its servants.

That ancient tradition was first challenged after the Second World War, when political and military leaders of the defeated Axis powers were tried for war crimes and for the newly defined crimes of aggression and genocide. But it was an innovation with no follow-up -- until the genocides in former Yugoslavia and Rwanda in the early 1990s forced the international community to act again.

In 1993 the United Nations Security Council set up the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia. The following year a similar tribunal was created to investigate the genocide in Rwanda. But these were ad hoc courts to address specific crimes.

What was really needed was a permanent international court to enforce the law against politicians and officials in countries where the government could not or would not bring them to justice in the local courts. The Rome Statute creating the International Criminal Court (ICC) was signed by over 150 countries in 1998, and the treaty came into effect in 2002.

Since its creation, the ICC has opened three investigations at the request of the local government (Uganda, the Central African Republic, and Congo-Kinshasa), two at the request of the UN Security Council (Libya and Sudan), and one at the initiative of chief prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo (Kenya). Most of the killers will escape its net, of course, but two dozen people have already gone to trial.

The ICC has no jurisdiction over crimes committed before it created, so Ratko Mladic will go before the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia, but it's really all part of the same institution. The major complaint against this new international legal system is that it moves too slowly -- but that could even be an advantage.

It took sixteen years to track down and arrest Mladic, and his trial will probably take several more. That is a long time, but it also suggests a certain inexorability: they will never stop looking for you, and eventually they will probably get you. That has a powerful deterrent effect.

It is almost universally assumed by ordinary Kenyans, for example, that the inter-tribal carnage in Kenya in 2008 after the ruling party stole the last election was launched and orchestrated by senior political and military figures. Supporters of the leading opposition party, which was cheated of its electoral victory, began killing people of the Kikuyu tribe (most of whom backed the government), as soon as the results were announced.

The ruling party responded by using not only its own tribal supporters but also the army and police to kill opposition supporters, especially from the Kalenjin tribe. Over a thousand people were killed and more than half a million became "Internally Displaced Persons."

Another national election is due next year, and Kenyans fear that it might happen again. However, three powerful men from each side, including the deputy prime minister, the secretary to the cabinet, and the former commissioner of police, have been summoned before the ICC to answer charges of "crimes against humanity."

There will inevitably be a long delay before these men are tried, but that is actually a good thing, said Ken Wafula, a human rights campaigner in Eldoret, the city in the Rift Valley that was the epicenter of the slaughter. "Those who are supposed to incite will see what ICC has done, and they will not be ready to (stir up violence) for fear of maybe a warrant coming out."

Many suspect that the Sudanese regime's acceptance of the overwhelming "yes" vote in the recent independence referendum in southern Sudan was similarly driven by fear among top officials in Khartoum that using force would expose them to the same kind of ICC arrest warrant that has already been issued for President Omar al-Bashir over the Darfur genocide.

So long as they stayed in power, of course, they would be safe. But what if the wave of democratic revolutions sweeping the Arab world comes south to Sudan? They would become hunted men, and probably be handed over to the ICC for trial. So they seem to have opted for the peaceful path instead.

Even after sixteen years, the ICC got Ratko Mladic. It got most of the surviving organizers of the genocide in Rwanda. The likelihood of being pursued by the ICC represents a real risk for senior political and military leaders who contemplate using force against their own people. They may do it anyway – consider Libya, Syria and Yemen at the moment -- but it is nevertheless a genuine deterrent, and sometimes it saves lives.

Gwynne Dyer is a London-based independent journalist whose articles are published in 45 countries.

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