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Saturday, June 4, 2011

EDITORIAL 03.06.11

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media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya


month may 03, edition 000849, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul


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
























  1. RAMDEV 10, UPA 0









































The National Advisory Council-drafted Communal Violence Bill that is being sought to be imposed on a Government which is only too happy to be treated as a doormat by the Nehru-Gandhi family, spells disaster for India and its people. If the Bill, by some quirk of fate, were to become law, every aspect of liberty and rule of law in our republic would be in danger of being run aground and given an indecent burial. Those pushing this monstrosity in the guise of preventing the outbreak of communal violence and maintaining communal 'harmony' are plainly not telling the truth about the Bill. This Government is incapable of telling the truth; it is equally unable to summon the courage to tell the NAC to leave law-making to the executive and the legislature, and, in the event of people taking a dislike to a particular policy or a law, the judiciary. Hence it has chosen silence over comment on the Communal Violence Bill. But that in no manner either absolves the Government of its responsibility nor does it mitigate the looming threat to our democracy. While it is nobody's case that communal violence should be ignored or that every possible and legally defensible effort should not be made to punish those responsible for strife, the proposed law is unacceptable, not the least because it is patently un-constitutional and reflects the perverse thinking of a few who parade themselves as the Army of the Self-righteous. The Bill, if it were to become law courtesy a gutless Government and supine party leaders for whom defiance of the wishes of the 'high command', also known as the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, is unthinkable — an offence that can fetch merciless retribution — would kill freedom and democratic rights in all their manifestations, turn rule of law on its head, subvert the Constitution, and rob State Governments of their legitimate authority sanctioned by the Constitution. Such are the draconian provisions of the Bill drafted by the NAC.

If this Bill were to muster parliamentary approval, it would make all Hindus into sole offenders and practitioners of communalism, absolve all minority communities of any role in or provocation leading to communal violence, and convert India into a police state where people will live in perpetual fear of being framed under its obnoxious clauses. The truth behind any incident of communal violence — for example, the horrendous crime of Muslims setting a coach packed with Hindu passengers on fire as it happened at Godhra in Gujarat — shall forever remain buried because anybody mentioning it orally or in writing would be put behind bars if the offenders were to allege feeling offended at their crime being exposed. Free speech shall die a tragic death because any comment on transgressions by any minority community or criticism of excesses and abuses in the name of faith — the horrific oppression of women under Muslim Personal Law is one example and the abuse poured on Hindu gods and goddesses by Christian evangelists is another — will be met with the registration of non-bailable offences. The identity of the complainant shall be kept a secret; the person against whom the complaint has been lodged will be presumed to be guilty unless he is able to prove to the contrary. If in the end the charges are found to be frivolous or untenable, the complainant, by virtue of being a Muslim or Christian, shall go unpunished. India must rise in revolt against this proposed law.







As US-led NATO forces prepare to leave Afghanistan starting this July, India's decision to assist the latter strengthen the capabilities of its security forces is a welcome move. If all goes according to plan, by 2014 local security forces — not foreign troops — will be solely responsible for the safety and security of the Afghan people. However, thanks to a decade long war which was preceded by half a decade of Taliban rule, legitimate law enforcement institutions in Afghanistan have been severely weakened. Thus, the need of the hour is to effectively train a body of security personnel who would be able to provide the country with the kind of protection it deserves. To that extent, the Government of India's "willingness... to build the capabilities of Afghan security forces," as expressed by the Minister of Defense AK Antony while meeting with his Afghan counterpart Abdul Rahim Wardak on Wednesday is a step in the right direction. Mr Wardak, who is on a three-day visit to India, and Mr Antony have spent much time discussing the possibility of greater defense cooperation between the two countries. Let us not forget that when all NATO soldiers have left by 2014, Afghanistan will stand a huge risk of once again falling into the hands of the Taliban, who are still a force to reckon with in several parts of the country. One of the most important steps that President Hamid Karzai's Government can take to prevent such a relapse is to ensure that a strong security apparatus is in place, by the time the last foreign soldier leaves, to fight both vested interests in the country and those in the neighbourhood. That the Indian Government is taking an active initiative to help Afghanistan build this apparatus is proof of smart strategy planning emanating from New Delhi.

It is an open secret that Pakistan is also vying for greater influence in Afghanistan and if it is allowed to have its way, Afghanistan will soon serve as its satellite state to be used to against India. Given this background, it is all the more important that India tread cautiously in Afghanistan. Pakistan may have the geo-political upper hand for now but a resurgent India's growing economic prowess (which has translated into generous sums of aid money — two billion dollars to be exact — which has been wisely used mostly on development projects to build schools, hospitals, roads, bridges, etc in Afghanistan) and its reputation as a secular, democratic regime has endeared it to the Afghan people. Now, as India prepares to extend greater military aid to Afghanistan it must also be ready to take on Pakistan who is likely to disapprove of such assistance but more importantly, New Delhi must be careful not to make the same mistakes in Kabul that Washington, DC has made in Islamabad.









A daring Government would lead the country into an era of rapid growth without bothering about inflation. Once incomes rise, price rise will cease to matter.


Leapfrog is a hurtling over hurdles game, using friendly neighbourhood lads obligingly bent over for the purpose. Hopscotch involves one-legged hopping, except for the relief spot half way up that allows for a Jumping Jack motion using both legs, if only for a moment, before the hopping resumes. And the way the terrain is laid out, when you get to the head square, you need to do a turnaround towards the starting square; in short, it goes both ways.


Hopscotch also involves throwing markers at squares, balancing on one leg to bend down and pick up said markers without mishap, turning about, and proceeding down the return leg, without doing any of it outside the delineated boundaries of the squares, or muscling into one occupied by a marker already.

Such calibrated exercise as hopscotch makes for a good metaphor for economic planning and policy implementation in India. Leapfrog then would be the sports model equivalent metaphor, designed and built for economic growth above all other considerations. But we don't play this game, certainly never officially.

So what is more important now — containing inflation by tightening the stays on liquidity, hopping awkwardly between attempts at price control and promoting growth? Or is it wiser to pour scorn on our present sea of troubles by leapfrogging over them? Shall we promote breakneck growth, exhilaratingly, recklessly, with a view that we only live once in this life, notwithstanding reincarnation?

Shall we cock a snook at the resultant inflation as just so much froth and lather that will be left behind in the wake of our resultant prosperity? There really are so many questions, especially if you are willing to daydream dangerously.

It is hard, and not a little thankless, to be prudent, as RBI Governor Duvvuri Subbarao knows full well as he bears the brunt of tacit disapproval from his political overlords for his frequent, if largely ineffectual, tightening of liquidity to try and contain inflation.

The RBI Governor would be better off executing this piece of classic macroeconomic theory, if inflation was indeed succumbing to his prescriptions. Instead, he's having to watch food prices, industrial input prices, the cost of all kinds of services, being buffeted by record petroleum and commodity prices.

And these are spiralling ever skywards, fuelled not so much by shortages versus demand, as ample liquidity generated by the US and Western Europe, as they struggle to revive their economies. Their interest rates, along with Japan's, are at near zero levels, and they raise them at 0.25 per cent rests when they do, alongside huge stimulus packages running into billions of dollars.

And so, as a side effect of all this money sloshing about the world's financial systems, commodities, including precious metals, have been going up to unprecedented levels, chased by the monies being invested in them looking for a quick buck.

Mr Subbarao, presiding over the central bank of a $1.6 trillion economy, is therefore up against these beyond-his-control realities. Those of a partially globalised economy that India has become.

Meanwhile, in the domestic sphere, the tightening of the fiscal screws are demoralising business and industry, making them reluctant to invest in fresh capacities or modernisation, and slowing economic growth at the same time.

This, in turn, is putting pressure on the political imperatives. Inflation is hurtful to the poor. Slower growth is damaging to the economy on the whole. Together, this double jeopardy could substantially harm the UPA Government's 2014 re-election bid. Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee cannot be happy about this, particularly on top of the pork barrel of rampant corruption and shocking drift in policy matters.

A case may therefore be made out in favour of the leapfrog approach. One needs to say it even if no one is listening. India can, it was estimated by Mr Motilal Oswal, chairman of the leading Bombay Stock Exchange brokers in 2007, be a $5 trillion economy by 2020.

In December 2010, Mr Oswal revisited his firm's original thesis, without any dilution, stating: "We published our first note on the concept of NTD (next trillion dollars of India's GDP) in 2007. The core NTD thesis is this: It took India about 60 years post independence to clock the first trillion dollars of GDP. With nominal GDP growth of 14-15 per cent, at constant exchange rates, India's next trillion dollars will come in just 5-7 years. We juxtapose the NTD idea with the GDP growth experience of China to arrive at India's GDP of almost $5 trillion by 2020."

And this, at our usual game of economic hopscotch, not leapfrog. Even though we are a little behind Mr Oswal's forecast today, having added $0.6 trillion since 2007, we are broadly on track. And the second part of Mr Oswal's forecast has us more than doubling it again in the next five to seven years! And yet, there are many financial analysts, both Indian and foreign, who agree most soberly with Mr Oswal's prognostications.

The momentum of a large economy on a roll cannot be underestimated, but then we cannot afford to get in the way of the juggernaut either. So the stalled reforms need to be advanced despite the UPA Government inexplicably making heavy weather out of their near majority of a mandate. And obsessing about inflation is not the only way.

We could, for instance, carry the farming sector into the modern era, just as this year, with industrial growth choked off by the liquidity squeeze and high input prices and both the services sector and exports under pressure because of sluggish growth and global softness in demand, agriculture will come to the rescue with a projected 6.6 per cent growth rate, monsoon willing, to clock us in at an estimated 8.5 per cent GDP figure overall.

Besides, we never have counted the informal sectoring black economy, which is, we all know, as big as the official one. And therefore when we reach two, we will actually be at four. So, in 2020 we would be at $10 trillion, if you counted everyone on the bus. Now, that is almost as big as the economy of the United States at around $13 trillion today.

So why do we focus on all sorts of trouble instead of going in for policies that promote growth above all else? Perhaps we are pessimistic in our calculations out of force of habit. Or perhaps it just does not suit our temperament to play leapfrog. We actually prefer hopscotch. Perhaps they should enter hopscotch as a category in the London Olympics next year, if not into the economic theory books at the World Bank and the IMF.






The NAC-drafted Communal Violence Bill is a recipe for unmitigated disaster. In the guise of promoting communal harmony it promotes rank communalism. In the guise of protecting minorities, it attacks Hindu rights. This Bill will strike at the very foundation of liberty and legitimise criminal misdeeds of Muslims. It must not become law

The road to hell is almost always paved with noble intentions. In the Indian democracy, this has been proven true a countless number of times. I am afraid we shall be headed yet again towards hellish times if a new policy that is being currently debated manages to become law, thanks to the super secular denizens of India whose intensity and range of noble intentions usually matches the mayhem that the same noble intentions often trigger.

I am talking about the well-intentioned economists, sociologists, activists and assorted jholawallah types who are convinced that it is their divine right to advice the UPA regime on all sorts of policy issues. Right at the top of this pyramid of do-gooders is the National Advisory Council which is headed by Ms Sonia Gandhi. Virtually all the members of NAC have impeccable records and reputations when it comes to their commitment towards the aam admi of India. Let me also be very clear in stating that a lot of credit for path-breaking policy changes like the Right to Information Act, the NREGA and the Right to Education Act should go to the NAC. It is also wonderful to see members of the NAC valiantly battle it out against a callous, insensitive and cruel Government when it comes to implementing the Right to Food Act.

In each of these above-mentioned cases, the men and women with noble intentions have sought to protect and defend the rights of victims — usually the poor and the downtrodden of India who get only lip service from the Government. And now, this group of people has set out to protect and defend the rights of another set of victims — I am talking about the victims of communal violence. Nobody will dispute the fact that communal violence has been a blot on the Indian democracy. Similarly, nobody will dispute the fact that those have usually been the minorities who have borne the brunt of communal violence, even though provocation often comes from both sides of the divide.

So to continue with their noble mission to protect and defend victims, members of the NAC have given the green signal to the Communal Violence Bill — officially labeled as the Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence Bill — that seeks to protect minorities from murder, mayhem and worse during communal riots.

When I read newspaper reports about this proposed law and the objections raised by politicians like Mr Arun Jaitley, my first reaction was that the BJP was probably trying to play the Hindutva card. But I was speechless with shock when I actually managed to go through some provisions and clauses of the Bill. Most newspapers, magazines and TV channels have been politically correct and have sheepishly and squeamishly reported about the problems with the Draft Bill. But I have never believed in being politically correct. And so, let me say in plain words what the implications of the proposed law are.

If this Draft Bill becomes law, it will become constitutionally accepted that only Hindus cause riots; and that Muslims, Christians and other minorities can never be held responsible for riots because the definition of the term 'group', which is the backbone of this Draft Bill, is made totally in such a manner that the majority, that is the Hindus, will be at the receiving end of the stick. Thus, if this Draft Bill becomes law, the Indian Constitution will accept that only Hindus incite and provoke religious hatred and denigrate other religions; and that Muslims and Christians can never do that. If this Bill becomes law, all the accused in the Gujarat riots will be culpable and be sentenced, while all those responsible for the death of train passengers at Godhra would be presumed to have harboured only goodwill for Hindus. If this Bill becomes law, only Hindus will be tried, convicted and sentenced for communal violence and incitement of communal hatred because the Constitution will refuse to accept that Muslims and Christians are capable of violence and hatred. If this Bill becomes law, any anonymous complainant can file a police case against a Hindu for inciting communal hatred — and the police will have to register it as a non-bailable offence. The accused — who would be arrested — would not even have the right to know who the complainant is. And the accused Hindu will virtually be presumed to be guilty unless he or she can prove his or her innocence.

A Hindu activist who complains against fanatic Christian missionaries (Believe me, there are many of them out there) converting tribals through inducements and bribes will be sent behind bars; the Christian missionary who openly calls Hindus 'heathens' or 'kafirs' and tramples upon idols of Hindu gods and goddesses will be forever found innocent by the Indian Constitution.

That was as far as Hindus are concerned. But it is not just about them. Every other clause in the Bill seems flawed. The definition of 'Hate Propaganda' is designed to give the Government draconian powers and curb freedom of speech. The Bill seems to be made on the basis of a dictatorial approach which assumes the accused guilty until proven innocent, and this is totally unconstitutional. Then, of course, I talk about the formation of a 'National Authority', a new power center for harassment.

So, now you see where noble intentions can lead up to. I have no doubt whatsoever that activists, do-gooders and others of their ilk, right up to the members of the NAC, genuinely want to protect minorities from communal riots and violence. I have also no doubt that a majority of them — I am deliberately not saying all of them — harbour a peculiar and inexplicable hatred towards all aspects of Hinduism. But ask yourself honestly: Is this Bill going to promote communal harmony in the country? I would have simply laughed out loudly and derisively if the matter had not been not so serious and potentially devastating for India. And frankly, how does one define minorities? There are many districts and towns in India where Muslims or Christians outnumber Hindus. Who will then be blamed for communal violence and riots? If one were to suppose there are riots in two towns in Uttar Pradesh — one with a Muslim majority and one with a Hindu majority... What will the police do in both these cases? Arrest only Hindus because the Indian law will state so?

Moving beyond the Bill and the disastrous impact it will have on India if it becomes law, I must also point out one thing that is peculiar to the Congress and the Gandhi family in particular. They have this strange tendency to depend on and promote advisors and Kitchen Cabinets — a move that has often cost them dearly in political terms. Mrs Indira Gandhi had a series of advisers who came from a non-political background. Rajiv Gandhi had many bright advisers who had no interest in electoral politics. And look at what they did first with the Shah Bano case, then the Ayodhya case and finally the Bofors issue. I fear Ms Gandhi and Mr Rahul Gandhi are in danger of committing the same mistake. It was Shah Bano and Ayodhya during the Rajiv era that eventually propelled the BJP to power in New Delhi. It could be the Communal Violence Bill in the Sonia and Rahul era that could yet again hand over the keys of New Delhi to the BJP.

I will sum up by saying that communal harmony cannot be brought about with such discriminatory Bills. It can be brought about by providing access to education and equal opportunities for a dignified living. It's time the Government thinks about such methods instead of passing such draconian Bills or for that matter increasing internal security budgets, etc, to fight the menace of naxalism. Access to equitable policies and right to a dignified living will take care of most of the problems that the Government seems so clueless about.

-- The writer is a management guru and Editor, The Sunday Indian.







Real estate boom spurred by PPP is concretising river environs

Things that people are wont to take for granted — natural environs, water, air, heritage — are being corroded under the onslaught of predatory commerce. The real estate boom, spurred by the public-private partnership model, has been marked by concretisation of green belts, fertile farmland, river environs and protected forests. While Supreme Court intervention has temporarily put a stop to uncurbed mining in the Aravallis, though it is reported to continue clandestinely, and acknowledged conservationists' plea that the Delhi ridge be protected, environmental rules are bent by Government agencies to oblige builders and entrepreneurs, and for 'official' purposes.

Nothing illustrates violations of the apex court judgement of 1996 with regard to the ridge better than the commercial encroachments in the Vasant Kunj area, spread over 92 hectares: A shopping mall, university, a Maruti showroom, the ONGC building and a publishing house. A further 330 hectares has been allotted for military establishments, and 223 hectares for developing the Aravalli Biodiversity Park. The last, an eco venture, and so, acceptable, owes to the efforts of Citizens for Preservation of Quarries and Lakes Wilderness. This body filed a PIL against the International Hotels Complex Project, planned on the ridge. Other conservationists supported the campaign. Finally, the project to build 13 luxury hotels was scrapped, and the earmarked 223 hectares of forest area in Vasant Vihar — Mahipalpur region allocated for the Biodiversity Park.

The Yamuna environs have similarly been encroached upon by Government agencies. The Delhi Development Authority, in cases filed by conservationists against the location of the Commonwealth Games Village on the Yamuna bed and floodplains, had committed to the Delhi High Court that after constructing the games village and metro residential flats, river environs would not be concretised. But, the Delhi Government now refuses to shift out the millennium bus depot, built as a temporary games-related amenity. About 60 acres on the Yamuna floodplains have thus been grabbed, part of it for use by private bus operators. NGOs such as Tapas and Yamuna Jiye Abhiyaan have been trying hard to get the land vacated by the DTC, pointing out that the bus depot is not shown as part of designated land use in Delhi Master Plan 2021. The Lieutenant Governor, authorised to take decisions relating to land use, is aware of the lapse.

Activist Vinod Jain of Tapas points out that the Master Plan states that the Yamuna and ridge are Delhi's two natural features, and should be protected and preserved. But, in reality, the opposite has happened, with encroachments occurring under Government patronage. In 2005, he filed a plea in the Delhi High Court to get the Government to notify 150 sq km of the ridge as a reserved forest. But the plea was set aside, and the Government notified 77.77 sq km as ridge area. The 1996 apex court order on a plea filed by MC Mehta accorded the protected forest status to the ridge. This tag permits grazing, wood cutting, etc. Demarcation of its area has been on since 2000. Once this is complete, reveals Mr Jain, the ridge will be declared a reserved forest, negating human presence or activities.

However, as per Mr Mehta's plea, filed in 1985, since the ridge was notified as a reserved forest under the Indian Forest Act, 1927, all encroachments would be 'illegal', irrespective of Government permission. In Government records, 796 hectares of northern and central ridge were demarcated as reserved forest in 1913, while in 1980, by a notification under the IFA, 20 sites in northern, central and south-central ridge were demarcated as protected forests. Mr Mehta's plea was to have the reserved forest tag applied to the whole of the ridge. The apex court ordered the Government to set up an environment impact assessment authority to examine the feasibility of projects in the national capital region in environmentally sensitive areas.

The Delhi Master Plan 2021 was notified on February 7, 2007. The website, Delhi Master Plan 2021, under 'The Perspective for Year 2021', states the following:

"In 2003, the Ministry of Urban Development issued guidelines and activated the think-tank for the preparation of MPD 2021. It emphasised the emerging need to explore alternate methods of land assembly, private sector participation, and flexible land use and development norms."

The allusion to "flexible land use and development norms" may be considered an indirect admission that rules for protecting environment and heritage can be changed when required. And, judging by the spate of court cases to protect the Yamuna and its vicinity, and the ridge and forest areas, all of which are being targeted for development purposes, city planning seems to have become an exercise, driven by commercial interests. Petitioners are critical of court orders, viewing them as inadequate for the purpose of countering the ecological damage and human dislocation, entailed by mammoth real estate projects. Mr Ravi Agarwal of Srishti, an NGO that wants an alternate ridge management plan, avers that a more eco-friend land use pattern is required.

Conservationists, intent on saving the Yamuna Floodplains and ridge, which alone can ensure a good quality of life, rightly want the Master Plan of Delhi-2021, to be altered as per sustainable development imperatives. But commercial lobbies reportedly manage to coerce policy-makers to fall in line with their needs, thereby endangering fragile eco-zones.






For long now, the Congress has failed to win in India's Hindi heartbelt. Some blame it on Indira Gandhi, others on caste-based politics. Irrespective of the past, the party must now change from within.

A group of 'experts' writing the history of the Congress have blamed former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and her decision to impose emergency rule as the main reason for the party's decline in the Hindi heartland especially in Uttar Pradesh. Eyebrows have been raised at the way Indira Gandhi has been criticised by these experts. All though, the Congress has disowned this view, controversy is still raging within the party regarding the reasons for decline of the Congress.

There is no doubt that Uttar Pradesh is an important state for national politics given that it has 80 out of a total of 542 seats in the Lok Sabha. Without winning a significant number of seats in the State and in Bihar, the Congress cannot dream of ruling at the Centre on its own.

So, how did the Congress lose its primacy in the region? Was Emergency Rule the only reason? Indira Gandhi loyalists disagree and point to several reasons. In the sixties and seventies, the Congress had primacy because it was one of very few major political parties at the time and was led by some great statesmen who also had popular support because the roles they had played in India's freedom struggle. Additionally, the Congress had a pan-Indian nation wide support base at the time as it did not have to compete with parties based on caste and community, as they were yet to come into existence.

No wonder then that the Congress ruled continuously at the Center and in most Indian States, from the first general election held in 1952 till the sixth general election in March 1977.

The real decline of the Congress party can be traced to the late 1980s. During this time, it lost its appeal to a vast section of the masses, especially the religious minorities who felt the party was compromising on the values pluralism. In 1989, the Congress lost power in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, which it has not been able to regain since. The parties which now rule in these States represent narrower interests than the Congress could seem to retain.

Clearly, the Congress no longer commands the kind of popularity it did in the sixties and seventies. Over the years, it has failed to meet the aspirations of the people. Consequently, there are now several new political parties as well as splinter groups from within the Congress, all of which serve as an alternative to the Congress. For example, the Congress (O), the Congress (I), the Congress (S), the Nationalist Congress party, the Trinamool Congress and the Kerala Congress are all splinter groups. Even today if all these parties come together, the Congress's strength would be formidable. Additionally, the leaders who floated these parties have now become strong regional satraps and the Nehru-Gandhi tag alone is not good enough to keep the party going strong. People want to see results and do not care about dynasty politics anymore.

The character of the party too has undergone tremendous changes. Although internal party elections are held, it is only a matter of show. Most members are nominated by senior leaders. Top-level bodies like the Parliamentary board have been done away with while the Congress Working Committee meets infrequently.

There is also no serious effort to build the party at the grassroots levels while the ordinary Congressman is bewildered that he has no chances of moving up as paratroopers get in effortlessly through sycophancy and flattery. Party leaders are heavily dependent on the Gandhi family to get them elected. While the Congress President Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi attract huge crowds, the party is unable to convert those numbers into votes.

The Congress party's decline was also characterised by the disintegration of the traditional Congress coalitions, as the Brahmins and other upper caste leaders defected to the BJP while those belonging to the Scheduled Castes and Muslims defected to the Janata Dal, the Samajwadi Party, and the BSP. It is a matter of fact that caste-based political parties like the BSP and SP have replaced the Congress in States such as Uttar Pradesh.

Finally, it must also be said that the party's State level leadership has become almost non-existent. Also, voters are tired of the same old faces with the result they that Congress leaders are now unable to enthuse them any more. The party has brought few young faces except for Rahul Gandhi. Clearly, the Congress is again banking on the Gandhi tag to get back to power, without doing anything to build the party.  







No mitigation of the graft regime will happen unless the system meets with the customer's requirements. A situation must prevail where the customer does not ingratiate with the system to get a response to his requirements

It is trendy to talk of road maps. However, roads maps by themselves cannot deliver, they need delivery vehicles. To operate delivery vehicles a core competency is needed so is the skill to prevent road jams. Unless this is clear at a foundational level, all talk of eliminating/mitigating corruption, however, well intentioned, will achieve only limited success.

One of the major contributors to the phenomena of corruption is the aberrations of the system itself. Under such circumstances punitive possibilies, at best, serve only as a deterrent to those who are anxiety prone. The lives of others, especially of the honest and the diligent gets incrementally complicated with spending more and more time on answering a geometrically rising set of complex questions. Their life gets carved out to filling out repetitive details, providing photocopies, overlapping affidavits and multiple copies of attestations. This in turn provides a spur for off-the-record networking to lubricate wheels of decision-making.

To make the system work, therefore, becomes a common concern. To keep the system going sensibly, organisation structures and processes are needed. This is at the core of creating efficient delivery vehicles. Taking this further, not just to the issues of governance, but also to the concerns of corporate functioning: No strategy can be implemented unless there is an operational frame of delivery. Indeed no marketing can be done in the absence of such a frame work. Market relationship requires proper organisation structure.

No mitigation of the graft regime or corruption will effectively happen unless the system meets with the customer's requirements. A situation must prevail where the customer does not have to attempt to ingratiate with the system to get a response to his requirements including that of time. The environment is an important component of the discourse. In an era of 'retail corruption' deep-rooted remedy is required.

Yet, a beginning need not be marked somewhere. The current debate seems not to be so much whether something can be done but rather where to begin. A multi-pronged strategy is needed. Illustrations from marketing may serve the purpose of an analogy.

If the purpose of any system is to serve the organisation. Mahatma Gandhi with typical wisdom indicated that the customer is the prime reason for the existence of an organisation. If the organisation exists for him then we need to put the proposition of corruption into his speech, to get its import. It needs to be recognised that if the system does not help the customer; and the vested interests keep distorting it, a radical cleansing will have to be the long term goal of change. Lokpal Bill — however, it may develop — marks a useful awareness campaign and makes the point to the effect that the concept of immunity is now dated, the popular will is no longer willing to grant privileges.

Then there is a problem of competitiveness and investment and drawing people to work not only in India but to work with India. Liberalisation itself would be a half way house if customers are given the short end of governance system or business deal. This is specially so in domain where there is no competition eg there can be no competition in mounting security checks at entry points or providing access to justice. Thus it is that a basic efficiency has to be brought within the system for corruption to be controlled. Understanding the requirements of the customer may be another entry point into the problem.

It will also be necessary not to confuse palliatives with solution. Solution is very different from immediate response which often enough is a fire fighting measure.

Celebratory and self-congratulatory drumming up of interventions such as different regulatory regimes and 'competitiveness' is bound to confuse issues. The touch stone has to be the user needs.

The situation is made more complex because there is a discontinuity in the environment not to talk of multiple level of sophistication and varying needs of customer groups. Discontinuity comes out of sharp changes either because of technological development or realignment of forces well beyond the control of governance. Hence the assumption that the future can be planned only when there is a continuous environment, becomes passé.

The truth is, systems and governance have simply been unable to keep pace with this changing environment. This discontinuity when coupled with technological possibilities of Internet not to forget Twitter, Facebook and more is something which leaves many powerful of the preceding generation, out of depth.









Even as the government scrambled to placate him, spiritual guru Baba Ramdev remained adamant on starting his fast-unto-death, protesting black money and corruption. With his massive following and with Anna Hazare, leader of the civil society group contributing to the Lokpal Bill, announcing he'll join the Baba, the Swami's movement is expected to be huge. This is an exciting moment in India's history, when the soul of its people, long suffering from corruption, is finding vibrant utterance. Yet, as the chanting grows impassioned, notes of caution must also be sounded.

Baba Ramdev is a spiritual guide to multitudes. Through yoga, he has shown an enlightened path to fitness and poise. A spiritual leader gate-crashing politics, however, traverses a treacherous line. A religious teacher's primary role should be helping individuals polish their own selves and reach out to others through kindness and truth. This is the major 'systemic' change a figure like Baba Ramdev can help bring, rather than pushing massive political changes that may require scrapping the Indian Constitution. The yogi must resist the temptation to become a commissar.


The Baba's campaign might have the unintended effect of muddying the waters around the Lokpal Bill. Already, as the Baba initially opposed one of Hazare's most important demands - the prime minister being in the Lokpal's purview - the government crowed over civil society representatives being internally divided and lacking cohesion. Despite the proclamations of unity that followed, confusion persists over what exactly Baba Ramdev and Anna Hazare are each fighting for, and how far one will support the other. The clouds of rhetoric around them may be inspiring, but demarcating a clear path ahead is vital. Amongst the Baba's demands is the death penalty for corruption offenders. Will the Gandhian Hazare support this?

The contradictions don't stop there. Hazare and Baba Ramdev each represent a rich tradition of protest in India, the yogi and the Gandhian using their bodies to challenge the powerful. However, we happen to live in a representative democracy. And there's a modern constituency that's growing in public life, which may be sympathetic to these philosophies but is not wholly supportive of demands like demonetising the economy or making it village-based. It's important these views get counted. The two figures' agitations may be inspirational. But to make sure that they don't become a footnote in history, it's vital Baba Ramdev and Anna Hazare present a clear list of demands based on reason, ethics and pragmatism. Only this will save the movement against corruption from becoming a spectacle full of sound and fury, but otherwise fizzling out much faster than did the Jayaprakash Narayan movement of the 1970s.







Broadening the scope of investigation into the 2G spectrum scam, the CBI has said it is probing alleged corruption charges against former Union telecom minister - and current Union textiles minister - Dayanidhi Maran. It's been alleged that as telecom minister, Maran arm-twisted Aircel into selling out to Maxis, a Malaysia-based telecom company, in 2006. A petition in the Supreme Court claims that Maran's family-run media empire, Sun Network, directly benefited from the deal, receiving Rs 599 crore as investment from the Maxis group. If the allegations are true, yet another DMK leader would be in the dock for telecom-related corruption. And the telecom portfolio would appear to have been handed over to the Dravidian party as its personal fief. There's a consistent pattern in the charges against A Raja and Maran. Bend rules to hand over scarce spectrum to favoured companies, then plough the kickbacks into media empires that boost the profiles of the leaders in question - so further election victories can keep the money cycle going. As the principal party in the UPA, the Congress too is culpable for using the telecom ministry as a tool to appease coalition partners.

Ever since the Sukh Ram case in the 1990s, the telecom sector has been susceptible to charges of corruption. Thanks to the mobile telephony revolution, the profile of the telecom ministry has grown rapidly, making it a sought-after portfolio. Sensing an opportunity, patronage-based political parties such as the DMK hoped to reap dividends from this sunshine sector. Instead, their shenanigans have cast a dark cloud over the telecom sector that's so vital to building infrastructure, connecting businesses and empowering people. To rectify the situation, the 2G probe must be taken to its logical conclusion - a complete cleansing of the telecom sector.









Why have the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) performed below potential? Jairam Ramesh may have said it baldly but Kapil Sibal's comb over is hardly convincing.

In 1946, the IITs were just a twinkle in the eye of Ardeshir Dalal, a colonial official. But from then on till they were actually set up post-Independence, the IITs were always meant for training and research. As the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) was the obvious and stated model, these twin objectives were bolted into the IIT Act of 1961. Why then did the IITs falter on the research front?

The short answer is that too much was expected of them and too little from everybody else. To ask the IITs to excel on their own is unfair. Researchers work best when they hunt like hounds in a pack. If the US is the centre of advanced learning today, it is because research is active in every college and university in that country. It is not just a Harvard or an MIT that is expected to do all the hard work and go catch the fox. If the IITs have failed, it is because they run alone, while in America, universities sprint together.

Nobel prize winners in the US do not always come from elite Ivy League universities, nor are they bred there from the start. For example, before Baruj Benacereff became famous as a Nobel laureate in Harvard, he was at a medical college in Virginia where he had done the bulk of his research. Susumu Tonegawa is now at MIT, but it was his work at the University of San Diego that won him the Nobel prize in chemistry. Van Fitch fired his engines at McGill before landing in Columbia University. Daniel C Tsui, the 1998 Nobel winner in physics, was born in China and spent much of his childhood there. He is currently at Princeton, but discovered the award-winning fractional quantum Hall effect while in Bell Laboratories, New Jersey. George Shull got the Nobel prize when in MIT, but he had made his mark earlier in Oakridge National Laboratory, Tennessee. One could add many more names to the list of those who did their most applauded work elsewhere, but are now in Ivy League institutions.









Purnendu Basu is minister for labour in the new Trinamool-Congress government in West Bengal. He was elected from Rajarhat-Gopalpur constituency on a Trinamool ticket. He spent his early years in the trade union movement, participated in radical politics and eventually joined the Trinamool.


Is the apprehension that people like you with a radical political past are now running the state government justified?

Not at all, because we want the best for the state. That means wealth creation through encouraging industry. My political past naturally shapes my politics, but it also makes me close to the people. In short, i know what they want because i fought with them and represented them for decades.

Given the importance of your political past, can you please outline it?

I'm from a very poor family and grew up with the Left movement. In 1967 Naxalbari happened. We were students and sympathised with the cause. The Left Front government of the time fired on the Naxalites and their supporters. That was shocking. We didn't think the state would do that and we were further radicalised. By the 1970s, however, the movement had degenerated. Naxalites were resorting to violence. It became a politics of murder, which is reprehensible. The next momentous event for me was the Emergency when i was jailed. It gave me time to read, especially Gandhi, and to reflect on myself critically. For instance, i regret even today my attacking a school library. The Emergency showed me that people can really change governments. It gave me a new hope in parliamentary democracy.

What do you say about the allegation that Trinamool lacks a political ideology?

That's not correct. We believe firmly in the rule of law. In my own particular case after my conversion to democracy, i organised an independent trade union at the Kanoria Jute Mill. What were we seeking? Not simply rights for the workers but to ensure that the employers followed already existing laws.

How did you become a part of Trinamool?

In 1996, during the Singur movement, an independent and popular movement, i met Mamata-di. She didn't start that movement, but she did become the organic leader of widespread discontent at the unfair acquisition of land, in what amounted to an unlawful manner. You see, it is the rule of law that we have always been interested in. Someone said to me that, despite having Mamata here, you still can't do anything? And that really got me thinking and i finally landed in her party.

What are your plans as the minister of labour?

I foresee a twofold plan. First, workers can't just make demands. They have to learn responsibilities as well. Meanwhile, the owners don't keep to established laws. The law of the land, the people's will has to be maintained and the people for us are not just the labour class but also the industrial class. One of the things that used to happen was the politicisation of workers. Bengal is unfortunately famous for its bandhs. But why were they held? Not to help the workers, but because politicians were using workers for narrow political ends. That will stop now because the production process can't be hampered for such petty reasons. We will also reform Bengal's labour laws. There will be some changes but most importantly we will ensure current laws are actually followed. The aim is to start industry, to make contact with the outside world and start thinking about how to improve state welfare programmes like the NREGA.







A survey conducted by an all-male team of Indian scientists has come up with a remarkable finding. The researchers have discovered that women in urban India - all urban women, irrespective of economic status, caste, creed, age - have achieved an evolutionary breakthrough: their anatomical systems have learnt to function without the biological process known as micturation. In other words, Indian women don't have to do pee-pee. Ever.

This amazing fact makes the women of urban India a unique branch of the human species. Women who live in India's towns and cities are different even from women in the rural areas of the country. As shown by the age-old practice of what is known as 'fielding' - doing what you have to do in open fields, there being no other facilities for the purpose - rural Indian women have no choice but to display the same biological functions as their male counterparts.

With the notable absence of fields in overcrowded and overbuilt urban India, the recourse to 'fielding' is ruled out. Moreover, urban India has an even more notable absence of public toilets, barring a stray Sulabh Sauchalaya here and there, and generally more there than here, where you most desperately need one RIGHT NOW!

With there being no convenient fields to use and no public toilets to speak of, urban Indian women were faced with a dilemma. They could either stop going out anywhere - to work, to school, to kitty parties, whatever - lest in the process of going out they suddenly discovered they had to go, in another sense, and found there was nowhere to go to go, so to speak, or they could learn to forego the need to go altogether. Evolution chose the second option, and women in urban India dispensed with the need to make water, as that particular biological function is sometimes referred to. Indian men, on the other hand, if that's the word one wants, whether urban or rural, have no obligation to loo before they leak and more than make up for any possible deficit in the country's production of human urea. Indian men - all Indian men, irrespective of economic status, caste, creed or age - have no regard whatsoever for minding their pees and cues and do what they need to do anywhere and everywhere, in full public view, on the walls of buildings, behind bushes in parks, in front of bushes in parks, wherever they can find a convenient place to do so and even wherever they can't find such a place.

Indeed, one of the most representative sights of the urban Indian landscape that visitors from abroad like to photograph, after they've photographed the Taj Mahal and the Red Fort and the Char Minar, is an orderly line of Indian men dutifully queuing up to relieve themselves right under a large sign saying COMMIT NO NUISANCE - BY ORDER.

Such signs seem to act as a diuretic, an inducement to commit the very act that they supposedly seek to deter. Real diehards - pee-hards? - will go miles out of their way, bladders bursting, just to find one of these signs under the benign presence of which they can finally ease themselves and not a moment too soon. Whew!

In urban India nothing is more illustrative of the gender divide between men and women than the letter pee as in 'public'. With no other option available to them, urban women have trained themselves to do without doing what comes naturally. Urban men, on the contrary, take pride in answering nature's call wherever and whenever, and never even think of putting the caller on hold.

When sought out for comment, the all-male team of scientists researching the issue was lined up against a wall with a large sign on it. No comment? JV asked. The head of the team replied, This is the comment: piss off!







The economy has been losing steam throughout the previous financial year and the small acceleration over 2009-10 — 8% to 8.5% — was helped along by farm output recovering after a drought year. The slowdown in industry and services, brought home with telling effect in the data for January-April 2011, is resulting from sustained high inflation that emerged in food prices and then fanned out across the economy. The central bank's attempts to bring prices to heel are adding to the ebbing momentum as government spending has not slowed enough. And although the trade gap has shrunk appreciably between 2009-10 and 2010-11, it continues to be above 5% of GDP as international oil prices climb towards the record highs they had reached before the sub-prime crisis spread to most parts of the globe. The gloom is here to stay. The forces that are on display in the latest GDP data set are yet to play out fully. There is more pain up ahead.

The global financial meltdown occurred when India was well into an expansionary spending mode and all the government needed to do was expand it a bit more. The swift recovery, however, needs a reversal of the fiscal stance, a far more difficult proposition. The Centre's spending in 2010-11 overshot initial estimates by 9.72%, yet the budget for 2011-12 pencils in a mere 3.38% growth. Last year's profligacy was camouflaged by a bonanza from the sale of radio frequencies for mobile telephony. Since the 2011-12 allocations for welfare and infrastructure are up by 17% and 23%, respectively, and account for nearly 30% of total government expenditure, greater control is called for over revenue spending if the government's ambitious deficit reduction targets are to be met. The Centre's anticipated borrowing requirement of Rs3.43 lakh crore in 2011-12, significantly lower from two years ago, however, remains significantly large to crowd out loans to the private sector at a time when interest rates are climbing.

As India is about to embark on its Twelfth Plan, there was hope the target growth rate for the five years beginning 2012 could be an awe-inspiring 10% annually. With a conservative estimate for inflation at 5% a year over the period, a $2 trillion economy would weigh in at $4 trillion by 2017. That could make it the fifth largest economy in the world trailing the US, China, Japan and Germany. But if the economy grows 8.5% in 2010-11 and thereabouts or less in the terminal year of the Eleventh Plan, the average for 2007-12 is closer to 8% than the target 9%, making 10% growth that much more distant.




'Kiss me and you will see how important I am.' VS Naipaul could have quoted that line from one of Sylvia Plath's journal entries. But that would have disrupted his latest thesis: no woman writer is his literary match. In a way, we can now be sure that the next Naipaul book is on its way. For with unerring timing, he has, in the past just before a new offering, made loud utterings that wakes everyone  up like Thomas Hardy's non-consensually impregnated-during-slumber Tess. The trick is not to get all foamy-mouthed with Mr Naipaul's keenly observed digs. Instead, let's try and figure out whether what he says has any merit to it, shall we?

There is no woman writer VSN believes to be as good as him. That's fair enough. It's like good old Homer pooh-poohing all that 'psycho-social drama nonsense' in the works of Mr Naipaul's dear 19th century writer Guy de Maupassant. In any case, the rubbishing of women writers continues Vidia's distaste for all 'modern writers', a group which he fits in everyone from Orhan Pamuk to Mahashweta Devi and Chetan Bhagat in one chubby sack. But what the man has really thrown up in the air isn't the cat that has everyone snarling. There is something more important to ponder over: is there something called 'women's writing'? Is there something intrinsic to a woman's writing that marks it as clearly as, say, Naipaul's post-colonial works or Ursula K Le Guin's science fiction or Edmund White's gay literature or Patricia Highsmith's crime fiction? Mistah Naipaul says he can sniff out a woman's prose in the dark. Well, of course, he can tell his Charles Dickens from his dreaded Jane Austen. But surely Sir Vidia wouldn't mind the following sturdy, manly passage stripped of all 'female sentimentality' (sic): "I can't help it either, the laughing: solemn gatherings, slow ballads, pompous orations, any person or occasion that assumes I'll offer my unreserved respect: I tend to find them all hysterical in the end." That's AL Kennedy, the Scottish writer, who like Naipaul and Mae West, loves telling it as it is. Alison Louise Kennedy, that is.







For several months now, the media have squarely focused attention, and rightly so, on the travails of the UPA 2 and its leadership. A series of scams and double digit inflation have undermined the credibility of the ruling arrangement at the Centre. As we turn a relentless gaze on Manmohan Singh and Co, what we seem to have lost sight of is the predicament of the Opposition. Who will, for example, be the Opposition candidate for prime ministership in 2014?

As the single largest opposition party, the BJP should be offering the natural alternative to the UPA. But the BJP is still wrestling with the next generation leadership conundrum, one reason perhaps why LK Advani remains chairperson of its parliamentary party, despite having indicated a desire to retire from active politics after the 2009 Lok Sabha defeat. Advani will be 84 this November, and the general elections are still three years away. The remarkable performance of VS Achuthanandan in the Kerala elections may have given hope to all octogenarian politicians, but whether this can be replicated in a national election is uncertain. Moreover, despite making a sincere effort at political re-invention — be it through his Jinnah remarks or his blogs — the ghosts of Ayodhya will always limit Advani's appeal as a Vajpayee-like Bhishma Pitamaha figure acceptable to all groups.

But if not Advani, then who? As a cadre-based outfit, the RSS had historically focused on the notion of a collective leadership, consciously staying away from dynasty and personality cults. But as Indian elections became presidential in nature, the Sangh was forced to accept Vajpayee's larger-than-life image. Now, with the Advani-Vajpayee era drawing to a close, the RSS has reverted to its original belief in organisation above individuals. The appointment of a low-profile 'outsider' like Nitin Gadkari in December 2009 as party president was a signal by the RSS leadership to the BJP that it did not see any of the younger leaders to be first among equals. The message was clear: rise above ego and factionalism and you will then be considered for future leadership.

Unfortunately for the BJP, the scars from past antagonisms have still not healed. Sushma Swaraj has done an admirable job as the leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha. But as her recent utterances only confirm, she still feels conspired against by a section of her own party. While she is a charismatic vote-catcher blessed with the common touch, her acceptability within a patriarchal Sangh parivar set-up is questionable. Past examples of Vasundhara Raje and Uma Bharti have already shown that there is a certain resistance to a woman as leader within the saffron brotherhood.

Swaraj as the populist neta who appeals to the saas-bahu serial-watching classes can only be contrasted with Arun Jaitley as the urbane, sophisticated face of the BJP who can reach out to the more affluent Indian. But those who vote in television SMS polls often don't make their way to the polling booths. Which may also partly explain Jaitley's own reluctance to contest a Lok Sabha election. Like Swaraj, he, too, has performed well in Parliament. But debating skills alone cannot be a substitute for the heat and dust of an election campaign. Which brings us to the leader who, for the core BJP constituency, is undoubtedly its ideological mascot: Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi. If a vote were to to be conducted among the BJP's rank and file as to who should lead the party in 2014, Modi would be the clear front-runner. His staunch Hindutva credentials coupled with his governance record in Gujarat make him a natural choice for those who want the BJP to return to its roots as a party of rightwing nationalism. Modi's disadvantage is that the era of single-party rule has given way to coalitions, which places a premium on a more consensual political leadership. So while Modi may well be acceptable to an ideology-neutral Jayalalithaa, his Gujarat 2002 persona will not be accepted by potential allies like Nitish Kumar and Naveen Patnaik, who are keen to aggressively parade their 'secular' credentials.

To be fair, all three BJP prime ministerial aspirants have made a serious effort to rise above their limitations. Swaraj's entry, for example, into Twitterworld is part of her attempt to cultivate a younger, net-savvy India. Jaitley's expertise in election management in different states has enhanced his political stature. Modi, too, has never missed an opportunity to be seen as a socially responsible 'modern' leader (including writing a book on global warming). But somehow, none of these leaders has quite achieved their 'breakthrough' moment where their pre-eminent position as the 'face' of the Opposition is firmly established.

Which brings us back to the central question: who will be the Opposition's prime ministerial nominee in 2014? The criteria are clear: you need a leader who has been tested in mass politics, is a proven administrator, has a relatively clean image but, most importantly, is seen as a coalition-builder. There is little doubt that the challenge for the Opposition in 2014 is to forge the widest possible coalition of parties, thereby building a credible non-Congress alternative similar to the Vajpayee-NDA model of the late 1990s.

Ironically, in the circumstances, it's not a BJP leader, but Nitish Kumar, who has successfully managed a coalition government in Bihar, who seems the best possible option at the moment. He could just be the kind of leader with a moderating influence who might draw in new constituents and old allies back into the NDA fold. The real question then is: will the BJP's cadres accept Nitish as their leader? Watch this space closely.

Rajdeep Sardesai is editor-in-chief, IBN 18 Network n The views expressed by the author are personal.






Few incidents can exemplify the deep turmoil within Pakistan than the murder of the investigative reporter, Syed Saleem Shahzad. Part of a brave and often audacious community of journalists in Pakistan, Shahzad was targeted apparently because he exposed links between al-Qaeda and key parts of the Pakistani establishment, a nexus that has acquired a new salience since the killing of Osama bin Laden at Abbottabad. It is critical, at virtually this eleventh hour, that Pakistan's people, and the world outside — the country's friends and even foes — coalesce to forge a common agenda for the future of the country.

While the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton's angst-ridden recent visit to Islamabad may suggest a new urgency, Washington's policies continue to be driven by short-term considerations of political expediency, especially the need to secure the Pakistan army's support to ensure an early exit out of Afghanistan. What is often not recognised is that today the second-largest Muslim State, with the fastest growing nuclear arsenal, is confronting the most serious challenge to its existence as a coherent nation-state probably since independence and certainly since Bangladesh separated from it in 1971.

Five fundamental questions, and the manner in which the people of Pakistan and their leaders respond to these almost-Manichean choices, will determine — to a large extent — the future of the country.

First, will the idea of Pakistan, as a nation-state, remain rooted in the world view of its founder Mohammed Ali Jinnah or will it continue to be driven by the ideology of the military dictator Zia-ul-Haq, who ruled the country from 1977 to 1988? Let us be clear that Jinnah demanded Pakistan as a home for the Muslim minority of the Indian subcontinent, but having secured a separate State wanted religion to become a private affair, with little role in public life. While we may quibble over Jinnah's view on religion, there is no doubt that he had hoped that the country would become a modern and moderate Muslim State. In contrast, the deep Islamic radicalisation of parts of Pakistan, and its descent into extremism, is a product of Zia's political machinations aided by the US and its allies during the Cold War.

Second, will Pakistan's army seek to cement the fractured nation or will itself become a source of further splintering? Pakistan's army has, for decades, been seen as the most professional, well integrated, disciplined, least corrupt and most powerful institution in the country. And yet today it is clear that it is the army and the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate that has sponsored many of the militant groups that are deeply undermining the stability of Pakistan. It is the army again that has the strongest vested interest in continuing conflict with India; given that it is this rivalry that has allowed it to expand to a point where it's become an empire within a State. In turn, the army's credibility has been deeply eroded among the vast majority of the people. Will the army permanently disconnect itself from the jihadis and cleanse itself of radical subversive elements within its ranks or will it preside over Pakistan's collapse into anarchy?

Third, will the relationship with the US be based on a convergence of long-term values and interests or will it continue to be based on tactical opportunism? No other external relationship has been as important to Pakistan as the relationship with the US. It is also one of the highest recipients of American aid. And yet there are few countries that are more unpopular in Pakistan than the US. Almost every survey of public opinion suggests that Barack Obama has less support than bin Laden in most parts of Pakistan. The belief that America treats Pakistan like a condom, to be used and discarded, is all pervasive and unless this traditionally patron-client relationship transforms itself, anti-Americanism will continue to inspire further radicalisation of the polity and the society.

Fourth, will there be a grand reconciliation with India or will the historical legacy of enmity over the past 60-odd years continue to dominate south Asia? If there is a silver bullet that could almost miraculously transform Pakistan, it would be reconciliation with India. The India-Pakistan relationship is, and has been, about almost everything that matters: history, memory, prejudice, territory, identity, religion, sovereignty, ideology, insecurity, trust, betrayal and much, much more. While India's size and the scale of its economy has prevented the conflict with its western neighbour from clouding its future, Pakistan has been strangulated by the rivalry with a vast majority of its resources being spent on matching India's considerable military prowess. Ironically, there is no prime minister more willing to make peace with Pakistan than India's Manmohan Singh, even to the extent of making unilateral concessions, wherever needed to satisfy Pakistan's hardliners. Will Pakistan grab this opportunity in its own self-interest?

Fifth, will the media, the judiciary and the institutions of civil society grow and expand their influence or will they be also squeezed into inertia? Pakistan's greatest strength, in recent years, has been the growth of a robust and fiercely independent media, and its brave and often audacious NGO community (including a significant human rights and women's movement). They have been the biggest bulwark against Pakistan's otherwise imminent collapse into Talibanism. The influence exercised by these groups will be an important determinant of Pakistan's future.

Pakistan's friends must understand that its future will be primarily determined by the manner in which it addresses these questions, most of which have been plaguing it since its independence as a separate nation-state. And the best service they can do to help Pakistan is to make its leaders recognise not just the gravity of the crises that they are facing, but to ensure that they reflect on these questions and chart out a course based on an honest assessment of what is good for the country. The world, including India, can no longer afford to just wait and watch.

Amitabh Mattoo is professor of International Relations, University of Melbourne. The views expressed by the author are personal.







Wherever protests against the acquisition of land have flared up across the country, a common theme can be found. It is not, as some fondly believe, a universal fear that their connection to the soil is for ever being severed; many are willing and ready to sell their land, if they receive the right price for it. No, anger swells always against the arbitrary nature of acquisition, and against the fact that there is nowhere to appeal against such arbitrariness. There is thus, in the minds of those who feel hard done by no option but to protest. The sense of feeling exploited is sharpened by the unsettled debate on how much the compensation should be.

Lying beneath protests in various parts of eastern Uttar Pradesh in the past year are similar sentiments, and the UP government would do well if, as reported, it responded by setting up a land compensation authority which would hear disputes and hammer out compromises.

Scant details of such a plan were on offer when Chief Minister Mayawati finally announced a new land acquisition policy in Lucknow on Thursday, but the outlines of the new compensation policy are clear: a choice of a share in the final development with an annuity, or a one-time cash payment; in either case, a job in the final development would be made available, too. Private companies would negotiate directly with farmers, and government would play facilitator, helping area residents pool their land and negotiate with government. These clauses emerged, reportedly, from consultations between representatives of aggrieved farmers and the UP government.

Once again, a state has shown itself more nimble at the alteration of land-related policy than the Central government. As is well known, the Centre's land acquisition bill is still pending; the UP CM threatened that if it was not introduced in Parliament for the monsoon session, she would head up to Delhi and agitate outside the building herself. With an eye on the coming assembly elections, she declared it was better than Congress-ruled Haryana's land acquisition policy, also widely considered a model worth following. It is never worthwhile to underestimate the UP CM's political antennae, and she clearly believes that anger over land acquisition runs hot enough for her government to go into overdrive to provide it with structural outlets. The UPA, at the Centre, does not seem to have picked up that message yet. It should, before it is too late.






V.S. Naipaul has a genius for giving offence. His remarks are often riveting, not because of their provocative honesty as he might fondly believe, but because of their unfairness and inaccuracy. This time, he's trained his bleary sights on that old, old subject — scribbling women and their narrow, sentimental worlds.

"Women writers are different, they are quite different. I read a piece of writing and within a paragraph or two I know whether it is by a woman or not." This pinched quality, in his view, comes from a woman not being, "inevitably", the complete master of a house. Women can be helpmeets and enablers, but they can't do grand sweep, sum up an age or a people in Naipaul's own magisterial style. No, not even Jane Austen could aspire to equality with him. His own publisher, he says, who was "so good as a taster and editor, when she became a writer, lo and behold it was all this feminine tosh".

Naipaul's remarks are only warming over a decades-old debate, but they deserve to be responded to, simply because these vile stereotypes live on in the literary world, and inform critical reception, course material, anthologies and histories. While these "Jane Austen" subjects — motherhood, marriage, the neighbourhood, and so on — are no less important than war and travel and nationhood, we know women writers have taken on both these traditions with aplomb. However, while men who address these intimate themes, from John Updike to Jonathan Franzen, are heralded as makers of mighty works, women get a perfunctory critical pat. The political dimensions of their work are effaced (Harriet Beecher Stowe was asked by Lincoln if she was the little woman who wrote the little book that started the great war). Naipaul, with his gift for caricature, has taken that inchoate prejudice and put it out there in the clearest possible words, so people can see it for the laughable lie it is.






Indian Railways (IR) is a behemoth on broken wheels. Under a succession of populist railway ministers, the national transporter envisioned self-expansion wearing blinkers. This wasn't a straightforward case of resource enhancement and capacity-building. Therefore, it's welcome news that in the two weeks he has been in charge of the railway ministry, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has already chaired a detailed review meeting of IR's state of affairs, urging the speeding up of projects and infrastructure-building, especially the Dedicated Freight Corridor, the J&K Railway Project and projects in the Northeast. Most importantly, the prime minister pointed out the imperative of improving IR's operating ratio.

Under its last minister, Mamata Banerjee, the outmoded socialist monstrosity of a statist railway muscled its way back into IR's self-definition. We witnessed fantastic proclamations of Tagore museums, sports academies, bottling plants, eco-parks, and so on. The 2011 railway budget's plan outlay of a record Rs 57,630 crore is tied up with a mammoth borrowing of Rs 20,594 crore. Meanwhile, IR was staring at disaster. In the last fiscal, 10 out of the 16 IR zones missed their operating ratio targets, only 206 route kilometres (rkm) were electrified of the targeted 1,000 rkm, freight loading fell short of target. The list could go on. But the bottomline remains that IR has been milked for populist schemes, suffered chronic underinvestment, and is running out of resources.

The railways must be overhauled. The idea and substance of IR must change if it's to be built upon. For one, key reforms must be implemented: rationalising fares indexed to fuel costs and prioritising projects. The latter needs an evaluation of the economic viability of pending and new projects. Given the financial basket case that IR is, it has no choice. Ideally, 2012 should see no separate railway budget, depriving the next railway minister of the licence to announce a veritable feast of projects. So much so for "social viability" minus economic commonsense.








It is an unseemly sight. First, the government loses all moral authority by its complicity with corruption. The political class abdicates its role. Civil society steps in to fill the vacuum. Hunger strikes begin. And the government of an aspiring superpower, instead of behaving like a government, succumbs to blackmail after blackmail. There is something medieval about the image. The "Baba" arrives. Practically all of government that matters shows up in attendance. God forbid if the Baba curses them. You have to sympathise with these artful ministers. They are valiantly trying to make up for the fact that the Queen Mother, her Dewan and the little Prince run away from the most ordinary governance that matters. They have outsourced all leadership and thinking. A few ministers are left to pick up the pieces.

Then there is the gloss on this bizarre spectacle. First, abdicate. Then, cravenly submit. Then call it responsiveness. Such corruption of language signals a deeper corruption. A responsive government is one that in its routine functioning discharges its responsibilities: enforces the rule of law, dispenses justice, provides good management of the economy and so forth. Submitting to every whim of self-appointed civil society advocates is not responsiveness. A responsive government would govern, not sleepwalk to airports.

Meanwhile, civil society activists act as if they should have the last word on everything. The outrage that drives them has some justifiable basis. But civil society is, unconsciously, abetting its own brand of authoritarianism. First, the sensibility at work in this self-appointed civil society is to enhance state power. Most of them hate the one thing that has made a brighter future possible for India: liberalisation. It took us decades to struggle against the stranglehold of the state and concentrations of power. Under the guise of combating terrorism, the state encroached on our freedoms. Under the guise of promoting accountability, civil society now wants new concentrations of power. How else do you explain that a Baba who advocates the extension of the death penalty to economic offenders, whose views on sexual minorities border on the fascist, is now the saviour of our moral fibre? How else do you explain the fact that every bill the NAC touches is closing doors to experiments in the social sector? It played fast and loose with important constitutional values in the prevention of communal violence bill. How else do you explain the sensibility that says the solution to the problems of the state is more state, the solution to weaknesses of existing institutions is more institutions, and the key to dealing with the fact that most laws remain unimplemented is more laws?

The second element of creeping authoritarianism is the punitive mood. The presumptions that should remain dear to a liberal society, even though there may be costs attached to them, are all being tossed out of the window: like the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. In this climate, can you even think of a judge being able to give someone bail fairly? Merely that act will expose her to the censure that she is corrupt. This is the tenor of much of the allegations our civil society representatives are bandying about as gospel truth. No one denies that "due process" has been a fig leaf to let many holders of power off the hook. But that is no justification for creating a climate of opinion about whole classes of people that is punitive rather than discriminating.

The third element of creeping authoritarianism is the erosion of a proper sense of balance. Each group is pursuing a single-point agenda as if that is the only thing that mattered. Each value like transparency is being taken to an extreme point where it could become dangerous. Sunlight may be a disinfectant. It can also blur your eyes. Disclosure of the assets of public servants may serve some functions, properly handled. But there is something invasive and unseemly about the way in which the whole persona of public servants is being defined in public discourse through an obsession with assets. The RTI Act is a wonderful instrument. But its use has to be measured. Recently, the CIC ruled that all confidential reports be made public. We can debate that ruling from an organisational point of view. But the large philosophical premise behind it is disturbing: information is a right. Privacy is not a right. Therefore the former trumps the latter. Remember the core of all authoritarianism is the claim that the individual is always subordinate to the collective interest. Transparency always trumps privacy. The core of totalitarianism was the claim that individuals be subject to a field of total visibility, so that slowly the whole notion of public and private disappears. A whole range of institutions is taking us down that path.

The fourth element of creeping authoritarianism is the invocation of the people as an abstract concept. All authoritarianisms mistrust the representative process. The concept of the people then becomes an abstraction; each group can claim to represent it simply by their self-proclaimed virtue. Each disagreement becomes a sign of treason. The people must be a unity. If anyone disagrees, they must, by definition be against the people. If you have different views on the Lokpal it must be because you are against the people: classic authoritarian rhetoric.

The fifth element of authoritarianism is endless confusion of roles. Baba Ramdev has solid achievements to his credit in raising consciousness about yoga. It is heartening that citizens take more interest in public affairs. But there is a presumption that accomplished individuals, by virtue of their achievements in one sphere, can leverage that authority everywhere. This confusion of roles is almost everywhere. Parts of the media cannot decide whether they want to be trustworthy institutions of record or tools of partisan, rabble-rousing demagoguery, with editors donning the mantle of revolutionaries. But the short-term gains of this activism will come at the price of long-term credibility. True change will not come from this confusion of roles; it will come from each profession discharging its responsibilities to the best.

A morally insidious vacuum in government. A self-proclaimed civil society displaying its own will to power. A media age where being off-balance gets you visibility. A public whose mood is punitive. An intellectual climate that peddles the politics of illusion. And all this in a context where government paralysis is enhancing the two biggest risks to the well-being of the poor — entrenched inflation and slowdown in growth. Instead of clamouring for visibility, we should follow old Baba Ramdev's advice: take a deep breath.

The writer is president, Centre for Policy Research, Delhi







My heart sank the moment I saw that monkey. It looked like one of those shrewd-faced simians that madaaris used to tote about on their shoulders, plopping them down in front of a crowd, which would clap, fling a coin and go their way. Performing monkeys have now become a rarity on our streets, because they've moved — to the movies, where they are busy outsmarting humans trying to out-monkey each other.

Know this. Movies with cute monkeys in them are usually and instantly worthy of a takedown. Also know this. Such movies are usually destined to be monstrous blockbusters. Such is the fate of Hangover 2, the second coming of a movie in which four men getting trashed turned into box-office gold. The first Hangover, which came out two years ago, notched enough numbers to become the most successful R-rated comedy; the sequel is doing its best to catch up. My less-than-flattering review caused a few understanding nods, but also a number of contrarian comments. My favourite came from someone who has a great will-this-work-or-not content detector: I loved it, it was so completely inane!

This piece can alternately be dubbed In Which Critics Are Confounded. In a film so desperate to tread the same path, so petrified of doing anything that will scare away the fans of the original, there really is nothing to gauge other than just how craven studios can get in the pursuit of cash and filled coffers. Hangover The Second gives you plenty of pauses in which to fill in stupefied blanks - you mean these guys are actually going to do the same thing all over again? You mean with not one thing that's new, other than a couple of cosmetic changes?

A wedding getting held up because the previous night's drunken disorderly conduct led to, among other things, the groom getting lost, was the single plot point of the first film. In the second, history (two years in the life of a best-selling franchise can be a very long time: what if people forget?) repeats itself. One little beer among the same people leads to, here we go again, them waking up the next morning in a tatty hotel room, with no recollection of what happened. Again. Nursing the mother of all hangovers. Again. With one of them vanishing, and the rest panicking. Again. And with the wedding a few hours away. Yes, yes, again.

So okay, so this is a sequel, and in sequels a lot of sameness ensues. That's the whole point. The comforting familiarity quotient allows your brain to go into a zone where it knows no work will be required. It hunkers down, grateful for the R and R. But excuse us, since when did no work on the part of the director, except for switching animals (a monkey replaces the tiger) and location (Bangkok replaces Vegas), translate into one of the most successful comedies, if you can call it that, on the planet?

It did. Last week. Within three days of its release. Sigh.

The antics that caused mild hilarity in the first one have clearly got enough people in splits so as to warrant another of the same. Just as enough people will show up a fifth time to see a kohl-lined Johnny Depp, camping up some tropical beach, bopping pirates on the head. The faithful have gone away disappointed this time. How could Depp not say "rum" even once, complained an ardent young fan of the recently released fourth instalment of the Pirates of the Caribbean series. So will you see POTC 5? She looked at me pityingly. Of course I will. I sooo love Depp. Sigh.

We will come back for more. We always do. Sequels exert a seduction all their own. If the dishy Depp floats your boat, who cares if the film is a squelchy mess? If Carrie and her gal pals make you happy, you're probably already planning the Sex and The City 3 afterparty. People like me, nitpicking critics all, are to be ignored in this overwhelming rush to embrace what is already known. And at this point I have to admit that not all seconds suck. A podgy panda who is a kung fu expert, gearing to fight another villain, is still a sight for sore eyes : it helps that in Kung Fu Panda 2, Po is getting all set to cosy up to Tigress, leaving us with the delish possibility of a cross-species romance in the third part.

Prepare yourself for Hangover 3. In which the gang will migrate to some other exotic part of the globe, get blindingly blotto, wake up the next morning surrounded by frantic brides-to-be, with maybe a giraffe for company. They've done Asia. Time to move on to Africa. Are you Rrrready?







Land acquisition is in the news again, and again for the wrong reasons. The agitation by Greater Noida farmers against forceful land acquisition without adequate compensation, and conferring huge benefits to corporates, has raised familiar issues. Optimising allocations of finite resources like land, mines, water and spectrum will remain challenging. Transparency on valuation and allocation need to reconcile conflicting objectives. A sensitive balance between maximising revenue, catalysing development, attracting private investment and so on, is needed.

So what should be the key features of an efficient land policy for India? International examples are not replicable. For one, the land-man ratio (between habitable area and the total population) is very adverse. India has 18 per cent of world population, but only 2 per cent of the geographic area. Forest area is also a mere 0.08 hectare per capita against a global average of 0.8. The increased pressure of population on land will lead to a decline in land availability from 0.9 hectare per capita in 1901 to under 0.2 not in the too distant future. Of the 20 largest countries in the world, India has the most unfavourable land-man ratio. Compound this with the other demographic challenge that population is young and will look to livelihood patterns outside agriculture reducing the 60 per cent population which currently live on farm-related activities. The fact that we need to create large manufacturing hubs for generating new employment opportunity compounds the problem. And we have a long way to go to improve the cost and quality of infrastructure — power, road density, rural road connectivity and airports. Any land policy must be shaped under these compulsions, challenges and limitations. To be credible, they must be based on the following five considerations.

First, land must be priced more fairly whether acquired by the state or private players. Unfortunately the economics of the land market suffers from many deficiencies. High stamp duty, coupled with the practice of receiving substantial payments outside the banking system suppresses the official cost of land. The huge difference between the time when the intention of land acquisition is announced to its formal acquisition leads to huge cost differences. Besides the future value of land hardly gets reflected. Furthermore, population density, probabilities of economic growth and differences in governance patterns create wide variations in land price between states and regions. Not to mention serious delays in actual project implementation, given time and cost overruns. We therefore need to develop normative benchmarks for pricing land better given serious market imperfections and information asymmetry. While estimating the value of land, international practices like the "special value principle" adopted in Australia and the "highest and best use" method used in UK are worth considering.

Second, acquisition for public purpose must be closely defined. Acquisition by the state for highways, rural roads, power projects or airports are globally accepted. But these must involve the consensual participation of all stakeholders. What is more complex are public-private partnerships, or when the government acquires land for auctioning to private players. What proportion of the final price realised by the government or windfall gains of private contractors should be shared by farmers whose land is being acquired? In the proposed Land Acquisition Amendment Bill 2007, "public purpose" has been classified into three categories: strategic purposes, public infrastructure and projects useful for the general public. The Supreme Court in its 2010 judgment on the Yamuna Expressway project emphasised that so long as proper compensation is paid to the owners and the projects serve more than a small section of the populace, use of "eminent domain power" is justified.

In view of the persisting ambiguity, we need a clearer policy while defining public purpose. Needless to say, the price also needs to be realistic, giving a reasonable return to private promoters, otherwise investments would not be forthcoming. The opportunity cost of land is not easy to define because intangible factors like future value, disruption to social and cultural habits and alternative livelihood patterns cannot be captured in economic terms.

Third, while it is best to leave the land acquisition of private parties to their own negotiating skills, at what stage should the state be willing to help to prevent blackmail by few recalcitrant owners? Say if 70 or 80 per cent can be acquired by the private promoter, perhaps the last-mile acquisition can be helped by the state. The recent suggestion by the National Advisory Council (NAC) that all land should be acquired by the state, can protect small farmers from being outmanoeuvered by private entities. However, this places a huge obligation on the state to acquire land for private use. Would it be simpler if the acquisition is left to the private parties themselves while the state stipulates the compensation based on the formula finally arrived at?

Fourth, land acquisition leads to displacement of original residents. Guaranteeing employment and giving them a stake in the proposed project is certainly helpful. Suggesting alternative livelihood patterns which do not lead to alienation of their social and cultural habits would also help.

Finally India has a long way to go both to meet its infrastructure needs and for orderly urbanisation. Pressures on land will inevitably rise. Compulsions for development will need a sensible land acquisition policy which is not only humane but also facilitates rapid growth needed for improving life quality. Being either sentimental or mercenary cannot help. Solving the land riddle is central to our growth strategy.

The writer is a Rajya Sabha MP








If last year was the "season of scams" in India, this is surely the summer of theatrical protests against those scams and the scourge of corruption of which they represent but the tip of a large and submerged iceberg. If the wizened war veteran, Anna Hazare, carried some credibility despite some bizarre pronouncements , the antics of yoga guru-turned-putative politician and social activist, Baba Ramdev, beggar the imagination.

While it offers much fodder for the social media (where Ramdev is being, rightly or wrongly, pilloried), a deeper question is begged. I have previously compared today's India to America's gilded age, pointing out two ways in which the comparison is apt. First, rapid growth is always accompanied by rising inequality and rampant corruption. Second, it is in the public's reaction to these latter unwanted brethren begot by the source of the growth itself, that the future evolution of the polity depends.

Some commentators have been questioning whether India today can be described as living in a gilded age, suggesting that the comparison with America of the era of the robber barons is facile. However, the analogy is meant to point to the causal mechanism which allows growth, inequality, and corruption to coexist — rapid growth under the aegis of poorly-regulated capitalism. Further, it draws attention to the diversity of possible responses to corruption. In America, the salutary result was a thoroughgoing cleansing of the Augean stables, with electoral and regulatory reform, and the painstaking creation of a welfare state that took the economically and politically empowered nation-state into a position of world leadership in the dying days of the World War II, erecting thereby those institutions that govern the global political economy to this day.

While there is a superficial similarity between the Hazare and Ramdev anti-corruption campaigns with Theodore Roosevelt's "trust busting" movement, in galvanising middle-class revulsion against the excesses wrought by freewheeling and unregulated gangster capitalism, there the comparison ends. Roosevelt's movement was, from the outset, articulated within the prevailing political structures of US federal politics of the time. Messrs Hazare and Ramdev and their supporters, by contrast, pointedly and deliberately portray themselves as political outsiders, and use the the tactic of hunger strikes and mass protest, rather than channelising their support into a viable political party that could reap electoral rewards at the ballot box.

Part of this represents a fundamental failure, to date, of the Indian polity: the inability to transcend the domination of what political scientists call "brokerage parties", the Congress, of course, being the exemplary instance. Brokerage parties are guided not by principle, but by constructing unwieldy and improbable coalitions of convenience whose sole aim is the division of the spoils — what economists call rent-seeking.

Here, India is uncomfortably close to repeating the post-war experience of Italy, which failed to develop a mature and modern political culture, in the wake of its emergence as a republican nation-state at the end of the World War II. A series of brokerage parties, for decades the Christian Democrats, and today the centre-right coalition led by Silvio Berlusconi, have presided over a decaying civil society that has failed to nurture principled political parties that take a stand on issues such as economic or regulatory reform or combating corruption.

Rather, in Italy, it is political theatre that dominates rational political discourse: a modern variation on the cynical maxim of the Roman emperors, that what they needed to keep the populace in line was a combination of "bread and circuses". It is perhaps some consolation that Ramdev cuts slightly less ridiculous a figure than Berlusconi, but only just.

How mainstream Indian politics deals with Ramdev and those of his ilk will reveal much about where we are heading as a nation: toward a more mature Western-style democracy, such as our Westminster system is heir to, or toward the showmanship of Italian politics as exemplified by Berlusconi. Part of the answer, surely, will lie in the reaction of another prominent Italian-born politician.

The writer is an economics professor at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada







Under-reported in recent times has been the fierce debate within the Muslim community on the wisdom of "defending" Islam. Several scholars have held there is no need to provide explanations. Any "defence" of the Book or the Word is in effect seen as a defensive move, and so, a tactless one, bound to complicate matters and implicate the Faith, eventually.

More than a decade before the attacks in New York, the emerging Samuel Huntington idea that a civilisational "clash" was central to all conflicts in the world did find supporters. But as the debate sharpened between the "free" world and the world of the "terrorists", Muslim scholars of all hues knew what were absolutely the wrong things to do: entering the debate from a point in which one was offering clarifications about the faith — or telling those who don't know that Islam is a religion of "peace" (Islam itself, literally stems from the root "salam", or peace).

It is, however, precisely for this reason — for taking up the gauntlet of "defence" — that those like Pakistan-based scholar-cleric, Dr Muhammed Tahir-ul-Qadri deserve to be lauded. He has gone out and developed a large body of detailed notes from the Quran to denounce the view that many hold of some sort of link between Islam and those who claim to kill in its name.

Qadri takes on interesting questions ranging from the abstract — "Islam allows for the killing of people because of doctrinal differences" — to historical debates, as on the Kharijites. The Kharijites were a controversial sect that appeared during the lifetime of the Prophet, claiming to be truer and more pious believers, and waged a war against the Caliphs, claiming that they were better Muslims. It is the contention of scholars like Qadri and Reza Aslan that what is being seen as a battle on behalf of Islam against non-Muslims is in fact a battle within the faith, of claiming its true soul. The Kharijites are part of this larger battle as the fundamentalists or puritans of the 7th century, who fought other Muslims declaring themselves the sole faithful and others "worthy of death".

This, is nowhere more visible perhaps, than in Pakistan, which, formed as it was as an "Islamic republic", cannot seem to agree on a self-definition. Several competing ideas of identity — region, language, ethnicity and colonial leftovers, and then the Cold War — went on to shape and almost consume the region and confuse the picture totally on the place of Islam in the idea of Pakistan.

The Kharijites serve to make an important point about how those killing in the name of the Almighty are not up to anything new, but bearers of a medieval tradition that blighted Islam even when the Prophet was alive. There is much talk usually, of Muslims not saying "enough" or not being critical "enough" about ills amongst those who kill in the name of Islam, but the first fatwa against terror came on September 12, 2001, by Yusuf Qaradwi who quoted from the Quran emphasising that even one death "shall be as if he has killed all mankind, and whosoever saves the life of one, it shall be as if he has saved the life of all mankind" (5:32). In his discussion of fatwas on terrorism, Qadri quotes a discussion on two sets of documents, one (the "Amman message") in 2004-05, and another in 2007, that emphasised the need for keeping the Faith distinct from what al-Qaeda's tapes were keen on reducing it to.

While several other scholars have tried to draw a distinction between an innocent victim and a "more political" victim, Qadri in his 500-page recent work on anti-terrorism fatwas leaves no room for the theological masking of any act of violence as a legitimate tool or response. Combing the Quran for even a slender justification for violence as a response, Qadri finds none.

Yet while Qadri finds a resonance between the Kharijites and modern-day terrorists, it may be useful here to emphasise that these ideas are not frozen in time, but constantly adapting. The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, for instance, currently, defines Pakistan as a bigger enemy than the US (or Israel or Christendom).

The problem is not so much that they are old and medieval — but that they are a frighteningly modern and adaptive idea. To quote from Karen Armstrong's The Battle for God; "these movements are not an archaic throwback to the past; they are modern, innovative and modernising. Protestant fundamentalists read the Bible in a literal, rational way, quite different from the more mystical allegorical approach of premodern spirituality... Muslim thinkers produced an anti-imperalism ideology that was in tune with other Third World movements of their times... [The ultra-orthodox Jews] who seemed to turn their backs on modern society ... adopted a novel stringency in their observance of the Torah, and learned to manipulate the political system in a way that brought them more power than any religious Jew had enjoyed for nearly two millennia."






The proposal to enlarge the Gulf Cooperation Council to Jordan and Morocco, made at a meeting in Riyadh last month, marks a profound change in the nature of the organisation as it reaches its 30th anniversary. This decision, which went practically unnoticed in the West, is all the more worthy of attention: it is likely to usher in long-term changes in the region's political scenario.

Initially set up to provide a safeguard against an Iranian military threat and to create regional economic integration in the Arabian peninsula, the GCC now operates as a club for the Arab monarchies. The council's aim is to defend the region's eight monarchic regimes. It fears that the fall of even a single monarchy could have irreversible consequences for the rest, undermining the legitimacy of the reigning families and opening the gates to those in the Arab world looking for more liberty, justice and equality. This's why the monarchies intervened to quash the uprising in Bahrain.

Today, it is Jordan and Morocco that are seen as the weak links in this chain of interests. Both monarchies are highly in debt and face social unrest. This is why the countries of the GCC — Kuwait, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman and Qatar — have extended a hand. The council's initiative is a sign of the panic sweeping the royal courts in the Gulf, particularly Riyadh's. The Saudi royals have had to come to terms with the Arab Spring. The rise in popular discontent could reach dangerous levels if the Yemenites manage to oust President Saleh. The Saudi government is trying to prevent his fall and also pledging support to Syria's president, Bashar al-Assad.

The containment of Iran no longer seems to be a priority for the international community. The fall of Hosni Mubarak brought the curtain down on the alliance between Saudi Arabia and Egypt. The Egyptian generals now seem to be turning more toward Ankara and Tehran, snubbing Riyadh. Moreover, the Obama administration is no longer perceived as giving its unconditional support to the Saudi regime. The way Washington left the autocratic regimes of Tunisia and Egypt to their fate frightens the princes of the Gulf, who know they do not enjoy great popular support. Though the Gulf monarchies account for only a tenth of the total Arab population, they hold half its wealth. By bringing Jordan and Morocco into the fold, members of the GCC hope to reinforce their strength both demographically and economically. Another advantage for Saudi Arabia is it can count on the support of Jordan and Morocco within the council and increase its political clout at Qatar's expense.

What are the potential advantages for Jordan and Morocco? Both stand to gain massive financial assistance and political support. In exchange, they will declare allegiance to the Gulf monarchies. It is thus not inconceivable that Jordanian troops might intervene in Saudi Arabia to quell a popular uprising there. Finally, the kings of Jordan and of Morocco are likely to find they have to limit the scope of their democratic reforms, so as not to offer a worrying precedent.

This enlargement — which also serves the interests of the Israeli government in that it reinforces the Jordanian monarchy and increases the isolation of the Palestinians — accentuates regional antagonisms. It marginalises Yemen, isolates Iraq, and aggravates the frustration of Palestinians and other Arabs.

Given that President Obama has spoken out firmly in support of the Middle East peace process and the move toward democratisation in the Arab world, the council's efforts could be the precursor to a political crisis between the US and Saudi Arabia. If so, that would indeed prove to be a major revolution.

Pierre Razoux is a senior research adviser at the NATO Defence College









You would think a country with a perennial shortage of power would welcome new power plants. In the past 27 months, 20,053 MW of fresh thermal capacity has been commissioned, but believe it or not, just around half of this capacity is functioning, and the prospects of new capacity going the same way are also pretty high. More than 32 power stations across the country, the major ones, have coal stocks for just seven days; 18 have stock for less than four days—the norm is 21 days. Coal supplies, not electricity supplies, have become India's burning problem, and everyone is passing around the buck. The PM is very concerned, but two crisis meetings have already been postponed since May 17, the latest is now to take place next Tuesday.

The broad maths is simple. Each 1,000 MW of power capacity needs around 4.5 mn tonnes of coal each year. So, the 67,872 MW of thermal capacity on March 31, 2009, needs 306 mn tonnes, all of which has been committed by the public sector Coal India Ltd (CIL). The 20,053 MW of capacity needs another 90 mn tonnes, but CIL has just 41 mn to give, leaving 11,000 MW of the new capacity stranded. The 12th Plan target is to set up another 75,000 MW of thermal capacity—though a significant part will come from the ultra mega power plants which have either captive mines or are based on imported coal, the capacity constraint puts a question mark over their viability. Theoretically, imported coal is a good solution, but costs per unit of energy generated double if you use Indonesian coal instead of Indian coal at a location in the hinterland (Railway charges add around a fourth to costs!)—at a time when power sector losses are spiralling (see accompanying article), that's adding to trouble.

Right now, the power plants are blaming CIL and want it to stop e-auctions—CIL's FY11 revenues were R50,253 crore, profits R10,867 crore and e-auction revenues R8,810 crore. The other option, which the PM will have to decide on, is to pay CIL the e-auction price to preserve its profits but divert the coal to the power sector—the coal ministry has, in the past, said e-auctions flow out of a Supreme Court directive. Shortage of coal has meant CIL no longer signs firm supply agreements with new customers. CIL blames its slow growth in production, 452 mn tonnes in FY12, on the environment ministry's no-go policy which it claims knocked out 20 mn tonnes of production in 2010-11 alone; CIL also says pithead stocks are up from 42 mn tonnes in FY08 to 70 mn tonnes in FY11 due to non-availability of rakes from the Railways. There is then the issue of 208 captive mines which are just producing around 15 mn tonnes of coal, around 0.6% of their peak capacity. Assuming Tuesday's meeting doesn't get postponed, the PM has a pretty full agenda.





A 34.4% growth in April exports, even though it comes on top of a 37.5% hike in FY11, doesn't necessarily mean India is on track to achieve the $500 bn target for FY14—this requires a 27% annual growth as compared to around half that for the last three years. But leave aside the statistics and focus on the change in India's export structure, and the change is huge. At a time when industrial growth was falling, as was FDI and FII, export growth continued to grow, and how. Monthly growth rates doubled from 42.1% in April 2010 to a peak rate of 84.9% in March 2011. In other words, the share of industrial production being exported has gone up significantly. As a result of the export overdrive, India's share of global exports grew from 0.6% in 1993 to 0.8% in 2003 to 1.1% in 2007 to 1.4% in 2010.

None of the growth, obviously, could have taken place if India's export basket hadn't diversified considerably. In geographical terms, exports are now aligned to growth areas and India is sewing up trade agreements with precisely these regions. So Asia's share is up from 38.7% of all exports in FY01 to 54.9% in FY11; the US's is down from 24.7% to 15.2% and EU's down from 24.1% to 18.5%.

The export base has changed equally sharply. Textiles, where India missed the bus thanks to not being pro-active on reforming local laws, are down from a 24.3% share in FY01 to 9.3% in FY11 (this is bad news for employment, but that's another story); gems & jewellery are down from 16.8% to 13.8%; agriculture is down from 8.8% to 7%. Thanks to the lopsided subsidies on petroleum products which made Reliance opt for the export market more aggressively, petroleum exports' share is up from 4.3% to 16.6%; engineering exports are up from 12.9% to 23.6%, a sign that India's reputation as a world-class producer is slowly gaining ground, that Indian firms are slowly integrating into global supply chains.







The Thirteenth Finance Commission clearly highlighted the worsening financial position of the state power distribution companies even after reforms, leading to further deterioration in state finances. Earlier, the Planning Commission used to annually publish the performance of state electricity boards (SEBs), highlighting the performance parameters (T&D losses, rate of returns etc) but it, unfortunately, has been discontinued. Subsequently, CRISIL and ICRA have been mandated by the Power Finance Corporation at the instance of the ministry of power to carry out a performance rating of the state power utilities; the first report was put in the public domain in January 2003. The last such report was published in 2006, to the best of my knowledge. It is high time that the Planning Commission restarts the rating system.

One of the major reasons for introducing power sector reforms was to improve the finances of SEBs through efficient management of the sector. Unless the finances improve, the power utilities' finances can be adversely affected due to high power procurement costs. The Finance Commission report clearly highlights the financial losses, in spite of huge subsidies by the respective state governments. The financial losses including subsidies are progressively increasing from R18,400 crore in 2005-06. The losses of the state utilities even under reasonable assumptions of efficiency improvements are estimated to increase from R68,000 crore in 2010-11 to R1,16,000 crore in 2014-15.

Some of the key reasons for increasing losses are the inability of the state utilities to enhance operating efficiencies and reduce aggregate technical and commercial (AT&C) losses; high cost of short-term power purchases; absence of timely tariff increases etc. In some cases, states have not raised tariffs for the past 10 years in spite of increasing deficits and in spite of having State Electricity Regulatory Commissions (SERC). While the tariffs could be increased thrice in three years (without SERC, during 1990's) while I was chairman of the Maharashtra State Electricity Board, I wonder how no tariffs could be revised for as many as 10 years in spite of having SERC. On account of this, the tariff increase requirements vary from 7% to 20% per annum, which is almost impossible to achieve. The regulatory commissions have not been able to carry out even the routine tariff increases in many states. Tariff reforms, including multi-year tariff implementation as required by the Act, are no longer even talked of.

Also, a new problem has been added to the state power utilities because of a sharp rise in the price of power purchased in the open market, due to chronic power shortages. While the distribution companies complain about high prices, private sector entrepreneurs complain about poor rates. In addition to direct subsidies and subventions, states have been extending substantial guarantees to the state utilities. The overall outstanding guarantees extended by the states to the power sector utilities is about R88,000 crore as on March 2008. It must have gone up further.

The development and operations of the T&D network is mostly in the hands of state-owned utilities and is expected to continue putting considerable strain on state finances, even after a large component of the generation is being developed by the the private sector.

It's clear that a vast majority of the state-owned power distribution utilities are once again in a precarious financial position. AT&C losses reduction, revision of tariffs and collection efficiency remain key concerns for the sector. In general, the achievements have fallen far too short of the needs and the targets established, even after R-APDRP (Restructured-Accelerated Power Development & Reforms Programme).

Further, distribution franchising for efficiency improvement needs to be considered by the utilities. Some states have started implementing franchising in urban pockets and the initial results are encouraging. Mahavitaran (MSEDCL) in Maharashtra had experimented franchisees for the first time in 2006. Torrent Power was made the franchisee for Bhiwandi town, which was a chronic defaulter of power bills, as the bill delivery and collection staff could not even visit many areas of Bhiwandi. Under the arrangement, the franchisee acted as an entity empowered by the state to operate an existing utility and distribute electricity within an identified area for 15 years. The experiment was a huge success. AT&C losses were brought down from 50% to below 25%; monthly recovery went up from R30 crore to R40 crore; there was no staff cost, no day to day O&M cost and, above all, no management headaches. Because of this success, Mahavitaran recently selected franchisees in Nagpur and Aurangabad urban areas. Such measures need to be scaled up significantly.

In spite of the several measures initiated by the distribution companies, the AT&C losses continues to remain high. There is no respite from the subsidy regime. Some states continue to announce free and/or subsidised power for various segments including agriculture. The overall increase in tariff has not kept pace with the cost of supply, leaving a huge gap between the cost of supply and tariff.

One of the primary objectives for establishing SERCs was to delink the state government's interference in the functioning of SEBs and entrust functions, most importantly the fixation of tariffs in a transparent manner, to SERCs. Most of the utilities have not issued multi-year tariff orders and even if they were issued, they are not being followed. It is necessary for SERCs to discharge the mandated functions independently and fearlessly as the legal provisions in the Electricity Act, 2003, specifically provide for fixed tenures for the SERC heads—5 years or 65 years of age (whichever is earlier). Such a provision was specifically provided after considerable thought, when the first Electricity Regulatory Commission was created in Orissa in 1996, when I was the Union power secretary. It is necessary for the government to revisit the various provisions in the Electricity Regulation Commissions Acts and make changes for their effective functioning.

The real challenge to the power sector is to develop the arduous process of tariff reforms and to fix-up cost-related tariffs. A unanimous and resolute commitment by the state government alone can transfer the sector from its current state of affairs. Time is of the essence for speedy implementation of tariff reforms.

The author is a former Union power secretary and chairman of the Maharashtra State Electricity Board






Going by the financial and operational performance of the country's top three mobile operators (Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Essar and Reliance Communications), the ones that have announced their results so far, it is quite established now that not only are the days of double-digit growth and profits passé but it will take quite some time for the industry to regain its robustness. Not that this revelation is new. The trend of declining numbers and traffic was evident from 2009 itself. However, the executives of these companies had blamed disruptive tariffs for the same. The impression given was that with the end of tariff wars, the industry would return to its original robustness. With a full year having gone by without any tariff war and the operators still far from posting spectacular performances, any projections that the mobile firms are out of the woods would be misplaced.

True, the Indian mobile phone market remains promising and growth would come by, as close to 40% market still remains unpenetrated, but the real problem is that it will take quite some time for the uncovered markets to start generating revenues for the operators. The scenario would have been fine if the revenue generating customers continued to talk more, but that's clearly not happening and that's why operators are either posting flat or declining minutes of usage on their networks. This was bound to happen because saturation would have set in sooner or later. To overcome this, the industry needs to shift gears and move on to data services, which has just begun with the onset of 3G services. But these are very early days for 3G and, considering the amount the companies have spent on acquiring the spectrum, it is going to take a long time before they break-even.

Like any other industry, the Indian mobile phone market also does not present a monolithic picture. So, within the macro scenario, one finds operators presenting varying report cards. The lesson here is that the stronger companies continue to perform better than the weaker ones. So we have Bharti Airtel still maintaining its lead in all the parameters, though the year saw its net profit declining 33%. The January-March quarter, generally considered the best quarter for mobile firms, also saw its net down by 31%. Traffic clearly is not flowing back into the networks as the minutes of usage was flat sequentially and average revenue per user (ARPU) down. The company may attribute all these to its re-branding costs, losses in African operations, etc, but the fact remains that some extraneous factors would always be there. For instance, in the current fiscal, the prospects of paying some R4,000 crore for excess spectrum looms large over the company. The question is that some three years ago Bharti was in a position to absorb all these and yet be able to post double-digit growth, which clearly is no more the case. The major positive for Bharti is that despite its close to $9 billion acquisition of Zain Africa and 3G spectrum loan, the company's debt-to-equity ratio is still in the comfort zone and it generates free cash flows.

Coming to Vodafone, which is the country's third largest mobile services firm by subscribers, the year can be seen as positive as it is for the first time that it posted profits in India—though it was a paltry R110 crore for the full year. The other positive for it is that though it lags behind RCom in total subscriber base, in terms of ARPU and revenue market share, which are better barometers of performance, it ranks next to Bharti. Add to these its emergence as the biggest gainer through mobile number portability and it's clear that the company is on a sound wicket. There are worries as well. Its ongoing spat with 33% joint venture partner, the Essar group, which wants to exit but is locked in a valuation dispute, and the tax dispute with the I-T department over payment of capital gains tax over its $11-billion acquisition of Hutch's stake in 2007, are a case in point. On balance, however, it can be said that these would be taken care of by the parent firm so the Indian operations would continue to consolidate with time.

This brings us to RCom and it's here that the signs are most worrying. Though the company is the country's second largest operator in terms of subscriber base, its financial and operational performance is worrisome over the last one year. On top of this, three officials of its group have been chargesheeted in the 2G spectrum scam case and are currently behind bars. RCom's fourth quarter results saw a whopping 86% decline in net profits at R168 crore. For the full fiscal its net was down 68% at R1,505.82 crore. The company's net debt stands at a high of R32,048.5 crore. Its ARPU and revenue market share is the lowest among the top four mobile operators. That branding is weak is clear from the fact that after the state-owned BSNL, it was the biggest loser in MNP. The company realises its problems and, therefore, last year in June its board authorised the management to look for a strategic buyer for 26% stake. However, nothing has materialised so far. At the fourth quarter earnings the company did say it is devising steps to deleverage its balance sheet but did not share how. The biggest positive for the company is its asset base so, if it is able to deleverage its balance sheet and increase its revenue market share by lopping off the huge non-paying subscribers off its network, there's no reason why it can't rebounce.

In short, though the mobile operators do not give guidance, the next one year will see more pain than any major gain.







A fourth four-year term for 75-year-old Sepp Blatter as president of FIFA, Federation Internationale de Football Association, was not only a vote for continuity. It was also a mandate for reform of world football's governing body. The election at the 61st congress of FIFA in Zurich took place in difficult, unpleasant circumstances with the only other candidate, Asian Football Confederation president Mohamed bin Hammam of Qatar, withdrawing from the race after he was suspended on charges of attempting to bribe member associations to back him. But with Mr. Blatter overcoming an inane bid by the English Football Association to postpone the election on the ground it was a one-horse race, and obtaining the support of an overwhelming majority for his re-election, the focus is now again on the tasks and challenges ahead. England's FA found support back home among British politicians, the media, and the fans — but not in Zurich where it mattered. The seasoned Mr. Blatter knew better than to gloat over his victory. After the election, he spoke of cleaning up administration and promised to steer the ship "back onto the right course in clear, transparent waters." He pushed for a strengthened FIFA Ethics Committee whose members will now be chosen by the whole congress. With allegations over the bribery bid being met with counter-allegations, the revamped Ethics Committee could infuse greater confidence in the world body's efforts to deal with corruption and malpractice. Mr. Blatter also announced the formation of a high-powered corporate governance and compliance committee, which will be headed by no less than Henry Kissinger. If necessary, an extraordinary congress will be convened to review the findings of the committee and "restore FIFA's credibility."

One of Mr. Blatter's stand-out achievements, after he took over from Joao Havelange in 1998, is the successful hosting of the World Cup outside of Europe and the Americas. After the first World Cup in Asia (co-hosted by South Korea and Japan in 2002), South Africa 2010 under his presidency was a huge success, not only in terms of the football on display, but also in terms of the organisation of the event. To Mr. Blatter goes the credit of expanding the World Cup to include 32 teams (from 24), and giving a chance to more teams from different continents to compete in the premier event. Thus it was hardly surprising that among the first proposals he got adopted by the congress on his re-election was a radical change in rules, which now give each of the organisation's 208 members a vote in choosing the World Cup host. Mr. Blatter deserves and needs all the support he can get in the efforts to reform FIFA and lead the world's best-loved game to new heights.





The killing of Syed Saleem Shahzad is brutal confirmation that Pakistan is the world's most hazardous place for journalists. According to the United States-based Committee to Protect Journalists, in the nine years since the abduction and murder of the Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, 32 media professionals have met a violent end, 17 of them in targeted attacks for clear work-related motives. International pressure on Pakistan forced the pace in the investigation of the Pearl case in 2002. But in none of the other murders has anyone been brought to book. It was in this atmosphere of impunity that Shahzad went missing from a well-secured neighbourhood of Islamabad. Two days later, his body, bearing torture marks, surfaced 150 km away. In any conflict, the main threat to journalists is from armed actors, state and non-state. The situation in Pakistan is all the more dangerous given the blurred lines, and linkages, between the two. If the Inter-Services Intelligence is being seen as Suspect No. 1 in this case, it is not without reason. Eight months ago, the journalist who wrote about al-Qaeda and Taliban was summoned to the ISI headquarters for an interview — after he reported that Pakistan had released the Afghan Taliban commander Mullah Baradar, arrested earlier in 2010, to take part in talks. Shahzad notified friends about that meeting, detailing it in an email that he wanted publicised if anything untoward happened to him; he also confided that he had received death threats from ISI officials thrice in the last five years. It is significant that he went missing days after he reported that the Mehran Base attack was carried out in retaliation for a Pakistan Navy crackdown on al-Qaeda sympathisers in its ranks. There have been suggestions that Shahzad, the author of a new book on al-Qaeda, knew details of the Pakistani network that supported Osama bin Laden while he sheltered in Abbottabad.

Pakistan's news media naturally see the Shahzad killing as an unambiguous attempt to intimidate them and silence dissent. The May 1 stealth attack by the U.S. to eliminate bin Laden, and the Mehran attack in which the Navy was savaged by home-grown terrorists, have seen the media shed their usual reluctance to challenge the military and the ISI. It should be natural for an investigation into Shahzad's killing to start with the ISI officials who interviewed him in October 2010. The Pakistani media community must insist on this in order to fix accountability for the journalist's killing. Else the enquiry ordered by Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani will go the way of other such investigations, and the impunity will continue unchecked.







Freedom of the press and journalistic ethics is an important topic today in India — with the word 'press' encompassing the electronic media also. There should be a serious discussion on the topic. That discussion should include issues of the responsibilities of the press, since the media have become very prominent and very powerful.

In India, freedom of the press has been treated as part of the freedom of speech and expression guaranteed by Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution, vide Brij Bhushan and Another vs. The State of Delhi, AIR 1950 SC 129 and Sakal Papers (P) Ltd vs. Union of India, AIR 1962 SC 305, among others. However, as mentioned in Article 19(2), reasonable restrictions can be placed on this right, in the interest of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the state, public order, decency or morality, or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence. Hence, freedom of the media is not an absolute freedom.

The importance of the freedom of the press lies in the fact that for most citizens the prospect of personal familiarity with newsworthy events is unrealistic. In seeking out news, the media therefore act for the public at large. It is the means by which people receive free flow of information and ideas, which is essential to intelligent self-governance, that is, democracy.

For a proper functioning of democracy it is essential that citizens are kept informed about news from various parts of the country and even abroad, because only then can they form rational opinions. A citizen surely cannot be expected personally to gather news to enable him or her to form such opinions. Hence, the media play an important role in a democracy and serve as an agency of the people to gather news for them. It is for this reason that freedom of the press has been emphasised in all democratic countries, while it was not permitted in feudal or totalitarian regimes.

In India, the media have played a historical role in providing information to the people about social and economic evils. The media have informed the people about the tremendous poverty in the country, the suicide of farmers in various States, the so-called honour killings in many places by Khap panchayats, corruption, and so on. For this, the media in India deserve kudos.

However, the media have a great responsibility also to see that the news they present is accurate and serve the interest of the people. If the media convey false news that may harm the reputation of a person or a section of society, it may do great damage since reputation is a valuable asset for a person. Even if the media subsequently correct a statement, the damage done may be irreparable. Hence, the media should take care to carefully investigate any news item before reporting it.

I know of a case where the photograph of a High Court judge, who was known to be upright, was shown on a TV channel along with that of a known criminal. The allegation against the judge was that he had acquired some land at a low price misusing his office. But my own inquiries (as part of which I met and asked questions to that judge and many others) revealed that he had acquired the land not in any discretionary quota but in the open market at the market price.

Also, sometimes the media present twisted or distorted news that may contain an element of truth but also an element of untruth. This, too, should be avoided because a half-truth can be more dangerous than a total lie. The media should avoid giving any slant to news, and avoid sensationalism and yellow journalism. Only then will they gain the respect of the people and fulfil their true role in a democracy.

Recently, reports were published of paid news — which involves someone paying a newspaper and getting something favourable to him published. If this is correct, it is most improper. Editors should curb this practice.

Media comments on pending cases, especially on criminal cases where the life or liberty of a citizen is involved, are a delicate issue and should be carefully considered. After all, judges are human beings too, and sometimes it may be difficult for them not to be influenced by such news. The British law is that when a case is sub judice, no comment can be made on it, whereas U.S. law permits such comment. In India we may have to take an intermediate view on this issue: while on the one hand we have a written Constitution that guarantees freedom of speech in Article 19(1)(a) — which the unwritten British Constitution does not — the life and liberty of a citizen is a fundamental right guaranteed by Article 21 and should not lightly be jeopardised. Hence, a balanced view has to be taken on this.

Also, often the media publish correct news but place too much emphasis on frivolous news such as those concerning the activities of film stars, models, cricketers and so on, while giving very little prominence to much more important issues that are basically socio-economic in nature.

What do we see on television these days? Some channels show film stars, pop music, disco-dancing and fashion parades (often with scantily clad young women), astrology, or cricket. Is it not a cruel irony and an affront to our poor people that so much time and resources are spent on such things? What have the Indian masses, who are facing terrible economic problems, to do with such things?

Historically, the media have been organs of the people against feudal oppression. In Europe, the media played a major role in transforming a feudal society into a modern one. The print media played a role in preparing for, and during, the British, American and French Revolutions. The print media were used by writers such as Rousseau, Voltaire, Thomas Paine, Junius and John Wilkes in the people's fight against feudalism and despotism. Everyone knows of the great stir created by Thomas Paine's pamphlet 'Common Sense' during the American Revolution, or of the letters of Junius during the reign of the despotic George III.

The media became powerful tools in the hands of the people then because they could not express themselves through the established organs of power: those organs were in the hands of feudal and despotic rulers. Hence, the people had to create new organs that would serve them. It is for this reason that that the print media became known as the Fourth Estate. In Europe and America, they represented the voice of the future, in contrast to the feudal or despotic organs that wanted to preserve the status quo in society. In the 20th century, other types of media emerged: radio, television and the Internet.

What should be the media's role? This is a matter of great importance to India as it faces massive problems of poverty, unemployment, corruption, price rise and so on.

To my mind, in underdeveloped countries like India the media have a great responsibility to fight backward ideas such as casteism and communalism, and help the people in their struggle against poverty and other social evils. Since a large section of the people is backward and ignorant, it is all the more necessary that modern ideas are brought to them and their backwardness removed so that they become part of enlightened India. The media have a great responsibility in this respect.

(Markandey Katju is a Judge of the Supreme Court of India. The second part of this article will follow.)









"Journalist sabka dost hota hai (Journalists are everybody's friends)," was Saleem Shahzad's response when I asked him about the Taliban connections of a common acquaintance, "What matters is if he gets the story or not." In his career, Shahzad had certainly been accused of "playing all sides of the fence" — the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), but his brutal death showed that he had made some very powerful enemies as well.

Many are shocked with the boldness of his abductors — that a prominent journalist could be taken from the heart of Islamabad's high security zone, somewhere between the capital's F-8 and F-6 sectors. When his body surfaced in a river canal, bearing marks of torture — broken ribs, the use of rods — it showed that those who meant to kill him, also wanted to send a message to others like him. Some have written that it was Shahzad's last article, drawing links between the "PNS Mehran" naval base attacks and jihadist elements within the Navy which was the motive for his killers. And the angry reaction from other Pakistani journalists has been, "If the all-powerful ISI isn't behind the killing, then surely it can and must find out who is."

But drawing the world's attention to al-Qaeda's infiltration of the Pakistani military goes beyond any one article Shahzad may have written — the running theme of much of his reporting in the last few years. He is the only journalist to have interviewed terrorist commanders Ilyas Kashmiri and Baitullah Mehsud, consistently holding the view that even as they planned diabolical attacks on the Pakistani army, they had help from retired or "rogue" Army officers. Kashmiri's 313 Brigade, he believed, had been originally raised by ISI officers to fight against India, and diverted to fighting on the Afghan border when the India-Pakistan peace process forced a drawback on the 'Kashmiri jihad.' Shahzad said these officers had continued their links with Ilyas Kashmiri.

His book

While many are now comparing Shahzad's death to other journalists who have been assaulted or killed over the last few years (at least 12 have been killed in the past year, according to Reporters without Borders), one may also see parallels with the death of a Pakistani Army officer in October 2008. Maj-General Ameer Faisal Alvi, the retired chief of the elite Special Service Group (SSG) (similar to India's National Security Guards), was travelling to his office in Islamabad's G-11 sector , when he was shot by gunmen on motorbikes. Alvi had threatened to expose two generals he said had been cutting deals with TTP chief Baitullah Mehsud, and warned of a nexus between ISI operatives, the Tehrik-i-Taliban (TTP), and Punjabi Taliban group Sipah-e-Sahiba. Shahzad's writing chronicled links between the ISI, al-Qaeda, and the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT). In his book ' Beyond Bin Laden and 9/11: Inside the Taliban and Al Qaeda', released 10 days before his death, Shahzad showed how the 26/11 attack plan was originally planned in an ISI special cell, and then abandoned. He shows correspondence that proved a former major and LeT operative Maj. Haroon Ashiq had picked up the plan from Ilyas Kashmir, and then took charge of the logistical planning of the 26/11 attacks. Maj. Haroon is perhaps the biggest link between the two stories: the prime accused in the assassination of General Alvi, arrested and charged, but acquitted in the trial. Incidentally, Ilyas Kashmiri's name appears in the original charge sheet of General Alvi's murder as a co-conspirator.

Both men, Alvi and Shahzad, left emails to be released in case they were killed. While both clearly knew about such a threat, neither was willing to give up telling the world what they believed.

Ironically, the world wasn't ready to listen. Shahzad firmly believed that the jihad virus did not run across the Pakistani army, but had taken control of a few key officers who were in dangerously senior positions. When he spoke to Pakistani officials of al-Qaeda infiltration, he got, understandably, no audience. Even here in India, Shahzad said, few were interested in his theories about 26/11. At a lecture at the Institute of Defence and Strategic Analysis (IDSA) in New Delhi last year, he said, the audience seemed less interested in the al-Qaeda link to 26/11 as they were to fixing the Mumbai attacks on the top leadership of Pakistan's government and army. He warned that al-Qaeda's plans, and that of ISI officials working with them remained to ignite an India-Pakistan war. Their aims are met, he said, each time the peace process falters, as he warned of more such attacks sponsored by radicalised insiders in the Pakistani military and al-Qaeda, carried out by the TTP and the LeT, in India and Pakistan.

The problem of radicalised officers dates back to the vision of General Zia-ul-Haq in the 1980s, a devout Muslim, who believed in raising Pakistan's Army as "Allah's army." Author Shuja Nawaz, whose brother, Army Chief Asif Nawaz, died mysteriously in 1993, details Zia's efforts in his book ' Crossed Swords,' in particular, his encouragement of recruits from madrassas and the Jamaat-e-Islami, and of bringing Tableeghi Jamaat preachers to deliver sermons every week at garrisons. Interestingly, in the wake of the "PNS Mehran" base attack, and commando complicity in the planning, General Kayani passed a rule effectively banning Tableeghis from entering any cantonment area. The rule followed the discovery that several officers had been taking study leave to travel with the Tableeghis, and instead training at militant camps in Waziristan. In a sense, al-Qaeda has managed to complete the task General Zia, unknowing of its repercussions, set out to do. "Insiders," former military officers and soldiers, have, in recent years, been charged with various terror attacks inside Pakistan, including assassination attempts on General Musharraf, the GHQ attack in Rawalpindi, the Parade Lane Mosque massacre, in which 17 children of army officers were among 36 gunned down, and the Lahore Police academy attack.

Syed Saleem Shahzad had been pointing to this trend of radicalisation, to the enemy within Pakistan's forces for years. He died not so much for writing about the trend, as perhaps for the fact that his voice was now being heard and taken seriously, especially with the publication of his book. A trend of radicalisation, like the Jhelum in which Saleem's body was found, whose flow won't be easy to stem, or to reverse.

( Suhasini Haidar is Deputy Foreign Editor, CNN-IBN. She interviewed Syed Saleem Shahzad on May 8, 2011.)







Slowly, surely, a new mixture of consensus and fault lines is emerging about world food. On the one hand, there is agreement we are entering a new era in which basic agricultural commodity prices are rising after decades of falling. This will hit the poorest hardest, as an Oxfam report this week on food justice rightly points out. But there is not yet sufficient agreement or political leverage to begin the big, necessary changes. And there's disagreement on what the problem really is.

Is another round of technical intensification needed to raise productivity? That's what the U.K. government's Foresight report argued this January, calling for the oxymoronic "sustainable intensification." Or is it best addressed by a more equitable distribution of wealth? This is what Oxfam and others argue, saying there is enough food to go round if properly shared. Much hangs on which perspective is used to frame food policy.

To the west, the great success of the food story in the second half of the 20th century was lower prices. This allowed spending to diversify and fuelled the consumer boom. Proportionately less outlay on food meant more for clothes, homes, holidays and fun. This rebalancing came at a cost to the developing countries dependent on food exports. Their purchasing power declined while ours went up. It also came with dire environmental costs: biodiversity loss, pollution, soil damage and water stress. These indicators suggested that the environment too was being squeezed.

Under to over-consumption

From the 1960s, with growing evidence and conviction, environmentalists have warned that human reliance on the eco-sphere might be threatened. Public health analysts spotted the transition from problems of under-consumption to those of over- and mal-consumption. Mass hunger sits alongside mass obesity. This distortion is no longer one where the rich world is fat, and the developing world is thin; even sub-Saharan Africa now has an obesity problem.

The evidence of this mismatch between policy and reality has been growing for decades. It ought to be centre-stage on every government's food policy agenda. The tragedy is this isn't the case. For a moment, when in 2006-08 world food prices rose, even rich countries looked worried. Fresh from the banking crisis, no one wanted food destabilisation too. An emergency world conference was scheduled. But even before it was held, prices began to drop. Sighs of relief in the west.

Three years on, prices are way above 2008 levels, and food inflation is endemic. Oxfam predicts food prices will double by 2030. That would take the average British shopping basket to about 20 per cent of disposable income. But to the poorest of the world, it would mean almost all income going on food. Even the World Bank and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) are troubled.

In South Africa

What can be done? In 2008, many governments acted unilaterally; chaos ensued. Today, the South African government has emulated Tony Blair's action in 1999 when concerned about food prices: turn to Walmart. Aware of the vice-like grip Britain's dwindling number of supermarket giants had over 60 million British mouths, Blair signalled that the U.K. would welcome the world's biggest food retailer to introduce price competition. Competition and U.S. capital were the recipe to reduce food prices. Walmart purchased Asda.

But this model is part of the problem. The last thing South Africa needs is a retail giant that threatens the existence of thousands of small shopkeepers. Allowing it into Africa may signal modernity, but it is ecological and social irresponsibility.

The prospect of food prices doubling ought to be a political wake-up call. But politicians don't seem to be listening yet. They will, though.

To be fair, the challenge they face cuts across conventional political boundaries. An entire 20th-century approach to food modernity is under threat. Consumer expectations, not least that we can eat whatever we like whenever we like, are at stake. The 20th century created the fiction that ever more food can be produced by tapping oil, throwing fertiliser at seeds, spraying endless water and treating the soil as blotting paper, a neutral medium. We now know how fragile that mix is, and how fragile the Earth's crust and biology are too.

In the west, we are over-consuming and wasting food. A whole change of direction is required, not just in the food chain but in food culture. ( Tim Lang is professor of food policy at City University London.) — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2011





Brazil's environmental agency gave final approval on Wednesday, June 1, for a giant hydroelectric power plant in the Amazon rain forest that has been at the centre of a protracted battle between the government and environmentalists over the fate of indigenous people.

After three decades of planning, the environmental agency, Ibama, granted a license to the North Energy consortium for the dam, which will be the world's third largest, capable of producing 11,200 megawatts of electricity.

Opponents said they would not give up the fight against the Belo Monte dam, which they said would flood a large part of the Xingu River basin, affecting local fishing and forcing tens of thousands of indigenous people from their native lands.

"We will not cede an inch," said Antônia Melo, the coordinator of Xingu Vivo Para Sempre, a group based in Altamira, a city that will be partly flooded. "Our indignation and our strength to fight only increases with every mistake and every lie of this government."

Belo Monte became a priority for the previous government of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who contended that the plant was critical to Brazil's future energy needs. His successor, President Dilma Rousseff, has remained committed to the project.

'Robust technical analysis'

The license was granted by the environmental agency after "robust technical analysis," the government said in a news release. The North Energy consortium will pay $1.9 billion for "social-environmental measures," to help people affected by the dam's construction and to offset environmental effects, an agency spokeswoman said. The government itself has committed $314 million, she said.

Conservationists have become increasingly critical of Brazil's efforts to protect the Amazon rain forest. Brazil's deforestation numbers increased sharply over the past nine months, and the lower house of Congress last week approved a revision of the Forest Code that would open up protected areas to deforestation while granting amnesty to agribusiness developers for previous forest-clearing. The Senate has yet to vote on the measure.

"The government has an important choice — to go back to a future of wasteful publicly funded mega-projects and frontier chaos, or ahead, to the future of a sustainable and equitable green economy leader, with rule of law, good governance and a secure natural and investment environment," said Stephan Schwartzman of the Environmental Defense Fund.

'Spells disaster'

The $17 billion dam, which is expected to start producing electricity in 2015, would divert the Xingu River along a 62-mile stretch in Pará State. Environmental groups say it will flood more than 120,000 acres of rain forest and settlements, displacing 20,000 to 40,000 people and releasing large quantities of methane. The Ibama spokeswoman put the number of displaced people at 20,000 but insisted that no indigenous people would be removed from their lands.

"This is a tragic day for the Amazon," said Atossa Soltani, executive director of Amazon Watch. "Despite all the promises the dam builders are making around mitigation and compensation, this dam is going to spell disaster for the local people." ( Myrna Domit contributed reporting.) — © New York Times News Service




Spain's Prime Minister hit out at the European Commission and Germany on June 2 for singling out the country's produce as a possible source of a deadly bacterial outbreak in Europe, and said the government would demand explanations and reparations.

Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said the EU commission "was slow because from the moment the minister in Hamburg had ruled it (E.coli outbreak) was not caused by Spanish cucumbers it should have reacted more decisively and faster."

The bacteria outbreak has killed 17 people, most in Germany, over the past week. The crisis paralysed Spanish exports of fruit and vegetables.

Zapatero told Spanish National Radio that the German federal government was ultimately responsible for the allegations, adding that Spain would seek "conclusive explanations and sufficient reparations."

Spanish farmers say the wrongful accusations have devastated their credibility and thus their exports to the rest of Europe. In Valencia, protesting farmers dumped some 300 kilograms (700 pounds) of cabbage, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and other produce outside the German consulate.

Meanwhile the World Health Organisation has said the E. coli bacteria is a new strain that has never been seen before.

Preliminary genetic sequencing suggests the strain is a mutant form of two different E. coli bacteria, with lethal genes that could explain why the Europe-wide outbreak appears to be so massive and dangerous, the agency said.

So far, the mutant E. coli strain has sickened more than 1,500 others, including 470 who have developed a rare kidney failure complication. Reasearchers have been unable to pinpoint the cause the outbreak, which has hit at least nine European countries.

Russia extends ban

Fearful of the outbreak spreading into Russia, the country extended its ban on vegetable imports to all of the EU. Russia had banned fresh imports from Spain and Germany on Monday.

The outbreak is already considered the third-largest involving E. coli in recent world history, and it may be the deadliest. Twelve people died in a 1996 Japanese outbreak that reportedly sickened more than 12,000, and seven died in a 2000 Canadian outbreak.— AP







It can hardly be any comfort for a government battling corruption charges — although it must be said that fingers have not been pointed at Prime Minister Manmohan Singh — to be pressured by Opposition parties to eject yet another Cabinet minister for suspected malfeasance. Not long ago communications minister A. Raja was eventually compelled to resign when allegations of corruption against him over 2G spectrum allocations no longer appeared just academic.

Even as Mr Raja languishes in judicial custody, the conduct of his DMK colleague, Union textiles minister Dayanidhi Maran, has come under scrutiny for the period (2004-07) when he was communications minister in the UPA-1 government. While Mr Maran has denied the charges, alas flat denials no longer convince a public which has become deeply sceptical of the political class on probity issues over the years. The allegation is that Mr Maran favoured the Malaysia-based Maxis Group by awarding cheaply 14 USAL licences for Aircel, the Indian entity Maxis was encouraged to taken over, in return for Maxis investing `600 crores in Sun TV, which is owned by the Maran family.

The Opposition's demand for Mr Maran's resignation is on expected lines. A government in which two Cabinet ministers (Mr Raja being the first) are obliged to vacate office on corruption charges is bound to be emasculated in political and electoral terms. Only a thorough investigation can reveal the position in the context of accusations against the second DMK minister who has been brought into the ambit of suspicion. It is, therefore, too early to expect the Prime Minister to ask his textiles minister to go. However, Dr Singh needs to opt for a pro-active approach in getting his role as communications minister earlier investigated. The method of slow correspondence back and forth between different wings of the government — and tardy conduct from the PM's office — that we saw in the Raja case simply won't do this time. Such an approach had brought the PMO little credit in the Raja case.

The Congress Party gives the impression of shrugging off the matter as though it has nothing to do with the affair. This ostrich-like, hands-off approach is certain to rebound, for the party leads the government in which the DMK is a coalition partner. Relations between the Congress and the DMK have been somewhat strained after the arrest of Mr Raja and DMK supremo M. Karunanidhi's daughter Kanimozhi, a Rajya Sabha MP. Even so, the Congress might have little choice but to have a candid conversation with the DMK leadership in the matter concerning Mr Maran. Indeed, it should cause no surprise if DMK factions opposed to Mr Maran actually welcome investigation of the textiles minister's affairs, although for obvious reasons they cannot say so publicly.

A retired judge has already been asked to take a broad-sweep look into the working of the department of telecommunications since 2001 as this is the period in which policies were framed and executed to allocate spectrum, a scarce resource. This committee's findings, with specific reference to Mr Maran's tenure, can also be made available to the joint parliamentary committee looking into the 2G scam overall. More pointedly, the CBI should also be tasked to probe Mr Maran's role in that ministry. This is already a subject of a public interest litigation. The government would do well to get on with it before the Supreme Court directs it to do so, and the media builds more pressure. The rules of business governing the functioning of the Union Cabinet in relation to the Prime Minister's Office are also clearly in need of revision. In the light of the Raja affair, the Maran case, the sorry episode of the CVC's appointment, and the near-miss involving the Antrix Corporation which comes under the PM's direct charge, the PMO has been consistently wrong-footed. Dr Singh badly needs to assert himself.





For the past few months — even before the Abbottabad operation, the Mehran attack and the testimony of David Coleman Headley in a Chicago court — there has been mounting international concern over the state of Pakistan. The tendency of the Pakistan establishment to "look both ways" on terrorism was always a perennial source of worry.

Former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officer Bruce Reidel's recently-published Deadly Embrace contains a succinct account of the two-timing proclivities of the Pakistan military, particularly the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), as seen through the eyes of US intelligence. But whereas in earlier years Islamabad's duplicity in Afghanistan was sought to be explained and even wished away by its obsessive paranoia over India, today's most worries centre on the growing clout of militant Islamism in Pakistan and the growth of its nuclear arsenal. It is not merely the future of Afghanistan that is agitating the West (and, for that matter, India); a greater anxiety is over the future direction of Pakistan.
The extent to which jihadi anarchy, hitherto confined to the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and patches of Baluchistan adjoining Afghanistan, overwhelms the rest of the country and begins to affect the Pakistani state is prone to overstatement. In his eminently readable book Pakistan: A Hard Country, British academic Anatol Lieven has emphasised that Pakistan isn't likely to become a Talibanised Afghanistan in a hurry. His argument that the kinship and patronage networks, while breeding inefficiency and corruption, are also a conservative bulwark against radical Islamism is compelling.
Lieven also reassures the West that the Pakistan Army remains a modernist bulwark against the jihadi. In his view, if the Army has been less than effective in taking on the Pakistani Taliban, it is because the whole issue has got entangled with the wave of visceral anti-Americanism in Pakistan. This will dissipate once the US puts an end to the drone attacks and departs from Afghanistan. Pakistan, Lieven argues, won't necessarily be an oasis of stability but it won't be a rogue state either. Once it recovers its strategic depth in Afghanistan and bids farewell to the Nato troops, it can get back to what it loves best — needling India. And that shouldn't concern the West. On the face of it, Riedel and Lieven represent the two polarities in the West's concerns over Pakistan — one has underlined the real dangers of an Islamist Pakistan-Afghanistan and the other has rubbished that likelihood. But the two assessments converge on one point: India's obligation in stabilising Pakistan.
In defining the present state of India-Pakistan bilateral relations, the buzzword is "engagement". From strategists in the West to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, everyone seems to agree that it is India's responsibility to be constantly engaged with Pakistan. As opposed to the year or so after the 26/11 attacks when India insisted that Pakistan demonstrate its commitment to dismantling the infrastructure of terror directed against India — in plain language it meant cracking down hard on the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT) and groups such as the Jaish-e-Mohammed — the months since the Saarc (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) summit in Thimphu have seen New Delhi stressing the importance of uninterrupted engagement. Even when Dr Singh articulated his conviction that "Pakistan's leadership must now wake up to the reality and recognise that the terror machine they have, or at least some elements in the country patronise, is not working to anybody's advantage", it was accompanied by the assertion "that we must use every possible opportunity to talk to Pakistan".
India's willingness to not rise to provocations and keep the dialogue with Pakistan going has won it a lot of brownie points in the West. If nothing, India's attitude of sweet reasonableness has undercut the Pakistani plea that it cannot focus on anti-terrorist operations along the Afghan border because its forces are preoccupied on the eastern border. The rhetoric of the Pakistan military has, in fact, shifted in recent months. Instead of highlighting the danger from India, Pakistan's security establishment is now stressing the difficulties of swimming against the torrent of anti-Americanism.
Pakistan's unending footsie with the Afghan Taliban and the ISI-endorsed LeT is unlikely to change as long as these are perceived to be in that country's national interests. India can continue with meaningless talks in the fond hope that a spirit of accommodation will tilt the balance of power inside Pakistan in favour of the civilian government, vis-a-vis the military. That is like believing that the billions of dollars of US aid will regenerate Pakistan.
Western thinking on the subject is surprisingly candid. India's engagement with Pakistan must be with an eye on accommodating some of Pakistan's concerns on Kashmir. Riedel suggests that by mid-2007 backchannel diplomacy had led to both sides arriving at a working compromise on all outstanding disputes, including Kashmir. These could not be unveiled and brought to the negotiating table because the environment in both countries argued against it.
The idea of the Line of Control as the international boundary, complemented by a "soft" border that allowed lots of people-to-people contact and trade is appealing. Such a "solution" will find favour in India. Unfortunately, it is unlikely that the Pakistan Army will agree to abjure the "unfinished agenda of Partition" — an agenda intermingled with the determination to avenge the humiliation of Dhaka, 1971. Nor will the "betrayal" of the Kashmir Valley be acceptable to the Islamists who are increasingly setting the agenda in Pakistan. If bilateral "engagement" is aimed at formalising the backchannel consensus, both countries may have to wait a generation or two.
For the moment, India's ability to assist in Pakistan's return to normalcy is almost zero. New Delhi can continue to talk without illusions, always mindful that no commitment by Islamabad is ever its last word on the subject.
India can "engage" with Pakistan till the cows come home but realism suggests that a policy of benign neglect that blends vigilance with political procrastination won't be misplaced. Till Pakistan comes to terms with itself, it is best for India to stick to trade and civil society exchanges.

Swapan Dasgupta is a senior journalist





There is something knee jerk about the debates around any major event in India. If the country loses in cricket, obituaries litter the way. The same goes for elections. When the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) lost in West Bengal, post-mortems were a dime a dozen. This prompted protests from leading scholars and activists, claiming the Left was alive and well.

These were eloquently written documents and you hesitate to criticise them because many who have signed it are people you greatly admire. The struggles they invoke virtually constitute the conscience of a generation.
Let us be clear about one thing. The Left is not the party and many in the Left would be embarrassed by the ossified statements of Marxist apparatchik like Brinda Karat or Prabhat Patnaik. Basically, the intellectuals who justify the CPI(M) have become second-rate commissars indifferent to change and the cry for change. West Bengal was tired of the CPI(M), tired of the party that had criminalised itself and was virtually strangling a society. Between its stalinism and gangsterism, the CPI(M) had to go. Its post-election excuses are close to comic. But the Left is a bigger process and goes beyond the idiocy of current party life.
There is, sadly, something about the Left that is defensive. In an ironic way, just as the best use of Mahatma Gandhi came from the social movements and not from Gandhian custodians, the most creative use of socialism and Marxism came from the non-party movements. The Narmada movement against the dam was a creative use of Marx and Gandhi.

The creativity of the Left came more from dissenting imaginations than the ideologues. Wherever the Left had found a hearing aid and listened to the voice of human rights groups, peaceniks, feminists and ecologists, the Left has been innovative. Wherever it saw itself as part of a pluralistic force, the Left has survived. As a rubric for struggles of justice, the Left has been profound. Yet this pluralism was by osmosis. The Left had no innovative theory of pluralism. For years, its ideological gravitas made it oscillate between technocratic expertise and a pompous positivism where it saw itself as the sole trustee of truth. For too long, a great part of the Left moved as committee rather than community. It never outgrew the arrogance of ideology. I remember many times in Delhi, where leading professors would smile smugly pretending they were part of a presidium of truth. The Left's suppression of dissent in the academe needs some reflection.
What do I mean by a theory of pluralism? It requires confidence to realise that the Left as a perspective, while insightful is incomplete. It needs the generosity especially of Marxists to realise what socialism has added to its imagination. Socialists were far more courageous in resisting the emergency than the Marxists were.
The Left was slow in recognising the truth of the margins as it was too committed to the idea of planned development and the officialdom of trade union and party. The Left survived when it joined this wider pluralism of forces, many of whom spoke in dialects, the Left had to learn. For example, when class did not-quite make sense against caste, the Left had to learn to be open to the work of sociologists, many of whom spoke a more liberal idiom. The Left's contempt for sociology and anthropology in the Sixties and the Seventies was a crass example of its illiteracy and ideological stuffiness.
What makes the Left ideologically stuffy and often politically correct is its understanding of science which was still stuck in the Bernal era. As a result, a great part of the Left had no creative understanding of science or of the way science hegemonised other knowledges. Science, instead of deconstructing ideology, has constructed itself as one. Because of its umbilical chord to almost positivist-statist science, the Left became an extension counter to the Congress regime. Its participation in the scientific temper debate showed it did not even understand great Marxist scholars like Joseph Needham who claimed that Marxism had to be translated from German to English idioms and dialects.
The innovation of the Left in recent times has been from an imagination to understanding imaginaries, worlds not yet born, horizons as yet inarticulate. But to consolidate this without dogmatising it, the Left needs more civic epistemologies. All too often it parades itself as a form of correctness when it could be more playful, allowing itself to see not just the absurd in the other but in itself as well. While its missionary puritanism will take it far, a touch of the comic, an ability to laugh at the pomposities of the past might make it more liveable.
What are the challenges before us, as a collectivity, which is quarrelsome in its approach? I think the goal before us is the democratisation of democracy. The old notion of democracy built on citizenship, rights, electoralism and the nation state while still relevant need newer imaginaries. Citizenship needs a different idea of being as it confronts marginal groups being ignored in most development programmes.
The Left needs a more creative understanding of the informal economy, a sense of both fortunes and misfortunes at the bottom of the pyramid. Second, it needs a theory of obsolescence, not just technologically but to understand how people are being treated as waste. It has to deconstruct its idea of progressivism. Its notion of security needs to be kneaded into a theory of peace which includes a critique of its own proclivity for violence. The guerrilla and the satyagrahi have to combine in more surprising ways.
Democracy has ironic ways of becoming populist or authoritarian and the Left, by confronting its own ironies, must be ready to combat such a development. By creating a more liberal sense of its past, it might be ready to construct futures which go beyond the denial of its obituaries.

Shiv Visvanathan is a social scientist









Talks between the delegations of India and Pakistan on Siachin Glacier have ended without any result. According to press reports, talks may not have failed but at the same time nothing concrete has emerged. Because the two sides have agreed to continue the talks in future, they do not label it a failure. Siachin Glacier has the reputation of being the highest battlefield in the world perched above 18000 to 20000 feet sea level. The temperature of this Himalayan monstrous glacial region goes to -50 degrees in winter. The talks, undertaken since long, are essentially focused on the demilitarization of 64-km long Siachen mountain glacier. Expectedly Pakistan has not accepted modalities proposed by India for the demilitarization. These modalities had been dished out by the Indian team headed by the Defence secretary, Pradeep Kumar, during the two-day talks with his counterpart, Lt. Gen. (Retd) Syed Athar Ali.
What actually resulted in the delay of framing an agreement was Pakistan side's insistence on getting Beijing included in the parleys because its contention is that China, too, has been occupying part of the glacier's Saksham valley. This is for the first time that Pakistan has demanded inclusion of China in these talks. India opposed it on the plea that the entire Siachen glacier belt including the Saksham valley had been the part of undivided Jammu and Kashmir State. It is to be noted that recently, Pakistan has adopted a more mysterious role in the Gilgit-Baltistan region which is not far away from the Siachin Glacier battlefield. She has allowed China to deploy nearly 17,000 Chinese troops in Gilgit-Baltistan region under the pretext of skilled workers working at the infrastructure that China is building in the Himalayan region. So far the contentious point was the return of the sides to pre-conflict date. Indication of Chinese element has made negotiations more complicated and less transparent. Hence if India and Pakistan failed to agree on the modalities for demilitarization of Siachen, they decided to continue talks to arrive at a solution to one of the major vexed issues. With both sides being in principle agreement over demilitarization of the once world's highest battlefield, India is insisting that Pakistan should authenticate present troop position of the two sides.
Siachen, the world's highest militarized zone, has been a long-pending issue between India and Pakistan because of differences on the location of the 110-km long Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL) that passes through the Soltoro Ridge and Siachen glacier.
Till early 1984 the entire mountain belt had remained unmanned but after the Pakistani troops started occupying the heights, the Indian troops were rushed to push the intruders back. This resulted in the first ever fierce gun battle between the two sides. Though since 2003 there has been no major ceasefire violation New Delhi is keen to get the mountain belt demilitarized so that the heavy expenses incurred on maintaining the troops were avoided. No doubt the Indian troops are placed on an advantageous position as compared to the Pakistani forces on the mountain glacier because our soldiers have been deployed on heights ranging between 18000 feet and 20,000 feet but the cost of maintaining the Indian forces is much higher than the one entailed by the Pakistan troops. In addition to this the chances for the Indian troops suffering from frostbite and other physical ailments were higher than the other side. Official reports say that more Indian soldiers had died not in exchange of fire but owing to weather related problems. Hence India has been keen to get the area demilitarized but it seems that Pakistan wants to continue with its policy of bleeding India.
Experts are of the opinion that the Siachen dispute was not as complicated as that of the Kashmir issue and hence if Islamabad adopted flexible and genuine approach the problem can be sorted out within a day or two. It is hoped that the Siachen dispute is resolved during the next meeting the two sides plan to have.







It yet another tactical move, Washington has placed Pakistan in a new predicament. It has given her a deadline till July to launch a military offensive in the restive North Waziristan tribal region for capturing five most wanted Al-Qaida and Taliban terrorists namely al-Zawahiri, Mullah Omar, Ilyas Kashmiri, Sirajuddin Haqqani and Atia Abdur Rehman either in a unilateral or joint military action within the deadline till July, the month when NATO and allied forces will begin withdrawing from neighbouring Afghanistan. The US demand has set alarm bells ringing in Pakistani civil and military circles. Pakistan's security forces had so far shown reluctance in launching a military offensive in North Waziristan despite sustained pressure from the US to do so. The Haqqani militant network, based in North Waziristan, "had not been any threat to Pakistan" and has served as "a vital contact between the Pakistani intelligence agencies and the Afghan Taliban," the reporter of The News of Pakistan said. Another factor for the Pakistani military's reluctance to move into North Waziristan is the presence of "some very important pro-government" militant factions, including those led by Mullah Nazir and Hafiz Gul Bahadar. These groups have "helped the Pakistani security forces keep the anti-government tribal fighters, including the Wazirs, at bay", the report added. In the past few years, slain Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan chief Baitullah Mehsud and his successor Hakimullah Mehsud had launched a war against the Pakistani security forces with the help of the Mehsud tribe, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and some other sectarian groups. The deadline and increased pressure on Pakistan for a military operation in North Waziristan before starting the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan will serve several purposes. It is also an indirect warning that if these wanted persons are not captured, withdrawal of the US forces within stipulated time may not become a reality, and the US might have its own plans of tackling with the situation. With this demand, Pakistan is left with no option to wriggle out of a calamitous situation already peaked by the bizarre commando action against Osama bin Laden.









Never having had the pleasure of meeting Baba Ramdev in person I watched with deep interest the interview that Shekhar Gupta did with him on NDTV last week. And, I found myself gasping at the absurd claims he made about the Indian economy. He said that in his estimation the amount of black money generated by our desperately poor country was more than Rs 400 lakh crores. When Shekhar pointed out that this was more than India's GDP the Baba remained undeterred and went on to make even more illogical claims. He said that he was convinced that if the black money in secret bank accounts in foreign countries was brought back to India we would be so rich a country that one Indian rupee would be worth $50.
Baba Ramdev's claims are so fantastical as to be easily disproved by even lowly clerks in the Prime Minister's office. But, for reasons that are incomprehensible instead of the Government of India countering the ascetic's silly charges with real statistics the Prime Minister started behaving as if what he said was true. He pleaded with our most high-flying ascetic to call off his fast and assured him that his government was doing everything in its power to bring black money into the open. When Baba Ramdev refused to relent the Prime Minister sent a small platoon of his most senior ministers to receive him at Delhi airport last Tuesday. Their purpose was to dissuade him from going ahead with his plan to 'fast unto death' until black money in foreign bank accounts was brought back to India.
It is worth pointing out here that in some kind of concession to the Baba's demands the Income Tax department has announced plans to set up a new division to deal with black money. You realize how bizarre this is when you keep in mind that every raid conducted by the Income Tax department is for the specific purpose of finding black money. And, by the way I consider it my duty to mention here that the most corrupt officials I have met in long years of covering politics and governance in India have been the inspectors that the Income Tax department sends in its raiding parties. They are nearly all for sale and many have made huge fortunes out of raiding rich businessmen in Mumbai.
Now let us talk about Baba Ramdev's demand that the Prime Minister bring back to India the money that allegedly corrupt politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen have hidden away in secret bank accounts in foreign countries. How can this be done? Does Baba Ramdev have a list of Indians with secret Swiss accounts? Does he have proof that they are corrupt? Because unless he does there is no possibility of persuading the Swiss government to start revealing secret accounts. Banking is one of the most important pillars of the Swiss economy and it is hard to think of a Swiss government that could remain in power if it allowed this pillar to collapse. Incidentally, it is not Indian money that constitutes the bulk of these secret accounts but mostly European, Arab, American and Latin American money. But, the lie that the Swiss banking system is fuelled by Indian money has been spread by BJP politicians ever since L.K. Advani in one of his sillier moments started demanding that the government act to bring back black money stashed in Swiss bank accounts.
The BJP is now backing Baba Ramdev to the hilt. Its president, Shri Nitin Gadkari, has come out in open support without realizing that he is entering dangerous territory here. With a handful of exceptions BJP chief ministers all become suddenly, inexplicably very rich within months of coming to power. Having visited the homes of senior BJP politicians on more than one occasion I can report truthfully that I have often been bedazzled at the wealth I have seen. Humble men from supposedly humble backgrounds have only to spend a few years in politics and suddenly they are able to afford the finest Italian marble for their floors, chandeliers that clearly come from abroad and automobiles that were definitely not made here. On one occasion I happened to run into the son-in-law of a famous BJP politician in London. He was on holiday with his family and they were living in two suites in a five-star hotel that would have cost them more than $1000 a night.
If Baba Ramdev enters politics with his own political party, as he once hinted he might, he will quickly find that the fuel that oils the electoral machinery in India is all black money. Why does he not demand that political parties clean up their fund collection? In any case, it is not a happy situation and there is every reason why we should ensure that black money is pumped back into the mainstream economy but this is not going to happen through hunger strikes in Ram Lila maidan. Speaking of which, the Mint newspaper last week had an account of the infrastructure that will support Baba Ramdev's hunger strike. There will be an intensive care unit with 60 doctors, a media centre, large TV monitors everywhere, 1300 toilets and 20 water tank to store 100,000 litres of water. Shamianas will spread over 250,000 square feet to protect the Baba's supporters from Delhi's intense summer heat. Wow! It sort of makes Anna Hazare's hunger strike seem humble by comparison and could this be deliberate? In his interview to Shekhar the ascetic boasted about how all the people who supported Anna in his fast were actually his supporters. So did Baba Ramdev feel he was outshone by Anna and that it was time he made it clear that the real leader of the movement against corruption in Indian public life was the great yoga teacher himself?
How unfortunate that the Government of India should be so lacking in confidence that it is being browbeaten by anyone who chooses to make a show of strength on behalf of 'civil society.' How unfortunate that nobody seems able to point out that every person who gets elected to Parliament in a democracy is a representative of civil society. Those who are leading this very dubious movement against corruption are those who have appointed themselves representatives of civil society without bothering to get elected. And, they have managed to convince a lot of apolitical, urban middle class people that they are the guardians of Indian morality. They are not.








The extent and the severity of the malaise of corruption having virtually entered the gene of every sphere of our society, the heat of which is felt by every Indian citizen , the ire and the indignation of which was witnessed last month during social activist Anna Hazare's launching of the movement for having a Jan Lokpal bill (ombudsman) as a deterrent to the menace of corruption, is on the verge of plunging into a stalemate.
Not going into the details of the alleged irregularities on the basis of moral propriety of Bhushans to remain in or forming part of the draft committee , many saw the allegations as a ploy to derail the process of moving forward to moot out the modalities, with mutual consent of the members of both the sides, for finalization of the draft bill, slated ultimately to come up in the form of a formidable law. Nevertheless, in each meeting of the draft committee, unanimity on drafting was found to be far from satisfactory but both sides, knowing the sensitivities attached, avoided a collusive and a confrontationist attitude until in the meeting of May 30, 2011, the situation came to a boil and the probability in the near future of the talks to break down and the non government members walking out from the stage, is not ruled out. Further discussions and subsequent drafting procedures are likely to get stalled as the civil society members feel that they have been pinned down due to the rigid stand of the government. The proposed Lokpal bill by the government earlier was considered as a joke, if not a ruse.
The government's stand that the office of the Prime Minister should be kept out of the ambit of the Lokpal for fear of getting dysfunctional, had no takers from the civil society members as the only agency which could probe any alleged irregularities committed by the Prime Minister was the CBI which again could never be expected to be impartial and effective, being under the control of the office of the Prime Minister itself. One of the civil society members Kajriwal said, "Today (May 30, 2011) we have an honest Prime Minister but if we happen to have a dishonest Prime Minister tomorrow, should his wrong doings be out of the Lokpal, are we willing to make that compromise?" The opposition of the government to the members of the civil society to include the Prime Minister or his office under the Lokpal bill has surprisingly found support and endorsement from the Yog Guru Ram Dev, who is all set to sit in on hunger strike against the menace of corruption from June4, 2011. His contention that the edifice of our democratic structure was going to be affected as the supreme Executive of the land, the Prime Minister, in whose hands is the destiny of 120 crore Indians, should not be subjected to the process of inquiries and proceedings by the Lokpal .The government side, however, was seeking the views of various political parties and the state governments in this respect so as to narrow down the areas of disagreement amongst the members on the draft committee. Ram Dev also threw his weight behind the decision of the government not to include the Chief Justice of India and other members of the highest judiciary under the ambit of the Lokpal.
The areas of disagreement also were in respect of not bringing the conduct of the members of Parliament under the purview of the Lokpal. The constitutional provisions under section 105 provide immunity to the members of the Parliament for their constitutional activities like voting, debating, discussing etc; inside the twin houses of Parliament and their actions outside the Parliament could be considered for being brought under the umbrella of the Lokpal bill . It may be recalled that in the JMM case, it was held that the bribe giver to an MP could be considered for legal action but not the MP as he or she enjoyed special privileges. The charges of corruption leveled against the MPs, as per the government version, could be tackled by the existing laws of the land. To buttress this view, the legal action against A. Raja and Suresh Kalmadi , the governmental side appears to be holding a stronger side but it is the hard work, the quantum of time, the voices raised, the expansive media coverage and follow up, PILs and judicial intervention which mortified the government to proceed against the delinquent persons who otherwise happened to be the members of the Parliament.
Referring to the members of the judiciary, many a finger has been raised against some alleged instances of corruption having seeped in our judiciary and keeping judiciary out of the ambit of the Lokpal was questioned by the civil society members and the extent of disagreement led them to say that , "today's meeting was quite disastrous." They further said, "Definitely the government's actions are suspect, please be prepared for a massive huge movement in the country, we should be ready to take to streets." Judiciary , the third pillar of our democracy and saviors of the rights of the citizens , should have a self regulatory mechanism and an institution like a high powered Judicial Commission, statutorily set up with learned senior judicial officers as its members which could be bestowed with vast powers of tackling instances of misconduct, if any, committed by any of the members of the judiciary so that the most important twin facets of the judiciary - impeccable honesty and unquestionable integrity get more deep rooted . Civil society members have to accommodate the views in this respect of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and keep in mind that independence of the judiciary is paramount which also means literally no apparent executive control in its functioning. By any account, we cannot equate higher judiciary with the politicians and the bureaucrats.
It, therefore, implies that the requisite legislations have to be brought in respect of getting members of the Parliament into the ambit of the Lokpal for their actions both in and outside the Parliament and for setting up a high powered Judicial Commission to look exclusively into the matters pertaining to judiciary and the judicial functionaries.
Constitutional machineries need not be shaken but necessary amendments for empowerment of Lokpal have surely to be brought in. The resilience and the strength of our constitution can accommodate the need for amendments wherever necessary for the benefit of the citizens of the country.
The fears of the civil society members need to be alleviated that the government was "hostile " and "showing negative attitude " and that "the government disagreed on every thing." Let views- counter views , discussions, consultations and narrowing of disagreements result in an acceptable and workable consensus on the issues resulting in a comprehensive Lokpal bill being ready by the stipulated date of June 30, 2011 so that the government could save itself from getting the blame of aborting the move for establishment of an effective Lokpal to fight corruption .







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.







Pakistan's prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani went to China on a four-day visit last week to celebrate the year-long observance of the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries. Of course, there is much to celebrate in a bilateral relationship that has been described as "higher than mountains and deeper than oceans".
But at a time when Pakistan is under intense scrutiny for its role in fighting extremism and terrorism, the world would be watching with interest how China decides to deal with Pakistan. There are voices in the US asking the Obama administration to partner with China to restore stability to Pakistan. There are also many in India who have suggested that China shares a range of objectives with not only the US but also with India that include a prosperous, sustainable, and secure Pakistan that does not remain a base for al-Qaeda and its affiliates.
Yet recent Chinese actions provide little hope that any change in Chinese policy vis-à-vis Pakistan might be in the offing. China was perhaps the only major power that openly voiced its support for Pakistan after the Osama fiasco. Hailing the killing of Osama as a "major event and a positive development in the international struggle against terrorism," China's ministry of foreign affairs (MoFA) spokeswoman Jiang Yu did not fail to notice that "Pakistan stands at the forefront of the international struggle against terrorism…Pakistan has made important contributions to the international struggle against terror."
During the latest visit, Chinese premier Wen Jiabao assured the visiting prime minister of Pakistan, of China's support. Wen affirmed that "Pakistan has made huge sacrifices and an important contribution to the international fight against terrorism, that its independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity must be respected..." Wen went on to state that China would like to be an 'all-weather strategic partner' and will do its best to help the Pakistani government and people get through their difficulties. To underscore its commitment, China has agreed to immediately provide Pakistan 50 new JF-17 Thunder multi-role jets under a co-production agreement even as negotiations continue for more fighter aircrafts including those with stealth technology.
Pakistan and China have enjoyed a unique relationship for a long time now. Maintaining close ties with China has been a priority for Islamabad, and Beijing has provided extensive economic, military, and technical assistance to Pakistan over the years. It was Pakistan that in early 1970s enabled China to cultivate its ties with the West and the US in particular, for Pakistan was the conduit for Henry Kissinger's landmark secret visit to China in 1971 and was instrumental in bringing China closer to the larger Muslim world.
Pakistan enjoys a multifaceted and deep-rooted relationship with China underpinned by mutual trust and confidence. Pakistan has also supported China on all issues of importance to the latter, especially those related to the question of China's sovereignty over Taiwan, Xinjiang, and Tibet, and other sensitive issues such as human rights. China has reciprocated by supporting Pakistan's stance on Kashmir.
Over the years China has emerged as Pakistan's largest defence supplier. Military cooperation between the two countries has deepened with joint projects to produce armaments ranging from fighter jets to guided missile frigates. China is a steady source of military hardware to the resource-deficient Pakistani army. China has played a major role in the development of Pakistan's nuclear infrastructure and has emerged as Pakistan's benefactor at a time when increasingly stringent export controls in western countries made it difficult for Pakistan to acquire materials and technology from other sources.
The Pakistani nuclear weapons programme is essentially an extension of the Chinese one. Although China has long denied helping any nation attain nuclear capability, the father of Pakistan's nuclear weapons programme, Abdul Qadeer Khan, has acknowledged the crucial role China has played by giving Pakistan 50 kg of weapons-grade enriched uranium, providing detailed plans of nuclear weapons, and tonnes of uranium hexafluoride for Pakistan's centrifuges. This is perhaps the only case where a nuclear weapon state has passed on weapons-grade fissile material as well as a bomb design to a non-nuclear weapon state.
With India ascending in the global hierarchy and the US continuing to build a strong partnership with India, China's need for Pakistan is likely to grow. This has been evident in Chinese polices towards Pakistan on critical issues in South Asia. A rising India makes Pakistan all the more important in China's strategy for the subcontinent. It is highly unlikely that China will give up playing the Pakistan card vis-à-vis India anytime soon. The China-Pakistan partnership serves the interests of both partners by presenting India with a potential two-front theatre in the event of war with either country. Each is using the other to counterbalance India, as India's disputes with Pakistan keep India occupied and thus prevent it from attaining its potential as a major regional and global player.
It is therefore highly unlikely that China will be a credible partner for the US in stabilising Pakistan as is being argued by some in Washington. The focus on India will continue to cement an already solid Sino-Pak partnership in the coming years forcing to India to take remedial action against this "two-front" challenge. (INAV)










Rising commodity prices and interest rates are slowing growth in the emerging economies, including India, South Korea and China. Despite the slowdown, the region remains the fastest growing in the world as the US growth prospects turn gloomy and Europe struggles to cope with sovereign debt problems. In this backdrop India's consumption and export-led growth is moderating but not yet to levels that should cause alarm. This is because of the economy's inherent resilience. There is policy paralysis at the Centre. Frequent scams and scandals have punctured investor confidence. Reforms are on hold. Farmers' protests and faulty land acquisition policies have smothered the growth of special economic zones, which were meant to shore up industrial growth.


For the first time since the end of 2009 India's GDP growth slipped below 8 per cent in the last quarter of 2010-11. It once again proves how overly optimistic government and RBI growth projections often are. Even the FICCI figure of 8 per cent growth for this fiscal may be unachievable. The performance of mining and manufacturing has suffered as fresh investment is not forthcoming. This is because interest rates are rising and corporate houses are putting off fresh investment. Foreign investment has reduced to a trickle. FIIs are slowly getting out of the stock markets. The RBI continues to tighten monetary policy to contain unacceptably high inflation — 8.66 per cent in April.


The future looks uncertain. Much will depend on the monsoon. Agriculture registered a respectable growth last year. If the official forecast of normal rains comes true this year too and farm growth remains intact, food prices may not flare up. However, the same cannot be said about pulses and oilseeds, which are imported, and oil, which shot up after popular uprisings erupted against the establishments in the Arab World. If peace returns to West Asia and oil cools, things would get easy for India, China and others. Otherwise, oil would blow up efforts to control inflation.









This is for the first time that the US has told Pakistan publicly that Islamabad must capture by July-end five top terrorists hiding in its tribal areas. The American approach appears to be an appropriate one as experience shows that the authorities in Pakistan take the trouble of producing the desired result only when intense pressure is brought to bear on them. Any other country would have acted on its own to arrest Mullah Omar, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Ilyas Kashmiri, Sirajuddin Haqqani and Atiya Rahman soon after getting information that these dangerous terrorists were hiding in its territory. The Pakistan government has allowed these terrorists, who are on the US wanted list, to take shelter in its tribal areas clearly because it is not serious about eliminating the scourge of terrorism. There is enough evidence to prove that Pakistan is yet to abandon its policy of using terrorism for achieving its geopolitical objectives.

North Waziristan, where the five top terrorist masterminds are believed to be well entrenched, is not an impregnable area if the Pakistan military desires to penetrate it. After all, it launched an operation in the Swat valley and the surrounding tribal areas some time ago and destroyed the bases of the Tehrik-Taliban Pakistan. That was done after tremendous pressure from the US. Islamabad could have initiated a similar military drive in North Waziristan too on its own to clear the area of all kinds of terrorists hiding there. But it has been keeping quiet after the Swat operation. There is a great difference between what Pakistan claims and does on the issue of fighting terrorism.


Now the question arises: Is the US ready with a direct action programme in case Pakistan fails to deliver by July-end? Will Washington DC go ahead with an Abbottabad-type operation and catch hold of the five terrorists dead or alive? If the US shows leniency on any pretext, it will be dealing a grievous blow to the cause of fighting global terrorism.











According to the Indian Red Cross Society Act 1920, amended in 1992 by Parliament, the funds of the society have to be utilised for the relief of the sick or suffering and distress caused by the operations of war in India or any other country. By no stretch of imagination can expenditure on celebrating "important days", buying computers and airconditioners for the offices of Deputy Commissioners and their juniors and refreshments and other expenses for the family of a Judge can come under this category of relief. But that is how the Karnal District Red Cross Society spent Red Cross money from 2005 onwards. It was not alone in doing so. The audit of 12 district Red Cross societies of Haryana reveals that funds amounting to Rs 2.86 crore were frittered away on items such as maintenance of government office buildings, purchase of gifts, furniture, mobile phones, telephone bills, purchase and repair of vehicles for the Deputy Commissioners and Subdivisional Officers.


What is shocking is that the open loot continued in spite of the objections raised by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) and directions from the Haryana Government to Deputy Commissioners to reimburse the Red Cross funds. Ironically, some of the district societies did not even reply to the questions of the auditors. Things were no better in Punjab. An inquiry committee comprising two former High Court judges last year held that there were "patent cases" of misappropriation, misutilisation and misdirection of funds and recommended recovery of funds in certain cases. Yet, things have not changed much on the ground.


It is such blatant acts which exasperate the public and force some concerned citizens like Anna Hazare to demand a thorough overhaul of the system. Yet, instead of taking corrective measures, the government expends its energy on discrediting the protesters. Hazares and Ramdevs are not important. What is important is what they symbolize: the public disillusionment and frustration over the administrative machinery which is so rotten that all attempts to set it right have come to a nought. A beginning has to be made somewhere. Why not in the government's own backyard? 









Everyone living in or visiting India is aware of the huge income disparities which are more visible in the cities than in the villages. More than before, there is also a vulgar display of wealth by the Rich, and their houses and lifestyles are taken as a yardstick of their wealth. By contrast, in the sweltering heat, monsoon rains or intense cold, 93 million people are living in slums today, often without any regular power or water connections or a proper roof above their heads. Around 25 per cent of the population in any big city lives in slums, and in Greater Mumbai, more than half (54 per cent ) are slum-dwellers.


India is going to have more slums in the future if nothing is done about affordable housing for the poor right now. Around 590 million people or half of the population will be living in cities by 2030. There has to be a big investment in low cost housing for the urban poor from now itself in order to improve their living conditions in the future.


There have been two recent reports on the future of urban infrastructure in India — one by the McKinsey Global Institute (India's Urban Awakening: Building Inclusive Cities, Sustaining Economic Growth) and the other by an expert committee on urban infrastructure headed by Isher Judge Ahluwalia. Both have asked for the government to step up the per capita expenditure on urban infrastructure of the government.


According to the McKinsey report, currently the government is spending $7 per capita per year on urban infrastructure; it should be spending $134 per capita in the future and a total $1.2 trillion is required over the next 20 years. The expert committee has recommended an investment of Rs 39.2 lakh crore over 20 years. It seems a monumental task and whether the huge amounts will be properly spent, given the current level of corruption, is something worth pondering about. Yet the task is urgent.


Looking at the existing condition, there is little evidence of any planned thinking about the growth of urban slums except the JNNURM ( the National Urban Renewal Mission) appointed in December 2005. But apathy for the urban poor was amply displayed during the recent Commonwealth Games, when slums were arbitrarily and summarily moved from near the banks of the Yamuna to far off places in a beautification drive of the city. Transportation costs are escalating every year and the urban poor who now have to live on the city fringes will be poorer in terms of real spending power, especially with the high food inflation during the last two years.


Slums are growing because rural people are migrating to the cities in droves from everyday. In Delhi alone, thousands arrive daily looking for jobs. Though India is growing at 8.5 per cent, there is pervasive rural poverty in some states and few jobs are there except those under the MGNREGA which has, in fact, stemmed the migration flow slightly. Slum-dwellers neither have basic amenities like toilets in their houses nor regular access to clean drinking water. Around 128 million people do not have access to clean water all over India. As for health care, most of the urban poor have to go to private clinics as government dispensaries are hardly adequate, if at all available. Public hospitals can be a nightmare in case of emergency. One big illness can throw the slum-dwellers into extreme poverty and they can get indebted for life.


Many of the slum children do not go to school as there are few teachers and the classes are big (the average is 40, the highest in the world) and if the child is absent for a while, it is very difficult for him or her to rejoin because catching up is impossible. They naturally drop out because parents cannot help them with studies and they end up as helpers at home or as child labour. India has the highest number of child labour in the world and it is not surprising that 8 to 9 million children are out of school. You can see many on the roads of Delhi, begging, performing painful acrobatics or selling cheap tidbits.


There is going to be a huge problem of solid waste disposal and sewage also with an increase in urbanization, and the McKinsey report paints a grim picture of cities being dry, stinking hell-holes. Many urban rich today do not want to see the slums and are opting for gated communities with their own parks, schools, hospitals, malls, security, water and power supply. If the rich think they can wish away the poor in this manner, they won't be successful because the poor are not only aware of their lifestyles through the spread of visual media and mobile phones, but are also very envious and hateful (as Aravind Adiga's novel, "White Tiger", amply shows) of the rich which manifests itself in increasing crime, sporadic and organised violence against civil society.


The government, as a recent news report says, is going ahead with cheap housing in a big way, keeping in mind the huge shortfall in supply, and is also going to give preference to women in allotments. This is a laudatory move otherwise the male head of the household can sell, rent or mortgage it for cash for his own consumption purposes. Unless the millions living in the slums are given proper housing and amenities, the glaring rich-poor divide will increase. It is not going to be good for the country's image even as a tourist spot or as a foreign investment destination.


Another trend that is surfacing in India (though there are 69 dollar billionaires and 127000 dollar millionaires) is the lack of generosity and philanthropy of the rich. According to the Lagatum Institute's report, a small percentage of Indians (19 per cent) donate for charity.


The future of Indian cities will be good if planning starts now in all earnest. Every big city in the world has gone through the phases that Indian cities are currently experiencing but each managed to come out of that stage and eschewed stark human deprivation, though many still have ghettos. They have done so with good city governance and municipal bodies which are accountable to the public. They have been able to garner enough tax revenue for improving low cost housing and increasing the quantity and quality of social services for the poor. City management can be better if bureaucratic red tape is reduced and there is greater autonomy given to mayors, municipal councilors and other administrators. Only with better governed cities can there be less sharp inequalities.









THREE CHEERS for yet another fiasco! And a mouthful of jeers for a self-styled doomster! Lo, an ominous encounter with planetary extinction on May 21, as predicted by Harrold Camping, a religious radio preacher from California, too fizzled out, without tossing Mother Earth. He now acquires notoriety to roll into a select band of prophets of doom, who truly deserve to be christened as merchants of catastrophe!


Foretelling a looming celestial calamity, they issue unsolicited fatwa, with meticulous specifics, as if they could radar the upcoming events with utmost precision, making the world tremble in fear.


Though flourishing all over, India continues to be their most preferred harbour. Their weird predictions, which provide insatiable fodder to the media, generally go haywire. Like the deceptive weather forecast! Nevertheless, these omniscient fortune-tellers keep trapping new innocent victims, to make their own fortune.


During my visit to Mexico two months ago, my friend gifted me a memento on Maya calendar on my farewell. The calendar predicts 12th December, 2012, as the day when the entire civilisation would perish. Beware, mankind! We are now inching towards another portentous mayhem, nay, another fiasco, surely. Who wants to die, after all!


Interestingly, the Mayan calendar has become a harbinger of love also in my friend's house, though its real "maya" would unfold only when the D-day comes. Suresh admitted that his wife had become more loving ever since she was introduced to the Mexican calendar, deciding why to fritter away the little time left before the final sunset.


While the soothsayers, astrologers and tarot card readers tend to unpeel the hidden layers of fortune of others, they themselves are caught gasping for breath when ill-fortune confronts them.


It was indeed ironical to recall TS Eliot's "Waste Land", how Madame Sosostris, a prolific clairvoyant, presumed to commune with the dead and considered to be the wisest in Europe, was not even aware about her own bad cold.


Returning from school in Bawal one afternoon, I was tempted to join an indulgent crowd, where a parrot was picking cards of destiny. Suddenly, a wild cat crouched, dived and pounced, like a flash, on the parrot and killed it instantly, before vanishing with the prey. What were left were just colourful feathers, fluttering in the breeze, telling their own story.


The poor card-reader had no option but to refund the money he had collected. He was never seen again.


It was indeed amusing to meet a renowned fortune-teller, who frequently appears on the television, while I was in Prasanthi Nilayam for maha samadhi of Sathya Sai Baba in April. He said he comes there for guidance, ever since the Baba revealed about cancerous growth in his pancreas, some 20 years ago.


My mantra to all the gullible is to shun soothsayers and live in the present, to rejoice in what Robert Browning said in Pippa Passes: "God's in his heaven; all's right with the world"!









Undoubtedly, land acquisition is one of the most contentious issues in the political economy of India today. Farmers are ready to brave the bullet rather than part with their land. The support of farmers and agriculture workers galvanised against land acquisition is the main factor behind the Trinamool Congress' recent triumph over the 34-year-old Left regime in West Bengal. Indeed, the future of several state governments, including those of UP and Haryana, will depend on how they deal with this political hot potato.

As expected, political parties are busy blaming one another for the current state of affairs. In the process, however, they have reduced a set of substantive issues to that of a dispute over compensation only. Vying with each other, the governments of Haryana and UP have increased compensation rates. Nonetheless, land acquisition in both states continues to face stiff resistance. Why?

Several other questions also warrant a sincere discussion. Why is there a dramatic rise in the number of violent protests by farmers in the recent years? Is the inadequate compensation or something else also to be blamed for it? Why are farmers refusing to part with their land even when the profitability of agriculture is at an all-time low level?

Public purpose? Hardly

Traditionally, compulsory acquisition of land used to be for public purpose — for provisions of roads, railways, schools, dams, mega-plants, etc. Therefore, the intention behind acquisition was generally not questioned.

However, the last decade has experienced a phenomenal rise in the number of compulsory acquisitions for private companies. Many a time states have acquired agriculture land citing public purpose, but subsequently transferred it to private companies.

More recently, they have started using the emergency clause to acquire land for all sorts of activities of companies, including ones that even remotely cannot serve any public purpose. The states have been able to do all this by exploiting ambiguities in the archaic Land Acquisition Act, 1894.

The judicial apathy on a crucial issue has also facilitated a ruthless trampling of farmers' rights. Unlike its generous approach on the issue of compensation, the question whether acquisitions are in public interest or not has been left by the judiciary to the discretion of the states. Courts have annulled a few acquisitions but largely on procedural grounds; for the most part, they have not questioned the legitimacy of the acquisition per se.

In such a scenario private interest, rather than public purpose, has come to dictate the decision-making of state governments. This phenomenon has become especially pronounced during the Eleventh Five Year Plan. The plan has made special economic zones and other public-private partnerships the mainstay for making provisions of public goods. Purportedly, the partnerships are formed to tap private funds for infrastructure and public services like education, health, etc.

Long-term lease

On its part, the government concerned acquires land and transfers the control rights over it to the partner companies on the basis of a long-term and renewable lease. Invariably, excess land is acquired to be used by companies for real estate and other commercial purposes. Post-acquisition, companies make huge fortunes by leasing out the developed land. At times, they charge as much as 100-150 times the price they pay for the land, making the compensation received by farmers look pittance.

Several states and Central government departments have formed such "partnerships". Delhi airport, the Posco project in Orissa, the Yamuna and Ganga expressways development projects in UP are a few of the many examples. Yet, while making recommendations for the new land acquisition Bill, the influential National Advisory Council (NAC) has completely failed to take note of this devious tool for transferring land to companies.

The compensation paid to the affected owners is invariably less than the market value of the land regardless of whether the acquisition is for companies or not. There are several underlying reasons. First, due to unreasonable restrictions imposed by the change-in-land-use (CLU) regulations for agricultural land, the market price itself is acutely suppressed. On top of it, the very basis and process of determining compensation is flawed.

Section 23 of the Land Acquisition Act entitles the affected owners to market value of the property plus a solatium of 30 per cent. However, compensation is required to be determined on the basis of the floor price fixed by the state, or the average of registered sale deeds of similar land. State governments tend to choose circle rates below the market value. Moreover, the market in agricultural land is very thin. Generally, it is very difficult to find sale deeds of similar land. The result is that the owners are under-compensated.

NAC misses the point

The NAC has proposed to rectify the problem by suggesting that the compensation be six times the registered value of the land. However, it has ignored the fact that in many cases — forget the registered value of the land in question — even the registered sale deeds of 'similar' land don't exist. Therefore, this recommendation of the council is pointless.

When compensation is less than the market value, excessive acquisition for companies causes substantial and extensive redistribution of income and wealth. This is especially true in case of agricultural land. The acquisition means significant wealth gains for companies which get to own or use the land at an extremely low price.

There are income gains for the educated and skilled workers who get hired by companies using the land. Also, there are benefits for users of the service for which land is acquired. On the contrary, the acquisition results in a loss of wealth as well as income for farmers since they are inadequately compensated for their assets and lose their primary source of income. It also reduces employment opportunities and, therefore, income for farm workers.

Understandably, the adversely affected people find the redistribution of land in favour of companies totally unacceptable. It is not a coincidence that most of violent protests are related to the acquisition of land for private companies. The perception of corruption among decision-makers makes things even worse. It is widely believed that the nexus of companies and decision-makers is misusing the acquisition laws and CLU regulations to serve their own interests. These days, people suspect official intentions even when land is needed for a genuine public purpose.

Besides, lack of alternative employment opportunities for farmers and agri-workers is also a contributory factor behind their resistance. Being unskilled, they have nowhere to go. The above factors explain why people are ready to face the bullet to save land, even though agricultural profitability and real wages are at an all-time low level and declining by the day. At least, agriculture spares them a subsistence existence. Of course, manipulation of the distressed people by the opposition parties has its own role to play, at times resulting in a huge loss of life and property.

The reality of the protests notwithstanding, the UP and Haryana governments claim to offer excellent land acquisition policies. For obvious reasons, the Centre endorses Haryana's policy as an example of "good" policy. These claims, however, are totally untenable.

UP, Haryana schemes

It must be granted that the comparable compensation schemes launched by UP and Haryana have some desirable features. Both states offer annuity payments for 33 years. The starting rates are Rs 20,000 and Rs 21,000 per acre per annum for UP and Haryana, respectively, with a corresponding annual increment of Rs 600 and Rs 750.

Moreover, in some cases, the affected owners are offered stakes in the benefits following from land acquisition. UP reserves 17.5 per cent plots for the land-owners when acquisition is for a residential scheme. If acquisition is for developmental purposes, 7 per cent of the developed land is reserved for them. Families rendered landless are offered a one-time payment of Rs 1.85 lakh, besides the promise of employment to one person per family. When acquisition is for a company, the owners have the option of buying up to 25 per cent of the company's shares.

Similarly, Haryana offers residential and commercial plots to the land-owners when acquisition is done for housing and industrial projects, respectively. Further, if acquisition is for infrastructure projects, the government promises one job each to the affected families. These benefits are available only to the owners who lose at least 75 per cent of their land.

However, farmers from both states allege that most of the stated benefits have not reached them. Moreover, in both states the principal compensation rates are far below the market value of the land.

In the case of Haryana the compensation appears deceptively high due to ingenious clauses like the no-litigation bonus. An ongoing study undertaken by this writer shows that this seemingly innocuous scheme is actually detrimental to farmers' interests. The study covers the Punjab and Haryana High Court judgements delivered during 2009-10. It shows that in 96 per cent of the cases, the judiciary has increased compensation, over and above what was paid by the government. The average increase is 342 per cent!

In contrast, the no-litigation bonus is ridiculously low. It offers a 20 per cent increase in compensation if the farmer waives his/her right to judicial recourse against low compensation. Nonetheless, given that litigation is a costly and prolonged process, the distressed farmers may still fall for this official trap.

When it comes to misusing the acquisition law, both states seem to "outperform" each other. UP has an excessive proclivity for misusing the emergency clause. On this ground itself, since April 2011 courts have struck down the acquisition of 603 hectares in Greater Noida alone. In several instances the state has acquired land citing public purpose, but subsequently diverted it toward private ends.

Haryana's performance is even worse. For instance, about 1,500 acres of high-value agriculture land in close vicinity of Gurgaon city was acquired quoting public-purpose. Later on, it was transferred to the Reliance SEZ, a project whose future is uncertain even after a lapse of five years. Courts have reprimanded the state for the blatant abuse of the law, including misuse of the emergency clause, the acquisition of cultivated agricultural land when barren land was available, de-notification of the acquired land and for the non-payment of due compensation. Recently, the Supreme Court rebuked it for adopting "pick-and-choose" methods of acquiring land to favour the powerful. Indeed, the state is an epitome of abusive practices that have come to plague the extant law.

The writer is a Professor, Delhi School of Economics. Email:




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It appears there is some light at the end of a very long tunnel. Hopes have been revived at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) with Director-General Pascal Lamy coming forward with a new "multi-speed" offer that should enable the fast-trackers and the laggards to remain on board before a portmanteau deal is struck. No one seriously expects the US to sign up on any real hold-all deal till the next presidential elections are over and a new administration takes charge in the winter of 2012-13. Given India's commitment to multilateralism in trade and its stake in a successful outcome of the long-delayed Doha Development Round, India should accept the three-speed option of driving fast, slow or at medium speed to the final destination. India is not – and has never been – the spoiler in the Doha Round, despite the best attempts by western leaders and media to portray the country as such and the gamely willingness of Indian politicians to play along with that worldview in the hope of scoring political brownie points at home. It is the US that has for long obstructed any forward movement in the Doha Development Round. Indeed, the western media no longer uses the middle word – development – and routinely refers to a "Doha Round". By insisting on the Round sticking to its original development objectives, developing economies like Brazil, China and India are ensuring that Doha delivers on its promises.

Mr Lamy's latest call for a three-speed process has been welcomed by some and rejected by others. The view of the critics that the final outcome should be a portmanteau agreement is well taken, but in the search for the best, the good should not get rejected. The Doha Development Round went into cold storage in 2007 in the run-up to the US presidential elections. The hope that it would be revived in 2009 was belied because of the trans-Atlantic financial crisis and the global economic slowdown. It is only in 2011 that the US began taking interest once again, but Europe is now in two minds given the crisis in European economies. In the meanwhile, many WTO member countries devoted the last five years to striking regional free trade agreements (FTAs). As a result, there is much less enthusiasm for a full-scope WTO agreement with many trading nations entering into bilateral and regional FTAs. If Doha gets shelved again, multilateralism may die a natural death. This is not in the interest of any major trading nation. Hence, Mr Lamy should press on and secure agreement on his three-speed option. An early harvest package with a focus on items of specific interest to the least developed economies should be quickly put together and adopted by the WTO.

The problem with even a fast-tracked early harvest is that it would have to include some concessions to African cotton exporters. The US is resisting this, as it always has, because of pressure from US farm interests. This is unacceptable. If the world's most powerful country is unable to put its own interests aside in the interests of the world's poorest nations, that too in a field such as cotton, how can any meaningful global trade agreement be struck? The world empathises with the US given that it is dealing with a difficult economic situation at home, with high unemployment levels. However, the world's poorest economies are worse off and have been so for decades when the US pushed hard for more open trading regimes in the name of free and fair trade. There has to be some fairness even in fair trade.






The time has come for the rest of the world to let Europe know that its time is over as far as running the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is concerned. Several spurious arguments have been put forward in support of a European, indeed a French, successor to the disgraced former managing director Dominique Strauss-Kahn. First came the dubious argument that since Europe is now the IMF's biggest borrower and is passing through a difficult economic phase, the Fund should be led by a European! This nonsensical view was rejected outright. If Asians, Africans and Latin Americans could supplicate before European bosses to borrow money from the Fund, surely their roles can be reversed in the new world? Then came the argument, supported by even US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, that since Mr Strauss-Kahn departed ingloriously after behaving badly with women, and since this seemed to be part of an IMF male tradition of harassing women, the next IMF chief should be a woman. Hey presto! The Europeans not only produced a European candidate with alacrity, but one who is a woman — France's Finance Minister Christine Lagarde. While Ms Lagarde has three things going for her – an early declaration of candidature, being a woman and European, and a credible and convincing biodata – there is no reason why her candidature should go unchallenged.

The idea of a Mexican or even a Brazilian offering competition is also not much convincing. The Fund's 153 member countries must seek more candidates and give them a fair chance to defend their candidature. The international community must evaluate proposed names and select the best in a transparent manner. There has been much talk of an Asian candidate. Asia has, indeed, more than one candidate who fits the bill, and one of them is also not just a woman, but a Muslim woman! That's a triple whammy – Asian, woman and Muslim! The two credible Asian names are Singapore's Finance Minister and now Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam and Indonesia's former finance minister and current managing director of the World Bank, Sri Mulyani Indrawati (excluding India's own Montek Singh Ahluwalia who is over-aged but that is not really a disqualification if the Fund's executive board decides to overlook age as a factor). Mr Shanmugaratnam is also the chairman of the IMF's International Monetary and Financial Committee and was the author of Singapore's impressive V-shaped recovery from the 2008 financial crisis. He is a Singaporean of Sri Lankan Tamil-origin and is married to a Singaporean-Chinese lady. Ms Indrawati distinguished herself as finance minister of Indonesia in 2005-2010 when she turned her country's ailing economy around. India could endorse either person and seek an Asian head of high competence and credibility at the Fund.







Club or country? Money or national pride? These are the questions that arose in the last month of the recently concluded Indian Premier League (IPL). It all started when Chris Gayle and Lasith Malinga decided to play for a "foreign" club when their nations were fielding national teams against other countries. One had a disagreement with his country's cricket board; the other "conveniently" declared that he wasn't fit enough to play the longer form of the game. And the debate gained momentum as the IPL concluded and the Indian team for the West Indies was announced — star Indian players cited fatigue, injury and family as reasons to stay out of a "country" series. Gautam Gambhir was even willing to give up captaincy of the national team to fulfil his commitment to the club. Interestingly, the Indian players were playing in a tournament blessed by the Board of Control for Cricket in India — a board that had collected pots of money from franchisees and got franchisees to pay pots of money to the players. So, the players were committed to delivering their promise at the start of the IPL season, whatever be the repercussions for national duty.

Cricket has come a long way since the mid-20th century. In the 1950s, cricket used to be a five-day, two-inning affair played among nations. Domestic cricket – club-level or state-level – was only a feeder for the national level. Even though cricket was played by eight countries, it was defined by the Ashes and cricket aficionados followed the battles between England and Australia irrespective of their nationalities. There was some level of nationalism and patriotism when your country played but often the results were forgone conclusions. A non-England or non-Australia win was something to be celebrated because of its rarity rather than the belief that another cricketing nation had arrived. Things changed in the 1970s with the arrival of the West Indies and the advent of one-day international cricket. Winning got democratised — India won for the first time in England in 1971 and the West Indies became an unbeatable team. Thus, cricket began to move out of the Ashes nations. And one-day cricket created the first open world championship in which a winner could be declared openly. India won in 1983, Pakistan in 1992 and Sri Lanka in 1996, announcing the arrival of other potential winners. Suddenly, nationalism and pride ignited since countries other than the traditional Ashes rivals now stood an equal chance of winning. Come the new millennium, T20 cricket arrived, first as an inter-country championship in 2007 and then at club level with IPL in India (a significant shift in the centre of innovation — Packer and Australia introduced the big change in one-day cricket in 1977). With Sri Lanka and Australia announcing their own local T20 club tournaments, the growth of this "sub-brand" of cricket cannot be wished away. One interesting thing that IPL – and club cricket – is bringing in is "mixed teams" — a natural fallout of the flattening of the world and mixing of races. It could, however, result in a weakening of the nationalistic ties that propelled much of one-day cricket through the eighties and nineties.


So, Brand Cricket (it has become one from an age when only the Ashes was a brand) has evolved from a one- product offering (Test cricket among nations) to a three sub-brand portfolio with multiple variants catering to national pride and local entertainment needs. Test cricket remains the game of connoisseurs — largely for players for whom the game is as much about temperament and technique as it is about talent. It's much like classical music which continues to be the benchmark of quality for musicians but has little appeal for mass listeners. One-day cricket and T20 are viewer-oriented forms. One-day cricket still rides largely in the area of inter-nation competition while T20 is currently an entertainment format geared towards clubs where local pride is not so much important. These are the "popular" music formats of cricket — made for the masses.

What shape will the portfolio of Brand Cricket take in the years to come? One way is to let the markets decide. Clearly, the current market dynamics reveal the death of Test cricket, a decline of one-day and a clear move towards club cricket. This is dangerous because for a sport to remain exciting, players' interests are of great importance. They actually unveil the quality of stories being unfolded to viewers and ensure that the existence of "star" players is as important as the format. If IPL operated with "unknown" national and international stars, the audience pull would have been much less. And the role of national pride – a reason why cricket has grown in South Asia – cannot be ignored. It is the pillar on which cricket's emotional connect has been built. So, ignoring player power and national pride could end in the brand milking from the equity of the past and drying it up in the years to come. Therefore, though a number of product markets have evolved based on market forces – beer has moved from light to strong in the past two decades and the interior paints market has moved from distempers to emulsions – leaving Brand Cricket in the hands of market forces could sound the death knell for the sport!

The owners – the International Cricket Council and BCCI – and their equivalents need to come forward with a plan. This should involve making choices by clearly recognising the role of each format and sub-brand and playing the optimal balancing act. Advertisers and franchisees will go where the money is, and often where the short-term viewership is. Viewers will enjoy the shorter formats because they are the easiest to consume and such forms will, therefore, have the largest following. However, we need to remember that it's the players who make the game, and their stardom – and hence pull – comes from performance and national representation. The two formats must co-exist and it's wrong to put the onus on the players. The responsibility lies squarely with the owners. As wise businesspersons and sagacious marketers, they must rework schedules that work in the best long-term interests of the game.

Views expressed are personal  








Earlier this week, I read yet another financial analyst speaking very matter-of-factly about whether Spain should, or will be forced to, leave the euro. Not two weeks ago, the discussion was that the only salvation for Greece would be a return to the drachma.


 Of course, talk, particularly from market analysts, is cheap, and, at this moment, the market appears to be dismissing this traumatic talk as just that.

The euro has dipped twice over the past month, taking with it commodities and other risk assets, but, in both instances, has recovered, if a bit nervously. But it still stands well below the near 1.50 highs seen as recently as late April.

Gold and the Swiss franc have been the unabashed winners over these past weeks, as the market appears uncomfortable with getting too long dollars. In fact, despite this price action and the impending end of QE2, which, theoretically at least, should end the low, low, low US interest rates and put a floor under the dollar, there are no dollar bulls to be seen.

Except, humbly, for yours truly. A few days ago, my sister returned from a visit to New York, and brought me this grotesquely-lovely all-American tie. It had the stars and stripes as the background and an image of the oxidised-copper-coloured statue of liberty covering most of the foreground. I was dressing for work when it arrived and had a green shirt on. The tie matched wonderfully, so I put it on and as soon as I got to the office, I called up one of the business channels and told them they should interview me as The First Dollar Bull (2011 edition), which they duly did.

So, there — I am committed. I believe the dollar will strengthen and stay strong for a reasonable (?) period of time, long enough for most dollar bears to die out or change their tune.

Building my case is, among other things, the fundamental structural problem with the euro. Currently, the entire political establishment in Europe is committed to saving the euro — no domestic politician in Portugal or Spain or, heavens, Italy, wants to be remembered as the one who presided over the ignominious exit, however sensible it may turn out of be after some time. Note the absence of Greece and Ireland in that list — the politicians there appear to be thinking the unthinkable already.

Additionally, the entire European banking system would come under enormous pressure, as would the carefully built up post-euro business processes. Transaction cost savings already baked into P&Ls would evaporate, not to speak of the enormous administrative costs of such a fundamental change.

Thus, there is a huge short-term interest in saving the euro, which is why it may well survive the current bout of nervousness for some more time. But, as the title of this piece asserts — third time lucky! The next bout of euro pressure will be real — you can't sustain the unsustainable forever.

When this will happen, is, of course, the multi-billion euro question.

Now, I am no technical analysis wizard, although I do completely buy the underpinnings of the discipline: that all systems move in cycles. My cursory examination of the EUR/USD (and, indeed, DXY) chart seems to suggest the formation of a head-and-shoulder (reverse in the case of DXY) pattern, which indicates that if EUR/USD falls below 1.40 again before climbing above 1.49, it would set up a target of 1.31!

But wait, that's not all. If, indeed, this were to come to pass in a "normal" manner — meaning with some intermediate volatility, it could trigger the set-up of another head and shoulders, which would have a target of 1.12 or 1.13 or so.

Now, at that level, it would be hard to find any dollar bears surviving.

Of course, this sort of decline could take a long time and be interspersed with several "corrections", some of which would be deep enough to give the by-then growing tribe of dollar bulls a scare. Indeed, this newly forming trend I see could even be aborted at any time. That is the nature of markets and why medium-term forecasts are so fraught with uncertainty.

However, if what I see does turn out to be real, the rupee would obviously react in tandem. In the first phase, where the euro falls by around 6 per cent, the rupee will likely fall by around half that — but that itself suggests 46.50.

With forward premiums at 6 per cent a year and unlikely to fall materially, importers and companies with foreign exchange loans are stuck between a rock and a hard place. The Reserve Bank of India's recent restrictions on using simple structured products aren't helping things.

Time to seriously refocus on risk management.  








The Chinese Confucian code made a distinction between maternal and paternal relatives on the pragmatic basis that maternity was certain, whereas paternity was not. For similar reasons, Judaism calculates descent in matrilinear fashion.

Narayan Dutt Tiwari, who is facing a paternity suit from a 31-year-old man, may be wishing it had stayed that way. The same technology of DNA profiling that could embarrass Tiwari has been used to identify a multitude of criminals, often years after they thought they had got away scot-free.


DNA profiling makes it possible to identify not only the father of a child, but also criminals, who leave minute traces of their physical presence at crime scenes. As DNA testing methods have been refined, forensic detection techniques, as well as processes in divorce cases and paternity suits have been transformed.

DNA governs inherited characteristics like eyes, hair, height and so on. It consists of long strings of genetic material. Most cells contain complete DNA samples that can uniquely identify individuals. All DNA has multiple variable sequences of four "bases" or genetic building blocks, generally referred to as A,C,G,T in scientific shorthand.

In the case of humans, a DNA strand is packed into 23 paired bundles called chromosomes. Females possess two X chromosomes, while males possess one X and one Y.

A single sperm cell contains about three billion bases. Each egg also contains three billion bases. When sperm and egg fuse in the womb, a new and unique combination results. Identical twins have the same DNA sequences because they are conceived when a single zygote splits.

Other siblings have unique DNA, although they are easily identifiable as siblings. In 2008, DNA tests confirmed that the "missing" Grand Duchess Anastasia had been shot in Ekatarinburg in 1918, along with her parents and siblings.

It was in the early 1980s that Sir Alec Jeffreys at Leicester University, worked out how to use small DNA samples to identify people. Since then, technology has improved to a point where samples as ephemeral as a few skin cells can be used.

DNA profiling is orders of magnitude more reliable than fingerprinting. Since the Americans possessed DNA from a deceased sister of Osama Bin Laden, the body of the Al Qaeda leader could be identified with an error factor of roughly one in 18 billion.

Jeffrey's original test looked for matches in "mini-satellites" — otherwise called variable number tandem repeats (VNTR). VNTRs – short sequences within DNA – vary and repeat almost uniquely for individuals. Even shorter micro-satellite sequences or short tandem repeats (STRs) are also unique.

The perfect test is a restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) test. A DNA sample is fragmented, digested by enzymes, and the fragments examined, length by length. RFLP guarantees matches of single individuals. But it requires large, fresh DNA samples ("large" equates to a single hair) and it takes weeks to conduct.

A technique called PCR (polymerase chain reaction) testing was developed more recently. This was a breakthrough in police work. PCR is quick — the test takes a maximum of a week and it can be automated easily and cheaply. It works on very small, very old samples such as a sweat-stain on a decade-old shirt, or skin cells left behind when touching some surface. Forensic pathologist and best-selling author Patricia Cornwell suggests that PCR may even nail "Jack the Ripper", who committed his serial killings (and wrote letters to Scotland Yard) in the 1880s.

But PCR is more hit-and-miss. It takes a very small sample of DNA, and analyses for one or two specific genes. Those genes may be possessed by many people. So, a non-match eliminates suspects. But a positive match may not directly prove anything.

As DNA testing developed, police forensic methods changed. Police departments everywhere started to train personnel to keep crime scenes uncontaminated, and to collect micro-evidence. They developed in-house forensics departments, specifically to analyse DNA. National DNA databases were set up in many countries.

In India, "civilian" use of DNA tests has exploded in the past few years with many new labs. Some offer full genome sequencing, while others only do paternity tests. This trend ties in with a rise in contested divorce and child maintenance cases. It's not uncommon for the "father" to claim infidelity in such cases, to avoid paying maintenance. Here, DNA-testing is a killer app.

Indian police departments seem to lag civil society in use of DNA testing. There are few official DNA testing labs, and dedicated forensic departments. Evidence is referred to the few government labs that do DNA testing, and there is a backlog that further clogs up the criminal justice system.

Investigative personnel are also not trained to preserve evidence at crime scenes, much less to collect DNA samples. In the notorious Arushi Talwar case, the Centre for DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics (CDFD), Hyderabad rejected "touch DNA testing" for skin cells that could have nailed the killer because the entire scene was contaminated.

However, DNA testing is being increasingly used to match missing persons reports with unidentified bodies — this was the method used in the Nithari child killings. It has also been used effectively in accidents to identify bodies damaged beyond recognition. Given the increasing popularity of DNA testing in civil cases, it will presumably filter through to the criminal justice system sooner or later.






As the Competition Commission of India (CCI) gears up to implement merger regulations from June 1, it should also take a close look at international mergers that can have a potential impact on the Indian market. These mergers may not be happening in India but as a consequence their subsidiaries in India would need to merge because their parents have already married . India is a huge growing economy and thus many international mergers are bound to have an impact on the country.

For instance, in April 2011, the media were awash with news that the US Department of Justice(DoJ) – one of the two competition authorities in the US, the other being the Federal Trade Commission – had approved the acquisition of ITA Software Inc by Google, subject to a few conditions. First, that Google should continue developing ITA's software products and license them to travel vendors on reasonable terms. Second, to build an internal firewall to prevent Google from gaining access to commercially-sensitive information of travel vendors licensing ITA's products. And third, it should refrain from entering agreements with airlines that would deprive travel vendors of flight information. These conditions were imposed after the DoJ noted that several competition concerns could arise in the US market if Google takes advantage of its ownership of ITA to engage in anticompetitive behaviour.


Though the US market was protected by the DoJ conditionalities, services for Google and ITA are also offered to Indian customers. Unfortunately, the DoJ prescription cannot prevent Indian consumers from being abused. ITA Software technology is widely used by domestic and international airlines, online and traditional travel agents including those in India. Besides, Indian consumers also travel to the US. This is done in competition with several other agents who can easily find themselves out of business if Google were to unleash its supremacy to force other travel agents, in India and elsewhere, out of business. Indian players thus also need to be protected by the CCI.

Like many competition authorities around the world, the CCI, too, is empowered to take action on mergers that are consummated in other countries, but have effects in India. Section 32 of the Competition Act, 2002 has empowered the CCI to regulate such mergers. The competition authorities were mostly given this power under a concept known as the "effects doctrine", which acknowledges that anticompetitive outcomes can emanate from behaviour that has its roots outside a country's borders, hence the need to protect consumers against their likely harmful effects.

Such powers have already been used by other competition authorities to protect domestic consumers from abusive conduct emanating from mergers beyond the geography of focus. In 1997, two US-based aircraft manufacturers – Boeing and McDonnell Douglas – that had obtained approval by the US Department of Justice were informed by the European Commission that they could only go ahead with the merger if some conditions were followed. This despite the fact that the companies were based in the US, outside the European Union (EU). Following the merger, airlines had a choice of only two aircraft manufacturers, the other being the European Airbus Industrie. Like all other countries in the world, India, too, has a limited choice in the range of aircraft that can offer big airplanes.

Similarly, there are many cases in which the CCI could have taken action if it had been operational and willing to use its extraterritorial reach. In 2006, Adidas (the German athletic apparel and the world's second-largest sports goods maker after Nike) acquired Reebok International (headquartered in the US) in a $3.1 billion deal. Although the transaction was analysed and approved in the EU, there are many countries like India where the two players had some presence through subsidiaries. Conseqently, the market situation became distorted. This was clearly a case of two companies, that were competitors, coming together to reduce the number of players in the market and enhancing market power as well as a possibility for its abuse. Thus the potential anticompetitive effect of this merger in the Indian market was not analysed because the two companies cornered a market they were previously competing for.

In April this year, two pharma giants Alcon and Novartis merged. Although Alcon's headquarters is in the US, and Novartis is headquartered in Basel, Switzerland, both companies have a presence in India through subsidiaries. It would have been ideal for the CCI to also join in the analysis of this merger while it was being consummated at the parent level, but the merger provisions in India were not in force.

Earlier this year, there were reports that DuPont Denmark Holdings, a subsidiary of DuPont, US had acquired Danisco (headquartered in Copenhagen, Denmark), with the approval of the competition authorities. This was also a merger that the CCI had every right to investigate into using the effects doctrine, given that both companies have subsidiaries in India. In August 2010, the merger between a French oil and gas technology company, Schlumberger International and US-based Smith International was completed. Although the potential for anticompetitive practices were reviewed and the merger was approved by the US and European competition authorities, India was also affected because the two companies had a presence here. Under the effects doctrine, the CCI could have used its extraterritoriality provisions to ensure that potential anticompetitive practices arising from this marriage were analysed, but it was still fighting for notification of its merger provisions.

Although in some cases local subsidiaries could notify the CCI once the parent companies merged, it would be difficult to stop that merger since the companies would already be under the control of a globally-merged entity. This implies that competition authorities have to exercise the extraterritoriality provisions of their law ex ante to deal with a merger while the parent companies are merging rather than dealing with the fated merger of their subsidiaries at a local level. For example, although competition authorities in Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe found themselves investigating the Coca Cola Company and Cadbury-Schweppes and the Total and Mobil mergers, confined only to their local level the competition authorities lacked the ability to stop them since their parent companies had already married. They could only impose a few conditions that are still troublesome in some countries.

Although the CCI is yet to launch its merger analysis activity at the local level, there is nothing that can stop it from exercising its mandate in challenging mergers at the global level. Therefore, the CCI should be proactive and exercise vigilance by guarding against global mergers that are likely to impact Indian consumers adversely, and join other competition authorities in investigating these mergers rather than waiting for their local subsidiaries to notify them.

The author is Secretary General, CUTS International. Cornelius Dube of CUTS contributed to this article








Can a fast unto death by Baba Ramdev lead to the kind of popular response that Anna Hazare got in April? Perhaps. Hence the Government's panic.

The UPA government often seems to forget, much to the dismay of Indian citizens, that UPA II comprises not just a collection of Ministers thrown together by the fickle finger of fate but that it is the Government of India. As such it has a duty to conduct itself in a way that is not farcical, to put it mildly. Yet, on Tuesday, the country was witness to an extraordinary sight. The Prime Minister, no less, made a personal appeal to Baba Ramdev, a yoga teacher-turned-businessman, who is threatening to go on a fast unto death from Saturday, not to do so. Ramdev wants the Government to bring back the money salted away by Indians in Swiss banks. Then, on Wednesday afternoon, four Cabinet Ministers — Pranab Mukherjee included — dropped everything to rush off to the airport to receive him. The ministerial visits came to nought because Ramdev stuck to his guns — as well he might, seeing how much publicity he is getting. With the TV channels going into a frenzy, his political ambitions — he had declared in 2009 that he would be forming a political party — can only get a strong boost. So, for now, it is Ramdev 10, UPA 0.

What is the Government, or rather, the Congress, so anxious about? Its apologists in the Capital are putting out all sorts of explanations which do not bear repetition. The truth, almost by definition, must lie elsewhere, if only because politicians are involved. There are two issues. One is whether to include the Prime Minister within the proposed Ombudsman's jurisdiction. On this the Congress president's silence has become very noticeable indeed. But Ramdev agrees with the Congress on this: he also does not think that the Prime Minister should be included. Then what's worrying the Congress so much that it has prostrated in front of him? This brings up the second issue: can a fast unto death by Ramdev lead to the same sort of popular response as it did with Anna Hazare in April? The Government perhaps thinks so, whence the panic. But at the same time, one of the Congress party's senior general secretaries has said Ramdev can be jailed, should it come to that.

In the end, when all has been said and done, the problem of political corruption is not that hard to solve. Most of it can be tackled simply by greater transparency at every stage of the process. For example, except perhaps in the matter of some types of Defence purchases, once the specifications are out in the open, and later on the bids, it would be up to the Minister to justify a decision, even if it was the right one. This would tackle corruption before it happens, rather than after, as would be the case with an Ombudsman.






Banks can make some headway in financial inclusion by waiving service charges. The resulting growth in deposits will reduce per capita transaction costs.

The banking industry in India underwent major transformation during last decade due to changes in economic conditions, coupled with sectoral reforms. These factors have made the industry competitive with greater autonomy, operational flexibility and deregulated interest rates.

Although the sector has seen significant growth, a large section of the society remains excluded from the formal financial system.

To promote bank finance in unbanked areas, the Government of India has given a major thrust to financial inclusion.

Financial inclusion is the delivery of financial services at affordable cost to disadvantaged and low income segments of society.

It is argued that as banking services are in the nature of a public good, it is essential that they should be available to the entire population without discrimination.

The term "financial inclusion" has gained importance since the early 2000s, and is a result of findings about financial exclusion and its direct correlation to poverty.

Ever since the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) issued guidelines on no-frill accounts in 2005, over 39 million such accounts have been opened. No-frill accounts are with nil or low minimum balances and charges, and have limited facilities.

However, to meet financial inclusion targets, banks are taking various initiatives to reach out to people in unbanked areas, by opening more rural branches, creating innovative products, increasing financial literacy, developing new technologies like mobile banking and expanding the business correspondent model.


A major obstacle to banks in dealing with the rural masses is that the latter need the most basic services, like acceptance of deposits, withdrawal of cash and small-value, hand-holding loans. However, banks have already incurred huge capital expenditure in the most advanced technology and sophisticated delivery channels. How can they recover transaction costs?

It may be mentioned that around 10 different types of common charges are prevalent in the industry, such as 'charge for non-maintenance of quarterly balance', 'Duplicate statement', 'Cheque book issuance charge', 'Outstation cheque collection', 'DD issuance charge' etc.

Among them 'charge for non-maintenance of quarterly balance' is frequent in nature. Most of us have paid this charge at some point of time and it varies from Rs 225 in public sector banks to a whopping Rs 1,500 in leading foreign banks.

'Duplicate statement' is another service which customer frequently requires and banks charge Rs 25-Rs 150. If you have to give a post-dated cheque for a vehicle or housing loan, be prepared to shell out around Rs 2 per cheque leaf. A competitive study shows private and foreign banks' charges are high as against their public sector counterparts.

Generally, banks explain these charges in the name of better customer service. Whether it is the rural or urban consumer, service charges usually go unnoticed while opening the account, but if one adds all types of charges for maintaining an account, it actually creates a hole in the customer's pocket.


Given the importance of financial inclusion, banks must take pro-active steps so that the unbanked segment can get basic banking services. Reduction in the cost of banking will probably be the major determining factor for such an endeavour, and, in fact, can have a beneficial impact on the banks' balance sheet.

IDBI Bank, a leading public sector bank, has taken a bold step by waiving practically all types of service charges. As a result, lower and middle income groups find it attractive to operate accounts with IDBI Bank.

This perhaps will result in higher customer base, leading to higher growth of deposits. It is also expected that on account of increased customer base, the Bank would be able to reduce its per head transaction cost.

Although the share of low-cost deposits to total deposits in IDBI Bank is quite low, compared with its peer group, the latest FY-11 result indicates that that the bank has increased its share of CASA (current account and savings account) in total deposits to 20.88 per cent from 14.59 per cent in FY-10.

This, coupled with the higher fee-based income, may have helped the bank increase its net profit by 60 per cent.

Banks trying to open as many rural branches as possible may find this approach attractive.

(The author is Deputy General Manager, Operational Risk & BCP Cell, Risk Department, IDBI Bank, Mumbai. The views are personal).






Post-Fukushima and in the backdrop of an interminable debate pertaining to safety issue of nuclear power across the world, Age of Deception -Nuclear Diplomacy in Treacherous Times (Bloomsbury Publishing, London), authored by Nobel Laureate and former Director General of the International Atomic  Energy Agency (IAEA) Mr Mohamed Elbaradei is an honest attempt to clear the miasma that shrouds a subject like atomic energy. The suspicion about this clean but lethal energy stems from its use for energy generation and also extirpation through weapons of mass destruction (WMD).  The author is candid enough to concede that "from my front-row seat to the nuclear dramas of the past two decades, I have seen over and again how the lack of a sense of fairness and equity in negotiations is guaranteed to sabotage even the most commonsensical, desirable and just resolutions". In delineating the nuclear aspirations of countries such as Libya, North Korea, Iran and Iraq, the Egyptian-born author has explained how the United States used the veneer of the United Nations to declare sanctions or in the case of  Iraq go to war with allies on the alibi that Saddam Hussein had clandestine  WMD even while turning "a blind eye to the glaring reality of Israel's nuclear arsenal".

 'Grotesque distortion'

  Mr Elbaradei did not conceal his acerbic reaction to the heavy civilian casualties wrought in Iraq when he wryly stated that "for a war to be fought over unsubstantiated WMD charges and for the IAEA's nuclear diplomacy role to be pushed to the side, was for me a grotesque distortion of everything we stood for".

On a pragmatic plane, the author says that nuclear diplomacy is a hands-on-discipline requiring direct engagement, restraint and long-term commitment", and if a dialogue is a preferred option to resolve nuclear proliferation tensions, it cannot be limited to a tête-à-tête between the inspectors and the accused country. But the world's superpower simply brushed aside any such course of counsel on the by now familiar factor that "those who are not with us are against us".

Riveting chapters

The book is replete with riveting chapters to savour and reflect about the nuclear negotiations spanning Iraq, 1991-1998, the case of missing plutonium in North Korea 1992-2002, Iraq 2002 and after, North Korea 2003 and after, Iran 2003-2005, Libya, the nuclear bazaar of A.Q. Khan, Iran, 2006 and the happenings in Iran from 2007 till 2009. Each chapter throws up interesting insights into the high volatile drama and the method and manners of the dramatis personae . 

Significant posers

Rightly Mr Elradei poses a slew of significant questions : "If the community of nations seeks to live by the rule of law, what steps should be taken when violations of international law result in massive civilian casualties? Who should be held accountable when military action has been taken in contravention of the laws as codified in the UN Charter; or when military action is found to have been based on faulty information, the deliberately selective treatment of information ?"

The author has anchored his convictions on the ground when he claims that "dollar for dollar, the IAEA has proven to be an extraordinarily sound investment. But at its current level of funding and with the dilapidated state of its technology infrastructure, the IAEA sooner or later will be unable to fulfil its nuclear verification mission".

The crux is whether the global community can afford to let go a watchdog like the IAEA when threat perceptions have mushroomed, while it is unwise to rely on a superpower for saving and safeguarding the planet from lunatic leaders in possession of nuclear weapons.







Veteran cricketer Salim Durrani is deservingly the latest recipient of the Col. C.K. Nayudu Lifetime Achievement award for his contribution to the game.

Flamboyance and romance marked Salim Durrani's cricket, his cricketing career and his life in general. Were these two traits foreshadowed at his birth itself? Perhaps, yes. For the birth of this Pathan, hailing from Afghanistan, took place under the open skies at a historic site. Interviewing him a few years ago, I asked the septuagenarian cricketer about the two differing accounts of his birth – one mentioning his birthplace as Kabul and the other Karachi. "Neither"! Pat came the puzzling answer. Resolving the mystery, Durrani went on: "I was born under the open skies in a caravan camp in the Khyber Pass. (It is a 53-km passage through the Hindu Kush mountain range, connecting the northern frontier of Pakistan with Afghanistan. It was used by invaders, including Alexander the Great, to enter India). It was on December 19, 1937. My mother and her younger brother were on their way from Kabul to Karachi where my paternal uncle had a garage. My mother developed labour pains as the caravan was crossing the historic site. It was weeks later when we reached Karachi, my birth was registered. That is how my birthplace is given as Karachi."

Salim Aziz Durrani in his heyday strode two worlds that are made of the very stuff of glamour – cricket and cinema. Televisionhad just taken root in the twilight of Durrani's career in 1973. Tall, handsome and full of Pathan charm and innocence, Durrani would have been a smashing hit in T-20 and satellite TV channels, had they been in existence during his playing days. Durrani was an aggressive left-handed batsman who hammered the best of bowlers. He played a stellar role in India's landmark 1971 victory over the West Indies at Port of Spain, where he dismissed Clive Lloyd and skipper Gary Sobers (for a duck). An all-rounder, Durrani's only century came at Port of Spain during the 1962 tour. He was to bat at number nine, but was promoted to go in at the fall of the first wicket. In three hours of aggressive batting, Durrani electrified the field as he belted Hall, Sobers and Gibbs to all parts of the Queens Park Oval. He acted as the hero in BR Ishra's Charitra opposite another debutante, Parveen Babi. The film, released in October 1973, bombed at the box office.

Today, Durrani, 74, still retains his inherent charm and unassuming ways. He shuttles between Jamnagar, his home town, Mumbai and Delhi. Now and again, one can find him enjoying his glass of beer at New Delhi's Press Club , recognised only by senior journalists.

(The writer is a New Delhi-based freelance journalist.)







    The only worse thing for a government than a perception of it dragging its feet over fighting corruption is to be seen quailing at the prospect of assorted godmen and gurus launching campaigns over the issue. And the UPA regime attained that craven low with the spectacle of four very senior ministers and bureaucrats waiting at Delhi airport to greet multi-million dollar yoga empire founder Baba Ramdev as he landed in a private jet as a preliminary to his planned hunger strike against corruption. With the ensuing parleys between the two sides, the government's placatory attempts to prevent the hunger strike so as to avoid a repeat of the Anna Hazare effect, the campaign against corruption is rapidly, even at the level of images, assuming the shape of what it has actually been politically — a tussle to manage public perceptions on the issue. The point isn't at all that members of civil society don't have a right to critique or campaign on issues affecting our polity. Every baba or guru has that right too. But it patently isn't quite the same thing to have a campaign against corruption led by a well-known Gandhian and social activist and that by a multi-millionaire guru. Even if the latter argument could be debatable, the government has no business whatsoever to be pleading with such a figure. And that becomes even more egregious if it is part of some larger gameplan to undercut the Anna Hazare campaign.
The sight of top politicians and officials waiting upon a godman or a guru is itself a certain vitiation of Jawaharlal Nehru's notion of cultivating scientific temper. And politically, with the Congress and the BJP fighting hard to be seen as more earnest on the issue, it also signals a failure on the UPA's part. For, government managers could well have presented the formation of the Lokpal Bill drafting committee, and the attendant discussions, as a first-of-its-kind attempt to formulate policy and set up an ombudsman to tackle corruption. We certainly do need an effective Lokpal. Discussions can continue as to what its ambit and purview will be. What we don't need is public posturing and petty politicking on an extremely serious issue.





The World Bank has sanctioned a loan, worth $1 billion, to the National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA), to clean up the Ganga. This is a good idea. The loan is supposed to fund projects to treat waste, from industry, towns and cities on the banks of the river, which is now routinely dumped into it. This, it was recognised many years ago, was one of the primary sources of pollution of Ganga waters. Effluent treatment and efficient sewage networks in towns and cities can do a lot to clean up the river, which flows through five states, home to about 35% of India's population. The Ganga is one of India's most important water sources and, in its lower reaches, among the filthiest. While it is an excellent idea to clean up the effluents flowing into the river, it's also important to remember that a river can only be as clean as the people who live alongside allow it to be. If a deficit of sanitary infrastructure makes people turn to the river or if incompletely burnt bodies are floated into the river in the name of custom, or people throw tonnes of stuff daily into the river whether as sacrament or as garbage, polluted the Ganga will remain. If the Ganga has to be really clean, it's necessary to address not just its physical ecosystem, but its social ecosystem as well. And the government does not need World Bank money to do that.

The idea of forcing change in social mores might seem daunting, but it's less difficult than it seems. Think of the pristine river Thames that flows through London and try to imagine that as late as the 1950s, it was an open sewer, devoid of oxygen and therefore, all aquatic life, emitting the rotten-egg stink of hydrogen sulphide. And indeed, this was the condition of the Thames for centuries. By 1610, its water had become unfit to drink, by the 19th century, it was called The Great Stink and in 1858, sittings of the House of Commons on the banks of the river had to be abandoned, with MPs staying away from its malodorous presence. Yet by the mid-1970s, the clean-up of the Thames, started in 1964 and finishing exactly a decade later, was so successful that salmon, trout and even seal can now be found in the river. When in doubt about the Ganga clean-up project, remember the Thames.








 The classic adage about men behaving badly — often given specificity with adjectives such as 'old' and 'powerful' — is becoming almost a theme for the middle months of 2011. It would seem as if global warming or some other as-yet-unidentified phenomenon afflicts men, making them do things that seem nothing short of stupid, given their position and their ambitions. Why else would a muscleman-actor-politician like Arnold Schwarzenegger not realise that having a child with his former housekeeper would ultimately terminate his career and his marriage to political royalty? The combustible combination of ageing bankers in luxury hotels and unwary maids is equally inexplicable. It would seem logical that after the Dominique Strauss-Kahn episode, all men of a certain age, reputation and indeed, predilection, would have seen fit to keep their hands to themselves, especially when staying alone in expensive hostelry. Yet, barely had Strauss-Kahn moved out of Rikers Island and into more plush confinement in a Tribeca townhouse in New York awaiting trial for attempted rape of a maid than an Egyptian banker, Mahmoud Abdel-Salam Omar, tried almost the same disastrous tactic with another hotel staffer in the same city — with the same consequences.
They could all learn a thing or two from the curmudgeonly Sir VS Naipaul and the nonagenarian Khushwant Singh. Their increasingly rambling malice towards one and all have been accepted with commendable restraint by the world, barring the occasional wordy riposte from former friends and foes. It is wise to keep biases and obsessions on a lofty literary plane and be pilloried for being non-politically correct at worst as taking a more hands-on approach runs the risk of being caught in flagrante.







An amendment to Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) (MMDR) Act is overdue. That amendment will have several dimensions, including processes followed in granting licences. In effect, regulatory structures will change and so will methods for determining royalties. Let's leave those larger issues aside and focus on the Samatha judgment. This keeps cropping up and also figured in the December 2006 report of Planning Commission's high level (Hoda) committee on formulating a National Mineral Policy. We don't know how it will be incorporated in amendment to MMDR, if at all. Indeed, the present version of draft MMDR isn't in public domain. A June 3, 2010 version is the one in public domain and that doesn't explicitly address the question.
However, the Hoda committee stated, "With the Samatha judgment of the Hon'ble Supreme Court, the right to compensation of local populations, not only in cash through usual relief and rehabilitation (R&R) packages but also to a fuller life, now requires to be written into the law." There is a difference between saying we should do something for local populations, because it is morally the right thing to do, and saying we must do it, because Supreme Court has asked us to. The government presumably understands courts and judgments better than lay people and the general attitude of government (including Hoda committee) seems to be there has been a binding directive by Supreme Court.
Yet, that wasn't the case at all. There is a difference between a court issuing a directive and making an observation. The Samatha judgment was the latter, not the former. Assuming for the moment that it was a directive, this is what Justice Ramaswamy had to say, endorsed by Justice Pattanaik. "At least 20% of the net profits should be set apart as a permanent fund as a part of industrial/business activity for establishment and maintenance of water resources, schools, hospitals, sanitation and transport facilities by laying roads, etc. This 20% allocation would not include the expenditure for reforestation and maintenance of ecology. It is needless to mention that necessary sanction for exemption of said amount from income-tax liability, may be obtained; and the Centre should ensure grant of such exemption and see that these activities are undertaken, carried on and maintained systematically and continuously." Justice Pattanaik added, "This should be in addition to the royalty and other cess under different legislations." Had it been at the level of a directive, the following conclusions follow. First, the relevant figure is 20%, not 26%. Second, the Supreme Court was presumably sceptical about efficiency of public expenditure. This 20% is in addition to the regular royalty.
Normally, royalty is a payment made by a licencee for use of a natural (or intellectual property) resource, in this case, the owner being the State. There is no legal requirement for royalty receipts from mining to be used for improving the standard of living of tribal populations. Receipts flow into the black hole known as Consolidated Fund. Justice Pattanaik observed, "Notwithstanding the constitutional obligation of the governor to make special provision for ameliorating the economic status of the tribal people so as to assimilate them into the national mainstream, nothing tangible appears to have been achieved in this regard even after 50 years of Independence. The tribal people who constitute a substantial majority of the Indian population still spend their time in jungles and other inaccessible areas and sufficient legislative and executive measure has not been taken for improving the living conditions of these tribal people." That scepticism explains why the Supreme Court wanted expenditure to be done by mining companies, not government and this is in sharp contrast with public expenditure proposals emanating from government, where 26% is supposed to flow into some kind of governmentadministered fund. Third, the Supreme Court had contemplated an income tax exemption.
    Because of assorted reasons, 26% of net profit is a bad idea. Profits are variable and volatile. They can be manipulated. How does one handle captive mining? Shouldn't existing CSR and R&R expenditure by companies also be integrated into whatever is proposed to be done with this "additional" royalty? Should one create distortions in resource allocation? How is displacement due to mining different from displacement due to some other kind of economic activity? How is displacement caused to tribals different from displacement caused to nontribals? Nor should one confuse means with the end. Government interpretations of the Samatha judgement seem to be that yet another means of revenue collection has been authorised. However, the end is really improving living standards of displaced populations. How about giving companies a choice? As a company, I have the option of either paying additional royalty or undertaking to improve physical and social infrastructure in a 10-km radius around the project area. These tangible improvements can be monitored through district-level panchayats and/or district planning committees. Indeed, the company need not undertake these improvements itself, but can outsource functions to other enterprises who have requisite expertise in social sectors. Effectively, a company then obtains an income tax concession, through reduced royalties. More importantly, this is much more likely to improve living standards of local populations, which is the primary objective. And in the process, we may even provide some trigger to decentralised planning, which has only been paid lipservice till now. Something along these lines will be much more in conformity with the spirit of the Samatha judgment. To ensure that the additional royalty doesn't disappear into the Consolidated Fund again, we should call it a cess, not royalty, because use of cess money doesn't end up in acess-pool.









In a recent commentary, this writer drew on the Interim Report of the High-level Trade Experts Group, appointed by the governments of Britain, Germany, Indonesia, and Turkey, which I co-chair, to explain why concluding the World Trade Organization's 10-yearold Doha Round was important. The column was reprinted on a blog maintained by CUTS International (Consumer Unity and Trust Society), the most important developing-country NGO today, leading to an outpouring of reactions from trade experts. The faucet is still open, but the debate has already raised critiques that must be answered. Some critics rushed in to declare that Doha was dead — indeed, that they, being smart, had already said so years ago. Presumably, our attempt at resurrecting it was pathetic and hopeless. But, if Doha was dead, one had to ask why the negotiators were still negotiating, and why nearly all G-20 leaders were still issuing endorsements of the talks each time they met.
Others argued that Doha was dead as negotiated. Or, in the words of former United States Trade Representative Susan Schwab, writing in Foreign Affairs, the Doha talks were "doomed" and ready for burial. However, these critics thought that one could pick at the corpse and salvage "Plan B," though what was proposed in its many variants — always some minor fraction of the negotiated package to date — should more accurately be called Plan Z.
It sounded like a great idea: better something than nothing. But, in multi-faceted talks that straddle several different sectors (for example, agriculture, manufactures, and services) and diverse rules (such as anti-dumping and subsidies), countries have negotiated concessions with one another in various areas. Whatever balance of concessions has been achieved would unravel if we were to try to keep one set and let go of another. Indeed, as Stuart Harbinson, a former special adviser to WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy, has pointed out, the haggling over what should go into Plan B would be as animated and difficult as the haggling over how to complete the entire Doha package.
Some of the critics are factually ill-informed. The Bhagwati-Sutherland Report amply documents that much has already been agreed upon in all the major areas. As Lamy has put it, nearly 80% of the curry is ready; we need only additional spices from the major players — India, the European Union, the US, Brazil, and China. These can be provided in politically palatable ways, which also means that the conclusion of Doha is within our reach, not beyond our grasp. But why bother to continue trying? If Doha fails, some say, life will go on. That is true, of course, but that doesn't make this view any less naïve.
If the Doha Round fails, trade liberalisation would shift from the WTO to preferential trade agreements (PTAs), which are already spreading like an epidemic. But, if PTAs were the only game in town, the implicit constraint on trade barriers against third countries provided by the WTO's Article 24, which is weak but real, would disappear altogether. The WTO stands on two legs: non-discriminatory trade liberalisation and uniform rule-making and enforcement. With the former eliminated, the most important institution of global free trade would be crippled. This would also affect the leg that survived, because the PTAs would increasingly take over the functions of rulemaking as well. This already can be seen in PTAs whose rules on conventional issues like anti-dumping are often discriminatory in favour of members. It is also reflected in the increasing number of nontrade-related provisions being inserted into the PTA treaties proposed by the US and EU, a result of self-serving lobbies that seek concessions by weaker trading partners, without which free trade supposedly would amount to "unfair trade." These rules are then advertised as "avant garde," implying that the PTAs are the "vanguard" of new rules.
As a result, the willingness of WTO members to invoke the Dispute Settlement Mechanism, the pride of the WTO — and, indeed, of international governance — would also be sapped. Tribunals established within PTAs would take over the business, leading to the atrophy, and eventual irrelevance, of the DSM.
We can live without the Doha Round, but for many people it would not be much of a life. Now is no time for cynical complacency.
(The author is University Professor of Economics and Law at Columbia University) © Project Syndicate, 2011







    Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and CPI-M should actually go back to Alimuddin Street and confine themselves to recasting the party, instead of letting out steam at road intersections and spewing pretty useless gall all around. That the former chief minister or his party hasn't learnt much from the hiding it has received in the assembly polls was evident when Buddha launched himself into another blame-game against the Centre and the state government on Tuesday. What was it intended for? To create some useless noise? The former chief minister and his party should realise that noise pollution should best be avoided, at least for the time being.
Enough noise had been created during the run-up to the elections, and all it had got to show were just 40 seats (now 39, with an MLA committing suicide) for the CPI-M and 62 seats for the Left Front! In Buddha's case, his highly intellectual and passionate speeches have got him no better than a severe thrashing by over 26,000 votes from a constituency that had earlier voted him to power five consecutive terms. And by whom did he get defeated? By an absolute novice to politics, his own erstwhile chief secretary, Manish Gupta.
The CPI-M should realise that it is time to sit down and recast the party and overhaul its archaic policies. The party headquarters at Alimuddin Street should be a perfect sanctuary and there is no need immediately to go out on the streets just now and criticise others. A pedestrian who stopped for a while at the fringes of the crowd that was arranged for the meeting of Buddha on Tuesday, made a pertinent observation. "These people have no shame. If my son were to fail his exams and then suggest that the textbooks were wrong or the teachers bad, I would have given him the caning of his life and told him to stop complaining and to study more," he said. Precisely the point against Buddha and the CPI-M top brass. If you have failed, you have failed. And you failed because you did not study well enough and because vigilance was so tight that you were not able to indulge in cheating, too! So it's fine. Go back to the drawing board, do your studies, work hard honestly and hope to succeed.
It was indeed sad to hear the former chief minister drumming up a small piece of statistics, and taking quite some pride in doing so. "We (Left Front) have secured 41% of the total votes polled at 1.95 crore votes," he told the still-faithful below the podium. Was this really a point to brag about ? In 2006, the Left Front had got 1.98 crore votes, which was 50.18% of the total 3.95 crore votes polled. Total votes polled in 2011 was 4.75 crore, and if the Left has got 1.95 crore out of that, it's not really something very creditable. Besides, seat-wise it has been a virtual washout, with the Left tally dropping from 235 to 62 and the CPIM's own tally from 176 in 2006 to 40.
Therefore, what purpose will such ill-timed, ineffective sniping serve? At best, it will further alienate voters, specially in a situation where the new chief minister has made her opening moves with such clinical perfection. The impromptu visits to the various public hospitals have already shaken up the system and made her a darling to the masses. Her daily travel in the little black Santro, minus most of the VVIP trappings, has come up for allround praise. Less than a fortnight in power, the new government has initiated a flurry of activities, engaging problems over a wide arc from the Gorkhas of Darjeeling to the financial health of the state. The public, in McDonald parlance, is just "loving it".
The CPI-M state high command must realise that hackneyed lines of thought and the same old rhetoric uttered by the same set of known faces, only add infinitely to the overall boredom. Brands anywhere need to be repositioned from time to time in order to be relevant. But brands that have lost out by as much as 77% market share as the CPI-M has, (or 74% in the Left Front's case) should either be phased out completely, or their entire arithmetic reworked.
Surely, if CPI-M was a company in the retail segment, such a catastrophic drop in market share would have triggered off instant management overhaul at all levels, for starters. Clearly, the brand isn't selling anymore. In corporate terms, if it doesn't want to be a BIFR case or join the 58,000-closed units club in West Bengal, it must start thinking on its feet. A new brand powerhouse has emerged, and the CPI-M should transform itself dramatically like communists almost everywhere else in the world have, in order to be able to compete.











In Mumbai, we have become used to limiting our thinking of public open spaces to areas planned for public parks and gardens. To create a public open space out of abandoned, privately owned industrial infrastructure requires a leap of imagination.


Later this month, Manhattan — arguably Mumbai's geographical cousin — will see the opening of the second section of a truly unusual park: the High Line. The story of this park and its transformation from an abandoned freight railway line into a unique open space is the kind of stuff you only dream about or read in novels.
    Located on Manhattan's West Side, the High Line runs from Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District to West 34th Street, between 10th & 11th Avenues. From 1847 to the 1930s, freight trains ran at road level down Manhattan's largest industrial zone, the Meatpacking District. This collision of rail and road traffic caused so many accidents that 10th Avenue was nicknamed "Death Avenue".


In the 1930s, the rail lines were raised 30 feet above road level and ran through industrial blocks and sheds at that height. This was part of a massive public-private infrastructure project which also created additional space at Riverside Park, and cost about $2 billion at today's prices.


he High Line ran till 1980 and when, a few years later, in 1999, the now historic structure was proposed to be demolished, a non-profit group called Friends of the High Line proposed a partnership with the local authority (the City of New York) to create, preserve and maintain the structure as an elevated park.


A planning framework for the High Line's preservation and reuse was prepared in 2002, when the City Council adopted a resolution supporting the project. This was followed by a study with a financial rationale: tax revenue generation by the public space was projected to exceed construction cost (an urban design concept we quite simply overlook in our planning). A year later, a design competition was held: 720 teams from 36 countries entered. Two years later, the design teams — landscape architecture, horticulture, engineering, security, maintenance, public art, architecture and more — were selected. The designs were showcased at MoMA.
    In November 2005, the City took over ownership of the High Line from its private owner. The owner donated the High Line to the city, and the city signed an agreement for its continued reuse; and this is what effectively ensures the High Line Park's future. Construction began in 2006, and the first section, from Gansevoort Street to West 20th Street opened three years later in June 2009. Later this month, Section 2, up to West 30th Street, will open to the public. The city and the state have both contributed funds.


On a warm summer evening, the lighting tilting in from the West, the park was a revelation. You climb up two flights of stairs at Gansevoort Street and, arriving at the starting decks, are immediately transported into another world. As my young nephew said, the city looks entirely different from here. This is not just a walkway. There are large areas of carefully planted green, a watered sidewalk, beautifully designed benches (some on wheels set on the old rail lines) and seating areas under groves.


The park follows the rail lines, even through buildings that now provide spaces for exhibitions and performances. At one point is a jaw-dropping amphitheatre, positioned over a road underpass with a huge glass pane overlooking the street. To the west, one sees the piers and dockyards and Frank Gehry's IAC building.

This isn't a park for bustle and mad physical activity. It's a slow park, for sauntering, pausing often, unwinding. It is an astonishing achievement, most notably for the sharing of a vision by citizens, city officials and private corporations, in doing something for the betterment of the city and for its people. It marries a present, and pressing, public need with the preservation of industrial architecture.


A park like this lends context to the otherwise amorphous interpretation of the right to life as including the right to a clean environment. Perhaps the real fundamental right is the right to a public open space.


The High Line Park also forces us to ask what form we want our cities to take and reaffirms the importance of urban environmental concerns. It also forces a reassessment of our individual roles in relation to our city. In Mumbai, we only see mammoth private residences; the High Line demonstrates the power of a profit-making corporation ceding an asset to the city, and the city, the state and the people partnering to create something out of an industrial element — a reclamation of history and architecture, not their effacement, and a dedication of the space to the city.


Perhaps a park like this isn't relevant in areas where individual homes have their own yards or open spaces. But in a city like New York, as in Mumbai, where land is scarce, a park in the sky is an idea for tomorrow.






                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL




It can hardly be any comfort for a government battling corruption charges — although it must be said that fingers have not been pointed at Prime Minister Manmohan Singh — to be pressured by Opposition parties to eject yet another Cabinet minister for suspected malfeasance. Not long ago communications minister A. Raja was eventually compelled to resign when allegations of corruption against him over 2G spectrum allocations no longer appeared just academic. Even as Mr Raja languishes in judicial custody, the conduct of his DMK colleague, Union textiles minister Dayanidhi Maran, has come under scrutiny for the period (2004-07) when he was communications minister in the UPA-1 government. While Mr Maran has denied the charges, alas flat denials no longer convince a public which has become deeply sceptical of the political class on probity issues over the years. The allegation is that Mr Maran favoured the Malaysia-based Maxis Group by awarding cheaply 14 USAL licences for Aircel, the Indian entity Maxis was encouraged to taken over, in return for Maxis investing Rs 600 crores in Sun TV, which is owned by the Maran family. The Opposition's demand for Mr Maran's resignation is on expected lines. A government in which two Cabinet ministers (Mr Raja being the first) are obliged to vacate office on corruption charges is bound to be emasculated in political and electoral terms. Only a thorough investigation can reveal the position in the context of accusations against the second DMK minister who has been brought into the ambit of suspicion. It is, therefore, too early to expect the Prime Minister to ask his textiles minister to go. However, Dr Singh needs to opt for a pro-active approach in getting his role as communications minister earlier investigated. The method of slow correspondence back and forth between different wings of the government — and tardy conduct from the PM's office — that we saw in the Raja case simply won't do this time. Such an approach had brought the PMO little credit in the Raja case. The Congress Party gives the impression of shrugging off the matter as though it has nothing to do with the affair. This ostrich-like, hands-off approach is certain to rebound, for the party leads the government in which the DMK is a coalition partner. Relations between the Congress and the DMK have been somewhat strained after the arrest of Mr Raja and DMK supremo M. Karunanidhi's daughter Kanimozhi, a Rajya Sabha MP. Even so, the Congress might have little choice but to have a candid conversation with the DMK leadership in the matter concerning Mr Maran. Indeed, it should cause no surprise if DMK factions opposed to Mr Maran actually welcome investigation of the textiles minister's affairs, although for obvious reasons they cannot say so publicly. A retired judge has already been asked to take a broad-sweep look into the working of the department of telecommunications since 2001 as this is the period in which policies were framed and executed to allocate spectrum, a scarce resource. This committee's findings, with specific reference to Mr Maran's tenure, can also be made available to the joint parliamentary committee looking into the 2G scam overall. More pointedly, the CBI should also be tasked to probe Mr Maran's role in that ministry. This is already a subject of a public interest litigation. The government would do well to get on with it before the Supreme Court directs it to do so, and the media builds more pressure. The rules of business governing the functioning of the Union Cabinet in relation to the Prime Minister's Office are also clearly in need of revision. In the light of the Raja affair, the Maran case, the sorry episode of the CVC's appointment, and the near-miss involving the Antrix Corporation which comes under the PM's direct charge, the PMO has been consistently wrong-footed. Dr Singh badly needs to assert himself.







KOLKATA 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. Ruchira Gupta, who runs an organisation called Apne Aap that fights human trafficking, estimates that 90 per cent 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 programme 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 centre 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 defence against HIV 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 five, 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 counselling 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. By arrangement with The New York Times







There is something knee jerk about the debates around any major event in India. If the country loses in cricket, obituaries litter the way. The same goes for elections. When the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) lost in West Bengal, post-mortems were a dime a dozen. This prompted protests from leading scholars and activists, claiming the Left was alive and well. These were eloquently written documents and you hesitate to criticise them because many who have signed it are people you greatly admire. The struggles they invoke virtually constitute the conscience of a generation. Let us be clear about one thing. The Left is not the party and many in the Left would be embarrassed by the ossified statements of Marxist apparatchik like Brinda Karat or Prabhat Patnaik. Basically, the intellectuals who justify the CPI(M) have become second-rate commissars indifferent to change and the cry for change. West Bengal was tired of the CPI(M), tired of the party that had criminalised itself and was virtually strangling a society. Between its stalinism and gangsterism, the CPI(M) had to go. Its post-election excuses are close to comic. But the Left is a bigger process and goes beyond the idiocy of current party life. There is, sadly, something about the Left that is defensive. In an ironic way, just as the best use of Mahatma Gandhi came from the social movements and not from Gandhian custodians, the most creative use of socialism and Marxism came from the non-party movements. The Narmada movement against the dam was a creative use of Marx and Gandhi. The creativity of the Left came more from dissenting imaginations than the ideologues. Wherever the Left had found a hearing aid and listened to the voice of human rights groups, peaceniks, feminists and ecologists, the Left has been innovative. Wherever it saw itself as part of a pluralistic force, the Left has survived. As a rubric for struggles of justice, the Left has been profound. Yet this pluralism was by osmosis. The Left had no innovative theory of pluralism. For years, its ideological gravitas made it oscillate between technocratic expertise and a pompous positivism where it saw itself as the sole trustee of truth. For too long, a great part of the Left moved as committee rather than community. It never outgrew the arrogance of ideology. I remember many times in Delhi, where leading professors would smile smugly pretending they were part of a presidium of truth. The Left's suppression of dissent in the academe needs some reflection. What do I mean by a theory of pluralism? It requires confidence to realise that the Left as a perspective, while insightful is incomplete. It needs the generosity especially of Marxists to realise what socialism has added to its imagination. Socialists were far more courageous in resisting the emergency than the Marxists were. The Left was slow in recognising the truth of the margins as it was too committed to the idea of planned development and the officialdom of trade union and party. The Left survived when it joined this wider pluralism of forces, many of whom spoke in dialects, the Left had to learn. For example, when class did not-quite make sense against caste, the Left had to learn to be open to the work of sociologists, many of whom spoke a more liberal idiom. The Left's contempt for sociology and anthropology in the Sixties and the Seventies was a crass example of its illiteracy and ideological stuffiness. What makes the Left ideologically stuffy and often politically correct is its understanding of science which was still stuck in the Bernal era. As a result, a great part of the Left had no creative understanding of science or of the way science hegemonised other knowledges. Science, instead of deconstructing ideology, has constructed itself as one. Because of its umbilical chord to almost positivist-statist science, the Left became an extension counter to the Congress regime. Its participation in the scientific temper debate showed it did not even understand great Marxist scholars like Joseph Needham who claimed that Marxism had to be translated from German to English idioms and dialects. The innovation of the Left in recent times has been from an imagination to understanding imaginaries, worlds not yet born, horizons as yet inarticulate. But to consolidate this without dogmatising it, the Left needs more civic epistemologies. All too often it parades itself as a form of correctness when it could be more playful, allowing itself to see not just the absurd in the other but in itself as well. While its missionary puritanism will take it far, a touch of the comic, an ability to laugh at the pomposities of the past might make it more liveable. What are the challenges before us, as a collectivity, which is quarrelsome in its approach? I think the goal before us is the democratisation of democracy. The old notion of democracy built on citizenship, rights, electoralism and the nation state while still relevant need newer imaginaries. Citizenship needs a different idea of being as it confronts marginal groups being ignored in most development programmes. The Left needs a more creative understanding of the informal economy, a sense of both fortunes and misfortunes at the bottom of the pyramid. Second, it needs a theory of obsolescence, not just technologically but to understand how people are being treated as waste. It has to deconstruct its idea of progressivism. Its notion of security needs to be kneaded into a theory of peace which includes a critique of its own proclivity for violence. The guerrilla and the satyagrahi have to combine in more surprising ways. Democracy has ironic ways of becoming populist or authoritarian and the Left, by confronting its own ironies, must be ready to combat such a development. By creating a more liberal sense of its past, it might be ready to construct futures which go beyond the denial of its obituaries. *Shiv Visvanathan is a social scientist.






Theyyam is a rite and an art prevalent in north Kerala. Gods, goddesses, beings like yaksha, gandharvas, bhoothas, nagas, ancestors and gallant heroes who died while performing adventurous deeds are worshipped through this folk art. Theyyam and Thira are, in fact, two ways of worshipping the common man. Usually people worship idols in stone or wood considering them to be representing deities. But Theyyam and Thira are different and simpler forms of worship. In these forms of worshipping, we will find deities who can move and talk. Theyyam is conducted on a person who is possessed by a deity or a hero of the past who is worthy of worship. It is a serious and solemn enterprise. The man who wears the Theyyam form, (the performer), the one who helps him/her in the observance, the oracle, all should observe fasting before the rite is conducted. It is believed that complete submission to the art occurs only if the mind is made steady by fasting. In Theyyam, even the dancing steps are observance-bound. People believe that Theyyam and Thira forms are capable of blessing and cursing. In the past, it was believed that different Theyyam forms could arrest the spread of epidemics, fulfil wishes, ensure fertility and expel evil spirits. Theyyam performances usually take place in kavus (holy groves), shrines, araas (cellars), kottas (forts) and under the trees and yards of ancestral houses. The word Theyyam is, in fact, a derivation of Daivam (God). Theyyam, Thira and Kolam, all, represent the same divinity. There are many mother deities addressed as Bhagavaty, Chamundi, Kaali and Eswari. Some of them have local manifestations too. Theyyam forms differ according to the styles of worship, observance, concept and form. The costumes are designed with the purpose of adding to the grace of the deity. Theyyam performers in Kerala belong to certain communities such as Vannan, Malayan, Mavilan, Charavan, Anjoottan, Kollaalan, Pulayar, Paravar etc. The holy groves and the premises of the ancestral houses where Theyyam is performed are to be kept tidy. On the previous day of the rite, the Kolkkaran (one who assists the performer) arrives there and monitors all preparations. The whole area remains alive and excited as the moment arrives. Irrespective of religion, caste and creed, people respect and appreciate this art form. "Daivena prabhuna swayam jagathi yadyasya pramaneekritham Taththasyopanamenmanaagapi maha- nnaivaasraya Kaaranam...." "Whatever we want in the world, we will get them by the grace of God who owns everything in the world. However, if you please Him by means of worshipping, you can get His blessings for sure." Theyyam performance is to be looked upon from this angle. The concept of deities and ancestors interacting with man through an art form is unique. The human yearning for God's grace and the sublimity of art blend in Theyyam performance. Dr Venganoor Balakrishnan is the author of Thaliyola, a book on Hindu beliefs and rituals. He has also written books on the Vedas and Upanishads. The author can be reached at






In 1951, Winston Churchill, then Leader of the Opposition and aged 77, scored a humiliating Commons victory over the new chancellor of the exchequer, Hugh Gaitskell. Not for nothing did Aneurin Bevan call Gaitskell "a desiccated calculating machine". His dry Wykehamist tone made his financial statements seem interminable, and this one soon had the House restless. Churchill made a diversion. He began to search his pockets. First the two side-pockets of his trousers. Then the two at the back. The top jacket pocket followed. The House gradually lost interest in Gaitskell and followed Churchill's investigations as he moved to the inner and the side-pockets of his coat and then his six waistcoat pockets. Exasperated beyond endurance, Gaitskell threw down his brief and asked acidly, "Can I be of any assistance?" Innocently surprised, the old man looked up and said, "I was only looking for a jujube". The House dissolved in laughter, and Gaitskell was lost. Now the point of the story is that if Churchill had been a woman, he could not have staged this performance. For women have no pockets. Why? The question takes us into the murkier depths of the sex war as well as the arcana of sartorial history. In the 19th century the skills of the Savile Row tailors devised a male suit that has remained standard for over 100 years, giving its owner 17 pockets in which to distribute all his keys, watch, notecase, money, matches, hanky etc without seriously altering his shape. If he had a good figure — wide shoulders, narrow hip — the suit preserved it while keeping all his knick-knacks within reach. It is typical of the perception of Thomas Carlyle (whose own rustic suitings were concealed beneath an elongated overcoat) that he noted the centrality of the suit, and especially of trousers, in his 1838 tract Sartor Resartus. To him, trousers and advanced culture — especially male culture — were inseparable. Trousers made possible pockets, to Carlyle a "marvellous natural invention", part of the way civilisation "armed the body for the market-place". In fact trousers, let alone pockets in them, had primitive origins. They were the mark of the French peasants and workmen, the sans-culottes, who did not wear elaborate breeches or culottes, of fine wool, silk or satin, but what were later called dungarees or overalls. In the early 1790s, members of the Assemblée nationale adopted them. The fashion spread across the Channel when the advanced Whigs, led by Charles James Fox, adopted trousers. At this point the tailor stepped in, turning the rustic garment into elegant attire by making it of superfine cloth, shaping it to the leg, adding pockets, and putting an elastic band under the instep — a device which delighted smart cavalry regiments and, according to George Orwell in 1947, "gave you a feeling like nothing else on earth". Beau Brummell was both architect and beneficiary of the "smart trousers", which made male legs so alluring in ladies' eyes that Pope Pius VII condemned them as sinful, and the garment was taboo in Rome until 1827. But everywhere else it flourished mightily. If the tricoteuse had adopted trousers at the same time as the male sans-culottes, the history of the world might have been different. But the French revolution did nothing for women. Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, kissed Westminster electors on behalf of Fox wearing voluminous and inconvenient skirts. Women did not even have the help of sensible underclothes. They wore petticoats, up to a dozen at a time. What were then called drawers, later knickers, were denied to all except prostitutes and dancers, who needed to show their legs. Drawers for respectable women did not begin to come in until about the time the papacy dropped its Opposition to trousers. If women were denied trousers, why could not they be given pockets? This question is discussed in an ingenious article in a recent issue of Victorian Studies. In "Form and Deformity: the Trouble with Victorian Pockets", the American scholar C.T. Matthews discusses 19th-century writers who analysed fashions with a view to drawing social lessons. The record shows that the absence of pockets was a huge disadvantage to females and one reason why male superiority was so steadfastly maintained. James Robinson Planché's Cyclopaedia of Costume (1879) called the adoption of trousers a sign of cultural triumph of "North over South, Protestant over Catholic, Angle over Celt", and indeed, men over women. Six years later Isaac Walker, in Dress: As it Has Been, Is and Will Be, called "cylindrical clothes" the "costume of civilised man". Women might have been given internal pockets but were denied them, too. It was argued that they had four external bulges already — two breasts and two hips — and a money pocket inside their dress would make an ungainly fifth. Instead there developed two external devices. One was the chatelaine or belt, an updating of the medieval girdle, on which keys and purses hung on hooks. This was awkward, and lent itself to ridicule in papers like Punch. The coming of the crinoline made it impossible to wear and by the time that had gone out of fashion the chatelaine had been abolished too. Instead there was the handbag, which evolved in the late 19th century out of the traditional workbag, in which ladies kept their sewing and knitting. The point about the handbag was that it was and is external to the body, and has to be carried. This increases female dependence and limits freedom of action. Moreover, whereas pockets are distributed about the person with a view to differentiated purposes, so that a man knows where everything is and can find it instantly, a bag is exactly that, a thing into which every needful article is indiscriminately thrown, so that much time is wasted in searching, quite apart from the risk of mislaying the bag itself. I heard of a case of an English society lady visiting New York who went for a coffee, and foolishly placed her bag on the floor near her chair. It was stealthily whipped, and she found herself in a strange and hard city without money, keys, travellers' cheques, ticket, passport and Filofax, indeed all the necessities of life. This predicament could never have enveloped a man. The 20th century brought women, in theory, trousers and pockets. But a clothes industry run by men, and a fashion trade dominated by homosexuals, ensured this made little difference. Tight jeans will not accommodate useful pockets. I remember Christian Dior saying to me in 1954: "Men have pockets to keep things in, women for decoration". Handbags have become much more important in women's appearance and practical life than they were in the 19th century, and relatively more expensive. Bigger, too. And in my observation, women spend a much greater proportion of their lives looking for mislaid objects than men do. It is true that women of genius overcome their disabilities. Margaret Thatcher made superb aggressive use of her handbag, for instance. I can still hear the sound of it snapping triumphantly. But few have her skills. Most are left, literally, out of pocket. By arrangement with the Spectator








"ALL that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing," said Edmund Burke. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is a good man doing nothing when confronted with overwhelming evidence of the misdeeds of Dayanidhi Maran while he was telecom minister in the UPA-I government from May 2004 to May 2007.  During celebrations marking completion of two years by UPA-II last month, the PM acknowledged concern over corruption and promised corrective action.

  UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi said the Congress-led government would take corruption head on and "demonstrate through actions, not words, that we mean what we say." Cornered by disclosures in a financial daily on 21 May and subsequently by a news magazine about 2G spectrum allocation causing a presumptive loss of revenue of Rs.22,000 crore on his watch, Dayanidhi ran to 10 Janpath for protection and emerged confidently with an outright denial of any wrong doing. Licences were denied to Aircel; its owner Sivasankaran sold the company to Maxis group of Malaysia owned by Ananda Krishnan for $800 million.
  The new owner was given 14 licences in cash-rich circles by Dayanidhi and its value shot up to $8 billion in just two years. The Maxis Group invested about Rs 700 crore in the Sun TV Group companies, owned by Kalanadhi Maran, Dayanidhi's brother. Dayanidhi's contention that the Maxis investment in Sun TV was effected only in December 2007, more than six months after he ceased to be the telecom minister, shouldn't fool anybody.

The process was set in motion in February 2007 when he was very much in charge of the telecom ministry. He obtained for Sun TV Direct, a company owned by his brother Kalanidhi and wife, the required approvals from the Foreign Investment and Promotion Board and the ministry of Information and Broadcasting to acquire 20 per cent stake for Astro, one of the Maxis Group companies, on 2 March and 19 March, 2007 respectively. Dayanidhi was forced out of the UPA-I government due to a feud in the Karunanidhi family on 13 May 2007 and reinstated in the UPA-II government in May 2009.

The CBI, which is directly under the PMO, had investigated other misdemeanours of Dayanidhi during his two-year tenure as telecom minister and submitted its report on 10 September, 2007, recommending action against him for fraud.  With no experience as a parliamentarian or a minister, this first-time MP was inducted into the UPA Cabinet. One of the first things he did was to install 323 BSNL telephones in his Boat Club Road private residence in Chennai and connect it by underground cable to the Sun TV office in Anna Salai, 3.5 km away, using costly ISDN lines which could carry huge volumes of TV news programmes faster than satellites to any part of the world. The CBI report says "these lines are normally used by medium to large commercial enterprises to meet special needs such as video conferencing, transmission of huge volume of digital data of audio and video." On a sample study, the CBI found that 48,72,027 units of calls had been made from just one telephone (No.2437-1515) in the month of March 2007 alone, "which is indicative of the massive multimedia transfer in the underlying connections." The existence of such an exchange created for the minister's exclusive use was known only to select BSNL staff.
Extrapolating the calls made from one of the 323 BSNL lines, a chartered accountant had worked out that between January and April 2007, the number of calls made would have been in the order of 630 crore units.  At the prevailing rate of 70 paise per call unit, the loss to BSNL would be more than Rs 440 crore. On the evidence, Dayanidhi showed the way to A Raja who succeeded him and is now in jail. Dayanidhi meanwhile occupies pride of place in the Cabinet room. Is this the way of taking corruption head on as Sonia Gandhi promised?



LAST week marked the anniversary of a day no one in authority would like to remember. On 28 May 2010, suspected Maoists derailed the Howrah-Kurla Jnaneswari Express at Jhargram in West Bengal leading to an accident in which many died. The railways blamed the state government for inadequate security, the state government blamed the then Minister for Railways for hobnobbing with the Maoists. While not much came of the investigation, one of the unfortunate consequences of the Maoist attack was that South-Eastern Railway suspended night operations on its Kharagpur-Tata, Chakradharpur-Rourkela and Kharagpur-Agra sections. Several important trains were hit, notably the Howrah-Mumbai Mail, the Azad Hind Express, the Jnaneswari Express, the Howrah-Porbandar Express and the Samarsata Express. Also affected were other trains including the New Delhi-Puri Express and the New Delhi-Bhubaneswar Duranto Express.
  As Railway minister, Mamata Banerjee justified this by saying that passenger safety was of paramount importance. Implicit was the charge that the then government of West Bengal was incapable of taking the steps necessary to make night-running of trains safe. To this day, railway time-tables and websites give the scheduled departure and arrival times of the affected trains; the fine-print on press releases issued from time to time has to be studied for information on when trains actually leave and reach. And so the charade has continued.
Even by India's generally leisurely government standards, one year is a long time for train operations to be thus compromised. Hundreds of thousands of passengers have suffered inconvenience. And all those who use trains on the affected routes do so with the threat of delay and compromised safety staring them in the face as schedulers try to pack 24 hours of train services into 18 hours of operation. Now Miss Banerjee heads the government of West Bengal; and she has a crucial stake in railway safety through her party's continued engagement with the Rail ministry. In other words, there is no one to pass the buck to. It is high time safety on the affected sections was beefed up, the root causes of disaffection addressed and normal train operations resumed. If that can't be done for reasons of safety, the railways should accept they cannot operate trains in some areas at night and recast their time-tables.  Two faces are on show, and neither is pretty.








THE Prime Minister's recent visit to Africa and the far-reaching decisions he announced while he was there raised expectations that something new in the relationship between India and Africa was finally taking place. Despite the underlying friendship and sympathy between the two sides, nothing very much seemed to have been happening, so the time was ripe for important new initiatives.

India had started with a bang in Africa, Jawaharlal Nehru being the flag-bearer for independence and an end to colonialism. The new nations of Africa as they emerged in quick succession looked to India with sympathy and rapidly established close ties with New Delhi. India and Africa worked together internationally to advance their shared interests. The new Commonwealth that was shaped in considerable measure by Nehru soon had a majority of African members and vigorously pursued causes especially meaningful to them, like the ending of apartheid in South Africa. Some of the outstanding African leaders, like Presidents Kaunda and Nyerere, respectively of Zambia and Tanzania, were familiar figures in New Delhi and developed close personal links with India's leaders.


The UN, above all others, was the forum where India and Africa worked in harmony, and India became deeply involved in African causes. It was prominent, too, in UN peacekeeping efforts in Africa, notably in the Congo. These events now belong to a former era but they are worth recalling as a reminder of the close engagement that has marked the relationship between India and Africa.


Within Africa, there are several scattered Indian communities, often quite substantial in number, typically engaged in trade and also in professions like medicine and the law. These were exhorted by Nehru to identify not with the fading colonial powers but with the rising African nations. They were the natural outposts of India, with potential to develop trade and technical exchanges, and while they continued after independence to live and work in Africa, theirs' was a mixed experience: in some countries, they prospered, elsewhere they were regarded with suspicion, or even, as in Idi Amin's Uganda, forced to flee. In the circumstances, they were unable to be a useful bridge to connect the two sides. Of course, there are exceptions, and many positive experiences have been recorded, yet on the whole the flourishing of trade and economic exchanges anticipated after the end of the colonial era never took place. Lack of resources was part of the problem, and many new countries were forced to look to former colonial rulers for assistance in meeting their development needs.
During this period, India made sustained efforts to share its growing skills with partners in Africa, and programmes of technical cooperation received considerable backing and support. Resource constraints, however, meant that the scale of cooperation remained small, much less than the situation demanded. It is only now, with the benefit of the rapid growth it has recorded, that India has acquired the capacity to reach out across the Indian Ocean to Africa on an appropriate scale. What had been desired for so long, cooperative activity to make a real difference to both sides, has now come within reach. The Prime Minister's visit to Addis Ababa and to Dar-es-Salaam was no voyage of discovery, for ties across the Ocean are well established. What was achieved, however, was to take the relationship forward dramatically, so that India and Africa could become effective partners for the future.
The keynote event during Dr Manmohan Singh's visit was the India-Africa Summit. This brought together the principal leaders and affirmed their interest in going forward together. Summits of this nature routinely give birth to declarations, statements, action plans and the like, and recently there have been so many such summit meetings with their declarations etc. that the Addis Ababa meeting may not have drawn the attention it merits.
Relations between India and Africa are no longer driven by common political goals, as was the case in the earlier days. Organisations like NAM, the Group of 77, the Commonwealth, offer residual goodwill but not a great deal more. It is thus important that the leaders meet periodically and refresh the essential basis of their common association, for without such re-energising of the relationship it risks being eclipsed by other preoccupations on both sides. As Dr. Manmohan Singh put it, we have to rediscover and revive fraternal ties of kinship.
The most eye-catching outcome of the summit was India's announcement of credits of  $5 billion for economic cooperation with Africa over the next three years. Commitments of this magnitude show serious intention on India's part and its decision is much to be welcomed. Heavy investment in South-South cooperation has become a feature of the government's foreign policy, as large credits to Bangladesh, Central Asia, and now Africa testify. Maybe Dr. Manmohan Singh's spell as Secretary of the South Commission has made him more willing take this route, and also to prise resources from the famously conservative officials in charge of the nation's finances. Hitherto India had to make do with the ITEC (Indian Technical Cooperation) programme and its paltry resources as the main instrument in this field, but now it should be possible to move ahead rapidly.
Comparisons have been made between Indian and Chinese economic and technical programmes in Africa. From the start, both have made important gestures of support to meet African aspirations. In China's case, well before it became an economic super power, and at a time when it had many economic difficulties of its own, it successfully implemented the massive TanZam rail project between the two independent minded neighbouring countries ~ Tanzania and Zambia. In recent years, China has hosted a summit with Africa in Beijing, top Chinese leaders have paid extensive visits to Africa, and large Chinese investments have been made. Because India and China seem to be following similar courses, there is talk of some sort of rivalry between them in the support they extend to development processes in Africa. But this has never been the case in the past and is not relevant to India's current policy in Africa. On their part, African countries have been glad to see the enhanced interest in their affairs shown by these two rapidly advancing Asian countries.
The work begun at the first two India-Africa Summits now needs to be consolidated and taken further. India will no doubt endeavour to maintain a balance of interest and mutual benefit in its dealings with African partners. This will be a solid foundation for the next, more active, phase of India-Africa cooperation that now looms.
The writer is India's former Foreign Secretary





The Congress party, adept at creating political monsters, is working hard at it again. Having learnt no lessons from the Bhindranwale era that plunged Punjab and the rest of the country into chaos, the Congress is keen to convert Baba Ramdev into a civil society mascot. Three senior ministers rushed to meet the yoga expert when he arrived in Delhi, led by no less a person than India's finance minister ~ Mr Pranab Mukherjee. Others in the contingent included Mr Kapil Sibal and Mr Subodh Kant Sahay, whose minuscule moment in the spotlight came because he claimed to know the yoga expert well.

As newspapers pointed out, defying all protocol, Ramdev was received by three ministers who entreated him to call off his proposed fast or at least ensure that the yoga exponent and the government and, of course, the Congress, understood each other clearly. The Congress has made some noises because it is the party's usual ploy to play one against another just in case things don't work out as planned. It can be assumed that Ramdev will be agreeable to the government as greater mortals have found it difficult to resist the fawning representatives of a state. Also, it must be remembered that he has backed the government's view that the office of the Prime Minister should be kept out of the purview of the proposed Lokpal Bill. "No need!" Ramdev had declared even as civil society representatives were engaged in hard negotiations with the government.
The government has succeeded, as was its intention, in dividing the support base that Mr Anna Hazare had been able to build up. The tactics were simple, and again, something that the Congress is skilled at. A lot of fingers had been raised at Mr Hazare and civil society representatives working with him to create confusion. And confusion, as we all know, always works to the advantage of those in power. Civil society is too divided and not so strong as to take advantage of the resultant chaos. The battle thus is lost even before it has begun, with the government and the ruling party having hemmed in the activists. Perhaps the time has come for them to call out: "Check mate!" which they will, in all likelihood, before the monsoon session of Parliament begins. But by doing that, they will ensure that the popular fight against corruption becomes the preserve of Ramdev who will, by then, have emerged as the consensus figure for the government. This is the game that is being played now, and by the time Parliament meets, political parties will be overwhelmingly relieved to find that the ruling party has "managed" the crisis to the satisfaction of all.

It is obvious that the government had panicked when Mr Hazare and his men had started the fast which had secured overwhelming support from all sections of society. Instead of acknowledging the protests in light of its commitment to cleanse the country of overwhelming and paralysing  corruption, the government assumed the role of the "Opposition" and employed the wily Mr Pranab Mukherjee and Mr Kapil Sibal to tackle the unsuspecting and relatively-innocent civil society representatives. Suffice to say that the players seeking to infuse the establishment with a measure of accountability were no match and the Congress has been on top of the game for a while now.

The decision to "consult" chief ministers ~ many of whom must be wondering how all this suddenly came about ~ is part of a design to secure a political consensus on corruption. That is, a design to ensure that corruption and the corrupt among the political players and their friends in industry, media, bureaucracy, judiciary, among others, have an uninterrupted run in this country. Big industrial houses have been overzealous in trying to post bail for the DMK bigshots languishing in jail and have their friends arguing hard for their release. The Congress has many lawmakers who are close to business houses and it will not be an exaggeration to say that there is a great deal of sympathy for those the law has finally caught up with. Many journalists, too, are finding the lure of life on the fast lane irresistible and hence are cosying up to businessmen. There is a even a certain silent support from a section of journalists for the raging corruption.
The government would have done well had it moved to make the system transparent and accountable at the earliest. This would have convinced the people that it was serious about repatriating black money and helping make India less corrupt. Unfortunately, the Congress-led government's acute sense of self-preservation has drowned out its public interest prerogative and put it in a path of direct confrontation with civil society that wants change but does not really know how to bring about it.
Ramdev should be left to do what he supposedly does best ~ yoga. No one would have had any problems with Mr Pranab Mukherjee seeking a well-earned yoga lesson from the expert as a private citizen but it is inconceivable for many that the country's finance minister should rush to meet Ramdev with folded hands in his official capacity in an effort to defuse a burgeoning political crisis.   
Hope common sense prevails over the Congress and makes it realise that corruption needs to be tackled from the front and not subsidised with

The writer is Consulting Editor, The Statesman





The Shahs of Nepal have had one thing in common with the Maoists who eventually caused dynastic rule to end in the landlocked mountain kingdom. Both, in many senses, drew sustenance from India. The entire Nepalese political class, at a time when India was fighting for Independence, was educated in universities in Banaras, Allahabad and Kolkata. In post-Independence India and post-Rana Nepal, New Delhi played a crucial role in permanently clipping the Ranas' wings. The first blow to the Ranas was when India played host to King Tribhuvan, who had been forced to flee Kathmandu by them.
It was Jawaharlal Nehru who had eventually sent the King back, hoping democracy would flourish in Nepal. Around the same time, a new generation of Nepalese ~ brash and optimistic ~ had made their way to Indian universities, mainly Jawaharlal Nehru University. There, they took to Marxism and forged links with Indian communists just as the educated Nepalese youth of pre-Independence era had openly joined the Indian freedom struggle. BP Koirala ~ who went on to become the first non-Rana Prime Minister of Nepal after King Tribhuvan's return from exile ~ stood tallest among them.
King Tribhuvan's successor, son Mahendra, for some reason, was very suspicious of India. I visited Nepal following a trip to that country by a colleague from The Statesman whose reportage had incurred King Mahendra's wrath and led to a ban on newspaper in that country for six months. The Indian Ambassador at the time was Shriman Narayan, a former All India Congress Committee general-secretary and a well-known Gandhian. I was to learn from his successor, Raj Bahadur, a former Union minister, that Narayan was so awed by King Mahindra's vision of himself as an incarnation of Lord Vishnu that he would prostrate himself to the King every time he called on him. This was around the time the King had ordered the closure of the Indian Military Mission in Nepal. The mission had been around since the days of the British with its principal brief being distribution of pensions to the large number of Nepalese nationals who had served (an continue to) in the Indian Army. But the mission did keep it eyes and ears open as King Mahendra had opened a channel of communication with China around the same time. I might mention here that the articles that had resulted in a ban on The Statesman, had referred to close links between the royal palace and smugglers. Nepal, as I was also to report later, was the point from where Thai-made textile, stainless steel and assorted finished and unfinished products would find their way to India.
King Mahendra's son and successor Birendra did try to make amends after he ascended the throne but by that time, it was too late. The Nepalese Maoists had, in the meantime, struck deep roots and were busy spreading their network in the far-flung mountain ranges ~ attracting in droves hundreds of unemployed Nepalese youth, robbing the rich and the middle classes and sharing some of the loot with the poor. The royal palace lost much of its allure following the massacre of King Birendra and his family. His brother Gyanendra succeeded as monarch amid much controversy. But King Gyanendra had a very short stint at the palace what with the Maoists, who had become very active the preceding three years, refusing to let him gain a solid foothold. The Maoists urged an end to monarchy. They wanted Nepal to be a republic and a republic it became ~ albeit a chaotic one. The problem with post-monarchy Nepal is, like it or not, that the Maoists have spent the past three years trying to get rid of all other political parties. Of course, they emerged as the single largest party following an election to the country's proposed Constituent Assembly. And, the Maoists did enjoy power for some months thereafter. Prachanda, a JNU alumnus, as the country's new Prime Minister, made three visits to Beijing and as a token of his appreciation for Chinese communism, permitted the Chinese to build a road through Tibet right up to the border with India. But assorted coalitions that took over after Prachanda's exit as the Prime Minister proved unstable. Also, they were no match for the aggressive Maoist leader.
Nepal's instability has been accentuated by its elected representatives' failure to draft a republican Constitution. Deadlines have been set and remained unmet. The latest, which saw a three-month extension granted to the House, was agreed upon by political parties last week but according to Nepalese observers, only a miracle can make them agree on an acceptable draft. The Nepali Congress, the oldest of the country's political parties, is very suspicious of the Maoists. In fact, they had stiffly opposed the former rebels when they wanted their armed activists to be absorbed into the Nepalese Army right after the poll. The Nepali Congress now wants the Maoists People's Liberation Army, Nepal to be disbanded. From the current Prime Minister, Mr Jhalanath Khanal, down, most Nepalese politicians concede that the Constituent Assembly would not be able to deliver a Constitution even after the extension of the latest deadline which expired on 28 May. As per the arrangement arrived at by political parties earlier, the term of the House may have to be extended by another year, assuming that the Constitution is framed, debated and approved over the next three months.
Nepalese observers see the biggest threat to the peace process, linked directly to the framing of the Constitution, coming from the non-implementation of several provisions of the Comprehensive Peace Accord of 2006. The Maoists are being squarely blamed for this by the other signatories to the accord, Nepali Congress among them. The Nepali Congress has put forth a fresh set of demands that call on the Maoists to dispose of arms owned by it, disband their armed unit, return properties that the former insurgents had captured during the years of conflict and transform the Young Communist League into a civilian outfit. The demands notwithstanding, the Nepali Congress has amply demonstrated that it has neither the will nor the capacity to confront the Maoists beyond a point despite the former rebels having violated the peace accord in letter and spirit. The Maoists want to be part of the democratic process only on their own terms. They have, in fact, asked the cadres to be ready for another "People's War". It's true that Prachanda plays this card at critical moments.
Forty-eight hours before the latest extension was granted to Nepal's Constitution-makers, Prachanda said that Maoist-owned arms could not be bartered away. In a recent judgment, the Supreme Court of Nepal has observed that the term of the House can be extended by six months beyond the first two years of its convention in case a State of Emergency is declared. This, according to Nepalese political observers, will have a direct bearing on the course and fate of the Constituent Assembly. Clearly, its moral and Constitutional status will come under greater scrutiny over the next three months and the Maoists will continue to act tougher. The Nepali Congress could have proved an effective counter to the former rebels had it not been so wobbly. But it chooses to remain that way and this, of course, suits the Maoists very well.  

The writer is a veteran journalist and former Resident Editor, The Statesman






Among The Pilgrims At Kalighat
(By A Correspondent)
There are few, if any, countries in the world in which there are so many public holidays as there are in India. The religion of the people calls for so many observances which have to be performed on particular days that scarcely a month passes without there having to be practically a complete cessation of business for one, two or more days. This year, for instance, there are no less than 43 public holidays marked on the calendar, the great majority of which are either Hindu or Mahomedan puja days.

On Tuesday, the Hindu Dasahara festival was the occasion of a public holiday. All the courts, public offices, exchanges and commercial markets were closed, the ostensible purpose of the holidays being to give the Hindus an opportunity to wash away, by bathing in the Ganges, ten different varieties of sin. Strangely enough, however, the crowds at the bathing ghats were largely composed of women and children; the men, who had been given a holiday because of the festival, being conspicuous by their absence.

Many thousands of pilgrims came into Calcutta on Monday and Tuesday to visit Kalighat Temple, and to a wash away their sins by bathing in the stream which they call Mother Ganga, but which Calcutta knows by the more prosaic title of Tolly's Nullah. They came mostly from the small towns and villages of Eastern Bengal, being conveyed at exceptionally cheap fares in wagons by the E.B.S. Railway.

A movement to protect cattle against being overworked and slaughtered is being pushed forward by a group of Hindus in Bangalore city. They are about to memorialise the Maharaja's Government to pass a regulation prohibiting the slaughter of cows and have obtained the signatures of many persons interested in the matter.








There is a new ogre striding across the Indian political landscape. The ogre is called civil society. The instrument that this giant uses to send shivers down the spine of the political establishment is fasting against corruption in high places. It is not an edifying spectacle to see the prime minister of India, Manmohan Singh, appealing to one Baba Ramdev, a godman of doubtful provenance, to withdraw his fast. What is even worse — bordering, in fact, on the disgraceful — is the sight of four ministers rushing to the airport to persuade Ramdev not to undertake his fast. It would appear from the panic in the ranks of the government that Ramdev and his fast are being perceived as a major threat to the stability, if not the survival, of the government. The only sensible response to this craven attitude of the government is the following: if a fast undertaken by a fabulously wealthy yoga teacher threatens the government, then perhaps the government deserves to fall. There is something surreal in the way the prime minister and his colleagues have reacted to Ramdev.

It is important to remember that those like Ramdev and Anna Hazare, who are claiming to be leaders and voices of civil society, represent a very small section of Indian society. They are also not the elected representatives of the people. They are not accountable to anybody; sometimes not even to their own conscience. By giving such people undue importance, the government is only inflating their egos and images. It is becoming clear that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh is the principal mobilizer of support for Ramdev. This should suggest that Ramdev is not without political linkages since no one believes anymore that the RSS is only a cultural organization. There is another ominous angle that cannot be ignored. The present government, somewhat unexpectedly, is bestowing importance on religious figures. Witness the presence of the prime minister and Sonia Gandhi at the funeral of Sai Baba and the fuss being made now over Ramdev's fast. In independent India, attempts to pander to religious sentiments by a government committed to secularism have always had dangerous consequences. The prime minister should watch his step.






West Bengal excels in the art of fish-market bargaining. And in producing economists. That these achievements together can create mind-numbing confusion for the common man, fish-lover or not, is an experience that could have only come with the Great Change. The joke, far from funny for Bengal, is that the new finance minister, Amit Mitra, and the former one, Asim Dasgupta, are not arguing over a delicious commodity but over unpalatable facts regarding the state's finances. What has emerged from their polished bickering is that West Bengal has managed to make itself very poor and highly indebted, and not any of Mr Dasgupta's dexterity at hair-splitting is going to make a difference to that crude truth. About this last the citizens of West Bengal need have no confusion. Decades of mismanagement have emptied the state's coffers, although Mr Dasgupta, finance minister from 1987 to 2011, had claimed zero deficit for years on end.

The economics of the debate need not engage the layman; there are experts for that. It is just that Mr Dasgupta's expertise could not save West Bengal's finances. His ready answers to Mr Mitra, however, suggest that his years with the Communist Party of India (Marxist) have given him a skill in pusillanimous evasion masquerading as pedantic correctness. Does it ultimately matter whether West Bengal's liability is, as Mr Mitra claims, over Rs 2.03 lakh crore or, according to Mr Dasgupta's polite correction, not more than Rs 1.92 lakh crore? Typically, Mr Dasgupta has nothing to say when it is stated that Bengal's revenue deficit of Rs 16,441 crore is the highest in the country. All he can come back with is that the deficit was actually Rs 14,331 crore, only the impact of the sixth pay commission increased it. And that all undesirable gaps are "steadily declining". The kindest diagnosis of Mr Dasgupta is that he thinks his clever remarks make him seem wise, or relevant, or less incompetent than the new government is trying to make him look. Less kindly perceived, his pat comebacks are a sign that the CPI(M) arrogance cannot allow him to be ever wrong. It is clear that from his perspective the CPI(M)'s defeat is an example of injured merit: the people of West Bengal just did not have the faith to give it another 34 years. Predictably, Mr Dasgupta has forgotten that as a politician his main concern should be corrective action. Since he obviously has no clue to that, maybe it is time he fell silent.





The Indian National Congress owes a debt of gratitude to the Left. The discomfiture experienced by the latter in the April-May state-level elections has tended to obscure its most disappointing performance. In both Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, the Congress has suffered a traumatic setback. In Tamil Nadu, it could barely scrape through in five of the 63 assembly seats it contested. The party heads the post-poll government formed in Kerala, it is doing so though only by the particular grace of the Muslim League; its own tally of seats won is much less than the CPI(M)'s; almost the whole lot of two-score candidates handpicked by the party's heir-apparent in New Delhi have been rejected by Kerala's electorate. In West Bengal, the Congress has doubled the number of seats in the state assembly, but that is again reflected glory, by courtesy of its overwhelming, more powerful partner, shepherded by the tenacious lady. Only in Assam, the story is different; the Congress has won a convincing victory, obviously because of its success in marginalizing the Ulfa.

Scan the national landscape. Leaving aside the northeastern states where political affiliation is a nebulous concept in all seasons, the Congress on its own strength now rules only in Rajasthan, Haryana, Assam and Andhra Pradesh; in every other state, it has either been forced into the Opposition or has to share power with other parties. The story, in fact, is even more sombre. Technically, it enjoys an impressive majority in the state assembly of Andhra Pradesh. But even as the Telangana issue has split the party's MLAs, much the greater concern for it is the revolt of the son of the former chief minister who perished in a helicopter crash some months ago. The dead chief minister, a pet of 10 Janpath when alive, was a master of the art of cutting corners, amassing huge assets, clandestine and not-so-clandestine, during his tenure; those assets helped him to build a well-knit personal constituency. His offspring, a firm believer in the automaticity of dynastic succession, advanced his claim to ascend the state throne. The party goddess did not grant his prayer. The young colt failed to find any rationale for the rebuff: if family reign could be the accepted creed at the Centre, why should it be otherwise for the states? He revolted, going to the length of using the newspapers and television channel he controls to savage the ruling dynasty in New Delhi. That was lèse majesté; in no time, he was evicted from the party. This son of the former chief minister resigned from the Lok Sabha seat he had won on the Congress ticket; the outcome of the by-election that followed, announced on the same day the state assembly poll results were out, could not have been more humiliating for the Congress; its candidate forfeited his deposit, as did the candidates of all other parties, while the prodigal son, who contested on his own, won by a landslide majority.

He has proved the point: given his extraordinary popularity in large parts of the state, this loose cannon may cut the Congress to pieces in the next assembly poll. That poses a major dilemma for the party. The prudent thing would possibly be to adopt the stratagem of let-bygones-be-bygones, take the obstreperous fellow back and agree to install him as chief minister. But such a step could set up a bad precedent. Granting pardon to someone who had the cheek to challenge openly the dynasty might encourage others too to speak up. The problem the Congress faces is best summed up by the title Lenin gave to one of his polemical pieces: What is to be done. Should that abominable fellow be still left out in the cold, virtually heralding a total eclipse of the Congress south of the Vindhyas? For meanwhile its hope to drive out the BJP from the state administration in Karnataka has also receded for the present; its agent, the state governor, who was assigned to do the hatchet job, has made a hash of it. All this apart, in Aryavarta, too, the space the Congress could claim for itself has continued to shrink due to, at one end, constant flexing of muscles by the caste-based regional formations and, at the other, by the BJP.

The situation has been made further complicated by the sudden explosion of anger at sensitive spots ignited by the uninterrupted onward march, simultaneously, of both corruption and inflation. Stylized ministerial claims of spending sleepless nights in search of solutions to the twin problems notwithstanding, the Congress, to be objective, can do and will do nothing on either. The last vestige of ideology has been shed by the party long ago; it is at present basically a party of spoils. Those who now jostle for power in the party do so to foster their career; to put it more explicitly, they are with the Congress to advance their worldly prospects. You can make money and amass wealth in case you succeed in ascending in the party hierarchy and becoming a minister. If you fail to be a minister, no matter, you can still try to land a strategic party position which, too, might pave the way to material success. You can use your connections in the party to be cover for a commission agent or a lobbyist or a contractor; the party would ensure that some spoils come your way. The narrative of how these spoils are arranged constitutes, so to say, the anatomy of corruption, inevitable concomitant of a regime the sole raison d'être of which is the distribution of spoils. Inflation is only a deus ex machina to further the ultimate goal of the spoils system: to transfer income from vulnerable sections to the country's affluent classes, the backbone of support of the political establishment.

A caveat can be sought to be inserted at this point. Are not all political formations parties of spoils? Politics is for the seizure of power. The capture of political power is however not an otherworldly exercise; it is aimed to fulfil the desires and aspirations of near and dear ones or, what amounts to the same thing, to use the instrumentalities at the disposal of the State to increase the wealth and welfare of the class the winning politicians belong to. True, in that sense, any political party, irrespective of its ideological orientation, is a party of spoils. Such grabbing of spoils in a multi-party democracy is however subject to a couple of important constraints: (a) it must not be carried to the point where the ruling party's obsession with advancing the cause of its class alienates the majority of the electorate, and (b) the party must not transgress the nation's laws or behave in a manner which gives the impression that it has scant respect for the legal system delineated by the Constitution.

Everything was seemingly fine and excellent for the Congress till very recently. It had received the support of barely a quarter of the electorate in the Lok Sabha polls in 2009 and had long ceased to be the major political entity, in most parts of the country. It could nonetheless lord over the government at the Centre by putting together a patch-work of a coalition. This windfall globalization bestowed upon them had kept happy substantial sections of the middle class. Globalization had also finished off the trade union movement; the peasantry not only dispersed all over the country and therefore too ill-organized to resist exploitation was riven by caste divisions as well. The spoils system was functioning smoothly. But even the worm turns. Excessive greed on the part of its practitioners spells danger. The nuisance of multiparty democracy makes it obligatory not to transgress the minimum code of behaviour. It has been transgressed leading to an erosion of trust among voters, those wretched victims of corruption-cum-rising-prices. But those in power, having initially winked at shady practices cannot reverse the course of corruption in a free market milieu. The lust for money-making has its own dynamics. It cannot be switched off all of a sudden. Ruling politicians cannot roll back the tidal wave of material aggrandizement, class interests will not allow them to.

This is the greater, and nearly insoluble, dilemma the Congress faces. Corruption, the outcome of the April-May series of elections does suggest, repel people, just as they are hurt by rising prices. Perhaps the lurid glitz of the IPL is not everything, perhaps there is a deep stirring of disenchantment in important layers of what is called social consciousness. Politicians and their accomplices should better teach themselves to return to civilization, otherwise it is going to be the day of merciless retribution. The powers that be are evidently in a state of some panic. Stentorious statements are gushing out on how henceforth they would pursue a relentless war on corruption. Unfortunately for them, the cynicism such grandiloquence evokes is vividly captured in a pocket cartoon carried by some newspapers: a pot-bellied politician proudly announcing his weariness at making black money and his resolve to join the battle against corruption from now on. At the receiving end of a severe tongue-lashing from the Supreme Court for their obvious reluctance to unearth the sources of black money, all that the authorities have done is to set up a committee of bureaucrats to look into the matter and report back, no hurry, in about six months.






I had to pinch myself really hard to make sure I was not imagining the 'eGoM' sprint to the airport to grab the yoga guru, Baba Ramdev, for urgent discussions on corruption, black money and the draft of the lok pal bill. This most recent farce only reveals the true nature of politics and governance under the United Progressive Alliance. It also betrays a supreme lack of political comprehension. India has matured, and everyone is appalled by this childish display of desperation. Ruling governments have, over four decades and more, turned a blind eye to the illegalities and intentional deviations from the established laws of the land. Political leaders have allowed their administrations to demean the system, have not held officers accountable, have become part of the nexus and benefited personally from the cosy relationship, and have blatantly protected the babus and their misdemeanours, thereby condoning corrupt practices.

Corruption has become synonymous with governance, as have greed and personal aggrandizement. India has been shamed. The government under Manmohan Singh should have seen the writing on the wall and begun a ruthless correction of a failing, corroded and misused machinery, especially as the prime minister had nothing to lose. He should have spearheaded the radical reform of the many mechanisms of governance and the delivery systems thereof to ensure the support of the people of this benighted nation. That there has been no movement forward in this critical sphere only reinforces the perceptions that this is a weak government that can be manipulated and that it only responds when such measures are inflicted upon it.

New threat

The deep disappointment with the functioning and operations of the government at the Centre is palpable. Unfortunately, the babus and the motley set of advisors that surround and suffocate key political players — feeding them dangerous half-truths and ensnaring them in manipulative politics — are holding India to ransom. The Congress has to segregate itself from the failures and the political mismanagement of the UPA government if it is to make an impact in the next general elections. India will vote differently for the Centre and the states. Political parties need to analyse that possible shift in future voting patterns.

Images of Rasputin and Bhindranwale invade the mind's eye. Do politicians learn substantive lessons from the many examples of the past? Are our leaders illiterate? Or is the arrogance of power such that it overwhelms the brain cells? Why must people like Anna Hazare, Kiran Bedi, Arvind Kejriwal and Ramdev take the floor and grab the imagination of the Indian people, who have been wallowing in corruption and the bad practices enforced upon them by administrations led by the government? Surely the elected leaders of the Union need to dominate the public space and restore dignity and clean governance, regardless of whether they are in the ruling party or in the Opposition.

Bad governance, corruption and endless, illegal operations indulged in by the collective authority that rules India have damaged democracy and its institutions. The feudal mindset of our rulers, who have exploited and demeaned the basic pillars that uphold civil society, has led to rampant anarchy. Those in power protect the dishonest till such time they are blackmailed and compelled to let go. India stands threatened. The dignity of democracy is being compromised by those mandated to protect and conserve our freedoms. The mere image of senior cabinet ministers hanging around at the airport to meet Ramdev made one nauseous. Why is India being reduced to this kind of base and unacceptable politics?







The Israel Police makes excessive use of taser stun guns. As Yaniv Kubovich reported in yesterday's Haaretz, documents recently submitted to a court show that one stun gun alone was used some 300 times in just two months.

The police have more than 150 such devices, and at least some of them are used hundreds of times a month. In some cases, policemen have used their tasers against people who were already bound. One policeman is suspected of regularly abusing detainees with it.

The police force did well when it decided two years ago to equip itself with this nonlethal weapon, which is widely used in dozens of countries worldwide. But despite orders stipulating that the stun gun can be used only when either policemen or suspects are in real danger, police make excessive use of the gun, which in rare cases can even endanger human life.

It seems unlikely, for instance, that the left-wing demonstrator in Jerusalem's Ras al-Amud neighborhood who was photographed last week with a policeman holding a taser to his head met the above criteria. Yet the policeman nonetheless shot him with taser needles, which cause temporary paralysis and electric shocks.

In contrast, when there are good reasons to use the taser or some other nonlethal weapon, police often fail to do so. Just last Tuesday, witnesses say, a policewoman and police volunteer stood idly by while a Nesher resident stabbed his former girlfriend's partner to death before their very eyes.

The Israel Police has been tainted in recent years by the use of excessive force against the citizenry. In too many cases, citizens have emerged injured and bleeding from their encounters with the law enforcers. The inordinate use of taser guns is an example of this.

Tasers do not usually kill and cause only moderate injury. Hence they should be used, but only in line with the clear, strict instructions issued by the police. Any deviation from the rules must be dealt with severely by the police brass and the Justice Ministry's department for investigating policemen.

The taser must not be used to harm suspects or innocent citizens unnecessarily. It is, after all, a weapon, not a toy.








While popular uprisings in the Middle East have captured the lion's share of media attention in recent months, Iran's march to a military nuclear capability continues, as reflected in the latest IAEA report on Iran, released last week. As strange as this may sound, the foremost danger of Iran ultimately crossing the threshold and becoming a nuclear state is not the prospect that it will act irrationally in this new status. Irrationality would imply that Iran could at some point break the rules of mutual deterrence by launching a nuclear strike without regard for the anticipated reaction. In fact, the probability of this happening is quite low. Rather, the more immediate danger of a nuclear Iran lies in the extreme rationality that it is most likely to display in its actions vis-a-vis the region.


While there is a tendency in common usage to equate "rationality" with "reasonableness," the two are not necessarily the same. What rationality implies is simply the pursuit of one's goal in line with a logical cost-benefit analysis. Rationality in and of itself remains agnostic about the nature of the goal being pursued, and that goal can be quite sinister. The real danger of a nuclear Iran is that this state will continue to act as rationally as it has since the current nuclear crisis began - in this case, using its image as a nuclear state as a cover to enhance its regional hegemonic goals, and advance its revisionist approach to the Middle East.


Consider how Iran has played the game of moving toward a nuclear bomb over the past decade. If there's one lesson that can be gleaned from observing Iran's behavior on the nuclear front in this period, it is that it has proceeded very carefully. While many may perceive Tehran as a rash and reckless regime rushing toward its goal of a military nuclear capability, closer scrutiny reveals a different picture. One can easily identify a pattern whereby Iran tests the international waters after almost every step it takes. Indeed, it has until now employed a simple cost-benefit analysis as its guide: moving forward on its nuclear program at maximum speed, but with minimal cost to itself - in economic, and certainly military, terms. This is what led the Islamic regime at times to swallow the pill of assuming a more cooperative approach, as a tactic to ward off the harshest pressure.


As a non-nuclear state member of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Iran has had to carry out its work toward military capability clandestinely. It had to be constantly vigilant - getting caught red-handed would have exacted a high price. While Tehran concluded that it could endure a measure of economic hardship as a result of the suspicions that its activities aroused, it has been much more cautious about the prospect of being attacked militarily. Iran, however, has gradually been reassured that the risk of such action is minimal. In good part due to statements by high-level U.S. officials openly rejecting the military option for fear of the dire consequences of opening an additional front, Iran has come to discount the threat, even as both the United States and Israel repeat the familiar refrain that all options remain on the table.


There is little reason to believe that once it has achieved nuclear status, the current regime in Iran will be any less rational in its cost-benefit analysis, or any less averse to the prospect of being a target of military force than it was while en route to the bomb.


And as a nuclear state, Iran will most likely conclude that the deterrent threats by the United States and Israel will be much more credible than past warnings, due to the immediate and devastating effects of an actual nuclear attack by Iran. Therefore, it will most likely be deterred from carrying out such action.


But the point is that Iran doesn't need to attack with nuclear weapons in order to enhance and entrench its regional prominence and hegemony. In fact, such an attack would be counterproductive. For achieving this goal, there is a much more rational route to take: namely, steady and controlled action under the nuclear threshold. What this means is that while the Islamic regime will no doubt try to push the envelope in its pursuit of greater power and influence in the Middle East - such as by continuing to arm its proxies and perhaps being less vigilant about hiding these efforts - it will nevertheless make sure that any such moves remain well below the threshold that could elicit a nuclear or other military response.


The real danger of Iran thus lies in its cold rationality. It will no doubt pose severe challenges to the region and the world, but will be very careful that no one action, by itself, will be blatant or outrageous enough to elicit a military response. Moreover, assuming it does not act in a truly extreme manner, it will most likely enjoy enhanced immunity to counterattack for most of the actions it takes, exploiting the fact that all states will be even more wary than before of attacking Iran - once it is a nuclear state.


Emily B. Landau is director of the Arms Control and Regional Security program at the Institute for National Security Studies, Tel Aviv University.








In his speech last week to the members of Congress, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu boasted that Israel's more than 1 million Arab citizens have been enjoying democratic rights for decades. He added emphatically: "Of the 300 million Arabs in the Middle East and North Africa, only Israel's Arab citizens enjoy real democratic rights. I want you to stop for a second and think about that. Of those 300 million Arabs, less than one-half of 1 percent are truly free, and they're all citizens of Israel!"


There is no doubt the prime minister's words brought a bitter smile to the faces of all those who are intimately familiar with the situation. There is a difference between the image of the State of Israel presented to Congress and the reality on the ground, and a large gap between the things said there and what happens here. There is also a real difference between the rhetoric and the practice.


First, the premier made an irrelevant comparison between citizens of what is in his opinion the only democratic country in the Middle East, and citizens living under undemocratic regimes. The proper comparison would have been between Israel's Arab citizens and its Jewish ones, especially as the Arabs are a native minority in their homeland. It also would have been more logical to compare Israel to other democracies. Such comparisons would have led Netanyahu to a conclusion opposite from that expressed in his speech.


Moreover, there is a wide-ranging discussion in Israeli academia concerning the nature of the country's regime, including over whether it can be called a democracy at all. There are scholars who argue that Israel is a liberal democracy like the United States and Canada. But many others say there are serious and significant flaws in Israeli democracy, and describe it as an "ethnic democracy," "hollow democracy," "formal democracy" or a "Jewish democracy." Then there are those who say Israel is not a democracy at all, but rather an "ethnocracy," a regime designed to privilege the Jewish majority.


As long as the occupation continues, as Israel lacks either a constitution or clear borders, as there is discrimination against the Palestinian minority and an attempt to Judaize the space, and the state defines itself as "Jewish," it cannot be called a full democracy.


The prime minister apparently forgot that the government he heads is the only one to date that, in its statement of principles, ignored the rights of Arab citizens and legitimized Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's party, whose action plan called for abrogating the rights and status of Arab citizens, revoking their citizenship and even transferring them to a future Palestinian state. The current government has already passed a number of laws that harm the rights of the Arab public, such as the acceptance committee law, which was aimed at denying the right of Arab citizens to live in small Jewish communities by giving those communities the power to reject them, as well as other laws, including one preventing commemoration of the Nakba. Recently the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee advanced a bill that would give preference in hiring for civil service jobs to people who have served in the military.


There are many examples of violations of Arab rights, starting with house demolitions and the non-recognition of the Arab-Bedouin villages in the Negev, through the exclusion of Arab Knesset members and their parties from the possibility of becoming members of the government, to the stringent security inspections to which Arab citizens are subjected, without distinction, at the airports and border crossings.


The fourth "equality index" published about two months ago by Sikkuy: The Association for the Advancement of Civic Equality in Israel, based on reliable data from the Central Bureau of Statistics, showed an increase over the past few years in the gaps between Jews and Arabs in the areas of employment, welfare, housing and health. It also found that public education in the Arab community lags far behind that in the Jewish sector - and all this as a result of systematic and consistent discrimination by all the governments of Israel.


And though the Arab citizens of Israel may constitute less than one-half of 1 percent of all the Arabs in the Middle East, they comprise about one-fifth of the population of Israel, yet their representation in the civil service here is only 7 percent. There isn't a single Arab cabinet minister or ministry director general or government company CEO, university president or public company chairman. No university or government hospital has ever been built in an Arab municipality, and since 1948, the state has not established even one new Arab town or city. Some 60 percent of all Arab families live below the poverty line.


The government Netanyahu heads has thus far done nothing to benefit the Arab population, apart from approving a plan last year to invest NIS 800 million in its economic development. But that plan is intended for only 13 Arab municipalities, will deal with only a limited number of issues - and will be in effect for five years. Indeed, the current government is the most hostile and the harshest ever in its treatment of Arab citizens.


After we stopped for a second and thought about what Netanyahu said in Washington, checked the facts and refreshed our memory with the reliable data, and looked at the reality before our eyes, we came to the conclusion that the Arab citizens of Israel do not enjoy real democratic rights. And the responsibility to change this grave reality is incumbent on the prime minister.


Ali Haider is a co-executive director of Sikkuy: The Association for the Advancement of Civic Equality in Israel.








 With the counting of the Omer reaching 46 tonight, the moment of revelation commemorated by Shavuot is quickly approaching. While this count will reach its climax on Monday, the night before the holiday, Palestinians and their international supporters appear intent on maintaining their own potentially momentous countdown through the summer.

According to reports from Ramallah, this September the Palestinian Authority plans to ask the United Nations General Assembly to vote on recognition of a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders. A "yes" vote would bring the Palestinians to their own sacred moment.

The counting of the Omer marks the period between Passover and Shavuot, two of Judaism's three pilgrimage festivals (Sukkot being the third ). Originally of agricultural significance, but later imbued with greater spiritual meaning, together shloshet haregalim can also provide a compelling national narrative.

According to one tradition, the Jewish year begins at Passover, when we mark the Exodus from Egypt and the event of liberation. In Zionist terms, one can see a parallel in the national awakening that was reflected in the visions of the state's founding fathers, and the Jews' departure from Europe and later from the Arab Middle East. At Shavuot, we commemorate the people's arrival at Sinai and the receiving of the Torah.

Modern Jews, meanwhile, settled the land and then presented their case before the United Nations, whose agreement to partition led to Israel's establishment. Sukkot is the morning after redemption, when a nation faces the challenges and responsibilities of constructing a state and society that lives up to its ideals. This involves a longer journey and it is where Israel finds itself today.

One can imagine an analogous Palestinian narrative borne out of that people's own history. Perhaps, for them, the Exodus stage began with the first intifada, which erupted after years of living under occupation and oppression. Along the way they brought their own plagues down upon Israel (and also themselves ), in the form of hijackings and later suicide bombings that have been as fearsome and collectively punishing as any biblical form of retribution. Now, after more than 40 years of wandering in place, they feel ready to declare arrival at their own promised land.

Unfortunately, in some ways, it seems that the sort of events that occurred at Sinai have eluded the Palestinians along the way. A close reading of the Exodus narrative reveals that freedom is not the only, or even the primary, objective of liberation. Rather, realization of a community's true identity and service to a set of higher values are a people's mission. In traditional religious terms, for the Jews, this was manifested in the giving of the Torah, with all its laws and ethical teachings. In modern national terms, the Jewish people accepted this responsibility through the Zionist project and the building of a new national home. While this has certainly entailed many challenges and no small number of failures, this goal was ultimately undertaken collectively and with great success. For all its divisions, Israel is a strong and stable state in a region of national weakness and instability. Whether the Palestinians have fully internalized the rule of law or the principles of collective state-building (the recent unity pact between Fatah and Hamas aside ) remains to be seen.

That said, change is not only inevitable but dramatically under way. Jews know from our own story that the Israelites were not ready for sovereignty upon leaving Egypt, hence the 40 years of wandering. Nevertheless, we knew it was written in the stars (in the form of God's covenant with Abraham ), and Pharaoh's ongoing intransigence only brought pain and suffering to both us and his own people.

Today, the future will more likely be written by the international community. It is widely believed that the Palestinian demand for statehood at the UN will be approved, with some 130 General Assembly members already said to support it. A growing number of Israelis have been reconciling themselves to such an outcome for years. Recently 90 high-ranking former Israeli government officials, former ambassadors, professors and artists bought a full-page advertisement in Israeli newspapers urging Israel not only not to obstruct, but in fact to embrace the Palestinian statehood resolution.

The period of the Omer is marked by two competing psychologies. On the one hand, apprehension over the level of the barley and wheat harvests that take place between Passover and Shavuot traditionally made it a time of existential uncertainty. It was perhaps these origins that compelled the rabbis to later identify the period until the 33rd day as one of mourning, associated with tales of plagues afflicting students and other events. On the other hand, the counting of the Omer reflects a time of spiritual anticipation and exultation as we prepare to commemorate the receipt of the Torah, and many will stay up all night on Shavuot to study texts in celebration of this revelation.

As Jews, whether in the Israeli government or in American organizations, look ahead to the Palestinians' own countdown to independence, perhaps we need to maintain the tension and resolve associated with the counting of the Omer. To combine apprehension and caution concerning our well-being with a spiritual celebration over another episode in humanity's march toward self-determination. Our tradition demands no less.

Jason Gitlin is a rabbinical student at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York.








I share my office space in Jerusalem with Mahmoud, a colleague at the Association for Civil Rights in Israel. Regardless of our enormously different backgrounds and upbringing, we get along well and enjoy working together. We both live in Jerusalem: Mahmoud was born and raised in Silwan, just south of the Old City, while I was born in Kfar Sava and relocated to the city about a decade ago.

Looking ahead to the future, I can anticipate living elsewhere some day, knowing I can return to the city later on. My Jerusalem-born colleague, on the other hand, knows that if he were ever to live abroad for a period of seven years or more, he would run the risk one day of only being allowed to enter the country on a three-month tourist visa. He would no longer be able to live in the city, work here or raise his future children near his parents and extended family. As Jerusalem Day was marked here this past Wednesday, what caught my attention was the division that exists between us two residents of this professed unified city.

The Interior Ministry has made it a policy, since the city's reunification in 1967, to try to block the return home of people who, like Mahmoud, were born in Jerusalem, but who have relocated elsewhere, temporarily or permanently. The majority of Jerusalem's 300,000 Palestinians have permanent resident status. According to Interior Ministry regulations, there are two conditions that serve as grounds for revocation of residency, which together ostensibly prove that the person has moved "the center of his life" elsewhere: that he or she has not resided in Israel for a period of seven years, and has acquired citizenship or similar status in another country (this includes receipt of a green card ). A full-fledged citizen who chooses a similar path does not face the same threat.

Palestinians born in East Jerusalem technically fall into the category of "permanent residents" - but not in essence. They are in fact non-citizens in a city that is also their hometown, and therefore the reality of their lives is unique. Unlike other people with permanent residency status, they did not choose to relocate here but rather were born into an area that was annexed to Israel. By and large, they do not feel they are part of the State of Israel. Neither they nor the Israeli government wish to see them all pledge their allegiance to Israel and become full-fledged citizens. However, the residency status, though it allows them to remain in their homes, in effect turns them into prisoners who are not allowed to freely leave their small corner of the world. For Mahmoud, even a decision to relocate to Jerusalem's surrounding areas that are under the control of the Palestinian Authority could theoretically cost him his rights, as it would mean that the "center of his life" has been moved to a different country.

I, on the other hand, as a citizen, can choose to move overseas for as long I wish and acquire another national citizenship, and still be allowed to return at any time to the city that has gradually become my home.

In 2008, a peak was reached, in which 4,577 Palestinians who were born in Jerusalem and were at the time living in other locales, including the West Bank, had their permits revoked by the Interior Ministry. Since 1967, Israel has revoked the residency status of over 13,000 Palestinians from Jerusalem, turning them from natives to foreigners. Israel could have easily chosen to renew their permits. Unfortunately, it decided instead decided to block their return.

The logical and moral thing would be for the Interior Ministry to differentiate between residents who were born here, and should thus always be allowed to come and go as they wish, and others who immigrated here and whose status may be considered conditional. The unique legal status of East Jerusalem and its residents makes this a necessity.

ACRI and Hamoked: Center for the Defense of the Individual petitioned the High Court in April demanding that this differentiation be anchored in law so as to safeguard the basic rights of Palestinians living in Jerusalem. The petition listed Mahmoud as a petitioner, an example of a young man whose life is still ahead of him, who wishes to enjoy all the possibilities his future can hold, including the mobility so many other young people enjoy, without having the natural course of modern life cost him an unbearable price.

For many Jews, June 5, 1967, marks the breaking of the walls and barriers that for two decades made West Jerusalem a small and isolated capital. Four decades later, however, the walls of the legal ghetto imposed upon a third of the city's residents are only getting higher.

Ronit Sela is a spokesperson for the Association for Civil Rights in Israel.







Nobody has caught me saying a good word about Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Not during his first term and not during his second one. In a "conciliatory conversation" between his two terms, mediated by his friend Dr. Gabi Picker, Bibi accused me of contributing to his downfall as prime minister.

I'm not retracting what I wrote then, nor what I'm writing during his current term. Bibi doesn't invite me for personal consultations and doesn't work his magic on me. I didn't predict that his appearance in Congress would be "the speech of his life," which means I wasn't disappointed. What was written in his mind's eye was perfectly executed - from the standing ovation in Congress to conveying the message to U.S. President Barack Obama that he has not withdrawn from the principle of two states for two peoples.

In retrospect, no dyed-in-the-wool Herutnik - someone from the forerunner of Likud - supported two states for two peoples. Prime Minister Menachem Begin, who won the Nobel Peace Prize along with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, did everything in his power to prevent any mention in the Camp David Accords of the Palestinians' right to a state. Even Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who evacuated the Gaza Strip settlements and spoke of the need to awake from the dream of a Greater Israel, didn't say two states for two peoples.

Bibi is the first Likud leader to utter the specific words "Palestinian state," and he expressed his willingness to negotiate in order to establish it - first in the Bar-Ilan speech, and now in his speech to Congress, which has been dubbed Bar-Ilan 2. Tzachi Hanegbi, the guy who had to be dragged down from the roof during the evacuation of the northern Sinai in 1982, has said he agrees with every word of Bibi's, even though he's a member of Kadima.

Look at Bibi's situation upon his return from America. The extreme right is attacking him, while the left is mocking him and describing him as a liar and a deceiver. The media is ripping him to shreds. His 101-year-old father is not sending him boxes of chocolate for his appearance in Congress. But Bibi understands the importance of the United States to Israel, and is still working to torpedo the threat awaiting us in September. Without a veto at the UN Security Council and/or an immediate renewal of negotiations with the Palestinians, our neighborhood will join the wave of regional uprisings.

Anyone who says that only the left can bring peace and a partition of the land is mistaken. The left is gradually melting away - and with a certain amount of justification. Who began building settlements in the territories, if not Labor in its previous incarnation? Who stubbornly refused to withdraw a few kilometers from the Suez Canal, as the U.S. administration demanded, to let Egypt open the canal to shipping, if not "Madam No," Prime Minister Golda Meir? In this way she brought the Yom Kippur on us. And when did two lethal intifadas break out, if not when Labor was in power?

And who achieved the historic peace treaty with Egypt, if not Herut leader Begin? He of all people set the precedent of withdrawal up to the last millimeter and the principle of evacuating settlements built on occupied territory. When Begin came to power, he was described in the world media as a man of war - a description he tried to disprove during the first half of his term, at least.

Begin was doubly fortunate: He had Moshe Dayan, who wanted to atone for his part in the Yom Kippur War and was appointed foreign minister. He also had Sadat, who after his success in the October War shouted from the rooftops that he wanted peace in order to get back the territories. And in the United States there was an exceptional figure like Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who both assisted us in the Yom Kippur War and helped turn it into a corridor to peace.

The problem now is the lack of an authoritative leader on the Palestinian side like Sadat, and the rift between Fatah and Hamas and dozens of other terror organizations that aspire to torpedo the possibility of peace. Both sides relate to the territories with a sense of awe and not as spoils of war that must be returned.

U.S. presidents then and now didn't really like Israel, but that didn't prevent Jimmy Carter from using his administration to achieve peace. It's not clear whether Obama has the same fervor. That means it's important that he confront an Israeli prime minister who has connections in America.

Bibi is the first Likudnik willing to divide the country, and he agreed to freeze construction in the territories for nine months. But their Sadat is not appearing, and Obama is not turning into Carter. At this confused point in time, Bibi still deserves a chance.






The medical profession is a noble one. When young men and women decide to study medicine, they do so out of a sense of mission and self-sacrifice. They want to cure sick people. They are trying to save lives.

It's also an interesting, wide-ranging profession whose services are in demand around the globe. All these considerations explain why doctors feel they aren't getting what they deserve.

So they have launched a battle. But since they are intelligent people, they haven't left anything to chance. Their campaign was meticulously planned.

The first stage began four months ago; this was the stage of influencing public opinion. During this stage, doctors spoke about the "collapsing health system," and about residents who, they claimed, earn less than cleaning women, even though their average wage comes to NIS 18,000 a month (for six shifts a week ).

The second stage began two months ago. This was the stage of limited work sanctions, a war of attrition. During this stage, they would temporarily halt services first in one place, and then in another. The third stage is set to begin on July 1, when they will launch a strike that will virtually shut down the country's hospitals.

The problem is that while the doctors talk about residents' low salaries for public consumption, the residents aren't even represented at the negotiating table. They aren't taking part in the talks, and not a single demand is designed to improve their wages. The whole effort has one goal: to improve the salaries of specialists and senior physicians.

Why? Because Israel Medical Association chairman Dr. Leonid Eidelman's power base consists of senior physicians and heads of hospital departments. These leading medical professionals occupy the top leadership spots in the medical union. Should Eidelman not obtain significant material gains for them, he will not keep his post at the IMA. The residents can wait.

The IMA prefers to conceal information about the real wages earned by senior physicians and specialists. The association does not talk about its members' moonlighting. But about a third of IMA members work in the afternoons in special hospital frameworks that offer extra income. Another third have private practices, or jobs in private hospitals or institutes, or work as community consultants, or as independent physicians in health maintenance organizations.

These are special privileges not enjoyed by any other public-sector employees. An engineer employed by the National Infrastructure Ministry cannot do "after-hours" consulting on private-sector engineering projects. A lawyer in the State Prosecutor's Office cannot write private contracts in the evenings. But a doctor can see patients for consultation in private clinics, in exchange for hefty payments, and then make sure these patients have their operations in public hospitals.

There are indeed problems in the health system. Therefore, it is right to increase the number of medical school graduates; that will reduce the shortage of doctors. Doctors who move to the periphery should be compensated generously. Financial incentives should also be given to doctors who choose to specialize in fields where there is a shortage of physicians.

Steps should also be taken to improve working conditions for residents. The length of their shifts should be reduced, as should the number of shifts they do each week. And incentives should be given to senior physicians to agree to do regular hospital shifts. As things stand today, a person can be admitted to a hospital in the afternoon and be treated by a resident who completed his or her training the day before without a senior physician anywhere in sight.

The Finance Ministry has gone a long way toward meeting the doctors' demands. It is prepared to sign an eight-year agreement awarding doctors a 20 percent raise, plus an additional 8 percent if they agree to punch a time clock and switch to a five-day work week.

But it isn't offering the same raise to all doctors: The treasury wants the bulk of the money to go toward solving the problems of the residents, the periphery and understaffed medical professions. The doctors, in contrast, want most of the money to go to specialists and senior physicians. On this issue, the Finance Ministry is right.

Now, with mediation from the courts, the sides are set to begin two weeks of intensive negotiations. This represents an opportunity to forge a just agreement. But the key is in the hands of the senior physicians, who must make concessions. After all, this is a noble profession, and noblesse oblige.






Don't fall from the couch should it turn out that the boats docked in Iranian ports with government authorization. After all, there's never anything new under the sun in the Persian Gulf. Either in the guise of official Israel itself, or via some emissary, the state has always done business with rogue regimes in violation of international sanctions. It has bought and sold items, including its own soul. Keeping company with lepers does not bother us.

It's all done according to law, and in the name of security. Don't believe that the big sharks operate as goldfish, as harmless offenders of the law. These are heavy, reputable people for whom it is unfitting and unprofitable to try to squeeze through small holes in the netting; cloaked by robes of security, from head to toe, they are impervious to the sterilizing light of the sun.

On the pages of this newspaper, Yossi Melman frequently warns of breaches, and nobody in Jerusalem is prepared to offer excuses for them. State secrets are files shrouded by darkness, where lies and silences are kept. Many such secrets, and such keepers of secrets, are connected to family business dealings, including those of the Ofer brothers. Secrets travel from one governing family to another, and all the families are committed to keeping the secrets, since we are governed by one interlocked directorate. Anyone who isn't invited to the wedding in the middle of the forest, and who misses the opulent canopy and ceremony, is lost. We would like to pose a question relating to what all this fuss is about.

Whether officials in the Prime Minister's Office knew anything or not, the rules of the underworld are clear to all: If you are caught, you don't turn anyone in; and everyone looks after himself. Israeli eyes open and close according to whatever suits their fancy; and what these eyes discern about others are not in the field of vision when it comes to Jews. I wouldn't want to attribute this ugly character to Jews, lest I be contaminated with a trace of Judeophobia, but Jewish men sometimes have trouble resisting the temptation of pointing out the double standards.

If you follow the money, you'll find that the trail leads to other illicit harbors. It will turn out that not only the outstretched arms of one family concern had its fingers in fraudulent commerce. Other groups and individuals have their paws in it. And it's all done under the law, as though to prove that a porous law is the best refuge for its transgressors. It's easier to guard such a law than it is to protect the public trust.

A month ago, another open secret became manifest: The upper economic echelon pays less taxes. Due to the help of tax consultants and tax shelters and tax planners, with the accompaniment of benefits and grants proffered from all sides, the brunt of the tax burden falls on the lowest end of the social totem pole; everything is stood upside down, and it's all according to law.

Miki Rosenthal, it turns out, is an unimaginative journalist, and his exposure of the "shakshuka system" did not go any further than turning over one egg in a small frying pan. And these magnates seek glory by offering as largesse small change, while keeping the real share of the wealth to themselves. The magnates bring us much needed charity by, among other things, supporting hospitals, because one could really get a heart attack from paying attention to the lack of equality here, which has no counterpart in developed countries.

Is it a coincidence that governments of western countries have demanded that Swiss banks remove the secrecy of accounts in their vaults, whereas the government of Israel has refrained up to now from issuing such a demand?

Lest there be any misunderstanding, let me state for the record: I am certain that the tycoons are bigger patriots than I am myself; everyone loves our people and land. But there are other things they love, with the backing of the law: oil, for example, which adds a good smell to money. When it is sniffed too often, it scrambles the radar screen and navigation systems.






The 45th year of occupation is now beginning. The depth of the entanglement, from which there is apparently no way out without bloodshed, is as great as the obedience of the intelligentsia: Just as European colonialism was collapsing once and for all, the local intelligentsia found a way to collaborate with the claims of Israel's governments, leaving us today with both a right-wing coalition and a right-wing opposition.

Few people understood at the time that remaining in the territories in any fashion would give rise to a desire for control. The astute ones were Pinhas Lavon during his last lucid hours, Yitzhak Ben-Aharon momentarily, and Yeshayahu Leibowitz.

There were of course a handful of political parties - Rakah, the New Israeli Left and Matzpen. But in the center of the political map, those who argued in favor of withdrawal from all the territories came down to Prof. Jacob Talmon, Prof. Yehoshua Bar-Hillel, writer Amoz Oz and a few others. The vast majority of the intelligentsia trailed along behind the generals and the politicians. That's how it is: Intellectuals work at honing the government's arguments. Few of them dare to oppose it.

As a rule, arguments don't play a central role in politics; they merely help the government implant itself in its citizens' language. For example, the claim that Israel faced an existential threat in 1967 was a propaganda lie. It would have been possible to unravel the complicated situation caused by Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser, but Israel and the United States decided to exploit the Egyptian mistake.

Today, these things can be discussed in academic discourse. But political discourse, aided by the intelligentsia of that period, is exempt from questions - even about those thousands of graves from the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

Moreover, the politicians and the intellectuals claimed that Israel, as a "victim of aggression," had the right to alter its borders. But the main aggressor in that narrative was Egypt, and it got back all its land, up to the last grain of sand, in the peace treaty that followed the 1973 war. The legal argument was shelved.

There were also military arguments about "strategic borders," and those were nonsense, too: No Israel Defense Forces general, either from that General Staff or those that followed, really believed in them, because the Yom Kippur War dealt Israel a harsh blow despite "defensible borders." This truth also applies on the Golan Heights, to this very day.

So we are left with the West Bank, where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continues to lead us with his dual rationale: This is the land of our forefathers, and also, Hamas will attack Ben-Gurion Airport. There is no connection between these two arguments. As a rule, dual arguments serve as props to bolster each other's weakness. But the mixture of strategy and messianism explains the power Israeli politics has to drug its subjects.

The "Land of Israel" is a phantasm. Withdrawing from "parts of it" is presented as a "concession" even by supporters of the move. But the only concession we needed to make, even back in 1967, was giving up the messianic claim that this is our land, from the Bible, and therefore we have a right to it. In comparison with this claim, the Serbs, with their preoccupation over the Battle of Kosovo in 1389, are rational, secular people.

Life is in no need of "ancestral rights." Most of us were born here. That has no connection with the Bible, which for the most part is a very nice book. It has no connection with the prayers of the religious. We don't need religion, either as a menu in a restaurant or as a strategic analysis.

Had masses of Israelis had the sense to say that on the morning after the occupation, instead of choosing that of all moments - with the help of professors, poets and writers - to "discover our undivided country," we would be in a different situation today. Liberation from Zionism is not a dirty word. In any case, what lies behind Zionism nowadays are interests related to water, real estate, strategic relations with the U.S. and a huge army hungering to justify its existence.

If our fathers erred in their use of myth, we should part from it, for the sake of our sons and daughters. We don't have to leave this place or give up our lives. But for their sake, we have to get rid of Zionism.




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



The Obama administration has rightly decided to reject a mean-spirited and dangerous Indiana law banning the use of Medicaid funds at Planned Parenthood clinics, which provide vital health services to low-income women.

The law, signed by Gov. Mitch Daniels of Indiana in May, is just one effort by Republican-led state legislatures around the country to end public financing for Planned Parenthood — a goal the House Republicans failed to achieve in the budget deal in April. The organization is a favorite target because a small percentage of its work involves providing abortion care even though no government money is used for that purpose.

Governor Daniels and Republican lawmakers, by depriving Planned Parenthood of about $3 million in government funds, would punish thousands of low-income women on Medicaid, who stand to lose access to affordable contraception, life-saving breast and cervical cancer screenings, and testing and treatment for H.I.V. and other sexually transmitted diseases. Making it harder for women to obtain birth control is certainly a poor strategy for reducing the number of abortions.

On Wednesday, the administrator of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Donald Berwick, said the Indiana law, which is already in effect, violates federal Medicaid law by imposing impermissible restrictions on the freedom of Medicaid beneficiaries to choose health care providers.

Although Mr. Berwick's letter to Indiana officials did not say it explicitly, Indiana could lose millions of dollars in Medicaid financing unless it changes its law. In a bulletin to state officials around the country, the Medicaid office warned that states may not exclude doctors, clinics or other providers from Medicaid "because they separately provide abortion services."

So far, Indiana isn't budging. The issue will be taken up on Monday in federal court in Indiana where Planned Parenthood has filed a suit challenging the state's action on statutory and constitutional grounds. The organization properly argues that it may not be penalized for engaging in constitutionally protected activities, like providing abortion services with its own money.

The Obama administration's opposition to the Indiana law could help deter other states — including North Carolina, Texas, Wisconsin and Tennessee — from moving forward with similar measures to restrict payments to Planned Parenthood, either under Medicaid or Title X, the main federal family planning program. Kansas, for example, has enacted provisions to block Planned Parenthood from receiving any Title X money.

The measures against Planned Parenthood come amid further efforts to limit access to abortion. Just since April, six states — Indiana, Virginia, Nebraska, Idaho, Oklahoma and Kansas — have enacted laws banning insurance coverage of abortion in the health insurance exchanges created as part of federal health care reform, bringing the total to 14 states. Two states — Arizona and Texas — joined three others in making ultrasounds mandatory for women seeking to terminate pregnancies. Bills expected to be signed soon by Florida's Republican governor, Rick Scott, contain both types of provisions.

Many of these fresh attacks on reproductive rights, not surprisingly, have come in states where the midterm elections left Republicans in charge of both chambers of the legislature and the governor's mansion.






It's a rare day that a federal judge decides to revisit a decision the week after making it or that the Justice Department apologizes for failing to brief him on the crucial precedent. A re-do is clearly called for.

Just a week ago, Judge James Cacheris of Eastern Virginia's Federal District Court struck down a century-old ban on direct corporate contributions to political candidates. He wrote that it was an "inescapable" outcome of the Supreme Court's ruling in the Citizens United case last year, even though the court specifically said the ruling was about allowing corporate expenditures through independent campaign groups.

If Judge Cacheris's decision were to stand as law, it would lead to even more profligate spending on political campaigning and to the severe corruption that comes with it. Sua sponte, or on his own initiative, Judge Cacheris has now given himself the chance to reverse his usurpation of Supreme Court authority and avoid that disaster.

On Tuesday, he ordered the parties in the case to file briefs by Wednesday about whether, in light of two other Supreme Court cases, he should reconsider his finding about direct corporate contributions. They will argue the matter on Friday morning.

In the first case, Federal Election Commission v. Beaumont, the Supreme Court affirmed the longstanding ban on corporate contributions to candidates. In the second, Agostini v. Felton, it reserved for itself the "prerogative" of overturning precedents like Beaumont, making clear that's not a lower court's job.

In its new brief for the judge, the Justice Department "regrets omitting" the Beaumont precedent from an earlier brief. The expression of regret is extraordinary, but the omission was more so — a huge blunder. One also has to wonder how a veteran federal judge was unaware of such a crucial court precedent.

We don't know when or how Judge Cacheris discovered Beaumont. But the credit for raising it may well go to Richard Hasen, a law professor and expert on election law whose Election Law Blog is closely followed by people in law, politics and the news media. He blogged about last week's Cacheris ruling the day it was issued, drawing attention to the omissions of Beaumont in both the Justice Department's brief and the judge's decision.

"I would expect this decision not to stand," he wrote, "or at least to be reconsidered by the judge." Now Judge Cacheris must put right what he got wrong.





The point of factory farming is cheap meat, made possible by confining large numbers of animals in small spaces. Perhaps the greatest hidden cost is its potential effect on human health.

Small doses of antibiotics — too small to kill bacteria — are fed to factory farm animals as part of their regular diet to promote growth and offset the risks of overcrowding. What factory farms are really raising is antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which means that several classes of antibiotics no longer work the way they should in humans. We pay for cheap meat by sacrificing some of the most important drugs ever developed.

Last week, the Natural Resources Defense Council, joined by other advocacy groups, sued the Food and Drug Administration to compel it to end the nontherapeutic use of penicillin and tetracycline in farm animals. Veterinarians would still be able to treat sick animals with these drugs but could not routinely add the drugs to their diets.

For years, the F.D.A. has had the scientific studies and the authority to ban these drugs. But it has always bowed to pressure from the pharmaceutical and farm lobbies, despite the well-founded objections of groups like the American Medical Association and the World Health Organization, which support an antibiotic ban.

It is time for the F.D.A. to stop corporate factory farms from squandering valuable drugs just to promote growth among animals confined in conditions that inherently create the risk of disease. According to recent estimates, 70 percent of the antibiotics sold in this country end up in farm animals. The F.D.A. can change that by honoring its own scientific conclusions and its statutory obligation to end its approval of unsafe drug uses.





Maybe Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey means it when he says that he isn't running for president. No thinking presidential candidate — especially a Republican who wants to be known for ruthlessly cutting his state budget — would take a taxpayer-financed helicopter to his son's baseball games. Nor would he use the State Police helicopter to rush to a meeting with Iowa business executives trying to recruit him to run for president.

The ballgames were clearly personal; the meeting was political. Yet it took him two days before agreeing to reimburse the state. He will pay $2,151.50 for his share of the cost for two flights to see his son play ball, his spokesman said on Thursday (the Republican State Committee will pick up $1,232.29 for the flight from the ballgame to the meeting with the Iowa executives). According to the State Police, Mr. Christie made more than 30 other helicopter trips since taking office in January 2010. Those should be reviewed as well.

What makes the governor's helicopter excursions especially galling is that he has spent the last year and a half demanding sacrifices from everybody else in his state.

After lamenting that New Jersey's budget had a hole as big as the Grand Canyon, he has slashed funds to schools and communities. He wants a wage freeze from state workers, and he wants to slash Medicaid so that a family of three making more than $5,317 a year would no longer be eligible.

For anyone doing the math, those helicopter flights reportedly cost about $2,500 an hour.

Mr. Christie is not the first New Jersey governor to get in this type of trouble. Former Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, a Republican, criticized her Democratic predecessor for his helicopter use. Then she had the State Police airlift her to a hockey game. Former Gov. James McGreevey, another Democrat, had the Democratic Party reimburse the state $18,200 for personal use of the chopper fleet.

Mr. Christie has built his image on tough talk about protecting the ordinary taxpayer. Does that taxpayer now need protection from the highflying governor?






By now you have probably heard about Hamza Ali al-Khateeb. He was the 13-year-old Syrian boy who tagged along at an antigovernment protest in the town of Saida on April 29. He was arrested that day, and the police returned his mutilated body to his family a month later. While in custody, he had apparently been burned, beaten, lacerated and given electroshocks. His jaw and kneecaps were shattered. He was shot in both arms. When his father saw the state of Hamza's body, he passed out.

The family bravely put video evidence of the torture on the Internet, and Hamza's martyrdom has rallied the opponents of President Bashar al-Assad's Baathist regime. But, of course, his torture didn't come out of nowhere. The regime's defining act of brutality was the Hama massacre in 1982 when then-President Hafez al-Assad had more than 10,000 Syrians murdered. The U.S. government has designated Syria a state sponsor of terror for 30 consecutive years. The State Department's Human Rights Report has described the regime's habitual torture techniques, including pulling out fingernails, burning genitals, hyperextending the spine, bending the body around the frame of a wheel while whipping the victim and so on.

Over the past several weeks, Bashar al-Assad's regime has killed more than 1,000 protesters and jailed at least 10,000 more, according to Syrian human rights groups. Human Rights Watch has described crimes against humanity in the town of Dara'a, where boys have been mutilated and men massacred.

All governments do bad things, and Middle East dictatorships do more than most. But the Syrian government is one of the world's genuinely depraved regimes. Yet for all these years, Israel has been asked to negotiate with this regime, compromise with this regime and trust that this regime will someday occupy the heights over it in peace.

For 30 years, the Middle East peace process has been predicated on moral obtuseness, an unwillingness to face the true nature of certain governments. World leaders have tried sweet-talking Syria, calling Bashar al-Assad a friend (Nancy Pelosi) or a reformer (Hillary Clinton). In 2008, Nicolas Sarkozy invited Assad to be the guest of honor at France's Bastille Day ceremonies — a ruthless jailer celebrating the storming of a jail.

For 30 years, diplomats and technocrats have flown to Damascus in the hopes of "flipping" Syria — turning it into a pro-Western, civilized power. It would be interesting to know what they were thinking. Perhaps some of them were so besotted with their messianic abilities that they thought they had the power to turn a depraved regime into a normal regime. Perhaps some of them were so wedded to the materialistic mind-set that they thought a regime's essential nature could be altered with a magical mix of incentives and disincentives.

Perhaps some of them were simply morally blind. They were such pedantic technocrats, so consumed by the legalisms of the peace process, that they no longer possessed the capacity to recognize the moral nature of the regime they were dealing with, or to understand the implications of its nature.

In any case, their efforts were doomed. In fact, the current peace process is doomed because of the inability to make a categorical distinction. There are some countries in the region that are not nice, but they are normal — Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia. But there are other governments that are fundamentally depraved. Either as a matter of thuggishness (Syria) or ideology (Hamas), they reject the full humanity of other human beings. They believe it is proper and right to kill innocents. They can never be part of a successful negotiation because they undermine the universal principles of morality.

It doesn't matter how great a law professor or diplomat you are. It doesn't matter how masterly you sequence the negotiations or what magical lines you draw on a map. There won't be peace so long as depraved regimes are part of the picture. That's why it's crazy to get worked into a lather about who said what about the 1967 border. As long as Hamas and the Assad regime are in place, the peace process is going nowhere, just as it's gone nowhere for lo these many years.

That's why it's necessary, especially at this moment in history, to focus on the nature of regimes, not only the boundaries between them. To have a peaceful Middle East, it was necessary to get rid of Saddam's depraved regime in Iraq. It will be necessary to try to get rid of Qaddafi's depraved regime in Libya. It's necessary, as everybody but the Obama administration publicly acknowledges, to see Assad toppled.  It will be necessary to marginalize Hamas. It was necessary to abandon the engagement strategy that Barack Obama campaigned on and embrace the cautious regime-change strategy that is his current doctrine.

The machinations of the Israeli and Palestinian negotiators are immaterial. The Arab reform process is the peace process.







Earlier this week, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York published a blog post about the "mistake of 1937," the premature fiscal and monetary pullback that aborted an ongoing economic recovery and prolonged the Great Depression. As Gauti Eggertsson, the post's author (with whom I have done research) points out, economic conditions today — with output growing, some prices rising, but unemployment still very high — bear a strong resemblance to those in 1936-37. So are modern policy makers going to make the same mistake?

Mr. Eggertsson says no, that economists now know better. But I disagree. In fact, in important ways we have already repeated the mistake of 1937. Call it the mistake of 2010: a "pivot" away from jobs to other concerns, whose wrongheadedness has been highlighted by recent economic data.

To be sure, things could be worse — and there's a strong chance that they will, indeed, get worse.

Back when the original 2009 Obama stimulus was enacted, some of us warned that it was both too small and too short-lived. In particular, the effects of the stimulus would start fading out in 2010 — and given the fact that financial crises are usually followed by prolonged slumps, it was unlikely that the economy would have a vigorous self-sustaining recovery under way by then.

By the beginning of 2010, it was already obvious that these concerns had been justified. Yet somehow an overwhelming consensus emerged among policy makers and pundits that nothing more should be done to create jobs, that, on the contrary, there should be a turn toward fiscal austerity.

This consensus was fed by scare stories about an imminent loss of market confidence in U.S. debt. Every uptick in interest rates was interpreted as a sign that the "bond vigilantes" were on the attack, and this interpretation was often reported as a fact, not as a dubious hypothesis.

For example, in March 2010, The Wall Street Journal published an article titled "Debt Fears Send Rates Up," reporting that long-term U.S. interest rates had risen and asserting — without offering any evidence — that this rise, to about 3.9 percent, reflected concerns about the budget deficit. In reality, it probably reflected several months of decent jobs numbers, which temporarily raised optimism about recovery.

But never mind. Somehow it became conventional wisdom that the deficit, not unemployment, was Public Enemy No. 1 — a conventional wisdom both reflected in and reinforced by a dramatic shift in news coverage away from unemployment and toward deficit concerns. Job creation effectively dropped off the agenda.

So, here we are, in the middle of 2011. How are things going?

Well, the bond vigilantes continue to exist only in the deficit hawks' imagination. Long-term interest rates have fluctuated with optimism or pessimism about the economy; a recent spate of bad news has sent them down to about 3 percent, not far from historic lows.

And the news has, indeed, been bad. As the stimulus has faded out, so have hopes of strong economic recovery. Yes, there has been some job creation — but at a pace barely keeping up with population growth. The percentage of American adults with jobs, which plunged between 2007 and 2009, has barely budged since then. And the latest numbers suggest that even this modest, inadequate job growth is sputtering out.

So, as I said, we have already repeated a version of the mistake of 1937, withdrawing fiscal support much too early and perpetuating high unemployment.

Yet worse things may soon happen.

On the fiscal side, Republicans are demanding immediate spending cuts as the price of raising the debt limit and avoiding a U.S. default. If this blackmail succeeds, it will put a further drag on an already weak economy.

Meanwhile, a loud chorus is demanding that the Fed and its counterparts abroad raise interest rates to head off an alleged inflationary threat. As the New York Fed article points out, the rise in consumer price inflation over the past few months — which is already showing signs of tailing off — reflected temporary factors, and underlying inflation remains low. And smart economists like Mr. Eggerstsson understand this. But the European Central Bank is already raising rates, and the Fed is under pressure to do the same. Further attempts to help the economy expand seem out of the question.

So the mistake of 2010 may yet be followed by an even bigger mistake. Even if that doesn't happen, however, the fact is that the policy response to the crisis was and remains vastly inadequate.

Those who refuse to learn from history are condemned to repeat it; we did, and we are. What we're experiencing may not be a full replay of the Great Depression, but that's little consolation for the millions of American families suffering from a slump that just goes on and on.







MUCH of the debate about the nation's obesity epidemic has focused, not surprisingly, on food: labeling requirements, taxes on sugary beverages and snacks, junk food advertisements aimed at children and the nutritional quality of school lunches.

But obesity affects not only health but also economic outcomes: overweight people have less success in the job market and make less money over the course of their careers than slimmer people. The problem is particularly acute for overweight women, because they are significantly less likely to complete college.

We arrived at this conclusion after examining data from a project that tracks more than 10,000 people who graduated from Wisconsin high schools in 1957. From career entry to retirement, overweight men experienced no barriers to getting hired and promoted. But heavier women worked in jobs that had lower earnings and social status and required less education than their thinner female peers.

At first glance this difference might appear to reflect bias on the part of employers, and male supervisors in particular. After all, studies find that employers tend to view overweight workers as less capable, less hard-working and lacking in self-control.

But the real reason was that overweight women were less likely to earn college degrees — regardless of their ability, professional goals or socioeconomic status. In other words, it didn't matter how talented or ambitious they were, or how well they had done in high school. Nor did it matter whether their parents were rich or poor, well educated or high school dropouts.

Our study, published last year in the journal Social Forces, was the first to show that decreased education was the key mechanism that reduced the career achievement of overweight women — an impact that persisted even among those who lost weight later in life. We found no similar gap in educational attainment for overweight men.

Why doesn't body size affect men's attainment as much as women's? One explanation is that overweight girls are more stigmatized and isolated in high school compared with overweight boys. Other studies have shown that body size is one of the primary ways Americans judge female — but not male — attractiveness. We also know that the social stigma associated with obesity is strongest during adolescence. So perhaps teachers and peers judge overweight girls more harshly. In addition, evidence suggests that, relative to overweight girls, overweight boys are more active in extracurricular activities, like sports, which may lead to stronger friendships and social ties. (Of course our study followed a particular group from career entry to retirement, and more study is needed to determine whether overweight girls finishing high school today face the same barriers, though these social factors suggest they do.)

That overweight women continue to trail men — including overweight men — in educational attainment in America is remarkable, given that women in general are outpacing men in college completion and in earning advanced degrees.

What does this mean for policy? Previous studies have shown that overweight adolescents feel stigmatized by their peers and their teachers, have fewer friends and often feel socially isolated. Teenagers who feel less connected to teachers, school and peers are less likely to graduate and go on to college. So policies to help overweight girls need to work on two levels: promoting healthful behaviors and shifting attitudes.

Obesity is occurring in children at younger and younger ages, so prevention needs to start as early as primary school. While early intervention has obvious potential health benefits, it is also critical from a career perspective. In addition, overweight girls should be encouraged to participate in college preparation courses and extracurricular activities. Health education that focuses on diet and exercise but does not stigmatize overweight teenagers is critical.

Teachers and principals need to be aggressive in limiting bullying and looking for signs of depression in overweight girls. Teenage girls, regardless of body size, struggle with self-esteem and are at higher risk of depression than boys, so expanding health education to include psychological as well as physical health could help all girls. Public health campaigns should reframe the problem of obesity from one of individual failure to one of public concern.

The economic harm to overweight women is more than a series of personal troubles; it may contribute to the rising disparities between rich and poor, and it is a drain on the human capital and economic productivity of our nation.

Christy M. Glass and Eric N. Reither are associate professors of sociology at Utah State University. Steven A. Haas is an assistant professor of sociology at Arizona State University.






WITHIN a 40-minute drive of this city stands the 11th-century Bost Arch. A former gateway to Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand Province, the arch is today a national historic site; it even appears on the 100-afghani note. The arch withstood centuries of invasions, but today it's a crumbling mess of inept supports and clumsy renovations.

Helmand has been the setting of some of the fiercest fighting in the Afghan war, yet strangely, damage to monuments like the Bost Arch has increased even as the security situation has improved. The problem is that they have gone neglected by the local and national governments, falling prey to squatters, treasure hunters and time. Unless the United States provides money and pressure to protect these national treasures, they will soon disappear.

Protecting Afghanistan's heritage sites was never a reason for occupying Afghanistan, but it was always a subtext. After all, the biggest story coming out of the country in the months before 9/11 was the Taliban's destruction of the Bamian Buddhas, enormous sixth-century statues built into a cliff in central Afghanistan. For those concerned about the fate of the country's trove of historic sites, the overthrow of the Taliban and the establishment of a democratic government seemed to promise salvation.

Instead, in many places the opposite has occurred. A half-mile from the Bost Arch stand three enormous medieval palaces, the winter residences of the Ghaznavid kings from 976 onward. Now squatters have built crude mud-brick walls within the ancient buildings. A policeman's family moved in to the most ancient, central palace when their home in Garmsir was destroyed by a bomb. In 1972, when the writer Nancy Hatch Dupree described the central palace in her tourist guide, visitors could explore its second floor; now most of that floor has collapsed.

Between the palaces and the arch stands a magnificent 12th-century octagonal Islamic shrine, the Ziarat-i-Shahzada Husein; even though Afghans continue to pray there, it is decrepit and has no roof.

These aren't obscure sites, either: the French Archeological Delegation in Afghanistan excavated the palaces in the late 1940s, and it has been pushing the Afghan government for years to request that they be designated a Unesco World Heritage Site.

What explains such neglect? It's not a lack of resources. Lashkar Gah is set to be one of the first provincial capitals handed over to full Afghan control next month, and the United States has been pouring money into the province. Helmand's governor, Gulab Mangal, has received $10 million in development funds as a reward for reducing poppy cultivation.

Sadly, that money is unlikely to help preserve the province's heritage sites. Indeed, the government seems to exist more to expand itself than to serve the people. Muhammad Lal Ahmadi, the governor's chief of staff, supervises 23 employees, including three who answer letters, two who handle documents, two who handle "relations with other provinces" and two who schedule meetings. This for a poor, rural province of 800,000 people.

The spanking new Government Media Center has a staff of 11. One has the sole job of producing brochures for Helmand's largely illiterate population — approximately one every three months. Another "monitors media" in a province with no newspaper and just one local TV station.

True, protecting Afghanistan's historic sites has hardly been a top priority for the United States and its allies, either. But as they begin to plan for a handover of power, it should be. For one, they could press Mr. Mangal to spend more of his money on housing for the squatters who now call the palaces home, and to provide regular security to ensure that vandals and plunderers don't return. According to Philippe Marquis of the French Archeological Delegation in Afghanistan, stabilizing and securing the palaces would cost around $500,000.

Given the obvious waste in the Helmand government, there's little doubt the money could be found. And the ruins could be a source of prosperity for Helmand — before Afghanistan descended into chaos, these sites were a magnet for tourists, and with a little renovation and maintenance, they could be again.

American and British diplomats, who carry the most sway in the province, should also help the government in Kabul make the case for designating Lashkar Gah's monuments a World Heritage Site; winning designation would not only bring the country prestige, but also open the door to Unesco's own preservation resources.

The United States and its allies have a long to-do list as they plan their slow withdrawal from Afghanistan. But alongside security and government reform should come cultural preservation, which costs relatively little but could result in significant long-term benefits. Otherwise, Afghanistan could experience yet another substantial cultural loss — and this time on our watch.

Ann Marlowe is a visiting fellow at the Hudson Institute.








The Supreme Electoral Board's ban on all forms of campaigning and attempts at trying to influence the voter by means of the media or otherwise came into force on Wednesday. This means that we will have a period of relative calm until after the last vote is cast on July 12.

Given the unprecedented free-far-all we witnessed this time around during the campaigning, with all forms of insults and accusations flying back and forth between the parties and politicians, every rational person must have given a sigh of relief as a result of the electoral ban.

Nevertheless, as we argued in our last piece on the topic, it is very unlikely that these elections will bring peace and calm to Turkey. The country is in the throes of such an ideological war that the far-from-resolved quarrels will continue whoever wins next Sunday.

Put another way, all the key factors that generally destabilize societies and have led to serious conflicts in Europe itself in the past, exist in today's Turkey. Unless reason prevails it is clear that the divisions we are witnessing will get deeper. Given that there is the issue of a new constitution on the agenda; one should in fact expect the acrimony to reach new heights, with ideologically based accusations about "civilian coups" or attempts at "dictatorial social engineering" being hurled back and forth.

Turkey is not known to be a country that is at peace with itself. It is therefore unlikely to be a country where politics can be conducted peacefully and in a civilized manner. Those who are aware of the writings of the social historian Kemal Karpat, formerly of the University of Wisconsin-Madison,  have some understanding of why this is, and how this tradition stretches back to the time of Empire.

Put another way, Turkey's functioning democracy today operates within the context of an extremely complex sociological environment, a fact that has mostly been denied until the relatively recent past when it was often forcibly stated that we are a unified homogenous country and society.

That we are not of course, and this glaring fact is becoming more and more manifest as the country gets richer and more democratic, and not less as some expect. The reason is that there is no culture of political tolerance which makes it an "all or nothing" situation among opposing poles. In other words if one side says "black" the other side feels duty bound to say "white" whether it believes it to be so or not.

The Kurdish problem, for one, can be expected to come to a head after the elections. The simplistic assumption in this country, also promoted by the former prime minister, the late Bülent Ecevit, was that this problem is economic in nature and based on the deprivation and dispossession of the Southeast.

The basic reasoning behind this argument was the denial that Kurds exist in this country as a separate ethnic entity with their own culture and language, both of which were repressed brutally in the past. The assumption was that if you develop the southeast then the indigenous people there would forget their natural identities and become "Turks."

Deprivation and dispossession are not the only factors behind the emergence of an awareness of one's identity. The Basques and Catalonians can hardly be considered deprived and dispossessed today. Quite to the contrary they represent the richest parts of Spain, and yet their sense of identity is growing all the time and not the other way around.

Therefore, while the deprivation and dispossession of the southeast has undoubtedly contributed to a growing desire for autonomy and regional self-administration, spawning separatist terrorism at the same time, it can hardly be said to be the main reason why the Kurds of Turkey have a stronger sense of who they are today.

Much the same can be said of Turkey's Alevis who have been brutally treated in the past based on religious discrimination, and who continue to struggle for recognition today. The Alevis – similar to the Kurds – have an increasing sense of their identity even if hard-line orthodox Sunnis, whose number is significant in Turkey, do not even consider them to be true believers.

Then there is the division between the religious and secular outlooks which provides another source of potential social conflict in this country that can have undesirable effects in terms of the well-being of the whole, as opposed to the interests of a part of the country. No one expects this dispute to disappear after the elections. If anything it will intensify, cutting as it does, across other divisions that exist.

It seems that the only way out of this morass is if the country can make some sort of a new beginning after June 12, where differences are put aside and reason prevails in a manner that serves the common interests and basic human, civil and cultural rights of the citizenry. To expect that this will happen, given the vitriol in the air today, is naïve of course and as already said, the post election period is bound to continue to be turbulent.

On the other hand, there appears to be no alternative if Turkey is to attain inner peace and stability. As acrimonious as the campaign period has been this time around, there were elements of truth in what all the parties said as they paid lip service to the notion of "advanced democracy." 

Regardless of who wins the elections, it is clear that wise leadership will require that this fact is taken into consideration and that a new beginning is marked for Turkey where bridges are built, rather than destroyed as we saw in the lead-up to the elections.

It is all very well to come up with "crazy projects," as they are affectionately called by their promoters, such as joining the Black and Marmara seas by means of new canals. 

But the real "crazy project" the country needs is the one that brings more unity and tolerance, based on the awareness that we are not a homogenous but a heterogeneous society which can only remain healthy in the long run if a culture of respect for the other is developed.

The basic argument is as always, "united we stand, divided we (all) fall." In other words there is no zero-sum game here. Those who believe there is are only playing with fire.






Recently there has been a good deal of talk on a return to the 1967 Arab-Israeli borders, including a fluid note by President Barack Obama. The first part of this mini series will visit Jerusalem in 1967, and return to Istanbul in 2011. First, a chronological anatomy of the events that led to the Six-Day War of 1967, and how the war was fought: 

- Egypt's charismatic leader Gamal Abdel Nasser is the darling of the Arabs. He is dreaming of a pan-Arab state, but, he thinks, the major obstacle standing in his way is Israel. Nasser died of heart attack three years after the six-day war. His friends said he died with a broken heart.

- Israel's not-so-charismatic Prime Minister, Levi Eshkol, is not anyone's darling, especially during the diplomatic crisis, which led to the 1967 war. Many Israelis doubted his ability to run a country that was heading to war on multiple fronts. He, too, had a dream. It was not a pan-Israeli state, nor the conquest of Jerusalem. He dreamed of peace. And he, too, died with a broken heart, according to his wife.

- In the spring of 1967, Syria was harboring and training Palestinian militants who declared their holy cause as the "annihilation of the state of Israel." In one incident, Israeli and Syrian fighter jets clash, and Prime Minister Eshkol issued a mild warning to Damascus.

- The Kremlin takes Eshkol's warning seriously. In 1967, Egypt, like Syria, is on the Soviet camp. In the spring of 1967, Soviets secretly give startling news to Egypt's parliament speaker, Anwar Sadat: In one week, Israel is poised to attack Syria. Sadat speeds the news to Nasser.

- Cairo orders four divisions to the Sinai border. It also calls thousands of reserve soldiers. Finally, 40,000 soldiers, more than 300 Soviet-made tanks, artillery and personnel carriers cross into the Sinai. Arab nations cheerfully support the Egyptian build-up on the border.

- Soviet intelligence proves to be a hoax. Israel does not attack Syria. But Nasser cannot step back from the idea of finishing off Israel militarily. He is under pressure from his own top brass, his own nation and the Arab world.

- Meanwhile, as Israel celebrates the 19th anniversary of its foundation, the war cabinet mobilizes one brigade, 3,000 men, and calls up reserves. Israel's population is 2.5 million.

- A United Nation buffer zone manned with a few thousand soldiers separate enemy troops. The peacekeeping mission has been there for over 10 years. On May 16, Nasser orders the U.N. Force Commander Indar Jit Rykhye to evacuate his force within 48 hours. When Rykhye asks one Egyptian commander if Egypt was aware of the consequences, the commander replies: "Oh sir, I'll meet you at lunch in Tel Aviv." The force leaves, and Egypt and Israel are left alone.

- On May 22, Nasser closes the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping, virtually a declaration of war. The move electrifies the Arab world, especially the Palestinians in East Jerusalem who had been displaced in 1948. Nasser talks about a return to the pre-1948 borders, meaning no Israel.

- U.N. Secretary General U Thant arrives in Cairo but fails to convince Nasser who tells him privately that he is afraid of a coup or assassination. The Egyptian generals want war, Nasser says.

- Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban goes to Washington, but fails to secure United States help as President Lyndon Johnson does not commit the U.S. to help if Israel is attacked.

- There is excitement and support in the Arab world for the coming war. Kuwait pledges its army to the United Command along with Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia. Saudi Arabia's King Faisal joins the coalition, and says, "We want to see the extermination of Israel."

- On May 30 Jordan's King Hussein flies to Cairo to sign a defense pact with Nasser. The Jordanian army will now be commanded by an Egyptian general.

- CIA tells Israel's chief spy, Meir Amit, "We don't plan to do anything if Israel is attacked."

- At 7:50 a.m. on June 5, the Israeli Air Force takes off to hit every air base in Egypt simultaneously. In three hours, the Egyptian air force is totally destroyed, having lost 280 modern fighters and bombers. It takes two more hours to destroy the Syrian Air Force and minutes to destroy Jordan's.

- Arabs dance on the streets as Radio Cairo broadcasts great victories against Israel. Israel orders total radio silence. Since Israel has destroyed Jordan's communications lines, Jordan gets war news from Radio Cairo. In a telephone conversation, Nasser tells King Hussein that Egyptian planes are over Israeli skies. Encouraged with the (fake) news Jordan shells Israeli cities.

- The Battle for Jerusalem begins. Israel sends paratroopers to Jerusalem. In five hours, Jordanian resistance is broken.

- Nasser's telephone conversation with Hussein is intercepted, in which the two argue whether they should blame the U.S. or the U.S. and Britain for the humiliating defeat. Both, they agree.

- At U.N. negotiations, Egypt and Syria refuse ceasefire and land for peace an agreement.

- The Egyptian army withdraws from the Sinai. Israel takes tens of thousands of prisoners whom it later releases.

- In four days, Israel defeats Egypt and Syria and controls all of Jerusalem. But Syrian shelling begins. On the fifth day, Israel attacks Syria and captures the Golan Heights. This time, at the U.N., Syria wants ceasefire but Israel resists. Israeli army forwards as close to as 40 miles from Damascus. Then Israel calls a halt and agrees to ceasefire.

- The Six-Day War is over. Israel now controls 3.5 times more land than it had six days ago, including Jerusalem. It offers to give back Sinai and the Golan Heights in return for peace. It is willing to negotiate over the West Bank but insists on keeping all of Jerusalem.

- One month after the war Arab leaders convene in Khartoum. Nasser is still the undisputed leader of the Arab world. Arab leaders refuse a joint U.S.-Soviet proposal for land for peace. The convention ends with four notes: No recognition of Israel; no peace; no negotiations; and all Arab states are to prepare for military action.

Let's try to rid ourselves from the chains of religious ideology or just ideology and try to be fair. The return to the 1967 borders means a no-loss bet, an oxymoron. It's tantamount to betting money on a game, losing it and making a scene at the bet shop to take back the money. In warfare terms, this would be similar to Greeks proposing Turkey a return to the pre-1923 borders: They attacked, they lost, and they, unlike the Arabs, have no intention to capture central Anatolia in the 21st century.

Here, the question is simple: Would the United Arabia today agree to return to the 1967 borders if their glorious eight-nation united force had succeeded to annihilate Israel four decades ago? The Arabs should be able to understand that they can always enjoy lunch in Tel Aviv, like Israel's peaceful Arab citizens do, once they overcome their religious and ideological hatred of the "Jooos" and make peace with them.  

(to be continued)







Is he "talking from the heart," or is he someone who realized that the polarization in the country is giving him support, as he is one of those two poles?

Is he "someone among people," humble, modest and indeed "someone for those who does not have anyone," or is he that "powerful man" in the photograph looking down at people as if they are all his meager subjects?

Is he someone aiming to solve some perennial and important problems in this country, such as the Kurdish issue, with some courageous and determined political openings, or is he an opportunist and pragmatist politician believing in the Machiavellian "end justifies the means?"

Is he sincerely collaborating in good faith with those domestic and foreign elements wishing to enhance democracy, widen individual rights and liberties, eradicate the residue of the coup era on the legislative and administrative framework in the country and put an end to the military's tutelage over policy making, or is he just acting along the "Enemy of my enemy is my friend" proverb of the Arabs [there are claims the Chinese have a similar proverb] and pretend as if he is fond of democracy as long as he needs democracy to consolidate his dictatorship?

Difficult, perhaps, to make a decision for foreigners, yet is it not awkward to see in this country the full surrender to the man by large segments of Turkish society despite all of the wild arrogance and narcissism that has been displayed?

For example, if one of the most prominent business and industrialists' groups in the country decides not to take sides on an important issue, let's say during a referendum campaign on a set of contentious package of constitutional amendments, would a politician who believes in democracy come up with the awkward statement, "Those who refuse to take sides will be eliminated," and still be considered a "prime minister committed to 'advanced democracy?'"

Or, is it possible for a prime minister who believes in the supremacy of law, the separation of powers and indeed managed to understand that as head of the executive, he should not try to control the courts or try to influence their decisions, to come up one day with a statement that if a general doesn't stand up and greet him at a ceremony he eventually realizes there is a price for such action, such as getting banished to a prison as a suspect in a coup plot? And, can he still claim to be trying to promote "advanced democracy" in that country?

Irrespective of what they are and how they might be staged, whatever happens in a country is of course political or has political repercussions. Turkey lived through an unprecedented series of scandals this year regarding the Student Selection and Placement Center, or ÖSYM. There was a flop in the Polis Academy examination. Covered up. There was a scandal in the university examinations, the director was forced to step down and the scandal was covered up. This year some 1.7 million students were shocked to learn days after they sat the university entrance examination's first leg, or the so-called YGS examinations, that the exam was rigged. Well, the president, government and the entire government-appointed educational bureaucracy was "firmly convinced" that though a code was applied in the examination, there had been no cheating.

On a national TV interview, the prime minister of the country publicly demonstrated his advanced democratic qualifications, saying that writers and journalists who complained in their articles about probable cheating in the YGS examination "will eventually pay for that."

If there is cheating or a high probability of cheating on an exam, which was so important for the 1.7 million young people of this country, is it not the duty of the journalist whose job is to always ask himself/herself before writing an article "what's in this for my people" to write on that issue and criticize the wrong done?

Being an advanced democrat must have been different than being a democrat. What is the difference or where is the difference? I must say I am rather confused particularly after the incidents in Hopa, the ensuing outpour of hatred from the prime minister's mouth not only against the Hopa demonstrators or the retired teacher, 54-year-old Metin Lokumcu who was gassed to death on orders of the officious chief security of the prime minister, but also against the main opposition leader.

Yet, it was rather difficult for me to decide what it was for the prime minister to declare on state TV that an eminent industrialist of the country would pay the price of commenting to the media that he believed not the Justice and Development Party, but the Republican People's Party, would win the elections?

I am sure all these might mean something in advanced democracy, but in a democracy without any prefix, such developments can only be described as terrifying







All of us have different views of the prime minister.

For some of us he is a revolutionary, for others he is a leader who has given up being a revolutionary.

We may criticize his harshness and the language he picks in his speeches. We may also reject his politics. 

But there is one aspect that we just cannot disregard.   

That is, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has an interesting attraction, a charm over a significant portion of the Turkish society. Even those who have opposing views watch him and are curious about what he is doing.

It drew my full attention; I want to give an example.  

Every talk show Erdoğan participates is watched with interest. Every opening he makes or every speech he delivers at any meeting either finds a good place in TV news or is broadcast live. None of the channels do this by force. The prime minister is not on TV screens because of pressure or threat. On the contrary, he is sought after.

More or less the same situation applies to his town square rallies. Whatever the number of supporters is believed to be "carried" to the rallies; Erdoğan knows how to fill the squares.

There are reasons of course why the prime minister attracts this much attention.

The struggle he had launched against the status quo after he came to power, the Kurdish initiative he started, which was applauded once upon a time, but has given up, his ability to set the agenda and direct it as he wants and wherever he wants, his approach to piety and secularism, the language he uses as he speaks, the fact that he possesses a verbalism and a body language that the society "gets" much better, etc.  

Let us leave the analysis of these to one side.

The truth that lies in the middle is Erdoğan carries his party and his government alone. Some may call it a "one man show." The issue I am curious about is what would the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, do after experiencing this leadership capacity, after 2014 and 2015, in other words post-Erdoğan.

Erdoğan will either step up to the presidential mansion in 2014 or will leave politics in next elections.

What will happen after that?

Will AKP be able to find another Erdoğan?   

I don't think so.

What do you think?

The Mavi Marmara incident should not be repeated

It has been a full year since the Mavi Marmara ship was attacked by Israel in international waters and nine Turkish citizens were brutally killed.       

The only responsible side in this incident is Israel.

I have no doubts in this.  

Despite that, Israel is resisting. It neither shows any willingness to agree to compensation nor does it intend to apologize. The diplomats are negotiating and ultimately there will be an accord.

Mavi Marmara had started the operation for humanitarian aid but the development of the incident did not only result in the breaking of the Turkish-Israel relationship but also strained Turkish-American relations to a greater extent.

The incident drew attention to the inhuman attitude in Gaza and caused the elevation of Turkey's prestige in Arab streets. But there are invisible bills, which are not seen clearly and these bills are quite high.

Be a nongovernmental organization or not, act together with international organizations or not, you have to calculate that every step taken will affect this country and that you also have to protect Turkey's international interests.

Now, let us look at the essence of the issue.   

A brand new order is being structured in the Middle East.  

Turkey's former position is also changing.

Israel is also in an irritated state and it is also searching for a new policy.

In such an atmosphere, the fact the Mavi Marmara has again started a tense journey and facing new road accidents again has started to create tensions in Ankara even now. Nobody's voice is heard before the elections but it is openly stated that no new adventure is wanted.  

Mavi Marmara has completed its mission now. It should not further strain Turkish foreign policy, which is already trying to advance on a narrow path. Messages have been conveyed and the stance of the Turkish public has been displayed.  

 If creating a new armed clash and the complete torpedoing of the Turkish-Israel relations are wished for, they may continue their journey.  

Let us not forget that as much as Israel needs Turkey in regards to its presence in the region, Turkey also needs moderate relations with Israel.

It is time to drop it all together at a most suitable and sweet time.






Religious pluralism is one of the few, truly, modern, expressions. The term refers to the acceptance of a multitude of religions existing in harmony despite internal doctrinal differences and variations in external rituals and practices. Although the term itself hails only from the 20th century, one might argue the idea has been around for much longer and has been part of a Muslim ethos from a very early period. This is not to deny that other religious traditions may also have developed such an ethos in the past or that they are capable of doing so in the future; I speak only from my, personal, observations, which are strictly limited to the religious tradition that I know best, Islam.

Religious pluralism may be inferred from the Quran itself and the abundant commentary literature on it from the early centuries of Islam. The Quran valorizes Judaism, Christianity, and Islam equally on the basis of a shared belief in the one God and righteous behavior. It praises righteous practitioners of all monotheistic faiths as belonging to a moderate, balanced, and just community. Justice is extolled in the Quran as an ethical principle held in common by righteous believers, a natural correlate of their moral charge on earth to uphold what is good and forbid what is wrong. The pluralist ethos imparted by these verses was largely endorsed by early Muslim scholars; historical literature indicates that this general principle of inclusion was eventually extended to other non-Abrahamic religious communities, such as the Zoroastrians, Hindus, and Buddhists.

However, roughly after the ninth century, this pluralist impulse began to be progressively diluted and compromised in response to various socio-political and theological developments. Over time, many, though by no means all, Muslim scholars came to consider 'right' belief and 'right' practice as, exclusively, a confessional allegiance to Islam. While other religious and communities were to be tolerated and even granted autonomy in determining their internal affairs, these jurists decided they were not to be deemed equal to Muslims. 

Today we find that there is a resurgence of interest among a substantial number of Muslim thinkers towards retrieving the early pluralist ethos, and making it part of contemporary Muslim-majority societies especially as many of these societies are already quite multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, and multi-religious. 

And yet, recent shocking examples of religious intolerance and sectarian hatred in some of these countries have dominated global news. In Egypt, on New Year's Eve in 2010, there was a brutal attack by militants on Saints Church in Alexandria, Egypt; 21 Christian Copts were killed. Though the reaction from the majority Egyptian Muslim population was one of outrage and horror, al-Azhar University, the premier institution of learning in the Sunni Muslim world, took the lead in condemning the attack, while the media coverage focused on horror. Less well-noticed were scenes of heart-warming interfaith solidarity and loyalty, which followed in the wake of the attacks. Muhammad el-Sawy, a young Muslim entrepreneur, immediately organized what became known as a "human shields" campaign. Under the slogan "We either live together or die together," el-Sawy and his fellow organizers, aided by social media tools, rallied thousands of Egyptians, from ministers to movie stars, to turn up at the Coptic church on Coptic Christmas, January 7, 2011, for a dramatic show of solidarity, a finger-in-the-eye gesture at the militants.

We are so accustomed to stories of injustice emanating from the Middle East; we might be tempted to dismiss this as a fluke. Except this trend of interfaith solidarity asserted itself repeatedly during the spontaneous pro-democracy movement, which erupted in Tahrir Square in Cairo this year. On the Sunday during the so-called "Week of Resistance," Copts held their Mass in Tahrir Square while Muslims formed a protective ring, defending worshippers against government troops. The Christians, in turn, created a protective cordon the following Friday when Muslims assembled for prayer. During funeral prayers for slain protestors, Muslims and Christians prayed together, carried copies of the Qur'an and the cross during the service, and chanted "One Hand!" If religious supremacists were squirming, no one was paying attention.

Young people and many of their elders across the Middle East are realizing that the desire for justice and freedom remains a common, basic, denominator, which cuts across religious, ethnic and other divides. Religious pluralism is an ally of justice and freedom-seeking people everywhere. Egyptians recently proved that this new-found inter-religious solidarity is the wave of the future, regardless of the considerable challenges that lie ahead.

*Asma Afsaruddin is professor of Islamic Studies at Indiana University, United States This article is part of the series "Religion, Politics & the Public Space" in collaboration with the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations and its Global Experts project, at The views expressed in these articles are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect those of the UNAOC or of the institutions to which the authors are affiliated.






Amid sweeping changes to the political landscape in the Mediterranean, the reinforcement of Turkey's commitment to democracy and regional leadership is now more important than ever.

The Arab Spring may very well bring democracy to countries in the Mediterranean and Middle East regions; where for too long regimes have operated without accountability from the people. A revolutionary wave of protests and demonstrations brought down long ruling regimes in the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, or OSCE, partner states Tunisia and Egypt and are ongoing in other countries, such as Libya and Syria.

Historically a key regional power and a well-established democracy, Turkey has the potential to serve as a role model to these countries in transition. As we wait to see if Muslim street protests grow into new political parties, with these elections, Turkey can show them it is possible. In this historic year, we decided to send a full election observation mission to Turkey for the first time.

As observers we remain strictly neutral with regard to the outcome of the election. We will not be there as critics, we will be simply there to observe and assess the conduct of the election on the basis of OSCE commitments, to which all OSCE participating states have freely subscribed. Our concern is thus entirely with the process, not its result.

As the standard bearer of election observation, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Parliamentary Assembly expects the upcoming parliamentary elections will showcase Turkey's continuing effort to strengthen its democratic institutions consistent with its OSCE commitments.

By cooperating together in this observation mission, the OSCE and Turkey benefit from mutual information sharing and relationship building. We hope our presence can further nurture Turkey's democratic standard above and beyond its already impressive state. By working together toward this goal, the OSCE strengthens Turkey's regional leadership. 

In order to be comfortable and credible as a role model for Muslim democracies, Turkey needs to further strengthen its own democratic institutions. Yes, Turkey is a stable democracy and, yes, the upcoming elections are expected to be free and well-organized, but some international observers have raised points of concern over past elections.

With its regional neighbors looking to hold their first democratic votes later this year, Turkey should seize the chance to showcase their democracy at its best, offering up a model to a region experimenting with change.

So far, we have always been impressed by Turkey's progress in living up to its OSCE commitments. The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly trusts Turkey will keep strengthening its democratic institutions and that the poll on June 12 will be another benchmark in an upward trend for democracy.

*R. Spencer Oliver is secretary-general of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly based in Copenhagen.







As expected, Pakistan's key economic indicators remain depressing. According to the Economic Survey of Pakistan 2010-11, the country's real Gross Domestic Product growth is estimated at a slim 2.4 percent against the targeted 4.5 percent. Inflation remains in double digits, hovering at around 14.1 percent in the first 10 months of the current fiscal year, compared to 11.5 percent during the same period a year ago. Moreover, the fiscal deficit has been estimated at 5.9 percent for the year, while public debt has shown a sharp increase of 13.1 percent in the first nine months of the current fiscal year.

One can continue citing figures, which overwhelmingly paint a grim picture of Pakistan's economy. But were we expecting any different? In a country shaken to its core by terrorism, continued political instability, inconsistent policies, and an unprecedented energy crisis, the economy often remains the first causality. Last year's devastating floods only added to the country's woes. According to government estimates, floods wiped out a staggering two percent from economic growth. The surging oil and food prices also proved mighty blows on the fragile economy, already reeling from internal challenges. All these factors contributed towards making life miserable for the common man. The unemployment rate grew by 5.6 percent, while instances of poverty increased.

However, the blame for dismal economic figures cannot be placed on these internal and external factors alone. The impact of these challenges compounded because the government proved slow to act and kept dragging its feet on crucial reforms - this includes its failure to expand the tax base to that of restructuring public sector enterprises, which alone need an injection of more than 250 billion rupees in subsidies just to remain afloat. The government's debt management strategy, fiscal austerity, and rationalising the subsidy regime also left a lot to be desired. The only saving grace for this outgoing fiscal year remains the robust external sector thanks to a record surge in remittances by overseas Pakistanis and high exports, which are expected to cross $24 billion by the end of the year. Sadly, no credit can be given for this to the government. Let's hope that in the 2011-12 fiscal year, the finance minister and his team manage to take those tough and difficult decisions, which are vital to pull the country out of its low growth and high inflation cycle. For this, mobilising internal resources, scrapping subsidies, and taking measures against vested interests remain vital. Whether this team will be able to do so remains a multi-million dollar question.







Only a day after it was formed by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, the commission meant to probe the May 2 Abbottabad raid and Osama bin Laden's presence in that city, has more or less fallen apart. In an angry attack PML-N Chief Mian Nawaz Sharif has rejected the body, pointing out that as per the parliamentary resolution – which with consensus had advocated the setting up of the commission – there had been at least a tacit agreement that it would be formed after consultation. The government's unilateral decision has infuriated an already unimpressed opposition. Sharif has also pointed out that there was only one name among the list of commission members - that of Justice (r) Fakharuddin G Ebrahim - from amongst the names proposed by Chaudhry Nisar Ali in a letter to the PM. The other six names proposed were those of Justice (r) Shafiur Rehman, Justice (r) Nasir Aslam Zahid, Majeed Nizami, Mahmood Khan Achakzai, Asma Jehangir and Justice (r) Rana Bhagwan Das. Not one of them was included in the commission whereas Ebrahim has written to Mr Gilani stating that he will not be able to participate.


Obviously, in a matter as sensitive as this, across the board agreement is needed if the commission is to win the trust of the people and thus serve any useful purpose. It is hard to understand why there was so much reluctance to talk to Chaudhry Nisar, and other leaders of key parties about the composition of the commission. Failure to do so has turned the whole exercise into a complete farce. To add to this, even those asked to serve as part of the body were not asked in advance. We see evidence of this in Ebrahim's immediate decision not to participate. Meanwhile Justice Javed Iqbal has agreed to participate but stated that he will need the chief justice's formal permission. What we have now is a situation that only adds to existing tensions between the government and the opposition. We are nowhere near beginning an unbiased enquiry into an event fraught with implications for our country. This is not an encouraging development. It exhibits once more, both the incompetence of our government and suggests that we are further than ever before from discovering the truth about what happened early last month at Abbottabad and the events that preceded it.







Relatively little attention has been paid to the significant incursions from Afghanistan in the last two months, the most recent of which is ongoing at the time of writing. These are not tip-and-run raids, mere pinpricks, they are large military actions mounted in difficult terrain involving foreign fighters and they are inflicting significant damage. In April there was a raid into Lower Dir at the border village of Kharkai in which 14 security personnel were killed and several injured. On Wednesday this week there was a large night-time incursion said to number in the several hundreds which targeted the check post at Shiltalao in Upper Dir. The death toll has reportedly risen to 27 of our own personnel and up to 40 militants are dead. A bridge and at least two schools – four, say local people – have been destroyed.

Detailed information is hard to come by but this week's raid appears to be larger than that in April and has inflicted far greater damage and casualties. It is said that the attackers wore military uniforms – but the uniforms of whose military? It is not difficult to buy military uniforms, in virtually any bazaar in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa or Fata. Some of the attackers are said to be 'Pakistani Taliban' and others 'Afghan Taliban'. If any of the dead attackers are found to be wearing Afghan military uniform then a whole host of questions need answering. Mounting a raid such as this requires considerable planning. Given the numbers involved, it is possible to see that there is the capacity not just to raid but to 'take and hold' on the part of the attackers, even if only for a few days. These are not American boots on our land – so who do they belong to and why are they here? We expect no early answer.









When the cover was blown from Osama bin Laden's last gift to Pakistan – his choice of residence in Abbottabad, a favour we could have done without – it was only to be expected that the guardians of national ideology would be rendered speechless. There are some situations too embarrassing for words and this was one of them.

A frank admission of failure might have been more sensible. But this being no part of the Pakistani tradition, our guardians did the next best thing: climb the ramparts and blow the trumpets of national dignity and honour. For about 10-12 days it seemed as if Pakistan was trembling on the edge of a new declaration of independence. Politicians of all hues went wild with demands for an end to foreign aid.

It took only two brief visits – the first by Senator John Kerry, the second by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, with Admiral Mike Mullen in tow – to puncture this euphoric post-Osama myth of born-again national sovereignty.

Pakistan's leadership – president, prime minister and the chief guardian himself, Gen Ashfaq Kayani – dutifully lined up before Kerry (who, it bears noting, holds no official position in the US administration) to hear him say that Pakistan's conduct henceforth would be judged not by words but deeds.

Any doubts persisting about whether the mood of the Pakistani leadership had sobered up were laid to rest by the second visit. Hillary Clinton offered a sop to her interlocutors, something they would have been keen to hear: "...I want to stress again that we have absolutely no reason to believe anyone at the highest level of the government knew (about Osama)." But this came with a sting: "...we have reached a turning point....we look to Pakistan to take decisive steps in the days ahead."

What those steps were was made clear a few days later by Admiral Mullen who told American TV channels that an operation by the Pakistan army in North Waziristan was on the cards. "It's a very important fight," he said, "and a very important operation."

One doesn't have to be much of a war genius to figure out what's going on. The Americans give the army leadership a sort of clean chit about Bin Laden but get the army to agree on a new, and potentially dangerous, operation, something Kayani and company were resisting for some time. So much for national honour and sovereignty.

And look at the ISI's predicament. Since the Raymond Davis affair its leadership was getting hot under the collar wanting to reduce the American footprint in Pakistan. Now the same leadership has to go along with the opening of a new front in North Waziristan. In other words, taking a strong stand on a relatively small issue but helpless in the face of a larger decision.

The Peshawar corps commander has of course said that an operation in North Waziristan is not imminent and that it will be undertaken "...when we want to do it, when it is militarily and otherwise in the national interest." While he should be applauded for his outspokenness, he forgets that we often leave it to our foreign friends to define our national interest.

The fight against terrorism should be taken forward but we should think long and hard before going into North Waziristan. This already looks like a compromised operation not because we are talking about it but because, given the present state of army morale, it is hard to imagine any unit of the Pakistan army having its heart in it when the fighting begins.

Swat and South Waziristan were different. There was hope in the air that we were about to turn a corner in our fight against extremism. There was also the feeling that military success would be complemented by something equally daring on the political front. But with no end in sight to what increasingly looks like an intractable struggle, and with the political leadership largely uninvolved (neither the president nor the prime minister having visited the troops even once) that mood has vanished, giving way to a feeling of resignation and despondency.

The effects of the Osama raid and the attack on the Mehran base should also be taken into account. With military morale not at its highest it will take a minor miracle of leadership to inject a gung-ho spirit into the units going into North Waziristan. If at all undertaken, this has to be our own operation, with our hearts and souls in it. If carried out under American pressure, there is a risk it will be a half-cocked affair.

We have to get one thing straight. That we are amenable to American pressure is not so much because of our economic vulnerability, although that too is a problem, but because of our strategic double games: fighting some militants while nurturing and supporting others because of their presumed usefulness against India. Or as future insurance policy for Afghanistan.

The foremost condition for the reclamation of sovereignty is an end to these games, a final farewell to the use of militancy as a tool of foreign policy. Support for such organisations as the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba and a sovereign Pakistan are mutually contradictory aims. If we want to be masters in our own house we have to rid ourselves of the bitter legacy of 'jihad'. It has caused Pakistan nothing but unmitigated harm and given a handle to others to use against us.

And can the godfathers of national security kindly get Afghanistan out of their system? Can't we leave it to geography and cultural proximity to work their influences? Earlier on we propped up Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. Then it was the Taliban. Now it is the Haqqanis. Can't we get over this obsession of wanting to control things in Afghanistan? We never succeeded in the past, we won't in the future. Afghan history has not been kind to would-be controllers.

The other half of our double games flows from our perceptions about India. The lashkar-this and the jaish-that have been pawns on our Indian chessboard. Without going into the details of our Indian obsession, suffice it to say that the world has changed, the sub-continent has changed, the dragons threatening us are no longer the same.

No one is saying bend the knee before India. Why should that even be a consideration? Larger neighbours can be a problem but we must learn to live with them. There's no other choice. We have cultivated hostility towards India and all this has done is to drag us down, warping our thoughts and making them morbid, and crippling our ability to behave and function like a normal nation.

Pakistan has two problems – just two and no other: under-development and the curse of religious fundamentalism gone wild. Both are internal problems aggravated not by any international conspiracy – Zionist, Indian or American – but by our external obsessions. Unless the army, and here the key responsibility is the army's, breaks free from its Indian bondage – and this is a bondage – there can be no peace for Pakistan.

Just think of it, clenching our mailed fist towards India but sucking up to the United States, acting upon American demands about necessary steps, what kind of sovereignty is this?

Islam is not the state religion of Pakistan, denial is. And our national emblem should be the ostrich, given our proclivity to bury our heads in the sand and not see the landscape around us as it is.

We need a drastic change of course, that's for sure. The kind of civilian leaders we have, their quality we know. No hope for any miracles from that quarter. As for the military side, Kayani has begun to look too much like a dated product, a rep of the old order. He has outlived his usefulness. His extension may have been a Zardari political masterstroke, serving to protect his flanks, but otherwise it wasn't a bright idea.

We need a change of guard, both political and military, the coming of some rebels to the fore. This is Pakistan's foremost challenge...dependent, however, on divine grace because the political spectrum, from one end to the other, presents the aspect of a desert, the level and lonely sands (echoes of Shelley) stretching far away.








Everyone is asking, "What is the solution?" Without learned evasions, let me provide a direct answer by outlining one set of practical responses to the challenges we face.

The immediate objective must be to redeem the liberty and protect the lives of the people of Pakistan, without which 'sovereignty' is a meaningless word. We must therefore secure the homeland against all enemies, foreign and domestic, separately. Contrary to the strategic narrative, cunningly being propagated by Raymond Davis & co to justify American aggression, Pakistan's national security and domestic peace can be separated, and national security should take priority over domestic disorder.

Yet, the military seem unable to defend the borders; and the civil government, both unwilling and unable to maintain domestic peace. In these extraordinary circumstances, it is up to ordinary citizens (1) to organise themselves (a) to raise popular awareness of the urgency and severity of the threat, and (b) to pressure the authorities to do their duty; and (2) to prepare a contingency plan to do these things themselves.

What is required is for a handful of patriots to take steps to constitute a people's congress that would in time have a smaller executive committee, and a countrywide network of local cells. They would formulate and execute the long struggle for freedom that clearly lies ahead.

The congress should consist only of individuals who seek to give to the nation, and not to take from it. It should not have any ambitions of engaging in electoral politics; instead its task should be (1) to organise an extensive citizens' network to provide intelligence to the authorities; (2) organise civil defences against (a) foreign aggressors and (b) foreign and locally funded domestic terrorists; and (3) prepare a back-up logistics network, that can be activated to provide food, water, health care, and other basic necessities to the people, should we find ourselves bombed back to the Stone Age for resisting those who would enslave us. Obviously, no member should engage in any illegal activities, no matter what the provocation.

Given the nature of the threat, people with military, intelligence, police, and media experience, should guide this effort, to be undertaken largely by young men and women. An average of 25 persons, in say 12 major cities of Pakistan each, can get the process started. Leadership should come from groups, not charismatic Ali Baba figures who collect a band of beneficiaries around them. Everyone, including politicians willing to sit as equals in such a congress should be welcomed.

Putting aside all divisions and hatred, let influential patriotic citizens, so prominently visible in the media, step forward and organise small informal groups in each city, to prepare for a bottom-up process of forming group leadership and local networks.

Let's be clear: To defend Pakistan is not to "attack" America; and that it is possible to live without American handouts, if the privileged who do not emigrate are prepared for the sacrifices upon which liberty is built.

What kinds of initiatives could the congress consider? One approach could be to pursue a "stand still" and "roll back" strategy – that is to say, first, stop further foreign control of the executive, legislature, media, and judiciary; second, roll back the existing degree of penetration in incremental steps.

We should no longer tolerate foreign military and intelligence presence on Pakistani soil, we must shoot down invading aircraft, repel ground troops that cross the border, claim hot pursuit rights, and break diplomatic relations with and wage war against countries that conduct hostilities against Pakistan.

Let's acquire electronic technology from China to defend against drone attacks. Given the disposition of forces, let's initiate discussions with Iran for closer military cooperation leading to a mutual defence agreement or treaty. We should also review, unsentimentally, our relations with Arab countries, and expand ties with other neutral countries.

Supported by legislation, the military should take in hand, urgently, a compulsory two year programme of paid military service, for all 18-year-old men, along the lines of the discontinued National Cadet Corps. This will not only enhance defence, but would provide much needed income support to the poor.

Finally, we also need to assess, coolly, why despite our nuclear weapons the enemy has penetrated so deeply into Pakistan today, especially in Balochistan. The military must make the nuclear threat credible to all aggressors. As almost the last hope of Pakistan, the military must also safeguard the rule of law. The military can, and should take steps, to help enforce the decisions of the judiciary and the parliament upon this American installed executive.

The multitude of sins covered under the rubric of "terrorism" (unlawful killing to instil fear) need to be distinguished clearly, and dealt with separately: foreign funded "Taliban" and other groups that provide cover to foreign covert operations by falsely claiming responsibility for "terrorist" acts, should be dealt with under laws of war; local ones with negotiation and criminal prosecution.

Is this anti-American? On the contrary, to the Americans we say what their forefathers said to the British, in their Declaration of Independence: "it [has become] necessary for [us] to dissolve the ... bands which have connected" our governments for so long. "We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, [but they] have been deaf... We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity...and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends."

To our patriots we say, listen to the timeless advice of Thomas Jefferson to all free men: "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants."

The writer resigned as Chief Economist Planning Commission in 1992, in protest against growing foreign influence in government. Email:








The arrest and extradition to The Hague of Ratko Mladic, the Bosnian Serb general accused of war crimes including indiscriminate shelling and sniping of civilians in Sarajevo and the extermination of 8000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica in 1995, will provide scant consolation to those families who lost loved ones in that tragic period. Nonetheless, his arrest is an affirmation that leaders should be held accountable for flagrant violations of international conventions and laws.

The massacre at Srebrenica is the worst atrocity committed in post-World War II Europe. The town had been declared a "safe area" by the UN and was under the protection of 100 lightly armed Dutch peacekeepers. In July 1995, Bosnian Muslims fleeing before the advancing Bosnian Serb army gathered there under the impression that the UN presence would provide safety. However, the Dutch peacekeepers were no match for the heavy artillery deployed by the Bosnian Serb army and Srebrenica soon fell.

In an orgy of "ethnic cleansing," Muslim prisoners were tortured and murdered by the Bosnian Serbs. Gruesome details of the massacre were provided by an eye witness in his deposition to the Hague tribunal in 1996. Many of the prisoners committed suicide rather than have their noses, lips and ears cut off. Adults were forced to kill their own children or watched as Serb soldiers slit their throats.

Regardless of the outcome of the trial at The Hague, given the way the world operates, it would be fair to say that those who are put on trial for war crimes are invariably those on the losing side. Further, nobody indicts for war crimes leaders of powerful countries who have the military heft to take unilateral action against other countries. Else the likes of those who planned and waged the second Iraq war in 2003 – which was termed "illegal" by no less a personage than the then secretary general of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, – would be examining very carefully their travel itineraries. For proof positive of the rule that 'justice' weighs in on the side of the mighty there is no better evidence than that provided by a remarkable documentary film, The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S McNamara.

The protagonist of the film, Robert McNamara, was secretary of defence under presidents Kennedy and Johnson and later served as the president of the World Bank. He was the proverbial "smartest guy in the room," the technocrats' technocrat; he was also known as the 'architect' of the Vietnam War.

In what is mostly a monologue before the camera the then 85-year-old McNamara (who died in 2009 aged 93) looks back over the course of his life not so much as an apologia but in the manner of a man with an unresolved inner conflict as to whether what he did in the high positions he occupied was right by the standards of morality.

Does he deserve absolution because he was following orders and doing the best for his country or was he guilty of being driven by arrogance and blind ambition?

During the Second World War, McNamara was responsible for analysing the 'efficiency' of bombing sorties over Japan under then general Curtis LeMay. McNamara points out that the recommendations made by him to maximise 'efficiency' led to the use of incendiary bombs by B-29 bombers flying at an altitude of 5000 feet. With a change in aerial bombing tactic, he matter-of-factly reveals that 100,000 civilians in Tokyo were burnt alive in just one night in May 1945.

With the lucidity of a logician, McNamara describes the impact on Japanese cities of a systematic firebombing campaign that targeted their civilian population. He points out that it was General LeMay who ordered the bombing but then accepts that he also contributed his part:

"Why was it necessary to drop the nuclear bomb if LeMay was burning up Japan? And he went on from Tokyo to firebomb other cities. Fifty-eight percent of Yokohama. Yokohama is roughly the size of Cleveland. Fifty-eight percent of Cleveland destroyed. Tokyo is roughly the size of New York. Fifty-one percent of New York destroyed. Ninety-nine percent of the equivalent of Chattanooga, which was Toyama. Forty percent of the equivalent of Los Angeles, which was Nagoya. This was all done before the dropping of the nuclear bomb, which by the way was dropped by LeMay's command."

The statistics about the level of destruction even prior to the dropping of two atomic bombs on Japan are the basis of lesson number five: "Proportionality should be a guideline in war".

As McNamara puts it: "Killing 50 percent to 90 percent of the people of 67 Japanese cities and then bombing them with two nuclear bombs is not proportional, in the minds of some people, to the objectives we were trying to achieve." (To which one might add too bad that he didn't apply this lesson to the war in Vietnam.)

He admits that victors are held to different standards than the vanquished: "LeMay said, 'If we'd lost the war, we'd all have been prosecuted as war criminals'. And I think he's right. He, and I'd say I, were behaving as war criminals. LeMay recognised that what he was doing would be thought immoral if his side had lost. But what makes it immoral if you lose and not immoral if you win?"

There's also the question of Vietnam which is a mainstay of the policy discussion in his years as the US secretary of defence from 1961-1967.

While McNamara glosses over the morality of a war that devastated an entire region and resulted in the deaths of over three million Vietnamese and a million Laotians and Cambodians along with 58,000 of his own countrymen, he more or less admits that he realised a bit too late that it had all been a terrible mistake. The war had been based on false presumptions because, as McNamara learns in a 1995 meeting with a former Vietnamese foreign minister, the Americans had not understood their adversary; that the North Vietnamese were fighting a war of national liberation to rid their country of all foreign influences including that of the Chinese who had at one time been the imperial overlord in Vietnam. In this regard they were willing to pay any price to achieve their objectives. It was decidedly not an international communist conspiracy as expressed in the domino theory touted by leading US national security strategists in the 1950s and 60s.

It appears that the overarching lesson of war (even those fought for humanitarian motives since a "humanitarian bomb" doesn't distinguish between a combatant and a civilian) is that crimes will be committed since people exposed to continual extremes of violence are likely to lose their inhibitions about taking lives without remorse. Warring parties tend to dehumanise the enemy rendering him the very essence of evil through stereotypes reinforced by name-calling, painting him fit only to be utterly destroyed. That is why we have Hitler's 'final solution' or the genocide of Rwanda.

As for Ratko Mladic, shorn of the trappings of power and subjected to the ravages of time, he looks all too human.







Now that you have launched your campaign for a second term, I expect you will soon come to the same location in Chicago where we first met in that summer of hope, in the rush of a hype that promised to change the course of history. My own life did change that year, as I entered Harvard and voted for the first time in my life. That act of voting, like all things one does for the first time, was a precious experience for me. As an adult citizen of the United States of American who was born to an immigrant family, I dreamed big dreams, following your rise to a position that no black man could have dreamt even a generation ago. I am hoping to meet you again, but know that both of us are changed men. You have become, by now, a symbol of power and authority of the most powerful nation of this world and I have matured into a young Harvard student whose future looks exceedingly bleak. I harbour no hope in my heart, just like millions of other young Americans whose imagination your electrifying campaign of two years ago had ignited and who now carry the amber of that bitter experience in their dead souls. We have been betrayed, dear President Obama; you have not only killed our hopes, but you have also filled our lives with a darkness that we do not know how to dispel.

I know it is of no consequence to you, riding a wave of big successes as you are in the wake of an assassination carried out by your orders of a man who has been pitched to Americans as evil incarnate. I also note that you have already made the fatal speech which every US president has made since 1948 at the altar of AIPAC and you have said what every US president has said since then: Israel's security is "sacrosanct" and "non-negotiable". So, I must admit that you are doing pretty well, despite the inconsequential media hype about the chastisement you recently received from Benjamin Netanyahu.

The only reason for this letter is that I know that even at the height of your glory and power, you are still going to return to that Chicago riding where we first met and you are still going to ask me for my vote, or at least you will pretend that you need my vote. You will tell me, and millions of other young Americans who saw a glimmer of hope in that summer two years ago, that we still count.

Torture, Mr Obama, is something we all abhor and torture is what you have sanctioned. People whom no court of justice has yet declared criminals have been tortured. You have officially sanctioned it by your orders; this has doomed America on moral grounds. You promised to close down that American heart of darkness during your election campaign, but on March 7, 2011, you signed an executive order, reversing your own policy. The order to resume military trials for Gitmo detainees will be one of the darkest deeds written in your record forever. But this is not enough.

What particularly bothers me, and millions of other young men and women of this country, is the daily dose of darkness that oozes out of the White House and fills our lives. Around the world, America remains the most hated country and you have become a symbol of sophisticated hypocrisy for billions – mark my words – for billions of human beings who saw or read your Cairo speech and harboured a sense of hope in their hearts, you have become a symbol of despair despite your golden words which we all know now to be false. You ignored the popular uprising against Ben Ali, only joined in the international farcical chorus of contempt for Mubarak when he was on his way out, and you are still to produce a meaningful murmur against the Syrian regime which has killed more of its people than any other autocratic regime since this strange Arab spring began.

Of course you are going after that mad man called Qaddafi, but make no mistake, we all know this game plan: you go and destroy the entire infra-structure of the country, somehow take that man out, install your own men in power, then send in American companies to rebuilt the country, sell arms worth billions of dollars and be happy ever after. Of course, you will have to share this pie with the Europeans, but Libyan oil is enough to cover both sides.

I understand all of this, and so do millions of other young men and women of my generation from around the world. We also know that our understanding is inconsequential to the actual state of the world: we can make no difference whatsoever. There are no rules left for anything, the so-called international law stands null and void.

My heart cries for the Afghan children you have killed recently. I say "you", because as the commander-in-chief of "our" armed forces, you are directly responsible for these crimes of war and while I know there is no court of justice that is going to have the gut to try you here on earth, but I carry a faith stronger than the mountains which tells me that justice will catch up with you, either here or in the Hereafter.

Yes, you have guessed right: I am a Muslim, born in a Chicago suburb to a family which came to the United States of America in hope of a brighter life. They, instead, found darkness that now engulfs them from all sides, even though one of their sons has entered Harvard and the other is a successful physician. I do not think I will come to hear you when you come to Chicago on your election campaign but want you to remember: there is a verdict of history that awaits all men who rise to power and that verdict has already been passed against you.
The writer is a freelance columnist.









This cruel month of May has ended with another body blow: the torture and brutal murder of a fearless journalist, Syed Saleem Shahzad. The wanton cruelty inflicted upon him leaves one numb with grief. What kind of higher purpose is served by such viciousness?

I did not know Saleem Shahzad but read what he wrote with great interest. He always had newer angles on stories done to death with conventional interpretations. And he had information. Not knowing his background, I often used to wonder who his sources are.

He found himself in the midst of the most dangerous war of our times. When countries and armies fight each other, there are certain rules of the game framed by international conventions. This is a no-holds-barred conflict conducted on all sides by shadowy organisations.

Regular countries have thrown their assets into the field, including CIA, MI6, RAW, some others not so well known, and of course the ISI. Their adversaries are anything but visible, Al-Qaeda, varieties of Taliban and assorted Laskhars associated with them.

This is a murky world for a journalist, not straightforward war reporting. The best, and Saleem Shahzad was the best, dig deep into it, creating sources that are potentially lethal. Sensibilities that on all sides are raw and unconstrained by any rules or laws; put a reporter in a terribly dangerous environment.

It takes courage, and a huge reservoir of it, to penetrate this treacherous world. Saleem Shahzad had made it his mission to do just that. His knowledge of what is going on within this grey zone was without parallel. He knew better than anyone, for instance, about schisms and inner conflicts within Al-Qaeda and the terror networks attached to it.

And also knew about the operations conducted by it. His take on the Mehran base attack was unique: he described it as the result of a breakdown of negotiations between naval intelligence and the Ilyas Kashmiri group. Even on the Mumbai attack in India, he named names and details of the process and planning, and that was unmatched.

He writes in his just-published book: "With Ilyas Kashmiri's immense expertise on Indian operations, he stunned the Al-Qaeda leaders with the suggestion that expanding the war theatre was the only way to overcome the present impasse. He presented the suggestion of conducting such a massive operation in India as would bring India and Pakistan to war and, with that, all proposed operations against Al-Qaeda would be brought to a grinding halt. Al-Qaeda excitedly approved the attack-India proposal."

This excerpt shows deep knowledge of the process leading up to the attack. It fits in with the narrative that it has always been, and continues to be, in the interest of Al-Qaeda and allied terrorists to provoke a war between India and Pakistan.

Saleem Shahzad's take also gives a lie to something that was always missing in the Indian narrative about the ISI being involved in the Mumbai episode. Why would the ISI and, by extension, Pakistan want a war with India? Behind every rumour, innuendo and conspiracy theory there has to be some logic.

A reality check of such stories often reveals lack of what can only be called rationality. One has to assume that human beings, and indeed nations, promote their self-interest through rational choices. What kind of reasoning would provoke the Pakistani state to seek war with India?

There can, of course, be rogue elements or people within the state structure who are either bought over with cash or absorb the objectives of the enemy. Saleem Shahzad's story on the naval attack suggests that there were Al-Qaeda-affiliated people within the navy and that this cell had been broken. This, he suggests, led to the targeting of the naval base.

It is also possible that some current or ex-ISI official – Saleem, in fact, does mention someone in the context of the Mumbai attack who was a former ISI official – could be involved in that operation. But there is no logic that shows that the Pakistani state would have benefited from a war with India.

Of course, within the blogosphere and outside there are some who believe that the entire institution of the military is a rogue element. For them the ISI and the army cannot do anything right and are virtually an evil force within the country. There is no logic or argument that can convince them otherwise.

The armed forces have indeed a lot to answer for throughout our existence, but to imagine they have no faculty to determine what is in the nation's interest, or indeed act counter to it, is also illogical. They make mistakes and have made many, but to paint all our defence institutions as malevolent is beyond the pale.

Even if one looks at the narrow interest of a particular institution, how would it help the Pakistani army, for instance, if the country is destroyed in a war? Or, what great advantage would it give the ISI, an institution already under fire for not knowing of Osama's presence in Abbottabad, to commit the foul murder of a journalist?

I mention this because many on the internet blogs have convinced themselves that no one other than the ISI could have been involved in Saleem's killing. A rare anguished denial by the ISI cuts no ice with them. Their minds would not change. They would refuse to countenance the possibility that those Al-Qaeda affiliated groups so brilliantly exposed by Saleem Shahzad could also have a motive.

For saying this, I would of course be labelled an ISI agent. But since there is no evidence to go by, one can only try and analyse who gains from this awful murder. In other words, make an attempt to try and apply logic to a murky situation.

Would the ISI, under more pressure than it has ever been, with its chief "surrendering" himself to being grilled in parliament, have a rational reason to add to its woes by going on a murder spree? And a murder on which fingers would, without a doubt, be pointed at the agency? Unless everyone in the ISI has gone mad, it gains nothing from doing this.

Let us look at the other suspect. How pleasant it would be for a terror group to be so exposed as Saleem Shahzad had repeatedly done? He obviously had cultivated sources within it, which was a huge breach in the group's security shield. Would it not suit it to kill him brutally, safe in the knowledge that blame will fall on the ISI?

The entire world out there is trying to demonise our security institutions. One can easily forget that they are our last wall of defence. Imagine, if their discipline erodes, or they suffer, where would we be. Let us not sully the memory of the brave Saleem Shahzad by playing this self-destructive game.

The military and its intelligence arms need to change and open themselves to civilian scrutiny. Democratic institutions must prevail in the end. But, in the midst of war, undermining them only gives strength to the forces trying to destroy us.










PAKISTAN has unfortunately been caught in a hackneyed thinking on the crucial issue of handling Taliban but Wednesday indicated some

what change in this flawed approach. Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani, in his monthly "PM Online" programme expressed willingness of the Government to enter into a dialogue with militants and said this was part of his 3-Ds policy that means "Dialogue, Development and Deterrence".

We agree with the spirit of what the worthy Prime Minister has said but in our view this would prove to be a non-starter as it attaches unrealistic conditions to the process of dialogue. The logic that talks would be held only with those militants, who would surrender before respective political agents, renounce violence and announce their intention to become 'disciplined citizens' is queer indeed. One fails to understand what the dialogue would be about if those who have taken up arms hand themselves over to the authorities concerned. Similar pronouncements were made by the Interior Minister and other government functionaries in the past as well but these lacklustre statements had no impact on the ground situation, as these reflected jaundiced thinking to address one of the most serious challenges confronting the nation. Though the Prime Minister has talked about giving precedence to talks over deterrence or in straight words military action but practically this has been other way round and the latest offer of the chief executive is also continuation of the same approach. We are sorry to point out that our leaders are still groping in the dark and unable to make any fresh initiative to help restore normalcy in the country. Pakistan is standing at the crossroads and prudence demands launching of an all encompassing process of dialogue without ifs and buts. True, there is tremendous pressure from the United States to open another front in North Waziristan Agency (NWA) but we must tell Washington that there can't be two yardsticks to resolve the same problem that exists on both sides of the Durand Line. Reports appearing in the world media clearly prove that the United States was in direct or indirect contact with the so-called 'good Taliban' but it is denying Pakistan to start dialogue on this side as well. It is also strange that while the Government is devising NROs, promoting reconciliation and the Prime Minister doesn't feel shy in visiting Raiwind or 90 in Karachi, there is no point in showing reluctance in establishing contacts with militants. We hope that the Prime Minister, who has demonstrated his capability to handle difficult and complex issues, would take steps in consultation with all stakeholders to resolve this problem of militancy in a prudent manner.








THE Chief Justice of Pakistan has directed the State Bank to issue a new circular for the recovery of huge loans written off from 1971 todate. The direction by the Chief Justice given during the hearing of a suo motu case pertaining to Rs 256 billion loans written off by the Banks would surely expedite the scrutiny of cases of borrowers and help in recovery of the massive amount of money.

Though it is a good step that a commission would be formed to examine the cases and compile a report for submission to the Court and all the parties involved in the case agreed to the court's direction for the new circular but we think it would have been more practical if the process of scrutiny should have started from 2001. It would be a very lengthy process if the Commission started scrutiny of cases from 1971 as there are thousands of cases of written off loans during the past over 40 years. In this way attempts would be made to delay the cases as much as possible. Also during these years many borrowers might have either died, closed their businesses or shifted abroad. The Commission should also decide about the cases that it would take up and the minimum amount could be decided either by itself or by the Apex Court. The Chief Justice rightly observed that a legislation was essential to hold accountable those who issued huge loans on insufficient guarantees. We may point out that most of the loans were obtained and later written off on political basis or through utilizing appropriate links and there was involvement of high ups in the financial institutions. Most of these loans were not utilized for the purposes for which they were secured and in fact the amount was either transferred abroad or invested in other businesses and then the borrowers got themselves declared as defaulters on the ground that their business suffered losses and hence the loans may be waived off. While one is confident that the Commission would look into these lacunas, what is more important is to lay down a permanent mechanism to curb the rising trend of writing off of loans, mark-up and other dues by banks.








VIOLATION of Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) has been a problem since long and a sustained campaign is overdue to rectify the situation with a view to restoring not only the dented image of the country in this context but also send right kind of signals to prospective investors around the globe. In this backdrop, it was encouraging that staff of Sindh High Court, along with local police, conducted a raid in Karachi on a mid-sized business involved in violation of IPRs through use of unlicensed software.

The knowledge-based economy of the 21 century faces new, but serious threats in the shape of piracy and counterfeiting. According to experts, estimated at $ 600 billion a year, the illegal practice hampers the economic development by discouraging legitimate investments and depriving nations of duties and taxes as well as much-needed new jobs. This unethical and shoddy trade continues to flourish all over the world but situation in Pakistan is worrisome in that it ranks among fifteen countries with highest rate of software piracy. No doubt, there is greater realization both on the part of the Government, which has formulated laws on the issue and established Intellectual Property Organization (IPO), and the general public and the progress made in protection and enforcement of IPRs has been commended even by the United States especially in the realm of CDs, DVDs and other optical media products. However, much needs to be done not only in the area of software piracy but also other areas like tobacco, consumer goods, lubricants and medicines, as, besides social and health problems, the Government is losing over Rs. 10 billion annually in direct and indirect taxes due to counterfeiting and infringement of IPRs in various sectors.









Although Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has a personal commitment towards a peaceful resolution of outstanding issues with Pakistan, he is no Indira Gandhi and hence may not be able to fulfil his vision. The first - and thus far only - woman PM of India had a substantial political base, one that she demonstrated in both 1969 as well as 1978. Both those times, she split the Congress Party, and while in 1969,more than 40% of the party remained with her rivals rather than cross over to her side, in 1978 about 80% of the party cadre joined her in preference to those she was opposed to. Since that time, the Congress Party has been synonymous with the Nehru family, and neither its cadres nor its leaders would even dream of looking beyond The Family for the top leadership were Manmohan Singh to ever split the party in the way that Indira Gandhi did, it is doubtful if even 1% of the cadre would come over to his side. The rest would remain loyal to the Nehru family, now represented by Sonia Gandhi, who has established her control over the Congress Party and the Union Government efficiently and smoothly. Of course, Prime Minister Singh is himself loyal to the Congress President, and hence the question of his walking away does not arise. The problem that he faces is that this lack of a political base makes it difficult for him to implement the policies that he favours.

From 2004 onwards, economic reform has slowed to a crawl, and can even be said to have been reversed by the many new restrictions that have been introduced by dirigiste ministers eager to strengthen their (lucrative) roster of discretionary powers. Had economic reform of the type favoured by Manmohan Singh been pursued by the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), the country's rate of growth would have been closer to 15% than the 9% presently achieved. Much of the demand in the economy has come because of money held abroad by Indian nationals, that is returning to the country because of the fear that foreign financial institutions may collapse. These funds are helping to keep the stock market from collapsing, and are ensuring a steady rise in property prices India is one of the few countries where regulators were unable to distinguish between short-term and long-term funds. The same treatment is given to both investments in the stock and money market (that can be withdrawn any time) and money invested in plant and machinery, that is tied to the enterprise.

The result of such a serious lacuna in a policy introduced when Manmohan Singh was Finance Minister of India is that foreign interests have been enabled to gobble up Indian enterprises very cheaply, with very little tax burden despite the fact that the value of assets has risen exponentially over the years. Indeed, policy in India has been tweaked since the 1990s to favour foreign enterprises over their Indian competitors, including in the key sector of defence, where much of the "indigenous" production is actually source from abroad. India has a pathetically low level of self-sufficiency in defence items, despite spending an average of $15 billion annually in procurement. Indeed, those local enterprises that seek to enter into high-technology spheres get brushed aside by officials and their political masters, who look upon foreign companies as a reliable source of money that can be placed in Swiss and other offshore banking institutions.

Although Manmohan Singh is personally honest, he has been unable to check widespread graft in several key ministries, including those that came within his direct purview, such as Coal. Just as foreign suppliers talk of a "Gulf Price" that takes account of the extra cash that needs to be paid in order to win contracts in the GCC, they now talk of an "India Price" that is much higher than the international average, because of the need to pay bribes that sometimes amount to 20% of the value of the contract. Thus, petro-products sold to India are more expensive than the same products sold to much richer countries in Europe, while the same can be said for several Defence items, as also machinery and services. Every transaction has a hidden cost, thereby pushing up prices in India. Ignoring the fact that the main cause of inflation in India is corruption, the Reserve Bank of India continually raises interest rates, thereby pushing prices up still more. Of course, such a policy favours foreign interests, which is the intention.


After two generations silently bearing the heavy burden of graft on themselves, the people of India seem to have had enough. While the Finance Ministry points out that direct tax rates in India "are lower than for Sweden or Germany", what they omit to mention is that in both countries, the taxpayer receives a raft of services from the state, ranging from liveable pensions to excellent housing, education and healthcare. In India, by contrast, the government gives back nothing but ramshackle infrastructure, public hospitals that are killing fields, educational units designed to turn intelligent minds into morons, and zero social security. As for law and order, it is best not to mention this subject in a country where the police are so demotivated and ill-paid that 70% of them turn to corruption and even worse criminal activities.

The sole purpose of government in India is what it has been during the British Raj, which is the collection of money for the benefit of the rulers. Trendy resorts across the world are dotted with the sons and daughters of VVIPs from India, who in their income-tax returns claim an income that is too low even to purchase an air ticket. These days, with tracking methods embedded in mobile telephones and the like, it would be a simple matter to keep track of such VVIP pre-resignations, but obviously, the anti-corruption agencies avoid looking into the misdeeds of the powerful.

And for good reason. For many of them get staffed - and even headed - by people who have paid hard cash for the privilege. Recently, a key officer with ample funds at his disposal saw that his boss needed to retire early if he were to get the top spot. So he "persuaded" the boss to send in his papers early, and walked into his job. Of course, after having taken care of sundry decision-makers. Departments of government have phone records of the conversations that precede key appointments, but these remain hidden from public knowledge, in order to protect the guilty. Only rarely do such conversations become public, and that too only when key officials themselves leak the information.

The miasma of corruption that fills the corridors of power in India has become so pervasive that the public has become restive. Tomorrow, a yoga guru, Baba Ramdev, is beginning a "fast unto death" in Delhi demanding the death penalty for the corrupt. Should he have his way, most of the Manmohan Singh Council of Ministers would disappear. The support that Baba Ramdev is getting in his crusade may lead to tremors that may affect the government. Despite the many scandals that are getting exposed each month, the UPA government still appears stable. The credit for that belongs to the BJP, which is led by a troika comprising of L K Advani, Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj. All three prefer the Congress Party to the regional parties, and are therefore not willing to declare that the BJP would support a Third Front government from outside. Should they change their mind - or get changed themselves by a restive cadre - the chances of the government falling would be high.

Today, the BSP, the DMK, the Left parties, the BLD and the JDU are opposed to the Congress Party, but lack of an alternative keeps them from bringing forward a No Confidence motion. Should these parties get BJP support, they would carry the motion with ease. Some within the Opposition are calling for precisely that. They seek a "Third Front" government that would pursue corruption charges against the Congress Party. Fortunately for Sonia Gandhi, the BJP leadership seems uninterested in going after the Congress leadership. They believe that the Congress Party is the lesser evil and one that they had good relations with even during the six years when the BJP was in power. Then Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee saw Sonia Gandhi as a second daughter, and ensured that her interests were protected. Today, the favour is being returned. Enquiries into the decisions made during the BJP period have been put under the carpet. However, the growing public anger against corruption may yet derail this tacit marriage of convenience between the BJP and the Congress, and create problems for the government.

The writer is Vice-Chair, Manipal Advanced Research Group, UNESCO Peace Chair & Professor of Geopolitics, Manipal University, Haryana State, India.









Some people have started believing in the WikiLeaks as if they were the gospel truth. The fact is that anything having a dubious origin must be taken with a pinch of salt. This scribe is not privy to any conspiracy regarding the WikiLeaks being a creation of the figment of imagination of the CIA, but the latest exposé by WikiLeaks, definitely gives the semblance of a selective use of information to damage the image of the Pakistani armed forces in the eyes of average Pakistanis; to make them more accessible, the medium selected for dissemination is Pakistani dailies. A method in the madness can be detected by the fact that the WikiLeaks exposé in question is exclusive to revelations regarding Pakistan and have been simultaneously leaked to India's premier daily "The Hindu" and NDTV and a Pakistani daily and TV news channel. Unfortunately, a section of the Press and some TV anchors are using the leaked information without verifying the veracity and even at times refute or rebuke expert panelists by quoting the WikiLeaks exposé.

Let us take some examples of the so selective leaks; some dispatches reveal that the US authorities have been describing Pakistan's premier intelligence service ISI as a terrorist organization. Follow up US media reports and trail of subsequent events lead to a smear campaign against the ISI. Regarding the sale of F-16 military aircraft to Pakistan by the United States, announced in 2005, comes up with shocking disclosures. Described by then Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as an attempt to "break out of the notion that [India and Pakistan are in] a hyphenated relationship," the decision was met with anguish in New Delhi. But leaked U.S. diplomatic cables suggest that the sale was used only to further America's broad strategic interests, with Pakistan standing to gain little from the deal. The dispatches, from the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, reveal that the deal was, among other things, meant to assuage Pakistan's fears of an "existential threat it perceived from India." The diplomatic cables, accessed by "The Hindu" through WikiLeaks, suggested that the purpose of the sale was to divert Pakistan's attention from "the nuclear option," and give it "time and space to employ a conventional reaction" in the event of a conflict with India (151227: confidential). Privately, however, the U.S. acknowledged the "reality" that the F-16 program would not change India's "overwhelming air superiority over Pakistan." In fact, the cables bluntly assert that the F-16s would be "no match for India's proposed purchase of

Given India's "substantial military advantage," one cable (187576: confidential) even surmised that the F-16s would at the most offer "a few days" for the U.S. to "mediate and prevent nuclear conflict." the U.S. continued to press ahead with the deal, and cables document hectic parleys to bring it to fruition. Before the agreement was signed in September 2006, the U.S. played hardball to make Pakistan sign the Letter of Acceptance (LoA). The U.S. Ambassador to Islamabad, Ryan Crocker, suggested that Washington "convene" the Pakistani Ambassador, Mahmud Ali Durrani, to remind him that "missing the deadline [to sign the LoA] would have serious ramifications."

"Do not think there is a better deal out there if this one expires," was one of Ambassador Crocker's suggested bargain lines for Washington to use (77877: confidential/noforn). The agreement was inked two weeks after the cable was sent. At the time of signing the LoA, Major General Tariq Malik, Additional Secretary in the Ministry of Defence Production, had expressed reservations about the payment schedule as an "immense strain on Pakistan's fiscal and foreign exchange reserves…, jeopardizing growth."

But Maj. Gen. Malik's memo was dismissed by Mr. Crocker as "separate from the valid, legal contract" (80337: confidential/noforn). Even if the sale was considered only "symbolically important" by the U.S., the deal came with many strings attached. Pakistan paid for the F-16s through its nose. The U.S. also expressed concerns about basing the F-16s in Pakistan due to "concerns about potential technology transfer to China." The outcome? Pakistan was made to fork out another $125 million to "build and secure a separate F-16 base" (197576: confidential) at Jacobabad to house the Block 52 versions. More lethally, they were provided without the critical "cryptokeys". At Pakistan's objection, it was told that the F-16s would still fly (but have no punch). Pakistan also invested heavily in midlife updates for its older F-16 fleet. A year after the agreement was concluded; Pakistan learnt that mid-life updates for the F-16s could only be performed in a third country. Eventually, it was agreed that Pakistan would pay $80 million to perform the updates in Turkey.

Certainly the above cannot be true as no blue blooded Pakistani would agree to such suicidal terms for Pakistan, forking out billions of dollars by cash strapped nation to acquire toothless junk; hence the selective leak has served its purpose of attempting to demoralize Pakistanis and lose confidence in their armed forces. Other leaks divulge French and British concerns regarding the security of Pakistan's nuclear weapons. In another exposé, according to French President Nicolas Sarkozy's Diplomatic Adviser, a sarcastic comment has been quoted that Pakistan remains "an army in search of a country." The condescending characterization, made to former US Ambassador Richard Holbrooke and US Ambassador to France, by Charles Rivkin, is contained in a previously unpublished secret US diplomatic cable dated September 3, 2009.

The attacks on Pakistan's armed forces by the miscreants, followed by the deadly attack on the GHQ and PNS Mehran, make it crystal clear that WikiLeaks has been used to serve the agenda of lowering the morale of the people, ridiculing and humiliating Pakistan's armed forces and the ISI and in some cases, attack them tooth and nail, demanding a reduction in their strength. To some extent, the heinous plot has succeeded, but it is for the national media to expose the machination, so that the people and armed forces become one solid mass, deterring any evil designs against its sovereignty.









All of mankind is descended from one couple, Adam and Eve. Thus we are all brothers and sisters, and our differences in languages and colors are but a mercy that we might know one another. Language and race should never be a reason for discriminating against people. It is the foremost duty of a Muslim to maintain good relations with his relatives and must be good to his neighbors, no matter their religion. But the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) taught us that a "neighbour" is not just the one next door but includes all those up to forty houses in all directions - effectively a whole neighborhood.

An Ansar (emigrant) came to Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) and said that he has recently purchased a house in a particular area and that his nearest person was such that he had no hope of any goodness from him and that he felt unsafe from his mischief. Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) told Hazarat Ali (RA), Salman Al-Farsi (RA), Abu Zar Ghaffari (RA) and Miqdad ibn Aswad (RA) to go to the Mosque and announce: "He is not a believer whose neighbour is unsafe from his mischief." They announced it thrice and then to Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) pointed towards forty doors to his right and forty to the left indicating that forty houses in every direction constitute ones neighbourhood. One is obliged to observe their rights. This concern for our neighbours can take many forms. It means to ensure that our neighbours have the basic necessities, for a Muslim should not eat if his or her neighbour is going hungry. It means that Muslims should wish for their neighbours what they wish for themselves. It means sharing their happiness and sorrow. Further, it means to not spy on them and respect their privacy, to not gossip about them, to not harm them in any way, and to keep common use areas - such as apartment building entrances, streets and sidewalks - clean.

Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) was told of a woman who prayed during night and fasted a lot during day and gave alms generously, but whose neighbours complained of her abusive tongue.

The Holy Prophet (PBUH) said that she would be in Hellfire. When Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) was told of another woman who did not do all those extra acts of worship other than just compulsory (Wajib) but whose neighbours were happy with her, he said that she would be in Paradise. Thus we see the importance of being good to our neighbors, both in actions and words. Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) on the rights of the neighbour, said: "It is to help him if he asks your help, to lend him if he asks to borrow from you, to satisfy his needs if he becomes poor, to console him if he is visited by an affliction, to congratulate him if is met with good fortune, to visit him if he becomes ill, to attend his funeral if he dies, not to make your house higher than his without his consent lest you deny him the breeze, to offer him fruit when you buy some or to take it to your home secretly if you do not do that, nor to send out your children with it so as not to upset his children, nor to bother him by the tempting smell of your food unless you send him some." Apart from a man's parents, children and near relatives, there also exists a permanent association and contact between him and his neighbours.

The state of his association - be it good or otherwise has a great influence on his life and morals. The Prophet (PBUH) had attached great importance to this and has constantly urged the Ummah to pay due regard to the rights of neighbors to the extent that he had declared good neighborliness to be part of Iman (Faith) and an essential requisite for salvation.

In a Hadith, related by Jabir (R.A.), the Prophet (PBUH) is reported to have said "Neighbors are of three kinds. Firstly, the neighbor who enjoys only one right (and as far as rights are concerned) he is of the lowest grade. Secondly, the one who enjoys two rights and thirdly the neighbor who enjoys three rights". The neighbour with only one right is the Polytheist (i.e. a non-Muslim neighbor with whom there are no family ties). The neighbor with two rights is the neighbor who is also a Muslim (as such he has a claim as a neighbour as well as a fellow Muslim) and the one with three rights is the neighbor who is a Muslim and a Relative - he has a claim as a neighbor, as a fellow Muslim and as a relative".

It is reported, on the authority of Ayesha (R.A.) and Ibn Umar (R.A.) that the messenger of Allah (PBUH) said "The Angel Jibra'il (A.S.) counseled me so frequently regarding the rights of the neighbor that I feared, he too would be declared an heir." This Hadith shows that Angel Jibra'il (A.S.) brought commandments from Allah, concerning the rights of the neighbor so frequently and stressed the need to be kind and courteous to him with such force and regularity that the Holy Prophet (PBUH) thought that the neighbor also will be made an heir i.e. just as parents, children and near relatives inherit the property left by the deceased, he thought that the neighbor, too, will be given a share in it. The purpose of this Hadith is not merely to state a fact, but rather it is most effective way of highlighting the importance of the neighbour to the Muslims.

Beyond the limited circle of family, the next social sphere that is sufficiently wide is that of kinship and blood relationships. Islam wants those who are one's kith and kin through relationships, with common parents or common brothers and sisters or relations through in-laws, to be mutually affectionate, cooperative and helpful









Pakistan is a Nuclear Weapons State (NWS) and fighting War on Terror (WoT) for a noble cause the elimination of the curse of terrorism. It is also an obligatory condition for its own self and as well as for the peace and security of world. Pakistani nation always supported this cause and cooperated with its security forces and received the bodies of martyrs with smiling faces. But as seems there are some regional and extra regional players those want to exploit the situation in their own favor. These players are attempting to breach Pakistani Nuclear Command and Control (NC2). In short we can summarized the most desired features of an effective, robust and reliable NC2 as Command ,Control, Communication, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C4ISR ). NC2 is not only related to nuclear weapons but it also encompasses the safety, security and survivability of the communications, delivery means

(missiles & air crafts), decision makers and also contingencies planning & training and intra forces coordination along with their "command centers".


The useful combination of C4SIR is obligatory for reliable and robust NC2 for effective nuclear deterrence. Pakistani authorities always declared its NC2 robust & reliable in any circumstances. Pakistan and its allies may or may not be loosing this ongoing WoT. But one thing is clear that Pakistan is loosing reliability / credibility of its NC2 which is lethal for "minimum credible deterrence." Here is also another newly added aspect as there are speculations that USA would deploy its troops if Pakistan nukes come under threats, to assist Pakistan even without Pakistani willingness in this respect. In any case if it happened then it would be the end of Pakistani sovereignty and independence. US can do this even under UN flag through UNSC resolution as now it has many incidents to quote regarding failure, insecurity and vulnerability of Pakistan NC2. October 10, 2009 GHQ comes under terrorists attack a very significant command center. Extreme failure of strategic Surveillance, Reconnaissance and Intelligence by Pakistan on May 2, 2011 regarding successful execution of "Operation Geronimo " by USA Navy Seals. The latest one is Terrorist attack on PNS Aviation Base, PNS Mehran on May 23, 2011 to destroy the Navy P-3C Orion aircraft. This is a four-engine turboprop anti-submarine and maritime surveillance aircraft.

Former Naval Chief Admiral Afzal Tahir has stated that its induction would be in an obvious reference to India's growing naval presence. This P-3C Orion aircraft is a typical delivery means to make vulnerable Indians nuclear 2nd strike capability. All these tragic incidents are question mark over Reliability and credibility of Pakistani NC2. Satisfactory answers and concrete practical measures should come on the surface. Anti-Pakistan elements know that its real strength lies in its nuclear capability before any direct engagement with indirect method under the garb of terrorism activities they can breach into its NC2. This situation is putting fuel on fire regarding Indians Cold Start Doctrine; a sort of limited war for limited and precise objectives. Moreover the attack on PNS Mehran to annihilate P-3C Orion aircraft indicates that the offenders / terrorists were well informed and target oriented (target killing?). Terrorists (TTP) accepted the responsibility of this attack have no direct threat from Navy and from P-3C Orion aircraft as they don't have their so-called safe havens on the Sea. Especially this time the involvement of at state level by anti-Pakistani forces is imminent.

These sorts of incidents are exacerbating the threats of attacks on Pakistani strategic facilities in near future. Only a single attack on any Pakistan's strategic facility either successful or not would make the situation worst for Pakistan. Then no body would believe on Pakistani statements that we have reliable and robust NC2 and don't have any need for foreign assistance to guard its nukes in any circumstances. Pakistan Navy spokesperson Commodore Irfan-ul-Haq said that it is not a security lapse and security was on high alert. It is quite contradictory to reality as world has seen the state of readiness as offenders have entered with latest weapons inside PNS-Mehran quite conveniently. Similarly if in future an attack launched by terrorist backed by foreign countries happens on any Pakistani strategic facility it would badly defame Pakistan NC2. I am quite convinced that Pakistani concerned authorities are not oblivious to this threat.

But it is up to world to understand the limitation of Pakistan. Pakistani NC2 is quite capable to counter any traditional threats in respect of declared limited war or even first use of nuclear weapons by its neighbor. Pakistan has fully reliable and fighting fit operational C4ISR system against its traditional foe. This is the reason that even after Operation Geronimo Pakistani COAS has stated that Indians are even not in a position to think for such action against Pakistan. But this curse of terrorism is much unrelated to judge traditional standards of NC2. Even a country like Russia is not safe from terrorism which has no direct involvement against terrorism as in a suicide attack on January 24, 2011, it lost of 35 people and 130 were injured. This is not a single example July 2005 , London Bombing and the root cause of this WoT the incident of 9/11 are also here to quote. Pakistan is just like battlefield and here are few limitations for Pakistan although it is fighting WoT but it never declared itself war-zone country.

Apex court is here to prohibit any extra constitutional steps by law enforcement agencies. Every thing is normal except these terrorists' activities. Pakistan is front line ally of USA but it never received in time strategic intelligence sharing by USA that your specific institution might come under attack. If we examine the situation from this aspect then we can judge that even USA is unable to detect this sort of terrorists' activities before hand. Now here is a dire need that Pakistan should formulate such strategy in a reasonable balance that neither it ignores Indian threats nor terrorists. Pakistan should procure latest technology and provide necessary refreshers with compliance to this latest technology.









The recent progress by American and allied forces against the Taliban and other insurgent groups is "fragile" and "reversible," making the continued presence of American troops in the oft-violent country a continuing necessity, Gen. David Petraeus, the commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, said Wednesday. Gen. David Petraeus, who spoke to this newspaper in a one-on-one interview at a US military base in the southern Afghan province of Kandahar, said that combat operations in the coming weeks and months were crucial to sustaining forces' territorial gains over the last year, most notably in southern Afghanistan — the birthplace of the Taliban and its spiritual leader Mullah Omar.

Warm spring months are traditionally when fighting between NATO forces and insurgent groups increases significantly, particularly in southern and eastern Afghanistan. "While we have a spring offensive ongoing, the Taliban also has a spring offensive, and we have seen the Taliban try to carry out sensational attacks and in some cases successively," said Petraeus referring to recent Taliban attacks in Kandahar City and the western city of Herat, which earlier this week experienced its first major insurgent attack in several months.

Petraeus visited a school that had been shuttered by the Taliban for several years but recently reopened following gains by US forces who now can patrol the villages. But southern Afghanistan is not pacified. Fighting has increased in recent days. Insurgents are laying more IEDs and waging increased small arms and mortar attacks on military bases and troops on patrol. All the more reason to continue the fight, said the four-star general, who in May was tapped by President Obama to become director of the CIA.

Gains in the rugged mountainous terrain of eastern Afghanistan have proved more difficult, prompting the U.S. military to close several bases there in recent years. Last month, 56 NATO service members were killed in combat, including at least 31 Americans. Three American troops died in a bomb attack in an eastern province Sunday.

Meanwhile, the deadline for a proposed hand-over of security responsibility to Afghan Security Forces for seven areas of the country is scheduled to coincide with a drawdown in U.S. forces in July. Petraeus said the drawdown would occur but would not characterise its size. "There is not a question that the policy will be implemented," he said, adding that the drawdown would be "responsible" and "at a pace determined by conditions on the ground."

Petraeus said the killing of al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden in Pakistan in May was a huge success for efforts here. "There is no question that the death of (bin Laden) is a tremendous achievement in the overall fight against al-Qaeda and extremism," he said.

He cautioned that the death did not kill off al-Qaeda, the Muslim terrorist group that was behind the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people. He warned that the United States could not allow Afghanistan insurgent groups "a safe haven" in contested provinces such as Kandahar and Helmand in the south and Kunar and Paktika in the east, all of which have been the scenes of significant fighting in recent years.

"There is no question there are still elements of al-Qaeda in the rugged border regions of Pakistan and other areas of the world, Yemen, East Africa, some still even in Iraq and other locations," he said. "We want to ensure that Afghanistan does not become an attractive alternative to them for, again, a safe haven in which they might plot attacks such as those of 9/11."

The fight against insurgents, said Petraeus, must also be more than just a battlefield operation. He says the United States and NATO countries must focus on political and economic development in Afghanistan to allow redeployment of U.S. forces from Afghanistan scheduled in 2014. "The only way to achieve that mission of course is to help our Afghan partners to enable them to develop the ability over time to secure and govern themselves," he said. — Courtesy: USA Today









LINGUIST and philosopher Noam Chomsky is the perfect choice for this year's Sydney Peace Prize. Not only is he in step with previous winners such as journalist John Pilger and Palestinian activist Hanan Ashwari, but the intelligentsia who gave David Hicks a standing ovation at the Sydney Writers' Festival will no doubt rise to the occasion again. Chomsky is an especially interesting choice for a peace prize in the 10th anniversary year of the World Trade Centre attacks -- as an apologist for Osama Bin Laden.

The Sydney Peace Foundation has shown its true values and vision in honouring a man foundation director Stuart Rees describes as "inspiring" and whom he expects will attract thousands of admirers who will want to express their gratitude. Perhaps in some sort of Mexican wave of self-loathing.

Others share Professor Rees's enthusiasm. In 2007, Osama Bin Laden praised the US academic for his "sober words of advice prior to the (Iraq) war" and said he was "among the most capable of those from your side". Not to be outdone, Chomsky recently denounced the killing of bin Laden by US forces as the "political assassination" of an "unarmed victim". Perhaps it's hardly surprising that Chomsky also believes that the "crimes" of George W. Bush "vastly exceed bin Laden's", that he lamented the West's treating Muammar Gadaffi's Libya as a "punching bag" and erroneously described Ronald Reagan's great legacy as that of a "scared bully".

Sydneysiders might also like to honour Chomsky for his wit and wisdom in defining education as "imposed ignorance", a concept he helped turn in to reality with his theories about "universal grammar", which contributed to the erosion of English teaching in US and Australian schools from the 1960s onwards.

Unlike one of Chomsky's acerbic US critics who recently branded him "a two-nickel crank", we look forward to his Sydney speech, where he will be among friends collecting his $50,000 gong. But we hope he leaves the Hezbollah military cap he wore in Lebanon at home. If the Sydney Peace Foundation wants to turn its back on its usual puerility, it should consider awarding next year's prize to The Australian's Greg Sheridan, whose cogent case against continuing the war in Afghanistan made Chomsky's rantings look pedestrian.






IN upholding the right of workers to strike before workplace bargaining even starts, Fair Work Australia has not only ignored the needs of modern companies in a competitive marketplace but also overturned the main tenets of the centralist arbitration system that served Australia for decades.

FOR good reason, we've frequently criticised Labor's current system for turning back the clock to an era of rigidity predating the Hawke-Keating wages accords with the ACTU. But in rejecting arguments by the Australian Mines and Metals Association that a strike ballot order could not be made unless bargaining had started or an employer was unwilling to bargain, Fair Work Australia has turned its back on the principles of 100 years of arbitration. Created under the 1904 Conciliation and Arbitration Act, the centralist system was designed to avoid lockouts and strikes and create a Commonwealth Court of Arbitration to prevent and settle disputes.

For much of the next 90 years, it was one of the unions' gripes that they did not have an automatic right to strike. Industrial action or the threat of it prompted intervention in the form of compulsory conferences. The right to strike in Australia was not protected by formal legislation until the 1993 Industrial Relations Reform Act, enacted in tandem with the later accords and then overtaken by the Howard government's 1996 reforms.

In 21st-century Australia, rational economic thinkers can only hope that Wednesday's ruling is a blip to be remedied when the Gillard government's review of the workplace laws begins in January, if not sooner. The ruling sets a dangerous precedent that gives Australia's shrinking trade unions fresh powers they could only have imagined under the arbitration system. But unlike the 1907 Harvester judgment and the arbitration system, which were bulwarks of stability, this ruling promises to be a cause of instability.

It also flies in the face of assurances given to employers in the lead-up to Labor's changes when Kevin Rudd attacked the "right" to strike and employers were assured they would only have to bargain when the majority of their workforce wanted them to do so.

Fair Work Australia's insistence that "There is nothing in the legislative provisions to suggest that a bargaining representative should not be permitted to organise protected industrial action to persuade an employer to agree to bargain" makes a mockery of claims by Workplace Relations Minister Chris Evans's spokesman that the Fair Work Act contains "clear, tough rules about industrial action". So "tough" that strikes can start before companies and employees sit down to negotiate.

At a time when workers, especially in the private sector, have largely abandoned unions and the slower sectors of the two-speed economy are struggling to reverse declines in productivity, industry will be further hampered by unions exercising their newfound right to strike first, bargain later. Outmoded as centralist wage-fixing systems had become in an era of contracts, the arbitration system was better balanced than Labor's so-called Fair Work system. This ruling is an abrogation of responsibility, common sense and the principles of negotiation.





GIVEN the unutterable horror of the details emerging about the torture and murder of 13-year-old Syrian boy Hamza al-Khateeb, Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd's call to initiate International Criminal Court action against President Bashar al-Assad is timely and appropriate. To his credit, the Coalition's Treasury spokesman, Joe Hockey, in expressing outrage over the boy's killing by Damascus security forces, has suggested Australia should refuse to accredit a new Syrian ambassador to Canberra, leaving Assad in no doubt about the depth and bipartisan nature of the revulsion here, as elsewhere, towards gross human rights abuses in Syria.

ASSAD'S answer to the clamour for a new democracy has been to send in troops, tanks and air power. About 1100 people have been killed and 10,000 scooped up by security forces, led by the barbaric mukhabarat secret police. Tanks and helicopter gunships routinely pursue unarmed civilians.

Hamza al-Khateeb's fate is a searing reflection of the brutality. He was arrested in Saida, near Deraa, a hub of anti-government protests, on April 29. His corpse, returned to his parents last week, bore the scars of brutal torture: lacerations, bruises, burns to the feet, elbows, face and knees. All were consistent with electric shocks and whipping. Both arms had identical bullet wounds, his neck was broken and his penis severed. His father was subsequently arrested by the mukhabarat and warned to say that his son was killed by extremist rebels.

Hamza has become the Arab Spring's latest icon, compared to the Tunisian market vendor Mohammed Bouazizi and the Iranian pro-democracy activist Neda Agha Soltan whose deaths inspired potent anti-government campaigns. Hamza is among 26 children killed so far in the Syrian uprising. Murshed Aba Zaid, 18, was shot in the face by security forces outside his home and underwent successful surgery. The secret police then broke into the hospital. His body was returned to his parents with a broken neck and signs of torture.

Assad's regime is unwilling to learn the lessons of the Arab Spring in Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere and is trying to outdo Muammar Gaddafi. The International Criminal Court has already issued arrest warrants for Gaddafi & Co. Mr Rudd is right to demand similar action on Assad and his thugs. Hamzah al-Khateeb's terrible fate shows their abuses are as evil.







GIVEN the relentless negativism the government has been encountering for some time now, the mining industry's warm reception for Julia Gillard at the Minerals Council of Australia dinner on Wednesday night may have surprised some people. To hear gravelly voiced mining executives being gracious towards the Prime Minister is certainly a novelty. The contrast with mining's attitude 12 months ago is stark: the industry was then in full cry protesting against the early version of Labor's resources rent tax, and its campaign contributed significantly to Kevin Rudd's loss of the prime ministership.

As Rudd's successor, Gillard quickly defused the issue by, in effect, getting the mining industry to design its own tax, but the lingering damage from the miners' emotive and misleading campaign also contributed to Labor's subsequent poor showing at the last federal election.

The current warmth shows the result clearly suits the industry, which also appears confident that having demonstrated its power once, it will not need to do so again. Gillard meanwhile can claim the revised tax is a victory of sorts - for now, anyway. One problem from the array of difficulties facing the government has thus been removed. As we have stated before, the mineral resources rent tax as now proposed leaves a good bit to be desired, and should be revised in time to reflect more of the original aims and scope of the tax as set out in the Henry report.

Of course, that will not happen soon. Gillard certainly does not need to pick any more fights with major industries. The carbon tax is quite enough to be going on with. It, too, will fundamentally alter the investment environment for many minerals, and as time goes on its effects will only increase. Given that, it is a welcome change that miners at least feel they have a reliable negotiating partner in this government.

Gillard has no choice but to play a long game. In this parliament time is not on the opposition's side: it will lose its dominance of the Senate next month. After a long winning run in the polls, the opposition is looking overconfident and undisciplined. When it has attempted to set out an alternative agenda to the government's the result has been either platitudinous (such as Abbott's budget reply) or incompetent (the Coalition's climate-change policy). With little concrete to offer, its relentless negativism is starting to sound hollow.

Perhaps the miners sense that the relative fortunes of the government and the opposition may be more fluid than the polls suggest.





HAMZA AL-KHATIB'S body was handed back to his family on Wednesday last week, nearly four weeks after he was arrested at an anti-government rally in southern Syria. Shocked by the obvious evidence of torture and mutilation, they invited an opposition activist to video their boy's body. Broadcast on YouTube and al-Jazeera television, the resulting footage aroused a wave of horror, anger and revulsion - and more protests.

The 13-year-old is far from being the first victim of the Syrian government's brutal methods, but his youth has turned his name - like those of other chance victims of oppression in countries across the Arab world in recent months - into an emblem of popular struggle against dictatorship.

The regime of Bashar al-Assad has responded to the problem Hamza's death has created with its trademark mix of guile and brutality - repressing protests while releasing dissidents from jail, undertaking to find those responsible for Hamza's death while getting a doctor to certify that the boy was not tortured.

The shadow treasurer, Joe Hockey, spoke eloquently of Hamza's gruesome death in Parliament during the adjournment debate, recalling the graves of Australian soldiers in Syria, and the ideals of freedom and democracy for which they - young men not much older than Hamza al-Khatib - had died. Hockey called for Australia to do more than condemn the Assad regime for its barbarities. He backed the move by the Foreign Affairs Minister, Kevin Rudd, to press the United Nations to refer Assad to the International Criminal Court. He called for Australia to reject the credentials of the Syrian ambassador-designate to Canberra, an Assad associate.

He is right to do so. All Australians, and other Western countries, would wish Syrians well in their struggle, and would be willing to give whatever aid might be useful. But what exactly might be useful is harder to say. Even if all Rudd's and Hockey's recommendations come to pass, they will not topple a determined regime. In Libya, the West is attempting to oust Muammar Gaddafi with air strikes in support of opposition forces - without, so far, much success. The Iraq and Afghanistan ventures have only confirmed that active engagement - military force - rarely brings the hoped-for result. And Syria is not the only country engaged in this same struggle: as well as Tunisia and Egypt, where governments have fallen but replacements are still fragile, and Libya where the outcome is yet unclear, Yemen, Jordan and Bahrain are in turmoil. Tremors have reached Iran.

The West should offer support where it can do good, but the fate of each country will be decided only by its citizens.





BRILLIANCE in sport is passing. The stars shine brightly but briefly. For their efforts, though, elite sportspeople are handsomely rewarded and widely feted, to the point of idolatry. Brilliance in the scientific field, however, is of infinitely broader and more lasting value. Science has transformed our world. Australia and Melbourne were blessed with a golden generation of scientists who won global recognition. Today, The Age reports the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute's celebration of a quintuple anniversary: 50 years since the thymus's role was discovered; 80th birthdays for Jacques Miller and Gus Nossal; and 90th birthdays for Margaret Holmes and Ian Mackay.

In an extended interview, Sir Gus reflects on his life in science in the country that accepted him as a young refugee and looks ahead with optimism, which is an invaluable scientific asset. Unlike sports stars, even our best scientists are lauded infrequently and often struggle to find support for their work at home. Australia undervalues this work, as scientists' pay shows. An AFL star can earn up to $1 million a year playing a sport that matters little to the world. The CSIRO ranks in the top 1 per cent of world scientific institutions in more than a dozen major research fields, but, with a few exceptions, scientists at the top of its pay scale earn less than the AFL average of $220,000. Of course, few scientists are driven by monetary rewards, but Sir Gus believes many colleagues deserve more recognition.

What is troubling for scientific thinkers is the rise of what Sir Gus describes as the anti-science movement, which he has encountered as an advocate for vaccines. Other public debates, on issues such as climate change and biotechnology, show similar disregard for scientific evidence and experts. One frequently hears expressions of contempt for experts, often from people who should know better but who pander to uninformed opinion.

At a time when the gap between specialist and public knowledge is often vast and growing, that creates a communication challenge. However, scientists whose understanding is built on their life's work should not also have to deal with crass anti-intellectualism, which frequently includes ad hominem attacks to avoid dealing with scientific facts.

Dogma, superstition and untestable assertion marked debate in the pre-scientific age when, as Sir Gus observes, ''life really was nasty, brutish and short''. Science has given us the enduring and powerful gift of evidence-based knowledge, and no advanced society would exist without it. We really should show greater respect for scientists and their expertise.





A LAW that has lasted 800 years may be thought to have proved its worth. And the common-law prohibition of double jeopardy, which prevents people being tried twice for the same offence, has certainly done that. A bulwark against the abuse of state power, its observance has been one of the marks distinguishing constitutional states in the common-law tradition, which do not countenance relentless police harassment of individuals, from despotic states that do. Some nations that share the inheritance of the common law, such as the United States and Canada, have entrenched the ban on double-jeopardy among the rights recognised in their constitutions. But in recent decades momentum to abandon the ban has grown in several common-law jurisdictions, including the fount of the tradition, Britain itself.

Since 2005, people in England and Wales who have been tried and acquitted of one or more of 30 grave crimes, including war crimes, murder, rape and the most serious drug offences, may be tried again if the Court of Appeal determines that ''new and compelling'' evidence of their guilt has been discovered since the first trial. Among Australian states, New South Wales and Queensland have also weakened double-jeopardy protection, and, as we report today, Victoria's Attorney-General, Robert Clark, has announced that the Baillieu government intends to implement its election promise to do the same.

Since the government holds majorities in both houses of Parliament, it may be assumed that it will encounter no obstacle to achieving this aim. The Age has long held serious reservations about proposals to allow double jeopardy, although we have also recognised that developments in forensic technology, especially in the assessment of DNA evidence, have shed new light on some cases that can now be seen to have resulted in an unjust verdict, whether by acquittal or conviction. These present the strongest grounds for a change in the law, and if double jeopardy is to be allowed it is this kind of ''new and compelling'' evidence that should warrant a new trial, or proof that a crucial witness committed perjury, or that jurors were bribed or intimidated.

The challenge is to ensure that the removal of double-jeopardy protection does not result in the lifelong pursuit of accused but not convicted persons, which the common-law ban was intended to prevent. Some restrictions are obvious: there should only be an option for one retrial, and it should be allowed only in cases involving the most serious crimes, such as murder. Above all, the decision to try an accused person for a second time must not be taken by the government of the day, or even the Director of Public Prosecutions. A second trial should not be an opportunity to make up for mistakes made during the prosecution of the first trial.

The most important protection against abuse, which fortunately Mr Clark appears willing to accept, is that the decision to quash an acquittal should, as in England and Wales, be made by the Court of Appeal. Even this risks weakening the presumption of innocence: juries will hardly be uninfluenced by the fact that the state's highest court has determined that there is ''new and compelling'' evidence of an accused's guilt. Nonetheless, it is far better for such decisions to rest with the court than with the government - especially a government that, like the Baillieu government, seeks advice on sentencing reform from a newspaper's online polls.

The government's plans will inevitably arouse speculation about cases that may be reopened, and Mr Clark has conceded that the Walsh Street police killings may be among them. The fact that a witness in that case, Wendy Peirce, was subsequently convicted of perjury might justify a review of the acquittals, but, as The Age has argued before, hearsay evidence from prisoners should not. Removing the ban on double jeopardy for some crimes is not licence for dismantling other protections of the law.








If real negotiations took place, they would allow Barack Obama and David Cameron to claim that a peace process exists

Our report today that Britain and America are pressing for UN sanctions against 18 former senior members of the Taliban to be lifted is encouraging news. In opposing the troop surge in Afghanistan, we have argued that this long war will only come to an end with a political settlement which will involve some role for the Taliban in the future government of the country. Such talks require, at the very least, a neutral venue to which representatives can travel back and forth in safety. The first direct meetings between US officials and the Taliban have already taken place in Qatar and Germany. Delisting 18 individuals – and hopefully dozens of others – from UN sanctions, which prevent them from travelling or holding bank accounts, is essential if the Taliban is to establish a political office in Turkey, Turkmenistan or Qatar, all of which have offered to host one.

However – and here come the caveats – there is always less than meets the eye when it comes to claims of talks with the Taliban. Contacts were initiated years ago, only to be severed by Hamid Karzai when he threw the two officials involved out of the country. Now that senior officials of the government in Kabul are involved in a series of exchanges with Taliban representatives, including those of the Haqqani network, Karzai claims ownership of the process. But this, again, is not the whole story. The timing of these leaks is not coincidental. With no signs of a breakthrough in a war which costs $112bn a year, and faced with increasing scepticism at home that a military-led campaign will ever yield a result, western politicians are desperate to talk up the prospect of talks. If real negotiations took place, they would allow Barack Obama and David Cameron, both of whom will announce the start of troop withdrawals next month, to claim prematurely that a peace process exists. With a conference in Bonn at the end of the year, a US presidential election next year, and the deadline of 2014 rapidly approaching, when all international combat operations are supposed to end, Mr Obama is under pressure to show that he has found a way of ending American involvement in this war. Talks with the Taliban would allow him to claim that the big green exit sign is in sight.

Job done? Well, not quite. If the aim of this strategy is simply devolution, a handover of the daily battle to Afghan proxies in the hope that the Pashtun insurgency will one day fragment and fizzle, this is delusion on a grand scale and doomed to failure. Why would senior members travel back to Afghanistan when Pakistan and Saudi Arabia still exist, the former as a permanent safe haven and the latter as a steady financier? And how can talks take place that do not include the involvement of either? What certainty is there that the UN is delisting the right Taliban representatives, and not simply yesterday's people? If we can be confident of anything that has happened in the past 10 years, it is the Taliban's ability to replace one generation of commanders with another, even more committed than the last and less squeamish about causing mass civilian casualities. The current strategy of decapitating the Taliban through drone strikes in Pakistan and enticing lower-level fighters to come in from the cold across the border shows no signs of dealing with the core of the conflict. It will not address the need for a new political settlement for Afghanistan linked to the departure of all foreign troops.

There are shifts in position, such as the hint that the US would see the severing of contacts between the Taliban and al-Qaida as part of a settlement, rather than a precondition of it. If they are to be genuine, talks would involve a reversal of current strategy rather than a continuation of it. One sign that talks were succeeding would be the ending of drone strikes in Pakistan. None of this will be easy, nor will it correspond to the timetable of a US election. Unfortunately, it is difficult not to conclude that this is the primary motive for them.





Ever since the tax raid on oil and gas producers, the energy industry and the Treasury have been at loggerheads

In the great battle of the North Sea, no side is deserving of one's entire sympathy. Ever since George Osborne launched his tax raid on oil and gas producers in his March budget, the energy industry and the Treasury have been at loggerheads. And yet neither side is in the right. In carrying out its threat yesterday to mothball a giant gas field in Morecambe Bay, Centrica is obviously making more than a business decision – it is making a stab at gesture politics.

As its adroit use of the media over the past month indicates, the utility is broadcasting a clear message: if government messes with the energy-tax playing field, Centrica executives will simply take their ball away. If an individual did that, HM Revenue and Customs would come down on him like a pile of brown envelopes – and rightly so. Similarly, when the CBI director general sends a letter to the chancellor warning him that "companies have global opportunities for investment" and that higher taxes will send them overseas – and then angles to get said missive in yesterday's FT, he too is acting politically. He is also contradicting the calls from his organisation for more state investment in educating workers – investment which is presumably to be funded from higher taxes. In both cases, what is going on is a display of pinstriped muscle – an attempt to wheedle, lobby and finally intimidate government from making whatever decisions it feels are necessary in the national rather than sectional interest.

All that said, Mr Osborne has not acquitted himself especially well. The chancellor claimed the justification for jacking up the supplementary charge on North Sea output from 20% to 32% was to pay for a penny cut in fuel duty. The politics were clear and must have seemed clever: Big Oil should pay for little motorists. But it was a bad move on three counts. First, gas is not the same as oil – the link the chancellor made was largely rhetorical. Second, it was a waste of tax money, frittering away most of an extra £2bn a year to make a lunge for drivers' affections. Had he used the money to invest in North Sea renewables, Mr Osborne would have been on safer, and certainly higher, ground. Finally, this measure was sprung on the industry without consultation – and any chancellor who wants to see what happens to those should ask Alistair Darling about how he had to beat a retreat from the barons of private equity.

What a contrast this makes from the Treasury's kid-gloves approach to the City. There, the bank levy was watered down to make sure it did not raise too much money. Energy executives are campaigning hard now – but when it comes to lobbying they evidently have a lot to learn from bankers.






It says something about our culture if the only way to make the nightingale's song heard is to contort it into national income

"Nature hates calculators," said Ralph Waldo Emerson, but that won't stop the number-crunchers. Inspired by a worthy desire to ensure public policy respects the natural world, the National Ecosystem Assessment yesterday delivered a 2,000-page report totting up the economic contribution of woodlands, coasts and open spaces. There are of course gaping holes in GDP as a gauge of the good life, but it says more about our rotten culture than it does about economics if the only way to make the nightingale's song heard in Whitehall is to contort it into national income. Is it really more helpful to put a £1.5bn price tag on inland waterways than to read Walt Whitman musing that "a leaf of grass is no less than the journey-work of the stars"? What is the more persuasive argument to run against sprawling development: the NEA's £430m valuation of pollinating insects, or Wordsworth's tribute to "These hedge-rows, hardly hedge-rows, little lines / Of sportive wood run wild"? Shakespeare found "tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones", while Einstein promised understanding would come from looking deep into nature. These authorities, not export earnings, convey the real worth of our fields and woods. As for our duties as stewards for our children, Wordsworth makes the point – "pleasing thoughts / That in this moment there is life and food / for future years" – without recourse to discount rates. It is high time to draw a distinction between what can be counted, and what truly counts.






Prime Minister Naoto Kan met with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on May 27 in the French seaside resort of Deauville shortly after a two-day Group of Eight summit held there. No substantive development came out of the meeting concerning a long-standing bilateral territorial dispute, except that Mr. Kan and Mr. Medvedev agreed to continue to discuss the issue.

Mr. Kan told a news conference that he and the Russian president agreed that talks on the territorial issue should be continued in a calm environment.

In the meeting, Mr. Kan expressed his regret that since Mr. Medvedev's Nov. 1 visit to Kunashiri Island — one of the four islands off Hokkaido claimed by Japan and held by Russia — Russian high-ranking officials have continued to visit what Japan calls the Northern Territories. With his Kunashiri visit, Mr. Medvedev became the first leader of the Soviet Union or Russia to set foot on any of the disputed islands.

Shortly after the Kunashiri visit, Mr. Kan talked with Mr. Medvedev during a meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation in Yokohama and protested the island visit.

On Feb. 7, Northern Territories Day, Mr. Kan denounced Mr. Medvedev's Kunashiri visit as an "unforgivable outrage."

The phrase "a calm environment" has been used frequently since Japanese and Russian foreign ministers met during the APEC meeting. Japan must consider what the Russia is trying to achieve through talks in a calm environment and how Japan should advance its position through such talks.

Moves and rhetoric on Japan's part may have hardened Russia's attitude. In May 2009, then Prime Minister Taro Aso told the Upper House's Budget Committee that "the illegal occupation of the Northern Islands by Russia is extremely regrettable." In July 2009, Japan enacted a revised special law for promoting a solution to the territory dispute. It clearly said that the Northern Territories are an integral part of Japan. In November that year, the Cabinet adopted a written answer to a lawmaker's question, stating that the islands are illegally occupied by Russia.

But serious attention must be paid to what Russia did in 2010 and thereafter. In July 2010, Mr. Medvedev signed into law a bill designating Sept. 2 as "the anniversary of the end of World War II." The law effectively commemorates the Soviet Union's victory over Japan. Tokyo signed a surrender document on Sept. 2, 1945, aboard the U.S. battleship Missouri in Tokyo Bay.

Russia is pushing the buildup of its military as well as economic development in the disputed islands to consolidate its effective rule there. Russia's new military doctrine adopted in early February 2010 lists "territorial claims against the Russian Federation and its allies and interference in their internal affairs" as one of the "main external military dangers" to Russia.

In a joint statement in September 2010, marking the 65th anniversary of the end of World War II, Mr. Medvedev and Chinese President Hu Jintao agreed that Russia and China support each other's core interests in matters related to their sovereignty and territorial integrity. Thus China may actively support Russia's intentions regarding the Northern Territories.

Immediately after the massive earthquake and tsunami devastated northeastern Japan on March 11, Russia sent a search and rescue team and decided to increase energy supplies to Japan. In March and April, no Russian high-ranking officials visited the disputed islands.

But on May 15, Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov and four other Russian Cabinet members visited Kunashiri and Etorofu, another of the four disputed islands.

On May 24, three South Korean opposition parliament members visited Kunashiri with Russian visas to "study" Russia's effective rule over the disputed islands. Japan has a territorial dispute with South Korea over the Takeshima Islets in the Sea of Japan. (South Korea effectively rules the islets.) Japan strongly protested to South Korea over the lawmakers' visit to Kunashiri.

These developments show that the situation surrounding the territorial issue has become difficult for Japan.

At this stage, Japan should consider how it can take advantage of other agreements reached in Mr. Kan's meeting with Mr. Medvedev as a means of strengthening the foundation for talks on the territorial dispute. Both leaders agreed to:

• Launch medium- and long-term talks on possible joint development of oil and natural gas.

• Push working group discussions on Russia's proposal to double its crude oil supply to Japan.

• Let Russian experts help Japan deal with the nuclear accidents at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant by sharing Russia's experience and knowledge gained after the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accidents.

• Promote exchanges of youths, including helping Japanese children from areas hit by the March 11 disasters to recuperate from psychological problems through visits to Russia.

In the absence of strong leverage, Japan should return to basics in negotiations with Russia. It should correct accurate information and build mutually trustful personal relations with Russian officials in earnest.

This approach applies to negotiations with any country. Though it seems a roundabout way, it is the surest way to move negotiations forward. Japan should also actively promote grass-roots level exchanges with Russia to nurture a better atmosphere in the bilateral relations.






The Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant disaster is being used to convince the world that nuclear energy generation is inherently dangerous, especially in earthquake-prone Japan.

But the two other nuclear plants facing the Japan quake area — Fukushima No. 2 and Onagawa — came though fairly unscathed even though the force of the quake well exceeded the level they had been built to withstand.

The disaster at Fukushima No. 1 was due almost entirely to an act of unbelievable stupidity — placing a nuclear plant with its emergency power and pumping equipment on a coastline protected by a mere 5.7-meter sea wall in an area with a far-from-distant history of double-digit-size tsunamis.

Admittedly the plant had been designed mainly by the U.S. General Electric Co., which, one assumes, would not have been quite as tsunami-conscious as its Japanese partners. But why did the Japanese side say or do nothing either then or later — despite frequent warnings of tsunami vulnerability, one reportedly only three years before the fatal accident?

Instead of looking at the mysterious dangers of nuclear power, we should be looking at the mysterious, and now it seems dangerous, workings of the Japanese mentality and bureaucracy.

True, when it came to the nuts and bolts of nuclear power generation the Japanese industry seems to have done as well as most in building plants that can operate with reasonable safety records. What few seemed to realize was the damage that could result from two serious cultural flaws. One is the way Japan's tight groupist consciousness prevents the inflow of needed ideas and advice from outside. Tokyo Electric Power Co. (the firm holding the monopoly for electricity production and supply in the Kanto and neighboring areas) was, like quite a few other firms and industry groups in Japan, proud to think of itself and its industry as a mura (village) — self-contained, self-sufficient and able to fight off any intrusion by outsiders.

The result was the dangerous complacency that I saw so alarmingly in my several years on several nuclear industry committees, and that Prime Minister Naoto Kan correctly described as the "myth of nuclear safety."

The other cultural flaw is Japan's ingrained aversion to contingency planning — thinking about the worst that can happen and planning to avoid it.

Writing in Japan's leading economic newspaper, Nihon Keizai, senior staff writer Yasuhiko Ota quotes a top METI official as saying: "It is regarded as immoral for a company responsible for the safety of a facility to assume that the worst could happen. People tend to criticize such companies by questioning why they would contemplate such possibilities."

This is an extraordinary situation in a modern 21st-century society — a primitive, preternatural, bad joss fear that thinking about the worst will somehow create the worst. Obviously it should have no place in the nuclear industry, even allowing for the industry fear that any admission of weaknesses would strengthen the anti-nuclear lobby.

Admittedly, the nuclear power industry has also had to contend with an environment lobby determined to keep the coastline free of concrete barriers.

The Hamaoka nuclear plant in Shizuoka has had to be closed down mainly because it too lacks adequate tsunami barriers along its attractive beach front.

The anti-public works lobby add to the drumbeat with the slogan "welfare before concrete." (What are they saying now when they discover that the lack of concrete to protect Japan's fishing ports has done very severe damage to the welfare of the many good people in some of those ports?) In the case of Fukushima, they did not need much more concrete anyway. All the Tepco people had to do was move emergency equipment to higher land away from the ocean front. The refusal to do this, or even think about it, verges on the criminal.

The Fukushima disaster should be forcing a lot more people in Japan to think a lot more deeply about the way their society operates.

When the crisis hit, those well-paid, elite-educated Tepco semi-bureaucrats (the company was notorious for its close links to the government) could do little more than make constant ritual bows of apology; they left everything to their dedicated subordinates to handle.

The Tepco president, in effect, went to bed for some weeks; he could not stand the strain. The one thing they all seemed able to get right was the angle of their bows and the placement of hands along impeccable trouser creases. The government has now appointed a committee headed by a Japanese history professor to advise on cleanup and plans for the future.

I discovered what the professor knows about disaster relief as a member of his 1995 post-Kobe earthquake committee, where I was told that if helicopters had been used to drop water on the house fires threatening to engulf the entire city, the people trapped below might have been crushed by the weight of the water. The primitive logic seemed to be that it's better to be burned alive by fate than be hurt by a deliberate act of officialdom.

Today, the government, big business and the history professor fret over the official debt problem as an obstacle to funding disaster recovery efforts. Here, too, Japanese "village" thinking seems quite unable to cope with the fiscal tsunami about to arrive. All they can propose is raising taxes — thus further cutting spending and slowing the economy — and slashing tax revenues, which will, as in the Koizumi years, add to the very debt that is supposed to be cut.

Meanwhile, the conservative, stuck-in-the-mud planners refuse even to consider the simple solution to the official debt problem recommended by some competent outsiders, monetization, by which either the Bank of Japan buys noninterest-bearing government bonds or Tokyo issues its own currency, as Japan did so brilliantly in the past when it pulled itself out of the 1930s' Great Depression well ahead of others.

I recently attended a news conference and had a chance to ask Economy and Fiscal Policy Minister Kaoru Yosano why Japan could not do this in an economy where inflation — the usual problem with monetization — seemed unlikely. All he could do was recite the BOJ, bureaucratic and big business dogmas, namely that inflation WAS likely and it would depreciate the currency. Yet most foreign experts would agree that mild inflation and some currency depreciation are just what Japan needs to get out of its chronic economic woes.

What has gone wrong? The critics used to talk about Japan Incorporated — an economic juggernaut powered by a nexus of well-trained, motivated bureaucrats and sharp businessmen keen to take over the world. At the time, Japan seemed to have the people and energy to do that. Postwar reconstruction efforts made them think more about the national rather than the group mura interest.

Today's Japan looks more like Japan Disincorporated. Or as they put it in Japanese, shoeki (ministry interest) has become more important than the kokueki (national interest). Attitudes have become more tribal, and not just in nuclear energy.

Whether it is political factions, pensions, public works, the economy in general, foreign policy (toward North Korea and Russia especially), the Okinawa base problem, the justice system, the education system or even public safety (Kan once had to fight a lonely battle simply to get the bureaucrats to admit to the dangers of importing untreated AIDS-tainted blood), Japan today seems quite unable to find the will or the means to solve immediate national problems.

On almost every front it is being overtaken by the China it once used to ignore, patronize or look down upon. Decades of complacent "Japan as No. 1" self-satisfaction and a grossly distorted elitist education system have produced a leadership unable even to realize self-destruction when they see it.

Today's global pity for Japan's nuclear and tsunami woes could easily turn into global contempt.

Gregory Clark, a longtime Japan resident, is involved with education problems and is a commentator on economic and foreign affairs. He is author of "The Japanese Tribe" (1978) in Japanese. A Japanese translation of this article will appear on







WASHINGTON — East Asia today is far more urban, high-tech and wealthy than 30 years ago. And it offers a far wider range of social and economic opportunities.

New businesses have developed, supply chains have globalized, and the younger generation chooses from a range of professions that their parents could only dream of. The pace of change is remarkable.

Good economic policies, forward-looking governments, and robust trade and investment contributed to this transformation. So did what we call the Millennium Development Goals. These goals center on getting significantly better results in eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, getting girls in school, reducing child deaths, improving maternal health, combating preventable diseases, and providing access to safe water and sanitation.

The goals represent a very fundamental level of well-being. They provide the basic human security that allows people to participate in growth. They are the first step to individuals realizing their full potential, as they are to nations in building a model of humane, inclusive development.

The investments that many of the now-wealthy countries in East Asia made in MDG-related goals a generation ago greatly enabled their development. With the poorest countries in the region now close to meeting their MDGs, we can be hopeful about their future.

Japan has convened a summit on the MDGs in Tokyo to draw attention to the significance of the goals, and to remind us that there are many countries in the world where more progress is needed — particularly the poorest countries and those suffering from conflict and insecurity. However, even in countries where aggregate indicators are good, much more attention is needed to help disadvantaged groups of people, such as ethic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, and people from very remote or impoverished backgrounds.

Many countries that are off track for achieving the MDGs by 2015, could get back on track with a return of global economic growth to precrisis levels. Good public policy and strong institutions are also crucial.

The recent crises have shown us the particular importance of social safety net programs that protect people in times of economic hardship or natural disasters. The right policies and institutions will help us move beyond quantitative targets to our goals: inclusive growth, reduced inequality and poverty, and improved health and education.

Achieving the MDGs will require international cooperation on four fronts:

(1) Low-income countries will need a strong and stable global economic environment in which to continue growing. These countries have rebounded well from the economic crisis, but price rises for food, fuel and other commodities are a threat, and the advanced economies need to maintain their growth momentum and keep their markets open to developing-country exports.

(2) Actions are needed to help low-income countries achieve and sustain more rapid economic growth. This requires narrowing the infrastructure gap, continuing to improve the quality of developing country policies, and rebuilding the policy buffers that cushioned them well during the global financial crisis.

(3) The fragile states that lag the furthest on the MDGs require additional support, to help in building institutions and moving toward a virtuous circle of peace, security, justice and jobs. As our latest "World Development Report on Conflict, Security, and Development" notes, some 1.5 billion people live in countries affected by repeated cycles of political and criminal violence, and no low-income, fragile or conflict-affected country has yet to achieve a single MDG.

(4) We need to cooperate on improving the quality of service provision through better policies and stronger institutions. As this year's "Global Monitoring Report" emphasizes, increased aid and domestic spending have been more effective at increasing access — primary school enrollment, for example — than at improving health and learning outcomes.

To improve outcomes, we need to broaden our focus to ensure that institutions provide services efficiently and responsively. And because it is the most vulnerable who typically receive the lowest-quality services, attention to quality is also a primary tool for improving equity.

This week, the government of Japan is doing a service to poor people everywhere by bringing these issues to the world's attention. Moreover, by focusing attention on MDGs it is helping to construct a more peaceful and prosperous world for us all.

For its part, the World Bank Group has mobilized around an "Access Agenda," to help countries provide their people with the widest possible access to good-quality health and education, clean water, energy, food and jobs — looking not just at the numbers, but also at the quality of services.

Along with the government of Japan, the World Bank Group is profoundly committed to the MDG goals, and with its partnerships, cutting-edge knowledge, and financing, it has its sights fully set on helping countries meet the challenges to be on track for 2015.

Mahmoud Mohieldin is managing director of the World Bank Group.








In this FIFA-ruled soccer planet, there seems to be no country other than Indonesia that Lady Luck has never lost faith in.

Unlike Bosnia and Brunei Darussalam that were banned from competing in international soccer for disobedience, Indonesia has been spared from humiliating isolation, albeit only for another month, after the world's sporting body offered the country a third chance to hold a congress to elect a new soccer chief before June 30.

The first two attempts by the Indonesian Soccer Association (PSSI) to hold an election congress ended in disarray, in defiance of the nation's claim to be a champion of peace, tolerance and respect for others.

Intervention by dozens of soldiers and reports of intimidation marred the first congress in April in the Riau capital of Pekanbaru, which not only prevented then incumbent chairman Nurdin Halid from contesting, but also laid waste to the whole process of the congress.

The second congress organized by the FIFA-sanctioned Normalization Committee in Jakarta on May 20 was no less chaotic. Committee chairman Agum Gumelar closed the congress after a group of participants, calling themselves Group 78, insisted on nominating Army chief Gen. George Toisutta and oil businessman Arifin Panigoro, while petitioning a vote of no confidence against Agum. Like Nurdin, both George and Arifin had been banned by FIFA from running for the PSSI chair.

The disorderliness occurred right in front of FIFA representative Thierry Regenass, who may have spoken at length with FIFA chairman Sepp Blatter before the relieving decision was announced during the FIFA congress in Zurich on Tuesday.

The PSSI and the entire Indonesian soccer community do not have to expect a third-time-lucky to avoid FIFA sanctions. They only need to comply with the rules of the game set by the world soccer body in electing a new PSSI chairman, unless they deliberately want to quit the existing soccer regime and are ready for the consequences.

FIFA has made it clear that the contenders in the election for the PSSI top job must not include Nurdin, his former deputy Nirwan Bakrie, George and Arifin, in order for it to officially recognize the ailing national soccer body. Efforts to challenge this policy have been exhausted and it is maintained as it stands. As a law-abiding nation Indonesia is responsible for enforcing the ruling.

Resistance to the rules of the game should raise questions about the motives behind bids to lead the PSSI, which is neither a profit-seeking nor political organization. The trophyless PSSI is in dire need of a leader who is free from vested interests, let alone conflicts of interest, but a person who motivates and encourages their team to never say enough in terms of achievements.

For many years the PSSI, as well as other sports organizations, has become a stage for state officials and businesspeople to seek popularity. They deem sports as no more than a hobby, and hence lack the desire to reach great heights.

Agum will need the full support of the entire Indonesian soccer community to make sure this rare chance is not wasted. His resolute leadership in enforcing the rules of the game will ensure that Indonesia will avoid the international seclusion.

But most of all it will be the commitment to sportsmanship of all participants in the upcoming congress, including the supporters of George and Arifin, that will count.






Of all the sad news following the earthquake and tsunami that hit parts of Japan on March 11, 2011, there was one particular thing that was admired by people around the world: The attitude of almost all Japanese in the face of such a calamity. They were relatively very calm and did not panic as they had been trained to engage in such an emergency situation. And they were willing to queue for food.

We witnessed a different situation in Aceh during the earthquake and tsunami in December 2004: People panicked.

Some media outlets reported the occurrence of looting in some parts of Aceh.

Another story that was heard in Aceh at the time was about the sea water that suddenly receded just before the tsunami came.

When that happened, the beaches became much larger and a number of people ran toward the uncovered sea floor.

They did not realize that it was the beginning of the calamity, as shortly afterwards the sea came back to the beach; this time with unimaginable power and speed.

Some met their fate this way, solely due to their lack of knowledge about this natural phenomenon. Had they had this basic knowledge, the story that followed would have been a little different.

The most important factor is the level of community preparedness in dealing with disasters. Since childhood, Japanese citizens receive various important and practical information about disasters so that they will know how to react and behave. But, that was not the case in Aceh where the people did not even know very basic information such as that if the sea recedes abruptly a tsunami is imminent.

Some more recent cases also need to be mentioned to show the need to enhance the public's — as well as the media's — knowledge about natural disasters.

The way some Indonesian TV channels were reporting about the eruption of Mt. Merapi in Yogyakarta last year, as well as the aftermath of Japan's earthquake and tsunami in March, created public concern, and this could have been avoided.

Comprehensive information is key to disaster preparedness. And media have always been at the forefront of providing this information. In Japan, the country's public service broadcaster, NHK, is an integral part of the disaster management programs.

Although it was criticized for its lack of critical views in reporting the damaged Fukushima nuclear reactor, no one would deny the vital role it played, both by providing continuous information about various aspects of the disasters, and providing information directly from the field, including early warning.

The importance of information provided by the media in natural disasters has long been recognized. Even if the early warning came from sources such as sirens, residents seemed not to believe in that early warning, and would turn to radio and TV for confirmation and further information.

Experts divide the stages of a disaster into three main phases: Preparedness (planning and warning); response (evacuation and emergency action); and recovery (restoration and reconstruction).

The importance of preparedness building was reaffirmed in the World Conference on Natural Disaster Reduction that was held in Yokohama, Japan, in May 1994.

This forum produced the Yokohama Strategy and Plan of Action for a Safer World, which emphasized the importance of prevention and preparedness with a view to reducing the need for disaster relief.

It is not an easy task, however, to implement the Yokohama Plan of Action. A research conducted in Puerto Rico five years after the Yokohama Conference, for example, showed that most of the media, especially privately-owned commercial broadcast media, were not so keen to support the government's programs in building preparedness to anticipate disasters.

Under this circumstance, public service broadcasts or state-owned broadcast organizations should take the lead in disaster preparedness activities, as has been shown in the case of NHK in Japan.

Media's role can and should be part of each of the phases related to natural disasters. In the first phase, proper training for media organizations and media professionals on how to report on natural disasters are needed.

This should be coupled with another important aspect that is usually encountered by media professionals in their assignment to report on natural disasters, that is the trauma aspect.

In the second phase, media development programs are often times overlooked, because they are not considered part of the rapid response.

That approach should be reconsidered, because there is a clear and immediate need to place the media development programs in the response phase, given the fact that in many large-scale disasters there is almost no mass information channel that remains in service.

Through the media development programs, an emergency radio station could be established to produce and disseminate information about the distribution of aids, or to report on missing people.

Other activities could be in the form of training for journalists on how to produce and disseminate emergency information, and on how to consider the ethical aspects of journalism in the coverage of the disaster.

The aftermath of a disaster also provides the opportunity to conduct experiments in the use of media, particularly new media, in helping to overcome the difficulties faced by the affected communities.

An example of this is post-earthquake Haiti in January 2010, which witnessed some innovations on the use of new media for various useful and practical purposes, including the creation of interactive maps.

The emergence of these new innovations should drive similar innovations in the use of radio broadcast, both in terms of hardware as well as in terms of the program contents.

In the recovery phase the media should also extend its role as a watchdog in monitoring transparency in the use of funds for reconstruction.

The media should also give a reminder of the importance of coordination in the planning process and implementation of recovery programs, to avoid overlapping and waste of funds for irrelevant projects; something that usually appears in the post-disaster recovery.

In 1999, Kofi Annan, then UN Secretary-General reminded us that more effective prevention strategies would save not only tens of billions of dollars, but also tens of thousands of lives.

But he also stressed that building a culture of prevention is not easy because the cost of prevention has to be paid in the present, while its benefits lie in the distant future. Moreover, the benefits are not tangible; they are the disasters that did not happen.

His reminder is still valid today, and let us use it as a call for us to do something concrete collectively by using the power of the media and communication-information to help build disaster preparedness for the communities we serve.

The writer is an advisor for Communication and Information at UNESCO Tehran Cluster Office. This article is an excerpt of his paper, presented at the 8th Asia Media Summit, Hanoi, May 24-25, 2011






A recent survey conducted by the Institute for Peace and Islamic Studies (LaKIP) of junior and high school students' willingness to use violence in order to solve religious disputes has raised awareness on the relevance of Pancasila studies.

The survey suggested that 48.9 percent of the respondents supported a violent approach in solving religious disputes. It also found that 84.8 percent of the students agreed with the implementation of Islamic laws.

For the moderate Muslims and Indonesians, these figures pose a threat to the ideal picture of a tolerant and moderate Muslim society. Although the validity, reliability and methodology of the survey raised doubts, these and other social conflicts that occured recently triggered questions about the subjects being taught in our schools.

It has particularly sparked questions on whether Pancasila as part of civic education in schools has lost its relevance. This leads to the fact that our youth have failed to find common ground and therefore look for values from other places, with religion being one of them.

Consequently, this resulted in the deterioration of Pancasila as the main norm in our society. Therefore, calls for revitalizing Pancasila teachings seem to be very reasonable.

Theoretically, education is one of the main agents of socialization, besides family, peer groups and the media, which has a vital function in transmitting the main values and norms of society.

Nowadays, particularly among our youth, the media is increasingly securing legitimacy in forming one's perception and attitude. The practically unlimited flow of information and knowledge provides today's youth with numerous channels of identity building, which can only be balanced by a credible educational system that provides suitable sets of values that are coherent with the norms adopted by the respective society.

Seen in this light, Pancasila stands in the middle of two chores: First is to revitalize its function as a source of moral guidelines in terms of norms and values, and second is to rationalize its teachings to become logical guidelines that enable students to become young citizens.

Current materials in Pancasila studies seem to have lost their authority in convincing, nor do they necessarily encourage students to be critical citzens. The challenge is therefore to push a broad understanding of nationalism — namely civic nationalism — which is not based on a chauvinistic and conservative-minded nationalism.

Pancasila has always been seen as a moral piety cliche and therefore been neglected, especially since the reform movement in 1998. Hence, a pivotal step is to deconstruct the myths of Pancasila by uncovering its history and meaning. Logically, the teachings of Pancasila must have clear, practical implications, instead of being a source of textbook preaching. It must be rationalized, but at the same time maintain its function as a social control.

Therefore, the biggest challenge in revitalizing Pancasila is looking for the right people and teachers who can embody the principles of Pancasila and weave the moral fabric of society in the classroom. But the most essential task is finding the right method to revitalize Pancasila studies.

The first principle is not repeating the same dogmatic practice and means in teaching Pancasila. Merely lecturing students is ineffective and discouraging.

Hence, Pancasila studies need to be equipped with practical ideas and tools. It is urgent that we teach our children with contextual knowledge that enables them to look for solutions and understand the basic structures of our society.

Practical measures such as student exchanges between provinces and regions during semester breaks, writing film reviews based on documentaries or contemporary Indonesian films and book reviews are new methods of embedding Pancasila in daily pedagogical life. An idea would be to blend practical Pancasila cases with sociological research, which can be done by group tasks and mini-cases.

Second, we must leave a textbook approach behind and look for contextual teachings. An example would be the discussion of human rights violations and social conflicts in Indonesia.

Also, Pancasila studies must contain lessons that are historically-specific. For example, discussions on tragic events such as Malari, Tanjung Priok and Trisakti-Semanggi etc. can no longer be seen as a taboo. It needs also to be equipped with the basic perspective and understanding of human rights.

Consequently, the most difficult task for teachers would be an honest and truthful approach for teachers to discuss the daily issues. Pancasila studies must be seen as an opportunity for students to cope with reality and engage with as critical citizens.

Students ought to be involved in attempts at solving societal problems, starting in their own environment. Pancasila studies must therefore be tought in a problem-based learning method. Only then will it regain relevance in the hearts and minds of our youth.

The writer is a researcher at Labsosio, Faculty of Social and Political Science, University of Indonesia







Who says politics is always about rhetoric? For many, politics has more to do with popularity, and popularity with numbers, and presidential politics is no different.

Two American presidents knew this very well.

In 1952, battling with the unpopular Korean War and the resulting economic downturn as well as other domestic brouhaha, president Harry Truman had to face an all-time low approval rating at 22 percent in a Gallup Poll.

Fifty-six years later, president George W. Bush suffered almost the same fate, facing a 28 percent approval rating in light of the war in Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

But as history records it, both men stood their ground. After his death, Truman was recognized as a leader who showed integrity and accountability, and his political career never ceases to catch the attention of many.

As for Bush, the waning support and dwindling poll numbers seemed to have done the two-time president no harm. As he told Fox News on Sunday, Feb. 10, 2008, "I frankly don't give a damn about the polls... To assume that historians can figure out the effect of the Bush administration before the Bush administration has ended is... in my mind... not an accurate reflection upon how history works."

How history works in Indonesia is left for the people to tell. That is something that President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono believes in religiously, through all his doing and undoing. The aim, nonetheless, is the good of the people, and not some flashy numbers or praise from pundits on TV.

For the President of the Republic of Indonesia, it takes courage to talk to the people heart-to-heart about issues that really matter, knowing that in so doing he may stir an unpopular reaction.

As a leader, President SBY believes he has the responsibility to guide with integrity, honesty and accountability, while at the same time promoting democratic values.

It is unfortunate that not all people share his opinion. But again, in a democratic realm, it is normal to differ in perspectives. However, I would like to remind everyone that the same democracy we hold high is also one that calls for respecting the thought process.

Such awareness, unfortunately, is sometimes hard to find in our politics. On the other hand, reality shows that our pundits have been quick to point and judge, sometimes blurring the lines between unfounded accusations and glorified self-righteousness.

One thing I have been hearing over and over again is the accusation of how everything President Yudhoyono does is for the good of his public image.

So even when he does something unpopular, it would be counted as a poorly calculated misstep unintentionally meant to hurt his public standing.

For someone who got elected twice as president in a large and emerging democracy, I believe anyone sharing such belittling thoughts is doing him a disservice.

As someone who works closely with President Yudhoyono, I can assure you that policies and performance are two things that are always on top of his list.

With that comes a personality infused with values he has held since childhood. This is the same leader the people got to know in 2004 and trusted again in 2009.

In Pontianak, West Kalimantan, this week, the President stood by his conviction, again reminding the people of Indonesia of the need to hold on to their true personalities, values and ethics in the wake of reform, democratization and globalization. That would be our local wisdom, the Indonesian local wisdom.

Let's wise up.

The writer is President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's spokesman









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.

The Hindu






It was indeed a tough message from China to the United States regarding Pakistan. But, strangely, it drew little or no response from the sole superpower. Underscoring the geopolitical importance that China, an emerging superpower, attaches to Pakistan, Beijing's stern message said that any attack on Pakistan would be construed as an attack on China.

The dragon has awakened, it seems and it's time to breathe fire. China has all the reasons to do so because it is surrounded by states with which it has territorial disputes or states which are militarily attached to the United States.

On the one hand, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea and the breakaway Chinese territory of Taiwan are all nations that have entered into defence arrangements with the US and therefore China feels they could turn hostile in the event of a confrontation with the US. On the other hand, Vietnam and India have unresolved territorial disputes with China. In this context, China accords significant strategic importance to its alliances with Pakistan, North Korea and Central Asian states.

A war between China and the US may sound far fetched given the volume of trade between the two countries and between China and its pro-US neighbours. But international relations are a perpetual struggle for power. Every nation is in the race for power and is trying to beat the nation running ahead of it. In the case of China, it is running second to the US and now feels it has the potential to overtake it. Weeks before former International Monetary Fund Chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn was arrested for alleged sexual assault on a hotel maid, the Fund had predicted that China would overtake the US as the world's number one economy in five years.

Economy is the key factor that sustains all the other factors that go into the making of one's power. The other factors include the military power, population, social progress such as a high level of education and the capacity to carry out research and development, political stability, the will to pursue a national strategy and the strategic purpose. China whose economy is on the ascendancy appears to be carefully investing its multi-trillion-dollar trade balance surplus in military power and social power.

The United States, too, followed the same method in the years preceding World War II. But today with its economy fast crumbling, it is using its brute military power to boost its flagging economic power. Its wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and now Libya have more to do with taking control of the resources of the Middle East and Central Asia than with a so-called war on terror or moves to establish democracy. This approach is likely to land the US in further economic misery and lead to the gradual decline in the overall US power. This perhaps explains why China and Russia often give their tacit support to US military campaigns. In other words, they give the US enough rope to hang itself – go, fight and get lost.

However, China and Russia will resist efforts by the US to come to their backyard.

China considers Pakistan as its backyard and that was why Beijing on May 18 gave the visiting Pakistani Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani the assurance that China would regard any attack on Pakistan as an unfriendly act against China. If only General Pervez Musharraf had been in power now or if the assurance had come during his reign, Pakistan probably would have said a firm no to Washington's command to join the war on Afghanistan. Musharraf indeed wargamed and concluded that his country was militarily too weak to fight the US. Of course when the Afghan war began in 2001, China was not as a powerful as it is today.

Pakistan shares a border with China. The Karkoram highway connects China's Xinjiang province with Islamabad and then through a network of highways with Pakistan's Gwadar Port — a deep sea port which China is expanding — overlooking the Arabian Sea. The link will give China fast access to the oil-rich Middle East and enhance the current trade volume with the region by many fold.

Any US military invasion of Pakistan will jeopardize China's ambitious move to link up with the Middle East. With US President Barack Obama being obsessed with taking the war in Afghanistan to Pakistan, China has become alarmed. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Jiang Yu told a May 19 news conference that his country categorically demanded that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Pakistan be respected, an obvious reference to the Osama Bin Laden hideout raid which the US carried out without Pakistan's consent.

Gilani returned home a happy man from China which also offered Pakistan 50 JF-17 fighter jets.

Pakistani political analyst Talat Masood told AFP that if US and Indian pressure continued, Pakistan could now say 'China is behind us. Don't think we are isolated; we have a potential superpower with us'.

With China strongly backing it, Pakistan can and must ditch the United States, an unreliable ally which is not only responsible for much of the chaos that is tearing apart the once relatively peaceful country but also seeking to denuclearize Pakistan. Pakistan's former intelligence chief Hamid Gul says the recent terrorist attack on the Mehran Naval base in Karachi was a sponsored attack by a foreign power that seeks to prove that Pakistan's nuclear facilities are not safe.

Pakistan will benefit immensely if it seeks full membership of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), a security cum economic grouping that brings together China, Russia and four resource-rich Central Asian countries. The grouping also seeks to keep the US military out of Central Asia.






The earth is evolving towards a higher purpose and we are called to be custodians in this plan. We are responsible for its well being, development and sustenance. We are thus called to protect the ecosystems and pursue the protection of nature, for our own survival and well being. The general mass of humanity are not aware of all this. Flowing from this, the Spirit of Truth yearns to see harmonious relationships in family, society and between the nations of the earth. The creative force is moving the earth's people to live as one big family, deeply concerned about one another.

This Intelligence or Power operates on a much higher plain and spectrum within this gigantic movement or thrust of new creativity, it acts independent of human strength or ability. Having its own blueprint; yet needs humanity's participation and willingness to cooperate. Those who don't cooperate receive immediate chastisement. It scatters those who are proud in their hearts. It brings down rulers from their thrones and those in authority lose it. The rich are sent away empty. Those who seek the Spirit of Truth however, are assured of the opposite. The humble among them would be raised up. The physically, emotionally and spiritually hungry are assured of being filled with good things. Mercy and favour would rest on them.

Today we see the empowerment that lies in the hands of the people, especially the suffering ones. Governments throughout the world, if there is anything they fear, it is public opinion. When public opinion turns against them, they collapse. So, to stay in control, winning public opinion even to the extent of manipulation or deceit is sought after. Yet these are short lived. The Spirit of Truth is no respecter of any person, power or government. It marches on unable to be stopped, for that is its nature. It has to finish what it started.

The world has another spirit, not related to the Spirit of Truth. The worldly spirit is based on lies and falsehood. Be it in the field of propaganda, to the white lies of even parents. From the hypocrisy of politicians, to the lies uttered in high places. The litany goes on, as a way of life on earth. The worldly spirit glorifies pride in human hearts, be it in school or in fields of various professions we pursue. Philosophy tells us that pride leads to disillusionment and un- fulfillment. The selfish values of this world mislead us into believing that having power and wealth lead to finding meaning in life. Whereas it actually suffocates and those who indulge in it, create poverty among those from whom they rob.

The seekers of the Spirit of Truth are really the ones who will inherit the earth. The true custodians of the earth are those who steer evolution and with whom the creative force is able to work. It is because of such selfless attitudes that humanity is taken beyond the horizon, to enter new frontiers. We are invited to join at no cost. Such people however, need to give higher responses. Like if someone strikes you on one cheek, we turn the other; the challenge to love enemies and bless those who persecute. For if we love only those who love us, what is so great about that? The Spirit of Truth seeks an army of those poor and meek in spirit. Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness and justice; the challenge of being peacemakers and mercy givers. Then shall all nations live as one family, secure and at peace.








In an eloquent speech at Al Rowdha Palace, His Majesty described the Press as men and women of thoughts and ideas - a vital connection between society's officials and civic bodies, as well as essential partners in the country's development process.

Certainly the task and duty of any national media corps is not to take sides, but to help guide both people and government without prejudice or emotion, but with reason and analysis.

In other words, it should dissect and examine in fine detail dissatisfaction or discontent involving any national issue.

This country has experienced many changes over the last 10 years, whether in the form of dialogues, the National Charter, democratisation or Press freedom. But one can honestly say that had Hamad bin Isa reigned over a non-politically minded society, so much more could have been achieved economically.

Unfortunately fate decreed that Bahrain's ideological schools only hindered, marred and defaced its achievements.

Nations, like men, often wither and die from imperceptible disorders, because their ruin begins in the homes of their people.

There is a saying: "Nations like men have their infancy". Are we an infant nation? Or are there men and women amongst us who regard themselves as mature, but lacking in wisdom?

His Majesty is rightly asking for more dialogue, but sadly I have to say that it requires wisdom to understand wisdom. Music means nothing if the audience is deaf.

To prove that what we are saying is not baseless, while His Majesty was speaking about lifting the State of National Safety... leading personalities of Al Wefaq were already declaring that a grand demonstration would take place on Friday!

This begs the question, with whom should the talks start? Those who ought to be willing partners have clearly nailed their true colours to the mast by vowing "we are not people of dialogue, but demonstrations!"

Readers will probably want to ask me "what is the solution?" My reply, as I mentioned earlier, is that our duty as Press members is limited to X-Raying and evaluating the situation, leaving society and government to perform their duties accordingly.

As human beings, throughout life we learn from our mistakes, but the immediate behaviour of Al Wefaq in announcing Friday's demonstration, shows no such appreciation of a learning curve. Their aim is the exact opposite - activation of entrenched ideological agendas to block any future meaningful debate.

Society at large is so happy and hopeful now that the State of National Safety is over. Al Wefaq, however, is most certainly not! In fact to them, this is a major blow. But they will try their utmost to take advantage of its implementation to propagate and mislead the world as so-called 'victims of ethnic discrimination'.

As events unfold, we sincerely hope that His Majesty's initiative will bear fruit, irrespective of one party's attempts to thwart and derail it, because Bahrain doesn't only belong to one group. There are many other sectors with strong national commitment who will look to the future optimistically and non-politically.

However, law and order should under no circumstances be compromised. Wrongdoers must be brought to full accountability if we wish to establish a nation without fear in its eyes or bitterness in its heart.

As Martin Luther King Junior said: "Morality cannot be legislated, but behaviour can be regulated. Judicial decrees may not change the heart, but they can restrain the heartless".



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