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Monday, June 13, 2011

EDITORIAL 13.06.11

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Editorial

month  june 13, edition 000857 collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul

 

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

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

 

THE PIONEER

  1. SURGE IN RED TERROR
  2. HOPE IN DARJEELING
  3. THE ADHARMA OF POLITICIANS - JOGINDER SINGH
  4. UNCERTAINTY LOOMS LARGE OVER NEPAL AS PARTIES FLOUNDER - IT KUMAR SINGH
  5. ANTI-GRAFT MOVEMENT BACK TO SQUARE ONE - ASHIYA PARVEEN

THE TIMES OF INDIA

  1. TOGETHER FOR NOW
  2. PROJECTING POWER
  3. HUSAIN'S ENDURING LEGACY FOR INDIA - DILEEP PADGAONKARDILEEP PADGAONKAR
  4. 'THERE'S MUCH FOR INDIA AND AUSTRALIA TO DO TOGETHER'  - DEEP K DATTA-RAYDEEP K DATTA-RAY  
  5. LOSING TO WIN - RAGHU KRISHNANRAGHU KRISHNAN

HINDUSTAN TIMES

  1. SCENE IN THE RIGHT CONTEXT
  2. POST-IMPRESSIONISM
  3. BACK TO THE CLASS - DAVID WILLETT
  4. INDIAN IDOL MAKER - FARRUKH DHONDY
  5. AIRLINE ON A FREEFALL  - JITENDER BHARGAVA

THE INDIAN EXPRESS

  1. DOUBLES HOPES
  2. THE STATE OF ANGER
  3. MUMBAI DRIFT
  4. IN A POST-CRISIS WORLD - MK VENU
  5. PHISHING GROUND - HARSH V. PANT
  6. FOOD THAT KILLS YOU
  7. LIVING ON THE CLOUD - NANDAGOPAL RAJAN
  8. UNLIKE SHAHZAD, I WAS LUCKY — THE ISI JUST TORTURED ME

THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

  1. STILL HEADLESS AT ONGC
  2. BANK ON THEM
  3. SLIPPERY GRADIENTS OF OIL PRICE CURVE - TNR RAO
  4. WHERE DOES THE FDI GO? - AMITENDU PALIT

THE HINDU

  1. RADIATION AND THYROID CANCER
  2. SYRIA ON THE BOIL
  3. DEALING WITH INDIA IN THE U.S.-PAKISTAN RELATIONSHIP  - HOWARD B. & TERESITA C. SCHAFFER
  4. PAKISTAN: DEADLIEST PLACE TO BE A JOURNALIST  - DECLAN WALSH
  5. MEDIA SOCIAL NETWORKS ARE NO MATCH FOR GOOGLE NEWS  - DAN SABBAGH
  6. WAXING AND WANING WAR  - CHARLES M. BLOW

THE ASIAN AGE

  1. LET'S HAVE CLARITY OVER BLACK MONEY
  2. BEING CLASH CONSCIOUS - INDRANIL BANERJIE
  3. CANVAS OF INTOLERANCE, FRAME OF FREEDOM - HARBANS MUKHIA

DAILY EXCELSIOR

  1. JAMMU'S CHAOTIC TRAFFIC
  2. 32ND TREE TALK
  3. GOVERNMENT WAKE UP TO COUNTRY'S PROBLEMS - BY BRIJ BHARDWAJ
  4. FUDGING OF BANK ACCOUNTS MUST STOP - BY NANTOO BANERJEE
  5. FALLING FOOD PRICES IS NOT GOOD FOR AGRICULTURE - BY DR ASHWANI MAHAJAN
  6. EXTRA-CONSTITUTIONAL CENTERS OF POWER - BY DR BHARAT JHUNJHUNWALA

THE TRIBUNE

  1. 'DISAPPOINTING' MSP
  2. UNEXPECTED & UNEXPLAINED
  3. KEEPING HERITAGE ALIVE
  4. PRODUCING MORE WITH LESS WATER - BY S. S. JOHL
  5. HEART-BREAKING SHIPBREAK - BY TRILOCHAN SINGH TREWN
  6. THE PEOPLE VS THE PRESIDENT - ROBERT FISK
  7. PAST IMPERFECT, FUTURE TENSE

BUSINESS STANDARD

  1. MANUFACTURING A POLICY
  2. MAMATA'S SELF-GOAL
  3. THINK TAIWAN - SANJAYA BARU
  4. GENERAL LIU CAN CLOSE HIS EYELIDS - NITIN PAI
  5. A NEW IMF MD AND THE CAPITAL ACCOUNT - A V RAJWADE
  6. FROM A CHEERLEADER BOARD TO ONE THAT DELIVERS - RATIP KAR

BUSINESS LINE

  1. POLICY OF PUSILLANIMITY
  2. TIME FOR IIMS TO ASSERT THEMSELVES - M. J. XAVIER
  3. GREEN REVOLUTION IN RED'S HEARTLAND

THE ECONOMIC TIMES

  1. CAR BELT POLITICS
  2. SUPPORT THE PRICE
  3. AUTO MISCORRECT
  4. RELEASING BRAKES ON MANUFACTURING
  5. 'CLOUD COMPUTING HAS DRIVERS AND INHIBITORS'  - CHIRANJOY SEN
  6. TURNING THE CLOCK BACK?  - RAGHU KRISHNAN

MUMBAI MIRROR

  1. WHY BJP SHOULD BE WARY OF R-WORD

DECCAN CHRONICLE

  1. BEING CLASH CONSCIOUS
  2. LET'S HAVE CLARITY OVER BLACK MONEY
  3. FRAME OF FREEDOM, CANVAS OF INTOLERANCE
  4. NETAS' LEARNING CURVE
  5. AN ANTHEM TO THE LORD
  6. THE UNCERTAINTY TAX

THE STATESMAN

  1. SHOOTING FROM THE HIP
  2. CAPITAL CLOUT
  3. SHOWN THE DOOR
  4. WORLD AFTER OSAMA~I - ARUN KUMAR BANERJI

THE TELEGRAPH

  1. JUST BAG IT
  2. BROUGHT TO ACCOUNT
  3. YOUNG BLOOD  - GWYNNE DYER

HAARTEZ

  1. LEGISLATION AGAINST HUMAN RIGHTS GROUPS IS POLITICAL PERSECUTION
  2. TAKE THOSE 22 COUNTRIES  - BY OUDEH BASHARAT
  3. PLAYING WITH FIRE  - BY AMIR OREN  
  4. PALESTINIANS MARCH, ISRAELIS REPRESS - BY MERAV MICHAELI
  5. WITH NETANYAHU, THE WORLD IS ALWAYS AGAINST US  - BY AKIVA ELDAR

THE NEWYORK TIMES

  1. WHAT THE INSPECTORS SAY
  2. FALSE CLAIMS ABOUT FOIA
  3. MR. BABBITT'S PROTEST
  4. STEPPING UP THE FIGHT AGAINST AIDS
  5. THE ONLINE LOOKING GLASS – BY ROSS DOUTHAT
  6. MEDICARE SAVES MONEY - BY PAUL KRUGMAN
  7. SAUDI ARABIA'S FREEDOM RIDERS - BY FARZANEH MILANI
  8. THE WHISTLE-BLOWERS OF 1777 - BY STEPHEN M. KOHN

HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

  1. TIME FOR CHANGE
  2. PARDON ME, RUMS
  3. SYRIA: WHAT NEXT?
  4. THE SHORTEST VISION EVER
  5. IS 'THE STATE' A FATHER OR A MOTHER? - ERDOĞAN ALKİN
  6. A NEW PAGE FOR TURKEY
  7. THE BEST IDEA FOR TURKEY

THE NEWS

  1. BACK UNBROKEN
  2. RESPONSIBILITY
  3. CHILD ABUSE
  4. SECOND COMING OF HINDUTVA?  -  AIJAZ ZAKA SYED
  5. ESTIMATING POVERTY - JAMIL NASIR
  6. NO REPENTANCE, NO SHAME  -  DR A Q KHAN
  7. HAS IT EVER HAPPENED TO YOU?  -  ADIAH AFRAZ
  8. HAS IT EVER HAPPENED TO YOU?  -  ADIAH AFRAZ
  9. BLOODY BRICKS  -  CHRIS CORK

PAKISTAN OBSERVER

  1. THE EMPTY WORDS OF KARZAI
  2. THE EMPTY WORDS OF KARZAI
  3. PASHTOONS OF BALOCHISTAN TOO PROTEST
  4. NAKED IMPERIALISM IN LIBYA - DR SAMIULLAH KORESHI
  5. CATCH-22 OF DEFENCE SPENDING - AIR CDRE KHALID IQBAL (R)
  6. EXTREMISM DETRIMENTAL EFFECTS - DR RAJA MUHAMMAD KHAN
  7. TIME TO CALL UPA'S BLUFF - SUNITA VAKIL
  8. FAILED FAVOURITISM TOWARD ISRAEL - TURKI AL-FAISAL

THE AUSTRALIYAN

  1. THE KAT HAS COPPED A RAW DEAL
  2. OBAMA'S FATE DEPENDS ON JOBS
  3. MAKE CARBON RECOMPENSE ADEQUATE AND EQUITABLE

THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

  1. THE SILLY SINS OF ANTHONY WEINER
  2. A DAY TO START THE DEBATE AGAIN
  3. JUSTICE ON SHOW - WARTS AND ALL
  4. IT'S AN HONOUR, MA'AM, BUT WHY?

THE GUARDIAN

  1. LABOUR AND LIBERTY: DO THE RIGHTS THING
  2. IN PRAISE OF … TURBULENT PRIESTS
  3. SYRIA: BUTCHERY, WHILE THE WORLD WATCHES

THE JAKARTA POST

  1. DON'T LET IT GO TO OUR HEAD
  2. GAVI – SAVING CHILDREN'S LIVES - KEVIN RUDD
  3. CHINA REFUTES GWADAR NAVAL BASE CONJECTURE - SERGEI DESILVA-RANASINGHE
  4. OIL CRISIS EASES BUT ENERGY CHALLENGES REMAIN - ERKATA YANDRI
  5. ENVIRONMENT DAY: A GOOD DAY FOR RI'S FORESTS? - FITRIAN ARDIANSYAH
  6. THE JUDGE S CASE AND WHY COURT OVERSIGHT FAILS - SEBASTIAAN POMPE

DAILY MIRROR

  1. THE SISYPHEAN MEET
  2. FACTORING IN TAMIL NADU
  3. MISSILES, FRIENDS AND FOES
  4. AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL HOSTS CHANNEL 4 AT THE U.N.  - BY GUY PHILCOTT.
  5. THE FLIP SIDE OF BRITS  - BY PHILLIP KNIGHTLEY
  6. STAYING PUT IN BAGHDAD

GULF DAILY NEWS

  1. CONFRONTING CHALLENGES    - BY DR JAMES J ZOGBY PRESIDENT 

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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

SURGE IN RED TERROR

UPA'S INDIFFERENCE EMBOLDENS MAOISTS


The sudden surge in Maoist violence in Chhattisgarh's Dantewada district comes as a grim reminder that Left-wing extremism is yet to be tackled with determination and resolve, notwithstanding claims to the contrary by the Union Government. Indeed, the surge comes at a time when there is a distinct dip in the Union Government's interest in tackling the Maoist menace and dealing with what the Prime Minister has repeatedly described as the biggest threat to India's internal security with an iron fist. Coincidentally or otherwise, the recent spurt in Red terror in Chhattisgarh follows the UPA regime's shocking invitation to Maoist ideologue and facilitator Binayak Sen, found guilty of sedition, to join the Planning Commission's panel on health. Ironically, the Planning Commission is headed by Mr Manmohan Singh who, in his public utterances, has never had a kind word to say about Left-wing extremists or their excesses. Such an attitude as has now been adopted by the Union Government — witness the turnaround in Home Minister P Chidambaram's approach after being rebuked and reprimanded by his party general secretary Digvijay Singh who is eager to be seen as robustly protecting anti-national elements of all hues and believes the Congress's destiny is linked to that of those who wage war on India in one form or another — can only embolden those who kill, loot and rape with abandon, targeting tribals when they are not blowing up police vehicles. In 24 hours as many as 18 security personnel have been killed in Dantewada — 10 of them were travelling in a vehicle that was blown to smithereens by a powerful mine — and yet the Union Government remains unruffled. The lives of our men in khaki, it would appear, count for nothing; instead, all energy and resources are being diverted to battling imaginary demons who, the Congress believes, are out to 'destaibilise' the morally bankrupt Government it heads.


True, there is no magic wand which can be used to make Maoists disappear from this country. Nor is it anybody's case that in this war against Red terror there will be no casualties among the security forces: Like any other counter-terrorism operation, this too is an asymmetric war where the element of surprise lies with the Maoists. But that does not mean the state should give up fight or concede ground to killers who use Mao's ideology as a cover for their depredations. This newspaper has steadfastly argued in support of a long-term strategy and appropriate tactics to destroy Maoism root and branch: Left-wing extremism has no space in a democracy and must be crushed — remorselessly and without any pity for those who have taken up guns against the state, its agencies and the people of India. To its credit, the Government of Chhattisgarh has remained undeterred in its counter-insurgency operations, but it requires greater support and resources from the Union Government. What is also needed is co-ordination among the Governments of the affected States so that Maoists can be isolated and neutralised, or chased and liquidated even if they flee from one State to another. Sadly, neither has the Union Government shown much interest in backing up the initiatives of State Governments nor have the latter demonstrated any eagerness to cooperate with each other.

 

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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

HOPE IN DARJEELING

NEW INITIATIVE COULD RESOLVE GORKHALAND ISSUE


She has been in office less than a month but West Bengal's first Chief Minister to head a non-Communist regime in more than three decades is already breaking from the past as is evident from the new agreement Ms Mamata Banerjee has signed with the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha in a bid to end the long-standing dispute regarding the establishment of a separate Gorkhaland. Leaders of the GJM who are now in control of all the three hill constituencies of Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong have decided that the new agreement would form the basis of further negotiations which, if successful, will be not only a proverbial feather in Ms Banerjee's cap but also, and more importantly, a significant step towards resolving the problem that has plagued the hills of West Bengal for decades. Substantial autonomy for Darjeeling's hill areas is reportedly one of the key points of the agreement and while details are still unclear, one thing is for sure: For the dialogue to proceed, it is imperative that Ms Banerjee and her colleagues come across as sincere partners who are genuinely interested in solving the Gorkhaland issue. As GJM chief Bimal Gurung said, the crux of the GJM-Trinamool Congress relationship lies in the simple fact that the people of the hills trust their new Chief Minister; yes, they believe her when she says that she wants peace in the region, they have faith that she will work for the development of the hill areas and, much like the rest of the State, they too have reposed their trust in the fundamentals of ma, maati, manush that define the politics of this feisty cotton saree-clad, hawai chappal-sporting leader.


This is not to say that the distance between Kolkata and Darjeeling will now be covered easily or quickly; indeed, a very long and windy road still lies ahead before one may reach the Switzerland of the East which is how Ms Banerjee dreams of Darjeeling. To realise that dream, which is also shared by the development-starved people of Darjeeling, it is important for Kolkata to keep its promises and take a genuine interest in the development of the area. The State Government should empower the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council — similar councils established in the North-East could serve as effective models, especially the Bodo Territorial Council of Assam — and implement a viable power-sharing with it. Simultaneously, it must also invest widely and wisely in regional development. And finally, it must not let a pessimistic Opposition led by the CPI(M) that has failed miserably in Darjeeling and indeed across West Bengal to get in the way. The Left is already raising the bogey of Ms Banerjee giving in to demands for a separate Gorkhaland but such claims are far from the truth — she has clearly said that she will not endorse a new State.

 

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THE PIONEER

COLUMN

THE ADHARMA OF POLITICIANS

JOGINDER SINGH


Whenever politicians are caught with their hand in the till they cry foul and claim innocence. M Karunanidhi's defence of Kanimozhi demonstrates this point.


The paterfamilias of the first family of the DMK which was routed in the recent Assembly election, has said that his daughter Kanimozhi, a Rajya Sabha MP who is in jail for her alleged role in the 2G Spectrum scandal, has been imprisoned "either because of an instruction from the Centre or due to the negligence of the Centre". Earlier, Mr M Karunanidhi, had also said that "bad friendship" would end in trouble.

According to the CBI's chargesheet, Kanimozhi was arrested along with the managing director of Kalaignar TV for allegedly receiving `200 crore in the 2G Spectrum allocation scam. Mr Karunanidhi, however, claimed that the investigating agency had arrested his daughter as it needed someone to take the blame.


Having seen the CBI work from close quarters, I know for a fact that whenever a politician involved in a scam or a scandal is arrested, the standard response is that he or she has been falsely implicated and that it is a part of vendetta against an innocent person. I have also noticed that politicians and the truth rarely go hand-in-hand. Moreover, if the politician has held a position of power, his or her approach has generally been to loot as much as possible as if there is no tomorrow and he or she would never be held accountable.


In this context, I am reminded of a dialogue between dharma and the eldest Pandav brother, Yudhisthir. dharma asked Yudhisthir, "What is the biggest wonder of the world?" Yudhisthir replied, "The biggest wonder of the world is that people should see others dying and still somehow believe that death will bypass them." In other words, people tend to forget that nature too works along Newton's Third Principle: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.


In the name of coalition dharma, partners in a coalition tend to become law unto themselves. Minority partners hold the majority party at gunpoint and the latter conveniently looks away so that they may all continue to remain in power. Yet, no dharma permits such adharma that allows the evil of corruption to thrive. In our country, the laws have been so framed that any investigation may be strangled by the Government at any step.

For example, according to the CVC Act the CBI cannot start any investigation against any officer of the level of Joint Secretary and above, which would include Ministers, without the Government's sanction that can come only after the matter has been investigated. Thus, the CBI or any anti-corruption agency is left to deal with peons and clerks or junior officials at best, when everybody knows that the rot starts at the top.

The UPA Government went all out to save former Telecommunications Minister A Raja for nearly14 months, till such time the Supreme Court took over the monitoring of investigations into the 2G Spectrum scam. Only after that was A Raja arrested and a case registered against him. Three months later, Kanimozhi was also put behind bars. Now, the politicians are making a fine distinction between what is moral and what is legal as a subterfuge to escape punishment for their crimes. The Government, of course, is still doing its best to save the thieves and robbers, especially if they happen to belong to the ruling alliance. The only barrier that stands in its way is the judiciary.


This is not the case only in India; it is the same the world over. The famous American journalist Frank I Cobb once said about the US what is now equally applicable to India: "If the author of the Declaration of Independence were to utter such a sentiment today, the Post Office Department could exclude him from the mail, grand juries could indict him for sedition and criminal syndicalism, legislative committees could seize his private papers ... and United States Senators would be clamouring for his deportation that he... should be sent back to live with the rest of the terrorists."


The system today continues to be unjust to the masses with the result that people with lots of money and the ability to afford expensive lawyers often go unpunished. Regarding the Government's indifference to the criminal justice system, the Supreme Court recently said, "The criminal justice system has been destroyed by the Government. They are not providing (adequate) funds to the police and the courts." The observation only proves that the Government has actually done more than enough to bail out criminals, contrary to what Mr Karunanidhi would like to believe.


Moreover, by ensuring that the CBI remains under-staffed and hamstrung, the Government has significantly weakened its main anti-corruption agency as well. According to the CBI's data, some 915 posts at the executive officers level — these include positions for Inspectors, Sub-Inspectors, Deputy Superintendents of Police, Superintendents of Police, Deputy Inspectors-General, Additional and Special Directors, Law Officers — are currently vacant. Hence, Mr Karunanidhi's charge that the Union Government has not done enough to save his daughter does not stand up to scrutiny.


The only reason why Kanimozhi is in jail is because her case is being directly monitored by the Supreme Court. Once a case comes under the scrutiny of the judiciary, the Government has no say and cannot even direct the CBI. However, the abuse and misuse of the police and other law enforcement agencies will continue unless they are given a constitutional status. But we can only dream about such things since no politician would like to place a noose around his or her own neck. The State Governments have not even implemented the September 2006 directives of the Supreme Court for minimum reforms within the police department.


Mr Karunanidhi's statements thus reflect the mindset of today's politicians who, like our erstwhile colonial rulers, are habituated to using the police as puppets to implement their wishes as was evident during the eviction of Baba Ramdev and his supporters from Delhi — they had gathered to protest against corruption and press their demand that the Government should bring back the black money stashed in safe havens abroad.


It is a fact that fighting corruption has never been on the agenda of any political party. Though there are some honest politicians, most others use black money to fund their election campaign. This is done with the explicit help of the Government. Therefore, it is the Government's duty to ensure that everyone declares their source of income. But perhaps it is never going to happen. So anybody who leads a movement against black money and corruption would be doing a signal service.


Many people say that democracy does not work. Of course it works. But we are the ones who have to make it work.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

UNCERTAINTY LOOMS LARGE OVER NEPAL AS PARTIES FLOUNDER
AJIT KUMAR SINGH

The interim Constitution has been amended once again to extend the life of the Constituent Assembly as it is yet to complete its task of drafting a Constitution for the new Republic. But bickering among parties remains unchecked

Nepali Parliament passed the Ninth Amendment to the Interim Constitution in the morning of May 29, 2011, to extend the Constituent Assembly by another three months, changing the language of Article 64 to state that "the term of CA will be three years and three months from the date of its first meeting." The Amendment came after an extended crisis which threatened to pull down the fragile constitutional structure that has been established in this long-troubled country.

On May 12, 2011, the Government registered a proposal in Parliament to amend the Interim Constitution and extend the tenure of the CA by one year. On May 25, however, the Supreme Court ruled out the extension of the CA term, except under a state of emergency or some other special circumstances, according to the doctrine of necessity, and for no more than six months. Issuing the final verdict, the SC stated, "Since the CA tenure cannot be extended for more than six months as per the restrictive clause of Article 64 of the Interim Constitution during state of emergency, it is wrong to extend the tenure for more than six months in normal situation (sic)." It even overruled the November 4, 2010, verdict issued by a three-member Special Bench of the Court, which had allowed the extension of the tenure of the CA 'until promulgation of the Constitution'.

This is the second time the CA's term has been extended. Initially elected for a period of two years in 2008, the CA was extended for a period of one year on May 28, 2010, by an amendment of the original provision of Article 64. Political parties sought a further extension as the task of drafting of the Constitution is still to be completed.

The current extension became possible only after a five-point agreement among the three largest political parties in the CA — the Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist, Nepali Congress and Communist Party of Nepal — Unified Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML). The agreement includes the following:

·  Completion of fundamentals of the peace process within three months

·  Preparation of the first draft of the new Constitution within three months

·  Implementation of past agreements with the Madheshi Morcha by developing the Nepal Army as an inclusive institution

·  Extension of the Constituent Assembly term by three months

·  Prime Minister Jhalanath Khanal's resignation to pave way for the formation of a national consensus Government.

Later, on May 30, UCPN-M chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal aka Prachanda stated that the extended three-month period of the CA was the "biggest test" for the political parties and people, and observed, "But we averted a big accident that was about to happen in the nation". However, the divided political spectrum of the country, compounded by a worsening security situation, suggests that, though the 'accident has been averted'; there is no end to such conditions arising again in days to come.

To start with, even the implementation of five-point agreement will be a real hurdle. While, the fourth condition has already been fulfilled, none of the other conditions are likely to be met within the stipulated time frame as there is no majority consensus for any of the points to be implemented. The formation of a national consensus Government can only prove to be a real ordeal. During first extension of the CA's term on May 28, 2010, the leaders of these three large parties had struck a deal according to which then Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal was to tender his resignation 'at an appropriate time' to pave the way for the formation of a 'consensus Government'. Nepal took seven months to find an 'appropriate time' for his resignation, and the national consensus Government remained a chimera.

Crucially, major contentious issues continue to trouble the political class, blocking the drafting of the Constitution and the resolution of major differences. Despite the Maoists agreement in principal to the Nepal Army's model of integration of People's Liberation Army cadres, sharp division among parties remain on the number of Maoists to be integrated. Reports indicate that, while the Maoists are now demanding the integration of some 7,000 PLA combatants, the NC and other political parties are adamant upon limiting the maximum number to 5,000. Significantly, more than 19,000 Maoist 'combatants' staying in seven major and 21 satellite camps across the country are awaiting integration or rehabilitation, though allegations regarding the inclusion of a large number of ineligible persons are widespread.

The surrender of arms by the Maoists is another bone of contention. Despite all the political parties urging the Maoists to give up arms, the Maoists remain wary. On May 27, 2011, Dahal, ruling out the surrender of PLA weapons to the state authority, noted that the process would be "illogical and immature". "We won't surrender. If needed we are ready to become martyrs instead," he declared. However, on June 4, Barshaman Pun, member of the Special Committee for Supervision, Integration and Rehabilitation of Maoist combatants, disclosed, "We have begun collecting weapons and have kept them at the Nayabazaar-based residence of Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal 'Prachanda' and the process of returning PLA security personnel to their respective camps began on Sunday (June 5)."

Endorsement of the Constitution by a two-thirds majority is another hopeless talk under the prevailing circumstances. Barring, Madheshi Janadhikar Forum-Nepal, which is a part of the ruling alliance, all other Madhesh based parties, along with NC, have said they will not accept a Constitution promulgated by a two-thirds majority, while the Maoists and CPN-UML are pushing for this outcome. These parties are insisting on promulgation of the Constitution by consensus alone.

Evidently, continuing inter-party rivalry remains a major obstacle. Worse, there has been a significant rise in intra-party rivalry as well. The Maoists appear to be a progressively divided house. The faction led by Vice Chairman Mohan Baidya has disowned the five-point agreement, declaring that the pact was against the party's official policy, endorsed by the Central Committee. The political report presented by Baidya in the CC meeting that concluded on April 30 noted, "The People's Constitution writing process and Army Integration should go hand in hand and the present Government should be continued." Similar divisions are evident among the leaders of the CPN-UML. Pradip Nepal, Politburo member of the party claimed, on May 11, that the Prime Minister had become "half Maoist" already. Further, senior CPN-UML leader KP Oli accused both Khanal and Prachanda of running the show in the country by hatching conspiracies.

Chaotic political conditions have contributed to a deteriorating security scenario. Regular reports of clashes among the cadres of the different political parties have been received. In a recent incident, a group of 60 UCPN-M cadres from the Chulachuli-based PLA First Division Camp of Ilam attacked local people in Kamal Jhoda, injuring at least 12, and 'capturing' five others in the night of May 16, 2011. The NC claimed that the people attacked and 'captured' were its party cadres. Moreover, normal life is repeatedly paralysed due to near-continuous shutdowns imposed by various political as well as armed outfits. While the whole of Terai is simmering, the capital, Kathmandu, is also in the line of fire. Significantly, on April 7, Police arrested five senior cadres of the Communist Party of Nepal (People's Revolutionary), an underground armed group, from Baluwatar in Kathmandu and Jagati in Bhaktapur District. Police disclosed that the arrested persons were holding a meeting and making plans to bomb several places in the Kathmandu Valley.

Nevertheless, there have been several positive developments in the recent past, as well. The sub-committee, headed by Prachanda, formed under the Constitutional Committee, on May 19, 2011, resolved eight disputes surrounding the draft Constitution, including its name. A meeting of the Sub-committee decided to name the statute the 'Constitution of Nepal'. There had been six disputes over the name. The Sub-committee also decided to forgo any mention of the Maoist combatants vis-a-vis the peace process in the Constitution. Similarly, the panel also decided to incorporate the clauses of fundamental rights within the Directive Principles of the State. Again on May 20, the Sub-committee agreed not to include the provision of compulsory military training to citizens above 18 years of age in the new Constitution. The sub-committee is yet to resolve another 21 disputes, including the system of governance, restructuring of the state, and the electoral system.

Further, on May 28, despite strong reservations from the Madhesh-based parties, the UCPN-M, NC and CPN-UML agreed, for the second time, to form a high-level State Restructuring Commission. The Commission, which will comprise of experts picked by the parties, is expected to recommend a viable model and number of federal provinces to be established in the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal. Later, on May 31, these parties, informally agreed on two other issues — ending dual security, by the State and the PLA, being provided to Maoist leaders 'within a week' and issuing a progress report or 'white paper' incorporating all contentious issues pertaining to the Constitution drafting process. The 'white paper' will be unveiled in the CA, CPN-UML leader Pradeep Gyawali disclosed. Significantly, on June 5, UCPN-M formally began the process of sending PLA combatants deployed for the security of Maoist leaders to the cantonments. Forty-eight PLA combatants were deployed for the security of different Maoist leaders under the leadership of 'division commander' Santu Darai.

Speaking of these developments on May 25, UCPN-M leader Dahal noted that there was a wrong impression among the people that the ongoing Constitution drafting and peace processes were not moving forward, but the fact was that more than 250 disputed issues had been reduced to a mere 21. The ability of the political parties to effectively monitor the peace process after UNMIN's departure and the PLA being brought under the jurisdiction of the Army Integration Special Committee have demonstrated notable achievements and progress in the peace process. Similarly, Prime Minister Jhala Nath Khanal, in his televised address to the nation on May 31, observed that the parties had already finalised several pending issues concerning the new Constitution and that 'something significant' could be expected in the peace process in a few weeks time. In another major development, it has been announced that Nepal will be declared a mine-free country by mid-June.

Despite these positives, uncertainty continues to loom large in this nascent Himalayan democracy. The big question is, what would happen if the Maoists came to lead the Government? The CPN-UML CC meeting on June 2, 2011, declared, "Our plan is that the national unity Government will be installed by June 29 and the UCPN-M will lead that Government."

Given the Maoists track record in Government, their restoration to power may, once again, prove to be a polarizing factor. The Ministry of Home Affairs, currently headed by Maoist Krishna Bahadur Mahara, has been working in full swing to withdraw criminal cases against Maoist cadre charged with various offences. Nepal remains troubled, unstable, and sometimes violent, but a fledgling democracy appears to be taking root, and no political party has any interest in jeopardizing this.

The writer is a research fellow at the Institute for Conflict Management, New Delhi.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

ANTI-GRAFT MOVEMENT BACK TO SQUARE ONE

ASHIYA PARVEEN

 

After the episode at Ramlila Ground, the Government and civil society representatives are back to where they were before Anna Hazare's fast. We could witness further hardening of positions on both sides of the divide during the coming days


When Anna Hazare spearheaded independent India's biggest ever anti-corruption movement, a big chunk of the country's population responded to his call and subscribed to his idea of cleansing public life of corruption. His call for a stronger Jan Lok Pal Bill too received a thumbs up from civil society. In fact, so strong was the popular support garnered by team Anna that the Government had to bend backwards to concede space to civil society in policy-making by constituting a Joint Committee to draft the Jan Lok Pal Bill.


Until here things were moving fine, apart from petty skirmishes between the representatives of the civil society and those of the Government that surfaced every now and then. These clashes were only to be expected as the Government was unused to such active intervention from civil society whose members are now literally dictating the terms for drafting the Jan Lok Pal Bill.


In the meantime, while the Government was trying to sort out its differences with the civil society representatives, another anti-corruption crusader surfaced only to add to the Government's headaches. This time it was yoga guru Baba Ramdev who was leading the civil society movement, if we can still call it so. He applied Anna Hazare's time-tested method of a fast-unto-death but then went several steps ahead by widening the scope of his demands that now included a complete makeover of the system of governance, administration, taxation, education, law and order apart from the core issue of black money. At this point, it seemed like India was at the brink of another freedom struggle movement.


What is worth mentioning here is that unlike Anna Hazare, Baba Ramdev's movement was comparatively well-organised with every feasible comfort for the expected gathering at Ramlila Ground — the Baba's Jantar Mantar. Equally interesting is the fact that unlike Anna Hazare, the Baba had shot an arrow in the air. He sure had grave concerns for the nation's well-being and as a result had put forward several demands that, if implemented, would cause a radical transition in the nature of governance but the Baba failed to provide the incumbent regime with a 'magic wand' to fulfill his demands overnight.


Moreover, eyebrows were raised as his affiliation to Right wing parties became public knowledge. But of course that doesn't in anyway justify the Government's brutal midnight assault of the Baba's peaceful dharna that left at least 71 innocent people injured and evoked severe criticism against the Congress-led UPA regime from across the board.


In fact, the Government crackdown has only served to cast aspersions on it's real intentions. Why were such undemocratic measures adopted to suppress the democratic right of the people of India? After all, the law of the land provides enough ground to contain anything unlawful or prevent an impending threat to the peace of the land. Besides, by acting wildly the Government itself has provided ground to speculations that it developes cold feet when dealing with rampant corruption in high places and quivers at the thought of disclosing the name of black money holders. Therefore, the brutal action has expectedly boomeranged on the Government resulting in the unnecessary comparison of the midnight crackdown with the Emergency and the Jallianwallah Bagh tragedy.

But the 'civil society' vs Government saga is far from over as differences regarding many issues, including whether or not to bring the Prime Minister, the judiciary and MPs within the purview of the Lok Pal Bill, persist with no solution in sight. The unbending attitude of both the civil society and the Government further makes matters worse. Amid this ongoing row between the Government and the civil society, one wonders what prompted the yoga guru to separately take up the cudgeles against the Government? He was clearly banking on his massive popularity but his supporters had little or no understanding of how a parliamentary democracy works and above all, how to reach that political equation where from the anti-incumbency bugle could be sounded.

Apart from the Baba episode, which has since resumed broadcast from Haridwar, what is more worrying is that both the Government and civil society representatives are back to square one. Anna Hazare is, again, up in arms and promised another fast-unto-death if the Jan Lok Pal Bill is not passed by August 15.


Why is it so difficult to induct civil society in policy-making and indeed, incorporate it as an integral element of the nation's governing structure? Or does the induction of civil society so encroach upon the undocumented executive comfort of elected representatives that they do not wish to sacrifice? Why else should there be objections to bringing the Prime Minister and bureaucrats, if not the judiciary, within the jurisdiction of the Lok Pal as put forth by the civil society representatives that is at the heart of the present stand-off between the two parties.

Yet, even against this backdrop I cannot justify Anna Hazare repeatedly threatening the Government with a fast-unto-death. Neither can I even begin to fathom the ridiculousness of Baba's plans to form his own private army, nationalist or otherwise. If anything, I would like to ask, where is the great parliamentary democracy of India headed?

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

 COMMENT

TOGETHER FOR NOW

 

The DMK's decision to stick with the UPA coalition - at least for now - is a recognition of political realities. Though last week's high-level committee meeting of the party came on the heels of the Delhi high court rejecting DMK MP Kanimozhi's bail plea in the 2G scam case, practical considerations took precedence over emotions. Reportedly, party chief M Karunanidhi was all for taking a hard stand - at least pulling out DMK ministers from the Union cabinet if not withdrawing support. But he was counselled against a situation where the Dravidian party is without power both in Tamil Nadu and at the Centre. Significantly, the 10 resolutions passed at the end of the meeting blamed the CBI for Kanimozhi's plight and pledged to fight the 2G taint legally.

Having been humiliated in the recent assembly polls, the UPA is the only connection to power the DMK is left with. A split in the Congress-DMK alliance is bound to severely hurt the latter. With AIADMK supremo and Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa already looking to dismantle the DMK's power structures - DMK-affiliated cable television networks have been in her line of fire - the Karunanidhi clan can ill afford to lose its presence at the Centre. Loss of power could also accentuate infighting within the DMK. An open power struggle at this point could devastate the party.


For the Congress too, maintaining the status quo is the most desirable option. The DMK has 18 MPs in Parliament. If it were to pull out, making up the numbers would not be easy. Also, with the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections next year, the Congress can't rely on the SP and the BSP - parties that could have given it the numbers at the Centre. In contrast, a weakened DMK would be much less exacting an ally and far more stable than temperamental independents and smaller parties.


However, there is a lesson for the Congress here. There is no denying that the DMK has been a burden for the Manmohan Singh government. The compulsion of coalition politics is the ostensible reason why the DMK could demand its pound of flesh in lieu of its support to the UPA. But as the 2G scam investigations unfold, the DMK has turned out to be a huge liability for the Congress, destabilising the UPA government itself. It's up to future coalition governments - the most likely outcome with a fractured electorate such as India's - to form themselves on the basis of durable rather than cynical alignments between political parties.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

 COMMENT

PROJECTING POWER

 

Notwithstanding all evidence to the contrary, air force chief Air Chief Marshal P V Naik seems to believe that if India is to play with the big kids, it needs new toys. Capping the country's strategic missile reach at 5,000 km as currently planned covers all the requisite strategic bases; namely, providing adequate deterrence with regard to China and Pakistan. There is a fundamental mismatch between developing ICBM capability to acquire ranges of 10,000 km and more - as Naik is reported to have asked for - and India's strategic posture which has always centred on defending sovereignty and territorial integrity. And the reason that Naik provides - that India requires military capabilities commensurate with its rising global profile in order to break out of its regional box - is woefully outdated, even dangerous.


If there is one thing that the global crisis has shown, it is that international clout is based now, more than ever, on economic strength. India's stock has risen since 2008 because of the relative ease with which it weathered the crisis. As for military capabilities, certainly, work is needed there to safeguard national interests. Acquiring the equipment and training required in asymmetrical conflict scenarios; modernising the air force; strengthening the navy, so crucial for projecting power in the Indian Ocean and safeguarding vital trade routes; these are all necessities. Allocating 6% of the defence budget - which could be better spent on these - to acquiring a strategic capability with purely notional value would not just be a waste of resources, it would blow back in our faces. Nowadays it's no longer about military power but smart power - which includes economic and 'soft' power aspects. We don't want to be like the erstwhile USSR, which invested so much in its military machine that it imploded.

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

TOP ARTICLE

HUSAIN'S ENDURING LEGACY FOR INDIA

DILEEP PADGAONKARDILEEP PADGAONKAR

To die in exile is to die twice over: the first time in the spirit, the second time in the flesh. The very inevitability of death in the flesh makes its aftermath predictable. Kith and kin and friends will mourn it in the sure knowledge that the pain of loss will subside in due course. Not so the death in the spirit. Exile stokes rage against those who hounded you from your homeland. The thought that you might never return to it, not even as a bird of passage, reduces you to such a state of helplessness that you begin to wallow in self-pity - the surest sign of terminal impotence.

It is to M F Husain's resounding credit that he was able to defy both deaths as long as he did. He lived until the age of 95 with all his faculties intact. Except for a few weeks in hospital before he passed away, he continued to crisscross continents, cherish the good life and, above all, draw and paint with unflagging zeal. Artists half his age suffer from a burnout. Not Husain. He sought solace in prayer and the purest joy in his art. To anyone who knew him even in passing, he resembled a lark in full flight: utterly free from the conceits and foibles of the world though, truth to tell, he did exploit his business acumen with a suave insouciance. Barefoot in a Ferrari!

Far more impressive, however, was Husain's refusal to make a to-do about his exile. Of course he missed
India as anyone who ran into him in Qatar or Dubai, Paris, London or New York would testify. But he bore no ill will against those who vandalised his works, burnt his effigies, defaced his portraits, hurled the most vicious insults at him and hauled him in courts across the country. After all this, to argue, as many have done, that his exile was self-imposed is to give his tormentors the cachet of wayward ruffians.

If he did not utter a word of reproach against them, it was because he never wavered in his abiding faith in the people of India - in their steadfast adherence to a syncretic culture steeped in the most subtle and sophisticated artistic, spiritual and philosophical traditions. Throughout his life he drew inspiration from every creative endeavour that shed light on the bewildering paradoxes of Indian life: the sublime cheek-by-jowl with the crass and the ludicrous. He looked at the idiosyncrasies with an amused and benevolent twinkle in the eye.

But make no mistake about it: his tormentors had hit him where it hurts most. More than any artist of his time, this pious Muslim nursed nothing if not reverence and unbound affection for the divinities of the Hindu pantheon. Few know, or care to know, that among his finest paintings are the ones based on themes and characters of the two great Hindu epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. Nothing would have caused him more anguish than to be told that in some of his drawings he had with malicious and deliberate intent 'hurt the religious sentiments of Hindus'. He chose to be discreet about it.

But India must refuse such discretion. The most enduring tribute that one can pay to Husain's memory is to put an end once and for all to this bogey of 'hurt sentiments'. It has allowed goons of every stripe to take the law into their hands to harass and intimidate people, curtail the freedom of writers and artists and impose on the citizenry a shallow and monochromatic view of Indian culture.

This is of course easier said than done for even parties who swear by secularism and progressive ideas have failed again and again to bring the goons to book. The regressive phenomenon first reared its head when a secular government at the Centre banned Salman Rushdie's Satanic Verses. It has gathered momentum ever since. The goons have routinely vandalised theatre and cinema halls, assaulted writers, sculptors and painters, ransacked media houses and not spared even such venerable centres of learning and research as the
Bhandarkar Institute in Pune. Governments of all shades who are supposed to uphold the law have failed to bring the casteist and communal elements to book.

Moral and cultural policing by bigoted caste and communal outfits is a grave danger for Indian democracy. The overt or covert support they receive from established political parties and certain 'cultural' outfits emboldens them. So does the lackadaisical attitude of avowedly secular parties. All this is done with an eye on vote banks. All parties engage in it despite growing evidence that India wants to put divisive, identity-based politics behind it.

Corruption in public life is now on the top of the agenda as it should be. But it tends to detract attention from other dangers: the growing chasm between the rich and the poor and the denial of basic democratic rights to large swathes of the population. Of equal significance is the need to acknowledge the depredations of the casteist and communal forces and the inaction of the secular parties.

Don't expect any positive response from
Ramdev or his supporters. His yoga asanas might cure cancer and, God willing, even the 'disease' of homosexuality. But he proposes no asanas for the mind and the heart to arrest the growth of a malignant tumour called bigotry. For that you must turn not to Ramdev's carnival of cant and chicanery but to the uplifting art of M F Husain.

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 THE TIMES OF INDIA

Q&A

'THERE'S MUCH FOR INDIA AND AUSTRALIA TO DO TOGETHER'

DEEP K DATTA-RAYDEEP K DATTA-RAY

Australian foreign minister Kevin Rudd attended the Asia-Europe foreign ministers meeting at Godollo in Hungary where he spoke exclusively with Deep K Datta-Ray:


Managing climate change clearly requires international diplomacy, but do you foresee cooperation between the developed and developing world?

Yes. We've done that in the past and will do so in the future. At Copenhagen we worked closely with emerging economies. As prime minister of Australia at the time, i was a negotiator in the Green Room. We agreed on keeping temperature increases within two degrees, on acting to make that happen and on creating a global monitoring, measuring and verification system. The fourth agreement was partly at Australia's instigation, to set up a finance fund for the most vulnerable developing states. We've already contributed our proportion of around $600 million. At Cancun we translated these ideas into a legal agreement of the UNFCCC. Durban is the next challenge, and we seek progress in these areas. Australia's also mindful about domestic responsibilities to put a price on the cost of carbon and legislation to that effect will be put to parliament soon.


India too is mindful of engendering carbon responsible growth, in part by introducing nuclear energy. Do you support our initiative?

We respect national decisions on each country's energy requirements. Therefore, we've made our decision to eschew nuclear energy because we've other options. We've vast potential in renewables, as well as carbon capture and storage. We recently decided to increase our mandatory renewable energy target to 20% of total energy generation. India's circumstances are different. We understand and respect India's sovereign decisions as we do every country's, including Germany's decision, which is of a different nature to India's. Each country's circumstances are different.

Does that mean Australia will support India's decision by including uranium supply in the FTA under negotiation?

Australia's policy is to export to NPT signatory states and to those with whom we've bilateral nuclear safeguards agreements. This is a long-standing Australian policy and will continue to be our policy into the future. We have that policy while being very mindful of India's excellent nuclear policy vis-a-vis non-proliferation. We're very mindful of India's record, but our policy's clear and has not changed.


On leadership, does Australia foresee India leading international politics and what would you like us to do? Would you like us to participate more actively militarily, for instance?

India is already exercising a global leadership role. We work closely with India in the G20 which is critical for the future of global economic stability. We work closely with India in the WTO on the next round for trade liberalisation, ensuring that it's beneficial for poor people globally. On the UN, we supported the G4 proposal to move forward with expansion of the Security Council. Our government has made it clear that we support India's membership of the council. There's also a big role for India and Australia in developing a greater sense of common security and common responsibilities in the Indian Ocean. India is becoming the head of the Indian Ocean Association and will be followed by Australia. This gives us the opportunity to address common strategic, economic and environmental challenges across this vast ocean. We're also about to embark on a common challenge in building new architecture across the wider region through the East Asian Summit, which India is part of. There's vast potential for us to together shape the future political, security and environmental architecture of the most dynamic region in the world for the 21st century. So there's much for India and Australia to do together.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

LOSING TO WIN

RAGHU KRISHNANRAGHU KRISHNAN

 

The 2011 French Open tennis championship will be remembered for the final between the then-five-time men's singles' title-holder Rafael Nadal and the winner of 16 Grand Slam tournaments, Roger Federer. It will be remembered for the 220-minute semifinal which Nadal in almost journalistic style previewed as "a match between the world's best tennis player (Novak Djokovic) and the greatest player in history (Federer)". However, the real champion of this year's French Open was neither Nadal, nor Federer, nor Djokovic, and not even the other semi-finalist Andy Murray, but the virtually unknown Michael Berrer.


It was while playing Berrer in the third round of the French Open that Murray twisted his ankle while rushing to return a drop shot. When the match resumed, Murray, with a heavily-strapped ankle, limped through to a three-set win by going for his shots so that he did not aggravate the injury by staying too long on the court. Until the injury, Berrer had been playing drop shots to exploit Murray's reluctance to leave the baseline. He stopped playing drop shots once the injured Murray returned to the court. Berrer later explained that he was reluctant to play drop shots against an injured opponent who could not move freely.


It is only over the last few seasons that the 30-year-old Berrer has graduated from the level of a journeyman, meaning someone not in the top 100 of the fiercely-contested ATP world men's singles rankings. After reaching the third round of the French Open, Berrer is ranked 79. That could have been much higher if he had defeated the injured Murray, ranked four. Weeks ago, Murray had tormented an injured Gilles Simon with drop shots and been booed off the court at Monte Carlo. Which could explain why the Guardian's tennis correspondent Kevin Mitchell described the 24-year-old Murray's French Open triumph as "a distinctly odd win over Berrer who took compassion for his fellow human beings to heights only Mother Teresa would understand."

In modern tennis, like in other sports, there is a clash not of civilisations but values, contemporary and classic. Contemporary sport is influenced by the oft-quoted view of American football coaches Red Sanders and Vince Lombardi: "Winning isn't everything; it's the only thing." The classic value is the one inscribed above the players' entrance to the Centre Court at Wimbledon, quoting Kipling: "If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster/ And treat those two imposters just the same;/ Yours is the
Earth and everything that's in it,/ And -which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!"


It's fashionable to assume today that the classic values belong to a bygone age where people could lose gracefully since there was no pressure on them to win. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Take Germany's Baron Gottfried von Cramm who will always be remembered for his refusal to accept the match-point awarded to him in the 1935 Davis Cup inter-zone final against the USA when he notified the umpire that the ball hit by his doubles partner for an apparent winner had first brushed his racket. The baron had already angered Germany's ruling Nazis by refusing to join their party and by protesting at the exclusion from the German Davis Cup team of the Jewish player Daniel Prenn. The baron was subsequently arrested on charges of homosexuality and imprisoned.


If Gottfried von Cramm had been around today, he would have been happy with the sportsmanship displayed by his compatriot Berrer at the Roland Garros stadium where he had twice won the men's singles title, 77 and 75 years ago. Von Cramm belongs to the same era as American sportswriter Grantland Rice whose poem Alumnus Football, penned in 1930, says, "For when the One Great Scorer comes to mark against your name,/ He writes not that you won or lost but how you played the Game." Michael Berrer has just shown us how the game should be played.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

OUR TAKE

SCENE IN THE RIGHT CONTEXT

There was always far more attention given to the trial of Chicago businessman Tahawwur Rana than the evidence behind it merited. Rana was at best a small subsidiary cog in a terrorist machine whose main location lay in the corridors of the headquarters of the Pakistan military. He argued he was a dupe of the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba scout David Headley. The evidence that he was anything more than that was scanty and uncorroborated. The jury's decision to acquit him of materially supporting the 26/11 Mumbai attacks wasn't that much of a surprise. In any case, he will spend most, if not all of the remainder of his life in jail for the other verdicts handed down by the jury.

The significance of the Rana trial lies in its context. That in turn is a product of several developments. One was 26/11 itself, the first terrorist act on Indian soil that has intricately involved the United States — in the form of its perpetrators, its victims, its criminal prosecution and its geopolitical fallout. The Headley and Rana trials were major threads in this weave. The other was the discovery of Osama bin Laden living in the heart of the Pakistani military establishment. Washington has not hidden its belief that some section of the Pakistani leadership must have known and abetted bin Laden's hiding. The overall result has been a major trough in the US-Pakistan relationship. While such dips have occurred before, distrust levels have never been so extreme. And bin Laden being what he was to Americans, it's possible this distrust, especially with the Pakistani military, may never be overcome. Headley and Rana have contributed by showing in their statements that at a minimum, former members of the Inter-Services Intelligence helped mastermind 26/11. As was said of bin Laden's hiding location, either the Pakistani military was complicit or incompetent.

None of this will necessarily cause a dramatic shift in the Pakistani State's addiction to the use of militancy to further its fight against India — and increasingly against enemies within its borders. But it will add, as has been the broad aim of Indian foreign policy, to the sense of Pakistan, even among its military,  and with the rest of the world that the costs of this terror gambit far outweigh any gains. It has had the additional advantage of severely undermining the US view of Pakistan, the country that still remains its largest external patron. New Delhi should avoid symbolic and ultimately self-defeating actions like extradition demands that will never be met. Rana's trial is unfulfilling if seen by itself. It is a success if seen in the larger backdrop of the isolation and discrediting of the Pakistani military. And, eventually, forcing Pakistan to confront what it has become as a country and a nation.

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

POST-IMPRESSIONISM

Do not always ask what you can do for the country. It's also wise to ask what the country can do for you. MF Husain may have inhabited India far more passionately than most hard-boiled patriots. But towards the end of his life, he had to suffer the ignominy of being cast away from India because of persecution from a small but raucous section of Indian society, and because the authorities who should have come to his defence preferred not to. So when the Government of India announced that it would 'facilitate' the return and burial of the artist's body in India if his family chose such an option, it was India covering its own shortcomings.

Husain could have stayed back in his beloved Mumbai. Part of the artist's or writer's parcel of occupational hazards is that he takes the 'mob' reacting to his works as a given. Not all creative endeavours need to ruffle feathers, but any good art should definitely not come with in-built 'anti-controversy' protection. Someone somewhere can get offended by something. And when it's a high profile artist such as Husain, decrying against him and his works outside the bounds of critical feedback is a sure shot platform to get one's Warholian '15 minutes of fame'. Which is where a modern, mature, democratic government is supposed to step in. Over the years, India's governments did not.

So when the Shiv Sena and the Sangh parivar started their programme of persecution and vandalism, the law only mumbled. And why blame the State alone? As a society, we, too, backed off worried about the 'communal din'. Even liberals, usually at the forefront of defending the 'freedom of expression', took a detour asking sotto voce why Husain was so bent on 'shocking' people in a country 'not attuned' to nude depictions of  deities. So in the end, it was India — whose expansive soul he captured in his depictions of horses, Ganeshas, Bollywood stars and female forms — that let MF Husain down.

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

BACK TO THE CLASS

DAVID WILLETT

Last year in Delhi, Prime Ministers David Cameron and Manmohan Singh had announced that both governments would help fund the UK India Education and Research Initiative (UKIERI). Since then, we have carried out wide consultation in Britain and India leading to the recent launch of this major collaboration.

UKIERI is already a success. In its first five years, UKIERI created some 500 new partnerships between schools, colleges, universities and research institutions in our countries. UKIERI has covered a huge range of areas that range from strengthening postgraduate research in areas as diverse as sustainable construction materials, renewable energy to mobile healthcare and internationalising vocational training. As of this week, UKIERI is inviting proposals for collaborations in key areas of building a new generation of education leaders, innovation, skills development and student mobility.

During my visits to India, I have been fascinated to learn about Union human resource development minister Kapil Sibal's ambition to build India's "human infrastructure". I was truly staggered when I first heard that to achieve a 30% gross enrolment rate in higher education, India would have to create 40 million new university places, and that the prime minister has set a target of 500 million people to be trained in vocational skills over the next 12 years. 

Britain has a clear interest in India's making this ambition a reality. As major investors in one another's economies and growing trade partners, strong sustained growth in India will have a positive effect on Britain's own growth. But our interest goes beyond GDP figures. Last year, Cameron set out his vision for a new relationship with India that goes "stronger, wider, deeper". I can think of no other area of our collaboration that has such unlimited potential to go stronger, wider, and deeper than education.

Last year, Sibal had written in a publication that "the innovative ideas and good practices of the UK have great significance for India as we enter a new era of reforms in the education sector". I, of course, agree with him. One innovating British institution is the Open University, which is actively developing plans to offer online teacher training in India. But I have also seen how much Britain can learn from India and its innovative approaches.

Which is one reason why I am determined that the new phase of UKIERI will include opportunities for more British students and researchers to spend time in India.

The British Council is working with several state governments on a train-the-trainers programme through 'Project English: English for Progress'. It aims to reach 750,000 teachers across 29 states over five years. In vocational skills, the UK-India Skills Forum brings together business skills providers from our two countries.

Science is also part of my ministerial responsibility. Here too, some of the best researchers from our two countries are working together in programmes funded by Britain's research councils and the Indian government in areas as diverse as food security, water, health and renewable energy. In March, we added cooperation in space to the list, with a new agreement between the UK Space Agency and the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro).

As well as the government-supported programmes, British educational institutions are making themselves accessible in India. It is possible to study for a British qualification in India itself through a growing number of partnerships between Indian and British institutions. Over 5,000 students are already studying this way in India. Indeed, the attractiveness of British institutions to overseas students is an important ingredient — and confirmation — of their quality. It is part of the reason that 19 of the top 100 universities in the world are British.

( David Willett is Britain's minister of state for universities and science )

The views expressed by the author are personal

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

INDIAN IDOL MAKER

FARRUKH DHONDY

I met MF Husain for the first time less than a year before he died and a few times subsequently. A play I had written was to be staged in the Edinburgh Festival in August and was being rehearsed but, as is not unusual in the world of theatre, had not till that time found the funds that would pay the cast a wage and accommodate and feed them for the month in Scotland. The box-office returns would come later. Through an appeal by a friend, young Bhanu Choudhrie of the C&C Alpha group stepped in and offered us sponsorship money to stage the play with absolute generosity and no strings attached. Before he signed the cheque, I insisted that he should see what he was sponsoring and, since he wasn't able to attend the previews to be staged in London, I invited him to watch a rehearsal.

We were rehearsing in a barn of a space in London's Roehampton University, a building that would be difficult to locate in the higgledy-piggledy complex of structures in the compound. I appointed to meet Bhanu at the gate at 4 pm and waited there on the hour. At precisely 4 pm, a chauffeur-driven Bentley came through the gates. I recognised Bhanu who lowered the window to acknowledge me and as I peered in to give the driver directions, I saw Husain with a walking stick between his legs and shaded glasses sitting next to him. There was no mistaking who it was. I was aware that Bhanu and MF were friends, but had no indication that he was bringing him to watch our play.

The cast were duly surprised and delighted. So with him in the front row and several of my friends and my youngest daughter in the audience, the nearly-dress-rehearsal commenced. I was watching MF as it progressed and saw him shut his eyes for several minutes — no doubt to concentrate fully on my prose as it escaped the actor's lips. When it was over he congratulated us on the play and Swagat, our nimble tabla-nawaz, went over and asked for his autograph, presenting him with a large sheet of paper on which Husain Saheb quickly drew a sketch that he signed. Swagat was beaming all over as he tucked this latest 'Husain' into his shirt.

I met the maestro in his studio in London soon after that and asked if he would be interviewed about the incidents that had driven him away from India into self-imposed exile in London and West Asia. He said he'd speak to me about it and on my first visit he did. He gave me his version of what he saw as a bigoted restriction of his artistic freedom. I took notes. He subsequently called me on the phone and asked me if I had done anything with the information he had given to me. I said I hadn't yet, as I wanted some points clarified.

He sounded relieved and invited me to see him again. I went and he hinted that he was in talks to secure his return to India and said I should refrain from reporting anything he had said. I promised and am keeping that promise now.

In the public domain is the fact that in a bizarre episode, MF was hounded for heresy by people who were characterised as 'Hindu fundamentalists'. This is a confusing phrase as 'fundamentalists' are people who revert to the authority of some fundamental book or rule. A Jew who agrees with Leviticus that adulteresses should be stoned to death can be called a fundo. Muslims who object to depictions of the human form in painting because Moses' prescriptions can be interpreted as having proscribed such expression, can be called fundos. A Christian fundamentalist — of whom there are legions in the United States — will justify an attack on gay people by quoting St Paul. The Hindus don't have a single book and certainly not one that sanctions attacks on painters for depicting one or the other goddess and using an imaginary or live model's form and features to do it. Those who hounded MF were barking up the wrong walking stick.

It has happened before. Raja Ravi Verma was castigated, mobbed and prosecuted for using his mistress as a model for paintings of Hindu goddesses and heroines from the epics. (Colours of Passion, Ketan Mehta's film about the episode, will be released soon and may shed some light on how and why a notion of heresy has invaded the beliefs of Hinduism.) Theology is by definition not a science, but a primitive branch of metaphysics and it can tell us why monotheistic religions that have embodied laws, prescriptions of sin and judgement can be subject to contradiction which is then castigated and punished as heresy. The doctrines of karma and dharma, the intervention of avatars of God, the philosophical idea of the Atman, Brahman and maya as the shackle of consciousness, do not admit to the simplicity of the notion of heresy. Hinduism, or at any rate Advait Vedanta, should be free from such an idea.

The demolition of the temple of Somnath or the sacking of a temple to Aphrodite may be seen as insults and affronts to the communities that built them and worshipped there but not in any sense is it heresy. Breaking icons is certainly insulting. But surely MF Husain was making them?

( Farrukh Dhondy is an author, screenplay writer and columnist based in London )

The views expressed by the author are personal

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

AIRLINE ON A FREEFALL

JITENDER BHARGAVA

 

Despite all checks and balances, how did the iconic Air India come to such ruin?

Even almost two years after Air India's performance began to be monitored by the high-level committee of secretaries, the airline continues to slip on all key performance parameters. Why is Air India, once the national pride, being allowed to degenerate with no one being held accountable for its regrettable and shameful decline over the years?

The government and the powers that be -even if they had not understood the seriousness of the situation when the airline was losing its market share month after month, registering huge losses year after year and not being in a position to pay employees their legitimate dues in time -can no longer feign ignorance. The criticality of Air India's finances is now in the open, now that it is being compelled to curtail its flight schedule because it has no money to pay the oil companies for the fuel needed to operate flights.

A pertinent question that begs an answer is: how much more deterioration should take place in Air India's performance before the government would like to sit up, take note and initiate corrective action to arrest the decline? The government's silence is making people question its intent, whether the government in its capacity as the owner is at all interested in ensuring the airline's survival. If it isn't -and one fully understands the political compulsions of not being able to say so -the government ought to muster courage and urgently spell out its plans rather than allow Air India to become a national disgrace.

It is both shocking and unfortunate that the ministry of civil aviation, the board of directors and the chairman continue to oversee and administer the company as if the current crisis is of an ordinary kind and that it will blow over with time without their having to do anything. It should be evident to one and all, howsoever indifferent and myopic, that Air India's condition today is akin to a patient being in an intensive care unit requiring urgent treatment. Rather than allow valuable time to pass and let the condition worsen further, the government needs to ask whether the present management team, headed by Arvind Jadhav, is good enough to salvage Air India?
Jadhav has now been at the helm for over two years, a relatively good time to judge one's capabilities based on what has been achieved thus far. Why hasn't this evaluation been undertaken when our system of annual appraisal exists? If it has and the government has requisite faith in Jadhav's capabilities to turn around the airline, it ought to share this confidence with the public because all trends -diminishing market share, mounting losses, falling public perception, inability to deliver a quality product that can match competition -point differently. Also, how much time should an individual be given before a person is judged as `no good', certainly not till the expiry of one's term? The same principle must be applied to the board of directors. Are the members good enough to provide effective leadership and what has been their contribution, if any?

Air India was once India's foremost global brand. Today, it has ceased to be one.
How did this humongous decline take place, given the numerous checks and balances: the parliamentary committee attached to civil aviation ministry, standing committee of Parliament, the committee on transport, the committee on PSUs all meeting regularly and reviewing performance? Could not anyone among the over 200 parliamentarians on these committees sense that something was seriously amiss and that corrective measures were called for?

Likewise, the ministers holding the civil aviation portfolio and the secretary of the ministry have been periodically reviewing the airline's performance. What purpose have these reviews served? Additionally, you have the Comptroller and Auditor General and the Central Vigilance Commission to see if the rules are being followed and that there are no instances of wrong doings. With so many watch dog institutions in place and Air India's performance under the so-called scanner, how has mismanagement and corruptioninspired mismanagement almost ruined this iconic airline?

It speaks volumes of the ineffectiveness of our system that we require to review the practice of parliamentary committees visiting PSUs to monitor performance. Air India's riches-to-rags story can be an interesting case study both for analysing failure and devising new, effective systems.

Jitendra Bhargava is a former executive director, Air India The views expressed by the author are personal

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

DOUBLES HOPES

 

When an event becomes an Olympics medal hope, there's always professional excitement, a readjustment of strategy. As tennis mixed doubles returns to London 2012, almost a century after it was left out of the Games, the feeling is likely to get heaped on in India, which hasn't been a top contender at the biggest sporting arena but still considers itself rather tennis-lucky. Especially when it comes to doubles and mixed doubles. While the mixed doubles berth has opened up the playing field for India and one more peg to hang its medal dreams, the big question remains — if one half of the court is occupied by the country's top woman player, Sania Mirza, who will occupy the other half?

There are probables — Leander Paes, Mahesh Bhupathi, Rohan Bopanna, Somdev Devvarman — but no definite answer. There's a reason for that uncertainty. Unlike swimmers, who prepare to peak in time for the quadrennial, tennis players don't look to the Games as the apogee of their sporting achievement. For that, they have the Slams. Yet, India could do well to think of and start a discussion on partners for the grass courts of Wimbledon where the matches will be played. For, the Games is no longer sidestepped by the top tennis players. In fact, this is one place where the game's biggest stars come out to play doubles as well. Last year, men's doubles, for instance, was won by Roger Federer and Stanislas Wawrinka.

The IOC's periodic reordering of the Games programme — track cycling competition omnium along with mixed doubles in 2012, and golf and rugby sevens in Rio 2016 — is meant to popularise the sports as well as to increase gender equality and youth appeal at the Games. Mixed doubles certainly lends itself to that philosophy, as men

and women compete together on the same field. For a medal there, India can do with some more earnest planning.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

THE STATE OF ANGER

 

We should never forget, even as we criticise the absurdities and dangerous anti-political sentiment that underlie the fasts and agitations of Anna Hazare and yoga guru Ramdev, that there is indeed deep-seated and broad-based anger among India's citizens about how their daily lives require constant compromises with corrupt aspects of India's state. In The Sunday

Express, a cross-section of people at Ramdev's Ramlila ground protest were asked when they last encountered corruption, and what their responses were. The answers were instructive: people had to pay to get their pensions cleared, for electricity and gas connections, to try and get their children work, to traffic policemen. It becomes clear that the anger that drew so many to Ramdev's protest was a product of the dysfunctional way the Indian state interacts with its citizens.

The voices reflect a mounting dissatisfaction amongst people with a state they have to supplicate in order to get what they feel is their due; they expect the government to function to support them in securing the citizens' contract with the state. This is an anger that the government, indeed the entire political and policy-making class, needs to address. There will, however, be no magic bullet of the sort that Teams Anna and Baba demand. And deep down, the people on the street know that; they expect not that it will end overnight through the passage of some draconian law — they want to see their government working hard to reform the institutional structure that enables and supports corruption.

We need more big ideas on how that institutional structure can be reformed. Some states have provided for a "right to service delivery" to be enacted, and the results of those should be carefully watched. Chief Economic Advisor Kaushik Basu has suggested the giving of bribes be decriminalised so that more prosecution can take place. It's only after people begin to sense, in their daily lives, a reduction of the pressure to bribe and plead, that the anger that's currently directed at the state will recede.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

MUMBAI DRIFT

 

The price of liberty is eternal vigilance, because if we don't keep our eyes open, the Hydra's surviving heads will reappear, long after the monster is believed to have been slain. Mumbai's streets were once an open battleground for gang wars in daylight. Police action in the 1990s systematically decimated the gangs, and the dons of the nether world moved base to foreign shores. Yet, despite its formidable stature as India's original global city, Mumbai, sadly, remained casually and callously governed. Of late, there were signs of the gangs returning to the streets, with shootings such as the Pakmodia Street incident in which the driver of

Dawood Ibrahim's brother, Iqbal Kaskar, was killed. The manner and circumstances of the murder of veteran journalist Jyotirmoy Dey on Saturday appeared to negate every doubt. It appears to be a very professional killing; the rain and the well-guarded neighbourhood only showed the determination of his killers and their indifference to the danger to themselves.

The police say they suspect the oil mafia, especially since Dey's recent reports dealt extensively with oil smuggling and pilferage. Dey's murder is a reminder of the toll being taken by lax, woolly-headed and weak governance. Prithviraj Chavan's arrival in Mumbai as chief minister had generated a lot of hope; a hope since belied by the visible drift in the administration and law and order. Now, Chavan has a gigantic, old job at hand if he does intend to begin afresh. It begins with arresting this drift, and it's the sort of job that never really ends. The underworld that has re-emerged is paradigmatically different from the old one. These are largely splinter groups, which don't depend on established networks with safe havens and masterminds abroad. Constantly morphing, they wield sophisticated weapons, pursue new interests in a globalised economy (such as Mumbai's real estate boom) and don't adhere to the old mafia code of not crossing certain boundaries.

The police force itself has unlearnt its earlier alertness — when information and action would be smooth and well-coordinated. While a civilian-ruled democracy should be happy to see the end of the police encounter, the information network built by the Mumbai police's erstwhile "encounter specialists" is in tatters. Dey's murder is not just an attack on the freedom of the press; it's a signal to the

Maharashtra government to buckle down and get busy with law and order. Otherwise, Mumbai's streets may become increasingly dangerous once again, with thugs who don't fear for their own lives.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

IN A POST-CRISIS WORLD

MK VENU

 

The brahmins of the global economic order are not known to go around the developing world desperately canvassing support to get elected as head of multilateral institutions like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) or World Bank. For the Western powers were pre-ordained to run these institutions. Traditionally, it was taken for granted that a European candidate would head the IMF and the World Bank president would be an American. This was a neat power arrangement no one ever questioned in the past. So it was somewhat odd to see French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde sweating it out in Delhi earlier this week as she lobbied hard with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee for her candidature for the IMF top post in the wake of the unceremonious exit of Dominique Strauss-Kahn. Lagarde said she was determined to press for her candidature with other BRIC nations like China and Brazil too. One thing now seems clear — the West has stopped taking their past privileges for granted. Surely, that is a sign of welcome change.

Indeed, it was fascinating to see how Lagarde was pitching her candidature in the backdrop of several other names being thrown up from the developing world. BRIC nations had formally declared it was time the IMF was led by someone from the developing world. Competent candidates from Singapore, Indonesia, South Africa and Mexico are being mentioned as alternatives. However, Lagarde cleverly projected herself not as a candidate from the powerful European Union but as one who understands the need to make the "minorities feel included" in any global multilateral institutional process. "I understand the needs of the minorities because as a woman I have felt like a minority all my life," she said in New Delhi. It was a clever way of distancing herself from the patriarchal power systems in the Western world and instead locating oneself as being on the same side as the developing world! In various interviews she made the right noises about working towards giving greater power representation to the emerging world if she became the IMF managing director. Her logic too was impeccable: "Today the United States, Europe and Japan form the bulk of the world output. In another few decades this would be reversed. So it will naturally reflect in the power-sharing arrangement in multilateral institutions."

It is most likely that Lagarde will get elected as the head of the IMF with the support of the US. The vote share of the US and the EU put together is a little over 50 per cent within the IMF. All she needs is the support of US President Barack Obama, which she might eventually get. Besides, the developing world has not moved fast enough to put up a consensus candidate behind whom everyone could rally. Pranab Mukherjee, while making no specific commitment to Lagarde, conceded that there was no consensus yet on a candidate from the non-OECD world. Prime Minister Singh too has made a somewhat non-committal statement that the choice should be merit-based.

In a sense, it is still possible for a candidate from the developing world to seriously challenge Lagarde. Among the Asian prospects are Singapore's Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Tharman M. Shanmugaratnam and the former finance minister of Indonesia, Sri Mulyani Indravati. Reasonably good candidates have also been thrown up from countries like Mexico and South Africa. In fact, Mexican central bank chief Agustin Carstens arrived in India on Friday for his campaign.

Even if the vote share in the IMF system is currently stacked against the developing world, it may be worth pushing the envelope by putting up a credible candidate from the developing world and see if the US can be persuaded to make a break from the past tradition of supporting only a European candidate for the top job. If nothing else, the developing world must test Obama's stated position that the multilateral institutions must decentralise power much more to reflect the new realities of the rapidly changing world economic order.

As per the IMF's own measurement of output on a purchase power parity (PPP) basis, the share of the US, Japan, Germany, France, the United Kingdom and Italy is just about 40 per cent of world GDP. In fact, China, India and other emerging economies have a share of over 50 per cent of GDP on a PPP basis. It is this reality which makes the French finance minister canvass for support so vigorously.

However, this reality is not finding expression within the IMF's functioning today because the institution remains largely Euro-Atlantic in nature. After the 2008 global economic crisis, the pressure has mounted on the US and Europe to see the writing on the wall.

In the last two years, India and other BRIC nations have, for the first time, formally made their views clear to the IMF board that the organisation cannot have two standards — one for the West and another for the rest. India and China have subtly protested about the way the world governments, who contribute to the IMF kitty, are having to bail out several perennially ailing economies in Europe on very easy terms. Asians still have bitter memories of the manner in which the IMF had drastically reduced the size of bank balance sheets and indeed shrunk the Asian economies as a remedial measure after the severe financial crisis in East Asia in 1997. Today, the IMF follows exactly the opposite policy in Europe and America. Last week, Mark Mobius, the well-regarded financial expert and investor on Wall Street, asserted that bank balance sheets in the Western world are bigger and more bloated with derivative products today than they were just before the 2008 crisis.

Mobius said the Western world might be staring at another big financial crisis in the near future. European banks still have hidden toxic assets worth hundreds of billion of dollars. Very soon, the IMF may have to be formally rechristened European Monetary Fund! It will require vision of a rarer kind to transform the IMF into a truly global financial institution reflecting the new economic paradigm of this century.

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

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

PHISHING GROUND

HARSH V. PANT

 

A new front is opening up between China and the US in their struggle for global supremacy. Cyber attacks from China seem to be increasing, as exemplified by Google's recent accusations that it has uncovered a campaign run from inside China to secretly monitor the Gmail accounts of top-ranking US government officials and military personnel, South Korean officers and other users. The hackers allegedly used a phishing campaign to trick users into revealing their passwords. Though the Chinese government has denied the accusations as "a fabrication out of thin air", the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, has described Google's claims as "very serious".

Google claimed that the attacks appeared to originate from Jinan — it is home to a military vocational school, the computers of which were linked to a more sophisticated assault on Google's systems a few months ago. This is the most serious claim of China-based Internet intrusion since a previous incident involving the company last year when it decided to redirect users in mainland China to its search engine based in Hong Kong. The decision put the Internet search giant, which has a huge financial stake in China, on a collision course with Beijing. Google and the Chinese government have clashed repeatedly over the past year. China blocked one of Google's sites, YouTube, in March last year in an apparent attempt to stop people in China from viewing videos of anti-government protests by Tibetans and Uighurs. The security of commercial networks became a major issue as Google accused China of stealing intellectual property online and compromising the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists.

The latest dispute is happening at a time of heightened sensitivity about cyber disputes and even warfare. Sony suffered an attack from hackers; Lockheed Martin faced cyber attacks that are now being investigated by the FBI; and last month Sony Corporation had to briefly close down its PlayStation network after an intrusion by yet-to-be-identified hackers that put at risk the credit card information of about 70 million users.

Meanwhile, facing criticism from the US, China decided to go on an offensive. In an attempt to divert attention from allegations of online attacks on Western targets originating in China, the Chinese military accused Washington of launching a global "Internet war" to bring down Arab and other governments. In line with this, the Chinese military planners have asked their government to make preparations to fight this "Internet war" which is a product of the new information age. In an article, Chinese military scholars have suggested that China needs to "express to the world its principled stance of maintaining an 'Internet border' and protecting its 'Internet sovereignty', unite all advanced forces to dive into the raging torrent of the age of peaceful use of the Internet, and return to the Internet world a healthy, orderly environment."

Facing an onslaught of cyber attacks, the US department of defence has made it clear that cyber attacks by any foreign nation may be considered an "act of war". And the UK's latest national security strategy lists cyber attacks as one of the most significant security threats facing the nation. In view of these developments, some are advocating the negotiation of an international "non-proliferation" treaty to counter a new cyber arms race between nations.

China is investing in new technologies for cyber and space warfare, primarily to counter America's traditional advantages. Beijing has made its intention clear of focusing on the development of asymmetric capabilities that include electronic warfare, shaping the battle space with information dominance and using new technology not available to great powers that modernised earlier. China has been probing the computer networks of its adversaries for some time now, investing heavily in electronic counter measures and envisaging concepts like computer network attack, computer network defence and computer network exploitation. Its industrial and defence espionage is aimed at obtaining advanced technology for economic and military modernisation. China has been giving cyber warfare serious thought and has incorporated it into its military planning and strategy by encouraging civilian computer crackers to penetrate the computer networks of key political and military leaders in countries ranging from the US, Japan and Taiwan, to South Korea and India.

The issue of how governments should respond to or help prevent cyber attacks against private enterprises as well as state assets is one of the most difficult security issues facing policy-makers today. India is no stranger to cyber warfare. China's penetration into the Indian intelligence apparatus has been growing. The National Informatics Centre, which governs and hosts all government websites, as well as computers of the Prime Minister's Office, several Indian embassies, the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre and the Dalai Lama's office were infected by GhostNet, a China-based cyber espionage network. Though this came to light in early 2009, it had been going on for the past several years. The Indian military lacks the expertise and resources to defend the country adequately from concerted cyber attacks even as cyber criminals, terrorists and other nations are getting better at penetrating state and private networks, whether to spy, to steal data or damage critical infrastructure. It is time.

The writer teaches at King's College, London express@expressindia.com

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

GETTING ON WITH THE ZIGZAG PATH

S. AMER LATIF

 

Reaffirming their nations' shared values and increasing convergence of interests, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Barack Obama resolved today in New Delhi to expand and strengthen the India-US global strategic partnership.

—Joint Statement,

November 8, 2010

President Obama's trip to India in November 2010 marked the culmination of a whirlwind of activity in US-India relations over the past half-decade. Beginning in 2005, the two countries initiated a deal on civil nuclear cooperation, signed a 10-year defence framework agreement, launched the ministerial level Strategic Dialogue, and came into alignment on India's long-standing request for US support for its bid to have a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. A growing economic and trade relationship, as well as expanding military ties where India now conducts more exercises with the US than any other country, have complemented these landmark achievements.

While President Obama's visit was well received in India, it may also represent the high point for bilateral relations in the near term. The reality is that over the past six months the bilateral relationship has shifted from big initiatives and centrestage to more routine interactions and schedule interruptions. While several summit follow-up meetings have taken place, including visits to India by outgoing Commerce Secretary Gary Locke and, most recently, Homeland Secretary Janet Napolitano, other meetings and policy activities have been pushed back due to the exigencies of both sides. The one initiative that could have provided the next big boost in the relationship — India's tender for 126 new jet fighters — did not. India chose two European entrants as the finalists in this $10-12 billion competition, a deep disappointment to both the US government and defence industry. This disappointment, however, may have been mitigated a bit this week with reports that the Cabinet Committee on Security approved the purchase of 10 Boeing C-17 cargo aircraft worth $4.1 billion.

Arguably more troubling is that the US and Indian private sectors, key drivers in building this relationship, have also expressed frustration about India's economic prospects with widespread corruption, the lack of parliamentary action on key pieces of legislation and concern about the shrinking opportunities for foreign direct investment which are threatening to set back India's impressive economic gains.

Meanwhile, in Washington, the Obama administration is preoccupied with crises in the Middle East and North Africa, ongoing military engagements in Afghanistan and Iraq, contentious budget battles, and is now beginning to gear up for the presidential election in 2012. This full plate of issues is tinged with frustration within official Washington about India's reluctance to make progress on a range of issues from agricultural cooperation to defence deals. For some, India's abstention on the Libya vote in the UN Security Council compounds the frustration. In the words of one US official, the US is focusing on "strategic continuity" for the coming year, which could be interpreted by some as placing the relationship on autopilot.

With the attention of policy-makers in both Washington and New Delhi trained elsewhere, the silver lining is that there are already a robust number of initiatives outlined in the Obama-Singh Joint Statement for both sides work on. The two countries now have some 30 formal dialogues or working groups established, covering every aspect of possible cooperation. "Implementation" should therefore replace the next "Big Idea" as the new watchword in the US-India relationship, along with ensuring that, as outgoing US Ambassador to India Timothy Roemer recently put it, "this needs to be a two-way street." In this regard, there are several steps both sides can take now.

First, the US and India should focus on a limited number of areas that offer a reasonable chance of success in the near term, and do not require parliamentary battles or the expenditure of major political capital to achieve. Examples could include establishing a roadmap for India's permanent seat in the UN Security Council, focusing on multilateral efforts such as the recently established US-India-Japan trilateral dialogue, and encouraging India to be more involved in Asian security and economic architecture, especially with the East Asia Summit coming up later this year.

Second, the US and India should intensify their consultation about regional issues where both sides have common interests. The US-India dialogue on Asia is a welcome first step in exchanging views and coordinating policy on Asia, to include exchanging perspectives on the implications of China's rise for the US and India. A bilateral dialogue on the Middle East is now needed given common concerns about the current turmoil and shared strategic interests of energy, democratic governance and stability. The US and India should also intensify their dialogue on Afghanistan by establishing a bilateral mechanism to consult frequently as July 2011 approaches and the US begins troop withdrawals. India will want to ensure its voice is heard in Washington as the US begins to transition security responsibilities to the Afghan government.

Third, the Indian government needs to engage in some introspection about the recent, dramatic drop in FDI (31 per cent in 2010) and growing investor concerns about doing business in India. As Roemer said in a recent Wall Street Journal interview: "The international business community that was pouring money and investment potential into India last year and the year before is now pausing and saying: 'Where is India heading in terms of investment opportunities, the corruption challenge and inflation?'" India needs to make US business feel that the Indian market is easy, predictable, transparent and, ultimately, profitable. In this regard, it would be helpful to re-energise Bilateral Investment Treaty discussions, which would provide investment protections to strengthen the ability of our companies to cooperate more effectively in both markets.

Fourth, both sides should use next month's US-India Strategic Dialogue, led on the American side by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, as an opportunity to have a frank discussion about each side's expectations, and limitations for the relationship. Both sides need to acknowledge the recent distractions and frustrations in both capitals and articulate their future visions for the relationship.

Implementing these steps would provide a clear signal the relationship is moving forward, perhaps not as dramatically as the last few years, but one rooted in strengthening routine cooperation and consultation.

As both sides build the strategic partnership in the months ahead, comments by two experienced hands in US-India relations should be kept in mind. The first is from former Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran who said on a recent visit to Washington that while the pillars of our relationship are already in place, its direction is more likely to "zig-zag" than develop linearly.

The second is from US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Affairs Robert Blake: "The US-India story still contains untapped potential and unrealised gains... But we must remember that this is a long-term project."

Excellent advice from both.

Inderfurth is at the Center for Strategic and International

Studies in DC, and served as US assistant secretary of state for South Asia from 1997-2001. Latif is a visiting fellow at CSIS and served in the US defence department from 2007-2011. The views reflect only those of the authors

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

FOOD THAT KILLS YOU

 

The deaths of 31 people in Europe from a little-known strain of E. coli have raised alarms worldwide, but we shouldn't be surprised. Our food often betrays us.

Just a few days ago, a 2-year-old girl in Virginia died in a hospital after suffering bloody diarrhoea linked to another strain of E. coli. Every year in the US, 325,000 people are hospitalised because of food-borne illnesses and 5,000 die. Food kills one person every two hours.

Yet while the terrorist attacks of 2001 led us to transform the way we approach national security, the deaths of almost twice as many people annually have still not generated basic food-safety initiatives. We have an industrial farming system that is a marvel for producing cheap food, but its lobbyists block initiatives to make food safer.

Perhaps the most disgraceful aspect of our agricultural system — I say this as an Oregon farmboy who once raised sheep, cattle and hogs — is the way antibiotics are recklessly stuffed into healthy animals to make them grow faster. Eighty per cent of antibiotics in the US go to livestock, not humans. And 90 per cent of the livestock antibiotics are administered in their food or water, typically to healthy animals to keep them from getting sick when they are confined in squalid and crowded conditions.

This cavalier use of low-level antibiotics creates a perfect breeding ground for antibiotic-resistant pathogens. The upshot is that ailments can become pretty much untreatable. Antibiotic resistance has multiple causes that are difficult to unravel. Doctors overprescribe them. Patients misuse them. But looking at numbers, by far the biggest element of overuse is agriculture.

Vegetarians may think that they're immune, but they're not. E. coli originates in animals but can spill into water used to irrigate vegetables, contaminating them. The European E. coli outbreak apparently arose from bean sprouts grown on an organic farm in Germany. One of the most common antibiotic-resistant pathogens is MRSA, which now kills more Americans annually than AIDS and adds hugely to America's medical costs. MRSA has many variants, and one of the more benign forms now is widespread in hog barns and among people who deal with hogs.

The European outbreak should shake people up. "It points to the whole broken system," notes Robert Martin of the Pew Environment Group. We need more comprehensive inspections in the food system, more testing for additional strains of E. coli, and more public education (always wash your hands after touching raw meat, and don't use the same cutting board for meat and vegetables).

A great place to start reforms would be by banning the feeding of antibiotics to healthy livestock.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

LIVING ON THE CLOUD

NANDAGOPAL RAJAN

 

Last Monday was probably the first day of the post-PC era. No, the PC is not dead, at least not yet, but last week it lost its status as the sun of the computer world, around which other devices orbit for their existence. Last week, the personal computer, once the power centre of all things digital, came under a cloud, quite literally.

Cloud computing is nothing new. In fact, cloud services have been growing at a rapid rate over the past few years. But there was always a dichotomy between the PC and the cloud; the latter acted as a sort of force multiplier for whatever you were doing on the former. Last Monday changed all that, with the cloud breaking free from the shackles of the PC. And like most game-changing technology shifts in the past decade, this one, iCloud, also came from Apple.

"iCloud keeps your important information and content up to date across all your devices. All of this happens automatically and wirelessly, and because it's integrated into our apps you don't even need to think about it — it all just works," Apple CEO Steve Jobs said in his keynote address. He also went on to call the cloud the truth, pretty much summing up what he thought of all this.

In the iCloud world, you no longer have to run to a PC to load files into your devices, at least not on your handheld Apple devices, and there are about 200 million of them around at last count. Users can now download music and apps directly to their iCloud account and sync it to multiple devices. When Apple's new iOS5 takes over iPhones and iPads, all this will happen in the background, users would just don't have to bother. And, yes, the PC has no role in this new scheme of things.

And no, this is not just an Apple story. Microsoft's Skydrive is expected to be the iCloud of Nokia-land when Windows start to run on the new generation of smartphones from the Finnish mobile giant. Microsoft is also doing its bit to choke the conventional PC environment, if the sneak preview of its latest operating system is anything to go by. Windows 8, as it is called now, is also aiming for a mouse free-world with an interface that is more suited for touch and tablets.

Elsewhere, Google will start shipping its Chromebook from June 15. Though it looks like any other laptop or netbook, Google's latest offering will have its soul in the cloud. "Chromebooks are built and optimised for the web, where you already spend most of your computing time. So you get a faster, simpler and more secure experience without all the headaches of ordinary computers," says the Chromebook website, subtly driving another nail into the PC's coffin. The Google netbook will also kill the concept of the C drive. It will take the device just 18 seconds to go online, which means there won't be any time to waste on the computer's own hard drive. And since most of the work will be on the cloud and restricted to Google apps, the first set of Chromebooks from Acer and Samsung are not expected to waste resources building storage space on the device.

That the PC's future does not look all that bright became obvious when technology research company Gartner on Wednesday lowered its forecast for worldwide personal computer growth. "Mini-notebook shipments have noticeably contracted over the last several quarters, and this has substantially reduced overall mobile PC unit growth," explained Gartner research director Ranjit Atwal, acknowledging the impact of "media tablets, such as the iPad."

Interestingly, recent studies have shown that many of the people buying the so-called post-PC devices have never owned a PC before. It helps that computer literacy — the ability to differentiate your C drive from your E drive and the wisdom of knowing when to restart your computer — is no longer a prerequisite for operating tablets like the iPad. The new generation of picture book interfaces is computing for dummies at its very best.

But it is too early to write off the PC, at least not as long as it remains the preferred mode of computing for the corporate sector. We are not that close to a day when companies will give you tablets to work from office, or even your home — not even with the BlackBerry Playbook around. You will still have to return to the trusted old PC for hardcore data crunching and other resource intensive jobs — there is no way anyone is going to write a novel using an iPad.

However, there is no doubt that the PC, most definitely its interface, will evolve for the post-PC environment. We will see the new desktops and laptops coming with the added advantage of touch and running apps popular on other devices. Who knows, the PC might just evolve into something better, something more adapted to living with the cloud.

nandagopal.rajan@expressindia.com

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

UNLIKE SHAHZAD, I WAS LUCKY — THE ISI JUST TORTURED ME

 

We have buried another journalist. Syed Saleem Shahzad disappeared a few days after writing an article alleging that al-Qaeda elements had penetrated Pakistan's navy and that a military crackdown on them had precipitated the May 22 terrorist attack on a Karachi naval base. I couldn't sleep the night that Saleem's death was confirmed. The fact that he was tortured sent me back to a chilly night last September, when I was abducted by government agents. During Saleem's funeral service, a thought kept haunting me: "It could have been me." Mourning journalists lined up after the service to console me, saying I was lucky to get a lease on life that Saleem was denied. But luck is a relative term.

When my attackers came, impersonating policemen arresting me on a fabricated charge of murder, I felt helpless. My mouth muzzled and hands cuffed, I couldn't inform anybody of my whereabouts, not even the friends I'd dropped off just 15 minutes before. Despite the many threats I'd received, I never expected this to happen to me.

The ISI always contacted me, afterwards. I was first advised not to write too much about them and later sent messages laced with subtle threats. But I never imagined action was imminent.

On September 4, I was driven to an abandoned house instead of a police station, where I was stripped naked and tortured with a whip and a wooden rod. While a man flogged me, I asked what crime had brought me this punishment. Another man told me: "Your reporting has upset the government." It was not a crime, and therefore I did not apologise. Instead, I kept praying,

"Oh God, why am I being punished?" The answer came from the ringleader: "If you can't avoid rape, enjoy it."

They tortured me for 25 minutes, shaved my head, eyebrows and moustache and then filmed and photographed my naked body. I was dumped nearly 100 miles outside Islamabad with a warning not to speak up or face the consequences.

The following months were dreadful. I suffered from a sleep disorder. I would wake up fearing that someone was beating my back. I wouldn't go jogging, afraid that somebody would pick me up again and I'd never return. Self-imposed house arrest is the life I live today; I don't go outside unless I have serious business.

When Saleem disappeared, I wondered if he had been thinking about his children, as I had. He had left Karachi, his hometown, after receiving death threats, and settled with his wife and three children in Islamabad. From there, he often went on reporting trips to the tribal areas along the Afghan border. Tahir Ali, a mutual friend, would ask him: "Don't you feel scared in the tribal areas?" Saleem would smile and say: "Death could come even in Islamabad." His words were chilling, and prescient.

Shahzad is the fifth journalist to die in the first five months of 2011. Journalists are shot like stray dogs in Pakistan — easily killed because their assassins sit at the pinnacle of power. Today, impunity reigns. Journalists have shown resilience, but it is hard to persevere when the state itself becomes complicit in the crime. Now those speaking up for Saleem are doing so at a price: they are being intimidated and harassed.

News organisations throughout the world must join hands in seeking justice for Saleem and ending the intelligence agencies' culture of impunity. An award for investigative journalists should be created in his honour, as was done for Daniel Pearl.

No stronger message could be delivered to his killers than making him immortal.

The writer is an investigative reporter at 'The News', Karachi

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

STILL HEADLESS AT ONGC

It is India's fourth-most valuable company, and has been headless for nearly 5 months. Given the way the appointment is being tossed around, it could be some time before ONGC gets a full-time chief. Since RS Sharma was to retire on January 31, interviews were held in October—of the 13 persons interviewed, two were shortlisted, ONGC's exploration director S Vasudeva was first on the list and Pawan Hans chairman RK Tyagi was second. Though the rules are clear that no complaints are to be entertained after the interviews are held ("or forever hold your piece"!), PJ Thomas allowed this when he was CVC. The major complaints were examined by the oil ministry's vigilance officer as well as ONGC's, and were dismissed—in one case, the MP who was supposed to have sent the complaint said it was a forgery. Thomas, however, was insistent, and the matter was re-examined.

This too cleared Vasudeva and, under the new CVC appointed after Thomas was asked to put in his papers, the usual one-line clearance was issued. But, as the Indian Express reported Thursday, the personnel department told the CVC, "the Competent Authority has directed that details of the complaints against Vasudeva as well as comments on the representation of Jainarayan Prasad Nishad MP may be furnished". If it wasn't so serious, you'd want to laugh. It also says volumes for the system that allows Vasudeva to continue as ONGC's director in charge of exploration—after all, if he's not considered clean enough to be ONGC's chief, he can't be clean enough to be its exploration director either.

How seriously the PM views such delays can be seen from the fact that, while reviewing the performance of the highways sector last week, he pulled up the minister for not being able to select a full-time chairman of the NHAI for over 6 months. ONGC's appointment, it has to be pointed out, is not the only such case. UTI hasn't had a chief since February and, as this paper has reported, the tussle between the finance ministry and UTI's board has kept the post vacant. Union Bank of India had to give a 3-month extension to its chairman since it hasn't found a replacement, LIC is without a chief ... Headless chicken, as BJP leader Arun Jaitley said in a different context.

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

BANK ON THEM

There's logic in Standard & Poor's (S&P) view that Indian banks should see good growth in the next three to five years. After all, if the economy is tipped to grow somewhere around 8% annually, banks should grow at twice that rate. Given the low penetration and leverage, there will always be takers for credit; moreover, consumption demand so far has been robust, backed by strong rural incomes. Competition will clearly hurt profits for the less nifty players but there will be enough to go around.

What one is not so sure about is whether non-performing loans (NPLs) have really peaked at 2.6% in 2010-11, as the report says, especially since continued high inflation could hurt growth at least for another year. Sectors like real estate could be in for some more trouble and while the report points out that the total exposure of banks to this space (including construction) is less than 5% of total loans, the absolute amount is not insignificant and this is a sector that is vulnerable to rising interest rates. Indeed, a high share of the incremental lending in 2010-11 goes to the infrastructure, NBFCs, real estate and personal loans spaces; of these, loans to NBFCs and real estate could turn out to be dodgy. Moreover, many of the banks who find it difficult to join consortiums of large corporates have been merrily lending to the SME sector and, as one has seen in the past, these smaller firms can can get badly squeezed at a time when things are not going so well. The former Central Bank of India chairman S Sridhar said recently that NPLs for industry would increase since smaller companies that had borrowed in a lower interest rate regime would now find it difficult to service their loans. The growth in loans to medium-sized industries rose to just under 40% in 2010-11 while the share of large corporates fell to 24%.

Moreover, in contrast to what S&P says, companies are not able to pass on the higher cost of goods; gross margins for a sample of 2,400-plus companies came off by 35 basis points y-o-y in the March 2011 quarter. In short, since the economy is clearly slowing down, it's hard to see how NPLs will come down to 2.4% this year. If credit costs of banks do not fall, as the S&P report anticipates, earnings will be under pressure because margins are bound to come off at the time when the cost of funds is going up. Indeed, a couple of banks have admitted that they are not able to pass on the higher cost of funds, especially to retail borrowers, in a competitive market. In sum, while banks will prosper over the longer term, 2011-12 is not going to be an easy year for banks.

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 THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

SLIPPERY GRADIENTS OF OIL PRICE CURVE
TNR RAO

The hopes of widely anticipated production increases by OPEC, in its meeting last week, have crashed as the cartel was split half-half on that proposal and the markets have rightly surged on that disappointment. The Saudis were the chief proponent of increases in supply to keep the world economies growing and, in fact, much before this meeting, they had been pumping more than 200,000 barrels a day over the agreed limit and would have increased it by a similar quantity if OPEC had decided on the increases.

But the perils in prognosticating crude oil prices are not that simple: it is not just a demand and supply factor. If that were so, there is no need for the prices to be so high, threatening each day to take it to new heights. The world is amply supplied with oil, inventories are good, with enough spare capacity and no crippling movement bottlenecks. These comfortable factors do not justify the prices of $100/bbl and above. The prime reason, as was suspected and now widely confirmed, is the speculation and hedging in the futures market as the futures are determining the price for the physical barrel.

It is precisely this element of speculation that renders it difficult to make any prognosis of oil price trends. Not that it was easier when speculation was not factored in. In addition to the usual factors that determine the price of any commodity in a market, oil is now being affected by several structural shifts in the energy market as a whole, like new demand/production centres, technological breakthroughs in shale gas and oil sands production, alternating fortunes of nuclear power, unreliable non-renewables and so on. Massive discoveries of shale gas have revolutionised gas and LNG markets and, of course, geopolitics. The US is estimated to have reserves to last for 100 years at its current levels of consumption, and China even more. So are oil sands, Canada alone having reserves of over 170 billion barrels—as against 265 billion barrels of Saudi Arabia's oil reserves—large enough to change balance of world oil market.

It, therefore, becomes necessary for OPEC to maintain its relevance in the oil market. In spite of apparent unity outwardly shown by OPEC, it is not a secret that unilaterally individual members are producing more to bring comfort to consumers in the US, Europe and China to replace the shortfall of Libyan and other crudes. But there is also the need to meet rising domestic demands, as Middle East as a whole has been increasing its own consumption. While such increases are possible by members with spare production capacity, price hawks like Iran and Venezuela appeal to those who can add revenues only by higher price and not by volumes. The Saudis are batting for a price band of $70-80 for crude oil, to keep it affordable to consuming economies as well as to stymie the viability of competing alternatives. Of course, all members of OPEC are overproducing in some manner or the other and it has not been possible to realistically estimate such volumes. And these would distort prices normally determinable by official production numbers.

Another major change uniquely influencing oil prices is the way natural gas is priced and transported. Gas trading is taking place separately in three major markets, Henry Hub in the US, National Balancing Point in the UK (where gas is priced on its own), and most of Europe and Asia, where gas is sold at a percentage of oil prices under long-term contracts. The recent rise in oil prices has hurt those locked in to oil-linked prices. But the US's decision to export LNG, with their own gas prices remaining the lowest, actually amounts to exporting its low prices. This influx of LNG and depressed demand have pushed down spot prices in Europe giving them a leverage to renegotiate the long-term oil-linked deals. Add to this the furious development of shale gas in the US, most of Europe and China that would replace liquid fuels and thus further depress demand for and price of oil.

Another technical revolution in the making is Gas-to-Liquids (GTL) technology. The world's largest plant with the largest investment is coming on-stream in Qatar, turning low value gas into high value diesel, now becoming viable due to high oil prices. Qatar has 900,000 bcf of proven reserves, almost 15% of the global total, and it finds in GTL a diversification from LNG, of which it is the biggest exporter. GTL thus provides a natural hedge to the gas market. If this gets more universally adopted, issues of relative merits of diesel from oil and gas will dominate market and thus oil prices. This development needs to be closely watched in making any long-term projection of oil prices.

But all these predictables are overwhelmed by speculation in oil futures and financial hoarding of oil by hedge funds. Studies chiefly sponsored by banks have claimed that financial speculation has no effect on price but this specious argument diverts attention from the main issue of shooting oil prices beyond what market fundamentals warrant. Financial investors are placing enormous paper bets with investment banks who hedge these bets in oil futures markets by continuously buying without regard to prices, and this financial activity is inflating prices. Nomura analysts warn that this could push prices to $240/bbl before long, only to crash as happened when the price hovered around $150/bbl. The obvious solution to neutralise this is for all oil producers to enter the futures market but offer the physical barrel and not a financial settlement. This would bring in price equilibrium and result in the right price discovery. But producers are loathe to do this as they are beneficiaries of the high prices of the futures.

Alternatively, government intervention to curb speculation and outright ban on this type of financial hoarding can prevent the market from becoming dangerously dysfunctional, a prospect that does not seem far away. So, any attempt to make a prognosis of oil prices will be no different from crystal gazing.

The author is chairman of the Energy Think Tank and former secretary, ministry of petroleum & natural gas

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

WHERE DOES THE FDI GO?
AMITENDU PALIT

There's a lot spoken and written about FDI inflows into China. But not much is discussed about where China is investing. One of the reasons behind the relatively less noise is lack of information on China's outward FDI. Chinese statistics, as it is, are not always easy to track for users accustomed to digging numbers from popular databases maintained by the UN agencies. Statistical systems in China have been traditionally more closely aligned to practices followed in the erstwhile Soviet Union. Despite changing over the years, the statistics still remain somewhat unfriendly for the average user dabbling in western agency data sources.

FDI statistics are even bigger problems. Globally, FDI inflows and outflows are one of the most difficult sets of cross-border exchanges to obtain information on. Unlike trade, where extensive statistics are available on bilateral flows between countries, and on commodities traded in databases like the IMF's Direction of Trade Statistics (DOTS), or the Comtrade of the UN, and member-wise information maintained by the WTO, FDI does not get tracked in any equivalently exhaustive database.

The most comprehensive one-stop source of information on FDI is the World Investment Report (WIR) database of the Unctad. But while Unctad statistics over the years have expanded in scope and become sharper in focus, it is still difficult, for example, to find how much China has invested in Nigeria in a particular year or, for that matter, India's current FDI stock in Vietnam. For all these details, there is no option other than falling back on national source agencies. Here again, statistics maintained by emerging market economies are not as comprehensive as those in OECD countries. Information on FDI outflows are particularly difficult to acquire. In India, for example, RBI provides only snippets of these outflows and it's almost impossible to get information on which sectors India is investing in a particular country. In China's case, difficulties are compounded by the fact that considerable information is provided in Mandarin.

China's outward FDI statistics showing locations where Chinese FDI is flowing in is maintained by the Chinese ministry of commerce. The annual data is provided in the yearly statistical bulletin prepared by the ministry. A lot of factual information in the bulletin is in Mandarin. Many of the nuances of China's outward FDI remain undiscovered unless one peruses the information in Mandarin.

There is little surprise in the fact that China has the largest outward FDI among developing economies and emerging markets. Information for the year 2009 indicates that China was the 5th largest outward FDI investor in the world with total investment of $55 billion. It had a share of 5.1% in total global outward FDI of $1.1 trillion. Despite being much lower than the US ($248 billion) and France ($147.2 billion), China's outward FDI was not much less than those of Japan ($74.7 billion) and Germany ($62.7 billion). It was much higher than India's ($14.9 billion), which was the third largest emerging market in outward FDI, after China and Russia.

The interesting aspect of China's outward FDI is its spatial distribution. Asia holds three-fourths of China's outward FDI stock and accounted for 71.4% of the flows in 2009. Latin America accounted for 13%, followed by Europe (5.9%) and Australasia (4.4%). North America and Africa had 2.7% and 2.6% each of the total flows.

The geographical spread of host locations is likely to convey the impression that Chinese capital is flowing into different nooks and crannies of Asia. It is hardly so. The overwhelming domination of Asia in China's outward FDI is almost entirely attributable to Hong Kong. During 2009, Hong Kong received $35.6 billion of Chinese FDI, which was 63% of China's total FDI and a remarkable 88.1% of its FDI in Asia. Singapore was the next highest recipient of Chinese FDI in Asia with a much lower inflow of $1.4 billion.

Other host countries in Asia attracting Chinese investments were Macau ($456 million), Myanmar ($376.7 million), Russia ($348.2 million), South Korea ($226 million), Indonesia ($226.1 million), Cambodia ($215.8 million), Laos ($203.2 million), North Korea ($136 million), Iran ($124.8 million) and Vietnam ($112.4 million). Southeast and Northeast Asian countries dominate recipient markets with little presence of South Asia. Though, in this respect, 2009 was an exception, since Pakistan received more than $1.1 billion from China during 2007-08.

Two points are worth noting. First, the classic 'round tripping' surrounding Chinese FDI continues to prevail with capital continuing to move back and forth between mainland China and Hong Kong and also Macau. Capital from mainland China has concentrated deep in Hong Kong for taking advantage of the latter's progress as a technological and financial centre. Companies registered in Hong Kong with Chinese funds can get integrated into the global business systems faster. China's official sovereign wealth fund—China Investment Corporation—has its first overseas subsidiary in Hong Kong.

The second interesting aspect about Chinese FDI is its passage into some unusual countries that are not among top investment locations: Myanmar, North Korea, Cambodia and Laos. Chinese FDI in these countries is guided by strategic considerations of accessing new resources and ownership of infrastructure assets. 'Round tripping' and strategic motives make Chinese FDI much different from the usual 'market-seeking' outward FDI seen elsewhere, including from India.

The author is Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of South Asian Studies in the National University of Singapore. These are his personal views

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

RADIATION AND THYROID CANCER

The frequency of papillary thyroid carcinoma occurrence in young people is about 1.5 per million a year. But following the 1986 Chernobyl calamity a sudden 100-fold increase was seen in its occurrence in Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia. In all, nearly 6,000 people developed thyroid cancer; about 4,000 of them had been children or adolescents at the time of the accident. But how does one distinguish naturally occurring thyroid cancer from that caused by radiation? A paper published recently in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences ("Gain of chromosome band 7q11 in papillary thyroid carcinomas of young patients is associated with exposure to low-dose radiation," by Julia Heb et al.) provides the answer. Radiation-specific signature in a particular region of chromosome 7 was found in people who were exposed to radioactive Iodine-131 due to the Chernobyl accident. Changes in the number or structure of chromosome 7 were found to be associated with human cancers. While five genes have been identified as tumour-associated candidates, over-expression of one gene serves as a signature of radiation-induced tumour. While none of the patients from the control groups showed any change in the specific region on chromosome 7, 39 per cent of those exposed to radiation carried the signature. The study, which used samples obtained from the Chernobyl Tissue Bank, covered a cohort of 52 radiation-exposed patients and a validation cohort of 28 radiation-exposed patients. The age-matched control groups had no exposure to radiation. Since only a subgroup of those exposed to radiation carried the signature, the scientists postulate the existence of other typical genetic markers.

Unlike other cancers, radiation-induced papillary thyroid carcinoma is easily preventable. Radioisotope Iodine-131, which has a half-life of eight days and the same physical properties as stable iodine, competes with it, and the thyroid gland has no way of telling them apart. Saturating the gland with stable iodine drugs taken as a prophylactic and avoiding the consumption of milk can prevent Iodine-131 from entering the gland. Such preventive steps are extremely important in the case of children. These measures, which were unfortunately not taken after the Chernobyl accident, have been adopted post-Fukushima. The new study should serve as a warning to people running nuclear plants that in the light of what we now know about radiation exposure and thyroid cancer, any delay in taking preventive steps will be extremely costly in terms of human lives and well-being.

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

SYRIA ON THE BOIL

In a January 2011 interview to The Wall Street Journal, Bashar al Assad declared that the "jasmine revolution" was the result of stagnation in the region — "if you have stagnant water, you will have pollution and microbes." Countries in the region had failed to bring changes in keeping with the world, he argued. But the Syrian President put his own country outside of that stagnation, asserting that while political reforms and economic growth were both necessary to keep people contended, one reason for the stability in his country was that it stood firmly against the United States — "it is about the ideology, the beliefs and the cause that you have." Clearly, he was out of touch. Since March, the country has been in the grip of a people's uprising in which, unsurprisingly in this prolonged "Arab spring," the main demands are democracy and freedom from four decades of rule by the Assad family. Syrians are questioning why they cannot have reform and be part of the "resistance" in the region against the U.S. and Israel. The regime in Syria responded initially by offering carrots. Twice, Mr. Assad, who inherited his position after the death of his father Hafez Al Assad in 2000, promised political reforms; the country's Emergency laws were lifted. But the promises were belied with the Syrian regime unleashing a series of repressive measures. Over 1,000 people are believed to have been killed in these counter-measures; thousands more are said to be in jail. Though it seemed at times that the Ba'athist regime had managed to suppress the movement, the 150 deaths reported between June 3 and 6 might prove to be the turning point in this uprising. Especially so if reports are true that the Army massacred 120 soldiers in Jisr al Shoghour to prevent them from defecting; this suggests serious disaffection in the armed forces, contrary to claims by the regime that the soldiers were killed by "armed gangs."

Mr. Assad has lost important friends in the last few days. Within the region, only Iran stands by him, while others have been critical, albeit for their own reasons, for his high-handedness in handling the protests. France, which, earlier this year, helped end Syria's international isolation, has declared that the Assad regime has lost its legitimacy. It is now the main force, along with the United Kingdom, behind a proposed United Nations Security Council resolution criticising Syria for using force against civilians. But the idea of a resolution itself is questionable, although, unlike the resolution on Libya, this does not call for a military intervention. Any attempt to meddle in the happenings in Syria can only undermine the legitimacy of the protesters' demands.

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THE HINDU

LEADER PAGE ARTICLES

DEALING WITH INDIA IN THE U.S.-PAKISTAN RELATIONSHIP

IN ITS DEALINGS WITH THE UNITED STATES, PAKISTAN STARTS FROM THE THREAT IT PERCEIVES FROM INDIA AND EMPHASISES INDIA'S SHORTCOMINGS. IT WILL CONTINUE TO USE THE UNITED STATES AS A BALANCER, BARRING A MAJOR IMPROVEMENT IN INDIA-PAKISTAN RELATIONS.

HOWARD B. & TERESITA C. SCHAFFER

Pakistan's view of the world begins with the trauma of the 1947 partition of India, and from the chronic insecurity that it engendered. This is the starting point not only for Pakistan's foreign policy but also for its approach to negotiating with its principal international friends. Pakistan's position as a country one-seventh the size of its giant and, to Pakistanis, hostile neighbour is always at least in the background. The most painful part of this history — the "core issue," in the term preferred by Pakistani officials and commentators — is Kashmir. Pakistanis believe they have been cheated and betrayed by both India and the international community. They feel that the very structure of their history and geography makes them dependent, vulnerable, and discounted. At the same time, national pride and the need to play up the ways in which they believe Pakistan is superior to India are important themes in their dealings with foreigners.

Pakistani negotiators often try to impress on their U.S. counterparts that Americans and others who have not had to deal with India from a position of weakness do not understand Indian ambitions and guile. As they argue it, Americans are taken in by the Indians and fail to recognise the overbearing, bullying policies and practices India inflicts on Pakistan and the other smaller countries of South Asia. Most Pakistanis believe that Americans are not aware of India's longstanding hegemonic goals and the dangers to Pakistani and U.S. interests that they entail.

Pakistani tactics to correct these "misimpressions" and instil a "more realistic" understanding of what the Indians are up to will vary, of course, with individual Pakistanis, their American interlocutors, the nature of the negotiations under way, and current circumstances. Americans familiar with subcontinental history and politics may receive a more nuanced presentation than newcomers to South Asia. The highly one-sided interpretations Pakistanis provide stress India's unwillingness to accept Pakistan and its other regional neighbours as fully independent states entitled to pursue their own policies and go their own ways. In its crudest form, this approach focuses on dire Indian plots to undo Pakistan by breaking it up into smaller units, or making it a vassal state, or both. This fear is fed by one of the most traumatic events in Pakistan's history, India's support for the breaking away of East Pakistan in 1971. The memory of this time is still vivid.

Aware that Americans are impressed by Indian democracy and contrast it favourably with the congenital weakness of Pakistani civilian political institutions, Pakistanis will at times point to defects in the way India is governed, especially the way its Muslim minority is treated. Pakistanis are well versed in their version of the truth and will have facts and figures ready to support their accounts. They contrast the hierarchical character of the Hindu caste system with the more egalitarian ethos of Islam. Stereotypes frequently found among Pakistanis hold that Indians are more duplicitous, less honest, and less courageous than Pakistanis. Some military officers in years past were fond of saying that vegetarian Indian troops could never hold their own against their carnivorous Pakistani counterparts. Pakistani negotiators and briefers will call attention to India's overwhelming strength, especially its military capabilities, and argue that the bellicose way India has used this superiority in the past indicates that it would be prepared to do so again if the opportunity arose.

The approach Pakistanis use with Americans knowledgeable about South Asia includes these and other points critical of India in a more nuanced form. But even those Pakistanis who do not accept the cruder versions of these stereotypes are eager to persuade the American side that Indians (unlike Pakistanis) are not to be trusted, and that India's claims that they prefer a stable and secure Pakistan as their neighbour are false.

Undercutting Indians in American eyes reflects Pakistani concern that Washington regards India as the more important of the two in ways that disadvantage Pakistan. These apprehensions have always been present, even in the heyday of the U.S.- Pakistan security alliance in the 1950s and early 1960s.

Pakistani fears that the United States would "tilt" toward India were heightened by developments after the Cold War ended. U.S.-Indian relations became substantially stronger, especially during the George W. Bush administration. As the Pakistanis are painfully aware, Washington has come to see India as a rising global power and an incipient economic powerhouse, an attractive partner for American strategists and business people. Some influential Americans view it as a useful Asian counterforce to an aggressive China, with which Pakistan has historically enjoyed a warm relationship. And the demise of the Soviet Union meant that Americans no longer worry about New Delhi's ties to Moscow. The United States and India now sometimes even describe each other as "natural allies," an enormous reinterpretation of the relationship from the norm of Cold War days.

At the same time, the United States has also drawn closer to Pakistan, for different reasons. These relate almost exclusively to Pakistan's role in the U.S.-led effort to combat al-Qaeda and the Taliban, a part it reluctantly accepted under American pressure following 9/11. Washington can rightly claim that it now enjoys the best relations it has ever simultaneously had with New Delhi and Islamabad. It also can assert more justifiably than it has in the past that U.S. policy in South Asia is not a "zero-sum game" in which improved American relations with India entail weakened ties with Pakistan (and vice versa). Washington plausibly insists that the United States has "de-hyphenated" India and Pakistan in its approach to South Asia. (Ironically, the term "Indo-Pak" once used in describing American policy in the region has now been succeeded by a fresh hyphenation, "Af-Pak," which the Pakistanis find demeaning and distasteful.)

These assurances have not stilled Pakistani concerns that America will favour India on matters important to Pakistan. Islamabad wants the United States to deal with it as New Delhi's equal, and reacts sharply to any deviation from this norm. For example, the refusal of the U.S. government to consider a civil nuclear deal with Pakistan similar to the one it negotiated with India is seen as clear evidence that the United States has downgraded its ties with Pakistan, and is often referred to as discrimination against Pakistan.

Pakistan's call for equal treatment and its worry that it will not get it are closely related, of course, to its efforts to counterbalance the Indian threat that is still the central element in the country's chronic sense of insecurity. This effort is not limited to Pakistan's dealings with the United States, though Washington has usually been its prime target. Pakistan governments of various political persuasions have looked to China, the oil-rich Arab nations, other Muslim countries, and occasionally even the Soviet Union for diplomatic, political, and economic backing. Pakistan recognises that it is no longer in India's league in terms of overall power, if it ever was. It will continue to look for support from the United States and other outsiders to keep it strong enough to deter the aggressive Indian designs that it considers its primary challenge. Only a marked improvement in its relations with India, including significant steps toward a settlement of their Kashmir dispute, will lead Pakistan to change this policy. Until that unlikely development takes place — and it has eluded the two countries for six decades — Pakistan will continue to see India as a basically hostile neighbour, and its negotiators will probably continue to believe that making India look bad is an important part of their task.

(This is excerpted from How Pakistan Negotiates with the United States: Riding the Roller Coaster by Howard B. and Teresita C. Schaffer, Washington: USIP, 2011. Reprinted by permission. The authors are former U.S. ambassadors, with long years of service in South Asia.)

 

 

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THE HINDU

OPED

PAKISTAN: DEADLIEST PLACE TO BE A JOURNALIST

SIXTEEN JOURNALISTS HAVE DIED IN PAKISTAN IN THE PAST 18 MONTHS BUT THE KILLING OF SALEEM SHAHZAD, LINKED TO THE ISI SPY AGENCY, HAS SENT FRESH SHOCKWAVES.

DECLAN WALSH

 

The brutal murder of Saleem Shahzad, a Pakistani investigative reporter whose battered body was found in a canal outside Islamabad two weeks ago, remains unsolved. But one thing seems certain. While the men who beat him to death employed ruthless violence — smashing his face, cracking his ribs and piercing his lungs — the cause of death was his own pen.

 

"They didn't like what he wrote. That's why they killed him," says Ali Dayan Hasan of Human Rights Watch, which has played a central role in investigating the case.

 

Chasing the truth is a perilous business in Pakistan, the world's deadliest beat for journalists. Sixteen have died in the past 18 months, according to Reporters without Borders — more than in the drug wars of Mexico, the street battles of Somalia or the battlefields of Afghanistan.

 

The causes of these deaths are as varied as Pakistan's myriad conflicts. Some are caught in suicide blasts; others targeted by Taliban militants or Baloch insurgents. In Karachi, several reporters have been gunned down as part of the city's vicious political wars.

 

But the death of Shahzad, a 40-year-old correspondent for the Hong Kong-based Asia Times Online, has touched a raw nerve because the chief suspect is Pakistan's most powerful spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). "Who will protect us from the protectors?" asked sub-editor Shaheryar Popalzai on Twitter.

 

Shahzad was no stranger to danger. A specialist in Islamist militancy, he delved deep into the murky underworld of spies, soldiers and militants. He was briefly kidnapped by the Taliban in Helmand in 2006, and interviewed Ilyas Kashmiri, a notorious jihadi reportedly killed in a CIA drone strike last week. And he probed controversial links between those militants and Pakistan's military.

 

In late May, his career reached a new peak: he had just published his first book, Inside Al Qaeda and the Taliban: Beyond Bin Laden and 9/11. At 5.30pm on a Sunday, he left his Islamabad home for the Dunya television studios. He was to discuss a story he had written about Islamist infiltration of the military.

 

But as he passed through the city centre — one of the most heavily guarded precincts in Pakistan — he disappeared. The following morning Human Rights Watch raised the alarm, saying it had established through credible sources that Shahzad was in ISI custody. But it was too late.

 

Later that day, police in Mandi Bahauddin, a Punjabi backwater 80 miles south of the capital, recovered his battered body from an irrigation canal. His car, the keys still inside, was abandoned about 12 miles away. An autopsy revealed 17 different injuries. News of the killing cast a pall of fear and anger over Pakistan's media. Some papers reported the news tentatively, skirting the ISI links. The president of the All Pakistan Newspapers Society, Hameed Haroon, bolstered accusers. "Nobody, not even the ISI, should be above the law," he said.

 

The ISI, already under immense pressure following the death of Osama bin Laden on May 2, responded with a 374-word statement — possibly the longest in its history — rejecting the allegations as "baseless and unfounded" and warning reporters to act "responsibly."

 

"[The ISI] will leave no stone unturned in helping to bring the perpetrators of this heinous crime to justice," it said. But the spy agency was also being accused from beyond the grave. Before he died, Shahzad sent an email recounting a worrisome meeting at the ISI headquarters last October. The head of the ISI media wing, Rear Admiral Adnan Nazir, summoned him to divulge his sources for a story on a released Taliban commander. Shahzad, by his own account, said nothing.

 

The atmosphere was generally friendly. But before the meeting was over, Nazir told him the ISI had captured a dangerous terrorist with a "hit list", and allegedly said: "If I find your name in the list, I will certainly let you know." Taking this as a veiled threat, Shahzad emailed his account of the meeting to Human Rights Watch and several journalists, with instructions to release it in the event of his death.

 

In its statement the ISI insisted the meeting had "nothing sinister about it". The purpose of such briefings was to provide "accurate information on matters of national security" and notify journalists of threats, it said.

 

The furore over Shahzad's murder has roiled Pakistan's media, which has undergone massive change over the past decade. Since President Pervez Musharraf liberalised the television sector in 2004, the number of news channels has gone from one — state-run — to dozens. The boom has created thousands of jobs and fostered a vigorous culture of debate that, ironically, helped unseat Gen. Musharraf in 2008. Criticism of the military, previously cautious, has become bolder and more frequent.

 

But there have also been negatives. Reporting can be reckless, with some channels spreading lurid conspiracy theories in pursuit of ratings. Military and civilian leaders use the media to manipulate public opinion through bribery, intimidation or coercion. And clear "red lines" about what is permissible still exist.

 

The most egregious case is in the conflict-hit Balochistan province, where about a dozen reporters have been killed, kidnapped or tortured by ethnic nationalist rebels or military intelligence since 2009. Media coverage of the conflict is insipid.

 

In the rest of the country, militancy and the military are the sensitive stories. In 2005 Hayatullah Khan, a reporter in the tribal belt, disappeared after he photographed a fragment of a U.S. missile fired from an unmanned drone. Six months later, he was found dead; relatives blamed the ISI.

 

In 2008, a local reporter working for the Guardian on a story about extra-judicial detention was abducted and tortured by men he believed worked for the government. Most victims remain silent, fearful of repercussions. One exception is Umar Cheema, a correspondent for the News, who was abducted from Islamabad last September. Bundled into a jeep and blindfolded, he was taken to a safehouse where he says he was stripped, beaten with a leather strap and threatened with rape. After seven hours, he was dumped on a road in rural Punjab.

 

Mr. Cheema, who recently won the Martha Gellhorn prize for journalism, has accused the ISI of responsibility for his ordeal. "I realised I had to speak up, because that's the only thing that protects me. Keeping silent will get me killed," he said.

 

Expectations are low for the inquiry into Shahzad's death. The police are reluctant to pursue the case and, according to the Express Tribune, phone records for the last 18 days of Shahzad's life have been mysteriously erased. "If it is true the ISI was involved, there will be no result," says Benjamin Ismail of Reporters Without Borders.

 

Meanwhile, some "red lines" have shifted. In the wake of the bin Laden debacle and Shahzad's death, the ISI has faced unprecedented scrutiny. Former army officers question its tactics; last week, Opposition MP Ayaz Amir called for the spy agency's budget to be made public. "We must raise the curtain of silence now," he told Parliament.

 

But will journalists be more secure? An Interior Ministry proposal to issue reporters with gun licences has been dismissed as a political stunt. More serious proposals involve setting up a 24-hour "hot-line," manned by colleagues, for journalists in danger.

 

The most likely outcome, says Mr. Ismail, is self-censorship. "Journalists are afraid. Now, even the most famous reporters can be targeted if people don't like their writing. They realise they will have to stop writing if they want to survive." — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2011

 

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THE HINDU

OPED

MEDIA SOCIAL NETWORKS ARE NO MATCH FOR GOOGLE NEWS

DAN SABBAGH

 

Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer of Facebook, was in town a few weeks back, making an interesting point about the social networking site's picture uploader. Facebook didn't, she said, have the most highly featured uploading service. In essence, the social network only really offered two things to the weary surfer: you could tag your friends to pictures, in a place where you'd know they would be. In other words, what made Facebook photos a success was the social dimension — as opposed, Ms Sandberg observed, to the algorithmic approach that has so far dominated the relatively short history of the web.

 

Future of news

 

Anyway, so much for those pictures of last weekend; what about the future of news? Or rather the online news business, which has, so far, been hopelessly dominated by the algorithmic — which means, in English, Google. We all know the rules: Google is bigger than any news brand, which is why being at the top of Google News with whatever is the latest in Lady Gaga is more important than whoever is publishing the story. Blogs can make money on that basis with a sense for the right keyword, quick reactions, and half-decent optimisation.

 

After all, as every webmaster knows, referrals from Google, one way or another, count for the majority of news hits on a free news site, far more than are accounted for by those who love the brand so much they actually type in its name into the top of the browser.

 

What's interesting, though, is that referrals from social media are way behind even those die-hard brand loyalists — and miles behind the Google machine. Facebook, the last time I looked, accounted for less than 2 per cent of the London-based Guardian, who I work for, and Twitter closer to 1 per cent. If that sounds dismally low, then consider it a starting point — social news, in reality, has barely begun.

 

Social news

 

But the question is, what does social news look like? After all, unless perhaps you are Queen Elizabeth II or a cast member of a top-rating reality TV show, the content of one's Facebook news feed is not news. Social news, as currently constructed, largely consists of emailed links to stories, plus the click-throughs generated by the Twitter elite.

 

Two models

 

Newspapers themselves don't help the cause much. The industry, as we all know, has split down into two models. There's the no pay, no registration, we-don't-really-know-who-you-are camp, which is fantastic for traffic — but leaves a site with little information about its readers. Then there's the name, rank, serial number and monthly subscription model beloved of the other side — which reduces numbers considerably. Either way, it's difficult to achieve the goal of building up a community of readers who are going to recommend articles to each other, see what their friends have read recently, or indeed what people like them are eyeballing at any given moment.

 

There are alternatives, of course, such as handing over the friends function, by creating a special Facebook edition of the newspaper hosted on the social network and, in return, hopefully, receiving a share in whatever advertising is generated. That certainly solves the lack of friends problem that newspaper sites have, although there are always difficulties in handing a large pile of content to another service.

 

Other approaches

 

Gradually, though, other approaches are emerging — the new-look Radio Times website (launching in phases from next month) will recommend programmes and news a reader might like, based on what they and their friends have read online. This is quite different from the newspaper approach, where recommendations are little more than a list of the day's most clicked-on stories.

 

It is hard to believe that news consumption is an inherently lonely business. Much the best news is of the "hey did you read this" kind; yet, for the moment, the experience online is generally based on nameless, solitary consumption. No fun at all. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2011

 

 

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THE HINDU

OPED

WAXING AND WANING WAR

CHARLES M. BLOW

Friday marks the 40th anniversary of one of the biggest, most expensive, most destructive social policy experiments in U.S. history: The war on drugs.

On the morning of June 17, 1971, President Richard Nixon, speaking from the Briefing Room of the White House, declared: "America's public enemy Number one in the United States is drug abuse. In order to fight and defeat this enemy, it is necessary to wage a new, all-out offensive. I have asked the Congress to provide the legislative authority and the funds to fuel this kind of an offensive. This will be a worldwide offensive dealing with the problems of sources of supply, as well as Americans who may be stationed abroad, wherever they are in the world." So began a war that has waxed and waned, sputtered and sprinted, until it became an unmitigated disaster, an abomination of justice and a self-perpetuating, trillion-dollar economy of wasted human capital, ruined lives and decimated communities. And no group has been more targeted than the African-Americans.

An effort meant to save us from a form of moral decay became its own insidious brand of moral perversion turning people who should have been patients into prisoners, criminalising victimless behaviour, targeting those whose first offence was entering the world wrapped in the wrong skin.

Last week, the Report of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, a 19-member commission, declared: "The global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world. Fifty years after the initiation of the U.N. Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, and 40 years after President Nixon launched the U.S. government's war on drugs, fundamental reforms in national and global drug control policies are urgently needed."

The White House immediately shot back. It presented a collection of statistics that compared current drug use and demand with the peak of the late 1970s, although a direct correlation between those declines and the drug war is highly debatable. In doing so, it completely sidestepped the human, economic and societal toll of the mass incarceration of millions of Americans, many for simple possession. No need to put a human face on 40 years of folly when you can swaddle its inefficacy in a patchwork quilt of self-serving statistics. — New York Times News Service

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THE ASIAN AGE

LET'S HAVE CLARITY OVER BLACK MONEY

Yoga guru Ramdev, who shot into the news in recent days due to his aggressive challenge to the government to bring back unaccounted money held by Indian nationals in banks abroad, ended his nine-day protest fast on Sunday at the instance of the top RSS leadership, and sundry well-marketed putatively spiritual gurus. Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy was also at hand in Hardwar to urge the "Baba" to end his hungerstrike.

A few days earlier Ramdev was visited by BJP leaders Sushma Swaraj and Uma Bharti to show their solidarity. Those speaking on behalf of the agitating yoga instructor have told the media the agitation will continue. This is a good thing. The nation is keen to know how much black money emanating from India lies abroad and what might be the best way to ensure its repatriation. Indeed, concern had been voiced over black money many times before Ramdev took up the issue recently.
Experts and those with high-level government experience as well as knowledge of the international environment are aware that getting the Swiss banks to reveal secrets is easier said than done. (Indeed, successive Swiss governments have made a living out of the funds of foreigners and place a high premium on banking secrecy.) Arm-twisting Americans have had some success with the Swiss when in certain cases they could establish that money parked in banks there was from narcotics and similar tainted sources, or had fed terrorism. But in the case of Indians who have deposited black money (unaccounted funds) overseas for about half a century, it is a safe bet that the vast majority are what might be considered respectable people — well-known businessmen, for instance, who resisted complying with the very high tax regimes that once prevailed in this country. There would also, of course, be others, including politicians who have stolen money from the treasury. To get to the bottom of this, a concerted campaign must be mounted even if success is not immediately in sight, given the self-serving reticence of the Swiss. However, the government would do well to keep the public informed at every stage of the process when the effort is mounted — a running commentary of sorts. Without that, an impression spreads that the authorities are not really serious.
Many believe that governments over the years have not exerted themselves much to collar Swiss banks and other tax havens into giving us a peep into the secret accounts of Indians. This of course includes non-Congress governments as well, although the impression generally left dangling is that it is typically the Congress in power that pussyfoots over the black money issue because only top leaders of this party have a lot to hide. No stone is left unturned by its opponents, especially those from the Hindu right-wing, to mount a campaign on black money when the Congress is in office. It is hard to recall public agitations — especially by social or quasi-religious outfits such as Ramdev's, or bodies such as the RSS — to unearth black money when non-Congress parties are in government. Typically, the political campaigns of parties on the right tend to place a premium on corruption and black money, as these find it hard to spell out a sharply right-wing economic agenda in a poor country. Today those seeking to paint "Baba" Ramdev in glorious colours, especially as one employing the idiom of the era when sadhus and "sants" guided rajas in running the affairs of state, as Dr Swamy said in Hardwar, are representatives of the political and economic right-wing. The discourse is likely to be less politically skewed, more informed, and more realistic, if others too entered upon it with vigour.

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THE ASIAN AGE

BEING CLASH CONSCIOUS

INDRANIL BANERJIE

It is somewhat intriguing that the same urban Indians who have shown a marked disinclination to vote during elections turn up in thousands under the scorching summer sun to participate in anti-corruption rallies. They come out on the streets in candlelit processions and rage in social networking sites.

This apparent anomaly suggests a fundamental disconnect at some level. Why large sections of the urban Indian middle class cannot always relate to the electoral exercise is a question that needs to be understood instead of being classified as another instance of collective apathy.
The truth is that politics in India has been captured by dynasties and coteries. This is true not just of the Congress Party but of every other major national and regional party in the country.
Political parties have become exclusive clubs run by powerful central bosses or regional satraps. Gaining entrance to these institutions of influence is very difficult and can only be attained through the liberal dispensation of large sums of money, a demonstration of local or criminal clout, through gratuitous favours or through extreme supplication.
The average middle-class person has little chance of ever penetrating those political circles. The not-surprising consequence of this is the urban middle class' growing alienation from politics and the reigning political ethos, which explains the electoral fatigue so apparent in cities across the country. The perception that voting cannot change things stems from a belief that the political class cannot be made to bend to popular will.
For the political class, matters have become easier with the troublesome middle classes increasingly staying out of the process; managing elections has become a matter of throwing sops at the semi-literate masses and promising them one or another kind of freebie — from subsidised rice and free electricity to laptops and mixer grinders.
The masses are happy because they have got something from a system that rarely gives them anything and the political class is more relaxed because now winning elections is seen as an issue of raising funds and investing them wisely in the right constituencies.
The problem with this model is that it signifies a state of disequilibrium because it involves taking money from one class of people through political donations, financial corruption and coercion and giving it to another.
This somewhat forcible method of income redistribution stretches the notion of social justice and cannot be tenable in the long run because the rising middle class, too, has expectations of the politico-administrative system.
Apart from issues of political probity, one very real issue is the rise in demand for government services — certificates, police reports, passports, roads and other infrastructure. There is also a feeling that life and property is increasingly under threat in various parts of the country due to the spread of the crime-politics nexus.
Consequently, today large sections of the urban middle class, especially the young, are no longer content to be passive observers.
Apathy can quickly change to enthusiasm if there is promise of change. This has been more than obvious at the various anti-corruption rallies in cities throughout the country; it has been apparent in the urban constituencies of West Bengal where record voter turnout helped oust the Left; and it is going to accelerate as the middle class becomes bigger and more assertive in the months and years to come.
The rise of the Indian middle class has often been commented upon by economists and business analysts, much less by political analysts.
One estimate by the Deutsche Bank suggests that while the Indian middle class constitutes less than 30 per cent of the country's population, it is nevertheless the fastest growing economic segment.
Politicians have been protesting at the demand that civil society be part of the national decision-making process; they claim that it is the legislature's exclusive right to formulate laws and policies and that the intrusion of civil society is extra-constitutional. That may be the case but such demands are rising precisely because the urban middle class does not have faith in the political class.
Many Congress big bosses believe that the clamour for reform can be "managed" and only cosmetic change introduced to pacify the disgruntled middle classes. Most of the other political parties, too, seem inclined to support the idea of minimal change and have desisted from taking up or supporting any agenda for radical large-scale change. The two sides — the political and the middle class — are engaged in a battle.
The impetus for change and resistance to change is an age-old dynamic. The obstructionists in New Delhi are in some ways reminiscent of the segregationists in the United States in the early 1960s. Alabama's governor George Wallace entered the history books when in June 1963 he refused to let two black students register at the local university by standing at the door and blocking their passage. He again tried to block four black students from enrolling in elementary schools. But ultimately his segregationist attempts were defeated and Alabama was forced to accept black students in its educational institutions.
This episode prompted Bob Dylan to pen his famous warning:
"Come senators, Congressmen Please heed the call

Don't stand in the doorway
Don't block up the hall…"

Perhaps the politicians guarding the portals of power in New Delhi, too, should read the signs and step aside to allow civil society a place in their hitherto exclusive citadel.

Indranil Banerjie is an independent security and political risk consultant

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THE ASIAN AGE

CANVAS OF INTOLERANCE, FRAME OF FREEDOM

HARBANS MUKHIA

If democracy is a shared value among many of the world's states today, they still differ substantially in the tolerance of civil freedoms often granted to the citizens by their respective Constitutions. Let me pick up three out of numerous instances.
In the late 1970s, M.F. Husain paints the Hindu goddess Saraswati in the nude. Nothing unusual.

Twenty years on, some members of the Sangh Parivar get to hear of it, though they have never seen the painting. Some 20-odd lumpen boys vandalise the painter's house, destroy several of his paintings and threaten to disrupt any exhibition depicting any of his paintings even in a group show. The mighty Indian state crumbles and cannot assure security for such exhibitions. Encouraged, the Sangh Parivar raises the stridency of threats to the legendary artist, extending to his very life.
In 2006, the Union home minister, Shivraj Patil, sends out an advisory to the police commissioners of Delhi and Mumbai cautioning against possible communal tension created by the presence of Husain. Husain, at the end of his tether, goes into exile, never to come back to his beloved country and for ever sad for it. Though, like a true gentleman, he shared the sadness only with a few close friends.
In 2009, some six Muslim men float an outfit and under its banner hold a protest against controversial Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen in Kolkata. The country's most secular (Left Front) government throws the writer out of the country even as she fervently pleads to be allowed to stay on in what she had begun to consider her "home". She has not come back either, even as she hopes to, with the change of government.
Some three decades ago, Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran had "sentenced" Salman Rushdie to death for writing Satanic Verses. Rushdie found shelter in England where the state spent millions to give him protection even as he remained a vocal critic of the various governments there.
Both India and the UK are democracies — yet they couldn't be further apart in their respect for civil liberties. Ironically, while India's Constitution announces it as a "secular" state, the UK is formally an Anglican Christian state.
The crux of the difference is that India, especially its polity, equates its secularism with multi-communalisms in which the equilibrium keeps altering with the stridency of the assertion of self-assumed representation of one or the other community, even if all it takes is to mobilise some half a dozen to two dozen individuals on any occasion to lay such claim, with the media glare inflating their presence manifold.
Our secularism is indeed very fragile and our civil rights most vulnerable.
Husain's instance is particularly tragic for several reasons. His calibre as an artist would have made him a prized citizen for any country. He redefined all the basic features of his craft: the grandeur of vision of his themes, the drawing of lines, the colours and the very deep roots in Indian, especially Hindu, culture and mythology. In some ways, he was the ideal candidate for what the Sangh Parivar envisages as a perfect Indian Muslim — committed to his own religious rituals like the namaz, almost all his paintings draw inspiration from Hindu mythology. He drew numerous pictures of Ganesha, Gandhari, birth of Lord Buddha, Saraswati and of course, the quintessential Indian womanhood.
The Sangh Parivar's charges about nude pictures of goddesses etc. — which drove Husain into exile — demonstrates how little it knows or cares about Hindu mythology and art. Implicit in the charge is the assumption that nudity is sinful and reprehensible because of its association with sexuality. The association of nudity (and sex) with sin and of sin with Eve is Christian in origin, which led to the fall of Adam from the Garden of Eden; there is not even a hint of such association in Hinduism.
Indeed, there is a constant celebration of nudity and sexuality as an act of piety in mythological stories, temples, literature and painting. In an 18th-century Kangra painting of Radha and Krishna, a completely nude Radha is depicted on top of a totally nude Krishna, in copulation. Clearly, the meaning of nudity and sex here is unadulterated purity and ecstasy, even religious ecstasy. And dharma, artha, kama, moksha are the four requisites of life fulfilled.
It is to this tradition that Husain belonged. The sadness is not only that the Sangh Parivar could not understand and tolerate him, it is that the state yielded ever so easily to this intolerance.
The suggestion that Husain should have drawn nude female figures from Islamic mythology to balance it out is pathetic, for it looks at artistic creativity as a sort of Cabinet formation in which various communities, castes, regions, genders etc should find adequate representation. This is characteristic of small
minds adjudicating grand phenomena.

Harbans Mukhia is a former professor of history at the Jawaharlal Nehru University

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

JAMMU'S CHAOTIC TRAFFIC

 

What persuaded the Minister for Transport and CA&PD to curb the menace of overloading of Load Carriers on Srinagar-Leh National Highway is not of much importance. What is of importance is that when the authorities want to improve a system, they can do it despite hurdles in the way or the machinations of vested interests. The weigh bridge through which all load carrying vehicles will have to pass at Sonamarg is a right decision to ensure safety along the strategic road to Leh.
But it was expected that while considering what needed to be done on Srinagar-Leh road traffic, the authorities would also consider devising new mechanism to control the plying of traffic along more dangerous roads in the State especially in Batote-Doda-Kishtwar/Bhaderwah and Jammu-Srinagar sectors. It is in the former sector where most of traffic accidents happen season after season resulting in heavy loss of precious lives. This road passes through sharp and dangerous turns with the river Chenab flowing through narrow gorges along which the tortuous road has been cut. It was expected that in the high powered meeting that discussed new traffic measures for Srinagar-Leh load carriers would also take up the safety measures along these other roads over which there is heavy traffic throughout the year. The main reason for accidents along these roads and on the national highway is of overcrowding and overtaking. Whenever a road accident happens, the traffic police come out with the patent reason of overcrowding. But why do the traffic police allow overcrowding either at the base point or at other points along the entire route? We have never heard of traffic officials in charge of sectors being brought to book for not having checked the passenger buses for overcrowding and disallowed them to proceed to their destinations. Why does the traffic police fail to check rash driving and overtaking when we find traffic policemen deployed all along the road and more especially at critical turns? We believe that if the breach of traffic rules is prevented, the frequency of road accidents along the hilly regions will come down considerably. It is for the superiors in the traffic department to enforce strict observance of traffic rules, and they should be the first to be interrogated for finding the reason for a road accident.
Holding fake driving licenses and driving under the effect of liquor are other important reasons for road accidents. The traffic department needs to streamline the entire process of issuing valid driving licenses to the applicants. Their testing and their physical fitness have to be up to the standard set forth under rules. Those held responsible for issuing fake driving licenses should be dealt with under rules. The condition of city traffic is much more chaotic than one may presume. Congestion along narrow streets of Jammu city causes traffic jams in all seasons and precious time is wasted in waiting for clearing traffic jams. It has become the daily routine of city traffic and people are helplessly getting reconciled to it. Overloading of city buses is not at all checked by anybody. There should be a limit for overloading in each mini bus plying in the city. Since there is good frequency of buses plying on different routes, it should be possible for the traffic police to ensure that overcrowding is minimized and controlled. Widening of city roads, construction of more flyovers and subways, creating new terminals for mini buses so that all outflanking localities are directly connected with traffic hubs like Panjtirthi, Parade, Railway Station, Airport, Janipur, Narwal, Sainik Colony and Anand Nagar are required to be addressed by traffic authorities. They have to devise methods that would reduce traffic jams, overcrowding and unauthorized halting along a prescribed route to pick up passengers. The traffic police have not been able even to stop playing of deafening music while plying on roads to the discomfiture of passengers. In reality Jammu traffic presents a chaotic picture. May be like Srinagar-Leh traffic control system, the traffic department may also need to constitute high power traffic committee to monitor improvement in traffic conditions in Jammu city.

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

32ND TREE TALK

 

The environment awareness programme called Tree Talk is steadily gaining popularity with the official and non-official circles in the State. 32nd series of the programme was recently held in the tourist hill resort of Patnitop where 38 Indian Forest Service probationers of Indira Gandhi National Forest Academy Dehradun were the special guest participants. In addition 45 participants of Youth Hostels Association of India J&K Branch also participated in the Jungle walk. This awareness programme at the level of probationary officers in the Forest Department should become the sheet anchor for generating public awareness of the utility of preserving the flora and fauna of the state and the country in their pristine purity. The scientific finding is that trees talk to each other through W-waves. Physicist Ed Wagner has found evidence of tree communication in nature. When a tree is chopped, adjacent trees put an electrical impulse and communicate approaching danger. Trees come to know what is happening and produce alarm which is exhibited in the form of W-waves. Forests and economy are intricately interconnected and future prosperity depends on sustainable use of bio-resources. J&K State is a biomass state where many nomadic communities and local villagers derive their day to day utilities from the forest resources. Climate change and glacial retreat have to be viewed in the context of forest cover and phasing out of greenhouse gases.
'Tree Talk' and Nature Walk which started from Patnitop culminated at Sanasar and IFS probationers had a firsthand feel of forest inter-relationships as detailed by tree talk experts and naturalists accompanying the participants. This is an innovative programme bound to boost the efforts of the State Forest Department in conserving our forest wealth. The awareness about the importance of forest cover should percolate down to the ordinary villagers who are closest to the forests in physical and mental terms.

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

GOVERNMENT WAKE UP TO COUNTRY'S PROBLEMS

BY BRIJ BHARDWAJ

 

If there was a prize for scoring self goals, the UPA Government led by Dr Manmohan Singh and the Congress party by Sonia Gandhi would emerge as clear winners by a huge margin leaving every one behind at the starting point. Both have dealt series of blows on their own credibility and ability to govern after they were voted to power in 2009. One had expected that the UPA two will be able to improve on the record and achievements of its first term.
This unfortunately did not happen. In 2009 the Congress Party had emerged with larger numbers and its dependence on Left front which was a feature in the first term was no more there. It however made a shaky start when it submitted to black mail by their Southern Ally DMK who insisted on being given the prized portfolio of Telecom with which the problems of UPA two started and continue to haunt them and will probably be a source of major embarrassment during the entire term.
If the two G scam in the telecom was the first, worse followed with its mismanagement of Commonwealth Games and land society scam in Mumbai. While two G scam could be explained away as a part of the compulsion of the coalition politics, scams relating to Commonwealth games and housing Society were clearly the doings of the leaders of the Congress party. In all these scams the Government took action rather late in the day and that too in parts instead of removing the source of evil.
If dealing with scams left much to be desired its performance on development front was also poor. The team of Ministers never gave an impression of working as a team and on all ticklish problems it chose to push the problems under the carpet by handing them over to a group of empowered group of Ministers, an attempt which at best can be described as a sign of weakness and inability to take decisions. It continued to fumble on issues like electoral reforms, judicial accountability bill, food security and problem of tackling corruption and black money.
The result was that the issues which should have been discussed and debated in Parliament became subjects of street protests, demonstrations and fasts. Agreed that UPA alone is not responsible for it. The opposition parties like the BJP and Left front share the blame as they stalled the proceedings and debates in Parliament thus handing over the space which should belong to elected representatives of people to Civil Society activists like Anna Hazare and a Yoga Guru Swami Ram Dev who has dubious credentials, though he has many followers.
We have reached a situation where serious questions are being asked about our ability to deal with issues like black money and corruption in a civilised manner. Should we have debate on issues like bringing Prime Minister and top judiciary under the jurisdiction of Lok Pal in streets or at public meetings. Should we have a debate on these issues in Parliament or at Rajghat or Janatar Mantar.
Street demonstrations, candle light marches at India Gate in New Delhi or Gateway of India in Mumbai have their place in a democracy, but they can not be the forums for deciding or debating important issues.
Indian problems are too serious to be left to so called members of civil society whose number may be in thousands, but the decisions on these issues will have impact on lives of over a billion people.
All those who cherish democratic values and rule by elected majority need to wake up and protest against the attempt to settle issues in streets like any Banana republic instead of being a matured democracy. UPA also needs to wake up in time and start implementing its agenda and vision instead of spending time in appeasing the likes of Baba Ramdev.
India is on way of becoming a major economic power and has a role to play in world affairs. This certainly can not be done if the focus remains on trivialities. Corruption and black money are important issues, but they are not the only issues and there is no magic remedy to check them. We need to concentrate on dealing with trades which generate black money and corruption. Eliminate the need and practice of sending funds abroad and bringing them back through routes like Mauritius. Stop the use of black money to fight elections. Deal with the cause and not the symptoms. (NPA)

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

FUDGING OF BANK ACCOUNTS MUST STOP

BY NANTOO BANERJEE

 

The suspicion that India's public sector banks have been hiding huge losses on account of non-performing assets (NPAs) under the carpet year after year is now proved to be true. Thanks to the bold decision taken by the State Bank of India's (SBI) newly appointed chairman, Pratip Chaudhuri, to revisit the audited financial accounts of the bank in the last quarter of 2010-11, that is before his taking over the charge, a Rs. 6,059-crore hole was discovered on the bank's assets position. As a result SBI's net profit in the fourth quarter, 2010-11, plunged by 99 per cent to only a meagre Rs. 20.88 crore from Rs. 1,866 crore in the corresponding quarter in the previous fiscal. The most disconcerting news is, however, that the previous SBI management, led by O P Bhatt, persuaded the bank's auditors not to raise an unnecessary alarm about bad debt that went sour as it would get an unfavourable dispensation from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), the banking regulator and also the majority shareholder of SBI.
Now that the cat is out of the bag, RBI should ask SBI to conduct a special audit of the bank's books of accounts for a period of five years, between 2005-06 and 2010-11, or during the entire period under Bhatt's stewardship. Such a special audit should also cover SBI's foreign operations. SBI's North America operations were believed to have lost several hundred millions of dollars in bad loans during the US sub-prime crisis in 2008-09. India's largest private bank, ICICI Bank, too was said to have lost hundreds of millions of dollars during the 2008 financial crisis in the US following a series of home loan repayment default. Unfortunately, these facts were never clearly made public. ICICI Bank too should be told to conduct a special audit for the same 2005-10 period for the knowledge and benefit of investors, including the bank's ordinary shareholders, and make suitable provisioning. Statutory auditors are often hand-in-gloves with management. Only a special audit or peer review can provide a more reliable picture of a bank's or corporation's state of financial accounts.
The banking industry is notorious for fudging accounts and misreporting and misrepresenting the quality of assets. Bad debts are often shown as recoverable debts. Contingent liabilities are underreported. Fictitious interest incomes from such debts are used to bloat the top line. These, in turn, provide a false picture of a bank's bottom line. Such practices can be continued by a bank management for years before they become too difficult to hide and reach a crisis point. An unholy auditor-management nexus makes it possible. It would be wrong to suggest that such a trend is only India-specific. The disease is quite wide spread across nations. It has become a worldwide phenomenon as the crash Wall Street banks in 2008 exposed the deep-rooted existence of such a nexus.
In fact, the present governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, in his earlier position as the attorney general of the state, was so peeved that he held Ernst & Young, the auditors of Lehman Brothers, more responsible than the bank management for the collapse of the Wall Street's landmark financial institution. The US prosecutors went to the extent of filing civil fraud suits against Ernst & Young for its alleged role in the collapse of Lehman Brothers, saying the audit firm stood by the statement of accounts while the investment bank misled investors about its financial health. This was for the first time that a major accounting firm was publicly targeted for its role in the financial crisis in the US in 2008 with a shattering effect on investors' sentiment the world over.
Unfortunately, financial malpractices and 'bookcooking' by companies and institutions are rarely treated as a major criminal offence in India. Banks and financial institutions are the worst offenders. Connivance with creditors, large or small, is a routine practice with Indian banks. Their operations are often buried under secrecy laws. Real culprits go scot-free as banks are never allowed to collapse. Corruption is in-built into the system. The tax-payers' money is routinely diverted by the government to top up banks' reserves and liquidity levels to help them maintain the required capital adequacy ratio (CAR). The so-called stringent norms under Basel II and Basel III for financial reporting of banks exist only in paper and spoken extensively at seminars by top money managers without relevance to the on-ground practice. The near collapse of the country's largest public sector financial institution, Industrial Development Bank of India (IDBI), and also of the sickness of the public sector Industrial Finance Corporation of India (IFCI) in the late 1990s never raised a debate in Parliament or even in banking circles.
SBI's Pratip Chaudhuri is not the lone whistle blower in the matter of the trustworthiness of bank accounts. Before him, Bank of India's Alok Misra and Bank of Baroda's A K Khandelwal had raised similar concerns about fair reporting of profits in their respective banks before they assumed the charges. But, their concerns were ignored. Even Chaudhuri's act was not quite appreciated by the country's central bank and banking regulator, RBI. The latter was rather sarcastic in some of its recent remarks on the development. RBI Deputy Governor, K C Chakrabarty, was candid in his observation that financial reporting should not be "as per the minds of bank chairmen". He said: "when bank chairman changes, profits tend to fall. Things should not turn topsy-turvy if bank chairmen change." The RBI deputy governor's reaction is typical to the government's response to on-going financial scams and public outcry against corruption and accounts jugglery. Instead of taking the issue of financial jugglery by bank management more seriously and ordering special audits in at least large banks, RBI is unhappy that the action of some of the newly appointed bank chairmen is causing embarrassment to the banking regulator and the government, which is facing corruption charges from every quarter of the civil society, including Anna Hazare and Baba Ramdev.
Obviously, RBI, the least of all the government, is not prepared to face the bitter truth about squandering of huge bank funds or depositors' funds, running into thousands of crores of rupees, by the management in questionable advances. One will not be surprised if some of these soured high value bank loans are linked with high-level political pressure, interference, intervention or connection. But, one expects that RBI should, in the national interest, take serious cognizance in the matter. The banking regulator should take a cue from the recent statement of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on corruption investigation and conduct a thorough probe into the books of accounts of public sector banks, especially of the large ones "without fear and favour". This will only help improve the standard of financial reporting of banks for the long-term benefit of all. After all, the matter concerns the country's financial security and investor confidence in the banking system, the so-called protector of public funds. (IPA)

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

FALLING FOOD PRICES IS NOT GOOD FOR AGRICULTURE

BY DR ASHWANI MAHAJAN


It has been said that the only people who can change the world are those who want to. The world needs to move from its current non-renewable energy paradigm to a future powered by entirely renewable energy supply. It is only by making such a transition that we will be in a position to avoid the very worst impacts of climate change. A large number of leaders across the world from within the policy arena, business, media and civil society are questioning the views of conventional experts on the world's energy future and their business as usual scenarios, embarking on a serious search for realistic alternatives. The world has reached peak conventional oil and gas consumption, meaning thereby oil and gas companies are digging deeper and deeper into unconventional sources, with disastrous environmental and social consequences. Coal is still relatively readily available but catastrophic in terms of climate changing emissions. The world can no longer afford to hang on its old energy paradigm and its dangerous dependence on fossil fuels.
The Energy Report, produced through a joint effort of WWF and Ecofys, breaks new ground in the energy debate; a possible system in which all of the world's energy supply is provided by renewable sources by 2050. The Energy Report shows that this future is within our reach and provides a vital insight into how it can be achieved. The report puts together strategies and technology options that have already been put in practice to create a feasible global scenario. WWF wants to help change the old paradigm for the energy and articulate a new pathway for the future.
Renewables will play a greater role than either nuclear or carbon capture and storage by 2050. About 13 per cent of the world's energy come from renewable sources in 2008, a proportion likely to have risen as countries have built their capacity since then, with china leading the investment surge, particularly in wind energy. But by far the greatest source of renewable energy used globally at present is burning biomass- about 10 per cent of the global energy supply which is problematic because it can cause deforestation, leads to deposit of soot that accelerate global warming and cooking fires cause indoor air pollution that harm health. Wind power by contrast met about 2 per cent of global electricity demand in 2009, and could increase to more than 20 per cent by 2050.
Renewable energy is already growing fast- of the 300-giga watts (remember one gigawatt is equivalent to 1000 megawatts) of new electricity generation capacity added globally between 2008 and 2009; about 140 GW came from renewable sources such as wind and solar power. The investment that will be needed to meet the greenhouse gas emissions targets is likely to amount to about $ 5 trillion in the next decade, rising to $ 7 trillion from 2021 to 2030. Developing countries have an important stake in the future- this is where most of the 1.4 billion people without access to electricity live yet also where some of the best conditions exist for renewable energy deployment. Renewable energy can also meet the growing demand of developing countries where over 2 billion people lack access to basic energy services and can also do so at a more cost-competitive and faster rate than conventional energy sources.
Today, we do not use energy in a judicious manner. More than half the heats we pump into our homes disappear through walls, windows and roofs- yet we know how to construct buildings that require virtually no energy for heating or cooling. We favor big, powerful private cars over far more efficient forms of transport. Energy-hungry appliances clog the market, even though there is a wide range of efficient alternatives available. Manufacturers could use far less energy by reassessing their materials and processes. Energy conservation is something every one can embrace. We simply require to start making wise choices today. Nuclear meltdown in Japan after powerful earthquake in March 2011 clearly reveals why society should no longer bear the risks of nuclear disaster. And that is why it is clear now than ever before that the energy of future for the safer, more prudent society will come from renewable energy. The more we use renewable energy, the more we benefit the environment, strengthen our energy security, create jobs locally and help improve our economy. Here we can explore ways to use renewable energy.
Using Biomass Energy
Ever since humans started burning wood to keep warm and to cook food, we have been using biomass energy. Today we can also use biomass to fuel vehicles, generate electricity and developed bio-based products. Here we can explore the different ways to use biomass energy. For instance, by using fuel for vehicle with ethanol or biodiesel, using clean electricity generated from biomass, using products like plastics made from biomass.
Using Hydrogen
Hydrogen- a colorless and odorless gas is the most abundant element in the universe. However, because it combines easily with other elements, it is rarely found by itself in nature. Hydrogen usually combines with other elements, forming organic compounds called hydrocarbons. Hydrocarbons include plant material and fossil fuels such as petroleum, natural gas and coal. Water is produced during the burning of any hydrocarbon. Hydrogen can be separated from hydrocarbon through the burning of heat- a process known as reforming. Currently, most hydrogen is made this way from natural gas. An electric current can also be used to separate water into its components of oxygen and hydrogen. This process is known as electrolysis. Currently, hydrogen has great potential as a power source for fuel cells. Hydrogen fuel cells can provide heat for homes and buildings, generate electricity and power vehicles.
Using Hydropower
Flowing water creates energy that can be tapped and turned into electricity. This is called hydropower or hydroelectric power. If we have access to flowing water on our property, we can use a micro hydropower system to generate our own electricity. Micro hydropower system usually generate up to 100 Kilowatt (KW) of electricity.
Using Solar Energy
If we step outside on a hot, sunny day, and we will experience the power of sun's heat and the light. We can use solar energy to heat our homes through passive solar design or an active solar heating system. We can also use it to generate our own electricity. We can use it to heat water in our home or swimming pool. We can use it to light our home both indoors and outdoors.
Using Wind Energy
We have harnessed the wind's energy for hundreds of years- from windmills that pump water or grind grain to today's wind turbines that generate electricity. If you live on at least one acre of land with an ample wind resource, you can generate your own electricity using a small wind electric system. You can also use a small wind turbine for pumping water. You may have the opportunity now or in the future to buy clean electricity from a wind power plant.
One thing that looks imminent is the fact that the future belongs to renewable energy. Scientists and industry expert may disagree over how long the world's supply of oil and natural gas will last, but one thing is for sure that it will rather sooner or later exhaust.

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

EXTRA-CONSTITUTIONAL CENTERS OF POWER

BY DR BHARAT JHUNJHUNWALA

 

Anna Hazare and Baba Ramdev are being criticized for promoting extra-constitutional and unaccountable centers of power and thereby weakening democracy. People of the country have elected Members of Parliament and given them the authority to make laws for governance of the country. People have not given such a right to Hazare or Ramdev. These are self-appointed centers of power. They are not accountable to the people. Giving them importance amounts to neglecting the elected MPs and weakening democracy.
Problem is that the purported accountability of the elected MPs may be unreal. Actually politicians manipulate the voters. Voters are by nature shortsighted. They are focused on immediate personal gains to be obtained from the politicians rather than long term welfare of the society at large. An honest MP will get road made in the village but may not help much in getting an out-of-turn gas connection. On the other hand, a corrupt MP will not get the road made but help in getting gas connection. He will siphon off Rs one crore from the budget and distribute saris worth Rs ten thousand. Unfortunately, the voter recognizes the sari but not the road. He does not have the mental capacity to understand that taking a sari today will lead to the road not being built and he remaining in perpetual poverty.
Voters are manipulated by the MPs due to this shortcoming of theirs. American psychologist Edward Bernays has explained the matter. Bernays assisted President Woodrow Wilson in turning American public opinion in favour of the First World War. He worked for American Tobacco Company in the 1920s. At that time it was taboo for women to smoke in public. He persuaded Women Rights Activists to take out a procession in New York City smoking cigarettes. This got huge publicity and encouraged smoking among the women. Hitler's propaganda chief Goebbels persuaded the Germans to cleanse their race based on Bernays' teachings.
Bernays views on democracy are enlightening. He described the public as a herd that needed to be led. Bernays' fundamental axiom was to control the masses without their knowing it. Bernays expressed little respect for the average person's ability to think out, understand, or act upon the world in which they live. He said, "No serious sociologist any longer believes that the voice of the people expresses any divine or specially wise and lofty idea."
The mind of the people, says Bernays, "is composed of inherited prejudices and symbols and clichés and verbal formulas supplied to them by the leaders... Universal literacy was supposed to educate the common man to control his environment. Once he could read and write he would have a mind fit to rule. So ran the democratic doctrine. But instead of a mind, universal literacy has given him rubber stamps, rubber stamps linked with advertising slogans, editorials, with published scientific data, with the trivialities of the tabloids and the platitudes of history, but quite innocent of original thought. Each man's rubber stamps are the duplicates of millions of others, so that when those millions are exposed to the same stimuli, all receive identical imprints." Economists recognize this too. E J Mishan says, "consumers may be persuaded to desire almost anything if enough resources are devoted to the task of persuasion." US President George W Bush persuaded the American people to launch war on Iraq using propaganda of weapons of mass destruction.
Yet we cannot decry democracy because it gives people a route to self-governance even if it is inadequate. The inadequacy arises mainly from provision of one-sided information. Say you are in the market to buy mangoes. Only one variety of safeda is available. You are likely to buy it unquestioningly. However, if other varieties like dasahri and langra are available then you will apply your mind to the rate, size, taste, etc. and then take a decision. Similarly, democracy fails if only one stream of information is provided. Democracy can be successful if alternative viewpoints are available and pubic has an option to choose between them.
Question, then, is how to provide the voter with alternate viewpoints such that he can actually apply his mind and arrive at his own conclusions. This, precisely, is the role of Hazare and Ramdev. They are placing before the people an alternative viewpoint and enlivening democracy. We cannot depend upon the elected MPs alone to deliver good governance. Actually democracy can take the society in wrong direction as happened in Hitler's rise to power.
It is possible that the MPs may be providing the correct input to the people and the extra-constitutional centers may be providing misinformation. Who knows UPA's contention may be correct? It is unwise, however, to crush Hazare-Ramdev movements on this ground. The choice here is between moving more slowly in the right direction or to move fast in a possibly wrong direction. If Hazare-Ramdev movements are recognized and given importance then progress will be slow. We will spend much time debating whether a new Lokpal Bill is required or not. This debate is likely to take us in the right direction. On the other hand, crushing Hazare-Ramdev movements would mean greater speed but the direction may turn out to be wrong. A judge can quickly deliver judgment after listening to only one party. It takes much more time if both parties are to be heard. Yet, ex-parte orders are not respected because they are more likely to be in error. The same holds for democracy. We must recognize and encourage Hazare-Ramdev movements even if they are taking the society in the wrong direction because such debate is fundamental to the determination of right and wrong.
Great civilizations like those of Egypt, Sumer, Greece and Rome have ceased to exist because they moved fast in the wrong direction. They did not encourage debate among the people to determine right and wrong. The Indian civilization has been able to survive uninterrupted for nearly five millennia because it had created a space for such extra-constitutional centers of power. Historian A L Basham writes:
"A strong king was always a check on brahmanic pretensions, just as the brahmins were a check on the pretensions of the king." And, Romila Thapar says similarly: "The gradual politicization of the office of priest (purohita) can also be seen in the priest becoming a check on the monarch". Gandhiji wanted to disband the Congress and convert Congressmen into Constructive Workers would live among the people and guide them in selecting the right MP. Lenin spoke of the Communist Party guiding the Government.
The common strand in all these formulations is the existence of a center of power that exists independent of the government. The role of the Brahmin and the priest is being discharged by Hazare-Ramdev movements. So let us encourage them and help the people make their own decisions.

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

'DISAPPOINTING' MSP

IS PADDY CULTIVATION DESIRABLE?

 

Every time the minimum support price for paddy is announced, politicians in Punjab and Haryana react on expected lines: They support it if their party is in power at the Centre and oppose it if not. They hardly give a thought to the depleting water resources and whether paddy cultivation is desirable. The governments in Punjab and Haryana have done pretty little to arrest the regular fall in the water table. With the water level receding in rivers and canal irrigation on the decline, there is a heavy dependence on groundwater to grow rice, forcing farmers to install expensive submersible pumps to extract water from ever-sinking levels.

 

In this context, no matter what the price, paddy cultivation would be suicidal unless the water balance is restored. Before demanding a higher MSP for paddy year after year, politicians should pause and think of the consequences. It is true farmers need state help. The Swaminathan Commission's suggestion about giving farmers 50 per cent profit merits consideration. But this would be possible only if farming is done efficiently and costs are controlled. Outdated farming practices, including flood irrigation, raise production costs. State subsidies too should be better targeted to help the needy farmers only. Free power is given to all. It leads to waste and encourages the ruinous paddy cultivation. Besides, it does not figure in the input cost calculations for fixing the MSP.

 

It is true farmers grow only those crops where risk-free returns are maximum. The yearly increases in the paddy and wheat MSPs do not let them explore new avenues. Agriculture experts will have to guide farmers to shift to more profitable crops. The government too needs to promote such crops with incentives. Farming has to be a business-like commercial activity, catering to the market needs. If the government wants farmers to stay with paddy, then water resources must be protected and replenished and efficient water management should be a top priority.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

UNEXPECTED & UNEXPLAINED

THE VERDICT OF THE CHICAGO COURT IS PUZZLING

 

Members of the jury in US trial courts are normally not barred from discussing their verdict with the media. But the jury at the Chicago court trying Pakistani-Canadian doctor Tahawwur Hussain Rana appears to have taken the unusual decision to remain anonymous and to remain silent on how it reached the verdict. This would add to India's disappointment and uneasiness over the jury finding Rana not guilty of facilitating the 26/11 attack on Mumbai. Though the US prosecutors deemed it fit to charge Rana on this count and produced evidence in support, the jury apparently found the evidence weak. But then Rana himself confessed that he was aware of David Coleman Headley's links with Lashkar-e-Taiba and with Pakistan's ISI and Army. What makes the verdict even more perverse is the finding of the same jury that Rana was guilty of extending material support to a terrorist organisation and of planning to launch a terror strike at a Danish newspaper which had offended Muslims by carrying cartoons on the Prophet.

 

The verdict also defies reason because while Rana has been found guilty of plotting the attack in Denmark, which actually never took place, he has been let off the hook for the attack on Mumbai in which 164 people, including six US citizens, were killed. The prosecution had established that Rana helped Dawood change his name and secure an Indian visa. It has also been admitted that he allowed Dawood, alias Headley, to pose as a representative of his immigration firm while taking photographs of targets in Mumbai. Telephone calls and e-mails also conclusively proved that Rana was aware that his 'friend' was working for Lashkar-e-Taiba. Since Headley agreed to turn an approver provided he is spared the maximum penalty and is not extradited to India for trial, conviction of Rana for 26/11 would have strengthened the case against the masterminds of the Mumbai attack.

 

The unexpected verdict may or may not be a 'major setback' in bringing the 26/11 culprits to book. But it does leave an uneasy trail of questions about how much India can afford to rely on the US in taking on the ISI.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

COLUMN

KEEPING HERITAGE ALIVE

PRESERVE NAGGAR CASTLE, CHAIL PALACE

 

It is indeed heartening that the 551-year-old Naggar Castle is being given due importance by it being recognised as a heritage building of national importance. The castle has a rich past, which deserves preservation. The 75-acre Palace Hotel, Chail, which is younger by three decades, too, has a rich past, although the main palace suffered extensive damage in a fire many years ago. Heritage buildings, especially in the hills, need special attention since they are vulnerable to fires. A number of important buildings in Himachal Pradesh have been gutted in the recent past. Neglect, largely because of apathy and lack of funds, has often contributed in the state losing out on its heritage. It is now widely recognised that the government alone is unable to maintain heritage buildings, even when they are converted into hotels.

 

In order to attract elite tourists, the destinations, their maintenance and the service standards need to be impeccable. Public-private partnership models also need to be encouraged so that they become attractive tourist destinations. Of course, care must be taken in making the process of selection of the private partners transparent and fair, so as to prevent controversies of the kind that bedevil several such projects in the country.

 

The recognition for these properties will also give a fillip to the region, and serve to the Kullu-Manali tourists and the Chail-Shimla circuits. However, the government needs to ensure that proper facilities are provided and information about these places, as well as other palaces of interest near them, is properly documented and widely circulated.

 

Punjab and Haryana too need to take a cue from their neighbouring state to identify, recognise and develop heritage buildings into attractive tourist destinations so that not only are the buildings preserved but also the heritage that they represent is kept alive in the minds of the visitors. Preserving tangible heritage also helps to keep alive its intangible aspects which keep alive the ethos of the people.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

ARTICLE

PRODUCING MORE WITH LESS WATER

FARMING PRACTICES MUST IMPROVE

BY S. S. JOHL

 

It is well known and fully recognised that due to the continuously deteriorating water balance in central Punjab, the underground water table is receding very fast. Inter alia, the major reason is that canal water is meeting hardly 25 per cent irrigation water requirements of the rice-wheat cropping pattern. Consequently, 80 per cent of the irrigation requirements are met by lifting underground water through tube-wells and pump-sets. This water withdrawal is much higher than the recharge that occurs through rains, floods, seepage etc.

 

The major culprit is the rice crop because a much larger area is put under the crop than what can be sustained by available water resources without adversely affecting the water balance of the state. Whereas the capacity of the water resources to nurture the rice crop under the existing production technology of growing rice in ponded water is not more than 1.5 million hectares, the crop is planted in more than 2.5 million hectares in the state. This is an unsustainable proposition. The receding water table is a serious concern not only from the point of view of depletion of the most scarce production resource; it is also escalating the cost of lifting ground water. About two-third tube-wells in Punjab are already functioning on submersible pumps, which involve a huge installation and running cost.

 

One remedial measure is to diversify the cropping pattern and replace at least one million hectares from under rice with other crops like fruits, vegetables, oilseeds, pulses and other high-value crops. But the problem is that no other crop as yet is as sure as the rice crop in respect of production and price certainty. Field and market risks on high-value crops discourage farmers from going in for these crops on a large scale.

 

Further, one cannot imagine the crop replacement in one million hectares in immediate future. However, the problem is right there now, staring at the face of the state. It is therefore important that production technology in case of rice crop must improve so much that water use efficiency increases to the level that water balance in the state is restored. Lot many efforts are being made at the level of research in the country, including Punjab, such as the development of cultivars that require lesser water, short duration varieties that can be sown late, cultural practices and use of instruments like tensio-meters that help in optimising water application. Even foreign agencies and some companies are collaborating in this effort worldwide. The Water Center of Institute of Earth Sciences of Columbia University is collaborating with Punjab Agricultural University in this research.

 

Agricultural technocrats are also endeavoring to adopt measures and practices that are aimed at saving irrigation water in rice cultivation without adversely affecting the yield. They experimented with direct seeding and also transplanting rice on bed and furrow system, then ridges and furrow system and also dry and direct seeding All these methods met with success of a sort, but some major problems like the growth of weeds in the crop and difficulties in the use of harvesting combines turned out to be the major road blocks. Fortunately, now the technology of direct seeding is proving quite a success, particularly when seeding can be done on flat fields and quite effective pre-emergence and post-emergence weedicides have become available.

 

Not relying on hearsays and experience of others, I myself tried the direct seeding method in my own fields for the last two years. The method of direct seeding with ridges and furrows succeeded, yet partially, because of the weeds problem and difficulty in the use of a combine harvester. However, direct seeding in flat fields succeeded wonderfully. This technique saved at least 30 per cent water application and improved the yield by more than 10 per cent along with saving considerably on production costs and drudgery of work involved in raising nursery, puddling of fields and the back-breaking operation of transplanting.

 

The technique involved (1) careful laser levelling of the fields, which in itself saves about 15 to 20 per cent water; (2) irrigation of the field and then preparing the field fine in proper moisture; (3) shallow drilling with the drill especially designed for the purpose, which is available with the Department of Agriculture for demonstration (The drill is manufactured on order at Jandiala Guru in Amritsar district); (4) applying pre-emergence weedicide immediately on moist soil; (5)leaving the field as such for three days and then applying water; (6) afterwards applying water after intervals of four to five days, (7) as the rains set in, water application can be reduced accordingly (On two occasions we did not apply any water for even 15 days); (8) applying post-emergence weedicide after three weeks; we applied nominee-gold, (8) the crop will need a bit liberal irrigation at the time of ear formation. We seeded the crop on the 10th of June. In my assessment seeding can be delayed even up to June 15 which will further save one or two irrigations and the period of growth gets nearer the onset of the monsoon. Since rice is a photo-sensitive and thermo-sensitive crop, late or early sown crops mature almost at the same time within a margin of one week to 10 days.

 

In the adoption of this technique we faced no problem. Heavy dependence on casual labour was eliminated and the drudgery of work was alleviated almost completely. It is suggested that farmers may try this method on one acre this time to build confidence and make adjustments as per their experience for planting the crop with this method on larger scale next year. The university and researchers need to further experiment.

 

The scope for improving water efficiency is there, yet it requires change in the mindset of researchers. An innovation-oriented approach is required both on the part of extension workers and farmers if worthwhile results are to be obtained and water saving technology and cultural practices are to be developed to save water and thereby save agriculture from the quagmire of stagnation. After all, savings on water, labour and financial costs as well as alleviating drudgery and improved yields are not a small gain.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

HEART-BREAKING SHIPBREAK

BY TRILOCHAN SINGH TREWN

 

When I started residing in Chandigarh after a long spell at sea, I found myself in the neighbourhood of a businessman, Mr Ramnik Lal, from Bhavnagar (Gujarat). Experiences of a harbour life were a common topic whenever we met. Once he mentioned about his visits to the major shipbreaking activity being carried out in the subsidiary port of Alang close to Bhavnagar. I had been to Bhavnagar during my naval career but the latest regarding major shipbreaking work being undertaken along the Alang waterways made me curious. I had never seen massive old warships, passenger ships and cargo vessels being dismantled within days.

 

Ramnik Lal noticing my curiosity invited me to join him during his next visit to Bhavnagar. We stayed at his place and proceeded to Alang waterway jetty early next morning.

 

For me it was a revival of memories of long association with ships. Alongside the very long jetty I could see a passenger ferry, two empty cargo ships, one warship and two empty large oil tankers all lined up to be cut into pieces, loaded on trucks leaving for their inland destination and making room for more to arrive and take their turn.

 

Normally all ships arriving at Alang dispose off their valuable portable items before arriving except those required for ship safety and firefighting. We came to know that one of the just docking Italian passenger ferry had the ship's owner, Mr Joseph Sabatini, still on board to watch his beloved ship vanishing till end. He was not a professional sailor but was a good seaman having taken part in several regattas in the Adriatic Sea.

 

His spacious owner's cabin was immaculately adorned with a large painting of a three-masted scooner, a large ivory framed barometer, an artistically designed telescope and a rare quality carpet from Venice. He intended these items to be ferried back to his home in Italy.

 

We stayed about five days at Bhavnagar and saw the ferry being dismantled cabin by cabin and bulkhead by bulkhead. Finally Mr Sabatini also left ship to watch his cabin items being packed ashore. He had a pot of pink rose flowers from his wife in his cabin to be placed on the last truck leaving the jetty. Now on the last day of the dismantling job at the jetty he was looking at the empty berth along with sweet memories with wet eyes knowing full well that his beloved ship now did not exist anymore. He looked back with vacant eyes just when he drove away from jetty.

 

No doubt he loved his ship and he had found someone to share his feelings. After a month from his home near Venice he sent me a photograph taken during the launch of his passenger ferry years ago!

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

THE PEOPLE VS THE PRESIDENT

SYRIAN TANKS AND HELICOPTERS ARE BEING USED TO CURB PROTESTS RAGING IN SEVERAL PARTS OF THE COUNTRY AGAINST THE AUTHORITARIAN REGIME. THOUSANDS OF REFUGEES HAVE POURED INTO TURKEY AMIDST GROWING EVIDENCE THAT THE SYRIAN PRESIDENT IS GETTING ISOLATED AND LOSING SUPPORT OF HIS PEOPLE. A CHILLING ACCOUNT OF THE REPRESSION.
ROBERT FISK

 

Syria's revolt against the rule of President Bashar al-Assad is turning into an armed insurrection, with previously peaceful demonstrators taking up arms to fight their own army and the "shabiha" - meaning "the ghosts" in English - of Alawi militiamen who have been killing and torturing those resisting the regime's rule.

 

Even more serious for Assad's still-powerful supporters, there is growing evidence that individual Syrian soldiers are revolting against his forces. The whole edifice of Assad's Alawi dictatorship is now in the gravest of danger.

 

In 1980, Assad's father, Hafez, faced an armed uprising in the central city of Hama, which was put down by the Special Forces of Hafez's brother Rifaat - who is currently living, for the benefit of war crimes investigators, in central London - at a cost of up to 20,000 lives. But the armed revolt today is now spreading across all of Syria, a far-mightier crisis and one infinitely more difficult to suppress. No wonder Syrian state television has been showing the funerals of up to 120 members of the security services from just one location, the northern town of Jisr al-Shughour.

 

The first evidence of civilians turning to weapons to defend their families came from Deraa, the city where the bloody story of the Syrian uprising first began after intelligence officers arrested and tortured to death a 13-year-old boy. Syrians arriving in Beirut told me the male citizens of Deraa had grown tired of following the example of peaceful Tunisian and Egyptian protesters - an understandable emotion since people in those countries suffered nothing like the brutal suppression meted out by Assad's soldiers and militiamen - and were now sometimes "shooting back" for the sake of "dignity" and to protect their wives and children.

Bashar and his cynical brother Maher - the present-day equivalent of the outrageous Rifaat - may now be gambling on the old dictator's appeal that their regime must be defended against armed Islamists supported by al-Qa'ida, a lie which was perpetrated by Muammar Gaddafi and the now-exiled leaders Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen and Ben Ali of Tunisia and Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and the still-on-the-throne al-Khalifas of Bahrain.

 

The few al-Qa'ida cells in the Arab world may wish this to be true, but the Arab revolt is about the one phenomenon in the Middle East uncontaminated by "Islamism". Only the Israelis and the Americans may be tempted to believe otherwise.

 

Al Jazeera television aired extraordinary footage of a junior Syrian officer calling upon his comrades to refuse to continue massacring civilians in Syria. Identified as Lt Abdul-Razak Tlas, from the town of Rastan, he said he had joined the army "to fight the Israeli enemy", but found himself witnessing a massacre of his own people in the town of Sanamein. "After what we've seen from crimes in Deraa and all over Syria, I am unable to continue with the Syrian Arab army," he announced. "I urge the army, and I say: 'Is the army here to steal and to protect the Assad family?' I call upon all honourable officers to tell their soldiers about the real picture, use your conscience... if you are not honourable, stay with Assad."

 

Differentiating rumour from fact in Syria is getting easier by the week. More Syrians are reaching the safety of Lebanon and Turkey to tell their individual stories of torture and cruelty in security police barracks and in plain-clothes police cells. Some are still using the telephone from Syria itself - to describe explosions in Jisr al-Shughour and of bodies being tossed into the river from which the town takes its name.

 

For well over a month, I have been watching Syrian television's nightly news and at least half the broadcasts have included funerals of dead soldiers. Now Syria itself declares that 120 have been killed in one incident, an incredible loss for an army that was supposed to instill horror into the minds of the country's protesters. But then the supposedly invincible Syrian army often showed itself woefully unable to suppress Lebanese militias during the country's 1975-90 civil war. An entire battalion of Syrian Special Forces troops was driven out of east Beirut, for example, by a ragtag group of Christian militias who would have been crushed by any serious professional army.

 

If you wish to destroy unarmed civilians, you shoot them down in the street and then shoot down the funeral mourners and then shoot down the mourners of the dead mourners - which is exactly what Assad's gunmen have been doing - but when the resistors shoot back, the Syrian army has shown a quite different response: torture for their prisoners and fear in the face of the enemy.

 

But if the armed insurrection takes hold, then it is also the 11 per cent Alawi community - once the frontier force of the French mandate against the Sunnis and now the prop of Assad against the poorer Sunnis - which is at threat. So appalled is the Assad regime at its enemies that it has been encouraging Palestinians to try to cross the frontier wire on Israeli-occupied Golan. The Israelis say this is to divert world attention from the massacres in Syria - and they are absolutely right.

 

The Damascus government's Tishrin newspaper has been suggesting that 600,000 Palestinians may soon try to "go home" to Palestine from which the Israelis drove them out in 1948, a nightmare the Israelis would prefer not to think about - but not as great a nightmare as that now facing the people and their oppressors in Syria itself.

 

By arrangement with The Independent

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

PAST IMPERFECT, FUTURE TENSE

 

Syria has a complicated history and clues to its present turmoil can be found in its tumultuous past. After WW I, France administered the northern province of Syria till granting it independence in 1946.

 

In 1958 Syria united with Egypt to form the United Arab Republic. But this political marriage didn't last long and they ended up splitting in 1961. In 1970, former Air Force Commander Hafez al-Assad (current President Bashar al-Assad's father) seized power in a bloodless coup d'etat.

 

Hafez al-Assad ruled Syria with the proverbial iron fist. His loyalists were promoted to high positions and anyone even remotely opposed to him, was removed from power and in many instances jailed. There were hopes for peace and democracy when President Bashar al-Assad came to power in 2000, following the death of his father Hafez al-Assad. President Bashar, more modern and western than his father was seen by many in the West as a successor who may reverse the course the history. He had made gestures towards the Lebanese, the Turks and the Israelis for peace. He had talked about modernising Syria. He had also talked about political reform. In the end he talked more and delivered less.

 

President Bashar's rise to power was somewhat accidental, as it was his older brother - Basil al-Assad - who was the likely heir and was being groomed to one day succeed their father. But in 1994, Basil was killed in a car accident and Bashar's fortune changed forever. Bashar is an Ophthalmologist by training and was in London at the time of his brother's death. Upon his brother's death, he left London, returned home and joined the military to train for the family business - governing Syria.

 

Interestingly, at the time of his father's death Bashar was only 34-year-old, and as such ineligible to preside over the country since the minimum age for the President per constitution at that time was 40. But the Syrian constitution was promptly amended with a new minimum age of 34 for President, thus paving way for his nomination by the Ba'ath party. 

 

Unlike neighboring Jordan, Syria is not a constitutional monarchy, nor is any member (living or dead) of the al-Assad family officially a monarch. Constitutionally Syria is a republic - a single party secular state - or in other words an autocracy. Each term for Presidency is for seven years and there are no limits on the number of terms.

 

President is appointed by what is called a popular referendum. Last time President Bashar al-Assad was appointed as the President (for his second seven-year term) in May 2007, he received a whopping 97.6% of votes.

 

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

EDITORIAL

MANUFACTURING A POLICY

INDIA MUST CREATE JOBS IN THE INDUSTRIAL ECONOMY

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's recent go-ahead to prepare the final draft of the new manufacturing policy comes not a day too soon. The draft Bill to be tabled in Parliament ends months of wrangling among various stakeholders who were (legitimately) seeking to ensure their respective interests were safeguarded. While further debate can be expected, the central government has done well to provide the policy impetus to revive a sector that currently contributes just 16 per cent to India's gross domestic product (GDP) — that is way below potential. The policy's dominant objective is to reverse the decline in industry's share of GDP and ensure that the manufacturing sector alone accounts for at least 25 per cent of GDP by 2025, generating 100 million jobs in the process. For that, the policy envisions a series of steps such as a comprehensive exit policy, fiscal support to develop indigenous technology, labour reform (that makes flexible labour contracts possible), skill development programmes, support for small and medium enterprises and the establishment of National Industrial and Manufacturing Zones (NIMZ), among others.

The policy's goals are laudable. India needs to rapidly generate gainful employment for millions of young men and women expected to join the workforce in the coming decade. An inability to do that would soon result in the vaunted demographic "dividend" morphing into a demographic "curse", with unimaginable social and political consequences. A higher share of manufacturing in GDP is more than a mere statistical artefact; it lays the foundation for sustained, rapid economic growth and in the process offers the possibility of "reallocating" surplus labour from agriculture, as China did successfully in the 1980s. In short, a robust manufacturing sector is a must if India is to add substance to its vision of inclusive economic growth.

 

The document in its current form is short on specifics. For example, while the document mentions the need for a social security net to go with an exit policy, it does not discuss how such a programme needs to be structured. As seen with China, it is easier said than done to professionally rehabilitate millions of workers displaced from work. The "xiagang" programme in China, a sequenced combination of unemployment insurance and worker retraining for "eligible" displaced workers, is by official admission only a modest success, even after years of fine-tuning. Second, the skill augmentation is to be effected as a "partnership between public and private institutions". How will this burden be shared? What about quality control? Currently, almost three-fourths of technically trained graduates are deemed professionally unfit by potential employers. Third, it is unclear whether adequate thought has been paid to the adverse consequences of the "enclave" approach to development, as epitomised by the planned setting-up of NIMZ. The decision to establish exclusive industrial zones in east and southeast Asia was dictated by prevailing local conditions that do not necessarily apply to India. While evolutionary policy fine-tuning is welcome, implementing the new policy needs to be undertaken with urgency. A sub-continental agrarian economy like India, with a large semi-skilled and unskilled workforce and a young population looking for employment, cannot fancy itself leapfrogging the industrial stage of development and moving straight into a services-led economy. India needs manufacturing and manufacturing needs a policy.

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

MAMATA'S SELF-GOAL

IT'S TIME TO MOVE BEYOND SINGUR AND GOVERN BENGAL

Football is a favourite sport in Kolkata, but no one cheers a self-goal. No one can really object to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee wishing to deliver on an important election promise, and that too of an emotive issue like Singur, from where her journey to power began. Even so, it should have been clear to Ms Banerjee and her advisors that the state government cannot issue an ordinance to reclaim land sold to a company when the state legislature was technically still in session and normal administrative procedures had not been followed. The state government's ordinance reclaiming the entire land at Singur with an intention to hand over a part of it to the farmers was flawed, even if well intentioned. Less than 24 hours later, she realised her mistake, refrained from notifying the ordinance and instead announced her intention to introduce an appropriate legislative Bill in the Assembly, which will now reconvene a week ahead of schedule. That only reconfirms a widely held view that the newly acquired occupancy of the corner room in Writers' Building has made no difference to Ms Banerjee, who continues to display a streak of administrative immaturity in spite of two stints as Union railway minister.

Politically, too, the hurried decision to issue an ordinance did not appear prudent. Quite apart from the embarrassment it caused Ms Banerjee and her supporters, the move has given the Left Front a fresh lease of life — The Left Front was lying low after having suffered its worst electoral reverse last month that ended its 34-year-old rule in the state. Losing no time to seize the opportunity, a delegation of Left Front leaders met the West Bengal governor on Friday to highlight the procedural improprieties committed by the chief minister. With Ms Banerjee's retraction, the Left Front is likely to gain in strength as an opposition force in a state where it had virtually written itself off.

 

 The lesson that Ms Banerjee should draw from the ordinance issue is that the electoral promises she made on Singur had a limited purpose. Of course, she should take steps to fulfil that promise, whatever the merits of the case. However, she should also ensure that while fulfilling the promise, her government follows every rule in the statute book. More importantly, Ms Banerjee should develop a vision beyond Singur that encompasses the whole of West Bengal and the developmental challenge it faces. She can no longer afford to see herself only as a leader of a political party, striving and strategising to retain her popularity among the masses. As chief minister of West Bengal, she has far more pressing problems to handle — a fiscal mess and industrial stagnation. The true measure of her contribution as West Bengal's new chief minister will not be whether she can return the Singur land to those farmers, but whether she can attract fresh industrial investment to the state without the kind of land acquisition problems that stymied her predecessor's industrialisation efforts.

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

THINK TAIWAN

IMPROVING B2B AND P2P RELATIONS BETWEEN INDIA AND TAIWAN IS EASING G2G RELATIONS

SANJAYA BARU

 

As my guide walks me through three millennia of Chinese culture spanning the Sung, Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties at Taipei's historic National Palace Museum, for some odd reason a small chinaware teacup catches my eye. Taking a step closer I look into it and find written in the middle of the cup the Sanskrit letter "Om"! Where did it come from? A Hindu temple in Taiwan?

 

Travels to the East always throw up such surprises. In the Japanese garden behind Tokyo's Four Seasons Hotel I once found a stone Trimurti that the hotel staff said was found in the ground below when the hotel was being built. Few Indians and fewer east Asians are today aware of the intimacy of India's civilisational links with countries to its east, going as far – or as near – as Japan, Korea, Vietnam and Taiwan.

"Taiwan is a melting pot of cultures," says Tien Hung-mao, president of Taiwan's Institute for National Policy Research. When Han Chinese from the mainland first crossed the straits and came to the island, they met indigenous tribals whose descendants are now citizens of the Republic of China, that is, Taiwan. Over the centuries, Japanese, Koreans, Polynesians and others settled on the island making Taiwan "a plural democracy like India", says Dr Tien.

It is not just civilisational links – nor a shared commitment to liberal democracy – that today bind India and Taiwan together as much as galloping trade. India's bilateral trade with Taiwan grew at a whopping 55 per cent in 2010, followed by a 46 per cent growth in January-May 2011 and is currently estimated over $6 billion. Officials from both countries are confident that with growing government-to-government (G2G) relations, bilateral trade will hit the $10 billion mark next year.

Both governments have commissioned their think tanks – the Chung-Hua Institution for Economic Research in Taipei and the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations in New Delhi – to study the feasibility of an India-Taiwan free trade agreement (FTA). In the past year, two senior ministers of the Taiwan government led delegations of business leaders and educationists to India to cement closer business-to-business (B2B) and people-to-people (P2P) relations.

Both governments hope that the hurdles erected by idiosyncratic G2G relations will be overcome by stronger B2B and P2P relations with rising trade, foreign direct investment (FDI) and educational exchanges. At the National Taiwan Normal University, I meet Indian students pursuing doctoral degrees in the sciences who vouch for good teaching (mostly in English) and research facilities. Many are also learning Mandarin and the use of chopsticks.

"I attach great importance to good relations with India," says Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou, expressing hope that an FTA will be signed and bilateral economic relations will continue to grow. "India's Look East Policy offers a golden opportunity for India-east Asia relations," he tells me when I call on him at Taipei's grand Presidential Palace last week.

President Ma explains that Taiwan has moved from "isolation to engagement" by first improving relations with mainland China and then with the "international community". While Taiwan remains "committed to improving cross-straits relations" (with China), it wishes to "expand relations with the United States, European Union, Japan and India". President Ma describes this as a "virtuous cycle" — improving relations with China helps Taiwan improve relations with all others, and vice versa.

What is driving Taiwan's increasing engagement with India? India's economic rise, without doubt. President Ma acknowledges that Taiwan has greatly benefitted from its economic relations with China, which remains its largest trade partner and destination for Taiwanese FDI. However, China's economic growth is slowing and Taiwan needs to "de-risk". It wants to spread its eggs into other baskets and that is where the new approach to India fits in. Taiwan is wary of a deceleration in China's growth and is looking to India to sustain its export-oriented industry.

In its relations with other Asian countries "Taiwan has a grand strategy", explains President Ma. It wishes to "institutionalise cross-straits relations" so that there is no scope for any uncertainty in the future and there is no arms race in the region. Any reversal of "current relations" will have a prohibitively high cost for both China and Taiwan, he believes. "This will act as a deterrent to any change in the status quo."

At the Taiwan Think Tank and the Taiwan Brain Trust, two policy forums of the country's opposition political party (the Democratic Progressive Party), policy analysts Shih-Chung Liu and I-chung Lai reiterate their party's commitment to Taiwanese "independence and democracy" and to Taiwan having an "independent foreign policy". Both note the importance of Taiwan-China economic relations and of stable cross-straits relations but they exude a sense of pride about being Taiwanese.

Curiously, they want to promote greater travel from Taiwan to the rest of Asia, including India. It appears tourism has a strategic dimension for them, so does their cultural pluralism. Indian cinema is gaining popularity and almost everyone I meet has seen Aamir Khan's 3 Idiots and identifies with the parent-child relationship and the focus on education depicted in the movie.

Two decades after former Prime Minister Narasimha Rao launched India's "Look East Policy", the geo-economic dividends are there to see. Having watched Japan, Korea, Singapore, Malaysia and even China log into India's increasingly open and growing economy, Taiwan, too, has hitched its wagon. There is great potential for increased B2B and P2P contacts between the two countries. Taiwan can also offer a convenient base for Indian companies keen to do business in and with China but is not yet ready to risk locating facilities there.

Today, Taiwan benefits from China's economic rise, but tomorrow China would benefit from emulating Taiwan's political pluralism. Democratic Taiwan holds a mirror to communist China's political future.

The writer visited Taiwan as a guest of the India-Taipei Association

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BUSINESS STANDARD

GENERAL LIU CAN CLOSE HIS EYELIDS

IF AIRCRAFT CARRIERS ARE A PLATFORM FOR A COUNTRY TO PROJECT HARD POWER FAR BEYOND ITS SHORES, SUBMARINES ARE AN EFFECTIVE WAY TO DENY THEM SPACE

NITIN PAI

 

China's new aircraft carrier should surprise only those who were not looking — it has been China's largest open secret for several years now. It has been apparent – thanks to Google Earth –, that the partially-completed Soviet-era vessel that China's Chong Lot Travel Agency bought for $20 million in the late-1990s, complete with designs, was not really going to be used as a floating casino and amusement park. There have been other signs, including facilities and training programmes for naval personnel and aviators, that suggested China intended to operate aircraft carriers. As early as 1987, General Liu Huaqing, the recently deceased father of the modern People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy, said, "Without an aircraft carrier, I will die with my eyelids open; the Chinese Navy needs to build an aircraft carrier."

 

 So, both stated intentions and signs on the ground indicated that an aircraft carrier was on the cards. The only question was why, for the PLA Navy's strategy over the last two decades has been to counter the US' formidable surface fleet through the development of its own submarine force. This strategy – of using submarines to neutralise the power of aircraft carriers and warships – was pioneered by Soviet Union's Admiral Sergey Gorshkov. In a remarkable demonstration of irony or its deficiency, the Soviets named one of their aircraft carriers after him, the same that India since bought and whose delivery it is awaiting.

If aircraft carriers are a platform for a country to project hard power far beyond its shores, submarines are an effective way to deny them space. China had around 65 operational submarines last year. In 2007, one of them slipped past an array of ships and aircraft into an area in the Pacific Ocean where the US Navy's aircraft carrier strike group was conducting training exercises. That incident was a stark reminder of the vulnerability of aircraft carriers to the Gorshkov strategy. It was also a signal of the changed maritime balance in the Western Pacific ocean.

The utility of aircraft carriers as a device to project power on the littoral is also undermined by anti-ship missiles. Chinese-made anti-ship missiles or their variants are deployed, among others, by North Korea, Myanmar, Iran, Bangladesh and, possibly, Pakistan. To the extent that their range, capability and proliferation grow, aircraft carriers become less useful in their traditional roles of power projection.

In other words, aircraft carriers will need to increasingly stay away from hostile shores, limiting their effectiveness. The benefits of deploying an aircraft carrier are likely to diminish over time, even if the costs stay the same. An aircraft carrier may pack a bigger punch, but is also more vulnerable in itself, costlier to protect and causes a greater strategic setback if damaged or destroyed.

After doing so much to neutralise the strategic utility of aircraft carriers, why does China want to deploy them? Of course, there is prestige. Another reason is to do with the balance of power within the Chinese Communist Party and the People's Liberation Army, where pro-PLA Navy factions might have strengthened in recent years. That said, it is difficult to conclude if the Navy's growing political clout is the cause for or the effect of the geopolitical churn in east Asia. Beyond these explanations, there are three broad reasons why China might want to use aircraft carriers.

The first is Taiwan. The very name proposed for the new carrier, Shi Lang, suggests Taiwan as its intended target. Shi Lang, a Manchu Qing dynasty general, conquered and annexed Taiwan into the Chinese empire in 1683, defeating the Qing dynasty elite who had fled to that island. Lan Ning-Li, a retired Taiwanese admiral, notes: "The carrier would be in a position to move in areas surrounding southern and eastern Taiwan ...[making it] vulnerable to enemy attacks at sea from both front and rear." With nuclear weapons and submarines deterring the US, an aircraft carrier will add to China's military capabilities in a possible invasion of Taiwan. The PLA's statement that "even after China owns an aircraft carrier, it is impossible for China to send the carrier into the territories of other countries" does not rule out use against Taiwan, which according to Beijing is part of China, thanks to the original Shi Lang.

Second, an aircraft carrier can be used as a vehicle for China to enforce its territorial claims over the Yellow, East and South China seas. If so, Shi Lang will be replacing fishing trawlers that have engaged in decidedly unfishermanly activities such as carrying surveillance equipment, ramming Japanese patrol boats, entangling with cables connected to Vietnamese exploration vessels and squatting over unpopulated islands. These presumably non-state actors currently perform the function of tripwires, creating incidents that trigger Beijing to assert its maritime claims. Introducing aircraft carriers into this game is dangerous, but the threat to do so could deter the US Navy from entering the fray in support of its allies.

Finally, China's interests are global. It is likely to want to set up expeditionary forces to operate in distant theatres to pursue those interests. This is normal. However, like "peaceful rise", a "defensive aircraft carrier" is a layer of sugar coating applied to make the indigestible just a little more palatable.

The author is founder and fellow for geopolitics at the Takshashila Institution and is editor of Pragati
 – The Indian National Interest Review

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BUSINESS STANDARD

A NEW IMF MD AND THE CAPITAL ACCOUNT

THE US' INFLUENCE ON A EUROPEAN CEO-HEADED MULTILATERAL INSTITUTION IS OUT OF SYNC

A V RAJWADE

 

Since their formation, while the World Bank has always had an American nominee as the head, the International Monetary Fund(IMF) managing director has been from Europe. Within Europe, if French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde becomes the next managing director, as seems likely, this would be the fourth time a French citizen would occupy the position. The only other candidate is the Mexican Central Bank Head, and former deputy managing director of the IMF, Agustin Carstens. He, too, is from an Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) country, but one that has joined the rich men's club fairly recently. The emerging economies do not have any agreed candidate as of now. But, if the growth rate gap between the emerging Asian economies and the old European or American economies remains at the level it has been for the last few decades, Lagarde's appointment could well be the last gasp of the G8 — in many ways its global agenda-setting role has already been taken over by the G20.

 

The far bigger question is to what extent he or she will be able to change IMF's policies, and particularly the market fundamentalist ideology that has been prevalent in Washington over the last three decades. In many ways, this influence of the US on a European CEO-headed multilateral institution is strange. For one thing, the Europeans in general and the French in particular have always been far more dirigiste than the Anglo-Saxons. (The last MD was actually the French Socialist Party's candidate for presidency, with every chance of being elected: to be sure, he was a "champaign socialist", very comfortable with the super-rich and Porsche cars than the man or woman on the streets, particularly in the developing world.) But it seems ideology changes with location in Washington.

The only economist out of the Big Three (Adam Smith, Karl Marx and John Maynard Keynes) to emerge with his reputation enhanced after the first decade of the 21st century is Keynes — after the financial crisis of 2008, the global economy was saved from the possibility of a depression only by Keynesian tools. Keynes was also one of the two principal authors of the IMF Articles of Agreement (the other was Harry Dexter White, the American). During the conference Keynes argued strongly for location of the IMF outside Washington. To quote from Robert Skidelsky's monumental biography of the great man, "Keynes's main purpose was to protect the Fund from preponderant US political control." He failed.

What Keynes feared has come to pass over the last three decades, in particular on the advocacy of unrestricted cross-border capital flows, and its corollary, market-determined exchange rates. Jagdish Bhagwati once described capital account convertibility as a "conspiracy of Wall Street abetted by the US Treasury and IMF!" (He later clarified that, "Wall Street, like any other business, likes expanded markets. So they were pressuring for more and more markets, more and more financial opening.") East Asian economies were accused of crony capitalism after the crisis of 1997-98 — the prime example of crony capitalism is the nexus and revolving door between US Treasury and Wall Street. By the 1980s, with the arrival of president Reagan, market fundamentalism had become the ruling ideology in Washington. The question is whether the IMF should have bought it and propagated a liberal capital account in its developing country members — with no empirical evidence to suggest that a liberal capital account helps growth. (Most fast-growing Asian economies have capital controls.) One wonders to what extent IMF economists, many of them trained in US universities and under the influence of the Chicago School, contributed to the change in stance on the capital account. At one stage, the IMF proposed to amend its Articles of Association to prescribe full convertibility, also on the capital account, as an objective for all member countries. Only the series of crises in the developing world in the 1990s led to an abandoning of the proposal. The IMF continues, however, to believe in the virtues of a liberal capital account — its reported change of heart is highly exaggerated.

Of the impossible trinity – independent monetary policy, a managed exchange-rate and a liberal capital account — until the Second World War the accepted wisdom was to give up the first, allowing money supply to be determined by the reserves of gold; in the last three decades the IMF has advocated discarding the second, despite a series of crises from Mexico in 1994-95 to Iceland more recently, originating in it; it is high time it seriously looks at giving up the third — and looks at the real economy of growth and jobs a little more seriously. To end with the words of one of its founder economists, namely Keynes, "in future, the external value of (a currency) shall conform to its internal value,… Secondly, we intend to retain control of our domestic rate of interest, so that we can keep it as low as suits our own purposes, without interference from the ebb and flow of the international capital movements, or flights of hot money."

avrajwade@gmail.com 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

FROM A CHEERLEADER BOARD TO ONE THAT DELIVERS

PRATIP KAR

 

Effective boards move from cheerleading to groupthink through a conscious process.

 

At the 2010 OECD-Asian Roundtable on corporate governance, co-hosted by the China Securities Regulatory Commission and the Shanghai and Shenzhen Stock Exchanges, there was an emerging consensus that "the board is the 'nexus' for improving corporate governance and that there is a need to focus on board nomination and election as one of the key factors impeding its performance and effectiveness."

The discussions honed in on five common weaknesses that the boards commonly suffer from:

# Limited search process with an over-reliance on existing network and known candidates.

# Limited due diligence on competence and qualification of candidates with undue emphasis on box-ticking checks on candidate "independence".

# Insufficient regular review of skills, knowledge and experience of boards in order to determine appropriate profile of new directors needed.

# Lack of a systematic evaluation of director performance.

# Inadequate disclosure of relevant information on director candidates and lack of shareholder challenge in the context of concentrated ownership to boards to justify candidates proposed for election and re-election.

These weaknesses are only symptoms of a deeper malaise that has its genesis in the inadequate attention and significance attached to the composition and design of the boards, and more significantly in the management-centric view of the organisation. According to this view, the board is a necessary component of a corporation and it exists to fulfil legal requirements. The overt and un-declared supremacy is that of the management over the board for, in the final analysis, the management alone is supposed to know the organisation more intimately than the board of directors who do not spend more than 18 hours in a year with the organisation. In such organisations, it is the internal members of the board, including the chairman, who matter more than the external, independent ones. When this happens, the boards engage in a type of "window-dressing" when appointing independent directors. They are selected more on account of their connections, networking or perceived ornamental value and are overly sympathetic to management, while still qualifying as technically-independent according to regulatory definitions. The external members of the board then become cheerleaders of the chairman and management. Instead of providing constructive evaluation and feedback of organisational strategies and policies at the board meetings, they become their supporters.

More than becoming dysfunctional, such cheerleader boards are by and large ceremonial in nature. They perfunctorily perform the compliance role; the directors serve for the prestige, attend board meetings diligently and speak in generalities. By not being critical about the policies, they do a disservice to the chairman and the organisation by acting as negative external monitors. Such boards are more pronounced in the state-owned enterprises in which the chairmen have short tenures, usually not exceeding three years.

Very often, the cheerleader board allows the chairman to pursue policies and implement strategies that seem to be populist, positively aggressive, politically correct and that aid in reaping short-run benefits — the impact of which lasts at least till the end of the chairman's tenure. Charisma and media savviness act as catalysts to the zeitgeist strategies to enhance the popularity of the chairman and the policies. But once organisations have cheerleaders for the current management on the boards, there is a strong possibility that these organisations will engage in more potentially questionable activities for shareholders. One of the questionable behaviours that is both well-documented and established in the literature is earnings management. That is where the support of the auditors and accounting policies are enlisted to provide justification and sanctity.

The Financial Reporting Council is the UK's independent regulator responsible for promoting high-quality corporate governance and reporting to foster investment. One of its professional operating bodies, the Auditing Practices Board, has brought out a discussion paper that emphasises the importance of scepticism to audit quality. The paper advocates for the "right" level of scepticism to be applied by auditors and the conditions that foster appropriate sceptical behaviour. Professional scepticism, the paper argues, is a crucial component of a high-quality audit that pervades every aspect of the auditor's judgment. In cheerleader boards, professional scepticism is deliberately silenced and the auditors are often led to certify questionable accounting policies that positively influence profitability in the short run.

There is one other noticeable tendency in cheerleader boards. A new chairman when appointed (again for a short-term) often tends to act as a "new broom" to sweep away the cobwebs and ushers in a new regime that may be radically different. Since the tenure of the chairman is short and there is a strong desire to leave a footprint, there is palpable eagerness to be different and a sense of one-upmanship. Leadership transitions in organisations are not always easy. Enlightened organisations with progressive and enlightened boards, even if the organisations are large in size, have a way of managing these transitions. Examples abound as in the case of GE, Pepsi, Microsoft, the Tata group, the TVS group, Infosys and ICICI. Very often there could be a J-shaped curve in terms of discovery of "skeletons in cupboards", discovery and attribution of errors to the previous regime and there is likely to be a period of poor results before things get better. But things can become difficult when the tenure of the new regime is short and uncertain. It may not necessarily be that there is a conspiracy behind the difficulties. It is more of a case of a botch-up piggy-riding on a built-in systemic inadequacy and information asymmetry, which get exacerbated by the fact that the board comprising cheerleaders is not in a position to act as the bedrock for the organisation and offer the necessary support.

"Recent theory suggests that board independence is unlikely to have a uniform effect across firms, and that the effectiveness of independent directors may depend on the information environment of the firm. Perhaps as a result of these issues, many studies fail to find a strong relation between board independence and firm performance" (2008, Cohen, Frazzini and Maloy; www.nber.org). Notwithstanding the above, underlying the Indian and global regulatory requirements about board composition and independent directors is the argument that the independent directors, are the custodians of shareholder interests, whose presence on the board helps reduce agency problems, conflicts, enhances quality of decision making and improve performance. Under this view a board with a majority of independent directors acts as good monitors.

Overhauling the nomination process for directors and focusing consciously on improving the quality of nominations by selecting directors only for their depth of knowledge, breadth of experience, integrity and independence is the starting point for improving the quality of governance. This will avoid the GIGO (garbage in / garbage out) from occurring in the boards. The other ways to improve their knowledge and skills would include: training and development programmes and setting up appropriate board evaluation processes. Together, these will help the boards transit from being cheerleaders to purposeful boards — boards that deliver.

The author is former executive director of Sebi and is currently associated with the IFC's Global Corporate Governance Forum of the International Finance Corporation and the World Bank. These views are personal

pratipkar21@gmail.com 

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BUSINESS LINE

OPINION

POLICY OF PUSILLANIMITY

The price of the overall faint-heartedness, both in the government and in the RBI, will have to be paid by the economy.

The Chief Economic Advisor, Dr Kaushik Basu, has, in a straightforward statement, suggested that if the Reserve Bank continues to raise the price of money, the industrial growth rate will slow down even further. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI), on the other hand, is pretty clear in its mind that inflation control is its main objective. This is not a new divergence. Nor is it a peculiarly Indian one. The conflict between inflation and growth is a very old one. But what is new this time is the clumsiness with which the government, on the one hand, and the RBI on the other, have gone about resolving it. That India was getting into a growth-induced inflation was known to the RBI since at least mid-2007. At that time, the government did not allow it to act. A year later, just before the parliamentary vote on the nuclear bill, when the government was unsure about its prospects and thought that there might be a general election in 2008 itself, it forced the RBI to raise rates steeply. Then, when the danger passed, it reversed its stand even though there was no evidence that inflation was abating.

Since then, partly driven by the need to attract foreign capital inflows to sustain the current account and partly because the Prime Minister had a dream of achieving 10 per cent growth under his watch, the RBI has followed a policy of pusillanimity. The result was a blind embrace of the strategy of baby steps, which the market discounted weeks before it was announced. Inflation roared on and, in the last quarter, the RBI suddenly shifted gears and gave up the baby steps policy, perhaps a year too late. But now that the higher price of money has begun to affect investment, the government, which always wants to have its cake and eat it, is getting jumpy. It knows that the current bout of inflation in India is not originating in the manufacturing sector but in agriculture. The reason for this is staring everyone in the face: whereas the industrial sector has been subject to persistent reform since 1991, including having to face up to import competition, reform in agriculture has remained a gleam in the eyes of some diehards. The political imperative behind this inaction has meant that the entire burden of getting inflation down has fallen on the industrial sector, especially since global commodity prices have also started to come down. The RBI will now have to do the best it can. One could have felt some sympathy for it but not any longer because it failed during 2009 and 2010 to stand up to the government.

The price of this overall faint-heartedness, both in the government and in the RBI, will have to be paid by the economy. Truly has it been said that when elephants fight, it is the grass that gets trampled.

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BUSINESS LINE

OPINION

TIME FOR IIMS TO ASSERT THEMSELVES

M. J. XAVIER

 

Mr Jairam Ramesh's remarks are a wake-up call. However, 80 per cent of the IIM faculty is world-class. India can, perhaps, create its own Harvards and Stanfords.

The Environment Minister, Mr Jairam Ramesh's statement on the IITs and IIMs being less than world class has triggered a debate on the quality of faculty and students in these 'institutes of excellence'.

STUDENTS A MIXED BAG

Are we getting the best students, or are we getting the best-coached students? While it is easy to point fingers at the poor quality of teachers, there is no running away from the fact that the students' quality too could be suspect.

Today, coaching institutes make more money than the IITs and IIMs. They thrive on the demand-supply gap for quality education in this country. Students are ready to pay any amount to get coached for entry into these prestigious institutions. They, in turn, teach short-cuts and quick-fix methods to crack the entrance examinations. A person of above-average intelligence can be coached for 95+ percentile score, if he/she takes the entrance test many times. While it is a fact that we have students that do not deserve a seat, we also miss out on a number of bright ones who should have made it to the IIMs.

Students who make it to the IIMs are aggressive and better motivated. At the same time, they look for short-cuts and easy methods to obtain laurels, thanks to the hangover of coaching institutions. The amount of money spent by these prestigious institutions on checking plagiarism, copying in exams, and controlling proxy attendance is on the rise. The erosion of morals and values among the youth could also be a reason for this malaise.

The 80-20 rule applies in every walk of life, and the IIMs are no exception. Maybe, 20 per cent of the students account for all the successes we see around the world. We need a serious study on the remaining 80 per cent of the students. Is it wrong selection or wrong training at the institute that is responsible for their poor performance?

QUALITY OF FACULTY

When it comes to teachers, the ratio gets reversed, with 80 per cent of the IIM faculty being world-class. The students cannot become world-class, unless the faculty imparts world-class education. We Indians are generally good in knowledge dissemination. The IIM faculty tend to read the latest case studies from Harvard and impart excellent American education that helps the students find jobs in MNCs around the world. If a faculty can get a good rating from IIM students, he/she can teach anywhere in the world. It is not that the students are so demanding, but the fact is that they are exposed to better teachers and the benchmarks set are very high.

Since the IIMs place considerable emphasis on student ratings, the teaching quality has gone up. For example, IIMA has a tradition of publishing faculty ratings on the hostel notice boards. In every IIM, the senior students pass on information about faculty quality to the junior students, which has a direct bearing on enrolment in the elective courses offered by faculty members. This has led to the creation of a large pool of excellent teachers in IIMs.

FIXATED ON PUBLICATIONS

In the Western context, a faculty member who fails to publish (however good a teacher he/she may be) is considered a brain-dead person. Western institutions operate in a 'publish or perish' environment. Institutes of higher learning in India have failed to place that kind of emphasis on research and publications. Unfortunately, the global rankings are based on the net knowledge created by the institutions.

No weightage seems to be accorded to student feedback on teachers in any of the ranking surveys. It is no wonder that we have been gradually sliding in the global rankings, and China, Singapore and Hong Kong have been steadily climbing up the ladder. There is a fundamental flaw in the metrics used to measure the performance of faculty in India.

Despite all these limitations, our faculty have been doing research and publishing in journals in India and abroad. But the number of such active researchers is far too few.

The IIMs have started incentivising research by announcing cash awards for publications in reputed journals. Not many have taken advantage of the same. But there has been a gradual increase in the number of papers published by IIM faculty.

OPPORTUNITY FOR INDIA

Unlike IITs, IIMs have a choice; while engineering and scientific research has to be aligned with global research trends, management research has the option to move in very different directions, primarily because management education is at the crossroads even in the West. The recent global financial crisis has exposed the short-sighted and greedy approach of management graduates.

Western authors have been criticising management education for its excessive focus on competition and profit-orientation.

There is, therefore, a great opportunity opening up for the IIMs in India. We can work on an alternative management curriculum that the West can adopt.

In sum, Mr Ramesh's comment is a wake-up call to all institutions in India. It is time we become net knowledge exporters. Currently, our textbooks are from the West, our concepts are western, and our study methods are also borrowed from the West. We should instead produce Harvards and Stanfords (or recreate Nalandas and Thakshilas) in India.

(The author is Director, IIM, Ranchi.)

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BUSINESS LINE

OPINION

GREEN REVOLUTION IN RED'S HEARTLAND

On June 5, the Victoria Memorial in Kolkata was lit in green, marking World Environment Day. Interestingly, this 'greening' was courtesy Tata Steel, as part of its environment awareness campaign. That's quite a happy coincidence. For, we all know that the regime in West Bengal has changed colour — from red (Left Front) to green (Trinamool). We also know that the new Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee, saw red when the Left Front warmed up to 'Tatababu' and his Nano car factory in Singur. However, now, with the 'green light' on in the Writers' Building, Mamata Banerjee seems to be in a hurry to clear the way for 'Tatababu's' return. As they say, it's always the first step that binds one to the second!

Role reversal

In normal times, top bureaucrats are a source of news for journos. But in Kolkata, the reverse is happening with a new government taking over amid bustle of change. As announcements come in waves, the bureaucrats are often caught unawares. So much so, when a reporter called a key official for relevant clarifications soon after the Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee's announcements at the Writers' Buildings, he actually turned out to be a news source for the bureaucrat.

Changing times at Secretariat

Life always revolved around set routine at the state secretariat in Kolkata, but no more. The first Cabinet meeting of the new government concluded a little after mid-night. Since then, life has never been the same again, especially for the bureaucrats, with the working day stretching quite late into the night.

Apparently, even the Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee, is sympathetic to the cause. "Why are you still held up here? Must you not go home early?" she recently asked a top bureaucrat, while she leaves office close to 9 p.m.

Spirited inducements

The popularity, or rather the unpopularity, of the IPL tournament, is best summed up by this anecdote of a vendor for a major liquor company. When the first edition of IPL was held, he received a free ticket worth Rs 500 from the liquor company for one of the matches in Bangalore. His request for a couple more was politely, but firmly, turned down.

Came the next edition, he again received a free ticket, this time worth Rs 1,200. For the following show, more generosity poured out of the liquor company which completely stumped the vendor. He received a free ticket worth Rs 21,500 with more for the asking. For the next match, the company went overboard offering a free ticket and freebies worth over Rs 30,000 along with coupons for free drinks and food.

This left the vendor completely flummoxed until he went for the match only to find his worst suspicion proving to be true. There were exactly a dozen spectators including him in the demarcated stand trying hard to show some interest in what was going on in the ground.

Custom followed, ride denied

At the launch of India's first cruise ship, AMET Majesty, in Chennai port last week, the ship was moved a few inches from the wharf as is the custom to mark the launch of a ship. For the few people on board excited about the prospect of a ride on the high seas, it was just disappointment when the ship stopped and was promptly moved back to its original position.

The Tihar Brand

Brand strategist Harish Bijoor has been waxing eloquent about Tihar jail's growing brand equity. He may be right after all. On Sunday, one of the national dailies carried a quarter page ad by Tihar jail — a prison with a difference, it calls itself — advertising products sold by it. Branded TJ's (Tihar Jail's), the products include quality handloom, bakery products, garments, spices and handicrafts, all made in Tihar by its inmates.

Tollywood's title teasers

Tollywood never stops to surprise movie buffs with amusing titles or innovative, as some might call, for its new and upcoming ones. So much so, sometimes one gets a feeling whether producers and the industry have run out of new titles, or they are just getting that much more innovative.

The latest film set to hit the silver screen is Mr Nokia, perhaps latching on the proliferation of mobile phone users and the big brand image the Finnish company commands in the country.

Now sample some of the recent movie titles such as 100 % Love, Tic Tic Tic, Mr Perfect, Current, Orange, Darling, Blade Babji, Pista, Oops, Toss, LBW and Postman. While it is tough to track any pattern, you could find them amusing or creative. Any more ideas, Sir Ji?

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

CAR BELT POLITICS

WHY A PRODUCTIVE, PROSPEROUS WORKFORCE IS GOOD FOR CARMAKERS AND THE COUNTRY


 Haryana's industrial hinterland, a hub of car and component makers, is seething with unrest. The issue is easy to identify: most people here are employed as contract workers, who get none of the perks enjoyed by regular employees and are paid a fraction of what they would have earned as regulars. Maruti Suzuki, India's largest carmaker which is also reputed to be one of its better employers, denies the majority of its workers — mostly on contract — the right to form an independent union. Maruti should allow the union to be formed. The assumption that unions will inevitably disrupt work and create trouble is wrong: industrial powerhouses like Germany and South Korea have strong unions. These have created a working class that is prosperous and earns enough to drive the economy's consumption engine. Meanwhile, the average number of contract employees in the Haryana car belt is 85% of the workforce. Given this inequality, it's not surprising that the area has been gripped by industrial unrest. If India is to grow into a manufacturing powerhouse, this sort of things must stop. Companies, workers, unions and governments have to work together to find a solution.


The distinction between contract and regular workers has to go: people can't be paid different rates for the same work. The obvious attraction of lower wages apart, many companies choose to hire contract labour because, on paper, India has strict rules that regulate the conditions of regular employees. Among other things, these rules make it near-impossible to lay off people in a downturn. So, it makes sense for companies to minimise the number of regular workers and hire people on short-term contracts. To break the distinction between contract and regular workers, the government must modify these rules to make it possible for companies to lay off people in bad times, while paying them generous unemployment insurance in good times. Unions should make sure that once pay and perks are equalised, workers cooperate to raise productivity and skill levels. Employers, in turn, should realise that a high churn workforce inevitably leads to uneven standards of quality and productivity.

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

SUPPORT THE PRICE

MINIMUM SUPPORT PRICES MAKE SENSE ONLY WHEN ENFORCED AT THE OPERATIONAL LEVEL


The Centre's decision to raise the minimum support price (MSP) sharply for oilseeds and moderately for rice and pulses is right in the customary sense. The signal against increasing the acreage for rice this kharif, given the huge stocks with the government, is sound. Last year, the MSP merely rolled in the bonus offered in 2009-10 against an 8% hike this year. The signalling is right in oilseeds too, with a 17% hike in the MSP to boost output and curtail imports, though its utility is in doubt with farmers already receiving higher prices from the market. The hike in support prices of pulses is moderate compared to the last year when production touched an all-time high. The MSP is meant to cover costs and forestall distress sale. The promise of MSP though does not make sense unless the government is able to keep prices at or above that level. But the government's capacity to procure produce is limited outside northwest India, which is why wheat prices have crashed below its MSP and even the price of maize, prompting poultry feed manufacturers to use wheat instead of maize. The government should revamp the entire food management system to allow and encourage private trade to play a larger role in the procurement, storage and distribution of grain. However, price changes signaling a shift in the cropping pattern alone are not enough. With increasing income levels and the rising demand for superior foods, we need to rapidly raise yields and output levels in every crop. Farm productivity can be enhanced through modern crop husbandry, investment in water management and new hybrid and bio-engineered seeds. We need to build more rural roads to enable farmers' easier access to markets and raise output and income. Instituting organised retail, preferably with foreign investment to augment expertise and competition, will help farmers break the stranglehold of middlemen. Contract procurement will benefit farmers if they organise into larger bodies that can negotiate with organised retail. A producer company like Amul has shown results in the dairy sector. That experience deserves replication in other sectors as well.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

AUTO MISCORRECT

PREDICTIVE TEXT IN SMARTPHONES IS BUT ONE EXAMPLE OF LIFE-ENRICHING TECHNOLOGY


You want to type 'the', and tap, by mistake, r instead of the t placed next to it on the keyboard and the phone completes its received input 'rhe' into 'rhetorical' on its own. Focusing exclusively on the keyboard and without a second glance at what you have wrought, you press send. And then realise, to your horror, that you have thanked an elderly well-wisher not for 'the message of affection' that you had in mind but for a positively offensive 'rhetorical message of affection'. You rush to make amends, punching in a heartfelt 'sorry.' This time, you press 't,' instead of 'r,' and the phone helpfully makes you 'spotty'. This is modern high-tech packaged in pocket-sized convenience for you. Of course, you can't really blame the phone. For one, you have the option of turning predictive text off and keying in every single letter manually. But then, it is so much faster to use predictive text. For another, you could read your message after keying it in and before launching it into cyberspace for mortifying delivery to the addressee. But it's almost always simpler to blame technology or the equipment that embodies it rather than one's handling of it. Who takes the flak for wardrobe malfunctions baring some celebrity's 'chest', as news reports primly describe what lie beneath the clothing that suddenly clothes no more? Certainly not the celebrity!


So, not-so-smart users of smartphones continue the philosophical debate on technology. Whom or what do we blame for people getting shot, guns or the people who wield them? Are the scientists who made the atom bomb to blame or those who decided to use them? Which makes these phones live up to their smart moniker. After all, we humans are who we are only because we think. C o i t u s, e r g o s u m. Oops!

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

RELEASING BRAKES ON MANUFACTURING

POLICY MUST FOCUS ON COMPETITIVE POSITIONING, COMPETENCIES AND CONSTRAINTS TO REALISE INDIA'S POTENTIAL


 India's population is continuing to grow. In a few years, it will be the largest in the world, overtaking China's. Jobs must be created rapidly to avoid the inevitable social and political problems when youth are unemployed. There is recognition amongst policy-makers that, whereas manufacturing has grown more slowly than GDP in the past decade, it must now grow 2% to 4% faster than GDP to create millions more jobs, and also to contribute more to reduce India's trade deficit that is growing with energy imports as well as a flood of imports from China. The three challenges to grow manufacturing in India are: competitive positioning, competencies and constraints.


Building walls for protecting Indian manufacturers is not a feasible strategy any longer. World trade is open. Manufacturers in India must compete with manufacturers in other countries. India's manufacturing strategy must build upon its competitive advantages in a changing global manufacturing landscape. Global manufacturing is evolving. Almost a century ago, Henry Ford, with a massive, integrated factory in the US, feeding iron ore at one end and producing inexpensive Model T cars at the other, demolished competition from smaller producers. 'You can have any colour car you want so long it is black', was his slogan. Times have changed. Now auto producers must offer a variety of cars to suit many requirements. And product life cycles have shortened to less than a third of what they used to be. The content of the modern automobile has changed, too: much of the cost is electronics and software, not metals and materials.


Moreover, automobile enterprises have become global networks with activities spread across many countries: design in some, parts production in others, and assembly in yet others. Networks, product variety and rapid change have become critical sources of competitive advantage in the auto industry and most other industries too — electronics, textiles, pharmaceuticals, etc. Abilities to design and engineer rapidly, and to work in networks have become sources of competitive advantage. Scale is an advantage, no doubt. Scale can be grown by product variety and rapid model changes: think of Apple's iPods, iPhones and iPads. And scale can be obtained with networks rather than elephantine factories. In fact, the smallness and nimbleness of Indian manufacturers, supported by software, can be their sources of strategic advantage in the new world of manufacturing where competitiveness is in the 'scope' of the networked enterprise, not the 'scale' of its units: strategies of guerillas against set-piece armies.


Competencies must be built to support a strategic position. Design, engineering and production flexibility in any industry require skilled people, IT capabilities and innovation — especially in production methods. India's small and medium-scale manufacturers are known for their innovativeness to produce more with less. These abilities must be celebrated rather than being denigrated as jugaad. They must be improved by providing modern tool rooms, testing services, etc within industrial clusters. Software and communication technologies are powerful enablers of production flexibility and networked enterprises. India's missed opportunity so far has been that while its vaunted IT industry has been equipping clients in industrially advanced countries, its own manufacturing enterprises, especially small ones, are lagging in the application of IT tools. Applying IT to manufacturing must be a national thrust, with the same vigour now put into the development of skills. Skills, of course, are a key for India's manufacturing competitiveness. The country has an abundance of raw material in its vast resources of young people. However,this raw material must be refined into the many capabilities required for competitive manufacturing enterprises. A large variety of production skills are required for different industries — machining, tool making, CNC machine programming, textile weaving, leather finishing, etc. Skills to manage people and production systems are critical, especially for managing high variety production.
    While a competitive strategy with associated competencies is necessary, constraints on manufacturing growth must also be removed. And there are many in India. Availability of multi-faceted skills, already mentioned, is one. Land is another. Problems with workforce management yet another. Availability of technology is crimped by FDI rules, even while the government is not leveraging the attraction of India's growing domestic market to induce more domestic production, which China has done successfully.


Also, hassles with bureaucracy on the ground and poor coordination amongst policy-makers are chronic complaints of investors and manufacturers. Until these constraints are eased, productivity will not improve, and investments will not flow into India's manufacturing sector. Manufacturing is a complex system with many wheels within wheels, and friction amongst them. Policy-makers are pressed with conflicting demands from producers of raw materials, basic materials, components, assemblies, and capital goods. Moreover, the interests of various stakeholders must be resolved: land-owners, local communities with stakes in natural resources, labour unions, and customer lobbies.


Lack of trust among the stakeholders of the manufacturing system is the problem, not moving fast forward. A key to increase trust is improvement of the institutions that represent stakeholders-—business bodies labour unions, even political parties. Each of them is a wheel in the system. All of them must be democratic, transparent and competent. Interactions between these wheels must be systematic and smooth, too. So, the ability to listen and hear another's aspirations as well as fears, and the ability to consider new options and thereafter, to synthesise 'winwin' solutions is essential. This is the lubricant that will make the wheels turn more smoothly and make manufacturing grow.

 

ARUN MAIRA MEMBER, PLANNING COMMISSION

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

ET INTERACTIVE

'CLOUD COMPUTING HAS DRIVERS AND INHIBITORS'

CHIRANJOY SEN


When industry veteran Thiru Vengadam took over as India head of niche business software firm IFS, one of his first jobs was to retool the Swedish firm's go-to-market strategy to shore up the local presence of this largely Europe-focused firm. A company that focuses on select verticals, IFS is keen to exploit India's business software market — vertically and horizontally. While it is a big supplier of software for the aerospace and defence sectors, HAL being one of its top customers, IFS wants a major foray into power, manufacturing, automobiles and oil & gas sectors.


One of the company's USP is focus on select segments. "We are not a pure-play technology vendor that pushes technology platforms on customers. Instead, we talk of industries where processes are critical to business. Thus, we have a select industry focus and not a general purpose enterprise resource planning (ERP) software supplier," explains Thiru Vengadam. At the core of IFS' offering is a component-based integrated ERP suite built on the service-oriented architecture technology. IFS targets industries where any of four core processes are strategic: service & asset management, manufacturing, supply chain and projects.


Agility — built on an open technology platform — is another attribute that IFS' solutions bring to the table. "Our applications will help Indian firms derive benefits faster because they are easy to implement. We are a viable alternative to large monolithic ERP products since we zero in on usability and user experience. We will support businesses in power & utilities, defence, manufacturing, engineering, procurement and construction (EPC)," Thiru Vengadam says.


Why and how was the go-tomarket strategy changed? "Over the past few years, IFS India had a few large and a few medium-sized implementations. Having done that, we are now ready to exploit the market fully. But a comprehensive solution for an organisation involves much more than our software — they need hardware, networking and communication systems as well as experts to guide through process improvement and re-engineering. Implementation, rollout in other locations and even maintenance need collaboration with agencies who provide such services. That apart, a large and distributed market like India requires sales and service partners to extend reach and help in handling more customers," he explains.


"We are pursuing leading IT services firms like Infosys, Capgemini and Mahindra Satyam as our system integrators. We already have partners like BAe-HAL and Vayam Technologies working on customer projects. We also plan to leverage our global partnerships like the joint venture with BAe Systems that target the aerospace and defence markets. IFS Defence provides solutions for fleet management, contractor logistics support, MRO suppliers and defence manufacturers. Oracle is a global technology partner for database technologies while NEC is an authorised distributor — they handle the whole chain from pre-sales through projects and support," he says. The company, which topped net revenues of Swedish kroner 2.5 billion in 2010, has 2,000 customers but is without a sizeable presence in the emerging and growing markets like India.
Thiru Vengadam spells out that IFS is exploring partnerships to take its applications to the small business category. "This segment needs a volume-based approach and regional delivery mechanisms. We hope to have few such partnerships tied up this year. These could focus on ancillary industries of the main industries that we are focusing on — defense, utilities, manufacturing and EPC," he says.


One of the reasons why he is optimistic about IFS' success in the small business segment is the scalability of the firm's applications. "We have clients who have only 25 users on the application and ones who have over 10,000 users on the same application."
Thiru Vengadam says there are both drivers and inhibitors to cloud computing. "The key drivers are the same as in other parts of IT industry: lower capital expenditure achieved through resource sharing with other users and faster implementation by shortcutting the process of hardware and software procurement and installation. Inhibitors include needs for application customisation and integration with on-premise legacy systems, trust issues related to placing confidential and secret information in an environment outside the control of the company, legislation which may limit where data is located, and availability of the application."
Infrastructure as a service (IaaS) is similar to the traditional hosting services where each tenant has their own copy of the software, which they can configure, customise and integrate.
Consequently, IaaS is the form of cloud computing least affected by the inhibitors. "IFS customers have deployed our applications in hosted environments for years and IFS sees deployment in IaaS clouds as a logical evolution," says Thiru Vengadam.

 

THIRU VENGADAM
MANAGING DIRECTOR
IFS India

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

GUEST COLUMN

TURNING THE CLOCK BACK?

RAGHU KRISHNAN


Jayalalithaa and Mamata Banerjee are both very determined women. But can even they turn the clock back? One of the first announcements made by Jayalalithaa after she took over as Tamil Nadu chief minister was that the secretariat would be moved back to the old premises of Fort St George from where the British governor administered the Madras Presidency which then covered much of south India. Jayalalithaa also announced after taking over as chief minister that the five years of DMK rule had left Tamil Nadu's finances in very bad shape. Surely, one way of improving these finances is to ensure that the . 450-crore investment of taxpayers' money made by the previous government on setting up the new assemblyand-secretariat complex (inaugurated 15 months ago) is recovered. Perhaps, a committee could be set up under the state's finance secretary to recommend options for recovering the previous DMK government's substantial investment on setting up the new complex.


The most viable option could then be adopted so that the money recovered could be utilised for social welfare schemes. The entire process for recovering the previous government's investment could be done in a transparent manner so that no fresh controversy arises. What is at stake is not just the finances but the credibility of Tamil Nadu's governance in the wake of the 2G scam.


Likewise, Mamata announced in her first press conference as chief minister that 400 acres of the land acquired by the previous Left Front government at Singur for the Tata Nano project (which was relocated to Gujarat in the wake of an agitation) would be returned to the farmers. An ordinance was promulgated on June 9 to reacquire the 400 acres and return it to the farmers and lawyers were asked to study the Tatas' claim for compensation for the . 440-crore investment on developing the area. On June 10, the realisation dawned that an ordinance could not be promulgated when the legislature was in recess and it was decided to introduce a bill on the floor of the assembly. Irrespective of the procedure adopted, due diligence has to be followed in the implementation of the new CM's announcement since the compensation paid to the farmers was funded out of taxpayers' money. How much will now have to be refunded by the farmers after the land is returned to them? Will the government write off the compensation or will the farmers be allowed to pay back in easy instalments? However, a few years have elapsed since the compensation was paid. So will the farmers have to pay interest or will the compensation be treated as an interestfree loan? The procedure followed could not just set a precedent but also provide a benchmark based on which claims could be made for all previous instances where land was acquired! Like they say, the devil is in the details and the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
At some stage, preferably at the earliest, Jayalalithaa and Mamata have to stop dwelling on the past and interpret their overwhelming success in the recent elections (the AIADMK and the TMC each got close to a twothirds majority in their respective assemblies) as a positive mandate to change the future for the better. The media's 24-by-7 focus on the 2G scam has demonstrated that governance in the future will be meticulously scrutinised. The focus on improving the future should not be diluted by any compulsion to keep undoing everything the previous government did.


Both Jayalalithaa and Mamata have enough real challenges to face. In Tamil Nadu, the power situation is so bad (the monthly deficit is estimated at some 3,000 mw) that there are daily power cuts from an hour or two in Chennai to five hours in hinterland areas like the temple town of Srirangam from where Jayalalithaa was elected. The textile and engineering hub of Coimbatore — once known as the Manchester of South India — is reeling under power-cuts. In West Bengal, where almost every aspect of governance was enmeshed in partisan politics during the Left Front's tenure of 34 years, Mamata has to not just revive all moribund institutions but provide reforms in rural and urban areas and in all sectors from healthcare and education to agriculture and industrialisation while ensuring that farmers' land is no longer forcibly acquired for much-needed infrastructural projects.


Both Jayalalithaa and Mamata face enough real challenges without getting diverted by the symbolism of attempting to undo what their predecessors did. The fact that these two leaders have defied the odds to come to power with such an overwhelming mandate clearly indicates that they have the popular support to bring about real and lasting change for the better

 

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MUMBAI MIRROR

EDITORIAL

WHY BJP SHOULD BE WARY OF R-WORD

THE PARTY MUST ASK ITSELF AS TO WHO GAINS THE MOST FROM ITS SUPPORT TO RAMDEV'S MOVEMENT


Whatever Baba Ramdev's faults, his unrelenting desire for publicity has turned out to be a lightening rod that has exposed in sharper relief some of the fault-lines in our polity: between an unresponsive, arrogant government, out of touch with a changing India, and a shape-shifting, rudderlesslooking Opposition looking for the next big idea.

 

The BJP has so far tried to ride on Ramdev's sails, imagining his entire campaign as a giant bonus, but perhaps it has more reason to worry than exult. A nervous Congress has scored plenty of selfgoals in this entire business but has the BJP really taken the initiative and emerged as the natural beneficiary of the government's paralysis?

On black money and foreign banks, for instance, it was L K Advani who first raised the issue in 2009. Yet, it is Ramdev who ultimately caught the public imagination.

 

 Similarly, it was Sushma Swaraj who in writing opposed the Prime Ministerial committee's cynical move to go with PJ Thomas as CVC. Given the events of the past year, there could never have been a better opportunity for the BJP to play the white knight on corruption: from Raja's brazen loot of telecom spectrum to the mess of the Commonwealth Games.

 

Yet, even the party's spokespeople admit that somehow it got stymied in becoming the face of the public anger. Rajiv Pratap Rudy said almost as much on television last week. Vigorously recounting the BJP's record in raising such issues first, he laid the blame at an unresponsive government which simply did not take the Opposition seriously enough.

 

That is why the party has followed the Baba, in this view, because he managed to galvanise public opinion as no leader could.

 

The unsaid corollary of this argument though is the inability of a diffident, divided BJP leadership to take the initiative itself and truly reap the natural benefits of a government that seems bent on self-destruction. Instead of becoming the fulcrum of the public anger, as befits the principal Opposition party, the BJP somehow became relegated to the supporting cast, a cheerleader.

 

 For all his faults, Ramdev has rallied precisely the constituency that was once considered the BJP's core support base – the urban middle classes and religious minded folk in the Hindi heartland. With the government on the mat, the BJP should be on cloud nine yet there is enough reason for thoughtful BJP leaders to be worried.
    Then there is the reported RSS backing to Ramdev. Media reports in recent days have speculated on the precise details of such a deal and the subsequent worries of over-reach in Jhandewala as the Baba increasingly became more and more rabid.

 If the reports of the Ramdev-RSS dalliance are indeed true then it is problematic for the BJP on two counts. First, the Sangh initially found the guru more promising than the BJP as a vehicle of public discontent. Secondly, it has tightened its stranglehold on the party even as it was distancing itself from it by making it follow suit on unquestioningly supporting the Baba.

 At any rate, the RSS has been sympathetic to Ramdev. Even if there are second thoughts now, at a deeper level, the Sangh's abiding faith in what it calls the 'sant samaj' as the ultimate answer to the nation's problems is deeply problematic.

 

Vajpayee's genius was to draw the BJP away from precisely such associations and to build the imagery of what looked like a modern right-wing party. In the past decade, all of the BJP's electoral successes – from Raman Singh to Shivraj Singh Chauhan to Narendra Modi in the last Gujarat election – have been built on the back of a solid developmental discourse and the language of governance.

 

 Mixing governance issues with saffron ones led by the gurus may give the BJP seeming tactical advantage in the short run but it can only be a retrograde move in the strategic long-term.

 

The question the BJP must ask itself is simple. Who really gains when it supports Ramdev: the Baba or the party?

 

 The acid test will be in Uttar Pradesh next year.

 

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                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

BEING CLASH CONSCIOUS

 

It is somewhat intriguing that the same urban Indians who have shown a marked disinclination to vote during elections turn up in thousands under the scorching summer sun to participate in anti-corruption rallies. They come out on the streets in candlelit processions and rage in social networking sites. This apparent anomaly suggests a fundamental disconnect at some level. Why large sections of the urban Indian middle class cannot always relate to the electoral exercise is a question that needs to be understood instead of being classified as another instance of collective apathy. The truth is that politics in India has been captured by dynasties and coteries. This is true not just of the Congress but of every other major national and regional party in the country. Political parties have become exclusive clubs run by powerful central bosses or regional satraps. Gaining entrance to these institutions of influence is very difficult and can only be attained through the liberal dispensation of large sums of money, a demonstration of local or criminal clout, through gratuitous favours or through extreme supplication. The average middle-class person has little chance of ever penetrating those political circles. The not-surprising consequence of this is the urban middle class' growing alienation from politics and the reigning political ethos, which explains the electoral fatigue so apparent in cities across the country. The perception that voting cannot change things stems from a belief that the political class cannot be made to bend to popular will. For the political class, matters have become easier with the troublesome middle classes increasingly staying out of the process; managing elections has become a matter of throwing sops at the semi-literate masses and promising them one or another kind of freebie — from subsidised rice and free electricity to laptops and mixer grinders. The masses are happy because they have got something from a system that rarely gives them anything and the political class is more relaxed because now winning elections is seen as an issue of raising funds and investing them wisely in the right constituencies. The problem with this model is that it signifies a state of disequilibrium because it involves taking money from one class of people through political donations, financial corruption and coercion and giving it to another. This somewhat forcible method of income redistribution stretches the notion of social justice and cannot be tenable in the long run because the rising middle class, too, has expectations of the politico-administrative system. Apart from issues of political probity, one very real issue is the rise in demand for government services — certificates, police reports, passports, roads and other infrastructure. There is also a feeling that life and property is increasingly under threat in various parts of the country due to the spread of the crime-politics nexus. Consequently, today large sections of the urban middle class, especially the young, are no longer content to be passive observers. Apathy can quickly change to enthusiasm if there is promise of change. This has been more than obvious at the various anti-corruption rallies in cities throughout the country; it has been apparent in the urban constituencies of West Bengal where record voter turnout helped oust the Left; and it is going to accelerate as the middle class becomes bigger and more assertive in the months and years to come. The rise of the Indian middle class has often been commented upon by economists and business analysts, much less by political analysts. One estimate by the Deutsche Bank suggests that while the Indian middle class constitutes less than 30 per cent of the country's population, it is nevertheless the fastest growing economic segment. Politicians have been protesting at the demand that civil society be part of the national decision-making process; they claim that it is the legislature's exclusive right to formulate laws and policies and that the intrusion of civil society is extra-constitutional. That may be the case but such demands are rising precisely because the urban middle class does not have faith in the political class. Many Congress big bosses believe that the clamour for reform can be "managed" and only cosmetic change introduced to pacify the disgruntled middle classes. Most of the other political parties, too, seem inclined to support the idea of minimal change and have desisted from taking up or supporting any agenda for radical large-scale change. The two sides — the political and the middle class — are engaged in a battle. The impetus for change and resistance to change is an age-old dynamic. The obstructionists in New Delhi are in some ways reminiscent of the segregationists in the United States in the early 1960s. Alabama's governor George Wallace entered the history books when in June 1963 he refused to let two black students register at the local university by standing at the door and blocking their passage. He again tried to block four black students from enrolling in elementary schools. But ultimately his segregationist attempts were defeated and Alabama was forced to accept black students in its educational institutions. This episode prompted Bob Dylan to pen his famous warning: "Come senators, Congressmen Please heed the call Don't stand in the doorway Don't block up the hall…" Perhaps the politicians guarding the portals of power in New Delhi, too, should read the signs and step aside to allow civil society a place in their hitherto exclusive citadel. * Indranil Banerjie is an independent security and political risk consultant

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

LET'S HAVE CLARITY OVER BLACK MONEY

 

Yoga guru Ramdev, who shot into the news in recent days due to his aggressive challenge to the government to bring back unaccounted money held by Indian nationals in banks abroad, ended his nine-day protest fast on Sunday at the instance of the top RSS leadership, and sundry well-marketed putatively spiritual gurus. The Janata Party president, Mr Subramanian Swamy, was also at hand in Hardwar to urge the "Baba" to end his hunger strike. A few days earlier Ramdev was visited by the BJP leaders, Ms Sushma Swaraj and Ms Uma Bharti to show their solidarity. Those speaking on behalf of the agitating yoga instructor have told the media the agitation will continue. This is a good thing. The nation is keen to know how much black money emanating from India lies abroad and what might be the best way to ensure its repatriation. Indeed, concern was voiced over black money many times before Ramdev took up the issue recently. Experts and those with high-level government experience as well as knowledge of the international environment are aware that getting the Swiss banks to reveal secrets is easier said than done. (Indeed, successive Swiss governments have made a living out of the funds of foreigners and place a high premium on banking secrecy.) Arm-twisting Americans have had some success with the Swiss when in certain cases they could establish that money parked in banks there was from narcotics and similar tainted sources, or had fed terrorism. But in the case of Indians who have deposited black money (unaccounted funds) overseas for about half a century, it is a safe bet that the vast majority are what might be considered respectable people — well-known businessmen, for instance, who resisted paying the very high tax regimes that once prevailed in this country. There would also, of course, be others, including politicians who have stolen money from the treasury. To get to the bottom of this, a concerted campaign must be mounted even if success is not immediately in sight, given the self-serving reticence of the Swiss. However, the government would do well to keep the public informed at every stage of the process when the effort is mounted — a running commentary of sorts. Without that, an impression spreads that the authorities are not really serious. Many believe that governments over the years have not exerted themselves much to collar Swiss banks and other tax havens into giving us a peep into the secret accounts of Indians. This of course includes non-Congress governments as well, although the impression generally left dangling is that it is typically the Congress in power that pussyfoots over the black money issue because only top leaders of this party have a lot to hide. No stone is left unturned by its opponents, especially those from the Hindu right-wing, to mount a campaign on black money when the Congress is in office. It is hard to recall public agitations — especially by social or quasi-religious outfits such as Ramdev's, or bodies such as the RSS — to unearth black money when non-Congress parties are in government. Typically, the political campaigns of parties on the right tend to place a premium on corruption and black money, as these find it hard to spell out a sharply right-wing economic agenda in a poor country.

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

FRAME OF FREEDOM, CANVAS OF INTOLERANCE

 

If democracy is a shared value among many of the world's states today, they still differ substantially in the tolerance of civil freedoms often granted to the citizens by their respective Constitutions. Let me pick up three out of numerous instances. In the late 1970s, M.F. Husain paints the Hindu goddess Saraswati in the nude. Nothing unusual. Twenty years on, some members of the Sangh Parivar get to hear of it, though they have never seen the painting. Some 20-odd lumpen boys vandalise the painter's house, destroy several of his paintings and threaten to disrupt any exhibition depicting any of his paintings even in a group show. The mighty Indian state crumbles and cannot assure security for such exhibitions. Encouraged, the Sangh Parivar raises the stridency of threats to the legendary artist, extending to his very life. In 2006, the Union home minister, Mr Shivraj Patil, sends out an advisory to the police commissioners of Delhi and Mumbai cautioning against possible communal tension created by the presence of Husain. Husain, at the end of his tether, goes into exile, never to come back to his beloved country and for ever sad for it. Though, like a true gentleman, he shared the sadness only with a few close friends. In 2009, some six Muslim men float an outfit and under its banner hold a protest against controversial Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen in Kolkata. The country's most secular (Left Front) government throws the writer out of the country even as she fervently pleads to be allowed to stay on in what she had begun to consider her "home". She has not come back either, even as she hopes to, with the change of government. Some three decades ago, Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran had "sentenced" Salman Rushdie to death for writing Satanic Verses. Rushdie found shelter in England where the state spent millions to give him protection even as he remained a vocal critic of the various governments there. Both India and the UK are democracies — yet they couldn't be further apart in their respect for civil liberties. Ironically, while India's Constitution announces it as a "secular" state, the UK is formally an Anglican Christian state. The crux of the difference is that India, especially its polity, equates its secularism with multi-communalisms in which the equilibrium keeps altering with the stridency of the assertion of self-assumed representation of one or the other community, even if all it takes is to mobilise some half a dozen to two dozen individuals on any occasion to lay such claim, with the media glare inflating their presence manifold. Our secularism is indeed very fragile and our civil rights most vulnerable. Husain's instance is particularly tragic for several reasons. His calibre as an artist would have made him a prized citizen for any country. He redefined all the basic features of his craft: the grandeur of vision of his themes, the drawing of lines, the colours and the very deep roots in Indian, especially Hindu, culture and mythology. In some ways, he was the ideal candidate for what the Sangh Parivar envisages as a perfect Indian Muslim — committed to his own religious rituals like the namaz, almost all his paintings draw inspiration from Hindu mythology. He drew numerous pictures of Ganesha, Gandhari, birth of Lord Buddha, Saraswati and of course, the quintessential Indian womanhood. The Sangh Parivar's charges about nude pictures of goddesses etc. — which drove Husain into exile — demonstrates how little it knows or cares about Hindu mythology and art. Implicit in the charge is the assumption that nudity is sinful and reprehensible because of its association with sexuality. The association of nudity (and sex) with sin and of sin with Eve is Christian in origin, which led to the fall of Adam from the Garden of Eden; there is not even a hint of such association in Hinduism. Indeed, there is a constant celebration of nudity and sexuality as an act of piety in mythological stories, temples, literature and painting. In an 18th-century Kangra painting of Radha and Krishna, a completely nude Radha is depicted on top of a totally nude Krishna, in copulation. Clearly, the meaning of nudity and sex here is unadulterated purity and ecstasy, even religious ecstasy. And dharma, artha, kama, moksha are the four requisites of life fulfilled. It is to this tradition that Husain belonged. The sadness is not only that the Sangh Parivar could not understand and tolerate him, it is that the state yielded ever so easily to this intolerance. The suggestion that Husain should have drawn nude female figures from Islamic mythology to balance it out is pathetic, for it looks at artistic creativity as a sort of Cabinet formation in which various communities, castes, regions, genders etc should find adequate representation. This is characteristic of small minds adjudicating grand phenomena. * Harbans Mukhia is a former professor of history at the Jawaharlal Nehru University

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

NETAS' LEARNING CURVE

 

BJP rethink on Sonia Let it never be said that the BJP is not willing to learn from its "mistakes". Just the other day, the BJP's national spokesperson and general secretary J.P. Nadda, while talking to journalists in Chandigarh, angrily accused the Gandhi family of "exercising authority without constitutional sanction or accountability". But when a reporter pointed out that it was the same BJP that had blocked United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi's way to occupying a constitutional post by opposing her prime ministership in the 2004 Lok Sabha polls whereas Congress allies, including the Left parties, had happily endorsed her candidature, Mr Nadda fumbled, nonplussed. "Some of our party leaders had opposed it in the prevailing (political) environment", Mr Nadda said when reminded of Lok Sabha Opposition Leader Sushma Swaraj's threats to tonsure her head if… "But we are willing to listen to and open for suggestions." Does it mean that the BJP will not oppose Mrs Gandhi being the Prime Minister the next time? Ask Ms Swaraj. Opposition's transparent ways The BJP national executive held in Lucknow on June 4 and 5 brought to light the saffron party's "different" way of classifying and rewarding contributors. The party first made an honest admission: They had collected donations to meet the expenses of the event and those who made generous donations were suitably "rewarded". Those who donated more than `1 lakh for the national executive were allowed the privilege of garlanding BJP president Nitin Gadkari. Those who made higher contributions were allowed to garland former BJP president Lal Krishna Advani and Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha, Sushma Swaraj. Getting photographed with these leaders during the garlanding ceremony was an added bonus. The "small fry" who contributed between `50,000 and `1,00,000 got a similar opportunity with stars such as Shatrughan Sinha and Smriti Irani. The donors, incidentally, were introduced to the stars as dedicated "karyakartas" and so the stars did not have any problem in posing for photographs with them. So, the next time when you see huge laminated photographs of BJP leaders adorning the offices and drawing rooms of businessmen and aspiring politicians, you'll know who has paid how much. That is transparency — the BJP way! The many uses of activism A powerful group of Congress ministers of Assam dislike the Right to Information (RTI) activist Akhil Gogoi, but for some members of Legislative Assembly (MLAs) and ministers he is a good foil. Mr Akhil had created much trouble for the Congress government in its second term by accusing the Chief Minister and some ministers of having disproportionate assets and being involved in corruption. There is a talk of the RTI activist being "used" to target certain high-profile ministers such as Himanta Biswa Sarma and Rockybul Hussain, by rival ministers such as Pradyut Bordoloi and Akan Bora. Whatever may be the truth, in the Congress government's third term in the state, the RTI activist is again emerging as a bargaining tool. Senior Congress MLA Anjan Dutta called on Mr Gogoi at the Guwahati Medical College Hospital where the latter is admitted for treatment. It is said that Mr Dutta was assured a Cabinet berth by the chief minister, but he failed to keep his promise. When confronted by journalists, Mr Dutta said that he visited the RTI activist in the hospital on humanitarian grounds. But don't be surprised if Mr Gogoi goes after the chief minister again. Like a cop's cap Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa's dislike for the new secretariat complex built by the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) goes beyond politics. Ms Jayalalithaa's sense of aesthetics is apparently offended by the Assembly building with a dome that appears like a "Puducherry policeman's cap". People of the Union Territory might take mild offence at this affront to their legacy derived from the French connection — the gendarme's headgear continues to adorn the heads of policemen in the picturesque territory by the sea. The new complex in Chennai, built at a cost exceeding `1,000 crore, came in for further derision in the Assembly where it was recalled that "cinema set" artist Thotta Tharani was asked to make a mock-up of the dome so that the inauguration of the complex could take place in March 2010 in the presence of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi. Is it the first move by Ms Jayalalithaa in undoing some of the legacies of DMK's two terms in power? Blame it all on Raja Consumers are mighty angry at the frequent failure of BSNL networks in Raipur, Chhattisgarh Like rains, BSNL networks have become unpredictable — no one knows when the phones (landline and mobile) will function and when they will stop working, mid-conversation, even. Consumers' complaints also remain unattended to for weeks together, including journalists. The other day, a group of journalists approached a senior BSNL official pleading with him to fix the phones. "Friends, please bear with us for some more time. BSNL phones are yet to overcome the shock of the imprisonment of former telecom minister A. Raja (in a graft case)", the officer said, evoking a laugh or two from the journalists. But the journalists were also left wondering whether the official was serious. With babus, you can never say. The folk and the fake Congress leaders in Rajasthan are worshippers of Baba Ramdev. The reference here is not to the Baba who created trouble for the party in Delhi, but the popular folk deity of the state. "Rajasthan's most popular folk deity, Baba Ramdev, worked for harmony and upliftment of the downtrodden, mostly Dalits", says Congress leader Ravindra Singh. "We believe in Baba Ramdev as a folk deity and in his principles; Muslims venerate him as pir and call him Ramsa pir." Lest he be misunderstood, the Congress leader added: "There are two kinds of Babas — one is folk deity and the other is fake deity. We are with the folk deity." After this distinction, will the BJP still make a song and dance about the yoga guru?

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

AN ANTHEM TO THE LORD

 

Wading through villages, towns, plains and wastelands of the Gangetic plain, Guru Nanak and Mardana reached Jagannath Puri. While on the sea bank, they saw a brahmin sitting in samadhi (trance). They were told that the brahmin had the reputation of being able to see the past, present and future all at once in his trance state. The Guru joined the crowd that had gathered there. He saw that a gourd-shell lying in front of the brahmin contained all the offerings that visitors there had made. Guru Nanak asked Mardana to quietly lift that gourd-shell and place that behind the brahmin. After a while, the brahmin opened his eyes. He noticed his gourd-shell was not there. He shouted "Where has my gourd-shell gone?" The Guru said, "Revered Sir, you are known as trikal-darshi, one who can see the past, present and future all at once. You should know where your gourd-shell is. Why are you asking others?" The message went home to the congregation. Soon the news spread over the whole town that a stranger has come who has exposed the guile of the brahmin who pretended to be omniscient. People soon gathered at a place and decided that the strange holy man be brought to the town in a chariot with great fanfare and taken to a temple where all should assemble to see him. They went to the place where they had left the Guru, but he was not there. Dismayed, they returned; but when they passed by the temple, they found him there and singing praises of Jagannath, the Master of the world. They joined him making a choir. Brahmins of the temple thought, if they could persuade this holy man to come and join the aarti — the lamp-lit worship — large crowds would gather and swell offerings, which would benefit them. So they invited the Guru to participate in the aarti of Jagannath in the evening. The Guru gladly gave his consent. The aarti started with a jewel-studded gold platter in which lay a lamp with four flames, one in each direction. Around it were flowers, various kinds of incense, a silver platter with sandal-dust on which a camphor pellet was lit. This platter was waved in circles before the idol of Jagannath, behind which stood an attendant waving a fly-whisk over the idol without a pause. The Guru and Mardana quietly slipped out of the temple and decided to sit under the open sky studded with the moon and the stars wondering at the bejewelled expanse above. The Guru went into deep samadhi of amazement and his face began to glow with a halo. By then, the aarti in the temple had concluded and the crowd, led by their raja, started coming out. When the raja noticed Guru Nanak sitting outside the temple, he said, "You had been invited to join us in the aarti of Jagannath, but you chose to stay out of the temple. Why did you not join us?" Guru Nanak replied, "I came out to say the real aarti of the Master of the world. The Master of the world is above all His creation, He cannot be confined to the nook of a temple. I came out to join the real aarti being performed by the entire universe". — J.S. Neki, a psychiatrist of international repute, was director of PGIMER, Chandigarh. He also received the Sahitya Akademi Award for his contribution to Punjabi verse. Currently he is Professor of Eminence in Religious Studies at Punjabi University, Patiala.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

THE UNCERTAINTY TAX

 

If you want to understand why the unemployment rate has been stubbornly lodged around nine per cent, a good place to start is with the eye-popping mortgage statistics released last week by the economic analysis firm CoreLogic: 38 per cent of homeowners with second mortgages are underwater. They borrowed against the value of their homes, and they now owe more than their houses are worth. The total number of underwater homeowners in America, with first and second mortgages, is a stunning 22.7 per cent. In Nevada alone, 63 per cent of all mortgaged properties are worth less than the owners paid; in Arizona 50 per cent, Florida 46 per cent, Michigan 36 per cent and California 31 per cent. When people are so underwater, they find it hard to move to take new jobs, they find it hard to borrow or raise cash for education or start-ups, and banks become even more cautious about lending. Until we as a country figure out how to divvy up these losses on housing and let these markets clear and move on, they will be a serious drag on employment. Indeed, this mortgage mess just feeds the three other big problems undermining US job growth today: weak aggregate demand, structural impediments and an epidemic of uncertainty about what the future holds for everything from healthcare to the rate of taxation to Social Security and Medicare spending to the availability of credit to the general direction of the economy — the sum of which has people holding back and thus undermining the government's stimulus. We need to be working on all three at once, and urgently. How? Others have focused on the aggregate demand problem, so I'd like to address some structural impediments and uncertainty. On June 10, the McKinsey Global Institute released a study of the structural issues ailing the US job market, entitled: "An Economy That Works: Job Creation and America's Future". It begins: "Only in the most optimistic scenario will the US return to full employment before 2020. Achieving this outcome will require sustained demand growth, rising US competitiveness in the global economy and better matching of US workers to jobs". Over the last 20 years, McKinsey notes, with each recession more employers have used the downturn to replace workers with machines and software, so it takes much longer for full employment to come back. I've been working on a book that required talking to a lot of entrepreneurs and have been struck by how many told me some version of: "I used the recession to downsize and get really efficient. None of those jobs are coming back. I am doing a little hiring now, but for people with more skills". At the same time, you talk to US companies doing advanced manufacturing and many will tell you they struggle even now to find workers with the blue-collar skills they need to replace their retiring employees. Thanks to a credit bubble over the last decade, we created a lot of jobs in construction and retail who did not have globally competitive skills or post-high school degrees. Those workers will need retooling. McKinsey says its research found that "too few Americans who attend college and vocational schools choose fields of study that will give them specific skills that employers are seeking. Our interviews point to potential shortages in many occupations, such as nutritionists, welders, and nurse's aides — in addition to the often-predicted shortfall in computer specialists and engineers". The report concludes, "Progress on four dimensions is needed: Ensuring that the work force acquires skills needed for the jobs that will be in demand, finding ways for US workers to win 'share' in the global economy" — by encouraging more foreign investment in the US and by getting companies who have off-shored jobs to take advantage of falling telecom prices to on-shore them to low-cost US cities and towns instead — "encouraging innovation, new company creation, and scaling up of industries in the US, and removing unnecessary impediments that slow business investment and job creation". Today, everything from patent delays to overlapping or conflicting land use regulations inhibit start-ups and factory creation. According to the World Economic Forum, the US now ranks 27th on the ease of getting a construction permit, behind Saudi Arabia. But do not underestimate uncertainty as a silent jobs killer. Congress and the White House seem paralysed in deciding the future of taxes and spending. Where are we going in these areas? Investors and companies who have to make hiring decisions have no clue. "The economy is paying a high uncertainty premium right now", says Mohamed El-Erian, the chief executive officer of the world's largest bond fund, Pimco. "With such uncertainty, people delay as many decisions as possible." Any good news? Yes, US corporations are getting so productive and sitting on so much cash, just a few big, smart, bipartisan decisions by Congress on taxes and spending (and mortgages) and I think this whole economy starts to improve again. Workers with skills will be the first to be hired. By arrangement with the New York Times

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

SHOOTING FROM THE HIP

ANOTHER STUMBLE IN SINGUR


THE loss of face is as terrible as it is collective, a setback for the government in the third week in office. Even if Mamata Banerjee's ignorance of Assembly procedure is accepted, her establishment ought to have known better. The Chief Minister cannot be excused for lacking the elementary knowledge that an Ordinance can't be issued when the legislature is in session. And if any bureaucrat was involved in allowing her to believe that constitutional niceties (they must be taught at the Mussourie academy) could be overlooked, he or she deserves to be summarily dismissed. Article 213 of the Constitution is explicit on the point that an Ordinance cannot be issued/promulgated when Parliament or Assembly is in session. Why wasn't the right advice on "breach of privilege" proffered by any of the senior officials? Or was no advice sought? The government may be perfectly entitled to "resume" the unused 1000 acres of land in Singur; even the CPI-M has no issue on this score. It is the manner of going about the task that has raised constitutional hackles, not least at the level of the Governor. It recalls the fiasco of the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee administration in 2006 when the Tata Motors delegation had to retreat from the area in the face of a farmers' protest as the government hadn't spared a thought on compensation. If it is the Governor now, it was Jyoti Basu who had to caution the government five years ago. The rest is history.


Given their general calibre, it is possible that the bulk of the Trinamul legislators and ministers are ignorant of the rules of legislative engagement. However, at least those of them have served in the bureaucracy and the police; they ought to have alerted the CM. The fiasco must be particularly acute for the Chief Secretary who was summoned to Raj Bhavan on Friday to explain the goof-up. The government has no explanation except to save the situation by rustling up a Bill and advancing the session of the Assembly. To put it bluntly, as we must, it was the day of the ignoramus on Thursday when the Chief Minister proclaimed at Writers' Buildings: "Let this day be dedicated to Singur."


Miss Banerjee's zeal to effect change is, sadly, accompanied by a propensity to shoot from the hip. First there was the announcement of a pruned Council of Ministers, soon abandoned at the altar of expediency. Then, the announcement on Aliah University, which led to howls of protest. Next, there was an announcement that details of the Singur agreement would be disclosed, until it was realised there were legal complications. And now the announcement of an ordinance. The sad aspect of these goof-ups is that they could so easily have been avoided. The onus is on Miss Banerjee to take stock and remedial action; if she doesn't the signs are ominous.

CAPITAL CLOUT

HAS A TRICKLE-DOWN EFFECT

TERRIBLY silly it would be to personally hold Sheila Dikshit even remotely responsible for two members of her security detail molesting, a young woman. Yet it would be equally stupid not to recognise that the policemen were so brazen because they believed that being a part of the chief minister's retinue they could "get away with it." Not just the initial despicable conduct: a traffic police squad, a team from one of PCR vans, two local cops, and then the staff at the police station all tried to dissuade the victim from making an issue of it. Only confirming what the perpetrators believed ~ they were no ordinary policemen, they were "well connected". This is so typical of the way clout trickles down in the Capital ~ even lowly functionaries attached to VIPs deem themselves above all laws and regulations, immune to any kind of disciplinary action. The root of the trouble lies with the VIPs: violating regulations is some kind of a status symbol in a city over-populated with politicians and officials from both central and state governments, and a range of allied agencies. Where else are so many "labelled" cars to be found; interestingly a police drive against unauthorised red beacons on cars revealed that many were staff cars of not-too-senior officials. If the  burra sahib can make a joke of the law who is to prevent his underlings from laughing along with him?


When the boss "gets things done" (for a consideration?) what's to prevent his staffer from picking up the crumbs of the cake? And all too often the loot is actually routed through the juniors. In fact there's a well-established pecking order, it determines which favour could be granted by officials at which level. Why pester an officer when his PA can deliver? Ministers and officers may change, the juniors stay where they are: a permanent "source" to be tapped. How often it is that PA's etc telephone other departments saying their boss "desires"… even if the senior in question hasn't a clue about what it is about. Such is the Capital's unique "culture", why even some personal cars have "army" written on them. Back to the molesting cops who were Sheila's "pilots": they have been suspended. Had the chief minister been sensitive ~ at least gender-sensitive ~ she would have publicly commended the young woman for being gutsy enough to buck the system.

SHOWN THE DOOR

KHAPLANG SHOULD HAVE KNOWN BETTER

NSCN(K) chairman SS Khaplang apparently did not expect that his dismissal of commander-in-chief General Khole Konyak would boomerang on him and rock the very foundation of his outfit. Not only did his "tatars" (MPs) "impeach" him, they showed him the door. By way of explanation, they said Khaplang lived a life of self-exile, was "non-committal" on important issues and was against the NSCN(K) taking part in the Dimapur 18 September 2010 "conclave" of all warring factions which, for the first time, saw leaders like Th Muivah of the NSCN(IM), Kitovi Zhimomi of the (NSCN-K) and Brigadier S Singnya of the Naga National Council/Federal Government of Nagaland share a table. Zhimomi's presence, despite opposition from the top, was possibly the first hint of a rift in the outfit. Khaplang has been observing a ceasefire with the Centre since 2001 but has refused to negotiate unless New Delhi discusses sovereignty. He also wants the NSCN(IM) to pull out of talks. A Hemi Naga from Myanmar, Khaplang is the only rebel leader who did not meet the late Angami Zapu Phizo, former NNC president, who declared "independence" a day before 15 August 1947. When Swu and Muivah split the NNC in 1980 to form the NSCN following differences over the interpretation of the 1975 Shillong Peace Accord, Khaplang was made vice-president by virtue of his sway over large parts of eastern Nagaland and also the Naga-inhabited areas of Myanmar, which he has since tried to consolidate.
  In 1988, he parted ways with Swu and Muivah when he learnt they were secretly preparing for talks with the Centre. Shut off from the real world, he should have realised long ago that there were no takers for his ideology and his expulsion should, in a way, create an atmosphere conducive for an initiative on genuine reconciliation. Then again, it would be premature to suggest this would result in a final settlement of the Naga problem.

 

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THE STATESMAN

ARTICLE

WORLD AFTER OSAMA~I

NOT THE END OF INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM

ARUN KUMAR BANERJI

 

OSAMA bin Laden is dead. Does it imply that the world will be free from threats of international terrorism? His killing does not mean the end of Al Qaida. He will be succeeded by another leader, possibly Ayman Al-Zawahiri, an Egyptian doctor and operational head of the organisation. Or Saif al-Adel, a former Egyptian military officer-turned Al-Qaida militant, who has been named as the interim head of the organisation. One may expect Al Qaida and militant attacks on targets of their choice. A few such incidents have occurred already within Pakistan, notably the outrage at the Karachi naval base and the attack on the paramilitary forces by a Taliban suicide bomber, resulting in the death of 80 people.


The extermination of Osama does not mean the end of international terrorism, at least in the short run. What is the outlook in the long term? International terrorism is not a new phenomenon. In the past, terrorist organisations were secular in nature, notably the People's Front for Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), the Khmer Rouge or the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). They were engaged in liberation wars. More and more terrorist groups now act in the name of religion. Prominent among them are the Al Qaida, the Laskar-e-Tayaba, the Jaish-e-Mohammad etc.


The past two decades have also witnessed a shift in the bases of international terrorism. Pakistan has emerged as a significant sponsor of cross-border terrorism, besides being a hub for the training of militant Islamist fundamentalists. The events leading to the killing of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, barely 50 km from Islamabad and close to the Pakistani Military Academy, by US forces confirmed what has long been suspected by the US and Indian intelligence. Precisely that Pakistan was actually acting as a sanctuary for the "most wanted terrorist", while professing to be a US ally in its fight against global terrorism and in the process  obtaining substantial aid in terms of dollars.


Historically, Pakistan's political leadership has failed to provide stability and good governance, leading to the emergence of the army as the most powerful institution. In the late Seventies, Zia-ul-Haq started wooing the religious political parties. The result was a mushroom growth of madrasas.  Between 1975 and 1988, their number grew from 868 to 3289; by the year 2000, the figure was 6000. Around 10 per cent of these seminaries were providing military training to students from within Pakistan and from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, the Gulf countries and Somalia. They later became mujahids.


The emergence of the Taliban was, therefore, the direct consequence of Pakistan. The government patronised the seminaries, especially those run by the Sunnis; it also supported the jihadis in Afghanistan in their fight against the Soviet forces. And these jihadis included the Al Qaida militants.
According to Saukat Qadir (2001), between 1979 and 1989, the USA was "actively involved" in the process of the growth of fundamentalist Islamic militancy by supporting the training of the mujahids. During the next eight years, its involvement was slightly less. To that extent, the US cannot be absolved of the responsibility of creating the monster of fanatical jihadi. Indeed this has been mentioned by Pakistan's Prime Minister, Yousuf Gilani, in his address to the Parliament on 9 May. It served US interests ~ to oust the Soviet forces from Afghanistan. It ignored the close links that had developed between a section of the Pakistani army brass and the mujahids, gun-runners and drug smugglers.
The ISI was acting as the conduit for supplying arms to the mujahids in Afghanistan and the Afghan warlord. Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who himself was involved in drug smuggling. The two other countries that also trained and armed the Islamic militants were China and Saudi Arabia.
It is generally believed that nearly 60 per cent of the arms and military equipment that were supplied to the mujahids through Pakistan between 1981-91 were kept within Pakistan. According to one estimate, by the mid-1990s the ISI was in possession of at least three million pieces of weapons. Retired ISI officers also participated in the war in Afghanistan, guiding the Taliban fighters.
Part of the arms siphoned off by the ISI, was given to the Pakistan-sponsored terrorists in Kashmir, while a substantial quantity found its way to the arms bazar in Pakistan, with the connivance of security officials who often gained financially. Much of these weapons in the arms bazar were available to anyone who could afford it. The insurgents in Tajikistan, Chechnya, Kashmir and Punjab took full advantage of this, as did the gun-runners and smugglers. The quantity of arms seized by the security forces in Kashmir during 1991-92 was enough to equip a force of 20,000 terrorists, with such weapons as Kalashnikov assault rifles, grenades, rockets and rocket-launchers.
Thus the off-shoot of the US-backed jihadi  movement in Afghanistan during the 1980s was the creation of a culture of violence in Pakistan. Jihadi terrorist activities have affected not only the neighbouring states ~ India and Afghanistan ~ but also America and the UK, as was devastatingly demonstrated by the 9/11 attacks in the USA. Even Pakistan has become a victim of its own policy. It is not an accident that during the 1990s, Karachi alone had more than 100,000 weapons leading to the escalation in sectarian violence that cost more lives than the 1965 India-Pakistan war. In Dir district of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP), which emerged as one of the thriving centres for the export of narcotics, one could find the largest concentration of small arms. Hence the support base of the Al Qaida and Taliban in the tribal belt of  NWFP and Baluchistan. In 2009, Musharraf's forces had to flush out the terrorists from Lal Masjid near Islamabad. The canker has spread throughout the country.
Has Pakistan learnt any lesson? The answer must be in the negative, considering the killing of Osama bin Laden so close to a military centre.

(To be concluded)

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

JUST BAG IT

Trust the Germans to make a precise estimate: dogs deposit 55 tonnes of proprietory end product on the streets of Berlin every day. The average deposit per lowering of posterior was taken to be 183.3333 grams. On that assumption, the number of spontaneous deposits per diem comes to be 300,000. Berlin's human population was 3.45 million. So there was a canine for every 11.5 humans.

Berlin has vast forests, not to mention miles of sewers underground. But it is so well administered that a stray dog has not been sighted in recorded memory. So it is inconceivable for any dog not to belong to a human. Nor is it possible for an integral dog to belong to a fractional human. So at least 3.15 million Berliners must lack canine company; multiple ownership would raise the figure. This gives an idea of how far the 55 tonnes of posterior produce could be raised; if every Berliner, male and female, adult and juvenile, exercised his or her right to a dog, the daily deposition would increase to 632.5 tonnes. This should be perfectly acceptable in an efficiently administered city. But even the capital of Europe's richest country cannot afford to remove the mean 106.392 kilograms deposited per square kilometre of the city. For it sweeps its streets only once a week, on days determined by rotation. When it does sweep them, it does probably remove the entire 385 tonnes of weekly canine output. But for six intervening days, the possibility of contact between such elimination products and human feet cannot be eliminated. No doubt, the contact is often between a dog's output and his or her owner's foot, to which no one can object, least of all the owner; a dog would not object in any case, irrespective of whether the contacted person owns him or her or not. But it is impossible to ensure a perfect correlation between pedalian contact and canine ownership; in fact, the probability of their coincidence in such a populous city could be as low as 0.289855 per trillion. These numerical considerations make human intervention essential to ensure the earliest possible removal of canine excreta from the streets.

Berlin surveyed cities that it considered its comperes in administration, and liked London's creation of open, sand-covered canine toilets, which cleverly exploited dogs' affinity to other dogs' posterior creations. But whilst dog toilets were appropriate for public parks, the competition between them and pedestrian space on streets was too great. So the Berlin local authority called a conference, and on the basis of scholarly papers there presented, erected dispensers for dog poop bags in strategic locations. They were effective. But a sufficiency of bags would cost five million euros a year — a sum the municipality is reluctant to spend although it collects twice as much from dog licences. It continues to be open to bright ideas.

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

JUST BAG IT

Trust the Germans to make a precise estimate: dogs deposit 55 tonnes of proprietory end product on the streets of Berlin every day. The average deposit per lowering of posterior was taken to be 183.3333 grams. On that assumption, the number of spontaneous deposits per diem comes to be 300,000. Berlin's human population was 3.45 million. So there was a canine for every 11.5 humans.

Berlin has vast forests, not to mention miles of sewers underground. But it is so well administered that a stray dog has not been sighted in recorded memory. So it is inconceivable for any dog not to belong to a human. Nor is it possible for an integral dog to belong to a fractional human. So at least 3.15 million Berliners must lack canine company; multiple ownership would raise the figure. This gives an idea of how far the 55 tonnes of posterior produce could be raised; if every Berliner, male and female, adult and juvenile, exercised his or her right to a dog, the daily deposition would increase to 632.5 tonnes. This should be perfectly acceptable in an efficiently administered city. But even the capital of Europe's richest country cannot afford to remove the mean 106.392 kilograms deposited per square kilometre of the city. For it sweeps its streets only once a week, on days determined by rotation. When it does sweep them, it does probably remove the entire 385 tonnes of weekly canine output. But for six intervening days, the possibility of contact between such elimination products and human feet cannot be eliminated. No doubt, the contact is often between a dog's output and his or her owner's foot, to which no one can object, least of all the owner; a dog would not object in any case, irrespective of whether the contacted person owns him or her or not. But it is impossible to ensure a perfect correlation between pedalian contact and canine ownership; in fact, the probability of their coincidence in such a populous city could be as low as 0.289855 per trillion. These numerical considerations make human intervention essential to ensure the earliest possible removal of canine excreta from the streets.

Berlin surveyed cities that it considered its comperes in administration, and liked London's creation of open, sand-covered canine toilets, which cleverly exploited dogs' affinity to other dogs' posterior creations. But whilst dog toilets were appropriate for public parks, the competition between them and pedestrian space on streets was too great. So the Berlin local authority called a conference, and on the basis of scholarly papers there presented, erected dispensers for dog poop bags in strategic locations. They were effective. But a sufficiency of bags would cost five million euros a year — a sum the municipality is reluctant to spend although it collects twice as much from dog licences. It continues to be open to bright ideas.

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

BROUGHT TO ACCOUNT

 MLADIC'S ARREST SHOULD PROMPT THE US TO JOIN THE ICC TIMOTHY GARTON ASH

At last they've got him. There's not much good news from Europe at the moment, but the fact that Ratko Mladic is now sitting in the detention cell of an international tribunal in The Hague is a cause for unqualified celebration. The man directly responsible for the massacre of some 8,000 unarmed men and boys at Srebrenica will now be held to account for that and other atrocities. This is another step forward in one of the great developments of our time: the global movement towards accountability.

Just over 60 years ago, the Polish poet, Czeslaw Milosz, wrote a poem addressed to the torturers and mass murderers of one of the bloodiest periods in European history. "You who harmed an ordinary person," he warned, "… do not feel safe." People may heap sycophantic praise on you now, but "the poet remembers", poeta pamieta.

Back then, that was about all your mass murderer had to be frightened of: the poet remembering. A post-1945 moment of very imperfect international accountability, symbolized by the Nuremberg trials of Nazi leaders and the founding treaties of international humanitarian law, had faded behind the iron curtains and instrumental amnesias of the Cold War. Even the most basic facts about many atrocities were systematically concealed or falsified. Monsters died in their beds, with their medals still hanging from the uniform in the wardrobe. Only the poet remembered; the poet, and the ordinary person, if still alive.

But those post-1945 ideals never quite died. From the 1970s onward, many different forms of accountability were developed, from Latin America to South Africa and from Southeast Asia to Southeast Europe: truth commissions, judicial investigations, the opening of archives, banning compromised people from holding public office ('lustration'), domestic and international trials.

All have their proper place, but an international court is the best way yet discovered to deal with the vilest of the vile: those credibly accused of crimes against humanity. In national courts, there are generally legal contortions and the strong suspicion of a partisan political agenda. Is an Egyptian court fining the former president, Hosni Mubarak, $34 million for having shut down the internet really the right way to address his political responsibility for the previous regime? The Egyptian military obviously think so — but then, this deflects attention from their own culpable role under Mubarak.

International courts, such as the special tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, which holds Mladic, and the International Criminal Court, are also open to multiple objections. Apart from the slowness of the judicial process, which resulted in the former Serbian leader, Slobodan Milosevic, dying still unconvicted in The Hague, most of these objections come down to the charge of double standards.

Why, cry many Serbs, do you arraign only Serbs, not Croats and Bosnians? That accusation is simply false. Beside Milosevic, Mladic and Radovan Karadzic, the tribunal has convicted the Croat general, Ante Gotovina, and is currently re-trying Ramush Haradinaj, a Kosovar Albanian guerrilla leader.

Why, say others, do you fry the big fish and let the little ones swim free? That is true, but inevitable. You cannot try all the tens of thousands responsible, in different degrees, for the horrors of any dictatorship. Would it be better the other way round: catch the small, let the big go free? That was the more damning charge against de-Nazification in the late 1940s. If you can only do a few fish, I say: fry the big ones.

Then there's the objection, "Why do you prosecute X but not Y?" Why Milosevic and the Liberian Charles Taylor, but not Than Shwe of Burma or Bashar al-Assad of Syria? To this there are several answers. One is: if you can't catch all murderers that doesn't mean you shouldn't catch any. Another is: maybe the ICC should be prosecuting Y too. And a third: differential responses don't always mean double standards.

If a leader oversteps the very extreme mark that qualifies you for a charge of crimes against humanity, then he or she should everywhere and always be liable to prosecution in an international court. If, however, their past misdeeds fall short of that very demanding standard, there is room for local understandings. If the leader has consented to a peaceful negotiation from dictatorship, that good conduct should be taken into consideration. For example, it is quite wrong that the Polish martial law leader, Wojciech Jaruzelski, who was not guilty of crimes against humanity and tried to make amends by helping Poland's transition to democracy in 1989, should still — as a very old man — be on trial for those earlier misdeeds.

The most difficult choice would come if a leader such as Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, who has terrorized his people and certainly merits prosecution, were then to play a Jaruzelski-type part in a negotiated transition. But there is no sign of that. Is anyone seriously going to argue that the only thing holding Gaddafi back from statesmanlike abdication is his recent arrest warrant from the ICC?

In the rest of the world, the charge of double standards is mainly directed against the West, and especially against the United States of America. From Latin American dictators to the current rulers of Saudi Arabia, Washington's tyrannical friends have got away with murder — so runs a popular indictment — while its enemies are liable to be assassinated. Over the last 60 years, there have been too many individual instances of such extreme 'realist' double standards. However, I emphatically don't think the killing of Osama bin Laden belongs on that list.

Yes, in some ideal world, bin Laden would now be sitting in a cell in The Hague, down the corridor from Mladic, Gotovina, Gaddafi and many more. But does anyone seriously believe that the Pakistani security services could have been relied on to deliver bin Laden to an international court? Tell that to the brave Pakistani journalist who has just paid with his life for reporting the entanglement of those very security services with al Qaida. In an extremely dangerous night-time operation, in hostile territory, with no idea what bin Laden had under his belt, you could not expect a US Navy SEAL to stop and read that ruthless mass murderer his rights under United Nation conventions. But that was, and should remain, a very exceptional case.

In general, if international law is to have any chance of deterring the monsters of tomorrow, then we need the US to support it practically and not just rhetorically. That means applying international law to itself, not just to others. At the moment, the US is not even a member of the ICC.

I have talked of a 'movement towards accountability', but there is nothing irreversible about that movement. As the affairs of the world are increasingly driven by non-Western powers that pique themselves on the defence of their own sovereignty, the trend is quite likely to be reversed. If the profoundly satisfying thing that happened this week to Ratko Mladic is to have any chance of becoming an international norm rather than a transient European exception, then the US must throw its weight behind the kinds of institution that will make this possible. To celebrate the arrest of Mladic, the US should join the International Criminal Court.

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

YOUNG BLOOD

GWYNNE DYER

President Ali Abdullah al-Saleh, in power in Yemen for the past 33 years and under siege for the past three months, left the country with a large piece of shrapnel lodged just below his heart. He may not come back.

Accompanying Saleh to Saudi Arabia for medical treatment were the prime minister, the deputy prime minister, the Speakers of both houses of parliament, and Saleh's personal security adviser, all of whom were also wounded in the explosion at the al-Nahdayn mosque in the presidential compound in Sanaa. It's a pretty clean sweep, so the question is: who comes next?

Nobody even knows whether the explosion was caused by a bomb planted in the mosque, a shell, or a rocket. The situation is very complicated. The turmoil in Yemen is really two separate conflicts. One is a traditional power struggle between two elite factions. The other is a non-violent, pro-democratic youth movement inspired by the popular revolutions elsewhere in the Arab world. They were linked at the start, but they will be disentangled by the finish.

One of the elite factions is dominated by Saleh's own family: his son Ahmed Ali commands the presidential guard, and his nephews — Tariq, Yahya and Ammar — control other vital elements of the security and intelligence apparatus. The rival faction is led by the al-Ahmar family, whose current head, Sheikh Sadeq al-Ahmar, is the leader of the Hashid tribal confederation, one of the two most powerful in Yemen. The most important al-Ahmar brother is Hamid, a businessman and a leader of the Opposition Islah party. There is ample evidence that Hamid helped to get the student protests under way , making his Sabafon mobile network available to send out messages, organizing the protests and then covering the demos lavishly on his Suhail TV network.

Clear choice

So far, so bad. What makes it worse is that the quarrel is among such a narrow and unrepresentative elite. The Saleh family, like the Ahmar family, belongs to the Hashid tribal confederacy. They both follow the Zaidi tradition of Shia Islam, whereas a majority of Yemenis are Sunnis. But the young Yemeni protesters on the streets are not interested in a mere reshuffle of the elite, and the Ahmar family has never controlled them. They actually do want democracy, and they have already paid a high price for their idealism: about half of the 350 people killed since January have been unarmed youths.

The other half, in the past two weeks, have mostly been tribal fighters backing the Ahmar family and military forces controlled by the Saleh clan. In terms of how Yemen has always been run in the past, the Ahmar family is now on the brink of victory. But the drama will not end there. One of the student leaders, Hashem Nidal, of the Independent Movement for Change, put it well in a recent interview with the BBC. "They wanted to push the revolution towards violence and we refuse this completely....We are co-ordinating with many protesters across the country to make sure they don't fall into the trap of violence."

The departure of Saleh won't be the end of the story. The Ahmar family's allies may take over the government, but they will face the same demands from Yemeni youths who want a non-sectarian, democratic, non-tribal state that offers them a decent future. If they get the chance to build that state, they will face horrendous challenges. Yemen is the poorest Arab country, and its modest endowment of oil is running out. So is the underground water it depends on for irrigation, and the population is growing at 2.6 per cent. The kids may fail, but who stands a better chance of surmounting these challenges? A democratic government run by younger Yemenis, or a regime controlled by the Salehs or the Ahmars?

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HAARTEZ

EDITORIAL

 

LEGISLATION AGAINST HUMAN RIGHTS GROUPS IS POLITICAL PERSECUTION

THE NEW LEGISLATIVE INITIATIVE WHICH WOULD BAN HUMAN RIGHTS ORGANIZATIONS FROM EMPLOYING NATIONAL SERVICE VOLUNTEERS IGNORES THEIR DEMOCRATIC MISSION.

Kadima MK Israel Hasson's new initiative under which human rights organizations would be denied the right to employ national service volunteers is pure political persecution.

The proposal is based almost entirely on the claim that these organizations "besmirched the Israel Defense Forces, its officers and its soldiers."

According to Hasson, certain organizations - first and foremost, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, the local chapters of Physicians for Human Rights and Amnesty, and the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel - sought to persuade Judge Richard Goldstone to investigate whether Israel committed war crimes during Operation Cast Lead in Gaza in early 2009, and even urged the UN inquiry committee he headed "to accuse Israel of anti-humanitarian activity and of grave violations of human rights."

Hasson is ignoring the nature of the mission that human rights organizations have taken upon themselves - namely, a constant battle to uphold the ethical, humanist values without which a democratic society cannot exist, or, at the very least, could not maintain its democratic image.

Demanding an investigation of the army is neither treason nor slander, as Hasson and his supporters are trying to paint it. Indeed, given that both the army and the political decision-makers shunned a courageous and thorough probe of what happened during Cast Lead - an operation in which hundreds of Palestinians were killed - their application to Goldstone was essential.

Moreover, it's clear that their involvement with the Goldstone Report is nothing but a transparent excuse on which Hasson sought to hang his desire to embitter the lives of these organizations and intensify the delegitimization campaign against them. And he is not alone. He is supported by more than just a handful of Knesset members, most of them from the extreme right.

But Hasson, the bill's sponsor, is not a delusional extremist; he belongs to a party that defines itself as Israel's main centrist party. Yet so far, Kadima chairwoman and opposition leader Tzipi Livni has not responded to Hasson's proposal. Her silence is particularly worrying because she has until now been viewed as a rock standing firm against the recent wave of anti-democratic legislation.

If Livni truly sees herself and her party as an alternative to the present government, she can no longer remain silent in the face of this campaign of silencing and intimidation.

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HAARTEZ

EDITORIAL

TAKE THOSE 22 COUNTRIES

THE IRAQI POET MUTHAFAR AL-NAWAB HAS DESCRIBED THE 22 STATES THAT RIGHT-WING DEMAGOGUES SAY ARE AT THE DISPOSAL OF THE PALESTINIANS AS BEING 'A SERIES OF PRISONS WHERE ONE WARDEN HOLDS THE HAND OF ANOTHER.'

BY OUDEH BASHARAT

On March 30, 1984, Hafez Assad put on his military uniform. He was just with his son Basel, who was killed a few years later in a mysterious accident. The two of them rode through the deserted streets of Damascus to the home of Hafez Assad's brother, Rifat. Tensions between the two brothers at the time were at their peak. Rifat's troops, with their tanks and heavy artillery, had taken up positions in the streets of the Syrian capital, while those loyal to Hafez, equally armed to the teeth, were bracing for a counteroffensive.

In the presence of their mother, Naisa, whom he had flown in on a special plane from Qurdaha, Hafez turned to his brother and said: "You want to overthrow the regime. Here I am, the regime, before you."

According to Patrick Seale, the biographer of Hafez Assad, an hour later, under the influence of the mother who was much adored by her younger son, the battle was over. The bloodthirsty Rifat was promised the world and beyond in exchange for giving up his authority. Later on, he was to admit that this was the mistake of his life.

The family tradition in Syria, it would appear, is deeply rooted. Instead of the father, Hafez Assad, we now have the son, Bashar. Instead of his uncle, Rifat, we now have his brother, Maher. Instead of the grandmother Naisa, we now have Hafez's widow, Anisa. And the entire country is controlled from that intimate kitchen. It is from there as well that the horrifying decrees against the protesters are issued.

Indeed, by definition, the Syrian republic does not fall short of the world's best democracies. But the regime there is bequeathed as an inheritance, in the great tradition of the old monarchies, and the country is run as if it were controlled by the Mafia - the Corleone family would be turning green with envy.

But it is not only Syria. A kitchen cabinet of this kind can be found, or existed, in the Libya of Muammar Gadhafi and his sons, in Tunisia chez Zine Abidin bin Ali and his wife, in the Egypt of Hosni Mubarak and his sons, and before that, in the Iraq of Saddam Hussein and his sons. In all these places, affairs were and are run in the best tradition of the Mafia families - from the allocation of national treasures to senior appointments. And in times of crisis, their rulers have no pity on their native sons.

In the monarchial republic of Syria, a special type of nationalism has emerged, affiliated with the Baath Party. The ceiling for admittance is so low that the only way to enter isby crawling. Either you toe the line or you are on the side of the imperialists. The poet Nizar Qabbani cautioned the woman he loved: "Choose love or non-love. There is no middle ground between hell and paradise." The same holds true for Assad: Either you're on his side or you're in hell.

When Yasser Arafat ignored his orders in Lebanon in 1976, Hafez Assad bombed the Tel al-Zatar camp. In 1983, he finished the work Ariel Sharon started in the Lebanon War by bombing Arafat's last refuge in Lebanon, at Nahr el-Bard. Later Arafat was given eight hours to leave Damascus.

It was none other than Danny Ayalon who lamented the fate of those Palestinians who were being used then as cannon fodder. Ayalon referred to the Palestinians in this metaphor as fodder, but for whatever reason, failed to identify Israel as the source of the cannons. The key question, though, is who was responsible for these people becoming the cannon fodder of the various Corleones.

This is what life is like in the 22 states that right-wing demagogues say are at the disposal of the Palestinians. The Iraqi poet Muthafar al-Nawab has described them as being "a series of prisons where one warden holds the hand of another." So, to those who continue to envy the Palestinians for all the countries that are at their disposal, I say: You can have all of those countries, enjoy them and be well. But leave only this tiny territory for the Palestinians. If you don't accept that, then stop offering others what you yourself have rejected.

 

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HAARTEZ

EDITORIAL

PLAYING WITH FIRE

DUE TO NETANYAHU'S OBSTINATE DETERMINATION TO DESTROY ISRAEL'S AIRBORNE FIRE-FIGHTING NETWORK, AND TO RE-ESTABLISH IT AS PART OF THE ISRAEL DEFENSE FORCES, THE COUNTRY'S ABILITY TO DEAL WITH FIRES HAS BEEN CONSIDERABLY UNDERMINED.

BY AMIR OREN

A month ago today, amidst much fanfare, the Jewish people officially dedicated an Israel Air Force base for its first fire-fighting squadron in its thousands of years of history. As is the case when war-ships are deemed seaworthy (albeit without the champagne bottles ), honor was bestowed upon the leader's wife, Sara Netanyahu; as though he had signed a commercial contract with sponsors, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a point of mentioning his wife twice in his speech.

The whole production was missing just one small thing - a semblance of connection with reality. Due to Netanyahu's obstinate determination to destroy Israel's airborne fire-fighting network, and to re-establish it as part of the Israel Defense Forces, the country's ability to deal with fires has been considerably undermined. With his own hands, and mouth, Netanyahu has endangered the country, all for the sake of a photo opportunity, a headline, and the image of being an active doer.

Netanyahu, it will be recalled, took leave of the blaze on the Carmel by uttering false prophecies about a "super tanker." As in a children's story, the message was as follows: Have no fear, a great big plane will come, hurl lots of water, and douse the flames.

While the State Comptroller's Office is busy compiling data highly critical of the performance of his government, Netanyahu chose to close his eyes when the fire engulfed the Carmel. He washed his hands of the extant arrangement of having agricultural spray planes standing on reserve, equipped with materials to deal with fires. In order to save some pennies, this arrangement was brought to an end the winter before last, as part of a foolish gamble undertaken months before the Carmel fire; however, were this arrangement to be budgeted and adequately managed, it would serve its purpose well.

Pressured by Netanyahu, the air force entered an area that has been alien to it. The army does not deal with commercial, leisure or police-oriented aviation. Different parts of the empire sometimes have points of tangency, but that is merely to coordinate actions and policy, to ensure that each branch carries out its own work and that there are no collisions. The Civil Aviation Authority must provide professional authorization for every pilot and each airplane. The use of the Iron Dome anti-missile weapon means that all passenger airplanes have to keep out of the sky in a particular area - coordination between civil and military spheres is carried out on such issues, for obvious reasons.

Netanyahu has demanded the establishment of a fire-fighting air squadron within four months. This squadron means the creation of an office with one or two IAF officers, and five or seven wage earners, along with pensions and benefits provided by Defense Ministry allocations. The planes themselves will not be "super tankers;" instead, piloted gliders will be provided, used and maintained by civilians, at a wasteful cost, since they will not undertake other types of assignments.

This doesn't matter; the main thing is that the naive innocents who vote for Netanyahu and who swoon to his English-language speeches receive a stamp of approval from air force commander Major General Ido Nehoshtan, who made a tepid effort to challenge the new arrangement, but was forced to accept it.

Nehoshtan doesn't view this matter as a question of principle. If funding for an F-35 were to be cut off, then he might have a problem keeping his mouth shut, even though the echelon above him has the authority to decide. They want a fire-fighting squadron? Well, they might as well have it, even if it means the air force equips itself with a type of aircraft it has not wanted to utilize in the past; relying on Ehud Barak in the defense ministry, Netanyahu rammed these planes down the air force's throat, using a lack of time and accessibility as excuses.

Making haste to beat the state comptroller to the punch, the planes will be brought from Europe, even though they originate in North America; a hefty commission will go to the Spanish agent and his Israeli representative, a retired combat pilot about whom everyone speaks highly.

The result is that the planes are drawers of water, and the pilots become hewers of wood. The water-drawing capacity of these planes is not suited to Israeli conditions, apart from flights around the Sea of Galilee, and only so long as the pilots are experienced and trained to undertake fire-fighting sorties. Last week, the number of planes ready to be called to douse fires was three, as compared to 14 last year. Also, the concession to supply fire extinguishing materials has been awarded to a civilian concern. The IAF does not control this key supply item.

The individual with supreme responsibility for this mess is Netanyahu, but the air force's willingness to belie its professional ethos and take part in this flying boondoggle is troubling. Perhaps Nehoshtan and his comrades have chosen to concede trivial matters and collect their marbles for a bigger fight.

 

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HAARTEZ

EDITORIAL

 

PALESTINIANS MARCH, ISRAELIS REPRESS

THE ISRAELI PUBLIC HAS BEEN REPRESSING THE BIG DRAMA OF THE NAKBA AND NAKSA DAY MARCHES AND THE ARRIVAL OF THE PALESTINIANS AT THE FENCES ON THE BORDER WITH ISRAEL, NO ONE IS ARGUING ABOUT IT OR COMPLAINING ABOUT IT, THE PUBLIC IS SIMPLY NOT SAYING A WORD.

BY MERAV MICHAELI

Sources in the Israel Defense Forces are of the opinion that the scenes of Nakba Day and Naksa Day are unlikely to repeat themselves. The marches undertaken on those two days by Palestinian refugees to the border with Israel, they say, were not an act of solidarity with the Palestinians and a demand to realize the Right of Return, but rather an attempt to divert attention away from what is happening in Syria.

This is how the army wraps up the events in its familiar language - just as it did on the days when the events took place. Then, military officials and the media first spoke about a surprise in terms of intelligence and then about dealing with it in terms of armed forces and shooting. This is how the army assists the Israeli public in repressing.

And the public in Israel does repress. It denies and completely ignores the big drama of the march and the arrival of the Palestinians at the fences on the border with Israel - not then and not once since then. No one is arguing about it or complaining about it. The Israeli public, which is au courant with media developments, which by and large watches news broadcasts, and which is used to chatting about the headlines as part of everyday small talk, is simply not saying a word about it. Total repression.

At first glance, this is surprising. On second thought, it is completely understandable: It is terribly frightening. It is frightening because that is what they frightened us with. Here they are about to rise up against us - as we say every year during the Passover meal - and more specifically, to throw us into the sea.

On Nakba Day, I wrote here that the citizens of Israel were suffering from schizophrenia. How am I? "Personally, excellent." Personally it can't be anything less than excellent because collectively we are a-f-r-a-i-d (as Netanyahu once said about his critics in the media ). But the truth is that personally, we are afraid too. So we don't speak about it, about how the mass marches by Palestinians to the border are a watershed event that have suddenly created a new option, and a very concrete one at that. It has also created a new level of repression because in addition to being terribly frightening, there is no answer to it.

No answer not as in shooting at legs or firing tear gas, but an answer in terms of what do we say to them. What shall we say to their demands that seem to be so much more justified from close up? And most of all, they are suddenly seen.

This march to the border has turned the words "refugees" and "borders", which had become cliches, into something totally concrete - flesh and blood, human and close, very close.

Writing on these pages, Aluf Benn compared the Palestinians' march on Nakba Day to the illegal Jewish immigrants' boats [during the time of the British Mandate in Palestine] that created an awareness of homeless refugees who wished to find refuge in their land. (Haaretz, 18.5 )

The Palestinians are frustrated and helpless. There is no longer terrorism, there is an initiative by the Arab League, there is an agreement between Hamas and Fatah. What more do you want?

Out of this frustration and sense of helplessness, they are going to the United Nations, out of this frustration and sense of helplessness they come here in their masses and stand at the border and ask: "What yes?"

The citizens of Israel are also frustrated and feel helpless. It is "no" to a Palestinian state, "no" to an agreement about the 1967 borders, "no" to dividing Jerusalem. Okay, fine; but what yes?

Benjamin Netanyahu is certainly not the first to reject all these ideas - far from it. Except for Yitzhak Rabin, all Israel's leaders since 1967 have rejected them, either explicitly or by holding barren negotiations, or by disengaging.

But what can one do: It so happened that on his watch, the Palestinians started marching on the borders that he calls defensible.

Repression is an effective mechanism that makes it possible for the individual to function despite a trauma. But many times, at a certain stage, the repression and denial are likely to lead to disaster. Netanyahu must stop repressing and denying, and must respond - not to them, to us: What yes?

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HAARTEZ

EDITORIAL

WITH NETANYAHU, THE WORLD IS ALWAYS AGAINST US

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU WILL NOT MISS AN OPPORTUNITY TO REMIND ISRAEL THAT THE WORLD IS AGAINST US. NEVER FEAR, THOUGH: HE WILL FIND SOME SUITABLE RETALIATORY MEASURE TO STRAIGHTEN UP JEWISH HEADS IN THE FACE OF ISRAEL'S OPPRESSORS.

BY AKIVA ELDAR

Benjamin Netanyahu really is no man's fool. Why should he miss a rare opportunity to remind the people of Israel that the world is against us and that we have to "join hands" in the struggle against delegitimization?

When the uncle in America promises to use his veto power at the UN Security Council, Netanyahu may very well joke that the "automatic anti-Israel majority at the UN" can also vote that the world is flat. The most important thing is that Israel has a guaranteed majority in the U.S. Congress. It's a shame that all "UN boulevards" across Israel were renamed "Zionism boulevards" back in 1975, in response to a UN resolution that described Zionism as racism. Never fear, though: Netanyahu will find some suitable retaliatory measure to straighten up Jewish heads in the face of Israel's oppressors.

If the Palestinians didn't go to the UN, Netanyahu would need to invent this maneuver himself. The sterile attempt to internationalize the conflict rescues the right-wing government from its crash course on the path of negotiating over the partitioning of the West Bank and Jerusalem. As far as Netanyahu is concerned, whatever price Israel would pay (in foreign coins, too ) for yet another toothless UN resolution that would run against the position of the United States and will most probably lack the support of key European states, would still be many times lower than the price of a ticket into the political trap of negotiating on the basis of principles presented by U.S. President Barack Obama.

Accepting Obama's formula of conducting the talks on the basis of the June 4, 1967 lines, with agreed land swaps, is no mean feat. Netanyahu's ideological alma mater and the political camp in which he dwells today hold that the lands of the West Bank (or, in their terms, Judea and Samaria, ) are not "occupied territories." For them, they are "disputed territories," and therefore any Israeli claim of sovereignty over these areas is every bit as legitimate as a similar claim by Palestinians.

As far as they're concerned, the Old City and the Arab villages annexed to Jerusalem are not negotiable, as they are "an inseparable part of Israel." Entering negotiations based on the 1967 borders will soon uncover the fact that the myth of "defensible borders" conceals a real-estate craving. It will quickly become apparent that Netanyahu's settlement blocs are many times bigger than the lands on the Israeli side of the Green Line that he is willing to hand over to the Palestinians.

And we haven't yet said anything about the eastern ridge and about the demand that the Israel Defense Forces will keep its troops in the Jordan Valley for decades to come.

Considering the enormous gaps between the parties, the United States, as main bridesmaid of the move, will need to suggest a compromise. On Obama's desk lies the outline charted by former president Bill Clinton in 2000 - 94-96 percent of the West Bank will become Palestine, in addition to 1-3 percent ratio land swaps, including the Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem and sovereignity over the Temple Mount (except the Western Wall ).

Even if Obama could squeeze a generous discount out of the Palestinians, Netanyahu would find it easier to convert to Islam than to sign any such agreement - even if the cost is a break with the United States and a session at Massada.

Fortunately for Netanyahu, the Palestinians are yet again obligingly delaying the moment of truth (or lie ). Steven Simon, the new Middle East advisor at the White House, said this weekend that top Palestinian advisor Saeb Erekat told him that the Palestinians would give up on the UN move if Israel accepted the Obama principles. In other words, the Palestinians are handing Netanyahu the power of veto over the negotiations he's avoiding like the plague.

When I interviewed Erekat on the 15th anniversary of the Madrid Conference of 1991, he told me that the Palestine Liberation Organization leadership had joined the move because it didn't believe for a second that then prime minister Yitzhak Shamir actually intended to negotiate the future of the territories.

Yasser Arafat skipped over all the obstacles piled up by Shamir, including the integration of the Palestinian delegates into the Jordanian delegation. "He didn't understand what we did understand - that things will evolve naturally and that those trying to stop the move will disappear," Erekat told me, before summing up: "I know Israelis and I know most of them are interested in peace and that Shamir will lose his seat."

So why are Erekat and his colleagues so interested in keeping Shamir's latter-day twin in power?

 

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

EDITORIAL

WHAT THE INSPECTORS SAY

Iran continues to stonewall about its illicit nuclear activities. The International Atomic Energy Agency isn't falling for it. Nobody should.

The agency's latest report is chilling. While Tehran claims that its program has solely peaceful ends, it lists seven activities with potential "military dimensions." That includes "activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile"; new evidence that Iran has worked on a highly sophisticated nuclear triggering technology; and research on missile warhead designs — namely "studies involving the removal of the conventional high explosive payload from the warhead of the Shahab 3 missile and replacing it with a spherical nuclear payload."

After the Iraq debacle, all claims must be examined closely. The I.A.E.A. has a strong record — in the run-up to the war it insisted there was no evidence that Iraq had a nuclear weapons program — and no ax to grind. There are still more questions to be answered.

American intelligence agencies, rightly chastened by their failure in Iraq, concluded in 2007 that Tehran had halted the weapons portion of its nuclear program four years earlier. United States officials now say that Iran's massive "Manhattan Project" ended then but that many of the same scientists are still engaged in weapons-related pursuits. Meanwhile, Yukiya Amano, the head of the I.A.E.A., said in a news conference last week that "the activities in Iran related to the possible military dimension seem to have been continued until quite recently." More explanation is needed.

Tehran insists the agency's allegations are fabricated. At the same time, it is refusing to answer the inspectors' questions about possible work on weapons designs and is blocking their access to sites, equipment and documents. Five years after the United Nations Security Council ordered it to halt uranium enrichment, Iran still has thousands of centrifuges spinning at its Natanz plant.

We don't know if any mixture of sanctions and incentives will change that behavior. We are certain that without more pressure Tehran will keep pushing its program forward. The major powers' last attempt at negotiations, in January, hit a wall, but Washington and its allies should keep looking for diplomatic openings. The fourth round of United Nations sanctions, imposed a year ago, is starting to bite, reducing Iran's access to foreign capital, trade and investments. But implementation is still lagging.

The European Union finally moved last month to rein in the Iranian-owned bank in Germany, the European-Iranian Trade Bank, which is accused of facilitating billions of dollars of transactions for blacklisted Iranian companies. China has yet to sufficiently crack down on the Chinese firms that still do business with Iran's sanctioned entities. Turkey, India and the United Arab Emirates, a major hub for Iranian commerce, are still too cozy with Tehran.

Iran has not wasted the intervening year and is always looking for signs of weakness. The United States and its allies need to tighten the current round of sanctions and start working on another Security Council resolution with even tougher sanctions.

If there is any good news in the I.A.E.A. report, it appears that Iran's enrichment program is not advancing as fast as many feared — the result of the Stuxnet computer virus and sanctions that make it harder for Tehran to import needed materials from overseas. That has not blunted its ambitions. The Iranians said on Wednesday that they plan to triple production of the most concentrated nuclear fuel — the kind that could get them closer to a bomb.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

FALSE CLAIMS ABOUT FOIA

It was a bad sign when the Supreme Court relied on the dictionary as the main authority in a recent ruling that made it harder for whistle-blowers to hold government contractors accountable for fraud.

The case, Schindler Elevator Corp. v. United States ex rel. Kirk, involves the federal False Claims Act, which allows a private party to bring an antifraud lawsuit on behalf of the federal government and receive part of the damages. The law bars such suits, however, if the allegations are based on publicly disclosed information, like a government report, investigation, criminal hearing or a news report. The ban exists to prevent superfluous private actions when the government can pursue a lawsuit.

In the current case, the plaintiff sued his former employer, Schindler Elevator, charging that it failed to comply with federal contracting rules on employing veterans. He based part of his case on written information from the Department of Labor, obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.

The court's ruling turns on whether that response is a publicly disclosed "report." Justice Clarence Thomas, writing for the 5-to-3 majority, finds that Webster's Third New International Dictionary all but settles the matter: it defines "report" as "something that gives information." The broad meaning there, he says, squares with the "broad scope" of the prohibition against lawsuits based on public disclosures. His view could rule out most antifraud lawsuits based on FOIA requests.

That simplistic logic will curtail lawsuits by whistle-blowers who suspect that a contractor may be defrauding the government but need information obtained from FOIA requests to help confirm their allegations.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, writing for the dissent, argues convincingly that the way to decide whether a document obtained through a FOIA request bars a lawsuit is to assess the nature of the document. In response to most FOIA requests, the government hands over copies of records it finds or notes their absence; it usually doesn't analyze or synthesize the information. Only a fraction of the material disclosed would qualify as a report.

The False Claims Act aims to "encourage more private enforcement" by whistle-blowers, the legislative history says. The court's ruling does exactly the opposite, reviving an approach Congress discarded in 1986 because it foiled too many needed lawsuits. Justice Thomas's opinion is wrong about the text, context and history of the law.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

MR. BABBITT'S PROTEST

Former Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt declared in a speech last week that President Obama's failure to mount a persuasive counterattack to the Republicans' "radical" assault on the country's environmental safeguards amounts to a "form of appeasement."

It is rare for someone of Mr. Babbitt's stature to use such caustic language about a sitting president from his own party. But he was reflecting growing concern — which we share — that the president and his top aides have decided for political reasons to back away from the fight. In recent months the White House has been far too quiet on the problem of climate change, and its once-promising efforts to regulate industrial pollution, toxic coal ash and mountaintop mining are flagging.

Mr. Babbitt's main complaint involved Mr. Obama's failure to do more to conserve open space and protect sensitive areas threatened by imminent development. He was particularly dismayed by the White House's acceptance of a Republican budget rider — pushed by the oil and gas industry — undercutting the Interior Department's authority to identify and set aside valuable public lands for future designation as permanent wilderness.

Mr. Babbitt said Mr. Obama still represented "the best, and likely only, hope for meaningful progress" on energy and the environment, and we must hope, as he does, that the president's temporizing is merely temporary. Even bigger fights lie ahead. The administration has proposed to limit power plant emissions of toxic pollutants like mercury and impose new rules governing power plant emissions of greenhouse gases. Any retreat from these pledges would be disastrous.

Mr. Babbitt also said President Obama should emulate President Bill Clinton, Mr. Babbitt's old boss, who faced similar opposition after the 1994 Republican revolution but came roaring back. After wavering for a while, he seized the lead on conservation issues and threatened to veto all anti-environmental legislation. The public supported him; the Republicans retreated. It is sound advice.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

STEPPING UP THE FIGHT AGAINST AIDS

A high-level meeting on AIDS at the United Nations set challenging new targets for curbing the epidemic and called on public and private donors and countries with large numbers of infected people to provide the necessary resources. These are tough economic times. But there has been so much progress over the last decade, there can be no excuse for backing off now.

The meeting produced an ambitious plan to largely eliminate by 2015 the transmission of the AIDS virus from pregnant women to their newborns. In 2009, some 370,000 children were born with the virus. If an infected mother-to-be is treated with antiretroviral drugs, the risk of transmitting the virus to her child drops to less than 5 percent. The U.N. estimates that $500 million a year is being spent in the most afflicted countries to stop infections among newborns and that an additional $2.5 billion will be needed over several years to reach the goal by 2015.

The American bilateral AIDS program, which is already spending $300 million a year on such programs, has pledged an additional $75 million for fiscal year 2012. The Gates Foundation, Chevron and Johnson & Johnson will contribute another $75 million over several years between them. These ought to be considered down payments.

The meeting also pledged efforts to cut sexual and injection-drug transmission of the AIDS virus in half by 2015 and to raise the number of infected people receiving drug treatment to 15 million. That would be a big jump from the 6.6 million now under treatment in low- and middle-income countries but far short of reaching all of the estimated 34 million people who are now infected around the world. Reaching the new targets would cost billions more per year from all sources. It is a fight well worth winning.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

THE ONLINE LOOKING GLASS

BY ROSS DOUTHAT

In every time and place, people have associated new technologies with moral decline. "Men think that it is essential that the Nation have commerce," Henry David Thoreau griped in 1854, "and export ice, and talk through a telegraph, and ride thirty miles an hour ... but whether we should live like baboons or like men, is a little uncertain." Similar anxieties have greeted most subsequent inventions, from the automobile to the iPhone: We're always teetering on the brink of baboondom, always one technological leap away from forfeiting our humanity.

Sometimes, though, the pessimists are right to worry. Technology really does affect character. Cultures do change from era to era, sometimes for the worse. Particular vices can be encouraged by particular innovations, and thrive in the new worlds that they create.

In the sad case of Representative Anthony Weiner's virtual adultery, the Internet era's defining vice has been thrown into sharp relief. It isn't lust or smut or infidelity, though online life encourages all three. It's a desperate, adolescent narcissism.

The idea that modern America is in thrall to self-regard dates back to the 1970s, when writers like Tom Wolfe and Christopher Lasch famously critiqued the excesses of what Wolfe dubbed the "me decade." But a growing body of research suggests that American self-involvement is actually reaching an apogee in the age of Facebook and Twitter. According to a variety of sociologists (San Diego State's Jean Twenge, Notre Dame's Christian Smith, and others), younger Americans are more self-absorbed, less empathetic and hungrier for approbation than earlier generations — and these trends seem to have accelerated as Internet culture has ripened. The rituals of social media, it seems, make status-seekers and exhibitionists of us all.

At 46, Weiner isn't technically a member of Generation Facebook, but he's clearly a well-habituated creature of the online social world. The fact that he used the Internet's freedoms to violate his marriage vows isn't particularly noteworthy. That's just the usual Spitzer-Schwarzenegger routine performed on a virtual plane. What's more striking is the form his dalliances took — not a private surrender to lust or ardor, but a pathetic quest for quasipublic validation.

In all the tweets and transcripts that have leaked to date, there's no sign that Weiner was particularly interested in the women he communicated with — not as human beings, certainly, but not really even as lust objects either. His "partners" existed less to titillate him than to hold up mirrors to his own vanity: whether the congressman was tweeting photos of his upper body or bragging about what lurked below, his focus was always squarely on himself. If Bill Clinton was seduced by a flash of Monica Lewinsky's thong, Weiner seems to have been led into temptation primarily by the desire to boast about his own endowments.

In this sense, his tweeted chest shots are more telling than the explicitly pornographic photos that followed. There was a time when fame and influence were supposed to liberate men from such adolescent insecurity. When Henry Kissinger boasted about power being the ultimate aphrodisiac, the whole point was that he didn't have to worry about his pecs and glutes while, say, wooing the former Bond girl Jill St. John.

Not so in the age of social media. In a culture increasingly defined by what Christine Rosen describes as the "co

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

MEDICARE SAVES MONEY

BY PAUL KRUGMAN

Every once in a while a politician comes up with an idea that's so bad, so wrongheaded, that you're almost grateful. For really bad ideas can help illustrate the extent to which policy discourse has gone off the rails.

And so it was with Senator Joseph Lieberman's proposal, released last week, to raise the age for Medicare eligibility from 65 to 67.

Like Republicans who want to end Medicare as we know it and replace it with (grossly inadequate) insurance vouchers, Mr. Lieberman describes his proposal as a way to save Medicare. It wouldn't actually do that. But more to the point, our goal shouldn't be to "save Medicare," whatever that means. It should be to ensure that Americans get the health care they need, at a cost the nation can afford.

And here's what you need to know: Medicare actually saves money — a lot of money — compared with relying on private insurance companies. And this in turn means that pushing people out of Medicare, in addition to depriving many Americans of needed care, would almost surely end up increasing total health care costs.

The idea of Medicare as a money-saving program may seem hard to grasp. After all, hasn't Medicare spending risen dramatically over time? Yes, it has: adjusting for overall inflation, Medicare spending per beneficiary rose more than 400 percent from 1969 to 2009.

But inflation-adjusted premiums on private health insurance rose more than 700 percent over the same period. So while it's true that Medicare has done an inadequate job of controlling costs, the private sector has done much worse. And if we deny Medicare to 65- and 66-year-olds, we'll be forcing them to get private insurance — if they can — that will cost much more than it would have cost to provide the same coverage through Medicare.

By the way, we have direct evidence about the higher costs of private insurance via the Medicare Advantage program, which allows Medicare beneficiaries to get their coverage through the private sector. This was supposed to save money; in fact, the program costs taxpayers substantially more per beneficiary than traditional Medicare.

And then there's the international evidence. The United States has the most privatized health care system in the advanced world; it also has, by far, the most expensive care, without gaining any clear advantage in quality for all that spending. Health is one area in which the public sector consistently does a better job than the private sector at controlling costs.

Indeed, as the economist (and former Reagan adviser) Bruce Bartlett points out, high U.S. private spending on health care, compared with spending in other advanced countries, just about wipes out any benefit we might receive from our relatively low tax burden. So where's the gain from pushing seniors out of an admittedly expensive system, Medicare, into even more expensive private health insurance?

Wait, it gets worse. Not every 65- or 66-year-old denied Medicare would be able to get private coverage — in fact, many would find themselves uninsured. So what would these seniors do?

Well, as the health economists Austin Frakt and Aaron Carroll document, right now Americans in their early 60s without health insurance routinely delay needed care, only to become very expensive Medicare recipients once they reach 65. This pattern would be even stronger and more destructive if Medicare eligibility were delayed. As a result, Mr. Frakt and Mr. Carroll suggest, Medicare spending might actually go up, not down, under Mr. Lieberman's proposal.

O.K., the obvious question: If Medicare is so much better than private insurance, why didn't the Affordable Care Act simply extend Medicare to cover everyone? The answer, of course, was interest-group politics: realistically, given the insurance industry's power, Medicare for all wasn't going to pass, so advocates of universal coverage, myself included, were willing to settle for half a loaf. But the fact that it seemed politically necessary to accept a second-best solution for younger Americans is no reason to start dismantling the superior system we already have for those 65 and over.

Now, none of what I have said should be taken as a reason to be complacent about rising health care costs. Both Medicare and private insurance will be unsustainable unless there are major cost-control efforts — the kinds of efforts that are actually in the Affordable Care Act, and which Republicans demagogued with cries of "death panels."

The point, however, is that privatizing health insurance for seniors, which is what Mr. Lieberman is in effect proposing — and which is the essence of the G.O.P. plan — hurts rather than helps the cause of cost control. If we really want to hold down costs, we should be seeking to offer Medicare-type programs to as many Americans as possible.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

SAUDI ARABIA'S FREEDOM RIDERS

BY FARZANEH MILANI

Charlottesville, Va.

THE Arab Spring is inching its way into Saudi Arabia — in the cars of fully veiled drivers.

On the surface, when a group of Saudi women used Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to organize a mass mobile protest defying the kingdom's ban on women driving, it may have seemed less dramatic than demonstrators facing bullets and batons while demanding regime change in nearby countries. But underneath, the same core principles — self-determination and freedom of movement — have motivated both groups. The Saudi regime understands the gravity of the situation, and it is moving decisively to contain it by stopping the protest scheduled for June 17.

The driving ban stems from universal anxiety over women's unrestrained mobility. In Saudi Arabia that anxiety is acute: the streets — and the right to enter and leave them at will — belong to men. A woman who trespasses is either regarded as a sinful "street-walker" or expected to cover herself in her abaya, a portable house. Should she need to get around town, she can do so in a taxi, with a chauffeur (there are 750,000 of them) or with a man related to her by marriage or blood behind the wheel.

Although the Islamic Republic of Iran could not implement similarly draconian driving laws after the 1979 revolution, given that women had driven cars there for decades, the theocratic regime did denounce women riding bikes or motorcycles as un-Islamic and sexually provocative. Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, proclaimed in 1999 that "women must avoid anything that attracts strangers, so riding bicycles or motorcycles by women in public places involves corruption and is forbidden."

The Saudi regime, like the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Taliban in Afghanistan, the military junta in Sudan and the Islamic Salvation Front in Algeria, ordains the exclusion of women from the public sphere. It expects women to remain in their "proper place."

Indeed, the rulers in Saudi Arabia are the most gender-segregated in the world today. In official ceremonies, and in countless photographs, posters and billboards, the royal family seems to be composed solely of men.

This desire to deny women entrance into the public arena is inaccurately presented as a religious mandate. Yet there is no basis for such exclusion in the Koran. On the contrary, in the early years of Islam, women were a vital presence in Muslim communities. They attended mosques, engaged in public debates and got involved in decision-making processes. Aisha, one of the wives of the Prophet Muhammad, commanded an army of men while riding on a camel. If Muslim women could ride camels 14 centuries ago, why shouldn't they drive cars today? Which Koranic injunction prohibits them from driving?

Gender apartheid is not about piety. It is about dominating, excluding and subordinating women. It is about barring them from political activities, preventing their active participation in the public sector, and making it difficult for them to fully exercise the rights Islam grants them to own and manage their own property. It is about denying women the basic human right to move about freely.

That is why the women defying the ban on motorized mobility are in fact demanding an eventual overhaul of the entire Saudi political system. They want not just to drive but to remap the political geography of their country.

These women know the value of a car key. Like the man who faced down tanks in Tiananmen Square, like the unprecedented number of women participating in protests across the Middle East and North Africa, the Saudi women's campaign for the right to drive is a harbinger of a new era in the region.

It may require decades to see an end to the Middle East's gender apartheid and the political reconfigurations that would necessarily follow. One thing is certain though: the presence of women and men demonstrating side by side in the streets of Iran, Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen and Syria is a sign of more seismic upheavals ahead. Old categories have broken down and the traditional distribution of power and space is no longer viable. 

The women demonstrating for the right to drive in Riyadh are seasoned negotiators of confined spaces and veteran trespassers of closed doors and iron gates. They are a moderating, modernizing force to be reckoned with — and an antidote to extremism. 

Their refusal to remain silent and invisible or to relinquish their rights as citizens is an act of civil disobedience and moral courage. Their protest, and those of their sisters across the Middle East, represent a revolution within revolutions — and a turning point in the contemporary history of Islam.

Farzaneh Milani, chairwoman of the Department of Middle Eastern and South Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of Virginia, is the author of "Words, Not Swords: Iranian Women Writers and the Freedom of Movement."

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

THE WHISTLE-BLOWERS OF 1777

BY STEPHEN M. KOHN

Washington

FORTY years ago today, The New York Times began publishing the Pentagon Papers, a seminal moment not only for freedom of the press but also for the role of whistle-blowers — like Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the papers to expose the mishandling of the war in Vietnam — in defending our democracy.

Today, the Obama administration is aggressively pursuing leakers. Bradley E. Manning, an Army private, has been imprisoned since May 2010 on suspicion of having passed classified data to the antisecrecy group WikiLeaks. Thomas A. Drake, a former official at the National Security Agency, pleaded guilty Friday to a misdemeanor of misusing the agency's computer system by providing information to a newspaper reporter.

The tension between protecting true national security secrets and ensuring the public's "right to know" about abuses of authority is not new. Indeed, the nation's founders faced this very issue.

In the winter of 1777, months after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the American warship Warren was anchored outside of Providence, R.I. On board, 10 revolutionary sailors and marines met in secret — not to plot against the king's armies, but to discuss their concerns about the commander of the Continental Navy, Commodore Esek Hopkins. They knew the risks: Hopkins came from a powerful family; his brother was a former governor of Rhode Island and a signer of the declaration.

Hopkins had participated in the torture of captured British sailors; he "treated prisoners in the most inhuman and barbarous manner," his subordinates wrote in a petition.

One whistle-blower, a Marine captain named John Grannis, was selected to present the petition to the Continental Congress, which voted on March 26, 1777, to suspend Hopkins from his post.

The case did not end there. Hopkins, infuriated, immediately retaliated. He filed a criminal libel suit in Rhode Island against the whistle-blowers. Two of them who happened to be in Rhode Island — Samuel Shaw, a midshipman, and Richard Marven, a third lieutenant — were jailed. In a petition read to Congress on July 23, 1778, they pleaded that they had been "arrested for doing what they then believed and still believe was nothing but their duty."

Later that month, without any recorded dissent, Congress enacted America's first whistle-blower-protection law: "That it is the duty of all persons in the service of the United States, as well as all other inhabitants thereof, to give the earliest information to Congress or any other proper authority of any misconduct, frauds or misdemeanors committed by any officers or persons in the service of these states, which may come to their knowledge."

Congress did not stop there. It wanted to ensure that the whistle-blowers would have excellent legal counsel to fight against the libel charges, and despite the financial hardships of the new republic, it authorized payment for the legal fees of Marven and Shaw.

Congress did not hide behind government secrecy edicts, even though the nation was at war. Instead, it authorized the full release of all records related to the removal of Hopkins. No "state secret" privilege was invoked. The whistle-blowers did not need to use a Freedom of Information Act to obtain documents to vindicate themselves. There was no attempt to hide the fact that whistle-blowers had accused a Navy commander of mistreating prisoners.

Armed with Congress's support, the whistle-blowers put on a strong defense, and won their case in court. And true to its word, Congress on May 22, 1779, provided $1,418 to cover costs associated with the whistle-blowers' defense. One "Sam. Adams" was directed to ensure that their Rhode Island lawyer, William Channing, was paid.

Nearly two centuries later, the Supreme Court justice William O. Douglas, praising the founders' commitment to freedom of speech, wrote: "The dominant purpose of the First Amendment was to prohibit the widespread practice of government suppression of embarrassing information."

A 1989 law was supposed to protect federal employees who expose fraud and misconduct from retaliation. But over the years, these protections have been completely undermined. One loophole gives the government the absolute right to strip employees of their security clearances and fire them, without judicial review. Another bars employees of the National Security Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency from any coverage under the law. And Congress has barred national security whistle-blowers who are fired for exposing wrongdoing from obtaining protection in federal court.

It is no surprise that honest citizens who witness waste, fraud and abuse in national security programs but lack legal protections are silenced or forced to turn to unauthorized methods to expose malfeasance, incompetence or negligence.

Instead of ignoring and intimidating whistle-blowers, Congress and the executive branch would do well to follow the example of the Continental Congress, by supporting and shielding them.

Stephen M. Kohn is the executive director of the National Whistleblowers Center and the author of "The Whistleblower's Handbook: A Step-by-Step Guide to Doing What's Right and Protecting Yourself."

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

TIME FOR CHANGE

I have some expectations about what the Turkish electorate decided in Sunday's crucial vote, but I had no idea as I penned this article. By the time this article is published, the results of the election will become clear. As they say in Turkey, the hair will be cut and we shall all see how many black hairs and how many white hairs there are on our head. Still, there were questions in our minds when we went to the booths Sunday.

Would the Turkish people vote for change in the country? Would they stick with the government of the past nine years? Furthermore, would they accept the demand of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and give his party the super majority and thus bestow upon him the power to write a new constitution on his own?

Or, would the electorate keep Erdoğan and his Justice and Development Party, or AKP, in government but deny them the required majority to continue behaving like the country is their father's farm, force them to reconcile with the opposition parties on key issues and thus usher the country into an era of consensus seeking?

Whatever might be the final result of the elections, one thing is obvious: Turkey will never ever be the same Turkey. Why? First of all, a philosophical answer: no one can swim in the same waters twice. But, the real answer is whatever the result of the elections it will usher Turkey into a new era. We might move toward closing down the "sultanate of fear" era, start liberating the critics of the AKP governance behind bars or start setting free those writers, journalists and other intellectuals of the society imprisoned in their heads out fear for the government or because of some other factors such as the peer pressure. Or, we might move toward a more repressive period, to governance which would establish yet another era of that "magnificent" and "iron fist" governance. The revanchist campaign which has been continued for the past almost nine years by the AKP, or the latest political party of political Islam against the secular founding philosophy and cadres adhering to that philosophy, has come to a final and decisive stage. Either the AKP will change the country altogether and replace the secular and democratic republic with a new state that will be more religious, more autocratic but definitely less secular and democratic; or the AKP will accommodate itself with the climate of democracy, supremacy of law and give up this revanchist bout. We shall live and go through together – hopefully outside the physical and emotional prison walls around us.

In any case, there will be some real changes, an example of which is the paper you are holding in your hands today. The Hürriyet Daily News has gone through some innovative and inspiring design as well as content changes. Obviously you will read about the changes introduced in the article of Editor-in-Chief Murat Yetkin and in the news pages. What I would like to share with you here is that starting today from now on instead of six articles a week, which indeed has been a real torture, I will be writing three articles a week; Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Secondly, the length of the articles will be about 2/3 of the size of previous articles. And, lastly, rather than the opinion page my articles will appear on page 5. I hope readers of the Daily News will appreciate these changes. A new era is opening, both in the country and in the Daily News. I hope it is one for the good.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

PARDON ME, RUMS

A colleague of mine from Greek Public Television followed Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on his trip to Trabzon last week. He was actually quite lucky as he managed not only to get on the bus of the prime minister at one of his last, and most problematic, moments of his electoral campaign, he also managed to get some exclusive statements both from the leader of the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, and his most active advisor: his daughter, Sümeyye. My Greek colleague must have been very happy with his scoop. Erdoğan patted him on the shoulder and sent a warm message to the Greeks. At the same time Sümeyye was even willing to answer more personal questions about her father. "You come from a poor neighborhood of Istanbul, Kasımpaşa; did that help your father in understanding poor people better?" asked the Greek journalist. "Of course," she said. "He understands much better the needs of the people because he has gone through the same."

My colleague went back to Greece after his successful trip to Trabzon and most probably missed a very interesting incident that would have helped him get a deeper insight of how the prime minister thinks about his people. During a discussion with journalists last Friday on Turkey's private NTV channel, Erdoğan described how he and his party have become the target of unfair attacks by their political opponents: "Many books have been published about me and the president. They called us all sorts of things in those books. They called us Jews, they called us Armenians and, pardon me, Rums [Greeks]. The only thing we can do is go to court."

For anybody familiar with the Turkish language, the Turkish equivalent for "pardon me" is a familiar qualitative expression that precedes an indecent word, frequently a swear word. Consequently, if one wants to interpret his, they have no other option but to assume that in the mind of Erdoğan, the word "Rum" is an indecency for which he should first apologize before uttering it. Of course, I do not think that there is any hard politics in that. But there is certainly religious prejudice. The word "Rums" points to the religious identity of Orthodox Christians who happen to be one of the minorities still living in Turkey. And although the political Islam the AKP has been pushing forward has advocated a culture of dialogue with the religious minorities in this country, apparently it is very difficult to change a deeply rooted perception that Orthodox Christians are, after all, "infidels."

Kasımpaşa is not very far from the neighborhood of Pera, where some of the few remaining Rums still live, praying for the entry of Turkey into the European Union. Ironically, many of them are voters of the AKP as they have experienced a positive change since Turkey became an official candidate for the bloc. They have high hopes, albeit certain reservations as well, for the re-election of the AKP. But maybe they will have to wait longer, until the full integration of Turkey into the EU happens, if they want this little apology to be deleted from the minds of the leadership of the country in which they are counted as minority citizens.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

SYRIA: WHAT NEXT?

The Middle East has reached a point where the fate of regional leaders, who have been accused of political repression, the use of dictatorial means of governance and mismanagement, has become strongly dependant on their ability to manage the pressure cooker environment they now find themselves in.

Popular unrest in their countries, combined with increasing pressure for reform coming from the international community, is shaking the status quo they once relied upon. From this point onwards it will be their success or failure in dissipating the pent up pressure that will eventually determine the direction of their political futures.

President Bashar al-Assad of Syria seems to have failed this test so far. The turmoil that first erupted in the southern town of Daraa has quickly spread to other parts of the country, including Homs and Baniyas. Reports that are coming in from Jisr al-Shughour, a small town on the border with Turkey, are not promising either. Syrian troops are reported to have launched a long-feared crackdown and clashes have prompted more than 3,000 people to flee to Turkey so far.

The way al-Assad has chosen to respond to his people's outcry has come as a surprise to me. Perhaps naively, I believed until the recent past that al-Assad was actually a politician who could grasp the Zeitgeist. The remarks on further reform he made during his sensational interview with daily Hürriyet last year was a precise example in that regard.

Early on in the demonstrations, al-Assad indeed appeared on television promising to speed up reforms. He lifted the emergency law on April 21, but a short while later he chose to resort to overwhelming force to try to put down the protests.

While reorganization of the rigid political and economic structure in Syria was urgent, it was an enigma how the Ba'ath Party, which is the major political force in the country, would react. To a considerable number of Ba'athists, the process of transformation held the potential to weaken the existing regime and galvanize the forces of disintegration. The hardliners within the party, some of al-Assad's relatives included, are said to have been strongly opposed to al-Assad's liberal reforms. Obviously, it was these forces that made al-Assad change his mind.

What al-Assad has failed to understand, nevertheless, is the bitter reality that in societies that are demanding change, indecisiveness and caution are worse than taking risks. This is what the collapse of the Soviet Union demonstrated to us. The increasing flip-flopping by the last Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, accelerated the people's alienation from the regime and was the most detrimental among the reasons that caused the country's disintegration.

Among ordinary citizens, President al-Assad still enjoys a notable level of support and the protests, in contrast to what was seen in Egypt or Tunisia, have not reached the critical mass of the major cities such as Damascus or Aleppo yet. Nonetheless, if the people's disappointment grows, which in fact could happen very rapidly, al-Assad will find himself left without any room to maneuver. More importantly, people never forget leaders who shed the blood of their own people.

Having said that, I humbly want to remind al-Assad of a Soviet-era joke that, I am pretty sure, precisely exemplifies the beloved Syrian people's line of thinking and psychology right now:

A Soviet citizen wanting to see an eye and ear doctor is asked by a sour-faced nurse at a hospital to fill in a form. He's told there are two options: He can either see an eye and throat doctor, or an ear and foot doctor.

"But I need an eye and ear doctor!" the patient insists.

The matron, clearly annoyed, asks what he's complaining about.

"I hear one thing, but see another," he jeeringly replies.

Presently, the bells are ringing for al-Assad and his people's outcry can only be met by brave decisions. Hopefully, his moves, all wrong so far, will not lead to the pressure cooker exploding.

Endnote: Well, its election time again. I hope you all went out to have your say in the future of our nation. May the best candidates win and fulfill their role in working toward a brighter future for us all.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

THE SHORTEST VISION EVER

The Arab Spring has created dents in Turkey's foreign policy vision but the biggest strike came from Syria.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who we were watching to see if he would carry out immediate reforms, did not listen to Ankara.

He was saying, "I am doing reforms," when he sent first his troops, then his tanks and now his helicopters to attack the people.

Since he closed his country to journalists starting on the first day, our right to learn the truth was also taken away from us.

We have only been able to learn what has happened through witnesses.

Syria, where there has never been any press freedom, did what even Libya, which is no different from it, did not do.

Anyway, this is not what I will focus on. I only wanted to make a small reminder and draw attention to where the violation of rights and freedoms can take us.

Al-Assad's army is firing on people only at a distance of 10 km from our border.

Women, children and the injured are running away to Turkey.

The other day, the Damascus administration was saying, "They are terrorists. We are fighting the terrorists."

Damascus is one of those who did not realize that the credibility of this cliché ended during the 1990s.

The world's public is aware that the repressive regime has come to an end and does not, at all, take it seriously when official statements say that those people are terrorists and claim that they have taken to the streets with the encouragement of foreign powers.

Those screams of the people running away from approaching tanks have actually created the developments.

Turkey, which signed an agreement with Syria to fight terror in 2010 and took one more step forward to deepen this agreement with a framework of joint measures, is today opening its doors to the Syrian people that the Damascus regime has declared as terrorists.

And this indeed shows the significance of the basis that foreign policy visions are based on. The trade off in those agreements signed with dictators can be clearer and easier but the fact that they cannot have value and sustainability is verified by the latest developments in the Middle East.

Turkey's improvement of its relationships with Syria happened during the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, rule. And it was very good. But it should not be forgotten that this closeness also strengthened the al-Assad administration's legitimacy.

Wasn't it the effect of the guise of "personal friendship with al-Assad and his spouse" behind the distanced stance that Turkey adopted toward the anti-government protesters at the beginning?

What happened with Moammar Gadhafi in Libya repeated itself in Syria with al-Assad.

Now, Gadhafi does not respond to Turkey's offer of "Leave your country now. Wherever you want, we will mediate and make you settle there," while al-Assad doesn't pay attention to Turkey's advice of "Make reforms."

The most serious consequence of the developments in Syria was to break Turkey off from the Syria-Iran alliance.

During this process Iran stood behind the Damascus administration. Before the events reached these levels, it was Turkey who had caught arms in the suspicious cargo coming from Iran and heading to Syria.

The three axes have fallen.

Turkey is preparing to act together with the international community. This time, it will not be like the sanctions against Iran or as it was in Libya.

When Syria is discussed in the United Nations right after the elections, Turkey's position will decouple from Russia, who demands that no steps be taken against Syria. The political vision that is based on zero problems with dictators has completed its lifespan at this era when the Middle East is undergoing a restructuring.

Turkey will be the power directing the region's change dynamics as long as it can adopt a long-term new vision in harmony with the international system, based on democratic values founded on rights, freedoms and equalities, and be an inspiration with its soft power.

Ferai Tınç is a columnist for daily Hürriyet, in which this piece appeared Sunday. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

IS 'THE STATE' A FATHER OR A MOTHER?

ERDOĞAN ALKİN

Political parties have promised much during their election campaigns. People, without caring how realistic these promises are, welcome them. This is not the case only in Turkey, as in almost every democratic country, people expect such promises. The reason is obvious. Even when individual freedom is at its highest level, most ordinary people take the state as their parents.

Is the "state" really the father or mother of the nation? It is up to you. According to a well-known Turkish author, Kemal Tahir, it is the mother. His famous book's title is "Mother State." Also, for some vigilant people in every country, the state is a mother who can be abused quite easily. However, for almost all ordinary people on the street, the state is their father... In some countries, where the state interferes in every aspect of daily life, it is called  a "nanny." Why they say that is not difficult to understand: it is a kind of satire or an expression of affection.

As a matter of fact, even in rich and democratic countries, the state nowadays is really acting like a nanny. Problems occur, however, if this nanny is too generous and too compassionate, as she will create serious problems instead of her initial goodwill. The obvious example is the recent financial crisis and the policies implemented to end it. It means that at the end, not the generous nannies but the people pay the bill.

There is an old saying in Turkish, telling of an "uncle" kissing his young and beautiful sister-in-laws without an acceptable reason. It means that whenever necessary, the state could "kiss" the people without any excuse.

As widely accepted, history never forgets what happened in the past. If states or governments cannot accomplish what they promise, they either never try to properly calculate countries' financial limits, or they waste a sizable part of the resources. Who is responsible for this mistake? Governments or people? Maybe both. People ask more than their countries' capacities can deliver... And governments try to fill the gap by heavy borrowing. Some European countries have become obvious recent examples of this joint irresponsibility.

Why can people and governments even in developed countries not avoid these mistakes? Is evaluating the real economic capacity of a nation that difficult for political parties? Or did the recent developments and innovations in financial markets make it easy to provide excess borrowing possibilities for the governments and also for private institutions? Why do people not want to be aware of the bitter realities and force politicians to act as a generous but at the same time, irresponsible father or mother?

Authorities in rich and developed countries say they are implementing a market economy, which means free competition and the dominance of private enterprises in national economies. However, depending on various excuses (especially defense issues during the Cold War) when the share of public expenditures in total began to increase rapidly and even exceed 50 percent, the situation changed. Famous monetarist Milton Friedman defended for years that when the share of public expenditures began to exceed private ones, the market economy, free competition and the dominance of the private sector began to fade away. Government budgets can create a false impression. It is better to look at the volume of total public expenditures, not only what central governments spend.

Are his ideas wrong? Observing huge budget deficits and the volume of public debts in some European economies and trying to understand why the recent crises again began in the U.S., like all worldwide crises in the past, it is quite difficult to challenge the ideas of Friedman.

In short, the state or the government is not the father or mother of the nation. Assigning some duties to governments over their normal responsibilities led those governments to abuse their authorities, which are given to them through democratic elections.

Governments come and go, but in the end, the people pay the bill.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

A NEW PAGE FOR TURKEY

Is yesterday's general election result a victory for the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AK Parti? Or is it a victory for Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan? Probably, the correct answer is the latter; as Erdoğan ignored traditional party politics based on the grassroots' tendencies and replaced it with the "I will determine the candidates' name and you are going to vote for them" approach. It was a risk, and he won.

The magic 50 percent of the votes has been touched by only two politicians before: Twice in 1950 and 1954 by the late Adnan Menderes and then by Süleyman Demirel in 1965. Yesterday, Erdoğan managed to be the third politician in Turkey to get his name written on the pantheon. One in every two voters on the street voted for him and his AK Parti.

Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu's efforts failed to break the 30 percent curse on the main opposition Republican People's Party, or CHP. Kılıçdaroğlu made more kilometers than Erdoğan during the election campaign (and 10-fold of his predecessor Deniz Baykal). He updated his party's position on the Kurdish issue, on the European Union and social welfare.

Yet, Kılıçdaroğlu could only get slightly more than half of the voter support given to Erdoğan's push for more political control over the military and judiciary and to the prime minister's project-based election campaign. Kılıçdaroğlu might face some difficulty now within his own party.

Devlet Bahçeli, on the other hand, consolidated his power in the Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP. AK Parti wanted to see MHP below the much-criticized 10 percent election threshold and some of the party chiefs could not hide their joy when a series of sex tapes related to prominent MHP politicians were released on the web. It backfired, MHP got over 13 percent and that cost AK Parti a new and tailor-made constitution mandate.

The Kurdish nationalists as well bypassed the AK Parti-backed 10 percent and got more than 30 seats in the 550-seat Turkish Parliament, or the Meclis, by increasing the possible Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, presence there by more than 50 percent.

Let alone the 367 seats that was sought by Erdoğan to be able to pass an AK Parti-shaped constitution from Parliament, Erdoğan missed the 330-seat requirement to be able to take the draft to referendum alone. Ironically, the 10-percent weapon of Erdoğan backfired in a way that the AK Parti increased its votes, but the number of its seats in Parliament decreased.

The voters wanted to see Erdoğan and his government in power for another four years, but asked him to seek compromise for a new constitution with opposition parties.

Is Erdoğan going to look for common ground with opposition and with whom? The answer to those questions will shape the Turkish politics in the months ahead.

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The Hürriyet Daily News opens a new page in its 50-year history as of today. You might have noticed our new layout anyway. But it's not limited to that. The HDN is aiming for a transformation in its concept and content as well.

The transformation is from being a Turkish newspaper in the English language for English speakers in Turkey, into a regional newspaper in English; the region being Turkey's greater neighborhood now.

An exciting transformation has already started in some parts of this region anyhow. There are all kinds of indications that the winds of change for freedom might blow in other parts as well. As HDN, we want to give fresh news stories and analyses not only on this transformation, but on the rich political, economical and cultural life of the region as well. We kindly ask you to follow the region from Hürriyet Daily News more, for your own interest as well.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

THE BEST IDEA FOR TURKEY

Once, asked his opinion of "Western Civilization," Mahatma Gandhi famously remarked, "It would be a good idea." I often feel the same for the "democratization of Turkey under AKP rule." I think it would be a good idea.

The AKP did not get immediate credit from Turkish democrat intellectuals after the election victory of 2002. Some present liberal democrat advocates of AKP politics have been skeptical of democratic credentials of the ex-Islamists in the beginning. As some needed to be reminded of the incompatibility of Islam and democracy, some seemed reluctant to become involve in a debate on the political prospects of an ex-Islamist party. Yet, especially after it came to power for the second term with an overwhelming majority, the AKP rule managed to convince most of the democrat intellectuals that it represented the sole political agent of democracy. The belief in the role of the AKP concerning the democratization in Turkey started to be a sort of political dogma. Finally, it became almost impossible to be critical of the AKP without facing the accusation of being an advocate of "the ancien regime."

Unlike many, I had never been skeptical of AKP politics because of their religiosity or of their humble social backgrounds. The sight of the AKP politicians with headscarved wives never revolted me. Yet, I have never been too optimistic of AKP politics concerning democratization in Turkey. For someone who studied right wing politics in Turkey, there have always been a lot of reasons to be cautious about the prospects of democracy when the sole democratic agency is attributed to "conservative democrats." It would be my last wish to observe that my skepticism is confirmed, yet instead of the dreams of many optimistic friends, my nightmare came true. The AKP turned to be more authoritarian in its second term in terms of tolerance, compromise and power sharing. In fact, we could expect more of democratization in this second term since the role of the army is largely diminished at expense of civil political power of the government. In fact, some still argue that the diminishing role of the military is the most important improvement in the process of democratization in Turkey. Nobody can claim the importance of the empowerment of the civil politics and the role of the AKP concerning this improvement. Yet, democratization does not mean the "increasing power of the civil government" but rather means the "empowerment of civil politics" in general. Instead, the so-called civilization of Turkish politics turned out to be a tug of war between the military establishment and the present government, at the end and the victorious civilians seemed to start to turn their newly gained power against anything that they do not contend with.

 I think many democrats in Turkey miss the point and they are not aware of "what is missing" concerning democratization. The gloomy prospect of democratization in Turkey can only be overcome with serious effort of compensating the enormous loss. The greatest loss is political freedoms, without which no political power can pretend to be democratic. Turkey has never been in a comfortable place in terms of political freedoms, yet the promise of the AKP was more democracy and freedom, not less. Besides, Turkey's major unsolved problems and especially the Kurdish problem at the top, requires more democratic freedom, not less. "Democratization in Turkey" would be a good idea, the hope is not fulfilled. Now, we should insist that it is still "a good idea," or better, we should consider it as "the best idea."

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 I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

BACK UNBROKEN

 

When representatives of the government and those in charge of our security say the fight against militancy is not an easy one and much of what this country is going to look like depends on whether we succeeded in eliminating this deadly brand of inhuman obscurantism, people find little to disagree with because it is their lives, the lives of their near and dear ones, their property and their way of life that the terrorists target. What is fast losing credibility are the claims that the network of terrorism has been weakened, that victory is either near or has already been achieved to a great extent, that the backbone of the militants has been broken. The hopes that the country would be rid of the scourge of terrorism after the military operation against terrorists and militants got underway continue to fade as death continues to stalk and strike helpless people. The terrorists continue to succeed in instilling fear in the hearts and minds of the people and much has happened in the past few weeks to erode further the confidence of the people in those they should be able to trust their with their lives.

At least 34 people are dead and another 100 or more injured in the latest example of terrorism being alive and well and far from broken-backed. The bombing of the Khyber Supermarket in Peshawar shortly before midnight on Saturday was a sophisticated operation. There was a 'teaser' blast inside a building that attracted the attentions of the media, the emergency services and the general public, and it was followed up by a much larger blast, probably through a suicide bomber, that produced the carnage. Rescue workers, media people, police and paramilitaries and the ordinary citizens of Peshawar lay dead and injured. In a statement of the blindingly obvious, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain said that the law and order situation in the province is very bad. The disconnect between the claims of victory and such incidents could not be more obvious either. Since the killing of Bin Laden there has been a string of deadly attacks on the people by his supporters or fellow travellers. They are able to operate in every province of the land and their campaign shows no sign of slackening. A broken back usually produces symptoms of paralysis and significantly impaired mobility. And if this is achieved in the case of the militants, it will make such a real difference in the lives of our people that no claims will actually be needed. Life, then, will speak for itself.

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

RESPONSIBILITY

 

The government is all set to file a review petition in the Supreme Court against the order to remove within three days the director general Sindh Rangers and the Sindh police inspector general. The court understands that certain precedents need to be set so that senior officials realise their responsibility not to allow certain things to happen on their watch. After the killing of a youth by Rangers personnel in Karachi, the court has sought to set just such a precedent; hence the orders that the DG Rangers and the IGP be sent packing. But the government thinks otherwise. Sindh Law Minister Ayaz Soomro has said that the Sindh advocate general will file a review petition in the Supreme Court because the killing was an individual act in which institutions were not involved. The government has also announced that it will defend the DG Rangers in the Supreme Court.

The government has shocked many who see its decision as yet another callous maneuver by those at the top of institutions to shirk responsibility, and do everything in their power to resist the setting of a precedent that will allow their powers to be checked and accountability carried out. It is eminently sensible that those in charge be held responsible for individual acts that happen under their charge. Precedents to this effect exist around the world. What is equally troubling is that the government has taken the decision to challenge an order that has been widely acknowledged by experts, and more importantly by the public, as being fair. The government's move, then, is tantamount to challenging an overwhelming public consensus. While it doesn't shock that the government would want to go against public sentiment to please those in power, it does highlight for the public where the government's loyalties lie: not with justice, rule of law and fairness but with powerful institutions that jealously guard their status and are loathe to being held answerable, not even for the sake of lives

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

CHILD ABUSE

 

Pakistan has become the 144th country in the world to ratify an important international treaty to protect children from sexual exploitation. The Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child binds countries to ban the sale and trafficking of children, child prostitution and the exploitation of the young through child pornography. The move has been welcomed by senior UN officials as a step in the right direction for a country where the exploitation of children for sexual purposes is often hidden from view but is sadly rife. While the move is indeed a welcome one, the real challenge for Pakistan, mired in a whole host of complex social, political and economic problems, is to move beyond fine words and to take meaningful action. It will not be an easy task. The sexual exploitation of children is a stark reality in many parts of Pakistan and is fuelled not only by ugly traditions but by the grim reality of poverty, migration and tumultuous social change that has shattered the stability of the family.

Apart from the strict social taboos that make it easier for close relatives and neighbours to abuse children without fear of being found out, the worsening economic climate has made matters worse. As long as children are compelled to work in order to supplement the meager incomes of their parents, they will be open to exploitation by sexual predators. Linked to these harsh economic realities, other factors too come into play. The lack of affordable education for all also compels poor parents to pack their children off to madressahs, where they are open to abuse. The presence of large numbers of vulnerable street children and runaways in most larger cities also reflects the growing pressures of poverty. While children in Pakistan have long been exploited by adults and used to further all kinds of political and criminal aims, including recruitment for drug trafficking, terrorism and beggary, their sexual abuse has been less highlighted. One can only hope that the ratification of the treaty outlawing child sexual abuse will raise awareness and encourage the government and NGOs to act to tackle this menace.

 

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I,THE NEWS

OPINION

SECOND COMING OF HINDUTVA?

 AIJAZ ZAKA SYED

 

 "Jinke apne g'har shishe ke hon woh doosron par patthar nahin phenka karte," says Raj Kumar, one of the most caricatured Bollywood thespians, in Waqt. This circus back home with Baba Ramdev launching an anti-corruption crusade increasingly reminds me of Raj Kumar's earthy wisdom that those living in glass houses have no business throwing stones at others.


I have no issues with Ramdev or his cause. He's a successful yoga guru, which is why he counts millions amongst his flock. He also claims to have found a cure for incurables like Aids, cancer and even homosexuality. But does that entitle him to declare himself a national saviour and bring the capital and the whole of India to a grinding halt with his antics? I know, I know. His cause is noble. Who in his right mind would have any issues with fighting corruption?


But self-righteous lectures on transparency and honesty by someone who went from a humble yoga teacher from Haryana to a jet-flying business baron – with a declared Rs1.10 billion ($220 million) global empire of yoga centres, hospitals and 34 companies in no time – are a bit hard to digest. It doesn't strike as odd, though, to the "babalog" or millions of their gullible followers. How could he resist the temptation to play the messiah of corrupt masses when a nobody like Anna Hazare could become a national icon overnight with his fast against corruption?

So even as the Lokpal law to fight graft was being hammered into shape, Ramdev had to come up with his own little show demanding the return of black money stashed abroad by Indians, repeal of high-denomination currency notes, and death sentence for those guilty of corruption. And, yes, Baba wanted all this delivered pronto – instant, like his miracle cures.


It's hard to believe that the Congress-led government took these absurd demands of the yoga guru seriously. Four senior federal ministers, including Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, No 2 in the government, were rushed to Delhi airport to receive Baba when he arrived from Hardwar in a private jet. They spent four hours trying to persuade the yogi to call off the fast. A nervous government continued to woo Baba even as he went on a fast and huffed and puffed, surrounded by his flock and an ever-hungry media at Ramlila Maidan in Delhi.

But then we have been through this before. The Congress always inflates minor characters with its appeasement, eventually turning them into monsters. This is what Prime Minister Indira Gandhi did in the case of Sikh separatist Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindrawale, which eventually took her life. Again, this is the mindset that made her son Rajiv open the Babri Masjid doors for puja, creating another partition and a crisis from which India has yet to recover. The Ayodhya "cause" gifted by the Congress helped the BJP mutate from a two-member party into a party of power.


One had thought that the Congress of Sonia Gandhi and Dr Manmohan Singh had learnt from recent history. But that was not to be. So if the initial genuflection before Ramdev was bizarre, more absurd has been the midnight swoop on Ramlila Maidan disrupting the protest and packing Baba off to Hardwar.

And now, thanks to that action, the yoga guru has got the legitimacy and celebrity he was hungering for. No wonder Baba sees himself as Bhagat Singh and his eviction from Ramlila Maidan as a "second Jalianwala Bagh" tragedy. Jalianwala Bagh? Please!


Buoyed by the new cult status, Baba now calls for an 11,000-strong armed squad to fight corrupt politicians.

What will we have next? An armed attack on Lutyen's Delhi and kangaroo courts for swiftly hanging the corrupt? Where are we headed? Do we even realise the seriousness of the situation? Why did the government have to break the fast the very next day? Who's responsible for this mess? Whoever it is, he didn't have the interests of the Congress – or the nation – at heart. As if the numerous corruption scandals that have surfaced with breathless frequency over the past few months were not enough to wreck the image of the party – and that of the UPA coalition – it had to come up with this suicidal move.


I hate to nod in agreement when the BJP calls this government a "headless chicken." But nothing else could describe the confused, clueless and sleep-walking creature called the UPA government. Its right hand doesn't seem to know what its left is up to. Like those multi-headed monsters in Hindu mythology, it speaks in many voices all at the same time, with no one being any wiser. And the one who should really be doing the talking is missing in action. Where's Dr Manmohan Singh, the icon of new, middle-class India, when we so need him?

At stake is not just the existence of the UPA coalition but the very future of India. Doubtless, corruption, like cancer, is eating into the nation's vitals. The overwhelming response to Hazare's call is a pointer to people's concerns on the issue. No government can afford to ignore this wave of public revolt – India's own Arab spring. However, what is disturbing about this whole campaign against corruption is its stridently saffron character.

The Congress is hardly far off the mark when it accuses the Hindutva clan of hijacking the crusade against corruption. Even as Ramdev was issuing calls for an armed uprising from his Hardwar ashram, he was being visited by Hindutva luminaries, including Ashok Singhal, who headed the Ayodhya movement. And it's not just Ramdev, even Anna Hazare's campaign appears to have been taken over by the same forces.


While Ramdev's rhetoric is ominously familiar, the presence of RSS icons, including a huge Bharat Mata image (India personified as a Hindu deity) at Hazare's hunger strike, is equally troubling. And how could you forget the aging activist's paeans to Modi, the architect of the Gujarat pogrom?


So having lost power to the Congress and milked its temple cow dry, is the Hindutva clan now trying to make a backdoor entry, as some in Congress suggest? Maybe or maybe not. But the strong saffron tint to this whole campaign is unmistakable. It's no coincidence that in every second sentence Ramdev attacks the Gandhis and Sonia's foreign roots.


As Sagarika Ghose argued this week, the Ramdev-Hazare phenomenon may be part of the new Hindu nationalist revolution. "Hindu nationalist consolidation is gathering momentum, much of which feeds into the anti-corruption campaigns. The Ram Temple movement is back, in a new avatar. There are many in the Sangh who are eyeing a similar opportunity to piggyback on an anti-corruption movement. "War against corruption" is led by people of many hues, but it's also the Hindu revolution's catch-all device to rally new support to the cause. A desperate search for a cause and a new rallying cry has led them to the war on corruption," writes Ghose in her brilliant piece in Hindustan Times.


A Hindu consolidation or Hindu revolution is perhaps only natural in a Hindu-majority country. But should it happen at the cost of this amazing nation's plural character and fabled tolerance? We all saw during the madness of the Ayodhya movement and the carnage of Gujarat what the Hindutva revolution means and entails for the rest of India. Do we want to go down that road? Such an India is not just against the interests of its numerous minorities but is not in anyone's interest. Extremism is as dangerous as corruption, if not more. We must learn from the nightmare next door in Pakistan.

The writer is based in Dubai.Email: aijaz.syed@hotmail.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

ESTIMATING POVERTY

JAMIL NASIR


 Management guru Peter Drucker once said, "What gets measured gets managed." He was referring to the management of organisations, private and public, in this dictum. But the saying is equally applicable to issues of national importance. Correct measurement or determination is the first step towards effective tackling of a public policy issue. What if this seemingly small rule is not followed? Put simply it would mean: lax monitoring, sub-optimal public policy choices, poor planning, ad-hoc strategies, and lacklustre efforts.

Unfortunately application of this simple approach is badly lacking at the organisational level as well as in the management of national issues. The issue of poverty is a case in point. Poverty figures have not been quantified in the Economic Survey 2010-11, meaning we do not have official poverty figures.

Poverty reduction has always been touted as one of the priority areas by every regime, political as well as military, but the fact of the matter is that we have not yet taken the first step in the right direction that is correct measurement of the population living below the poverty line. Poverty figures reported in the surveys conducted in the past have been questioned. The popular perception is that the results of such surveys do not reflect the correct number of the poor in the country.


For example, it was estimated in Fiscal Year (FY) 2005-06 that 23.9 percent of the population was living below the poverty line. Another poverty survey was conducted in FY 2007-08. Its finding was that poverty levels in the country had gone down from 23.9 percent to 17.2 percent. A majority of the people, including the economists, did not buy these results, despite a seal of approval from the World Bank. According to independent reports, actual figures of poverty are much higher. As many as 51 percent of the population is living in multidimensional poverty and 54 percent is faced with acute deprivation, says the UNDP report for 2010. The report has further revealed that over half of Pakistanis are deprived of basic education and health facilities.

The underestimation of poverty figures bordering on outright deception persists. But this approach premised on falsehood will lead us nowhere. Things will go from bad to worse with each passing day. It is imperative that the state ensures: firstly, that the poor are not written off from the state statistics as bad debt and secondly, statistics are correct and reliable, if we really want a decisive break with poverty.

Is poverty on the decline? A definite answer to this question is difficult for want of correct data or empirical evidence. However, anecdotal evidence and observation suggest that poverty has increased during the last couple of years. A dispassionate analysis of the structural changes in the economy and society that have a direct impact on poverty may however give a fair idea of the rising poverty levels.

A majority of the poor reside in the rural areas of Pakistan where land is the major determinant of wealth, income and power. Distribution of land is, however, highly skewed. The prices of agricultural commodities have witnessed an upward surge in the last couple of years. Pakistan is not an exception to this trend. Resultantly, the income of the landowners and farmers, who already commandeer land, power and wealth, has increased substantially. Increase in agricultural commodity prices therefore has direct implications for food security and poverty especially for the urban labour and the landless rural people.

The swelling of incomes of the landowners has also accelerated the process of mechanisation having direct implications for the agricultural labour. As a result of mechanisation, the association between rural labour and agriculture has eroded. The demand for agricultural labour has not kept pace with the rise in the prices of agricultural commodities. Thus the fruit of agriculture income is concentrated in the thin minority of the rural areas – the landowning class and growth in the rural areas has not been inclusive in nature.

Some economists have argued that a majority of the rural people have benefited from the agricultural commodity boom. Their argument is that consumer demand for goods like automotives has increased in the rural area. But their argument is prima facie fallacious on two grounds: First, this argument can be valid if the growth or structural changes in agriculture are such that they stimulate the demand for agricultural labour and deepen the association of the rural people with agricultural activities, which is not the case at present. Second, there is no evidence that demand for automotives has increased for the non-landowning sections of the rural area as well. So the point is that based on the structural changes in agriculture, we can conjecture that poverty and inequality have increased in rural areas.

Sluggish growth of the industrial sector due to power shortages has also deepened poverty. A large number of industrial units in the major cities of Pakistan have closed down. Contraction of industrial growth has direct implications for employment of the labour class especially less literate, unskilled, and semi-skilled workers. Unemployment caused by a slow industrial sector has also exacerbated poverty.

Further, ever-rising inflation has squeezed the incomes of the lower middle class, wage earners and government employees. Hardly a day passes without media reports of incidents of suicide being committed due to financial worries and hunger.

In order to effectively address the poverty issue, we should at least take the first step – gathering correct, complete and meaningful data about the poor. The data so collected should not be gibberish that doesn't serve any purpose. Instead, it should provide guidance with regard to what interventions to make and what social safety nets to construct to optimise the use of financial and physical resources. Data should become the basis for policy formulation. Through accurate data we can choose public actions with the highest poverty impact.

The writer is a graduate from Columbia University with a degree in Economic Policy Management. Email: jamilnasir1969@gmail.com

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

NO REPENTANCE, NO SHAME

 DR A Q KHAN

 

The Wikileaks papers are authentic copies of messages sent by US ambassadors and other diplomatic officials to the US State Department in the past three or four years. They contain the gist of meetings between US officials and Pakistani rulers, politicians and military top brass. I have concentrated mainly on those papers that referred to me, with regard to the treatment meted out to me by Gen Musharraf, the Strategic Planning Directorate (SPD), Mr Rehman Malik and President Zardari. Gen Musharraf is now paying for his mischief. He made false promises to me and then shamelessly reneged on them. Now he is a proclaimed offender and hiding abroad.

Former prime minister Mir Zafarullah Jamali stated to the press and on TV that Gen Musharraf had asked him to obtain the cabinet's approval for my extradition to the United States and that a special C-130 was ready at Islamabad Airport for that purpose. Gen Musharraf accused Mr Jamali of lying, and that while his own track record on that score is abysmal. That he sold our sovereignty at a single phone call is now a dark chapter of our history. Then he tried to make us believe that, had he not accepted US demands, India and the US would have bombed us back into the Stone Age.

The 9/11 attack was neither planned nor initiated from Pakistan and no Pakistanis were involved. All those involved were nationals of Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt. None of those countries were threatened, bombed to the Stone Age or placed under embargo. No country would have dared to attack us. Iran did not succumb to blackmail and managed to maintain its dignity, self-respect and sovereignty.

Pakistan had joined neither the Non-proliferation Treaty nor the Nuclear Suppliers Group. We were never under any obligation to accept any restrictions or collaborate with other countries. US-Europe, Russia-China, US-Israel and US-India cooperation are not controlled by these treaties. By handling matters in this way, not only was I presented as a criminal, but Pakistan itself was branded as a criminal state. I will be gone, but Pakistan will continue to bear the stigma.

After a civilian government took over, there was optimism that the illegal restrictions placed on me would be lifted. However, we soon realised that only the faces had changed and the new rulers were still most obedient servants of the USA. Pakistan has produced many characterless people.

As we saw from the Wikileaks documents, the chief justice of the Islamabad High Court – a resident of Kahuta and a trainee of Raja Zafrul Haq – turned out to be one of them. Despite the fact that I had helped the Kahuta Bar with a library and offices for the lawyers and had even their dilapidated court building repaired and restored, this gentleman turned out to be more loyal than the king. In collusion with the rulers, he determined to keep me under virtual detention and not allow me any freedom. I was informed that he welcomed government lawyers in his private chambers and took instructions from them. Rumour had it that he was cultivating favours in order to get elevated to the Supreme Court as he was nearing retirement age. He was duly rewarded by then-chief justice Abdul Hameed Dogar. But they forgot that man proposes but God disposes. After the Zardari government yielded to pressure from the public public and the lawyers' movement, the judiciary was restored and the Islamabad High Court dissolved. This gentleman is now history.

While my case was being heard in the Islamabad High Court, I had a few meetings with Rehman Malik. Eminent lawyer and senator S M Zafar and his son, Barrister Ali Zafar, were also present at some of these meetings. In the course of these meetings I was told that the government would not oppose my petition since, after Musharraf's pardon, my confinement was totally illegal. He promised that after the court's judgement, he and Mr S M Zafar would brief the media on those lines and convey the message that there had been no wrongdoing on my part. With that the matter would be closed. Mr Zafar and I believed Mr Malik, though we should have known better, even at that time. I have known Rehman Malik for 15 years. When he was additional director general of the FIA, he tried to bully, threaten and blackmail my son-in-law, Saad Ali Khan, and his younger brother, Zarar Ali Khan, sons of the late Admiral Zamir Ahmad. When I was informed of that, I took the matter to Gen Waheed Kakar (a relative of Admiral Zamir), who phoned Gen Nasim Rana, director general of the ISI, and asked him to sort the matter out. After about an hour and a half a shaky Rehman Malik phoned me, apologised profusely for the "misunderstanding," making all kinds of lame excuses. When we later met in connection with my case, Rehman Malik had obviously not forgotten and often reminded me of the "misunderstanding."

The Wikileaks papers clearly pointed out the plot hatched by Rehman Malik and Zardari to use the Islamabad High Court judge to keep me totally isolated and confined to the four walls of my house. The papers also revealed that the interior secretary, Syed Kamal Shah, personally went to the US ambassador and gave her the court judgement with the fake and notorious "Annexure A" which my lawyer and I had not been allowed to see. A copy was finally sent to me more than three months later after strong insistence on my part as it was required for further legal action.

It was our good luck that the Islamabad High Court was dissolved and my petition was heard by Justice Ijaz Ahmad Chaudhry, who has since become chief justice of the Lahore High Court. Not entertaining any pressure, he declared me a free citizen and ordered the government to provide me with security during my movements.

The matter does not end here. Wikileaks reveals that Zardari told the US ambassador that if he had his way he would hand me over to the IAEA. What a spineless head of state, totally lacking in self-respect. Musharraf and Benazir Bhutto had wanted to do this too, and where are they now?

Wikileaks brought to light the fact that, except Imran Khan, all our top leaders were meeting the US ambassador of their own accord, seeking favours and assuring her of their unconditional obedience. We also read shocking disclosures about Maulana Fazlur Rehman (make me prime minister, my votes are for sale), Musharraf (support me to prolong my rule by dissolving the assemblies), Amin Fahim (help me become prime minister), Nawaz Sharif (we can dump the chief justice) and Gen Kayani (the media should be gagged).

Not ashamed of facing the people after their misdeeds, they are also not ashamed to face Almighty Allah. But history is full of such people.

Email: ali4drkhan@gmail.com

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

HAS IT EVER HAPPENED TO YOU?

 ADIAH AFRAZ

 

Has it ever happened to you that one fine morning you get up from a loadshedding induced sleep only to discover that you have just a hundred rupees left in your wallet? Now why you need money so early in the morning is another story altogether, but has it ever happened to you that there is no electricity in the house and consequently there is no water in the house either, so you have no choice but to leave the house with an unwashed face and rush to the nearest ATM looking like the Incredible Hulk in pink flip flops on a bad hair day?

So has it ever happened to you that as you fumble for your keys, mumble inanities to whoever cares to listen, and rush out the door; you hit your toe against a snoring something and realise instantly that you have probably re activated the fracture in your little toe. A condition you often acquire doing similar activities on some other loadshedding induced days.

But this present loadshedding induced day is a special day, and that too for a number of reasons. For starters, it's your birthday; a day that always comes on one of the hottest days in the year. Secondly, it's the day of the budget speech 2011, which as you would later discover, would make this day literally the hottest day of the year; and thirdly, because come to think of it, how many times in your life time have you headed for an ATM on your birthday looking like the Incredible Hulk in pink flip flops on a bad hair day?

So there is a lot to do on this special day. A birthday cake is to be bought because your children want to surprise you with it in the evening, and a birthday present is to be purchased because there is a spouse-like person who has promised to pay you later for the present you would buy and then hand over to him so that he can hand it back over to you.

And then you want to finish all your chores early so that you can listen to the budget speech and write a column about it that makes your editors think you are the cleverest person they can ever have on their pay roll.

So fracture or no fracture, you sit in your car and head for the nearest ATM. So has it ever happened to you that as you sit in your car on your birthday, singing a patriotic song to your fractured toe and giving the silent treatment to your very upright hair, you suddenly look at the fuel gauge and discover to your utter horror that your car has no gas?

Has it ever happened to you that you rush past endless queues at CNG stations and head to the nearest ATM, your toe swelling by the minute, and your fuel gauge nose-diving by the second, only to discover that the nearest ATM is temporarily out of order?

This is a race against time ladies and gentlemen, a race against gas vapours, and a race against the dwindling capital in your wallet. And I say dwindling because has it ever happened to you that you shuttle from one out of order ATM to another, paying Rs30 every time to a new parking mafia guy who is convinced that two minutes are actually an hour?

Has it ever happened to you that you want to make a call but you cannot do so because you left your phone charging at home, which in fact is not charging at all, because there has been no electricity in the house since the night before?

So ladies and gentlemen, when you encounter the fourth out of order ATM and a fourth parking mafia guy, and you have Rs10 left in your pocket, then that is what you call a classic case of 'time for desperate measures'. And when it's time for desperate measures then one of the things that you can do is to roll down your car window, look at the parking mafia guy number four straight in the eye, and try your level best to hide the desperation in yours.

"Jee, excuse me. What is your name?" you begin.

"Ashfaq, and it would be Rs30," comes the reply.

"Ashfaq beta, do you live in Pakistan?" you ask.

Ok, now if there's one thing that the 60-year-old Ashfaq beta is not expecting, it is to be addressed as 'son' by a person clearly half his age.

See, that's tip number one for dealing with desperate situations. Confuse your audience!

The second thing Ashfaq beta is not expecting is to be to be asked a very unnecessary question about his nationality.

"Pakistan?" you repeat.

Ashfaq beta looks at the sky.

"Mehngai ka pata hai na?" You admonish.

Ashfaq beta looks at your upright hairdo, and then he looks back at the sky, he contemplates the situation for a minute and then motions with his hand for you to go.

Just go, he seems to say. Go; take your dwindling capital and the gas-less vehicle. Go; sit in front of an out of order ATM looking like the Incredible Hulk on a bad hair day, and listen to a finance minister trying to make himself heard over the din of all that is left of a coalition. Go and write your column on a laptop with a dead battery about a topic that would be redundant tomorrow because of an even bigger event happening somewhere else.

Go and enjoy your birthday, and while you are at it, wash that face of yours, and charge that cell phone, then cut that cake and nurse that toe...

So has it ever happened to you that you charged your face and washed your phone, and nursed your cake, and cut your toe?

The writer is an academic. Email: adiahafraz @gmail.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

HAS IT EVER HAPPENED TO YOU?

 ADIAH AFRAZ

 

 Has it ever happened to you that one fine morning you get up from a loadshedding induced sleep only to discover that you have just a hundred rupees left in your wallet? Now why you need money so early in the morning is another story altogether, but has it ever happened to you that there is no electricity in the house and consequently there is no water in the house either, so you have no choice but to leave the house with an unwashed face and rush to the nearest ATM looking like the Incredible Hulk in pink flip flops on a bad hair day?

So has it ever happened to you that as you fumble for your keys, mumble inanities to whoever cares to listen, and rush out the door; you hit your toe against a snoring something and realise instantly that you have probably re activated the fracture in your little toe. A condition you often acquire doing similar activities on some other loadshedding induced days.

But this present loadshedding induced day is a special day, and that too for a number of reasons. For starters, it's your birthday; a day that always comes on one of the hottest days in the year. Secondly, it's the day of the budget speech 2011, which as you would later discover, would make this day literally the hottest day of the year; and thirdly, because come to think of it, how many times in your life time have you headed for an ATM on your birthday looking like the Incredible Hulk in pink flip flops on a bad hair day?

So there is a lot to do on this special day. A birthday cake is to be bought because your children want to surprise you with it in the evening, and a birthday present is to be purchased because there is a spouse-like person who has promised to pay you later for the present you would buy and then hand over to him so that he can hand it back over to you.

And then you want to finish all your chores early so that you can listen to the budget speech and write a column about it that makes your editors think you are the cleverest person they can ever have on their pay roll.

So fracture or no fracture, you sit in your car and head for the nearest ATM. So has it ever happened to you that as you sit in your car on your birthday, singing a patriotic song to your fractured toe and giving the silent treatment to your very upright hair, you suddenly look at the fuel gauge and discover to your utter horror that your car has no gas?

Has it ever happened to you that you rush past endless queues at CNG stations and head to the nearest ATM, your toe swelling by the minute, and your fuel gauge nose-diving by the second, only to discover that the nearest ATM is temporarily out of order?

This is a race against time ladies and gentlemen, a race against gas vapours, and a race against the dwindling capital in your wallet. And I say dwindling because has it ever happened to you that you shuttle from one out of order ATM to another, paying Rs30 every time to a new parking mafia guy who is convinced that two minutes are actually an hour?

Has it ever happened to you that you want to make a call but you cannot do so because you left your phone charging at home, which in fact is not charging at all, because there has been no electricity in the house since the night before?

So ladies and gentlemen, when you encounter the fourth out of order ATM and a fourth parking mafia guy, and you have Rs10 left in your pocket, then that is what you call a classic case of 'time for desperate measures'. And when it's time for desperate measures then one of the things that you can do is to roll down your car window, look at the parking mafia guy number four straight in the eye, and try your level best to hide the desperation in yours.

"Jee, excuse me. What is your name?" you begin.

"Ashfaq, and it would be Rs30," comes the reply.

"Ashfaq beta, do you live in Pakistan?" you ask.

Ok, now if there's one thing that the 60-year-old Ashfaq beta is not expecting, it is to be addressed as 'son' by a person clearly half his age.

See, that's tip number one for dealing with desperate situations. Confuse your audience!

The second thing Ashfaq beta is not expecting is to be to be asked a very unnecessary question about his nationality.

"Pakistan?" you repeat.

Ashfaq beta looks at the sky.

"Mehngai ka pata hai na?" You admonish.

Ashfaq beta looks at your upright hairdo, and then he looks back at the sky, he contemplates the situation for a minute and then motions with his hand for you to go.

Just go, he seems to say. Go; take your dwindling capital and the gas-less vehicle. Go; sit in front of an out of order ATM looking like the Incredible Hulk on a bad hair day, and listen to a finance minister trying to make himself heard over the din of all that is left of a coalition. Go and write your column on a laptop with a dead battery about a topic that would be redundant tomorrow because of an even bigger event happening somewhere else.

Go and enjoy your birthday, and while you are at it, wash that face of yours, and charge that cell phone, then cut that cake and nurse that toe...

So has it ever happened to you that you charged your face and washed your phone, and nursed your cake, and cut your toe?

The writer is an academic. Email: adiahafraz @gmail.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

BLOODY BRICKS

 CHRIS CORK


Death is appearing on our TV screens with increasing frequency. The incident at Kharotabad in which five foreigners were killed is one such occurrence, the killing of a young man in a Karachi park last week another. What struck me about both incidents was how casually these people were killed. There was no sense that those killing them were themselves tense or anxious, they fired their weapons not as if they were shooting at people but at some inanimate object. The man who shot the youth in the park was unruffled by the presence of a camera, and went about his business with the same nonchalance as he would buying a burger. It was all so easy, this killing. So public. So unlikely to be questioned or challenged. But it is.

The footage was quickly uploaded on to the internet and passed to TV stations and thence to the rest of the world. Shot twice in the lower abdomen or perhaps the upper thigh – the blood looked arterial-bright – he lay on the ground unmoving for a while but then raised himself up amidst the zig-zag pattern made by his life ebbing away. The bricks he lay on channelled his death into liquid geometry. He was watched not just by the camera but by the members of the group that had just summarily executed him. They passed back and forth, their boots shiny-clean. Eventually he lay back down and got on with dying.

The images are fixed in the mind. The raised arm of the woman lying with others who were dead or about to be beside a sandbagged checkpoint. The young man pleading for his life who found that he had been judged and sentenced in the flick of an eye for what crime we know not. Of themselves these are powerful, but it is what comes after the creation of these images that gives pause for thought.

At Kharotabad and Karachi the events were caught on cameras that come with the mobile phone package. They were also photographed by professionals and thus we have these incidents presented from slightly differing perspectives. Two or three views of the same timeframe that makes it impossible to say 'fake'. And here we get to the nub of the matter. Were it not for the ubiquitous mobile phone and its attached gadgetry we may never have seen or heard in any objective detail about either of these incidents. They would have been lost in the undergrowth of unknowing that tends to surround encounters such as this, but instead of being lost these deaths have become public property and with that has come a grudging accountability.

There is a public enquiry into the Kharotabad killings and there is going to be similar into the killing in Karachi. The only reason that there is any enquiry at all is because imagery taken by members of the public was circulated quickly and in a medium that has global reach and access – the internet. They could not be denied, avoided, dodged or ignored. The Karachi killing was on Youtube within an hour of it happening and had been seen by tens of thousands a couple of days later. Newspaper websites around the world have hotlinked the footage. It has been aired in the USA, UK, Russia, Japan, France and South Africa – and that is just the TV news stations I have seen carry the story. The advent of that little machine that many of us carry has reduced the places for wrongdoing to hide in; and it is nudging accountability to centre stage. Keep pointing those phones Dear Readers, keep pointing those phones.

The writer is a British social worker settled in Pakistan. Email: manticore73@gmail.com

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

THE EMPTY WORDS OF KARZAI

 

AFGHAN President Hamid Karzai who now appears to be enjoying the full backing of US and NATO forces, during his two day visit to Pakistan appeared to be in high spirit, as he tried to charm Pakistan by giving conciliatory message. During a joint press conference with Prime Minister Gilani, the Afghan leader spoke of the need for cooperation between the two countries for peace and reconciliation and for this purpose he stressed for intensifying intelligence and military cooperation.


But two points of his press conference speak volume and deserve serious consideration as he said that Afghan-India relations would not be at the cost of Pakistan and the militants attacks in Upper Dir and Bajaur from Afghan side were worrisome. We believe, there is a genuine concern in Pakistan over the massive Indian engagement and presence in Afghanistan which definitely has specific objectives. The Indians are spending $2b in the name of reconstruction in Afghanistan and have established Consulates in cities along Pakistan border including in Jalalabad and Kandahar. Through these Consulates, India is indulging in spying activities and promoting acts of terrorism in FATA and Balochistan. Some of the extremist elements are enjoying Kabul's hospitality and they visited India to meet their families there. In addition India has established a huge network of spies in other cities under the pretext of reconstruction activities and for the security of the staff. There is no check on their movement and interaction with the Afghan nationals who are being hired, trained, financed and then sent to Pakistan for acts of terrorism. As for his assertions about cross border attacks in Upper Dir and Bajaur, Mr Karzai is fully in the knowledge as to who is behind regrouping and arming the militants who intruded into Upper Dir and Bajaur but without making a firm statement he only thought it suffice to say that work was needed to remove radicals and their sanctuaries. So these empty words of Karzai do not carry any weight. It is known to every one that the Afghan leader is never tired of praising India and at the same time blaming Pakistan for every act of terrorism in his country without realizing that Pakistan suffered the most by offering refuge to millions of Afghans during the occupation of his country and still there are around three million Afghans staying here. We therefore believe that his pleasant words would not hide the facts and he would have to prove through acts and deeds that he is sincere to build close ties with Pakistan.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

THE EMPTY WORDS OF KARZAI

 

AFGHAN President Hamid Karzai who now appears to be enjoying the full backing of US and NATO forces, during his two day visit to Pakistan appeared to be in high spirit, as he tried to charm Pakistan by giving conciliatory message. During a joint press conference with Prime Minister Gilani, the Afghan leader spoke of the need for cooperation between the two countries for peace and reconciliation and for this purpose he stressed for intensifying intelligence and military cooperation.


But two points of his press conference speak volume and deserve serious consideration as he said that Afghan-India relations would not be at the cost of Pakistan and the militants attacks in Upper Dir and Bajaur from Afghan side were worrisome. We believe, there is a genuine concern in Pakistan over the massive Indian engagement and presence in Afghanistan which definitely has specific objectives. The Indians are spending $2b in the name of reconstruction in Afghanistan and have established Consulates in cities along Pakistan border including in Jalalabad and Kandahar. Through these Consulates, India is indulging in spying activities and promoting acts of terrorism in FATA and Balochistan. Some of the extremist elements are enjoying Kabul's hospitality and they visited India to meet their families there. In addition India has established a huge network of spies in other cities under the pretext of reconstruction activities and for the security of the staff. There is no check on their movement and interaction with the Afghan nationals who are being hired, trained, financed and then sent to Pakistan for acts of terrorism. As for his assertions about cross border attacks in Upper Dir and Bajaur, Mr Karzai is fully in the knowledge as to who is behind regrouping and arming the militants who intruded into Upper Dir and Bajaur but without making a firm statement he only thought it suffice to say that work was needed to remove radicals and their sanctuaries. So these empty words of Karzai do not carry any weight. It is known to every one that the Afghan leader is never tired of praising India and at the same time blaming Pakistan for every act of terrorism in his country without realizing that Pakistan suffered the most by offering refuge to millions of Afghans during the occupation of his country and still there are around three million Afghans staying here. We therefore believe that his pleasant words would not hide the facts and he would have to prove through acts and deeds that he is sincere to build close ties with Pakistan.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

PASHTOONS OF BALOCHISTAN TOO PROTEST

 

LIFE in whole of Balochistan was paralyzed on Saturday and this time it was led by Pashtoon population. The wheel Jam and shutter down strike call was given by the Pakhtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party (PKMAP) to protest against prolonged load shedding and neglecting Pashtoon majority districts in development budget of the Federal Government.


The PKMAP stated that Pashtoon majority areas have been totally neglected as far as development projects in the province were concerned. Hitherto there was talk of deprivation of Baloch population but the fact is that Pashtoon areas too remained ignored. It is good that they did not resort to violent protests or moved to mountains over their neglect and staged a peaceful protest which was their democratic right. Though the hilly, vast and sparsely populated areas of the province remained under developed but unfortunately the deprivation of Baloch people was overblown. The fact is that development could not take place throughout the province and due to prolonged load shedding, the agriculture sector there, through which the majority of Pashtoons earn their livelihood, suffered the most. They were therefore forced to agitate over their sufferings and convey resentment to the Government. Several major projects had been undertaken in the Province in the last one-decade and some of them have been completed while others are nearing completion. But as Balochistan is the largest province in size, the development is not visible to everyone like in other Provinces. However a lot more is needed to be done and we would urge the Federal, Provincial Governments that while there is talk of mega projects, the Pashtoon areas should not be ignored. In fact interests of all segments of the society should be taken care of while initiating development schemes by setting aside political or other considerations.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLES

NAKED IMPERIALISM IN LIBYA

AMBASSADOR'S DIARY

DR SAMIULLAH KORESHI

 

For seasoned diplomats the most important thing is not just to watch the major events taking place in their own region but to read in the events the objective of the powers making those moves, and whether they are a warning of dangerous consequences for their own country. The powers game the NATO countries who have ganged up in war on Libya, are playing in Libya has very sinister pointers for the entire region. It means the NATO gang has assumed unto themselves the powers of regime change in the Oil rich Middle East and the "Muslim" world. In the words of the "military dictator" Ayub Khan ( in his book "Friends Not Masters) whether we consider ourselves Muslim country or not they consider us so". This is what unfortunately has been wishfully ignored by those very groupings, and countries who are being willing accessories to this sinister game.

It is quite clear that the NATO gang's intention is to go for Ghaddafi's blood and the turmoil in the Arab World, described by the West as "Arab spring" has been utilized by US, France, Italy, UK, to find the traitors to their own country to rise in rebellion against the regimes they want to change . There was apparently some opposition against Ghaddafi after 39 years of rule, and the NATO gang worked on the traitors to rise in armed revolt against him . This is proved by the fact that as soon as the rebel group went into action the NATO gang went all out to support it. There is such a short spell after the rebellion and the NATO gang's full support to it that only a fool can miss this connection.


The Gang led by France's Sarkozi started open support for the rebel. US and UK followed. The most important thing was that UN's Ban Ki Moon indecently provided the bogus justification to legitimize the "regime change" fig leaf resolution. This is to be noted that What US and NATO want the ever obliging Ban Ki Moon will do. UN is not an independent organ. It has become an errand boy to these powers. As an aside it is worth repeating that UN is of no use to any Muslim cause. It has never done any thing to support in reality Palestine or Kashmir and never would do it. Show one single action UN has taken to solve any Muslim issue.


Lots of noises it has made but no action was ever taken. UN is bogus and bunkum where solving any Muslim issue is before it. It would make no difference whether Muslims are in the UN or not. They will always be an object of UN sanctions, denunciation and the bad boy but never helped. So bring now any case against a Muslim country and UN will denounce it and authorize action against it under Chapter VII of the UN Charter which must be implemented by all members of the UN but not one Resolution on Palestine or Kashmir was ever, or in favour of any Muslim issue was passed by UN under Chapter VII . So the ever obliging UN passed as strong Resolution on Libya as the NATO Gang desired and would pass more when ever in future required whether they be against Libya or Pakistan or even Saudi Arabia. It would be recalled that some persons in US at one time were even talking of destroying the Holy Ka'aba.


So right away in a jiffy under "humanitarian" concern, the NATO Gang went into action and gave military support to the rebels. After all they are their own creatures, and to sustain them is the NATO Gang's responsibility. Arms and ammunition was liberally supplied . Military advisers were smuggled into rebels areas, and NATO air force started bombing Ghaddafi forces and his Government installations and his areas. But this was not to remain limited to this minor help. Regime change of a UN Member state under UN Charter is a violation of its sovereignty and indeed a crime. But not to NATO Gang and its powerful allies the US, France and UK permanent members of UN Security Council.- In June this shameful blatant interference has been enhanced for a final assault on Ghaddafi. Earlier an Italian minister was smuggled into the rebel area.

On June 4. British Foreign Secretary William Hague and another British cabinet figure Andrew Michell visited the rebels 'de facto capital' A balatant modern gun boat diplomacy started by British Apache and French attack helicopters struck targets in Libya One Lt General Bouchard is named as the Commander of Libyan rebels. Helicopters take the strikes from low altitudes The traitor : or the head of the rebel's transitional National Council Mustafa Abdul Jalil declared " the attacks were in accord with UN resolution that authorized the international air compaign." One may ask what is the difference in these attacks and the Gun-boat diplomacy of the olden imperialist days. NATO has gone in open war on a UN Member state with no remorse. On June 10, NATO blasted Tripoli in preparation for the White racialist NATO Gang 's Conference on "post Ghaddafi talks" in Abu Dhabi in UAE. Apparently the program is that after getting approval at the meeting to kill Ghaddafi in air raid they will install their own puppet in power in Libya.


Following conclusions can be drawn from the plans for regime change in Libya through Military operations: The White countries will follow a militarist method of regime change in Muslim area, or to destroy their capabilities – or are now going to pursue a 17th/18th century imperialist gun boat diplomacy through modern sophisticated weapons of mass destructions, ignoring the territorial inviobility of sovereign independent countries. This policy they have followed in attacking Iraq, Afghanistan and now Libya.


UN Charter is to be so interpreted, with the UN always willing to oblige the white racialist imperialist countries. Independence under UN Charter is now a fiction and fib to the White imperialist countries. This is why they want to revise the UN Charter to allow military actions as the Permanent Security Council Members deem fit . And since for the coming decades the victims of these operations would remain Muslim countries and Muslim peoples, no Muslim country is to be give a seat in the revised list of Permanent Members of the UN SC according to the White Masters plans. It is unfortunate that many in this region do not understand that the coffin they are preparing for Ghaddafi will be ready for the other defiant Arabs. It is as very short sighted suicidal policy. The list of persona- non-grata regimes in the Arab/Muslim countries can change over night as has been changed in real terms the UN Charter by the White racist Powers. Here one would like to give attention to our friend Iran's warning that US is planning action against Pakistan's Nuclear assets. In a Press Conference , Ahmedinejad said that the US plans to sabotage Pak Nuclear facilities ." we have precise information


That the US wants to sabotage Pak N-facilities to control Pakistan .. US will use UN SC and other international bodies to send hundred of persons in Pakistan for this purpose. It would be wise to heed what our brother and friend Iran has said to warn us. Pakistan is not safe from US policies of this kind. We have to understand that now NATO's target are the Muslims and with ever obliging UN it will get a license for the kill of any Muslim country, regime change, harm its capability etc. All said and done Pakistan is now the only Muslim country which has the potentials of a modern state in all respects, including technical human resources.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

CATCH-22 OF DEFENCE SPENDING

AIR CDRE KHALID IQBAL (R)

 

A typical national purpose has two vital components, national development and national survival. Masses like to be prosperous and secure. These two facets support each other as much as they compete with each other. National development without security attracts aggressors and national security at the cost of development degrades social security and erodes public welfare. Balance between the two is essential but is difficult to achieve. Meltdown of Soviet Union and occupation of Kuwait by Iraq are two contemporary examples of imbalance between national development and national security.

There are many ways of looking at a defence spending; each approach leads to differing perceptions. First let's take a look at Pakistan's budget from the 'broader picture perspective'. Outlay of our national budget (Rs 2767b) is 14.2% higher than the previous year, net revenue receipts ( Rs 1529) are expected to be up by 11%, and size of PSDP (Rs 730b) shows an increase of 58% from the revised PSDP figures of 2011. Foreign remittances are likely to reach $12 billion mark by the close of this year, foreign currency reserves have reached $17.3 billion and exports grew by 28 percent during the current fiscal year. Foreign assistance (Rs 414b) is expected to be 42.7 percent or Rs 124 b higher than the current fiscal year. On expenditure side, debt servicing (Rs 1034b) shall consume 37.4% of the total budget expenditure. Within this framework, defence budget (Rs 495b) is 17.9% of total expenditure. Defence budget is up by 11.4% from the closing year. Going by this frame work it appears that that by and large our traditional pattern of broader budgetary contour has been preserved vis-à-vis defence spending.

Defence spending in the outgoing fiscal year was Rs 586 billion, about 23 per cent of 2010-11 budget; by adding pension-related expenses of Rs 71.9 billion in the outgoing fiscal year the total spending would come to Rs 658 billion or 25.6 per cent of the total budget. Likewise, if we add to next year's budget additional Rs 150 billion that the government has allocated, almost half of which was billed under the Armed Forces Development Programme and Rs 73.2 billion paid from the civilian account as military pensions, the net allocation stands at Rs 718 billion, that accounts for around 26 per cent of the total budget. However, these practices of funding defence spending through other heads are a common practice. Many countries including Indian and China also plan their funding of defence spending in a similar format.

Budget's main distribution is: 41 percent (Rs 206.4 billion) for human resource related expenses, 26 percent (Rs 128.2 billion) for operating expenses, 23 percent (Rs 117.5 billion) for physical assets, and 8.6% (Rs. 42.6 billion) for civil works. The share of three services is rationalized based on the strength of the each service and the requirement for the weapons and equipment. Remainder amount is further divided into various sub-heads. Expenditures on 'Defence Production Division' in the new financial year have been estimated to the tune of Rs 1229.725 million.

Archives indicate that in 1996-97 defence spending consumed 26.25 of the budget. During 2001-2, defence allocation was 20.87%. Over the last few years, there has been a decline in the defence budget in practical terms. There was no raise in defence allocations in 2009-10. During year 2010-11, in term of GDP share, the defence allocation was 2.6 percent; whereas, despite an increase of 12 percent, the GDP share of defence allocation for the next year (2011-12) would go down to 2.4 per cent.

There has been a steady decline in defence services' slice in the GDP cake over the years. This shortfall can be attributed to inflation, which has been around 12-14 percent; moreover, dollar-rupee parity, rising cost of equipment, fuel and food are some of the factors which have been quietly eroding the purchasing power of our military.

Now let's take a look at our defence spending with respect to threat perception, our main threat emanates form India, this year she has raised the defence allocation by 11.59%, last year it was jacked up by 30%. India considers Chine as her principal enemy. This year China has upped its budget by 12.7%. Here again Pakistan's increase in defence budget appears compatible within the context of triangular pattern of threat perception. However, Indian and Chinese economies with a growth rate of 9% support a competitive escalation in military spending whereas Pakistan with an almost stagnated economy (GDP growth of around 2.4%) is trapped in an unenviable situation.

Our federal revenue is insufficient to even pay for its current expenditure. Federal government plans to spend (Rs 2,504 b) Rs 975 billion more than its revenue. It expects provinces to generate a combined surplus of Rs 125 billion. As a result, the overall fiscal deficit is envisaged to come down to Rs 850 billion, that is the IMF prescribed deficit of four per cent of GDP.

Chances of Pakistan's economic bounce back in short to medium timeframe are remote, likewise there are no prospects of taking an early break form the quicksand of strangulating triangular threat assessment paradigm. Indian economy is 12 times of our economic outlay and is growing around 4 times faster. Our inflation is 15% while India has been able to contain it to 7%. Our tax to GDP ratio is 8% while India's ratio is 20%. Our GDP is up by paltry 2.4% while we are constrained to up our defence spending by 12%. China's defence spending to GDP ratio is 1.4%, India spends 1.83% whereas and Pakistan's ratio is 2.4%. This certainly is not a sustainable preposition for Pakistan.

Another perspective of viewing the budget is from volumetric perspective that is in dollar form, because that represents the raw purchase power. Chinese Budget for the 2011-12 year is US$ 91.7 b, Indian spending is US$ 36.03 b and Pakistan plans an outlay of US$ 5.764 b. Pakistan's disparity vis-à-vis the Indian armed forces in 2001-2 was 1: 3.5; it has now accentuated to over 1:7. According to Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), actual military defence expenditures of India are $41.3 billion.

The Economic Survey 2010-11 estimates that the war on terror has cost Pakistan $17.8 billion in the current fiscal year, which is nearly 70 percent of the country's total exports. According to candid estimates, Pakistan has suffered a loss of about $70 billion between 2001 and 2010. Assistance from the United States is rather insufficient when compared to the losses being suffered by the country. Pakistan gets $600-800 million a year under the Coalition Support Fund. During the recent years, flow of CSF was often interrupted on one flimsy pretext or the other. Over the preceding decase, Pakistan received US $ 8.6 b agianst an expected amount of US$ 13 b under CSF. Of this only US$ 2.6 was allocated to defence services, rest was utilized by the government for budgetry support.

At policy level Pakistan needs to embrace intellectual agility and functional culture to link our national security to national economy. Incidents like operation 'Geronimo' and the terrorist attack on PNS Mehran have eroded the public confidence about the capacity and capability of our armed forces. Nevertheless, there is a national consensus about funding the essential security requirements. For their part armed forces need to identify their flaws and take corrective steps; apart from other steps financial belt tightening is certainly overdue.

—The writer is international security, current affairs analyst and a former PAF Assistant Chief of Air Staff.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

EXTREMISM DETRIMENTAL EFFECTS

DR RAJA MUHAMMAD KHAN

 

In any of their forms of manifestation, the term; extremism and terrorism are against the human beings. "Extremism denoted extreme rigidity of one's belief and distain for other religions". But in reality no divine religion really accepts or publicizes the extremism as such. It may be referred as a condition or an act of taking an extreme view or else taking a farthest action. In the academic circle, extremism is usually used to elucidate the activities or ideologies of individuals or groups outside the perceived political centre of a society. It may be political, social, religious or a combination of all. Majority of the analysts and social scientists are of the view that extremism is a product of inequality, injustice and a range of discriminations. When all these ingredients get together they induce frustration, create an unconventional and atypical unconstructive mode of thinking.

9/11 is indicative of frustration coming to an extreme in juncture, thus reaching its critical mass exploding in the form of terrorism. Extremism with its twin sibling of terrorism is perceived hands in gloves together. The terrorism on the other hand is considered a very intricate phenomenon and may be defined as "the use or threatened use of violence on a systematic basis to achieve political objectives." Regretfully, there is no agreed definition of the term terrorism at the global level, thus intentionally keeping it undefined for taking punitive actions against all those countries and global actors where lies the interest of major powers. Created on the ideology of Islam, the terms like; extremism, violence, terrorism and suicide attacks were alien for the peace loving society of Pakistan. It was never the panorama of nonsensical violence and unpitying massacres even until 2003. Pakistan is trapped in a vicious circle of ethnic and religious extremism used both for political and personal motives. Indeed it is frightening to realize that idealism which laid the foundation of Pakistan is being overtaken by extremism and violence; which can demolish the pluralistic civil society and founding father's vision of a tolerant and democratic state in Pakistan.

The roots of the extremism in the Pakistani society can be traced from the Western sponsored Jihad against the invasion of former Soviet Union in Afghanistan from 1979 to 1989. At that moment, United States needed Pakistan and its soil for launching a proxy war against its rival Communist Soviet Union. Through the consent of Pakistan, U.S then encouraged the feelings of Islamic War, "The Jihad" against a non believer and anti Muslim Empire, (a motivation US gave to Muslims at that time). Muslim outfits named as Jihadists or Mujahedeen from all over the world including Arabs like recently killed OBL were drawn together, trained and then launched against former Soviet Union by U.S. Thereafter there remained an incessant flow of weapons and equipment, finances and other resources to various Jihadist groups, which later became valued collaborators of U.S. Upon successful accomplishment of desired results in the form of Soviet disintegration, U.S left the region in haste leaving behind a Jihadists culture, unchecked flow of drugs, massive weaponization, sectarian rip and ethnic cataloguing; all having potentials of promoting unrest, instability and eventually extremism and terrorism in the traditionally peaceful society of Pakistan.

Later with a larger agenda in mind, US attacked Afghanistan after the incident of 9/11. This US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 has considerably enlarged the region of conflict. The breakdown of state structures in Afghanistan created a void which was quickly filled by groups and individuals who took it upon themselves to continue the lost battle. Some of them also intruded into Pakistani tribal areas, thus inviting the US displeasure. Flushing out these foreign fighters by Pakistani security forces made Pakistan a battle ground, as foreign militants and some of their local hosts, joined hands to counter the security forces. Unfortunately, with the passage of time, the patronization of these militants was over taken by spying agencies of those countries who directly or indirectly had long plans to harm Pakistan. These spying agencies crammed with anti Pakistan sentiments, have been and are still reinforcing the militants through trained manpower both foreigners and locals and equip them with the latest and sophisticated weaponry to fight against Pakistani security forces in the attire of religion. These militants are widely destroying public property, basic facilities; like health centres, grid stations, educational institutions and business centres of the local people. They keep locals under their influence by the force of arms or through financial bribery. They even resort to elimination of all those who try to become hurdle in their terrorist activities.

The upshot remains that extremism may be either religious or ethnic, takes roots from compelling factors like; social injustice, inequality, deprivation, societal rejection or being over ambitious. These and many other factors make these affected classes a vulnerable target to be enthralled and subsequently exploited by the well ingrained spying agencies of the foreign powers who work through extremist and terrorist groups. In a bid to achieve all that, which they were otherwise denied by society, they resort to use such means like; suicidal attacks, target killings, social ills and crimes and extremism and terrorism.

The ongoing state of internal instability in Pakistani society, fashioned from the dangerous trends of extremism, social intolerance and radicalism have broken the social and national filament, leading the country nowhere, but, towards an ultimate uncertain and catastrophic future, which would have detrimental effects for international community in general and the region in particular. Being a nuclear power, it is very significant to put the country back on track, thus lowering the growing concerns of international community, besides ensuring restoration of peace and stability in Pakistan. At the level of international community, especially U.S and EU, there should be a realization that Pakistan's current fatalities are because of its alliance with them starting from Soviet invasion in Afghanistan to the front line status in the global war on terror. It is their moral responsibility to assist Pakistan on economic, military and political fronts. There should be an end to the game of allegations on Pakistan, without any further stretching with their common rhetorical phrase; "to do more". Rather, it should be appreciated for its great efforts in eliminating the scourge of extremism and terrorism through redressing the grievances of masses.

—The writer is an International Relations analyst.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

TIME TO CALL UPA'S BLUFF

SUNITA VAKIL

 

Despite the scandalous record of past two years, the congress and its allies chose to go ahead and celebrate their two years in office on May 22 with promises of making course corrections on certain issues. Notwithstanding the opposition's criticism for the poor performance of the government on several fronts, the UPA bosses were seen in a self-congratulatory mode with the congress president Sonia Gandhi patting their backs with a favourable report card. The message from the top is that the UPA II has scored big by delivering stability, economic growth and social progress.

However, the perception is that there seems to be no end to the predilections of the UPA II. Scam after scam tumble out of its cupboard with each passing day. Some recent events have starkly laid bare the hollowness of the UPA's claim to check corruption that has spread to every nook and corner of the country. As if the arrest and incarceration of Suresh Kalmadi and his associates in the CWG scam and DMK MP Kanimozhi and her associates in the 2G spectrum case was not scary enough, the UPA has completely lost its credibility with serious allegations against Union Minister of Textiles Dayanidhi Maran. The government is yet to answer why it is pussyfooting on its 2009 election promise to bring back black money within 100 days of coming to power. Clearly, duplicity is fast becoming the hallmark of the congress.

The UPA has little reason to celebrate. By no stretch of imagination can its governance be called a success especially when it comes to dealing with issues like corruption, ministerial misconduct and abuse of power. Listing of the 2G spectrum by Time magazine as second only to Richard Nixon's Watergate scandal in terms of corruption has conferred upon it the reputation for being the most corrupt regime independent India has seen. What is worse is the arrogance of its leaders who think it their birthright to ride roughshod over the people of this country. It goes without saying that the UPA II's record is one of brazen deceit, bungling, cheating, hollow promises and last but not the least, open loot by ministers and bureaucrats. And on top of that, those guilty of plundering the nation are being offered full protection. The manner in which the UPA has been protecting its partners in loot be it the DMK, the Samajwadi Party or the Bahujan Samaj party blows large holes in its claim of fighting corruption in public life.

The UPA Chairperson Ms Sonia Gandhi may talk big about her government being tough on corruption but has no answers as to why the congress led regime is tainted by numerous scams and scandals. What is more shocking is the criminally callous indifference of the beleaguered ministers, who, unperturbed by the suffering masses, are making shameless statements because they wield power. These foot soldiers of the congress would do well to admit that the government has failed to check the menace of corruption that is sucking the country dry and is equally reluctant to bring back black money

Instead of introspecting and accepting its abysmal failures, the congress and its allies are lurching from one stance to another in a most un-democratic fashion as is evident from the Baba Ramdev fiasco. Rather than taking corruption head on as promised by the congress, the fascist regime resorts to placating, vacillating and punishing a weapons to put down any political upheaval. It is highly unfortunate that top rung leaders of the grand old party like Mr Kapil Sibal, Mr Digvijay Singh, Ms Sonia Gandhi and others are trying to suppress the voices of dissent with cruelty with the sole aim of absolving the congress of its misdeeds. But they must accept the fact that they cannot fool the nation time and again with their haughty harangue.

—The writer is a New Delhi based journalist

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

ARTICLE

FAILED FAVOURITISM TOWARD ISRAEL

TURKI AL-FAISAL

 

President Obama gave a rousing call to action in his controversial speech last month, admonishing Arab governments to embrace democracy and provide freedom to their populations. We in Saudi Arabia, although not cited, took his call seriously. We noted, however, that he conspicuously failed to demand the same rights to self-determination for Palestinians — despite the occupation of their territory by the region's strongest military power.

Soon after, Obama again called into question America's claim to be a beacon of human rights by allowing Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to set the terms of the agenda on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Even more depressing than the sight of Congress applauding the denial of basic human rights to the Palestinian people was America turning its back on its stated ideals.

Despite the consternation and criticism that greeted the president's words about the 1967 borders, he offered no substantive change to US policy. America's bottom line is still that negotiations should take place with the aim of reaching a two-state solution, with the starting point for the division of Israeli and Palestinian territory at the borders in existence before the 1967 Six-Day War.

Obama is correct that the 1967 lines are the only realistic starting point for talks and, thus, for achieving peace. The notion that Palestinians would accept any other terms is simply unrealistic. Although Netanyahu rejected the suggestions, stating "We can't go back to those indefensible lines, and we're going to have a long-term military presence along the Jordan [River]," both sides have long accepted the 1967 lines as a starting point. In 2008, Ehud Olmert, then Israeli prime minister, told the Knesset: "We must give up Arab neighbourhoods in Jerusalem and return to the core of the territory that is the State of Israel prior to 1967, with minor corrections dictated by the reality created since then." Last November, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Netanyahu declared in a joint statement that "the United States believes that through good-faith negotiations, the parties can mutually agree on an outcome which ends the conflict and reconciles the Palestinian goal of an independent and viable state, based on the 1967 lines, with agreed swaps, and the Israeli goal of a Jewish state with secure and recognised borders that reflect subsequent developments and meet Israeli security requirements."

One conclusion can be drawn from recent events: that any peace plans co-authored by the United States and Israel would be untenable and that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will remain intractable as long as US policy is unduly beholden to Israel. Despite his differences with Netanyahu, Obama is stymied in his efforts to play a constructive role. On the eve of an election year, his administration will no doubt bow to pressure from special interests and a Republican-dominated Congress, and back away from forcing Israel to accept concrete terms that would bring Palestinians to the negotiating table.

But US domestic politics and Israeli intransigence cannot be allowed to stand in the way of Palestinians' right to a future with a decent quality of life and opportunities similar to those living in unoccupied countries. Thus, in the absence of productive negotiations, the time has come for Palestinians to bypass the United States and Israel and to seek direct international endorsement of statehood at the United Nations. They will be fully supported in doing so by Saudi Arabia, other Arab nations and the vast majority of the international community — all those who favour a just outcome to this stalemate and a stable Middle East.

As the main political and financial supporter of the Palestinian quest for self-determination, Saudi Arabia holds an especially strong position. The kingdom's wealth, steady growth and stability have made it the bulwark of the Middle East. As the cradle of Islam, it is able to symbolically unite most Muslims world-wide. In September, the kingdom will use its considerable diplomatic might to support the Palestinians in their quest for international recognition. American leaders have long called Israel an "indispensable" ally. They will soon learn that there are other players in the region — not least the Arab street — who are as, if not more, "indispensable." The game of favouritism toward Israel has not proven wise for Washington, and soon it will be shown to be an even greater folly.

There will be disastrous consequences for US-Saudi relations if the United States vetoes UN recognition of a Palestinian state. It would mark a nadir in the decades-long relationship as well as irrevocably damage the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and America's reputation among Arab nations. The ideological distance between the Muslim world and the West in general would widen — and opportunities for friendship and cooperation between the two could vanish.

We Arabs used to say no to peace, and we got our comeuppance in 1967. In 2002 King Abdullah offered what has become the Arab Peace Initiative. Based on UN Security Council Resolution 242, it calls for an end to the conflict based on land for peace. The Israelis withdraw from all occupied lands, including East Jerusalem, reach a mutually agreed solution to the Palestinian refugees and recognise the Palestinian state. In return, they will get full diplomatic recognition from the Arab world and all the Muslim states, an end to hostilities and normal relations with all these states. Now, it is the Israelis who are saying no. I'd hate to be around when they face their comeuppance. The writer is chairman of the King Faisal Centre for Research & Islamic Studies in Riyadh. He was Saudi intelligence chief from 1977 to 2001 and ambassador to the United States from 2004 to 2006. — Courtesy: The Washington Post

 

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THE AUSTRALIYAN

EDITORIAL

THE KAT HAS COPPED A RAW DEAL

AUSTRALIAN cricket has paid the price in recent years for failing to renew itself by not bringing enough young, talented players into the Test side to find their feet alongside the team's champions.

That said, opener Simon Katich has every reason to be indignant that he has been axed prematurely.

At 35, the Kat's Test record is second to none in the Australian team since his comeback three years ago, with an average above 50 an innings, ahead of Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey, who are both 36 years old. Katich is three years younger than the world's best batsman, Sachin Tendulkar.

Katich is not alone in believing that years of inconsistent selection decisions have destabilised Australia's side, pointing to the fact that 10 or 11 different spinners have been played in recent years.

Australia is still in the process of rebuilding its Test side and it is understandable that the selectors recognise the importance of having a strong opening pair in place for the Ashes in 2013. But Katich and Shane Watson have been a strong opening pair. Australia must face Sri Lanka, South Africa, New Zealand and India before we face England and Katich will be missed badly. It's absurd to think our Test team will be strengthened by consigning its best batsman to the scrap heap. The Kat deserves another life.

 

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    THE AUSTRALIYAN

EDITORIAL

OBAMA'S FATE DEPENDS ON JOBS

HOW quickly things change. Last month, after US Navy SEALs killed Osama bin Laden, the kudos President Barack Obama gained sent him soaring in the polls. The consensus was that he would be unbeatable next year.

Just as quickly, however, that bounce evaporated. The reality of the mantra "It's the economy, stupid", coined during Bill Clinton's 1992 campaign, has forcefully intruded to prick the bubble and bring things down to earth. A major poll suggests what seemed inconceivable only a few weeks ago - that Mr Obama is, indeed, vulnerable and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, the frontrunner in what has been a lacklustre band of potential Republican challengers, is outpolling the President 49 per cent to 46 per cent.

Voters rightly applauded Mr Obama's handling of the Bin Laden attack, but for all its importance, it's not what's driving the electorate. Rather, its things closer to the bone at home - fear of a double-dip recession, unemployment at 9.1 per cent, a housing market deep in the doldrums, the budget deficit running at 10 per cent of GDP, the $US14.3 trillion national debt. Disapproval of his economic management is at almost 60 per cent. Those are numbers that could hardly be more portentous for the President. They are also of deep concern to Australians, given the inter-relationship between our economies.

An abiding truism reverberating through US politics is that no president since Franklin D. Roosevelt has been re-elected with unemployment above 7.2 per cent. Several have lost: Gerald Ford in 1976 with unemployment at 7.8 per cent, Jimmy Carter in 1980 when it was 7.5 per cent, George Bush senior in 1992 when it was 7.4 per cent.

Since Mr Obama was inaugurated, unemployment has been under 9 per cent for only five months. Projections are that come the election, it is unlikely to be better than 8 per cent. That's bad news for the President. And there's more. During Ford's time in office 2.6 million jobs were created, 9.7 million while Carter was president, and 2.8 million during Mr Bush Sr's term. Hobbled by the global financial crisis, Mr Obama has seen 3.5 million jobs lost. With growth running at 1.8 per cent, job creation isn't even keeping pace with normal increases in the working-age population. There seems unlikely to be significant growth in jobs by November next year.

That date with electoral destiny may seem a long way off, but the lessons from one-term presidents are salutary. A year out from the 1992 election, Mr Bush Sr looked a shoo-in, acclaimed for his foreign policy expertise and handling of the Gulf War. The tide turned and he was skewered by Mr Clinton's refrain that it's the economy, stupid. There lies a telling lesson for Mr Obama. Unless he restores confidence in his handling of the economy and, above all, creates jobs, winning re-election is not going to be easy.

Announcing a jobs creation program last week, he spoke of the need to light more sparks all across the US, which led a BBC correspondent to report Mr Obama looked like a man repeatedly flicking a lighter and getting a spark, but no flame.

Bold structural reform is needed if Mr Obama is to get that flame going. Otherwise the unemployment numbers that brought down previous one-term presidents will be his lot, too. The polls show he's seriously endangered by the economy. His challenge is to do something about it.

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THE AUSTRALIYAN

EDITORIAL

MAKE CARBON RECOMPENSE ADEQUATE AND EQUITABLE

THE Gillard government's promise of relief to 3.4 million pensioners to compensate them for its carbon tax is a bid to head off Tony Abbott's "no big new tax" mantra.

The public can expect plenty more such salvos from both sides in the lead-up to the start of the tax on July 1 next year. The government hopes that by the end of next year, voters will be placated by the compensation, that they will decide that the carbon price was no more alarming, in reality, than the GST or the Y2K bug and will forgive Julia Gillard's broken promise in time for the next election, due by mid-2013. The devil, however, will be in the detail. Much will depend on how high power and other costs rise as the 1000 biggest polluters pass on the carbon tax to consumers.

The Prime Minister and Wayne Swan will hope to wedge the Opposition Leader over the government's largesse to pensioners, self-funded retirees on part pensions, carers, disability support pensioners and low- and middle-income earners, who will enjoy a higher tax-free threshold in compensation for the carbon tax. Mr Abbott will need to say whether he would claw back such measures, including the permanent increase to the pension the government will make above and beyond twice-yearly CPI increases. Because a Coalition government would not impose a carbon tax, there would be no need for compensation, but if, as expected, some pensioners and others are to be better off overall with the carbon tax and compensation, rolling back such benefits could be tricky for a populist such as Mr Abbott.

Ms Gillard's chief climate change adviser, Ross Garnaut, has recommended reimbursing pensioners only for carbon prices and rejected overcompensation because of recent pension increases. He also wants compensation to workers limited to those on incomes of less than $80,000. The Australian is a staunch advocate of strict means tests for government handouts and believes it is right to compensate the poor. But the carbon tax should not be used as a surreptitious tool for wealth redistribution by stealth, with those earning more than the threshold for compensation forced to carry a disproportionate burden of the cost of CO2 reduction.

Important factors that will shape the political war over compensation include how high the tax will be set, how quickly it will rise and the impact on power, transport and other prices. In its report on trends in residential electricity prices over the next three years released on Friday, the Australian Energy Market Commission warned that household electricity bills would soar by up to 30 per cent by mid-2013. That is bad news for consumers already struggling with bills of up to $1000 a quarter who expect to miss out on compensation for the carbon tax.

If the government is determined to limit fallout from its climate change measures, it would do well to review its Renewable Energy Target of power companies sourcing 20 per cent of their energy from renewable sources by 2020. As the AEMC and the Productivity Commission point out, generous subsidies for rooftop solar schemes and wind farms are driving power prices up, for relatively little carbon abatement. Taxpayers and the economy in general need the most efficient policies for cutting carbon.

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

THE SILLY SINS OF ANTHONY WEINER

THE internet may not drive people mad, but it certainly makes some exceedingly stupid. The bizarre online indiscretions of the high-profile US Democratic congressman Anthony Weiner are just the latest example of the readiness of people who should know better to act as though cyberspace is a safe and private place, but where anything goes. Having spent a week denying his follies, Weiner has now confessed to being, in effect, a serial electronic flasher, displaying his reproductive equipment or otherwise being crassly naughty in online messages to at least six women.

At the weekend, Weiner was still resisting mounting pressure from angry Democrat colleagues to resign. But he announced he was seeking leave of absence from the House of Representatives to undergo professional treatment to become ''a better husband and healthier person''. It is still unclear whether he will be able to ride out the storm and retain his seat - or save his year-old marriage to his so-far-silent Muslim wife, Huma Abedin, an aide to the Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. However, his hopes of becoming the next mayor of New York appear to be in ruins.

Powerful men caught with their pants down, literally or metaphorically, while inviting or indulging in illicit sexual frolics are not exactly committing an original sin these days - as Bill Clinton, an honoured guest at Weiner's wedding, could have told him. On the scale of wickedness, Weiner's foolish, self-destructive actions seem more pathetic than shocking.

Yet apart from providing a boon for incurable punsters, what makes this scandal peculiarly interesting, and timely, is that it involves not just the two primal urges that have led men into self-inflicted disgrace over the ages - lust and vanity - but the combination of them, and the perilous new opportunities and temptations offered by the internet. In this twittering age of ephemera, what goes up there, stays up there, and may some day be accessed by accident, or hackers, or recipients with long memories, and return to haunt us.

It is not just the great and powerful, but also the innocent, who are at risk. Consider a recent news item reporting a sudden eruption of anonymous so-called ''root rater'' Facebook groups - apparently catering to schools, universities, geographical locations and sexual preferences - in various states. They purport to rate the sexual performance of individuals on a 1-to-10 scale, including explicit comments. This is ugly, cowardly stuff, and illegal. Such is our brave new world. The boastful Weiner looks merely silly by comparison.

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

A DAY TO START THE DEBATE AGAIN

AUSTRALIANS who think of her majesty on this Queen's birthday weekend will undoubtedly wish her well - a long and happy reign. Those who do so consciously, however, will probably be few. And they will do so even though June 13 is not really her birthday, only a conventional festival of Australia's head of state. Today is therefore, in its fading, vestigial relevance, a fitting celebration for the anachronism at the heart our constitution. That anachronism no longer serves us well. Our government and the leaders of all major political parties should start work now to ensure Australia's next head of state is an Australian.

The Queen is a remarkable woman who has brought energy and wisdom to the role she inherited in 1952. But Australians believe in a modern, democratic form of government, not a hereditary order that discriminates on the grounds of birth, gender and religion, and forbids any Australian from holding our highest office. When our nation was young we found continuity and security in our links to London, but we are mature enough now to honour our history without being enslaved by it.

It is true that since the defeat of the 1999 referendum, unity about the precise form of a republic has proved elusive, especially over whether the head of state should be elected or appointed. Yet all around us the urgent need to renovate the system of government we have inherited from previous generations is evident. The catchcry ''If it's not broken, don't fix it'' no longer applies to our incoherent federal system any more than it does to our anomalous foreign head of state. The transition to a republic is one part of wider necessary reforms.

Today there are more republicans in Parliament than ever before across party lines but, focused on winning elections, they prefer to battle over hotter issues such interest rates and asylum seekers. The republic issue should be revisited, they say, when the Queen dies or abdicates. But that will be too late. It will ensure the perpetuation of the current system for another generation.

The answer to the question, which of Charles or William would make the better head of state, is neither. Australia's future should not be placed in limbo by a macabre constitutional death watch. Rather than waiting amid uncertainty for the Queen's demise, Australians should - with due respect to all concerned - resume their constitutional debate. By the Queen's diamond jubilee a year from now, a new referendum should be announced on the simple question of whether an Australian should be Australia's head of state.

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

JUSTICE ON SHOW - WARTS AND ALL

 

Attorney-General Robert Clark has said, "We are determined to make clear that jail means jail". Photo: Justin McManus

AS EVERY politician knows, there are votes to be had in being tough on crime, or at least in being thought to be so. And it is just as much a part of the received political wisdom that there are no votes to be had in extending and modernising prisons or building new ones, because that is easily portrayed as being soft on prisoners. The problem, of course, is that policies regarded as showing ''toughness'' on crime are likely to result in an increase in the prison population, who must be properly housed, fed and, if they are not to re-offend on completion of their sentences, rehabilitated. Victoria's Baillieu government is here in a bind of its own making.

Having won office vowing to crack down on crime, the government has since been busily turning that vow into legislation. Judges will no longer be able to suspend the sentences of adults convicted of serious crimes, and 16 and 17-year-olds convicted of crimes involving gross violence face mandatory jail terms. As Attorney-General Robert Clark has said, ''We are determined to make clear that jail means jail''. And Corrections Minister Andrew McIntosh has conceded that the government's agenda means there will be more prisoners: ''Of course that [Coalition policy] meant there was clearly going to be an increase in the number of prison beds that we would have to provide.'' Why, then, did the government slip into last month's budget, without fanfare of any kind, an announcement that it will build a new men's prison, with $2 million allocated for a study of the business case for the prison? It was as if the government was hoping that this might be overlooked.

As Royce Millar, of the Age investigations unit, reports today, the government's coyness almost certainly derives from the same instinct that drove the Brumby government to keep quiet about its refusal of a Corrections Victoria plan for building a new 800-bed men's prison and a new 550-bed women's prison as public-private partnerships, at a construction cost of approximately $550 million each and an operating cost that would run into billions over decades. Simply, there are no votes in prisons. Yet the previous government was acutely aware of overcrowding in the state's 13 existing prisons, because, under pressure from Coalition criticism and media reporting, it, too, had been ''getting tough'' on crime. Victoria's incarceration rate, with 105 prisoners per 100,000 of the population, is lower than the national average of 170 per 100,000, but in the past decade the prison population has soared by almost 50 per cent, triple the rate of general population growth. Last year the cost of maintaining a prisoner in Victoria's jails was $300 a day, more than in any other state or territory except Tasmania and the ACT, and the Baillieu government's swelling of the prison population will require a huge blowout in the corrections budget.

The real cost, however, will be measured not in dollars but in the self-defeating nature of the policy itself. As ''get tough'' governments around the world have increasingly found, the consequence of relying on incarceration with mandatory terms as the answer to crime is more prisoners, not greater public safety, because the experience of jail is more likely to harden young offenders than to rehabilitate them. If courts are to respond effectively to rising crime, they need to retain the discretion in sentencing that the Baillieu government is so intent on removing from them.


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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

IT'S AN HONOUR, MA'AM, BUT WHY?

AS Prince Philip, who turned 90 last week, might have said, ''Damn fool question!'' But, in asking why today is a public holiday, The Age could risk princely censure on behalf of the Duke of Edinburgh's wife, the Queen, 85, whose actual birthday falls on April 21, yet is celebrated in Victoria and across most of Australia on the second Monday in June.

We have, of course, asked this question before. The Age, which has long advocated an Australian republic, believes the Queen's Birthday holiday is an unnecessary link to the imperialist past - it wasn't that long ago, after all, that we still celebrated Empire Day. Moreover, the Queen's Birthday holiday doesn't exist in the United Kingdom, and has even less point being celebrated in a country not visited all that often by the monarch, even on her official birthdays. When the Kennett government abolished Show Day as a public holiday in the early 1990s, it got rid of the wrong day off.

To compound matters, today also marks the publication of the Queen's Birthday honours list - as ever, less than six months after the Australia Day honours, which make more sense for all the right independent, patriotic reasons. When Australia's honours system was established in 1975, it was designed to recognise and celebrate Australian achievements. Although, for a few years, some state governments clung to the imperial honours system, with its OBEs and knights and dames, the bestowing of ACs, OAs and AMs has long been the convention, and long may it remain so.

But it would be more appropriate for our honours list - titularly as well as in content - to reflect Australian values and inspirations. For as long as they are awarded on a day supposedly devoted to our head of state, they will continue to carry the vestiges of anachronistic confusion.

As usual, this year's list reflects a diversity of lives and professions. In the general division, 251 men and 125 women share the limelight of public approbation - among them, judges and lawyers, politicians and public servants architects and arts administrators, environmentalists and philanthropists, and Max Walker, AM, who defies convention, but is certainly deserving of recognition.

As Governor-General Quentin Bryce has said, these honours ''heighten our respect for one another, and they encourage Australians to think about the responsibilities of citizenship in our democracy''. It is fitting and admirable to celebrate our own. All that is needed is a day of our own to do it on.


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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

LABOUR AND LIBERTY: DO THE RIGHTS THING

There is something chilling about the ease with which the freedoms of suspects who have never been charged are being legislated away

Near unnoticed last week, the new terrorism prevention and investigation measures, which replace control orders, glided through their Commons second reading unopposed. They are designed for undoubtedly challenging cases, and yet there is something chilling about the ease with which the freedoms of suspects who have never been charged are being legislated away. The Liberal Democrats can point to important concessions extracted earlier on in the process, but as part of the coalition they must ultimately swing behind the compromise reached. The great raspberry blown in the face of authoritarian demands for 90 and then 42 days of internment spluttered out of a different political world. Eyes turn with some trepidation towards the opposition benches as it is asked: who can speak freely for liberty now?

After a weekend of "revelations" about Gordon Brown's one-time desire to oust Tony Blair, Ed Miliband can steady his nerve with the thought that much of yesterday's news was yesterday's news in more than one sense. But having proclaimed the need for a national mission without revealing what it may be, the leader's best response to destructive detractors within his own ranks now is to demonstrate a real big idea. Reasserting liberty's place alongside solidarity and equality in the progressive pantheon would be a good place to start.

The right caricatures Labour as ready to barter individual freedoms away in pursuit of collectivist dreams. The most dismaying feature of later New Labour was its determination to live up to that caricature. After the early achievement of the Human Rights Act, the Blair years saw new offences being legislated at the rate of one a day. Prisons were built as bricks were knocked out of ancient rights. On capturing his party's leadership last year, Mr Miliband admitted its tankie tendency had got out of hand. He was never an individualist ultra, and was careful to prioritise solving crime through surveillance over the pre-technological privacy of libertarian dreams, but on the core rights to due process and liberty he appeared solid.

Eight months on, some lumps have been knocked out of that appearance. Labour seems keener to apply its new liberalism to failed past policies, such as 42 days and ID cards, than to the future. Having signalled he would not play politics with the coalition's rational plans to get a grip on the jail population, Mr Miliband made a hasty demand for Ken Clarke's head, which created a context in which David Cameron is now neutering those plans. The close Miliband ally and justice spokesman Sadiq Khan played no small part in the unholy cross-party alliance that scuppered a sensible plan to honour European obligations by giving most prisoners the vote. In other respects Mr Miliband has been true to his gently libertarian word. Over control orders the temptation to posture by painting the Lib Dems as soft was largely resisted. Still more encouragingly, Mr Khan gave a speech last week that made something close to a full-throated defence of the Human Rights Act. He took the fight to tabloids who were demanding it be ripped up, by exploding the ludicrous myths about rights to Kentucky Fried Chicken and pornography, and by citing real cases where victims of heinous crimes have used the act to win better treatment from the authorities.

This commonsensical pitch is the right riposte to the misinformation that presents rights as something accruing exclusively to foreign felons at the bottom of the heap and fornicating footballers at the top. Rights belong to everyone, and safeguard the dignity of all. While entitlements to medicine and education count as much as those liberties, such as free speech, which are in the European convention, these things can also be reimagined as rights. Today Mr Miliband talks about responsibility, but developing a richer language of rights would lend his relaunch more substance – while also ensuring that freedom in Britain finds a voice.

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

IN PRAISE OF … TURBULENT PRIESTS

At least the prime minister's aides didn't follow those of Henry II to Canterbury to dispatch the archbishop's soul to heaven last week

At least the prime minister's aides didn't follow those of Henry II to Canterbury to dispatch the archbishop's soul to heaven last week. But these are times in which priests are branded turbulent too quickly, with even Rowan Williams himself half-suggesting in March that Thomas Becket may have become too big for his boots. Holy minds will always have something to say about the here and now, and it is frequently inconvenient. Oscar Romero took the side of the poor in El Salvador, saying "Let my blood be a seed of freedom", and was shot at the altar during mass. Desmond Tutu did not win the Nobel peace prize by keeping out of politics. Such activism is the opposite of fanaticism: the solution to religious extremism is not religious quiescence. There are moderate mullahs in Afghanistan who will be vital for peace. In Egypt, Salafis may draw Sufis into democracy to defend pluralism. The UN thinks religions can summon the will to fight climate change, holding events such as Many Heavens, One Earth. Democracy is supposed to work through high-quality public reasoning, but ours is often underwhelming. This is the point of departure for Rowan Williams, and if his editorial in the New Statesman strayed from his aim of nurturing citizenry and into policy prescription, perhaps these things are hard to separate. Nobody has a "God-given right to tell people what to do or think", as he's said, but there's room in the country's conversation for those who deal in eternity, not electoral cycles.

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

SYRIA: BUTCHERY, WHILE THE WORLD WATCHES

The world urgently needs to get its response in order. As of last night it was abjectly failing to do so

During the last great year of revolution, 1989, European events moved from the peaceful transfer of power in Poland to botched attempts at repression in East Germany, through to outright butchery in Romania. In this specific sense there is a parallel with the very different tide of change sweeping the Arab world in 2011. The relative passivity of Tunisia's jasmine revolution was followed by a faltering fightback in Cairo and now by what is shaping up to be a vicious last stand by the Syrian regime.

Bashar al-Assad's medical training in London once gave rise to western illusions about him as a potential reformer, but as the northern city of Jisr al-Shughour was subjected to an all-out assault yesterday, such hopes were forgotten. One school of western thought always says better a Middle Eastern strongman than Middle Eastern anarchy, and this cold point of view can seem tempting after the disastrous invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein. But it is a temptation to be resisted now, not least because there are already doubts about whether the Assad family can keep control.

As one act of repression follows another, it is hardly surprising that Syrians are redefining the battle with a despotic regime in terms of both creed and ethnicity. The Iraqis did the same after they were invaded. If sectarian strains spill over into the army then Assad's capacity to turn his forces against the people from which they are drawn will come into question. Besides, the crisis is fast translating problems of the Syrian people into problems of the world. Where until recently the great flow over Syria's border was of chilling words about random executions, today's flow is of thousands of desperate people, seeking sanctuary in Turkey.

The world urgently needs to get its response in order. As of last night it was abjectly failing to do so. In step with the Americans, the foreign secretary said yesterday he was working to secure UN condemnation of the unfolding cruelties. But these talks about talk only underline how limp the response is: the mere threat of the helicopter gunships and tanks that Assad is now actually wielding was enough to unleash Nato's firepower against Muammar Gaddafi.

Military action is not realistic, but the full range of diplomatic, financial and legal sanctions should come into play. Instead, there is nobody directly calling for Assad to go, and China and Russia disgracefully absent themselves from the security council in order to avoid even airing disquiet. Turkey, a member of Nato, could yet drag the west in, if it decides its own interests require action to defend its borders from the refugees. The world would then pay a high price indeed for having pretended that Assad was somebody else's problem.

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THE JAKARTA POST

EDITORIAL

DON'T LET IT GO TO OUR HEAD

The Geneva-based World Economic Forum's first annual economic competitiveness report focusing on Indonesia is quite generous with commendations for the significant progress the country has made since 2005, upgrading it to the 44th position among 139 economies surveyed in the Global Competitiveness Index (GCI).

The report, launched three days before the opening of the 20th WEF conference on East Asia in Jakarta on Sunday, praises the overall improvement, as the best of all the Group of 20 of major economies, comparing Indonesia with the BRICS club (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa).

While the report should serve as a confidence-building tool for Indonesia, the government should not let the praise go to its head, let alone become complacent. A deeper perusal of the report indicates that the path ahead for Indonesia will be steep, with tough challenges to be overcome to reach par even with other major economies in the ASEAN region.

We still perform poorly in the most important pillars of economic competitiveness measured in the ranking, notably in terms of the quality of our public and private institutions, basic infrastructure, higher education and training facilities, goods market efficiency, labor-market efficiency and technological readiness. Yet still more daunting is the blunt fact that reforms needed to resolve these problems are among the most difficult programs to implement, financially, politically and socially. We score well only in the factors of market size (almost 240 million people) and macroeconomic stability.

Take, for example, the first pillar — public and private institutions: Corruption, which has been widely and deeply entrenched in the whole system of the government (including the executive, legislative and judicative branches), and a lack of transparency in policy making were cited as the second-biggest problem in doing business in Indonesia.

Given the experiences of our reform drive since 1998, only incremental progress can possibly be made in the fight against corruption. Hence, we must resign to the gloomy outlook that massive corruption will remain part of our daily lives for the next 10 years, at least.

The acute lack of basic infrastructures, notably electricity and land and sea transportation, and the crumbling condition of existing infrastructure, is singled out as the most problematic factor for doing business as it makes the logistics system grossly inefficient and punitively costly, thereby damaging the competitiveness of most Indonesian products.

Worse still, even though Indonesia is perhaps the world's largest archipelago country, its seaports are utterly deficient both in quality and number. The report even ranks Cambodia, despite its modest stage of development, at 82nd in terms of sea transport quality, as against Indonesia in 96th place.

The challenges in infrastructure are also quite complex and taxing. Our infrastructure deficit is so big it will take at least five to 10 years of accelerated development to make our infrastructures compare favorably to that of other ASEAN countries, given the huge sums of new investment required and difficulties involved in land acquisition.

The old problem of what businesses see as labor regulations that are too rigid remains at the top of factors making Indonesia's economy less competitive in attracting new investment. The indicators used to measure the economic competitiveness are by and large similar to the parameters assessed in the ease of Doing Business Index conducted annually by the World Bank.

Here is a mammoth challenge for Indonesia, as it scores utterly poorly in the most important factors assessed in both indexes.

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THE JAKARTA POST

GAVI – SAVING CHILDREN'S LIVES

KEVIN RUDD

 

There is something about a child under five — those baby years, when you witness their first smile, their first step, their first word.  There is a magic to that which never fades, even when replaced by the development of an extraordinary teen and then the adult they become.

Every year almost eight million children with entirely preventable diseases never make that special fifth birthday.  And all too often the lack of a simple needle — your everyday baby checkup and immunizations — is the reason why.

Dead for the want of an inoculation.

These deaths occur overwhelmingly in developing countries, denying children a life, parents the joy of a growing child, and nations their future.

But while the task of delivering routine child immunization equitably across the globe is easier to say than do, it is within our grasp.

Over the past 10 years, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) working with stakeholders, such as governments and health services, private philanthropists, civil society and multilateral organizations, pharmaceutical suppliers and financiers, has started making inroads.

The results speak for themselves.

Since its establishment in 2000, GAVI has funded vaccinations that are estimated to have saved over five million lives.  That is, the population of Sydney, or Singapore, or Johannesburg or Los Angeles, all saved by the routine immunization against diseases such as measles, tetanus, whooping cough and yellow fever.  

Through innovative funding arrangements, GAVI has been able to reduce the price of vaccines to a fraction of their cost, and with GAVI's support, vaccines are becoming available almost simultaneously in both developing and developed countries, extending the same opportunities enjoyed by children born in rich countries to those born in poorer countries.

How does this work?

One way that GAVI draws on private-sector thinking and new partnerships is to borrow on capital markets against legally binding commitments by donor countries to generate more money in the shorter term for GAVI's programs.

Since GAVI launched its International Finance Facility for Immunization in November 2006, it has raised US$3 billion — a stunning success.  

GAVI and its health partners also negotiate hard with big pharmaceutical suppliers to change their business model to invest in what GAVI is turning into a longer-term, commercially viable market — a market that purchases lives on an unprecedented scale.

Now the call for pledges is going out to business and governments again — the goal is a further $4 billion over the next 10 years, and the promise of an additional four million lives saved by 2015.

The Australian Government and the Gates Foundation will be making pledges.

We do this because GAVI delivers results.

It is starkly apparent in Southeast Asia.

In Indonesia, GAVI has provided $52 million towards protecting children under the age of five from dying from vaccine-preventable diseases.

In Cambodia, GAVI-supported programs have helped doubled the number of vaccinations in just a three-year period: from an estimated 20 percent of children in 2006 to 39 percent in 2009.

GAVI has left a similarly impressive footprint in Vietnam, raising significantly the number of infants vaccinated against whooping cough, diphtheria and tetanus.

GAVI has also inspired new partnerships.

Australia is working closely with the Gates Foundation, as well as the United Kingdom and the World Health Organization, to tackle a major threat to child and maternal health — malaria in the Mekong region.

Recently malaria resistant to artemisinin — the key component of the most effective malaria drugs — has appeared in the Thai-Cambodia border region and parts of Myanmar.  

Our collaboration on containment efforts in the absence of a replacement drug are vital for preventing this resistance from spreading across Southeast Asia and potentially to Africa.

The nature of disease means that we cannot take a narrowly parochial approach — we must turn our efforts to where they are needed most.  

Through GAVI and the partnerships that are growing from it, we are able to dramatically expand the reach and impact of our aid.

But we still have a long way to go: 1.7 million children die every year from vaccine-preventable diseases.  

We cannot allow as simple a solution as child immunization to elude us.

The writer is Australian Foreign Minister.

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THE JAKARTA POST

EDITORIAL

CHINA REFUTES GWADAR NAVAL BASE CONJECTURE

SERGEI DESILVA-RANASINGHE

Pakistani Defense Minister Ahmed Mukhtar has affirmed that the country is appreciative of China's willingness to operate Gwadar port, and is also keen to see that "a naval base is constructed at the site of Gwadar for Pakistan".

Predictably, the remarks attracted international attention. They reinforced existing views among foreign commentators, who believe that China has intentions to build a series of naval bases in the Indian Ocean, which have been referred to as the "string of pearls".

Nonetheless, it should be equally emphasized that any analysis of Gwadar should be seen as a microcosm of China's wider relations and interests with Pakistan and the region, which often tend to be understated.

In response to Minister Mukhtar's comments, China was quick to issue a statement denying that it has any interest in setting up a naval base at Gwadar. "China and Pakistan are friendly neighbors engaged in extensive cooperation across the board. As for the cooperation project you mentioned, I have not heard about it," said a senior Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson.

Regardless of China's denial, controversy associated with Gwadar and China's naval ambitions in the Indian Ocean, is likely to be sustained for many years to come.

The story of Gwadar is an interesting one and, much like the other Chinese-funded and -built ports in Bangladesh, Myanmar and Sri Lanka, has attracted a lot of commentary about its intended function. While it is indeed possible that, in the longer term, China may have ambitions to use the port as a base for its warships to operate in the western Indian Ocean, this scenario has yet to materialize, and quite possibly may not eventuate at all.

Outside the potential for naval use, Pakistan's rationale to use Gwadar as a hub and link to the wider region appears to have been the key determinant that led to its construction, as once stated by Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz:

"This can also be a potential energy port for the region. We are also looking at Gwadar as a major refining point, as it is located near the largest hydrocarbon reserves of the world. The Gwadar port will be linked to Central Asian republics, besides the Coastal Highway, the Indus Highway and the Karachi Coastal Highway. A railway link with the entire country is also being considered."

China, known as Pakistan's biggest arms supplier, has reportedly provided 80 percent of the initial US$248 million funding for the construction of Gwadar.

Indeed, China's interest in Gwadar is a confluence of strategic and economic considerations. This is demonstrated by China's and Pakistan's interests in linking the port to China's south-western border. Strategically, Gwadar which is approximately 2,500 kilometers from China's south-western border, offers China direct access to the Strait of Hormuz, the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Aden.

Similarly, by using Pakistan as a corridor to the Indian Ocean, China has the opportunity to stimulate trade and development in one of its largely underdeveloped border regions. To link Gwadar to China, both countries have committed to building road and rail projects, such as the widening and upgrade of the Karakoram Highway, to facilitate enhanced connectivity and trade.

China may not immediately benefit from the Gwadar facility, due to either Pakistan's political instability or the costs related to the project itself. Its involvement is perhaps more indicative of its intention to strengthening its long-term interests in Pakistan.

Indeed, Pakistan is an important strategic ally in facilitating China's interests throughout the Muslim world, and an equally important partner in its perennial fight against Uighur secessionists, who have the potential to destabilize China's interests throughout the region.

Such variables would indicate that, if Pakistan is keen for China to set up a naval base at Gwadar, China may hold a different view on the matter, even if it finds the proposal attractive. Setting up a naval base in Gwadar is likely to further polarize China's relations with the US and India, a situation that China is unlikely to want in the near term.

In addition, while many observers point to the security of sea lanes being a point of serious concern for China, it is equally possible that China, for the time being, is content for the US, India and the West to underwrite the hugely expensive exercises of maintaining large naval forces in the Indian Ocean to ensure the security of sea lanes.

As long as it is not detrimental to China's interests, maintaining the status quo at this stage is likely to save Beijing from committing its resources, which are being used more shrewdly elsewhere to strengthen its growing soft-power influence in the region.

The writer is a senior analyst at Future Directions International, a privately owned think tank based in Perth, West Australia. He has an extensive background in analysis and journalism emphasizing security, defense and geopolitical issues relating to Australia and the wider Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean region.

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THE JAKARTA POST

EDITORIAL

OIL CRISIS EASES BUT ENERGY CHALLENGES REMAIN

ERKATA YANDRI

The latest world oil price fluctuations have apparently died down. The crisis, triggered by political turmoil in some oil producing countries, worried Indonesia, as a net oil importer, but it rode its luck.

If only the winter prolonged and Japan were unaffected by the earthquake and tsunami the situation would have been different.

However, the latest oil crisis, at least, was enough to give the Indonesian government a jitter. There is, however, a semblance of fear that another crisis may strike. The toughest challenge facing the country today is to meet the oil lifting target of 970,000 barrels per day and the mounting burden of fuel subsidies, which could not be phased out until now for various reasons, at the expense of development capital.

Every time an oil crisis hits, the government's attitude has taken an ambiguous stand. On the one hand it had no guts to increase fuel prices, but on the other it wanted to reap profits from the oil sales and royalties. Arguably, the government's mind-set is pegged to oil.

Based on 2010 data released by British Petroleum, Indonesia's oil reserves will last for the next 11 years. The more the oil is pumped, the faster the reserves will run out. If the current situation persists until 2025, then 75 percent of national fuel demand will need to be imported.

Fossil fuels will remain atop the national primary energy mix, accounting for about 41.7 percent. The figure is twice as high as the national target of 20 percent stipulated in Presidential Decree No. 5/2006 on national primary energy mix.

Without having to be pessimistic or skeptical, the way the government deals with energy problems will keep the country from its 2025 target. Not to mention the fact that 60 percent of fuel consumption goes mostly to transportation and power generation.

With the development of rapid and mass transportation and gas supply for power plants lacking, the primary energy mix target will remain a dream. What kind of planning has been in place?

Anticipatory efforts aside, the government seems not serious about meeting the oil lifting goal. It is still struggling to meet oil needs without balanced endeavors to reduce oil dependence. Focus and vision to ease oil dependence have been somewhat blurred.

This is apparently evident in the lackluster efforts of the upstream oil and gas authority or BPMigas in achieving the national oil and gas production target. Without looking for a scapegoat, obviously the weak oversight and communication between BPMigas and the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry are key problems. Discrepancies over technical and nontechnical issues between the two have often been revealed publicly. Bureaucratic confusion and frequent unplanned shutdowns are some of the results of the lack of coordination between the two.

In a bid to reduce oil dependency, the government has introduced a series of national energy-saving programs, including Presidential Instruction No. 10/2005 on energy conservation. The problem rests with implementation.

To address the energy problem, there are two things that the government has to do. First, it must settle the oil lifting target as soon as possible. The government does not need to waste time by looking for individual or institutional problems, but analyze the matter based on the existing system.

The system is supposed to quickly anticipate deviations, such as unfulfilled production targets, and provide immediate corrective actions based on analysis of data gathered from the field.

In the case of an unplanned shutdown that caused a loss of 33,000 bpd, both the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry and BPMigas could actively monitor exploration and exploitation activities by taking advantage of advanced information and communication technologies.

Second, the government should divide its focus into energy efficiency (EE), diversification of energy (DE) and renewable energy (RE) to pave the way for energy security. If the government fails to prepare for energy security now, the impacts of oil price shocks will continue.

Keep in mind, EEDERE is not the sole responsibility of the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry, but should be reflected in the policies of other ministries. Apart from supporting energy security, EEDERE will create economic opportunities, which could provide jobs in R&D, manufacturing, consulting, engineering, construction, installation, maintenance and other areas.

The recent oil price crisis should serve as a challenge for Indonesia to take energy problems more seriously. With abundant potential in natural and human resources, there is no excuse for Indonesia not to realize its long-term energy vision. The key is willingness to change, synergy and coordination, and, of course, full public support.

The writer is a researcher at the Solar Energy Research Group, Vehicle Systems Engineering Department, School of Creative Engineering, Kanagawa Institute of Technology, Japan.

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THE JAKARTA POST

EDITORIAL

ENVIRONMENT DAY: A GOOD DAY FOR RI'S FORESTS?

FITRIAN ARDIANSYAH

This year's World Environment Day, which sports the theme "Forests: Nature at your service" is likely to be celebrated in a more "colorful" way in Indonesia.

This may be due to the fact that in the last two weeks prior to June 5, three influential policies were issued by the government. These were two presidential decrees concerning forests and the most recent economic development master plan.

If not properly guided, managed and implemented, these three policies have the potential to be contradictory and hence could ruin a significant chance for Indonesia to sustainably manage its remaining valuable forests.

For instance, on Friday, May 20, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono signed a presidential instruction number regarding a two-year moratorium on new permits to clear primary forests and peatland throughout Indonesia.

This long-awaited moratorium, which was intended to reduce deforestation, may provide a relative degree of certainty for pushing the overall program of reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+) and land use management and development in Indonesia.

However, the decree has been met with polarized reactions and many believe it is a product of a heavy compromise.

The first issue to be debated has been the clarity of figures used as the basis for the moratorium.

According to the recent government data which may be based on an indicative map attached to the moratorium document, the moratorium would cover 64.2 million hectares of primary forests and 24.5 million hectares of peatland.

These figures appear to contradict earlier figures released by the government.

In February 2010, for example, the forestry minister himself stated that the remaining amount of primary forest in Indonesia was 43 million hectares.

In addition, the National Working Group on Peatland Management, a government taskforce led by the Home Ministry, estimated that in 2006 Indonesia had around 20 million hectares of peatland, distributed mainly in Sumatra, Kalimantan and Papua.

Observing the indicative map, another important aspect that needs to be scrutinized is that a significant percentage of the primary forests are already protected under Indonesian laws in the form of national parks and other conservation areas.

Several conservation organizations have said the moratorium will extend protection to only an additional 14 percent of primary forests.

Another critical dimension to this decree is that it only prohibits the issuance of new permits for logging, conversion and different types of exploitation of primary forests and peatlands.

The challenging question now is to calculate the size of areas of primary forests and peatlands that are already under old and existing concessions, or areas listed under "vital" development programs excluded by this moratorium, as stipulated in the decree.

We may all be surprised to see the exact number and size of these permits.

Another presidential decree released the day before, on May 19, allowing conditional underground mining in protected forest areas, for example, could further cloud the definition of what are regarded as "vital" activities that can continue to operate in primary forests.

Not only does the decree allow geothermal activities to be developed, but also possibly encourage other destructive mining activities to take place.

Furthermore, critics say the presidential instruction covers only primary forests and peatland, leaving out secondary forests.

Secondary forests in Indonesia cover an area of more than 20 million hectares and these areas have been constantly threatened by both legal and illegal logging activities and clearing for agricultural or industrial purposes.

If the government is serious about its commitment to reduce Indonesia's greenhouse gas emissions by 26 percent, it needs to comprehensively take into account its efforts in avoiding deforestation in primary and secondary forests as well as peatlands.

A crucial aspect which seems to have been left out is support for actors, sectors, regions or communities negatively impacted by the moratorium, for example in the form of alternative economic schemes, opportunities or technological or financial means.

As we may know, without comprehensive support for these parties, it may be very challenging to implement the moratorium in the field.

The government needs to send a clear signal, particularly to those who stand to lose as result of the moratorium, that they will be treated fairly.

There is a huge opportunity to use the last week's published Master Plan for the Acceleration and Expansion of Indonesia's Economic Development (MP3EI) to tackle this challenge.

The government has informed the public it will invest around Rp200 trillion (US$23.4 billion) to develop six economic corridors promoting palm oil, rubber and other industries under the MP3EI program.

If it utilizes the MP3EI funding carefully, the government could assist planters, loggers and other land users to achieve more efficient and productive output when it comes to utilizing their land.

In the case of palm oil, according to a study conducted in 2007, if oil palm plantation productivity can be improved, there would be no need for the oil palm plantation sector to further expand its land usage, as growth in demand could be met by improving yields of existing plantations by 1.5-2.0 percent per year.

This intervention could poten-tially reduce the need to convert forests and peatlands to oil palm plantation.

If this opportunity is ignored and the MP3EI program is not synergized with the moratorium and vice versa, the parties not benefiting from the moratorium will use the economic development master plan as an excuse to continue their "business-as-usual" activities.

If this is the case, Indonesia and its people will still be struggling to achieve balanced development, promoting economic development on the one hand and taking care of the environment on the other.

As citizens of this country, we need to ensure that the government and influential parties make the right decision and that the Environment Day we celebrate this year is meaningful.

The writer is a doctoral candidate at the Australian National University, and the recipient of the Australian Leadership Award and Allison Sudradjat Award.

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THE JAKARTA POST

EDITORIAL

THE JUDGE S CASE AND WHY COURT OVERSIGHT FAILS

SEBASTIAAN POMPE

The case of Judge S, who was arrested recently by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) for alleged bribery, has prompted a debate in Indonesia on whether the judiciary is not overly free.

There are calls for closer supervision of the courts and perhaps wheeling back the one roof system which made the courts fully self-managing, including in matters of personnel, finances and infrastructure.

It is true that the one roof system made the judiciary very free, perhaps overly so. One may question the prudence of the measure.

Yet we must also recall that the one roof system was introduced in a feverish time in Indonesian politics, marked by a desire to break with the old, much-abused system at all cost. It was a time of great hope
and optimism mixed with a dose of naiveté about the willingness and ability of courts to redress themselves.

The one roof system was an act of faith more than anything else: courts were given the fullest degree of autonomy, an institutionalized absence of accountability almost to the extreme, based on the hope that they would become better under their own power. Just like that.

The original drafting committee a decade ago included luminaries such as Adnan Buyung Nasution and Jimly Asshiddiqie. They knew they were creating something new, quite uncharted and the prospect must have been exhilarating and terrifying in equal measure.

The majority in the drafting commission applauded the one roof system, which eventually came to be enacted, but that support was not unanimous.

Even in those heady days some members in the committee sounded a note of warning about giving courts such seemingly boundless autonomy.

Would the judiciary be able to manage itself effectively? Will judges be willing to control each other? How will budget be accounted for? How would integrity be upheld?

There were many questions at the time. But the one roof system, surfing on a massive wave of public support including from the NGO community, was not to be stopped: judicial self-governance was enacted by public acclamation.

The warnings were there, but they were drowned out by the masses. Now, 10 years after the one roof system was enacted it is legitimate to ask whether there has been a notable improvement in the courts and the warnings are coming back to haunt us.

The principal external oversight agency introduced during those key reform days a decade ago was the Judicial Commission. It was added in the last minute to the third constitutional amendment and carries the hallmarks of a constitutional afterthought.

This shows up in the constitutional wording, which is poorly conceived and drafted: meant as a repressive oversight body the Judicial Commission was given only advisory powers.

Never quite able to reconcile one and the other the Commission remained in perpetual doubt as to where to place its loyalties: with the executive or with the judiciary. As a result, the Judicial Commission sometimes presents itself as the best friend of the judiciary, but at other times gives free reign to its repressive instincts.

These repressive instincts understandably are particularly acute when a case comes up involving judicial corruption, such as with the Probosutedjo case, which nearly destroyed the Commission, the Judge Ibrahim case last year or the Judge S case now.

Judicial corruption crises transform the Commission into a small KPK even if, since it lacks the authority to sanction or indict, the judiciary does not take it very seriously. The wavering approach of the Judicial Commission did have the important effect of earning it a deep distrust from the judiciary.

This destroyed the ability of the Commission to play a more constructive role in building up the courts through more low-key technical assistance programs and in the process perhaps acquire some steerage within the courts that might offset its weak authority.

That would be a subtle and much needed form of support behind the scenes, in which the Judicial Commission might pro-actively improve the integrity and professionalism of the judiciary.

Had it followed this course it might have developed into an effective support unit for the courts and a powerful political ally, which is the best it could have achieved under the conditions.

As it is, the Judicial Commission cannot conduct effective oversight over the judiciary, because of a bad law, because of its own poor handling in recent years, and last but not least, because the judiciary is uncooperative.

On cases such as Judge S the Judicial Commission has become essentially irrelevant. The formal oversight structure, weak as it was from the onset, is completely dysfunctional.

The place and role of the Judicial Commission needs to be re-designed comprehensively.

So if external oversight does not work, what is the situation with internal oversight? The Judge S case does not by itself prove that the judiciary is dysfunctional. After all, the Indonesian judiciary is very large and as in all large organizations, stuff happens.

Also, the Supreme Court acted quite fast, with Chief Justice Harifin Tumpa suspending and then dismissing Judge S.

Even so, the Judge S case is revealing of deeper flaws of internal oversight that can be traced back directly to the one roof system. In the old days, the supervision of judges was very decentralized and handled by the local offices of the Ministry of Justice (as it then still was).

With the one roof system, supervision over the district court judges moved to the Appeal Courts. The Appeal Courts were never given the funds or staff to conduct effective inspections.

So in reality all supervisory authority sits with the oversight body at the Supreme Court. This is an excellent unit but tiny, which cannot supervise all 804 courts in
the land. So in sum, the internal supervision system is defective: Supreme Court does give the Appeal Courts the means to do their job, whereas the own Supreme Court unit is in no position to supervise the entire country.

It is because the Supreme Court botched the system of internal oversight that Judges like S can operate in impunity. The Supreme Court must re-structure its internal oversight mechanism, and bring it down to local levels.

The writer is program manager, National Legal Reform Program.

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DAILY MIRROR

     EDITORIAL

THE SISYPHEAN MEET

The country last week celebrated the victory over the three decade war. It would probably be better called Peace (Victory) Day rather than a war victory as the victims were both, sadly Sri Lankan youth and citizens.

The victory celebrations also starred a seminar titled 'Defeating Terrorism, Sri Lanka Experience, Sri Lanka Army Commander Jagath Jayasuriya encouraged countries facing terrorism challenges to them head on and he said them Sri Lanka experience could be used to counter them.

We saw a similar approach in Chechnya in the late 90s. And still Russia is facing Human Rights issues, that are faced by Russia since then. The world, perhaps, has seen many a such tragic events.

The difference is Russia is now an "emerging market" (note the work market) while Sri Lanka is the only gateway to Central Asia as one US diplomat quite openly said in one of the seminars in Colombo some time ago.

And we do not have the economic prowess or resources prowess like China or Russia.

Many would still remember how the West propaganda machines repeatedly assaulted Russia and China over HR issue.

Now with trillions in business contracts the "Rights" have become well right, may be.

Meanwhile Indian newspaper Hindu reported the Army Commander as saying "Victory came with many sacrifices… [this is a] saga to be shared with the world. A saga of epic political resolve… National security is no longer confined to the borders as we see in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya".

Defence Secretary also reminded how inappropriate regional foreign policies in 1987, stalled the military operation code named "Vadamarachchi Operation" which had pushed the LTTE to the brink of defeat.

But so far, sadly the media has not reported- or the seminar has not addressed the core issues of this "ism"-which makes people resort to terror as their voice. And more importantly why still there are armed terrorist groups like the Al qaeda.

There are more questions than answers, in fact. How are these groups getting these sophisticated arms? Black market? Try smuggling a pair of lingerie out of a garment factory in a remote village in Ampara!

And conveniently many countries avoided the confrontation chanting the HR mantra.

The fact is basically the civilians who are either getting caught or killed, it is just normal citizens who are caught in the global power plays too.

Generally our people are smartly stupid enough to bite the bait. And presto….the region goes on a downward spiral… sending enough free labour to the West. And it is the poor and the most vulnerable who get caught. That means more business for some.

 Afghanistan has never seen peace in, perhaps, more than a century now. So are the oil rich- the middle eastern countries.

And we all know-some may not know-that Norway is the LARGEST PETROLEUM PRODUCER in the world! (A Jaffna born Norwegian Christian claiming to be a descendant of the Jaffna King is also in Norway! )

But we know how the West, its agents and many others tried hard to protect a psychologically affected terrorist.

Even sadder is that fact that other southern leaders too fall into the trap, and always conveniently forget the geopolitcal facts when formulating foreign policies. We've just completed JR's experiment. We have to wait and see where MR's experiment will take us. It has just begun with the arrival of three wisemen!

Unless something drastic happens Sri Lanka will find it difficult to find stability.

Meanwhile the Sri Lankan 'experience' is not a just a single incident; it is a marker in the change of global power balance and these groups and their actions have far more regional and global ramifications than just terrorizing. It is a global issue.

THAT…. is hard to win.

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DAILY MIRROR

EDITORIAL

FACTORING IN TAMIL NADU

Chennai, 10 June 2011:  Two State Assembly resolutions in as many days and Tamil Nadu is back in the news in matters relating to India-Sri Lanka relations. The benign contributions and pressures from the south Indian State on the Union of India throughout  'Eelam War IV' and later is being replaced by tough and legitimate posturing with legal consequences.

AIADMK Chief Minister Jayalalithaa moved the two motions. In the one on 'war crimes', rehabilitation and political solution to the ethnic issue, the resolution reflects the prevailing mood of the 'international community', influenced as the latter has been by the Sri Lankan Tamil Diaspora. On the Kachchativu front, the Assembly resolution has called upon the State Government to implead itself in a case already before the Supreme Court. Jayalalithaa, while not in power, was the original petitioner, and remains so, as yet.

Both are issues that are germane to bilateral relations between India and Sri Lanka. Like many other political and so-called apolitical voices that are often flagged against India in Sri Lanka, these resolutions have the potential to pressure respective Governments on the issues involved. Independent of politics and politicians, international community and the Diaspora, the ethnic issue and the fishermen's lives and livelihood are of immediate and/or long-term concern to Tamil Nadu.

Tamil Nadu needs peace in Sri Lanka, and in the shared waters. This concern is behind the spirit of the two resolutions, in the overall context.

If Chief Minister Jayalalithaa could claim credit for it, she would not shy away from taking credit. If it identifies as the pan-Tamil leader, a title that had rested on other shoulders earlier, so be it.

Tamil Nadu's concerns in the matter go beyond the dynamics of 'competitive Dravidian politics' in the State. Methodologies go with the personalities involved motives need not have to be attributed. If anything, 'competitive Dravidian politics' is only as good or as bad as 'competitive Sinhala politics'. If you acknowledge or under-write one, you would understand the other – and could not complain about it.

The blatant political and media criticism of India over the joint statement issues when the two External Affairs Ministers (G L Peiris of Sri Lanka and S M Krishna, India) met in New Delhi recently is reflective of a mood. If that is so, similar moods prevail in Tamil Nadu, too. The Tamil Nadu Assembly resolutions are not in response to any Sri Lankan moods and methods – the ignorance in the matter has to be felt to be believed. They are stand-alone initiatives addressing the Indian system, deploying Indian dynamics.

At the core of the Tamil Nadu resolution on the ethnic issue is the safety and security of the Sri Lankan Tamils in Sri Lanka, and a political solution that was promised throughout the three long decades of the ethnic war. Like much of the rest of the world, the Tamil Nadu resolution too seems to link 'war crimes' to a political resolution and power devolution. Perceptions differ between Colombo and Chennai, or even Chennai and New Delhi, but the concerns are real and common.

The Indian Government's interest in the ethnic issue germinated only after tens of thousands of Sri Lankan Tamils, victims of Pogrom-83 crossed over to Tamil Nadu, and not earlier. Linking Indian involvement in the ethnic issue thus to perceptions of Indian hegemony or Indian self-interests were/are faulty, ab initio. They are linked to concerns in Tamil Nadu, concerns about Tamil Nadu – and in Tamil Nadu, too. Political Colombo needs to understand it, appreciate it.

In the post-war situation, sections within Sri Lanka, particularly in the Establishment, have been flagging sovereignty and territorial integrity in relation to the fishermen's issue. Some even justify the Sri Lanka Navy's intervention in similar terms. They go on to argue that some of the actions are aimed at checking future security threats of the 'Sea Tigers' variety. If that argument holds, every other argument too should hold. That should include the concerns in Tamil Nadu, too.

The 'Kachchativu issue' is now before the Supreme Court in New Delhi. Whatever the verdict of the court, as and when it comes, Sri Lanka cannot argue against it in a limited way. There may be arguments over the legitimacy of bilateral/international relations, enforceable elsewhere. After all, the Supreme Court in Colombo had handled the 'merger issue' likewise, without reference to the bilateral agreement with India. The Sri Lankan judgment, as also the Indian petition (by Jayalalithaa) point to procedural inadequacies, and the Supreme Court in Colombo may have set a precedent.

The Sri Lankan Government may have addressed the LTTE problem. As the Diaspora Talk in recent months and the results of their efforts have shown, it has not addressed the issues that are at the core. It's not about the Diaspora. It is about the Tamils back home who have faced the war and its after-shocks, their issues and concerns, aspirations and acceptance-levels.

Opinions differ within, and neither India, nor Sri Lanka is an exception. As was only to be expected, the US State Department, for instance, has since distanced itself from the views expressed by their Defence Attache, Lt Col Lawrence Smith, on the 'white flag' incident at the Defence Conference in Sri Lanka. It has been described as his personal opinion.

In another country, the episode might have been denied. Conflict of perceptions between various arms of the same Government does exist, elsewhere, too. They are often conditioned by institutional priorities. In Sri Lanka, at the height of 'Eelam War IV', then army commander Sarath Fonseka was talking about the Tamil minorities having to learn to live with the majority Sinhala-Buddhists. At the time, the political leadership and the diplomatic corps were out to convince the world that was not the case.

Living within a glass tower, Sri Lanka and Sri Lankans cannot blame India and Indians alone, in the current context. They did not discourage anti-India elements from within from going off handle. The domestic politics of the two countries are not inter-linked after all. Their external dynamics thus should not be influenced by internal politics, either!

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DAILY MIRROR

EDITORIAL

MISSILES, FRIENDS AND FOES

Missile weapons and technologies are becoming ever more available, and a growing number of countries are interested in acquiring them.

For some, this is because missile technologies are closely linked with delivering weapons of mass destruction.

Clearly we should analyse the motives of certain countries that seek these weapons. And we should continue examining what Western countries and Russia can do together to successfully address the proliferation of WMD and means of its delivery. By its nature, this question is more political and diplomatic than military-technical.

Before creating ballistic-missile defence (BMD) systems and investing billions of dollars, it is important to understand the motivation of those who try to develop WMD and missile weapons at all costs. Are these "bad guys" so bad that they entertain ideas of a perfidious attack against Old Europe? Or do they want to raise their international clout and become members of the nuclear club by such perverse means?

Or, perhaps, are these countries trying to thwart foreign aggression? Iraq is a good example. The country was attacked under the pretext that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. Washington knew this was not true, and despite that, decided to send its soldiers on a land operation. The problem is that other countries, not willing to share the fate of the Iraqi dictator, might now attempt to get hold of weapons of mass destruction and missiles.

Nonetheless, Russia does recognise the fact that missile challenges are gradually becoming a risk and a reality. This conclusion can be drawn from the Lisbon summit commitments made by Russia and NATO in November 2010. The Russian position is simple: European missile defences should be based on equal participation and a common indivisible security for all the countries of the continent.

This means that European missile defences should be a smart system, not overpriced, using pooled resources and protecting all European nations. It should be located in regions potentially at risk from missiles, i.e. the south. Why play "Star Wars" in northern Europe, where there are no threats?

President Dmitri Medvedev has made it clear that Russia is ready to conduct a comprehensive joint analysis of a framework for cooperation in this sphere. He has suggested that this project should be based on equality, transparency, technology and responsibility. He also put forward the idea of creating a "sectoral" ballistic-missile defence, with participants assuming responsibility for specific areas.

Russia views future cooperation with NATO on missile defences as an intermediate stage of building a strategic partnership with the alliance – the goal defined at the Lisbon summit meeting.

Real cooperation should help us get rid of the nightmares and phobia of the Cold War. It would give us a common task – an important and sophisticated one from both political and technological points of view. Our work would result in solid security and the restoration of European unity.

Russia and NATO should be completely sincere and honest with each other in creating the European BMD. There is no place for double standards. So to begin joint work we should give each other legal and political guarantees of mutual security.Russia does not want US anti-missile defences to extend to our territory, especially to its North European part, because should a negative scenario develop, this could upset the strategic balance of forces between our country and the United States. The missile-defence system should not be used against each other. For Russia it is a matter of principle to remove any threat to its strategic capabilities, which guarantee our sovereignty and independence.

The United States should ensure that its anti-missile capabilities are not aimed against Russian national interests. We are not yet aware what the architecture and parameters of the future European BMD are. But we do know what they should not be. Proposed as a project capable of alleviating threats for Europe in the future, this anti-missile shield should not create new threats far more serious than the notorious "Iranian missile threat."

Moreover, a joint European missile-defence system will inevitably lead to abandoning military planning against each other, which will dramatically enhance mutual trust between Russia and the West. Conversely, a missile-defence system without Russia would return us to bloc politics, mutual suspicion and a new European arms race.

We suggest creating a common perimeter of missile defence with all ballistic-missile defence capabilities pointed outside the Euro-Atlantic region. It should be geared primarily for areas that could pose threats, and these in reality can only emanate from the south.

Russia counts on European states to show an active interest in this project. It is about the protection of Europe, and the stance of an idle observer that European diplomacy has assumed up to now is not quite clear to me.

We need a broad, expert discussion on a European ballistic-missile defence system, which could include the establishment of a group of "European wise men." The European BMD project should be based on equal cooperation of all countries of the Continent.

Convinced of the historic necessity to preserve peace in Europe, Russia is trying to understand what exactly we were offered in Lisbon: lasting friendship or a redesign of ideas from the former US administration implying the creation of a third positioning area for a global US ballistic-missile defence, which Moscow has vigourously opposed. The security of the entire Euro-Atlantic region depends on the answer to this question.

Dmitry Rogozin is Russia's ambassador to NATO and the special envoy of the president of Russia for interaction with NATO in anti-missile defence

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DAILY MIRROR

EDITORIAL

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL HOSTS CHANNEL 4 AT THE U.N.

BY GUY PHILCOTT.

Amnesty and  rampant rape

Amnesty International had in the past been scrupulous about the manner in which it conducted itself. Nationals were not employed to report on home countries. Evidence was precise and to the point. On Friday the 3rd, Amnesty hosted a session on Sri Lanka in Geneva. In a two hour session, 53 minutes was devoted to a documentary ostensibly on the last phases of the war by Channel 4 narrated by John Snow previously of BBC which included pure propaganda including a statement that rape was widely committed across Sri Lanka.

The  documentary is due to be aired soon on UK TV. The original Channel 4 clip was of 1.5 minutes duration. Subsequently reported as footage from a mobile phone, expanded now to include still photos, images sent from LTTE CDMAs from the zone, edited video imagery, unlike the hallmarks of standards previously associated with Amnesty International.

Seeing, feeling and hearing

The Attorney General asked the Head of Human Rights Watch in Geneva if she had seen, felt or heard the allegations since she was pushing for independent action. If so; to table the evidence, before an appropriate national forum, without presenting through TV channels and documentaries. If not it was tantamount to hearsay.

Why is Amnesty International associated with hearsay?

Surrenderees
The discussion that followed, focused on the advisory report of the group appointed by the Secretary General which had used footage from Channel 4 as the evidence on the alleged execution of LTTE cadre after taking them into custody and had proceeded to state, 'the Panel believes that the LTTE leadership intended to surrender'. The very leadership; declined previously safe passage out of the country with the Co Chairs.  If as D.B.S Jeyaraj had noted, the LTTE  leadership fanned out in three groups, which of the three was intent on surrendering, who was on an expedition  or diversion and on whose behalf were if any interlocutors speaking?

Advisory panel and LLRC
A crucial aspect gone unnoticed which though signifies some malice on the part of the UN is the fact that the President and the SG had agreed that the advisory panel could convey matters to the LLRC and to facilitate it, the LLRC served notice on its secretariat, a conversation  witnessed by the Attorney General. This medium of communication though was never used and an adversarial position was taken up by the advisers subsequently.

The malice is further compounded by the fact that nowhere in the advisory note is there mention of loss of life or casualties of the armed forces during the closing phases or prior, nor is the LTTE termed a terrorist organization though proscribed in over 30 countries for being an organization allied with terror.

National

mechanisms
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch were invited to present their evidence before the LLRC.A recourse to justice even  lawyer MPs in Sri Lanka can use to put to rest hearsay and speculation and allow the courts to weigh arguments and evidence against the thresholds of proof required. The longer national activists fight shy of using internal mechanisms,  the greater the number of questions of motives and allegations of being foreign funded agents that arise.

External pressure for division
It was said colonial powers divided country. The efforts of the LTTE were an effort at division. The fund raising and the mechanism through which collections were made, invested, arms procured sustained a community who also prospered riding the perception globally, of discrimination and persecution within the country. But with there now being no war to fuel, fund and fund raise for, the justifications of many to continue have vanished, so the transference of energy (and funds) to another sort of underhand war.

Ironically, two years after the war ended, a rump of the diaspora, assisted ably by a segment of the UN, supported by countries from the western hemisphere and leading human rights NGOs are giving life to the LTTE and fostering division in the name of accountability and human rights. In this process UN conventions, procedures and mandates have been jettisoned in the interests of politics.

It would have been a kind gesture if the UN or a superpower were to convene the 30 odd countries that have proscribed the LTTE and made available the funds which have been frozen for the benefit of the people who suffered and extinguished the LTTE networks. Those assisting to confront critiques and their prejudices are faced with choices of appeasing foreign agencies and their staff  or fostering of national unity.

Those who do not align themselves with some external agencies are blacklisted. What is palpably wrong within the UN and wider community of bloodhounds needs to be critiqued based on facts, whilst dealing internally with issues which stand in the way of healing and national unity.

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DAILY MIRROR

EDITORIAL

THE FLIP SIDE OF BRITS

BY PHILLIP KNIGHTLEY

All the excitement generated by the telephone tapping scandal in Britain—with its lists of celebrities, Royals, politicians and football star victims—has obscured what the scandal is really all about.

It is the revelation that a substantial part of Britain is a corrupt society.

There is evidence of police corruption, bank corruption, Customs corruption, VAT corruption and newspaper collusion in corruption, all on a scale rivalling anything in the world. Attention has been focused on this state of affairs by a remarkable demand in Parliament for a police investigation into illegal information gathering at the newspaper the News of the World, owned by media magnate Rupert Murdoch.

Former Defence Minister Tom Watson told the House of Commons that an attempt was underway to thwart police from investigating. "I believe powerful forces are involved in a cover-up," the Labour MP said.

Parliament was told that a notorious private investigator, Jonathan Rees, had targetted celebrities using illicit surveillance techniques, computer hacking, misrepresentation and burglary. It was said that the private detective employed a whole network of corrupt police officers, Customs officers, VAT inspectors, and bank employees. It is alleged that the police themselves became targets and that when assistant commissioner John Yates was running an enquiry into police corruption in the late 1990s, Rees had him in his sights for surveillance operations.

A further twist is that Rees' secret work could not be reported before because he was on trial for the murder of his former business partner in 1987. The trial collapsed earlier this year following mistakes by Scotland Yard.

The background to these revelations of corruption has been well-known to the world of British journalism. During my time in Fleet Street every reporter knew that a system existed whereby for a modest amount of money paid to certain detectives information that was normally private could be made available. It was fairly low-level stuff like someone's criminal record or details of their motor vehicle registration or "ex-directory" telephone. But everyone was doing it and it was considered neither corrupt nor illegal, just a way of getting a better, fuller story.

This is why excuses that the tapping of telephones belonging to celebrities, politicians and members of the Royal family was the work of one rogue reporter rang so false.

There is even the suggestion now that private detectives like Rees targeted MPs as a means of intimidating them because they were threatening tighter regulation of the Press.

So who would be Tom Watson's "powerful forces" involved in a cover-up?

Watson told Parliament, "The Metropolitan police are in possession on paperwork which details the dealings of criminal private investigator Jonathan Rees. It strongly suggests that on behalf of News International he was illegally targeting members of the Royal family, senior politicians and high-level terrorist informants.

"Yet the head of Operation Weeding [the police investigation into the hacking of telephone calls] has recently written to me to explain that this evidence may be outside her terms of reference."

The Prime Minister, Cameron, said he was unaware of any terms of reference governing the police's investigation, adding, "They are able to look at any evidence and all the evidence  they (can find)"

We shall soon see. But in the meantime the extent of corruption in British public life revealed so far makes it difficult for Britain to adopt a superior moral attitude to other countries ever again.

Phillip Knightley is a veteran London-based  journalist and commentator

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DAILY MIRROR

EDITORIAL

STAYING PUT IN BAGHDAD

America's Iraq policy is, perhaps, backpeddling. Washington's hope that Baghdad will make a request to stay put its troops inside Iraq for reasons of exigency is not merely a wish. Policy-makers at the Pentagon and the State Department have enough reasons to float such a perspective, and the beans were spilled the other day by outgoing CIA chief Leon Panetta who said that he was confident such a demand is forthcoming.

Testifying his credentials before the US Senate Committee as the next defence secretary, he said the United States shouldn't say 'no' to such a request, in order to protect whatever progress the coalition forces have made in the war-weary country in fighting and destroying the terror nexus. However considerate and apt Leon's opinion may be, in retaining a section of US troops in Iraq beyond the December 2011 deadline, it comes as a major challenge for the White House on the eve of an electioneering year.

President Barack Obama now has some difficult choices to make, especially as they concern revisiting his manifesto of 'change'. His electoral promises of pulling out of Iraq and Afghanistan, as he called them undesired wars, are in a fix, to say the least.

The 47,000 odd US soldiers in Iraq, though none in a combat role, still personify America's military involvement and its strategic presence in the Middle East. How Washington will be reacting to any such proposal from Baghdad to continue with the current US contingent to further the objectives of training and advisory role will not be difficult to guess.

The Obama administration, which is struggling to beat the recessionary trends and looking ahead for new flashpoints to extend its military reach in world affairs, is all set to nod in agreement. This expected submission from Iraq to keep manning its defences in a supervisory manner is likely to find another compatriot in Kabul, where the war against terrorism is far from over. Obama has already hinted at bolstering military presence in Afghanistan, and even extending its reach into Pakistan by upgrading intelligence sharing and joint military operations. Thus what seems to be in the making is a recast of Washington's defence policy for both the war-ridden countries that were initially on an agenda of limit, retreat and walk-free.

If Leon's synopsis matters, it remains to be seen what inducements will come into play from either side and what impact they will have on the geopolitical equation in the region. The US, which has supported the Arab Spring and has been channelising its synergies for democracy and empowerment, will find itself in a tight corner in defending perpetual military presence in Iraq. What Obama has to say will be of far-reaching consequences.

Khaleej Times

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GULF DAILY NEWS

COMMENT

CONFRONTING CHALLENGES  

BY DR JAMES J ZOGBY PRESIDENT

 

This week a bit of controversy erupted in Washington when it was announced that the performance of Malek Jandali, a Syrian musician, had been dropped from the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee's (ADC) annual convention. It appears that Jandali had insisted on including a song about freedom, in his repertoire-and that some leaders at ADC had been equally insistent that the song be dropped. With no meeting of the minds, Jandali was dropped from the programme.

Bloggers, especially those looking for a way to draw blood from an Arab American organisation, had a field day with the story. The irony of a civil rights organisation refusing to allow a song about "freedom" was an open invitation to critics, as were suggestions that a few ADC leaders acted as they did out of support for the regime in Damascus. For more than 24 hours, the Arab American group said nothing, insuring that the story would grow legs. When they finally issued a statement, it was so infuriatingly oblique and/or evasive, that the situation went from bad to worse. As a result, several speakers scheduled to appear at the ADC convention (both those from the Obama administration and leading civil rights activists from across the US) were forced to agonise over whether or not to participate in the event. In the end, most speakers did attend out of respect for the Arab American community, but added comments making clear their disagreement with the decision on Jandali.

My organisation, the Arab American Institute (AAI), not wanting to engage in an intramural fight, did not initially make a statement. We decided to do so only after it became clear that the ADC's leaders were being unresponsive, failing to recognise the damage they had done. Our statement, in part, outlined our concerns, saying: "First and foremost is our concern for the dedicated staff at ADC, as well as for the organisation's membership across the country (in fact, we overlap in membership and we often partner with ADC staff on initiatives here in Washington). The silencing of Mr Jandali has unfairly harmed and cast a pall on the hard work done by ADC's staff to make this convention a success. It also hurt ADC's members who look to this organisation for leadership. Finally, this behaviour by some of ADC's leaders will be used to discredit the group in the public's eye, weakening its ability to carry out its indispensable mission.

"Predictably, this episode has opened the floodgates for critics of our community and our work, from within and without. We, at AAI, think it is important to make our position clear. We believe that the spirit of the Arab Spring across the region is something to honour and celebrate. We did not take this position because we are pro- or anti- any government. We are Americans and our government is here in Washington. Rather, what has moved us was the energy and the hopes of young people across the Arab World who have at great risk peacefully demonstrated calling for freedom and opportunity. The use of state violence to stamp out this movement has been horrifying to witness and demanded a response from us. That is why we believe Mr Jandali should have been free to perform Waani Ana."

Now if there is any good news to emerge out of this messy affair, it is to be found in the reaction of ADC's staff and young activists from across the country. They have begun an intense national discussion and a mini-campaign of their own demanding an explanation and accountability.

There is, however, one final issue that, I believe, must be driven home in any discussion within the Arab American community, and that is my conviction that the "Arab Spring" is "theirs", not "ours".

We have always had "exile" groups here in the US whose attachments and identities have remained tied to their homelands. But as Arab Americans have matured and progressed, we have shed sectarian and factional divisions and come to operate as a unified community. We have defined a shared agenda to strengthen, politically empower, and defend our community, and to advance the goal of making, our country, America, better, stronger, and smarter in the way it relates to the Arab World. That is the reason we, at AAI, have argued that "the change we need begins at home". Our job is not to become a support group for or against this or that revolt. Rather, our job, as Arab Americans, is to press for an American foreign policy that promotes justice, human rights, and peace and prosperity. jzogby@aaiusa.org

 

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