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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

EDITORIAL 22.06.11

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media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya



month june 22, edition 000865, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul


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


































































Air India's struck a new nadir which bolsters the argument for privatisation. There's evidence that the Mangalore crash last year, which killed 158 people, may have been brought on by pilot fatigue due to overwork. Safety clearly takes precedence over the idea that national pride demands a flag carrier. Even if it didn't, government ought to realise that our flag carrier lurching from one crisis to another is shaming.

The allegation of pilot mismanagement is made by the son of Captain Zlatko Glusica who commanded the ill-fated flight, on the basis of flight rosters sent to his father. The allegation is made credible by a complaint a few months ago by AI pilots that they were forced to fly even if unwell. What is certain is that AI doesn't follow DGCA norms in assigning pilots to flights. Pilot rosters are changed at the last minute and cockpit crew get little or no notice.

This unravelling story highlights the acute pilot shortage faced by the national carrier. Despite poor staffing at the senior levels, AI is dramatically overstaffed. It has 243 employees per plane whereas the industry average is 150. Over the last two financial years, AI's ratcheted up its loss-making capacity from an eye-popping Rs 5,600 crore to a globally unequalled Rs 7,200 crore, at a time when other airlines are turning around. Mounting losses since 2007 certify the airline's zombie status and the inability of current management to turn it around, despite massive government handouts. The latest tranche was Rs 1,200 crore in January. Despite the support pouring in, euphemistically described as "equity infusions", AI is unable to pay salaries to its staff. If staff have to worry about how they will support their families, that could endanger flight safety further. Not to put too fine a point to it, AI would be a failed airline if it hadn't been put on life support by the government.

Yet India's burgeoning flying class is being serviced, as private airlines have stepped into the breach and are currently in expansion mode. AI has slipped to fourth place on the domestic market, behind Jet Airways, Kingfisher and IndiGo. The last named has just placed a massive order for 180 planes signifying that those who can deliver can also grow. AI has proven time and again that it can't. Instead of bestowing undeserved largesse on it, the government should use precious taxpayer's money to build schools and hospitals for the poor, while entrusting AI to a private management to turn it around.







Another week, another tussle for the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). But this time around, it might have picked one fight too many. Given its financial clout, its dominance of the global cricketing fraternity is both inevitable and understandable. Money, however, will buttress it from the consequences of its actions only to a certain extent. By refusing to grant its players no-objection certificates to play in the Sri Lanka Premier League (SLPL) after initially agreeing to do so, it's shooting itself in the foot. Its argument that the SLPL is a private party-organised tournament doesn't hold water. There is little difference between Somerset Ventures, a Singapore-based company, holding the commercial rights to the tournament and IMG handling IPL marketing. And while the BCCI's objection to player contracts being held by Somerset rather than directly by the Sri Lankan board is not baseless, it would do well to engage the latter and try to resolve the issue.

As matters stand, the
BCCI has created the impression that its only interest is in creating and maintaining a T20 monopoly via the IPL. With the influence that the Indian board wields comes a measure of responsibility. But it has shown little interest in playing a constructive leadership role. At a time when the cricketing fraternity urgently needs to come together and shape the evolution of international cricket in a way that enables franchise-based leagues and traditional international fixtures to coexist, this could prove disastrous. And it may be just as crippling for the BCCI itself. If there is one thing that the IPL has shown, it is that it's perfectly viable for cricketers to survive - and prosper - as T20 freelancers, forgoing restrictive cricket board contracts. Does the BCCI truly wish to create a situation wherein it finds its fresh young talent going this route instead of strengthening the national team?









The British added an esoteric word to India's political vocabulary - 'dyarchy'. Conceived by a classically educated official, the name conjured up systems of governance in ancient Greece and Rome. And it justly earned its share of infamy in the lexicon of independent India.

The reason was that while formal control of some non-political departments (such as education and agriculture) were ceded to loyal Indians under dyarchy, real control remained in the hands of the British Viceroy and his cohorts. The essential problem with dyarchy is that it creates unaccountable poles of power, while the formal authority - which will be held responsible if government policy goes wrong - can't do much to change it. That's why dyarchy is a bad principle of governance, justly ridiculed by nationalists.

But why this foray into history? Unfortunately dyarchy was not just practised by the British, it left a deep impress on political styles in the subcontinent. Its use - and attendant ill effects - continues to the present day.

Take the BJP, which cannot give up its fealty to the unelected RSS. It cannot, therefore, swerve away from Hindutva, which hobbles it politically. India is too diverse and heterogeneous for Hindutva to have mass appeal, with the exception of stray moments such as the Ram Janmabhoomi movement in the early 1990s. That moment cannot be captured again. But the BJP is unable to make the transition to a modern, right wing party as it is stuck to traditionalist positions, thanks to the remote control wielded by the RSS sarsanghchalak and his cohorts.

Essentially the same problem is replicated on the Left. Within the CPM, the unelected Politburo lays down the line for elected governments to follow. That's why Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, who used to run a government, can only refuse to attend official meetings and sulk on the sidelines while the CPM sarsanghchalak (aka its general secretary) determines the course of the party. That's why the Left faces a survival crisis, unless it can abandon obsolete Marxist dogma and re-engineer itself as a modern
social democratic party or group of parties.

The Congress isn't far behind. Sonia Gandhi piloted the Congress to victory in the 2004 Lok Sabha elections, but refused to accept the prime ministership to near-universal acclaim. Thus was born what was thought to be, at the time, a clever political strategy.

Since the Congress lacked a clear ideology the Gandhi family itself could be its core, the cement that made the party cohere. This entailed shielding Sonia and Rahul from government decisions, so that if those decisions bombed, they wouldn't have to take the heat. The strategy required the Gandhis to hold influential positions in the party, but not in government. It also required them to speak little, and make only the most populist pronouncements when they did. In case government policies should misfire, or simply to cover all political bases, ministers and party bigwigs should be the first ones to fire salvos at the government before the opposition got a word in.

This strategy, however, has several downsides. And it's only now that those downsides are becoming clear. It creates a sense of drift, as no one appears to be in charge. If the buck passes endlessly and government itself mines the opposition space then the question arises, who and where is the government?

The second, related downside is that it undermines the position of the prime minister. That's why there's a near-universal perception that the PM is weak. Take the case of Digvijay Singh last Sunday, saying that he would like to see Rahul Gandhi as the PM. Astonishingly the statement - by the general secretary of the Congress party - makes no reference to the fact that the current prime minister of the country is also from the Congress. Apart from heightening the already overwhelming impression of drift, imagine what it does to Manmohan Singh's position. It's not surprising that party spokesperson Jayanthi Natarajan had to step in and squelch the rumour that Singh was about to be unseated.

Instead of shooting from the hip, though, it would help if the Congress were to announce an orderly transition of power. It could declare, for instance, that while it fully supports Manmohan Singh through the rest of UPA-II's tenure, Rahul Gandhi would be its candidate for PM in the next Lok Sabha elections, when Singh would need to retire for health reasons.

Rahul would have youth on his side and therefore a chance to rally the youth of the country, its fastest growing demographic. Besides, Rahul's (or Sonia's) standing for PM would have the enormous benefit of ending dyarchy in the party. Its movers and shakers would then be directly accountable to the electorate, and in a position to marshal all the resources of the party if elected to power - an essential condition for good governance.

If the Congress were to declare a prime ministerial candidate, the BJP would be under pressure to end its internal leadership squabbles and follow suit. And then it would be up to the people of India to choose. WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) is not just good for computer software, it works even better in politics.








Iodine deficiency disorders have long been a major health problem in the developing world. India has accepted iodine deficiency as a national public health problem. Micronutrient India (MI), a not-for-profit organization, is working with the government to ensure India achieves 100% Universal Salt Iodisation by 2012. Melanie Galvin , regional director, Asia, MI, spoke to Meenakshi Kumar :

What does Micronutrient India do?

Micronutrient India works in the production area of iodised salt. It works with salt producers all over India, who contribute about 40% of salt produced in the country. There are so many small and medium salt producers that it becomes difficult to monitor all of them. It's not possible for the Salt Commission of India to monitor all these producers. That's where we step in and help small producers to upgrade their skills.

The Iodised Salt Coverage Study 2010 conducted in eight states shows that iodised salt consumption has risen by 20% in some states. What are the challenges to achieving 100% consumption of iodised salt in India?
It is difficult to compare India's performance in Universal Salt Iodisation as situations are unique. India is the third largest raw salt-producing country but production is not well distributed geographically. The base is wide - more than 900 small-level salt processors spread over a 3,500 km stretch across India's coast. Small-level salt processors use primitive technology. Hence, they are unable to check the level of salt iodisation. Another problem is the consumption of Poda salt among the poor. Poda salt cannot be iodised consistently and adequately because of the crystal's size. The government is still to ban this variety. Also, salt is not available through the PDS system except in few states.

The salt department is entrusted with monitoring the quality and quantity of salt during production. However, its role is limited to collecting and testing salt samples from the railhead at the time of transportation. With inadequate staff, large quantities of salt at the railhead and short time duration for loading, salt testing has not been adequate. Also, the present monitoring system is manual. This results in supply of non-iodised/partially iodised salt to vulnerable sections of the population. These are few of the challenges.

How does India compare with its other South Asian neighbours?

India accepted iodine deficiency as a national health problem and resolved to ensure the provision of iodised salt to its population in 1984. Although progress in production of iodised salt has been impressive, consumption of iodised salt is much higher in urban areas (72%) as compared to rural areas (41%). In comparison to other countries in South Asia, India is better off in household coverage (51%) as compared to Afghanistan (28%) and Pakistan (17%), but other countries such as Indonesia, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and China are much higher (62%, 63%, 84%, 94% and 95% respectively). The countries that have performed well are mainly backed by government commitment, stringent law enforcement and existence of few large producers of salt.

Which are the other micronutrients that India needs to take seriously?

Zinc, vitamin A, iron. A lot of work is already being done to make people aware of them. Particularly with iron supplementation. But a lot still needs to be done. The fact is that in India policies are in place but implementation varies from state to state. There is a beautiful system in place but it requires concerted efforts to reach out to people and be successful.






When is a passport not a pass-port but a fail-port? When it's an Indian passport. Bunny and i discovered this when we recently tried to make a trip to Finland, which is aggressively marketing itself in India as a tourist destination. About to board the Finnair flight from Heathrow, London, to Helsinki, Bunny was stopped by an airline supervisor who said that Bunny's paperwork was not in order; she couldn't get on the plane. The passport was valid; the Schengen visa was valid. The problem? The visa, though valid, was not on the new passport but on the old passport, stapled onto the new one. Finnish immigration insisted that the visa must be on the passport in current use.

We protested that the US and the UK do not insist on this. Nor do other Schengen countries. Often passports have to be supplemented by new booklets as pages run out in the old one. The supervisor was adamant. Finland did not accept visas unless they were on the same passport booklet. In which case, as Finland was the exception to the Schengen rule, was it not the responsibility of Finnair, the national carrier, to inform passengers at the time of ticket sale?

But there were no arguments to be made. Bunny couldn't enter Finland, despite the fact that we had a return flight and prepaid hotel bookings in that country, all non-refundable. What was worse than the financial loss was the humiliation. Not a personal humiliation, but the humiliation of being an Indian citizen, holding an Indian passport. Because the real problem was Bunny's Indian passport, which immediately made her suspect as a potential illegal immigrant.

Over 60 years after Independence, successive governments have failed to make India a country prosperous enough to retain its people. The result has been a tsunami of emigration, both legal and illegal. Illegal emigrants - 'kabutars', pigeons as they are called in India - have made the Indian passport a red flag in the eyes of immigration officials the world over. The 'kabutars' are not to blame; the foreign authorities who are only doing their duty by detaining and deporting them are not to blame. The blame rests squarely on the Indian state itself for not, after all these years of freedom from colonial rule, being able to provide enough jobs and sources of livelihood for all its citizens, forcing many to seek clandestine sanctuary in alien climes where they are often met with discrimination, contempt and verbal and physical abuse.

It is this failure on the part of the Indian state that has made the Indian passport - issued in the name of the President of India - a dubious document whose holder is automatically identified as a likely law breaker. The insult is not to the individual concerned; the insult is to the Indian state, and to all its citizens who by virtue of their citizenship are deemed to be would-be illegal immigrants.

Despite boasting the second-fastest growing economy in the world, the Indian state cannot overnight dispel this impression. But there's something which it can, and should, do. As is done by other countries, it can issue travel advisories to its citizens against going to countries which discriminate against Indians including tourists and other bona fide visitors. Furthermore, the state could impose reciprocal disincentives to goods and services from such countries being marketed in India. Paradoxically, while Indians, all Indians, are viewed with suspicion by their immigration authorities, almost all foreign countries view India as an increasingly attractive market for their products, including tourism. If there are countries which do not welcome genuine Indian visitors, should we welcome their goods into India?

That's the question we need to ask ourselves. Say 'no go' to countries which say 'no' to Indians. Finland's best-known product is Nokia. Should we in India start spelling it as 'NO-kiya'?









The stock market has taken fright over talk that India is renegotiating a tax treaty with Mauritius to bring profits of portfolio investors into the fold. The current jitters are over a misreading of statements emanating from various levels of the Indian government that the treaty is being reworked to plug the tax loophole. On the contrary, India and Mauritius are talking only about sharing information, not about changing the way they go about taxing their citizens.

This is part of a global crackdown on black money after the 2008 financial meltdown that has led India to review its treaties with 79 countries, including tax havens. The talks with Mauritius have been on since 2006 but were stalled in 2008 as elections at home and on the island nation came in the way. The negotiators are meeting now at a time when black money is high on the Indian public agenda and talk of plugging tax giveaways acquires traction without much basis in fact.

India had indeed proposed in 2007 a source-based capital gains tax on alienation of shares, but Mauritius refused to even entertain the notion.  Around 13% of its national income comes through "offshore financial services", essentially letter-box companies that set up shop on the island to route financial investments into India and repatriate the profits where they face a zero capital gains tax. India reckons it loses $600 million in taxes on this account, small change for a country of its size. New Delhi is more interested in cracking down on "round-tripping", whereby black money flows out of the country and returns laundered from Mauritius as portfolio investment. This is a legitimate concern, and enhanced information-sharing can help to address it.  The attempt is not to scare away all portfolio investors, merely those that are using funny money.

The costs are high for Mauritius if it chooses to tell. Western hedge funds that use the island as a launch-pad into the Indian equity market do so to escape scrutiny in their respective countries that would rob them of their edge in generating superior returns for their investors by foraying into riskier assets and markets, including emerging ones. A move by the Indian market watchdog to get hedge funds registered with it has met an understandably tepid response.

This is a situation we can live with because we need foreign capital to meet our growing investments in infrastructure and industrial capacity. Swimming in a tide of black money, on the other hand, is becoming politically untenable. The government would have done better to have pitched the revival of talks with Mauritius as part of its efforts to flush out dark pools of unaccounted wealth. Instead what emerged from statements by tax officials and bureaucrats has been twisted out of context.

Finally finance minister Pranab Mukherjee has had to step in and calm a jangle of frayed nerves.





Far away from the dust and bustle of our tropical existence are pristine paradises like Portland, Oregon. Life there is lived differently: the climate is salubrious, the environs immaculate. Cleanliness is a serious matter, so if you are a young man inebriated enough to mistake the city's drinking wa ter reservoir as a sewage treatment plant to pee into it, rest assured that your piss-adventure would be duly recorded on a security camera.

If you are a Portland resident, you can skip the trepidation while turning the tap on in the morning, as your civic authorities have already drained out the 8 million gallons of urine-tainted lake water, restoring you to the state before the big leak, sorry, lapse.

Not that this particular episode involving the making of water, and its unmaking, came cheap. The worth of the water flushed out, including the cleaning charges, was estimated to be a neat $28,000. Of course, one can always count on the sceptics and green geeks to cry foul, even when the authorities made it known that they were merely trying to address the 'yuck' factor that was bound to crop up. The damp squibs, however, would have none of it and kept insisting that any water body would contain excrement and carcasses of marine and amphibian creatures, and that such wastage of freshwater was a criminal act.

Rather than remonstrating with the Portland authorities, a better idea would be to bring them to India. They would discover that our tanks, rivers and lakes exist solely as a vehicle into which others can disgorge the unclean. Not only do all kinds of human offal, household waste and industrial effluents make their way to bodies that also supply drinking water, a significant number among us take dips to wash away our sins in the flow. Our guess is that since the Portlanders wouldn't be able to drain our land dry, they would end up preferring to immerse in the bilge-water.







The consensus among Australian strategic elites is that India will play an important and benign balancing role in Asia, and that New Delhi's deepening security relationships with America, Japan and Australia are critical pillars for future stability in the region. Yet, in discussions with some of I ndia's most respected strategic minds in Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai last week, it became obvious that many suspect Australia is invariably drifting towards China's sphere of influence. Such a perception is understandable but incorrect.

As a vast island nation, Australia has  allied with the most powerful naval country in the region in the past. First it was Britain and, after World War 2, America. This strategy was aided by the fact that first Britain, and then America was also our most important trading partner. Australia now faces a unique dilemma: our most important security ally in America is no longer our most important trading partner, which is China. In an age where economic power is shifting towards Asia, many Indian strategists expect that Canberra's drift toward China's sphere of influence will be eventually irresistible.

Such a perception is also strengthened by Australia's penultimate prime minister and current foreign minister Kevin Rudd touting his Mandarin-speaking skills and admiring Chinese culture to the world when first elected leader in 2007. More significant was then PM Rudd instructing his foreign minister Stephen Smith to unilaterally withdraw from the Quadrilateral Initiative involving Australia, the US, Japan and India. The fact that this was announced during a joint press conference with Chinese foreign minister Yang Jiechi only strengthened the perception that Australia's shift toward Asia's 'Middle Kingdom' was beginning.

Rudd's theatrics were ill-advised because they gave the wrong impression to the region about Australian strategic posture. There is general agreement that Rudd 'mismanaged' Australia's relationship with China — raising expectations in Beijing and confusing allies and potential security partners like India. But it's noteworthy that Rudd played an integral role in the writing of Australia's 2009 Defence White Paper (DWP), the first in the region to explicitly justify defence spending increases by suggesting that China's rise could be disruptive.

Australian strategic policies since the 1990s have remained consistent. While Canberra enthusiastically pursues trade with China, it continues to hedge against its rise by pursuing strategic and military-to-military relationships with America. But by pursuing closer and meaningful strategic and military relationships with American security partners like Japan, South Korea, and increasingly India, the Australian approach is part of a common one in the region that seeks to subtly but firmly dissuade future Chinese adventurism through collective strength.

There are many more points why the perception of Australian drift toward China doesn't make good policy or sense. First, the importance of China as a trading partner doesn't necessarily mean that there is a similar increase in Chinese leverage over Australia. True, Australia avoided a recession in 2009 and 2010 because of China's booming demand for commodities. An enormous 25% of our exports go to China. Yet, interdependence is mutual. The combination of reliability, world-beating efficiency in mining processes, and geographical proximity mean Australian commodities like iron ore are cheaper for China. Tellingly, even when Sino-Australian relations reached their nadir in 2009 and 2010 over issues like the DWP, China continued to buy from Australian firms at record levels. Moreover, the fact that China is the central hub for trade in Asia can be overplayed. Over half of Chinese trade is processing, meaning that parts come in from other places in Asia, get assembled in China and are shipped out again to non-Asian OECD countries. China's domestic consumer market is about the size of a country like France — large but not overwhelming.

But it is access to domestic markets that is the true source of leverage. Until China becomes the dominant centre of regional and global consumption, Beijing's capacity to exercise leverage by denying foreign firms and countries access to domestic Chinese consumer market is limited. Besides, Beijing can ill-afford to do too much damage to an export sector, they generate 150-200 million jobs, in an attempt to twist the arms of strategic competitors. The lack of Chinese leverage is confirmed by the fact that even as China became the biggest trading partner for countries like Australia, Japan and South Korea, which are simultaneously hedging against Beijing by moving closer in strategic and military terms to Washington.

Finally, Australia takes political values seriously. Like Indians, they understand that poor domestic habits of compromise and negotiation in authoritarian China may not auger well for the region if China continues to rise. Australians being preoccupied with China is one thing. But drifting towards China's sphere of influence — at the expense of old and new friends such as America and India — is altogether different, overstated and contrary to contemporary reality.

John Lee is a research fellow at the Centre for Independent Studies, Sydney

The views expressed by the author are personal






Twenty years ago the Louvre was opaque. Acres of art and artifacts whose dry labeling never knitted individual exhibits into a story. Compulsory, not compelling. No longer a static repository, today's Louvre actively works to involve visitors. Simplification started with a visitor leaflet — a plan sh owing the wings radiating from the central concourse and colour-coded rooms to indicate their contents. Thumbnail photographs created a 'treasure trail' of highlights.

Now thematic trails offer reasons to come again and again. The lack of stuffiness shows in a trail called 'The Da Vinci Code: a visit to the Louvre mixing fiction and fact'. Imagine an Indian museum creating a 'Jodha-Akbar trail'! The focus is infotainment. Room placards talk theme, explain highlights and tell stories. Artifacts, meticulously dated and sourced, are grouped to make a point. Audio guides offer interesting factoids. Bilingual helpers are mines of friendly information. Websites offer vibrant worlds of exhibits, trails, individual and group activities — the cultural calendar of the museum.

Our museums contain treasures. The National Museum in Delhi, Salarjung in Hyderabad, Jai Vilas in Gwalior and the Indian Museum in Kolkata are capable of showcasing India's 'wonders'. Our museums should be major tourist draws. They should make Indians proud to be Indian.

But very few are vibrant crowd-pullers. Why are our museums not on the foreign tourist's must-see list or not celebrated worldwide? Why do parents not see museum visits as an imperative for their children? The answer hits you in most of our museums. Some are clean with well-displayed objects, good lighting; some, like the Mumbai museum even have audio guides. But most lack even these basics, offering dim corridors courtesy fused bulbs, dusty showcases, suboptimal signage and confusing labeling. Our museums must gear up to compete for mindspace with other attractions like movies or bhelpuri on Chowpatty. They must work towards attracting the maximum number of people and get them to visit again and again.

A museum is a brand, this being the perception people have of a product. Some museums feel their brand is created because they have a standardised colour, font and logo. These are only brand accessories — useful but insufficient. In a successful brand, people's perceptions will mirror the desired image. Brand accessories alone can deliver no more than what paintbrush and canvas can make people perceive an artist in a man who can't paint.

A brand begins with crafting a position. For any museum, generically, this is offering infotainment: the only memorable outing where heritage comes alive. To attract visitors to it, each museum needs a differentiated position with a distinct identity, personality and desired image. Once crafted, for brand success, every visitor-touchpoint must faultlessly deliver that position at all times. The brand experience must live up to the promise of the position. Thus, the layout, display methods, signage, room and exhibit labels, visitor facilities, staff-visitor interactions, museum shop, cafe and events must always be 'on brand'.

Museum branding is a live topic today. The Tate, the Museum of Modern Art, the Victorial and Albert Museum, the Louvre and the Guggenheim were selected as the top brands in the Museum Conference in Venice in 2008. Like them, Indian museums can be effective ambassadors of our culture to the world if they become successful brands.

Lalita Phadkar is director of BASIS, a brand consultancy whose division helped revamp the Museum Shop at the National Museum, Delhi

The views expressed by the author are personal



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

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

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

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






Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar has called an all-party meeting to discuss the Women's Reservation Bill, a prelude to its inevitably dramatic reception in the monsoon session. If it goes through, one-third of all seats, in the SC/ ST and general categories, will be reserved for women in Parliament and state legislatures. Though the idea of reserving seats for women had come up during the nationalist struggle, the Constituent Assembly had rejected the idea as a patronising imperial imposition. However, as the years went by, it became obvious that patriarchal political parties were not going to take the initiative to open up routes for women to acquire and wield power. While women are split across community, caste and interest, they are also united by a common discrimination, and often face cumulative layers of disadvantage. And now, there is wide consensus that if there is to be a significant women's lobby for legislation, a quota is going to have to be carved out for them.

While the aim of the bill is an unreserved good, it will also have explosive and unsettling effects on our electoral democracy, which is why its passage has been such a wrenching process for 15 years. Many OBC leaders feared an elite takeover, which is rather unlikely. Others have pointed to design imperfections in the current bill. It raises troubling institutional questions — for instance, it has been argued that a system of rotating constituencies leaches out democratic accountability and leaves too much to a political party's central decision-makers. It could weaken one of the few things that work — the essential link between the electorate and the incumbent legislator. There has, till now, been little attempt to patiently work through these tangles, or look at alternative suggestions like multi-member constituencies or increasing representation within parties instead, so that every political party gives, say, a certain percentage of tickets to women. When the question was debated in Rajya Sabha, acquiescing parties issued whips, while opponents like the RJD, SP and JD(U) simply disrupted proceedings, giving up on parliamentary persuasion.

Now, in this last decisive stage of the Women's Reservation Bill, those contradictions must be seriously analysed by all parties. While many of the early reflexive objections can be swatted away (like the concern about the biwi/ beti brigade, which ignores the way privilege and nepotism have anyway been entrenched in Indian politics for the benefit of men), the question of electoral mechanics calls for thorough consideration by Lok Sabha.






The Right to Education Act, or RTE, has been justly criticised as forcing all of India's educational establishments into a bureaucratic straitjacket. Its aim is laudable and urgent: to ensure that every Indian child has access to an education that meets certain minimum standards. But figuring out those standards is hard, and this is where Delhi's tendency to obsessively centralise, divorced from the actual realities of education in the states, has tripped the RTE up repeatedly in its implementation.

One such pressing problem is the inability of some states — Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Assam and Manipur — to meet the teacher qualification norms written into the RTE: every school teacher must have either a bachelor's degree in education, or a diploma. Naturally, these states must be given exemptions as soon as possible. West Bengal, Bihar and Orissa have already been granted exemptions, as they have never had such rules on the books, and compliance will take some time. In the government sector alone, India is short of seven lakh teachers; five lakh more teachers need to be appointed; and the number of untrained teachers is another seven lakh. Can we conceivably manage to train 20 lakh new teachers in the time we have available?

We must return, in this case, to whether such a rule made sense at all. While it could be argued that some teacher-training process is essential, is it necessary for the Union government to mandate exactly what the nature and duration of that training should be? That it requires an entire bachelor's degree, for example, rather than a straightforward, hands-on training process? It can be argued with some justice that having sat through a bachelor's degree in some other field does not mean that someone is capable of being a decent teacher. Yet, we still need not mandate an all-India, extra-high bar for prospective teachers to jump over. In the end, parents must be able to transparently judge the quality of teachers in prospective schools for their children. For what matters is the quality of teaching they receive, not the number of years their teacher spent in training. The RTE consistently focuses on inputs instead of accountability, and such problems are a consequence of that error.







Those born into certain freedoms will have no idea of what it is like to live without them. This is plain human psychology. So those born after India had done away with its official licence-permit raj in 1991-92 can barely imagine what it is like to stand in long queues to procure a cooking gas cylinder or a telephone connection. With more economic freedom and competition, India transformed itself from an economy of perennial shortages to one of choices, where producers started chasing consumers.

Some years ago, at an interaction with corporate chiefs in Mumbai, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh dwelt on the question of new material comforts that would be taken for granted by subsequent generations. World-class roads and other urban infrastructure would be seen as par for the course by the next generation, he said. Last year, a taxi driver in Bihar told me how new roads to Bodh Gaya had cut travel time by half and made his Japanese clients very happy!

Of course, there is a flip side to being on the treadmill of rapid economic growth and globalisation.

Existing structures of the political economy get threatened and a heavy backlash is experienced from time to time, especially because there are winners and losers in the short run. This is the 20th year of economic reforms and there has been a lot of learning along the way.

Indeed, this is a good time to take stock of how economic liberalisation and India's deeper engagement with global trade and investment have shaped a new materialist consciousness in our society. This needs to be recognised, first and foremost. As any marketing guru will tell you, children are increasingly shaping the buying decisions of their parents, at least in urban India.

However, this new materialist consciousness has also created other myriad tensions in the political economy, which are still unresolved. India has 16 per cent of the world population and less than 3 per cent of natural resources like cultivable land, rainfall, forest cover, etc.

Therefore, while India has indeed gained recognition as the second fastest growing economy in the world, after China, this has also spawned a new debate as to what effect such continued growth will have on environment. Dr Singh, seen widely as the main proponent of economic reforms in 1991, himself seems to have developed some self-doubt in regard to the carbon emission path that India will create if it follows the consumption path of the West. There is an ongoing debate, far from resolved, as to how new policies and regulatory institutions can strike the right balance between rapid economic growth and yet address grave concerns over the use of limited natural resources. The worry is that such concerns are being raised in India even before it has graduated to a middle-income country on a GDP per capita basis. In contrast, China is talking about moderating economic growth somewhat to address environmental concerns after touching a GDP of nearly $6 trillion, about $5,000 annual per capita income.

India's per capita income was $310 in 1991-92 and this is likely to touch $1,650 by the end of 2011-12, a substantial progress by any standards. The growth in per capita GDP was quite gradual until 2004-05 when it reached about $650, more than doubling from the 1991 level. However, the rapid growth came during the six years after 2004, a period seen as a sweet spot for many emerging economies, helped by an extraordinary surge of global liquidity.

Though India is poised to enter the $2 trillion GDP club by 2012, it will still remain some distance from being categorised as a middle-income nation. So the development-versus-environment debate may have come a bit early in India, at least by Western standards.

The economic reforms of the 1990s brought world attention to India in ways not seen before. Freeing of industrial licensing and foreign trade indeed sent the Indian entrepreneurial spirit soaring in the first decade of reforms. The world also saw India as the single biggest market to explore, after China.

The Indian IT sector caught the imagination of the Western world. Bangalore got branded as India's Silicon Valley. Reforms also enabled Indian business houses such as Tatas, Birlas, Infosys, Wipro, Bharti Airtel, RIL, Mahindras, etc to build global footprints in a manner not anticipated by anyone. Indian business houses are successfully installing lower cost, more efficient business models in the global marketplace. All this could happen because the 1991 reforms gave these businesses a policy framework that helped the incubation and growth of these unique low-cost business models. These business models have in some ways exposed the high-cost, inefficient ones in the Western world.

The flip side of India's economic reforms story is that successive governments have postponed the politically difficult part of economic reforms and virtually ignored the agriculture sector where growth has stagnated in the past 15 years or so. There has been failure in two specific areas which have already developed into a political time-bomb.

The first, distress in agriculture, is a continuing story as policy has failed to provide a smooth transition to nearly 55 per cent of the population trapped in very low incomes in the agriculture sector. The bigger policy failure in agriculture has been a consistent bias in the terms of trade in favour of manufacturing, which remained the main focus after the launch of reforms in 1991. A simple example will illustrate how the terms of trade are so biased against agriculture. In recent years, because of consistent supply shortages in agriculture products, India has kept its import duty on most agri-products at zero. With imports landing at zero duty, Indian farmers have to compete with their Western counterparts who get massive agriculture subsidies of over $300 billion. This is a battle already lost. Besides, successive governments have ignored investing in agriculture infrastructure and have instead taken the easy option of delivering other forms of subsidies, like on diesel, and giving loan waivers, etc, to farmers which do not enhance productivity.

The other big policy failure has been in regard to converting agricultural land for industrial use. Twenty years after the launch of economic reforms, India is still saddled with the Land Acquisition Act of 1894. There is no rational policy and legislative framework to increase the supply of land for industrial use. Some of these failures have cost India a lot, both in economic and political terms.

The writer is managing editor, 'The Financial Express'








A journalist, Khilanath Dhakal, was allegedly beaten up by activists of a militant youth organisation affiliated to the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML), which heads the coalition government. The incident happened earlier this month. Nepal Prime Minister Jhalanath Khanal and other senior party leaders said they would do everything to bring the culprits to book, but nothing has happened. In another instance, Home Minister and Maoist leader

K.B. Mahra has recommended the lifting of the life-term awarded to a party legislator convicted of murder. These are just two examples of how the big parties exercise their power — to protect their own.

Nepal has a government which held a cabinet meeting at the base camp of Mount Everest to highlight the threat of global warming (though it cost the exchequer over five million Nepali rupees) and which has received more than $41 million from international donors to fight the adverse effects of climate change. Yet, in its own backyard, it is found wanting. A local development officer (LDO) in Lalitpur district in the Kathmandu valley has defied a parliamentary committee and allotted licences to private parties to operate stone quarries without assessing its environmental impact. Flanked by Maoists, the LDO held a press conference to send across a terse message that any journalist writing against the extraction of stones, "so essential to construct roads and other infrastructure necessary for the country's development", will not be spared.

Threats to journalists, clandestine trade of natural resources and condoning of a convicted murderer are dangerous symptoms of a weak state. Its biggest challenge now is to re-establish its authority, retrieve credibility and become responsive and functional. Its space should not be usurped by militant political groups or other outfits.

International agencies and donors — which relentlessly supported the big three parties with money, ideas and technology, thinking they are capable of bringing peace, democracy and economic prosperity — appear as disappointed as the average Nepali citizen today.

President Ram Baran Yadav did try to take a public stance on some crucial issues and had asked political parties to complete the peace and constitution-drafting process on time, but, of late, he seems to have retreated completely. He talks neither about his once favourite "save the Mahabharat range" campaign nor about the blatant corruption of political parties. Either he is tired of repeating himself or he has realised that the office of the president of the Republic of Nepal has proved to be ineffective and meaningless — enjoying neither power nor respect.

Theoretically, nothing could have made the Maoists happier than these developments. But a three-way split in the party has injected confusion into the political course the party will take. Given the background of the party, its cadres are still trying to assert their position and strength by taking recourse to extortion, illegal arbitration and closure of India-aided projects. They are allegedly behind the attack on the project site of the Bangalore-based GMR Group that has undertaken the construction of the upper Karnali hydro project.

The three parties, the CPN (UML), Nepali Congress and the Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoists (UCPN-M), kept harping on the abolition of the monarchy as their biggest political success in the past three years, but there has not been a strong central institution to fill that vacuum.

Nepal's civil society, media and the three major political parties worked together in 2006 to wrest power that king Gyanendra had appropriated. But the prolonged honeymoon, especially between the media and the three parties, is now soured.

The big three — all suffering from serious intra-party divisions — are making a last-ditch effort to preserve their hegemony by claiming once again that "together we can deliver the constitution within August 28". But no one believes that.

A review of the politics and policies that they have pursued in the past five years and owning responsibility for the current mess will help them a little. They are seen as bigger villains today than the king was when he took over power for 15 months.







Reform the Mumbai police? But how do you clean a cesspool of oceanic depth?

I do not claim to be an expert on the Mumbai police. But I've worked as a reporter in India's richest metropolis for 25 years, and remained in close touch for another two decades. Some of this time has been spent in exploring the underbelly of Mumbai.

As a cub reporter, I was offered my first bribe on the steps of a magistrate's court. I soon discovered that a senior reporter was running a lucrative business writing on crime. So before I learned about corrupt policemen or politicians, I was introduced to the venality of fellow journalists.

This article has obviously been occasioned by the murder of the crime reporter J. Dey. Mercifully, the killing of reporters in Mumbai has been exceedingly rare — I can recall only two such deaths before Dey's, one of which was passed off as a road accident. I did not know Dey, but those who did remember him as a taciturn man committed to his work. There are several theories on why he met such a gory end, one of which relates to rivalry between police officers.

If this theory turns out to be true, then it'll only confirm what's been said for some time — that now there's little to distinguish the Mumbai police from the city's legendary underworld.

Some of India's phenomenally rich policemen, serving or retired, live in Mumbai. The list includes IPS officers, an elite bunch that commanded countrywide respect and admiration up to the '80s. Many factors brought about the descent of the Mumbai police into corruption and criminality. To begin with, there were the policy blunders, both at the state and the national level. Prohibition and the ban on the import of gold, which helped create smuggling syndicates, immediately come to mind. But IPS officers generally remained outside this circle of infamy. What ultimately sucked everyone into the whirlpool was the crazy '90s property boom.

Stupid policies — a draconian law protecting tenants; the decision to keep big business out of construction; the land ceiling law; and the failure to create housing for the poor — all helped bring the underworld into Mumbai's real estate business in the '80s, either as enforcers or as builders. The '90s boom made many fabulously wealthy. Today, the builders and land sharks, straight or "history-sheeters", have become so influential that they virtually run Mumbai. And preside over a vast empire of graft running into thousands of crores.

It therefore surprises no one that occasionally the Mumbai police grapevine hums with rumours of the senior posts selling for as much as Rs 50 crore. These incredible amounts are allegedly paid to politicians by builders' syndicates whenever they succeed in getting the top job for their chosen candidate — the primary qualification being willingness to serve the builders' mafia. The builder-government nexus is so flagrant that not long ago a highly influential builder, now in jail, was virtually camped inside a bureaucrat's office.

This sea of cash has introduced a totally new dimension to old rivalries between corrupt policemen. The stakes are now exceedingly high for everyone — politician, policeman, builder, gangster ("bhai" in Mumbai patois). As a result, top cops launch vicious campaigns against rivals in the race for senior executive posts.

In this internecine, intra-force lobbying, the capable cops become the victims. Two unquestionably brave officers didn't get police medals for 26/11 as they don't belong to any camp. Other honest and diligent officers are cooling their heels in non-executive posts. At the same time officers guilty of criminal dereliction of duty can be constantly rewarded. sAnd when the anti-corruption bureau wanted to investigate top officers with disproportionate assets, the request was summarily rejected. Is it any wonder then that, before he was slain on 26/11, a conscientious professional like Hemant Karkare wanted to return to RAW?

How does one change such a seemingly hopeless state of affairs? As we've seen in other spheres, it's still possible in India to salvage a doomed situation. Sometimes a few good officers can do the job, provided they get the right structural support. Everybody knows what's to be done. The basic need is to create a buffer between politicians and the police, reduce ministerial interference, ensure good officers take command, and have a watchdog committee of officials, judges and eminent citizens to oversee police functioning.

Several expert committees and a national police commission have done extensive studies and made detailed recommendations. Soli Sorabjee also produced a model draft police act. Five years ago, the Supreme Court issued seven directives to state governments on instituting police reforms. Last November, it issued a notice to Maharashtra for "total non-compliance."

The problem is compounded in Mumbai since under the coalition government, the spoils are divided — the Congress oversees the municipal corporation, and Sharad Pawar's NCP the police. Pawar knows the Mumbai police like the back of his hand — he could begin clearing the cesspool on his own if he so desired. But who said the NCP chief is a reformer?

But it's not as if the Congress, or the UPA government, are pushing for police reforms. The prime minister only pays lip service to it. Meanwhile, in Mumbai, the police grapevine continues to hum.

The writer is a Delhi-based journalist







The Communist Party at 90

As the Chinese Communist Party celebrates the 90th anniversary of its founding on July 1, Xi Jinping, the current vice president and heir-apparent to President Hu Jintao, attributed the successes of the party to the "Sinicisation of Marxism". In a speech this week to senior party cadres, Xi said the CCP has effectively "combined adherence to the basic tenets of Marxism with adaptation to Chinese circumstances" in the periods of revolution, nation-building and reform. The CCP, Xi added, "has pushed forward the Sinicisation of Marxism to ensure the Party's guiding ideology and basic theory advance with the times."

The Sinicisation of Marxism is reflected in two important legacies — one is the philosophy of the CCP's founder, Mao Zedong. The other, according to Xi, is "the theoretical system of socialism with Chinese characteristics, including Deng Xiaoping's Theory, the Three Represents and the Scientific Outlook on Development."

Few will question Xi's praise of Mao and Deng. But do note the difference in the ideological hierarchy: Mao gets to own a whole new "philosophy" while Deng and his successors contribute to the "theory" of socialism with Chinese characteristics. Political observers will note Xi's bow to his current boss Hu Jintao and his predecessor Jiang Zemin. The reference to "Scientific Outlook on Development" is the acknowledgement of Hu's signature ideological slogan. "The Three Represents" — that the party represents advanced forces of production, advanced Chinese culture, and the majority of the Chinese people — is the ideological innovation of Jiang Zemin that was unveiled at the turn of the millennium.

Cynics might scoff at CCP's claims of "Sinicising Marxism', and accuse Xi of glossing over the complex ideological evolution of the People's Republic in the name of "Chinese Marxism" and evading an open discussion of its many contemporary challenges.

Xi's speech was that of a leader preparing to take charge of the nation and paying obeisance to the previous four generations. In contrast, Hu's speech at the culmination of the anniversary celebrations in the coming days will be watched for the president's summation of his own record and his sense of China's future.

Revealing transparency

As part of the birthday bash, CCP has opened the door to some of its most powerful and secretive enclaves. One is the "Organisation Department", which is regarded as the "Leninist heart" of the top-down management of the CCP. It controls all the appointments, transfers and promotions of the party cadre and maintains detailed confidential records of personnel. The department was founded in 1924, and its first head was Mao himself.

Last week, it opened its doors for the first time to the diplomatic corps in Beijing. A dozen diplomats got to see a part of the tough six-round competitive selection of the general manager of China State Construction Engineering Corporation. The visitors were told how the department conducted education and training programs even for such high-ranking officials such as the minister of commerce and chairman of the central bank.

At another level, the CCP is reaching out to China experts from abroad to facilitate greater international understanding of the party. "The CCP is willing to maintain exchanges with foreign specialists in all sectors in an open manner," said Liu Yunshan, a member of the political bureau of the CPC Central Committee, while meeting with six foreign scholars. While answering all the questions of the invited scholars, Liu said the CCP "appreciates the efforts the China experts have made in helping the world to gain a more objective and comprehensive understanding of China and the CPC."

Earlier this month, the CCP also invited foreign journalists based in China for the first time to its celebrated International Department, which maintains contact with Communist and other friendly parties around the world.

Warring with Vietnam

The one external discordant note in the CCP's 90th birthday celebrations is the growing military tension with Vietnam, which is run by another communist party that has successfully navigated between adherence to Marxism and adapting it to national conditions. China and Vietnam fell apart more than three decades ago, and fought a brief war in the late 1970s that buried the notion that communist nations don't go to war with each other.

But the current tensions between the two countries in the South China Sea could be far more consequential. For Beijing's battles with Hanoi are rapidly undermining the premise of China's peaceful rise. Even more important, Communist Vietnam is turning towards the capitalist United States to balance the power of a rising socialist China. All three have fought major wars with each other in the second half of the 20th century.

The nature of the alignment among the three could also be symptomatic of Asia's international relations in the 21st century.

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








Private predations

The latest issue of CPM journal People's Democracy focuses on the draft CAG report on the Krishna-Godavari basin gas contracts, about which the party had raised apprehensions several times in the past. The editorial says that the CAG draft report has confirmed that this is another case of windfall superprofits being made by private companies at the expense of government revenues.

It says the CAG has questioned the role of the director-general of hydrocarbons in supervising the contract administration and argues that this exposes "crony capitalism". The editorial says that CPM leaders had written letters to the government exposing this fraud. "As has been our country's fate, there had been no tangible reply to these observations or any inquiry conducted by the government... The CAG has now confirmed, through its preliminary findings, that such a fraud has indeed been committed," it says. "The raison d'etre of capitalism is profit maximisation. In order to achieve this, it can go to any extent and will forever continuously violate all laws, break all regulations and subvert the system. A government that, instead of checking this predatory tendency of capitalism, encourages it by promoting its cronies, is one that patronises crony capitalism," it says.

too-clever Congress

An article in People's Democracy says that environment minister Jairam Ramesh's advice to Orissa after he had cleared the POSCO project, to uphold the spirit of discussion, dialogue and democracy while acquiring land, was nothing more than political opportunism. "His flip-flop on POSCO also reflects the dual face and politics of the Congress party with regard to big projects like POSCO in resource-rich areas... By granting forest and environmental clearances despite serious reservations, the UPA has appeased the corporate lobby that provides both the capital and the social basis of its government. At the same time, by voicing his concern on the process of land acquisition the minister has tried to feed into the Congress party's populist strategy of opposing land acquisition in non-Congress ruled states," it says.

The article argues for the need to demystify the Congress approach. "The POSCO clearance is also a part of a larger strategy where environmental regulations are being eased to give advantages to big projects in mineral-based industry. Thus the coal ministry has been pushing for introduction of private players in 71 per cent of the mining area. Further, the number of "no go areas" for coal mines has been reduced. Hence it is possible that the environment ministry will keep providing clearances to big projects and POSCO-like situations will keep emerging," it argues.

How class works

The editorial in CPI weekly New Age looks into the "hue and cry" raised over Delhi University cut-offs, and says this reflects the education crisis created by governments guided by market principles. It says about 60 colleges in Delhi release cut-off lists at the time of admissions, refusing seats to many deserving students. "The ploy is used for keeping seats under the management's garb to be filled later by dubious means. Most of these colleges are under private management but receive crores and crores of rupees as annual grant from the government," it says.

The article claims that the privatisation of higher education is the root of the mess. "Private educational institutions in practice have become money-minting shops and a source of exploitation of teachers as well as students. The so-called 'reputed educational institutions' are the best commercial institutions," it says. The article also talks about varying standards of education in the country that has led to the migration of students from far-off places to centres like Delhi. "The government, by encouraging privatisation of education at all levels, is actually imposing a system where children from poor families need not go for education after a certain stage... This is a new caste system that the bourgeois rulers of the country are trying to impose," it says.







In April 2009, we travelled together as foreign ministers to Sri Lanka, as 25 years of fighting between the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil Tigers neared its end. The remaining fighters were trapped in the northern most part of the country — along with large numbers of civilians. UN estimates put the numbers of civilians there in the last few months of the war at over 300,000.

We visited refugee camps that had been created to house Tamil refugees from Jaffna. Their stories were brutal and shocking. Random shelling in areas of fighting — including after the government had announced an end to fighting; men and boys taken away from refugee camps — and now out of contact; Tamil life treated as fourth or fifth class. If foreign policy is about anything, it should be about stopping this kind of inhumanity.

When we met President Mahinda Rajapaksa and members of his government, we argued that his government had legal obligations to its people, whatever the heinous tactics of the Tamil Tigers. We also urged a recognition that to win the peace, President Rajapaksa needed to reach out to Tamil minorities to make real the constitutional pledges of equal treatment for all Sri Lankans.

Restrictions on journalism meant that there was a war without witness in Sri Lanka. But in March 2009 the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, visited Sri Lanka and wrenched from President Rajapaksa a commitment to independent investigation of alleged human rights abuses.

The agreement was subsequently denied by the president, but in 2010 the secretary general set up his own independent panel of experts on accountability in Sri Lanka. The damning report, compiled by three leading and independent figures, was published on March 31, 2011.

It reports that tens of thousands of people lost their lives in the space of three months at the beginning of 2009, most as a result of government shelling. The government shelled on a large scale in three no-fire zones. It shelled the UN hub and food distribution lines. It "systematically shelled hospitals on the frontlines." Meanwhile the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, or LTTE, refused civilians permission to leave, using them as hostages, and shooting point blank those who attempted to escape.

The panel of experts found credible allegations of serious violations of international law by the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE, some of which amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity. It says that the conduct of the war represented a "grave assault on the entire regime of international law." It says the Sri Lankan government's reconciliation commission fails standards of impartiality and independence, is deeply flawed, and does not satisfy the joint commitment of the Sri Lankan president and the UN secretary general to an accountability process.

The report constitutes a serious test for the Sri Lankan government. Will it realise the error of brushing wrongdoing under the carpet? Will it recognise that the continued detentions under "state of emergency" laws undermine Sri Lanka's claims to a normal place in the international community? Will it recognise that the continued failure to resettle Tamils in an equitable way, and give them economic opportunities as well as social rights, is a dangerous cancer at the heart of Sri Lanka's future?

But the report is also a test for the UN system and the wider world community. In 2005 the UN unanimously embraced the doctrine of "Responsibility to Protect." It must not be honoured in the breach rather than in the observance. The UN report calls for the secretary general to take further action, including establishing an independent, international mechanism to monitor Sri Lanka's reconciliation efforts, and to conduct independent investigations into alleged violations.

It seems to us essential that this process is taken forward. As the report says, accountability is a duty under domestic and international law, and those responsible, including Sri Lanka army commanders and senior government officials, would bear criminal liability for international crimes.

The integrity of the international system in addressing human rights abuses is rightly under scrutiny as never before. And when peaceful, diplomatic initiatives to hold accountable those who abuse human rights run into the sand, they only fuel the arguments of those who want to take the law into their own hands. So this decision about the handling of this report matters for Sri Lanka but it also matters more widely.

We call on our governments to set a deadline, soon, for satisfactory response from the Sri Lankan government, and if it is not forthcoming to initiate the international arrangements recommended by the report. Reports like this one must not stand on the shelf. They must be the basis of action. Or the law becomes an ass.

DAVID MILIBAND and BERNARD KOUCHNER were foreign ministers of Britain and France from 2007 to 2010






The slowdown in the pace of new subscriber addition in the telecom sector, particularly for the dominant GSM technology-based platform, should not be read on the same page with other news of deceleration in the economy. It is true that for the first time since September 2009, this platform added less than 10 million (9.5 million) users in May. This is way below the trend for this calendar year. Broadly, Indian telecom numbers have been growing at around 15-20 million every month, including land line and CDMA numbers, too. Figures released by Trai for the 2010-11 fiscal show revenue market share for operators like Bharti, Reliance Communications and BSNL have dipped by more than 1%. But Vodafone-Essar, Idea Cellular, Tata Teleservices as well as a host of new operators have shown growth. The May numbers show the impact of last year's cleanup in the sector has begun to bite. For the past year, almost all the major operators have gone on a cleaning exercise by shedding subscribers who thrived on free minutes. Now, the focus is on retaining those users who generate revenue. Therefore, the barometer to gauge the industry's robustness has moved beyond subscriber addition to factors like revenue market share and minutes of usage. Also, with more and more operators entering the market, the bigger incumbents are bound to lose some percentage in favour of the newer ones. The bottom line is that in fiscal 2011, overall revenues of the sector increased by 12% compared with a 7% increase during preceding year.

Another positive from the Trai data is the rise in the share of active subscribers. Around 70% of the total mobile subscriber base now comprises of active subscribers. This explains some of the slowdown during May. With operators focusing more on revenue-generating customers and the last year not seeing any tariff wars, the share of inactive subscribers was bound to go down. From here, it will be revenue maximisation for the operators rather than simply adding numbers.





Monday's blowout in the stock market was definitely not triggered by just one event. There is enough gunpowder lying around in the shape of policy delays in economic issues, uncertainty of tenure of the government, the problems in bailing out Greece and, of course, the string of weak corporate results, each of which is good to send the markets reeling. Since the India-Mauritius tax treaty is a smoking gun at all times, some pretty superficial reports were all it needed to get this explosive cocktail going. Surprisingly, despite the string of bad news, the volatility index—India Vix of the NSE, a good indicator of how stormy the investors expect the markets to be—has not worsened of late. On Tuesday, it was trading at 21.31, about the same level as it had been at for the last two months. But to ensure that the cocktail of bad news does not get out of hand, the finance ministry should start with some things only it can fix and needs no other help to put through. This entails moving to a residence-based system of taxation instead of the source-based taxation that we currently deploy. In other words, this will mean that no foreign investor will be taxed in India while all domestic investors will be taxed. The foreigners will get taxed in their country for the income they generate from here. DTC, therefore, is the right move.

If this sounds like favouring foreigners at the expense of locals, remember this is what we already offer all investors who come in through the Mauritius and Singapore routes. Government of India statistics show that 52% of our foreign investment comes through these countries. So, extending the principle will only mean that the current advantage that these two countries enjoy will be killed with this move, without the tortuous course of having to renegotiate treaties that will take several years to sort out. The residence-based tax system has already been recommended by the UK Sinha-led committee under the current finance minister. So, Pranab Mukherjee should have no problems in owning up the conclusions. It is also worth remembering that the OECD countries, as a matter of policy, support the system of residence-based taxation. These are also the majority of countries from where India gets its foreign investment. This will essentially require us to calibrate our tax policies with the OECD countries. There will, of course, be attendant problems in the process, like dealing with tax havens, but then dealing with those is essentially a battle that any tax jurisdiction has to fight.






In its concerted fight against inflation, RBI has raised the repo rate 10 times, and by 275 basis points, since March 2010. At the time it started raising rates, RBI's wrong but immensely preferred inflation indicator, the wholesale price indicator, was flashing an annual inflation rate of 10.4%. In June 2011, after its hawkish statements and dedication to sacrifice growth, and much else, WPI inflation was flashing 9.1%. In parallel, CPI, a more relevant inflation index, has shown a decline from 14.9% to 9%.

Central bank governors are known for being elliptical in their pronouncements. They are supposed to know better and, because they are mortals, they often go wrong in their policy, and forecasts. Wouldn't it be interesting, and revealing, to know what central bank governors really are thinking? Herewith what Subbarao's statement might have been if the 1984 Right to your Thoughts was fully in place.

Dear Persons: We, at RBI, are dedicated to deliver both growth and stable low inflation. We have been doing our best, though I must admit that we have not succeeded in our efforts, to date. However, I must frankly admit that I have not been helped by various people providing arm-chair or self-indulgent advice. I have advice for them.

Wannabe chief economists at foreign investment banks: You have been the trend-setters in the hysteria to raise interest rates. While all your counterparts around the world use either CPI or the GDP deflator to measure inflation, you persist in following the RBI folly of using WPI. Why do you do so? My explanation is that you are trying to help your clients a bit too much, i.e., you are talking your book. The logic is very simple. Your clients can borrow in the US short term at virtually a zero rate of interest. Let us call it 1%. If I raise the repo rates, it affects interest rates across the board (after all, as you say, that is what monetary policy is supposed to do!). You then get your clients to invest in safe un-Greek Indian government securities and obtain a large, and increasing, 7% spread. Normally, an extra spread is associated with currency depreciation so economists, and bankers, can be happy with the notion that there is no free lunch. However, the bankers argue how India is a good growth story, which it is, and how the rupee will not only not depreciate but would appreciate! So, it is a win-win story for your clients, while it may not be the right policy for India. So, can you shut up, please?

Kaushik Basu, Chief Economic Advisor, GoI: You are a very welcome addition to the policymaking body in India. Your fame precedes you, and your record as a microeconomist is at least first among equals. It is also hugely welcome that you are now espousing more 'market' oriented policies than before, e.g., cash transfers rather than corrupt government intervention programmes. However, try as I might, I cannot find much useful academic output from you on anything even remotely related to macroeconomics. It is never too late to learn, but in the meantime, can you stop offering me unsolicited advice on exchange rates, and interest rates, and stop making forecasts on inflation?

C Rangarajan, former RBI governor, now head of PM's Council of Economic Advisors: Sir, you are an institution in India, and a pioneer in policymaking on many fronts. Many people seek you out for sage advice, as I myself do. But, Sir, it will make my task easier, and my analysis more objective, and my policy more rational, if you did not pre-announce your version of my policy. If I go against your pre-announced policy, civil society and the media will ask as to what do I know that you don't? And as you know we all know much less than you do, especially when it comes to monetary policy. I would also hasten to add that India might be in the same predicament today as in 1995. In your fight against inflation, you may have overly tightened in 1995 and Indian GDP growth went into a huge slump for the next seven years. It would be unfortunate if the same thing happened under my watch.

It is suggested by many that your boss, the PM, speaks too little; and many say that you speak too much. Perhaps India can benefit from a happy compromise—the PM should speak a lot more, and that be balanced by you speaking somewhat less.

Subir Gokarn, deputy governor, RBI: RBI regulates the bank deposit savings rate in India (recently raised to 4% after 19 years at 3.5%). Fat cat bankers gain from this repressive policy of low and fixed deposit rates; pensioners and depositors lose immensely from this stupid regulation. Yet, my deputy Subir Gokarn had the gall to state that RBI may not deregulate this rate because "a lot of people see this (fixed savings rate) as a safe and reliable source of monthly income". This implies that a "free market" savings deposit rate will decline after deregulation—an impossibility given the present inflation scenario. Subir knows, or should know, that the rate can only increase with deregulation. So Subir, either stop talking or stop being disingenuous.

I do not know if all the shutting up will lead to a better outcome. But policy will be helped with an honest discourse. Civil society, and media, and even investment banks can and should say what they want (but like honest analysts, they should have full disclosure of their vested interests!). My colleagues in the government should consult me in private. And perhaps soon we can move towards a policy that is actually in the interests of growth, with low and stable inflation.

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





The non-banking financial (NBFC) sector got a nasty shock last month. The priority sector status accorded to bank loans to NBFCs for lending to SMEs, small road transport operators, agri-based activities and SSIs was withdrawn by RBI. This has come at a particularly unfortunate time for the asset financing NBFCs (NBFC-AFCs).

NBFCs say that they cater to the unbanked segment of society both in urban and rural areas. They play a complementary and supplementary role to banks in retail lending. A 'wholesaler/ retailer' relationship between banks and NBFCs is a model that has worked very well over the years. The AFCs that lend to the small road transport operators and NBFCs that lend to SME businesses and services play a very important role in the economy of the country. AFCs finance physical assets such as automobiles, tractors, lathe machines, generator sets, and earth moving and material handling equipment.

All experts committees and task forces set up by the government and RBI have fully recognised and appreciated the role played by NBFCs and particularly by AFCs in the development of important sectors like road transport and infrastructure. The history of NBFCs in India began with the sector engaging in asset-backed lending; some of the early players are still in existence and have a proven track record of more than 50 years. Historically, NBFC-AFCs have maintained their reputation both in terms of regulatory compliance and in meeting their liabilities. Recognising the trouble-free performance of NBFC-AFCs, RBI has given preferential treatment to this class of NBFCs in matters pertaining to fund-raising. There has been no reported case of any default by any of the NBFC-AFCs.

NBFCs that finance SMEs are able to fulfil the credit needs of those for whom organised bank funding remains elusive. Banks are only used to financing people who have a bank account, people who are capable of providing collateral and producing post-dated cheques, etc. Those who cannot fulfil these criteria turn to moneylenders, who charge huge rates of interest. NBFCs step in to fill this gap. They have an intimate knowledge of their clients' income patterns, credit histories and family details; they use this knowledge to make an accurate credit assessment, which helps at the point of collection.

Total funds requirement for the road transport sector in India has been increasing over the years. Demand for new trucks has accelerated due to the increased movement of goods (thanks to a booming economy) and the heavy infrastructure spending by the government. Plus, due to recent judgements, trucks that are more than 15 years old have to be phased out. This also translates into an additional demand for funds. Under the current regulatory framework, banks can lend directly to the priority sector. There is no prohibition. However, they are not able to do so effectively as they do not have the reach of NBFCs in this business. Banks are under no compulsion to lend to NBFCs, but are doing so to meet their priority sector lending targets.

Apparently, the reason behind last month's step has been the recent data on sectoral development of credit released by RBI, which shows an increase in credit to the NBFC sector by 55% as compared to the increase in overall bank credit of 20% during the year ended March 31. NBFC industry sources say that mere increase in bank credit to the NBFC sector is not a matter of concern. But one should look at which NBFCs have benefited from the increased credit. This would throw light on the end use of funds. Sources point out that that a major portion of the increased bank credit to the NBFC sector has gone into funding of a few large public sector entities like the Infrastructure Development Finance Company and the Power Finance Corporation. If the increased credit has gone for infrastructure financing or for small road transport operators and SMEs, then this has to be welcomed. On the other hand, if credit has flowed to risky and speculative asset classes, it needs to be viewed seriously and suitable steps must be taken to curb this.

The move to restrict bank credit to NBFCs will force them to cut down on their lending. The customers of these NBFCs who were able to borrow at competitive rates would now be forced to approach the unorganised sector for borrowing and their borrowing cost would increase automatically. This drastic step has been taken without any consultation with the industry. The borrowing cost for SMEs, small road transport operators and all other end-users will immediately increase by at least 2%. Banks may also find it difficult to meet their priority sector targets. Industry sources say that bank finance to self-help groups for onward lending is still recognised as a priority sector advance. In such case, singling out NBFCs is unfair and unjustified.

The economy is slowing. The automobile sector is showing signs of strain. Large truck manufacturers depend on NBFCs for a large number of their sales. The country is full of transport operators who own two or three trucks who get their finance through NBFCs. The industry leaders say that instead of throwing out the baby with the bathwater, RBI should identify the problem areas and tighten the regulations for those NBFC categories. Given the heterogeneous nature of the sector, a 'one shoe fits all' approach would not work.






In its forthcoming mission, scheduled for the second week of July, the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) will, for the first time, be carrying a communications satellite, the 1,425-kg GSAT-12. The PSLV was originally developed to carry India's remote sensing satellites, which are typically placed in a polar orbit. In 2002, on its seventh mission, the rocket was used to launch the country's first dedicated meteorological satellite, Metsat, later renamed Kalpana-1 in memory of Kalpana Chawla, the Indian-born U.S. astronaut who died in the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster in 2003. Like communication satellites, this meteorological satellite was put into geostationary orbit. In this orbit, some 36,000 km above the equator, the spacecraft matches the earth's rotation and therefore appears stationary from the ground. From its vantage point in space over India, Kalpana-1 keeps constant watch over evolving weather systems. For communications satellites like the GSAT-12, it is good perch to relay telephone conversations, data, and televisions broadcasts.

Satellites headed for geostationary orbit are put by rockets that launch them into an elliptical temporary orbit. From there, rocket engines on the spacecraft are fired periodically to manoeuvre them into the final position over the equator. In 2008, the most powerful version of the PSLV, the PSLV-XL, was used to place the lunar probe Chandrayaan-1, weighing 1,380 kg into an elliptical orbit 255 km at its closest to earth and nearly 23,000 km at its farthest; the spacecraft's own engines then took it, in stages, to orbit around the Moon. Next month, another PSLV-XL will leave the GSAT-12 in an elliptical orbit similar to that of the Chandrayaan-1. Both equatorial and polar launches from Sriharikota are challenging because of the need to drop the rocket's spent stages with considerable precision in international waters. In the case of an equatorial launch of the sort that will be done with the GSAT-12, the PSLV's six strap-on motors as well its first and second stages, when their propellant is exhausted, will have to be safely discarded before the rocket crosses the Malay peninsula; the third stage is dropped into the Pacific Ocean, while the fourth stage goes on to take the spacecraft into orbit. For polar launches, the rocket first flies south-east and then turns southwards in mid-flight to avoid dropping spent stages near Sri Lanka. Without this complicated dog-leg manoeuvre, its payload capability for polar launches would go up by about 50 per cent. These are hurdles the PSLV takes in its stride to fulfil a wide range of missions with sturdy reliability, a tribute indeed to all those who designed and now operate this remarkable launch vehicle.






A highly unpalatable austerity package that is being thrust on Greece has spawned political turmoil in that country. Even a major cabinet reshuffle is not expected to temper the opposition to the austerity measures that prospective lenders insist Greece must adopt to qualify for a bailout package. If it eventually goes through, the reprieve will be the second in just over a year. Last year, when the debt crisis flared up, European lenders, hoping to contain it at the Greek border, provided a bailout worth $158 billion over three years, a significant portion coming from other euro area countries and the balance from the International Monetary Fund. However, since then the debt crisis has spread relentlessly across the southern and western periphery of the euro area. Today the crisis is viewed not just as the problem of a few laggard countries in the euro area but one that can threaten the foundations of the European Monetary Union and even have a negative impact on the global economy. Along with high levels of public debt in the advanced countries and escalating oil prices, it ranks among the significant threats to global economic revival. The IMF has estimated a one per cent drop in global output if the crisis in Europe persists. Even assuming that the Greek Parliament accepts the austerity package, there would still be daunting challenges in its implementation.

A very large portion of the Greek government debt is held by private investors. European banks are said to be holding around $150 billion of Greek government bonds. A bailout package will necessarily result in a steep reduction in the value of such holdings. These banks may have to be recapitalised. The extraordinary dependence on private capital will almost certainly exacerbate worries over the state of public finance in many countries. Other European countries considered weak by the markets will now come under pressure. As large global banks take a hit, the contagion will spread to other countries to which these banks have exposures. The rather tentative moves by Europe's politicians have not helped, but there is reason for their prevarication: in many countries, notably Germany and Finland, voters have generally been reluctant to share the cost of rescuing other countries. The crisis in Greece has brought into sharp focus the weakness of a stand-alone monetary union that does not have the usual fiscal and political foundations. A view is gaining ground that it will be in the best interests of everybody for Greece to exit the euro at least temporarily and then take measures that are in harmony with its own national interests.







The expectations and hopes engendered by the events in Tunisia and Egypt at the beginning of the second decade of this century for an Arab Spring sprouting in the Arab world have turned out to be based on wishful thinking rather than on a careful assessment of the specific characteristics of each Arab country as well as of the vested interests of some external powers which wish to see change in a particular direction. Only Tunisia and Egypt have succeeded in overthrowing the previous regimes but even there, we have to wait to see what exactly will take their place. So far, the military in both countries remains all powerful; however, there is reason to hope that eventually, governments with the genuine participation of the peoples will emerge, at least in the short term. If the new governments in Tunis and Cairo, especially the latter given Egypt's crucial role in the Arab world, do not manage to tackle at least some of the problems such as corruption, high prices, and unemployment, the fate of democracy will hang in the balance.

In the rest of the Arab world, churning is on, but an extremely violent one, not at all ideal for preparing the soil for the seeds of democracy. Three countries — Libya, Syria and Yemen — seem to be competing with one another in terms of the blood of civilians that is being shed in the name of change and reform. In all three, extra-regional powers are significantly involved militarily as well as diplomatically, though the nature and extent of such interference vary. Economic, strategic and energy interests are at stake.

Libya has turned out to be the cry of despair for those who have committed their armed personnel, scarce financial resources and, more importantly, prestige in the outcome of the situation there. The conflict has gone on for longer than anyone expected and is costing the western nations more than they would really care to spend. Having pushed through Resolution 1973 with the help of the Arab League, they had calculated a quick and low-cost operation. Like in Afghanistan, Nato cannot afford to pull out without being able to claim victory. Two or three factors have frustrated their plans — Muammar Qadhafi's stubborn refusal to disappear from the scene, the absence of an identifiable and credible alternative leadership, and the continued loyalty of many African states to Mr. Qadhafi. Mr. Qadhafi is no doubt counting on the fatigue — financial and military — factor weakening public support for the Nato operation. Nato strikes killing civilians will further erode support and provide more propaganda ammunition to Mr. Qadhafi.

According to the present reckoning, the civil war and the de facto division of the country, with massive external involvement, are likely to continue well beyond the three-month extension that Nato has given to its operation. It is also noteworthy that the western media which, at one time, were worried about al-Qaeda having resurfaced in Libya, have now completely ignored this phenomenon — one wonders why. The Africans have become ever more sceptical of western countries since the latter have given up even the pretence of their motivation in intervening in Libya and have made it clear, in words and deeds, that what they are after is regime change in Tripoli. While many countries may not be fond of Mr. Qadhafi, very few would want to associate themselves openly with the goal of regime change anywhere. The international community at large also finds it difficult to understand the need for Nato to destroy the entire infrastructure of Libya, since the Security Council had authorised use of force only to protect civilian lives.

Syria is a much more important regional power. A lot rides on the outcome of what is going on there — the strategic relationship between Syria and Iran, the situation in Lebanon including in particular the status of the Hizbullah, the fate of Hamas whose leadership is based in Damascus as well as the larger question of Shia-Sunni tensions. (The ruling Alawites are a sub-sect of Shias whereas the majority population is Sunni.)

Most important, there is the Israeli-Syria question. Israel is reportedly not in favour of toppling the Assad regime. It is not clear why. Perhaps because the alternative could be a fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood government. On the whole, however, the western powers would welcome a change in Damascus, though its leaders have refrained from admitting it publicly; breaking the Syria-Iran axis would be a tremendous achievement. Again, it is precisely this barely concealed desire for regime change which most non-western countries find difficult to reconcile with. There are credible reports suggesting that the Assad regime enjoys considerable support among the people. The protesters in Syria, taking a cue from the rebels in Libya, have formed a 'national' committee which is the best way to get political and financial support from the West.

Yemen, in many ways, is the most complicated situation. It is infested with the maximum external interference — Saudi Arabia, U.S., Iran, GCC and assorted countries. At one time, its long-serving President had accepted the principle of resigning and leaving, but since seems to have changed his mind. The injuries he suffered in an attack on his compound and consequent flight to Saudi Arabia have paradoxically given him time to consolidate his position and strengthen his support base in Yemen. The south wants to secede and parts of north want to merge with the big northern neighbour, but the latter is not interested, it seems. The Shia-Sunni act is also being played out there. Al-Qaeda was reported to have captured a town, Zinjibar, in the south, but it was suspected to be a diabolical move of the President who, thereby, calculated to win the sympathy of the Americans. The latter are exploiting the situation and relentlessly bombing suspected concentrations of the al-Qaeda, hoping to eliminate its leadership.

No one is saying a word about the most important country in the region. President Obama exercised admirable skill in avoiding the mention of Saudi Arabia in his speech on the Arab world a few weeks ago. The House of Saud is unhappy with Mr. Obama because he did not defend vigorously enough his, and Saudi, friend Mubarak. The King was also annoyed when the Americans expressed, admittedly not too strongly, reservations about the Saudi intervention in Bahrain. It must be acknowledged that the entire international community has a stake in the stability of the most important oil price stabiliser in the world and that is why nobody, not just the Americans, is saying anything about that country. The people of Saudi Arabia might also be somewhat less enthusiastic about change or reform in their country in view of what is happening in their immediate neighbourhood. However, if genuine democratic movement takes root in the rest of the Arab world — a big 'if'— the Saudi regime will have to reform at however slow a pace. In the meanwhile, Morocco and Jordan are reported to have been invited to become members of GCC. GCC will have to change its name.

In Bahrain, the king, with Saudi help, has managed to suppress the majority Shia community, at least for the time being, but it has not been silenced forever. The reform movement is alive, though not kicking, at the moment. Since the U.S. has such an enormous stake in and around Bahrain, it will make sure that the king and his entourage, especially the crown prince, will respond positively at least to some of the demands of the protesters if that is the only way to protect its interests. Bahrain presents a fascinating case study where the interests of the dominant regional power, Saudi Arabia, are to some extent in conflict with the interests of the most powerful country in the world, United States.

Overall, the prospects of a meaningful Arab spring do not look bright as of now.

In the circumstances, it makes sense for India to maintain relative silence on the events in West Asia and North Africa and not to identify itself with one or the other side in multilateral institutions. We have substantial interests in the region, going beyond energy sources. The fate of five million Indians employed there is a matter of great importance and concern to us. At the same time, we must take steps to protect our present and future interests in the region. It would be in order for us to express serious concern and distress at the loss of life and property, for example in Libya and Syria. The latter must scrupulously abide by its commitments under the NPT, and we should express hope that at least some aspirations of the people for reform would be satisfied. We must not assume that no change will ever take place in Syria or any other country. At the same time, we should establish contact with the so-called transitional council based in Benghazi. It is more than probable that that group might become better organised under western diplomatic and military guidance and come to at least share power in Tripoli at some time in future. Contacts with them now will stand us in good stead then. We could also activate BRICS and/or IBSA and issue common statements agreed through diplomatic channels.








The ground is being readied at last for talks between the U.S. and the Taliban. Hamid Karzai, the Afghan President, and Robert Gates, the U.S. Defence Secretary, have just confirmed that preliminary contacts are under way. Equally important, the UN Security Council's sanctions list has been divided so as to separate Taliban leaders from those of al-Qaeda, making it easier politically to remove restraints on the freedom of Taliban leaders to travel safely to meet negotiators.

There is a long way to go before full-scale talks begin, not least in creating a consensus in Washington behind their necessity. In a television interview on June 19, Gates declared: "We have said all along that a political outcome is the way most wars end. The question is when and if they [the Taliban] are ready to talk seriously." His other comments made it clear the same question applies to the Americans. Gates argued that further U.S. military pressure was needed on the Taliban. "Talks yes, but not yet" has long been the Pentagon position, articulated repeatedly by General David Petraeus, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, who will have even more access to President Obama in his next post as Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) chief.

Heated debate is going on in Washington over how many troops Obama will announce he is to start bringing out next month, and how soon the departing contingent will leave. Whatever number is chosen will be a fudge, designed to satisfy the majority of Americans who have lost faith in the Afghan war, as well as the military hawks. The Republicans are in an encouraging state of confusion with the first signs emerging that on Afghanistan, next year's presidential candidate might attack Obama "from the left" by arguing for a faster U.S. pullout.

Main motivation

But Obama's announcement on a limited withdrawal will mean little unless accompanied by a clear statement that he intends to negotiate an end to the conflict, just as Lyndon Johnson eventually promised during the Vietnam war, though it took the Republican Richard Nixon to carry the talks through.

American decision-makers have still not grasped that the Taliban's main motivation — as revealed in several surveys of insurgents — is a desire to end foreign occupation of their country. U.S. officials, political as well as military, produce endless briefings that claim people join the Taliban because of money, unemployment, or local disputes over land and family honour. When Karzai himself warned the Americans this weekend (June 18-19) that "history shows what Afghans do with trespassers and occupiers" and made the blindingly obvious point that the Americans are in Afghanistan primarily for their own purposes, U.S. commentators referred to him as "ranting," "erratic," and "perhaps struggling with a mental illness." Karl Eikenberry, the U.S. Ambassador in Kabul, said he felt hurt by Karzai's statements because "America has never sought to occupy any nation in the world. We are a good people."

Karzai is in a difficult position. Like the Taliban, he wants to end his country's occupation though he is not sure how to do it, given the countervailing pressures from the insurgency and the Americans, as well as from the anti-negotiation Tajik warlords who surround him and his Pashtun cronies, who have done well economically from the money the Americans have thrown at the country. The main thing he must do now is postpone the talks on long-term U.S. bases that the U.S. is trying to push through under the guise of a "strategic partnership agreement."

Issue of neutrality

Support for a long-term U.S. military presence in Afghanistan flies in the face of serious negotiations to end the war. It will also undermine the prospects for any regional agreement between Afghanistan and its neighbours. Russia, China and the four central Asian states who make up the influential Shanghai Co-operation Organisation came out at a summit meeting last week for a "neutral" Afghanistan. That is also the position of India and Iran. No peace deal in Afghanistan will stick unless the era of outside interference by its neighbours comes to an end, so the concept of "neutrality" must be upheld. Having U.S. forces in Afghanistan "to protect Afghan neutrality" is dangerous nonsense.

Besides ending foreign occupation, the biggest challenge is to end Afghanistan's 35 years of civil war. Only talks among all the Afghan stakeholders and parties, including the Taliban, can do that. The Americans cannot control the outcome but they should not impede it either. That is why Obama's declaration of support for a ceasefire and negotiations on a full withdrawal of U.S. and other foreign troops would be his best contribution to getting the comprehensive settlement that Afghans desperately want. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2011






The Sudanese Army and its allied militias have gone on an unsparing rampage to crush rebel fighters in the Nuba Mountains of central Sudan, bombing thatch-roofed villages, executing elders, burning churches and pitching another region of the country into crisis, according to United Nations officials and villagers who have escaped.

"The market was burning," said Salah Kaka, a mother of four who trekked for days with thousands of others to a mushrooming refugee camp after her husband disappeared during an air raid. "I dug ditches in the ground and hid the children."

Tens of thousands of rebel fighters have refused the government's threat to disarm, digging into the craggy hillsides. They are demanding political reform and autonomy, a familiar refrain in Sudan's marginalised hinterlands that has set off insurgencies in Darfur in the west, as well as eastern and southern Sudan.

"This is going to spread like wildfire," said an American official who was not authorised to speak publicly. Without mediation, "you're going to have massive destruction and death in central Sudan, and no one seems able to do anything about it."

The Sudanese Army has sealed off the area and threatened to shoot down United Nations helicopters. Sudan's forces detained four United Nations peacekeepers and subjected them to "a mock firing squad," the organisation said on June 20, calling the intimidation part of a strategy to make it nearly impossible for aid agencies and monitors to work in the region.

It seems that the Sudanese government, facing upheaval on several fronts, especially with the southern third of the country preparing to declare independence next month, is determined to suppress the rebels and prevent them from encouraging other restive areas to rise up.

Even after the southerners secede, countless fault lines remain in northern Sudan. Non-Arab people in the Nuba Mountains, Darfur, Blue Nile State, Kasala — and all the way down the Nile to Egypt — have long been chafing against an increasingly isolated government dominated by a small group of Arabs and led by President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, a war crimes suspect indicted by the International Criminal Court.

"Bashir is facing enormous pressure," said E.J. Hogendoorn, a program director at the International Crisis Group. "There are a number of areas that could rebel again," he said, and the offensive in the Nuba Mountains "may actually exacerbate resentment and inadvertently unite armed opposition movements."

United Nations officials in Southern Kordofan, the state that includes the Nuba Mountains, estimate that dozens have been killed in aerial bombings in the past two weeks and maybe dozens more in extrajudicial killings. Nuban officials put the civilian death toll in the hundreds.

Ethnic cleansing?

Sudanese soldiers are planting land mines in several towns, United Nations officials said, and possibly digging mass graves. Many people in the mountains are Christian, and church officials say Christians have been attacked and churches burned.

"So many people have been made to leave their homes," said Ali Shamilla, liaison officer for the Nuba Relief, Rehabilitation and Development Organization. "Many are living in caves."

Witnesses said government soldiers were shooting "the black people," a reference to Nubans, who are often darker skinned than the Arab-dominated military. Human rights groups worry that this could begin a new round of ethnic cleansing, given the wholesale destruction of communities that has been part of how war is fought in Sudan.

Hundreds of thousands died in Darfur after the government razed villages and armed militias to throttle rebels there, leading to genocide charges against Mr. Bashir. Millions died in the decades of civil war between north and south, under many of the same tactics.

The same thing happened in Nuba. In the mid-1980s, southern rebels opened bases in the Nuba Mountains. Residents who had long felt discriminated against by the Arab rulers of Sudan joined the southerners in droves.

The rulers responded by arming Arab militias — just as it would in Darfur — and setting them loose on impoverished villagers. Tens of thousands of civilians were killed and villagers were incarcerated in "peace camps," forced to convert to Islam. Entire villages were wiped out.

"Nuba were often just shot on sight by Khartoum forces, no questions asked," said Roger P. Winter, a former State Department official, who testified recently during a Congressional hearing on Sudan's future. "Today, again, Nuba are positioned for liquidation by Khartoum forces."

This may sound hyperbolic. But as Julie Flint, an author who first visited the Nuba area in 1992, argued, some of the same men responsible for earlier atrocities in Nuba are in charge once again, including Ahmed Haroun, the Southern Kordofan governor, indicted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity connected to Darfur.

"A new war in Nuba threatens to be a replay of Darfur," Ms. Flint said.

The Sudanese government does not deny bombing Nuban villages, arguing that the Nuba militia were supposed to disarm but did not. One Sudanese official said the war could go on "for some years." Nuban militia leaders have vowed to fight until there is "regime change" in Khartoum or autonomy for Nuba.

Under the accords that set in motion the south's secession, Nubans were supposed to hold "popular consultations" to determine their future, but that has not happened. Now that the south is on the verge of realising its hard-fought goal — independence — many Nubans feel their demands have been deferred.

In the north, oil had helped buy friends and woo enemies, but huge economic uncertainties loom. The south has most of the oil, and in any deal before the south splits off, the north will almost certainly get less than it used to.

Already, riots have broken out in central Sudan's Arab heartland, as Mr. Bashir has warned of austerity measures. Many analysts say the recent military activity along the north-south border, including the north's seizure of the disputed Abyei area and its push in the Nuba Mountains, is part of a hard-knuckled negotiation to secure more oil revenue.

Southern Sudan's leaders are reluctant to go to war over Nuba, but the southern-allied militiamen in Nuba are part of the overall southern military command, so the south could be dragged into the conflict.

During a recent meeting, the top Nuban militia commander, Abdel Aziz al-Hilu, said that before any cease-fire he would have to inform "Chairman Salva," meaning southern Sudan's president, Salva Kiir. Mr. Abdel Aziz also said that if things don't change, "fires will just break out everywhere, here, in Blue Nile, in Darfur," according to someone at the meeting.

"We, the people of Sudan, are ready to remove them," vowed Mr. Abdel Aziz, the person said. "We have guns." ( Josh Kron contributed reporting from Parieng, Sudan.) — © New York Times News Service





A Tunisian court sentenced the country's ousted President, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, and his wife, Leila Trabelsi, to 35 years in prison and a fine of roughly $66 million after a trial in absentia for embezzlement and misuse of public funds, state news media said on June 20 night.

He still faces charges for the possession of illegal drugs, firearms and archaeological relics found in his palaces, as well as for ordering the killing of civilians in his bid to cling to power. The verdict on Monday, after the one-day trial, focused on $27 million in jewels and public money reportedly found at one of his mansions.

Mr. Ben Ali's ouster in January started the Arab Spring and inspired the Egyptian uprising that toppled President Hosni Mubarak a month later. Egyptians are watching the court proceedings closely as they prepare for Mr. Mubarak's trial this summer. Both have stirred debate over how to balance public demands for swift justice with a more deliberative demonstration of the rule of law.

Mr. Ben Ali and his wife are in exile in Saudi Arabia, which refused Tunisian extradition requests. They are reviled in Tunisia for presiding over a corrupt administration that enabled Ms. Trabelsi, a former hairdresser from a humble family, to help her relatives quickly achieve vast fortunes and opulent lifestyles.

The most notorious of her kin, Sakher el Materi — known derisively as "Mr. Son-in-Law" — kept a caged tiger that ate four chickens a day and he boasted of the Roman columns, frescoes and lion's head fountain at his villa.

'Did not flee'

Evidently unrepentant, Mr. Ben Ali issued a statement through lawyers calling the proceedings "a false and shameful image of victor's justice," according to news reports.

Defending his 23 years in power, Mr. Ben Ali referred to street protests and strikes that have persisted in Tunisia since the revolution, asking if the purpose was "to divert the attention of Tunisians from the turmoil that nobody can accuse him of or hold him responsible for."

He did not flee Tunisia, the statement said, but rather left "to avoid a bloody confrontation among the Tunisian people who are always in his thoughts and heart." His former Prime Minister has reportedly said that Mr. Ben Ali left the country for Saudi Arabia planning only a short absence that has turned into a permanent exile.

His trial in absentia has stirred a furious debate in Tunisia over whether the interim government should have held out for his physical presence on the witness stand or pushed ahead without him.

"His trial before an 'empty chair' has raised many questions about the point of these trials, which some have considered to be purely for show, like a farcical play," the Tunisian newspaper As Sabah wrote, referring to Mr. Ben Ali by his new popular title, "the deposed." The trial's sentences, no matter how harsh, "will not be able to quell the fire of the Tunisian people, who had hoped 'the deposed' would be brought in and tried in an actual trial, to return faith and confidence to all Tunisians."

Many Tunisians, however, say they are also eager to see a legal verdict rendered on their former dictator as soon as possible, with or without his physical presence.

His trial on the drug, firearms and archaeological charges is expected to take place at the end of this month. ( Lara El Gibaly contributed reporting from Cairo.) — © New York Times News Service




The Arab world should propose more natural sites for the U.N.'s World Heritage list after having only two new ones listed in the past 15 years, a conservation group said on June 21.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has said in a report that the Middle East and nearby regions have the fewest natural World Heritage sites. Only four are listed, including Banc d'Arguin National Park in Mauritania, Ichkeul National Park in Tunisia, the Socotra Archipelago in Yemen and the Wadi AlHitan in Egypt.

Jordan has proposed the Wadi Rum protected area for designation as a cultural and natural site at the meeting of the World Heritage committee in Paris, which runs until June 29. It is one of 37 sites up for designation.

"The Arab states are home to an exceptional natural wealth and diversity, with striking desert landscapes and marine areas," said Haifaa Abdulhalim, IUCN's World Heritage officer in the Arab states. "The process of nominating natural sites in the Arab region needs a major overhaul if we want to see more of them on the World Heritage list."

The report also found the 18-state region does far less to monitor and promote natural sites like marine reserves and desert landscapes than for cultural sites like pyramids and ancient fortifications. It found that 12 states had 35 sites which have potential to be listed but so far haven't been nominated.

It found that 91 per cent of states had inventories of cultural sites but nothing similar for natural sites. Also, cultural institutions in these countries "were not well equipped" to manage natural sites, and environmental ministries have often been locked out of the nomination process.

The report also reviewed management of natural sites that are already on the World Heritage List and found many face serious challenges.

In Banc d'Arguin, for example, more effective measures are needed to control the risk of accidental oil spills which may threaten the park's wintering waterbirds and mammals, including the critically endangered Monk Seal.

In Socotra, often referred to as the "Galapagos of the East," the unique vegetation and ecosystems have been under increasing threat due to the development of infrastructure and tourism. "By continuing to improve the management of these sites and by increasing cooperation between countries to support them, World Heritage Sites in Arab States can greatly contribute to conservation and sustainable development in the region," said Mariam Kenza Ali, an IUCN World Heritage conservation officer. — AP








Coincidentally, the resumption of the India-Pakistan dialogue through the initiative of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh last year occurred about the time that US President Barack Obama publicly broached the issue of the commencement of the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan. This imparted a new dynamics to US-Pakistani relations and boosted the morale of the Taliban who, along with their patrons, the Pakistani military establishment, began to look at the prospect of the endgame with anticipation. And interestingly, when foreign secretary Nirupama Rao will be in Islamabad on Thursday for a fresh round of talks spread over two days, President Obama will have just delivered a key speech a day prior that is expected to explain to American audiences the reasons for the US military engagement in Afghanistan despite financial hardships at home and his decision to begin drawing down troops with a view to creating a basis for a political settlement for Afghanistan that would permit the US to leave, claiming victory. This is important for Mr Obama's re-election bid next year.

The implication is that Washington is no longer averse to the emergence of a new political basis in Kabul that would either aim to jettison President Hamid Karzai or place him in a subsidiary position vis-à-vis the Taliban, who would hope to emerge as the new rulers with the active backing of the Pakistan Army in strategic and ideological terms. This is hardly a prospect that India can regard with equanimity. This country's security matrices are certain to deteriorate seriously in the event of the Taliban retaking Kabul. There would then be far greater pressure on Kashmir. Besides, in Pakistan, irredentist elements — in the armed forces, the administration and among the political class — would rise to the top with ease, giving a huge boost to anti-India jihadist congregations. Besides, should the Taliban return to rule Afghanistan (without Pakistan's navigation skills, this appears impossible), Afghan society and polity are likely to be thrown into a turmoil — including possibly a state of open civil war — on account of the unpopularity of the Taliban as well as the Pakistan state, leading to unsettled political conditions in the neighbourhood that might be difficult to fix if the Islamabad-Beijing axis comes into play. On the whole, on account of what could be in store, when the foreign secretary is in Islamabad, Pakistan's leaders would be feeling the stirrings of a wider regional politics that would no doubt buoy them. Such a time is hardly conducive to meaningful India-Pakistan negotiations. Ms Rao might therefore be best off being content with a broad review of bilateral ties.

The US troop withdrawal set to begin in July will in all likelihood be of minor magnitude at this stage, and would not have immediate impact on anti-Taliban and anti-Al Qaeda military operations. But the broad political path they will mark is what counts. In the circumstances, India will be required to readjust its sights in the context of Afghanistan, and play the game suitable to its aims in parallel with what the Americans might be doing. The perennially hopeful still talk of a joint India-Pakistan initiative for peace and development in Afghanistan. This is as ludicrous a thought as the belief that the US and Al Qaeda can find a modus vivendi to bring about a reign of peace in Muslim lands so that the West is extricated from the threat of Islamist political terrorism. For India it would be realistic at a time like this to prepare for a political, propaganda and terrorist offensive from the Pakistan side, including inside Afghanistan. We need to talk frankly about such prognostications with all those who matter internationally, but be prepared, if need be, to take hard decisions on our own.





2010 was the year of scams — 2G Spectrum, Commonwealth Games, Adarsh Housing Society etc.
2011 has emerged as the year of the fight against corruption — with social activist Anna Hazare's fast for a Lokpal Bill and Baba Ramdev's fast to bring back black money stashed away in foreign banks.
The midnight police crackdown on Baba Ramdev's satyagraha with 100,000 followers was yet another signal of the undemocratic tendency of the government to crush social movements and social protests. At the same time, when Ramdev's satyagraha was attacked in Delhi, 20 police battalions were being used to crush the anti-Posco movement in Orissa and destroy the betel-vine gardens that are the basis of people's prosperous living economy, earning small farmers `400,000 per acre.

The use of force has become the norm for the government dealing with people's protests.
In a democracy, which is supposed to be by the people, of the people and for the people, protests and movements are supposed to signal what people want or do not want. Listening to people is the democratic duty of governments. When governments fail to listen to the people and use force against peaceful movements they become undemocratic; they become dictatorships. When, in addition, governments that are supposed to represent the peoples' will and interests in a representative democracy start to represent the will and interests of corporations and big business, the government mutates from being of the people, by the people and for the people to becoming of the corporations, by the corporations and for the corporations. The state is becoming a corporate state. And this mutation transforms democracy into fascism. Neo-liberal economic policies have a political fallout of inducing this mutation of government from a democratic representative of peoples' interests to an undemocratic representative of corporate interests. Not only is neo-liberalism leading to the privatisation of seed and land, water and biodiversity, health and education, power and transport, it is also leading to the privatisation of government itself. And a privatised corporate state starts to see people fighting for public good and economic democracy as a threat.

It is in this context that we need to read the repeated statements of government ministers that peoples' protests and social movements are a threat to democracy. Social movements are raising issues about economic justice and economic democracy. Corruption is a symptom of the deepening trends of economic injustice and undermining of economic democracy. We need to connect the dots between the diverse social movements of tribals and farmers fighting to defend their land and natural resources, the movements of workers fighting to defend jobs and livelihoods, and the new anti-corruption movements whose faces are Mr Hazare and Baba Ramdev.

Corruption is the unjust, illegal and private appropriation of public resources and public wealth, be it natural wealth, public goods and services or financial wealth. The ecology movements and tribal and farmers' movements are fighting against the corruption involved in the massive resource grab and land grab taking place across the country for the mining of bauxite, coal and iron ore, for mega steel plants and power plants, for super highways and luxury townships. Farmers fighting the land grab along the Yamuna Expressway were killed on May 7. While they received a mere `300 per sq. m. for their land the developers who grab the land in partnership with government using the 1894 colonial land acquisition law sell it for `600,000 per sq. m. This is corporate corruption.

I have just received an SMS:

w Lush Green Farmhouses in Noida Expressway

w 10 minutes from South Delhi

w Clubs, Swimming Pool, Cricket Stadium

w Government Electricity and Roads

Farmhouses of farmers are burnt and destroyed to create "farmhouses" for the rich. Farms are destroyed to create Formula 1 race tracks and swimming pools for the elite. This obscene, violent, unjust land grab is the cruellest face of corruption in today's India.

The privatisation of our seed, our food, our water, our health, our education, our electricity and mobility is another facet of corporate corruption. In the case of the privatisation of seed, farmers are paying with their very lives. Seed costs rise and farmers are trapped in debt. Farmer suicides need to be seen as part of the web of privatisation as corruption. The government of Maharashtra has signed memorandums of understanding with Monsanto to hand over seed, the genetic wealth of farmers' research and the knowledge wealth of society to a seed MNC. This is corporate corruption. The government of India wants to totally dismantle the public distribution system to benefit agribusiness and corporate retail. Undermining the right to food is corporate corruption.

The appropriation of public and national wealth through bribes and black money is the third facet of corruption.
It is when all the streams of the fight for economic justice and economic democracy join as one will we have a strong and vibrant movement for defending and deepening democracy. Social movements are the life blood of democracy.

The government will, of course, try its best to crush democracy to protect the private economic interests it represents.

The two faces of government who most frequently make statements about social movements subverting democracy are human resources development minister Kapil Sibal and home minister P. Chidambaram, both of whom have represented corporations against the public interest in their legal career. They carry these corporate loyalties into their political career. They will do their very best to use every undemocratic means to crush movements for democracy and justice. Operation Green Hunt in tribal areas and the midnight crackdown on Baba Ramdev's satyagraha are just two examples of the use of violence to protect corrupt corporate interests.
The corrupt militarised, totalitarian power of the corporate state is not democracy. Peoples' vibrant movements fighting the concentration of economic and political power and the corrupt means used for concentration of that power are at the heart of democracy.

It is people and social movements who have kept and will keep democracy alive in India.

The author is the executive director of the Navdanya Trust





Perhaps no country has faced as many invasions as India. During the ancient period, we defeated world-conquering armies that invaded our country. However, during the medieval period, beginning with the second millennium, we suffered successive defeats at the hands of numerous invaders with disastrous consequences. The Panipat syndrome of lack of strategic vision, not learning from the past and remaining unprepared, compounded by disunity, has been haunting us.
The origin and history of Pakistan has been of relentless hostility towards India. Within weeks of Independence, Pakistan invaded Kashmir on October 22, 1947. Since then, it has launched repeated invasions of India. For the last three decades Pakistan has been carrying out cross-border terrorism.
Pakistan aligned itself with the West primarily to obtain military weapons for use against India. It also developed close relations with China to serve the same purpose. On its western border, it had strained relations with Afghanistan. The Durand Line, imposed by the British, divided the Pashtuns between Pakistan and Afghanistan. The latter does not recognise this line. The Pashtuns under Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan and after had been very friendly towards India. We should have taken advantage of this and followed Chanakya's Mandala doctrine, based on the enemy's enemy being a friend.
Unfortunately we chose to ignore Afghanistan, otherwise our victory in 1965 would have been more decisive, and in 1971 we could have also won decisively in the west. Today, when Pakistan has managed to unite the Pashtuns on both sides of the divide with the glue of religious fundamentalism, we are providing millions in aid to Afghanistan. This has been earning us much goodwill. On his recent visit to Kabul, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was invited to address the Afghan Parliament, which no foreign leader, including Pakistan's, has so far done. The big question is whether this bonhomie will continue after the US withdraws and the Taliban come to power in Kabul. The recent move by India to provide military weapons and training to Afghanistan can prove very fruitful if the present regime continues in power.
Kashmir has been a running sore for over six decades. We have blundered from one folly to another, scoring repeated self-goals. The US, looking at its own interests, has been pontificating that India should resolve the Kashmir issue so that peace may reign in South Asia. It does not realise that Kashmir is not the disease but its symptom. Even if Pakistan is handed Kashmir on a platter, it will continue its hostility towards India. The Indian Army has defeated repeated Pakistani invasions and has been inflicting heavy attrition on terrorists from Pakistan in Kashmir, keeping the borders intact. Yet we do not seem to be doing too well in Kashmir for lack of a suitable road map. We have not been able to counter the false propaganda of Pakistan and the separatists. India has also failed to effectively project its case on Kashmir. Delhi is not only upholding secularism in Kashmir and ensuring national integrity, but also contributing to the safety of the international community from jihadi terrorism. Yet India has been losing on the media front, both nationally and internationally. In Gilgit-Baltistan, legally part of India, Pakistan has denied basic democratic rights to its people. It is the only surviving colony in the world. Its people are predominantly Shia but Pakistan has been following vicious anti-Shia policies. It has been settling Pashtuns and Punjabis to change the region's demography. There has been repeated violence and unrest but we have not given any help to these people, not even moral support. In 2005, India agreed to the opening of the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road without getting the Kargil-Skardu road opened. Pakistan has gifted 5,000 sq km of territory in Shaksham Valley to China. The recent induction of large numbers of Chinese engineers and military into this area on the pretext of development and maintenance of the Karakoram highway has added a new dimension.
A couple of weeks before his death, the ailing Sardar Patel wrote a long letter to Jawaharlal Nehru cautioning him of the implications of the Chinese occupation of Tibet. He urged defence preparedness in the Himalayas. His sage advice was ignored. Misled by the euphoria of "Hindi Chini Bhai Bhai", the nation felt the pain of the debacle of 1962. Tibet used to be a buffer between India and China. With China occupying Tibet that buffer was lost in 1950. Nepal has been another buffer, which we now seem to be losing.
India has had close cultural, civilisational and religious links with Nepal since the dawn of history. We have an open border with no passport or visa regime with Nepal; the Nepalese in India enjoy the same facilities as Indian citizens; and a Nepalese citizen joining the Indian Army can become India's Army Chief. Over 50 lakh Nepalese find employment in India. This includes one lakh in the Army and paramilitary. Forty-five per cent of the Nepalese population is of Indian origin closely interlinked by linguistic and matrimonial ties with Indians across the border. Among the remaining 55 per cent of the population on the mountains, there are over 10 million India-employed and pensioners plus their families. Being a landlocked country, Nepal's economy is heavily dependent on India. For every Nepalese crossing into China, over 1,000 come across to India. No two countries in the world have such an intimate relationship. The UPA-1 government outsourced India's Nepal policy to its CPI(M) partner. With Communists in power in Kathmandu, China has acquired an edge over India in Nepal.
Since the Seventies, China has been building up its military strength and infrastructure in Tibet. We had lapsed into our pre-1962 strategic myopia and were surrendering thousands of crores of rupees in the defence budget every year. China's string of pearls strategy and increasing belligerence since 2007 has woken us up. Mountain divisions are being raised and modern military hardware is being acquired. Military infrastructure is also being improved in the Himalayas. All this is time-consuming but we must work on them on a war footing. We do not need to have an arms race with China. The mountains provide an inbuilt advantage to the defender. This must be exploited. We should have sufficient strength to deter any Chinese military adventure. At the same time, we must maintain superiority over Pakistan in both conventional and nuclear warfare, concurrently countering a combined threat from both China and Pakistan. We may have strategic consensus with the US, but we cannot rely on its support to pull our chestnuts out of the fire. The US, keeping its own national interest in mind, is likely to continue to provide assistance to Pakistan which the latter will use against India. We must be self-reliant and build the required military strength to meet the combined threat from Pakistan and China. At the same time, we must break China's string of pearls strategy by reaching out both to our close and distant neighbours.

The author, a retired lieutenant-general, was Vice-Chief of Army Staff and has served as governor of Assam and Jammu and Kashmir.







Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram is on three-day visit to the valley. He has a hectic schedule of meeting with the high ups for on-spot assessment of security scenario in the state. Hindsight shows that ever since he assumed the charge of Home Ministry, security and its related aspects are on his priority list. He made a good study into the genesis of Kashmir issue, the causes of alienation of the people in the valley and in all seriousness examined the options of how situation could be retrieved. Home Ministers have been invariably visiting the valley in the past and reporting to the PM or the Union Cabinet on a variety of Kashmir related matters. But it was PC who, after assessing and analyzing the input from various sources, official as well as non-official, in addition to his personal interaction both in New Delhi and in Srinagar, Jammu and Latah with stakeholders, he came to the conclusion that Kashmir had to be handled in an exclusive manner. This was an indication that he could take a purview of broader aspects of the issue more as a statesman than as a jingoistic politician. Consequently, he would like that his perceptions are supported by the results that can be gleaned from whatever has been achieved in Kashmir.
Past three summers have been marred by turmoil and unrest causing distress to policy planners at Kashmir desk. Therefore one important question that haunted the Home Ministry was to reach the roots of the cause of turmoil and disturbance in Kashmir. Convinced by a plethora of evidence in the hands of the police and intelligence agencies revealing how our adversary from across the border was exploiting the Kashmiri youth and fomenting unrest among them, the Home Ministry came to the conclusion that it was essential to engage the youth in Kashmir for gainful employment so that their attention remained focused on constructive and not destructive activities. The PMO and other union ministries showed positive reaction and we see today scores of new schemes and projects in Kashmir pipeline, all aimed at ameliorating the economic condition in Kashmir and engaging the Kashmir youth gainfully.
As reports indicate PC's ongoing visit to the valley is to assess the security scenario on the ground including security of Amarnath pilgrimage beginning on 29th June and ending on 13 August. More than 2.5 lakh pilgrims from different parts of the country are expected to make the journey to the holy cave. In view of unabated threats from Pakistan-based terrorist organizations like LeT operating in Kashmir, that it would not hesitate to disrupt the pilgrimage, the government is determined to make foolproof security arrangements and give no quarter to our enemies. It has to be reminded that the Governor Mr. N.N. Vohra has already twice made on spot assessment of security arrangements in this connection and he briefed the Home Minster in depth. The Home Minister would take no chances, and apart from his hour long one to one interaction with the Governor on the first day of his arrival in Srinagar, he chaired a high power meeting at the Sheri Kashmir Convention Complex which was attended by the Chief Minster, top security echelons, high ranking army and intelligence officers and senior functionaries of the Union Home Ministry. Obviously all aspects of security have come under discussion in full detail and any further steps needed to be taken would also be put in place. People appreciate earnestness of the Home Minster in streamlining security of the state especially when a good tourist season is on. PC's interaction with the district officers at Pahalgam and his visit to the forward post of Neeru is Gurez indicate the seriousness of the government to reach the people to mitigate their miseries. This is also a message to the militants that they cannot have a field day. This will also have salutary effect on the general public in assessing how far the Union government is concerned about their security, welfare and prosperity.







Throwing propriety to winds two former Maharashtra Chief Ministers, Vilasrao Deshmukh and Ashok Chavan are locked in a sordid blame game in order to wriggle out of Adarsh Housing scam. During the period 1999-2003 Deshmukh was the Chief Minister and Chavan his Revenue Minster. It was during their tenure that transfer of the land was affected while originally it was meant for the widows of Kargil martyrs. It is most depressing to note that senior political leaders belonging to the same political party and to the same state should get embroiled in a spat that would make a man hang his head in shame. Each of the two leaders has sent in his affidavit to the special commission enquiring into the scam and they are trying to bring the onus of transfer of land to each other. The bizarre allegations and counter allegations only take away something from the respect and dignity that a politician of Chief Minster's level normally enjoys. It also reveals that how the administration in the state during their tenure ran along contradictory and conflicting lines and now each tries to pass the buck to the other. These senior political leaders forget the principle of collective responsibility in a democratic system. Decisions of far reaching consequences are generally taken through consensus which means that all angularities are ironed out before a decision is taken. And once the cabinet makes up its mind, it is a collective decision and no single minister can be exclusively held responsible for any lacuna. When the news of Adarsh Housing scam was revealed, it came as a rude shock to the unsuspecting people of India. Nobody had even thought that the favour which the government wanted to show to the war widows would be scuttled by covetous and selfish politicians. Even in allowing the high rise building to come up at that particular site in Mumbai, the miscreants compromised country's security. Both of the senior leaders have damaged the image of their party and the trust that people reposed in them. This blame game should stop because at the end of the day the truth shall prevail and culprits will have to face the consequences of their misdoing.








By continuously feeding over trivial issues and delaying onset of parliamentary democracy, the Nepalese politicians are leaving the ground open for the play of foreign interests --some hostile to India.-- With no governance, or law and order, Nepal has become a major transit point for smuggling of fake currency into India and movement of insurgents from Pakistan. Repeated Indian protests have been to no avail and recent governments have displayed a degree of hostility towards India which has made New Delhi sit up and think of re-shaping its Nepal policy, with China factored in. Beijing is taking full advantage of the troubled situation to establish a network of its agent, while keeping the governments in good humour with promises of aid and weapons for the Nepal Army.
It is after much fighting that the three main parties -- the Nepali Congress (NC), the Unified Communist Party of Nepal - Maoist (UCPN-M) and the Communist Party of Nepal -- Unified Marxist-Leninist (UCPN-UML) agreed to extend the term of the Constituent Assembly by another three months to complete the task of writing the country's democratic constitution. A five-point agreement providing, among other things, for the formation of a government of national Unity, was signed by them to facilitate the tasks ahead, which have proved difficult to deal with so far. But, given the fate of such agreements signed in the past, the new agreement also does not hold out much hope of being translated into practice. Owing to a lack of commitment of the parties to the cause of a stable, democratic and unified Nepal, political uncertainty has aggravated and the country has gone further down the economic abyss.
The politicians are also trying their hand at the old game -- earlier played by the monarchy, which stands abolished of playing China against India, which is causing international concern. Not only are China and India getting involved deeper in the country's affairs, the United Nations also is taking extra interest in bringing about peace in Nepal which was torn by Maoist insurgency for close to two decades that cost over 60,000 dead. Increased Chinese activities in many areas are a cause of great concern for India, which shares a long and open border with Nepal. This has serious security implications for New Delhi, which does not want any hostile Chinese presence south of the Himalayas close to Uttar Pradesh, and Uttrakhand. India has counted on Nepal's neutrality and to respect which it has helped it economically and otherwise and provided weapons for its Army. For ideological reasons, the Maoists have a particular affinity for China, which will not spare cash or materials, in order to secure a firm foothold in Nepal and counter the strong Indian influence.
Taking advantage of the fluid political situation, Chief General of the Chinese Liberation Army Gen Chen Bhingde visited Nepal and offered China's support to ensuring political stability. He advised Nepal's warring factions to work out agreements which would lead to peace and stability. He offered military aid worth $ 20 million and promised to finance and equip an Army hospital, besides discussing a programme of regular exchanges under the China-Nepal Comprehensive Partnership of Cooperation. He also discussed ways of making efficient use of the newly built "Peace Airport" near the base of Mount Everest and the new China-Nepal road which will become operational soon.
The Maoists went to town with the visit, pointing out that "huge Chinese support" had come at the time when India was only making assurances of extending support. New Delhi kept a close watch on the visit, as it does generally on the expending Chinese activities in Nepal. -- The Chinese Army's chief's visit came almost after a decade -- the first was during the reign of the monarchy -- and caused concern to India, because the Nepalese Army has old and strong relations with the Indian Army and the bulk of its equipment is supplied by India. Therefore, any inflow of Chinese arms into Nepal causes concern. The Maoists have been trying to dilute Nepal's special relationship with India and China is taking advantage of the situation with a government in power which openly invites Beijing to participate in Nepal's development and strengthening of its military muscle. But the people in general are suspicious of China and do not approve of the Maoist policy of embracing China at great cost to the nation.
The latest agreement on completing writing of the Constitution in another three months offers yet another opportunity to Nepal's political class to re-engineer the political consensus missing since the 2008 elections. If not common dreams, common fears of political instability ought to force them to implement the agreement, including power sharing, constitution making and finally deciding the fate of the Maoist guerrillas, who want integration with the Nepal Army and paramilitary forces. Considering the persistence of basic differences among the parties on the structure of the Constitution, the present agreement too may not be implemented within the time frame of three month, ending August 28.
If the parties fail to show progress, they will find it almost impossible to get another extension for the Constituent Assembly because the last one too was granted after day-and-night hectic parleys and no action has yet begun on implementing the agreement. No doubt, Nepal has lived with this situation for years and managed to survive on aid from India and other countries. The guerrillas, who were being looked after by the UN in designated camps, have now become the responsibility of the state after the UN mission was asked to wind up its activities last year.
It is expected that about 4,000 combatants will be integrated, while the Maoists want 8,000 to 10,000 to be so treated. A compromise could be around 6,000 to 8,000 fighters, with some being taken into a mixed force under a new Nepal Army Directorate, and others absorbed in industrial security, forest protection, relief and development work, with most personnel unarmed. But differences over other issues have to be bridged, such as, norms for entry, rank harmonization, mandate of new mixed force and rehabilitation package, which will include a "Golden Handshake".
In the coming weeks Nepal politicians shall have to arrive at a consensus on critical issues, such as, federalism, electoral system, powers of the legislature and basic principles of state policy, accountability and integration. It is likely that the State Restructuring Commission will be set up, though the Madhesi parties are opposed to it on the ground that it will bypass the Constituent Assembly. The Madhesis living in the Terai region have been complaining of almost nil representation in the Army and the services, which they want redressed under a democratic set-up. Even the five-point agreement says that the representative character of the Army should be improved, to include men from regions other than the north, which is the case at present.
It now all depends on consensus - building, as it is, other parties individually or collectively, have neither the will nor capability to confront the Maoists, who made a god showing in the last election, emerging as the single largest party in Parliament. The Maoists are generally having their way and obstructing the political process, but other parties have to see through their game and save Nepal from endless chaos. [NPA]







After a transparent, fair and increasingly participative election of 2008-09 in Jammu and Kashmir with 68% turnout, Panchayat elections have recently taken place in the State with an unbelievable more than 78% voter turnout, at certain places even more. The enthusiasm of the people, the urge to be a part and parcel of the Panchayati Raj process in these elections, held after a gap of nearly over three decades, if appraised positively lead only to the fact that though fought on non party basis, faith in the democratic set up and decentralization of powers democratically, as aspiration of the rural populace, has emerged unambiguously.
Genesis of the Panchayati Raj system was described by the first Prime Minister of India, Pandit Nehru as "the most revolutionary and historical step in the context of New India." Why not, Panchayati System in India has due recognition and full backing of the constitution of India, with intent to basically looking after the uplifting of the Indian villages and ushering of a positive change in the rural areas so far as socio economic development was concerned. This system was incorporated in the constitution of India vide Article 40 by a special Constituent Assembly backed later by 64th and 73rd constitutional amendments, bestowing all pervasive legal status to the Panchayati Raj Institutions. The said system, vis-à-vis the importance of the democratic institutions at the grass root (village) level is mentioned in the Directive Principles of State Policy, being a state subject, as enshrined in the constitution of India.
It won't be out of context to mention that in ancient India, as scriptures throw ample light, there used to be Sabhas and Samities acting as powerful entities, based on decentralization and sharing of decision making by optimum participation of the people who used to have direct say in the affairs of their villages which were purely self dependent units until the time of the arrival of alien Mughals in India. They , as one of their state policies , started granting of Jagirs and promoting Jagirdhari or feudatory system which resulted in weakening of the strong edifice of the then prevailing Panchayati system. This, as a natural corollary, dealt a fatal blow to the village economy. Whatever was left out was further damaged by the British Rule virtually reducing the peasantry to penury.
The devolution of power under the Panchayati System is meant to be at the local level in the strict sense. The reason is that India is too large a country to be ruled, from a central place very effectively, hence the responsibility to take decisions for the welfare of the people has to be at the local level by the elected representatives of the people. Panchayats , therefore, are immediately accountable to people and are most hotly contested elections as we saw recently in our state . Women, both as candidates and as voters, took a major formidable part in the entire electoral process.
These elections, interestingly, saw people apparently distancing themselves from the ideologues of Azadi and the ardent advocates of the "resolution of the vexed Kashmir problem " being apparently fed up with such bogies. Separatists made many attempts in the valley to subvert the process even by resorting to violent methods describing Panchayat elections "as an attempt to deceive Kashmiris as elections could not be a substitute to the right of self determination and that it was to bluff the international community to bring home to them about the futility of the need to go in for a plebiscite in the state of Jammu and Kashmir." The boycott call was contemptuously ignored by the people in the same manner, rather with more punch, as they did in the elections to the state assembly and the Lok Sabha in 2008-09. Seeing the mass wave in favour of the process of elections, repugnant to the stand of those thriving on its opposition , a few candidates from the separatist camp joined the fray in the garb , if not the guise, of making it to the Parliament "to speak more vigorously about the Kashmir problem." For that, the nomination papers were properly filled in as Indians and endorsed by witnesses as Indians. The reasons for contesting, however, were immediately negated on loosing and such rhetoric shows non seriousness of the political and ideological propriety and exposes the double speak which exhibits the volumes of the inherent contradictions of the propounders of the "recognizing Kashmir as a disputed area and the urgency to solve it." The disillusionment about the fate of the " Azadi movement " has had its impact in surfacing of calling a spade a spade by a top Hurriat leader about who killed some prominent Kashmiri Muslim leaders who were more close to the pro Azadi movement than to India, thus setting at naught, though belatedly, the customary accusation heaped on "Government agents " or the "security forces ". This revelation is not an ordinary change of the mind set and needs to be taken note of depicting a departure from the diehard stand taken on the premise of deceptions and falsehood about the scenario in the valley since late eighties. Such changed mind set both by the separatist leadership and the people make them feel and rightly so , if still not admitting in the wide open, that the demand for holding a referendum or a plebiscite had outlived its meaning and context and thus become too stale to be injected with any doses of renewals or revivals but it is a tragedy and a paradox as well, beyond the comprehension, that the movement appears to be kept alive by a few of those who are called as mainstream political leaders as these leaders intriguingly term the Panchayat elections as having nothing to do with the solution of the Kashmir problem . A pretentious lie is spoken about these elections in the same way as about the last Assembly elections that they were for "Sadak, Bijli and Pani " only. It is a sad commentary on how the government's appointed interlocutors too speak the same language though giving such statements is outside the purview of their brief. The position of all the three is far better in our state (especially Sadak ) as compared to most of other states of the country. Why should the self appointed intellectuals and experts on Kashmir , then, lag behind to keep the pot simmering , one of whom was recently not allowed to enter the valley by the state government and thus prevented from throwing any more " expert light "on the Kashmir conundrum?
The question is that who, why, and at what cost are, nursing vested interests and fuelling anti India feelings in Kashmir, thus bewildering those who came forward, defying the boycott calls to cast votes, even from the remotest villages, acknowledging the Indian Panchayat system and resolving to strengthen the democratic set up in the state through such Panchayats at District, Block and Halqa levels? If mainstream politicians cannot argue and assert the 73.2% poll turnout in 2009 Assembly elections and nearly 80% in Panchayat elections as a simmering resistance and negation of separatists' stand and the feeling of disillusionment of what Pakistan is reduced to, then they are subverting the reality? Do the concerned mainstream politicians, therefore, also covertly acquiesce in the agenda of separatists and anti Indian elements?








J&K does not have a history of communal riots. Whatever happened in Jammu area in 1947 is an isolated incident and this was mainly due to the partition of the country. Terrible bloody riots were taking place all over India, Pakistan and Bangladesh---the Jammu riots were only a part of those general riots and killings. Kashmir valley always remained peaceful and the 5% Hindu population lived peacefully under the protection and care of their Muslim neighbours. Since the Kashmiri people have an extraordiary tradition of hospitality and friendliness, the minority Hindus felt safe and comfortable. However, internally there could have been strains of hostility which could not be noticed from outside. These hidden trends came out in the open when the mutiny in Kashmir unfolded itself in 1988-89. The Kashmiri pandits did not share the political views of their muslim neighbours and could not fight shoulder to shoulder with them in the so called war of independence. They fell from grace over night and were regarded as spies of India and great betrayers of the Kashmiri "quom". As a result they had to flee. Naturally no body can live in an atmosphere where 95% people suspected him of treachery and espionage.The muslims also felt the pinch of this exodus because many good doctors, teachers and advocates were pundits and they had also fled.
Even as late as 1987, the pundits were unsuspecting and were not aware that a big tragedy was awaiting them. The reason for this is that Kashmiris are a bit hypocritical and over polite in their speech and others could not understand what was in their mind. The pundits had huge grievances against muslims in their hearts and so did the muslims. But they never expressed themselves clearly. Since I am not a Kashmiri, both muslims and pundits used to open their hearts to me and I came to realise as early as 1987 that Kashmir valley was on the brink of a volcanic eruption.
I expressed my views to many senior beauracrats who laughed away my views as ridiculous. Only one pundit friend of mine took my warning seriously. He was a professor of ecomomics and he owned a lot land in Wanpoh (near Qazigund). In 1987 he sold off all his land at a good competitive price and with that money bought land inTalab Tillo, Jammu and built a magnificient bunglow on that. In 1990, when lakhs of Kashmiri pundits were running helter skelter in Jammu, my economist friend was well settled in Jammu. He thanked me profusely for my timely advice. Another bureaucrat friend of mine ( a pundit) was in 1987-88 posted as DC Baramullah. He was building a house in Indira Nagar, Srinagar with his hard earned GPF money. I tried to dissuade him. He would not listen to me. He said "Kashmir is our bhumi (own land) -----where shall I go and build a house?" I retorted "This is not your bhoomi for all practical purposes and the sooner you get rid of these silly ideas from your head the better it will be for you. You should follow the footsteps of your wise and senior IAS colleagues like, M.L. Kaul, H.L.Kadalbuju and Vijay Bakaya." He did not accept my advice. In 1990-1991 he was in great distress.
There is one big reason as to why muslims did not have much problems with hindus in J&K. Although Islam is the same everywhere in the world, shades and forms of hinduism vary from state to state. In J&K and Himachal Pradesh hinduism is more or less quiet and only temple oriented. Not so in other states. Holi and Diwali are very aggressive, boisterous and noisy festivals in the rest of India. One has to witness with one's own eyes how the Hindu festivals like Ganesh Chaturthi, Janamashtami, Dussehra are celebrated in western and southern India---how festivals like Rathyatra, Durga Puja and Kali Puja are celebrated in eastern India. Millions and millions of people come out on the streets and the processions are mind boggling. There is so much of noise and drum beating and smoke in the form of aarti---there is so much of wild dancing on the roads that any non-hindu may feel perplexed and scared. There is so much of idolatry and hagiolatry (worship of saints and tombs--aastaan parasti ) that many Muslims, specially those who do not visit tombs of saints-- could feel alienated and offended. As far as pure philosophy is concerned, there isn't much difference because both religions believe in the oneness of God and His mercy and benevolence. The Hindu holy books say" Ekoham--dwitiya naasti" (God is one and only one-----there is no second God). This is the same as "Laa Ilaha Illallah". On the ground, however, hindus find it more convenient and easy to worship images of different aspects of God almighty in the shape of gods and goddesses. If you ask a hindu to worship "Nirakaar Brahma" (formless, imageless God) he does not find it interesting and cannot concentrate in prayers. That is why in India there are thousands of temples of Shiva, Parvati, Vishnu, Ganesh, Durga, Kaali etc. etc. but temples dedicated to formless God or Brahma can be counted on fingertips. Hindus simply donot want to pray if there are no colourful images in front of them. Only saints do tapasya concentrating on formless God.
Communal harmony is, therefore, a far more difficult goal to achieve in mainland, peninsular India --than in the northern fringes of India like J&K and Himachal Pradesh. Communal harmony is natural for J&K and the happenings of 1989--90 are just abberations of history. The pundits worship Shiva quietly in temples and homes without any procession or drum beating or street dancing. Why should any one have any quarrel with such non-aggressive, non-boisterous people?
(The author is former Financial Commissioner J&K)
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The charge sheet filed by the National Investigation Agency ( NIA) against Swami Assemanand and others for planning and executing the blast in Samjhauta Express in 2007 that killed 68 passengers including 43 Pakistani citizens, should blunt criticism that India is not doing enough to bring the culprits to book. The charge sheet at the same time will add to the pressure on Pakistan to ensure that the plotters of the 26/11 attack on Mumbai are also tried and punished. The charge sheet is significant because, contrary to popular belief that Muslims are behind terror strikes, it has established links between terrorist activities and members of the dominant community. Hindus, and not Muslims, claims the charge sheet, engineered the terror strikes at Malegaon, Ajmer Sharif, Hyderabad and at Panipat. The blasts not just killed a large number of Muslims but had also acted as a red herring and sent police on a wild goose chase, arresting Muslims on suspicion.


The charge sheet casts a shadow too over the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh ( RSS). For an organisation that takes pride in discipline, it is hard to understand how half a dozen or more of its pracharaks could get involved in terrorist activities without the knowledge or approval of the leadership. The RSS does need to repudiate once and for all the "bomb ka badla bomb" or 'terror for terror' kind of vengeance. It seems the NIA has more substantial evidence than just the confession by the Swami against the five accused, of whom one is already dead, killed under mysterious circumstances, and two are absconding. Audio recordings recovered from a laptop seem to support the contention of the Swami that the strikes were plotted in his presence. The RSS has, however, been dismissive of the allegations, describing them as a perverse diversionary tactic dictated by the policy of appeasing Muslims. It will have to do better than that if it is to counter the evidence that will now be produced before the court.


The NIA, which took over the case in July last year, deserves commendation for completing the investigation without losing much time. The litmus test, however, will be how successfully it prosecutes the accused. 









Although India's stock markets have been on a downtrend since the start of the year, the BSE Sensex's 364-point fall on Monday was triggered by reports of a review of the tax treaty with Mauritius. Much of foreign investment in India is routed through Mauritius, where there is no tax on capital gains arising from investments in India. Also black money generated here is sent out and brought back through this tax haven. The double tax avoidance pact with Mauritius is responsible for heavy revenue losses in India, where capital gains are taxable. The government is under political pressure to plug revenue leaks and crack down on black money.


The Sensex had plunged 556 points intra-day but recovered partly after the Finance Secretary clarified that India cannot arbitrarily impose the capital gains tax on Mauritius-based firms. Foreign institutional investors are regularly pulling money from India and bad news just hastens the process. There are domestic and global factors driving away foreign investment from stocks to safer destinations like gold and fixed deposits. Emerging economies like India are faced with high inflation, which has forced central banks to tighten money supply, leading banks to offer attractive interest rates. But the rising cost of capital is weighing on corporate profitability. Companies in the rate-sensitive sectors will be affected at least in the next two quarters.


India has been one of the worst performing stock markets along with Tunisia and Egypt, which have witnessed political turmoil. The upheaval in the Middle East has sent oil prices skyrocketing. After touching a recent peak of $127 a barrel oil has retreated a bit but the future is uncertain. The International Energy Agency believes that high crude prices may derail growth in India and China. The global investment sentiment has also got a hit from the shaky recovery of the US economy. Fears of debt default by Greece have worsened the global investment climate. India faces internal and external threats to growth.











Kabaddi, the game that is identified with Punjab and is widely popular in California and Canada, found an 'official' sponsor in the government of Punjab that organised the recent Kabaddi 'World Cup'. The term has to be enclosed in inverted commas because there are, on an average, over a dozen events with a similar title in Punjab every year, and many more in other countries where the Punjabi diaspora has spread in sizable numbers, including Italy and Germany. The game, though overwhelmingly Punjabi dominated, also has an international flavour with Iranian and recently, Irish highlights. Of course, Kabaddi is widely popular in the thousands of rural sports festivals in the state.


The Deputy Chief Minister of Punjab, Sukhbir Badal, took personal interest in the event, and it would be uncharitable to assume that this was just another way of attracting potential voters, especially the NRI, who would have a significant impact in the forthcoming polls. No, it was his commendable initiative to link the tournament to his necessary and noble endeavour of combating the menace of drug abuse in the state. What better way, you may think, of weaning youth from illicit temptations than to engage them in physical activities. Kabaddi matches are always a big draw, and there is much involvement in rural Punjab in the game and its players. Even in village-level tournaments, the raiders and the "japhas" who try to grab them are richly appreciated and impromptu rewards by spectators are the norm.


Liquor companies are better known for their involvement in shooting calendars with swimsuit models in the high altitudes of Ladakh, or cerulean seaside resorts. Some local ones were, however, attracted to this very kabaddi tournament. Without any obvert advertisement, lest they violate judicial strictures, liquor and tobacco companies sponsoring sports events, they altruistically gave money for the promotion of kabaddi. Why, you may well ask. According to one version, they did it 'for goodwill'. As for officials involved with the tournament, this misadventure has certainly cost them goodwill and left them open to many barbs.









The examination and university admission cut-off marks, at least in Delhi, have reached absurd limits. Other than in exact sciences, no one can score 100 per cent. In my time, 65-70 per cent in humanities spelt distinction. Today it is almost akin to failure with poor prospect of admission to a college or subject of choice, especially in the first or even second rounds. This is a most untidy method of "rationing" effective demand for higher education to a limited supply. Many good students with high marks opt out of the rat race by seeking admission abroad.


Maybe, the proposed new grading system will help rationalise student ratings but will not answer the supply and vocational bottleneck. There is a real crisis here that the Knowledge Commission addressed. Speedy poverty alleviation demands high growth; but high growth will not be possible without a huge expansion in human resource development from the secondary level upwards. Quantitative expansion is not enough. Qualitative improvement is essential if India is to be competitive and innovative. Even our best colleges and universities rank poorly if at all in the world league.


Education reform and expansion are under way - but not fast enough. Community colleges are a good innovation and many new private universities are coming up, some with elements of foreign collaboration. Alas, many fly-by-night operators, unscrupulous politicians and moneyed men have also entered the field of educational entrepreneurship and spawned a number of dubious medical, engineering and other institutions. The idea that the existing colleges of repute seek autonomy to expand and innovate and even spin off as universities has not really taken off. Land and resources are issues but in some instances academic unions have become ideological obstacles to progress.


All this must change. Nothing is more important than education, which has suffered enduring neglect. Could civil society activate itself here, democratically and constructively as this concerns us all.


Meanwhile, "civil society" continues to huff and puff and, in some instances, to tilt with windmills. The argument that the Prime Minister, the higher judiciary and MPs must come under an omnipotent and omnipresent Lokpal is exaggerated and does not warrant references to "indefinite fasts" though what Anna Hazare is now laying down is a deadline, August 16. What the country needs is not a "strong" Lokpal but an effective anti-corruption/black money mechanism howsoever constructed. Extra-constitutionalism is unacceptable and would be unworkable. Such dangerous claptrap must be eschewed. Consultation, yes; but outsourcing legislation to self-named crusaders speaks of supreme arrogance and contempt for democratic norms. The analogy with the National Advisory Council (mark its very name) is false and to say that "people" are superior to Parliament is to advocate mob rule and anarchy. Anna's team appears to have embraced the Orwellian theory that "some are more equal than others".


Baba Ramdev stands exposed, much as Dhirendra Brahmachari, Chandraswamy and others of their ilk earlier. Now, intriguingly, an estimated Rs 300 crore worth of gold, silver and coins have been unearthed from Sai Baba's personal living sanctum. While drawing no adverse inference, this surely calls for a credible explanation as declared wealth of this order would normally be accounted for and deposited in bank lockers.


More tragic has been the death of the young Swami Nigamanand Saraswati in the same hospital he shared with Ramdev. He allegedly succumbed after 115 days of fasting to protest unsustainable sand mining in the Ganga at Haridwar. His guru, Shivanand, however, believes that he was poisoned by/in the hospital where he died. His parents were denied the right to conduct his last rites both by Shivanand and, curiously, the district administration as he was a sanyasi, and he was buried in a grave in the Maitri Sadan ashram near Haridwar. The case is to be sent to the CBI. Neglected while he fasted, Nigamanand has become a sad celebrity in death.


This fast too was a case of using wrong means, howsoever worthy the stated ends. It was "emotional blackmail". The lack of public "emotion" while he fasted was because of the absence of minute-to-minute media coverage with perfervid anchors, panellists and party spokespersons sermonising and screaming imprecations at one another to nobody's enlightenment. The media needs to introspect whether it is not becoming a false trumpet.


The Bombay High Court very recently chided Medha Patkar for fasting against a Mumbai slum redevelopment project. It said, "Let's stop these hunger strikes and start democratic governance in the country". Apt words.


Another question remains. Are these so-called "indefinite fasts", "fasts unto death" and "hunger strikes" truly fasts or gimmickry? They do pretentiously mortify the flesh. Yet, of Ramdev's nine-day fast, three or four were on saline. Nigamanand is said to have fasted for 104 days, which is medically impossible. Dehydration sets in possibly within 10-15 days (or less) and without an intravenous saline or glucose drip, or force-feeding through tubes (as in the case of Sharmilla Irom in Manipur), none can survive. However, some political fasts have been known to have been aided by surreptitious feeding. Nigamanand was admitted to the district hospital on April 19 and to the Himalayan Institute Trust Hospital in Dehra Dun on May 2. He was on drip in hospital though it is not clear as from which date.


The other facet is that in some known cases, a fasting person would like to break his fast but is not allowed to do so by his followers who have a stake in his "cause" or in their own pious self-glorification, which might even be better served by his death or "martyrdom". Ramdev appeared most anxious to end his fast and some of his followers were desperately looking for some gesture by the government to enable him to save face. That did not come and intervention came from Sri Sri Ravishankar, who has since spoken most sagely on the subject of protest and fasting.


Euthanasia is still banned in India though "passive taking of life" has been allowed. Should attempted suicide or its abetment be also made a criminal offence? This is a complex and sensitive issue but merits debate. Society cannot be periodically held up to ransom by blackmail and humbug.









The freedom movement was fast gaining momentum and all of the military could not remain totally unaffected. During leave, members of the regiment came in contact with Congress workers and some revolutionaries. On return, they disseminated what was picked up during leave. A few nationalist newspapers too were secretly being brought into the regiment. Since all ranks, to the exclusion of British officers were in it, this development remained under warps. There were a few secret meetings where nationalist feelings were expressed openly and vociferously, by the more vocal.


World War II had started and Indian troops were being moved to check the Italian offensive in North Africa. Soon this regiment too, received orders to move to that theatre of war. At one of the secrets meetings in the regiment it was unanimously decided by all personnel that they will decline to board the ship for move to North Africa to fight Britain's war.


The regiment was moved to Bombay, on way to the war zone. At Bombay it was 'formed-up,' by squadrons, on the railway platform to be taken by train to the dockyard for further transportation by sea. There was a light drizzle and the atmosphere was surcharged with expectations of frightful consequences, as squadrons waited to defy orders. Then the adjutant gave orders to the troops to board the train. The Dogra and Jat squadrons mounted the train, forgetting the collective decision not to go abroad to fight Britain's war, while the Sikh squadron personnel kept standing and did not react to the adjutant's order. The adjutant repeated the order and still the Sikh squadron did not respond.


This disobedience by the Sikh squadron came as a great shock and surprise to the British officers of the regiment. The Sikh squadron had an enviable service record, spread over nearly a century, including during World War I and its personnel were considered fine soldiers, valiant, imbued with the spirit of sacrifice, loyal and true to their cause and oath.


The squadron was ordered to 'ground arms,' which the personnel dutifully did. Thereafter they were marched off to the barracks and placed under arrest. Several court martials were held. The charge was one of mutiny. Many were sentenced to be hanged, more were sentenced to life imprisonment, some others to varying lengths of prison terms. The remaining cashiered from service and the squadron was disbanded.


At the centenary raising day celebrations of the regiment in the late fifties, some from that squadron too came to join in the activities. Most amongst them had served life imprisonment and some others lesser terms, while the remaining had been cashiered from service. They had no regret for their action, nor any bitterness or rancour towards those, who had betrayed the collective decision not to fight Britain's war, or remorse for the sufferings they had to undergo. They had acted according to their light, suffered much, lost everything and wanted no recompense for their tribulations. They too were freedom fighters, but of an altogether different genre.









When a German Company Niessing unveiled the first "Tension-Ring" in 1979, it was one of those moments when jewellery design had arrived to meet the 21st century head-on. This unique, simplistic looking engineering marvel of jewellery design was a timeless finger ring that held a gemstone under spring-loaded pressure, free of prongs, bezels or other conventional methods of setting. Exerting 12,000-50,000 pounds of pressure per square inch (psi) the alloy mixed gold and platinum rings held diamonds and sapphires as if suspended magically in mid-air. Winning multiple design awards around the world with its iterations, the ring made it into the permanent collections of prestigious institutions such as Grassimuseum in Leipzig, Kunstindustrimuseet in Oslo, Technical Museum in Vienna and the Museum of Art and Handicrafts in Hamburg in 2003.


After the end of World War II, jewellery designers started experimenting with new designs, thinking outside the box and seeking abstract expressions with wearable art adornments. A new palette of materials entered the arena of design; including plastics, aluminium, carbon-fibre, Precious Metal Clay (PMC), artificial gemstones like moissanite (a diamond substitute) and cultured pearls.


While the west has its waves of antique, vintage, retro and the eclectic styles, India has the depth and an unsurpassed vast richness of visual vivacity stretching back to the Indus Valley civilization, celebrating the longest continuous legacy of the body adorned through millennia.


Beauty Underlined


From the adornments of temple dancers to the commissioned fineries of maharajas and their many queens, to the earthy richness of jewellery worn by tribals , India has given birth to countless forms of folk, classical, devotional and expressive styles of ornamental creativity transcending the boundaries of art and craftsmanship. Over the centuries, the solah shringars (16 adornments) have absorbed layers of international influences rendered through subtle improvisations drawing from the Greek, Macedonia, Portuguese, Dutch, Chinese and other European sensibilities while retaining the guild of the classical traditionalist. Polki, kundan keshri, lac, pearl, minakari, navratna, pachchikam, jadau, thalikootam, and others offer variations in ornamentation for birth, marriage, festivals, rituals, ceremonies, occult, illness, ill-effects of astrological star positions, offerings, with variations in anklets, amulets, bangles, necklaces, turban crests, rings, talismans, bracelets, scabbards, shields etc., extending into weapons and allied embellishments. Indian traditions have often extolled the virtues of the inherent power of the materials that make up the jewellery. The Vedic traditions ascribe purity to gold and channelling of energies through the medium of gems.


A statement by machines


Jewellery making uses different production techniques, including stamping, casting, engraving and laser etching. The last two decades have seen the deployment of computers in object recognition, 3D Scans, CAD-CAM (computer aided design/modelling) systems and rapid prototyping using biocompatible resin, titanium and stellite processing and craftsmanship, creating new collections and new possibilities of complex designs. Current CAD/CAM software systems are capable of not only providing 3D solid and surface models, but aid changing of textures, settings and 360 rotation allowing designers to produce precise tooling grade patterns ready for casting or mould-making.


The late 20th century saw the blending of European design with oriental techniques such as mokume-gane (mixed metal laminate with distinctive patterns originally used by Japanese in forging samurai swords back in 17th century), hydraulic die forming, anti-clastic raising, fold-forming, reactive metal anodizing, shell forms and photo-etching, as artisan jewellery continues to grow both as a hobby and a profession.


Rhino 3D is another computer-aided tool customized to aid jewellery design to produce visually stunning precision surfaces on a small scale with its ability to produce exceptionally realistic renderings using Brazil, Flamingo, V-Ray, or Maxwell, and is used extensively by the Indian designers. Rhino's STL (stereo-lithography) read/write capability with tools, for making the STL solid definition absolutely water tight makes it valuable to wax printing technologies such as those from Solid Scape. For a lay person, what it does is to create a mesh-like exterior ensuring poly-surface connectivity over joints and surface couplings.


Also popular with Jewellers are desktop CNC Milling Machines from Roland DG, which have developed interfaces with Rhino. For other desktop milling machines, the G-codes that drive them can be created with RhinoCAM enhanced with added plug-ins. Stereo-lithography and hard model technologies are the future of the jewellery industry.


Display dazzle

Designed to dazzle, jewellery stores around the world have taken the power of glitter beyond the brand. Attracting customers and drawing them into the romance of remembrance has become a highly evolved exercise in sensual psychology and subtle signals. Apart from the mechanics of managing the functional requirements of viewability through UV coated glass, case lighting that does not distort the colour of the stones and pressure and laser guided security triggers, the stores are increasingly focused on the art of sparkle. From mannequins, light-boxes, art, sculpture, carpets, rich wood, textured leatherite, slat-wall panels, colour, graphics, mirrors to mood music, there has been a continued experimentation to enhance the shopping experience and to promote loosening of purse strings, stay mesmerized and perhaps return for yet another addictive buying experience that entices the senses. Even when there is no direct sale, the visual presence of a memorable brand continues to reinforce the primal magical mystery of the sparkle.

Future Trends

While globalisation and mobility of Indians travelling abroad has increased exponentially, changing the socio-economic outlook in fashion chic, the fashion jewellery industry is influenced more by the shortage in supply of raw materials and a steep hike in the prices leading to a cut-throat competition among the countries hosting polishing. This has led to a shortage in the supply of polished semi-precious stone creating a shortage for manufacturers of finished custom and retail jewellery and resulted in a noticeable shift of the industry to countries offering low labour-cost on production and polishing.

Changing fashion trends towards different designs, work-place etiquette in acceptable accessories, domestic needs and college-going student population guided by western influences and branding are changing the demand equation for what is cool and passé in each seasonal quadrant. The retail sector has also been affected due to competition from other luxury jewellery and accessories with semi-precious and precious stones and metals making their mark on pendants, belts, sun-glasses, cuff-links, key-chains, shoe-buckles, hand-bags, gift-pens, watches and tie-pins, largely in the developed economies where consumer sophistication is growing steadily.

(The author is a renowned museum planner and designer whose museum assignments span 11 countries.)







A recent 'Vision 2015' KPMG report released by the Gems and Jewellery Export Promotion Council(GJPC) of India indicates that global jewellery sales are expected to grow annually at 4.6 percent surpassing $185 billion in 2010 and hitting $230 billion in 2015. Palladium is expected to establish itself as an alternative metal for jewellery fabrication, while gold and diamond jewellery will continue to dominate the market together, accounting for about 82 percent of the market-share. Diamond jewellery would be the slowest growing segment at a Cumulative Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 3.3 percent, bracing the industry to focus on the growing demand for jewellery as a category and strengthen industry-wide supply-chain. While the United States continues to be the world's largest market for jewellery accounting for an estimated 31 percent of world jewellery sales, India and China are the emerging centres of jewellery consumption and have seen a spurt in the last decade from 8.3 per cent to 8.9 percent. Despite the changing fashion trends, the domestic Indian market is booming, given the growth in the economy and the expanding middle-class. If one looks at the numbers associated with weddings alone, the figures are staggering. There are over 1 million weddings held every year in India splurging a whopping Rs.1,35,000 crores on arrangements and allied extravaganza, out of which a mind-numbing Rs.60,000 crores is spent on traditional jewellery on an average. Retailers are struggling to cope up with the demands, seeking IPOs and unconventional sources of funding.


The gold-obsessed south-Indian market shows no signs of slowing down with jewellers holding the best real estate, shopping plazas, bill-boards and prime-time TV Commercials with exquisite merchandise that has taken traditional jewellery designs to dizzying heights of excess even as the world around gravitates to minimalist aesthetics with costume jewellery sales jumping to $60 billion last year. — GJ





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The real estate market in India is heading for what looks like a double dip. After correcting somewhat from the sharp setback suffered in 2008, with some sectors managing to exceed previous peak prices in 2010, the sector entered 2011 with cautious optimism. But halfway through the year, the outlook has turned distinctly sombre. The current economic deceleration is pouring cold water on demand for office space, always driven by the overall economic climate. The retail segment has yet to absorb the excess supply that has characterised it since the last slowdown. But it is the bread and butter affordable-to-middle volume part of the residential segment that has suffered a clear setback with successive policy rate increases raising interest rates and equated monthly installments (EMIs) and the promise of more to come. Banks, which had already turned cautious about lending to developers on receiving the signal from the banking regulator, are likely to become even more careful. Private equity, the only hope for cash-strapped developers facing sluggish demand, is unlikely to throw out a lifeline since they do not relish being locked into a medium-term plateau if not trough.

It's ironic that there is an astronomical unmet demand for livable urban space among all except the very rich, and it is a colossal failure of both the government and developers that an enormous business opportunity, which can make everyone better off, is not being created out of it. Despite the abolition of the urban land ceiling Act in most parts of the country, there is no perceptible increase in urban land supply which can make possible large additions to affordable housing. This is because urban planning is not promoting mixed development sufficiently, nor is urban infrastructure being built keeping in mind transportation links between new residential areas and job centres. Even under these circumstances, the middle class would pay through the nose for a place to live in the hope of capital gains over time. But there are dampeners galore. Not satisfied with raising EMIs, banks are turning more cautious in the face of regulatory exhortations to be mindful of rising non-performing asset levels. Plus, there is a mountain of anecdotal evidence of how buyers are short-changed by developers.


 A Bill to codify customer rights and offer recourse through the creation of a regulator has been hanging fire for a decade. Developers are opposing it tooth and nail and political leaders are in no hurry to upset them. Developers have a point when they say that the need to secure multiple sanctions delays projects and adds to costs. But the existing crop of developers has got into the business with its eyes open. It is popularly believed that they are both repositories and launderers of politicians' black money. Thus, entrenched corruption at the grass roots (those who process the multiple sanctions required) and protection from top are blocking change and reform. With the central government appearing paralysed by fear of decisive action on such issues, it can only be hoped that some of the more confident and politically secure chief ministers will take the initiative for policy reform.







Stock market investors are a notoriously fickle lot. So it is not surprising that the market capitalisation of firms and business groups keeps changing from time to time. Even by these yardsticks, the news that the Tata group has overtaken the combined market capitalisation of Mukesh Ambani's group and the Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group (ADAG) draws attention to an important recent trend in corporate India — investors value professionally-managed companies more than predominantly family-run companies. Though Ratan Tata is indubitably a hands-on promoter, his group is increasingly professionally managed. The Ambani brothers, on the other hand, can certainly boast of some fine managerial talent within their groups but no one is likely to claim that their companies are professionally managed — and certainly not to the degree the Tata group is. The current search for Ratan Tata's successor, for instance, does not stop at his cousin Noel; in the Ambani groups, the principle of primogeniture or, at the most, regency is a given. The recent realignment in market values, thus, can squarely be considered a vote for transparency and professionalism in corporate governance.

Of course, the current rankings need some qualification. For one, the comparison between the Tata group and Mukesh Ambani's RIL, which is now ranked second, is somewhat skewed; the former has 30-odd listed companies, RIL has two — but the group led the rankings consistently till this year. For another, this re-rating can be viewed through the prism of specific triggers: the controversies the brothers' businesses have faced in recent months. For instance, shares of RIL, still India's largest individual company by market capitalisation, fell 8 per cent for six straight sessions till Monday, June 20 as a result of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) submitting a report last week accusing a former oil regulator of favouring the company. ADAG stocks have fared worse and have been falling since February with the result that two group companies – Reliance Communications and Reliance Infrastructure – are now out of the benchmark 30-share Sensex. ADAG no longer figures among the top ten groups by market capitalisation — last year, it ranked third. There may, in fact, be another reason Indian family-owned groups need to take the message from the markets seriously. To a large extent, this ranking is not a reflection of the domestic retail investors' view but of global investors'. Indeed, given that retail investors have been all but absent from the market since 2008, it is the foreign institutional investors (FIIs) and domestic institutions that have been driving the Indian markets. FIIs have traditionally favoured professionally-managed firms and have always looked askance at Indian family-owned companies. This is another reason the market's view should not be taken as the view of Indian investors. After all the late Dhirubhai Ambani built an enduring relationship with ordinary investors who reposed trust in him and flocked in their thousands to company annual general meetings. While a new generation of investors, and certainly overseas ones, may exhibit a preference for professionally-run and widely-held companies, family-owned Indian companies have their share of the faithful. The challenge before them is to retain the trust of the faithful with good corporate governance







For over a year now the Reserve Bank of India has been engaged in monetary tightening to contain inflation. While that remains stubbornly high, there is a clear deceleration in the growth rate, putting paid to hopes of starting off the next plan on the elevated path of 9 per cent growth. The inflation and lower growth are being cited together as symptoms of all not being well with the Indian economy, which has been a star performer in recent years. A clear distinction is not being made between the two – inflation and lower growth – even though the former is the disease and the latter a side effect of the medicine used to fight it.


 In fact, there is not much sign of satisfaction that the policy rate instrument is working quite effectively, doing what it was supposed to do – suppress demand. The fact that the ultimate aim of tightening, sharply bringing down the inflation rate, has not yet been achieved has not raised doubts about the efficacy of the medicine. Over time it will achieve the desired effect, but possibly at great cost. The initial impact on consumer demand and sentiment will translate into a downswing in business sentiment, resulting in a cutback in investment expenditure (gross fixed capital formation has begun displaying negative signals). If this consolidates, it will slow down growth for several years as had happened after the tightening of 1996.

The finance minister has already expressed the first sign of worry: if the slowdown becomes pronounced, it will affect revenue buoyancy, render awry his fiscal projections and raise a question mark over future fiscal stability. With a slowdown in capacity creation, the export surplus may diminish, affecting the current buoyancy in exports. All this will have the most negative of social consequences — job growth will suffer and with it the battle against poverty.

With so much at stake, it is necessary to re-examine the basic tenets of the anti-inflationary regime that is being followed. Even if there isn't much scope for change, a detailed look can help clarify priorities — what are the goals and what is the price that can be paid to achieve them? The root of the present inflationary episode is threefold: the rural employment guarantee programme since 2006 imparting a sharp rise in demand for food, the drought of 2009 impacting food output and the rise in global oil prices through 2010, accompanied by a hardening of commodity prices. The rise in the fiscal deficit through 2008-2010 is not seen as inflationary since it owes its origins to the stimulus imparted to counter the global slowdown in the wake of the financial crisis, and insulate the Indian economy from its consequences.

As food inflation lies at the core of the present inflation and the employment programme is likely to sustain a high demand for food, the key to tackling the supply-induced part of inflation surely lies in vastly improving agricultural management. Policy failure on this front is the starkest but the positive side is that the list of things that need to be done is both obvious and widely understood. Improved water management leading to better drought-proofing, shifting the thrust of procurement to coarse cereals and rain-fed areas, taking forward the reform in fertiliser prices to restore soil nutrition and storing grain better so that rodents don't get to it — all this is doable at short notice with a likely quick positive impact on supply.

The other area where immediate action is possible is countering what goes under the broad rubric of fiscal profligacy and particularly cutting energy subsidy. The positive impact will be twofold: non-productive current expenditure will be partly reined in and by pricing energy right the correct incentive and signal will be transmitted to raise energy efficiency. Additional gains can be reducing the incentive for diversion of kerosene, driving the oil mafia out of business and removing the perversity of subsidising diesel-powered luxury cars.

But for many the need to contain fiscal profligacy also includes arguing against the employment guarantee programme and the right to food security and education. If a job creation scheme is used to construct public assets like tanks, irrigation bundhs and rural roads, and public transfers lead to undernourished poor people being better fed and receiving a minimum of education, then the picture changes. India's inability to create large numbers of low-skilled manufacturing jobs is rightly laid at the door of its inflexible labour markets. But it is forgotten that countries like Japan, Korea and China all followed the route, now being adopted by Vietnam, which gave them well-fed, healthy and educated workers before the jobs came. So, having a clear idea of what is wasteful non-productive public expenditure is vital to attain the right policy mix.

All the foregoing actions should take precedence over that favoured policy instrument of monetarists — raising interest rates. When inflation is caused by a shortage of essentials, or when it results from policy intervention for public transfers to empower the poor, raising interest rates is foolhardy. It ends up extending investment horizons and adding to manufacturing costs. It is like a doctor prescribing a primitive first-generation drug with many side effects. It is necessary to live with some inflation, that which is caused by a net transfer to the poor which eventually leads to a more productive workforce. The simplistic mantra – inflation sighted, ergo raise interest rates – needs to be countered.  






Report cards are usually opened with some forced optimism, whether it is from the school teacher or institutions. The latest data on the state of the judiciary, released by the Supreme Court this month, bring no cheer and show a relentless increase in the number of cases pending in all courts over the past five years. The picture is more dismal on the government's side. There have only been promises of reforms all these years and vision statements have turned blank when one rubs one's eyes.

Starting from 2006, the number of cases pending in the Supreme Court has steadily increased each year from 35,201 to 41,581, 45,887, 50,163. And now (May 2011) the number stands at 55,539. However, there are some consolatory words from the Supreme Court. According to it, if "connected matters" are excluded, the pendency is only 32,361. Out of the total, 19,630 matters are up to one year old and thus arrears (that is, cases pending more than a year) are only of 35,909 matters as on May 31.


 In the high courts, however, the rise during the same period was from 35,21,283 to 36,54,853, 37,43,060, 38,74,090 and the last figure for the 2010 year-end was 42,17,903. The subordinate courts recorded 2,56,54,251 cases pending in 2006 and ended up with the current figure of 2,79,53,070.

Another dire aspect, contributing to this state of affairs, is the number of vacancies in the subordinate courts. In the district courts, there were 2,730 vacancies of judges out of the sanctioned strength of 14,412 in 2006. Each year the figure climbed. At present, there are 3,170 vacancies though the number of posts has gone up to 17,151.

In the 21 high courts in the country, 154 judges' seats were vacant out of the total sanctioned strength of 726 in 2006. The situation is still unredeemed because the corresponding figures are 291 vacancies in a full strength of 895 judges. The climb was steady over the years.

One definite reason for this state of affairs is the tussle between the judiciary and the executive on the selection list. The process of appointment is neither transparent nor statutorily regulated. Earlier, the complaint was that the executive had an overwhelming power in the choice of judges to the higher judiciary. The pendulum swung nearly two decades ago as the Supreme Court, through judgments, grabbed this power. The "collegium" of five senior Supreme Court judges that selects judges has also come under a cloud and the Supreme Court is going to examine the system in the coming months.

It is not just the unconscionable number of vacancies in the high courts that warrant a reconsideration of the present arrangement. The Supreme Court itself is going to have seven vacancies in the coming months. The strength of 31 judges will be drastically reduced, at a time when the Chief Justice is desperately struggling to keep the arrears down.

In this dismal situation, the legal profession and the public are looking towards the government for some initiative. However, it was disappointment all the way. The only beneficial step taken by the Union Law Ministry seems to be the release of some 700,000 people under trial from the country's prisons. Computerisation of the courts has also progressed somewhat satisfactorily. That is the easier part. However, lasting legal reforms to tackle the deeper malaise are mired in complexities and lethargy.

It was tantalising to hear Law Minister M Veerappa Moily promising in 2009 that, "the next five years will be an era of judicial reforms." Half-way through the parliamentary term, there is little sign of contending with even the essentials. Almost every assurance of "revisiting and re-defining" legal issues has got stuck in legal quicksand or floundered outright. The worst examples are attempts to make transparent laws regarding the appointment and removal of judges, setting standards and accountability for them and declaration of their assets.

On the other hand, there are vacuous orations on a National Litigation Policy (whatever that means), a re-look at sedition laws in the wake of the Binayak Sen controversy and the ultimate solution to social evils like khap panchayats. Heady stuff from the podium of Vigyan Bhavan in the capital, but it sinks from memory sooner than the high tea afterwards. The latest from the minister is a proposal to launch a "campaign mode approach" to achieve speedy justice and a "charter" for quick disposal of criminal cases. He has written thus to all judges, most of whom are perhaps vacationing in cooler climes.

However, judges are weighed down by unmanageable dockets, an inordinate number of vacancies on the Bench, lack of funds, appalling corruption in the system and pressures of different kinds. They cannot come out and argue their case, or lament their plight, before the media like ministers. Anna Hazare might not have heard this one.





Like in most things in economics, corruption also has two sides - demand and supply. As our satyagrahis focus on the supply side, are we doing enough to tackle the demand for corruption?

Earlier this month, Thailand's Securities Commission's chief had to resign for facilitating a meeting between two groups of shareholders in a listed shipping company in which he owned 100 shares. The staff cried conflict of interest capable of tarnishing the image of the regulator and refused to work till he resigned. Isn't this the kind of ideal world our Anna Hazares are seeking?


Corruption is an agency problem that exists because the value at which the government sells or allocates its services or resources is much less than its monetary value to the user or purchaser. Or where the government is the buyer, the price it pays is more than the cost to the supplier or its usual market price. The difference is the kitty available for sharing between the agent and the purchaser or seller and bribe, the price of corruption, settles somewhere in between. Corruption can exist in the private sector too (such as out-of-turn allotments in cars, educational seats) but is normally corrected quickly by price revisions.

The reverse is equally true. If there is a big difference between the perceived values of services received by the citizens over what the government wants to charge, there is a tendency to avoid paying it and tax evasion and black money are the end results.

The monetary value of a "Shatabdi" ticket for a last-minute traveller will vary from person to person: some are more moneyed and some likely to be more desperate. No matter what the price of tatkal tickets there will be someone willing to pay more, which a smart collector can "extract" as bribe. Similarly, whatever the price the government is willing to pay after following its usual procedures (three quotations and so on), there will always be a seller whose cost structure is lower and hence willing to swing the order his way by greasing palms.

Like in most things in economics, corruption also has two sides — demand and supply. Corruption requires two willing and able parties — the giver and taker. The current satyagrahis attempt to solve the problem from the supply side (taker) alone, ignoring near totally the demand side or the price differences.

The "demand" for nepotism, favours and under-priced resources (corruption) comes from us, the citizens, on the retail side, corporations seeking control over some vital assets or licences, or some advantage over competition, etc. Suppliers to the government make up the rest of the demand side.

If the demand disappears, then the market for corruption will collapse. Are we as consumers willing to take a pledge not to try to buy a railway ticket out of turn by bribing, however urgent our need, not to bribe the traffic cop when challaned, nor to seek and use influence to favour ourselves? Likewise if corporations pledge not to pay bribes, for whatever reasons, and we work on ways to control government purchases, the demand for corruption will surely diminish. In this utopian world with no-one willing to pay bribes, it will become so insignificant as not to bother society. The current efforts hardly address this side of the equation.

Whatever be the effect of current agitations, it would be equally fruitful for them to get each of their sympathisers to get at least 100 citizens and corporations to pledge not to offer bribes, whatever their compulsions. It would get that extra mile of cleanliness in our system.

Tackling the supply side alone is sure to disappoint
The current agitations focus exclusively on the supply side. For this to succeed, the system of policing and vigilance has to be comprehensive and effective. Detection and punishment have to be swift and exemplary. But most administrative functions in India are awfully short-staffed in comparative terms, be it judges per capita or policemen per capita. About vigilance, investigation and prosecution the less said the better.

Second, who will appoint the Lokpals and Lokayuktas: the very same machinery — bureaucracy and the political class? If the appointment of Central Vigilance Commissioner (CVC) can come into question, fingers are pointed at judges – tenable, credible or otherwise – from time to time, can the appointment of Lokpals be completely rid of biases, preferences and political leanings? Doubtful.

Third, our seasoned political class will sort out whatever "laws" and "systems" even before the ink dries on such laws.

Influence peddling is in our psyche. Don't we see people in positions of power say "if you need any help let me know". It gives us a sense of social status, power, recognition and so on. So long as this exists, corruption and nepotism will persist (even without money changing hands).

Need to tackle pricing issues
There is a high degree of inappropriateness in the pricing of government services. If it is heavily under-priced, it results in corruption and bribery. If it is overpriced (stamp duty in real estate) it results in tax evasion and black money. There is a serious need to revisit such areas and close the gaps. Where it is inevitable (like income taxes) the government needs to simplify the rules and substantially increase the administrative muscle and tighten enforcement. The government does not have a credible or robust price-discovery process for most of its products or resources, more particularly the newer ones like telecom licences. Perhaps the most significant results in reduction of corruption and black money will come from correcting the mismatched prices. Any change that does not address this issue is bound to fail prospectively for sure; the ability of satyagraha in tackling the past to bring back the money will surely meet with stiff resistance

The author is CFO of a large paper company. These views are personal. He can be reached at 








India's policy turnaround enters its third decade this month, but the remarkable Indian growth turnaround is now in its fourth decade. The first two decades of higher growth – the 1980s and 1990s – have been well explored. Only now, with data becoming available, can we begin studying Indian growth patterns in the third decade, the 2000s.


My ongoing research with Utsav Kumar of the Asian Development Bank throws up four key findings about growth within India in the 2000s compared to the 1990s.

1. THE GOOD NEWS: Average growth has doubled. Chart 1 illustrates this fact. It plots the per capita growth rate for the 21 largest states for two time periods: between 1993 and 2001 (horizontal axis) and between 2001 and 2009 (vertical axis). The chart shows that with the exception of Himachal Pradesh and Rajasthan, all states are above the 45 degree line, indicating that growth in the 2000s was substantially greater than in the 1990s. Indeed, average per capita growth across the 21 states increased from 2.8 per cent in the 1990s to 5.8 per cent in the 2000s. The largest improvements were posted by Uttarakhand (7.1 percentage points), Maharashtra (5.8) and Chhattisgarh (5) with Gujarat and Bihar not far behind. The chart provides a clue both to the long-standing success of the Communist party in West Bengal and its overthrow in the recent elections: West Bengal was one of the strongest performers in the 1990s but was one of the few states that stagnated in the 2000s while others surged.

2. LESS GOOD NEWS: Divergence continues. The strong performance of the hitherto laggards – Bihar, Orissa and Chhattisgarh – has been one of the remarkable stories of the 2000s. But this should not obscure the more general pattern that across the Indian states, we still do not see a trend towards greater equality — that is, we do not see the phenomenon of convergence within India, whereby the poorer states, by virtue of growing faster than the richer states, start catching up with the latters' level of income. In fact, Chart 2 portrays a picture of divergence. It plots the growth rate of the states for the period 2001-2009 against their starting level of per capita GDP (in 2001). If convergence holds, the relationship should be downward sloping because the poorer the initial standard of living, the faster the subsequent growth ought to be. But, as the chart shows, richer states on average grew faster so that inequality across states increased.

What is surprising is that the 2000s, far from reversing the unequalising pattern of growth in the 1990s, continues it. In fact, if Bihar is excluded from the sample, the tendency towards divergence and inequality is even stronger in the 2000s.

3. GLOBALISED BUT VULNERABLE STATES?: India's rapid globalisation is one of the clichés of our time. The crisis of 2008-2010 highlighted the vulnerability that is the flip side of the dynamism that globalisation has engendered: growth declined in, and capital fled from, India, as in most other countries, albeit to a lesser extent. But the question remained as to which states were more dependent on foreign markets and hence more susceptible to a downturn as conditions abroad faltered.

Our analysis shows, unsurprisingly, that Karnataka, with Bangalore as the globalised IT-hub of India, fared the worst with a dramatic growth drop of about 4.4 percentage points during the crisis. Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra also saw a decline in growth of about two to three percentage points. Gujarat and Tamil Nadu experienced a smaller decline. On average, it seems those states that grew faster before the crisis experienced a greater decline in growth during the crisis. While the multiplicity of factors at work precludes drawing clear conclusions, the evidence is consistent with globalisation conferring benefits and at the same time increasing downside risks.

4. WHITHER DEMOGRAPHIC DIVIDEND?: Hope in India's future growth is founded on the demographic dividend: a rapidly expanding young population will save more and inject entrepreneurial vigour that will lift the country to a faster growth trajectory. And corroborative evidence was provided in an excellent recent paper by Shekhar Aiyar and Ashoka Mody of the International Monetary Fund. But the pattern of growth in the 2000s appears to muddy the waters. Our preliminary analysis, based on the 2001 Census projections rather than actual data from the 2011 Census, suggests that key demographic factors such as changes in the share of working-age population are not correlated – they may indeed be negatively correlated – with growth performance. This may not be surprising given that many of the demographically ageing states such as Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and, to a lesser extent, Maharashtra and Gujarat have done remarkably well while demographically dynamic states such as Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh have not fared as well. The preliminary nature of these results must be stressed but succumbing to a demography-based complacency must be resisted.

A final intriguing factoid relates to Kerala. The conventional wisdom is of a state that is Scandinavian in its social achievements but sclerotic in its growth performance because of investment-chilling labour laws and militant trade unions, and reflected in a labour force that has voted with its feet by emigrating to West Asia. The abiding caricature is of the lazy, argumentative Malayali, discussing Foucault and Gramsci over endless cups of chai while living parasitically off the remittances sent by the relatives-in-exile. Well, the data suggest that the conventional wisdom and the caricature are dead wrong. Kerala posted amongst the highest rates of growth in the 1990s (4 per cent per capita), continued its stellar performance in the go-go 2000s (7.5 per cent), and exhibited great resilience during the crisis, experiencing virtually no decline in growth.

India, evidently, is capacious enough to allow both Bania, reforming Gujarat and Marxist, reform-resistant Kerala to flourish. Or, to put it more honestly, the Indian growth miracle continues to confound.

The author is senior fellow, Peterson Institute for International Economics and Centre for Global Development
His book Eclipse: Living in the Shadow of China's Economic Dominance will be released this fall










The burden of choosing the right product should shift from the user to the provider, who ought to equip a household with the right tools to enable informed decision-making.

A common refrain that one hears in the context of financial services for low-income households is the importance of "keeping it simple". A simple product, combined with "financial literacy", is the most common prescription for financial inclusion. But this is a dangerous approach and one that is not rooted in a good understanding of the nature of finance.

Let's first see how simplicity can affect financial design in the case of a farmer. Before the sowing season, the farmer needs to finance his sowing operations. This can be done in two ways: first, a crop loan payable in equal monthly instalments and second, a crop loan where principal and interest payments are linked to the amount of rainfall obtained in the region.

The first option is clearly a simple product to design and communicate for a provider, since it shifts to the farmer the responsibility of insuring against rainfall risk. The damaging effect of this "simple" loan product is evident, as fixed payments are attached to volatile cash-flows.

The second option, however, requires the provider to develop an integrated solution by hedging the risk at his level. While the resulting product is complex, it addresses the farmer's needs more efficiently.

Difficult choices

Re-examining this notion of simplicity in the context of retirement planning, we find a household with earning members today wants to invest in assets that will give them stable income post-retirement and protect them from longevity and health risk. An optimal choice here is a contract combining an annuity scheme with health insurance. But, in the market, these are two stand-alone products, priced with very different assumptions.

A health insurance contract assumes that the people who purchase it will be those who expect to fall ill more often; the logic that goes into pricing an annuity, on the other hand, is just the reverse. In this disaggregated method of delivery, purchasing these products individually would not only impose a high cost on the consumer, but will also assume that the average consumer has the capability to understand this contract.

Financial literacy

Policy-makers see financial literacy as a solution to empower consumers and enable them to take decisions that will benefit them. But in the case highlighted above, the expertise needed to choose the optimal bundle of products goes beyond financial training. The financial marketplace is dynamic and it is almost impossible, even for the sophisticated consumer, to keep pace with financial innovation. Even for a well-informed consumer, translation of such knowledge into a purchase decision calls for his getting past an array of cognitive biases, such as procrastination, regret and loss-aversion, mental accounting and information overload. Financial literacy makes the very troubling assumption that if customers had all the necessary information, they would make perfect, welfare-enhancing decisions. Unfortunately, there is very little evidence to back this assumption.

A study conducted by professors at the London School of Economics, and published by Financial Services Authority, shows that behavioural biases often result in sub-optimal decisions for consumers. For instance, lower rates of annuitisation among retirees are attributed to a greater weight being assigned to the risk of early death over a longer-than-expected retirement period.

The inherent difficulty in navigating the growing assortment of choices results in customers placing higher levels of trust in their financial service providers and advisors. However, how much liability does the provider have today for this 'advice' that he gives?

Benefits for agents

The model of delivery is largely commission-based, with mutual funds and insurance schemes being pushed on to clients in a way that maximises the agent's commission and not always the clients' welfare. Disclosure is usually in the form of a bulky document that the client has to sign on, often a poor substitute for informed consent. Outcomes from an investment are not always possible to predict ex-ante and, in many cases, will depend on the provider's decisions.

Speculation by a fund manager can, for example, lead to losses for the investor, without the company taking responsibility for it. Risks and losses may not be appropriately conveyed, or conveyed late, leaving the investor to deal with them. Alternatively, the right combination may be technically too complex for the investor to choose by himself. Financial literacy has a very limited role to play here. Is it fair, then, to say that the preoccupation with simplification gives the provider an unfair advantage? Households and individuals are looking to fulfil certain basic functions over their lifetime, such as reducing risks and accumulating assets. These functions may vary at different stages of the life-cycle, as does their capability to achieve them.

An inclusive financial system should be able to equip a household with the right set of tools to enable informed decision-making. While this requires basic knowledge on the part of the consumer, the optimal choice can result only with changes in the current system of product design and delivery. The provider will have to cut across traditional institutional barriers to develop integrated products and services that lead to more efficient financial outcomes. In order to facilitate this process of financial re-engineering regulators and policy-makers will need to work in a coordinated manner. The way forward will be a shift in responsibility from the user to the provider, through a more prescriptive approach to financial service delivery.

(The authors are with IFMR Rural Finance.






The recent growth in workforce tells us that business activity has not been hit by curbs on 'hire and fire'. The falling share of labour in industrial value-added points to exploitation.

June 22, 2011:  

There is a perception that the share of manufacturing sector in India's GDP, at around 16 per cent, is low by international standards, and therefore needs to be stepped up. One of the factors perceived to be holding back manufacturing sector growth is the operation of numerous labour laws in the country. However, this assumption is open to scrutiny.

There are three major arguments against labour laws in the context of manufacturing sector growth: the multiplicity of legislation; difficulties in hiring and firing workers; and the cost of compliance on account of inspector raj.

There are as many as 44 Central Acts alone, besides many State labour legislations on labour. This web of norms, with no harmonisation of eligibility criteria across legislations, is believed to discourage setting up of new businesses.

But, according to the Doing Business report of the World Bank there are several factors that dampen business sentiments in India. These include difficulties in enforcing legal contracts, procuring environmental clearances, obtaining construction permits, paying stamp duties, dealing with a complex tax system, and delays in concluding insolvency proceedings. Labour laws may, therefore, not be a major constraint on manufacturing sector growth.

If labour laws are indeed a hindrance to business in India, how has the services sector grown at a much higher rate than the manufacturing sector?


The second argument against labour laws is their alleged inflexibility on induction and removal of workforce. The biggest culprit is perceived to be Chapter VB of the Industrial Disputes (ID) Act which stipulates that establishments employing more than 100 workers should seek prior permission of the Government before they can retrench workers and close the establishment. It is alleged that on account of this piece of legislation larger corporates are prevented from expanding to their full potential, both in terms of output and employment.

This contention is not supported by the Annual Survey of Industries (ASI) data which indicates that the share of factories employing more than 100 workers has grown in terms of fixed capital formation as well as employment, among units covered under the Factories Act. The compound annual growth rate of employment during the period 2005-09 was close to 7 per cent in establishments employing more than 100 workers, compared with around 4 per cent in establishments employing less than 100 workers.

With such trends in growth rates, there is no way that restrictive labour laws, particularly operation of Chapter VB of the ID Act, could have stood in the way of manufacturing sector growth, particularly in factories covered under ASI.


The third perceived problem associated with labour laws is the high compliance cost, including the associated costs of "inspector raj". A Committee set up in 2002 to look into reforming investment approval and implementation procedure had suggested simplification of not just labour laws but financial laws, corporate laws, environmental laws and infrastructure related Acts.

Whereas there are basically four main inspectors associated with labour laws (labour inspector, factories inspector, ESI inspector and EPF inspector) there are a host of inspectors under other laws which include electricity inspector, fire inspector, food inspector, central excise inspector, income tax inspector, customs inspector, controller of weights and measures inspector, and hazardous waste inspector, to name only a few.

Labour laws are not a major hindrance to business for three basic reasons. First, a large number of establishments cannot be regularly inspected because of the low ratio of total number of inspectors to total establishments to be inspected. For an estimated 2.5 lakh establishments in the Central Sphere there are merely 150 Labour Enforcement Officers and around 50 Assistant Labour Commissioners directly entrusted with the responsibility of carrying out inspections.

Secondly, the penalties prescribed under various labour laws have eroded over time due to infrequent amendments. For instance, the maximum fine under the Minimum Wages Act, 1948 is Rs 500; under the Contract Labour Act, 1970, it is Rs 1,000; and under the Employees Compensation Act, 1923, it is Rs 5,000.

Clearly, this level of fines is no deterrent to committing irregularities and violations. Further, action taken through convictions and prosecutions take an inordinately long time.


In fact, it is more likely that the recent growth of the manufacturing sector has been contributed in no small measure by engaging cheap labour that is not adequately protected by labour laws. It is to prevent this exploitation that some of the important labour laws including the Minimum Wages Act and the Contract Labour Act are in the process of being amended. Evidence of possible exploitation of workforce is indicated by the fact that according to ASI, the money wages per worker increased by less than 6 per cent between 2004-05 and 2008-09 while the rate of inflation was higher.

According to the same data, despite the fact that there was an increase in employment, there was a decline in the share of total wage bill in total value addition in the manufacturing sector. In other words, the earnings of workers did not rise at the same rate as the other factors of production.

There may be a strong case for strengthening labour laws, simplifying them to reduce the cost of compliance and improving their administration, rather than allowing greater flexibilities and exemptions under them.

(The author is Labour and Employment Advisor, Ministry of Labour and Employment, New Delhi.)






The State should help industry set up business, by using its 'eminent domain' to acquire land in fair manner.

As Ms Mamata Banerjee made it clear to the industrialists who had gathered at the Eastern Railway's Belvedere Club in Alipore, Kolkata, last Saturday, West Bengal is all set to launch its own "model of development" and not ape the system that is in place in, say, States such as Gujarat. In fact, a number of those who participated in the well-attended meeting cited specifically the "Gujarat model", which had paid handsome dividends for the State over the past few years.

Ms Banerjee explained that Gujarat's example could not be applied to West Bengal because while Gujarat "had (political) competition every five years", the situation in her State was different, what with the Left being the dominant political player for more than three long decades.

Clearly, the new Chief Minister must be given sufficient time to evolve a unique development model for West Bengal because of the unenviable position the State finds itself in today in view of its political and economic experience since the late 1970s. But this does not mean there should be inflexible stands on crucial inputs such as land which, unfortunately, is what the land policy suggested by the two-member committee led by the former IAS officer, Mr Debabrata Banerjee, smacks of strongly.

Take note of ground realities

An economic model must take note of the ground realities in West Bengal, specially the land question represented by the Singur episode. Clearly, given the unsavoury experience of the Left Front Government, there is every need to be cautious in framing a land acquisition policy for industry that will have to be fair to farmers, to the agricultural-development potential of the State, and provide encouragement to industry, which is straining at the leash to invest in West Bengal.

In this situation, it will be insensible for the Trinamool-led Government to adopt a line that proclaims: "Industrialists are coming here to earn profit. Why should the Government acquire land for them?" Indeed, this is precisely what Mr Banerjee told reporters last week when asked about the committee's recommendation that the Government should not be involved at all in the land acquisition process, barring helping out with the price issue.

The former bureaucrat is also reported to have said: "Industry should buy land on its own. You cannot have market economy and eminent domain (the power of the State to acquire private property) at the same time".

The simple question is: why not? The basic issue here is not one of mutual competition, but of the State helping out industry to set up business. It is precisely because of the benefits flowing from being in an "eminent domain" position that the State apparatus can effectively assist private industrialists, big and small, to acquire land in the best possible manner, resulting in benefits for all the players concerned.

Fortunately, the Chief Minister is far more flexible in her approach, and it is to be expected that, in the days ahead, when the land acquisition policy is firmed up, the Government will play a more active role in this specific economic arena. Singur showed up the pitfalls; the job of the new Government is merely to avoid them and not to disassociate itself totally from the process.






Entrance exams to premier institutions and seat allocation for science students who wish to study humanities can improve matters.

In order to give preference in admissions to students from the commerce stream and restrict the entry of those who had pursued sciences at the school level, a reputed college affiliated to the University of Delhi has raised the marks bar for the latter to an unbelievable score of 100 per cent in the higher secondary examination.

For the former, a lower percentage (which, itself, is quite high at 97 per cent) has been prescribed. The situation is only a little different in the other colleges of the University.


In general, the standard of college education in Delhi is perceived to be higher than in the rest of the country, though there are notable exceptions elsewhere. Delhi is probably the only university in the country which offers both Pass and Honours courses, the latter being considered superior to the former.

Seats in Honours courses are necessarily limited as they demand greater facilities like staff with higher qualifications, a well-stocked library and laboratories (for sciences).

Courses like Commerce (Honours) have other attractions in that a degree in them is perceived to be a passport to handsome employment. Hence, there is a heavy rush for admission to such courses of study, and that too in reputed institutions. Being their alumnus confers a badge of excellence on the scholar.

We have to address the issue of why a situation like the one obtaining in Delhi is not commonly encountered in other cities, although places like Mumbai and others may face a similar problem to some extent. The abolition of Honours courses in most states is one possible reason. The more rigorous a course of study is, like Honours, the greater is its appeal to bright young minds. It acts as a challenge and instils pride in them.

In the highly competitive employment market of today, an Honours degree holder from a premier institution has a decisive edge over other candidates.


Colleges in Delhi seem to prescribe high cut-off marks not only to select the cream of candidates from a particular discipline, but also to ward off a large number of applicants from other streams. It is also natural that the more reputed the college, the higher the cut-off. But what is difficult to understand and perhaps justify are the impossibly high bars that are being erected. The height of the bar must have some bearing on reality.

If, as has been reported, among those who have applied for admission to the Commerce (Honours) course in a particular college, there is only one science student who has secured a 100 per cent aggregate in the recently held CBSE Class XII examinations, it is clear that no other science student would be admitted even if the bar were to be lowered at a subsequent stage, as he or she may not have applied at all.

Fixing higher cut-off marks for science students seeking entry into the humanities is based on the belief that it is easier to score high marks in the sciences than in the humanities. This was probably true in the days gone by when, as a matter of principle, examiners would give not more than 6 or 7 marks out of 10 for even an exhaustive and well-written answer in a subject in the humanities. At the school level this is no longer so.

To ensure uniformity in evaluation and near parity with science students, the question paper format itself has been modified to demand short answers only. No lengthy essays need to be written now. Hence, to a great measure, the old difference in evaluation of science and humanities answer scripts no longer exists.

This brings us to the position that while some consideration could be given to students with a humanities background in admissions to humanities courses, the best way of doing this is not to shut out science students by raising the bar, but to allocate a proportion of seats to them.

This percentage should not be a token but a meaningful one like, say, 20-25 per cent. Such an allocation should not be considered high, as experience shows that science students, owing to their rigorous training, soon overcome their initial shortcoming and master any new subject they take up for study. A look at the number of engineers holding high managerial positions in the industry, and that too in the financial sector, or those making their entry into the civil services would bear this out.


To regulate admissions to courses in demand, such as Commerce, in premier institutions in the country, Mr Kapil Sibal has suggested the holding of a national-level entrance examination on the model of the IIT-JEE or the AIEEE or the AIMEE. Such an example is available in the form of the Common Law Entrance Test for admissions to the National Law Schools.

This has enhanced greatly the prestige of legal education in India. In addition, schools of excellence could be set up in almost all disciplines so that the present invidious distinction between the so called hard subjects like engineering and medicine on one hand and the supposedly soft ones like History or Philosophy on the other is eliminated.

Till such a time arrives, one hopes, college authorities in Delhi would be more reasonable and eclectic in the matter of admissions. Don't forget, top-notch American business schools admit students with a first degree in Music!

(The author is Former Secretary, Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India.)









The ninth and final session of the Lokpal Bill drafting committee dispersed with little meeting of minds between civil society representatives and their government counterparts. Forget the six points on which differences have been enumerated; the basic disagreement is on the essential nature of the proposed ombudsman. The civil society representatives seek to create a new body that is all-powerful, gets appointed with minimal participation by the elected representatives of the people, combines in itself the roles of the judge, jury and the prosecution, and is accountable to itself. This is reckless, elitist and oblivious of the new possibilities of transparency and monitoring made possible by the ongoing information revolution that rides on technology and the right to information. The notion that civil society would be able to find some incorruptible, omniscient philosopher king who would unerringly act in the public interest is the stuff of dreams. Reality calls for an elaborate system of checks and balances among different state institutions. True, some deep flaws mar the system at present: the judiciary is virtually unaccountable, appoints itself and forays at whim into the legitimate realm of the executive and the legislature. This must be remedied, not by subordinating it to a Lokpal but by giving the legislature a role in its appointment and in holding it to account. It is vital that the judiciary be in a position to provide a check on the Lokpal, should that august body stray from the path of rectitude. That would leave the judiciary out of the Lokpal's ambit, which should comprise the political executive, including the Prime Minister and the senior civil service. And members of the legislature should be held accountable not by learned ombudsmen but by the unwashed masses who elect them. And a competitive media would relentlessly scrutinise the working of all these institutions, helping each function effectively.
The shortcomings of democracy cannot be remedied by a well-intentioned elite but only through better democracy. Today, corruption funds Indian democracy. Changing that is the key, besides greater vigilance by an empowered people. This cannot be obfuscated.






The Centre is saddled with unmanageably large foodgrain stocks, whose accumulation has deprived farmers of a golden opportunity to export wheat. This is unfortunate and the fault lies squarely with the government. It dithered on lifting the ban on export of wheat when global prices climbed to $300 (. 13,500) a tonne in April, depriving farmers of higher incomes on their produce. Prices have now dropped to $220 (. 9,900) a tonne — well below the minimum support price (MSP) of . 11,700 per tonne — rendering exports unremunerative. Even the MSP makes sense only if the government is able to keep prices at or above that level. However, its failure to procure on a sizeable scale outside northwest India has depressed market prices of wheat in several states below the MSP. Grain stocks in the central pool touched 65 million tonnes as on June 1, surpassing the buffer norm. The Centre's main procuring arm, the Food Corporation of India (FCI), cannot handle such huge stocks. Mountains of grain stored in the open, covered under plastic sheets, will only rot if the offtake is limited. The government should, therefore, overhaul the food management system and allow private trade to procure, store and distribute foodgrains. Private sector competition will squeeze out inefficiency from the FCI, bring down costs and lower the food subsidy bill. If grain handling is done by the private sector, the government's role would be only to procure for maintaining the minimum buffer norm, while it transfers cash to intended beneficiaries of food subsidy.

Warehouse receipts, issued by accredited warehouses to farmers and traders, acknowledging the quality and quantity of produce deposited with them, now make it possible for the government to greatly reduce its direct role in physical handling of grain, notoriously vulnerable to pilferage, spoilage and excessive costs. The government can buy warehouse receipts to ensure that farmers get the minimum support price, while the warehouses would be obliged to deliver the requisite quantity and quality of grain delineated in the warehouse receipt.







The only thing funny about the interminable dispute over the drafting of the Lokpal Bill was AICC general secretary Digvijay Singh's quip on June 15. When asked whether he had any message for Anna Hazare on his 74th birthday, Singh wished him all the best and urged him to take care of his health by not going on repeated fasts at his age! Singh even suggested that Anna Hazare's younger supporters like RTI activist Arvind Kejriwal or lawyer Prashant Bhushan could fast instead of him. Team Anna's response could have been that if there was a maximum age for fasting, there should also be an age-limit for the UPA government's ministers. If fasting requires younger practitioners, so do the important positions of the PM, the FM and the external affairs minister, Team Anna could have said!

Contrary to Digvijay Singh's suggestion, there is this school of thought which believes that younger men would find it difficult to fast since they are used to four square meals a day and that fasting between breakfast and lunch or between tea and dinner is about all they can manage. P G Wodehouse even wrote a short story about a young man who was persuaded not to eat "the flesh of animals slain in anger" by the lass he loved and who, while staying in a mansion where only the soup was vegetarian, invariably felt "as hollow as the Grand Canyon" at midnight. Late one night, unable to bear the pangs of hunger, the youth raided the kitchen and was caught red-handed. No real-life protest-fast can survive the ignominy of its participants being caught devouring food. Experience counts, especially when it comes to fasting, which Anna Hazare has done far more often than Arvind Kejriwal and Prashant Bhushan put together! And Gandhi, may we point out, was not quite young when he undertook his fasts.




20 Years to an Economic Miracle

Two decades of economic reforms have yielded a miracle. It's now time for governance to supplement it

 Twenty years ago, on June 21, 1991, Narasimha Rao became head of a weak minority government grappling with a terrible financial crisis. Yet he initiated economic reforms that eventually transformed India, and even the world.

India in 1991 was a poor, misgoverned country, derided as a bottomless pit for foreign aid. Today it is called a potential economic superpower, backed for UN Security Council membership by the US, and set to overtake China to become fastest growing country in the world. When economic reforms began, critics warned that India would suffer a "lost development decade" like African and Latin American countries in the 1980s that supposedly followed IMF-World Bank advice. Critics said fiscal austerity would cause mass unemployment and shatter safety nets, while economic opening up would enable multinationals to thrash and oust Indian business. All three criticisms stand exposed today as nonsense. Far from suffering a lost decade India has become a miracle economy: social and welfare spending are at record levels: and Indian businesses have not only held their own but become multinationals themselves.


India has averaged over 8% GDP growth in the last decade. Its savings rate has shot up from 22% to 34-36% in two decades. So, with just modest foreign capital inflows, India can sustain an investment rate of 36-38% of GDP, which can sustain 8-9% GDP growth. Per capita income has shot up from $300 to $1,700 in two decades. Fast growth has created a shortage of not just skills but even casual labour. Salaries have gone through the roof, and casual wages have shot up by 40% in the last year in Bihar and Orissa.

Fast GDP growth has yielded a tremendous revenue bonanza —central revenues are rising by over one lakh crore per year. This has helped finance record spending on education and health, on welfare schemes (such as NREGA and Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan), and on Bharat Nirman. However, these areas are still dogged by massive corruption and waste, and badly need reforms.

The Asian tigers (including China) based fast growth on labour-intensive exports. This was impossible in India because the very incomplete reform process excluded any labour reform. To everybody's surprise, India instead developed skill-intensive exports — computer software, business services, autos and pharmaceuticals. This skill-intensive path was totally novel, unrelated to any IMF-World Bank model, and arose spontaneously when economic reforms allowed Indians to innovate in unanticipated ways. However, this pattern is now threatened by a serious skill shortage which the highly flawed educational system is struggling to solve.
India has become world leader in frugal engineering, a concept that didn't exist a decade ago. Frugal engineering cuts costs by not just 10-15% under western levels but by 50-90%. One example is the Nano, the world's cheapest car. Indian telecom has the cheapest call rate of one rupee per minute. Narayan Hrudalaya and Aravind Netralaya perform heart and eye operations at a tiny fraction of the cost overseas.

Innovation has improved productivity so dramatically that merchandise exports are growing faster than 30% annually despite substantial real appreciation of the rupee. China and some other Asian countries have manipulated exchange rates to create large mercantilist trade surpluses. But the RBI has aimed at a modest current account deficit financed by capital inflows. This is more sustainable than the Chinese approach. Critics claim that fast growth has bypassed poor people and regions. This is simply false. Poverty has declined from 45.3% in 1993-94 to 32% in 2009-10 according to the NSSO. But NSSO consumption data now capture only 43% of consumption measured by the national accounts, so the actual fall in poverty is probably steeper. We now have politicians offering free TV sets and laptops at election time. If poverty were really deep, such ploys would lead to Marie Antoinette-style derision. Cellphone penetration is approaching 70% of households. These are signs of falling poverty.

    The hunger ratio has fallen from 17.5% in 1983 to just 2.5% in 2004-05. Research by Devesh Kapur and others has demonstrated an astonishing improvement in the living standards and social status of dalits in UP since the reforms began. Literacy has improved by 21.8% in the last two decades, against just 13% in the previous two decades. In 2001-11, female literacy has outpaced overall literacy, and both have grown fastest in the poorest states. Bihar recorded an improvement of over 20% and 16% respectively in female and overall literacy. Nutrition indicators, however, remain terrible.

GDP growth has doubled or tripled since 2004 in six large, poor states — Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh. But for this, the national GDP rate could never have risen to 8%.


Fast growth has trickled up from the poor states to the national level.

These states are affected by Maoism, which is widely held to be evidence of extreme deprivation. In fact, it is more indicative of ethnic tension between tribals and non-tribals, especially over land and mining rights.
The unfinished agenda is huge. Crony capitalism rather than free competition prevails in many sectors, especially real estate, natural resources and government contracts, making politicians millionaires on an unprecedented scale. Government services — subsidised food, employment programmes, education, health — are dogged by massive absenteeism, corruption and leakages. The police-judicial system is corrupt and moribund, and simply does not combat crime or redress public grievances. Criminals have entered politics in unprecedented numbers.

Much economic reform is still needed. India ranks only 134th of 183 countries in ease of doing business, according to the Doing Business series of the World Bank/IFC. But even more urgent are reforms to improve governance. After all, economic reform has sufficed to create miracle growth. Governance, alas, still needs a miracle.










In 1924, the government constituted the Central Board of Revenue (CBR) as the apex central body to deal with the administration of direct and indirect taxes. Perhaps, with the growth in revenues and increased sophistication of the two taxes, the need of efficient management led to the splitting of the CBR into two boards: the CBEC to deal with matters connected with excise and customs duties and CBDT to deal with matters connected with direct taxes. The split was brought about from January 1, 1964 by the Central Boards of Revenue Act, 1963. Since then, the two Boards have played a crucial role in collection of central taxes. Over the years, they have also helped in reforming the tax policies and procedures. However, it is also true that tax collection is still an awfully meagre proportion of the GDP. Sadly, tax evasion is rampant. Some feel that to deal with black money, it is time to rewind the clock and merge the two boards.
The two Boards deal with not-toosimilar taxes or functions. The customs officials not only collect customs duties, they also deal with anti-smuggling activities and implement a plethora of prohibitory laws and regulations, including protection of intellectual property rights. The excise officials deal with the enforcement of excise and service tax law, including the complexities of valuation provisions and credit mechanism. The Income Tax Department is mainly concerned with collection of income tax and corporate tax. The jobs of the two streams are highly specialised, involving professional skills of different kinds. Besides, as of now, both CBDT and CBEC have their hands full, faced with the formidable task of ushering in the direct taxes code (DTC) and the goods and services tax (GST). It is being professed that GST is the panacea of all distortions afflicting the indirect taxes and DTC would put in place the most equitable revenue-assuring direct tax structure.
An effective answer to black money lies more in moderate tax rates applied on wide tax base and efficient tax administration. If at all merger of the two boards is any solution, certainly this is not the time. Let DTC and GST settle down first.


T N PANDEY FORMER CHAIRMAN, CBDT There is Simply No Case to Unify Them

The shortcomings in tax administration can frustrate even the best of tax policies. The two boards — CBDT & CBEC — in India are apex bodies for administration of direct and indirect taxes. Hence, their effective functioning is imperative for administration of respective laws and revenue collections. With the passage of time and laws getting more and more complicated, the standards of supervision and control are posing increasingly new challenges. Hence, more independence and efficient work management of two streams of laws are necessary — not curtailment of existing structures by merging the two boards into one.
Before 1964, the two categories of laws were administered by a single board — the CBR. The CBR Act, 1963 bifurcated the then CBR into two separate boards — CBDT and CBEC: the former for administration of direct taxes such as income tax, wealth tax, gift tax and estate duty, and the latter for administration of indirect taxes like central excise and customs — given the pressing administrative and technical reasons. Nothing has happened to reverse the 1963 decision. Rather, a new elaborate legislation relating to service tax has come under the CBEC's jurisdiction.

Merger also does not seem necessary, considering the tremendous increase in volume of work and officers and staff. Further, the taxes administered by the two boards are different in nature. So, policies for administering these have to be different.

The powers under the central excise laws are elaborately exercised by rules, which need considerable time. The combined board may not be able to devote the required time unless it is a 'jumbo' board. Also, substantial amendments in laws and the rules would be necessary to establish a reorganised board after the merger. There is seemingly no justification for doing so. Rather than combining the two boards, the need of the hour is to strengthen the two organisations, making them independent and autonomous and enhancing their stature by conferring on chairmen of the two boards the status of the secretary to the government of India — as in the cases of railways and P&T boards — to make their functioning more effective. Doing so does not involve any financial implications, as the two chairmen are already in the grade of special secretaries.







    You might use one to dry your hair or wash your dishes. There's one in every elevator and ventilation system. And in industry they run machines, pumps, fans, conveyors and more. I'm talking about electric motors. They are quite literally everywhere and they use a lot of energy.

In fact, they are the single biggest consumer of electricity. They account for about 45% of global power consumption, according to a new analysis by the International Energy Agency. Lighting is second, at 19%. The International Energy Agency analysis is startling. It means that every second power plant — more or less — is producing electricity for the sole purpose of running motors. In just 60 seconds, motors worldwide use enough power to meet the annual needs of nearly 13,000 households in India. [The consumption of electric motors in 60 seconds is 13,318,113 kWh. According to the ministry of environment and forests, the average annual power consumption of an Indian household in 2010 was 198,807 GWh/yr. So the consumption of electric motors in 60 seconds is enough to meet the annual needs of about 13,000 households in India (12,917 to be precise)].
Put another way, if you took all the electricity produced in every corner of the world from New Year's Day until June 16, you would just have enough to power the world's electric motors for 12 months.
The study is the first global analysis of energy consumption in electric motors and the other stunning fact it reveals is how much of the energy they use could be saved. Many motors are inefficient, oversized or running when they don't need to. It says it is feasible as well as cost-effective to save about 20-30% of total motor power consumption, which is 9-14% of all global electricity consumption.

Doubters may think that reaping such large benefits from motor system efficiency is simply too good to be true. The reason such a large unfulfilled potential exists, the International Energy Agency says, is that a variety of barriers make the benefits difficult to capture. These barriers also show up clearly in a global survey of manufacturing executives conducted this year by the Economist Intelligence Unit on behalf of ABB. It found that 60% of manufacturers had not invested in improving the energy efficiency of their capital, plant and equipment over the past three years.

The executives cited a lack of a clear-cut financial case for energy efficiency investments, a lack of funds and a lack of information about energy efficiency options as the three main barriers to greater investment in energy efficiency in their companies.

This is a surprise, given that motors account for twothirds of the electricity used in industry, and that the annual energy cost of running a motor in industry can be as much as seven times its purchase price.
The International Energy Agency report will go some way toward raising awareness. It fills an important gap in the energy and climate debate by putting some hard facts on the table about a topic on which independent measurement and analysis have been lacking. But it also clearly points to the central role of policymakers in realising the potential savings from electric motors: efficiency levels are highest where policy-makers have been most active, such as in the US, Canada and China.

In this respect, June 16 marks a milestone for the European Union. On this day, measures to improve motor efficiency come into force in the region, which are expected to save 135 TWh of electricity per year as of 2020. This is equivalent to the annual output of 22 nuclear reactors and represents a saving to industry in the EU of at least 12 billion euros per year at current electricity prices.

As Germany prepares to close down all its nuclear plants over the next decade, measures such as these that result in a more efficient use of energy will play an important role in helping Europe's largest economy to continue growing without facing power shortages.

The importance of motors is reflected in our language: When we refer to a country or industry being a "motor" of growth, we are highlighting its critical importance. The International Energy Agency report brings us back to the origin of that metaphor by showing us what a central role motors play in our economy. It's time to put them at the heart of our strategies for meeting energy and climate challenges as well.

(The author is CEO of the ABB Group)









 Last Wednesday, bleary eyed at a friend's house after a particularly big night, we were slapping ourselves in the face with randomly surfed channels – a fine way to jolt into awakening – and came across something that made all three of our jaws drop. I watch all my television on my computer and haven't been impressed by anything on Indian screens in quite a while, but by surreal serendipity or a masterstroke, Star World has bagged itself a truly spectacular bit of genuine mustsee TV.


If you haven't yet watched Simi Garewal's new talkshow, you, my friend, are missing out on something so insanely fantastical that words cannot do it justice. Still, I must stifle my giggles and try. Imagine if Kanti Shah's Gunda – the so-godawful-it's-genius classic that spawned many a fanclub and Twitter displaypic – *was* a TV show. Imagine something so inexplicably harebrained that it would feel overwritten in a Coen Brothers farce. Imagine anything that boy from Mtv who dresses in drag does as he apes Garewal, only make it actually funny and multiply it a thousandfold. This show spoofs itself, and I wish I were exaggerating.
    Equal parts boa constrictor and school principal, Simi's modus operandi is to cajole cuteness out of her young guests frightened into meek submission. This is Bollywood's own parent-teacher meeting, where a Ranbir Kapoor sits stultified while his mother, in the room with Simi auntie via video, calls him, because of his completeman-ness, Raymond. Ouch. Everybody Loves him no more, however, not after his streetcred was stripped by this show and those awful standup 'comedy' ads.


And then there's Kiki. For some wonderfully weird reason which must be applauded by every single one of us, the hostess thought she should play a high-pitched version of herself and flirt (!) with young Kapoor. Like a demented Betty Boop drunk on helium, Kiki terrorised the star kid in inimitable fashion. It was horrifying and unthinkable, and impossible to look away from. (Added bonus: any woman given to babytalk will desist as soon as compared to Kiki.)


The channel, of course, realises that the show's appeal lies in its lunacy. Which is why even this week they're gladly rerunning the Ranbir-Kiki cringefest instead of the relatively tamer Deepika Padukone episode from this Sunday, which – to my eternal disappointment – did not feature Garewal doing a baritone and playing some kinda sugar daddy. (Kaka, perhaps?) I hope she does, however, because it is honestly a treat watching these stars forced to toe the we-wearhalos line.


So more Simi, please. The mind boggles thinking of future golden episodes of India's Most Desirable, featuring Kangna Ranaut, for instance. And when Shah Rukh Khan appears on the show to sell his Ra.One, I wager the halo will slip off halfway through and Kiki'll have some of her feathers plucked. Either way, at least we have something to look forward to on TV. Thanks, Keeks.




                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL




2010 was the year of scams — 2G Spectrum, Commonwealth Games, Adarsh Housing Society etc. 2011 has emerged as the year of the fight against corruption — with social activist Anna Hazare's fast for a Lokpal Bill and Baba Ramdev's fast to bring back black money stashed away in foreign banks. The midnight police crackdown on Baba Ramdev's satyagraha with 100,000 followers was yet another signal of the undemocratic tendency of the government to crush social movements and social protests. At the same time, when Ramdev's satyagraha was attacked in Delhi, 20 police battalions were being used to crush the anti-Posco movement in Odisha and destroy the betel-vine gardens that are the basis of people's prosperous living economy, earning small farmers Rs 400,000 per acre. The use of force has become the norm for the government dealing with people's protests. In a democracy, which is supposed to be by the people, of the people and for the people, protests and movements are supposed to signal what people want or do not want. Listening to people is the democratic duty of governments. When governments fail to listen to the people and use force against peaceful movements they become undemocratic; they become dictatorships. When, in addition, governments that are supposed to represent the peoples' will and interests in a representative democracy start to represent the will and interests of corporations and big business, the government mutates from being of the people, by the people and for the people to becoming of the corporations, by the corporations and for the corporations. The state is becoming a corporate state. And this mutation transforms democracy into fascism. Neo-liberal economic policies have a political fallout of inducing this mutation of government from a democratic representative of peoples' interests to an undemocratic representative of corporate interests. Not only is neo-liberalism leading to the privatisation of seed and land, water and biodiversity, health and education, power and transport, it is also leading to the privatisation of government itself. And a privatised corporate state starts to see people fighting for public good and economic democracy as a threat. It is in this context that we need to read the repeated statements of government ministers that peoples' protests and social movements are a threat to democracy. Social movements are raising issues about economic justice and economic democracy. Corruption is a symptom of the deepening trends of economic injustice and undermining of economic democracy. We need to connect the dots between the diverse social movements of tribals and farmers fighting to defend their land and natural resources, the movements of workers fighting to defend jobs and livelihoods, and the new anti-corruption movements whose faces are Mr Hazare and Baba Ramdev. Corruption is the unjust, illegal and private appropriation of public resources and public wealth, be it natural wealth, public goods and services or financial wealth. The ecology movements and tribal and farmers' movements are fighting against the corruption involved in the massive resource grab and land grab taking place across the country for the mining of bauxite, coal and iron ore, for mega steel plants and power plants, for super highways and luxury townships. Farmers fighting the land grab along the Yamuna Expressway were killed on May 7. While they received a mere Rs 300 per sq. m. for their land the developers who grab the land in partnership with government using the 1894 colonial land acquisition law sell it for Rs 600,000 per sq. m. This is corporate corruption. I have just received an SMS: * Lush Green Farmhouses in Noida Expressway * 10 minutes from South Delhi * Clubs, Swimming Pool, Cricket Stadium * Government Electricity and Roads Farmhouses of farmers are burnt and destroyed to create "farmhouses" for the rich. Farms are destroyed to create Formula 1 race tracks and swimming pools for the elite. This obscene, violent, unjust land grab is the cruellest face of corruption in today's India. The privatisation of our seed, our food, our water, our health, our education, our electricity and mobility is another facet of corporate corruption. In the case of the privatisation of seed, farmers are paying with their very lives. Seed costs rise and farmers are trapped in debt. Farmer suicides need to be seen as part of the web of privatisation as corruption. The government of Maharashtra has signed memorandums of understanding with Monsanto to hand over seed, the genetic wealth of farmers' research and the knowledge wealth of society to a seed MNC. This is corporate corruption. The government of India wants to totally dismantle the public distribution system to benefit agribusiness and corporate retail. Undermining the right to food is corporate corruption. The appropriation of public and national wealth through bribes and black money is the third facet of corruption. It is when all the streams of the fight for economic justice and economic democracy join as one will we have a strong and vibrant movement for defending and deepening democracy. Social movements are the life blood of democracy. The government will, of course, try its best to crush democracy to protect the private economic interests it represents. The two faces of government who most frequently make statements about social movements subverting democracy are the human resources development minister, Mr Kapil Sibal and the home minister, Mr P. Chidambaram, both of whom have represented corporations against the public interest in their legal career. They carry these corporate loyalties into their political career. They will do their very best to use every undemocratic means to crush movements for democracy and justice. Operation Green Hunt in tribal areas and the midnight crackdown on Baba Ramdev's satyagraha are just two examples of the use of violence to protect corrupt corporate interests. The corrupt militarised, totalitarian power of the corporate state is not democracy. Peoples' vibrant movements fighting the concentration of economic and political power and the corrupt means used for concentration of that power are at the heart of democracy. It is people and social movements who have kept and will keep democracy alive in India. The author is the executive director of the Navdanya Trust






Coincidentally, the resumption of the India-Pakistan dialogue through the initiative of the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, last year occurred about the time that the US President, Mr Barack Obama, publicly broached the issue of the commencement of the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan. This imparted a new dynamics to US-Pakistani relations and boosted the morale of the Taliban who, along with their patrons, the Pakistani military establishment, began to look at the prospect of the endgame with anticipation. And interestingly, when the foreign secretary, Ms Nirupama Rao, will be in Islamabad on Thursday for a fresh round of talks spread over two days, President Obama will have just delivered a key speech a day prior that is expected to explain to American audiences the reasons for the US military engagement in Afghanistan despite financial hardships at home and his decision to begin drawing down troops with a view to creating a basis for a political settlement for Afghanistan that would permit the US to leave, claiming victory. This is important for Mr Obama's re-election bid next year. The implication is that Washington is no longer averse to the emergence of a new political basis in Kabul that would either aim to jettison the President, Mr Hamid Karzai, or place him in a subsidiary position vis-à-vis the Taliban, who would hope to emerge as the new rulers with the active backing of the Pakistan Army in strategic and ideological terms. This is hardly a prospect that India can regard with equanimity. This country's security matrices are certain to deteriorate seriously in the event of the Taliban retaking Kabul. There would then be far greater pressure on Kashmir. Besides, in Pakistan, irredentist elements — in the armed forces, the administration and among the political class — would rise to the top with ease, giving a huge boost to anti-India jihadist congregations. Besides, should the Taliban return to rule Afghanistan (without Pakistan's navigation skills, this appears impossible), Afghan society and polity are likely to be thrown into a turmoil — including possibly a state of open civil war — on account of the unpopularity of the Taliban as well as the Pakistan state, leading to unsettled political conditions in the neighbourhood that might be difficult to fix if the Islamabad-Beijing axis comes into play. On the whole, on account of what could be in store, when the foreign secretary is in Islamabad, Pakistan's leaders would be feeling the stirrings of a wider regional politics that would no doubt buoy them. Such a time is hardly conducive to meaningful India-Pakistan negotiations. Ms Rao might therefore be best off being content with a broad review of bilateral ties. The US troop withdrawal set to begin in July will in all likelihood be of minor magnitude at this stage, and would not have immediate impact on anti-Taliban and anti-Al Qaeda military operations. But the broad political path they will mark is what counts. In the circumstances, India will be required to readjust its sights in the context of Afghanistan, and play the game suitable to its aims in parallel with what the Americans might be doing. The perennially hopeful still talk of a joint India-Pakistan initiative for peace and development in Afghanistan. This is as ludicrous a thought as the belief that the US and Al Qaeda can find a modus vivendi to bring about a reign of peace in Muslim lands so that the West is extricated from the threat of Islamist political terrorism.







In April 2009, we travelled together as foreign ministers to Sri Lanka, as 25 years of fighting between the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil Tigers neared its end. The remaining fighters were trapped in the northern-most part of the country — along with large numbers of civilians. UN estimates put the numbers of civilians there in the last few months of the war at over 300,000. Our purpose was simple: to draw attention to the human suffering, to call for humanitarian aid and workers to be allowed in and to call for the fighting to stop. We visited refugee camps that had been created to house Tamil refugees from Jaffna. Their stories were brutal and shocking. Random shelling in areas of fighting — including after the government had announced an end to fighting. Men and boys taken away from refugee camps — and now out of contact. Tamil life treated as fourth or fifth class. If foreign policy is about anything, it should be about stopping this kind of inhumanity. When we met Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse, we argued that his government had legal obligations to its people, whatever the heinous tactics of the Tamil Tigers. We also urged a recognition that to win peace, President Rajapakse needed to reach out to Tamil minorities to make real the constitutional pledges of equal treatment for all Sri Lankans. Restrictions on journalism meant that there was a war without witness in Sri Lanka. But in March 2009 the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, visited Sri Lanka and wrenched from President Rajapakse a commitment to independent investigation of alleged human rights abuses. The agreement was subsequently denied by the President, but in 2010 the Secretary-General set up his own independent Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka. The damning report, compiled by three leading and independent figures, was published on March 31, 2011. It reports that tens of thousands of people lost their lives in the space of three months at the beginning of 2009, most as a result of government shelling. The government shelled on a large scale in three no-fire zones. It shelled the UN hub and food distribution lines. Meanwhile, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, or LTTE, refused civilians permission to leave, using them as hostages and shooting point blank those who attempted to escape. The panel of experts found credible allegations of serious violations of international law by the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE, some of which amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity. It says that the conduct of the war represented a "grave assault on the entire regime of international law". It says the Sri Lankan government's Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission fails standards of impartiality and independence, is flawed and does not satisfy the joint commitment of the Sri Lankan President and the UN Secretary-General to an accountability process. The report constitutes a serious test for the Sri Lankan government. Will it realise the error of brushing wrongdoing under the carpet? Will it recognise that the continued detentions under "state of emergency" laws undermine Sri Lanka's claims to a normal place in the international community? Will it recognise that the continued failure to resettle Tamils in an equitable way and give them economic opportunities as well as social rights is a dangerous cancer at the heart of Sri Lanka's future? But the report is also a test for the UN system and the wider world community. In 2005 the UN unanimously embraced the doctrine of "responsibility to protect". It must not be honoured in the breach rather than in the observance. The UN report calls for the Secretary-General to take further action, including establishing an independent, international mechanism to monitor Sri Lanka's reconciliation efforts and to conduct independent investigations into alleged violations. It seems to us essential that this process is taken forward. As the report says, accountability is a duty under domestic and international law, and those responsible, including Sri Lanka Army commanders and senior government officials, would bear criminal liability for international crimes. The integrity of the international system in addressing human rights abuses is rightly under scrutiny as never before. And when peaceful, diplomatic initiatives to hold accountable those who abuse human rights run into the sand, they only fuel the arguments of those who want to take the law into their own hands. So this decision about the handling of this report matters for Sri Lanka but it also matters more widely. Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has said that the international community cannot be selective in its approach to upholding the rule of law. We therefore call on our governments to set a deadline, soon, for satisfactory response from the Sri Lankan government, and, if it is not forthcoming, to initiate the international arrangements recommended by the report. Reports like the one compiled for the UN Secretary-General must not stand on the shelf. They must be the basis of action. Or the law becomes an ass.







Perhaps no country has faced as many invasions as India. During the ancient period, we defeated world-conquering armies that invaded our country. However, during the medieval period, beginning with the second millennium, we suffered successive defeats at the hands of numerous invaders with disastrous consequences. The Panipat syndrome of lack of strategic vision, not learning from the past and remaining unprepared, compounded by disunity, has been haunting us. The origin and history of Pakistan has been of relentless hostility towards India. Within weeks of Independence, Pakistan invaded Kashmir on October 22, 1947. Since then, it has launched repeated invasions of India. For the last three decades Pakistan has been carrying out cross-border terrorism. Pakistan aligned itself with the West primarily to obtain military weapons for use against India. It also developed close relations with China to serve the same purpose. On its western border, it had strained relations with Afghanistan. The Durand Line, imposed by the British, divided the Pashtuns between Pakistan and Afghanistan. The latter does not recognise this line. The Pashtuns under Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan and after had been very friendly towards India. We should have taken advantage of this and followed Chanakya's Mandala doctrine, based on the enemy's enemy being a friend. Unfortunately we chose to ignore Afghanistan, otherwise our victory in 1965 would have been more decisive, and in 1971 we could have also won decisively in the west. Today, when Pakistan has managed to unite the Pashtuns on both sides of the divide with the glue of religious fundamentalism, we are providing millions in aid to Afghanistan. This has been earning us much goodwill. On his recent visit to Kabul, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was invited to address the Afghan Parliament, which no foreign leader, including Pakistan's, has so far done. The big question is whether this bonhomie will continue after the US withdraws and the Taliban come to power in Kabul. The recent move by India to provide military weapons and training to Afghanistan can prove very fruitful if the present regime continues in power. Kashmir has been a running sore for over six decades. We have blundered from one folly to another, scoring repeated self-goals. The US, looking at its own interests, has been pontificating that India should resolve the Kashmir issue so that peace may reign in South Asia. It does not realise that Kashmir is not the disease but its symptom. Even if Pakistan is handed Kashmir on a platter, it will continue its hostility towards India. The Indian Army has defeated repeated Pakistani invasions and has been inflicting heavy attrition on terrorists from Pakistan in Kashmir, keeping the borders intact. Yet we do not seem to be doing too well in Kashmir for lack of a suitable road map. We have not been able to counter the false propaganda of Pakistan and the separatists. India has also failed to effectively project its case on Kashmir. Delhi is not only upholding secularism in Kashmir and ensuring national integrity, but also contributing to the safety of the international community from jihadi terrorism. Yet India has been losing on the media front, both nationally and internationally. In Gilgit-Baltistan, legally part of India, Pakistan has denied basic democratic rights to its people. It is the only surviving colony in the world. Its people are predominantly Shia but Pakistan has been following vicious anti-Shia policies. It has been settling Pashtuns and Punjabis to change the region's demography. There has been repeated violence and unrest but we have not given any help to these people, not even moral support. In 2005, India agreed to the opening of the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road without getting the Kargil-Skardu road opened. Pakistan has gifted 5,000 sq km of territory in Shaksham Valley to China. The recent induction of large numbers of Chinese engineers and military into this area on the pretext of development and maintenance of the Karakoram highway has added a new dimension. A couple of weeks before his death, the ailing Sardar Patel wrote a long letter to Jawaharlal Nehru cautioning him of the implications of the Chinese occupation of Tibet. He urged defence preparedness in the Himalayas. His sage advice was ignored. Misled by the euphoria of "Hindi Chini Bhai Bhai", the nation felt the pain of the debacle of 1962. Tibet used to be a buffer between India and China. With China occupying Tibet that buffer was lost in 1950. Nepal has been another buffer, which we now seem to be losing. India has had close cultural, civilisational and religious links with Nepal since the dawn of history. We have an open border with no passport or visa regime with Nepal; the Nepalese in India enjoy the same facilities as Indian citizens; and a Nepalese citizen joining the Indian Army can become India's Army Chief. Over 50 lakh Nepalese find employment in India. This includes one lakh in the Army and paramilitary. Forty-five per cent of the Nepalese population is of Indian origin closely interlinked by linguistic and matrimonial ties with Indians across the border. Among the remaining 55 per cent of the population on the mountains, there are over 10 million India-employed and pensioners plus their families. Being a landlocked country, Nepal's economy is heavily dependent on India. For every Nepalese crossing into China, over 1,000 come across to India. No two countries in the world have such an intimate relationship. The UPA-1 government outsourced India's Nepal policy to its CPI(M) partner. With Communists in power in Kathmandu, China has acquired an edge over India in Nepal. Since the Seventies, China has been building up its military strength and infrastructure in Tibet. We had lapsed into our pre-1962 strategic myopia and were surrendering thousands of crores of rupees in the defence budget every year. China's string of pearls strategy and increasing belligerence since 2007 has woken us up. We do not need to have an arms race with China. The mountains provide an inbuilt advantage to the defender. This must be exploited. We should have sufficient strength to deter any Chinese military adventure. At the same time, we must maintain superiority over Pakistan in both conventional and nuclear warfare, concurrently countering a combined threat from both China and Pakistan. We may have strategic consensus with the US, but we cannot rely on its support to pull our chestnuts out of the fire. The US, keeping its own national interest in mind, is likely to continue to provide assistance to Pakistan which the latter will use against India. We must be self-reliant and build the required military strength to meet the combined threat from Pakistan and China. At the same time, we must break China's string of pearls strategy by reaching out both to our close and distant neighbours. The author, a retired lieutenant-general, was Vice-Chief of Army Staff and has served as governor of Assam and Jammu and Kashmir







This June corresponds with Rajab, the seventh month in the Islamic lunar calendar. Rajab is one of the "four sacred months", mentioned in the Quran. It is associated with many events in Islamic history, including the Shab-e-Miraj, the Ascension of Prophet Mohammad to heaven and the birth of Imam Ali. Ali, the son of Abu Talib ibn Abd al Muttalib, was the cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet. Ali's mother was going around the Kaaba in Mecca, when she felt the pangs of childbirth and delivered the baby inside its precincts. Prophet Mohammad, the first person to embrace the child, named him Ali meaning "the exalted one". Imam Ali has a pivotal role in Sufi philosophy for the Prophet had proclaimed, "Man kunto Maula va Ali un Maula", (I am the Master of those of whom Ali is the Master). These words of the Prophet are known as Qaul and inscribed on the walls of numerous dargahs. Sama mehfils, Sufi musical assemblies, traditionally begin with a rendition of the prophetic saying. Rumi pays a tribute to the Master of all Masters: For this reason did the Prophet With religious authority Place upon himself and Ali The title of Master Saying, whoever takes me as master and friend Takes my cousin Ali as a Master too. Who is the Master? That one who frees you Breaking the shackles of slavery from your feet. Entrusting the mystic heritage to Imam Ali, the Prophet declared him Imam ul Auliya (leader of the friends of Allah) till eternity. Imam Ali is the important link in connecting Sufi lineages all the way back to the Prophet. On the Prophetic saying, "I am the City of Knowledge and Ali is its gate" Rumi continues: You are like the gate of that City of knowledge You are a ray of that sum of forbearance O gate, remain open for those who seek you, So that those husk-like people reach the kernel through you Be open forever, O gate of mercy Upon the court of that one who has no equal. Sufis have a treasure of stories relating to methods used in replacing unworthy attributes by praiseworthy qualities. An often-told story about Imam Ali is once in a battle, the invincible warrior overpowered his enemy. When Ali pointed his dagger at the opponent's throat, he spat in Ali's face, who said, "Go away, taking your life is now unlawful for me". The bewildered enemy enquired why he was being released. Ali said, "When you spat in my face, my ego was hurt and I would be killing you for myself and not for the sake of fighting oppression for the Truth. Taking your life now will make me a murderer". Moved by Ali's integrity, the enemy warrior embraced Islam. After the death of the Prophet, Ali became the fourth and last of the Khulafa e Rashideen, (the rightly guided caliphs of the Muslim Caliphate). He defined spirituality as "Knowing Allah through the Light of Allah". He was a great scholar of the Arabic language and the beginnings of Islamic calligraphy with the Kufic script are attributed to him. Numerous short sayings of Ali have become part of general Islamic culture and are quoted as aphorisms and proverbs. Acclaimed for his eloquence, good governance and spirituality, Ali became the principal authority on the Quran and Islamic jurisprudence. Ali was martyred, while leading the morning prayers, by a poison-coated sword on the 21st of Ramadan in the city of Kufa. His beautiful mausoleum in the city of Najaf in Iraq remains an important pilgrimage site. Ali's sons, Imam Hasan and Imam Hussain, survived him, and it is through them that the lineage of Prophet Mohammad continues. Veneration and love of the Ahl e Bait, (family of the Prophet) is a major theme in most Muslim communities across the world. — Sadia Dehlvi is a Delhi-based writer and author of Sufism: The Heart of Islam. She can be contacted at






The Union minister for human resources development, Mr Kapil Sibal, has called for a debate on the role of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India. This suggestion has come in the wake of recent findings of the CAG that have embarrassed the government considerably. The government would be making a huge mistake if, in the name of a debate on the role of the CAG, the prestige of this body were sought to be diminished merely because the auditor of the country's public finances has done its job diligently. Even as supporters of the ruling regime seek to deny that the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, and the home minister, Mr P. Chidambaram, (in his capacity as the finance minister) had turned a blind eye to the 2G spectrum scam by passing on the blame to disgraced former telecom minister A. Raja, the leaked draft of the CAG highlighting how the ministry of petroleum and natural gas allegedly favoured Reliance Industries Limited, among other companies, while putting together a contract to extract natural gas found in the Krishna-Godavari basin, has added to the government's discomfiture. On November 16 last year — ironically on the day the CAG's report on the 2G scam was tabled in Parliament and a day before Mr Raja was arm-twisted into putting in his papers — Dr Singh delivered a speech to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the establishment of the office of the CAG, in which he stated that the authority's reports were taken "very seriously" not just by the media, but also by the public, the government and Parliament. Dr Singh said: "(There is) a huge responsibility on the institution to ensure that its reports are accurate, balanced and fair. Very often, there is a very thin line between fair criticism and fault finding, between hazarding a guess and making a reasonable estimate, between a bona fide genuine error and a deliberate mistake. As an important watchdog in our democracy, it falls upon this institution to sift the wheat from the chaff, to distinguish between wrong-doing and genuine errors, to appreciate the context and circumstances of decision-making processes". Dr Singh was careful choosing his words. Mr Sibal has been less circumspect. Soon after he was given additional charge of the communications portfolio, he argued at a media conference that since the official policy for allocation of spectrum in 2008 was "first come first served", there was no loss to the exchequer thereby indirectly seeking to trash the CAG's claim that the notional loss on account of undervaluation and misallocation of spectrum was a huge `1,76,000 crore or the equivalent of nearly $40 billion. He contended that the "presumptive" loss to the exchequer that had been calculated by the CAG on the basis of certain assumptions was "utterly erroneous". Mr Sibal's claim threw up a number of questions that have not been answered. If Mr Raja's claim that he did what he did with the knowledge and consent of the Prime Minister, why then did Dr Singh ask him to resign? Why are Mr Raja, officials who worked closely with him and representatives of telecom companies behind bars if the government had indeed not lost even a single paisa, as Mr Sibal claimed? Why were officials of the CAG not convinced by the answers given by officials of the department of telecommunications to their queries? On June 18, Mr Sibal reportedly said about the CAG: "What should be the CAG's role in the post-1990s economic scenario? There are two views. One that says the CAG should comment on policy and there is another classical view that it should only deal with the expenditure incurred and whether it has moved away from the intent of allocation. That it should not comment on the merits of a transaction without understanding the circumstances in which the decision was taken. Yes, there should be a debate". Whereas it is nobody's case that the CAG should be formulating government policies, the country's apex auditing body and guardian of public funds has every right to question and criticise the government's policies when they lead to losses to the exchequer. The CAG derives his powers from Articles 149, 150 and 151 of the Constitution of India. He is appointed by the President of India and can be removed from office only in the manner in which a Supreme Court judge is removed, that is, through an elaborate process of impeachment. After retirement, the CAG is not eligible to hold any other office in either the Union government or any state government. He holds a unique position — he is neither an officer of Parliament nor a functionary of the Executive. When the alleged kickbacks on the sale of howitzers or field guns by Sweden's Bofors to the Indian Army blew up into a major political scandal in 1987, the controversy had been kicked off by a CAG report. The CAG then was Mr T.N. Chaturvedi who went on to join the Bharatiya Janata Party, become an member of Parliament and then a governor. In the late-1980s, although the Congress vehemently denied that bribes had been received by the then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, the party never attacked the institution of the CAG. Times have changed a lot since then. The role of the government in the economy has come down making it all the more important that the CAG scrutinises how the people's money is spent in so-called public-private partnerships. There is much that needs improving. Barely one-third of the CAG's recommendations are acted upon by Public Accounts Committees at the Centre and in the states. The CAG's reports often come rather late in the day, after the damage has been done. But today's rulers would be doing the country a huge disservice if they were to trash an institution that could check the discretionary powers of our politicians and bureaucrats and curb their proclivity to misuse public money. * The author is an educator and commentator









THERE are two facets of Aung San Suu Kyi's BBC lectures that have been smuggled out of Myanmar, coinciding with her 66th birthday. Quite the most critical, decidedly a deviation from her hitherto non-violent struggle for democracy, is the hint that 'it's possible' to change her commitment to non-violence. She has spoken as a free citizen in a country that uses a spurious brand of democracy to serve as a shambolic facade to the rule of the junta. The icon of democracy has referred to Mahatma Gandhi, who in her reckoning is the father of non-violence, to say, "between  cowardice and violence he would choose violence any time". Indeed, Suu Kyi has drawn a fine distinction while dwelling on the rationale of non-violence. "I do not hold to non-violence for moral reasons but practical and political reasons." Clearly, after two decades of detention and denial of power, she is now in a position to reflect, and with a remarkable degree of mental freedom. Implicitly does she realise that the non-violent struggle for democracy has led Myanmar nowhere. On the contrary, it has reinforced the repression of the junta, borne out by her extended detention and the ruthless suppression of the peaceful movement by the Buddhist clergy some years ago.

Is it possible that Suu Kyi has been influenced by the Arab Spring? Notably, she has been impressed by the internet technology that has lent an impetus to the movements in the Arab world. Hence perhaps her touching faith in a violent struggle should the need arise. It is significant too that she has compared Myanmar's 23-year-old movement for democracy with the jasmine revolution in Egypt and Tunisia. She has been emphatic in her assertion that "the similarities between Tunisia and Burma are the similarities that bind people all over the world who yearn for freedom." Yet the jasmine whiff is unlikely to stir her country just yet given the divisions within the National League for Democracy. One section has played into the junta's hands by participating in the elections. No less crucially, the military remains firmly entrenched unlike the occupants of the rusted thrones. Nonetheless, it is the change in perception that the world must take note of. Non-violence may have reached its sell-by date in Myanmar. As a free citizen, Aung San Suu Kyi has spoken the language of an intrepid crusader. She has exercised what she calls her 'right of freedom of communication'.



THE boat has been rocked a year after the municipal change of guard and exactly a month after the new dispensation assumed office in the state. Anita Mondal, the chairperson of Bidhannagar Municipality, has resigned. What provoked her to put in her papers remains fogbound; the standard explanation ~ 'personal reasons' ~ doesn't convince. Is it possible that there were differences at the highest level over running civic services in this satellite township? Ms Mondal is disarmingly candid when she admits that "I have not been able to match Didi's pace". The strong possibility of a rift in the lute is apparent from the reported statement of the municipality's vice-chairman, Sabyasachi Dutta, who now additionally flaunts the label of "Rajarhat MLA". Could dealings with the real estate lobby be an underlying reason? Comparisons are odious and Mr Datta would appear to have jumped to the rather humiliating conclusion that "Anita is a misfit if you go by the rate at which Didi is working. She has done nothing significant after taking charge of the municipality on 17 June last year." The vice-chairman of a municipality has clearly defined responsibilities; to advance an evaluation of the chairperson's performance is not one of them. In the process, Mr Datta has achieved two very contrary objectives. He has reaffirmed his loyalty to the leader and exposed the discord within the Trinamul municipality which has cut a sorry figure before the residents and the IT sector. The Chief Minister's studied silence 48 hours after receiving the indication from Ms Mondal's SMS confirms the rumblings within. Was Miss Banerjee dissatisfied with her performance? She needs to come upfront instead of leaving it to the vice-chairman to assess the person.

Ms Mondal's cavil calls for reflection, specifically the charge that she "was not allowed to function as chairperson, not even to transfer an employee". The other allegation is no less critical, that "whenever I tried to assert my authority, the matter was misrepresented to Didi to give me a bad name". A year after the Left was defeated, Bidhannagar Municipality is now plagued by intra-Trinamul bickering. The signs are ominous and Miss Banerjee ~ not somebody way down the pecking order ~ must reflect. Paradoxically enough, the CPI-M has readily lent its moral support to Ms Mondal ~ "at the next board meeting, we will seek an explanation on why she was removed". The plot thickens.



MUCH as sports lovers will lament, slam or condemn the disbanding of the JCT football team ~ for long the pride of northern India ~ they must also appreciate the honesty evident in the closure statement from the owners. "JCT Ltd. being a corporate", it said, "needs to justify to its stakeholders the efforts vs visibility of the football team". Stripped to the core, what it asked was whether there were adequate returns ~ in terms of exposure etc. of the JCT brand ~ on the investment in the squad not particularly successful in recent times. Fans of an earlier generation would ask if commercial interests were part of the equation when the team was launched 40 years ago, why has "sporting philanthropy" dissipated? The answer lies in changed times. Contemporary sport is professionally conducted; players, trainers and so on have to be well paid, well equipped. The days of playing for the love of the game, as recreational activity, have long ended, or survive only at lower levels of competition. Comparisons are now being drawn with the shutdown of the top western India "corporate" team, Mahindra United, last year. There were older precedents too ~ Mafatlal and Leader's. True three of the four named are still successful business/industrial ventures, true also that there had been a decline in the performance of the disbanded units, but the bottom line remains the one that divides the black from the red in the accountant's ledger.

The JCT management has criticised the All India Football Federation for not ensuring live coverage of its national league. Sadly, many of those games ~ indeed fixtures in other once-prestigious tournaments too ~ are played before empty stands. Even "historic" clubs admit a fall in fan-following. Football is not alone in such dire straits. It would be a naïve over-simplification to lay the blame on the nation's cricketing obsession that keeps the cash-registers ringing. India's cricketers are at the top of the tree: television confirms how poorly Indian football compares with standards in even the Far East or West Asia (why look farther?). It is all very circular, vicious or otherwise, quality play attracts fans, sponsorship, finances: but without finances raising quality is difficult. It is not a mere marketing issue. The starting point will have to be a degree of international success. Who bothered about Indian women's tennis and badminton until the advent of Sania Mirza and Saina Nehwal?








Proponents of the economic reform process argue that industrialisation must progress regardless of whether it destroys fertile land. The conflict in Singur or Nandigram has shifted to Orissa where the South Korean steel giant, Posco, is finding it increasingly difficult to execute its project. It could displace thousands of small farmers and tribals.

The anti-government movement by the peasantry in Singur, Nandigram, Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, and the Narmada Valley is not a war between industry and agriculture or between change (progress) and continuity. It is a conflict between basic human rights and governments intent on promoting private capital by taking over the land of the poor who stand to lose their livelihood as well as their hearth and home. Even a compensation package can lead to a controversy, as at Singur and Jagatsinghpur, the site of the Posco plant.
The plan to set up Special Economic Zones has compounded the problem. The poor are convinced that they have no option but to fight against the combined might of all political parties, which are now acting as agents of India's actual ruling class ~ the captains of  industry.

Of course land is required to set up industry. But those who run the risk of losing their land must be compensated properly, specifically for their lost home, their lost assets, and the lost income. They need to be provided with accommodation as well as a source of livelihood. In most of the disputed cases, the compensation is either inadequate or delayed by corrupt government functionaries.

Industrialisation just for the sake of it is not justified. It is essential to look at the costs and benefits. Already 250,000 people have been evicted in the Narmada Valley; thousands are doomed to a similar fate in Orissa, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Haryana to make room for Special Economic Zones. There is need to reflect on this model of economic growth and industrialisation. The harsh truth is that people don't gain much. The experience of Europe and America suggests that it is possible to sustain rapid industrialisation along with agricultural prosperity. There should not be any conflict between industry and agriculture in a planned economy. It would be wrong to suggest that the developed countries have ignored agriculture in preference to industries.

The problem of evicted farmers exists all over India. The reason is not the promotion of industry as opposed to agriculture, but a false notion borrowed from the US. It disregards a planned and balanced economic development but promotes a capitalistic development of the reformed economy that automatically invites eviction and exploitation of the poor. Economic reformers claim that globalisation enhances welfare. China is the best example of the success story of globalisation, but the same cannot be said about welfare measures in that country.

A section of experts argue India needs to get rid of its labour policy, which is designed to protect the weakest against unrestricted exploitation by the private sector. In their reckoning, Special Economic Zones ~ where Indian labour laws and tax laws are not applicable ~ is the answer.

There are many restrictions on foreign investors in China. They must have a Chinese partner-company; they have to export a substantial part of their production; they cannot raise finance from China; in certain cases, they have to supply defence technology to China in return for permission to invest. Yet the foreign companies are moving to China where they can use local workers as they please. Chinese workers have no trade union rights or even basic human rights for that matter. Workers who have tried to form independent unions or lead labour protests have been imprisoned and  severely punished. ( Thus, China is a fascist capitalist country with its economy driven by the foreign capitalists with an insignificant (less than 2 per cent) private sector of its own.

Exploitation of the workers is a the basic element of Chinese economic policy. Increased foreign investments do not translate to greater welfare of the people, but to the economic welfare of a small minority. And this section is connected with the government, army and above all the Chinese Communist Party. Should India emulate China to increase economic growth? It will not benefit the people at large, but only a small elite.
The right of the employers to retrench is a part of the so-called "flexible labour market policy". No wonder multinational companies are so interested in the Special Economic Zones ~ the cornerstone of globalisation. The flexible labour market has certain other features as well: temporary job contracts instead of permanent employment, outsourcing of most functions, contract labour, hiring of local workers and so on. The idea is to save money by not paying pension, medical benefits, leave entitlements. In a word, the employers are in a position not to take any responsibility for the workers. Employers do not need to have office facilities or factory premises if they can outsource  most of the activities. The lurking fear of one's job being on the line precludes trade union activities. The employees are at the mercy of the employers and the market forces.
Foreign investments are neither necessary nor sufficient for economic development. Both Japan and the former Soviet Union achieved spectacular economic development with little or no foreign investment. Indonesia and Thailand have received massive doses  of foreign investment, but their economic development has not been so impressive.

Privatisation and downsizing may not lead to economic revival, but the result can be quite the contrary. By exploiting workers and driving out peasants from their home, China was able to attract massive amounts of foreign currency. This was used by a minority while the majority gradually lost whatever economic security they earlier had.

India is likely to face a similar situation given the urge ~ cutting across party lines ~ to set up  Special Economic Zones by evicting farmers. The majority of the people have not benefited from the "economic reforms" introduced over the past 15 years. This policy will create mass unemployment in a country where employment opportunities are scarce. A country cannot be considered a great economic power if the people are unemployed and destitute and the children are not educated.

Since Independence, barring West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura, there were no land reforms in the rest of the country. And in these three states, the reforms were flawed. There emerged a class of very poor marginal peasants who are now unable to maintain their land holdings because of mounting debts. The number of landless agricultural labourers is increasing in West Bengal as indeed in some other states. About 70 per cent of the population are poor by the acceptable international criteria ~ they earn less than $ 2 a day. Poverty is a striking feature of the rural economy.

The remedy doesn't lie in the creation of  small private land holdings, but in collectivisation of agriculture with the State  supporting the rural populace in every segment of public policy.

The writer is Professor, International Economics, Nagasaki University, Japan






It sends a message to the entire human race irrespective of colour, caste, class or country, writes shabbir ahmed

Islam and its adherents have been in the line of fire of the West for several centuries. The conflict between Islam and Christendom can be traced to the medieval times which peaked during and after the Crusades. The Venerable Bede (673-735) says that the Muslims were descended from Hagar, Prophet Abraham's concubine, while Christians were descended from Abraham's lawful offspring Isaac (Quranic Ishaque). While all men traced their line back to Adam and Eve, the Muslims were thought to be the lineal descendants of Cain (Qabil) who murdered his brother Abel (Habil). Abel and Cain were the two sons of Adam. This was the first murder in the history of mankind. The logic behind this specious argument is that there is a long tradition of hatred and hostility between the children of Cain (Muslims) and other descendants of Adam (Christians). This line of reasoning is infantile.

After the 9/11 attacks on the twin towers of the World Trade Center, Muslims came to be viewed with suspicion and tarred with the brush of terrorism. Those who sported skullcaps and beards fared even worse. They were off-loaded from planes and interrogated. Shah Rukh Khan, the Bollywood actor, was detained for questioning at Newark airport, New Jersey. Even Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, former President of India and an internationally renowned scientist, was subjected to humiliating frisking at an American airport. Anything associated with Islam or Muslims is frowned upon. Burqa is sought to be banned in some European countries. There is a ban on minarets in Switzerland. Samuel P Huntington, author of The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order rightly says: "The underlying problem for the West is not Islamic fundamentalism. It is Islam, a different civilisation whose people are convinced of the superiority of their culture and are obsessed with the inferiority of their power." A senior member of the Clinton administration described Islam as the global rival of the West. Terrorism or fundamentalism is not the monopoly of the Muslims. No one condemns Christianity when breakaway groups from Northern Ireland commit murder in the name of God. When a Jewish terrorist named Baruch Goldstein slaughters Muslims during prayers in Bebron, no one takes Judaism to task. Where were the champions of human rights when the Butcher of Bosnia, Ratko Mladic, ordered the mass killing of 8,000 Muslim men and boys at Serebrenica in July 1995? But when a Muslim commits an act of terror, the entire community is condemned. Their holy book and their Prophet come under attack. Islam has become the whipping-boy of the West.

Now, the West has chosen to target the holy Quran. Novelist Sebastian Faulks has denounced it as "the rantings of a schizophrenic". Geert Wilders, a Dutch politician, is best known for his 2008 short film Fitna which spews venom on Islam and the Muslim holy book. He has been actively campaigning to stop the "Islamisation" of the Netherlands by banning the Quran, ending immigration from Muslim countries and banning the construction of new mosques. He says that the Quran is a "fascist book" like Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf and needs to be outlawed. Wilders says: "I don't hate Muslims. I hate their book and their ideology."

Emboldened by Wilders's Fitna and his continuing tirade against the holy book, Terry Jones, the fundamentalist pastor of the small, non-denominational Christian Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida which has no more than 50 followers, embarked upon the sacrilegious task of burning 200 copies of the Quran to mark the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. He gave a clarion call to fellow Christians to join him in the burning at his church between 6 and 9 p.m. The day was dubbed International Burn a Quran Day. American Muslims suggested that the 9/11 anniversary be observed as Love Jesus Day, because Jesus was a messenger of God in Islam. Others suggested that 11 September be declared as Interfaith Solidarity Day. On 25 July, 2010 the controversial pastor posted a YouTube video which showed him holding up a copy of the Quran and declaring: "This is the book that is responsible for 9/11. To me, it looks like the religion of the devil." Jones is the author of Islam is of the Devil.

In view of international outrage and pleas from world leaders, including US President Barack Hussein Obama, the pastor cancelled the burning in early September 2010 and pledged never to do so. But his mission was accomplished. The little known pastor became a celebrity overnight ~ an iconic Islamophobe who inspired the enemies of Islam around the world. In September 2010, Alex Stewart, who holds a non-academic position in the Queensland University of Technology in Australia, posted a video of himself burning the Muslim holy book. The 12-minute home-made video posted on YouTube shows Stewart smoking marijuana rolled in pages from the religious text. Stewart's video comes close on the heels of the Florida pastor threatening to burn the book to mark the 9/11 anniversary. Six men were arrested in Gateshead, United Kingdom on 15 September, 2010 for burning two copies of the book. A YouTube video shows six hooded hoodlums pouring petrol on Muslim holy books and cheering when they burst into flames. Sion Owens, a politician from South Wales was arrested for the same reason. Footage leaked to the media shows the Welsh politician setting fire to the Islamic scripture in his garden. In Strasbourg, a Frenchman is facing trial for burning and urinating on the Quran. He said he had done all this "in the name of freedom". Burning the holy book of any religion is an act of terrorism.
When the Florida pastor found to his dismay that his idea of Quran burning was being hijacked, he took a quasi-judicial route to regain lost ground. He denied breaking his earlier promise of not burning the holy book. He held a mock trial at his church with himself as the judge. The accusation against the holy book was that it promoted violence. After a six-hour trial on 20 March, 2011, attended by about 30 followers, the self-appointed judge found the holy Quran guilty and sentenced it to death by burning. The holy book was instantly burned. The burning was done by another pastor since Terry Jones was serving as the learned judge. Jones probably forgot that he was violating the Biblical commandment of "Judge not, that ye be not judged". The Obama administration is yet to arrest him. The incident sparked violent protests in Afghanistan and elsewhere. At least 22 people, including seven UN foreign staff, were killed in Afghanistan. Jones showed no remorse for his crimes not only against humanity but also against divinity. He chose to add more fuel to the raging fire by holding Islam responsible for the killings. He called for immediate US and UN action against its perpetrators. The controversial pastor said: "Islam is not a religion of peace. Muslim-dominated countries can no longer be allowed to spread their hate against Christians and minorities."

What do people like Terry Jones hope to gain by hurning copies of the holy Quran? Even after 14 centuries, it exists in its original form. "It is a glorious Quran written on the preserved tablet (Lauhi Mahfooz)" (85:21-22). Moreover, the Quran is preserved in the bosoms of several thousands of Hafizs who have committed to memory the entire holy book and can recite it with accuracy. Such  Hafizs include children and even blind persons.
The Quran is not specifically addressed to Muslims. It sends a message to the entire human race irrespective of colour, caste, class or country. The universality of the message is evident from several verses beginning with "O Mankind". Judaism and Christianity are given proper respect. "Those who believe (in the Quran), those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Sabians and the Christians ~ who believe in God and the Last Day and work righteously ~ on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve" (5:69). Islam is the same in essence. "The same religion has He established for you as that which he enjoined on Noah, which we have sent by inspiration to thee ~ and that which we enjoined on Abraham, Moses and Jesus: namely that you should remain steadfast in religion, and make no divisions therein." (42:13)

The Quran is a confirmation of previous scriptures. All major prophets such as Abraham, Noah, Jonah (Younus), Joseph (Yusuf) have chapters devoted to them. John the Baptist (Yahya), his father Zachariah, Ezra (Uzair), Joy (Ayub) are among others who find special mention in the sacred book of Islam. The chapter or surah on the Children of Israel (Bani Israel) begins and ends with references to Jews. Nativity is chronicled in greater details in the Quran than in the Bible or Gospels. The surah on the Family of Imran (Al-e-Imran) father of Virgin Mary (Maryam) describes the conception of the Virgin, birth, infancy of Jesus and his miracles. The Quranic chapter on Mary tells us how the new-born Jesus in the cradle testified to his mother's innocence.
Burning the Quran is a blasphemous act not only against Islam but also against Judaism and Christianity. It is an insult to all Judeo-Christian prophets descended from patriarch Abraham.

The writer is a freelance contributor





Parliament occupies the centre-stage in the Indian political system.  The founding fathers of the Indian Constitution has aptly described this august institution as people's institution  par excellence. It is the apex forum through which the elected representatives seek to realise not only people's expectations but also air their grievances and even articulate their visions.  

Parliament, in the early years, discharged its function of charting out the path of social engineering with an utmost sense of responsibility and earned the admiration and respect of the people. Healthy debates, discussions, regular sittings, dedicated time for legislative business defined its early years. But now, Parliament is overshadowed by uproar, chaos, conflicts and forced adjournments at the drop of a hat. One recent session of Parliament was paralysed, resulting in wastage of public money to the tune of 250 crore per session. Issues concerning the people such as poverty, unemployment and inflation are sidelined in favour of vested interests and political agenda. As a result, the purpose of the massive and costly democratic structure built in support of an enshrined set of values and beliefs gets defeated.

Low attendance of Members of Parliament (MPs) or their lack of interest in taking part in meaningful debates is counterproductive to the legislative culture. In fact, their tendency to bring streetfights to the House lends credence to the general opinion that the government, the Opposition and other political parties are not giving due importance to Parliament. With every unruly scene played out in Parliament, people's faith in the country's democratic traditions tend to wane.

The electorate had lots of expectations from the 15th  Lok Sabha. Not only it boasts of a large number of young MPs ~ 82 ~ for the first time in the history of India, a woman became the Speaker of the 15th Lok Sabha and her deputy was a member of the Scheduled Tribe. The electorate expected the 15th Parliament to do better than the 14th which distinguished itself mainly by uproar, chaos and unseemly wrangling. The 14th Parliament met for only 46 days in 2008 ~ recorded to be the lowest in the history of this institution. In that year, the Lok Sabha passed eight Bills in a span of 17 minutes without any debate and discussion. Similarly, the Rajya Sabha passed three Bills in a span of 20 minutes. In addition to it, as many as 56 MPs, including a former Prime Minister and many ministers, did not raise a single question in their five-year term. Sixty-seven MPs asked less than 10 questions during their entire Lok Sabha term and 10 MPs had to be dismissed for the cash-for-query scam.
   According to media reports, owing to low attendance, the Speaker had to adjourn the House on 5 May, 2007 when the House was discussing ways to eradicate hunger in India. Only 16 members of the 543 were present during the discussion on the Rural Employment Guarantee Programme, forcing the Speaker to adjourn the House for lack of quorum.


The performance of the 15th Parliament is no better. In 2009, during the Budget session, 17 hours were lost to interruptions. The House spent 50 per cent of its productive time on financial issues, 27 per cent on non-legislative matters, 12 per cent on questions, 8 per cent on legislative and 2 per cent on other issues. Major non-legislative debates included inflation, swine flu, drought situation and the PM's international visits. Other than Finance and Appropriation Bills, three Bills were passed and 10 introduced. The Right to Education Bill, the Constitutional Amendment Bill to extend reservation for SC/ST in Lok Sabha and state Assemblies and the Metro Railway Bill were passed. The Rajya Sabha also lost five hours to interruptions. Compared to other sessions of the 14th Parliament, the 15th Lok Sabha fared well in its 2009 Budget session. In all, 196 MPs participated in this debate.

During the Winter session of 2009, several hours were lost to interruptions. On six out of 21 days, the Lok Sabha met for less than two hours. On 30 November, 2009, the House witnessed the lowest attendance on the issues of natural calamities in the country and the law and order situation in West Bengal. Of 26 Bills, only 14 were passed. The overall attendance for Lok Sabha was 66 per cent and 68 per cent for Rajya Sabha.
The members' attendance in the 2010 Budget session improved to 79 per cent in the Lok Sabha. Attendance in the Rajya Sabha on an average was 78 per cent. Parliament was disrupted several times over price rise, the women's reservation Bill and the IPL controversy. The government had planned to pass 27 Bills in this session but only six were passed by both Houses of Parliament. Attendance of the members in the 2010 monsoon session was 35 per cent in Lok Sabha.

The Budget session of 2011, which was adjourned sine die on  25 March, concluded its briefest session in recent years with just 23 sittings in all in a space of five weeks. But its quota of din and bustle was more than met. The originally planned two-and-a-half month session was curtailed in view of the April-May elections to five state Assemblies. The House witnessed fierce debates and chaotic scenes over allegations of corruption against the government on the 2G spectrum and WikiLeaks cables. Amid such disruption, the pension regulatory authority Bill was introduced. Only 12 per cent of the Budget session time was spent on legislation in Lok Sabha and six per cent in Rajya Sabha. It does not help that criminalisation of politics has adulterated the Parliament culture. If the number of criminal cases against MPs was 128 in 2004, it went up to 150 in 2009. At least 73 MPs are facing serious charges.

With the Monsoon session around the corner, the 15th Lok Sabha certainly needs to do better.

The writer is Associate Professor of Political Science, Durgapur Government College   




100 years ago today

A darjeeling sensation

Contempt Of Court Alleged

High Court And Deputy Commissioner

At the High Court on the 14th instant, Justices Caspersz and Sharfuddin passed orders on the application made by Mr Carl Forstmann, a German resident and a landowner of Darjeeling, for a rule on Mr Forrest, Deputy Commissioner of Darjeeling, to show cause why contempt proceedings should not be drawn up against him for alleged disobedience of the order of the order of the High Court.

Their Lordships said: This is an application to issue an order on Mr Forrest, Deputy Commissioner of Darjeeling, to appear before this Court and show cause why he should not be committed for contempt. The allegation is that Mr Forrest did not promptly obey the order of this Court directing the release of the petitioner on bail. The petitioner, however, was released on bail on the 28th May. The complaint is that he should have been released on the 27th May. We desire to have an explanation from Mr Forrest as to why the petitioner was not released from custody on the 27th May. Let a copy of paragraphs 16 and 27, both of which are included in the petition of the applicant, be forthwith forwarded to Mr Forrest for information and for submission of the explanation we call for. We wish also to know whether, apart from the provisions of Rule 123, page 44, Chapter I, Volume I, General Rules and Circular Orders, Criminal, Mr Forrest was aware of this Court's order, and, if so, why he did not give immediate effect to it on the 27th May. Let a rule issue on Mr Forrest in these terms.


Let the rule be returnable in three weeks.

Messrs K.N. Chaudhuri and G. Sircar, instructed by Mr Steels Perkins, of Messrs Leslie and Hinds, appeared for the petitioner.








It is proper to have a distinction between government and party. But in India, the distinction tends to get blurred because something called the Party (the use of the capital letter is deliberate) often prevails over the parliamentary party. The latter comprises those members of a particular party who have been elected by the people. But in India, there exists the institution of a political party outside of Parliament. Thus there exists the Congress party, many of whose members are not elected members of parliament. This is true of other parties as well but the example of the Congress party is particularly relevant because the Congress leads the United Progressive Alliance government. There are important office-bearers of the Congress, not members of parliament, who have taken it upon themselves to snipe at the prime minister and to criticize the way very senior cabinet ministers function. The impropriety of such public comments obviously does not occur to them. It cannot be anybody's argument that the prime minister and his cabinet colleagues are above or beyond criticism. But such criticism needs to be made by members of the Congress parliamentary party at its meetings. The bigger umbrella entity called the Congress party should not have any say in policy-making and the functioning of the government.

It is not difficult to locate the reasons for such comments against the prime minister. They are intended to project Rahul Gandhi as a contender for the top job, and to curry favour with the most important family in the Congress. Such remarks cannot be anything but embarrassing for the prime minister who has enough problems on his plate without having to deal with petty intrigue and posturing emanating from within his own party. The situation is aggravated by the enigmatic silence maintained by the Congress president and her son. On his part, the prime minister should make it clear that he is in charge of the government; what is more important is that he should act in a manner that will convey the impression that he is in charge. All too often, his natural reserve is mistaken for weakness and then malicious people spread the word that he is a prime minister once removed from real power, which lies with the Congress president. The upshot of all this is lowering of the dignity of the prime minister and the image of India.






An end to the decades-old armed insurgency is the best thing that Assam can hope for. A ceasefire by the United Liberation Front of Asom will be the first big step towards that promise of peace. A ceasefire by the Ulfa need not be seen as a victory for the Indian State in its battle against one of the longest insurgencies in the Northeast. The Ulfa may have realized long ago that its fight for a "sovereign" Assam had been doomed from the beginning. The outfit never had any hope of achieving its impossible mission by waging a war against the Indian State. Most of the Ulfa's senior leaders, including its chairman, Arabinda Rajkhowa, have come to accept that a democracy can be flexible enough to accommodate ethnic and other aspirations of the people. Talks, however flawed, can settle issues which guns cannot force. Thirty-odd years of the Ulfa's insurgency not only led to unnecessary killings and destruction of property but also spoiled Assam's chances of emerging into a modern economy. Several generations of Assamese youths were drawn into the insurgency without quite knowing what exactly they were fighting for. Mr Rajkhowa and his comrades owe it to future generations of the Assamese to lay down their arms once and for all.

However, a ceasefire is not necessarily a guarantee for peace. Both the Ulfa and the governments in New Delhi and Dispur have to be careful to make the ceasefire work. Both sides can draw from the experiences of the truce between the Centre and the National Socialist Council of Nagalim, led by Isak Chishi Swu and Thuingaleng Muivah. Despite occasional hitches, the ceasefire has worked in Nagaland primarily because both sides avoided confrontationist positions. Nagaland's example can also be a guide to action for the peace talks in Assam. After all, the ceasefire is meant to prepare the ground for the talks. Mr Rajkhowa would like his followers in the Ulfa and the ordinary Assamese to believe that the ceasefire is not an abject surrender to New Delhi. There never was any question of New Delhi or Dispur accepting any secessionist demand. In fact, the Ulfa leaders can benefit from the Naga peace talks and move faster on issues that are less controversial. Once the Ulfa declares the ceasefire and lays down arms, no time should be lost in starting the countdown for permanent peace in Assam





Some of them arrived at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre a fortnight ago, determined to revive the cold war between India and Canada. This has never been too difficult during the long years of Liberal Party rule, when Canada had a more principled and less expedient attitude to issues such as human rights, child labour or nuclear non-proliferation than, for example, its southern neighbour, the United States of America. India was an easy whipping boy on these and other similar issues.

Last fortnight, the platform which lent itself to some stirrings for a revival of the cold war was the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas in Canada, organized by the ministry of overseas Indian affairs. At issue was "Advancing Gender Equity: the Focus on Gender", one of the subjects at the PBD chosen for a panel discussion.

The human rights industry spotted an opportunity here to pillory India on bride burning, female infanticide, illiteracy among women and a host of similar problems over which it is easy to work up an audience in Canada. But they had not reckoned with M.K. Raghavan, a member of the Lok Sabha from Kerala. A soft-spoken Congress legislator, who is not prone to the kind of flashiness that is increasingly common among members of parliament these days, Raghavan was sent by Vayalar Ravi, minister for overseas Indian affairs, to be part of this panel because Raghavan is a member of Parliament's standing committee on health and family welfare.

When discussions in this panel began to take an uncomfortable turn, focusing excessively on issues which the human rights industry uses to get its bread and butter, Raghavan disarmed India-baiters in one stroke. He acknowledged gender inequality back home and did not shy away from issues raised by critics of India, but he took the wind out of their sails by proposing a joint Indo-Canadian working group to discuss them. "Sooner or later, we can, together, eradicate this black spot called gender imbalance from our community and pave a new path for a bright future," he told the PBD audience.

Soon, word spread in the lobbies of the Metro Toronto Convention Centre that this modest MP was actually an activist in the women's cooperative movement in Kerala. He had started 30 women's cooperatives for de-fibering coconut husk for manufacturing coir products in Kerala's Kannur district by organizing women and providing them with employment.

When the Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led coalition was ruling Kerala, Raghavan became a hero for resisting a campaign of political vendetta against the Kerala State Agro Cooperative Limited, a quasi-government enterprise in the cooperative sector that he had helped set up. This cooperative was created to ensure remunerative prices for farmers and to motivate them to adopt modern technology to raise rubber, coconut and horticulture production. What riled the CPI(M) perhaps was that although Raghavan was then general secretary of the Kerala state Congress committee, he was well received in China and was given advice on profitably running the agriculture enterprise of which he was chairman.

At the PBD in Toronto, Raghavan completely neutralized an incipient mutiny when he told the audience that India would soon have a law that would require every listed company to have at least one woman on its board of directors.

But the MP was not making a hollow claim. At another PBD panel, there was a live example of this Indian corporate vision. Nandini Tandon is a woman in a man's world. She is an Indian venture capitalist: less than two per cent of venture capitalists in senior positions the world over are women. An even fewer number of these are Indian women. In fact, the Harvard Business School recently invited Tandon to speak about this and the challenge of under-representation of women on company boards.

As managing director of a venture capitalist firm she helped set up in Palo Alto, California, she is on the board of a number of companies, but she is always the only woman on those boards. The Bloomberg Rankings annual analysis reported this month that only 16 per cent of directors in Standard & Poor's 500 top companies are women.

Norway ruled eight years ago that at least 40 per cent of places on company boards should be reserved for women. Spain copied that legislation in 2007, but had to extend the deadline for implementation till 2015. In the US, women's representation at the corporate high table has been abysmally low. The modest Indian proposal is based on the experience of these countries. At the PBD, Tandon spoke at a panel on "Innovation, Science and Technology."

Actually, to the great surprise of India-baiters in Canada, the PBD turned out to be almost an all-women affair. It was not meant to be. When the prime minister, Manmohan Singh, had asked the PBD's chief host, Vayalar Ravi, to stay back in Delhi, the Toronto event had threatened to become a wedding without the bridegroom. A lot of the preparations had been made and consent from Canada's governor-general to attend the opening ceremonies had been obtained on the premise that the senior cabinet minister in charge of overseas Indians would attend. Reinforcing Indian interest in Canada, four other ministers of state were also anointed to travel to Toronto.

As it happened, the sole ministerial representative from India was a woman — the minister of state for external affairs, Preneet Kaur. She surprised Canadians when she refused to be browbeaten by Khalistani separatists, who continue to be active in Canada to such an extent that the threat perception for Indian diplomats continues to be high, although it is significantly lower than before. On a day when Khalistanis demonstrated in front of the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, contingency plans were discussed to bring the minister to the venue in disguise or to sneak her in through a basement. But Kaur flatly refused and entered the building as if nothing was happening.

The convenor of the Toronto PBD was also a woman —Asha Luthra, the first woman to be elected president of the Indo-Canada Chamber of Commerce, co-hosts of the event along with Ravi's ministry. During the inaugural speeches, the biggest applause was reserved for Preeti Saran, India's woman consul-general in Toronto. Ruby Dhalla, the glamorous Indo-Canadian who lost her seat in last month's election to the House of Commons, was at the opening dinner and was a sensation despite her electoral defeat. The PBD panels were replete with women, including Lata Pada, who became a crusader for justice after the bombing of Air India's Kanishka plane on its Montreal-to-Delhi flight on June 23, 1985, killing all 329 people on board. Pada lost her husband and two daughters in the incident.

Canada's prime minister, Stephen Harper, said recently that "since coming to office", his Conservative government "has re-engaged India like no other since at least the 1970s. All of these efforts reflect two countries, destined by their shared history, values and peoples to chart a future of unbounded, mutually beneficial, opportunities."

The failed attempts to revive the cold war between India and Canada was evidence that despite such enthusiasm at the highest levels, one false move on either side could easily derail the bilateral relationship.

The PBD coincided with a symbolic landmark for Indians in Canada: their population is now one million. In per capita demographic terms, that represents five times the population of Indians in the US. Besides, 2011 is the "Year of India" across Canada, an observance jointly announced by Harper and Manmohan Singh when the latter made his long-anticipated return visit to Canada in November 2009.





"How can you be so sure you're right?" a reader asks. A fair question. I'm tempted to evade it by pointing out that quite often I'm not, and I say so; indeed at times I raise doubts that in my heart I don't feel. But, yes, usually I am confident of my judgments of English. On what grounds?

After all, I'm no grammarian, no professor or even teacher of English. True, it's been the tool of my trade for 50 years, most spent at one of the world's best-written magazines. But even The Economist can err: it doesn't write flaunt for flout or mitigate for militate, but I've still seen it use may have for might have.

No, all I can offer is that I've spent 70-odd years speaking and writing my own tongue, and reading its finest and lesser writers, present and past. And using my ears. And yet...

For a start, nearly all my experience has been British, and British English is not every country's English. More significantly, language alters not just from place to place or from man to man but, hugely, over time. Sixty years ago, I came upon the 1600-ish essays of Francis Bacon, and even tried to imitate him. What a daft idea. On top, even in one country, in one mouth, at one moment, language varies hugely, from speech to writing, from prose to verse, from slang to literary to highfalutin.

Past usage

These thoughts have struck me forcibly during this year's celebrations of the great 1611 translation of the Bible known to Americans as the King James Bible and, at least until recently, to Britons as, simply, the Authorized Version. Its fame is deserved. Like the Anglicans' prayer book of 1662, this translation was read to English church-goers, literate or not, every Sunday for some three centuries. The two works did more than any others to shape the language.

Yet both now belong to the past. Today's versions of the Bible speak far more plainly to modern ears — as indeed, I suspect, they would have to most 17th-century ears. Both books reflected the English church's post-Reformation zeal to use a language "understanded of the people", as the prayer book puts it, instead of Latin. Yet I wonder how much the people understood. Both books' language is sonorous, but often long-winded, and at times, complex. And neither is a guide to English today.

One London daily has a column on English called "The Pedant". It recently declared that, strictly speaking, one should use the subjunctive mood, not the indicative, in conditional clauses: for example, write unless Sepp Blatter step down, rather than unless [he] steps down. Nonsense.

That is excellent biblical English; indeed the 1611 Bible uses the subjunctive in many kinds of clauses. For random example: if thou be the Son of God; except the Lord build the house; whether it be cow or bull; lest the Lord see it; though he be fruitful; before the cock crow.

Being polite

And the subjunctive is still right — Americans typically use it — in phrases like we demand that he step down. But in if or unless clauses? Except in high-flown speech, no. And not just since last week. Two centuries ago, Shelley — we may trust he knew English? — wrote If winter comes, can spring be far behind. Not come, but comes. To call for the subjunctive in such cases isn't purism, it is indeed pedantry, and I'm being polite at that.

The same columnist once went further still, insisting on in no wise rather than in no way. Fair enough — in 1611. Today this isn't even pedantry, it is archaic tosh: we've used way in this sense for over 300 years. And of that I am sure.







A few days after he revealed his opinion that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict does not stem from a territorial dispute, and is therefore insoluble, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided to implement a horrific idea necessitated by his worldview. He decided to accelerate the race to occupy additional territories in the disputed areas by thinning out the means of supervision of the settlement project authorities.

On Sunday, the government decided that the Settlement Department of the World Zionist Organization - the long arm of construction matters in the West Bank - will no longer be required to obtain prior authorization from the defense minister.

Henceforth the department will be required only to "coordinate" its activities with the minister in charge of the territories. This decision by Netanyahu's government makes a mockery of the 2003 decision by Ariel Sharon government (to which Netanyahu was a partner ) to freeze construction in the settlements and dismantle the outposts, as required by the road map to peace.

The initiative to pare the defense minister's authority concerning construction in the West Bank blatantly violates the decision in 2005 by Sharon's government (to which Netanyahu was a partner) to adopt attorney Talia Sasson's report on the outposts.

The report found that the Settlement Department had established dozens of outposts without state permission. In light of the grave findings, Sasson recommended limiting the department's activity beyond the Green Line to operating as a settlement organization solely for purposes of establishing or expanding a settlement the government had already decided to establish or expand.

She also recommended that the Finance Ministry adjust the department's budget in accordance with this recommendation. The decision now to expand the Settlement Department's freedom in the territories complements the government's decision from about two years ago to dedicate one-third of the department's budget to settlements in the territories.

In that same decision the department was required to request the defense minister's authorization for any building and infrastructure development in the territories, and insofar as is necessary authorization from the prime minister as well. The decision at this time to eliminate even the appearance of supervision of settlement building is hammering another nail into the coffin of the







The results of a telephone survey on the Jordan Valley among 500 Hebrew-speaking Israelis were quietly released recently. The survey revealed that more than anything, Israelis prefer discussing their cottage cheese, or their cottage, if they have one, than to be bothered too much by reality. That's how they can easily be sold any pseudo-political fantasy and can be marketed a desire that is cut off from all context - practical or moral.

Most of those polled (more than 80 percent ) have not visited the Jordan Valley over the past decade. But 64 percent of them are convinced it is under Israeli sovereignty. Who knows? Maybe they consider occupation a form of sovereignty. When asked how many Jews and how many Arabs live in the valley, most said the region has a solid Jewish majority. Some said there are a few Arabs there, and 10 percent said there are no Arabs at all. Few, mainly those born before 1967, knew the real ratio - 10,000 Jews to 65,000 Arabs.

Age was not the only factor influencing responses. The answers also depended on whether the respondent was religious or secular. Among the secular respondents, as expected, the number of people who knew the area was occupied was greater. This led the pollsters to conclude that one's understanding of facts depends somewhat on one's worldview.

The survey shows that knowledge about the status and character of the Jordan Valley is limited, and most Israelis, including those who believe it is part of the State of Israel or think it will be, don't visit there. (And it may be assumed that many of them, particularly the younger ones, hardly know where it is on the map. ) That means there is a huge gap between the reality of the Jordan Valley and its perception in public opinion.

This gap is the essence of the hoax becoming more deeply entrenched in the Israeli experience. It is the settler hoax, which all signs indicate has vanquished the Zionist perception of reality.

The Jordan Valley is a clear test case. Not only is there a clear Arab majority there, but also until 1967, tens of thousands of refugees lived there who had fled and/or been expelled from Israel in 1948, along with a few tens of thousands of Bedouin. On June 8, 1967, when Israel conquered the Jordan Valley, most of the refugees (more than 100,000 ) fled eastward from the camps where they lived. The Allon Plan and the beginning of secular settlement (kibbutzim and moshavim ) in the valley moved it into the heart of the Israeli consensus, but left it outside the state. That is a fact. As in the Sinai in the 1970s, you can hear people in the valley say "in Israel" when asked where they worked before.

This dissonance is particularly harsh considering that tens of thousands of Palestinians became refugees twice, some of them returned to the valley and live there to this day, and even the huge government investments squandered in the region have been unable to attract new Jewish residents there. It's hard to understand how those young people who bend the facts in the spirit of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's emotional narrative - "the valley is a strategic asset and it is our duty to care for every aspect of it: security, economics, social and the development of regional infrastructure" - don't wonder whether they, as citizens of the state, are an asset too.

How do they explain the fact that Netanyahu, when he was finance minister and a downsizing reformer, gave young people like them, but living in the Jordan Valley, free tuition and rent, while in Hadera and Kiryat Gat they could only dream of such things?

The answer to this question is not political but sociocultural. It's in the settler hoax that depicts Israel as a ghetto, the territories as frontier zones drenched in Jewish sentiment, and the Arab-Israeli conflict as a bloody, eternal struggle, cut off from space and time, in which every non-Jew is out to get every Jew. This is the discourse that has vanquished realistic Zionism. Otherwise how can we explain the sweeping support for Netanyahu's hollow declarations about the Jordan Valley or some other "rock of our existence"?







Of all places, it is in Azzariyeh, east of Jerusalem, that one can really learn to appreciate the activities of Palestinian law-enforcement authorities in cities like Ramallah and Nablus. In those cities, Palestinian security forces are seen as authority figures who are trying to protect and serve Palestinian citizens, not just as extensions of Fatah or subcontractors of the Israel Defense Forces or the Shin Bet security service.

Unlike Ramallah and Nablus, which are categorized as "A" areas, Azzariyeh and its neighbors Sawahra and Abu Dis are holed up in an enclave of type "B", where the IDF does not allow the Palestinian police to be fully functional. The interim Oslo 2 agreement determines that the Palestinian Authority is responsible for maintaining public order in Area B, but in the same breath it limits the PA's authority and the means by which it can protect the people from disruptions of public order. Almost every action taken by the Palestinian police in Area B requires IDF approval.

And Israel, which has no inhibitions about violating key clauses of the agreement, is particularly meticulous here: The number of police officers is limited, police are prohibited from moving from a makeshift police station in an apartment building to a proper one, they are not allowed to carry weapons or wear uniforms, and they are prohibited from bringing in reinforcements on their own to locate drug or weapons dealers or to deliver subpoenas. Is it any wonder that the Azzariyeh-Abu Dis enclave has become a place of refuge for the outlaws of the West Bank? Not that this enclave has not had its share of troubles. Since it was shut off by the wall in 2005, all its ties with its natural and immediate urban center, East Jerusalem, have been severed. The enclave's isolation, and the impoverishment and despair to which it gave rise, are as painful as a fresh burn.

The artificial division between Areas A, B and C was supposed to be erased from the map, and dropped from the discourse, in 1999. Instead, Israel has sanctified and perpetuated it. The largest share - 60 percent - is designated Area C, meaning it is under full Israeli security and civil control. It is self-evident why Israel perpetuates the Area C classification. After all, it gives Israel a free hand to continue emptying that part of the West Bank of Palestinians and encourage more Jews to violate international law and settle there.

But what about Area B? Why does Israel insist that drug and weapons trafficking should flourish in an area several dozen meters away from Ma'aleh Adumim and some three kilometers from the Judea and Samaria District police headquarters - both of which sites, as is often forgotten, are violating international law due to their location on the land reserves of Palestinian villages? True, there is also unlicensed public transportation, unlicensed construction, environmental pollution - but the drugs and weapons trade dwarfs those violations. A similar situation exists in A-Ram, the hybrid city between Ramallah and Jerusalem that is also cut off from its past, its surroundings and its land by the wall. Just a hop, skip and jump (over a wall and barbed-wire fence ) away from Jerusalem, some 100,000 people have been left to fend for their own personal safety, a situation that can be reversed.

Is there some deliberate intention behind the painstaking adherence to a clause in an agreement that was supposed to be short-lived? That's what many Palestinians have concluded. Some say the drugs and weapons dealers are collaborators, or potential collaborators, with Israel. This is why the Shin Bet and IDF are not allowing the Palestinian police to take action against them and why, according to them, Israeli security forces immediately find out about any Palestinian attempt to capture them. Some find here a strategic goal: The worse this intolerable situation gets in neighborhoods that are so close to the annexed Jerusalem, the greater the likelihood that the residents will leave and head over to Area A. In other words, it's just another expulsion trick.

Listen to the Palestinians. The subjugated excel at analyzing the implications of their ruler's actions. And if the Palestinians are wrong, then why will the IDF not let the Palestinian police operate freely?








Why cottage cheese? Because protest on that issue is always passive. The required action is nonaction. The consumer will go to the supermarket and not buy cottage cheese. The no trumps the yes. Nonaction is the essence of the action. Avoidance as protest.

Of course the refraining is experienced as an action - otherwise no pleasure would be produced. A description of the action: A person sits at home, at a computer, under an air conditioner, and presses "Like" on the Facebook page. The pleasure is produced by the reporting of the protest, not by the protest itself. The boundaries of Israeli protest: A finger moved from up to down, a distance of five centimeters and an official declaration of support for a protest. Protest PR.

The cottage cheese protest does not signify the start of a civil revolt, nor of just plain protest, because there is no desire for action at its base but rather a desire for nonaction. And the desire for nonaction is what engenders one protest and not another. That is, protest against more dire injustices, which require active and committed participation not conducted via a computer but rather on the ground, in the sun, over time - and instances like that have not been chosen to stand at the center of a protest. This is not by chance.

The choice of cottage cheese is the embodiment of convenience, both in essence and in form. In essence, because it is easier to recruit anger and protest in order to make our own personal situation better than it is to recruit a similar amount of dissatisfaction for the benefit of the "other." And in form, because pressing the "Like" button on Facebook does not require real effort, nor does giving up cottage cheese in favor of Bulgarian cheese, which happens to be on sale that same day.

Ultimately, the cottage cheese protest embodies fatigue more than the spirit of battle. The fatigue is a sad version of indifference. Its origin is in the clash between two moods: satiation and despair. The satiation has to do with the bourgeoisie's reasonable socioeconomic situation, which is not letting it "raise a hand" against the regime because of the fear of a change in the social hierarchy. The despair has to do with the sense that order has been undermined, and the individual has become secondary to a blind global money machine.

For example, on the cottage cheese carton it says "Tnuva" and not "Apax Partners." Why is this the source of the despair? Because the original concept, Tnuva, contains an historical expectation of a certain patriotic and also economic commitment, but in fact Tnuva is a branch of a money machine called Apax, for whom the cottage cheese is no different from shoes, perfume, a car or an insurance policy and Israelis are no different from Englishmen, Frenchmen or Chinamen. The despair, then, is an outcome of the privatization of identity, of confusion of concepts and especially the noninternalization of the state having become another economic organization, devoid of special commitment to the inhabitants themselves.

The average of satiation and despair distorts protest. Like every average, the actions that characterize it do not represent the extremes on either side, rather the agreement reached between them. The cottage cheese protest is an internal agreement between the public and itself, between its satiation and its despair, and therefore the nature of the chosen action is passivity and avoidance. This is in contrast to protest that is not distorted - active protest, in which the middle is the end of a painful dialectic between the public and the regime. This is achieved only after a difficult and bloody struggle, which at a certain stage becomes a wound wanting to heal.

On the way home, in the ATV in a traffic jam, after having bought Bulgarian instead of cottage cheese, the privatized citizen presses Like on the iPhone and feels like a partner in the revolution. This is not protest. This is an insurance policy for the continuation of the system. Any system.







You may love or hate Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but there is no arguing with his success. Since he returned to power, Israel has enjoyed security calm, economic growth and political stability of a sort not seen for the last generation.

The people prefer Netanyahu's diplomatic standstill and security restraint to the policy of his predecessor, Ehud Olmert, which combined diplomatic daring with military adventurism. Israelis are in love with the status quo and do not want to be disturbed by peace initiatives or wars. Netanyahu's passivity suits them just fine.

In foreign policy, Netanyahu has proven to be a successful diplomat who knows how to leverage crises and turn them into opportunities. He took advantage of U.S. President Barack Obama's political difficulties to end the freeze on settlement construction and fend off an American peace initiative. His assessment that he would be able to pressure the president with the help of Congress and the American Jewish community proved right. Obama is fighting to be reelected to a second term, and is thus scattering declarations of love for Israel even though he cannot stand Netanyahu and his policies.

When Turkey confronted Israel over the flotilla crisis, Netanyahu was quick to form a strategic alliance with Greece. When relations between Ankara and Damascus became rocky and Greece found itself on the verge of financial collapse, Netanyahu moved closer to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan again.

He used the reconciliation agreement between Fatah and Hamas to shake off international pressure for concessions to the Palestinians, thereby preserving his freedom of action. Now, he is fighting Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' initiative to gain UN recognition for a Palestinian state. The General Assembly session in September is still far off, but Abbas is showing signs of weakness, and his determination to follow through with his plan appears to be faltering.

The revolutions in the Arab world only bolstered Israel's strategic position. The United States and its European partners have lost their allies in the region. The Arab regimes are falling apart or fighting for survival, and Israel has been left as the sole island of stability and unreserved support for the West.

Iran is continuing its nuclear program, but it is torn by domestic infighting and finding it hard to preserve the power of its Syrian client, Bashar Assad. There is no real pressure on Netanyahu to rush into a preemptive strike on Iran, but there is also no one to stop him if he decides to send the air force to Natanz, Bushehr and Qom.

Under these circumstances, it is no wonder that Netanyahu looks satisfied with himself and is ignoring the warnings of Defense Minister Ehud Barak and President Shimon Peres, his erstwhile enthusiastic supporters, who are now predicting a "diplomatic tsunami" and "a crash into the wall." Instead of listening to them, he is celebrating his "victory over Obama" with his friends on the extreme right and even extracting praise from Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.

The problem is that Netanyahu's positions are diverging from those of his coalition, which is veering madly right. His declarations in favor of a Palestinian state are not acceptable to his partners, who are calling for Israel to annex the West Bank. His statement at this week's cabinet meeting, as reported by Barak Ravid in Haaretz yesterday, about his wish to separate from the Palestinians and to preserve a solid Jewish majority within Israel's future borders are closer to Olmert's positions than to those of ministers Uzi Landau or Limor Livnat, who argued with him about the "demographic threat."

If Netanyahu believes in dividing the land, as he has asserted to Congress, the Knesset and the cabinet, he must change his political partners. There is no other way of realizing his vision, which enjoys the support of a majority of the people. Opposition leader Tzipi Livni must be brought into the Foreign Ministry instead of Lieberman so that negotiations with the Palestinians can resume, and so that the world will believe Israel is serious, and not simply making up excuses to continue the occupation and expand the settlements.

There is no greater threat to good statesmanship than being drunk with success. This is what brought down some of history's greatest leaders, and it is what now threatens Netanyahu.

If he continues his dance with Lieberman and the settler rabbis, he will push the Palestinians into a third intifada and cause the grave prognostications of the defense minister and the president to come true. In order to prove Barak and Peres wrong, Netanyahu must set up a different coalition.




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



The euro-zone bailout of Greece is, in good part, a bailout of European banks. In France and Germany alone, banks hold some $90 billion worth of public and private Greek debt. The European Central Bank also holds Greek government debt, and the fear is that if Greece defaults, cascading losses could threaten all of Europe.

Are American banks also vulnerable? No one is sure. They are not big lenders to Greece, but they are big players in the derivatives markets. If Greece defaulted, a European bank holding a credit-default swap on Greek debt from an American bank would be entitled to a payout from that bank.

Credit-default swaps are the kind of derivatives that were behind the blowup of the American International Group and the near meltdown that followed in the global financial system. From the available evidence, it doesn't appear that a Greek default would have the same destructive power, but no one is eager to test the proposition.

In his recent confirmation hearing to be the next leader of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi, the central banker of Italy, warned that no one really knows who is on the hook for these risky financial instruments. "Who are the owners of credit-default swaps? Who has insured others against a default of the country?" he asked.

Warning of a potential "chain of contagion," he argued against requiring banks to restructure Greek debt — which could involve extending repayment terms or writing off principal — even though Greece's apparent inability to pay in full makes a restructuring all but inevitable.

Whether or not American banks are at serious risk from this crisis, the fact is that nearly three years after A.I.G., derivatives are still largely unregulated. The financial reforms that are supposed to improve transparency and reduce speculation — trading derivatives on fully regulated exchanges, strict reporting requirements to regulators and new rules on capital adequacy and business conduct — have yet to be implemented.

The process has been slow in the face of heavy lobbying by the banks. Republican lawmakers are bent on derailing reform by any means necessary, including starving regulatory budgets, impeding the confirmation of regulatory nominees and pressing regulators to adopt light-touch rules. Some Democratic lawmakers and Obama officials are in favor of exemptions on specific derivatives rules that Wall Street opposes.

The uncertainty is greater when you consider that credit-default swaps are only one type of derivative that links banks worldwide. What dangers lurk in other derivatives, like those on currencies and foreign exchanges?

Greece is bound to get more bailouts as long as policy makers believe the alternative could be systemwide collapse. On Tuesday, the Greek Parliament gave the prime minister, George Papandreou, a vote of confidence, clearing the way for another tough vote next week on wage cuts and other painful austerity measures that European officials are demanding in exchange for more aid.

The Greek debt crisis is another reminder of how little has really changed since the financial blowup — and how much more must be done to avert a repeat here and around the globe.






Leading Republicans — after proposing to gut Medicare — are still trying to pose as the program's saviors. How cynical can they get?

At the recent Republican presidential debate in New Hampshire, Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota warned that health care reform will take $500 billion out of Medicare and harm "senior citizens who have the most to lose." She failed to mention that the budget resolution approved by House Republicans, with her vote, would retain virtually all of the same cuts in payments to health care providers and to oversubsidized private Medicare Advantage plans.

While they don't say it a lot, even the Republicans recognize that the cuts are necessary to bring Medicare spending under control.

At the debate, Rick Santorum, a former senator from Pennsylvania, raised the old — and discredited — bugaboo that the Democratic reforms would lead to "rationing of care from the top down." His target was a new advisory board that is designed to insulate spending decisions from the lobbying that distorts Congressional decisions.

The board will propose ways to get Medicare spending back on track if it fails to meet targets, and Congress would have to accept the recommendations or pass a comparably effective alternative. Rationing of care and cutting benefits are explicitly prohibited. The board is mostly limited to cutting payments to providers and the private plans that serve Medicare beneficiaries.

So what are the Republicans offering instead? After enthusiastically embracing Representative Paul Ryan's proposal to eventually turn Medicare into a voucher program — with the government providing a subsidy to buy private health insurance — they backed away when voters made clear that they hated the idea. At the debate, Tim Pawlenty, a former Minnesota governor, said he would modify Mr. Ryan's approach to retain traditional Medicare as an option, and Mr. Ryan later said he was open to the idea. The Republicans have not dropped the claim that privatizing Medicare would be more efficient.

That has certainly not been the case with private Medicare Advantage plans, which cost, on average, 10 percent more than the same services would cost in traditional fee-for-service Medicare. Over sustained periods, Medicare spending per beneficiary has also risen more slowly than private health insurance premiums.

The Ryan plan would save the government money primarily by shifting costs to beneficiaries. Nobody at the debate mentioned that.





We know a few things for certain about the Wimbledon championships, which began at the All England Lawn Tennis Club in London on Monday. This will be the 125th playing of Wimbledon. The turf on the courts will be 8 millimeters high. The balls will be optic yellow, as they have been since 1986. The weather will be changeable. The players will be wearing mostly white, according to club rules. The number of competitors will decline geometrically until only the winner remains in each category — two winners in doubles, of course.

But Wimbledon, like all the major tennis championships, is really a cluster of probabilities and uncertainties. It is probable that higher-ranked players will do better than lower-ranked players and qualifiers. It is probable that some of the best players will play worse than they expected and that some of the less-heralded players will perform better than anyone imagined.

There are story lines in every match, but they are part of yearlong, career-length story lines for each player. How will the Williams sisters, who have dominated Wimbledon, do this time, having played so little in the past year? Will Maria Sharapova's serve hold up? Can Roger Federer win yet another Grand Slam title? Can Caroline Wozniacki — the top-ranked women's player — win her first Grand Slam? Every player raises a question, a hope, and, sometimes, a sinking of the heart.

Those are the large uncertainties, the grand plots. But every point in every match is also a plot of its own, with an uncertain ending. Nearly every game is a chance to rewrite the preceding game. And the best part? Watching players step onto the court and resolve — or discover — the certainties and uncertainties in themselves.





The Supreme Court's decision on greenhouse gases on Monday is a disappointment to the states and environmental groups that had hoped to use federal common law to curb carbon dioxide pollution from power plants. It would also appear to be a setback in the fight against global warming. But it is, in fact, a clarifying and positive decision — vindicating the Clean Air Act, which is under siege in the House, and increasing pressure on the Environmental Protection Agency to carry out its authority to regulate greenhouse gases under that act.

The decision arose from a lawsuit brought by New York and other states against five of the country's biggest polluters in 2004 — a time when the administration of George W. Bush was arguing that it had no authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gases. Seeking another avenue to reduce emissions, the plaintiffs sought to invoke a history of precedents upholding the right of states to seek relief in federal court against polluters in other states when pollution crosses state lines.

Their argument was rejected in district court, upheld on appeal and rebuffed again by the Supreme Court. Why? Because, the court argued in so many words, it was superfluous: a 2007 Supreme Court ruling had already authorized the federal government to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act, and the Environmental Protection Agency had already taken steps to do so.

Writing for an 8-to-0 majority, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said, "We hold that the Clean Air Act and the E.P.A. actions it authorizes displace any federal common-law right to seek abatement of carbon dioxide emissions from fossil-fuel-fired power plants."

As she noted, the E.P.A. was already moving in the direction mandated by the 2007 ruling. In 2009, it set standards to reduce carbon pollution from new cars and light trucks by 30 percent over the next five years. And it plans to propose new rules to regulate emissions from new and existing power plants by next September.

With the failure of cap-and-trade legislation last year, the E.P.A.'s rules are among the last remaining regulatory weapons the government can use to combat global warming; a counterattack from some power companies and their Congressional allies can be anticipated. The court's reasoned reaffirmation of the law and the government's obligation to carry it out is thus timely and welcome.





The Supreme Court's decision on greenhouse gases on Monday is a disappointment to the states and environmental groups that had hoped to use federal common law to curb carbon dioxide pollution from power plants. It would also appear to be a setback in the fight against global warming. But it is, in fact, a clarifying and positive decision — vindicating the Clean Air Act, which is under siege in the House, and increasing pressure on the Environmental Protection Agency to carry out its authority to regulate greenhouse gases under that act.

The decision arose from a lawsuit brought by New York and other states against five of the country's biggest polluters in 2004 — a time when the administration of George W. Bush was arguing that it had no authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gases. Seeking another avenue to reduce emissions, the plaintiffs sought to invoke a history of precedents upholding the right of states to seek relief in federal court against polluters in other states when pollution crosses state lines.

Their argument was rejected in district court, upheld on appeal and rebuffed again by the Supreme Court. Why? Because, the court argued in so many words, it was superfluous: a 2007 Supreme Court ruling had already authorized the federal government to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act, and the Environmental Protection Agency had already taken steps to do so.

Writing for an 8-to-0 majority, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said, "We hold that the Clean Air Act and the E.P.A. actions it authorizes displace any federal common-law right to seek abatement of carbon dioxide emissions from fossil-fuel-fired power plants."

As she noted, the E.P.A. was already moving in the direction mandated by the 2007 ruling. In 2009, it set standards to reduce carbon pollution from new cars and light trucks by 30 percent over the next five years. And it plans to propose new rules to regulate emissions from new and existing power plants by next September.

With the failure of cap-and-trade legislation last year, the E.P.A.'s rules are among the last remaining regulatory weapons the government can use to combat global warming; a counterattack from some power companies and their Congressional allies can be anticipated. The court's reasoned reaffirmation of the law and the government's obligation to carry it out is thus timely and welcome.






Santa Barbara, Calif.

MONDAY'S Supreme Court decision to block a class-action sex-discrimination lawsuit against Wal-Mart was a huge setback for as many as 1.6 million current and former female employees of the world's largest retailer. But the decision has consequences that range far beyond sex discrimination or the viability of class-action suits.

The underlying issue, which the Supreme Court has now ratified, is Wal-Mart's authoritarian style, by which executives pressure store-level management to squeeze more and more from millions of clerks, stockers and lower-tier managers.

Indeed, the sex discrimination at Wal-Mart that drove the recent suit is the product not merely of managerial bias and prejudice, but also of a corporate culture and business model that sustains it, rooted in the company's very beginnings.

In the 1950s and '60s, northwest Arkansas, where Wal-Mart got its start, was poor, white and rural, in the midst of a wave of agricultural mechanization that generated a huge surplus of unskilled workers. To these men and women, the burgeoning chain of discount stores founded by Sam Walton was a godsend. The men might find dignity managing a store instead of a hardscrabble farm, while their wives and daughters could earn pin money clerking for Mr. Sam, as he was known. "The enthusiasm of Wal-Mart associates toward their jobs is one of the company's greatest assets," declared the firm's 1973 annual report.

A patriarchal ethos was written into the Wal-Mart DNA. "Welcome Assistant Managers and Wives" read a banner at a 1975 meeting for executive trainees. And that corporate culture — "the single most important element in the continued, remarkable success of Wal-Mart," asserted Don Soderquist, the company's chief operating officer in the 1990s — was sustained not only by the hypercentralized managerial control that flowed from the Bentonville, Ark., home office but by the evangelical Protestantism that Mr. Soderquist and other executives encouraged.

Wal-Mart attorneys have argued, and the Supreme Court agreed this week, that even if sex discrimination was once part of the company's culture, it is now ancient history: if any store managers are guilty of bias when it comes to promoting women, they are at odds with corporate policy. Wal-Mart is no longer an Ozark company; it is a cosmopolitan, multinational operation.

But that avoids the more essential point, namely that Wal-Mart views low labor costs and a high degree of workplace flexibility as a signal competitive advantage. It is a militantly anti-union company that has been forced to pay hundreds of millions of dollars to current and former employees for violations of state wage and hour laws.

In other words, the patriarchy of old has been reconfigured into a more systematically authoritarian structure, one that deploys a communitarian ethos to sustain a high degree of corporate loyalty even as wages and working conditions are put under continual downward pressure — especially in recent years, as Wal-Mart's same-store sales have declined. Workers of both sexes pay the price, but women, who constitute more than 70 percent of hourly employees, pay more.

There are tens of thousands of experienced Wal-Mart women who would like to be promoted to the first managerial rung, salaried assistant store manager. But Wal-Mart makes it impossible for many of them to take that post, because its ruthless management style structures the job itself as one that most women, and especially those with young children or a relative to care for, would find difficult to accept.

Why? Because, for all the change that has swept over the company, at the store level there is still a fair amount of the old communal sociability. Recognizing that workers steeped in that culture make poor candidates for assistant managers, who are the front lines in enforcing labor discipline, Wal-Mart insists that almost all workers promoted to the managerial ranks move to a new store, often hundreds of miles away.

For young men in a hurry, that's an inconvenience; for middle-aged women caring for families, this corporate reassignment policy amounts to sex discrimination. True, Wal-Mart is hardly alone in demanding that rising managers sacrifice family life, but few companies make relocation such a fixed policy, and few have employment rolls even a third the size.

The obstacles to women's advancement do not stop there. The workweek for salaried managers is around 50 hours or more, which can surge to 80 or 90 hours a week during holiday seasons. Not unexpectedly, some managers think women with family responsibilities would balk at such demands, and it is hardly to the discredit of thousands of Wal-Mart women that they may be right.

There used to be a remedy for this sort of managerial authoritarianism: it was called a union, which bargained over not only wages and pensions but also the kind of qualitative issues, including promotion and transfer policies, that have proved so vexing for non-unionized employees at Wal-Mart and other big retailers.

For a time it seemed as if the class-action lawsuit might be a partial substitute. By drastically limiting how a class-action suit can be brought, the Supreme Court leaves millions of service-sector workers with few avenues to escape the grinding work life and limited opportunities that so many now face.

Nelson Lichtenstein, a professor of history at the University of California, Santa Barbara, is the author of "The Retail Revolution: How Wal-Mart Created a Brave New World of Business."




100 DAYS


There is something crazy about what is going on in our country today. Our fiscal condition continues on an unsustainable path, the European currency is heading for a crackup, the Arab world is in the midst of a crackup, unemployment is creeping upward and basically our two parties are telling us that they will not make the reforms that we know are necessary because it would involve too much pain and could imperil their chances of winning the presidency in 2012.

Ever since President Franklin D. Roosevelt's legendary "First 100 Days" in office — which stabilized a country ravaged by the Depression — the first 100 days of every president have been used as a measuring stick for success. That's over. I've said this before, and I believe it even more strongly today: We've gone from the first 100 days to the "Only 100 Days."

Really — it feels as if Barack Obama had 100 days to push through the basics we needed to stabilize the economy and then lay the basis for his one big initiative — health care reform — and then he was preparing for the midterms, and then he was recovering from his midterm losses and then he was announcing his re-election bid and then, judging from all the Republicans who have declared for the presidency already, the 2012 race got started. As such, the chances of the two parties successfully doing something big, hard and together to fix the huge problems staring us in the face are very small — unless the market or Mother Nature imposes it upon them.

Therefore, let us all now hold our breath and hope that nothing really bad happens until the next president has his or her 100 days in early 2013 to take a quick shot at fixing the country before getting ready for the 2014 midterms and 2016 elections.

There is no way that America can remain a great country if the opportunities for meaningful reform are reduced to either market- or and climate-induced crises and 100 working days every four years. We need a full-time government, and instead we've created a Congress that is a full-time fund-raising enterprise that occasionally legislates and a White House that, save for 100 days, has to be in perpetual campaign mode.

To get elected today, politicians increasingly have to play to their bases and promise things that they cannot possibly deliver (5 percent annual growth for a decade) or solutions to our problems that will be painless for their constituencies (we'll just raise taxes on the rich or we'll just cut taxes even more) or to keep things just as they are even though we know they can't possibly stay that way without bankrupting the country (Social Security and Medicare benefits).

The truth is, we need to do four things at once if we have any hope of maintaining American greatness: We need more stimulus to keep the economy from slipping back into recession. But we need to combine that stimulus with a credible, legislated, long-term plan for cutting spending and getting the deficit under control — e.g., the Simpson-Bowles deficit-reduction plan. And we need to raise new revenues in order to reinvest in the sources of our strength: education, infrastructure and government-funded research to push out the boundaries of knowledge.

That's right. We need to do four things at once: spend, cut, tax and invest. And unless we do all four at once we're not going to break out of our slow decline. But to do all four at once will require a new hybrid politics, which does not conform to the political agenda of either major party.

The Democrats are ready for more stimulus but have refused to signal any serious willingness to cut entitlements, like Medicare, that we know are unsustainable in their present form. The Republicans are all for spending cuts but refuse to accept any tax increases that we need to pay for the past and invest in the future. So what we're basically saying as a country is that unless the market or Mother Nature make us pay, we are going to hand this whole bill over to our children.

Maybe it is just my friends, but I find more and more people completely disgusted by this situation and looking for a serious Third Party candidate who could run in 2012 and deliver the shock therapy to the corrupt, encrusted, two-party duopoly now running the show in America.

Such a Third Party would have a simple agenda: 1) Inject a short-term stimulus. 2) Enact Simpson-Bowles. 3) Shrink our presence in Afghanistan. 4) Raise automobile mileage standards. 5) Impose a gasoline tax to pay for a massive increase in government-supported scientific research and a carbon tax to pay for new infrastructure and stimulate clean-power innovation.

Do I think such a Third Party can win in 2012? Not likely. But it doesn't have to win to be effective. If such a party attracted substantial voters on such a platform, it would shape the agendas of the Republicans and Democrats. They would both have to move to attract these voters by changing their own platforms and, in so doing, might even create a mandate for the next president to govern for an entire term — not just 100 days.








GREECE'S prime minister, George A. Papandreou, comfortably survived a confidence vote on Tuesday, momentarily stabilizing his fragile Socialist government and clearing the way for a fresh infusion of financial assistance from the European Union.

But the country's economic crisis, which began at the end of 2009 when the world belatedly realized that Greece's fiscal and trade deficits were unsustainable, is far from over; in fact it has taken a new and dangerous turn.

The specter of a default on Greece's sovereign debt — close to $500 billion, most of it owed to other Europeans — is haunting bankers and politicians. It could set off domino effects in the euro zone and beyond. Without urgent domestic reform and help from its European partners, Greece, a country of only 11 million people, risks being caught in an unbreakable cycle of decline.

The bailout by the European Union, with the participation of the International Monetary Fund, comes with strict conditions attached, conditions that the government has only partially met so far. The government has reduced the budget deficit to 10.5 percent of Greece's gross domestic product from more than 15 percent — no small achievement — and passed a bold pension reform plan. But it has been much more hesitant about structural reform of the economy and privatization of state-controlled enterprises, because of organized opposition by vested interests, resistance from within the party and from trade unions, and the snail's pace of Greek bureaucracy.

With unemployment at 16 percent, Greeks have been taking to the streets in protest against unpopular measures and a political system at risk of losing its legitimacy. Populists are having a field day, offering simplistic solutions and seeking scapegoats, preferably those beyond the nation's borders. This is certainly not a phenomenon confined to Greece.

Mr. Papandreou has reshuffled his cabinet and tried to appease his party members, while putting out feelers to the main center-right opposition party over the creation of a national unity government — so far, unsuccessfully. He has been undoubtedly weakened in the process. Greece desperately needs a radical renewal of its political class; at stake is the survival of many members of that establishment. It also needs a peaceful revolution in its economy and society. But democracy takes time. The next parliamentary elections may not be very far off, but the political and economic climate has to improve first.

A few bold measures would send the message that the government is serious about scaling down the public sector. The solution is not more taxes to pay for poor quality services and over-staffed state organizations, the result of years of clientele politics in which the party in power appointed its friends to taxpayer-financed jobs. Greece needs more effective tax collection, together with the provision of a safety net for the rising numbers of the economically vulnerable.

But economic measures are surely not enough; in drama, as ancient Greeks knew, you need catharsis. In today's Greece, this means that people who have mismanaged public funds should be brought to justice. Neither of the main political parties has been enthusiastic about this, because they fear the unpleasant surprises from opening such a Pandora's box. The creation of a national unity government, with a specific program of limited duration, would help to restore public confidence and broaden support for politically difficult measures, notably the elimination of public sector jobs.

For the heavily indebted and uncompetitive economies of the European periphery, fiscal consolidation and structural reform — the mantras of I.M.F. economists — are a must. But what is the right dose of austerity? Too much could be economically counterproductive. Public tolerance of austerity may be reaching the breaking point.

Growth is the key: without it, any adjustment program is doomed to fail. In trying to cut bureaucratic tape, Greek politicians will need to create an environment that is propitious to investment, which has not been the case for many years. European funds for investment could bolster the determination of local politicians to proceed with structural reform. Some in Europe are already talking about a new Marshall Plan for financially embattled countries. Solidarity with strings attached is a politically intelligent form of investment.

The sovereign debt problem in several European countries, including Greece, raises the question of who should pay for the accumulated mistakes of the past — taxpayers or private creditors — and how much of the burden each country should bear. We need a political agreement on these questions, instead of piecemeal measures that leave politicians two steps behind the bond markets.

Greece is at a dangerous crossroads. Other countries — Portugal, Ireland, maybe Spain — are coming behind it. The consequences of excessive borrowing and consumption, of the bursting of the credit bubble, have caught up with us. If we fail to deal with them effectively, the achievements of decades of increasing integration and shared sovereignty in postwar Europe may no longer be taken for granted.

Loukas Tsoukalis is a professor of European integration at the University of Athens and the president of the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy.







It never took so long before for the Turkish Supreme Election Board, or YSK, to announce the final list of deputies elected by popular vote for the Parliament in the June 12 elections.

The delay has nothing to do with the vote counting system of the Turkish election bodies; they proved their efficiency a number of times before.

The problem is rather complicated. The YSK is to decide on the situation of a deputy elect, namely Hatip Dicle who is currently in jail. There is also another situation where one seat will either go to the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AK Parti, or the Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, in Istanbul, where their votes are very close in a district; but that is not what the main debate is about.

According to the Turkish Constitution, a deputy-elect can only be a member of Parliament by taking his or her oath before the General Assembly. And it is not physically possible when you are behind bars.

There are also the problems of nine other deputies elect. Six of them were among the Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, backed independent candidates (the others are Faysal Sarıyıldız, İbrahim Ayhan, Kemal Aktaş, Selma Irmak and Gülseren Yıldırım). The reason why they are elected independent instead of from the BDP is in order to bypass the much-criticized 10 percent election threshold. All of them have been in jail for nearly two years accused of being members of the KCK, a front organization of the illegal armed group Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK.

The other three on the other hand are similarly in jail for nearly two years – not convicted yet, still under arrest – are accused of being members of an alleged organization of Ergenekon to conspire against the government by using links within the military. Professor Mehmet Haberal, an internationally known transplant surgeon and Mustafa Balbay a renowned journalist, were elected from the main opposition Republican People's Party, or CHP, list. And Engin Alan, a retired lieutenant general, was elected from the MHP's.

Some Turkish voters made their choices knowing that they are criminally accused and wanted to see them out by benefiting from parliamentary immunity.

It is up to the courts whether to release them, to let them out to take their oaths and thus freeze the legal proceeding against them.

Yesterday prosecutors asked the court to keep Balbay and Haberal in prison.

If that would be the final decision, the Turkish election system will face a situation never seen before: people's votes against court rulings.

This complicated scene shows that the legal structure of Turkish politics is approaching the limits of sustainability. The 10 percent threshold is already demolished by the BDP's by-pass tactics. The whole election and political parties system is to be overhauled in order to meet the democratic requirements of the Turkish people. The government and opposition parties have to take this into account in the making of a new and upgraded constitution for Turkey.





If Graham Greene lived today, he would probably have rethought the title of his famous novel, "Dr. Fischer of Geneva or the Bomb Party." Or maybe not. Depending on how seriously one takes jokes. After all, it's all about jokes; or their real-life reflections.

Each time I make a little joke in this column someone happens to take it seriously, shattering my otherwise firm belief that no serious Turkish politician or bureaucrat should think this columnist is worth reading.

Here we go again.

Last month, a big spread page article on Hürriyet showed the elegant photo of an aircraft carrier with a huge Turkish flag on its flight deck, with a big upper headline that said: Great news! But a microscopic photo caption read: Photoshop on USS Theodore Roosevelt. The curious story went on to quote Turkey's top defense procurement official as heralding that "Turkey's local industry was now almost capable of manufacturing an aircraft carrier."

Then I found the inspiration I may have involuntarily caused, while knowing I could not: "Politicians in Ankara and Athens should have a look at the scraps of metal, in which they have buried many billions of dollars in the past years but, thank God, never have had to use. What's next? A fleet of Turkish and Greek aircraft carriers on the Aegean Sea?" this column read on Apr. 30, 2002 – and, no typo here; yes, nine years ago.

And indeed, a military vessel looking like a small aircraft carrier to outsiders of the defense industry docked in Istanbul a few weeks ago. It was the Juan Carlos I, a handsome Landing Platform Dock, or LPD, which Spanish shipyards Navantia hopes to sell to Turkey, if it defeats two other bidders in a competition. Not really an aircraft carrier, but Turkey will soon own an LPD, leaving us in curiosity about which lands the Turkish government plans to ground on with it.

But I would never guess the limits of my habit of tragically inspiring Turkish politicians and bureaucrats, who most probably never read this column.

Here is another unfortunate example:

"Defense Minister Vecdi Gönül's announcement [in December that] 'Turkey has decided to design, develop and produce its own, domestic, made-in-Turkey fighter jet' must have been the first steps toward the soon-to-be-launched domestic, made-in-Turkey spaceship," I wrote in this column (Turkish fighter jets, Turkish astronauts… Turkish avatars coming soon?, Hürriyet Daily News, Jan. 4, 2011).

No, the Turkish avatars are not coming so soon. But there is wonderful news. According to Osman Yıldırım, president of the state-run Turkish Aviation Institute, Turkey will start training astronauts next year. And there is better news. Mr. Yıldırım has said we will send our first shuttle into space in the year 2023. Mr. Yıldırım did not say how soon the Turkish avatars will raid enemy lands. But it should not take too long.

All the same, with the utmost fear of potentially inspiring our leaders, I guess the next in line could be the first Turkish-made nuclear bomb.

Since it will be practically impossible to strip Israel of its nuclear capabilities – and Iran soon joining the club – the new Middle East order will give perfect legitimacy for a Turkish bomb. Could that be a reason why the Turkish government has been too soft on Iran's nuclear program? No, forget conspiracy theories. But always keep in mind that Foreign Minister Ahmet Zero-Problems-Davutoğlu's vision is either no nuke in our region or… after all, regional leaders should possess leading, game-changer military capabilities.

But can Turkey make its own bomb? After fighter jets and space shuttles, it will be a piece of cake. And mark the news that quoted Energy Minister Taner Yıldız as saying that Turkey will soon send 300 Turkish students to Russia to study nuclear engineering "to run Turkey's future nuclear power stations."

That will be the Pennsylvania-Moscow-Ankara axis completing the Pyongyang-Islamabad-Tehran axis. Then we'll knock on Dr. Fischer's door for a fascinating bomb party.





ince the dust has settled on the June 12 general elections, the political parties have intensified their efforts to analyze the results of the polls so that they can review both their organizational structures and policies.

As was expected, all eyes have turned on the Republican People's Party, or CHP, whose votes totaled about 26 percent – less than the pre-election estimates that put the party on the brink of the 30 percent margin. Its chief, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, did not hide his frustration but also rightly said that the party had increased its votes nearly 5 percent compared to the 2007 election.

Furthermore, the party was also able to increase its seat number to 135 and even took seats from provinces like Sakarya and Bolu for the first time since 1977. Another important result is that except for Gaziantep, the CHP did increase its votes in provinces where it made intra-party elections to determine the party's candidates. In light of this observation, Kılıçdaroğlu will launch a new effort to fully democratize the party's internal regulations. The much-discussed nominations of Ergenekon suspects, namely Mehmet Haberal and Mustafa Balbay, increased the party's votes in their constituencies, the results showed. Haberal pushed CHP votes in Zonguldak up to 39 percent – an increase of 13 percent.

More important than these statistical findings is that the party leadership believes that the CHP electorate caught onto the "new CHP" concept. The increase in votes, especially from the youth and women, is clear evidence in this sense for the party brass.

Despite this picture depicted by the party brass, the fact that the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, could raise its votes to 50 percent made this relative success of the new leadership less meaningful. According to some CHP officials, the primary reason behind the increase in AKP votes is Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's frequent reminder of Kılıçdaroğlu's Alevi identity in election rallies. The party found that a smear campaign was launched against Kılıçdaroğlu in a number of illegal publications. That affected voters in some parts of the Black Sea, the inner Aegean and Central Anatolian regions.

A similar analysis is being conducted by the AKP, which won its third successive elections by increasing its votes to 50 percent as well.

According to AKP officials, the primary reason for their victory is the "service they have provided to the people since 2002." They count health services, the free distribution of textbooks to nearly 15 million students, economic development, as well as an assertive foreign policy as the driving forces convincing 21 million people to cast votes for the AKP.

However, one other element, all AKP officials agree on, is that Erdoğan's own performance, which drew from his outstanding charisma, helped increase the party's votes. The following remarks by Hüseyin Çelik, deputy leader of the AKP, make the picture clear: "Why do our votes increase? We, too, are looking into this. I should admit that chalking up our votes to our services would be incomplete. An important cause is the fact that our nation enshrined us in their hearts. May God not harm our prime minister, not leave him without us. He is one of the unique leaders of the world."





Is it not a wild idea to assume that the radical Islamist fantasies of the neo-Ottomanists of the dissolution period of the Ottoman Empire or the mostly Egyptian Arab forefathers of jihadist Islam or the restoration of the Caliphate movement might have a minute chance of coming true?

If we are to take out the fundamental difference between the neo-Ottomanist ideology, which was centered on the creation of a united "Caliphate State" something like today's European Union, with the caliphate remaining in Istanbul – and the Egypt-centered Arab jihadist or the restoration of the Caliphate movement, that was obsessed with Arabs taking back caliphate to the holy Mecca, there was a common cause: To achieve the united state of the nation of Islam, or the "ummah."

Creation of the modern, democratic and secular Turkish republic and the March 3, 1924 abrogation of caliphate was a setback to both the neo-Ottomanist and pan-Arabic caliphate movements or aspirations of a united caliphate state of the ummah. [This is a complex discussion as according to many researchers caliphate is not indeed abrogated; its functions were ended while the institution and its powers were transferred to the Turkish Parliament.] The obsession of reviving the state of Islam – like the state that existed during the lifetime of Islam's Prophet Mohammad and the succeeding first four caliphs – never ever died out and indeed has been one of the fundamental pillars of the Muslim Brotherhood Movement, which this way or the other, under many names, exists all through the Arab geography today. Interestingly enough, though with some slight, yet very meaningful differences, the movement exists in non-Arab Muslim societies, including Turkey, Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere.

Of course, no one can claim that al-Qaeda and the Nationalist View Movement in Turkey, or the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, are one and the same, though both come from the same tradition of political Islam. No one can claim either that both Hamas and the al-Ikhwan al-Muslimun of Egypt are one and the same. There are national and cultural divides between all these parties, which irrespective whether they officially declare it or not, aspire for the creation of the united caliphate state of the ummah, where shariah or the rule of Quran would strictly prevail.

Could the "Arab Spring" – as is so far said – succeed in creating democratic nation states in the Arab geography and beyond in the lands populated by Muslim people? Or, is there a possibility of the states of Middle East and North Africa turning into Sunni alterations of the Iranian theocracy? Or, as Newsweek asked in its June 20 edition, would the Greater Middle Eastern neighborhood eventually turn to Turkey and help the governance of political Islam there revive the Muslim Ottoman Empire? Though this last scenario was branded as "nightmarish" by the Newsweek and though very few Turks would object utopia of a Turkey-based revival of the caliphate state, it would not be at all easy either for the Turks to forget the "Arabs stabbed Turks in the back" rhetoric or for the Arabs not to remember what was it like for them to live under Ottoman rule. Definitely, there would not be a need for a new "Lawrence of Arabia" for the peoples of this geography to remember the recent history and the strong animosities coated with modern-day political interests.

Political Islam throughout this geography may wish to see their ultimate goal of creation of Muslim empire realized but if that target was so easy to attain it would have been achieved long ago, perhaps when there was still an Ottoman Empire. Like the Greek Megalo Idea, having utopias might help maintain integrity, but putting them into action might bring about farfetched disastrous consequences.





The word "titanic" points us to at least two meanings, totally different from each other. The first takes us back to the mist of Greek mythology and the world of Titans, those giant creatures who had the unique gift of superhuman physical or mental abilities. The second one brings us to as recent times as the beginning of the last century when the word "titanic" initially was linked to one of the biggest disasters in human history.

The reason why this word surfaced recently in our daily political agenda relates to Greece. Talking to his newly reshuffled government late last week, Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou said the following: "In its previous composition, the [Greek] government performed a titanic task, an impressive and historical task which, however, contained mistakes and weaknesses, too." He was referring to the huge task undertaken by his previous Cabinet for the last 20 months to try and manage an economy close to collapse and a society about to explode. Papandreou qualified his use of the term "titanic" by especially addressing outgoing Economy Minister George Papaconstantinou: "You lifted on your back unbearable weight, at a crucial moment for the country. I consider it a national task. You honored the country and our government fighting difficult battles in order for all of us to stand on our feet as a country."

We may be skeptical of how political leaders pepper their speeches with dramatic overtones when what they really do is boost their political ego. But watching closely the latest developments in Greece since Panhellenic Socialist Movement, or PASOK, took over, one can only say that it is one of these times when a leader is trying to tone down the harsh realities rather than boost his contribution.

What we experienced last week in Greece was an attempt by Papandreou keep afloat by placating his party opposition and create a government who will appear more effective in implementing the European Union-International Monetary Fund initial bailout plan so that the country does not default. The agreement called for Greece to make 30 billion euros of budget cuts over three years.

One year later, not only was the target not achieved, but the figures showed that the deficit had worsened. After rumors that Greece may not remain solvent, a new EU-IMF tougher austerity package was agreed last month. But this resulted in a crisis within the government party, with several deputies threatening to vote against the package. In a dramatic attempt to find a solution, Papandreou even talked of a consensus government with opposition leader Antonis Samaras. Eventually, though, he decided to reshuffle his government, appointing his ex arch-rival, Evangelos Venizelos, as the new economy minister. It was a clever move as it gathered the party together.

But what is happening outside the Greek Parliament is perhaps more important. For several weeks, tens of thousands of citizens have been setting up camps around Syntagma Square, calling themselves "the frustrated ones" and calling for the government to go, mainly via the means of social media. Almost 90 percent of them – according to a poll published in daily To Vima – are against their country's politicians in general. The "frustrated ones" have caused enough frustration for the politicians who, however, have so far prefered to ignore them. Several academics and intellectuals have advised the government to create a "bridge" with the frustrated crowd camping literally a few hundred meters from the parliament, yet dealing with their party balances seem to have sapped most Greek politicians' energy.

New Economy Minister Mr. Venizelos is in Luxembourg this week for a meeting of the ECOFIN. With a tougher package to implement, the Papandreou government will have to continue its "titanic" struggle to placate society and avoid default.

As for Papandreou, he has still 28 months to go before the end of his term, when "our citizens are to assess our performance," as he said. It is really a titanic task in both meanings of the word.





Industry Minister Nihat Ergün expressed extremely important views on the Kurdish issue the other day. He said, "Those crimes committed against the state should be pardoned."

And, indeed, hell rose immediately.

The opposition was up on its feet, even Burhan Kuzu from his party, the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, was on the defense by saying, "There is no such item in our agenda." The state was also activated with a self-defense reflex.

But Ergün's words were not of a type that could be rejected easily. Because he is a person close to the prime minister, his words are taken seriously. If Ergün's statement really reflects the prime minister's thoughts, then we can contain much more hope on the subject of the Kurdish issue.

I am sure, sooner or later, we will come across a general amnesty. If we want to solve the problem, an amnesty will be inevitable.

Besides, why can a crime against the state not be granted a pardon?

We are not talking about a guerilla with bloody hands who has killed people repeatedly. We mean those people involved in activities defined by the state as crimes.

When the state makes nonsensical laws for the sake of self-defense, contrary to people's essential expectations, contrary to current circumstances and laws that strip people of their rights, then people react to these laws.

They can have a right to react.

Come, let us stop fooling ourselves and let us not fight now for a general amnesty that we will definitely issue in the future.

Assad angry at Erdoğan's criticism

Turkey-Syria relations are not going very well. Not only Bashar al-Assad but also a segment of the public holds a reaction against Turkey's general stance. Indeed, the anti-Ankara broadcasts of the state television contribute to this negatively.

The reason for Assad's attitude that started as an offense and now has turned into anger, as he shares with his close aides, is that Recep Tayyip Erdoğan constantly changes his stance and according to the Syrian president, has started using the same language as the "West" and is criticizing constantly.

You may remember the prime minister was very supportive of al-Assad at the beginning. But the fact reform expectations could not be met; meanwhile the threat of a civil war increased and the high probability of an increase in the number of refugees has slowly caused Ankara to lose its patience.

It is true that now Erdoğan is closer to western countries' attitudes, but he has no other choice.

What Assad is mostly remorseful about is that the prime minister frequently criticizes Syria and himself. He is said to be humiliated among his close circle. This negativity is reflected on the public.

Everyone criticizes Assad but cannot risk his departure

Actually, we are facing a weird situation. The situation in Syria annoys both some countries in the regions and the "Western" world. Turkey and Israel are also very annoyed.

Nobody wants an intervention in Syria, any military interference, as in Libya, or, moreover, the departure of Assad.

The reason is very clear.

Who will replace Assad is unknown. Besides, because of the fear that a change at the very top might disarray Syria into a much more dangerous way, nobody wants to touch him.

It is calculated that while Assad is departing, he may plant disorder in Lebanon through Hezbollah and Palestine by Hamas.

Israel does not want him to be touched at the moment.

Turkey agrees.

Washington and others do not yet have a different plan.

But this attitude cannot go on forever. Either Assad will improve his situation by the end of the year, transform into a multi-party parliamentarian regime or will be drowned in his own swamp.

In his last speech, he gave signals he was ready to take steps in this direction but he did not show he was ready to sacrifice his family or gave any signal he would untangle the corruption net surrounding him.

Ankara has all the right to fear.

The stakes are high for Turkey in the case of turmoil in Syria.









There horrific story told by a nine-year-old girl called Sohana Javed is going to be remembered because it represents a new low, an example of the debauched and perverted thinking that pervades some elements. According to her own account, she was kidnapped on her way to school several days ago, rendered senseless by some sort of soporific, and then on Monday, introduced to a new and final role – she was to become a suicide bomber. There was to be no process of indoctrination, no attempt to convince her of the righteousness of an explosive death. She was strapped into a suicide vest and told to 'press the button' when she got to the checkpost in Islam Darra on the outskirts of Timergara, Lower Dir.

That she is alive today is a minor miracle. Her kidnappers cared nothing for her innocence; she was merely a means to an end, not a human life. She was kept in a house until Monday morning when she was fitted with a vest said to contain eight kilogrammes of explosives and pushed in the direction of the check post. She called for help, and the police took her in and had the bomb disarmed. It appears that she hails from the Malakand division but as yet no family has come forward to claim her despite her face being seen across the news channels of the nation. This is the first time that terrorists have used a child to deliver a bomb. It may be an isolated instance rather than a trend, but if a child is used in a similar manner again then it will be an indicator of a tactical shift, perhaps indicative of difficulties in recruiting older children or perhaps yet another stratagem for 'getting under the radar'. Whatever it is, there is nothing that justifies the sacrifice of a child in this manner. Whoever does this dreadful thing to a child commits a crime not only against the child and its potential victims, but against humanity itself. The despicable men and women who did this are bereft of all values and deserve nothing but our contempt, coupled with whatever punishment the law decides for them if they are ever caught and prosecuted – which is highly unlikely. The story of Sohana Javed is illustrative of the depths of depravity to which some are prepared to go in their battle against the state. Let us hope she is the last of her kind, although we fear that she may just be the first of many.








In an interview in 1998 Mr Brzezinski, the then national security advisor to president Carter, stated: "It was July 3, 1979 that president Carter signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul. We did not push the Russians to intervene, but we knowingly increased the probability that they would. The day that the Soviets officially crossed the border, I wrote to president Carter. We now have the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam War."

It took the US just six months to induce the USSR to enter Afghanistan on December 25, 1979. To give the Soviets their Vietnam, Pakistan was used as an instrument. We got involved in a war of two superpowers and in the process converted both Afghanistan and Pakistan, into battlegrounds for jihadis from all over the world. Both countries never recovered from the post-jihad chaos, which is still ongoing. Thousands have died since then in an unending war.

Unfortunately, our ruler at time was a usurper, who had hanged a popular leader, and wanted to prolong his illegal rule. America was the real winner of this jihad. The Berlin Wall fell in December 1989, the USSR disintegrated in 1991, ending the Cold War, and the US became the sole superpower. After the victory, the US abandoned us and what we got from jihad was religious extremism, sectarian strife, intolerance, collapse of institutions, bad governance, corruption, and an obsession with a religion, drugs, and weapons.

Back then, the CIA and the ISI jointly used the jihadi doctrine preached by Islamic revivalists of the twentieth century like Hassan al-Banna, Maulana Maududi, and Syed Qutb. Now, the same CIA and ISI are working together to eliminate the menace of jihad, now known as terrorism.

The leadership of Al-Qaeda has a special affiliation with the city of Peshawar. Sheikh Abdullah Azzam, a Palestinian, came to Pakistan and started teaching in Islamic University Islamabad. In 1980, he moved to Peshawar and established Makatab Al Khidmat (MAK).

Azzam, was influenced by the Van Guard concept of jihad, preached by Syed Qutb and he issued a fatwa in support of the Afghan jihad. He motivated Osama bin Laden to come to Peshawar. Bin Laden subsequently joined him there in 1984. Zawahiri arrived in 1987. Then there was a flow of foreigners converging in Peshawar. MAK was keeping a record of these jihadis and sending them to join various groups fighting in Afghanistan. Peshawar had become a second home to these foreign militants.

In 1988, the Soviets decided to pull out their forces from Afghanistan, and the process was completed in February 1989. However, the militants stayed on to see the outcome of infightings between various jihadi factions in Afghanistan. Sheikh Azzam wanted to concentrate on the establishment of an Islamic state in Afghanistan while Osama had a global agenda.

Azzam was killed in November 1989 in Peshawar and Osama became the undisputed leader of all the jihadis. Abu Ubaida Bansheri, a close confidant of Osama, gave the name Al-Qaeda to the organisation. Most of the foreign jihadis started moving back to their countries. But Osama had plans for Al-Qaeda in Pakistan. In 1989, before moving to Saudi Arabia, he made efforts to remove Benazir from premiership, through a no confidence motion, which he was willing to finance. A failed attempt to assassinate Benazir was made by Ramzy Yousaf in 1993. A liberal woman leader did not fit in with the plans Osama had for Pakistan.

In 1996 Bin Laden returned to Jalalabad to Younus Khalis, from Sudan. The Taliban had not yet captured Jalalabad or Kabul. During the next few years, he concentrated on training jihadis and on plans to attack US interests and facilities.

He successfully attacked the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania (1998) and bombed the USS Cole (2000). He also got in touch with Pakistani and Kashmiri jihadis, getting training in different camps. All these contacts would prove to be his support system in the post 9/11 environment.

On initiation of Operation Enduring Freedom by the Coalition forces, the Afghan Taliban vanished without fighting. Al-Qaeda and other jihadis split into three major groups, one headed for Tora Bora, second to Gardez and the third to Shahi-Kot, Paktiya Province. Some crossed over from unfrequented routes and went to different cities of Pakistan, with the help of the jihadi network.

More than 150 Al-Qaeda members and facilitators, who crossed over from Tora Bora, were apprehended in Central Kurram. Osama and Zawahiri came up to the base of Tora Bora, and were allegedly taken to Kunar by the men of Gubadeen, where they spent more than six months before crossing over to the tribal areas.

By the end, 2002 Waziristan was the headquarters of Al-Qaeda. Hadi Al Iraqi (caught in Kabul in 2007), an ex-Iraqi Major was the commander of the area. Khalid Habib (killed in a drone strike in 2009) was one group commander. Tahir Yuldashev (killed in a drone, strike in 2009) was the IMU commander. Abu Laith al-Libi (killed in a drone strike in 2008) was the commander of North Waziristan. There were reasonably reliable reports that Osama was in the Mahsud area in early 2003.

However, he left before any action could have been initiated. Other prominent leaders kept on moving to different cities for communication, finances and coordination.

In 2001, after losing bases in Afghanistan, Al-Qaeda moved to Pakistan. In 2002 it started killing prominent Maliks who could possibly pose a threat. Next it attacked the ISI officials and their informants. They encouraged locals to raise Taliban forces. The tribals were terrorized and the state did not effectively intervene. The tribals had no option but to surrender to the will of the terrorists.

For all these years, they were training new recruits, getting weapons, and preparing young boys for suicide attacks. Meanwhile, our leaders were convincing Musharraf, who had little interest Fata and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP), that negotiation is the only solution.

By 2007, these people had become so strong that Osama declared war against the Pakistan Army. The TTP was formed with the objective of creating a Taliban state in Fata and some districts of KP. The media, civil society, and some political parties openly supported the cause of Taliban due to their hatred for America.

Our army has made tremendous progress in these three years. About 3000 have embraced shahadat and another 9000 have been wounded. They are fighting an unconventional war in the most inhospitable terrain against savages. Al-Qaeda and its allies are here to stay and fight against Pakistan. Being our common enemy, we must continue fighting this war with the US. Ground reality should be dictating our policy, not emotions. The people should also support our forces. As with any other army and intelligence agencies, our armed forces and agencies too have committed mistakes. Inquiries are in process to investigate this negligence.

But the soldiers who are fighting these hard battles in different parts of the country have nothing to do with the recent incidents. Do not demoralise them; let them focus on the completion of their mission. Should they fail in their mission, we should be prepared to accept the Taliban in charge of this country.

The writer is a retired brigadier.









Ignorantia legis non excusat, Latin for "Ignorance of the law does not excuse," is a bedrock principle in jurisprudence that cannot be ignored. Similarly, deliberate distortion is never permissible; it is both unethical and perilous.

In 2009 I published an article that analysed whether formation of an independent block comprising a majority of the members of a parliamentary party attracts "defection" in accordance with Article 63A of the Constitution, which clearly provides reference to two terms that are distinctly used: "political party" and "parliamentary party." "Parliamentary party" means all those members of a political party who stand elected to the assembly as nominees of a political party or independents who have subsequently become members of the parliamentary party by declaration in writing.

Under Article 63A(1)(b), a member deserves disqualification on grounds of defection if he "votes or abstains from voting in the House contrary to any direction issued by the Parliamentary Party to which he belongs, rather than any direction issued by a single individual such as the 'Leader of the Opposition' or 'Political Party' or 'Leader of the Political Party' or some 'Hidden Hand.' "

Therefore, defection in the context of Article 63A would apply to the remaining minority groups of the PML-Q in the Punjab Assembly led by the NRO-Chaudhrys of Gujrat should they decide not to follow the directions issued by the majority members of the parliamentary party.

On the issue raised in the case of Sen Ishaq Dar's running for the position of leader of the opposition in the Senate, the Senate chairman's line of reasoning in his order dated June 6, 2011, was that "since the PML-Q has joined the government, their members cannot support a member contesting the slot of the leader of the opposition in the Senate. Thus there are only 15 members supporting Muhammad Ishaq Dar."

This is flawed ab initio and unsustainable, and hence rendered without jurisdiction and coram non judice (not before the proper tribunal), as a vested constitutional right to vote cannot be disfranchised and the question of determination of the "opposition leader" is not contingent on party affiliations but depends on "members in opposition to the government." This is evident from the following:

The Constitution does not prohibit any senator from sitting in the opposition. The Senate Secretariat's own record shows that before notifying the office of the leader of the opposition, which fell vacant on May 22, the chairman of the Senate had allowed the nine PML-Q senators to retain seats on opposition benches by acceding to their request, in the full knowledge that Article 63A is not applicable to Senate members.

For the determination of the leader of the opposition, the electoral college consists of those members of the Senate who opt to oppose the treasury benches. Having allowed nine PML-Q senators as members of the opposition by his own ruling, the chairman could not have ignored their expression of support for Sen Ishaq Dar contesting for the position of leader of the opposition. Instead, the chairman decided to unconstitutionally disenfranchise these 25 percent of the 35 senators, who constituted "members in opposition to the government," for determination of the leader of the opposition.

As is evident from the record available with the Senate Secretariat, independent members who had cast their votes in favour of Maulana Haideri had declared their allegiance with the government and sat on government benches since 2009. It was on the very day the order was given in favour of Maulana Haideri that the chairman regarded their status as "independent" from what was throughout maintained by the Senate Secretariat as "alliance with government benches." This cheating, fraud and forgery is tantamount to a criminal act punishable under the provisions of the Pakistan Penal Code.

The partiality of the chairman of the Senate becomes more evident in his order of June 6, when he, on his motion and without any such requirement provided for in the rules, describes the JUI-F as being the "single-largest party in the opposition in the Senate having the strength of 12 members." According to the record maintained with the Election Commission of Pakistan, the JUI has a strength of ten members and, according to the records of the Senate Secretariat, two independent members are allied with the JUI. According to the rules of Senate, the "largest party" principle is not applicable to the Senate. Additionally, when it comes to counting the votes of other independent members having declared alliance with the government, the chairman conveniently ignored that status, and as such maliciously disregarded the Senate record, to facilitate the appointment of Maulana Haideri as "leader of the opposition."

The chairman thus exceeded his jurisdiction by exercising powers not rooted in Constitution or validly made rules; in fact, he defied and violated the Constitution and conventions that require him to be neutral and impartial in the discharge of his functions. He is therefore liable to removal from office as well as membership of the Senate for stripping himself of the qualification for being "ameen" or "honest" under Article 62 (f). The chairman acted with partiality to facilitate the election of Maulana Haideri; for which he not only distorted his own oath but also Article 63A. That is tantamount to subversion of the Constitution, which is punishable under Article 6 of the Constitution. He therefore deserves to be deprived of his continued membership of the Senate by the Election Commission.

Senator Ishaq Dar contested the election for leader of the opposition as a nominee of senators from all opposition, except the JUI-F. On May 2, within a few hours of the US raid in Abbottabad, the remaining groups of the PML-Q led by the Chaudhrys of Gujrat decided to rejoin the PPP-led NRO-based political alliance of convenience. As a result, on May 4 and 20. respectively, a sub-group of nine PML-Q members requested and were allowed to retain their seats on the opposition benches under the chairman's ruling. Therefore, to suggest that the PML-N "managed to entice ten senators away from their parent parties" is laughable, since the Like-Minded Group was formed immediately after the February 2008 election and the position of leader of the opposition in the Senate became vacant only on May 2, 2011.

Similarly, the PML-Q Unification Block in the Punjab Assembly was formed within days of the Feb 18 election. Within one month its membership had reached 20 and by July it had swelled to 40. Despite the illegal disqualification of Shehbaz Sharif by the rubberstamp Doger Court and the illegal imposition of governor's rule in February 2009, and despite lucrative offers from the PPP, the Unification Block did not switch parties. On Feb 2, 2011, 47 parliamentarians of the Unification Block practised their constitutional right and requested the Punjab Assembly speaker to declare them a parliamentary group.

At no point did any member of the Unification Block violate the Constitution or switch parties. Instead, no legislators of Unification could be despatched en bloc, despite tempting offerings of gifts from the PPP, and in particular by some, whose illegal distribution of taxpayers' money to the bar association has recently been taken note of by the auditor general of Pakistan.

The writer is an advocate and a PML-N MNA







At the risk of sounding cliché I must say Pakistan once again stands at a vital crossroad in its short history. Two paths are clearly signposted. One leading to ruin and self-destruction and the other to peace, prosperity, and a dignified existence. This country is now desperately in need of the proverbial second chance and new leadership to guide it towards its cherished goal.

The leader of the future must remember that greatness will be thrust upon him at a crucial moment in history. Millions of common Pakistanis look up to him as a messiah who alone can drag them out of this quagmire of poverty, ignorance, and economic deprivation. The people of Pakistan not only need but also deserve good governance, honest leadership, and responsive institutions. The need of the hour is to recognise and appreciate the importance of the common man, and to instil a sense of security and pride of participation in the affairs of the state.

The American constitution begins with the words "We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure democratic tranquility, provide for common defence, promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity." The most beautiful phrase in this entire document is "we the people" not 'we the leaders', 'we the officials', 'we the clergy', or 'we the experts'. Simply, 'we the people'.

The tragedy of Pakistan is that we the people of Pakistan have been taken for a ride by successive governments. Today the simple, honest and hardworking people of Pakistan are living in a climate of fear, apprehension, and despair. The common people of Pakistan are confronted with the multiple horrors of terrorism, bigotry, obscurantism, deprivation, chaos and anarchy.

The common man in Pakistan has only to look around him to observe a grim and fearful scenario. National leaders, parliament members, civil servants, custodians of the law, revenue collectors, professionals, and religious scholars, all seem to be entangled in their own network of selfish vested interests.

One of the major reasons for the sorry state of our society is that the common man of Pakistan has been neglected and deprived of his rightful share and importance in society. Our leaders have simply forgotten the basic lesson that organisations and institutions are designed and built for the benefit and well-being of the individual and not the other way round. It is the individual who makes or destroys a social system.

In the words of Alexander Pope "Hope springs eternal in the human breast". We the people of Pakistan have hope and belief in ourselves, the common citizens. We have a number of examples around us to nurture and sustain our hope. Ordinary people like Hakim Saeed and leaders like Liaquat Ali Khan made the supreme sacrifice by laying down their lives at the altar of faith and belief. The late Hakim Saeed built an empire from scratch for the benefit of society.

In our decaying society we have another pillar of strength and a beacon of light, a giant amongst pygmies called Abdul Sattar Edhi. This simple, rustic, and semi-literate Pakistani has built an empire dedicated to social welfare. He continues to provide relief, comfort, and care to the poorest of the poor and the outcasts of society.

Another legendary common Pakistani was Dr Akhtar Hameed Khan who gave up a lucrative career to provide help and relief to the downtrodden and neglected segments of society. Dr Khan launched the Orangi Pilot Project because of his belief that one of the most passionate of human traits is the urge to be needed, to belong, to participate in society with honour and dignity.

We must remain hopeful and take pride in human rights crusaders like the late Justice Durab Patel, Ms Asma Jehangir and Ansar Burney. These plucky Pakistanis have made us proud of their strong convictions and bravery. They have stood their grounds fearlessly while facing salvoes of fire and brimstone from powerful sectarian groups and religious fanatics.

We the people of Pakistan should remain hopeful and proud because we have produced scientists like Dr Abdus Salaam, Dr IH Usmani, Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy and the pride of the nation Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan. Selfless, dedicated, honest and patriotic people like Dr Qadeer are the hope of Pakistan. People like him from humble backgrounds and modest means are the self-made breed of Pakistanis who believe in the bright and prosperous future of the Pakistani nation.

Let's not forget that economic wizards and international bankers like the late Agha Hassan Abedi, Dr Mehboob-ul-Haque and Dr Moin Qureshi are people from Pakistan. All of them come from middle class families and very modest backgrounds yet they developed a global vision and command a great deal of respect in the eyes of the world community.

We the people of Pakistan have a star studded galaxy of scholars, historians, poets and writers. We can bask in the fame and glory of Dr A H Dani, Dr I H Qureshi, Professor Ahmad Ali, Ahmad Faraz, Faiz and a host of others who proved their mettle in the literary and intellectual fields.

The people of Pakistan have no dearth of artistic or creative talents. Who can deny the greatness of Shakir Ali, Sadequain, and Gulgee or the creative talents of our singers' musicians and composers; Noor Jehan and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan are household names among music lovers the world over. Our youth has humbled the might of many nations in the field of sports. We have produced world champions in cricket, hockey, squash and snooker.

As a nation, we already have a well-defined framework of morals and social values. We have the lofty ideals of our faith, and centuries old cultural heritage to look up to. What has gone wrong? It is about time that we the people of Pakistan took control of our destiny.

The people of Pakistan have to build a modern, progressive, and vibrant society. A society which allows the individual to breath, develops human resources at the grass roots level, lays emphasis on ethics and morality, stresses the importance of education and removes the impediments in the way of individual progress and prosperity. If we want a society free of social conflict as well as ethnic and sectarian tensions, we will have to build this society around the creative talents of individuals — individuals who are free from the clutches of the corrupt white elephants called our national institutions.

The new leaders of Pakistan should keep in mind that the future hope of the nation is the youth of today. Mercifully the future hopes of the nation are progressive, educated, and enlightened. There is no medicine like hope, no incentive so great, and no tonic so powerful as expectation of something positive from tomorrow. The people of Pakistan are hoping and praying for courageous and brave helmsmen — somebody with a steady hand on the tiller to guide the ship of state through turbulent and choppy seas.

Thick and murky clouds have dominated the economic, political and social climate of the country for the last many years. The people of Pakistan are now desperately in need of a glimpse of the silver lining.









The service culture and customer care are beginning to emerge here, but it is slow going and our national flag carrier PIA has much to learn if two recent experiences are anything to go by. The downwards leg of my journey from Bahawalpur was only an hour late and I had the comfort of the lounge at the airport to while away the time I was losing at the other end of my journey. Did anybody tell us, the paying customers, that we were to be delayed, or offer any apology or reason for the non-appearance of our flight? Of course not, they never do and nine times out of 10 we grumble quietly to ourselves and go back to reading the book, dozing, or gazing at the ceiling. The flight came, we took off, and were served by a cabin crew that had clearly had a large injection of the 'grumpy' vaccine, and served us a breakfast that was vile beyond description.

The return journey was another matter entirely, and a textbook example of why PIA is held in such low esteem. My flight was at 12 noon according to my ticket. I arrived at 10:30 am to check in, did the security stuff, and was waiting for the second security check when I looked at my boarding card. And then looked again. My flight time had moved forwards three hours and was now at 1500hrs. Had the woman at check-in bothered to inform me of this? Again, of course not. Nothing to be gained from whinging, I set up my laptop in the departure lounge and got on with my work.

By 2:30 pm there was no sign of the flight being called or even appearing on the departures board. Like any sensible traveller I went to the help-desk to enquire as to where my flight was in the to-do list of PIA. 'Sorry sir I have no information' said the help desk. I was directed to a 'live' departure gate and told to ask there.

'Any idea when the Bahawalpur flight will be leaving?' I asked. Blank looks. A man who looked to be in charge of a clipboard moved to the fore. 'Ah...a technical problem. Or maybe there is no plane available. But probably at four o'clock. Yes there was definitely a technical problem.'

By 3:30 pm and with no flight showing on the departure board it was time for another foray into the information black hole. Same man, same clipboard. I had by this time been joined by a Pakistani-American woman who was as hacked off as I was. Clipboard-wallah offered us some food by way of recompense for our inconvenience. We declined. Still no hard information.

Four o'clock, planeless, and ready to tear the limbs off anything wearing a PIA uniform, it was time for a final assault on clipboard man. He got both barrels, straight between the eyes. In a mixture of steely Urdu and English I told him precisely what I thought of the care and attention that I, who had paid for a service, had received on that day. I may not have been as polite as an Englishman should be, but no matter. There had been no announcement, nobody had said sorry for the inconvenience, nobody had done anything which might indicate that they had the slightest interest in their customers. The flight eventually left at 4:35 pm.

What I experienced in my own tiny way was a corporate 'fail' of considerable proportions, from the check-in desk to the point of departure. You think you are great people to fly with, PIA? Well, perhaps you are. Maybe I caught you on a bad day. Or maybe, as the Pakistani-American woman observed, the staff are so desensitised they are immune to requests from frustrated passengers. Like the circular debt that plagues the power sector, circular indifference plagues PIA. Is it unreasonable to expect that passengers receive up-to-date information as to the status of their flight? Or unreasonable to expect a small 'sorry about that' somewhere along the way? In the great scheme of things this is a trivial incident; but it speaks volumes about what is wrong with PIA. Marks out of 10 for service culture and customer care? Zero.

The writer is a British social worker settled in Pakistan. Email:







One way to assess the current situation is to look forward and be deadly honest about the prospects for Pakistan. The judiciary, the parliament, the executive, and especially the military—the key institutions of the Pakistani state are all in disrepair. The media, let's face it, while making use of technology, and throwing up some amazing scenes of courage, has the same diseases as the larger context that it examines and reports on.

The culture in this country has gone from a time when people refused to eat at the homes of the alleged corrupt to a time where people clamour for invitations to eat at the homes of the widely acknowledged corrupt. Women continue to be treated in rural Pakistan as if this was the 15th century. No one even talks about the new dimension of challenges to urban women, and the predatory eyes and hands of men. Minorities live in insecurity, Balochistan is an unspoken battlefield, Karachi is approaching the status of an urban wasteland. A war is falling from the sky—bearing both Pakistani and American markings—onto a terrorist-infested Fata. More than 40 million children between the ages of five and 18 years are out of school. Infant mortality, at 71 deaths per 1,000 births is comparable with Sub-Saharan Africa.

If they could see us now, surely the fabulous five of Pakistani history, Sir Syed, the Ali Brothers, Dr Iqbal and Mr Jinnah, would revisit the basic premises of what they were trying to achieve. So, sure, things are really bad. For those seeking hope for the future, the pickings are slim. The only thing that can address these ills is the art of politics.

Another way to assess the current situation is to look back and be deadly honest about the short-term trends that keep afloat this ship which is already seemingly sunk. Though I strongly disagree with the bankers' pride that keeps Pakistan from defaulting, Shaukat Tarin's ego may in part explain why the country is not actually bankrupt yet. President Asif Ali Zardari's "Pakistan khappay" may have been political theatre; but damn, it was good theatre, it worked. Shah Mehmood Qureshi has plenty of flaws, but he just may have been the right man at the right time at the Foreign Office.

The religious parties, alhamdulillah, have proven themselves, even to seriously orthodox Pakistani Muslims, to be deeply irresponsible, incompetent and incoherent. Their intellectual dishonesty is worse than the dishonesty of mainstream parties because they invoke the name of God and the Holy Prophet, peace be upon him. Their behaviour in 2011 has exposed them. Speaking of dishonesty and being exposed, the Moonis Ilahi League is now a coalition partner. Who would have thought? In Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, the ANP has demonstrated political maturity that belies its reputation.

In Sindh, somehow, the most inorganic of relationships has sustained itself. Call the MQM whatever names you will, it is an indispensable part of the furniture in Pakistan's political establishment. Imran Khan supporters should take note. Your party garners no mention here because it merits none. Fragile, irresponsible and corrupt this democracy may be. But it is still standing. It is standing because of the art of politics.

Who deserves the most credit for keeping this democracy intact? Gen Kayani's many pets in the punditocracy and in the media have long argued that he is what holds this all together. Such nonsense is the hallmark of the kind of analysis favoured at Aabpara and the GHQ-low IQ and high SQ (servility quotient). The truth is that General Kayani still has his job because his reign was extended by the pen of one of the two men who are the true torchbearers of Pakistan's amazingly resilient post-Musharraf democracy-the Syed magician from Multan, Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani.

The other, of course, and possibly the one that inspires more hope than any other, among reformers in Pakistan, is Nawaz Sharif-the once blue eyed boy of the military establishment who has now become a street-fighting champion of democracy and of civilian dominance over the military.

The Prime Minister and Mr Sharif have traversed two totally different paths as they have worked, separately and together, to keep institutional hope in Pakistan afloat.

Gilani's personal fortune, which has allegedly expanded and multiplied many times over, is a separate issue. Gilani's political fortunes however are a direct corollary of his astonishing and rare capacity to disarm acerbic opponents of the PPP and create common ground across both the political divide, and as we've seen openly in the case of the judiciary, across the institutional divide too.

One of things that have allowed Gilani to work his reconciliatory magic is the national obsession with America. While everyone watches the President's House and the President's men, led by the intrepid ambassador to the US, the prime minister manages the PPP's otherwise disastrous non-Sindh political programme. For having the vision and sagacity to appoint Gilani over at least two other serious candidates to the prime-ministerial slot, President Zardari deserves at least some credit. Most of that credit has been wiped out by repeated and unnecessary political mistakes, almost all of which have been cleaned up by the prime minister.

While Gilani has been putting out the little fires for the PPP, the biggest fires have been put out by the PPP's mortal enemy, Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif. The Noon League has probably lost count of how many times Sharif has stepped in to diffuse the tension between the elected parliament and an urban voice that is increasingly ornery and rambunctious. Each time there has been a major national issue that splits the civilians and the soldiers, Sharif has reserved his most fulminous words for the military and its leaders, both past and present. Like a nine-inch-thick lead wall, Sharif has stood tall and impenetrable, while several of his top lieutenants were being wined, dined and 1989'd by the khakis. On more than one occasions, Sharif could have pressed home the political advantage by allying with the military establishment to either further destabilize, or engineer the collapse of the political government in Islamabad. If Pakistan survives its utter dysfunction of today, Nawaz Sharif's resistance to the temptation of destabilizing and damaging this government will come to be remembered as an institutional turning point of no less significance than Chief Justice Iftikhar Chauhdry's vertebral gumption in the face of Gen Musharraf's senseless intimidation.

Of course, neither the prime minister's silky smooth rub-a-dub-dub with the PPP's opponents, nor Nawaz Sharif's clarity about putting institutions in their correct places can erase either man's flaws. It is almost inevitable that greater scrutiny will one day come to pass on the fiduciary fidelity of Gilani's time as PM-it seems unlikely that his record will be unblemished by such scrutiny. Perhaps more surprising is Nawaz Sharif's deepest flaw. Despite having such stark institutional clarity, the Noon League continues to be a family business, run with British ICS efficiency in Mughal-esque grandeur. As institutional relationships go, the dominance that civilians should enjoy over the military is a critical one. But it is not the only one. Ordinary citizens should be able to dream of joining political parties, rising through the ranks, and becoming chief executives and heads of state. If Nawaz Sharif can fashion a real political party, out of the immensely powerful family fiefdom he currently runs, he may give starry-eyed Pakistani optimists the kind of hope that one can take to the bank, for a long-term deposit. That would a true masterpiece in the art of politics.







 India and Pakistan have not made any significant progress towards resolving the Siachin and Sir Creek issues despite a widely shared view that it was possible to do so. Unfortunately, there is a growing feeling in Pakistan that New Delhi watches Pakistan's current crises with glee and that this schadenfreude is emerging as a new barrier in the resumed dialogue. Meanwhile new contentions get added to the already heavy agenda. For the anxious Pakistanis, water is doubtless the next intractable problem as India creates new facts on the ground. Not as readily recognised by the man in the street is the cluster of contests piling up because of the pursuit of antagonistic objectives in Afghanistan.

India and Pakistan have already gone through futile manoeuvres aimed at excluding the other side from the Afghan scene. The history of this rivalry is easily traced to 1947 and beyond. For Pakistan, geography is destiny when it comes to Afghanistan. It will also cite numerous other cultural and ethnic factors to justify its intense preoccupation with Afghan affairs. The Indian claim to have an equally compelling interest has a touch of the imagined or constructed; it relies heavily on historical ties that, to say the least, have been ambivalent.

Compared to an understandable interest rooted in the commerce of the nations in this part of the world, the historical argument made by India is rather weak. Geopolitically, Pakistan is the obvious successor state in the post-colonial era. If we go beyond, the Afghans were the sword arm of the Moghul Empire. When it crumbled the Marhattas came close to creating a new India dominated by them but were roundly defeated by Ahmad Shah Abdali as he rode to rescue the Indian Muslims.

Regional relations are calibrated by several obvious factors as New Delhi knows in asserting its special interest in Nepal and Bhutan. But sitting on the crossroads of history and with its unique geopolitical status, Afghanistan has the right to maintain a diverse and complex relationship with a whole host of regional states that instantly divide into neighbours with common borders and others, one step removed. Now that President Obama has brought the end-game within the realm of probabilities, all regional states and especially Pakistan, India, and Iran should seriously reassess their traditional policies. This is particularly necessary because Obama is hardly in a position to ensure the outcome of the end-game; the United States and Nato could terminate the phase of active combat without finding a stable solution. This uncertainty would still be there even if President Karzai could deliver an arrangement under which a smaller but lethal American military presence is maintained for decades.

What is needed most from a South Asian angle is exactly what is most difficult to achieve: it is Pakistan and India narrowing the gap in their approach to Afghanistan's future. Kissinger attaches high importance to a regional conference assisting the United States in finding a viable solution. This or any other format would demand a much better understanding between Islamabad and New Delhi. For obvious reasons, Afghanistan would not be on the formal Indo-Pakistan agenda on June 23-24. But it would not take much ingenuity for Salman Bashir and Nirupama Rao to have a preliminary informal conversation about ending a zero sum game in Afghanistan. Even if they go over the perceived facts and likely scenarios without looking at each other and without ever acknowledging that they had discussed Afghanistan, a taboo would have been cast aside opening the door for a less contentious approach to a critical regional issue in future.

The writer is a former ambassador and foreign secretary of Pakistan.








ON her 58th birth anniversary on Tuesday, people of Pakistan paid rich tributes to former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who rendered tremendous services for the cause of the country and welfare and well being of the people. The day was marked with functions, rallies and Quran Khawani held across the country while media highlighted achievements of the visionary leader.

President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani addressed special functions organized to pay homage to the martyred leader but the most striking event of the day was country-wide medical camps organized by the ruling PPP to collect blood donations from party leaders, workers and general public, where people enthusiastically donated blood that would go for saving life of those who receive injuries in terrorism related incidents. In fact, this was not the only positive and healthy programme initiated by the PPP in the name of the assassinated leader for the benefit of the masses. President Asif Ali Zardari has been instrumental in launching several programmes aimed at mitigating sufferings of the disadvantaged sections of the society and it is encouraging that children of the Shaheed leader too have started pursuing her policies in true spirit. Only the other day, Asifa kick-started polio campaign aimed at getting rid of a disease that still haunts our children. Benazir Income Support Programme has now been expanded to cover a number of important activities that would surely go a long way in alleviating sufferings of the poor. BB was indeed a caring leader who worked relentlessly for the cause of the people during her life time and we are sure that the fate of the country would have been quite different if she was alive today to lead the nation during this crucial phase of its existence. It was because of her vision and foresight that she is still remembered by people of Pakistan and would continue to inspire them for a long time to come. She was an experienced leader with a great exposure and enjoyed immense respectability and would have contributed to the peace and stability of the region and the world.







IN a major policy statement, President Barack Obama is going to announce his decision about US troops' drawdown in Afghanistan. It comes in the midst of intensified American war-weariness and concerns about the lives lost and constraints on the US economy.

And in a related development, it has been reported by media that the United States has formally taken Pakistan into confidence on its contacts with Taliban in Afghanistan. It is understood that despite progress achieved by the United States and its allies, courtesy Pakistan, in Afghanistan, sustainable peace and stability would remain an illusion if a genuine dialogue process is not undertaken to take all sections of the Afghan society on board. The decision to separate Taliban, who are willing to talk, from Al-Qaeda and delisting of some of the Taliban leaders from the UN maintained list of terrorists is aimed at creating congenial atmosphere for the purpose. But there had been apprehensions that the United States is trying to sideline Pakistan and intends to assign an important strategic role to India in the post-withdrawal period. We will, therefore, appreciate the US gesture of taking Pakistan into confidence but it seems to be a mere formality as the move comes at the eleventh hour when the United States has already taken important decisions affecting future of the region. This akin to so-called 'concurrent' information given to Pakistan by the United States about launching of drone attacks in Pakistan, which is conveyed simultaneously with the firing of missiles from drones. It is quite clear that Obama plan would hasten the process of withdrawal and a coordinated approach will have to be adopted to fill the vacuum in the war-torn country. Success of the entire plan depends on whether or not the United States benefits from Pakistan's input on how best to handle the post-withdrawal situation. At the same time, we would once again urge Pakistani authorities that they too should initiate the process of dialogue with local Taliban, as this is the only viable course to help restore normalcy in troubled areas.







THE Government has finally resolved over three decade old dispute relating to the payment of cost of land over which the Wadh Fort was constructed in 1978 and handed over to the Frontier Corps in Balochistan.

President Asif Ali Zardari took the initiative to resolve the old and irritating issue when the matter was brought to his notice and a committee headed by Additional Chief Secretary was constituted by the Provincial Government for this purpose. The committee worked out the cost of land and unanimously recommended that the legitimate owner Sardar Attaullah Mengal be paid Rs 120 million to settle the dispute. The resolution set a good precedence and we believe that the Wadh Fort model would be followed in settling other disputes, which have created a sense of deprivation among the people of the Province. It will be in line with the overall policy of reconciliation of the Government initiated by Shaheed Benazir Bhutto. In fact there are several irritants that have created law and order situation. The son of late Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti had some time back raised the issue of non payment of compensation for Sui gas field and ran from pillar to post in Islamabad to get the payment. According to him, the amount was in hundreds of millions of rupees and highups in the Government were demanding commission to settle the case. In a press interview he had stated that the people of Balochistan were justified in not allowing oil and gas exploration because the bureaucracy raises objections after objections when it comes to payment of compensation. That indicates the level of resentment among the people against the Federal Government, mainly due to corrupt practices of a few who never bother to care for the interests of the country. There are several other issues which are not in the knowledge of the President and the Prime Minister and deserve urgent settlement. We would therefore suggest that a high powered commission may be formed at the federal level and tasked to visit each district of Balochistan, listen to the grievances of the tribal elders and its recommendations be implemented on priority basis and we are confident that would help in restoring peace and stability in the troubled Province.








It is neither the Pakistan army nor the ISI; it is Pakistan which few of our own media-men are targeting, knowingly or unknowingly. For the last many years, the world around us has been exploiting all possible resources to defame the two very sacred and no doubt holy institutions of Pakistan, the Pakistan army and the ISI. The world is very well aware of the fact that no harm could come to Pakistan unless these two institutions are stable and strong. It won't be an exaggeration if we call the ISI a continuous pain in the neck and a throbbing thorn for the forces eager to destabilize Pakistan. The international plan of defaming these two institutions could have never succeeded if our own people had not lent a helping hand to the so-called friends of Pakistan.

A few hidden and secret forces in the Pakistani electronic media are openly playing in the hands of their foreign masters. They have altogether neglected the fact that by causing damage to the image of the Pakistan army and the ISI, they are in fact cutting their own roots and shaking their own very foundations. The existence of Pakistan would become a dream in case these two institutions face any loss. Success and failure always go side by side wherever there is a warlike scenario. One time failure can never spill water on all time success. It is true that like other security agencies of the world , the Pakistan army and the ISI may have some defects and flaws but the way they are being mocked at and ridiculed is no-doubt pathetically painful.

Now-a-days Pakistan is facing the worst even situation inside its boundaries as well as all along its borders. The presence of multi-national warriors in Afghanistan and an evergreen Indian ill-will for the state of Pakistan and certainly the artificially promoted terrorism in guise of extremism; all these elements have joined hands together to give the security forces of Pakistan really a tough time. Moreover lack of financial resources and a huge expenditure on the compellingly imposed war against terror has added to the sternness of situation. In such painful circumstances even the security forces of the USA could never have performed well. It is surely the extraordinary skill, matchless ability and marvelous professional talent of the security forces of Pakistan that in spite of all these discouraging, heartbreaking and distressing factors, Pakistan is still there on the map of the world as an undefeatable and undeniable reality. Other than the determination and skill of the security forces of Pakistan there is one more thing; the trust and confidence of the nation in the security forces of Pakistan including the Pakistan army and the ISI. Without this trust and confidence the achievement of such marvelous results in such a depressing situation could never be possible. So keeping in view all these facts and figures the international conspirators reached a conclusion that without depriving the security forces of Pakistan of this national trust and confidence, the desired goals could never be achieved.

This conclusive finding resulted in a very well-planned war against the security forces of Pakistan. Just to prove these forces incapable and inefficient various suicide attacks were staged throughout Pakistan. The sole targets of these attacks were the offices of the ISI, the FIA, the police and the army. From the terrorist attack on the police training school Manawan to the FIA and ISI buildings in Lahore and from the terrorist's attack on the GHQ Rawalpindi to the recent Mehran Naval Base Karachi, the philosophy behind is the same; to propagate and promote an impression of inability and inefficiency of Pakistan's security agencies. Unfortunately some of our media-men fell a prey to this international conspiracy and in the name of liberty and freedom of expression they started targeting and defaming their own security institutions in a victimizing manner without considering the aftermaths and after-shocks of their action.

Criticism is a constructive and positive thing but criticism based on narrow-mindedness and prejudice can neither be positive nor constructive. The history of the Pakistan army and the ISI is enough to prove the supremacy and superiority of these security agencies. The critics of the Pakistan army and the ISI must not forget the defeat of the KGB, no doubt one of the best intelligence agencies of its time, at the hands of the ISI.

The KGB failed to counter ISI and could not protect Soviet interests in Central Asia. For the students of defence affairs it would be something very strange and interesting to know that in comparison with the top ten Intelligence agencies of the world, the ISI is the least funded agency and it is running its system with the help of a very meager amount allocated in the national defence budget of Pakistan. For more than two decades under the command of the Pakistan army, the ISI has been countering at a time more than five international intelligence agencies including the CIA, Raw, Mossad, Khad and MI-6. If we draw a graph based on the comparison of success and achievements of the top intelligence agencies of the world, we would still find the name of ISI superseding others.

The critics of the Pakistan army and the ISI must also keep in mind that no security organization can perform well if it is not backed up by the nation it is fighting for. The continuous defeat of the NATO forces at the hands of the Taliban is the best example of this case. It is not the weapons but the passions that fight. Encouragement strengthens the passions. Undue and illogical criticism directly affects the performance. Particularly the media-men from Pakistan must realize and admit the countless sacrifices which the security forces of Pakistan have offered for the peace and stability of their motherland. We must not act as a weapon in the war against the security forces of Pakistan. If we did so, history would refer to us as the misguided missiles.—The writer is a Pakistan based analyst on defence and strategic affairs.








Recently, media news based on Iran's Fars News Agency (FNA), notes that Pakistani physicians and experts reported that the US uses chemical munitions in its drone attacks on the country's civilians. According to the news agency, hospital doctors have reported that Peshawar Pakistani civilians who received injuries from US Drone attacks are affected with different skin, eyes and respiratory diseases; FNA has concluded that Washington is using chemical weapons in its attacks in Pakistan. Due to the use of deadly chemical in these attacks a large number of the injured people have been affected with complicated diseases.

Stephen C Webster, in his article titled "Falluja's health fallout 'worse' than Hiroshima, Nagasaki", observes that American soldiers laid siege in Falluja, a city of Iraq, deploying depleted uranium munitions, white phosphorus and tons of conventional ballistics. This type of weapons caused wide spread of cancer in the city. According to a report by "The Independent", "Iraqi doctors in Falluja have complained since 2005 of being overwhelmed by the numbers of babies with serious birth defects, ranging from a girl born with two heads to paralysis of lower limbs." In the wake of America's "shock and awe" bombing campaign to take Iraq, radiation detectors as far away as the United Kingdom notices a fourfold spike in radioactivity in the atmosphere. At the time, the Department of Defense bragged that the substance, a nuclear byproduct with a fraction of the radioactivity as standard uranium, is commonly ingested by Americans in the food, drinking water and the air. US officials went on to say its use would cause 'no impact on the health of the people and environment.' But according to a study by the 'International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health', rates of cancer, leukemia, infant morality and sexual mutations in Falluja are higher than those reported in the aftermath of Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear detonations. Similarly, a study by 'Chemical Research in Toxicology' found depleted uranium particles to be cytotoxic and clastogenic to lung cells in particulars.

The potential of chronic illness after exposure to some toxic chemicals is well known. Examples of difficulties in determining the existence of long-term effects of chemical exposure have been provided by the ongoing investigations of medical problems apparently caused by the Agent Orange to people exposed in Viet Nam, where the chemical was used in the 1960s and early 1970s during the Viet Nam War. The occurrence of chronic debilitating pulmonary disease in victims of exposure to mustard gas was reported after the First World War. This has also been described in reports on the status of Iranian casualties from Iraqi mustard gas during the war between Iraq and Iran in the 1980s. Follow-up of Iranian victims has revealed debilitating long term disease of lungs, eyes and skin. In both cases, a wide range of long-term symptoms and adverse health effects (including carcinogenesis, teratogenesis and a plethora of nonspecific somatic and psychological symptoms) are said to have been caused by exposure to chemical agents, among other possible causes. Despite intensive investigation, definitive explanations have not yet been found in either case. However, the US is now reportedly using chemicals in drone attacks inside Pakistan which are very harmful for human health as well as for the other species. The effect of chemicals on human health vary according to the type and amount of the chemical released, the method of dissemination, existing environment conditions, the state of protection and vulnerability of those exposed, and other factors.

According to Prof Noam Chomsky Pakistan has serious internal problems but says there are solutions. But, he insists, these problems have to be solved within instead of from outside. He says, "These problems have to be dealt with inside Pakistan, and not by the US, providing them with massive military aid, carrying out drone strikes, which enrages the population rightly." Drone attacks are target assassinations and therefore a crime. Targeted assassination is an international crime. United Nations' special rapporteur, Philip Alston, a much respected international lawyer, came out with a report which simply says that it is a criminal act. The drones are leading the people towards the reactionary direction and creating a very dangerous situation. Killing one, either notable or commoner militant through drone, manufactures 10 more. The resultant grievances of the locals led some of them to join hands with the Taliban, while the others in anger and desperation decided not to cooperate with the law-enforcement agencies, thus depriving them of the necessary support for conducting clean-up operation in these areas.

The drone attacks are creating wider anti American sentiments, which is very dangerous and a stumbling block against the success in the war on terror. To counter the Taliban strategies, one has to get more close to the general masses through launching development projects, rather carrying out drone attacks. The drone attacks are considered as violating the sovereignty of an independent country. This gives impetus to the militants, even worldwide, especially inside the Islamic world. The use of force, like the use of drones, in such conflicts may fulfil short term objectives that will certainly nourish the seeds of hatred and animosity against US.








From time to time there are voices upcoming in Pakistan and in the West and even in other circles hostile to Pakistan who like to suggest that Pakistan was a failed concept and that it would be better to brake it up or allow it to brake up by itself and give the people that are according to them, imprisoned inside Pakistan without any freedom. Talk is mainly about the Pakhtoons, the Balochis and the Sindhis who at different times and until today are unhappy with the strongly centralized model of Pakistani federalism which indeed tends to be dominated by Punjabi interests who form the majority of the population. 1973 though guaranteed devolution of power to provinces within the next 10 years but PPP twice elected in power in 1988 & 1993 failed to deliver any thing and now that PPP is again in power the devolution enacted through 18th amendment is again being reversed through successive constitutional amendments as a matter of political expediency to deny the promised provincial autonomy in 1973 constitution.

There are of course different ways to approach this problem; and that there is a problem, which should not be denied. Looking at it from the Pakistani side one has to realize that Pakistani leaders could have done better in forging unity and adjusting the diverging interests of a culturally vastly diverse population in the newly created state of Pakistan. In 1947 Pakistan did comprise of territories, which were vastly different in their economic, social and cultural structure. While the Pakhtun areas adjoining

Afghanistan came into being as a result of colonial machinations of the British this area comprises territories with a social structure that is dominated by Pakhtun tribal system and traditions, which are characterized by a rather social set-up with less hierarchy and a jirga system that is based on participation of a majority of tribal members. In Balochistan we have a tribal society as well, but here it is characterized by a strongly hierarchical structure dominated by tribal Sardars who dominate and exploit the rights of their people. Balochistan is the territorially largest province sharing its territory with southern Pakhtunkhawa province. In any case these two provinces which are more than half of Pakistan did not experience being part of a modern state at any time which is explaining much of the trouble they have with adjusting to Pakistan. Another part of their trouble is their economic, social and educational backwardness, which is preventing them from participating successfully in a nation-building process.

On the other hand one should not deny the fact that Punjabis have taken advantage of their relative economic, political and educational edge, which is creating a feeling of injustice among the tribal Pakistanis. This feeling is shared by much of the Sindhi population which is also basically dominated by tribal structures and whose tribal lords mercilessly suppress and exploit their people. Since 1947 especially Karachi and some other parts of Sindh have seen some industrial growth but the share of ethnic

Sindhis in it is less while Punjabis and Muhajirs are taking the lead. This adds a dimension of ethnic strife to the situation. Punjab comprising of about 60% of population alone has the best agricultural and industrial development and infrastructure and is dominating the political, bureaucratic and military structures of the Pakistani state. This predominance is at the bottom of much of the ethnic tensions inside Pakistan; but this does not make it a failed state. Though late and incomplete some steps have been taken to rearrange the federal structure of Pakistan, other steps like changes in the provincial structure are under consideration.

Most of the recent problems of Pakistan though are not connected to structural imbalances but to the ongoing warfare in neighbouring Afghanistan for the last thirty years during which Pakistan has been used as a launch pad for US and other foreign countries to secure, restore or establish their political and /or military influence in Afghanistan. As early as the 1970 have seen the Russian and US secret services trying to get foothold in Balochistan, keeping in mind its neighbourhood to Iran and Afghanistan as well as its long coastline with mineral and natural resources. For historical reasons India who has until today not accepted from heart the partition of the subcontinent in 1947 and tried to undermine the stability of Pakistan on different occasion, so as to prove that partition of India was a mistake. They have done this in Balochistan, in Afghanistan and Pakistan tribal areas and in Kashmir which is basically a conflict resulting from incomplete partition and not implementing the UN Resolutions on Kashmir.

The US and its military arm NATO since the 1970 has time and again interfered into the internal affairs of Pakistan while using Pakistani territory in disregard of its national sovereignty. While fighting against Russian occupation of Afghanistan it was US in coalition with Saudi Arabia who promoted Jihadi ideas with Jihadi literature being printed in Oregon and distributed in Pakistan. Weapons meant for Afghan fighting the Russians passed through Pakistan and brought about a militarization of Pakistani society, when American president over ruled opposition of CIA Director Mr. Casey and supplied stringer missiles to Jihadis in Afghanistan, which was the reason of Director CIA resignation.

The years of Afghan civil war during and after Russian evacuation from Afghanistan did result in streams of Afghan refugees entering into Pakistan upsetting the ethnic and economic balance of many places. Since the US invasion of Afghanistan in November 2001 on alleged involvement of Osama bin Laden & Mulla Omar in 9/11 conspiracy, and the spilling of this war into Pakistani tribal areas and since 2007 into the whole of Pakistan the displacement of millions of Pakhtuns from both sides of the border have added to the ethic strife. The war has destroyed Pakistani infrastructure and economy with surging military and security expenses overburdening our budget and US reimbursement comprising less than one tenth of the costs of the war which is fought for them by Pakistan hence creating a sharp divide among its people.In this situation when the US is losing the war against terror, landing the nation into a financial quagmire, and has come under severe pressure to withdraw its troops from the battlefields, ideas of dividing countries have repeatedly come up as so-called solutions and projected through the media by the lackey of US. We have seen this happening in Iraq where carving out Kurdish and Shia and Sunni parts was discussed.

This is still under consideration as one of the options in Afghanistan where separation of the northern part comprising of the territory of the former Northern Alliance from a southern part, which could be left to the Taliban is being considered and perhaps the dialogue initiated to secure oil supplies from Central Asia for US. And this is an old idea of our enemies for Pakistan where one could get hold of the mineral, oil-and gas-rich Balochistan providing a convenient place with long coastline close to Iran and Afghanistan providing central Asian and Afghan oil and gas with access to the sea while letting the rest go to the dogs or to the Indians for that matter if they want it.

All these nefarious designs of Pakistan enemies are there but will not succeed if we don allow them to spread their tentacles so easily, remove all those officials from important positions who are more loyal to US than Pakistan. That demands to take our destiny into our own hands, to detach ourselves from foreign powers and their interference. It will demand sacrifices from all of us and especially from those who have billions of their assets outside the country. And it demands a soul-searching from our side to re-discover the idea of Pakistan which is not a nation in the Western sense but a Muslim state which is part of the ummah. As such all Muslims whether of sub-continental-Indian, Arab, Africa and central Asian or European stock are Pakistanis with or without a passport.








Incidents which took place in May 2011 marked a great impact on the geo strategic scene of the region. Yes I am speaking about the impious Abbottabad raid that held on May 2 and the wicked attack on Pakistan Naval Airbase PNS Mehran on 23 May. These incidents provided an entailed chance to many who love to propagate the issue of Pakistan's Nuke security. It was very much predictable that the western leaders and media who has since long been trickery up the frightening scenarios of Pakistan's nuclear assets falling into the hands of terrorist, would be quick at covetous this lapse in security, to use it to add essence to their fears. NATO secretary General Rasmussen questioned about the safety of our nuclear arsenal in the light of the Mehran base attack has opined that though he is confident about the safety of the nuclear arsenals, the incident has raised concerns. Both the NY Times and The Los Angles Times have called into question the ability of Pakistan's security agencies to protect the 100-odd nuclear weapons after their failure at the naval base. Washington is apprehensive in expressing its views openly, but India being a traditional hostile state is showing more contiguous expressions to be troubled by a nuclear heist. Similarly, according to WikiLeaks France and Britain have also expressed their concerns about the safety and security of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal. We are concerned with the safety of Pakistan's nuclear installations, as the senior official travelling with prime minister Manmohan Singh in Africa were quoted as saying that "the real risk is internal-who guards the guardians". So after observing all these statements, it seems that a party line has been adopted by the Western and Indians to surge propaganda in order to label Pakistan as an irresponsible nuclear weapon state.

The main threat to Pakistan behind all this propaganda is the US efforts to extend the Cooperative Threat Reduction Programme (CTR) to denuclearize Pakistan in the grasp of support for nuclear security and safety. The CTR programme was started in 1991 by the Nunn-Lugar after the disintegration of the former Soviet Union. Lugar is the same person who introduced Kerry Lugar Bill for Pakistan. In 2009, Senator Richard Lugar said that CTR programme should also be extended to Pakistan. CTR was aimed to help states of former Soviet Union in controlling and protecting their nuclear weapons, weapons usable material and delivery systems. The main objectives under CTR were strategic offensive arms elimination, nuclear warhead dismantlement, nuclear weapons storage security, chemical weapons destruction, biological weapons proliferation prevention, reactor core conversions, nuclear material protection, control and accounting, export control initiatives, defense conversions and others. CTR mainly worked on Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Belarus. Nuclear weapons in these countries were dismantled by the US under the CTR programme. So it is very much true that 'Do More' demand is a conspiracy against our nuclear assets. US want to extend this programme to Pakistan because under CTR it would be imperative for Pakistan to provide information of its civilian and military nuclear facilities and give access to CTR teams to its nuclear installations.

Pakistan doesn't require such assistance; it has the capability to defend its nuclear arsenal and facilities. Pakistan doesn't have that much facilities or warheads as the former Soviet Union had at that time. Pakistan has only few nuclear facilities and warheads and for them an effective mechanism is already in place. Pakistan is not a member of Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) but still it has always adhered to the IAEA safeguards standards for its nuclear installations. In Pakistan not a single incident of recklessness regarding nukes appeared in media like Indian and Western nukes. In last year news came up that US lost communication with some 50 missiles. It was not first and last time, such blunders happened in cold war both from US and former Soviet Union side and many such incidents occurred from the US side in last decade when in 2007 several nuclear bombs were lost for 36 hours, moreover when White House once lost the presidential authorization codes for launching a nuclear strike and they went missing for months.

Similarly India who is very active in propagating Pakistan's nuclear security, itself has a grave account in nuclear leakages. This is another story that these incidents of Indian Nuclear loopholes and leakages always remained unattractive to gain the attention of International media. The history of Indian nuclear loopholes is as older as Indian nuclear program itself. Facts and finding in this regard is really alarming. Since 1984 when the horrific incident of Bhopal shook India, till now more than 152 incidents of Uranium leakages took place and this is the number of incidents reported and registered in the police, there must be many which were not reported. Bhopal Gas tragedy was the worst incident where thousands of people in India lost their lives. Forty tons of a deadly toxin called methyl isocyanine leaked from a factory run by US-owned Union Carbide and settled over slums around the plant. It is said that the effects of the gas continue to this day. Those who are crying that Pakistan's nukes are vulnerable to terrorists perhaps don't know that Indian nuclear assets are more vulnerable to terrorist and the world should really be worried about the Indian nuclear system, because India has installed all its nuclear facilities and missiles in the Eastern zone in order to keep it utmost away from the striking capabilities of Pakistan. However, the eastern region of India has emerged as the most troubled, fragile and uncontrollable region of the country with a variety of insurgency movements including that of Naxal rebels, the group which has been declared as a terrorist group. India itself calls its region as "The Red Corridor" due to its instability. Indian nuclear facilities, Uranium processing plant by the name of Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL), Talcher Heavy Water Plant and Institute of Physics (IOP) is located in Nexal guerrillas dominated region of Jharkhand. While Atomic Minerals Directorate for Exploration and Research(AMD), Ceramatic Fuel Fabrication Facility(CFFF), Special Materials Plant are located in Maharashtra which is the hub of Extremist Hindu Militant Groups where Hindutva Brotherhood, Shiv Sena, Bajrang Dal, Durga Vahini and Sangh Parivar like terrorist organizations are well known for their extreme anti-Pakistan policies and are full capable of getting hold of any of the Indian nuclear facility that exists in their respective state and region.

As far as the incident of PNS Mehran base incident is concerned, it has been believed by many of our defense analysts in context to facts and figures that it was a plot by CIA and RAW to disseminate Pakistan's nuclear security issue and defame Pak Army and ISI. Similarly there are many chances that US can edit the videos and cassettes which they got from Osama's compound in order to open a new front of criticism against Pakistan. Pakistan does not have any security issues regarding its nukes nor it had in past. India and US should be probably more worried who had such incidents in past. Terrorism is a global threat and if nukes are vulnerable to threat then means all the nuclear states stand under this threat. Therefore states should mind their own nukes and should not drool for others 'crown jewels'!








The problem with my proposal is this: Do Marshall Plans work? If this country really did galvanize its best minds and billions of dollars to alleviate poverty somewhere or to solve some complicated problem, could we actually do it? Well, the U.S. has been engaged in a new Marshall Plan for most of the past decade. Between 2002 and 2010, the U.S. spent roughly $19 billion to promote development in Afghanistan. Many other nations have also sent thousands of aid workers and billions of dollars.

In some spheres the results have been impressive. Nearly two-thirds of Afghans now have access to basic health services, up from 9 percent a decade ago. Under the Taliban, 900,000 boys and no girls attended schools. Now more than seven million Afghans attend school, and 35 percent of them are girls, according to the United States Agency for International Development. But when it comes to laying the foundation for economic growth and stability, the results have been discouraging.

Stuart Gordon of Chatham House, a British think tank, studied aid efforts in Helmand Province and concluded that in places where state capacity is weak and security is uncertain, foreign aid "may have as many negative, unintended effects as positive ones." After a thorough two-year review of U.S. aid efforts in Afghanistan, the staff of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee emphasized, "The unintended consequences of pumping large amounts of money into a war zone cannot be underestimated." Much of the aid effort was premised on the assumption that development would foster stability. Young men with jobs wouldn't plant roadside bombs. Communities with growing economies would reject the Taliban.

This assumption was based on the modern prejudice that bad behavior has material roots. Give people money and jobs and you will improve their character and behavior. In Afghanistan, as elsewhere, this assumption seems not to be true. A conference of experts brought together last year in Wilton Park in Britain concluded that there is a "surprisingly weak evidence base for the effectiveness of aid in promoting stabilization and security objectives" in Afghanistan.

Violence doesn't stem from poverty. It stems from grudges, tribal dynamics and religious fanaticism — none of which can be ameliorated by building new roads. The poorest parts of the country are not the most violent. Meanwhile, the influx of aid has, in many cases, created dependency, fed corruption, contributed to insecurity and undermined the host government's capacity to oversee sustainable programs. In the district of Nawa, for example, Usaid spent $400 per person last year. The per-capita income before aid was $300. According to the World Bank, 97 percent of Afghanistan's G.D.P. derives from spending related to the military and donor community presence.

This incredible infusion distorts labor markets. An Afghan can make $75 a month as a teacher but more than $1,000 a month as a translator or driver for aid workers. The most talented people get sucked out of the real economy and into the aid economy. It overwhelms provincial governments. It fuels corruption. As aid workers grow frustrated by nonfunctioning Afghan bureaucracies, they build their own parallel ones that, in turn, take responsibility from and infantilize the Afghan agencies that are going to have to administer the country in the long run.

Meanwhile, turnover among U.S. civilians in Afghanistan is about 85 percent a year, according to the Senate report. Many in Congress fixate on "burn rates" — how fast a program can disperse money — not effectiveness. Many gains that have been made may be unsustainable. A flood of money washed into Afghanistan, and the reports warn about what will happen when the flood dries up in a few years. The sad thing is, we are not foreign aid rookies. People have spent years trying to learn from past foreign aid disappointments and still, with all these resources, the results are discouraging.

This experience should have a chastening influence on the advocates of smart power. When she became secretary of state, Hillary Clinton sketched out a very attractive foreign policy vision that would use "the full range of tools at our disposal: diplomatic, economic, military, political, legal and cultural." But it could be that cultural and economic development works on a different timetable than traditional foreign policy. Perhaps we don't know enough, can't plan enough, can't implement effectively enough to coordinate nation building with national security objectives.

The peace and security timetable is measured in years or decades. Development progress, if it comes at all, is measured in generations.—NY Times







WE were encouraged on Monday night to see Media Watch tackle a burning media issue, the decline of The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, by quoting from last Thursday's editorial in The Australian.

Unaccustomed as we are to compliments from Jonathan Holmes, we saw his endorsement of our coverage of the climate change debate as a welcome sign that good, unbiased journalism is still appreciated by someone at the ABC.

Readers of these editorials will not need to be reminded that we have argued for a market-based price on carbon for many years. But, as Holmes correctly pointed out, that might not be immediately obvious to those who only read our news and commentary pages.

That is how it should be. To allow our editorial stance to infect news coverage would be to cross the line from journalism to advocacy.

It would lead us along the path to irrelevancy that the editors of Fairfax's principal newspapers have already taken and it would insult the intelligence of readers who expect facts to be free of prejudice and editorials to be clearly marked.

Keep up the good work Jonathan. You have highlighted and endorsed our commitment to separating editorials from news. For once, we think you're on to something.






FOOD security is a global issue replete with challenges and opportunities for Australia.

As a food exporter with an innovative agricultural history and a strong commitment to free trade, our nation needs to be at the forefront of international negotiations. So it is disappointing that when the G20 agriculture ministers meet in Paris to discuss food security this week, we will be represented by Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture Mike Kelly rather than our agriculture or trade ministers. At least Mr Kelly will have his chance to shine if he draws the focus to the free trade agenda, highlighting how the distortions of European and US farm subsidies can only damage long-term agricultural productivity.

Escalating food prices have been one of the factors in the mix of grievances triggering popular revolts this year in places such as Egypt and Tunisia, dramatically highlighting the volatility of food politics. The UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation estimates the number of undernourished people in the world at 925 million and this astonishingly high number fluctuates depending on economic conditions and weather patterns.

While we all recognise the importance of this challenge, it is true that doom and gloom too often dominate attitudes to food security. When the Club of Rome first drew international attention to these issues in the late 1960s, it triggered a decade of pessimism, where we were constantly told the world would run short of food and resources. Yet global population has continued to grow, hundreds of millions have been lifted out of poverty and we have been able to produce sufficient food and energy. Most often the reason people go hungry is not because we can't grow enough food but because of bad governance, inadequate agricultural practices, poor distribution chains and restrictive trade -- all areas where Australia works for reform.

By exporting more than half of our agricultural produce, we are certainly a food bowl for the world. We stand to do a power of good for ourselves and the rest of the world by exporting more of our commercial agricultural knowhow, and also by sharing our expertise on agricultural production and good governance through our generous overseas aid program.

At the same time, the growing middle classes in China and India present golden export opportunities because our meats and other premium foods are so highly prized they are sometimes valued more as status symbols than as sustenance. As world population heads towards nine billion by 2050, some estimates suggest food production will need to double. That is one of the reasons foreigners are investing in our agricultural holdings, which is creating some understandable local anxieties. Governments must find a way to alleviate these concerns and co-ordinate this investment without diverting from our generally open attitude to foreign capital. We must also be realistic about advances such as genetic modification and encourage homegrown investment in technologically advanced food production. Above all, Australia must continue its robust diplomacy on free trade so that efficient producers such as our own are able to compete fairly.

A hungry world can ill-afford to subsidise inefficient crops or unnecessary biofuel projects.





AFTER 16 months, three rounds of arbitration and a hefty outlay of public and retail industry money, Fair Work Australia has at last woken up to what enterprising teenagers have known all along.

That is, working for a couple of hours after school is a positive, not latter-day Dickensian exploitation, and the details can be left to students and their employers to work out.

Monday's ruling by tribunal vice-president Graeme Watson that full-time students can be employed after school for as little as 90 minutes, rather than the three-hour minimum imposed in response to Labor's so-called Fair Work Act, is strongly welcomed. In the current, tough retail environment the change will help shopkeepers hire young workers when they are most needed to respond to customer demand. For tens of thousands of students, the decision will restore the opportunity to earn useful pocket money and gain valuable experience in time management, reliability and customer service.

Under the conditions set out by the tribunal, the 90-minute engagement rule will apply only if the employee is a full-time student, if the hours worked are between 3pm and 6.30pm on school days, if the employee or their parent agrees and if employment for a longer period is impossible because of the employer's requirements or the unavailability of the student. In a nutshell, such conditions reflect the mutual agreements that flourish under systems which allow employers and staff to negotiate.

The decision highlights how and why more flexible workplace systems promote greater productivity than centralised, cast-iron awards. As a follow-up to the ruling, employers should feel encouraged to push for such arrangements to be extended to adult staff, especially in retailing and hospitality, where weekend and evening work is vital to cater to customers beyond the narrow band of 9am to 5pm. Submissions by some of Australia's largest employers to the Productivity Commission's inquiry into the retail industry show that stiff penalty rates are making it uneconomic for some traders to open in the evenings, Sundays and on public holidays. The quadruple negative effect is that productivity declines, traders make less money, customers are inconvenienced and casual staff, who were supposed to be better off under Labor, miss out on shifts.

Trade union membership has continued to decline under the Rudd and Gillard governments, falling by 47,300 from August 2009 to just 18 per cent of workers in August 2010 and 14 per cent in the private sector. Such a trend suggests that most workers would be comfortable with the chance to negotiate directly with their employers. They do not appear to be in any hurry to protect themselves from exploitation through collective union bargaining under the archaic IR system created by Julia Gillard as an over-reaction to the Howard government's Work Choices.

The Prime Minister's claim that she does not encounter many businesspeople raising the Fair Work system as a frontline issue has been debunked by business leaders. After clearing the way for students to come to mutually convenient arrangements with employers, the Fair Work Australia tribunal should extend the same privilege to adults to determine for themselves what working hours, pay and conditions are acceptable. Workers, businesses and the national economy would be the winners.







INDUSTRIES seeking to avoid obligations could do a lot worse than pinch a page from the registered clubs' manual.

The pokie palaces had it easy for so long they forgot what it was like to battle in a competitive market. When tax was applied to poker machine profits a decade ago - and struggling pubs were given a shot at survival (it turned out a massive windfall) by getting their own poker machine allocation - the clubs screamed so loudly one would have thought Western civilisation had been dealt a fatal blow.

But their squeals reflected just how poorly they were managed. Their argument that they had paid a sort of substitute tax in the form of community grants was farcical. Previously, bigger clubs couldn't spend their questionable gains quick enough on refurbishments and extensions and promotions out of all proportion to the sustainability of their earnings.

That was then. The bellyaching was heard loud and clear by the timid sorts who succeeded to leadership of the Labor Party's organisational and parliamentary wings, and much of the hard work in dragging the clubs kicking and screaming to a modicum of accountability was surrendered.

Not to be outdone, Barry O'Farrell promised the clubs a further $300 million tax break in the lead-up to the state election in March.

Now, however, the giveaways have risen to a new level of silliness and political acquiescence with the exemption granted to clubs from hardline sanctions proposed for repeated breaches of the Liquor Act. These new free kicks are quite at odds with O'Farrell's pre-election undertaking, much as Julia Gillard's denial of a carbon tax proved such an empty commitment.

Before the election, O'Farrell said the "three strikes and you're out" policy for liquor premises that did not prevent recurrence of licensing breaches "will apply to all licensed venues whether pubs, clubs, nightclubs, bottle-shops or restaurants".

Now, clubs won't have their licences cancelled for repeated breaches, despite Penrith Panthers, for instance, being the state's most violent venue with 50 alcohol-related assaults last year. Instead, club secretaries will be banned - at least temporarily.

Something happened to change the government's mind. We hope it was not the flood of donations diverted to the Coalition.

O'Farrell's turnaround will anger the hotels lobby, which again will claim it is bound by greater compliance and heavier costs of doing business.

For a politician who used to lament the damage done to the Liberal Party by being too close to the clubs, and too negative towards hotels, his decision is even more perplexing.





THOUGH by world standards electricity is relatively cheap in Australia, rising power prices have been troubling consumers and politicians alike. Many factors have been driving them up. Demand for power is increasing year by year. According to the federal Department of Resources Energy and Tourism, in the decade to 2009 Australia's energy use increased 2.5 per cent a year on average. At the same time, some power generators and parts of the distribution networks are nearing the end of their useful lives and must be replaced. The NSW industry is approaching full capacity: supply is keeping up with demand at present - just - but will fall short

in the next few years. Lack of certainty over the carbon tax has been hampering investment and delaying urgent decisions on future generator capacity. And then in NSW there is the mismanaged solar rebate scheme …

In those circumstances, it is important that regulation of the national electricity market acts to reduce costs - so that households and businesses are not paying more than they need to for reliable power. Yet according to Andrew Reeves, the chairman of the Australian Energy Regulator - the federal agency overseeing the networks which distribute power from generators to users - the rules under which the agency operates effectively encourage the operators of those networks to inflate the cost of investing in new infrastructure and to overinvest, charging the cost to consumers. Distributors' revenues are expected to rise sharply in NSW and Queensland, the states most affected. According to Reeves, by 2014 revenues from distribution in NSW will be double what they were eight years earlier. It is a significant criticism: distribution costs make up half of every power bill.

One distributor, Ausgrid, has disputed Reeves's analysis, saying the regulator has not hesitated to cut back investment proposals from the industry, that NSW's ageing network needs replacing, and that distributors, not the regulator, are criticised when it fails. In this argument between cost and certainty of supply, consumers will sympathise with the regulator when they get their power bill, but with the distributor if there is a blackout.

Nonetheless, the trend of rising distribution costs is alarming, and Reeves's recommended changes to the approval process should be examined closely. In particular his criticism of the broader process - that the regulator's word is not regarded as final, and most decisions are taken on appeal to the Australian Competition Tribunal - is valid. There is no point having a regulatory framework if its findings are to be routinely bypassed on appeal.






THE budgetary decision to defer approval of medicines recommended for addition to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme was always difficult to defend politically. Health Minister Nicola Roxon partially relented yesterday under pressure from patients, doctors, consumer groups and pharmaceutical companies. Approving recommendations by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee to list 13 drugs for subsidy from September 1 may ease the immediate pressure but does not solve the problem.

The government faces public opprobrium every few months for delaying action on an expert advisory committee's recommendations. By deferring cabinet decisions on new drugs by up to six months to save money, the government politicised the process. The listing of seven drugs remains deferred. Politicians will face intense, broad-based lobbying, with each suffering patient sure to make them look hard-hearted.

In February, the government estimated its deferral of PBS listings for eight drugs (more have since been recommended) would save at least $100 million over four years. That hardly justified the precedent set by overturning a proven and respected process of determining which drugs merit public subsidies. Strict criteria require the expert committee to weigh clinical benefits of drugs against their cost and the availability of alternatives.

PBS costs also have to be weighed against the costs of care, hospitalisation and productivity losses if a drug is not listed. The PBS process was a target of US negotiations over the free-trade deal because it minimised industry influences. Also of concern are the implications for all policy decisions that depend on governments being guided by well-informed experts operating at arm's length from politics.

None of this alters the legitimacy of government cost concerns. The PBS bill exceeds $6.5 billion a year. The cost more than doubled from 1995 to 2001 and has risen by two-thirds since then. Although the rate of increase has slowed, the proliferation of new drugs and soaring healthcare demand are straining the budget.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott was disingenuous in his budget reply when he opposed turning the PBS ''from a demand-driven to a budget-limited scheme by not listing drugs that have passed an expert cost-effectiveness test''. Mr Abbott seems untroubled by considerations of consistency with the Coalition's record in government and his approach as health minister. He had a notorious clash with the late Bernie Banton, who pushed for a mesothelioma drug to be PBS-listed. As minister, Mr Abbott, with ALP support, increased patients' co-payments for PBS drugs to save $1.1 billion over four years.

The challenge is to contain PBS costs without undermining its goal of ''timely, reliable and affordable access to necessary medicines for Australians''. It may be possible to refine the criteria that govern listings. It is also sensible to monitor prescription rates more closely, as this government has done. Yet if the government is serious about controlling costs without hurting needy patients, it must look again at who qualifies for the concessional rate for PBS medicines. Many people on modest incomes pay the full rate of $34.20 up to an annual limit of $1317.20. Seniors Health Card holders on much higher incomes - some may have tax-free superannuation incomes of hundreds of thousands of dollars a year - pay the concessional rate of $5.60, with an annual cap of $336.

Concessional rates account for about three-quarters of the costs for the two main PBS benefit categories in 2011-12 budget estimates. Tackling the lax means test and lifting the concessional rate for people on good incomes would deliver savings that dwarf those achieved by deferring PBS listings. Defenders of middle-class welfare have shown they can be unreasonably fierce, but if the government had the resolve to defy short-term pain, the long-term gains for the budget and a needs-driven health system would certainly be worth it.






THE image of belching smokestacks is a familiar one in media coverage of the politics of curbing carbon emissions. As well as real fumes pouring into the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels, however, a metaphorical smoke is obfuscating the debate, in the smoke-and-mirrors deceptions on which those opposed to the pricing of carbon typically rely. One such tactic has been to point to steep increases in energy prices as measures to reduce dependence on fossil fuels, especially the carbon price, are put in place. It makes an easy scare - but it is false. As the Australian Energy Regulator has made clear, the prospect of a carbon price is not driving power prices up.

Regulator chairman Andrew Reeves this week complained that he was only allowed to reject increases that do not ''reasonably reflect'' the planned cost of investment, which gave businesses an incentive to submit proposals at or beyond the upper limit of reasonable estimates. In other words, over-investment is forcing prices up, as a comparison between NSW and Queensland, where electricity-distribution revenue is expected to double over the next four years, and Victoria indicates. ''NSW and Queensland are getting more infrastructure than we think they need,'' Mr Reeves said, ''and we are required to approve price increases to pay for it.''

While the regulator was myth-busting, hot air was also being blown away in Canberra, where New Zealand's conservative Prime Minister, John Key, drew attention to a sharp divide between his government's climate policies and those of Australia's Coalition, which on most matters is his natural ally. New Zealand has had an emissions-trading scheme since 2008, and

Mr Key's message was that it works. All new applications for power generation used renewable sources of energy, he said, and a long period of deforestation had been reversed. He also called for the trans-Tasman trading of greenhouse-gas emissions permits, a sensible proposal given the growing integration of the Australian and New Zealand economies.

Most ominously to Coalition ears, perhaps, Mr Keys also said that his country's business leaders were increasingly accepting emissions trading now that it was in place, because it provided security of investment. Nothing dispels fear like facts, and by the time the next federal election is due Australia should also have experience of carbon pricing. There is no reason to expect that it will differ markedly from New Zealand's. No wonder Opposition Leader Tony Abbott would prefer that Australians voted earlier, in a plebiscite.







At first, one might not see an immediate connection between a Burmese campaigner for democracy and a disc jockey best known for inventing a radio quiz to be based on snooker

Who can resist the story of the heroic dissident and the Hairy Cornflake? There has been inevitable excitement this week at Aung San Suu Kyi's recollection that listening to Dave Lee Travis on the World Service helped sustain her through years of house arrest. At first, one might not see an immediate connection between a Burmese campaigner for democracy, whose reflectiveness and courage are legendary, and a disc jockey best known for inventing Give Us a Break, the first (and surely last) radio quiz to be based on snooker. But as the Nobel peace prize winner has explained, Travis's show made her world "much more complete". It allowed her to tap into life outside her confinement in a way that a strict diet of news wouldn't: "The listeners would write in and I had a chance to hear other people's words." DLT has fallen into that category of entertainer who is considered within his own lifetime as a period piece. He is remembered for his almost ursine beard, the expanse of chest hair on show when he presented Top of the Pops, his habit of referring to himself in the third person, and the "quack quack oops" sound belched out when quiz contestants gave a wrong answer. Still, Aung San Suu Kyi is right that the constant news pumped out by today's World Service does not have enough light and shade. Decades of house arrest has made her an ardent listener. Being informed is important, but so is being entertained. As Travis's fan reminds us, it would be a poor diet that did not include some cheese.





After David Cameron's rewriting of the justice bill, Kenneth Clarke's rehabilitative revolution lies in tatter

The brief illusion of liberal government disappeared with the publication of the sentencing bill on Tuesday. The Rose Garden promise had been for a calm coalition animated by progressive values and guided by reason. That promise was fleetingly fulfilled by the justice secretary, Ken Clarke. Last year he stood ready to unlock 20 years of failed thinking, with a green paper which accepted that Britain's drift towards mass incarceration was imposing an unacceptable human and financial cost. Now it has been decisively breached by a prime minister who once claimed to be a liberal Conservative.

Make no mistake: after David Cameron's rewriting of this bill, Mr Clarke's rehabilitative revolution lies in tatters. Its thrust had been to end avoidable incarceration and reinvest the money in doing something more productive than making bad people worse. Its detail consisted in drug treatment, work and training, but also – crucially – in specific plans that would have had the effect of cutting the number locked up by 6,450 as compared with the inherited plans. The biggest slice of that reduction was to come from a sensible move to relieve the pressure on Britain's creaking courts, by increasing the discount available for a guilty plea.

Mr Clarke jeopardised it all a few weeks ago with some singularly ill-chosen words which created the impression that some rapes were not serious. After that, the prime minister may have felt he had little choice but to stay the extra discount from the most heinous crimes, which he did a fortnight ago. Now he has gone further. He scrapped extra discounts across the board, and postponed a desperately needed rationalisation of indeterminate public protection sentences, under which thousands are currently unjustly banged up after their jail terms have elapsed. At a stroke, these moves knocked out nearly 4,000 of the notionally saved places, very likely enough to ensure that the current tally of inmates will not stabilise, but continue to rise. As if bent on securing that dismal outcome, Mr Cameron also announced new mandatory jail terms – the sort of eye-catching initiative associated with Tony Blair at his worst, and one that cuts entirely across Mr Clarke's stated desire to restore discretion to the judge who has listened to the facts of the case.

As Labour's Sadiq Khan pointed out, there will now be cuts to probation, cuts to youth offending teams and a fresh stretch on prison resources. What Mr Khan did not say is that the emerging retributive counterrevolution is the product of a rotten political culture, of which Labour is a part. Having promised to give Mr Clarke the space to reform, Ed Miliband called for his head in the midst of the rape row, and his party was shameless in damning the ending of remand for crimes that will not attract jail terms after sentence is passed – one of the few crumbs the justice secretary had salvaged. Even the Liberal Democrats have fallen eerily quiet. Many privately regarded the chance to get a grip on an out-of-control jail population as one of the most tangible benefits of coalition, but the third party's customary courage in criminal justice appeared to desert it as Mr Clarke hunted for friends.

But the greatest shame in this shaming tale is reserved for the prime minister. Where he belatedly bowed to reasoned objections over the NHS, this time he has been cowed by the tabloids. Having backed the Clarke plans in private, he emerged to trash them in public, calling his character into question the day after a Guardian/ICM poll revealed that his personal ratings had dived into negative territory. Mr Cameron has long faced both ways on crime, but on Tuesday he made his choice and lurched to the right by reheating the "two strikes and you're out" life sentences once associated with Michael Howard, the home secretary he worked for as a young man. For all his reinvention of the Tory aroma, liberal noses now catch a niff of the nasty party of old.





The Scotland bill may now seem a bit irrelevant with the election of a majority nationalist government

The election of the majority Scottish Nationalist government under Alex Salmond on 5 May means that the Scotland bill, which cleared its final Commons stages yesterday, may now seem a bit irrelevant. The bill, based largely on the Calman report of 2009, is a reformist unionist bill in line with the original thinking that led to devolution in 1998. SNP opposition, and the election of the majority SNP administration, with an independence referendum in its sights, may make the bill look like yesterday's politics. Yet increased powers for Scotland are still the constitutional option favoured by a majority of Scots. So the issues in the bill still matter.

Mr Salmond has actually been paying quite a lot of attention to the bill recently. He appears to be doing this for three main reasons. First, because he thinks he can win some extra concessions from London on financial matters. Second, because he wants to continue to present himself as Scotland's champion within UK politics. He cannot do this by standing aloof and simply condemning the new bill. And, third, because his independence strategy requires him to prove to pro-devolution voters that he has tried his best to make it work, but that Scotland's wishes have in fact been frustrated at every turn and that independence is therefore the only solution. Mr Salmond is out campaigning for a referendum yes vote already.

Yet it is too easy to treat independence as the only issue in Scottish politics. The truth is otherwise – as it was throughout much of the 2007-11 Scottish parliament as well. Independence remains a relatively low priority for most Scots, even after 5 May. The issues that matter most are the economy and public spending, the same as elsewhere. Even the SNP has always made clear that the referendum will not come before 2014 – the Bannockburn anniversary year. Between now and then, Mr Salmond will try to take every issue – whether taxation powers, public service reform or the workings of the UK supreme court – and frame it in a nationalist manner.

That may seem easy work right now, in the afterglow of 5 May and with, perhaps, a famous byelection victory over Labour in the offing at Inverclyde next week. But it will actually get a lot harder than Mr Salmond's cheery optimism would imply. Much of this focuses around paying for Scottish public services. There was a taste of that this week when the head of Scotland's local authorities, Rory Mair, challenged the SNP to show how it could bridge the "25% gap between what we need to spend and the resources we have".

Finding the £3bn to bridge that gap is just one of many big questions in Scotland to which independence is not the only answer.







T he Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) marked its 10th anniversary last week at the annual leaders summit, this year held in Astana, Kazakhstan. The organization continues to mature.

While there are fears that the SCO could become a strategic counterweight to NATO, a more far-sighted approach is more accurate: The SCO can do good work if it provides stability to a region prone to instability. With the prospect of a U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan on the horizon, all efforts to provide support and security in Central Asia should be welcome.

The SCO was launched in 1996 as the "Shanghai Five"; members included China,Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan. The group focused on confidence-building measures and capacity building to stabilize unstable countries. In 2001,Uzbekistan joined and the SCO was born.

The official purpose of the SCO is fighting "the three isms" — terrorism, separatism and extremism — a struggle that took on new purpose and urgency in the aftermath of the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. China in particular worried about the situation in its western regions, which border Central Asia and have a majority of Muslim residents. Beijing feared the spread of unrest propagated by Islamic extremists and sought ways to deny them safe havens, a concern of Moscow as well.

The SCO has slowly expanded in size. Now, there are four observer nations — India, Iran, Mongolia and Pakistan — along with two dialogue partners — Belarus and Sri Lanka — and three guest members — Afghanistan, the Commonwealth of Independent States and Association of Southeast Asian Nations. The primary focus of the group continues to be security. Members participate in military exercises, share information and strive to build law enforcement and military capacity. A Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure has been set up in Tashkent that serves as an information clearinghouse for members' security forces and facilitates security and intelligence cooperation.

Laudable in concept, it is worrisome in practice. Those terrorist lists are more inclusive than the United Nations terrorist list. And those states have been charged with violations of international law in the use of that information. Human rights groups allege that the process of putting individuals on the list is not subject to international scrutiny and that their treatment when caught violates commonly accepted international practice, including torture, renditions and the forced return to their state of origin.

In recent years, the group has expanded to take on other responsibilities. Beijing has been pushing the SCO to promote economic cooperation. That corresponds with an increase in Chinese trade with the group, which has expanded from $12 billion to $90 billion over the last decade. China has been especially keen to gain access to the region's extensive energy resources to feed its own economic expansion.

At the summit, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev called for joint economic projects such as the establishment of a venture fund, a commercial center and a feasibility fund that would look at the suitability of potential projects. Uzbekistan President Islam Karimov backed a SCO Development Bank to finance major projects in Central Asia.

Beijing's growing influence in Central Asia could cause friction with Russia, which has traditionally seen this region as part of its own sphere of influence. Moreover, Moscow would like to keep a grip on the pipelines through which the region's energy resources flow to international markets. China has been eager to set up alternative routes to get those fuels to the market.

Thus far, the SCO has proved valuable in damping competition between Moscow and Beijing. They, along with the other members, seek stability in Central Asia to prevent the spread of contagion to their own restive Muslim populations. While it is unlikely that any of the members sees the organization developing the capacity that would permit it to become an "Asian anti-NATO," they support every regional institution that lends credence to the notion of a multipolar world.

And of course, members will not hesitate to use the SCO to criticize the United States when possible. Thus, last week's summit criticized missile defense programs, noting that "member states believe that unilateral and unlimited build-up of missile defense by one state or by a small group of states can cause damage to strategic stability and international security."

The biggest concern for SCO member states is Afghanistan. The situation in that country remains dangerously volatile and members worry that the withdrawal of U.S. forces will compound instability there. Russia's history with Afghanistan prevents it from taking a more prominent position in dealing with that nation. China's preference, like that of other members, is to tackle social and economic issues while maintaining a strict security cordon; a thickening web of relations with other SCO members is likely to follow.

That may prove more difficult than anticipated given competition between India and Pakistan for influence in Afghanistan. If SCO members can overcome their divisions and provide stability to Afghanistan and its neighbors, then the organization may actually deserve the applause its members are so eager to bestow upon themselves.






Special to The Japan Times

HONG KONG — U.S. President Barack Obama's bold move in ordering the raid on Osama bin Laden's secret mansion close to the Pakistan military establishment is in danger of backfiring. Islamic terrorist groups have stepped up their murderous atrocities principally against Pakistanis.

Influential vocal critics are raging against the United States for infringing on Pakistan's sovereignty in killing bin Laden. There's even murmuring about a "colonels' coup" by army dissidents unhappy at their generals failing to stop American interference.

Scared Pakistani political leaders are drawing the wrong conclusions. The enemies of Pakistan are not the Americans — nor India — but terrorists operating in the name of Islamic fundamentalism, plus the politicians themselves in failing to solve urgent domestic economic and social problems. But Pakistan is playing the China card, with potentially perilous consequences for the whole of Asia.

Allied to this is China's own assertive diplomatic and military behavior as it stretches beyond the traditional confines of the Middle Kingdom. Many commentators have remarked about China's increased military activity. Vietnam and Japan have already tasted the new saltiness in China's approach with clashes of naval and fishing vessels, and the Philippines, Taiwan, Brunei and Malaysia are all concerned about naval intimidation from China.

China's military spending has increased rapidly and will be $91.5 billion this year according to its own figures. The respected Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) estimates that China last year spent $119 billion or 2.1 percent of its gross domestic product, putting China second in the global military league, far ahead of the United Kingdom, France, Russia and Japan, all in the $55-60 billion range, but way behind the U.S., whose military spending was $698 billion last year or 4.8 percent of GDP.

Counting military spending accurately is a mercurial task because some countries, especially China, keep sensitive spending off the books. American military experts say that allowing for the secret items and making adjustments for pay levels, the true figure for China's military spending would be $300 billion a year.

Beijing has persistently pledged that all its intentions are peaceful. Foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei even promised recently, "We will not resort to the use of force or the threat of force."

Part of the problem is perception. Beijing may think it is only showing off its new muscles, but smaller countries see it as bullying. Part of it is that when China thinks it is right, it does not consider rival claims as having merit. When push comes to shove, the military calls the shots, and the comments of any foreign ministry may call to mind that it is a diplomat's job to lie for his country.

Beijing's penchant for secrecy does not help its case. It would be natural for a booming power that has to import many essential raw materials, especially oil and energy supplies, to protect them and to have a navy that can assure their safe passage through troubled waters if necessary.

China has been reluctant to admit military ambitions that have long been open secrets: for example its plans to launch an aircraft carrier were only admitted this month. Comments from senior Chinese military, such as, "We can no longer accept the Indian Ocean as only an ocean of the Indians. ... We are taking armed conflicts in the region into account," have also caused concern.

China's purported attempts to build a "string of pearls" of naval bases around India, never convincingly denied, add to the unease about Beijing's intentions. Talk by Chinese military officers of building the world's strongest military and displacing the U.S. as global hegemon, by war if necessary, also raises troubling questions about the balance of power in China between the politicians and the military.

Even so, the way that Beijing expressed support for Pakistan after the killing of Osama bin Laden is troubling. Friendship between the two countries goes back a long way. Pakistan opened the door to resumption of ties between China and the U.S. by permitting Henry Kissinger's secret flight to Beijing in 1971.

More dangerously, China also effectively masterminded Pakistan's acquisition of nuclear weapons by giving it 50 kilograms of weapons-grade enriched uranium, tons of uranium hexafluoride for centrifuges and detailed plans of nuclear weapons. The security of those weapons must now be in question after Taliban terrorists last month successfully attacked a Pakistan naval air base in Karachi, claiming revenge for the killing of bin Laden.

Pakistan played its China card after bin Laden's death, sending prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani to Beijing. Premier Wen Jiabao promised that China would be an "all-weather strategic partner" for Pakistan and gifted 50 new JF-17 Thunder multirole aircraft as Pakistan negotiates for new stealth technology aircraft. Defense minister Ahmed Mukhtar disclosed that Pakistan had "asked our Chinese brothers to please build a naval base at Gwadar" close to the border with Iran.

What has this military hardware to do with Pakistan's very real problems of a troubled economy, a wretched education system and the active presence of Islamic terrorists who kill hundreds of Pakistanis every week?

Given attested reports of thousands of Chinese troops already in the sensitive regions of Gilgit and Baltistan along the Karakorum highway, supposedly helping Pakistan with new infrastructure projects, it is hard to escape the conclusion that an opportunistic Beijing is using hapless Pakistan to put further pressure on India, and undercut India's economic miracle by pushing Delhi to spend more on defense.

Meanwhile, the terrorists, still with important supporters in the Pakistan military, have a free ride, security becomes worse, Pakistan's economy stagnates, and the danger of a tragic mistake increases.

One huge disappointment is that China, building up its military strength to become a political as well as an economic superpower, is merely following the tired old imperial way from the time of the Romans. In the 21st century, can the world afford one nation's view or domination?

American president and five-star general Dwight Eisenhower, who knew something about frontline soldiering as the victorious supreme commander of Allied Forces in Europe in the Second World War, had sobering advice that Beijing would do well to consider. (Washington seems to have forgotten his advice.) Ike said: "Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed."

China itself has enough problems without wasting billions on the military.

Kevin Rafferty first traveled overland to a hospitable Pakistan and India 42 years ago as the British young journalist of the year.






SINGAPORE — China appears to be increasingly determined to strengthen its presence and control in areas of the South China Sea close to Southeast Asia that it sees as strategically and economically important.

The Philippines recently accused Chinese navy and maritime surveillance ships of intruding into a new part of the disputed Spratly Islands in May,evidently to lay claim to an uninhabited atoll.

The foreign ministry in Manila summoned the Chinese embassy's charge d'affaires to explain the ship's presence in what the Philippines says is its territory. This followed a meeting on May 27 over reports in the Chinese media about Chinese plans to move a giant oil rig into the southern part of the South China Sea next month. Meanwhile, Vietnam protested to Beijing over harassment of a vessel exploring for oil and natural gas off the coast of central Vietnam. China rejected both protests, saying that its actions were normal maritime law enforcement and surveillance activities in waters "under the jurisdiction of China."

Beijing claims control over about 80 per cent of the South China Sea. As it flexes its muscles, it may try to intensify pressure on the Philippines,rather than Vietnam or Malaysia. The Philippines is militarily by far the weakest of the three Southeast Asian countries that have substantial claims over island and marine territory in the South China Sea. Until recently, Manila has been notably reluctant to risk even a diplomatic confrontation with Beijing, knowing how weak its bargaining position is and fearing reprisals from the world's second largest economy.

But while China may see the Philippines as the softest target among rival major claimants in the South China Sea, it must also factor in the U.S. reaction. The Philippines is a treaty ally of the United States; Vietnam and Malaysia are not.

Admiral Robert Willard, head of the U.S. Pacific Command, said in Kuala Lumpur earlier this month that he was concerned at rising tensions between China and its neighbors in the South China Sea, which he described as a "very strategic and important area to all of us."

Manila's claim to the widely scattered Spratlys, which it calls the Kalayaan Island Group (KIG), includes 54 atolls, reefs and shoals and overlaps the claims of China, Taiwan, Vietnam and Malaysia.

The shallow Reed Bank, about 100 km west of the Philippines' Palawan Island, is part of the KIG. It is regarded by both Manila and Beijing as a highly prospective offshore zone for oil and gas.

Further north, the Philippines, China and Taiwan contest another widely scattered group of atolls, reefs and shoals, which Beijing calls the Zongsha Archipelago. It includes the Macclesfield Bank to the east of Chinese-occupied Paracel Islands, claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan as well as China.

The Zongsha Archipelago also includes triangular-shaped Scarborough Reef. It is the biggest atoll in the South China Sea, with a circumference of 46 km. Just 215 km west of the main Philippine island of Luzon, Scarborough Reef has the potential to become a Chinese naval anchorage and forward base. There is an international waterway nearby. Over 300 ships pass the vicinity of the reef each day.

Japan — like the Philippines, also a long-standing U.S. ally — uses this route to import most of its oil in tankers from the Middle East and regards the waterway as a vital lifeline. When Japan and China clashed last September over the disputed Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, the U.S. made clear that its mutual security treaty with Japan covered the Japanese-administered islands. Furthermore, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in January that the September incident near the islands "served as a reminder of the importance of America's and Japan's treaty obligations to one another."

Will Washington give similar reassurance to Manila and under what circumstances would it apply? Admiral Willard told a U.S. Congressional committee in April that the U.S.-Philippine alliance, underpinned by the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty, "remains important to U.S. strategy in the Asia-Pacific."

He said that China's increasing engagement in Southeast Asia presented two notable challenges to America. One was that Chinese activity, "in many cases, is aimed at supplanting U.S. influence." The other was Beijing's "expansive claims to, and growing assertiveness in, the South China Sea ..."

The U.S. security treaty with the Philippines was signed in 1951, years before Manila lodged its claim to the Spratly Islands in 1978 and Scarborough Reef in 1997. Moreover, the treaty refers only to an armed attack on either country "in the Pacific area," not in the South China Sea. In addition, there is no automatic mutual defence obligation.

Sometimes strategic ambiguity serves as the best assurance of regional stability. However, if it is seen in Beijing as a sign of U.S. weakness, it may embolden China to continue its assertive policy in the South China Sea.

Michael Richardson is a visiting senior research fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore.







LOS ANGELES — It is very tempting to proclaim "On China" as the most important new nonfiction book of 2011. But that it may well be.

Several reasons compel this judgment.

The first is that this extraordinarily clear-headed analytical study has just one central focus: China. It does not wander all over the lot and try to incorporate some tiny study of Montenegro: For China is the home for close to one out of very four citizens of this planet and, of course, China is no longer asleep.

Reason number two is that any authoritative study of China, such as this one, helps us understand the all-important China-U.S. relationship. What are the stakes here? It seems reasonable to believe that if Beijing and Washington construct their policies on parallel tracks that are as accommodative of each other as is consistent with their respective national interests, then the probability of a world war occurring will be greatly reduced.

Those are therefore some stakes.

The third obvious reason why this book merits special ranking is that its author is Henry Kissinger, now 88.

Whatever your politics and whatever you may think of him (the seriously illegal bombing of Cambodia, Watergate, Nixon, the wiretapping of his own aides, etc.) this is a deep thinker who knows China the way (say) Bill Gates knows the logic of software or Stephen Sondheim lyrics.

The former Harvard professor was, after all, the policy pioneer who in the early 1970s made history with his boss, President Richard Nixon, by tearing down the diplomatic wall between America and China. Since then, Kissinger has tracked China's evolution with patience and perspective and surely understands it at least as well as anyone outside China.

This is why "On China" has, in the book's initial reception on the mainland, gotten such great press. China Daily, the largest English language newspaper, hailed the book, drawing on a dispatch from its New York office, as the number-one story of the day (May 31). The banner headline across the top read: "Kissinger's Book a Warning to China, U.S." The point of the article was that the author's historical perspective affords an analysis of China's behavior and intent that absolutely must inform policymaking on both sides of the Pacific. The Kissinger book, wrote China Daily, offers "a clue of how the world's two largest economies should handle their relations."

This is not exactly faint praise. And the importance of getting that relationship right (balanced, contextual, stable, mutually regarding) is vital, whatever — again — one thinks of the author. Implicit in the China Daily article is the fear that, in getting the bilateral relationship right, neither side is blameless. Hence the headline's finger-pointing at China as well as the U.S.

Kissinger's methodology is not new, but in some ways, in this day and age of fancy-statistics social science, it is unusual: Let the remorseless lessons of the past be the best guide as to what the future might hold.

Only the sweeping and unemotional gaze of history can offer a proper perspective on the events and personalities of our era. This is why this new book could well contribute to world peace and stability if Beijing and Washington permit its central themes to be influential.

What are those themes? Just one example will have to suffice: Consider Chapter 13, about why China decided to go to war against communist "comrade" Vietnam in the late 1970s. This took place, of course, even after the mighty U.S. had unceremoniously withdrawn ... defeated, exhausted, demoralized.

The value of the analysis of the interaction between Hanoi and Beijing is its clarity, and its emphasis on the decisive role of national-interest over ideology. After all, here were two alleged communist countries going at each other fiercely. Most observers at the time were shocked. But by analyzing China from the perspective of its traditional tactic of "preemptive deterrence," and viewing Hanoi from its long-held regionally imperialistic ambitions, the author demonstrates why the behavior of neither country was demonstrably irrational, much less unpredictable.

To put it plainly, the Chinese had concluded that an advancing Vietnam would not stop with the occupation of only Cambodia and, unless deterred, would go on to gobble up Thailand (and then presumably Malaysia and Singapore as well). Yes, Beijing believed in the Domino Theory, too! The end result would be a Southeast Asian mini-empire on China's doorstep (sort of like a North and South Korea united under Seoul backed by the U.S. military — another potential nightmare scenario for Beijing).

Why is this history so relevant? Well, just follow Kissinger's analysis further and what you get is a better understanding of the current tension and turmoil in the South China Sea. Why is China behaving as it is (that is, badly)? Why is Hanoi playing so curiously nice-nice with America, even as the scars of the terrible war with the U.S. remain evident today (because it trusts China even less and detests it even more than the U.S.).

Without the benefit of historical perspective, the present remains inscrutable and the future a constant surprise. But not so much if you carefully read your Kissinger. This invaluable book is very highly recommended.

Professor Tom Plate of Loyola Marymount University has been writing syndicated columns about Asia and America since 1996. His recent books on Lee Kuan Yew and Mahathir Mohamad in the series "Giants of Asia" have been best sellers in Asia. © 2011 Pacific Perspectives Media Center. Beverly Hills, California.







Indonesian moviegoers will again be able to enjoy blockbusters from the United States, which stopped entering the country in February, after Indonesian authorities last week decided to change the way imported movies are taxed and thereby resolved its standoff with Hollywood.

While the new levy system for imported movies will almost double import tariffs, foreign studios will not likely remove Indonesia from their export list because of the country's huge market potential with its population of 240 million and rapidly expanding middle class.

The new tax system, announced last Friday, will still give a fair margin to both importers and international studios, with tax burdens low enough for US studios to still profit from exporting films to Indonesia, and yet big enough to discourage the import of low-quality movies.

More importantly, the new system will remove uncertainty caused by the previous system, whereby the tax burden was assessed on the basis of how much money a film earned at the box office.

Film importers and international studios had rejected the old system as unfair because it was impossible for them to predict ticket sales until a film had hit the box office. The ad valorem tax system also required a complicated assessment, which was vulnerable to corruption given the notorious reputation of the tax office.

According to the Indonesian Union of Cinema Owners, every year about 50 to 80 local titles and 100 to 150 foreign titles are screened at theaters throughout the country, grossing around US$100 million in sales.

But the association had warned that if the government refused to revoke its import tax policy, it would kill the cinema industry and badly hurt restaurants and shopping mall investors.

The new system will impose a flat tax rate of between Rp 21,000 ($2.43) and Rp 22,000 per minute of film imported. Assuming the average length of a film is around 100 minutes, the import tax on films under the new system could reach Rp 2.1 million to Rp 2.2 million per copy. Since importers usually bring in between 20 to 40 copies of each title, one release then could cost importers up to Rp 88 million in import tax alone.

The new tax seems to have been designed to discourage foreign films from flooding the country, since the flat rate will force importers to be more selective in bringing in foreign movies. This, in turn, will help protect the struggling local film industry.

The resolution of the dispute over taxes on imported films is quite timely because the school holiday season (mid-June–July) is usually a peak sales period for theaters.

The remaining challenge now is for the government to end the cartel in movie distribution, because the stoppage of Hollywood imports to Indonesia since February seemed to have been a result not only of the tax dispute but also of what theater owners saw as monopolistic practices among film importers and distributors of Hollywood blockbusters.

The imported film debacle also should serve as another warning to the government not to issue complex tax rules or regulations that are prone to different interpretations, providing loopholes to corrupt officials and causing uncertainty to businesses.





"Why does Pancasila not adopt the western concept of a 'naked' public square that privatizes religion?" I was asked when I delivered a lecture titled "Religious Freedom in Indonesia" at Georgetown University in March.

The question is germane given the recent religious conflicts in this country. As a "secular" product, a naked public square nullifies "the role of religion in the public sphere", i.e., public religion, since religion does not accept what John Rawls called "the fact of pluralism". Therefore, the presence of religion in the public square has more disadvantages than advantages.

The birth of Pancasila on June 1, 1945, bridged the ideological gap between nationalists (golongan kebangsaan) who supported a secular state ideology and Islamic groups (golongan Islam) that leaned toward a religious state. The naked public square concept is pessimistic on the idea of a "public religion".

Samuel Huntington once warned that if we are not careful about "public religions" then we might experience on a global scale the same religious wars seen in Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries.

A religious state with its sacred public square concept, on the contrary, is very optimistic about "public religions". However it is limited to only one religion, the official religion, and other religions do not have rights. Both positions suppress the freedom that Pancasila proposes.

Pancasila, first of all, questions the presence of a naked public square. By leaving religion to the private domain, does it make the public domain "naked" or free of religious effect?

Every individual, according to the first principle of Pancasila, the principle of one God, cannot possibly be independent from religion in a broad sense.

For example, in order to be free from religious impacts, public schools in the US have abolished religious education, but, peculiarly, they are still teaching evolutionism and atheism, which are obviously secular.

Roy Clouser said that it is a myth to think that the public domain is neutral about religion.

A naked public square gives rise to another issue, which is nurturing fundamentalism. Rejecting religion by marginalization, according to Gilles Kepel, is often accompanied by revenge. Therefore, it has the potential to produce religous radicalism that might disturb public functions. Hence the marginalization of religion is counterproductive.

The naked public square also restrains religious freedom. The role of the first principle of Pancasila is not merely to assure religious freedom and tolerance.

The second to the fifth principles of Pancasila already cover religous freedom and tolerance. The uniqueness of the first principle is to implement the role of public religion, or in Sukarno's terminology "to prioritize the [social] role of religion".

In other words, Pancasila's concept of religious freedom is not only about negative immunity — free from the state's coercion — but also includes positive immunity-free from a public role. By acknowledging negative immunity, the naked public square erodes positive immunity.

On the other hand, the sacred public square of religious state would violate Pancasila's spirit of Bhinneka Tunggal Ika (unity in diversity), as it treats people according to their religion. The standard of state policy is no longer based on justice, but on religion. Therefore, the noble role of the state to protect the welfare of its citizens is abolished.

A religious state is anti-democratic because it is exclusive and discriminative. It is exclusive because it is based on superiority, priority and majority principles in governing citizens. It is discriminative because there is differentiation in treating people.

Due to its association with political power, religion loses its transcendental power. It is no longer critical and prophetic and unable to keep control of a nation's morality. As a result, religion becomes a mere political commodity and legitimate tool of state power. In brief, religious state creates a suicide pact between religion and state.

By denying a naked public square and a sacred public square, Pancasila promotes the concept of a civil public square. Through this concept, Pancasila allows all beliefs to function in public life. Yet it must start from the reality of religous diversity, which drives the practice of many religions within the confinement of civil society.

"Public religion" at the civil society level has a mission to empower the potential power of religion in answering the real challenges of humanity in society.

The focus is not the dominance issue among religious groups, but on how religions can have power to democratically transform the social-political life of society.

The target of "public religion" is to make the political life of the nation be ethically and morally weighted. Through moral politics, the contribution of religions is expected to enlighten the nation's political life so that political decisions can be responsibly made.

"Public religion" can become a transformed and liberated power to establish a democratic sociopolitical life as long as it stays within moral politics on the civil society landscape.

The witer is executive director of the Reformed Center for Religion and Society and has a doctorate in social ethics from Boston College.






Ethics and norms, by which individuals have lived with others in society and by which culture and civilization have progressed, have changed over time.

Driyarkara, an Indonesian religious leader and philosopher whose contribution to the nation's struggle and development cannot be doubted, explained this in many of his works.

One can perhaps argue that ethics, an important human invention which in turn has prescribed how to behave with others properly, have progressed remarkably. Ancient and classical ethics, compared to modern ethics, sounds agonizing. Cruelty and brutality when attacking enemies, which are unbearable by modern standards, are painted on the canvases of ancient battles and wars.

The way in which men treated other men and other creatures has changed. In some ancient cultures, there are stories that kings maliciously beheaded their people. Those who opposed rulers were deemed criminals. Rebel leaders, considered sinners who acted not only against their rulers but also God, were crucified or hanged.

Thanks to modern democracy, which has guided us to be more sensitive to forms of oppression and injustice, show our standard of ethics has improved. Regimes cannot simply put those who demand "openness" and "transparency" simply to death, as is happening in Libya, Syria and Yemen. Rulers, who are ordinary people (just like us, prone to mistakes) chosen by others, are not descended from gods or goddesses.

As people around the world have become a single community, any misbehavior committed by any regime will concern all members of the global community. The Middle Eastern political outcry, which has spread across Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Libya and Syria, is an issue not only for those who live in the region, but also those who live on other continents. We all realize that any political and economical turmoil in a certain region will affect the rest of the world.

People's basic rights can never be abused. Nor can animals' rights be neglected.

In many traditional societies, slaughtering animals for consumption can be cruel. But ethical standards are now improving. Before the world went online, torturing animals before their death could have been left unnoticed. But now, a record of slaughtering cows in the local slaughterhouses of Indonesia, and the way in which these animals were treated, has reached the global audience.

Despite continuing practices in many countries, the death penalty by way of hanging, shooting, injection and electrical shock, have now come under review. Protests by human rights activists against capital punishment are mounting.

Man is a carnivore. Killing other animals for food is unavoidable. But, current knowledge and technology show us how to kill animals with less torture.

During Idul Adha (the Islamic Day of Sacrifice), we witness people slaughtering chickens, goats and cows.

To slay a chicken, only two people are needed. One should hold two feet and wings, whereas the other can cut the throat. To kill a goat or cow, more people are involved. To calm down the might of the beasts, at least four people should hold the four feet tightly, whereas a man who is religiously authorized can cut the throat. Before their death, with blood bursting from the throat, these animals flounder.

For those who are not familiar with this traditional technique, it looks gruesome. On the other hand, modern procedures with shots, electricity and other methods can kill animals effectively and involves less torture.

Human life is sacred, Pope Benedict XVI said so. So is that of animals. Their lives and deaths should be respected.

However, evolution in human culture does not always run linearly. Some areas move forward. Others are backward. Notwithstanding the advancement of our knowledge about ethics and norms, we are still encountering abuses of human and animal lives.

The writer is a lecturer at Sunan Kalijaga State Islamic University in Yogyakarta.






While the Australian government did everything it could to save its cows from cruel treatment beyond its borders, the Indonesian government did nothing to salvage the life of one of its citizens who contributed to the country's foreign exchange reserves.

Ruyati, a migrant worker from Bekasi, West Java, was beheaded in Saudi Arabia on Saturday just a few days after President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono spoke before an International Labor Organization (ILO) forum in Geneva, Switzerland, on his administration's efforts to protect Indonesian migrant workers.

More surprisingly, the Foreign Ministry claimed to know nothing about the planned execution, "The Saudi government did not notify the Indonesian government about the execution" Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said.

Perhaps the Saudis broke the international law, but the minister's statement reflects the state's irresponsibility, insensitivity and incompetence.

The question is why did the ministry wait for the Saudi government to notify it about the execution, which came at the end of a protracted legal process?

Why didn't Indonesian representatives take the initiative to learn about the situation so that they could fulfill the call of humanity that is at the center of the Constitution's mandate to protect life inside and outside Indonesia?

Perhaps there is no such of call that rings in the heart of Indonesian leaders and officials. They are preoccupied by greed, selfishness and the pursuit of material satisfaction and unable to appreciate the sacredness of life or experience the connection between human beings.

In Ruyati's case, the insensitivity of the Indonesian elites is clearly evident.

Jumhur Hidayat, head of the National Agency for Placement and Protection of Indonesian Workers (BNP2TKI), for example, told the media, "Ruyati's death sentence is more about criminal events than about labor issues." A common citizen can understand that the incident clearly originates from an apparent labor issue: the conflict between a maid and her employer.

The daughter of Ruhati, in a TV interview told the viewers that her mother was treated so poorly that she broke her leg.

In another example of insensitivity, the ministry said that they could not return Ruhati's body to Indonesia due to the strictness of Saudi administration.

House of Representatives lawmaker TB Hasanudin recently said Indonesian diplomats often gave irrational reasons for their ignorance of migrant worker affairs, claiming the workers were geographically dispersed, making communication difficult.

Indeed, the way people have been separated from politics and government in Indonesia is beyond imagination. This gap needs correction otherwise there will be more migrant workers criminalized and executed overseas.

MetroTV reported that 303 Indonesian migrant workers were facing criminal charges worldwide, including 58 Indonesians in Saudi Arabia.

Further, in less than two weeks, Darsem, a housemaid from Subang, West Java, will be hanged if she cannot pay Rp 4.7 billion (US$546,500) in "blood money" after a Saudi court found her guilty of murder. Darsem killed a man who attempted to rape her.

Maltreatment, sexual harassment and the execution of Indonesian migrant workers are not new in Saudi Arabia. Before Ruyati, Yanti was executed in 2008 and Warni executed in 2000 for murder. Another Indonesian maid, Dewi Ratna Suminar, 23, suffered from extreme depression and was eventually sent home after she was the victim of sexual violence.

According to statistics, 3,835 Indonesian migrant workers were badly treated in 2010, 55 percent of whom were working in Saudi Arabia. More than 900 women migrant workers died from sickness or maltreatment.

In most of those cases, the state was not present. This is ridiculous. More than 3.3 million women work far from their homes, families and loved ones and at risk of discrimination, violence and sexual harassment.

To stop the potential for tragedy, the government should create a decent working environment and employment opportunities at home and ensure that every life abroad is protected. The more than 22,000 women who left Indonesia to work in 42 countries this year have sent home more than Rp 214 billion to date.

Despite this huge contribution, the country has done little to improve the condition of migrant women, let alone protect them.

Indonesia lags behind its neighbor the Philippines in terms of the protection of migrant workers and the recruitment of foreign exchange heroines.

If Australia, a secular nation, appreciates the sacredness of animals such as cows, why does Indonesia, which claims to be a religious nation, fail to respect the sacredness of a human life?

The writer is a researcher at the Center for Cultural Pluralism, Democracy and Character Building at Semarang State University (UNNES).








A strong school of thought is emerging in Mother Lanka as to where our country is heading and whether there are trends towards militarization.

The presence of the Army and Police in large numbers on the streets of Colombo gives red light signals.

Recently Prof. Jeevan Hoole who was invited by the President to return to his country to live and work has gone public with his fear. Dr. Hoole has stated that at the last meeting of the Friends of the Jaffna Library held in Jaffna, an Army Officer had walked in, had continued to stay there and had told those present they could not in any way remember Velupillai Prabhakaran and the LTTE.

This happened soon after the week when the government remembered May 19, 2009.The recent tragic death of the Katunayake Free Trade Zone worker also added to the fear. There is an International Law which prohibits police  from using live bullets to handle a trade union or other democratic protests. Moreover there was a court order concerning the funeral of the victim and the security forces were prominently present at the funeral. We also heard a note of unprophetic compromise in the sermon.

This trend swept the highest seats of learning with some 10,000 new entrants to universities being compelled to undergo military-style training. Contrary to the thinking of the revered Sir Ivor Jennings on the concept of the principles of university education, the Higher Education Ministry is now telling the universities what to do and what to teach.

The syllabus raises questions as to whether we are building a new Sri Lanka on the vision of multi racial, multi religious and multi cultural unity in diversity.

One cannot link these and other developments with the noble mission of reconciliation and many independent analysts are raising questions as to whether the work of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission will also end in some archives like the reports of so many commissions and committees.

The revered civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr was right when he said that the sin of our times is the silence of the majority. If liberty could speak it would cry out that what hurts more is not the sword of the enemy but the silence of the friend.





The Tamil Tiger Theoretician  Anton Balasingham spent a whole night in 2003 in Oslo , the capital City of Norway to convince Prabhakaran who was in Wanni , Sri Lanka (SL) to agree to the Federal system solution . 'We have now reached the high point in the victorious war . The International community is not ready at this juncture to grant the Eelam we are demanding. They are however prepared to work out a Federal solution. As a first step we will concur with them in this , otherwise the Int. community will take offence and turn against us. If we do not agree to the Federal solution and continue the war, the International community will support the SL Govt. against us ……". These were the warning words used by Balasingham to convince Prabhakaran. Even after speaking the whole night, Balasingham could not succeed in inducing Prabhakaran to think according to his line. 'Agree and come back. Rest , we will see later', was Prabhakaran's answer to Balasingham.

When the present Foreign Minister Dr. G L Peiris who was at the negotiating table with Balasingham at that time went to India recently, Dr. Peiris before signing the joint statement between India and SL pertaining to the implementation of the 13th amendment, perhaps would have communicated with the President Mahinda Rajapaksa via the phone from New Delhi in much the same way as Balasingham did then from Oslo;   and Mahinda may have also told him like Prabhakaran, 'agree and come back. Rest we will see later'.

Indeed today , Mahinda is in a stronger position than even Prabhakaran in 2002 . The latter when  signing the ceasefire agreement in 2002  was in full command of the North and East of SL  except Jaffna. Though Prabhakaran reached the doorstep of Jaffna   to capture it, owing to the pressures brought to bear by America and India, he was precluded from gaining entry into Jaffna. In fact the SL Army was at that time under siege in Jaffna. Lakshman Kadirgamar who was the foreign Minister during that period holding a Press conference later said, 'Prabhakaran , you have won. Now utilize this victory as a solution and stop this war'. It was in this dire situation the ceasefire agreement was founded.

When the peace negotiations were initiated via the ceasefire agreement in Oslo, and Balasingham concurred in the Federal solution, Prabhakaran was in a 'world of his own': 'we toiled so much and won, not just to end it with a Federal solution …' was his view. Pottu Amman and Soosai were even sterner and more stubborn    than Prabhakaran in this stance. They argued that if they yield to a Federal solution it is tantamount to betraying the Organization and the members who laid down their lives for it fighting for the cause. They went so far as to say that they will be branded as liars not only by the LTTE Organization but by the Tamil people as well. Moreover they instilled 'poison' into Prabhakaran's mind by alleging that Balasingham has become a tool in the hands of the Foreign powers. This is where the rift between Prabhakaran and Balasingham commenced ,  which also marked the beginning of Prabhakaran's disastrous end. On the contrary, If Prabhakaran has convinced Pottu Amman and Soosai while paying heed to the advice of Balasingham and committed himself honestly accepting the federal solution,not only Prabhakaran , even Pottu Amman and Soosai may still be among the living, in which event , LTTE would have been having the administrative control over the North and East under the Federal system. They  could have via the Federal administration demonstrated that they are not only capable of fighting the war , but also adept at administrative functions. Based on that climate they could have created an environment conducive to successfully progress towards a political solution to secure their cherished  Eelam goal. If they had followed that plan , they would have  even had the opportunity of winning over the Int. community to support their campaign.  During the period when the Int. community came forward to  offer a Federal solution , Prabhakaran , Soosai and Pottu Amman looked upon them with suspicion and as enemies. They viewed  Balasingham as an agent working according to the agenda of the International community.

Today , President Rajapaksa after destroying the Tamil Tigers and its leader Prabhakaran is at the pinnacle of success both at war and politically .When India and the International community are pressurizing him to implement the 13th amendment , Mahinda too might be viewing the Int. community as a foe . The patriots in his Govt. are similarly identifying Dr. G L Peiris   as an International agent and a betrayer. 'Is it to devolve power we won this hard fought war surmounting insuperable odds ?,' they must be thinking .

It is for Mahinda to take guard against 'friends' like Pottu Amman and Soosai  who can only lead him into disaster . Whether Mahinda will take precaution against this  is  entirely another matter.





As an 'Arab spring' sweeps through West Asia, one country has managed to remain insulated from the unrest. Early on, the Saudi monarch, King Abdullah, bought peace with a hefty $137 billion largesse for his subjects in unemployment, housing, and other benefits. It included a $200 million package for the religious establishment that had obligingly decreed that street protests were forbidden in Islam. The move paid off. Still, a slight whiff of jasmine over the kingdom was unmistakable when a handful of Saudi women took the wheels of their cars on June 17 in protest against an official ban on women driving. Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world with such a ban. Driving was prohibited after a similar protest in 1990 by a group of women who decided it was time to challenge the unofficial ban that had existed until then. The prohibition was based on the dubious ground that it led to ikhtilat or 'gender mixing,' ruled by Saudi clerics as not permitted in Islam. Paradoxically, women can own cars. In some rural areas, and inside compounds such as a university or an office layout, they drive them too. But the ban is strictly followed in most places, with women dependent on men to chauffeur them around. Manal al-Sharif was doubtless emboldened by the democracy movements in the neighbourhood when she used social media networks to launch Women2Drive, a campaign urging Saudi women to break the ban, starting from the third Friday of June. The call evidently rattled the Saudi government, as seen from its swift moves to snuff out the campaign by arresting the 32-year-old Aramco engineer for over a week and taking her pages off the Internet. But the idea had already found resonance.

Mobility empowers women, and Saudi women see driving as the first step to win more freedoms from a brazenly anti-women regime. But Saudi women want to drive for some practical reasons also: it makes more economic sense than employing a driver and allows better time management. Many even argue it means less 'gender-mixing,' as it reduces dependence on non-family male drivers. That the Saudi authorities decided, after the initial reaction, not to use a heavy hand against the women who participated in the protest is a sign of its caution in the present regional environment. Two decades ago, it sacked the protesting women from their jobs, and penalised their male relatives. The regime's maximum response this time — a traffic ticket to one woman for driving without a Saudi licence — may mean one of two things: hope that ignoring the protest will make it go away; or a possibility of relaxation of the ban in the belief that such limited 'reform' will act as a safety valve, keeping the lid on demands for more far-reaching political reform. Either way, it is a small step forward for women.  ( Hindu)





At a time of challenge and turbulence in Sri Lanka's external relations, clarity of perspective and recollection of the lessons of earlier crises are urgent imperatives. Recovering from the seismic 'external shock' of 1987 and the bitter Southern civil war that was its consequence, Sri Lankas intelligentsia realized the necessity of turning its gaze to external relations and the avoidance of the errors of the recent past. An excellent occasion was provided by the turn of the decade and the Third Annual sessions of the Organization of Professionals Associations, October 4-6, 1990, which chose as a theme 'New Visions and New Initiatives for the Nineties'. This respected apex body of professionals turned not to a dry academic or prissy ex-professional diplomat but to the leading international affairs analyst and foreign policy intellectual of his time, Mervyn de Silva, for the presentation on the Session's theme VIII, namely 'Foreign Policy Planning: Perspectives and Problems'.

Foreign Policy Planning:

Perspectives and Problems
- By Mervyn de Silva

1.  A narrow resource-base, domestic division and discontent, and rising youth aspiration will remain the main challenges and constraints for policy-makers.

2.    Minimising the possibilities of external entanglement in domestic conflict has proved an urgent need.

3.    While constructing relations with the proximate and the powerful will remain the main focus of policy planning, changes in global order and their impact on the regional environment will complicate the tasks of the planner.

4.     Changes in the nature of power, the emergence of new centres of power, such as East Asia, and the diversion of Western energies and resources to a re-structured Europe will require new approaches from dependent countries like Sri Lanka.

5.     The quest for donors, investors and markets will be chief priority.

6.     Such initiatives demand a high degree of national cohesion and an inter-party foreign policy consensus on the main objectives of Sri Lankan diplomacy.

7.    The definition of such objectives must be preceded and supported by informed discussion and debate among opinion-making groups.


The points presented by Mervyn at the 1990 OPA sessions are striking not only for their lucidity and parsimonious elegance but also their prescience. His points that "minimising the possibilities of external entanglement in domestic conflict has proved an urgent need" and that "constructing relations with the proximate and the powerful will remain the main focus of policy planning" turned out to be a crucial challenge for Sri Lanka during the decisive last war (especially last year) while remaining so today and indeed of renewed priority after the London events. The "proximate and the powerful" obviously meant our sole neighbour, India.

Already at the dawn of the last decade of the last century, Mervyn was signalling the rise of East Asia as a new 'centre of power', which analysts were focusing on only at the turn of the next decade.  Decision makers would do well to remember, in these hubristic, even narcissistic times, Mervyn's basic, preliminary observation that "a narrow resource-base, domestic division and discontent, and rising youth aspiration will remain the main challenges and constraints for policy makers".

 An internationalist, a Third Worldist and a patriot,  but never a 'nationalist', Mervyn canvassed the idea of "national cohesion" and an "inter-party foreign policy consensus" (point 6), which presupposed policy that would manifestly reflect the national interest and public sentiment, as well as minimise the space for external actors to manipulate Lankan developments, undermining her sovereignty.

 Mao Ze Dong posed a philosophical problem, partly as a rhetorical question: "where do correct ideas come from?"  Just as war was too important to be left to the generals, Mervyn felt that foreign policy was too important to be left to the diplomats, including retired ones. Similarly disdainful of the pro-Western predilections of the foreign relations Establishment in Colombo, Mervyn and Tissa Wijeyratne, once had this exchange, when Tissa had been appointed by Madam Bandaranaike as Secretary to the Foreign Ministry in the mid 1970s. Mervyn: "Tissa, you mean that they are unhappy the UNP lost?" Tissa: "No Mervyn, they are unhappy that the British left!"  The seventh and final point in Mervyn's presentation makes clear his identification of the source of a suitable course correction in Sri Lankas foreign policy: "The definition of such objectives must be preceded and supported by informed discussion and debate among opinion-making groups".

Editor, columnist and Lanka Guardian founder Mervyn de Silva's perceptible tilt towards the SLFP was foreign policy-driven. Ceylons English-educated and Westernised intelligentsia tended to divide into two camps: a pro-Western, pro-UNP Establishment and a Left wing allied or in sympathy with the LSSP. Mervyn was opposed to the former and (except for an adolescent flirtation, distributing the newspaper Samasamajaya on the Udahamulla train) scornful of the latter. So when SWRD Bandaranaike emerged with his progressive foreign policy and identified with the spirit of Bandung, Mervyn found a point of political identification. It was SWRD himself, in the search for a Ceylonese replacement for the leftover Britisher who commented on foreign affairs on Radio Ceylon, who introduced Mervyn, at the time the Lobby Correspondent for Lake House, to the study of foreign affairs, starting with an armload of books including one entitled Atoms for Peace.

 For decades Mervyn remained supportive of the foreign policy of the Bandaranaikes, SWRD and Sirimavo, though with his own independent emphasis. Though strongly sympathetic to the Palestinian cause, he thought needless and unwise the total breaking off by the Sirimavo government of relations with Israel, and recommended a symbolic downgrading instead. Recognizing the potential danger of ethnic secessionism, he understood that the emergence of Bangladesh, though justifiable on humanitarian grounds, would impact negatively on ethnic consciousness in Sri Lanka. Therefore, as editor of the Daily News, he risked the consternation of his Soviet friends and the wrath of the United Front coalition partner the LSSP which was spearheading a solidarity campaign for Bangladesh, by arguing that it was in Sri Lankas national interests at that moment, to tilt to the Beijing-Islamabad-Washington axis. Revealingly, in the years that Sri Lanka held the chairmanship of the Non-Aligned Movement with the incoming Chair being Cuba (1976-1979), Mervyn adopted a dualistic yet not contradictory stance, arguing that the Government of Sri Lanka should be "the Nonaligned within the Nonaligned",  unaffiliated with and at times equidistant from both the 'radicals' ( Havana, Hanoi) and the 'moderates' ( Belgrade, Cairo) within the Movement, while he took a stand in the Sunday Observer (which he edited)  and in the Lanka Guardian (which he founded), which strongly supported the Havana-Hanoi line on issues like Angola in particular and world affairs in general during the New Cold War.   



                                                                                                                                    GULF DAILY NEWS





We are getting into very risky territory, said Christiana Figueres, head of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

But she acknowledged that we may have to go there anyway.

She was talking about geo-engineering - the manipulation of the world's climate to avoid catastrophic warming - and a large number of people think that, in the end, we'll have to do it because we're not going to get the warming under control in time without it.

Geo-engineering might involve putting sulphur dioxide into the atmosphere (to reflect some incoming sunlight), spraying fine droplets of seawater into low-lying marine clouds to thicken them up (and reflect more sunlight), or painting the world's roads and roofs white.

There are also proposed techniques for removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and slowing the acidification of the oceans. In fact, there are dozens of proposals.

The topic is now on the table because 60 scientific experts met in Peru on Monday to begin an exploration of geo-engineering options that will probably end up in the next report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2014.

This has caused outrage in some sections of the environmental movement and 125 organisations wrote an open letter to IPCC head Dr Rajendra Pachauri, condemning the whole concept.

"The IPCC ...must take great care not to squander its credibility on geo-engineering, a topic that is gathering steam precisely when there is no real progress on mitigation and adaptation," said the letter.

This is clearly a subject that inspires passionate opposition on the left, although the geo-engineers spread right across the political spectrum.

Part of the problem is that there has indeed been "no real progress on mitigation and adaptation" in recent years, and the enemies of geo-engineering are afraid that efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions will be abandoned in favour of just trying to hold the temperature down artificially - although I have never met a geo-engineer who thought that would work.

The problem scientists and many others see is that an industrialising world of seven billion people poses a grave threat to the very environment it depends on, notably in terms of changing the climate.

Ending greenhouse gas emissions, reducing population and adopting sustainable patterns of consumption are the necessary long-term responses to the threat of runaway warming, but they are not happening fast enough to avoid catastrophic changes and mass death.

At the moment, in fact, they are not happening at all. So we had better come up with some stopgap measures that give us more time to make the long-term changes.

That is what geo-engineering is about: holding the global average temperature down below the tipping point at 2C higher, after which we get runaway heating, while we work frantically to get our emissions down and restore the self-regulating, comfortable climate that we have already destabilised.

We have not yet begun to work on that agenda seriously, let alone frantically.

On our current course, according to a study released by Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research 18 months ago, the average global temperature will be 4C higher by 2060. If that happens, billions will probably die. If it stays below 2C hotter, most of them will probably live.

So, do the research on geo-engineering now: what works, what doesn't and what are the side-effects?

Do it on a small scale, in local areas, as safely as possible. Because when we are passing through plus-2C and the famines are spreading, there will be overwhelming demands to do something now to halt the warming.

At that point, we had better already know the answers to these questions, because the technologies will then be deployed, ready or not.









Forget about the Hollywood Transformer franchise; as facts on the ground go, the ultimate transformer in real life is the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

NATO admitted on Monday it was "probably" responsible for the humanitarian liberation of nine Libyan civilians, plus 18 injured, via an early morning strike against an apartment building in a densely populated Tripoli neighborhood.

Liberating Northern Africans in their sleep under tons of debris now adds to NATO's -- and the Pentagon's -- routine liberation of Pashtun wedding parties.

Forget about the Ministry of Truth-style non-denial denials enveloped in newspeak of the "weapons system failure" or "great care in conducting strikes" variety. Or don't -- as the war on Libya, under the newspeak moniker Operation Unified Protector, slouches towards its fourth month and over 4,300 "humanitarian" strikes.

After all, NATO's wars -- now already spanning the Pentagon-coined "arc of instability" from Northern Africa through the Middle East towards Central Asia -- are as much against "unsavory" regimes (as in "not our bastards") as against civilians.

One model army

In the dizzying labyrinth of NATO's Ministry of Truth - which includes schemes such as Partnership for Peace, Istanbul Cooperation Initiative, Mediterranean Dialogue, to name but a few - one now finds virtually every certified or aspiring member of the Persian Gulf Counter-Revolution Club (also known as (P) GCC, the (Persian) Gulf Cooperation Council), as well as monarchic minions Jordan and Morocco. These paragons of democracy are all involved in liberating the wretched of the world for "humanitarian" reasons.

Unctuous Danish opportunist and NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen is on overdrive across Europe. He has just boasted that, "NATO is more needed and wanted than ever, from Afghanistan to Kosovo, from the coast of Somalia to Libya. We are busier than ever before."

This enthusiastic, across-the-board embrace of Atlanticist weaponry though is still not enough for U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates -- for whom NATO is not lethal, or overreaching, enough. Considering that NATO is no more than the weaponized European arm of the Pentagon, that was a classic case of once again Martian Americans deriding wimpy Venusian Europeans.

Yet the most sinister Rasmussen utterance was that, "we can help the Arab Spring well and truly blossom". That is code for never-ending bombing of Libya, fierce lobbying for a "humanitarian" intervention in Syria, and, why not, weaponized "humanitarian liberation" slouching towards Algeria and even Lebanon.

As for Egypt and Tunisia, Rasmussen has already stated NATO wants to re-train their military establishments -- an operation modeled on the ongoing retraining in Iraq. The Transformer's tentacles are ubiquitous.

The war on Libya started as the Pentagon's Africom first African war -- remember Odyssey Dawn? -- and then merged into NATO's first Mediterranean and also first African war. NATO's overt agenda is to rule the Mediterranean -- Ancient Rome's mare nostrum -- as a NATO lake.

That explains the current Pentagon/NATO Sea Breeze 2011 naval exercise in the Black Sea, off the coast of Ukraine and quite close to the Sebastopol-based Russian Black Sea fleet.

The Pentagon is being joined by the United Kingdom, Azerbaijan, Algeria, Belgium, Denmark, Georgia, Germany, Macedonia, Moldova, Sweden, Turkey and Ukraine. All of these -- except Algeria and Moldova -- fall into another NATO scheme; they are Troop Contributing Nations for NATO's war in Afghanistan.

Sea breeze is not a pop song; it is an overt intimidation directly related to Syria. Russia's Black Sea fleet has a base in Syria -- that is, in the Mediterranean. The Pentagon/NATO want it gone. Thus the categorical imperative of regime change in Syria.

So Libya is just the beginning. Russian ambassador to NATO Dmitri Rogozin has been quick to point out, "the war in Libya means ... the beginning of

[NATO's] expansion south."

Transformer NATO -- the global Robocop -- is on a roll, from Southeastern Europe to the Eastern Mediterranean; from the Persian Gulf to South and Central Asia. All hail the One Model Army. As for civilians in the wrong place at the wrong time, duck for cover.

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007) and Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge. His new book, just out, is Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

(Source: Asia Times Online)







It's beyond satire. U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, telling the New York Times what he had learned during his long tenure under Presidents Bush and Obama, explained that "I will always be an advocate in terms of wars of necessity. I am just much more cautious on wars of choice." Gosh, Bob, does that mean you wouldn't invade Iraq next time?

Afghanistan, by contrast, was a "war of necessity" in Gates's terms: official Washington believed that further bad things like 9/11 might happen to the United States if U.S. troops didn't go to Afghanistan to root out the al-Qaida terrorists (mostly Arabs) who had been given bases there by the country's Taliban leadership. It wasn't a very subtle strategy, but it was certainly driven by perceived U.S. national interest.

Which was the point being made by President Hamid Karzai, the man whom the United States put in power after the 2001 invasion: "(The Americans) are here for their own purposes, for their own goals, and they're using our soil for that."

Well, of course. The only other possible explanation for their presence would be that Washington had sent half a million young Americans to Afghanistan over the past ten years in some quixotic quest to raise the Afghan standard of living and the status of Afghan women. That's ridiculous. Obviously, the motive was perceived U.S. national interest.

So how to explain the furiously emotional response of Karl Eikenberry, the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan? Speaking at Herat University, he raged: "When Americans...hear themselves described as occupiers, told that they are only here to advance their own interest...they are filled with confusion and grow weary of our effort here."

"Mothers and fathers of fallen soldiers, spouses of soldiers who have lost arms and legs – they ask themselves about the meaning of their loved one's sacrifice. When I hear some of your leaders call U.S. occupiers, I cannot look these mourning parents, spouses and children in the eye and give them a comforting reply."

Karl, they won't be very comforted if you tell them that their loved ones died for Afghanistan. Tell them that they died defending America. Except, of course, that it may not have been a very useful way of defending America.

All the al-Qaeda camps were quickly smashed after 9/11, and by the end of 2001 Osama bin Laden had escaped across the border into Pakistan, where he remained until his death last month. Most of the surviving al-Qaeda cadres also fled to Pakistan, and U.S. intelligence says that there are only a couple of hundred left in Afghanistan.

So why have American troops been in Afghanistan for almost ten years? To keep the Taliban from power, they say, but it's unlikely that the Taliban leadership ever knew about al-Qaeda's plans for 9/11. Why would they support an action that was bound to provoke a U.S. invasion and drive them from power? Why would bin Laden risk letting them know about the attack in advance? The U.S. has probably been barking up the wrong tree for a long time.

Now the Taliban are back in force, and the war is all but lost. The U.S. may think it is about "terrorism" and al-Qaeda, but for Afghans it is just a continuation of the civil war that had already been raging for almost a decade before the U.S. invasion. The Taliban, almost entirely drawn from the Pashtun ethnic group, captured Kabul in 1996, but they never managed to conquer the other, smaller ethnic groups in northern Afghanistan.

The United States stumbled into this civil war under the delusion that it was fighting Islamist terrorists, but in fact it has simply ended up on the side of the Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras. That's who mans the "Afghan National Army" that the Western powers have been trying to build up with so little success: only three percent of its soldiers are Pashtuns, although Pashtuns account for 42 percent of the population.

So long as the U.S. forces remain, the Taliban can plausibly claim that they are fighting a jihad against the infidels, but once the Americans leave the war will probably return to its basic ethnic character. That means that the Pashtuns are just as unlikely to conquer the north after the U.S. departure as they were before the invasion.

In the end, some deal that shares out the spoils among the various ethnic groups will be done: that is the Afghan political style. The Taliban will get a big share, but they won't sweep the board. The American interlude will gradually fade from Afghan consciousness, and the Afghan experience will vanish from American memory a good deal faster.

But in the meantime, President Barack Obama has promised to start withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan next month, and that will be very tricky. Few Americans know much about Afghan realities, and they have been fed a steady diet of patriotic misinformation about the place for a decade.

If the U.S. ambassador to Kabul can get so emotional about a plain statement of fact, imagine how the folks at home will respond when U.S. troops leave Afghanistan without a "victory". Obama will be lucky to pull this off without a serious backlash.

Gwynne Dyer is a London-based independent journalist whose articles are published in 45 countries







The Justice and Development Party (AKP) won a decisive victory in the recent parliamentary election in Turkey. Many people believe that the main factors behind the AKP's third consecutive victory were the party's achievements in the political, economic, and cultural development of Turkey.

Let's take a closer look at these achievements.

--------- Political development

The emergence of a new political elite in various governmental posts and institutions in recent years is a manifestation of the fact that the new political structure is now open to a broader spectrum of the country's elites. Earlier, the secular elite was always in power, and other academics and politicians were not allowed to have a say in the political process. But finally, in the 1950s, the Turkish Democratic Party was able to alter this equation.

In recent years, the religious elite has emerged as a new driving force in Turkey. And Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's AKP has actually provided the religious elite with a clear voice in the current administration.

Even Turkey's minority Kurds, who were isolated for many decades, finally got a chance, and their candidates were allowed to run in the elections. The Kurdish politicians, who had successfully established a faction in the previous parliament, participated in the recent election as independent candidates. Earlier, Kurdish politicians were severely restricted. For example, Leyla Zana was imprisoned for 10 years for speaking Kurdish in the Turkish Parliament after taking her parliamentary oath. But now Turkey's Kurds have a clear voice in the political structure. Therefore, it can be said that Erdogan has broken very dangerous taboos in Turkish society.

----------- Economic development

Turkey is currently experiencing nine percent economic growth, which is comparable to China. The AKP has played an important role in the economic advancement of Turkey, and especially in the country's energy issues. Turkey is now the world's seventeenth largest economy and the sixth largest economy in Europe, and it plans to attain a place among the top ten economic powers by 2023.

----------- Cultural development

The AKP has managed to create a balance between the elements of Islam and the national identity. Moreover, it has successfully resolved Turkey's cultural disputes with Greece and Armenia. Indeed, the policy of zero tension with neighboring countries has created a congenial atmosphere for Turkey at the regional level.

Given the public confidence which was manifested in the recent election, the people of Turkey were the best ones to judge the performance of the government over the past few years.

The main supporters of the AKP in Turkey are the members of the Muslim bourgeoisie. The ideology of the party, its objectives, and also the ruling elite are three influential factors which led to the AKP winning over a large segment of the public in previous elections. Of course, Erdogan's charismatic leadership is also an important element in the party's popularity. Erdogan is a charismatic leader, not a populist ideologue. Populism has no place in Turkish civil society because the institutionalized political structure of Turkey does not tolerate such a way of thinking.

Through the revision of the constitution in 1909, Turkish society set off on the path of modernization, and this gradually paved the way for the establishment of a new political structure. Thus, populist concepts and practices have been properly controlled in this structure.

Erdogan's victory speech provided another important example of how the AKP won the election. In the speech, he promised to work together with other parties to pave the way for the drafting of a new constitution that would fulfill the Turkish people's demands for peace and justice.

Assadollah Athari is a senior university lecturer and a researcher at the Center for Middle East Strategic Studies, which is based in Tehran.




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