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Thursday, June 23, 2011

EDITORIAL 23.06.11

Please contact the list owner of subscription and unsubscription at: editorial@samarth.co.in 

media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya

Editorial

month june 23, edition 000866, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul

 

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

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

 

THE PIONEER

  1. GOVERNMENT ON THE RUN
  2. DANGEROUS DEMAND
  3. ISLAMIST ARMY OF PAKISTAN - G PARTHASARATHY
  4. CUSSED UPA, OBDURATE ANNA - RAJESH SINGH
  5. THE FRIGHTENING FACE OF YOUNG INDIA - HIRANMAY KARLEKAR
  6. WRINKLES SHOW THAT AL QAEDA IS GETTING OLD - YELENA SUPONINA

 THE TIMES OF INDIA

  1. BREAK THE DEADLOCK
  2. SAVE THE OCEANS
  3. PAKISTAN, 50 YEARS AGO - HAJRAH MUMTAZ
  4. AN ERROR IN JUDGMENT
  5. DOING WHAT IS BEST FOR MYANMAR - VIKRAM SINHA
  6. OPPOSITE, APPOSITE - BACHI KARKARIA

 HINDUSTAN TIMES

  1. OUR FOOTHOLD IN GLOBAL TECH
  2. SAI'S SECRET SERVICES
  3. FANS IN THE STANDS, MAAN! - RAVI CHATURVEDI
  4. NO WINNERS IN THIS WAR - PREM SHANKAR JHA
  5. STUCK WITH THE GOOD LIFE - SAMAR HALARNKAR

 THE INDIAN EXPRESS

  1. THE GOOD TAX
  2. GIRL WITH THE LAPTOP
  3. EMPTY CHOICES
  4. SOMETHING'S CHANGING - C. RAJA MOHAN
  5. TEACHING THE GENERATIONS - YOGINDER K. ALAGH
  6. WHAT SUBBARAO REALLY WANTED TO SAY - SURJIT S BHALLA
  7. BOLLYWOOD'S SUMMER VACATION - SHAILAJA BAJPAI
  8. ABANDONING BHABHA - MANOJCG
  9. SPEAK OUT, HILLARY

 THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

  1. LET GST ROLL OUT IN 2012
  2. IRDA ON IPOS
  3. GETTING INDIA TO 10% GROWTH – NIRVIKAR SINGH
  4. INTELLECTUALLY, HE WAS UNFORGIVING - TCA ANANT

 THE HINDU

  1. PREDICTING THE MONSOON
  2. PARROTS OR CROWS?
  3. KASHMIR STEP BY STEP: THE NEXT ROUND OF TALKS  - SUHASINI HAIDAR
  4. THE RISKS OF LEAVING THE EURO  - JILL TREANOR

 THE ASIAN AGE

  1. INVESTMENTS HIT AS GOVERNANCE DRIFTS
  2. NUCLEAR BORDERLINE - BHARAT KARNAD

 DAILY EXCELSIOR

  1. BANI-BASOHLI LINK DISRUPTED
  2. VERDICT AGAINST TERRORISM
  3. FOCUS ON ADMINISTRATIVE REFORMS - BY AMULYA GANGULI
  4. ENCOUNTERING THE WILD..... - BY VIRENDER KHASHU
  5. INFRASTRUCTURE DEFICIENCY IN N-E TO FACE CHINA - BY SANCHET BARUA

 THE TRIBUNE

  1. TOWARDS EFFECTIVE LOKPAL
  2. WELFARE — PUNJAB STYLE
  3. BANGALORE'S STREET VIEW
  4. JIHAD, TERROR AND EXTREMISM - BY G. PARTHASARATHY
  5. OF TOILET PAPER AND COLA - BY VINOD PRAKASH GUPTA
  6. NO MORE QUEER THAN OTHERS - JEREMY LAURANCE

 BUSINESS STANDARD

  1. LET PARLIAMENT DECIDE
  2. FERTILISING POLICY
  3. THE CHALLENGE FOR ASIA-PACIFIC - NAGESH KUMAR
  4. DRESS CODES AND SIGNALS - KANIKA DATTA
  5. THE 'GRAND' KEY TO AFRICA - T S VISHWANATH
  6. WHERE ARE ALL THE FACTORIES? - INDICUS ANALYTICS

 BUSINESS LINE

  1. BANK UNIONS MISS THE POINT
  2. DESPITE UPHEAVALS, THE EURO HAS A FUTURE - SITHARAM GURUMURTHI

 THE ECONOMIC TIMES

  1. GET GST, CURB GRAFT
  2. NOT SO BIG, BROTHER
  3. BIRTHDAY BLUES
  4. ECONOMICS IN PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS
  5. THE OTHER FACE OF PAKISTAN'S ISI  - RAJIV JAYARAM
  6. REGULATORY OVERKILL IN BANKING?  - T T RAM MOHAN

MUMBAI MIRROR

  1. IDEAL COMMUTER READING

DECCAN CHRONICAL

  1. INVESTMENTS HIT AS GOVERNANCE DRIFTS
  2. NUCLEAR BORDERLINE
  3. FROM 'FIRST' 100 DAYS TO 'ONLY' 100 DAYS
  4. THE FINAL DRAFT?
  5. MYTHS ABOUT SPIRITUALITY
  6. HIMALAYAN BLUNDERS

THE STATESMAN

  1. POTENT QUERY
  2. FAILURE IN UNIFORM
  3. PROBE AND ACT
  4. FAIRYTALE INDIA - BY ACHINTYA RAY
  5. BETWEEN THE LINES ~ KULDIP NAYAR
  6. THE MAGIC BREW  - JAYANTA SANYAL
  7. PRANABGATE! THE STORY OF A BUG...  - RAJINDER PURI  

THE TELEGRAPH

  1. NOT BY DOLE
  2. RATES AND PRICES
  3. DONATING TO A DONOR  -  IAN JACK
  4. WORK WOES  - NEHA SAHAY
  5. A DREAM OF FREEDOM AND THE DEAD GIRLS OF KASHMIR

HAARETZ

  1. A JEW CAN'T BE IDENTIFIED BY AN ID CARD STAMP
  2. ISRAELI DEMOCRACY EXPLOITS ITS WEAKEST CITIZENS  - BY GIDEON LEVY
  3. LET THE POOR DIE  - BY YITZHAK LAOR
  4. THE HISTORICAL TRUTH BEHIND THE ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN NARRATIVES - BY DMITRY SHUMSKY
  5. CHANGE THE COALITION  - BY YEHUDA BEN MEIR

THE NEWYORK TIMES

  1. THE WAY OUT?
  2. BUDGET CUTTERS V. THE LAW
  3. A REASONABLE PUBLIC UNION DEAL
  4. CLOUD OVER THE COURT
  5. THE HAUNTING OF RICK PERRY - BY TA-NEHISI COATES
  6. THE BREAST MILK CURE - BY NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
  7. FREE TO SEARCH AND SEIZE - BY DAVID K. SHIPLER
  8. THREE STATES SHORT OF A SECURE COMMUNITY - BY PETER H. SCHUCK

HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

  1. A NEW PARLIAMENT WITH EMPTY SEATS?
  2. JUST A DETAIL IN 40 YEARS OF 'WAR' - DAVID JUDSON
  3. TURKEY-SYRIA-IRAN TRIANGLE IS BEING REDRAWN - NIHAT ALI ÖZCAN
  4. TURKISH LESSONS IN DEMOCRACY - SONER ÇAĞAPTAY
  5. SELF-CENSORSHIP TRENDING - ERSU ABLAK
  6. RATIONAL GERMANY? - RICHARD REID
  7. THE ARAB AWAKENING AND THE NEVER-ENDING COLD WAR - CAN ERIMTAN

THE NEWS

  1. THE OTHER HOSTAGES
  2. THE BITTER TRUTH
  3. HOUSE-CLEANING
  4. AT A FORK IN THE ROAD  -  ROEDAD KHAN
  5. JUST SEVEN YEARS ON FLEETING MOMENTS  - IFTEKHAR A KHAN
  6. TIME-OUT
  7. DREAM OF CIVILIAN SUPREMACY  -  DR QAISAR RASHID
  8. REQUIEM FOR OIC  - TAYYAB SIDDIQUI

PAKISTAN OBSERVER

  1. BRIGADIER'S UNDERSTANDABLE LINKS
  2. PAK A FAILED STATE – RIDICULOUS
  3. INDEED ZARDARI IS PH.D IN POLITICS
  4. POLITICS OF ASSISTANCE - LUBNA UMAR
  5. WHY FREEDOM OF INFORMATION? - YAHYA AHMAD
  6. THE WAR WITHIN PAKISTAN - USMAN GHANI
  7. PAK-INDIA FOREIGN SECRETARIES TALKS - AFSHAIN AFZAL
  8. TIME TO QUIT AFGHANISTAN - RICHARD COHEN

THE AUSTRALIYAN

  1. FAINE DELIVERS A BOYER LECTURE
  2. ENOUGH, ALREADY. TIME FOR TONY TO TAKE THE LONG VIEW
  3. MEANWHILE, IN THE OTHER PLACE

THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

  1. DEFENCE LEFT JUGGLING EGGS
  2. LOSING OUR RELIGION?
  3. EUROPE WARY OF GREEKS RECEIVING BAILOUTS
  4. BAILLIEU MAKES THE RIGHT CALL ON MYKI

THE GUARDIAN

1.      IN PRAISE OF … JOHN LOCKE

2.      GREECE AND THE EUROZONE: ACCEPT REALITY – AND DEFAULT

3.      OLYMPIC FOOTBALL: THE NATIONAL GAME

 

THE JAPAN TIMES

  1. DISASTER VICTIMS DRIVE TOLL-FREE
  2. EMPLOYMENT IN TOHOKU
  3. IS THERE AN AFGHAN SOLUTION? – BY HUGH CORTAZZI
  4. THE ECONOMIC GOVERNANCE THE EU NEEDS – BY GUY VERHOFSTADT

THE JAKARTA POST

  1. OUR CONSTITUTIONAL DEMOCRACY
  2. STOPPING POLITICAL CORRUPTION STARTS WITH ELECTION REFORM  - HANTA YUDA AR
  3. THE BEAUTY OF PAPUA

DAILY MIRROR

  1. INTERNATIONAL SQUEEZE TIGHTENS AS DOMESTIC POLICY HARDENS
  2. DEMOCRACY DEFEATED BY 63 VOTES
  3. THE SILENCE OF SRI LANKA  - BY DAVID MILIBAND AND
  4. UNIVERSITY LECTURERS' ISSUES TO BE RESOLVED IN ONE WEEK: SB DISSANAYAKE
  5. GREEK DRAMA ALL OVER AGAIN

GULF DAILY NEWS

  1. DIFFICULT LAPS AROUND TRACK    - BY SCOUT FINCH

TEHRAN TIMES

  1. IRAN'S APPROACH TOWARD ITS NUCLEAR PROGRAM - BY MEHDI SANAII
  2. CHARGES AGAINST BAHRAINI DOCTORS ARE A PACK OF LIES - BY ROBERT FISK
  3. LIES, DAMN LIES, AND REPORTS OF BATTLEFIELD ATROCITIES - BY PATRICK COCKBURN

  

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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

GOVERNMENT ON THE RUN

SCARED TO FACE PARLIAMENT, IT PUTS OFF SESSION


It is not entirely surprising that the Government should have decided to delay the Monsoon session of Parliament by nearly a month — instead of beginning next month, it will now start in August. By itself, rescheduling of dates for parliamentary sessions is nothing new: They are often rejigged for a variety of reasons. But the fact that the decision to delay the Monsoon session comes at a time when the Government is confronted with anger verging on outrage across the nation over the scams and scandals that continue to tumble out of its closet as well as its perceived indifference to mounting popular disquiet would suggest that the Congress and its allies are running scared. Clearly, the Government is desperate to buy time in the hope that the outrage over corruption in high places will ebb in the coming weeks and the Opposition will be less enthusiastic to take up issues that would appear dated. But this is hoping against hope: There are as yet no indications that popular anger will ebb by early-August or the Opposition will lose steam in four weeks. The other two reasons why the Government would like to delay the Monsoon session are: It wants some sort of a draft Lok Pal Bill in place to be tabled in Parliament and, second, it wishes to push through a flawed Food Security Bill and the obnoxious Communal Violence Bill. The Congress needs time to tote up support for its legislative initiative, which it plans to do by playing the tattered and frayed 'secularism in danger' and 'poor need help' cards. While the ploy may fetch the Congress support from parties that are becoming increasingly irrelevant in today's India, it will not help it gloss over its many sins of omission and commission: The people will still demand for the guilty to be punished; the Opposition will still clamour for explanations. A third reason why the Government, more so the Congress, wants the Monsoon session to be delayed is that the arithmetic in the Upper House, at present in favour of the Opposition, could change after the coming round of Rajya Sabha elections. That would give the Government an advantage — as would a new look Cabinet if the much talked about extensive reshuffle does take place.

Be that as it may, the point remains that for all practical purposes the UPA finds itself between a rock and hard place less than halfway through its second term in office. While describing it as a lame duck Government would perhaps be an exaggeration, the Congress-led regime is certainly in the doldrums. It's a listless Government that now presides over India's destiny, stupefied into inaction on the policy front. The Prime Minister is seen to have painted himself into a corner by choosing to remain silent over, and oblivious to, the loot of national wealth right under his nose. He never had any authority, but whatever stature he had stands severely eroded by a party working at cross-purposes with the Government and senior Congress leaders poking fun at him, directly and indirectly. It would be absurd to expect him to lead from the front, or even breath life into a moribund Government which can at best bide time till it is thrown out by the people in the next election. As for his Cabinet colleagues, the less said about them the better, barring honourable exceptions like Mr Pranab Mukherjee and Mr AK Antony. But that is cold comfort for a regime in decline.

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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

 

DANGEROUS DEMAND

CBI, IB, NIA SHOULD BE FREE OF RTI ACT


At a time when the Congress-led UPA regime is already under the scanner and facing heat over several scams and scandals and the ham-handed manner in which it has sought to deal with admittedly over-zealous self-appointed 'civil society' representatives, its decision to keep the CBI out of the purview of the Right to Information Act has expectedly met with much harsh criticism. Among other things, it has been accused of failing to keep its promise of bringing about greater transparency in governance — a charge that has been conveniently lumped together with the ongoing debate over the scope of the proposed Lok Pal Bill, although the two are unrelated. It has also been claimed by 'civil society' activists that the decision reflects the Congress's intention of keeping the premier investigating agency under its control so that it can be conveniently used to harass and intimidate its political opponents. The merits of these allegations notwithstanding, let there be no doubt that the Government is absolutely right to keep the CBI out of the ambit of the RTI Act. In fact, had it not placed the agency in the Second Schedule under Section 24 of the RTI Act, along with other intelligence and security agencies, each one of them would have been in a state of paralysis by now. Activists demanding greater transparency by bringing these agencies under the purview of the RTI Act need to be bluntly told that the nature of the work done by the CBI and the NIA (as also IB and R&AW) is too sensitive for its details to be placed in the public domain. In fact, common sense suggests that no serious investigation or intelligence-gathering can be conducted while subjecting investigative and intelligence agencies to public scrutiny or forcing them to disclose specific details that could greatly hamper their work or expose their operatives. It's stupid to demand otherwise.

The charge that these agencies are misused or manipulated is not without merit. The Congress is in the habit of misusing agencies like the CBI and the IB — we could perhaps also add NIA to the list — to further its partisan agenda and browbeat the Opposition. That's the way it has been since the days of Mrs Indira Gandhi. But the abuse of authority by one party does not mean we should cripple the CBI or any other agency forever. That would be akin to throwing the baby out with the bath water. Activists, indeed 'civil society' as a group, should get used to the idea that transparency is not a limitless concept which can be extended to cover any and every arm of the Government. It is an idea to ensure Government functions in a democratic manner and to prevent corruption. To voice such bizarre demands is not only absurd but downright dangerous.


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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

ISLAMIST ARMY OF PAKISTAN

G PARTHASARATHY


Gen Zia planted the poison seed, the tree is now bearing toxic fruit. The Army and the ISI will ensure that Pakistan never gives up terrorism as state policy.


While promoting terrorism abroad has been the trademark of Pakistan's military establishment, new skeletons are tumbling out of the ISI's cupboard, revealing the horrors perpetrated by its torture and assassination networks within the country. The 'tell-all' book titled Inside Al Qaeda and the Taliban: Beyond Bin Laden and 9/11, written by journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad, widely believed (even within Pakistan) to have been bumped off by the ISI, has been banned in that country.


Shahzad made some startling revelations to an American television network virtually hours before he was abducted. He revealed that even before the 9/11 terrorist strikes, there were formal agreements between the ISI on the one hand and the Taliban and Al Qaeda on the other. Moreover, just after 9/11, the then Director-General of the ISI, Lieutenant General Mehmood Ahmed, assured both Mullah Omar and Osama bin Laden in Kandahar that Pakistan would neither mount operations against their organisations nor would it arrest them.


Given these assurances, it is not surprising that Mullah Omar, Osama bin Laden and their supporters and armed cadre crossed the Durand Line and were given haven in Pakistan. Some second ranking Al Qaeda leaders were, however, targeted when they were suspected of involvement in attempts to assassinate General Pervez Musharraf in December 2003. Shahzad asserts that the "Pakistani Army has always been closely allied with Islamist forces", adding that mutinies from within the Army's ranks were always possible in the event of major operations in future against Al Qaeda and Taliban sanctuaries.


While the Islamist propensities of significant sections the Pakistani Army establishment are well known, what is now emerging is that support for Islamic extremism is also significantly prevalent in the Pakistani Air Force and Navy. The recent attack on the Mehran naval base in Karachi, during which US-supplied reconnaissance aircraft were destroyed, has revealed the extent to which radical Islamist elements have infiltrated the Pakistani Navy.

Even more widespread has been the infiltration of radical Islamist elements into the Pakistani Air Force, including into the Chaklala air base near Rawalpindi where US-supplied transport aircraft are based. Airmen from this base were involved in an attempt to assassinate Gen Musharraf in 2003. The links of the Pakistani Air Force with Al Qaeda go back to 1996 when a senior PAF officer, Mushaf Al Mir, known to be close to Islamist elements in the ISI, entered into a pact with Al Qaeda leader Abu Zubayada, promising the supply of arms.

Interestingly, while elements from Saudi Arabia were evidently supportive of this deal, Mushaf Ali Mir, who later became the chief of Pakistan's Air Force, died in a mysterious air crash while on official duty in a PAF aircraft on February 20, 2003. Three Saudi Princes associated with Air Chief Marshal Mir's 1996 deal with Al Qaeda died in similarly mysterious circumstances shortly thereafter. Interestingly, the mysterious deaths of Mir and the Saudi Princes occurred after both Gen Musharraf and the Saudi monarchy had become averse to Al Qaeda influence in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.


The malaise of Islamic radicalism has also spread to Pakistan's nuclear establishment. AQ Khan, infamous for his rabid references to "Hindu treachery", was a major player in moves to transfer nuclear weapons capabilities to Iran, Saudi Arabia and Libya. Bhutto himself described Pakistan's quest for nuclear weapons as his country's contribution to "Islamic civilisation". These sentiments are shared by senior Pakistani nuclear scientists like Sultan Bashiruddin Mehmood who, along with his colleague Abdul Majeed, was detained shortly after the terrorist strikes of 9/11 for helping Al Qaeda to obtain nuclear and biological weapons capabilities.

Mehmood openly voiced support for the Taliban and publicly advocated transfer of nuclear weapons to the whole ummah (Muslim community worldwide). Two other Pakistani scientists, Suleiman Asad and Al Mukhtar, wanted for questioning about suspected links with Osama bin Laden, disappeared in Myanmar. The million dollar question is: Did they disappear into the territory of Pakistan's 'all-weather friend' and partner in proliferation, China? The malaise of Islamic radicalism runs deep across Pakistan's entire security establishment — civilian and military.


The roots of this radicalisation can be traced back to the days when the US and other Western countries backed Pakistani military dictator General Zia-ul-Haq to the hilt. It was Gen Zia who ushered in a new era of Islamisation, bigotry and blasphemy laws targeting minorities, together with nurturing radical, armed Islamic groups, bent on waging jihad across the world. Officers recruited in his era are today three-star Generals and the Army is largely motivated by the ideology of the "Quranic Concept of War" articulated by his protégé Brigadier (later Major General) SK Malik. Describing anyone who stands in the way of jihad as an "aggressor", he held that "the aggressor is always met and destroyed in his own country".


Maj Gen Malik also had a unique view of the concept of 'terror'. According to him, "Terror struck into the heart of the enemy is not only a means. It is an end in itself. Once a condition of terror into the opponent's heart is obtained, hardly anything is left to be achieved. Terror is not a means of imposing a decision upon the enemy, it is the decision we wish to impose on him. It is a point where the means and end merge". This is precisely what was sought to be 'imposed' on the ill-fated people killed in Mumbai on 26/11.


Despite evidence that the ISI recently passed on operational intelligence received from the CIA to terrorist groups, both the US and the UK are making conscious efforts to gloss over the ISI-terrorist nexus. The British are realising that in their desire to be pro-active across the world as America's most "loyal ally", they have been punching above their weight. Moreover, the greatest threat to internal security in the UK comes from nationals of Pakistani origin, motivated and trained in terrorist safe havens in Pakistan. Britain seeks to appease Pakistan to facilitate an early withdrawal from Afghanistan and secure ISI cooperation for internal security.

The Americans evidently believe that Pakistan has to be kept in reasonably good humour, at least for the present, to achieve larger strategic objectives. In these circumstances, India has to shed illusions that the Pakistani military establishment can be persuaded to discard the use of terrorism as an instrument of state policy by sweet words and 'composite dialogue'

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

CUSSED UPA, OBDURATE ANNA

RAJESH SINGH


The UPA has suddenly become conscious of the need to take the Opposition into confidence for two reasons: One, the Government's version of the Lok Pal Bill cannot get through Parliament without its support, and two, it wants to diffuse public discontent over its destructive conduct across the political spectrum. Civil society, instead of being obdurate, should consider seeking support from the UPA's political rivals


Having rejected the Anna Hazare-led group's demand for the inclusion of the Prime Minister, Ministers, Members of Parliament and bureaucrats within the proposed Lok Pal's ambit, the Union Government is scrambling for political support for its stand. It has reached out to opposition parties and Chief Ministers for their opinion on the matter. This is, of course, a sham, because the feedback is immaterial, given that the Government has already made up its mind. It also comes a day too late, because the UPA regime egged on by the Congress, never bothered to take the Opposition into confidence all through the process — from the formation of the Lok Pal drafting panel to the committee's various deliberations.


If the Government has suddenly become conscious of the need to take the Opposition leaders into confidence, it is because of two reasons: One, its version of the Lok Pal Bill cannot get through Parliament without their support, and two, it wants to diffuse the public discontent and anger over its destructive conduct across the political spectrum. It is working on the hope that the political class will cut across party lines and unite in this 'hour of crisis', since the 'civil society' demands will impact them all. Whether that will happen, remains to be seen. After all, it's not that all major political parties are in principle opposed to the Prime Minister's inclusion; some have, in fact, taken positions earlier that favoured the idea. For now, the Opposition is wary of the Government's overtures. The proposed all-party meeting may not as quickly yield a solution as the beleaguered Government wants. The June 30 deadline for finalising the draft Bill is uncomfortably close, and the UPA is desperate.

The Government on its part is playing to the political gallery in every possible way. Dripping with outward sincerity to tackle corruption in public office, the panel members from its side have been using every media forum to denounce the 'civil society' demands as "unconstitutional" and designed to subvert our parliamentary system of democracy. Off and on they have also let it be known that, as people's representatives they know the best. That bluff would have been easily called had a public referendum been held on the points raised by Anna Hazare and his members. The response would have been overwhelmingly in favour of getting Government servants, including the Prime Minister, under the Lok Pal. That is why the Government promptly dismissed one of the 'civil society' member's suggestion for a nationwide referendum on the issue on the ground that our Constitution did not provide for it.


Meanwhile, the Congress's carefully orchestrated slander campaign against the 'civil society' leaders continues unabated. From thugs to blackmailers to pretenders to unelected despots, they have been called all. None of these epithets deserves a dignified response. Yet one must wonder what these activists have done to invite such wrath. After failing to get a response from the Union Government on the very valid issues raised, they decided to protest peacefully. Anna Hazare's hunger strike struck a chord with the citizen of this country, long abused by corruption in high places. The massive support the protest received across the country indicates the mood of the nation. No political party can ignore the reality that the people want a strong Lok Pal that can reach the highest levels to probe corruption, even if that means the Prime Minister himself. It will not suffice to call the 'civil society' activists "pretenders" and more. Incidentally, what are Anna Hazare and his representatives 'pretending' to be? They are not seeking to become the Prime Minister or Minister. They never claimed to be above Parliament — on more than one occasion they have asserted the supremacy of the both the Houses. Unlike some of our self-serving politicians, Anna Hazare and his men have not made a farce of our democracy while all the while pretending to be the sole representatives of the people.


With the Union Government and the Congress in particular exposed on the issue, what is the next course of action for Anna Hazare and his group? The Gandhian has already announced his decision to fast-unto-death from August 16 if the Government did not incorporate the key recommendations of his group in the Lok Pal draft Bill. There is no doubt that he will receive as huge a public support as he earlier got, but the issue is no longer one of his stature. That has been settled. The larger concern is about the anti-corruption movement that he has launched. Having tested and aroused public opinion, Anna Hazare should now channelise the positive energy into creating a nationwide mass movement, if need be with the involvement of Opposition parties. A forceful movement cannot be sustained without organisational support. Anna Hazare's strength here is limited since he can only depend on his and a few other non-Government organisations with closed areas of support.

A people's movement eventually needs political support to sustain and succeed. JP's 'total revolution' began as a people's movement but it could not have been the success it became without the active participation of political parties that united against Mrs Indira Gandhi's dictatorial regime. Mahatma Gandhi's mass movements would not have hit the British regime hard if the then Congress and other political outfits not participated in them.

Having achieved so much, it would be tragic if the 'civil society' activists led by Anna Hazare remain obdurate on the issue. Their decision to keep politics away from the movement made sense in the initial stages of the campaign, but at a time when the UPA is poised to sabotage the good work done by them, it would be pragmatic for them to accept any support that comes from the Government's political rivals. This should really not be such a difficult task. The activists have been, after all, engaging with politicians in the draft panel. There is no reason why it cannot collaborate with Opposition leaders too to find common ground — and for the country's larger good.

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THE PIONEER

OPED

THE FRIGHTENING FACE OF YOUNG INDIA

HIRANMAY KARLEKAR


The 100 per cent cut-off for admissions in some colleges not only reflects an unhealthy surge in expectations but also comments on the nature of the examination system which celebrates rote learning and produces robots programmed to compete but not to comprehend the world


I pinched my arms when I first saw on television that a Delhi college had announced 100 per cent marks as the cut-off point for its general category seats in the first list of admissions to one of its most prestigious honours courses. I wanted to make sure that I was not immersed in some kind of dream of the absurd, similar to the well-known phenomenon associated with theatre. It took me not more than a few seconds to realise that I was wide awake. I then wondered whether due to some strange virus-induced confusion about month and date, the college authorities thought it was April 1 and not June 17.

 

That this was not the case by any stretch of imagination became clear when the college principal doggedly defended the announcement in the teeth of mounting criticism from most quarters, including the Union Minister for Human Resource Development, Mr Kapil Sibal.


I was at once afloat on the raft of another speculation: Had some strange magician waved his wand and so transformed Delhi's schools that there was now a huge crowd of 100 per cent scorers pushing and pummelling one another for admission to institutions like the 100 per cent college? That this was not the case became clear when I saw the gloom that descended on most of the applicants as other fancied colleges announced their cut-off points for general-category students. It varied from 97 to 99 per cent for the more sought-after subjects. Clearly, there was not a huge number that had qualified for admissions even at that stratospheric level!

The culprit is not one college or principal but the proverbial whipping boy — the system. In this case, it is the one that judges the eligibility for admission on the basis primarily of marks received at the plus-two final examination. While this is wrong, the trouble with a system that provides greater flexibility to college authorities is its vulnerability to abuse in a country where corruption is ubiquitous and rectitude an endangered virtue. What, then, is the way out?


The problem, a pundit in a talk show sagely averred, was that the number of seats in the fancied colleges was too few compared to the number of aspirants which has increased enormously. It is not only because of the revolution of rising expectations — to recall an increasingly forgotten expression coined by WW Rostow — but nature of the examination system which celebrates rote learning and an almost reflex ability to answer 'yes' or 'no'. It is not too difficult to register astronomical scores provided one is prepared to cog tirelessly and has a certain kind of instrumental smartness.


While the problem is not terribly difficult to identify, a solution is not terribly easy to implement. One can increase the number of seats within a short span by spending money, but not proportionately expand faculty — and ensure quality — in the same period. There is a shortage of good college and university teachers thanks to the sad plight of the institutions of higher learning in this country, and the lure of the civil services and the corporate world. Nor are reputations built in a day. Hence even when new colleges and universities achieve a high level of excellence, the first choice of students will continue to be old, established institutions whose brand names sell better in the employment bazaar and count more in social circles.


The absurdity will, therefore, continue for the foreseeable future. Meanwhile, there is something we need to ponder. Almost immediately after a child is born, the parents begin to shape him or her up for success in a series of ventures that lie ahead — admission into schools, success in the final class ten and 12 examinations, examinations for admission to IIMs, IITs and other engineering, medical and professional institutions and, of course, the civil services.


It is blinkered, goal-driven mugging with a very narrow focus in a no-hold-barred race where the devil takes the hindmost. The products near robots, programmed to compete within the frameworks of given models, at a loss and depended on computer-generated solutions when confronted with the complexities of the world outside, hard put to establish and sustain relationships based on love and giving. Brave new Indians? God help the country?

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THE PIONEER

OPED

WRINKLES SHOW THAT AL QAEDA IS GETTING OLD

ZAWAHIRI'S APPOINTMENT AS THE NEW AMIR OF AL QAEDA IS GOOD NEWS FOR COUNTER-TERRORISM OFFICIALS FOR IT IS ALWAYS EASIER TO FIGHT A KNOWN ENEMY, WRITES YELENA SUPONINA


Ayman al-Zawahiri, Al Qaeda's longtime No. two, has been chosen as the new leader of the global terrorist organisation, according to postings on jihadist websites. Zawahiri, a former doctor from Egypt, has been hiding from United States special services for nearly a decade. He will turn 60 on June 19.

Islamists are not known to make lavish presents to their superiors, and birthdays are less of an occasion in West Asia than in the West. Muslims honour Allah, not his servants. It was a coincidence that Zawahiri's elevation came only a few days before his birthday. But still, there is something symbolic in the move.

It would be even more symbolic if the United States were able to dispatch the new Al Qaeda leader this year, better still before the 10-year anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack on the United States. It is believed that Zawahiri was as deeply involved in the operation as his boss Osama bin Laden, who was killed by United States special forces in Pakistan on May 2.

The United States has offered $25 million for information leading up to the capture or killing of Zawahiri. The price may go up following his promotion. The reward for Osama bin Laden was $50 million, but it is unclear if anyone has received any part of that sum.

Zawahiri's appointment is good news for counter-terrorism officials, as it is always easier to fight an enemy you know. Zawahiri's name was mentioned in the media as a possible replacement for Osama bin Laden immediately upon news of his death.

However, one Western political analyst who presumably has close ties with extremists said there is a rift between Al Qaeda's old and young members. He said the Al Qaeda youth had put forward Egyptian Saif al-Adel as an interim leader of the organisation but to no avail.

It appears there was never any question among the jihadists that the new leader of Al Qaeda should be Zawahiri, who had fought the Soviets in Afghanistan. The decision of the mysterious 'general command' of Al Qaeda to elevate Zawahiri was met with acceptance on extremist websites. Pakistani Taliban spokesman IhsanullahIhsan said about Zawahiri: "Yes, this man can be the organisation's leader." Western political analysts showed much more interest in the news.

Zawahiri will be a nominal leader because most experts say that Al Qaeda is not a vertically structured organisation with centralised leadership. Its regional affiliates in North Africa, the Caucasus, the Arabian Peninsula and other regions have a common ideology but operate independently. Moreover, other terrorist groups often falsely claim to be Al Qaeda affiliates.

Al Qaeda, the symbol of radical jihad, has been overshadowed by popular unrest in Arab countries. Zawahiri is the aging face of a fading organisation, which may be good for the organisation's enemies. Al Qaeda's time is almost up, and it may now be easier to deal with it, although new enemies may soon take its place.

Osama bin Laden, who ruled his organisation via infrequent messages from his hiding place in Pakistan, could not have been remained the leader for years. But while he and his closest associates hid from United States forces, a tidal wave of revolutions was brewing in West Asia.

The young fruit vendor who sparked the revolution in Tunisia did not blow himself up in a crown of unsuspecting people, like an Al Qaeda terrorist, but set fire to himself in protest after his stand was confiscated. And the impact of his act was much greater than any terrorist attack.

A United States official said on the condition of anonymity that Zawahiri will have to think more of his own survival than plotting terrorist attacks.

However, the new leader of Al Qaeda obviously had enough time to ponder over the future of his religion and country, hoping to use the wave of popular unrest to reinforce his organisation's popularity.

He said in his 28-minute video address posted on the Internet last week that it is not individuals but whole nations that have risen against America. Zawahiri, the mastermind behind many of Al Qaeda's terrorist attacks, called on Arabs to carry on the revolutions against the despotic regimes forced on them by the West.

He spoke about Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, Syria and Morocco, adding that not an inch of the Palestinian land must be left to the United States henchman, Israel.

In the past, Al Qaeda leaders hiding in the mountains of Afghanistan formulated global objectives and sought to achieve them through terrorist attacks. But Zawahiri's attempt to usurp the Arab revolts and cast himself in the role of coordinator will fail. This aging, gun-toting militant cannot keep up with the young revolutionaries whose weapons are anti-Government slogans and a bunch of jasmine flowers.

The Arab revolts were not inspired by Al Qaeda, which has proved unable even to find itself a more compelling leader than Ayman al-Zawahiri. Al Qaeda has lost its ability to captivate, praise be to Allah.

-- The writer is a Moscow-based political commentator and expert on West Asian affairs.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

 COMMENT

BREAK THE DEADLOCK

 

Sometimes, nonsense verse captures it. The film character Anthony Gonsalves, inspired by George Bernard Shaw, sang, "The whole country of the system is juxtapositioned by the haemoglobin in the atmosphere - because you are a sophisticated rhetorician, intoxicated by the exuberance of your own verbosity." Few words apply better to the current Lokpal Bill stand-off. For this to break, the rhetoric must stop with ground being ceded - by both government and civil society representatives.


The civil society group seems to suggest that the Lokpal's budget should be around one-fourth of total government revenue. This is an immense figure, which could easily swallow any gains made in curbing corruption. With the Lokpal's work still to be quantified, demanding it in this manner raises eyebrows and opposition. Similarly, the group's insistence on including the Supreme Court in the Lokpal's purview provokes argument. It's crucial to have a constitutional organisation overlooking the Lokpal itself. Also, lines of transparency will criss-cross dangerously if the Lokpal oversees the Supreme Court - that hears complaints against the Lokpal. It's best to have a separate anti-corruption mechanism for the higher judiciary. The civil society group should also rethink demands for the CBI being placed under the Lokpal. The CBI could certainly assist the Lokpal in investigating corruption, but it has other work needing expertise. It would be farcical if the CBI were to shake off its present fetters, just for another set.


Alongside, the government must show it too can be civil. The accountability genie has flown out of the bottle and no obfuscation will cork it. With demands like states being free to accept or reject Lokayuktas, or the Lokpal only 'recommending' corruption proceedings to the government, the latter being free to dispose of them any way it sees fit, not much progress has been made by the government towards framing a Lokpal Bill with teeth. The government would do itself a favour by dropping these demands and pushing instead for a powerful Lokpal Bill, a move that'll take the electorate by pleasant surprise.


And stun its opposition. In this melee the BJP has certainly not distinguished itself, eager to capitalise on the Congress's predicament while not revealing its own position. It's high time the discussion widens and all political parties clarify where they stand. And not just political parties, the discussion needs to include eminent civil servants, jurists, social activists and citizens at large. The arrival of the Lokpal Bill could mark a new era of citizenship. It just needs some 'exuberant verbosity' cut out. And replaced by facts that can build consensus.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

 COMMENT

SAVE THE OCEANS

 

A mass extinction of marine life, comparable to the five great mass extinctions in Earth's history, is impending. That, at least, is the grim implication of a report by a panel of leading marine scientists, brought together by the International Programme on the State of the Ocean and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. The report concludes that the world's oceans are deteriorating at a rate far faster than earlier thought. The cumulative effect of several stress factors such as global warming, ocean acidification and destructive human activities like overfishing and widespread chemical pollution has resulted in declining ocean health. Given our dependence on the oceans, the material cost of such degradation would be catastrophic. While countries have long parlayed about exploitation of ocean resources at international forums, little attention has been paid to ocean management.


At the heart of the problem is the failure to appreciate the intricacies of ocean ecosystems. Degrading coral reefs and depleting fish stocks do make headlines. Yet this hasn't translated into concerted action towards ocean conservation. In India, at least 3.5 million people in approximately 4,000 fishing villages along the country's coastline depend on marine fishing for livelihood. Marine resource management is compulsory if the government is to ensure the sustainability of the fishing industry. At the domestic level this can be achieved by giving the fishing community a larger stake in coastal development. This should be based on the ecosystem approach that focusses on the ocean habitat as a whole and treats problems of pollution and overfishing in an integrated manner. At the international level, greater intergovernmental cooperation is required to evolve policies for combined ocean management.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

TOP ARTICLE

PAKISTAN, 50 YEARS AGO

HAJRAH MUMTAZ

Having been occupied with compiling the '50 years ago' section, i have recently spent hours trawling through Dawn's 1961 editions. It is a fascinating, yet ultimately, a deeply saddening experience.


The Dawn of those days was a slimmer volume, with a format different to what it is today. The first thing to strike me was the advertising. If any of you have the impression that the Forhans toothpaste advertisement hasn't changed in years, you're right: it hasn't changed in decades. Much of the advertising content is pretty much what it is today: soaps, talcum powders and so on. There are some glaring differences, though.


Advertisements for dances, cabarets, acrobatic performances and balls - how alien they seem in the modern Pakistani landscape. Karachi was reasonably important on the international landscape, and references in western literature of the time reflect an exotic Orientalism that still exists in reference to, for example, Mumbai. And so, the city often hosted world-class performers and entertainers, as to a somewhat lesser extent did Lahore.


No doubt to other people in my age group, the children of Zia, these advertisements would hold more meaning than as mere curiosities reminiscent of different times.


The ad about dinner and drinks with live dance performances at the Beach Luxury, or sister acrobats Klaudia and Karla (pictured in short, frilled skirts) at the Metropole, talk not of different times but, indeed, of a different country. Such acts have not been tolerated in Pakistan for upwards of three decades - the lifespan of an entire generation.

Even before Pakistan involved itself in America's duplicitous 'war on terror', which is when the situation really went into freefall, Klaudia and Karla could not have performed here. It was the
Nawaz Sharif government, after all, which banned men with long hair on television. And Zia who dictated that all women appearing on television should have their heads covered at all times, so that it would appear to audiences that they went to bed and woke up in the morning wearing their modesty firmly on their heads.


Is the tragedy greater for those who knew such a Pakistan and then watched it die? Or is it greater for those, the people who are nearing middle-age now or younger, who never saw it at all and learnt to find their way through an increasingly complicated maze of fundamentalism and repression?


In the 1960s, there was such a place as East Pakistan. We all know this, all of us having grown up with the haunting knowledge of the country that once was. But it is different to trawl through the newspapers of that time and see the Dacca dateline.


Hindsight brings clarity. It is easy, now, to read between the lines and see which way the wind would have to blow. In 1961, a decade before Bangladesh was born in blood and tears, Dawn has reports about people asking that Bengali be accorded greater status, questions of disproportionate spending and contributions to the national exchequer. Knowing what we know, it is easy to detect a certain parochialism in the debate of the time.

Going through all these newspapers, i am left with the impression of the Pakistan of the early 60s as a place with hope, its life stretching out before it fresh and untarnished - a country that was going places. Dawn's editions from those days are full of plans: the second five-year plan was going into action, factories and industries were being set up, schemes were being formulated for the uplift and education of the rural poor in both wings of the country.


It is sobering to realise that back then, a new plan announced by the administration could not have been met with anything near the sort of cynicism with which it is received today, with people having learnt the lessons dictated by decades of failure. Fifty years ago, schemes to irrigate agricultural land in Wana and Miramshah were under way, and schools were being set up. Jute mills were being set up in East Pakistan. Women's vocational centres were being set up seemingly all over the place. Fifty years ago, PIA had just launched its inaugural flight to New York and was one of the most successful young airlines of the time.


It's easy to see things clearly in hindsight. Today, we can see that a number of the cancers that are tearing Pakistan apart now had already taken root, even back in 1961. The first military foray into civilian affairs had taken place, the country's first prime minister had been assassinated and, over a decade later, no responsibility had been affixed (the irony being that the Rawalpindi park named in his honour was, just over 50 years later, to become the site where yet another prime minister was murdered, to be followed by yet another failed inquiry), a number of deeply flawed policies and mindsets had already been adopted.


But back then, could anybody have guessed the disastrous trajectory that the country was to take? From my vantage point of the present, because i am a rather fanciful person, i get the impression of the Pakistan of that time revelling in its newfound freedoms, irresponsible as a teenager - unaware of the horror its decisions would bring, dancing heedless into a future full of murder.


That was then, this is now. The past, it would appear, really is another country.


From the Dawn, Pakistan. The writer is a member of its staff.

 

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 THE TIMES OF INDIA

                                                                                                                                                                                                                TIMES VIEW

AN ERROR IN JUDGMENT

 

Aung San Suu Kyi's made a grave error in saying 'it's possible' she may give up non-violence. Speaking to a select audience in London, Burma's long-suffering opposition leader added, ''I do not hold on to non-violence for moral, but practical and political reasons.''


Perhaps she ought to return her Nobel peace prize as well since it was awarded 'for her non-violent struggle for democracy and human rights'. As the inventor of non-violent struggle, Mahatma Gandhi said, the means matter as much as the ends. That lesson reverberated around the world when it secured India freedom, influencing amongst others Martin Luther King Jr. After him, Gandhi's lesson went into abeyance. Then suddenly, and from out of nowhere, non-violence began animating political life in the most unexpected of places: the Middle East. Just like before, oppressed people are rising up in peaceful revolt in country after country. And just like before, the power of non-violent struggle is manifest. Nowhere more so than in Egypt where a despotic government collapsed. The continuities with the past didn't escape President Barack Obama. While the change in Egypt is by Egyptians, Obama added, ''we can't but help hear the echoes of history...Gandhi leading his people down the path of justice.'' It's ironic that amidst this blossoming of non-violence the person who we, including the Nobel committee, thought championed that technique is considering turning away from it.


She claims she'd do so for practical and political reasons rather than moral. But this is a 21st century, interconnected world. There exists widespread international awareness of the repressive methods of the Myanmarese government. Her best bet, even in practical terms, is to leverage that. For her to consider violence is to risk a bloodbath. It's impractical because her supporters wouldn't succeed. Her movement is unlikely to survive an insurrection, which would play into the hands of Myanmar's authoritarian regime.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

DOING WHAT IS BEST FOR MYANMAR

VIKRAM SINHA

After decades of dedicating her life and surrendering her basic right to freedom in order to bring about democracy in Myanmar - and seeing little progress despite all of it - it isn't particularly surprising that Aung San Suu Kyi is reconsidering the viability of a wholly non-violent struggle. Neither would it be surprising if she were to be roundly condemned for it by erstwhile supporters. We look for modern saints; figures who can exert a moral authority that we ourselves are incapable of. And when they fail to live up to our impossible standards, we turn on them. The truth, though, is that for Suu Kyi, non-violence has always been a means to an end, not an end in itself. And she is correct in debating the worth of that means when it doesn't seem to be producing results.

At the heart of the matter is a core truth about non-violence and its ability to bring about change: it only works if the oppressive regime is also a moral one. This is something
Mahatma Gandhi himself admitted; thus his success against the British empire or Martin Luther King Jr's in his fight for desegregation. When that crucial quality is missing, non-violence is rendered toothless. In such circumstances, the options are either to continue a doomed struggle or to turn to means that might actually bring about positive change. It isn't much of a choice.

There is a certain hypocrisy involved in insisting otherwise. Proponents of non-violence might point to the
Jasmine Revolution, but how well has that worked in Libya? And what good moral authority when the governments of democracies such as the US and India cosy up to authoritarian regimes - including Myanmar's in New Delhi's case - when it suits their national interests? Certainly, violent struggle should not be the first answer. But neither can non-violence be the only one.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

OPPOSITE, APPOSITE

BACHI KARKARIA

 

At an alfresco table in London, I was at lunch with a friend I have known all my life and his friends whom I had just met. It was at Exmouth Market, crammed with trendy bistros and stalls offering everything from Thai to braised calf; the new couple's surname was Eatwell. But forgoing the obvious one-liner, I settled down to doing so myself.


The alchemy of good wine, conversation and food was just taking hold when we were startled by a surreal apparition. A majestic cortege loomed into view on the supposedly pedestrianised street. 'Granddad' was spelt out in flowers on its roof, but it might well have been 'Godfather'. Power oozed out of the expensive coffin and through the hearse's glass casing, tinted just enough to provide respectful privacy, yet ensure that the importance of the inmate wasn't veiled from public awe - and curiosity.


If there was any doubt that this wasn't just lovable old Gramps on his last journey, it was dispelled by the procession that followed. Stopped in mid sip, sentence and scallop, we watched the corps of bouquet-topped, and probably bullet-proof, black Mercedeses following it in the wheeled version of a slow march.


The motorcade seemed never ending, though, after we had got back our voice, our lunch and our life, my new friend David said that he counted 12 of these cars, adding "not usually part of the inventory of your standard funeral service provider".


The cars were parked, swallowing the lane. The mourners in designer black swung long legs out of the Mercedes's doors and walked away - we were told - to the church at the corner. We tried not to look at our altered view. It wasn't really the landscape of choice for a convivial lunch, but death stared us in the face. At least it was an impressive, expensive glower, the power of the line-up of black Mercs enhanced not softened by the exotic blooms carpeting their roof.


Then, the sleek mourners walked back, and the cars purred away, momentarily emptying the street before the living tide rolled in to reclaim it. It filled again with bankers striding past biting into the multiculti wraps from Exmouth Market's pavement stalls, schoolgirls sauntering in blazers and minis, toddlers atop the shoulders of their dads both sucking on lollipops, and sundry shoppers.


It was as if someone had un-paused the button, and the picture had begun to move again, with this big difference. Life hadn't merely been muted, or on hold, it had been obliterated while the Scorsese scene had overpowered the screen. Now, in the quotidian bustle, it was difficult to imagine the entirely different prospect that had appeared unbidden to our feast, and sat before us in a seeming eternity just a few moments ago.


Then, as though the inhale-exhale pranayam of life and death were not enough, a marriage was thrown in. It might have been a bit much if this narrow street had again turned into a church aisle, this time for a wedding, not a funeral. But we would have welcomed that rite of passage. A bride materialised - as unexpectedly as that unsettling hearse - but she didn't stop the street with her slow march, nor was she trailed by a white lace train as long as that line of mourner Mercs. Instead, like a nymph complete with floral wreath and gossamer dress, she appeared without ceremony, flashed wraith-like past our table, and disappeared.


It was a total contrast to the earlier scene, but, i guess of a piece with that Midsummer Day's dream.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

OUR TAKE

OUR FOOTHOLD IN GLOBAL TECH

 

The Indo-US civil nuclear deal was motivated by many reasons. Among many tangible gains, the most important one for India was the beginning of the end of the technology sanctions used to punish it for its nuclear outlier status. While the sanctions go back to India's refusal to sign the Nuclear Nonpr

oliferation Treaty, over the years they spread into thousands of technological sectors including software and pharmaceuticals. Because of the "dual use" nature of much technology, much of this badly affected India's civilian sectors.

With post-reform growth, this liability has become an absurdity — Tata Steel, for example, came to possess dual use technology when it bought Britain's Corus Steel and was banned from using its knowhow in India.

The nuclear deal broke the keystone in this arch of technological sanctions by getting the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), the high temple of technology controls, to exempt India. Bits and pieces of the remaining archway are now crumbling. Germany last week elevated India's access to sensitive technologies to the same level as other European Union members.

The US has also made India eligible for more technologies, though at a painfully slow rate. President Barack Obama last year committed to making India a member of the four main technology control agreements — the NSG, the Wassenaar Convention, the Australia Group and the Missile Technology Control Regime. The latest NSG discussions, in which the US has argued the case that India is not obligated to sign the NPT to join the NSG, are a sign Washington is working to fulfilling its policy promise.

It is another question as to whether New Delhi is doing enough to further its own cause. Countries making the case that India should not merely be exempted from the blasphemy laws of nonproliferation but also be made a member of the global nuclear synod need backup from India. New Delhi is still moving slowly on tightening its export control regimes — necessary to reassure countries that sensitive knowhow sent to India will not find its way into the hands of third countries.

New Delhi has half-heartedly begun engaging the support of industries like chemicals which are wary of the costs such regimes may mean. If India is to be a global manufacturer it needs to enter the high-technology realms where it can compete against China. This will be impossible if it does not seize the opportunity provided by the present international state of affairs. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh likes to speak of India becoming a "knowledge superpower". He needs to do more on the international front to make that happen.

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

SAI'S SECRET SERVICES

 

First it was Sai and the chamber of secrets, now a devotee Isaac Tigrett promises an even greater secret, that he is the living will of the pasha of Puttaparthi. This is a delicious turn of events for those of us who have watched with horrified fascination over the years as secrets upon secrets have

tumbled out of the forbidden palace of the Afro-avatar.

What could this secret be? we wonder. Was he actually a reincarnation of Jimi Hendrix? Did he leave all this cash, gold and silver lying around so that it could be dispensed to needy editorial writers after he shrugged off the mortal coil? Is he actually still alive and now moseying around in a tropical paradise? We await Tigrett's revelation with bated breath. The secrecy surrounding Sai Baba is of a piece with the controversial exit of many godmen. Take Osho, for example. We still don't know if he went off to the playboy mansion in the sky a happy man or if his exit was hastened by Medici-like mortal hands. We suggest that other godmen and women pre-empt the prospect of some shyster coming along and setting themselves as their representatives after they evolve into the next avatar. They must dispense with their assets while still breathing, indeed breathing very hard as Swami Ramdev does. This way the devotees won't be waiting to exhale.

Ramdev, when he is not breathing fire against corruption, must bequeath his yogic inhale-exhale technique, perhaps to Kapil Sibal. Amritanandamayi, the hugging amma, could give her trademark clinch to someone like LK Advani who could do with a bit of affection. Of course, if we had thought of it before, Maharishi Mahesh yogi could have left his levitation technique to Manmohan Singh to enable him to float above the fray at will. So, let us wait to see whether Tigrett will come up with something substantial. Or when the hour of reckoning comes, will he have the courage to Sai it like it is.

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

FANS IN THE STANDS, MAAN!

RAVI CHATURVEDI

 

The ongoing West Indies-India cricket series may not be watched by millions of television fans, but if you've been missing out on the fun, it's not the cricketers you should be following but the West Indian  spectators. The colour and the sheer sense of gaiety they add to the game is an experien

ce in itself.

Even with the numbers reduced, the  crowd is so much involved in the game that the fans unhesitatingly administer advice to players on the field. A fielder who has missed a catch is told: "Couldn't you catch a cold, maan?"

Spectators in the West Indies are usually clad in gaudy clothes — with many preferring to keep things as minimal as decency can allow. Every Test centre has a spectator who is the cynosure of everyone in the stands. They are in their own way interesting, exciting, enduring and endearing. And it's not only their fellowmen in the stands whom they regale. The players on the field play spectator to them too.

A regular feature at the Queen's Park Oval in Trinidad is a character by the name of Blue Food who's been there  for over 30 years. At the fall of every wicket or a boundary. he  blows his conch. Recently, a band in multi-coloured attire, Trini Possi, starts blowing their trumpets and banging their drums the moment something happens on the ground. It could be the fall of a wicket, a boundary or even the drinks interval.   

But one veteran who can be spotted in West Indian cricket stands is the outstandingly attired Redevers Dundonald Dyal aka King Dyal. This tall, lanky, old but active gentleman is the livewire of the Kensington Oval in Barbados. Living  nearby, he cycles every time to the venue wearing a different suit after each interval of the day. He always backs the visiting team, much to the annoyance of the local partisan crowd. He not only travels throughout the Caribbean with the national cricket team but has also been to Lord's in London as the guest of the visiting West Indies teams.

Of late, a schoolteacher-cum-comedian Mac 'The King' Fingall and his band in the stands at Kensington have added colour to Caribbean cricket. His arrival in the stands with his instruments and speakers is greeted with loud cheer. Despite so many new entrants, The King remains the undisputed master of the Kensington Oval.

For a number of years, the crowd at  Sabina Park, Kingston, were entertained by Lennie who mimicked the great West Indian players of the past and present. At the fall of a wicket or during intervals, he would enter the ground and entertain people by pretending to be Gary Sobers complete with the great all-rounder's swaggering walk to the wicket with his shirt collar upturned.  

Another character always found on  Recreation Ground in Antigua is Labon Kenneth Blackburn Llewellyn Bouchan Benjamin, who was named by his father to remember his 'colonial masters'. Nicknamed Gravy for his fondness for gravy in his food, he was a car mechanic who spent more than a decade in America, coming back to Antigua to play to the gallery at times dressed as a nurse, sometimes as Santa Claus, at other times as a boxer with giant-sized gloves.

So even at a time when cricket viewership is dismal in the Caribbean, these joyful fans in the stands make the West Indies brand of cricket very special.

Ravi Chaturvedi is a cricket commentator and author of India-West Indies Test Cricket

The views expressed by the author are personal

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

NO WINNERS IN THIS WAR

PREM SHANKAR JHA

 

After six months of solidarity, the civil society group led by Anna Hazare is showing cracks on the contents of the proposed Lokpal Bill. While Hazare has adhered to a hard line and threatened to go on another fast, other equally dedicated and respected representatives have taken a more moderate line accepting the need to keep the PM, the higher judiciary and the actions of MPs within the halls of Parliament and out of the lokpal's purview.

Opponents of reform have welcomed the split as proof that civil society is a bunch of self-important do-gooders with little support among the people. They couldn't be more wrong. Civil society is divided today not because it is weak but because a large segment of it is convinced that the government sincerely wants to restore integrity and accountability to the political system. Detailed descriptions by Salman Khurshid and Kapil Sibal of what the government has agreed to do have strengthened their belief that cooperation with the government will yield far surer results than confrontation. 

Today, it is more important than ever that this cooperation continue. But for it to yield fruit, the government will need to go the  extra mile to dispel the suspicions of civil society leaders that it is still bent upon diluting the Lokpal Bill till it is left with no real teeth. The two central issues that remain to be sorted out offer an excellent opportunity for both sides to demonstrate their sincerity. The first is the  inclusion of the PM and the higher judiciary. The second is the limitation of the lokpal's powers to the higher civil servants only.

In agreeing to allow the lokpal to oversee  the government has already gone as far as it can without endangering the stability of future governments. It's Hazare and his colleagues who are being unreasonable. The PM isn't just a representative of the people, but the head of the government  and, therefore, the single focus of  both power and authority within it. This power and authority must be exercised continuously for its continuity. That is the very essence of the State.

A PM under investigation, whose reputation is under attack and whose future is in doubt will be unable to exercise State power. The resulting  vacuum at the top cannot fail to endanger the country. So unlike an impugned MP or bureaucrat, the PM must immediately step down. So the power of the State cannot be exercised intermittently. It cannot be suspended, only transferred. In a democracy once a PM demits power, he can't get it back until the party re-elects him afresh. Even if the lokpal exonerates him after investigation, it will not have the power to restore him to office.

The government is also entirely right to insist that the judiciary should not be subject to investigation by the lokpal. No judge to whom the lokpal sends a case will feel entirely free from pressure if he fears that acquitting the defendant could earn him its animosity. This does not mean that the judges should be exempted from accountability. But that should be ensured under the Judicial Accountability and Standards Act that was tabled  last year. The lokpal should not be prevented from receiving complaints against the lower judiciary — where most of the corruption occurs — and passing it on to the authority concerned.

Yet another issue on which it is difficult to disagree with the government is the need to exempt the actions of MPs from the lokpal's purview. This should remain under the privileges committee of the appropriate chamber and, admittedly, that committee can only be as good  as its members. This means that buying votes of smaller parties, or securing defections through offers of cash, ministerships and other inducements may not come under the lokpal, but these sins need to be punished by the people who elected the offenders.

However, the government should give ground on  two  key issues.  First, the  immunity it is allegedly seeking  for officers of the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) should cover only actions they take in pursuit of their official duties. Second, the lokpal must have the right to investigate allegations not just against the higher civil service, but all central civil servants. This is because what the Indian public is seething about is not so much giant scams but the thousands of daily acts of extortion.

The government has rightly pointed out that the resulting case load could overwhelm the lokpal. But that is a problem for the lokpal to sort out. The government can't deny this right to the lokpal saying that it is for its own good.

Prem Shankar Jha is a Delhi-based political and economic commentator

The views expressed by the author are personal

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

STUCK WITH THE GOOD LIFE

SAMAR HALARNKAR

 

Bijapur in arid, poor north Karnataka is known chiefly for a remarkable piece of engineering, the Gol Gumbaz, one of the pre-modern world's most imposing domes. The Hagia Sophia in Istanbul and the Basilica of St Peter in Rome are larger, but the 17th century Gumbaz is unique for its ingenious constr uction: whisper into the wall of a special gallery, and a friend on the side can hear what you say merely by pressing her ear to the wall. Bijapur has seen no engineering innovation since.

When I was a boy growing up in the Deccan in the 1960s, Bijapur was known for its black magic (a dark art called bhanamati), black soil and an economic and social backwardness hard to rival elsewhere in India.

So, earlier this month, I was pleasantly surprised to meet Sufiya Gudgunti and Sweta Kulkarni of the Vachana Pitamaha Dr PG Halakatti College of Engineering and Technology, Bijapur. These slight, shy girls had entered JED-i (Joy of engineering, design and innovation), a competition for student engineers at India's premier research institute, the Indian Institute of Science (IISc).

It was heartwarming to meet Sufiya and Sweta, young women from conservative, middle-class families. Sufiya, daughter of a government field publicity officer, sported a hijab, and Sweta, daughter of a phone-company engineer, was accompanied by her family who sat near their stall. Both are good examples of new aspirations and fading barriers in the new, rising India.

As in cricket and the civil services, so too with engineering. Small-town talent fills the classrooms of about 3,500 engineering colleges and makes up increasing numbers of the million students who get a Bachelor of Engineering (BE) degree every year. Many of the bright-eyed students at JED-i were from obscure engineering colleges I had never heard off, from towns I knew from milestone and atlas.

But the blank spaces in this colourful picture should allay US President Barack Obama's frequent warnings about a great Indian technological takeover and explain why India has never produced a Facebook (or a clone, as China did with renren, which raised $740 million this month on the New York Stock Exchange).

Sufiya and Sweta's project focused on steganography, the science of hiding information or messages within things, in their case, pictures sent over email — the modern version of a party trick that dates back to the ancient Greeks. Like many other projects on display, it seemed, well, inadequate. Some displayed a silo mentality, such as building an ingenious prepaid-electricity system with obsolete capacitors and no computers (Explanation: "We are instrumentation engineers, you see"). Some student innovators were so focused on the algorithm that real-life applications escaped them, as with a door-sensing robot. Above all — with some honourable exceptions — I was struck by the low levels of innovation, similarly evident in April at IIT Delhi's annual display of student innovations. A bamboo cycle, a bamboo electric guitar and a clothes-drying machine are fun, but surely IIT students can do better.

Across Bangalore, home to the information technology industry that made India globally famous, I hear managers moan about the declining quality of apprentice engineers. Half of 80% of the million engineers graduating this year cannot start work without in-company remedial training. Some warn that this surrogate education system — still primarily focused on narrow, tedious assembly line-like work — is ill prepared to handle fast-changing technologies, at a time when a world facing another slowdown wants everything done quicker, faster and cheaper by leaner, meaner teams.

"The foundations are weak," acknowledges one of JED-i's organisers, former IISc professor and entrepreneur, Swami Manohar, who aims for higher standards next year. Becoming an IT engineer, he says, is the "obsession of a nation", with preparations beginning from the 8th standard. After eight years, the bulk of those successful aspire — pushed by family and friends — to a job that starts at about R6 lakh a year, more than their professors earn, at Infosys or Wipro, getting retrained and settling quickly into a life of domesticity and EMIs (equated monthly instalments) on a car, fridge and flat. Those who don't make the cut end up, Manohar points out, as inadequate teachers to a new generation of techies.

IT desk jobs attract the best talent, even naval and mechanical engineers who prefer its top-of-the-line pay and airconditioned environs to building ships, airports and highways. "I am stuck with the good life," said a bored 28-year-old engineer I spoke to at an IT company. "My family is happy, my company finds me reliable."

Being reliable has paid dividends to Indian IT, now a $70 billion industry. But providing masses of code jockeys — who, from all accounts, don't know their coding as they once did — for grunt work cannot be the future. It's not as if the IT brains trust is unaware of this; it's just that they find it difficult to move up the value chain; the effort and money they spend on retraining does not help. They, mostly, do not attempt the grand challenges, local and global, and will struggle with computing shifts. The move to cloud computing, for instance, will mean running smart, varying applications on remote data centres shared by many companies, instead of techies with cheat sheets slaving at in-house computers.

The few Indian companies recognised as innovative build real things, products that address emerging needs. They are run by young people who find joy in engineering — a quality JED-i hopes to encourage — think outside silos, recognise and nurture creativity and know that innovation is a constant process by groups of highly organised people, not individuals. Above all, they have learned to think beyond the good life.

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

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

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

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

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

THE GOOD TAX

 

The deadline for implementation of the goods and services tax is being pushed even further. The GST has been delayed because of slow progress in arriving at a consensus. But the fact that India has a federal structure should be its strength and not its weakness. Discussions in the empowered committee have continued for many years without yielding a consensus. Today there are few champions of the tax reform. The Central government must fill this gap by taking leadership. At the same time, it is important for the opposition to play a constructive role. The idea of the GST was mooted during the NDA government. The BJP should show some seriousness, especially since it has cited no principled opposition to it. In the current environment, when reforms have come to almost a halt, the GST would be a big step forward.

Once the GST is implemented, record-keeping, filing of tax forms and the corruption associated with the multiplicity of levies will be eliminated. The biggest benefit will be that of building India as a common market, where goods and services move freely across state boundaries. Finally, the GST will make possible the full elimination of customs duties. These features will raise productivity, reduce distortions and increase the rate of GDP growth. Most OECD countries have done away with the large number of small and distortionary taxes that we still continue to impose.

The first milestone that the finance ministry needs to target is a well-functioning "Central GST", which combines the CENVAT and the Central Service Tax into a single IT system on the lines of the Tax Information Network (TIN) which has worked so well for income tax. While it is foreseen that difficulties may arise with many state administrations trying to fight for turf in GST collection, the Central government must take the lead and push for an efficient administration. Each business should have to deal with a single administration and a single IT front end for the GST, rather than many tax administrations and many forms. The Centre must draw a roadmap for this. Further, the UPA must push states ruled by the Congress and its allies to back the GST. This will take the sting out of the opposition's resistance and avert the danger of having the GST delayed by years. Finally, with the current focus on black money, it would help to publicise the fact that the GST is an important element in the fight against tax evasion. It creates incentives to be part of the tax chain and get refunds.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

GIRL WITH THE LAPTOP

 

Stieg Larsson's posthumously published thrillers yielded a fortune, a worldwide passion for Scandinavian crime fiction as well as a rash of speculation. It was revived this week after his long-time companion, Eva Gabrielsson, published the English translation of a memoir of their relationship. Interest is focussed as much on her work as on the fate of his laptop, which is in her possession and is said to contain a draft of his fourth novel. Ever since the publication of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo three years ago, Larsson's intent and fate have hovered over the books. The fourth book (and reports have consistently spoken of the outlines of the fifth, sixth, perhaps even tenth books he may have left) captures all of that.

Larsson had created two of the most fascinating characters in crime fiction, the journalist Mikael Blomkvist and his unlikely fellow sleuth in tracking down right-wing extremism in contemporary Sweden, Lisbeth Salander, she of the photographic memory, superior hacking skills and dislike of human interaction. Following the surprise reception to his books in Sweden, and then around the world in translation, his literary estate came to be keenly contested: under Swedish law, his companion got nothing and all went to his brother and father. The manner of translation and sale of film rights too sparked off minor controversies over whether he may have wanted it done differently. The laptop, in which the reported fourth book resides, is with Gabrielsson. Should she be entitled to polish the manuscript? Even if, upon publication, it becomes the property of his estate? Is it really by him, a question asked even about the Millennium Trilogy? And, would it provide clues about whether he died a natural death in 2004, or was targeted by someone? Yet, one thing is uncontested: everybody likes a good sequel.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

                                                                                    EDITORIAL

EMPTY CHOICES

 

Whatever the final outcome, the Gopinath Munde-Congress courtship dance has been going on for weeks now, after Lok Sabha's deputy leader of the opposition made his disillusionment with his party clear. Munde expressed his hurt and humiliation at being sidelined in the BJP — a sense of belittlement he has carried around ever since his brother-in-law and powerful benefactor Pramod Mahajan died, and after his chief competitor Nitin Gadkari was elevated to party president. Earlier, Gadkari and Munde had struggled to enlarge their own imprint on the Maharashtra unit, and Munde had similarly threatened to quit back in 2008. However, the fact that Munde and the Congress could be even contemplating each other as potential options points to the drift and lack of real conviction in Maharashtra's politics.

The question of personal profit and loss dictates political allegiance, rather than any larger agenda. All four major parties are virtually indistinguishable in their governance agendas, and any public rivalry between them is understood to be a provisional matter, to be thrown over when a local election demands teamwork. The BJP keeps the MNS as a possible alternative to its current partner, the Shiv Sena; the Congress also covertly encourages it to undercut the Sena. The BJP has supported NCP candidates in local elections. Meanwhile, the Congress and NCP relationship is even more dysfunctional — the Congress has partnered with the Sena, the BJP and independents in certain local body elections, while the NCP has done the same to defeat the Congress.

In a situation of such flux and a vacuum of ideas, what remains is the pursuit of power — once an individual has acquired enough equity among the people and within the party, it becomes a tradable commodity. There is little sign of a larger, purposeful vision for Maharashtra — despite crises in employment, housing, and infrastructure, and out-of-control levels of sleaze and institutional corruption, its politics is stuck on identity squabbles. So even if Gopinath Munde has an array of options before him now, it's really nobody else's gain but his.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

SOMETHING'S CHANGING

C. RAJA MOHAN

 

As Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao heads to Islamabad for talks with her Pakistani counterpart, Salman Bashir, new realities on the ground might make her visit less dramatic but not necessarily unproductive.

This paradox is rooted in the fact India is not at the top of Pakistan's national mind right now. That alone should help ease some of the political burden that normally weighs down Indo-Pak talks at the foreign secretary level.

To be sure, there were moments last week when it seemed Rao's journey to Pakistan might be ambushed by familiar turbulence. The reported close encounter between the Indian and Pakistani naval vessels, INS Godavari and PNS Babur, could have easily become the incident to derail the accident-prone relationship.

Then there was that familiar hair-splitting over what exactly Rao and Bashir were going to talk about. There was the Pakistani foreign office saying terrorism was not on the agenda and the Indian side responding that the Mumbai attacks on 26/11 would indeed figure prominently in the talks.

In normal circumstances, this kind of argumentation could have rapidly escalated, thanks to the amplification by the TV news channels on both sides, and wrecked the prospect of any positive conversation between the foreign secretaries.

But the current situation in Pakistan is anything but normal. Delhi's political classes must recognise that Indo-Pak relations are now a side-show to the extraordinary dynamic that is unfolding on Pakistan's western frontiers and its impact on our neighbour's internal politics.

Despite his claims of being very "India-centric", the Pakistan army chief, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, has other fish to fry. Take a look at what Kayani is trying to handle since May 2, when the US Special Forces raided deep into Pakistan and killed Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad.

One, Kayani has had to answer questions from the rank and file in cantonments across Pakistan on the nature of the army's complicity and competence in the bin Laden affair. While the talk of a "colonels coup" might be overblown, there is no denying the disaffection in Pakistan's only credible institution — the army.

Two, Kayani has watched with some bitterness as the civilian government led by Asif Ali Zardari chose to remain a bystander amidst the unprecedented public criticism of the armed forces. Having given no say for the civilian leaders on the conduct of Pakistan's foreign policy, Kayani gets little protection now.

Three, the terrorist attack on the PNS Mehran, a naval base near Karachi, with apparent insider collaboration and the arrest of a serving army brigadier for connection with jihadi groups have underlined the widespread fears about extremist penetration of the Pakistani armed forces.

Four, despite the loud protestations of the army and the national assembly, Washington has persisted with drone attacks on Pakistan's western borderlands and is pressing Kayani to mount a ground offensive against militant sanctuaries in the tribal belt.

Five, as US President Barack Obama prepares for a major drawdown of US forces in Afghanistan, his administration has chosen a direct engagement with the Taliban rather than going through the intermediation of the Pakistan army.

Six, Pakistan's economy is in a bad shape, and Kayani's plans to mobilise a Chinese financial rescue have not succeeded, at least for now.

Given the scale of Kayani's problems, what should India's expectations from the peace process be? Very little to modest is one answer. Others would point to a potential "India option" for Kayani.

There are two ways in which Kayani can play out the India card. One is to raise military tensions with Delhi either to muddy waters or change the boundary conditions of the problems that he now confronts. Such a diversionary move might have its short-term uses, but it would not address the structural challenges confronting Kayani.

The other is a more hopeful scenario in which Kayani might want to move forward with India in order to improve his position at home and abroad.

While normalisation of relations with India might indeed

allow Pakistan greater wiggle room, Delhi has no reason to bet that Kayani is about to change the army's strategic perspective on India.

Dramatic policy reversals are not easy for nations even when they are led by competent and visionary leaders. Political and policy inertia tends to favour continued investment in status quo, even if its pursuit is harmful, and very visibly so as in Pakistan today.

All of Kayani's actions since May 2 have shown resistance to change rather than a recognition of the futility of past national security policies.

Delhi's realists rightly assume that Kayani's interest in engaging India is entirely tactical and that the Pakistan army can pull the plug on it at any time. India's pragmatists, however, must necessarily explore the opening for any incremental gains that might present themselves.

As they review this round of talks, Rao and Bashir will find the landscape not entirely hopeless. While there were no breakthroughs on the big issues like the Siachen and Sir Creek disputes, there have been some positive ideas on boosting bilateral trade and easing the visa regime.

Rao and Bashir have the mandate of their own to improve the implementation of confidence-building measures related to Kashmir and consider new ones. They can also review and refine the nuclear and military CBMs.

As Pakistan passes through a difficult moment in its national life, India's emphasis must be three-fold. One, India must avoid making itself a needless target to the ideological and institutional opponents in Pakistan to the normalisation of bilateral relations.

Two, Delhi must continue to engage Pakistan without any expectation that a divided and distracted establishment across the border will satisfy India's core concerns.

Three, India must demonstrate the strategic patience to await structural changes on Pakistan's western frontiers, the political will to support positive internal transformation of Pakistan, and the negotiating skill to take small steps forward.

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

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

TEACHING THE GENERATIONS

YOGINDER K. ALAGH

 

Being asked to write on Suresh Tendulkar means that the memories of four tumultuous decades crowd in. They are memories of a genuine teacher, a very careful researcher and an obstinately independent western Indian in Delhi. I always thought of him as a very competent and highly trained economist — but also as an obstinately autonomous Maratha in unfamiliar surroundings.

In the 1970s, while examining critiques of the draft Fifth Five-Year Plan for the Economic and Political Weekly, I argued that T.N. Krishnan from Trivandrum had demolished its logical structure by calculating that its numerical claims to bringing about self-reliance were obtained by assuming that imports would go down — and not from changing the consumption pattern in favour of the poor, which was the planners' argument. Suresh, on the other hand, had shown that the Plan did not fit the past behaviour of consumption and imports, and my initial reaction was that planning changes the past.

But, on introspection, we were to understand that he was genuinely concerned about consumption — as people were starving in this country — and he also had a yen for markets and employment. So, when in my first stint in the Planning Commission, I was asked to head a task force to define the country's poverty line, he was our choice as a member. His guidance there to young econometricians was what we came to know later as vintage Tendulkar. The behaviour of the poor and the rich on consumption and calories separately for rural and urban India was being modelled, with data-sets for over 20 years. No data-set was too large; no detail was too small. The grandeur of the objective was all-consuming.

His intolerance for what he thought as inessential and his absolute opposition to any compromise came through in day-to-day work. He was just not interested in the great academic controversy of the period — between Sukhatme and Dandekar, over the definition of the "calorie line". He would not compromise an inch, however, on the prices the poor paid for their food. Since the information on that at the state level left much to be desired, I went along with him and said more work was necessary to develop state-level numbers — much to the chagrin of the officials involved.

In the 1980s and 1990s, Tendulkar cast his net far and wide. He was the great critic of planning, the protagonist of the market. He kept on plugging away at the Delhi School of Economics and generations of students venerated him. He was the first stop for visiting economists and global advisers. He was to publish extensively and prolifically, both in the academic literature and in consulting assignments with every possible global institution. Poverty, employment, decentralisation and economic policy were all in his repertoire, and he conducted them all with equal facility and competence.

This decade was his most influential for policy, and the years towards the end were those of the Tendulkar poverty committee. I interacted with him only twice recently: once was during the jubilee of the National Sample Survey Organisation, of which he was the chairman and I was invited to give a keynote or inaugural lecture. Suresh went hammer and tongs at officials and government agencies who don't respect the autonomy of facts, or of institutions; I, somewhat sheepishly, tried to calm the troubled waters afterwards.

The last time was at Hyderabad. Dilip Nachane of the Bombay School of Economics was being felicitated, and we were both there to honour him as a teacher. He told me at the time that a piece I had written on "getting along with the Tendulkar committee" was perceptive; I kidded him that he did not bury the earlier work we had done in the 1970s, because he was also its creator. He just smiled. But he spent two days in that meeting commenting on the papers young economists, students of Nachane, had written with the same seriousness I suspect he took to the prime minister's economic advisory council. I know one of them remembers what he said well — for he is my son.

The writer, a former Union minister, is chairman, Institute of Rural Management, Anand, express@expressindia.com

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

WHAT SUBBARAO REALLY WANTED TO SAY

SURJIT S BHALLA

 

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

Central Bank governors are known to be 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 the RBI are dedicated to delivering 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 armchair 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 the CPI or the GDP deflator to measure inflation, you persist in following the RBI folly of using the WPI. Why do you do so? My explanation is that you are trying to help your clients a bit too much, that is, 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 per cent. 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 per cent 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 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 Adviser, GOI : You are a very welcome addition to the policy-making body in India. Your fame precedes you, and your record as a micro-economist is at least first among equals. It is also hugely welcome that you are now espousing more "market"-oriented policies than before, for example, 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 macro-economics. 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 Advisers : Sir, you are an institution in India, and a pioneer in policy-making 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 what 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 : The RBI regulates the bank deposit savings rate in India (recently raised to 4 per cent after 19 years at 3.5 per cent). 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 the 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 writer is chairman of Oxus Investments, an emerging market advisory and fund management firm

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

BOLLYWOOD'S SUMMER VACATION

SHAILAJA BAJPAI

 

If you must choose between watching Akshay Kumar, Ajay Devgn, Hrithik Roshan, Simi Garewal or Shatrughan Sinha in a TV show, which one would you pick? Simple: if it's sheer muscle you want, go for Akshay K (Khatron Ke Khiladi); if it's Emotional Atyachar with muscles, opt for Ajay Devgn (Emotional Atyachar); if it's emotional atyachar, period, vote for Simi Garewal (India's Most Desirable); if you want to Just Dance (Star Plus), you would never have chosen Shatrughan Sinha even at his most flexible and desirable. No, you would simply hold out your arms and ask Hrithik Roshan: shall we dance? But if you want a little old-fashioned charm waltzing with a little intelligence and plenty of ooh-la-la oomph, you would have paused the remote control at Mahuaa TV where Shotgun was shooting questions at his daughter, actress Sonakshi Sinha.

It was delightful to see the craggy face and crabby father with his lively, attractive daughter trying to answer questions like, "Where is Tahrir Square?" on the Bhojpuri version of Kaun Banega Crorepati — apparently Ke Bani Crorepati. It was even better that you could enjoy their byplay while understanding only every fifth word — and we mean no disrespect. Take it as a compliment to Sinha Sr and Sinha Jr and to the format of a programme that crosses all boundaries.

From boundaries to "boundations". This "word" was invented on Emotional Atyachar (Bindass) where people erect, cross, break "boundations". Welcome to a new season of sex, lies and dhokha. And "boundations". The word frequently informed Ayush's conversation as he accused best friend Himanshu of romancing his girlfriend, Neha, whom he suspected of disloyalty. Of course, the show requires his suspicions to have some "boundations", so of course she is caught on camera romancing not only Himanshu but her "brother" Suraj too. Whereupon her real brother, Ansh, finds Ayush's reactions aggravating enough to sock him a few and all hell breaks loose. Ajay Devgn, watching the proceedings throughout, steps in to restore order. "Aapko kaisa lag raha hai?" he asks, and we kid you not. Fast and furious is what follows, the breaking of boundaries or should that be boundations? Who knows? Not Neha: "I want to live my own life" she proclaims to anyone who is listening. Not Devgn. What is he doing on the show? Ask him.

Unfortunately, missed Roshan dancing. Will report later on the TV debut of India's most wanted two-stepper. But we did catch Simi Garewal driving up in her car with a huge emerald (notebook jottings forgot to mention where) and a number plate reading "Simi Selects". Predictably dressed in white — no saree — the female talk mostess who certainly inspired Karan Johar to talk more than her on the air, had selected Deepika as India's second Most Desirable, following Ranbir Kapoor. Perhaps the presumption is that since they had once found each other desirable, India would too.

Deepika looked fabulous. But Simi was looking elsewhere: she was asking searching questions about Ranbir K before and after: "Are you in a happy phase now? Do you look at it negatively?" And on and on about Deepika's Ranbir tattoo, which we couldn't see: what does it stand for? Is it a permanent reminder (of him)? Next, she wanted the lowdown on India's third most desirable, Siddhartha Mallya, a forthcoming guest on the show and Deepika's reported friend with benefits. To every question, Deepika looked most puzzled or blank — I don't know, she would reply firmly and that, ladies and gentlemen, was that. Or, he's an "amazing" person. When Simi probed her character — "What kind of person are you? — she finally relented and admitted she was a "gentle tigress" who used Neutrogena to keep her skin glowing. How about that for a free promo? Since the interview had left us unsatisfied, hungry for more, Simi persuaded Deepika to make cookies for us.

By Simi's old standards, the show was below par. She used to sweet-talk her guests into admissions about themselves and others. Now, she's trying the direct approach and it's not working.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

ABANDONING BHABHA

MANOJCG

 

Abandoning Bhabha

The RSS believes the UPA government has sabotaged India's thorium energy quest. A front-page article in Organiser claims the UPA has, over the past four years, quietly sought to abandon it for a massive programme of purchasing foreign reactors. Each time an effort is made to recover sufficient uranium for the nuclear industry, it argues, a slew of NGOs emerge to block the mining; and though the government must know many of these are funded by interests hostile to the indigenous nuclear industry,"yet, clearly under pressure from 10 Janpath, it has succumbed to blackmail and refused to mine uranium, especially in Meghalaya." The result is that, according to the article, reactors have long been forced to operate at below 70 per cent of capacity. It argues that since 2001, the establishment has slowed down the reprocessing programme, "the result being that vast pools of irradiated natural uranium have built up which are a safety hazard and which — once processed — can serve as feedstock for a nuclear energy programme." Post-Fukushima design changes to increase proliferation resistance, safety and security "actually amounts to a paradigm shift for the DEA in that it represents the first concerted move away from Homi Jehangir Bhabha's brilliant three stage programme for thorium utilisation ," which, it argues, is to stealthily satisfy externally imposed non-proliferation goals.

Maligning Baba

The Organiser's editorial in accuses the government of unleashing investigative agencies to malign yoga guru Ramdev. "As in the case of Mulayam Singh Yadav, Mayawati and Lalu Prasad Yadav, the government has set the Enforcement Directorate on Baba to unearth something that will malign him. The UPA has been using the CBI and ED to settle political scores. Did the government know that there were wrongdoings going on with Baba Ramdev's ayurveda mission? If yes, then why did it keep quiet and worse, woo him? If not, then one has to question the timing of the ED inquiry. The media is being fed with stories of hundreds of acres of land gifted or sold below market rate to Baba. All the land and his ayurvedic set up cannot match the land and assets amassed and ruled over by the Gandhi family all over the country," it says.

The editorial refers to Congress General Secretary Digvijaya Singh's remarks about Ramdev's lieutantant Acharya Balkishan's Nepali origin. "While berating Balkishan for being a foreigner because he is allegedly from Nepal, the

Congress general secretary Digvijaya Singh forgot that his supremo is an Italian," it says.

'Sonia's cronies'

An article in Organiser refers to Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee's remarks about people "dictating from outside" as to what Parliament ought to do. It wonders: how can a few thousand people dictate to the legislature? "Even in his most intemperate remarks, Congress general secretary Digvijaya Singh did not mention any armed movement at Jantar Mantar and Ramlila Maidan. They were all peace-loving people who wanted to goad the Centre to act against graft. One may agree or disagree with their demands; the views expressed by Hazare, Ramdev and others may be seen as impractical and sentimental. But by no stretch of imagination can the protestors be accused of dictating (to) or coercing Parliament," the article argues.

Further, it claims that those supporting Hazare and Ramdev are from all walks of life and they are not pushing any agenda. "The NAC, on the other hand, is a body comprising mostly Leftists who are eager to sneak their discredited ideology back into the polity and economy. They represent the most quixotic NGOs and champion the most retrograde causes. And they have a most pronounced bias against industry, development, commonsense, reason, the BJP and the RSS. Which is not surprising, for the NAC is headed by Congress president Sonia Gandhi," it says. "They have not been elected, or even selected by some sort of collegium. They have been chosen by She-who-must-be-obeyed... The Hazares and the Ramdevs may not have been elected, but they surely have wide support of the people. The NAC, however, is nothing but a coterie of Sonia Gandhi's cronies," it says.

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

SPEAK OUT, HILLARY

 

It would have been thrilling, of course, if Hillary Clinton had channelled Aaron Sorkin and smacked around the barbaric Saudi men who force women to huddle under a suffocating black tarp.

As Allison Janney's C.J. Cregg once fumed on The West Wing about Saudi Arabia: "This is a country where women aren't allowed to drive a car. They're not allowed to be in the company of any man other than a close relative. They're required to adhere to a dress code that would make a Maryknoll nun look like Malibu Barbie. They beheaded 121 people last year for robbery, rape and drug trafficking. They have no free press, no elected government, no political parties. And the royal family allows the religious police to travel in groups of six carrying nightsticks, and they freely and publicly beat women. But 'Brutus is an honourable man.' Seventeen schoolgirls were forced to burn alive because they weren't wearing the proper clothing. ... Saudi Arabia, our partners in peace."

It would have been thrilling if Hillary 2011 had simply channelled Hillary 1995, when, as first lady, she declared in Beijing that "women's rights are human rights." In her memoir, Hillary wrote that, despite pressure against it, she was determined to give that speech because she was fed up with "the crucial concerns of women" getting sacrificed "to diplomatic, military and trade issues."

So it was startling on Monday when Saudi women activists, struggling to bring the Arab Spring to the medieval House of Saud by urging women to drive, chided Hillary for her silence. Clinton's office responded that the secretary had used "quiet diplomacy" — raising the issue, and more pressing ones, in a call with the Saudi foreign minister on the Day of Driving Dangerously.

By Tuesday, the secretary of state — who has worked hard for women under the radar and whose legacy will be shaped by her support of women's rights around the world — realised that she needed to be a bit louder. "What these women are doing is brave and what they are seeking is right, but the effort belongs to them," she told reporters, adding that she wanted to "underscore and emphasise that this is not about the United States. It's not about what any of us on the outside say," but about "the women themselves."

One Saudi liberal told me that Hillary should sing out: "Hillary should be more forthcoming and forget about oil. She should also focus on the plight of maids in Saudi Arabia. An Indonesian maid here was beheaded two days ago for killing her employer. Many workers are on death row and don't get a fair trial."

Clinton is a diplomat now. She knows it's tricky to push Bedouins, who get stubborn and dig in their heels. Saudis prefer concessions to be seen as gifts. Still, because the Saudis are our drug dealers on oil, America has never fought hard enough for oppressed women in the authoritarian kingdom. "We have bigger fish to fry," a top foreign policy official told me this week.

The Saudis are disgusted with President Obama for what they see as his abandonment of Hosni Mubarak, dithering on a Palestinian state and being "unduly beholden to Israel," as Prince Turki al-Faisal, the former Saudi ambassador to the US, wrote in a recent Washington Post op-ed piece. The prince said that Saudi Arabia and other Arab states would help Palestinians bypass the US and Israel and seek statehood at the UN.

The Arab News reported that the Saudi Women for Driving Internet campaign was "deemed a failure, as hardly any women drove that day," only about 40, and most did not continue after Friday.

Saudi fans of the 87-year-old King Abdullah, who started the first co-ed university in the kingdom, are upset and surprised that he hasn't already allowed women to drive. They blame it on the resistance of the ultraconservative Prince Nayef bin Abdel Aziz, the interior minister who is believed to be responsible for jailing the first driver, Manal al-Sharif, for nine days. Nayef is said to be arguing with the more progressive king for additional time to prepare for female drivers.

Given the king's declining health and the illness of his half-brother, the Crown Prince Sultan, the chance to give women any rights may be running out. Nayef, who has long been in charge of the roaming odious religious police who let those schoolgirls die in the fire in Mecca because they didn't have their headscarves on, is a contender to replace the crown prince.

The juxtaposition of images said it all. A smiling Michelle Obama and her daughters meeting with Nelson Mandela was a vivid reminder of how far South Africa has come since it ended race apartheid under pressure. The small courageous spurt of ladies in black driving was a vivid reminder that Saudi Arabia, under little pressure, is still locked in gender apartheid. MAUREEN DOWD

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

LET GST ROLL OUT IN 2012

In the shrill black money debate, how does one square up the enthusiasm of parties screaming for disclosure with the equal zeal to resist the introduction of the goods and services tax (GST)? This tax is the most powerful weapon we can unleash to make black money visible in the economy, especially in the real estate sector. The introduction of the tax is scheduled for April 1, 2012, a deadline agreed upon in principle by all states with the Centre. But with the states run by the BJP and its allies pulling away from the rest, the prospect is very dim now. On Tuesday, as FE reported, several of these states repeated their misgivings on the switchover to a new tax system for indirect tax. Yet a loss of momentum to introduce the most important tax reform for India will be very costly for the economy, and not just to track black money. The GST, once introduced, would spur labour-intensive manufacturing, even export-oriented ones, particularly in the poorer regions of India. This is because the tax would eliminate all others, leaving no reason for companies to produce where costs are high, like near cities or densely industrialised areas. Instead, they would pick areas with surplus labour, essentially our poorer states. The other major benefit from the tax would be making our exports competitive as there will be full tax refund for imports, instead of instruments like duty drawbacks. Cavilling at this opportunity for the sake of political battles would create substantive losses. The tax plan seeks to replace the array of central and state level taxes on goods and services with two common rates for all goods (one for the states and one for the Centre), and similarly for services. So, after the changes are introduced, there would be a pan-Indian rate of tax on production. The only additional tax would be on property at the sub-national level and income tax at the national level.

A study done by National Council for Applied Economic Research has quantified the benefits of GST. It has estimated that India could immediately add $0.5 trillion to its GDP of about $2 trillion that it will log in 2011-12. These are massive changes. It is, in fact, fair to say that the current UPA government can consider itself largely successful if it can just carry this piece of reform through the legislature. One of the best ways to achieve this is to offer, as Vijay Kelkar has suggested, a grand bargain to the states. This could be an offer to let them tax all services instead of the Centre, in exchange for letting go of all other discretionary taxes.

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

IRDA ON IPOS

After about a two-year wait, the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (Irda) has issued draft guidelines on initial public offering for life insurance companies. The development is welcome. To some extent, the wait was necessary as the global financial market and especially the insurance sector was in turmoil, and there was a reason for Indian industry to absorb some lessons. Perhaps the regulator was also influenced to delay the guidelines in anticipation of the government bill to raise the limit of FDI in the sector from the current 26%. The legislation would certainly have given more clarity on the prospects of the sector. While the biggest point of discussion will be about the number of years the regulator has mandated (10, instead of five), maybe a certain degree of circumspection was inevitable. Surprisingly, it seems that the government and the regulator are not on the same page on this. In April 2010, the finance ministry had informed Parliament it was in talks with Irda to reduce the eligibility criteria to five years. That has not happened and as most of the insurance companies are of 4-7 years vintage, the pressure to reduce the number of years will persist. The rest of the rules laid down are pretty much par for the course, like those involving solvency margins and disclosure requirements.

The surprise in the pack is the Irda bid to almost modify the Sebi (Issue of Capital and Disclosure Requirements) Regulations 2009. This particular Sebi regulation is meant to address all reasonable, possible, investor information needs about a company. But Irda thinks that is not enough and proceeds to append a set of chapters where companies will have to write about issues like what the government plans are on FDI in the sector and a report on the global insurance industry. It remains to be seen on what basis a company can make such forward-looking statements in a prospectus. Despite all this overload, the regulator makes it clear that it should not be held responsible as having endorsed the issue.

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

GETTING INDIA TO 10% GROWTH
NIRVIKAR SINGH

The 10% growth target for India has had a magical allure. It is hard to say if anyone first held it out publicly as something to strive for realistically, but I do remember Vijay Kelkar as being an early believer. The current Prime Minister has also mentioned this target several times. Yet that double-digit growth rate has remained stubbornly out of reach as a short-term forecast of actual growth. Indeed, it seems that when the Indian economy nears 10% growth, inflation rears its ugly head, and fears of overheating spread. A few years ago, estimates of India's medium-term potential growth rate tended to be in the 8-9% range. This may be about to change.

The latest OECD economic survey of India, its second ever, and coming four years after its first, offers this optimistic prospect, "the annual potential growth rate of the economy could rise to 10% in the next five years, and that this pace could be maintained for the remainder of the decade." What assumptions underlie this conclusion? There are a number, including the rate at which households increase their savings rates, greater government saving through fiscal consolidation, channelling of these savings to increased investment, and continued growth of total factor productivity (roughly, a measure of the gains from innovation rather than input accumulation) of 1.9% per year—its recent trend.

Much of this forecast is driven by India's favourable demographics over the next two decades. The young people entering the labour force may provide a boost to India's growth potential. Of course, these young people will be expecting the fruits of growth, perhaps much more than their predecessors of a generation ago. The OECD projection also assumes that the contribution of labour to growth will increase substantially, due to rising education levels and shifts of workers out of agriculture. This assumption reminds us of two huge challenges faced by India. One is the need to expand its education system, both in access and quality. The other is to create jobs for those who acquire more education.

The government is not capable of doing either of these on its own, because it lacks the needed financial resources and incentive mechanisms, but it can certainly improve the environment for private sector provision of education and creation of jobs. It is starting from a poor base. According to the OECD survey, "Human capital in India is still low relative to a number of North-East Asian economies when incomes there were similar to those in India in 2010." The comparison with South-East Asia is somewhat more encouraging, but it remains to be seen if the government can truly liberate the education sector. On the jobs front, the survey blames "intrusive product and labour market regulations" for holding back growth, and notes the lack of sufficient competition in industry, as well as India's continued poor ranking among countries according to the World Bank's Ease of Doing Business Index.

As one would expect, the survey also touches on infrastructure, land acquisition, inefficient subsidies, tax reform and financial sector reform. An unsurprising thread that runs through several of these areas, as well as education provision and the business environment, is the need to improve governance. What is important to understand is that improving governance goes well beyond the current focus on reducing corruption. While corruption is abhorrent, it may not be the worst obstacle to India's development. Bad or poorly designed laws honestly applied can, in some ways, do more harm than corruption.

Despite the long list of reforms on the table, it is likely that not all of them are needed to achieve 10% growth for a few years. This is because of India's favourable demographic trends. But this is no reason for complacency. India's per capita income is only a third of China's. And China has not yet guaranteed that it will avoid getting stuck in a middle income trap, as has happened to some developing countries. Even 20 years of 10% growth will not get India to where South Korea is now. So perhaps we should stop thinking of the lowest double-digit number as an achievement to be prized. Instead, it could be transformed into a new baseline for Indian growth. If this seems far-fetched, recall that such growth rates were once considered miraculous for any country. And for India, getting beyond 6% growth was once remarkable.

In earlier columns, I have emphasised the importance of dealing with problems like malnutrition, of making growth inclusive, and of the intrinsic benefits of development. In debates about the role of growth targets in economic policymaking, I acknowledged, like some other economists, that these and other factors matter. But I also noted, like a different set of economists, that high economic growth is not to be dismissed lightly. Actually, 10% is not bad.

The author is professor of economics, University of California, Santa Cruz

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

INTELLECTUALLY, HE WAS UNFORGIVING
TCA ANANT

I first met Professor Suresh Tendulkar when I was a student at the Delhi School of Economics (DSE). He had also joined around the same time as a teacher at DSE. I have two vivid memories of him as a teacher. First, he would use the blackboard in a particular manner. He would start from one end of the board and write till the end of it. The board was so perfectly organised that I now wonder if we had cameras in those days, could we capture the entire blackboard?

Second, if one became a little inattentive in the class, as we used to become as students in those days, then one could miss a lot. We would presume we could learn later, from the course material. But many a time, it would so happen that he would teach some work of his that had not yet been published, and couldn't be found anywhere in the notes. What he taught in class was outstanding.

He was also a prolific researcher. All of us learnt from him something that we could have never learnt by just reading the course study material.

My second experience with Suresh was when I joined DSE as a junior teacher. Suresh and I together taught the course for industry. He was an extremely conscientious colleague. He would honour his commitments to the letter. And if you needed any help, he would offer it without any hesitation.

Another quality he possessed was his level of organisation. I remember once asking him something, to which he responded after checking his diary. He would maintain a diary in which he would append clippings from newspapers, other sources and anything he found interesting. He could remember something he read and noted years ago. His diaries would still be an enormous source of knowledge.

Despite being the chairman of the Prime Minister's Economic Advisory Council and holding high positions in the government, he remained an extremely simple man. There was no sign of arrogance. I would call him a person who was firmly interested in the issues of the mind. He was a complete and honest intellectual. He would not pay much attention to the ordinary luxuries of life. In that manner, he was an extraordinarily simple and humble person.

He made a big contribution to a range of subjects, from conceptual issues in planning to problems of employment and industry, among others. His contribution in each of these areas is unique. All his research has been and will remain a good reference point for future economists and academicians.

In Suresh, the nation also had a commendable policy economist. He chaired the expert group appointed by the Plan Panel to estimate levels of poverty in India, was part of the first Disinvestment Commission (1996-99) and the Fifth Pay Commission (1994-97). He was also on the NSSO governing council and the first chairman of the National Statistical Commission. Suresh played a major role in the way the statistical commission has come about.

In all of these areas, his contribution has been of immense value. If I were to view Suresh's role as a policy economist, he played a major role in shaping Indian economy in the post-liberalisation era. It was not that he was a complete market liberalisation economist; his work on poverty reduction and redistribution has been of equal importance.

Poverty estimation is another area with which Suresh has been associated for a very long time. Principally, the challenge with poverty estimation is the use of National Sample Survey data to estimate how many people are poor on the basis of normative criteria. This has been an extensive area of research, going back to our freedom struggle. Suresh was grappling with the existing formulations of poverty estimation based on a certain calorific form. But, over time, as the consumption and food basket changed, Suresh's challenge was to capture this evolving consumption pattern. The contribution of Suresh and the Planning Commission committee was to devise a method that would capture data while it still remained comparable. This is where he made a pioneering contribution.

Principally, Suresh was very careful about the use of statistics. I remember in one seminar Suresh was being extremely harsh on a well-known economist who, while presenting a paper, conjured up different sets of data to prove a point. When Suresh came to know about such an inconsistent use of data, his criticism was scathing. Intellectually, he was unforgiving.

Personally, he was a very private person, having a close family. Suresh was not one into mixing with people. I knew his family but I didn't know him personally that well. He was never into ostentation. Both to me personally and to a large community of economists, he will be greatly missed. He was always available for help, opinions and brainstorming. This is a big loss to the nation.

(As told to Sunny Verma)

The author is the chief statistician of India

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

PREDICTING THE MONSOON

How will the monsoon turn out? Not as well as previously thought appeared to be the answer when the India Meteorological Department (IMD) issued its updated seasonal forecast on Tuesday. Nevertheless, the data in the IMD's press release indicate that the most likely outcome is a 'normal' monsoon, but one where nationwide rainfall during the season occurs at the lower end of the spectrum. Atmospheric scientists define a normal monsoon as one where the rain the country receives is between 90 per cent and 110 per cent of the long-period average. Rainfall data for over a century show that there is a 70 per cent chance that a monsoon will fall in this category. In the IMD's latest forecast based on a statistical model, the probability for that sort of normal monsoon works out to 80 per cent. So, although the probability for such an outcome has come down from the 93 per cent given in the forecast issued in April, the odds still favour another normal monsoon this year. However, the normal in the scientists' parlance is sub-divided into three in the IMD's classification: below normal (from 90 per cent to 96 per cent of the long-period average); normal (from 96 per cent to 104 per cent); and above normal (from 104 per cent to 110 per cent). The chances of a 'below normal' monsoon have gone up from 30 per cent in the April forecast to 37 per cent in the latest prediction. The odds of a normal monsoon as defined by the IMD have fallen from 53 per cent to 37 per cent.

The possibility of a deficient monsoon — where rainfall is less than 90 per cent of the long-period average — has risen from 6 per cent in the April forecast to 19 per cent. Records of past years, however, show that a monsoon has an 18 per cent chance of falling in this category. There is, therefore, no significantly increased risk of this monsoon turning deficient. Nor are there warning signs from groups that use powerful dynamical models to simulate what happens in the oceans and the atmosphere that the current rainy season will fare badly. Although the La Nina, the cooling of the equatorial waters of the Pacific Ocean that aided last year's monsoon, has subsided, forecasters put a low probability on a warming that would lead to an El Nino, which could be detrimental to the monsoon. Unfavourable conditions in the Indian Ocean too have not been forecast. However, it is not enough for the monsoon to turn out to be normal; the distribution of rainfall too matters. The IMD's latest prediction indicates that rainfall in both July and August, which are important for agriculture, could be below par. Prolonged spells of little or no rain in those months would affect crops badly. Let us hope there won't be such breaks in the monsoon.

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

PARROTS OR CROWS?

The impressive cognitive capability of parrots and corvids (crows, jays, ravens, and jackdaws) has been extensively documented in scientific literature. These two have a large brain relative to body size. Apparently, this is true of all mammals that exhibit greater cognitive development. In the case of crows, which generally rank very low in human esteem, the relative size of the brain is the same as that of chimpanzees. But the size of the brain alone does not translate to higher cognitive capability. A study of all cognitively advanced animals, including some species of corvids and parrots, shows that they share a unique characteristic — a larger forebrain. The cerebrum that is associated with higher brain function such as memory, thought, and action is located in the forebrain. It is therefore not surprising that these birds — which have forebrains that are relatively the same size as that of apes — often demonstrate ape-like intelligence.

With the higher level of intelligence established, scientists have tried to compare the levels of cognition of parrots and corvids. Unfortunately, most of the experiments have used single tasks (either tool use or non-tool use) to arrive at a conclusion. Such an approach is not ideal as the tests tend to favour the natural ability of one species, and hence will not necessarily shed light on problem-solving capabilities. A paper published recently in the PLoS One journal ("Flexibility in problem solving and tool use of kea and New Caledonian crows in a multi access box paradigm" by Alice M. I. Auersperg et al.) assessed the problem-solving skills of six kea parrots and five New Caledonian crows by using a combination of four tests, two of which involved tool-use. Overall, the kea performed much better than the crows. While none of the crows employed more than one solution, the kea parrots were quicker in discovering multiple solutions. While the naturally stick-tool using crows scored over their competitors, they were slower than the parrots in the second tool-use test involving a ball. The kea is not known to use sticks in the wild and this may be due to its beak curvature. Yet one managed to insert a stick into the opening by employing a sophisticated technique. That the study brought out the innate characteristics — the neophobia of the crows, which hampered their performance, and the neophilia of the parrots, which allowed them to act even on novel objects — highlights the compelling need to use a combination of tests to compare relative cognitive capabilities and development.

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THE HINDU

LEADER PAGE ARTICLES

KASHMIR STEP BY STEP: THE NEXT ROUND OF TALKS

INDIA NEEDS TO UNDERSTAND THAT THE ABSENCE OF VIOLENCE IN THE KASHMIR VALLEY IS NOT PEACE, AND THAT DEVELOPMENT AND DIGNITY FOR ALL KASHMIRIS GO HAND IN HAND. PAKISTAN MUST RECOGNISE THAT VIOLENCE WILL NEVER BRING PEACE FOR KASHMIRIS, AND WILL IMPERIL ALL PAKISTANIS.

SUHASINI HAIDAR

On the face of it, this summer in India-Pakistan engagement has been defined by the discovery of Osama bin Laden, the revelations of David Headley and Tahawwur Rana, and the intense turmoil inside Pakistan that has unleashed another round of deadly attacks there.

Even so, as the Foreign Secretaries prepare for their next engagement in Islamabad at the end of June, it isn't these events but three significant processes that will define their immediate agenda, particularly on Kashmir.

The first is the successful conduct of panchayat elections in Jammu and Kashmir that were completed on June 18. Despite some violence in the initial phases, even the killing of a woman candidate by gunmen in Budgam, the voter turnout was between 70-80 per cent. Chief Minister Omar Abdullah called it a "smooth ride" beyond his expectations, marking the first such election in 33 years not overrun by militant attacks, or "interference" from across the Line of Control (LoC).

In Pakistan's Kashmir (PoK) too, this weekend (June 26) will see Assembly elections and the selection of the next Prime Minister of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (Pakistan's name for it). What has marked these elections from the previous ones is the intense involvement of national parties like the PPP and the PML (Nawaz), with senior leaders as part of the campaign, as well as the participation of the Sindh-based MQM, which for the first time is contesting each of the 41 seats.

While elections on both sides of the LoC are strengthening the processes on the ground, it is the talks between India and Pakistan that have been building bilateral engagement, with all three processes in significant, albeit coincidental, tandem. Since April this year, the Home, Commerce and Defence Secretaries have all met to discuss issues like Sir Creek and the Tulbul navigation project. As the Foreign Secretaries prepare to review the progress, they will have some cause for satisfaction. While no movement may have been made on Siachen, the blueprint for visa liberalisation, and one of their most expansive economic agreements ever, with Pakistan committing itself in print to granting India MFN status, are welcome. The two sides have agreed to move from the current "positive list" of items for trade to a "negative list," as well as new investments in the fields of energy and fuel. Most importantly, each meeting has ended with a clear timeline of the next meeting to resolve issues. An optimistic view of India-Pakistan engagement would even be that these bilateral issues need no longer occupy centre stage, as their resolution is in sight — freeing up interlocutors to focus on the two intractable issues: Kashmir and terrorism.

When it comes to Kashmir, it will be important for them to look at not the formidable size of the gap between the countries, but the remarkable distance already spanned. It is now acknowledged that the two sides came close to a settlement in the past decade. In an interview to CNN-IBN in 2009, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh confirmed that he and Pervez Musharraf had come close to a "non-territorial" solution in Kashmir. While the Musharraf-Manmohan Kashmir four-step has been dismissed by many, let us consider the steps already implemented or are on the anvil.

The ceasefire along the LoC has held more or less since 2003. On our recent visit to Chakothi on the Pakistani side, district officials showed us how the end of daily firing between the armies has allowed them to develop homes and schools in 19 of the 22 blocks adjoining the LoC. On the Indian side, villagers returned to their homes in places like Kirni in Poonch after more than a decade this April.

The next step, of demilitarisation of the main towns in the Kashmir Valley, is also evident. Despite fierce protests over the Amarnath yatra, the Shopian deaths, and Tufail Mattoo's killing across the past three summers, it was the police and the paramilitary that had to deal with the situation, while the army remained in the barracks, the exception being a flag march in July 2010 on the outskirts of Srinagar and Baramulla.

Strengthening local governance is the next step. While both India and Pakistan are unwilling to discuss greater autonomy for the two Kashmirs, regular elections and relative non-interference by the Centres in the States, chronic two decades ago, is another positive sign.

Finally, the task of making borders irrelevant through cross-LoC linkages and through cross-border management of certain institutions. Despite the tensions post the Mumbai attacks in 2008, the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad and Poonch-Rawalakot bus services have continued, allowing Kashmiris to travel and see the other side for themselves, while truck trade has grown too — with officials discussing increasing the days of trade (from one to three), the crossover points (from three to five), the length of visas (to six months) and finally moving trade from the current, archaic, barter system to a banking one. These are all the steps, once unimaginable, but now leaving their imprint on Kashmiri hearts and minds. Interestingly, on various visits to Pakistani colleges, it is evident that the four-steps are now widely seen by young Pakistanis as the way forward in Kashmir, unthinkable a decade ago.

The reconciliation of the Kashmiris on both sides will, however, be incomplete without the return of Kashmiri Pandits to the valley. It is heartening to note that this summer both the Mirwaiz and Syed Ali Shah Geelani issued statements calling Pandits an "inseparable part of Kashmiri society." The Mela Kheer Bhawani festival in June saw thousands of Pandits visit the Valley, though it may have been the recent election of Pandit woman Asha as the Sarpanch of Wussan village near Srinagar that caused the extra cheer.

The next step on Kashmir, however, will come only from introspection in New Delhi and Islamabad. The Indian government needs to understand that the absence of violence in the Valley is not peace, and that development and dignity for all Kashmiris go hand in hand. For its part, Pakistan's government must recognise that violence will never bring peace for Kashmiris, and will imperil all Pakistanis. Perhaps there's no greater proof of that than the case of terrorist Ilyas Kashmiri — who commanded 313 brigade raised by the ISI to fight India, but spent his later years planning attacks on the Pakistani military — from the GHQ attack in Rawalpindi to the Mehran naval base attack in Karachi — apart from his hand in the Mumbai attacks, the Marriott bombing and others. Kashmiri's death may be a mystery, but his diabolical life sends a clear message to Pakistan.

For both sides heading to their next round of talks, it is time to recognise that in the turmoil of India-Pakistan ties, a few windows of hope still remain. As an American pastor once famously said, "most people fail to recognise great opportunities because they come brilliantly disguised as impossible situations."

( Suhasini Haidar is Deputy Foreign Editor, CNN-IBN.)

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 THE HINDU

OPED

THE RISKS OF LEAVING THE EURO

JILL TREANOR

When the blueprint for the Euro was drawn up, leaving was not an option: there were no circumstances under which any member would ever want to leave and therefore no exit route. But the once unthinkable now looks entirely possible.

Any plan to enable Greece to pull out of the Eurozone would need to include a way to nationalise its banks, new restrictions to stop money and assets leaving the country — which could include limits on cash withdrawals from ATM machines — and a restructuring of the vast Greek debt pile.

According to Raoul Ruparel, economic analyst at Open Europe, a think-tank which calls for reform of the European Union, no consideration is being given by politicians to such an eventuality, but he believes a plan should be set out to allow an orderly exit.

"One of the only ways to exit would be through a disorderly default on the debt where the country couldn't make a payment," said Ruparel. "The banking sector would have to be nationalised as the banks would go under if Greece were to leave to the Eurozone." Jonathan Loynes, chief European economist at Capital Economists, said that one key advantage of withdrawing from the single currency would be to allow a new currency, which would need a name and have to be printed, to devalue and give the country a fresh competitive impetus.

However, it would then be essential to restructure all debts denominated in foreign currencies or those borrowers — individuals and businesses — would face a huge explosion in the scale of their debt.

Suggestions in early May that the Greeks were threatening to leave the euro unless they were allowed to restructure their debt sparked a rout on the foreign exchange markets.

"There's no doubt there would be a lot of disruption," said Loynes. "The major objection that people raise about a country leaving the Eurozone is that there is likely to be a major run on domestic banks. One way to stop that would be put to be a freeze on deposits or use capital controls to stop money flowing out of the country". An additional risk could be that a blackmarket in Euros and dollars might develop while the new currency was created. While there are no exact precedents, currency unions have fallen apart in the past — in the 1990s when the Soviet Union broke up and before the first world war when the Sweden-Denmark monetary union ended. These countries, however, had time to abandon their ties and devise an appropriate exit strategy, a luxury which might not be the case with a Greek departure from the Eurozone. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2011

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THE ASIAN AGE

INVESTMENTS HIT AS GOVERNANCE DRIFTS

The slowdown in investments in India — both domestic and foreign direct investment and portfolio investment — is a cause for grave concern. But this is only a symptom of a much larger problem. Local investments by the Indian private sector and government entities is down to a trickle. High interest rates and the high fiscal deficit are the main culprits. Last week the Reserve Bank of India raised interest rates for the 10th time in just over a year, with very little or no effect on inflation.

But in view of the government's inability to tackle supply-side issues, the RBI had to look as if it was doing something. While failing to curb inflation, these interest rate hikes have instead succeeded in curbing investment and growth. This is a dangerous situation — for unlike most other emerging economies that depend on exports for their growth, India's growth is primarily driven by domestic demand. So the fall in investments and high interest rates have already taken their toll in varying degrees on areas like manufacturing, consumer goods, construction, auto, real estate, etc. The corporate sector finds credit expensive and so has been forced to either postpone capital expenditure or to abandon it altogether. The government too has cut down on its expenditure as it has to control its fiscal deficit. It has been unable to reduce subsidies on fertiliser and fuel; but unless it can do this the public expenditure on badly-needed infrastructure such as roads, highways, ports and transport facilities will suffer. Most analysts believe the government will miss its fiscal deficit target of 4.6 per cent of GDP as it simply does not have the political will to curb unproductive expenditure.
A conducive environment is absolutely essential if investments are to start flowing once again. There has to be a clearer picture of where the economy is headed. In today's India we have multiple uncertainties — over critical issues like inflation, interest rates, the uncertain level of demand, the fiscal deficit and growth levels. And the biggest problem of all is the absence of political leadership, with irregularities even among the higher bureaucracy. This is a major disincentive for foreign investors, who simply do not like uncertainties and delays. While it is true that the overall flow of foreign funds flows has slowed down globally, India is getting far less than the other emerging markets. Major decisions — such as on a fuel policy and a land acquisition policy — have been pending for a long time, and there is no indication when there will be some forward movement. The government seems unable to decide which way to go: given that crony capitalism is so obviously out of tune with the current public mood. Big ticket projects are actually being delayed due to this. Imagine in a country like ours that suffers from chronic brownouts and blackouts a major public sector power undertaking had to back down on generation as the state electricity boards cannot afford to buy power. Most of them are bankrupt and, according to one estimate, have suffered a total loss of around `1.04 lakh crores. In the past few months we have seen a new scam emerge almost every single day, causing huge losses to the exchequer and of course blackening the nation's image. There can be no quick-fix solution on the investment front in such a scenario, and we will have to live with slow growth. There are some signs of softening in the commodity rates; this to an extent might ease the pressure on inflation and thus on interest rates, which then could lead to more investments and production. But that's still a long way off.

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THE ASIAN AGE

NUCLEAR BORDERLINE

BHARAT KARNAD

Every year, come January, the Indian and Pakistani governments exchange lists of nuclear facilities (along with their coordinates) that each side undertakes not to attack in case of hostilities. Presumably, new power stations and other sensitive nuclear military-related installations are added to the lists as and when these go onstream.

This is a civilised way of dealing with an adversarial fellow nuclear weapons state. It provides some assurance that even in the most volatile situations neither government will slip into actions to make bad situations infinitely worse. It is an aim that will be furthered by the foreign secretaries currently meeting in Islamabad discussing nuclear confidence-building measures (CBMs).
That vulnerable nuclear power stations provide attractive military targets are a fact of life and an issue I have plumbed in my writings. It was a problem that troubled the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and Warsaw Pact member-states during the Cold War for which the protagonists found no solution such as the one India and Pakistan have devised. Bennett Ramberg, a sometime official in the George W. Bush administration had, far back as the 1970s, first voiced the danger of nuclear power plants proving high-value targets in the first wave of Soviet attacks were the Cold War to turn hot.
In the subcontinental context, the worrisome question is this: Notwithstanding any agreement with India prohibiting such strikes, will the Pakistan Army be able to resist the temptation of hitting or, more importantly, holding hostage proliferating Indian nuclear power stations per Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's ill-thought-out plan to produce 40,000 MW of nuclear energy by 2050? Indeed, considering the disproportionate payoffs that could accrue to Pakistan, not so much from taking them out as holding these power plants hostage to "good behaviour" on the battlefield, meaning, India not exploiting such advantage as has been obtained by its conventional forces, it may be reasonable to assume General Headquarters Rawalpindi may not forsake this stratagem in war. In any case, it will be prudent for Indian war planners take such a contingency seriously.
The antidote to such a ruse de guerre is to build a string of nuclear power plants at sites along the border with Pakistan so as to neutralise the remotest chance of the Pakistan Nuclear Command Authority ordering such strikes in the first place. The reasons why Pakistan will shrink from attacking nuclear power plants on the border are obvious enough. There is no way of guaranteeing that radioactivity from damaged nuclear power stations will not drift across to affect the Pakistani heartland of the Punjab. Paradoxically, the greater the number of reactors on the border the better the chance these will not be hit. Pakistan will also be deterred from launching missile salvos at reactors in the Indian hinterland, because that would be opting for "total war" it cannot survive, and in which the Chinese-built nuclear complexes at Chashma and Khushab, and the civilian nuclear power plant in Karachi, would be counter-targeted. Moreover, such reactors may also preempt conventional hostilities for fear of hitting them. The policy of N-plants on the border conjoined to the certainty of nuclear response to Indian reactors being struck by terrorists or missiles will, moreover, incentivise the Pakistan Army and its Directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence to keep close tabs on the terrorist outfits they have nurtured lest in their zeal these zealots mount an attack and start an affray that will end up costing Pakistan dearer than anything Pakistani strikes can inflict on India.
The Nuclear Power Corporation Ltd. has already scouted a number of sites in Indian Punjab, Rajasthan and Gujarat to host high-yield nuclear power plants. It will not be difficult to tweak the plans a bit to ensure that most of these reactors are relocated in the border zone. This strategy will turn potential nuclear hostages for Pakistan into counter-hostages against Pakistan within this country and actually ensure a zone of peace along the border, even where conventional hostilities are concerned. Nuclear issues require careful thought and calibrated policies, not blind reliance on diplomatic understandings that may not withstand the real-world test of military planners in war being tempted by juicy targets. As history shows, preparing for the worst usually prevents the worst from happening — a lesson India seems terminally incapable of learning.
In the nuclear context though, it is not clear what additional CBMs Indian foreign secretary Nirupama Rao and Salman Bashir might discuss. But former Indian diplomats Raja Menon and Lalit Mansingh, involved in the officially-sponsored Track-II dialogue, have revealed the possibility of the mutual withdrawal of the early generation short-range ballistic missiles with the two countries — Prithvi-I, Abdali, and Ghaznavi, from frontline service. The trouble with formalising reciprocal actions using diplomatic means is that it ends up according Pakistan parity with India in the nuclear realm that Islamabad has been striving for many years to embed as the negotiating template. And, this talking point sets a precedent. As part of second-stage CBMs, with Pakistan insisting on parity, it will complicate agreeing on mutually acceptable nuclear force-sizes and weapons quality levels, considering that the Indian strategic deterrent is primarily keyed to the China threat, and Pakistan's fears are India-centric.
It would have been advisable if, as I have advocated in my 2002 book Nuclear Weapons and Indian Security: The Realist Foundations of Strategy, India had unilaterally withdrawn the nuclearised Prithvi-I batteries many years ago from deployed status on its western border, in order to dilute Pakistan's mistrust and inspiring confidence. This symbolically and politically potent gesture would have reassured the Pakistan Army and people without India, in any way, conceding an equal nuclear status for Pakistan. Moreover, it would have been a safe thing to do because all potential targets within Pakistan can be reached by the longer-range Agni missiles fired from hinterland launch points.
Positioning the Prithvi-I, and that too the liquid-fuelled variety, at the forward edge of the battlefield — whichever genius thought that up — was always a risky idea and an obvious tripwire that neither the military situation on the ground nor the political correlation of forces really warranted. That the Indian government at all ordered such forward missile deployment indicates faulty instincts and inadequate nuclear military knowledge.

The author is a professor at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

BANI-BASOHLI LINK DISRUPTED

 

On June 9, owing to heavy rains road connection of Bani in Kathua district with the rest of the state was snapped after a portion of the Bani-Basholi road caved in at Kardoh, about 20 km from Basholi. With this major road obstruction, the supply of essential goods to Bani area stands disrupted. To maintain the supply, the authorities made arrangements for trans-shipping items on mules, but the efforts have failed to cope with the demand, It is now the 13th day of road obstruction, and the supply of essential commodities to the people in the area has become so acute that one fears famine type situation is developing there. Notwithstanding the claims of the authorities concerned of maintaining the supply of essential commodities, misery of residents of Bani tehsil have been compounding with each passing day, as even after 13 days this mountainous belt of Kathua district still remains cut off from the rest of the state. Although the population of the entire belt is suffering in many ways owing to road block, the worst to bear the brunt are patients, who have been referred to Jammu or Kathua for advance treatment. Transportation of these patients cannot wait and the facility is not available. Thus lives of most of the patients referred to premier institutions in the district headquarter or the city of Jammu are in great danger. "My mother has been suffering from a chest disease and doctors have advised her a few tests in Jammu, but we could not reach Jammu due to the snapping of the road link," said Naresh Sharma, a resident of Lawang, she was so weak that she could not be carried on a mule back to cover a distance of about 2 km where the road has caved in.
In the light of serious cases like these the local MLA Lal Chand has demanded that the Government introduce emergency helicopter service to airlift serious patients for treatment at the Government Medical College in Jammu. Shortage of medicines and life saving drugs in Bani is acute as almost all the odd ten medicine vending shops have run out of stock. After attending a meeting with senior officials of the Border Road Organization, the SDM of Bani said that it was not possible to clear the blockade by blasting. Hence they had decided to do it manually. This is a strange argument and cannot find many takers. We have advanced road building technology in this country and the Border Roads Organization is equipped with latest machines and technology to clear the roadblocks whenever and wherever these happen. District administration cannot take shelter behind lame excuses. The fact of the matter is that local and district administrative machinery should have moved in time and with full pressure to see to it that road block was repaired within shortest possible time. Bani is a hilly area and mudslides along the main link road are not uncommon. Administration is bound to make advance preparations for meeting any exigency of the type now faced there. No responsible administrative apparatus can afford to overlook the hardship and other problem which a continued road-snap can cause to the people living in the area. It is these sorts of occasions caused by natural calamities when irresponsible and anti-social shopkeepers and businessmen exploit the helpless population by overcharging the customers and adding to their miseries. Two weeks of road snap is too much especially when there is no alternate link to overcome the situation. The time is running out and the road link needs to be restored most urgently so that thousands of people are relieved of impending suffering touching on the prospect of famine in the entire area. Moreover, concerned authorities should take a cue from the present predicament and make foolproof arrangements of keeping the Bani-Basohli link open. Even if disruption takes place owing to natural calamity, it should be restored within hours.

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

VERDICT AGAINST TERRORISM

 

In an unprecedented move more than 300 Islamic scholars in Pakistan's restive North Waziristan tribal region have declared suicide bombings as unlawful and asked all foreign militants hiding in the area to stop such attacks. This large group of scholars unanimously agreed on the move to declare suicide attacks as "haraam" or forbidden by Islam and condemned "all forms of terrorist activities" in North Waziristan Agency. The scholars strongly condemned all those involved in recruiting and training suicide bombers. They issued a stern warning to terrorists that such acts would have serious consequences, Geo News channel reported. The meeting of the prominent ulema (religious scholars) of North Waziristan Agency was held in the Madrassah Nizamia religious school at Eidak, a town in Mirali area. The school is a leading and respected institution in North Waziristan. The meeting warned all foreigners to stop their violent activities as they can only live in North Waziristan peacefully according to local customs.


This decree from the Islamic scholars of the most volatile area will have far reaching impact on the entire war scenario in the region. It is not necessary to go into the 'how' of the decree but suffice it to say that there has been a strong realization among the scholars that allowing the soil of North Waziristan to be used by foreign militants for subversive activities in a third country or region is a reflection on the sovereignty and integrity of local Pushtun population. These people are known for their fierce independence and would not tolerate anybody violating the code of conduct established by the frontier society for centuries in the past. In particular the militants from Central Asia - the remnants of IMU and from some Arab countries had entrenched themselves for many years and tried to impose Wahhabi life style on local population. The tribal population of the area has its own code and law and social system in place over centuries in the past. Any attempt of disrupting that system is unacceptable to them. Their anti-terrorism decree will have impact on other terrorist organizations in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Kashmiri clerics should also take note of this decree and follow the suit if they are seriously interested in seeing normalcy return to the valley.

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

FOCUS ON ADMINISTRATIVE REFORMS

BY AMULYA GANGULI

 

Sonia Gandhi's pet jholawalas in the National Advisory Council seem to have recovered from the shock of being upstaged by Anna Hazare's saffron-tinged do-gooders. Yet, not long ago, it was the NAC which was driving the social reforms agenda - shooting down development projects in Orissa's Niyamgiri hills so as not to disturb the pristine hunter-gatherer lifestyle of the tribals. Or, pressing for a "universal" food security bill at astronomical costs.
Then, suddenly, the Good Samaritan from Maharashtra appeared from nowhere to sweep everything before him. Of late, however, the surge in Hazare's favour has subsided to some extent as misgivings about his seemingly authoritarian path came to the fore. But, before considering why this happened, it may be necessary to look at the NAC's response. Reports suggest that, as before, it is falling back on a slew of proposed legislative measures to make its presence felt, including a bill on communal violence which takes the Congress's trademark minority appeasement plank to a new height.
True, some of its earlier endeavours have much to recommend them, such as those relating to rural employment despite the pilferage and the failure to build durable assets, and the right to information. Similarly, it is now said to be focussing on the judicial accountability bill, protection of whistle-blowers bill, the right to services bill and so on. In doing so, however, it is forgetting that India is one of the most legislated countries in the world. There is law for everything, including the prevention of corruption.
But, as the inadequacies of the laws against dowry deaths or female foeticide show, legislations such as these make little impact on the ground. Not only that, even outfits like the khap panchyats have reared their ugly heads over the last one decade to add another socially sanctioned crime to the north Indian scene - that of the so-called honour killings where young men and women are killed for defying orthodox norms or parental diktat.
The explanation for the acceleration of this kind of social degeneration is that the laws are no longer a deterrent. And the reason why the laws have lost their bite is that they are not implemented either because the guardians of law and order can be bought off or because they turn a blind eye to any violations under political pressure. There is another reason, too, which has a deeper connotation. It is the decline in educational standards, which means that the young men and women who enter the public services - even the IAS and the IPS - are not motivated by the ideals of morality or the primacy of the rule of law. As the conduct of the IAS and IPS officers - apart from a few notable exceptions - during and after the Gujarat riots, or during the Nandigram agitation in West Bengal, showed, their allegiance is not so much to the Constitution as to the political masters.
If the flaws in the educational system have failed to produce upright individuals, the degeneration of politics has facilitated the entry of elements whose prime objective is to make money. As Dayanidhi Maran told a US official, according to Wikileaks, "when people get into power, they lose concentration and start focussing on making money". As a result, the politicians have little hesitation in pandering to all the base instincts which lend themselves to hysteria - communalism, casteism and social and religious obscurantism. This combination of cynical politicians and unscrupulous officials ensures that no matter how many laws are written into the statute book, they will mostly be honoured in the breach.
Therefore, if the eminent persons in the NAC want to make a genuinely beneficial contribution to governance, they will be better advised to pay greater attention to administrative reforms rather than to the making of laws. The starting point has to be the police since it is the local thana which is usually the ordinary person's first point of contact with officialdom. If the voluminous reports of the National Police Commission are anathema to the Congress because these were written during the Janata regime of the late 1970s, at least greater attention can be paid to the Supreme Court's directives of 2006 calling for insulating the police from politics. If this basic step is taken, then the prime minister would not have to advise the bureaucrats to be honest and fearless in advising the political leadership, as he did on Civil Services Day earlier this month.
A few days later, he gave the same advice to the CBI while inaugurating the organization's new building in the national capital. But, considering that a former Chief Justice of India, J.S. Verma, has quoted a CBI director as saying that "political interference" was customary for the investigating agency, it is doubtful if either the prime minister or his listeners expected his advice to be seriously followed. Like the laws which are routinely ignored, such platitudes are almost always for the record with no one among the ruling politicians or the bureaucrats bothering about their implementation in practice. (IPA)

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

ENCOUNTERING THE WILD.....

BY VIRENDER KHASHU

 

In Jammu and Kashmir as per the reports nearly 92 people have been killed upto last year and several hundreds injured since the year 2006 because of these conflicts. The subject of vital relevance has not been tackled properly by the concerned when in recent years the valley suburban and rural areas have encountered a number of attacks by black bears and leopards. The intrusions in human territories by wild animals for search of food which has been systematically snatched from them, forcing them to stroll into human habitats leading to open confrontation between the people and the animal. The pictures of gory incident of killing of a wandering bear who had strayed in the residential areas, by beating and burning to death, telecasted live some time back and witnessed by people all over the country, remind us the inimical behaviour of humans towards the animals. On one side we are propagating the message of preservation of our natural heritages of which wild animals and other game form a basis for tourism industry but the unnatural behaviour of few intruding animals are being encountered with brutal retaliation by people who in most of the cases are not at fault because of instant fear reaction. It seems natural for the people to react as help from the Governments are not coming forthwith in time, leaving them with no other option but to safeguard their lives and cattle. This year the season has begun with casualty of a minor boy in Batote area after an attack by leopard and the latest one in the death of a old women in Anantnag district of Kashmir by black bear which usually move down in search of corn and hid themselves in the tall grown maize plants,when a victim approaches to the scene unawares often leads to injuries or at times death. There are several cases of incursions by the animals pouring in from Doda, Kishtwar, Rajouri and Poonch districts of Jammu province every year along with the fire incidents as this being the prime period for both the problems.
The alacrity and impunity with which the humans of today are determined to wipe off the forests even though fully realizing its disastrous fallouts is no less than a Hari-kari practiced. Forests not only possess commercial viability but remain a home of millions of species of plants and trees besides innumerable faunal species finding safe havens for their survival and form an inallienable link in the food chain thus assisting in maintaining a balanced natural ecosystem. From the times immemorial mankind has been living in harmony with wild animals but the vandalism and obstinate operational plans over the years have rendered it as the most exploited resource depriving the human race of its beneficial environmental deliverances which obviously had not been realized earlier. The major setbacks attributed on account of deforestation has been in the form of destruction of habitats of wild animals teasing them to wander in search of their prey which otherwise could have been available in their defined territories. The term of man animal conflict has been appropriately coined which highlights the growing animosity between the two. The increasing war of spaces and food between man and animals has led to the regular incidents of man animal conflict which has become a major concern for the states including Jammu and Kashmir. Shrinking spaces and shortage of food often forces wild animals towards populated areas which often results in the loss of human lives and even property.
Loss of habitats and deprivation of food available naturally in the forests adds to scenario because of large scale felling by clearing the area for construction of roads or any other developmental activity including the illicit smuggling. Mughal road construction, though a communication marvel, has disintegrated many endangering faunal species who were forced to migrate to alien environs , facing death due to hunger or being killed mercilessly by the people in conflict or poached for commercial purposes.
Meanwhile, the State Government has prepared an elaborated comprehensive plan to cope up with this menace and the programme aimed at avoiding the recurrence of conflict by infrastructure strengthening on the most modern scientific lines so that the losses are minimized and submitted to the Union Ministry of Forests and Environment. The outlay for the purpose has been provisioned in the centrally sponsored schemes, which incidentally has on the pattern of Rehbar scheme prevailing in the state shall not only act as a buffer but also help mitigating the problem and providing succor in the event of conflict seems genuine and appreciable. Recent directions issued by the Government to prevent the occurrences of conflict by stressing upon coordinating efforts by all the wings of the Forest deptt to minimize the collision and loss to life and property warrants commendation as the Government has also published few Do's and Don'ts for the people living nearby forests. In order to assuage the aggrieved, the State Govt has ordered on spot compensation to the victims of the conflict. To mitigate their sufferings the Government is contemplating delegation of powers to Wild Life Wardens for on spot disbursement immediately after the incidents taking place.
The initiative of Uttar Pradesh Govt to establish a centrally located control room can also be replicated by our state so that all the far flung areas of the state are operated and controlled as an effective management tool as this will lessen the time gap for action generally lost in such conflicts. Man and animals both have been provided space by the nature and any interference into each other's territory would invite conflicts and casualities.

 

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DAILY EXCELSIOR

EDITORIAL

INFRASTRUCTURE DEFICIENCY IN N-E TO FACE CHINA

BY SANCHET BARUA

 

China's rapid build-up of infrastructure along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) is compelling Indian policymakers to rethink border issues and in particular focus on increasing military capability by strengthening infrastructure in the border areas. But, infrastructure development remains uneven in the northern and eastern sectors. While the creation of military infrastructure including transportation has picked up in the northern sector, there is a considerable lag of infrastructure development in the eastern sector. This has undermined India's military capability to thwart external aggression in the eastern front.
China has connected all the passes and military posts on the LAC with highways, logistic depots and military installations - a clear sign that the People's Liberation Army (PLA) is gearing up for military contingencies. The major highways on the Chinese side have been upgraded to double lane; they are also all-weather roads and thus operational throughout the year. With a total road network of 58,000 kms as of 2010 in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), the Chinese are in the process of extending the Qinghai Tibet Railway up to Xigaze. Further, another railway line from Kashgar to Hotan in the Xinjinag Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR) is under construction as also five airfields in Tibet at Gongar, Linchi, Pangta, Hoping and Gar Gunsa.
In response, India has increased its military deployments in the eastern sector. The Indian air force has deployed four squadrons of frontline Su-30 MKI fighters in Tezpur and Chabua. The Indian army has raised two new mountain divisions with HQs in Zakama (56 Division) in Nagaland and Missamari (71 Division) in Assam, and is also considering the deployment of Ultra Light Howitzers and light tanks. Several new and old airfields have been activated and new roads are being constructed to enable the quicker movement of troops and equipment. But these initiatives pale in comparison to the military forces that China can mobilise along the LAC. With its five fully operational airbases and extensive rail and road network, China can mobilise more than 30 divisions (each with over 15,000 soldiers) along the LAC and outnumber the Indian forces by 3:1
In contrast, India's transportation infrastructure in the Northeast is inadequate, and what exists is outdated. Motorable roads do not exist beyond the state capitals and some townships. As part of the 10th Five Year Plan (2002-2007), the Central Government had sanctioned Rs.1690.26 crore for building 36 roads of a total length of 1905.60 km. But, even today, these roads remain in various stages of construction throughout the region. Moreover, the Northeast is a high rainfall zone, receiving an average of 2000 millimetres a year. As a result, landslides are common, thus requiring repair and maintenance of roads annually. However, repair and upgradation of roads in the region are seldom done, which means they lie broken and potholed.
Air connectivity in the Northeast is also much below the national average. Only Guwahati and Agartala airports have night landing facilities. In the ninth Five Year Plan (1997-2001), provision was made for six airports in Arunachal Pradesh, namely Itanagar, Pashighat, Zero, Tezu, Along, Daporizo, as well as for another at Rupsi in Assam. They were to be capable of receiving Airbus and heavy cargo aircraft. But because of uneven terrain and lack of space to build long runways, these airports have still not become functional.
The railways, being economical and capable of transporting large loads, could potentially integrate far flung areas, cut down the cost of goods in the border towns and promote development. But, the Northeast Frontier Railway that passes through Dimapur (Nagaland) and terminates at Dibrugarh (Assam) is the only rail link between the Northeast and the rest of India. Till recently, the rail network (mainly broad gauge) was limited to Assam though it has now been extended to Agartala (Tripura). Its further extension to the rest of the Northeast region remains uncertain.
As for bridges, during the 5th and 6th plan periods (1974-1979 and 1980-1985), most bridges constructed were made of timber. Later, in the ninth Five Year Plan, the Central Government initiated the conversion of existing timber bridges into reinforced concrete (RCC) bridges. Since 2001-2002, the conversion of 40 such bridges has been completed, while another 77 bridges are in the process of being thus converted. However, most of the RCC bridges constructed so far have already been worn out by heavy rain and also because inferior quality construction material was used. Consequently, most remote border areas remain connected only by timber, bamboo and cane bridges, except for the few on the national highways.
Despite the recent acceleration of efforts to build up infrastructure along the LAC including 5,500 permanent defences and bunkers, much more remains to be done. The rear areas and the forward positions are yet to be connected through proper motorable transportation networks. As a result, the military infrastructure development projects costing Rs. 9,243 crore, as approved by the Cabinet Committee on Security for the Eastern Army Command, are unlikely to be able to help India counter China's build up. It is imperative that the transport connectivity in the region be strengthened by the establishment of railway networks in the hinterland, by the timely construction of roads that extend to the borders, and by expediting the construction of bridges. (INAV)

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

TOWARDS EFFECTIVE LOKPAL

DON'T THROW OUT THE BABY WITH BATH WATER

 

It is heartening that the joint committee on the Lokpal Bill composed of representatives of the Government and civil society has honoured its commitment to complete the drafting of recommendations on the bill before the monsoon session of Parliament. Considering that legislation on the constitution of a Lokpal has been hanging fire for 42 long years since it was first mooted, this is no mean achievement. That there was acrimony during the process of negotiations and both sides have given separate drafts to be deliberated upon by Parliament should not be viewed negatively so long as there is a demonstrable earnest desire to get the institution of Lokpal set up with adequate powers.

 

It is time now for both the government and civil society to build upon the edifice that they have created. While it is perfectly legitimate for them to push their own drafts, Anna Hazare would be ill-advised to resort to an indefinite fast again from August 16 "to teach the government a lesson," as he had done at the start of the movement for reform. Law Minister Veerappa Moily has claimed that there has been agreement on 34 of the 40 issues that the joint committee deliberated upon. These include the provision that the Lokpal can order suo moto probe, confiscate property and assets acquired through corrupt means. Also that there would be no need for governmental sanction to initiate probe or prosecution against a public servant. There would be an investigative wing under the Lokpal with full police powers and the Government would have to act on the Lokpal's recommendation within a fixed time frame.

 

Some serious differences of approach between the Government and civil society remain but it would be grave folly to let these scuttle the whole constructive process. On the Prime Minister's accountability, a via media has been suggested on the lines that he/she could be held accountable after demitting office. This is worth examining. On the higher judiciary, civil society must put its mind on suggesting improvements in the Judicial Accountability Bill. Other issues like the composition of the selection committee for the Lokpal, the process of removal of a Lokpal member and the powers to punish and transfer officials can be left to Parliament's good sense.

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

WELFARE — PUNJAB STYLE

FUNDS MISDIRECTED TO FEED THE POOR

 

Free power for farmers and subsidised food for the poor are two major populist schemes of the Badal government in Punjab. Both have bankrupted the institutions handling them -- Punjab State Power Corporation Ltd in the first case and Punsup and other state agencies in the second. This is because the near-bankrupt state government does not make timely payments to these institutions, which are in dire financial straits.

 

Supplying subsidised wheat and pulses to families below the poverty line is a laudable idea to protect the poor from the heat of rising prices. However, this requires good governance, a foolproof delivery system and sufficient funds. Punjab has none of these. Because of governance deficit, the well-intended "atta-dal scheme" has come a cropper. Central funds have been diverted to keep it going. The agencies responsible have piled up a heavy debt with banks refusing a bailout. The government owes Rs 1,100 crore to Punsup, Markfed, Punjab Agro and the warehousing corporation. The state delivery system is notorious for leakages. A 2009 official inquiry in Bathinda revealed that of the 12.8 lakh beneficiaries of the scheme 71,630 were fake. A family can be eligible for the "atta-dal scheme" only if its annual income does not exceed Rs 30,000, if it does not own even a fan or any mode of transport, including a bicycle. The needy as usual have been bypassed by grabbers, probably with official connivance.

 

In a state where corruption is rampant from top to bottom, it is not surprising that the better-off and well-connected people manage to corner subsidies meant for the poor. Whether it is power or cheap food, a major part goes to benefit the undeserving. Despite a severe financial crisis the ruling political leadership plays the politics of populism, hands over freebies to one and all, does not hesitate to take more loans to splurge on its election-oriented schemes and adds to the already worrisome debt burden of the state.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

COLUMN

BANGALORE'S STREET VIEW

ALLOW SERVICE, PROTECT STRATEGIC LOCATIONS

 

A project by Google Inc to systematically take pictures of streets in important cities all over the world now covers 27 countries, but not India, as yet. Its maiden attempt to roll cameras in Bangalore was stopped by the police soon after vehicles mounted with cameras were launched on the streets. The stated reasons are privacy and national security.

 

Google launched its Street View project in the US in 2007. While its users swear by the detail that is now widely available to them, many controversies have arisen over privacy and other concerns, including Google picking up passwords and personal data from unprotected Wi-Fi networks in the UK. Google itself declared that it had captured the data accidentally, apologised and purged the data from its systems. In response to various concerns, Google now blurs the faces of people and licence plates of cars and responds promptly to any request to remove private information by anyone effected by it.

 

Google maps have become a useful navigational aid for millions of people, and have found widespread usage with those individuals who have smart phones. There is no doubt that the Street View feature enhances the experience of those who have access to it. In India, we often have antiquated cartographic concerns —pictures of bridges etc. are banned because of 'strategic reasons', that too in a time when everything is visible through satellites. The police in Bangalore should make clear what their concerns are, and Google should respond constructively. While masking out anything of strategic importance, they should make data on the city available over the Internet. Indeed, this experiment should also be replicated in other cities of India, so that the world at large can experience incredible India through the panoramic view provided by Google and others of its ilk.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

ARTICLE

JIHAD, TERROR AND EXTREMISM

FACTORS THAT DOMINATE PAK SECURITY SET-UP

BY G. PARTHASARATHY

 

While promoting terrorism abroad has been the trademark of Pakistan's military establishment, new skeletons are tumbling out of the ISI's cupboards, revealing the horrors perpetrated by its torture and assassination networks within the country. The "tell all" book titled "Inside the Al-Qaeda and Taliban --- Beyond 9/11 Osama bin Laden" written by journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad, widely believed, even within Pakistan, to have been bumped off by the ISI, has been banned by Islamabad.

 

Shahzad made some startling revelations to an American television network, hours before he was abducted. He revealed that even before the 9/11 terrorist strikes, there were formal agreements between the ISI on the one hand and the Taliban and Al-Qaeda on the other. Moreover, just after 9/11, the then Director-General of the ISI, Lieut-Gen Mehmood Ahmed, assured both Mullah Omar and Osama bin Laden in Kandahar that Pakistan would neither mount operations against them, nor would it arrest them.

 

Given these assurances, it is not surprising that Mullah Omar, Osama bin Laden and their supporters and armed cadres crossed the Durand Line and were given haven in Pakistan. Some second ranking Al-Qaeda leaders were, however, targeted when they were suspected of involvement in attempts to assassinate General Musharraf in December 2003. Shahzad asserts that the "Pakistan Army has always been closely allied with Islamist forces," adding that mutinies from within the army's ranks were always possible in the event of major operations in future, against Al-Qaeda and Taliban sanctuaries.

 

While the Islamist propensities of significant sections in the Pakistan Army establishment are well known, what is now emerging is that support for Islamic extremism is also significantly prevalent in the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) and Navy. The recent attack on the Mehran Naval Base in Karachi, where American supplied naval reconnaissance aircraft were destroyed, has revealed the extent to which radical Islamist elements have infiltrated the Pakistan Navy. 

 

Even more widespread has been the infiltration of radical Islamist elements into the Pakistan Air Force, including the Chaklala Air Base near Rawalpindi, where American supplied transport aircraft are based. Airmen from this base were involved in an attempt to assassinate President Musharraf in 2003. The links of the PAF with Al-Qaeda go back to 1996 when an air force officer, M. A. Mir, known to be close to Islamist elements in the ISI, entered into a pact with Al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubayada, promising Al-Qaeda the supply of arms. Interestingly, while the elements from Saudi Arabia were evidently supportive of this deal, Mir, who later became Pakistan's Air Chief, died in a mysterious air crash while on official duty, in a PAF aircraft, on February 20, 2003.

 

Three Saudi princes associated with Air Chief Marshal Mir's 1996 deal with Al-Qaeda died in similarly mysterious circumstances, shortly thereafter. Interestingly, the mysterious deaths of Mir and the Saudi princes occurred after both President Musharraf and the Saudi monarchy had become averse to Al-Qaeda influence in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia! Interestingly, the father of Faisal Shahzad, whose animosity towards the US prompted him to attempt to blow up the Times Square in New York last year, is retired Air Vice-Marshal Baharul Haq of the PAF.

 

The malaise of Islamic radicalism has also spread to Pakistan's nuclear establishment. Dr A.Q. Khan, infamous for his rabid references to "Hindu treachery," was a major player in moves to transfer nuclear weapons capabilities to Iran, Saudi Arabia and Libya. Bhutto himself described Pakistan's quest for nuclear weapons as his country's contribution to "Islamic Civilization". These sentiments are shared by senior Pakistani nuclear scientists like Sultan Bashiruddin Mehmood, who, along with his colleague Abdul Majeed, was detained shortly after the terrorist strikes of 9/11 for helping Al-Qaeda to obtain nuclear and biological weapons capabilities.

 

Mehmood openly voiced support for the Taliban and publicly advocated transfer of nuclear weapons to the whole "Ummah" (Muslim community worldwide). Two other Pakistani scientists, Suleiman Asad and Al-Mukhtar, wanted for questioning about their suspected links with Osama bin Laden, disappeared in Myanmar. The million-dollar question is: did they disappear into the territory of Pakistan's "all-weather friend" and partner in proliferation, China? The malaise of Islamic radicalism runs deep across Pakistan's entire security establishment — civilian and military.

 

The roots of this radicalisation can be traced back to the days when the US and the rest of the Western world backed Pakistani military dictator Gen Zia-ul-Haq to the hilt. It was General Zia who ushered in a new era of Islamisation, bigotry and blasphemy laws targeting minorities, together with nurturing radical, armed Islamic groups, bent on waging jihad across the world. Officers recruited in his era are today three star Generals and the army is largely motivated by the ideology of the "Quranic Concept of War" articulated by his protégé, Brigadier (later Major-General) S.K. Malik. Describing anyone who stands in the way of jihad as an "aggressor", Malik held that "the aggressor is always met and destroyed in his own country".

 

Malik also had a unique view of the concept of "terror". He averred: "Terror struck into the heart of the enemy is not only a means. It is an end in itself. Once a condition of terror into the opponent's heart is obtained, hardly anything is left to be achieved. Terror is not a means of imposing a decision upon the enemy; it is the decision we wish to impose on him. It is a point where the means and end merge". This is precisely what was sought to be "imposed" on the ill-fated people killed in the Victoria Terminal area in Mumbai on 26/11.

 

Despite evidence that the ISI recently passed on operational intelligence received from the CIA to terrorist groups, both the US and the UK are making conscious efforts to gloss over the ISI-terrorist nexus. The British are realising that in their desire to be pro-active across the world as America's most "loyal ally", they have been punching above their weight. Moreover, the greatest threat to internal security in the UK comes from nationals of Pakistani origin, motivated and trained in terrorist safe havens in Pakistan. The UK seeks to appease Pakistan to facilitate an early withdrawal from Afghanistan and secure ISI cooperation for internal security.

 

The Americans quite evidently believe that Pakistan has to be kept in reasonably good humour, at least for the present, to achieve larger strategic objectives. In these circumstances, India has to shed illusions that the Pakistan military establishment can be persuaded to discard the use of terrorism as an instrument of state policy by mere sweet words and "composite dialogue".n  

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

OF TOILET PAPER AND COLA

BY VINOD PRAKASH GUPTA

 

In the year 1969, my nephew, the same age as me, left for America to pursue higher studies and eventually settle down there. Despite being uncle and nephew, we were close friends, as was the definition of friendship back then in average middle class families: blissful insouciance and comforting intimacy. We went to the same school, cackled endlessly over food eaten with our hands, shared clothes, played in the streets and many such other common simple pleasures that make childhood friendships memorable and cherished for life.

 

After 5 years, he retuned to India for a business meeting. I was excited at the prospect of meeting him and assumed that he would stay at my place. But his chosen place of residence was a five star hotel where I was called upon to meet him. He did not stay with his parents either. The reason was clear. His standard of living and habits had gone through a sea change whereas we were still struggling to convert our dry latrines into semi-flush ones.

 

In the mid-seventies except for the rich folks and top ranking officers in the services the use of toilet paper, habitual consumption of soft drinks and bottled water were luxuries. As a result, every non-resident Indian while visiting India either stayed at a hotel or if staying with family or friends carried a suitcase full of toilet paper and packs of cola.  

 

In 1983 my nephew came to India with his family. By which time I, with my wife and two children, was residing in a comfortable upscale government bungalow in Delhi. He had become a successful industrialist in America and was considered rich by even American standards. This time they decided to visit our home.

 

Initially, my nephew's children were shy and reluctant to partake of our hospitality. That changed the moment they heard a fluent stream of English emanate from my children's mouths. Then began the tour of the house. My children were the product of the new generation. They were used to regularly consuming aerated drinks and were well versed with the usage of toilet paper and cola,b a stock of both, always available in our house. My nephew's children came out squealing with disbelief and delight- 'Oh Dad! They have toilet paper and soft drinks'.

 

The parents were relieved too and we knew from their expressions that our lifestyle has been granted the seal of approval. The result was a two day stay at our place which otherwise would have been unthinkable.

 

It was a lovely visit the memories of which I still hold dear. But news of our 'luxurious' standard of living spread like wild fire amongst our family and friends and we were termed as snobs or 'angrez'. The relatives seemed to be in awe of us that brought about both shyness and fear resulting in awkwardness. I was flummoxed at the dramatic alteration of our social status both in India and abroad within our circle by a single bottle of cola and a roll of toilet paper.

 

I often look back on this incident and it both amuses and alarms me with regard to how everything changes but nothing really does. Back then it was cola and toilet paper that became symbols of who we had become. Today it is the Ipads, Iphones, Jaguars and Jacuzzis that drive people's perceptions about others. It makes me long for the days of paper planes, sleepovers on the 'chhatt' and cutting chai —  days when things were simple.n

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

NO MORE QUEER THAN OTHERS

AS RECENTLY AS FEBRUARY 2010, THE ROYAL COLLEGE OF PSYCHIATRISTS HAD TO ISSUE A STATEMENT TO CLARIFY THAT 'HOMOSEXUALITY IS NOT A PSYCHIATRIC DISORDER'. THE DEBATE ABOUT WHAT MAKES PEOPLE GAY HAS BEEN RAGING FOR DECADES. NOW SCIENTISTS AIM TO SETTLE IT FOR GOOD.

JEREMY LAURANCE

 

'Sexual orientation is not a matter of choice, it is primarily neurobiological at birth." So said Jerome Goldstein, director of the San Francisco Clinical Research Centre, addressing 3,000 neurologists from around the world at the 21st meeting of the European Neurological Society (ENS) in Lisbon last month.

 

In doing so he was attempting to settle a debate that has raged for decades: are gays born or made? It is a puzzle because homosexuality poses a biological conundrum. There is no obvious evolutionary advantage to same-sex relationships. So why are some people attracted to others of the same sex? Sexual attraction provides the drive to reproduction – sex is a means to an end not, in Darwinian terms, an end in itself. From an evolutionary perspective, same-sex relationships should be selected out.

 

Despite this, they are common in the animal kingdom. Birds do it, bees probably do it and fleas may do it, too. Among the many examples are penguins, who have been known to form lifelong same-sex bonds, dolphins and bonobos, which are fully bisexual apes. Various explanations have been advanced for the evolutionary advantage that such relationships might confer. For example, female Laysan albatrosses form same-sex pairs, which are more successful at rearing chicks than single females. Homosexuality may also help social bonding or ease conflict among males where there is a shortage of females. Gay couples will not preserve their own genes but they may help preserve those of the group to which they belong.

 

Animal kingdom

 

The existence of homosexuality in the animal kingdom has been cited to demonstrate that it is not a sin against nature. The American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from its list of recognised mental disorders almost 40 years ago in 1973 and the World Health Organisation followed suit in 1992. The UK Royal College of Psychiatrists does not produce its own list of disorders but tends to follow the WHO.

 

Yet as recently as February 2010, the college felt compelled to issue a statement to "clarify that homosexuality is not a psychiatric disorder," adding: "There is no sound scientific evidence that sexual orientation can be changed. Furthermore, so-called treatments of homosexuality create a setting in which prejudice and discrimination flourish."

 

The move was prompted by a survey of 1,400 psychiatrists and therapists, which found more than one in six had offered to help turn gays straight, or reduce their gay or lesbian feelings. Moreover, the cases were not concentrated in the past, but spread across the decades up to the present.

 

Professor Michael King, who led the study published in BMC Psychiatry, said at the time: "We didn't expect it to be happening at this rate and we are really rather concerned... It is distressing and harmful and there is absolutely no evidence it works."

 

One puzzle was that far fewer therapists said they would attempt to change someone's sexual orientation if asked to do so – one in 25 – than admitted having actually done so. They seemed uncomfortable with giving treatment, or admitting to it. Pressure from clients demanding help because of bullying or discrimination may have pushed the therapists into delivering it.

 

Professor King said: "If the therapist is not wise enough to say that there is nothing pathological about it, they may get seduced into trying to change them. Instead, the therapist should be saying that it is very unfortunate they are being bullied and that they can try to help them come to terms with their situation."

 

Genetic link

 

Research in neurobiology, cited by Jerome Goldstein in Lisbon last month, has served to reinforce this view. If it can be shown that the brains of gay people are physiologically different from heterosexual people, the idea that they are "aberrant" and may be changed is harder to sustain.

 

Twin studies have revealed a probable genetic link with sexual orientation and Dr Goldstone plans to examine the brains of identical twins using MRI scanners for differences.

 

Researchers from the Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, using MRI scanners measuring blood flow to the brain

have already found differences in the size of the amygdala in the brain, which plays a key role in emotional responses. The brains of homosexual men resembled those of heterosexual women and those of homosexual women resembled those of heterosexual men.

 

The research builds on other studies of neurological differences between gay and straight men and women. A study led by Qazi Rahman at Queen Mary, University of London, found gay men and heterosexual women share a poor sense of direction and are more likely to navigate using landmarks or by asking someone. It is heterosexual men who stick stubbornly to the map.

 

The right-hand side of the brain dominates spatial capabilities, so may be slightly more developed in heterosexual men and lesbians. An earlier study found gay men and heterosexual women outperformed lesbians and heterosexual men in verbal fluency.

 

These studies hark back to those by Simon LeVay, a gay neuroscientist at the Salk Institute in San Diego, California, who claimed to have found structural differences in the brains of homosexual and heterosexual men. Post-mortems studied by LeVay revealed that a region of the brain called the interstitial nuclei of the anterior hypothalamus is two or three times bigger in heterosexual men than it is in women. In gay men, however, this region is about the same size as in women.

 

This supported the notion that the brains of gay men were in some ways a bit like women. But LeVay acknowledged that it was impossible to say whether this made people gay or whether the differences in their brains were a consequence of being gay. To make a compelling case, it would be necessary to show that the neurological differences existed early in life and that it was possible to predict future sexual orientation from them.

 

But he was captivated by the idea that, if gays were "born that way" it could undermine the morality of homosexual discrimination. He believed that a lifestyle based on an innate propensity rather than a conscious choice is far more difficult to condemn.

 

Jerome Goldstein agrees. "We must continue to bring forward data that show the differences or similarities between the brains of homosexuals, heterosexuals, bisexuals, and transgender persons." He added: "The neurobiology of sexual orientation and the gay brain, matched with other hormonal, genetic, and structural studies, has far-reaching consequences beyond sexual orientation."

 

'Curing' homosexuality

 

The idea that homosexuality can be cured has a long and dubious history. For most of the last century it was thought to be an aberration from the norm that could be "corrected", rather than a natural state. Everyone was thought to be basically heterosexual and homosexuality was regarded as a deviation, the result of "faulty learning" in childhood.

 

During the 1950s and 1960s, when belief in psychological behaviourism was at its height, aversion therapy was used to "cure" homosexuals. Male patients were given a slide show which included pictures of sexually attractive men and women and a lever that allowed them to change the slides. If they lingered too long over the pictures of the men, and did not move on swiftly enough to the pictures of the women, they received an electric shock. A variation of this treatment involved a drug that would make them vomit.

 

Aversion therapy, famously employed in Anthony Burgess's novel A Clockwork Orange to cure Alex of his obsession with violence, was used up to the 1980s, but has since been discredited.

 

Other treatments included advice to masturbate to a homosexual fantasy and then switch to a heterosexual one near orgasm. Covert sensitisation required patients to counter homosexual thoughts with shameful fantasies of arrest by the police or discovery by their family.

 

Although not uncommon, these treatments never became mainstream in Britain. In the US, however, the idea that homosexuality can be cured retains wide support.

 

  UN REPORT BY DECEMBER

The UN Human Rights Council, known as Geneva Forum, adopted a resolution last week , declaring that there should be no discrimination or violence against people based on their sexual orientation. The controversial resolution marked the first time the UN Human Rights Council has recognised the equal rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. The text, presented by South Africa, was adopted by 23 countries in favour, 19 against with 3 abstentions and one delegation absent during voting. Russia, Pakistan and Bangladesh voted against the motion. China abstained during voting.

"All over the world, people face human rights abuses and violations because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, including torture, rape, criminal sanctions, and killing. The landmark resolution affirms that human rights are universal."

— Hillary Clinton

"The aim was for a dialogue on discrimination and violence meted out to those whose only crime seems to be their choice in life."

— Jerry Matthews Matjila, South African Ambassador

"This issue has nothing to do with human rights. What we find here is an attempt to change the natural right of a human being with an unnatural right. That is why we call upon all members to vote against it."

— Sheikh Ahmed Ould Zahaf, Mauritania's ambassador to the UN in Geneva

The resolution calls on the office of United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay to draw up the first U.N. report on challenges faced by gay people worldwide. Her report, due by December, should document discriminatory laws and practices and acts of violence against people based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.

 

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

EDITORIAL

LET PARLIAMENT DECIDE

HAZARE'S JOB IS DONE, TIME NOW FOR PEOPLE'S REPRESENTATIVES

The term "civil society" has been used and abused at will these past few months in India. In a clever coup staged with the active involvement of a section of the media, a clutch of social activists and retired civil servants was allowed to project itself as "a representative of civil society". A confused government, a directionless ruling alliance and a revenue-hungry media allowed this dubious claim to go unchallenged, portraying a few good men and women as the people's voice. The elected representatives chosen by the people to be their voice in Parliament virtually abdicated their constitutional responsibility, allowing the so-called "civil society" leaders to fill the vacuum created by the absence of an organised parliamentary discourse on issues pertaining to corruption in high places. Every political party – in government and in opposition – is equally guilty of this.

By disrupting Parliament, its members drove the debate into television studios. Out of this cacophony came a compromise whose damaging impact on the legitimacy of constitutional democracy may be far greater than is currently imagined. This messy compromise was the so-called Lok Pal Bill drafting committee. For all their commitment to the institution of a non-political ombudsman called "Lok Pal", the so-called civil society representatives in the drafting committee saw nothing incongruous in a sitting Lokayukta of a state actively participating in a semi-political exercise, appearing in the media and making semi-political comments and the like. These are minor sins compared to the larger claim that a bunch of five people will speak for India, and if the duly elected and constitutionally constituted government of the day will not accept their view of things, then there is no space for democratic disagreement, only a call for another hunger strike.

 

Every Indian has the right to fast, but the law of the land denies the citizen the right to fast unto death. Let Mr Hazare have his fast. It is time for the government and Parliament to do their job. The all-party meeting scheduled for July 3 may or may not take a final view on which draft of the Lok Pal Bill should go to Parliament. It is the responsibility of the Union Cabinet. Once the draft Bill is placed in Parliament, the elected representatives of the people will have the last word on the subject. Their view will and must prevail, even if it does not satisfy a vocal minority of citizens. To call such a legally constituted entity a "joke-pal" merely because one does not like the shape and personality of that entity is to mock democracy. No democracy can function pandering to the prejudice and tyranny of a minority, howsoever altruistic its motives.

Indeed, those who believe in real democracy must also allow for the view to be articulated, even if they disagree with it, that there may be no need for the creation of a new institution like the Lok Pal, be it a "Lok Pal strong" or a "Lok Pal lite". Those who wish to create an all-powerful Frankenstein of an institution, aimed at destroying corruption and empowering people, should never forget that once a Frankenstein is created, it could well destroy democracy in the name of the people. A democratic nation with a corrupt government, some may believe, is better than a corruption-free government that is non-democratic. In recent years, democracies around the world have seen individual rights curtailed in the name of a war on terrorism. It would be a sad day for India if democratic institutions are rendered paralysed in the name of a war on corruption.

The time has come for the government of the day to stop behaving like a supplicant before self-appointed representatives of civil society. A democratically elected government is, in fact, the constitutional manifestation of the people's collective will. There is a job to be done by both the government and Parliament and they must do it without fear or favour. If in its wisdom Indian Parliament accepts or rejects a certain version of the institution of Lok Pal that most do not like, the people of India have the right to elect a new Parliament that will do what they want. No one needs to forego a meal for that.

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BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

FERTILISING POLICY

PRICING MUST ENSURE BALANCED USE AND A REASONABLE RETURN

A rational fertiliser policy always seems to be sabotaged by the very minister who is expected to implement it. Union Fertiliser Minister M K Alagiri has come out against the idea of decontrolling urea prices, ostensibly in the name of the farmer. The nutrient-based subsidy (NBS) system, as opposed to product-based subsidy, is unworkable if producers do not have the freedom to fix sale price. The fundamental objective of this system is to promote balanced use of fertilisers and rationalisation of the ever-mounting fertiliser subsidy. What the fertiliser minister is disregarding is that the NBS regime has been working well ever since it was introduced for phosphatic (P) and potassic (K) fertilisers in April 2010 and was subsequently extended to several other plant nutrients, barring N (urea). So why not urea?

Noting a wide price disparity between urea and non-urea fertilisers, a government committee headed by Planning Commission member Saumitra Chaudhuri recommended that urea be decontrolled. Instead of securing the government's imprimatur for this recommendation, the minister concerned is seeking to delay action. The uncertainty on price reforms in urea is discouraging new investment in the fertiliser industry. As a result, though the demand for urea is rising, its supply is being constrained owing to absence of new investment. There has hardly been any expansion in production capacity for nearly a decade. Consequently, urea imports have risen sharply, from a meagre 0.64 million tonnes in 2004-05 to a whopping 5.21 million tonnes in 2009-10. The government's efforts to ease import dependence by wooing fresh investment in domestic capacity addition came a cropper when the new investment promotion policy, notified in September 2008, failed to receive any response. So, unless urea is treated on a par with phosphatic and potassic fertilisers and is subjected to the same kind of policy prescription (chiefly NBS, price decontrol and decanalisation of imports), any significant increase in domestic urea production capacity seems unlikely. Nor can the objective of introducing NBS and other reforms in the non-urea sector be fully served.

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BUSINESS STANDARD

THE CHALLENGE FOR ASIA-PACIFIC

THE REGION MUST FOCUS ON ENHANCING CONSUMPTION AND PROMOTING INVESTMENT TO CORRECT GLOBAL IMBALANCES

NAGESH KUMAR

 

With the swift recovery of the Asia-Pacific region in 2010, a sense of complacency seems to be taking hold that all was back to business as usual. However, it is important not to lose sight of the challenge of rebalancing Asia-Pacific economies in favour of greater domestic consumption, and investment remains relevant to sustain the region's dynamism over the medium and long term.

 

 The dynamism of the Asia-Pacific economies over the past decade was significantly driven by debt-fuelled excess consumption in the advanced economies of the West. The rising current account surpluses of east and south-east Asian countries were being recycled to advanced economies, especially the US to fund its growing current account deficit. The rising current account deficit (and fiscal deficit) of the US and rising surpluses of east Asian countries are referred to as global imbalances.

It is now becoming increasingly clear that advanced countries will be restraining their debt-fuelled consumption in an effort to unwind global imbalances. The Economic Reports of the US President clearly indicate the focus of the government in the medium term on raising savings and exports. This means that the growth of imports by advanced economies of Asian products may not go back to its pre-crisis trend. The dynamism of the Asia-Pacific economies will, therefore, have to be supported by new supplementary sources of aggregate demand. These new sources of demand generation will have to be found within the region. In other words, the Asia-Pacific region's economic growth has to be rebalanced in favour of greater domestic and regional demand over the coming decade.

There are many opportunities for rebalancing the Asia-Pacific economy. The latest Economic and Social Survey of Asia and the Pacific 2011 by the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and Pacific (ESCAP) has pointed to a growing imbalance between the Asia-Pacific sub-regions. In east Asian countries, the share of consumption in growth has declined over time while in south-east Asian countries investment has lagged behind. India is an exception, with growth fuelled by rising domestic consumption and investment. Therefore, east Asian countries will need to enhance consumption and south-east Asian countries will have to promote investment as part of the rebalancing strategy.

Other opportunities for rebalancing include poverty alleviation and closing other development gaps through inclusive policies. With over 950 million people living in poverty, the region has much headroom for generating additional aggregate demand by creating new consumers out of the poor. For this it is important to focus on agriculture in a way that sustains the bulk of the population, especially the poor and vulnerable. In the past two decades, the focus of development policies was on promoting modern sectors such as industry and services as part of the strategy to accelerate growth, while neglecting agriculture. The resultant growth created fewer jobs per unit of investment, given the focus of industry and services on automation. Future growth will have to be made more job-creating. Agriculture and rural development will create jobs and enhance consumption while strengthening food security.

Other policies to enhance domestic demand include financial inclusion and strengthening social protection. By reducing the precautionary motive for savings, social protection helps expand household consumption. An important experiment in this direction is India's National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, which is strengthening income security of millions of households, thus attacking poverty frontally. Other schemes in the region include conditional cash transfers in Indonesia, the Philippines and so on.

Other opportunities for rebalancing include enhancing investment for closing the gaps in infrastructure development. The ESCAP report presents a composite index of infrastructure development showing wide variations across countries in the region in terms of infrastructure development, with Singapore, Japan, Australia, Republic of Korea and Malaysia occupying the top slots in terms of infrastructure development, with Papua New Guinea among other least developed countries on the other side of the spectrum and other developing countries between the two ends. India occupies a middle slot, which clearly shows large gaps.

Closing the infrastructure gap will require huge investments, which, in turn, will create aggregate demand besides contributing to growth. Recent estimates suggest that the region would need annual investments of $800 billion to close these gaps. India has recently projected the need for investments of the order of $1,000 billion over the 12th five year plan or annual investments of $200 billion.

While these investment requirements appear huge and cannot be funded by existing financial arrangements, there are opportunities for financing them within the region through institutional development. The governments of the Asia-Pacific region now own foreign exchange reserves worth more than $5 trillion, which remain invested in western securities, such as the US treasury bills, because of underdeveloped regional financial architecture. When the region's governments and companies need to raise capital, they also go to western capital markets. Hence, the intermediation of Asian savings and their investment needs is being done by western capital markets. With the development of regional financial architecture in the Asia-Pacific region, it may be possible to deploy a small part of such reserves to finance infrastructure investment. The development of regional financial architecture to facilitate infrastructure development is, therefore, an important policy priority. ESCAP Secretariat is elaborating elements of such an architecture as part of a mandate given to it by the member states.

Finally, a major challenge for the Asia-Pacific region to sustain its dynamism in the post-crisis era would be rebalancing its economies in favour of itself. Through an emphasis on poverty reduction, job-creating growth and closing the infrastructure development gaps, it would be possible to not only enhance domestic demand but also evolve a more inclusive pattern of development. The other aspect of rebalancing is deepening regional economic integration. That will be discussed in the next column.

The author is chief economist of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and Pacific, Bangkok

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the UN

nkumar@un.org  

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BUSINESS STANDARD

DRESS CODES AND SIGNALS

KANIKA DATTA

Thoughtful commentators have correctly pointed out that the proposed Slut Walk (inaccurately translated as Besharmi Morcha) in Delhi trivialises an issue as serious as rape. Certainly, as a well-meaning feminist response to deep-rooted chauvinism, the Slut Walk with its organised parades of scantily clad women is as overblown and probably as counterproductive as public lingerie-burning was in the last century. But as with all extreme reactions, a tiny kernel of truth lies hidden in the rhetoric: women do tend to be judged on how they dress — far more than men, in fact.

To be sure, it would be unfair to write this off only as a "guy thing". Many women choose to define themselves by their sartorial style and this applies to professional women as much as anybody. The elegant women CEOs in the Indian banking business are a case in point. But don't be deceived by Mamata Banerjee's home-spun sari and bathroom slippers either. They are as much of a style statement as Hillary Clinton's boxy Oscar de la Renta pantsuits and low-heeled pumps. (In contrast, does anyone really notice what Manmohan Singh or Barack Obama wears?)

 

Back in the early nineties when Enron Corporation was proposing its headline-grabbing power plant on the Maharashtra coast, the head of its International Division Rebecca Mark burst on the scene with her carefully blow-dried hair, skilful eye make-up, figure-hugging skirts and stilettos, creating a storm every time she visited conservative South Block.

Ms Mark's Power Woman look, it seems, wasn't a default style either. It was even modified for India; in Europe and the US her twin-sets were either bright red or electric blue and her make-up much brighter. When the Dabhol power plant ran into its many controversies, she gave an impassioned interview to a magazine editor and took care to outfit herself in a homely churidar-kurta in the Indian national colours for the magazine's photographer. The message was clear and it wasn't subliminal either: Ms Mark knew what she was about, no matter how she dressed. (It's the same message Venus William sends out when she turns up for tournaments in increasingly unusual tennis outfits.)

There are many more women in the workplace in India today than there were in Ms Mark's day, and in the absence of a proper dress code and exposure to global cultures, you get to see a variety of styles on display, western, Indian and hybrid.

Men, on the other hand, tend to be more uniformly and boringly attired, if only because they have less choice. For them, the heavy western suits of the Raj era may have been replaced by safari suits or the shirt-and-trouser ensemble, but the engaging south-east Asian tradition of considering half-sleeved printed shirts as formal menswear hasn't yet caught on in India.

Men often grumble that women in India get far more leeway in matters sartorial. This is partly true. In many corporate offices, for instance, the churidar-kurta and slippers or sandals would be outlawed for men. No woman would be violating even the strictest official dress code if she wore those (though some offices deem only saris or collared twin-sets as formal wear).

But this is, in my humble opinion, as far as the inequality goes. It is one thing for women to choose how they want to look; it is another for judgements to be made about their abilities on that basis. Few are likely to admit this but people – of both genders – do tend to weigh women's abilities by the way they dress. Is a professional woman who wears strappy high heels or form-fitting clothes less intelligent or able and more frivolous than, say, a woman who is dressed in flat shoes, ankle-length skirt and all-enveloping blouse?

This was the point Alexis Maybank, founder of a hugely successful technology start-up called Gilt Groupe Inc, made to news agency Bloomberg. She said she made it a point to wear five-inch stilettos just so that people get the message that "being feminine and starting a technology company aren't mutually exclusive". It is also a point subtly made in the TV serial Mad Men, where the lone woman who graduates from secretary to copywriter (i.e. to a "man's job") in the advertising firm is dressed significantly more dowdily than the rest. She is even portrayed as less attractive.

Sure, this is a long, long way from the proposition the slut walkers are advocating but it certainly adds a layer in the glass ceiling in the workplace and one that will prove as pointless — as all such discrimination eventually does.

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BUSINESS STANDARD

THE 'GRAND' KEY TO AFRICA

GIVEN INDIA'S INTEREST IN THE CONTINENT, IT WILL BE IMPORTANT FOR THE COUNTRY TO FOLLOW THE NEGOTIATIONS ON THE CAPE-TO-CAIRO FTA

T S VISHWANATH

It is referred to as the "Grand Free Trade Area" or the Tripartite Free Trade Agreement, and true to its name it will be one of the largest free trade areas in the developing world when it becomes a reality. The 26-nation free trade area encompassing countries from Egypt to South Africa and three existing free trade blocs will be a very important platform for countries to engage and invest.

The 26 nations – Libya, Djibouti, Eritrea, Sudan, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Angola, DRC, Mauritius, Madagascar, Comoros, Seychelles, Mozambique, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa and Swaziland – met recently and have decided to complete the negotiations in the next three years and have the free trade agreement (FTA) up and rolling. This FTA will cover 525 million people and $1 trillion in output and will include many countries that will be among the faster growing nations of the globe.

 

What may make the negotiations easier is that these countries are already members of three different trade blocs — the Common Market for East and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the East African Community (EAC) and the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC). The COMESA and the EAC are already duty-free and quota-free markets while the SADC has some products that attract duties. However, with political will, it will be easy to bring the three blocs together to create a large free trade zone.

The FTA that is being envisaged between these countries is expected to be done in two phases. The first will focus on the removal of tariffs on goods trade as also target non-tariff barriers on industrial goods, while the second phase will be for liberalisation of services and greater partnership and engagement in the area of intellectual property regime. Therefore, when fully completed, this FTA would be a comprehensive agreement covering intellectual property rights, goods and services.

The primary motive behind the creation of this FTA is supposed to be the thinking within many of the countries in this region that there is a need to attract investment into these countries if growth has to be inclusive. They are interested in moving away from the present model of exporting raw materials and minerals to resource-hungry countries and import value-added goods in return.

This thought process is in line with the Indian engagement with Africa that looks at investment-led trade so that India and the nations in the continent benefit in the long run. However, given the fact that several countries would now look at Africa as the next large emerging market, if this proposal goes through, it will be important for India to continue to deeply engage with all the three trade blocs to ensure that it benefits from the "Grand FTA" when it becomes a reality.

It is important to note that given China's rising influence in Africa, the US, too, has decided to deepen its engagement with Africa. In a recent meeting in Zambia, US officials discussed the need to revitalise the Africa Growth Opportunities Act that was conceived 11 years ago to provide preferential access to 37 African nations into the US market. This meeting was attended by United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk as also the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. This was the first visit by a US Secretary of State to Zambia in 30 years.

Interestingly, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has predicted that sub-Saharan Africa will grow by 5.5 per cent in 2011 and 6 per cent in 2012. The IMF also predicted that over the next five years, average growth of sub-Saharan countries will be higher than other regions.

Free trade agreements across various countries in a region are slowly becoming the order of the day. There is a discussion to create a Pan-Asian FTA covering nearly all countries of Asia Pacific where already several criss-cross of FTAs exist. Over 500 FTAs are either under discussion or have already been negotiated in the Asia-Pacific region in the last decade.

Given India's interest – at the political and economic level – in engaging with Africa, it will be important for business and the government in the country to follow the outcome of the negotiations for a large FTA, which some news reports called the Cape-to-Cairo FTA. India, which is already a reasonably large investor in Africa, will have to continue building closer links with the African continent to the benefit of both sides.

The author is Principal Adviser with APJ-SLG Law Offices

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

WHERE ARE ALL THE FACTORIES?

THERE IS A SHARP REGIONAL DISPARITY IN THE NUMBER OF FACTORIES ACROSS INDIA WITH SCANTY PRESENCE IN SMALLER STATES

INDICUS ANALYTICS

The Annual Survey of Industries (ASI) conducted by the Central Statistical Organisation (CSO) covers all factories registered under Sections 2m(i) and 2m(ii) of the Factories Act, 1948, that is, those factories employing 10 or more workers using power and those employing 20 or more workers without using power. The latest report reveals that between 2005-06 and 2008-09, the number of registered factories have increased by 3.5 per cent a year with a 7.1 per cent annual growth in the number of workers. A characteristic of registered factories is the skewed distribution when it comes to the size of employment, number and contribution to value addition in the manufacturing sector. The ASI report notes that though the class of factories with the lowest employment of less than 50 workers comprises the largest share of factories (72.04 per cent), it utilises only 8.45 per cent of the fixed capital, provides employment to 17.23 per cent of total employees, produces 11.63 per cent of the total output and generates 8 per cent of the national income in the form of net value added by manufacture. On the other hand, factories that employ 200 or more employees comprise 8.39 per cent of all factories, utilise 77.37 per cent of the fixed capital and contribute to 57.99 per cent of employment, 69.60 per cent of the total output and 76.35 per cent of net value added in manufacturing.

There is, of course, a sharp regional disparity in the number of factories across states. Almost 30 per cent of the total factories in India are in Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra, but there is barely any presence of factories in small states like Manipur, Nagaland and Meghalaya.

 

Ranking the states in terms of net value added, Maharashtra leads with the highest — at least 46 per cent higher than Gujarat. Despite having the highest number of factories, Tamil Nadu comes in fourth in total net value added, lower than Karnataka. (Click here for chart)
 

MAN AND MACHINE
Growth in number of factories & workers 

Period

No. of
factories

No. of
workers

1981-82

105,037

1,686,248

1991-92

112,286

6,269,039

2001-02

128,549

5,957,848

2008-09

155,321

8,776,745

Source: Annual Survey of Industries, 2008-09

Looking at the net value added per factory, however, Uttarakhand is at the top with Rs 1,490 lakh added per factory followed by Himachal Pradesh, Goa, Chhattisgarh and Orissa, making up the top five. At the other end, among the large states are Tamil Nadu, Assam, Kerala and Punjab with the lowest net value added per factory. Rajasthan, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Bihar are the other large states with lower than average net value added per factory. The case of Tamil Nadu is particularly striking because it has the highest number of factories and highest employment but net value added per factory is only half than that of the all-India average.

The latest ASI report for 2008-09 covers the recent boom period; the number of factories, fixed capital, number of workers and wages to workers grew the most in 2008-09 compared to the previous five years. The impact of the financial crisis and the resultant slowdown would, of course, be revealed only in subsequent reports. However, what stand out as issues to be addressed for balanced growth are the skewed contribution to income and employment in the organised manufacturing sector and the level of heterogeneity across states.

Indian States Development Scorecard, a weekly feature by Indicus Analytics, focuses on the progress in India and across the states across various socio-economic parameters.
sumita@indicus.net 

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BUSINESS LINE

OPINION

BANK UNIONS MISS THE POINT

When the unions cite the risk of 'de-regulation' to justify their opposition, they miss the point that entry of more players need not mean unfettered freedom.

Even as the Reserve Bank of India plans the next phase of liberalisation in the banking sector, employees' unions are getting ready to flex their muscle to oppose what they term 'de-regulation' of the industry. Last weekend, the president of the Bank Employees' Federation of India announced that it would call for a strike on July 6 to oppose the entry of corporate houses into banking and the outsourcing of some banking activities, among other issues. So far, the other federations representing the rest of bank employees and officers have not announced support but they could join in to paralyse banking activity that day. The strike could trigger a wave of protests from organised employees who view 'deregulation' as a threat to their jobs.

Less than a decade ago, the opposition to computerisation bogged down public sector banks, setting them back in the race to modernisation with new private banks. The unions' fears were the same: displacement of their members by the new technology. That fear died a slow and protracted death, with many PSU banks still to complete the core banking processes. The issues are now different and together reflect an opposition to the strategic vision of policymakers for banks. The efforts of the RBI and North Block are aimed at expanding and deepening banking activity in order to increase intermediation in areas still 'under-banked.' The unions need to remember that more than half the population is still beyond the pale of the banking system. If banks are to expand to reach out to the unbanked, there will be more jobs created, not fewer. More banks would mean more capital is available for short-term needs — as well as for long gestation projects in a country still short of capital for its infrastructure — and new growth sectors such as agriculture. Letting in more players is not the same as 'de-regulation'; when the BEFI uses the term to justify its opposition, it misses the point that more players need not mean granting unfettered freedom of the kind that American banks enjoyed till September 2008, as a result of systemic deregulation since the early 1980s. Even so, the Wall Street crash has put the world wise to the perils of providing foreign banks and corporate houses a free rein in sensitive operations — such as deposit-taking, for instance.

One can only hope that the unions will allow better sense to prevail, that they will read the script for reforms more carefully to locate loopholes in the current regulatory framework so as to ensure that freedom for more players does not turn into the 'deregulation' they mistakenly apprehend is at the heart of the proposed reforms.

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BUSINESS LINE

OPINION

DESPITE UPHEAVALS, THE EURO HAS A FUTURE

SITHARAM GURUMURTHI

The issue is to evolve a mechanism to anticipate crises and gradually reduce European trade imbalances.

The significant risks faced by some countries in the euro zone have thrown the debate open on the suitability of a single currency in the absence of a high level of political integration.

Speculation is rife about Greece either abandoning the euro or being booted out of the euro zone. The implications for the EU's overleveraged nations, Portugal, Ireland, Italy, and Greece have yet to be fully determined. In a recent speech, European Central Bank President, Jean-Claude Trichet, floated the idea of a common European Finance Ministry coupled with veto power for European institutions over national budgets.

Euro unlikely to go

Martin Feldstein, Chairman of the US Council of Economic Advisers under President Reagan and currently a Professor at Harvard, firmly believes that the creation of the euro was an economic mistake. Right from the start it was clear that imposing a single monetary policy and a fixed exchange rate on a heterogeneous group of countries would lead to higher unemployment and persistent trade imbalances.

Further, the single currency coupled with independent national budgets inevitably produced the massive fiscal deficits in countries like Greece, while the sharp drop in interest rates in several countries in the wake of the launch of the euro caused excessive private and public borrowing that eventually created the current banking and sovereign debt crises in Spain, Ireland and elsewhere.

Even though the survival of the euro will require large fiscal transfers from Germany and other core nations to those euro-zone countries with large debts and chronic trade deficits, the euro, according to Feldstein, is likely to survive for both political and economic reasons.

The political protagonists of the euro visualise the zone evolving into a federal state with greater political power.

As regards the economic reason, while hard-working German voters may resent the transfer of their tax money to other countries that enjoy earlier retirement and shorter workweeks, the German business community supports paying taxes to preserve the euro as it recognises that German businesses benefit from the fixed exchange rate that prevents other euro-zone countries from competing with Germany by devaluing their currencies.

In fact, several investors had been quietly diversifying their investment funds to euros before the crisis began in Greece. They eventually recognised that the problems of the peripheral countries were not a problem for the euro and should be reflected in country-specific interest rates rather than in the euro's value.

The result was a rising euro and a renewed shift of portfolio balances to euros from dollars.

Pedro Solbes, Executive Chairman of FRIDE (a European think-tank for global action) and former Spanish Minister of Economy, however, hails the euro as a joint success that has enabled a long period of growth and price stability in Europe.

Without the euro, Europe would have witnessed an increase in protectionism, which would in turn have aggravated the impact of the crisis on Europe and elsewhere.

Sorting out imbalances

According to Hans-Werner Sinn, President of Germany's Ifo Institute of Economic Research and the CESifo Group, survival of the euro depends on whether European countries implement political and private debt constraints that effectively limit capital flows.

While huge capital exports brought a slump to Germany, the countries at the euro zone's southern and western peripheries overheated with the bust and boom resulting in current account surpluses and deficits, respectively.

According to Sinn, what Europe needs is a crisis mechanism that helps to prevent a crisis in the first place and mitigates it when it occurs. Such a system has recently been proposed at the European Economic Advisory Group at the Centre for Economic Studies and the Ifo Institute for Economic Research. The plan envisages a three-stage rescue mechanism that distinguishes between a liquidity crisis, impending insolvency, and full insolvency, and offers specific measures at each stage.

The system is expected to allow Germany to gradually appreciate in real terms by living through a boom that generates higher wages and prices and thus reduces the country's competitiveness, while cooling down the overheated economies of the south such that the resulting wage and price moderation would improve their competitiveness. As a result, European trade imbalances would gradually reduce.

According to Barry Eichengreen, Professor at the University of California, Berkeley, Europe's budget deficits are largely a result of the continent's 'festering banking crisis.' The whole euro area would benefit from stronger discipline on borrowers and lenders. He cautions that this cannot be achieved by imposing Germanic debt ceilings continent-wide. Only if the banks are adequately capitalised, can the ECB refuse to buy more Greek, Irish and Portuguese bonds.

(The author is former staff member of the International Monetary Fund.)

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

GET GST, CURB GRAFT

INSTEAD OF PLAYING CORRUPTION POLITICS, THE OPPOSITION SHOULD SUPPORT THE GST

 

By April 2012, India is supposed to bring in a uniform goods and services tax (GST) to replace the chaotic multitude of excise, state taxes and other indirect duties. But can it meet the deadline? To scrap today's indirect tax system and move to a GST, Parliament will need to amend the Constitution and at least 15 state assemblies will need to ratify the changes. As things stand, most states ruled by the opposition BJP are opposed to the GST. Only Bihar, run by Nitish Kumar's JD (U) in alliance with the BJP, is in favour of the GST. There are many things in favour of the GST: it is almost certain to bring prices down, by cutting out the cascade of multiple taxes that most things bear today; it'll eliminate much clutter from the fiscal system and improve compliance, and states are likely to see revenues grow faster, something that happened after India moved to a VAT system sometime ago. But, most importantly, a GST will be a major cure for corruption. With a built-in incentive to pay tax (that is the only way to get credit for the taxes you have paid on your inputs) and an automatic audit trail of value addition and income across the production chain, GST will create a unified database of tax potential, to be tapped from the sides of indirect and direct taxes.


Today, the BJP and other opposition parties are vocal against corruption. If they are serious, they should drop their objections to the GST. There is no logical ground to oppose the new tax regime. In fact, the BJP did not allow Bihar's finance minister Sushil Modi, one of the most obvious candidates to chair the panel of state finance ministers on GST, to take up that responsibility. It behaved with similar peevishness when the government decided to impose VAT, with many BJP-ruled states not implementing the new tax structure. They only fell in line after it became apparent that revenues were surging in states that had implemented VAT. Unfortunately, the GST cannot be brought in without widespread cooperation from opposition-run states because the Congress now rules fewer than 15 states. Instead of playing anti-graft politics, states should actually do something to curb it by agreeing to smooth transition to the GST.

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

NOT SO BIG, BROTHER

INTRODUCTION OF THE RIGHT TO PRIVACY BILL GOOD; BUT MAKE THAT A FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT


The finance minister of the country, it transpires, felt worried enough about the possibility of his office having been bugged to write to the PM last year. And senior civil servants suspected that their phones had been tapped without authorisation. All this underlines the seriously alarming levels to which electronic surveillance has been taken in India. In this context, the possible introduction in the coming session of Parliament of a Right to Privacy Bill assumes great significance. Indeed, the entire political class must realise the grave danger unfettered, and not just unauthorised, phone tapping and surveillance poses and work towards enshrining the Right to Privacy as a fundamental right guaranteed by the Constitution. The choice is clear: between lapsing into a de facto police state which wantonly spies on its citizens or having in place strict safeguards that govern the exigencies of sometimes having to monitor communications between certain individuals and groups. Reports suggest the proposed Bill is a step in the right direction, as it seeks to, among other things, protect citizens' personal communications, banking, legal, medical and other data and establish rules governing the gleaning and disposal of such data. Such protection is required from private snooping as well.


One leading telecom operator revealed recently that it had tapped around 1.5 lakh telephones over a five-year period. Take, also, the host of e-surveillance projects or even the unique identity scheme, and the need to safeguard privacy, protect information leakages across silos and into the public domain becomes manifest. There is, of course, a wider debate about what information a state can seek and retain about its citizens. But the governing factors in breaching privacy should be the law and the greater common good — whether going after criminals/ terrorists or detecting cases of economic fraud. Making the Right to Privacy a fundamental right would also be in tandem with the Supreme Court's practice of reading the Right to Privacy as part of the Right to Protection of Life and Personal Liberty (Article 21 of the Constitution).

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

BIRTHDAY BLUES

FINDING A SUITABLE ALLIANCE IS AS TRICKY AS KEEPING OLD ONES GOING


Rahul Gandhi's self-imposed bachelorhood is clearly causing heartburn in diverse circles. All the matchmaking mammas who watched in silent approval as his muchvaunted romance with a Spanish – or was it South American – girlfriend fizzled out, must be lamenting his disinclination to introduce a fifth Mrs Gandhi to the nation, even as his cousin Varun has provided the fourth Mrs G recently. Now, party royalists with a penchant for hyperbole have come out with a two-forone offer — marry a reluctant prince and get a PM free – probably aimed at both Gandhi and all prospective brides. The message is clear: the political and biological clock is ticking away. Mr Gandhi, now 41, must be aware that at exactly the same age, Britain's newly-minted leader of the opposition (and presumably PM in waiting) Ed Miliband has finally married his partner of many years and mother of his two children. Moreover, Justine Thornton, known to be an independent-minded barrister, has even demurely acceded to taking her husband's politically significant surname, underlining the undeniable importance of legacy (and suitable spouses) in politics everywhere.


Luckily for Prince William, middle-class Kate has proved to be a Sonia Gandhi-like royal bride, dutifully imbibing the ethos and style of the dynasty she has married into. After all, look where bad-b a h u behaviour landed the new princess's late mother-inlaw Diana and outcast aunt-in-law Sarah. Prospective Mrs Gs would be aware of the potential pitfalls of marrying into the Windsors or the Gandhis. Little wonder then that choosing the right marriage alliance is proving to be trickier than keeping the United Progressive Alliance together or stepping into the corner office at South Block for the not-so-young-anymore Gandhi.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

GUEST COLUMN

ECONOMICS IN PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS

GOVERNMENT SHOULD COME UP WITH MORE THAN ONE METRIC TO MEASURE HUMAN PROGRESS AND WELL-BEING

 

Does money buy happiness? Are people living in rich countries happier than people in poorer countries? Does economic growth lead to happiness? Is it possible to measure happiness or well-being? There was once a time when such questions were left to philosophers to understand. Quantifying happiness was out of question; attaching a money value to it was blasphemy. And then entered in this field the scientist. Economics of happiness is now a growingly large field of research. Social scientists have begun to question the age-old assumption that all economic activity is in the pursuit of happiness to maximise what in economics jargon is called 'utility'. Economists have started measuring happiness, conducting statistical analysis to investigate the factors that 'determine' happiness and if money happens to be one of them.
The Great Recession in Europe and the US and its painfully slow demise has led politicians to join the search for more appropriate measures of national well-being and happiness. The age-old metric of economic activity — the gross domestic product — is felling out of favour with many western governments. In September 2009, on the first anniversary of the collapse of Lehman Brothers, French President Nicolas Sarkozy asked other nations to drop their obsessions on GDP and a adopt measure of 'well-being' as the metric of progress. A year later, the British Prime Minister David Cameron asked the Office of National Statistics in the UK to produce an index to gauge the general wellbeing of the people by assessing their psychological and environmental well-being. A number of other countries, including Canada and Australia, are also considering developing such a measure. Cameron, however, wants to go a step further. He wants to use the new measure to steer public policy.
The concept of measuring progress with happiness and not economic activity is not entirely western. The former king of Bhutan coined the term gross national happiness about four decades ago and the Bhutanese government has developed detailed surveys to measure it.
American politicians, of course, have a greater faith in the market than fellow politicians across the Atlantic or up north in Canada. But they too are finding it hard convince the American public that GDP growth reflects prosperity of all. The US economy is in what seems to be a long phase of jobless (read: joyless) recovery with stagnating wages. The growth in GDP for the past few quarters, therefore, does not reflect the plight of the families most hit by the recession.
Economists and psychologists are devising ways of measuring happiness and well-being. Alan Krueger, former assistant secretary for economic policy and chief economist of the US department of treasury, and psychologist Daniel Kahneman and colleagues have developed what they call the 'national time accounting' (NTA) — as opposed to national income accounting, which is used to measure income or GDP. NTA is based on surveys that involve asking respondents to keep a diary of their daily activity and record their feeling about each of the activity on an 'enjoyment scale'. Based on their survey, Krueger, Kahneman and colleagues found that while people who earned very low incomes were somewhat more likely to have spent their day in a bad mood, people with higher incomes devoted relatively more of their time to work, shop, childcare and other 'obligatory' activities, which the respondents associated with 'higher tension and stress' and less time in passive leisure activities.
Based on their findings, the researchers concluded that the link between income and happiness is exaggerated.
    Others have investigated the association between happiness and riches across countries. The evidence is mixed and very controversial. In the mid-1970s, economist Richard Easterlin wrote a seminal paper, Does economic growth improve the human lot? He did not find that people in richer countries were necessarily happier. He found that at any point in time, within countries richer people were in general happier than those with less income. But over time, even within a country economic growth did not lead to more happiness. This phenomenon has come to be known as Easterlin Paradox.
Evidence from more recent surveys appears to echo this paradox. In 2007, the Pew Global Attitudes survey also found little link between GDP of countries and the self-reported levels of happiness of their residents. In general, people in Latin American economies were found to be more likely to report that they were happy with their lives than people in East Asian economies. The link between riches and self-reported life-satisfaction was even more bizarre. Mexicans, the survey found, were somewhat more likely to report that they were satisfied with their lives than Americans, even though the per capita income in the US is four times higher than that in Mexico.
Over the years, many others have studied this issue. Some have debunked the link between riches and happiness; others have debunked the Easterlin Paradox. Some have pointed that over time, comparison of happiness data are often flawed since the language on the question on happiness has changed over the years. Economist Angus Deaton's research shows that life satisfaction increases with per capita GDP, when GDP is measured on a logarithmic scale (proportional increase) rather than increase in absolute terms. Life satisfaction, however, is not the same as happiness, and neither seems to be adequate in capturing quality of life. Neither life-satisfaction nor happiness fully capture the progress that mankind has made over the past say 100 years in terms of lowering infant mortality, morbidity, raising life expectancy, and other indicators of the quality of life. While it is true that obsession with GDP growth creates an illusion of progress even while there is none, obsession with a single metric of progress — self-reported happiness, self-reported life satisfaction — is not the answer. Perhaps governments should use more than a single metric to measure progress and well-being.

 

NEERAJ KAUSHAL

ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

NEURAL NET

THE OTHER FACE OF PAKISTAN'S ISI

RAJIV JAYARAM


With credible, pointed questions being raised almost daily about what Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Directorate's definition of enemy actually is, telling people that it is the great white hope against terrorism is obviously not working as good as it once used to be. Yet, how governments and the security establishment in Pakistan insist that the ISI is under civilian control, and keep a straight face, could stump a Pakistan watcher.
It is in keeping with that pretense that ISI Director-General, Lt-Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha, was called before an extraordinary session of the country's Parliament last month to answer the failures of the military-intelligence establishment which allowed, days earlier, a stealth US commando operation inside Pakistan that killed Osama bin Laden. However, rather than giving the impression that the agency functions under civilian control, the show portrayed a humiliated establishment trying to hide its face in desperation.


On May 30, the bitter truth was out in the open again. The murder of Saleem Shahzad, the courageous investigative reporter who had exposed the extent of jihadi infiltration in the Pakistani military in the aftermath of the Taliban storming of PNS Mehran base in Karachi, blew the cover of 'civilian control'. The modus operandi of the murder bore all the hallmarks of an ISI hit tried and tested before in hundreds of cases of journalists who tell the inconvenient truth and internal dissenters like Baloch nationalists: harassment, intimidation, forced disappearance, custody in safe houses, torture and murder. It also shows that the ISI's political cell is alive and kicking, despite denials in Islamabad.


If the Pakistan Army can be called an army with a nation, the ISI can be described as a state withinthe state. However, if the army is respected within Pakistan for its discipline and professionalism, the ISI has often displayed neither, and seen to be so. It is well-known that the ISI meddles in domestic politics. It manipulates elections, mak es and breaks political parties, sets groups against one another, and on occasions, funds political violence. The men in khakhi use the ISI as their primary vehicle for exerting control and influence over internal politics. Banking on their own judgment, army chiefs since 1988 — from Generals Mirza Aslam Beg, Asif Nawaz Janjua, Abdul Waheed Kakar, Pervez Musharraf to Ashfaq Parvez Kayani — chose their own 'political horses' through vote-rigging, ISI-distributed funding support, shadowy dealings, dictated alliances and even violence. It was even hilarious, as in 1989 during the first Benazir Bhutto government. After Lt-Gen Hamid Gul, who learned his politics well as ISI Director-General, ruined his pan-Islamic reputation in the bungled Jalalabad operation, Benazir managed to coax army chief Aslam Beg to ease him out of ISI to command the Multan Corps of Pakistan Army. But she made a costly error: she brought Lt-Gen Shamsur Rahman Kallu, a known PPP loyalist and retired officer, as the new ISI chief. But when the crunch came for Benazir — in the horse-trading drama known as Operation Midnight Jackals and the weeks prior to her government's dismissal on August 6, 1990 — Lt-Gen Kallu badly let her down, as ISI's own units under his command were used by the military establishment in defiance of his authority to topple her government.


In a report, aptly titled How Gen Durrani got two governments toppled, published in Pakistan's The News on April 28, 1994, famous journalist Kamran Khan recalled the events: "Independent reports confirmed that in the final year of the PPP government, [the Military Intelligence] under Gen [Asad] Durrani was also engaged in a thrilling cold war with ISI, then led by Lt-Gen (retd) Kallu and Intelligence Bureau (IB) under the effective control of an old friend of Asif Ali Zardari, Major (retd) Masood Sharif. 'Durrani's MI outmatched both ISI and IB which were giving all-clear signals to Ms Bhutto until the morning of August 6, moments before the army units moved into Islamabad before the President's speech dismissing the PPP government,' a seasoned intelligence official said." Obviously, Gen Beg had the last laugh. Lt-Gen Durrani replaced Gen Kallu as the ISI head after the putsch of August 1990. Kamran Khan adds that, as ISI head, "PPP and PML-N camps danced like puppets in [Durrani's] hands, succeeding in overthrowing each other's government once each."
Khan's report says: "Investigations…have disclosed that Gen Durrani allegedly played a key role as the DG, MI, and then also as the joint chief of MI and ISI in the ouster of the first Benazir Bhutto government on August 6, 1990, and later as an influential GHQ Lt-Gen in the events that forced Nawaz Sharif to resign from office [in 1993] to pave the way for fresh elections." How they managed to rig the 1990 elections, a key episode of which is the so-called Mehrangate scandal, was another murky story from the ISI stable.


From the ISI perspective, it can be as hilarious even now — but for the restraint imposed by the US in the name of 'stability'.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

THE BIG PICTURE

REGULATORY OVERKILL IN BANKING?

T T RAM MOHAN


Bank regulators everywhere are pressing ahead with an overhaul of bank regulations. Some bankers and policy-makers have opposed the proposed changes. They argue that we might end up with regulatory overkill. It is clear that getting the balance right will be a long and arduous process. One can only hope that, by the time the reforms come through, it is not too late.


Some of what is to come is clear enough, while others are still in the realm of discussion. Banks will have to deal with higher capital requirements. Basel 3 has proposed core equity, that is, equity, reserves and surplus, for banks of 7%. This is only the minimum across the system. Over and above this, around 30 of the world's biggest banks, deemed 'systemically important', face additional core capital requirements of up to 2.5%.
Higher capital is the one thing on which we have some certainty and yet this does not reassure everybody. There are some who believe that core equity should be even higher — say, 15-20%. In the recent financial crisis, it is estimated that US banks lost near ly 7% of their assets. If we accept that banks need a minimum of 8% tier I capital in order to run their business, that adds up to a tier I capital requirement of 15%.
Banks argue that holding more equity will increase their cost of capital and will result in higher costs for their borrowers. That, in turn, will translate into lower economic growth. They are wrong.
Higher equity will lower the perceived risk of banks and hence cause the cost of capital to fall. So, it is not bad for borrowers. It may be bad for bank ers because it will cause return on equity to decline and this will mean lower bonuses for bankers.


Is it bad for investors? Not really. The return on bank equity, under the present conditions, is fictional. Investors earn high returns on equity for a few years. Thereafter, when a bank fails or if a banking crisis strikes, the return is wiped out. It is better for investors to live with lower returns that are stable.


Higher capital apart, there are some radical proposals on the table. The US is planning some form of the Volcker Rule which would restrict banks' involvement in proprietary trading. This is intended to effect a clear separation between retail banking and investment-banking type activities.


Some have questioned whether the integration of retail and investment banking is indeed the cause of instability in banking. They point out that pure commercial banks, such as Northern Rock in the UK, were not exempt from failure.


The Vickers Commission in the UK has proposed a compromise. Banks can have retail and investment banking activities. But retail activities, namely, deposits and small loans, will be 'ring-fenced' from both wholesale and investment banking through higher capital requirements, say, 10%. Other banking activities can have lower capital. The idea is that, when a bank fails, the retail bank is insulated by a large enough capital cushion.
The UK is taking decisive steps away from the 'light touch' regulation that was long said to be its comparative advantage. Responsibility for bank regulation has been moved out of the Financial Services Authority and housed once again in the Bank of England.


Within the Bank, two new bodies, Financial Policy Committee and a Prudential Regulatory Authority, have been created. The former will have responsibility for systemic stability, the latter for bank supervision. In the US, the process of devising detailed regulations for giving teeth to the Dodd-Frank Act has begun.
The basic premise underlying bank reform is that inadequate regulation was one of the important causes, if not the cause, of the crisis, however important the macroeconomic factors were. But not everybody buys this. Alan Greenspan, the former chairman of the Fed, is of the view that tightening regulations is no answer to the complexity of modern-day finance (FT, March 29).


Greenspan argues that complexity, as measured by the growing share of finance in GDP, is linked with higher productivity and standards of living. Trying to curb complexity would thus impose a cost on the economy. He seems to imply that boom and bust in finance are a part of the ups and downs of a capitalist economy.
It is difficult to take such a relaxed view of financial crises. Economies find it more difficult to recover from financial crises than from normal downturns. In a normal recession, the costs of bad decisions are borne by the firms themselves. In a banking crisis, it is the taxpayers who end up bearing the costs. Managers, having made enormous sums while the going was good, end up merely losing their jobs. Excessive 'financialisation' of the economy needs to be addressed.


We need better regulation, tighter supervision, closer monitoring of macro-prudential risk. There is evidence that we are moving in the right direction. With the fiscal position in the ad vanced world being what it is, we cannot afford a banking sector that is as vulnerable as it is now.

 

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MUMBAI MIRROR

EDITORIAL

IDEAL COMMUTER READING

BORED WITH THE DAILY GRIND? HERE ARE SOME SUGGESTIONS FOR BOOKS THAT CAN HELP YOU KILL TIME WHILE COMMUTING


If you're wondering what you can do on those long commuter rides from Churchgate to Virar (besides cleaning and chopping vegetables, or quarrelling with your neighbour who has her elbow in your eye), here are some ideas from this week's books sent to me.

 

Kanika Dhillon's Bombay Duck is a Fish (Westland 2011) is the story of a young woman from Amritsar who wants to be in Mumbai to make films, while her father is fuming about a daughter "throwing away common sense and a first class in a management degree to become some assistant to some director in the jungle called Bollywood".

 

At some stage she falls in love with the second lead actor, Ranvir Khanna with his "lovely muscled back…his rugged good looks, the tall, lean frame, the curly locks, the chiselled profile".

 

But her first view of Ahmed Khan, "a HUGE star" is disillusioning. She thinks she is hallucinating when she feels him scratching his crotch. "It had taken a scratch at the wrong place and the wrong time to put things in the right perspective for me."

 

When we meet the narrator, Neki Brar, however, she is on the parapet of a terrace, contemplating both the Mumbai skyline and suicide. The bottle of wine she has taken with her is empty.

 

She considers throwing it down, and thinks, "My grandfather used to say, there is beauty in destruction. When a thing is about to be destroyed, in that moment it is the most beautiful ever… what does not exist is always more beautiful than what does — for the former has the insignia of imagination added to it." The book is an easy read as the author has a sense of humour. There are no new insights, but then, is there much that's new to say about Bollywood?
    On second thoughts, Slither, sub-titled Carnal Prose, by Urmilla Deshpande is not such a good idea, unless you don't mind your neighbours peering at what you're reading, while pretending to read their newspapers. A painting by Gauguin on the cover, this is a book that takes itself very, very seriously. 282 pages of medium to heavy breathing prose. "I loved his hands, I watched them for hours, looking surreptitiously over my newspaper, as he dug, planted, watered, caressed the aggressive, suggestive flowers and spiky leaves."
    Indu Balachandran's book on advertising, we are informed by Romi Chopra, Advertising and Style Guru, "tickles us till we roll in the aisles, eyes streaming…" Well, try rolling in the aisles on a commuter train! Don't go away. We'll be right back: the Oops and Downs of Advertising has some amusing cartoons by Paul Fernandes. Indu's prose is too forced in its humour, and its attempts to bolster the image advertising has tried to create of itself: great fun, frantic, full of characters etc.
    By this time you'll need Stop Watch, a book on "Irregular lifestyle and health" (2011) by Sanjay Govilkar, Asst Police Inspector, Maharashtra Police, and his wife Snehal, who is a dietician. When working on the book, they had in mind not just the police force, but all those who have shift duties and irregular hours: airlines, customs, callcentres, world of entertainment…"
    The book, originally written in Marathi, uses information from reallife work experiences of stress both personal and otherwise.
    The government and other organisations sometimes organise camps for stress relief. But, according to Sanjay Govilkar, "the quality of guidance given in these camps is not excellent". The teachers may be professionals in their fields, but do not necessarily have any first-hand knowledge of the kind of conditions shift duty employees work in. Happy commuting!

 

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                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

INVESTMENTS HIT AS GOVERNANCE DRIFTS

 

The slowdown in investments in India — both domestic and foreign direct investment and portfolio investment — is a cause for grave concern. But this is only a symptom of a much larger problem. Local investments by the Indian private sector and government entities is down to a trickle. High interest rates and the high fiscal deficit are the main culprits. Last week the Reserve Bank of India raised interest rates for the 10th time in just over a year, with very little or no effect on inflation. But in view of the government's inability to tackle supply-side issues, the RBI had to look as if it was doing something. While failing to curb inflation, these interest rate hikes have instead succeeded in curbing investment and growth. This is a dangerous situation — for unlike most other emerging economies that depend on exports for their growth, India's growth is primarily driven by domestic demand. So the fall in investments and high interest rates have already taken their toll in varying degrees on areas like manufacturing, consumer goods, construction, auto, real estate, etc. The corporate sector finds credit expensive and so has been forced to either postpone capital expenditure or to abandon it altogether. The government too has cut down on its expenditure as it has to control its fiscal deficit. It has been unable to reduce subsidies on fertiliser and fuel; but unless it can do this the public expenditure on badly-needed infrastructure such as roads, highways, ports and transport facilities will suffer. Most analysts believe the government will miss its fiscal deficit target of 4.6 per cent of GDP as it simply does not have the political will to curb unproductive expenditure. A conducive environment is absolutely essential if investments are to start flowing once again. There has to be a clearer picture of where the economy is headed. In today's India we have multiple uncertainties — over critical issues like inflation, interest rates, the uncertain level of demand, the fiscal deficit and growth levels. And the biggest problem of all is the absence of political leadership, with irregularities even among the higher bureaucracy. This is a major disincentive for foreign investors, who simply do not like uncertainties and delays. While it is true that the overall flow of foreign funds flows has slowed down globally, India is getting far less than the other emerging markets. Major decisions — such as on a fuel policy and a land acquisition policy — have been pending for a long time, and there is no indication when there will be some forward movement. The government seems unable to decide which way to go: given that crony capitalism is so obviously out of tune with the current public mood. Big ticket projects are actually being delayed due to this. Imagine in a country like ours that suffers from chronic brownouts and blackouts a major public sector power undertaking had to back down on generation as the state electricity boards cannot afford to buy power. Most of them are bankrupt and, according to one estimate, have suffered a total loss of around `1.04 lakh crores. In the past few months we have seen a new scam emerge almost every single day, causing huge losses to the exchequer and of course blackening the nation's image. There are some signs of softening in the commodity rates; this to an extent might ease the pressure on inflation and thus on interest rates, which then could lead to more investments and production. But that's still a long way off.

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

NUCLEAR BORDERLINE

 

Every year, come January, the Indian and Pakistani governments exchange lists of nuclear facilities (along with their coordinates) that each side undertakes not to attack in case of hostilities. Presumably, new power stations and other sensitive nuclear military-related installations are added to the lists as and when these go onstream. This is a civilised way of dealing with an adversarial fellow nuclear weapons state. It provides some assurance that even in the most volatile situations neither government will slip into actions to make bad situations infinitely worse. It is an aim that will be furthered by the foreign secretaries currently meeting in Islamabad discussing nuclear confidence-building measures (CBMs). That vulnerable nuclear power stations provide attractive military targets are a fact of life and an issue I have plumbed in my writings. It was a problem that troubled the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and Warsaw Pact member-states during the Cold War for which the protagonists found no solution such as the one India and Pakistan have devised. Bennett Ramberg, a sometime official in the George W. Bush administration had, far back as the 1970s, first voiced the danger of nuclear power plants proving high-value targets in the first wave of Soviet attacks were the Cold War to turn hot. In the subcontinental context, the worrisome question is this: Notwithstanding any agreement with India prohibiting such strikes, will the Pakistan Army be able to resist the temptation of hitting or, more importantly, holding hostage proliferating Indian nuclear power stations per Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh's ill-thought-out plan to produce 40,000 MW of nuclear energy by 2050? Indeed, considering the disproportionate payoffs that could accrue to Pakistan, not so much from taking them out as holding these power plants hostage to "good behaviour" on the battlefield, meaning, India not exploiting such advantage as has been obtained by its conventional forces, it may be reasonable to assume General Headquarters Rawalpindi may not forsake this stratagem in war. In any case, it will be prudent for Indian war planners take such a contingency seriously. The antidote to such a ruse de guerre is to build a string of nuclear power plants at sites along the border with Pakistan so as to neutralise the remotest chance of the Pakistan Nuclear Command Authority ordering such strikes in the first place. The reasons why Pakistan will shrink from attacking nuclear power plants on the border are obvious enough. There is no way of guaranteeing that radioactivity from damaged nuclear power stations will not drift across to affect the Pakistani heartland of the Punjab. Paradoxically, the greater the number of reactors on the border the better the chance these will not be hit. Pakistan will also be deterred from launching missile salvos at reactors in the Indian hinterland, because that would be opting for "total war" it cannot survive, and in which the Chinese-built nuclear complexes at Chashma and Khushab, and the civilian nuclear power plant in Karachi, would be counter-targeted. Moreover, such reactors may also preempt conventional hostilities for fear of hitting them. The policy of N-plants on the border conjoined to the certainty of nuclear response to Indian reactors being struck by terrorists or missiles will, moreover, incentivise the Pakistan Army and its Directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence to keep close tabs on the terrorist outfits they have nurtured lest in their zeal these zealots mount an attack and start an affray that will end up costing Pakistan dearer than anything Pakistani strikes can inflict on India. The Nuclear Power Corporation Ltd. has already scouted a number of sites in Indian Punjab, Rajasthan and Gujarat to host high-yield nuclear power plants. It will not be difficult to tweak the plans a bit to ensure that most of these reactors are relocated in the border zone. This strategy will turn potential nuclear hostages for Pakistan into counter-hostages against Pakistan within this country and actually ensure a zone of peace along the border, even where conventional hostilities are concerned. Nuclear issues require careful thought and calibrated policies, not blind reliance on diplomatic understandings that may not withstand the real-world test of military planners in war being tempted by juicy targets. As history shows, preparing for the worst usually prevents the worst from happening — a lesson India seems terminally incapable of learning. In the nuclear context though, it is not clear what additional CBMs Indian foreign secretary Nirupama Rao and Salman Bashir might discuss. But former Indian diplomats Raja Menon and Lalit Mansingh, involved in the officially-sponsored Track-II dialogue, have revealed the possibility of the mutual withdrawal of the early generation short-range ballistic missiles with the two countries — Prithvi-I, Abdali, and Ghaznavi, from frontline service. The trouble with formalising reciprocal actions using diplomatic means is that it ends up according Pakistan parity with India in the nuclear realm that Islamabad has been striving for many years to embed as the negotiating template. And, this talking point sets a precedent. As part of second-stage CBMs, with Pakistan insisting on parity, it will complicate agreeing on mutually acceptable nuclear force-sizes and weapons quality levels, considering that the Indian strategic deterrent is primarily keyed to the China threat, and Pakistan's fears are India-centric. It would have been advisable if, as I have advocated in my 2002 book Nuclear Weapons and Indian Security: The Realist Foundations of Strategy, India had unilaterally withdrawn the nuclearised Prithvi-I batteries many years ago from deployed status on its western border, in order to dilute Pakistan's mistrust and inspiring confidence. This symbolically and politically potent gesture would have reassured the Pakistan Army and people without India, in any way, conceding an equal nuclear status for Pakistan. Moreover, it would have been a safe thing to do because all potential targets within Pakistan can be reached by the longer-range Agni missiles fired from hinterland launch points. Positioning the Prithvi-I, and that too the liquid-fuelled variety, at the forward edge of the battlefield — whichever genius thought that up — was always a risky idea and an obvious tripwire that neither the military situation on the ground nor the political correlation of forces really warranted. That the Indian government at all ordered such forward missile deployment indicates faulty instincts and inadequate nuclear military knowledge. * The author is a professor at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

FROM 'FIRST' 100 DAYS TO 'ONLY' 100 DAYS

 

There is something crazy about what is going on in America today. Our fiscal condition continues on an unsustainable path; the European currency is heading for a crack-up; the Arab world is in the midst of a crack-up; 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 stabilised 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 US President Barack Obama had 100 days to push through the basics we needed to stabilise the economy and then lay the basis for his one big initiative — healthcare reform — and then he was preparing for the midterms, and then he was recovering from his mid-term 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 climate-induced crises and 100 working days every four years. We need a full-time government, but 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 or solutions to our problems that will be painless for their constituencies or to keep things just as they are even though we know they can't possibly stay that way without bankrupting the country. 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 — eg, 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.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

THE FINAL DRAFT?

 

Parliament is the supreme power By D. Raja When a bill is being prepared, anyone can offer their views. But we must understand that we are a parliamentary democracy and Parliament is supreme in the system of governance in India. It is the government that has to move an official legislation. The alternative is for a member of Parliament to move a Private Members' Bill. So, legally speaking, non-elected people cannot be part of the technical process of law-making. The others can, of course, build public pressure for a legislation or against one. But legislations are made in Parliament and by Parliament. Since the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance-II government came to office, we have seen unprecedented scams. Their scale is enormous and alarming. In contrast, the Bofors scam was just around `64 crores. The mega scams of today are haunting the minds of people. People are agitated because of the huge loot of the country's wealth. All this is happening because the government is pursuing neo-liberal policies. This means the government is bringing patronage to multinational companies. This state of affairs leads to a nexus between politicians, bureaucrats and corporate houses. On account of such an intricate web of their association, corruption has become rampant even at the higher echelons. The question naturally arises: How do we curb corruption? The answer is we need a strong law to fight this menace, which can destroy the country, and especially hurt development processes. That is how the demand for the Lokpal has arisen. It is being discussed for long. It was even discussed when the United Front government was in power with H.D. Deve Gowda as Prime Minister. So, raising the issue of Lokpal is not something new, which someone is proposing now. Successive governments have discussed the need to set up such an institution, but have failed to do so. The present government has also been dithering. The UPA-II government is scared of being transparent and taking up issues in constitutional forums like Parliament. This method undermines the political process and parliamentary democracy. Undermining of Parliament and political parties will lead to the subversion of constitutional and democratic institutions. The double standards pursued by the principle Opposition party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, in fighting corruption also contributes to the mess. The logic of this is anarchy. Such a situation will breed Right-wing extremist and fascist forces. This would be a big threat to the democratic polity. As Ambedkar said, "Acknowledging the effective public pressure to fight corruption, the government of the day should resort to Constitutional methods to enact a legislation which can be effective in the true sense". * D. Raja, national secretary of the CPI * * * Centre wants to bypass civil society By Kumar Vishwas If the government has to take its own version of the Lokpal Bill to Parliament, then where was the need to waste so much time and constitute a joint drafting panel? My view is that had the government's version of the Lokpal Bill been so perfect, the Anna Hazare-led agitation, which preceded the formation of the joint drafting committee, would not have been so successful. Initially, the government succumbed to popular pressure, and in its bid to buy time, it agreed to the formation of the joint drafting committee. Now, representatives of the same government are trying to bypass the civil society, which wants to create an independent, robust and effective anti-graft institution. This is aimed at curbing the tendency of letting ministers, chief ministers and officials continue in office even when serious allegations are made against them. Examples like former telecom minister A. Raja, former Commonwealth Games organising committee chairman Suresh Kalmadi and issues relating to appointment of Chief Vigilance Commissioner P.J. Thomas, are there before us. What do these show? Can we allow an Army commander, if found guilty of wrong-doing, to continue leading soldiers in a war? By that token why was Mr Kalmadi allowed to carry on for so long? Similarly, why did it take so much time to eject Mr Raja from the Cabinet? Now, when civil society members in the drafting committee are asserting themselves, the government is trying to discredit them. Questions are being asked about the legitimacy of non-official members in the joint drafting committee. It is being asked how they represent the whole of India's civil society. The government got a few to speak against the propositions of civil society members in the drafting panel. But I ask, is the deputy chairman of the Planning Commission, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, at whose door every elected chief minister comes to get financial allocations for his or her state, an elected representative? Those against Team Anna then argue that Mr Ahluwalia is a nominee of an elected Prime Minister. Then, why do they forget that the same Prime Minister has appointed the five civil society representatives to the joint drafting committee? In reply they say that this was done because of coercive pressure built by Mr Hazare through his fast unto death programme. Here my question is: Why did the government not come under similar pressure when others went on a similar fast. For these reasons, I feel that the government would be committing a monumental blunder if it goes to Parliament with only its version of the bill. In that event repercussions are bound to follow. * Kumar Vishwas, poet, university teacher and an associate of Anna Hazare

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

MYTHS ABOUT SPIRITUALITY

 

In today's modern-day world the study of spiritual science has been confused with certain religions or sects that are prevalent. A major myth about spirituality is that people tend to think it as a part of a religion. Religion is a code of conduct prescribed by certain highly evolved souls who have taken birth in the world at a time when they were needed for the benefit of mankind. A particular group of people following a specific religion is actually following a way of life or a code of conduct and certain practices for its upliftment. No religion can be judged or commented upon by a human being. This domain belongs to the Almighty. Spirituality and religion cannot be equated or compared. Another major myth about spirituality is that listening to discourses of evolved people and spending time with them would lead to salvation. In the world of the spirit, it means to take us to the subtlest layer of our "ether". It is definitely possible but the possibility is a very remote one. Because how do we know that the person we are approaching is not just another moneymaker. Newspapers are full of stories of supposedly evolved people indulging in acts, which are considered not so pure and pious by the country's law! (Are we not law-abiding citizens?) Depending on the law of probability, it is little risky here. To walk on this path, you need a Guru who can guide you. It is a long process. Just listening to a few discourses will not take you towards salvation. Remember how shishyas spent years in gurukuls to learn this science. Often people equate spirituality with being a sanyasi or use it as a way to escape everyday responsibilities. But spirituality is not the proprietorship of the recluse. When the knowledge was given, you were never supposed to give up everything and go and sit in the mountains. As a human being you are expected to evolve stage by stage. There are levels of dhyan for all the four ashrams prescribed. You start from step one and slowly master each level and then progress, from brahmacharya to grihastha to vanprastha to sanyas. When Gautam Buddha came back to his palace to visit his wife and child after attaining nirvana, he had commented that for what he had achieved, there was no need to abandon his family. He said it would have been possible to achieve nirvana by staying with his family. The Vedic masters proved this in their daily lives. Majority of them had families and the duties towards the families and society were discharged in a much finer way compared to the modern kalyug man. The Puranas and the Upanishads are full of stories of rishis and maharishis who were happily married and attained salvation while being grihasthas like rishi Kashyap, rishi Dhadhichi, rishi Gautam, etc. So there is no recommendation for any kind of escapism. Do not forget that a man and a woman both are individually incomplete (concept of Shiva and Shakti); there is the need for a union between them for creation to take place, and once you create you have the responsibility to nurture it also; so escape how, to whom, and from where? We do not find in any book the Lord Shiva, who is also called Mahadeva, at any point letting go of his responsibilities towards Mata Shakti or his family. So what escapism are we talking about? It is unfortunate that in today's world, misguided people think that to enter into the spiritual realm, you have to leave your family and responsibilities. I remember here a song from the Bollywood film of the early 1970s Chitralekha, which is appropriate to describe the fallacy of such claims: "Sansar se bhage phirte ho bhagwaan ko tum kya paooge, is lok ko tum apna na sake us lok ko kya apnaoge…." (You try to escape the world, how do you expect to find the Divine; you could not embrace this world, how do you hope to embrace that one). — The author is an authority on yoga, tantra and the Vedic sciences. He is the guiding light of Dhyan Foundation and has recently written a book, Sanatan Kriya: 51 Miracles... And a Haunting. Contact him at dhyan@dhyanfoundation.com

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

HIMALAYAN BLUNDERS

 

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

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

POTENT QUERY

TANTALIZINGLY TIMED TOO

 

WHEN the raging controversy over the drafting of the Lokpal Bill has thrown up major issues of accountability and authority, a "live" example of the limited efficacy of an ombudsman has revealed itself in the Capital. Raising the ante to tricky levels, the Delhi Lokayukta has sought an explanation from the home ministry as to why the President (who everyone is aware acts in accordance with government diktat) had rejected his recommendation for the removal of the local government's minister for PWD. Though he had been informed of the rejection, no reasons had been given and the Lokayukta maintains that the relevant legislation prescribes for such reasoning, so that the matter can either be closed or a special report be submitted to the legislature. This is, in many ways, a test case for the efficacy of the Lokpal/Lokayukta system: its functioning has tended to be crippled by executive (read "political") authority.


   And such crippling is at the core of the conflict between the government and so-called "civil society" ~ ensuring a system that cannot be subverted to protect those in high places (where corruption is the order of the day) is the sticking point that has rendered most of the earlier versions of the draft legislation highly unacceptable. All the clever, high-sounding promises from the ministers on the drafting committee are actually being put to test by the demand for an explanation from Lokayukta Manmohan Sarin. The extent to which the home ministry satisfies the ombudsman will determine the sincerity of UPA-II's commitment to tackling the scourge of corruption.


The issue may be "local" but its implications are huge. The Presidential rejection follows chief minister Sheila Dikshit's initial refusal to see merit in the Lokayukta's recommendation. And that must be assessed in the context of Dikshit's slamming the multiple indictments of the Shunglu Committee that probed CWG irregularities. As well as her stance that a Lokpal is unnecessary. While within the Congress party her being a political heavyweight is often questioned, her proximity to 10 Janpath and hence Race Course Road too, is not open to question. But does that mean that she and her government are immune to all the much-vaunted checks and balances that the "system" is said to provide? To put it bluntly: will political clout reduce an ombudsman to mere decorative value ~ like the Prime Minister of the day!

 

FAILURE IN UNIFORM

TRIPLE MURDER BY AN ARMED COP

FROM Barasat to Barrackpore, the West Bengal police has stumbled again. Four months after the late-night killing near the  District Magistrate's fortified bungalow, five policemen have been suspended in the wake of a triple murder by an armed policeman with his service rifle. Not wholly unrelated to the horrendous incident on Sunday morning was the callous negligence of the uniformed staff on duty at the Barrackpore police lines the night before. The lapse is no less serious than the imperviousness of the uniformed guards in Barasat. First, the constable had violated service rules in full view of the guards by not depositing the rifle, post duty. Second, having signed off, he was allowed to leave the barrack armed and in uniform with no questions asked. Another version has it that he didn't return to the barrack to hand over the rifle. This only deepens the confusion. Assuming that a routine check was conducted on the armoury and the logbook, the case of the missing rifle and the absentee cop ought immediately to have been reported to the authorities. It wasn't.

In the net, the triple murder of his ex-lover, her husband and sister has been compounded by the gross ineptitude of the watchdogs in uniform. The perfunctory supervision of the state armed police has had mortal implications. The contemplated transfer of a deputy superintendent suggests that even fairly senior levels have been afflicted by the malaise. The tragedy illustrates once again the collective failure of the police.
That failure has been reinforced by the arrest of the killer cop by the Border Security Force and not the thoroughly confused district police. This has been the second failure of law-enforcement authorities. The incident occurred at 8.30 a.m. and for the next 24 hours the district administration hadn't a clue about his whereabouts till the BSF advanced the all-important message. The killer had a free run from Barrackpore to Murshidabad via Barasat, and was stopped in his tracks by the frontier force when he was about to cross the Bangladesh border. The credit for his arrest, therefore, goes entirely to the BSF. And that makes the incompetence of the West Bengal police complete.

 

PROBE AND ACT

BOMB DETECTION FAIR WARNING FOR ASSAM

HATS off to alert security personnel who last week detected a powerful time bomb hidden in a coach of the Kanchenjunga Express when it halted at Kamakshya station to avert what could have been a serious disaster. No outfit has claimed responsibility so far but it is suspected to be the handiwork of the newly-formed Adivasi People's Army (APA), reportedly an aided outfit of Ulfa's 709  battalion. Yet another one, calling itself  the Santhal Tiger Force (STF), is said to have emerged recently but it is not known whether it also has links with the anti-talk Ulfa elements. These developments are obvious rejoinders that the administration can ill-afford to ignore.

 

The law and order situation in the state does not appear to be alarming but if activities of these small hit-and-run groups, all born out of frustration and deprivation and bereft of ideology, are not checked quickly, they may indulge in acts of abduction and extortion in tea gardens as did the Ulfa and the Bodo Security Force (now National Democratic Front of  Boroland) in the 1990s. Even if the  pro-talk leaders agree to a ceasefire or suspension of operations prior to formal talks with the Centre ~ expected in the next few days ~ these groups are unlikely to honour it.

 

The sudden appearance of APA and STF at this stage ~ when cadres of most smaller militant outfits are in "peace camps" awaiting a decision on their future after their leaders agreed to observe a truce ~ lends credence to the suspicion that their motive is to announce their presence and surrender later to avail themselves of  the benefit of rehabilitation for former rebels. The temptation must be resisted.

 

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THE STATESMAN

ARTICLE

FAIRYTALE INDIA

THE ERADICATION OF HUNGER, STARVATION, AND MALNUTRITION

BY ACHINTYA RAY


THE food shortage and increase in food prices in India have of late attracted extensive media and political attention. How acute is the problem? How can it be solved? What are the economic implications of solving the problem?
The Government of India estimates that the production of foodgrain during 2010-11 stood at a little over 232 million tonnes. Let us try to make sense of the figure. The country's present population stands at a little less than 1.2 billion. Simple calculations will indicate that there is enough foodgrain for an average Indian to consume more than 500 grams each day. This figure is attained after making adjustments for a five to ten per cent loss that may arise from harvesting, transportation and warehousing.


If an average gram of foodgrain translates to about four calories of energy then every Indian can easily obtain 2000 calories a day by consuming foodgrain alone. Most certainly, not everybody needs that much of energy for normal activities of daily living. For example, children and the elderly would typically need much less. People with "chronic conditions" such as diabetes, cardiovascular problems, overweight, and obesity would also need to consume less. These calculations are based on foodgrain only, and do not factor in consumption of other items, notably animal protein, vegetables, fruit and milk.


The fact of the matter is that India has enough food to meet the energy demand for its entire population. Absolute food shortage is not a serious problem. Then why is it that a substantial segment of the population suffers from hunger, starvation, and malnutrition? Why is it that India figures every now and then in the international media because of hunger and starvation-related deaths?


To many experts, these questions might sound cliched. After all we live in the 21st  century and how long can we spend mulling over these issues when we have already spent billions of man-hours thinking about them since Independence?


For more than six decades, elections have been centred around the fundamental issues of roti, kapda, and makaan. Many more elections are likely to be fought on the same planks. And yet the problems persist. Let us examine at least one of these problems ~ food ~ within the limited space of this article.


How much will it take to eradicate hunger from the country once and for all? Is it an amount that the government can afford? Where will that spending take the country?


Let us do some simple calculations. To keep things internationally consistent, we will consider numbers that are expressed in terms of US dollars.


Suppose the Government of India decides to procure the entire foodgrain produced in the country and distribute it free among the population. Also assume that the procurement price is about $ 200 per ton.
During 2010-11, the government would have spent about $47 billion dollars in procurement. Add 50 per cent of that amount for administration, transportation, distribution and warehousing. Give or take, the entire project may be carried out for a price tag of $70 billion. Curiously, this figure compares well with the amount of money that the government might have allegedly lost in recent scams. Right now, India easily has four times that money in foreign currency. reserves.  Therefore, resources are less of a concern.


But the other aspect is that this entire spending may not be deadweight loss for the government. First, these tens of billions of dollars will be pumped into the economy especially into the poor rural agrarian sectors, directly augmenting their purchasing power. Second, the entire population will have to spend very small amounts on food leaving a large part of their income for the consumption of other items. Third, increased availability of food will dramatically improve the nutritional levels of the population making them more productive, less sick, and will eventually reduce mortality due to malnutrition.


Suppose 75 per cent of the income of the recipient population is devoted to the consumption of industrial goods and services. By using the Keynesian multiplier, this additional spending of  $70 billion might raise the national income by $280 billion.  Suppose the government taxes 25 per cent of that income. Its revenue will increase by about $70 billion, making the entire process revenue neutral.


The health benefits, decline in morbidity and mortality, and the growth in population productivity may add hundreds of billions of dollars more to the economy for which the government may not need to spend a single rupee.
Furthermore, suppose every billion in terms of dollars add 30 to 50,000 jobs in the economy. Food  subsides may add between 7.5 and 10 million new jobs. In the process, the economic growth rate may jump by several percentage points.


These projections may sound like a utopian fairytale narrative. But it is possible. However, it may never come true because of corruption, inefficiency, and lack of political will especially in the context of India. After all, if starvation is totally eradicated, the politicians will lose an important leverage that they can dangle in front of the electorate while seeking their votes. The roti will move from the plate of the politician to that of the people. No wonder politicians might dislike the idea.


There is a sad and intriguing lesson to be derived from development economies. The  poor countries are often poor not because they lack vital resources but because they are simply unable or unwilling to take the right measures to develop themselves even when they have all the resources that they need.
India's prospects of becoming a true global superpower rests crucially on her ability to become a dominant global player in the food market and her success in stamping out hunger, starvation, and malnutrition. Only the future will reveal  if this fairytale will ever come true.


The writer is Assistant Professor of Economics, Tennessee State University, USA

 

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THE STATESMAN

TRANSPARENCY IN SYSTEM

BETWEEN THE LINES ~ KULDIP NAYAR

The new generation must understand that today's non-governance or mis-governance is the fallout of what Indira Gandhi had done 36 years ago by destroying an established democratic order

How do you make the new generation relate to Emergency imposed some 36 years ago this week? I have been asked this question many a time. The Congress government will not talk about it as long as the Indira Gandhi-Sonia Gandhi dynasty ~ the guilty lot ~ is in power. It considers any criticism of Gandhi,s autocratic rule during that period an affront to the family.

The BJP, which too had gone through the rigours of autocratic rule at that time, does not understand the ethos of liberalism. The party,s religious identity is an antithesis to what India stands for. And, scholars are not objective enough to tell the truth. Some interpret Emergency as a measure to tackle anti-Left forces. Even otherwise, only a few dare to point out the excesses of those days because the impression is that when you do so, you are tagged anti-Congress, and will be out of favour with the "rulers". The entire story is yet to come out. In fact, the demand for making papers from those days public, raised again and again, goes unheeded.

What happened during Emergency, which lasted from June 1975 to January 1977, is the shameful story of a takeover by a Prime Minister to cling to power and protect her skin. Indira Gandhi suspended the Constitution, gagged the Press and imposed  personal rule to overcome the handicap of disqualification from Parliament. Allahabad High Court had debarred her from the membership of Lok Sabha for six years as she had used the government machinery while contesting an election. Leftist Supreme Court judge Krishna Iyer gave her reprieve through a stay order on the High Court,s judgment. Once she was off the hook, she showed her hand and extinguished the lights of democracy that had distinguished India from the other Third World countries. With the help of her son, Sanjay Gandhi, an extra-Constitutional authority, she changed laws and destroyed all institutions, carefully and methodically built by her father Jawaharlal Nehru over the years. She became a law unto herself, concentrated all authority in her office and did whatever she and her son fancied.

First, she detained more than one hundred thousand people without trial ~ all were her critics. She then reduced the civil service to no more than a device to endorse her illegal orders. She instilled so much fear in the minds of people that they stopped differentiating right from wrong and moral from immoral. There was no odium in hitting below the belt, nor indulging in foul means. None talked about values, much less about fair methods. There were no limits to which Gandhi would not go to serve her ends. Still worse, she banished morality from politics. The nation was shaken but fell silent. Fear stalked the land. So much so, even the judiciary dared not pronounce any judgment which the government would not like. And, media became more loyal than government censors.

The institutions emasculated during Emergency never got back their original vigour or sanctity. The political leaders who rose to prominence after Emergency concentrated more on undoing Gandhi than correcting her misdeeds. Most of them, even state chief ministers, adopted her autocratic way of governance. They found it easy and convenient to deal with the Opposition that way. Since then, the hapless civil service and the battered police force have come to obey whoever secures power, disregarding service rules and age-old traditions. Both have fitted themselves in a new mould where the key criterion is obedience, not integrity. The lower judiciary has still not got out of the Emergency hangover when magistrates would sign blank warrants of arrest. Most of its judgments appear to be written under pressure. The new generation must understand that today,s non-governance or mis-governance is the fallout of what Gandhi had done by destroying an established order ~ a natural corollary. Scams emanating from the Bofors guns deal or 2G spectrum allocation are only a tip of the iceberg.  Many more scandals are going to tumble out. In a democratic society, the nation expects the state to assure that vital links of the government will not be subjected to strain. But the situation is the opposite.
It all started with a by-election in Orissa in 1972. Nandini Satpathy was elected to the state Assembly after spending lakhs of rupees. Gandhian Jayaprakash Narayan raised the matter of corruption with the Prime Minister. Her defense was that the Congress had no money even to run the party office. When he got no response, he took the issue to the nation. One thing led to another until JP made it clear that the battle was between the people who wanted the government to be accountable and the government which was not willing to come clean.
The same problem has returned after 36 years. The entire debate before the country is on corruption. The government wants to do little to eliminate it. The public is determined to see the end of corruption, particularly when one minister after another is found involved in some scam or the other. The comptroller and auditor-general of India has indicted the Union petroleum and natural gas ministry for allowing "irregularities and bending rules" to "oblige" Reliance Industries Ltd, resulting in an "unquantifiable" loss to the exchequer. This shows how powerful the corporate sector has become. While people increasingly seek transparency, the government sees to it that the avenues for public information are reduced. Only a few days ago did it exclude the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) from the ambit of the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
To pay homage to JP, who launched a movement to challenge the Central government on issues relating to corruption, I went to Patna. Five June was the day when he gave the call to bring about Sampurna Kranti (total revolution). There were only a handful of people at JP,s house, where he lived and died, to commemorate that day. The place wore a desolate look though it used to be a hub of political activities that resulted in the defeat of Gandhi at the 1977 election. What disappointed me was the absence of Bihar chief minister Mr Nitish Kumar ~ a product of JP,s movement ~ from the commemorative event. There was not even a meeting called by the government to honour Sampurna Kranti. Karl Marx rightly said: "The philosophers have only interpreted the world; the point however is to change it."

The writer is a veteran journalist and commentator

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THE STATESMAN

THE MAGIC BREW

NOW & AGAIN

JAYANTA SANYAL

The report about Miss Mamata Banerjee planning to dislodge the food vendors in Writer,s building takes me back to when I first entered its hallowed precincts as a freshly-recruited civil servant in 1966. Writers, was then a magical world ~ the grand colonial exterior, the smart, crisply-uniformed seargent at the portico who saluted as you disembarked from the official car and entered with an air of newly-acquired importance. Then up the wrought-iron lift to the first-floor corridor lined with brass plated doors behind which sat serious people carrying out the business of "governance". But I was still an outsider from the "mofussil" and yet to get my own cubicle. I had yet to understand how the system worked. Not many years later, I was given my own place in the sanctum of power and began to learn the ways of the state. One was, that nothing important could be discussed without an accompanying cup of tea. All inspiration came from a noisy pull at the cup with puckered lips followed by an equally noisy release of air indicating full appreciation of the quality of the brew and the matter on hand.

This naturally led me to look for the source of this magic potion that was so essential to keep the state working in proper order. In fact, I didn,t have to go far. It was just around the corner ~ on a corridor that connected us to the still more mysterious innards of the building. There in all ceremony stood two dekchis over two diminutive Primus stoves. In one bubbled plain water and in the other a brew of tea leaves and milk. The floor was strewn with cups and plates, spoons and trays. Presiding over the ceremony were half-a-dozen "druids" in half-soiled uniforms, fully engaged in keeping the supply chain oiled. Most fascinating was the modus! As each tray of used cups came in, it was grabbed four at a time and deftly dunked into the dekchi full of boiling water and pulled out shining and ready for a refill. It was an operation carried out with a skill and dexterity that was fascinating to watch. What was even more fascinating was that as the day progressed, the contents of two dekchis acquired the same colour and consistency and became indistinguishable. Was this part of some mysterious ritual to ensure that no valuable input was lost? How could anyone be sure from which dekchi the next refill would come? I was hesitant to ask lest I stood out. But I felt I needed to know more before I took another sip. Discreet inquiries revealed that while some of my knowledgeable colleagues had set up a private facility in their rooms with an electric stove, others routinely ordered lemon tea. I opted for the latter. Now that I look back, I wonder if myself, along with these "non-conformist" colleagues had somehow failed in our commitments? Those who had remained faithful to the corridor brew were thrice blessed ~ once for having the faith, twice for togetherness and thrice for strengthening the system. How else would have the concoction lasted 35 years? Writers, now awaits its new magic brew.

 

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THE STATESMAN

PRANABGATE! THE STORY OF A BUG...

RAJINDER PURI  


Leader of Opposition Mrs Sushma Swaraj has described the alleged bugging of the offices of finance minister Mr Pranab Mukherjee and his private secretaries as India's Watergate. She does an injustice to the Nixon administration. In the Watergate drama, the Republican President was bugging the offices of the Democratic Party. In the current episode there is overwhelming circumstantial evidence to suggest that elements within the Congress were bugging the office of their own finance minister.
Consider the bald facts. In September 2010, the finance minister wrote privately to the Prime Minister stating that adhesives similar to chewing gum were found planted in his office as well as in the offices of his advisor Mrs Omita Paul and his private secretary Mr Manoj Pant. Mr Mukherjee suspected bugging and sought an investigation. In fact, an investigation had already been conducted by a private detective agency hired by the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) that operates under the finance minister. It was after obtaining the evidence unearthed by the private agency that Mr Mukherjee wrote to the PM. The CBDT claimed that the probe did not reveal any bugging device. Nevertheless, the finance minister subsequently wrote to the PM demanding a probe.
If the private investigation unearthed clinching evidence would the finance minister have announced it? Quite likely he would have retained the evidence and sought an official probe after being sure that bugging had indeed occurred. The CBDT had no expertise in the matter of bugging. That was why a private investigation was ordered. Why private? Clearly, because Mr Mukherjee did not trust the official agencies! Responding to the finance minister's private request, the PM had the Intelligence Bureau (IB) probe the matter. It gave a clean chit. The finance minister told media: "In respect of a news item regarding bugging in my offices, the IB investigated into it and found nothing in it."
If bugging had occurred as suggested by the fact that after a private probe the finance minister had alerted the PM, the denials issued by the CBDT and later by IB may be taken with buckets of salt. Who would seek to bug the finance minister's offices? The corporate world has enough access to information through PR channels. It would be insane for it to attempt a criminal act. The planting of the adhesive substance suggests an official hand because nobody else would have access to these offices to conduct such an exercise. In 2010, when bugging was done, the media was buzzing with speculation about data pertaining to black money abroad received from Germany and elsewhere. If the bugging was confirmed as an inside job of the Congress party, would the PM or Mr Mukherjee dare go public with it? Instead, the evidence would be used as ammunition in the silent and bitter infighting under way in the party. The bugging issue may not subside. It could fatally explode later at a more appropriate time.

The writer is a veteran journalist and cartoonist

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

NOT BY DOLE

The way Mamata Banerjee tackles the Maoist challenge in West Bengal can set an example for other states where the rebels are equally active. But her success will depend on an ability to see the rebellion for what it really is. If most strategies to fight it have failed so far, that is because these got the fundamental issue wrong. Most analyses see the revolt as a violent reaction by the poorest of Indians against the State's economic and administrative failures. The lack of development and the corruption of the political class and the bureaucracy are thus seen to be the primary causes for the rebellion. These factors have played their part in pushing the poor tribal people to join the Maoists. But they still do not explain why the Maoist rebellion today is basically a phenomenon prevailing among tribal people living in forest-covered areas. The locations of the revolt make it very different from the Naxalite uprising of the 1960s and the 1970s, when educated, urban, middle-class people were its most recognizable face. By contrast, the Maoist challenge today is the revolt by the Bharat of indigenous people against an alien India that has invaded their homeland in search of newfound wealth without offering the natives anything in return.

It was thus no coincidence that the current Maoist revolt began almost simultaneously with India entering a new economic regime. Suddenly, areas which had large deposits of mineral wealth but which also were inhabited by the poor, tribal people shot into economic prominence. Maoism became the face of the clash between old Bharat and new India. The Maoists may talk of abstract theories about capturing State power through an armed insurrection, but the indigenous people see in Maoism a weapon with which to resist the onslaught on their homeland and livelihoods. It is also their way of claiming a stake in the new economy. Any attempt to tackle the Maoist problem has to begin by grasping this fundamental reality. Good intentions may prompt West Bengal's new chief minister to announce "special development packages" for Maoist-controlled areas of Jangal Mahal. She needs to plan things in order to change the situation created by decades of neglect by the previous government. But the larger issue is not one that can be resolved with dole. The challenge is to make the natives of Bharat stakeholders in an emerging India.

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

RATES AND PRICES

The spectre of high inflation continues to haunt policy-makers. In May, the Reserve Bank of India had raised policy rates by 50 basis points. Last week, they were raised further by 25 basis points. As a matter of fact, this is the tenth time in 15 months that policy rates have been raised. Those who observe closely the way the RBI works have noted that in the last decade the central bank has never followed monetary stringency over such a long period. This is significant because the expectations were that the central bank governor, D. Subbarao, would put his fingers on the pause button as far as raising policy interest rates were concerned. Mr Subbarao's moves towards greater monetary tightening clearly suggest that he wants to control inflation at any cost. He had stated his position about six weeks ago when he said that the RBI would try to maintain "an interest rate environment that moderates inflation and anchors inflation expectations". There is no guarantee that policy rates will not be raised in the near future since it is evident that the policy-makers have decided to use monetary policy to bring down and control inflation.

The RBI is in no mood to listen to the argument that raising policy rates could adversely affect growth. There is always a trade-off between growth and controlling inflation. The RBI has chosen the latter and has accepted that a lower rate of growth in the medium to short run is not a huge price to pay if the demon of high inflation is to be tamed. High inflation has obvious political implications and results, and therefore a democratically elected government cannot afford to ignore persistently high prices. Industry has obvious reasons to be unhappy with the government's policy of raising interest rates. But the RBI has pointed out that industry can always pass on the effects of greater costs (a fatter wage bill and higher input costs) to the consumers. The RBI commented that it was particularly concerned by this trend. The overall picture being painted by the RBI is a trifle gloomy: inflation needs to be controlled; this means a moderation of growth; and a warning hand on the shoulders of industry to stop it from raising prices unnecessarily. The result of this monetary tightening in terms of reduction of prices remains to be seen. The housewife, as distinct from the economist, would prefer to see the actual impact on her grocery bill rather than overall figures regarding inflation.

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THE TELEGRAPH

DONATING TO A DONOR

BRITISH AID AND ACIDIC SEAS NOTEBOOK - IAN JACK

At a time when public spending is being slashed in every direction, British aid to India has become a political embarrassment. Again and again you hear it: why on earth are we still giving money to people who live inside one of the world's most dynamic economies?

The question has become a useful stick with which to beat government policy. Almost alone among government departments, the department for international development has had its budget left intact. In fact, it will actually increase by a third over the coming years so that by 2013 the aid Britain gives should equal at least 0.7 per cent of national income — a United Nations target that other European countries show little sign of reaching. Most people thought such an ambition fine and dandy before the state of Britain's finances was made plain by the credit crunch. Television pictures of wretched children in Africa and flood-refugees in Pakistan made the government aid programme look both noble and necessary, and only the harshest critics of the aid business ever complained. But now the public mood has changed — not entirely, but enough for questions about the purpose and true benefits of aid to be aired on BBC panel shows and even in traditionally pro-aid newspapers such as the Guardian.

On paper, India looks a hard case to justify. Other Western countries have cancelled or reduced their programmes in India, but Britain carries on as before. It contributes about 30 per cent of India's bilateral aid and is spending about £280 million a year on Indian projects — a total of more than £1 billion between now and 2015, which is peanuts in terms of global finance but not insignificant to the donor country, where the government has turned cost-cutting into a mission statement. India is a nuclear power with a space programme, the world's second fastest rate of economic growth after China, and about 70 dollar billionaires. Britain has nuclear weapons it can't afford, a risible growth rate and fewer than half the number of billionaires. In other words, the bankrupt are giving to the booming. If there have to be begging bowls, surely they should be in the opposite hands?

Andrew Mitchell, the cabinet minister in charge of the aid programme, defends aid to India as best he can. For all its prosperity, Mitchell says, India still contains more poor people than the whole of sub-Saharan Africa and British aid is focused on the three poorest states, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Orissa. In February, he said that it was "in both India's interest and in Britain's interest for us to continue our highly successful collaboration on development, not least so we can support the government of India's own successful programmes in the poorest priority areas". This month he wasn't quite so bullish, saying that while now wasn't the time to stop the programme in India he didn't think "we will be there for very much longer".

The criticism may have moderated the minister's tone, but the facts remain unchanged (the programme will continue as planned until 2015) as well as rather awkward. The British have long been aware of India's soaraway success as an economy; what fewer of us realized until recently is that India too is an aid donor. It funds projects in Bhutan, Nepal, the Maldives, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. It has spent $1.2 billion in assistance to Afghanistan. At the recent India-Africa summit in Addis Ababa, it brought African delegates cheering to their feet by pledging $5 billion in aid for their continent. In the words of Shashi Tharoor, the former external affairs minister, India "has now emerged as a significant donor to developing countries in Africa and Asia, second only to China in the range and quantity of development assistance given by countries of the global South".

Look at this from the simple-minded British taxpayer's point of view. Part of his taxes — admittedly the tiniest fraction — is spent trying to ensure that the poorest girls and women in Orissa get better education, nutrition and healthcare. He's slightly puzzled by this. On TV, he can see Indian billionaires drinking champagne at impossibly lavish weddings and even quite ordinary Indians watching their plasma TVs — surely some of that wealth should be redistributed to the poor? Nonetheless, the British taxpayer has a dim understanding that Indian wealth is even more unequally divided than wealth in Britain and that national boundaries shouldn't constrain his generosity, no man being an island and so forth. Fair enough — but then he discovers that the situation is more complicated than he thought. British taxpayers are paying for Indian projects while Indian taxpayers are paying for African projects.

He might decide at this point that aid was about more than the UN's declared aim of abolishing world poverty. And so it is. Aid buys influence, secures alliances and sometimes repays the donor in trade deals. This isn't to decry it — the poor are often helped, too — but when Andrew Mitchell boasted recently of Britain becoming a "development superpower" he touched on the reality that aid is as much an instrument of self-interest as it is of charity. It can never be plainly advertised as such. That would sully the giving impulse with too obvious an ulterior motive. But the truth is that governments understand aid in a way that their electorates largely don't: as a subtle agent of 'soft power' in an age when, for British governments at least, 'hard power' is on the wane. We can't afford an aircraft carrier, but we can afford some schools in Bihar. That's how the theory goes. Not everyone, including a hard-pressed military asked to fight wars in Libya and Afghanistan, is convinced.

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Sailing across the Firth of Clyde the other day, we looked down from the ferry's deck at one of the calmest seas any of us could remember. It lay flat under a bright sun with hardly a ripple — rare weather for western Scotland, where winds from the Atlantic rarely get much below a stiff breeze. We began to see jellyfish floating an inch or two under the surface: blue, red and yellow, small and large, all lazily trailing their vicious stings. The sight of a few jellyfish washed ashore on a Scottish beach isn't unusual, but these went on for two or three miles: a gigantic shoal or 'bloom' that must have run into thousands. Climate change was an obvious explanation. As the cold seas around Britain get slightly warmer, all kinds of marine life have ventured further north, including a tropical turtle that was spotted this month in the Hebrides. Considering this, we decided that the jellyfish looked like an omen — the warning canary down the mine — and then forgot about them until we read a newspaper report, which showed that things were rather worse than we thought.

Nobody can be quite certain why jellyfish have exploded in such numbers. The explanations include over-fishing — tuna and sharks are among their few predators — as well as fertilizer run-off from agricultural land and warmer seas. The consequences, however, are much more dangerous than the stings to swimmers that sometimes result in death. According to research by the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, quoted in the Guardian, jellyfish create a biomass with especially high levels of carbon that marine bacteria find hard to absorb and instead release as carbon dioxide, which makes the sea more acidic. Carol Turley, a scientist at Plymouth University's Marine Laboratory, said: "Oceans have been taking up 25 per cent of the carbon dioxide that man has produced over the last 200 years, so it's been acting as a buffer for climate change. Already acidification is happening at a rate that hasn't occurred in 600 million years." The effect was so corrosive, Turley added, that unprotected shellfish would dissolve by 2050.

Jellyfish as a species are around 650 million years old. They were there long before clams, crabs, herring, hilsa, sharks and all the other brilliant products of the sea we can delight in watching or eating. First to come, it now looks as if they'll be the last to go — brainlessly floating around oceans that are empty of everything else. History, you might say, with a sting in the tail.

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THE TELEGRAPH

WORK WOES

NEHA SAHAY

At exclusive dinners across the country last week, conversation revolved around the riot near Guangzhou. The primary reason for the riot was the police brutality that workers in Asia live with. But this time, it provoked a reaction so strong that the army had to be called in, and within hours, people across the country were talking about it.

Xintang, a township near Guangzhou, is known as the hometown of denim in South China, producing about a billion pairs of jeans a year. Most of its workers hail from faraway Sichuan, and live with their families in overcrowded rooms. They far outnumber the original residents, who have rented out their homes to the migrants and themselves moved out to better areas.

On June 10, one such pregnant migrant worker was laying out jeans on the pavement outside a supermarket to sell. This is a common and highly lucrative practice across China, as these wares are sold at half the price they command in the supermarkets. Security men hired by the local police — another common practice in China — told the woman to pack up from that spot. She refused, was manhandled by them and fell. Immediately, bystanders protested, and though she was taken to hospital, workers rioted through that Friday night and over the weekend. The local police station — and, significantly, ATMs — were the target of their anger. Twenty-five persons were arrested.

Hong Kong newspapers interviewed many migrants from Sichuan who had lived in Xintang since the late 1980s, when the Guangdong province in the south started becoming the country's manufacturing hub. All of them complained about the high-handedness of the hired security men. Many migrants employed in ancillary industries catering to the denim factories earn a pittance for back-breaking work. Despite having lived in the town for almost two decades, they are not entitled to any of the benefits that original residents are — like subsidized schooling and healthcare. Ironically, the local authorities have now announced permanent residency as a reward to those migrants willing to give information about fellow workers who instigated the violence. Cash rewards and the title of 'model worker' are also on offer.

Roughed up

Why did Xintang erupt so quickly? Street vendors always get the rough end of the stick in China. Last week, a scuffle between 'urban administrators', who patrol the streets, and a fruit vendor in Chongqing resulted in the vendor falling down a flight of stairs. She passed out on the street in a pool of urine, her hands and forehead bloody. The administrators fled, perhaps anticipating a public attack.

Just a few days before the Xintang incident, there was a clash between migrant workers — again, from Sichuan — and the police in another town in Guangdong. A couple working in a ceramics factory went with their son to demand two months' unpaid wages from the boss. In the ensuing argument, the father was hurt and the son knifed. The police sent the injured to hospital, but didn't arrest anyone till three days later, after the workers protested. The boss gave himself in, and the police arrested two others, but a rumour that the three had bought their freedom within a day provoked the workers to take to the streets, attacking and burning police vehicles.

The Xintang incident occurred 10 days later. After the pregnant vendor was sent to hospital, the rumour spread that her husband had been beaten to death. However, the authorities presented him two days later at a press conference, wherein he said his wife and unborn child were both safe. In fact, the local party chief even visited the woman in hospital with a basket of fruit. And despite the scale of the violence, the police used only tear gas. Imagine what would have happened in democratic India.

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THE TELEGRAPH

A DREAM OF FREEDOM AND THE DEAD GIRLS OF KASHMIR

UDDALAK MUKHERJEE WONDERS WHETHER THE RISE IN FEMALE FOETICIDE IN KASHMIR IS AN EXTENSION OF THE GENERAL VIOLENCE THAT CONTINUES TO BLEED THE VALLEY

A provisional report based on the findings of Census 2011 indicates that Jammu and Kashmir has registered the steepest decline in child sex ratio in India in the last decade. There are 859 girls for every 1,000 boys in the age group of 0-6 years at present, a sharp drop from 941 girls in 2001. The 2011 Census has pegged the state's overall sex ratio at 883 females per 1,000 males. This indicates a cumulative drop of nine percentage points compared to the figure 10 years ago.

I visited three districts in Kashmir recently — Srinagar and neighbouring Shopian and Pulwama — to look for the reasons behind these alarming statistics. I had chosen the three districts because their performance in arresting the slide has been as dismal as eight others in the state. Srinagar, which had 928 girls under six years of age in 2001, now has 869. In Shopian, the figure has fallen from 1011 to 883, while in Pulwama the number of girls has decreased to 836 from 1046. I wanted to explore whether there are newer ways to interpret and address this persistent problem. (The state health minister, Sham Lal Sharma, revealed that a comparative analysis of census figures since 1901 confirmed that the child sex ratio in J&K has continued to fall over the last century.)

While interviewing Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, the chairman of the Hurriyat Conference, the contours of a newer template — disturbing but only partially convincing — for the analysis of female foeticide began to unfold. The mirwaiz, young, dapper and Kashmir's top spiritual leader, seemed to suggest that the state's pathetic child sex ratio figures were the manifestation of a deep moral crisis, one that has been wilfully created by the sinister Indian State. He readily provided evidence. India has flushed the Valley with money: real estate is booming, gleaming departmental stores crowd Lal Chowk, dowry is fairly common and Kashmiris are now eager to lead an ostentatious life. But this craving for material comfort has brought in its wake a way of life alien to Islam. This moral contamination has encouraged parents to kill unborn girls.

There was more. The militarization of the state — apart from the regular army and a sizeable paramilitary force, J&K is also managed with the help of the heavily armed military police numbering a lakh — has also resulted in a fear for the safety of girls. Nearly every village and town I visited had bunkers manned by grim-faced men holding sophisticated weapons. Although unIslamic, female foeticide was considered to be a better option than losing a girl to a soldier's bullet.

The increasing marginalization of a moderate strand of Islam, the mirwaiz added, had exacerbated the problem. The conservative streak in Kashmir's politics is self-evident: Syed Ali Shah Geelani — who is revered for his vituperations against India — has usurped the mirwaiz's position as Kashmir's messiah who will deliver azadi. What is equally worrisome is the radicalization of the spiritual ethic. (For instance, the Wahabis are more popular than the Sufis.) This, the mirwaiz argued, had made it easier to kill girls. As a visitor from 'Hindustan'— the identification of India with the dominant faith weighed heavily on my mind — I had found the mirwaiz's suggestion of India debasing Kashmir's moral fabric incredible. But his views on the weakening of moderate Islam and its possible consequences for foeticide were tellingly revealed for me during my meeting with the village headman of Tukhroo in Shopian. The ageing, handsome man, with a regal air but vacant eyes, has five daughters. The eldest has been married off after a payment of Rs 60,000, and the rest go to school. Tukhroo, with a population of 11,000, has four primary schools, a college seven kilometres away, a lower drop-out rate among girls, but several illiterate women panchayat members. The headman — surrounded by two women who sat swatting flies that buzzed over his lunch plate — said that Islam permitted women to take up jobs, but forbade them to take decisions, be they political or private. It was the only time I saw the fire return to his eyes.

The mirwaiz also expressed the urgent need to fight female foeticide. Religious conferences are being held to sensitize Muslims, brochures denouncing the evil have been sent to every mosque in the Valley, and the induction of women into faith-based decision-making committees is being debated. Before I left, he reminded me that azadi would be incomplete if there were no place for women in it.

The day before, at a cafeteria dimly lit by twilight descending on the enchanting Dal Lake, I had met another man who claimed to be fighting foeticide. Saleem-ur-Rehman, the director of health services, is located at the opposite end of the spectrum: he is a member of the State that the mirwaiz loves to admonish. Unlike many other bureaucrats, Rehman seemed to possess energy and foresight. Literacy, he said, is an important tool, but that alone is not enough to prevent the death of girls. His view echoed a recent Lancet report, which, after having analysed population data and records of nearly 250,000 births between 1990 and 2005, had found a marked increase in the selective abortion of girl children in India's literate and affluent households. Rehman emphasized that education should be supplemented by institutional support. Surprisingly, he was candid about the various institutional inadequacies. For instance, The Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation & Prevention of Misuse) Act, which came into effect in Kashmir as late as 2006, allows a person to practise ultrasonography after six months of work experience. Government records show that, lured by monetary benefits and the promise of an expanding client base, these inexperienced, less-reputed practitioners are often guilty of indulging in sex-selection tests. Apart from legal loopholes, political interference also prevented conscientious bureaucrats from penalizing the guilty. A woman doctor who was apprehended in Handwara had evaded punishment because of her political connections. Finally, the State's disbursal of welfare is city-centric. This was confirmed by the health minister's admission that not enough doctors are willing to visit villages, thereby limiting the scope of monitoring.

Fifty-four clinics in Kashmir and 24 in Jammu have been shut down. But Rehman conceded that effective administrative intervention, coupled with education and social awareness, would not be able to check the deaths of girl children unless religious leaders — imams, maulvis and the mirwaiz himself — took a more strident stand. "Instead of railing against India, why doesn't Mirwaiz Umar Farooq ask the people in his Friday sermons to refrain from foeticide?" asked Rehman as we trudged past the placid lake.

In Kashmir, female foeticide cannot be understood simply as a social malaise. Entrenched religious and cultural factors — dowry, the centrality of Islam to people's lives — and a violent struggle for self-determination have complicated the issue. A deterrent to such a tiered and complex practice can only be devised if the State, which commands considerable resources, were to work closely with religious leaders, such as the mirwaiz. The irony is that given the mutual antipathy, it will take a small miracle to bring the mirwaiz and Rehman to the table. This confirms, yet again, how disruptive political situations often lead to the creation, and then the obfuscation, of dangerous demographic imbalances. Can foeticide then be imagined as a natural extension of the general violence that is taking places in states along India's faultlines? What else explains the rise in female foeticide in 'disturbed' areas such as Kashmir or even in the Northeast?

In Kashmir, the dream of azadi and the retaliatory efforts to kill the dream have consumed the resources and energies of both the State and the people. It compels the mirwaiz — a rational and intelligent man — to imagine India's hand in the inception of a materialistic culture that imperils Islam's purity and acts as a catalyst for a myriad social ills. Fear of the same dream clouds the vision of the State and its servants, causing them to prioritize politics over social problems. Funnily enough, the call for azadi itself is not uniformly insistent. Urban Srinagar, while not in love with India, is happy with the tourists and the sizeable economic aid. (This year, the Centre has earmarked Rs 6,600 crore for J&K's development, in addition to the Rs 1,200 crore that is disbursed under the Prime Minister's Reconstruction Programme.) The cry for freedom, unlike in the villages of Shopian and Pulwama, seemed far more muted there.

A strategy to check sex-determination tests must also take into account the centrality of Islam in the people's lives. I came across several people — leaders, students, city people, villagers — who doubted the census figures and argued that since Islam prohibits foeticide, such a thing was a product of the State's imagination. This mode of denial confirmed the mirwaiz's suspicion that the space for introspection and dialogue — integral to the moderate Islamist tradition — is being encroached upon by a culture that has ceased to question orthodoxy. To save unborn girls, the revival of moderate Islam is a must, and leaders such as the mirwaiz have to share the responsibility of resisting conservatism.

Tied to this is the issue of according women a greater role in decision-making processes — over their own bodies and their children. In Kashmir, I spoke to many people about sex-selection but not one was a woman. My search for a woman panchayat member proved to be equally futile. Travelling through villages such as Tukhroo and Largam, I was told by respondents, all men, that the government had forced women to contest the recently-held panchayat elections to fulfil the criterion of 33 per cent reservation. None of the men was ready to give the names of these women for fear of militants who, allegedly, killed a woman panch in Budgam. Women cannot be kept outside the discourse on foeticide. But for that to happen, the State would have to create conducive conditions for women to participate in the dialogue.

I had referred to the people's denial of foeticide earlier. The denial is a reflection of a culture of deception and duality that seems to be ingrained. The headman of Tukhroo, a vociferous supporter of women's education and employment, is aghast at the notion of men and women being equal. Many men who had spent last summer pelting stones at security men did not think twice before joining the police later. This unpredictable streak in the people, an important reason behind the trust deficit between the State and its own people, makes it difficult to discount the census figures.

Finally, there is the State and its myopic policies. The panchayat elections, which ended on June 18, could have been utilized to spread the message against foeticide. But the deaths of unborn girls was not an issue; candidates only sold promises of bringing water and electricity to villages. Given the fact that the state government is yet to begin capacity-building exercises for elected sarpanchs and panchs — yet another instance of an elitist State unwilling to devolve power to grassroots institutions — one can cast credible doubts on the panchayats' ability and willingness to take on foeticide. There is also the uncomfortable silence regarding the role of the army in this matter. Kupwara, Leh, Kargil, Poonch, Rajouri — among Kashmir's 11 districts that have witnessed the sharpest drop in sex ratio — are teeming with armed forces. Is the government reluctant to employ the army in the war against foeticide, given it notorious human rights record in the state?

On a road near the mirwaiz's house in Srinagar, I came across a poster put up by the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front. It was a montage of faces of men — a few looked like teenagers — who have disappeared. Girls, some less than six years old, are disappearing too. But not many Kashmiris are willing to talk about it. The Valley— guarded by the mountains — has yet another secret to keep.

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HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

A JEW CAN'T BE IDENTIFIED BY AN ID CARD STAMP

AN INDIVIDUAL'S BELIEFS ARE HIS OWN PRIVATE BUSINESS, AND HIS SENSE OF NATIONAL BELONGING IS DETERMINED BY HIS OWN IDENTIFICATION, NOT BY THE ORDER OF THE INTERIOR MINISTER.

It is hard not to be impressed by Interior Minister Eli Yishai's determination to compete with his colleague, Avigdor Lieberman, over the privilege to carve the "correct" national identity for Israeli citizens. Yishai has just pulled out of the storeroom of national symbols the term "Jew" and is trying to stick it back into Israeli identity cards under the "nationality" clause that was eradicated in 2002.

In theory, it would be a voluntary act, meant to enable only those interested in doing so - without imposing it on them - to identify themselves as Jewish. This would allow those wishing to do so to transform their blue identity cards from identification documents used for administrative purposes - like, for example, a driver's license, a student card or a senior citizen card - into documents that not only prove national identity but also eligibility for benefits that come with such privileged standing.

But this standing only applies to those who were born Jewish or who underwent Orthodox conversions. Those who have undergone Reform or Conservative conversions, regardless of their contribution to the state, will not be identified as Jewish.

This is a slippery and dangerous slope, and the Supreme Court was already there in 2002 when it ordered the interior minister, who then also happened to be Yishai, to register as Jews also those who have undergone Reform or Conservative conversions.

Making distinctions among citizens on the basis of faith and belief - all the more so among believers in that religion and faith - completely undermines Israel's definition not only as a democracy but also as a Jewish state. After all, which Jewish state is the world at large, and specifically the Arab world, to recognize? The state whose own Jewish citizens have difficulty defining their national-religious identity?

Yishai himself is apparently comfortable with the phrase "Jewish nationality." After all, he once agreed to cancel the nationality clause on Israeli identity cards, just so he would not have to acknowledge as Jews those who have undergone Reform and Conservative conversions. It would be best, then, if he immediately returned the issue back to the shelf from which it was pulled. An individual's identity does not require political approval. His beliefs are his own private business, and his sense of national belonging is determined by his own identification, not by the order of the interior minister.

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HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

ISRAELI DEMOCRACY EXPLOITS ITS WEAKEST CITIZENS

SO LONG AS DEMOCRATIC CONSCIOUSNESS IS SO LAX, AND SOCIAL DISCRIMINATION IS SO EGREGIOUS, THIS CORRUPT DANCE WILL CONTINUE.

BY GIDEON LEVY

There's no point dwelling on the Labor Party and its new dispute about voter registration. Nor is there any cause to fret about its system of primaries. There are worse systems, and no party has a better primaries set-up. True, I might have some nostalgic pining for the old, smoke-filled room on 110 Hayarkon Street where the party selected its candidates. All that's left of that venue is an old sign, and memories of mythological figures. Candidates were selected without money and without stuffed ballot boxes. But that was politics in the age of party bosses, and the Labor Party eventually got sick of it, exactly 20 years ago.

The primaries system has not really enhanced the quality of political parties in Israel. They haven't become more democratic. Instead, they've become more corrupt. The primaries have not injected new blood and talent into Israeli politics. Party hacks are still party hacks, and they seem to last forever.

The Labor Party's genetic make-up is not responsible for all this. Registered members of Kadima and Likud don't look much better, and they certainly do not produce better Knesset representatives. The problem is the genetic make-up of Israeli society and democracy. More precisely, the problem is the fragility of Israel's democracy and the weakness of its society. This is democracy for the poor - not only because it is shaky, and is at risk of fragmenting and collapsing at every moment; and not only because it lacks firm anchors, is based on ignorance, and is founded on the specious assumption that it's enough to stage elections and support government by the majority. What we have is a system that is based on exploiting the weakness of the poor, and on the helplessness of the exploited.

Who registers nowadays with political parties? Do you know anyone who has done so? Who registers for the major parties? Arabs, the poor and other weak sectors. When a quarter of Labor's registered voters are Arabs, and the actual number of Arabs who end up voting for Labor is negligible, there's something wrong, not with the system but with the social structure.

Since the days of Tammany Hall in the 19th and early 20th centuries, such politics has been based upon the shameless exploitation of disadvantaged social groups. Some portion of the Arab sector and other discriminated groups and poor people have little interest in political viewpoints, in legislation, in party platforms and candidates. These people just want jobs, if possible; they want building permits, if possible; they want phone numbers of people with clout. They want more food in the refrigerator. These are the voters who can be bought cheaply, at end-of-the-season prices, during primaries season.

This is the season when the weaker sectors register for political parties. Fifty forms can be filled out in exchange for a permit for a hunting rifle. One hundred forms will come in exchange for a job given to a relative, and a permit to build another floor in the house can result in 500 new registered voters. These people have no other way of getting what they want.

Look at who were the kings of the primaries - figures like Benjamin Ben-Eliezer. They knew how to make promises. Is there any other explanation for the fact that Arabs have registered for Labor, the party which exploited and marginalized them for generations, or for the fact that Arabs register for Yisrael Beiteinu, which is hardly logical, or for Shas?

There's no point in talking about changing the system. Its replacement would be no better. There could be a need to tighten up supervision, but that wouldn't help very much. So long as democratic consciousness is so lax, and social discrimination is so egregious, this corrupt dance will continue. It takes two to tango, namely, the cynical politicians and the hapless registrants.

Consider the survey published three months ago in Haaretz, which found that 60 percent of Israeli youth, the spoiled children of democracy, favor a "strong leader" more than the rule of law; and 70 percent think that security is more important than democracy. When the democracy's profile looks like this, it's hard to level accusations at the Labor Party. The roots of the problem are deep, and the danger is much more ominous than the selection of this or that candidate as head of Labor, with or without stuffed ballot boxes.

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HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

LET THE POOR DIE

DO YOU WORK IN THE SERVICE INDUSTRIES OR IN MARGINAL INDUSTRIES? GOOD HEALTH TO YOU. IN OTHER WORDS, TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF, BECAUSE YOU CAN EASILY BE REPLACED.

BY YITZHAK LAOR

Our health care system used to be praised for being better than its counterparts in the West, meaning the United States, where neglect reigns. Various features of these systems, like waiting time for surgery, were compared, and it turned out that there were places worse than Israel, even in Western Europe. But dry statistics explain what mortals already know - that the public health care system is falling apart.

Since 1995, Israelis have been increasingly financing national health care out of their own pockets. As Ronny Linder Ganz wrote in the TheMarker on June 1, "Since the National Health Insurance Law was enacted in 1995, which was to ensure egalitarian health care for all, private expenditures have skyrocketed from 31 percent to 43 percent of total nationwide expenditure - which is NIS 54 billion per year." The law was not supposed to guarantee egalitarian health care, though that is how it was marketed. In practice, people who don't have the means live shorter lives.

What this country's last leftist government, headed by Yitzhak Rabin, began - and has tragically paved the way to perpetuation under right-wing rule - was Israel's incorporation in the global market economy. Perhaps that was not the intent of Rabin and his finance minister, Avraham Shochat, but since then, the Likud and Kadima governments have turned the economy into a paradise for the rich. Conditions for all the elites have become fantastic, "executive pay" has become a perversion while - and not coincidentally - all opposition has disappeared (the jump in salaries offered senior academics during the Rabin government is the classic model for buying the silence of the would-be critics ).

The Histadrut labor federation was also sterilized back then. Then came Benjamin Netanyahu who as finance minister "worked miracles," cheered on by the devotees of the market economy. The destruction that Netanyahu left in his path will be remembered for years.

True, you cannot participate in the global economy without a strong currency, no doubt about that. But the simplest and most convenient way of keeping a currency strong is through continuous government spending cuts. In Israel, the battle over spending cuts is waged between representatives of interest groups in the government (the ultra-Orthodox, for example, or the military elite ) and not between labor unions and the government. Hence, the working class have no protection against these cuts.

The last subsidies that remain for workers - those paid through the education, transportation, and health care budgets - are now drowning. The subsidies to those who do not play an active role in the economy - the handicapped, the elderly, women at risk, and challenged population groups in general - have long since vanished.

Subsidies for workers are meant to serve "the economy." A case in point is public transportation used by soldiers and workers commuting between their homes and offices. But the education system has become a mass warehouse for the children of workers. The education minister calls his repertoire "Zionist education," but it is spreading ignorance and especially mediocrity. The system does produce a miniscule number of excellent graduates, who are needed for technology and the army (mathematics, sciences, Arabic ), but the great majority is quickly distanced from any chance of getting ahead. Israeli capitalism does not depend on sophisticated or heavy industries and does not need masses of educated workers.

The ax has also reached subsidies to the body: The health care system is not important enough and, mainly, it is expensive. It needs continuous investments, in new medications and staff. Better to get rid of it. Do you work in the service industries or in marginal industries? Good health to you. In other words, take care of yourself, because you can easily be replaced.

The battle waging over doctors' salaries is a fight over the last subsidy. How much does a healthy person cost the "economy"? That is the question that defenders of the market economy are ashamed to answer, after years of propaganda about the "free-market economy." Conditions for nurses, the litmus test of public health care, reveal that in many hospitals, if not all of them, more and more nurses are employed part time, even though they are required to work more than full time, sometimes a shift and a half, without new positions being added. That is how government spending is being cut.

There may be no solution other than for workers to organize, and perhaps Amir Peretz, despite everything. The "war against the system" waging on the Internet and the denigration of Sammy Ofer one minute after he passes away are pathetic.

 

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HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

THE HISTORICAL TRUTH BEHIND THE ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN NARRATIVES

THE NATIONAL NARRATIVES ARE AN INSEPARABLE PART OF THE FACTUAL REALITY OF THE ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN NATIONAL DISPUTE. THESE NARRATIVES SHAPE THE DISPUTE, NOURISH IT AND RECONSTITUTE IT, TIME AFTER TIME.

BY DMITRY SHUMSKY

In his article "Truth, not narrative," (June 17 ), Prof. Shlomo Avineri calls to separate nationalist narratives from historical truth when presenting the events of the Nakba (the Palestinian "catastrophe" that occurred when Israel was founded ).

He says that on the one hand, there is the Israeli-Zionist narrative regarding the Jewish people's connection to its historic homeland and the Jews' miserable situation, while on the other hand, there is the Palestinian narrative, which regards the Jews solely as a religious group and Zionism as an imperialist phenomenon.

Beyond these claims, he says, there is the factual, historical truth, which is not a "narrative": That in 1947 the Zionist movement accepted the United Nations partition plan, while the Arab side rejected it and went to war, as a result of which the Nakba events occurred.

But the historical facts that became the Middle Eastern reality leading up to 1947, and which were the background for the War of Independence and the events of the Palestinian Nakba, were a direct result of the Western powers' acceptance of the Zionist narrative three decades earlier.

In 1917, after the fall of Ottoman Turkey, which left the Middle East in the hands of the Allied powers, one of those powers declared that the Jewish people had a right to establish its national home in Eretz Yisrael. This declaration was issued because the British government recognized the Jewish people's connection to its historic homeland and the Jews' miserable situation. The Zionist movement got lucky; its fate had been placed in the hands of a power that had a theological sensitivity to the idea of a link between the biblical Jewish people and its land.

But just imagine if, after their victory in World War I, Great Britain and its allies had adopted the pan-Arabic narrative, or the developing Palestinian narrative. Then, in the spirit of the principle of self-determination for the peoples in whose name they were fighting, the allies would have decided that Palestine, including its nascent Zionist Yishuv, would be part of the pan-Arabic nation-state or the Palestinian nation-state. Of course, all this would have included an assurance that the civil and religious rights of Palestine's Jews wouldn't be compromised, and would remain as they had been for the Jews under Ottoman rule until the outbreak of the war.

One could assume that the Zionist Jews would not have sat idly, but would have launched an armed uprising against this new nation-state that had been established in their historic national home. It's certainly possible that in the absence of support from world leaders, this uprising would have failed, leading to expulsions, massacres, and ethnic cleansing, which were not uncommon in the late Ottoman Empire, in the Christian nation-states, or in the Eurasian areas.

After such a national catastrophe, would there have been even one Zionist intellectual claiming that beyond the two national narratives there is a factual historical truth? A historical truth in which the Arabs offered the Jews the same collective rights they had had under the Ottoman Turks - whose scope so impressed David Ben-Gurion in 1916 - but since the Zionists chose the armed struggle, they had to suffer the consequences and take responsibility for their decision?

I doubt it. Any such Zionist intellectual would have been condemned by his comrades as a traitor, who wasn't speaking historical truth but accepting the version of the oppressive enemy, which had, with the help of foreigners, seized control of the Jewish people's homeland.

The national narratives are an inseparable part of the factual reality of the Israeli-Palestinian national dispute. These narratives shape the dispute, nourish it and reconstitute it, time after time.

This, then, is the one and only historical truth - the truth and not a narrative. It's the bitter truth about two peoples in one land.

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HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

THE HISTORICAL TRUTH BEHIND THE ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN NARRATIVES

THE NATIONAL NARRATIVES ARE AN INSEPARABLE PART OF THE FACTUAL REALITY OF THE ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN NATIONAL DISPUTE. THESE NARRATIVES SHAPE THE DISPUTE, NOURISH IT AND RECONSTITUTE IT, TIME AFTER TIME.

BY DMITRY SHUMSKY

In his article "Truth, not narrative," (June 17 ), Prof. Shlomo Avineri calls to separate nationalist narratives from historical truth when presenting the events of the Nakba (the Palestinian "catastrophe" that occurred when Israel was founded ).

He says that on the one hand, there is the Israeli-Zionist narrative regarding the Jewish people's connection to its historic homeland and the Jews' miserable situation, while on the other hand, there is the Palestinian narrative, which regards the Jews solely as a religious group and Zionism as an imperialist phenomenon.

Beyond these claims, he says, there is the factual, historical truth, which is not a "narrative": That in 1947 the Zionist movement accepted the United Nations partition plan, while the Arab side rejected it and went to war, as a result of which the Nakba events occurred.

But the historical facts that became the Middle Eastern reality leading up to 1947, and which were the background for the War of Independence and the events of the Palestinian Nakba, were a direct result of the Western powers' acceptance of the Zionist narrative three decades earlier.

In 1917, after the fall of Ottoman Turkey, which left the Middle East in the hands of the Allied powers, one of those powers declared that the Jewish people had a right to establish its national home in Eretz Yisrael. This declaration was issued because the British government recognized the Jewish people's connection to its historic homeland and the Jews' miserable situation. The Zionist movement got lucky; its fate had been placed in the hands of a power that had a theological sensitivity to the idea of a link between the biblical Jewish people and its land.

But just imagine if, after their victory in World War I, Great Britain and its allies had adopted the pan-Arabic narrative, or the developing Palestinian narrative. Then, in the spirit of the principle of self-determination for the peoples in whose name they were fighting, the allies would have decided that Palestine, including its nascent Zionist Yishuv, would be part of the pan-Arabic nation-state or the Palestinian nation-state. Of course, all this would have included an assurance that the civil and religious rights of Palestine's Jews wouldn't be compromised, and would remain as they had been for the Jews under Ottoman rule until the outbreak of the war.

One could assume that the Zionist Jews would not have sat idly, but would have launched an armed uprising against this new nation-state that had been established in their historic national home. It's certainly possible that in the absence of support from world leaders, this uprising would have failed, leading to expulsions, massacres, and ethnic cleansing, which were not uncommon in the late Ottoman Empire, in the Christian nation-states, or in the Eurasian areas.

After such a national catastrophe, would there have been even one Zionist intellectual claiming that beyond the two national narratives there is a factual historical truth? A historical truth in which the Arabs offered the Jews the same collective rights they had had under the Ottoman Turks - whose scope so impressed David Ben-Gurion in 1916 - but since the Zionists chose the armed struggle, they had to suffer the consequences and take responsibility for their decision?

I doubt it. Any such Zionist intellectual would have been condemned by his comrades as a traitor, who wasn't speaking historical truth but accepting the version of the oppressive enemy, which had, with the help of foreigners, seized control of the Jewish people's homeland.

The national narratives are an inseparable part of the factual reality of the Israeli-Palestinian national dispute. These narratives shape the dispute, nourish it and reconstitute it, time after time.

This, then, is the one and only historical truth - the truth and not a narrative. It's the bitter truth about two peoples in one land.

***************************************


HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

CHANGE THE COALITION

A PRIME MINISTER WHO REALLY WANTS TO LEAD A FAR-RANGING DIPLOMATIC PROCESS CANNOT PUT TOGETHER A COALITION THAT WILL IMPEDE ANY MOVE ON THE PEACE PROCESS.

BY YEHUDA BEN MEIR

A book can be written about errors made by the Israeli left, about its exaggerated or extremist approaches, and its estrangement from reality. At first, the left's blunders really do not seem like anything anyone has to fret too much about. But the lamentable thing is that the left's stances and statements drive large sectors of the Israeli public away from moderate, balanced positions.

It's hard to under-estimate the impact the left has had in terms of strengthening Israel's right-wing, including its extremist fringe. A classic example is the recognition of the State of Israel as a Jewish state. It's not clear why President Barack Obama can emphasize at every opportunity that Israel must be the "Jewish state, and the homeland of the Jewish people," whereas Benjamin Netanyahu cannot say the same thing. It's not clear why the government of France can, in an official document submitted to the two sides, discuss "two states for two peoples," not to mention UN resolutions that explicitly referred to the Jewish state, whereas Israel's bringing up a demand for the same nomenclature is criminal.

In its editorial on June 17, Haaretz wrote that the demand that Palestinians recognize Israel as the national state of the Jewish people, to which all Jews of the world are welcome to immigrate, is tantamount to asking that the Palestinians give up on "their national ethos." No Palestinian leader, the editorial wrote, "can agree to this dictate."

Is that so? If the Palestinians are indeed not willing to accept the fact that the Jewish people has at least some connection to this country, and that within the framework of willingness to divide the land between two peoples there must be consent to a Jewish state existing here, and that this state should be accessible to Jewish immigrants, just as the Palestinian state will be open to any Palestinian - if these things are unacceptable to the Palestinians, then the conflict really is insoluble. Proposing that Israel back down from such elementary demands causes incalculable damage to the peace process.

The government of Israel can legitimately be criticized for its inaction, but such criticism needs to be focused, reasonable and persuasive. The problem is not Netanyahu's words but rather his deeds. The principles he presented to the Knesset reflect a consensus, but nobody really believes that he intends to implement them.

Netanyahu earned the lack of credibility his image evokes. It is unrealistic to present such peace principles, and then wink at [Likud MKs]Tzipi Hotovely and Danny Danon. And it is unreasonable to talk about settlement blocs, and then perform tricks aimed at promoting construction in locales in the territories that are outside of such blocs.

Netanyahu's lack of credibility stems from an original sin - and that is the coalition he established two years ago. A prime minister who really wants to lead a far-ranging diplomatic process cannot put together a coalition that will impede any move on the peace process. On the eve of the elections, Netanyahu stated that his big mistake during his first term as prime minister was that he did not cobble together a unity government. I think he was being honest when he made these statements, and so the repetition of the mistake is a particularly egregious error.

But it's not too late. The coalition is not an inseparable bond; it can be altered. If Netanyahu has the will, he can make the requisite domestic changes. That will entail taking a political risk, but the willingness to take chances for a supreme national goal is one of the trademarks of leadership. That is the real test awaiting Netanyahu, and history will judge whatever decision he makes.

 

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

EDITORIAL

THE WAY OUT?

Americans are impatient — and increasingly despairing — about the war in Afghanistan. After 10 years of fighting, more than 1,500 American lives lost and $450 billion spent, they need to know there is a clear way out.

On Wednesday night, President Obama announced that American troops will soon begin to withdraw, but at a size and pace unlikely to satisfy many Americans.

He said that 10,000 of the 33,000 troops from the "surge" would come home before the end of this year, with the rest out by next summer. He vowed that reductions would continue "at a steady pace" after that, and that "the Afghan people will be responsible for their own security" by sometime in 2014.

We are not military planners, so we won't play the too big/too small numbers game. Mr. Obama argued that the United States is starting the drawdown "from a position of strength" — that Al Qaeda has been pummeled and the Taliban have suffered serious losses — and that his goals are limited. "We won't try to make Afghanistan a perfect place." It was a particular relief to hear him say that "the tide of war is receding" in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

But he will need to do a lot more to explain why it is in this country's strategic interest to stick things out for another three-plus years. And why his drawdown plan has a credible chance of leaving behind an Afghanistan that won't implode as soon as American troops are gone.

This was a sound speech, as far as it went. But 13 minutes for something this important?

Mr. Obama said that his fundamental goal is simple: "No safe haven from which Al Qaeda or its affiliates can launch attacks against our homeland." Americans have good reason to be skeptical, especially after listening to George W. Bush's claims that Iraq was a front line in the war on terror. It wasn't. Afghanistan is.

Mr. Obama would have been more persuasive if he had just flatly declared that without a base in Afghanistan, the United States would never have been able to carry out the raid that got Osama bin Laden.

Mr. Obama had some tough words for Pakistan. But Americans need to hear exactly how close Pakistan is to the edge. If Afghanistan implodes, it could quickly become the base for Al Qaeda and other extremists for whom the real prize is Pakistan and its 90 or so nuclear weapons. This is no dominoes fantasy.

Does Mr. Obama have a credible plan for both building a minimally stable Afghanistan and bringing the troops home? His speech was short on specifics.

An American drawdown must be based on a buildup of capable Afghan forces. Mr. Obama's team has made a serious effort on that front, unlike its predecessors. His argument would have been more credible if he had also acknowledged the real problems of attrition and illiteracy.

Mr. Obama said in the clearest terms yet that he is open to Afghan-led negotiations with Taliban leaders. It is an effort well worth pursuing if it is tempered with significant skepticism. Programs to bring lower-level Taliban fighters in from the cold are moving far too slowly.

Mr. Obama did not mention the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, whose behavior has been particularly bizarre and offensive of late. He also said nothing about the troubled American assistance program. A recent report by the Democratic staff of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee warned that billions have been wasted on corruption and poorly conceived or unsustainable programs.

We know that "nation building" has become taboo in Washington, but helping Afghanistan build a minimally functional government is also part of the way out. Mr. Obama and his team clearly need to come up with a better way to manage Mr. Karzai, or work around him, and a more rational assistance plan.

Mr. Obama acknowledged Americans' deep anxiety about this war. But one speech isn't going to calm their fears. At his best, the president can be hugely persuasive. But we are constantly dismayed by his unwillingness to engage debates early and press them hard. The country needs to hear more from him, and a lot more frequently, about this war and his plans for getting out.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

BUDGET CUTTERS V. THE LAW

The last three years have been the hardest for state budgets since the depression, and virtually every state has cut services. Most often, it is the poor, the young, and the elderly who are most hurt, as 34 states cut K-12 education, 31 health care, and 29 elderly and disabled services.

More than 30 states also have raised taxes to some degree, but some have simply gone too far and violated longstanding commitments to their citizens. When that happens, usually because of ideologically driven lawmakers, the only protection that many citizens have is the courts. In state after state, the courts have been forced to step in and stop the most ravaging budget-slashers.

As Michael Cooper of The Times recently reported, courts have sharply rebuked several states for breaking the law in cutting back vital services and improperly using new revenue sources. Governors and legislators can rage about judicial activism and unwarranted intervention, but in many cases the voiceless, including schoolchildren, prisoners and the poor, have no other protection.

In California earlier this month, a federal court ordered the state to increase its payments to foster parents, two-and-a-half years after the state was found to have violated the federal Child Welfare Act. The Legislature included an extra $10.7 million in the budget for the higher rates, which it had not otherwise been willing to pay. A few weeks before that, the United States Supreme Court said California could no longer crowd prisoners into dangerous conditions, a situation long ignored by the state.

The New Jersey Supreme Court last month upbraided Gov. Chris Christie for cutting the schools budget so sharply that he violated a court order requiring a proper education in poor districts. It ordered another $500 million in school spending. Governor Christie's sputtering that the court trespassed on his responsibility would be more persuasive if he had made any attempt to meet his obligations, instead of cutting taxes and then pleading poverty.

The North Carolina courts are examining whether state cutbacks there violate court orders, and similar lawsuits have been filed in Kansas. In the words of John Robb, a lawyer for several Kansas school districts: "Just because the checkbook is empty doesn't mean that the constitutional standard is swept away."

These court actions are a warning to Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York, who has proposed to cut $1.2 billion of the school money necessary to fulfill the 2006 court order that children be provided a sound basic education. When lawmakers ignore their fundamental responsibilities, it's good to know there is a judge who will step in.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

A REASONABLE PUBLIC UNION DEAL

Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York and leaders of the state's biggest public employee union announced a responsible agreement on Wednesday that would create significant budget savings while helping to reduce potential layoffs. The five-year deal with the Civil Services Employees Association freezes wages for three years and raises employee contributions to health benefits. Other unions in the state should quickly adopt similar packages.

The governor set a goal of saving $450 million this year — by cutting pay increases and benefits or by laying off nearly 10,000 workers. The deal with the public employees' union would keep workers in their jobs and bring salaries and benefits more in line with the private sector.

The deal would save $73 million this year and $93 million next year. If it were adopted by other public unions that negotiate with the governor, the state would save $1.63 billion over five years, the governor said.

The agreement includes a three-year pay freeze with 2 percent increases in the fourth and fifth years, nine unpaid furlough days over the next two years, and higher health care contributions (with bigger premium increases for higher-paid workers). In exchange, the governor has promised to shield the union, which has 66,000 members, from layoffs for the next two years.

Other unions, especially the Public Employees Federation, with about 56,000 workers, should begin negotiations quickly. If layoffs are necessary to meet Governor Cuomo's budget target, members of those unions could face job cuts if they refuse to make similar concessions.

This agreement moves in the right direction. The next step is for the Legislature to work with Governor Cuomo's efforts to scale back future pension costs.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

CLOUD OVER THE COURT

The Supreme Court is not bound by the code of conduct for federal judges, but justices have said they follow it voluntarily. Justice Clarence Thomas, however, does not appear to believe that he needs to adhere to those rules.

The code says judges "should not personally participate" in raising money for charitable endeavors lest donors feel pressured to give or feel entitled to special treatment if they do. Judges are not supposed to know who donates to projects honoring them.

On Sunday, The Times reported on Justice Thomas's conduct connecting a museum in his hometown, Pin Point, Ga., with a major donor to that project, Harlan Crow, a Dallas real-estate magnate who is a big contributor to conservative causes and a Thomas friend and benefactor. A company controlled by Mr. Crow's partnership paid $1.5 million for the site of the museum, which is scheduled to open this fall. Although the museum is not intended to honor Justice Thomas, his history will be part of it.

This case is the latest evidence that the Supreme Court's voluntary compliance with the judges' conduct code isn't enough to protect impartiality and credibility. Justice Thomas seems utterly unconcerned with those rules. In January, he acknowledged that, over the last six years, he had failed to disclose his wife's employment with conservative organizations, in violation of the 1978 Ethics in Government Act. The Supreme Court must adopt the rigorous code of conduct that applies to all other parts of the federal judiciary.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

THE HAUNTING OF RICK PERRY

BY TA-NEHISI COATES

Should Gov. Rick Perry of Texas enter the 2012 presidential race, he would enjoy a strange and remarkable escort — the irrepressible ghost of Cameron Todd Willingham.

Charged with the horrific crime of intentionally torching his home and leaving his three daughters to the blaze, Willingham's 1991 conviction and 2004 execution were secured by two great bugbears of America's criminal justice system: pseudoscientific forensics and the compromised testimony of a jailhouse snitch.

The fire investigators who fingered Willingham relied on the kind of sorcery that fire scientists have tried for the past 20 years to chase from the field. The informant, for his part, claimed that Willingham had inexplicably blurted out a confession, then recanted his tale. Then, in the words of New Yorker reporter David Grann, he "recanted his recantation." When Grann tracked him down in 2009, he told him that "it's very possible I misunderstood" what Willingham said, pausing to add "the statute of limitations has run out on perjury, hasn't it?"

Perry was unswayed by pleas from Willingham's lawyers and rejected their request for a 30-day reprieve. This registers as a rather mild atrocity in Texas, a state that does not so much tinker with the machinery of death as it gleefully fumbles at the controls.

In 2000, an investigation by The Chicago Tribune found that almost one-third of court-appointed defense lawyers in capital cases in Texas had, at some point, been publicly sanctioned by the state's trial board. The Tribune uncovered cases of lawyers falling asleep at trials, engaging in extortion and assaulting teenage girls. Prosecutors and police were found concealing evidence or worse. In 1980, Cesar Fierro received the death penalty on the strength of a confession secured after an El Paso sheriff colluded with police across the border in Juárez, Mexico, who arrested Fierro's parents and threatened to attach an electric generator to his stepfather's genitals. Fierro is still on death row.

Texas regularly executes more criminals than any other state, and does so in such haphazard fashion that it could be comic. Except people are dying.

In 2005, Texas created a state commission to investigate the use of forensic science in criminal trials. The Willingham case was one of the first on the docket.

But, in 2009, Perry, anticipating a primary fight, subverted the commission by replacing its chair in the midst of the Willingham investigation. The new panel chair promptly canceled the hearing and declined to hold more for the rest of the year. The Willingham case did not appear in the commission minutes until April, a month after Perry had won the Republican primary.

The employment of lethal force is perhaps the greatest power afforded a state by its citizens. Thus the death penalty debate is ill-suited for those who would shrink from the implications of either its deployment or abrogation.

I am opposed to the death penalty. But my opposition is tempered by the belief that Americans support capital punishment for real and substantial reasons. The unfortunate fact of humanity is that it tends to regularly birth butchers who think nothing of concealing their work beneath a seductive mask of victimhood.

Thirty years ago, Roger Keith Coleman raped and stabbed to death his sister-in-law Wanda McCoy in the mining town of Grundy, Va. Sentenced to die, Coleman spent the rest of his life seducing activists and enrolling them to the cause of his innocence. On the eve of his death, Coleman was awarded a platform by the likes of "Good Morning America," "Today," "Larry King Live" and Time magazine. Meanwhile, McCoy's family, and the small town of Grundy, endured the scornful eye of the nation and the implicit inference that hicks from Appalachia were set upon enacting frontier justice. So convinced were Coleman's advocates, that after his execution in 1992, they pressed for postmortem DNA tests. Those tests confirmed Coleman's guilt.

Whenever tempted by moral dudgeon, it should be remembered that abolishing the death penalty would mean asking decent people to tolerate the lives of criminals who revel in the abuse of that tolerance. Opposing the death penalty is not rooted simply in the pursuit of justice, but, perhaps more firmly, in understanding the world's fundamental injustice, and the ease with which an attempt to permanently balance the scales ultimately imbalances them further. For want of this lesson, Texas may well have executed an innocent man.

Whatever one thinks of the death penalty, the accounts of those who would seek to conceal the results of their theory should be closely checked. If only for that reason, the prospect of Governor Perry as commander in chief induces a chilling nostalgia. Indeed, choosing a leader of the free world from the ranks of those who sport a self-serving incuriosity is a habit, like crash landings and cock-fights, best cultivated in strict moderation.

Once a century should suffice.

Ta-Nehisi Coates, a senior editor at The Atlantic, is a guest columnist.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

THE BREAST MILK CURE

BY NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF

DOGON DOUTCHI, Niger

What if nutritionists came up with a miracle cure for childhood malnutrition? A protein-rich substance that doesn't require refrigeration? One that is free and is available even in remote towns like this one in Niger where babies routinely die of hunger-related causes?

Impossible, you say? Actually, this miracle cure already exists. It's breast milk.

When we think of global poverty, we sometimes assume that the challenges are so vast that any solutions must be extraordinarily complex and expensive. Well, some are. But almost nothing would do as much to fight starvation around the world as the ultimate low-tech solution: exclusive breast-feeding for the first six months of life. That's the strong recommendation of the World Health Organization.

The paradox is that while this seems so cheap and obvious — virtually instinctive — it's also rare. Here in Niger, only 9 percent of babies get nothing but breast milk for the first six months of life, according to a 2007 national nutrition survey. At least that's up from just 1 percent in 1998.

(In the United States, about 13 percent of babies are exclusively breast-fed for six months, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Then again, most of the rest get formula, which is pretty safe in America.)

Next door to Niger in Burkina Faso, fewer than 7 percent of children get breast milk exclusively for six months. In Senegal it's 14 percent; in Mauritania, 3 percent.

These are some of the countries we're passing through on my annual win-a-trip journey, this year with a medical student from Atlanta, Saumya Dave, and a teacher from Newark, Noreen Connolly. It's heartbreaking to see severely malnourished children and to meet mother after mother who has buried children when such a simple life-saving solution is not applied.

The biggest problem is that many mothers believe that breast milk isn't enough, and that, on a hot day, a child needs water as well.

On a rural road near the remote town of Dogon Doutchi, in southern Niger, we ran into a family of Tuareg nomads traveling north.

"On a hot day, babies need water," Gayshita Abdullah, the mother, told me. She said she tries to get water from a well, but if there is no well nearby she gets it from a mud puddle.

In fact, most nutritionists are adamant that babies are best off with nothing but breast milk for the first six months of life (they used to recommend four months, but now say six months). And water in poor countries is often contaminated and dangerous for a baby.

Even when the mother is herself malnourished, her body will normally provide enough milk for a baby, nutritionists say.

A 2008 report in The Lancet, the British medical journal, found that a baby that is partially breast-fed is 2.8 times as likely to die as a baby that is exclusively breast-fed for at least five months. A child that is not breast-fed at all is 14.4 times as likely to die.

Over all, The Lancet said, 1.4 million child deaths could be averted each year if babies were breast-fed properly. That's one child dying unnecessarily every 22 seconds.

"As far as nutritional interventions that have been studied, we have crushing evidence of breast-feeding's efficacy in reducing child mortality," said Shawn Baker, a nutrition specialist with Helen Keller International, an aid organization that works on these issues.

"It's the oldest nutritional intervention known to our species, and it's available to everybody," Baker added. "But for a development community too focused on technological fixes, it hasn't gained the traction it should."

The challenges with breast-feeding in poor countries are not the kinds that Western women face, and many women in the developing world continue nursing their babies for two years. The biggest problem is giving water or animal milk to babies, especially on hot days. Another is that mothers often doubt the value of colostrum, the first milk after childbirth (which is thick and yellowish and doesn't look much like milk), and delay nursing for a day or two.

One mother near the town of Dosso, Fati Halidou, who has lost four of her seven children, told me that after childbirth, it is best to give a baby sugar water or Koranic water. This is water made by writing a verse of the Koran on a board and then washing it off; the inky water is thought to protect the child.

It's not clear why a human instinct to nurse went awry. Does it have something to do with the sexualization of breasts? Or with infant formula manufacturers, who irresponsibly peddled their products in the past but are more restrained now? Or is it just that moms worry that their babies need water on hot days? Nobody really knows.

But what is clear is that there's a marvelous low-tech solution to infant malnutrition all around us.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

FREE TO SEARCH AND SEIZE

BY DAVID K. SHIPLER

Chevy Chase, Md.

THIS spring was a rough season for the Fourth Amendment. The Obama administration petitioned the Supreme Court to allow GPS tracking of vehicles without judicial permission. The Supreme Court ruled that the police could break into a house without a search warrant if, after knocking and announcing themselves, they heard what sounded like evidence being destroyed. Then it refused to see a Fourth Amendment violation where a citizen was jailed for 16 days on the false pretext that he was being held as a material witness to a crime.

In addition, Congress renewed Patriot Act provisions on enhanced surveillance powers until 2015, and the F.B.I. expanded agents' authority to comb databases, follow people and rummage through their trash even if they are not suspected of a crime.

None of these are landmark decisions. But together they further erode the privilege of privacy that was championed by Congress and the courts in the mid-to-late-20th century, when the Fourth Amendment's warrant requirement was applied to the states, unconstitutionally seized evidence was ruled inadmissible in state trials, and privacy laws were enacted following revelations in the 1970s of domestic spying on antiwar and civil rights groups.

For over a decade now, the government has tried to make us more secure by chipping away at the one provision of the Bill of Rights that pivots on the word "secure" — the Fourth Amendment's guarantee of "the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures."

The founding fathers, who sought security from government, would probably reject today's conventional wisdom that liberty and security are at odds, and that one must be sacrificed for the other. In their experience, the chief threat to individual security came from government itself, as in the house-to-house searches conducted by British customs officers under blanket "writs of assistance." After the Boston lawyer James Otis Jr. eloquently challenged the writs in 1761, John Adams, who was present in the crowded courtroom, wrote of the audience's rage, "Then and there the child independence was born."

Independent America's answer to those searches was the Fourth Amendment, with its requirement that law enforcement have probable cause to believe that evidence of a crime can be found at a particular place and time before a judge issues a warrant.

The ingenious feature of this demand is that it makes criminal investigations more efficient and accurate, even as it preserves liberty. If that rule and others in the Bill of Rights are followed, the police waste less time chasing false leads, make fewer erroneous arrests and leave the community safer.

In other words, the framers handed down a system in which liberty and security were fused, one inseparable from the other. So it is hard to see how safety has been enhanced by the post-9/11 expansion of counterterrorism surveillance, which has uncovered hardly any known plots and instead burdens analysts with so much irrelevant noise that they have trouble hearing the ominous melodies.

A recent study by the Breakthrough Institute found only two cases that benefited from the secret warrants made easier by the Patriot Act. The rest, the report concluded, "were broken open due to the combination of well-deployed undercover agents, information from citizen or undercover informants and tips from foreign intelligence agencies." The two exceptions were the Portland Seven, Oregon Muslims who tried to travel to Afghanistan to fight with the Taliban in 2001, and Najibullah Zazi, a Colorado resident from Afghanistan who pleaded guilty last year to planning a suicide attack in the New York City subways.

Two successes in nearly a decade might be enough to satisfy a fearful public, but it is worth noting that both cases began with old-fashioned tips — the first from a landlord, the second from Pakistani intelligence linking Mr. Zazi to Al Qaeda — and could have been pursued with the law enforcement tools available before 9/11.

The false dichotomy of liberty versus security is accompanied by another myth: that someone else's rights are always the ones at risk, that I can give up their rights for my safety. It seems a comfortable bargain. The terrorist is covertly monitored, the drug dealer is searched and the upstanding citizen is protected.

But it does not always work that way. The constitutional system of case law and precedent applies rulings on rights universally. So, legally, if a black man in a poor neighborhood can be stopped and frisked with minimal reason, so can a white woman in a rich neighborhood — even if the police tactics differ.

American history is replete with assaults on liberties that first target foreigners, minorities and those on the political margins, then spread toward the mainstream. The 1917 Espionage Act, for example, was used to prosecute American labor leaders and other critics of the government, and the 1798 Alien Enemies Act was revived after Pearl Harbor to intern American citizens of Japanese ancestry. A similar process is taking place now, as the F.B.I. has begun using counterterrorism tools to search, infiltrate and investigate groups of American peace activists and labor leaders in the Midwest.

The Fourth Amendment is weaker than it was 50 years ago, and this should worry everyone. "Uncontrolled search and seizure is one of the first and most effective weapons in the arsenal of every arbitrary government," Justice Robert H. Jackson, the former chief United States prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials, wrote in 1949. "Among deprivations of rights, none is so effective in cowing a population, crushing the spirit of the individual and putting terror in every heart."

David K. Shipler, a former Times correspondent, is the author of "The Rights of the People: How Our Search for Safety Invades Our Liberties." He writes the blog The Shipler Report.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

THREE STATES SHORT OF A SECURE COMMUNITY

BY PETER H. SCHUCK

EARLIER this month, New York and Massachusetts joined Illinois in withdrawing from Secure Communities, the promising immigration enforcement program that the Obama administration hopes to extend nationwide by 2013. The effort, begun in 2008 and since expanded to nearly 1,800 jurisdictions in 43 states and territories, links federal, state and local arrest data with the immigration status and fingerprint records of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency; the agency then uses that information to decide whether to deport lawbreakers.

The idea behind Secure Communities is to focus enforcement on those immigrants who pose the greatest public safety threat. The program is far from perfect — immigration officials sometimes deport minor offenders, like traffic law violators, rather than the more serious criminals, who should be the top priority. But by withdrawing from the program, these states are weakening an essential immigration enforcement tool rather than working to improve it.

Indeed, in many ways Secure Communities is already the sort of program on which people on all sides of the debate should be able to agree: it piggybacks on existing technology and databases, and it lets federal agents decide how to proceed, rather than relying on state and local police officers with little knowledge of immigration law. It fits seamlessly into established booking routines, and requires no extra input from localities or training for their officials.

Even so, many immigrant advocacy groups that pay lip service to the need for vigorous enforcement oppose Secure Communities and almost any measure that might actually increase deportations, without proposing any effective enforcement alternatives. Supporters of Secure Communities respond that the government should deport even relatively minor offenders, so long as they are here illegally.

Much of the strife over Secure Communities is simply political: most voters favor expanding deportation, while immigrant advocacy groups pressure politicians to oppose anything that might risk racial profiling or disrupt immigrant families. The result is a patchwork of state laws — some harsh, some lenient — overlaid by a Secure Communities program that some key states are now attacking. This stalemate not only undermines enforcement, but also impedes other needed reforms, like a carefully qualified amnesty for some of the more than 10 million undocumented immigrants living here.

The real issue for Secure Communities is deportation priorities. Serious crimes by immigrants, like serious crimes by citizens, are properly at the top of the list. According to the federal government, more than 85,000 deportable immigrants are already serving time for so-called Level 1 offenses, which include homicide, kidnapping and major drug offenses. Nevertheless, opponents rightly complain that too few of those being deported are the more serious criminals whom the program originally promised to remove.

But deporting the right offenders requires precisely the kind of data-sharing with local law enforcement that Secure Communities makes possible. Immigration agents need to receive that information when immigrants are booked into prison if they are to promptly identify and deport the more dangerous ones.

One tweak, which the federal agency adopted last week, is to give agents and prosecutors more discretion in how they go after offenders. Other reforms would seek more local input on how to set deportation priorities, and would provide incentives for federal officials to fry the bigger fish, not the minnows.

Of course, Secure Communities will always arouse controversy: while we can all agree that Level 1 offenders should be the first targets, and mere traffic violators should be the lowest priority, reasonable people will differ about the many in-between cases. Even some who are guilty only of immigration offenses, such as previously deported immigrants who have repeatedly returned illegally, are fair game for federal immigration agents.

Secure Communities is an essential program that is beginning to reshape its priorities. The three governors who have abandoned the program rather than working to improve it seem to be making a grand gesture intended more to impress their political bases than to strengthen immigration enforcement.

Peter H. Schuck, a professor of law at Yale University and New York University, is the co-editor of "Understanding America: The Anatomy of an Exceptional Nation."

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

A NEW PARLIAMENT WITH EMPTY SEATS?

MURAT YETKİN - MURAT.YETKIN@HURRIYET.COM.TR

The ruling of the Turkish Supreme Election Board, or YSK, on deputy-elect Hatip Dicle's right to enter Parliament has started a chain reaction, escalating the political tension in the country.

Dicle, a renowned Kurdish activist and lawyer, was elected in the June 12 elections from prison, where he has spent almost two years arrested – not yet convicted – on charges of being a member of the Kurdish Communities Union, or KCK, an illegal front organization for the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK.

It may sound like an Irish IRA-Sinn Fein story, but it is not.

Dicle would like to enter the elections as a member of the Kurdish rights-focused Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP. But the 10 percent constitutional election threshold – while their nationwide vote base is around 6 percent - forced him and his fellow BDP members to bypass the law. So they entered the elections as independent candidates but were backed by the BDP.

The block – supported by some groups on the Turkish left – managed to get 36 deputies elected to the 550 member Turkish Parliament; seven of them, including Dicle, were in jail because of the KCK arrests.

The ban on Dicle caused strong reaction in Diyarbakır. The Democratic People's Congress, or DTK, a PKK-influenced forum, called on the independent deputies to boycott the Parliament if any of them were stopped from being a member of it. Its co-chair Ahmet Türk said that if the YSK ruling is not corrected, that would drag the political atmosphere into conflict once again.

To many ears, that was a reference to the year-long ceasefire mode, as the covert talks between the PKK's leader, who is imprisoned for life on the İmralı island jail in the middle of the Marmara Sea, and government security officials.

Almost an hour after the news that PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan's lawyers were denied access, a remote controlled mine – a signature of PKK attacks – exploded near Nazimiye district in Tunceli province (the hometown of Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the leader of the main opposition Republican People's Party, or CHP), killing two policemen.

At the same time in Diyarbakır, the seat barred to Dicle was given to Oya Eronat, a candidate of the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AK Parti. If there hadn't been a 10 percent threshold and Dicle had entered the election as a member of his party, another name from the BDP would have filled the gap.

This situation, which was translated as taking a seat from the BDP and giving it to AK Parti in practice, further escalated the tension.

Because it increased the number of seats of the AK Parti to 327, bringing it a step closer to the 330 level – the minimum number of seats needed to take a constitutional amendment, or a brand-new constitution to a referendum, without the effort to consult with the opposition.

The opposition is furious. The CHP, which had two deputies elected from jail, reacted harshly, saying that the situation was taking Turkey away from the standards of the rule of law.

The exact list of deputies is expected to be announced today by the YSK, and that may spark new debates in the political arena, even before the commencement of the new Parliament, possibly with some empty seats.

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 HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

JUST A DETAIL IN 40 YEARS OF 'WAR'

DAVID JUDSON

It's just a detail. But as two U.S. wars in the region, in Afghanistan and Iraq, approach much-discussed drawdowns, a moment to consider a third U.S. war on the wane is due. This is America's 40-year-old "War on Drugs," over which another white flag was raised this past week.

It should not be forgotten that the first volley was fired here in Turkey.

The "white flag", if I can call it that, was raised by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, who endorsed the Global Commission on Drug Policy, which last week said U.S.-led anti-drug strategy has been a disaster of four decades. It called for a new approach marrying decriminalization and medical treatment. The commission's report and its membership, including former U.S. Secretary of State George Schulz, Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou, five former presidents and writers Carlos Fuentes and Mario Vargas Llosa, are worth a review at www.globalcommissionondrugs.org.

"The report describes the total failure of the present global anti-drug effort, and in particular America's "war on drugs," which was declared 40 years ago today," Carter wrote in the New York Times last Thursday. "One result has been a terrible escalation in drug-related violence, corruption and gross violations of human rights…"

Much discussion of the report, Carter's endorsement and the need to rethink policies that have made drugs expensive – in turn, nurturing an illegal, $400 billion trade rivaled only by oil and arms – has ensued. Discussion has also focused on late U.S. President Richard Nixon, who formally declared this "war" on June 16, 1971. Duly noted were the effects of an illicit trade which funds so much corruption, terror and misery. But nowhere in all this analysis have I seen reference to Nixon's very first target. Nixon's statement that week needs to be in the record. It is, at www.presidency.ucsb.edu. A few excerpts follow:

"In today's world, declarations of statesmanlike intent are not difficult. But instances of courageous statesmanlike action are few. Prime Minister Nihat Erim of Turkey has just combined the two. Today he declared that the Republic of Turkey, our friend and staunch ally within the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, would abandon a traditional agricultural practice in order to make a significant contribution to the well-being of the world…"

"In the decree of his Government, he announced that within one year, in accordance with the law of his nation, the opium poppy will no longer be planted. This farsighted step will provide an example which we trust will soon be followed by other nations… We know well the importance of the agricultural sector of Turkey's economy, and we are prepared to put at the disposal of the Turkish Government our best technical brains to assist Turkey's program to bring about a better life for the Turkish farmer. We are proud to assist in a program from which we all will benefit."

The ban, as is now well known, was a disaster. It threw hundreds of thousands out of work and the U.S. "crop substitution" program never materialized. Three years later, opium production was resumed and continues in a tightly-controlled program often cited as a model.

This, of course, is no more than a detail.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

TURKEY-SYRIA-IRAN TRIANGLE IS BEING REDRAWN

NIHAT ALI ÖZCAN

The invasion of Iraq made the Sunni-Shiite polarization in the Middle East more apparent than ever. This was more obvious during the struggle over Iraq. Turkey tried hard to locate itself beyond the orbit of this polarization and sought ways to develop good relations with both sides: that is, Pakistan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia on the one hand and the new Iraq, Iran, Syria and Hezbollah, on the other hand. Turkey utilized various opportunities during those times.

The Arab Spring caused the struggle over Iraq to fade into the background. We are witnessing an indeterminate process challenging power holders and straining the inter-bloc balances. For instance, on the Sunni side of the equation, there is Egypt, struggling with internal problems. On the Shiite side, Syria is experiencing a shift of power and carrying the potential of inter-bloc displacement. It seems that the uprisings will not yield outcomes favoring the Shiite side.

Turkey-Syria relations were different in the near past. The uprisings changed the character of these relations. The discourse employed by President Abdullah Gül and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is a good indicator of this change. In addition, Turkey's close rapport with the U.S. regarding the Syrian politics clearly shows that Turkey has completely parted company with Bashar al-Assad. Erdoğan doesn't want another diplomatic crisis in the context of Syria, like the one instigated by the nuclear issue with Iran. We can say that he is ideologically much closer to the Muslim Brotherhood than Assad.

Turkey's new approach to Syria also has the potential to create tension with Iran in the medium term. A possible shift of power will end the role of Syria as the "strategic ally" of Iran; which will in turn assign a partial responsibility for such an outcome to Turkey.

Iran-Syria relations teach a significant lesson for understanding the balances in the region. During the Iraq-Iran war, Khomeini's Iran established a strategic alliance with Syria. Rapprochement with Iran was a sign that Syria was prepared to sacrifice Saddam's Iraq. Iran rewarded this by providing Syria 1 billion dollars worth of free oil and commercial privileges. In return, Syria let Iran's Revolutionary Guards move to Lebanon in order to train Hezbollah. In this way, Iran, exhilarated by the Islamic revolution, was now able to reach the Israeli border. No longer suffering from diplomatic isolation, Iran responded to NATO-member Turkey's rapprochement with Iraq by first inviting the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, to its own land and then allowing them to move to northern Iraq. The Syria-Iran relations of the past continue up to this day, despite minor crises.

The rise to power of a "democratic" Muslim Brotherhood with the mediatized and psychological support of the West would mean that Syria will no longer belong to the Shiite bloc. Losing an ally like Syria would force Iran to lose a highly important geopolitical space and also instigate serious psychological trauma. Under such circumstances, Turkey will most likely leave aside the politics of balancing and begin to embrace its role as a new member of the Sunni bloc. It would be no surprise at all if Turkey-Iran relations acquired a new shape in the near future.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

TURKISH LESSONS IN DEMOCRACY

SONER ÇAĞAPTAY

Turkey's Justice and Development Party, or AKP, won the general elections for the third consecutive time since 2002 on June 12. The AKP is now the longest-serving government since Turkey became a multi-party democracy in 1946.

Turkey's Justice and Development Party, or AKP, won the general elections for the third consecutive time since 2002 on June 12. The AKP is now the longest-serving government since Turkey became a multi-party democracy in 1946. This is a victory that deserves scrutiny for it provides us with lessons about successfully marrying Islamist politics and democracy.

The AKP won and held power by moving to the political center and toward economic liberalism. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan founded the party in 2001 on the ashes of the Islamic Welfare Party, an illiberal predecessor, and promised to join the European Union, reform the economy and get rid of the draconian, anti-free-press sections of Turkey's penal code. The strategy paid off: The AKP won 34 percent of the popular vote in 2002. In 2007, as its economic reforms took root, the party extended its grip on power.

But not all of the AKP's success was due to its policies. Its long tenure has been immeasurably helped by the weakness of the opposition, the secular Republican People's Party, or CHP. Its former leaders provided no viable liberal alternative to the AKP's platform, offering Turks instead platitudes and pro-status quo nationalism, while dismissing free-market ideas. The CHP's empty platform, coupled with AKP's increasing popularity, only fed into Mr. Erdoğan's authoritarian streak.

And what a streak it was: Mr. Erdoğan interpreted his 2007 victory as a green light to limit freedoms and harass his opponents. After amending the country's constitution in 2010, the AKP single-handedly appointed a majority of the high court without a confirmation process. The new, post-2007 AKP has also attacked the media. According to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe report, Turkey leads the world in jailing journalists, with 57 currently behind bars.

The opposition has finally figured out how to counter this radical agenda, thanks primarily to the election of a new party leader, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, last year. Mr. Kılıçdaroğlu has morphed the CHP into a mass liberal party in a short period of time. He has built bridges with Turkey's powerful business community and recruited its representatives to the party's leadership. He has wooed back labor unions to the party's executive organs. The CHP now boasts a record number of women in its leadership and more importantly, at a grassroots level. Last but not least, the party has a fresh approach to the festering Kurdish problem, such as the proposal to implement Kurdish education in schools.

The question now is where Turkey will go from here. The AKP's recent history shows that majority or near-majority popular support leads Islamist parties and illiberal political movements to re-embrace their authoritarian antecedents. The AKP equates winning elections with democracy. Hence, once it achieved popularity, the AKP went after checks and balances, which it sees as an affront to popular support that needs to be eliminated.

Although the AKP won the elections, for the first time since 2002, the party lost the required 330-seat majority needed to pass legislation in the Turkish Parliament. This is the first legislative session since 2002 in which the AKP will have to seek consensus to make new laws. Mr. Erdoğan conceded this point, saying his party "will reach out to and respect the lifestyle of all Turkish citizens," which equates to a promise of working with the opposition.

The sine qua non of a potentially successful marriage between Islamist politics and democracy is a strong liberal partner. The lesson for the rest of the Middle East is exactly this: Islamist parties can moderate their platforms, but only if elections are free, if media is independent and if there is a strong liberal party that counters the Islamists' desire to equate democracy with unchecked power.

A longer version of this column originally appeared in the Wall Street Journal.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

SELF-CENSORSHIP TRENDING

ERSU ABLAK

 

The writers of the online Ekşi Sözlük have been warned that a "Hate Speech Regulation Project" was initiated early this week.

The writers of the online Ekşi Sözlük have been warned that a "Hate Speech Regulation Project" was initiated early this week. Ekşi Sözlük used to be everything that the Internet promised, and it was a free speech platform which was run and edited by users just like Wikipedia is. However, unlike Wikipedia, people were free to express every type of thought no matter how extreme it was as long as it was within the boundaries of common law. You could say that it was the Turkish virtual version of Hyde Park Speakers' Corner. But as such, it was deemed too good to be allowed to exist in Turkey.

Last week there were rumors that the Ekşi Sözlük writers were being visited by the police and asked to visit the nearest police station as soon as possible. Naturally, the police who visited the writers didn't really give them any information – as is the norm in Turkey these days. Unfortunately, we learned that the visits were not rumors at all. Indeed, police were visiting the writers who were the most vocal against the government, religious leader Fethullah Gülen and Adnan Oktar, a well-known imam on TV.

When these writers shared their experiences, Ekşi Sözlük's management had to make a public announcement. It turned out that before the elections, prosecutors asked for 113 Ekşi Sözlük writers' IP addresses and that the management provided the 113 IPs to the authorities. Right after the election was over, police began their visits.

Naturally, many of the writers went on strike against the Sözlük management and stopped writing entries, while many others stopped out of fear. Therefore, one way or the other the government got what it wanted: they have silenced rival thinkers one by one, avoiding the mess that would have been created if they had banned Ekşi Sözlük altogether.

Now with the Hate Speech Regulation Project, the next and most dangerous phase of silencing rivals – establishing self-censorship – will be completed.

With the project, Ekşi Sözlük's management will erase all remarks that they don't view as appropriate and ban writers who insist on writing remarks that the authorities don't want to read. I have no doubt that Twitter and Facebook users will be visited by the police one day if they don't adopt the vision of the current government, the vision that has been sold to the public as the "Advanced Democracy."

A police state, being hailed as an advanced democracy as self-censorship spreads, is the next big Turkish real & virtual trend. Soon all Internet users will face a choice; to write in favor of the government or not write at all in social media.

Meanwhile, the executive chairman of Google, Eric Schmidt, visited Turkey to hold meetings with influential and state people. Unfortunately, only one of the managing editors of national newspapers attended the meeting, even though they were all invited. It is a clear sign that nobody really cares about technology management and the Internet in Turkey.

I bet that there would have been full attendance if they had been invited to taste wine. Unfortunately, as long as there is no public support behind Internet lovers, the government will just do as it pleases.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

RATIONAL GERMANY?

RICHARD REID

Have the rational Germans gone off their rockers somewhere along the line? Has a nation of prudent planners lost its grip?

Have the rational Germans gone off their rockers somewhere along the line? Has a nation of prudent planners lost its grip?

If not, how do you explain the country's two current breaks with a common sense – its rejection of nuclear power and its anti-immigrant xenophobia?

For those of us accustomed to seeing the Federal Republic and its people as a generally sensible anchor in a socio-politically erratic continent, the only answer is that the Germans are more skittish, unstable, and insular than we might have guessed.

Standing out most in its absurdity is the decision to swear off nuclear power. This vow, if Berlin sticks to it, will rob Germany of a fourth of its electricity. The economy will shudder into a long slowdown, since the proclaimed replacements – wind and solar energy – will be anything but immediate plug-ins. Neither wind or solar can imaginably pick up the slack as the reactors are shut down over the coming decade. Neither of these renewable power sources is economic yet in any country.

For all its commendable state-supported solar efforts to date, Germany is not a sun-blessed country, and the wind does not always blow. To fill the energy vacuum in the shorter term, the Federal Republic will have to ramp up its production of electricity from plants fired by coal, the biggest carbon dioxide emitter, and natural gas, another far-from-clean fossil fuel.

In sum, Germany, traditionally environment-sensitive, will turn away from a renewable and comparably clean power source, nuclear energy, and embrace carbon dioxide and a prayer.

How has this happened? How could a state that little more than a year ago committed itself to nuclear energy flip-flop totally? Fukushima, or maybe memories of Chernobyl, I hear the reader murmur, but clearly those explanations won't wash. Germany is nowhere near a major seismic zone. Its neighbor France is content with more than a score of reactors that provide close to 80 percent of its electricity. An ocean is needed to generate a tsunami; the North Sea and the Baltic wouldn't do it. Then why would a country shoot itself in the foot this way?

Because of three things. First, governments exist to get themselves re-elected; the current German government is shaky, and an election is coming. Second, it's a myth that governments are bound to a duty to lead; no, they almost always test the wind and follow. Third, the Fukushima disaster spooked the German public to an unaccountable degree. Herd fear was nurtured by the media. It made no sense. It makes no sense. Germany will have to live with it. Blackouts and candles, anyone?

Immigrants? Germany, like virtually all of Europe, is fed up with them. The trope common in the continent today is that immigrants, read Muslim ones, do not integrate. They bring risks – economic ones, a steady drawdown on state welfare funds; an erosion of national character and tradition; a threat of violence. To a degree these claims are true. But despite its reflexive distaste for the foreign-born, Germany needs them. The country is ageing. It has one of the world's lowest birth rates. Even if the government were to offer birth bonuses as France and Russia have, German couples, content with their affordable lives, would probably not respond. To cite by national comparison a nagging demographic projection, in 2050 the average German will be more than 50 years of age; the average American will be 37.

Given such a picture, who but immigrants will fill Germany's near-future workplaces? What new blood will quicken its innovation? A decade ago the Gerhard Schroeder government proposed to upgrade the country's information technology sector by bringing in thousands of Indian software specialists. The parliament voted it down. A risk? Yes, to the country's complexion. There would be more brown faces on the streets. Curry might seduce the public the way döner kebab has. Proportionate risks, weighed against sclerotic notions of social safety. Recently a Vietnamese-born doctor has become the leader of a main German political party. Any imaginable damage there?

A Germany that goes on being too jittery to face the contemporary risks faced by all states, too unready to make uncomfortable decisions rather than self-indulgent ones, can start before long to forfeit its global role. The Germans are no longer "the single unadulterated people" that Tacitus wrote about and Frederick the Great gloried in, any more than France today is Napoleon's France, or that America is James Monroe's, bestriding a hemisphere.

A global changing of the guard is with us. Climate change and a shrunken workforce will menace mid-century Germany far more than nuclear reactor risks or the arrival of people of different ancestries.

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

OPINION

THE ARAB AWAKENING AND THE NEVER-ENDING COLD WAR

CAN ERIMTAN

In the wake of 26-year old Mohamed Bouazizi's self-immolation in Tunisia, a great many changes have swept the Arab world, most notably President Mubarak's removal from office in Cairo and the flaring up of armed resistance against Colonel Gadhafi's regime in Tripoli.

In the wake of 26-year old Mohamed Bouazizi's self-immolation in Tunisia, a great many changes have swept the Arab world, most notably President Mubarak's removal from office in Cairo and the flaring up of armed resistance against Colonel Gadhafi's regime in Tripoli. In view of Libya's armed insurrection, reports that Gadhafi's forces were bombing civilian targets in Libya spread like wildfire on the world's media by early March.

But, Russia's military chiefs at the time were monitoring Libya from space – and their pictures told a different story. According to Al Jazeera and the BBC, on Feb. 22, the Libyan government inflicted airstrikes on Benghazi and on the capital Tripoli. However, the Russian military came out saying nothing of the sort was transpiring on the ground. In fact, the Russian military stated attacks on civilians reported by the global media never took place. Global attention particularly focused on the rebel stronghold of Benghazi, which seemed to face imminent annihilation at the hands of Gadhafi's troops.

United States President Obama duly went to the United Nations and subsequently the Security Council passed resolution 1973, authorizing its member states to implement a "no-fly zone . . . [and] to take all necessary measures to protect civilians under threat of attack in the country, including Benghazi, while excluding a foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory." As a result of this "no-fly zone," actually denoting a sustained air campaign and the recent deployment of armed helicopters, the civil war in Libya has now in fact become a U.N.-assisted rebellion against Gadhafi, an enemy of the West since President Reagan. Russia has vehemently opposed allied involvement.

And now that Syria's Bashar al-Assad's regime has implemented the violent repression of street protests, leading to an influx of Syrian refugees into the Turkish province of Hatay, again voices calling for an intervention are heard. British Foreign Secretary William Hague, for instance, unequivocally stated that "Assad is losing legitimacy and should reform or step aside." Global public opinion has also been made keenly aware of the Syrian situation due to the Hollywood celebrity Angelina Jolie's visit last Friday to Turkey's border with Syria. But again, Russia is opposed to any kind of intervention in Syria.

The reasoning behind Russia's firm stance can arguably be found in the fact that the Syrian port of Tartus, used by the Soviet Union since the late 60s, is now again being employed by the Russian navy. In fact, the bulk of the work of refurbishing a Russian navy base in Tartus was supposed to be finished this year. Last year, the Chinese news agency Xinhua reported that "Russia did not exclude the possibility of building naval logistic facilities in Socotra Island, Yemen, as well as in Tripoli, Libya," in addition to the facilities in Tartus, Syria. Russia has had designs on accessing the Mediterranean since the reign of Peter the Great in the 18th century. Russian bases in Syria, Libya, and Yemen would lend a logistical dimension to Moscow's designs to oppose a tangible American presence in the Arab world. A NATO-victory over Gadhafi would obliterate Moscow's planned naval designs in North Africa. Western intervention in Syria would equally jeopardize Russia's investment there. At the same time, the CIA is now also building a secret air base in Yemen to serve as a launching pad for armed drone strikes.

Is the Arab Awakening turning into the beginning of a New Cold War between the U.S. and Russia? The conservative American writer Conor Friedersdorf reminds people of the high stakes: "If you've lost count, that's Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Libya and Yemen where the Obama Administration will be warring." Will these conflicts turn into proxy-wars fought between America and Russia, possibly aided by China?

*Can Erimtan is an independent scholar residing in Istanbul. His publications include the book 'Ottomans Looking West?'

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 I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

 

THE OTHER HOSTAGES

 

A heroes' welcome awaits the hostages released from captivity by Somali pirates when they finally arrive home today after a terrifying ordeal on the high seas. While the sailors, including four Pakistanis, became the centre of extensive media attention, culminating in the successful campaign to collect and pay the vast ransom demanded by the pirates, five other men who had endured a similar ordeal at sea remained largely hidden from the media spotlight. Fortunately, a trickle of stories in the Indian press and a report in The News on Tuesday, has finally opened the floodgates of wider media attention, raising hopes for the early release of the men.

Unlike their more fortunate counterparts, these men, largely fishermen from Sindh who had also fallen into the hands of Somali pirates on the high seas, had been rescued by the Indian Navy in March and taken to India only to fall into a bureaucratic black hole exacerbated by years of deep distrust and animosity between the two neighbours. While the men have remained, virtually in a state of limbo, at a Mumbai police station for months awaiting identification by the Pakistani authorities and permission from the Indians to ensure their safe return home, their families in Pakistan have became increasingly desperate. Finally, the Pakistan High Commission and FO have sprung into action. The HC in New Delhi has summoned the men to New Delhi on June 28 and their papers are soon to be dispatched to the Indian authorities, hopefully paving the way to their release. While the long wait has undeniably been agonising for the men, contrary to certain lurid reports they are not rotting in jail but are being kept in safe custody and claim they are well looked after by the Indians. Once the fanfare over the rescued hostages returning today subsides, it is hoped the Pakistani and Indian authorities brush aside all bureaucratic hurdles and focus single-mindedly in ensuring the swift return of the other, forgotten Pakistani hostages.

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

THE BITTER TRUTH

 

Almost everywhere in the world, politics has an ugly side to it. The exchange of barbs, jibes – and in the worst cases, even abuse – is not a phenomenon unique to Pakistan. But in our particular context, it is especially damaging. The acrimony expressed so often in the harshest of words only adds to the disrespect people feel for leaders, thereby weakening the democracy we so badly need if we are to move towards some degree of stability. Sadly, there isn't as yet any indication that we are headed down this path, or that we have even taken the first step along this route. The exchanges we have heard between President Asif Ali Zardari and Mian Nawaz Sharif are the latest indication of all that is amiss. The chiming in by Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah who has accused President Zardari of defending 'secular' forces only adds to the hostilities. Zardari, in a highly childish and personal attack, accused the PML-N chief of thinking no differently than the Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Omar and of attempting to create a rift between the government and the army. Much of what has been said may be acceptable at the grade school level, where acumen is not necessarily expected. But from our political leaders we require greater maturity and more willingness to respect different opinions. Nawaz himself has also been unrelenting, accusing the government and agencies of running the country, and repeating allegations of mass corruption. There may be some degree of accuracy behind what the leaders say, but perhaps there are other, more dignified ways of expressing these grievances. Mr Zardari's diatribe, highly unsuited to his position as president, simply makes Pakistan look even more dysfunctional than it already is.

There is something particularly distasteful about the breakdown of trust between two parties who after the 2008 election had proclaimed themselves great allies. The disintegration of this friendship has been bitter – but what is sadder still is that this has happened even as Pakistan lurches from one crisis to another. There is nothing wrong with having differences of opinion. But what we need right now is some degree of cooperation among our top leaders, a readiness to put the concerns of their country beyond their own interests, and a willingness to jointly explore means to recover from what is a truly precarious situation. Exchanging accusations will not help resolve these issues or create the calmer climate we need for this to happen.

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I,THE NEWS

OPINION

HOUSE-CLEANING

 

The arrest of a serving brigadier of the Pakistan Army on suspicion of linkages to a radical group goes to show how real concerns about radicalisation in the army are. The said brigadier was arrested four days after the May 2 operation was conducted by the Americans which saw the death of Osama bin Laden and a seismic shift in our relationship with America across several fronts, military and civilian. The army has been quick to disavow any linkage between the arrest and the Bin Laden episode, and beyond being told that the arrested man has links with a banned organisation – Hizb-ut-Tehrir – we have been told nothing more. The army can probably rightly invoke the 'need to know' rule in this respect. The news of the arrest was published first in the foreign media. The army has confirmed it with minimal supporting details and has said that releasing any more details may jeopardise the ongoing enquiry. Be that as it may, there are questions that need asking and answering.

The arrested brigadier had been under surveillance and has close relatives serving in sensitive organisations. He would not have suddenly made the connections that led to his arrest. He may have had these sympathies and affiliations for years. He will almost certainly not be alone in his leanings. The army – like every other state institution – is wider society in a microcosm. A radicalised society may, over time, produce radicalised recruits for the armed forces and influence the allegiances of serving officers and men. It is all very well for the director general of the Inter Services Public Relations to say that the army has zero tolerance for extremist or sectarian ideology, but the reality he and the rest of the army command face is that an unknown proportion of serving officers and men may be of a radical persuasion, and may pursue radical or extreme agendas from their positions in the ranks or the officer cadre. This is not idle speculation or scaremongering, this is hard-nosed analysis based on proven behavioural and societal models. As a state we face some very sophisticated threats, and they are internal as well as external. We may have rotten apples in the barrel, and the barrel, it seems, is in need of cleaning.

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

AT A FORK IN THE ROAD

 ROEDAD KHAN

 

There is a saying in China that "you should not only focus on your head when you have a headache because the real reason for your headache could be your foot".

The debacle of May 2 was an incredible spectacle. What caused it? How, people wondered, had it come about? What were the terrible weaknesses and defects that had brought the country to such a low and pitiful state?

Not long ago, the Republic had been strong enough, its government, army, people, and institutions tough enough to explode its nuclear device in the teeth of opposition from the world's sole surviving superpower, and to survive a succession of bloody and disastrous battles. In the ensuing years, something happened that sapped that strength so that in the span of a few hours, while the guardians of our frontiers slumbered away, the myth of Pakistan's independence was shattered.

Pakistan, possessing one of the finest armies in the world, lay prostrate, leaving the country dazed and totally demoralised. How had we fallen to this state? What were the reasons for the lack of military response? What were the reasons for the political and moral collapse leading to the debacle?

Who is to blame for the May 2 debacle in Abbottabad? The army? But an army can rarely be stronger than the country it serves. How strong was Pakistan on the eve of the ordeal it was about to undergo? People had been watching with increasing apprehension the country go downhill, its strength gradually sapped by dissension and divisions, by an incomprehensible blindness in foreign, domestic and military policy, by the ineptness of its corrupt leaders, and by a feeling of growing confusion, hopelessness and cynicism among the people. No wonder, trust in institutions was at historic lows.

Today Pakistan is in a state of permanent crisis. Its shaky parliamentary system is bungling along rudderless, invoking deep concern among a bewildered citizenry with its political shenanigans. Its foreign policy is in ruins and the domestic quarrels are more venomous than ever. The government avoids tackling urgent problems, its ministers complacently certain that it would not be they but their successors who would have to shoulder the burden of resolving them. They find it easier to stand still, to stand pat, do as little as possible, displease as few as possible, and mint as much money as possible in the shortest possible time.

Sixty-three years after independence, Pakistan has a dysfunctional, lop-sided, hybrid political system composed of incongruous elements, a president facing corruption charges at home and abroad, scared of his own people - a non-sovereign rubber-stamp parliament, and a weak, ineffective corrupt prime minister. The opposition languishes in torpid impotence. The regime has forfeited popular support and is seen as the playground for corrupt, self-serving politicians whose primary concern is to loot and plunder this country.

Parliament, the so-called embodiment of the will of the people, a sleepy, drowsy body, is fake, overpaid, and underemployed, and is becoming more and more odious and stupid. It is deaf and blind to the anguished cries rising from the slums of Pakistan. Quite a few members of this august body are fake degree-holders. They concealed the truth, misrepresented their qualifications and managed to enter the parliament through shameless, blatant lies and deceitful means. Instead of masquerading as chosen representatives of the people, they should all be tried and sent to prison.

Pakistan will be Pakistan again as soon as we have swept away this scum, and there will be no Pakistani who will not cry with joy when that happens.

The army has lately begun to realise that it has been led into an absurd war, a meaningless war, a war against its own people, a war which has cost it thousands of precious lives, a war that is not theirs and has been imposed on them.

The Pakistan Army is suffering from sclerosis in the high command, from a wave of pacifism in the country, and from an utter confusion in parliament and the government. Top generals are clinging to their posts long after superannuation. The Pakistan army, like the French army, on the eve of World War II, is being run by Methuselahs, beholden to a corrupt president owing everything to Washington. Meanwhile, the people of Pakistan had been put to sleep with a pleasant dream based on a false sense of security. Now reality has hit them.

Today Pakistan, a thinly disguised civilian dictatorship, is a paradise for gangsters, swindlers, smugglers, tax evaders, fake degree-holders and so on and so forth - all the dregs of humanity. People openly talk about the corruption, indiscretions, follies and vulgarities of President Zardari, a parvenu, his corruption and avarice gargantuan, his ambition overweening, whom fate has so rashly planted in the presidency. He will stop at nothing to keep his lock on power. It seems that in the death throes of his regime, he will take Pakistan with him.

It is hard to exaggerate the baleful impact of Zardari's rule: the oligarch and the mafia who have stolen every asset of any value, the inflation that has ruined the middle class and the poor, the corruption that has corroded all values and humiliated every decent citizen; and the insecurities that have filled everyone with fear and anxiety.

The present leadership is taking Pakistan to a perilous place. Terror is the order of the day. Pakistan is experiencing the warning tremors of a mega political and economic earthquake. We have President Zardari. And little hope and no cash. This is a particularly perilous time for Pakistan to have a president who is facing corruption charges at home and abroad and whose moral authority is in shreds. At a time when the country is at war, President Zardari, the Supreme Commander, spends almost his entire existence in the confines of a bunker - his macabre domicile which he seldom leaves these days. He is more concerned about protecting himself and his ill-gotten wealth rather than protecting the country or the people of Pakistan.

The Pakistan army is a people's army, in the sense that it belongs to the people of Pakistan who take a jealous and proprietary interest in it. It is not so much an arm of the executive branch of the government as it is an arm of the people of Pakistan. It is the only shield we have against foreign aggression. In the absence of authentic institutions, it is the only glue which is keeping the federation together. Don't weaken it. All efforts by enemies of Pakistan to alienate it from the people must be frustrated. Individuals are expendable. Institutions are not.

By all means, reform the army and the ISI. But why only the army and why only the ISI? Why leave out corrupt political institutions and thoroughly corrupt holders of public office at the summit of power? One thing is certain. For anything to change in this country, everything has to change. What this country needs today is a mighty but bloodless revolution.

Today the nation is clearly at a fork in the road. We can follow the line of least resistance, turn a blind eye to all that Zardari is doing, and continue to follow the road that has led us where we are today. Or we can choose the other road. We don't need pitchforks and guns. If parliament is unable or unwilling to respond to public demands, people will, perforce, take the issue to the parliament of the streets, as they have done in the past.



The writer is a former federal secretary. Email: roedad@comsats.net.pk, www.roedadkhan.com

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

JUST SEVEN YEARS ON FLEETING MOMENTS

IFTEKHAR A KHAN

 

The series of wars the US-Nato forces have launched have a common denominator. All the targeted countries, which are militarily weak Muslim states, possess either huge energy reserves or are situated along critical routes to energy sources. While wars go on in four countries—Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Yemen—in the fifth, Pakistan, it is escalating. Pretexts vary for the invasion of these countries. In Afghanistan, the Western forces are fighting to "defend (Western) freedoms and values"; in other countries, like Libya, there isn't even a need for a pretext. Only Barack Obama's recent proclamation would do, that the US has the right to wage wars wherever it considers its "interests and values were at stake."

Before Mr Obama entered the White House, people suffering in various countries because of US policies had hoped for a positive change. He had given overtures that there would be such a change. Besides, he gave the impression that he was a thinking man with a sense of history, unlike his predecessor, George W Bush, who was quick on the draw.

During his eight years in office, George Bush had ordered 45 drone strikes in Pakistan's tribal areas. In his less than three years in office, Obama, who is the recipient of the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize, has ordered more than two hundred. Kicking off his presidency, he ordered two drone strikes right on his third day in the White House. One of them killed a pro-government tribal elder and his extended family in Fata, including minor children.

The drone is said to be Obama's favourite weapon of war because it does a clean job, with no mess at the joysticks end. Sitting thousands of miles away, the drone operators neither see the splattering of blood and splintering of bones, nor hear the wailing of the kin of those who have been killed.

In Libya, UN resolution 1973 provides enough cover for the US-led alliance to launch a devastating air campaign to obliterate the infrastructure and annihilate the civilian population before the boots could move in. As the Libyan people face the most perilous situation, the robed Arab leaderships observe a deafening silence. As if it's a heart attack they think only happens to others.

The Libyan war, already into its third month, is moving apace. The combined air forces of the US-UK-France coalition have destroyed almost everything that moved; now they are destroying all things that stand. Even Al Fateh University in Tripoli was hit by cruise missiles, as confirmed by former congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, who has recently been on her second fact-finding mission to Libya. The university has 10,000 undergraduates, 800 master's degree candidates, and 18 PhDs enrolled. Ms McKinney is the candidate of the Green Party in the 2012 presidential election.

On June 12, speaking over Progressive Radio's News Hour, McKinney said she witnessed non-military sites, such as hospitals, schools and homes bombed, which caused innumerable civilian casualties. Is destroying hospitals and universities part of the "humanitarian intervention" that the Nato forces have launched in Libya?

Evidently, the first phase of the invasion is to completely decimate Libya's infrastructure, because only then could the second phase begin—the phase of the country's reconstruction by Western companies, with the use of Libyan oil money. What we witness in Libya is a replay of the invasion of Iraq, minus the hoax of Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction.

Former US secretary of state George Shultz, who just before the Iraq war was a member of the War Council, wrote an article in The Washington Post, in which he said: "A strong foundation exists for immediate military action against Hussein and for a multilateral effort to rebuild Iraq after he is gone." When Shultz advised the attack on Iraq, he was president of Bechtel Corporation, which was to get the biggest contract for the country's reconstruction. Seven years later, a similar situation is emerging in Libya.

For imperial powers, there is no business better than the war business. And this phenomenon isn't new. Brig Gen Smedley Butler of Britain, winner of the Military Cross, had detailed in his 1935 book War is a Racket how profitable the business of war was. Imperialist policies haven't since changed.



The writer is a freelance columnist based in Lahore. Email:pinecity@gmail.com


 



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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

TIME-OUT

 IKRAM SEHGAL

 

While the Osama bin Laden raid was indeed disastrous for the army's image, to condemn the ISI outright without hard evidence for the horrific Saleem Shahzad kidnapping and murder is terribly unfair. Casting aspersions and accusations on a flimsy basis is normal in a society where defamation laws are neither strong nor enforceable. The government knew quite well that unilaterally naming SC judges to head enquiry commissions without the permission of the chief justice (CJ) of the Supreme Court would be a non-starter. This manipulated delay gave a false perception that the army was attempting to thwart the two enquiries and thus had to face more approbation in the media while the government's top officials shed crocodile tears.

One finds it impossible to morally reconcile the strident criticism directed against those in uniform to the casualties being suffered by the Pakistan Army on a daily basis. Those unleashing unrelenting venom and hatred on the electronic and print media may certainly have very justifiable grievances because of excesses committed against them during periods of our history when martial law was imposed (and even afterwards). But the unfortunate fact is that even those with motivated bias or even a paid agenda cannot justify the scathing denunciation of the entire army's rank and file even as they are fighting and dying for what are essentially the sins of a few.

The unfortunate irony is, clubbing the vast mass of the innocent in uniform will allow the culpable to escape accountability. Why are those individuals accused of alleged crimes not being named and singled out to be charged individually in a court of law instead of the whole army being maligned unless the real motivation is to defame the army as an institution?

To quote an extract from my article on May 23, 1988, "Leave the army alone" at about the time the Afghan War was winding down: "The Civil War will intensify and ebb in Afghanistan but the pressures on Pakistan will increase, both physical and psychological. Needless to say, it will test all of Pakistan's patience not to be drawn into the vortex or allow the war to spill into Pakistan, particularly into the urban areas of Pakistan which will be the prime enemy target. The single most positive factor in Pakistan for peace and tranquility is the strong, stable Pakistan Army, the finest fighting machine in the world, a reputation that particularly wards off adventurism from our loving neighbour, India. It is in our self-interest to sustain and motivate this fine army and not resort to self-flagellation. Criticism, if any, should be well-conceived and objectively targeted without slurring the reputation of the army as a whole."

Unfortunately even those representatives of the people that one truly had faith in have joined the "criticism" bandwagon without thinking through the consequences. This was not so two decades ago, to quote my article "Keeping One's Cool" published on August 16, 1988, "one of the prime ploys since centuries is that if you cannot beat somebody on the battlefield, use psychological and other forms of subterfuge to undercut the base of support and gain victory. The atmosphere in the media is being methodically polluted and vitiated against the army, complicated by the fact that the long benign martial law had demilitarised the military mind to an extent. Martial laws, unless absolutely necessary, do not do any country any good, and when imposed must be short and effective, without debilitating the capabilities of the army as an institution".

Was I wrong when I wrote in the same article, "An intricate smear campaign has been particularly mounted against our armed forces as an institution, both internally and externally, with certain voluble and immature neophytes in political circles being used as puppets on a string by those vested interests who would rather do without a strong and credible Pakistan Army..."

Mian Nawaz Sharif has a justifiable grouse against Musharraf but why go after the whole army as an institution? Despite what Mian Sahib thinks, the rank and file of the army thought highly of him (and grudgingly still do), why is he bent on turning them against him? No wonder Asif Ali Zardari, claiming to be holier-than-thou, is laughing all the way to the bank!

While imposing martial law amounts to subverting of the Constitution, if the conditions in the country require that intervention to save the country from descending into anarchy, then those in uniform have a moral obligation to risk their lives in doing so, for a limited time and with certain conditions paramount. Without the know-how or expertise of governance, they must never try to rule the country themselves, instead they must support the civilian bureaucracy who are already engaged in and have experience in governance to set up a caretaker government.

If ever forced into subverting the Constitution, the leaders of the military coup must go before the SC and explain their reasons for extra-constitutional intervention and the period that the caretaker set-up would possibly require to put things right, particularly in ensuring a credible electoral exercise. The SC can set up an accountability commission with their auspices (with the army's role limited to logistics support) to ensure the bureaucracy does not go berserk in their governance.

Once a new elected democratic government is in place, the leaders of the military coup should voluntarily surrender before the SC for falling afoul of Article 6 of the Constitution. They are soldiers and if the SC decides they acted in bad faith they must be so charge-sheeted and be prepared to face the consequences of their actions, including the extreme penalty of death if necessary. Aren't their soldiers dying for the country in Fata, Swat and other places?

The army has no reason to be defensive about the vagaries of a few individuals; it has nothing to be ashamed of as an institution. The soldier's patriotism begins with a deeply imbued courage of conviction, with the embodiment of sacrifice for what one really believes in, the totality of devotion to duty and the lack of fear in facing up to the consequences of one's actions in good faith. People who have no concept of nationhood or have never heard a bullet fired in anger cannot begin to understand the rudiments of patriotism.

A soldier has not much to offer except his life for his country and a deep conviction that in the sacrificing of his life he will be saving that of countless others. No one in the country except a soldier (a sailor and an airman) is expected to give up his life for his country when required to do so, his life is forfeit to the nation.

One has to hand it to Zardari. He has turned the tables on those who wanted to hold him accountable for corruption. Does anyone remember what the initials NRO stand for?



The writer is a defence and political analyst. Email: isehgal@pathfinder9.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

DREAM OF CIVILIAN SUPREMACY

 DR QAISAR RASHID

In a speech in Kotli, Azad Kashmir, on June 16, Nawaz Sharif held four army generals responsible for the Kargil war, which he said sabotaged the Pakistan-India peace process and halted the resolution of the Kashmir dispute, ultimately leading to the toppling of his elected government in October 1999. Needless to say, the list of conspirators, as he called them, had Gen Pervez Musharraf on the top.

The speech was a broad indication that civilian-military relations may ultimately attain a balance in the coming years. Events in the past six weeks have kick-started a debate on the necessity for civilian supremacy in national politics, and the speech, launching the Azad Kashmir branch of his PML-N, should be seen in that perspective.

In retrospect, had Nawaz Sharif strengthened the hands of the government of Mohammad Khan Junejo against Gen Ziaul Haq, who dismissed it, he would have faced fewer problems during his two prime ministerial tenures in establishing civilian oversight in national affairs. In addition, had Nawaz Sharif constituted a Kargil commission in 1999, he would have led the nation by example.

Pakistan is not an outcome of military's conquests but of civilians' constitutional struggle. Pakistan has not annexed any foreign territory to be kept under military subjugation. Again, the initiative to make Pakistan's defence impregnable through a nuclear programme was taken by a civilian, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. If it is to be a genuinely democratic country, Pakistan has to have civilian supremacy.

The dream of asserting civilian supremacy in national affairs goes back to the 1970s when, in the immediate aftermath of the fall of Dhaka, Bhutto tried to tip the institutional balance in favour of parliament. The enactment of the 1973 Constitution was an attempt to realise this dream.

It was the second time in the history of Pakistan that a political leader has tried to assert civilian supremacy, not only by introducing the 13th Constitutional Amendment to the Constitution in 1997 but also by holding the then chief of the army staff, Gen Jehangir Karamat, accountable for his proposal to have a body named National Security Council. The NSC, consisting of members of the armed forces civilian representatives, would have participated in national decision-making in the domestic and foreign realms. Gen Karamat had to resign from the service in 1998.

Constitutionally speaking, as a branch of the executive, the army should not play any role in national policymaking process. But the army is all-powerful and can thereby influence the external and internal policies of the country. The operational strength of the army dwarfs that of civilian institutions. The area into which the army cannot venture is the Constitution. That is why, after toppling Nawaz Sharif's government in 1999, Gen Musharraf was keen to make the NSC a part of the Constitution through the 17th Amendment in 2003. That could not happen because wisdom prevailed in the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) and it decided not to sponsor any such move. Consequently, the NSC remained a creation of an act of parliament.

Undoubtedly, the Constitution of 1973 discourages the role of the army in national affairs. The 18th Amendment has reinforced the same spirit by broadening the scope of Article 6. On the contrary, on the practical plane, civilian supremacy is a project still unaccomplished and an unfulfilled dream.

One of the main hindrances on the path to civilian supremacy in practical terms is an indulgence of politicians of all hues in corrupt practices—one of the greatest weaknesses of the political institution. Corruption spawns inequities in society and is therefore despised by everyone. That is why corrupt politicians are reviled and consequently they lose support in public. The malpractice of misappropriation of national funds for the growth of one someone's personal bank accounts in Switzerland and elsewhere undermines the credibility of politicians and they are believed to be unable to run country's affairs. The weakness of one institution as a result of corruption becomes the strength of another. When the army meddles in the political domain on the pretext of saving the country from corrupt politicians, people heave a sigh of relief.

Under the present government, the National Accountability Bureau has been deliberately defanged. Presently, there is neither a chairman of Nab at the centre nor a director general in the regional office of Rawalpindi. Shirking responsibilities of this sort is tantamount to encouraging corrupt practices in society and discouraging anti-corruption forces. Consequently, the political institutions will become still weaker than they are, and could offer a justification for another military intervention.

Another obstacle is the lack of democracy at the grassroots level. Ironically, the local government system is not being practised by the present democratic government. People cannot prize democracy if they don't get involved in the system and figure out the worth of democracy. Nawaz Sharif stumbled and fell owing to that reason. For example, during his second stint as prime minister, he did not hold local body elections. As a result, when he was overthrown, people had no platform from which to express solidarity with him, even if they had wanted to do that, and voice their opposition to the abrogation of the Constitution.

The democratic value of the local government system is not being realised by the present government either. The government of the PPP is perhaps overconfident as a result of its success in dealing with the NRO tangle.

The country is in critical need for reforms. The army should be made accountable to parliament and directly answerable to people in the court of law. But if parliament protects corrupt politicians and denies basic democracy to people, the dream of civilian supremacy cannot be realised.



Email: qaisarrashid@yahoo.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

OPINION

REQUIEM FOR OIC

TAYYAB SIDDIQUI


 The Islamic world has since the advent of the 21st century faced turbulence and turmoil unprecedented in its history. In the wake of 9/11, Islam has been demonised as a religion supportive of terror and interpreted as an existential challenge to the West and its values of democracy and human rights. In the name of war against terror, major Muslim countries have been the target of economic sanctions and military aggression. The US invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan has triggered a process of blood-letting and left Muslim countries emaciated and enervated, politically, socially and militarily.

The Middle East has remained a cauldron of unrest and strife. Israel continues its occupation of Palestinian lands. Its repressive policies in the West Bank and brutal blockade of Gaza have rendered Palestinian existence into a long night of terror and misery. The uprising beginning with Tunisia, culminating in revolutionary fervour in Egypt, Yemen and Bahrain have been the most vocal and visible manifestations of the impatience of the populace to no longer accept the status quo. However, these potentially hopeful developments remain mired in uncertainty for lack of leadership.

The failure of the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) – the so-called representative organisation of 57 Muslim states representing one billion Muslims mandated to "safeguard dignity, independence and national rights of all Muslim peoples" is galling. It is no where to be seen or heard.

Since the establishment of the OIC in 1969, the Islamic world, has suffered five major catastrophes, which have reduced them to almost a non-factor in international politics. The break up of Pakistan through armed intervention by India in 1971, the invasion of Lebanon by Israel in 1982, which led to yet another Palestinian diaspora, the Iran-Iraq war and the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan. These dealt a mortal blow to the unity, dignity and image of the Muslim world. The process of attrition and aggression continues relentlessly. The US invasion of Iraq has been followed with that of Afghanistan resulting in human tragedy at an unprecedented scale. Sudan has been dismembered exacting huge human cost. Now Libya is facing Nato's aerial attacks in a bid to change the Qaddafi regime.

The Muslim youth find themselves helpless to respond to these challenges and this frustration has spawned desperation, violent rage and extremism, partially reflected in the emergence of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda phenomenon.

The OIC has failed to respond meaningfully to any of these crises or demonstrate any unity of thought and action except issue high sounding declarations at the end of summits. Nothing was ever done to contain the crisis, avert tragedy or counter the negative images of Islam as a source of violence, intolerance and terror.

The dynamic Mahatir Mohammad, Prime Minister of Malaysia while hosting the 10th summit in Kuala Lumpur in 2003 made a frank analysis of the prevailing situation and gave a clarion call for restructuring and reforming the OIC to make it relevant. A commission of eminent persons was set up to examine the malaise. It made practical and concrete suggestions to revitalise the OIC. A special summit held in Mecca in December 2005 approved the recommendations and agreed on "a 10 year strategy plan for Islamic renascence and pursue policies to face the formidable challenges on all fronts". Ten billion dollars were allocated for the programme. The matter rests there since and the OIC has since relapsed into a state of stupor.



The writer is a former ambassador. Email: m.tayyab.siddiqui@gmail.com

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

OPINION

BRIGADIER'S UNDERSTANDABLE LINKS

 

THE arrest of a serving brigadier for his alleged links with a banned organization Hizbul Tehrir spread like jungle fire not only across the country but the globe because it was quite an usual phenomenon. Though ISPR has confirmed the arrest but no further details were given fearing that it could compromise the on-going probe into his activities.

Fuller facts and nature of the contacts of Brigadier Ali Khan with CIA-funded Hizbul Tehrir would become clear after completion of the investigation that would hopefully explain how he came into contact with the organization and whether it was an active involvement or passive sympathy. However, in our view, the unfortunate episode is understandable and we would rather say it could have been predicted. We say so because after 9/11 the mindset of the entire Pakistani society has undergone a tremendous change. Majority of Pakistanis did not approve of the hasty decision made by then President Pervez Musharraf to not only align the country with the US in its war against terror but turn it into a frontline state, with far-reaching negative consequences. It has led to unimaginable destabilization of the country due to activities of both militants and secret agencies of a number of countries that have made Pakistan a battleground for fulfillment of their regional and global agenda. Many critics in the country do not endorse humiliating drone attacks and handing over of hundreds of Pakistanis to Americans who meted them treatment worse than animals. It is, therefore, understood that some individuals in the army are liable to be affected by the infectious mainstream thinking on these issues. However, Pakistan Army with its formidable seven hundred thousand strong force, unmatched in bravery and fighting spirit is recognised as one of the most disciplined armies in the world. It has been a bulwark against the subversive and destructive elements within Pakistan and against enemies trying to harm this country. Any breach of discipline, obedience and loyalty in its ranks has been rare as against in many countries including India, USA, Russia and Britain where instances of bribery, spying for inimical powers and such other offences by army men are reported every now and then. A single instance in Pakistan army should neither panic anyone nor be exploited for propaganda. Pakistan Army is a highly disciplined force and has also a foolproof mechanism to identify anyone that breaches the trust of its leadership and holds him accountable. Arrest of the Brigadier must convince anyone in the world of Pakistan Army and its leadership's unequivocal resolve to eliminate the menace of terrorism and expose those having any sort of links with those who are destabilizing the country..

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

OPINION

PAK A FAILED STATE – RIDICULOUS

 

PAKISTAN has been ranked at number 12 on a list of the most failed States by a foreign policy magazine of the United States asserting that the listed countries were vulnerable on different counts. Pakistan has long been dubbed the world's most dangerous country in Washington policy circles. This is part of the propaganda to keep the country under check under different pretexts. A failed state is generally called the one that cannot protect its citizens and whem its institutions are not working.


The situation in Pakistan is not so precarious to put it on the list of failed state because there is democracy and all institutions of the state including the judiciary, parliament and the executive are in place to take care of the interest of the people. From time to time there are voices upcoming in Pakistan, in the West and in other circles hostile to Pakistan who like to suggest Pakistan as a failed state. Looking at it from the Pakistani side one has to realize that our leaders could have done better in forging unity and adjusting the diverging interests of a culturally vastly diverse population. The constitutional 18th amendment has given provincial autonomy and the devolution process is scheduled to be completed by the end of this month. In addition the country has vast agricultural land and hard working people and we can survive without looking at donors for assistance. So the propaganda that Pakistan is a failed state is part of psychological warfare and ridiculous. No doubt the country faces challenges like militancy, energy crisis, unemployment and corruption yet we are confident that as in the past, we would come out of them with the passage of time. The way forward is to cleanse the country from corrupt elements, remove all those officials from important positions who are more loyal to foreign masters than Pakistan, honestly pay our due taxes and try to stand on our own feet.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

OPINION

INDEED ZARDARI IS PH.D IN POLITICS

 

PML(N) leader Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif has pointed out that the Government and the agencies are not ruling but ruining the country. Addressing an election rally in Azad Kashmir on Tuesday, he accused rulers of corruption and criticized them for non-implementation of the Supreme Court judgements.

And in a tit-for-tat rejoinder, President Asif Ali Zardari, while addressing a public meeting held at Naudero in connection with birthday of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto, focused his speech mainly on the kind of politics being pursued by the PML(N) chief. His choice of words and remarks gave a clear message to all and sundry that he has complete grip on the overall political situation and is fully confident about his own future and that of his party and the Government. Zardari was quite satirical in describing the PML(N) leader as 'Moulvi Nawaz' and went to the extent of advising Mian Sahib to meet him in private or accept him as teacher in politics. Asif Ali Zardari has so far all along been in command of the situation on every critical occasion and trounced his political opponents through his deft handling of the situation. One can safely say that Zardari has been playing his cards superbly and he has established himself, after legendary Nawabzada Nasrullah Khan, as expert in political maneuvering. There have been a host of charges against the Government but despite all that the system is firmly standing on its legs and has not crumbled down. It is all the more important that though the philosophy of reconciliation was the brain-child of late BB but the credit goes to Mr. Zardari for giving it practical shape, which is very difficult especially because of complicated and treacherous nature of Pakistani politics. Certainly, Mian Nawaz Sharif and others can learn a lot from the superb politician sitting in Presidency, who seems to have done Ph.D. in politics.

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

OPINION

POLITICS OF ASSISTANCE

LUBNA UMAR

The institutionalized incompetence in Pakistan has once again proved detrimental to the national interest and the well being as the exposition of reality of the aid and assistance being provided to Pakistan for assisting in the war against terror provides a brand new picture.

The popular western narrative has been instrumental in trumpeting the fact across both the Pakistani public and international community that it is Pakistan that stands to benefit from entering into the war on terror by being the recipient of the colossal US assistance. This has been reinforced in the minds of not only the uneducated masses- that Pakistan has in abundance- but also the educated elite and media people have been compelled to perceive that the US assistance brings nothing but profit without which the existence of the Pakistani state would be jeopardized.

Stemming from this very belief is the anxiety that grips every citizen at the mere mention of a closure to the US aid channels. The various talk shows and analysts with incomplete background argue against the notion of an essential operational paradigm that does not link itself with the assistance that we have come to rely upon so completely and entirely. That it is in our communal and eternal good to serve the US interest for a meager amount thrown towards us are mere crumbs that satiate only the hunger felt by our leaders.

Thus, the fact that we are being fed and brought up by the all encompassing economic presence of the United States is a fact that we have accepted with our eyes wide shut. This perception, however, shakes every time the Americans threaten to re-evaluate its significance based on its efficacy.

This can be exemplified by the fact that the western researchers and think tanks are continuously questioning the rationale of providing monetary aid to Pakistan for being a front state ally in the global war in South Asia.

A report by the Center for Global Development, a private Washington based think-tank, was released as more and more US lawmakers had started questioning aid to Pakistan after US forces discovered and killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. It said "The United States should delay much of its multibillion-dollar package to Pakistan pending economic reforms as the aid has led to official inaction and public resentment".

The Kerry Lugar Bill alone had authorized a $7.5billion package had, according to the US, hoped to fight anti-Americanism in Pakistan by switching the US focus from backing the military to building the economy and civilian institutions.

But the aid drive has paradoxically soured the public perception of the United States in Pakistan as it had raised hopes for a better future. This had become the second reason for which the aid was being questioned. Surely, the public had not been wrong in such an expectation as the superpower was known to assist other nations into economic stability and prosperity. That Pakistan too had displayed an unmitigated generosity towards the US was something to reckon in this backdrop.

Apparently, the United States has adopted a thoroughly duplicitous approach towards Pakistan and its interests. The souring of perception, therefore, result not from an inherent hatred or revulsion for the money offered, but the knowledge that the US never had an intension of either building the Pakistani economy through assistance nor initiating any developmental programs.

The fact that the assistance has been far from providing relief to Pakistanis is evident from the manner in which it benefits a large number of American contractors and companies. According to estimates revealed by the Congressional research reports which has also been confirmed by our military sources that out of a total allocation of $20 billion that the US has announced so far has been statistical in nature as the actual amount spelt was found to be missing a sum of $2 billion. Although it is relatively quite a small figure, it is nevertheless significant for the recipients who rely upon it rather heavily.

Similarly, the security forces too have been blamed for a crime they never committed, that is, of spending the money that they never actually received. Out of the huge umbrella of the $20 billion figure- the reality which is quite evident- only $14 billion had been allocated for security related assistance from which another sizeable deduction of $1.5 billion brought it to approximately $12.5 billion that was pledged by the US.

It is significant to note here that this figure entails the entire assistance under the famous title of 'Coalition Support Fund' which includes aid given both in terms of cash as well as in kind.

Approximately, $4 billion has been targeted towards providing business to the American weapon industry that supplies all the US made arms and gadgetry to Pakistan. These arm dealers and providers, however, are notorious for overcharging for the goods they supply. This can be explained by the US decision to provide Pakistan with 'Shadow Drones' at a cost eight times higher than what the Pakistanis had already been using for surveillance purposes. The fact that needs to be highlighted here is not only the great divide between the cost of both drones local and American, but also the utilitarian aspect of such a commodity that the Pakistan army has access to in abundance, thus reducing its need and significance in the pursuit towards fighting militancy.

These American brand gadgets are no doubt of a superior quality, but keeping in mind the increasing need of the armed forces that are in a continuous battle with the insurgents, they ought to be replenished on a fairly regular basis rather than infrequently. It is a universally known fact that there are no free meals in the United States, so to expect one from the US by an under developed nation like Pakistan would be a major miscalculation. Rationality and not sentimentality, it must be noted, is what drives national policies. For the US, unlike Pakistan, its interest always comes first and dominates its relations with other countries.

Let's come back to the major contentious issue that has been raising the concerns and suspicions of the media, thus compelling us to believe a beautiful spun tale of statistics that is completely divorced from reality. The monetary assistance given to the security forces, in reality has been funneled all along through the government channel. For a cash-starved government whatever has been received from the coalition support program, only $1.45 billion has reached the Pakistan Army in terms of cash. These uncontested figures portray a reality that has spread across a decade long turbulent economic journey which has done nothing to benefit either the war being fought by the Pakistani military, for the betterment of the civilians or for the economic uplift of the target country.

What it has triumphantly achieved, however, is to psychologically oppress the public into building and reinforcing fabricated views by twisting and blowing facts out of proportion.

Keeping in view the figures of an accurate estimate of what Pakistan has spent so far on the war that should have been used for the benefit of the people and developmental purposes instead; one is forced to rethink ones position. Does $1.4 billion compare with $68 billion that Pakistan has lost in a decade? The US intentions had never been as clear as they are in this backdrop.

This certainly spells the need for bringing a change in the economic, political and foreign policies to realign ourselves, like the Americans, to focus on issues that propose to serve Pakistan's national interests only.

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

OPINION

WHY FREEDOM OF INFORMATION?

YAHYA AHMAD

 

What is Right to Information? Is it true that an individual can access any official information, by filing a request? What difference does it make, if a citizen exercises this right or not? These are the common question one hears, when Right to Information (RTI) is brought up during a discussion. One conclusion that can be drawn up after such discussions is; people are unaware of this tool, which grants them the opportunity to attain their rightful place, in the pyramid of power. In a democratic form of government the citizens of the country are considered the authority and their representatives and institutions are there to serve them. The nascent democracy in Pakistan is still coping with the appalling state of public bodies, where constant hurdles in democratic process have reduced their roles and prevented them from developing strong values. The burden is on the citizens of Pakistan to shore up democracy and RTI can act as means to ensuring a firm democratic system.

So far, the institutions have been engulfed in bureaucratic red tape, where the common citizen is kept ignorant of official procedures and continuously menaced over simple requests. Freedom of information comes alongside freedom of speech and freedom of expression in Article 19 of the constitution. Freedom of information is also considered a fundamental right, as per resolution adopted by UN General Assembly in 1946. The resolution states, "Freedom of information is a fundamental human right…" Sweden adopted legislation for access to information back in 1766, which later also became part of its constitution. The Commonwealth, of which Pakistan is also a member along with other 53 states, recognized the importance of access to information, more than three decades ago. The meeting of Law Ministers at Barbados in 1980 stated that, "…public participation in the democratic and governmental process was at its most meaningful when citizens had adequate access to official information…"

Developed countries opted for their citizens to have access to information, as they realized very early that this would strengthen the democratic process. Of course there were hurdles in their path, as government officials globally least enjoy disclosing information. But they overcame these hurdles for the betterment of their respective nations. Developing countries have also adopted these types of legislation, but mostly they have not been implemented in their true spirit. Most of these countries have only adopted such laws under pressure of international requirements. The true spirit of these legislations has been sidelined due to lengthy procedures, bureaucratic stubbornness and lack of awareness among citizens. In Pakistan, same situation is mostly applicable, as the country still has the colonial era Official Secrets Act 1923 in place, while low literacy and awareness level within the general public prevent a proper implementation.

Pakistan has moved forward considerably vis-à-vis freedom of information, where an ordinance promulgated in 2002 has been converted into a right and has become part of the constitution. But still there is a long and difficult path ahead, for its application in true spirit. The biggest challenge in this regard is how the public will be sensitized on this issue and who will take the initiative on RTI implementation. Media is the ideal ally in this situation. Pakistani print and electronic media has grown by leaps and bounds in the last decade, also achieving considerable independence. The media can perform the task of not only creating awareness among the public on RTI, but also using as a tool to assist in professional journalism. Media is an important pillar of the society, which has the difficult job of providing unbiased and accurate information to the general public, providing them with the opportunity to form an educated opinion. The media can utilize RTI to achieve this objective.

Freedom of information can become the right hand of a journalist, during investigative reporting. Instead of making predictions or guess work and relying on unreliable sources, a reporter can easily acquire documentary evidence from the state itself. Survey or data collected by the authorities, information on projects or issues and details of official procedures and departments can be attained. The information acquired through RTI can also be used to backup claims, while the data can also be further analyzed to reveal other facts. In addition no one can deny or disclaim the information, as it is in a documented form and is provided by the official authorities. There is also no chance of acquiring biased information, as the data is part of official documents, rather word of mouth. By embracing RTI the journalists and media personnel can overcome many hurdles, in the process of unbiased and accurate reporting.

Democracy is nascent in Pakistan and its institutions require the support of the people. If someone is of the view that questioning the activities of state institutions and holding government functionaries accountable for their actions, will curtail the democratic process, then they should realize that they are wrong. One only has to take a brief look at history that democracy has only prevailed in states, where the people have been assigned the power, even to scrutinize the highest and strongest institutions of the country. Dictatorships and undemocratic practices exploit the citizens and prevent them from questioning the authority, as a result of any grievances. So promoting the right to acquire information will bring transparency into the government, which will consequently promote democracy. Imparting accurate and timely information, by the state is also part of democratic structure. The common citizens have to exercise this right, so they can also be part of improvement in governance.

Pakistan has a long task ahead of it, as RTI is a considerably new concept for its people. Both the government and the citizens will have to work together to promote this tool, for the future of this country. The prevalent situation where fingers are being pointed at the institutions, setup to serve the people and people are becoming highly critical of the failure of these public bodies from delivering, RTI will acquire the desired results. It will bring into view the accurate situation in front of the public, while deficiencies and discrepancies will also be highlighted.

Consequently they can be removed from the system, making it more efficient and citizen friendly. One can imagine a society where every public body is delivering on its goals, every citizen has awareness of their rights, the public servants are truly serving the public, there is no uncertainty and the grievances of people are resolved. This is only possible when the public will have the maximum information on how the system is being run and what initiatives are being taken in the interest of the people. This can be achieved only through exercising the right to information, which has been so far ignored or is being kept under wraps.

—The writer is a development practitioner associated with Individualland Pakistan.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

OPINION

THE WAR WITHIN PAKISTAN

USMAN GHANI

 

Presently the war being fought against terrorism in Pakistan is dissimilar from a conventional war. Pakistani society, for this reason has not yet been able to demonstrate a united resolve to tackle the menace. Pakistan is not the first country which has been unable to comprehend the complexities of this genre of warfare that thrives on its ability to emerge out of the shadows of society. Our enemies in this warfare value and prefer limited but blood-spattered attacks against major battles. This enemy has no decisive victory to achieve. Its aim is to unsettle, harass, demoralize, and eventually wear down the people of Pakistan. Such asymmetric wars have defeated many strong adversaries.

These enemies of Pakistan might turn up almost anywhere including city centers, political or religious processions, mosques, shrines, funerals, universities, markets and even military installations, with the strategic purpose of bleeding the country through suicide bombings, guerilla actions or shock attacks. Thirty thousand Pakistani civilians and five thousand of armed forces personnel have been martyred since the year 2004 in different terrorist attacks and law enforcement operations.

Whatever the origin or source of these terrorists may be, they have to be prevented from achieving their ends. These faceless enemies undoubtedly find support in our own cities to carry out their activities. These terrorists may prosper or fizzle out depending on whether their brutal activities are setting back or advancing their cause. As long as these terrorists will find support and sympathizers in our cities they will succeed in creating disarray. People involved in supporting militancy should be discouraged by society at large.

Pakistan armed forces and security agencies have been fighting these terrorists with every resource they have and there are countless stories where our armed forces and security personnel have pre-empted or prevented these walking bombs from creating havoc. Precious lives have been lost to maintain Pakistan's integrity and protect our values. Law enforcement operations alone cannot provide security to the people. People themselves would have to help and assist the law enforcement agencies to root out these blood thirsty assailants. Perhaps the people of Pakistan have yet to understand and decide on whether to frontally face or remain complacent about terrorism. Pakistan as a nation now has to decide it quickly because there are evident signs that in the years to come Pakistan may be isolated and doors of international intervention opened ostensibly to end the chaos in Pakistan. It is an established rule that the strong do what they like to do and the weak suffer what they have to suffer. A poor dysfunctional economy together with war and numerous other problems make Pakistan highly vulnerable to external intervention.

Survival of a state in today's globalized world is based on the centuries old concept of self help and maximization of power. In today's world of interdependence, states cannot survive or act in isolation. Whatever resources we have in Pakistan are surely not enough to fight such shadowy enemies.

We need to know the ultimate objective of this enemy and what it is after? Pakistan by failing to prevent these small but painful events can be portrayed as a weak state unable to protect its strategic interests. Pakistan can be bogged down in internal strife so that our adversaries would have the opportunity to mess about with our affairs and possibly try to disintegrate us through internal strife. When a state is threatened by a large visible enemy then all social and economic resources can be mobilized in response. But when there is a debate whether to fight this war or avoid it, then mobilization even on a modest scale becomes immensely difficult. It makes little difference whether the enemies of Pakistan have domestic support or foreign support; the point to be emphasized is that anyone who kills innocent people and damages Pakistan should be dealt with an iron fist. Prosecution of terrorists caught should be swift and flawless. Only through strong prosecution can justice prevail.

It will be our national character that will help us in representing our case before the world. To be isolated means to be weak. Warlike situations demand unity and institutional integrity. Corruption in societies during wars germinates incompetence and hastens decay. The experience of asymmetric warfare being fought by Pakistan against numerous enemies is clearly showing that classical strategies, planning and training will not help prevent the enemy. The people and armed forces of Pakistan would now have to brace themselves for a determined fight.

The fight against terrorists will depend more on intelligence and law enforcement agencies than on armed forces in expeditionary roles. The police may be equipped with modern techniques and approaches to fight terrorists. It is the responsibility of the government to provide its population with security against foreign or domestic enemies but the society at large also needs to be educated in playing a role by at least making their neighborhoods safe and supporting the armed forces of Pakistan.

Pakistan is at war beyond any doubt for more than a decade now, but still the people of Pakistan have not succeeded in presenting a cohesive response to the very apparent challenge to Pakistan's national security. National security for obvious reasons is now not only a matter to be dealt with by the military elite and diplomats, it has to be comprehensive and devised by taking public opinion into consideration.

Pakistan needs to make a national resolve to fight the faceless yet very recognizable enemy. The enemy is within and has support of foreign elements but its characteristic of being domestic should not let our resolve weaken to fight it. Mosques should no longer be places where terrorists can find support or sympathy. Huge responsibility rests on the religious clergy to out rightly denounce terrorism. Only the unity of the people of Pakistan can help us get through these gloomy times. A failure in doing so can have existential threat in the years to come.

—The writer works in Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI).

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

OPINION

PAK-INDIA FOREIGN SECRETARIES TALKS

AFSHAIN AFZAL

 

All is set to decorate bouquets of beautifully arranged fresh flowers for the discussion table to make Foreign Secretaries talks between India and Pakistan more cordial. We would be having our friends from India on 23-24 June 2011, who fail to understand that why Pakistan is not blaming New Delhi for the cold blooded murder of Saleem Shahzad, Pakistani Olympian Abrar Hussain and terrorist attacks in Karachi and other cities. The situation in Sindh is also not hidden from anyone but not even a single official world from Islamabad has been heard by anyone.

One expects breakthrough after Islamabad's softer tone with New Delhi on various issues and preventing anyone to use its soil against its traditional enemy. But there are serious doubts that New Delhi would ever be able to step outside the briefing and talking points handed over to Indian Foreign Ministry by Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA), Intelligence Bureau (IB) and Military Intelligence (MI).

Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao cannot utter a single sentence at her own during her meeting with Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir. We have seen the fate of Madhuri Gupta and letters of displeasures to a number of diplomats. As expected, New Delhi would focus on Mumbai attacks and would highlight points US agencies claim to have extracted from absconder from Pakistan Army namely Tahawwur Hussain Rana. One really wonders if a person is not loyal to the Armed Forces of a country how he can risk his life to work for the intelligence agencies or banned organization of same country. The CIA agents, David Coleman Headley alias Daood Geelani and Tahawwur Hussain Rana are enemies of Pakistan and government of Pakistan has announced reward on them.

Long time back, cases against them were filed in the Police stations and their arrest was been ordered and they are absconding. It is irony that India would rely on the evidences by these two filthy persons. It is not far away and can be checked from the files of Indian intelligence agencies what they had been doing in Mumbai. The witnesses are also there that neither they had any link with any religious party nor the Jehadi organization. Had these individuals been the members of Lashkar-e-Tayyiaba they would not be having such stinky characters. What India would say about links of these individuals with Indian Bollywood stars and officials of Intelligence Bureau? As usual, hype has been created.

Last time it was cross firing on the Line of Control (LoC) each side blaming other for the aggression and this time it is issue of Navies of these countries. What a smart way to lead the talks towards failure. This time there was hope for progress in the talks but again the Armed Forces of both the countries are entangled in a new controversy. Islamabad claims that PNS Babur, which is part of the international combined task force on anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden, had been escorting MV Suez, when the Indian Naval Ship (INS) Godavari moved dangerously close to PNS Babur and brushed against it almost 100 nautical miles east of Port Salalah.

Interestingly both the warships were providing cover for MV Suez that has released 22 hostages on board after 10 months in captivity, including eleven Egyptians, six Indians, four Pakistanis and one Sri Lankan. INS Godavari claims that she had joined up with MV Suez on 16 June 2011 to escort the ship. Obviously, this incident would have some impact and there are chances of self engineered other incidents of infiltration of terrorists or firing at LoC that may change the canvas of the talks. Of course, such grievances are not going to allow the talks to end in a success story. One really believe that we should keep on talking, irrespective of the results but how long the Foreign Offices and the governments would be playing in the hands of intelligence agencies.

A new chapter of misunderstanding and suspicion has been created. If we look back the record of the talks each time something happens wrong that fails the talks. We have a lot of hope from Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao and if she is able to break the dead lock her name will be written in golden words in the history of both the countries. If we recall, it was Indian Foreign Minister SM Krishna in New York September last, when he said that Pakistan must fulfill its commitment of not allowing its territory to be used for terrorism directed against India. He said, "Pakistan cannot impart lessons to us on democracy and human rights… if Pakistan fulfills its commitments, it would significantly help reducing the trust deficit between the two countries. He added, "We are neighbours, and as neighbours we have an obligation to work together." What Pakistan wants from India is simple, "Just allow us to live our lives on the basis of our own ideology." Pakistan also want New Delhi to discuss the outstanding issue with Pakistan including plebiscite in Jammu and Kashmir to allow Kashmiris to express their right of self determination, the issue of Rann of Kutch, Siachin and rights of minorities in India. The western countries, from whom we got independence after so many sacrifices, would never like that our problems are solved and we live like friends and good neighbours. What CIA, Mossad and DIA is doing in India and Pakistan is no more any secret. One must ask a question to ourselves; are we sincere to our country. If the answer is in affirmative we must solve all pending issue without delay and get come out of the spell of our enemies.

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

OPINION

TIME TO QUIT AFGHANISTAN

RICHARD COHEN

 

Not long after Afghanistan goes off its meds — American and other troops, oodles of aid, civilian technicians, and so much cash that airplanes have to strain to smuggle it out of the country — it will revert to Afghanistan. The Taliban will come down from the mountains and from Pakistan and either make a deal with the government or reassume control. This is not only what will happen in the future. It is what has happened in the past.

From the start, America's huge investment in Afghanistan has been a mistake. It was always necessary, not to mention just plain right, to go after Osama bin Laden and kill every last member of al-Qaeda. That job has mostly been done. But the rest — the routing of the Taliban and the building of a democratic state — is beyond America's reach. The troops — most of them — should come home.

President Obama has always shown a commendable lack of enthusiasm for the Afghanistan war. His 2009 decision to commit an additional 30,000 troops to the effort — the so-called West Point surge — was an obvious split-the-difference calculation, fewer troops than the military wanted, many more than war critics thought were warranted. Now, Obama must decide how many of America's approximately 100,000 troops should remain. As few as possible would be the wise decision.

The trouble with recommending such a course is that it conforms to the foreign policy views of almost all Republican presidential candidates. Their position regarding Afghanistan is, however, just a piece of their wholesale embrace of Herbert Hoover Republicanism. They would turn the country inward — what John McCain and Lindsey Graham characterize as isolationism — while also adopting Hoover's disastrous economic policy. The historical ignorance so obvious in our youth is an appropriate homage to their GOP elders. Not satisfied with a recession, they would cut government spending and bring on a depression.

The Republican response to both foreign and domestic problems somehow fits what is beginning to look like the 1930s all over again. Back then, a severe worldwide depression encouraged the rise of fascist and communist movements and turned nations inward. The situation is now not as dire, but when outgoing Defense Secretary Robert Gates complained about NATO's reluctance to actually do something in Libya, he was talking about governments that are severely pinched — some of them, such as Greece, Portugal and Spain, teetering on the cusp of bankruptcy. The same inverted demographic dilemma that confronts the United States — too few young to support too many old — confronts the rest of the industrialized world. China, with its one-child policy, is soon to learn what I mean.

The return of the '30s is to be both lamented and feared — the decade led to a world war, after all — but it also has to be acknowledged. The GOP right, which is to say almost the entire party, has joined with the Democratic left, which is to say a good deal of the party, in calling for a withdrawal from Afghanistan. If there were compelling reason to stay, if national security were directly involved or the chances of success were good, the president should keep ample troops in the country. But drones have riddled the Taliban/al-Qaeda infrastructure — almost 2,000 killed in Pakistan since 2006 — and can continue to press the fight. Similarly, elite and specialized troops — SEALs, etc. — can be used to keep the Taliban at bay and al-Qaeda dead.

Staying in Afghanistan will only buttress the argument of the New Isolationists. This is the larger danger. America remains the sole nation capable of playing the role of adult. The world needs us. The world will soon need us even more. China, India, Pakistan, Japan and the two Koreas are about as compatible as the Real Housewives of New York. They all either have or are capable of developing nuclear weapons. Iran is on its way. Its program could cause the Israelis to attack, and it might also prompt Saudi Arabia and maybe Egypt to go nuclear. Jordan could implode, and Iraq could come apart. Have I mentioned cyber-warfare? That's the one that gives military planners insomnia.

Afghanistan is an odd, irrelevant place to get bogged down. We can kill terrorists but not the culture that produces them. The corruption is staggering, our lack of understanding is humbling and our war aims are incoherent. It's time to say goodbye and save our powder for what really matters — the demons of sleepless nights to come.—Washington Post

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THE AUSTRALIYAN

EDITORIAL


FAINE DELIVERS A BOYER LECTURE

JON Faine does not always see eye to eye with The Australian, nor we with him, but we are delighted to congratulate the ABC morning presenter for overtaking 3AW's Neil Mitchell to become Melbourne's most engaging radio host.

Winning 15.8 per cent of listeners in a competitive radio market is no easy task, although he should prepare for a ferocious fightback from 3AW which, unlike the ABC, needs listeners to attract the advertisers who pay its bills. Faine is not afraid to let his political views show but, unlike some of his colleagues, he is prepared to concede that others might legitimately hold different views and give them a fair hearing.

Former ABC chairman Richard Boyer would encourage his staff not to pander to the closed-minded minority but broadcast instead to "the great bulk of our people (who share) a native and kindly tolerance and . . . a readiness to change their minds in the face of new evidence, new ideas and more complete information". Boyer's ABC was far from the "market failure" niche broadcaster which it has become.

Faine's narrow victory should send a message to other ABC morning show hosts that when their audience share is smaller than the Green Party's primary vote they are in trouble. They should never forget that the ABC's obligation is to broadcast to all Australians.

 

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    THE AUSTRALIYAN

EDITORIAL

ENOUGH, ALREADY. TIME FOR TONY TO TAKE THE LONG VIEW

THERE was a noticeable improvement in behaviour on both sides of the House of Representatives yesterday - although the manager of opposition business, Christopher Pyne, still managed to get himself thrown out.

Tuesday's question time reflected poorly on the government and opposition, leaving the impression our elected representatives operate in a bubble. The repeated and mischievous calls for a quorum in the house later that night only reinforced that view. It could blow up again today, but if indeed both leaders have decided voters have had enough, then it is not before time.

The opposition, in particular, has much to gain by a more constructive strategy. In the anniversary week of Labor's destructive change of leaders, Tony Abbott can justly claim to have won the first 10 months of the "rainbow coalition" government. Choose your sporting reference - one-nil to Tony, Julia on the ropes, first set to the Coalition - the brutal reality for Labor is that the country likes Mr Abbott and overwhelmingly supports the Coalition. Newspoll figures of a primary vote for the Coalition of 46 per cent and 31 per cent for Labor mean the government has its work cut out.

Mr Abbott and Mr Pyne cannot be blamed if they feel vindicated in the disruptive tactics they have pursued with constant points of order, interjections and suspensions of standing orders for censure motions. Indeed, the Coalition can point to a rare victory in last week's decision by both houses to condemn the government's Malaysian deal. The reiteration of a single line against the Prime Minister, that she is a liar, has bitten.

But it is now time for Mr Abbott to draw breath, not blood, and shift to a more positive strategy that marks him out as a prime minister, not a pugilist. The present approach reinforces a perception that Mr Abbott is a negative politician who takes his title rather too literally. There are real dangers for the Opposition Leader in thinking he can force an early election by applying this constant pressure on Labor and on Ms Gillard personally. The Prime Minister has her weaknesses, but they do not include a lack of intestinal fortitude. Like a certain former British female prime minister, she gives every indication she is not for turning and certainly not for cutting and running.

Since the last election, Mr Abbott has been on a poll footing, running a campaign against the concessions Labor has made to the crossbenchers who keep it in power, not against Labor. But the more he does this, the more the independents feel the need to back Ms Gillard to save their own necks.

The Prime Minister is likely to grow in confidence (once this messy week of anniversaries is behind her) in the knowledge she cannot be challenged easily from within her own ranks for risk the independents will desert a minority Labor government led by anyone else. The added danger for Mr Abbott is that the mud slung by Labor that his is the longest dummy spit in political history will stick. It was a bad look for Labor on the evening news on Tuesday when the Leader of the House, Anthony Albanese, repeatedly screeched "no, no, no" across the chamber. But Mr Abbott must beware the charge that he is negative.

The Coalition cannot bank on an early election and must open up some new lines of attack by trying to advance its views through legislation and by attempting to amend government legislation by negotiating with the crossbenchers. This is less spectacular work than announcing plebiscites that even Mr Abbott did not want to succeed or trying to curry favour with a minority of disaffected and angry voters who still want Pauline Hanson.

The Opposition Leader is so much better than that, so very much better and broader than that. He needs to think hard about issues beyond carbon pricing and asylum-seekers and start talking about health and social policy issues that have a direct impact on ordinary Australians. His appeal to voters who were once rusted on to Labor is obvious, but he cannot rely on holding them with a populist agenda that does not deliver real improvement to their lives.

Ms Gillard's lack of authority has helped Mr Abbott to a stunning lead in the polls. Now he must ensure that his own authority as an alternative prime minister is clearly established with the Australian electorate.

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THE AUSTRALIYAN

EDITORIAL

MEANWHILE, IN THE OTHER PLACE

IN his maiden speech to the Senate almost 18 years ago, Nick Minchin vowed that "the restoration of faith in the parliamentary process is a worthy goal", but as he arrives for his last sitting as a senator today this might be one goal he ruefully accepts was unfulfilled.

In his valedictory speech on Tuesday, the former Senate leader was disarmingly frank about the successes, failures, passions and regrets of his impressive political career. Prime among his achievements were six years as finance minister in the Howard government when, working with treasurer Peter Costello, he only ever delivered surplus budgets, and his stewardship of the final privatisation of Telstra. Senator Minchin also became something of a conservative hero for his marshalling of the monarchist cause in the 1999 republic referendum. He understood the political weakness of republican differences over a preferred model and exploited them ruthlessly to defend the status quo. It is a victory and a cause he still treasures.

Raised in Sydney and a law graduate from ANU, Senator Minchin's career path was unusual on the conservative side of politics, working for the Liberal Party's federal secretariat, then moving to Adelaide to run the state division. So, for 32 years, he has been a professional campaigner who has helped nurture sophistication in his party's operations.

An acolyte of John Howard, Senator Minchin regrets not convincing his leader to retire in 2006, on the 10th anniversary of his prime ministership. Unlike Mr Howard, and more like Labor premiers Carr, Beattie and Bracks, Senator Minchin is author of his own exit plan. He laments failing to make progress on his liberal cause of voluntary voting and conservative cause of defending state rights. But his most fascinating revelation is regret that he didn't argue more strongly against the coalition of the willing's war against Saddam Hussein. This dissenting view is especially surprising now the emerging democracy in Iraq and the popular uprisings elsewhere in the Middle East suggest the Iraq war is finally bearing some fruit.

Senator Minchin has also been an important factional player and a leading climate sceptic. He was instrumental in reversing the Coalition's carbon-pricing policy in 2009 and installing Tony Abbott as leader. Since then Senator Minchin has been a wise and tempering counsel to Mr Abbott and will be sorely missed in our ongoing parliamentary fracas.

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

DEFENCE LEFT JUGGLING EGGS

WRAPPED up in yesterday's frequently incoherent announcement by the Defence Minister, Stephen Smith, of a review of the geographical focus for Australia's military was a commitment demanding the most delicate ambidexterity. ''The review will complement the work currently under way with the United States on the ongoing United States global force posture review by the joint Australian-United States working group,'' the announcement promised. It relates to American reconfiguration of its strategic priorities away from the Middle East (and, hence, away from Afghanistan) and towards reinforcing its military might in the western Pacific, where the US is determined to serve as bulwark against Chinese ambition. A natural conclusion of an Australian review of US ties under such an umbrella is for Australia to host a substantial US military presence. That is what the US wants and it will be difficult for Australia to resist if it wants its force posture to complement America's.

That is one side of an equation that, miscalculated, could leave Australia vulnerable and isolated from our great military ally or the economic engine that powers our affluence. The other side, of course, is the signal that basing US muscle in Australia would send our biggest trading partner, China, which would have no difficulty disentangling symbolism from intent.

The US focus on China was evident in Barack Obama's December 2009 announcement of a troop surge in Afghanistan coupled with a graduated withdrawal of US troops. The US President has now refined the timetable for that troop withdrawal with a view to handing control of combat operations to the Afghans in 2014. And yet the Australian government continues to confuse Australians with talk of going the distance, of staying on until 2020. This is plainly obfuscation or muddle-headedness, much like the new review to be headed by the former chief defence bureaucrats Allan Hawke and Ric Smith.

The review purports to examine the appropriateness of the distribution of Australian military resources without deciding what the defence force should be doing. That this does not make a lot of sense suggests the Hawke-Smith review will probably evolve into a new white paper just two years after the last and three years before the next is due. After all, concentration on geographic distribution alone is likely to leave recommendations in the too-hard basket, because politics more than strategic need decides military locations. RAAF Richmond, for instance, does not continue to exist because of a vital strategic location but because its removal would prompt political outcry.

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

LOSING OUR RELIGION?

KANGAROOS. Meat pies. Footy. Foster's. The pantheon of Australian icons is shrinking. Three decades ago, as a bronzed Paul Hogan told the Brits how Foster's beer ''tastes like an angel cryin' on yer tongue'', there would have been demonstrations in the streets at a foreign company taking over the iconic Australian brewer. It is a sign of the changed times that today it is instead welcomed as blessed relief for the embattled Foster's Group shareholders who have endured decades of poor management decisions and a moribund share price.

As an increasingly wealthy nation, Australians have for some time been turning their back on the golden brew in favour of a glass of red or white. Australians consumed an average of 6.4 litres a year of pure alcohol in the form of beer in the mid 1970s. This has since fallen to an average of 4.5 litres, similar to consumption levels of the 1950s. Meanwhile, we have been drinking more wine. In the late 1940s each Australian drank enough wine each year to ingest less than a litre of pure alcohol. These days, we drink enough to take in more than three litres.

It was the power of marketing that in the 1970s helped cement Australia's love affair with beer. The challenge for any foreign buyer of Foster's Group will be to harness advertising to reinvigorate its suite of brands, which include VB and Carlton Draught.

But in Australia, it is unlikely we will ever feel the same about these once iconic names. New South Welshman and Queenslanders may continue to fight fiercely for victory in the State of Origin, but the state of origin of Australian beer brands is a much less emotional subject. In pubs all over NSW, patrons drink VB without a second thought. The globalisation of Australian beer brewing has also been a long time coming. A foreign takeover of Foster's will see both of the two biggest brewing companies in foreign hands, following the takeover of Lion Nathan by Kirin, of Japan, in 2009.

But while the demise of Foster's as an Australian company is in part a story of shifting consumer preferences and global supply chains, it is also one of corporate mismanagement and ill-considered expansion. The expensive purchase of the wine group Southcorp in 2005 showed poor judgment. If not for this corporate misadventure, Foster's Group would have fallen into foreign hands much sooner.

So while some may mourn the loss of an iconic Australian brand, Foster's shareholders will celebrate the news, perhaps cracking a coldie as they wait for rival foreign brewers to submit their bids.

Beer may have helped to define us once as a nation, but today it's just business.

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

EUROPE WARY OF GREEKS RECEIVING BAILOUTS

THE RISK OF THROWING GOOD MONEY AFTER BAD IS GROWING.

THE global economy has endured uncertainty since 2008, but the Greek debt crisis is testing the system's tolerance. Hopes and fears ebb and flow, rates and markets rise and fall, with each development. Sentiment lifted this week when Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou won a vote of confidence, which eased the threat of a paralysing election, but a bigger hurdle looms. Next week the parliament must vote on an austerity program.

Mr Papandreou is expected to win approval for tax rises, wage cuts and asset sales to stave off a default on Greece's soaring debt. The European Union, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund required the program in return for the fifth instalment of a €110 billion ($A149 billion) bailout that began in May last year. The IMF wants decisive action to avoid ''large global spillovers''; that is, a second global credit crunch. The bailout was intended to tide over Greece for a year while it sorted out its finances. That has not happened. Instead, the debt, and the risks, have grown.

The debt stands at 153 per cent of GDP. In its third year of recession, with production falling, unemployment at 16 per cent and the worst trade deficit in the euro zone, Greece's capacity to service its debt, let alone pay it off, is in doubt. Without July's loans, Greece says it will default.

Also in doubt is whether the political will exists to meet the conditions of the bailout. The opposition, which was in office when debt ballooned, opposes many of the austerity measures. As Mr Papandreou said: ''The impression the political class in this country gives is that it hasn't understood the seriousness of the crisis.''

Public opposition is just as big an obstacle to the austerity program, which is intended to run until after scheduled elections in 2013. Mass protests are expressing justifiable anger that ordinary Greeks have to pay for debts incurred by political and business leaders. ''Thieves! Thieves!'' the protesters chant.

The political and public resistance makes the goals of the bailout seem increasingly remote. The budget deficit, which was to be cut by four points to 8.7 per cent of GDP last year and 3 per cent next year, is still 10 per cent. Greece, which struggled to meet criteria for admission to the euro zone a decade ago, has a very poor record of budgeting. Tax evasion is endemic. Revenue has barely risen in two years - from €50 billion to €52.5 billion - with €40 billion uncollected.

Europe fears that the Greek response is a classic example of moral hazard. The expectation of bailouts - a second, bigger program is in the offing - insulates Greeks from the risks of financial irresponsibility, so they have less reason to change their behaviour than if fully exposed to the consequences. Lenders may soon decide they must stop throwing good money after bad.

That may not be the end of the economic world. Greece accounts for only 2 per cent of European GDP and the European Central Bank and IMF have the reserves to cover the debt. The global financial system would not be caught out as badly by a Greek default as it was when Wall Street giant Lehman Brothers, which filed for bankruptcy three years ago, declared debts almost 1½ times as big as Greece's. The greater risk is that the euro-zone crisis overwhelms a key player such as Spain. Time is running out for Greece to justify more bailouts. If deferring a default only delays the inevitable, losses could be magnified.

So much has been invested in the European project, which is much more than an economic union, that euro-zone members have been reluctant to consider ways to get around the Maastricht Treaty, which forbids members leaving. Yet under a common currency, one collapse threatens all.

If Greece cannot rein in its debt, a ''leave of absence'' may have to be devised that enables the country to reset its economy with a devalued currency. It has not yet come to that, but there appears to be no good solution for Greece and Europe. The world can only hope they find the least bad outcome.

 

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THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

EDITORIAL

BAILLIEU MAKES THE RIGHT CALL ON MYKI

THE Baillieu government's decision to retain the troubled and expensive myki ticketing system for public transport is the best in the circumstances, for two main reasons.

First, myki is less troubled than previously. The overwhelming weight of anecdotal evidence is that commuters who are using myki are happy with it, or at least getting used to it. Now that Victorians know the transition from cardboard tickets to the so-called smartcard is going to proceed despite last November's change of government, the take-up of myki can be expected to accelerate, which in itself will make easier the cultural shift that public transport users are being required to make. Indeed it may well be, as former Labor transport minister Lynne Kosky once suggested to her political cost, that in a few years myki will be so entrenched that people will wonder what all the fuss had been about.

The second reason The Age supports Premier Ted Baillieu's decision is that to abandon myki at this late stage in its introduction would result in still more cost to taxpayers.

Mr Baillieu estimates the ''hit'' to the public purse of pulling the plug on myki at $1 billion - on top of the $757 million already spent since it was announced by the Bracks government in 2005. And dumping myki now would have resulted in still more delays in moving beyond the increasingly antiquated Metcard system.

In announcing the retention of myki, Mr Baillieu gave notice of three pragmatic changes to the project. Eliminating ''to the extent possible'' the introduction of short-term cards should streamline the new system. Removing V/Line intercity train and long-distance coach services from myki until the system has proved its reliability in Melbourne and major regional centres is a sensible precaution. The most contentious change is the decision to operate trams without myki vending machines. That may cause some confusion, particularly for tourists and other visitors to Melbourne from interstate or overseas, but one benefit - extra space for passengers once the Metcard vending machines are removed - should not be discounted.

Now that the myki decision is made, the Coalition should turn its attention to the fundamentals of public transport. As Mr Baillieu used to point out in opposition, ticketing is among the least of the system's problems. He came to office promising more trains and lines, and a more efficient and accountable management structure. This government's performance on public transport will be measured by how quickly and well it implements those important policies.


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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

IN PRAISE OF … JOHN LOCKE

He has become the first author to sell a million ebooks without a publishing deal

The great John Locke proposed the tabula rasa, the blank sheet on which experience writes human characters. Outside philosophy, the empty page is an image to terrify writers. One exception is a new John Locke, an American businessman who has taken to producing fiction at a rate that suggests he shares his namesake's passion for grappling with the blank sheet – although it must be admitted that this is about as far as the parallel stretches. Don't look to the new Locke for guidance on the continuity of the self or epistemological distinctions between primary and secondary qualities. He churns out ebooks that come littered with images of stockinged legs, and prose that leaves critics cold. One, Sameer Rahim in the Daily Telegraph, cited a Locke line about seductions taking place with "all the precision of the Normandy invasion" and concluded: "No self-respecting publisher would touch it." As may be, but punters not puffed by self-respect are happy to lap it up. Indeed, Locke has become the first author to sell a million ebooks without a publishing deal. He competes on price, selling novels for a $1 a throw, a cut-cost approach that may worry established authors. But like the paperback revolution between the wars, the e-publishing revolution will have to be faced. In time, it will extend both the reading and the writing of literature way beyond the reach of today's publishing world. He's no philosopher but, in this sense at least, John Locke's example could shake up the world of ideas.

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

GREECE AND THE EUROZONE: ACCEPT REALITY – AND DEFAULT

Instead of postponing the inevitable Greek default, it would be far smarter to prepare for it

Seen from Brussels, Berlin or Frankfurt, the crisis playing out in Athens this month looks almost simple, and linear in its direction. The Greek prime minister, George Papandreou, wins a confidence vote, as he did on Tuesday night. The government gets MPs to approve its package of austerity measures, set for a vote next week. Then comes the next slug of cash from the IMF and the eurozone, plus the agreement of another massive loan, worth tens of billions of euros. This isn't easy, European policymakers admit: it requires adept political management, courage, and the ability to stay the course. But the alternatives don't bear thinking about: the first-ever default by a sovereign member of the European single currency, the possible toppling of the Greek banking system and other institutions around the world in a repeat of the panic that followed the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008 – and an existential threat to the entire European project.

Right on the risks, but wrong on the policy prescription. After a month of mass demonstrations in Greece, and the near-dissolution of the government last week, this takes too little account of reality, either domestic and political or international and economic. Not only has Mr Papandreou to get parliamentary approval for €28bn of spending cuts, tax increases and privatisations, he must begin implementing this draconian programme by 3 July, in time for the next extraordinary meeting of eurozone ministers. Even in ordinary times this would be regarded as ambitious, but to do so amid the worst recession the country has seen in four decades would require a miracle of collective discipline. The new finance minister, Evangelos Venizelos, has already tried to change the plan to answer a key grievance of protesters, by dropping an increase in fuel tax and a property tax, and trying to increase Greece's notoriously leaky tax take by targeting the self-employed.

But these are small compensations to a Greek teacher who has seen her salary cut by 25%, an employee of the Piraeus port authority who suspects his company is about to be sold to the Chinese amid thousands of job losses, or a freshly minted graduate who knows they will struggle to get any kind of job. An abrupt and drastic drop in living standards has been imposed on the Greek people – ultimately to keep afloat banks across Europe that have lent recklessly. The vehement message that has come from the Greek people over the past month is that they will not stand for it – and nor should they. What in José Manuel Barroso's words is good news for the EU is terrible news for those who have to live with the consequences.

Greece's main opposition leader, Antonis Samaras, for one, is no longer buying it. His economic logic is impeccable: the imposed cuts are squeezing demand at a time when the economy is in deep recession. Indeed, it is already happening: 50,000 businesses went bankrupt last year and the economy is in its third straight year of recession. The fact that the main conservative opposition points this out, however, is a big new twist.

Economically, socially and now politically, the status quo is unsustainable. Instead of postponing the inevitable Greek default, it would be far smarter to prepare for it. Eurozone policymakers need to recapitalise Greek and other eurozone banks with major Greek exposure in return for equity stakes. They also need to reaffirm their commitment to stand behind European interbank lending, and to keep pumping money into the system. There should follow an ordered default on Greek sovereign and commercial debt, including an audit of the outstanding obligations to see if some of the debt is odious and should not be repaid at all. And there must be a sharp relaxation of the austerity plans. Let us not kid ourselves that this will be easy – but at least it will not be as impossible as achieving the kind of suicidal austerity that Greece is being forced to follow.

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THE GUARDIAN

EDITORIAL

OLYMPIC FOOTBALL: THE NATIONAL GAME

With the necessary assurances, which appear to exist, the British team ought to take part

Given the poor record of all the four home nations in recent international football tournaments, the unwary might think that the idea of fielding a one-off unified Great Britain team in the football competition at the London Olympics would be timely, popular, reasonably uncontroversial and worth a try. After all, there are plenty of precedents for such a plan.

From 1904 until 1972, a British team, made up of amateurs, competed in every Olympic football tournament – sometimes successfully (gold medal winners in 1908 and 1912) and sometimes not (Britain failed to get past the qualifying rounds after 1960) – even while England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland continued to field separate national professional teams in cups and championships, sometimes with great success. In the last London Olympics in 1948, indeed, a British team managed by Matt Busby (with Ronnie Simpson, later of Glasgow Celtic European Cup winning fame, in goal) reached the semi-finals.

What's to stop something similar happening in 2012? There are two answers: football politics and nationalist politics. Both of them ignited like bushfire this week after the British Olympic Association announced that "a historic agreement" had been struck to allow players from the four home nations to take part in a Team GB next year. Both are misguided.

The football argument is that any British team competing in 2012 risks compromising the four home associations as separate member nations within Fifa, the game's international governing body – shades of the insoluble argument over EU representation on the UN security council. That's a concern that could be taken more seriously if Fifa had not explicitly ruled it out. Fifa president Sepp Blatter said in March that the rules were clear and that there would be no sanction. Mr Blatter and the home unions may not be best buddies, but Mr Blatter is a deal maker and this deal is available to the home associations if they want it. They should want it. But, England apart, they don't.

Part of the motive here is the desire of football bureaucrats to remain big fish in small ponds. Part of it, notably in Scotland, is the nationalist political mood which bridles at anything unionist, especially on football, over which, perhaps ironically, the Scottish government is currently trying to calm sectarian tribal passions.

But the bureaucrats and the politicians have got this one wrong. With the necessary assurances, which appear to exist, the British team ought to take part. It would be a one-off. It would be fun. It would help bring the Olympics to cities around Britain and Ireland. And if Sir Alex Ferguson could be persuaded to coach the team, who knows, it might even win a medal.

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THE JAPAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

DISASTER VICTIMS DRIVE TOLL-FREE

On June 20, the expressway toll system was changed to accommodate victims of the March 11 triple disasters. People who have been certified as having suffered from the earthquake and tsunami, or as evacuees due to the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, are now exempt from toll payments on expressways in the Tohoku region.

Buses and trucks using expressways in Tohoku are also exempt from paying tolls. Disaster victims who must travel between their homes and temporary shelters will benefit from the policy. The volume of commercial and relief goods delivered to the devastated areas may increase.

The government has abolished the ¥1,000 cap for passenger cars traveling on weekends and national holidays, as well as the toll-free tests at 50 sections of the nation's expressways. But the government is considering expanding toll-free travel to all vehicles using expressways in the Tohoku region for a period of about one year starting this summer.

The government should heed the criticism from Mr. Osamu Suzuki, head of the Japan Long Course Ferry Service Association. He has pointed out that under the new policy, buses and trucks that start from or arrive at toll gates in Tohoku can go anywhere in the country without paying tolls, and that this would lead to a decrease in the number of large vehicles using long-distance ferry services and jeopardize the ferry industry itself.

The ¥1,000 cap system was a boon for a number of tourist spots but financially damaged public transportation companies, such as railways. The problem with the nation's expressway toll system is that it is changed too frequently.

The ¥1,000 cap system was introduced two years ago when the Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito were in power. The toll-free tests were started in June 2010. But they were abolished this time.

In February, the government decided to introduce a ¥2,000 cap system for passenger cars on weekdays and to expand the toll-free tests. But this plan was postponed because of the March 11 disasters. The government now has a good chance to develop an expressway system that will not rely on tax revenues, and will reduce the gap in traffic volume between weekdays and weekends.

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THE JAPAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

EMPLOYMENT IN TOHOKU

The nation's employment situation has worsened since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami damaged its supply chains, thus affecting economic activities nationwide. The unemployment rate for April was 4.7 percent, 0.1 percentage point higher than in March.

Since the unemployment data could not be collected in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures devastated by the March 11 disasters, the real status may be worse than the figure suggests. Special attention should be paid to conditions in the affected Tohoku coastal area where fisheries and other local industries were severely damaged.

For example, some 21,000 people worked in fisheries in the three prefectures in 2008 and most of the fishing ports there were destroyed by the March 11 disasters.

Following the disasters, more than 114,000 people in the three prefectures began procedures to receive unemployment insurance money by late May, according to the labor and welfare ministry.

By one estimate some 140,000 to 200,000 people in the region lost their jobs because of the disasters.

Debris in the devastated areas are being removed gradually. But the situation is far from ideal for the start of full-fledged work to rebuild the region.

It is crucially important to locally create jobs. Otherwise people will try to find employment outside their native areas and the Tohoku coastal region will suffer from shortages of workers. This will hamper reconstruction, which will take many years.

Many local companies in the Tohoku region gave up employing young people fresh from school in the spring of 2011 and it is doubtful that the situation will be much different next year.

In this situation, graduating students in the affected region are likely to look for jobs in Tokyo and other places. The government must quickly take measures to help local enterprises in the Tohoku region so that people can find employment close to their homes.

The measures should include tax and finance privileges for companies in the devastated areas, assistance to agriculture, fisheries and tourism, and deregulation, if necessary, for land use.

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THE JAPAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

IS THERE AN AFGHAN SOLUTION?

BY HUGH CORTAZZI

The war in Afghanistan has now lasted almost 10 years. It has cost many billions of dollars and the lives of thousands of soldiers from the United States, Britain, Canada and other NATO countries. Many more have been injured. The loss of life among Afghan military and police forces has been even greater and there have been innumerable civilian casualties.

The Taliban has also suffered many casualties and the extensive military operations against them have limited their ability to exercise control over rural areas. The military surge agreed by U.S. President Barack Obama has doubtless put further pressure on them but has not eradicated the threat and the war has not been won. Life in Afghanistan remains fraught with danger. The threat of terrorism is ever present even in the capital Kabul.

The allied aim is to train up the Afghan forces so that they can take over responsibility for security by 2015. But they are underpaid and ill-disciplined and unlikely to be a fully effective force in the foreseeable future.

Another allied aim has been to eliminate the trade in opium but little if any progress has been made.

The killing of Osama bin Laden has been a major blow to al-Qaida, but although there was doubtless some cooperation between them, it was always a mistake to regard the Taliban as a part of al-Qaida. It has also been an error to regard the Taliban as a unified force. The Taliban is a collection of diverse groups inspired by fundamentalist Islamic ideas and by a xenophobic determination to rid Afghanistan of foreign forces.

It should by now be clear to Western leaders that a total military victory in Afghanistan is unattainable. Even if the size of NATO forces were to double and wholesale destruction were to be inflicted on the country opposition to foreign forces would not be eliminated. Such forces are not available and the world would rightly not accept an escalation in violence which would increase civilian casualties and involve unacceptable infringements of human rights.

As Sherard Cowper Coles, the British ambassador in Kabul from 2007 to 2010, has said in his memoir "Cables From Kabul: The inside story of the West's Afghanistan Campaign" (Harper Press, 2011), "the West got into Afghanistan without a clear idea of what it was getting into or how it was to get out."

The Russian ambassador in Kabul said to Cowper Coles: "You are making all the same mistakes as we did." (Anyone who wants to gain a deeper understanding of what has been happening in Afghanistan should read Cowper Coles book.)

One of the most fundamental mistakes the West has made was to believe that there was a military solution and that good battle tactics were a substitute for an overall strategy. The mantra of the military briefings for the many VIP visitors to Afghanistan and NATO forces was an over-optimistic estimate of progress tempered with the caution that "challenges remain."

The military understandably want to justify what they are doing and to persuade reluctant politicians to provide more resources. Intelligence officers in the field inevitably cannot see the overall picture, and out of loyalty to their superiors and a wish to justify to the fighting men the sacrifices they were making, the picture they drew always had to have rosy tints.

Political leaders and diplomats as well as some of the more far-sighted military staff officers have recognized for some time that there has to be some sort of political settlement in Afghanistan. But how is it to be achieved in a way which will not make the sacrifices of so many lives seem to have been in vain?

There are many internal Afghan obstacles to a settlement. Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries in the world. The Afghan government is corrupt and lacks an effective bureaucratic structure. There are too many local warlords in positions of power. Almost everyone in the countryside has access to firearms and supplies of more sophisticated weapons are still coming in over Afghanistan's porous frontiers.

The Taliban, who must be brought into any settlement, have yet to accept the Afghan Constitution and to be prepared to give up armed struggle.

Can they be persuaded also that their extremist views on for instance the rights of women must be modified? Can we condone any settlement which does not protect human rights?

A political settlement must involve also the countries surrounding Afghanistan. These include Russia, China, Iran, Pakistan and India. All have an interest in a stable Afghanistan, although they also have divergent interests which may be difficult to reconcile. In particular India and Pakistan are highly suspicious of one another's activities in Afghanistan.

At some stage there will need to be an international conference on the future of Afghanistan involving these states and also the Western powers most closely involved including NATO countries plus Japan and Australia. But before such a conference can succeed there must be a willingness on the part of the Afghan authorities and Taliban leaders to work out the basis for a settlement. An ill prepared international conference that failed could be a setback to the peace process.

The Afghanistan problem has to be seen also in the wider context of the Arab revolts and the festering sore of the Israel/Palestine conflict.

The initiative for a political settlement must come from the Americans who have provided the bulk of the Western forces operating in Afghanistan.

We are all junior partners who cannot afford to upset the Americans by any unilateral withdrawal or by any action that might be seen as rocking the boat.

Hugh Cortazzi served as Britain's ambassador to Japan from 1980-1984.

 

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THE JAPAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

THE ECONOMIC GOVERNANCE THE EU NEEDS

BY GUY VERHOFSTADT

BRUSSELS — Two lessons have emerged from Europe's financial crisis. First, there is no substitute for timely and coordinated action when the single currency is under pressure. Second, all eurozone countries are effectively in the same boat. If the boat springs a leak, everyone sinks.

A quicker and more concerted response might have limited the fallout from the crisis, and thus its cost. The European Financial Stabilization Facility (EFSF), hurriedly established in May 2010 in an effort to stop the rot, will shortly be able to call on some €500 billion in the event that any more eurozone countries face serious liquidity problems. And eurozone member states have agreed to perpetuate this financial-stability mechanism from 2013 onward, and even to amend the Lisbon treaty to avoid any legal ambiguity.

Despite all this, markets remain unconvinced by the eurozone's shows of solidarity. Greek sovereign debt has been downgraded to below that of Egypt. Portugal has had to ask for assistance from the EFSF and the International Monetary Fund. Irish banks reportedly need an additional €24 billion to stay afloat. And Spain is doing all it can to avoid the contagion.

The irony is that the euro has been a hugely successful project, bringing considerable stability to participating countries. Indeed, without the single currency, many of these countries would have succumbed to a downward spiral of devaluation, default, and recourse to the IMF.

The European Central Bank has played a crucial role in preventing a worst-case scenario, but the obvious lacuna in Europe's economic and monetary union (EMU) remains: EMU established only a monetary union and largely omitted the economic union that has proven so closely linked to the euro's strengths and weaknesses.

The real crisis facing Europe is one of economic governance. Eurozone member states have increasingly gone their own way, even overtly defending nationalist economic policies that harm the eurozone as a whole. This is not to say that a single economic policy should be imposed on everyone; but Europe does need a higher degree of coordination and convergence to ensure that everyone is at least heading in the same direction.

Like cars on a highway, some may drive more slowly than others, but there are minimum and maximum speeds and all must go with the flow of traffic.

Moreover, all motorists must respect the rules of the road, and anyone who breaches them must be held to account, and possibly penalized, because even one rogue driver will most likely cause a major pile-up if not stopped. So it is with economic governance: anarchy would be devastating.

Agreement is needed on both the rules and the impartial body to enforce them. European Union leaders have in recent summits come close to identifying a number of economic-policy areas where closer coordination would improve competitiveness, including sustainability of pensions, wage-to-productivity ratios, corporate taxation, investment in research and development, and the financing of major infrastructure projects.

Yet the same EU members have failed to endow the European Commission with overall responsibility for holding member governments to their commitments and, where necessary, imposing penalties for breaches. This intergovernmental approach lay behind the Lisbon Agenda's failure to deliver the results needed to make Europe more competitive and dynamic by 2010, and the same shortcomings will bedevil its successor, the new "Europe 2020" strategy.

Indeed, it is a failure of governance that has characterized the Stability and Growth Pact, designed (largely by Germany) to ensure sound macroeconomic policy by limiting national debt and deficit ratios.

Most eurozone members are now in breach of the pact, yet none has been subjected to the penalties envisaged by its architects. Recently adopted changes create a more sensible and graduated system for sanctioning recalcitrant countries, but still leave the decision to initiate an excessive deficit procedure to member states, rather than establishing the more automatic mechanism sought by the European Commission.

Meanwhile, the Commission already polices the internal market — one of Europe's major policy successes — by monitoring member states' compliance with the single market's rules. It also launches infringement proceedings against member states that have not implemented valid directives on time, or in the correct manner.

Similarly, EU competition policy has stood firm for many years against monopolies and abuse of dominant market positions. Here, too, the commission plays the role of neutral judge.

There may be disputes in some cases, but the system has brought a degree of legal certainty across the single market that the EU's member states could not have achieved on their own.

The challenge now for EU leaders is not to repackage old policies, but to express a collective vision and will to act together. I have been arguing for a Community Act that would bring together all elements of economic governance under a single framework, with the European Commission at its center.

As with the single-market program of the 1980s, the commission could be in charge of overseeing a convergence of national economic policies, within certain parameters, throughout the EU.

Straying outside of those parameters would lead to warnings and sanctions, but otherwise there would be some flexibility for member states to pursue the EU's collective goals at a pace adapted to their national circumstances. A cluster of EU commissioners holding economic-related portfolios could even be made responsible for guiding the process forward, providing it with direction and momentum.

If European countries are to emerge stronger from the current crisis, they need to think bigger and put more faith, not less, in the collective enterprise that is the EU. After all, European unification was conceived as a project of pooled sovereignty, not surrendered prosperity.

Guy Verhofstadt, a former prime minister of Belgium, is the leader of the Liberal and Democrat group in the European Parliament. © 2011 Project Syndicate/Europe's World

 

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THE JAKARTA POST

EDITORIAL

OUR CONSTITUTIONAL DEMOCRACY

With support from the government, politicians at the House of Representatives have caused yet another stir by passing a law that will reduce the power of the Constitutional Court.

Critics say the amendments in the law were the result of transactional politics between the legislative and executive branches. Others have gone so far as to allege that anti-reform forces were behind the revisions.

However, not much is actually changing. The court will maintain its authority to review legislation that has been deemed as flawed and hear election disputes both at the national or regional levels.

Since its establishment in 2003 following reform, the court has emerged as "a common enemy" of both the House and the government for annulling dozens of articles of legislation that were considered discriminatory, prone to multiple interpretations or overlapping other laws that ran counter to the Constitution.

Some of the court's prominent achievements in supporting political reform include the restoration of the political rights of former communists and an end to the criminalization of those who defame the head of state.

Starting in 2009, the court assumed more power, authorizing it to settle disputes in regional elections. The court upheld or rejected allegations of vote rigging in regional elections and even nullified election results altogether.

It was this extra power that worried the House politicians, and perhaps democracy champions, to amend the 2003 Law on the Constitutional Court.

Under the revised law, the court can no longer issue verdicts that go beyond the initial request (ultra petita principle), therefore placing the checks-and-balances mechanism back on track.

The political elites, however, must be aware of the spirit behind the formation of the court, which was to uphold constitutional democracy as opposed to procedural democracy, which might lead to the tyranny of the majority where a contentious bill might be passed only because the majority voted for it.

The law on pornography, which sparked mass protests and endangered freedom of expression, and the Regional Election Law that ignored independent candidates, to name a few, were examples of legislation that failed to respect the voice of the minority.

The court may not always rule against the House and the government, but its presence has taught both the executive and legislative branches the lesson that making laws cannot facilitate the short-term political interests of the elites without adequately listening to the wishes of the public, which is the essence of democracy.

Judicial review motions heard by the court send the political elites a message to exercise wisdom throughout the legislative process so that legislation benefits all.

The court will have to judge wisely itself whenever it hears a judicial review filed against the amended law on the Constitutional Court. Such a conflict of interest occurred when the court ruled against a group of legislative candidates who challenged the court's authority to review laws early last year.

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THE JAKARTA POST

STOPPING POLITICAL CORRUPTION STARTS WITH ELECTION REFORM

HANTA YUDA AR

Corruption scandals involving legislators, regional heads and party officials have highlighted the mixed progress the nation has made in the reform era.

Not a single party in the House of Representatives is free of corruption.

The Bank Century scandal, the so-called tax mafia, the bribery allegations surrounding the appointment of Miranda S. Goeltom as senior deputy governor of Bank Indonesia and, most recently, the corruption scandal surrounding the construction of the athletes' village for the Southeast Asian Games are just a few of the legal cases implicating House politicians and party elites.

At a regional level, 17 governors and former governors and more than 100 regents and mayors across the country are currently under investigation or serving prison sentences related to corruption.

This raises a fundamental question: Why does corruption happen?

There are three major factors behind the rampant political corruption in Indonesia: liberalization that has led to expensive elections, a weak candidate recruitment system and a fragile political party funding system.

Not only has the liberalized voting system led to expensive organizations, it has also had a high political cost in terms of campaign funding.

Every legislative or regional head candidate is required to raise a huge campaign war chest.

To become a governor, for example, about Rp 100 billion (US$11.6 million) is needed for the campaign and other related activities, whereas a governor's basic salary is only Rp 8.7 million per month.

Candidates who do not have enough capital will end up seeking sponsorship from the rich, e.g. businessmen and political donors. Such political deals are vulnerable to corrupt practices.

The fragile organizational system and recruitment pattern within the parties, especially the mechanism to select regional heads and legislative candidates, have caused the parties to rely on financial might and the popularity of their candidates.

Meanwhile, competence, track record and integrity in candidates are ignored. In addition, the recruitment mechanism is less democratic and transparent and leaves room for vote buying.

Parties and party elites benefit from the recruitment system as a source of income. This continues to undermine the quality and integrity of legislative and regional head candidates.

A selection system that heavily depends on the power of money will open the door for corrupt behavior from regional heads and legislators. Candidates who spend too much money will almost certainly think of quickly recovering their campaign expenses through embezzlement from the regional budget or other financial sources.

The rise of corruption cases involving politicians is also rooted in the fragility of the party funding system to cover both the organization and its political campaigns.

The party funding system has always been problematic, involving troubled income and management and non-transparent expenditures.

Funding for legislative campaigns, for example, has not been reported in a transparent manner. The funds spent by individual candidates might even exceed a party's campaign expenditures.

Another disadvantage is that reliance on public fund-raising and membership fees as a source of party funding does not work. Low public confidence has made it difficult for parties to encourage public participation. This has prompted the parties to turn to entrepreneurs.

On one hand, politicians have a large amount of political capital, but lack financial resources. On the other hand, entrepreneurs have surpluses in terms of financial resources, but they need political support.

Such a relationship has a great potential to spark an abuse of power by party elites and officials in collaboration with the business interests. Moreover, election law only limits the maximum contribution to parties, not individual party leaders.

The financial needs of the high-cost election system, the fragility of the party recruitment system and the troubled party financing have encouraged corruption in the House in the forms of the brokerage of budget disbursement and embezzlement from development projects.

Political corruption is also pervasive in the House's legislative function, where articles under deliberation are "traded".

There are several aspects that need to be reorganized to mend the electoral system and the parties' internal systems if we wish to reduce political corruption.

First, we must limit campaign spending by political parties, legislative candidates and regional head candidates to minimize the potential for corruption and avoid the temptation of using of regional budgets to recover campaign expenses after the election.

Second, we must democratize party recruitment and the selection of legislative and regional head candidates through mechanisms that are open, based on meritocratic measures and involve party members.

Third, we must revamp party funding systems, starting from income, management, to the transparency of parties' expense reports.

Fourth, incumbent candidates must report their wealth to the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) and prove their wealth was not obtained through corruption.

Shifting the burden to candidates needs to be applied to public officials, including House lawmakers and regional heads, during their tenure on a regular basis.

Finally, the eradication of political corruption must begin with improvement of the system and political party behavior.

The writer is a political researcher at the Indonesian Institute.

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THE JAKARTA POST

EDITORIAL

THE BEAUTY OF PAPUA

With little fanfare, Jayapura Regent Hebel Melkias Suwae is expected to close the five-day Sentani Lake Festival on Thursday.

The fourth annual event seems to have only attracted foreign tourists rather than from those from our own soil.

The festival offered a precious moment to witness the beauty of our brothers and sisters in Papua as they demonstrated cultural exhibitions and shows, such as war dances performed on boats. Unfortunately, the festival passed almost unnoticed by the Indonesian media

The theme of the festival, "Love, Peace and Harmony", may sound trite. But if we think deeper, the words perfectly reflect the dreams of all Papuans and those who live in other parts of the republic.

According to the calendar, on Aug. 8-11 the Baliem Valley Festival will be held in Wamena, Jayawijaya regency in Papua. Scheduled events include an archery competition and a crafts exhibition. Another activity, the 28th Asmat Cultural Festival will take place in October in Agats, the capital of Asmat regency.

Indonesians, especially those from the western part of the country, tend to look down on their fellow citizens from the east. While we often condemn the West for its arrogance and sense of superiority over people from poorer countries, whether realizing it or not, we often perpetrate a similar evil attitude toward Papuans.

Do we ever realize the small, but fundamental, examples set by the Papuans? They are perceived as good Indonesian-language speakers in terms of grammar and structure. The national language is widely used there because Papuans have hundreds of local languages, many of which are completely unrelated.

Reports from national and foreign media, including The Jakarta Post, on Papua are usually dominated by disheartening news: continuing human rights abuses, the practice of divide et impera (divide and conquer), the exploitation of natural resources, the spread of deadly diseases like HIV/AIDS and massive corruption.

The festivals mirror the beauty of Papua and the beautiful minds of its people. Let us remember that our compatriots there do not demand anything except equal rights and equal treatment — by the law and by all Indonesians.

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DAILY MIRROR

     EDITORIAL

 

 

INTERNATIONAL SQUEEZE TIGHTENS AS DOMESTIC POLICY HARDENS

The problem with a dead body, in the event of a violent death is that it is irrefutable evidence that a crime has been committed. Accordingly the presence of the bodies of five young Tamil schoolboys on a beach in Trincomalee with bullets in their brains, as well as the bodies of seventeen aid workers shot execution-style within the grounds of their own office premises at Muttur is irrefutable evidence that unnatural violent death and hence crimes had occurred. Unfortunately Sri Lankas domestic mechanism's namely, the Presidential Commission on Grave Human Rights Abuses, with IIGEP monitoring, as well as judicial proceedings have neither established the facts nor punished the culprits. Accordingly, the next of kin of one of the boys shot dead in Trincomalee as well as of one of the deceased in Muttur have filed action in the US Courts, under universal jurisdiction against President Mahinda Rajapaksa. While the President is immune from prosecution within Sri Lanka, such immunity ceases to exist beyond our shores, except as sovereign immunity within limits while holding office. Summons for the case was duly served on the Secretary, Ministry of Justice as the appropriate authority under the relevant international covenants.

 The Indians deliver a tough message

A high powered Indian delegation comprising of National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon, Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao and Defence Secretary Pradeep Kumar were in Colombo late last week to deliver a tough message, Indian concerns expressed in its joint communiqué with Sri Lanka, namely national reconciliation dealing with the effects and causes of the war should be addressed. There had been repeated assurances by Sri Lanka that a solution was forthcoming, but two years after the war was won, none seems in sight. Instead a defunct APRC, was replaced by a dialogue with the TNA, in which the Government has not put forth proposals and was now instead suggesting a parliamentary select committee. Political will, rather than different dialogue forums is what is required for a solution. It also defies understanding why solutions proposed in the Mahinda Chinthanya, such as a Northern Provincial Council (NPC) is not being implemented. Furthermore the Government made very clear to India that it was shutting the door on the 13th Amendment and devolution of power. In September, India will become a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva and together with its Security Council seat and bi lateral relations will essentially control the international dialogue on Sri Lanka.

 TNA attacked in the North (Under Emergency law)

Late last week, when five TNA MP's of the Jaffna District were meeting with their local government candidates and party activists at Alavedi, Jaffna, armed soldiers carrying poles burst in on the meeting and allegedly assaulted the TNA local government candidates and attempted to assault the MPs who were protected by their MSD bodyguards, who suffered injuries in carrying out their duties conscientiously. Initial attempts to blame the attack on "unidentified armed group in military type uniform" has been done away with as field military commanders accepted responsibility for the attack and the Defensce Ministry justified the same as a military assault on 'unauthorized activity".

Firstly there is an election going on. This is why previous governments have always relaxed and removed emergency regulations, at least for the duration of an election campaign and now there is no war. Democracy must function. This was a private gathering behind closed doors, not a public meeting in the open air. There are basic constitutional rights to freedom of assembly. Further, democratic elections are a crucial aspect of normalizing after a conflict and should occur freely. Also Tamil militancy and terrorism arose due to the failure of Sri Lankas democratic institutions to deliver solutions to ethnic tensions. To use military force against the democratic politics of the TNA, would be to drive the Tamil political leadership away from Sri Lankan based Tamil leaders into the hands of extreme elements of the Tamil Diaspora. If the Northern Tamils are to be denied a provincial council, then at least let them elect a municipal council in peace. We owe ourselves and our democratic credentials that much.

 (The writer served as

Presidential Spokesman

from 2001-2005)

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DAILY MIRROR

EDITORIAL

DEMOCRACY DEFEATED BY 63 VOTES

Freedom of expression is an unalienable right enshrined in democracy. It is not a privilege that any government can deem its right to deliver the citizens as and if they so desire. The defeat of the Private Members motion on a Right to Information Bill by 63 votes speaks volumes of the tragic laws Sri Lankan society has today forced itself in to.

The decision by the government to vote against the Bill, mocks its own pledge to introduce a Right to Information Act not so long ago. More tragically it denotes the lack of commitment the legislators; clouded in their perceptions by corruption and opportunity, have towards the people they represent.

With corruption; the flagrant abuse of politics that is the contributor of an ever increasing cost of living that the masses can ill afford, the necessity for a mechanism that provides the citizenry to hold accountable those that must be; is a right that can not be denied. No political entity can expect to be above such scrutiny. Sri Lanka remains the only country in South Asia denied the 'luxury' today.

National Security; undoubtedly a serious concern for a war ravaged country like Sri Lanka, can no longer however be dangled as an anathema for every ill. Certainly, moving out of the debris of a three-decade war, is not an exercise that will prove easy to any government. In view of the international pressures fed by a well funded Tamil Diaspora this is an unenviable task that has the potential to risk elements of security in the wrong hands and the wrong policies. Yet, if the people especially in the North and the East are to breathe in the freshest airs of peace and freedom, then such rights must be theirs to enjoy. Societies throughout the world that have respected such rights today stand witness to the benefits they provide individuals.

Sri Lanka can not hope to enjoy the riches of any other form of freedom until it has the right to these that are core of civilized societies. The denial of such fundamental of rights will only serve to further alienate the country and its government denied its rightful place in global history. The mandate we deem to enjoy can not be perceived a sword to provide the people victim.

Democracy can not be seen to be exercised but effectively felt by the people in every aspect of the rights they place their mandate to governments to uphold. Any denial of such rights; however trivial a discussion the government believes it must receive in society; deserves condemnation. Nor, must it be allowed the glorification it does today.

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DAILY MIRROR

EDITORIAL

THE SILENCE OF SRI LANKA

BY DAVID MILIBAND AND

BERNARD KOUCHNER

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. U.N. 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 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 U.N. 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 U.N. 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 Lessons Learnt and 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 U.N. secretary general to an accountability process.

The report constitutes a serious test for the Sri Lankan government. Will it realize the error of brushing wrongdoing under the carpet? Will it recognize that the continued detentions under "state of emergency" laws undermine Sri Lankas claims to a normal place in the international community? Will it recognize 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 Lankas future?

But the report is also a test for the U.N. system and the wider world community. In 2005 the U.N. unanimously embraced the doctrine of "Responsibility to Protect." It must not be honored in the breach rather than in the observance.

The U.N. report calls for the Secretary General to take further action, including establishing an independent, international mechanism to monitor Sri Lankas reconciliation efforts, and to conduct independent investigations into alleged violations. The U.N. Human Rights Commissioner, Navi Pillay, supported this at the opening session of the Human Rights Council this year.

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.

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 secretary general 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, respectively, of Britain and France from 2007 to 2010.)

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DAILY MIRROR

EDITORIAL

UNIVERSITY LECTURERS' ISSUES TO BE RESOLVED IN ONE WEEK: SB DISSANAYAKE

Q. The Mahinda Chinthana details plans to make Sri Lanka a "knowledge hub", what progress have you made on this front after you became Minister of Higher Education?

We see that the Chinese Universities, Indian Universities and European Universities that establish branches in Sri Lanka do so in order to attract students from the Asian region and as opposed to Sri Lankan students alone.

This goes to show that not only do we have the potential to be a knowledge hub but also that the world has recognized the fact that we have this potential.

Something we always say is that Sri Lanka has the potential to be a knowledge hub, an economic hub, a financial hub and a nautical hub. At present in the Asian region countries like Dubai and Singapore have become the centers for these services. However if you consider a country like Singapore it is a country without soil, water or any form of natural resources, if you take Dubai, it is a desert.

Yet Sri Lanka has a complex conducive climate, it is blessed with natural resources and is easily accessible to any Asian country. Therefore we feel that we have what it takes to be a knowledge hub in Asia. The President has taken some steps to help Sri Lanka achieve this goal; firstly to bring the standard of our local universities to that of international institutions and secondly to provide opportunities for private universities to have branches here. We see that the Chinese Universities, Indian Universities and European Universities that establish branches in Sri Lanka do so in order to attract students from the Asian region and as opposed to Sri Lankan students alone. This goes to show that not only do we have the potential to be a knowledge hub but also that the world has recognized the fact that we have this potential.

Q. In order to make Sri Lanka a knowledge hub you need the support and cooperation of University Lecturers but due to recent events the entire university system has come to a standstill. What is being done to resolve their issues?

There is no connection between the two; making Sri Lanka a

knowledge hub and the issues with regards to the lecturers' salaries are not connected.

 I concede that lecturers are vital to the country, but at the moment they are engaged in a very small issue and it will be solved in due course.

Q. How do you intend on resolving this issue?

We are having discussions because at the moment we cannot increase the university lecturers' salaries.

This is because while we gave government servants in general only a salary increase of five percent we gave all university lecturers a salary increase of 36.25 per-cent, therefore we cannot give them a salary hike.

There has been a salary anomaly for lecturers since the 1970's, this cropped up during the time of the UNP government, where their salaries are compared with those from similar posts in the Central Bank. An ordinary executive has a salary of 60,000 whereas a university lecturer at that level would receive a salary of 24,000. The government, the treasury and the President have expressed their desire to reduce this anomaly in stages. And therefore I think this problem will be solved quickly.

Q. They have accepted this solution and agreed to stop their trade union action, where they withdrew from all voluntary posts?

They have withdrawn their letters of resignation; many of them have withdrawn these letters and are working normally.

Q. Lecturers took to the streets on Tuesday from the Colombo University to the Public library. And according to the Federation of University Teachers Association around 90 percent of lecturers are involved in this trade union action. How can you say they are working normally?

It was not 90 percent not even 20 percent were involved.

Even after the trade union action on Tuesday they came to my home, dined with me and had a discussion.

Q. Although you say only 20 percent were involved in the strike, we saw that even the lecturers from the Visual Arts University, the only university in the country that had not been involved, also joined the protest march. It would seem that the situation is getting worse not better. 

So there is nothing wrong with that.

We all know that University lecturers have a serious problem. After their protest march they came and met with me and we had discussions and dinner.

Q. During these discussions did they agree to stop their trade union action?

There wasn't a discussion of that nature.

We spoke about the next phase of negotiations and the preliminary groundwork for that.

Q. If you didn't discuss the possibility of stopping the trade union action what areas were discussed during that time?

No I don't think I should tell the media what we discussed. We had cordial discussions, thereafter we had dinner and they left, that is all you need to know.

Q. The FUTA says that the increase of 36.25 percent of salaries cannot be counted as a true increase because 12.5 percent of it is dependent on doing research and development. Therefore they don't accept it as being an increase in their salaries.

Well some will accept it and others will not accept it.

About 40 percent have taken this research and development payment and this salary percentage will continue throughout the year. Some might say that this is not a salary increase but they get the money to their hands.

Q. One lecturer at the Colombo University detailed the process that this money was given out during March. A circular was sent out calling lecturers to present a research proposal the next day in order to claim their salary increase.

No no, about 70 percent of university lecturers already do research work, it is one of their duties.

If a certain lecturer doesn't engage in research then he or she is not fulfilling one of his/her main duties. But I know that about 80 percent of lecturers do research, they have their research proposal in their hands, ready to be submitted. You can dissect the situation in different ways, but at the end of the day they got their money.

Q.University lecturers have been talking about their salary anomalies since 2008, yet they are yet to receive a satisfactory answer, which is why they are now walking the streets in protest. Has anything been achieved under the term of this government to resolve this issue?

I don't want to comment on what happened between 2008 and 2010.

All I can say is that we have all accepted the anomaly, the President, the government and we are working towards resolving the situation in the future.

Q. When you say the future do you mean in the next week or month or what is the time frame? I ask this because the lecturers have been taking trade union action for over a month.

When I say future it could be

tomorrow or in a year's time.

 There are issues in a few places, but they are all going to work and that issue I think will be resolved in the next week.

Q. Thereby your answer to the students who are inconvenienced then is that this situation will be resolved in the next week?

My answer is not to the students it is to the media that I am

answering.

 I am telling the people of this country not just students or lecturers.

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DAILY MIRROR

EDITORIAL

GREEK DRAMA ALL OVER AGAIN

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 Hindu

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                                                                                                                                    GULF DAILY NEWS

COMMENT

DIFFICULT LAPS AROUND TRACK  

BY SCOUT FINCH

BAHRAIN has had more than a few difficult laps around the track since initial calls for political reform on February 14 spiralled into something dark and dangerous, as it became increasingly clear that extremist elements were trying to destroy the government and all who stood in their path.

The frightening events of February and March gradually gave way to stability and a feeling of personal safety, thanks to GCC Peninsula Shield troops, the BDF and police.

When June 1 rolled round, we all held our breaths to see what would happen when the State of National Safety officially came to an end, but our local forces haven't disappointed us - keeping things safe and running smoothly for the most part.

Bahrainis and expats alike were waiting in anticipation to see if the Formula One Grand Prix would be held in October, now that order had been restored.

It appeared to be "all systems go" and many of us began to dream of what the race could do to help the ailing economy, creating jobs and helping young and old alike to unite around something that would make us proud.

However, it soon became apparent that was not going to happen.

Bahrainis are resilient and they, along with us expats, will bounce back.

It's not a clichŽ to say "there's always next year" and I mean it.

But I can't stand how F1 has been politicised by an ill-informed group egged on by a rabid Western-led media campaign against Bahrain.

As an American guest in this country, but a long-time resident in the GCC, I simply cannot tolerate people who think they occupy some kind of moral high ground without recognising their own hypocrisy.

Martin Samuel of the UK-based Daily Mail was happy Bahrain would not be hosting the F1, but he could have been happier.

He thought F1 should have boycotted Bahrain based on a series of unverified, outrageous charges levelled against the government.

This was based on reports of 31 people dying during Bahrain's unrest, but what he failed to realise was that number included people killed by increasingly violent protesters who ran over policemen and murdered and maimed Asian expats.

He claimed medical professionals were made to eat faeces, but had no proof (or even a credible witness account).

Ironically, Samuel praises only Mark Webber - who admitted he hadn't been to Bahrain since February 14, but still somehow managed to claim he did "understand the feeling about what is going on".

How does that work, Mark? Either you have psychic powers or you, like Samuel, are basing your opinion on a carefully constructed smear campaign.

It's doesn't take Einstein to identify the fingerprints of Nabeel Rajab and the Al Khawaja cabal in Samuel's (and Webber's) positions.

We should feel lucky that Samuel didn't go off on an anti-Arab rant, similar to his anti-Irish remarks in March - in which he appeared to play down English oppression of the Irish.

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TEHRAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

IRAN'S APPROACH TOWARD ITS NUCLEAR PROGRAM

BY MEHDI SANAII

 

Iran's approach toward its nuclear program is not politicized, as the Western media try to depict it, but is a legalistic stance based on Iran's inalienable right to use nuclear energy.

The capability to generate nuclear energy, above all other applications, will continue to produce more scientific achievements for the country.

Iran's nuclear program is in fact an interconnected package. In other words, the nuclear achievements are regarded as a part of Iran's broader scientific achievements in other fields such as nanotechnology, genomics, industry, etc.

The Islamic Republic of Iran believes it has the right to conduct various scientific programs in order to attain the blessings they provide. There is no reason for Iran to have a non-peaceful nuclear program because the country has no need for such a program.

Unfortunately, the approach adopted by Europe and the United States toward the issue is completely politicized and it is not based on legal considerations. In fact, the Western countries are using Iran's nuclear dossier as leverage to put more pressure on Iran. Thus, the issuance of contradictory reports by the International Atomic Energy Agency has become a repetitive cycle in recent years. Most IAEA member states are opposed to these reports, which lay the groundwork for extensive propaganda campaigns against Iran, which are always followed by unjustified and unfair sanctions. Thus, in such a situation, no one will be able to actually verify the peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear program.

Bearing all this in mind, the nuclear game between Iran and the West cannot create a win–win situation. In fact, Iran is the biggest winner of this game because despite all the pressure, the country is continuing on the path of progress, but the West is putting its short-term and long-term economic and political interests in great danger.

The United States is trying to give the impression that it is working to establish peace and stability in the region, even though its intervention in various countries has actually increased insecurity. If the West wants a stable Middle East, it must devise a win-win scenario for influential countries like Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and other regional powers.

Moreover, in this situation, the main task for Iran's diplomatic apparatus is to ensure that Iran's nuclear dossier is returned to the IAEA.

The measures that various international organizations are currently taking in regard to Iran's nuclear program are politically motivated. Such an approach, particularly when adopted by independent and non-aligned countries, will create a crisis of legitimacy for them.

These organizations were originally designed for the Cold War era, and the role that they are playing at this juncture will undermine their effectiveness since it is a multi-polar world nowadays and relations between countries are multifaceted. And thus they are expected to avoid the adoption of political approaches and to accept multi-polar principles and multilateralism.

MP Mehdi Sanaii is a member of the National Security and Foreign Policy Committee of the Iranian parliament.

 

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TEHRAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

CHARGES AGAINST BAHRAINI DOCTORS ARE A PACK OF LIES

BY ROBERT FISK

 

Has the Khalifa family gone mad? On June 14, the Bahraini royal family started an utterly fraudulent trial of 48 surgeons, doctors, paramedics and nurses, accusing them of trying to topple the tin-pot monarchy of this Sunni minority emirate. The defendants in this flagrantly unfair military court are, of course, members of the majority Shia people of Bahrain. And since I was a witness to their heroic efforts to save lives in February, I can say -- let us speak with a frankness that the Bahraini rulers would normally demand -- that the charges are a pack of lies.

Doctors I saw, drenched in their patients' blood, desperately trying to staunch the bullet wounds of pro-democracy demonstrators shot in cold blood by Bahraini soldiers and police, are now on trial. I watched armed policemen refusing to allow ambulances to collect the wounded from the roads where they had been cut down.

These are the very same doctors and nurses I stood beside four months ago in the Sulaimaniya emergency room, some of them weeping as they tried to deal with gunshot wounds the like of which they had never seen before.

"How could they do this to these people?" one of them asked me. "We have never dealt with trauma wounds like these before." Next to us lay a man with bullet wounds in the chest and thigh, coughing blood on to the floor.

The surgeons were frightened that they did not have the skills to save these victims of police violence. Now the police have accused the doctors and staff of killing the patients whom the police themselves shot.

How could these fine medical men and women have been trying to "topple" the monarchy?

The idea that these 48 defendants are guilty of such a vicious charge is not just preposterous. It is insane, a total perversion – no, the total opposite – of the truth. The police were firing at demonstrators from helicopters.

The idea that a woman and child died because they were rejected by doctors and refused medical treatment is a fantasy. The only problems medical staff encountered at the Sulaimaniya hospital – and again, I was a witness and, unlike the Bahraini security authorities, I do not tell lies – was from the cruel policemen who blocked patients from reaching the medical facility.

In truth, of course, the Khalifa family is not mad. Nor are the Sunni minority of Bahrain intrinsically bad or sectarian. The reality is clear for anyone to see in Bahrain. The Saudis are now running the country. They never received an invitation to send their own soldiers to support the Bahraini "security forces" from the Bahraini Crown Prince, who is a decent man. They simply invaded and received a post-dated invitation.

The subsequent destruction of ancient Shia mosques in Bahrain was a Saudi project, entirely in line with the kingdom's Taliban-style hatred of all things Shia. Could the Bahraini prime minister be elected, I asked a member of the royal court last February? "The Saudis would not permit this," he replied. Of course not. Because they now control Bahrain. Hence the Saudi-style doctors' trial.

Bahrain is no longer the kingdom of the Khalifas. It has become a Saudi palatinate, a confederated province of Saudi Arabia, a pocket-size weasel state from which all journalists should in future use the dateline: Manama, Occupied Bahrain.

(Source: The Independent, Published on Tuesday, June 14, 2011)

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TEHRAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

LIES, DAMN LIES, AND REPORTS OF BATTLEFIELD ATROCITIES

BY PATRICK COCKBURN

 

In war, accounts of atrocities need to be treated with skepticism. Surveying a battlefield where he had once fought, the great Confederate general Stonewall Jackson turned to an aide and asked: "Did you ever think, sir, what an opportunity a battlefield affords liars?"

He meant that in war people, motivated by fear, self-interest or a simple desire to make sense of a confusing and terrifying situation, make things up. And in the midst of a fast-moving conflict it is more than usually difficult to prove them wrong.

In the first Persian Gulf conflict of 1990-91 two notorious pieces of propaganda and misinformation greatly helped to rally support for the war by seeming to demonstrate the savagery and duplicity of the Iraqi government. The first was the appearance of a 15-year-old Kuwaiti girl before a U.S. congressional committee to testify how, as a volunteer hospital nurse, she had seen Iraqi soldiers tip babies out of incubators and leave them to die on the floor. Her account was greeted with outrage until, some time later, it was revealed that the girl was the well-coached daughter of Kuwait's ambassador in Washington who had never left the U.S. during the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.

The second story took place a few months later, during the bombing and missile strikes on Baghdad. CNN's Peter Arnett reported that the US had destroyed a baby milk factory on the western outskirts of Baghdad, while the Pentagon furiously maintained the facility was making biological weapons. I visited the ruins of the plant on the same day as Arnett and I remember reading through letters about the baby milk business I found in smashed up desks in the factory office. Many were about abortive efforts to save the factory from bankruptcy, convincing evidence that the Iraqi authorities could scarcely have concocted overnight. Governments have not become any more truthful in the 20 years between the war in Iraq in 1991 and in Libya in 2011. The story that most compellingly illustrates the evil nature of Muammar Gaddafi today is the allegation that he ordered his troops to rape women who oppose him and his acquisition of Viagra-type medicines to encourage them to do so. This tale had been around for some time, but gained credibility when the International Criminal Court's prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, said he had evidence that the Libyan leader had personally ordered mass rape. This week the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, said she was "deeply concerned" by reports Gaddafi's troops were engaged in widespread rape as a weapon of war.

No doubt individual rapes have occurred. Most famously, Iman al-Obeidi burst into a foreign journalists' hotel in Tripoli on 26 March and gave a credible account of how she had been raped by pro-Gaddafi security men, before she was hustled away. But, despite the ICC allegations, so far Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have not found evidence of such mass government-ordered rape despite extensive investigations. Diana Eltahawy, Amnesty International's Libya expert, told me that Amnesty researchers in Libya had found no evidence of such a policy.

Could women be keeping quiet about what had happened to them for reasons of shame or fear of being killed to preserve "family honour"? Ms Eltahawy says: "We spoke to women, without anybody else there, all across Libya, including Misrata and on the Tunisia-Libya border. None of them knew of anybody who had been raped. We also spoke to many doctors and psychologists with the same result." Liesel Gerntholtz, head of women's rights at Human Rights Watch, which has also been investigating the charges of mass rape, says: "We have not been able to find evidence. We have not been able to verify it." She emphasized that her group's researches were ongoing.

The one substantive piece of evidence for mass rape came last month in the form of a survey by Dr. Seham Sergewa, a child psychologist who had been working with children traumatized by the fighting. She distributed 70,000 questionnaires to Libyans in refugee camps and received 59,000 responses. She says: "We found 10,000 people with PTSD

[post-traumatic stress disorder], 4,000 children suffering psychological problems and 259 raped women." They said they had been raped by Gaddafi's militiamen, sometimes in front of their families. Dr Sergewa says she interviewed 140 women who had been raped. But, says Ms. Eltahawy, when asked if Amnesty International could meet any of them, Dr. Sergewa said "she had lost touch with them and she was the only one who said she was directly in touch with victims".

Some captured pro-Gaddafi soldiers, claiming they knew about the rapes as an official policy, have appeared on TV. But Amnesty found that when an Arabic-speaking investigator visited detention facilities without an official minder in the room they did not repeat the allegation.

As in Iraq, journalists have been over-credulous and Western governments self-serving in pumping out atrocity stories about the Libyan government regardless of whether or not there is any evidence for them. Another story from Libya, universally believed by the rebels, is that many of the fighters in the pro-Gaddafi units are mercenaries from central or west Africa. Ms. Eltahawy says Amnesty has found no evidence for this. The only massacre by the Gaddafi regime, involving hundreds of victims, which is so far well-attested is the killings at Abu Salim prison in Tripoli in 1996, when up to 1,200 prisoners died, according to a credible witness who survived.

Battlefronts are always awash with rumors of impending massacre or rape which spread rapidly among terrified people who may be the intended victims. Understandably enough, they do not want to wait around to find out how true these stories are. I was in Ajdabiyah, a front-line town an hour and a half's drive south of Benghazi, earlier this year when I saw car loads of panic-stricken refugees fleeing up the road. They had just heard an entirely untrue report via al-Jazeera Arabic that pro-Gaddafi forces had broken through. Likewise al-Jazeera was producing uncorroborated reports of hospitals being attacked, blood banks destroyed, women raped and the injured executed.

The verification of atrocities matters so much because if people are to try to have them stopped they must be sure that what they are told is true and not propaganda. One toxic impact of the anti-German lies told by First World War propagandists was that when, 20 years later, the Nazis did embark on mass slaughter, the evidence of their crimes was at first treated with extreme skepticism.

(Source: The Independent)

 

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